The first trip home

After a year working in the North West of “Western Australia” ( the local emphasis was on the “West” ) a young lad could become homesick for family and green grass and even some clouds and rain. With consistently high temps up in the 40s during the Summer months you really look forward to some drizzle.

Being a first year apprentice meant funds were low and air fares were a heck of a lot more expensive than they are these days. Having been employed from the township itself meant I wasn’t entitled to a home trip each year so saving was essential to make the journey. It had to be a return trip too because moving between companies as an “appy” was not an easy thing to do and the wages would certainly be lower in the city. Having already invested a year on my indentures, it would not have been an easy decision to make and who in their right mind would want to be known as a quitter?

One of the advantages of coming back to civilisation was better medical and dental care so I took the opportunity to get my top teeth extracted at the end of the 4 weeks as the work was urgently required. The cavities filled on the el cheapo government subsidy had long passed their use by date and the dentist reckoned pulling the top teeth was the best option. Modern dental practice disagrees with this theory but back in the 70’s it was often done.

Thinking of how much pain might be involved, I elected to get them pulled a couple of days before the end of the trip so at least the holiday would be fun aside from brooding about the procedure.

The trip back was good fun especially as I discovered my sisters were very pleased to see me and especially my younger brother. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised but I hadn’t really thought about it much and getting a positive reaction was something I wasn’t particularly used to from Mum. I was, after all, a member of the disgraceful male side of the species.

Eventually the day for the anaesthetic arrived and the deed was done. I remember waking on a regular basis and chundering the blood from my bleeding gums into a bucket thoughtfully provided by the hospital staff. Things improved a little from that point but not by much. The denture was fitted immediately so some discomfort was felt as it settled into the damaged gums. Chewing was out of the question so on the flight home I had to break bits off the airline sandwiches, roll them into little balls, and throw them to the back of my throat so I could swallow them.

That was a challenge but the most painful moment was when my little brother suddenly realised at the airport that I was heading back to Tom Price. His cry of Where’s Peter going?” haunted me for weeks.

When I got back to Town I had the worst case of home sickness I have ever felt but I was stone motherless broke and I wasn’t due a pay packet for 2 weeks. By then I was back in the groove but whenever I hear Rod Stewart’s Maggie I get a reminder of those days. It was the first track on an LP I played over and over again as I lay in my bed. Thank goodness I didn’t discover Leonard Cohen until a few years later. I’d have been a candidate for a warm bath and a packet of razor blades.


7 thoughts on “The first trip home

  1. I can’t imagine the agony of having your teeth pulled and putting dentures on the gums……arrrgh!

    Just reading this makes me homesick…and I am home!

    Ha…yes, about Leonard Cohen. He can still make me think razorblades! Snort!

    1. Like his music but I don’t think it should be consumed with Gin.

      It sounds worse when I read back on it. At the time it was just doing what had to be done.

  2. Oh Peter! Reading this evoked a lot of emotions—sadness and bemusement in thinking about my own youthful trials; about my children and what they’re going through to find their ways through life; and teeth, or lack thereof. I’ve often said that it’s best to have these sort of adventures when you’re young and tough: but that doesn’t take in the homesickness, the poverty, the hardship and dangerous work.

    You don’t look the worst for wear however, judging from the smile on your face!

    1. Thank you HG.

      It’s interesting to reflect occasionally on the journey especially when sitting comfortably and confidently and examined with the benefit of hindsight. I know some folk who have always lived in a secure (and boring) environment with a ten year plan for their life and I wouldn’t trade my experience for quids.

      I love reading about GOF’s adventures in PNG because he took the bull by the horns and even earned his pilot’s license in a very challenging environment. Now that’s gutsy.

  3. “Hey, that’s no wa-ay to say, good-bye-uh-aye…”

    Leonard Cohen is maybe like what an old fella once told me about Scotch: “ya crazy to drink Scotch if yer under 40, and crazy not to, when yer older…”

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