Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McLean: I'm so glad we never moved to Australia... it's been such a great journey here at home

By Kerry McLean

With the ice, snow and wintry winds of the last few weeks, my mind has been wandering to warmer shores. It's just a shame the rest of me hasn't been able to escape too.

I've been getting very itchy feet as I've been thinking about all the sunshine-filled spots around the world that I'd love to live in, from the heavily scented, hectic Marrakech, to fun-filled Cancun in Mexico and, last but not least, the ultimate hipster's paradise, San Francisco, the latter holding the double attraction for me of dry heat and lots of men with facial hair - I've never quite got over that teenage crush on Tom Selleck.

But one place that has fallen completely off my list of places to live is Australia.

For me, the country has been bumped to the bottom after watching, first, the record-breaking temperature highs of the last few weeks (my pale, freckled skin would resemble a pork scratching within minutes of walking out in that heat) and, more recently, the floods which have taken hold in various parts of the country, floods which have carried venomous snakes and snapping crocodiles through the streets and deposited them at people's front doors.

It's not that I have a phobia of either animal, I'd just rather not live in a country where I'd take my life in my hands every time I stepped out to grab the paper.

So, the entire country, possibly even the entire continent (apologies, Papua New Guinea), has been relegated to the dustbin of shattered dreams, which is ironic, given that I almost grew up there.

When I was two years old and suffering from severe asthma and eczema, our local GP advised my mum and dad that I'd fare much better living in a warmer, sunnier location.

This was music to my daddy's ears because he'd already spent years living and working in South Africa and had only returned home for good after he met and fell in love with my mum on what was meant to be a flying visit back to Northern Ireland.

He'd been trying to convince her to move to Africa with him ever since they'd married, but she was having none of it.

After that visit to the GP, she agreed that they would have to move abroad but, having spent a large part of her childhood in Kenya, she was keen to try somewhere else and so they settled on Australia.

This was in the mid-1970s, when things were at their worst here and many of my parents' friends had packed up and moved Down Under.

The lifestyle they were leading, with private pools in their back gardens and community barbecues on the beach, seemed idyllic to my mum and dad.

The visas were sorted, our little house went on the market and a buyer was quickly found. Everything was sold off or packed up and then, just weeks before we were due to leave, my mum happened upon a documentary on TV all about the weird and wonderful animal infestations in Australia, which showed swarms of mice - millions of them - running through people's houses.

For my mum, who has an absolute phobia of mice, that was it: the end of the dream. Everything was unpacked, the house sale was cancelled and life went on as if no plans of an Antipodean future had been made.

I'm very grateful to those little mice, who quite literally changed the direction in which my family were headed. If I had been whisked away, I never would have met my lovely husband or had my three amazing children.

My big sister would also have been denied the joy that is my wonderful 14-year-old nephew, Sean, or his new baby brother, Donald, born last week. Only in the world a matter of days and already we all love him to the moon and back.

I can't imagine not seeing him every day, so if my sister and her other half are also looking out the window and feeling the pull of warmer spots in the world, I would say, go... but be warned, we're all coming with you!

Belfast Telegraph

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