A Brit in Australia

   Podcast Transcripts

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 103 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon broadcasting today from Queensland, Australia. In this episode I’ll be updating you on my recent travels, discussing my plans for the future, and asking, “Did I just die and go to heaven?”

So, it’s been a while since I did a podcast, and that’s because I’ve been travelling, which for a recluse is really quite something. For the past 3 years, I’ve only travelled as far as the corner shop to pick up a sandwich or the local doctor’s surgery to collect my medication. Such is the nature of trauma. It can make you really quite reclusive. Indoors is safe, especially when, like me, you live in a small room.

So the idea of travelling has always caused me anxiety, but I’m proud of myself because not only did I leave my room, I travelled first of all to London to meet my girlfriend, Mariella, for the first time. Then, we hopped on a plane and flew literally to the other side of the world to Australia, a total of 10,280 miles!

London was great. I travelled down from Sheffield to St. Pancras first class. Not that there was anything particularly first-class about it. A leather seat and a free sandwich, that was about it. I arrived in London just as Mariella was clearing customs at Heathrow airport. She called me to say that her suitcase had lost a wheel, so I swung by our hotel, checked in, dropped off my luggage—which weighed an absolute ton—and then went back to St. Pancras to meet Mariella under the Lover’s Statue. We hugged, and then walked hand in hand around St. Pancras looking for the Fortnum and Mason store hoping it served the tea we liked, but it didn’t. So we walked back to the hotel, me pushing Mariella’s suitcase with a wonky wheel.

The hotel was great, just a Premier Inn, but it was clean and comfortable, and we settled in for the night. Both of us were exhausted, Mariella especially since she’d just flown from Vegas where she’d spent a few days at a book club event. 

Typically, we both ended up with a cold or a virus or something, so we didn’t get out as much as we’d planned, but we did manage to get to the National Gallery and look at some awesome paintings by Turner. One in particular resonated with us both, Rain, Steam and Speed, The Great Western Railway, 1844. Bit of a mouthful there, but a lovely painting nonetheless. We also checked out two West End musicals—Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.

On November 10th, we travelled back to Australia. The flight was crippling to be honest—20+ hours with a 2-hour stopover in Singapore, landing in Brisbane on the 12th. Somehow we lost a day which still blows my mind.

So, my first impressions of Australia were “Wow! Sunny!” The sunlight was literally blinding like it was burning a hole in the back of my head. And BIG! Especially as we approached Lowood. So much space! Like the builders had built the houses on the plots and then didn’t know what to do with the rest of the land. So so spacious. 

At first, I struggled with the heat, being a Brit used to cold and rain for most of the year, and just adapting to a new environment was tricky at first, but after a few days I began to settle down and feel quite at home, and then I had the weirdest experience I’ve ever had. I was laying on the bed at the end of the day, watching the Australian sun go down over the back garden. I fell asleep—nothing surprising there—but when I woke up I found myself completely disoriented. Mariella was there. I think I freaked her out at first. Not only did I not know where I was, but my entire life up to that point seemed like it had all been a dream.

At first, I wondered if I’d died and gone to heaven, seriously, but as I started to come to I realised I was here, in Australia, with Mariella, and here’s the thing—my past, with all its trauma, felt like it had been compressed into a singularity and I was no longer experiencing the pain first-hand. It was like I was just observing a packet of data or information of all things that had ever happened to me. For a few moments I found myself sifting through life events—my first relationship, my marriage, my children, the person I left my wife for, losing everything, the depression, the trauma of it all—and asking Mariella, “Is it real?”

Since then I have felt, I don’t know, “born again” I guess. Seriously, I feel like everything from the past, all the things I’ve spoken about in my podcasts have somehow just been condensed into something I can view dispassionately from a distance. Even the loss of my kids, my dad, my sister—although I really wish they were in my life, I feel like I now have a completely new life. Like the old Daniel is dead and a new one has risen from the ashes.

Actually, I feel a bit like I’ve come back online mentally, as though the past 16 years especially, since my first disfellowshipping, have all been a blur like I wasn’t present in my body for that period of time. That’s how it feels. Trauma I guess. How the mind and body respond to trauma can be really quite strange.

So there I was, feeling like I’d just come alive again and like Australia was now my home. Mariella had previously spoken about moving to the UK to be with me, but as soon as we arrived in Lowood I could see how much she loved the place, and I feel the same. It’s quiet, spacious, and it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside. Yes, it’s hot, really hot, especially for a Brit but I think I’ve adapted pretty quickly actually. Plus we have air conditioning which is a big bonus, which we don’t have—don’t need—in the UK. And I’ve even got a dog and a cat to keep me company now, so I’m happy.

And so I found myself thinking, “You know what? I think I’d like to live here.” Mariella, of course, was chuffed to bits when I told her because she really does love this place and I can see why. For me, I get the same feeling here as I do when I’m up in Torridon in the Scottish Highlands. Like it’s a very spiritual place, almost a portal to another dimension. My friend Chris at The Two Tongues Podcast will know what I mean by that.

So this week, we’ve been looking into me moving to Australia to start a new life with Mariella. I’m going to have to return to the UK in December unfortunately to tie up some loose ends, say my goodbyes to my family and friends—not that my family probably care, they don’t speak to me because I’m disfellowshipped—and then I’ll be jumping on a plane again and flying back here. At first, I’ll be on a 3-month tourist visa, so I won’t be able to work for Australian companies, but we are in the process of applying for a Civil Partnership and then a Partner Visa. Hopefully, I will get what’s known as a Bridging Visa while we wait for our Partner Visa to be approved. That could take anywhere up to 2 years, but in the meantime, I will be allowed to work for Australian clients and I’m planning on getting my web development business back up and running and in time even building a business with Mariella, so watch this space.

If you’re thinking how can you help with my move, well here’s one way. To get my Partner Visa approved I will need to prove that I’ve been in a de facto relationship with Mariella for more than a year, which I have. So we’ve set up a joint Facebook page where our friends—I’d like to say family too but that’s not going to happen—where our friends can follow us on our new adventures. The address if you’re interested is facebook.com/aussiebrit (that’s aussie with two s’s, a.u.s.s.i.e, aussiebrit). Liking our page, of course, will help tremendously to prove that Mariella and I have a shared life, with shared friends and so on. That’s what we need to prove. So facebook.com/aussiebrit—drop us a Like if you can. Much appreciated!

Meanwhile, news from back home. My youngest daughter, who is now 16—she was 13 when I last saw her, the day I was kicked out of home by my JW ex-wife, who ironically is no longer a JW—my youngest daughter messaged me asking me to turn over legal guardianship to her aunt, my ex-wife’s sister, and a brother in her congregation who has no relation to us whatsoever. She asked the same of my ex-wife. Obviously, I said no. What’s more, I told her how appalling I think the treatment of my ex-wife has been. Total shunning, not just of me but now but also of her mum too due to the disfellowshipping rule of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the influence of her maternal JW grandparents. I sent the message 3 weeks ago now, I think it was. Not heard anything back. Of course, the court case I filed to establish beyond a doubt my parental responsibility was held on October 31st I think and I’ve not heard back on what the decision was yet. Maybe there will be a letter waiting for me when I get back to the UK. We’ll have to wait and see.

So when I get back to not-so-sunny Rotherham I’ll be selling off all my personal possessions, such as they are. Computers, a printer, a desk, an IKEA armchair, table, lamps—all that kind of stuff, all the sort of things that I won’t be able to transport to Australia. I looked into shipping my things across, but the cost of moving things to Australia is astronomical if you’re moving anything other than yourself and a suitcase. So it will be more cost-effective to sell stuff off and then re-buy everything at the other end. So if you want some bargains, if you want any of my stuff, let me know. I’ll be uploading photos of what’s available to my social media in due course.

Not sure how me and Mariella will cope with being apart again. It’ll probably be March I think before I can get back to Australia, with all the things I’ll need to tie up back in the UK—selling off my stuff, saying my goodbyes, handing in my tenancy, letting my doctor know and so on. Lots and lots to do. But as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back!”

Thanks for listening. Join me again soon. Bye for now.