A few other things had changed since our last trip to Australia. My father-in-law (who is Australian) had separated from his wife and had decided to move back 'home', meaning my wife hadn't seen her father for a number of years. Also, we'd been blessed with a couple of 'miracle' children (miracles owing to fact that because of my illness, I wasn't meant to be able to have children), which would change the dynamics of our trip. Once again we stayed at Beth's aunt's place in Melbourne, and her father met us at the airport after travelling for 27 hours (not the most enjoyable experience when accompanied by infant children). It wasn't long before we felt at home, however and over the course of the following four weeks we had a truly amazing experience, reliving all the delights I recalled before, and adding more. We visited a number of animal sanctuaries, museums, sporting venues, wineries, beaches, oceans, fine cuisine, and houses. I had tasted as much of the Australian way of life as I could cram in to four weeks, and by the end I felt that I had succeeded in getting a good feel of the place; so much so that we decided that we would look in to emigrating there. Prices to buy, or what is common in Australia, to build a house, was within our reach (and much cheaper than those in England, coming with twice as much living space). However, like many dreams and half-arsed ideas, it wasn't to be. We filled in the visa forms, gathered all the required documents, had our house valued and sold our car, and was about to submit my application, along with my £1,000 (non refundable) fee, to the Australian Immigration department (which can take six months to complete) when our plans hit a snag. My health. I consulted an immigration agent, explained my situation, and was advised that due to my circumstances, it would be doubtful that I would be passed to receive a residency visa. The plan was swiftly shelved, saving us the money we surely would have lost, but never allowed to be totally forgotten as Beth's dad frequently broached the subject whenever he spoke to us over the phone about him wanting to 'get us over' there to live.
It would take another five years before we would go back to Australia. As it happens, I'm writing this in a suburb not too far from the City of Melbourne. We flew out a few days after the schools broke up for summer on 23 July, having decided to spend the whole summer break away from home... only, we've sacrificed our 'summer' for Australia's 'winter'. We are staying once again with Beth's aunt and uncle, though the exchange rate is a lot lower than it was the first time we came (2.04 dollars to the pound), but $0.50 better than it was in 2010. Like the last time we visited, everything is as we remembered. The bakery in the local shopping center still sells Lamingtons exactly how I enjoyed them previously, and I still enjoy a glass of locally produced Aussie wine. Very little has changed since our first visit, except technology advancements and the growing population. Unlike the United Kingdom, the feel and fabric of the place hasn't been watered down or forcibly changed to accommodate an overly 'multi-cultured' society. By and large, it still looks the same as it did 15 years ago, which is the real attraction for me, though it is a lot more expensive, and the roads are a little busier. House prices in Australia are higher now than five years ago, which makes it tougher to seriously consider moving here, but the thought is still there, and for your money you still get more living space. This time round my family has increased by one; with three children in tow, it hasn't been so easy to get about, but we've managed, and the flight, though a little shorter as we chose a different airline, was still arduous travelling with an infant. What we didn't see the first two times, we've managed to fit in this time, which puts more meat on the bones of the idea of emigrating to Australia. Additionally, we've explored a bit more of the country, taking in Sydney and the Gold Coast, adding to our memories and making it even harder for us to want to leave.
Whatever we decide in the future, whether we set our sights on setting up home in Australia (or not) one thing is certain. For me, Australia will always be my second home.
I Love Lamingtons so much, I returned to England in 2010 and made my own. Here's the recipe I use. If you want a jam centre, just cut the sponge in half and spread a little in the middle before coating with the chocolate icing.
Prep:15min › Cook:40min › Ready in:55min
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (gas mark 5). Grease and flour a 20x30cm rectangular baking tin.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well.
- Pour this mixture into the tin. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Store overnight to give the cake a chance to firm up before icing.
- To make the icing: In a large bowl, combine icing sugar and cocoa. In a saucepan, heat milk and 1 tablespoon butter until the butter is melted. Add the milk to the sugar mixture and mix well to create a fluid, but not too runny, icing.
- Procedure: Cut the cake into 24 squares. Place coconut in a shallow container. Using a fork, dip each square into the icing, then roll it in the coconut. Place onto a cooling rack to dry. Continue for each piece. The icing will drip, so place a sheet of greaseproof paper under the rack to catch the drips.