As soon as I put the phone down I knew that I wouldn't see her again. I had explained it was a long way and we were recovering from visitor fatigue but she took it as a knock back which I've since guessed it was. Godfrey and I were now living by the sea on the south coast of NSW which was a far cry from the inland Victorian city of Castlemaine. It was there that we had lived for seven good years and had made what I thought was a strong friendship with our families while we female members of the families completed a Liberal Arts degree at La Trobe University Bendigo campus.
Jean was younger than me and on her second marriage with five children, two from her present marriage to Brian, who was much younger than Jean and three from her first. Despite our age difference, (her younger children were the same age as my grandchildren), we had formed a bond through study. Not only did we share travel arrangements with our cars we chose our subjects together so that lectures and tutorials always allowed us to arrive home to Castlemaine in time for the school bus. Godfrey and I were closer to retirement with me not working but recovering from a former work related trauma while Godfrey was still in the workforce doing new and exciting challenges by developing a National Wool show in Castlemaine. This meant he was not only using contacts all round Australia but was developing strong relationships with our local Council the Shire of Mount Alexander. Brian was meanwhile working as a linesman with parents still alive but with many health problems. Still we found enough in common to socialize at community events and even went on camping weekends together.
Then a drought struck and life at home changed. Things were tight in the wool industry so Godfrey’s work dried up and I couldn’t get work despite having upgraded my teaching qualifications so we decided on a sea change. Not only selling up and moving but changing our roles in life by starting our own business, window cleaning. We were extending the small beach cottage and entertaining family and friends from dry Victoria.
Perhaps the break in this friendship was inevitable. Perhaps we had outgrown our time Jean and I after all the thing we had in common was the study. Perhaps the move interstate was too much. Or did it really go deeper than that. If I am honest didn’t I always think I was the older more mature one and did the men in the friendship really only have the shared beer in common? Whatever the explanation I miss Jean’s company and wonder what has happened to that family with their day to day struggles with five children. No matter what the explanation for our separation it was a fulfilling friendship at the time and one to be remembered as a pleasurable time in our lives.