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5. Living Alone In A Caravan In The Aussie Bush

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The sun was setting as I strolled to my car which I was expecting to lose as well.

There it was parked at the meter like every other car – except for one noticeable difference.

Mine was the family sedan loaded to the roof with all my worldly belongings.

But for pots and pans hanging out the windows it could well have been a gypsy caravan.

As I drove out of the city, with barely enough room for me to squeeze into the driver’s seat, that’s exactly how I felt. Like a gypsy.

As the suburban houses in rows gave way to thoroughbreds grazing on flat almost treeless plains, I was leaving behind everything familiar.

Ahead of me lay the unknown. In my mind there was no tomorrow.

As I choked back the lump in my throat it began to sink in that I was now literally, and shockingly, homeless and unemployed.

Soon the flat grazing land turned to gentle rolling hills with eucalypt forest broken occasionally by cleared land and small farms.

The sky was brilliant red as if beckoning me into the hills of the Great…

4. Paradise Lost

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Sheltered under tall eucalypts my home was a friend’s old caravan lazing outside the gate of their home at the end of the road in a small country town in the hills.

Its condition and location were a metaphor for how things had worked out for me. The roof leaked. The water pump was broken. The gas stove didn’t work. Both tyres were flat.

The whole thing felt like it might collapse in a heap at any moment. Yet this had become my home and within its thin walls was stored everything I owned.

The scents of nature – pine mixed with eucalypt and, on cooler days, the smoke of wood fires – drifted through on the gentle autumn breezes as if there were no walls at all.

The birds were my neighbours. Squawking galahs. Screeching white cockatoos. Cawing crows. Gossiping magpies. And an occasional laughing kookaburra.

I could hear the endless rushing of water from the creek which had cut a deep gully beside the caravan. It was here along Doctor’s Gully some 150 years earlier that Swiss-Italian immigrants…

3. An Aussie In New York: A Very Romantic Encounter

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Eventually our disgruntled group stranded in O'Hare's airport lounge accepted its fate and we prepared ourselves for the long night ahead. 

I found a bar and paid a king’s ransom for a beer in a paper cup, a sandwich and a large iced donut. 

An official took pity on us and raided a plane parked outside for the night, kindly distributing blankets and pillows amongst us. 

I struggled to get comfortable curled up on hard seats with inconvenient arms. 

In the hollow silence of the almost deserted airport some clown started playing a wailing trumpet, echoing the mood of our small marooned group as we prepared for a long sleepless night. 

Sleepless in Chicago. 

A few cheery souls began singing. 

Outside the rain kept pelting down streaking against the glass walls of the airport. 

As I tried to get some sleep, I imagined I was Columbus bravely sailing across a vast ocean to a New World, full of anticipation. 

Certainly we had crossed different oceans in different times. Yet I had no intention…

2. Sleepless In Chicago

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I was resentful that my daydreams had been disturbed. 

I had been reviewing in my mind the whirlwind of events that had swept me up from my humble caravan life after the devastation that followed the bankruptcy of my freelance copywriting business of fifteen years. 

I thought my life was over. 

I was still licking my wounds from losing everything, I mean, everything. Home. Business. Second marriage. Car. Possessions. Money. Credit cards. Even my self-worth. 

Now I found myself on a plane flying across the Pacific with literally everything I owned packed into two bulging suitcases and one carry-on overnight bag. 

My thoughts had been of the precious cargo I was carrying in my stowed luggage, the files surrounding a mystery which had fallen into my lap just before leaving Australia.

(Clues to this secret are revealed as early as Chapter 1.)

But right now my mind was focussed on rather more immediate concerns like, are we going to make it?, when a voice from inside my head replied: Yes, and won…

1. The Day My Plane Was Struck By Lightning

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The old caravan parked by the roadside beneath the tall eucalypts in the Australian bush, my home (such as it was) until only yesterday, seemed a lifetime away. 

(How I came to be living in a leaky old caravan is explained in Chapter 2.)

As we gently cruised at around 30,000 feet, I became alarmed as I watched the endless expanse of white fluffy cloud below lightly brushed by the late afternoon sun give way to a dark menacing tentacle of trouble reaching high above us in the distance.

The plane dramatically changed course and began losing altitude. Just then a voice from the cockpit broke the silence: 

“We’ve just been informed by the control tower at Chicago Airport that a severe electrical storm has knocked out one of the two runways there. We are one of about a hundred aircraft in the air maintaining a holding position waiting for a clearance to land. There are currently four holding positions over nearby alternative airfields in case landings are not possible at O’Hare. 

"We are n…