It has been a week now. A whole week since we came home from Copenhagen. Home to our two gorgeous sons, our familiar house, our green garden, our neighbourhood in our suburb in Brisbane.
It was a good time to leave Copenhagen. October was mild and full of sunshine, blue skies, red ivy blazing on old brick buildings, brown chestnuts falling into the lakes and green treetops fading to yellow to brown. You would still see the odd person in shorts and singlet in the sunshine on Dronning Louises Bro. Granted, the sight was much rarer than in spring, when the Danes seemed to strip at the slightest ray of sunshine. But November was, well, rather Northern European November-like: Colder, wetter, grayer, windier, darker. Not quite cold enough for snow, not quite warm enough for comfort: just that miserable in-between. And our tenancy was up. Yes, it was time to leave.
We have returned to Southern hemisphere subtropical November, exchanging cold humid weather with warm humid weather, exchanging autumn with spring. Thankfully temperatures remain below 30 degrees celsius and the nights are balmy, which is helpful when fighting the inevitable jet lag that comes from travelling for 24 hours through 9 time zones. Day and night are again turned upside-down. But we keep ourselves busy and physically active – as soon as we sit still, the urge to sleep becomes overwhelming.
Our regular morning walk through the suburb is familiar, but refreshingly new, after nearly a year away. Immediately, I notice the warm wind on my face and the sun on my back, remembering to slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat for protection from the sun. The jacaranda flowers are on their last leg and the trees shower the footpath with purple raindrops. The Illawarra flame trees are picking up the slack with bright red lanterns that float down and settle on the path. Pride of Bolivia trees also carpet the ground below their branches with spent yellow flowers, while evergreen fig trees reach their roots toward the creek and their branches shade the path.
Not only is our walk a feast for the eyes, we smell the sweet scent of the flowering gum trees and hear the loud squeaks of rainbow lorikeets drunkenly drinking gum tree nectar and noisy miners clacking their beaks to keep predators from their young. Mixed in, of course, with the sight of flattened cane toads on the road, the smell of possum pee under the canopy and the sound of cars.
For cars are plentiful. One person in one car, swearing at the traffic jam they find themselves in on the way to work, not realising they are part of the problem, not the solution. This remains a radical and fundamental difference between Copenhagen and Brisbane: The aggressive rulers of the roads are cyclists in Copenhagen, whereas in Brisbane they are car drivers.
In Copenhagen cars and pedestrians are submissive to cyclists on the roads. With a vengeance, cyclists have taken the space offered and then some. Beware, pedestrian, of cyclists that come from anywhere and seem oblivious to that red light you know they face. Even drivers are submissive to cyclists, always careful at right turns (that would be the equivalent of left turns in Australia) where cyclists going straight ahead always have right of way. Cyclists can be bullies and you often hear them shouting unpleasantly at pedestrians, cars and each other.
In Brisbane, the car driver is the king of the road. Surprisingly easy on each other, when taking into account how aggressively drivers can be toward cyclists, who unlike Copenhagen cyclists have no dedicated bicycle paths on the side of the road, but must either ride on the road or on separate paths that rarely take them to where they need to go. Consequently, Brisbane cyclists rarely ride for transport, but mostly for exercise.
On our walk, we encounter many cyclists dressed in lycra and the latest cycling fashion. Conversely, we also see countless runners more casually dressed, in contrast to the impeccably dressed runners who whizzed past us on our walk around the lakes in Copenhagen with their no doubt expensive running gear. And we meet lots of walkers. Nearly everyone has time to say good morning and smile.
Down by the soccer fields council has installed new exercise equipment and we spot personal trainers with their devotees busily using it. Better than paying gym fees and out in the fresh air too. We also notice, however, the number of cars parked at the soccer club which demonstrate how people still drive to exercise. Incongruous, really.
It is good to be back, though the travelling feeling has not left me. When I wake in the middle of the night, I find myself wondering where I put the tickets and when we are leaving again as I disorientatedly fumble at the wrong side of the door for the handle, being thoroughly confused about where I am. Perhaps this too is the migrant’s lot: to always be subconsciously plotting the next return to either of ones homes.