the long way ’round

The G.O. and I have just passed the 25 year milestone since we met…

Regardless of not having been a Coffs Harbour resident since living there as a teenager with his grandmother on the family farm, whenever we make the drive about an hour from our home at Taylors Arm for business, shopping or recreation in the CBD, the G.O. habitually parks as he’s done since the 1970’s in the same street one back from the main road around the corner from The Coffs Hotel adjacent to the Coffs Coast Advocate newspaper offices.

Each time I step out onto the footpath, I marvel at the inscrutability of life’s journey.

A year or so before I met the G.O. in 1990, I was at those same newspaper offices applying for a job on their staff. At which time the G.O. had been working off and on throughout NSW and Queensland for several years with the man who would become my Husband #2 and via whom we would meet.

At the time, I was married to Husband #1, living in the rural Hunter Valley coal mining town of Muswellbrook, had a good job at the local council and was studying part-time for a Bachelor of Business in Local Government. Husband #1 bored with his carpentry job decided to try his luck bricklaying with his cousin who lived on the Coffs Coast. He went over for a couple of weeks on trial, me tagging along on holidays, and decided to move over permanently. Seeing the job at the newspaper advertised, I’d tried my luck, scoring an interview but unsuccessful as I wasn’t a local resident.

Returning to the Hunter Valley, in preparation for the move Husband #1 & I bought and renovated a large-ish caravan, relocating to his parents’ farm from our nice rented town house to live in it, with our 2 Rottweilers & 2 cats, and quit our jobs.

The day before we were due to hitch the caravan to the ute and depart Husband #1 changed his mind. His parents were unconcerned. Husband #1 had been employed in the main by one or another family member so he simply resumed work. Their blasé attitude at my unemployed status suggested they were hoping I’d come to my senses and produce a grandchild.

I immediately applied for any job listed in the local newspaper for which I was remotely qualified, and took the first offer I got as a receptionist at the premier hotel in town mainly patronised by visiting sales reps, executives, managers, etc. for local industry.

I worked 2 shifts: 7 am-3 pm and 3 pm-11 pm week about. Days were routine. Nights were more interesting with a procession of various guests, diners and occasional local minor celebrities into the hotel and restaurant. The hotel, part of a group, was managed by a cultivated but eccentric middle-aged couple who mostly left reception staff to their own devices.

The lady of the house was inclined to airs & graces and if it could be managed liked to have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails then descend the curved staircase from their private quarters elegantly attired, fluffy dog in hand to greet the guests. At which point whoever was on reception had to simultaneously attempt to persuade her back upstairs and locate her husband.

I kept one eye on the positions vacant, several months later landing a job as office manager for the NSW branch of a heavy earthmoving equipment company. It was there I met Husband #2. Soon, riding the last wave of the excess of the 80’s I was at the same hotel 3 nights a week lavishly hosting guests at the expense of the company or hosted by corporate colleagues.

The G.O. also had been working for the earthmoving equipment company, but his visits to our site didn’t coincide with my presence. It wasn’t until the company and my marriage to Husband #1 folded, and I moved to Sydney in April 1990 that we met.

The G.O. and EllaDee at Coffs Harbour's iconic tourist attraction!
The G.O. and EllaDee at Coffs Harbour’s iconic tourist attraction!

We discovered that over the preceding years our paths had come close but not connected numerous times; me holidaying as a kid on the Coffs Coast and the G.O. working in the Hunter Valley. And even once they did, it would take another 15 years, another marriage each to other people before the light dawned…

For Mary from Memoirs of a Husk who commented some time ago “We like long stories…” Check out her excellent novel A Wake of Vultures.

And with thanks to the commenters on my post out on a limb whose suggestions inspired ideas for several stories, this story included, and a ‘branching out’ theme short story which if I get time to polish it before May 29 might be a contender for submission to Country Style Magazine’s short story competition.

33 thoughts on “the long way ’round

  1. Love the story, which only goes to confirm my view that the world is impossibly small. My own experience of small world syndrome is that the Husband and I were in Cairns at the same time and probably hanging out in the same places 11 years before we met. And of course, Coffs Harbour being the centre of the universe, I lived and worked there before I met him, and might even have bumped into you both at some stage!


    1. It fascinates me, and I think it cannot be entirely random, and there is some Universal pre-planning behind small world syndrome and the synchronicity we experience.


      1. You only have to read Celi’s account of how she and Our John met, missed, met again and married. One of the most fascinating ‘how we met’ stories, and clear evidence that some things are just meant by the universe to happen.


        1. It sounds like the start of a collection of stories to me, Ms Ella Dee…. something along the lines of Celi’s Letters to My Little Sister. Perhaps a future project, hmmm?


        2. Why not, she says, I love a good anthology… Let me write a story and do some research. I’ll share and see if there’s any interest.


  2. I loaned a work friend a pile of LP’S ( ANYONE UNDER 30 JUST ASK) but when the job we worked on finished, didn’t get them back. When I met Julia we used to listen to music and going through her records one night noticed a lot of similarities and then on one some initials. Turns our her ex boyfriend had left them there. Guess who. I had to marry her to get them back.She took me to meet her parents and ask for her hand (and the rest of her) and I not only knew the place but I’d decorated it when my paternal grandmother had lived there. I got Julia’s hand and also the job of redecorating the place again.
    You and the G.O. had a slightly longer engagement but have proved to be just as Happy. Roll on Taylor’s Arms.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


  3. Belated happy anniversary to you and the GO. It is SO interesting what path finally leads us to our beloved. My own husband had lived in Australia for 10 years (me still in the USA) when we finally got together–many twists and turns along the way. It hardly seems like it could have been any other way. I always say ‘truth is stranger than fiction’. Best of luck with the story comp, let us know if we need to buy a copy of the mag!! xx


    1. One of the wonderful things about blogging, sharing with others who truly appreciate and understand, amazing, heartwarming stories.
      Very kind, but I use the competition as motivation to write a short story. No-one would be more surprised, or happier, than me. I would buy up all the copies and mail them out!


  4. I love your story, EllaDee. I had the opposite experience. I don’t think the Fella and I would ever have crossed paths in our earlier lives. It took the MUA dispute in 1998 for those paths to intersect. Now of course we amble along the same path, and only sometimes at different speeds!


    1. It was a long road but headed in the right direction 🙂 A number of story ideas came out of workshopping the theme ‘branching out’ out via a blog post. This one didn’t make the cut but I’ve managed another of 2000-ish words that may be a last minute entry.


    1. Thank you. Only 25 years long! The Big Banana (according to Wiki) has been around longer than me, built in 1964 one of Australia’s first Big Things. I think I may have visited age 6 enroute to Queensland. The G.O. remembers when it was new, and his family bought a tractor from the owners which is still parked in the shed at the old farm.


  5. My favourite ever stories are ‘how we met’ stories. You’ll have to tell us how you and the GO met and fell in love 🙂
    My partner and I also had several near misses and uncanny coincidences before we actually did meet, reluctantly, at the insistence of our mutual friends 🙂 That was 15 years ago 🙂


    1. Time flies… only the other day I commented to the G.O. that it seems like we never weren’t together. People’s “how we met”, and the prequel to those stories reinforces my belief we come here equipped with a rough lesson plan, notes & revisions; mud map; tools; points of contact; and Universal guidance… the latter being how the G.O. and I finally got together. I’ll ponder a story…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. How many almosts before it all came together so nicely! 🙂 Great story. You made me smile.


    1. Thank you 🙂 It’s always good when it -finally- comes together nicely. And so many times real life makes a just as good of a story as one we could make up.


  7. Such a lovely story. Life’s dance is so strange – the Universe does seem to be sorting, grouping, and placing players – trying things out here and there, until we finally recognize what’s right in front of us. Mysterious and wonderful at the same time.


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