|Moored off South Island (photo the author 2007)|
I am returning in a few days to the island paradise of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands after an absence of nine years. It is with mixed emotions, I must admit. The last time I spent Anzac Day on Cocos was April 2007; I took up my late father's headstone for his grave, he had died on New Year's Eve 2006.
My father's grave in 2007 (Photo the author)
While I am again visiting for Anzac Day and ready to enjoy all of the commemorations which accompany such an important memorial day on a remote island, I am wanting to show my partner, and fellow avid snorkeller, the beauty of a remote part of Australia, visited by few. He has a milestone birthday due in a few months, and so by way of a birthday tribute I felt a visit to this island paradise would be a fitting gift. And the gracious man that he is appreciates that there will be moments of the past which I will lay to rest.
I made a speech at the Anzac Day service in 2007 in memory of my late father
My father, a retired Royal Australian Naval Commodore, lived out the last few years of his life between his home in Perth, and his island paradise of Cocos. He was invigorated by the simple life of the islands, the beauty of his surroundings and the kindness of the people, both the expat western Australians of West Island and the Australians of Cocos Malay descent who reside on Home Island.
I spent many wonderful weeks with him over the years when my children would spend part of the school holidays with their father; our time together was marked by long chats about life and living, by long thoughtful silences, and many gin and tonics on his front verandah overlooking the island runway (which remains unfenced to this day!)
The planes land on an unfenced runway; the golf course runs either side of the runway!(Photo the author 2007)
So much has been written and spoken about the perils of revisiting old memories. I am looking forward to going back to Cocos and enjoying the islands for what they are, not what they have meant to me previously...an escape from life's travails, a positive bonding with a parent, an opportunity for self reflection and a marvellous excuse to party!
This time I go with an open mind and a loving partner. Perhaps it will be my last visit, only time will tell. But next week, Cocos and I get to bond again...and I will endeavour to win at two up on Anzac Day, to catch up with old friends, and to make new memories.
The solemn Anzac Day service is commemorated by serving members of the Australian Defence Force (photo the author 2007)