One year ago, today, I was a guest at the Guest House, in Melbourne Australia. I didn't know any of this wonderful family before I got to Melbourne, so here is the story...
I was in Australia to catch the last three test of the 2006 Ashes, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. My travelling companion (Steve) and I both support Portsmouth FC, and he was a member of a message board for the Aussie Pompey supporters called Pompey Down Under. A great deal of banter goes on on these message boards, and personalities emerge.
Well... one day in the chat room on PalTalk in which we listen to the live feed of the Pompey matches, one of the aussie's who had read about Steve going for all five Tests (and 8 weeks in OZ) asked him what he was doing for Christmas?
As the Cricket didn't start until Boxing Day... he told this mate (also called Steve) that he's be at the BBQ at the park with the Barmy Army (see more about them later) playing a friendly 20/20 (or something, close enough). Steve the Aussie told him, "No, you're not. You are coming to our home for Christmas barbie. We're cooking Skippy." riiiiiiight...
At this point, my Steve told aussie Steve that he wouldn't be alone. "No worries, Mate the more the merrier!!" Nice one!
We arrived in Melbourne, and as we had a week off before Christmas, decided we'd better meet these crazy people who were inviting complete strangers to their home for Christmas dinner! We arranged to meet after their working hours at the Young & Jackson's pub near the main trains station, and for some reason, we knew them right away. Maybe it was the pile of shopping bags which Fiona had just acquired while shopping. Maybe it was the shaved head of Steve (#1). I think it was the arms full of tattoos, along with the rest, which helped us pick them out of the crowd,
After talking for at least an hour, during which time we knew we'd get along famously, we discovered that the couple sitting next to us, eavesdropping, were also from Portsmouth. Well, he was, she was from Oxfordshire somewhere. In fact, he said his father played for Pompey in the 60's. What a small world!! They joined us in the pub, and the next thing we knew, Fiona and Steve were inviting THEM to dinner too!! They were just wandering around OZ escaping the English winter weather, so they accepted! Oh, and Fiona told all of us to bring our swimming gear, as they had an in-ground pool! What fun!!
We exchanged mobile numbers, and arranged a time for all of the adoptees to meet at the train station under the clock as they lived in Mentone, about 40 minutes by train from Melbourne.
Five days later, as the weather was getting colder and colder, we caught the bus to take us to the train station. Brrrrrrrrrrrr, it was cold... in fact, I'm pretty sure it was the Christmas Day in Melbourne history (or the last 50 year). We were bundled up in our warmest clothes (remember, it's December, and this is supposed to be SUMMER... hellooooooooo!!)
Everyone was at the train station at the right time, including a workmate of Fiona's and her hubby. I'd brought presents for Fiona and Bella, who was almost 5). We'd also picked out some wine the day before to contribute to the feast.
Even though we didn't get to go swimming that day, and we had to keep the patio sliding doors closed to keep the heat in, we still had an authentic Australian barbie for Christmas dinner, complete with beef, chicken and kangaroo. I don't know how Steve marinated that roo, but it was delicious!!!
What a wonderful day to remember with new friends who have become old friends, as well as strangers who are no longer strangers. When Fiona Guest opens her home to friends new and old, it is truely the "Guest House".