The magic carpet is rested, I’ve hung around the Richmond riverside for two days and we are off on a long journey down memory lane. The scarf is a rich deep blue and green printed silk and comes from Australia, the land of the blue gum tree. The scarf shows its leaves. I actually have a eucalyptus in my English garden, but it had a drastic prune last year and is now sulking. I dried its leaves and filled sinus-clearing or moth deterrent chiffon bags, an alternative to the usual lavender.
I had no thought of handicrafts as I accepted an unusual commission to travel as a courier from San Francisco, my home at that time, to Sydney with a stop-over in Hawaii to pick up another unknown packet. I had heard of these courier jobs through the British Consulate so reckoned I would not be carrying anything illegal. I had two days to alert my husband who was in Canada at the time, contact daughter in Oz to ask if she would welcome a visit, get the necessary travel papers, board the dog, and I was off. I was allowed only a small bag as luggage to fit under my plane seat and that would have to see me through three weeks. I was handed a document case and was entrusted not to let it out of my sight. On board, I went into the toilet and had a look, in case there were drugs or some other contraband goods. Only boring oil exploration tender documents. Exit at Honolulu, waited to be identified in transit lounge. Felt like a James Bond girl. Man approaches. Are you TNT? Yes, I answer. Have you something for me? No. I’m DHL. He recognised me from the colour of my entrusted document case. Mine was brown, his blue. He was just being friendly from a rival courier company, recognising another mate. He was experienced and told me how he privately financed his trips by selling opals from Australia in USA. Wow! As a courier, I had to be well dressed in a suit and I would have had a scarf undoubtedly but in my small bag all I had was a few T-shirts, shorts and enough undies, camera and my credit card. After all, I was going to be bedding down with youngsters in a small flat on Bondi Beach. Finally, identified by my contact, I returned to plane, now with two packets.
Arrived Sydney. Commission completed. Now for three weeks of incredible adventure which will have to be another blog....or two.
For now, I tell you only of my courier journeys. The return was more straightforward, no stopover. I was carrying a can of film which was to be collected at SFO for onward transmission to Los Angeles. I was worried that the address was Blue Heaven Films. What kind of film did I have? I was also worried about American Customs examining the contents of my own little travel bag. I had bought two Aborigine paintings on bark and I knew the USA were hot on organic matter being brought in, and worse, I had been all round Australia, Alice Springs, climbed Ayers Rock, the Olgas, visited the Blue Mountains, and spent a week on an island by the Barrier Reef without access to laundry facilities. Let’s say I could have done with one of my lavender or eucalyptus bags to perfume my case.
First I had to go through Immigration. As a Brit, I had an L2 visa, a dependent relative of an L1, a foreigner permitted to run a business. I had travelled in and out of the country countless times over the years and I had never been asked the question posed to me that night. Is your husband in the country? I am honest and answered No. He is in Canada. He will be back tomorrow. Sorry, m’am, you can’t come into the country. But my home is here, my dog ......where are you going to send me? I’ve just been to Australia as a courier, I don’t have a home in England...... they are now eyeing me suspiciously and march me off to a interrogation room. Eventually, they let me go with strict admonishment never to try entering the country again if my husband was not there. I was the only person left in the airport. Sweating profusely, I still had to face Customs with the suspect film, a bag of dirty knickers and the bark paintings. The Customs man could not have been nicer, but said he’d have to go through my bag. I apologised profusely. He didn’t notice the paintings were on bark and we had a laugh about the possibility I was carrying blue movies. The airport no longer had equipment to view film.
I had truly not known that my visa was conditional on my husband being in the country. I was asked the same question only once more in all the years of travelling in and out of USA, and I have to admit I told a little porkie! I wasn’t going through all that again. He was returning the following day.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!