Why life in Australia just doesn't compare to Yorkshire as my daughter prepares to come home - Christa Ackroyd

Next week is always a tricky one in our household.

Not because it’s New Year and that always gives me a slight feeling of melancholy for those who are no longer with us, but because for our family it’s also a time for goodbyes. Or at least au revoir.

For the last few years our daughter and her daughter have flown thousands of miles to spend Christmas with us in Yorkshire. This year has been no different. She emigrated with her partner to Australia almost two decades ago and our eldest granddaughter, her only child, was born there.

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But whenever they can, and that means most Christmases in what is their summer holidays, they hop on a plane for 24 hours to come home. And there are always tears when they leave us for another year. And so there will be again next week.

Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North Presenter, journalist and broadcaster.Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North Presenter, journalist and broadcaster.
Christa Ackroyd, former BBC Look North Presenter, journalist and broadcaster.

It has been difficult for our daughter living so far away. She was always the home bird out of our three children and the least likely to emigrate. In fact, she used to get homesick on a sleepover with her best friend who lived in the house next door. So making a new life down under certainly wasn’t on her bucket list. But love happens… though part of her heart has always remained in Yorkshire.

Every Christmas we have the best of times making memories and watching our eldest granddaughter reconnect with her younger cousins, which means she spends her holidays being hero worshipped by two girls who want to dress like her, talk like her and be her. Because being 12 seems incredibly grown up when you are only seven and five.

What is it about older cousins that makes them so very special? I was always horrified to wear my handmade clothes as a youngster as they never quite matched up to shop bought outfits worn by cousin Judy. And when she passed them to me, I never saw them as hand-me-downs. They they were worn with pride because Judy, being five years older, always seemed to dress far more fashionably than anything I got to wear. And if I complained or even begged for something a little more trendy, my mum used to remind me that clothes were for keeping you warm and life wasn’t a fashion parade.

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The real reason for my hero worship of course was that cousin Judy wouldn’t even entertain anything that wasn’t considered bang on trend at 16. And I thought she was marvellous. Judy was a farmer’s daughter. She wasn’t flash in any way. In fact she was rather quiet. But she was the first person who had a record player in her bedroom which of course the nine-year-old me was desperate for as a result. What’s more, she even allowed me to wear the glittery blue eye shadow so in vogue in the Seventies, which if my father had seen would have led to me being told me to get upstairs and wash that muck off my face.

And so it is with ours. Home really is where the heart is. To many emigrating to Australia is a dream of living in paradise. It never appealed to me, although I have worked there many times and visited before and after our daughter made it her home. Mike Tindall has quashed rumours that he and his wife, Princess Anne’s daughter Zara, were planning a permanent move there, summing up what I have always believed – l that it’s great for a holiday but there is no place like home.

Of course, the Australian immigration board would tell you otherwise comparing life in the UK with life over there with the conclusion “Australia is undoubtedly the winner when it comes to lifestyle, climate and beauty”. Which I would dispute. It is often too hot to venture out (42 degrees centigrade last week ), which means it’s prone to fires and floods.

Sydney is one of the wettest cities I know. A couple of weeks ago a cyclone knocked out electricity for 400,000 people near Cairns. And as for beauty, the cities are stunning but when you spend seven hours flying from one side to the other you can seen the vast majority of open spaces are scrubland.

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Its record on the treatment of its indigenous population leaves a lot to be desired. It was appalling slow to recognise gay marriage and it is fine having the sunshine if you don’t have to work all hours to appreciate it. Australia might have the weather but if you think it’s expensive here, wow Australia costs a fortune.

Take Sydney where the average price of a house outstrips even London at around £700,000. Food is costly because if they don’t grow it they don’t let it in and I remember paying a fiver for an avocado around five years ago and a banana blight meant that the cost of a banana one year wasn’t far behind.

In fact, Sydney is now considered more expensive than London and New York to both buy property and to live. Of course some people emigrate and never look back. They make a new life and they love it. But 50 per cent of Brits who go there after making plans for a permanent move come home and it is usually for one reason, and one reason only, family.

Australia’s biggest drawback is simply how long it takes to get there and how far away it feels for those you leave behind. And the cost. What used to be a few hundred pounds to fly economy is now a few thousand so you can’t just nip on a plane whenever you feel homesick.

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And that is why our daughter is planning to come home for good, even though Australia has been good for her. When she left she was someone who worked in the corporate world of banking, as did her partner. It was never really her and so she decided to throw it all in and train to be a Geography teacher with a part time course while working that took her seven years to complete. It has been life changing and, without being patronising, the making of her.

For so long she has felt like a square peg in a round hole and has finally found her calling, so much so that this year she was awarded the state prize as Geography teacher of the year. But with her new found confidence has come the realisation that sunshine and beaches is no trade off for family. And so this week perhaps for the last time we wave them off knowing that soon they will come home. So the tears flowed a little less at least.

As for our Aussie granddaughter although she loves her outdoor sporting life she was born to be a Yorkshire girl. She hates the hot weather and loves the rain. Every year she prays it will snow here on her trips although she was four when she first experienced it. Above all she loves her cousins and being the eldest of the five of them, all of them girls. Cream rises wherever you live.

It is never too late to find your vocation as our daughter has discovered. But distance doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes it just makes you realise that there really is no place like home.

Next year we will hopefully say goodbye at the airport for the last time and that will make 2024 a very indeed. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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