I’ve always enjoyed the words to ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and
never did I think I’d tire of hearing it sang, but after a recent trip
to Europe, I knew I never wanted to hear that song again for a long time, or
so I thought.
My daughter, Stephanie, and I went on a thirty-day trip to Europe. It was
called the ‘European Masterpiece’ and would take us to fifteen
countries. Needless to say, we were both excited. I was even more excited after
we landed in London, the meeting point for the group, and discovered that we
were traveling with forty-eight Australians. I’d lived in Australia as
a child and couldn’t wait to spend a month with these wonderful people
from ‘Down Under’.
The group I was with was particularly fond of wine. Stephanie and I didn’t
drink, but had no problem with the Australians and their love of spirits. We
climbed on the bus in London, drove it onto the train, and zipped through the
Chunnel towards Paris. There, we met our tour guide, Willie. We changed busses
and began our tour of Europe.
Stephanie and I soon made friends with the Aussies and spent time getting
to know each and every one of them. They were delightful. At first, I thought
Willie had used good taste when he put on a tape of Australian songs. Everyone
on the bus sang along to the tunes. What ones we didn’t know, we soon
learned, as the tape replayed over and over again the entire bus ride, each
and ever day. I soon knew every word to the Australian National Anthem, Botany
Bay, Didjeridoo, and Waltzing Matilda.
By day five of the thirty-day trip, I started plotting ways to steal the tape
from Willie and burn it, or throw it over the next bridge the bus crossed.
I’d lay awake at night with the words rushing through my mind. If I was
lucky enough to fall asleep, I’d dream of Waltzing Matilda at the billabong.
Then something wonderful happened. We arrived in Italy. Willie changed the
tape and instead, we listened to Italian songs by Dean Martin. It was a pleasant
change. As we drove through Genoa, heading towards Florence, I sang along to ‘That’s
Amore’. I basked in the words of ‘Arrivederci Roma’ and ‘The
Isle of Capri’. This was heaven, at least until two weeks later when
we neared Venice. If I heard, “When the moon hits your eye like a big
pizza pie, that’s amore,” one more time, I swore I would never
eat pizza again, just to show them! Not only were my dreams full of Waltzing
Matildas, but now she was being hit in the face by pizza pies! Needless to
say, my heart sighed with relief as we crossed the border in Austria and didn’t
have to listen to Dino any longer.
When Willie put on the soundtrack to the ‘Sound of Music’, it
was calming. Here I was in the hills that were alive with the sound of music.
I sang along, happy for the change. For three days we listened to that same
tape. What was with that man? Why did he play the same tape over and over again?
I vowed that when I arrived home, I’d send Willie a box of tapes so he
could have a variety. I wasn’t to be spared, but at least some poor soul
on a future trip wouldn’t have to endure the agony of the same songs
over and over again.
After thirty days, we headed back to Calais, France, to catch a ferry back
to England. We said goodbye to Willie, and I must admit I cried when it was
time to leave him. During the ferry ride over a very calm English Channel,
I curled up on a padded bench and with tears in my eyes, I hummed those same
songs I had so dreaded hearing the few weeks before. In London we said our
goodbyes to the Australians. It was time to go home. Embraces and kisses on
the cheek, promises of keeping in touch, all contributed to the sobs that shook
my body the entire flight home from England.
Whenever I hear any of the songs I endured during my trip, instead of wanting
to scream, I treasure every note, every word, and every memory of that wonderful
time I had in Europe, with my friends from ‘Down Under’.