As a child, about a week from every year was spent on one intense road trip from the south-west of Western Australia to Brisbane, Queensland – a journey of almost 4,500km. My grandparents lived in Queensland and, as they got older, it was important to us and to them that we were able to visit regularly. Perhaps this was the beginning of my addiction to travel.
Once, when I was about six, we were speeding along the mesmerising bitumen road that stretched straight into the horizon through a plain of saltbush. Daddy was driving, Mummy was probably reading or sleeping and my brother and I had slid the seats back and were sitting on the floor, playing DUPLO LEGO. Quite illegal, yes. We had no seatbelts and no cares. Oh, and we were building masterpieces.
All was well until I decided to show my masterpiece to Daddy. I was so little back then. I stood up and leaned into the front. At just that moment, a Police car decided to drive past us.
“Quick, kids, sit in your seats and put your seatbelts on.” Dad urged. All too soon those ominous flashing blue and red lights showed in Daddy’s mirrors. We pulled over and a man came to the window. Daddy pulled out his license and had a lecture.
In Australia, it’s a pretty serious offence to allow your kids to be in the car with no seatbelt no matter how straight and long and boring the road. Safety first. But to make matters worse, when the Policeman inspected Dad’s license, he discovered that it had expired some time ago. Now this was really bad.
Daddy and the Policeman were talking in grown-up language, Mummy was sitting very still and quiet and I was sobbing to myself in the backseat. I didn’t know what was going to happen to us. I thought for sure Daddy was going to go to jail and we might never see him again. After a while, we drove very slowly, in front of the Police Car to the next town where we had to wait in the car while Daddy disappeared into the station.
The story does have a happy ending. Somehow we were able to continue on our journey but Dad was served a court notice and had to appear in court for his traffic offences. It turned out that someone in the Police Department had messed up and sent the all-important license renewal notice to an address that Dad had not lived at for years.
And thankfully, I also had good Police encounters in my life so I didn’t grow up terrified of these scary men in blue that almost took my beloved Daddy away.