We’ve Only Just Begun


Noun,  hon·ey·moon

: a trip or vacation taken by a newly married couple

: a pleasant period of time at the start of something (such as a relationship or a politician’s term in office) when people are happy, are working with each other, etc.

Origin of HONEYMOON: from the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest. First Known Use: 1546


And so we took off from our Wedding Dinner, me still resplendent in my silk taffeta gown, in our family Datsun 260C, fittingly the car in which I had first learnt to drive. We overnighted in a secluded Bed and Breakfast in the Adelaide Hills, a perfect spot to unwind after the flurry of the day.

Our Plan was to drive to “The Grampians” in Victoria, a beautiful mountainous area with bush walks, granite outcrops, native plants and abundant wildlife. I had been there on a Year 10 Camp, ten years before, and was keen to return. A perfect spot for a wintry retreat.

But first, some officialdom needed to be taken care of.

I had lived in England for the year on a “Working Holiday Visa” a scheme whereby antipodeans could work just enough to support their travels in the UK and Europe, over a 2-year period. Although I could have returned to the UK on this same visa, when it ran out I would have to reapply from OUTSIDE the country and enter on a different Visa class – that of “Spouse of a British Citizen”. We decided instead to try to do it in one go. I completed all the necessary pages and pages of forms, but unfortunately we discovered that the powers-that-be would not begin to process any application until they were in possession of our original Marriage Certificate.

Which of course we didn’t have.

So on the Monday morning, with some trepidation, we signed and dated the application forms and parcelled them up, together with the Marriage-Certificate-with-barely-dried-ink, and both our passports. I attached Registered Mail and tracking stamps to the yellow package and handed it over the counter at the first country town Post Office we found open, for its trip to the Australian High Commission in Canberra. We had given as our return addresses that of the Post Office Box of friends in Brisbane.

Australian & European Union passports.

We had calculated the latest possible plane to fly back to England for jobs we were both to start in September – allowing 5 weeks. We had our air tickets, but if we did not retrieve our Passports, we would have to forfeit the flights. Either Canberra would be able to get through the Red Tape in time or we were sunk.

We just had to wait. And pray.

Our week in the Grampians, based in Halls Gap, was delightful. A chance to relax and refresh, and finally be on our own. No studies, no work, no planning, no major events, no relatives, just two people. And a lot of kangaroos.

Our accommodation was a log cabin with a roaring fire, with tuneful birds providing the “Dawn Chorus” just outside our window,

img122 SLB Jaws Death 91
The “Jaws of Death”

We spent our days mainly walking in this stunning location, truly a magnificent place to enjoy just being alive, and the wonders of God’s creation.

Then back to Adelaide to return the Datsun and repack for “Honeymoon Stage two” which was an extended potter around “Sunny Queensland”. We flew into Brisbane and picked up a hire car from “Rent a Bomb” which looked like it would probably last just long enough for our planned travels. For a few days we looked around Brisbane and the southern “Gold Coast” including a gravel pit of a new development, which the Road Atlas proclaimed to be “Proposed Robina Town Centre”.

img103 Nambour 3 Aug 1992 copy
With Jim in his tropical garden in Nambour, 3rd August 1992.

Next we headed north. On the “Sunshine Coast” we stayed overnight with Dad’s best friend Jim and his wife Shirley, and it was lovely for Neil to meet them, and for both of us to gain some insight into Dad’s younger life through his “old mate.” Jim’s secluded home in Nambour was a beautiful oasis of tropical plants.

We gradually worked our way up the coast: Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, … We arrived in “Rocky” on a Saturday night and so decided to checkout the local Lutheran church on Sunday.

After the service we were chatting to the locals, who soon discovered we were newlyweds and I was asked the inevitable question: “What was your maiden name?” on hearing the answer “Bartsch”, the lady I was talking to said: “My husband knew a Bartsch, just wait a minute…” It transpired her husband was the Pastor, and was the son of a past Minister of St. John’s, Unley, who had been my Parents’ first Pastor.

He recalled that “a chap called Bartsch” had taken a movie film of their wedding, 25 years before, which they had recently copied to video and shown guests at their silver anniversary celebrations. It could be none other than my Dad, Ken.

img119 Rockhampton 5 Aug 92 copy
“Tropic of Capricorn” Rockhampton, 5 August 1992

Again proving what a very small world is Australia, and in Lutheran circles in particular.

We stopped along the way to take in various sights and indulged in wine tasting, searching (fairly unsuccessfully) for wild platypus, and attempted cane-cutting the traditional way. img107 copyWe continued north as far as the stunning Whitsunday Islands, the so-called “Gateway to the Barrier Reef”. We stayed in Airlie Beach and from there took a boat trip out to “Bali Hai” island where we snorkelled amongst the tropical fish, and were talked into a scuba dive as well, despite the fact that Neil, (at that stage a non-swimmer) was concerned that he could not float well. “That doesn’t matter,” proclaimed the attractive scuba instructor brightly, “I want you to sink!”

We also spent some time in Noosa Heads and on a farm at Pomona (inland from Noosa), the property of our family friends, finally wending our way back to their Brisbane home, on the Esplanade at Lota (near Manly). Throughout the last weeks, they had been regularly checking their PO Box for our expected package from Canberra, but no success.img106img109 Noosa National Pk Tues 4 Aug 92

We loved having breakfast on their balcony, with uninterrupted views to the sea. Could anywhere be more perfect to live? Why would we want to leave here?img108 669 The Esplanade Lota Wed 29 July 92

But “Real Life” was beckoning and this little sanctuary of calm must surely come to an end.

And yes, just 4 days before our booked flights Brisbane-Singapore-Heathrow, finally the Australian High Commission “came good”. A slim post-pack containing a letter and two passports was retrieved.

And on a centre page the all-important permit was affixed:


Tea Break was over. The next phase of life was about to begin.

Afterword: It is said that God moves in mysterious ways. Interestingly, over the next 20 years, Neil was called to serve as Pastor in Parishes – and we lived – in three places included on our extended Honeymoon: Brisbane, The Grampians, and The Gold Coast. And the “Gravel Pit” of Robina is a sparkly shopping mall which has recently undergone an $80 million Refurbishment, a stone’s throw away from my workplace.

There is no way we could have anticipated any of this when we planned our 5-week retreat.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?



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