Part 1 

Episode 3

So there they were at a bus stop in Alice Springs.

Well! Afterwards, everyone spoke of that week with such fondness and amazement. 

When she had last seen him about 4 years previously, he had been skinny as a rake, had backcombed black hair, a studded belt and drainpipe jeans. He had been polished, neat and meticulous, a Goth punk style with an acid wit for a good put down. He had been one of those arrogant teenagers/young men. 

He had had those delicate clear blue eyes that you see in pale waifs clutching their cherished hurt up their stripy mohair jumper sleeves. Older women had loved him and he knew it. He had been a peacock and when Ruth had known him first he had always patted her on the head and told her to do well at school. Which to be fair, she found a bit patronising but she recognized equally that he was too cool for school.

He had finished art school and had gone of to London to be a painter, an enfant terrible! Ruth actually kind of aspired to be like him when she was 15. 

This time though, he was a few stone heavier, a bit scruffier and was wearing a very normal office shirt and dodgy board shorts. He wore casual plimsolls instead of Cuban heel boots and had an epic pair of Deirdre Rachid glasses covering slightly bloodshot blue eyes and had developed quite a widow’s peak.

Not that that was naff or anything, just not what Ruth had expected at all; 4 years is a long time ay.  

It was a bit awkward in some ways; so much more had changed and added to that they had just found out James and Fred's luggage had got lost in transit.

James was not in Alice Springs alone and neither was Ruth. Ruth’s mum Mog and their friend Fred had set up the whole expedition. Fred was James' best friend and a splendid chap. He had been a long time family friend and had come to the party Mog held as a send off when they left Britain 3 years earlier. 

Fred had stayed in touch, periodically writing letters to Mog and Ruth. There was no email in 1991, funny to think back.  They came by airmail with the little blue stamp. 

Anyhow Fred contacted Mog basically to ask if he and James could doss with her while they were in Sydney and the plan escalated from there.

 Having found out that their luggage had been sent on to Uluru -Ayres Rock  by mistake they secured their lodgings for the night before it was decided a drink was in order. They headed off to the nearest bar at the rissole, the R.S.L. the Australian equivalent of the British Legion.

  Ruth as it happens was wearing, very little, had bubblegum pink hair. Not the only one to change, she was 4 stone lighter and had a short velvet skirt, a bra and lace top, fishnets and doc martins.

 As they breezed into the boozer, “ The Slaughtered Lamb” came to mind.  Ruth had already caused a stir on her arrival at the airport and it didn’t stop. There were very few women around and several eyes watched them all as they took their seats. 

Ruth didn’t drink but her companions did. Everyone except Ruth proceeded to get very, very drunk. She smoked weed instead. She didn’t drink and doesn’t now, doesn’t like it. 

The evening ended with them all jumping in a swimming pool at 2.00 in the morning it was such good fun! 

There were so many tales to tell and they all had a wicked time. The rest of the week was bloody amazing, they visited Uluru and Kata Chuta, walked in the desert, saw quite wondrous landscapes. 

The locals knew all about them, the wacky lot from England ay, they got their luggage back by the by and played silly buggers in the 40 degree heat, getting wrecked every night and pratting about. 

The feature event of the week was James daring Ruth to leap out of the jeep at the Uluru viewing platform to yell "you   fucking beauty " at the vista. Which Ruth did without batting an eyelid? 35 Japanese tourists turned round from the rock to take snap shots of Ruth posing like Marilyn Munroe on the boardwalk!

James had his birthday back in Alice and at the end of the week, Ruth was sad to leave. 

James and Fred went on with the rest of their journey and were going to meet back in Sydney in 4 weeks time. 

James and Ruth had got on really quite well that week. He struck her as fiercely intelligent, capable, independent and confident, with the same dark sense of humour as hers, same bold attitude.

 In truth she was bolder and more silly than he but he encouraged her to be so and that, she liked. They were to reminisce about that week many times, Brilliant times. Sometimes she still can.

 In the interim, Betty went back home to Sydney and hung about. Mooched, went to the market, the coffee shop, got stoned with her mates, still no plans, she played with her cats, sang to herself, wrote bad doggerel verse, painted, met everyone down the pub every night and didn’t get up in the morning!

 She looked forward to seeing the boys again; everyone kept saying she went a bit fluffy when she talked about the boys! Especially James and they were right.

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