I had not completed one last requirement for my pilot’s license; a six-hour solo navigation exercise from Melbourne to Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. I made the flight on a Saturday, two weeks after our wedding. That evening the Estonian social group was to have a party, so I had to get back that afternoon.
I landed in Wagga, refueled, and was about to leave on my return flight when I got a message from Wagga tower: the corridor into Moorabbin airfield, Melbourne, was closed due to a cloud bank. I had to spend a night at a city en route. I didn’t get back home until noon the following day. Worse, our holiday apartment didn’t have a telephone. I had to miss the Estonian party. What would Elle do?
The cloud bank cleared overnight. I arrived at our apartment about noon, wondering what reception I would get.
As I entered the apartment, Elle was sitting, knitting. She smiled at me. Well, that was good.
Then I noticed the sign on the wall: “WELCOME HOME RED BARON.”
I asked her about what she had done the night before. She said that she had gone to the Estonian party, of course!
Then I asked her if anyone had wondered about where I was. She told them that we were having separate evenings. “We’ve been married two whole weeks. We decided that we needed some personal time, apart.”
I don’t know if she ever told them the truth.
That (southern) winter I decided to apply to Sydney University for a Ph.D. candidature. The electrical exploration had given me some ideas for a good dissertation. Although the department head and assistant department head were both on sabbatical leave, the ‘Reader’, the number three man in the department according to Sydney University faculty structure, did approve my candidature. For that reason I decided to resign from CRAE after my second trip to Bougainville, which was coming up, and pursue a Ph. D. degree at Sydney Uni.
(My experiences during my upcoming second Bougainville trip are under the ‘Bougainville2′ category. I posted them earlier.)