Kingston, Tasmania, 1987
From the novel When The Night Comes (Hachette Australia 2014)
There is this song called Going Home by Mark Knopfler. It’s from the movie Local Hero.
It starts off slow. You can hardly hear it, just acoustic guitar gently plucking out the melody, some soft kind of sounds in the background, like the sea and the wind and the open sky all there inside the song. Calling. It’s haunting and wanting and saying goodbye.
Then it builds up, becomes electric, and the guitar echoes metallic – still soft, still slow, but then the drums start the song becomes hopeful – joyous, like a victory march.
Look at all that’s happened. Look at all that’s changed.
We sat in the car in Kingston, parked on the side of the road on a bend, and watched Nella Dan sail away.
I got out and walked to the edge as far as I could. Below me was steep drop, a cliff – rocks and trees and then the water. Mum turned the stereo right up and the music moved like mist in the air across the water – reaching out to the little red ship.
I hoped Bo knew we were here, that we were watching, saying goodbye. I thought I should wave in case he could see us, but that was stupid because he wouldn’t be able to. He would be in the galley, already working. He would be inside, busy.
Mum had made him a tape and maybe he had it on. Maybe they were playing it in the galley. Maybe he was listening to the same song.
I knew he really like it.
The first time he heard it in the car he said, “I know this song. Yes.”
He told us he went to see Dire Straits in Copenhagen before he came here, and they ended the concert with Going Home.
“Great song,” he said. “Nella Dan’s song.”
The song finished and Nella was a long way out, the Derwent no longer a river but the sea. And when I looked at her, she looked so happy heading out to open water. Going home. Going home and leaving us behind.
There were rafts of birds sitting on the water out there, shearwaters – brown-black masses of them, and when I turned back to the car, Mum was crying.
From the novel When The Night Comes (Hachette Australia 2014). Extract published with permission of author and publisher.
RS50546_1427-A3 Nella Dan in the sea ice 1965
Photograph Phillip Law, Australian Antarctic Division, Commonwealth of Australia
Sourced from the Australian Antarctic Division.