by Clare Gleeson (A runner-up entry in the inaugural Travel Writing Competition)
Every time I go to my fridge I feel a tug from afar. Fresh sea breezes from the Pacific, the Cockney patter of a London market, the spicy aromas of Asian stalls and the exhaust fumes of a New York street. My memories come alive as my eyes alight on the magnets clinging to the fridge door.
I glance at the puppy chewed magnet from the Gold Coast’s Movie World and see the delighted grins of small boys and their fathers as Batman powers through the streets of Gotham City in his Bat mobile.
Ned Kelly in his homemade armour graces the magnet from Glenrowan, where he was captured but his trial was in Beechworth where we visited the courtroom and played judge, jury and accused. When we’d tried and convicted poor Ned we lightened the mood by ducking into the Beechworth Lolly Shop to take our pick from the old fashioned jars – and buy a magnet of course.
Islands of the Pacific, famous for their sun and sea, feature heavily on the fridge door. Two magnets are of jandals, that essential footwear for any beach holiday. The first from Hawaii where we swam at Waikiki with the bronzed and beautiful before heading off to explore the island, and the second from sleepy Rarotonga, surely the most relaxed place in the world.
Tahiti’s offering was the Tahitian gardenia, a small, heavily scented white bloom which was in the leis we had placed around our necks on arrival at Papetee. We’ve only just returned from Lord Howe Island and our latest magnet shows its endangered woodhen, which we saw darting in and out of the undergrowth as we cycled around the island.
Indecision on Norfolk Island means there are two magnets. The first of a convict ship full of human cargo bound for the island prison and the second of John Adam’s prayer. Adams was one of the Bounty mutineers and became the patriarch of the community they founded on Pitcairn Island. He was dead by the time the Pitcairn Islanders were moved to Norfolk in 1856, but his prayer lives on and is still used on both islands today.
The Chatham Islands are not known as a tourist destination; there were only eight visitors on the main island when we were there so I felt lucky to get a magnet at all. The magnet showing an ordinance survey map of the island group is a perfect reminder of its isolation.
As it appeared all over the island, a magnet of the triskelion seemed a logical choice for the Isle of Man. Visiting in the middle of winter we tried to follow the TT course around the island but were defeated by the weather. As snow swirled we negotiated some of the turns and corners before reaching a closed road and retreating to the warmth of a tearooms in Douglas.
In Barcelona we all enjoyed Gaudi’s whimsical architecture so Barcelona’s magnet had to be of one of the decorations on the Sagrada Familia. We love Berlin, and after going through Checkpoint Charlie while backpacking in the early 1980s how could we go past the magnet showing the East German soldier leaping over the wall to freedom when we revisited 20 years later?
One year we took a Caribbean cruise. We sailed from Miami and the night before leaving had dinner at South Beach, enjoying its Art Deco colour and energy. Another year we had Christmas in New York. It was one of our favourite places so the apple with I heart New York in it was the perfect memento. On Boxing Day we went to Philadelphia, the birthplace of the constitution, and what better to remember her by than a magnet with the Declaration of Independence on it.
Magnets of Confederate and Union soldiers were bought the day we visited Carnton Plantation near Franklin, Tennessee. Despite the beauty of the mansion and its surroundings the visit was a sombre one when we saw the cramped slave quarters and the large Confederate graveyard nearby.
We’ve been booked to go twice but still haven’t got to Egypt, and our magnet of Tutankhamen comes from the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, not the banks of the Nile. After sampling the glamour of the casinos we drove part of Route 66 to the Grand Canyon with passages from Steinbeck playing out in my mind.
A week in Sri Lanka saw us journey high into the highlands where tea plantations cover the hillsides. Known as the pearl island our magnet is in the shape of Sri Lanka and has an image of a tea picker on it – perfect.
The blue evil eye of Turkey will protect us from bad luck. I only have to catch a glimpse of its bright blue and deep turquoise to remember the array of colours in the Turkish carpets for sale in the Great Bazaar in Istanbul and taste the sweet apple tea we were given as we tried to decide on one.
There are other magnets, some from close to home and others from afar, all with memories attached. So when I walk to the fridge I never know where I’m going to end up, and the best thing is there’s still lots of room on the fridge door.