Trevor Bones of Southern Cross Travel remembers his wife Penny
We met in 1968 and it was love at first sight for both of us.
I was planning to drive overland to Australia, and Penny asked if she could join me. We left with three other friends in October of 1969 and travelled through Europe and then Asia, before flying from Nepal to Bangkok and eventually on to Perth. Around half of the roads were unsealed then.
In Perth, we shared a house with what became lifetime friends and had a lovely time exploring Perth and the beaches. While there we designed a small brochure, as I had decided that we would start an overland business. It would be based in Australia, as the economy was much better than in the UK.
Eventually we left Perth and drove across the Nullarbor, sleeping under the stars. It was all dirt road then, and a very exciting trip. I think it was here that Penny started her love affair with Australia and the outback.
On arriving in Sydney we chose to live in Kirribilli as Penny said “it has a lovely name.” We visited various travel agents for their views on our overland route and within a few days we had been offered a GSA. We registered Southern Cross Travel in Sydney in 1970.
Penny stayed on in Australia organising the first group, while I arranged vehicles and a film car from the UK. She escorted our first group of 27 people from Sydney to London. We lost her and the group for 10 days, eventually turning up in New Delhi on a train completely black with soot, Penny having spent the three nights sleeping on a luggage rack.
The next few years were the peak period for the overland trips as Afghanistan was still open to travellers. It was all very exciting and most trips would have made an interesting book.
On arriving in England we set up a travel office. As well as the Australia trips, we fitted in a few European and North African ones, which were fun. In 1976, we decided to get married, so escorted our last group to Nepal and then travelled back to London on public transport, lorries, bikes, buses and trains. It was a wonderful trip, with Christmas shopping in Kabul and Salzburg and no responsibility for others.
We married in January and honeymooned in Paris and Singapore en route back to Australia. By now we had been accepted as residents in Australia. We moved between the two countries until 1979 when our first daughter, Petra, arrived. We came back to England via Fiji and Hawaii and built a beautiful house in Sussex with magnificent views, and Penny revelled in making it a home full of love.
Still torn between Australia and the UK (as we were to be all our lives), we took out Australian Citizenship in 1983. Our middle daughter, Jennifer, was born in Manly where we had decided to live by the harbour. We fell in love with Manly and Sydney, and Penny adored it there. She was always very emotional when we visited or left this beautiful place where we had spent so many happy years.
In 1984 Penny decided to make Southern Cross Travel a specialist destination agency for Australia and New Zealand. She joined the Aussie Specialist scheme the first year it operated and became a Premium Aussie Specialist when that was made available. She attended all the functions and seemed to always be disappearing to some part of Australia or New Zealand.
In 2009 she was Aussie Specialist of the Year, which made her very happy. Also that year, Southern Cross was Malaysian Tourism Agent of the year, and she invariably made the final of Kuoni’s Long Haul College, travelling to some lovely destinations such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Florida and Oman to name a few.
She was always committed to accumulating destination knowledge and working hard and playing hard. She loved the social life and people in the travel industry.
In 1986 our third daughter, Anneka, arrived, not knowing then she would be joining the business when finishing her degree.
In the early 90s, Penny having been a Girl Guide decided to become a Guide leader, with all the girls attending. She was very popular, as being so kind, practical and fun she would get the best from the girls. She sadly had to retire three years ago, but stayed involved when asked. She loved the Guides – especially the summer camps, which to her were heaven.
By now she had also joined the drama club and the local business association.
The arrival of grandchildren gave her a love and joy, and she would almost burst with emotion when around them. She adored our three lovely daughters, who have inherited her intelligence and drive.
Penny and I had started to work our way through the Greek islands, but had rather got attached to Skiathos in the latter years. Road trips across Europe often camping with our girls remain such lovely memories. One year we explored Europe for eight weeks.
In the latter years we tried to organise it so we went to Australia or New Zealand in January or February. We had plans to drive the Gibb River Road, which was on her bucket list. Of course, we will never do this together now.
She visited every part of Australia and New Zealand except that route to Broome.
Four years ago Penny was found to have a blood disorder, which eventually was diagnosed in Australia as a low-grade leukaemia. Penny decided that she would not let this dominate her life and she would live every day to the full. At times, it was very tiring for her, but she covered it in her normal way and never complained, even when the tests seemed to be endless.
We still managed a yearly trip to Australia and New Zealand, and of course she still made the business trips to conferences. She especially enjoyed the TTA conference in Budapest, but was aware that she could no longer share a room, except with Kate Harris – her special friend for so many years. Kate has been lovely while Penny was ill and since. She is now helping us run the business while we try to recover from the shock of losing Penny.
Judging by all the mail we have received, the whole world loved Penny. Young or old, the messages have been heartbreaking and lovely at the same time. For us as an inseparable family it seems impossible to believe that she has gone; we adored her.
Penny was a true professional. Very intelligent, precise and strong in a crisis. As a person, she was very special.
Her kindness was always central to her life: charity by stealth, little touches that made people happy. She always seemed to have so many things going on. Every visitor to the house was welcomed, and they all felt at home, many referring to her as their second mum.
For me, Penny was someone so kind, so exciting to be with, a lovely travel partner and always fun. She was always looking out for me, doing something special or making me smile when down – just a beautiful person.
Penny was my constant friend, wife, soul mate and the loveliest person to spend my life with. I loved her the first time I saw her beautiful eyes and smile, and I loved her more than words could ever say when she left me.
In February this year we spent our last day at Eagle Beach in West Australia. She loved it there, and leaving our beloved Australia was always very sad. We had just come off the beach and the sun was starting to go down with the beautiful khaki and golds that only an Australian evening can produce. The parrots were fighting for space in the trees. A kookaburra was calling from the gum trees and Penny remarked that we had not seen one on this trip. Suddenly, it flew down to the next picnic table and just sat there looking at us.
It seemed so fitting this beautiful bird – an emblem for Australia, the country we had loved together for so many years – should arrive on cue. I knew that for Penny, whose favourite poem was “I love a sunburned country”, it had a special meaning. She sighed and looked across the bay, then at me, and with tears in her eyes she said, “I think it has come to say goodbye”.