Corkonians abroad: It’s hard not to miss home at Christmas

In the latest of our Corkonians Abroad series, TIMOTHY O’MAHONY catches up with Lisa and Steven Kelly, who hail from Gurranabraher and Ballincollig, to chat about their life abroad and missing home
Corkonians abroad: It’s hard not to miss home at Christmas

Lisa and Steven Kelly with sons Leon and Lucas.

TODAY, as our series of interviews with Cork people living abroad comes to a close, we chat to Steven and Lisa Kelly.

Lisa is from Templeacre Avenue, Gurranabraher, and Steven is from Ballincollig. Before they moved to Australia, they lived in Classes Lake in Ballincollig. They have lived in a beautiful leafy part of Sydney called Cherrybrook with their sons Lucas and Leon since 2014.

For Lisa and Steven, a big draw to the area was the school and relaxed vibe they got when driving around. Here, Steven tells us more...

Lisa and her boys with Sydney Opera House in the background.
Lisa and her boys with Sydney Opera House in the background.

“During Christmas, 2013, we came to Australia for a holiday to see family. It was the first time the boys were ever on an aeroplane.

“To say we had the time of our lives is an understatement. I could not believe this world existed and fell deeply in love with the country.

“As luck would have it, only a few weeks after we got home I was messaged by an ex-colleague asking if we would be interested in moving to Sydney to work at a large pharmaceutical company. It was an extremely difficult decision to make as our life in Cork was fantastic, with great jobs, a lovely home and being surrounded by friends and family.

“We decided that if we didn’t take it, we may live to regret taking the opportunity to explore the world even for a year and come back then. One year quickly became two, which quickly became eight!’

“Lisa and I both work like mad during the week and the boys are at school and whatever training after school and then, just like that, the weekend is here. A big draw to the area was the school, Cherrybrook Technology High School. It’s rated as one of the best high schools in New South Wales and provides subjects that the boys love.

“The weekends are always great. Sport plays a big part in our lives so weekends are usually quite busy. 

"Leon adores his football and basketball so that usually has us traveling around a bit. Up till this season, he was also playing rugby league but dropped it to focus on his football as games were clashing.

“Lucas, being a teenager, uses the weekends to sleep and then disappears off with his friends. He has a very hectic social life!”

Lisa and Steven Kelly.
Lisa and Steven Kelly.

Stephen plays football and basketball but also spends time mountain biking.

“I go to the various trails at least once weekly. I’m currently looking forward to my first season of racing which starts in the new year.

WORKING HARD

“Lisa’s schedule has her working every second weekend but it forces us to plan some cool stuff on the weekends she’s off. One of the great things about living in Sydney is there’s always something cool going on.’

“The thing about working here is, it is without doubt the hardest we have ever worked, but then the weekends come and it’s all so worthwhile. I have been incredibly fortunate with my career taking off at a million miles per hour. I’m currently the National Head of Quality for Australia’s biggest nuclear medicine company where we manufacture a range of radiopharmaceuticals. These are typically used for diagnostics, but with new products we have just brought to market, theranostics help treat cancers by diagnosing them and then using radiation to target these receptors and treat the cancer. Such an extremely exciting industry to be part of.

“Lisa is also working in pharmaceuticals, at a top 10 global company. They supply sterile injectables and respules to the Australian, Chinese and European markets. The site runs 24/7 which has Lisa working shift work. We can be like ships passing in the night but when we are off together we make the very best of our time.”

The couple now live in Sydney.
The couple now live in Sydney.

THINKING OF HOME

“With Christmas fast approaching, it’s hard not to think about spending time in Cork,” says Steven, going on to describe his dream outing in Cork.

“It would be surfing with my pal Ack in Inchydoney. From there, drive to my dad Denis Kelly and stepmom Violet’s house in Bandon to catch up with Rachel, Dylan and Sinead. Then to Innishannon and call in to my sister Evelyn and her husband John’s house, to go straight out the back with my nephews Daemon, Cody and Cain to play basketball, they’d show me their new tricks on their bikes and scooters and then of course get out their motorbikes and watching them race around the back garden.

“This would of course include a portion or two of Eve’s famous stuffed tomatoes.

“Next we would go to Inniscarra to call in to my incredible mom Judy’s house. After a half hour of hugs, we’d then get stuck in to a couple of slices of rasher, sausage and egg pie topped off with loads of mustard. (My stomach is grumbling now just thinking of it!).

Leon, with granny Judy (Steven’s mum) and Lucas, alongside Lisa and Steven Kelly.
Leon, with granny Judy (Steven’s mum) and Lucas, alongside Lisa and Steven Kelly.

“After washing down a cup of Barry’s, I’d pack Judy into the car also and head to Gurranabraher and to Lisa’s mam and dad, Helen and Dave McCabe’s house. The house would be packed with her family. Siobhan and Lia, Deirdre, Sean and David, Johnny, Tracey and Timmy with Timmy and Emer, Martin and Ruth, Yvonne and Eoin, and of course all the nephews and nieces. The place would be as loud as a packed Parc Ui Chaoimh with everyone talking over everyone telling their stories, laughing, slagging and just being the most incredible family home there is.

“After a roast dinner and slice of apple tart, we’d head over to Parklands to see my uncle Jim. We all adore Jim. His stories and jokes and energy that he has for my boys are incredible and we miss him very much.

“I’d organise to meet all my close friends outside Brown Thomas to give me a chance to look at their display and see the lights down Patrick Street (there’s nothing like that in Sydney).

“Paul Morrissey, Ack and Jan, Oak and Olivia, Emma and Damien, Murph and Linda, Micky C and Ash would all be there. If this is a dream scenario then James Sheehan, Alan Walsh, John McCarthy and Emily O’Regan would all be there. This would be setting us up for the most incredible night ever. Into the Crane Lane we’d go to hear Keith Synnott and Kevin Fadd Jr play an absolute classics night.

A different kind of Christmas is had in Sydney, than at home in Cork.
A different kind of Christmas is had in Sydney, than at home in Cork.

SURPRISE VISITORS

Stephen says: “For my 40th, Lisa and my sister Sue had organised a few drinks and food at my favourite bar called The Fiddler, an awesome pub in Rouse Hill. Whilst sat there enjoying a drink, I saw out the corner of my eye an older lady walking towards us that was the spitting image of my aunt Maureen. I couldn’t help but keep looking at her as the resemblance was incredible.

“It was only when she spoke, ‘My Rocky, how are ya boy?’ that I realised it was her. And there behind her was my mam, Judy. I nearly collapsed. 

"My eyes filled up and tears were flowing. I couldn’t believe that here in Rouse Hill in my favourite pub was my Aunt Maur’ and my mam.”

THE THINGS WE MISS

“Strangely, we miss the cold of Christmas,” says Stephen. “Sitting in front of the fireplace, stuffed after the dinner watching Charlie And The Chocolate Factory with a spiced beef sandwich in hand is Christmas.

Steven with his sons.
Steven with his sons.

“The madness of the morning, followed by driving to all our relatives and then back home to spend the evening relaxing, eating and drinking - as simple as it sounds is certainly something we miss so very much. We try to keep Christmas as ‘normal’ as possible with the full traditional dinner. Normally we would go to the beach and have breakfast on the barbacue and go for a swim. Following this, call to Sue and Ozzie’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Having Sue, Ozzie, Tyler and Theo here in Syndey with us is awesome, and really helps make Christmas as normal as possible.”

MESSAGES FOR HOME

Over the coming days, The Echo will be running a series of ‘Christmas Messages Home to Cork’ - as people living abroad share their thoughts with us ahead of December 25.

See Downtown tomorrow and the Cork Lives section on Friday.

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