The love bug
The names Ivan and Beth Hodge are unknown to few Mosmanites.
The couple’s annual anniversary celebrations at Balmoral have become a beloved community event, while the tales of their incredible journeys from London to India in a Volkswagen Beetle are legend.
Now, after more than 60 years of marriage and with a major motion picture soon to be made about their lives, the couple have a considered clarity on what really matters in life.
“We’re focused on our 12 grandchildren. We really think about them and what we can do to help them get on a journey – their journey,” Ivan tells North Shore Living.
“It’s not always easy, but you have to encourage them to take their own path and then let them do it without smothering them,” adds Beth.
Sitting on their sun-soaked patio, overlooking Sydney’s famous Balmoral Beach, the couple are enjoying a moment of downtime between a meeting with the film team and preparing for two such grandkids to stay the night.
It’s a day that reflects a meeting of their two lives – the family-oriented seniors recently awarded North Shore Grandparents of the Year and the once-upon-a-time twenty-somethings that packed all their belongings into a VW bug to travel across the globe, twice.
“Those trips changed our lives, particularly the first one. It opened our mind up to the world like nothing else,” Ivan says.
That car, funded by Ivan’s parents, transported the born New Zealanders across land on an ambitious honeymoon from London to Calcutta in 1961, traversing Europe and the Middle East.
In a world before internet and the mobile phone, this saw the pair travel for months through country unspoilt by the modern world, unable to communicate with friends or family.
Fast-forward 35 years and the by-then Balmoral residents, still proud owners of the affectionately named ‘Love Bug’, decided to relive their extraordinary journey, this time ending in Mumbai.
“Not many people could make the two trips in the same car, and not many could do it in the same marriage,” reflects Ivan.
“There’s been a lot of things that have happened in our lives that could have destroyed us, as occurs in any family. But when you can share it and work through it, there is nothing anybody could throw at us.”
It’s this astonishing love story that inspired Faraway Films Entertainment’s Steve Turnbull and Lynda Heys to write the screenplay for The Road Less Travelled – the soon-to-be-filmed motion picture that will immortalise Ivan and Beth’s lives and travels.
With talks of A-class actors potentially taking on their roles, Ivan and Beth say they just hope there will be an opportunity to give back to the Balmoral community that has supported them for close to 25 years.
“We’d love to host an early outdoor screening down by the beach and invite everyone from the area to come. We want to share it with the Mosman and Balmoral community,” Ivan says.
“We’ll even get the grandkids and their friends handing out a sausage sizzle!”
Should this dream be possible or not, the community can celebrate that the couple is once again planning to host their anniversary at the Balmoral Rotunda this year, with the Fire and Rescue NSW band and marching girls in tow.
Despite having to cancel the favourite community event last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Beth says they’ll be back ‘bigger than ever’ this November.
“We stay in Mosman for the people. There’s such a variety – families with kids, young people and old people,” she explains.
“We’ve been to some exotic places, but we just love it here.”