For the last three weeks of November 95 we acted as base camp for my brother- and sister-in-law David & Ré’s Antipodean Audit; they shuttled to and fro between Shepherd Road and Sydney, Tasmania, Bendigo and Ballarat, always bringing laughter, good cheer and gallon jars of Strine Sherry back with them. Australian liquor shares reached a short-lived high before crashing with the news of their premature repatriation. There were a number of moist eyes and lumps in throats when they left. At least the residual booze helped with the latter!
The Christmas break was scheduled to
be a walking tour of the
We opened our Christmas presents in Buchan
Caves Reserve, the flora and fauna park about 400km east of Melbourne and nestling on the south
slopes of the Victorian Alps. The caves are a relatively un-commercialised
variation on Wooky Hole in
A move to Mallacoota, set on one of
the large East Gippsland inlets was not a good idea; it would have been fine for those with boats who knew how to fish, but those who
were doubly unqualified were left feeling somewhat out of it. The weather was
indifferent and got worse. A boat was hired for a day and we bought a hand
casting reel; a line was dangled in the water and we settled down to a cold
tinny and a spot of lunch in a quiet inlet. Then an enormous fisheries
protection vessel vroomed up on its twin Mercury outboards, demanding to know
whether we were fishing. Fortunately Peter had reeled in the line in time, so
we didn’t need to produce the licence we didn’t possess. But now I know how apprehended
drug smugglers must feel! We were glad to get back to
On arriving back at base the latest news from Brummagem was that on 17th January 96, step-daughter-in-law Alison had produced a bouncing baby boy, Ryan John, 7lbs 8ozs, enabling Christine to dispatch all the tiny clothes she’d been knitting and to get used to being a grandma. I was left wondering what step-granddads did and what harm sleeping with a granny would do to my dynamic, executive image (Ha!).
Peter and I took backpacks and walking tent for an API
Bushwalking Club overnight hike in Wilson’s Promontory, from Tidal River to
via Windy Saddle, then back via Refuge Cove, Waterloo Bay and Oberon Bay. This
magnificent and memorable walk of some 50km encompasses some of the best
The Melbourne Grand Prix was unfortunately scheduled on the same day as a long-standing commitment for a family weekend camp at Korrumburra coinciding with my 57th birthday. So I compromised by setting up the portable Telly next to an esky full of cold tinnies under some alien English oak trees and watched the race wearing my birthday Grand Prix T-shirt, with the race programme at hand. Gratifyingly the Williams team and Damon Hill showed Ferrari what for. It felt very granddad-ish to realize that I was watching Jacques Villeneuve’s promising racing style as I had watched that of his father, Gilles Villeneuve.
Order of the Boot
A bombshell from our estate agent told us that our landlord most unreasonably wanted to live in his house and gave us the statutory 60 days notice to quit. Just what I would expect from one who wouldn’t let us have a pussy cat. So after four and a half years of relative permanence we were forced back into the round of weekend house-hunting. This time Peter’s school commitments restricted our area of choice and the short period of notice which encompassed our planned autumn holiday concentrated the mind, so a nearby, acceptable house was soon found. However the earliest lease date was just after our holiday departure date, so we had to accept a month’s wait, a fortnight of paying double rent and a move during the jet-lag recovery phase!
NURP (Pardon me)
As if we needed more disruption, changes at work meant that Telstra no longer provided the company car, so the old one had to be swopped for a new, GEC-provided beastie (hush, don’t tell Arnie!). This meant that towbars had to be taken off the old car and organised for the new so that Easter trips could be made and camper-trailers could be towed to the new house. However when NRP647 (immediately christened an unimaginative “Nurp”) arrived it turned out to be a smooth 3.8 litre Commodore toad-wagon in a nice shade of metallic dark green, with a number of goodies that the old one didn’t have. Oh Joy, Oh bliss, beep beep once more!
What a way to spend Easter!
For Easter we went on a Jayco Caravan
Club trip, over the Great Dividing Range and sunwards to Kerang, in
journey to Kerang, a modest 300km, started on a wet and cloudy Good Friday;
however the weather soon improved as we crossed the Divide. A platinum blonde
plume streaming from the top of
The “Ibis” caravan park appeared at
the end of a mind-bogglingly flat and boring stretch of driving following
Murrabit is a small village on the
On Saturday afternoon Peter and I repaired to a metropolis bearing the unlikely name of Quambatook, where a “Tractor Pull” was being held. As a total newcomer to such events I found it fascinating; competing tractors ranged from vintage chuggers to modern monsters with air conditioned cabs and included extraordinary flights of fancy looking like top fuel dragsters but with tractor tyres. Over-the-Top power plants included three five-litre engines in tandem, a nine cylinder radial aero engine and a Mamba gas turbine! All these competed, not with each other but with sleds that used various devices to apply a progressively increasing load on the mud track until the tractor ground to a halt.
Wetlands cruise was a highlight of the weekend; it ran along Gunbower Creek (an
anabranch of the
All in all a peaceful Autumn break.
We even had a bonus and unintentional tour of the suburbs of
It is ill-bred to reveal a lady’s
age, particularly when that lady is a new granny and when a significant age
such as a half-century is achieved. So I shan’t say whose birthday we chose to
celebrate by encompassing it with a holiday in
We walked our feet off in ‘Frisco, soaking up the atmosphere of the downtown and wharf areas. The weather started warm but deteriorated into a cold and foggy rain; our first sight of the famous bridge showed it arching into the cloud but with the far end hidden in the mist. Fortunately the fog cleared, so later we were able to walk across it and take all the obligatory photographs. Like the Taj Mahal it is one of those sights which is not a disappointment - just the sheer size of the thing is overpowering. The person whose birthday was imminent had vowed to stand on the bridge on her birthday; we fulfilled the promise in Melbourne time since the photographs and video times all show the 17th April; however we had crossed the international date line so the local date was actually the16th.
No visit to the area would be
complete without a visit to the wine-growing areas of the Napa Valley, so we drove north and stayed
overnight in Santa Rosa. Someone who
shall be nameless left his new, 12th birthday watch under the pillow at the
hotel, fortunately it was located by the efficient staff of Day’s Inn and posted to
Driving south, we bypassed S-F and
Between (Mayor Clint Eastwood’s) Carmel and San Simeon is a
stretch of coastal State Highway 1 that rivals even the Great (Bloody)
I liked our last stop before the
smog of LA, at Santa Barbara. This
was a neat, tidy and busy little city, nestling between the sea and the Santa
Inez mountains and sufficiently far from the state capital to have a life of
its own. It had a cool and tranquil
I wanted to see Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose but someone had shipped it up
And so we returned to
I’m still not sure what a rostella is; I know a rosella is a pretty red bird - is the rostella an oven-ready version? Anyway, six trips in a hired three-tonner were needed to transport the accumulated junk of four and a half years in Oz over the couple of km to the new house. Everyone worked very hard and each was commensurately knackered at the end. We did it all ourselves, apart from a lift with the fridge and the sofa from a workmate at lunchtime. Once again I vowed to get some men to do it next time; I’m getting too old for this game! Peter was a marvellous driver’s mate and put in much more effort than one would expect for his size.
house is actually a four-bedroom place but one room is devoted to storing
landlord’s junk; thus the reception rooms are somewhat larger than we had at
After a week or so I found myself
getting homesick - but for Shepherd Road not
11th Hour Reprieve
At my time of life there is a distinctly limited number of summers to look forward to, so I wasn’t too upset to get a contract extension which meant that I didn’t string two winters together. However I was also pleased to have a firm end date; a number of long-term emotions have been waging a war of attrition with the short term pecuniary benefits. We have been too long away from our extended family; five years without friends is hard to bear and it will be really nice to live in my own house where I don’t have to ask a landlord before I hang a picture. But our minds will ever be full of the sights and sounds of this big red island; we have had a marvellous five years.