Bank error in your favour. Collect $1300

A few weeks back, our neighbour noticed a letter in our mail box at Paradise Beach, which was unusual because we’d arranged for our mail to be re-directed when we moved to Cobar.

The envelope confirmed that the letter was from an insurance company, with whom we had no policies so we figured it was junk mail but, in the spur of the moment, we asked her to open it and relay the contents.

As it turned out, we were even more convinced that it was spam because the letter said that the insurance company owed us money. We had almost decided that she should bin the letter when she suggested taking a photo of the contents. And so began a series of events that we couldn’t have imagined. Continue reading “Bank error in your favour. Collect $1300”

Murphy’s Law

So it occurred to me that someone might be wondering whether I survived our escape from the ‘bubble’ or whether my worst fears were realised – especially with our motto of “If it can go wrong it will”.

Well it seems that Murphy was sleeping on the job this time, because the trip was surprisingly uneventful…… no overheating, no dust storms, no more battery problems….. perhaps he figured he’d caused enough calamity and felt sorry for us. Whatever his motives, the trip was entirely unremarkable….. well if you don’t count driving to the coast in two separate vehicles.

I’m pleased to say that this little princess pumped up, overcame her anxiety and actually enjoyed catching up with friends and family again. Mind you, I did a fair bit of ducking and weaving to avoid other customers in shopping centres and I must admit that I wasn’t anywhere near ready for any hugging and kissing (friends and family – not other shoppers) but overall we managed to abide by the social distancing regime and everything went well.

As I’ve said before, each trip to Paradise comes with a price…. or more precisely, with a list of chores – clean the dishwasher, sort the kitchen cupboards and drawer contents, pruning, weeding, cobwebs, change to winter bedding, check the pool pump, air conditioners, BBQ bottle, batteries, TV remotes bla bla bla – and, unfortunately, we simply ran out of time.

I’d like to say it was too many parties and catch-ups but, to be honest I’m more of a “let’s paint the house” rather than “let’s go out for dinner” kind of gal……. much to Nigel’s chagrin.

So what to do, when you realise that you’re not going to be able to catch up with everyone you wanted to see? The answer was pretty obvious – bring them home with you!

When the get-togethers and happy hours were cut short, it made perfect sense to simply continue the party ‘down the road’ so last week, a few days and a few hundred kilometres later, we were all happily settled in with more happy hours, food extravaganzas, as well as fire pits and Aboriginal Art bush walks only this time we were in Cobar!

And while I’m rubbing it in, Murphy, I’m happy to report that we’ve unwittingly avoided a disaster of a different sort because three days after fare-welling the last of the Paradise crew Nigel has been seconded to leave on Sunday for a week of enforcing state border restrictions (think 5am starts and zero degree temperatures).

Bad enough his partner is on holidays sipping Pina Coladas somewhere this side of the Queensland border while Nigel travels more than 700 kms to somewhere this side of the Victorian border. Imagine if that had happened last week!

As I write this, I’m saddened by the plight of so many Melbournians, who’ve obeyed all the restrictions but now find themselves in an awful second lock down. It really does seem like good luck rather than good management, as to which state wins and which one loses this fight to avoid a second spike. For those of faith, let’s pray there’s a cure or, at the very least a vaccine very soon.

Do not Reply. Your patrol will be with you in approximately 30 minutes

For most of the last 3 months and with the threat of Covid-19 hanging in the air, I’ve been hunkered down while Nigel has worked, done the grocery shopping and pretty much taken care of any chores outside the confines of our little house in the desert. In fact, since we returned from our last trip in March I think I’ve left the house maybe 3 times.

Now that travel restrictions have been relaxed, I find myself mildly panicking.

Continue reading “Do not Reply. Your patrol will be with you in approximately 30 minutes”

Larrikins and Heroes

My Grandfather, William Joseph Bannister, service number 1912, was 21 years old (DOB 09/07/1895) when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the 15th of January, 1915.

In January 1918, Private Bannister was “severely reprimanded” for being in Bailleul (France) without a pass….. I suspect there was a mademoiselle involved.

Continue reading “Larrikins and Heroes”

Water and Sand

I must admit that our “48 pizzas” resolution has fallen by the wayside as we’ve embarked on a bit of a healthy lifestyle change but come May 23rd, we would be 24 Pizzas into our 4-year tenure.

Looking back, the decision to join the dark side was a fairly easy one for Nige. After years of dealing with domestic violence and/or alcohol and drug-related events, he was glad and even looking forward to moving on but for me, it wasn’t so easy. As much as I loved the bush, I balked at the length of tenure – a year and a half longer than the other two tenures.

Continue reading “Water and Sand”

Elvis

Last week, with the help of my new ‘el cheapo’ sewing machine, I managed to finish whipping up curtains, (mosquito net) fly screens and window socks for the camper van – just in time for the Elvis Festival in Parkes.

At around 360 kilometres away, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our newly completed camper fit-out as well as to discover what we’d forgotten to organise or pack.

With a 3-day window of Rest days (what the police call their days off ….. although Nigel would call them “work around the house” or “work for Kaye” days) we booked a dog-friendly caravan park at Peak Hill – not far from Parkes – and took off excitedly last Thursday morning.

Now, in my defence when I first raised the idea with Nigel, it was spring and the weather was sunny but cool. However Thursday’s weather, while sunny, was anything but cool – at around 42 degrees! Gradually our excitement turned into a rude awakening. Questions like “What if we can’t park close to the main activities and have to walk for kilometres? What if Bowie can’t handle the heat? What if there’s no shade?” While we didn’t quite blame Elvis for the heat wave, we definitely questioned why on earth he chose to be born in January.

Of course, none of those questions seemed important when, around 20 kilometres out from the festival, the oil light decided to turn itself on, screaming “pull over now or I’ll blow the engine up!” or words to that effect.

Now the idea of stopping by the side of a country road with a very furry dog in 42 degree heat with no shade to be found was somewhat off-putting and after a few seconds’ debating, we decided to venture on towards Parkes in the hope that the light might decide to turn itself off. Unfortunately that was never going to happen.

Fortunately however, we managed to make it to a service station without said engine blowing up. Unfortunately, after topping up the oil to the level dictated by the manual, the light stayed on leaving us with no other course of action but to wait for our friendly NRMA man to arrive. Fortunately, the NRMA were quite understanding of Bowie’s discomfort and the stated hour’s wait was reduced to 20 minutes (if you remember the Nissan towing debacle, I’m happy to declare that all is now forgiven!!).

Strangely, the manual wasn’t quite correct and more oil needed to be added (who argues with an NRMA mechanic?) but unfortunately and again, contrary to the manual, the light stayed on leading to another hasty decision – to drive on (Nigel), while praying for divine intervention (Kaye).

Of course the light did eventually go off, the engine didn’t blow up and, back at the caravan park, the heat did finally dissipate ……………but not before the mandatory dust storm had blown up.

Now dust storms are all well and good when you have all the windows closed and the air conditioning on but unfortunately (sorry, I had to get one more in) every window and door had been opened to allow for any cooling breezes that might eventuate during the night.

Suffice it to say that our Elvis holiday was short lived and, with 46 degrees predicted, we took off the next morning – in a very dusty van – for the cooling comforts of home. Instead of bopping out -to “Blue Suede Shoes” we spent the following day mopping out – the floor, walls, windows, curtains and bedding all had to be washed.

‘So what’s the verdict?’ you ask. We love our new camper van!

And we’ve decided to name him Elvis.

Elvis Before

Working on it

Elvis After

Butterflies

Tomorrow is Megan’s birthday. Three days before Christmas. As much as we tried to make it all about her, I always felt a bit sorry for her that her birthday and Christmas blended into one big celebration. Still, being pregnant and giving birth in summer heat wasn’t all that much fun for me either.

The last few days I’ve been reminded of her presence by the butterflies. It was actually my sister who remarked, when I told her they were all flying around our yard, that it was probably Megan’s way of saying Hi.

I still find it difficult to talk about Megan’s death and yet, at the same time, I feel guilty when people ask, “How many children do you have?” and I say “Two” instead of three. I wonder whether that’s normal. It’s especially tricky when the doctor or gynaecologist asks. I usually answer them with a question – “Are you asking how many child births I’ve had?”

Memories of Megan

One of the first funny memories that sticks in my mind was when she was 3 or 4 and managed to stick a piece of crayon up her nose. The sheepish look of remorse when she was forced to ask for help was pretty priceless.

So too, her version of “Jesus loves me” – again when she was very young – went something like, “Jesus loves me this I know, and the table and the chair…”. Obviously more work was required on Sunday School songs…… and rhyming verse.

Not long after her brother Jeremy (aka Jamie because Jeremy was too hard for her to say) was born she sagely commented, “now we’ll have to say ‘Gentle Jesus Jamie mild’ – another reinforcement of our failure as parents in all things ‘Sunday School’.

Actually, I suspect that it might be a somewhat universal problem because my mother once told me about a little girl, who named her teddy Gladly after the hymn, ‘Gladly my cross I’d (read cross-eyed) bear’.

And when number two son asked one day, “If God’s not in heaven, where is he?” I was a bit perplexed until he followed that question with……. “Well, you know how we say, ‘Our Father who aren’t in heaven’?”

Perhaps a lesson for all parents (and teachers) in just how much the child understands of what they’re ‘learning’.

By far my strongest memory is Megan’s voice on the telephone, “I love you too Mummy” – although a teenager, she thought it quite funny to continue to call me Mummy.

For me it’s true what they say – the happy, funny memories are the strongest. I remember a bright young lady, who had just started a job she loved and was so excitedly hoping that it might lead to a career in journalism. I remember the night we walked home from the Mexican restaurant – quite drunk and loudly singing Elvis songs. I remember the hand-written cards with drawings and poems written especially for me.

I’ll leave you with a poem she wrote for me on Mothers’ Day…… literally a lifetime ago.

 

 

Jumped the gun…….

So perhaps I was a tad early with Christmas cheer and wishing everyone a happy new year because, after my dismissiveness (apparently not a word) the last quarter of 2019 is proving quite tenacious. In fact, there are all sorts of events to celebrate before the wind down to Christmas.

Let’s start with the recent heavy rain last weekend. Twenty seven millimetres fell in Cobar, making it the second highest rainfall  in 2019. While it hasn’t broken the drought, there were a lot of happy farmers  and many people took to social media to celebrate in pictures. Here are some of my favourites – from Facebook’s ‘One Day Closer to Rain’. Photography left to right by Ingrid Cassidy Jayda, Justine Campbell, Oliver Ozzey Gordon and Tracy Bennett.

Of course, rain in the bush can sometimes be bitter-sweet as it’s often accompanied by flooded, undriveable roads and shops, such as our IGA store, that need to be sandbagged at the hint of a deluge.

In our case, with patchy grass and no driveway,  the dirt quickly turned to mud and no matter how many towels I put down, the vinyl floor became a patchwork of prints from muddy, red paws and police boots.

You might remember that we foolishly bought a camper trailer (‘we’ meaning ‘I’) and then discovered that we weren’t camper trailer people after all and should definitely never be allowed to tow or reverse such a beast! After a year, in which we managed to use it for just one night – in the back yard – it became painfully obvious that said trailer had to go and we’ve since replaced it with a VW Transporter van, which we bought a couple of months ago and left behind at Gloucester to be fitted out as a camper.

At 366th in the queue (such is their popularity) it’s been a long time coming but a few days ago DRIFTA emailed to say that our van will be fitted out and ready to collect on the 6th of November. That’s right! Today! Unfortunately, as excited as we are to see the completed work, the earliest we can pick it up is the 18th .

To be honest, I did briefly consider catching a train to Gloucester, picking up the van and then driving back to Cobar but there are no direct train routes from Cobar to Gloucester and I would have had to go via Central with travel and stop-over times totalling around 27 hours. Still………

With the van due to be completed in November and Nigel’s annual leave commencing on the 17th, I decided as unofficial roster clerk to add a few days off without losing any coverage. I was feeling quite chuffed at my outstanding rostering (also not a word) until I realised that our house was rented out for that first few days and therefore unavailable!!

A hasty Plan B was formulated and bad fortune turned to serendipity when we secured dog-friendly accommodation at Wattle Lodge (a 2-bedroom cottage on a one hundred acre cattle farm in Glendon Brook.) With an opportunity to explore the Hunter Valley with its dog-friendly restaurants and wineries I’d say crisis well and truly averted!

And for those, who might be interested, the web site photos look lovely.  http://www.thewattlelodge.com.au/

This one of the cottage was taken by Stan Carter Photographics

When we leave Glendon Brook we’ll catch up with Nigel’s parents on the Central Coast before making our way up the coast to Paradise Beach – hopefully arriving after our holiday tenants have departed. Note to self: when organising holidays it’s a good idea to block accommodation BEFORE someone else books it!!!

Our trips to Paradise Beach are also often bitter-sweet with the anticipation of strolls on the beach, dips in the pool and catching up with friends only slightly dampened by the mandatory list of chores that arise when you  ‘live’ in your house for less than 3 months of the year.

On our next trip we’ll be re-mulching the gardens with river stones, which while looking spectacular for the first year or so, will eventually disappear under the piles of leaves that fall from the trees along our back fence.

It’s quite strenuous work transferring a half a tonne of pebbles by bucket from the ute to the wheelbarrow, then negotiating the sub floor steps before finally tipping them into the back garden. In fact, it’s been on our job list for quite a few months but there’s always been an excuse to replace that chore with an easier task, like pruning or weeding.

There’s also a Yesterday, Today Tomorrow plant, which I’ve just discovered is poisonous to dogs so that will have to go. Not that Bowie’s vices include chewing plants – discarded food scraps in the kitchen bin are much more to his liking – but we can hardly advertise as dog-friendly with dog-unfriendly plants in the yard!

And in case you’re thinking what other chores could there possibly be in Paradise, our job list includes but is not limited to: Paint the balcony ceiling; paint all skirting boards and architraves; clean along the tops of the PVC pipes in the sub floor; meet with handyman Ron regarding painting the front door red and replacing the tarnished chrome towel rails, soap and toilet roll holders in both bathrooms (think living on a house boat); meet with photographer Martin regarding putting professional photos up on Stayz; update the inventory (always fun!) and sand and re-paint all balcony rail posts. Notice the number of painting jobs left till last? Enough said.

And just a note on photographer Martin, who has kindly agreed to my request to photograph the house. Here’s one of his recent photos of the devastating fire that swept along Nine Mile beach in Tuncurry. Thankfully that fire is now under control.

So 2019 is well and truly not over and I’m now researching short trips in a camper van to dog-friendly parks on grassy creek or river beds. Bring it on!!

And in case anyone is interested in doing the same, here are a couple of good sites including Pupsy https://pupsy.com.au/ and Travel Australia with Dogs https://www.facebook.com/groups/496641167356061/

The year that was

With Christmas just under 12 weeks away, it seems that we’ll soon be fare-welling all things 2019.

I remarked to someone the other day that it’s a pity no one travels out west in Summer because if they did, they’d see some fantastic displays in front yards of town houses (BTW quite a few farmers have their farm house as well as a house in town so I’m wondering, is that the origin of ‘town house’?) and outside station gates of Santa – driving a tractor, riding a motorbike, or checking out his ute engine, in preparation for the big day……….. or perhaps he’s just sitting by the side of the road contemplating how last Christmas seems like only a couple of months away.

IMG_2576 - Copy

Continue reading “The year that was”