Day 1: Australia Day – 26th January 2012
An unusual way of celebrating Australia day for me. Usually it entails me having been in some way part of the social organising of a day out somewhere with my group of friends. Usually at a pub (how Australian) with some form of entertainment – a bathtub race at a waterfront tavern, a thong throwing competition, a lineup of local ‘talent’ (note my use of quotation marks).
Or celebrating in an Aussie ‘Walkabout Pub’ in beautiful Derby in the Midlands of England – and berating them for not including beetroot on their hamburgers – how very un-Australian! That particular Australia Day was a welcome relief for me, from struggling with the broad English/Scottish/Irish accents I’d encountered on my criss-crossing of the British Isles. I was delighted to hear some familiar accents – those of you who travel will know it’s like drawing moths to a flame when you hear an Aussie accent rise above the cacophony of sounds at a tourist spot. Albeit the majority of these were Kiwi accents, I was still happy at the familiar sound even if it was from our Bro’s across the pond.
Not so this Australia Day. After leaving my apartment at 5am for the last time – see my ‘About Me’ section, I spent the next 8 hours in transit. Although I must admit that milling around in an airport was as familiar to me as Holden cars. A pleasant bus ride from the top of my street delivered me to the departure doors at the Gold Coast Airport – why would you drive? A quick print out of a boarding pass (I’ve now mastered the art of a self-serve machine, and travelling with carry on luggage only) saw me through security – with the obligatory singling out by the wand-wielding drug fragment-checking police – do I really look like a drug mule? – and in to the new Jetstar lounge.
I had decided the day before that paying $9.99 for entry may provide me with a healthier choice of breakfast than the myriad of fast food outlets in the departure lounge, that as airport prices go, would probably cost me more. Looking forward to my ‘buffet style’ selection I chose a quiet table (quiet as in there were only 4 of us in there at 6 o’clock in the morning) and headed over to the ‘buffet’. What a disappointment. The hot food choice was – fried eggs and hash browns! No bacon (my arteries were rejoicing), no fried tomatoes, no baked beans or mushrooms. And this obviously was a permanent decision as the plates were butter plates, so no chance of fitting anything else on.
I dejectedly selected two of each, threw in a couple of pieces of toast in the toaster and wandered along the remainder of the buffet counter. The labelling above indeed looked promising – Nori seaweed, rice, steamed vegetables for our Japanese visitors – according to the labels, but no sign of any of these. Jetstar obviously in their wisdom had decided that a) Japanese don’t travel at 6am, or b) they don’t fly our domestic routes. I was amused to find that the only item available for our welcome economy-supporting Japanese friends was sachet’s of instant Miso soup. And yes, of course I pilfered some to try later.
Back to my table to tuck into my exciting Australia Day breakfast. My attempt at cutting into my fried egg with a plastic knife (yes, plastic cutlery – miniature size) reduced me to a fit of the giggles. The egg was so overcooked it resembled rubber, the hash browns were the consistency of paving bricks. To prevent the knife from snapping, one realised that the egg first had to be stabbed to break the surface before any slicing could be successful. At a temperature of stone cold, the food quickly reduced to fridge temperature as my exposed body parts turned blue from the Arctic temperature emitting from the air conditioning vent directly above my table. Intriguingly, every table was strategically placed directly under these vents, presumably to ensure that us Jetstar guests ate quickly and moved on. The only thing that resembled warm from my breakfast selection was the tomato juice – room temperature is not desirable for any juice I’m afraid.
As my be-thonged feet shivered in their attempt at remaining thawed, I looked longingly at the revolving toaster working out a way of sticking my feet under the heating element without being either noticed or electrocuted.
A warming cup of tea was enjoyed in the lounge area, away from the blast of Arctic air before I realised that my flight was ready for boarding.
Now come on Jetstar – I wasn’t expecting a breakfast worthy of an entry on Masterchef, but surely your ‘chefs’ could have a little imagination! That offering was appalling! And there’s a little invention that’s quite useful – been around for a couple of hundred years in fact. It’s called a bain-marie, keeps food warm. Perhaps your chefs were absent the day that lesson rolled out of chef school.
An easy one hour flight spent snoozing, the long walk through Sydney domestic terminal to the excellent train station and I was on the next leg of my epic journey to housesit at my daughter’s house in Avoca Beach on the NSW central coast.
The three station trip to Central Station was a packed affair. The carriages were crammed with zealous families decked out in patriotic Aussie flag t-shirts, hats, bikini tops and flags all heading into Circular Quay for a wet, dismal day of celebrating on the harbour. If it had been a fine sunny day I would have been a little envious. But the entire east coast of Australia was in the midst of a three day deluge that saw flooding up and down the coast, so I was quite happy to give it all a miss.
Another hour and a half train ride from Central to Gosford – somewhere from alighting the train and boarding the bus, one of the wheels on my cabin size suitcase broke and disappeared. Note to self: serves you right for buying a cheap suitcase from a cheap discount store! A bus trip to Erina Fair, and a $33.00 cab ride from there to my destination ( driven by a talkative, dare I say it ‘bogun’ taxi driver who discussed the most obscure topics with me – like a soldier who’s had a sex change!), and I was finally ‘home’ – for the next week anyway.
I was greeted at the door by two boisterous chocolate brown Labradors (one only 12 weeks old) who all but bowled me over with their greeting to their ‘nana’.
Or was their excitement just at having human company after 6 hours alone in the house? Probably.
Discovery of a chewed, destroyed cover of a DVD from the local video store, cleaning up a wee from the said puppy and tending to a scratch on my arm from the adult sister dog that was now bleeding profusely, and I could finally put the kettle on. When did I develop this new ‘nana’ skin? Almost overnight I now have that old ladies skin that brings blood to the surface at the slightest hint of a scratch. Another right of passage for passing from ‘mid fifties’ to ‘mid-late fifties’ – not happy Jan!
I was in desperate need for a sleep. I didn’t think it was possible to suffer jet-lag on a one hour flight within the same meridian (although I did have to move my watch forward one hour), but that’s exactly what I had – jet-lag! My afternoon nap stretched out for 4 hours.
A quick walk of the dogs proved amusing. One very strong adult dog and one untrained, ‘not used to a lead’ puppy, both of course with different length leads, had me imagining what dog sledders must feel like. Although it proved useful on the outward trip – I had headed up a path beside the house that consisted entirely of stairs, so was grateful for being pulled all the way uphill. Not so on the downhill run! How brave I was, my daughter exclaimed in her phone call on my return! She’s never tackled the two of them together on a walk. Now she tells me!
A quick feed for the dogs and I tidied myself up for dinner at the local surf club to at least feel like I was accomplishing something Australian on Australia Day. Nothing more iconic than a surf club, I say! Well, who knew that Central Coast surf clubs don’t have restaurants? I didn’t. Back to the cute little village of Avoca Beach to find a restaurant. But first, returning the DVD’s and an apology to the store owner for the chewed case. I grabbed my purse out of the car, dutifully locked it and crossed the road to the ATM. Back to get my handbag to go in search of somewhere to eat. The car won’t unlock! I tried and tried the key (the battery for the remote was flat, I already knew this), but it wouldn’t unlock. What to do? My phone, of course, was in my handbag that was now sitting in full view on the front seat of her car. Into the bottle shop where they were most obliging, to make a phone call to my daughter. No answer, straight to message bank. I leave a long message explaining what’s happened, is she a Roadside Assist member, and to call me back at the bottle shop. The proprietor comes out to help, wiggles and jiggles with the key, sprays it with WD40 but still to no avail. Still no word from daughter number one.
It occurs to me that I have failed in my motherly duties to my daughters for not instilling into them the need to ALWAYS have your phone with you. Their maternal instinct (no children yet) has of course not kicked in, so they don’t see a need to have their phones by their side 24/7 – just in case you’re needed. Like now.
Another complimentary phone call to the NRMA and a check to see if daughter number one is a member. No she’s not, would you like to sign her up for $275.00 so we can send someone to assist? No I would not! I’d rather commission the local thugs to break into the car – something which as I write this the following morning, has possibly happened overnight anyway. What with my handbag in full view on the front seat and all!
I concede defeat and set off for somewhere to eat. I settle on the Malaysian restaurant where I again try to reach my daughter on their phone. Still no answer. I leave another message, this time to call me here. Not a word from her. Another try of the key in the car with no luck. The delightful young waitress calls me a cab, I have no choice but to head home and worry about it in the morning. Half an hour later and not a cab in sight. It is Australia Day after all, and a call out all the way to Avoca Beach for a three minute fair is not going to bring the masses, I now realise. The restaurant owner offers to drive me home, as does the young waitress. I accept his offer – he is leaving before her, and call the cab company and cancel. What nice people they have in Avoca Beach!
Finally safely back home with profound gratitude to my lift (I will return to his restaurant for sure), put the kettle on (although a stiff drink would have been more appropriate) and I head up to the study to use the land line phone. It’s not in its cradle! Why the hell would someone not put a phone back in its cradle to keep charged when they are going away for a week? Another twenty minutes turning the house upside down looking for the phone! I should have poured that drink. For some unknown reason, I open the filing cabinet drawer, and there it is – in a folder marked “Oct-Dec Paid Receipts/Invoices”. Of course, I should have known. That’s where everyone keeps a portable land line phone isn’t it? Again, I reflect on my failings as a mother.
After a phone call to daughter number one’s partner’s phone (she’s not answering hers, remember?) telling her of my drama of the last three hours and berating her for not having her phone beside her (she is of course, the only person who’s phone number I know off by heart – who learns phone numbers these days?), I end the conversation really ticked off that she found the whole thing amusing. “I told you not to lock my car with that key, that it sometimes doesn’t open again”, she laughed down the phone to me. No, she did not tell me that. Ever. I am not amused. The only saving grace to the evening was that I could now settle down with my cup of tea and a biscuit (god, I’m getting old) and watch Federer slug it out with Nadal in the semi finals of the Australian Open. Federer is my hero – all round mister nice guy. He lost. Of course. What did I expect as an ending to my most un-enjoyable Australia Day of all time?
To be continued…….. Not as long next time, I promise. My days in my new lifestyle change can’t all be this memorable, surely!