Monday 22 December 2008

Adventures of Stubby Part III

Days 27–36 – Saturday 8th – Monday 17th November 2008
Our first day in Fremantle was welcomed by glorious sunshine and so we decided to take the 3km route along the notoriously beautiful western coastal beaches into town where we were overtaken by several other overzealous tourists zooming past in mini motorised scoots.
Freo, as it’s colloquially known, is an uber-trendy town that manages to attract backpackers and the too-cool-for-school Perth suburbia just south of the city. Our first stop was Cappuccino Strip, the road littered with coffee shops replete with fresh patisseries and all the weekend papers so that sitting down on the roadside tables to catch up on the world (we had been stranded in the midst of the Nullarbor during the American Presidential election and so had plenty to be filled in on) we actually ended up getting sunburnt...Gorged myself on a fabulous raspberry and white chocolate cake at the Merchant Tea Room and caught up on all the gossip from the election and then went to explore the arcades and little side streets for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn’t long before I had sniffed out the second-hand bookshop, Magpies, a true relic with creaky floorboards, books piled in haphazard columns wherever there was space and a little old white-haired lady sat in a chair in one of the nooks overseeing proceedings. Having just blown my day’s spending money on cakes and hoodies from Target I had to restrain myself to just looking before we wound our way back to the caravan site for dinner. The park congregates all the campers together into a separate unit with a brand new block of amenities including pristine bathrooms, a giant kitchen and communal area plus an outside verandah with seats, chairs and a spanking gas BBQ that we decided to get to know for our first meal. After sating ourselves we burned the calories straight off by walking back into town to test the nightlife out and were hit by a full-on Saturday night crowd, queuing around the blocks to get into the bars on Cappucino Street. Eventually we found a couple of more low-key bars that didn’t require us to be dressed up and settled into the vibe with (very expensive) scooners.
Sunday morning was spent at the newly renovated Basilica before meeting Rich’s Uncle and Aunt outside the electric bagpipe player regaled in a leather bondage outfit with pleated black kilt, giant platform boots and sporting a bleach-blond Mohican. They spent the next few days taking us around the various Shires of Western Australia visiting Perth City Centre on train, the luxurious canal town of Mandurah, the beautiful King’s Park Gardens where you can view the whole city and picnic in the beautifully maintained grounds and the trendy marina in super-cool Sorrento where we were treated to the most spectacular gelatino ice-cream. Taking a day trip to Perth by ourselves we hung out at the Western Australia Art Gallery and the Contemporary Arts Institute where outside was displayed samples from the, a collection of aerial photographs from around the world taking in natural and human sites of wonder and snapshots of daily life in its myriad geographical locations. We finished our day off with a draught beer (a rarity in Australian breweries) in Northbridge, the entertainment district of the city.
Rich’s Uncle and Aunt live in one of the many retirement villages set up in Australia where people of a certain age purchase the lease of a unit in one of the ‘villages’ that entitles them to full and exclusive access of all the amenities on offer within the complex, ranging from bowling green to swimming pool to pitch and putt golf, a community hall with a class in every possible hobby you could want to take up including separate rooms for dancing, quilting, crafts as well as a bar and kitchen where outside catering companies come in once a fortnight to provide cheap meals and a workshop for the men. The village is staffed by a full time manager and maintenance team but all the activities are organised and arranged by various committees made up solely of residents so that to all intents and purposes they maintain their independence. If they go away on holiday their units are checked daily and looked after while they’re away and should they fall ill there is an onsite nursing home to which they can be admitted as part of their contract for the eventuality that one partner may need to move into the home while the other stays in the unit but the two are located within the same grounds. The residents range from people still working wanting to safeguard their future to the very frail. Rich’s Uncle and Aunt happen to be President and Kitchen Manager respectively and subsequently involved in every level of village activities and so we were immediately integrated into village life which suited us perfectly as everywhere we went we were invited in for cups of tea and biscuits and village gossip while we could quite happily join the bowls or golf teams should we want, potter down to the workshop or take advantage of happy hour. In return we shared our computer knowledge with the technophobic generation and earned our keep moving various pieces of furniture about the complex. We integrated so well that we were invited to play the lottery with the villagers and having never played it before in my life thought it would be fun to give it a go and ended up getting three numbers and winning, albeit the princely sum of $12.30, much to the disgust of our newfound friends who have been playing for months without a win! The concept o the village is a fantastic idea and set-up for the elderly or those who want to protect against the onset of age and although fifty years younger than most of the residents, sadly fitted in all too easily!
After a week of being Grandads we decided we had to strike out as the independent young travellers we were and so checked back into the Fremantle Caravan Park in time for the weekend festival. It started off with a beach reggae party on the Saturday and culminated in a carnival parade on Sunday which then turned into a huge Bhangra street party. We made the procession just in time and had a great couple of hours watching the various local groups and communities trot by dressed up to the hilt and dipped in and out of the various street stalls which sold everything from great trilby hats to local honey. We checked into the upstairs bar at The Sail and Anchor just in time for the music to start and after much wiggling managed to wangle a prime view on the balcony above the stage. A few scooners later and we had relocated to the street and were joining in with the strange hippie dancing exhausting ourselves so that we barely had enough energy to drag ourselves back to Stubby for the night.
Our final day was spent in the Caravan Park taking advantage of the free wifi to start the dreaded job hunt...sadly, the job I had been offered on the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are, had, due to the economic crunch been delayed indefinitely and so not wanting to hang around for what could be weeks or months made the decision to head back to the eastern states and try our luck in the more metropolitan and media-populated cities.
Day 37 – Tuesday 18th November 2008
Fremantle – Margaret River, 200km
We could easily have stayed weeks in Fremantle lounging around in our lovely caravan park, sunbathing on the beach just a stone’s throw from Stubby and wandering into town and lazing the day away in the old arcades or dining al fresco on Cappuccino Strip but we had to start the leg back to the east at some point and so reluctantly wrenched ourselves away. Instead of driving directly back to Norseman on the Freeway we decided to take the longer and more scenic coastal route through south-west Australia and our first stop was 200km south at Margaret River, a famous surfing haunt and popular with backpackers.
The town has a little high street with lots of great eateries and to our excitement a Target Country so we stopped off and had a little nose while we were checking out the Information Centre. Unsure whether to situate ourselves in the caravan park near town (so we could dine out) or near the beach (so we could surf) we took Stubby on a little recce of them both. Ending up at Prevelly Beach we watched the kite-boarders literally surfing through the breaks at Surfer’s Point where the mouth of the river hits the sea, taking on some spectacular waves that were a bit too hardcore for our liking. Moving further down the coastline to Gnarabup Beach we took out our Balinese sarongs and dozed on the beach of the tiny bay where we were sheltered from the fierce winds. When the people next to us started oohing and aahing we sat up and saw beyond the break these huge figures lurching in and out of the water and realised we had finally caught up with the whales. One mad couple took out a canoe and started paddling furiously towards the two playful whales but even from where we sat we had a fantastic view of them without any need to get closer. As we were looking out towards the break we suddenly saw what looked to be a small black fin lurking in the shallows next to an innocent bather...our minds filled with all the scare stories of shark attacks we were on the point of calling out when on further inspection we saw that we thought was a fin was actually the wing of a large stingray munching near the shoreline and so in one view we had both whales and rays to entertain us.
Owing to the signposts warning about dangerous rips we decided that the surf might be a bit too dangerous for beginners on this beach and so set up camp in the caravan park near town, managed by a cranky older lady who threatened to chuck us out of her site if we made so much as a peep after 9.30pm. As we very rarely eat out we decided to treat ourselves and splashed out on pizza and chocolate mud cake at the very swanky Goodfellas, a film buff’s cafe located on an upstairs verandah overlooking the town and still managed to keep the two course meal with drinks to budget. It was nice to have a break from cooking and even more enjoyable to leave the washing up to someone else!

Day 38 – Wednesday 19th November 2008
Margaret River – Denmark, 411km
It’s amazing what you can achieve in a single day with a well behaved Stubby! Started off with a quick dip into The Fudge Factory in Margaret River (the free samples of Cointreau and Cherry were divine!) before recovering from our gluttony with a bit of sloth, sunbathing back in the beautiful Gnarabup beach. Then it was back in the van and winding our way through the luxurious wine regions, the road carving its way through the furrowed orchards, stopping off at The Cidery in Bridgetown where we sampled the locally produced ciders and unable to decide on a favourite bought half a crate so we had a little of everything! With the clinking of glass bottles in the back we set off for Denmark but were slowed on our way by a swarm of flying ants for about 50km who in kamikaze style flung themselves against our brand new windscreen and exploded on the glass so that after just a few minutes of their onslaught we were barely able to see beyond our roo bars. Progress was slow and with the windows wound up made even more frustrating by the sticky heat inside the tin can. The persistent blighters then found a way to enter through the air vents so with wipers and washers on full blast attempting to clear a path through we also had to battle on a second front trying to block the vents and terminate the lives of those that had broken through and were attempting to feast on the reward of the fresh meat inside...Fortunately when we arrived at the beautiful caravan park in Denmark, situated on the rivermouth with colony upon colony of pelicans, the heavens opened and gave Stubby’s face a proper wash as with the heavy water restrictions we had no means of removing the ant carcasses from his eyes! This was then followed by a spectacular series of thunderbursts and lightning strikes that felt as if they were hitting the roof and managed to illuminate the whole interior of the campervan.

Day 39 – Thursday 20th November 2008
Denmark – Albany
Taking advantage of the lax enforcement of checking out we enjoyed a lazy morning before trundling into town, a shabby intersection of chic boutiques with bare-footed hippies wandering around, and pottering for a couple of hours. The Odyssey Second Hand Bookshop emptied the pockets whilst a trip to the local IGA bought several meals with the change and getting hand of the discount fuel system also provided a docket for the petrol station up the road though the enticing 4cents per litre offer only worked out at an 84cent total...
After a put together lunch in Stubby along the riverfront sheltering from the rain we set off for the Pentland Alpaca Stud Farm and turning up in the by then cascading waterfall discovered we were the only visitors for the day. We were given a free bag of pellets to share amongst Beryl the pig, Tyson the Byson, Kimba the Camel and Zabel the Donkey not to mention the herds of jumpy alpacas, greedy goats and steely-eyed kangaroos. My personal favourite however was clambering inside the guinea-pig and rabbit cage and finding myself covered in dozens of bunnies chewing at the tags on my sodden combats. It was a throwback to the golden days of Flip Flap and her many broods and I had to be forcibly stopped from buying a campervan pet. We also timed it so that we were there for the 3pm bottle feeding session and got to help distribute the milk to the guzzling two week old goat kids and were then shown into the koala enclosure where we were allowed to stroke the doped up bearsJ
Leaving the stud farm (without managing to stow away any rabbits...) we headed to Albany for the night and with the weather remaining as miserable as it had been all day contented ourselves with driving around the beachside attractions of what was a surprisingly large conurbation. Striking off for home at the Happy Days Caravan Park we made it to within 300metres of the site when the continual stop-starting in the torrential rain finally provided too much for Stubby and he ground to a halt at the roadside and refused to start. Time to take advantage of the breakdown cover we had stumped out for! Unable to define where exactly we were owing to limited maps and being told that simply saying we were on Highway 1, the circular road that runs the whole perimeter of the country, was insufficient we were pleasantly surprised by the speedy response of the local RAC. As luck would have it as soon as he turned the ignition Stubby decided to spark back into life...and so after checking the engine out, and informing us that the Z20 was the best possible motor to travel the country in, and cleaning up our squeaky fanbelt we were given the ok to go and tumbled into the park which situated on the gentle bend of the river provided one of the best locations we had yet stayed in.
The persistent rain failed to dampen the mood as I received an unexpected phone call from Kane telling me that Amanda was pregnant and then managed to get through to Auntie and congratulate her on her 99th before tucking up in the camper and turning the music up full blast to drown out the sound of the rain on the roof.

Day 40 - Friday 21st November 2008
Albany – Norseman, 902 - km
We aborted our plans to potter through The Great Southern and explore the beaches in Esperance, voted the best in the country, after a second successive day of non-stop rain...Anxious for Stubby not to falter any more the priority was to keep the engine going so that even when he began stuttering in rain that was so thick it felt like boulders smashing against the windscreen we pushed him on even if it meant revving him in second gear all the way. We had a couple of hairy moments where parts of the coastal road had flooded and we had to drive him through the deluge like a 4x4 but by the time we reached Norseman, the beginning of the Nullarbor, the climate was considerably more favourable towards our little antique. Never thought I would have welcomed a desert but after passing through that without any problems last time it almost felt like coming home after the days of torrential rain and subsequent mechanical problems. Just hope I won’t be eating my words over the next couple of days of desert crossing...!

Day 41 – Saturday 22nd November 2008
Norseman - Border Village, 743 km
Back onto the long straight drive across the treeless plain divvied up into manageable 100km legs with plenty of tea stops and conducted under the welcomed cover of the clouds that to our chagrin have been tracking us for the past couple of days but which now were welcomed for they staved off the remorseless beating of the sun. Apart from the wandering emus the only other distraction was the delightful entertainment provided at the gas stations. It must take a special kind of person to work hundreds of kilometres from civilisation and another type to undertake such work in a petrol fuelage where the only visitors are cocky backpackers and strange, introverted Aussie campervans. Our 750km of road today required three petrol stops (and $140 worth of petrol...) of which the first was manned by a young girl with slash marks up both arms and who burst into tears when the cash register failed to work for the customer before me at the till, the second plagued by a gang of bikers who were terrorising the hapless female assistant and the third staffed by another young girl who kept disappearing into the kitchen to eat in between serving the giant queue trailing out of her shop. Needless to say these pitstops are conducted with Lewis Hamilton speed with lightning toilet breaks, quick food replenishments and the minimal amount of time possible actually spent interacting with your fellow travellers and cashiers!
Today I also made the startling discovery that because this particular stretch of road is so flat, and tantamount to taking a train ride, I could actually read when I was the passenger (and arguably also when driving along the 146.6km stretch of straight road!) and so continued to devour Wilbur Smith’s Elephant Song with great gusto after finally finishing Dickens’ ‘Dombey and Son’ which was bought in Nepal and left in storage in Thailand while I wandered about the continent before finally being started on the shores of Indonesia and completed on the west coast of Australia! Bet old Charlie boy never envisaged that it would transcend so many borders with one solitary reader when he was writing it!

Day 42 – Sunday 23rd November 2008
Border Village – Kimba, 844km
Our longest day of driving so far was unremarkable until we hit Ceduna when instead of following the reverse route we had taken to Perth we took the more direct road to Adelaide and cut across the top of the Peninsular following the giant water pipe along the Freeway. As with other Sunday crossings we drove through town after town after town in which everything was closed and evidence of civilisation was non-existent. Well versed we had ample food supplies but came a cropper when using up all our petrol and reserve Gerry can and unable to find any fuel station were forced to halt our plans and camp at the token and unsightly caravan park attached to Kimba’s petrol station which was again served by that unique species of Fuel Proprietors, this time three female generations who tried their utmost not to give us, two young males, keys to the toilet block because we could not provide them with the $10 dollar cash deposit...

Day 43 – Monday 24th November 2008
Kimba – Glenelg, Adelaide, 471km
When your daily and weekly and monthly structures simply revert to packing up the bed in the back and turning it into a two-piece sofa and table dining/living area, hopping in the driver’s seat, putting your right foot on the gas pedal and keeping it there it’s very easy to lose track of time and date. This has been further complicated by the crossing of state borders and working out firstly how many hours to put your watch back and secondly whether they observe daylight savings and thirdly whether to apply the daylight savings to the time alteration. Heading west it wasn’t so much of a problem as with the clocks always going forward we found we had ‘more’ time than we thought but now going back to the east we have been caught out a few times by unexpected setting suns playing havoc with scheduled driving routes - when it gets to dusk you do not want to be driving on the roads because of the susceptibility of nervy kangaroos hopping out in front of you and writing off your twenty-five year old camper. Having ended up in the middle of nowhere at dusk the previous night and forced to drive in the dark for several more kilometres before finding somewhere to camp – with the passenger being on kangaroo spotting alert while the driver dealt with irksome road train drivers - we were again caught out by the time this morning having not adjusted our clocks and finding ourselves waking up at 11am.
A scramble to get on the road and make up time meant that after a heavy few days of driving today’s lighter route had to be tackled in one stretch in order to reach Adelaide before dark again. Rounding the corner of Port Augusta and heading south we hit civilisation again and even found we had to veer off the road onto the dust verge to avoid a convoy of police cars escorting lorries transporting houses across the country!
Treated ourselves to a quick Afternoon Tea stop off in Port Wakefield where we had enjoyed a break on our previous route through at a fantastic bakery. Choosing a fruity rock cake that reminded me of Mum’s home baking and a custard slice we did not have enough money to pay and demoralised by the prospect of having to relinquish one the kindly cashier asked if we were travellers and upon affirming were told that she had done a lot of that herself in her youth and knew what it was like and told us just to hand over what shrapnel we had and call it quits! In one fell swoop she undid all our reservations concerning previous customer service outlets on our journey!
Arrived in Adelaide by the late afternoon and decided this time to avoid the city centre and instead head to the beaches in order to experience a different area. Glenelg is a very new and flash marina that is to Adelaide what Freo is to Perth: young, cool and trendy it appeals to backpackers and the wealthy locals with its sparkling harbour, vast array of al fresco bars and restaurants and a giant sandy beach with every conceivable sport, water and sand based, being conducted. The huge jetty was filled with Asian crabbers and we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering about the town and watching the world pass by.
Our caravan site was a giant, sprawling resort just a couple of kilometres north of Glenelg with tennis courts, swimming pools, bouncy castles and every amenity you could conceive of. As part of the Big 4 chain it also held the same shower blocks being pumped with 80s music that we had loved when staying at one in Melbourne. Situated on the same glorious beachfront as Glenelg we set up Stubby for the night and went for a long barefooted walk along the coast before returning and taking advantage of the flash BBQ apparatus to enjoy a late night meat feast.

Day 44 – Tuesday 25th November 2008
Glenelg – Grampians, 547km
Turns out that driving bare-footed is not such a great idea after all...On big driving days where all you are doing is following one deserted road through desert/scrubland we had taken to driving bare-footed as your feet get very sweaty very quickly in socks and shoes and driving in ‘thongs’ is hazardous. Unfortunately, the arch of the foot required to press down on the gas pedal for hours at a time seemed to have strained the side of my foot which had been exacerbated by last night’s long walk and so I woke up not being able to put any weight on it and hobbling around. This was problematic for the driving as even with the support of shoes I could only drive for a few kilometres without being in too much pain and so poor Rich took the brunt of the driving today.
An uneventful and much shorter drive saw us arrive at the Grampians again. Even though we knew what to expect this time we were still both blown away again as seemingly out of nowhere these gigantic, gnarled mountains rose up onto our horizon and soon engulfed us in their twisting narrow roads. With hundreds of kangaroos lining the roadsides progress was slow but eventually we reached the Halls Gap Caravan Park where an invasion of flying ants at the BBQ hut forced us to finish off cooking in Stubby before heading to the one bar in the mountains and toasting a successful completion back and forth across the Nullarbor with an ice-cold beer!

Day 45 - Wednesday 26th November 2008
Grampians, 0km!
After several days of heavy driving and with the unfortunately all too imminent joys of job and flat hunting nearly upon us we decided to spend a day in the Grampians, nestled in the valley of the craggy mountains soaking up the sun and making the most of our last full day of ‘holidaying’ before the serious stuff kicks in.
Normally because we only spend one night in a place we have to check out by mid-morning so it was a luxury not to have any alarm clock and simply wake when the sun warmed Stubby’s belly! A lazy day of reading, writing and sunbathing restored our batteries and helped clear the plans for our three-pronged assault on getting work, residence and selling our beloved camper. After a hard day’s graft a little hobble took us to the ice-creamery where we indulged in a couple of Stairways To Heaven (white chocolate ice-cream with chocolate chip and caramel pieces) which did nothing for the newly self-imposed dieting. Forty days sitting in a camper eating patisseries and Allen sweets has done nothing for the figure and with hordes of exercisers getting into beach-shape everywhere we go it is time to hit the salad and running shoes (healed foot permitting...) and burn off the middle tyre. Using the excuse that I am travelling and experiencing all the culinary delights of my pursuits I no longer have a scapegoat and what with getting back to the real world decided it was best just to coincide all one’s miseries at once!

Day 46 – Thursday 27th November 2008
Grampians – Melbourne, km
Back into the hustle and bustle of city life we headed straight to St Kilda’s for the combination of beaches and backpacker ambience. Sadly the water was not the cleanest and so we decided to have a nose around prospective living areas getting better acquainted with the patisseries on Acland Street, the coffee shops on Fitzroy Street, the beaches of Elwood and the frantic pace of Prahan’s Chapel Street.
We met up with a friend we had made on our first trip to Melbourne and sat in a coffee shop catching up when the sun disappeared under a storm of golf-ball style hail, typical of the sudden and dramatic Melbournian meteorological schizophrenia. Invited to stay the night for free in the hostel she worked in we were introduced to her room-mate who worked at a cafe called Banff and took advantage of the friends-of-friends perk with mates rates pizzas and free wine. While they went to work we checked in to the funky George Cinema and watched the new Bond film before returning to Banff and meeting the rest of the hostel crew over several pitchers and enjoying a private lock-in. The party continued back at the hostel until the wee hours of the morning with free Banff sparkling wine and where amongst many others we met a German whose campervan had exploded in Darwin and who had lost everything in the fire only a month previously and made us feel guilty for abandoning poor Stubby to the secret free-parking road outside for the first time since acquiring him.

Day 47 – Friday 28th November 2008
St Kilda’s – Greenvale (Melbourne)
After the adventures of last night it was a bleary-eyed start to the day compounded by the realisation that we had promised to host breakfast in Stubby to our newfound friends. With no-one backing down from the deal we found ourselves in the supermarket shopping for food and wondering how we would fit everyone in the campervan. With a bit of creative tidying we managed to squeeze everyone in and served up a breakfast of bacon and egg sarnies with tomato and avocado salad and an impressive range of bevies to suit everyone at the less than impressive time of 1pm...
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the northern suburbs as potential residential areas before meeting up again with Rich’s former Nanny and her family where as the only non-drinker of the night ended up having to drive them home from Chartreuse in their automatic 4x4!

Day 48-49 – Saturday 29th – Sunday 30th November 2008
A relaxing weekend spent chilling from the drive and having a celebratory BBQ in the family friend’s home that we had help move.

Day 50 – Monday 31st November 2008
After a lazier morning than planned we were unable to get to Sydney by the end of the day and ended up spending a night in a completely characterless caravan park devouring the precious crumbs of our last remaining stock and avoiding another supermarket splurge.

Day 51-55 – Tuesday 1st – Sunday 6th December
Forestville, Sydney
Arrived in Sydney just in time for Braedon and Tandia to open their Advent Calendars and then the following day helped Paul, reluctantly, celebrate his birthday which culminated in a family meal at the local Chinese restaurant where we provided a Warringah Mall baked chocolate cake as our contribution before retiring to Paul’s bar and becoming acquainted with his vast stock of whiskey.
Before we could plan the next stage of our adventures we had to check Stubby into Paul’s local garage as he was beginning to drag in the higher gears. We were informed that the universals on our driveshaft had gone (?) and sadly had to leave him on the operating table for the day as they fixed him and billed us with a triple figured sum that winded our well-worn wallets.
Fortunately this blow was softened slightly by the prospects of employment as after all the resumes I sent out I finally received some calls. The first one was with a lady called Shelley who is a best-selling author and travel presenter who runs her own independent production company, called Happy TV. I turned up at her house for the interview and was hit by a two-hour hurricane of Shelley-world which involved holding twenty-seven conversations at once which invariably spawned a whole host of speculative ideas that were discussed in the same haphazard style punctuated by a series of celeb anecdotes and name-droppings. To compound the bizarre nature of the interview her disabled son sat in on the ‘meeting’ grilling me about my film choices and somehow amidst this tangle of conversation, that I was unable to unravel from one breath to another, she offered me the spare room in her penthouse flat (complete with use of the multiple swimming pools, tennis courts and gyms in the complex) while I found myself a flat in the city. Eventually I managed to extricate myself from the interview where I was promptly offered the job of working for Happy TV as apparently I had secured the position simply on the phone call prior to arriving...A fledgling company with a 27 part travel series was enticing but the hyper-smiley enthusiasm was exhausting and so I managed to politely say that I would have to think about it. The second interview, on the other hand, could not have been more different. For a start the show was a home-renovation show for people in financial distress who, as part of the package, would additionally receive advice on how to climb out of their debt. Secondly it was held in the office of the Series Producer of the huge show over here called Domestic Blitz who did not smile once and whose interview technique involved probing questions that someone on the back of an eight-month jolly had forgotten how to respond to. The nail in the coffin was sealed when he delivered his parting comment that it was a “good time to be looking for jobs as the television industry was in the most commissionable state he had seen in the past five years and there were plenty of opportunities...”
Seeking an anaesthetic for this disaster we ventured out to Manly for the day where a day of sun, sea and surf would be sure to eradicate the all too non-distant memory. Unfortunately some of the negative connotations must have been picked up by Stubby as we tried to park. After suffering the horrific labyrinth of toll roads (and running up a hefty fine that we had enormous difficulty trying to pay as you have to ring up each individual toll road which as a visitor to the city is often difficult to work out where you are let alone what roads you have been on!) in the previous days of travelling to interviews he spat all of his dummies from the pram as we tried to find a parking space. In Australia you have to park facing the direction you are travelling in so after finally spotting a space on the opposite side of the road I jumped out to stand in it and hold it while Rich drove round the roundabout at the end. As he did so the passenger door flung open and because Stubby is so wide he was unable to reach across and close it and spun round the circle of wide-eyed al fresco cafe customers trying to grab everything that was flying out of the door. Once this drama had subsided, and we claimed our spot and walked down the other way of the road to avoid the accusing glares, I began to recall the days we had spent here when staying in Sydney previously in 2002: from the action of the Surf Rescue team saving a father and daughter from the rips to the invasion of bluebottle jellyfish that Mike and I got attacked by as the tannoy system boomed across the beach for all swimmers to get out of the sea. A most peaceful day was spent and followed up by a wander around the buzzing town which was reminiscent of the happy times spent in Fremantle before returning back to Forestville and the question of what to do next.
With the Domestic Blitz pilot spin-off a clear no-no and having deferred Shelley until the New Year we were suddenly faced with an unexpected free couple of weeks and a choice between sensibly spending them trawling for jobs and flats or postponing the onset of reality and continuing on in Stubby up the east coast. Strangely our decision was settled by Paul who said that if we did go off travelling again but returned by the 19th December we could house-sit for them over the Christmas period while they went on their summer holiday for a fortnight. With the prospect of having a multi-million dollar pad (complete with swimming pool, spa, bar and home theatre room) for a couple of weeks for free and as a base from which to scour the city for employment and accommodation the inner travel-bug reared its head whispering innocuously in our heads and we were soon packing Stubby up for an unexpected adventure in the east.

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