Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Day 1
A long weekend to head off to Port Macquarie for a family celebration. We’re late getting away and it’s pushing 11 am before we finally head off. The signs are warning of long delays on the M7 and we’re a bit dirty on the tollways at the moment anyway (something fishy going on with our account) so we mosey up the Cumberland Highway and onto the F3 heading out of Sydney. This is an unexpected boon to daughter2 as Pennant Hills Road – the section from James Ruse Drive to the M2 intersection is her favourite Sydney road. Each to their own.
We had been planning to find a picnic spot where we could take a break and go for a walk, but honestly it’s a bit of a wasteland for quality walks without significant detours off our route and time is now short. We end up pulling over at the 12 Mile Rest Area where we tuck into our corn fritters with smoked salmon and yoghurt dressing. It’s quite busy at the time and we are lucky to get a convenient table where Mum doesn’t have to walk too far. Towards the end of our meal a family of grey butcher birds flies over to start polishing off the morsels that the picnickers have left.. The male with his clearer black plumage on his head, baby in shades of brown. Quite a treat. I seem to be finding families of birds everywhere I go lately.
As we’re hopping back in the car I get a call from daughter1. Where are we? – in Port yet? They’re a bit later than expected after stopping for yum cha for lunch in Sydney. They’re just past Newcastle.. we chat for a minute or two, then daughter announces that they are approaching the twelve mile… aah, we can’t let them overtake us… I jump in the car and dig the spurs into the driver for quick get away and we pull out with much hilarity with daughter and son-in-defacto only a car or two behind us!! At least we kept the lead LOL. We still can’t get over the incredible coincidence – we couldn’t have planned it better if we tried..
The shadows lengthen as we continue north. It’s a fairly uneventful drive though I particularly enjoy crossing the bridges up in the Manning Point area, as they raise us up to be able to see across the floodplain to the surrounding hills. We also enjoy the golden light falling on the gums lining the road. As we approach Kew I suggest that it’s the perfect time of day to take Mum up North Brother for a look at the view and visibility seems pretty good today. So we turn off to Laurieton. Hubby misses the turn as usual and we turn the convoy around – this is one of our specialities. It’s always entertaining following our car! We climb up the hill reminiscing about the time we brought the kids up here one night to look at fairyland below. The kids were mucking about scaring eachother with stories of murderers and stuff. Identifying a car parked nearby as a potential threat. Son1 had recently won a nifty little mini-maglite (went to some sort of talk with a computer professional who promised the torch to anyone who could ask him a question he couldn’t answer).. anyway before we can stop them, they’ve shone this blinking torch in the windows of the parked car, only to exclaim at finding the predictable going on inside… great way to get yourself beaten up – we herd the mob over to the lookout furthest away, with much loud castigation for the benefit of the car's occupants. Fortunately the couple in the car decided to clear off without an ugly confrontation. Phew...
Anyway today we pull up, with the place to ourselves as the sun sets. Extensive views across both sides of the hill. The lookout to the north east looks across Laurieton/Dunbogan, Lake Cathie and up the coast to Port and further. The other side to the south and west, over Crowdy Bay National Park, Harrington and south as well as the rivers and flood plain and down to Middle Brother and South Brother.
Hubby and I are still anxious for that walking opportunity so we grab at the chance to walk the 500m rainforest loop, which along the way takes in a lookout that looks to Diamond Head. Diamond Head isn’t visible from the other lookouts. As we head down the rainforest track, passing the assisted disabled access path, we plunge into darkness. Just enough light remains to be able to travel along this path which has an uneven surface and occasional roots to look out for.. typical basic bush track. We disturb a large macropod of some sort... probably a wallaby. A dark shadow thumps away further into the bush. We stop briefly to admire the view and the sunset. Nice to be alone for a few minutes. Then we power up the hill via the bitumen disabled access path and back to the car. In the coastal towns and villages the lights are starting to come on. Time to go.
We wind our way down the hill and admire the black silhouettes of the trees against the deep orange skyline which fades to deepening shades of blue. Australian trees with their light canopy are made for silhouette and sunset is such a gorgeous time of day. Rather than head back to the highway we take our time travelling up Ocean Drive to Port Macquarie through Laurieton and Lake Cathie and past the christmas bell plain, arriving at our destination after 6pm.
No flies on daughter1 – she departed when we set off on our walk to check in to our apartment before reception closes. She and son-in-defacto have nabbed the master bedroom with spa LOL. Fair enough, first come first served and she was the one who organised the accommodation and in the end negotiated us an upgrade. She’s a wizard at such things. … anyway we are staying at Ki-ea All Seasons Apartments on William street. It’s a good location. Only a short walk to either Town Beach or the centre of Port. Secure underground parking and disabled access to the lift for Grandma and Grandad. Our 3 bedroom apartment (no 50 on the 7th floor) is HUGE. Two queen beds and two singles for our party of 6. Full ensuite – with that spa as well as the bathroom and separate toilet for the rest of us. A large dining and lounge area. Fully equipped nicely appointed kitchen – smeg microwave, granite benchtops, polyurethane cabinetry to kitchen and bathroom. Full Laundy neatly concealed behind bi-fold doors. But beyond all this an ENORMOUS, yes humongously enormous balcony area with ocean views to the north east. From the rail you can see right up the coast. There is a sizeable bbq and a large shade sail and two 6 large seater tables, as well as a couple of recliners. Brilliant if you wanted to have a party. Downstairs there is a heated pool and spa and a sauna. On the roof there are more shared facilities but we didn’t get up to check those out. Only down side, a pretty average TV to those of us grown accustomed to big LCDs/Plasmas (though it does have Austar) and the carpet is a bit grubby… not bad for the $210 a night that we are paying for the 6 of us (min stay 2 nights which suits us).
We settle in briefly before piling into the one car to head around and say hi to Grandad and let him know we’ve arrived. Half an hour of chit chat and we make our way back into town to the Pancake Place which we generally find quite satisfactory – the side salads on the savoury options are always fun with lots of fruit – even in this cooler time of year we have strawberry and blueberry, watermelon, mandarine, orange, peach, grape and pineapple, and that’s before we start on the vegetables and pretzels. By the way, the potato and bacon is far and away the best of the savoury options.. trust me.. The décor at the pancake place is lairy to say the least. Bright green rainforest motif. We are in a holiday mood and back up for dessert and find they are not stingy with the liqueurs in the liqueur crepes. Very nice and we’re out of there for only $200 for the six of us which includes the two courses and multiple drinks – the soft drinks are the tiny bottle size and are a bit of a rip, so you are better off to go for the spiders or iced chocolate. Better value.
We call it a night. We’re all pretty tired – daughter 1 is wrecked having just returned from a leisure industry senior managers conference on the Gold Coast where little sleep was had over the 4 days; daughter2 is coming down with a nasty cold – both of them have uni assignments to work on as well; son-in-defacto is looking wrecked too after a long week of hard work. Hubby settles in to watch the footy and I join him, while for Grandma it’s never a bad time to rest.

Day 2
To say we are sluggish this morning would be an understatement. Hubby and I are probably more tired than yesterday – the down side of buying a comfy bed at home – going away is never as comfortable..
We can’t even get our act together to go for a swim.. only daughter1 and I have our cozzies with us just in case. Daughter1 never leaves home without a cozzie, in fact most of the time she keeps a cozzie in the car just in case the opportunity for a swim arises…born a water baby like her grandad. Later in the morning my brother arrives. He’s flown up on frequent flyer points and left the family at home this time. He’s staying at the backpackers as he only needs a bed for the one night – turns out it’s just around the corner - how convenient. He's stayed there before and finds it quite satisfactory. We all hang about chatting on the balcony before finally motivating ourselves to get ready for our celebration lunch. Brother takes off to go and see Dad and make sure he’s ready and appropriately attired. Just as well he wasn’t any later doing this as he finds Dad beginning to tuck into some lunch.
Our celebration is at the Little Fish Café, at the winery down Major Innes Road, which has long been a favourite of Dads. My sister and her hubby, daughter and grand-daughters are in position when we arrive. They are closer so they've driven up thismorning. Sister and Niece are totally totally wrecked having stayed up all night working on the birthday book for Grandad – who has turned 80 this week. Sister is way more into party preparation than the rest of us and has come armed with silly hats which we all put on taking care to distribute the colours appropriately around the table…
Little Fish Café is generally reliable. A lovely location, big under cover verandah with disabled access. No sooner than we are settled than a heavy shower of rain comes down, but it doesn’t bother us. We start out with a selection of breads and an antipasto platter. Garlic on Turkish, pesto on toasted Turkish, a delicious tomato tapenade on toasted Turkish and warmed Mediterranean bread with caramelised balsamic and virgin olive oil. All delicious. The antipasto platter has fetta stuffed peppers; a delicious Tasmanian brie beautifully runny with water crackers; small pieces of Turkish, more of the delicious tomato tapenade, olives, salami… all delicious..
Mains were a bit disappointing on this occasion – the Pork Belly with Red Cabbage and Mash was popular, but the skin wasn’t crisp (grrr) a fairly serious failing for port belly IMHO. The steaks looked great and were enjoyed by all who ordered them. Brother was a little disappointed in his prawns and calamari finding it a bit tasteless. By the time we got to dessert some options weren’t available, however the rhubarb and apple crumble was good. The little sticky date puddings were OK too. Sticky Date is a tough choice to put on your menu these days. So many places do it, and even Sara Lee does a very good one, so you can be up against some tough competition when it comes to assessment time, but seriously, how bad can sticky date pudding get?
Finally the singing and cake and we all adjourn back to our place for the rest of the evening. Brilliant to have somewhere that accommodates everyone so well and where we can bring Dad to get him out of the hostel for the whole day. Elder grand-niece, and various grown ups playing cards. Sister, niece and daughter1 continuing work on the scrapbooking; hubby and I show Dad our house plans – ah, maximum 15 power points per circuit I’ve been meaning to ask him about that– just what I needed to know… The younger grand-niece (almost three) is having a great time playing with the men… hubby pretends to eat her arm and she giggles like crazy and struggles free and runs, but she’s back in a minute with a huge grin.. Very cute
For dinner we end up sending Brother and Son-in defacto out for “Off the Hook” (fish and chips) while the two rabid Manly fans (hubby and brother-in-law) settle in to watch the footy on Austar.
After a while I hear a light snoring and there is much merriment to find that younger grand niece is splayed out flat on her back arms and legs out like a cross fast asleep under the table. Only two speeds apparently – full go or complete stop! Her sister has done similar on the bedroom floor near her mum.. the girls are settled on the beds in the quiet room and the table is cleared for the returning hunters laden with several large parcels of paper wrapped chips and seafood. Off the Hook is always great. I haven't had bad off the hook in gosh, must be 15 years now.
Finally the gift giving. We all admire beautifully presented photos of Dad and his family through the years. Sister has done a magnificent job. Dad small and blond with his father and friends aged about 4 or 5 at (if dad's memory has it right) Whale Beach (Sydney) – must be about 1932,

a slim and muscular Pop in his full body swimmers sitting on the sand proud as punch of his little boy sitting between legs splayed out on the sand. Dad same age with friends all wearing sea-weed skirts;

A muscular and very handsome Dad standing and surfing in to shore on a wooden surf ski at south steyne 1948 (and looking just like son2) no doubt the surf ski would have belonged to Manly surf club where Dad was a member.

Dad holding an absolutely massive lobster and a large crab – Harrington similar vintage. Dad with huge catches of fish and a fantastic informal pose with the spear gun he made himself– Harrington again.

Dad on his motor cycle in his riding leathers by the sign to Brisbane.

Dad bearded working at the Kiewa power scheme (electrical fitter);

snow skiing (he got good enough to go cross country on his own);
….down the years…standing in his flight gear with other flight crew on the ladder getting into the air force plane;
flying in formation in lincolns (man he loves those shots he took himself – flying way close you can even see the faces of the pilots in the plane behind); wedding photos Dad handsome in dress uniform, Mum looking gorgeous;

Mum and Dad newly married Dad manning the BBQ frame over a low fire - Dad was the best bbq cook!

Good times on Cero (my grandparents motor cruiser). Never mind borrow the car, Pop would let Dad take the boat out on his own when Dad was 16 which was quite a chick magnet apparently. Of course it doesn’t hurt to be a top looking bloke either…Dad was awesome at handling boats...

Dad with his marlin – Dad’s marlin on the wall, his fishing record certificates; Us kids; grandkids – (great and fairly recent photos of my kids I haven’t seen before – even a good one of me- now that’s rare), great grandkids… pilot’s license, whale watching, Ball’s pyramid, every photo looking better than ever before. I’ve been delayed completing my pages – so it’s good to see what’s already in the album. Mine will be more Dad but playing with my kids at Towlers Bay (Pittwater), taking them flying and teaching them to fish at Lake Cathie. Never mind blood, Dad has salt water in his veins and the sky in his heart. Two great life long passions.#
Day 3
Not quite so slow a start today. Daughter1 and I venture down for a swim, daughter2 for a sauna to try and clear her head a bit. The air is colder today after a cool change but the water is a lovely temperature – the spa even better. A few laps and we adjourn to the sauna which is only just heating up.
We dress and pack and head over to visit Dad for a while. He’s enjoying the visitors. Not too many visitors day by day as all the family is either in Sydney or the Central Coast. The downside of retiring a long way from the family. We say our goodbyes and after giving mum a bit of a guided tour around Dad’s previous Port residences we hit the highway.
I’m a bit over the highway so suggest we head in to Gloucester for lunch. We think the scenery heading up into the ranges is beautiful. We stop at Mograni Lookout for expansive views over Gloucester in a stiff breeze, then head down into the town. There’s a few eateries open. We choose to dine at Perenti arriving just in time as the tables are filling fast. Daughter and Hubby have smoked chicken and pesto penne which they both enjoy. Mum has salmon cakes which are OK, while I go for the chunky meat pie with tomato and olive chutney – well above average. Side salads have a delicious dressing. We follow up with a couple of pieces of passionfruit cheesecake to share. Very nice. We like our cheesecakes unbaked. Everything incredibly reasonable in price. Most mains under $10, the cakes $4.90. We buy some Perenti apricot and almond confiture and some Byron Bay muesli and set off for home.
We don’t’ get too far before the traffic is at a complete stop. Fatality up ahead. Local civilians are directing the traffic. As we reach first in line we are asked were we are heading and given directions for a detour. This is an unexpected bonus, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to suggest a dirt detour today, but here we are exploring the way down through Waukivory to the Pacific Highway. Interesting, but fairly standard scenery for the area – which is pretty good of course.
Once we’re back on the highway it’s a pretty standard trip home.
# I’ve been hanging out to get digital copies of the photos sis restored, but finally I figure I’d better post the text so this blog doesn't get just too ridiculously out of order, and get back to upload the photos when I get round to collecting the disc… stay tuned.

No comments: