It is Bloody Cold Down Here

Elodie and Alex – love that fig tree

For the morning sun and all it’s glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort, too
You fill my life with laughter
And somehow, you make it better
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do

Written by Van Morrison

When Van the Man wrote “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You” he intended it to be a song expressing love for someone else (obviously). But when Rockin’ Rod performed his version he sang it as a love ballad to his granddaughter. Yes oor Rod it seems is a sentimental family man. No surprises there – he had enough of them. Grandchilren aye. Gotta love ’em. Rod the great Scotsman was actually born in Highgate, London and trialed to be a professional footballer until he worked out drinking and football as a job might not mix. He obviously was not familiar with George Best – actually the best. Luckily for us he decided on music. I have loved his music since the days of the Faces. And my favourite song – obviously “Maggie May”.

This post comes from Lilydale in the north eastern reaches of Melbourne. A lovely semi rural suburb that leads into the Yarra Valley. It is four degrees celsius this morning. It is also odd that Scout who grew up in Dunedin and I in Palmerston North, two of the most miserably cold cities in New Zealand are suffering like this. No matter how many layers of clothing we wear we just cannot get warm. I guess it is true then that we adjust to the climate where we live. Nine years now on the Sunshine Coast (16C is a freezing day) has softened us completely.

We left Evans Head on the NSW coast and after an overnight at Bulahdelah (population 1,424) just off the Pacific Highway some 100 kms north of Newcastle we set off south for Sydney. We stayed at the Bulahdelah Bowling Club and someone there must be entreprenurial. There were twenty campers there at a modest five dollars for the night (the Big Four was 200 metres along the road for $45) and nearly all of them ate at the bowling club’s restaurant. In addition to that another 50 or so locals and passers by turned up. The club is now well known for meals and being the Thursday before Easter Friday attracted many holidaymakers passing north as a stopping point to refuel and have a drink before continuing north to the various beach holiday spots.

We spent Easter with Brigette, Ralph, Elodie and Alex in their apartment in Little Manly. The balcony overlooks Little Manly Beach. It is such a lovely spot with paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming on the weekend’s menu – even if the six of us crammed into the smallish three bedroom apartment. Narrabeen Campground was full over Easter but we settled in after the weekend for a couple of weeks. We were fortunate to be in Narrabeen when the World Surf League was on. Not a surfer myself it was still a privilege to watch the likes of 3x WC Mick Fanning, and current world champ Italo Fereira and Steph Gilmour enter the green room and perform cut backs (well that’s what newly minted Sunny Coast semi pro surfer Nick B. tells me they are called) while riding two metre waves. Margaret had just seen the movie “Girls Can’t Surf” set in the 1980s which tells the tale of surfing women’s fight for equality and prize money in a male dominated sport. That is any prizemoney at all. Did you know that in 2019 the World Professional Surf League then became the first professional sport to introduce equal prize money for men and women. Some progess. Our role in Sydney is to babysit Elodie and Alex during school holidays. If there is anything better or more frustrating for the retired senior’s mental health than looking after primary school age grandchildren then I have not found it. Perhaps golf. Grandchildren are a joy until they are not. To watch (and try to help) them start to pick their way through growing up is wondrous. To sit through and actually enjoy Peter Rabbit Two is uplifting. To negotiate constant demands and nagging when all one wants to do is finish one’s book is annoying. But never, ever turn down an opportunity to spend time with yours. Time passes too quickly to pick and choose. And by the way. I am the Nintendo Switch Mario Kart champion of Little Manly.

We toured Sydney city and walked the new Rocks to Barangaroo walkway. We had a nosey into the very imposing Crown Hotel, sans casino, where James Packer met his downfall – casino licence wise. Sydney is a lovely city and the harbour as good as any in the world and the sunset from the Glenview Hotel rooftop bar is sensational – recommended! Unfortunately the city is just too big and expensive for those of us who are now enjoying small town life.

Our plan was to spend time in the King Valley which is an hour north of the Yarra Valley in Victoria and is a popular wine region in itself. But we had some communication with some friends in decided to vist them before going back north.The bonus was that we passed through Bonnie Doon (if you haven’t seen the Film “The Castle” get a copy) and spent a day and an evening with good friends the Horvats and the Vidovics. Alan and Jasna Horvat and Alans sister Goldie and husband Nick who had come up from Melbourne entertained us with pizzas from the outdoor pizza oven, wines from the northern Victoria winefields and a rather nice topaque from Pfeiffers Wines. For topaque read tokay the Hungarian dessert wine but of course the brand name is sanctioned. Goldie, Alan and Jasna came to Australia from Croatia as youngsters although there is a Hungarian background as well. They are always so generous and we left with two ice cream containers of Goldies cabbage rolls.

Alan H – the pizza man of Bonnie Doon. Aaah the Serenity

We had spent a night in Jugiong beside the Murimbidgee River after leaving Sydney. “Why Jugiong ” you ask. “Because of the Long Track Pantry” I reply. Jugiong is a two horse town off the Hume Highway which runs between Sydney and Melbourne. Two horses but fantastic cafe and sauce, pickle and jam outlet first introduced to us by my cousin Barb and her wine and sauce expert husband Robin from Canberra. Here again is another lesson in entrepreneurship as people by the dozens leave the highway to buy tomato sauces, chutneys the most exquisite spiced balsamic vinegar.

Jugiong – camped by the Murimbidgee River

On our way to Melbourne we passed through Marysville at the northern head of the Yarra Valley. The town was wiped out in the Black Saturday February 2009 bush fires in which 40 towns people died. Completely rebuilt now it is also home to Bruno’s Art and Sculpture Garden also completely rebuilt after the fire. I will let the pictures tell the story but can only say that if you are ever near here and you don’t visit you are nuts.

Beautiful sculptures April 2021 and the gallery in February 2009.

We had our two days in Lilydale on the north east outskirts of Melbourne with Graeme and Jeanette – friends we met in Karumba on our lap of Australia last year and then kept running into on our trip down the Queensland coast. Again so generous and great fun. A game of golf and a decent bike ride later we finally headed north to the King Valley. Prosecco country. Can’t wait.

Next stop Le Tour. Margaret and Jeanette in search of a mid morning pick me up.

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