When our friends very kindly asked us if we would like to have a holiday at their country retreat in Mittagong we eagerly accepted. These school holidays, Carl could only have a few days off work so if we were to go away, somewhere fairly close to Sydney was the best option and Mittagong, on a good day, is just 90 minutes from Sydney.
We mentioned the pending holiday to the kids and all were overwhelmingly enthusiastic; Alfie because he’s excited to go anywhere and Archie and Arabella because they didn’t want to come. It’s not like they didn’t have the time off uni, it’s just having your parents go away and leave you the keys to the house and food money on the kitchen bench is at their age, just too good to be true. I knew I wasn’t going to be missed when instead of saying, ‘Have a nice time’, they asked, ‘What time will you be back on Sunday?’ Even looking a little bit anxious like I was going to say, ‘First thing in the morning’, when they would clearly prefer us to walk in the door a few minutes before midnight.
So we took our ‘only child’ to the farmhouse in Mittagong.
Mittagong is in the Southern Highlands and quite a bit colder than Sydney. But the house is centrally heated and has two fireplaces so we were very cosy. One of the fireplaces was metal and you lifted a lid and put the wood in it and it radiated great heat. Of course I said to Alfie that he needed to be very careful around the fireplace as it was extremely hot and he’d get a nasty burn if he touched it. I have no idea what he was doing so I still don’t know how it happened but next thing he was walking in to the other room where we were seated saying his bum touched the metal and he heard ‘a sizzle’.
Well we looked at his bum and to be sure, he had a large second-degree burn where two patches of skin were no more. He has a high pain threshold but even I was surprised at how calmly he mentioned the sizzle episode. Why wasn’t he screaming? I sprang to my feet and it occurred to me that this was the first time I can remember going away without a medical kit. I rummaged through a few cupboards and managed to find some aloe vera gel and a bit of a bandage and a couple of Panadol.
He didn’t mention the burn again but I did keep my eye on it and wondered if I should be taking him to a doctor but it seemed to be healing quite well so I let it be. Probably one of the reasons he didn’t go on about it is that he was so distracted by petrol, a motor and speed. Yes, the farm had boy’s toys. Quad bikes to be exact and it was all we could do to keep Alfie off them.
Carl read him the riot act at least a dozen times a day talking through their dangers and listing the statistics of injuries, serious accidents and fatalities but like the advice to stay away from the fireplace, it was in one ear and out the other.
The quad bike only knew one speed and that was full throttle and he whizzed all over the paddocks often standing up instead of sitting down, doing sharp turns and everything else he’d been told not to do. It would be good if these bikes had immobilisers on them where they could only go at a certain speed and no faster.
When I told Celia we would be quad biking she was very alarmed and said, ‘I’m very worried for you, Charlie’, because we don’t have a good track record when it comes to injury-free holidays.
Surviving the quad bikes, a mercy from the Lord was that right next door was a lovely family with two boys aged nine and six. One morning they came knocking on the door and let us know that it was their oldest son’s birthday and would our boy like to come to the party! Love country people – so friendly. So very quickly I had Alfie all packed up and he went back to their house and stayed for the day playing all sorts of party games like tug-of-war and treasure hunts and hide and seek in the bushes.
The boys became fast friends and spent so much time together that Carl and I were able to kick back and relax and enjoy reading a book while the boys ran around outside being wild and doing all those things that boys like to do like trying to light a fire with a magnifying glass.
On our last day Alfie was pleased that instead of packing up early to be back in Sydney by noon we decided to leave later so he could spend the day with his friends.
We brought him home exhausted but happy.
And I suppose you’re all wondering about how the uni students fared without our supervision. Well, within 24 hours there was a punch-up between Archie and Arabella with Arabella accusing Archie of not being responsible, of eating her food and of being lazy. So Archie packed up and stayed with some mates leaving Arabella home alone.
And that’s about as good as it gets.
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