School holidays are now on in Sydney and a few weeks ago we booked a family holiday to Coffs Harbour, a six-hour drive north of Sydney. The uni students were unable to join us on this family vacation as they have no holidays and Archie is in the middle of exams and Arabella has three essays to hand in on Wednesday.
But Archie is an opportunist. His attention immediately diverted from exam preparation to free house/parents away mode and asked if, in our absence, he could host a dinner party. ‘How civilised’, I thought, ‘So good of him not to ask for a party’. I imagined Archie and seven guests sitting around our dining table that seats eight (10 at a pinch), and Archie ladling up the food he’d prepared. But forever the optimist, Archie then announced he needed me to write out the recipes for garlic bread and spaghetti bolognaise in quantities for 24 people. ’24 People is not a dinner party Archie, that’s a gathering’.
‘Well, I’ve invited them and they all said they can come so what do I do?’
‘You can’t cook for that many. I only have two large saucepans that can fit on the stove at one time and as large as they are, those saucepans can’t cook pasta for 24 people.’
‘Can I cook it in advance?’
‘Absolutely not. And what about cutlery? And plates? And seating? For that many you do pass-around food, not sit down. At least that’s the way you have to do it in this house’. So Archie culled his list to 15 and told them to bring their own food. His father told him he couldn’t have anyone over because the last time he entertained he left the hot plate on all night as well as the lights. Archie wasn’t pleased to have his entertaining plans curtailed so we are at our 3-star resort on the razor’s edge wondering if he’s remembered our rule of ‘first time obedience’.
Arabella is not planning any parties. She’s just phoning me to ask me to transfer money into her account for the leather jacket we promised her in exchange for the removal of her nose piercing and somehow also, a vintage fur jacket she has found on e-bay. ‘But mum; you know I don’t have any money. And it’s so very cold now. I’m freezing. This house has no heating. And if I just have that fur jacket and if I could find my ugg boots, I wouldn’t complain about the cold at all. It’s a bargain mum, an absolute steal. And I could pay you back. One day’.
‘One day’ never arrives.
We set off for our 7-day vacation very early on Friday morning. In our 7-seater people mover with just one child, I thought we’d have a lot of extra space. But no. No, we can’t travel light. Carl has to fill every available space and this time it’s with surf boards, boogie boards, fishing rods, tackle boxes, bike racks, the bikes of course and bike helmets. The last items to be thrown in were essentials such as Monopoly, the coffee machine and a cigar humidor.
So the car with just three occupants was jam-packed and off we set for the six-hour journey. By the time we motored into Newcastle we were starving and it was very much breakfast time. We pulled into a modern concrete oasis where you could not only serve your own petrol, you could have a woeful dining experience under fluro lights.
My mind was taken back to when I was a teenager and we used to go on holidays to Queensland. My father hated stopping during the 13-hour journey. Such an inconvenience and it rendered all that over-taking of caravans a disappointing failure as our pit-stop gave these weighty caravans the opportunity to once again fall into lead position. The one stop that was reluctantly allowed was a breakfast stop and this was such a treat because fast-food outlets had not yet arrived, nor had freeway bypasses of country towns so as we drove through we would reduce our speed by 50% (sometimes) and crawl into these towns where small business owners had little cafes in a complete time-warp where you would sit in leather booths and be handed a laminated menu of all they had on offer – milkshakes, thick-shakes and hot chocolates (never mind the coffee) and then it was a mixed grill all round. Out came enormous plates of bacon, sausages, baked beans, fried eggs, hot chips, roasted tomatoes, sauteed mushooms and wilted spinach, all crammed onto the one oval shaped plate. Just the sort of fuel you needed for a family road trip.
Well these small businesses are a thing of the past as they were replaced by absolutely inferior nightmares. Have a look at what I paid $7.20 for and this is after I sent it back as the first time they handed it to me, the bacon was raw – clearly only waved over the flame.
The sad thing is I actually think I ordered the better choice as I went to the ‘cafe’ while Carl and Alfie contented themselves with Hungry Jacks.
We made it to Coffs with not another break to mention and our friends staying in the same resort informed us that it was tradition to hit the local RSL for dinner. Off we went with me in high heels that was probably just a notch or two above where I should have been and I queued for a variety of not-surprising options. I went for the ‘Roast of the Day’ that was pork and a tougher bit of pork I’ve never experienced. It was served with a watery, flavourless gravy and bland vegetables, all for $17.00. Excellent fare for hungry travelers.
Today I was poolside reading my book while Carl was off fishing with Alfie – absolutely no need for me to tag along. I saw all the nature I needed with this beautiful water dragon.
I’ve had a lovely relaxing day reading my book beside the pool being momentarily entertained by a number of these water dragons.