2008 – JANUARY TO MAY
Over our many years of travel, we have experienced plenty of times when things did not work out as planned, but in the overall array of these, 2008 was an absolute doozy. The whole damned year didn’t happen as we thought it would…..
Towards the end of last year’s trip, we were mentally mapping out a three month jaunt to some of the loveliest coastal parts of WA, with a few side explorations thrown in. The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, specifically a stay at the laid back and scenic Middle Lagoon. Barn Hill and Eighty Mile Beach revisited. Some exploration of the area north of Kalgoorlie – or maybe even the deferred trip across the desert, from Newman to Alice Springs. Nice set of ideas, but……
In late 2007, son with marital woes moved back home. With him came his 5 year old daughter and 18 month old son – not full time, else I wouldn’t still be sane enough to write this, but every second weekend, and a couple of nights in between.
As well, we still had M occupying one of the back bedrooms. Suddenly, our spacious home was not so spacious. Items like portacot, high chair, nappy container appeared…….and toys……lots of toys!
Son’s need for support, both when the children were here and in terms of general company at home, made an extended trip unwise, so we reluctantly cancelled our wonderful housesitters. They were easily able to find a replacement booking, and promised us five months or so next year. We had to be optimistic and think there would be a next year – in travel terms!
Almost as soon as we returned in 2007, and amid the demands of the new bowls season, John made a start on the projects that he’d been germinating whilst we travelled.
The pizza oven was built and in conjunction with that, there was remodelling of part of the front garden, taking out the old sleeper wall that had formed one edge of the driveway, and also housed a massive European wasp nest. This was replaced with a wall of the same edging used in the renovation around the pool, with the creation also of a grassed ramp up onto the higher lawn level – allowing for easier movement of heavy tools to the back yard and John’s shed, and also for extra parking on that lawn. Suddenly, we had four resident vehicles…..
The pool was, as we had expected, a major project. The thick, green water was deemed beyond remediation, by a pool company. A septic tank cleaner, with a large truck and a very long hose, emptied it. In the midst of Melbourne’s drought induced water restrictions, much negotiation ensued with the local water authority, to eventually be allowed to refill the pool. There were conservation trade offs required: we had to install a water tank, buy a solar blanket for pool, install water saving shower heads and toilet cisterns…..The latter items led to a full renovation of the main bathroom, and then our ensuite. What was that about “life” and “easy”?
As part of all these changes, we decided that the filter and pump installation for the pool needed to be moved, from right outside the bedroom of the now rented granny flat, to the other end of the pool. The pool predated both our purchase of the house in 1991, and the building of the flat for my father, after we moved in. Dad had a degree of industrial deafness and did not mind the noise from the pool operation nearby. But after his death we had the flat tenanted. No issue, whilst the pool was non-operational, but now…..Thus ensued digging up of some of the slate that surrounded the pool, to relay the plumbing. So, to make it uniform, the whole lot was re-done, and the garden walls on two sides stone edged – with the products we’d seen in Bendigo at the end of the 2007 trip.
John enjoyed building the pizza oven. He found the slate laying really hard work that taxed him to his 67 year old limits. But that didn’t stop him from doing much of the bathroom renovations himself!
The pool apparatus was so old and long unused that it all needed replacing – nice new salt chlorinator, and an automated control system that would make it simpler for house sitters to maintain the pool.
All this because M bought John a book on pizza ovens, in Tennant Creek, last year!
After all this work, it would have been a bloody sight cheaper to go travelling in 2008. In fact, we could have left the van behind and stayed in upmarket accommodation and still come out ahead, financially.
M jetted off to the USA for a while, then found some other friends to join for an Australian trip, for a few months.
Winter set in with a vengeance – we were not used to these. In fact, we’d only experienced one Melbourne winter in the last decade!
John’s daughter and family returned to Canberra from her recent three year posting to Brussels, complete with his second grandson, born in 2005, while she was on post. The family had acquired – as so many Canberrans do – a weekender holiday house on the NSW south coast, at Durras.
By May, we were feeling a real need for a break away and a respite from “caring”. John wanted to see the Durras place, as well as the family. The south coast of NSW seemed – fractionally – more attractive than Canberra, with winter rapidly setting in. So, plans – albeit somewhat vague – were made, to meet up at the holiday house…..