A camping we did go

First night back from camping, I sat in bed and whilst it was lovely to be reclining once again in familiar comfort, something was missing. Walking to one of our bedrooms windows and pushing my face against the scratchy mesh of the flyscreen, I gulped in cool night air like a drowning person. Closing my eyes, the gentle hum of cicadas and rustling leaves of trees washed over me. That is what I was missing. Sister Three had declared that upon returning home from camping, she would have to live outside as she couldn’t bear to be stuck inside once more. Once again disconnected from nature.

Supposedly camping re-sets our circadian rhythms and whilst this light earplug-wearing ninja sleeper may not be able to vouch for that, what I do know is that our children run free, unfettered from the every day bane of television and overt technology. They play games, bike, swim, walk and carry on like pork chops. As adults we also walk more, talk more, chill more, read more, laugh more, puzzle more, connect more and carry on like pork chops more. All this is accomplished in the great outdoors that this very beautiful country provides for us.

For the first week of our two weeks this year, there were five families, 17 all told. We were back at our old haunt, the riverside camping ground in South West Rocks on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Sure, there was the odd unpleasant moment or two. Strong winds that sent tarps or tents flying can frighten both both young and old and a day or so of rain can kind of get you down. (Trying to dry towels whilst camping is one of my bugbears, don’t care if it ain’t clean but a damp towel seems so well, unnecessarily uncivilised.) Setting up camp is rather exciting but breaking down a camp and going home is well, far less so. There is usually fevered talk of burning the whole lot down and starting again next year, thus far, sanity, economy and a wish to stay of jail has won out. But any camping benefits far outweigh the negatives, making for the kind of holiday that allows you to totally check out of the everyday humdrum of life.

As usual we ate and drank very, very well and nobody starved. This part of the world is beautiful. White sand, turquoise waters on bright sunny days and the everchanging darker hues that the ocean provides on days that the sun refused to shine. Tall dark green Norfolk pines stand as silent sentinels, ever watchful and noble. Surely there is no greater marker of the Australian seaside than a stand of these magnificent trees?

Last year brought some sad changes to our lives and it was good to nudge them to the side, even if that sadness was merely simmering under the surface. This year brings new adventures for our family as our no longer chubby-legged big boy heads off to high school and into the somewhat scary state that is adolescence. As we purchase uniforms, pencils and new shoes I wonder where my little headstrong blonde curly haired lad has gone. He still likes a good argument but his body is lengthening and the planes of his face are refining, no remnant of baby fat is left except in this mothers memory. The Yak and myself are re-evaluating career paths alongside personal goals and right now, even though things feel wobbly, we know more than ever that life is bloody short. As cliched as it sounds, there are no guarantees (only death and taxes boom-tish) and our intention is to make the most of this life we have been given. So thanks South West Rocks, until we meet again.


Barcelona

The deafening roar of motorbikes, the bumble bee buzz of scooter type Vespa bikes, buses, cars and the frequent high pitched wail of emergency sirens were my lullaby for the requisite Spanish afternoon siesta.

Balcony doors flung wide open, provided a view of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral and the loud hum of traffic noise merged with the sound of children playing at the large school across the road. I was lulled to the blurred place that exists in the space between awareness and sleep.

Barcelona is a vast old city set out on a before its time grid structure, chock full of mind boggling modernist architecture, older style apartment buildings that speak of another era, attractive Spaniards with exquisite taste in bags and shoes, millions of tourists with varying degrees of taste in bags and shoes and of course, a motza of food and drink. Tapas, churros, patisserie, Catalan cuisine, Italian, Vietnamese, Portugese. Wine, beer, cava, sangria. All of varying quality.

We used Trip Advisor and a bit of nouse and managed to (mostly) enjoy good edibles at reasonable prices. The Yak did devour more than his fair share of patatas bravas (a potato tapas dish) and being in a bit of a ‘tourist area’, we probably would have done better going further afield more often. (Kid 2 ended up with a tummy bug/food poisoning case on our two last days, putting a bit of a kybosh on going further afield as we had planned.)

People really do eat late here, it’s no myth. We got into the rhythm of a slightly later start to the day. Heading out for coffee accompanied by delicate little creme patisserie stuffed pastries, followed by some serious sightseeing. Lunch consisted of fresh baguettes and jamon or tapas, then off we trotted back to the apartment for that siesta. We would devour a late afternoon snack then head out the door once more after eight. No self-respecting restaurant opens their doors before eight-thirty, although tapas and pinchos are served earlier. Unfortunately for the Yak, much of the pinchos (small snacks) are served on bread. The Spanish way of life would particularly suit our hot Australian summers although I fear that most of us would fail to return to work after the siesta, as the seductive lure of the pool or beach would prove far too tempting.

The man at the nearby jamon specialist shop was patient with our very poor Spanish skills (I use that word loosely) but we managed to order a few slices of Iberian jamon to go with our crunchy baguettes, tomatoes and Manchego cheese. Wine is plentiful and very reasonable if you visit a good, big supermarket and the tiny and interesting speciality wine shops are also worth a visit or two.

The La Boqueria market was overloaded by tourists, yet still a foodie fantasy land and worth a visit. Rows of perfect chocolates, piles of nuts, vibrant fruits and vegetables and hanging strands of every chilli you could imagine. A lovely local kindly tapped me on the shoulder and told me to beware pickpockets, I had stupidly placed my iPhone in my back pocket whilst buying some plump scarlet plums.

The Sagrada Familia, the iconic Gaudi cathedral was almost a religious experience. God or something akin to God talked to me via Gaudi’s visionary use of space, organic shapes and multi-hued incandescent light.

As I wrote this, it was 10.30 at night, and the Yak and lads were having a different kind of religious experience. They were perched, bums on edge of seat at a tapas bar around the corner watching a Barcelona soccer game with a bunch of passionate Barca fans. They had toured the football stadium Camp Nou earlier that day whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my lone Gaudi ‘La Pederra’ tour. Our little boys heads were full of soccer glory. Messi, Neymar Jr and Suarez. I instead chose to go back to the apartment and enjoy an extra sneaky tumbler of very good Spanish wine and a modicum of peace and quiet.

We made special memories, yet for the Yak and myself, it wasn’t all fun and games. The loss of our Jo bore down heavily upon us at times. However, what we do know is that she would have wanted our boys to experience this big wide world we live in. To laugh, love and shout at the soccer. To eat good food, to learn how to say hola, adios, bueno and bonita. And that is what we will continue to do, wherever and whatever we do, in the best way that we can.


Golden Bathurst days

The school holidays were coming to a close and my feet were itchy. (Metaphorically not medically.) So, I decided that a road trip to Bathurst was long overdue. We could visit the old man, Mr Bagpipes. Just me and our two lads. And it would be mega awesome. (In ‘young boy language’.) Autumn had hit and golden poplar leaves glinted like a million tiny gold coins, bedazzling us as we drove by. Conversation revolved around our favourite Lord of the Rings characters and the fanciest cars we had encountered thus far. All set against a musical backdrop of the Gaelic clan Capercaille, a drop of Chris Izaac and part of the soundtrack to my youth, Split Enz.

We arrived safe and sound and celebrated with a tasty lunch at The Hub, involving roast mushrooms, buffalo mozarella and parsnip chips. Afterwards, an obligatory ice-cream for the boys from the iconic institution that is Annie’s Old-fashioned Ice-cream Parlour. Church bells ring regularly in this old town, reverberating closely off sandstone walls and reminding us that we are no longer in a big city. The weather is strangely warm and balmy and we enjoyed the gentle stroll into town for dinner. Our destination was the artfully converted place of worship, the Church Bar and Woodfired Pizza. We sang songs of praise to the beautifully crispy based pizzas. And slept well that night at Dad’s abode.

Next day, sunny skies again and a visit to Bathurst wouldn’t be complete without morning tea at Legall. The goodness that is French patisserie set us up nicely for further adventures. (Involving the mandatory toffee choux and lemon tart.) We were wowed by the amazing collection of vintage cars at the the National Motor Racing Museuem, located at the foot of the iconic Mt Panorama racing track. Dad then popped into to his place of employment to do a spot of work. My sons and I visited the War Memorial, being on the cusp of Anzac Day and enjoyed a meander in the ornamental 19th century parks. Back at Dads,’ the whipper snippers read real-life books whilst I cooked up a big pot of my restorative vegetable soup for Pa, freezing a few portions as well.

As we were on an eating tour of Bathurst, dinner that night was at Tommy’s. We happily consumed ribs, hotdogs and burgers the size of a small boys head. The grown ups may have partaken in a jug of Tommy’s margarita mix. But that can neither be confirmed or denied.

Friday morning arrived and the weather gave way to the impending bleakness of winter. After one more quick visit to Legall (pastries are actually good for you dontcha know), we bid farewell to Mr Bagpipes. Naturally, thanking him elegantly for his kind hospitality. For a last hurrah, the wee lads and myself trotted off to the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum to see the Supercroc touring exhibition. Modelled off the fossilised bones of a prehistoric crocodile found in the Saraha desert, this behemoth was over 13 meters long. All three of us were glad that it was now extinct. We oohed and aahed over various brilliantly coloured precious and semi-precious minerals. As well as honest-to-goodness fossils, including a life sized T-Rex replica. Roar.

Like the poplar trees lining the roads to and from Bathurst and the precious stones at the Mineral museum, these days are golden. Time taken to once again reconnect to my children will hopefully hold us all in good stead in the busy weeks ahead. We also got to eat a whole lot of damn fine food and clap eyes on Mr Bagpipes in his natural environment. And that ain’t half bad. In fact it’s, gold.

http://www.churchbar.com.au
https://www.nmrm.com.au
http://www.somervillecollection.com.au
http://www.tommysbx.com
http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area?nst=0&gclid=COm_6KvRpswCFQJwvAodDBsOtw&gclsrc=aw.ds

Desperate to read more Bathurst posts from the Cheergerm?
Back to Bathurst and a spot of Tex-Mex
Shadow sisters and the Apple Bar
Bathurst and bagpipes


Starman

‘The Camping Collective’ does not starve. As time went on, two peeps undertook a trip to the local Seafood Co-op. The mighty hunters returned with a glorious ocean bounty. (Via the refrigerators of the Co-Op.) They had procured plump Sydney rock oysters, a slurpy minerally mouthful that we topped with a squeeze of lemon. A motza of green local prawns in their shells were tossed in oil, seasoned and barbecued. It was no hardship to partake in one of two of these juicy crustaceans. The icing on this seafood cake was a school of uber fresh flathead. Sister 4 lightly tossed these glistening beauties in seasoned cornflour (necessity is the mother of all invention) and they fried up a treat on the flat grill of the barbecue. Lip smackingly sweet and juicy.

Vegetables were also consumed. Crunchy green salads, coleslaw and one of our number made a simple white cabbage dish that hearkened back to her childhood. It was very finely sliced then dressed with lashings of lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Simply moreish.

Whilst we love to cook on our camping holidays it is a welcome relief to eat out and more importantly, not wash up. There was a lovely feed at Thai On the Rocks, we sat outside in balmy surrounds, sipping icy cold rose and perusing the vast menu. One of my favourite dishes was a deliciously creamy chicken panang and The Yak raved about a gigantic plate of stir-fried vegetables with chilli.

After our meal, sans kidlets, some of us sneaked off for a delicious post dinner gin and tonic at the Seabreeze Hotel. During dinner, we had found out that the marvellous David Bowie, the iconic Ziggy and Starman, had succumbed to the cursed cancer that has taken so many. His music speaks for itself and as an actor, he shone in ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’. We were all admirers or fans but Sister 3, perhaps, loved him the most. Over our icy cold drinks, we toasted his passing. His loss ominously highlighted the ongoing health battle of one of our nearest and dearest. And the cut was deeper. That evening, gazing at a crystal clear night sky, I imagined that I whispered ‘Farewell beautiful Starman, you really blew my mind.’

An early morning beach walk along hard sands and by azure waters to Trial Bay was rewarded with breakfast at the Trial Bay Kiosk and Licensed Restaurant. The Yak and I both had the haloumi stack with pesto, spinach and poached eggs topped with avocado. Mine was perched atop a crunchy slice of sourdough rye and The Yaks was served with gluten free toast. The Yak headily proclaimed this one of the best breakfasts he had ever eaten. Mine was very tasty, despite feeling slightly ripped off by the tiny amount of avocado. The coffee here is velvety, rich and smooth, I have no idea what their brand of coffee was. Shamefully, this Cheergerm will never make it to the lofty echelons of a true hipster.

Towards the end of our last week, we booked dinner at the Seabreeze Hotel where the food impressed and delighted. My linguine with prawns, chilli and basil was seriously good. Fat juicy prawns, perfectly cooked pasta and just a nice backbite of heat. The night was topped off by The Polish Stepfather winning a nice big meat tray. A true Aussie tradition.

More than anything, my hope is that camping provides our children with the experience of a simplified existence, of learning to be part of a communal group, to compromise and co-operate. To forgo television and play card games again. To dive into frothy waves unfettered by the multiple trappings of everyday life. This Australia Day, whilst I will be present wherever I am, a small section of my heart and mind will be back in South West Rocks. Enjoying the truly egalitarian pleasures of this vast nations amazing beaches and natural beauty.

http://www.seabreezebeachhotel.com.au

http://www.trialbaykiosk.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/north-coast/kempsey-area/south-west-rocks?nst=0&gclid=CO-b07HfwcoCFUosvQod7gcM3A&gclsrc=aw.ds


Stopped

Cicada’s buzz, the heat shimmers on the tents and children play endless rounds of Uno.

The rain has left and summer is once more upon us.  Twenty eight degree days allow for fun filled beach activities and the evenings are cool enough for  sleep.

Sets of white tipped waves swell and crash against us, they are stronger than they look. Ice-creams and potato cakes from the Horseshoe Bay Kiosk rule the day.

Our camping collective eat well. Whether it be a slow roasted shoulder of lamb, a myriad of crunchy corn fritters , carnival coloured coleslaw, a mound of roast potatoes or fresh white bread rolls laden with bacon and egg.

Time slows and it is good to just stop.

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Even Cheergerms need a little holiday

Just a wee note to say gidday and to wish all and sundry a Happy New Year. We are off on a camping trip for the next little while. Some may say our holiday collective ‘glamps’ and those people may or may not be correct. I suppose it depends on your perspective.

I leave you with a little pictorial insight into our Christmas and Boxing Day celebrations, which were held at Sister Two’s lovely family abode this year. Good times indeed.

Our camping destination is South West Rocks, a little piece of beachside heaven on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. If the muse hits me slap on the side of the head with a piece of nice fresh fish, there may even be the odd brief holiday missive as well. Until the next time we meet, lang may yer lum reek.

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Baggage and Gerringong

Everyone needs a little time away. To unwind, read a good book, to perhaps experience something a little different than the everyday. But two ‘three day mini-break weekends’ in a row? Now that seems a little, well, greedy. To quote Gordon Gecko from that 80’s hit movie Wall Street, ‘The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.’

So five friends from Mothers Group, once again threw together our winter woollies and piled our literal and metaphorical baggage into one car. This in itself was a small miracle, can you imagine? (Some of us may have packed more than others.) Our destination this time was the adorable hill perched coastal village of Gerringong on the South Coast of New South Wales. Only two hours (if that) from Sydney. We had the lend of a small holiday house and counted ourselves as very lucky chicks indeed.

Lunch had been missed and a loo visit was called for. So to start this gourmet weekend away, a stop was made at the infamous Maccy D’s just out of Wollongong. Now, I am no fan of this multinational fast food joint, for a number of reasons. However, not being a purist, I must tell you that we did eat the fries. Not sure if it was our hunger, excitement or the fact that we had just emptied our bladders but they tasted damn good. Let’s leave it at that.

Heading deeper south, the sky darkened. By the time we arrived, a full blown storm had settled in. Rooms and space divided, luggage unpacked, wine placed into the fridge and the kettle boiled. Snug as bugs in rugs, we looked at each other and heard not, the sound of children. And it was good.

Dinner that first night was an arduous trek (ok, it took three minutes) up to the main drag of Gerringong. There, we ate at the Werri Thai Restaurant, a hole in the wall and encountered some of the freshest Thai food any of us had eaten in quite the while. The tofu and cashew nuts, with a jammy spicy sauce was the standout. Enough that the restaurant was earmarked to re-visit before we left. That and a glass or two of Arras sparkling wine from Tasmania (for those of our number who partake in the odd alcoholic beverage), was a great start to our long weekend.

The next morning, after a luscious lie-in, the lot of us traversed the full twenty minute drive to the pretty town of Berry. Our destination being the renowned Berry Woodfired Sourdough Bakery. My last visit was many years ago and we were all keen to give it a whirl. Our sleep-in meant missing out on the full breakfast menu. So a cut down menu it was and sadly, no eggies. My choice was a Croque Monsieur style ham and cheese croissant. Not sure if this is actually done in the land of the French, but oh my. Flaky and buttery with a creamy, porcine interior. The others tried a very good spinach, pumpkin, pepita, sunflower seed and feta muffin. The coffee was as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

After drooling over a fine selection of various baked goods, choices were made and boxed up to take back to the cottage. A stellar multigrain sourdough, a chocolate almond croissant, lemon yoghurt tea cake, prune and custard tart and macadamia tart. The intention being to share for afternoon tea, if not that day, the next. (No-one likes to go hungry.)

Back in Gerringong, we walked along the cliffs and drank excellent coffee from the Blue Espresso Bar. This Cheergerm eyed off some gorgeous hand-etched wine glasses at Mas Homewares. A shop brimming with an array of delightful European goodies.

Books were read, blankets snuggled under. Friday night, we had pre-booked (at a local’s suggestion), Zoobs Woodfired Pizza. They prepare their hand rolled pizza dough fresh every day and fire it in a proper woodfired oven. To start, some of the laydeez shared an excellent salt and pepper crusted squid. Then it was the pizza. My margarita with mushrooms was to die for. The base was puffy, light, yeasty with the smoky taste that only a woodfired pizza can give you.

A slap up home cooked brekky then a visit to the Gerringong Saturday markets. Cold but fun. Woolen hats, homemade cakes and jams, alpaca wool and handcrafted pillow cases. Hot chips eaten from the paper, another contender throws it’s hat into the ring for the hotly contested title of ‘the best chips in the world.’

Cups of tea, coffee, herbal libations, glasses of wine, reading, movies and tears over parenting journeys that seem to have become more complex. This gift of time allows us to expand on conversations that usually happen over the space of a cup of coffee. For a brief while, our burdens are unshouldered. It feels like we have unpacked far more this weekend than just our actual physical luggage.

We head out again that evening to Werri Thai to once again chow down upon that delicious tofu and cashew nut dish. This time trying an equally good massaman beef which is creamy and mildy spicy.

Sunday arrives all too quickly. Breakfast was booked at the Seavista Cafe in Gerringong. Light, airy with a gorgeous view of the ocean. The breakfast is decently solid. My poached eggs with hollandaise, avocado and smoked salmon is tasty. Back at the house, our re-packed bags are skillfully arranged (not unlike a jigsaw puzzle), into the car. I cannot speak for everyone but my baggage seemed just that little bit lighter. (Well, apart from those rather fabulous wine glasses I purchased.)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Blue-Espresso-Bar-Official/456897421029059

http://berrysourdoughcafe.com.au

http://www.zoobswoodfired.com

https://www.facebook.com/GerringongSeaVistaCafe

http://www.mashomewares.com.au

http://www.gerringongvillagemarkets.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/kiama-area/gerringong

https://cheergerm.com/2014/08/24/shadow-sisters-and-the-apple-bar/


Bonny Bonnay

School holidays had arrived so we decided to hitch the cart to the horse, throw the sproglets in the back and take off to the Hunter Valley. This is a beautiful wine growing region a mere one and a half hours drive north from Sydney. A mini-break that involved wine tasting? You don’t have to ask me twice.

A quick visit to the local Hornsby Growers Market for supplies, then we hit the open road. We knew we were in wine country the minute we hit the vineyards. (A real bunch of Einsteins are we.)

First stop before arriving at the house was a spot of lunch, we spied a rustic looking joint called the Lovedale Store Cafe. A simple cheese toastie for the eight year old and a ‘slap me silly sideways it was so good Asian style pulled pork on a toasted bun with homemade coleslaw’ for Kid 1 and myself. A big pot of Yorkshire tea for the grown ups and a veggie frittata with a tasty potato salad for The Yak. And a chilled out Highland goatie oatie out the back. (Alive of course.)

Our first wine sipping stop is Peterson’s Wines where they make killer sparkling wine. Friendly, funny and attentively served, this Cheergerm solely sipped on stars and maybe even purchased one or two. A chocolate shop stop to keep the smaller people happy, then off to the house we went.

This soothing green house is timeless, stepping inside we feel instantly becalmed. Steady ticking clocks, the heartbeat of this home, remind us both of childhood. Patchwork quilts and vintage china, a well-stocked kitchen and a claw-footed bathtub. We look out onto pastoral landscape and an old school garden with lavender and citrus trees.

An afternoon walk, warm sunshine on a winters day. Kid 2 slipped his little hand in mine and chattered about the shapes of trees, what we will do next and other topics that are dear to this eight year old boys heart.

Sitting on the white bed, the view of the vibrantly orange mandarin tree from our bedroom window distracted me as I wrote. The only sound was the chirrup of birds and the occasional bovine moo.

Night fell and we rugged up to stargaze in the darkened country night. Kid 1 was initially frightened at the overwhelming vista, never has been before. Perhaps it is merely a symptom of his burgeoning awareness that sadly, the world is not the safe place he thought it once was. Our eyes adjusted to the night sky and Kid 2 marvelled at the Milky Way and multitudes of stars. He spoke of a high powered telescope and perhaps, another stargazer has been made.

A Peterson’s sparkling Shiraz Viognier goes very nicely with a black pepper pie and a gluten free veggie roll purchased from the Hornsby Farmers Market. (It’s my bloody holiday too.) A homemade baby kale (adorable or what and so much nicer than the grown up version) and fennel salad dressed with caramelised balsamic and olive oil, offsets the pastry richness.

As I sat in bed reading, the boys and Yak were fast asleep. I listened to the crackle of the open fire and felt lucky and grateful to be there, tucked cosily under the roof of this country home. (I also felt grateful for the sturdy fire guard that ensured we did not burn to death in the middle of the night.)

My master plan of slap up huge lunches and easy dinners worked a treat. Japanese and Thai food at Oishii in the Tempus Two complex is surprisingly good. On the next day, a solidly decent lunch of fish and chips at The Deck Cafe in Lovedale kept us going amongst the very difficult work of a spot of wine tasting. Vineyard highlights included Cappercaille, Brokenwood, Allandale, Tamburlaine Organic Vineyards and the stunningly beautifully located Audrey Wilkinson. Needless to say, we are well stocked in case of a wine apocaplyse.

Our final night found us by the open fire, scoffing Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese triple cream Brie. A delightful floral, chalky and creamy cheese. The lyrical and come hither strains of bohemian French Cafe jazz, (why does everything sound better in French?), kids revelling in toasting marshmallows on the open fire and a Hunter Valley Chardonnay from Allandale.

The Yak wanted to freeze time as he watched his two lads reading in their voluptuous white cloud-like beds. But the morning of leaving arrived as mornings are bound to do. As my mum always says, you have to leave so you can come back. And that we will.

http://www.bonnay.com.au

http://www.stayz.com.au/accommodation/nsw/hunter/hunter-valley/76903

https://www.facebook.com/lovedalestore

http://www.oishii.com.au

http://www.petersonswines.com.au

http://www.capercailliewine.com.au

http://www.allandalewinery.com.au

http://www.deckcafelovedale.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/hunter/hunter-valley


All the little lights

‘We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark, and they show us the way. One lights up, every time we feel love in our hearts.’

I was sitting with Uncle R and Aunty L in their lounge room. We were listening to an album called ‘All the little lights’ by Passenger, aka Michael David Rosenberg, an English folk-rock singer songwriter with an unforgettably raspy voice and poignant lyrics. L is mending and R is reading. The lyrics from the song ‘all the little lights’ lodge within me, there is definitely a light shining in my heart in that moment.

My three sisters and I had landed in full force in Christchurch, New Zealand, the day before. It had been many years since we have travelled there all together, four curly haired lasses reunited on an adventure once more. We encountered a little pocket of summer in autumn, the warm wind wrapping around us like a loving blanket. Tessa the wonder retrieving cat was a delighting and diverting ball of possum like fur. Our Uncle and Aunty love her to the point of distraction. It is no no hardship to see why. We are all in her thrall before we know it.

Their house, built in 1909, timber walls, lovingly maintained by strong hands and strong hearts and held up by the firm foundations of a loving marriage. To our Uncle, this house is part of his story, a direct reflection of himself. Solid through the toughest and most unimaginable heartbreaking of times. It suffered in the earthquakes but the fact that liquification did not travel beneath and the extra work and timber that they built into it ‘back in the day’, ensured it’s continuing existence.

There is true beauty here. Both in the people it houses and in each lovingly chosen or inherited piece. A living, breathing diaroma of their history, just like the patchwork quilts artfully made by Aunty L. Old Pop’s piano accordion, stained glass and hand crafted wooden sculptures made by a close friend. A man’s garage laden with treasures and tools used by the hands of a bloke who fixes and beautifies discarded objects. The garden provides pumpkins, perfumed climbing roses, lavender, a magnificent veggie patch and an apple tree. Saffron seeds given to Uncle R from an Iranian student have been grown into delicate yet vibrant golden threads.

Hot Wheels and Low Rider, how good it is to see them again. No, these are not some hot rodding gang members but two of our cousins. Rest assured, these titles are of their own choosing. These two beautiful men have Frederich’s Ataxia and use wheelchairs as their current mode of transport. This condition causes progressive damage to the nervous system. We are well pleased to clap eyes on them both again along with Big Bibbity Bob (aka Bob) the beautiful brown eyed dogger friend of Hot Wheels. To know Bob, is well, to love him.

A strong food gene appears to be written in all of our DNA. We ate and drank from dusk to dawn, Aunty L’s rich mushroom soup and sourdough bread. The coffee we encounter is seriously good and excellent New Zealand wine flows. Denheath’s custard squares thank you very much, iconic ginger slice and lolly slice, something I don’t think you will see in another part of the world. A miniature Bombe Alaska filled with a rhubarb parfait is well, frankly, the bomb. We are entertained by Uncle R’s amazing ability to recite poetry and witty sayings handed to him by his own personal mentor and hero, Old Pop. (His grandfather, our great/grandfather. He is the dapper fellow in the first photo on the left wearing a beret.)

Special gin (laden with botanicals) and tonics with orange peel, Italian food, cousins and beers, laughing like loons and catching up. Some cooking and baking is also accomplished by sisters together again. A perfectly balanced carrot cake (not too sweet, not too savoury) topped with walnuts foraged from the tree next door. A delicate seafood chowder laden with NZ seafood. We all pitch in.

Reconnecting with our loved ones, family from both our fathers and mothers side, time has passed but not passed at all. The goodwill and interest is still there as if we only saw each other yesterday. Coffee at the local library, lunch at the Boatshed and drinks at the Astrolabe Bar. More laughter and some tears. We pore over photos from a bygone era, looking for snippets of ourselves in the faces that gaze back at us.

Leaving here is hard for many reasons. We miss all of our family and this beautiful city that is rebuilding itself in new ways after the earthquake. It is made more difficult this time because our beloved Uncle R is fighting a health battle that brings new meaning to the saying that ‘life isn’t fair’. As Uncle R would say, quoting Old Pop, ‘Life isn’t fair, so what are you going to do about it?’ Our uncle has spent his life ‘doing something about it.’ Battling injustices committed not only against his own boys but for others who lacked a voice.

We do not say goodbye but instead, ‘until we meet again.’ If love is a tiny light that burns, then there are many tiny lights burning as brightly as they can right now.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CoONtDv9eJg

http://www.fara.org.au

http://www.denheath.co.nz

http://www.christchurch.org.nz


Back to Bathurst and a spot of Tex-Mex

Restlessness and a modicum of discontent sat curled, viper like, in the depths of my belly. We were nearing the end of the first week of the lads two week school holidays. A last minute opportunity arose to visit Mr Bagpipes, aka the father figure. He is currently house sitting a large ex-vineyard property ten minutes outside of old Bathurst. It felt darned good to pack up and get the heck outta Dodge. A chance for familial reconnection far from the maddening crowd in the country air and wide open spaces.

Before we hit the property, we popped into Legall Patisserie for some takeaway pastries, including of course, my favourite toffee choux. I am marginally grateful for my ever expanding ice-cream pants that this joint is not around the corner from home and is relegated to the less often occurring Bathurst visits.

Finally we arrive at the country house and life was good again. Marshmallow clouds, Pinot grapes withering on the vine, tiny wagtail birdies and a family of unseen foxes near the adorably sized dam. Leaves turning to autumn and unseasonably warm weather welcomed us, it was a holiday weekend indeed. Elvis the dogger was quite overwhelmed by the open spaces. We scoffed the pastries for arvo tea then did a bit of exploring. Dinner was a quick noodle stir fry hungrily consumed before we all collapsed happily into our beds.

Saturday morning brought more Legall pastry and a very good Fish River coffee enjoyed in the stunningly autumnal Machattie Park. A spot of shop perusal followed, finishing at Annie’s for a kiddy ice-cream treat. Back at the house, Kid 1 slept exhaustedly on the couch for a record two hour nap. Daylight savings and a growth spurt have made him hungry and moody. The spectre of pre-adolescence hovers over him, prophesising of things to come. Sleep beautiful lad, sleep. This Mumma was able to contentedly read before the Yak and I hoofed up and down the one kilometre driveway. We couldn’t afford not to, there was further eating to be done.

Saturday night sneaked up on and us and we found ourselves (after booking at the last minute), at the relatively new Tommy’s, Tex-Mex food joint in Bathurst town. We walked into what appears to be a dodgy hole in the wall and happily arrive in a cool, candle dripping entry way. This space screamed Mexican Day of the Dead and we were warmly welcomed by the service staff. Tommy’s has a laid back, understated hipster vibe going on. The menu is a marvellous combination of man-food and classic Mexican faves with a modern twist.

For starters, we greedily ordered two serves of the perfectly crispy fried onion rings and coleslaw along with a jug of ice cold margarita. After a good gander at the menu, three of us decided upon the baby back pork ribs that had been marinated in charred chorizo and served with corn and garlic bread. The Yak ordered the vegetarian nachos and Kid 2, despite strong persuasion, simply chose the shoestring fries. Don’t ask for the ribs marinade, in the tried and true saying, it is top secret. And those ribs my friend, as that overplayed hit 90’s song went, ‘I would walk 500 miles, just to get a bite of those falling off the bones, unctuous meaty delights .’ (Well, it kind of went like that.) All three of those ribs plates were licked clean.

Other delicious sounding menu choices included the Tijuana big dog and the Austin Texas hamburger. There were also some tasty sounding smaller bites to choose from such as jalapeño poppers, empanadas and corn chips with pico de gallo. The Yak enjoyed the myriad levels of flavours and toppings on his nachos, which were cutely served in a cardboard box. (An inspired idea to avoid a messy cleanup later.)

Back to the vineyard, we delighted in the clear as a bell night sky, children pointing out the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way swathed across the black velvet. The pip peep of frogs was the only sound, you just don’t get that in the city.

Sunday morning, children still asleep at 7.15 (unheard of) I lay and listened to, well, not much. A snoring dogger, the occasional slumberous murmur from the boys and my own contentment. Upon awakening, I was jumped upon by two laddies, morning snuggles from ferocious dragons who threaten to rip out my guts and still beating heart. Raising boys, a continuing dichotomy of sweetness and blood curdling violence.

As we left, the sproglets shouted goodbye to the sentinel guard alpaca, they have named Mr Banana, who watches sternly over the sheep in neighbouring fields. Then we headed off to The Hub for breakfast. (Again we booked, the people in this town know what is good and you will not always get in on a weekend if you are not prepared. On saying that, always try to get in, you never know your luck.)

The Yak and I couldn’t say no to the Glaswegian potato pancakes served with smoked salmon, poached eggs, cream cheese and hollandaise. (Spinach for the Yak of course.) This dish was The Boss. The creamy sauces were the perfect foil to the potato, it was rich but worth every bite. The Hub coffee was as always, marvellous. Smooth and rich as a royal. Other enticing sounding menu plates were the dukkah boiled eggs and a brekkie salad with chimichurri sauce, roasted tomatoes, almonds and poached eggs (amongst other things.)

Farewelling Mr Bagpipes, we popped back in the car, feeling refreshed, renewed and rather full. Can’t complain about that. Hasta la vista Bathurst.

https://www.facebook.com/anniesbathurst

https://www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe

http://www.tommysbx.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/tommys.

https://www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/bathurst-area?gclid=CLC2xd6F_8QCFU-VvQodtm0A8w

http://www.bathurst.nsw.au

http://www.bathurst-nsw.com/machattie.html

https://cheergerm.com/2014/07/20/bathurst-and-bagpipes/

https://cheergerm.com/2014/08/24/shadow-sisters-and-the-apple-bar/