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Point Leo. Birthday redux.

We had wanted to go camping for M’s birthday, but…as we have realised so many times before and then immediately forgotten – the rest of Australia books in their Easter break at least a year ahead…and every campsite in the world was booked out. So we postponed it to the following week.

We were SO glad we did! The weather, for the whole weekend, was nothing short of sublime. Again, it took me a BILLION years to pack…for two nights away. Oh god… I was determined to spend as little money as possible – so I was making pesto, baking muffins, finishing the caravan curtains, packing food, clothes, towels… the works.

Meanwhile, M was in the front garden attempting to fit a new windscreen into the back of our 1980 Mercedes station wagon (we’ve been driving it around with a plastic sheet gaffer-taped over it for about three months…). Not a one-person job, but he persevered…

Anyway, I arrived with the Smalls at about 2pm and secured my FAVOURITE SPOT, beachfront, under the trees…

My favourite campsite

For the first time both Smalls are super confident on their bicycles – Small Z is riding training-wheel free, and Small DB shoots around on a pedal-free bike – this weekend helped her hone her skills and she improved a lot. So they whizzed about while I got the van in order, made tea…we ate muffins…
Spot the Small…

Caravan.

Small Z has been asking about the first time I went out ‘in the world’ on my own. I can’t really remember, but I told her that I thought it was probably when I was allowed to walk to my grandma’s house. We lived at number 36 and she was at number 17 (it’s weird how I used ‘number’ in that context, but that’s how I’ve always thought of it). So I would have had to cross the street to get there – I imagine that by about age five I might have been allowed to go forth alone…

She asked if she could go up to the playground on her own or with her friends and Small DB. I try to let her be as free ranging as I’m comfortable with, so after I’d walked them there on my own and told her where to get on to the grass if a car was coming…I set her free. It was only a two minute walk – and the playground was actually right above our caravan – but the slope was just too steep to climb.

Our longlost neighbours (who callously moved away last year) joined us just before dinner – hooray! The adults actually had a few hours to sit about and drink wine under the stars…until we almost froze to death and had to go to bed. It’s always great to spend a couple of days with people, rather than just visiting for the afternoon…

Here is somewhat hungover M, after being plied with just another ‘cheeky little red’ by C.

Slightly hungover Dadda and excitable Smalls

We really did very little, but hang about, keep the Smalls fed, and drink cups of tea in the sun 🙂 D&E arrived late the next morning with their three Small ones. We all marvelled anew at the tiny, but evolving little Lucinda. M did a dash home to feed the chickens and brought back my slippers and a woollen blanket, in case we had another cold night…he also brought a brazier, and we had a campfire – which made everything a little more authentic.

I was not alone in being a bit entranced with the cob ovens that our long lost neighbours had brought along – putting your meal on to cook at about 4pm and then not having to DO anything about it for a few hours seems like an excellent approach. They use a long burning coconut husk fuel thing for it…M thought one would be a great addition to the Very Large Cataraman…while I was thinking that the caravan might like one too. Being able to cook outside when the weather is warm is useful and stops you melting, and getting the caravan full of stinky cooking smells…

Sunday morning. An utterly isolated thunderstorm entertained us for an hour or two before the skies returned to blue and the sun came out. The cafe at Pt Leo has been taken over by new owners – we mourned this, because there used to be comfortable couches and good cheese and tomato toasties. The coffees are now $4 or more…

Kiteflying.
Rainclouds
Point Leo creek
Some quiet time. 'The Wishing Chair Again'
Olivia and Milly, snacking.

The rest of the time was spent playing in the creek and paddling…lunch…and lounging until people began to depart. Long lost neighbours had to drive all the way to Kinglake and E had to return to Emerald. We were in the happy position of a 15 minute drive home. Small DB slept, and we left her in the car in the garden as we threw on loads of washing and settled the caravan back into its spot.

All the way to Venus Bay

This time last year I was taking the Smalls into the city and then on a train toward Lake Eppalock**. It was a total epic. A year later, it was Mr H’s 50th birthday and it was on our side of the city. Win! Three nights in Venus Bay 🙂

A house was booked for us to make use of – such largesse 🙂 There was a spot for the caravan just outside. The house was a kid-friendly wonderland, with toys, swings, trampoline, puzzles and games.

We drove in late on the Friday of the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend. It was almost a religious experience…

Venus Bay - Dusk

Wood-heater, three bedrooms, large television and exceedingly hot water. We got to catch up with our long lost friends who moved to NSW two years ago, and it was almost as if no time had passed at all…although they collectively gasped at the size of the Smalls… We all consoled ourselves with extensive amounts of wonderful cheeses…

I have left out a few things. The weather. The weather was sublime – for winter, it couldn’t have been better. I had put M on strict orders before leaving that he was to be on primary Small duty for the whole time, as I had not had a break for longer than I could remember.

However. He was saved from this on the Saturday morning when my dear Mrs H and her lovely sister took the Smalls to the beach, telling me to DO NOTHING. I was really good at it! Crosswords, tea, caravan in sunshine…

Caravan serenity...
Small DB. Beach.
[Photo: Margie]
Small Z. Beach.
[Photo: Margie]

M and Mr H went out with fishing rods and stout hearts in pursuit of fish. There were none. Meanwhile, the ladies and Smalls brunched in the sun, white wine and all. Mrs H, the Smalls and Master H then went on a jaunt to Harley’s house – the octogenarian Humber-whisperer of Venus Bay. We got a tour of his home cinema – and I do not use that term lightly – there are seats in it from the Regent theatre, there are swathes of gold and maroon, proper lighting, proper projectors and an aisle built for rolling jaffas down. It was a-w-e-s-o-m-e…

Saturday night was NIGHT OF PARTY!! There was 6pm dancing, more antipasto than you could poke a platter at, and a late dinner of two kinds of lasagne…followed by a Rather Impressive Cake. There was considerable wine involved. But there is nothing that makes me more self-regulatory than the knowledge that I’ll probably be awoken before 7am…

And therefore…Sunday was a day of recovery. We ladies went for a Very Long Walk. Birthday Man slept in. M took the Smalls on an adventure. Myself and the ladies felt very virtuous, discussing our walking alignment, strides and whether there were any houses we would deign to have as our own holiday destinations… There were cows to look at. And an Irish wolfhound.

Brunching with Crossword & Wine

[Photo: Margie]

A quiet night. Have I mentioned that the nights were clear? Clear and snap-cold freezing? We froze our noses off in the caravan, but the rest of our parts were toasty. M and I watched The Hobbit – my first DVD in at least two years. I was impressed.

We finished off the weekend by cleaning up the house, heading to a market in Lower Tarwin and then barbecuing by the Tarwin River before journeying home. Happy Birthday Mr H. Belated thanks for the whole extravaganza!

The front of the house

Under attack

Last night the Smalls and I camped at Point Leo – we dropped M off at home on the way through. We have a meetup with the WildThings (our nature-walkers) here this morning and, as the caravan was all set up, I thought we wouldn’t return home just yet.

Waiting for their dinner

Aside from one all-screaming all-dancing tantrum (what is wrong with me, as a parent, that I shout things like: “If you put on a jumper, you can have a strawberry…” and as the screaming and refusals escalate, “You can have FOUR STRAWBERRIES – just PUT A GODDAMN JUMPER ON.”?

Because we would all be having a reasonable time if Small DB was warm and comfortable, but as she chooses to remain chilly, she whimpers and whinges. Because, we would all be having a reasonable time if I wasn’t a menstruating psychopath with control issues. Again and again and again I write this crap up in an effort to hammer home to myself that clashing with her achieves nothing.

Not a bad spot - Point Leo. A favourite.

Having arrived at 6.30pm there was little time for long walks or the beach because dinner needed inventing and then the bed needed to be made up. I had had dreams of sitting up amidst two sweetly slumbering Smalls as I tapped away on my iPad…but they didn’t conk out until 9.30pm and by then I was shattered. An early night – though I did begin reading The Art of Fielding, a write up of which I read a while ago in Vanity Fair and it made an impression on me.

The night was filled with the drone and divebombs of a million fucking mosquitos. Maybe there is blood close to the skin near ones ears? Maybe it is because the head is sticking out of the blankets and is the obvious target? I couldn’t figure out if there was one maddeningly overactive one or squadrons. I lay perfectly still as it buzzed around my ear and then landed on my eyebrow/cheek/chin/forehead and then thwacked myself in the face with manic vigor in the darkness in the hope that I’d killed it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It. Would. Not. Die.

Whacking oneself in the face doesn’t lend itself to peaceful slumber and I read between 4am and 5.30am – we all awoke just before 8am to the sound of rain on the roof. I couldn’t help myself. I did not cuddle my girls or snuggle, I got up like a ninja and stalked every last one of the TWELVE motherfucking mosquitos that were staked out inside the caravan. And squashed them ALL.

Good Morning, Caravan Girl!
Practicing her name with dot-to-dot

Both Smalls have little red bites on their faces. I haven’t bothered to check mine. I can’t comprehend how I ever thought we could live in this caravan for a few months… really? I suppose if we were in someone’s backyard it would be easier, but caravans – three people – rainy weather? I think not. That said, we have had some serenity this morning – some reading, drawing, tea, flocks of ducks waddling by – and the sun (both realistically and metaphorically) is starting to show it’s face. The Smalls have decamped to the playground up on the hill – an option that the couple camping a bit further down with three small children won’t have for a few years yet.

It is time to splash my face, put away the crud, get dressed and start anew.

A few days away: the Smalls and me

The Smalls and I left this morning for a few days of caravanning adventure. We are to rendezvous with my cousin who is coming down from Queensland for the week to introduce her divine new baby to her parents in person. They live out the back of Yarram – about a two and half hour drive away from us. Towing a caravan? Make that three hours.

Three hours is a fair way for just one night, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to stay an extra night somewhere and busied myself googling “free camping” in “south gippsland”. Which is how I come to be typing from a place that I found by putting in the GPS co-ordinates that someone had put up on a caravanning forum. On the banks for the Franklin River just outside Toora.

The main heartstopper of the day was threading the caravan out between the trimaran and the fencepost. M has been away since Thursday – sailing to Sydney on a catamaran – and I have been flying solo. And thus camping solo – I find it almost easier, not having to share the organising and planning duties. It’s all down to me, and so I either take care of it or do without. I had the Smalls on standby – they were to scream as loudly as they could if the caravan was about to scrape the boat. Thankfully, this did not eventuate. Phew!

It is SO hard to get out of the house and away – packing all the food, the clothes, the bits and pieces… Finally we got on the road and didn’t stop until we hit Coal Creek, in Korumburra – a good place to pull up – next to a toilet block and a playground. The Smalls were happy – we lunched and they played.

image
365/144 • first stop on our little caravanning holiday - Coal Creek in #korumburra for snacks and swings • #300d #w123 #2014_ig_144 #sunliner #vintagecaravan #thesmallsandme

I realised that I’d forgotten to bring breakfast HORRORS!! We stopped in Leongatha and hunted down the necessities and then drove to Fish Creek. It was nice to get off the highway (even though it it pretty rustic by that point). I had posted a above picture of the car and caravan at Coal Creek to Instagram, and beautiful Amy from Ruby Hills Organics commented that she was parked just behind me in Fish Creek! She came into the cafe where we were and had a chat, and I showed her kids the inside of the caravan. I love cyber-serendipity!

There was an exhibition of the work of Alison Lester – a writer/illustrator that we adore – so we spent some time drooling over that at the Gecko Gallery. How decadent it would be to have money to splash about on art!!

by Alison Lester

Another playground…a few more photos…

The cafe to go to In Fish Creek
365/145 • at the awesome #9acres cafe in Fish Creek this afternoon - met the lovely @rubyhillsorganics & her small ones who had a peek inside the caravan • #2014_ig_145 #fishcreek #thesmallsandme #bookshop #cafe #latergram

…and then it was toss up time whether we would drive another 45min to the Bear Gully camping spot in Walkerville or head to the banks of the Franklin River – a 20min drive. I flipped a coin and the river won. I think that it was the best outcome – it’s lovely here! And closer to our destination…

We pulled in and saw another caravan here already (it’s just a rest stop – free camping). The Smalls had their shoes off and were paddling in the icy water in an eyeblink. We then met our fellow campers, Doreen and Clay – who let the Smalls help make a campfire while I sorted out dinner – a brilliant end to a lovely day. It’s so nice to be away – like I’m taking in a huge deep breath.

The Smalls meet the Franklin River
The water's too cold!!

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