Archive for September, 2016

the Grey Nomads (part two)

September 15, 2016

THE GREY NOMADS (PART TWO)
By Audrey Sanderson
As Promised

Quickly trying to quieten everyone down for fear of waking the entire site up I opened the door to reassure the dog everything was fine and stop him from barking. He was on a longish length of plastic rope so he could move round the ground under the van but not stray onto the adjoining sites. As soon as the door was opened, quick as a flash he jumped inside and shook himself. It had been raining and he was wet through. He jumped on top of Annie’s bed trying to get to my son. My daughter at the other end asked why sooty was wet. He heard her voice and tried getting to her. Annie started screaming she was in a mad house, John still trying to untangle himself from sheets and the table top and chaos reigned. I felt sure the manager would be along any minute to evict us. I told the kids to stay where they were, told Annie to stop yelling and told John to stop messing about on the floor. Once more our bed was remade with instruction for John not to move once he was in the bed. Annie said the dog had to be put outside. Cries from both kids he had to stay inside because it was raining. I pulled the covers over my head and pretended I was at home in my own bed.
The next morning full of aches and pains from resting on a hard makeshift bed I cooked breakfast. Told everyone to go outside while I cleaned the dishes and made the beds. I needed housework to be on my own and try to get some sanity back in my life. Making the kids beds I found out the canvas extensions of the van that covered their beds were full of pinholes and all the bedding was wet. Dear God, I could not face another day like yesterday. I went to the office and asked the manager if we could stay an extra day and night as the caravan had leaked rain water over the kids beds and I had to dry all the bedding. He said sure we could, no problem. I asked if there had been any complaints about the noise we made. He said there was no one occupying the adjacent sites to us and he’d vaguely heard the dog bark a couple of times during the night. So back to the van and stripped beds and hung everything on the clothes lines including the thin mattresses. The family came back with John eager to get on the road again. Wasn’t thrilled when I informed him we’d be staying an extra day. I told him he and his mother could sleep in the kids wet beds and the kids could sleep with me on the floor if he insisted on moving that day. That problem soon solved. We went to an animal sanctuary for the day. Not many tourists and plenty of room to walk around and they hadn’t objected to the dog so long as he was kept on the lead. No worries I held onto the lead all the time we were there. Annie was delighted with seeing kangaroos for the first time, lots of photographs taken with the parakeets and lorakeets feeding from the kids hands. The first time since leaving home no mumbling and grumbling and the kids as happy as larry. The dog pulled on the lead all the time. Too bad sooty, you’re going where I go. Annie didn’t object when we unpacked the picnic box as there was no other people around as we sat and ate lunch. The contented feel didn’t last into the afternoon. I wasn’t taking a real lot of notice why Annie had gone quiet. I was just glad she wasn’t criticising anything. Only when the kids came running back did I realise why she was quiet. Both excited and grabbing my hand urging me to come and look at the donkeys giving each other piggy back rides did it dawn on me why she was mumbling to herself and tut tutting. It was spring and animals were doing what animals do in spring. I told the kids not to go near the donkeys because they could get annoyed and we’d move further round the park to see other things. It must have been happy hour for the entire animal kingdom, everywhere we looked they were all at it. I saw the funny side of it, Annie didn’t. She even told John to go and get the keepers and make the animals stop what they were doing. At least she didn’t blame me for their antics. Of course she wanted to leave immediately so we made our way towards the exit. It wasn’t a zoo with concrete paths and animals in cages. The animals were fairly tame and used to tourists and the park was on about 10 acres. It was a long steady walk to the exit with Annie tutting and saying everything was disgusting and she wished she’d stayed at the caravan. I wished she had too. The rest of the day and evening passed without incident. The next day we would be facing another long day on the road. Inwardly I groaned at the thought of it. The next morning we packed everything away. Only got to disconnect the power and switch off the gas bottle before closing down the pop up van. That van had a mind of it’s own. God knows how long it had been sitting in a shed waiting for some idiot to come along and hire it but once it was opened up it refused to be closed down again. It was well into the afternoon before another R.A.C.Q. man fixed it. He replaced things and said they were rusted. He’d send the bill to the hire company with a strong letter telling the owner to overhaul his vans before hiring them out again. So another night spent at Hervey Bay. I tuned out to Annie’s whinging and moaning and cooked the evening meal. The next day dawned and with it the forecast of storms for the next 2 days.
That’s it, I’d had enough. While the kids were playing in the kids playground area and Annie writing more letters I said it would be foolish to stay in a caravan with the type of storms we get and either he could take us home or me and the kids would catch a train or bus back to Brisbane. He didn’t want to be in a van through any vicious storms so agreed we’d head off back home after lunch. We set off in bright sunshine. We hadn’t told Annie we were going back home either and she didn’t realise we were going south instead of north. No short cuts we stuck to the highway and followed the signs to Brisbane. Thunderous black clouds loomed on the horizon as we drove towards them.
The weather forecaster wasn’t wrong when he said a big storm was imminent. The storm was coming in fast with the wind blowing leaves off the trees and swirling round the car. We were heading straight towards it. Master brain said we’d drive through it and we’d be right. I said the weather report was for storms not A storm. Being practically alongside the Pacific Ocean anything could happen in a storm….usually bad things. I told him to turn off the highway pretty damn quick and get somewhere we could get the caravan tethered down securely. We got it into a caravan park somewhere between Moroochydore and Caloundra. Both great holiday resorts but not that day as the wind grew stronger and dust, leaves swirled all round us. This storm is going to be a bad one. The wind swirls in cyclones and God Help us if this developers into one. Only two other caravans in the park, they were both firmly tied down with thick ropes and chains. He stopped the car outside the managers office and I dived out of it and rushed inside. The manager asked no questions, told me to get in the car and follow him, he’d show us where to park. He set off in a cloud of dust and we followed. Only a short distance and we were alongside the shower block. He was dragging ropes and chains out of his vehicle and yelled at my husband to pop the van up before it was too late to get organised. The van obeyed first time. The kids stayed inside the car with the dog. Annie got out saying she wanted to help. I told her to checkout the shower block. I didn’t have a clue how to tie down a van and did what the manager told us to do. He, of course had done it many times and knew exactly what needed doing. He barked orders, we jumped to it. The car was unhitched, the van levelled and not only tied to a big metal ring in the ground it had chains and ropes thrown over the top and tied to other big metal rings in the ground. When all was secured he asked if we had anything to eat in the van and had we plenty of water. I said we had enough food for a couple of days. He grinned, told us to get everyone inside the van and to hold on tight. He wished us the best of luck and said ” See you in the morning ” and off he went in another cloud of dust just as the first big fat drops of rain started to fall. I opened the car door, grabbed the dog in my arms and told the kids to run inside the caravan because we were going to have another adventure. Of course the husband was first inside the van. Gee, he didn’t want to get wet. In the space of 2 minutes the rain was pouring down. I told the kids to get up on one of the beds and hold on to the dog. Very exciting. WOW mum’s letting us have Sooty the dog in bed with us. Sooty had his ears flattened to his head and didn’t look as happy as the kids. Couldn’t fool Sooty with tales of an adventure. It was obvious to me too the next few hours were not going to be pleasant. The Lord and master had sat down and asked what I was going to make for dinner seeing as we’d be there all night. Before I could give him a sarcastic reply one of the kids asked why Grandma wasn’t inside the van with us. O Dear God she must still be in the shower block. I told him he’d better go and get her before the thunder and lightening started as she’d be frightened out of her wits. He just sat there. I yelled ” Go and get her NOW before you have to swim to get her ” He stood up and asked where a raincoat was. I snapped my fingers ” Sorry, my magic powers have deserted me. Along with my patiences it’s disappeared. I wouldn’t wait any longer if I was you.” He opened the door as the first flash of lightening crackled over head. Straight after the thunder banged and clanged. I heard a scream, pushed him out the door and closed it before he could turn and come back in. I heard them both yelling minutes later and opened the door again. Both absolutely dripping wet and Annie as mad as a hornet. She demanded to know why I hadn’t gone and got her before it started to rain. Why I had taken so long to fix the caravan. And why had I left her outside all on her own. I said I was sorry I didn’t realise she thought she needed a written invitation. I sure as hell didn’t send her one to come to Australia. I nearly laughed as well. Her thin hair was plastered to her head and dripping down her face. A puddle had formed on the floor where she stood and she had on her superior luck as she always did when she listed all my faults. Her magnificent son was also dripping water onto the floor and asked again what was for the evening meal. I said sweetly we would be having delicious ham sandwiches and cold water. To rub salt in the wounds I said Sooty would be having steak as he didn’t mind eating it raw. It was the first time I felt like smiling on that very long day. Annie said she wanted privacy while she changed out of her wet clothes. Her son said he also was going to change before he caught pneumonia.
My ex-husband never had a cold or a headache. If he sneezed twice he was on the verge of pneumonia and a headache could be the start of tumour of the brain. I told him to turn off the flash light to save his mother’s modesty. She said should wouldn’t be able to see anything. I said the alternative was to brave the storm and get changed in the shower block. She turned her back and started stripping off. He did the same as he did at home ” Audrey, where’s my clean shirt and socks ” I told him they were in the suitcase in the car alongside his mothers suitcase. While this exchange of words was going on the caravan was swaying, thunder and lightening going off every 5 minutes and you couldn’t hear yourself think for the noise of the wind and rain pounding down.
The kids said the rain was making them wet and could they climb down from the bed. They’d been so quiet I’d forgotten their bed was under the canvas end of the caravan. The bed hadn’t been made up so who cared if the mattress got wet again. We were all huddled in the only dry spot in the middle of the van. Time to reorganise. Sheets and blankets were folded inside the bench seat. At least we would have something to keep us warm and dry for the rest of the night. Gave Annie a blanket first to cover her modesty. Handed one to the shivering husband. Told the kids to eat their sandwiches and then wrap a blanket round themselves and lay down on the bench seats because thats where they were sleeping that night. In unison Mother and Son ” Where am I sleeping?” A short reply ” We won’t be sleeping at all ”
The wind started roaring, the van swayed more and the dog started howling. Mother and Son were staunch catholics I told them they’d better start praying. I was scared enough for the 5 of us without the dog howling. I sat on the floor with the dog in my arms. Thank God my kids could sleep through anything and anywhere. Holding onto Sooty at least stopped him from howling. Annie started writing another letter. The van was like being on a roller coaster. When I said the person she was writing to wouldn’t be able to read it as the van was rocking from side to side and her hand writing wasn’t the best at any time. She said we were being stupid, a bit of rain never hurt anyone and she’d been in worse storms than the one outside. I said I’d lived in England for 27 years and never heard of anyone being in a cyclone. She’d never been anywhere farther than Blackpool.
I fully expected her to whinge all night but she was very quiet. Normally I’m not scared of tropical storms but I’d never had to spend a night outside in any and I was terrified of what might happen if the ropes and chains didn’t hold the van down. The husband kept whinging he was hungry. I said if he ate what food we had everyone would be hungry the next morning. Keeping my fingers well and truly crossed we lived to see the next morning. Thank God the manager had placed us near the solid concrete building of the shower block. All through the night I could hear branches snapping off trees and crashing onto the ground. I tried to remember how close we were to the trees. Must have been sheer exhaustion I dozed off around 4 a.m. The dog woke me up around 6 a.m. licking my face. He started wriggling and obviously wanted to be let outside. The van wasn’t rocking and rolling and was still upright. I cautiously opened the door and let him out. Talk about lucky! All around us massive branches on the ground, mountains of leaves stuck to everything, the ground like a paddling pool. Sooty didn’t like getting his paws wet and stood sniffing the air and looking at me. ” You can behave yourself too. If you want to go have a wee you’re on your own ” and nudged him out the door. Two minutes later he’s back inside the van. I was ready for him and grabbed him with a cloth before he jumped on the kids. I wasn’t until I put him on the floor I realised I’d used Annie’s dress to wipe his paws. Thankfully she was still asleep and I wasn’t threatened with the firing squad.
The weather here is extreme, no half measures. It’s either a drought or a flood, monsoon rains or a bush fire, scorching heat in summer with the occasional cyclone thrown in now and again. When the drama of a cyclone is over it feels like the weather is making a mockery as it is nice and calm, the sun is shining and the sky a beautiful blue with not a cloud in sight.
We found out later just how lucky we had been. We were between two cyclones (only small ones) and they didn’t merge.
The manager of the caravan park wouldn’t take any money for letting us use the park overnight and asked where we we going to next. It hadn’t dawned on me he thought we were all tourists travelling round in a shaky caravan. I handed him a few dollars and told him to have a drink on me and said we were going back to Brisbane and giving the guy who’d hired the van to us a roasting and get our money back. He grinned and asked if the old lady lived with us. I said she was the one on holiday, I was just the servant. He laughed and said his mother-in-law had been the same and he’d moved from Sydney to Caloundra to get away from her. I said we’d emigrated 12,000 miles and she still followed us. He stopped laughing ” Is she staying?” I wasn’t laughing either ” One of us is going to use the return ticket. Either she goes or I do ” He said I’d better make sure she got on the plane or take the kids with me if I left. I asked what made him think the kids didn’t like her.
While we were packing up the van he said the kids asked him how he was going to remove all the tree branches all over the place. He’d told them a mate was coming over with his truck and going to help him. Then he’d asked my son why he wasn’t at school. Friendly as kids were back then he’d said Grandma was staying with them. The little girl had said she didn’t like Grandma anymore because she wouldn’t let them do anything. He asked why. She’d said she didn’t know but she kept tut tutting all the time. He didn’t understand and asked what she meant by tutting. She made the noise and the little boy explained ” You know, just like Skippy does ” and he tut tutted as well. The man was laughing as he told me the young fella had said not to tell mum but when Grandma couldn’t hear them they called her Skippy the english kangaroo. I said my kids were very polite because I felt like calling her a lot worse than Skippy.
After Annie returned to England we had letters from some of the rellies she’d wrote to while she was here. They thought it was hilarious I was scared of a bit of thunder and lightening. Annie had thought she would have seen more kangaroos than she did. She’d missed not having a fish’n’chip shop near where I lived. She’d liked the house we live in but it would have been so much better with a tennis court in the back garden and why wouldn’t I allow John to have one? I laughed out loud when I read that. He didn’t know how to play tennis and his idea of exercise was getting up to switch the T.V. channel. If we’d have had one she’d probably have expected me to serve cucumber sandwiches with the crusts removed of course and me dressed up in a flouncy hat. long gloves and a flowing silk dress.

Friends of ours invited us to their place for a party. They thought their elderly father who lived with them would have more in common with Annie as all our friends were the same age as us and all had young kids. Pop was a great guy and we all got on with him terrifically. His three grand children were teenagers and it was always lively at their house.
At the airport on her departure she said she was glad she had seen the house her son lived in. Turned to me and said ” You needn’t think introducing me to Geoff’s father was going to influence me into staying here. No one could every replace my husband. He was a saint.” He must have been to put up with her. I wouldn’t have inflicted her on anyone, least of all ‘ Pop ‘ He had heaps of friends and sure wasn’t looking for a wife. I said it was all in her mind Pop didn’t need a wife. I got a scathing look and the kids started laughing because she started tutting and they both said ” Good bye Granny Skippy ” as she went through the boarding gate. She hated to be called Granny and coupled with Skippy as well I bet it really made her day.
John went off the idea of buying our own caravan so we could have leisurely trips away each weekend. Leisure!!! A year later he had another idea of buying a boat ” We could cruise round all the small islands near Brisbane each weekend ” The kids wanted to know who Walter Mitty was when I said that’s what I’d name the boat if he bought one and i hoped he’d enjoy his solo voyages down the Brisbane river.

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The Grey Nomads (part one)

September 1, 2016

THE GREY NOMADS (PART ONE)
BY AUDREY SANDERSON
(OUR EAST LEEDS LASS IN AUSTRALI)

As Audrey’s tale is lovely and long and we do not wish to exceed our wordage levels this will be part one and part two will appear on the 15th of this month. I hope you can wait.

As the northern hemisphere is getting ready for winter we in the southern part of the world are looking forward to spring. Time to start thinking of holidays away from home. Many people have mobile homes, a far cry from the caravans of the 60s and 70s. Lots of retired people have mobile homes and spend their time leisurely travelling round Australia all year. They have a nickname; The Grey Nomads. All jokes aside, lots of them love travelling to a new place every week. I don’t happen to be one of them. I don’t enjoy camping of any kind. Packing bed linen, cooking utensils, crockery and everything else one has to take on these trips is too much hassle for me. Towing all this stuff to a camp site and having to erect tents or stabilising a caravan, then having to cook meals on a dolls house size stove in a tiny space is not my idea of having a good time.
The first and last time we towed a caravan was when my mother-in-law came to visit us 3 years after we had emigrated to Brisbane.
My children were still young and were over the moon that Grandma was coming to stay with us. At long last they had a grandma of their own they could show off to the neighbourhood kids.

Annie was the type of mother-in-law comedians get plenty of mileage from. Her son was the apple of her eye and could do no wrong. I, the daughter-in-law could do nothing right. It was nothing personal, whoever had married him would have been in the same category.
Out to impress his mother my husband said we would take her to Cairns and show her the Great Barrier Reef. No money to splash out on five star hotels he said we would hire a caravan and could stop at various places on our journey north.
He made enquiries about caravan hire and chose a pop up one. It was like a large tin box that folded out into a caravan suitable for 6 people. The first thing we needed was a tow bar on the car. No problem getting one fixed, plenty of problems later.
A week after she arrived we went to pick up the hired van. The man assured us our car would be able to pull it without any problems. No problem at all pulling it, the problem started as soon as John tried reversing it into the back yard. He’d never towed anything before and couldn’t understand why the van turned in the opposite direction to which way he turned the steering wheel. I moved everyone inside the house as he vainly tried many times reversing, getting more frustrated and angrier by the minute. There was a vacant lot at the side of our house and eventually the car and van was parked at a peculiar angle and we had lunch. The plan was I would pack the van with all we were taking with us on the 2 week holiday ready for departing early the next morning. John was a shift worker and would be home around 11 p.m. that night.
Problem No. 2 & 3. It took him ages to disengage the van from the car and of course made him late for work. When he tried starting the car he got no response at all. With all the revving of engine and attempts at reversing I was surprised there was any rubber left on the tyres. After much ripping and cursing he phoned the auto club and the R.A.C.Q. man told him the clutch was burnt out. He called a cab and went to work.
My evening was spent with 2 tearful kids and a mother-in-law who kept repeating it wasn’t John’s fault. After the kids were finally asleep Annie asked why the couch was still piled high with bed linen, a box of crockery and a large box of groceries on the dining table and hoped it was all going to be cleared away before John arrived home from work. In a semi quiet tone that I could muster at that time of the night I asked where she thought I should put everything. She critized everything I did and I was in no mood for it after all the happenings of the day. She turned the full glare on me and said John works very hard the least I could do was to make sure the house was tidy and a meal waiting for him when he came home from work. And then the smirk,” I always had a meal ready for him before he got married.” Resisting the urge to strangle her I quietly said ” The kitchens over there, go for it. I’m going to bed. Let me know where you shove all the stuff on the couch because it’s all got to come out again in the morning.” She had been in Australia a week…..only another 5 and a half weeks left before she went home.
Being a Friday when the drama happened no work on the car could be started until the following Monday. I did move the pile of bed linen etc. from the lounge into our bedroom where John complained about living in a second hand shop. After a new clutch was fitted and a lesson in reversing a caravan from the guy at the garage we left home at 6:30 Friday morning. Only a week later than planned but never mind everything was neatly packed in the tin box, luggage in the boot, grandma and two kids in the back, expert at nothing behind the steering wheel and me and the small dog in the passenger seat. Yes,we took the dog with us as well.
The first place we stopped was Gympie. The expert at nothing’s idea to stop there.

Show his mother what used to be a small gold mining town looked liked and he didn’t want to overheat the car either. At that stage I didn’t know anything about cars. We had a walk round the town and Annie like most pommie tourists was only interested in the shops and comparing prices to english ones. Everyone had a visit to the toilets including the dog and back into the car and on our way again. I can’t remember where we were on the highway when every car who passed us tooted the horn and waved. The kids thought it was great and waved back. Half a dozen cars must have passed and then a small van pulled in front of us and stopped. He slammed on the brakes and missed crashing into them. Two young women climbed out laughing their heads off. I thought he was going to explode. He wrenched open the door and started yelling at them. The girls were holding each other up laughing and pointing at the van. He took no notice and asked what the hell did they think they were doing demanding an explanation. Annie sitting in the back doing her Queen Mother impersonation, the kids asking why the ladies had stopped us and why were they laughing so much. I got out to find out what it was all about. One girl turned me round facing the way we had come from and between gales of laughter spluttered ” All your sheets and pillows are on the roadside down the highway ” As I focused I could see white material fluttering at the side of the road. The other girl between fits of laughter said ” Every time you went over a bump the lid of the van popped up and something fell out.” They collapsed in each others arms as they screamed laughing. I told John we’d have to go back and pick everything up. He said he couldn’t turn the car and van round. I yelled at him I didn’t want him to I wanted him to walk back and help me. He couldn’t leave the car unattended with his mother, the kids and the dog inside so I gathered all our belongings up and staggered back with dusty sheets and pillows and the accompaniment of tooting horns from passing motorists. The laughing girls had departed and I could see the funny side from their perspective. Was not laughing when I reached our car and no one got out to help me. I dumped everything on the bonnet and climbed into the passenger seat. Annie asked what was going to happen now. I said I neither knew nor cared but it would be a good idea if we went back home and dumped the caravan back at the hire place. She jumped to John’s defence before I said another word ” It wasn’t John’s fault Audrey. It could happen to anyone.” I’d already had a week of her snipping and sniping at me and me holding back smart replies today was not the day to imply it was my fault. ” Correct me if I’m wrong but did you do the final check of the van to make sure everything was locked down tight? I have been too busy packing, switching off electric and water, locking up the house, making sure everyone had everything and sorting the dog out too and HE was making sure the van was locked as I didn’t know what I was doing because the guy had shown him, not me how to sort the van out. Well now’s your chance super brain organise that lot on the bonnet because I’m not moving.” She told me I was being childish. I turned to face her ” You can help him. You’re good at telling people how things should be done. Now’s YOUR chance to shine.” She pushed the kids out of the way and climbed out, the dog tried to follow her so I smacked him on the head and shoved him between my feet. That would be all we needed, the dog getting run over. John was still sitting behind the wheel. I shoved him as well ” Are you going to sit there all day or do you think the fairy with the magic wand is going to drive up and make it all disappear?” He got out. I wound up the windows so they couldn’t hear me laughing. John wanted to open up the caravan and bundle it all inside. Annie said the damn caravan had caused enough problems and to shove it all in the boot. No room inside the boot. The pair of them started arguing.
The kids were getting to the teary stage again ” Are we really going to go back home? We wanted to see all the fishes in a ride on a boat with a glass bottom.” I said we’d get there eventually and just think of all these mishaps as an adventure and all the stories they would be able to tell the neighbourhood kids when we got back.
Annie rapped on the car window ” Are you just going to sit there. Get out here and help.” I wound down the window ” I can’t make anymore space where there is none to be had ” and wound up the window. John came to the drivers side and wrenched open the door, the dog made a dive for it. I yelled at him to close the door before the dog got run over. He slammed it shut and started yelling. With the dog in my arms I climbed out. ” The only solution is to put the pillows on the back shelf and the sheets on your lap.” He threw pillows into the back of the car telling the kids to put them on the back shelf and closed the door. The sheets were still in a bundle so I said they had to be folded if they were going to have them on their laps. I climbed back inside the car while mother and son looked at each other. They folded them in a fashion and once more we were on the road again. Much complaining from Annie and the word ridicules frequently mentioned. The kids started giggling saying we were camping inside the car and all their friends would think it funny when they told them. I looked over my shoulder to see how everyone was coping. All I saw was white sheets not very neatly folded. I asked where the pale blue ones were. Annie snarled ” They’re on the floor. I’ll be damned if I’m travelling hundreds of miles holding them.” Sweetly I said ” That’s all right then so long as you haven’t left them behind because the pale blue ones are what’s going on your bed.”
We travelled for almost an hour with no one speaking. It was slow going as this happened long before freeways were built and it was only a dual road highway. Annie asked when we were stopping for a cup of tea. I said we needed to travel as far as we could as Cairns was about a 3000 mile trip. Parking with towing a caravan in a town would be a problem and no cafes along the highway like there was in England. Super brain said no problem at all. We had our own supplies with us, he’d pull off the road and I could make lunch for us all. We pulled into a clearing with council picnic tables and with the dog on his lead the kids took him for a walk. Annie fussing round unclipping the locks on the tin box, John winding the handle to pop up the top. I told him not to bother pulling the side bits out. All I needed was room to make sandwiches as we wouldn’t be staying long. He said he would connect the gas bottles and we could have a proper lunch. What he called a proper lunch was something cooked. I was fighting a losing battle. I refused to cook steak or chops and said it would be something on toast. Not very happy as I foraged through boxes looking for cans of baked beans and eggs, the fry pan and cooking utensils. I told Annie to set out cutlery on one of the picnic tables in the park. She refused ” There’s a perfectly good table inside the van. I’m not eating in the open air with all those other people watching.” Couldn’t have his mother upset so he said he might as well open up the rest of the van and we’d eat in comfort. Annie had a smug look, I had a face like thunder. Everyone had been fed, cups of tea swallowed, time to pack up and get on the move again. Annie, kids and dog inside the car, super brain started winding the handle to collapse the roof. Clunk, clunk ground the machinery. Only one side went down. He wound it up again. No problem winding it up. Still only one side would fold down. Like it or not Annie we sure have an audience now. The other families in the park called out advice. My suggestion to give it a good thump went unheeded. The protruding side was shook, checked for obstructions and still refused to budge. The other families after having a look too went on their way as it was plain to see we wasn’t going to solve the predicament we were in. Miles from anywhere, no public phones, mobile phones hadn’t been invented at that stage. Got everyone out of the car again, it was going to be a long afternoon. Annie didn’t help matters by continually saying she was having a nice time and it was very peaceful in the park in the sunshine. After lots of yelling from John and statements of not his fault he said he would unhitch the car and try to find a garage. He told me to stay with the van and he wouldn’t be long. Not on your life. He’d probably forget where he’d left us and I wasn’t going to spend the night out there with two little kids and a small dog. Annie had volunteered to go with him so he wouldn’t be on his own. Much as I would have liked having a couple of hours without her company I wasn’t going to do it in the middle of nowhere. We found a garage eventually. They man in charge had no idea how to fix an uncooperative caravan and suggested calling the R.A.C.Q. once more. The auto club man told him to stay at the garage and he would join us there and all drive back to the park. When he arrived he asked if our membership covered us for towing either a boat, trailer or caravan. Of course it didn’t, we’d never towed anything before. He said he couldn’t help us unless we paid the extra. Blood out of a stone comes to mind whenever money was mentioned to John. He argued with the man. The man got back in his breakdown truck and switched on the engine. He then saw the two kids holding the dogs lead. He leant out of the window ” Lady, do you need me to give you a ride to the train station or are you going to tell your husband to pay up if not you’re going to be here on the garage forecourt all night.” Annie said the man was extremely rude and he couldn’t leave us there all night. I told her to shut up or we wouldn’t be going anywhere. I hissed at John ” Pay the man NOW before I accept his offer of a ride to the train station.”
The man got the tin box repaired and on our travels we went once more. I said no more stopping for snacks and the next time we stopped would be at a caravan park for the evening. The expert at nothing said to make up the lost time we would take a short cut. He’d looked at the road map and said we would cut across country and join the coast road. We did that at the next right hand turn. The bitumen road soon turned into a dusty track with many potholes, tree roots and was one of the most terrifying drives I had ever been on. It would have been pretty bad in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We had an ordinary sedan towing a large tin box. The track was narrow and steep and any minute I thought we’d go over the edge with the weight of the tin box. We survived and once again on a bitumen road I said we would be stopping at the first caravan site we came to for I had had enough for one day. We arrived at Hervey Bay caravan site around 4:30 in the afternoon. Super brain said there was plenty of daylight left and we should push on. I told him he would be going without me and the kids if he did. The manager of the site helped us get settled, connected us to the power and I faced having to get the evening meal on the table. After we’d eaten I left mother and son washing dishes while I took the kids to the shower block. Kids dressed in pyjamas we came back to our temporary home on wheels to find mother-in-law writing a letter, husband laid on one of the beds reading a book. How cozy. I told them both they would have to move as the kids were going to bed. Protests from the expert caravan due, they were relaxing after a very fraughtful day. I said they’d have to get rid of their fraught feelings somewhere else as the beds needed making up and there wasn’t room to swing a cat inside the van. The two kids were sleeping on the extension bits either end of the van when it was opened up, Annie on a bench seat made up into a bed and Mum and Dad had to convert two bench seats and the top of the table into a double bed. Lots of giggling from both kids after they were in bed. The other beds made up and as it was black as pitch outside I said everyone go to sleep we would be up early next morning. My husband was a heavy built man and couldn’t get comfortable in the makeshift bed. Tossing and turning he dislodged the table top and we went crashing to the floor tangled up in sheets and blankets. The kids woke up screaming, Annie yelling ‘ What’s up now ‘ in her thick yorkshire accent and the dog barking his head off outside under the van. We should have taken that caravan back the day we picked it up and couldn’t reverse it. So far it had cost us around $600 in garage repairs and R.A.C.Q. membership fees. God knows how much in petrol. And we were only at Hervey Bay, about a 2½ journey from where we lived!
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Look forward to part two of the grey nomads on the fifteenth of this month. Can you wait?