Fernvale and Brisvegas.

At the last minute before I was due to fly to Brisbane, I had the crazy but awesome idea of spending the last week of my garden leave in India. However, in order to do that I would need a visa … which meant a rush to the visa office in Sydney city before my flight at noon. For some reason, I don’t seem to like my life to be simple. However, my plans were quickly thwarted when I was told it would take up to two weeks to arrive because of my Australian working visa, so that was the end of that – time to find an alternative.

As a consequence, I was left with plenty of time on my hands at the airport – the domestic terminal doesn’t offer an amazing array of shops, the wireless is pretty rubbish, and it was far too early to even think about visiting the bar that Andrea and I usually end up in before flying … wasn’t it? I behaved myself for once and went for the Boost juice instead.

Finally, I was en route and in no time, touching down in Brisbane. Yolly met me at the gate – I love being met at airports! Far too many times when travelling for work, it’s a lonely, tired arrival, and it’s so good to see a friendly face at the end of a journey.

The girls were at Bush Kids – Yolly said that Mya had told everybody that morning that “Auntie Jo” would be there to pick her up with her mum! Despite the fact that I’m not really her auntie … I like it though :)

We picked the girls up, packed them in the car, and headed home. As we got out of the car, Mya volunteered to take my case in for me – even though it’s almost as big as she is. She wants so much to do everything that big girls can.

"I tan take this for you"

We headed out for a long walk, stopping by the supermarket on the way home. It was fairly warm when we left but as the sun started to go down the temperature dropped really quickly, we were all pretty cold when we got home. The roads are hilly and I was having trouble keeping up with Yolly, even though she was pushing the huge double buggy with the girls in it.

Back home I got to help bath the girls and put them to bed, they look gorgeous all clean and in pyjamas! It doesn’t last very long though :)

With them in bed I had a bit of time to adjust and figure out my holiday plans, India was out, but I could have a few days in Malaysia … no advance visa needed!

Tuesday morning was a bit of a shock to the system: up before 8am and not even a job to go to – what’s that about? Yolly and Casey are incredibly early risers, he leaves for work by 5am. I heard them get up, but just found my ear plugs and went back to sleep :) 7:30 is more than early enough for me!

It was Yolly’s birthday that day, so the phone was going non stop, and she had cards and gifts to open as well. We sat down with the girls, who were more than happy to help with ripping open the parcels.

Opening birthday presents with mum

When the girls went for a sleep at lunchtime, Yolly and I took advantage of the time and made up a little exercise session with circuits. We decided to spend five minutes running up and down her driveway and five minutes on the trampoline – I underestimated how hard it would be trying to run up that hill, it is STEEEEEEEP! Trampolining is pretty hard work as well, although I’m sure I used to do it for an hour at a time when I was a kid …

Ivy on the trampoline

We were almost finished when Ivy decided she’d had enough sleep, but she seemed happy, if slightly bemused, to watch us finish off the last few rounds. Mya was up pretty soon after that, they had a bit of a play on the trampoline, then Yolly showed me the runner beans they were growing. There were a few that were ready, but Mya hasn’t quite got the hang of when to pick them yet, so some of the smaller ones came off the plant too!

Picking runner beans

In the afternoon, the girls made jelly dinosaurs with special moulds – we tried to make two layers with strawberry and lemon jelly, but it took forever to set. Later on, Mya asked for her hair to be put into two plaits – she almost never wants it like this, but it looks so cute! I had to have mine done the same way as well, luckily it’s just long enough now.

Photographer Braban

Just checking how my picture came out


She wanted to try out my digital camera – she got the hang of how to turn it off and on, take photos and look at what she had taken almost immediately, it was amazing. The photos weren’t all that bad either :)

Yolly feeding Ivy (by Mya)

Braids by me, photo by Mya

Hi Mummy! by Mya

Kitchen, by Mya

Me, taken by Mya

Me again, taken by Mya


On Wednesday, we had hoped to do a similar exercise session, but this time we hardly had any time at all before both Mya and Ivy were restless and out of bed. Once again Ivy was pretty easy to amuse – this time with the jelly dinosaurs! They didn’t come out of the moulds very well, sadly, but she didn’t seem to mind – they obviously tasted just as good.

MMMMM JELLY DINOSAURS

Mya desperately wanted to join in with me and her mum, so first of all she followed us as we ran around the house. The boxing circuits we’d hoped to do were harder … she found the spare pair of gloves and put them on her tiny hands the wrong way around, it was very cute though. I think she’s nailed the kicking technique better than me already …

Boxing

Thursday, we headed over to visit Steph, baby Xavier, and her older children Phoebe and Zeb. After spending a week or so together at Christmas on Fraser Island, I last saw them in February and it’s amazing how fast they all grow up. Steph and I had a good catch up (aka gossip!) – she was discovering the delights of online shopping, it must be a godsend if you have three kids. Meanwhile, said children were all looking very civilised as they sat at a child-sized table outside, complete with umbrella, eating chocolate cake.

Playing with Phoebe and Zeb

In the evening, Cory, Claire and Casey’s dad Cran came over for dinner. I heard many stories of Cory and Casey growing up together, and they demonstrated that they still do crazy things sometimes by munching on lemons …

Cory wrapped Yolly’s head in kitchen paper as a joke, and she made a mask of it with eye holes. She looked so funny, I wish I’d taken a photo. Poor Mya was very distressed though, especially when she thought her mummy might never take it off … Yolly finally did remove it, and Mya couldn’t stop touching her ears and nose to make sure they weren’t going anywhere.

It was so amazing to spend the few days with Mya and Ivy, whether they were making a mess with their dinner (Ivy is insistent on feeding herself, but often prefers to spill the food when she’s done), zooming around the house in tiny shoes or ramming the walls with little plastic cars. Ivy is so little that every time I see her there are big changes. This time, she was starting to look like a little girl instead of a baby, walking all over the house and she even says a few words – like “Bai” (that’s how she says it, not “bye”) and something that’s starting to sound like please and thank you. I think it’ll be September at least before I see them again (I’ve got a busy summer with a VERY special event coming up in August!) and no doubt she’ll be chattering away and running about by then.

By Friday though, I was exhausted! I have no idea how Yolly does it, but she seems to have a never ending supply of patience to deal with the girls.

We headed into Brisbane around lunch time and met up with Claudia in the mall for a bite to eat before she went back to work for the afternoon. We wandered over to the Botanic Gardens after that, where the girls could play in the park – Mya got a fright from the huge ugly ibis birds wandering fearlessly around on the grass, they get so close they have to be shooed away.

Finally it was time for Yolly to go, I was going to spend the night with Claudia before heading back to Sydney. I had to make a quick stop to get jabs for my trip to Malaysia, then Clauds and I met outside of her work and walked back to hers – up some bloody steep hills, with my stupidly-heavy-for-five-days suitcase!

Out for the night with Clauds

We headed out for the evening for dinner with her friends. It was my first ever night out in Brisbane! The restaurant was really good, the chef was the boyfriend of one of the girls we were out with. We had more wine than we meant to but it was a really lovely night out with a great group of girls. They had an empty picture frame on the wall for some reason, we decided to take some daft photos with it, until we got told to please put it back … whoops!

We've been framed!

Saturday morning, we actually managed to make it out to Boot Camp for 7am with another friend called Angie. I was so pleased with myself! I’m not sure if I’d have made it if it wasn’t for Clauds though, I was snoozing in bed at ten to six thinking, please oh please say you don’t want to go after all. We all felt so good afterwards! Clauds took us around the corner to a fantastic place for brekkie – it was practically hidden, luckily for us she had found it a few weeks earlier. I can’t remember the name of what I had to eat, but it had sourdough, avocado, poached eggs, lemon and fetta cheese and I hoovered it up in a couple of mouthfuls.

The food was amazing, but it wasn’t very warm and we were all cold in our still sweaty exercise clothes. We headed home, where I managed to use all the hot water in a totally amazing shower (sorry Clauds!).

Afterwards, Clauds did my make up for me in preparation for my night out. I asked for dramatic eyes with green eye make up to match the top I was planning to wear, the only problem was, I had to go all the way home with it on – wearing my jeans and trainers! It looked good though :)

Getting my makeup done by Clauds

The best part of the day was still to come though! Claudia’s flatmate Susie and her friend Monica were heading out to the races for the day, and we were all going for a champagne brunch beforehand! I felt very spoilt having two breakfasts in one day, but why not, I’d earned it … so I decided to have the sweet option this time around, and ordered a mountain of pancakes with berries, maple syrup and ice cream. And champagne and orange juice. It was so naughty, but oh so bloody good … Clauds finished the last few bites that I couldn’t quite manage.

Yummy second breakfast

Susie and Monica were dressed up to the nines and looked amazing, with fascinators and high heels – I did feel a bit of a slob in my jeans and converse drinking champagne before noon but it was amazing fun.

Finally, it was back to the airport, plane-train-ferry-bus home and a quick change before heading out to the next party in Manly … :)

A long awaited visit.

I’d been counting down the weeks and days, and finally it was the morning: Mum and Dad had arrived from the UK! I set off early (so I thought) but got caught in craaaazy traffic on the way out of Manly … nothing I could do but sit in it and hit the wheel in frustration, I’d been waiting ages to see them but the last hour or so was definitely the longest. Dad texted me and called from the airport, “where are you? Hurry up, been waiting ages!” I know, I’m hurrying as much as I can … finally, finally I made it, and as predicted, both me and my Mum had rather leaky eyes (she was worse, honestly).

Coming in to land ... I was still stuck somewhere between Manly and Sydney!

Dad enjoying Manly Beach

Exploring around to Shelly Beach


The weather was beautiful – after a fairly wet summer, Manly turned on the charm to welcome my family. We found their apartment, and then it was time for me to head off to work, leaving them to explore the beach alone. If only I’d had a few more days holiday – I so wanted to turn around from the ferry terminal and spend the day with them instead.

After work, they met me at the ferry wharf – typically, with cameras. Nothing like getting off the ferry after a long day with somebody snapping away at you! They were doing pretty well considering they’d landed at stupid o’clock that morning, we made it out for dinner at Yok Thai, but by the time we’d finished they were both starting to droop a bit!

Manly Wharf!

Exploring around the Opera House (and Opera bar)

Walking across the harbour bridge


I had to work from Wednesday through to Friday, but Mum and Dad managed to get out and about and see far more than I have of Manly, at least judging by the (hundreds of) photos they did, anyway. They walked across the Harbour Bridge and around the Botanic Gardens – two things that are definitely on my list of things to do while I’m in Sydney. We spent the evenings together – wandering around Darling Harbour (and of course taking endless photos … there’s a theme here), and eating some good old home-cooked meals! Outside their apartment in Manly, a row of trees played home to a growing group of bright green parrots every evening, the noise was insane.

Me and my Mum!

At the weekend, we headed out to Brighton-Le-Sands near Botany Bay, where Mum and Dad used to live some 40 years ago. Armed with a handful of old photographs, we tried to find some of the places they’d been – starting out at the St George Tavern, which used to be known as the Hotel Rockdale. They tried to recreate the old photos, the outside looked so different now! Sadly, the weather wasn’t playing nice either, but they managed to get the photos done before the rain set in. We headed inside for a beer (for me) and coffee (for them), and they showed the bar tenders the old photos – probably taken nearly twenty years before they were even born.

Recreating the old photos

Next stop was to find Banks Street. TomTom got us pretty close, with Dad reminiscing about the roads he used to drive down to go to work, and the nearby beach, and after driving around a bit we found their old house. It was fairly rundown, which was sad, I wish it could have been looking beautiful and looked after, but what do you expect after 40 years? The fence that was there in the old photos was still there, the front porch that Mum was photographed sitting on was extended now, and even the old mailbox was still in place. Dad described the days of checking the mailbox every morning for news from home, making and sending cassette tapes to the family back in the UK. All these years later, when Skype, email and cheap phone calls make keeping in touch so much easier, I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be so cut off.

The house where Mum and Dad lived, 40 years on

The same tree where Mum was photographed 40 years ago

The old Rockdale Hotel

We wandered along the beach – it was fairly windy, and Mum wanted me to write a message in the sand for Nan back at home, then take a dozen or so photographs of it. I obliged for a while but there is one shot with some rather rude hand gestures … sorry, Nan, that one was not for you! ;) The kite surfers were out in force, jumping over the waves despite the angry and leaky sky. I usually love the beach but I was kind of glad when we eventually made it back to the car that day!

I got a bit fed up of the photos by this point

Kite surfers leaping in the wind

Hugs with Mum

I’m glad I got to see where Mum and Dad lived all those years ago, it was kind of strange not having the memories that they had of how it was but trying to create a picture in my head from their reminiscing.

On Sunday, we planned to go out to see the Blue Mountains – I was up bright and early, but my lazy parents stayed in bed far too late and it was mid-morning by the time we got going. We started off heading to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters – funnily enough, the same place that I’d visited only a few weeks earlier with my friends. It was cooler but just as beautiful – we didn’t go down the staircase this time (thank god, as I didn’t like it much last time!)

Echo Point

We wandered a little way through the forest, then back to the car to head on to the next sightseeing spot. We stopped at Govett’s Leap, to see the water leaping off the rocks and shimmering in rainbows on its way down, and then at Wentworth falls, where we took a short hike down a lot of stony steps to get a better view of the waterfall. We watched the clouds closing in across the mountains and threatening to soak us before we finally headed back up to the car park.

Rainbow in the waterfall

Watching the rain come in

View from near to the Hydro Majestic

There was a bit of excitement going on with two police officers trying to get a closer look at an unidentified white object a couple of hundred metres down the side of the cliff. They thought it might be a car – I’ve no idea how it could have got there – and lots of tourists were trying to use their cameras and binoculars to get a closer look. We never did find out what it was though.

Police and nosy tourist

We stopped in at Solitude before heading back home, the restaurant with amazing views where Andrea and I enjoyed lunch on our last visit. We made it nearly all the way back home until the niggling set in (after this much time together, it was bound to happen eventually!) Dad took a wrong turn and blamed my TomTom, I took it personally and we argued our way through the busier streets of Sydney city centre until he pulled over and told me to bloody well drive then. I headed back towards the bridge and would have missed the turning myself if I hadn’t been that way a few times … OK, OK, TomTom can be a bit unclear sometimes I guess.

Accidental wrong turn took us over the bridge

Driving across the bridge

View from Andrea's apartment


After a day relaxing on the beach on Monday – them, unfortunately, not me – we headed over to Andrea’s for a barbie. Predictably, the cameras came out when they saw the view, and Dad quickly took over cooking the barbie – we had yummy kangaroo steaks, corn, salad – mmmmm!!

On Tuesday it was time to leave Manly and head out to Brisbane and Port Douglas for a bit of a holiday … I’ll save that for the next post :)

Photo credit: all the photos in this post are Mum’s – with two cameras and at least twice as many lenses, I didn’t bother taking my own out!

A Happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve was another beautiful day, and another good day for a drive. This time we were headed out to Champagne Pools, on the coast further up Fraser Island. The drive was mostly across the beach, but we would have to cross a sand blow, where many people apparently got bogged (stuck in sand) in their cars.

Driving across the sand

Adjusting tyres for soft sand is boys work

Put that thing away!

Tides were smaller and the sand on the beach was drying out, and driving wasn’t as smooth as the nice wet sand at a big low tide, so we were all getting thrown around. The girls didn’t seem bothered at all, they either slept or giggled through the bumps.

As we approached the sand blow, we stopped to let the tyres on the car down a little further, to cope better with the soft sand. I was actually getting a bit apprehensive and excited, but the whole thing turned out to be a big anti climax – the path had been boarded and was far shorter than I’d thought, so we were through with no problems in no time at all!

Champagne Pools turned out to be closer than we’d thought, so much so that everybody kept driving up the track until we realised we should turn around and go back. A short walk through the trees, and there were beautiful views across the water and down, into a rocky pool washed over by the waves, the abundance of white foam giving it its name. The tide was high, and although we all wanted to go and cool off in the water, it was too dangerous for the little ones. We explored for a while, then we were off – this time, heading for the very end of the island.

Champagne pools from above

A little further along the beach, and we had to take a detour around more crazy rocks. It was only a short way up the track that we came to a steep part of the track with a sharp bend at the top – Yolly jumped out to video, as Anthony finally got up on his fifth attempt. Casey and Phil managed it in two – they must have learned from watching him! We carried on for a while, but eventually got to a part of the beach that we just couldn’t get across, so turned around to go back. Going back along the same track, and going back up that hill, at the point where we crested it I couldn’t see anything out of the window except sky. I think I closed my eyes.

4x4 driving

Along the way, we found a great spot to stop, with a big rock pool full of sun-warmed seawater, and plenty of space to park and set up a picnic. I had my first proper try at fishing – Casey had showed me briefly how to swing the rod to cast a line, and now I had a go at baiting the hook with a bit of sandworm. I was proud of the job I did – it was definitely far better than my attempts at fishing! The only thing I caught was Casey’s line … oh well, the others weren’t doing much better, they caught one or two very small fish but nothing worth eating.

I learned to bait a hook

Ivy loves the water

Quackers has a swim too

On the way back to camp, we stopped at Ely Creek for a swim, in water I was promised was “icy cold”!

When we reached the creek, there were loads of people playing in it, and I wondered how they could stand it if it was as cold as all that. There was a pool of murky water alongside it, and I dipped a toe in cautiously, only to find it was like a warm bath! Apparently that wasn’t the cold bit though – the creek is all freshwater, fed by springs from further up in the hills of the island. It flows down to the ocean, and a fun thing to do is to float down it from the furthest point we could go to.

Yolly was too cold to go in, so she and Steph wandered up the path while the rest of us waded up the creek. It wasn’t very deep, mostly up to my knees, and it was definitely colder than the ocean but “icy” would have been a small exaggeration :) That said … getting the top half of my body under that water made me shriek a bit, when it was time to turn around and float back! Once we were in though, it wasn’t bad at all – it was shallow enough to use hands on the bottom to keep ourselves afloat, and move gently with the current.

Floating down the river!

Tyler and Mya get in the water

Walking up the creek

After the creek, the warm pool next to it felt even more like a hot bath! I paddled through it back to the car, and it was off home again. Tonight, we’d all be getting into party mode for New Year’s Eve!

There was plenty of beer and wine flowing, and that wasn’t all – Ploy made up three cups of Jaeger cocktails, with Red Bull and passed them to me and Yolly. “One of them is about half Jaeger …” she said – well, guess who got that one! Luckily Yolly was on form and finished most of it for me – bleurgh! We gave the kids sparklers before they went off to bed – at first, Mya was a bit unsure, but she soon wanted more of them.

As the night progressed, we were getting sillier – I was almost falling asleep, so got a small crab thrown at me (I managed not to get too girly about it). At midnight, our neighbours lit fireworks on the beach – well, three, anyway. I think I prefer that to a long, noisy display though! Steph had woken up in time for midnight, and we all wished each other a happy new year, then I couldn’t stay awake any more – what a lightweight.

New Year’s Day was pretty chilled. We went to Ely Creek again, but I couldn’t bring myself to get into the cold water again. Anthony dug a hole in the sand near the bank, and the kids played in it, then they caught a small fish flopping around in it. I took advantage of the chairs under the shade of the marquee we’d brought to catch up with Harry Potter on my Kindle and top up my tan, while munching on sweets … lovely!

Finally caught one!

All too soon, the last day was over. Phil and Ploy had already left earlier in the morning, and I snuggled into my tent. It was sad that it was almost all over, but it had been such a good two weeks I couldn’t feel too bad. Plus, there was still the long drive home across the beach to look forward to :)

Setting up camp.

By 4:30am the car was packed and ready to go: three adults plus two child seats, a car full of camping stuff and a huge trailer behind it. I was curled up between them in the back with my head resting on the pillows stuffed behind the seats, ready to catch a couple more hours kip before we arrived. We didn’t make it more than a hundred yards though before we had to go back for Casey’s sunglasses … lucky it wasn’t mine.

It rained as we drove through Queensland for a couple of hours before stopping off for breakfast at a little cafe, we were so hungry by then. Casey kept saying how late we were (what? It was still not even 7am! How could this be late?) Yolly and I swapped places in the car, and she stretched her feet out between the front seats while we teased her. A little later we stopped off in Rainbow to buy bread and milk … and Yolly and I found a cute little souvenir shop, we were in there for ages looking at hats, headbands, hippie bracelets and gifts … Casey was not very impressed! I was already leading my cousin astray :)

Just a bit further and we were on Rainbow Beach, where Casey’s father was camping out with some of his grandchildren. He had a great setup with an enormous tent, and even canvas shelves for clothes, so we settled in for a nice cuppa. It was still drizzling with rain and the beach didn’t look too inviting … I hoped the weather would clear up … it didn’t seem to bother the kids though, they were soon running around in the sand. The older ones wound Ivy up offering her crisps through the fly screen, she couldn’t understand quite why she couldn’t reach them, but was laughing along with all the others!

Casey dropped the tyre pressure, and then we were off across a more track that grew steadily more sandy and less road-like. “That’s it now, beach all the way!” he said – we must be nearly there then, I thought, hooray! The barge that would take us across to Fraser Island fitted about ten cars with trailers and we were almost last on so there wasn’t even a wait to leave. It was all open, so we could stand outside the car and watch the ocean (and of course, check in on Facebook).

It was all over very quickly, and we were on the Island, driving along the beach! This was pretty thrilling, especially since there were actually speed limit signs on the edge of the dunes (80kph) – I’d never been on a beach highway before. It was kind of bumpy when we hit little streams of water, but still raining and low tide so the sand was fairly hard packed. Still, it wasn’t driving for wusses – or ordinary cars either, all the ones that we passed were large 4x4s.

To my surprise, we had about an hour to drive before we’d reach a campsite – the first part of the beach was wide open to the tide and the sand was washed up and back all the time, so camping wasn’t really advisable … finally after checking out a couple of sites, Casey discovered one that they had used before and enjoyed, and Yolly drove the trailer into position. It was raining buckets, and we were about to start putting up the tent.

The main part of the tent unfolded from the trailer, and once it was up, the kids could get out of the car and sit in it while we put up the rest of it. Poor Yolly was freezing, and had to go for a quick run to try and warm up, but it wasn’t until we could get under the tent and get dry clothes on that she stopped shivering.

Our camp was finally all set up - my tent on the left, Yolly and Casey's on the right and the shower in the middle!

Finally, though, it was all done! I was actually looking forward to sleeping under the sound of the rain. My smaller tent was put up close by, and the shower tent (oh yes, people, this was luxury camping) just around the back. Casey rigged up the generator, and we even had electric lights!

The rain stopped in the evening and we sat outside for a while, but it wasn’t really very warm and we ended up inside the tents. After the early start, and a cheeky glass or two of wine, we were all off to an early bed. Before I headed out to my tent, Casey asked me if I knew about the dingoes. I thought he was kidding … “You probably won’t see one, but if you do, just stand your ground and he’ll run away. They’re more scared of us than we are of them. Just don’t run … ” Yeah right, I thought, I just won’t leave the safety of my tent!

Mya peeking out from behind my tent

The weather wasn’t done with us. There was a cyclone off of the coast whipping up huge waves, with swells up to four metres high, apparently. The wind was furious. Just after I set off to my own tent, I heard the pattering of rain on the roof, and snuggled up in the bed to go to sleep to it …

… but not for long. In the small hours of the morning, I woke up to rain hammering angrily on my tent, the wind howling and soon after, thunder and flashes of lightning. Without quite enough pegs, the fly was sagging on to the inside of the tent and dribbling water down the sides, so that the edges of my bed were starting to get damp. I debated whether to try and get into the bigger tent, but it wasn’t cold and I wasn’t really wet … although as the rain continued to splatter me, and I had to move my pillows to avoid the odd drip, I almost did.

I heard movement and saw lights outside of my tent around two AM, then Casey shouted in to ask if I was dry. “Mostly!” I said, “But I bet you’re not …” I couldn’t work out what he was doing outside, but he seemed to be dragging something, and he was out there for ages, as the thunder cracked and the rain continued to pelt on all of us. Finally it seemed to ease a little, and I fell back to sleep.

The next morning, there was a huge tarp stretched across the big tent that hadn’t been there the night before. So that’s what Casey had been doing during the night … it turned out that the bigger tent had been leaking quite badly, and they’d had a couple of inches of rain on the floor. It was still soaking in there, although at least with the extra protection over the roof, no more had got in. We spent the morning emptying out the water and wet sand, first of all with buckets, then dustpan and brush and finally rags to clean out the last of it. There was no lasting damage, just a damp start to the holiday.

Christmas Eve continued to be grey and windy, with huge waves. It was a spring tide too with no moon, so at high tide the waves were crashing right up to the dunes. We did manage to get a bit of a paddle in the ocean, but both of the girls were scared to go in.

As the day drew to a close, we watched the patches of blue sky that were slowly appearing, and hoped that Santa would bring us sunshine for Christmas Day :)

Jetting off to Brisbane!

“School” is out, my birthday’s over, that must mean it’s nearly Christmas …

I’d been warned that having Christmas in the middle of summer would be weird, but I couldn’t quite understand why until I started seeing decorations around in Sydney. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas – usually, cold rainy weather and early darkness lit by lights twinkling in the streets would trigger thoughts of Christmas. In the (albeit relatively cool) early summer weather I kept forgetting about Christmas, until I saw a decorated tree or something looking strangely out of place in the sunshine.

On Tuesday, I headed out to the airport to catch a flight to Brisbane, where I was planning to spend Christmas with my Aussie cousins, Yolande and Claudia. I haven’t caught a flight since I arrived here over six weeks ago, which is quite a long time considering I’d flown so many times to Berlin and Edinburgh earlier this year for work. I wasn’t really looking forward to the flight, just relieved that it was such a short one, and I couldn’t wait to just get there.

I arrived at Brisbane airport to find Yolly looking cool and summery, and waiting with a huge double pram right outside the gate – she’d left her phone behind so it was lucky we found each other. Her girls looked at me shyly and Mya (aged 2 and a half) chewed her fingers and stared as I dragged my case off of the belt. She soon found her tongue when we got in the car – Yolly and I had loads to talk about, so she kept butting in with “Coos me mummy” (she can’t quite get the hang of “excuse me”!)

Bouncy bouncy!

It took a while to get back to Fernvale, where the girls had a huge new trampoline that Mya wanted to show me. Of course, I had to get on and have a go – well, they seemed to enjoy it far more when somebody else was jiggling them around instead of jumping on it themselves.

Mya announced that I was sleeping in her room (on a cute pink bed!) and she was excited to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor in her sister Ivy’s room. I got to help bath them, then Yolly and I cracked open the wine …

I met her husband-to-be Casey, who – when he found out I was living in Manly – declared “that’s not a real beach!” He’s never seen the UK beaches though :) The family were heading out to Fraser Island to camp on the beach after dropping me in Brisbane early Friday morning – “That’s a real beach!” – and we got Mya to say in a silly voice “we’re going to Fraser Island beach, yeah!”

Presents!

Mya makes short work of unwrapping her gift

Ooooh, shiny ...


Enjoying some lunch

The next morning, we had a grand opening of Christmas presents – since I wouldn’t be with the family for Christmas day, and I desperately wanted to see the girls ripping open their gifts. It was so much fun, and I was delighted that they seemed to like all the presents!

Later we were planning to head out to Queens Park in Ipswich – Yolly promised me native Australian animals – then ice cream afterwards at Cold Rock. I don’t know who was more excited, me or Mya … actually I do, it was me.

As we were preparing to go out, Casey decided to show me photos of this “real beach”. He ran through fifty or sixty shots from previous years’ holidays of beautiful white sand, sun blazing across huge dunes and clear blue water – including photos from the beach on Fraser Island, camp site and days out at Lake MacKenzie. It was gorgeous, and somewhere deep in my subconscious, the wheels started to spin.

Ivy having a stroll

The weather was a bit unpredictable, so we headed to the park first before it rained. We sat down to eat – one minute Mya was sitting on the grass happily eating, then she suddenly said, “itchy, mummy …” – the next thing we knew, the poor little thing had ant bites on her bum! She was so upset, but after a few cuddles she cheered up and we wandered around the animal enclosures – there were wallabies, emus, kangaroos and some more familiar animals like pigs and ducks (I said they should have called the pigs Ham and Bacon).

Baby Ivy wanted to walk, which she can do pretty well while holding on to somebody – I was desperately hoping she might take a couple of steps alone, but she’s still a bit too young.

Cold Rock - Yum!


We got the massive pram out to go to Cold Rock, where we all ate far too much sugary ice cream (including Quackers who had come along for the trip)! We then fought our way through the Christmas shoppers to find shoes for Ivy, and I began to see why Yolly doesn’t really like shopping with the kids in tow! On the way in, we ran into their friends Anthony and Steph and their kids, who were also going on the Fraser Island trip. “We’re dropping Jo back to Brisbane before we go,” Yolly said, “but we wish she could come!”

I bet you can guess what’s coming … on our way out of the mall I turned to Yolly. “I bet it wouldn’t be too expensive to just change my flight home so I could come with you to Fraser Island …” Those photos were still flashing through my mind like a slideshow. “I actually brought the right kind of clothes – I even have two bikinis …”

Yolly didn’t need any convincing, and on the drive home we were already checking flights and making plans. We had one more stop to make though … there were some hungry chickens at Casey’s dad’s house, needing feeding while he was away. It was quite an adventure getting them all fed, and finally getting them back into their coop – Yolly had to entice them back with a bucket of food.

Back home, we still had a couple of people to check with before I could confirm the trip to Fraser Island, since I was supposed to be spending Christmas with Claudia … she told me to take the chance to go, and hopefully we’ll see each other in Sydney sometime soon :)

Flights sorted, I was getting excited, and then Casey decided to enlighten me about the toilet arrangements on the beach … or rather, the lack thereof. Yep, we would be taking a shovel and toilet roll into the sand dunes … enough said! Other than that though, this would be luxury camping :)

Meeting the family!


The next day we headed into Brisbane to meet Yolly’s mum Claire, and the rest of her brothers and sisters, who I’d never met as they all live in Oz. It was fantastic to meet a whole part of the family I never knew before, although a little bit intimidating – especially as I was not exactly dressed to impress, with casual shorts and no make up! They were all lovely (of course) but all too soon we had to go and finish getting ready for the big trip!

Yolly and I headed off for more shopping and found some cool floaty toys and a body board in K-Mart, then it was home then off out again for the big food shop.

I love shopping, any kind of shopping, but pushing two trollies around Woolies with two small children was definitely a different kind of shopping experience. Having never planned for a ten day camping trip for five people before, I was next to no help (except perhaps in the chocolate aisle, where I may have been a little too MUCH help). We left with two massive trollies of food, and then I got boxes of wine from the liquour store!

Back home, Yolly and Casey were rushing around trying to sort out the packing, running out for ice boxes and making arrangements for the dog, and we managed to squeeze some dinner in somehow. I lazily headed off to bed while Yolly finished off the rest of her packing, and she and Casey packed the trailer. Just time for a few hours’ sleep before getting up to head off for the big adventure …