Published: January 1st 2012December 31st 2011
December was a lovely day. It was already warm when we got up to prepare for our move of about 50 meters from a narrow site to a large site which would give us much more privacy and flexibility. Graham kept an eye on the people on A9, our new site, but they didn’t seem to be in any hurry to go. It was still early but we were concerned because we had a lunchtime date with Sarah’s friends, Carole and Ray, and we had arranged to be in Mornington by 12:30. Also, bizarrely, other campers who were on the narrow “drive-through” sites and who, hitherto had hardly spoken a word, all wanted to pass the time of day this morning so our preparations took longer than we anticipated. Eventually though, the A9ers drove off and we were able to transfer to our new site where, apart from having to level the van using a couple of small concrete slabs that were lying around, everything went well and we were set up in good time. Our narrow site hadn’t been bad but this one was perfect with quite a bit of privacy and plenty of shade which would help
to keep the temperature down in the caravan. We had loads of time to get ready for our trip today but just as we were about to leave Daphne rang to invite us to see in New Year with friends of hers at Main Ridge on the Mornington Peninsula although, alas, there wouldn’t be enough room for us to be accommodated overnight. We declined as having to travel for more than an hour back to the caravan in the early hours of the morning would completely take the edge off the occasion and Graham wouldn’t be able to have a drink because he was driving. We decided we would rather catch the tram into Melbourne and watch the family entertainments and firework display which promised to be a bit special. Actually, in light of the accommodation problem at the winery we had half anticipated that Daphne and David might forego their usual New Year trip and see in the New Year with us and Mele at Barkly Street - never mind, c’est la vie!!
We managed to leave for Mornington with what we thought would be plenty of time to cover the 55 kilometers or so but we hadn’t
bargained for holiday traffic. We crept along as far as Frankston with a bit of stop/start traffic but then ground to a complete halt with still 20 kilometers to go. After a while Graham took a chance and came off the Freeway at the next junction. He thought we could find the coast road we had used coming back to Melbourne from Rye a few weeks ago and that couldn’t be any worse than the Freeway. He was spot on - more by luck than judgement we found the coast road and the traffic was moving very well. Satnav guided us around Mornington and straight to the pier – our meeting place – but the problem then was finding a parking space. Mornington was very busy and all of the obvious spaces had gone. Graham spotted a bit of room within a short walk of the pier and managed to squeeze the car in neatly and we made it to our rendezvous with two minutes to spare. We weren’t sure we would recognise Carole and Ray but a brief phone call established that they were on the pier about 30 yards away and soon our rendezvous was complete. After initial
introductions, we agreed that we should stroll into the town centre where we could find a restaurant and chat over lunch about their travelling adventures with Sarah and Darryl and about our all-round trip. Carole and Ray were easy, delightful company and, given that we’d never previously met, we felt immediately comfortable with them. They identified a restaurant they had used before and it proved to be perfect with excellent food and an extremely relaxed atmosphere in “lounge” type seating which gave us the chance to discuss the places where they had met up with S & D. Carole produced some photos for us to pass on to S & D showing various meetings, the last of which was at The Puffing Billy in The Dandenongs when S & D took Charlotte and Amy out for the day and Carole and Ray met up with them - S & D will be thrilled to receive the photos.
Originally they had met near Alice Springs and although they had never actually travelled together they often bumped into each other visiting the same places at the same time or staying in the same camping areas, and their friendship developed from there.
In the last couple of years Ray had retired from his job as a locksmith and had acquired a brand new twin-cab 4WD Mitsubishi motor which will enable them to do much more travelling. Like many Australians, he and Carole had been astute enough to buy a block of land in Mount Martha many years ago and years later they built their own house – Ray doing most of the construction himself. They eventually moved from their home in Doncaster to live permanently in Mount Martha which is a lovely part of the Mornington Peninsula. The restaurant we were in was great in that there was no pressure to eat up and move on so we just sat and talked – it was brilliant. Eventually, though, we strolled back through the town and had a close look at their new vehicle which is ideally suited for towing and camping. We then strolled back towards PIE where we said our farewells after what had been a truly delightful afternoon. Before departing, Graham and I went back down to the pier to enjoy an excellent ice-cream – perhaps the best value for money ice-cream we’ve ever had. It seemed to depend on
who served you as other customers appeared to get ice-creams half the size of ours!!
The journey back to Wantirna was simple in comparison to the journey this morning and we were soon enjoying the lovely cool waters of the caravan park swimming pool which we had to ourselves. We began to appreciate our new site with its extra space and shade and to feel much more relaxed here. Later in the evening we had a couple of Skype calls from Rod and Tania who were very concerned about where they will stay during next month’s wedding. As they leave for New Zealand in two weeks time they are keen to resolve any difficulties before they go. A few weeks ago, while we were staying with Daphne, she was adamant that they would be staying with her but we couldn’t see that arrangement working satisfactorily with Bert and Kym living there and then David and probably John also staying there (and Mad Micky running riot!). Grant and Anna had originally offered to accommodate R & T but with Mele staying with them, and Jordan and his girlfriend Therese, along with Charlotte and Amy of course, that too seemed to
be presenting problems. We don’t envy Grant and Anna having to organise so much - they’ve already been excessively generous with their offers - and hopefully it will all be resolved in due course. We’re just happy that, by being able to stay in our caravan and with our own transport, we’re not contributing to the complications that the wedding will inevitably present. We then retired to bed after our splendid day out to Mornington and contemplated our New Year’s Eve arrangements, hoping it doesn’t get as hot as has been forecast.
The morning of Saturday 31st
December was very hot and we were in no hurry to get going. Our shady spot was comfortable and quiet and a nice place to have a relaxing start to the day. Eventually we decided to visit Knox City – the large shopping complex just 3 kilometers away. Apart from seeing what we might spend our Myers Christmas vouchers on, we had it in mind to go to the cinema with the intention of watching “The Iron Lady” – a new film about Margaret Thatcher which, ironically, hasn’t been released in the UK yet. Our arrival at the shopping complex this time
was very straightforward in contrast to last time when it was absolutely packed and a parking space was hard to come by. Today we found a space easily and it was under cover so the car stayed cool. The shops were eerily quiet but that suited us as we had a lazy, casual stroll around, gradually making our way towards the huge Cinema complex at the far end. We arrived there at about 11:45 and, as luck would have it, our chosen film started at midday – perfect. We bought our tickets, managing to persuade the young lady to give us pensioner discounts, and meandered to Cinema 3 (of 10!). As expected at that time of day on a Saturday, there were only a handful of people in the cinema and our allocated seats were perfect - luxurious with plenty of leg-room and no near neighbours. We’re no Maggie fans but the film was riveting and Meryl Streep’s performance is deserving of some accolades. The main content of the film – her rise to Prime Minister and her major political crises – were well known to us but the portrayal was excellent and the representation of her current personal life
was particularly sad making us both feel sorry for her for the first time. Brilliantly done.
The whole show lasted for two hours and another stroll back through the shops (still not very busy) enabled us to drive back to the caravan to contemplate a dip in the pool. Alas, on driving past, it appeared to be packed – where did all the young kids come from? So we just idled the rest of the afternoon away before having a cooked meal prior to heading for the tram and our New Year’s Eve trip into the city. By 6:00pm, our departure time, the pool was empty and it was very tempting to have a dip. But having just consumed a generous dinner we decided against it and headed for the tram – a short drive away. All trams are free after 6:00pm on New Year’s Eve so we didn’t even have to worry about change for the tickets. The trams weren’t running as frequently as normal so we had to wait 20 minutes before one departed for the city but there was little traffic about so it made good time. We got off at the MCG, a routine we
know well, and headed for the adjacent Yarra Park. Entertainment was already in full swing and the crowds were building rapidly. There were plenty of food stalls and several large screens relaying the entertainment from the main stage. The atmosphere was excellent and the anticipated crowd was expected to reach fifty thousand. Entertainment continued until 9:30pm by which time it was very dark and the scheduled firework displays were due to start. They commenced spot on time from three different locations within the park and from where we were sitting we could see them all. They were very spectacular and continued for the best part of 15 minutes, finishing with a huge cheer from a very appreciative crowd.
Entertainment continued on the main stage after the fireworks but we had contemplated walking on into the city to see what was going on in Federation Square – a popular spot for New Year’s Eve revellers. The fireworks there wouldn’t take place until after midnight but we didn’t want to stay out until then and with the bulk of the 50k crowd heading in that same direction it became a bit awkward. So we decided to wait for a tram to
go back to Vermont South, especially as there weren’t too many people doing the same. However, we waited for ages during which time the crowds began to grow and by the time our tram, a number 75, arrived it was a push and a shove just to get on! Five 75a trams came by, two of them virtually empty, before the first 75 came along – I know it was free but the planning officers got it badly wrong. We managed to get a seat each eventually, though not together at first, as more and more people dis-embarked on the way back to Vermont South. We arrived back at the caravan at about 11:30 – just enough time to have a shower before greeting the New Year with a glass of red wine, some plum pudding (from the hamper received from Rod and Tania) and custard!! Our New Year started with two webcam Skype conversations – Sarah and Darryl in Brussels using their posh new ipod which seems to be capable of doing anything, and Barb and Tony in Tewkesbury who had a few visits and meals lined up with family and friends. We got to bed at about 1:00am
and slept very well.
Happy New Year everyone!
There are more photos below