Sweetie 'Comes Home To Roost'

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February 21st 2012
Published: February 22nd 2012
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Today, Saturday 18th February our main objective was to visit our dear friend Wilma who lives in Wangaratta. We had arranged to get there for about midday so we had plenty of time to get ready. Wang is only about 40 kilometers from Benalla so we had a bit of time to spare to carry on with our tidying up process. Wilma has lived in Wang for a good many years and her home – The House That Jack Built – is as delightful a home as we have had the pleasure of visiting during our many trips to Australia. We have actually stayed there several times including earlier on our trip and we feel the design, the layout, the construction and the location are all perfect. It’s not huge or overly luxurious. It’s just comfortable and homely, has a beautiful outlook overlooking Kaluna Park and the Ovens River and we love being there. Today’s visit was to be simple and delightful. We had it in mind to take Wilma out for lunch but she had other ideas so we had a delicious homemade frittata and salad. We chatted, and then went for a stroll down by the river and then walked on to Kaluna Park. It was very busy there with people of all ages playing tennis on the grass courts and many others just enjoying the beautiful weather. The time soon slipped by as we reminisced and at about 4:30pm we said our farewells. One of the reasons for arranging to re-visit this part of Victoria before completing our preparations to return to the UK was purely to say cheerio to Wilma. She and her late husband, Jack, were the main inspiration many years ago for our desire to explore the vastness of Australia and to do it more than once. We just couldn’t leave Aus without saying cheerio but hopefully we’ll meet up again before too long.

The return journey to Benalla was quick and easy. We didn’t even have to go through the town as the caravan park is a couple of kilometers out of town on the Wangaratta road. It was still very hot so the swimming pool beckoned again and, although it was busy when we drove in, by the time we got ready for a dip the pool was all but empty. After our swim we caught an episode of “New Tricks” on the TV and had some dinner before doing a little bit more sorting out and then going to bed.

Sunday 19th was already written into the plans as a “clear out and tidy up” day. I had already made good progress but there were a couple of storage areas, mainly under the seats, that I wanted to go through and tidy up. We had also decided to obtain a couple of note books, one for the car and one for the caravan, together with some sticky labels to help record and mark things which might be useful to Sarah and Darryl when they next come to use Sweetie and Pie. Mid-way through the morning we drifted into Benalla and found The Reject Shop – a good source of ‘cheap and cheerful’ items. They had just the sort of notebooks we wanted but no sticky labels so, on the way back to the caravan, we nipped into Woollies for a bit of grocery shopping and managed to get some labels also. After lunch, and for the rest of the day and well into the evening, I launched into a mad frenzy of cleaning and tidying – much to Graham’s chagrin. He had already sorted the car out and the “boot” of the caravan but I had much more to address, including plenty of stuff that made me wonder why we had acquired it in the first place!! Graham thought we should be having a swim – our last chance, perhaps, on this trip – but I was too engrossed in the spring cleaning and he was just getting in the way. Eventually he took himself off to get some fish and chips and left me to it. For me it was an essential job well done and there may not be another opportunity as the caravan will soon be left in storage in Mansfield.

Monday 20th February was the day we had arranged to move to Mansfield and begin the “winding down” process. The day started well enough but the TV weather forecast suggested some thundery weather was on the way and that Seymour and MANSFIELD in particular should be prepared for some horrendous storms. Luckily, Graham had made an early start and had put most things away - seats, table, awning etc, but just as we were putting the caravan pop-top down it started to rain, not heavily at first, and we thought we were going to get away with it. However, no sooner had we left Benalla and had taken the Mansfield Road than the heavens opened accompanied by flashes of lightening and loud thunder. When we were travelling past Lake Nilacootie, a place we had stopped at a few months ago, the rain was at its worst and we decided we might as well stop for a while and have a cuppa. It must have been a good idea as straight after we pulled in another 6 or 7 cars, a couple with caravans, pulled in also to sit out the worst of the storm. By the time we set off again it had cleared a little but was still raining and we arrived at Blue Range Road in the wet. It started to brighten up almost immediately though and after a quick chat and a cuppa with Mark, it was dry enough for us to set up the caravan. The forecast for the rest of the week is good so hopefully we’ll be able to put Sweetie into storage in nice, fine conditions.

As is usual in Mansfield, there’s never a dull moment. Once the caravan was set up, Mark and Graham discussed the site of the car-port for the storage of the car, caravan and also Mark’s caravan, and cleared the area of various bits of metalwork, bicycles, chairs and miscellaneous items. No sooner had they done that than Ken came home from school and invited us all to play with his new bow and arrow – not a toy one but a proper archery item. A large target was already erected against some straw bales at one end of the large lawn area and we each took turns in shooting five arrows at the target. Ken was excellent, Mark wasn’t bad, Graham had a good go considering it was his first ever attempt and I was pathetic!! After a few turns, however, both Graham and I became reasonably proficient and it proved to be a most satisfactory experience. It was just as well, as Mark had invited a friend over for dinner, Tony, who was a serious exponent of archery. Mark and Simone have some wonderful friends, many of who do seem to border on the eccentric! Tony didn’t border on eccentricity, he is a 100% bona fide top class eccentric and a fascinating fellow to boot. He’s in his fifties with a true-blue Aussie outback beard, moustache and long hair but he is in fact a pom! He teaches at a special school in Mansfield one day a week but is otherwise a bit of a recluse. He lives in a remote property without electricity but, to support his love of watching DVDs, he has created a generator powered by a bicycle – the more he peddles the more he is able to watch his DVDs!! He proved to be delightful company and a very good archer. He stayed for dinner with us and all of the Reeves and will also accompany Mark, Graham and I on Wednesday when we visit an area known as Sheepyard Flat. It’s a very popular free camping area which Sarah and Darryl have used and which we threatened to use also. However, with time now counting against us, we’ve decided to have just a day visit and a barbecue so that at least we can say we’ve been there. The evening meal was excellent and conversation lasted well into the night. Simone had to go to a committee meeting at the local primary school and eventually the kids went off to bed. Simone returned quite late and exhausted which was a signal for Tony to depart on his motorbike and for us to retreat to the caravan. We had a couple of conversations with Grant about our arrangements for next week so it was gone midnight by the time we got to bed.

Tuesday 21st dawned very bright, calm and sunny but with a very heavy dew. The kids were up and away to catch the school bus by 8:30 and Simone had already gone off to work. Mark would also be working today and, traditionally, they all have a dinner at Mark’s mum’s house on Tuesday evenings so we have much of the day to ourselves. Graham checked the tuning on Beth’s new half sized guitar. He had set it up initially last night but new nylon strings have a habit of stretching so he’ll need to adjust the strings a few times before they settle into the right pitch. We had a bit of a late start to the day although I was soon carrying on with my spring clean. Later in the morning we went into town and disposed of a few clothing items at a charity shop. We had lunch in the local bakery and then I did some grocery shopping for tonight’s meal and for our excursion to Sheepyard tomorrow. Back at the house we were surprised to see Mark - there had been a mix-up over shifts and he was happy for someone else to take his shift so that he and Graham could do a bit more towards clearing the ground for the new shed. They moved a few more items and re-parked Mark’s trailer tent so that it was well out of the way of the new site. Later on in the afternoon Mark went off to his Mum’s place leaving us to look after the water delivery man who was coming to fill one of the two water tanks behind the house. Water man, Les, duly arrived and Graham looked after him although it was a process he had done many times before so Graham virtually left him to it. Graham then went to take some measurements and to mark out with some pegs where the holes for the supporting posts would go for the new shed. He drew quite a detailed plan and was pleased that, when Mark’s friend Nigel arrived to do the official planning, the end result was almost exactly what Graham had drawn. Graham and Nigel worked together well after dark using our lantern so they could see what they were doing. Mark arrived back at the very last minute just in time to see them removing part of a fence to make way for the foundations. It all worked out well and we all gathered in Mark’s kitchen for a celebratory cup of tea and a tim-tam before Nigel left. Beth and Ken both had plenty to talk about – Beth about her riding lesson and Ken about his evening at the Scouts. In the meantime I had been discussing with Ken the differences between UK and Aussie coins and what the strong Aussie dollar would mean when they went to Europe later in the year. I’m not sure who ended up more confused – Ken or me! I managed to find a UK pound coin for him to study so he would have a head start on the rest of the family! Graham spotted a couple of very large spiders – one in the kitchen (a young Huntsman) and an even larger Orb suspended across the porch. It’s one occasion when I was pleased I’m not too tall! I stayed up later than I intended and still didn’t manage to publish this blog!

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Feeling very pleased with my effortFeeling very pleased with my effort
Feeling very pleased with my effort

(even though none of my arrows hit the target!)

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