Perhaps the first thing of note is that we are recognising that jet lag is a reality and with more birthdays comes a longer recovery time from flights. Once past the excitement and joy in hugging our children, grandchildren, and grand puppies the overwhelming feelings of tiredness and displacement kick in. And of course the myriad emotions. The good thing to always remember is “this too shall pass” and it did. Soon we had adjusted to the climate, the timezone and the increasing familiarity of being in Australia.
Having been met off the flight by our children, Thaao and Corey, and had a quick phone call from Tarik enroute, we arrived at Thaao’s new unit in the suburb of Parkside within easy walking distance of all shopping, eating and drinking facilities where we made our base camp for the duration. After being conducted on a long walk of Thaao’s, new neighborhood, including familiarisation with the well-positioned local dog park (which we revisited on numerous occasions with our oldest grandpuppy – Elwood), we took the 3-hour journey to the Riverland to catch up with our other children and grandchildren.
Our base in the Riverland was at our daughter Kathryn’s home in Renmark taking advantage of the family caravan and being within close range of her children, Ben, Matthew and the new grandson, Anthony. We were also fortunate to get time with her husband Kym who works in the mining industry and is away working for extended stretches of time.
Our son Tarik lives just a short distance away also in Renmark, with his wife Terri and our beautiful granddaughters, Piper and Harper. Since our last visit, they have moved into their new home which had been well established by Terri’s parents over the last 40 years. They have also acquired a puppy, Matt who took great delight in nibbling at our toes and ankles. We arrived in time to attend Piper’s dance concert and had front row seats. Sorry, no photos of the concert but a lovely one of her in her costume in the photo gallery. There is also a photo of her graduating from Kindergarten – in cap and gown – a few weeks later, during our stint of grandparenting stay in the Riverland. And we fulfilled Bron’s wish of having Christmas morning with her granddaughters.
Once we returned to Thaao’s we had a couple of weeks of administrivia to attend to – renewing our Australian passports, getting Seniors cards for free travel and discounts, shopping, making appointments to see our rental properties and arrange their sale, financial advisor and numerous health services. And here is where a minor challenge arose.
We successfully navigated getting dental checkups and treatment, new glasses, appointments to see Bob’s Australia Ophthalmologist, getting Bob’s ears syringed and having our routine skin cancer checks. It was during the latter that concern was raised about a tiny nondescript mark on Bron’s arm that required a biopsy and two subsequent excisions to remove a basal cell carcinoma and then a melanoma at the same site. They were a few scary weeks whilst this was diagnosed and treated but we count ourselves as very lucky that it was all successfully attended to in a very timely way and that no further treatment is required. We are firm believers in regular skin checks for cancer and will be undergoing annual checks from now on.
On a brighter note, completing some of this administrivia gave us time to devote to seeing our family and friends. We had made a decision to avoid frequent changes of abode due to the discomfits of changing beds and subsequent disruptions to much-needed sleep, and the hassle of packing and unpacking for very short stays. This was an excellent decision and one we will revisit next trip.
We were thus able to spend a fabulous week with our daughter Claire, her husband Russell and their children Fergus and Avery in Flagstaff Hill – a picturesque suburb in the southern Adelaide hills. We were also able to visit them to celebrate both the boy’s birthdays, enjoy a picnic in a nearby National Park, and for a couple of dinners. Their home includes a lovely pool which we took full advantage of in the hot weather.
Another fantastic visit was to our cousins, Denise and Mark’s home on Philip Island just south of Melbourne, Victoria. We were privileged to have them drive over and collect us from Adelaide and then return us to Renmark 2 weeks later – quite a lot of love shown right there!!!! This was our summer holiday section with no grandparenting duties, no appointments and lots of relaxing. We did help them out in their gardening and maintenance work and visited their two children (and partners and grandchildren) in Melbourne. But with an evening cruise to see an anchored submarine, two fishing trips for Bob and Mark, lots of eating and drinking including a visit from our friends, Kevin and Christopher from Melbourne, we had a relaxed, busy and thoroughly enjoyable time. We are eagerly looking forward to a visit from Denise this year aboard Celtic Maid.
On our return to the Riverland we spent a few days enjoying some sightseeing and then attending Piper’s first day at school before returning to Adelaide to catch up with Bob’s sister Jenny and her husband Greg who were visiting from Darwin. It was made extra special by also seeing their daughter Diane and her new baby, Alana.
Our next stay was with our friends Monica and Jo in Freeling, north of Adelaide. We always have a very enjoyable time and revisited them just before the end of our trip in March. Lots of lovely food and drinks and chats and love enhanced further on our second visit by the presence of Monica’s gorgeous Mum, Mona. The hardest part is always saying goodbye but we will keep closer contact, I’m sure.
We also had a week at our son Corey’s, with his wife Holly and a new grand puppy, Willow. We would have loved to play more with Willow but she is a very boisterous blue heeler and the wound on Bron’s arm made close contact impossible. We did, however, relax a lot and it became obvious that this was just as important to us on these trips as the activity of connections and catchups.
Another short excursion to our friends in Victor Harbor, Juliet and Keith, gave us another opportunity to relax and revisit the area that Bron grew up in. We visited Port Elliot, and a couple of wineries in Langhorne Creek before our short stay was over. They live in a very well planned retirement centre which focuses on energy efficient and ecologically sound innovations. It was a pleasure on all counts.
Bron got to have a couple of dinners with some women she went to school and university with 40 plus years ago – such a delight to reminisce and fill in the intervening years – thanks to Joy and Robyn, and also to Antoinette, Denise and Debbie. And Bob’s former work colleagues, Peter and Brenton and their wives Bronwyn and Sally, met with us for lunch and hosted us for a BBQ. We had such a good time, with the men discussing SA Water and the women engrossed in a huge variety of subjects over food and drinks. We look forward to repeating that exercise on our next trip back to Oz!
We were also hosted by Lynley and David in Waikerie and spent our time talking all things boats – they have a wooden boat built by David and have visited us aboard Celtic Maid. It was most interesting taking a drive around Waikerie and witnessing many changes, especially the beautifully detailed paintings on the local silos (photos in gallery). On this trip to the Riverland, we caught up with Bob’s former lock colleagues, John and Warren and his wife Cheryl for dinner. Because we had gatecrashed their usual night out with their children we also got to see them and the grandchildren. And Bron met up with Scerina who took over the reins of RDGP (now Focusone Health) when we left Australia. Over a lovely dinner overlooking the mighty Murray River, we caught up on work, family and adventures. The following day Bron visited the offices of FocusOne Health and met with the staff – old and new – and witnessed all the changes that have taken place over the last 5 years. Super impressed with how well this organisation is flourishing and continuing to serve both the Riverland and surrounding areas.
Finally, the time came to have our “Brady Bunch reunion” in the Riverland. This is what our kids nicknamed our family when we first brought them together. After much discussion about a suitable date, we finally settled on 16th March – just a week before we were due to leave. So all six of our children, their partners (except three who were working, playing cricket or unwell!) and our seven grandchildren gathered at Tarik and Terri’s home and enjoyed an Aussie BBQ, drinks, their pool and grounds, laughter, stories and a great time together. We want to thank them all for making the effort in their very busy lives to treat us to having all the family around in one place at the one time.
After a dinner early in our visit with our friends Bob and Sally and Mick and Bronwyn, and an overnight stay with Mick and Bronwyn at Ashton in the Adelaide Hills, Bob and Sally joined us and our children Corey and Holly, Tarik and Thaao at the first game of our Australian Football League team, the Adelaide Crows at the fantastic Adelaide Oval venue. Despite a dismal performance by our team, we all had a great afternoon and evening dinner. This was our last engagement prior to flying back home to Celtic Maid on the following day. The packing had taken a few days and we came in just under our weight limit, with all our purchases whilst in Australia. We hate long goodbyes so after seeing our Adelaide based children and grandchildren one last time Thaao dropped us at the airport and we focused on enduring the 24-hour journey home.
Just as we are fortunate in our friends and family in Australia, returning to the love and support of those in the UK restored our enthusiasm for our continuing journey.