Sunshine. No matter how many times, that’s a given. So many sunshiny days. You know the overworked adage – ‘perfect one day, even better the next.’ Day after day of clear blue skies, temperatures hovering around the thirty degree mark. Sure, the old man’s planned Coolangatta trek to photograph the surfers at Snapper Rocks was a wash out, but that was only one day out of seventeen. The next day, at Mount Tambourine, he encountered hailstones as big as Tom Thumb marbles pinging down – but the sudden deluge was short lived before the heavens returned to default position. ‘And that hail – that’s nothing,’ the locals informed. ‘You should be here when Old Hughie really turns it on – then the hailstones are as big as cannonballs!’ It thundered a few times before the Mexican was due to return home, as if to acclimatise him to what was waiting for him back on his southern island. Apart from that, it was all as per the adage – has always been through his dozen or so times of exercising ‘a little further north each year.’ Few are the times he has made it closer to the Equator than the south-eastern coastal rim though. It’d be great to think he had a dozen or more visits left in him. He adores his riverside home on the island, but walking along a Mangoland beach, sans footwear, is where he feels the most free in the world. He potters along in shallowest of shallows, with the azure Pacific on one side, golden strand on the other. He’s never in a hurry, keeping a weather eye out for a shapely figure in a bikini to remind him of youthful times, of what once was. The best bit – he knows he can do it all over again the next day, for as many days he has left. Yes the sunshine – forever the sunshine of his Mangoland days.
And then there’s the bliss the old man feels in travelling north with his DLP. There’s the joy he feels seeing his Darling Loving Partner reconnect with her oldest mate, his and her hostess for the first week under Queensland skies. The devoted friends were up early each morning to a pool to commune with the glory that is the promise of a new day, to go over old times and to catch up with what has happened to whom. Their swim rejuvenates them, makes them feel that life has still plenty to give and, as is expected from their mutual vocation, they both have plenty to give back. DLP and Neasy recalled that wondrous year they had criss-crossed this wide brown land of ours; of all the adventures they had; of all the connections they made. On completion, back then, it left both unsettled, reluctant to return to provincial mundanity; causing them both to strike out in new directions. They reflected on what had occurred as a result of the shifting of their lives – that despite all life had thrown at them in the meantime, they were still smiling and laughing – still keeping on keeping on these two feisty, resilient glass half full, magnificent women.
Neasy, raising three wonderful and unique children to engaging, fulfilling adulthoods; guiding them through the grief of the loss of a beloved father, giving comfort and shelter to the ageing tourist’s beloved DLP during her own dark times and then turning around and introducing a new brood of exotic young people to the promise of a new homeland. Neasy and DLP have always been there for each other. The unfettered regard they have for the other can remain dormant at times due to the tyranny of distance, but blooms anew as soon as the effort is made within an instant of being together again. Their bond only strengthens as the years march on.
Whilst his DLP and her great friend had their ‘girl time’, the old sun seeker was perfectly at ease in the small shelter of his hostess’ sun drenched, sub-tropical back yard. Here he marvelled to the alien birdsong; the flittering of brightly hued parrots in the foliage on their way to and from Currumbin feed times. He was a pure bliss-ball with a book to read, a newspaper to peruse or with journal on which to construct ponderings. Cavill Avenue had nothing on that outdoor table under cloudless skies.
Then the grey-haired photography tragic was taken to an esplanade by the local surf club where charming organising lasses were setting up the annual Swell Sculpture Festival. His camera shutter went into overdrive. He attempted to give some form of justice to the installations that was worthy of their creators’ talents. Maybe there will even be one or two images he’ll feel confident enough of their specialness to enlarge, tuck into an envelope and send to the various people he cares most about in the world.
The old fellow also enjoyed trips with a generous host to a Southport tucker market full of tempting foodstuffs, as well as a giddy drive up and down a tricky road to the Artists’ Walk. He also met new friends who hailed from and regaled him with the yarns of two continents over an Indian banquet. He delighted in the purchase of a pair of melon shorts for the ridiculous price of two dollars (reduced from seventy). He’d look nifty in them back home – ‘nifty’ being the best one can hope for when well into one’s sixties.
A rail trip on air took the doughty one and his DLP to the glamour of Brisvegas. As panoramas go, this brash northern capital produces only a smidgeon compared to the excess of the Emerald City to the south, or even his own little wonder under Wellington. Still, he was gobsmacked to receive an upgrade at the North Quay hostelry he had booked to a spacious unit with a river view on the seventeenth floor. From these spacious chambers he could look straight down the brown watery thoroughfare from on high towards the Story Bridge, marvelling at the river traffic, as well as skyscrapers piercing the skyline ever higher. He was especially entranced as night moved into day; as day faded into the dusk. Reacquaintance was made with haunts of past journeys; with a laser light and sound show, viewed from a crowded South Bank, promising to remain entrapped in the old man’s synapses for years to come. He visited the twin homes of art on that side of the river whilst his DLP found luck in the Treasury Building on the other. He discovered the cafe at the State Library was to his liking. There he enjoyed the passing parade and the pages of a newspaper as he supped on flat whites and partook of ice cream drenched banana bread. The river breezes ruffled his thinning hair and again he felt very, very content with life.
On a city cat the venerable Taswegian proceeded up river, towards the city’s iconic crossing, to sample Teutonic delights at the Bavarian Bier Haus. Next day there was breakfast fare in the faded charm of the Valley. His camera received another workout in the fecund surrounds of the Roma Street Parklands, after he had waved his adored travelling companion off on a return journey to the little abode by a southern river.
The old man loves his sister, now a long term Mangolander, sharing her years with a brother-in-law he respects immensely. He was looking forward to settling in with their company for the final days of his sojourn. He was not let down – they treated him royally, with him renewing his envy of the cruisiness of their existence in these northern climes. His sister’s hubby is a Vietnam vet, that being in part reason for the old man holding the ex-navy man in such esteem. As his own father had done, his brother-in-law had been prepared to put his life on the line for his country in a time of war. He was told that he was now known as ‘Seaweed’ around the traps, but the honoured guest preferred to stay true to the birth-name. Glen has always had a salty turn of phrase and that was well in evidence during the visit. When his scatter-gun approach to humour hit the mark, as it did on more that one occasion, the old man laughed and laughed. Both he and brother-in-law are addicted to newsprint, a coquettish shiraz or two and each a game involving an oval leather ball. The Hawthorn supporter of yore learnt to be a Rabbitoh all over again (see image of the old fellow attired in the accoutrements of said Bunnies) whilst they sipped on their respective nightcaps. Glen prefers the juice of the cane whilst the temporary resident of their home across from one of Maroochydore’s best beaches adores juice extracted from a Scottish peat bog. Sadly South Sydney could not replicate the mighty Hawks by making it into a grand final, despite the best urgings from the comfort of the La-Z-Boys.
Then came by far the best part of the journeyed Mexican’s time in the north. In all his dotage the man had not felt more humbled than with the news his sister entrusted to him. She told him a tale so new and wonderful that it made his old heart zing with the joyfulness of it all. For her a lingering question had been answered; a life circle had become whole in the best way imaginable. For him something forgotten had been re-remembered and he felt proud to be party to such a stirring revelation.
His beautiful sister also gave him another gift. On a sunny day she took him to Point Cartwright and as they stood high above the Pacific, the wait was not long. They soon espied it – the tell-tale spout of water. They watched in awe as two whales passed them by on their way south for the winter. The brother wondered if they would also put a call in to the Derwent en route. Seeing these once persecuted behemoths of the deep always leaves the ageing journeyman in awe – he’d been really blessed on this Sunshine Coast visit.
Shopping in Mangoland, for a man bypassed for decades by fashionable trends – apart from melon shorts – is somewhat tiresome, with its emphasis on bright, gaudy resort wear. Mount Tambourine along with, to a greater extent, Montville are exceptions and he always enjoys excursions into the hinterland to these villages that have reinvented themselves. The latter location, on the rim of the Blackall Ranges, rates in his mind with Yarra City’s Brunswick and Smith Streets for an eclectic retail experience. ‘Six Things’, a tiny shop almost hidden away on a humdrum Burleigh Heads strip was an exception to the rule down on the coast. With two delightful proprietors and a classy range of ephemera, the ageing vagabond was impressed. He could have happily purchased half the enchanting stock.
The wayfarer also indulged in some excellent dining, mostly produced by hosts rather than the Sunshine State’s eateries. Two minor taste sensations he came across are worthy of report in case others may be in that part of the world. There was the sensational range of tangly soft drinks, bearing the label ‘Cafe Earth’, hailing from Noosa. Equally tart and more-ish were the organic, hand-crafted, all-natural Ice Blocks made by a family concern from the Northern Rivers District of NSW. The lemon flavour was fulsome and laced with peel, but the coconut variety tempted his taste-buds the most. Utterly delicious at $3.50 a pop.
Matching the dazzle of the Mangoland warmth were the smiles of many sun-kissed maidens the old Taswegian encountered during his sojourn. There was the transit centre lovely in Brisbane with whom he discussed the pros and cons of youth versus age as he purchased his bus ticket for further north. There was the comely lass who served breakfast with a liberal dollop of gossip at a Fortitude Valle cafe. There was the loveliness of a bevy of beauties employed by the Park Regis, North Quay welcoming and assisting guests, including he and his DLP. By far, though, the most joyously beaming grin belonged to a young checkout girl for Maroochydore Plaza’s Target store. The curious one asked of her the reason for his glorious reception and she simply stated it was the sheer pleasure of being employed, meeting customers and having an aim in life – to accrue money for an European adventure. She was a superb example of what an asset we have in this country in our vibrant youth. She, as well as the other radiant examples he met in his travels, caused the traveller to feel half his age, to hum a happy tune and place a spring in his step. Such little instances for him reinforce his view that the world is mainly good, despite the outrages occurring in Syria and Kenya.
Looking over the words he has etched on paper, the ageing scribe, again comfy back in his sunny nook on a gorgeous Tasmanian spring day, is content. He has had a memorable holiday, his beloved Hawks have won the 2013 premiership and he has just received a visit from his precious, braveheart granddaughter whose smiles put even those of Queensland in the shade. Life is so good.