Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gosford and Ballina

Having heard that my Mum’s sister, Aunty Glen, was in hospital recovering from a broken hip, we thought we’d head straight to Gosford and see her before doubling back to Sydney. We set up headquarters in her unit and made friends with the little old folks who neighbour her. They were very welcoming even after Gypsy busted the eave off one of their homes; we discovered the hard way that she is too tall to fit in the parking bays : / oops … Aunty Glen was doing well, considering. She is an inspiration with all her activities, including University of the Third Age, scrabble club, the Social Justice Group of the local Catholic Parish and the Greens Political Party. We also enjoyed chokos and tomatoes from her lovely wild vegetable garden, which takes up her entire small courtyard.

As we could feel the countdown upon us, we decided to make one last dash north to spend some time with Julisa, Craig and the kids, some ex-Alice friends. They live in Ballina just south of Byron Bay and one of Sinead’s favourite places on earth. The weather is always beautiful, the people are a bit alternate (hippies welcome) and the beaches are superb. I could not believe how much their kids had grown. Brianna is taller that me at 14 and way too cool. Jalan is the star ruck rover for the local footy team and Charli is as yummy as ever – just bigger. I think it was a close call as too who talked more, Julisa or I, as we crammed months of catch up over coffee and sushi etc, during swims at the beach and while waiting for Bri to finish riding her horse, River.

Kelly speaking: Glenda, Julisa and I were having lunch one day at Shelly’s Beach. As the conversation turned girly – emotions, tampons, Tupperware etc. – my attention became consumed by the surfers down the beach. As I was watching one of them riding a glass curl from left to right, four other surfers came up from the water underneath him and joined him on the way in. The four other surfers were dolphins having a play. It was one of the most incredible sights that I’ve ever witnessed.

(Sad story in the news – a couple of the kids near Ballina took their boogie boards down to the beach this morning and one of them was attacked by a shark. Hiis friend went back to help him but the poor kid had lost too much blood by the time the got to shore. We swam nearby last week.)

We returned to Gosford past the sugar cane fields and lovely, wide, coastal rivers of New South Wales. As we did, we happened by a few roadside stands selling fresh oysters. Being a fan (Kelly only), we stopped at the first stand only to find out that due to the heavy rains, the river was closed to oyster collection. The lady operating the stand muttered a warning that if any oysters were on sale down the road, she would be suspicious of their safety. I stopped at the next stand where they were more than happy to accommodate.

I ate the oysters raw with a shot of Tabasco and a beer chaser. The first signs of food poisoning hit around midnight and lasted for the better part of a day. It turns out that the rains wash down pesticides, manure and a host of other nasties into the brackish river. Normally the river is salty enough to kill anything unwanted, but after being diluted by rain water, the oysters are bathing in something not too unsimilar to raw sewage.

Back in Gosford Kelly and I were able to catch up with cousins Judy and Ray, Auntie Glen’s kids. It’s good to realise that years can go by and you can pretty quickly get back into a comfortable conversation and laugh about old times.

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