Australia - December to March 2022

After at last leaving quarantine at the end of November, we were finally free to wreak havoc on Adelaide! Our return to Australia was very much about reconnecting with family and friends, as well as the luxury of doing some business in English. We were eager to get started.

Michael’s mum had turned 90 while we were in quarantine, so our first stop was to see her. She lives in Victor Harbor, and with Michael’s sister Jo we made the hour’s pretty drive from Adelaide. It was wonderful to see Phyllis looking so well and being so sharp. While in Adelaide over the next 4 months we made lots of trips down to Victor to see her and also enjoyed some time with his sister Jo and her children

 

Michael started off catching up with many of his old business colleagues and friends at the Carbine Club Lunch, invited by Andrew Killey. It was held at the beautiful Adelaide Oval when Australia played cricket against England in the Ashes Test Series. Michael thoroughly enjoyed his networking lunch and listening to the always-entertaining cricket greats Sir Ian Botham and Merv Hughes.

 

Next was Michael’s annual ‘Xmas Lunch’ with his old mates, for which he unearthed one of the last bottles of the Woolly’s Bar & Grill wines we produced.

Meanwhile Sue was catching up with some of her friends from advising days – Jan Purdie, Ann O’Callaghan and Jeff Wait.

Covid made organizing events difficult, as people were still very nervous about catching Covid and having to isolate from their families over Christmas, so many catch-ups were cancelled and Adelaide was very quiet.

Over the next months Sue did have lunches with some of her Principals group – Trudy Bradley, Anne Kibble, Des Hurst and Kim Rothe – but unfortunately she was always too engrossed in the conversation to remember to take photographs! She also caught up with some of her staff from Colonel Light Gardens days and it was fantastic to find out everyone’s news.

We managed several dinners with our ‘European friends’ Tom and Marnie Raggatt, meeting their new puppy Wilson. Michael and Tom engaged with some good cognac, so Michael was very happy.

We did do a few other things beside go out to lunch! We caught up with Craig Schilg and had a ride in his Maserati and visited Michael’s sister Jo to check out her new campervan. We also briefly helped out with one of Lindy and JB’s volunteer organisations. As well, we trotted around to doctors, accountants, insurance agencies and the like. We even got our vaccine booster shot.

We had a wonderful Christmas, going down to Victor to spend Xmas Eve with Michael’s Mum Phyllis and enjoying a sumptuous Christmas Day lunch of SA Rock Lobster. Yum! We then drove back to Adelaide for a Christmas Night Dinner of seafood with Lindy and JB and our long-time friends Nina and Bruce.

We followed that the next day with a traditional Australian Christmas lunch, with Lindy and JB’s sons, their girls and first grandchild 2-year-old Hugo, who had definitely mastered present-opening and “Ho! Ho! Ho!” -ing.

The weather had been glorious ever since we arrived. We started playing tourists and really enjoyed ‘couch surfing’ as we stayed with friends around the state. We called in to see Craig Schilg at Wistow and stayed for a couple of nights, enjoying swimming in his pool and watching movies in his stunning cinema. We whiled away a delightful afternoon lunching with friends on his deck.  He lives on a farm with gorgeous views over the valley.

Michael always teases Craig, demanding ‘quality accommodation’ and he certainly delivered, right down to the chocolates on the pillow! In fact, we enjoyed staying with him so much we went back again in February for a repeat performance. That time we met up wit Doug and Janet Allen and Craig cooked on his smoker. We had a lovely quiet evening but shortly after 11:30, when we’d all gone to bed, the Police rocked up and said they’d had a report of screaming and yelling. ‘Not us’ we said and they believed three sleepy-eyed old people!

We spent New Year’s Eve with Lindy and JB and Nina and Bruce, a long time tradition. All dogs are invited so we can supervise them once the fireworks start. Everyone enjoyed the huge tomahawk steaks Bruce cooked – with lots of advice from everyone else!

Early in January Sue flew to Queensland to visit her other sister, Louise who moved from Melbourne to Hervey Bay during the pandemic. Hervey Bay is famous for its whale watching and for the clear blue water where you can see sea turtles and dugong. Unfortunately the flooding in the Maryborbrough area meant that the Mary and Susan Rivers were both flooded and washed brown water and debris into the sea. Not scenic at all and it pushed the dugong and turtles out to sea.

Louise and Jim live near a big marina surrounded with restaurants. The area is somewhat of a mecca for retired people and we had fun looking at the local RSL Club, which had it’s own disability scooter park! We had a great time touring around the local area, driving through the miles of cane fields to find lovely beaches and going on a sunset cruise. When it was time to leave the floodwaters had abated somewhat, so we did a quick tour of nearby towns and saw some beautiful old ‘Queenslander’ homes as well as the busy coastal town of Maroochydore. It was wonderful to see Jim and Louise so settled and happy in their new home.

While Sue was away Michael hired a car and toured around the Fleurieu Peninsula, just south of Adelaide. He dropped in on Tim and Amanda Geddes at Blewett Springs and tried some of their latest wines, then carried on to Goolwa to see Peter Schrader on his boat. While there he also saw Tom& Marnie and Phil & Wendy on their boats, too. Then it was off to Carrickalinga to see David Catherwood, who we hadn’t seen in many years. David is 80, but fit and lots of fun and his children Lisa and Tim joined in, too. A shocking amount of whiskey was consumed!

He finished his tour at Sue and Chris Greening’s new house at Clayton and on his return to Adelaide he had dinner with Thomas Hardy. It was a busy week while Sue was away!!

Unfortunately our dear friend Kevin Boaden passed away in January and while Covid prevented us from seeing him when we came home, we were glad that restrictions eased enough for us to attend his funeral and give Trudie a big hug. In the weeks afterwards Sue enjoyed meeting Trudie for lunch several times and was in awe of her strength and wisdom.

Michael’s trip back to Australia really should have been titled “A Trip Down Memory Lane”. He saw an old playmate from his childhood, Tim Provis, and a workmate from his early media days, Wilson Main. He had a lunch with friends from his school days at Princes. He attended a special lunch organized while he was here by the RATS (Radio and Television Survivors)!

Another highlight of his trip down memory lane was a reunion of the old SAND dive club. Many people may not know that in the dim, dark past Michael was a scuba diving instructor and a very active member of the South Australian Nautical Divers Club. So he organized a reunion and over 20 people turned up. Of course, none of us has changed a bit in those 30 years!!

We really enjoyed the chance to be tourists in our own state. We hired a car and drove to Robe, about a 4-hour drive south of Adelaide. There was a lot of flat grain-growing country and miles of mallee scrub, but also an interesting drive along the edge of the Coorong. We went to stay with Peter Douglas and his wife Jane Kitchen at their lovely beach house in Robe. Peter was a friend Michael made during his days in the wine business. Peter and Jane were incredibly hospitable and spoilt us with a huge dinner of SA Rock Lobster. Discussions over dinner led to us getting up early the next morning and going out with them on their boat to pull up the craypots. We had a good haul of 3 usual size crays and one absolute monster! Peter and Jane very generously sent us off with two crayfish for our dinner the next night and froze the monster for us to take back to Adelaide and share with friends.

We spent hours talking about our adventures in Europe and answering their many questions about the process for getting there. Jane and Peter plan on basing themselves in Italy (where they have lived before) and doing lots of travelling. We hope to catch up with them in Europe later this year.

We moved on to the Coonawarra wine district, a favourite stomping ground of Michael’s when he was in the wine business. We stayed at Peter and Maria Weinburg’s gorgeous old Pyrus cottage, right in the little village of Coonawarra. We visited Brand’s Laira, where Peter is the head winemaker and Wynn’s, where Maria is in admin. Both are beautiful wineries, with impressive cellar doors and great red wines.

We also explored a few wineries in nearby Wratonbully. Our favourite was Wangolina for its lovely white wines, especially its tasty fiano.

We decided to spend a couple of nights in a bungalow at the Robe Caravan Park, just to see what Aussie camping grounds are like. In our trips around SA we were really surprised by the sheer number of caravans on the road. You see very few motorhomes – quite the opposite of Europe - and the caravans are very tough-looking, built for Australian off-road experiences.

And of course, it was obligatory to stop at Kingston on the way home to take a photo with the Big Crayfish.

On our next tourism foray we drove from Adelaide in the other direction, north to the Murray River to Morgan, to meet up with Sue’s good friend Michele and her husband Peter.  Since Sue had last been there Michele and Peter had built a sumptuous new home on the banks of the river. We had a good look around and were hugely impressed with what they’d achieved and the projects still underway. Then we adjourned to the Caudo winery for lunch. It was set on a bend in the river and we couldn’t believe the markers for the 1956 floodwater height!

Another tourist drive was up to the Barossa to the beautiful Yalumba Winery. The purpose of the visit was to meet with Pam Spratt, one of the three Queensland girls Sue travelled Europe with when she was in her 20s. They had lost touch over the years and had recently reconnected via FaceBook. Pam was travelling with her husband in a caravan around Australia and just happened to be in SA when we were home. Who could resist a meet-up after nearly 40 years? Of course, Sue and Pam talked non-stop for over two hours and both insisted that they hadn’t changed a bit!

We were royally looked after by Amanda at the cellar door and Michael tasted and bought some wonderful wines.

One beautiful sunny Saturday we decided to play tourist along our favourite beaches. We caught the bus from Norwood to Henley Beach and from there we walked to West Beach. We stopped at the Surf Lifesaving Club to watch the Little Nippers children’s events and have a wine or two on the deck overlooking the ocean. West Beach used to be our dog Grubie’s favourite place to go ‘fishing’ for the little fingerlings in the shallows.

From there we walked further south to the Adelaide Sailing Club, to watch a few race starts and have refreshments. The restaurant there is called Oceanique and looked really good, so we booked that night for dinner.

Our walk continued along the coast to Glenelg, where we shared a dozen beautiful fresh Coffin Bay oysters. Superlative taste, better than those we eat along the Atlantic coast in France. And then it was home by tram for a rest before dinner.

That night we returned to Oceanique with Lindy and JB. We timed it to watch the sunset from the deck while we enjoyed some French Champagne. The food was equally as delicious.

Another tourism experience was a weekend at Goolwa, as guests of Phil and Wendy Watson. Along with our friends Tom & Marnie Raggatt and Chris & Sue Greening, they invited us for an afternoon of cruising on their now fully renovated ‘milk boat’. These old wooden flat and long boats cruised up and down the lower Murray and collected milk from the dairy farms to bring back to Goolwa, for transport to Adelaide. Now they are rare but make fabulous party and live-aboard boats. We had a terrific cruise, followed by a fierce boules competition and a delicious dinner. We stayed the night in Phil and Wendy’s gorgeous old homestead before leaving early to continue our daunting calendar of social events.

We were invited to a very special lunch held in the home of Sandy and Larraine Nelson. In our honor the lunch had a French theme, including decorations, music, the written French menu and the food. Larraine had gone to an enormous amount of trouble and all the guests appreciated it.

We had many a meal at Nina and Bruce’s; being joined one time by Jude and Nigel, Nina’s sister and brother-in-law and really enjoying the crayfish caught by Nigel. On another summer’s night we sat in their backyard devouring blue swimmer crabs they had caught.

In between all this touring and socializing we did find time for a little culture. Sue and Lindy went to the annual Brighton Sculpture Festival. Held along the foreshore, these outdoor sculptures always cause lots of interest. There were several pieces from Sue’s favourite local sculptor, Anna Small.

On another hot, sunny day Sue and her sisters Lindy & Louise did a walk along the River Torrens, back along the cultural precinct of North Terrace and then visited the Art Gallery. The way the Gallery was curated had radically changed and it really added to the interest. There were far more female Australian artists and the range and depth of indigenous art was really fascinating.

 

Michael was exploring culture of a different sort, visiting a long-ago colleague from radio days, Jermey Cordeaux. Jeremy was one of the best-known talkback radio hosts in Australia and still does a podcast. He’s won a Walkely Award and has an Order of Australia. Jeremy is a serious collector of memorabilia and of vintage cars. Michael thoroughly enjoyed sharing a glass of fine red wine with he and Andrew Killey while they looked at his amazing collection.

Michael had another new experience, being invited by Andrew Killey to participate in his first ‘photo shoot’. Fittingly, it was for an ad campaign Andrew was doing to try and get the public to leave their Covid nerves aside and get back into pubs. He enjoyed the fun experience with brothers Andrew and Kevin Killey, amongst others.

It was getting close to us leaving to go back to Europe, so we were tidying up last tasks. One was a visit to our accountant, Rick Allen who has an enviable collection of Beatles and Football memorabilia of his own. We invited Rick and Prue to dinner at our Norwood digs to celebrate their recent engagement. Such a shame we won’t be in Australia for their wedding!

Then began the farewells.

Sue was spoilt when her sister Louise flew down from Queensland to say goodbye, the first time the three sisters had all been together in over 2 years.

There was one last ‘old mates’ lunch for Michael and a lovely lunch in the backyard at Norwood for the ‘Jarnac crew’ and the Greenings.

Adrian Adams, genius of Jaba Media and who generously hosts and manages our website, also joined us for dinner one night.

We said farewell to our nephews Sam and Jack and our great nephew Hugo. Alina and Jack are shortly to make Hugo a big brother and we’re sorry we’ll miss that.

An especially difficult farewell was to Michael’s dear mum, Phyllis. With his sister Jo we went to the Kuti Shack on the beach at Goolwa. Backed by the Goolwa Pipi Company and run by a Ngarrindjeri group, the food was fantastic and the ambience is really ‘beachy’, with the waves rolling in and the sea breeze coming in the open windows. We all managed to hold in our tears and made do with lots of hugs.

The last farewell was a fantastic dinner at Noi, the excellent modern Vietnamese restaurant with Lindy & JB, Nina & Bruce and Louise. Aside from family and friends it is spicy, aromatic Asian food that we missed when in Europe – so it was a fitting end to our gastronomic tour of South Australia.

We were incredibly grateful to Lindy and JB for being willing to have houseguests for four months! We’ll both miss them dreadfully.

And at last we were off! Stay tuned for our further adventures, as we travel without a motorhome to begin with. We plan on mainly visiting Italy and Malta, but may throw in some other destinations if the mood takes us!