Skip's OzCon Report
I arrived in Sydney about 5.40pm on Saturday, April 6th, having caught the bus down from Port Pirie at 8.20am the same day. It’s about a three hour trip down from Pirie to the big smoke, and then I shared a taxi with another lady who was heading out to the airport as well. Normally, I catch a shuttle bus, but as this lady was in a bit of a hurry to get there, we decided to go together.
I spent a couple of hours at the airport, as my flight didn’t leave until 3.15pm, so enjoyed a luscious lunch at “Cocolat” Café situated at the airport. They serve all things chocolate as the name suggests, and they have the most sinful chocolate muffins I’ve ever come across. This time (having been there before!) I decided on behalf of my fat butt, that I’d settle for a toasted ham and cheese croissant – still doesn’t work for the size of my rear end, but ‘twas extremely tasty all the same, and a “long black” coffee. I walked up and down to exercise the effects of said lunch, then sat down and read my “Kindle”. I’d downloaded a story by our own Linda Mooney, who is the most well remembered person in my life in my hunt for all things Beauty and the Beast. It was Linda who introduced me to other B&B sites, for which I will be ever grateful to her for, and as her publishing co. is MacWombat Press, I’m on a continual hunt for “wombat’s” for her.
A good flight over, lasting about one and half hours, by this stage I was too excited to read, so sat and watched cartoons on the miniscule tv screen in the back of the seat in front of me. Thankfully, my eyes are just about good enough to reach that far, without having to resort to glasses. (I HATE wearing glasses, but old age has forced me to wear readers) Could hardly wait to get off the plane, I’m sure my “hurry up, you b…….” vibes must’ve gotten to the rest of the passengers, or possibly because I was close to the front of the plane, but I was off and up the gangway literally running!!! Hey, guys, this was the Beauty and the Beast Oz Con I was going to!!!
Hoiked (dragged – for those who don’t understand aussie lingo) my suitcase off the carousel, the gods were smiling on me as I’d checked in so early prior to the flight, it was one of the early ones round the baggage claim. I was off and galloped out the door, wondering where in the heck I was supposed to meet Lyn, Gary and Min, who I knew would be there with them. Gary & Lyn hadn’t met me, so Min would be there to recognise a tubby, little short-ass blond carrying a Dallas Con Tote. Just in case Min hadn’t come in with them! I guess I got about five yards from the door, when I heard the mellifluous tones of my dear sweet Min – “Thar she blows – SKIIIIPPPPY!!” It was just soooo good to see my little mate again, huge hugs, then more huge hugs from Lyn and a big grin and “g’day, mate” from Gary. He didn’t escape a huge kangaroo hug! (Small I might be, but I give a pretty huge hug!!)
Guys, it was just like I first arrived in Dallas, I was made to feel so welcome straight away, we found the car, and off back to Mt Druitt, where Lyn and Gaz (as I promptly nick-named him, - again this is an aussie thing, we put ‘ies’ on some words, and names, we always shorten wherever possible – don’t ask me why – I’m just a ten-pound pom – paid Ten pounds for my fare as an immigrant way back in the early 60’s – but I tend to pick up on the rules!)
We arrived home, and home indeed it was, two gorgeous little dogs, Mollie and Emily (15 yrs old – a shitzu I think) to welcome us, and Lyn made me a quick bite to eat. (Hunger pangs struck – luscious lunch having worn off) Gaz headed off to bed, and left us girls to talk and talk we did. I reckon it was about 2am before we decided to hit the hay. Then of course as it was time for us aussies to change the clocks back (the end of summer time for us and back to winter time), it was only 1a.m. and so we talked some more.
We finally made it to bed, Min had the bottom bunk and I scrambled up the ladder into the top bunk, shades of working on the trawler I once worked on, clambering up the exhaust stacks which had thin steel rods to climb up on just like the ladder to the top bunk. I think Min and I still carried on nattering, and Molly tried to settle down with Min, which caused great hilarity, as she kept walking all over Min in an effort to find somewhere to settle. (Emily always slept with her dad – Gaz)
I think exhaustion finally overtook all of us, as I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks (too excited about the con, I thought) and surfaced quite late. I can’t begin to explain the hospitality received from Lyn and Gaz – it was absolutely magic – we were told to make ourselves at home, and given the run of the house, the kitchen, bathroom etc. We were told where the brekky things were, and help yourself, the variety was fantastic – Lyn had gone overboard trying to make sure we had all we needed. I would say ten thousand times better than the best hotel in downtown Sydney could’ve provided.
Sunday was a comparatively quiet day, Lyn & Gaz took us out for a drive around, and found the local supermarket where we stocked up on some real aussie tucker, namely TimTams, found a tin of Anzac Biscuits (traditionally eaten on Anzac Day) introduced Min to the delights of “Cherry Ripe” bars and also “Violet Crumble” which is honeycomb coated in chocolate. One of my faves, I’ll try and pack up some to bring over to CVland. Again a lot of the time was spent nattering, helping Lyn sort out the tote bags, and just generally relaxing a bit. We knew that Je and Sheryl were arriving on the Friday, so we had time to get the bags packed with all the goodies.
We caught the River Cat into Sydney on the Monday (I think it was Monday) and arrived at Circular Quay, which is right in the heart of Sydney, where everyone hit the souvenir stand, and bought fleece jackets with AUSTRALIA proudly written across the chest. It had turned cold, but as I already had a wooly jacket on, I bought some t-shirts instead, and some postcards to send back to South Oz. We wandered all over the quay, and looked over at the Opera House, looked up under the Harbour Bridge, and went to an hotel in “The Rocks” for lunch. “The Rocks” is one of the oldest parts of Sydney, being full of little narrow streets with cobble stones, and quite spooky at times. Had the most magnificent meal of fish and chips at the Orient Hotel, again, one of the older ones. Lyn told us about a story she is writing about a sea captain, set in the very early days of settlement in Sydney, an pointed out a house where she has him living in those days. A magnificent old terrace house, with a balcony fronted by lace ironwork. I can’t wait for her to finish it off. There is so much history in Sydney, even tho it is now most modern, there are still the old parts that luckily conservation has kept alive – makes the senses tingle – leastways, it does mine. I’ve always been a sucker for old buildings, castles, cathedrals etc. Would love to find out my previous lives, probably a scullery maid somewhere, or a cabin-boy on the old ships. I have such a feeling for them. On the way around our walkathon, we saw one of our indigenous personnel (black fellas) playing a drum, and he had a few didgeridoos (hollow sticks) lying alongside. Min asked him if he wouldn’t mind playing one, as she had never heard them before. He was the most obliging person, and we all had a real good chat to him, turns out his name was George, and Min & I posed with him for a photo. He was tickled pink when he found out I was called Skippy, as that is apparently George’s totem – “You are one of my brothers” he told me. We had a bit of a chuckle about that. We wandered around for quite some time, and when we walked back to the ferry, there was a bit of a corroboree going on – (aboriginal gathering) Turns out to be our friend George, this time in native costume, with a young lady also in native costume, and they were dancing and another one was playing the didgeridoo. We stopped to take some photos, and he realised it was us – “Hey” he yells out, as we delightedly recognised him and called back “Hey, George!” Nice buns too, in that little red loin cloth. Good bod for an abo, as like all folks, they tend to let go as they get older.
Lyn took Min and I to a Wildlife Park – Featherdale - not too far from where they live. It was magic to catch up with all sorts of Australian native animals and birds. As well as koalas. I was in my element with the wallabies and kangaroos, also the emus. Fascinating birds, they don’t blink, and are amongst the nosiest I’ve met. No, I don’t mean noisiest, but danged curious!! When they do make a sound, it’s like water running down a drain pipe, they look like an open umbrella, and when they run – their feathers fluff up and down. They can run pretty fast too. Lyn had to teach Min that they are pronounced eemyus, not eemoo! I had the great pleasure of holding a little tawny frogmouth owl. They are such beautiful little birds, and when they sit on a branch, you have to look two or three times to recognise them. They have ideal camouflage. This little one was called Sammi, (female) and was as tame as tame, and quite happy to sit on my hand – so very soft and silky to stroke. We scratched the wombats backs, (bulldozers of the bush is their nickname). Even for me, it was a pleasure to get so up close and personal with all the animals and birds. Stroked a koala, as Je says, it would be good to see one that wasn’t quite stoned out of it’s mind, as that’s what the eucalyptus leaves do to them. Sends them off quite happily. There was a huge variety of parrots, parakeets, and there were some Wedge Tailed eagles too. My favourite bird, I just love their arrogant way of looking down their beaks at you.
We patted the dingo, as he was being taken on a walk around the park by one of the keepers, and also watched the pelicans being fed. They reckon that the Australian pelican is one of the largest of the breed, I can quite believe it, as I used to feed two pelicans in Dampier, when I was working at the boat club. I called them Percy Mark I and Mark II. Mark II had a little piece of one of his feet missing, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. They are a most intelligent bird, and soon pick up on when it’s feed time, and recognise the person feeding them.
There was also an albino kangaroo there. He was feeling a bit shy, as I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, but the others did. I was probably getting up close and personal with another animal at the time. I’m hopeless in a wildlife park. Can’t resist stopping to natter.
Of course we had to visit the shop, and of course two more t-shirts later. I have this thing with t-shirts, especially if they have kangaroos on them, bit like my collection of Arthur T-shirts. I must try and get to meet a racoon, on one of my trips. OK ladies, where do I get to see a ‘real live one’.
I’m going to sign off here, and go and have some tea. Will post this as Chapter 1, and post it as an addition, as it might take too much room if I put it on email as is.
Will be back tomorrow, that’s a promise, and I’m sorry for being such a windbag, but I really wanted youall over there, to know what it was like for me – and I’m supposedly an Australian!!! Big mobs of hugs, Skip – until tomorrow.
I guess that covered our first few days in Sydney, I know we spent about half a day helping Lyn pack up the totebags, we were invited to meet Amy, one of Lyn’s daughters-in-law, and the family. Spent a very pleasant afternoon with them, and I believe it was the day after that we went around to visit Pam, another of Lyn’s daughters in law. Lyn is so lucky with her family, they are all so close, and made everyone of us most welcome.
Je and Cheryl arrived on the Friday morning, my wonky back having given up the battle of scrambling up and down the ladder, I didn’t go into Sydney with the guys to pick them up, instead I slept a little bit more, then got up and breakfasted on painkillers. I always knew that I couldn’t do lots of things that I used to, but I was most miffed to realise that climbing ladders was OUT!! Not to worry, Lyn has a beautiful big queen size bed, so I shared with her. She reckons I’m an ideal bed partner, as I don’t snore, and I don’t wriggle around (I usually do at home for some reason or another!!) In fact, she told us all, that she had to check if I was still breathing a couple of times. So there you have it, if you need to share a room, just let me know!!
We took the girls back to the Wildlife Park, so they could meet the natives (animals, birds etc.) and we all had a terrific time meeting up with little Sammi (the Tawny Frogmouth Owl) and of course the ever present wallabies, kangaroos and emus waiting for their tucker. You could buy little ice-cream cones filled with chaff and pellets, and you just held this out to the animals, and they quite often held onto your hand so’s you wouldn’t go away whilst they were still eating. Needless to say, the shop did very well out of us again.
Lyn needed a bit more aussie tucker for the barbie that night, so we took the girls down to the shopping centre. They were quite fascinated with the variety of goods on display, especially the biscuits. Min was totally wrapped in the varieties of Tim Tams available, they have put out Turkish Delight, Rum & Raisin dark chocolate, Caramel, Double Coated Chocolate to name a few. Of course, we had to buy some more Cherry Ripes (a cherry, coconut bar covered with chocolate) and Violet Crumble bars. I couldn’t find the genuine Violet Crumble, but I did manage to find a big bag of honeycomb chunks covered in chocolate – very similar to VC.
That night, Lyn & Gaz’s boys came around with their families, and we had a real aussie barbeque, we had kangaroo steaks, prawns (you call ‘em Shrimps), snaggers (sausages), damper rolls, and Lyn had bought a Pavlova – which is a meringue base, crispy on the outside, and soft and yummy on the inside, and you top them with soft fruit and berries. Well smothered with cream. Decidedly decadent, but what the heck. I reckoned I’d probably be too fat for my plane seat on the way home, and Gaz said, that’s OK, you can stay here!! By this time, Cheryl and Je were absolutely k-nackered, and asleep on the settee. Je tried out the top bunk, and Cheryl slept on the settee.
We had to pick up Stace at the airport in the evening, so we spent most of the day pottering around the various shopping centres near Mt Druitt, where Lyn and Gaz live. Looking for more souvenirs. I think everyone stocked up on Australiana. Gaz drove us all into Sydney and we met up with the boy. It was just so good to catch up with Stace again. He doesn’t look any different from Dallas, not even a day older!! Back home to a house full of hilarity once again, with big mobs of nattering.
We all went into Sydney again, as Cheryl wanted to do the Bridge Climb, not the one that went right up to the top, they charge around $250 I think, but she had found that you could climb one of the pylons. Stace decided that he’d go with her, so the rest of us sat on the grass and looked over the harbour. Unfortunately, there was some construction going on near that pylon, and they weren’t able to do it afterall. It was a shame, but we had a great time walking around :”The Rocks” and checking out some of the souvenir shops again. Stace bought himself a Crocodile Dundee leather hat, with croc teeth around it. Je bought some aboriginal art t-shirts, beautiful colors.
On the Monday, we all headed off on the train to catch another train to the Blue Mountains. Oh my word, I’ve never been to the Blue Mountains before, and I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of this area. The colour is all shades of blue, and apparently this is caused by the oil in the eucalyptus trees evaporating, and when the sun shines through this, it gives the impression of blue coloring. So beautiful, and the rock formations, I saw the “Three Sisters” for the first time, and was blown away. I’ve seen photos of them, but you really need to see the real thing to appreciate them. I did find a postcard that tells the legend of the “Three Sisters”, and I’ll try and copy it so you can all read about them. I also tried to get photos of statues of the three girls and the old aborigine who turned them into stone. That was a bit of a laugh, as there were a bunch of kids playing there, and Min just went up and asked them to move as we wanted to take pics. I reckon she frightened them away, as they obeyed her pretty quick.
Stace and Je went off on the cable car, and down the mountainside on another cable railway. I’m afraid I have no head for heights, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor for me. I mean, I still wandered around, and looked over the edge of the fences, but the fences came up pretty high, so I reckoned I wasn’t going to fall over them!!! I really am a bit of a wuss when it comes to heights.
We walked around quite a bit, waiting for Stace and Je to come back, and were on our way back down a hill, when a bus coming down the hill behind us, dropped them off. The bus driver (who was a really ace guy) recognised us from when we had first hopped on board. Luckily the weather was magnificent, we were so lucky, as the forecast had mentioned rain. We had a look around yet another souvenir shop, where they are building another cable car, then caught the bus back to where we had to catch our train home. We had the same bus driver, and he was pleased to see that the “family” was all back together. Lyn used to call us her little chickadees, and would count us all before we hopped on a train or a bus, making sure that none of us were left behind. This kind of mothering made me feel so very comfortable, and we all laughed about it. Cheryl left us this night, as we caught the train back to Mt Druitt, Cheryl went on to catch another train, as she was heading off on a camping trip in Alice Springs, before catching the “Ghan” train from Alice up to Darwin.
I’m losing track of time here, because there were some days that are complete blanks, no doubt Je will have filled the gaps. We did go into Sydney one day, and it was poor Min’s turn to feel a bit wonky, so she stayed behind, and Lyn, Je, Stace and myself headed off minus one of our chickadees. However, Pam and her daughter Bella came with us. (Lyn’s daughter in law and granddaughter.) I’d always wanted to visit “Pinchgut”, a little island in the middle of the harbour, that had what looked like a tower on it. The correct name is Fort Denison, and apparently it was first used as a penal settlement. I just looked up Wikipedia, to try and find out a bit more history, and if you’re at all interested, I can recommend typing in “Fort Denison” and then clicking on the Wikipedia link. You can now have a meal on the island, and we decided to have lunch. A most prestigious menu, but as I’m not a huge lunch eater, decided to ask for a meal from “The Little Pirate’s Menu” (Kid’s menu) and asked the waiter if I might have “Macaroni Cheese” as I was, after all only a Little Pirate!! He was chuckling away to himself, when I asked if I might have a glass of red wine to go with it!! Got to have the old ‘rough red’. It was a lovely lunch, and we had taken a tour of the Martello Tower on the island, and seen where they stored the gunpowder, and also the huge cannon. It was very interesting, and apparently the Martello Tower was the last one to be built in the British Empire. (There’s a bit of trivia for you)
It was another beautiful day, the ferry crossing was extremely comfortable, and yet another tick off of my bucket list. I have now seen Pinchgut, and the Blue Mountains. On the way home, we passed some more aborigines on the quayside, this time there were a few more of them, and as Stace stopped to take a photo, they invited him into the group and posed him with some sticks and we were able to take photos of Stace in amongst what looked like a bit of a war-party of blackfellas. They were extremely kind, and posed for us, and they were so polite. Bit of a change from the ones here in Port Pirie.
We walked around the Opera House, and took photos of us all perched like sparrows on a fence, sitting on the steps, with the Opera House above us. It is a truly magnificent structure, how the architect ever visualised it, let alone designed it, as I’ve heard the acoustics are just magic.
We caught the RiverCat back down the river to Parramatta, where Gary picked us up, and Pam and Bella headed off to their home too. Poor Bella, she was just so tired, it had been a long day for her, but I think she enjoyed herself, and certainly saw a huge slice of Sydney.
Unfortunately, Stace left us on the Thursday, this mini-con was starting to come to an end. The girls and I would be leaving on the Saturday morning, and Lyn and Gary would be back to an empty nest, possibly a bit quieter, actually, I should say a lot quieter, but my sides are still sore from laughing so much. I’ll be like Je, and tell youall to ask Min about the speed humps in the roads. As Gaz said, he will never be able to go over a speed hump without thinking of Min, and I’m afraid I’m the same. I caught the bus down into Pirie t’other day, and there are about three humps in the Kmart carpark, and I was hardpressed not to burst into raucous laughter!! Min, my sweet, you have a lot to answer for.
Gaz, Lyn and Min took Stace into the airport, but Je and I opted for staying home and watching StarTrek. When the others came back, we sat and nattered again, and decided that for our last day, we would take a scenic tour around the harbour on one of the Tall Ships.
Friday saw us back in Sydney, and we booked on a tall ship called the “Soren Larssen”, which was originally a Danish ship, used in the timber trade. We had a magnificent lunch, with our galley wench Hummous Henry, taking extremely good care of Je, as she is gluten intolerant. Henry was a young English lad, who had only been in Sydney for about three and a half weeks. He came from a town called Reading, not far away from where I grew up, so we had a bit of a natter about the UK. The wind picked up, and the crew hoisted two of the sails. Off went the engine, and it was sheer magic – I love sailing, it’s so peaceful and quiet. There were a few brave souls who decided to climb the masts, not this little black duck!!! (Not me) We got talking to a most delightful irish lady, who did climb, it was her 50th birthday present to herself. Good on her, I couldn’t have done it. I’d get stuck half way up!! The wind picked up, and it got really cold, so Lyn and Min decided to sit in the galley, I stayed out on the deck, standing in the lee of the galley, whilst Je sat out in the breeze. It was a trip to remember, and I very gladly spread the word about Vincent and Catherine when a lady commented on my con cap. Also I had a V&C t-shirt on!!
We were out on the water for about two or three hours – I lost all sense of time, just enjoyed my last day in Sydney until end of July. Gaz and Lyn invited us all back whenever, and I said don’t tempt me, or I’ll call in on you when I arrive back from the C&Vland Con – so I’m doing a General McArthur – “I shall return!”
Luckily we’d all packed our suitcases, and crammed in all our souvenirs, our totebags stuffed with goodies, bags weighing even more than when we arrived!!! It was a somewhat quiet tea time, I wasn’t really looking forward to leaving my new found friends. We had to get up at 4.00 am, as we had to drop Je off at the International Airport about 7am, so they dropped me off at the Domestic Terminal, as it was the easiest to get to first, and it was difficult to say goodbye – but I know I’ll be catching up with Min, Je and Stace in C&Vland, and I’ll be seeing Lyn and Gaz again in July. (God willing). It bucketed down all day, I guess even the sky was miserable that we were all heading off. My flight home wasn’t until 1.00pm, but was delayed because of the rain and I didn’t leave Sydney until 2.30pm, and consequently missed my bus back to Pirie. So I checked into a hotel in Adelaide, and suffered through the roughest of “rough reds” I reckon I’ve ever tasted. Yikes, it was like vinegar – remind me not to have the house wine at the Grosvenor Mercure again!!! Arrived home on Sunday, about 1.30pm – and would you believe, I’m still trying to sort myself out!!!
So here you have it, Skip’s Con Report. I won’t insult your intelligence by saying it’s a mini con-report, I do have a tendency to rabbit on. Anyhow, if I’ve left something off, Je will fill it in, or Min, or Stace. On behalf of myself, I had the most wonderful time, I met some beautiful people, Lyn and Gaz and their families, Cheryl, and I caught up with my gorgeous mates, Min and Je and Stace. Thank you all for the wonderful memories. I love you all. God bless, and big mobs of hugs as always. Skippy