Hunter Gatherer had never been too keen to fall in love with Australia – in fact quite often he referred to their snakes and monster spiders mumbling something about not needing them, and espousing the merits of living in a very small skinny country with ‘four seasons in one day’ weather! I have always agreed, nodding eagerly – but recently came across and rather liked Eon Colfer, Artemis Fowl quote – ‘confidence is ignorance – if you’re feeling cocky it’s because there’s something you don’t know’. There is another quote too which is my favorite of all times – Mark Twain ‘if you have to swallow a frog don’t stare at it too long’. Fearing monster spiders, snakes and a conversation where the weather never gets mentioned we decided we’d stared at the frog for too long and it was time to visit our family and friends in Aussie.
Arriving Brisbane Airport around 7.30am Christmas Day we hired a car with only 80k on the clock and drove to Coolum Beach. The plan was to surprise HG’s sister and her husband, and his mum who was visiting from NZ, with our presents (pun intended) – we knew there would be plenty of food but had shared our secret visit with HG’ niece in case of any changes. We hadn’t had a Christmas Day with Lisa, Graham and Ellie for around 12 years so it’s fair to say the ‘surprise’ was a surprise for our Aussie family. A few glasses of bubbly and a pancake brunch later the early 3am rise caught up with me, so HG drove us the 15 minutes to our Noosa Heads accommodation for wee nap before returning for the late afternoon lunch.
Noosa Heads main dead-end road, Hastings Street, is chockablock with awesome shops, swanky hotels, and beautiful well healed people. It is also double the price to stay here at this Cheerful Time of Year….and so I found the cheapest hotel I could. Bless the Ocean Breeze Hotel their charity this Cheerful Time of Year because although it was a lot less dollars to stay here, it was no less clean, cheerful, or location perfect than any other hotel in Hastings Street.
Since our New Zealand earthquakes I have been rather fearful of underground (or for that matter high rise) parking garages, and so I held my breath as HG parked our hire car amidst the air-conditioning pipping, the concrete pillars, the rubbish bins and drainage pipes of the Ocean Breeze Hotel basement parking. I am always up for a challenge and so resolved then and there to add underground parking to my list of ‘to overcome’ along with snakes, spiders, and weather free conversation!
That went fairly well until when driving to a local camera shop on Boxing Day I noticed what I thought was a twig attached to my passenger seat door mirror – or had I noticed it the afternoon before? HG went in to look at cameras while I caught up with a cellphone message. By the time I got into the shop HG was nowhere to be seen. The shop assistant asked if he could help me and I replied ‘no thanks, I’ve just lost my husband’ to which he replied with a laugh ‘I’m sorry we don’t stock those here anymore, but we do get a lot returned’. I’m not sure the words ‘I bet you do’ came out of my mouth, but when I looked around there was no one else there ……
I eventually found him and after buying my new camera we drove back to the hotel, parking again in the hotel underground. I was getting used to this dark, low ceilinged area and thought it wasn’t toooo bad after all. After backing in to the parking space, I went to grab the door handle to open my door and that’s when I saw it. The ‘Twig’ had morphed into a rather large huntsman spider who, to obviously stay on the car window during our 6k drive home, had spread his hairy legs and dug his toes in!! Despite there being glass between him and I, I very quickly exited via HG’s car door feet first kicking him out as I went.
I don’t like to wonder how long the Huntsman had been on my car door, or how many times I’d got in and out that same car door, or how many times I’d opened the car window feel the breeze, and what I’d have done had he blown in and spread his hairy legs and dug his toes in on my face ….. but I did wonder where the other two were because my lovely Australian friend Allanah tells me where there’s one huntsman there’s always three!
Knowing the Huntsman was still on the car door we went back to our hotel room to think. I had wanted to ask an Australian man to get rid of it, but HG insisted on doing this himself. He grabbed a tea towel and walked out the door saying, “leave it to me”. He said he flicked it off the car door with a single quick flick of the tea towel, but as time went on it transpired that it took a few flicks of the tea towel. On the last flick the towel flew out of his hand and landed on the ground presumably on top of the Huntsman. Bravely he picked the tea towel up hoping Huntsman wouldn’t spring himself upon HIS face and dig his toes in! But he was nowhere to be seen.
After two days in Noosa we headed to Mooloolaba for three nights. A Highrise hotel room was ours this time, but with basement parking two levels below ground I insisted on being picked up and dropped off every outing on the main road! Lucky my HG is braver than me and was happy to sink two floors below ground level to get the car.
Beach walks, photography, early mornings, and lots of coffee’s was Mooloolaba. Trips to Black Mountain to see our friends Ray and Julie, and to Dickey Beach to see our friends Marc and Allanah had us wishing we lived closer to these guys – salt of the earth and never-ending friendship are words we associate with these four special people.
HG did a sterling job driving the Australian roads. We had our wee routine – HG would retrieve the car from the depths, check it for Huntsman, and drive. I would check the car for Huntsman, put our destination in google drive, and navigate as clearly and with as much information as possible. We would then discuss in great detail what I meant when I said ‘turn left at the fork’ – no not THAT fork!
Our last two nights we stayed at The Calile Hotel in Brisbane. I pushed the boat out a bit here – yes, it was a bit $$ but yes, it was worth it and yes, it was STUNNING! The song “Movie star, movie star …. you think you are a movie star’ by Harpo kept popping into my head every time I entered and exited this amazing hotel. This place was full of the rich and beautiful driving Maserati’s, Mercedes, Lamborghini’s and more…………. this was the Hollywood of Australia!! Luckily, we had returned by now our rented Subaru with the new additional smashed left back panel (another story).
I’ve always had a wee hankering for lazing about in a poolside Cabana one day – I knew The Calile had them, and that the pool opened at 6 am so I thought I’d be down there early to lay claim to one on our first morning ……..just for a few hours. Our room overlooked the pool and at 5.30am I looked out to see that they were all claimed – either by way of a few towels laid out symmetrically or a body lying casually in them! Well, it was New Years Eve day and no doubt they will empty out as the day goes on and the R&B go get ready for their NYE parties …….?
Luckily there were a few loungers beside the pool though – wet with overnight rain, but nevertheless vacant. While others were trying to either turn their wet lounger cushions over, or sit on towels so their togs didn’t get wet, I spied a pile of dry lounger cushions, grabbed two and plopped them on top of our wet ones! Simple and effective – people looked at me like I had done something uncouth and then followed suite! Unusual for me as I tend to be a bit shy, I was first in the pool for a blissful swim – and when we left an hour later, we asked the young man behind us lying casually on the concrete if he’d like our loungers. He was grateful and we were pleased a fellow ‘not quite there yet movie star’ had them!
Later that night when midnight struck I saw the same people in the Cabanas as were there at 5.30am that morning – what a long day for them, and no doubt memorable. They had swum, dinned, snoozed, and partied by the pool from their Cabana’s for almost 20 hours …… Barry Manilow’s song Copacabana rang through my head along side Harpo’s Movie Star.
More special time was spent with our Aussie family while in Brisbane, and I almost found the words ‘introduce me to your pet snake’ spill forth from my mouth ……. but decided I should really leave another challenge to look forward to for our next visit!!
Funny thing was I had been meaning to use the loo on the airplane before landing back in Christchurch but found it hard to shift out of my seat. There’s something uncomfortable about walking down the long straight isle of a plane with hundreds of eyes watching you make your way to the toilet! There is also something uncomfortable about walking the long distance to the first loo you find once inside the terminal – but procrastination won and that is what I did. I believe things happen for a reason and my procrastination worked well this time, as although it put us further back in the customs queue it also happened to put us two people in front of – wait for it ………… Marlon Williams!
I wondered if he recognized me – does he know how many of his concerts I have been to? The Balcairn Hall when he played with Delaney and we had lamingtons at half time, Seattle when we were too late to buy tickets so I wrote to his manager who gave us two free ones, Lyttleton’s Wonder Bar on several occasions ….this gem is one of New Zealand’s finest song writers and voice………. And he was just behind us!
With his song ‘Come to me’ popping into my head, and my favorite quote ‘Don’t stare at the frog too long’ still fresh in my mind I grabbed a pen off HG (and the book I was reading in the plane – THE MINISTRY OF UTMOST HAPPINESS), and approached the big M. I knew Lesley Mary would be so proud of me. I had no idea what I was going to say but I opened my mouth and out whispered ‘Marlon, if we’re very quiet about this and don’t make a fuss will you sign my book?’ He did, while I waffled doing my habitual when nervous nonsensical chat, realizing when I thought about it later, that I sounded more like an excitable teenager than the young 55 year old woman I am. To be fair I was excited for him to finally meet me but I must make an effort to finish my sentences when in this mode so that “You’re amazing” comes out “You’re amazing for signing this” and “You’re my favorite person” comes out “You’re my favorite singer”. I thanked him most kindly and we had a wee confusion about whose passport he was giving back – was that his?? But no, I said that’s mine Marlon – you don’t need that. Such a lovely man with impeccable manners too – a true and rare NZ talent.
It wasn’t surprising to get interviewed at Customs – after all we had declared our new Camera purchase, but it did occur to me that my ‘quiet and no fuss’ few minutes with the big M part way through our slow walk up to the Customs Officers may have looked more like a last minute exchange of secrets rather than a fan wanting a signature!