Kangaroo Bound

Kangaroo Bound

Back in Blighty, we live very close to the seafront.  In the main it is an amazing place to live as you have salt-aired sea walks on your doorstep and the ever changing but always beautiful scenery unfolding in front of your eyes every time you leave the house.  By far, the biggest negative is the bloody seagulls that come as part of the deal.  All of the houses for the first mile or so inland have huge metal grills around their chimney pots to discourage the gulls from nesting.  If they do nest nearby, then you always have the ‘joys’ of an early morning wake up call which sounds like a scream in a horror movie, not the gentlest of ways to wake up.  Amazingly, for relatively small animals, they are also disproportionally heavy footed and walk about on your roofs like a teenager running down the stairs to claim the last slice of garlic bread.

But this is a blog about a trip to Adelaide, why am I telling you about this?  Well on day number 9 in Australia I woke up in a daze trying to work out where I was.  I knew I wasn’t in my bedroom back home but could hear seagulls walking about who seemed to be speaking in a funny accent.  It took me a few seconds to work out that I was in a different bed in a different country but couldn’t think how my seagulls had caught up with me and why they were putting on a funny accent.  My early morning brain power wasn’t enough to work it out on my own, so I was forced to get up and take a peak out of the window.

It wasn’t seagulls after all.  It looked like someone was running auditions for Nigel the Evil Cockatoo from the movie Rio.  Dozens of cockatoos with yellow flashes on their heads and big, bulging black eyes stared back at me from every roof top, tree and ledge that I could see.  I walked downstairs to the front door and stepped out to take a better look and to count how many I had missed on the roof above me. I think there must have been around 50 in total, all in the wild and all very angry at the trees that lined the main road.

I watched them as they jumped into the tree outside our garden and started to feed off its berries.  I stood and watched for about ten minutes as they went to work on this tree and it reminded me of the scene in the World War Two drama, Band of Brothers, where two guys have set up position in the tree line and are spotted by the Germans who begin to return their fire.  The bullets whizz past them and each one trims a branch or leaf off and the tree slowly begins to vanish in front of your eyes.

As I looked down the street at the dozens of trees, the pavement was clean and tidy for as far as the eyes could see.  Under this one tree that the birds had descended upon, it looked like it had been trimmed by an ageing and blinded Edward Scissorhands.  I had never seen such a display by such beautiful animals and so up close it was the perfect way to get ready for the day ahead.

It was a travel day today.  We were driving down to Cape Jervis to get the ferry across to Kangaroo Island (KI). We packed up the Air BnB and filled our huge Tardis of a car with the cases and as many kids as we could fit in the back and set off out of town.  It was a lovely drive and the thrill of seeing the sea again at some stage made each turn in the road that bit more exciting. The browned fields were filled with big old trees and the whole area looked like it was just crying out for a drink of water.  Eventually we turned a corner and a ruddy great lighthouse met us before we dropped down the hill to the ferry terminal.

I think ferry terminal is possibly giving the wrong impression.  This wasn’t Dover or Calais. We are talking a small building with about 40 parking spaces at the most.  But it was clean, it was was surrounded by beautiful scenery and it had that buzz about it that you get when you are at a travel hub.  Everyone is excited to be there but more excited to be somewhere else soon.  You could see land that looked no more than a mile or two away and so I wasn’t sure if it was Kangaroo Island as the ferry was due to take about an hour.  It turns out it was either a lot further than it looked or it was a much slower boat than I had anticipated as that was our destination.

The weather warnings that we had been so worried about the previous night were premature.  There were a few white caps on the waves but they were very gentle despite the fairly stiff wind.  The rest of the gang had to walk onto the ferry as foot passengers and I was left to drive the car onboard.  There must have been the full 40 cars to board and there must have been space for 35 at most.  What followed was the most amazing game of car Jenga as the cars were packed and, no doubt the load balanced, perfectly by three of four dockers.  I was wedged between two utes, a people carrier and a large metal pole.  I had to get out of my car before the next car could pull up next to me, space was at such a premium.


I made my way on deck and met up with the foot soldiers who had already loaded.  The ferry pulled away from the dock bang on time and we were off.  The rocking of the boat mixed with the thick diesel fumes (and the loads of sweets I had eaten in the car) made it a slightly sickly journey.  It was improved by a seal swimming past the ferry and the rainbows formed the spray as we dipped and rose across the open sea.

As the mainland got smaller and smaller behind us, Kangaroo Island became bigger in front.  We docked at Penneshaw and began our KI adventure.  Penneshaw was a small village that had the feel of a Northumbrian village and you got the impression that the same families had lived there for generations and everyone knew everyone else.  We had to make our way around to Kingscote which was the biggest town on the island and the administrative centre.  It is also the closest town to the Airport that also connects to Adelaide, where the newly weds were flying in to join us on the first stage of their honeymoon.  We would then be joined by the rest of the wedding gang for a family gathering at our Air BnB which was overlooking Emu Bay.

We met up in a little restaurant that was part of the Aurora Ozone Hotel. I wasn’t all that hungry after the ferry trip and so just had a bowl of chips.  They were right up there with the best chips I’ve ever had and, trust me, I’ve have a few in my time!  Perfectly salted and with a sprinkling of herbs on top, they were crunchy and moist and if I could have had them for every meal for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t be too unhappy about it.

As we made our way back to the car I was amazed at just how relaxed things were on KI, even the dogs are free to drive into town to pick up a bone at the butchers.


After a day stuck on the ferry and cooped up in the car, we let the kids run off a little bit of their pent up energy at the play park before setting off for the 20 minute trip around to Emu Bay.  Again, the buzz of finding out where we would be staying was very real and that was amplified as it had been booked by Titchy’s sister and so we had no idea what was to come.    We drove into Emu Bay and it looked like a little holiday village with lots of detached holiday homes lining up the hill overlooking the bay, each with a veranda overlooking the amazing views of the bay.    Our house was no different, glass sliding doors fronted both floors of the front of the building and it couldn’t have been any more than 3-4 years old.  The rooms were spacious and modern and most of the upstairs was a kitchen island/dining area/living room.  A huge open space that opened out onto the balcony where we could eat our dinner overlooking the sun setting over the bay.  It was heaven.

We dumped our bags and wandered down to the beach to take advantage of the early evening warmth.  Myself and boy child were in our swimming shorts and into the heavy surf jumping around like idiots in the waves.  We watched pelicans landing on the water and threw a lot of seaweed at each other and generally messed about in what felt like our own private beach.  The odd looks from locals walking down the beach in hoodies and heavy coats didn’t put us off, it was warm enough to be in the water no matter what they thought.

We headed home, beaming from ear to ear with our new home for the week. We showered and explored the house and unpacked before making our way over to the other house that our party had which was on the other side of the road and three doors down.  We chatted, we cooked on the barbecue and watched the sun change from yellow to orange and then duck behind the horizon.  I got the impression that even the sun was disappointed to leave this place and would be happy enough to come back in the morning.

We said our goodbyes and made the short walk home.  We didn’t think it could get any better but then we realised that our lawn was being mowed by three kangaroos.  They looked at us on the road but didn’t seem too bothered so we edged around them and back to the house.  We sat in the darkness and talked in hushed tones as we watched these magnificent creatures chewing away.  It’s called Kangaroo Island for a reason apparently, who knew?

The concept of a recovery breakfast

The concept of a recovery breakfast

Kids being kids, the very busy start and a very late night made no difference to their wake up times and so it was very much business as usual on the day after the wedding.  I had a big job today as it was hire car pick up day for the next stage of the holiday.  I headed off to the far side of Adelaide in the world’s smallest Uber. I looked like Sully from Monsters Inc folded up to fit in the front seat.  The driver was completely unable to make out what I was talking about and so I parked the banter bus and watched in silence as we made our way out through the suburbs and into the retail park end of town.

The guy at the office was about 12 years old and looked like an extra from a beach scene in a surf movie but a decent lad and very helpful.  I told him that we needed the car as we were heading over to Kangaroo Island for a a few days.  He got me all sorted out with paperwork and asked me not to drive the car after dusk on the island as animals would literally throw themselves in front of the vehicle and that I wasn’t insured if I drove on any of the off road tracks.  I hadn’t done much research into the place but I was starting to think I was going to be driving into the outback and camping for a week in the wilderness.

A recurring worry over the last few days had been what we would do if we couldn’t all fit into the hire car with our cases and huge boxes of sweets that we had picked up.  We had a Toyota Kluger, it was a huge old beast and all of my worries vanished as soon as I checked it over.  My surf guy had his next customers so passed me the keys wished me a good day.  I sat for 15 minutes trying to work out where the parking brake was before admitting defeat and heading back inside to ask.  Serious loss of man points there. He told me that there was a light on the dashboard and that was what I needed.  It made no sense but I headed back to the car ashamed of my inability to be a man.  Another 10 minutes of trying to work out how a red light on the dashboard could possibly help me release the brake passed before he came out to help me.  It was a foot break and I was so ashamed I thought about chopping off my own penis and handing in my man card.

I drove home feeling like I was driving a truck, but a very sporty and angry one. I passed the world’s most Scottish hotel and wondered how the jocks that we had partied with had missed this when they were booking. I could try and explain but you wouldn’t believe me and so the below picture will have to serve as evidence that I wasn’t taking strange substances while driving.

img_7808-1I got back home and the kids spent a while trying to break off every feature of the car before we got ready for the ‘recovery lunch event’ that was being held at the Parkside Hotel just a 20 minute drive away in my new toy.  Lots of orange juice and cold water was consumed and, through bleary eyes and dry mouths, tales from yesterday’s event were shared and we all slowly perked up and got back to a normal Sunday.    Pizzas and nibbles were brought out and we all relaxed and recovered and spent the last of our time together as one big family group.  Titchy’s Aunt had one last surprise for us and we all gathered in the car park to find out what it was.  We had all been allocated matching t-shirts with the family name printed on and we all posed together in what was probably going to be the biggest family gathering for who knows how many years to come.  I wasn’t, strictly speaking, family but me and my kids had been made to feel so welcome and been shown so much love that we felt as close as we could be.

We said our goodbyes and headed off for an afternoon of catch up on fun we had missed out on earlier in the week.  We headed back into town, next to the riverside to catch up with Captain Jolly and his peddle boats.  The lad looking after the boats was great and informed me that the Captain wasn’t there that day and was, in fact, far from Jolly.  A bit of a shame, but Captain Miserable Bugger doesn’t have the same ring to it so I can understand the branding choice that he had taken.

It looked idyllic. Pottering around on the river underneath the Adelaide Oval and watching people enjoying the sun on the riverbank but the wind, overloading of the vessel and tide combined to make it a bloody nightmare.  You couldn’t steer as the wind was more powerful than our legs and we drifted about for an hour getting wet bums and frustrated and angry.  The only highlight was watching a young couple on a date, the lad trying to impress the lass by peddling towards the waterfall to get her drenched. The screams made a lovely backdrop to an otherwise serene event.


We set off home to dry our bums and socks and we began the process of packing up ready to depart in the morning.  Washed and tidied we then headed out for tea. We walked to the Alma Sports Bar and enjoyed some lovely food and a lively atmosphere.  Big screens showed the Sunday evening sports and their ping pong tables took a battering from the enthusiastic but terribly skilled kids.  The previous day’s Aussie Rules game we had watched had obviously had an impact as the youngest of our clan sat and watched it for a good ten minutes with wide eyes.  I’m not sure if he loved it or was just sick of chasing errant ping pong balls around the bar.

The previous day eventually caught up with the kids. Even the eldest was starting to get more than a bit ratty and tired, so we headed home so that us adults could finish the packing and cleaning up.  We got about 2 minutes down the street and, suddenly, the heavens opened and what can only be classed as ‘foreign rain’ was dumped on us.  I know that it sounds daft, but if you have experienced rain in warmer climates, you will know what I mean.  Our cold weather rain tends to drop out of the sky at a leisurely pace. It isn’t in a hurry and doesn’t have a particular rush to get to the ground.  Hot weather rain is in a hurry and seems to be running at the floor like kamikaze water.  As suddenly as the downpour started, it ended and left us with that smell of rain behind.  Don’t look at me like that, its a thing, its even got a word, petrichor.  I didn’t know that by the way, I had to look it up, but I found out that it was a word that was created by two Australian scientists so not only am I right about the smell, but I am also right that it exists in Oz!

We checked the weather forecast for the next day so that we could have the right clothes out of the cases.  It turned out that there were storm warnings afoot and that the extreme weather could put our ferry trip to Kangaroo Island in jeopardy or, at best, very uncomfortable.  A sleepless night awaited as we worried about the next day, but we were so knackered again that it didn’t really make too much difference, we were out like a light.

It’s a nice day for a white wedding

It’s a nice day for a white wedding

It was Saturday morning now and my kids wanted to get up early to have a walk into Adelaide to do more gift shopping for their friends.  I was assuming that at least 5 of their class mates would be diagnosed with diabetes within a week of us getting home by this stage.  There were a couple of Aussie themed gift shops that sold every conceivable gift that could be connected to Australia.  Anything with kangaroos, cork hats, boomerangs, aboriginal art or koalas was fair game.  The first shop had some old music hall style entertainment piped in and that was enough for us to try the second shop.  There was a lot of kangaroo skin products in there which put my veggie, verging on vegan,  daughter off enough to stop us buying anything.

Boy child wanted to have a look around the sports shops and so we had a good poke around their version of Sports Direct but nothing caught his fancy and, as their replica kits were as stupidly priced as ours, nothing caught my eye either.  We pounced on K-mart for their wide and exciting range of sweets and filled up a backpack’s worth. I picked up a dozen bags of white raspberry bullets which, if you are looking to make a million quid, is an idea you could pick up on.  Red liquorice pieces coated in white chocolate that sound simple enough but taste like heaven.

Almost fully shopped out, we stopped at McDonalds for a drink to power us for the walk home.  We got a frozen Coke which was about 80% ice with a bit of Coke Zero poured over the top.  It was like a huge slap in the face with a wet fish in terms of a wake up and pick me up and was just what we needed.  We got so excited that we ordered a round of hash browns and the whole order came in at less than a fiver. How do people in independent cafes compete with that?  I was slightly ashamed but happy and refreshed.

To balance up the feeding of the corporate beast, we passed an independent book shop on the walk back and decided to pop in for a shufty.  It will be of no surprise to learn that the lass behind the counter was absolutely charming and engaging and wanted to find out what we were doing in her shop (in a nice way of course!).  It turned out that they were having a closing down sale but, happily, it was due to relocation rather than lack of trade.  We picked up a few books and said our goodbyes and headed home.

The ladies in the party were heading out to get their hair all fancied up for the wedding that afternoon and so ’team lads’ had the afternoon alone.  It was going to be a late night and, conscious of the demands that a long day in the sun would have on the boys, I didn’t want to tire them out so we had an Aussie man day.   We kicked back the reclining sofa and watched the Aussie Rules football live on the TV.  We had no clue what the hell was going on to begin with but the commentary was hilarious and it looked like a right good rumpus.  The lads loved it and as we got into the fourth quarter the rules were becoming clear(ish).

It was the first round of the competition and, to my very untrained eyes, it all looked a little rusty as there were a lot of balls being dropped and a lot of guys falling over.  An expert within 45 minutes, I feel fully qualified to comment of course!  Port Adelaide started the worst but came back to win in the end, I am a fan for life now!

The ladies returned from their afternoon of beautification and looked amazing. It was time for us to start getting ready to see if the lads could raise themselves to their level.  A few hours of ironing, and lots of stresses and arguments about being ready on time, we were all ready to go.  We got an Uber down to the Botanical Gardens and wandered through the grounds until we found a load of seats set out on the lawns and some smart looking people milling about.  We walked the long way around as the combination of soft ground and Titchy’s footwear was a problem for us, but we got there eventually.

It was a beautiful setting, perfectly manicured lawns flowing into ancient hanging trees and birds pottering about chasing worms, all under a perfect blue sky and golden sun.  A lot of the guests were obviously locals, but it was easy to spot the Scottish element as there were sporrans and kilts a plenty.  The groom, looking increasingly nervous at the front, was ushered into place and we turned to see the bride walking in from the back of the park,  with page boy and flower girl in front of her and her white dress flowing behind her.  It really was like a scene from an American movie, it couldn’t have looked more spectacular.  Even a family member that was not able to travel was ’there’ via a video link and we could see him sitting at home in his suit watching from the other side of the world. My God technology has made this a small planet.

It was a very personal ceremony with touching speeches and vows. I won’t go into details but it really was moving.  With the ceremonies completed, including a Scottish hand tying ceremony conducted by Titchy’s dad that looked like something from Game of Thrones, we mingled and took drinks on the lawn while the paperwork and photographs were completed.  I got to talk to a number of the groom’s side of the family that I had not met before and each and every one was so welcoming and interested in our travel stories and our impressions of their country and city.  Many had travelled from outside of the city to be there and their stories were really interesting.  We learnt that the birds were called bin chooks (they love to scrap about in bins) and that we were unlikely to find drop bears in this park; Koalas, that do just drop out of trees onto people’s heads.  I wasn’t sure if I was having my leg pulled, but they were either very interesting or very good at poker faces.

We all stopped chatting at one stage as one of the kilted youngsters, about 6 years old, suddenly ran across the front of the setting carrying a length of bamboo from the park that must have been about 5 meters long! Where he got it from or how he managed to carry it we will never know but it looked hilarious, especially with his kilted father running behind him to try and catch him to take it off him.

We made our way down to the restaurant inside the Botanical Gardens for our food and, after a champagne tower was completed, we were seated and welcomed the hearty meal that was put in front of us.  My daughter, having seen the menu back in the UK had been very excited at the idea of eating celeriac as, when she looked it up to see what it was, found out that it was called Knob Celery.  It’s the little things that entertain a teenager isn’t it?

The rest of the day passed in the blink of an eye.  The food was superb, the speeches were a perfect balance between laughing and crying, the disco was avoided by me but everyone else seemed to love it, the drinks flowed, the conversation got more raucous and kids started to fall asleep on seats.  I didn’t see any knee slides on the dance floor myself, but it must have happed, it was a wedding for goodness sake.  The evening ended with the married couple, who were just a picture of love and happiness throughout the entire day bless them, were paraded out of the venue through an archway of sparklers held aloft by merry and happy guests.

The almost pickled Scottish contingent finished off with a round of Auld Lang Syne and some Celtic dancing that nearly wiped out a few of the less wary antipodian guests but good fun was had by all and brought to an end just before it got to a Braveheart style standoff of us v them.  I am not sure which side off the battle front I would have lined up on, despite living so close to Scotland, I was learning to love the Aussies so maybe I could have reffed in the middle.

After what seemed a very long walk around the park to find an unlocked exit, which felt even further in crippling smart shoes, we collapsed into a cab and headed home.  We had travelled half way around the world to be there at huge expense and with huge amounts of planning going into the trip.  Today alone had made all of that very worth while.  Memories that will last forever, you can’t buy that in a shop.


Ripperoo Mate

Ripperoo Mate

I think that Susie Dent from Countdown would be able to confirm this for me, but I am sure there is a special word to describe that feeling you have the morning after you have spent the day on a hot beach on holiday.  Whatever that word is, I had it on the morning of our fourth day of the holiday.  I was tired and happy going to bed but I had a better night’s sleep as the jet lag began to subside.  Having said that, I was still up early and wide awake at 7am due to the traffic noise.

I sat in the kitchen, made a coffee and nibbled on some toast.  I suddenly felt a bit sad when I realised that the living room table was exactly the same Ikea table that we have in our games room back home.  We are on the other side of the world yet we have the same furniture, it shouldn’t be that way.  One of the reasons I like to travel so much is to see how people do things in different cultures and witness different ways of life.  It cannot be a good thing that half a world away people have exactly the same table, it was all a little bit sad in my eyes.

Kangaroo Tails

While we were galavanting at the beach the previous day, Titchy’s cousin had dropped off the keys to her car so that we could take it out on a day trip.   Once we were all washed and ready we all squeezed into the tiny Hyundai Getz, affectionately called Getzy,  and headed out towards McLaren Vale.  This was around a 45 minute drive outside of Adelaide centre and it was a world away from the busy and modern city.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t pass through a single area that looked untidy or rough, but it was rural and sparse and very obviously at the end of a very dry spell.   Imagine driving through rural England, but if it hadn’t rained for 4 months, then you wouldn’t be too far off.  Rather than lush greens and colours, it was all yellows and browns.  The big difference was the trees; they looked very different and many of them were without bark, as if it was too hot for even the trees to wear a jacket.

Our first stop was Woodstock Wine Estate, a vineyard with an exciting twist.  We skidded into the car park in a ball of dust as we were told that the main event was due to start at 11.30 and we arrived at 11.29.50 and we didn’t want to miss it!  It turns out that things were a little more relaxed than we thought and the show started whenever everyone was ready.  So we waited in a very modern and airy room where you could sample wine from the vineyards.  My eye was drawn to what looked like a WW2 flight helmet on a display behind the counter. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask about it but I have done my research back in Blighty instead.

G’day mate!

The helmet belonged to the ‘father’ of the vineyard, Doug Collett A.M., who served with the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War.  Towards the end of the war he flew over Europe and was inspired by the vast vineyards in Italy.  He was captivated so when he returned to Australia after the war, he studied and set up the vineyard.  It is a fascinating story and a reminder of how far the roots of war spread around the world but also a reminder of the good that could come out of wartime experiences as well as the bad. More of that later in the holiday, but read more here if you want to find out more about it.

So, what was the main event that I mentioned?  I’ll tell you what it was……..it was amazing.  We walked two minutes around the corner and though a metal gate in a four meter tall mesh fence.  In front of us was a huge field in which stood around a dozen kangaroos, joeys and a bloody great big emu.  The chap that was showing us around had a tray with around a dozen plastic drinks bottles which had been filled with milk and adapted with a rubber feeding teat like that on a baby bottle.  That’s right…..we got to feed the kangaroos!  They stood about four foot tall and were the nicest natured things you could wish for.  They were very obviously domesticated to a certain degree and used to human feeding, but they were lovely.  You could stroke them and, although they looked soft and fluffy, they were actually covered in very coarse, almost spiny hairs.  The best was yet to come though.  The guide, once the milk bottles had been emptied out, turned over to the solids.  What do you think they fed the kangaroos?  I’m going to guess that your guess was wrong here as they were handed dry Weetabix.  You should have seen their little cute faces as they held the biscuit in their little hands and gnawed away at the dry dullness.  Amazing memories that will last forever.

Milky milky 

According to Titchy’s relative, who was our guide for the day, the wine here was not the very best and so we headed to the next stop for the day.  It wasn’t until we were driving into the next vineyard did I realise that we had fed some kangaroos, petted a joey or two and got up close to an emu.  We had used their toilets and listened to their stories and had not spent a single penny.  I felt bad, but promised that the next time I had the chance, I would buy one of their bottles of wine to make amends.

The next stop was the Coriole Vineyards.  Those members of our party (which had swelled by meeting up with a group of Titchy’s Scottish clan) who were into their wine spent some time at the sampling station while I looked after the kids and the childish adults on the lawn where we kicked around a football in the roasting midday sun.  There were beautiful gardens and it was an idyllic setting.  We sort of spoiled it for the ‘proper’ guests with footballs bouncing around and the air filled with childish laughing and giggles.  I felt bad, but not bad enough to try and keep a load of kids interested in wine tasting as an alternative.

Next stop on Getzy’s tour was the Goodieson Brewery.    Again, the ‘proper’ adults in the party partook in a range of testing sized samples as we took delivery of a load of family sized, and quite perfect, pizzas that had been made offsite and shipped in with the owner’s consent. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, they were stone baked, fresh and topped with amazing flavours and sauces that an authentic Italian restaurant would have been proud of.

The lads started kicking a football around and, within 10 minutes, my boy had kicked the ball into a 3 meter deep ditch.  Our host, Titchy’s cousin’s groom-to-be, went to his car to pull out a cricket set.  Again, within 5 minutes the ball was at the bottom of the same ditch and so that was game over.  When they told me what had happened (there was left over pizza so I wasn’t in any mood to play sport), I strode over to the ditch ready to climb down to get the missing balls back.  I was warned not to and I thought that people were just being polite and didn’t want me to graze my knee or dirty my hands but when they said ’There might be snakes down there’ I very quickly turned tail and wrote them both off as a bad loss!  It really is a different world down there, I’d rather be safe in the cold than permanently terrified in the heat!

Leaving the sports equipment in the snake pit, we left the brewery and headed home in Getzy.  This time the phone gave us a route home on the motorway rather than the back roads that we arrived on which wasn’t as pretty but we got home little faster.  What we did notice was that each road bridge over the motorway carried a name tag and there were lovely names such as ‘Peppermint Road’ and “Honey Pot Lane”.

As we had the car, we decided to pop into the supermarket on the way home to pick up some basics.   When I say basics we cleared out Coles (their Tesco) of chocolates and treats to take home for friends.  We also picked up two pots of Pringles just because of their crazy flavour; “Mystery’ and ‘Buttered Popcorn’.  The idea with the mystery flavour was that you had to guess what it was as part of a competition and I have to remind myself to find out what the heck it was!  I’m not sure that ‘generic meat’ would be the right guess but it’s all I had.

Unpacked and back home I had time to kill and energy to spare.  I decided that I would go for a quick run around the area.  I didn’t get too far as running in that heat is bloody hard work, it was like running inside a sauna.  I did run past a most impressive building, St Peter’s College.  It looked like a watered down Hogwarts with lawns that looked like they were cut with nan scissors.  I wouldn’t like to guess how much that place cost per term.

For our evening entertainment we headed over to the bride and groom-to-be’s house to return Getzy and to enjoy a family get together and barbecue.  My little boy was desperate to throw another shrimp on a barbie but it wasn’t to be!  It was a lovely house in the suburbs and was really cool and stylish inside.  We settled at the big table in the back garden and chatted with strangers that quickly became friends.  The food was excellent, the drinks flowed and the company was superb.

The kids ran around on the lawn playing cricket, tag and generally larking about.  Of course my boy kept up his record of punting balls out of bounds and hit a glass with a stray throw that drenched a guest, but that’s just part of his charm.  Apparently.  I couldn’t get too upset with him as, later that night, I knocked over a glass and smashed it, much to his amusement.

Without the trusty Getz to get us home we ordered an Uber and had a good old chat with the driver on the way home.  Another day and the smiles were getting bigger and brighter day by day.

Glenelg. The longest palindromic named seaside town?

Glenelg. The longest palindromic named seaside town?

The Australian beer consumed the night before was meant to get me tired enough to sleep through anything.  A combination of the world’s nosiest road and the world’s worst bedroom window had other plans for me.  I was up around 6am and decided that left over baklava and instant coffee would be my best route to a good day.  It certainly wasn’t the worst start to a day!  It was weird sitting in the dark waiting for the family to wake up while listening to the evening news on the BBC.
As the rest of the gang woke up and made their way down for breakfast, the junior team members sat and watched YouTube on my daughter’s laptop while, at the same time, looking at whatever they were playing on their phones.  It’s weird how the young ones seem to be unable to focus on one single device for more than about 2 minutes. The only thing stranger than this is their reactions if you try to highlight it.  I wouldn’t bother if I were you, it’s not safe.  To be fair to them, it kept them quiet on the plane for 24 hours and I wasn’t complaining so maybe it wasn’t the best time to start now.

Washed and dressed, we were heading to the beach today.  We walked into town and picked up the tram from the first stop but, as we were heading all the way through to Glenelg on the coast, we had to pay for the tickets.  As with most public transport systems, apart from the Newcastle Metro I am quick to add, you were not able to purchase multiple tickets for your party in one transaction.  I ended up buying five separate day tickets in what became a marathon of button pressing and debit card tapping.

A kind old gent got on as I was part way through this and told us that we had to validate the tickets too.  This involved pushing the ticket into a validating machine whereupon a large clunking sound was made and that was us validated.  There was no visible sign on the ticket and so I wasn’t sure how they knew how long the ticket was valid for, but it all seemed pretty easy.  We got chatting to the kindly chap, who I would have been sure was the author Bill Bryson if it weren’t for his accent, and he had spent a number of years living in Hampshire.  Titchy got cornered by a lady who jumped onto the seat next to her.  She was, to put it politely, ‘relaxed’ and had obviously been up late or very early.  You could say that she was as relaxed as a newt.

The tram passed through dozens of stops and each place looked lovely. There were no rough areas that I could see and the suburbs looked a nice place to be with large, detached houses and neatly tended gardens.  The majority of the houses seemed to be single story and we never worked out what the reason for this was.  Someone, an Uber driver I think, suggested that it was was due to being on the flight path for the airport but I think he was guessing as it didn’t feel like a good reason to me.

As the tram pulled into Glenelg, the end of the line unless you wanted to drop into the Southern Ocean, my first impressions were that it was a lovely little coastal town.  The main street was split by the tram line but full of hip cafes and tourist shops and bars.  It was like Blackpool but without the scum.  We walked across the pedestrian area towards the sea and picked a lovely cafe called Boomers on the Beach with a view of the ocean and pier.

Once fed and watered we made our way to The Beachhouse.  This was a big attraction and made up of water slides, a railway, crazy golf, a soft play area, dodgems and arcades.  It all sounded great but this is where it got complicated and awkward.  Why awkward?  Because the guy that was there to help explain the process had arms that looked like they were chilled from granite with veins bulging out like a Mr Universe competitor.  That in itself wasn’t too awkward but me pointing out to him that his arms were amazing was and resulted in me feeling terrible and so I had to wander off a bit to give him the chance to compose himself.   That made the complex set up even worse as I couldn’t quite work out what he was saying from the distance I was stood way from him.

Essentially, there were different pricing models that were based on credits that you bought and put onto a credit card type system, or you could buy unlimited by count but limited by time vouchers and to be honest it was bloody hard work trying to work out who wanted to do what when and for how long and so where the best pricing would be set.  They need to think about that as it blew my mind and put us all off.  We ended up agreeing that we would play a round of mini golf to avoid the midday sun and then head down to the beach.

The course was small, poorly maintained and didn’t exactly put the ‘crazy’ into Crazy Golf.  The only saving grace was that we didn’t go on the train that looked like it went for about 50 meters in a loop around the golf course and would have been a huge disappointment.  Anyway, I won’t dwell on that as we didn’t go on it! We bought some water and headed down onto the beach and our first dip into the Southern Ocean.

The water wasn’t as warm as it looked but the sand was golden and fine and the water clear, and a refreshing break from the 28 degrees heat of the sun. I was so glad we were not there the week before when it was 40 plus degrees as I would have caught fire I think.  The weird part about the sea was how terribly localised the hot and cold spots were.  You could literally take a step in any direction and the temperate would rise or drop markedly. I think the heating was broken or something.

It was a great afternoon relaxing in the sun on the golden beach, idyllic in fact.  My boy soon got bored and fidgety so we wandered into the town to pick up a ball for him to kick around over the Volleyball courts of which there were plenty to pick from. As we walked off the beach we noticed a bag that had been next to us the whole time we had been there, a pink backpack.  We were nearly the last ones off the beach and there was no one around us that obviously owned it.  I reported it to two policemen who were on the public walkway and they told us that they would deal with it.

There is a heart shaped monument next to the beach that is obviously a great picture point and we had loads of photos taken on and around it.  As we packed up the bags ready to move on I was approached by two pretty young ladies and a guy.  ‘Hey, do you mind taking a picture for us, we are in a threesome relationship’.   I wasn’t, and I am still not, 100% sure why I needed to know this additional information, I was happy to take a snap no matter how they spent their evenings but I like to think that by not asking more questions or looking shocked it ruined their day slightly.

We headed into town where we had the choice of all four corners of the Earth in terms of eating options.  We picked a lovely little Mexican called Gringo’s Cantina that seemed to be staffed by two lasses that were about 15 years old.  We placed our food and drinks order at the bar and sat in the now cooling late afternoon and watched the world go by.  As the young lass placed the last drink on the table she turned to walk off and, as she did so, she caught the youngest member of our group, who had just returned from the toilet, under the eye with her metal tray.  It made the most comedic ‘ba-doing’ sound like a slapstick movie and made everyone laugh apart from the waitress who was beside herself.  It came up in a cracking bruise on his face but no long term damage.  That didn’t stop us pulling the legs of the girls behind the counter by saying that he could no longer count to ten such was his brain damage.  Maybe not the most sensitive of jokes to play on them but they quickly worked out the joke and laughed about it with us.  The worst part of all was they offered a free round of drinks for the table but the little bruised warrior rejected it on our behalf!

Stuffed to the gills on nachos and liquified cheese, we realised that it was getting close to sunset.  We picked up some ice creams and walked down to the pier to watch the sun drop below the horizon.  There must have been four groups of Chinese fishermen throwing crab nets off the end of the pier using what appeared to be a huge chuck of tuna steak as bait.  They were hauling the nets back up with blue crabs attached to the meat.  I am no expert in eating seafood, but I would have though that the tuna looked better than the crabs!


It was a stunning view and we watched the sun dip down below the horizon at what seemed like an artificially rapid rate, it genuinely felt like you were watching a motion capture video the speed that it dropped out of the sky.  All of this seemed ever more strange as a mermaid swam past the end of the pier.  I kid you not.  A young lady with blue hair and a long fishes tail from the waist down swam past us and waved up at the curious onlookers.  It really did make me think that someone had slipped some mind altering substances into my nachos, but I checked with Titchy and she confirmed that it was all real!

Well fed and watered and with amazing memories burnt into our minds, we walked back to the tram to begin our trek home.  I’m not sure exactly what the odds were, but a family had joined us on the same tram and were carrying the ‘missing’ pink bag from the beach.   It’s a small world.  We rode the tram all the way back into town and, using Google as our guide, we went to catch the bus up to our accommodation as we were too tired for the walk back after a long day in the sun.  It turns out that we hadn’t ‘bonked’ the ticket properly at all on the way out and so we were barred from travel on his bus.  A few confused looks and terrified faces and he let us on but warned us that we should know better next time; we couldn’t travel on the bus without tickets that had been validated on the tram.

We shared that 15 minutes on the bus with a very excited young man that was a little bit on the drunk side but desperately trying to impress two young ladies with his intelligent stories and, frankly, piss poor banter.  Even my 14 year old daughter could see that he just needed to shut up and enjoy the ride home as the girls, and everyone else within earshot were monumentally bored of him.  I blocked him out and tried to work out if we could use the tickets for another day or if that might lead us to be deported.  If you get deported from Australia for petty crimes, then where is the convicts’ convict colony…..the mind boggles and so I was happy when our stop jumped out on us to break my train of thought.  I didn’t want to think about the convicts’ convicts’ convict colony and beyond.

It had been a lovely day, I was beginning to fall in love with Adelaide.

Finding our feet

Finding our feet

It didn’t take long to work out what the problem with the Air BnB was, the master bedroom was about 10 meters away from a major road into and out of the city and the windows appeared to be made out of tissue paper.  In many ways the ambient sound of Australia is like the US, the big V8 and V12 engines being markedly different to the engine sound of the UK.  Mix those up with the frequent ambulance sirens that seemed to go on all night and it was far from a solid night’s sleep.

I think we all got up at around 10am and I took middle child for a walk to suss out the area and see if we could pick up some provisions for breakfast.  Once we stepped outside of the house you get a very clear appreciation of just how hard the air-con had been working, it was like stepping into the mid-day heat on a Greek island but at 10am.   The weird thing was that the chauffeurs from the previous evening had asked if we knew how to operate the ‘central cooling system’.   It was as if everything on the other side of the world was the other way around like we were in a Mr Men story.

My boy and I walked around the local area that was made up of a hot potch of commercial buildings, none of which sold anything edible or drinkable.  Eventually we ended up finding a little clump of shops at St. Peters where we picked up a takeaway pizza menu from Dominoes.  I chatted to the guy and started a theme that would continue for the rest of the holiday.  Everyone we spoke to had, at some stage, lived or worked in England.  Typically they seemed to head for Brighton or London, but never further north than Nottingham.

‘Chef Dong’ stuck in my mind for some reason

Still lacking food, we tried the place next door called ‘Hello Dolly’ that was a Lebanese cafe.  We picked up a few bottles of fruit juice from the fridge and four pieces of Baklava from under the counter and that came to £18.  I was worried that this holiday might bankrupt me!   By the way, when I say that the Baklava was ‘under the counter’, I meant that it was in the refrigerated section rather than illegal contraband that wasn’t on display.

What made the world’s most expensive baklava all the more annoying was that no one wanted to eat it when we got back. Apparently our little walkabout had taken longer than expected so we returned to frosty faces and empty breakfast dishes.  We made ourselves scarce and then got ready for the day ahead. We got dressed and walked through the park and into the city centre.  On the way down we passed the festival site that was packing up having finished, typically, at almost exactly the same time that we landed the previous night.

We wandered through the town and the streets were wide with no litter or graffiti.  There were, of course, the usual high street shops and eateries that you would expect to see but there were also a wide range of independent shops and cafes that made it a very nice wander for us all.  We stopped off at a bar to cool down and, ignoring the lovely independent cafes, we decided to try out the Belgian Beer Cafe.  The two people behind the bar were lovely and chatty and made us feel most welcome.  We sipped our chilled drinks and watched the world go by for a while before wandering down to the pedestrianised shopping street for a wander.

As we had a few fussy and complex eaters in the party, we settled on a food court underneath a shopping centre so that we could all pick what we wanted. We arrived just before 5 o’clock and everything was starting to close down and so the choices were limited. We sat and ate our meals with Australian sparrows darting around all over the place to pinch our crumbs.  A procession of sporty and fit looking professionals walked past us on the way to the gym after work and I was quickly getting a feel that Adelaide was a lovely place to live and work.  I liked it.

The transport options were plentiful and snazzy.  There were lots of busses zipping through town that we would come to try out in the coming days and a tram system that was free for the majority of trips around the centre of town and we used that as a hop on hop off system.  It was cool, frequent and safe and led to lots of conversations with people eager to find out where our ‘cool’ accents were from.  The coolest way to get around town was obviously a company that is trying to be the next billion dollar start up, Lime.  For less than a quid you could unlock an electric scooter and whizz around town with a skinny flat white in your hand and the wind blowing through your hipster moustache. They were dumped all over town and came with a snazzy free safety helmet. I did try one out as they didn’t seem to be locked up but after a meter or two a piercing alarm went off so I scurried off looking guilty.

As the shops were beginning to close and the night shift was beginning to start we set off for home.  As we walked to the tram station we started to follow a family up the road that had obviously been out for a very nice dinner.  What looked like the mother and a younger couple in their early forties were walking to the taxi that had pulled up at the side of the road and the father, a fragile but very upright and professional looking follow in his early seventies I would guess, had cleverly delayed his walk to the car to put some space between him and the rest of the party.

Our group were walking much faster than him and were about to pass him on either side.  Just as we were getting on his shoulder he let out the longest and satisfyingly bubbly sounding fart that I think I have ever heard.  The juxtaposition between the very high class family dinner that had been enjoyed with one assumes sparkling, witty and serious conversation and this farting old chancer was hilarious and it took everything that we had not to collapse in a heap laughing.  We held it together until we were a safe distance away, made eye contact with each other and said in unison, “did you hear that?” in disbelief.

We rode the tram to the far end of the free ride section and all the way back to ‘home’ just so that we could see more of the town and take in the lovely sunset.  At the end of the line the tram driver had a good chat with us.  We told him where we were staying and he gave us directions, up to the Maid and the Magpie then take a left.  He then explain that his parents had been the owners of the pub many years ago and it was a place we should check out.

A Magical Evening 

It was too early to sit in the house all night and so we stopped off at the iconic pub.  It first opened in 1896 but had, very obviously, been renovated a few times since as it was modern and fresh inside.  We sat and watched reruns of English Premier League football matches and EPL cricket in one of the oldest licensed premises in Australia.

The ladies of the group soon got bored and so we asked if they had any playing cards.  We were given a promotional pack from a box behind the bar and told that they were ours to keep.  That summed up Australia so far for me, yet again, people were so kind and happy to help that it was a pleasure to be there.

Going underground

Going underground

It had been a busy week in the run up to departure.  I had been to Manchester for work and had been running around sorting out last minute holiday shopping and phone repairs.  Titchy had spent most of that week either writing packing lists or actually packing.  Seriously, four days of preparation and planning to fill a case with underpants and shorts.  Rather than worrying about the packing, I was more worried about the practicalities.  We had booked a car to get us from Adelaide down to the ferry to Kangaroo Island and all that I could focus on was what we would do if we couldn’t fit the 5 of us and the suitcases into the car.

I didn’t have too much time to think about the holiday as Titchy had been the organiser more so than me.  Truth be told, I wasn’t that excited about going to Adelaide.  If you go to Paris, you see the Eiffel Tower. Go to Rome and you see the Colosseum.  Go to Egypt and you see the Pyramids.  But what do you go to Adelaide for?  All of the research that I had done suggested that there were vineyards and pretty gardens to look at, but no focal point.  I was looking forward to the break and the warm weather, but not really sure that Adelaide would be the place for me.

On departure day, we said goodbye to the cats and set off for the airport.  It had rained heavily overnight and the roads were flooded, the perfect way to depart for warmer weather I think….leaving the folks at home in the rain and the cold for maximum social media smugness.  We were at the airport in plenty of time, as you might expect, and as it was outside of term time for the schools and a Saturday, it was remarkably quiet and stress free.

It wouldn’t be a trip to the airport without it!

It was to the the first time that I had flown with Emirates and my expectations were very high.  I don’t know huge amounts about international airlines and so all of my expectations have to be down to Emirates marketing efforts.  They  sponsor the big sporting teams and venues and, to me, were a luxury brand that would be a nice little treat.  How wrong I was.  Maybe my expectations having been built up was always going to lead to a disappointment for economy travel but it was all a bit drab and tired.
My daughter wanted to get some homework done on the plane to get it out of the way but it wasn’t possible as the internal lights didn’t work for our seats.  The hostesses were perfectly pleasant about it but nothing could be done about this or the USB charging point that didn’t work at all.  I was also disappointed with the entertainment choices, there were no films that really caught my fancy and the TV shows on offer were not great either.  Having said that, as we flew on a Saturday we had a live stream of the Premier League fixtures and that provided a few hours of fun.  It might actually be cheaper to fly back and forth to Dubai every weekend than it would be to pay for a Sky subscription.  The live football was slightly offset by the kid behind me repeatedly kicking me up the arse, but what can one do?

The lack of entertainment did, however, leave me with lots of time to focus on my other hobby, people watching.  Despite checking in pretty early, we had not been able to get a window seat which is always a shame as the plane often flies over our house as you come out of Newcastle Airport.  What made this all the more disappointing was that the person, who was travelling alone and sitting in the window seat spent the entire flight with the window shutter down and not taking any interest in the world below.  The swine.

Despite requesting the adult meal options for my 11 year old boy on check in, he was given children’s meals with big old plastic cutlery.  He wasn’t happy but, in all honesty, you couldn’t have made a decent dinner by picking the best out of the adult and child options.  As there were a few picky eaters in the party, I was able to enjoy about three meals in each sitting but wouldn’t say any of them were truly actually enjoyed and to ask for Coke and receiving Pepsi, it pretty much cemented the none-premium brand in my mind!

After some disappointing sandwiches, which seemed to have a filling of ‘more dry bread’ we arrived into Dubai a little later than planned.  This resulted in a quick run across the airport and didn’t really give us the chance to take too much in before we got our connection to Adelaide.  What I did see was a lot of classless bling, perfectly summarised by a huge golden palm tree in the middle of the terminal.  I think that was pretty much all I wanted to see of Dubai…it was all fur coat and no knickers.

The twelve hour flight to Adelaide passed without too much excitement.  My only worry being that we had some English chocolates in our hand luggage that contained fruit and nuts.  I wasn’t sure if we could get that past the very strict Australian customs.  I couldn’t just eat it as it had melted, despite the Twirls that we had with us being perfectly fine.  To save us appearing on the next episode of Border Force being escorted to a side room, we just ditched it in a bin once we landed and walked past a very friendly customs check. I said hello to the three border force guys watching over us and got my first authentic ‘How ya going mate?’ In response and was as happy as Larry to be down under.

As we walked into the airport, there were a lot of people waiting to greet relatives or friends. A young girl had a huge poster with ‘Welcome to Oz’ written on it, despite not having a clue who she was, I thanked her very much for the welcome.  She looked very confused and as if she was going to burst into tears so I kept going and spotted our very own welcoming party further down the way.  To see Titchy’s Australian relatives together for the first time in over a year was amazing, to do it in Adelaide seemed surreal, especially after a long journey across so many time zones!

We hugged and greeted each other and then they offered to drive us to our Air BnB diggs on the other side of town.  We split into two cars and drove across town taking in the sights.  Titchy’s Aunt and Uncle explained that the main centre of the town was a mile square and that it was skirted on all sides by parks and greens with the suburbs taking over from there.  It looked very clean and smart and the first impressions of the city were great. I couldn’t wait to get in to have a look around, but only after some sleep!  I had applied 36 hour deodorant twice since I had last slept and it was time to catch up but the journey had been fine, and the kids had been amazing considering their age and addiction to WiFi.

The Air BnB was outside of the centre, on the East side of the city near College Park.  It was a very modern and clean building on Payneham Road. We had no idea what was around us but we did know that there was a bed upstairs and that’s all that we could focus on.  We were on the other side of the world, we had had a good journey and we were ready to begin the adventure!