On New Year’s Eve, I was in Armidale with my family. We were tucked up inside our little campervan at the Pembroke Caravan Park where it was hot enough during the day to swim in the pool and cold enough at night to snuggle up under a quilt. Perfect, in my opinion.

We’d been on a driving trip from Brisi to Dubbo with friends to take the children to the zoo. The day we went biking the 15km around the Western Plains Zoo, the temperature hovered around 33degrees with humidity that was, well, bloody high, and apparently record crowds. My husband had a rotten cold/flu and spent the entire time sneezing and blowing his nose. I’m not that good with heat. Or bikes. Most of the animals were too hot to be bothered emerging from the water or shady corners. My kids are the kind to say ‘oh yeah, there it is, let’s go’. Still, I’m glad we went. But our friends loved every minute of it. 

In Armidale, at Pembroke Caravan Park, the owners invited us all to a NYE BBQ beside the pool. There was quite a turn out. My kids were swimming in the pool while I drank Banrock Station white Shiraz ( highly recommended) and spoke to a lady about all things from retirement to Tim Winton. On the later point we shared a mutual affection. The condition to attending the BBQ was to be prepared to share a story and I thought, well, given I’m a writer, that should be ok. But I spent most of the salad and sausage course hoping I wouldn’t be called upon to say anything. The lady I was talking to disappeared every few minutes to have a cigarette, really, this is my only vice, she said each time before departing, which made our conversation – which I was quite enjoying – rather disjointed. I listened to the conversations all around me. Oldies, mostly, discussing their medical ailments, really, you have diabetes, too. Which kind? There was the man in the corner, red-faced and sweating explaining the virtues of different caravan park amenity blocks, really, the quality ranges from the adequate to the plain inconsiderate. Imagine a man my size (picture a happy walrus on two legs, here) trying to squeeze into a cubicle fit for a child, or trying to get my entire body wet with a showerhead so clogged only one stream of water works and that shoots out in an unpredictable squirt. Dessert concluded  and the owner of the park stood and thanked everyone for coming. Story time. I was happily distracted watching one son in the pool and the other on the playground and hoped to avoid being asked. I needn’t have worried. Person after person volunteered telling us all about themselves, where they had come from and, while they came from such diverse places as Germany, Perth, New Zealand and ‘up the road from Glenn Innes’, they all concluded their sharing by saying how much they appreciated the BBQ. One bloke, close to tears, told about how he’d been on the road for years and wouldn’t go back to a fixed way of living for anything, when I’m dead, the misses can kick me out the door on the way to the next town. I’ve got a van full of cards from friends I have made in parks. You won’t find communities like this staying in motels, I  can tell you that. There were three votes of thanks offered to the owners of the park that night, and three rounds of applause. Not because any of the people who stood and said, ‘I think we should show our appreciation’ thought any of the other two were inadequate, but that hearing isn’t always that good by the time you’re old enough to take off around Australia and two rounds of applause and cheers simply  weren’t noticed. 

I found myself soaking up every inch of my experiences this holiday. The way that tree branches vary in colour from reds and oranges to the most glowing whites. The way the leaves from some trees are silver and shimmer as though they are a colony of a thousand, miniature insects. The sense of an endless road. The feeling of the caravan bumping along behind us. The worry of whether we’d double checked the tow ball. The surprising arrival of lavender and sunflowers and daisies. The feeling of heat and tiredness and dogged determination to finish the bike trail at the zoo. The way anger rushed up inside me every time my kids decided to belt into each other in the back seat or the way some people love what others loathe. The relief of cold water, the feeling of cold wind on my face. The words that people say, the way they look and think and interact. And, yes, stories. Too many, too important, too fragile to share, yet. 


One Response to “”

  1. Jo Sandhu Says:

    Hey, Belinda, after an ‘off-line’ sort of Xmas and NY I thought I’d browse through a few blogs to catch up with the latest news. Guess what? I’ve been to Pembroke Caravan Park, too! Great holiday and my kids rate it as one of their favourites, ahead of an apartment on Darling Harbour, Great Ocean Road, Barossa Valley, Cairns and NZ. Why? Because there was a pool AND a tennis court, and you could just walk out of your cabin to them. AND you could go outside to the toilet. I’m hoping they mean the Amenities Block. Have a great 2009, Jo.

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