Here’s the thing about grief, it never stops being painful. Instead, we learn to build our lives around it, and before we know it we can go for days, weeks and months without the tears falling, and then out of nowhere, unbeknownst to us they reappear and stop us in our tracks; a memory, a song, a flickering thought. A couple of weeks ago I found myself really missing my mum, I miss her every day, but on the days I miss her most I’ve learnt as the years have passed by to allow myself the time to stop and think about her, to accept the ache in my heart and to let the tears flow. I wasn’t intending to write this next blog, with Christmas approaching I’m usually bereft with festive crafting and filling the calendar within an inch of our lives of days out to meet Santa and our loved ones, little time is left for writing. This year was always going to be different, Coronavirus has seen us in a second lockdown, after which the whole country has exited into tiers which all impact socially who we can and can’t see, and somehow I haven’t quite yet found my festive spirit to accomplish the usual traditions. What would mum do in this scenario I wondered, and before I know it, I’m half way through the travel journal below and knee deep in memories that are pulling me out of what’s felt like a tough couple of days, and it occurs to me, that grief if we allow it, can be bring a calmness and center our inner selves. When I think of mum, I’m comforted by the thought that she embraced so much while visiting us in Australia, with a willingness to make it the best three weeks engaging with everybody. Despite knowing when it was over that we weren’t travelling back with them, nor knowing when she’d see us in person again, my mum had a knack of ‘keeping her chin up,’ I assume to spare us seeing how she really thought, even at the airport she held herself together, and it was this thought that’s pulled me back to the surface. I know instantly what my mum would do; she’d crank up the Christmas tunes and get on with it. She’d remind me that with a little togetherness, despite the distance, we can make Christmas 2020 the best it can be. And so, the crafting, the baking, the decorating, the music, and the Christmas movies all begin, and with these the magic and Christmas spirit follows. As Santa would say in the movies; my Clausometer is back up to full speed.
What was it in this journal entry that focused me? Well, let’s begin with the famous ‘Dulwich Hill fart.’ When I talk about packing up and moving on from the hostel to mum and dad’s spacious apartment, I will always remember the feeling of love between a father and daughter; that feeling of being rescued, knowing that your father will always be there for you no matter how old you get is like no other. However, it wasn’t that love, it was the smell that vacated us within the hour. Someone had filled the room with the smelliest fart of all time, I’m laughing as I type this, you are too. The saying ‘those who smelt it dealt it’ has never sat well with me, I will always own up (often with a sense of achievement) to a fart, as will Nathan, and I’m fairly confident I can put my trust in Rachel who shares in many a sibling fart story, so that left my mum and dad. To this day it has never actually been confirmed, but all eyes led to mum; there was something about the glint in her eye, and her giggled denial. That fart made history, and to date, no other has ever cleared a room as fast – although there have been many attempts.
Deidre and Rob are now living in Wollongong and once again had offered to host us for a few nights on our last visit, complete with the same hospitality they’d shown my family in 2007. For every year that has passed since arriving home in 2007 I have kept the same photograph of us all sitting around their table having feasted on a great Aussie BBQ displayed on our fridge, it has come from home to home – a constant reminder of what generosity and kindness looks like when you choose to open your home to strangers. Walking around Wollongong it felt familiar and comfortable, despite how much development has happened. Walking past the Rugby League Stadium I thought of Dad’s love for the game, and of my South Sydney Rabbitoh’s hoody that must be 10 years old, bought by Dad one Christmas after our travels, and as our walk passed by the beach I was thinking about the photo that hangs in our bathroom, taken at the beach in Wollongong with Mum and Dad. I mention about Mum looking amazing in her bikini, I suspect, or have a vague recollection of a phone conversation about her buying the bikini but feeling self-conscious about wearing it. Mum was 49 when she visited Australia, I remember her stepping out of her towel onto the beach in her bikini and thinking – ‘I hope I look this good when I’m 49.’ I’ve mentioned this before, I’d definitely added weight while we were away, I’m confident looking back that I was squeezing my size 14 body into size 12 clothing, but the wonderful thing about body acceptance is that I wasn’t doing this because I was unable to accept my weight increase, it was purely because I didn’t’ want to spend hard earned money on material, I wanted the adventure to last, and for this to happen we needed as many dollars in our bank accounts as possible. Seeing a vulnerability in my mum’s image of herself might have been sad, she’s always taught us to love the body we have, but instead it was a confirmation of the relationship we had, the trust she had in her daughters to be truthful in speech, and her smile as she danced across the beach was one of a mother content with life. We’d previously not long after their arrival walked the Coogee to Bondi beach coastal route, I remember mum having terrible back ache on this walk, she told me it was probably from the flight over, but I could tell she had something else on her mind, a few days later on Wollongong Beach she was running around without a care in the world and her back ache was never mentioned again. I’ve often looked at the photo in our bathroom and wondered if she knew then, or at least if she had an inkling, that her Cancer had returned. It was later that same year that she had the diagnosis confirmed, she would have been 10 years clear from her previous two Cancer battles, what lay ahead was to be months of chemotherapy and hope for a cure that doesn’t exist yet. It’s always going to be painful to think of the things she’s missing out on, instead I remain incredibly grateful that before Mum was too ill to enjoy it, she made the trip to Australia, and as fate would have it, she managed to spend time with her nephew from New Zealand which meant the world to her, with Nathan and Andrew, son-in-laws I know she approved of despite not being at either wedding, and with myself, Rachel and her husband – one final family holiday throwing caution to the wind – and what an adventure we all had. Last weekend we were on a family walk, running past me and off into the distance was a relatively ‘buff’ looking man with dreadlocks, Nathan had clocked him too, and as I responded saying he reminded me of someone my mum had once said she’d had a celebrity crush on, he surprised me knowing the answer; Daniel Day Lewis from The Last of the Mohicans. It turned out it wasn’t just me my mum had shared this information with. I’m convinced if Daniel Day Lewis had seen my mum rocking her bikini you may have had a fight on your hands Dad; part of what keeps mum with me is being able to connect these past memories with the current, and recognise that grief is the price we pay for the love we had.
One of my all-time favourite birthdays was my 26th, despite the need for a sick bucket at the end. At what point as parents do we accept our children are going to drink themselves into an oblivion, and join in? This isn’t a rhetorical question, more a moment for pondering. Over the years I’ve had the odd remark from my mum about not needing to drink quite so much (all of which was most likely warranted), but genuinely, I’ve never been embarrassed to have my mum on a night out with me, in fact, I’ve actively encouraged her to join me and to meet my friends where she would always become central in the fun. Alcohol is a relationship I best like shared with likeminded people; together we get silly, dance and sing like no one is watching, all of which happened on my 26th birthday with friends who I am still in contact with now. Some years later, 2010, in Dubai I found myself needing a sick bucket after drinking Amaretto from a saucepan, these photos were shared on Facebook (the drinking, not the sick bucket) as a source of entertainment. One of Nathan’s Aunties called from the UK, she asked Nathan a question about whether he thought I had a drinking problem. I am so thankful that many of my younger more youthful antics remain at best a memory, and worst a photograph in an album that remains private. My first reaction was to laugh off Nathan’s Auntie’s comment, but something about it resonated. I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I was drinking excessively – why? The best answer I could come up with, was to fit in. Dubai will always hold a special place in my heart, I hope to introduce Isabel and Zack to some Emirati culture one day, but it took a while to adjust to this. There is a hierarchy in Dubai that we don’t have in the UK – here in the UK everyone has a right to be equal, in the UAE you are offered a job based on your nationality and paid accordingly. This was hard to accept; I drank to forget the uncomfortableness of my privileged position as a Western woman. I decided a few weeks after this comment to never drink from a pan again – and I haven’t. (You didn’t think I was going to say drinking altogether did you?) I didn’t stop feeling uncomfortable, instead I approached my Filipino colleagues and asked questions to learn about their culture and what it is was that brought them to Dubai. In time, I learned to understand what drives different cultures, and am happy to say my colleagues became trusted friends. It was around this time we decided to try for a baby, Dubai had shaken me to the core. Since mum had died in the October previous, in less than a year I had married Nathan and moved to this new country, I was studying and working a job I’d previously never considered; I was teaching in a Nursery. So many life changes, so little time to stop and think. One drunken photo on social media that I could have easily dismissed and laughed off, one flippant comment based on this, and my whole life changed direction again. The next time my Dad visited we had one of the most memorable road trips of my life to Oman, we visited all the iconic sites, and of course we frequented my favourite chain of bars, we were last in this one together in the journal below where I failed to mention my error of ordering Tartare believing it was steak served ‘blue’ – I was mortified to discover it was raw and had the embarrassment of returning it in exchange for something cooked – The Belgium Beer Café. Only this time I wasn’t drinking, I was instead witnessing a £50 bet being written on a branded pub serviette of which sex the first grandchild would be. I’m happy to report I’ve never needed a sick bucket since, and excess drinking isn’t something I do often (hangovers with children are not a pleasant experience), but I do like to share in alcoholic drinking with friends and family, and in the future, I hope that Isabel and Zack can avoid drunken images being shared on social media and choose a healthy relationship with alcohol that comes with friendships to match, but know that I’ll be dancing by their sides whenever they allow me to, and just like my mum did for me, I’ll grab the sick bucket if needed. For now, I will settle for having been able to resend a current photo from our favourite bar at The Rocks in Sydney to my Dad, knowing only too well he will retaliate with various photos in bars from locations on my ‘must visit’ list. I look forward to the ongoing WhatsApp photo exchanges of ‘guess where I am real ale pints’ between a father and son-in-law, with bonus points if an alcoholic Ginger Beer has been discovered, and I will continue to wait for the ‘green light’ that says we are safe to frequent a pub without needing to buy a substantial meal (current UK Coronavirus laws depending which Tier we fall into) with my Dad, because although dancing on the tables isn’t his thing, it’s often the place where crazy ideas become reality; we once planned a road trip to Ireland and a secret Christmas gift to Iceland whilst drinking real ale, neither were a thought beforehand but both became a reality). Incidentally it was my Dad who was presented with the £50 cash for correctly guessing his first grandchild would be a girl, there was no second attempt made for Zack – Nathan has never been one for making a winning bet.
I’ve definitely mentioned Byron Bay before, its where I feel closest to mum despite being thousands of miles from where I’m currently living. This has never mattered to me, I can picture it all so vividly, and reading the journal below its clear it was a time filled with laughter, one that we repeated in 2019, and one I am hopeful of repeating in the future. I remember as we drove on to the next destination the tears that filled in my eyes, I felt like I was saying goodbye to mum all over again, but the further we drove the more that feeling settled as the chatter from her grandchildren took over and filled the space bringing with it a sense of peace. On the road trip with mum I remember her staying awake during the whole journey back overnight, refusing to sleep so she could make sure whichever of the two of us was driving, me or Nathan, that we had someone to talk to. Incidentally, although wide awake and sat up front, she wasn’t necessarily focused on the road, and momentarily distracted by something random she’d said I drove over a dead kangaroo waking the entire car up as we thudded back to four wheels on the road, but aside from this I was grateful for the company, she was my security blanket, constantly checking in. I do this. I can’t sleep on long road trips – I sing whether I know the lyrics or not, I talk absolute nonsense, and I’m always checking in on the need to pull over to eat, pee or rest. In these moments, with the night sky and moon shining down, I know my mum is always somewhere within me, my constant. Road trips this Christmas are going to be few and far between, the opportunity to follow the seasons traditions feel stolen, yet the bigger picture is clear, 2020 continues to be a year like no other, sacrifices have been made by every single person worldwide in one way or another, each of us affected differently and still so much uncertainty remains as to how 2021 will look. This year has been the year we stayed apart to protect our loved ones, and as I think of all the yellow hearts being worn, placed in windows, and displayed on iconic buildings to remember the family members who’ve lost their lives to Covid-19, I bow my head, I breathe, I know their grief journeys are just beginning. We can’t be together this Christmas, just like we weren’t when I travelled Australia and lived in Dubai, but one things for sure, we have internet connection, we can be creative in new ways, and when I look around I feel lucky that I have many wonderful family and friends still here to embrace this new normal with, so just like mum would have, I shall keep my chin up, and wish everyone a very merry ‘socially distanced’ Christmas – because living through this moment in time is going to be one hell of a moment in history to say we made it though.
Dear Isabel and Zack – I can’t tell you how often me and Auntie Rachel have fallen out because its more fingers and toes than I have, I’ve even fallen out with your Grandad many a time. You are going to fall out with each other, and we’ll fall out too. But let it be known that with the right amount of cooling off space (and this varies from less than a day to at most a couple of weeks depending how stubborn you are feeling), we’ve always worked to resolve our disagreements. This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion – never be afraid to argue yours; it just means you have to be accepting of each other’s values that will differ to your own. The argument we had in the journal below in that exact moment felt huge (huge enough to note it in my journal), the next morning not so (saying goodbye at the airport brings back perspective), and 13 months later caused the biggest laugh when we were out celebrating with a meal for Father’s Day for your Grandad. We asked each other what our favourite things were that we’d done when we were together in Sydney – Auntie Rachel proudly responded with her visit to the Ice Bar at Circular Quay. There was a moments silence as we all remembered that as being the moment she’d stormed out of our last evening meal together, leaving us clueless as to where she was. We considered looking for her but reasoned it was Uncle Andrew’s job to play the knight in shining armour (they’d not been dating too long) so let him take lead, instead we retired to a different pub to mull it over. The silence didn’t last long, we were soon laughing, because ultimately that argument became the moment Rachel had decided that Andrew was for keeps – and it turns out Andrew felt the same way – so to cut a long story short, what was to follow was a ring, a wedding, and two miracle children – your cousins; Frank and Effie. The bond the two of you are building now, age 3 and 8, is one that as years go by, I hope will help you conquer your ever changing relationship, just like mine and Auntie Rachel’s; as sisters go, she’s an absolute keeper who is always here for me (and you) when the time comes.
Dear Mum – This Christmas for you I’ll be making Australian rissoles, I’ve never given them a thought until I read this journal, I wonder if when I make them the taste will bring me instantly back to you in Sydney? Whilst I do this I’ll be listening to Nathan and Andrew prepare for a video concert using the didgeridoos that have pride of place in both our homes – but as of yet are broken promises of being learnt how to be played professionally.
March 2007 - The final leg of our travels and the arrival of the Todd Tribe.
As usual we will get you up to speed with the goings on in our travels, and where better to start then with the arrival of the Todd tribe. We couldn't wait to see them arrive into Sydney airport and made sure we had the largest welcome sign (and when we say largest wait till you see the photos) on show. It’s a good job they were so tired as I think they'd have been even more embarrassed otherwise.
Next was to check them into their extremely well-spaced apartment in Coogee that Mum and Dad had booked, after which we decided there was a huge need to take them back to Dulwich Hill Hostel and plead the need our case to move us in with them. Needless to say we didn't need to plead, Dad took one look and within the first hour of their arrival our bags were in the car heading back to Coogee. Phew - bye bye Dulwich Hill, although looking at Dad's face I think he thought we were living in a prison of some kind so was more than happy to sign the papers for release, I didn’t have the heart to tell him this was one of the better hostels. Next came a plan of who wants to do what, naturally sealed with a few beers as a sign of approval.
We began with the well-trodden Coogee to Bondi walk, and as pleasant as it was with a nice breeze, the sun burn that followed left a lot to be desired and was the first lesson for the Todd's – apply more sun cream. We took a pleasant trip back to Picton to see Edwin and June, with a second chance for dinner at the bowling club - fantastic. Having said that, Dad was a little disappointed at only being shown the home brew pub at the end of the orientation. We took the rather winding road down to Wollongong beach and introduced the willing Todd's to the body boards. Wollongong it turns out is an amazing beach and we were slightly disappointed we hadn't ventured down before. We made the most of the time which included seeing Dad make a spectacular dive for the Frisbee (flat on ‘yer arse eh dad?), and mum in a bikini - looking amazing. Next mum and dad went to Parramatta for the day, so Rachel got to spend the day as real ‘backpacker,’ assisting us on a trip to the DVLA to finally transfer Stanley into our names. Together, we all ended the afternoon on Coogee beach - oh how we'll miss living by the sea.
The arrival of the kiwi cousin was to follow the next day, and Jed you sure know how to arrive in style. For some bizarre reason after missing the airport transfer you decided to catch a bus to Coogee but managed to get off quite a few stops before, and instead attempted to hike the rest of the way to us. By the time we realised you were running late, and had located you, we told you to stay put, we’d come to you. You really weren't difficult to spot, you were stood bare backed (having lost your favorite T-shirt) and looking rather hot in the mid-day heat. What an entrance. The rest of the day continued in quite a comedic way too. After a trip from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, Mum, Rachel me and Nathan visited the 3D Imax theatre (it wasn't that good), while Dad and Jed hit the James Squire pub. By the time everyone was together at the James Squire including our Welsh friend Damion, we were all soon more than a little tipsy. Mum (bless you) had the job of taking Dad and Jed back to the Coogee, while the rest of us continued drinking in Sydney, well we went to scruffy Murphy's and had as good as night as any other bar I’m sure. A photo of Rachel sat on the steps of the bus holding on to a pole the whole way home will stay with me forever. And as the stories the next morning continued, it transpires Jed had fallen asleep on the bus, and then concluded the evening by running up and down Coogee bay road rather drunk with my mum trying to track him – a classic Todd tale if ever I’ve known one.
The next day it was my birthday, I’m hitting the grand old age of 26. We took a trip to Watson’s Bay on the ferry where we lazed on the beach and swim in the calm waters, this followed with a walk around the bay where we passed Lady beach- a popular nudist beach that wasn't missing its fair share of people! We ate a rather disappointing takeaway from the famous fish and chip restaurant Doyle's, I am however grateful we hadn't paid full price sitting in the restaurant. As the rain set in it was time to return and make way for the real ‘Lindsay’ style birthday. As planned that evening the Aussies, the Welsh, and the Pommes met up at the Coogee Bay Hotel at 7pm. By midnight I was back at the apartment looking worse for wear having drank seven or eight pints of Guinness (it was St Paddy's day and I was trying to get a T-shirt for everyone), and the final ‘night ending’ shot bought by Lisa and produced by Andrew (neither wants to take responsibility). I think waking up to the sick bucket in the morning proved what a good night it was – why do we do this to ourselves? Thanks for all the cards from back home, this includes those of you who sent us some dollars, the winning present goes to Sam for the marmite - Oh how I’ve missed marmite.
We joined a fair few thousand people the next day, sporting a bright green sun cap, walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Even with a hangover I think we all enjoyed it, and made history by being there. Dinner at the Lowenbrau was just delicious, and here we were able to insist Rachel renamed the Todd tribe sign for the arrival of the latest addition, Andrew, so off we went to airport arrivals. Aware of how jet lag works we had a lazy day on Bondi beach the next day. Dad made it into the waves (mum was a pro by this point) and soon enough got the hang of staying upright on the body board. The beach cricket set we bought second hand proved fun but was short lived; the tennis ball was not of a hard nature so kept splitting, and after Andrew caught Rachel out on her first bat the sight of her running after him with the cricket bat, steam out of her ears, pretty much sealed the end of the game. Attempting a game of Frisbee, this too was short lived when it landed flat in the middle of some blokes ‘peacefully sunbathing ‘stomach. We sent mum to collect it! Later that evening me, Nathan and Dad visited the Aussie Stadium for the NRL game Sydney Roosters Vs South Sydney. Not having a team to support was a little strange but the atmosphere was still great, needless to say we didn't arrive back from the Observer in the rocks till 2am.
Once the drama of how everyone was going to travel to Glenbrook NP had been sorted we set up for a day/overnight camp. The initial set up went to plan, and once everyone had adapted to the intense heat as much as possible we began to enjoy camping. We promised everyone they would see wild kangaroos at the National Park and thank goodness they didn't disappoint, they were out in full force and ready to amuse is with their antics. We attempted another game of cricket, but with no one around it gave the opportunity to bat at full force which proved fatal as the heat was too intense to keep running so once again it was short-lived. I was determined to make tea for everyone (all 7 in total) and think I did a half decent job seen as the weather took a drastic turn and decided a down pour was needed. This meant seven people huddled under the tarp, with two chairs and one very small picnic rug to sit on and share. Still no-one complained and as dark had begun to set in everyone had getting to bed on their minds as somehow they weren’t quite sure how, or ready to adapt to these new surroundings by night. This of course wasn't helped by Nathan throwing sticks in the dark on a return trip form a wild bush toilet experience, followed by Rachel having a rather deadly looking spider crawl across her back which saw her chair hurled into the darkness and her disappear (hide) in her tent refusing to come back out. Having given up the car for Mum and Dad, me and Nathan were in a borrowed tent which we soon discovered had a leak! We spent the whole night huddled on a blanket on the highest ground corner with little shelter. It was no surprise that a few days later the colds followed. I’m laughing as I write this, the next morning we were awoken to the sounds of hundreds of a couple of tour busses fully stocked with tourists surrounding our camp. It appeared pitched and set up camp in the car park and picnic area. It turns out we were the photo attraction over the kangaroos. I’m convinced the smell of our bacon was drawing them closer too. An afternoon and evening of outback nature was enough for the Todd's so it wasn't long till we were packed up and heading back to the city for a shower. Thinking back to the wild bush toilet from the previous night I have made a mental note to not find myself in the predicament of not having a spade next time – no wonder they were ready for civilisation! Once back, mum, me and Nathan repacked the car, organizing which items we’d need to take with us for the upcoming East Coast road trip and realized just how quick the time was passing, deciding not to think too much about this we stopped for dinner where I got another chance to show off my cooking skills with some famous Aussie rissoles – mum agreed they were delicious.
With everyone feeling fresh again we set sail on the ferry to Manly. Finally, Nathan bought a didgeridoo which he has shipped back to the UK, and has promised to learn how to play it, and you are all invited round for a performance. And I hope you aren't laughing Rachel as I believe Andrew is doing exactly the same! It turned out the guy we bought the didgeridoo from was actually from the Aboriginal community near Mossman Gorge where we very first started all those months ago. We spent another day at the beach with dinner at The Belgium Beer Café; mussels in a pot and continental beer, you simply can't go wrong. While the Todd tribe set of to Toronga Zoo it was time for me and Nathan to start hunting for our next place to live. With jobs secured at the Royal Sydney Easter show we hoped it would be a simple task finding accommodation close by. It wasn't! In fact, accommodation was non-existent as it appears everyone has put their prices up. We’ve decided that it may be time to reorganise a few of our final plans, but this would have to wait as it was time for the Todd girls to head to the Lyric Theatre to watch the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert – it really was an amazing show.
The cold that I mentioned earlier had started to set in, Nathan had been ill all and resting the day before, so next morning it seemed sensible that I rest up during the day. Nathan took them for the real Blue Mountains Tour, and as planned we all met up at the O'Brien's for the pre-arranged BBQ. I think we will all agree it was great food, great beer, and great company. It was nice for everyone to finally meet up and put faces to names. A huge thanks to the O'Brien's for putting us all up overnight, and we are incredibly happy to return the favour in 2008. See you then.
As we headed back to Coogee to say goodbye to Jed who was flying back to New Zealand, the reality of how quickly time can actually fly is setting in. Nathan and I followed goodbyes by heading to our next NRL game. This time it was at Homebush Telstra Stadium; the South's v Parramatta Eels. We made the decision to support the South's as it was now the second time we'd seen them play, and given that we were living in South's territory it seemed an obvious choice, and one that proved a good choice seen as they won again. After a rather long train journey back, we celebrated the win in the Coogee Bay Hotel with everyone.
Monday 26th March saw the beginning of our road trip up the East Coast. Nathan arrived back first thing with the Kia people carrier which for once had absolutely no faults at all, it was very roomy and great to drive. After the initial (stressful) hour it took us to negotiate getting out of Sydney, we soon resumed to the normal status of pointing out various sights as we looked out for the first destination sign; Newcastle. The scenery changed quite dramatically and it was nice having other people to share it with. Newcastle was quite cold on arrival, the waves were looking pretty angry and red flags up on the beach kept us well clear, and instead found us finding the local Brewery, famous for its alcoholic ginger beer, and a great place to stop for lunch. This we had hoped would stop Rachel asking for food for a while, or so we thought. I think you lasted an hour once we' set off again Rachel. Leaving the fishing town, we made it to Port Macquarie by early afternoon. The weather was pretty nice and the town itself proved very friendly. An afternoon beer and quick look around before we were back in the car heading for our final destination of the day. It was only the first day and I think already the Todd tribe were realising about the length in the distances to get anywhere in Australia; Andrew looked horrified when we told him we were only half way to Byron Bay. With daylight savings in play it meant although still only 6pm that it was pitch black by the time we arrived at Coffs Harbour. Luckily we found a Formula1 Motel with space, and at a very good price of $59 for a double including en-suite. After a quick shower and a bite to eat and early to bed, everyone was shattered and soon retired for the day.
We were up early the next day ready to explore Coffs Harbour starting at the famous 'Big Banana,' which is as described just a giant 'Big Banana.’ Still, somehow we managed to pass just over an hour looking at it. No I’m joking, we did the obligatory photo with said banana, we then perused all the available 'big banana' souvenirs available, ate a chocolate dipped banana, and went on a banana shaped toboggan ride. Ok it wasn't banana shaped, but it should have been. And for the record I thought the Luge in NZ was much safer; tobogganing was not for me. Making good time we called in at Ballina for a picture of the 'Big Prawn'(we were on a roll now), but soon moved on as Ballina didn't have much else to offer. Back on familiar territory Nathan and I felt right at home knowing Byron Bay was just around the corner. It was a little disappointing as we arrived into Byron Bay as rain had set in. Still Dad, me and Nathan pushed on in the search for accommodation and quickly discovered we weren’t going to find an option as cheap as the previous night, so we agreed we were happy to book a bit of luxury. We stayed at the Outrigger Resort containing a heated outdoor pool and spa. The three bed apartment was very swish. Making the most of the free BBQ facilities the boys set to their duties, while the girls watched Home and Away (it felt like the right thing to do ‘when in Australia), and prepared the salads. With the table set we all enjoyed a BBQ tea. Before heading to bed again Rachel me and Andrew were determined to make full use of all the facilities, so in the rain we went in the pool for as long as we could stand it, and then warmed up in the spa surrounded by the night sky. The next morning the sun had arrived. We drove up to the lighthouse and weren’t disappointed. Byron Bay really is picture perfect-my paradise. I think everyone was amazed by how beautiful it was. Getting carried away with the moment I thought I spotted a group of dolphins in the waters down below. I shouted to Rachel to look, and at the same time so did a separate group of tourists who seemed just as excited. It wasn’t until I was looking at a different angle that I realised they were just birds floating on the water, whoops. I quickly moved on avoided the tourists that were taking photos of the ‘dolphins,’ as I didn't want to disappoint them with the truth. The afternoon was spent on the beach with the body boards in full play. In fact, and it wasn't at the time, but now typing this having been able to laugh a lot since, I have a feeling this moment will be one we remember forever from our travels as the time Nathan decided we were now confident enough to play with the six foot waves. After me protesting that I wasn't going any closer than I was happy to, and Nathan promising to not let go of my hand I ventured further in. I swear there’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching a six-foot wave about to crash over your head and the exhilaration of coming out from under it the other side - alive. Unfortunately, after a few successes, the next one saw Nathan's hand get ripped from mine, and as I was struggling to stop myself being thrown all over the place under the water, hold my breath, and find the surface, Nathan finally grabs what he thinks is my arm to pull me up, but is actually my leg. There was a lot of grappling, and losing any breath I had left I conceded as Nathan did pull me out of the water feet first! Needless to say I got out of the water as quickly as possible and resumed (with mum who sensibly had thought better of it) to watching Dad attempting to stay upright with as little success as me. Great fun though.
Dinner was at the railway pub and as the afternoon set in it was time to get ready to set off back to Sydney. Doing the overnight drive back wasn't so bad as me and Nathan swapped driving regularly. Besides the obvious wee stops, we only stopped once at Nambucca Heads for ‘fish n chips’ tea. It was 2am when we dropped Rachel and Andrew in Bondi and headed back to Coogee. For some reason I was wide awake so ended up doing a load of washing in the early hours, while Nathan had to be up to take the car back for 7am, the final full day of the Todd Tribe was a tiresome one. Up until this point we were doing so well but the inevitable was just around the corner and as suspected the Todd tribe had a falling out. With lots of expectations on what to do for the last day nothing was really finalised so the day itself was not as predicted a non-starter. Still the positives being that Rachel and Andrew completed the Bridge Climb, although the look on her face as we waved to her from the Harbour Bridge pub told us she would never do it again. We ate a really nice evening meal back at the Belgium Beer Cafe which once again was amazing food, then all ended up going separate ways preparing ourselves for tomorrows departure.
The final morning at Bondi Junction proved a success. Dad found the Topsy and Tim book he'd been looking for, and I found an English Yorkie Bar (It was only a month out of date but it did not affect the taste). At the airport Dad handed over a purse full of all the dollars he’d been saving from each time he got change over the trip - I couldn't have been happier- our first stop was to use this to fuel up Stanley for the very last road trip. Ahh, we haven't told you have we, with no luck finding accommodation for the Easter Show we abandoned this work and are heading to Ayers Rock for our final road trip. And when do we go? The day after tomorrow. Needless to say having the Todd tribe with us for three weeks was the best kind of fun, and I have no doubts they will have many additional stories to tell you all on their return. Andrew; you seem a decent guy, good luck with living with Rachel and we are looking forward to some nights out with the both of you when we return. And this is where we'll leave you for now, we hope all is well with everyone. Love as always, Lindsay and Nathan.
Photos – it was a hard choice, but top is my 26th birthday at the Coogee Bay Hotel, middle is the photo from my fridge at the O’Briens - a fine example of the power of kindness, and bottom is on the beach with Nathan, my Dad and mum taking centre stage at Byron Bay (not the bikini shot). Bottom is Isabel and Zack making the best of Christmas 2020, all set up for a Christmas movie complete with hot chocolate and sugary treats.
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.