It’s funny with work friends. You can know them for two decades, see them every workday, and know heaps of details about their lives, yet once you retire, you see very few of them again. Or maybe that’s just me?
I travelled to China and North Korea with Blogless Helen and her husband Rick back in 2018. She retired at the end of last year and has been playing around with CRT work, recognising that it’s the best of both worlds. Last weekend Blogless Megan and I were invited to go and stay with them at their holiday house at Phillip Island.
Helen and Rick bought this place just before the pandemic. It’s right on the beach, where you just have to cross a bit of foreshore where wallabies and rabbits live before you hit the sand. They’ve done a lot of work on it already, with a new kitchen, new double-glazed windows and lots of painting and it still has the welcoming vibe of a family holiday house.
We drove up after work in the rain and arrived after dark. We found the key and let ourselves in, knowing that Helen and Rick were at the supermarket in Cowes and would be there soon after us. After we’d unpacked, I cracked open the bottla wine I’d brought. It was a gift from a year 12 kid a few years ago – I thought by now it would’ve aged beautifully. (I wasn’t wrong.)
It was a low-key evening. Bangers and mash, washed down with lots of wine and good conversation. I’ve hardly seen Rick since the North Korea trip, so it was really good to catch up.
I may have left my dogs at home, but I still had my dog fix. Helen and Rick brought their dogs. One great thing about small dogs – they’re very portable.
When we woke up, it was POURING! There was no way any of us were stepping outside the house. We settled into a morning of sitting around and chatting, fortified by the excellent omelettes that Rick cooked for breakfast.
By the time the afternoon rolled around the weather had cleared into a sparkling day, though as you can see in the top photo, the sky remained moody.
“Who wants to go to the beach?” Helen asked. Rick decided that he’d rather go surfing, so he headed off while the rest of us grabbed the dogs and went out for a stroll.
Their house is in the perfect position – literally 2 minutes walk from the sand. A short walk through the foreshore, where wallabies and rabbits live, then there it is.
The sand was a different colour to my Backyard Beach – more golden. this beach is a little curve, bordered on one side by a dog beach and on the other by the ugliest lighthouse I’ve ever seen. Utilitarian, isn’t it?
We walked along with the dogs, enjoying the breeze and the fresh salty air, especially after being cooped inside all morning. The contrast was beautiful.
We’re so lucky with our beaches here in Australia. I’ll never forget the awful shock I had at seeing the pebbled beach at Nice. How could this possibly be a holiday destination when you can’t even walk into the water comfortably? (It was uncomfortable on the feet – I tried.)
But here, not 2 minutes away from the house was a small beach so empty that it might as well have been private.
Once we were back, Helen started cooking up a storm. It was clear that dinner was going to be a THING! I knew we were in for a treat when she brought out the Ottolenghi book.
Then after dinner, the hideous truth became clear.
Helen is into playing card games in a major way. I, alas, am not.
The other three settled into a ferociously fought game of 500 that lasted for hours. I contentedly read a book. After I found out who the murderer was, I sat and watched them play until the wee hours. We had different types of gin to sample as the hours wore on, and coincidentally, we all slept very well that night.
The next morning I woke before anyone else. Fortunately, I was downstairs on my own away from the other bedrooms, so I read for a while, then decided to have a shower and sneak out of the house down to the beach.
When I hit the foreshore, I saw a couple of wallabies. I took a photo, but they were too far away to look like anything other than splodges. A woman came up behind me, walking her dog. I mentioned the wallabies and she smiled and said, “Oh yes. there’s hundreds of them here.”
As she walked towards the tunnel in the growth that led to the beach, a magpie swooped down and landed at her feet. She pulled out a ball of mince and threw it down for him. This must be a regular thing.
(And yes – I know people aren’t meant to give mince to magpies because if that’s all they eat, it causes deformities in their babies. I wasn’t the one feeding it to him. But it was still nice to see their friendship; it’s obviously a regular morning ritual.)
After I looked my fill at the wallabies, I followed her.
Across the water is the Peninsula, where my sister Kate and Blogless Sandy live, though they’re on the other side. I gave them a wave, anyway.
I was there on the beach for nearly an hour, with the place all to myself. I turned left, with the sun behind me, and walked as far as I could one way, then turned and walked all the way to the dog beach. You can see a man and his dog in the photo.
The birds were calling and I could hear the rhythmic sound of the sea. It was very peaceful. I saw some different seabirds from the ones we have in Melbourne.
After a while I found a spot and simply sat and watched the waves. it’s a novelty for me to be alone on a beach. Usually I have the dogs with me and I’m scanning the place, trying to avoid the bigger dogs that freak Scout out.
After watching the waves come in and out and enjoying the sun, I decided that surely they’d be up by now… it was nearly 9 AM! So back I walked.
Turns out that no one had surfaced. Luckily, it’s possible to reach the deck from outside the house, so I grabbed my water and a book and crept up to the deck to read my book in the sun. Normally I avoid the sun like the plague, but I chose a chair at the table where my back would be nicely warmed.
Megan came out to meet me about half an hour later, bringing her crochet, so we sat and talked while we waited for our gracious hosts. By the time 10:30 came around, I said to Megan, “I’m really hanging out for a coffee. If they don’t get up soon, I might get some pots and pans and bang them outside their door!”
Fortunately, these drastic measures weren’t necessary. As soon as Rick’s feet hit the floor, he was grinding coffee beans and putting together another sumptuous breakfast. The deck on their house is perfect for just lounging around and chilling.
We spent the rest of the day on the deck. Helen and Megan played another card game, Rick was on his phone and I took a short nap and then stared at the bay. The water was reflecting millions of little glints from the sun. It was stunning.
At some stage, Helen brought out some dips and crackers and we washed them down with some wine. It was late afternoon when I stretched and said, “Well, we’d better make a move. I’ve got heaps of paperwork to fill in for the new school tomorrow.”
As we backed out of the driveway, narrowly avoiding an old tree trunk at the edge of their driveway, (could’ve been embarrassing!), Helen and Rick stood, waving goodbye.
Up until now, I’ve never really understood the appeal of a holiday house. I remember Mum and Dad keeping my grandparents’ house in Inverloch after they died. It was double the garden work, double the housework, and they were locked into going up there to maintain the place every couple of weeks.
Not for me. I’d rather go and see different places when I have time off.
But staying the weekend up here was lovely. Helen and Rick are slowly doing the place up, making it a chilled place where lots of people can come and stay. I can see them spending many leisurely days there with friends and family, building lots of lovely memories as their family grows larger and school holidays at the beach will become a thing.
Yes, I guess I can see the attraction. 🙂
Dad joke of the day: