Familiar faces are a little like buses, you don’t see one for six months and then five appear all at once.
Our long awaited first visitors, Rich’s parents, arrived about 10 days ago. After a thirty-five hour door to door journey they were greeted by oven–like temperatures as they disembarked their plane and tried to orientate themselves in the blinding sun, having left snow behind in their home village of Stubbington in Hampshire. It was a relatively cool day by Sydney summer standards, a mere 33 degrees and actually pretty much the same temperature they left behind in the UK, but of course using a different temperature scale – Fahrenheit in the UK, Celsius in Australia!
The “cool” weather didn’t last long; the day after they arrived Sydney witnessed its hottest ever recorded temperature, a staggering 46.8 degrees (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit!) which made Sydney the hottest city in the world on that day.
We swam in the morning and we swam in the afternoon, it was the only sensible thing to do. In between swims we came home for lunch to cool off in the shade of the house. I made some BLTs but couldn’t face going near the toaster so left the bread untoasted. There were seven of us for lunch and the camp table that we are still managing on in the kitchen is barely big enough for the four children so we had no choice but to eat at the larger table outside. The table is completely undercover and the walk from the kitchen door to the table takes about 5 seconds. By the time I had taken the BLTs from the kitchen to the table, the bread had toasted in the sun! The cutlery had been sitting on the table for about five minutes and was too hot to handle. It was definitely a hot one! After their marathon journey to get here and the record breaking temperatures upon arrival, I think Rich’s parents felt they had touched down, not in Australia but on Mars!
Dore, the village in Sheffield where I grew up and where my parents still live, is quite small and has a population of only 7,000 people, but four of those residents have visited us here in Sydney in one week!
Last weekend our dear friends, the “Wandering Walkdens”, James, Nicole and Ava arrived in Sydney at the start of a two week holiday from their home in Hong Kong. We were very lucky that they gave up one of their three precious afternoons in Sydney to spend it with us in Watson’s Bay. Despite the blistering heat of Friday 18th January, Saturday 19th, the day we spent with James and his family couldn’t have been more different. The sky was grey, the temperature struggled to get much above twenty degrees and it rained; not our usual type of rain – a monsoon like downpour which lasts an hour or so and then gives way to blue skies and high heat. This was much more like English drizzle which lasted most of the day. The weather of course did not dampen our spirits but as we sat on the beach, eating fish and chips under umbrellas, watching our five gorgeous kids dance in puddles on the sand, the scene was much more reminiscent of a summer’s day in Scarborough than Sydney.
Wednesday 23rd January saw the arrival Liz and her husband Andrew, who I also know from Dore. Liz is the mum of my oldest (as in most long standing) friend Cath and despite not having seen Liz and Andrew for over 14 years, we couldn’t stop talking as we shared a bottle of Australia’s finest Sauvignon Blanc at Doyle’s on the Quay, with stellar views overlooking Sydney Harbour, and its iconic landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Liz and Andrew were also only spending three days in Sydney at the start of a very impressive driving and walking tour of Australia so I was exceedingly glad that they chose to spend one of their precious evenings with me and even more glad that they treated me to a wonderful meal at Doyle’s.
The evening also presented me with a long overdue opportunity to confess, “Simon Mayo style”, to a misdemeanour that I committed at Liz’s in about 1980 when Cath and I were dancing round her living room a little too enthusiastically to the Grease soundtrack and I swung on the curtains and pulled down the curtain rail, curtains and half a ton of plaster. As two terrified thirteen year olds, we laid the rail, the curtains and all the bits of plaster that had fallen out neatly in the centre of the room and raced off to bed. In the morning when we awoke I suddenly remembered I had to help my dad in the garden or do my paper round or something so I left very early, leaving Cath to explain and face the wrath of her mum alone. So thank you so much Liz and Andrew for a wonderful evening and the chance to clear a guilty conscience that I have had for about 32 years! Enjoy the rest of your holiday in Australia.
On Thursday I met up with my dear friend and long standing resident of Dore and Sydney, Bobby Dennis. Years ago, Bobby used to be my parents’ next door neighbour so I first met him when I was about 10 years old. He moved to another house in the village and our families lost touch for many years until I become reacquainted with him in 1998 on a cruise ship that we were both working on in Tahiti. I was working as the Spa Manager and Bobby was one of the headlining comedians on my ship for a couple of weeks. We have been great, if unlikely friends ever since and we have met up several times in both Sydney and Dore over the last 15 years.
Bobby is truly a marvellous gentleman who is both funny and charming. He is 87 years old and has been a professional comedian, musician and entertainer for over 60 years, working alongside Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse and Morecombe and Wise in their formative years in the entertainment business. This is the first Christmas he has not worked on a cruise ship in 60 years – the cruise industry thinks it’s time he retired and started to take life easy but Bobby has very different ideas and is still pulling in crowds in the clubs and theatres of Sydney.
Thank you dear friends of Dore for spending some of your precious time in Sydney with us. It was very much appreciated and when we can’t be home it’s truly wonderful that a little reminder of home can come to us. Safe onward travels all and hope to see you either here or there sometime soon.