Holiday's end

"Summer has slowly slipped away like honey falling from a spoon."

Nigel Slater

How I wish I could write such a sentence.


Part one

For the last ten days I have awoken every morning to variations of this scene viewed from the balcony of our bedroom in this glorious house in Port Douglas. My younger son and his seven year old son sit by the pool talking about this and that. Nobody else is awake because Max wakes early and his dad nobly gets up to keep an eye on him. It must be a wonderful bonding experience. If a bit too early in the morning.


Today is our last day. Tomorrow we depart for the colder climes of Melbourne. In some sense it is always summer here for this is the tropics, and some days it is just too hot for we southerners who have temporarily forgotten the heat of our own Melbourne summers. There is a rainy season and a cooler season but nevertheless most of us would consider it an eternal summer.


And so we have given ourselves a brief summer which has speedily slipped away. Although it is supposed to be spring back in Melbourne, it is still cool - 15 degrees I believe is what we can expect, Summer approaches though with its pleasures and fears. In Australia we always fear the summer a little because of the threat of bushfires, Here we fear crocodiles. It is entirely possible that there are crocodiles in that beautiful lake although we have not seen one. But we are definitely exhorted not to swim in there, and to stay well away from the edge. Five metres said our guide on our Daintree River cruise.


The holiday is a family holiday to celebrate, very belatedly, David's 80th birthday back in June 2021. It was cancelled twice so that by the time we got here the very idea that it might happen was almost magic. And like those holidays in which you arrive at your destination in the dark, there is more magic in the morning when you awake to a completely different world.

Because it is a family holiday - 6 adults and 5 children ranging in age from 7 to 15 there have been inevitable squabbles and tantrums, not always from the children it has to be said. Hearts have been temporarily broken, and teenagers have flounced and pouted, but there have been many more moments of happy activity and bonding, balanced by moments of stillness and calm. And yes it is a little sad to see so many children absorbed in a screen but even then it has often been a group experience it seems to me. I have no understanding of what they are doing, but I think there have been games which they play together, and if not, they have chatted as they have tapped away rapidly with their thumbs. Besides their parents only allow so much of this. The rest of the time the cousins entertain themselves, with games, activities and just talk.

And what brilliant photographers they all seem to be. In an attempt to provide an activity we have been having a daily photographic competition with a different theme each day and some of the results have been so surprising, even amazing to me. Here are just a few examples (well the two panoramas above are also from them) - the photographer of those is just eleven, soon to be twelve. Here are some others:

And yes, some are digital fiddling, which I certainly do not know how to do. I must get them to teach me some time. But some are really clever, either because of the idea or the execution. I think I saw my two granddaughters taking the underwater shot using the kitchen blender to shield the camera from the water. The earring and the bottom eye were part of the 'blue' competition. Did I say camera? Of course, all of those were taken on phones. I actually took my 'real' camera with me, which caused my family some amused disbelief.


And then there was sheer joy - the joy of the children themselves - for it was children mostly - and the joy of the adults observing that joy. Children teetering on adulthood it has to be said - the oldest is fifteen and the next three not far behind. I just hope that they don't lose that capacity for joy.


I should perhaps mention food since this is a foodie blog. Because of COVID and because we were eleven people, there was very little opportunity to just find somewhere to eat. It had to be planned and booked well in advance. And so we all ate out together three times at casual pub like places. Fun but I suppose the food was not extraordinary. Our sons and we had one fancy meal, at Zinc which was delicious, smaller in size (of course) and more expensive. Not that anything is cheap in Port Douglas. A few also had coffee and ice cream stops where the food was somewhat better I think, although I only joined in on one of these - some pictures taken below.

The rest of the time we ate at home at the wonderful large table outside looking at the lake, although occasionally inside as well. Barbecues, pasta, pizza and traybake. Simple things because on holiday one doesn't want to be slaving away in the kitchen. And here I give full due to my younger son who cooked the most. And also a star to Patak's Butter chicken curry paste for making a simple tray bake and a subsequent barbecue delicious.


Part two

I meant to finish this post before we left but time ran out and so here I am two days later reflecting on it all.


I have decided that holidays are a dream. They do not belong in the real world.


We dream of them before we go. How amazing it is going to be, how wonderful to spend time with one's loved ones, or loved one, one's friends and family. We perhaps have a nightmare or two about all the things that could go wrong - mostly to do with the travel although there is always the worry that the house will be awful and the weather terrible. But mostly we dream of paradise - noting that everyone's idea of paradise is different of course.


Whilst actually there in that dream every moment is slightly unbelievable, unreal. Nevertheless, the dream temporarily does become reality with all that that entails. People, families especially, rub each other up the wrong way. We still have to do the washing and cook the dinner occasionally, night follows day, follows night - what to do with our time - but it rushes by. And we preserve it on film.


Then we are home - suddenly. Even if you travel to the other end of the world it's a mere day of being neither here nor there. It's almost as if it never happened. Life returns to normal and the dream becomes a memory dream, not an anticipation dream. This time perhaps the dream is not quite as magical, for reality has intervened. And yet over time the magic triumphs and the lows become funny stories to be told over dinner.


Those beautiful photographs remain and become the holiday. And yet they are just momentary pieces of time. Beautiful ones though. Honey dripping from a spoon.



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