A Christmas Breakdown Or Two, And Other Good Fun…

Kez conducting the Christmas whistle choir. Don’t ask. Just accept it was a hoot.

“Where you from?” the RACQ Breakdown mechanic asked. He was replacing a shoddy battery in my sister’s car. I told him we left Gympie a week ago and were travelling around Australia. “I worked with a bloke from Gympie in Mt Isa,” he said. “Odd sort of fella.”

Then he told me his name.

I have a theory the only thing between discovering you and just about anyone you meet have a connection is the right question. As I said in a post a couple of days ago, Tracey walked into an office to book the bus in and discovered the lady behind the counter was drinking champers at a convention on the Gold Coast with my sister and brother-in-law a few weeks earlier.

“I know him,” I said, marvelling yet again at how small the world really is. “And you’re wrong. He’s not one of the odd ones. I am.”

It was Christmas Eve and, because I was running an hour ahead of schedule, I’d decided to duck into Bunnings for a gas fitting and some reflective insulation for the bus windows – something I swore I didn’t want in the month before we left because of the aesthetics but which I now think is the sexiest window dressing out there. I emerged from the store with my purchases and, even allowing for the twenty minute drive to town, a solid two hours up my sleeve before the shops shut for last minute Christmas shopping.

Not the big ticket items, like beer or prawns, just the extras such as a present for Tracey and something to win the heart of our grandson the next day.

I put everything into the boot and, because I was feeling relaxed and confident, I walked the trolley all the way back into the store.

I should have known better. There’s a train of thought which says the more important something is the more time you should allow to get to it, in case something goes wrong. I’m calling bullshit. My experience is the more time you have up your sleeve the more likely something is to go wrong.

Not only did the engine not start, it didn’t even pretend like it might. Usually when I have a flat battery (yes, I get to say usually) it at least goes whrrrr or ticks. Not a single sound issued from under the bonnet.

RACQ Breakdown told me help was on its way but might be up to an hour and a half. I looked at my watch and did some calculations, then send Tracey a message.

Not sure what to buy Izzy. Do you think he would like a tool belt?

Weren’t we getting him some clothes and Little People?

Yeah, about that….

‘If she thinks she’s disappointed about Izzy’s present,’ I thought to myself, ‘wait until she unwraps her shiny new gas fitting tomorrow.’

An hour and a half later on the dot the yellow & white car-ambulance arrived and the bloke set to work replacing the battery and we discovered our connection.

When he was done and we’d completed the paperwork I had 35 minutes left until the shops shut. My iPhone was telling me it was a 19 minute drive. After parking I figured it would leave me with fifteen minutes in an unfamiliar shopping centre to visit a chemist, JB Hi-Fi, Target, Kmart, Coles and Camera House.

“I got this,” I muttered to myself, because this is not my first rodeo and being a serial procrastinator has given me a stupid sense of what is possible if you’re running late and really really need to meet a deadline you’ve been mentally preparing for but physically avoiding like it’s foot fungus. “I might even have time to grab a coffee.”

Which is when my phone on the seat beside me started to buzz. I tossed up whether to risk pulling over or ignore it. Figuring it was Tracey wanting me to reassure her we’d have a present who’s age rating matches our grandson’s I decided I could spare thirty seconds.

“It’s the RACQ bloke here,” a voice said into my ear. “What’s your wife’s name?”

“Tracey,” I told him, thinking he’s just worked out he knows her too but also hoping to wrap this up so I could get on with speeding into Cairns.

“Tracey Devereaux?” he said. I nodded, because dumb. “I thought so. You’ve left her credit card on the ground here.”

Because we don’t have our own with us for this trip, I’ve been borrowing my sister’s car to duck around. The day before it had no fuel. This time, no charge in the battery. I’m just glad they’re with RACQ.
Only the second time I’ve met my grandson in person. For Tracey it was the very first time. “Do you call him Izzy or Izziah?” I asked my daughter. “Izzy,” she confirmed. “Except when he’s in trouble and then it’s Izziah.” “Well,” I said to my smiling boy, “you will never ever hear me call you anything but Izzy.” My parents were right – grandparenting is FUN.
Izzy had to be shared amongst all his Uncles and Aunties. Poor Izzy. All he really wanted was to be held by his Pop. Auntie Miss9 and Izzy.
Uncle Master11 and Izzy.
Auntie Miss13 having her Izzy fix.
Look at that face! I loves him so much.  I promise this blog won’t become a grandparent’s photo flip wallet, but give me this one moment. It’s been nearly a year!
Maybe one or two more….Mum (Miss22) and son.
Even Nanna got to come out from behind the camera and have a hold.
Car wasn’t the only break down, dammit. Seems we’re going to do a tour of hospitals on our big lap. There was no way Tracey was letting me ignore pains in the gut so we went in to Mossman District Hospital twice on Christmas Day. At first we all thought it was a pulled stomach muscle (who knew I had one of those?!) but now it’s suspected diverticulitis. On antibiotics and the good painkillers and off the booze. Oh well, it’s a good excuse. Thanks to the nurses and doctors I saw – you guys were so very lovely even though you were away from your families on Christmas Day.
Between hospital visits.
Turns out lying on my back getting antibiotics dripped into me is not my best angle, but worth it so you can see my most excellent Christmas shirt. As you can see from my expression, the Endone is kicking in. Adzvenshure, Babyzzzz!
While Tracey took me to hospital, Miss13 and Master11 stood in as our proxies in the Great White Elephant Secret Santa Gift Game. In the end Miss13, playing for Tracey, had a choice between a Bodyshop gift basket or a Lego cup – she must have missed the no Lego on the bus memo. But also, as Tracey pointed out, BODYSHOP! Master11 could barely get the words out past his laughing to tell me thanks to him I am the proud owner of a squirrel nutcracker – you put a nut in its mouth, yank the tail down and it bites open the nut. Thanks, son, it’s everything I could ever wish for – watching you enjoy my new present.

The Stoutes. You guys already feel like family. For those who don’t know, the mermaid in the middle is the one most likely to give me another Izzy…I mean grandchild.
Great Grandma with…now who is that? OH YEAH! IT’S IZZY!!!

Kez and IZZY IZZY IZZY Oi Oi Oi …okay I’m done now.
Kez and our cousin, Jenni, who came all the way from Canberra to celebrate with us.
Owner of the park and patriarch of the Tenni family, Miles. He’s Dazza’s dad. Great bloke. Knows his alcohol. Was having a brandy and port. Assures us it’ll catch on.
“Look at me, Daddy, I’m sparkly.” Getting so into the Christmas spirit she became the tree.
It would be remiss of me not to throw in a couple of photos of some of the chef prepared food I barely got to enjoy. This was the seared tuna. Kerri sure knows how to ‘cook’ for Christmas. 
Local wonder-chef, Chriso, came out the day before Christmas and prepared everything. Kerri, this sure beat my sausage sizzle idea for lunch. I’d tell you all my favourite dish but it’s a list. 
Jenni & Jurek, Kerri, Miss9 and Great Grandma Judy. Master11 accidentally called Yurek Urine. He’s like his mum. She’s always getting my name wrong. Somehow I get Dickhead and Idiot a lot. I’m so sorry Yurek. Not for him doing it – that was genuinely a mistake. But I can’t promise it’ll be an accident when I do it, so you know sorry in advance 😉 You two are just lovely together and we’re all so glad you’re here. Thank you for coming up and sharing Christmas! 
Mother and daughter. I saw this photo and thought to myself ‘I don’t remember Mum wearing a fascinator.’ Nice background check, Tracey 😉
My tent, aka The Pleasuredome aka The Love Shack aka The Kissing Booth, seems to have been commandeered for nefarious purposes – watching movies on a laptop. At least this way they won’t be suspicious when I erect it. Plus it was a good place for Santa to leave presents. I’d have done an ankle on the bus with that mess.
And of course, the day after Christmas is this little cherub’s birthday. Most people struggle to organise one event at this time of year but my sister begged to be able to throw Miss7 a party. I said yes because I’m very generous and lazy. Months of correspondence between the two of them resulted in a lot of internet companies having a marvellous year.
My beautiful sister, Kerri, and her wonderful man, Daz. Love these guys. I suspect Miss7’s birthday party was Frozen themed because Kez had the hair for the role. Kerri says no, not at all and Miss6 could have chosen Rapunzel if she’d wanted.
Kerri’s never hosted a kid’s birthday party before. After backdrop and white chocolate fountain and face-painting and life-sized cut outs of the characters, I suspect our kids are going to be a little disappointed with our usual fare of cheerios, party pies and cordial.
One of the party games – do you want to build a snowman? Oh, hell yes.
Miss4 as a snowman. I see more Pocahontas.
The birthday girl – Anna. On an aside, you can really tell which photos Tracey’s taken, can’t you.
Miss7’s tongue is blue from the contents of the slushy machine (no way are we even trying to match this event for Miss4). Grandma had to wear an Olaf costume for the party. In North Qld. In December. I think she melted.
Odd faceprinting request. Miss9 asked to be me. Tracey says this is still no excuse for me to grow a moustache.
It hasn’t all been party games and seafood. I mean the pools not going to swim itself. Master25 and Charlotte were getting some great underwater shots of them with the kids….right up until the camera opened underwater.
Meanwhile, Christmas or not, some things need attending to when you’re awesomely living on the road in a bus. Dave, the bloke I bought our bus off, said I’d get pretty good at doing my own repairs as we travel about.
Doesn’t he look silly now.
First time emptying the grey water. Look at me! Look at me! Totes doing it. Adventure, Baby!

NOTE: Only because the good people at Coles and Kmart and Target all stayed open beyond the hours advertised on the internet was I able to get everything I needed in time…but of course, if I’d known they were open later I wouldn’t have left to go to town when I did 😉 Lucky that.

Raising a family on little more than laughs


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