Nothing Up Top

Umina Beach from 30m above our bus.

You ever put your family in a position which makes you question your ability to parent?

“What do you think about driving back from Sydney on Saturday and then driving down to Wollongong the next morning?” Tracey asked me.

She was working out her schedule for this weekend. We’re staying in Umina Beach at the moment, because it’s beautiful and comparatively inexpensive, so we’d be looking at up to 1.5 hours each way on Saturday and 2.5 hours each way on Sunday.

“Whatever it takes,” I assured her.

Given an audiobook the kids and I can drive for eight hours, less bathroom stops.

“We’d need to be in Wollongong by 10am,” added Tracey.

“Sounds good,” I continued, with notably less enthusiasm as I worked the math back to see what time we’d have to drag ourselves out of bed.

“Maybe we could look for somewhere to spend the night in Wollongong and save ourselv-”

“Oh, thank fark for that,” I said, opening a new window on my computer and starting a search.

Do you ever do that thing where the first thing you reject is the one you end up going with?

The photo showed two bunk beds – single on top and doubles under – taking up most of a room. I showed Tracey. We laughed dismissibly. We made fun of the presumably unnecessary door pressed up behind one of the bunks. We chortled at how small the room was if the fish-eye lens was supposed to make it look bigger. Plus the room slept six, not seven, so we’d have someone’s elbows in our ribs all night. Then we noticed one of the top bunks didn’t have a railing and laughed when we imagined someone landing on top of me during the night. Or I’d have to sleep in the top bunk – and we laughed about me landing on one of the kids in the middle of the night. It was an amusing two minutes.

Then I carried on with my search.

Only here’s the thing: there aren’t many places which can fit seven people into one room, and the cost of two family rooms was looking more like a monthly mortgage payment.

Eventually I was back and seriously considering the bunks, because that room was only $80 for the night. Plus, and I can’t pretend this didn’t factor in, there was a bar downstairs with beer.

“We’ll be getting in about 8pm and leaving the moment we’re awake,” I said to Tracey. “So who cares what it looks like? One of the kids could sleep between us.”

I don’t really care when a kid jumps into bed with us. In fact, I love it, especially when it’s freezing. They’re just like a hot water bottle which never goes cold.

But Tracey had other concerns.

“What about that top bunk?” she wanted to know.

“I’ll put the mattress on the floor.”

In the end, to save a few bucks, I convinced Tracey we should book into the Hotel.

“I mean, it’s just a bed,” I argued. “How bad can it be?”

We arrived and the place was even pretty low key and quiet.

“If a little blistering from that streetlight is the worst of it,” I joked to Tracey as we both gapped at a light on the curb shining through the thin lace curtain of our room with all the intensity of a dwarf star, “then so be it.”

I settled the family in and ducked downstairs for a beer on the pretext of finding out how late people would be playing pool and pokies below us. Not that we could hear them, but as the highway thundering past quietened down as we approached the wee hours I argued the noise from downstairs might be more noticable.

Plus although the place was clean and clearly well maintained there was an air of 70’s worker’s bar about the place which meant I was definitely questioning my decision to bring my family here and I wanted to put my mind at ease.

This plan did not work out, although it did give Tracey and I a funny story to tell our children’s psychiatrists when they inevitably require fixing from our parenting blunders in later life.

“So can we expect much noise tonight,” I asked the lady at the bar when she shocked me by mentioning they were open until 4am.

“Not on a Saturday night,” the barmaid assured me as she handed me my beer. She looked around at the five or six punters spread out amongst the three large public areas, and added, “I’ll be going home early at this rate.”

“Oh good,” I said, relieved I wouldn’t have to explain this to Tracey.

Not that we’d have nothing to talk about…

“Fridays are our busiest night, of course,” she continued, wiping down the bar, “because of the topless waitresses.”

Not the most effective block out curtains I’ve encountered.
A terrified chorus of “AHHHHHH!!!!” from the backseat was the first I knew Wollongong has huge fiery chimneys we later dubbed Hell’s Vents. 
Tracey photographed two really lovely families at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. This bridge featured in both sets because it is stunning. Between shoots Tracey decided to get a shot of our kids on it.
Master13 attempting to fly. According to Douglas Adams the trick it to fall and miss the ground.
Master13 didn’t quite bring it off this time so he threw everything into a bridge hug instead. Even his face.
He still managed to smile for a photo.

We were in or around the park for several hours (six?) so there was ample opportunity for some selfies.
And shenanigans.

I don’t get to use the nice camera but I took a family photo too on my iPhone. Really starting to get the hang of it.
Back at Unima Beach the kids are still managing to enjoy a swim once or twice a day in the Ocean Beach Holiday Park‘s two pools. In case you’re wondering, yes they shiver heaps. We’ve extended our stay another week because a) it’s got a kickass special at the moment (we’re paying $31 a night) and b) Tracey has a mountain of editing to get through now.

She can’t join us in the pool until her burns are properly healed so Miss11 is finding other ways to have fun. While the kids were ripping down the slide she wrote up menus and created a restaurant, including a lovely floral centrepiece from Mothers Day (another truly thoughtful gift from the people we’re working with at Woolworths). Only a day or two until the final bandages come off and we can get back to eating in front of our computers like a normal family.

 Raising a family on little more than laughs

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1 Comment

  • LMAO!! Oh, Bruce!! I understand the battle between affordable and appropriate accommodation!! But that is magnificent!! These are the questions parents don’t really think of asking these days but I *do* remember similar situations with my own parents, driving the inland roads between Puckapunyal and Mackay. 😉 And I turned out okay… bwahahahahahaha!!

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