For Andrew’s 40th birthday, I decided in my ubiquitous fashion to engage in a bit of nonsense. Last time I did this, it resulted in a rather eccentric story about a transsexual budgie who eventually married a moose in an Elvis style Las Vegas wedding. This time, I’ve promised a story about Andrew. Thankfully, our recent road-trip has given me an extraordinary amount of material – so no made-up stories about budgies necessary. Instead these are the annotations of our trip.
We left Sydney on Thursday 23rd for sunny Queensland. The state which claims to be ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next.’ It was a time for typical holiday fare: a shift to a more languid pace; to cold motel toast, long drives and casual comfy summer clothes – t-shirts and the like.
Our first destination was Coffs Harbour, the town I selected as it was in the middle of the Sydney to Brisbane route, not because it had a giant banana. In fact, we didn’t even see the rotund banana; the closest we came were some banana trees, although I didn’t spy any fruit hanging from them. In contrast, we did get to see the big prawn in Ballina. Apparently there has been much debate about the future of the prawn with a campaign to move it to the Gold Coast; and another to retain it in Ballina. Either way, the prawn has suffered from a lack of maintenance over the past few years and has become a sun-bleached albino prawn. Perhaps they should have made it out of metal so even without maintenance it would have maintained a rusty orange appearance. Andrew was so disappointed he didn’t bother taking a photograph. I did.
From Coffs Harbour we made our way up to Uki, at the foot of Mount Warning and on to Brisbane to meet Andrew’s parents for the first time. Moments after arriving, Andrew’s mother inspected his attire and with a look of disappointment said:
‘Andrew, are you still wearing mismatching shoes?’
I had to tell her that far from being embarrassing, people seem to rejoice in the one orange and one green shoe. Perhaps people look at Andrew and think – I wish I could be that mischievous. They certainly don’t whisper as he passes by; they stop us and say ‘cool shoes’, or ‘you got another pair like that?’
When we went to the Art Gallery in Brisbane, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the shoes with the large geometric rainbow installation.
While in Brisbane, I met some of Andrew’s cousins, one of whom came bearing a cake complete with blue bear and cake pops. (If you’ve never had a cake pop, you’re missing out. These are filled with soft mellifluous chocolate. Delicious!)
Of course, I also had the obligatory tour of all the places Andrew used to haunt. For the most part I enjoyed the drive, except when Andrew made some unsuitable singing choices including yodeling ‘high on a hill with a lonely goat herd’. Marginally better than bagpipes, but only just!
The other part I didn’t enjoy was the 3 kilometre bridge joining Sandgate to Redcliffe. I don’t like being high up on a ladder and I certainly don’t like long bridges! This is a bridge Andrew has driven many times in his life. In more recent times they’ve changed it so pelicans can no longer perch on the street lights. As we were driving across Andrew was reflecting on one of his trips across this bridge with his dog, Boof, in the back of his old ute. Boof was a brindle dog. Somewhere along the bridge, a pelican did a poop and Boof turned into a dog covered in splodges; he was a Dalmation for the day. I imagine Pelican’s sitting on the electric lamp posts releasing poo whenever they feel like it, is not conducive to safe driving and that’s why the changed the posts to stop them resting there. Andrew seemed a bit disappointed. Approaching the bridge he told me there was going to be a great photo opportunity coming up. In the end it was ok, I’d already got the following photo of a gliding pelican at Bombah Point.
From Brisbane we made our way back to Uki; went swimming and had a candlelight dinner on his actual 40th birthday. The trip had been fantastic. I was grinning from ear to ear, delighting in every day.
Then things took a bit of a turn: the effervescence went out of our trip to put it mildly. I had to go to a work conference on the Gold Coast for a day and therefore Andrew had the day to kill time. I’d given him some money for his 40th birthday and he used some of it to buy clothes and pay a bill. With the remainder he decided to get a tattoo. He had joked he wanted a tattoo of a whale the day before. I voiced my usual objections. I thought he understood how strongly I felt about them that he would never use money I had given him to acquire a new one. I was wrong.
When I arrived back from the conference, he confessed his latest ‘dermagraphic’ indulgence – which, I must point out Andrew, is not actually a word.
‘Where is it?’ ‘What is it?’ I asked horrified.
He revealed the lotus flower on his wrist.
A bitter, acerbic, almost hostile, exchanged followed. I was shocked and later, just plain miserable. I felt he had made me complicit in damaging his body. From his perspective, I’d given him the opportunity to make a permanent memory of his 40th birthday trip; a lovely work of art he could see each and every day.
For the last few days of the trip, every time he applied lotion to the tattoo I felt sad. It took a while before we could even begin to joke about it. At least it wasn’t a blonde mermaid or an aardvark; given Andrew’s already eclectic collection of body art, it could have been far worse.
In keeping with the change in our moods, the weather worsened on the way home. It rained for the last 400km, so our stops were few and far between. One of our last was to acquire a hamburger. Andrew had a craving for a burger – not a McDonalds one – a traditional road house style burger. We found it at Kew, in a slightly dodgy looking petrol station including a ‘dining lounge.’ Inside it sold not just burgers but very tasteful licence plates with words like porn star and V8brute. This sense of style continued to the toilet where there was a vending machine for prophylactic devices called ‘the screamer’ and ‘the french tickler’
Andrew assures me the burger was tasty. Well, at least that was something.