Giggling like galahs, we've come full circle

18:51, Jan 27 2013

What luck to arrive in Sydney the day after the temperature gauge hit 47 degrees Celsius.

Watching the weather reports before travelling I had been kicking myself for arranging a holiday in the sunburnt country in January, knowing full well that getting off the plane would be like arriving to a blast of hair dryers on high.

But it was balloons, not hair dryers, that greeted me at the airport as four of a party of six from different corners of Australasia popped out through different portals to give each other the once-over and see what condition our conditions were in.

We were staying in a caravan park in Bulli, about two hours south of Sydney and close to the town of Thirroul, where one of our party is domiciled.

Thirroul is a charming town, a pretty suburb of Wollongong, and the place where D H Lawrence fetched up for a while to write his novel Kangaroo.

The cabin we'd booked was right on the beachfront but was smaller than imagined.


I panicked that the last of our party, arriving two days later, would freak out and be voluble about its primitiveness, so went down to the office and campaigned for an upgrade.

It came just in the nick of time. After two days of rubbing along together in the inferior dwelling we got the all-clear and packed up in 12 minutes flat, arriving at the new abode to fling a few belongings round so it would seem as if we had been casually in situ all the while, just as the last of our throng pulled into the car park.

So there we were, half a dozen in number, and all having known each other since at least our teens, crammed into a double bedroom and a dorm of four.

It was just like the old days of boarding school - not to mention the endless succession and subsets of flats in our 20s - but without the jolly hockey sticks and the appalling food.

Hockey sticks may have been absent, but boy, were those girls committed to a punishing exercise regime.

I know one is told to use it or lose it but we were up at 6am doing laps of a salt water pool next to the ocean and trotting out for brisk constitutionals executed at lightning speed, interspersed with information bulletins about the latest what-not-to-eats and drops to the ground for displays of exercises guaranteed to tone the gut and butt. And there were visits to a gym.

Speaking of butts, the two smokers in the group retreated to the deck to inhale under the watchful eyes of a trio of hefty galahs, nicknamed sky pigs, whose beaks had made sizeable dents in the veranda columns.

I wondered how long it would be before the vehement anti-smoker could restrain herself from commenting on the evils of the filthy weed.

Indeed, a verbal skirmish broke out between the two old sparring partners, with accusations of one being in denial about the effects of tobacco, and a counter accusation about a hopeless addiction to endorphins and calls to cut the fat off the mind.

The rest of the party looked on gingerly, fearful that a genuine internecine spat had gone down.

The two involved grinned like gunslingers, reassuring the rest they'd been at this game for 40 years, and so it would continue.

My own annoying lark-like habit of rising just after dawn and creeping round the joint to conduct whispered conversations to those next awake was greeted by a furious slumbering owl with a caustic: "Why bother whispering?"

My placatory offer of a cup of tea was accepted with a begrudging: "It might make up for being woken so early."

But laugh . . . sides were split, legs were crossed and tables were thumped as tall tales and true from our legendary pasts were revisited and embellished and new jokes added to the material, every one equal in humour and timing.

Delicious meals came and went with all hands to the pump and no-one slacking on the oars.

Table and house were cleaned with a choreographic ease, and shopping trips conducted with everyone helping each other out with a special commemorative purchase, even though all had different taste.

Talk about talk - suggestions were made to some of the more garrulous to rest the tongue overnight in a glass of iced water.

Perhaps by our next gathering, scientific advances will have created small pedometers we can clamp to our tongues so the furious patter of the most powerful organ in the body can be hooked up to the national grid, and we can receive a discount for travel of the mind.

The Press