Terms and conditions

So I'm condensing multiple days into single blog posts, and (obviously) being later than usual in my writing up of happenings. I'm also writing not from notes, but memories augmented by photos. This is what happens when a holiday involves being sociable and is moderately overwhelming. Let's begin at Friday morning.

There's noise. A door opens; the door to my bedroom. I'm not in a hotel and have no privacy - there's a 5 year old niece, wanting to play on my iPad. I'm trying to watch wrestling but, go on then. Cue a few games of Angry Birds before she's called by her mum - time to go to school, but not before having a lovely time greeting auntie Mara, grandad, and grandma. There's a funereal shindig on. I take the opportunity to stay in bed for another 3 hours, until such time as Kevin's about to finish work and head home.

When he does, we head out, first past a building site with a curious use of "number".

We get food from "Local's Corner", I have field mushrooms which is basically poached eggs on toast with some mushrooms. The extra bacon and chorizo is far more extravagant than expected, not to mention totally gorgeous. We walk it off straight away by heading for a trot around the heights of Seaforth with all its terrible vantage points. Awful weather here for the middle of winter.

Back to the house. We're not up to much today, what with starting everything so late. In the garden, I attempt to get a decent photo of Pepper, who will apparently never stay still when Kevin tries. She obeys immediately for Uncle Darren, which is nice.

Time to try out the giant lens. He's attempting to figure out what distance away things need to be to focus in this unsteady behemoth, while attempting not to look like a sniper or peeping tom.

Every picture looks pretty ropey. There's one in which we can just about read the registration on a passing sea plane but that's about it. More practice required.

Come 3.15pm and it's time to pick the girls up from school, the end of the last day of term. They're running around like crazy in the yard, attempting to slide up bannisters, showing off their marbles and marble mazes and clutching school reports. Back home again, the regularly scheduled afternoon carnage takes place and they struggle to hold back from opening the wrapped present on the kitchen table, but wait they must until grandma and grandad arrive.

Around 6 months after the very first iPad came out - right at the height of Angry Birds mania in the UK, when The Sun was asking "do you know anyone who has 3-starred every level? get in touch!" - I was the best player in the UK. There's a blog post about it somewhere from October 2010 or so. I played it obsessively and kept going back to eke out ever higher scores on every level to get to the top. So it's with a little annoyance, mixed with pride, mixed with "oh, this will contribute to my scores!" that I watch AJ better my score on 2 of the early levels in the space of 5 minutes. Damn it!

Oh, here are Sal and her parents. That side of the family have been at a funeral but now they're back, which means they are all waiting for takeaway curry while Sal drives Kevin and I down to Manly. We've got a table booked for two at 7.30pm in a Mexican restaurant, but since it's only 6pm we might as well pop into the 4 Pines brewpub first, eh?

I say "eh?" advisedly because Friday was apparently Canada Day. Accordingly there is ice hockey on the TV and some special Canadian style beer on sale. No room to sit anywhere so we stand in front of the tasting notes.

The waiter in Manly Mexican warns us off ordering both a starter and main because their portions are too big. That's not how normal waiters work. But anyway, he's right, because the mains are massive. My burrito is cracking, and they have actual Mexican beer on the menu too, unlike in the Old Manly Boatshed, a pub with live music down on the Corso. I've never been here before - it's a dingy underground boozer with posters on the walls and bad beer on tap, and excellent. The girl singing has a great voice and proper gor blimey guv cockernee accent when chatting to the crowd between songs, all giggly about getting applause. We stick around for 2 drinks and 4 songs before jumping in a cab home.

Saturday morning at around 0730, both girls come interrupt my wrestling watching to play iPad games in bed for 90 minutes. There's sharing and fighting and Angry Birds and Qbeez and Jetpack Joyride and SIege Hero and World of Goo and then there's me saying, no, girls, let's not play Grand Theft Auto or The Room or Batman Arkham Asylum please. Not when you're 7 and 5. Fruit Ninja is pretty much the winner overall.

Then, some negotiations. The grandparents are heading back to the airport at around 10am. Which of the girls wants to go with them? Just Harry? Right, then shoes on Alex - me, thee and Kevin are going to take Pepper for a walk on yet another horrid wintery day.

Oh, did I say horrid? I meant spectacularly nice. There's barely a cloud in the sky and I'm led through Seaforth's backstreets via numerous fauna lessons and an appallingly named travel agent: "Time Fly's". Fly's? Really?

We count the steps on the way down. There are 149. Quite hilly here.

Down the bottom and across Spit Bridge into the reserve. There's a few boats 'n that. It's alright.

There's a parkrun on this very path. Now I like Bushy Park, but this is a bit nicer I must admit.

Bridge goes up. Boats go through.

These are all for sale.

We spend ages walking around the marina, window shopping for expensive boats. There's tons of them, for sale outright or on a timeshare basis. Everything is ludicrously pristine and shiny. At the end is one black boat which looks like a waterborne Bond villain vessel.

Oh, check out the jellyfish!

Back at the park, we'd promised Alex a bit of time on the big net tyre swing thing.

Back home involves climbing the 149 steps and more. Oof. Hard work, not that you'd know it if you only asked Kevin or Pepper. The former heads out to vote - it's general election day today. This is the 4th time I've accidentally been in Australia for something of national significance: Steve Irwin's funeral 2006, Anzac Day 2008, Australia Day 2010, and now the 2016 polls. Voting's compulsory here, which I think I agree with. While democracy takes place, AJ and I cooperate on Fruit Ninja and blast our previous high score away.

Sal and Harry return from the airport via large amounts of grocery shopping so the car is emptied. I leave the iPad unlocked so the girls can continue to fight and share and fight and share over the games, while me and Kevin head out for lunch because neither of us have eaten and I'm properly low-blood-sugar-grumpy. It's gone 1pm, fer chrissakes!

The "we are open!" sandwich board pointing towards the recommended Chinese restaurant is a lie, but beforehand is an actually open Japanese place so we snarf down some gyoza and rice and mince and nom nom nom. Then onto North Head, the park at the bottom of Manly/top of the entrance to the harbour, for views of the city 'n that.

Another rubbish place to have on your doorstep. I do like Sydney a lot, just wish it wasn't so far away from everything else in the world.

Kevin's still trying to get worthwhile pictures out of The Truncheon, and largely failing.

I give it a go. Jesus, this thing's so unwieldy and awful.

We leave North Head and go up to the far end of Manly beach, for more of the same. Some clouds have appeared. I mess around with filters and take photos down towards where we've just come from, and Kevin finally figures out how to get The Truncheon to focus. Suddenly, he's taking good shots of things very far in the distance, such as being able to make out the flag on a roof of one of the hillside building in the third of these photos:

Success! This calls for a visit to two breweries. They are in Brookvale, a few minutes drive away. Kevin's expecting Nomad to maybe be shut what with it being winter; instead, there's a band on and loads of people. We queue for almost half an hour just to buy two bottles and a can to take away. Two minutes away in 4 Pines, we actually have a drink and a sit down in the tap room. I have an ESB, served by the brewer herself. She is rightfully proud of the taste.

We've been out a while now, so it's time to head back. The girls are still playing iPad games, even while dinner is served. The dog totally eats up any and all attention, which I exploit massively. State of this thing.

Then, we settle into election night coverage on the TV. It's being billed as too close to call, and by 9.30pm or so they already say 122 of the 150 seats have been called. I don't understand how this can be the case in a country so vast. Then, the number of seats for one party changes and I twig that they're just projections in which they have confidence, but not guarantees. The talking heads are every bit as adversarial and childish as politicians the world over, so once I finish the imperial stout I'm on I reckon it's time for bed. Sunday will be a day of rest, right?

Created By
Darren Foreman

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