Hot Dam Bats entertainment

On Thursday, Alex had suggested a "who can sleep in the latest" competition for Saturday, forgetting about parkrun. I chose to unilaterally play this game on Sunday and, since they've discarded last year's habit of climbing into bed with me to play iPad games each morning, I won.

Mind you, it was all systems go once I did drag myself upstairs. Seems everyone had kinda been waiting for me in order to go for breakfast, so round the corner to Four Brothers we go. Smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs please, with banana bread for the girls, a muffin for Kevin and a "brekkie wrap" for Sally. That wrap was by far the best of the food, but my jealousy subsided when I got to eat a quarter of it.

We were there for much longer than the time it takes to order and eat breakfast, because Four Brothers is also the place where everyone everyone knows goes, at the same time. So Alex and Harry spent a while playing with other patrons' dogs, then with their schoolfriend inventing some game with the bike racks. The parents were there, plus the parents of another, then down the way came another friend with parent parked up. Quite the social corridor.

Despite being the middle of winter it's very hot in the sunshine. Once back home, via a minor emergency as the car keys had been mislaid, and a game is invented where we all throw a toy owl to each other and if you don't catch it, the thrower gets a point. Harry cheats mercilessly, of course, and "wins" the first game. But soon enough the lasses all go shopping while Kevin and I head to Manly Dam.

First, we walk uphill. For ages. This part of Sydney, in fact most parts of Sydney, are annoyingly vertical and midway up this my watch tells me I've already done my stairs target for the day. Mind you after those 2.5 days of barely moving midweek all the targets have been recalibrated to a low figure so they're currently not hard to reach.

The dam is just part of a big park, and once we're in its borders the first section is a rocky path through forest not too dissimilar to early bits of the Spit to Manly walk. There's lots of stories of animals we might see - swamp wallabies, snakes, echidnae, etc - but in the end we see nothing but birds,.

Sunlight mixes with smoke from barbecues to give us a fairly spectacular view as we reach the first bit of the lake. Even in July, loads of people head outside to eat charred meat near water.

Over the way we can see the dam itself, plus the water skiiing ramp, though today the water is quiet, no boats around. Plenty of folk walking or picnicking by the waterside though, and at the next stop we're treated to some excellent coots doing their walking-on-water trick.

Also, a black swan. In fact three black swans, which kinda makes them not seem so rare as they're supposed to be.

Further round, there's a memorial To The Fallen, a little cenotaph commemorating the war dead.

And then we're at the dam itself. As we walk onto the bridge I'm not exactly wobbly, but it's not quite as pleasant a walk as I thought. Frankly I could do with the fences being a little higher than they are, but actually I cope fine. Would probably prefer to run, mind.

Over the other side and we're back on a forest track, briefly being asked by some kids if there's anything scary around. They're hunting zombies, apparently. We haven't seen any, but a couple of mountain bikers zoom across the path ahead of us because there's a dedicated biking trail circuit here too.

Further around is the Mermaid Lagoon, which is well signposted but impossible to reach, as the path just disappears within a few yards and turns into rocks I'm not prepared to scramble down.

Through a few residential streets then back onto the bike track, overtaken a few times by intrepid cyclists, then we exit pretty much where we entered. But we're not going straight back, rather we're going to walk through the back streets of Balgowlah and wherever else we are so that Kevin can show me the cycle path which leads from the house to Manly, being the flattest ~5km route he can recommend around here, and also bats.

OK, so they're grey-headed flying foxes rather than bats, but they kind of look like bats. In fact, they are excellent and there are bloody hundreds of them.

See that? Tree full of flying foxes.

Hang on, let me get the zoom lens out.

There's loads of them, like I said. All awake and making noise, occasionally some will fly about but I fail to get a shot of any airborne.

Cute little fellas though.

Some of them like to have a bit of a stretch.

Show off.

Literally 2 seconds after I put the camera away there's a huge flight show. Damn it. So I get it back out, and we have to wait another few minutes before any fly again but when they do it's an impressive sight.

Eventually, photographing non-bats gets boring, so we carry on. There's a tricky bit of the path up ahead which he wants to alert me to should I go for a solo run. Turns out he's never noticed the large clear signposts.

Climbing more hills up through Balgowlah and, oh, look, there's the best off licence in the world: Porters. This place is where Kevin sources basically any beer he wants. They have a stupendous selection anyway, but if I recommend to him something they don't have he just asks and a couple of weeks later it's in stock. Today I ask the beer adivsor if they have any Tailgate peanut butter stout. They do not, so he's going to order some in. Good work, Porters. We buy 3 beers each and leave to walk back home.

Cracking open a bottle on the deck, a new toy is used and the game we invented earlier is now christened "octopus catch". There are interruptions due to interference from the dog, plus our collectively successful attempt to convince the neighbourhood cockatoo to come eat a poor man's Ritz cracker or two.

The games are halted when the sun has almost set and the mosquitoes are out in force. Also, handily, Sal's food preparation is going well and there are eggplant/pesto/goats cheese/capsicum starters which are bloody gorgeous. The main course ain't bad either: coq au vin. Dessert is a triumphant glazed pear DIY cheesecake. That is to say, we get a pear and then spoon on as much cheesecake and biscuit as we'd like. I like a lot.

Since coming indoors we've been listening to a 90s music radio station and playing "name the artist", falling back to charades when one person knows (typically by reading the DAB screen) and the others don't. How the fuck I was meant to act out the syllables for "Meredith" I do not know. So desperately unfair.

The kids are told to have a shower and everything lapses into rhyming: shower within the hour or Dad will glower and they will cower and he'll make them scour the pans. That's OK, says Harry, I want to scour the pans. No, no, that's punishment. That's OK, says Harry, I'd rather take the punishment, But eventually the parents win. Kevin subsequently makes me feel simultaneously sick and gloriously impressed after I show him a pic of Helen's cat and he says "Muster, cluster, General Custer"..... hmm?

"Buster Rhymes".

Chapeau, bro.

With zero fuss, but some energetic "carry me like Superman!" ceremony the kids are soon in bed and we're watching The Voice Australia grand final on TV. I say "we": Kevin's doing a bit of work, and I'm falling asleep repeatedly, for about 10 seconds at a time, only to wake up and furiously check my phone each time. It's hilarious, apparently, so they want me to stay upstairs but I'm having none of it. Off to bed; stuff to do tomorrow.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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