15 May 1984

Letter: from Cairns

Letter 15 / 5 / 84

What a luxury. I'd almost forgotten that such things as peace and quiet existed. Young Alison H is home from Uni in Brisbane, and delighted to look after our two for a few hours. James thinks she's wonderful, and our Alison seems to accept it as long as James is there ... so I have been having a (much needed) little rest while Peter tries to get a "rust job" done on the car.

But let me tell you about our trip ...

Best-laid plans ...

We rang Ron Kuch about the Wednesday before we were due to come, and he told us to be at the airstrip about 1.30pm, and we could bring 50kg luggage. The trip would take only 3 1/2 hours by Aztec. On the Friday there were two funerals on the island, the bodies were flown in from Cairns by (we were told by people around us) "Outback Air". We saved ourselves a few jobs to do on Saturday morning - I got up early and put sheets etc in the laundry sink, they would be dry by lunch time, and we turned the fridge off and waited for the ice to melt a bit. We just sat down to a leisurely breakfast when there was a knock at the door - it was the Kuch pilot!

"Coming?" he asked. He had brought the bodies the day before, slept overnight in the village, but didn't bother to walk down or send someone to tell us about it.

"OK, 10 minutes ..." he said, - otherwise we would end up having to wait a couple of hours or more when we got to Lockhart River because the chap who does the re-fuelling of the planes was planning a fishing trip ...

Rushed exit

Well, we rushed. There are a lot of things you have to do before you go away for several months! You can't really just walk away ... I dragged the washing out of the sink and hung it (still soapy) on the line in bunches, rather than let it just rot in the sink. We put towels around the fridge on the floor, and slammed all the house windows closed, threw our freshly-made toast into my carry basket, locked the door ... and went. No time for any "good-bye"s.

At the airstrip they backed the tractor under the wing of the Cessna and he refuelled using a couple of jerry cans - standing on the tractor trailer to reach. One of the six seats in the plane was missing - they had to make space to carry coffins - so we had a little floor-space for Alison to play on. (And I was glad of it, she was restless and needed room to move.)

Slow flight

They had brought the Cessna instead of the Aztec because coffins fit better - but it meant the trip was now 5 hours long because it's a slower plane. Alison had a tummy-full of something that was making her uncomfortable (or maybe her ears were hurting too), and wriggled the whole time - after two dirty nappies she seemed quite a bit relieved. We were glad to have traveled early - but just wished we had known in advance! It would have been worse waiting on the airstrip for a late plane ...

Cold in Cairns

Our friends in Cairns were rather over-loaded with guests and family at this time, so they moved their caravan out to a caravan park to relieve the congestion - so here we are. It was pretty nightmarish the first couple of days (and nights), but a little better now that the kids are less excited and know the way around its a lot better. Its "so cold" (down to 21 degrees) at night, we all put on winter pajamas and we have made the kids a little nest in the bottom bunk - one at each end - with sleeping bags tucked all around to keep them away from the cold walls. They both developed colds after just one night here.

Our friends wondered what we would "do" for 5 weeks in Cairns ... this is the first time I have even paused. I've been feeling a bit crook - just achy and sort of sick - for a couple of days, so I'm very glad of this little rest. There's heaps of shopping to catch up on after our year away on the island - we only brought two overnight bags with us to get us through the long weekend when we first arrived.

Yesterday we went for our Queensland drivers licenses - we still had our South Australia (Bible College address) ones. We went down to Townsville for a day to visit friends there and to see the Marous - our islander "parents". She has been very ill, and is so thin now.

We found St Vincent de Paul's yesterday and picked up a stack of kids' clothes, especially little dresses for Alison, at 20c - 80c each!

Losing James

Last week we were shopping in a Big W complex, and were just paying for our groceries at the supermarket checkouts, when we realised James had "gone"!

Whenever we get out of the car, as his feet touch the ground, they just seem to gain a will of their own.

This particular shopping centre is marked by a huge concrete marlin (fish!) with its nose pointed skyward, so fearing the worst (he's hopeless in car parks) thought he may have gone back out to look at it. No sign of him.

We put an announcement over the supermarket p.a. but he wasn't there either. Every now and then we heard a kid crying and descended on it from opposite directions - wrong kid.

After about 20 minutes (a long time under these conditions!) Peter made his way to the Big W department store, and there was James, up on the service desk, looking VERY solemn! He'd found his way to the wrong checkouts!

Our Ali and our James

We had some photos done the other day - we'll have to get some copies made. There are some gorgeous pictures of the kids ... I find it difficult to describe Alison - she's a real little grub, loves playing in the dirt (likes to put her tummy in it) - but she has a beautiful smile! Big tummy, sway back, wobbly tumbling kind of walk - typical one-year-old, I guess. She looks sweet in a dress - otherwise people think she's a boy with her little round face and straggly hair. She still has tantrums, but I have a feeling we are winning these days. She puts on a "coy" act with "new" people, but it doesn't last long - she's too inquisitive for that. She goes more readily to a man, and is getting used to white faces.

James needs and enjoys contact with people other than us. He was thrilled to have "big Alison" babysitting. We went to an Anglican church on Sunday and he trotted off happily to Sunday School to the delight of the girls who had charge of him there. "He's so cute! He has such a cute little accent!" they kept saying.

Alison discovered the stairs to the gallery at church, so for me the whole service was a battle of wills. And once again, her constant wriggling finally resulted in a dirty nappy and some relief.

We were invited out to lunch after the church service - that was a nice change being in someone's sumptuous home rather than our tiny caravan. Alison was delighted with the carpet, totally new experience for her ... and fell asleep happily on their water bed!