Thursday, December 1, 2011



I’ve been away from Straddie, only for the week mind you, but it wasn’t a case of desertion.  My Reluctant Traveller and I virtually took the Island away with us; to another beautiful part of Australia, the Clarence River Estuary of New South Wales.

That’s Iluka on the left, big brother Yamba on the right.
Good Neighbour John and his lovely wife, Karen, were celebrating joint birthdays only a few days apart when they came up with the idea of a house party away from home.

A good three and a half hours drive time from home.

I’ve mentioned before the special friendships we’ve formed over the years on Straddie.  You might remember the neighbour who unsuccessfully hid the ‘For Sale’ sign on the vacant block of land behind his own newly built home, only to finish up best mates with the eventual buyer.  Me and the Reluctant Traveller.

Another partner in crime was Phil, the unseen body behind the pair of hands holding these big fish my aging bloke found it hard to lift.

Phil and Jenny, and Good Neighbour John’s son,  Nathan and partner Amy made up the rest of the party.

Iluka is as different to Straddie as chalk is to cheese but like our Island paradise it too boasts sun, sand and sea and a small community much like Dunwich, or for that matter like Dun Roaming of ‘Loveable Larrikins’ fame.  The beach house our Good Neighbour chose for the occasion was large and luxurious with enough bedrooms to sleep the guest list.  

Not that we spent all that much time sleeping

In fact we seemed to spend a lot of the time laughing and an even greater amount of time eating, and of course imbibing.  After all we were, all eight of us, celebrating a long friendship, and because both home and destination were nestled by the sea, it seemed only proper we should eat ourselves silly with the fruits of the ocean.

The oysters, we brought with us from Straddie, fresh in the shell; as my Reluctant Traveller asserted, you can’t surpass perfection.

Oysters were opened, fresh caught salmon and whiting filleted.  Chores we were used to doing at home on Straddie now being duplicated at Iluka, proving many hands make light work.

And the bounty was passed on, a lazy meal of fish heads, scraps and scaly parts for the bird population of the Clarence.  Tossing the fish frames is Good Neighbour John’s son Nathan, only a baby when the Reluctant Traveller and I first crossed paths with his father all those years ago.

A much younger Nathan back then with  his Mum and Dad and my Reluctant Traveller, taken a good 20 years ago on the beach at Straddie’s Polka Point.

One quick pelican...
The three characters centre picture with one partly obscured, are old mates, well one is older than the others, not that it makes any difference, they’ve been fishing, yarning, and getting into mischief together for 30 years now.  The snap below was taken 20 years ago on another fishing trip;  the third Larrikin is out of shot, he was taking the photo. 


The highlight of the house party though, was the Sunday afternoon Jazz cruise up the Clarence River where we danced and sang and downed a few more ales.

A magic blend of Reggae and Rock supplied by  golden oldie song writer performer with the Herbs, Willie Hona took us back to younger days.  The Herbs were a sensation in the 80’s playing the far east and England and providing support to Tina Turner on her tours.   Willie hasn’t lost his charm or his finesse, it was non stop music to remember.  Lucky us.

Jazz guitarist Willie Hona clowning with Amy

But  the weekend wasn’t over, not by any means.  We still needed to compare the beach at Iluka with the ones at home.  Nothing was different, only the miles in between; the same long stretches of deserted beach, crystal clear water and the Straddie mob from home.

Three typical bronzed Aussie Males...well, they were once,  a few years ago.

Mine still is, to me at least, I think my sunglasses must be rose coloured...

The house party away from home was a huge success.  We finished the mini holiday with a drive through the countryside, passing resident wild life, discovering new nooks and crannies, and downing a final light ale by the river at a sleepy little village not far from Iluka.

Emu mum with her chicks

On the way home we discovered down under humour in Aussie Land is still alive and thriving in the little town of Chatsworth, just a quick blink off the highway between Iluka and Yamba. Over a welcome icy cold ale with the Flynn’s, we sat under the shady branches of an aged and gnarled fig tree along with the town’s collection of odd thongs.

As birthdays go, the Flynn’s gig was a party to remember, and God willing,  I can’t wait for the next one.


Robyn Mortimer ©2011-12-01