From host to host on the coast
Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
115Trip End Mar 21, 2008
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Having thanked Terry and his daughters for their great hospitality, we load up our inexplicably heavy backpacks and stagger off to meet our next set of kind hosts, the Wilsons. We had met them at the wedding we attended in Slovakia back in September between Jane's close friend Kamila and her Aussie husband Matt. Alan and Elaine were (and still are, I guess) the proud parents of the groom, and Rory and Angela are Matt's siblings. The parents, and all the others of their generation, got on especially well with Jane thanks to her ability to interpret restaurant menus and explain the goings on of the wedding.
Elaine and Rory meet us at Rory's school and drive us back to their house, which is beautifully located in Sydney's southern suburbs, right next to a national park. Because of the location, the air is filled with the sounds of a hundred varieties of birds, from repetitive cheepers to irregular squawkers and occasional warblers. To sit on their back porch as the sun goes down and look into hte darkening trees of the park, haring these amazing sounds, is almost like transporting yourself into a rainforest.
Alan and Elaine have tickets to the U2 concert, so Jane and I are entertained by the youngsters. Angela's boyfriend John comes over and we head out to the neighbourhood Thai restuarant for dinner - generously paid for by Alan and Elaine - then play cards back at the house till around midnight.
Saturday, November 11
This part of Sydney has a famous pie shop that all the locals rave about, so Angela drives us there in the morning with everyone's orders. They are indeed delicious pies, with some interesting flavours (mine is chicken, mango and walnut - yum!), although I would say they are matched in deliciousness by good old Trisha's Pies of Wellington.
The overseas professional at my cricket club this year in Toronto was a guy named Stewart and I had remembered a couple of days ago that he played here in Sydney, so we looked up his fixture for this weekend. Fortuitously, the ground is is playing at is fairly close to the Wilsons' place, so they kindly offer to take us there to surprise Stew. The Hurstville Oval is a beautiful suburban ground where many greats of the game - including the incomporable Don Bradman - played their club cricket. Stewart is suitably surprised when we show up but we can't chat much because he is due in to bat next. I can only guess that he is a bit overwhelmed by our presence as he only manages a scratchy 7 runs before getting out.
Jane and Elaine drive home while Alan, Rory and myself hoon around in Alan's 1971 Lotus sports car for a while. In the evening, we all drive out to Cronulla Beach for a fancy dinner. Cronulla is a pretty part of Sydney, with beaches that Alan reckons are nicer than the more famous Manly and Bondi versions, but it was also the scene of the riots back in 2005 involving Sydney's Lebanese community. That whole issue still seems a bit of a sore point with many Aussies so I don't bring it up all that much. Our restaurant is a lovely spot overlooking the beach. The food is top notch, as is the company and Alan graciously picks up the tab at the end of the night. We can't help but think how lucky we are to have such hospitable hosts, especially considering we only met them a couple of months ago and then only for a few days.
Jane has a fear of spiders so, back at the house, the large funnel-web in the driveway is cause for alarm and makes everyone aware of her phobia. Accordingly, Rory decides it would be funny to find a spider picture on the internet, print it off, cut it out and sticky-tape it behind Jane's pillow. I am in on the joke and, sure enough, Jane pulls back her pillow and utters an unrepeatable exclamation before she realises it is a fake. Rory and I have a good laugh.