Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's different up north

We drove to Launceston on Friday evening, to stay with Lynn and Scott, and their kids Isobel and Tom. The aim was to visit famous TV vet Dr Harry at his hobby farm on Saturday.

On the way up we were diverted into a paddock by a fatal accident, between Tunbridge and Ross. All heavy vehicles were lined up along the highway waiting for the road to be cleared. We happened along about four hours after the smash, so there were many, many trucks and buses. After seeing the wreckage were were astonished to hear there were survivors.

We were late into Launceston, and dismayed to find no-one at home at Lynn's. We had rung ahead to warn of our delay - we were all going to just head to McDonalds to get dinner into the kids, then get something more sophisticated later. We dithered around Launceston for a while looking for Maccas, and by the time we found it and drove through we had a call from Lynn inviting us back to try again.

It was great to see them all after quite a long time. Lindy and Sam and their kids Ellen and Tristan were there too. Michael threw himself straight into the fray, and could be glimpsed dancing around like a loon with the big girls and Tristan. Marcus and Tom did diligent jigsaw and Lego work together but separately. They gradually warmed up, to the extent that when our boys, Tom and Isobel were put to bed all in Isobel's room at about ten, they talked until midnight.

Meanwhile grown-ups had Thai takeaway and also rabbited on until midnight - a late night for Elf and I. It was wonderful to be with old friends. Lynn has amazing and depressing stories from the front line of teaching in Launceston's toughest suburbs. She is teaching kids whose parents she taught in primary school seven years ago. Lynn says if South Hobart Primary (about 140 students) was in Launceston it would have been merged long ago. State schools up there are fewer and bigger. Some are favoured with good maintenance and funding, some are not.

Our boys woke at six as usual, and woke Tom and Isobel. They all played nicely for an hour or so before they required us - we hauled ourselves up off the air mattress and addressed breakfast and clothes. The kids were great all together, and we just wish there was a good way to get them together more often. Launceston and Hobart are not really so far apart, but there have been so many accidents on that road lately, it's becoming a bit of a barrier.

After breakfast we headed out to Harry's, at Relbia, about 20 minutes from town. Very parched country, divided up by parched hawthorn hedges. The man himself greeted us, with a weird Madonna-style clip on microphone strapped to the trademark cloth cap. He started by telling us about the effects of the drought, the worst in the area in 150 years. He was pretty engaging. He started by showing us his ponies and thoroughbreds. One of the latter had a little shadecloth arrangement over his eyes, which he wears for about eight months of the year to prevent sunburn on his white-blazed nose. Tassie sun is not kind to white or even partly-white horses.

The boys' interest waxed and waned as we moved through the farm, seeing dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, fancy fowl, cats, turkeys and pigs. In the fowlhouse we had a lecture on incubation, which ended with Harry assisting a little chick to break out of its shell. Marcus was allowed to hold the one-minute-old chick.

In all I would say Harry's is a good investment, at $50 for the family. The tour took about two hours. Harry obviously misses the limelight a little - there was ample time for autographs and photos with the great man. The Clucky Chook Cafe where the tour ended may have had lovely food but the staff need to learn to smile and spend less time on their hair.

As we drove back to town we came upon a small roadside grass fire. Some people on a fat motorbike who had recently passed us heading the other way, either lit it themselves or must have sailed past and ignored it. Lynn and Scott and I all stomped on it until it seemed to be out. I noted a fish shop in Kings Meadows was selling Saw Shark.

We had lunch back at Lynn's, and the kids got down to some more intensive fun. Marcus and Tom sat on stools at the breakfast bar to eat, and looked like old blokes in a pub, nattering away. It was very sad to have to drag the boys away, but we wanted to drive home in daylight as much as possible. Michael cried and Tom (in his Superman costume) responded with a spontaneous hug.

The drive home was pretty uneventful. There are beautiful splashes of gold around the midlands at present, especially along the (dry) riverbeds. Rain started falling as we came in sight of Hobart, and continued through the day today, so hopefully it is falling on Harry too.

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