Our first day of our summer holiday by the beach and I was given the privilege and delight of taking my dear old Grandad on an adventure. Soon after midday, we tootled off to take the long road to Tilba Tilba – home of Erica’s beautiful cheese. Grandad had long heard of the prettiness of this historical village and was very keen to wind round those mountain roads himself, sit in Erica’s cafe, and marvel at the beautiful countryside.
It is such a picture perfect wee village. I can so imagine living there.
We shared lunch at Erica’s cafe – including malted milkshakes using Erica’s latest from the farm product – beautiful, rich, creamy Jersey milk. Grandad couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed a malted milkshake and made sure to slurp up every last drop. Oh yum!
She’s now selling it – unhomogenised – from her farm shop. If you ever find yourself nearby, treat yourself to a milkshake and make sure to take a bottle home.
Next door is the old community hall. It has served as a roller skating rink (when it was first built in 1901 – can you believe that! - they built a roller skating rink back then!), a storage hall for the cheese from the nearby cheese factory, a dance hall – whose floor was admired for miles around because of all that butter milk that sweetly dripped from the cheeses into the wooden boards – and now, a community arts hall.
At the moment, it is hosting an exhibition of local interests. Tilba – at first glance – looks like a tourist shopping strip. But as the community exhibition proclaims, there is so much more to the people of Tilba than a bunch of shops. There’s one gentleman’s collection of antique motorcycles, a collection of psychedelic vintage aprons, a photo montage of a family’s dog from the moment she arrived as a sweet pup, to her death a couple of months ago, the works of several local artists, an exquisite hard carved Windsor chair, quilts, baskets woven from the willows lining the Bega river, a collection of black and white photos of Tilba from 1985 to 1995 … Grandad and I had a marvellous hour, carefully reading and inspecting the exhibits, and then a wonderfully long chat with the local photographer who was caretaking that afternoon. It was brilliant! What a beautiful idea huh?! A exhibition of a community’s interests.
Then, we simply had to cross the road and check out the post office. Grandad began his career in the post office, as a telegram boy, when he was 15. He rose quickly through the ranks and travelled the east coast of Australia with his ever growing family, working in post offices from Barcaldine in the far west of Queensland to Launceston in Tasmania.
For the last couple of decades of his career – those that I knew – Grandad was a Post Master and oh, how we loved visiting him at work. He would set us up at the huge wooden counter at the general post office in Kempsey, supply us with scraps of brown wrapping paper, and give us the huge round racks that held all the ink stamps and we would stamp, stamp, stamp to our hearts’ content. When we had produced our masterpieces, he would staple the sheets of paper together into books for us. It was such fun!
Grandad’s history with the Post Office is so enmeshed with my family’s history, my childhood, and how I “know” Grandad that I always feel such a connection to post offices – especially the old ones. I drive my family batty when we are out and about in the countryside. I squeal, “stop! quickly stop! there’s the post office! I need to take a photo of it for Grandad!”
Our journey home, took us along the coast road. First, we boinged down a dusty track, broken up with cattle grids and gates, to the Tilba general cemetery which is perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea. It is breathtakingly picturesque … Grandad loved it and we stopped many times for him to whip out his camera (oh my, it must be hereditary!) and take a few snaps.
Then, we meandered through the farming fields, forests and beautiful fishing villages of the Far South Coast, noting the loveliest spots that we simply must return to.
Without doubt, number one on the list is The Blue Pool in Bermagui. Wow!
But without doubt, the highlight of the day was having my Grandad by my side. This beautiful old gentleman is a born adventurer and it was so wonderful to be able to provide him with the opportunity to explore the unknown. And oh, he did so enjoy it.
There were several times, as we drove along, that Grandad spoke wistfully about how much he loved driving. How buying a new car was always such a thrill. How there was nothing better than to pile the family into the car and simply drive. Discover somewhere new. Enjoy getting away. The wonderful feeling of escaping the every day. And how very sad he was when the time came to hand over his license. Admit that those days were over.
After one such moment, I squeezed his hand, kissed his cheek and told him how special it was to me – who has so inherited his love of “the drive” – that after spending my childhood driving around in the back of his beloved car to the next adventure, I could now treat him to the same. He gave a small smile, and replied that he supposed it was, yes he supposed it was, but it wasn’t quite the same nevertheless. As much as he loved exploring with me, there was just this wee little spot inside of him that still wished so fervently that it was he behind the wheel, strong and capable, and me, small and excited, in the back.
I can’t hold that against him. No, I can’t.