Pam's Journal for January 2006

Sunday 1st January
A big day today - Jan and Pete Mate’s birthdays. After a nice breakfast, neighbours Marie and Alan came over with their granddaughter. Later we all got ready and went over to Scott (son) and Tara’s. We enjoyed good company and a good lunch. On the way home we called to see another son, Christopher, and his two daughters, Deone and Emily.

Monday 2nd January
Jan and Ross’s friend Kristie came over to lunch today so I helped out with the cooking. After lunch we all had a very pleasant swim to ‘lower our core temperatures’. Well, it was pleasant until Pete Mate tried to drown me, and not for the first time I might add!!!! Can't take a joke, shouldn't have joined. Ed.

Tuesday 3rd January
We went to Bribie Island today. It is a really nice place and we enjoyed looking around. Another place on the list of ‘I could live here’ places.

Wednesday 4th January
Lay day for me but Jan, Ross, Terri and Pete Mate climbed the Story Bridge. I stayed at home as I am not very good with heights. They had a marvellous time and they all came home on a high.

Thursday 5th January
Today was ‘Jan and Pam’ day. For Jan’s birthday we had treated her to a pamper package at the local beauty parlour and as my birthday had been a non event due to Pete Mate being laid up with his back, I went too. We had a really nice time having a facial and massage and left there feeling good and looking more beautiful than ever. We then had some lunch and did a little retail therapy.

Friday 6th January
A new member joined our family today - her name is Alice. Alice is a GPS and is something Pete Mate has wanted for a long time. No more getting lost!!! My map reading skills are no longer required. Am I sad? No! We used it in the evening to find our way to Chris and Peter Neech’s house. (Pete Mate used to work for Peter Neech many moons ago). Alice performed very well and was a blessing, guiding us safely home in the dark and rain. I was able to sleep all the way! We had a very enjoyable evening with Chris and Peter.

Saturday 7th January
It rained for most of the day but in the afternoon the sun shone long enough for us to pack away our things ready for our departure in the morning. In the evening we all went to the local Chinese restaurant for a very nice meal.

Sunday 8th January
We said our goodbyes to Jan, Ross and Terri then set off for Glen Innes. It is always hard saying goodbye and this was especially hard as we had loved being with them. However, we also knew that we will be meeting up again in a few months to travel up the Queensland coast together. Apart from the rain, we had a good journey with Alice telling us where to turn and how far it was. Alice sometimes has a mind of her own and you have to keep an eye on her. We arrived at the caravan park late as we lost an hour (due to the time difference) once we crossed the border into NSW. Alice and the mobile phone impressed us by altering their clocks automatically as we entered the new time zone. If only the TV and video would automatically adjust to the new frequencies when we arrive in a new area! After receiving a friendly welcome at Glen Innes we set up camp between some giant granite boulders. The park is full of them and is such a pretty place, with trees and lots of green. I think we will like it here.

Monday 9th January
We explored the town and surrounding areas. One place we went to was called the Australian Standing Stones. These are granite monoliths on a hilltop. There is a circle of 24 stones representing the hours in a day. Three central stones represent Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man; Wales, Cornwall, Brittany; and the Australis Stone for all Australians. Four cardinal stones marking true North, South, East and West. (These are correct because Pete Mate, who swore they were wrong, checked them with Alice). Seven stones mark the summer and winter solstices. From this you have probably gathered that there is a strong British influence here, mainly Scottish. There was also a wall where different people had placed rocks from different parts of the UK, including two from Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog. After all this culture we had a wander around town, checked out a pub and then returned home.

Tuesday 10th January
We had a splendid day today. We set off around 11.30 a.m. for Glencoe, a small town with a very Anglo Saxon tavern, the Red Lion. It was built by a Scotsman in the 1960s. It was lovely; we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a good lunch. We then went for a drive around the surrounding area. Very beautiful scenery, green rolling hills that could have been the lowlands of Scotland. Before returning to the caravan we visited Beardy Waters because we had been told we could see Platypuses there. We didn’t see any so we went home. Our timing was good. Just as we got back into the car the heavens opened and it poured down once again.

Wednesday 11th January
Today we took it easy before our travels tomorrow. It was very relaxing to watch the tennis and catch up with my knitting. Retirement is wonderful. In the afternoon we packed everything away ready for the morning. We did intend to walk into town but time just flew by and before we knew it it was happy hour!

Thursday 14th January
We took our time getting ready this morning as we only had about 260 kms to travel. Our first stop was at Armidale, for lunch. We parked the car and walked to the nearest group of shops looking for a coffee shop and, of course, a toilet. We didn’t find the first but we did find the latter which is always good! I chatted to a lady washing her hands and asked her if she could point us in the direction of a coffee shop. As it was soon established that I was a stranger she decided to wait for me and take me to the main mall where all these coffee shops were hiding. She was a very kind lady who not only walked us to the mall but showed us where the Post Office was and gave us the run down on the best coffee shops. She insisted we visited a mall that had plenty of old timber and a stained glass window. Her parting comment was that if we wanted the best and biggest steak in Australia to visit the local Bowling Club. As instructed we went to said mall and it was, indeed, very nice. We found a coffee shop at the end of it and had a Caesar Salad each. Leaving the café we walked around the centre of Armidale and liked it very much. We were taken with the old buildings in the centre of town - there were many and they were beautifully preserved. So much better than these modern concrete blocks with no character whatsoever. Once on the road again we passed through some really lovely scenery; NSW so far is very pretty indeed. Our next stop was for a short coffee break after which we headed for Tamworth and then north to Lake Keepit where we are booked for the duration of the festival. (We left it too late to book into the town). Lake Keepit is a very nice spot but full of rowdy people. Well, actually only one or two are rowdy but they make enough noise for the whole place.

Friday 13th January
What a night! The noise didn’t die down until the early hours of the morning and the heat and humidity were unbearable. So on goes the air-conditioner, then we are cold, then we switch the air-conditioner off, then we were hot, yes you get the idea. Hence we slept in this morning until 8.30. Heck, isn't that what retirement is for? We went into the nearest town, Gunnedah, to do our shopping. As it was pouring with rain and thunder and lightening we completed our task as quickly as possible and then returned home.

Saturday 14 th January
We exercised my New Year’s resolution this morning and went for an early morning walk. Only trouble is there are now three of us. Yep, Alice came too!!!!!! After breakfast the morning flew by with cleaning and washing. Pete Mate made himself scarce by going ‘to have a look’ at the gliding club. His timing was impeccable, he arrived home just as I was putting the lunch out. After lunch we drove into Tamworth, and yes, with Alice. We were a little disappointed as we expected a ‘carnival atmosphere’ but most of the shops were closed and everywhere was very quiet and a little depressing. We did however collect all the information for the festival so we can sort through it and have some idea of the concerts we want to see.

Sunday 15th January
Lay day. More washing. We had an accident in the caravan and the bedcover had a drink of red wine. Luckily the stain came out and all is well. I went through a lot of the leaflets and books for the festival and there is so much going on it is a little overwhelming. There does seem to be quite a few free concerts, including Kasey Chambers whom we used to like but then found her music a little depressing. But hey, she could be better live and it is free.

Monday 16th January
We had our early morning walk , all three of us. It took me all morning to wade through all the information about the festival. I made a list of the concerts we wanted to see. The Tamworth people have done an really good job of complementing the costly concerts with lots of free ones. After lunch we went into Tamworth. Firstly we called in the information centre to buy tickets for the concerts we had chosen then spent a very pleasant hour in the museum called ‘The Walk of Fame’. It was really interesting and very well done (if you like Country music). We then checked out the internet café and,yes, at last we have found one that accommodates an old fashioned laptop like ours. (Now the trend is moving towards wireless interfacing). We then walked through the town, soaking up the atmosphere and listening to the street buskers. The people were so friendly as well, a different Tamworth to what it was on Saturday. We did some shopping, ate some tea, had a drink in one of the many hotels playing Country Music and then made our way to the venue for our first concert. This is what they call a ‘walk up’ where musicians can just turn up and perform, without getting paid. The donation we all made goes towards the upkeep of the Australian Country Music Foundation in whose courtyard the concert was held. At about 10.00 pm we headed back to Billy for the trip home.

Tuesday 17th January
A lay day, we are worn out after our long day yesterday and we have another long day tomorrow. I assure you the lay day was not planned so I could watch the Australian Open with Lleyton Hewitt playing.

Wednesday 18th January
We went into Tamworth early as we had a few things to do before we settled into the flow of things. There were a few buskers around and some music in the hotels but not as much as we expected. The festival doesn’t actually start until Friday so really we shouldn’t expect too much. In the evening we attended a concert at the Town Hall called ‘Young Guns’. This concert is a platform for the young and up and coming stars to show Tamworth what they have. Sadly some do not have it but, oh, some youngster do! We fell in love with Kirsty Lee Akers. So young, so tiny and so good.

Thursday 19th January
We went into Gunnedah to do some shopping and then relaxed for the rest of the day.

Friday 20th January
Big day today - we started it by going to the free Toyota concert and giveaways. We arrived too late for the tickets to the big concert and saw the queue for a free hats. I did not want a free hat that badly. The music was good and, lo and behold, who was performing but Kirsty Lee Akers. So we bought her CD (which we have played and played) and I had my photo taken with her. From there we went to the West Leagues Club to see a group recommended by a local. Treacle Line were not only great musicians but very amusing as well, we enjoyed their concert immensely. We then arrived in the town in time to grab a bite to eat and make our way to the opening concert in the park. The concert was really good apart from the usual speeches . There was heaps of good music, including Kirsty Lee, but the crowning glory was Tania Kernaghan. We like her though are not over keen, but she is a really good showman and knows how to sing and play her audience. We had a really good day and all the concerts we attended were free. Can’t get better than that!

Saturday 21st January
We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to explore the countryside. We had read about Manilla so that was first on our list. Manilla, ah well, another country town, nothing spectacular, but the countryside surrounding the town is absolutely lovely. Our destination for the day was ‘The Smallest Country Music Festival’ at the RSL in Barraba. Pete Mate and I have decided we are both deaf as he didn’t hear me say it started at 4.00pm and I didn’t hear me say it was on all day!!!! Therefore we arrived about two hours early. Not to be fazed by this hiccup in the plan, we sat in the air-conditioning having a drink watching the Australian Open tennis on TV. At last the music started . . . well they called it music. We called it ??????????? So we left and headed in to Tamworth. While dining in a restaurant, Ernie Dingo walkd in for a ‘feed’ - his words, not mine. He was a really nice chap and very friendly. After dinner we had a wander around listening to the buskers and music coming from all the hotels. The music is so plentiful that unless you are standing in front of the musicians the sounds of different artistes meld into one noise and at first I found it too much. I am getting used to it. Another late night.

Sunday 22nd January
Needed to do some chores and have a rest today, so it was a lay day. All these late night are taking their toll. Anyone who knows me knows that after 10.00pm I am useless and most nights we are not getting home until midnight.

Monday 23rd January
Breakfast at West Leagues Club to watch The Sommers Family. The Sommers Family was not having a good day. One chap said he arrived with two G strings and then hastily added he meant on his guitar. The girl singing seemed to be having a problem with her throat which was a shame as she had a nice voice and then they had enormous trouble keeping their instruments tuned. We all have bad days and that is bad enough but when you have a bad day for all the world to see, well, it can’t be much fun. We did, however, enjoy a couple of the other acts and then we had a wander around the tents and pavilions outside. We found a T-shirt place and bought a matching pair. I am sure a photo will appear on the website of us wearing these. We then went into town where we had a couple of errands to do. We had to park the car some distance away so had to walk and walk, then walk again in 37°C heat. Once business was concluded, Pete Mate declared he needed a cold beer. Who am I to argue with that, so we headed for the nearest hotel. We couldn’t even get in the door. On to the next one. We managed a drink and luckily enough, a seat. Believe me these are like hens teeth in this town at this time. You generally have to keep your eye on the room and then dive in as soon as someone moves. We decided to have a sandwich whilst we were there. I went in search of food whilst Pete Mate guarded our table. I found musicians in three different rooms all playing at the same time, before I found the food upstairs and yet another musician playing. Pete Mate wanted to find somewhere quiet to use the phone, a near impossible task but he managed it and phoned Pam and Dave Woodward (Beverley Soaring Society people) whom we found out were in Tamworth. So we went off to have a drink and a chat with them at their motel. We then headed home as it was already 7.30pm and we had been out since 7.00am.

Tuesday 24th January
Another early start for us, brunch whilst listening to Poets and Balladeers. We had tickets for this show and even though I told Pete Mate it started at 10.00am and not 10.10am (as it really did), we still arrived late. This time it wasn’t Bloody Alice’s fault - the driver decided not to follow her instructions. Anyway the show was good but the food wasn’t up to much. After leaving we checked out a caravan park in Tamworth for next week (when the festival crowd has departed) and then parked the car a little out of the centre of town but we need the exercise. We listened to more music and frequented a couple of hotels. In one we ate a late lunch and then left without paying. I though Pete Mate had paid and he thought the reverse. Anyway, dear Reader, it will be rectified on Thursday when we are back in town. (Will she ever learn? Ed.) After more music and a wander through town we headed home for dinner. It again had been a long day and I, for one, am pretty exhausted. Too much fun.

Wednesday 25th January
A lay-day. One of the reasons we have an occasional lay-day is that we are 55 kilometres out of town so it is not only a drag driving in, but expensive too. This is our last lay-day of the festival as we have something to see for the rest of the week and on Monday, when the festival is over, we are moving into town to stay another week or so. If we come again next year we will arrive early and try and get a camping spot in town. As it turned out it was a ‘well planned’ lay-day as we have had heavy rain with thunder and lightning.

Thursday 26th January
Australia Day. First thrill of the day was a visit to the Power House Museum. Well one of us was thrilled. After a few minutes it was evident that this was not going to be a five minute job so I took off into the main part of town to do some serious clothes shopping and to pay for a lunch we had (accidentally) consumed without paying a couple of days earlier. Everywhere was so busy that I couldn’t find the clothes I wanted so I took refuge in the internet café. Coffee was good and we did have one or two emails. I started to answer them and realised my time was running out, so I raced back to the museum only to find Pete Mate having a personalised conducted tour of the place. I sat on a wall and read my newspaper until a kind gentleman found me a chair in a cool place. One hour later Pete Mate emerged smiling from ear to ear . . . “That was great”.
It was well and truly lunchtime now so we headed back to the restaurant from we hade previously absconded. We enjoyed a nice meal with a couple of drinks and then paid an exorbitant price as it was a public holiday. (So much for honesty! Ed.) Won’t be eating there again as it wasn’t that special anyway.
We had our usual wander and listened to the buskers then headed down to the Bicentennial Park for the Australia Day concert. We were there in plenty of time to position our chairs at the front row. The concert started with a song from each of the young finalist of the ‘Telstra Road to Fame Competition’. Of course Kirsty Lee was there as one of the winners and she is now off to Nashville, all expenses paid. The rain decided to descend at this point in the proceedings, so the concert was put on hold and we were soaked. (Ever eaten a picnic tea in the pouring rain? Let’s say the sandwiches were moist). Being resilient Australians on Australia Day we decided to tough it out and wait for the rain to stop, cursing the fact that the car was miles away and inside it was an umbrella keeping dry! When the rain ceased, which was only about half an hour later, the concert resumed. The second part of the concert consisted of well known musicians. One Irish and Scottish group were completely mad, they had the audience singing ridiculous words, they were dancing up and down the aisle and we all had a good time. Jimmy Little performed, which particularly pleased me as he is a favourite of mine. Keith Potger made his country music debut; he was okay but I preferred him as a ‘Seeker’. The concert (for us) finished with a Bushwackers performance. We loved it - we first saw the Bushwackers twenty odd years ago and loved them then. There were only two of the original group remaining but they are still great entertainment. Their act finished with ‘I am, we are, Australian’ which we all sang along to and waved our Australian flags. As we all sang the final words of the song there was a loud bang which heralded the statrt of the firework display. It was really good and we thought that was the end of the evening’s entertainment. But no, there was more. We should have stuck to our first thought (that the concert had finished) as the group were loud, young and decidedly not our taste in music. It appeared that a lot of other people felt the same way as there was a mass exodus and we tagged along. What a day, what a week and there is more tomorrow.

Friday 27th January
We had to be in town for the Irish concert by 11.00 a.m., and guess what? We made it! Alice can now revert back to being called Alice instead of Bloody Alice. We were a little dubious as we took our seats, the place was a bowling club and reminded us a little of Barraba. We needn’t have worried, from the beginning to the end it was great entertainment. The show consisted of comedians (as they were all funny), plus dancers and singers. The Irish have the ability to enjoy themselves at any time of the day or night and we had a thoroughly good time. I, for one, had tears in my eyes when the songs Maggie, Danny Boy and Steal Away were sung with such emotion and magnificence. Leaving, we ate lunch in the car whilst travelling to the next venue, Wests League Club, to see the group Treacle Line for the second time. I really love their bluegrass music. Pete Mate likes it but not as much as me. Having said that I bought a CD, so he can learn to love it! I am so kind.
Two hours later we left Wests and headed into the centre of town. On the way we diverted into yet another shop selling computers. Once in town we had a meal at the Hog’s Breath Café. I had always said I would never eat in a place with a name like that but the town was so busy we decided the first place we could get a seat was where we would eat. It wasn’t too bad really and when I went to pay I got chatted up by an Irishman who said I had lovely eyes, and more which we won’t go into. Did I mention he was very drunk? We then made our way to the park yet again for another free concert, this time featuring Kasey Chambers. We quite like one or two of her records - well, we used to. Ten minutes after the concert started we knew we needed to be elsewhere, anywhere but here in the park! Trouble was we were totally blocked in and had to endure two hours of loud raucous noise that was depressing. Never again.

Saturday 28th January
We were supposed to be in town for 9.30 a.m. but were so tired we didn’t leave home until then and we had a 55 kilometre drive, then park the car miles away and walk into town as the police had closed the road. Needless to say we missed the line dancing and the first part of the parade. Once all that was over we looked for a cup of coffee. We found a ‘Gloria Jeans’ and had to wait about half an hour for our coffee. Those girls worked so hard they must have been exhausted. Pete Mate went off to see if he could move the car closer as the road block would now have been removed. I had a wander around, met up with him again and went for lunch. We escaped the heat of the day by attending a special screening of the Johnny Cash movie, ‘Walk the Line’. I enjoyed it but Pete Mate was a little sad that his hero was portrayed as a drunk, drug-taking idiot. When we emerged into daylight we had a choice - go to the park for another concert or go home. We went home. We decided we had had enough of the festival and the crowds were getting to be a little too unbearable for us.

Sunday 29th January
We were going to drive into town for the final concert of the festival but we were fair pooped - absolutely exhausted - so we stayed home, relaxed, and watched the tennis final in the evening. Looking back we have had a wonderful 10 days and would definitely do it again. We enjoyed so much music, most of it free, and met some lovely people. Next time we will camp in town as the constant 110 kilometre round trip is what wore us out!

Monday 30th January
We moved the caravan into Tamworth without any dramas. In the afternoon we went into town to do some supermarket shopping and to look at computers. We came home with the food and a new computer. We have been looking at computers for a week or so as our old trusty one keeps crashing. It is going to be doubly hard to get Pete Mate out of the caravan in the next few days. You know the saying, men and their toys!!

Tuesday 31st January
We eventually left the caravan as we had a few errands to do in town, one being the Internet. We are still working on the old system until the new computer is fully conversant with the way Pete Mate and I work!

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