1966 ROCK-OLA MODEL 433

A reconstruction of a primary school journal entry, circa 1990:

On the weekend, mum and dad took us on a long drive to a place called Woodend. We went there to go to a jukebox auction. We bought a jukebox. When we got it home, mum and dad turned off the money bit so you don’t even need coins. My favourite song is ‘Leader of the Pack’ by the Shangri-Las.

 leader of the pack

True story.

At the time, I genuinely thought this was a thing that parent-type people did; go for a drive one random weekend and buy a secondhand jukebox. It was only much later that I asked myself, “What on earth possessed my parents to do that!?”

I’m still not exactly sure, but it was a Rock-Ola model 433 and it was the best.

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We got to play whatever music we wanted and we knew where the secret cancel button was if someone picked something rubbish. Our friends loved coming over and playing it (as did their parents) and we had some awesome parties with the jukebox providing the soundtrack. We rummaged through op shops and trash and treasure markets for the elusive record singles it played. It was such a thrill to actually find a few. And when we did, we took them home, catalogued them and typed up a title strip to slide into the display window.

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Later mum and dad got a pool table and darts board too so the jukebox lived in the poolroom. It was sort of like the best man cave ever, only better because we all got to play there and the whole idea wasn’t rooted in toxic masculinity.

The thing is, I realise now that the very best thing about that jukebox was the invaluable musical education it gave my sister and me. Absolutely priceless.

So when we got to Memphis we headed straight for Sun Studio which is considered by many to be the birthplace of rock and roll. Walking through the doors, I felt intimidated. Not because of the calibre entertainer that had passed through them before me but because I felt like a bit of a poser. I didn’t know much about Sun Studio, only what I’d read in my dog-eared Lonely Planet, and I was dreading having to feign recognition when the guide inevitably started rattling off the musical names associated with the place’s history.

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I thought it might be a bit like that time we went to Florence and went to about forty famous art galleries and museums before we realised we know nothing about art or European history.

But, that wasn’t the case at all this time. Aside from the administrative characters associated with Sun Studio, I had a pretty good strike rate of recognition. No posing for this little tourist, just enthusiastic nods of recognition.

And it made me realise what a good job my folks had done of educating me in all eras of music and in encouraging me to enjoy and appreciate music that had come years before me. Elvis recorded ‘That’s All Right (Mama)’ at Sun Studio in 1954 and the fact that this music remains relevant to me today makes me feel totally warm and fuzzy inside.

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I’m not suggesting every artist I know passed through that old Rock-Ola, but the fun we had listening to old music on that thing certainly gave me a taste for different styles of music. More than that, it gave me a fundamental understanding that there is value and reward in looking back and in preservation.

This is my absolute favourite thing about travelling. That thing that happens when you take the time to venture out and try something new, and the connections your mind makes when you’re trying to make sense of it all. In my case it was realising how lucky I am to have parents who not only exposed me to all kinds of music growing up, but who created such happy memories in my childhood. Memories that suddenly come flooding back standing in front of a tour guide at a 78-year-old Memphis recording studio.

Memphis recording studio

 

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JACKETS: BOTH THE WHISKEY AND LITERAL KIND

Here’s the thing about football: I’ve never…. really…. got it. If you’ve ever read any of my previous blogs you’ll know that I’ve spent a good portion of my typed words talking about football, specifically, rugby league, so this may come as some surprise. Permit me to explain.

I am not an athlete. I have never been interested in playing sport. I avoided it at all costs. And I have always found the experience of not being athletic to be an alienating one, which I assume is not uncommon. It could be why so many people gravitate to sport as spectators. Those who can’t do….watch?

As I kid I bonded with my dad over a love of the Melbourne Demons (Aussie Rules, for those requiring translation). But looking back, I think my love of that experience was more about time with my family. My cousins were all Dees supporters too and I have some really fond memories watching games together. Aside from that, (and one particularly striking nude photo of Stephen Tingay in the Herald Sun circa 2000), I don’t have many of memories of the specifics. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t about an appreciation of the sport itself.

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Lived on my bedroom wall until exposure from the sun over many years faded it away.

Fast forward to 2003 when I meet Hoff, who was a rugby league player and had never dreamt of being anything else. The only one more surprised than me that I have ended up married to a professional athlete would probably be childhood me. Or maybe my mum.

In those early days, I was well and truly a rugby league convert. I went to every game, I devoured every news story and I made a concerted effort to understand the sport and all its nuances.

But, as Hoff and I grew more and more serious, my relationship with sport became more and more problematic. Rugby league, went from being “that thing we do on the weekends”, to “that thing that controls our lives, determines where we live, what we do most days and our livelihood”. Sixteen years of being involved at a personal level is enough to give anyone a slightly different viewpoint, I think, particularly for someone like me who never really understood it in the first place.

All that said, I had an absolute ball at Monday Night Football in Green Bay. Go figure.

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We went to Green Bay with the sole purpose of attending a Green Bay Packers home game. It was a bucket list item for Hoff and far be it from me to stand in the way of lifelong dreams.

We kicked off the experience with a tailgate event, which started a couple of hours before the game. It was incredible. So many people, so much food, so many drinks and not a shot measurer in sight. Eek.

Honestly, these people know how to do football. There were people everywhere and such a joyous vibe about the place, that it was hard not to be excited (even though I could only name one player on the whole team and even then only when I was standing behind Hoff wearing his jersey with said name on it.)

Tailgate

The attire was a site to behold too. Cheese wedge hats (which had me lamenting the finite space in my suitcase), green and yellow pinstripe suits and so many Packers jerseys that I was beginning to think they were compulsory town uniform. From the minute we got up that morning we barely saw a person – working in a professional capacity or not – who was not wearing one.

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Hoff insisted on wearing his as soon as he purchased it at 10 o’clock in the morning

And holy hell was it cold. We’d been keeping an eye on the weather in the lead up to our trip and feeling grateful that it wasn’t looking too bad, then the day after we arrived a cold front blew through the mid-west and knocked about fifteen degrees Celsius off the mercury overnight. We’ve been cold ever since. Green Bay was absolutely no exception. I was so cold that I purchased a lovely pair of gloves, which I think really bring out the colour in my eyes.

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I also chose to combat the cold by donning my ‘whiskey jacket’, which actually proved to be pretty effective (thank goodness for Americans and their generous pours). Also, thank goodness for the 80,000-odd other people who attended this game. It made for a cozy walk to the stadium and a good amount of body heat once we were there.

(I was less excited about the number of people at the game when I went to the loo at one point and genuinely got lost on my way back to my seat. Dammit, Hoffman, if there’s one sports-related thing you’re supposed to be good at after 16 years of professional fandom then stadium navigation should really be it.)

It was a good game too, I’m told. I can read a scoreboard and so obviously I know that the Packers won, but that’s about the sum total of my understanding of how it all went down. You get to yell ‘First Down’ every now and again, which has something to do with yards gained, but as I’m not exactly sure what a yard is either that doesn’t really help me much. Metric all the way, baby.

So even though I am a bit of a sportaphobe, I’ll always be grateful for having had this once in a lifetime experience. Not only was it all kinds of fun, I got to forget all my hang-ups about sport and just be a fan. (Coldest, least knowledgeable fan ever, but a fan just the same).

BADGER-HEADED CHEESE BUTT

The only thing I knew about Wisconsin I learned on our previous trip to the States. I saw a man sitting in a bar watching football with a hat on his head shaped like a badger and a ‘cover’ on his butt shaped like cheese. He was essentially a badger-headed cheese butt. Being late October at the time, I asked Hoff what Halloween costume he thought old mate was going for and Hoff simply says, “oh nah, he’s just from Wisconsin.”
Apparently, Green Bay Packers fans are sometimes called ‘cheeseheads’ and one of the college teams up there are the Badgers, so there you go. Looking at this odd dude with his badger hat and cheese butt, I knew Wisconsin was a place I’d need to visit one day.
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That day came on Sunday when we picked up a car and headed north, to Green Bay.
Whenever I plan a trip, I do the adult thing and select dates that work for everyone: children, employers, child-lookerafterers, it’s a rich tapestry. Whenever Hoff plans a trip, he looks at said dates and sniffs out any professional sport that may be being played in the vicinity. On this occasion, there just so happened to be a Green Bay Packers home game a mere 3.5 hours away. Apparently, this is a big deal. For Hoff, it was big enough to re-route our entire trip and devote two days (and a fair chunk of the trip budget) to the getting there.
So we hit the road for another stint in the car with my trusty itinerary for stop offs along the way.
Pleasant Prairie saw us tour the Jelly Belly Factory and get free jelly beans for our trouble – score. I also now know more about the manufacture of jelly beans than perhaps anyone outside the confectionery industry ever should. We got free hats too.
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Our next stop was the Mars Cheese Castle, so-called I guess because of the state’s infatuation with cheese and anything of the dairy-related nature. It was a cool place with heaps of great local groceries, beer and deli items. Plus now I know where old mate probably got his cheese butt. Blessed are the cheese-makers indeed.
Back in the car for a vastly more sensible stop – the Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, which looks over Lake Michigan. Up until this point Hoff and I had been sniggering whenever locals referred to Lake Michigan’s shore as a ‘coast’. It’s a shore, not a coast. Chicago even has a neighbourhood called the Gold Coast, so named for its proximity to the shore of Lake Michigan and because of some convoluted story about how some rich dudes built their houses there. Unlike our Gold Coast which is presumably so named because it’s actually a coast and it’s kind of gold-looking. Anyway, the sniggering stopped when we saw how big Lake Michigan truly is. It might as well be the ocean, so ‘coast’ might be an apt descriptor after all.
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Our final stop of the day took some sleuthing. I’d read that in 1962 a bit of space junk crashed landed to earth outside an art gallery in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It later turned out to be a bit of the Russian’s Sputnik IV and the actual site is marked by a very nondescript brass ring embedded into the road, and a modest plaque on the nature strip. It took us four laps of the block before we spotted it.
Apart from being a quirky stop on my ‘itinerary of kitsch’, as Hoff has taken to calling it, the space junk site also proved to be a good excuse to visit the county that is infamous for being the setting of ‘Making a Murderer’. I have some moral reservations about sticky-beaking around sites that are related true crime because I know there are very real victims, but man is it hard to switch off your inner rubber-neck. So we may or may not have toured the justice-related sites of Manitowoc County, but we assuaged our guilt by winding down the windows and loudly debating the location of the space junk to anyone who may have been within earshot. That way they’d think we were space nerds and not true crime ghouls (which is only marginally preferable, probably).
My last job of the day was to steel myself for what was to be an onslaught of sport for the duration of our next stop – Green Bay. Hoff is a veritable encyclopaedia of international sports knowledge and American football is no exception. In fact it’s a specialty. We’ve been together for 15-odd years now and I’ve always prided myself on my authentic-seeming engagement with Hoff’s running commentary and rattling off of facts, which he does with increased speed and frequency, the more excited he gets. So excuse me while I nibble on some cheese and Google fan chants in our hotel room. Go, Pack, go.

I LOVE POIDA

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved sketch comedy. Full Frontal was my favourite and I adored Eric Bana’s Poida. I might be the only woman alive who found Eric Bana more attractive before he was a big Hollywood star when he sported a blonde mullet on Australian television.

Poida
Eric Bana as ‘Poida’, c. 1995

When I was in high school my friend Loz and I made our own sketch comedy show. My favourite sketch was when Loz interviewed me as Dr Miriam Stoppard, who was the author of a sex education book Santa had pointedly given me that year. We filmed it sitting fully clothed in an empty bath with stockings on our heads and we thought we were hilarious. That’s probably why we called it The Funny Show.

After The Funny Show went into permanent hiatus, I moved on to watching Saturday Night Live, devouring anything any SNL alumni went on to make and reading memoirs of all my favourite performers. And time and time again this same place kept popping up as a training and breeding ground for almost anybody who’s ever said anything funny: The Second City in Chicago. It’s been a dream of mine to see something there ever since. So here we are.

And did I mention there’s also a touring Saturday Night Live exhibition that just happens to be here right now as well? I love my life.

But first!

We started our stay in the Windy City with a food tour.  I learned was that Chicago is known as the Second City because it burned to the ground in 1871 and was completely rebuilt, not because it’s second to New York City, which is absolutely what I assumed. Apparently they get a little tetchy about that common misconception too. It’s their koala bear, evidently. Whoops.

And then onto Saturday Night Live: The Experience. Honestly, if there were a Make a Wish Foundation for adults in full health, it’d be my wish to spend a week at 30 Rock seeing how SNL is put together, which is exactly what the exhibition was. It was split into days and detailed outlines of what takes place on each day and it was absolutely incredible.

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This epic day was capped off with a visit to Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-Up which was essentially one giant, orange Instagram opportunity but super-fun, whatever the case. (Sidenote: do Americans have a problem with obesity because they see vegetables as decorations? Hmmm. Food for thought. Get it?)

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Friday saw us split up for the day because honestly, it’s been a long time since we’ve spent an extended amount of time together so we are pacing ourselves. I did a tour of the iconic Chicago Theatre and Hoff went to this sports museum where they something, something, home run, something, something hall of fame, something, something, World Series. I swear I was listening.

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We reconnected in the late afternoon for a Prohibition Bar Tour, which was great because if you can’t find a tour where you get to eat and learn about a city, surely a tour where you get to drink and learn about a city is the next best thing, if not better.

I’ve recently discovered that I have Scotch whisky distillers in my family tree and not so recently discovered that I really like alcohol so I’m always interested to learn more about its role throughout history. Predictably I learned much more in the first few stops of the tour than the last few. The basic take away was that Prohibition was doomed to failure from the outset and the whole thing was an exercise in futility but now we have themed speakeasy bars so it’s not all bad.

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And then finally, on to Second City which did not disappoint. We saw the 107th Revue on the Mainstage with a cast of six pretty great comedic performers and if one or two of them aren’t famous sometime in the next decade, I’ll be very surprised. Hoff and I laughed our heads off and it wasn’t just because of all the cocktails we’d had at Club Lucky before we arrived.

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The last few days in Chicago saw us live out a few more of our Windy City goals – I did a deep dish pizza making class and Hoff spent college football Saturday sitting in a bar with about 63 televisions watching half a dozen different football games, drinking beer and eating BBQ chicken wings.

We also spent a second night at Second City seeing a completely improvised musical based on an audience suggestion, which happened to be “Flying Covered Wagons”. It was one of the cleverest things I’ve ever seen on stage. I tried to hide in a broom closet in the Second City training centre at the end of the night so I could sneak into some classes come Monday but Hoff found me and made me come back to the hotel. We’re off to Green Bay next to see the Packers play Monday night football and apparently he’s not keen on missing it.

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In the meantime, thanks for the memories Chicago. We had a ball.

 

THE SUM OF ITS PARTS

On Wednesday morning we bade farewell to St Louis and drove to Chicago.

It’s not the first time Hoff and I have hit the two-lane blacktop in the States. In 2011 we spent about three weeks driving from Dallas to Los Angeles via Amarillo, Albuquerque, Monument Valley and Arizona. It gave us a taste for seeing the US by road and now we love it.

This country was made for driving. Wide roads, lots of lanes and in our experience, no slowing for road works every 20km (I’m looking at you, Queensland). Plus the billboards alone are enough to amuse you for the vast majority of the trip.

It was amazing how quickly we fell back into our old driving routine of 7 years ago. We have a very clear division of responsibilities.

My responsibilities are:

  • Plotting the route
  • Finding cool/interesting/wacky/weird stuff to see along the way
  • Taking photos of said cool/interesting/wacky/weird stuff seen along the way
  • Administering drinks and snacks
  • Music selection and volume control
  • Climate control
  • Manager, coach and captain of Team Hoff for the License Plate Game

As driver, Hoff’s responsibilities include:

  • Staying on the right side of the road and trying not to endanger our lives.

So the License Plate Game. This started back in 2011 and on that trip we managed to see license plates from 44 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, and we are determined to go one better this time. I don’t remember how it started that trip but I do know that for a while I thought I invented the game. I’ve since learned that I didn’t, and in fact, I probably heard about it at some point in my childhood when I read Babysitters Club Books exclusively to the exclusion of any other written material. I’m quite sure some of those girls’ shenanigans have fused with my childhood memories in more ways than one.

Hoff gets quite into it and at more than one point I’ve been concerned that his competitive nature in license plate spotting is encroaching on his ability to do his one job: get us where we’re going safely and in one piece.

Our first stop for the day was the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge and vantage point for the St Louis Arch down the Mississippi, which turned out not to be a stop at all because we missed a turn. Not to worry though, we drove parallel with the bridge for a good few hundred metres, which was the next best thing.

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Our disappointment at missing the bridge was somewhat assuaged, however, by our next stop: the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois. I love giant roadside architecture (their words, not mine). This particular piece was saved from demolition by a preservation group back in 1995 and subsequently restored to its former glory and I just love the idea of a group of people getting behind something simply because they know it’ll make people smile.

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Next stop was Springfield Illinois and the Cozy Dog Drive In, apparently the home of the hotdog on a stick and definitely an enduring landmark of the Old Route 66. We stopped here for some soup and not surprisingly, a hot dog and then headed over to Abraham Lincoln’s home and neighbourhood. The whole town really hangs their hat on being Abraham Lincoln’s home, which is not surprising really because it seems to me like there are about 45,000 towns called Springfield across the US (plus one notable fictional one), so the place needs to distinguish itself from the crowd somehow.

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Post-Springfield we hit a bit of a quiet patch so we amused ourselves by marveling at the flatness of the terrain, commenting on how eerily the distant weather patterns looked a lot like those in Twister, trying not to become too concerned that said weather patterns did look a lot like Twister and spotting each town’s water tower marker.

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I really feel like this town has something to hide…

Eventually, we pulled off the highway at Gardner, Illinois next to see a preserved two-cell jail, which is another classic Route 66 pit stop. Apparently it was more often used for drifters, to give them a roof over their heads, not hardened criminals, but Hoff and I just used it to get some super-cool photos.

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Finally, we stopped in Wilmington at the Gemini Giant, which is essentially a giant robot statue outside a diner that may or may not be open anymore. I’ve actually walked past the place and it’s still not clear. But it’s a giant Gemini statue, so, you know.

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And it was after this stop that Hoff said to me for possibly the fifth time that day, “so, what is this, again?”

*Frustrated sigh*

It’s a giant robot, Hoff. It’s a tiny two-cell jail. It’s a 170-foot catsup bottle. It’s the home of the hot dog on the stick. Each and every thing in and of itself is a little nutty and certainly not a reason to re-route your entire trip, for example. But on the whole, it’s a pretty fun day. It’s the sum of its parts. It’s weird, kitchy and iconic. You’re welcome.

So next, on to Chicago. Can’t wait to toddle around there.

WE WENT TO ST LOUIS, TOGETHER

When I was a kid, my grandma introduced me to the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St Louis. She had a copy on VHS, which was one of a grand total of about four videos available for rotation at grandma’s house. Pre-Netflix, obviously.

Meet Me in St Louis poster

It would eventually become one of my favourites. It is a visually stunning film and stars Judy Garland who was a visually stunning person. It’s got a killer soundtrack including the title track and “The Trolley Song” which is essentially a love song about public transport. If you have a spare hour and fifty-three minutes (plus maybe a penchant for 1940s Hollywood cinema), I highly recommend it.

Judy Garland

Hoff took me up on my recommendation once. Or at least, I badgered him until he watched it with me (potato/potahto). He was not a fan. He couldn’t believe that one of the central conflicts is that Judy Garland’s love interest misses the big fancy ball because he forgets to pick his suit up from the tailor before it closes so has nothing to wear (spoiler alert).

But this simplicity is my favourite part. I love that old mate missing the ball is akin to a disaster. It makes a nice change of pace from the barrage of modern-day films that are about actual disasters.

Anyway, when we originally planned this trip, we intended to start with five days in Chicago. Then at some point I was left unsupervised with a map and I noticed that my beloved films namesake, St Louis, was only a relatively short drive from Chicago. So even though I couldn’t convince Hoff to love the film in the way that I do, I did convince him to start our journey there instead.

(Actually, my original proposal was that I go there, and he go somewhere else nearby so that I could ring him and warble “Meet me in St Louis” down the phone in a context that would make sense. Denied.)

I should be clear though: virtually the whole film was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles. There is very little in present-day St Louis that harks back to the film. Even the beloved trolley is currently out of commission, which I think came as a relief to Hoff because I fully intended to re-enact “The Trolley Song” complete with a giant hat, had it been possible.

The Trolley Song

This came as no surprise though; I had done my research. The point is, I knew that even if it turned out to be a dodgy place, I could always say I’d been there. Kind of like a little in-joke with myself.

In fact, it wasn’t at all dodgy.

We arrived after the obligatory long haul flight (damn you Australia and your epic isolation) and headed straight to Ballpark Village. St Louisans are pretty wild about their baseball, as evidenced by the giant precinct in honour of it.

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Home of the famous toasted ravioli, oops I mean St Louis Cardinals

It was here that we tried toasted ravioli, apparently a St Louis specialty. Who knew pasta could get any better? Well-played, St Louis, well-played.

Toasted Ravioli
Toasted Ravioli

Post-Ballpark Village we headed to dinner at Blueberry Hill, which is a St Louis institution and boasts some of the creepiest restaurant décor I’ve ever seen. More toasted ravioli too. I’m not even sorry.

Blueberry Hill

Unfortunately though, not long after round two of toasted ravioli, the dreaded jetlag set in and we had to haul ass to bed. We would’ve liked to take more advantage of St Louis by night in all her neon glory but it we had a big day of driving ahead of us so had to do the grown up sensible thing and stop for an ice cream sandwich before heading back to the hotel to hit the hay.

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It was an almost insultingly short amount of time to spend in such a charming city but I’m so glad we did. Even though my beloved film really just provided a jumping off point for our overall itinerary, I’ll always feel pretty chuffed that I actually go to go there. Plus I can always recreate “The Trolley Song” on the 109 tram when I get back to Melbourne.

HOLIDAY MODE

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Holiday moooooooooooode, holiday moooooooooode. (National Lampoon’s Vacation, 1983)

The other night I had a dream about our upcoming holiday, as I often do in anticipation of events of note.

In my dream we arrived in St Louis, our first stop. I immediately changed into my gym gear, found a gym, and signed up for a Body Pump class. I went to load my bar with weights and had the horrible realisation that I don’t know my usual weights in pounds and ounces, only in kilograms, so I didn’t know which weights to put on my bar and I held the entire class up and the whole thing turned into a literal nightmare. It was the sad stay-at-home mum’s equivalent to the ol’ ‘turning up to school naked’ dream.

Wild, right?

On the whole, I am a creature of habit. I plan everything. I have a weekly planner on our fridge and a three-month projection on the inside of our pantry door. I meal plan, I budget, I calorie count and I have separate colour-coordinated filing systems for both my kids’ Lego and Duplo. And under no circumstances do I ever “play it by ear” or “see how I feel”. I don’t need my feelings to tell me what to do. I have my diary for that.

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When we lived in Auckland, our rental property had a blackboard painted on the entirety of one of the kitchen walls and it quickly evolved to become the blueprint to our week-to-week lives. The kids stuff, my stuff, Ryan’s hours, what we were having for dinner, my to do list and Hoff’s to do list. (Which I wrote. Didn’t work, btw.)

I cannot count the number of times friends and the odd tradesperson commented on it. Once, we had a TV show come and do a bit on Hoff and one of the sound guys actually took a photo of it to show his wife. He also said, “Wow! My wife hates it when I get McDonalds on the way home. If I knew I was coming home to lamb shanks then I wouldn’t need to do it anymore!” Chuck your own damn lamb shanks in the slow cooker before you leave buddy, was what I should have said. But I was so chuffed at the compliment that I just blushed and posed for a photo next to the blackboard instead.

Blackboard

The point is, I’m generally wound pretty tight. Like the springs you used to see on trampolines before kids got all precious and whiney about ‘safety’ and ‘not getting their young skin savaged by hot steel’. Pfft.

And because I am so uptight, it takes generally takes me a few days to wind down into holiday mode. I’m particularly concerned in this instance because the kids aren’t with us and I’m worried that come 5pm I’ll be forcing Hoff to sit down and watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, followed by dinner at 6pm and bed no later than 7pm. Because that’s the rules, you guys.

Luckily for Hoff, this holiday we are preparing with a bit of a transition period. We’ve come up to the beautiful Sunshine Coast because this is where we will be depositing our children while we are away. So we are dutifully spending five days here, winding ourselves down and fully preparing to be in Holiday Mode, so we can hit the ground running walking at a leisurely pace when we get to St Louis.

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Mudjimba Beach

Honestly, if you can’t relax here, there is no hope for you. There’s sand, there’s sun and there’s sea, which you can hear from the house.

There are an endless amount of wholesome things for the kids to do in the great outdoors so you feel like you’re winning parenting every day.

There’s a coffee shop down the road across from the beach and if there’s a bit of a wait it’s fine because the morning post-surf crowd is filled with so many achingly beautiful people it’s almost comical. You just spend the wait wondering where on earth they all came from and why do they congregate in this particular place?

So this is where we find ourselves. We did all our packing in Melbourne so I really only have one goal for this part of our trip, and it’s the same goal I set myself every time I come up here: spot 3 children who don’t have blonde hair. Haven’t managed it in the twelve-odd years I’ve been coming up here but I really think this trip is the one.

FOUR SLEEPS TO GO!!

PS For those of you sending well wishes on Hoff’s retirement from the NRL, thank you. Today we went to the beach and the kids dug some holes. Hoff accidentally slipped into one and my heart jumped into my throat because I thought he’d rolled his ankle. Then I realised our livelihood no longer relies on him having fully-functional ankles and it was THE BEST. Eventually I remembered to stop laughing and check if he was okay. He was. I heart retirement.