The country of ‘long week-end’. Memoires.

The mussel party

The mussel party

The long week-end would inevitably start by packing the van and go camping. We have most of our photo albums packed with camping shots. We finally got it down to an art form. In the days when our children were young, camping was big. Especially down and up from Sydney. The bush was still bush and it wasn’t till caravan parks started to spruik up that camping was pushed in the background and bush-camping lost its charm. Now camping grounds are controlled and camper vans and caravans  are parked neck-on neck. It is like going to the local Drive- In of yesteryears.  Watch Quo Vadis with a 2 kilo pack of pop-corn. The kids and mum dressed in pyjamas, ready to hit the sack after driving home.

This week-end we had the grandsons staying with us after mum had them all week. School Holidays used to be the worst time for mothers, the stuff of nightmares. Now, of course with the average family of 1.9 children it should be a much easier ride for mums. But is it? Sipping a coffee with our grand-kids yesterday I noticed the grimly-faced mums walking the Bowral streets with kids in tow. There was an air of resignation but also of a hope springing eternally. Another couple of days and all will be back at school. Order again, and bored kids getting what they deserve, an education.

In the fifties and sixties camping shops were big business and tents used to be put up on show. Parramatta road had huge camping shops and one would go there as an outing, feel inspired by stakes, axes, pocket knives, foldable water containers and mouth watering port-a-loos. Tents were made above those shops by Hungarian experts or strongly calved ex Austrian mountaineers. We loved camping and used to hack away the Lantana to clear a spot for our tents. With bush-saws we would cut a dead tree and sit around the camp-fire drinking cheap hot wine spiced with cloves. The headaches next morning were legendary and have till now never been surpassed.

All this has changed. On the highways enormous double bogey vans are being pulled along by equally enormous multi storey vans. There are air-condition units on top and at the back of the van. At times a smaller car is being towed along and multi layers of canoes with mountain-bikes strapped on top. I am not sure but I suspect that multi electronic devices are being held by those that are not driving. The selfie sticks at the ready and even while driving, images and selfies are instantly being beamed around the world by the kids sitting on the lower deck of the SUV.

Our camping days are over and I could not imagine crawling out of a tent with a bad headache and then having to cook porridge on a dead fire. This week-end no camping, instead I got up early and prepared the pan-cake mixture with the butter milk bought the previous day. It is the least I could do and the kids love it more than camping. Things have changed.

After a few days with us and before the mother came to pick them up I had promised them a bit of a gourmet supper. Apart from pancakes, the kids have also been,  by sound grandparental grooming, encouraged into liking sea-food. If there is one thing I wanted achieved, is for them to enjoy the delights of herrings and mussels. Even during the grimmest of times, a good herring or bowl of steaming mussels would pull me through during the blight of my suburban youth! It does no harm to kids and is as good as camping. I  bought two kilos of mussels and after steaming them up in some white wine, crushed tomatoes and lots of garlic, were consumed by a fervour not even experienced during their much earlier discovery of the I-Phone.

It was a great week-end. One of the best really.

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27 Responses to “The country of ‘long week-end’. Memoires.”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    Your blog posts are such a treat, Gerard.

    I did like this phrase: “sound grandparental grooming” and it seems your handsome grandsons (even with mussel shell eyeballs) are coming along well.

    The pancakes with buttermilk sound delicious. Do they get to be about 2.5cm tall?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Carrie Rubin Says:

    Glad your weekend turned out well. As a young child, I liked camping, but that fire extinguished in me shortly after. I have no desire to do it now. On the other hand, some of these luxury recreational vehicles are bigger than apartments I once lived in. I suppose if I could camp in one of those beauties, I’d give it a go. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pethan35 Says:

    Hi Gerard, your post is, once again, pure entertainment. We never liked camping and your “mouth watering port-a-loos” would only extract tears from our eyes. Living like our ancestors in the “Neander Tal” had no attraction for us. We are decadent city people and feel more like Woody Allen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Peter,
      We loved camping and so did all our family, brothers and sister with husband, wives and children. A whole convoy of us would drive to Bendalong on the South Coast and set up camp.
      It was terrific and our kids enjoyed the Australian bush and endless beaches as hardly possible anywhere else.
      On the other hand they also had the Inner West as well when most of us ended up living a city life. The beginning of Cosmopolitan urges. You know, back then it was the start of kids doing ballet dancing at Bodeweiser, recorder playing, piano, acting, all sorts of activities. They used to put on little plays with all the local kids and parents getting invitations to.
      In those days kids were around, racing down in billy-carts, getting broken legs. Now it is so much harder to even spot kids on the street. But…
      I saw one this morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. bkpyett Says:

    What a lovely post, Gerard. Though I must say port a loos sounds posh. I’m sure you started out with a shovel or spade, like the rest of us!! It’s wonderful introducing kids to the wonders we enjoy!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, the first loos were hand dug. Deep pits really. When the camp site became established the pits were dug and a kind of zinc contraption with a lid would be put above it. I remember all went well when bees decided to make it their home. Soon a bee-hive under the lid made the toilet unusable and even dangerous. Heaven knows what the honey would be like.
      THe bees would proably get the nourishment and honey from the wild lantana.( I would hope so!)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. auntyuta Says:

    Temperatures here are in the low thirties right now, Gerard. We have just come back from the Bulli Beach Cafe where we had some lovely ice-cream. It was packed full of people and cars all along the northern beaches. I bet Wollongong and the beaches south of Wollongong would have been very crowded too. Great summer-like conditions. Could not have been better on this long Labour Day weekend!
    I love to spend time in the open, be it near the ocean, in the rainforest, or in the highlands. But I think at my age I prefer staying in a caravan or cottage to camping in a tent! 🙂
    Great you were able to spend some time with your grandsons and could enjoy it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Years before marriage I used to camp on top of Bulli pass. Our camping days have long gone and are we like you, prefer comfort and a place to enjoy people passing by.
      It was over thirty here today but a dry heat, no sweat.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Julia Lund Says:

    And just as you’re documenting your memories, built with your parents, for your grandchildren, you’re building new ones for them – a legacy they will pass on to their children’s children. Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I love mussels and I am the only one here. Americans don’t really know them and many don’t even try. “Hering and Mussels” that’s a good goal Gerard . 🙂


  8. Curt Mekemson Says:

    “sit around the camp-fire drinking cheap hot wine spiced with cloves. The headaches next morning were legendary and have till now never been surpassed.” Well I remember those days, Gerard. Red Mountain was its name and it was deadly. Glad that is in my past. Peggy and I still enjoy camping though, when we put on our backpacks and disappear into the wilderness. As for road camping, I confess we really love our small RV with it’s comfortable bed, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing. Great post as always. –Curt


  9. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    This really took me back to my childhood in the fifties. My parents would drive from Gibraltar into southern Spain, park near a beach (not a single other soul there) erect tents, dig a deep hole and erect the ‘pup’ tent over the top for a loo, walk around the nearby fields until we came upon a tap with ‘agua portable’ and fill our big bidons with water. We fished the seas and my mother cooked what came up – fish, octopus, mussels on the Primus stove. Of an evening, the guardia civil would pass by, share a glass of wine and some grapes, and everybody was happy (though I admit it was a bit too hot for me in the daytime).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Patti Kuche Says:

    I’m sure your grandchildren know how lucky they are. Lovely times for you all!


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