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A devil of a holiday – part one

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (I’ve made up for it with an extra long post). There are a few reasons for this. The main one being we took a family holiday. It was billed as an exciting adventure – at least in my mind. Packing up the small car and heading to sunny northern climes for times of relaxing fun. Ironic really given the weather we had experienced in Sydney this summer.

We set off with the minimal amount a family of four could carry, plus a stroller and spare nappies – obvious optional extras. Our plan was to arrive in the ‘home of country music in Australia’ still fresh, as it’s such a short distance from Sydney. And we were, only we couldn’t have our booked motel room because the one next door had flooded and they were going to run noisy fans all night to dry it out. So we were upgraded to a super bonus two bedroom room at no extra charge! Awesome (unless you count the flooding which was not so good for the motel proprietor). To top off our first night we found a pizza maker (I hesitate to ever put the words ‘pizza’ and ‘restaurant’ together, unless in Italy) who put together a pretty special dish we all called dinner! What a good start to our trip.

The next day was sunny and bright as we headed up the mountains to visit friends who live in ‘the most cosmopolitan city in NSW outside of Sydney’. It is beautiful – a city that celebrates its past with stunning architecture and glorious gardens. Our stay with old friends was relaxing in the way only old friends can make you feel. Our children enjoyed one another’s company, the food was wonderful, the conversation comforting and the beds warm and welcoming. Another brilliant day.

Waving goodbye to Armidale the next morning was a little sad but with more adventures yet to be had, our spirits were high. We passed through the land of the ‘beardies’; a place that made me want to sing about Rio de Janeiro; a town with an original apple store; and then a town which shares it’s name with one in the centre of England, although I suspect they look very different. We crossed a border with careless abandon (as you can do when it’s all part of the same country [remember the days when you really did need a passport to travel in Europe]).

Then we headed east, to the land of ‘beautiful one day, perfect the …’ – you get the picture.

Except it was a false, dare I say, empty, promise as is often the case when you spend time in the south-eastern corner of Queensland.

While all seemed calm on our gentle arrival, we were really met by the Devil who was out for a good time (please don’t infer any real religious meaning here, I am merely using for dramatic effect).

“I am sorry sir, but there will be no access to the swimming pool during the day,” the hostess of the five-star resort told the Cliche as we ‘checked in’.

“You are joking?” laughed the Cliche. Having read on a very reputable travel site they had done this before we had sent an email with our booking to confirm there was no scheduled pool maintenance. We were told there was none. After all it was February – still summer in the southern hemisphere. We were vacationing only a few weeks after school holidays  had finished and this, if you missed it earlier, was a five-star (one assumes, professional) resort.

“We have young children!” As if it’s a given that having children meant the pool must be open.

“Sorry sir. You can swim after five every afternoon.” Obviously this hostess had no exposure to the routines of young children.

“Get me another suite in your other building, where I assume the pool is open,” demanded the Cliche. He had done his homework and knew how to get around the system (perhaps he had a silver cross in his pocket?). After a few long minutes this devil’s slave found us a new apartment in the ‘other’ building, where the pool was open, most times of the day.

Interestingly enough the apartment was on the thirteenth floor.

The accommodation was sleek, all freestanding sinks and walk-in robes. The views were magnificent. Rolling waves, sand, parklands, the working pool below us. All was calm. ‘This is all fine’, we reassured each other as a pleasant evening with some family members, noodles and Downton Abbey followed. Holidays are great.

The Devil was far from done with us. We awoke to an overcast but fine and humid morning. There was a zephyr stirring. Having been on the road a few days meant the inevitable pile of unwashed clothes was also stirring in the suitcase. Not a problem really as we had a washing machine and dryer, and a drying rack thrown in for good measure. Except in modern apartment buildings often filled with non-owner dwellers (like us) a safety mechanism was built into the laundry ‘cupboard’ door meaning it must stay open to provide power to the washing machine and dryer and so nobody closes it and burns the building down while the two are in operation mode. A great safety mechanism. If they work! Not in apartment 1302.

“No problem,” says the devil’s cohort when I call. “We’ll have someone to look at it asap”.

“It’s okay. We’ll go swimming and it’ll be working when we get back,” we assured ourselves.

The water was cool and the breeze had picked up a little. M1 and M2 swam and turned blue, warming themselves by jumping in the spa occasionally.

We returned to our room. There was a message. “The door needs to be looked at by an electrician. He can come this afternoon. I can’t tell you an exact time.”

Panic struck us. Were we to wait like you have to when tradies visit your home? Were we bound to be there? What were we going to do about afternoon sleeps – the most precious thing in the world?

“We’ll work around that,” we were reassured. “Not a problem. The electrician can come in later.”

Damned shame the housekeeping staff couldn’t.

“We have children in bed. Can you come back after 3.30pm?” we asked the housekeeper/satanic elf.

“Our shift is over by then.”

“Okay well can you just refill our necessities and don’t worry about the room today. Can you put us down for an early clean up tomorrow because we have an afternoon sleep everyday?”

Not a chance.

Every day we were interrupted just a few moments before we were heading off for afternoon sleep by the Devil’s call, knock, knock knock…‘housekeeping’. At one point an elf … er, I mean housekeeper… walked into the room where the girls were sleeping even though we had said not to.

One day, after venturing out, we came ‘home’ to find someone had left us a message. Simple instructions to review said message, pick up the phone and dial ‘star star’. “That is not an appropriate instruction,” said the pleasant voice on the end of the phone. We tried again and again and again. In the meantime we had an incessant beeping on the two internal phones. Then we called Satan’s lover downstairs. “All you have to do is press ‘star star’,” she told us. We told her!

“I’ll get maintenance up to have a look at it.” And they did. The solution – to disconnect the two phones from their sockets and rest them on the floor for the duration of our stay. There was someone who knew how to fix it but nobody knew how to contact him. Any time we did need to call reception (and you would be surprised to read there were a few) we plugged one back into wall, the beeping sound ever returning immediately. We never did find out who left the message.

But the Devil played his best card all week. Better than the power points that didn’t work, the mould in the bathroom that grew daily and the dishwasher that never quite washed everything. He sent us rain and wind. Rainwater tanks of rain and lashings of wind. We didn’t really need the pool, least not the outdoor one, and the indoor one had to be accessed from outdoors… The beaches were closed on our second day. They had to be. The sandy shores became cliff faces where the mountainous waves have carved them away. It was wet and windy. The streets became filled with decaying umbrellas, left abandoned for their purpose was pointless.

As we drove out on our final Queensland coastal day, there appeared in the sky an old and familiar friend. “We know you’ve sold out to Beelzebub,” we shouted with raised fists. “You bastard sun”.

End of part one.