Though last week, Mr. Rabbit and I had finalised plans with St. Ives to visit him at his new home, with his new Mrs. St. Ives, in Newcastle. A road trip was in order, not of the great Sydney to Menindee degree, but a few hours drive north and back in the day. We would set off reasonably late in the morning at 8:30am (though early for me for a day off work). When Mr. Rabbit arrived to collect me (as he was driving, perhaps to test out his shiny new car), I was running late – brushing my teeth furiously to get away on time. I had slept through the first ten minutes of my alarm, which meant we started out at about 8:40am, heading north by the motorways. We hadn’t packed much else than gear to go swimming if we wanted to. It was a viable option, the weather having been over 30 degrees for the past 2 days, and the prediction that it would be again today. I waved farewell to my mother who stood on the front lawn with our dog, with my father putting on the first coat of a new layer of lacquer on our driveway.
As the cricket hadn’t started yet, we turned to conversations with each other. Cricket was a good and contemporary topic, and that passed some time. Discussion of our friends and various news stories passed enough time to get to 10am, where radio coverage of the cricket began, talking about the previous few days of play. We had to stop in for petrol around then. At my suggestion, Mr. Rabbit reversed his car to a petrol pump that was designed for the other side. This bamboozled quite a few drivers who drove in afterwards – I suspect that they weren’t hardened and practical Sydney drivers like ourselves. While there were quite a few cars at this station, traffic, for the most part, was quite good. There weren’t so many cars out and about that it slowed you down. In fact, there were few enough that adhering to the keep left rule was employed and working. There was only one incident with the traffic on the whole trip: a car, towing the driver’s home (aka a caravan), was traveling at such a pace up hill that it caused us to slow down. In trying to overtake it, we almost missed our turnoff from the motorway. A string of uncomplimentary words was made by Mr. Rabbit as we cut across the two lanes, the painted median section, and then onto the turnoff. There was no danger brought upon anyone, though it was exciting.
Gassed and watered up (Mr. Rabbit had brought himself 2 bottles of water), we hit the road again. It wasn’t long before play started with the cricket and Mr. Rabbit and I were able to resume our armchair criticism of Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, and other veterans of the team. I remember one ball in which Mathew Hayden swung and missed a ball outside of off-stump. I said something along the lines of “One of Mathew Hayden’s best shots that”, followed by “There’s only one other shot that Hayden plays better than that: chopping onto his stumps.” We were quite surprised that he stayed in for the length of our car trip. But it would only be about that long in the end. We made one other stop at a McDonalds/service station. The McDonalds was packed with tourists. We wondered if, perhaps, Newcastle had more to offer than either of us had given it credit.
Mr. Rabbit had obtained specific directions to St. Ives’ house from the same website that had got us to Menindee. I was handed the folded piece of paper as we drew nearer to the suburb that St. Ives is living in, and asked to find our way there. While I probably didn’t instruct Mr. Rabbit along the way of the most direct route, we found the street soon enough. The directions told us to head to one end of the street – we actually needed to go to the other. My faith in online directions was reafirmed – suspicious of them. Finally, we found the right number and unloaded. Mrs. St. Ives owns a cat – it was lolling about on the front porch. St. Ives then emerged from the house and welcomed us.
St. Ives hadn’t quite finished unpacking the things he had hauled up north from Sydney, but the place was ‘homely’ enough. We had a look around, took it all in, then took a seat to watch some cricket. We got up to look at something in the study, and (surprise surprise) Mathew Hayden chopped onto his stumps (hark back to my comment in the car). More criticism and selections were made by the three of us. We watched some more cricket, started an argument about whether cats or dogs are the better pet (answer: cats), then decided we would go for lunch. St. Ives had made a booking at a restaurant down on the bay. We got there, and the weather was perfect for it – a cool breeze coming off the water, making the hot day nice. We were a little early, arriving before the 12pm start. We sat on some drinks as we waited, engaging in some general talk.
12pm ticked by and St. Ives and I went for some menus. We were told that the special board would be written up very shortly by some very friendly staff. I suspect they were so friendly because it was early in the day. We waited for the specials board, didn’t see anything there that took our fancy, then went and ordered from the menus. We were given a number (51) that couldn’t stand up because the pole that the number was placed on was poking through the base. I managed to precariously stand it up … then Mr. Rabbit picked it up and couldn’t get it to stand up again. St. Ives and Mr. Rabbit each had a steak sandwich, which I had a ‘Paris’ pizza – chicken and ham, sauces, etc. Everyone was pleased with their meals, and it turned out to be a very nice lunch.
We ventured back to St. Ives to swap cars and begin a local tour of the area, as directed by our host. We set off, heading first for St. Ives’ new school of employment, then through a very swank part of Newcastle, and finally towards the beaches. As we got near to the beaches, a strange fog was drifting low. We would eventually find out on the news that it was because of the heat and cool wind coming in from the ocean. Whatever it was, it blocked out the sun, and it was noticeably cooler when we got out to walk around. Not a huge fan of the beaches, I wasn’t fussed if we went down to them. But Mr. Rabbit seemed keen to get his feet wet (like Menindee), and we eventually parked and went down. Mr. Rabbit took off his shoes and socks and went down to the water’s edge while St. Ives and I stood back in the dry sand. We were at Nobbys Beach – famous for the Pasha Bulker.
After some time there we wandered back to the car to find our way home. The walk back to the car, I thought, was a lot longer that the walk to the beach in the first place. We found the car eventually and headed home. St. Ives, still relatively new to the area, relied on some sketchy memory of the way back and a TomTom. The TomTom seemed to lag in real-time directions, so we were flying blind for a little while. Then St. Ives remembered where we were, and we were fine. After passing by where Mrs. St. Ives works, we were home and watching some cricket again. On the trip home we had decided to go swimming at a local pool, but after settling into the couches, decided that not moving was as good an option. The cricket was good to watch, and we could play cards as well. It wasn’t long before 500 was underway.
Later through the afternoon, Mrs. St. Ives can home. We exchanged greetings, then we returned to our card game while she watched the cricket and went through some catalogues. It was good to see a woman interested in cricket – such is the frequency that you see this. After 3 games (really 2, though Mr. Rabbit won a one-hand game making it 3), we decided to watch the news (after it was hyped by St. Ives as being, well, ‘different’). In between segments, Mr. Rabbit penned some very funny send-ups of the news headlines that everyone laughed at. Combined, they have formed the guest entry here.
6:30pm came around and we headed out to our dinner booking – at another recommended restaurant. St. Ives drove there, and we took our seats at table 12. We ordered our meals, got some drinks and waited. A man came around and asked if we wanted to take part in the trivia competition (free of charge) through the night. He said it would finish at 9pm – which meant we could easily stay for it and have enough time to drive home. It would make the evening quite fun. We had to come up with a team name. After going through some dodgy ones, Mr. Rabbit came upon the most suitable name for the day: “Farewell Matty Hayden”. We all had a good laugh at it.
One of the side competitions requires you to guess a number of some question, where the closest wins. We had our guess, wrote our team name on the slip of paper and handed it in. This was the first time anyone else would be made aware of our team name. The man on the microphone went through the slips, and came upon ours. It went like this:
And team … *laugh* … team “Farewell Matty Hayden” have gone for *whatever number we guessed*… come on guys, he’s going through a bad patch, give him a chance.
We were the only team to get something said about our name. Quite a few people around us laughed, and we laughed all over again. It would be an amusing point through the rest of the night as it was read out.
We would end up finishing tied for 6th (not bad considering we were a team of 4 competing against teams of 6 and more, and we didn’t use our mobile phones to look up answers) with 45 points out of the 52 points available. We missed (like every other team) the important question to win the $1,400 jackpot. We had fun, and that’s what counts. A lot of fun actually, with everyone having a chance to shine on some questions.
We headed home, exchanged some farewells, and Mr. Rabbit and I headed home with some sketchy directions which proved good enough. After about an hour on the road and general conversations, I started to drift in and out of sleep until we were on the M5, which meant some 15 minutes from my place. I stayed awake long enough to see us home, thanked Mr. Rabbit for another great trip, and bid him farewell. I had to walk up the grass to my house, due to my father lacquering the driveway that day, slipped in the house and went back to my normal routine.
It was a very good trip, and a great day spent with friends. I look forward to doing it again and seeing more of the area. Next time I hope to have The 18 Cup with me. It couldn’t come this time because the Ombudsman has it – dragging it around America for a month, collecting more photos. But definitely next time.