Testing our wheels to Rapid Bay, unwelcome news, a special dish for Elaine – and some friendly emus!
Friday 20th March 2020. With our base at Sue Mac’s re-established, it was time to try and resolve the question of our return flight(s) to the UK. We were nine and a half hours ahead of London time, so the best we could do this morning was what the agent (Travel Trolley) had originally suggested: send them an email at least 72 hours before our flight to confirm arrangements. Then all we could do was wait.
Linc and Lyn’s generosity had put a car at our disposal, so today we could tick off the last place on my personal family history list: Rapid Bay. Seventy years ago, my parents had a rare opportunity to visit a nearby beach when one of my Dad’s work colleagues offered them a lift in his vehicle. The journey was only a few kilometres, not much further than our route today, but walking there in 1950 would have been a huge ask. The Bay is not large, featuring not one but two jettys and a stretch of sand and shingle, but it also has a place in South Australian history. In 1836 it was the first part of the mainland on which British sailors landed prior to Holdfast Bay (Glenelg), where Colonel Light chose the spot to build Adelaide.
The older jetty was built for shipping to take away limestone ore from a quarry close to the shore, but mining ceased there toward the end of the twentieth century.
The jetty fell into disrepair, and a second one was built alongside for the principal use of fishermen. Today it is a popular spot for catching squid, as evidenced by the inky black marks on the concrete slab surface. We were told this by a guy hoping to catch some from the two lines he had already cast. When we spoke he had only managed to catch two leatherjackets, full of bones and therefore thrown back. I hope we changed his luck.
Trailing across to the opposite side of the Bay we were drawn toward a huge cave in the cliff. By the look of the graffiti inside it was clearly a popular place, but mindful of stories about people getting caught by high tides, we didn’t linger.
Instead we returned to the car before stopping again only a short way along the road out of Rapid Bay. I’d spotted something that looked familiar on the way in, and wanted to make a closer inspection.
Going to the cinema in 1950 was easy enough if you lived in a town or city. Often there were multiple choices of ‘picture house’. But in the country? Smaller communities often used multi-purpose halls to set up a projector and screen for specific occasions, and the Veales had evidently enjoyed such an experience at Rapid Bay because my mother wrote about it in one of her letters. Lillian Cole had also confirmed the existence of such a hall at Rapid Bay in a letter sent to me a few years ago – with a photo of the building that had also served time as a village school. This was what I’d recognised. No Dolby sound or Cinemascope – but it must have made marvellous escapism at the time.
I was finding the Jackaroo easier to handle now, and so we decided to drive twenty minutes up the road and do some shopping at Yankalilla (or “Yank” as it’s known locally). We’d been invited back to Linc’s tonight for a special supper, and needed extra supplies. What we hadn’t banked on was an extra surprise:
An email pinged its arrival on my phone as we put our shopping in the car. Emirates had just cancelled our return flights, suggesting we contact our travel agent to make alternative arrangements. This I did (by email again) as soon as we got back to Sue Mac’s.
We needed a diversion. I found one just a short walk away. To wind the narrative back a little, it had been just a week ago that Elaine and I saw our first wild kangaroo. This time yesterday we had seen another as a graphic illustration on the wall above the Adelaide Arcade. It had been paired up in a coat of arms with another native Australian animal: an emu. And two of these enormous birds were apparently living in a field across the road. So we went to meet them.
Let me explain something here. This is a sizeable field that contains a small number of sheep, as well as two emus, so these were not wild. We had spotted one or both birds while driving past, but we were curious what they might be like close up. Were they timid creatures? Did they spit? (Oh, sorry – that’s llamas…) Our verdict: Not timid. They appeared as curious about us as we were about them. Oh, and one of them had a sheep as a minder. Honest – best pals. Don’t they have gorgeous eyes?
To the Cape for supper. This one had been promised for months, and it was in Elaine’s honour – crayfish. Linc is a keen fisherman, and has been known to catch the little critters when out in a friend’s boat. He let this slip in an email last year, and as Elaine is keen on eating shellfish, he’d promised to keep one in the freezer until our visit here. While the rest of us ‘made do’ with sausages and potato salad, Elaine tucked in to her own special plateful, washed down with something chilled and alcoholic.
At 6.30 pm local time it would be 9.00 am in London, and there was a reasonable chance of being able to speak to a travel agent and follow up on my earlier emails. The phone conversation was reassuring. While someone would investigate all options and get back to me within twenty-four hours, the initial reaction was that they could re-route us on the same day next week, probably by making an extra connection at Perth.
But as Big Sister Sue had already told me, the situation was changing by the hour, not just by the day. We slept easier that night, unaware how much worse the situation would get.
What's it about?