A special anniversary, and meeting old friends for the first time…
Wednesday 11th March 2020. Another anniversary: Seventy years to the day that the Veale family arrived in Delamere, South Australia – our own destination today. If all went to plan, we would finally get to meet at least two of the people I had been corresponding with over the last five years. It could get emotional…
But first we had more personal needs. Despite the excellent meal served at our hotel last night, no breakfast was on offer. Were we even hungry? Well, yes – surprisingly. But maybe it was simply the call of the coffee pot I felt drawn to. At any length we put our research last night to the test and found a café open a short way down the street. They did a mean toasted cheese and ham croissant (with coffee) that satisfied our needs admirably, and then we had time to explore a little more of the seafront.
It was clear that Victor Harbor had a wide range of facilities for both tourists and residents. We found children’s play areas, picnic benches, volleyball pitches, bowling greens, tennis courts and even croquet lawns. The latter were particularly popular with the wrinklies…
Walking back to the causeway, we were just in time to see our four-legged friends start their working day.
Returning to the hotel to collect our bags and to check-out, we managed to find manager Andrew and have a chat. We mentioned the one thing that had started to bug us both about our Australian experience so far: the absence of live kangaroos. He assured us they did exist, and that there were several places where they congregated in large numbers. There was also a wildlife park just outside Victor Harbor, featuring purely Australian animals and birds etc, so if all else failed…?
But the clock was ticking, and we had around a forty-minute drive to reach Delamere, so the Three Bears were coaxed back into their transport, and we prepared for the next leg of our journey. Seventy years ago, Hurtle drove his truck from Keith to Delamere in a single day, with all the Veale’s and their belongings on board. The terrain from Victor Harbor towards Delamere is of rolling hills and open countryside. There are dense patches of gum trees, stringy bark and even pines dotted all around. The countryside was almost lush with greenery, a distinct contrast to the Keith area, and I could imagine my mother’s excitement building at the prospect of living somewhere like this. She would have seen the coast for the first time in months, and maybe licked her lips at the possibility of including fish in her diet. But of course, seventy years have had an impact, and I already knew that in 1950, the trees were a lot denser than we were seeing today, and bitumen road surfaces almost certainly ended at Victor Harbor.
Our new home at Delamere
We were to stay with Sue McFarlane, who lives just half a mile from the General Store at Delamere. Sue Mac (as she is known) was widowed a few short years ago, and now lives with a dog and a cat (Lizzie and Kato respectively). For the next three nights she’d also got us, until we flew to Sydney for a few days, and then (bless her) we’d be back for another week (or so we planned). Her home lies off the main road between Yankalilla and the Cape, a single storey dwelling, surrounded by about thirty acres of planted shrubs, trees and grassland.
It felt like we already knew each other – Sue is a warm and chatty lady (she can talk even more than Elaine), almost exactly the same age as my sister, and she came over here from London in 1959 as a teenager. She has three daughters and other family members scattered over Australia, and has worked on farms and as a nurse. She is a talented seamstress, and takes a keen interest in the local community, including its history. This explained why she took note of my original enquiries (via Linc), and as she had a double bedroom going spare, why she volunteered to take us in. There was just one potential problem: the cat.
Kato is a beautiful male Russian Blue. Elaine is a lovely female Lancastrian – who developed a fear of cats after being scratched quite badly as a child. I have witnessed that fear first hand on several occasions, so we mentally braced ourselves for a potential showdown. Should we have brought a tent instead? The good news was that Kato is a house cat, and not allowed outside. He had also been banned from our bedroom (although he kept forgetting). For the moment, a truce had been declared, and instead Lizzie got started immediately with training me how to play tug and throw her amazing assortment of toys around the garden for the next hour.
Gracious as our hostess was, she declared she would not be cooking dinner tonight. Instead, we were all invited to a fish and chip supper at Linc’s, seven kilometres down the road at Cape Jervis. We all piled into our rental car (now devoid of bears) and followed Sue’s directions. The road was quiet, as is generally the case until traffic for the Kangaroo Island ferry briefly forms. Stunning vistas of rolling hillsides appeared on either side, until the tip of the peninsula suddenly opened up before us and we descended steeply to more level ground.
Mr and Mrs Lincoln Barrington live in a small community overlooking Kangaroo Island. Their low-level house sits on a corner plot two minutes from the ferry terminal, with a pleasant lawned garden and large open driveway. As we pulled up outside a huge double detached garage, Linc and Lyn were ready for us. Hands were shaken, hugs exchanged, and shoulders slapped warmly. We’d been friends for a long time (it feels that way), but this was the first time we’d met.
Much of the house is given over to another (integral) garage that doubles as the grandchildren’s playroom, and as a barbecue area with a large dining table. The latter was its present function, as Linc produced some litres of white wine to accompany a long-promised supper of home-cooked fish (caught by Linc) with chips and tinned mushy peas. Verdict: Oh, so much better than Glenelg!
The Veale’s were back in Delamere, and it was a lovely, lengthy evening with special friends.
What's it about?