Friendly Glenelg, Pavements of Memories – and the Battle of the Toilet Rolls!
Thursday 5th March 2020. Jet lag is a puzzling phenomenon. One of us (me) managed to sleep until 5 am, waking up to find I was alone in the bed. Elaine was sat on the settee opposite, reading an ebook on her tablet. “What happened?” “Couldn’t sleep.” Part of it may have been excitement. Part may have been a strange bed. But part of it could have been down to the 23 hours of sitting upright, drinking copious amounts of fluids (some alcoholic), eating six tray-loads of airline-processed food, and digesting the contents of half a dozen unmemorable movies.
Breakfast came after we’d spent the next two hours unpacking and having a shower. Outside the weather was sunny and warm, and the dining room a minutes’ walk away. Inside we met more beaming faces – from our hostess Samantha, and some guests, including a couple from the UK. No wonder they were smiling – the home-cooked food was plentiful and tasty (6 rashers of the tastiest bacon… mmmmm…) and the TV news was covering an incident in a Melbourne supermarket where customers had been battling over a scarcity of toilet rolls… Talk about Trouble Down Under.
After breakfast we completed the checking-in procedure with manager Kylie, who gave us a few pointers on where to find things. We were soon ready to explore, and like most people staying at the motel, we started by making our way to the beach.
Now seems the best opportunity to explain my interest in Glenelg:
This is Adelaide’s equivalent to Sydney’s Bondi Beach (without the surf). The airport is just up the road (see Day Two), and it is a popular tourist spot in its own right. But I have a personal connection. My Mum and Dad (and four-year-old Susan) found refuge in Glenelg for just over two months in 1950 after my Dad had a major bust-up with his “business partner”, Hurtle. My mother had a miscarriage here, receiving medical attention in a private hospital, and my father found temporary work in the town to raise necessary funds to pay for their passage home. Thanks to the letters kept by Mollie’s sister-in-law Elsie, and the photographs taken by Eric, I knew exactly what to look for in modern-day Glenelg.
As we left the motel, we were immediately struck by the sleepy ambience of the neighbourhood. All around us were single storey dwellings within their own grounds, grass-verged pavements and plenty of trees. The pleasant warmth and sunshine added to the enjoyment as we turned onto St Annes Terrace and arrived at a wide (but empty) road by a quiet marina with a promenade and gentle lawns. We followed the path leading towards the beach, nodding and smiling at anyone we met on the way, taking in the old-fashioned tram placed under a shelter in memory of its peers that ran between Glenelg and the City for eighty years from 1929.
Another curiosity we spotted under our feet were groups of paving plaques like this:
The ones above relate to a local policeman who appears to have paid the ultimate price doing his duty, but there were hundreds of others, seemingly personal memorials for private individuals in an area where the public passed every day. I’d love to have left one for my parents.
Also under our feet was a total lack of something we almost accept as the “norm” in the UK: dog poo. Perhaps the reason is a subtly different approach by local authorities all over Australia. No excuse for not picking it up if there’s always a bag handy…
We could see the beach before we got to it. This was displayed on the side of a building near the marina, and is a view of Glenelg Beach that would have been familiar to my parents if they’d been there in the summer:
Even from that photo, it is clear that the sandy beach is popular for a reason. As we reached it, we could see how light it was, almost white, and very fine grained. My Dad took several photos of Mum and Sue there, and to my delight we soon found the exact spot where some of his “snaps” had been taken. Look at these two photographs that have the same building (and tree) in the background.
Meandering slowly along the promenade, we met crowds of schoolchildren and their teachers assembling for a volleyball competition. It may have been the start of Australia’s autumn, but the sun was still strong enough for regulation hats to be worn.
Just around the corner, opposite the jetty, is the heart of Glenelg – Moseley Square. This is the community hub, where the tram terminus is surrounded by bars and restaurants, and where the main shopping street (Jetty Road) begins.
This area’s footprint has changed little over the years, and I’m sure my parents would recognise the town that is Glenelg today. It is an affluent area, well-maintained and with a busy high street that speaks of a strong economy. We walked up Jetty Road, taking in the atmosphere and noting the politeness of the local drivers, stopping for us as we negotiated side streets. That done, it was time to go to church…
Someone was just opening the front doors as we approached St Andrews, and they let us inside, delighted to hear my reasons for wanting to visit. They were just about to open up their “Friendship Café”, where various goods were distributed among the needy within the parish, so we didn’t stop long.
A little further along Jetty Road we came to the junction with Byron Street. This took us into a residential area where almost every building was single storey, many with a distinctive corrugated roofing typical of Australian dwellings. This was where the Veale family lived between early June and late August 1950. Many of the houses will essentially be the same ones my parents walked past on their way to the shops or beach, and the general impression they gave was distinctly colonial, with cool verandas and American-style mailboxes at their gates. All of them were individual, and several had fencing made of reeds, like the thatch we see on some English cottages. Others were in wrought iron or wood, but the general impression was of a “well-to-do” neighbourhood.
My focus was on Number 22. Split into two apartments, Mum and Dad lived in the right hand one, where my Big/Little Sister once managed to lock them all out!
My tour of Veale History was over for the moment, and we continued up the road to the Anzac Highway. Kylie, the manager of the motel, had recommended a bakery there called “Orange Spot”, but breakfast had been really filling so we only called in out of curiosity before returning to Moseley Square for a coffee.
The old Post Office had been turned into a coffee shop, and as it has been there since 1911, I am quite sure my Mum would have called in to send her letters to family at home – so this had to be our choice for refreshment.
There was nothing of the original left inside, alas, but the coffee was good, and the natives friendly. Elaine almost immediately struck up a conversation with an older couple from Tamworth near Sydney, pumping them for information on what we might find there. Then we were ready to shop. One of my first purchases was from the Vodafone store. My smartphone has a slot for two SIM cards, and with the next three weeks in mind, I needed a second SIM to access data and local contacts on an Australian number. We also wanted water for our fridge back at the motel, some snacks and maybe a few beers – so we asked for directions to a supermarket and found it just off Jetty Road. Here we discovered a major cultural difference between Oz and the UK: supermarkets don’t sell alcohol!!!
Instead we sampled the real thing at a bar overlooking the jetty ($8 a pint – about £4 each) before picking up some of the same stuff (West End - 6 cans for $16.90) at a liquor store on the way back to the motel. By now we could feel some real heat in the sun, and our respective levels of jetlag were calling for a little siesta.
It was also an opportunity to take the technical challenge of installing my new SIM card, and to test it by calling Linc. Up to this point we had only conversed by email, but after five years it seemed just as comfortable talking over the phone, with both of us feeling the emotion of being that little bit closer.
Elaine managed a little bit of sunbathing, sat outside the chalet, and then we started out on another ambitious endeavour: what would Aussie fish ‘n chips taste like? Linc had promised he would cook some fresh for us when we got there, but that was some time off and we were hungry now. So we took the short-cut through to Jetty Road and found our way back to Moseley Square. I have to report that the bar (for Linc) was set pretty low. The one place we found that looked anywhere near promising would have been better sited in Blackpool (not an appealing place in my view), and the fare on this occasion was disappointing.
But we walked it off up the jetty itself, enjoying a different perspective from that in the morning, when there had been so many crowds.
Two oriental-looking boys were at the end, doing some line-fishing with fish heads. They’d (literally) just caught a crab, and were checking against a size-chart to see if it was big enough for supper. A centimetre over, they were luckier than we’d been. We wandered back along that gorgeous beach, stopping to speak to two more friendly locals – a couple of girls who were looking after an area set aside for sun-bathers on loungers. Our first day in Australia was almost over, and we had been overwhelmed by the friendly nature of every Aussie we had met. All looked promising, and before we settled down that night, we enjoyed a chat over the phone with Sue Mac, calling us from Delamere, our hostess for when we would reach that area in another week’s time.
Our welcome to Australia was complete!
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