Outlaws and old times

We celebrate a military defeat, many call for the anthem to be replaced with a song about a sheep thief and a bank robbing bushranger is a national hero. This is a strange country.

Bit of a wet country too right now. A downpour at 5.30 AM woke Alex up which meant no more sleep for the next few hours as somebody wanted to play.

After a Ned Kelly pie for breakfast at the Beechworth Bakery we chased the pie’s namesake with a drive through misty green corridors, past floodplains living up to their title, to Glenrowan, the site of the Kelly Gang’s last stand.

After passing by so many times en route to and from Melbourne it was time to introduce Alex to this Australian legend. I realised how much I had forgotten about him when we entered Kate’s Cottage. A replica of his armour and his ramshackle home along with many artifacts from the era and some talkative cockatoos.

Well worth a visit and reading through Ned Kelly’s history I could see why he might be considered a hero by some. His story sounds like a tale from an underprivileged area of modern times, except he “stuck it to the man” and made himself famous in the process.

Alas the lessons of disadvantage do not seem to have been learned with the modern version of the rich squatter continuing to exert undue power over the less fortunate populace.

Not that I consider Kelly a hero, mind you.

It was then time for a trip through a more recent (though increasingly less so) and personal history as we drove down the highway towards Melbourne.

As the skyline of my birthplace appeared so did the Sun. A line of aircraft crossed the sky as they descended through the cloud towards Tullamarine. But unlike those passengers Melbourne was not our destination as we circled the city along the massive ring road.

Our path from Sydney and past the western suburbs of Melbourne couldn’t have been more appropriate as the Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs were right then at the most sacred site of Australian sport, the MCG, for the AFL Grand Final.

After passing through a less smelly Werribee than my memories recall we stopped for lunch at a service centre. Also eating Hungry Jacks was one lady looking not entirely unlike Magda Szubanski’s character Sharon from Kath and Kim and decked out head to toe in Western Bulldog attire.

The GPS said 40 kilometres to Queenscliff, a trivial distance now. But I remember it being a long journey when I was Alex’s age, of early morning departures for a weekend stay in a caravan by the beach.

Indeed we were off to a caravan park, Alex’s first. Not towing a van this time, but instead to stay at a cabin at the Big4 Beacon Resort. I remember staying here as a kid, but I don’t recall all the activities on offer.

Out with the tennis rackets, off to the pool, bouncing on the big rubber cushion. Alex went crazy.

The weather was so nice that I wanted to drive down memory lane with an evening trip to nearby Barwon Heads. Across the wooden bridge that no longer rattles to the mouth of the Barwon River. Alex took out his newly purchased bucket and spade and built sandcastles while I wandered along the old jetty.

The water was serene, reflecting the grey and orange sky. I loved the lighting, the lamps along the stone walled path behind the beach, the reflection of the jetty restaurant in the river, the beacons and the distant Point Lonsdale lighthouse, all blinking red and green.

It was magical. So nice to share it with the others.

I love that the beaching areas of these towns retain the quiet old character of my childhood, the new developments hidden further inland. The same was true of Barwon Heads. I don’t remember the upmarket main street with fairy lit trees, but it was nice. We ate a great fish and chips at the takeaway, bypassing the stylish eateries.

As we headed back to Queenscliff we saw groups of people on the streets drifting back home from the grand final celebrations at the pub or a mate’s place. The Bulldogs had won and Victoria celebrated. So did we.