Almanac Memories – Bringing me back


Mum and Dad have downsized, nearer to the centre of town, bowls club, the beach.


Mum pops to St Joe’s for weekday services, but on Sundays they still drive out to St Pius X, West Warrnambool.


Dad walks up the street each morning and buys the papers.


Eloise and I spent a week at home after new year.


We rode our bikes around the tight brick-paved roads and roundabout with its communal barbecue. The gardener leant against his ute and chatted.


Their neighbour Kenny sat out front his unit and told Eloise You’re a good talker. Not bad for a bloke who apparently can’t hear or see well.


We did the tour of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, got lost in the maze at Lake Pertobe, played cricket on the beach.


The tide was out and we walked to Middle Island and waved at the dogs that protect the penguins, made famous in the film, Oddball.


We tip-toed across hot pavement. Sand got caught in the cracks in the car seat and blocked the drain in the shower.


We ate cheese toasties and silverside sandwiches for lunch and barbecues and stews and fluffy white potatoes for tea.


Eloise got in Grandfather’s way and under his feet. She sat in his green vinyl recliner.


Mum kept offering to iron my clothes, when she wasn’t fighting with her new mobile phone.


She and Dad yelled at each other over the ads during Millionaire.


When Aunty Pat dropped in for a cuppa and a piece of lemon slice, she said her father Hughy, 101, was ready for heaven. He wanted to get up there and take care of his girls: wife Essie and daughter Margaret. We had a laugh; he’s been saying that since he received his telegram from the Queen.


Uncle Jock phoned the next morning. Hughy had died in his sleep overnight, wish granted.


Bruce and Mary visited and we crammed into the front room. Bruce looks thin, but good. His specialist told him she didn’t expect him to last this long. Keep doing what you’re doing, she said.


The Mains, Cohuna friends, have been camping for years. We met for barefoot bowls and sausage sizzle. Their Melbourne friends, on their first Summer in town, couldn’t believe the caravan park was full of locals. It’s a Warrnambool thing, I told them.


Lazy days stretched slowly to life as we read under the umbrella in the backyard. A lawnmower whirred away in the distance.


Eloise and I shared a room. Eloise in the grandkids’ bunk, me in my old single bed. I lay awake as she giggled in her sleep.


On our last night, the Holiday Actors’ production of Mamma Mia was sold out and the carnival was washed out.

Instead, we went to the raffle at the bowls club. We sat with mum and dad’s friends, people who have known me my whole life. The winner cheered and everyone else groaned as the numbers were called.


I watched a purple sunset over the breakwater as the Melbourne train arrived.


Next morning, Mum and Dad watched from the garage as we drove away.


Eloise said she’s lucky having so many homes. A week is the longest she’s been away from her mum. She had her moments, but we got there.


I’m so proud of her and so grateful.


All these things bring me back to who I am.



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  1. Brilliant piece Andrew. Love it. Never spent any time in Warrnambool but your words roll up a combination of my own memories. Did I read that correctly…. Warrnambool people camp in Warrnambool for their holidays?

  2. Wonderful observations, Starkers. Just brilliant. Thanks for this.

    Did anyone call out “Re-draw” when the raffle ticket was drawn?
    And do you think “going up the street” is a uniquely Australian phrase? I do.

  3. Chris Daley says

    I’ve been back a couple of times over the summer; 18 holes at Port Fairy, blues band on a Sunday afternoon in the front bar of the Warrnambool, ran the Surf’t’Surf, body surf at McGennan’s. All deep in the DNA…. thanks for the read ……. and Kate, yep, Warrnambool purple camping in Warrnambool is the most Warrnambool thing there is!!

  4. Well played,Starks you took us along for the ride to Warrnambool a most enjoyable read

  5. Roger Lowrey says

    Great piece Andrew. I love writing that meanders. And even though the pace is slow you still don’t quite know what is around the next corner.

    My first teaching appointment was Warrnambool High School (1977-1979) and even though I have lived elsewhere for some time now I always love going back. May races, of course, are compulsory however I can usually conjure all sorts of other excuses to head back there at other times during the year. Once it’s in the blood, you see, it stays there.

    And head back I must. I mean, where else am I going to get a Chitticks pie or a Kermonds hamburger or have a Macks Snacks breakfast or a Bojangles pizza?

    And if we were heading out to eat in style at, say, Maceys, Proudfoots Boathouse or Fishtales Cafe I would first need a haircut at Hand’s in Liebig Street and a new belt from Clancy’s Menswear while Jill might like to browse at Olive Ketels’ latest styles.

    If she were of a mind to take in a new release film at the Capitol Cinema in Keppler Street we would clearly need to have a counter tea nextdoor at the Warrnambool Hotel.

    And in need of anything more practical for day to day use we would obviously start with Pontings Mitre 10 or Swintons before going anywhere near the big chain stores.

    Meanwhile, back at Surfside Caravan Park we might be luck enough to secure a site if one of the many locals who book it out over summer had to cancel.

    Then as we sadly bid our farewells we take one last glance at the dirty angel in the rear vision mirror of our spanking new Callaghan Motors Holden with the latest 3YB hits to cheer us up.

    Of course, we also remember to take home a spare copy of the Warrnambool Standard to prove to our other ex Warrnambool friends that Merrivale has caused the upset of the round this week beating the more fancied Russells Creek.

    So yes Kate, the locals do spend their camping holidays in Warrnambool. But as you can see from the above though, that is just one aspect of this thing called “Warrnambool”.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant read Andrew. Precious time well spent.

    I sold cold beers at the Lake Pertobe markets on two Friday night’s in recent weeks, what a vibrant, busy holiday town Warrnambool is over summer.

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