It was the same as every caravan park we go to; that micro-village, micro-home-place where it’s possible to get to the end of what you need to do and then just sit and look at things. Like your feet in thongs, which are suddenly kind of interesting.
You can look at anything; even the toilet block and the bin area become interesting because they’re so busy and necessary.
You can watch all those kids running past or riding past, first singly and then in clots, and then in teams because all the kids start to clump together and form underworld games that go all evening and then disperse as soon as the first kid gets called back for tea.
Then, after tea, the kids clang together again and the game goes on even though no one actually said anything. They just come out into the road, still chewing, and look to see if any other kids are done yet. As soon as someone rides past they just join in.
It’s good that things haven’t really changed.
When we got there it was evening:
- People still driving in were going slowly to get their bearings, find the toilet block and look with frowning faces at all the sites in case someone is on their site by mistake. There it is. That’s ours. It’ll do.
- Some arrivals were already setting up with tense faces in case something’s wrong with the tent or they discover something’s been left at home. Like all the beer.
- Settlers were at the point where they could sit back in camping chairs and look at their feet in thongs and check the ice in the esky and listen to the idea of chops for tea.
- Young people stand around their sites next to little tents and huge eskies and open cans and nod to each other, agreeing with everything because life is good.
- Young parents look exhausted no matter what time of day it is. Their heads swing from side to side scanning every angle of the park, the road, their tent, the world. The mind of the young parent remains on high alert. They examine the air and the temperature and look for bees. They think about nutrition and air mattresses. They think they might have a drink but never actually get to it.
We are grandparents and so can set our stuff up free of all that now. Nothing goes wrong. We brought everything we needed. The grandchildren’s faces light up in amazement to see us there even though they knew we were coming. We set out all our stuff carefully and look at the sky and the sea. We examine the camp kitchen and note the recycling faculties. We compare everything to What We’ve Seen Before.
At our camp:
- We eat whatever there is. First night doesn’t matter.
- There is a book and a drink stuck in the side of every camp chair.
- The sun goes down and the mossies come out.
- The grandchildren won’t go to sleep.
- The park kids buzz past with purposeful faces.
- The sky is orange on the horizon and black ink up high. The stars came out. The tidal beach breathes seaweed and sand.
- Families argue and caravan doors slam everywhere.
- Esky lids bang up and down all evening.
When I wake up it is morning but still dark:
- The air is one long fresh drink of water
- Some people are already up and sitting in camping chairs looking at their relaxed crossed feet in thongs.
- The toilets are warm and comforting.
- A few kids are out riding bikes
- There are already kids on the jumping pillow.
- Magpies everywhere
- An old couple across the little road are packing up
- A man down the row is asleep on the ground half in and half out of a little tent.
People come out of tents and caravans slowly and stand there yawning and scratching at bites and with no need to hurry.
There are bottles and cans on the floor of the outside kitchen and a small crate of dishes and a bottle of detergent left there. There are two jumpers and a towel slung over the swimming pool gate. A little terrier is waiting outside the ladies toilets.
Three kids walk past the toilets side by side still in pyjamas and one says, ‘Wait, I’ll ask my mum.’ When I walk through the caravans to our camp, a man calls out, ‘Who left the lid off the esky?’ And someone inside the caravan says, ‘It’s busted’. And the man sits back down in his camping chair and looks down at his thongs. It’s good to be able to do these important things in good places where we are safe. From war.