My house is no longer the staid domicile of a working son, a woman in her seventies and a white dog with black eyepatches. It's the roiling base for the Mt Tamborine mob: my son and daughter-in-law, two grandkids and a calm black dog. The garage is full of camping gear; kayaks and surf boards lie under rainforest trees; wetsuits and wet underpants dangle from branches; a TV migrates upstairs surrounded by a scatter of Nintendo handsets. The frig is packed with ham, leftovers, chicken thawing, lettuce and herbs from J's garden dome – but not with whatever it is A's looking for when he opens it hopefully. There is perpetual coming and going: K's sisters are staying north at Tuross; S's mates south near Tilba.
The beach calls: T and A are old enough to surf alone or bike around the village, and even I ramble down late one afternoon to watch them ride waves and my granddog dig a colony of holes. On Christmas Day, J and I stand on the headland and watch our youngest in the empty sea waiting and waiting for a wave. Another day, his brother documents him in the thick of more action. Uncle H hops his 6' onto a motorbike too small for his nephew and hoons up the street, knees up to chin. The Christmas lunch entertainment is provided by the coupling of a murky brown no-egg vegan pumpkin pie (mine for J) and a luscious white pavlova, six inches of eggs, sugar and cream (T's for the rest of us) which tempted me into two evil slices.
One of the holiday rituals for S is a motorbike adventure with his mates out into the rugged wilderness behind Cobargo, this time negotiating the notorious razorback ridge where there's a sheer drop into two valleys. I go out with him, about an hour from home, to hide extra fuel, through Nerrigundah and out to Belowra and Belimbla. Although I haven't been out there for many years, it feels beautifully familiar: the view out over the ranges of the great divide, and then the opening out into the Belowra Valley. We stop on the edge of the dirt road where there is a brief moment of mobile reception and I eavesdrop as S talks to someone who knows the area, scrutinises the map, is tortured by locked gates, and then discusses his findings with a mate. I sit idly and suddenly see something tiny and white moving quickly on the rocky road edge – an ant with some kind of food – or is it an egg? I'm astonished that I can see something minute so clearly and I track its movements for five minutes and about three meters before I lose sight. Phone calls over, we go back the way we've come for a rethink and then follow tracks down to the clear waters of the Tuross looking for a ford.
While we're away a miracle has happened. I left a vast pile of mulch on the grass outside my fence. It is no longer there – it has been spread all over my front yard, K's handiwork with a bit of help from my son and grandkids. Once she starts there is no stopping her: she prunes and clears and leaf-blows and terminates vines until my front yard actually looks weed-free and tidy. My feeble plan for the mulch was two wheelbarrows a day: she does it by the car-trailer.
This isn't the end of her home maintenance. Discovering my gutters need clearing she finds a ladder and climbs up onto the roof to remove the litter of a shameful number of years, including the shed skin of my resident python. In all of which she assures me she takes great pleasure, not enjoying idleness.
There is a lot of calm time between frenetic activity: teasing the dog by pretending to eat his hambone or reading. My resident son produces books from his downstairs hoard for his nephew. Grandfather and 12-year-old grandson compete for the same book: So you've been publicly shamed by Jon Ronson. A. goes off to ride his bike and tucks the book out of sight. This is a time-honoured family tradition: you hide what you're reading so no one can nick it.
When they go out for the day, the house reverts to silence, and feels quite empty.
Waiting for a wave ...
... and catching one
Brown's cows and Christmas lunch
Preparing for an epic motorbike ride
The daughter-in-law from heaven
Acknowledgement: The title of this post was appropriated from one of Paula's challenges. I thank her! This post wasn't appropriate for a one-photo challenge, nor had the events in it happened then.