On being House Sitters

A southerly swings in, it is autumn after all, but this ruins our beach plans. We catch up on shopping, even with its small population Bribie Island even has an Audi Supermarket. A reflection of the demographics that is top-heavy with retirees, I suppose. We find it crowded – must be pension day – and we are unfamiliar with trolley and entry systems. But they do have familiar products – almost.

Bribie Island Aldi
Free standing but a bit too far from the house

The case of the missing recycled fabric shopping bags is still not solved. Very frustrating – I know they were packed.

House sitting:

  • We have access to stocked cupboards – full of gourmet products
  • Our day is filled and dictated by pet activities. Not that we mind.
  • There are garden duties.
  • Hidden secrets are discovered – like the yoghurt maker.
  • Wish we’d paid more attention to how to operate the bread maker.
  • Access to books and Dvds but forbidden from the record collection.
  • Much better than cabins and or serviced apartments
  • Friends, support, neighbours to help and keep an eye on us. The possibility to have our own friends and other family members visit.
  • Arrangements have been made for payment of the utilities.
Bribie Island Arts centre
Arts, crafts and activities

At Tai Chi classes held at the local Arts Centre I feel alarmingly uncoordinated. Someone else has flexibility and can stretch much better than me. How dare he? What kind of person can afford to spend from 8.30am until 10am during the week at Tai Chi? Early retirement – Part timer – Night shifter – Works at home???

“We’ve researched everywhere now,” Rod says about our shopping expeditions. Our best winner is the Banksia Beach Woolworths which features fresh made, cook at home pizzas as well as great home brand curries.

Banksia Beach Shopping centre
All we needed and closer to the house- note how flat Bribie Island is!

More cold weather house-binds us. We enjoy the new open back deck and eventually decide to wash the car.

There is an orchid show @ Ningi. This is a tiny hamlet just off the island. So many stunning blooms. “I prefer the small delicate ones,” Rod says, “the big ones don’t look like orchids to me.” I notice that Bonsai wire is used to keep blooms upright. “Seeing those competition blooms makes your birthday one look fantastic.” We do have a little collection of specimens at home, but nothing on this grand scale, which we are told can be induced to flower 2 or 3 times a year. This must be part of living in the sub tropics. We are reminded that part of our house-sitting duties is the requirement to feed the orchids.

Ningi Hall
Ningi Hall – site of the annual Orchid show

Day trip to Maleny

Mt Tibrogargan
Can you see the Gorilla?


We are getting into the dog-walk habits, and the day is not really beach suitable, so may as well tour.

The Glasshouse Mountains are suddenly on the road-side. We turn off along Steve Irwin Way as indicated by a silhouetted sculpture of the man with a crocodile. ‘We should visit the Australian Zoo,’ says rod. ‘Yes and do some walks.’

Mt Tibrogargan looked like giant Silverback Gorilla. We are passing our first pineapple plantation. Then the big mower at Beerwah comes into view. Why? Really don’t know, but hey, it’s a big thing. The roadside has a passing parade of fresh fruit stalls, we’ve made a decision which one to visit on our return. Turned out that they were giving away custard apples, which needed to be eaten right now.

Maleny shops
Typical of cute crafty shops in Maleny


I wander into every bookshop in Maleny, including Rosetta Books. Oops missed one. Eventually managed to swap but not before I am told, ‘we have to make money, pay bills, you know.’

Part of this day trip was a visit to Rosetta Book shop – dust jacket information, from the Accidental Terrorist said the author was one of the owners. Apparently not anymore, and was told that he is even overseas, so there would be no chance to meet Steven Lang. But did learn from the shop to note down authors and add them to the search-for titles/authors at the library list.

David Linton timber gallery takes much of my time. All items are created by local artists, many of whom reside in Maleny or around the beautiful Blackall Range. Come top up your soul and experience the wonderful qualities of our exquisite native Australian timbers in this magical gallery in the beautiful hills of Maleny. Advertising speak aside, I felt as if my soul had been topped up. untitled (283)

There is art, exhibitions and fine food everywhere. Even a fromagerie! Wonderfully handcrafted shoes, but way too expensive. So much like Leura in the Blue Mountains. We dine at Colin James Fine Foods – bread and soup for me. Ploughman’s lunch for Rod.

Recent cold snaps have put the temperatures down into single figures. Further west is even cooler only 5 or 6 degrees Celsius overnight. So out comes the scarfs and cold clime clothes. We’re still in shorts, but with long sleeves, lightweight but still – the locals seem softer. We’ve found going into the mountains, or rather hinterland in April much warmer than our January in NZ, or February in Tasmania.

Heading back down the mountain heavy rain washes away any chance of a view.

Mary Cairn Cross Park
Typical trails in Mary Cairn cross park

Even with limited signage we make sure to take the turn off to Mary Cairn Cross Park. The view back through the nodules Captain Cook likened to glass smelting towers was stunning. (featured image) We can see control burns underway. Sunlight makes the rock faces sparkle, truly do look like melted gems. Had my sister not taken me to these gardens on an earlier visit I’d have been ignorant of their existence.

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There is also a giant barrel winery close by, but we decide to make tracks down the hills to get time to ask some questions at the Bribie Island tourist centre. Nope, no such thing as 4 wheel drive tours, ‘a guy thinks he might run tours and has approached the council, but he still needs to buy his 4WD bus.’ Fishing charters cost $230 per person, not in our price range.


Problems back home

We discovered, thanks to throw away comment from my, previously worked in insurance, sister, that the empty house back in Sydney may not be insured. Turns out that if left unoccupied for longer than often 40 days, many home insurance policies become null and void. We concede that insurance assessors would have their ways to confirm a house was occupied. So our attention may be needed back home.

Bribie Island library
More than just books at this library

But there is the distraction of Bribie Island library with shelves full of history, travel and even a section for westerns plus free tea and coffee for my ‘I don’t do books’ husband. Interesting in this realm of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease books have an insert pack to initial when you have read, meaning users can always avoid taking something home to discover they’ve read it before.

Last Christmas we were constantly frustrated with the blustery winds, wanting to swim but being forced off the beach by stinging sand and choppy swell. Here mid-year it is much less tempest. And we have a dog to give us an excuse to walk down the beach. Note: As 4 wheel drive cars are another reason to be on Bribie Island, watch out for vehicles on the beach, and deep gullies formed by wheel tracks.

Bribie Island storms
Typical damage, lucky Banksia Beach missed out.

In the week before we arrived Bribie was struck by very bad storms. It’s a wonder damage wasn’t more extensive with vegetation right up to the windows of many houses, ‘to keep the home cooler’, we are told. Now the streets are alive with landscapers spreading piles of mulch made from broken trees. Being that Bribie is a sand island the soil needs all the help it can get. Aside from the necessity to add organic material to the soil, this is all part of the beautification of the habituated end of the island.

We tour some of the canal developments, marveling at the spread of mansions and what can be purchased for the real estate dollar. ‘Make sure you don’t tell them you are from Sydney,’ was a shared secret. Apparently house prices are automatically jacked up if it’s suspected you have a larger purse because you come from ‘down south’.

Caboolture train
Get on that train!

To check on our insurance issue, we head to the city on the Caboolture train. First problem; purchase of a go-card train ticket. ‘It’s just a new system you aren’t used to’, I tell Rod. ‘Embrace the change.’ There were several attempts made to explain the deposit which does not add value. This is the same system being used in Victoria, West Australia and now in place in Sydney, so why does he have so many problems? ‘But what if you don’t tap on…’ he begins to make suggestions about routing the system.

Why on earth can they have the air-conditioning turned down to such a freezing temperature?

We get plenty of samples at the Queen Street Mall grower’s markets, note the buses moving in and out of an underground terminal. The whole city seems to be a forest of cranes, building everywhere. Preparation for the 2016 Commonwealth Games, or as a tart-up for the G20, or just a city with a purpose?

Our answer is yes, our home will be uninsured if vacant for more than 60 days, someone must occupy the premises. Could be a family member, or friend, but Rod is uncomfortable with that.


Bribie Demographics

And More Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men – very relevant to Bribie …My mother and her friends were widows. Their husbands had mostly been dead for years, but they had lived on and during that living on had not forgotten their departed men, though they didn’t appear to clutch at memories of their buried spouses, either.

Widows figured highly in the demographic on Bribie. My sister’s networking included a “young chicks group…” Perhaps some of these women never got around to marriages and families, one individual talks about working overseas for a decade. Or more commonly a life story involved moving to Bribie in retirement, with the unfortunate passing of the husband quickly thereafter. Meaning that cheap boats could be had, and the many charity stores were filled with men’s clothing. Bus tours of eager bargain seekers come to Bribie for the opp shops. Eventually the large house purchased for family visits that probably didn’t happen could be sold, so mum can be closer to the kids.

Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without MenWomen there lived a ferocious present because unlike the young, who entertain their finality in a remote philosophical way, these women knew death was not abstract.

One recount from a newly arrived single man playing a round of golf included being approached by the local matchmaker with a list of age group and income bracket available women.

Bribie -the Lonely Planet reference: This slender island at the northern end of Moreton Bay is popular with young families, retirees and those with a cool million to spend on a water front property…Into Which category do we fit?

My own niece was known to remark with surprise, ‘look there is a young person,’ at a rare sighting. Ok I am exaggerating, because with three primary schools and at least two secondary colleges, there are young families living on Bribie Island. However for the next 8 weeks we fit the dominant age groups.

One of my sister’s acquaintances referred to the island as “Bribery Island”, as it seemed one must have made some sort of illicit cash to afford a home there, as well as a reflection on how many ex-policemen are amongst the population.

We note that there is a networking group TOBI – Territorians on Bribie Island, and I suggest another KOBI – Kiwis on Bribie Islanders, SOBI – Sydneysider’s on… you get the picture. We are warned not to mention you are from Sydney when investigating Bribie real estate, as the price is automatically inflated thanks to the assumption that you must have endless cash resources.

Bribie Island canals
Just 1/2 a block away – sunset over the Bribe Island Banksia Beach canals

House Sitting Bribie Island Queensland

We are entrenched in the site of our 8 week house sitting duties. Cleaning surfaces and putting my sister’s paraphernalia away. The house is busy with all sorts of knick-knacks and we are used to less stuff.

From Siri Hustvedt’sThe Summer Without Menthe interior of the house disturbs me, not because it is ugly but because it was dense with the lives of its owns…I wondered how I could fit myself into this place … How do people go from one house sitting situation to another? Each time having to find your own place. Or arrange someone else’s personal items. We will be on Bribie for 8 weeks which is a real change from the three days that is our typical minimum stay. Seldom have we been in a place for more than a week.

Kitchen storage example
Full cupboards.

All those temporary homes have rituals. Arrival day is often taken with search for accommodation, factor in time to slightly orientate. Rod’s tendency was to unpack and then go for a walk. He needed some sort of recognition compass points. Marking his place by pissing on the posts perhaps?

Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men again. …I methodically cleaned the house excavating clumps of dust to which paper clips, burnt matchsticks,…and unidentifiable bits of debris had adhered themselves… The musty, indefinite edges of every object I my visual field had taken on a precision and clarity that cheered me…

Will even the small changes be noticed, or the large ones cause offence? I was shifting kitchen equipment, Rod says, ‘she will be pissed off’. So many pieces in kitchens encountered on our travels are about fulfilling requirements, rather than actually provided to be used. Thus there was often limiting storage for non-perishables, all of which added weight to the concept that travellers are not equipped to actually self-cater. Here everything, even a pancake cooker is included.

Fabric storage
Just like this, only overflowing.

For packed shelves in Bribie – From The Dressmaker …cluttered with the stuff of mending and dressmaking – scraps and off-cut, remnants of fashion…shoved in every orifice…were bags and bags of material bits spewing ribbon ends, frayed threads and fluff.. Cloth spilled from dark corners and beneath chairs and clouds of wool lay about, jumbled with satin corners. Striped rags, velvet off-cuts, strips of velour, lame, checks, spots, paisley and school uniforms mixed with feather boas and sequin-splattered cotton, shearer’s singlets and bridal lace…

Queensland's only road accessible sand island.
Greetings from our home for 8 weeks

Fish N Chips FNQ style

Townsville fish and chips
The Townsville feed!





Dingo pubwww.dingobeachhotel.com.au Old fashioned tropical beach pub, sand floor, stroll in from the beach or fishing for a cold one. But that’s the good bit. Our fish and chips best described as ordinary, it looks like pre-prepared fish fillets. $4 a serve of chips, nothing smaller, not sold as a fish and chips meal. I opt for a fish burger, lettuce, tomato, beetroot and large fresh white roll. Lemon and tartare sauce comes with the fish. (or you can pay $2 for a pack). A piece of fish and the burger costs us $25! Before drinks! (featured image)

Harold’s Townsville. German (European ?) girls serving behind the counter, seem to be learning. Specials – Barramundi and salad (crumbed), huge fillet but it would be better not crumbed. Reasonable salad, but we did not expect chips as well. Good value, but not as cheap as Saviges Bribie Island. My grilled offering is a tiny fillet. Rod has to ask for lemon, tartare sauce is 50c a sachet.

Townsville fish and chips
Best feed – Agnes Waters – 1770

Horseshoe Bay Fish and Chips. Magnetic Island, off shore from Townsville. Spanish Mackerel which seems to be the fish and chips basic offering up in FNQ, sort of like Flake is to Victorians. Much better than Harolds in town. Fish and chips $10. They offer a fish burger with choice of grilled, battered or crumbed. $3.50 for serve of chips, which is huge and double wrapped. A sign says, “Best on Maggie”, you’ll hear me shout! Ironic because a deaf lady takes the orders, which you indicate by pointing.

Magnetic Island from Townsville
Over there to Magnetic Island

Beachcomber Caravan Park South Mission Beach. Piece of fish $8.50 minimum chips = $4.50 that are too many. Opt for fish burger, choice of the lot – bacon, cheese, pineapple, beetroot, and onions. Brilliant meal and better value than the more classic F & C $10.30. They use Spanish Mackerel, lightly crumbed.

Disappointingly we could not find any fish and chip shops open near the Cairns Lagoon, to have a water-side picnic. Nothing had take-away, it was all posh sit down jobs.

Trinity Beach Bar N Grill. Sampling from the menu – Pig dog pork riblets… bacon and cheese $7.50. Sure these must be good for you. Spanish Mackerel $8 a piece, $11 if you have fish and chips. With lemon and tartare sauce. Thick yellow batter. I decide to compromise in an attempt to lose weight and opt for grilled, a very small, dry piece was the offering.

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Grill’d and Gutt’dCooktown. This little establishment gets our vote for the best, most perfect brown grilled fish. We pick Barramundi $9.90 – we have just been fishing for this delicacy out on the river, and know they are locally caught because three didn’t make it into the boat. Served with lemon on a bed of rice, why? ‘To keep it moist’, but offered up with plenty of “don’t know” looks. Great salad. Chips were a bit limp, ‘not their fault’, says Rod. They were left in their paper while we ate the wonderful fish. The meal cost us $30 for two, reasonable considering the quality.

1st May, 2014

We were not home to turn the calendars over.

Saved the embarrassment of having to explain to Rod how I came to be lost, by running along the popular beachside pathways. 40 minutes, each way, a new record. Headed north of North Burleigh hill, I make it all the way to Mermaid beach, (featured image)  before the watch alarm signalled the turn-around. Gym groups are everywhere, Rod notes one wearing pink T-shirts called, “tough mothers”. Someone runs hill repeats up the steepest part of Burleigh hill. There is a well-worn pathway, so this strength activity must be part of many work-outs. I tell a lifesaver preparing the beach of a person atop the cliffs, ‘hope nothing stupid is planned.’

North Burleigh, Qld.
jumper?? up on top of this rock, Why??

‘Don’t even know how it’s possible to get up there.’ The man dressed for a day protecting beachgoers remarks. The problems with beach erosion seem to have been fixed. Invisible mending for a famous fore-shore.

This is added to my evidence that the Gold Coast Council gets things done. Like – Free use of computers at the library for visitors. Plus all the free life enriching groups. Cycle lanes on both sides of even narrow roads. All the talk is of a new 1 meter space must be left rule when cars pass cyclists. Which has left me wondering how will this be enforced? Tape measures?

Mermaid beach Qld
Typical morning’s run course, hard to take.

Much of our days are spent lounging on the beach, body surfing strong waves (at least I am). Tiny crabs and reasonable bream can be seen as I swim from Southern Cross apartments up to North Burleigh, trying to add to the physical activity list. Out and about trying to use as many discount vouchers as possible. Including one for that seriously overpriced frozen yoghurt, child of the 70s which is making a resurgence. If indoors we try to take advantages of some of the facilities, like the two televisions, which means no need for the bored husband on cooking show night.

North Burleigh Qld
Where else would you rather be?

The Gold Coast turns into the Grey coast, all sorts of cloud banks and sunbeams are visible from our perch.  Sunbeam make it seem like volcano lights in the sky. Eventually the storms reach us. Torrential rain, unseasonal we are told, more a late afternoon occurrence in the storm season. But they still have a notice in the lift informing guests to ‘to prevent storm damage, please ensure all windows are closed when not in the apartment’. No one is one the beach, except a few walking in waist deep water.

What do people do when it rains? Head to Pacific Fair. We planned to use the great bus service, and I have net details in my notes www.translink.com.au but wait, we’ll get wet. So we’ll take the car. Construction of the new Gold Coast tram line seriously impacts, and we have trouble with unfamiliar road markings. A kind of zig-zag indicates a bus lane. We faced a T intersection and wonder what happens now? Also our theory on how Queenslanders seem to make up their own road rules is confirmed by their actions in the carparks.

Pacific Fair Qld
MOre than just a shopping centre

Pacific Fair was also heavily in construction mode. Is there anywhere in Queensland that doesn’t seem to be in major upheavals? There are open areas, and we are getting wet, so bad in some places that water flicked up the back of our legs. A woman from New Caledonia tells me she is here for the shopping.pacific-fair-shopping-centre-makeover

We are back before lunch time, I brought shoes, and we took advantage of Foxtel movies, until time for our late afternoon massage. This was the life.