Australia, December 31st. New Years Eve.
Golf at the Vines
This day started out pretty early as 8 of us went golfing. We played in a scramble format which was good because Matt was new, Natalie did not really golf and I was terrible that day. Ken saved us. He was the one who could golf.
Now, not that I am making any excuses, but it is never a good sign when the caddie hands you the rental clubs and apologies. Everyone else was getting Pings and Calloways. My set? They looked like a reject from a clown fight. They were bashed up Wilsons with the grips falling off. K-Mart wouldn’t sell clubs that bad.
Many people have asked me how the golf course was. I did not know how to answer them. I have been blessed to play some terrible golf on some amazing courses. The Vines course was a 6 or 7. It played flat like a public course with wide fairways (not that I could hit any of them) and the rough was forgiving until you went out of bounds. Then it was all jungle. Matt and I bought a dozen “pre-loved” golf balls. We donated all of them back to the course.
The one thing about the course however was its size. It was virtually impossible to drive a ball onto another fairway and you never had to worry about balls coming from anywhere except behind you. The course was green, the greens were flat, and I brought my slice to match my bashed up clubs.
Sigh… What’s the saying?
If you play, it’s a game, if you practice, it’s a sport, and if you work at it, then it’s golf.
I was working pretty hard to no avail. Still, there were Kangaroos all over the place, the weather was amazing and compared the cost of other things it was a tremendous value. A few of the other guys went out 2 more times, but I was unable to make it happen. It was a family vacation after all and neither Stacy nor Rebecca were much into golf.
Too rough to dive
As soon as we finished our round of 18 holes, Matt and I raced back to the apartment and changed. Stacy and Becca were ready to head out so we hopped in the SUV and headed for the beach. Our goal? Do some snorkeling.
Now we had noticed during the past few days that by the afternoon it had gotten windy. Today it was really windy. But after a 40 minute drive, we found a dive shop on the beach and went in to rent masks and fins.
The guy behind the counter would not rent them to us. “Too windy mate!”
The water was very choppy. Turned out they were getting a cyclone to the North, and a big wind picking up from the South. All up and down the coast the weather was crap and it would not break until Sunday or Monday. That’s right. There would not be ideal diving weather until a day or two after we left.
Stacy sagely pointed out that this guy stood to make a ton of money off of us so to turn us away he must have been serious. Matt was bitterly disappointed. It was one of the things he most wanted to do. It didn’t help much that the dive shop guy bragged about how amazing their snorkeling was when the water was calm. Thanks dude. Big help.
But he did direct us to Cottesloe Beach. It is a super popular beach with lots of good ratings and it has a breakwater that shelters it from the high winds. We hopped in the car and headed South.
Cottesloe was as advertised. A very clean and not very crowded beach. Lifeguards kept watch between the flags and we dove into the warm Indian Ocean waters and had a ton of fun swimming. As the waves picked up, Stacy went and found a place to rent boogie boards. That finally broke Matts bad mood and he and Rebecca had a blast trying to ride the waves. I gave it a try myself and it was some of the best “surfing” I have ever had the chance to experience.
Now I will be honest. I have no idea what surfing really is, but getting on top of a wave and riding it with a foam plank is a lot of fun. I got out and let the kids play until dusk. I just sat there and thought, “How cool is this? We are sitting on the beach on New Years Eve. On the beach. On December 31st. The sand is like powdered sugar, the waves are crashing, the water is warm, and the sun is setting like a golden orb on the shining water.
I just sat there and tried to commit it all to memory. I never wanted to forget that feeling. Sitting there with the people I love most. We missed Ryan, of course, but he was where he needed to be, making new friends. Besides, the last place a teenager wants to be is a beach with his parents. I can almost remember what that felt like.
After the sun started to go down, Matt (who should open a restaurant) made another perfect meal suggestion and we all split a bushel of fish and chips. I say bushel because it was rather ridiculous how much they give you in a standard order. We noshed on the hot greasy food on the drive home and prepared for dinner.
New Years Eve Party at the Vines
I was really glad we had tickets to the Vines New Years Eve party because other other choice would have been McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks. The food was very good quality – steak and BBQ chicken and the deserts were amazing.
No help for you
While we ate, Stacy and I decided to split a bottle of wine. I went to the bar to order and I got a first hand experience in Australian service… again. The bartender was a little on the short side. She was very friendly, but the wine I ordered was stored in a cupboard over her head and out of her reach. The taller manager lady was standing right next to her (in front of me) and asked her to reach up and pull down a bottle for her. The manager looked at her sternly and told her to get a box to stand on.
She made the poor girl go over, get a plastic crate and stand on it to retrieve my bottle of wine. I was a little taken aback, but didn’t say anything. Not only was it rude to the girl – I mean, you can’t help a staff member out? – But it was also rude to me and everyone in line who had to wait while she got the crate. The manager smiled as if that was the only possible solution. The girl handed me my wine (and plastic glasses!) and I was off back to my table shaking my head.
The lack of urgency was institutional. Everyone was very nice, they just had other priorities.
The kids went back to the room and Stacy and I met up with some of the other families. We talked to Bill Dement and his wife Barbara. Andrew Thomas and his wife as well. I talked with Cliff Wren about baseball and JR too. Around 11:15PM Stacy and I walked back to get the kids and we shuffled out to the golf course in our PJ’s in the dark to watch the fireworks show.
For all the flack I’ve given the Aussies about their service this I must give them credit for. They know how to put on one heck of a fireworks show. It lasted a full half an hour and it was absolutely fantastic. Three times we thought we’d seen the grand finale and each time they took it up a notch and outdid themselves. I guessed that fully half the cost of the event went into the fireworks. Perhaps it is because they do so much trade with China – I don’t know, but man those were quality fireworks and they shot off a lot of them.
Everyone headed back to the apartment. It was 2014.
Wow. The year flew by.