Saturday, 28 July
Is there more perfection than writing on a white sand beach while Julia plays in the surf and people occasionally pass by? A few days ago, I was convinced that I had totally messed up our last few days before returning to Sydney. I had planned to rent a car for the day to get to a highly recommended nature park and then spend a quick night on the Gold Coast before jumping on a plane tomorrow, but the day and a half in Townsville with quick trip to Magnetic island, day and a half in Brisbane and Day on the Gold Coast have felt somewhat rushed and I didn’t really want another adventure. And I didn’t want to go to another wildlife park. But this day, sitting on a perfect beach listening to the tide come in could not have been better chosen.
As soon as we arrived in Brisbane, I immediately liked it. Why? I’m not quite sure. A bit more laid back a city, an easy bus system, quirky new tall buildings? We visited the Queensland Museum the first late afternoon because it has a display of Australian dinosaurs. We didn’t arrive until almost 4 because our flight from Townsville was a few hours late. No matter, the dinosaur exhibit was about an hour’s worth so the match was good. Our hotel, called a bed and breakfast but closer to a hostel was a bit faded and the beds were too soft but it was clean and the shower was good. And we were hardly there during our stay.
Friday (the 27th), we started the day with a tour of the Boggo Road Goal. It is a prison built in 1905 to house women and later made over into a men’s maximum security prison. It was built far outside of the city that grew a round it later which made it hard to shoot at excapees if they climbed the outside walls. There are three blocks, cold brick buildings that are unheated in winter and uncooled in summer. Each block was intended to hold 40 prisoners in single cells but ended up holding three times that number with bunk beds and mattresses on the floor. There were no toilets in the cells and no showers in the blocks. Each man had a lidded pail for his nighttime needs. There was one sink outside the cells. The prisoners rose at 6, ate and were put outside in a fenced yard with a small shelter and nothing to do. No protection from the rain, cold or heat. They were brought in at 4:30, fed and put back in their cells. There was a single shower stall and two flush toilets in the yard. No books or newspapers were allowed. Each man was given two pieces of paper a month and they chose between sending one letter home or one family visit each month.
The facility was appalling and our guide was a man who had been incarcerated there for years. The prison closed in 1991 After much violence and advocacy. Our tour guide, ill educated and convicted of murder became an advocate for change to the prisons and to the penal code. I have met his like before during my years working for the court and I was humbled in his presence. I don’t know if I could have had the life force to play a hand like he was dealt. He told us his stories and answered our questions- I had more than my share. It is a world I understand although it was more desperate than any place I have known.
After lunch, there were two art museums, neither large but airy, well done and delightful. At the Modern, there was a film piece inspired by Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno. Even before I read the description, I felt sympathetic towards it. I did not recognize the inspiration but the content was vaguely familiar. Confessions of Zeno. -was one of David’s favorite books and he worked for a number of years towards getting the rights to make a film version of it.
We walked a bit around a very small part of the city. Deciding to explore a few places didn’t give me a grand overview of the city which would have been impossible given our limited time. Brisbane is a city I would like to explore further.
I did not want to do our original plan of driving to the Gold Coast to go to the wildlife park. I would have spent an extra day in Brisbane if I could have but hotel and tomorrow’s flight were booked and paid for. I didn’t want to rent another car and suggestions of an amusement park (Gold Coast has a few) or even a whale watching boat tour didn’t ring true. I was feeling rather cranky when a friend who was part of our Uluru tour group offered to pick us up and bring us to the Gold Coast. She made the trip from Gold Coast, where she lives, to Brisbane early this morning and brought us to our hotel. This was such an incredible kindness. I am so grateful.
We were met at the hotel which I booked because of its proximity to the airport because I imagined we would only sleep there. It is, however, a cute as a button, sweet place a block from the beech. I have to laugh at myself. When we were on Magnetic Island, I so wanted to stay on the beach and yet I was very surprised to discover that I had booked a beach hotel on the Gold Coast. Anyway, we were met at our hotel by the cousin of our many years ago British exchange student and her family—husband and very sweet little boy of 4. They took us for breakfast to Cafe Dbar on Point Danger high above Horseshoe Beach. There is a huge compass on the overlook and the boundry line of Queensland and New South Wales. From the overlook, we could see whales spouting and even spied two whale tails. We had a delicious breakfast with charming company. They dropped us off about a 35 minute walk on the beach back to our hotel.
And the beach is where we are spending the rest of the day. Julia has on her bathing suit and is running in and out of the water with a little girl, probably about 6, who happened along with a parent. She is actually being an excellent playmate, not to bossy or demanding, sharing the activities. She also entertained the little boy we had breakfast with. The interactions are no where near as demanding as time with high school peers but it is miles ahead of where she was last year. She is answering questions and attending to another kid’s wants.
And I am very happy on this winter beach in a place I did not know was planned for.