Monday, April 3, 2017

THE WINTER PALACE, or YAMBA FOR THE SEASON

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It's ten days since I arrived in Yamba, at my Winter Palace, for the season. A long, lazy, relaxing season, just writing, eating, drinking, pottering and eating lotuses … as elderly, retired gentleman do.


Well, it’s been rather more dramatic, so far, than that! Mostly on account of a termagant by the name of Debbie…


 I flew into Coolangatta on Air New Zealand. It’s a flight of less than three hours, but it is not very comfortable. I guess I’ve got used to travelling Business Class to Europe by Emirates and Etihad. Air NZ’s idea of what they call ‘The Works’ is to give you two seats at the front of the plane with airline food and a drink. At twice the price of one seat. So I decided to suffer, and spend the money saved on Wendy’s Birthday!


For yes, this time Wendy was travelling with me, for a week’s holiday and a glimpse at the Winter Palace, and her birthday. Sister-in-law, Rose, made up our little team, and the girls were to be installed in my new acquisition, a two-bedroom flat of charming proportions, overlooking Yamba’s main beach. Right across the courtyard from me.


‘Nephew’ Harry picked us up at Coolangatta airport and transported us to Yamba in steaming, muggy heat (30degrees, 96% humidity).


Michael and Angela, the new managers, had left the keys and carried my two roller boxes of personal possessions up to the Palace …the next days were spent finding all my bits and pieces and remembering how things worked .. in between dips in the pool, the sea, strolls up and down the hill to the High Street for this and that and especially a reunion brunch at the wonderful Beachwood Café.


Tuesday we had a grand, sunny boat trip to Iluka, with Rod and Veronica, ate the best fish n chips I know beside the Clarence River, tossed down a pint of Toohey’s Old … and the heat and the humidity didn’t waver, although there were nasty stories of a cyclone further north.




Wednesday was Wendy’s birthday, and we celebrated with a splendid massage apiece, chez my favourite masseuse, Amanda, and dinner at my favourite restaurant, Fusion on the Hill …




And Thursday, Cyclone Debbie decided she was bored with Queensland and decided to attack New South Wales. In 24 hours, Yamba had nearly 400mls of driving rain. Then the winds struck. Actually, sitting dry inside, it was quite spectacular, but there was one big worry. The storms had closed the roads. Everyone’s plans were disrupted. How would the girls get back to the airport!


Well, to cut a long story of ‘on again, off again’ short, the gallant Greyhound Bus made it through the flood waters by the skin of its tyres, and Wendy and Rose duly flew off (pursued by Debbie, who now wants to play tourism in New Zealand) to Christchurch, as Yamba move back to more sort-of-temperate weather.


 While Wendy and Rose were struggling north, my Yamba pal Robert and his friend Ben were struggling south. Last season, Robert and I had a standing date for Friday lunch at the beloved Beachwood Cafe, but family reasons have led to his selling up and returning to Sydney. Now he is back for a few days visit, so even though it wasn’t Friday, we naturally headed straight to Beachwood. 



And then (for Robert has a car) to Cole’s supermarket: 32 bottles of sparkling water, 32 bottles of Le Petit Rosé and, lastly, the final thing needed to get the Palace all set up and homely, 32 pansy plants for my little garden.


Considering the burning summer they’ve had here, the garden has survived quite well. Last year’s flowers, of course, are gone, but some of my herbs are still going and growing, and amazingly, the avocado stones which sprouted into 15cm treelets are re-sprouting … did I eat THAT many avocados … Cousin Natalie came by and prised the pansies from their plastic holders (my useless hand can’t do things like that) and, in between tropical showers, this morning, I planted them. Soon, there will be colour!



Last evening, rather than restauranting, the Winter Palace hosted it’s first dinner party. Ben (chef) and Robert (sous chef) descended from next door with a load of Yambirical delicacies and invaded my almost virgin kitchen. The results were breath-taking. I felt as if I were in an episode of Masterchef.

We brought the table indoors (Debbie was still wagging her tail) and sat down to dine on the most delicious prawn-tomato dish



Followed by oysters. Followed by fillet steak from Sean the Yamba butcher, undercooked to perfection, accompanied by a superb mash


All washed by a little chilled rosé….



So the Palace has had it’s inaugural feast … and, hurrah! The first birds, the little mynahs and the honeyeaters, are back …


Let the season begin! Pass me a lotus, someone …


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