I’d arrived in the city just after dark and
headed out to Albert Park and took a room at the
Gunn Island Hotel, in
the suburb of Middle Park. Staying at the
Gunn Island Hotel
is a bit like the worst house in the best street. The hotel is
situated on Canterbury Road in the well sort after suburb of
Albert Park. I was given a freshly painted, bright sunny room
with just a bed and a small side table, no TV, radio or even a
copy of the Gideons Bible. There was a shared bathroom at the
end of the hall. At the opposite end of the hall was a TV room
which had an unkempt appearance. I walked in and turned on the
TV but it wouldn’t fire up. I looked around for the power cord
to see if it was plugged in. It led into a weird looking box. I
bent down to pull the cord out, as I touched the box, bang, I
received a powerful electric shock. No TV while I’m here, I
thought to myself as I turned around and walked out, still
shaken from the shock.
The ground floor of the hotel had recently
been refurbished with varnished wooden floors, modern lighting,
boutique brewery and restaurant with up market prices. But for
some reason they didn’t refurbish any of the rooms upstairs.
They’re still in good condition and the room I was in had
recently received a new coat of paint. But the hallways and the
small guest kitchen was needed a good deal of brightening up.
Even just a coat of paint would have worked wonders. But for
some reason the management didn’t care. I felt I was the only
person staying there. On the second evening I met another guest
while cooking my dinner in the kitchen. He told me that there
were a few others staying there but like himself they were semi
permanents and all had casual work or on contracts.
Christmas was just a few days away. I recived a call from a good friend, Aisling. She’s a Sydneysider but had just arrived in Melbourne for Christmas with friends.
“Why don’t you come too. It’s up Moira Kelly’s place up at Killmore. Moira runs the Childrens First Foundation. She brings children in from all over the world and cares for them while they have operations to fix their deformities. Most of the children come from very poor countries like Somalia and Albania. You’ll love Moira, she’s like Melbourne’s Mother Teresa. Did you really drive all the way around Australia in that old car? I don’t believe you! Is it actually still running?” she said
“Yep, it sure is still running. It did the distance without missing a beat.” I told her.
“You mean you
have it with you here in Melbourne?”
Christmas eve came and I picked Aisling up
at her hotel. She messed around for an hour or more then all of
a sudden announced.
We headed out through the suburbs, Aisling wasn’t impressed with Hewie. Not that he didn’t go, it was just that he was old and furthermore, Hewie’s interior isn’t anything to write home about. When I first bought him I had the front seats re-upholstered. The back seats were a bit rough, but the lack of carpet and engine noise associated with the lack of insulation made riding around in Hewie not much better than riding around in an old truck.
“I can’t believe that you made it from Albert Park, let alone driving this thing all the way around Australia. Hey look, there goes another one.” Another Morris passed us as we sat waiting for the lights to change. It was full of people and they all had their arms out the window waving at us.
“Quick, Aisling wave back to them!” as I put my arm up to wave back. She looked at me with a smirk and grudgingly gave them a wave. We headed off when the lights changed and had gone a block or two when another group of people on the footpath caught a glimpse of us driving along with the hood down and they all started waving.
wave to them!” I again stuck my hand up. She waved and looked
over at me. I knew what she was going to
How do you answer that question? I thought to myself, best I don’t even try.
”How far is the restaurant?” I asked.
”Take the next
on your left I think that’s it there. We’ll park out the back in
their parking lot” We drove in and parked at the back door.
Aisling went inside and came out with the restaurant manager. He
came out and took one look at Hewie.
My ears trigged up, I slid my hand down under the dashboard and pulled the lever and released the bonnet and opened it. A big smile appeared on his face as he looked in on the side-valve engine.
“Hold on a minute”…. he said, as he turned and ran back inside
the restaurant. A few minutes later out he came again, this
time, with the chef, kitchen-hand, barman and a waitress. They
all stood and looked at Hewie and his little motor in a
sort of disbelief something so small and simple could actually
propel a car along. I looked over at Aisling, she stood there
shaking her head, like the restaurant staff, she was also in a
state of disbelief.
“We thought you’d come here with a small truck to pick it all up,” the restaurant manager said.
“We though you just had a few kilo of fish for us. Not all this, but thanks anyway, they’ll love it” said Aisling.
I loaded it all in, apart from a box of tomatoes that just wouldn’t fit. I then put the hood down and fitted in the side curtains to keep it all contained. We thanked them all for the tenth time and wished them all Merry Christmas for the twentieth time and headed out towards Kilmore. I hadn’t looked at the map to see how far it was out of Melbourne. Aisling assured me that it was about an hour’s drive.
Two hours later we were still puttering along the Hume Highway headed north. We had a heavy load on board, two adults and the fruit, vegies and seafood were heavy. It kept Hewie at a steady maximum of 60 kph.
“Can’t we go any faster?” said
you know who.
“Do you think we’ll make it? Is your car
OK? Maybe you should take it to a mechanic” I tried to assure
her that this is how Hewie was born, he was running
perfectly, but still that look of disbelief was written all over
“I couldn’t live in Melbourne,
it’s too bloody cold”
We couldn’t arrive at The Childrens First
Foundation soon enough for Aisling. The home stood on the top of
a hill a short drive from the entrance. I thought that it would
be a small home, but instead it was a very large house that
housed Moira and her children and the many volunteers who work
tirelessly to care for the children while they wait for their
operations. Most of the operations are done at the Royal
Melbourne Childrens’ Hospital. The home was exceptionally well
organized. You’d think that a large house full of kids would be
a disaster area. But not this one! Everything had it’s place,
all the beds were made, the kitchen and bathrooms were
If you look around at the people in your life and even look at yourself, you see that for people who have a made a dream in most cases the dream has come true. For most people their dreams were simple, a house, a car, a family. Just look around you, those dreams come true everyday. For Moira, she had the dream and it came true. People came along and gave her the land. Then others came along and built the home. She’s a natural when it comes to public speaking and that’s where she keeps the money rolling in to keep her dream alive - through charity donations.
On Christmas Day
we all sat down to Christmas dinner around 3pm. That evening the
kids all got together for some carols.The next morning we all
awoke to the news that a tsunami and had killed 2000 people. By
the end of the day that number had risen, the news on the TV
started to show film and we realized that a major disaster was
unfolding. Aisling was about to meet her new boyfriend at the
Melbourne airport and both were to fly down to Tasmania for 2
weeks’ holiday. I had planned to go back to Melbourne on Boxing
Day but she convinced me to stay an extra day so that I could
drop her off at the airport on the way through.
“Hello Simon!. You won’t believe this, I’m late all because of this piece of shit car that Kerry is driving me to the airport in. It’s his fault! He should get a better car! He just went around Australia in the thing. It looks like I’m not going to make it. Just get on the plane and I’ll meet you in Hobart.”
I looked at my watch. “Hey Aisling, your plane is about to take off in five minutes and we’re still miles from the airport!” I said .
“Yeah and it’s all your fault that I’m going to miss it!”
“It’s not my fault, I told you we needed to leave early!”
“What’s Chris think of this thing?” she asked.
“She loves it. She thinks it has loads of character.”
“She must be crazy. Here I am not only missed my flight, but I’m soaking wet!”
“Maybe you should get on the phone again to Virgin airlines and see if you can get on a later flight,” I suggested. She started rummaging around in her bag looking for her ticket.
“I’ll call them and tell them that I got a lift to the airport in a friend’s old car and it broke down. Maybe, as you say, they can get me on the next flight” She found her phone and started to dial the number, but then threw the phone back into her bag.
“The battery is flat!” I passed her my phone. She typed in the numbers and dialed again.
“Now don’t lie and tell them that your friends old bomb car broke down on the way to the airport. Jest tell them you were late, nothing else.”