As a child one of the best Christmas presents I ever got was a game of Monopoly. I was living in Belize, Central America, at the time and so it was the American rather than British version. In my best handwriting I wrote a notice, which remains stuck to the lid to this day, saying “This game belongs to Sheila Kay Matheson”. I still remember many of the Chance and Community Chest Cards and this week a number of them have come up in everyday life!
Let’s start with Get Out of Jail Free. Although we had planned to visit Fremantle Jail, we found out we’d just missed the start of one tour, there was no option to just wander around on one’s own and the length and content of the tour wasn’t really suitable for our 7 year old grandson. Instead, we chanced upon a much more informal jail or gaol experience when we visited Geraldton. The curator could not have been more helpful and thought that as British citizens we ought to know the full story. No entrance fee, just a donation and her undivided attention for over half an hour! She told us that if Western Australia had to accept a quota of convicts then they stipulated that they would only accept the better ones i.e. young men who were fit and healthy and with skills that could be used in mining, construction and agricultural. For those who re-offended, a small jail was built in Geraldton to avoid them needing to return back to Fremantle Prison. Geraldton’s Gaol, together with the on site hospital, remained operational for over 100 years and only closed in the 1980s. There were interesting stories about those convicts who ‘Done Good’ and became pillars of the community as well as a few naughty ones. Apparently a third of all Australians know or believe they have convict history. The jail cells are now individual craft shops and the buildings have been beautifully restored.
Instead of a Chance Card about Building Repairs, we picked up a charge for Bicycle Repairs. Whether its the heat, the dust, the fact that we’ve done over 2,400 kms or a combination of all three, our electric bikes have started cutting out at inopportune times and so we decided to get them serviced. The $215 included a new tube for Mike’s bike and a diagnosis that his bike has a more serious issue that will need repairing under warranty. Only trouble is they will need to send off the motor and wait for it to come back which could take a couple of weeks. Looks like we’ll need to spend a bit more time in Broome than we planned.
We did not take out medical insurance as we’d heard that provided you register with Medicare, there is a reciprocal health arrangement between Australia and the UK. The system worked a treat for Mike who walked into a local Health Centre yesterday and was seen within 10 minutes to have his ears syringed. No cost and his blood pressure and pulse were also declared to be in good working order, phew! He needed to be fit and healthy for the walk up to Nature’s Window at Kalbarri National Park at the crack of dawn this morning. The advice from the Visitor’s Centre was to go as early as possible because the temperature is always another 10 degrees on top of what it is in the town and since it was 37 degrees yesterday, we got up specially early. Equipped with flynets and many litres of water we were pleasantly surprised at the lack of flies and actually it didn’t get that hot. The only nasty surprise when we got back to the van was that it had somehow developed a foot long crack down the front windscreen!!!
So that’s where our next Monopoly card comes into play – the Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 one. Our insurance company were really quick in linking us up with their local representative and there is no charge or excess payable because apparently you’re allowed one free window replacement a year. Wish we had that in the UK. The only down side is that we need to return to Geraldton to have it done which is 160 kms south again. Still we did stop at some interesting sights on the way up. First there was Northampton where they have a strong connection to sheep farming. There are artistic Sheila the Sheeps everywhere but none with earrings. The local cafe is named the Shearing Shed and serves up the very best vanilla slices we have ever tasted. Whilst we were enjoying ours, a couple of leather clad bikers came in who had travelled over 50 kms just to pick some up. I did smile when I saw them leaving the shop with the vanilla slices being carried in a vivid little picnic cool bag which was not quite so Hells Angels! With it being Australia Day and places being busy we spent the night on the local golf course free of charge.
Next stop was Port Gregory where there is a very pink pink lake as well as a delightful stretch of beach where the waves crash against the reef. Not so delightful were the blue bottles. In the UK blue bottles are annoying large house flies but here in Australia they refer to something that looks like a penis vagina and are also known as Portuguese Man-of-War Jellyfish. There were loads washed up on the beach which meant there must have been hundreds in the water. No swimming for me which is a shame because I’ve just bought myself a snorkel, mask and flippers.
Australians may be good at Monopoly but I’m sure they are even better at Catchphrase. Everything over here seems to get named very simplistically. For example, there are loads of Shelly Beaches (beaches with shells), Diagonal and Long Flat Roads (so named because they either go diagonally or are long and flat), we’ve gone over the Wet Creek and today we visited Mushroom Rock – yup, a rock shaped like a mushroom! The coastline is a must for geologists.
We are getting more accustomed to the Fremantle Doctor (the wind) that comes up from the South West but it doesn’t half do some damage to the poor trees who look as though they have bad hair dos or stiff necks.
Lastly, Monopoly wouldn’t be Monopoly without property sales and acquisitions. We haven’t said anything up till now and certainly don’t want to jinx ourselves, but this week we’ve had encouraging emails about a potential property deal back home that could result in us becoming homeless but not penniless!!!