Welcome to Day 9 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. My theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today we’ll be travelling to Ipswich, Queensland, despite the state currently being in lock-down on account of the Coronavirus.
Australians will be rather gobsmacked to find Ipswich lined up alongside some of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Trust me! If I’d been to Ireland or India, Ipswich wouldn’t have made the cut. However, I decided to go with Ipswich to touch on a very important reason many of us travel. That is to see the people we love. Yes, that sense of place can also be about people.
So, today we’re going to visit my late grandparents who I always knew as “Mama and Papa Haebich, although since my grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 95, he came to be known as “Papa Bert” to our kids. My grandparents moved to Ipswich in about 1976, when I was seven years old.
What I remember most about visiting my grandparents was their incredible, almost giddy love for us, which surpassed all human understanding. Our dogs get uber-excited about going for a walk and they literally quiver with excitement. However, I’m not even sure that comes close to how our grandparents felt about seeing us…especially my grandmother!
With us living in Sydney, it was roughly a 1000 km drive to get there and I still remember the first time we drove up there in the family’s EH Holden with the unforgettable number plate “EGO”. My brother and I were sharing the back seat and almost murdering each other before we’d even passed through the toll gates on the Pacific Highway leaving Sydney. I remember that incredible excited anticipation as we pulled into their street. My grandfather had specially bought brand new numbers for the house so we could find it. They were bright red and still there last time I looked more than 40 years later. They would’ve been keeping an eagle-eye out for our car. As soon as it appeared, they would’ve been down the stairs in a flash making the 1954 Royal tour look relatively sedate. As soon as she saw me, I would’ve been lost inside my grandmother’s arms all snuggled up inside a hug.
Before we move on from this very first trip to Ipswich, there was something else which also captured our attention. That was the fire engines. Their siren was quite different to what we were used to and the fire station was about a block away. So, the next morning while the big people were still asleep, my brother and I took ourselves on an excursion to the fire station. It was so much fun, and then Dad suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We weren’t really in trouble as such, I suspect because he had a few walkabouts of his own as a kid and he understood the need.
When I was older, I used to catch the McCafferty’s bus up to see my grandparents in my school holidays. Much to my mother’s annoyance, I did a lot of baking while I was there and she was trying to get both my grandmother and I to lose weight. However, she was over 1000 km away, and out of reach. My grandparents especially picked and froze mulberries from their tree, so I could make my not so world famous mulberry pie when I came. Of course, being the forbidden fruit made every scrumptious mouthful so much better. In addition to the cooking, we also used to catch the train into Brisbane to go shopping. I still remember when the then Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, introduced these flash new silver, single-storey trains, which my grandparents simply called: “Joh’s trains”. Joh could do no wrong, and was up there alongside the saints, until he slipped up. That was painful!
My grandparents lived in what’s known as a Queenslander house. This is essentially a historic rather ornate timber home, which is built up on pillars to maximize air-flow to cool the place down. This provides a massive and much cooler space under the house, which could provide added living space. However, in my grandparents’ case, it was an Aladdin’s cave of stashed treasures, including a functional laundry copper, which was still there when we sold the house about ten years ago. (I still get sad and have a deep sense of loss about all the stuff that was thrown out!!)
In more recent times, Queensland’s most infamous politician hails from Ipswich. Pauline Hansen famously used to have a fish & chips shop there, and has been canonized for her catch cry: “Please explain.”
Above – The Workshops Rail Museum has a nipper’s playground section for the kids. It’s sensational!!
Meanwhile, the arrival of our son on the scene, brought fresh meaning and a brand new destination on our trips to Ipswich. When he was about 2 years old, we took him to the Workshops Rail Museum for the first time. We’d flown up to Ipswich to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination as a Pastor in the Lutheran Church. While mum was busy with preparations back at the house, my Dad and I decided to take Mister for a quick visit to the trains, and we’d planned to return the next day for a longer visit. However, you try explaining that to a two year old who’s just discovered Nirvana?!!! He wouldn’t budge. He threw a whopper of a tantrum, and the guy operating the model train exhibit and was well versed in dealing with disappointed kiddies, kindly turned it off so we could get him out. My Dad pick him up and held him under his arm, kicking and screaming blue murder all the way out to the car . He clearly wasn’t taking “NO!!!” for an answer and after going to a gazillion parenting courses, I knew the only way forward was to wait until Vesuvius subsided and his rational mind started to kicked back in. That was our only hope of ever getting him back into his car seat and buckled in. However, who was I kidding? This toddler couldn’t read, but he’d sure as hell absorbed my favourite motivation quote:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Well, this kid had it covered. He was sitting in the driver’s seat and refusing to move. We rang my mum and warned her we could be back late and that her much beloved grandson was holding things up. Of course, this didn’t go down well. I don’t know how many head honchos from the Church were going to be at the celebration, but mum needed the car to get the cake out there and the stress levels back at the house were also at fever-pitch. I have no idea how we managed to get that car moving.
However, all’s well that ends well apparently. We all managed to get out there. The afternoon went without a hitch. AND (drum roll) we were all smiles for the cameras. Happy families!
As is often the case when grandparents live a distance away, we’ve barely been back since my grandfather passed away in 2009. We’ve visited friends and gone back to the Workshops Museum, but it’s been too long and that’s not going to change for awhile now. I am exceptionally grateful for that and the strict measures the governments have put in place. We’ve had a good reduction in the number of new cases and Australians who are bunkered can actually feel quite safe, and also a huge sense of gratitude to our front line workers who are keeping us alive. Thank you very much!
Have you ever been to Ipswich? Or, perhaps there’s a place which is made special to you because of the people living there, which you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.