24 December 2019 to 12 January 2020
We arrived at our temporary Tasmanian home in the Burnie suburb of Brooklyn on Christmas Eve in the morning. Letting ourselves in, Stefan went downstairs to meet Millie and Shadow. We were worried they wouldn’t remember us but after a bit of barking they seemed happy enough to see him. It helped when he gave them their food.
After they had eaten Stefan let them upstairs where they greeted me with a sniff and a slobber which I took as a friendly greeting. They seemed sad though and a bit confused. We definitely weren’t their family and they kept checking in the kids’ bedrooms to see if they were hiding somewhere.
Very soon though they got used to us and we got used to them. It wasn’t long before Shadow was content enough to join me in bed. We learnt to shut the bedroom door because there was definitely not room for three in the bed! They quickly earned the collective nicknames, the Sloberdons, on account of the soaking we would get when greeted by them or the Stinkys on account of their propensity to produce extraordinarily smelly farts!
Millie is a Boxer/American Bulldog cross and Shadow an American Bulldog. They could look very ferocious when they were play fighting with each other
but 5 minutes later they would be curled up together lovingly on their mat.
Despite their enormous size they were incredibly affectionate and Stefan learnt the hard way that you can’t give Shadow attention without Millie pushing in on the action! They were brilliantly behaved dogs. There was only the one incident when, mysteriously, a raw filo pastry parcel went missing from a baking tray. It could only have been Shadow. Millie isn’t big enough to reach the counter. We learnt to leave food well away from the edge after that!
Christmas in Australia feels more understated than in the UK or Europe. We weren’t bombarded with Christmas adverts or Christmas songs in shops and on the radio for weeks beforehand. Towns weren’t decked out with lights and trees. We guess because it is summer and stays light until late that what decorations there were were made of tinsel and raffia. The shops, however, were full of Christmas treats we recognised. There were mince pies and puddings and, on our Christmas Eve trip to Coles, aisle after aisle full of hams. Ham must be a big thing for Australian Christmas dinner. We went understated too with our few Christmas decorations from K-Mart and thanks to Santa putting some money in our account we even had a few presents under our tiny tree.
Christmas Day passed quietly. We opened our presents with a little help from Millie and gave the dogs a brush each to give them a good tickle. They seemed to like them but brushing both at once was challenging. We had a salad lunch followed by mini Stollen bought in advance in Aldi on the mainland and played an 80s quiz from Stefan’s stocking. We had to pass on the Australia specific questions.
We hadn’t really had time to explore our new neighbourhood so we took a Christmas walk down to the nearest beach. It was a little overcast but warm enough for a paddle.
At first sight Burnie might seem very industrial with its busy port and piles of wood chip. It might not be the prettiest but when the sun shines it smells amazingly of warm wood and it sits in amongst some beautiful countryside. There were tempting views of Table Cape from just about everywhere.
The town itself has a bustling centre, helped by the regular cruise ships coming in to port and the beach was a popular spot whatever the weather. We became regulars for coffee at Fish Frenzy on the front.
Just a short walk from the house we discovered a lovely reserve, Romaine Reserve, set along one of the creeks that runs through Burnie. It was full of beautiful trees and ferns and a random couple of abandoned cars. We walked there several times and its shady tracks became a favourite running spot for Stefan.
By New Year we were feeling at home enough in Burnie to join the locals at their celebrations at the beach. There was great live music, dancing and food. The Blues Brothers tribute band were very entertaining and, on one of the worst nights for the bushfires on the mainland, gave a heartfelt thank you to all the firefighters fighting the fires.
This made their subsequent invitation to us all to go and see the bonfire on the beach just a little uncomfortable. We were a bit surprised a bonfire seemed like a good idea, not for safety reasons (it all seemed very under control) but just out of respect for those who had so recently lost their lives and homes to the fires.
Later the New Year was rung in with more fire. The Burnie fireworks might not have measured up to Sydney’s but they suited us just fine.
Being in Burnie for three weeks we had time to make friends with the neighbours and enjoyed chatting to Graydon and his wife Kay over the garden fence and a cup of tea. Graydon has been fly fishing for over 60 years and has been making his own flies for about as long. He treated us to a masterclass in tying flies in his workshop. Such intricate work requires not only a steady hand a good eyes but careful study of the insects and their behaviour in order to replicate them with foam, feathers and thread. Graydon and his flies are legendary in Burnie and probably beyond.
We were still in Burnie for Stefan’s birthday and celebrated with a walk into town for a visit to the Makers’ Workshops, a celebration of local craft makers and artists and lunch at Fish Frenzy washed down with Tasmania’s legendary beer, James Boags.
When we weren’t exploring Burnie and around or swimming at the pool we spent a lot of time enjoying having a sofa and Netflix. We spent too many hours catching up on British crime dramas, Australian political thrillers, films we have missed and, of course, Olivia Colman’s turn as the Queen in The Crown. And we always had close company! It was very difficult to leave and return to the tent but Millie and Shadow’s family was flying home and we needed to get back on the road again.
Thank you Millie and Shadow for being the best dogs to look after and for all the love and slober you gave us. We miss you!
Thank you Graydon and Kay for making us so welcome in Brooklyn and for the delicious fresh caught trout, the veg to go with it from your garden and all those juicy cherries.
But most of all thank you Rachael, Shaun, Violet, Lilly and Angus for trusting us with the dogs and your home while you were away. It was the perfect base for our Christmas holiday from our travels and we are very grateful to you all for enabling us to get to know Tasmania’s beautiful north west coast…