Monday, June 06, 2011

Barn Hill

On a picturesque piece of Kimberley coast line, about 120km south of Broome, lies the Barn Hill cattle station. It's still a working farm, but for the past 23 years it has also become a rustic caravan park with an ever expanding clientele. The facilities are quite basic. There is limited electricity due to them having to generate their own power. There are open roof bathroom blocks, so you can shower in the sun during the day or have a great view of the stars at night. Being at the cheaper end of caravan park living and being located in a place where the weather is generally hot and sunny while the southern part of Australia freezes, it is like a magnet for the grey headed retirees in their vans. Silver haired old ladies sit around in the shade knitting their doilies, that they then sell to the other elderly women staying in the park. The men swap their fishing stories over a beer or gather together to watch the footy. Most of them settle in here for three or four months at a time, often bringing the pet dog with them, who spends most of his time chained up outside the caravan. Some people have even set up little gardens of pot plants outside their vans, or planted lawn. Almost all of the vans have a big satellite dish out the front so that reception can be picked up on the large plasma TVs that seem to be a common fixture. A large number of these folk have been coming here for almost twenty years. This means that there is a kind of a community feel to the place, with the regulars all knowing each other well. The location is beautiful, indeed quite spectacular with the station looking out over rocky red cliffs to a wide sandy beach on the Indian Ocean. But the place has a little too much of a retirement home feel for me. Janice the owner told me that she feels slightly torn. She loves the regular income provided by the older brigade who settle in for months, but she'd rather have a more dynamic place where travellers can come through from all around the world with their different stories and to create a different vibe. But typically in the main season, the station is full to the brim with the oldies who have set up camp for the winter. Janice has lived here for 51 years, all but a couple of years of her life. She grew up on the farm, riding horses to round up the cattle, helping with the castrating of bulls and the branding and doing whatever else needed to be done. When she took over the farm twenty-three years ago, she was the one who set up the place to cater for visitors in their tents or vans. For us, this is just a last stop for a few days before we get to Broome where we'll settle in and get ready for the arrival of the baby. It's been a nice relaxing time. Warm days spent lazing around the table outside under the awning. Reading books. Swimming in the sea. Lying in the sun. Watching the magnificent sunsets. With Tori now 37 weeks pregnant, it's felt close enough to Broome that if Tori did go into labour early, we could be at Broome hospital in little over an hour. Though Janice said that there are so many retired nurses and midwives around, that there would be no problem even if the baby had to be delivered here.

Tori and I have been notoriously bad at planning for the births of our children. It seems that many people have baby showers where they end up with everything that they could possibly need for the baby well before it's born. They paint the baby's room. Set up a cot and a change table. Have a stockpile of nappies and baby blankets. Everything is all ready for the arrival of the baby well before it actually arrives. A week before Jazzy was born, everything that we had for the baby could fit inside a shoe box. A tube of cream for cracked nipples that somebody had knowingly sent to Tori, a pair of St.Kilda booties that my mother had knitted and one or two other small incidental items. We were told that we had to have a baby capsule for the car or we would not be allowed to take the baby home from the hospital. So we managed to organise that prior to Jazzy's birth. This time, with the baby due some time in the next few weeks, we don't even really know where the baby, or we for that matter, will be sleeping. We expect it will likely still be in the van so Tori and Jaz, with a little help from Finn, have set up the baby's nursery in Tori's and my bedroom. Basically that constitutes a collection of hand painted or cut out pictures of sea creatures and shells found on various beaches that are blu tac'd to the wall above the side of our bed. And a cuddly turtle from Exmouth hanging down from the fold away TV. They have done a lovely job, but as for material things required...We have no car capsule. No stroller. No cot. No baby bottle sterilizer unit or baby bottles for that matter. No baby bath. No breast pump (one of the more entertaining gadgets to watch in operation). No rattles or toys. No dummies. Pretty much nothing, other than a baby harness that friends Dave and Nat gave us before we left. We don't even have a name for him yet. I expect that we'll have time to get whichever of these things we really need before the baby is born, but the real question is going to be, where are we going to put it all? The van and car are pretty much full of stuff already. And where is the baby eventually going to sleep? When we bought the van, we thought that there'd only ever be four of us, so where do we put a fifth? In the beginning he will be in the bed with us, but after a few weeks, I expect that it will be time to find him a bed of his own. A box on the dining table is looking like a possibility at this stage. The one other item we do already have is a baby monitor that somebody generously gave to Tori. We had one of these for Jazzy and Finn which we put to very good use. In Barbados, when Jazzy was still under 2 and Finn was maybe 3 months, we found that once they were tucked up asleep in bed, the baby monitor could be positioned so that we could hear if they woke while we sat in the outdoor restaurant/bar next door to where we were staying, sipping on a nice cold beverage and eating flying fish sandwiches. I'm not sure of the range of this monitor and whether this time we'll be able to watch the sunset on the beach or do some other fun activity while simultaneously monitoring the baby sleeping in the van . I guess we'll find out. At least this time we have four people to listen out for any noise coming from the monitor.

To say that we have no real idea how this is all going to turn out would be somewhat of an understatement. But tomorrow we drive the rest of the way up to Broome and I guess everything will unfold over the coming weeks.

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