Caravanning and RVing in Australia


Chapter 19
Murphy and the Birds

Murphy knows that kookaburras love sausages. We camped one year at a delightful place on the north Queensland coast next to a lovely couple from Kangaroo Island. John had just put his string of sausages into the pan over the open fire and before he had a chance to cut them, a blue-winged kookaburra swooped and made off trailing his catch of half a dozen snags behind him. Bellowing bad things about the bird's ancestry, John took off after the thief and retrieved his dinner when the kookie decided to drop the sausages and fly to a more welcoming spot.

Murphy has fun with dates sometimes. John was a keen fisherman and often used to share his catch with us while Grant, another keen angler camped nearby, used to do the same. In return I invited both couples to come to dinner to celebrate Vi's birthday one Saturday night. I cooked something special, opened some wine and, feeling very pleased with myself, started to relax. That was when Vi informed me that it was our wedding anniversary and not her birthday at all.

Grant and Linda owned a huge young Rhodesian Ridgeback who was known as 'Bogie' because his perpetual frown was reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart. One night Vi and I were sitting staring into the embers of a dying campfire and everyone else in the camp had settled for the night. Where we were sitting was loose sand and Bogie's huge paws made no sound as he crept up to us from behind and placed his hot, wet, soft tongue right in my ear. Vi swears I levitated right off my chair but she might have exaggerated just a little.

John's kookaburra experience reminds me of a similar thing I saw at the St Bernard complexat Mt Tambourine in the Gold Coast hinterland when a young couple put their lunch plates on an outdoor table and turned to admire the view of distant high-rise buildings. Quick as a flash, an alert kookaburra dived and returned to his tree with a medium rare steak that he proceeded to demolish with gusto ­ quite oblivious of the baleful looks he was getting from the owner of a plate with nothing on it but salad.

I once lost a whole plate of meat at the barbecue at Sorrento when Murphy pointed out to seagulls that I'd left it unattended for a minute while I went to the loo.

Talking about birds reminds me of the best video footage I ever took ­ and lost! We were at Monkey Mia in Western Australia which is famous for the way wild dolphins come in to the beach and mingle with the tourists. The rangers come with a bucket of fish and allow selected visitors to give fish to the dolphins. We had gone up on to the little jetty to get the best view and I had been taking video of the dolphins and the people who were up to their knees in the sea. Growing bored with the dolphins I focused on a cormorant that was swimming around with what I guessed was a crafty look in its eye. "That bird's up to something," I thought ­ and just then it headed for an Asian lady who had been holding a fish by her side while waiting for a dolphin to come to her. Approaching from slightly behind, the cormorant grabbed the fish and was off in a flash while she waved her fist and shouted her outrage. I captured the whole episode on the video and later while we were having a cuppa, I rewound the tape and let the lady and her husband see the action. "I can't wait to see that," said our friend Anne, so I rewound it again and passed the camcorder over. "Oh, I'll wait till we get back tonight and watch it on the TV screen," she said.

I gloated about my action movie all day and couldn't believe my eyes when I played the tape back on the telly and there was no trace of the cormorant episode. Murphy had made me tape over it! When Anne decided to wait to see it, I'd forgotten to wind the tape forward again and the Oscar-winning footage was lost forever.

Murphy is certainly versatile as he amply demonstrated when we decided to have a new house built this year.

"I've had more hiccups with your house that with any ten others I've built," our builder remarked one day. "Yes, but you didn't have Murphy helping with the rest," I reminded him.

I came back from a trip to the Caravan Show in Sydney to find the frame up but with the wardrobes completely back to front so that wall had to be dismantled and reassembled. A cupboard was about six inches deep instead of two feet, I spotted in time that the supposedly 'Arctic Ivory' bath was in fact white but wasn't around to see that two roofing sheets were a different colour to the rest.

The windows were fitted and then found to be for a brick-veneer home so had to come out again. Sounds easy but Murphy ensured that the glass in the bay window was smashed during the process. One window was lost completely during this process! I don't know where it went but eventually another turned up.

The house is lovely but every time we cooked a meal the cooking aromas spread throughout the house despite have the rangehood fan going full blast. Then it dawned ­ Murphy had made sure the kitchen people had put a solid cupboard over the rangehood so there was nowhere for the exhaust air to go except back into the house. There were lots of other little things but these examples will give you an idea of the trouble he's caused.

Chapter 20