Lillian’s 5th birthday party had for a month or more been scheduled for Sat 7th Feb, with just 3 of her closest friends and their parents invited for a barbeque lunch with some party games, cake and so forth for the kids. We had even lined up a ride on a donkey, to be kindly provided by our new next door neighbours down the hill.
However as the day came close the weather forecasters started predicting 43 degree heat and the worst bushfire conditions the state had ever known – though a cool change would be coming through on Saturday night. So we contacted everybody and postponed the festivities to Sunday, figuring the situation should be clearer by then, and being ready to cancel completely if need be.
We still went to the farm on Friday night, though we’d planned in advance to spend the worst part of the day down at the beach at Sandy Point where Lillian’s friend Gabby was staying. Just after midday we headed down there, with the temperature already around 41 and a tall column of smoke visible over the far horizon. (It turned out to be from the Churchill fires, about 40-50 km away.)
As we drove down to Sandy Point, the temperature was gradually increasing and at one point touched 47. We arrived at the friend’s beach house and dashed inside, where an air-conditioner was keeping things tolerable, though periodically the fuse would blow. After a while we decided to head down to the beach where we’d be as cool as we liked once in the water.
Lillian and Gabby were quite unfazed as they walked over the blistering sand (with shoes on of course) and in the roasting heat. When we got down to the beach there was a fierce wind blowing sand along the beach. It was like being in a furnace, but the girls seemed oblivious, holding hands and running into the water to play. At one stage they were sitting on at the water’s edge, with backs to the blasting wind, covering their legs in sand to make them look like mermaid tails. Gabby remarks nonchalantly “Its hot, isn’t it!” I thought to myself, “No kidding! Just the hottest day in recorded history!” But as long as you were wet, the strong wind actually kept you cool.
We spent maybe 90 minutes there until the cold front arrived and the temperature dropped to a refreshing 30 or so. The girls spent a while collecting shells, then we headed back and all had ice creams
and then fish and chips for dinner.
Overnight we heard the welcome sound of rain on the roof, and the next morning it was cold with passing showers – much like a typical winters day. It seemed hard to imagine that there could be a fire in the area, so we awaited the arrival of Gabby, Lily and their parents. Like most visitors they managed to get lost (Lily’s parents drove a kilometre past our place down a 4WD-only track, with me running after them) so things only got going about 2 hours later than planned. But from the moment they got together the three girls were having a terrific time, sometimes just playing among themselves and sometimes enjoying some of the activities we had planned, such as the treasure hunt (chocolates and plastic necklaces hidden along the verandahs and in the plants) and the bubble machine:
but no donkey ride, as our neighbour couldn’t make it on Sunday. And of course had a birthday cake (two actually – Teresa made one from a packet, with hundreds and thousands, for the kids, and a healthy low-fat carrot cake for the grown ups). Then some more play time, and around 5.00 our guests headed off.
We packed up and headed home. Lillian slept in the car all the way back, and Teresa slept much of the way too, which was fine with me because I was glued to ABC radio bushfire news channel.
It was a big weekend. We asked Lillian when we got back if she enjoyed her party. She said she liked it even more than the party at the Zoo last year, which was a pretty good party so even though she only had two friends there, it was a memorable, happy occasion. And the parents seemed to enjoy themselves too, which is unusual for birthday parties. (Some I’ve been forced to endure, particularly those at commercial play centres, are sheer torture.)