Day 287 of 366 Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

As you know Geoff and I are spending a week at the beach at our favourite spot, Cabarita Beach in New South Wales. I have said before it is a  community at this small van park (40 vans) they really care about each other.

When we arrived on Thursday, everything looked exactly the same but we soon found out that NOTHING WAS THE SAME!

When I say it ‘looked the same’ I mean that the same vans and the same people were here and the park had not been demolished as we keep hearing will happen every time we come down.

But within five minutes we found out that something significant HAD happened: the partner of the Manager of the park (Harry) had died suddenly four months ago. We had last seen him six months ago when we said goodbye as we were leaving: “see you at the end of the year Harry!”

The sunset from the top of the Caravan Park on our first night.

We have been coming here for ten years and during this time we have got to know Harry really well. In fact on the last visit we both commented that we finally felt accepted ‘as one of the regulars’ by Harry and the other residents. Harry had given us freshly caught fish, I had given him a big piece of my home-made fruit cake and he loved it.

He said to us: “that’s the way we work here – on the barter system – when the weekenders come down: they bring fresh produce from their gardens or something else, we give them fresh fish in return.” Harry couldn’t do enough for everyone, he was always smiling and of course … there was always that beautiful fresh-from-the-sea fish!

Knowing that Harry was gone simply changed EVERYTHING.

For instance, another resident Warren (who I wrote about last time as owning the Smoke Alarm bird that went ‘beep, beep’ every time he went out) was not usually a vocal member of the community, but since Harry has passed away, Warren has come out of his shell helping the Manager Brenda by doing some of the things that Harry used to do.

I noticed it immediately! Warren, who is partly deaf was yelling out (because of his hearing) for all to hear: “I’m getting my new teeth today!” He was as excited as a schoolboy about the prospect of eating meat. Warren has had no teeth for the ten years that we have known him so he had reason to be happy!

The barter system that works well here

To celebrate this event, he went and had a rare haircut and on his return, he could be heard yelling: “Highway Robbery! Fancy paying $25 for a haircut!!” He didn’t think getting new teeth (on the welfare system) was worth celebrating THAT much. Now Warren, who is a keen fisherman, has promised us some fresh fish when he catches some. Now I cannot imagine that THIS would ever have happened when Harry was alive.

Now, the death of Harry has a story. When I first heard the news, I was shocked and it was mainly because Harry was so calm and relaxed that I had trouble imagining him having a massive heart attack. I thought to myself “hmmn … It seems to me that this is a sign of a broken heart; I wonder what was going on in his life for this to happen?”

This proved to be very close to the truth and it is a lesson from which we could all learn. Harry had only just returned from a trip to his ex-wife’s funeral in Brisbane where he stayed with his adult daughter. By the time he returned to Cabarita, he was so upset about the behaviour of both daughters over their mother’s will, that he indicated to Brenda that he badly needed to talk to her about the whole affair as he was so distressed.

Brenda had just got rid of some visitors and was in a bit of a tiz and made the mistake of saying “just let me get my washing out first and then we’ll have a cuppa.” Harry seemed agitated and was not impressed with this so he went off in a huff to his shed. Brenda made the cuppa and no Harry appeared.

For four long hours no one knew where he went as he car was still there. Finally, someone found him – dead – sitting in his shed. He had died alone with his broken heart.

Now poor Brenda is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he’s gone. She misses her companion and despite the fact that they lived in separate caravans they were every bit the ‘couple’ that others saw them to be. However, Harry used to complain: “She has a mind of her own!” and Brenda used to complain “That Harry has a mind of his own!” No one took one scrap of notice of any of this.

This chicken has dug a hole near our van and sits content.

Brenda told us that the park is definitely closing at the end of next year to make way for units; she thinks now that Harry is dead, she will go back home to England and then she adds sadly: “there is nothing left for me here now …”

Every day Geoff and I are coming to terms with losing ‘our mate Harry’ and it seems fitting that the caravan park is closing next year. It is the end of an era somehow and time to move on. Without Harry, the Cabarita Caravan Park is not the same.


This morning Geoff and I took a stroll down town to the shops and wondered where we would go when we want a beach holiday … after next year. We love the village feel of this town (population approx 3000) and as we struggle to come to terms with losing Harry, we are also struggling to come to terms with losing our old, daggy, turkey and chicked- filled, but delightful caravan park almost on the beach.

Now folks, losing Harry has helped me to see that when someone says they need to talk to you urgently because they have ‘things’ on their mind, don’t put them off. Leave whatever seems so important, and make sure you spend the time with the one you love – because who knows what may happen to that person if you put them off.

It is something that I keep thinking about over and over. I bet poor old Brenda wonders if things could have been different … but then she should not torment herself either as she had no idea what would happen.  

R.I.P Harry. As one resident said so well: “Harry was an institution.” ‘Nough said …

Friends, let us all be kind to one another as we travel the trails of life