This week seems to be flying by. Two more sleeps of being a 30-year-old... ah well, who cares! Living it up this morning with two cups of Lipton. Yeh!

Last weekend Lindsay and I headed to Port Stephens; for Christmas, his parents gave us a holiday package for a weekend away - such a great idea. We did next to no pre-planning about what we'd do over the weekend, which turned out to be a good thing. The view from our balcony was stunning, but it was a little too chilly to venture out. So, we did what any normal people would do and headed to the shops to stock up on drinks and, you know, activities from the toy section of Kmart. Completely normal.

After a few drinks, a battle of Pick Up Sticks and some juggling practice, we wandered over to the Soldiers Point Bowlo across the road. As luck would have it, there was a bitchin' bowlo-esque cover band playing, by the really cool name of Jumpin' Jukebox. The lead singer did a pitch-perfect Elvis and Roy Orbison impersonation - I was very impressed, and jumpin' in my boots to join the swing dancers on the floor. After a while, Lindsay became frightened that I would drag him out to join the 60s crowd. The fear was evident on his face. We left the bowlo and ventured over to the Sally Shores pub underneath the hotel, where we found a bar tender, exactly seven patrons and a guy on a guitar taking requests. "The Gambler", said I, and he strummed it out while we found our confidence within the folksy confines of 'The Sally'. The happy, local drunkards pleaded for one last song and, to my joy, Pete (guitar, vocals) belted out Denver's 'Thank God I'm A Country Boy'. "I dare you NOT to get up and dance with me", said my eyes to the boy, and he understood. We formed a dancefloor on the carpet alongside Pete and stomped it out good and proper.

We got chatting to a fella who, still dressed in his fluoros and beanie from work, had clearly been at The Sally since knock-off. We found out he was an Irishman who'd been living in the area for twenty-something years - accent still intact. Ollie was his name, and he was well known in town, well, at The Sally at least. Ollie would have been in his fifties. He worked in construction and had a partner, and a Great Dane named Sox. I'm not sure, but he may have been more fond of Sox. He was friendly, softly spoken and polite, yet fond of the F-bomb at the same time (still gentlemanly enough to address me directly and say "excuse my language" - this goes a long way, amiright, ladies?). We'd been chatting for a bit when one of Ollie's mates said goodbye and asked him what he was up to in the morning. He said he might go for a fly. I thought he meant fishing, but on questioning, it turned out he owned a helicopter and he offered to take us for a ride in the morning. It was pretty obvious to me we were dealing with a genuine bloke, so we exchanged phone numbers (Lindsay's, not mine). Ollie went to put the number in his phone, but I said, "I'll write it down for you on paper. You might not remember in the morning what name you need to look up in your phone." Such was the flow of beer.

I wasn't sure if we'd hear from Ollie, but true to his word he called in the morning, told us the conditions were good, let on he was feeling better after an initial hangover, and arranged to pick us up at 11. Before we left our hotel room, Lindsay said, "Should we be leaving a note, in case we don't come back?" "Nar", I said. But I did send my brother a text.

Ollie picked us up and drove us out to a paddock, where the hangar sits, where the chopper resides. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a slight tinge of relief at the sight of an actual helicopter. The chopper was tiny. I'd known it was a 2-seater, but was still surprised by its compactness. Ollie wheeled it out of the hangar and commenced flight checks, talking us through the process. We decided to send me up first. I was hooked up with headphones and a mic. It was so exciting! We pulled up into the air effortlessly - it felt so light - we were a little glass pod adrift in the breeze. Although we were flying 170 kph, it didn't seem like it. Ollie flew me around for 15 minutes, conversing with the traffic controller, all "Victor Bravos" and "Charlie Tangos", as I took in the sand dunes, treetops, and ocean undulating from turquoise to cobalt. I even saw some dolphins. It was a dream! I'd been wanting to fly in a helicopter for ages - and this was such an amazing and frankly, serendipitous, treat.

Lindsay had his fly, and then although Ollie wouldn't let us even buy him lunch as thanks, he suggested a "hair of the dog" at The Sally. Of course he did. He'd downed 2 mid-strengths by the time we sipped our way through a cider. We said our thankyous and goodbyes and he told us to give him a call if we're ever back in town. Phone number or not, I have a pretty good idea where we might find him.

Unexpected adventures and making friends with strangers. Love :)

Pick Up Sticks, Canadian Club and M&Ms with my love and partner in crime.

Jalapeno Poppers (goats cheese) and Rib Eye Meatlovers enjoyed at Murrays Brewery post-flight. Highly recommend you stop here - 3443 Nelson Bay Road, Bobs Farm Port Stephens NSW 2315. 

No comments: