For the long weekend I headed east....north east..ish.

Went to my sister's place in Swifts Creek, nestled in the Tambo Valley, East Gippsland. It's a small country town and my sister lives just out of said town.

My phone doesn't work there....I have no ability to call anyone (unless I borrow their land line)...and I have no access to the internet. No messaging, no facebook, no 'quick let's just check that.'

So I go there to rest and relax. To spend quality time with my sister, her husband and which of the children are there at the time...currently two teenage boys.

I've been coming up there for so many years that we have acquired rituals without realising it.

There is the slow walk around the garden as we talk and compare plants. She gives me a few cuttings of this and that, I give her a few plants I've grown and we see which succeed.

Her youngest son always wants me to play Monopoly ---have I ever told you how much I HATE Monopoly. Now he is old enough to understand I refuse, year after year. Although this year they had a Monopoly card game which I was assured I would pick up quickly (still don't think I have the understanding of how that game works)...even after quite a few games with her oldest son (which he won too many times to count).

There is the catch up with the various animals she has.

Say hello to the alpacas, who are very good at ignoring people.

The play date with Milo (the cat) and Merlin (the puppy)- who are the best of friends and both are very confused to which animal family they belong.

Then there is Cisco...Cisco who LOVES to catch balls. You could spend an hour throwing a ball, covered in dog drool, and he would return it time after time...after time...after time.

This visit there were no balls to throw so he spent his time herding...the alpacas.

Well as much herding as they would allow him.

There is the ritual of having a cuppa outside. This time trying to make the most of the winter sun. Chairs and tables were moved around following the sun's rays...and one day while the boys chainsawed and split wood and I helped stack, my sister made scones as a reward.

A cuppa with fresh scones and cream in the winter sun was delightful.

Another ritual is the playing of Scrabble. There was a breakfast game, with no scoring, and allowing names and swear words. But it is the night time challenges. There is always some wine and the tournaments begin. We have noticed the more wine we drink the better we think we are....the scores alas tell us otherwise. But it would not be a visit without a glass of wine ( or two, maybe three or more) and an attempt to spell words we are positive are real.

I come home - after a long four and a half hour drive - feeling tired but relaxed. Rejuvenated.

Filled with love that only family can give you. Memories of shared stories and much, much laughter.

I don't get up there as much as I should. Working some weekends and having other things on at other weekends and then seeing if they are home and available for company makes it hard to find dates suitable for all. And it is a long drive.

But I must do it more often.

I find I come back with ideas for stories and poems. One of my children's stories is based on an area nearby...a young adult novel is set in a town very similiar. This time I came back with a few ideas and a great name for a character.

So I shall return....before Christmas.

And remember next time to bring the thermals.



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