Winter in Melbourne is long, and this one has been tougher than most people can remember any being for a long while. So the prospect of a few days in Queensland for my nieces’ 2nd and 3rd birthdays at the end of October was made even more enticing by the idea of being able to relieve myself of jacket, scarf and other winter accoutrements that were still de rigeur in Melbourne at this time of year.

Flights were booked, presents bought and wrapped, potential for aiport pick-up at the other end discussed with my brother with whom we’d be staying. Organised, communicated, ready to go. It’s fascinating really, how much communication is needed with such a great number of people to simply get two individuals from one place to another for a couple of nights. One must have discussions with one’s traveling companion to confirm availability to go and arrange all aspects of the departure, stay and return; conversations with hosts to seek their sanction for accommodation, along with arrival and departure plans; consultation with other family members to apprise them of the plans… Everyone needs to know exactly what part they will play, how they will be impacted, and what’s in it for them.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of communication, which is probably why I was so irked when I had  two experiences of poor communication the week before. Both at the same place. I’d made an appointment with the doctor, well over a week in advance, so that I could get the first appointment of the day and there wouldn’t be any time wasted if (ha!) they were running late. So I turned up at ten minutes to nine, and waited outside until they unlocked the doors on the dot. In I went and gave my name to the receptionist, then took a seat in the waiting area expecting to hear my name called at any moment. Well, five minutes passed and then ten, fifteen, twenty – I was now going to be late for a 9:30 meeting at work. I went back to the receptionist. I said to her ‘My appointment was for 9:00am. Is the doctor here?’ ‘Oh, he should be right with you’, she said. So I sat back down. Ten minutes later the doctor materialized and summoned me as I was writing an SMS to let the person who I was supposed to meet at that very time that I would be late.

‘Sorry to have kept you’, he said, as I finished tapping out my text message. I wasted no time in letting him know that I was not only unimpressed, but late for a meeting. So then we got on with the business of the consultation. At one point he asked me what kind of work I do so I told him to which he replied (relevantly and empathetically) that he has been working with refugees for 20 years and in fact that was why he had been delayed this morning; he had been intervening in a medical crisis situation with a refugee. Well, wouldn’t it have been better if the receptionist had let me know that when I arrived? ‘The doctor has been held up dealing with a medical crisis situation with a refugee. Apologies, but he’ll be with you as soon as he can’. Problem averted, and I wouldn’t have been so cranky with the poor doctor who was just trying to do the right thing.

Later in the day I received a voicemail message on my phone, from the doctor letting me know that after all that he had forgotten to give me a prescription and he would leave it with reception. So I had to go back and pick it up, which I decided that I would do at 9:00am the next morning.

Luckily it is only a five minute walk from where I live, so off I set at ten to nine and for the second day in a row found myself loitering outside the front door waiting for it to be unlocked. Nine o’clock ticked past. Oh good, they’ll open soon, I thought. Five past. Surely they’re going to open soon. Ten. What the hell is going on?? Twelve minutes. The doors slid open and someone rushed out, the doors snapping shut behind her. ‘We have no power’, she muttered to someone on the way past. ‘We’ve been vandalised’, and off she scurried.

I glanced around and noticed an after-hours buzzer and intercom near the door. I walked over and pressed it – surprisingly the doors opened and I dashed in. The receptionist looked up at me in horror. ‘I thought you were someone else’, she cried. ‘We’re not open. We have no electricity’. I told her that I was just there to pick up a prescription that the doctor forgot to give me the day before. One of the other people that had been also waiting outside pressed the after-hours buzzer. Someone went over and opened the door and repeated the mantra, ‘We’re not open yet. We have no electricity’. ‘Could we just come in and sit down?’ the woman asked. ‘My husband has only got one leg!’.

If only someone had have stuck their head out the door at nine o’clock and told us what the problem was. Maybe brought out a seat for the man with one leg. Found out that I was just there to pick something up and didn’t need any of their non-existent electricity. Just a bit of communication would have solved everything.

Anyway, after effectively communicating with all the relevant stakeholders about the weekend in Queensland, off we went from Melbourne airport’s newly opened terminal 4 and two hours later arrived on the Gold Coast.

A new BMW Uber whisked us hassle-free to Broadbeach Waters where my brother and his fiance live with my about-to-be-two niece, and we had a very nice time enjoying each other’s company and some take-away Indian later that night for dinner. My niece, Aurelia took a while to warm up to her visitors, but she had us playing ‘bunny’s house’ with her before bedtime, so all seemed to be going well.

Our first full day involved a return trip to Brisbane for the party of my niece Ruby who was celebrating her third birthday, followed by some last-minute preparations for the party to celebrate Aurelia’s second birthday, and eventually some investigating of a wine bar at Burleigh Heads.

It turned out to be a place called Bin 12, where we had some great tapas-type food and worked our way through few wines. The menu is made up of dishes described as ‘smaller plates’ and ‘larger plates’, and we gobbled our way through gyoza, salt & pepper squid, jamon & mozzarella balls, pork belly, zucchini flowers, and a plate of charcuterie. Whoever is in the kitchen there was doing a great job that night, although the squid could have done with a bit more seasoning. The mozzarella balls were crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, the pork belly was suitably sticky and moorish, and the charcuturie generous. The evening was a bit cool but it was so nice to sit outside and breathe the sea air in. Adam delighted Cam and Vera with a a practical session on how the shape of a glass affects the way wine smells and tastes (it’s really true!), and a splendid time was had by all.

By the time I thought to take a photo of the food, we had devoured everything.
By the time I thought to take a photo of the food, we had devoured everything.

The next day was our opportunity to enjoy one of the things the Gold Coast does best – a beautiful climate. It occurs to me that the Gold Coast might be one of the best-kept secrets in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people are onto it, but I think it would come as a surprise to many people to learn that the GC is so much more than theme parks and Surfers Paradise (nice name, shame about the face). Or to put it another way, that Surfers Paradise is not the Gold Coast. Surfers is flashy and trashy, which certainly serves a purpose, but from Coolangatta to Southport is around 30km, and that’s just the coastal part. There’s also the beautiful hinterland with mountains, rivers and rainforest. The beaches and villages of Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, and Currumbin are about as far removed from Surfers Paradise as you could get in the trashy stakes, and so much more appealing in every way that I can think of.

Birthday parties over, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Melbourne where spring had also arrived, but with a little less gusto than where we had just spent the weekend. Ahhh. It’s amazing what a little warm weather and a dip in the sea can do. Just what the doctor ordered.