I awake to hear Dad coughing again. He is outside the tent puffing away. I wonder when he woke up. There’s already an empty can of beer on the table, so it must have been at least half an hour ago. I rub my eyes.
“Breakfast?” I call out, getting out of bed and heading to the bathroom.
“Ooo! Yes please!” Dad calls back.
We have breakfast at a pretty flower-lined café along the beach strip. We order the pancakes with extra ice-cream. Dad complains “You know…these are nothing but empty calories, Chook” but there isn’t a scrap left on the plate when we’re done and the waitress smiles at the empty plates when she collects them.
We spend the morning walking the Busselton Jetty, then signing out of the Glamping area and driving up to Margaret River where I’ve booked an exclusive, expensive “tree house” Air BnB for the night. The ‘tree house’ is actually a see-through ‘bubble dome tent’ in a section of thick, luscious forest. It looked amazing on Instagram and I couldn’t wait to try it out that evening with Dad. “Sleep under the stars” the website had promised. I liked the idea of that. Dad complained. “Waste of money, love – we can just sleep in the car and we’re still under the stars” but I preferred a sheltered – yet very cool – see-through ‘bubble dome’ for the night.
Dad and I arrived in Margaret River just after 11:30am. We left our things in the car and went for a walk around the town centre, peering into windows and looking around in the shops – holding up weird or cool items to each other and laughing. We both spot “The Margaret River Book shop” at the same time, grinning and looking at each other like two excited little kids. I have grown to love bookstores and Libraries because of Dad. He taught me to appreciate a well-woven story and we both excitedly enter the store. An hour later, we emerge victorious with a stack of new books.
“Hmm…where should we go for lunch?” Dad looked around hopefully.
I pulled the itinerary out of my back pocket and unfolded it. “Number 3: Swings and Roundabouts for lunch” I read out. We drive to the pub, but Dad immediately doesn’t like it. “This is far too posh for me” He shakes his head “I don’t feel comfortable here. I need a working man’s pub!”
Well, it was worth a shot. I shrug and we head back into town, pulling up seats at “The Settlers Pub” instead.
“Now this is more like it” Dad looked pleased.
A guy with an apron around his waist and a pen behind his ear appeared came over to our table, holding a small notepad in his hand.
“How are we doing today?” he asked, flashing a friendly grin.
“Just great!” I give my usual response.
“Hey, that’s good to hear!” the guy responds, “Do you know what you’re having, or do you need more time?”
“No, I’m good” I smile across at Dad. I know Dad will order something, not eat it, wrap it up in a napkin “for later” and chuck it in the bin in a few days’ time. Dad usually only eats once a day and as we had a pretty massive stack of pancakes earlier for breakfast, I know he won’t eat any lunch.
“Can I please get a glass of lemon, lime and soda?” I ask.
The guy scribbles on the notepad, nodding.
“And uh…I’d like to try your cheeseburger spring rolls – they look amazing”
The guy notes that down and laughs “They’re legit my faves. I’m obsessed. Is that all?”
“I’ll also grab a pint of Guinness for my Dad, please” I add, nodding towards Dad.
The barman gives me a strange look. Then understanding floods his face and he nods. He reaches out and gently squeezes my shoulder. His kind gesture brings tears to my eyes “For sure, 1 fresh, foam-topped Guinness coming up” and he wanders off into the bar.
“He looks like a nice chap” Dad observed quietly. He had his eyes closed and had turned his face up to the sun. Dad did that a lot. He loved being out in the sunshine.
“You like everyone” I replied.
“I don’t!” Dad was lighting a cigarette and as he talked, the cigarette bounced up and down on his lips “He’s right about the foam, though, Chook. Guinness has to have a nice thick foam – one you can write your name in and it’s still there at the end when you’ve finished your pint”.
We’d sat at a “smoking” table near the fire pit, and it was a lovely afternoon for it. The skies were bright blue and cloudless, and the sun shone brightly that day. Dad had walked off “to investigate and maybe make a friend or two” and I sat and looked out onto Margaret River’s town centre. We had 3 activities planned on our Itinerary for today – 1) to check out the Farmer’s markets, 2) to drive out to see the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (where 2 Oceans meet), 3) Check into our ‘Tree top’ bubble tent, then popping back out again for dinner at “Brewhouse”, where I know Dad would be excited to try their ‘beer paddle’ of sample specialty beers.
After dinner, we drive back to the Treehouse ‘bubble tent’ and Dad regarded the stairs up to the tent warily.
“Can you carry me?” he asked, nudging me playfully.
“No way, Dad – come on. You can do it” and together we climbed the stairs and took in the see-through bubble tent. It looked incredible. It was a clear dome and inside were two beautifully made single beds, a desk, and a big comfortable chair along one of the rounded tent sides. There were colourful throw cushions everywhere and little fairy lights lining the ‘bubble’. It looked beautiful.
“I feel exposed” Dad complained later that night as we prepared to go to sleep. “It’s not natural for tents to be see-through”.
“Omg” I groaned “You’re under blankets and no one will be looking at you – they’ll be looking at the stars!” I gestured upwards where the sky was a blanket of twinkling jewels. It was breathtaking.
“It is a pretty flash view” Dad looked like a 5-year-old boy as he took in the night’s view with wonder on his face. I forget that he used to be little once. To me, he’s always been my Dad. I can’t imagine what he was like as a child. I bet he was a handful.
Dad and I talked long into the night about Mom, Jay, Alun, our dreams, our hopes, our fears. I felt so close to Dad and fell asleep in the middle of one of his long rants about how ‘the man’ should be paying blue-collar workers more and how under appreciated the Painting industry is.