Howdy folks and happy Sunday to everyone! Well, just over a week ago now I set off on a little adventure to the Victorian town of Bendigo, which is a little over two hours from where I live on the south-east side of Melbourne. Why? Well it was a very very special day, my nan was turning 100! Yes, she became a centurion!
I thought that it was a really rare thing, that there was probably only a handful of people 100 or over in Australia. So I googled it and found there was around 3,700 at present, which was more than I expected, but it made it no less special in any way. My nan was born in 1921, and it’s hard to conceive just how different the world is today compared to when she was born back in the first quarter of the previous century.
No cars on the streets, no TV, phones only in the cities, no social media, no mobile phones of any description (it’s starting to sound like a utopia, right?) all in all it’s another world. And the most common kind of train? A STEAM train! Yes, utopia indeed! And to think, if you wanted to visit Europe you had to take a six-month trip on a boat!
Nan lived in the Kyabram area of Victoria, but in the last few years she has been living in Bendigo, which is a pretty central town and one of the bigger country towns Victoria has with around 120,000 residents. To get there was quite an adventure – I had to deliver something to Ballarat on the way, and Ballarat is not on the main Melbourne to Bendigo highway, and from Ballarat to Bendigo it’s pretty much one-lane country roads all the way, so what I saw as a moderate detour when looking at a map actually turned a trip of just over two hours into a four-hour trip!
Firstly, and I cannot state this strongly enough, never drive out of Melbourne on a Friday afternoon. It’s literally the worst time to drive the traffic was beyond horrendous. It was genuinely diabolical. Starting with an issue before the West Gate Bridge, apparently a truck had broken down and that was felt with a thirty minute or more stop-start experience behind it.
Then the Princes Highway just over the West Gate Bridge is going through major road works as they build a tunnel and that part just didn’t move at all. Once we’d cleared that mess, well, there were more delays at each on ramp on the highway to Ballarat, and so it was slowed right down. I visited Ballarat a few weeks ago for work, and it was an hour and a quarter drive. This day however it stretched to 2.5 hours. Which meant we left Ballarat in darkness.
The country roads were not easy to drive on without the sun to help out. And the GPS took us some strange ways I felt. But what did I know? I wasn’t familiar with the roads and had little choice but to rely on it. It was pretty much pitch darkness out there because there was cloud cover and the moon was only at a quarter anyways.
There wasn’t a lot of traffic, and I relied on my GPS to tell me whether the road was straight or curving. High-beams were a must, but somehow we made it to Bendigo some four hours after leaving Melbourne at 745pm. We checked in at the Oval Motel – there will be a review coming, but in a few months – and enjoyed Chinese take away for dinner.
The next morning it was great to see a bit of light about the place. As the name suggests, we were opposite an oval. We went for a drive around the town and admired some of the buildings. Like Ballarat, a number of historic old houses. Bendigo also began as an old gold mining town in the mid-1800s and so there were a number of old towers around, and we passed the Deborah Gold Mine where I was hoping to go for you guys, but sadly we were required to be at the function by 1130am and so that wasn’t going to work.
At a set of traffic lights a guy pulled up and called out to me that my rear tail lights were not working – well, the right one. And so we spent the next half hour going from place to place to find somewhere to replace the bulb. Autobarn did the job! Then we high tailed it to the National Hotel for the function.
It was a small space we were in, we got there at 1135am and shortly before midday the guest of honour arrived. Nan has had her struggles but who reaches 100 without a few? She was in good spirits and there were some speeches, and everyone in the room – I would say over 50, maybe more – pretty much – got a photo with her including my wife and I.
A lovely display to one side had some photos of her, and a few letters from the government and yes, one from the Queen herself was proudly displayed. For those not living in Commonwealth countries, you can apply to get a ‘letter from the Queen’ on the occasion of your 100th birthday. And so our family had applied for Nan. The letter, for anyone who is interested, is, as you would expect, not a hand written letter from the Queen, rather a printed card with a photo of her majesty on one side. It has a signature but again, I would be surprised if she hand signed it herself. But you never know.
Really, the majority of the day was just people sitting down and enjoying a meal and catching up, as the people there were from far and wide across the state. From Melbourne, to Wangaratta, Kyabram to Bendigo. It was a special day though. Poor Nan was exhausted well before the end of it.
At 330pm we headed back home to Melbourne, the drive took just over two hours. The roads between Bendigo and Melbourne are actually really good these days. I was also pretty tired after all the driving. But that’s to be expected. It had been a grand 26 hours. Thanks for reading today. Take care, and May the Journey Never End!