ASET of 50c stamps from Australia Post, launching on October 16 and featuring caravanning through the years, has got DepartureLounge thinking about her girlhood hols and the complete lack of anything resembling a van therein.
During the early years in deepest, greenest Surrey, Lounge ’ s father did not drive and neither did her mother, a practical woman who thought being a smoking passenger and a bossy navigator to be a far superior state of affairs.
Lounge ’ s father got a licence years later in Canberra, but mother never did, far preferring to make full use of the passenger’s sun-visor mirror for applications of lipstick and powder-puffery and to drag on fashionable filter-tips while little Lounge , slithering around the rexinecovered back seat, inhaled a gagging mix of smoke, vinyl and father’s Old Spice.
Here was a woman who very much agreed with fastidious Hercule Poirot’s appraisal of the great fresh outdoors. ‘‘ The open air should be closed, n’est-cepas?’’
But in Surrey there were gypsy caravans parked on the common and Lounge wanted nothing more than to hit the road for pastures free in one of these gaily painted affairs. Truth be told, this idle reverie did not include Lounge ’ s parents but a chap who looked just like Richard Greene (the then Robin Hood of television fame), except with extra hair and a gold hoop earring.
Somehow, between snow-chained Surrey winters, Hume Highway driveathons between Canberra and Sydney and, later, beach breaks at boarding houses in NSW’s Terrigal and Queensland’s Coolangatta, caravans did not get a look-in in Lounge ’ s holiday albums.
The Australia Post series starts with a 1950s retro caravan and a family picnic; Mum is in charge of food preparation; Dad is sitting on the steps, fully engaged in being head of the family.
By the next scene, in the ’ 60s, Dad is at the barbie and Mum is being attacked by a family of kangaroos while he burns the snags. (Well, not quite; she does look rather alarmed, though.) Obviously this is a madeup scene as Dad is not wearing an apron with a naff slogan like King of the Grill.
By the ’ 70s, the caravan is bigger, the kids are playing cricket and the parents are reclining on banana loungers smoking dope. (OK, I amextrapolating.)
In the ’ 80s scene, there are boogie boards with shoulder pads and Dynasty hair (allow me a little exaggeration) and, in the final contemporary shot, a pair of grey nomads are looking very well set up and smug, no doubt exceedingly pleased to have shed their children and half-spent said offsprings’ inheritance.
Although Lounge has never been caravanning and intends to spend her sons’ legacy on 10-star cruises rather than road trips, it must be admitted that the industry is booming.
A recent Tourism Research Australia national visitor survey showed caravan park patronage up by almost 20 per cent. And parks are not just parks, it seems; they are star-rated holiday parks. This bells-andwhistles rebranding wouldn’t have fooled Lounge ’ s now-gone mother for a moment. ■ AT 74, Barbara Harrison from Templestowe, Victoria, is Australia’s most adventurous senior. Or at least that’s the accolade recently bestowed on her by Get Up&Go, the official Seniors Card travel and lifestyle magazine. Harrison has volunteered for 14 research teams in 12 countries during the past 13 years, including Earthwatch field projects and cheetah conservation programs in Africa.
Her prize is a trip for two to Wellington, New Zealand, which probably means she can put her feet up out of the wind and take a well-earned rest. www.getupandgo.com.au. ■ LOUNGE is finding it hard to keep up with the Banyan Tree lot. This Singaporeheadquartered hotel, resort and spa group has been expanding like crazy. Its Australian representative Victoria Hobbs says Banyan Tree has new management contracts in Turkey, Mauritius, South Korea, China, Turks and Caicos, and Jordan. The group will develop 40 additional properties worldwide in the next few years; with sister brand Angsana, Banyan Tree continues to pick up environmental awards as a committed green company, too.
If you are China-bound, check out the exquisite all-villa Banyan Tree Lijiang in Yunnan province. Outside Beijing or Shanghai, it’s arguably the most hip hotel in China; recently opened here is a training academy for Chinese spa therapists. All very 21st-century capitalistic luxe. www.banyantree.com. ■ FIND of the week: The series of free Sydney shopping guides under the Urban Walkabout banner. The pocket-friendly pamphlets cover the central business district and neighbouring precincts such as Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, and Double Bay and Potts Point. Fashion, objects and food are the categories covered in each, with a fold-out map and lots of quirky inclusions. www.urbanwalkabout.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: PoshNosh, the nutty filler that pops up on the LifeStyle Food channel. Arabella Weir and Richard E. Grant are brilliant as Minty and Simon Marchmont. Learn how to relax an avocado, interrogate a lemon, bamboozle a parsnip, annoy a potato and ravage almost everything.
LOUNGE loathes: That Lonely Planet has been gobbled up by BBC Worldwide. Cofounders Tony and Maureen Wheeler and shareholder John Singleton sold the madly successful guidebook publishing company this week, but the Wheelers retain a 25 per cent shareholding and Lonely Planet will continue to be based in Melbourne. Still, it’s another Australian company gone the swallowing way of globalisation. Lounge awaits reports of sightings of the semiretired Wheelers’ high-spec gypsy caravan up the Oodnadatta Track and along the Great Ocean Road.