Sunday drive: savage seagulls, snakes and service with a snarl

Don’t you love those Sunday drives where you never know where you’re going to end up or what’s going to happen?

On a recent Sunday, Spider Boy, my sister Senorita Margarita (The Senorita), Mum (Batgran – has hero-like qualities. Like Batman, except she’s Granny) and I decided to venture out on such a drive. We wanted to get away, but not too far. We decided on a nice low-key beach area. So not Bondi. We drove south and ended up at Botany Bay.

We bought fish and chips and made out way down to the little beach facing the airport runways. There was lots of interesting things to look at, and balmy weather considering it was May.

We perched on the wall of an elevated garden bed since all the benches were taken. Batgran and The Senorita sat on one wall, Spider Boy and I on the other. Suddenly, A flock of seagulls descended. Spider Boy wanted to run, run so far away (sorry, any chance to bring up the 80s).

Spider Boy was edgy. He tensed as the seagulls squawked and edged closer to his lunch. “Should I give them some lunch?” He asked, obviously hoping that feeding them would make them go away.

“No!” I squawked. “If you do that, they’ll never leave! They’ll just get louder, closer and more annoying! Like Mummy nagging.”

So we sat there uncomfortably perched on the raised garden bed, sea grass tickling our legs, seagulls staring us down, wind blowing my hair in my face until I could find a hair elastic in my bottomless pit of a handbag.

Suddenly a rampaging toddler disturbed the status quo, throwing out the delicate mutual respect Spider Boy and I had achieved with the flock of seagulls. They squawked, they flapped. Spider Boy jumped. Then I felt something drop onto my fish and chips paper at the same time as hearing a distinctive splat! I felt something wet on my hand and leg.

I looked at my lunch fearing what I knew I would see there, and I’m not talking about tartare sauce.

“A seagull just pooed on my lunch!” I shared with my family and passers-by.
“Well at least a seagull didn’t land on your head!” said The Senorita (This happened to her once when she was eating lunch on a bench at Circular Quay. Well, she does have oodles of soft blonde curls – very cosy for a bird in need of rest.)

I pulled out the antiseptic hand wipes that I have carried in my handbag everyday since Spider Boy was a toddler (not the same packet) and cleaned the offending matter off my skin. Then I ripped off the offending corner of fish and chip wrapping and tried to eat some more without thinking about what had just happened. I couldn’t do it. I was feeling slightly sick now.

Autumn beach frolic.

I decided to take Spider Boy for a walk up the hill to an ice-cream van we’d spotted in the car park earlier. It was a beautiful May afternoon. There was a lot of people to watch, dogs running down slopes, rolling in the grass. We got to the point and saw a big cargo ship being guided out of Botany Bay by some tug boats.

Tug, exciting and new.

We made it to the ice-cream van with a giant polar bear on top and was confronted by a big booming man with a big booming voice. The ice- cream salesman, supposedly a purveyor of happiness and supporter of childhood glee, was booming at a mother and her small child. He was supposedly “explaining” the ice-creams to her but all he was doing really was speaking very loudly in a not very pleasant manner at all. Did he not want the woman to buy his ice-creams?

“YES?!” He barked at me now that it was my turn. I started ordering but before I could finish, a car started to pull into the empty car space right next to the ice-cream van – apparently paying no heed to the fact small children (and their mothers) were standing there trying to buy ice-creams. The car swung its nose in and we all screamed in shock by this car apparently giving no thought to the fact people were standing at the ice-cream van bordering the car space.

Did the ice-cream man not think to NOT park his van right next to an empty car space in a car park – did he not think cars would want to park there? Where did he think his customers were going to stand? Could he not have parked parallel to, I don’t know, say, a FOOTPATH rather than an empty car space in a CAR PARK? But I concede, it seemed to be angle-parking only here.

Did the driver of the car not think to wait until the customers had vacated the car space before he drove his car in? Why not nose in gently? Perhaps he could’ve rolled his window down and said something to us? The car in question just drove straight in to the car space while we screamed and pressed our bodies against the side of the ice-cream van. Now that the car had stopped, we were confident enough to peel our bodies away from the van with the giant polar bear on top (I swear I could see blood dripping from the bear’s snarling, toothy mouth) and complete our order.

“One choc-dip single please. With sprinkles.”

The sign said $4.50, so I started to hand over $4.50 in coins.

“Four dollars ninety-five!” The ice-cream man said abruptly.
“Sorry, how much?” I asked, as even his voice had been muffled by the sound of the gale-force wind that had whipped up.
“FOUR DOLLARS NINETY-FIVE!” Yelled the man, obviously thinking that when I said “Sorry, how much?” I was expressing incredulity at the price. When really, I was expressing my not hearing him.
It sounded like he was accusing me of asking for sprinkles.
“SPRINKLES COST FORTY-FIVE CENTS!” He was obviously used to defending his prices.
“All right, all right” I said, placating him. “I was just asking. it’s fine. Yes, I wanted the sprinkles, I just didn’t hear you the first time. There’s no need to yell.”
“Sorry,” he said, not yelling.

I handed over another 50 cent piece while he continued to justify his price.

I just wanted to run, run so far away. “It’s OK, keep the change!” I said, backing away.

“No, no, I’ll get it!” he said as he faffed about with his back to me scrounging for 5 cents for what seemed like interminable minutes.

Spider Boy and I made a hasty retreat with his choc-dip plus sprinkles ice-cream handed to me by this man’s big dirty-looking hand. He did wrap it in a one-ply paper serviette. which really didn’t do the job. “Don’t eat the cone part” I told Spider Boy.

Just 13km from Sydney CBD but a million miles from care. Not really.

We trudged back down the hill taking turns eating the ice-cream and then I dumped the pink soggy cone in a bin. We met The Senorita and Batgran coming up the hill.

“Oh, I want an ice-cream” said The Senorita longingly.

“Well we’re not going back to that ice-cream man” I declared.

I had noticed another van at another position in the car park and we decided to try that one. After getting  into the car and navigating much chaos via right-hand turns, round-a-bouts and bus zones, we eventually found a spot to park.

The Senorita, Spider Boy and I got out to buy the ice-cream while Batgran went to look at the snakes in the snake pit.  There is a regular “snake charmer” who appears at La Perouse on the north head of Botany Bay. He stands in a small enclosure and pulls some of Australia’s most venomous snakes out of a bag and talks about them to the crowd.

Meanwhile, at the ice-cream van, we were waiting. We stood at the side of the van for minutes. No one was there. The van had the key in the ignition and the serving window was open.

“Hello”, we called. No answer.

“Hellooooooo”. Nothing.

“We could always steal it” I said, not being a very good role model to my son. “No, Spider Boy. It’s not right to steal. Mummy would never steal this van, or anything. I was only joking.” Thinking that if one were to steal a vehicle, an ice-cream van would be the thing to steal.

Suddenly the ice-cream man appeared. “Sorry, I was in the toilet.” I hoped he washed his hands.

We bought our ice-creams uneventfully. This time one for me (I’d been too traumatised at the last van to get one, what with us being yelled at and nearly run over), as well as The Senorita and Batgran. Spider Boy and I shared mine.

We went over to the snake pit where Batgran was all ears. Spider Boy and I watched for a while but once the snake charmer pulled a Tiger snake out of his bag, I just wanted to go. Spider Boy and I were relieved to sit in the car and wait for our “picnic” companions.

Soon enough we were all back in the car ready to leave this bizarre, windy picnic point with great views, angry birds, poisonous reptiles and bad service.

Back in the car and heading home. Thank goodness!


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