This is not a birthday blog post

A boy walking on the trail in Tasmania's southwest wilderness

DorkySon turns thirteen later this month (THIRTEEN!!).

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I usually write a birthday post reflecting on the previous year. In fact, this year’s birthday blog would have been the tenth one… but reasonably enough DorkySon is not as keen for me to spend 1000 words going into raptures over how great he is these days. You never know who might be reading.

So this is not a birthday blog. 

Instead it’s just a reflection on our summer, and an update for far-flung family and friends on how life is going in Tasmania. If I occasionally, accidentally, veer off into saying nice things about DorkySon please just ignore that and move quickly onto the next paragraph.

plane spotting from Tower Hill at Hobart airport

It was a bit of a strange start to the year, to be honest. Normally we pack our summer holidays with activities – cinema visits, go-karting, mini-golf, lunches out, boat trips… But this year we had a much quieter one. Tasmania opened up its borders to the rest of Australia in mid-December and – as expected – covid figures skyrocketed throughout January. We decided to play it fairly safe and stay close to home while the first wave made its way through, and at least until DorkyDad and I had received our boosters. 

So it was a very close-to-home kind of holiday, with plenty of dog walks and AFL on the oval across the road, and the occasional afternoon plane spotting on Tower Hill, but nothing else too exciting going on. DorkySon had one socially distanced outdoor catch up with a friend and that was about it.

By the start of February, things had calmed down a bit. DorkyDad and I were both boosted. We knew that when school went back, we’d have to accept the high likelihood of DorkySon bringing covid home with him anyway. So we figured we may as well fit one really fun thing into the last weekend of the holidays.  

Reflections in the water at Bathurst Harbour

I’d bought tickets for the Par Avion Southwest Wilderness Tour for DorkyDad’s birthday in 2020, just before he started radiation treatment. We’d spent 18 months looking forward to the trip, and even with all that anticipation, it didn’t disappoint. 

DorkySon has written a full trip report here on his newly setup Hobart Aviation Fan blog, so I’ll keep my reflections short. But gosh, what a truly spectacular experience. What an astonishingly beautiful part of the world. We flew from Hobart down the D’entrecasteaux Channel and along the southern coast of Tasmania to the airstrip at Melaleuca. Then we spent the day on a boat learning all about the history of the area, exploring Bathurst Harbour and heading out as far as the Breaksea Islands. The return flight was inland, crossing over Federation Peak. It was one of those days that made us feel very lucky to live here, but also made us realise we have barely scratched the surface of everything there is to see and do on the island.

A few days after that trip, DorkySon started high school. I’m hoping that when I pass him this draft to read for edits, he allows me just one sentence to say that he’s done a bloody brilliant job with the transition. He was late home on the first day after jamming the padlock on his locker shut and needing the techy teacher to cut it off, but with that one very minor exception the things that could have been a big deal – getting to grips with the buses, finding his way around, new and challenging subjects – have all been absolutely fine. Just like the transition from infant to primary school, he has taken it all in his stride and after just a few days it was like he’d always been there.

The Monday of Term 1, Week 4 wasn’t a great one. Our little DorkyDog had to spend the day at the vet having xrays done, and we found out that she needs fairly major surgery. So major that no-one in Tasmania does it and we have to fly her to Melbourne…

Brown and white poodle puppy

A few minutes after getting home from the vet, we got an email from school saying there had been several cases of covid in DorkySon’s class. He was feeling fine but we decided to do a precautionary test and it turns out he did indeed have a case of the old spicy cough. 

So it was a week of isolation for all of us. But we are counting our blessings that he didn’t develop any serious symptoms, and DorkyDad and I somehow continued to test negative all week. Hopefully that is our one and only rona encounter done, but we shall see. There is a lot of year left to go. 

Even in iso, there were many things to be grateful for, including the enormous generosity of our neighbours doing a masked handover in the driveway each day to take DorkyDog for a walk. It also gave me a good uninterrupted stretch to crack on with a big work project – three chapters of the next Lonely Planet guide to Tasmania – and more time to hand wash and dry all the dishes, since our beloved Bosch had carked it a week previously.

We are now into week 7 of term, hurtling towards the end of March and the Easter holidays, which barely seems possible. It has been a very unsettled start to the year, and I really feel for the teachers who have been working so hard to keep things going smoothly even as covid ploughs its way through schools. Hopefully Term 2 will be a little easier on everyone.

We have been trying to find the balance between doing ‘normal’ stuff while also trying to keep ourselves and others safe. I feel immensely privileged that this is even a choice for us, when I know that for so many others it isn’t. DorkyDad and I went out for lunch last week, and on Saturday we had a wonderful time doing takara nipaluna – the Aboriginal-led walking tour of Hobart. But I am still masking up to shop, still social distancing, still keeping a sharp eye on those daily figures which are staying stubbornly above 1000 cases a day in Tasmania. It is starting to get very hard to see if and how this will ever end. 

Nunami Sculthorpe-Green leading the takara nipaluna walking tour around Hobart

I think today is the autumn equinox. The evenings are getting so much darker, and the mornings are noticeably cooler. None of us – not me, not DorkySon, not DorkyDog – are fans of the 6.30am wake up. But I do love this time of year here so much. Love those bright crispy days, love the trees turning, the softness of the light. I also like knowing that our northern hemisphere friends will soon be enjoying the warmer, longer days.

A few days before DorkySon turns 13, DorkyDog turns one. She has been with us now for nine months, which means we have reached the stage where we can ask each other, “Do you remember…?”

Do you remember when she was so tiny we had to carry her up and down the stairs; when she was too scared to jump off the bed; when she used to get the zoomies and go tearing through the plants in the garden? We are all so completely charmed by her – even when she dissects a newly bought toy in twenty minutes, or eats something unspeakably nasty on  a walk, or barks to be let out and then immediately barks to be let in again. 

She is the sweetest natured dog that you could possibly imagine. We will be so pleased when her surgery and flights are done and she is back sleeping safely under our roof. Whatever it entails, the work of rehab and therapy and care that will allow her to live an active and pain-free life will be much easier than the weeks of waiting for all that to begin.

So this is a little bit of a birthday blog. But not really. Hopefully there is so little birthday-related content that it will escape DorkySon’s veto. I think I am allowed to mention that of the two celebrations coming up, one will probably involve new chew toys and split antlers. The other will likely involve books and Lego and red velvet cake. 

There will not be much fuss on either day. We are a fairly unfussy family. But I hope that the two birthdays mark the start of something special – a joyful year ahead for boy and dog.

They are both very much loved. 

A boy sitting on the front steps of a house, holding the lead of a brown and white poodle puppy

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