Watered Down

In chapter 18 of his book, Living with Murphy, Lionel nearly ended up in the drink…

Lake Wartook in the Grampians.

Some of Murphy’s tricks are quite hilarious in retrospect, although there was nothing funny at the time. Take the time he nearly had me in the water. I’d left home around midnight, a favourite time for me to tow a caravan through Melbourne, and drove until I was tired a few hours later. I pulled in for a sleep at Lake Nillahcootie but, unfortunately, chose the wrong entrance so that I ended up in the boat trailer area instead of the picnic area.

That would have been alright but I wanted to be a bit more private, so I drove down a little side road. At least that’s what I thought I was doing but Murphy had disguised the boat ramp as a road and before long I was staring with amazement into the water of the lake a few yards ahead in my headlights. It’s not easy backing a caravan up a long, narrow boat ramp in the dark with the car reversing lights shining brightly on the front of the van, and I was very thankful to finally park in the car park and get to sleep.

Caravans present Murphy with a big challenge. He loves making caravanners’ lives miserable with little annoyances. Driving out of Miles, Qld, one day, there was suddenly a horrendous metallic noise from the back of the outfit. Fearing a collapsed wheel or something else pretty drastic, I was relieved to find it was only the aluminium mast for the TV antenna that had come adrift and was bouncing on the road. On another occasion, he broke the mast off, and I hate to think what any following motorist would have done when they saw the long spear-like mast heading for them.

I told you about the van suspension at Eidsvold but I didn’t mention that on the same road, many years later, Murphy destroyed our wheel bearings on one side of the van and the wheel came off on a particularly twisty and awkward bit of road. He also destroyed the brakes on the van at the same time so that we had to descend the steep and winding road down from Mt Morgan to Rockhampton very slowly indeed.

There is one kind of lock fitted to caravan doors that Murphy really likes. With these locks it is very easy for him to slip down the little button that locks the door from the inside and then, when you close the door from outside, you find you are locked out. Nearly everyone with one of those locks has done this at some time or other and we, of course, being slow learners, have done it more than once. Coming back to the van one Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves locked out again so I decided to get in through the sliding window near the table. I was wearing a white shirt and black trousers as I had been playing in the local band, so I took the shirt and singlet off to save getting them dirty.

“Might as well take my strides off too,” I said. The chair I found to stand on was pretty low and I finished up half in and half out of the window and completely stuck. Not a pretty sight, but luckily Vi didn’t have a camera so the spectacle was not recorded! 

We had solar power on our van and Murphy had great fun with that. The best/worst was when he threatened to set fire to the van. The van wasn’t level so I adjusted the corner jacks to straighten it up but didn’t notice the power lead from the loose solar panel had slipped between one jack and the block of wood it was on. When the weight came back down, the jack cut through the lead and shorted out the system. Inside the van, the working bits of the ammeter melted and the wires smouldered.

Murphy’s had a go at our fluorescent lights a couple of times and even burnt out a special adapter that connected our TV in the van to the antenna. Battery chargers were just run-of-the-mill to him and presented no challenge at all. Our new transformer was a bit harder and it took him a few months before discovering how to destroy it.

If there’s one day of the year that Murphy favours, its New Year’s Eve and, although I wasn’t pleased with him the year he destroyed the folding chair, I was sitting in it during a party, leaving me in an undignified heap amongst the twisted debris.

Lunch with family upon returning home.

That happened the year we went to ‘dog-sit’ for our daughter, Sue, and family while they went to Sydney. It was going to be a quiet New Year’s Eve for us. Mum went to bed early, son Chris went out to a church service, Vi and I went to bed before midnight, and we settled down to sleep. On the stroke of midnight, the party over the road erupted with much blowing of those ghastly trumpet things, and cheers. That went on for half an hour and we settled down again.

The dog woke up when Chris came home and barked furiously as he came in, then, thinking he had parked the car badly, he went back out to move it and as he turned into the driveway, he accidentally hit the horn button. Eventually all was quiet and sleep finally came. Before light, the dog, a large animal of no known breed, came whimpering into the bedroom and we realised that it could hear distant thunder and was frightened of it.

“Okay, dog, come on to the bed.” It settled across the top of the pillows. “I think I’ve got the best end of this dog,” I smugly remarked as it put its head down on my pillow, leaving its other end on Vi’s side. Wrong again. I don’t know what Murphy had given it to eat but its breath was vile. Was that all? Oh no. At 6am, the room was filled with music. The clock/radio alarm was set for Grant to go to work and we hadn’t turned it off! Happy New Year, Murph.

I need to exercise and, as cycling is an enjoyable way of doing this, I carried my old bike on a carrier fixed to the back of the caravan. Apart from a few punctures from thorns Murphy scattered in places like Bowen, it was a good arrangement and when fortune smiled in the shape of a decent win on the pokies, I shouted myself a shiny new bike, complete with trip computer, 21 gears and all the fancy bits. There was just 100km on the clock when Murphy struck between Clermont and Emerald, Qld. Vi came back from the bank, glanced at the back of the van and came to enquire, “Where’s your bike?”

It had gone and although we back-tracked the 120km to Clermont with eyes swivelling left and right, there was no sign of it or the bracket that it was mounted on.


I left you just before Christmas and I have to say that daughter Jackie and me  had a great time for Christmas at my Grandson’s place. The food was great and the company was extra good.

I had decided that I’d drive home via Mornington and Sorrento, and then take the ferry across the bay before heading home via Geelong and Ararat.

Inside one of the old buildings at Dadswell Town.

My old neighbours still live in the Mornington Caravan Park in the next house to the one we lived in, so I made my first stop at their home. It was great to catch up with them and in particular to sample Christine’s lovely Christmas cake! I didn’t object when some went in a bag for me to take with me.

Traffic from Mornington to Sorrento was very thick but it was Boxing Day and was to be expected, but I was soon on the ferry and steaming across the bay. Despite the weather forecast, the bay wasn’t too rough as the picture shows.

Then, after Geelong, my GPS took me home via Ararat and when I got home there was a lovely meal waiting for me courtesy of daughter Sue and hubby Shaun.


I had visited this great place many years ago but when we called in, there was a fantastic difference and the owner gave us a wonderful guided tour. Daughter Sue took some great photos. She also took some of the lovely spot in the Grampians where we had our lunch.

General store in Old Dadswell Town.

The buildings had different frontages but inside there was lovely accomodation. All the work had been carried out by the owner and was very well done.

After leaving Dadswells Town we headed for the Grampians where we had a lovely lunch before heading back home.