As you travel south from WA’s Fremantle or Coogee, down Cockburn road in the Rockingham direction, you get to a point where, for a brief few seconds, a sort of caravan park appears on your right.
The site has been there since the 1930s, which by Australian standards, is pretty old.
Since then, 178 caravans have taken root, and now exist in various stages of maturity in a mstrange progression from (movable) caravan-with-annex, to proper little shack.Electricity come in the form of solar cells, and fridges and stove run on gas bottles, and sometimes it all seems a bit precarious- every now and then rumours arise that the shacks are up for demolishment.
But for now, rates are paid and running water and toilets are supplied, and the shacks continue as a tiny little beachside community, that putters on much as it has for decades.
My Maternal Grandmother’s sister Elsie and her husband Tony (who incidentally, is also the brother of my Grandfather, because ex-pats will do that), have owned a shack down there for decades, and so too has my Grandfather’s wife’s other-sister Nellie, and her husband Ray.
These shacks were situated together, separated by a single other shack (have pity on that middle party), and the extended crew would spend large amounts of the summer down there in the time of my mother’s childhood.
Fast forward one generation, and my cousins, sister and I have fond memories of visiting as kids, and of eating bbq’ed crab and mussels caught by our great-uncle.
As soon as the middle shack came up for sale (or, I suspect, many years before it ever did), my Grandfather pounced, and secured the ‘Armarego’ strip.
He painted, renovated, mowed and planted, and made it his own to share with his children and grandchildren in his later years.
Shack number 325 became A L’aise.
In the months after my Grandfather passed away, the family once again renovated, and, (with a strong helping hand from Ikea), updated our beautiful paradise with a slew of mod-cons.
The shack has an open kitchen/dining, a master bedroom, and a spare bedroom, and can now sleep seven.
Perfect for a few nights retreat.
For those of us making a day trip, there’s also a grass area for sunning oneself, and a sheltered veranda, which is where most of the important stuff* happens.
I was lucky enough to make it down to the base twice when I visited Perth- once with my mum, sister and aunt and uncle, and once with the whole set! We even got to meet up with some cousins three times removed (my mum’s cousin’s kid’s new baby!) ^Andy seems very unimpressed
As we tend to do, we spent a lot of time just sitting in the sun, chatting, and eating.
But at some points, we got tired of all that sitting, so we stood up, and crossed the road to the sea.
The shacks are situated on a tiny cove complete with mini-beach, which all but disappears in high tide. Travel up the road a bit, and there’s a proper beach, with enough sand for even the most excited of dogs to play in.
But for now, we stayed put, and dipped our toes into the surf…
.. which some would say, was a little frosty!
While Andy pondered the water, and the inevitable ebb and flow of life itself…
… others greeted the waves more enthusiastically…
We frolicked in the waves with Toby-dog for a bit until, inevitably, I decided that I’d already gone in so far that I might as well just grab my bathers and take the full plunge.
Plus, I was able to convince Ariel to come in for a swim!
It was all going pretty well, until Andy stood on a sharp bit of rock, and managed to slice a bit of his foot off.
We fussed over him (my aunt is a nurse), and fed him a bit of pecan pie, and he seemed to take it all in his (now kind of flappy) stride).
Meanwhile, the rest of us continued to relax, and to enjoy the sun and the smell of the sea.
All in all, a very successful time.
Bis next time Naval Base!