Homeward bound By Liz Rogers

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So, here’s the next instalment in our summer series about holidaying on the Peninsula, and what’s becoming apparent is that romance is in rockin’ full bloom beneath our sultry southern skies. Must be something in the salt air and sand dunes that creates unbreakable ties. From Arthurs Seat to Darwin and back again, Dromana residents Kate Bryant and her husband Andrew ‘The Wizard’ Farrell have stayed tight throughout life’s curve balls to land right back where their journey kicked off - the Mornington Peninsula. 

This is a story of two lovers who met up north in the only hotel still standing after Cyclone Tracy, a young girl who remembers selling pinecones for 5c and chowing down on fish and chips in Dromana as a 15-year-old, and her musician husband who used to catch the train from Parkdale to sink a six-pack with friends on the beach instead of going to Frankston TAFE. Oh, for a simpler life! Santa never made it into Darwin (Bill & Boyd 1974) but Kate, who was duty manager at Hotel Darwin, and Andrew, who was performing, sure did. And they liked what they saw (each other - not the Tracy destruction!). Kate called Andrew up when they returned to Victoria. They met in Mount Martha. Bought some Christmas paper at the two-dollar shop and a house on the same day. Kate was only 25. She explains.

“My parents still have that holiday house in Arthurs Seat. It was an empty block of land for a while. My sisters and I would be on the Peninsula every summer from about the age of 15. It was fantastic! A girlfriend of mine had a boat-shed in West Rosebud where we’d escape to all day. Pulled out the dinghy, go fishing and swim, swim, swim. There was nothing quite like driving around in summer and looking at the beach houses with their towels draped over the railings on the decks and the front yards crammed with a bunch of cars. That’s what the holidays were really all about. People sprawled out and coming together in groups. We still have our towels hanging over the railings now,” she laughs and it’s as if Andrew, Kate and I have been transported to a life we all recognise and hold close to our 50-something hearts. We can smell it.

Andrew goes on. “I loved going to Kirks, The Sorrento, Royal and Grand hotels. I got all my musical education in hotels. Spent most of my life in pubs and clubs. I mean, how good was the Pier? Dragon, Little River Band, Cold Chisel.” I think back to that crammed, clammy, crazy Frankston gig where Michael Hutchence swayed to the gaze of his gaga fans. “I’ve never stopped. Just decided to be a musician and that’s what I became.”

This committed couple have been through the ringer and then some. Kate, who is the owner/operator of the ‘just like Nana used to make’ Soulsa Katering in Boundary Rd, Dromana, wipes the fresh water from her eyes and flaps her hands. “Don’t start me crying,” she says as she reveals she’s just come out of a year of breast cancer treatment, turned 50 and got married on the same day. The couple have just come back from their honeymoon in Port Douglas. They’re not wearing rings; they’re wearing bracelets and this is how the ceremony went. “It was really beautiful. It was on Monday morning (September 25) because that’s my birthday. Everyone had either a hat or flower in their hair and we had a huge buffet breakfast with oysters, champagne and live music. We partied all day. We haven’t stopped celebrating since,” she explains. Her mum’s recipes (including a very special Christmas chicken pie and marvellous mince tarts) can be found at Soulsa where her dedicated staff and customers are like extended family. “I couldn’t have got through this last year without Amanda and my customers. We let everybody know what we were going through by putting it on the board.  We had a cancer ball in July and raised $6000. Here I was, bald, auctioning myself and Andrew off.”

The Wizard continues. “There were some pretty hard times throughout the treatment but we made it. We spend all our time together except for when I go travelling for work.” Andrew has been playing professionally Australia-wide and in New Zealand since he was 17 and is continually booked up to six months ahead. You can see him at Hickinbotham of Dromana about four times a year.

It’s true, home is where the heart is and Dromana has snagged a couple of big ones. For 35 years and counting, bound by one simple thing – love.