Big Day Out by Kim Robyn Smith
‘Come on, Margaret,’ Joan said. ‘Just walk out with this group.’
With Joan at her heels, Margaret obeyed and shuffled out with the aid of her walker.
The two elderly friends tottered down the footpath and turned into the main street of Hastings.
‘Let’s look in the shop windows,’ Joan said.
‘Nice,’ Margaret said.
‘Do you like that dress, Margaret?’ Joan asked. ‘I think we’re a bit long in the tooth for those dresses.’
‘Look at that one, though. They say fashion comes full circle. That red one reminds me of my favourite frock for the Saturday night dances. That’s where I met John, you know.’
‘Those were the days… oh, look, Margaret. A winery tour bus. Shall we?’
‘Let’s,’ Margaret said.
They made their way over to the bus and stood at the bottom of the steps.
‘Excuse me, driver,’ Joan said. ‘We’d like to come on the winery tour, please.’
‘Certainly. Have you booked?’
‘Err, well no. But can’t we just join in?’
‘Mmm. Not without a booking, but I guess I can let it slip through. It’s not a full house for this mid-week tour.’
The driver hopped out and helped the ladies into seats, a few rows from the front. He folded up Margaret’s walker and stored it somewhere in the back.
The ladies looked up as the driver approached them.
‘Now, its thirty each for the day. Pensioner discount. And I’ll need your details.’
Joan dug into her handbag and pulled out two fifty dollar notes. ‘I hope you have change.’
‘All good,’ the driver said. ‘Now names and addresses please. And I’m Bill by the way.’
Joan told Bill their full names.
‘Now where do you live?’ he asked.
‘At the home,’ Margaret said.
Bill looked at the pair quizzically.
‘Our home,’ Joan said with a nervous laugh. ‘Margaret is a bit hard of hearing.’ Joan prattled off her previous address in Salmon Street. The family home where she’d lived for fifty odd years, until John passed away and she had a few falls. After breaking her hip, she agreed with her grown children that she wasn’t safe living on her own. They picked her up every single Sunday for a family lunch at her daughter’s house. She loved them all to bits but it was bedlam when they all got together. The great grandchildren were so rowdy. Joan longed for a peaceful outing. Just the occasional one would do.
Bill broke her train of thought. ‘Now where do you live, Margaret?’
‘Oh, she’s lives next door to me,’ Joan piped in. Not a complete lie.
The minibus filled up with three school mums who informed the group that dads were on school pick-up duty today, a middle aged couple and some backpackers.
Bill pressed the button to close the bus door and pulled out onto the road. He burst into a spiel over the mic. He was well practiced in prattling off the types of wine grapes on the Mornington Peninsula. ‘Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot gris are the most common in this region,’ he said.
‘You love a nice Chardy, don’t you Margaret?’ Joan asked.
‘First up, we’re going to call into the Balnarring Estate,’ Bill said.
Once they were all off the bus, Bill beckoned everyone around, counted heads and continued to share his knowledge. ‘See the rose bushes at the end of each row of vines?’ he said. ‘Roses contract similar diseases to grapes. In the old days, this was used as a way of detecting black spot or whatever. Now it’s just a tradition.’
No-one was listening to Bill. The group tore off towards the cellar-door with Joan and Margaret trailing behind.
Margaret took a generous gulp of the intended sip. ‘I like that one.’
After a few more tastings they headed to Merricks.
‘I like this one,’ Margaret said.
‘I think she likes them all,’ said one of the school mum’s with a smile.
After several tastings at Red Hill and Main Ridge Estates, Joan and Margaret were in high spirits.
Bill launched into a mini speech about the special ‘Pinot Meunier’ used in the champagne blend.
The passengers cheered as he revealed the news about sampling it down at Dromana.
‘We might take a little detour first,’ he said. Let’s have a look at the magnificent view from Arthurs Seat.’
The little crowd cheered louder. One of the backpackers broke into song. ‘You are my sunshine…’ he belted out. Margaret joined in loudly and off-key.
Bill answered a call on the radio. He frowned as he struggled to hear over the woeful singers. He continued the conversation as he drove along Arthurs Seat Road. Listening was a challenge.
‘Margaret will you shut-up and look at the view!’ Joan cried. ‘Aw! The chairlift! Things have come a long way.’
Most passengers hurried off the bus, eager to enjoy the awesome sight. Bill remained seated. He wound up the call on the radio.
‘Help us out please, Bill.’ Joan said. ‘I don’t want to miss out!’
‘Me too!’ Margaret said.
Bill rose and helped them off the bus.
A tall female police officer walked towards them. She wore a bright smile. ‘Margaret and Joan?’
‘Yes?’ Joan said.
‘You ladies have everyone worried.’
‘We’re just enjoying a day out,’ Joan said.
A screech of tyres as a Mazda 3 skidded to a halt. A slim woman with dark hair hopped out without closing her car door.
‘Mum!’ she cried. ‘Are you alright?!’
‘I’m fine, Bridget,’ Joan said. ‘I don’t know what all this fuss is about.’
‘Mum, you scared the life out of us! And leading Margaret astray like that! Whatever were you thinking?’
‘Just a day out once in a while. That’s all I want.’
‘Oh, Mum. All you had to do was ask.’
‘But I didn’t want to put you to any trouble, dear.’