Living on Lord Howe Island


Lord Howe in July

Posted by Dani Rourke – Sunday, July 21, 2013

Winter on Lord Howe Island

It can get cold at Lord Howe, honestly it can. On winter nights when we light the log fire at Pinetrees it gets down to 18 degrees or so. And some days, when I’m waiting at the airport to meet the plane in my shorts, it can feel quite chilly. Like everyone else, Lord Howe Islanders talk about the weather a lot. We say “beautiful day today” or “isn’t it freezing?”… although I once made the mistake of saying “isn’t it freezing?” to Ana, who’s originally from Estonia, and she said “no”. Not surprising, really.

We have a Wilderness Week at Pinetrees this week and we’re taking guests out to some of the most remote parts of the island. We had planned to go walking, but it was so beautiful on the lagoon yesterday that we decided to have an early morning snorkelling trip as well.

Pixie had never been on the glass bottom boat before, and she had a wonderful time. There’s always someone on a boat trip with uncontrollable children, and yesterday that was me. Pixie was sitting next to our guide, Dean Hiscox, from Lord Howe Environmental Tours while he pointed out the different varieties of coral. As soon as he started to explain, she’d say “’Scuse me, ‘scuse me” and he’d say “Yes, Pixie?” and she’d say “Where’s Nemo?”. She did this about fifty times, until I was ready to feed her to the little Galapagos shark. Luckily, Dean is well organised and he quietly produced a stale bread roll and asked her to feed the fish, which kept her quiet for at least two minutes.

We saw a big Spangled emperor, some Double headers, beautiful Clownfish (they’re black and white at Lord Howe, not orange like the ones in Finding Nemo) and stylish Moorish idols, which look like they were created by a fashion designer. Shortly afterwards, Pixie said, loudly, “I need to do a wee wee” and Luke had to take off about three layers of clothing and hold her over the side of the boat. For the rest of the trip, she squirmed and wriggled, fell over and giggled and generally had a lovely time. Dean’s dad, Ken, who was driving the boat, kindly asked Elsie to help him and she really enjoyed it until Pixie wanted to join in, helpfully grabbing the throttle.

Lord Howe Environmental Tours is a family business and Dean’s Mum, Jill, is in charge of the boatshed. She’s fantastic with people, outrageously funny, and she just loves the job. Every time Dean gives her a day off, she comes to work anyway. Jill greets the guests, looks after the bookings, answers the questions, helps people with wetsuits and adds her own magic touches. Jill is the one who provides a big tub of water for you to wash your feet in and a towel to dry them off before you put your shoes back on. In winter, she heats up the water. It sounds like a little thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference between a good day and a great one. Pixie loved the tub of warm water. She put her hands in first, then leaned over and put the top of her head in. Then she climbed in and sat down. After a couple of hours’ snorkelling, sometimes you feel cold to the very core. So Jill also makes big mugs of tea, coffee, Milo and just about every other hot drink you can think of. Jill made Elsie and Pixie a special Milo – one with extra Milo sprinkled on the top. They both loved it, but only Pixie would think of putting both hands in and then rubbing them all over Jill’s perfectly clean windows…

I’m sure Pixie’s behaviour will improve if I stop laughing every time she does something naughty. So, tell me, what terrible things have your kids done recently?

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About Dani Rourke

HELP! I have 2 children, 25 staff and up to 75 guests. I was a lawyer for 10 years, but escaped. My husband and I moved from Sydney to beautiful Lord Howe Island to run Pinetrees Lodge, which has been in my family for 6 generations. I'm writing about family business, island life and the whole work/family disaster. Did someone say balance? When I'm not writing, my lovely staff do it for me - they see more of the island than I do.

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