Voice of Real Australia: Summertime waves of nostalgia

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Do you remember when summer holidays were characterised by a certain level of danger, discomfort and physical pain?

I'm talking about campgrounds where the hot water had always run out, lumpy bunk beds were designed to eject sleeping children in the middle of the night, and cabins where the key item of cooking equipment was inevitably one of those aluminium electric fry pans with two settings; stubbornly stone cold or as hot as the fires of hell.

I'm talking about sleepless nights spent tossing and turning on sunburnt skin that resembled a slice of coconut ice, pouring vinegar on blue bottle stings and extricating ticks with a blunt pair of tweezers.

Think dabbing Calamine lotion on your rash of sandfly bites and limping back to leaking, decrepit holiday houses after getting dumped in the surf.

Great fun, wasn't it?

Like me you've probably noticed how all along the east coast of Australia double-storey buildings appointed with chrome and gleaming glass have sprung up to replace the fibro cottages and beach shacks that once ruled the quarter acre blocks on which they sat.

Today's average holiday rental is a far cry from the shack of old, with lurid lino on the floor, a creaky flyscreen door, and, the height of luxury, a hammock swung between two trees out the back.

You can still see the occasional humble fibro houses in our coastal villages. They are painted in pastel colours with names like pale lime, pine frost, powder blue and coral pink.

More often than not, these retro gems are now dwarfed by modern beach mansions.

I find it curious that to be acceptable now, a beach house must be almost identical to the home you live in when you are not on holidays.

The sounds, sights and smells of the outside are kept at bay by double glazed windows and air-conditioning. The result is there is likely to be more time watching flat screen TV than swimming, wandering or foraging sticks for the fire.

I decided to write about a rustic holiday camp on the South Coast of NSW at Cunjarong Point. The Don Hearn's Cabins, it turns out, have a lot more to offer than pure 1960s nostalgia.

The cabins were built during the Vietnam moratoriums, by a strident peace activist, and has been a welcoming place for surfers, artists, eccentrics and families ever since.

The project has turned into a podcast, which, like a yarn around a campfire, seemed the best way to tell this story. I hope you will take a listen as the days of summer begin to wind down.

To listen to the full story on the podcast search Voice of Real Australia, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred platform.

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