Canberra Chapter Christmas in July

28 August 2021 / Words by Rod Nicholas. Pictures by Rod Nicholas and Lili Chi

The latest Covid-19 restrictions and general uncertainty about travelling to regional centres had led to a rethink. A jiggle to the plans was needed. The original plan was to travel to Galong, an hour and a half down the road, enjoy a good Christmas lunch, stay over at St Clement’s Retreat and Conference Centre, and take a leisurely trip home. But the appetite for a regional overnight trip just wasn’t there, so I sat down, adjusted the thinking cap and got on the phone.

Forget Galong, I thought, at least for this year. Think 'local club'. Think 'a Chrissy-style lunch'. Think 'a nice little run to get members in the mood'. Think 'lunch with friends'. Think 'bon-bons and Christmas raffles'.

And so, The Clubhouse in Kaleen came to our rescue offering a traditional Christmas lunch and a private room at short notice. Lunch, tick. I prepared a decent run, around 150 km over two hours on mostly rural (and occasionally narrow) roads. The roads, usually quiet, we’re in good nick despite the recent rains, and presented opportunities for good fast fun or – depending on the registered drivers – a pleasant weekend drive in the country.

Registrations grew pleasingly as the day drew near. But so, too, did the COVID concerns. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the weather continued its cruddy pattern – cold, windy and wet. Car by car, members withdrew from the run while promising to turn up to lunch ready to party.

Saturday arrived, and I still had (I hoped) four cars (down from more than a dozen) ready to follow my lead on the proposed run, so I took the short drive to our start point in the carpark of The Baker in Sutton (great coffee, great pies). I was early, even by my standards, but all four cars were already in the carpark, caffeine-fuelled and ready.

Confident no one else was coming, we headed off into the drizzle a little early. From our starting point, we headed to Murrumbateman along the Murrumbateman Road, traveled on to the outskirts at Yass, and turned west towards Wee Jasper.
A few extra potholes had made their appearance since my recce run a few days earlier, thanks to a week of wet weather, but traffic was sparse and the rain kindly held off. Wee Jasper Road down into the Murrumbidgee River Valley, and the crossing at Teamas Bridge, was in its usual good form. A cut back to Canberra via Mountain Creek Road took us past green (but soggy) hillsides followed by a quiet mosey on past the emerging suburb of Whitlam as we made good time to meet up again at our lunch spot, just a little early.

Not long later, 34 members were busily creating a joyous noisy hum in the Clubhouse. Catch-ups we’re happening, gossip was exchanged, updates on what everyone was up to in the COVID-restricted times were echoing across the room. Yes, the weather was … wintery, but the friendship was warm, and the lunch was welcome.

The noise dropped to a light rumble as the tucker was tucked into, and the odd drink was drunk but it sparked up a few notches as the bon-bons were pulled and the ‘lucky door’ raffle began. With almost as many prizes on offer as tickets in the tin, the changes for a win were pretty good. And so it was; winners were grinners all around the room.

The afternoon was well drawing to a close by the time the last guest left and the brief clean up began. As I pulled the tinsel from the Christmas tree, my assistant coordinator - the ever-lovely Maryanne – said everyone seemed to have had a good time. ‘My thought exactly’ I replied.

Rod Nicholas, Run Fun Leader