It had been 13 years since I last saw my cousin Tracy and her family and at that time, I struggled to find common ground with her. She was the eldest of my Uncle's kids, so there was 12 years between us - a gap that had felt pretty massive at the time. Back then, I was single, fairly irresponsible and not a little selfish I suspect, whereas Tracey was married, mortgaged and had two tween age girls, Aisha and Thalia. I was keen to see if on this visit, we would have more in common.
When we arrived, both Tom and I were blown away by the size of the block and the spacious house that sat on it. We were greeted effusively by Sadie and Cash, Aishas beautifully tempered dogs. Both Tracey and husband Murray looked younger than my jaded mid twenties memory recalled and of course, Aisha and Thalia were much taller!
We were made to feel very welcome on the property and when Mum flew in, Tracey gave her the guest bedroom which was perfect. I am happy to report that we found much to talk about this time around and it was wonderful to get to know the girls properly.
Mandurah itself has morphed in to a monster town. The last time I visited in 2000, there would have been barely 9000 people living there, I reckon. Now, it's a city of 75,000.
The beaches at Silver Sands, which I recall being blessed with golden sand and calm blue seas now resemble river mud flats with the sea a sort of greeny brown colour. Tracey described the marina water as "toxic" and the crush of people at the playground on the foreshore was phobia inducing. Its not an ugly centre by any means, there's a nice pedestrianised area and fairly well thought out parking etc, but you know that a place is too crowded when the best time to see it is at 6:30 am..
Which segues nicely into the other reason Mandurah and I didn't really hit it off. Throughout our trip we have been fortunate enough to avoid crime of pretty much any proportion. We have found much to like in the people we have encountered along the way, kindness, generosity and fair play being the dominant themes. I suppose it was too much to expect to travel for two years and not encounter any negative human behaviour and like a siren warning that we were not in Kansas now, ToTo, one sunny, Sunday morning, the car window was smashed and my entire handbag was stolen while I was surfing off Calypso beach, just south of the centre.
The crazy thing was that the car park was quite busy with a major cliff path running beside it and people running and dog walking along it. There were lots of houses overlooking it and the whole place felt quite safe. They must have been desperate but prepared (because what exactly do you use to smash a toughened glass window?) and extremely quick. I learnt 2 extremely valuable lessons the hard way.
1) do not take your entire handbag surfing.
2) if you must take something, hide it in the most inaccessible part of your car , and think seriously about whether, in fact, you really do need it at all
3) never park at a beach in Mandurah again!
So, I am now probably over cautious with clearing the car and not taking all my cards out everywhere. I was extremely fortunate not to lose my phone - for once my untidiness worked in my favour and it was found under my seat where it had slid of my lap as I got out the car on arriving at the break.
But all in all, a nasty shock, so sorry Mandurah, you may have all the superstores, shopping malls and lovely Marinas that anyone could wish for, but as my dominant memory of you is picking chunks of broken window out of my sons seat, you come bottom in the list of places in which I would like to live.