Meet the Callengelly clan AKA El Banditos – El Denuardo, Tecno Mama, Precious Jade Unicorn, The Vincinatti Kid and Cassington Bear. The perfect hybrid family of vivacious Bradfordian, Ruth Callaghan and crooning panther of love, Aussie Den. Vince came out of Ruth’s fangina whereas Jade and Cassie arrived from another magical place, with Den’s expert input.
El Banditos live wonderfully with each other in a three bedroom bungalow in Padbury, a suburb of Perth. Ruth is an old school friend of Collette, so we’ve had the heart-warming pleasure of being welcomed into the family for the past fortnight.
It’s Saturday morning and we’re packing to leave for Sydney.
“I’ll be sad to leave these behind.” I say to Collette. I’m holding my ladies, elasticated, size 14, snow leopard Capri pants. We’d dodged the street-drinkers and bought them in Freo (Fremantle) so I could wear them for Ruth’s Birthday rave-up. Unexpectedly, Collette bursts into tears.
“I know.” She mumbles through her wet-eyed sobs. I didn’t realise how attached she’d become to my height-of-fashion cropped trousers. After a moment’s confusion, I realise that Collette isn’t feeling grief for my style, she’s sad because we’re leaving this beautiful troop.
We can start with Den. The obvious love panther of the house. His shoulder length hair is like he just stepped out of a dream sequence in Home and Away and he’s eager to show us kangaroos. His trusty steed, Subaru, greets us at the airport and we’re excitedly de-toured via the cemetery for midnight marsupial-glimpsing. Immediately it’s clear that this man has something special. This is reinforced early in our stay as we’re serenaded from the bathroom in a gruff, country stylee and bestowed with a make-your-own-balloon kit.
“Do you guys like fun?”
Despite long days as a five-years-service driver for Trans Perth, where he’s regularly confronted with bogan fare-dodgers and the Perthian mega-traffic, this strengthy, under-panted sexual crooner always has time for a bungeed cube puzzle, some mulberry picking, laser bat symbols in the sky or a game of Cards Against Humanity:
What ended my last relationship?
A. A micropenis.
B. My inner demons.
C. Crystal meth.
Den has entrusted me with his original hand-written science-fiction novel – penned on night shift as a door manufacturer in 2009. It’s written in code into a 2007 A4 week-to-view diary. Sitting, ready to introduce his creative masterpiece, Dennis asks,
“If you want to annoy everyone on the entire planet, what do you do?’ It’s a perplexing question and I’m not sure where he’s going with it. After a scratchy-headed, eye wandering 20 seconds or so, I respond.
“I’m not sure, Dennis.”
“Blow up the moon.” Obviously. The man’s beautiful.
Ruth is equally incredibly generous with her time and energy. And she has so much energy. Sharing a house with someone, you quickly get a flavour for them and Ruth is a human rubber ball and random noise generating system. She is usually growling, sighing, swearing, cheering, grunting, shouting, laughing, singing, saying ‘mintox’ and providing a running commentary on whatever she’s doing. Sing with Ruth as we head to Kings Park and Western Australia Botanical Gardens:
‘We’re on the freeway. Freeway two. Yeah. Heading to King’s Park. Oh yeah. Ooops – I better indicate. Oh yeah. Wahoo. Man I love you guys.’
Her Birthday is tremendous. We catch a bus from a pub in a pristine precinct to the Perth bush. An open air concert theatre. For Fantasia.
“IF I SAY ONE-TWO, CAN YOU SAY THREE?”
Can I say ‘three’? After one and two? Of course I can you over-paid, fat, dance lame-o. Are you called MC Patronize?
“CAN EVERYBODY HEAR MEEEEEE?”
We’ve been able to hear you all night. Do you think that if you shout that question you’ll somehow get quieter? You’re about twenty feet away and heavily amplified. I think I’m a crap guest at a rave. Let’s have some mushroom nuggets.
Ruth introduces us to her Perth buddies and they’re real gems – looking after us every step of the gig and right through the hot-tub after-party. We even have another ‘barby’ down at the beach later in the week. Thanks guys. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.
How Ruth manages to be so full of beans in the days after her shenanigans is a wonder of modern science. She’s amazing. A soldier of the highest rank.
Six-year-old Vince is shoved out of a cubby house at school. Poor little hero. It’s the first few days of our stay. We are just tucking into our books down at the beach when Ruth gets the call.
“Hello is that Miss Callaghan, mother of Vince Craven?”
“We think Vince has broken his arm. Can you come and get him?”
It’s like a scene from 999 with Michael Burke. I’ve never seen Collette so keen to get off a beach. We’re away.
At school, Vince is uber-brave. Just glad to see his mum and those two other people who are sleeping in the other room. He sleeps in the car seat and then at hospital he’s as cool as the Fonz. He’s just talking about ‘Imaginators’, ‘hairless features’ and ‘knockerbalubas’. There is not a moment where he allows himself to be a victim and even though he has a really complex, nasty break in multiple places, he hardly winces. Hardly-wince Prince Vince. Mintox.
He’s also incredibly patient. With his arm dangling off, the triage nurse is being over-specific:
“So Mr Craven, it was a cubby house or a wendy house, huh? A cubby house, ok. How high was the ledge? And you were pushed or you fell? Pushed huh. Are you sure? And was it a wooden cubby house or a plastic cubby house? One of those plastic ones? Ok.”
Seriously, I’d be getting itchy feet for someone to x-ray me by now but Vince is incredibly calm and polite like all kids his age. He has to have a complex ‘oppo’ and he’s to stay in hospital for two nights. Ruth’s sleeping at the hospital. We take Ruth’s car and head down to Margaret River.
The guy whose Airbnb we share isn’t too healthy. Alarm bells ring immediately when it’s clear he’s high. Poor fella is obviously going through some serious problems. He keeps finding half drunk cans of Canadian Club whisky and ginger beer in odd places that he’d forgotten about. It’s small compensation for his lost farm, his divorce battle, his estranged kids and his drink driving ban. At least he has his skateboard. We’re lucky to escape the house without having to take him with us.
‘Margs’ is ‘beaut’. Vast scenery. Vineyards. Open roads. Farms. The ocean. Colossal rock formations. Spa pools. And everywhere is supremely maintained. It’s like a utopian painting of a town. But weirdly, it makes the same amount of noise as a painting. We do a spot of walking, tasting and host-avoiding during our 2 night excursion over Halloween.
While we are away, Vince asks,
“Mum, are the other people sleeping here tonight?’ Don’t worry Vince, we’re on our way back, mate.
Jade and Cassie arrive the day after. Oh my word. The pair of them are the cutest show on Earth. Cassie is five and Jade is seven. It’s a credit to El Denuardo how special these little treasures are. Such creatures.
‘Knockerbalubas’ is not the only rude words Collette and I manage to weave into the kids vocab. Jade and Cassie are unable to say the word ‘bum’ when they stay at their mums so we teach them that ‘shining rear end hole’ is a valid alternative. We sing songs about rubbing poo in our faces and ‘curling one out’ and we impart the valuable trick of blaming farts on the loose floorboards. All the big stuff covered. We feel so lucky to have had this time with these uniquely delightful folk.
It’s strange arriving from remote Indonesian beaches to plonk into suburbia. Krispy Kreme, Hungry Jack’s, energy drinks, pub beer gardens that overlook freeway junctions, railings, utes, lawns, school bells, metre-long pizzas for seventy dollars. It’s also strange suddenly sharing a space after being answerable to only yourselves for close to a year. It takes some time to adjust and some tense moments between me and Col but we were lucky to be reintroduced to family life with the most beautiful family in the whole of WA. We feel one of the gang.
‘I don’t want you to leave today.’ Says Cassie in her too-adorable way. ‘In fact, I don’t want you to leave any day.’ Our hearts melt and Collette has another eye-rain. Kids really do say the best things.
Thank you El Banditos. Until the sequel.
p.s. I hope that Alan the cat has recovered from the battery-powered imposter-cat.
Thanks for reading
Read about our arrival to Australia here.
Since our arrival to Aus, we’ve decided to host a yoga retreat in Bali, here.