Playing host calls for lots of stamina

Mon August 20, 2012 3:01pm

THE sun is shining, the temperature is pleasant, and there are loads of things to do around town and beyond, which can only mean one thing: you're due for a visit from your parents.

For those of us without family in Darwin, the dry season could also be known as the rellie season - the only time of year Southerners see as climatically acceptable to venture to the tropics.You start noticing it around May: every now and then a friend goes AWOL. They disappear from all social engagements and cut off communication. Just when you're starting to think it's something you've said, you run in to them at the markets towing two flustered older folk and you realise they have been on unpaid parental leave.Are you inundated by Dry season visitors? My parents came up just last week to celebrate the season by commenting excessively on the temperature and questioning why they have to hand over their licences at the bottlo, even though they are both plainly over the age of 18.A lot of preparation goes into having visitors. You have to clean your house, stock your cupboards with guest-friendly food and remind your housemates to wear pants.When it's my parents coming, the prime priority is to fill the air in my car tyres. The fact that I never make this my main concern in life sends my dad wild. Had he seen that just moments before his arrival the psi was down to 14 when it should have been 32, it probably would have ruined his holiday and resulted in phone calls inquiring about the welfare of my wheels for the rest of the year.My mum is lovely. Karen Stevenson is easy-going, wouldn't judge me for my lack of car maintenance and she's always up for a wine (in a non-problem drinker kind of way).My dad is a funny chap who I've long suspected Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle was based on. I would not be surprised if Michael Caton spent some time with Garry Stevenson to hone the character. I love having my folks around, but I've spent so long away from them, it poses some challenges.Within an hour of disembarking from the plane, my dad was donning a bum bag he bought with the specific purpose of embarrassing me. I'm pretty sure there was not even anything in it. Upon arrival he told me he'd lost his reading glasses, so we set off on a tour of stores that sold cheap spectacles. The first chemist we stopped in, he claimed the price was too high. By the third shop, I was begging him to just buy a pair. His reply: "$25 for glasses! Tell him he's dreamin'!"Having parents and other guests around is both fantastic and stressful. Both an interruption and a welcome distraction.It's an opportunity to show off Darwin to outsiders. There's none of the traffic or pretentiousness they're used to down south, just sunshine and friendliness. It's fun to watch Territory debutantes become excited about a gecko in the house or a Pitch Black plane overhead.But if you have a particularly busy rellie season, some things begin to grate. Like having to wear pants around the house.Visitors to the Territory do require some monitoring. They often don't understand the increased need for liquid, nor the possible repercussions of a beach walk at midday.They need to borrow your car because if they caught the bus they could end up anywhere - or nowhere - and then you'd have to go and retrieve them anyway.Often they expect you to produce a barra on demand.And of course it means you can't just lie on the couch and watch The Farmer Wants a Wife - you're expected to converse at every moment.It also sends you to see the same sights over and over again. It becomes increasingly difficult to muster the strength to push through the crowds at Mindil on a Thursday night. And visitors aren't happy just to get a smoothie and sit on the grass - they want to see the sun set, then they want to inspect every food stall and craft trader, and take in a demo from Mick's Whips.There are only so many drives to Litchfield your petrol budget can handle and jumping crocs are far less thrilling the tenth time around.One more time at the Cyclone Tracy exhibit and I might need some kind of trauma counselling, and I have serious obesity concerns for the fish down at Doctors Gully.When you see in 2am at the airport more often than in slumber, and you can recite the Sweetheart video at the museum, you know you've over-extended your hospitality and you need to wind it back a little next season.But, by my calculation, the rellie run only has a few weeks to go. Post-September no one dares head north for fear of overheating.With the first whiff of humidity, we will see them depart by the plane load, saying things like: "It's been lovely, but I don't know how you can live here..."And while we're always glad they came, it's still no small relief to move on from this family flurry, and resume our regular lives. Pantsless. How's the serenity. Follow me on Twitter @KylieMStevenson

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