Driving along the Pacific Highway between Ballina and Byron you would no doubt have seen the attractive knight that stands proudly by his castle. That would be the home of good old Macadamia Castle. Pancakes and coffee road stop. Animal farm. Children’s adventure playground.

We went to a birthday party there today. After paying a wee fortune to get in, Elka clung to me desperately to escape a chicken who came dangerously close. We made our way over to the party table, which was a banquet of…sugar. Freddo Frogs, lollies, lemonade, cake. Oh, and chips. I wasn’t sure how either of our systems would cope.

Elka sat with her little friends, though kept me in close reach, for, at intermittent periods, she leapt into my lap, arms clung around my neck, yelling “It’s a duck!” “It’s a chicken!” “I’m SCARED of the chicken!”

The chicken was nothing compared to the llamas. Now they were plain terrifying! When they came into her vision, she froze and screamed. We crept our way past those ferocious creatures, Elka clinging fast to my leg.

“Let’s go find your friends,” I say.

High on sugar, she loosened up, and followed a little friend to the animal petting area. “I don’t like goats!” she yelled, and the two little ones head to the rabbit petting pen. “I only like rabbits”, says Elka. She sat down with the other children, and the lady placed a blanket on her lap. Elka was wearing a green party hat to honour the occasion. Following a brief explanation about how if a child drops the rabbit, she has to put him away, the lady dumped the unsuspecting rabbit on Elka’s lap. Elka screamed out for me, and the woman grabbed the rabbit as Elka ran out of the pen.

She still wanted to go see the chickens – the leetle chickens. Not to touch them, or get too close, but just to see them. “I only like little chickens,” she tells me.

The little chickens were OK, it seemed.

But the train was the highlight. I found myself wedged between a thousand small, shrieking children. They all waved excitedly to the on-lookers as the train made its way around the farm. The pleasure of the journey made the extra $2 for the train ride worthwhile.

“I need to get my face painted,” Elka then decides, and so, in the spirit of school holidays, we sit for nearly an hour patiently waiting for her to get her face painted. The children don’t complain at all. They are happy to wait. They can see the end result – a beautiful tiger face or fairy wings or Spider Man. Who wouldn’t wait?

It was a good opportunity to people gaze and wonder about other lives. Like you never really know what goes on inside a relationship, you never really know what a family is like by judging them as they sit waiting for their faces to be painted. I listened in with pleasure though to a beautiful mum, who’s white hair was cropped short, and who wore purple Doc Martins. She talked to her boy (about 8) like a friend, chatting with him, sharing anecdotes, laughing at the llama’s funny lips in his photo…It was refreshing. He was her pal. She wasn’t trying to be an uber cool mum. She just was one. I felt like leaning over to tell her how much I admired the way she talked to her son. Instead, I told the woman sitting next to me how absolutely gorgeous her kids were. Her daughter (about 12) was a budding supermodel, with incredible long ginger hair and porcelein skin. Her son was like sunshine.

Elka finally got her turn, and sat with lips pursed, shoulders raised and eyes squeezed as the woman gave her a tiger face.

I took my little tiger home, hoping the sugar wouldn’t have too strong an effect and impede our afternoon. Maybe next time, she’ll be happy to pet a rabbit. Or at least a leetle chicken.