My Christmas: Terry Zillmann

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Terry Zillmann, Officer in Charge at the Biloela Ambulance Station, chats about Christmas, cricket and Covid.

By Jen Gourley

When it comes to preparing for Christmas activities, Terry Zillmann, affectionately known by many as TZ, doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. Literally.

For the past 10 years or so, Terry and his family have spent their Christmases at Woodgate Beach in a much-loved rented beach house. Unfortunately, the house was sold this year, so they rented a different property there. Terry had a couple of days off, so he and his wife Nikki drove to Woodgate and arrived at their new rental on the weekend.

“I’m a bit of a fanatic with my lawns,” Terry confessed. “So, Saturday, we checked in and I looked and they’ve done the lawn with a ride-on mower, and I’m thinking ‘This isn’t good enough’.

“My uncle lives down there… so, I went up to his place yesterday and grabbed the mower with the catcher and the backyard cricket pitch has been prepared and has now met the standard required,” grinned Terry.

Backyard cricket for Christmas Day? Check. Another popular family activity for the Zillmanns is a game called Klopp which, very basically, involves knocking down round pieces of timber arranged in a pattern to score points. And then, of course, there’s the beach.

The beach has been part of Terry’s Christmases since he was little. There’s photographic proof out there too of a young TZ with one of his favourite Christmas presents – a little inflatable dinghy.

“Nikki somewhere has a photo of me on it standing there with my speedos on, as proud as punch, three or four years old, whatever I was, with this yellow inflatable dinghy,” Terry said. “I’ve just always loved boats. Well, apparently Zillmann means boat man in German too, so, yeah, it was probably my first boat.”

Boats are intertwined in other Christmas memories for TZ.

“Invariably, there was a time when Christmas was always getting to go fishing with Grandad in the Burnett River at Bundy and it’s probably where my love of fishing first started but yeah, you knew you’d get at least one trip in Grandad’s boat. He was a good fisherman and taught me lots. I’ve actually got a photo of me taking him fishing. He was 93, still a very active man. Taking him fishing down to the spot where he took me fishing. That was pretty special having that moment… He passed away a few years ago now, at 96.”

Special times with the Zillmann family at the beach over Christmas have amazingly spread their way around the globe, to a country in Europe that’s currently experiencing temperatures as low as -3°C – Austria.

“In 2016 we had an Austrian exchange student through Rotary International live with us – Agnes. We’ll FaceTime with them (Agnes and her family) in Austria and we keep pretty regular contact with them, etc. Her memories of her beach holiday were one of her highlights of the 12 months.”

During that Christmas at Woodgate Agnes had the wonderful experience of going out on a boat to a little reef and seeing a dolphin, a dugong, and a big leopard ray coming out of the water.

“Her memories of there also come flooding back when we talk about it. So, on Christmas Day, we’ll get in contact with them and they’ll show us the snow in the backyard and we’ll show them the sand,” laughed Terry. “And we’ve been over to Austria and had spent two and a half weeks with them.”

There’s someone else who’s pretty happy spending Christmas at the beach, and that’s the Zillmann’s Tenterfield Terrier.

“They’ve got a dog friendly beach there so Charlie, our dog, he just absolutely loves it. You just mention the word ‘beach’ and he turns himself inside out with excitement.”

Terry has got Christmas off this year so he’ll be able to enjoy some precious downtime at Woodgate with his family.

This year, there will be a new person celebrating Christmas there. Daughter Emma, who lives in Toowoomba, is bringing her boyfriend for Christmas. “He’s a nice lad and I’m looking forward to spending some more time with him and getting to know him better,” Terry said.

As well as bringing her boyfriend, Emma is bringing her A-game – cooking the all-important roast for Christmas dinner.

“It’s the full Christmas dinner at lunchtime. Roast pork,” said TZ. “Well, that’s going to be another different one this year. Nikki does the most amazing roast porks, like the crackling, etc. Well, Emma has now really got into cooking and doing really well. Her last couple of roasts we’ve seen pictures of so we’re looking forward to that. That’s her job this year.

“And we do one of the turkeys or one of those turduckens or whatever, the chicken and the duck and the turkey. Then the desserts, the plum pudding and all that sort of thing. And prawns and seafood, bugs, etc. Things like that we pick up in Bundy, normally the day before. So that’ll be Friday’s job – into Bundy and get the seafood and have a feed in there while we’re there at the seafood restaurant. So that’s always another enjoyable part of the holidays is that trip into Bundy and seafood lunch at Grunske’s. Yeah, I really, really enjoy that.”

Christmas at Woodgate Beach will also be full of time with family. “My parents are coming down from Proserpine and Nikki’s parents are coming up from Hervey Bay,” Terry said. “We’ll have both sets of parents there together which will be good and then my sister’s coming up on Boxing Day.”

You can’t mention Boxing Day without mentioning the Boxing Day Test.

“One of the best parts about this house is that the old one used to have one TV so poor Nikki, you know, come Boxing Day had five days of cricket. So now this house has a TV outside so it’s already been a hit with the cricket over the last four days and yeah, I got to check in and get the house set up and have a cold beer and watch the Ashes whilst looking out and still being able to see the ocean.”

I tell TZ, with a grin, that it sounds absolutely terrible.

“Yeah. We’ll make it work,” he replies with a chuckle.

This year TZ reached the marvellous milestone of 30 years of service as a paramedic. Over those three decades, there have been plenty of times when he’s had to work on Christmas Day. But it’s all part of the job for our wonderful paramedics.

“Generally, the way rosters work out is you’ll have some time off prior to it, or shortly after it. So, there’s an opportunity to catch up with family, etc, somewhere across a festive season,” Terry explained.

“Workload (over Christmas), it can be really varied in Bilo. It can be low workload, (we don’t use the Q word). But some years, it’s been really busy on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. But, on the whole, it’s probably less workload than average. But yeah, who knows where we are in a week’s time with the current environment that we’re in. But we’ve got full staffing on over Chrissy. So, the community’s well looked after, that’s my number one goal.”

That current environment that Terry mentions is, of course, the Covid pandemic, with more cases appearing across Queensland each day.

“It’s one of those unknowns,” Terry said. “I think we’ve got to prepare as best we can. There’s a degree of apprehension, etc, out there whether to get vaccinated or not, etc, things like that.

“We’re heading into a time where, really, throughout this pandemic, our involvement or day to day with it, in Queensland has been almost nil. To, you know, we’re doubling over the last few days. So, chances are that trend is going to continue. So, you know, we’re seeing close contacts in the locations of Taroom and Mt Isa – we won’t be exempt from it.

“I think humans are quite adaptable. And they’re quite resilient. You can be presented with whatever circumstance and process it and manage what’s going on. But, typically, the unknown is the hard thing – it’s just how our brains are wired… Fear of the unknown is probably the most unsettling part of it. So, there are people with differing views and opinions, etc, making choices for themselves. Whatever that be, I just like to think that at this time of year we can be kind to each other. That would be a great Christmas gift to everyone.”

Charlie at the beach.
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