IN THE PINES

More stories đź’šđź’šđź’š

Continued…..

IN THE PINES…..HARCOURT circa 1993/5

Living beneath Mount Alexander, on a farm feeding out onto narrow dirt roads leading to Apple Orchards, it was the perfect environment for Gracie Rose to ride her pony, Star. If there were no other riders on any particular day, she would ride ahead, with me and our dogs, Sophie and Winston, following slowly behind in the car.
Safety measures….you don’t ride up the mountain alone….ever.
And so, she would trot off ahead, long hair streaming out behind, arms stretched out either side, like a bird, practising balance, posture and leg work. Such a sight.
Then we would separate, she taking tracks up and into the forest, me, sticking to the road….meeting again at the top…..perhaps exploring the Oak Forest (strangely stunted with overcrowding), but lovely nonetheless.
There was also a practical side to these ventures. Old hessian feed bags packed earlier, would be collected once we reached the pine forest. There, she would dismount, tether Star, while the dogs ran free and we filled the bags with pine cones….fast burning fuel for our fire, beneath the red gum or yellow box we added later.
On this particular day, having loaded the filled bags, Gracie rode off, heading down the mountain towards home…..and I decided to walk, dogs beside me, up to a lookout nearby…..

Continued….

IN THE PINES….
I’m remembering this was around the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, the horror of it seeped into everyone’s consciousness…..that insane, mindlessly brutal slaughter….just because!!! To make matters worse, I had just finished reading “Red Dragon”, by Thomas Harris (more horror….don’t ask, I have no idea why, but the gruesome story stayed with me).

The dogs and I stayed at the lookout, looking out….all the way beyond the patchwork of orchards below, to tiny Harcourt , outwards to Castlemaine and way beyond to mountains in the distance, the air filled with a lovely blue haze.
As we turned back, towards the car, some 300 feet away, I saw him……a slender, long haired young man in check shirt and jeans, walking uphill through the Pines towards me, carrying a rifle. That, in the circumstances would have been unsettling (I was completely alone, away from any houses, any other people), but what was so chilling was what he did….there was a brief moment of realisation….we saw each other, and then he simply stepped behind a tree, hiding himself.
Adrenaline coursed through me, and so full of fear for myself and the dogs, I called them in an urgent whisper, walking fast (wanting to run, but also not wanting him to know how afraid I was), thankfully with the dogs running at my side, instinctively obedient , we reached the car, climbed /jumped in and drove away…..and thankfully he, the shooter, stayed hidden.
All the way back down the mountain I gave thanks to the god I don’t believe in…..a mantra of gratitude…..for our safety…..our lives.
And back home, immersed in daily practicalities…..rugging horses for the night, herding ducks, chooks and geese into the safety of their pens, feeding them all, I thought about it!!!
WHY DID HE HIDE???
and, if he hadn’t, and continued walking straight up towards me, carrying a rifle….would that have been any better???
Probably not.
All these years later, I think he was possibly a kid out shooting rabbits, without a license….
or????
I will never know……but I’ll be very pleased not to ever go through that experience or anything close, again!!!

Continued…..

IN THE PINES…..ON ANOTHER DAY, and a short, sharp moment of Acute Embarrassment !!!
Way up there, away from everyone, everything, with just the silence of our feet padding across thick layers of pine needles , the soft soothing murmer of wind above whispering through the big dark trees…..the comfort of shelter underneath ….and a sense of privacy.
Fortunately it was a time of loose fitting, layered clothing, long skirts and boots….and having filled our bags with cones for the fire….Grace and the dogs meandering somewhere nearby, I squatted down, lifted my skirts and started to pee….why not, nobody to see.
Caught midstream, while I was scrutinizing the ground at my feet, three cyclists whizzed right past me….literally inches away from my small, squatting vulnerability.
I MEAN…..WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU DO???
Unable to stop, to move, I simply kept my head down, flaming cheeks hidden by my hair, and pretended under the cover of my skirts, that I wasn’t there.
Later, much later, it seemed very funny….

MA© AUTUMN 2018

To be Continued
MA© AUTUMN 2018

NIGHTMARES

BIG BUSINESS….A slight delay!!!

Day dawned, bright, sunshiny and dew laden
Birds twittered cheerfully in the treetops. My boys still sleeping, I greeted the dogs, let the chickens out, then with milk pail in one hand, I headed out of the garden, down the small sloping paddock, to the sheepfold gate….wide enough to drive a car or tractor through.
Well, I meant to …..there, lolling on his side, soaking up the sun, was BIG BUSINESS ….vast back leaning on the entire length of the gate. His small harem of cows, grazing peacefully nearby. He terrified me, head lowered, face completely unreadable…..his massive bulk as impassive as a small hill.
What does a novice say to a big, belligerent Bull….”shooo”, “piss off you big bugger”, he stretched a little, the red muscles rippling along his spine, and tossed his head (it could have just been an annoying fly), how the hell do you read a Bull’s emotions (they’re expressive and readable as rocks) , but legs dissolving to water, I retreated walking away backwards, eyeing him with loathing….the sheep flock the other side of him, were bahhing to be free. Goats with full udders, bleated from the shed, and BIG BUSINESS shifted, stretched again, lay his head down and went to sleep.
TIME PASSED…..this monstrous creature had me completely bluffed…..a desperate call to the stock and station agent didn’t yield much….just walk up to him, and shoo him off, don’t worry about it…..but I did!!!

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued……

FLORENCE EMILY

My Grandmother FLORENCE EMILY TREGANOWAN…..Lasting influences.

When I first arrived here in Maryborough, I went to Worsley Cottage, the original Historic Homestead, just literally around the corner. It didn’t really leave much of an impression on me, except for the gorgeous rambling cottage garden I passed through to get to the front door…..which was very low, all the doorways were so much lower than they are now.
Built in 1894, of Bluestone, it had a simple central passage design, with tiny bedrooms either side, opening up into a large kitchen spanning the width of the house, with a huge black cooking range.
WHAT I REALLY DID NOTICE, were the small mutely coloured Rag Rugs, in every doorway and by the kitchen Hearth.
I was immediately back, a small child, in my Grandmother’s house…..for she had the very same rugs at the entrance to every room.
Having lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War…..she knew how to make do. Every one of those little rugs, was handmade, reusing a hessian sugar bag or potato sack as backing…..then laboriously cutting up old clothes into carefully measured strips, hooking these through onto a pattern she would have drawn on with dressmakers chalk, then, when completed, they were trimmed neatly across the top (like clipping a hedge). From memory, there were only four colour options, Maroon, Navy, Black and White…..but the patterns were as varied as her imagination.
What happened to those little rugs, made with such skill and care???. As a young, newly married Woman, when she died and her house was cleaned out….I had no interest in such things….neither did my siblings.
I imagine they were……simply……thrown…..away!!!

MA© Summer 2018
to be continued

DYLAN AND NICK

DYLAN and NICK…..Firefight over TV

THE MORNING ROUTINE was a joy….my husband, a Civil Engineer working in the City, left home early before the boys were awake.
Milking done, I would let the goats out of their cosy shed, open the gate of the sheepfold (dog attacks were a constant menace….so I herded them uphill and into safety every night), chickens released, to free range far and wide…..I would return to the house, strain and bottle the milk, and start on breakfast. My little boys would wake, run straight to the lounge room and Dylan would turn on the TV….a godsend for a busy Mum. The kitchen was down the hallway from where they were, so, after morning greetings, I’d get their breakfast, make school lunch for Dylan (whatever needed doing), before School and Kindergarten.
I hadn’t had time to light the fire, so, being a cold morning, I left them sitting together…..eyes glued to the screen, with a small radiator carefully placed well out of their way, to warm up the lounge room.
THEN ALL HELL BROKE OUT!!! A fight had started over choice of programs, not witnessing the “hows and whys”, I can imagine it easily. Nick, being only 2 and a half, wanted to watch Sesame Street…..but Dylan considered it far too babyish….he wanted to watch Gigantor, a violent Japanese Cartoon. So, Dylan got up and switched channels right in the middle of Nick’s favourite show…..Nick, always holding his own would have launched himself at both Dylan and the Television set, and struggling to get what they each wanted, they kicked over the radiator…..which came to rest against the newly upholstered Couch, just home a week.
It took only seconds for me to be on the scene, but by then, the far end of the couch, blackened and smouldering with a lovely red glow, was ruined. I filled a large saucepan with water, chucked it into the mess, then with the fire safely out, radiator and tv, turned off, my subdued sons went to their bedroom to get ready for School.
What did I do about it???
SOMETIMES the best action to take is to leave the scene. Too upset to speak, I walked out of the house, sat down in the garden, and watched the animals grazing peacefully…..surrounded by my three dogs, they settled down around my feet, having licked my face, sympathetically.
I sat, breathed deeply, soaking myself in farmyard serenity, then calling to the children….we climbed into the car, drove to their separate places of respite, and coming home I walked the dogs, down the hill, across the creek and into the Chestnut Wood.
AHHHHHHH, sweet peace and harmony……

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued…..

FARMING DAZE

FARMING DAZE, with BIG BUSINESS THE BULL

UNTIL I AGREED to farming cattle, everything went smoothly. I was in Heaven, loving almost every small daily detail. The small flock of Black, White and Multicolored Sheep flourished with their Ram working enthusiastically to ensure lambs of many colours joined the flock….held safe within their nightly fold, and released each morning out onto hilly pastures, they all thrived. Animal Husbandry came easily to me, they were given the best of care, shepherding them up the hill from the creek each night made easy, by the promise of oats. They would hear my call, and rattling a small container I carried with me, they would come running, bleating with joy at the promised evening feed. The big gate closed, sheep folded, goats milked and shut inside their shed, chooks perched and locked in, safe from foxes….all was well.
As for professional farming….I failed on many levels. Castration of young lambs (necessary on many levels), one Ram is more than enough, Wethers produce the very best fleece….. I now had both a Loom for Weaving and a Wheel for Spinning. David, being far less emotional in these matters, bent to the task of applying the thick, tight, castration rings on the small lambs I held still for him, who only moments before had been racing round their mothers, chasing each other, jumping high into the air with the simple joy of being alive. Moments later, in shock and terrible pain, they cried out, staggered towards their anxious mothers, fell over and repeated this all again, until flesh around their tender testicles, numbed, and finally all circulation cut off, would wither, die and drop off. My recovery took longer, agonized by their cries of terror and pain sent me reeling into the house, bent double with stomach cramps to lie down clutching a hot water bottle…..blocking my ears to the bleating of Ewes and the crying of their babies…

AND THEN THERE WAS the daily terror of the Bull……he was the size of a small car…….

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued

Nightmares

BIG BUSINESS….A slight delay!!!

Day dawned, bright, sunshiny and dew laden
Birds twittered cheerfully in the treetops. My boys still sleeping, I greeted the dogs, let the chickens out, then with milk pail in one hand, I headed out of the garden, down the small sloping paddock, to the sheepfold gate….wide enough to drive a car or tractor through.
Well, I meant to …..there, lolling on his side, soaking up the sun, was BIG BUSINESS ….vast back leaning on the entire length of the gate. His small harem of cows, grazing peacefully nearby. He terrified me, head lowered, face completely unreadable…..his massive bulk as impassive as a small hill.
What does a novice say to a big, belligerent Bull….”shooo”, “piss off you big bugger”, he stretched a little, the red muscles rippling along his spine, and tossed his head (it could have just been an annoying fly), how the hell do you read a Bull’s emotions (they’re expressive and readable as rocks) , but legs dissolving to water, I retreated walking away backwards, eyeing him with loathing….the sheep flock the other side of him, were bahhing to be free. Goats with full udders, bleated from the shed, and BIG BUSINESS shifted, stretched again, lay his head down and went to sleep.
TIME PASSED…..this monstrous creature had me completely bluffed…..a desperate call to the stock and station agent didn’t yield much….just walk up to him, and shoo him off, don’t worry about it…..but I did!!!

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued……

DYLAN AND NICK

DYLAN and NICK….Part 1

A small robust diversion from the AUSTRIAN COUNTESS, but as my favourite writer Diana Gabaldon has taught me….a Writer does not need a Storyline…..a book can be created from a patchwork of stories. I had an epiphany hearing her speaking about her method….suddenly all the pressure of “how to” dissolved, and the stories burst forth like a river in flood….

We had moved from the old family house in Ambrose Street, Emerald to a beautiful little farm (23 acres) nearby on Paternoster Road, into a modest weatherboard house, perched right on top of a hill. My small sons, both now in Primary School and Kindergarten, my husband becoming more successful, spent longer hours away from home…..apart from financial support, I was in all other ways, a single Mum.
Needing something more, being influenced so strongly by my relationship with the Countess, I began carefully selecting animals. It was the early 70’s, the counter culture was thriving. Whole Earth Catalogue, Grass Roots and Earth Garden magazines were my teachers……the idea of going back to a better way of living, being self sufficient, living with Nature were intoxicating to me, and being very like my beloved Grandmother (paternal), I thrived surrounded by goats, sheep, chickens, a pony for the boys, the small herd of Herefords I managed with the help of a Stock and Station Agent.

DYLAN and NICK……with the farm stocked with animals of my choice, the days were filled with harmonious routine. Milking was part of it, and goats were my choice…..Anglo Nubians……those fabulous creatures of multi coloured coats, aristocratic faces with high domed foreheads and long curved ears. The breeder I bought my does from gave me my first lessons, and then I was on my own…..a steep learning curve as I grappled with the delicacy of handling animals adapting to a novice…..there were tears…..

MA© Summer 2018

Dylan and Nick

a hazardous drive

we select a Sire

DYLAN and NICK…..Part 2
(OK, I’m getting there)

Her shrill cries and constant bleating were the telltale sign of a goat in season….without a Billy Goat (their smell…… sublime seduction to a Doe in season, is powerful, invasive, repulsive….it seeps into your clothes, clings stubbornly to delicate nasal passages, and ruins the milk), advice was sought from experts, phone calls were made, and an appointment for a few days mating, arranged. I would take the doe to the Buck. It sounds so simple….does it not??? You would have had to be there!!!
Getting an unwilling goat in the far back of the car was the easy bit. Then the boys, Dylan and Nick , freshly bathed, in winter jamas, woollen dressing gowns and slippers, were strapped into the back seat, and I, the lone occupant of the front seat….headed into the night, to a location I’d never been to (it was the best time for the owner of the Buck).
My children were high energy, robustly competitive, and I felt often like a referee, instead of a Mother. God, they were always fighting, from the moment they could both stand upright!!!
I don’t know what started it, I was focused entirely on driving unfamiliar, unlit, back country roads, finding my way…..the car vibrated with the frantic bleats of an anxious goat, and then the boys started fighting, full on yelling and physical clinches…..a driver’s fucking nightmare. I told them to stop, threatened, cajoled and screamed…..but, they were “in the zone…fight club”, they were impervious to all and any threats!!!
So I swerved onto the grassy verge, jumped out, shaking with stress and anger, undid their seat belts, hauled them out of the car to the side of the road, climbed back in, and drove off, leaving them in the dark. Looking into the rear view mirror, I remember clearly now, two small boys, abandoned, standing together in frightened solidarity……as the bleating goat and their demented Mother, left them behind.

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued……

DYLAN and NICK…..Part 3

My last view, through the rear vision mirror would tear at the heart of any warm blooded Female…..two tiny boys (approximately 3 and 5 years old), huddled together in the darkness, of a small back country road.
But I was seething…..so, I actually drove off up the road, leaving them in a total blackout, to meditate on their sins.
It was a valuable lesson for us all….at heart, young children are basically immoral ….they “work their parents, like a dog works sheep”, and words are absolutely no substitute for action.
They were only alone for 5 or 6 minutes, while I calmed down, started breathing again, swung the car in a tight u-turn, and drove back.
They hadn’t moved…..shocked into silent submission, I lifted each one, without speaking, back into the car, strapped them in, and at last found the Stud Farm. The owner met me at the gate, having heard the Does cries coming down the road. I led her across to him, gave her a brief pat of encouragement, then returned to find 2 angelic beings, heads together, fast asleep……exhausted from their brief adventure, they slept soundly all the way home, through the moving from car to bed, right through till next morning.

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued…..

the terrible two

a fire fight over tv

much more

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS…..#A dog with a Pedigree # suppressed childhood in 50’s suburbia # scandalous gossip #exotic influences # strange music of the deaf.

Way back in the early 1950’s, our family had fallen in love with a friend’s Daschund, Bismarck, a small dog of great charm and character. We wanted one, apparently me especially as, to hurry my parents along in this financial commitment, I’d asked for the money whenever my siblings were given milkshakes or ice-creams. By the end of summer I offered up my matchbox of coins, no doubt of some small significance back in the day.
We heard the Litter had been born, and went on a cold Autumn day to visit the Breeder, and choose our pup, born in the beautiful isolated town of Emerald, high up in the Dandenong ranges, where my Great Grandfather’s house….our holiday house stood.
I could hardly contain the excitement….a pup of my own, I thought…..sitting in the back of the car, hearing the four adults talking, gossiping…..the talk drifting back to me, through my bubble of happiness….”she’s been married and divorced 3 times”, “she lives with a homosexual who breeds Afghan hounds”, “an appalling housekeeper…..she lets her Bitches whelp on the beautiful tapestried chairs”….”and you know she owns a shrunken head…..the Museum borrows it from time to time”……all this drifting over the top of my puppy dreamings, and then turning to look at us kids, “she can’t hear a word, she reads your lips….so you must look directly at her and speak clearly”
Me…….(puppypuppypuppypuppypuppy…..yes, Mum”
I REMEMBER VIVIDLY the first time I saw her, emerging from between two farm buildings….a small sturdy Woman surrounded by a pack of dogs, all undulating around her feet like sleek little seals, their long low bodies moving in a wave towards us, yapping shrilly.
My family and friends stood by the car, a stiff, formal little group, waiting politely.
Drawn like a magnet I surged towards her, her farmyard smell reaching me before she did. Eyes enchanted with the pack of hounds, I took her in from the ground up…..knee high gum boots covered in mud and reeking of pig shit, work trousers of a coarse, sturdy fabric, covered with a practical apron made from a hessian potato sack, a thick hand knitted jumper and then I was looking into her lovely broad, sunbrowned face, kind eyes, intelligent, smiling. Her brown/iron grey hair parted in the middle, with lovely plaits coiled over her ears. She was the most homely, exotic Woman I had ever seen…….and the music of her voice, shrieking commands to the little hounds in a thick, guttural accent. And me, a small girl coming from buttoned up conservatism and tight perms.
IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT…..
as my parents explained how I’d saved all summer, she took me in her arms and hugged me tight. Warmth, strength and softness, surrounded by such smells and noise, such vivid life, such joy.
Formalities and introductions completed, we were all invited inside……to view the litter (which had indeed been born on finest tapestry) choose our pup, and have afternoon tea…….

MA© Summer 2018
to be continued….#Art #a Shrunken head #Burmese cats #Politics and French Champagne.

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS…..Part 2.

Her name was Henny Marsh, obviously the Count had been her first or second husband.
Having gone through the awkwardness of introductions with the Adults, who considered this Woman with uneasy caution, we were invited into the house, for puppy viewing and afternoon tea. It was a gorgeous, light filled expanse……. floors covered with Persian Rugs, long low tapestry covered Chaise Longes, Glass Cases of gorgeous Chinese Vases, Paintings, Sculptures, Pottery, and everywhere lavish drapes, wall tapestries and furniture collected from all over the World.

The red gold Mother lay in state on a long low tapestry covered couch, her babies all in a row suckling……and one by one, the Countess lifted them handing each of us a pup…..golden red, like their Dam, they looked even more seal like, their heads still round and chubby as their sleek little bodies. The perfect smell of them, their strange smoky breath. We were all equally entranced, forgot our awe at the richness of our surroundings and heads bent, bodies curved protectively over these adorable babies, we sat cradling them to a background of Henny’s voice, strange , wild as geese honking through the skies. She, unable to hear herself, spoke in piercing tones, high, rich, almost operatic in comparison to our flat Australian drawl. She was utterly fascinating!!!

Finally, one perfect male pup was chosen, returned to his Mother, and we all sat down at a beautifully carved table for refreshments. Served on finest china was an assortment of cakes (you’ll find similar in Acland Street, St Kilda), and small cups of very strong Turkish Coffee. The manners of the adults was an education in deception and hypocrisy….as we kids reached for cakes……we were warned by our parent’s friends that “she was dirty, the food would make us sick”, and right there speaking about the Countess as though she wasn’t aware….they pushed European Delicacies under the table, into the eager mouths of the small hounds gathered beneath, whilst smiling up at her, as she brought more food, saying how delicious it all was.

A date was set for puppy collection, and we all headed out into the big beautiful rambling garden, back to the car……the excitement and disappointment was overwhelming…..I didn’t want to leave all those gorgeous little dogs, the tiny chosen one, and I especially didn’t want to leave the Countess…

Everything about her made me feel good…..her simple clothes, her bewitching voice, her animal smell, her capable gentle hands, her way with her dogs………. I wanted to stay forever.

And on the journey home, lulled by the motion of the car, falling into sleep……..
the adults voices drifting back to me….”she’s mixed with royalty, you know……it was Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia who gave her the shrunken head”

MA© Summer 2018

To be continued….#puppy collection #the shrunken head #odd relations with the Museum.

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS……Part 3

a nine year old’s impressions

the shrunken head, and Museum connections

our puppy comes home

She opened the glass case, and lifted it out carefully…..a small, dried object approximately the size of a large orange….I don’t remember feelings of horror, but I think children are fascinated by the macabre, I didn’t think of it as human…..more like a face from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I didn’t hold it, it was the adults who wanted my parents to see this “curiosity”, and I was there. I wonder now why anyone would care to own such a thing…..for thing it was.
All the interior contents carefully withdrawn, then smoked over a fire. Perhaps a gift given by an Emperor has political, diplomatic value, too great to refuse. Perhaps the tribe this person once was part of, was thought deserving of such a death…..beheading, then preserving, never to “rest in peace”.
I try to recall it now, and feel only horror, yet a dark part of me can understand the savagery that would take such steps, to punish an enemy for all eternity. I can within seconds, imagine how it could be.
After a very short time, the Countess returned the dry dark little object to its stand, in the glass cabinet (yet now I see it’s eye sockets, nostrils, and mouth) and again, experience horror. Who was that??? That thing that once lived and breathed??? Who???
We moved away, left the room, transactions completed, our puppy and pedigree came home. Us three kids, taking turns holding him in the back seat, I overheard my father’s friend refer once more to the trophy of war we had just seen……”occasionally it develops a problem with mould, so, her friends at the Museum borrow it for a while, clean it up then bring it back”…..then I forgot about anything but our beautiful little puppy.

There was great status involved, so, he was named Berneray Prince Carl…..we were all terribly impressed. Our little Daschund was adored by everybody, and as with most grand posturings, within days, and for the rest of his life, he answered to Trupps (from Truppy….
a strange high repetitive call Henny used for the pack)

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued……#losing contact #finding her again #a keen intelligence #French Champagne

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS……Part 4

Time passed, and now in secondary school I missed out on family holidays in the old house….my father, an air pilot’s holidays didn’t coincide with school’s. The rest of the family continued going there while I stayed behind with my Grandmother. Disappointment vied with happiness, as she was my very favourite person (a book in itself)….feelings of loss and abandonment were cushioned by the love and care, and the joy she had in my company.
More time passed….I moved away from home, lived in a tiny bungalow in the gardens of a large house in Balwyn…..working week days in Advertising, and weekend nights through a strange series of circumstances, as a singer in a Melbourne Folk Club…..immersed and enraptured by the vivid stories, poetic lyrics and haunting melodies…..conquering my terror of performance with the soothing balm of alcohol.
Then falling in love and marriage.
On one particularly dreary suburban weekend, my husband and I climbed into the car and headed for the hills….no destination in mind. As we drove, I told him about my Great Grandfather’s house. Intrigued, he was determined to find it…..and we did.
An abandoned wreck….rusting roof iron full of holes, spouting likewise, broken, sagging, mostly gone. Years of rain pouring down the weatherboard walls had rotted them, some crumbling to dust as we touched them..
Windows broken, doors hanging…..and inside years of dirt and dust, mouse droppings and drifts of dead leaves, covered the floor. The high white plaster ceilings, drooping with damp, and large brown stains from possum piss.
Outside, the enchanted garden of my childhood was now a rampant jungle, slowly being choked by huge thickets of blackberries pushing upwards between the azaleas and the rhododendrons.
David LOVED it, could see its potential, wanted it, got it!!! A few phone calls to distant relatives who still owned the property….a price was agreed on, and to my dismay…..we moved straight in…..living in the most habitable areas, while my husband commuted to his office in Melbourne and I in a desultory fashion, did what I could. It was often an adventure, cooking over the big open fire, then installing a slow combustion stove into the empty kitchen chimney alcove….until he, a civil engineer was sent to Savage River in Tasmania….coming home to work on the house at weekends, arriving Saturday….leaving early Monday mornings. I was utterly alone….facing a constant series of catastrophes…..no company. Not. even. a dog…..

MA© Summer 2018
to be continued

I find Her

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS…..Part 5

Somewhere, in all of this…..somebody I met mentioned Henny Marsh…..that she had moved but was still living in the hills….not far away. Being deaf and a lip reader, she had no use for a telephone…..so, I simply arrived one day after a hiatus of 17/18 years….no longer a child, but feeling very unsure of myself as I rang her doorbell. Anyone living with animals knows they hear things long before we do, so, with a pack of daschunds yapping around her heels, running to the door and back….she found me there.
It was as before between us…..the years fell away…..she was smiling into my face…..her strange musical voice shrieking welcomes, beckoning me in…..leading me to sit down while she went for coffee and cake, then sitting next to me…..we began talking about anything and everything…..because, of all the people I had ever met, she was the most educated, interested, fascinating, cultured.
Put yourself for a moment in my place!!!
My full concentration was intent on looking directly into her eyes, as she focused on my mouth…..reading my lips. Any difficulty in communication was swiftly solved by paper and pen she had close by….pushing it towards me to write my words down…..all this happening as her favourite dog sat at her feet, yapping incessantly, wanting attention. If she felt the vibrations, she would turn and scold the dog, but mostly the shrill yapping accompanied my slow, careful speech and her wildly vivid, fascinatingly exotic accent…..not only this, but as I sat looking into her face…… my minds eye sketched her…..the strong broad features, lined, sun browned, constantly animated, expressive…..kind, interested. She was full of curiosity and a great hunger for life, her thick grey hair, still the same without the brown of youth, parted in the middle, plaited in circular coils around her ears.
I wish I could remember what she was wearing, for apart from that first childhood meeting on the farm….I never noticed her clothes. The overwhelming sensations were of great humanity, unbelievable conflicts of noise, beautiful musical speech underlaid with the barking of hounds….her hands holding mine in affectionate greeting, fine, brown skinned, lined and worn with outdoor work….warm, strong…..and everywhere, crowding everything……ART!!! Paintings, carvings, pottery, sculptures, antique Chinese vases, tapestries, Persian carpets, large open fire places, smoke stained wooden beams, white washed walls…..and always, always, her voice……

MA© Summer 2018

we are invited to a party

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS…..Part 6

Time passed, the old wreck of a house, with my husband’s skills and hard slog, became a home…..downstairs was partly furnished with original furniture left behind….beautifully intricate double brass beds in the three bedrooms, cedar sideboards and chests of drawers, huge, sagging old velvety armchairs….too comfortable to throw away, and strangely, a collection of hospital beds, single iron, cream coloured on wheels, which repainted, were my sons beds when they grew into them.
Upstairs was one huge room, the length of the house, with storage cupboards built into the angled walls sloping upwards into the high pitched roof. The slow combustion stove (the heart of the kitchen), heated our water, warmed us, and always had something cooking on top….huge pots of soup, kettles boiling, big winter casseroles and in the oven, my own bread (a recipe taught to me by a British Colonel who lived nearby….another story). The ruined kitchen windows were replaced by diamond paned leadlights….the two storey front verandah rebuilt….where on miserable wet days, my little boys Dylan and Nick, could still play outside….looking out into the canopy of the huge, sheltering oak trees…..and every day, just below the bottom of our garden, Puffing Billy’s whistle screamed as it tore along the tracks to Emerald Lake (Lake Treganowan, after my Great Grandfather who had been the brains behind it) a short walk away.
Sometimes I was able to get away, to visit Henny Marsh, once with my small sons, who were absolute terrors, 2 and a half years apart, they had no interest in visiting an old lady, but were fascinated by all her “things”. The visit was brief, as I constantly tried to communicate and simultaneously control them from breaking precious artifacts and relics, it was a nightmare!!!

MA© Summer 2018
To be continued

visiting the kennels

the Burmese Queen

Her 60th Birthday Celebration

SENSORY PERCEPTIONS

ONE MORE STEP, one more breath……thinking about the Tropics tonight. Late shopping after a very hot day, I walk out from the air-conditioned coolness of IGA, into a blast of humidity, tropical in its intensity….. and suddenly I’m back in time, stepping through the aircraft door at Townsville airport ….visiting Dylan, years ago. From ice cold Victorian Winter, the humidity hits me like a warm bath. I step down the gangway onto sticky bitumen….. dense air, perfume laden. Everywhere, in the Airport car park are Frangipani Trees, their exotic flowers scattered on the ground, carelessly. I gather them, as many as I can , and once settled in my room, float them in bowls beside my bed.
Frangipanis…..exotic, perfume laden, smelling of heat and sex and summer nights.
Who could resist ……

photo from Google
.

ENCHANTMENT

ONE MORE STEP, one more breath…..???

Late walk on a steamy summer evening, with the subdued light of darkness falling…… a forest empty of people (home having their dinner), we, my dog and I traverse territory where all sounds are sharper, clearer……a lone dog, barking mournfully, way off in the distance, the crisp crunch of dry leaves beneath my feet, her rhythmic panting…..a soothing sound in the near dark, crickets chirruping a shrill chorus.
And sights in the dim gloaming….the softened shapes of trees, dog girl appearing, disappearing as her camouflage colours bring her in and out of focus…..sometimes she vanishes entirely, and then her whitened tail tip gives her away. Magic and mystery all around us, as dusk merges swiftly into dark.

Photos by Gracie Rose

THE HEART OF MUSIC

THE HEART OF MUSIC

Two days ago I had lunch with friends, some I hadn’t seen in more years than I can say; others, who live near to me, I see infrequently….but time, all those years gone by, mean nothing. All of us worked in Melbourne in the Music Industry, at the same establishment…..once a Brothel with three main rooms, in the heart of the City, converted to a Folk/Jazz Club. We worked separately and with each other every Friday and Saturday night for many years.

Like Acting, playing music and singing with one or more people involves careful timing, acute attention to the other; if you really mean it, you dig deep, sinking into the heart and soul of the song….forgetting yourself completely. There is ONLY the music.
Like Acting you live, feel, are the song, the story the written word is telling.
Alone, as a solo Artist there is nothing but the song you’re singing and the audience….a powerful chemistry, charged with emotion…..you’re living it, and for that space in time, so are the people who are listening…..and, they did.
Then there is the bond between two singers, or the singer and the creative musician who accompanies your singing….holding you, supporting you, through their nimble fingers also telling the story. We look into each other’s eyes, a straightforward necessity for timing, for the subtle nod that gives them space to play an instrumental…..giving so much more with their skills that I, the singer lacked. If they really mean it, feel the story deeply, you see into the heart and soul of the other.

THIS WEEK I REMEMBERED….Those ties that bind between us all, stay, keep us forever connected. Time passes, the years go by, but it is of no consequence.
We are, and will be, forever linked.

My heart is full, with the remembering.

MA©️
Photo taken at Frank Traynors
By Tony Standish