Category Archives: country life

Australia Day in the Territory (poem)

Australia Day in the Territory

Is like no other place,

With people here from around the globe,

We’re a multicultured race.

 

Our love is for the Territory,

And across this wild great land.

On Australia Day we bond together,

As we stand hand in hand.

 

Our proud indigenous families,

Are here and way outback,

You’ll see them all from day to day

As you travel down the track.

 

The elder’s quietly spoken,

Children with smiles from ear to ear.

As you journey through the Territory

The place we love so dear.

 

We salute all or achievers

Who’ve worked with some great pains,

And others, though not recognised

Your works were not in vain.

 

Just strive to keep that dream alive,

It will be reached some way.

Then you’ll enjoy those accolades

On your Australia Day.

 

So dads-n-mums-n-children,

New Australians from around the world.

We welcome you on this special day

As we watch our flag unfurl.

by Waldo Bayley, Bush Poet from Humpty Doo

Hide and Seek

I like to pick my granddaughter up from school each Wednesday afternoon.  I mix with the young mothers and other Nannas and Pops who are on duty to ensure that their little one is safely in their care.  

I am often amused by the other children who are smaller and must wait with their parent for an older brother or sister.  This week a little boy, still in nappies and with a pacifier, which was more an ornament than a necessity, was watching some other children as they ducked and dived into a bush which is in the garden just outside the kindergarten window.  

There was a hollow arch in the bush and it was a great source of fun for some little boys and girls who played hide and seek among the branches and leaves.  The small boy I had been watching, bent to look in the hole that had been made in the bush, he tentatively stood in the natural doorway and peeped in.

It was then that he discovered perhaps for the first time what a wonderful place it was to play hide and seek in.  As I watched him I was taken back to my own childhood in country Tasmania.  I was a railway child and the railway line was my playground.  

We had a very large back yard of course, but there was always a sense of adventure one had when playing away from home.  Along the side of the railway on one side was a hedge of hawthorn bushes.  As children we discovered very early what a wonderful play area it was, we played mothers and fathers maybe even doctors and nurses amongst the thorny bushes as the trains whistled and grunted along the railway line beside us.  

The hedge of hawthorn bordered a paddock where cattle and sheep grazed, they often came close and nosed into the bushes when they were disturbed by rustling and giggling, for they are inquisitive creatures and we were never frightened, the animals became part of our little bush house and we gathered long grass for them and hand fed them from the boughs of our cubby.

 The branches and leaves were so thick that down on the ground we were even kept dry when it rained, we never worried how we would get home, because our home was just over there, just across the railway line.  

Sometimes there were some old cattle carriages on a side rail that sat until someone claimed them and perhaps took them to Herrick or Scottsdale.  They smelt somewhat, but oh what fun we had clambering around inside, hiding underneath and always getting cattle dirt in our hair and clothing.

Another place on the railway line where we always liked to play hide and seek was a culvert under the railway line – it was so exciting to hide there – ostensibly from the train driver, and be excited by the sparks which flew off the railway line as the train wheels spun, there was also the smell of oils and burning which gave us a thrill, of course there was never any water in the culvert, and no one ever knew we were there.  

As children who had to make their own fun, hide and seek was played in many other places as well.  I remember quite clearly playing the game around the wood mill that was at the end of our street, after knock off time, when the saws were idle and the men had left after a hard days work, there were always great hidey holes to find amongst the piles of wood.   

We also played the game amongst the hay bales in the summer season when they were stacked under an iron roof with the sides open, what great fun and we never once considered that there were dangers in what we were doing.

It was a good thing that the little boy I saw peeped in first to see what awaited him inside the hidey hole in the school yard bush and his father kept a watchful eye from only a metre away.  

What careless parents we must have had in my day, they believed that as long as we were home before dark everything was fine.  The little boy probably went home in time to see Play School or Peppa Pig.

We got home in time for tea!

Janice Titmus.

For Violet – The Huon River

The frost had settled hard on the grass.  It was a cold, clear night and the moonlight lay flat across the absolute calm of the river.  The woman lay still.

It had not always been like this.  Winds had blown across her face as she sat in the sidecar of a bike as a young woman at the edge of her life.  The woman had braved this trip once before to meet her future mother in law, now she was making it as a bride.

They lay together in the calm of the night; there was nothing to hear, nothing to connect them physically, or she to anything or anyone.

nla.pic-an23752677-vHuon River at Franklin

Many times she would travel the road close to the river.  When she first began these journeys to her new home, she was filled with both hope and sadness.  She was sad to leave her family, but she hoped for a good life for herself and unborn child.

She made many trips over the years.  In time a car replaced the sidecar, but she would not drive it.

“Women shouldn’t drive cars,” she would say. “They are too easily distracted.”

You might say she was her own worst enemy.  By the time her granddaughter tried to teach her to drive, she was too stiff with arthritic pain.  She wished she had never travelled here at all, she longed for her home and her youth.

The road changed over time, from gravel and dirt to bitumen.  The young woman grew to be an elderly person who took very little interest in the passing scenery as she rode along beside the river.

The woman and the river had a long acquaintance.  Two children were born and the trips to the city continued.  Initially the trips were for practical reasons.  Twice they took her back to her home and family in Victoria.  On these she took her children.  Once was to bury her mother.  She always returned to her husband.  It was both a trip down into the remote country, and to the more immediate pain of isolation

The woman was sad.  The years of toil had left her financially comfortable but feeling trapped.  Her marriage was not happy.  Her daughter left home at seventeen, making her own journey past the river in a frenzy of excitement as she attempted to find a better life.

By this time her son had beaten his wife many times and she’d left him.  The woman had taken in her granddaughter but she resented her.  Her anger and bitterness had blinded her to anything positive in her life.

Her husband had a lover.  This had happened some thirty years after they married.  The woman lived with humiliation.  This added to her despair.

The trips to the city became fewer and in the end were only made to go to places like the hospital, or out of sheer necessity, for provisions or clothing.

The grandchild grew and became “too much” for the woman, or so she thought and it was decided that the girl should be placed in a home with the nuns.  The child was devastated. The woman’s desolation grew.

Her daughter would visit over the years with her growing family of three.  The woman would wait hungrily for these visits, waiting for letters.  All this activity passed by the river.

The river had been there a long time. It saw all these comings and goings in the woman’s life, such as changes from starting out to prosperity.

Perhaps the river should tell its version; it had seen the whole tragedy unfold.  The woman’s encounter with it was yet another variable in its existence.

As she lay in the stillness of the night, she felt no pain.  Her husband lay beside her.  No words were spoken. Nothing could be known of the windswept young bride or the tortured woman.

What could be known were their names and their respective dates of death on their combined head stone.

“For Violet: The Huon River,” a poignant story about her paternal grandmother,

by Janice Konstantinidis (Exter) was published in the National Museum of

Australia Exhibition “Inside Children’s Home: An Exhibition for Forgotten

Australians.” Janice was an inmate in Mount Saint Canice, Sandy Bar,

Tasmania, where she worked as an unpaid child laborer in the Good Shepherd

Sisters’ commercial laundry. Janice is a member of SLO NightWriters -The

Premiere Writing Organization on the Central Coast of California.

The New Washing Machine

Breakfast time was filled with an air of excitement. My grandparents were speculating as to what time it would arrive. Nana was quick to clear the table and begin the washing up.

janice granny  My Nana, Violet Exter, sitting outside the Wash House – 1960

“They’ll be here by eleven,” she said.

“If they’re lucky,” replied Grandpa, sipping his tea.

“I’ll get the dinner on the go,” said Nana. “I’d like to make a Queen Pudding,” she added.

“Going all out are we?” said Grandpa, grinning. Nana shot him a look.

The kitchen began to fill with lovely smells as Nana prepared the midday meal – dinner as it was known in the country back then. Her best dinner set, seldom used, was brought out along with her best cutlery set.

“Wedding presents,” she told me.

Along with the tablecloth she used when the visiting parish nuns came to eat with us. Cloth serviettes were used. I was in awe. Thoughts of the Queen coming floated through my mind. I’d have to wear my white shoes.

Time passed, the clock was checked. “They are running late,” said Nana. I had a momentary vision of ‘them’ running to our house and said as much. “Don’t be silly,” said Nana.

The sound of an engine filled the kitchen. Nana smoothed her hair and apron and went out to meet them. I hung back to watch from the kitchen steps.

A man and a woman got out of a white utility truck. Smiles and handshakes filled the next few minutes.

Grandpa walked up from the barn smiling a welcome. “I see you got here,” he said.

“Yes,” said the man, “we hit some traffic coming around the mountain road, slowed us down a fair bit.”

Grandpa said he’d thought as much. “You can’t get much of a move on once you get behind a truck,” he said. “It’s a two hour drive at the best of times.”

All eyes were on the utility. Grandpa helped the man take off the tarpaulin, which covered the tray of the utility. There it was – a brand new washing machine, standing proudly in all its white glory in the back of the utility.

The two men manoeuvred the washing machine down a ramp to the safety of the driveway, and wheeled it slowly to the washhouse.

Nana had been preparing for this and it was no trouble for the men to wheel the washing machine to the designated spot. Every one left the laundry to have a cup of tea.

washing machineThe new washing machine.

The woman showed Nana a book with a photo of the washing machine on it. They talked about this over their cups of tea and fruitcake – Nana liked to serve fruit cake to guests. The man was talking to Grandpa about the machine as well.

After they’d finished their tea, we all trooped down to the laundry. Hoses were attached, the newly installed electrical points checked and the water was turned on. The machine began to fill. The woman had a packet of “Lux Flakes” with her, she showed Nana how to mix them with some hot water in a container before adding them to the machine. The water in the machine became very frothy. Slosh slosh went the new agitator.

Nana had a cream woollen blanket ready to be washed. The woman showed Nana how to put the blanket in the washing machine, and then turned it on. The agitator began to move the blanket this way and that. My grandparents looked on, amazed.

The woman and man demonstrated how to feed the clean blanket through the wringer, into the waiting laundry trough. They showed my grandparents how to drain the water and then refill the machine with clean water. The blanket was rinsed and hung on the line to dry.

My grandmother thought it was too good to be true. She went on to tell about the years she had boiled her washing in a kerosene tin on a fire in the early years of her marriage. She’d graduated to a copper boiler over a fire in the washhouse, where she’d stir the washing with a stick, and then lift it into the rinse trough. Years later she’d been able to buy a hand wringer.

She looked at the blanket on the clothesline with great joy. Her hands had been greatly affected with a crippling form of arthritis over the past couple of years. She was happy to think she could manage her washing again.

Dinner was a great success. The woman and man praised my grandmother’s corned beef, and the Queen Pudding was pronounced the best they’d tasted.

The man and the woman talked more about the washing machine and had more tea and cake as the afternoon wore on.

“We’d like to be back in town by five p.m. “said the man. We waved goodbye to them as they drove out the drive and over the hill on their way back to Hobart. It was all part of the service.

exter roadExter Road, Dover (named after my Grandparents)

Nana and Grandpa took the blanket inside to air. They were very pleased with their purchase. Nana’s washdays were much easier from then on.

I managed to get my fingers caught in the wringer just once. But Nana had been watching when the woman had shown her how to release the wringers.

No harm was done to my fingers, some to my ears as I was told how I had almost given her a heart attack.

It was 1955.

by Janice Konstantinidis (Exter)

Unlikely Mates

When I was only 6 months old, my parents moved to a hippy commune near Elands in northern NSW.  Elands is an inland town south of Port Macquarie and is perhaps best known for the nearby Ellenborough Falls. At 200 metres, Ellenborough Falls is one of the longest single drop waterfalls in the Southern Hemisphere and a popular tourist attraction.

xvjftWe lived at the commune together until I was around 16 years old, and it was an interesting place to grow up, with many interesting people but there is one man who I remember best.

He was a local farmer named Preston. His farm was near the commune so he was fairly well known to everyone at the commune.

Preston was not a very good farmer. He lived there with his elderly parents and was incredibly lazy.

He was the crustiest old bachelor you could imagine. He didn’t spend any time tending to farm maintenance and over time, grass grew long and fences rot and fell down. When the cows escaped he would send his Mother out to collect them.

The house too began falling apart and Preston did nothing to maintain or repair. It was literally falling down around them. Preston was a confirmed bachelor, never having a girlfriend and very few friends.  Eventually both his parents passed away and Preston was left to run the farm on his own.

Preston didn’t drive a car. He had a tractor. Once a week he would ride his tractor along the highway into town. The tractor was loud and slow, and at the commune we could hear him coming along the road for hours. One day, he drove his tractor into town, it took him 2 hours to get there. He bought his beer in town and began drinking it as he drove back home. Not far from home, he realized he had drunk all his beer so turned the tractor around and drove back to town to buy more beer! Needless to say, we heard his tractor chugging at a snails pace along the highway all day long.

One day a Frenchman named Jacques arrived at the commune. He was a long way from home, looking for a new home. He told everyone he was a builder and had fought in the French Resistance during WW2 and I don’t think anyone doubted this was true. He told how his job was to lay ambush mines for Germans soldiers. This was towards the end of the war when the German army were recruiting the Hitler Youth. On this one day, he saw that the German soldiers he was targeting were all 13 or 14 years old and he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

Jacques found a piece of land he liked and camped there. He soon decided it was a good place to build a small house and began building around his tent. He did not know that he was living on Preston’s property.

Now, because Preston was such a lazy farmer, it took him six months to realize Jacques was squatting on his property. By this time, Jacques house was half built!

Preston’s reaction on discovering Jacques was not as you might expect. Preston could see that Jacques was a decent builder and had an idea. He invited Jacques up to his house and made him a proposition.

He would allow Jacques to live on his land, and to finish building his own house if Jacques repaired and maintained Preston’s house. A deal was struck. No solicitors, no contracts, just a verbal agreement.

And so it was. For many years the two men shared the land and became unlikely friends and constant companions. In fact they lived together for decades until Jacques was put into a retirement home by his daughter Veronique.

Preston and Jacques, unlikely and lifelong mates.

by Brad Lucas.

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