It’s a beauteous sunny day in Nairne, in South Australia’s sunny Adelaide Hills.
Beauteous, but I’m not suggesting that it’s warm or anything approaching warm, however I have a jumper and am sitting wearing it with the house’s doors and windows open – Celebrating winter.
A cooling breeze, with “a taste of spring-time on its lips”, has come in playing with my aged whiskers.
Because I am a caring and sharing senior citizen, I am sharing beautiful strains of classical music with the neighbours (OK – it’s not “classical” per se, but rather Robert Plant [“Pictures At Eleven”]), but “classical” sounds so much more sophisticated and fitting for an aged and sophisticated gent such as myself (and that album is a classic of its kind.)
I wonder what the poor people are doing? … probably, like me, they are wondering how to pay both the Council Rates AND the electricity bill both due this month.
Meanwhile “Down at the station where the trains come in” … all is well, and time for a (low carb) sandwich and a cup of tea.
It’s typical, isn’t it? The sun starts to set, the shadows lengthen, and your eye wanders towards the wine and cheese. Then suddenly, with no prior arrangement, a guest shows up on the front lawn. … And, what’s more, she’s got her kid with her (albeit all quietly tucked up and asleep). Really.
I have been thinking about mice. In particular I have been thinking about the scurrying, furry, scrabbling, poo-laden, smelly mouse plague we had a few years ago when we were still living in the old manse in Tanunda, all too near the heavily moused wheat fields and vineyards.
I was so moved by the extravagant mouseness of that month that I wrote a wee poem to celebrate … an ode to Autumness and all its little wonders. I call it “Autumn”
Oh to be in Tanunda Now the season’s changed. Autumn, the time of wonder When rodents go deranged. Autumn, mellow mousy time They scurry without fear Perpetrating pantry crime Eating anything that’s near. Oh to be in Tanunda With a mouse in every trap A time of mellow wonder Flavoured with mousy crap.
It was a good house, sitting on a few acres of steep ground. The front was 1880s dressed stone. The back part was dug into the hill and cool. The clothes line was accessed by climbing stairs to one side and walking onto the flat roof section at the back. Fruit trees surrounded it. The vegetable garden was black aluvial soil above the creek. The chook sheds were concrete cells that were once kennels for dog breeding – while we were there they held nesting boxes for red hens, and some housed the orphaned and injured owls that we fostered. The front door was reached by crossing a footbridge over a permenantly flowing stream, and then climbing more than twenty steep steps that passed through the garden. These steps were a favourite sunning place for red-bellied black snakes and tiger snakes that lived in the creek vegetation. The snakes were no trouble – we just needed to watch where we walked.It was a good house, of fond memory. It wasn’t big, but it was cosy and comfortable. It was the place where our son Huw was conceived, and the first place he lived – born on our tenth wedding anniversary in 1983.
This was the fourth place Joy and I lived as a couple. I came down from Lobethal in the hills in 1972, and Joy and I had a flat in Norwood. We were married in 1973 and lived first in a century old house in Hyde Park just off the now very trendy shopping strip on King William Road.
From there we went to Fullarton to a house with a big garden and orchard out the back. Thence we headed for the hills and dwelt Hobbit-like in the Horsnell Gully cottage, known locally as “The Dogs’ Home” or “The Kennels” … a dog’s home with two Foxes living in it – strange!We lived in that house for quite a while, playing loud, loud music (there were no immediate neighbours to complain), drinking chilled Bolly on the verandah (especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons). People with musical instruments popped around to relax, and Joy catered lavishly. We hung out with the arty set and spent a lot of times in galleries and dimly lit clubs and bars.
It was a pleasing lifestyle. … the bright front rooms and the cool gloom of the semi underground back rooms … reclining in the bath on Saturday afternoons with the lorikeets hanging in the pear branches outside the open door … the wild fox walking across the back roof to pick the olives … the echidnas walking up the steps by the kitchen window … the possums yelling for jam sandwiches on the verandah … the choruses of frogs … and the constant singing of birds.It was a good house that had seen much in its 100+ years, but wasn’t telling. It held the drama it knew close to its breast, but sometimes there were echoes. No, it wasn’t haunted but some nights it sounded as if it was. Strange beasts dwelt between the ‘new’ ceiling and the original wood ceiling above it. Wraiths squirmed about in the sealed off bedroom chimney. The iron roof moved and creaked in the heat.There were physical threats as well as those imagined spookings. The cottagey rural charm was spared from the Ash Wednesday bushfire horror. Flames skirted around it. The fire, roaring like daemons from Mordor came straight down the valley, dark at 3pm, to within not all too many metres from our door where it changed course and went up the hill and behind the back of the house. Emergency services ordered me and my heavily pregnant Joy to evacuate – it seemed a very wise idea. A week or so later a “rain event” swept black ash down the flooded creek, over our gardens and poultry sheds, and through the two Humber cars I had parked in the lower area.When the baby started to crawl, and looked like toddling wasn’t far away, it became apparent that a house sticking out of a cliffside, infested with snakes and all sorts of bities, with a precipitous stone and concrete stairway access, probably wasn’t the place for us.We reached into our pockets and purchased a house in the ‘nice’ end of Prospect and became almost respectible suburbanites.
But we missed the Gully. Bits of that cottage still circulate in our blood.