Cottage Memories

The Horsnell Gully Cottage

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.

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An Arty Shot – Joy and Baby Huw in the Horsnell Gully House, 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.

13 April 1973 – When I Still Had hair and Joy’s Was Red

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.

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Joy and Our Friend Catherine in the Early 80s

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.

old pics i_0024
Art in the Suburbs – The Kids, Huw and Amelia, in the Prospect House Back Room.

But we missed the Gully.
Bits of that cottage still circulate in our blood.

Not Really The Blog Yet – Just A Wee Bit About Its Author.

I am the author of this feeble blog.

My name is Ant Fox … an amalgam of an annoying insect and a feral animal (well, feral in Australia but loved elsewhere – I live in Australia, so …)
I was born in 1951, and spent my childhood and youth in the country.
Back then it was a world before TV, computers, mobile phones, and pocket calculators.
It was a world of outdoors, of wireless sets, of books, of plays, and of poetry.
It sounds idyllic, but in reality my childhood wasn’t really very happy. I had few friends, my family situation was not as I would have had it, but I survived.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (apparently)

I grew up in the Swinging Sixties and the Sexy Seventies. 
I met a redhead named Joy (as in “to the world”), and we were married in 1973 – we remain married today 45 years later.
Together we hung around in the trendy arty set in the 70s and 80s, we’ve met a lot of artists, attended a lot of gallery openings, and collected a lot of artworks – perhaps that’s why I paint; perhaps that’s why we spend money we haven’t got on things that are beautiful.

We have two kids … a son, born on our tenth wedding anniversary, and a daughter who came two years later. We are immensely proud of them, and have good reason to be so.

I worked in plant sciences at Adelaide University for 20 years as a science technician and a research assistant. I have co-authored a couple of papers in the field of ion transport across cell membranes, and I have walked many leagues in real fields, in deserts and arid lands, measuring, photographing, and collecting. I also spent much time hidden from the world in laboratories where I was relatively happy. 

I have qualifications in science, as well as basic qualifications as a nurse’s aid – my greatest accomplishment in that latter field was fainting in an operating theatre … “More suction here please nurse, and get a chair for Mr Fox”. 
I have a Bachelor of Theology (a real one) and post-graduate qualifications in ministry – I was ordained as a Lutheran clergyman in 2000, and was in parish in Victoria and South Australia from November 2001 until November 2016. In that time, I worked with “ordinary people” (whatever that means) and with African refugees. I have never anthropomorphised the concept of God and made him in my image, as is the habit of many in the church, but I do believe that the myths contained in holy scripture contain truths that can’t be explained other ways, and teach us good and worthy lessons, if not literal facts about creation and so on.

Now I am retired.”Retired” means that I paint and carry on as a grumpy but contented old artist fella.
That’s me – hopefully I might write something that’s vaguely interesting, almost worthwhile, and possibly (only possibly) stimulating for you in this Blog ……… but not now – it’s afternoon tea time.