And the transcript,
for those who don’t speak ‘Strine’
– or for those who love to read as well as listen.
We knew it would be a jolt to our systems. The Building Supervisor and the Secretary trading air-conditioned offices for the great outdoors. Not for a simple weekend away, not for a holiday escape… this was a tree-change planned to last for at least a year, maybe two.
“You’ll be back,” workmates said.
“You two party animals turning into country bumpkins? No way!” friends said.
“Your jobs will still be waiting for you,” said our boss. “I’ll give you three months!”
Ignoring all this negativity, we side-stepped the rat-race, the smog, and the mainstream of Life as we had lived it so far—landing with a decided wallop, deep in the Western Australian countryside… in the famous Wheatbelt. This distance from the madding city crowds there would be no more weekends with two whole days off, no more public holidays, no more RDO’s (rostered days off). Can’t help a chuckle to myself. To be painfully honest, we go back so far, these perks hadn’t yet been born.
“Just imagine,” I say to Kanute. “If I’d been more chicken-hearted and less pig-headed, and a whole lot less in love with you AND our dream, I would have dragged you bodily back to the city!”
A smug smile creeps over his face. “I know,” he says. “But just imagine how much we would have missed.”
“A heap of hard work and heartbreak, for starters.” But my tone softens as I feel my smile spreading, too. “And blue skies and sunshine and fresh air.”
“And kangaroos and puppies? And baby lambs and ducks and pigs?” I shake my head in defeat. Kanute always knows my most sentimental buttons to push.
It had been easy to say goodbye to such questionable comforts as the never-ending rush hour traffic jams, sardine-can crowds, and the almost constant frustrated beeps of car horns—the questionable music we had lived with.
“Hmmph.. and no ‘road rage’ in those days.” Kanute shakes his head in disbelief at the thoughts of a slower pace, kinder people, a gentler way of life altogether.
The corner of my mouth tightens in a twisted grin. “Road rage. Hmmph… there’s an expression that hadn’t even been invented yet.” I shake my head as I think about this unpleasant development. Wasn’t needed back then. Passengers would be hard-pressed to hear choice words mumbled under the driver’s breath. Rare moments indeed—even under great duress—for any cursing or bad tempered outbursts would happen. Maybe, IF the driver was alone/ Such genteel days by comparison—who’d have thought they’d end so soon?
Hard to believe that less than two months had unfolded since we made our choice to leave our jobs in Perth to change our lives… forever, it turned out. We would learn farming as Kanute worked for Sam, our friend—now our new boss. This idea of working together for a year or so had been born and blossomed over many weekend visits.
“Wasn’t it odd how the timing was so perfect for all three of us?” Kanute nods, and then shakes his head slowly, thinking back.
Sam had inherited his grandfather’s 6,000 acre (2,500 hectare) wheat and sheep farm. Unfortunately, the old man’s age and physical problems had seen a significant deterioration in this farm in his last years. Since both grandparents deaths, Sam had tried valiantly to tend other substantial family farm holdings at the same time as this one. He desperately needed help to restore this old, established land to its previously flourishing condition. And here were we—in our prime—at 25 and 30 and no children yet—we were SO eager to see if farm life was what we really wanted.
“You know, the way we were, without any ‘real’ farm experience, we’d have been pushing to get any kind of farm job,” Again Kanute shakes his head, this time with a sober expression and faraway eyes. “What do they say? It was a … uhmm… ”
“Marriage made in Heaven?”
“That’s the one. Trust you to know it!”
At last here we were, at the end of a slow and carefully navigated, four-hour trip from Perth in a hired removal van.
“Look at that sky—bluer than blue—it goes on forever and ever,” I turned slowly on the spot. Undulating paddocks stretched far into the distance under the vast crystal-clear dome.
Kanute nodded thoughtfully in agreement,”… we’re here at long last.” And he smiled in satisfaction. We obviously shared the same thought—our dream of farm-life was coming true at last. Unfussed by the obstacles and challenges ahead, we were full of confidence. After all, we had youth and enthusiasm on our side. Inexperience? Ha! We laughed that off as if it were nothing. We were confident we could learn. And learning is what we did—mostly the hard way—through old-fashioned ‘hands-on’ experience.
The tedious trip left me with an urgent need to locate the smallest room on the farm. Uh-oh! Sam showed us that the last time we were here on another weekend getaway—remember? Remember? How could anyone forget!
“It’s out there. Down the end of the verandah,” Sam said casually, waving his hand in the general direction.
This smallest room was a detached brick outhouse or toilet… surely where the expression ‘built like a brick shit-house’ was born. Impossible to equate it to the description ‘powder room’, despite my feeble attempts at redecorating.
“Didn’t take you long to ‘civilise’ it!” Kanute can’t help himself—he always loves to tease me, at every opportunity. Hummph… imagine, once upon a time I thought my two older brothers were the kings of the ‘tease master’s list’. Yes well… I hadn’t met Kanute then, had I?
“Fluffy mat and matching seat cover. Trust you to co-ordinate even the toilet.” He just can’t leave it alone. But I can’t stop a chuckle. Hot pink matching fluffy set! And I painted the cement floor and had a cane basket with magazines in one corner. I laugh out loud as I think of my Mum’s delicately hand-painted china sign hanging outside, against the peeling paint of the outhouse door. Below a sweet pink rose with a couple of rosebuds and a leaf or two, were the words ‘It’s here’.
“Bizarre,” I manage to say, my shoulders shaking with laughter. Then I draw myself up tall and say, “but you must admit it became one hell of a conversation piece whenever city visitors came.” Kanute reluctantly nods his head.
“We were quite spoiled actually, having a loo of such class and style…” Kanute cannot keep his face serious, despite his best effort.
No doubt about it, our modern ‘loo’ was a thing of beauty and luxury… compared to its predecessor, the aptly named ‘thunderbox’, standing in state a hundred yards or more further away. This ancient restroom was a corrugated iron creation with a three-quarter door to enable outsiders to determine occupancy status. Its wide plank seat had a hole so deep and dark; we dubbed it the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’.
Despite myself, I feel my eyes widen, my eyebrows lift, and I cannot help a shudder as I remember Sam’s words explaining the lengthy sandalwood stick propped in one corner—”to kill any snakes coming in for shade.” An involuntary shudder runs through my body. I wouldn’t share such a confined area with anything—let alone something slithery between myself and the toilet doorway! No wonder the stick was so long and sturdy. The expression “we won’t go there” takes on a different meaning in such a unique setting.
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Episode 3 is a continuation of this Chapter –