And the transcript for those who like to read as well as hear?
Welcome – Part Two
“Come on Chris. Are you going to spend the rest of your life out here, mooning around?” Sam was unlocking the back door of the house that would soon be our home.
Did I manage to look suitably unimpressed by the size of the large cobweb Sam needed to part for us to step through the door? I surely tried hard. We found ourselves in an entry room consisting of no less than six doors, that we immediately named the ‘vestibule’.
“This would have been used to hang coats and jackets… oh yes, and the vital bushmen’s hats too, I’ll bet,” I said. I was counting those doors once again, to double-check the unbelievable.
“Bet there’d have been a pile of boots jumbled up on the floor, too.” Kanute looked thoughtful, and then grinned. “There’ll be a mob of thongs here now if this weather keeps up.”
The gloomy darkness of this entrance had lifted somewhat with the opening wide of the back door, but when Sam opened the next door, the light flooded in despite that room’s drawn blinds.
“Here you go Chris… here’s your kitchen,” and Sam rolled up the blinds on the two tall windows facing each other. Now we found ourselves blinking—all but blinded by the sunlight pouring in.
But still, my heart plummeted as I turned slowly on the spot, surveying the emptiness of this large room… the only furniture was a large wooden table with a dusty linoleum top, wooden chairs and an old dilapidated refrigerator. Keep a smile on your face. Don’t roll your eyes. This IS the country. No-one has lived here for years. Yes but…
As my eyes adjusted to the brightness AND the emptiness, I found a lonely single power point.
“With a double adaptor, I’ll be able to use two electrical things at once,” I said, with a tiny sense of relief. I felt quite brave and stoic actually, and my spirits lifted ever so slightly. Sam gently disillusioned me with the information that my appliances were designed for 240 volt power, not the 32 volts provided by the diesel motor.
“Diesel motor? Have we seen that yet?”
“Of course not!” Now it was Sam’s turn to roll his eyes. “It’s outside, of course … down the end of the path.”
“And… uhrr… it must be running, if you want power and light.” This time Sam had the grace to show some discomfort. He was clearly beginning to sense how difficult these snippets were for a city soul to digest.
I learned I could use one appliance at a time, if I had the motor going and if I didn’t mind ultra-pathetic power! Necessity would swiftly decide this matter.
“So this is what they meant by life being slower in the country,” I muttered quietly to myself.
Now reality raised its ugly head even higher, as I innocently asked,”… but where’s the power point for the refrigerator? I can’t see it.” Off to one side I had caught sight of another antique—this time a cream Electrolux model that I would learn came from the 1940’s or early ’50’s—not really an antique at all.
“There isn’t one.” Sam’s tone was matter-of-fact as if this was normal—an everyday thing—until he glanced at me. I didn’t mean to so clearly show my amazement (tinged with a small dose of horror?) as I glanced imploringly to Kanute.
“Huh?” he said. ‘But ehrr… doesn’t that fridge over there stay in the kitchen?”
“Of course it does,” Sam said. Despite his slightly amused tone of voice, we could both see his confidence slipping, and abruptly his ‘cavalier’ attitude changed. His words were reluctant, as though he was gritting his teeth. “It’s a… kero fridge.” Then he started chewing his lip.
“A refrigerator that runs on kerosene?” I repeated. “… hmm, that’s novel!” Much of the novelty would wear off by the morning after moving day, when most of the food in the fridge had frozen. And all novelty fled after a fine adjustment to the flame caused the frozen items to become a soggy sludge. I tried kindness and I tried cruelty, but the brute refused to behave until it had a 24 hour rest on its back on a mattress.
Mustering my courage on this orientation journey, I turned to my stoves—one gas (vintage) and the other wood-burning (antique). I learned the gas came from bottles, instead of some hidden, never-ending piped supply.
“You have to keep feeling the gas bottle out there…” and Sam pointed to the front window. “Then you’ll know to get another one from town, in plenty of time before it runs out—all ready to hook up when you need it.”
“You don’t have to light the wood stove every day,” Sam said with the air of someone bearing great news. He omitted to mention that if it didn’t burn for at least three or four hours, there would be no hot water to either kitchen or bathroom.
The reconnaissance trip through the house continued, revealing a large, dark, linoleum-covered floor in the lounge room—the centre of that old stone house. When the summer heat truly set in, we learned the ecstasy of taking a siesta after lunch in the cool calm of this room. Thankfully sinking down on that cold linoleum floor with only a pillow for our heads, we’d nap until the sun slanted its blazing heat to a slightly more sociable level. In the milder conditions, work could resume… until dark. And darkness is an extremely late occurrence in summer, in the golden west of Australia.
A sudden blinding thought crossed my mind and I blurted out loud, “But what about TV?” I didn’t expect too much good news any more, becoming strangely accustomed to the monotony of bad news confronting me, moment by moment.
“You just use an inverter—and you keep the diesel motor going.” Sam sounded confident once again.
Another of the endless things I didn’t know back then—an inverter is a device that converts direct current into alternating current. In its role on Sam’s farm, this ingenious gadget converted a low power source to mains power—one miserable appliance at a time, or it would get overloaded, choke and die.
“There’s reasonable reception,” he added brightly. We would learn to question Sam’s blithe statements. Reasonable? When programs appeared to have been filmed in the midst of a snowstorm? Naturally, more bad news was on its way.
“… and uhm-m, you can receive two channels actually—ABC and our country channel,” Sam paused and cleared his throat. “… and they both close transmission at 9.30 p.m. most nights.” He seemed to be having trouble meeting my eyes, and I took pity on him, reminding myself of the drill, ‘don’t shoot the messenger’.
“We don’t care a whole lot for TV,” I said bravely. And then, in what seemed a sensible afterthought, “—besides, when you’re farmers you’re supposed to be early to bed, and early to rise. Aren’t you?”
Next time I learn more about the local wildlife as well as farming, in