Tuesday, 30 July in the year of grace, 2013
It is 10.30pm, and I am contemplating the events of the past few days since the last entry of this journal, none of which is likely to arouse undue excitement in you, dear friends; all the same, that is life, with its ups and downs and its quieter moments.
Janet is away for a few days, staying with family members who are holidaying at our house Puddleby on Sea and attending to some matters that will require her attention.
Tonkie, Jock and I are surviving, but Janet’s absence is always felt by us all. Everything runs so smoothly when she is here. On Sunday, for instance, I went off to the morning service in my dark suit but had absently put on brown shoes instead of black ones – something that would not have happened had Janet been here to check me out.
Before she gets back, I must remember to make the bed, and do some odd bits of housework: dishes and so on, and pretend that I’ve been a good boy… but am trying to remember where she said I’d find the vacuum cleaner. When she returns, that nurse’s eye will sweep automatically around the house with an experience born of years of practice, noting those areas where I have failed to reach even the low standards I have set myself. Oh well, no point in dwelling upon the likely consequences of one’s failures…
The nights and early mornings up here in the mountains have been freezing, with frosts in the mornings, but the night skies are glorious. It’s hard to imagine skies so crystal clear – frosty clear. The black of the night, unchallenged by any city lights, accentuates the golden radiance of the sprinkled stars.
Last Saturday, friend George and I went to Sydney Opera House to see Donizetti’s opera, “Don Pasquale.” It is set in Rome and is a lovely, romantic little opera, with no stabbings, no dead bodies lying about as one often gets in other operas, such as ones by Verdi or Bizet. The music is glorious.
I’d love to see “Don Pasquale” again. The Australian performers were undoubtedly world class. It’s one of the best operas we’ve seen for some time. Donizetti wrote it in 1843, only a few short years before his death in 1848, at age 51.
To make it even better, George, who bought the tickets, went for really good seats. We were upstairs and in the front row, so I didn’t have someone’s head in front of me. It’s an amazing fact: almost invariably, whenever I sit in seats where there are people in front of me, the man (or woman) who happens to be the tallest, with the biggest head in the whole building, will sit directly in front of me. If it’s a woman, she’ll be tall, with her hair in a high bun. I have to peer around them all the time, dodging either side, depending on what bit they lean left of right to see.
I’ve taken to feeding a carrot and/or apple daily to the horse in the paddock next to the manse paddock, whose name is Rommel, or Rommie for short. He’s a beautiful chestnut. I saw him galloping around the manse paddock the other day, (the gate was open) with the owner in hot pursuit. She must have bribed him somehow, for later I saw him back in his own paddock. I mean, he’s a retired racehorse, so she’d never have caught him simply by running after him. He’d be cropping grass in Mudgee before she got to the top gate.
Later, I walked to the bottom of the manse paddock, where in the next paddock I could see some cattle grazing. They were so beautiful, as they gazed at me curiously with their soft, liquid brown eyes. Looking into those eyes reminded me again of why I am a vegetarian.
Tonkie is such a funny cat. He just walked over the keyboard (he’s fond of doing that), and as I mentioned in my latest book The Ness Fireside Book of God Ghosts Ghouls and other true stories, he frequently head-butts my hand, just when I have a screen-full of type. Almost invariably he knocks my hand up to ‘delete’ and before my very eyes, the lot vanishes. He has a gift, that cat. He is also very mischievous, and has an irritating habit of nipping Jock’s toes when Jock is lying, sleeping. It is so deliberately ‘naughty’ that I’m convulsed by laughter, watching it, for Jock gets annoyed, and it’s on for young and old – but never nastily. They spar about for a while until Tonkie stalks off, satisfied that he has caused more disruption to Jock’s normally peaceful life.
Jock really loves it here. He is popular with the congregation, and joins us for morning tea, where he is suitably spoiled with tidbits. He’s a wonderful manse dog, for he loves everyone. He also loves the freedom afforded by the acres of land around the manse. He loves to play with Beau, the dog next door, and they run and run. It is so funny, watching Jock’s interaction with the many rabbits. They see him, and run. Jock chases them. They stop and look at him. Jock stops and looks at them. They run. Jock follows, but never tries to catch them. They are getting quite cheeky, knowing that not far away is the safety of the ‘bramble bushes’ that once saved brer rabbit from brer fox.
Oh well, time is getting on, and I have a busy day tomorrow, with some visiting around the parish. It is now approaching ‘the witching hour’ as it was once called, of midnight.
“Angels guard thee…” as the lovely old song by Benjamin Godard has it. (“Ah! wake not yet from thy repose“). Good night, good night.