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The Good Old Days …

Sunday August 11 in the year of grace, 2013

If you were here last week, you may recall I mentioned my unfortunate experience with a vacuum cleaner, which caused a little embarrassment. Well, today I mentioned the incident to a chap at morning tea in Bowenfels Church Hall. He heard me out, then said, “I don’t like those sorts of vacuum cleaners. I prefer the ones that are pulled, not pushed. That’s the sort we have at home.” I was astonished, for it suddenly occurred to me that there are at least two sorts of vacuum cleaners (not counting the little ones that amble about the floor by themselves, bumping into things, reminding me of little old gentlemen  looking for a comfortable place to park their rumps). Anyway, today I learned that new fact which I have added to my store of knowledge: Vacuum cleaners come as ‘push-me’ and ‘pull-you’ types. I’d been out of my depths because I’d never been acquainted with ‘push-me’ vacuum cleaner. All, all is well.

Now that is settled, this (Sunday) morning I was up and about early (as was Janet – even earlier, for she prepared the porridge) and shortly afterwards was on the road to Portland for the first service (second at Bowenfels).

Portland is a pleasant little town of some two thousand burghers, set among the hills to the west of Lithgow, west of Wallerawang and almost exactly the same size as Finley, where I was the Presbyterian minister, more than a few years ago.                           Whereas there’s hardly a hill for miles and miles around Finley, down in the southern Riverina, Portland has a lot of hills around it.

As I headed out, I had a sudden, inexplicable urge to return to the west; back to the Riverina – and not for the first time… a yearning at times to return to that dear place where I first saw the light of day, which happened to be the Leeton RSL Club. No – my mother wasn’t pulling a poker machine handle at the time, or nursing a schooner of Tooheys. (She never did either). In those days it was known as Allendale (or maybe Allyndale) private hospital. A few of my friends were born there in those days, and in a place as small as Leeton was back then, possibly even in the same bed.

Maybe it’s the channel water. There’s an old saying down Leeton way, as we old Leetonians know, that once you drink the channel water from the Murrumbidgee River, you’ll always go back. We not only drank it; we swam in it too, (sometimes starkers) and in irrigation channels and canals. I can never forget the beautiful ‘bidgee: its slowly flowing green waters, its white sandy bends and steep banks, wending its placid way across sunny plains to link up finally with the mighty Murray on its way to South Australia and the sea.

In secret places in the bush, not far away from the river, there were dark, reed-fringed billabongs, hiding all sorts of tantalising mysteries. We boys knew where they were. Sometimes a sudden ripple would spread across the dark waters, or a little splash break the silence, with nothing to be seen for it, and our imaginative young minds turned to stories we’d heard of  Bunyips. Perhaps the Aboriginal people really did know of them…

Sweet Afton’s waters may flow gently, “amang thy green braes,” as Robbie Burns, Scotland’s greatest poet wrote of it so beautifully. There may be bowers of roses by Bendemeer’s stream, “where the nightingales sing ’round it, all the day long,” as the great Irish bard, Thomas Moore wrote so lovingly, but despite the dreamy loveliness of those fair streams, I’ll still take the good ol’ Murrumbidgee, where it flows under Euroley Bridge, not far from Yanco town.

I really have to smile at Tonkie and Jock. Tonkie is really mischievous, and it’s so deliberate, the way he walks over to the sleeping Jock to nip his toes, which starts a brawl. Tonkie would love to be a tiger, and goes for Jock’s jugular as they play, but Jock has too much hair and besides, it’s a game.

I’ve noticed that the rabbits these days don’t exactly rush off, terrified, upon Jock’s approach. In fact they return to their hiding places in the bramble bushes in an ordered and leisurely fashion, the way passengers on ships do to their stations when there is a simulated alarm. In fact this morning I noticed a very cheeky bunny who was right outside the door. None of them is really afraid of Jock, who doesn’t have a mean streak in his brave, loving little heart.

As I write, Janet is having a little more R&R from me, back at Puddleby, where there are a few things to attend to, and we boys are looking after ourselves. Janet left enough food for the three of us to feed an army, so Tonkie, Jock and I have no fear of starvation.

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In which there are arrivals and departures and Ness bungles again

The weeks are flying past and by this time next month we should be home again at Puddleby, about a day before our holidaying family departs, so we will see them.

The weekend has been special, for daughter Heather has been here with us, leaving her hubby to manage their ‘children’, Tiki (elderly Siamese) and Bert the dog (mixtures various).

The first Service last Sunday morning was at Wallerawang in the lovely traditional church there, but I nearly froze to death. Janet and Heather wisely decided to go to the later service at Bowenfels.

A view of St John's
A view of St John’s











The next Service was here at Bowenfels, and the three of us involved in the service did something wrong. The session clerk got up to read the announcements at the wrong place, the Kevin who read the NT lessons read them in the wrong order, and I offered the communion wine to the congregation before the bread. That caused a bit of amusement! (They are such a warm congregation). I have found over the years that when something starts to go wrong in  a service, it generally keeps going.

Old Bowenfels Historic Church
Old Bowenfels Historic Church

Heather was on the train to Sinney (Wangi dialect. Means Sydney) at 4.00pm, for there’s work tomorrow.

Wednesday Night 7 August:

I am so sorry that this entry, which I should have finished on Sunday night, is still in the making  – and it is now after 10.00pm. I am not long back from the weekly Men’s League get-together in the church hall.

We got back from Dubbo yesterday, where we’d been for a couple of days, seeing a couple there that we know who were keen for us to go to see them.

I won’t bother you with stories of this week, for there are a few, but this entry goes back to start to the previous week, on Monday 29 July… it seems ages ago. At the time Janet was still away, seeing to the work being done on the ceiling in the sunroom at ‘Puddleby’ after some storm damage, and I’m happy to say that when she rang me, the plasterer was still there and did a very satisfactory job. Janet is well pleased, and as she is fussier than I am, I am sure it is. (It was an insurance job).

Later I was at the Scots School where I was Rhonda’s “little helper” for the two scripture classes. They are good kids.

I sometimes wonder about proper retiring, but having put one’s hand to the plough, one cannot look back. I am sure God will tell me when time’s up, either by zapping me or by letting me have some quiet time before  journey’s end.

It was almost ‘journey’s end’ during the week, some time after Janet got back. I am very fortunate not to be a crippled widower.  Some moron went through a red light as I was about to turn right, so Janet would have caught the full brunt of it. I looked at him as he approached and had a sudden intuition that he wasn’t going to stop. In fact I think he accelerated. It’s a lesson for us all: never assume that some clown is going to stop at a red light or give way. (I remember officiating at a sad funeral of a young man, who made the fatal assumption that a truck driver had seen, and would obey, the red light. He hadn’t so didn’t).

Janet was home on Thursday. I collected her at the station. Earlier that morning I’d given Rommel the horse in the paddock next door an extra big carrot, which he ate while I sang “Happy Birthday” to him, for 1 August is traditionally the birthday of every horse.

Happy Birthday to me?
Happy Birthday to me?










I was up early that day, attempting to create the illusion that I had faithfully carried out my duties as a house husband before Janet came home. I had a lot of trouble with the vacuum cleaner. I don’t know who designed it, but I could not make it work properly. For some reason, the handle bit was in the vertical position, whereas I know the one at home at ‘Puddleby’ is at an angle, which makes it easy to push. Have you ever tried to get into motion something that has a handle that is completely vertical and about waist-high? In the end, I had to give up.  When Janet came home, the old nurse’s eye swept around the place and it all looked quite OK.

Foolishly, I confessed the trouble I’d had with the vacuum cleaner.

As I talked, I noted an incredulous expression gather upon her brow and then move  across her whole countenance, but I continued doggedly on, and she heard me out. Then she said,

“Please tell me you didn’t do that.” 

“Do what?”

“Attempt to push the vacuum cleaner when the handle was in the upright position.”

“I did try! I wanted to do the vacuuming, but couldn’t!” (said the bumbling Ness, in trouble again).

“Please tell me you really know where the lever is on the vacuum cleaner.”

“Lever? Wot lever?”

Without boring you further with this sad little story, the little woman led me into the lair of debbil debbil vacuum cleaner and by some means (which I first assumed was magical), lowered the handle.Then she showed me a little lever which she operated with her foot, somewhere near one of the wheels, and presto – the handle came down so that it could be pushed with relative ease (provided one ignores the fact that the suction makes it stick to the floor, so “with ease” is relative, ye understand). I said no more. I didn’t wish to make matters worse by telling her it took me fifteen minutes to find out where the switch is that makes  the horrible contraption work. It is cunningly hidden underneath the bit one pushes, if you ever use the thing.

On Friday morning I was amazed to see that great bursts of golden wattle had exploded through the bush, seemingly overnight. The wattle, keen to get winter over and spring begin, was leading the way as usual.

Wattle in the Manse grounds
Wattle in the Manse grounds











It’s the way with wattle each year… always the first to welcome joyous spring, and as I looked at the wattle, daughter Alison’s childish voice (she was a child at the time – about five, I think) came to mind, singing the song she’d learned that day at school, and was keen for us to hear: The bush was grey a week today…. But now the spring has come this way, with blossoms for the wattle… It was a lovely little song and I still remember Alison’s clear little voice, that warm spring afternoon in Coonamble NSW.

A view of wattle from the window
A view of wattle from the window











This Sunday past, I thought I would freeze to death out at Wallerawang Church, even although Janet had trotted out the thermals for me to wear. After I put them on,  I stood there, all resplendent in white from ankle to neck, admiring myself in the mirror, and had a mental picture of film producers lining up at the door, offering large amounts of money, urging me to sign on the  dotted line. After a  minute however, I desisted and put on the rest of the garments, feeling a little ashamed of my sinful pride. I mean, who am I, to do Moby out of a job? Anyway, he’s a better swimmer than I am.

It was later that very day that we took Heather to the station to return home. We felt quite sad about that, but of course duty calls.

I can’t let this entry pass without reporting that another contender for Moby’s crown was seen off the Qld coast yesterday – a genuine white whale, called Migaloo, and was seen on TV this morning.

We white whales are a bit unusual it seems…

Until next time.