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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.