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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.


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Some Happenings in the Hoose o’ Ness

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.

Here's looking at you kid..
Here’s looking at you kid..

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.

Jock loves the country air
Jock loves the country air










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.


View across the valley from the manse
View across the valley from the manse