Homeward bound

The passing of a close family friend called me home this past week. Our family has known Eric and his family for almost forty years, having met them when our family moved to a small country town when I was about six years old. Eric was heavily involved in a variety of community activities and events, including the local football club and the billy cart derby (reincarnated in recent years as the Billycart Classic) and he was a popular, well known character throughout the area. One of my first paying jobs was washing old wine bottles for Eric’s ‘Murrumbidgee Wines’ business, the water in the barrels was always cold and up to our armpits, the smell of bleach filled our nostrils and even worse was the smell of old, wine and mould. Just when we thought that we had finished washing and rinsing bottles Eric would alert us to another pallet of bottles behind the shed.

As a teen I knew I wouldn’t stay in the one place forever, even though my childhood afforded me the freedom to explore the countryside on horseback and on foot without a care in the world. The desire to go to university took me away from home, returning for long weekends and semester breaks. There were always a few constants when returning home, my family, the starry skies, the local swimming hole and friends such as Eric, his wife and daughters. Eric’s daughters are still among my closest friends, our paths don’t always cross frequently yet when we meet it is as though we have never been apart and there is always lots of laughter when we recall our childhood and the antics of our families. Every Christmas morning we would gather in Eric’s garage and driveway for a breakfast feast to rival the best hotels, fresh summer fruits, bacon, eggs and hash browns all washed down with champagne and a dose of story telling from the night before.

At such a sad time it can be hard to remember all the good moments shared, and there were plenty. Each morning I was home I wandered an old familiar path for my morning walk and remembered the good and the funny things about Eric, and was thankful for growing up in a small country town.

Rest in peace Eric, thank you for the wonderful memories and for giving me two beautiful friends x

Taking a break in rural Australia

Recently I spent a few days with my folks in the small country town of Beechwood, located inland on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is a town surrounded by rolling hills, forests and bush tracks, cows and horses are a common sight as are wandering dogs and 4WDs, as a child many of my friends came from families living on dairy farms or they had brothers and fathers working at timber mills, but that is no more. Beechwood has become popular with young families and ‘city folk’ desiring a tree change, they move out into the country where a sense of community still exists and real estate is much cheaper. Once upon a time I knew everyone and they knew me, but that too has changed.

My time in Beechwood was husband and black dog free, the year has been an exhausting one, mentally and physically and I needed a break somewhere quiet, familiar and without any pressure to do anything. It is the perfect place for me to have a break, I always sleep soundly and eat well, plus there is always something comforting about being at home with my parents. Wherever I look there is nature, clear and sparkling night skies, elegant and tall gum trees, laughing kookaburras and wallabies dining on new green grass, of a morning I stalk birds in the yard and in the afternoon I wander through the paddocks enjoying the warmth of the sun.

I didn’t stray far when it came to taking photos of this place that I love, that would have required more energy than I wished to expend and I was happy sticking close to home. The horses were curious when they saw me approach, once they realised that there were no carrots or treats in my hands they turned their back on me and pretended that I didn’t exist, one of them didn’t even both to lift his head from eating, obviously the grass was too sweet and delicious to pay attention to the camera toting human. Wallabies and Kangaroos show up when there is less light, they feed at dawn and dusk so I was thrilled to make it out of bed early enough one morning to catch them enjoying the fresh pick in the back paddock. Farmers and those who live in the country consider Wallabies and Kangaroos to be pests, they destroy fences, eat all the grass and create havoc on roads in low light, but I love seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.

It was an enjoyable break in the country, I returned home feeling a little refreshed, it would have been wonderful to stay longer and experience total rejuvenation, maybe next time…