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West of Warren

Warren is west, can’t tell you exactly where, I can’t remember. I think I am excused, only went once, only stayed a week and it was the 80’s.

“You can make a shitload of money on the cotton” he said, not a mate of Wayne’s just someone my new lover knew from something or other. I can’t remember his name or his girlfriend’s. The two of them, however, became our travel companions. That is – they travelled in some kind of four-wheel-drive comfort while we happily bobbed along in Wayne’s no-frills but loyal blue van. We had absolutely nothing in common with them but the guy had the contacts so it was practical for us. We needed money.

We left Byron Bay early after packing and repacking the van with everything from wok to guitar. We headed west on the narrow Oxley Hway and by sundown finally staggered into Dulcies’ cotton farm office, come depot. I think her name was Dulcie. Our names were made up on the spot together with tax file numbers. We both wanted to do the right thing and pay tax but I lacked a working visa at the time and Wayne was on the dole. In the 80’s in the Great Southland, you could make things up as you went and get away with it. If Dulcie suspected foul play she apparently felt to play along.

We found a house to rent that same afternoon and I am pretty sure Dulcie had a hand in that pie. Dulcie may well have had her hand in all pies of Warren at that time. Dulcie is most likely long gone, dear intimidating Dulcie a blokey woman in checkered shirt and work boots who possibly chewed tobacco and most assuredly liked beer, a lot.

We were told the truck would pick us up 5am next morning. It was pitch black and we were both half asleep as we pulled on shorts, singlets, socks and sneakers. Hat was a must of course; a hat with the legendary corks hanging of strings along the brim would have been brilliant. The truck beeped and I followed Wayne out. On the back of the ute, a bunch of strangers hobbled together. Wayne jumped up before helping me who managed with less fluency. It felt as if everyone stared at me. A long legged blonde who’s ‘Hello’ made it clear to everyone that she was from another hemisphere or a different universe all together.

Wayne seemed at home within a couple of minutes chatting away with everyone. I felt extremely uncomfortable after my first awkward ‘Hello’, had no idea what to say next and had no idea what any one else was saying. My English in school was excellent but as I had learned since landing down under, my Australian was not. I had travelled a little along the east coast and had accepted jokes and platitudes forever flying high above my head. However I could hold conversations, understand and be understood. Here in Warren it was all too hard. It was broad and slow but fast at the same time. I gave up and just smiled and stared out over the landscape.

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Our allocated job description was to walk mile after mile on cotton fields without end, chipping tiny, new to the world, weeds. In the morning it was always a chill in the air and quite pleasant after you got your body warmed up working. By 10 it was hot and flies filled the air. That’s when you wished for the hat with corks on strings. The flies were relentless in their landing attempts in ears and nostrils or the favoured destination inside your mouth. It was hard hours with only one 20min break – hot sandwiches with lukewarm water under a scorching sun, relentless bantering and me the awkward blonde chic.

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With my Swedish work ethics I spent every day chipping away on my own since I couldn’t get the lingo or the jokes and was myself totally weird to the Warrenites.

Wayne, I didn’t see that much of. He fitted right in as per usual. He hung with the locals clustered around, being the star of the month, the exciting, handsome surfer from Byron with the gift of the gab and plenty of jokes up his sleeve.

After a week of hard yakka and feeling like a total outsider – with our first meager pay in my blistering hands – Wayne thought we should move on to something different all together. I was happy too keep living on a shoestring so we packed the van straight away and left Warren for a little place called Alectown which is another story.

Footnote: Since I wrote this memory down I have of course done a search online.

Warren is a town of rich pastures by Macquarie River, on Oxley Highway, 525k’s north west of Sydney. It had a population of around 1500 people in 2011. The area was occupied by Ngiyambaa tribe before the white settlers arrived in the early 1800’s. Warren station was established in 1845 and the town started taking off in the 1860’s with first a postoffice, then a shop, later a school and finally a railway at the end of that century. There are some buildings from that era still standing in town. The heritage listed, Macquarie marshes just north of Warren with a size of nearly 20,000 hectares is home to some 227 bird species including pelicans and in season 1000’s of galahs. Warren is the wool and cotton capital of NSW.

Two souls lost to me

I told my mum that our new pup was named Elsy and I could hear her cackle in my ear far away in Sweden land. One of her friends was an Elsie so it was just too human for her. As it turned out Elsy in fact thought she was human and had very little time for the canine peers we tried to introduce her to. Friends of mine would come to visit and bring their dogs. Elsy would patiently let the intruder sniff her most private parts, dutifully reciprocate and then spend the rest of the time with us two legged lot. Any friend or love interest from the visiting dog produced mainly bored looks and deep sighs. She would give me these accusing eyes of “how long do I have to put up with this one?”

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When Elsy and Anita finally met at the next must-visit-grand-kids-in-Australia trip, Elsy won my mum’s heart at first lick. Elsy and Momo (the grandma title, courtesy first born grand child)  favoured our verandah during hot summer days where they could enjoy ocean views and often a breeze.  Momo would sit on the hard chair (better for the back)  with her cigarettes while Elsy was conked out flat on the side panting and wishing she was back down the beach jumping in the cooling waves. The grand mother would draw in the nicotine and talk to the dog who would flip her ears and sometimes talk back. I think it was nice for my mum to just relax and speak swedish knowing that Elsy would understand. Being surrounded with english was tiresome for a Swedish Momo.

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My mum loved dogs. Growing up there was always a dog-sibling or two in our family. My mum loved Elsy and back in Sweden on the phone to me I would have to put Elsy on so they could have a little chat. That meant my mum chatting away and Elsy turning her head this way and that way.

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This week it was 5 years ago since my beloved Elsy fell asleep in my arms and 2 years ago my dear mum passed away with only my youngest sister to keep her company. I miss my mum (Mor as we called her in Swedish) and I still miss my Elsy who had the softest ears. Mans’ best friend is indeed a great mate and mum is mum. One day when I am not so busy again, I plan to have another dog. But I cannot replace my mum and even though we spoke on the phone every week, there is so much I wish I’d said. There are questions I wish I’d asked. So much to tell her that has happened in just the last two years. My mum knew me before my first breath. She was my source, my beginning. She instilled in me so much of the principles I live by. Loosing your mum leaves you with a void inside that no one else can fill – a limpid longing of what was and who you were in your mothers’ eyes.

 

There’s more I want to write about my mum about her past, her victories and her defeats but that’s for another time.

A sad backyard

When our kids were little I discovered gardening. To begin with I knew nothing of course but I learned along the way and I loved it, the digging, planning and planting and seeing the garden grow. Our first little home had a lush yard lovingly looked after. In 2000 we moved into our 2nd home, also built by us and we are still here. To begin with I had all the right intentions with the garden and spent many hours battling the clay-soil and scorching sun. I got it looking quite nice. Then I got busy with first my teddy bear artistry (another story) and then Greenroom Gallery (another story). My garden was neglected and it didn’t take long before the decay got the upper hand while my green thumb basically shriveled up and died.

blog-11-1-17-emma-vegegardenThe back corner had its’ day in the sun being a vege garden and all. Our eldest, Emma set it up for me 3 times. Here’s a pic of the very last time she did that for mum in 2012 before she gave up trying to fix my bad.

Our backyard became an eye-sore where weeds thrived and all the nice plants that needed a little tenderness died. It got to a stage where I wouldn’t even go out there anymore. Last year 2016 I went out twice and felt completely overwhelmed. While hubby got busy pulling out some weedy climbers taking over the fence, I sobbed. I know it’s pathetic but all I could feel was defeat.

Something that did grow was our Lillypillies creating a lush green barrier along the fence between us and the newly built neighbours’ house. With a height of 6m they were getting a bit out of hand and needed a little pruning. This is what we came home to after a nice weekend in Brisbane. STUMPS! That was not what we asked for. I was gutted. The Lillypillies was my only positive thing in our garden and now they were gone. It took a week to get over this and yes, the ‘pruning-guy’ is still alive but because I cannot face him.
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But here’s the thing. Once I faced up to it, walked around out there and rubbed it in, how ugly it all is – a total disaster – finally something kicked in. I got INSPIRED. I’m going to grow my green thumb and create with plants again. Feeling quite excited. I still have very little time on my hands so it’ll be a slow project but that’s ok I have decided. This year is going to be a year of gardening.

Hello 2017

Hello 2017 you’re here. Been waiting for you. So excited that you finally birthed. So young, so fresh. You make me feel optimistic. What have you got in stall for me, for us? What can you offer? How should I plan you? What’s the best way to invest in you, make you work for me? Where should my focus be? Oh, so young so promising.

But of course 2017, I’ll get to know you pretty quick. I’ll get used to you and I know you’ll be bringing both the good and the bad. You’re not gonna be that different to the other years that passed. Well, some were worse than others. Some I still have many good memories from. Some years end up holding a special place in our hearts. My favourite year no doubt is somebody else’s Nemesis. I wish that you 2017 could be a blessing to every one of us.

Now I know you’re newly arrived and all that but there’s no time to lose. 365 days may seem like a really, really long time but if you ask me, it goes pretty darn quick. You’ll mature before you know it 2017 so I’d better make some good use of you.

I wish you, the reader so many things for 2017. I wish you enough time to rejuvenate, enough time with family & friends. I wish you health & happiness, persistence & courage, a sense of purpose in your world. Here’s to the New Year – Cheers!