Posts Tagged ‘grandfather’


I’m moving sometime soon[1]. Into a smaller house. Which means I have to, and want to, get rid of my married SCA woman’s’ worth of stuff, since this single and not playing SCA so much at the moment girlie doesn’t need it[2]. I have a need to be leaner and meaner, at least in terms of my possessions. Less with the mean towards the people around me.

Anyway, I digress. As usual.

Last night I opened a box that hasn’t been touched since I moved into this house over 2 years ago, expecting to find old course notes and bills to be sorted and recycled as appropriate. I was wrong. What I found was my store of letters and diaries from my exchange year to Thailand and the year just before and after.

That was emotional, and astounding.

I wasn’t going to read any of them, but on the top was a letter from my Pop and his partner May, a woman who became my 3rd grandmother (I was blessed I had 5 grandparents). They have both passed away. I read the letter with a sense of love and joy at still being able to hear them, even though they’re not here anymore, but also with tears in my eyes since I still miss them.

At the time of writing May had severe tunnel vision and mobility issues and yet the letter is well written and speaks of a woman who is aware of her limits, but is going to push them and live a full life. A woman who still had joy and hope and interest in the world around her. She was a remarkable woman, spent her life volunteering for the Red Cross, and was one of the first people into Darwin after Cyclone Tracey. She was alert and engaged her entire life, despite the strokes that affected her physically. Always a joy to spend time with, generous and quick-witted, always making us laugh. One holiday when I was 13 or so, and spending a lot of time with a boy who happened to be holidaying near us she had one question for me: “Did you find out how much money he has??” as a less embarrassing way of saying, “are you having fun? He seems like a nice chap” to her granddaughter. I still have some books she gave me, the necklace she gave me one birthday is still one of my favourite pieces and gets frequently worn, and the ring that she gave me before she died is a treasured object and became a replacement ring a year ago when my left hand felt empty.

My Pop was an educated, cultured, intelligent “bush” man. He grew up in Cobar, loved poetry and singing Gilbert & Sullivan (he had an excellent bass voice), loved history and random aphorisms. He had an excellent copperplate hand, and a fantastic turn of phrase, both of which I remembered while reading the letter last night. At the end of the letter he gave me a few words of advice (which I might type into here later tonight) and then described some headstones he’d discovered in the local cemetery. This letter reminded me of the Pop I loved, not the mentally ill, paranoid, worn out man he became in his later years. The man who was 6ft something tall, had piercing blue eyes, and a girth such that I could only just put my arms around him to hug him, was loud in voice, never on time, had a love of gardening and making up stories for small children to explain the world around them. Despite appeareances and my family’s received wisdom (we were told he didn’t know how to deal with kids, but I suspect that was my father’s experience of his childhood coming through) you could tell that his family was important to him, there were always photos of us all around the house and stories of any time he spent with the other branches of the family.

The other items I picked up were journal entries from me age 15, 18, and 20. It’s strange to read back at the various thoughts and experiences and to see what has changed, what has been a theme the entire time and what I was completely innocent and clueless about.

I’m going to have to put those letters somewhere more obvious and have a read sometime soon. There’s lots to remember and re-connect with.

[1]yes, I know where, Camperdown, and with who, a friend and former work colleague. No, I don’t have a date yet, it’s looking like election day though.
[2]I’ve started a box of things that are useful/working but I won’t want. My current flatmate has first dibs, but if you want to be in on the re-use list then let me know.

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I was reading the paper this morning, and came across the article about drenching rain in western NSW and across Victoria. Hooray! While reading the article I had something tickling the back of my brain and I finally realised what it was. My parents are currently travelling outback South Australia and NSW, of course it’s raining!

During my childhood we spent every Easter holiday and some winter holidays driving through western NSW and NE South Australia. I’ve been to Tibooburra more times than most people (which incidentally had the highest recorded rainfall yesterday, 44 mill. In a place where the kids are sent home from school if it rains) I’ve jumped across all the states at Cameron’s Corner, I’ve mined for rose gypsum on a sheep farm past Broken Hill and I’ve had a semi-tame wedge tail eagle land on my back and give me some serious scratches. I’ve travelled the Oodnadatta track and the Birdsville track, stayed underground at Coober Pedy and almost been bogged in Lake Ayre. I’ve seen more miles of red sand than anyone ever should, and when my department recently insituted a photo based screensaver of some of the work we do, including shots of various national parks I was able to say “been there” to most of them.

The thing we never managed to achieve in all of these trips was to make it to Cooper’s Crossing, where Burke and Wills died. Never. We tried many, many times. Why? Floods.

Every time we went outback it flooded. Really serious flooding.

The Nyngan floods that were up to the second storey? We almost got caught in that. We only just made it out of the town and across the bridge at West Wyalong before they closed it. I can still remember the volume of water splashing up around the car.

My grandfather was a country boy, he grew up in Cobar and lived most of his early adult life in Griffith. He was with us on the trip where Nyngan flooded. This is the grandfather that told stories of catching rabbits during the depression, who would regale us with tales of wongas, fierce creatures that hid in the bush ready to pounce on children while bushwalking unless we carried a strong walking stick with us to beat them off (he even explained the cut out piece in his ear as where some wongas had got him early in life. I later found out it was a skin cancer). He had a tale to explain the flooding. “Someone ran over the Rainbow Serpent” was his explanation, gave it a good squishing and now it was grumpy and was dumping lots of rain on us.

It was a fun explanation. I miss him and his stories.

What did the rest of us think? We just figured that every time the Taylors went outback it was going to rain. The evidence is still holding up. We stopped the outback trips around the time that the drought started in 1996ish, and only started going back in the last couple of years. It’s rained every time Mum & Dad, or my brother have gone out.

I wonder if we could sell our services as rain gods, a la Douglas Adams’ “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul“. I suppose I could do my bit, as long as we don’t have to play “spot the first spinifex” ever again.

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