We went to the local tip a couple of weeks ago.  It has the title Sunny Corner Transfer Station!!!  Sunny Corner is an area near hear and a pretty place.  The Transfer Station is not.  It is obscene and a disgrace to the Bathurst Regional Council.  We used to be able to recycle there and just put our real garbage in the two skips that are left there for that purpose.  People still try and recycle but it just doesn’t happen.  Most people go to a lot of trouble and do recycle when they can.  We met people there the other day who said the council workers just took the recycled stuff and tipped it in the skips anyway.  A great big council like the Bathurst Regional Council and they can’t even get a simple thing like recycling right.  Orange has a beautiful tip and Blayney, well, Blayney is magnificent.

The same afternoon I was going to Harden for a weekend of art.  I was so put out by Sunny Corner that I called in to the Blayney tip to put myself in a mood for art and wonderful things.

It is clean, spotless.  As you drive in there is a big sign which says ‘WE HAVE TO REDUCE LANDFILL SO WE RECYCLE EVERYTHING WE POSSIBLY CAN’ or words to that effect.  We have always loved the Blayney tip.  It is amazing, uplifting.  Half our house has been built from things we have bought from there.  They would ring us and say “We have some doors here out of the Bowling Club, do you want to have a look?”  Of course we had a look and probably bought them.  I can’t remember the details now.  

Our house has so much that is recycled in it that I can’t always remember where it came from.  We have a beautiful corner window which came from the Bathurst Courthouse.  It was a computer cabinet in the foyer.  The Registrar at the time came down to our office and said “Anybody interested in that old computer cabinet, we’re getting rid of it?”  I had a look and there were two lovely pieces of plate glass which are cut differently.  When we got it we didn’t know where to put it but it fell into place, so to speak, in the corner of the loungeroom.  We have four lovely sash windows which came from the Recycling Business which used to exist in Rankin Street.  They would often ring up and say “We have this or that.  We don’t know anyone else who would want it but you might want it”.  We have a beautiful red cast iron washing up double sink.  It is gorgeous.  We have a whole lot of pavers with ‘electric’ stamped diagonally across them.  They are always a talking point.  They are good pavers and of course we have the ‘electric’  side facing up.  What else would you do?  The Recyclers rang us up about those also.

A court officer in Dubbo was building his place and had an insurance job with some double glazed windows which are the only windows on our southern side.  There were a couple of doors also, with lovely panels in them which also go well in our house.  He happily gave them all to us along with some tiles and stuff like that.  We have had a wonderful time and people are so generous once they know you are building a house.  They give you all their leftovers. Nothing like leftovers.  They always taste better.

We even have a spare saint!!!  We have a friend who is a glass artist and she had done a couple of saints for a job in Sydney but found that they had given her the wrong measurements.  She said “Do you want a spare saint?”  Did we ever.  He is beautiful and is in our eastern wall.  Maksymilian Kolbe.  Mother was in the Maksymilian Kolbe wing of the nursing home she was in in Newcastle for the last year of her life.

Shopping at the Blayey Tip is a pleasure (not that I wanted anything this time), but I had a look around.  It is immaculate, well set out, plenty of room and I met an old friend there as well.  If we realised we were going to meet we could have brought coffee and cake and made a day of it.  She told me that a couple of weeks before they had had a group of people come in just to walk around and see how well it is run.  They might have brought their coffee and cake as well.

I drove away in a lighter mood and as I was driving through Mandurama I noticed there was a garage sale happening in the garden of the house where my grandmother lived for fifty years and where I spent quite a bit of the first eight years of my life.  I stopped and the lady who owned the house came out.  I told her who I was and she told me that she had lived there for fifty years as well.  Imagine that?  The house wasn’t new when Nanny moved in so it is well over a hundred years old.  It looks it now.  The lady was kind enough to show me through and it is strange to go through a place when you are seventy-four that you haven’t lived in since you were eight.

The scullery and back part were taken down years before and a sewered toilet was there.  She was surprised when I told her there used to be a pan toilet down on the fence at the back of the yard (which used to be so far away) right next to the old slab stables that filled the back fence from the toilet to the western boundary.  There had been a middle fence also but the yard looked too small to have had that now.  There had been a house and sheds, slab sheds, next door also and another house on the other side of that house.  Now these two blocks are all owned by this one lady and they are mowed and neat.  I don’t remember any lawn when I lived there.

How could that huge kitchen look so small.  The old cupboards are gone and different ones put in their place.  The old white fireplace with the big black fountain hanging from the chimney is gone and the fuel stove which was beside it.  The top of the stove was black and had to be brushed over with Black-it every day and in the winter the fireplace had to be whitewashed with a red raddled little hearth in front of the two of them.  White wash was made with lime and the red raddle was the same consistency but with a deep red ochre in it.

The dining room was smaller than I remembered also, with the fireplace on the northern wall w hichbacked onto the open fireplace which was the southern wall of the loungeroom with the chimneys joined.  The dining room fireplace had a black grate in it which isn’t there now but the same old cupboard is in the corner from the fireplace to the western wall.   That cupboard was old when I remember it and it still looks just the same, sort of skewiff and ricketty.  The same window is in that western wall and when I lived there it had a black blind, sort of soft, with the black stuff coming off it as you rolled it up and down.  When it was up it had a peg stuck in it to keep it there.  I suppose it was black from when they had to keep all light hidden from windows during the war.

Nanny and I used to sit on each side of the fireplace and probably listen to the wireless.  I remember sitting back and looking at a print of horses and hounds chasing a fox somwehter in England.  The riders wore red.  There was a little brass set of three monkeys on the mantle.  See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.  I now have one of these but there are four monkeys with the fourth one sitting with his hand over his crotch, saying Do no evil!!!  There were a lot of other things on the mantle as well and you would think they would be imprinted on my brain  but not so.  I don’t remember what was there now.

One night a week we would clean the silver.  All the cutlery came out and any other silver things around, loke teapots, sugar basins, all those little things.  Can you imagine anyone doing that now?  We had some sort of paste that we used to rub on everything and then buff off.  The tynes of the forks always had special attention.  Eggs in particular make them go black and Nanny had her own hens so I suppose eggs were always on the menu.

There used to be a photo of Dad in his army uniform on the wall and various other photos as well.  Could also have been one of Mother reclining on the bank of the creek.  She was beautiful.

I could see into the middle bedroom which has carpet on the floor these days.  The rooms were all tiny, the front verandah closed in.  Why would you do that, it is so small.  The front step is still there, from the loungeroom to the verandah.  It also had to be painted with Black-it every morning.  It was disgraceful not to have your front step black and shiny.

I feel I have said all this before and I probably have.  The trouble with old people is that they repeat themselves ad nauseum.  You’ll have to put up with it or turn off.  I just can’t remember if I wrote it on the computer or just in my head.  There’s always something tapping away in my head writing things.

I want a piece of the beautiful little pink rose which used to climb over the back part of the house and the lady told me to come back in winter and get a cutting.  I will do that.  Anyone wants a piece, just yell out.  It is climbing all over the front fence now and has to be kept in check.  It probably originally came out from England or Scotland.

I drove on that afternoon in a much lighter frame of mind.  I had seen the Blayney tip and had looked through my grandmother’s old house.  It was lovely.  Driving on I thought about her and how strong she had been, what a lady.

My grandmother was the most honest person I have ever met.  Her children would tell you that.  The family was very poor as were most families at the beginning of the last century.  My mother was the fourth child of eleven and she was born in 1910 and was the last to be born at Junction Reefs where my grandfather worked in the gold mine.  At the time they lived in a corrugated iron house with a dirt floor.

Once Joy took me riding across through Junction Reefs to “Spring Dell” where we happened to be residing.  At the time I had no idea my mother was born there or that Nanny and Poppy had lived there.  I remember seeing two rusty old corrugated iron houses without knowing that one of them could have belonged to my grandparents.  They were quaint - to my eight or nine year old eyes - with roses growing over the front along with other vines and various flowers running wild in the front yards.  Apparently there were quite a few houses there when the mine was working so I have heard and I seem to remember one of my aunts saying that the house in which my grandparents lived was not near others (there was plenty of room out there) and was up on a slight incline.  After the birth of my mother the young family moved into Mandurama into a fairly substantial weatherboard house with three bedrooms, a lounge (known as the front room) which had an open fireplace, dining room, also with an open fireplace, huge kitchen with a wood stove and another open fireplace and a rather large skullery which is where you bathed and the washing was done.  This skillion sort of large skullery was almost entirely covered with a climbing rose massed with tiny pale pink flowers tumbling down in profusion and fighting for supremacy with a grape vine which poked its head through any smalll gap.  Rose scented perfume hung in the air in summer and was wafted all through the house and the hum of bees was the only sound.  Thirty years after they moved there I had a cubby out near the back door to the skullery where I played for hours with a black cocker spaniel called Shultz.  The War was on.

My aunts have told me various stories about Nanny’s honesty and generosity, about how she wouldn’t accept child endowment, even after eleven children, becase she and Poppy both believed that they had had the children and it was up to them to look after them and there might be people with less money than they had who needed it more, about the man and his two sons who were camped under the bridge over the creek one Christmas Day during the depression and Poppy came home to ask her if they could come up and have Christmas Dinner with them, whether there would be enough to go round.  Food could always be stretched to include a few more at times like that even though Mother and some of the aunts have told me that in those times there were more dinnertimes than dinners.  The three boys in our family opened their presents which would only have consisted of some much needed underwear and socks and maybe a few marbles and gave these two boys a couple of marbles each.  The girls didn’t have to share.  They, too, would only have had undies and little white socks each.  Aunty Pat tells the story well and said that Nanny made sure the two boys had a threepence in each piece of their Christmas pudding even though theepences were hard to come by and harder still to give away.

Aunty Pat also tells the story of Mother finding a ten shilling note on the ground on the way home from school one day, of her flying home with wings on her feet to Nanny so that they could probably have honey on their bread that night and being sent back with the money to give to the headmaster in case someone asked if it had been handed in.  

The funny thing was that they didn’t ever find out what happened to the money until years later when Nanny was dying and Aunty Pat, Mother, Garky (a nickname) and Aunty Glad were nursing her at home at Aunty Pat’s place.  Aunty Glad said “Do you remember when you found that ten shilling note Floss (my Mother)?”  Mother said “Yes” and then Aunty Glad told the story of waiting for her husband to finish a game of poker in a hotel in Geurie late one night with another woman who was also waiting for her husband to finish the game of poker.  The woman said “Are you a Francis girl?”  Aunty Glad said “I was, yes.”  “Do you remember when one of you girls found a ten shilling note on the ground?”  “Yes, that was my sister.”  Well the woman went on to tell how it was her mother who had been going to meet the train to pick up a C.O.D. parcel when she lost the money.  She was frantic as the parcel contained medicine sent from a Chemist for her husband.  She asked the headmaster on the offchance that someone had handed it in even though she didn’t have much hope in that department and was overjoyed when he handed her the money.  The headmaster cried, along with her, for the honesty. 

Aunty Pat also tells the story, not about honesty but about how hard times were when Nanny’s landlady called one day to collect the rent and told her that the rent would be going up as from the next Monday from eight shillings to nine shillings and Nanny being worried sick as to where the extra shilling a week would come from.

Now we have so much.  Probably every generation thinks it so, but I think we have lived in the best times.