Friday, March 09, 2007

Carriage F for Feral

This email came from a great friend, Tina, after visiting friends near Gunnedah, NSW. 8 hours by rail from Sydney. A perfect example of the great fun you can have with other people's children & the enjoyement of getting away from the city.

"I’m in carriage F, seat 31 (but have temporarily hijacked 45/46 as it’s near the power point for the laptop). F stands for Ferals. It’s what you get when you can’t afford ‘first class’ or better the no-discount local airline or even better your own car, let alone the 3 tanks of petrol it takes to get there and back.

The woman who sat opposite me in the original seat only seems capable of scowling at her delightful brood of four boys. They’ve all got thick streaks of blonde bands down the middle of their hair, like a pack of jackals. She told ‘Roady’ (named after Roald Dahl perhaps?) that she’d smack his face in if he woke her up again. However, the little one seemed most disconcerted when the train temporarily moved at Werris Creek to realign carriages and mum had gone out for a smoke. Every kid wants his mum it would seem. Just as I’m being incredibly pretentious one of the jackals comes and gives me my lunch – he’s helping out the man at the buffet car. I take it all back. I offer my inedible bread role to the old couple next to me (in the new position that is) and she says thank you missy!

I put Natalie Merchant’s Orphelia into gear and I float into another world. Not far enough not to notice that the man in front of me is reading his wife’s New Idea. He seems to spending an inordinate amount of time reading about Nic and Keith’s ‘secret’ hideaway. I thought you just looked at the pictures. And I thought secret meant secret. There’s obviously a lot that my university education isn’t teaching me.

The trip to the farm was a great tonic. I haven’t been there for 17 months and I really miss the open space and the kids. It was Pippy who rang to ask when I was going to visit her in the voice perfected for twisting Aunty around her little finger. Why is that I manage to resist most male pleas (actually all) and other adults’ reasonable requests but I turn to jelly when a little screamer calls me? Completely irrational. I managed to get a ride up with Sarah’s husband last Thursday but am slumming it on the way back. The Sydney cousins were up and eight kids built ‘Aunty Tina’s Kitchen’ with a banner that said ‘Aunty Tina’s Kitchen’ (maybe I’m destined to open a roadside diner?) and ovens, sinks, indeed the whole kit n’ caboodle. They had made me mud slice and mud cakes with sprinklings of charcoal for icing which were delicious. The girls are into horses these days, which consumes them when they’re not building Aunty Tina’s kitchen. I played soccer with the boys and demonstrated how pathetically unfit I am. I danced to the Best of Abba and Hits for Kids with the littlies and ate enough pikelets to last until the 2010s.

Every morning I did my pilgrimage to the top of the farm with views across the whole district and beyond. There’s something about the open space and the vast Piliga scrub behind the farm that I find compelling. At night the sky is filled with stars which you forget exist living in the city. The birds are different on the farm – there seem to be a plethora of parrot varieties in bright turquoise, reds, yellows and brilliant lime green that dart past, never giving me the chance to take a good look at them. The cattle always seem to be interested in human company and if you stand still enough a whole mob will come up and lick you (I walk on before it gets to that stage!). Fortunately they’ve received rain and the wheat crop was a reassuring emerald green."

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