Home is where the heart is

Journal: 051

Sunset country

Sunday. Here I am home, so no excuses for not keeping up with your posts, for a week or so anyway. I actually got to the outskirts of Perth last night, but it takes a few hours to run two trailers down to the yard, go back, get the other one, get the ute going, unpack my gear from the truck, and my body seems to prefer Victorian time to WA time, which just makes it all another two hours later, and I was already looking at midnight, so I pulled over, slept one more night in the truck and did it all this morning then wandered over to Milly’s, too late for pancakes but there’s always toast.

She of course wanted to go shopping, so I went home and got cleaned up. We both need new stovetops, mine’s not working at all, Lou making do with the oven and an electric frypan. I think we found what I want. I did the regulation traipsing while she looked at stuff she might want, then diverted her to a local Greek for an excellent lunch – saganaki, honey, walnuts how do I moan in text – (we did eat other stuff as well) and a bottle of white. I’m not properly home till I have that first bottle. I was feeling so mellow I drove half an hour to a native garden centre and helped her spend a couple of hundred hard-earned.

That’s boring I know. Stuff you do all the time. Well all the time there’s not a deadly virus raging through your community. But I spend days and weeks on my own (willingly!), on zero blood alcohol, and boring days doing stuff with Millie, the kids, the grandkids is what I look forward to. And sitting at the computer writing, reading. It might take me a day to talk myself out and after that I’m back to solitary stuff.

The other side of ‘home’ is that this trip, for the first time, I road trained through home territory, Victoria, where I grew up, the last mainland state to hold out. Going over, I dipped a toe in the water and crossed the northern tip, to Mildura, but coming back I went the whole hog, assembled the road train at Charlton north of Bendigo (map), ran straight up the highway through Berriwillock and Sea Lake where mum went to school, and her parents before her, and a cousin still farms, then Ouyen, Underbool, Murrayville, all tiny farming towns where a brother was born, dad taught, I went to school, Sunset country, Mallee country. Home.

My uncle Les, mum’s youngest brother (and father of the cousin who still farms there) ran trucks from the family farm between Berriwillock and Sea Lake, bought his first when he was 20 and I was 16, set me on the path I still follow. He married a year or so later, telling me that if I washed his stock crate I could come to the wedding. I did but Grandma vetoed me. If I came, all the cousins would have to come and there were too many. I’d been at my other uncle’s wedding a few years earlier aged 10 maybe, one of only four or five weddings I’ve been to in my whole life, though for my youngest aunty’s I was stuck in the car with my brothers, outside the church hall, fed sausage rolls through the car window by the ladies of the church auxiliary.

les's truck aaco

Les started off carting sheep. My first job as an owner driver was carting cattle. I ran into him a few times at Newmarket, the Melbourne saleyards across the road from Flemington, posh terrace housing now. I remember telling him one time I’d broken down and he was too busy to stop and help. He took over the family farm and we loss contact except at big family get-togethers but in later years I think his older daughter was happy to take over the tractor work and he ran a few trucks, trading and carting grain. It’s a while now since he died in an accident, but I think of him each time I run up that way, he could have hooked up a couple of trailers behind his biggest Mack and road trained right out the farm gate, and I’m sure he would have.

I should think of dad, too, though he was a very reluctant truck driver. Either the summer before he married mum, or the summer after, Granddad made him get his truck licence so he could take the old ex-army International 7 tonner, rocking and groaning with ten ton of wheat over the dirt roads to the Boigbeat silo, a few miles up the line from Berriwillock where coincidentally I took the ‘sunset’ photo above.

 

Recent audiobooks 

Loren Estleman (F, USA), The Sundown Speech (2016) – Crime
Paolo Bacigalupi (M, USA), Pump Six and other stories (2008) – SF
Erica Wright (F, USA), The Granite Moth (2015) – Crime
Elizabeth Aston (F, Eng), Miss Althea Darcy (2004) – Romance
Dan Simmons (M, USA), Endymion (1996) – SF
Dave Barry (M, USA), Tricky Business (2002) – Crime
Kirstin Chen (F, Sing/USA), Soy Sauce for Beginners (2013)
Will Wiles (M, Eng), Care of Wooden Floors (2012)
Lee Child (M, Eng), The Midnight Line (2017) – Crime

Currently reading

Patrick White, The Cockatoos
Martin Boyd, The Cardboard Crown
Christine Merrill, Regency Liasons. Milly’s working a few days a week at a Red Cross shop and brought this home so of course I started it while she was cooking tea and will finish it before I do anything else. Like choose a book for ANZLL’s Indigenous Literature Week (July 5-12, 2020) for instance.


“Home is where the heart is”. Proverb. Origin uncertain.

24 thoughts on “Home is where the heart is

  1. Each week at French we do ‘Quoi de Neuf’ which means ‘what’s new?’
    Usually this means a bit of chat about someone going to a restaurant, or the pictures, or a family party. Sometimes it’s news about forthcoming holidays or a family gathering like a wedding.
    But right now, it’s really ordinary. My big news this week was getting a hair cut. Others told us about a wedding and a holiday being called off. We have to work hard at having something to say…

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      • Je ne sais pas!
        ***
        (Google Translate)
        Le camion est descendu la rampe.
        ***
        But I suspect that Google Translate isn’t allowing for variations in the world of trucking. When I was learning Indonesian the word they have for ‘truck’ meant a van, because that’s what they have, given the state of the roads: narrow, winding, potholed, used by people with scant regard for road rules, but hardly anyone speeding because of the state of the roads. They didn’t have a word that meant semi-trailer, or road train, or big thing that takes up the whole road and you’d better get out of its way. And, when I tried to explain the need for these things, given Australia’s vast distances, there was blank incomprehension.
        I don’t remember ever seeing a semi-trailer in France, but then, we don’t drive there, we go everywhere by intercity train because their TGVs are so wonderful:)

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      • Thank you. I of course see trucks everywhere, as you may remember from my Facebook photos of France and Greece. Including a spectacular shot of an American Peterbuilt coming towards our bus in the Pyrenees. Talk about “big thing that takes up the whole road and you’d better get out of its way”. The lady bus driver was also a fan and was happy to pull over and watch it pass and then to admire photos of my own huge American (Mack) truck.

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  2. I always have such strong visual images when I read your writing Bill – something in your pace matches what my mind turns to. And the bit about being fed sausage rolls in the car? I loved it. I can see it. No, better than that, I can FEEL it.

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    • You warm the cockles of my writerly heart. Mum is bemused by the things I remember of my childhood, but I think she is a bit apologetic about us boys sitting for hours in the back seat of the car out outside the little weatherboard Berriwillock Cof E hall.

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  3. I really enjoy hearing about your trips across the country and seeing what books you listen to. I just finished 37 hours of the Diary of Samuel Pepys, more conducive to trying to get to sleep than driving across country. Really enjoyed it. I think I would have enjoyed sausage rolls through the car window as opposed to listening to someone carry on a wedding service but makes for great memory tales.

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    • I sat through 18 years of church services so I suppose one more wouldn’t have hurt, and for some reason I always enjoyed going to that little weatherboard church with granddad in his hat and grandma in a floral frock and 50 or so people singing. But yes, sausage rolls would have been better – they were in fact the food group I most regretted giving up when I turned vego.

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      • I *think* Compass next week is going to do Whatever happened to Sunday School. I hope to watch it because, like many of our generation I think, I have vivid memories of Sunday School and church up to the age of 17 or so.

        Anyhow, loved this story, as usual. Loved the map too … maybe with all the reduction of overseas travel at the moment I really will get to do that Mallee trip. We also plan to come to WA (sooner rather than later, we’d like) to see Neil (who, though you wouldn’t know it, is in fact Mr Gums’ old friend from school/uni days back here) and, hopefully, see you (since you don’t seem to visit me!!) and an old school friend of mine (from Mt Isa days). And, of course, now there’s kimbofo too!

        I also enjoyed the story about your being fed sausage rolls by the Ladies Auxiliary, and about doing the boring things with family. They are the stuff of life – something, you won’t be surprised to hear, I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

        I do like the fact that you’re not home until you’ve had that glass (or so) of wine.

        What did Milly buy at the native garden centre?

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      • Milly bought lots of little green sticky (stick-like) things with leaves or flowers. How would I know, I just carry them to the car. For Gee’s garden as it turned out, her own being a) full and b) in the process of being converted to food production. I may have purchased some small flowery, shrubby things to go between her fence and the footpath.

        I have on hold for you a tour of the original gold-rush era Bendigo library domed reading room by my librarian cousin so hurry up before she retires. And of course then you’ll be just up the road from Michelle so maybe you can meet in one of the lovely cafe towns in between, Maldon or Malmsbury (Tasma country) maybe. But, yes, please do come to Perth. Wildflowers start in 2-3 months.

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  4. Not boring at all, shopping, eating and time with the family make up the bulk of life for most normal people. Despite the impression interviewees in magazines/tv chat shows like to give, most of us are not running marathons, saving the planet, inventing a completely different way of doing XYZ every day.

    I bet that first glass of wine after a zero alcohol stint, is precious.

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    • Some drivers have a can or two after they shut the truck down for the night. I’m not that keen but I’m definitely hanging for a drink after a week or two on the road. Likewise being on my own for that length of time makes me appreciate what I’m missing. My education gave me other options when the kids were school age and I feel sorry for young drivers who don’t have any other way of earning a good pay.

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  5. Is there something about Australians that makes people not invite each other to them? Eight your whole life? That’s foreign to me. In the U.S., if you’re not having a super-duper fancy wedding, you invite as many people as the building holds so you have party-hearty. I do love the image of you and the siblings in the car being given food through the window. I’m not sure why that’s a cute image to me because basically the adults crated you kids like the family dogs. Not saying my people didn’t do similar things. Maybe that’s why my heart warmed? It’s so familiar?

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    • I don’t suppose it’s an Australian thing, we like weddings as much as the next people. I guess partly it’s me, partly moving round a lot, a boomer thing – all that living in sin, only one of my kids getting married …
      It was really common for kids to be left in the car, we didn’t die, 2 guys I know are lifelong friends because their fathers left them in adjacent cars outside the pub.

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      • Man, your non-married kids need more reasons to throw parties. I know Millennials like to make up reasons to have parties. I have been to some of the weirdest get togethers.

        Okay, that story of the lifelong friends is now fodder in my brain for a story. That is, I’m stealing it if I ever get motivated 😀

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      • I look forward to your story. As for parties, I was going to go all defensive, “I go to parties”, but in fact I may have been to fewer parties than weddings. On the other hand I am not complaining about family feasts, picnics, kids birthdays, and eating out a lot. I do ok.

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  6. I love your stories of the weddings and of your family and all the trucking and driving – such an alien experience to me although I do have a friend whose son finally settled down to truck driving and is doing really well at it. Book is on its way to you by the way, though it went surface so is probably bobbing across the sea in a rowing boat as we speak …

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    • Do you remember the series Butterflies are Free? The boys in that became improbable long distance lorry drivers. They were running somewhere to the north I think, but I would love to have done one of those amazing 1970s routes like London – Kabul. Strangely, even when Australian truck drivers were routinely working in the US, I never considered driving there or in Europe.

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  7. I do so enjoy your driving and childhood stories Bill. Loved seeing the old cars in the old photo too – made me think of my Pop and uncles and family weddings. For me it was the older cousins (my mum was all but youngest in her large family – knitting booties for her nieces and nephews from the age of 13). My sisters and I got to be flower girls for a number of them – wearing crocheted dresses with flowers in our hair – very 70’s!

    And for once, I was familiar with your latest drive. Our night in Ouyen and driving through Mallee country was lovely and unexpected, as we raced back to NSW before Covid shut downs came into force at the end of March. I still cant believe we didn’t stop to check out the giant mallee root. There was something painted white in the middle of a round about, but I don’t think that could have been it.

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    • I’m rather bemused that people seem to like my stories, but I’m happy to write them, so I guess there’ll be more. I put that photo of Les’s truck on a truck site years ago and most of the comments were about the cars, they’re such a great reminder of past times. A great reminder for me – the photo was taken from near Grandma’s back door, next to the outside copper where all the hard washing was done. And if the truck wasn’t in the way, looking across the channel to the shearing shed, stables, and machinery shed.

      I looked up your giant mallee root, it’s in a park in Ouyen so I haven’t seen it either. Apparently there’s a similarly sized one at Tooleybuc.

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      • A good enough excuse for a return trip I feel! We were too busy taking photos of the Murray in Tooleybuc to watch out for mallee roots. Mr Books is an Albury boy & found himself all sentimental & nostalgic suddenly finding himself in the banks of his childhood river.

        My nan used a copper boiler until sometime in the early 70’s. I loved using the wringer between the two rinsing tubs.

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  8. Like you, I enjoy all that “boring’ stuff too. But unlike you, I don’t have a reason to miss it, so maybe that does actually make me boring. LOL Your talk of Australia from the perspective of the road brings it alive in a different way for me and that’s interesting. I also like to contrast your on-the-road “reading” with your “at-home” reading. For me, those two categories are my “while-doing-chores-reading” and “all-the-other-reading”, and my audio options are a strange mix too.

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    • I certainly can’t sit still for very long, so boring, and specifically, not driving, soon gets me down. Not a good recipe for marriage, wanting a home life and needing to be away!
      I listen to a lot of stuff I wouldn’t waste my time reading. Probably television does that for other people. But I also appreciate the opportunity to listen to long classics.

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