This patio has been the centre of our family life for ten or twelve years. And now Milly’s moving! Not to a retirement village thank goodness. Rather, she’s bought a two bedroom ground floor flat in E. Perth, on the edge of the city, where she can walk to work, has sisters living nearby, plenty of parks, including along the Swan River, to walk the dog, and I’m just over the river and a kilometre or two upstream, with a bike path all the way.
Now it’s pack up the books, pack up the china, sort everything else into piles of keepers and chuckers, patch and paint the interior walls. The table in the foreground, 7 feet square and solid oregon, is from my last house (from my last marriage). Can I persuade Gee to make an indoor/outdoor area around it on her new seachange property?
We’ve both had the last few days off, but every time we think we can settle down to a solid day’s work, this grandchild or that, and sometimes multiples of them, have to be run after. Tonight, as I write, yesterday, as you read, ms 10 and mr 11 are staying over. In the morning I will go over (will have gone over, insert tenses to suit), cook them pancakes, palm them off to Gee, their mother and settle down to painting the sunroom walls and ceiling. I hope.
Milly’s done a bit of moving; was born in Kalgoorlie, grew up in the State Housing suburbs south of Fremantle, innumerable post-war jerry-built fibro houses on quarter acre (1,000 sq m) blocks of dirty white sand and patches of yellow grass; moved at 14 or 15 on the death of her father to Rivervale, another State Housing suburb on the edge of the city, where I live now, in an apartment block between the river and the Great Eastern Hwy, as all the old blocks south of the highway are snapped up as they become available, for sub-division (sub-sub-sub-division) and high density housing.
When I met her, I was mostly driving out of Adelaide, to Sydney, but I’d been given her sister’s address – a unit in Rivervale, one of the early ‘duplexes’, down the street from her mother – for “if I was ever in Perth”; and at the end of 1977 I was, drove my truck straight down her street from the highway; Milly answered the door.
By then she was a single mum; had worked all round Australia; came home to have the baby, Psyche; was living with her older sister and a mob of girls, or so it seemed – more sisters, friends, drop-ins from the suburb who had always treated Mavis’s, Milly’s mum’s, as their local hang-out. I was invited to stay, and did. By the following May we were a couple; and by the end of five years we had two more kids and had lived in six houses – Maylands, Karawarra, Northbridge, E. Vic Park – all within a few kilometers of the city.
The next move was a doozy. An old boss offered me a management job in Melbourne; we put our two cars and bits and pieces on my mate Kevin’s truck and crossed the country, me and Psyche (then 6) sharing the driving with Kevin; Milly and the two infants flying.
After a time with mum and dad, and then two run down rentals – and in between getting fired and having to find a new job – we finally had enough to buy a big old weatherboard house in Blackburn, a middle class suburb in Melbourne’s leafy east. Which lasted until we broke up in the early nineties. From there we had a succession of houses each, all in Melbourne; near each other, distant from, together for another 3 years, apart again. Her mother died and Milly was able to buy another house, further out; for a while yet again we lived together, but Milly had had enough rain and mud and went home to Perth and its sun and sand and sisters.
The kids and I kept her house going for a year, made the payments, started doing it up to sell. My most recent business, a partnership in a trucking company, had failed and I was back driving, road trains to north Queensland. Milly sold up – and this was my big break*, offered me a share of the proceeds. By early 2002 we were both back in Perth, Lou was at uni in Melbourne and the girls, separately, were working their way around the country. Milly got an admin job in mining, up north. I bought a flat in her name, bought her out, bought a house with my new wife, got left, bought another flat in Rivervale; while she had a restaurant in Fremantle, sold out, resumed working up north, bought this house, worked and worked in the endless FIFO grind, retired, started with Red Cross, and here we are today.
In all those moves I think we only used a removalist company once, to send Milly’s stuff from Melbourne back to Perth; otherwise it was loads in the ute, or trailers, or trucks borrowed from work, or as general freight at mates’ rates. My latest ute’s still going strong, but the body’s getting tired, so this one will definitely be ‘Two Men & a Truck’.
Milly’s 2022 (If you look hard you can see the famous christmas ladder)
Getting the rules right, 2018
Milly and Psyche, 1977
In a corner of the garden
Her own favourite view
Paul Theroux (M, USA), Under the Wave at Waimea (2021)
Amanda Lohrey (F, Aus/?), The Philosopher’s Doll (2004)
Mercedes Lackey (F, USA), A Study in Sable (2016) – Fantasy/Sherlock Holmes rip off
Francisco Stork (M, USA), Marcelo in the real world (2009) – YA/more Aspergers!
Ian Rankin (M, Sco), Freshmarket Close (2004) – Crime
Yasmin Angoe (F, USA), Her Name is Knight (2021) – Crime
Alex Haley (M, USA), The Autobigraphy of Malcolm X (1965) – NF
Helen Razer (F, Aus/Vic), The Helen 100 (2017) – Memoir
Octavia Butler (F, USA), Kindred (1979) – SF
Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF
Drusilla Modjeska (F, Aus/NSW), Poppy (1990) – Biog.
David Adams ed. (F, Aus/NSW), The Letters of Rachel Henning (1951)
Elizabeth Jolley (F, Aus/WA), An Accommodating Spouse (1999)
I know. My real big break was Milly never (completely) losing faith in me.