Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Ram Whisperer

"I'm just going up to Nicole's place.  She's seen a snake just outside of her shanty and wants me to get rid of it" declared the Machinist. 

"Do you want me to go with you?"

"It's alright, I won't be long" (what help would I be anyway, other than the vocals?)

"I don't mind.  I'll keep watch for you ..."

Nicole was standing in the doorway of her settler's hut, not wanting to venture onto the front verandah, nevermind the grass, which would lead to the main family home.  And safety.  The Machinist climbed out of the ute and grabbed the long handled spade which was on the back tray and proceeded to the front gate.  Suddenly, he halted in his tracks. 

"Will this ram go for me, Nicole?"

"It shouldn't.  If it does, just grab it's horns"

"I'm not going anywhere near him.  If he comes for me, I'm off"

With this, the Machinist darted behind a couple of broken down cars and stood cautiously, waiting for the ram to disappear.  The ram decided he wasn't going anywhere.  I called to the ram ...

"Come here, boy.  Come on, then.  There's a good boy..."

I stood stroking the rams nose and talking gently and calmly to him. "You're a good boy, aren't you?  There's a good boy..."

The Machinist ran to the gate, lifted the bent wire over the post and pushed it open.  The snake was nowhere to be found.

"Sorry to have to call you.  I'm terrified of snakes.  I'm really paranoid"

"So am I, Nicole...." 

The ram was moving around me, pushing his hot woolly body against me, "It's allright, laddie".  I continued stroking his nose, while heavy breathing, occasional snorting and exhaling noises came from his nostrils.  Thoughts of my own pet rams back in South Africa came to mind.  I would talk to them in the same manner and they would follow me, wherever I roamed.  I would hide from them, and they would bleat until they could sight me.

"C'mon, Babe.  That snake could be anywhere.  Let's go"

I was keeping the ram entertained, while the Machinist made his getaway to the safety of the ute.  I stopped stroking the ram's nose and as I suspected, he decided he wanted me to continue and nudged me (gently rammed me?) each time I stopped. 

The Machinist started the engine.  I took a sprint to the ute.  The ram chased me.  The Machinist held the passenger side door open to let me in.  The ram tried to get in, too. 

He didn't make it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Hopalong Cassidy (ies)

Further to my post on cockroaches, what I failed to mention was the Machinist's accident.  Not a car accident, but rather - a trolley accident.  The Machinist had 'knocked together' a trolley with swivel castors, - strong and sturdy enough to manouvre the heavy fridges from the top floor of a Canberra Mall to the awaiting utility and trailer.  It was after hours and the only human life in the Mall were the auction staff, a few Mall staff and security guards, patrolling the different levels which were now closed to the public. 

The fridges were loaded, the hard work had been done and it was time to play.  Number One Son, Sam (our only son) was sitting on the trolley.  The Machinist had one leg on the trolley, and was scooting his son at top speed.  A voice was calling behind them in a broad Sri Lankan accent "Excuse me, excuse me, sir, you're not allowed to ride in the Canberra Centre".  The Machinist slowed down and Sam climbed off the trolley.  Not for long, though.  As soon as they turned the corner, it was back to tricks.  Scoot, scoot, scoot, then suddenly, a grinding halt, where the Machinist grabbed Sam's T shirt by the scruff of the neck, while his foot and lower leg acted as a human brake.  Somehow, the Machinist's non-scooting foot had slipped between the framework of the trolley and was completely bent backwards.

The Machinist informs me that only on few occasions  in his life has he recalled feeling such intense pain.  The result is a swollen and bruised foot, ankle and lower leg.  A recent addition to the site of the bruising are small, skin coloured itchy spots, which have now developed into a bright crimson rash.  It looks so, so -  nasty.  I googled "rash at the site of bruising" and was most interested to learn about the rush of histamine to the site of the trauma, leading to an allergic skin reaction - hence the rash.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My daughter, Emma, has had a swollen left foot for a couple of months now.  Due to the nature of her work, she is on her feet for most part of the day, and this offers no rest for her 'bad' foot, as well as her other foot, which has gone in sympathy to the left foot. Now her legs are aching.  She has been treated by an osteopath, and although this has offered some relief, there was increased swelling last week, so I took her to the Casualty department at our closest country hospital.  We're still awaiting some results, which have been sent to Emma's GP. 

The Grands had accompanied us to town, and after 4 hours (a quiet day) at the hospital, we met them at the food hall in the shopping centre.  Granny couldn't wait to tell us that a couple of her 'special people' were also in the mall.  (Granny's people = adults with mental disabilities.  Yes, up to two years ago, Granny was still doing respite care in her local community).  Granny's special friends ended up sitting with us while we ate a late lunch.  We  told them about our long wait at the Casualty department, and they nodded in agreement, offering their own waiting room experiences, as well as details on their own personal ailments.

Then suddenly, a booming voice from the table behind us, (another mentally disabled client of Granny's) asked

"What's wrong with her?"
"She's got a swollen foot"
"Tell her to elevate it"

Aahh... and this from the mentally disabled people who are oftentimes more 'with it' and normal than 'normal' people

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On greeting each other in the morning, the Machinist says "hello Clubfoot" and Emma replies "hello Scooterboy

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Orthopterous Blattidae

I like to keep my 'eye' on property sales.  I like to keep my 'eye' on auctions, too.  I wasn't always like this.  Experiencing the ups and downs of business leads you to really think before you buy anything at all.  Not like before we inherited debt.   One of my favourite auction sites covers so many things, but my favourite sections are the Hospitality and Catering (wonder why?) as well as the AFP (Australian Federal Police - the items that are stolen, recovered and not claimed).
Snowmaster has a good reputation for commercial kitchen equipment.  To my delight, I spotted two underbench 4 door fridges for auction from some unfortunate person / people's liquidation sale.  I cannot disclose here what amount we actually paid them for, but let me just say, a fraction of the cost of their true value. 

The Machinist and son had to go and remove the fridges from the closed-down cafe, in one of Canberra's upbeat malls.  They were there at least three hours, as each buyer had the responsibility of removing their own purchases on a set day between set times.  My men were prepared; angle grinders, hammers, trolleys, plyers, screwdrivers - and a large amount of male grunt.  It was hot and humid and my men were sweaty, but verile.  Thank-you-very-much.  Their male grunts turned to groans, however, when they started moving greasy, filthy, sticky kitchen equipment around to uncover colony after colony of -

COCKROACHES!

Any of numerous orthopterous insects of the family Blattidae, characterized by a flattened body, rapid movements, and nocturnal habits and including several common household pests.


"Babe, if I had a dollar for every cockroach we saw, we could pay off our mortgage"

For the past three days, 4 family members (including the Grands) have been cleaning the two underbench fridges.  I won't go into how filthy they were, else you might catch something just by reading about it.

Grandpa had the task of removing thickened food grease from the fridge motors - armed with an old pastry brush, a screwdriver, a knife and dry steel wool.  He unscrewed several electrical boxes within the motor to uncover even more life; survivors of severe dowsings of Mortein*tm.

Granny, passing yet another can of pest spray to me:  "Make sure you have no crawlers on you, Grandpa.  That's it, shake you pants.  Those creepers make me ill..."

The result of all our high pressure spraying, bleaching, scrubbing, and pest control is a couple of new-looking, highly shined, fresh smelling fridges, which, when adorned with the Machinist's creative metal art, will become The Daily Pie's front counters. 

Resourcefulness!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Romantic Interlude


Happy Valentine's day to you, Dear Readers
And happy Valentine's day to me.

Earlier this afternoon, while at work and serving food to many hungry, wet customers, a familiar face appeared outside the kitchen window.  The Machinist!  The Machinist! 

"There's my sweetheart"

"Who?"

"It's Andre"

In the middle of a shift, I was able to have a romantic interlude with the Machinist over rhubarb crumble, Bacci gluten free cake and a couple of flat whites.  It was magical and memorable. The rain had turned to mist, and the slopes of  netted vines, holding tight onto bunches of future bottles of Pinot Noir, as well as the view of the (once dried up) lake was utterly beautiful.

Oh, how fortunate are we, to live such a rich life!

Water Everywhere and Not A Drop To Drink 2

For most of the time my family lived on farms in South Africa, I had to lodge with folk in town.  It was a small, historic little town, (not far from the Battle of Blood River and Rorkes Drift), where my parents did their weekly grocery shopping and picked up chicken food.  And so it was during the course of our farm life that my parents raised over 4000 chickens.  On the weekends, when they picked me up, I had to sit on the back of the truck (known as a bakkie) with huge sacks of meal, corn, grain etc.  When we had to drive through the centre of town, I would lie as flat as I could, so that no fellow school mates could see me.  My parents never understood this...

Sometimes, in between lodging with different people, I would travel into town with my dad and brothers, but that would mean a really early start - around 4am.  Mam also had a part time job at the local hospital.  During our stay at Hattingspruit, where it rained a lot, we were returning home on a wet and windy evening.  The dirt road down to the house was winding and lined with huge boulders, which, for the most part of my childhood, I was convinced were dinosaur eggs (I had no reason to disbelieve mam's tales).  The dirt was a deep rust colour and must have had a high clay content.  The men in the family were quite skilled at driving, skidding and avoiding the boulders.  One thing they couldn't control, however, was the depth of soggy soil.  On this particular evening, the bakkie sank, the wheels spun and we were going nowhere fast.  Mam and I had to get out and push, while dad worked the clutch.  We were drenched; me in my school uniform and mam in her white nurse's uniform, complete with dinky hat.  Just as we were gaining ground, the tyres spun, the engine roared and the bakkie lurched forward.  So did my mam - head first into the red sludge.  I began sobbing, shocked at seeing my mam lying on the ground.  Then suddenly, she picked her head up, looked around at me, and with a faceful of mud pack, threw her head back, and laughed uncontrollably.   I could hardly hear what she was telling me and leant forward...

"...I'm allright you silly sausage...it's allright..."

It's only now that I am a parent and home owner that I can truly relate to my parent's plight.  Home maintenance is ongoing; even when your home is complete and intact. 

It's still raining this morning.  I've just returned from a walk around our village.  As I type, I can hear some of the rain running into the rainwater tanks, and the rest dripping into a mini-pool at the bottom of the rainpipes.  Two large leylandi cypress pines are generous donators to gutter clutter.  The Machinist has to monkey-climb the deck posts and onto the tin roof most times it rains.   I can't complain.  The state of dryness inside the house has increased a hundred-fold since we took the kitchen roof off completely one fine spring evening and replaced rusty tin sheets with shiny new galvanised ones.

Somewhere under the house I can hear the faint croak of a frog.

There's never, ever a dull moment.  Whoever said that living in the country was peaceful, has obviously never really lived...

Water Everywhere and Not A Drop To Drink

We've had hot and humid days, with intermittent drizzle, followed by steady rain and cooler temps at night.  There is a leak in the school room ceiling and we have to cover the floor with old towels and bowls.  Shakin Stevens singing "This Old House" comes to mind a lot.  Our house isn't that old, but I suspect it suffered neglect over the years as a petrol station, while the owners (back in the day) endeavoured to serve their customers.

My thoughts go to the many homes we lived in during our 13 year stay in South Africa. Apart from the first few months living in a caravan, each house offered a variety of surprises. 

The first, - a beautiful 1920's house had floors that weren't attached to the walls by at least three inches. 

A farmhouse in Wasbank had no proper water storage facility and the bore was dry.  When it rained, water flooded the house, but there was no water to drink.  Plus, one of the rooms off the back verandah (my brother Gary's bedroom) had a resident hornets nest.  The opposite room off the back verandah was the outdoor bathroom.  It was very 'outdoors', because it had no rear wall. We had to wash in a tiny sink, with our butts facing the great outdoors.

A farmhouse in Hattingspruit - dating back to the 1800's and made of stone had two rooms without floors and each time it rained, there was a stream running through the centre corridor.  One night, my mam woke, wondering what all the noise was about.  She stood in water up to the top of her ankles, turned round, dried off her feet and went back to bed.  As she was dozing off, something 'big' landed on her face.  She plucked it off her cheek and threw it into the darkness of the bedroom, and heard a distinct 'thud', as it hit the wall.  To this day, we don't know what this creature was.  A month or so later, two baby green mambas were entwined in the cavity of the old wooded window frame...

More to come...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Nocturnal Hustles

I have a new profession of making trips to the bathroom during the night.  It's my new vocation in life.  I wear myself out and no longer scoff at my parent's generation who used chamber pots, even though I don't think I could use them myself.  When there is one Shi Tzsu on the bed, I can make the trip, return, lift the mosquito net and face minimal puppy excitement before claiming my position and struggling with the sheet.  When there are two Shi Tzsus on the bed, one of them is determined to follow, prompting her sister to do likewise.  This poses a problem, in that while I am spending a penny or two, or simply 'tile-gazing', the puppies grow impatient and return to the bed, then to me. 

The Machinist appears, blinking at the kitchen light

Machinist: What are you doing up, Babe?

Me: the usual...

Machinist: Thats it.  These dogs are going to be outside in a kennel tomorrow night...

Me: why, what happened?

Machinist: I can't afford to be woken every night like this.  Nor can you. 

Me:  What is it?

Machinist: I was in a deep sleep, then suddenly, the mozzie net came crashing down.  One dog under, one dog on top.  They're gonna have to go out!

Me: ok (chuckling and making a dash for the bathroom)

Friday, 5 February 2010

All For The Greater Good

There is many a night I can't sleep, and tonight is one of them.  Or should I say this morning?  As I lie awake, thoughts of my family are foremost on my mind. I am so proud of the Machinist for caring for us and considering me the way he does. "I'm so excited for you, Babe.  Are you excited, too? Your dream is finally coming true.  Can you believe we are going to be shop owners?".  I can't describe how grateful I am for his support and encouragement.  Each time I worry about making pies (how will they turn out in bulk? How many should I start with? Will people like them? etc etc) the Machinist is fast to assure me that my pies will be 'absolutely delicious'. The other day, when we went equipment shopping, he was like a little child. Being a Machinist, he loves machines and equipment and has to scrutinise each button / knob / mechanism and function. His skill and knowledge gives me peace of mind.  I know that we have the best we can afford.  Even if we are up to our eyeballs in debt now...

I am also so proud of our children, too, who have each gone out to work elsewhere, seeing as the primary family business is quiet at this time.  Less than four months ago, we all worked together.  Now, the children set out to different destinations at different times on different days.  One sets out at 'sparrows fart' (as the Machinist calls it), finishes early afternoon and waits for a lift home.  One sets out at a decent hour and finishes at a decent hour, but has to pick up the other, in a different town.  One sets out in the early afternoon and finishes late, arriving home even later.  There's hardly a day when we are all at home, together.  On the rare occasion that we are, we try and make it a memorable occasion.

"All for the Greater Good", we chide each other on.

I look forward to the day when we will once again work together in a new family business

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Doggy Day Care

We're still taking the puppies to the Grand's Day Care for Doggies each morning.  Soon, and hopefully sooner than later, we would like to fit protective wire around the court yard, so that they can play outside in their own garden without the threat of Sneaky Pete reptiles. We still haven't found the snake, but we know he's out there somewhere.  Some of us are 'game' to hang our washing on the line, but I'm not.  Not yet.  Until there's a capture, or a confirmation of death, via a rotting smell, I really don't want to venture out there, and truth be told - I MISS my garden.

I have a suspicion that the puppies won't want to sleep outside anymore anyway.  They have been spoiled with extra fuss and attention; the Grands even play ball with them, and feed them treats.  They won't admit that they feed them treats, but we know they do! Especially when their evening meals are only half-eaten.  The young puppies start looking for places to snuggle around 9pm and one sleeps on Sarah's bed:

Pepi - Sarah's puppy

 and the other, gasp, - on ours. 

Lilly - Sam's puppy

"When did we change, Babe?" the Machinist asks. "There was a time that we wouldn't allow the dogs in the house, never mind on our bed..."

The Ragamuffins at play

Looking after young uns' is tiring and it makes you hungry and thirsty.  Polly enjoys the refreshment bar:


And Bobby joins her... Check out his knobbly, rough elbows. 


And Miss Blossom, the Grand's baby feels rather left out.  "Where are the days when I got to play ball with my momma ALONE?"

Oh mercy! As if I haven't enough to do, here I sit blogging about the canines.  It's a good job the Machinist keeps me busy during the day.  As you can read here . 

(As I sit, the lights keep going off, then on.  Even the computer has shut down and opened up again.  It seems that there is a problem with Country Energy, and we have lost a phase.  The Machinist is like an anxious bear, checking lights, power, sound.  I'd better go and see if he needs help and pretend I'm interested...)


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Road

Emma and I went to see "The Road" at the movies this evening, and as the story unfolded, all I could think about was the way in which Viggo Mortenson's character cared for his young son likened to the same way in which the Machinist looks after me.  He tucks me in, feeds me, sacrifices for me, defends me, encourages me, adores me. I started really missing the Machinist, even though I'd only left home an hour earlier.

I love you, Machinist.

Oh, and by the way - The Road, based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner novel by Cormac McCarthy ('No Country for Old Men') is such a well-acted movie!