Thursday, April 28, 2011


My maternal grandmother lived in Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, Qld, Aust, etc.etc.
This was a long way from where we lived, just over the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Visiting her took taking the local steam train to Sydney, then the overnight train - in a sleeper!- to Brisbane, then the Rockhampton Mail to Bundaberg. Once, lying on the upper berth, I idly kept pushing an unlabelled button to see if it did anything. Yes, it did: the attendant eventually arrived, flustered, sweating, red-faced, irritated to tell us that this buzzer summoned him. He was eventually quite kind about it. I was deeply humiliated.

From the moment I saw, during that first endless boring journey, the stilted Queensland houses I fell deeply in love.
My grandmother's house wasn't on stilts as tall as I would have chosen, but they were there, with the omnipresent staghorns and elkhorns adorning them. I forget much about her house except the wide verandahs, the large kitchen with its ell verandah to the backyard, the sitting room, with its extraordinary orderliness and the intricate needlework in its cushions, the warm clean sweet air. Her cocker spaniel called Paddy, who caused her eventual and ultimately fatal fall, as so many of these loving beings do. The bedroom I shared with my sister: waxed floors with pristine mosquito nets tied into loops around the hoops above the beds during the daytime. French doors, always open, to a verandah.
I was five the first year that we went. When we were shown our bedroom there was a large toy rabbit decked in long angora hair on one bed. For some reason this caused me to remind my grandmother that it had been my birthday only a week ago, and she immediately endowed me with the beautiful rabbit. I loved that heap of wool passionately for many years.

Always banana trees in the backyard to pick from. A large mango tree - but, none of us liked mangos: they were endemic, a bit of a nuisance, like the omnipresent cane toads. I totally loved the colours: the vivid grass shoots running across the orange earth towards the asphalt of the road. Lime green of the sugar cane. Scarlet, emerald, sky blue, turquoise seemed to match the rich flower scents. And orange. Vibrant.
I know little of my grandmother except glimpses. I enjoy the glimpses.


Elisabeth said...

Thanks Frances for this lovely glimpse of your grandmother and her world, through your memories.

Frances said...

There are long generations in my family, Elisabeth....oddly, this seems to be becoming normal, or usual.