The Presbyterian manse was up the hill from where we once lived. We would plod up there, a stick making satisfying rhythms as we trailed it along the picket fences. Gwen, a manse daughter, was my sister's best friend. Once I went to tea/dinner with them. Mrs Manse - I won't insert her distinctive surname, - apologised for her make do meal, which was leftover breakfast porridge made into fritters.
It still stands as one of the most memorable and delicious meals of my entire life. I haven't been able to replicate it.
When the Manses had their 5th child, yet another girl, she was given the soubriquet "Boy".
I was 7 years old when we left there.Forty years after I left we drove through the still tiny village, and I could unerringly find my way around. Childish memories, eh? But I saw what I didn't see then, that this village on the ranges western slopes, shaped out of local golden sandstone, was very beautiful. And that it was a dot in a swamping, almost menacing, sea of hills and dales of bush: swallowing, impassive eucalypts.
I had actually, back then, often watched the sun setting through a great gum tree in our backyard. and reveled in its beauty. I'm inclined to think that the adult world underestimates the young in all kinds of ways.
Allan Sillitoe came from an impoverished background, made even worse by a brutal father. He talks of starting school: "Each morning the teacher read about God creating the heavens and the earth, and every living thing. She read from her own black leather bound King James translation of the Bible whose English, whether or not all parts were immediately understood, entered my soul for life."
Little kids not only often respond to beauty, but can hunger for it.
At the end of each year the school had a "sociable." Kids, parents and whoever came together for the excitement of the "hokey pokey" and such. Plus sandwiches and cordial. What a wild night.
We rejoiced, for a while when the Manse girls excitedly told us that their father had agreed to them going to the sociable the year that they all turned eleven years old together. I wonder what happened to their beliefs?
Life has its compensations, adequate or not.
The Manses had an amazing seesaw that not only reacted vertically, but also traveled horizontally.
Heavens, I loved that seesaw.