Now that I have deleted all but one of my earlier blogs I intend to tell a few stories of my early years. The three of you who have been with me from the start need to bear with me.
I remember little of my first four years but in 1948 my father resigned from his job as a Melbourne school teacher and purchased 1000 acres of completely virgin scrub. He got it from a fellow he trusted who had, it was subsequently revealed, purchased it on the slightly shady market for 7 shillings an acre and sold it to Dad for 12 shillings and sixpence an acre. So he paid just over 600 pounds. His annual salary at that time was about 300 pounds. And that’s all I know about the financial side of things.
Virgin scrub is not forest. It is not open plains. It is just acres and acres of small trees with lots of hard bushes as undergrowth. Here and there were some patches of open ground that would become swamps in the Spring.
This land would need to be cleared so that pasture could be sown down and sheep raised. Depending on where in the 1000 acres you went the tree might change.
Up on a small limestone ridge that my parents called the Dew Deean Hills there was a stand of relatively tall String Bark saplings. These were cut down and our house was built. (Many years later I found out that they had called the ridge the Judean Hills after the hills in Palestine. Both my parents were well read and knew their Bible.)
The house had a roof of secondhand corrugated iron and at night a small boy could lie in his bed and see stars through the old nail holes. The stars appeared and disappeared and I wondered why that was. I don’t know when I learned about the rotation of the world but there came a time when I understood. I spent ten years looking through those holes at the night sky.
To line the walls on the inside old jute fertiliser bags were nailed. These had to be washed first to remove the phosphate and then hung over a wire fence to dry. The floor was made will stones gathered from the surrounding area and with a coat of hot bitumen poured on top. Old carpets covered the floor. It was very bumpy. The house was divided by hessian curtains into three bedrooms and a kitchen. It was a very rough house but it was the best home I ever lived in.
At night we would listen to a small radio that was powered by an old car battery and we listened to the ABC news and on Sunday nights Hymns of all Churches. But what we children loved most was “Journey Into Space” by Charles Chilton.
Journey Into Space is a BBC Radio science fiction programme, written by BBC producer Charles Chilton. It was the last radio programme in the UK to attract a bigger evening audience than television. Originally, four series were produced (the fourth being a remake of the first), which went on to be translated into 17 languages (including Hindustani, Turkish and Dutch) and broadcast worldwide (including the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands).
You can listen to episode one here. Operation Luna Ep01of18
Then there was Wilfred Thomas who wandered all over the world giving travelogues. All I can remember were his closing words; “This is Wilfred Thomas in the London Studios of the BBC thanking you for having me at your place.”
I’m sure my big sister will be on the phone telling me of something I have totally forgotten. If so, I will delete this paragraph and say what she tells me to say.
But before I go I must tell one small story about my mother. My mother died in 2002 on the 4th of July, which was henceforth referred to as Our Mother’s Independence Day.
One day when she was much younger, and coincidentally I was much younger as well, our father had to go to Ballarat, which was about 350 kilometres away and which in those days would have meant a whole day travelling. He was going to the funeral of one of his aunts and was away for about four or five days.
One evening as we were sitting outside we saw a large snake and the family cat confronting each other. Both were motionless. Mother, who was an excellent shot with .22 rifle, aimed at the snake from about 25 metres and shot it through the head. This, I am not exaggerating, was the best shot I think any of us has ever seen.
In some ways mother was more adventurous than Dad and when we pleaded with her to skin the snake and cook it she agreed. On the Monday I and, I think, my big sister, took some of the cooked snake to school and ate it for lunch. All the other kids wanted to know what it tasted like and I said, “A bit like a cross between fish and chicken.” I don’t know if it did because I can’t remember ever having had fish except from a can.
But when Dad got home from Ballarat he was very angry because some of the people in town asked why he had left his family at home without enough food to eat, so that they had to eat a dead snake.