S: THIS HOUSE IN WHICH YOU SIT by Cath Natoli
FC: THIS HOUSE IN WHICH YOU SIT
1: For Mum and Dad with love Cath
3: Acknowledgements to anyone whose photos I have used, in particular my brother Mike whose photos feature throughout this book
4: Some of the little ones - Adam,Isla,Beth,Luisa, Emily, Jim and Matty
5: PROLOGUE “Your Dad just wants to build a place where our family can always gather.” Mum 2003 To the little ones and future ones, They say that if this house is built strong enough and that if nature is kind it may just be here for another hundred years. That would make my parents, my siblings and I well into our hundreds. That would make most of us probably dead. This house in which you sit may not seem that remarkable. I’m sure that it has weathered now. Perhaps the dunes have eroded and the ninety miles of sea are lapping at its footings. Perhaps its walls are crumbling, roof askew and rusted. Or the beach is overcrowded - so many footprints that you can’t trace your daily going-ons or the adventures of your sand-crusted children. Little ones and future ones, I promise you, this book is not a Family History full of anecdotes spouting your ancestors greatness to the point where you have no sense of belonging at all. It’s the flaws in our ancestry that help us make sense of ourselves. This house in which you sit has brought out the worst in every single one of us. And still for every temper flared or drunken melodrama there has been a quiet moment with a baby nephew helping him fish without a hook, nights with brothers and sisters talking until dawn. There have been parties around bonfires, board games played on rainy days, meals to remember and meals to forget. For every argument a gallon of laughter. Little ones and future ones I write this book hoping that my parents dream is not in vain and that this house is forever filled with the laughter and drama of their bloodlines. Hoping above all, that family will always gather.
7: A GREAT LAKES DAY -phrase coined by family friend and co-owner of the block next door - Roger Blake...it was a saying that our family adopted.
8: One of my favourite quarry bag photos - Grandma Margie (middle) out on the town with her girlfriends
9: THE QUARRY BAG In the bunfight of a big family, each member develops a role. Everyone gets behind a persona and tries to stay there.....Helen Garner
10: We never had photo albums - no chronological record of ourselves or our ancestors lives. Mum and Dad had one big quarry bag full of us – the eight of us, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, the occasional sepia photo of a foreigner who looked familiar but we’d never known. Quarry bags were everywhere in our lives, poncho sized for a grubby toddler, sled sized for older siblings to slide up and down a snow hill on. Our Dad, a geologist used them to store rock samples in. Samples taken from the earth, many meters down. As random as our Anglo Italian blood, there was no order to our quarry bag. Thick ankled Nonas mixed with Scottish grannies, brides of 40’s with the seventies. Pops smoked pipes and dressed in drag, Pops stood alone and so aloof. Afro haired uncles posed on the bonnets of hotted-up Kingswoods, Aunts posed with baby nephews - still only babies themselves. There were nameless cats and three-legged dogs - a billion photos of my brothers, my sister and I. ***** Our Dad as a child was a studious boy who loved snakes, lizards, mice and his pet budgie Bluey. From what I’ve been told his interest in the natural world led him to being nick-named Nature Study Natoli at school. But don’t take this as gospel little ones, our family has a penchant for making things up. What I do know is that our Dad, Basil Anthony Natoli was born on the 13th of July 1950 to Tess and Angelo Natoli. The eldest of ten children, he was a menacing and vindictive big brother who once peed in his brother’s pimple lotion, drew a moustache on his sister whilst she slept. I believe these stories to be true because as his eldest daughter I too was subjected to Dad's evil streak. He once doused my cigarettes in kerosene, dried them out and then put them back in my packet in the hope of watching them blow up in my face. When my dog died, he made a little white paw out of cardboard and wool, pretended he’d cut it off poor old Dougall and presented it to me as a keep sake. He pissed himself laughing as I cried.
11: Above - Dad (far left) with his Mum - Theresa Margaret Natoli (nee Logan) and brothers Angelo and John. Right - Dad's Dad - Angelo Basilio Natoli Left - Dad as a boy
12: But he wasn’t that bad. What was often referred to as his evil streak was really just an incredibly warped sense of humour and an inability to gage when a joke had gone too far. His essence was good. In fact I think our Grandma may have read him that Good Samaritan story one too many times. He was the first to pick up a feral hitch hiker or provide a tent and twenty dollars to an acid-tripping vagabond. He was the bloke who’d stop to help you push start your car, tow it to the nearest service station if that didn’t work. If he could he’d have moved the earth for my brothers, my sister and I. His love was a doing love. He was a man of minimal words. Yet still for every, “You’re a bloody twit Cate,” or “Where are the matches you little bitch?” I had heard and experienced his love. Not only through his grand gestures or extravagant gifts, but through the way his eyes often smiled when my siblings and I were around him. Through the occasional “I love you Catie,” plied from him after a bottle or five of red. I’m not sure if Dad ever realised it - but as much as my brothers, my sister and I appreciated the material benefits that came with his love they had nothing to do with our love for him. We loved him simply because he was our Dad. He was funny, kind, sometimes even interesting - a good bloke. For the most of it we enjoyed his company. Little ones and future ones, this house in which you sit is testament to that. Each one of us made the four hour journey and worked here, not because we ever truly envisioned this house being built. Much like his canoe-yacht or 1968 Rover we assumed this would be just another of Dad’s unfinished projects. We came and we worked just to be with him. We came because we loved him. | A familiar sight - Dad driving the boat with a grandchild on his lap - main photo with grandson Matty. Inset - with grandson Jimmy
14: Our Mum as a child was a curious little girl who had her father wrapped firmly around her little finger and her mothers blood often boiling. According to my Grandma she was, “Too smart for her own good - precocious,” At the age of eight she sourced an illicit copy of Lady Chatterley’s lover and hid it under a rock in the garden where she would sneak out for a daily read. “A right wee bissum,” she was born Elaine Gibson Young on the 3rd of July 1951 to Margaret and Ian Young. The eldest of four girls she lived an idyllic English childhood in the seaside town of Margate. Mum’s world was one of books and make believe. She would spend hours making up stories for her sisters. Amongst their favourites was a series of tales involving an unfortunate boy named Michael Fiddler. Having no brothers of their own, our mum and her sisters had a fascination with doodles. In each tale poor old Michael Fiddler would walk around getting his doodle stuck in things. One time he even got it stuck in the top of a hockey stick. Our Mum never outgrew her love of story telling and with my brothers, my sister and I she had a captive audience. Whilst our Dad sometimes interested us with facts on stalactites and fossilization our Mum could almost always fascinate us with her exaggerated and often completely fictitious tales. As children do, we believed our mother – a one time famous rock star whose career came to an end when her undies lost their elastic on national TV. And whilst our Dad was a man of few words our Mum was ranked in the top one percent of the population for verbal intelligence. Always beautifully pronounced with a slight English inflection, words were her passion. She’d use them to twist and win every argument, to entertain and captivate a crowd or to shut us kids up when we were whining. She used them economically. She was never verbose and catered them to her audience. “You must be very boring children,” she’d simply say when we would complain that we were bored. I was for the most of it a difficult teenage daughter. “I love you Catherine,” she would tell me, “but sometimes you are difficult to like.”
15: Above - Mum far right on a family holiday with her Dad - Ian James Boyd Young and Mum - Margaret Picken Young (nee Dalgleish) and two of her sisters Anne and Maureen. Left - On another family holiday with sister Maureen. Right - Mum on see saw
16: Although she often did, Mum never really needed to articulate her love for us. We just knew it. It was in the way she worked relentlessly over decades to mould us into good, honest people. The look of heartbreak in her eyes when we had let ourselves down. This house in which you sit took seven years to build. We camped here with no running water or electricity. They were the most enduring of circumstances made even more difficult by clashes in personalities and sibling rivalries. She’d spend hours listening to our crap, arbitrating our arguments and preventing us from killing each other. Her energy was limitless. Her love was a given. And she could cook. Her menu was as eclectic as her handbag collection. Curries and spaghettis, tagines and paellas. Frittatas whipped up effortlessly using the night befores leftovers. Ingredients were almost always fresh and sourced from specialty delis and fine food stores. Even a simple side dish of mashed potato was drizzled with the finest olive oils and seasoned with exotic Dead Sea salts. Little ones, future ones, we’d move like the tides in and out of the kitchen here, leaving the flotsam and jetsam of our lives behind for her to clean up. And still the reason we gathered had nothing to with the five star meals she’d create. Nothing to do with this house or its idyllic location. Like the tide is pulled by the moon, we were drawn to our Mum. It was instinctual and beyond our control. We craved her warmth, her wit, her unconditional love. House or no house - as long as she lived, we would gather. | Opposite- Another familiar sight - Grandkids gathering around Mum for a story - here with Beth, Jim, Joe and Matty
18: Amongst our Mum’s exaggerated tales was the story of how she met our Dad - a summer romance played out on the beach at Lorne. According to our Mum she was walking along the beach wearing a polka-dotted bikini when she spotted a nerdy woggy boy perving on her. According to our Dad this bikini was flesh coloured, the reason he was looking at her was because he thought she was naked. Either way he was still perving and to some extent she must have been too. How else would she have noticed his stares? Although painfully shy he built up enough courage to ask our Mum to a dance that night. She accepted his invitation even though she had already accepted another boys and spent the night alternating between the two of them. Our parents’ fate was determined when the other boy decided to grab mum’s boobs. A scrawny wee thing who would stuff her bra full of cotton wool in the hope of looking buxom, she was much affronted by this approach. She slapped this boy fair square across the face and returned to our Dad. The rest is history. A long and convoluted history. An epic. And although filled with drama, separation and periods of sadness there were whispers of love. I say whispers because my parents love for each other wasn’t that obvious to an outsider. Sometimes watching them was like watching a Punch and Judy puppet show. Dad baiting, Mum biting. The script rarely deviated, usually beginning with Dad chastising Mum over something small like her inability to stack a dishwasher or stock-take the fridge. Escalating to a “Fuck you Basil,” from our Mum. Perhaps I am romanticizing their relationship. You see, to me their bickering was a sign that they loved each other. Would Dad bother baiting, Mum bother biting if there weren’t some underlying need for attention from the other? But still it wasn’t just these interactions that were reassuring, it was their private times, the times when they thought no one was watching or listening that I was truly convinced of their love.
19: Mum and Dad on the night of their engagement and on their wedding day - they were only 19 and 20 when they married Below - on their honeymoon - houseboating at Metung
20: Sun setting over ocean
21: It was in the merging of their hands on the car's gear stick when they thought the six of us were asleep in the back. Conversations heard late into the night through the walls here, the two of them talking, not bickering - companions, giggling like kids. Sometimes they’d go walking. They’d walk towards the entrance where the ocean met the lake, becoming smaller and smaller until all you could see was the sand and the saltbush. Sometimes they’d come out and sit in the dunes. Just the two of them, Dad’s hand placed firmly on the scruff of Mums neck. From a distance they looked like a pair of love struck teenagers.. They’d sit there talking until the sun came down and kissed the ocean goodnight...
23: Sun setting on the Lake
25: MORE FROM THE QUARRY BAG Six of one, half a dozen of another, "Giving birth is like shitting a watermelon," Mum said. Five foot one with tiny little china doll ears and hands, she was tough and did it six times anyway...
27: CHRISTOPHER JOHN NATOLI 27/2/1972 We were Maxwell Smart and Ninety Nine, we were Mike and Mal. In summer when it was hot we’d tuck fig leaves into our undies and become Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. I never really thought about where he came from. He was just there to be those things, exclusively for me. Eighteen months older than me, he was the first friend I ever made. He was also my first enemy and in just four words he could kill me. “Stop showing off Cathy,” he'd always say. He knew that without attention I ceased to exist and that these words would send me tumbling down from my everywhere stage into some quiet corner where I’d be too embarrassed to speak. I hated him, but I was never as smart as him. “Shut up Mr Potato head,” was my standard reply. With a big round head he was as intelligent our Mum, as honest and as good. He was so annoyingly perfect that I loved it when he got in trouble. One time he tried to steal a fishing lure from K-Mart. He shoved it down his pants and got caught. The police asked him what our Mum was going to say when she found out. “She’s no angel either,” he told them. | Main - eldest daughter Luisa on beach with Hamish. Top left - Chris as a baby. Bottom left - Chris and wife Alaina (nee Smith) on their wedding day. Top right - Chris and his first fish. Bottom right - youngest daughter Emily.
28: Main - Me with son Jim on the beach. Other page clockwise from top - Me as a baby, me with Dad and sister Lizzy, son Jim, daughter Beth, partner Matthew Gilbert with son Jim.
29: CATHERINE MARY NATOLI 30/8/1973 Little ones, future ones, as the author of this book and one who has the tendency to talk about myself often, you will learn enough about me through my narrative. All I will tell you here is that I was second eldest. A scabby kneed tomboy with rat-tailed hair, I was by no means a stupid girl but nor was I “gifted’ like my older brother Chris. Easily distracted – my school reports always said. I had and still have the attention span of an ant. I rarely finished anything that I set out to do. In fact if you are reading this book now it will be one of the few things I have ever completed.
30: Main - Andy's wife Jenny Ashton sitting by the lake. Top left - Andy as a baby. Bottom left - Andy on boat. Top right Andy as a boy. Bottom right - Andy with their son Joseph.
31: ANDREW DAVID NATOLI 20/4/1975 We had a simple world Chris and I. Sometimes we’d sit and imagine what it would have been like if Mum and Dad had just had the two of us. “Imagine how rich we’d be!” we’d say. But Mum and Dad liked ‘doing it’ and it wasn’t the two of us for very long. I don’t remember Andy being born, but I remember a little bit later sitting in a waiting room with Chris. There was a little girl also waiting. She had one of those wind up bath toys. It was blue with flapping wings. “We have hundreds of them at home,” we lied. Something wasn’t right because Mum cried a lot and people cuddled her. Her and Dad would put white coats and masks on and go into a room with big glass windows. We knew he was behind them and that it must have been bad because when they came back out they never looked very happy. Chris and I were happy though. There was a cafeteria at the hospital and our uncles would take us there and buy us lollies. It seemed like he’d been in there forever. But then Mum stopped crying and he came home with a tiny little scar on his throat in the shape of a kite. They said it was where they’d put a hole to make him breathe again. “He almost died,” everyone gasped. Instantly he was different to Chris and I. He liked to do things, make things. He liked to hammer nails into the sandpit. “How did they get there,” our Dad would ask. “The wind blew them from the shed Daddy,” he’d say. Instead of being angry our Dad would laugh. With his little kite scar he could do what ever he wanted and never got in trouble. I was jealous. I wanted my own kite scar and almost dead story. He was different in other ways too. He didn’t care much for our games and liked to tuck his clothes in. He wouldn’t sing or dance to the beach boys, hated getting his photo taken and laughed like Ernie off Sesame Street. He was a mystery to me my first little brother. He never did what he was supposed to. He never did what I said.
32: Main - Peter and Belinda (nee Paul) on their wedding day - they were married here. Top left - Peter as a toddler. Bottom right - Adam and Isla Top right - son Adam. Middle right - Isla. Bottom right - baby to be born March 2013
33: PETER GERARD JAMES NATOLI 19/1/1977 At four I was a helpful girl. Standing on a milk crate I was big enough to help Mum hang out the washing. "I’m having another baby, it’s in my tummy," she told me She had a dress that looked like Holly Hobbies. But it wasn’t. It belonged to someone called ‘Laura Ashley’ and was so special that it didn’t get pegged together with the other clothes. It stood alone and looked beautiful dancing in the wind. “I hope it’s a girl,” I said. He wasn’t a girl but he was everything I ever wanted. He had a moon face like Chris and did everything I’d say. Sometimes I’d dress him up in my dresses and send him out onto the street to ask boys out on dates. They’d laugh, he was funny. He had a pair of corduroy overalls with pockets in the knees. We’d go to the supermarket and Andy would fill them up with lollies. Peter was too young to know he was stealing and so adorable that no one would suspect him anyway. Everybody loved him. Our neighbour Mrs Tanner loved him more than anyone. He’d go out into the front yard and flash his doodle at her. “I’ll chop it off with my scissors,’ she’d say. But she never chopped it off. Instead at Christmas she gave him a big stocking full of lollies. The rest of us got nothing.
34: Main - Mikes wife Simone on the beach, pregnant with first child Matthew. Top left - Mikey as a toddler. Bottom left - Mike and Simone (nee Butler) on their wedding day. Top right - Mike and son Matty. Middle right - Matty. Bottom right - Mike with daughter Monica
35: MICHAEL WILLIAM NATOLI 20/3/1979 We lived in Kew. Peter stayed home with Mum and the rest of us went to school with golden headed kids - their hair so perfect that I thought they were wearing wigs. I’d tug at my best friends one. It was silky and blonde but it never came off. One day after school both Mum and Dad met us. Mum was holding something wrapped up in a yellow blanket. Our new baby brother – another one. On our way home they took us to McDonalds. It was such a special day that we even got Sundaes. He didn’t have a round head like Chris and Peter but he wasn’t like Andy either. He liked to sing. “Graceland Graceland Jemphis Mennasee,” he always got the words wrong and it made us laugh. He was sensitive and worried a lot about hurting peoples feelings and when he brought his school photos home he was always the little one at the end. He was so tiny that my brothers would put him on top of the fridge and leave him there. “Help me Cath I can’t get down,” he’d cry. I’d feel sorry for him, but he looked so funny with his little legs dangling that I’d always leave him there a bit longer.
36: Main - Lizzy and son Jack. Top left - Lizzy as a baby. Top right - Lizzy and partner Linton Fletcher. Bottom left - Lizzy as a little girl. Bottom right - Son Jack
37: ELIZABETH MARGARET THERESE NATOLI 8/9/1981 That made five of us. “What a big family,” people would say. They all had doodles, but I had a wee-wee hole because I was a girl like Mum. I’d seen hers, it was dark and fuzzy and looked nothing like mine. I tried to wee standing up but it went all over the toilet seat and trickled down my legs. I couldn’t wee like my brothers but I could play war, cricket and football - I also liked to read. Mum teased me with books about sisters. Little Women, Ballet Shoes, Little House in the Big Woods. She gave me a set of books called, ‘My Naughty Little Sister.’ She was very mischievous and very cute. I wanted one of my own but I’d heard my uncles say that my Dad had very strong Natoli sperm – and that was how you got boys. Mum and Dad ‘did it’ again, it was their sixth time and I was sure Mum did it because she knew I wanted a sister. “I’d love another little girl,” she said to me. We lived in a three bedroom Californian bungalow. I shared a room with Peter and Mikey and Chris and Andy had a room with a bunk bed. Chris was on the top bunk and he had a special bit of wall up there where he kept a snot collection. Mum thought it was disgusting and he got in trouble. Because they were having another one Mum and Dad bought a bigger house. It had two stories, red velvet wall paper and a spiral staircase. Chris had to clean up his snot collection and we all had to be very helpful because Mum's stomach was so big that it looked like it was going to burst. And then it did. All in a day. It was the morning that we were moving to our new house and starting our new school. For some reason our Aunty was at our house. The phone rang and she handed it to me. “You’ve got a sister Cate,” my Dad said. I shed my first ever happy tears and loved my Mum and Dad more than I ever had before. A new house, new school and my own new naughty little sister - I was eight and it was the best day of my whole life.
38: And that was all of us – one big quarry bag full “The Walton’s, The Brady Bunch,” people would say. But we weren’t. We hated each other, we’d hurt each other. Sometimes we’d even try to kill each other. We were a warped collage of personalities that in some funny abstract way seemed to make sense. We all had our role to play...
41: BARRIER LANDING “Just give us the facts Cate,” my Dad says, “don’t waste time talking crap.”
42: Little ones, future ones, these are the facts as I know them.. The Gippsland Lakes were formed when Bass Strait became restless and begun playing with the sand. It created dunes, pits and low-lying islands. Then it pushed them all together to create a 90 mile barrier separating the ocean from its five major estuaries. As a result of this the rivers became restless. Their waters with nowhere to go, dumped their silt and clay in big angry clumps, creating a series of inland islands and on their side of the barrier. The Kruatatungalan clan (the original inhabitants of this land), have another story. According to them a greedy frog swallowed all of the world’s water. This left all the other animals thirsty. They called a meeting and decided that the only way to get their water back was to make the frog laugh. They tried everything to no avail, tickling, pulling faces, even farting. It wasn’t until an eel sat upright on its tail that the frog finally caved. He laughed and laughed and all of the water came pouring out, creating the Gippsland Lakes. Whichever story you prefer, over time the ocean missed its inland water cousins and created a channel (2km’s east of where the entrance is today) where they could meet. They were mischievous in their play, creating a deep but unpredictable passage - shifting sand as they pleased. Schooners and steamers used this inlet often, guided by a pilot boat – 'The Lady of the Lake.' Trade increased with the building of a railway line from Melbourne to Sale. The locals, believing they were stronger and smarter than their waters, set about making a bigger and more predictable channel for boats to pass through – a permanent entrance to the Lakes. It was a lengthy project, beginning in 1869 and ending on a stormy night in 1889 when the ocean became frustrated, barging through and leaving 3000 sandbags in its wake.
43: Top -A group on the 90 mile beach looking towards the wrecked sailing ship County Antrim. There is a boat drawn up on the beach on the right. circa 1890 Above - THE WORKS AT THE GIPPSLAND LAKES ENTRANCE. Date(s) of creation: April 15, 1878. Wood engravings
44: Barrier Landing is the tea treed arm of land west of this entrance. Severed by swampland at its other end and flanked by the Hopetoun Channel and the Ninety Mile Beach it is only accessible by boat. At the time of writing there is one public jetty, one owned privately and another that has just been built. This jetty “Nutt's Landing” is owned co-operatively by my parents and several other land owners and is named after Richard and Judy Nutt. Referred to as Dick Nutt by my siblings and I, Richard was one of the most colourful personalities on the Barrier here. At 80 years old and finding it more and more difficult to dismount his beached boat - he and Judy instigated the jetty’s construction. | Left -Site locality plan - our block marked in red. Right - Nutt's Landing
46: Two nuts at Nutt's Landing - cousins Emily and Matty
48: My knowledge of the flora and fauna here extends only as far as my experiences and the couple of tourism pamphlets I have read as means of research. What I am able to tell you is that Barrier Landing is a diverse terrain divided into three main types of vegetation - coastal, swamp and woodland. The ocean side is bordered with a mixture of Hairy Spinifix, Marram Grass and Saltbush. The Lakeside with an assortment of rushes, sedges and swamp paperbarks. At its center is the woodland. A tangled mishmash of ti-tree, banksias and sweet wattle, thicketed with bracken and common heath. Of the animals that live here I can divide them into two main categories; those I have seen and those I have never seen but do exist. Of those I have seen there are many - dolphins riding waves, seals parading on the sand, kangaroos bounding through the dunes and foxes lingering on the fringes of our campsite. I have been eaten by tics, mosquitoes and sandflies, charged by a wombat and peed on by a possum. There are also many I haven’t seen, but I know they exist, not only through eye witness accounts but through the rubble they have left in their wake. Deer’s antlers and sharks jaws. Snakes skins and whale vertebrae. Goat skulls and echidna spines. These finds were always exciting. We’d display them like trophies, making pagan-like altars for our natural world. It is for the most of it a raw environment. Burrow-like pathways twisting from the lake through to the ocean have evolved gently over time. On a busy day there may be six or seven families scattered along the beach. Little ones, future ones I hope things haven’t changed too much. On a quiet day you can walk forever, yours the only pair of footprints along the ninety miles of sand. These are the facts as I know them...
49: Resident Kookaburra sitting on upstairs banister.
50: The swamp
53: THE MAD INVENTOR IN THE TERRY TOWELLING HAT | Photo taken 1987 -the same year that we first visited the barrier.
54: One of our first visits to Barrier Landing was in 1987. “An island,” Dad said, “no shops, electricity or boys Cate.” I remember this clearly as it was the summer of my first bikini and I was devastated that it would be making its debut here. We arrived overloaded in Dad’s nine foot blue canoe. It wasn’t your everyday canoe. It had an outboard motor and outriggers. In anticipation of this holiday our Dad had been converting it into a yacht. Along with all our luggage he had brought along the sails, mast and homemade wooden keel that would complete its transformation. It too would be making its debut. We were to be camping on our parents friend's block (the McCutcheons) along with a whole bunch of other families. Communal holidaying was something these families had been doing since the 70’s. There were eight of us. We were a commune unto ourselves. Half a dozen dags in hand-me-downs - we were a messy collective. Chris was fifteen - a taller than average teenager with the whisperings of a moustache and an obsession with Midnight Oil. I was next in order. Fourteen years old, melodramatic and almost always in trouble. Followed by Andy - a self conscious twelve year old who was often embarrassed by his family. We were the ‘big ones.’ The little ones were more excited about this trip than we were. Peter was an extroverted ten year old - 'Howdy doody,' we called him as he was always trying to make new friends - communal holidaying appealed to him. And Mikey at eight was obsessed with fishing. On the lead up to this holiday it was all he spoke of - the complete anglers guide, his favourite book. Little ones, future ones I haven’t told you much about Lizzy yet. She was six. There was an eight year gap between her and I and as much as I had longed for a little sister she didn’t really live up to my expectations in the beginning. She was a weird little thing who would eat tins of creamed corn and strawberries rolled up in slices of ham. Being the youngest of six she was self reliant and would play by herself for hours. But she wasn’t aloof. I was never a very touchy feely girl and she would drive me crazy with her bursts of affection, flopping all over me, demanding hugs.
55: At home Lizzy and I shared a room. She had the top bunk where she was not allowed to move. “Stop moving I’d scream,” every time the bunk would creak. I was mean to my little sister, especially when I had friends over, ordering her to bring us drinks and fill our hot water bottles then telling her to “piss off” when she tried to hang around. Little did I know though that on that top bunk she kept a journal. And when we thought she was sleeping she’d be transcribing our conversations. Every teenage detail – ready to show Mum in the morning. We were used to camping – they were the only kind of holidays we’d ever had. Tics, snakes and bush toilets - none of us were phased by the environment here. Chris, Andy, Peter and Mikey shared a tent. And I shared a tent with Lizzy and one of our parents’ friends daughters. She was around the same age as me. “Watch what you say,” I warned her about Lizzy, “she writes down everything.” Although reluctant to begin with Chris began to enjoy this holiday. He made friends with a bunch of kids the same age as him and was allowed out at night to bonfires on the beach. “Good wholesome fun,” all the parents said they were having. But I knew better - they'd hide alcohol in the dunes. One time Chris got so drunk that he couldn’t find his way home. In the morning he showed me where he'd vomited in the sand. The parents, too busy having their own fun never realised what they got up to. Gin and tonics began at five followed by bottle after bottle of red. Nights would be spent sitting around the camp fire listening to their voices get louder and louder. Our Mum usually involved in some intellectual debate with another camp member - usually a male and usually ending with her calling them a “pompous prick.” Because there were no clocks here, we had no set bed time. Instead we were sent to bed when conversations became unsuitable for childrens ears. But our tent walls weren’t soundproof - we could still hear everything.
56: Whilst Chris hung out with his new friends, Andy, Peter and Mikey would spend their mornings collecting bait and their afternoons fishing. It was competitive fishing with Mikey always bringing in the biggest catch. This pissed his older brothers off - giving them another reason to punch his head in. Our Dad as a surprise a year or so before had taken me to Kmart to pick out my own fishing-rod. A green and black Jarvis Walker estuary rod it was the envy of all my brothers but not appreciated by me. I never let them use it, but I never used it either. Instead I spent my days showcasing my new bikini, cart-wheeling up and down the beach until finally I was noticed by two boys. They were what our camp called, ' boat people.' A different breed altogether from us campers, they docked their yachts and cruisers on the public jetty here. Their clothes were white as white and because their shit didn’t stink they they'd dump the contents of their toilets into the lake – this infuriated the adults at our camp site. The two boys went to Scotch College and were quite quick to point out the large luxury yacht owned by their parents. “We have a yacht too,” I told them. It wasn’t really a lie. Just that morning Dad had been making the final adjustments to his canoe-yacht. She was ready to sail. And that she did – sort of. Although Sailing wasn’t really the word. She heaved and lurched like a demented pelican, tipping spasmodically from side to side. Chris as first mate clung desperately to an outrigger, Dad at the keel wearing a pair of blue stubby shorts and a terry toweling hat pissed himself laughing as Chris screamed. “What the fuck is that?” the two boys gasped as she passed us. I'd always been quite proud of my family but at that moment I was willing to disown them – Before I could though Dad spotted me on the shore and yelled out to make sure I was watching his virgin sail. “That's my Dad,” I admitted. “Is he an inventor?” They asked. “Yes,” I told them, “a famous one.”
57: The canoe yacht
59: Lake life - maim photo - Harry on boat.
60: Track leading up to house
61: IN THE BEGINNING...
62: Sometimes it would be years between visits to Barrier Landing, sometimes it would be year after year - consecutively. It was on a visit in 2000 that Mum and Dad came across this block and decided to buy it. In the beginning my brothers, my sister and I were excited at the idea of our own family beach house – at that stage we had no idea of the role we would play in its construction It became apparent quite early that there was a reason Dad didn’t mind having six kids – he had a revolving workforce. If one of us were working, traveling or just caught up in our own lives there was always another to take our place. And it wasn’t just us, it was our partners and friends - lured up by the promise of a beach side escape only to be handed a shovel or wheelbarrow on arrival. There were only two things really that distinguished our block from a Japanese work camp and they were the copious amounts of alcohol supplied by Dad and the five star camp meals cooked by our Mum. Little ones and future ones, before I go into a chronological account of the building process here I feel a duty to make a few things clear. The first is that this is my account and as someone who usually writes in fiction I have a tendency to embellish and exaggerate - I have difficulty sticking to facts. The second is that it I also tend to omit information purely for dramatic effect - as I did earlier when I told you that this house took seven years to build. What I didn’t tell you was that the majority of the building could only be done on the occasional weekends and holidays that Dad had rounded up a sufficient workforce. This being the case the block in itself took many months to clear. This was all done by hand with chainsaws, hacksaws, shovels and wheelbarrows...
63: Mike and Dad and the clearing of the block
64: The next stage involved the transporting of various building materials. A barge was used on several occasions for the larger loads but more often than not it was a deep hulled tinny co-owned by my parents and the Blake family that did most of the work. Known as the “workhorse” it had been modified – a steel frame welded on acting as roof racks to cope with loads much bigger than the boat itself. It was by no means designed for comfort - the workhorse. Passengers on this vessel were almost always crammed in between bags of cement and wooden beams. We would be placed strategically our weight used to counter-balance so that the boat didn’t tip. Every single one of us at some stage made the trip during storms and gale force winds. These voyages were terrifying. At the journeys end we would alight the boat soaking wet, trembling with fear and swearing at our Dad for putting our lives at risk. | The workhorse
65: Like every other process here the transporting of materials was not only time consuming but also labour intensive. My older brother Chris named one particular day “D-day.” Like a veteran he’d wince at the memory – the barge pulling up on the beach loaded with a mountain of gravel and other materials needed for the footings. He’d recall how they worked all weekend in forty degree heat wheel-barrowing loads up to the block. It was a taste of things to come. And Chris was smart - it wasn’t long after that, that he pissed off overseas. | Over the seven years of building (and to this day) my siblings and I would often argue and tease each other over who had made the biggest contribution here. Andy was another to go overseas – the rest of us would often laugh about how he and Chris escaped. In reality though – none of us got out of it. The amount of work we each did was not really measurable in hours or days. Memories were what we measured in. Each one of us with one more dramatic or painful than the others. For example I wasn’t here for any of the blocks clearing and rarely for the transporting of materials. But I forget this when arguing with my brothers and instead remind them of a trench I dug or a wall I built (single-handedly of course) whilst none of them were here.As I said we were a revolving workforce -we all had a story to tell. | Chris working hard!
67: BARRIER FEVER Barrier fever; a condition in which a person or persons is overwhelmed by a fit of rage and has an urgent need to leave Barrier Landing. Causes -Too much hard work, or anticipation of hard work ahead. -Too much time spent stuck on the barrier with no escape from other family members. -Short supplies of food, cigarettes or alcohol. -Bad weather. -Cases vary in severity but are at their worst when all these elements are combined. Symptoms -Feeling of being stuck -Frequent use of the word ‘fuck’ often directed at Mum or Dad. -Moodiness, withdrawal from other family members. -Aggression, shovel or bucket throwing, wheel barrow kicking. Treatment -A day trip to the mainland away from family. - food, alcohol and a break from hard work. - Severe cases call for immediate deportation and a few months break. Famous case -It is unusual for Barrier Fever to strike more than on person at a time but there is a famous case in which the entire campsite were struck at once. This case known as the night of the flying chicken wings occurred on New Years Eve 2005. This day had all the essential elements; - Forty degree heat. - Two days hard work carting wood for the decking to the house - Delay in the supply of alcohol, cigarettes and food. -Fever hit its peak at approximately 9pm when the boys formed a coup and decided to throw chicken wings at the house. This created a snowball effect with drama’s continuing into the early hours of the next morning. Every single one of us (including Dad) were struck at some stage that night!
69: Ariel view of the Gippsland Lakes
70: Dad thinking, Mum cooking...
71: THE FOOTINGS and a moment of corniness...
72: It was a constantly evolving project – this house. It often seemed that Dad was just making it up as he went along. Often he was. For this reason working along side Dad could be painstaking, much of our time here was spent standing at the building site watching him think. This thinking process could take hours, sometimes days. The most frustrating thing about it being that we were never given the ‘ok’ to go off and have fun. Instead we were expected to stand around watching him, hands in the pockets of his shorts, the occasional muttering of a, “Neeeahh,” from him, the only indication that he was coming closer to a solution. The digging of the trenches for the footings was one stage that I found particularly frustrating. They had to be so many millimeters wide and deep. One time after a day of digging I called Dad over to admire my work. Tape measure in hand he inspected. “Too deep Cate,” he’d said, “fill it in half a foot.” I was tired and emotional. I had never worked so physically hard in my life. And what Dad hadn’t realised was that I wasn’t working for the greater good of this house. In fact I had no faith at all in its completion. I was here, because as daughters so often do, I was working for his praise. “You can get fucked," I’d said, bursting into tears. Dad never liked it when I cried. He’d always deal with it by wrestling me into an awkward hug. One hand held tight on the scruff of my neck the other clenching my shoulder. It was in this moment he decided to explain to me the importance of the footings. “They are the foundations Cate," he’d said, “if we don’t get them perfect the whole thing is stuffed." Dad wasn’t into sentimentality and definitely not into metaphors. He had no idea of the impact these words had on me. So many times during the building of this house I would recall them – they acted as a pacifier – stopping me from totally losing it with him. He was most certainly talking facts but these words held an entirely different meaning to me. You see the majority of us were here that day. And I remember looking around and watching every single one of us involved in some kind of interaction with the other – be it taunting, laughing or trying to kill each other. Much like an old house, as a family we had weathered storms, suffered wear and tear. We’d patched things up a billion times, repaired the odd break or two and mended hinges hanging on by only threads We were by no means perfect but it made me think about Mum and Dad and the foundations they’d laid down for us, They'd worked hard - our footings were millimeter perfect. A warped collage of personalities -we were a dysfunctional lot. But we weren’t stuffed at all. We were still in one piece.
73: Mike and Dad mixing cement | Me digging trench | Pouring of cement | reinforcing mesh
74: 3D image created by Mike prior to construction
75: The end result
77: See we not in Africa and Spain, walls of earth, known as Formocean walls, from the fact that they are moulded rather than built by enclosing earth within a frame of boards, constructed on either side. These walls will last for centuries, are proof against rain, wind and fire, and are superior in solidity to any cement Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 78 AD | RAMMED EARTH
78: Little ones future ones, perhaps you hate this house and are waiting for a natural disaster to tear it down so that you can rebuild – your perfect beach home. If this is the case it may be a long wait you have ahead. You see, they say that with proper design, construction and maintenance a rammed earth wall will last forever. In the Middle East and China structures have been found dating back to 5000 BC. Mosques, temples and Kasbahs were made out of it. Also known as pise de terre - the French have been using it since 1562. | Traditionally, rammed earth walls were made by ramming a mixture of aggregates between panels called formwork. The quarrying of materials and the ramming was all done by hand and was a labour intensive process. Construction of the walls here begun in 2002 – these were by no means ancient times. Quarries were available to supply materials and powered rams had made the process considerably faster. But we were doing it the traditional way – extracting materials from the site and using a steel hand operated rammer. | With Dad being a geologist I suppose it made sense that he decided to use his medium – the earth. “We’re building a bloody big sandcastle,” he’d often say when trying to explain to people what we were doing. The extraction of the sand was a gradual process. We’d stockpiled much of it when digging out the trenches for the footings. By the time it came to building we had a good supply. However the sand then needed to be sieved to get rid of stones and other debris – this would make it easier to mix with the cement that we’d also be using. | We did this by using a contraption that became known as the “vibrator.” This was a makeshift structure in which a two tiered sieving system hung by chains to a metal A-frame, a powered vibrator hanging beneath to move the sand through. There was no such thing as standing around on the building site. Whenever we looked a bit too idle we’d be handed a shovel to go off and sieve sand. | Above - old things made out of rammed earth
79: Left - Chris and the vibrator. Top - diagram of rammed earth process - note their reference to pneumatic (powered) ram Above - drawing showing a busy rammed earth construction site.
80: As it only took a couple of people to construct, one of the times we were often spotted being idle was during the erection of the formwork. Although less labour intensive and requiring less manpower than other process’s it was a time consuming task - one of the main times that we’d stand around watching Dad think. The formwork which was made out of marine ply had to be oiled, positioned, threaded with steel poles and then clamped tightly. Often vents or windows had to be incorporated into the structure making it an even longer process. If not perfectly straight, even and vertical weakness’ in the walls would occur.
81: Other page - Pete and Dad constructing formwork. This page - Dad and an erection.
82: Once the formwork was up it was time to start ramming. Our roles in this process depended entirely on our sex. The “glory” job was on the mixer. The boys would fight for this position. It held so much status that once the formwork was off and the wall unveiled, they would admire their creation and refer to it as “their” wall – completely forgetting the many other hands involved its construction. | Unveiling of walls
84: It was usually the most dominant males that would win this role – rotating amongst each other. The rest of the workforce would be allocated specific positions. There were sand shovellers and sifters. Water and cement gatherers, bucket fillers and haulers. My own work usually began early, transporting enough water and cement from the shed up to the site so that we could begin. | I was often accompanied by my brother Mike whose job it was to transport the generator and cement mixer then hook them up. I often wondered why it always seemed to be Mikey and I up first thing with our specific tasks to complete until I realized the reason was simple – we were the least likely to tell Dad to “get stuffed." The sound of the generator starting up would mark the official beginning of a days work. We would then assume our positions be it mixer, shoveller or bucketer and brace ourselves for a frenzied few hours. | It was a fast paced production line beginning with the mixer. Their job was to mix the prescribed formula of sand, cement and water in the cement mixer and then pass it onto the shoveller who would shovel it into a bucket then pass it onto the bucket hauler who would then lift it up to Dad. Dad would then pour it into the formwork and ram it, the cycle repeating itself over and over again until a section of form work was complete.
85: Summer 2002 and 2003 - Peak times, mixers, shovellers, bucketers and Dad on top ramming
88: Little ones, future ones it was hard, boring work – monotonous. We used exactly the same process for every single wall here. However if they could talk, they’d all tell a completely different story. Some were built easily – in the midst of summer when the workforce was at its peak. Golden and unblemished – these walls are near to perfect. Some on the other hand barely made it, skeleton crews throwing down their shovels on dark winters days. Freezing cold and crusted in cement they would call it a day – these walls are marked with lines showing exactly where building stopped and then recommenced. “They had character,” Dad would say. | Fathers day 2002 - wall built by skeleton crew, consisting of myself, Mum, Dad, their friends the Laceys and some randon friend of a friend (in blue) that Dad roped in out of desperation when we went on strike on day 1 leaving wall only three quarters finished Right - woman with shovel - Simone.
91: MY 3 STEP GUIDE TO BUILDING A RAMMED EARTH HOUSE
92: STEP 1 -First you build the corners and the bits in between
94: STEP 2 - Then you fill in the gaps
98: STEP 3 - Then you get Billy Williams to finish it...
99: THE COW YARD | The cowyard was a quaint little cottage situated in the middle of a farm in Nungerner - we often rented it during the colder months whilst building. If its walls could talk they too would have a billion stories!
100: Good times camping - top left - Mum and her sister Anne at the camp kitchen. Bottom left - Pete with Dad's brother Angelo and Angelo jnr. Top right - Belinda and baby Adam. Bottom right - Adam having a camp bath. Main - Dad pointing out some interesting facts to his brother in law Rob. Robs wife Anne and their daughter Laura looking captivated!
102: Camp dining - with the Blake and Williams families | Same dining table covered in all dad's crap. Below - Dad
103: G-Marg and Tesstickles. Right - Mum's Mum our Grandma Margie. Below - Dad's Mum our Grandma Tess who became known as Tesstickles when Chris made up a joke Q -What would happen if Grandma married a man named Mr Tickles? A - Her name would be Tesstickles! Bottom right - Chris and daughter Luisa
104: Australia Day weekend 2003 - Above Andy, Mike and Simone. Right - Friends of Mum and Dad's in matching denim shorts. Dad too drunk to drive them back to mainland. Big storm comes, my tent flooded out. I end up sharing a room with them in the house next door where they sleep naked - awkward!
105: Bay window wall
106: Constructing of the lintels - A lintel is defined as a structural horizontal block that spans the space or opening between two vertical supports.
107: Mike and Dad - bearings and joists
108: More bearing and joisting and building of the cellar. Middle - Dad's butt Top left - Billy Williams Bottom left - our cousin John O'Dowd. Bottom right - Mike
111: BACK TO BILLY
112: Little ones, future ones Billy Williams wasn’t just any old builder contracted to finish off this house. He was also one of Dad’s best friends and a consultant from the very beginning. Whilst the rest of us had little faith in Dad’s vision, Billy stood beside him, hands in the pockets of his own shorts – the two of them thinking, speaking their language, “Hmmmm” from Billy “Neeaaahhh” from Dad The occasional bad joke thrown in between. If he wasn’t on site, he was never far away. You could be sure that if Dad was on the phone it was to Billy. Not only did he guide Dad throughout this project, but he and his wife Sue allowed us to camp on their block next door for seven years straight. They shared their summers, Easters and long weekends with us and we were by no means an unobtrusive bunch. We’d come in droves, wheelbarrows full of grog - overloaded. They witnessed and put up with a billion family dramas. Shared their shed, dunny, kitchen and dinner table with us. Shared our good times and our laughter. We are indebted to them and their hospitality. Needless to say, in this house in which you sit there is always a place for the Williams family. | Journal Entry - 31st of December 2007 It's a beautiful day on the beach, a sky full of sun, just enough of a breeze to keep the sting at bay. Adam holds hands with his little friend Bella. As I write he pulls down his pants to pee in the waves. Bella doesn't seem to mind...we predict a summer romance between the two of them some day
113: Adam with Billy and Sue's daughter Bella at the building site
114: Building the roof and stuff - Billy and his crew. Bottom right - my partner Matt in hat was one of the contractors used for the job.
122: GREAT LAKES DAYS
123: My daughter Beth in the dunes
127: Journal entry 30th of December 2007 – writing to Jim Hi you, Only three weeks now til we find out what you are, girl or boy? Pink or blue? I guess either will be OK. As I write I’m sitting on the beach at the Barrier watching your cousins Luisa and Adam play. Little boys are so easily pleased. Adam jumps through the waves with his big uncle Chris. Moonface beaming, his only concern being what to do next. Luisa shovels sand. Short and stout, squatting like a frog in her blue Scottish bathers. She never shuts up and seeks our approval constantly – what a wonderful castle she is making ...little girls are so delicous
130: Playing in waves with Adam, I find my lost friend “awe.” Each wave with its own adventure, His moon-face squealing, “More.” It’s a big one. C’mon lets jump it. Oh no! Do you think we can? Watch me. Watch me jump it. I’m a muscle man. Looks like his Dad at the same age. Has the common sense of his Mum. I shepherd him from the big waves. Their superhero son. Hold onto me I’ll save you. Not too deep Aunty Cath, hold my hand. Quick our feet are sinking! We’re being eaten by the sand. Tide’s high, it’s almost lunch time Sun beats on his sand-crusted skin. But the waves, they’re getting better. No chance of bringing him in. Look at the pelican. The seaweed. Is sand a bit like snow? Look at that fish. I think its dead! Where do animals go? | His little boy brow is serious I explain as well as I can. He watches the fish as the tide drags it out. He puffs his chest to look like a man. Maybe it was sleeping? Maybe it was cold. Look at that ship! Do you think its pirates? Do you think there’s treasure? Maybe gold? Sun comes down, kisses the sea goodnight. The sky has turned to pink. His big brown eyes are wondrous. What do little boys think? Where does the pink sky come from? Are there spiders in the sea? Have you ever seen a dinosaur? I’m tired, lets go have tea. I spent that summer with Adam That moon-faced boy of four. And even though I was his aunty It was he who taught me more. | Poem I wrote during some down time here after a day spent playing on the beach with my nephew. Opposite page - my son Jim on the beach
135: BARRIER ETTIQUETTE - Do not throw chicken wings at house. - If sleeping upstairs do not entice your wife to bed with, “C’mon baby I’m in the mood for luuurve” unless you want the whole household to hear. - Do not let un-toilet trained children onto upstairs walkway without pants on - they may pee on your head. - Make sure the kettle is always boiling. - If you are making breakfast for yourself make sure you always ask, “Does anyone want a muffin?” - If you don’t want to share your food, hide it or put your name on it. - Do not get drunk and yell at your mother to stop wobbling her head when she is winning at a board game. - Do not get drunk and yell at your mother that she ruined your dreams of becoming a super-model – you will never live it down. - Do not go skinny-dipping when other siblings are around. They will steal your clothes. - If your clothes are stolen whilst skinny dipping do not aboard other peoples boats and steal their life jackets to cover yourself up with. - Do not flash your breasts at your brothers this will make them very uncomfortable. - When coming out of the ocean, check your bikini and make sure that your breasts are fully covered before embarking on a conversation with your Dad and his mates. - If you pee or vomit in the sand, cover it up or the imprint will be left there for days. - Do not pee on paths especially if barefooted men on the verge of barrier fever happen to be walking on them. - Do not get caught by neighbours filming your dogs humping – they will think you’re a sicko. - Unscramble obscene phrases on fridge made from the magnetic poetry set before guests enter house. -Do not put boiling water on your sons chair. You might burn his balls and end up with a cracked rib. - And whatever you do – do not walk into someone’s house and mess with their playlist. | Left - Mum and Sue Williams enjoying a libation on deck
156: FEEDING TIME
160: NEW YEARS EVE
164: NEW YEARS DAY
167: THE GHOST OF THE BARRIER | THE GHOST OF THE BARRIER
168: Little ones, future ones, He is not dead yet – and if I have my way he never will be. But if he goes, when he goes – this is where he will be. Perhaps you will hear the clip of his thongs or the sound of a, “neeahhh” whispering through the trees. Perhaps you will wake to the generator starting or Tom Waits playing in the middle of the night or the glare of a headlamp coming down the stairs. Perhaps your glass of red wine will appear, mysteriously topped up or at the breakfast table there will be the distinct smell of a fart that no one will admit to. Yes this is where he will be if he decides to be a ghost. This is where his soul is. This is where he is most alive and when he isn’t here this is what he is most alive talking about. From the lake to the ocean and everything in between this is where his thongs spring with a lively gait – where his eyes are always smiling. It is here that he is most relaxed – not that that means resting. There is still an outdoor kitchen to be built and a boathouse filled with bunks – planned specifically to accommodate the growing number of you little ones. As I wrote earlier Dad isn’t into sentimentality or metaphors – he likes facts. For him I am sure this is just a ‘bloody big sandcastle’ – somewhere we can gather. But he has built so much more than that. He has built a platform in which the chaos and drama of our bloodlines can continue. He has built another chapter – another book perhaps. More so though, he has built a real relationship with my five siblings and I – an adult one. As my four year old son says, “ Dads are busy and tired peoples,” and he is right - as children we rarely get to see them at their best – so busy they are trying to figure out a way to feed, clothe and educate us – they have no time for dreams. And then as adults we often move away – get our own lives, our memories of our fathers remaining just that – busy, tired people. Where our Dad’s dream began – I have no idea but at some stage he must looked at the sand and decided that one day he’d build a house out of it. That we his adult children were invited to be part of this dream was at times torturous but ultimately his greatest gift to us. We got to know him here. We got to see him at his best.
171: QUIET PLAESE THERE'S A LADY ON STAGE | she may not be the latest rage...
172: But as I wrote earlier - as long as she lived we would gather. Whilst we were a revolving workforce, coming and going as we pleased it was our Mum who was Dad’s constant. She was there for every boat trip, sometimes the only one loyal and brave enough to accompany Dad in the midst of the wildest storms. She picked up more shovels and buckets, wheeled more barrows than all of us put together and in break times cooked meals for the masses. She drove the four hours by herself time and time again after a full week teaching to meet Dad. Not that it was ever four hours. There were stop offs in every town - coffee in Yarra Glen, Delicatessens in Healesville, Galleries in Neerim, Bakeries in Rosedale, even a stop off at the club X in Traralgon once with me on board..it was an eight hour trip that day. Note to self...I wrote in my journal... don’t dare Mum to go into sex shop. She will do it. Club X in Traralgon to be exact. She walked straight in. Now she wants to go back but is going to wear a burka this time so that no one recognises her. She says she’s got her eye on a blow up handyman. That was Mum's way - to find adventure and humour in the most mundane of things – she’d seek it in times of adversity. I suppose laughter was perhaps her only way to deal with having six kids under nine – herself only thirty by the time she had us. And maybe seeing life as an adventure was the only mindset possible whilst raising us, studying and working fulltime – at one stage single handedly. She was by no means a martyr though. She loved nice things, it’s just for a while there she couldn’t afford them. She loved space too –but even the tiniest patch of sun sought out on a Saturday morning to read her newspapers would be tangled up with the six of us, spilling her tea, soaking and tearing the paper. This house as I said may not seem that remarkable, but it is made of the first brand new walls she ever owned, her first brand new kitchen. It is decorated with a billion of her purchases, a mish mash of new and old, just like her, just like us – a bizarre collection that when put together somehow makes sense. She more than earned this space and all its nice things – she deserved them.
174: Little ones, future ones, we gathered because she was funny, cooked the best meals and was perhaps the only one able to bring down a ‘barrier fever.’ She would do this by listening, cooking, arbitrating and telling Dad to give us a break. But she wasn't always on our side. Loyal to the bone she was just as likely to turn around and scream at us if we were attacking Dad unfairly, “For fucks sake I can’t believe I’ve brought up such selfish children,” she yelled that summer back in 2003, “your Dad just wants to build a place where family can always gather.” And we did...
176: TO BE CONTINUED...by you little ones...