Aug. 26th, 2010

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Friday: a day of work.

About ten years ago, we bought a cottage in Rockhampton for Mum. She was living south of Brisbane away out in the sticks, a long way from any services, and we persuaded her to move up to Rocky where Brother and Big Sister were living. We found a sweet little house across from the Botanic Gardens in a nice area of town for her.

It had a bit of a garden under a big old poinsettia tree in the back yard, the dog could romp around and be taken for walks, there was a guest bedroom and a converted carport for storage.

The first rains exposed some problems. The carport/laundry/library flooded and the roof leaked.

Not good.

We had the roof replaced and drainage boosted. Later work on the rotting kitchen floor and an airconditioner to defray the fierce tropical summer. Screens to keep out the mozzies.

But with Mum's increasing frailty, it became clear that her days of living alone in a cottage where the task of opening the windows was a serious chore were numbered. Brother found her a place in his house, and my siblings set about moving Mum's furniture and belongings out.

They worked mightily, but there was still a reasonable amount for myself and Little Sister to complete.

First step was to go around and see what had to be done. Little Sister realised, just as we pulled up outside, that she had forgotten the key, but one window was slightly ajar, and lithe nephew squeezed through to open the door for us. He liked that!

Lots of books - old books, mostly - some whitegoods, a couple of cupboards full of sewing and knitting goods, papers, random household items. A bit of cleaning.

Next step was to borrow another vehicle from Brother. He runs a business supporting the mining industry, and has a warehouse crammed full of interesting equipment. Trucks and forklifts and palletlifters to ferry it about. And a line of utes and 4WDs on the empty lot across the road.

He handed me the keys to one - a workhorse with a keyring made from a chunk of crocodile in a very Central Queensland fashion - and we had just enough time for a stop at Dad's retirement home before starting work.

Quite an impressive facility, actually. Sparkling clean, roomy, airy, thoughtfully laid-out and equipped, pleasant gardens. Big Sister sounded like she was on the point of moving in herself.

Then back to Mum's house, to finish off the morning. We made up two carloads - one of things for the dump, and another of items to be saved. I'm king of the clutter merchants myself, and over the years I've dealt with the problem by upsizing each new house. I probably don't need my bank statements from the 1980s, and I know I've got clothing from the same period which long since ceased to fit me.

Mum's much the same. Luckily my sister is a hard-headed woman and could make the decisions I'd evade. Nephew and I were instruments of destruction, flinging old rubbish out onto the municipal tip. It reminded me of my childhood days, where Dad would take a few boxes of rubbish to the dump, and then we'd happily clamber over the mounds of garbage, retrieving anything that looked interesting. A box of old paperbacks, a bag of faded Lego, a rusty pogo-stick, a pristine Doobie Brothers LP. Those were the days before tipshops and their dayglo-vested workers claimed all the good junk for themselves.

Back to Mum's for lunch - pies from the local bakery and fish and chips from the takeaway, appropriately junk food washed down with Sarsaparilla and Passiona - and then back into the fray. We reached the stage where what was left was for a local charity to look over, and we could think of brooming the place out.

Final trip to the rubbish tip. Nephew was deep into his narrative of space battles and robots, I'd found a Country and Western radio station, the afternoon was pleasantly warm, and I had a glow of achievement about me. We returned the ute to Brother, found a pizza shop, ordered up a couple of hot ones, drove back home and fell into bed.

I love Rockhampton in winter. It's a bustling town nowadays, with the mining boom. Plain restaurants selling good food, plenty of beautiful old pubs, parks green and lush, a row of glorious stone buildings from the old colonial days lined up on the bank of the Fitzroy, a pedestrian mall in the middle of town.

I left Queensland for Canberra twenty-five years ago, but my heart remains north of the Tweed. At least in winter.

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Skyring

September 2010

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