Monday 9th Aug.
Got a letter from Geoff, I mean, Mickey Blunden yesterday. Seem to be enjoying themselves. Hope none of the wicked Frenchmen grabbed a bit of Mickie’s buttocks. South of France – I too would like to see it, the country of Van Gogh & Cézanne. Be interesting to see the actual scenes they had painted. Be very illuminating as regards their conceptions of nature.
Letter dated 30th June. I suppose they’re pretty near back by this. Strange that they should have seen so much of the world while I have been busy prying & poking into odd corners, gullies and old trees. If only one could take such a leisurely trip on such a vast scale.
Had our first guest yesterday. Farm hand from homestead up yonder, on property of which we are camped. Spoke to me whilst doing my ‘masterpiece.’ Treated him to a cup of tea and was rewarded with vision of him balancing said cup on lap and trying to avoid getting crumbs on his lips, all in very best drawing room style.
Did a spot of bush carpentry today. Made a lean-to table against the tree. Have also constructed sunken brick fireplace. Stay here much longer I’d better buy the acre and, so conserve my activities. My! But I’m proud of that table. Jerky writing here the results of most powerful hiccups. Potent rissoles I make!
Have got 4 paintings on the go. Only 1 any good I’m afraid. Still, having great old experiments on others. All mistakes duly covered over with tempura white (home made). How I loathe painting over dried & mistakenly applied colour! Seem to be discovering, after 6 months, the method of painting I prefer to employ. Essentially all a prima, which gives freshness, but unless greatly interested in the subject and it well within one’s capabilities is difficult of execution. However, all mussy paintings can, I suppose, serve as a basis for subsequent, more considered attempt. The difficulties will probably have managed to resolve themselves in the messy soup of paint.
7th August Sat.
Finally rooted after vain seekings for roadside spot further up the road. Laid our foundations cunningly close to tiny local school with water tank attached and windmill well across the road. In desperate plights for water. The creek having dried up in consequence of 7 months drought here. Did blessedly rain on the Monday and granted us 4 gallons of water & hail dutifully drained off the fly erected over front of home. Water for sundries extracted from sleep through. Green, slimy, thick. Ugh!
Milk unobtainable – Nobody here knows where I can get it. Bloody stingy liars!
Tuesday tripped up to Bylong Post Office for cash & stores. 21 miles away! From the G.P.O. to Hornsby for shopping! God, don’t know we’re alive down town! Spent largely at Gertie Wilson’s store & waited upon butcher & baker to appear from Wollar just a bare 17 miles further on. As a reaction to our prison fare of Monday rather overdid the eating of biscuits, lollies, etc & the drinking of lemonade. One needs must, I ‘spose, in times of plenty.
This morning went to Rylstone, a brisk walk of 16 miles, which we did in the car, & repaired damages suffered by our larder. Demand and supply of cakes & pastry was terrific. Dawn causing great neck twisting & eye swivelling amongst locals. Anyone’d think I had a blarsted tame tiger in the car. They make me sick! Kids down here panicky, climb over barb wire to avoid passing here. Poor soul, she made her first kill yesterday. A baby rabbit. Guess it must have been half dead with shock when I got it & broke its neck. Stupid couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t play any more. She’s never been told about the facts of life – and death.
Could only rustle up a quart of milk at Rylstone. “Too late,” they told me at the dairy. “If you’d come about 3:30 a.m. when we start milking……” Told them about “Gentleman” Johnny Weston of Jindabyne who started milking at 9:30. Too much for them – I left.
5th August Thursday
Ginghi, Bylong Valley.
Thank God for a quiet life. A welcome relief after tiresome, tensed up driving. Seem to have a positive genius for picking lonely unfrequented roads. A lonely plugging uninteresting trip from Wauchope up the Oxley highway. Miles and miles of intolerable hill and forest. A worrying run beset with overheating troubles & fears of petrol shortage. Miles and miles of dense sub-tropic forest atop the range, a sudden glimpse of busy human ant like activity in the shape of timber mill, tucked securely in a corner of the hills, manifesting its existence with harsh whine of the saws & the blowing hiss of steam. More miles of dark and darkening green & ever present frost in the gullies. At night fall a petrol pump is discovered, to our eyes, orchid like, aside the road. A lone house attends it. We fill up and enquire the locality. Yarrowitch. And it is on the map!
Time our arrival at Tamworth perfectly to coincide with lunch at the Holes. How delightful after days of dining on sad, aged meat(!) pies, and soggy mullet, & lemonade. Lemonade at 11d a bottle!! Enough to send a man to drink. Had pleasant lunch & even more important, the first decent water for weeks. Water, without weeds, mud and slimy dressings! Sat around till 3 o’clock & were regaled with choice scandal.
Slept on top of Murrurundi that night & wakening waited on 10 o’clock for the bank to rescue us from 1/10½.
Entered the Bylong Valley after lunch. Saw Daddy, Mummy & Baby kangaroo dash startled through the cypress covered slopes. How remote from the world this valley seems cupped by hills and traversed by the near dry Goulburn River. Fenceless & houseless & motionless the senses suggest that even time itself has stopped down here. We turn a corner expecting to emerge upon some great lost Atlantis but grey & still, the grass still mats the earth. Bladeless, red & rocked, the hills. Cypress mournfully aid the pervading melancholic suggestions of desolation & despair. A twenty mile suspension of recollected life. We are in the grave awaiting resurrection or disintegration. We climb around the spine cracking curves of Kerrabee Mountain & descend into the ragged head of Bylong proper. Finally arrive at a 2×4 store. A telegraph and telephone office, not yet dignified with the title Post Office. I get out & buy cigarettes & am beset with daffy looking people. The general excitement over the caravan and Dawn is intense. Their photos are taken and Jess is duly informed of the viciousness & untrustworthiness of the breed. “Tell me the old story.”
Black bushy eyebrows & moustache are cock quizzically as a Scotch terrier beneath my abstracted gaze. A simple youth rolls his head and his face floats silently gaping & guffing at my dissertations on said Alsatian’s food. I wish to send a telegram. Immediately great comings & goings & fumblings & seekings & behold, from beneath a pile of rhubarb & papers a hand emerges triumphantly clutching a dog eared telegraph form. The memory expert has saved the day. 4 of us telephone the wire to Denman. I leave in a daze, my mind remote.
Am settled beneath the shadow of encircling cliff faces. At sun down, gold lit with Rembrandtesque effulgence, glowing orange above the bluing shadowed trees.