Saturday, 22 August 2009

A former neighbour died this week.

She was 96. Her sister, 94, is still alive and now lives alone in the house they were born in.
The house itself is just over 100 years old. That is old in Australia.
Kathleen and Joan were the only two children. They never married. They also grew up in an era when you did not move out of the family home unless you married. When their mother died they cared for their father. He was a cantankerous, whisky drinking, pipe-smoking man. The summer he turned 96 he climbed onto the roof of the house and painted the galvanised iron again. He lived another two years after that.
After his death Kathleen and Joan went on living in the house. It was too big for four people. It was most certainly too big for two people. The kitchen has not changed since it was updated after World War Two. All the furnishings belong to the same era or earlier. They were once kept exquisitely polished and dusted or laundered. Now, like Joan, they are becoming frail around the edges. Joan is profoundly deaf. She is inclined to fall. She will not move.
Kathleen and Joan travelled. They used up more passports than many businessmen. They did not just 'do Europe' . They went to China before China opened up to the general tourist trade. They did the trans-Siberia trip without the benefit of an organised tour party. They went to Africa, India and the rest of the sub-continent. They toured Asia and the Pacific. They went to the United States, Canada, Mexico and through South America. They knew the United Kingdom and Europe better than many of the locals. They loved Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Morocco. Name it and they had almost certainly been there with the exception of North Korea - Kathleen's one regret. She did not find out how bad it was for herself and she was sure the scenery would be magnificent.
They almost always went independently until they were in their 80's. Then they reluctantly went with groups - or 'led' groups. They knew the ropes. Joan did 'the other half of the Silk Route' at 89.
Travel was their life. Work was what came in between planning trips and the undertaking them. They were the true travellers who return home with very few, if any, souvenirs. Souvenirs did not interest them. They had their photographs and their memories. They did not foist their photographs on other people although, if you expressed an interest, they would show you a few. They would inform us when they were going and when they returned. We would keep the pot plants watered. The garden would grow wild.
At the far end of the garden there was an old rowing boat. Their father had once used it to go fishing in. He was not a traveller. The boat, like them, was gradually decaying.
I am going to see Joan today and I will look to see if there is anything left of the boat.


Rachel Fenton said...

It's nice to think you can still be someone's child in your old age though - and to "grow wild".
I really enjoy your blog - I think it's because it makes me sad in an enjoyable way.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou. I am trying to find out what I am doing on this blog...why did I start? I am not sure. Helen over on Mother at Large says one needs a niche...cats need niches in the plural I think...but perhaps one particular napping spot?

Donna Hosie said...

A really beautiful, moving post, Cat.