around here yesterday. I know it was Good Friday but the vast majority of our neighbours do not attend church. They have not headed off to Oakbank or on some other four day jaunt for Easter. They were home. They were quiet, very quiet.
This is good. I like quiet.
I have never wanted to go to Oakbank for Easter yet there are people who do this every year. There are others who 'must' go away for Easter. Why?
Oakbank is a little town (village to those of you who live in the UK) in the Adelaide Hills. Oakbank's claim to fame is a four day horse racing meeting held every year at Easter. Thousands of people descend on the place. They camp out, caravan it, stay with friends nearby or in the numerous bed and breakfast types of accommodation available. They apparently meet other friends, have picnic meals and watch horses running around a track and jumping over obstacles.
The last time I sat on the back of a horse was at a Crippled Children's Camp. It was very, very large police horse. It was a very, very long way off the ground and I only did it because a child called Miles would only do the same thing if I would do it with him. Those camps with the very politically incorrect name used to be held on the Oakbank Race Course in January each year. They are still held there but they go by a different name now.
The Girl Guides, of which I was a member, used to take sixty children to camp under canvas for ten days each summer. We used army tents. (The soldiers from the nearby army base used to come and pitch them for us.) We had the use of the primitive kitchen and primitive shower facilities. We largely made our own entertainment but some things were tradition.
The police horses would always come to visit. The children would be given 'rides' which consisted of being walked around a small enclosure. Unless there was a good medical reason not to do it all the children would have a ride - even if, like Miles, some of them would only ride with someone else behind them.
The Australian cricket team always came to visit too. They would come for lunch and sit then 'play' a game of cricket. There was a small battered mug labelled 'the Ashes' which the children always won. The visits had been initiated by the late Sir Donald Bradman and he always captained the team himself.
There was a visit to an orchard with rides on the tractor and an opportunity to pat a donkey.
In the evenings there would be singing around a 'campfire'. I still have my untidy folder of campfire songs. Each year a friend of mine would teach something new but there would always be the old favourites as well. I would sit on the prickly grass with Miles or Danny or Chris out of their wheelchairs and propped between my knees and hold their hands so that they could 'clap' in time even if they could not sing.
I had a specific role for the seven summers I spent at camp. I was there to act as what would now be known as a "communication facilitator" and what we then called "interpreter" between the children who had severe and profound communication issues and those who had been designated to help them. There were no fancy electronic communication devices back then. You had to rely on "yes" and "no" questions and communication boards. It took immense courage for a child to turn up and not be sure whether they would be understood and whether their needs would be met.
I stopped going to camp the year before I finished my teacher training. I could have gone on but I knew that the following summer I would be starting to work with children full time. It was time to stop. I trained up two keen young Guides to take over from me that year. I know they trained two more some years later. I wonder if they went on to train more.
From what people tell me the nature of the camp has trained. Videos have replace community singing. Tree 'climbing' is now forbidden. (I still do not know how a literally armless nine year old managed to get eight feet up a tree but he did.) Children are no longer allowed to leave their beds until the rising bell when those that could would once wander off, still in pajamas. to watch the horses being given an early morning work out. We are more security and safety conscious than before.
I suspect we had more fun at Oakbank than the race-goers will have this weekend. Perhaps we also had more fun than this year's campers too. I do not know. I do know that yesterday, when it was unusually quiet, I was reminded of something unusually good.