Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"So 1868....that makes it

one hundred and forty-seven years old," Brother Cat said. He was looking at a tiny plaque on a small cottage. 
Downunder 1868 is "old". This part of Downunder was only settled as a state in the 1830s. 
Brother Cat is over here with his partner for a few days. They have come to see Middle Cat who is still recovering in hospital. They came by car as they have other essential things to do on the way back. It also meant we headed to the hills yesterday.
There are some curious little places up there. Many of them have German names. The "towns" (Upover would called them villages) are growing. It will not be long before some of them begin to join together along the winding roads that go through the hills. The new parts do not  yet have the character of the old parts.
The old parts have Lutheran churches and schools and streets with German surnames. The bakeries still carry breads with German names - something that is not entirely a tourist gimmick. 
While another part of the state still has a church which conducts a service in German for a tiny handful of elderly people you won't hear German spoken on the streets - except by tourists - but German is still the preferred "modern" language taught in the local schools and many of the children still have German surnames. 
And there are the  old cottages and some larger houses. The cottages were for "the workers" of course. They are made of local stone, some of them are white-washed and others are not. They are  basic four room structures with a verandah at the front and, unless upgraded, a "lean to" at the back where the kitchen and the washing took place. (And yes, there are still a few like that.) The windows are small and open outwards rather than upwards. 
The houses for the gentry are much, much larger affairs with an upper as well as a ground floor. They tend to be square or rectangular and built of the local stone. Unlike the wooden verandahs of the cottages  though they have ornate wrought iron verandahs and high ceilings. And yes, they are old too.
They would all have been built when it was still the journey of a day or more from the colony on the plains. There was no refrigeration. The water supply was the rainfall - more certain up there but still something to watch in the summer. What they did about doctors and the like depended on whether anyone had chosen to go up there for a time - and whether they stayed.  
     "You could be certain of a pastor but much less certain of a priest or a doctor," a very old man told me when I was in my teens. His grandparents had been among the first settlers there. He had been to a tiny school in the room of a house. It was run by the daughter of the pastor. Even in the late 1920's an old woman I know went to such a school. She was taught in German, not English. It was less common by then but her education consisted of basic reading, writing, arithmetic, religion, a little history and geography and things it was considered essential for a girl to know - sewing, cooking, laundry skills and how to knit socks. She was brought up in a house like the one Brother Cat and I were looking at. 
It won't be too much longer before her generation goes entirely. She remembers her grandparents with little affection. They were strict Lutherans who worked hard and had little time to offer their children or their grandchildren. 
Brother Cat and I turned away from the plaque and saw a present day grandfather pushing his grandson down the street as the tiny boy tried to keep his feet on the pedals of a push along plastic toy. His wife was talking to someone on a mobile phone. It made 1868 seem a long time ago - a very long time indeed.

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