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The Mulberry Tree

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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:52 pm

Well, here we go again: Looks like two more characters are joining the story on a long-term basis. The way I’m going this yarn may wind up with a cast bigger than Ben Hur!

* * * * *

Early in the morning the sound of a vehicle coming along the track and stopping above the campsite was followed by a loud honk of its horn as Rob heralded his and Rebecca’s arrival, and shortly after the couple made their appearance at the bottom of the zigzag path.

“Had no problems finding the place I see,” said Dirk as coming from the shelter he advanced with a hand outstretched to Rob in greeting.

“Nah. Just followed the track you told me about,” he replied as they shook hands. “I might’ve driven past if Reb hadn’t pointed out the spur to your car-parking area though.”

Sally joined them just as Rob was about to introduce Rebecca and after having done so they all sat together at the table under the shelter, each nursing a mug of coffee as they planned the day. First on the agenda was to retrieve the timber from the hay-shed, plus perhaps a few more sheets of steel, although as they could be handled by Dirk and Sally without extra help and weren’t considered a priority. Rob’s opinion was that as he was there they should take advantage of his help and bring back as much as they could anyway, provided it left plenty of time for fishing of course. It was finally decided that they should all go on the first trip to the shed and then decide just how much could be recovered before stopping for lunch, after which the whole afternoon could be spent fishing.

When they all drove to the shed in Dirk’s truck Rob was surprised to find that their source of building materials was the same hay-shed that he’d driven past many times, and had at one time even thought of having a close look to see what was in there.

“I thought you were talking about the old Anderson house that was abandoned after the bushfire went through here years ago,” he said.

“No. In fact I’ve never seen or even heard of the place. Do you think it’d be worth having a look at?”

“It wouldn’t hurt, though it’s a few miles from here. It got burned a bit but though the local brigade was able to save most of it the owners decided that rather than fix it up they’d get a completely new house built closer to town.”

As neither of the girls had seen the place he was talking about it was decided to go there first, and after climbing back into the truck and following Rob’s directions Dirk drove towards Brocklesbury but at the Tee intersection turned left towards the town. Less than half a mile later he swung left again, this time into a driveway that obviously hadn’t been used in a very long time and drove to the old weatherboard house that could be seen at its far end. From the front the building looked to be in reasonable condition however at the rear the damage was quite obvious, with the back veranda and two rooms having been almost completely destroyed, though fortunately the fire had been prevented from spreading any further. They also found after carefully entering the house that it had been vandalised, however although some windows had been smashed, the interior walls of Masonite had many holes punched in them, and the light fittings had been torn out of the ceilings, that part of the building not touched by fire or water wasn’t too bad, all things considered.

When Dirk turned to Sally and gave her a big grin she grinned back at him and nodded her head up and down rapidly: Despite the fire damage there was enough good timber here to not only complete their cabin but together with the material from the hay-shed more than enough to also build an enclosed shed for Dirk to use as a workshop. The big difference here, as opposed to the hay-shed, was that the owners hadn’t left for parts unknown and would have to be asked for permission to remove anything.

That would have to wait for another day though: After all, the fishing planned for this afternoon couldn’t be delayed just because of this find and a short time later found them back at the hay-shed loading timber. With the first load dropped off at the camp Dirk and Rob returned to to get a second load while Sally and Reb, stayed behind to make up sandwiches for lunch and get to know each other a little better. Rebecca didn’t say much at first and Sally soon discovered that she was in fact quite a shy type of girl, although she opened up a bit after being shown the herb and vegetable gardens and hearing that a coop and chicken run was going to be added.

Apparently she’d faced difficult times as a child, being variously ignored or abused by her parents according to how much they’d been drinking or what they’d been smoking at the time, and her self esteem was at rock bottom. Not surprisingly her schoolwork suffered and this led to her being bullied so much at school that she dropped out, ran away from home and was living on the streets until being rescued by Rob. Thankfully she’d managed to avoid falling victim to drug dealers and pimps, though she knew that had she remained on the streets that would probably have been inevitable.

There was no way that she would ever be going home as on the night before leaving she’d pinched her father’s wallet when he’d come home drunk, taken out the cash and dropped it on the street outside their front gate. When a neighbour found and returned it to the address on the driver’s licence found inside her father thought he’d simply dropped it, and roundly cursed the unknown thief who’d obviously picked it up and removed the cash before throwing it away again. As the wallet contained his fortnightly pay plus five hundred dollars he’d won at the TAB on the horses it was no trifling amount, however Reb felt no remorse over her actions as by her reckoning it still wasn’t enough to cover the abuse she’d long suffered at his hands.

Rob, suspecting that she’d had a worse time of it than she admitted had never attempted to pry into her past but instead had simply taken care of her, providing her with a comfortable bed in her own room and three square meals a day. In return she kept house and prepared meals for them both, and began to study for her HSC through the local TAFE College in the hope that one she might be able to get a decent job. She wasn’t too sure of what she really wanted to do in the future though she loved animals and wondered if it would be possible for her to become a veterinarian.

For almost a year she and Rob shared the two-bedroom flat that he rented before she realised that she had grown to love him and moved into his bedroom as his partner. It hadn’t been as simple as just changing rooms and on the first night she had broken down in tears, admitting to Rob that she wasn’t a virgin, having been raped by her own father not long after her seventeenth birthday. When she tried to tell her mother about the assault she was loudly abused and accused of making the whole thing up, and was told never to repeat "the terrible lies" she had just told. When she tried to tell her mother about the assault she was loudly abused and accused of making the whole thing up, and was told never to repeat “the terrible lies” she had just told. As bad as the rape had been it was her mother’s reaction that had made the betrayal of trust complete and it was that rather the bullying she’d suffered as school that caused her to run off.

It had been two years ago since she’d made the admission to him but with the help of his patient understanding and love her self esteem and life had improved immensely, and while at times she still had some self doubts her rock solid Rob was always there to support her.

Sally showed her the knitting that she’d begun, the player and stack of records she and Dirk had purchased from the recycling centre, took her down to have a look at the vegetable garden and then down to the mulberry tree where she told her the story of Paddington Bear. It was an emotional telling and both girls were almost in tears by the time Sally had finished, however they both instinctively felt that each had found a good friend in the other and this was borne out over the many years that were to follow their first meeting.

After the men returned and wolfed down the stack of sandwiches that had been waiting for them, and with Rob’s ute being a two-door model seating only three they all piled into Dirk’s truck and headed for the beach with two eskies and their fishing rods and tackle on the back.

Despite that fishing was a very serious undertaking, according to Rob anyway, Dirk and Sally thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and, despite being wet with spray from several large waves that crashed onto the rocks from which they were fishing, each managed to catch just enough fish to get themselves hooked on the sport. It was, Dirk admitted, more than just sport as it was also an excellent way to put food on the table, and if they'd had a freezer he and Sally would probably fill it with fish. Reb laughed at that and said that if they did have a freezer it should only be half filled with fish as being homesteaders they’d need to leave enough room for a few chickens, and possibly some rabbits too.

“Or maybe you could build a smoker,” suggested Rob. “Not just for fish, but you could also use it for chicken, pork, beef and sausages.”

“We’ve already got one!” Sally suddenly exclaimed very excitedly. “Dirk, my dad and Uncle sometimes used that earth oven to smoke some of the fish they caught! I’m not sure how they went about it, but I’m sure we could learn how to use it.”

“You guys have an earth oven? Far out, man. We’ve got a Weber that I can use as a smoker but I’ve always wanted a big earth oven so we could make our own pizzas and bake bread. Trouble is we aren’t be able to build one where we’re renting. Hell, the old biddy who owns the place won’t even let me use the Weber in the back yard.”

“Gosh, that’s the pits. Well I guess you and Reb could come and use ours, especially if you have too many fish and need to offload a few,” Sally suggested. “In fact, maybe you could even show us how to smoke with it.”

“You’re on, Sal. I’d be glad to. Mind you, the wood around here isn’t what you’d want to be using but you can get packets of different woods for smoking at the camping shop in town.”

Having caught enough fish for one day they returned to the camp-site where Rob immediately went to check out the earth oven and fnding that it was even better than what he’d thought it might be said that it would be no problem for him to use it as a smoker. However today it was going to be used for their barbeque and it wasn’t long before the two men, a stubbie of beer in hand, had a bed of coals glowing under the hot-plate.

While Rob explained the intracies of using a smoker and how this earth oven could be used as one, the girls, each with a glass of wine at hand were putting together and laying out salads, plus a large mud-cake that Reb had baked and brought along. She called it a Mexican mud-cake as she had used kaluah instead of the whisky that would have been used in a Mississippi mud-cake, and had almost doubled the amount. She’d omitted the instant coffee granules and had to adjust the other dry ingredients a little to compensate for the extra liquid however the resultant cake was one of perfection according to Sally, who had been unable to resist “just a tiny slice” when offered a taste.

“I’ve also made a version using Bundaberg Rum, and I call that one a Murrumbidgee mud-cake as that river would be the Aussie equivalent of the Mississippi.”

“I’m sure Dirk would love to try that one as I know he doesn’t mind a drop of Bundy now and then. I might need a bit of practice using the earth oven before trying it myself though as it doesn’t have a temperature gauge. Hmm... I wonder if Dirk could put one into it somehow.”

Sally loved barbeques, she told Reb, because whenever they had one Dirk always did the cooking and the cleaning up afterwards. Reb replied that it was the same with her and Rob, though unfortunately that was only when they went to places that had a barbeque or where they could use their Weber.

Later, after they’d all eaten well but found enough room for a decent portion of the mud-cake to go with the bottle of port that Rob had brought, Dirk showed the two visitors the sketch-book in which he had drawn the plan for the cabin he was going to build. When Rob saw the plan of the small cabin that Dirk had first wanted to build and then the plan of the one that they were going to build now he laughed and said that the new plan was more like a house than a cabin. Sally compromised by deciding that it was now going to be a cottage, and that she’d think of a suitable name for it bye and bye.

After studying the plan closely and listening to Dirk explain how the now-a-cottage was to be built in stages Rob suggested that the doors that would open onto the deck from the dining/living area should be 10-light French doors.

“Why 10-light French doors?” Dirk asked.

“Well, they look good and would let a lot of light into the living area, but mainly because there are six of them at the recycling centre, all in good nick and waiting for a nice cabin to fit into,” he replied, adding that they’d be going for a ridiculously low price if they were interested.

“Sold to the lady with the curly red hair!” Sally called.

“What, all six?” Dirk queried.

“Yes. Here, let me show you,” she said, leaning over to the sketchbook and pointing out with a pencil her idea. “A set of double doors here, from the dining area onto the deck, and another set here, from the lounge area.”

“They’d make up about half the length of the wall and certainly let a lot of light in,” said Reb when she looked at Sally’s adjustment to the plan. “But I think they’d probably let a lot of heat out during winter.”

“Hmm... You’re right, Reb,” said Dirk. “Maybe I could put plantation shutters on the outside. They’d help prevent some of the heat loss when closed, plus they’d make the place a bit more secure when we’re away.”

“That’d look really nice too love,” Sally said. “It’d probably help a lot if I also put up some heavy drapes during winter.”

“Yeah, that’d work. But what about the other two doors? Where would you put those?”

“Don’t worry love: I’ll think of a place for them.”

“I know where I’d put them,” said Reb as she pulled the sketchbook towards her and pointed out where she thought they could be placed.

When they looked at where Reb was pointing to Sally was immediately in agreement with the idea of placing the doors in the bedroom where they could open out onto a small balcony, and after Dirk worked out that he’d only need to put in three extra stumps to support a balcony they decided to do it. The size of the building now looked like it was going to be more than twice that of Dirk’s original small cabin plan however by building it in stages it shouldn’t prove to be all that difficult, and after the first stage was completed there wouldn’t be any reason to rush the job anyway.

They all talked until a little more than half the mud cake was gone and the two men had emptied the bottle of port between them, then decided to call it a night.

“Umm... We have our swag in the back of our ute and planned to stay down at the beach, but after drinking all that port would you guys mind if we just parked here overnight?” Rob asked.

“No problem with that Mate, though there’s no shower facilities here yet unfortunately.”

“No worries: There are showers at the recycling centre and Reb and I will have finished using them long before the staff turns up. Hey, why not get up early and come with us?”
“Yeah. We’ll be in that, won’t we Sal? So Rob, I guess you have keys to the place?”

“Well of course I do. After all, I am the manager,” he replied with a laugh as he and Reb headed for their ute.


* * * * *

Footnotes: First, thanks Sisky, for the idea of using the 10-light doors from the recycling centre.
By coincidence Chi and I were once given two such doors by friends, (A Q.C. and his wife who the characters of Brian and Kate somehow resemble), and they wound up being used at my brother’s house.
Old abandoned farm houses aren’t uncommon in the country landscape down here: Some have been vacated due to fire or flood damage, though quite a few have been abandoned after the owners were able to build more modern houses. Great source of building material if you can persuade the owners to give or sell it to you at a reasonable price. In the Blue Mountains we’ve even seen a couple of churches, one of which was built of beautifully cut sandstone, that have been left to the elements.
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Siskiyoumom » Wed Jun 08, 2016 10:05 pm

What a great chapter to read tonight as the huge fire fighting bombers fly overhead to battle a dry lightening fire near us. I do appreciate your writing and look forward to more. For the last couple of days it has been between 104 -110 F. Not sure what that is in Celsius. LOL. Thankfully is a cooler 89 F, a dear friends home burned down yesterday due to the high temps setting something off in her garage. A harsh reminder to keep volatile combustibles safely stored away. Regarding to the gal who had endured a harsh upbringing, sadly far too many young folks have to survive living with the demons/addictions of their parental units. As a teacher I daily see this in the classroom. Love and kind instruction goes a long way. All children/teens need to know that their life has worth and meaning. One kind word goes a long way. And one kind action works doubly as well.
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby sorcerer » Thu Jun 09, 2016 8:18 pm

Shin,

I can envision the girls in the shower talking about how peaceful the camp site is and Sally extending an invitation to Reb for them to stay for an extended visit. Then Dirk and Rob having much the same conversation. Then we have another unintentional or maybe intentional start of a squatter settlement. The best part is, it is all good.

Tom
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:34 pm

G'day Tom,

I was thinking much the same thing. Rob and Reb would love to have a cabin close to the beach as they're both keen on fishing.

There's a place in Syney Harbour - Crater Cove - where people built some shacks during the late 50's - early 60's and they are still occupied today.
The folk living there are all off the grid and have vegetable gardens - and they don't pay rates or taxes on the land. The Govt - specifically the Dept of Parks & Wildlife - wanted to boot them out but there was such a stink kicked up that they were allowed to stay, although they can't pass the shacks down to their offspring, and when they leave - probably in a box according to some of them - their shacks will be knocked down.
I think there are perhaps six or seven shacks and I thought the gully where Dirk and Sally have taken up residence could be used the same way, though probably only for a few couples as its main attraction is the fact that it is isolated from what some people call "civilisation".

Shin.
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby sorcerer » Wed Jul 20, 2016 4:55 pm

Shin,

Haven't heard from you in awhile let us know how you are doing.

Tom
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:02 am

Hi Tom,
Sorry, I've been feeling a bit tired lately.
Doc told me a couple of lumps I found were Lipomas and nothing to worry about unless the grew large enough to be uncomfortable.
Sent me for an ultrasound to check them out anyway, and told me he'd be in contact if it turned out to be something else.
He was apparently too busy to check the report straight away, though he did forward it to the haemotologist.
Turns out the damned things weren't Lipomas but more enlarged lymph nodes and the Big C has spread extensively.
He said there was probably a couple of years left in the old body yet, but I'm determined to last a bit longer than that.
At present I'm studying herbals and from what I've discovered there are better alternatives to chemo and radiation therapy.
Interestingly, my wife is an RN in the oncology ward of one of the major hospitals here, and she told me that if she ever gets
cancer there is NO WAY that she would undergo the treatments that the pharmacuetical company bound doctors presribe.
My plan is to wake up each day and read the obits in the paper, and if my name isn't there get up and go about living.
Our 12 day Island Cruise is coming up soon and I intend to spend a lot of my time writing, but in the meantime I'll post what I've written lately.
Cheers,
Shin
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:10 am

Not only had they all showered but by the time the regular staff turned up for work in the morning the six French 12-light doors had been loaded onto Dirk’s truck, taken back to the camp-site and placed in the shed. Rob had found that there were also six narrower 8-light glazed panels that had once flanked the doors. He’d put a finger to his lips and given Sally a sly wink before motioning her to help him slide them onto the truck on top of the doors, then topped it off by including the original architraves that had framed each set.

After Dirk and Sally returned to the camp and placed everything in the shed there wasn’t much room for anything else, prompting Sally to suggest that it might be a good idea to erect the second of the sheds that Dirk had brought with him. He agreed, however said that it would have to wait until after the stumps for the cottage had been put in, and doing that would probably take all of today plus most of the next.

Following a quick breakfast Dirk drove the truck into Brocklesbury, picked up Frank and his post-hole digger, plus a 25 litre drum of creosote, then together they proceeded to the mill to collect the stumps he’d ordered before returning to the camp-site to begin work.

The first task was to make up eight hurdles and lay out string lines in a grid that would be used to set out the positions for the stump holes. Dirk’s plan had most of the stumps spaced 4 feet apart in each direction, and after the lines had been laid out he used a spray can of paint to mark precisely where the holes were to be dug. Once the positions were marked out, the lines were removed to allow the two men to manouvre the post-hole digger around the site without getting their legs tangled, and they began the long job of digging out the holes.

As the ground sloped slightly down from the western end to the eastern end of the building site they used a water level to ensure that the depth of each hole was such that the tops of the stumps would be level and match the plan that Dirk had drawn. The deck of the porch where the entry door was located was to be 6 inches lower than the floor of the cottage, however under the floor there would be a crawl space at least 30 inches at its lowest point, and Dirk felt this would be ample room for him to be able to get under and install insulation bats at a later date, if they were needed.

Sally had never seen one of the man-portable machines being used and watching with interest as it was put into operation marvelled at how easy and fast it was to dig a hole with one. Fortunately, and rather surprisingly to Dirk, the soil in which they were digging was of a higher clay content and was more compact than where he had put in the posts for the vegetable garden, and as there was no need to add water the job progressed fairly quickly. In fact eight holes had already been dug before they took a break for lunch, and Frank was confident that they would have another sixteen dug out and concrete poured in the base of each before the end of the day.

After lunch the stumps were hauled from the back of the truck and positioned where Sally could undertake the unenviable task of painting the bottom ends with the tar-like creosote while the men continued with their digging. Although she wore gloves and and an old shirt, and took care not to get any on her skin, she couldn’t avoid the smell of the stuff, and by the end of the day had developed a headache and was feeling a bit off colour.

As soon as Dirk became aware of her condition he called a halt to the work, and as he and Frank had done as much as they’d hoped to do for the day anyway, told her to go and lie down while he drove Frank back to the village. When he returned it was with a hot take-away meal, supposedly for two but more than enough for three, which he’d bought at the village’s Chinese restaurant and transported back in the esky.

Fortunately, by the time he arrived home Sally was feeling much better, probably because rather than lie down in the confines of the tent she had used the hammock under the trees where she could breathe fresh air. She’d also put a couple of L.P’s on the record player, lit the Coleman lantern and after hearing the truck coming down the spur had poured the glass of Rosé that was waiting on the table for him.

“It looks like you’re making a cemetery for a small tribe of gypsie’s,” Sally said as they ate, indicating with her chin to where twenty four stump holes had been dug. “Did you know that gypsies are traditionally buried upright, in a standing position?”

“Are they really? Why’s that, do you know?”

“No idea. I just read about it in a book that my Auntie had.”

“That’s interesting. Well, we should have the rest of the holes dug and all the headstones in place by tomorrow arvo. Frank said that the Kwik-set concrete we put in each hole today would be firm enough to support them so I think most of the time will be spent tamping them in place. There are more to be put in of course, but at least I’ll be able to get a start on the laundry, bathroom and bedroom.”

“The last part sounds OK, but I’m not too happy about the stumps being referred to as headstones; I might end up dreaming about gypsies’ ghosts lurking under the bedroom floor every night,” Sally laughed. “By the way, are you planning on swapping labour for labour instead of being paid cash as you’re doing now?”

“No. Frank’s agreed to help me dig the holes and put in the stumps for the half we’re building now and later on help with the next half - when we get around to it. His own truck will be back on the road come Wednesday and he said he could handle most jobs by himself as they’re usually small ones, but he’d like some help with the bigger contracts. He reckons being able to go for bigger jobs means he’d make more money, and having a fit young offsider who’s not afraid of hard yakka would be worth paying. It’d involve some travel to outlying areas at times, but he’ll cover me for petrol money if we need to use my truck, which would probably be often as my truck is bigger and can carry more stuff. Plus he said it’d be cash in hand, so I wouldn’t be paying any tax on it.”

“That’d be good. Mind you, we wouldn’t really need a lot of cash if we could become as self-sufficient as we’d like to be. Speaking of which, I’ve been giving some thought to that, and I think we should go ahead and get some chickens. Do you think digging the post holes for the chook run could be included in the deal you have with him now?”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. I don’t know how effective the auger would be in the sandy soil over there though, but I’ll put it to him in the morning. Ahh... Do you want the last of that sweet-and-sour pork?”

“No thanks love. It’s really good, but I’m full up to kitty’s bow. You can have it, and you might as well finish off the fried rice too.”

Dirk laughed as he hadn’t heard the expression “full up to kitty’s bow” since he was a kid in primary school, but happily went about emptying all the take-away containers which Sally said she would wash out and keep.


* * * * *

By Tuesday afternoon the rest of the holes for the stumps had been dug and concrete mix poured into the base of each, and by Wednesday evening all the stumps had been soundly set in place, with an ant cap fixed on the top of each. The poles for the chook run had also been installed, along with their stays, though they still had to install the wire mesh that would keep the intended birds contained, and of course build a coop for them.

He’d placed the bearers on the stumps and laid out the floor joists, though none had been secured as he needed to get the required straps and other fixings first, and these he’d purchased early on Thursday morning, along with the sheets of particle board that would be used for the inside flooring, and treated pine boards for the deck of the porch.

By the time he and Sally left for their once-a-week stay at the Cock & Bull all the bearers and joists had been secured, and the particle board and pine boards laid down and nailed in position. Although not as much as he feared it might have, the timber had cost quite Dirk a bit, and he knew that at the rate he was going he might have to find regular paid employment in order to finish the build. He hadn’t actually mentioned anything to Sally about it, however she was aware that his purchases of material weren’t something she could just ignore, especially as they were now a couple, and decided that she would contribute to the finance of the build on an equal basis... Beginning from last Monday when he had purchased the stumps and creosote, plus all the other material he had bought since then.

It’s sometimes said that if you want a professional job done, get a keen amatuer to do it, as they usually go by the book and don’t take the short cuts that tradesmen often do in order to save time and money. This was certainly the case with Dirk, who in Sally’s stated opinion spent almost as much time reading Allan Staines’ book “The Australian Owner Builders Manual” as he did doing the actual work, and the excellent job he’d done so far reflected the care and attention to detail he’d taken.

Not that Sally hadn’t also spent a bit of time reading the same book, and rather than limit her contribution to the work in hand by simply giving advice, and making large plates of sandwiches and many pots of tea, she had willingly pitched in to help him whenever and wherever she could.

They hadn’t asked him to, but Rob suddenly turned up just before noon that day and had lent a pair of strong hands to the effort of getting the flooring and decking put down, and when he heard that they’d be going to the hotel at Brocklesbury after the day’s work was done asked if it would be OK for him to tag along... Along with Reb, of course.

Both Dirk and Sally were surprised to hear that despite having seen it he’d never been inside the hotel there and told him that he and Reb would be most welcome to join them for a night out, though he’d have to hurry back to town and bring his lady back in time for them to have dinner together.

After he’d driven away they used all of Dirk’s remaining tarps to cover the particle board flooring rather than leave it exposed to the elements, and where condensation in the early morning wouldn’t do it a lot of good, then having gathered their laundry, clean clothing and Paddington bear they set off for the hotel. Calling by Frank’s house on the way they invited him to join them for dinner and a few drinks if he had nothing else planned, and as that turned out to be the case he told them that he’d meet them there in half an hour or so, after he’d showered and changed.

It was lucky that Dirk had called around, he said later, as he had a job lined up and would require some help. It wasn’t a large job however the customer wanted in done quickly, and had accepted the high quote, based on two workers doing the job, that Frank had given him.

When they fronted the bar of the hotel, after booking in and putting their laundry into one of the washing machines, it was no surprise for them to find the Fire Captain and two of his mates sitting at their usual position at the end of the bar. At a welcoming wave from Bob they quickly joined the trio, one member of which gave up his seat so that Sally could sit beside her self-proclaimed Uncle. The same courtesy didn’t extend to Dirk who now sat separated by one seat from Sally but at least close to the double-lidded stainless-steel bowl of cheese and crackers put on the bar for regulars, and he happily helped himself to a good handful of each.

Some ten minutes after Bob began telling them about how flamin’ hard his week had been Frank turned up and had a bit of a grumble too, though by their second beer that was all put aside as Dirk and Sally told them about the work they’d done on their cottage. None of the locals had met the bloke who Dirk said had helped them with the work that day, however this was remedied when Rob arrived, Reb in tow, and they were all introduced.

With the group now numbering eight, six of whom would be ordering from the bar’s meal servery above which a chalkboard displayed the day’s menu, they opted to move to one of the long tables in the beer garden, cheekily asking the barmaid to replenish the cheese and crackers before taking the bowl with them.

During conversation with her in the beer garden, Sally was fascinated to hear that Reb had enrolled in evening classes at the local TAFE college, which operated out of the town’s high school, and was learning how to do lead-lighting. She had already completed two simple projects and was now in the process of undertaking a more complex one of a shade for a Tiffany table lamp, which she would be happy to show Sal when it was finished.

“I remember you saying last week that you’d be interested in doing some pottery,” Reb said. “They have courses for that too, so I grabbed one of the pamphlets and an application form for you,” she added as she pulled both from her shoulder bag and handed them over. “It’s only a short course really; one night a week over three months. If you decide to do one, Rob said he could drive you over after he finishes work, then you could do the lesson, stay with us overnight and come back with him the next morning. I’ve already spoken to Rob about it, and as we have a spare bedroom he thinks it’s a good idea.”

Sally read the pamphlet and found that the course was held on Tuesday nights, the same night that Reb did her lead-lighting classes, took two and a half to three hours each lesson, and although materials weren’t included, it wasn’t expensive. Deciding on the spot to enrol for the next available course she filled out the application form and handed it back to Reb along with the required deposit, and asked her if she wouldn’t mind dropping both off at the TAFE for her.

It was as she was passing the papers to Reb that Bron remembered that she and Dirk were supposed to have attended to another application form and she leaned over towards him and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Dirk, with all the work we’ve been doing I forgot about booking in for our diving medicals! We’ll have to make sure we don’t forget to do that next Monday.”

“Hell! I completely forgot about that too. We’ll have to try and get a booking later in the week though, because I’ll be helping Frank out for a couple of days from Monday. How about we see if we can book them for Thursday? That’ll leave a day up my sleeve in case the job with Frank takes a bit longer than he thinks.”

“Yeah, that should be alright, although another problem is that you’ll be training with the Bush Fire Brigade on Saturday mornings, so we’ll have to talk to both Frank and Dave and work out some kind of schedule.”

Sitting alongside, Reb couldn’t help but overhear some of the exchange and as Sally sat back asked her what it was all about. After Sally told her that she and Dirk were going to do a PADI Open Water Diver course with Dave Morgan, an instructor who had recently taken up residence and had a farm close to Fish Hook Bay, she herself got rather excited about the idea.

“Do you think Rob and I would be able to join? We’ve both done quite a bit of snorkelling, and have thought about going to Queensland and diving on the Great Barrier Reef.”

“Well, I don’t know how many are booked on the course Dirk and I will be doing, but I can ask Dave tomorrow morning. He only has six students on each course and it’d be fantastic if the four of us could do it together.”

“Do what together?” asked Rob, who had suddenly surfaced after a deep discussion with Frank regarding some of the least appreciated policies that the present government and opposition parties were promoting prior to a looming state election. Their conclusion was that nothing either party did would have much effect on the way of life that the village people led, but overall the country wouldn’t be any less screwed than it was now, and he turned his attention to Reb.

“A Scuba diving course,” she told him. “Dirk and Sally are starting one in two weeks and I thought it’d be good for us to to do one too. Sal’s going to ask the instructor tomorrow if we can join the same class.”

“Yeah? Hmm, yeah, that sounds like a good idea. I’m up for it, provided it’s on weekends.”

Frank and Bob decided to call it a night and they left the two couples to calls of “good night,” and in Dirk’s case “see you tomorrow morning, eight a.m. sharp,” from Bob.

They talked together for a while longer before Dirk and Sally decided to retreat to their room for the night as it had been a long week and Dirk had to be up early.

“Actually, Reb and I will be camping down at the beach tonight, and tomorrow we’d like to have a look around the place, so maybe we could meet here again, say around lunch time?”

“That’d be good. If you’re going to be camping out, why not drive down to the beach at Fish Hook Bay? The road down there was apparently closed for a long time but it’s been cleared recently, and it’s a lovely spot. Dirk’s going to be training with the Bush Fire Brigade in the morning and I don’t have any plans, so how about I come with you? If you don’t mind of course.”

“Good idea. OK. We can come back and have breakfast in the village, pick you up and go for a drive, then come back here for lunch.”

“The brigade usually has a barbeque when they’ve finished training and I know Dirk will want to be with the other volunteers, so how about we join them? I’m sure we’d be welcome, especially if we bring our own meat and donate a few dollars to their unit. First thing in the morning I’ll ask Bob if that would be OK. Anyway, it’s goodnight for now, and we'll see you in the morning.”

The Cock & Bull gained two more regular patrons later that night when after Dirk and Sally left Rob had a look around the hotel and discovered the existence of its fishing club, sought out a couple of its members and asked if he could join.

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” he was told by one member, “provided that you can find someone to propose you and another to second the proposal. You’ll also need to fill out an application form and provide two references regarding your fishing ability and experience; a criminal history report from the state police; a copy of your latest bank statement, and a letter from your priest or rabbi confirming your good character.”

“You forgot to mention the certified copies of his Driver’s Licence and Birth Certificate or Citizenship Papers, and the two passport sized photos, one of which has to be notarised on the back by a J.P.,” said the other.

“Oh yeah, so I did. Anyway, failing that, and also to avoid having to shave off the unsightly fur that you probably think looks like a beard, you could instead simply shout the prospective proposer and seconder you’re talking to a schooner of beer each, and be accepted immediately.”

The two members weren’t surprised when a laughing Rob went to the bar to fulfil the requirements of the second option, but they were when after being introduced to his attractive partner she offered them a second beer each because she also wanted to join the club.

“Well, with you being a lady it might normally be deemed appropriate for you to buy us a middy instead,” she was told. “However our club is a great believer in equality, so it’ll have to be another schooner.”

They’d been joking of course, but within minutes both were nursing a fresh glass, with another to come when they’d finished, and telling their mates that the two newcomers were “good sports who will fit in well, even if they do live on the wrong side of the freeway.” Plus they admitted that there was no rule against beards, provided they were neatly trimmed and presentable, though while it was OK for Rob to keep his, Reb was advised against trying to grow one too.

They stayed and talked to the two club members until the time honoured call of “Time gentlemen, please” was made by the barmaids then headed for a night sleeping in their swag under the stars at Fish Hook Bay. They arrived to find that a group of young people had also taken advantage of the newly opened road to the beach and were camped around a large circular fireplace that they’d built from rocks. Rob noted that the group had been well prepared for the camp-out as they had brought along a good supply of firewood rather than rely on finding enough dry driftwood or fallen branches from the trees that backed the beach. Fortunately the group wasn’t a rowdy one and the singing that drifted from the direction of their campfire seemed to be mostly songs from the fifties, sixties and seventies. They were singing to the accompaniment of two guitars and a set of bongo drums, but before too long everyone on the beach had drifted off to sleep and the only sounds to be heard after that were those of small waves lapping the sand at the water’s edge.


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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby sorcerer » Fri Jul 29, 2016 1:48 pm

Shin,

First things first sorry to here it has spread and I understand your reasons and decision regarding no Chemo. Enough to kill the cancer is enough to kill you. My wife refused it .

Enough about that for now, we spent Monday through Wednesday at the lake with family and friends camping, cooking out and having a good time of it celebrating my birthday (nobody needs to know how old) if there had of been a smoke alarm it would have went off more than likely. One of the other camper said he thought we had campfire on the table (told him to tinkle off).

This was an excellent addition to the story and opened it up for a whole new expansion. Well having problems typing today arthritis is acting up, later.

Tom
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby blue fox » Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:55 am

Bidadisndat wrote:Hi Tom,
Sorry, I've been feeling a bit tired lately.
Doc told me a couple of lumps I found were Lipomas and nothing to worry about unless the grew large enough to be uncomfortable.
Sent me for an ultrasound to check them out anyway, and told me he'd be in contact if it turned out to be something else.
He was apparently too busy to check the report straight away, though he did forward it to the haemotologist.
Turns out the damned things weren't Lipomas but more enlarged lymph nodes and the Big C has spread extensively.
He said there was probably a couple of years left in the old body yet, but I'm determined to last a bit longer than that.
At present I'm studying herbals and from what I've discovered there are better alternatives to chemo and radiation therapy.
Interestingly, my wife is an RN in the oncology ward of one of the major hospitals here, and she told me that if she ever gets
cancer there is NO WAY that she would undergo the treatments that the pharmacuetical company bound doctors presribe.
My plan is to wake up each day and read the obits in the paper, and if my name isn't there get up and go about living.
Our 12 day Island Cruise is coming up soon and I intend to spend a lot of my time writing, but in the meantime I'll post what I've written lately.
Cheers,
Shin


Sorry to hear the news. One thing I did when diagnosed 16 years ago was get up every day and tell the devil "Not today you redskinned rascal." I also tell people that I have too many people to annoy still. Good wishes your way for things to get better.
blue fox
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Sun Aug 07, 2016 7:55 am

Following an early breakfast at the hotel where the four met up again in the morning, they proceeded to the Fire Brigade building to ask if it would be OK for them to join the barbeque when Dirk had finished his training. Rob surprised everyone when at the same time he suddenly decided that if it was OK by the Captain he’d like to stay with Dirk and join the training session, hopefully learn something new and perhaps also become a member. The Captain, who thanks to Sally arrival in the village was now referred to by his mates as Uncle Bob, was delighted with the prospect of having not one but two new volunteers join his crew, and would be only too happy to have the girls join them for lunch.

Rob tossed the keys of his ute to Reb, telling her that she and Sally could go and do whatever they liked while he and Dirk were training, and after lunch they could have a look around the village. She caught the keys as they sailed across the bonnet and with a grin told him that they’d find some way to fill in the time, although that might involve a drive into town and the spending of a bit of cash.

“No problem,” Rob replied. “Provided you remember it’s your cash you’ll be spending, and that you’ll also have to refill the petrol tank before you get back.”

“Of course. Don’t I always?”

“Well, most times you do. Though I seem to remember a couple of times after you used the ute when I was glad we were carrying a couple of full Jerry cans.”

“Hey! That was a long time ago, and if I recall correctly it hasn’t been only me who’s been caught with a near empty tank. In fact, if it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t have those Jerry cans anyway.”

Knowing she was right, and before she could get really stuck into him, Rob looked skywards and cried “Scotty, beam me up!” before beating a hasty retreat towards the group of volunteers now assembling beside one of the fire trucks.

“Round one to me, I reckon,” Reb said with a smirk as she and Sally got into the ute, and followed that with “Damn! Round two to Rob,” as she looked at the petrol gauge to find that the tank was down to just under a quarter full, and would need quite a few of her dollars to fill it. “Enough for a trip into the town and back, but not too much further, the way this thing guzzles fuel. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find some crafty way to fix his little red wagon before too long.”

“You’re making it sound like you’re often at odds with each other,” Sally laughed. “Though I can’t really believe that of course.”

“Actually, we’ve never had a real disagreement since we met, though I probably tested his patience a bit at first ’cause my head was pretty messed up back then. Strangely enough, I think that helping me helped him too, in a way: He’d only recently gone through a pretty nasty divorce and though he’s never said much about it, I know he was quite bitter about the whole thing. Him finding me in the state I was in might have been the distraction he needed to help take his mind off ... things. We’ve pretty much leaned on each other over the last few years I guess, but meeting you and Dirk has been good for both of us.”

“Well, we’re both glad we met you guys too. Look, if you ever need to talk about anything that you can’t talk to Rob about, with him being a man I mean, you can come and talk to me.”

“Thanks Sal, I really appreciate that. I’m glad that Rob and Dirk get on so well together. Surprised me a bit really, especially considering what happened between him and his last best mate.”

“Had a bit of a falling out, did they?”

“You could say that: He caught his mate and his wife in the cot together when he came home early from a trip he’d had to make to Melbourne to attend a conference. He and his wife had been married for less than a year, and the discovery that she was actually a bit of a whore really threw him. Still, her loss is my gain as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll make sure that he never has to worry about the same thing happening again. Anyway, enough of that: What are we going to do now?”

“First off I need to get in touch with Dave Morgan to see if you guys can join the same scuba course that Dirk and I’ll be on, then I want to go to the haberdashery here and get some more wool for my knitting. After that I’ve got no plan at all in mind so it’ll be up to you to decide what we do.”

There was no answer when Sally went across the street and dialled Bron and Dave’s number from one of the two public ’phone booths outside the post office, and as the haberdashery wouldn’t be open for another forty minutes Reb decided to show her the animal shelter where she occasionally helped out.

The shelter turned out to be the council pound as well, and when they arrived Sally thought that from the number of caged dogs she could see it looked like it must have been home to half the strays in the county. Some of the most recent arrivals were in a sad state of neglect and it was explained that just that morning they had been collected from a property that was supposedly a breeding facility, but not one that would ever have been approved by the RSPCA. That organisation had been called by a potential customer who had been appalled by the conditions of the kennels, and after an inspection of the property the owner had been issued orders to rectify the situation. A subsequent inspection had found that no attempt at all had been made to fix anything, resulting in the raid that had rescued the dogs, and had the owner facing serious charges of animal neglect and cruelty.

Unfortunately it appeared that some of the dogs were in such bad condition that they would have to be put down, and while that was a little distressing to Reb she was a fairly pragmatic girl and had to admit it was probably the most humane thing to do. Telling Sally that if she ever got the chance to have a dog it would come from a shelter, she suggested that if she and Dirk ever wanted one they could do the same, though as they didn’t have fencing that would prevent a dog from roaming, that wasn’t likely. Not at present maybe, Sally had replied, but in the future she was sure they’d be able to get one, and possibly a cat too if it could be prevented from killing native fauna such as possums, bandicoots and birds.

The two girls spent about two hours helping bathe several of the dogs that appeared to be capable of being returned to the healthy condition that a well cared for dog should be in, then drove back to the village where Reb pulled in to Jeff Mullin’s garage and filled the ute’s petrol tank.

There were still fifteen minutes before most of the shops shut so Sally was not only able to buy her wool but also show Reb some of the beautiful hand-made garments that had been put on display by the village’s ladies’ sewing club. The amazing artistry of several quilts hanging on one wall seemed to take Reb’s breath away, and she was awestruck to learn that the most beautiful one had actually been entirely hand stitched.

The two ladies running the shop got quite carried away when explaining to Reb how quilting was actually an art in itself, and that some quilts made were often valued much in the way that fine paintings were. In fact, they added, the one that she had been admiring so much was on sale for $1,500, and its maker intended to send it down to a dealer in Sydney who would add 10% to the asking price as his commission... and would still have no trouble selling it.

“I think maybe I enrolled in the wrong class at TAFE, Sally. I can’t imagine ever getting that much for a leadlight window or a Tiffany lamp,” Reb joked.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” said the lady who had been telling her about the expensive quilt. “Lead-lighting is no less an art than quilting, and if you have a good eye for putting together designs and colours, and go about marketing the right way, you could probably make some reasonable money out of it. Actually you’d probably make more money by custom making and restoring lead-lights: You’d be surprised at the time and effort required, let alone the expense of tools and materials required to make quilts as good as this one.”

“As you could with many other well-made hand-crafted goods,” put in the second. “Of course quilts that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into making are wonderful gifts for giving to people that you really care about, plus you’d be helping keep alive another skill that’s slowly being lost in these times of mass production.”

Glancing at her watch Sally realised that the time was already a quarter past closing, and with apologies to the two ladies for having kept them back told Reb that they had better get moving as the men at the brigade would probably be having their barbeque now. As they were leaving it was suggested to Reb that there was no reason she couldn’t do both lead-lighting and quilting, and if she ever decided to do the latter they would be happy to provide her with any help, and materials, that she might need.

The barbeque turned out to be little more than sausages wrapped in a slice of buttered bread, topped with a generous serving of fried onions, and lathered in either tomato or barbeque sauce, and though not a salad of any description was in sight the men were happy enough to have a few cans of beer to accompany the meat. At one time the delicatessen across the road had tried to persuade the men to take a few containers of potato, pasta or tossed salad, however they’d all agreed that if they wanted a healthy meal they might as well go home and eat. Of course they weren’t adverse to devouring a few of the supposedly “excess” pastries and cakes Julius Tan’s wife Mai delivered from the family’s bakery. And just quietly, not a few of those found their way to the wives whose husbands may have felt a bit guilty about having so much fun with their fellow fire-fighters, rather than doing those little jobs that needed to be done around a house.

Dirk and Rob had found that their introductory lesson, which was mostly about how fires started and how they could keep on burning until someone put them out, was very informative, and by the end of the day Rob had decided that he would in fact join the unit. That decision had nothing to do with the few cans of beer he’d downed at the barbeque, he insisted, though Reb had fun accusing him of agreeing to anything once he’d drunk more than a can and a half.

With the barbeque over, the four friends strolled the length of the street, finding that whereas the shops in town, apart from Woolworths and Big W, closed at midday on Saturdays, those in the village stayed open until 2 p.m. This gave people who worked in town time to get back to the village and do a little shopping on their way home, and was something that everybody showed their appreciation of by doing just that. In fact according to many shopkeepers they did more business in those two extra hours than they did during the the whole morning, thus it was worth them keeping their doors open a bit longer. No wonder that the ladies at the haberdashery hadn’t been disconcerted by she and Reb keeping them open, said Sally.

Another ’phone call was made to Bron’s house and this time she was at home, though she wouldn’t be for much longer as she would be begining a shift at the Cock & Bull quite soon. When Sally asked her if there might be room on Dave’s next scuba course for two more students she laughed and admitting that Sally and Dirk were currently the only two who had applied, because Dave hadn’t promoted it yet, said they’d be most welcome. She could bring a couple of application forms down to the hotel when she came, or if they were in a hurry they could come to the farm and get them.

The men decided that waiting at the hotel, where they could throw a few darts and possibly have a beer, wouldn’t be a problem, however when they arrived it was to find that the darts club had taken full control of the board and a competition was in progress.

“Not to worry,” said Rob, who had spotted the two fishing-club members that he and Reb had been speaking with the night before. “I’m sure we can find something to keep us occupied until your friend arrives.”

The two members were in the company of three others who Rob and Dirk recognised as being members of the Bush Fire Brigade, and who also turned out to be members of the fishing club, and the four newcomers were quickly made welcome at the table where all were sat.

Bron turned up with Dave about an hour later and after they were both introduced to Rob and Reb she handed over the two application forms for the scuba course before heading for the bar where she would be working. Dave remained with the group, making it necessary to occupy another table as the one they were using was already quite crowded, and gave Rob and Reb an outline of what the course they wanted to do would entail.

As Saturday mornings were to be set aside for training with the Bush Fire Brigade, Dave told them that their course would be conducted on the Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday over two weekends, plus one day of the third weekend if it was found necessary. He had another couple in mind who he knew wanted to do a course, but he wouldn’t know if they were available until Tuesday, and of course it would depend on everyone having successfully completed their medical checks.

With Bron working behind the bar Dave had decided to have a meal at the hotel, and when the fishing club members left a short time later asked the four if they were also dining in. They hadn’t really given any thought to dinner however deciding that it wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially as it was a bit late to do drive home and start cooking something, they accepted Dave’s invitation to join him.

Over a dinner of Coq au Vin, accompanied by a bottle of Chardonnay and followed by Crème Brule, which they had in the dining room rather than order from the servery in the bar, the topic of conversation revolved mostly around what Dave and Bron were doing with their farm, and what Dirk and Sally were up to with their cottage build. Rob and Reb weren’t left out of course, and Dave was very interested to hear about how Rob was going to demonstrate how Sally’s father’s earth oven could be used as a smoker. Because Dave and Bron had yet to visit their campsite Sally asked him if he’d be interested in coming along when Rob showed them the technique, and if so he should bring Bron with him.

“That’d be fantastic, Sal. I’ve heard that earth ovens are really good and I’ve often thought of building one myself. I didn’t know that they could be used as smokers though. Is yours very big?”

“Quite big actually: You could probably cook three medium pizzas in it at the same time. I once read that with a single firing you can use one to bake bread, follow that with a roast dinner, then a baked desert, and use the residual heat to dry herbs.”

“The only problem will be that you’ll have to provide your own freshly caught local fish,” Rob put in. “Fortunately the reef close to the camp-site abounds in quite a variety of those... provided of course that you can catch them.” he added with a laugh.

“That sounds a bit like a challenge, Rob. OK then: Fishing followed by a lesson in using a smoker. So, when do we do it?”

“How about the Sunday of the weekend after we finish the dive course?”

“Sounds good. I’ll mark it on my calendar as soon as I get home.”

After dinner it was decided that the day had been long enough without making it longer by joining the karaoke singers in the public lounge, so the two couples decided to head for home. Reb would drive the ute as Rob had had a few drinks more than she’d had, however Sally was unable to do the same for Dirk as due to its weight a Medium Rigid licence was needed to drive it. That being the case, she decided that it might be a good idea to do a course that would upgrade her current licence. She could ask Dirk to teach her, of course, but knew that being taught driving by family members or close friends wasn’t always a good idea, and to her mind Dirk was both.

By the time they drove back to town both Rob and Reb were agreed that living in Brocklesbury would be much nicer than where they were living now, with Rob going so far as to say that it might be a good idea to check with the real estate agents and find out if there were any affordable rental properties available there.


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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Siskiyoumom » Sat Aug 27, 2016 7:25 pm

Thank you for the fine addition to your tale! Hope all is well with you and yours.
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:50 am

Well, here we go followers. After this installment I'll be switching over to the main story (Capt Dave...)to bring it up to the point where the two stories mesh properly, though this may take a week or so.
I've taken on board a couple of ideas that some of you have put forward and I'm pretty sure those people will be able to pick up on them as the stories progress. This is probably a good way to keep those interested involved, and I look forward to receiving not only new ideas but also the pointing out of any mistakes I make, especially if things get out of sequence. Please note that spelling is Australian English, which is like English English but with a distinct accent. (Think of Paul Hogan but not quite as forced, lol.)
Cheers,
Bid/Shin

Following a relaxing Sunday when they did nothing much more than go swimming and potter around the gardens, Dirk spent all of Monday plus Tuesday morning helping Frank with another fencing job while Sally kept herself busy by alternately working in the garden and knitting, along with a very successful attempt at baking a Mexican mud-cake following Reb’s recipe. Dirk thought the idea of baking a mud-cake in a mud-brick oven was hilarious but his laughter was halted when Sally told him if he felt that way there was no way he was going to get a slice.... Not even a tiny one.

On the Tuesday afternoon they drove into town and, along with Rob and Reb, undertook their Diving Medicals, all passing with no problems at all, and did a little shopping. Reb told Sally that when she’d put in the application for the Pottery Course Sally wanted to do at TAFE, she’d been told that although the current course had already started only one lesson had been missed and her friend would be able to catch that up quite easily if she joined immediately. The result was that Dirk and Sally, fortunately having put together BOBs which of course held toiletries and changes of clothing and were now kept in the truck, were invited to stay overnight at Rob and Reb’s so that Sally could attend the course that evening.

Over a late meal of pasta that the men prepared while the girls were at TAFE the conversation included the subject of BOBs and other items of equipment that, following Dave Morgan’s lead, Dirk and Sally now carried in the truck. Rob and Reb had always kept their camping gear in their ute but now they too resolved to make up BOBs for themselves, and also install a First-Aid Kit, Fire Extinguisher and a CB Radio.

When Dirk and Sally returned to their camp early next morning they opted to erect the second of the garden sheds that Dirk had brought with him, positioning it not close alongside the first shed but in line with and twenty feet to one side of it. The space between was to be roofed with some of the corrugated iron that they’d salvaged from the hayshed and it would be used by Dirk as his workshop. Because the two garden sheds were on raised floors, the lower ground level between them would mean that he’d have a bit more headroom to work under. A framework to support the roof would need to be erected of course, however he didn’t consider that to be too much of a problem and in fact it might be good practice for when he started work on the roof of the cottage. He hoped that eventually he’d also be able to put down a floor of pavers.

At first Sally thought that perhaps it might be better to concentrate on building the cottage first, however Dirk explained that having a shed to work from would actually mean he’d be able to get a lot more done in a shorter time, especially if the weather became unfavourable. She agreed that in that case putting up a workshop first probably was a good idea, but told him that he had to keep an area free for her to put in a potter’s wheel as she intended to make pottery to sell at the local markets.... Alongside the items he’d be making from all the fence palings he’d gotten from Frank. Because until now he hadn’t been informed of that decision Dirk had been unaware that they’d be operating a market stall, but did agree that it was a good idea. As Reb also wanted to get in on the act by making and selling Tiffany lamps, and displaying some samples of glass artwork in the hope that she might get orders for custom made leadlight windows and doors, Sally had told her that when the time came she could share the stall with them.

A couple of days later than he’d originally planned but now backed up close to one of the dunes farthest from the beach Dirk had been hard at work shovelling several cubic metres of sand onto the rear of the truck for nearly an hour. The sand was to be laid down as a base for the above- ground pool that would be used to store rainwater for use in the cabin’s kitchen, bathroom and laundry, and judging that he had enough thankfully tossed the long-handled shovel he’d been using onto the top of the load and covered it with a tarp. He and Sally had already prepared the area where the pool was to go, having removed all the grass, sticks and large stones and roughly levelled it, but Dirk thought that a good layer of sand underneath would be kinder on the pool liner and would make it easier to work on the installation.

Sally had breakfast waiting for him when he drove back and parked the truck adjacent to the site, which, located on the bank some twenty feet above where the cottage was going to be built, would provide enough fall to give a reasonable amount of water pressure to its gravity-fed plumbing system. He’d abandoned his original idea of using poly ag-pipe for the plumbing after seeing how Dave and Bron were using an automatic pump for theirs, and decided to install copper pipes that would handle the pressure if he was able to do the same at a later date. He wasn’t a licensed plumber however after having successfully if not legally installed the plumbing for an extra bathroom at his parent’s house in the city, he felt himself to be quite capable of undertaking that task when the time came.

Obtaining copper piping for the cottage was not going to be a problem either, nor now was the acquisition of floorboards, wooden lining boards and a good amount of timber for studs, joists, rafters, purlins and, not that they needed it, more corrugated iron roofing. Well, apart from several bull-nosed pieces that would be used over the back porch.

Rob had tracked down the Andersons; owners of the partially burned farmhouse on the outskirts of Brocklesbury, and who had been persuaded by the visit of a council ranger to offer the building free to anyone who was willing to dismantle and remove it. The council ranger, Terrence (“call me Terry”) Chappell was in fact a friend of Rob’s, and his visit to the Andersons had been in a strictly unofficial capacity. “Though I think I might have forgotten to tell them that,” he told Dirk and Sally with a laugh when he was introduced to them at the Cock & Bull later.

No pressure had been applied to the owners: The uniformed ranger had merely gone to advise them that their old farmhouse had been subjected to vandalism and in its current state was likely to attract more, with the possibility that it might even be completely destroyed. The owners told him they would like to have the building demolished but at present were not in a position to pay to have that done and were thus quite amendable to his suggestion that perhaps they could have it removed at no cost to themselves by offering it to someone who needed building material. “At least, what’s left of it,” he’d added, slyly implying that the damage done to the building by the vandals was far worse than it really was.

Of course anyone taking advantage of the offer would have to ensure that all of the material was removed and not just take the good bits. In fact, the ranger told them, the complete removal of the house might even make the land, which so far they’d been unable to sell, more attractive to any potential purchasers who wouldn’t be saddled with the problem of having to demolish it themselves.

The Andersons, feeling that that was probably the best way to deal with the problem said they would be quite happy to accept his offer to find someone who would be willing to do just that, and Terry lost no time after leaving their house to call Rob and tell him about the arrangement. When he’d finished work for the day at the recycling centre Rob drove to the campsite to give Dirk and Sally the good news and was asked if he could invite his friend to meet them at the Cock & Bull and join them for drinks and dinner after work on Friday evening.

That had been on the Wednesday afternoon, and Rob had arrived at the campsite shortly after Dirk and Sally had finished putting up the roof between the two sheds. It wasn’t bad timing as he was able to help them lift the heavy work-bench off the back of the truck and put it in in the new workshop, though it would’ve been so much better, Dirk told him, if he’d arrived a lot earlier and helped put the roof up, because it’d been a mongrel of a job! Especially as he had to suspend long bush poles between the sheds to support it, and only had an eight foot step-ladder with which he could work on the high parts. He did admit that the structure was pretty rough, and Rob made them laugh when he said that he hoped the roof of the cottage would be built in a more traditional manner.

The next day a very pleased couple had spent most of it at the partly burnt building checking out and removing some of the material they could use. Standing in the back yard was an old Hills rotary clothes hoist that Sally wanted, however the bolts holding it all together were pretty much rusted in place. Dirk, being a great believer in the powers of Penetrene and always carrying a can of it in his tool box, poured a generous ammount of the liquid on the bolts knowing that it would work its way through the threads and make them easier to remove on their next visit.

They stopped for a bite to eat and went to Jay-Jay’s for a hamburger, then went to the hardware store where Dirk purchased a plumber’s wrench and a pipe cutter, neither of which he owned but would need for both the demolition and work on their cottage, and a long extension ladder that he could have used yesterday. When they left the demolition site it was, along with other useable material, with the large farm gate that had hung open and unused at the entrance to the property. It would be installed at the top of the access way down to the clearing, and although the wire mesh of the gate looked a bit rusty it would add to the appearance of their cottage having been there for a very long time.

It was now Friday and though Dirk and Sally would be going to the hotel anyway, as would Rob and Reb, it’d be good to meet Rob’s friend and thank him personally for his help in securing them much if not most of the building material they needed. The address of the Andersons could be obtained and Dirk and Sally would visit and thank them also, but only after the old house had been completely removed just in case the owners changed their minds about the free offer and decided to ask for some sort of payment.

After breakfast he and Sally worked at shovelling the truck’s load of sand onto the ground and levelling it out, and by early afternoon they’d managed to erect the pool’s wall, have its liner installed and capping placed around the top edge to both secure the liner and add some rigidity to the structure. Dirk then fitted an outlet pipe and a shut-off valve to the hole in the side of the pool where the return from its filter had once been located, though being about two thirds of the way up its side required the addition of a length of pipe inside to reach down to the bottom, or at least to within a few inches of it. He did it this way in order to avoid putting an outlet hole close to the base where any leak would be a real problem to fix, especially if the pool was full of water. Where the skimmer box had once been fitted he’d cut a piece of metal to blank off the rectangular opening and then added a fitting for an overflow pipe, not that he thought it would ever be needed in this case, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

For the time being the pool’s cover would be left off as he wanted to build a slightly domed frame, probably from poly ag-pipe, to support it so that water would run off it if it rained. He’d do that fairly quickly because if he delayed too long the pool might collect a lot of debris from the trees close to where it was sited, and cleaning it out would be a pain in the butt. They were in no hurry to fill the pool because the water from the spring was all that they needed at present, however once their cottage was built it would quickly be put into service.

]When they’d finished for the day their laundry and a change of clothes more suited to a night out on the town than what their BOBs contained, plus of course Paddington Bear, who Sally had had to say sorry to for leaving him at home by himself overnight when she went to TAFE, was put in the truck and they headed for Brocklesbury. After parking at the hotel they wandered down to the Post Office to check their P.O. Box where Dirk found the Truck’s rego and insurance renewals that his parents had forwarded to him, and Sally her monthly bank and credit card statements forwarded by hers. Though of substantial amounts the bills were expected and would be paid on Monday after the bank in town was open, plus they’d also draw a bit of cash from their accounts to cover day-to-day expenses.

Then it was back to the hotel to put their laundry into the washing machine, take a shower and change, then head for the beer garden where they were to meet Rob, Reb and their council ranger friend. That trio arrived a few minutes before the arranged time and after introductions all sat at one of the garden’s tables, close to the barbeque upon which Terry the ranger was invited by Dirk to throw the largest steak he could find in the adjacent refrigerated display case. Terry was both surprised and pleased by the offer and, while telling Dirk that the arrangement he’d made with the Andersons was really nothing, was happy to select a nice T-bone to go with his choice from the salad bar.

Although not a regular, at least not yet, Terry was familiar with the hotel and its beer garden, having accompanied the mayor a couple of weeks previously when he’d had to meet a local resident who was having no end of problems with the council. Despite the mayor’s presence it was Terry who managed to sort out the resident’s problems, and he did this in such a diplomatic manner that when they left his property the man was all smiles as he shook hands with both.

Having come all the way from town the mayor took the opportunity to drop in to have a word with Dave Morgan and bring him up to speed on the council’s decisions regarding the facilities being installed at the beach at Fish Hook Bay, and of course while he was there decided to check out the Cock & Bull’s new barbeque. He invited Terry to join him and when the ranger pulled out his wallet told him to put it away, as they were there on official business and the meals would be claimed on the mayor’s expense account.

Terry had learned two things during that visit to Brocklesbury: First, that the mayor had developed a strong bond with the village and was fully supportive of its residents’ efforts to have more done by council for its infrastructure, and the second that Dave Morgan, who was well regarded by the residents, the mayor and the council, was a driving force that got things done without ruffling anyone’s feathers.

He was astute enough to realise that backing both the mayor and Dave Morgan would actually be in his own best interests and decided that the best way to do that was to get himself assigned to the village as its regular ranger. When he suggested as much to the mayor it was considered to be a very good idea, particularly in light of the way he had resolved the problems with the local resident, and shortly thereafter found himself employed almost exclusively in the village and its environs.

Being a naturally friendly and helpful person anyway he resolved never to employ the heavy-handed tactics that previous rangers had used when dealing with the locals but rather work with them to resolve any issues they might have with the council, and before too long he became a respected and well-liked member of the community.
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby brucearmstrong65 » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:16 am

Welcome back & thanks for an outstanding addition. Hope you're doing well, or at least doing better. I don't do too bad with Australian English, though I've had to search a few words & phrases; I guess reading a lot of Nevil Shute over the years helps!
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby IceFire » Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:23 pm

Thank you so much for the latest installment, Shin, and welcome back! We have definitely been missing you around here. Hope that you are doing much better.
"Guns are like shoes...a woman should have one in EVERY caliber!"
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Re: The Mulberry Tree

Postby Bidadisndat » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:58 am

Bruce & Icefire, Thanks for the welcome back.

Bruce: Nevil Shute!!? Boy, that takes me back some. I can remember "On The Beach", "A Town Like Alice" and "Trustee from the Schoolroom".
His name was actually Nevil Shute NORWAY, though not many people seem to know it. He died a couple of years before I entered the Navy in 1963.
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