I woke up this morning and as I lay in bed trying to clear the wine fog from drinks last night, I reflected back on the past 10 days at Sherwood. This is the longest consecutive stay so far and as each day passes I find myself not wanting to leave. This house and this village is reminding me of many life lessons long since forgotten.
Today I thought of a poem my dad wrote called The Journeyman which he gave to me as a present as he knew the same yearning and addiction to travel and adventure lived in me, that possessed him. Its true my friends often tell me my face lights up when I talk about my adventures in Rwanda or think about my up coming trek to Bhutan. I thrive on new discovery and the life experience that travel offers. But what also makes traveling so extraordinary is coming home to the familiar, to the people you love to tell of your encounters, friends to share photographs with, dinner parties animating stories and debating the understanding of new cultures. Sherwood is that home, its the place that many years of memories will unfold and the place I feel the most me. Dad always wanted to be published so here is his gift to me:
Journeyman by John Henry Fry
This is my dream and everymans
Futile in his mindly store
Perceives the hue of soften gold
In hastening dusk upon a wilder shore
This is my dream and everymans
Sees the call of desert rain
To desert seeds abandoned riot
Luxuriant to release a decade’s pain
And all men when you wake
Like I, regret the blessed curse
That makes answer mystery
And calls our heart to yearn reverse
But this is mine, this dream
A distant light to start
To place my step on virgin hill
That I might find my heart
I have many virgin hills from new countries and places to discover to this house. Sherwood is the biggest, hardest, most challenging adventure I have ever undertaken to rebuild this small piece of heritage land into a welcoming home for the people I love. And I have so much to learn.
Painting has given me a new sense of patience and a reminder that whilst you want the room to look great, there is no deadline and if its not fun, then its pointless. So I have given in and slowed down and started to actually enjoy the journey not really caring as much as before about the getting to the finish line. Every window, fence post, ceiling, cornice is now a new lesson and little by little the beautification is taking shape.
Yesterday John from across the street popped his head over the fence to let me know that my bins were not put out right and the trucks would not pick them up, so he fixed them for me so my rubbish would get collected. When I went to the Post Office on Thursday I meet Kay who welcomed me to the village, gave the low down on how everything works, who lives where and showed me her photograph wall of all the local dogs. When locals collect their mail everyone brings their dogs and she obviously loves animals so gives them a treat and takes their photo. The idea is if the dogs get out and she sees them then she will know where they live but also if the animals get hungry maybe they will wander into the Post Office looking for a treat so she can call their owners. Could she be any more divine! So next Friday I am taking Bruce and Max down to meet her and get their picture taken in their Wallaby jersey’s. On Boxing Day, Charlie at the Bakery Cafe invited me to come to the pub and meet more of the locals.
People look after each other in this street and in this village. When you work with media like I do, you read all about the conflicts, the racial tensions, youth gangs, boat people, civil wars etc but you forget about the other side. The communities like Berrima where beautiful things happen everyday. It should not take a natural disaster for us to remember what great people make up local communities in this country.
Last night Ronnie and Justin came over for a drink armed with the best basil I have ever seen and a punnet of fruit – a peach and nectarine hybrid. I did not even know there was such a fruit and they are incredible. Ronnie and Justin’s vegie garden is very impressive and by spring next year I am going to be planting alongside them so we can cook up River Cottage style dinners. Speaking of which I have begged Ronnie to write to Hugh and get him to Berrima when he comes to Australia next year, this really is a fantastic place with so many incredible food adventures to be uncovered.
I also learnt some very important local facts. Firstly here is a shortcut along the river to the pub, slightly treacherous at night I am told after a few drinks but I am looking forward to seeing it today when we head to the pub for a NYE drink. The pub is all about daytime and is closed usually by 8.30pm something I did not realise but is vital local social knowledge. I also discovered there are platypus in the river here and Ronnie has photos of the wombat under her house, beyond excited! Ronnie actually also gave me some good advice last night when it comes to local wildlife, advice I am going to respect – Don’t be too quick kill a red bellied black snake if you see one. They have their place and are natural predators of brown snakes. And don’t save the mice, flush then down the toilet, we have hundreds! I am the new kid on the block and I have much to learn about the scheme of things, time to watch and listen and accept how much I don’t know before acting.
We had a fun night laughing and sharing stories on my back porch, hearing about their day in the cafe whilst Jo (my friend who just arrived from Sydney) and I soaked up the Berrima experience. Ronnie’s cats popped over a few times sending Bruce and Max into continued barking frenzies. The boys will learn, there are a lot of new experiences here for them as well.
When I lived in the UK in the early 1990’s I was driving home from work one night after over 2 years away from Australia and I realised I needed to go home. I missed running into people in the local shops that had known me for more than 2 years, being known and being a local. I missed my personal history and being part of a place. And this week I understand how much I have missed that sense of community. I love that everyone knows everyone here. I love that I now am part of this community, something that thrives in this gorgeous historic place, and I can not wait to get to the pub today to meet some more of my neighbours.
The painting can wait another day.