We feel guilty for not going to visit our old friend in Derrinallum. I used to work with him and we kept in touch after he retired and moved to country where he could afford a cheap house. A cheap house was what he bought. As he has aged, so have his surroundings. Wallpaper is falling off the walls, the corner of the house has dropped away, greasy cobwebs decorate the stained walls, his expensive old furniture has deteriorated, his much loved designer fabric from the eighties that covers his lounge furniture is covered in animal hair and is faded. Yet with his glass of cask wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he seems ever so content.
Although born in Australia, he lived most of his life in London where he worked and Amsterdam. When I first met him, he lived in a rented flat in South Yarra and then later moved on to similar in Armadale.
He moved to this country town and for a time had a motor car and a small business. The grand plans in his mind failed to succeed and age and the drink started to take its toll. We occasionally sent him some money when he was in severe financial distress but eventually he managed to pretty well match his expenditure to his income. He became an accepted member of the community and did get involved with the local fire station and some other community groups.
I strongly advise you not to move to a country town when you get old. You will not get the services that you get in the city and doctors and specialists are quite thin on the ground and usually involve some sort of travel that someone else must organise. It was fairly slow, but gradually the local shire services found him and are supporting him, as do his friends and strangers in the town. He can get the weekly shopping bus to Camperdown, and his electric chair can go too. Specialist care in Ballarat, it is a day trip, but his electric chair with its fold down handle can go in the luggage compartment of the coach. He has had a few trips of a long distance in an ambulance.
He took on one of our dogs some time before we moved here and when she died, he took on a deserted dachshound who has just recently died, but then he took on another of the same, who he still has. He still has his cat who was with him in Armadale.
The local vet visits once a week to set up his practice for the town in what was a bakery at the rear of our friend's house.
Everyone feels sad and bad for him, except himself. When his doctor told him that he was thinking he had asthma, our friend quickly corrected the doctor and said, 'don't talk nonsense, it is emphasyma'. He is realistic, accepting and yet not yet out for the count.
We used to go and stay overnight, but the last time we went, perhaps three years ago, we vowed not to again. It was just so boring and so uncomfortable and to be frank, a bit distressing. Although it is hard work driving for so long, this time we decided to make it a day trip and invite ourselves for lunch.
A couple of other people he knows thought the same and there ended up being four guests for lunch.
We know our friend's habits well and did not expect lunch to be over in an hour. We arrived at 11.30 and by 2 we had the first course, small fish pasties. (I need to add here that R will not eat meat on easter Friday, not for religious reasons, but traditional. Our friend knows this.) He had made them himself, but they were delayed by him turning on the wrong hotplate on the stove to heat the freshly made avocada and pesto sauce to go with them. Don't laugh. The sauce worked.
An hour later came the kedgeree, rice and salad. Then lastly, a home made pavlova, home made including the case. Light as air, unlike the supermarket ones you can buy, and covered in delicious strawberries. I am not sure where he gets it, but the meal was rounded off by Quist's coffee, made in a plunger. He might be old, he might be an alcoholic, he might be frail, but he can still cook very well. He had a glass of wine in his hand when we arrived and he shared his cask with his guests, all of whom were being cautious with their consumpution, but not our friend. His glass was topped up regularly and he continued to function well. Very interesting to observe. I would have passed out.
The fellow guests. Well, I will say we were nervous about meeting them. We knew they were arty types and we are not. Chasm already. Our friend has mentioned them many times. Have I mentioned our friend is gay? Well he is, and one of the guests was his boyfriend of some forty years ago, the other person being a female friend of our friend's old boyfriend. We knew they were friends, but did not really know about their relationship.
The friends have three cars between them. A Rover 75(?), a Truimph Stag and a Golf Polo. Our friend suggested they bring the Rover to impress us and they did, on both counts. If by chance Mutant that you are still reading, the burble from a V8 3.5l Rover surely is the sweetest sound in the world. As you can see from the pictures the car is immaculate and the pong of leather emanates from the open window.
We still don't know what the two friend's relationship is. They have separate houses, one near Ballarat and the other in East Malvern, but they seem to live together. They had two dogs with them, which they seem to own jointly. One was very very old, deaf, staggering sideways, falling down occasionally but still very excited by food. This excitement for food tends to be the present measure of judging when the time has come for a final trip to the vet.
So it was a lovely lunch with good conversation. Women who can talk about cars and rallying (she explained what D1 and D2 were on the car transmission. Her friend wasn't sure), stencilling, art exhibitions, hot guys, movies and Tuscany where she has free access to a villa must be interesting. I perhaps make her sound pretentious, but she isn't.
Praise to the person who got the Geelong ring road off the ground. It knocked forty minutes of travel off our trip.
It used to be a beautiful garden but a little of it still remains.
Another shot into the direct sunlight through a weeping willow.
The motor. Gorgeous. You should here the wonderful sound it makes, but it is a bitch to start.
The main street of Derrinallum. Our friend there suspects the elms won't last another dry year.
Lord Sedgwick says that he is confirmed public transport user, yet he seems to have knowledge of motor cars. Ah, I didn't realise our friend had the St Kilda Road book by Judith Buckrich until I was posting this photo here.