I walked every street in Woy Woy

Monday, January 23, 2006

Veranda porn

A snippet from my current reading.

Our move next to Squid’s place came about in an odd way. It happened that in the previous year my grandmother had died, leaving my grandfather living alone in his old wooden house on the cliffs–the place in which my mother had lived as a girl. It was just before Christmas 1928 that Grandfather became peculiar.

I should perhaps qualify this. To me Grandfather McDonald had seemed a little peculiar for as long as I could remember. He had for years called himself a Tolstoyan. I realize now that he must have been a Tolystoyan with variations of his own. For instance, although he was a vegetarian he would eat no apples because this was forbidden in the book of Genesis. A photograph of Tolstoy in the old house could almost have passed as Grandfather, with the same beard and stern, determined expression.

Anyway, when he became peculiar my mother had to go back and forth to “Thermopylae” to clean the place and cook him an occasional meal. He usually muttered and growled at her while she worked, or else sat out on the veranda to watch for passing ships–he had been an old Port Phillip pilot and before that a master in sail.

Just under the house he had a collection of nautical odds and ends, and from this he had resurrected the wheel of the Arabella, a schooner wrecked years before somewhere off the Victorian coast. He fixed this to the veranda rail and standing there would steer the house towards the Heads, muttering and cursing and glaring at the horizon.

This of course didn’t hurt anyone, and no one minded when he fitted the veranda with navigation lights and a binnacle. Complaints from Peters and other neighbours only began when he found a megaphone and used it to roar and blaspheme at ships out in the channel.

It was decided I would sleep under Grandfather’s window on the north veranda, which was the side of the house least exposed to the weather. Even though thick tea-tree protected it, there were nights when the canvas blinds flapped wildly and the roar of waves sounded so close that I would find myself dreaming we were out a sea. These were the nights Grandfather was likely to get up and take the helm. Once or twice on windy moonlit nights I saw him, beard and hair blowing, pyjamas clinging about him, the ghost of a captain on a ghostly ship. The only way to handle him then was for my father to run outside crying, “Ready to take over, sir.” Then Grandfather would relinquish the wheel and allow my mother to lead him back to bed.

But these nights weren’t frequent. Usually the Bay was calm and from my bed I could hear the lapping of waves on the beach at the base of the cliffs. Sometimes on these still nights I could hear through the thin wall Grandfather debating Darwinism with himself, taking first one side and then the other. Darwin always lost.

Veranda porn from one of my very favourite books. All The Green Year by D.E. Charlwood. I'd post the whole book for your reading pleasure but copyright doesn't run out until 70 years* after the author's death and it appears he ain't even dead yet.

* It's really 50 years but we got shafted last year in the American-Australian trade deal and now George Bush dictates copyright law on Australia authors. Thanks a lot, weasel.

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