Philobiblon: The wench is dead ...

Friday, November 12, 2004

The wench is dead ...

... but the memories keep being stirred up.

The Marlowe quote is one of my favourites, but events have been conspiring lately to bring up most past.

Gordon of The Worsley Blog" has been remembering one of his former "guests", a persistent possum, whose story is told here.

His description of their "good imitation of hobnail boots when trotting across ceilings" reminded me of when I was a teenager in my study, which had a flat tin roof. Possums didn't seem to like to live in the huge old oak tree in the front yard, but they certainly liked its acorns, so they used to stamp across the roof from the trees in the backyard to the front in the early evening, then back at various stages during the night. If the cat happened to be out during the procession they'd sit on the guttering and hiss and snarl at her.

(Sadly the oak tree, and the house, are gone now. It was older than the Edwardian house, perhaps one of the oldest oak trees in Sydney - reputedly the site used to be a nursery and they'd pot new plants in its shade - but they knocked down both to build four villas on the big block - no doubt making a big profit since it was close to Epping station. So goes the history of Sydney.)

I've also been putting up on my website a couple of stories from my early days as a journalist (for reasons on which I may later post) in Henty, in southern NSW. The stories, I'm pleased to rediscover, make quite decent oral history - even if I'd now like to edit aspects of the writing.

There's the story of Amy Kleeman, who grew up on a Murray river paddleboat, the Alpha, and of Myrtle Jenkyn, for 50 years, on her own account, an (unpaid) correspondent for local papers. That's all so far; I might add more later.

I have only a dim memory of interviewing Mrs Kleeman - a very crowded, knick-knack-infested sitting room - but Myrtle was definitely memorable - a huge old farmhouse living room with every surface, and most of the floor, covered with piles of newspapers, magazines and clipping files. I also remember her "despatches", always written on small pieces of paper. The old-fashioned, spidery handwriting started in lines but then snaked around the sides, was squished in the corners, and generally almost impossible to follow. (Thanks Pat, who often helped me decipher it.)

The only story of hers that I remember was about the time an old carthorse was brought back into service after a car, then a tractor, both got bogged. The report was that it got them both out.

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