Never has home felt so good. I always feel a bit conflicted when I return from a trip to my Australian home, sad at having said another goodbye to my mother, my brothers and sisters. And glad, at the same time, to be back with my own family.
Usually on my holidays home I go to the same places and don't venture too far from Brisbane. This time, because I had a whole month, I had a great road trip to Central Queensland and a flight to the Central Coast of New South Wales. More of those to come. Today the images of the homes of my memory are foremost in my mind.
I took a drive "up the creek" (the road that follows the Laidley Creek from Townson to Laidley) to where both my parents grew up and where I spent the first five years of my life, before my parents moved to Nudgee, what was then an outer suburb of Brisbane. School holidays were spent back up the creek with my maternal grandparents.
All my brothers and sisters could look at this photo and know exactly where I stopped. As a child once we reached this spot the excitement of being "nearly there" would be starting to build. I was on my return from further north but hadn't got used to the dry, dry countryside. It was what I call break your heart dry. I could imagine the farmers eyes turning to the sky and their prayers that those dark clouds would bring some rain.
We always looked for sightings of Mt Mistake, a sure sign we were getting closer.
And here is the old Ward homestead, my paternal grandmother's house, my first home. It is a typical Queenslander, high set, built from timber, deep verandas, corrugated iron roof, so perfectly suited to the sub-tropical climate of Queensland. I was pleased to see it is a better state of repair than it was when I last photographed it a few years ago.
I stopped to take other photos and by the time I reached the road into my maternal grandparents' home it had begun to rain lightly. Rain was predicted for the following weekend and I certainly hope it fell in abundance on these farms.
That is the house, there in the distance, set well back from the road.
Thanks to the zoom on my camera I could get a closer peek. Whereas the Ward homestead looks very much as it always has, the pitch of the farmhouse roof is different here, the windows and doors are much fancier. But the place still evokes so many emotions. Some of the happiest, most carefree times of my life were spent in those mountains behind the house and in the creek that ran alongside.
On the other side of that creek sits my great grandmother's home. The beautiful wrought iron work on the veranda railings has gone, the chimney is new and the kitchen out the back (which was basically a separate structure connected by a covered walkway) has gone but it doesn't look very different from when I was a child.
No holiday on the farm was complete without at least one Sunday afternoon visit to my great grandmother. After lunch we would all be instructed to take a bath. This involved Gran heating water on the wood stove and carrying it to the bathroom to take the chill off the cold water. We would all be decked out in our Sunday best. Gran would don hat and gloves, and we'd set out carrying our shoes and socks which we would put on after crossing the creek. Gran would put on her stockings and good shoes and we'd set off across her brother's paddock. Can you imagine the state of our shoes and white socks (and Gran's stockings) by the time we reached the other side after traipsing through that rich soil? Even if there was a crop growing, we'd still have dirty shoes. A protocal developed for these visits including who would be the first to be greeted, how long we were expected to chat and catch up with ggran.
Sorry, I've gone off on a tangent.
Beside the old house I swear that is the same old shed that was always there! The stockyards were in that same place, too.
My sentimental journey was completed by this sight below. I heard my grandfather's voice saying, "The Crosby cattle are out in the creek again." So comforting that some things never change.
To complete my visits to the homes of my memory I took a drive back to Nudgee, to the street where I grew up.
To my old Forrest Street home. Yes, my parents raised twelve children in that home.