‘Bound For [Western] Australia’

8th October 2013

It was too late, and I was too tired, to post this entry on our return from Clutton yesterday, so I am doing it this morning.

Puddingstone Cottage in Clutton in Somerset is the home of our friends Ali and Steve.  This is where Sam, Holly, Malachi, and Orlaith are spending a few days house and dog sitting before making their last farewells in England.Sam, Ali and Orlaith Jackie and I arrived a couple of hours before Ali and Steve set off to visit their son James in Ukraine.

Next Tuesday my son and his family board a plane for Perth, where they will begin their life in Australia, starting at the home of Holly’s delightful parents.

Given that the children have spent their last six months living on a boat in the Mediterranean, I was not surprised that Orlaith wasn’t sure about me, but I was delighted at Malachi’s greeting.  Stretched out on the sofa, he was so engrossed in the TV that he didn’t hear our arrival.  I gently scratched the crown of his head; he gave an excited cry of ‘Grandpa’; leapt to his feet and wrapped all four of his tentacles around me; said ‘I’m just watching ‘The Rhymer’; and resumed his position. Derrick and Malachi Fair enough, really. He soon climbed on to my lap to give me the pleasure of watching it with him, before giving Jackie a similar opportunity.  He was, however, most displeased with her for not bringing her laptop on which he has enjoyed playing games.

Jackie, Malachi, and Orlaith

Orlaith did us the honour of standing unaided for the first time in our presence.  She scampers around everywhere, and demonstrated a skill in climbing that possibly will rival her brother’s, as she clambered up his armchair in an endeavour to steal his chocolate biscuit.

MalachiMalachi (1)Malachi impressed me with his reading, then we did some jigsaw puzzles.  Whilst Sam drove Ali and Steve to the railway station the plan was that Jackie and I should take Malachi to the children’s playground, down a footpath to the side of the house and past Clutton Primary School.  Because of a certain confusion about left and right in Sam’s directions, it was a good thing that Malachi knew the way.  We passed the school just at the time the children were all being released to their parents.  A school crossing keeper held up the traffic for us and many other parental figures, some of whom pushed the next generation of pupils in buggies. Allotments Our next marker was what had been correctly described as a path that looked like someone’s drive, leading past well tended allotments with a country church in the distance. Malachi (2) Then we were in business.

Rain drizzled down all the time, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway, and my grandson had a dry pair of trousers at home.  It only took one trip on the slide to demonstrate that he would need them.  Steve’s waterproof jacket was a bit tight for me, so I left off my own casual one.

There are several entertaining structures on which to climb.  One takes the form of a boat.  Malachi, of course, knows all about steering and turning the motor on and off.  He recognised the galley stove on which he cooked some stones and bark chippings.  Unfortunately, my pleas that I was too big to enter the craft cut no ice. Derrick and Malachi (1) I was forced to get up there.  It was in fact more difficult to disembark because I had to turn around to apply my feet to the metallic steps.

Malachi (3)Spider in webAnother climbing frame takes the form of a large wooden arachnid.  It was this that was responsible for metamorphosing me into a monster, for it gave Malachi the bright idea that I should pretend to be one.  So, all the way back to the house, as a cross between Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein and Geoffrey Rush’s Davy Jones, I stumbled along, breathing like blasts from a pair of bellows, and waving my own tentacles about.  Sometimes Mal would hide behind Jackie and I would have to pretend to look for him.  At one point this charade took place alongside a garden in which an elderly woman was working.  There was nothing for it but to ask her in monster speak if she had seen a little boy.  Fortunately she had her back to me and appeared hard of hearing.  I didn’t persist.IMG_6117  A variation on the game gave me minimal respite.  Malachi, by shooting me with his snorkel was able to transform me from monster to Grandpa and vice versa at the squeeze of a trigger.  Back at the house, Holly informed me that Malachi’s maternal grandfather had always played the monster.  Mick O’Neill, you have a lot to answer for.

Between them, Holly and Sam produced a flavoursome fish pie followed by cheese and biscuits and fruit cake. Sam and Orlaith (1) Sam and OrlaithBefore this, we had a game of cards, in which Orlaith insisted on joining.

There was an hiatus before cheese whilst bedtime duties were carried out.  Sam ingratiatingly sidled out of the bedtime story by informing his son that I would be very good at it.  Now, as a grandparent, you can never be exactly sure about parents’ discipline and routines.  So, it wasn’t until my shoulders began to ache a little, that I came to the conclusion that it was less than reasonable to be expected to read a précis version of ‘The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe’ with a four-year-old perched upon them, his legs joined around your windpipe, and his feet pummelling your sternum.  I had to get a bit stern.  When I had finished it was Mal’s turn to read to me.  He does this very well, but has a penchant for deliberately changing the order of the words.  Have we, I wondered, a budding Mordred here?

Sam and Holly

The four adults had a relaxed couple of hours before Jackie drove me back to Minstead.

It was the 1961 Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem version of ‘Bound For South Australia’, that reverberated in my ears this morning.  The Pogues have covered it more recently.  Sam and Holly and their family are not going by boat, and Perth is not quite the destination of the shanty song, but perhaps the rousing refrain is pertinent.

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