When I was very young, my parents (one an infantry officer from north shore Sydney, the other a nursing instructor raised on US Airforce bases) moved to a cattle property in western Queensland. It was a steep learning curve. They had to look up “heifer” in the dictionary, and we had very kind and helpful neighbours. My mother remembers the shock of standing with a baby on one hip, a two-year old at her side, watching her husband ride to work on a horse. We had a wood stove which doubled as a hot water heater, kerosene lamps (well, we had power but it went out a lot), a “thunderbox” at the end of the yard and brown dam water with mosquito larvae in it. I still remember using the party line telephone. It had no numbers on its face, just a crank handle to connect to the exchange and ring off. We had to repair our own stretch of line and the phone rang every time someone on the line had a call. We would only answer when it was our number, i.e. when the ring was long-short-long, which was morse code for ‘K’ (our number was “Jackson 6 K”). This was in the 1980s. When we were older and my father took us camping at the back of the property, my mother refused to go. She said it was primitive enough at the house.

I bought sepia ink on Friday and broke out the dip-pens today.

Rough for a still life