Subject: More Simple Pleasures (long)
G'day All

I have been slowly working my way thorough Susie’s library at the cottage. Mostly Australian authors that I wouldn’t normally have come across and would consequently have missed out on some cracking good reads. I started off with a collection of Australian Short Stories from 1860 to 1988 a good introduction to the everyday history of the country. The first half of Barry Humphries autobiography "More Please" is quite wonderful, as he conjures up Melbourne and suburbs in the 30's 40's'50's and Britain in the swinging 60's. He didn't need to look too far afield for his inspiration for Mrs., now Dame Edna Everage. I am currently reading an autobiography "My Place"by Sally Morgan, whose Mother and Grandmother hid her Aboriginal origins from her until in her mid teens she began to question the Indian heritage they had invented to protect the family from the stigma of being part Aboriginal. Ten years later she set about finding her family history. Very moving.

All this brings me to the fact that I have been using a bookmark from a lavender farm called Lavandula and decided it was about time we paid them a visit.

January is lavender harvesting time and we wanted to visit before they literally took the sickle to it. Yet another treat, the fields were looking glorious following a short shower the day before, along with the gardens, outbuildings, farm animals and restaurant, it all made for a lovely day out. We had an alfresco lunch in the ash grove beside their La Trattoria restaurant. The meal and the dessert of lavender scones with clotted cream and jam made from home grown berries, washed down with lavender lemonade, was superb

I wanted my picture taken in the midst of the lavender; I had in mind something like Monet’s Poppy Field. Tony told me the light was wrong but I waded in, braving the hundreds of thousands of bees swarming around the lavender spikes. I felt confident (foolhardy) they wouldn’t be bothered stinging me when they had all this divine lavender to keep them busy. The light was wrong, Monet had it easy, he could change the it to suit himself, but at least I had been right about the bees.

Thursday we took the steam train to Maldon. We bought our tickets and got what they call the ‘concession’ price. They are still printed as they were in the old days and announce to the world that we are ‘pensioners’. Within minutes of leaving the station we were traveling through? Bush! At times we could have touched the gum tree branches as we leaned out the window to truly experience the delights of steam travel, smoke, soot and grit in our faces - those were the days. The train never got up much speed but slowed considerably while we passed over dried out creek beds on old wooden trestles. Before leaving the station we watched them manually turn the locomotive around on a turntable ready for the return journey.

With it’s three distinct districts, mining, commercial and residential, Maldon, designated ‘Australia’s ‘First Notable Town’ is as near as we can come these days to an original 19th century mining town. Armed with a copy of a walking tour, we set off to peer into everybody’s gardens and peep through the windows of churches. There is nothing spectacular to see here, just, the way it was. Over lunch we listened to Nelson Eddy singing ‘Rosemarie’!

The climate here suits us very well, so far. Most days the temperature is in the mid 20’s to low 30’s, often with a nice cool southerly breeze but it fluctuates widely. For example on New Years Eve it rocketed to 43 degrees, up from 30 the day before and then down to only 23 on New Years Day, it also plummets at night so our cottage with it’s 12’ ceilings rarely warms to the point we feel the need for air conditioning. Our neighbours were worrying how we would cope; they along with everyone else seem to think we come from a permanently frozen north. In fact we can manage much better than they with 43 degrees of heat and only 9% humidity.

Everywhere we go the countryside looks tinder dry and there have been large bush fires around Victoria. We are only allowed to water the garden on three evenings a week between 7.00pm and 8.00pm. Some days there are total fire bans when it is forbidden to operate farm equipment, lawn mowers or if you happen to have one, a steam train.

Regards, Sue Waterloo ON, currently in Castlemaine Victoria Australia