Welcome to my regular (and early) Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you. Today, I am going to get nostalgic.
I can’t remember a time when the house wasn’t dilapidated. The house sat upon tall timber pylons three storeys high, but there was nothing underneath it. The story goes that there were plans for a shop below the house but those plans never came to fruition. To the passerby, it might have looked like a giant birdhouse. This was fitting because two older ladies lived in that house. The younger was my grandmother, the elder was her mother, my great grandmother. My grandfather lived up the road. That was odd, but odd is normal for us.
Like a birdhouse, the house had only one entrance. To get to that entrance required negotiating a steep external staircase. The stairs were slick and rotting from the constant rain of the wet tropics. Holes were common in that house, in the rotting floor boards and in the walls. The ladies did not live alone. My godfather, my great uncle, also lived with them. He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. He would wake with the DTs and a thirst. I liked him. He was charming but broken. I expected him to meet his end on the stairs, but instead it was alcohol poisoning that killed him.
The house was totally unsuitable for children and yet a number of children had lived or visited there. My aunt and uncle lived there at various points in their life. My uncle was fond of telling me the story of his first babysitting job at the house. He would have been barely older than a teenager. I was a very quiet toddler then. For good reason. I was intent on a paint job. He had to back me up to the bathroom tap to clean me up.
Visits to that place, that house, those people, were rare. One of the few times my family visited, I was terrified of falling through the floor, but I was probably more terrified of the insects. The insects are huge in Far North Queensland. I recall a big black insect scuttling into the kitchen. Someone gleefully yelled that it was a toe-biter. It zoomed from one side of the kitchen to the other. I squealed while the adults laughed heartily, but not unkindly.
The house is gone now, condemned like the old Jubilee bridge over the South Johnson river.
I’ve often wondered what brought those two women to the birdhouse ark near the river, but it is only now that I have given voice to those questions. I’ve not been back for nearly 40 years. I am a stranger to the town of my birth. Perhaps there has been too much water under the bridge, the current too strong and too many secrets washed down that river to revisit its stories. We shall see, my love and I.
Segue to a folk song, The Water is Wide, performed by The Seekers on their Jubilee Farewell Tour. Sing it with me.
Take care, everyone.