Our 'one year' opportunity to fulfil a dream of living by the sea has given rise to "we can't possibly leave yet, let's stay a little longer". It doesn't make much sense to live in one state and work in another but then again we often end up doing things a little differently.
They are an unlikely duo, my father and his friend. They pose for a photo seated under the olive trees they planted a few years ago. Their seven decades etched into lined faces and bodies that move and bend slower than once they did; lives that now revolve around the production and consumption of food and alcohol. It is this that has bound them together over the years.
My father’s friend must be a patient and affable man. My father tends to burn off friends, a difficult, opinionated and argumentative man. Nick knows best and it’s Nick’s way or no way! This friendship has survived where others have not.
The 3 acre block they work together is his friend’s retirement dream. Dream is what my father’s friend does best, a multitude of projects begun and only the ones my father has an interest in are completed. The dreamer and the doer. One is always an hour or two late the other waiting and stewing, steam spouting from his ears. One dithers and is easily distracted, flitting from one project to another, the other likes order and the completion of tasks. They are chalk and cheese but a mutual love of the land, food and home made plonk binds them together. Each needs the other. My father cannot cope with the stress and responsibility of managing his own land, his friend cannot maintain focus or complete what he begins. Together they have created a little piece of Italy.
There’s a veggie patch of course and no garden is complete without its tomato plants. Delicate buds of pink and white blossom cover the fruit trees. A row of olive trees stand like sentinels in the middle of the block. There are home made and lean to sheds and buildings dotted throughout, for chooks and storage and other stuff. And pride of place is the ‘brewery’, an intricate set up of tubs and plastic pipe, bottles and a yeasty fermenting smell. There’s an old caravan, for what I’m not sure, a dam, lots of wood and stakes and piles of stuff and tracks leading to nooks and crannies that hold treasures of metal and plastic that will come in handy for some project or another. There’s chooks and ducks and two fat turkeys (google and gaga). There’s a trap for catching eels and a converted drum to smoke them. There’s long grass in places and wooden seats and crates for tired bodies to rest. There’s fences patched and held together with bits of metal rescued from a pile behind a shed somewhere. There is purposefulness and randomness, order and chaos, a reflection of two very different men.
A decade ago they laboured; building, creating and planting, now they potter; tinkering, appreciating and savouring. There is more sitting and eating and drinking than working these days. The plans and dreams still live but they are hostage to slow and tired bodies. They belong more to the world of imagination than reality.
This plot of land is infused with the character of two old blokes – a dreamer and a doer. It has weathered arguments and disagreements a plenty and hosted many a spit roast or BBQ and countless bottles of booze. On this land two old blokes have dreamed and worked and made good food and plonk; eating and drinking and enjoying the time that is left to them.
As we prepare to leave they ‘discuss’ tomorrows plan for a BBQ – will they eat lamb or chicken (actually it is a rooster, Georgie, recently departed from this life), they decide on both. Then follows a discussion on how best to cook Georgie and the lamb, of course my father knows best. My father then reminds his friend more than once that he must prepare in advance and have the food ready on time, knowing full well that it will be hours late and most likely he will take over and ensure that there is something to eat at all. And no doubt there will be a few choice words in the process.
A final goodbye is accompanied with a gift from my father’s friend, a bottle of yellow green olive oil, home grown and cold pressed and made with the weathered hands of two old Italian codgers. What could be better….