Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Silent spring

I’m sitting in the farm kitchen at Barraba Station. I was outdoors, but the heat these last few middays has been too much to take for more than ten minutes at a time, so I’ve retreated to the shade.
All around is the silence of the countryside. Now, that is, that the man next door has turned off the most insidious and longwinded water-pumping machine I have ever suffered. Now, it’s only the odd bit of birdsong that shoots through the soundlessness. The pink and grey galahs massing on the big trees or the tiny grey or blue-headed finches or wrens jittering around the woodpile.
Andrew is at the hotel, Haddon is pruning the vines, and everyone else of our crazy house-party has departed – Benji and Sofie to their next wwoofer place, Annie home to Sydney, Coco towards Noosa. So that leaves just me. And the silence and the spring bursting out all around. For, yes, trees and vines that were asleep when I arrived here a fortnight ago have leaped into life and the green sheen of springtime is everywhere. Lovely.

I have to say I really enjoy this quietude, and I can tell you that it is well-earned. For, in the days since the Warren Fahey concert and all the activity surrounding it, life here has not precisely plummeted back to the ordinary, the docile and the unexceptional. Quite the reverse. For, six days after that event, an even larger one took place: a big fortieth birthday party for thirty mostly out-of-town guests. And those guests were booked to occupy every square centimetre of space in the ten almost-finished rooms of the Playhouse Hotel. Which meant that those six days of grace had to be spent putting the said rooms into a spanking, sleepable-in state. Beds and mattresses of all shapes and sizes were magicked up from here, there and nowhere, along with duvets, duvet-covers, pillows, bed-linen and bathroom linen, and a battery of buckets and cleaning products, and every able body was press-ganged into service.

Coco and Annie headed the laundering, ironing and bed-making brigade, Benji and Sofie cleaned and kept us fed, Haddon was here there and everywhere, and I .. well, being always something of a solo act, I took on the bathrooms. Nine of them, plus three public room toilets. Another day, I spent a morning cutting a vast roll of decorated paper into squares as breakfast-tablecloths. Another … and always, always, there was something else to follow.
Well, once again, at the price of a huge effort, we got there. And when all was ready and in waiting for the invasion, the time came for our little exhausted band to begin to disperse, back into the real world. Except me.
The expression ‘the morning after the night before’ doesn’t just apply to alcoholic excesses. It applies very much to bed-and-breakfasting. And when the highly successful Saturday-night party had been partied, and the party-goers had departed, it was – of course -- time to begin the cleaning up. And now there was no Coco, no Annie … just Andrew. And me.
And the news that four (it turned out to be six) more nightly customers were due in 48 hours.
Well, I un-made 23 beds, sorted 23 lots of linen, re-cleaned nine bathrooms and two public loos, ironed up some fresh sheets and pillowslips .. and got a whole heap of experience of the other half’s unprintable habits. But Andrew got the thin end. All that linen had to be washed.
Now the Playhouse Hotel has been set up in splendid style. Fixtures, fittings, decoration, equipment ... all beautiful. But one or two things are unfinished and one or two others have gotten forgotten. And the greatest of these by far was … a washing machine. So Andrew had to journey back and forth to the friendly local backpackers, feeding sheets and towels and pillowcases into an economy-sized washer, and thence to the farm’s washing lines, for an entire day.
But we got there.
That was last night. And today is silence. Even though there are eight more guests scheduled for this weekend, and this house too is due to refill with family and friends. All I can say is, I hope they are all good at ironing and bathrooms.

Although the virtual debut of the hotel has been the focus of the last fortnight, my stay hasn’t been all chamber-maiding. In between more scrumptious meals than I’d normally tackle in twice the time, and quite a lot of supping and sleeping, I’ve had other novel experiences, too. Such as weeding grapevines and walnut saplings and doing strange manutentional things with irrigation piping (there must be 100 miles of the stuff here, but , when it doesn’t rain month in month out, you need it). I haven’t plucked up the courage yet to try Haddon’s beautiful little orange tractor, though. After my battered Fergie it looks like a Ferrari and I fear it might go like one!

So, as you can see, all is not gentle dolce far niente in the Aussie almost-outback. But you’ll understand when I say that I haven’t needed a sleeping pill for goodness knows how many nights!

No comments: