Yesterday I introduced you to the farm house in the orchard, we talked about its high ceilings and long old fashioned sash windows. It also had a long wide corridor that ran past all the bedroom doors and to a massive solid wood front door. This front door opened onto a small porch with those big pillars on either side, shaded by big tree out the front. Then you walked down two old concrete steps, along a little garden path to one of the cutest garden gates I have ever lived with. Open this gate and we will step straight out onto a deep grass verge then into the street. We are quite literally on the outskirts of town, and across the road is a little line of very sweet old houses.
Now turn around and look back at our house. You can see across the little gate, down the little path, through the open door, back down the long dark corridor and there on the wall at the end of the hall we are all looking straight at a beautiful painting and above that painting the landlord had hung a supremely ugly little white plastic disc. Yes the smoke detector. You can just see it if you squint a little from the gate. If you turn right at the smoke detector you will see into my bedroom with its old dark hardwood floors and its gorgeous open fireplace, framed in an ornate white mantel, the walls lined with art and books. It was that kind of house. But shut that door we are not going in there, it is early morning and I have not made my bed yet. Go back and stand by the front door, I have left the door open because this side of the house catches all the coolest of breezes. It is my favourite spot in the summer, it feels like a secret.
To afford this beautiful farm house I had rented one of the bedrooms out to a lovely girl called Lee. She was a petite beauty with a great big laugh, huge blue eyes, a terrible habit of twirling her long blonde curls in her fingers, I bet she sucked her thumb as a baby and she was a town dog catcher. When you look at her there is no way you would expect her to be a dog catcher but there you are. She had a little council van, with a little council radio and a pair of big boots that clomped along on the end of her very pretty legs.
It was a Tuesday. Rubbish day. The boys had dragged the rubbish out, then I had driven them to school, dropped the Beautiful Baby off at kindy. (In NZ children go to kindergarten three mornings a week or two afternoons a week from 3 years old if you have been sensible enough to book them in at birth. It has nothing to do with school and it is free. I booked them in at birth!)
See how I get distracted? OK. Our pitiful rubbish bags are listing to port on the grass verge outside the little garden gate. Lee has gone to work and at this point of time you can hear me singing in the shower. Actually I never have sung in the shower but it seemed like a nice metaphor to describe the feeling of a delightfully empty house, all to myself, a stunning summer morning, all the windows and doors open and a day off work. So I am singing in the shower. From where you are watching you will see little innocent drifts of smoke coming from the kitchen, through the door and into the hallway. For the life of me now I cannot remember what I was cooking, probably just toast, (I could burn about anything)but I was merrily singing and splashing away in the shower while my kitchen was merrily shedding black smoke.
There are sounds outside too, birds, of course, my big black dog rolling over in her sleep, a little traffic, and the thump and rev and crash of the rubbish men in their big rubbish truck creeping closer. There was a time that the rubbish men were often boxers in training you know. They considered this job to be a workout! So we have the young boxers, with their big feet and big gloved hands moving closer to our house and smoke moving closer to the smoke detector and me singing in the shower.
OK, move yourself back out the front door that is standing open because it brings in the coolest air in the summer, down the little garden path, quick don’t be knocked over by the rubbish men they are almost here now and stand out there on the grass by my rubbish bins and look back in. The alarm is shrieking now. A terrible sound, it flies out the door and pings about the apple trees and swoops at the little houses across the road. Incongrous and dreadful in the morning air. You will see me tearing into the hall wrapped in a pink towel, sopping wet, long dark hair (yes my hair was dark in those days) dripping down my back. I have a broom. And I am bashing at the smoke alarm, if you hit that little reset button, just right, it will stop. But it will not stop. I cannot get the broom on the right angle this morning (yes this has happened before). The noise is shredding. I cannot hear a thing except this screaming. I can’t get to the damn little reset button with the broom so I dash back through the door and reappear dragging a chair, I plant the chair in front of the enormous painting, rewrap the towl quickly as it keeps slipping. Then I stand on the chair, bashing at it some more with the broom. No result. So I drop the broom, place one hand every so carefully on the frame of the painting and stretch up as far as I can, right up onto my toes and just manage to push the button with the tip of my finger. It stops, sigh, just as the painting slips sideways, the chair wobbles, I lose the towel and my footing. I dive sideways with a great wet crash and a hysterical giggle as I slide straight off the stage.
Everything is silent but for the slow rumble of an idling truck.
So, I dress, straighten the painting, glare at the smoke detector, the smoke clears, and I proceed with my morning. Lee calls and says she is coming home for lunch and will pick up Beautiful Baby on the way. I make a quiche and pick some salad from the garden out the front.
Lee arrives and sits on the kitchen steps to tug her boots off. The Baby begins to look for a spot to hang today’s paintings.
So, Lee said, anything exciting happen this morning? Usually I find this to be quite a mean question as not very much exciting ever really happens, but today I launch into my funny little smoke episode.
I know, she says. How do you know? I ask her. I heard it described in great detail on the council airwaves. Evidently the rubbish men were watching and had begun their announcement to the rest of the council workers on an open band with the words ‘You will never believe what I just saw!’ She recognised her own address in the chatter.
I harumphed. Twisting my hair into a knot on top of my head. Mentally running back through the whole thing from the Point of View of the road. Oops. Lee comes into the kitchen. Her big mens boot-socks shushing on the floor, she pulls at her council shorts. She is just smiling out loud at me and puts on the kettle for a cup of tea with lunch. I hear the muffled radio voices from her council van out in the drive. I set the salad on the Big Table. Have they stopped talking about it now? No, she says.
Are you still standing there in the cool outside the front door, come in, have a seat at the Big Table, I will change the subject and we will eat quiche. Gorgeous day, today yeah?.