Grandfather Roberts would come to stay with us once or twice a year. He, too, was a short man, like Grandpa Harry, but Grandfather K was very strong. He would cut the hedge, right up until just before he died, in his eighties.
Uncle Hong and Auntie Alex came to stay when she taught me ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, so I must have been very young. As she bathed Clive and me, she’d say, ‘Let’s take those potatoes out of your ears.’ I thought of Alex as exotic as she spoke English and French. They lived on a cocoa plantation in New Guinea, and later adopted two children, Anne and Timothy.
Staying at the Sadler’s farmhouse with five cousins was fun. We played in their beautiful
garden and the extensive orchard. At that time ‘Alandale’ was a dairy farm. When their son, John, took over, he diversified into vegetables and flowers.
Helen and I were the same age, and so we linked up again in later years when we were at boarding school together. Bringing the cows in, we’d chatter as we avoided the fresh cowpats. I found the rhythm of life on the farm even slower than our life in town.
Uncle Loch and Auntie Judy Fran lived at ‘Currajong’, with a creek meandering through the property. They had five boys and one girl. Penny was one year older than me, and she also went to Broadland House School as a boarder. I sat beside her at table in my first year. She and Helen both went on to do nursing at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, after finishing school.
At ‘Robin Hill’, Uncle Barney and Auntie Jean’s children were a little younger than me. They had three boys and one girl, Jill. Theirs was a dairy farm, plus pigs. The white wisteria over the front veranda was thick and lush. The baby grand piano in the lounge room gave it elegance. The warmth of their hospitality was captured by the smell of Auntie Jean’s bread wafting through the house. Barney wrote poetry and stories and in later years he let Bruce and Max take over the farm, so that he could write full-time. Bruce is also a poet. The eldest, Rod, became an economist and joined my brother, Clive, as one of his partners in buying Waterhouse Island, the only privately owned island off Tasmania.
In their retirement, Barney and Jean built a rustic cottage with timber from the property, where Barney and Jean both wrote in their book-lined cosiness, dispersed with paintings. I loved going there to visit them in their idyllic setting on the hillside with platypuses in the nearby creek. Instead of saying, ‘Come and see my etchings.’ Barney would say,
‘Come and see if we can see a platypus.’
Barney had the same initials as me, B.K.Roberts, and once I knitted a tie that was ridiculously short. I sent it packaged with my name, on the back and Jean thought Barney must have another wife somewhere.
Barney and Jean both died on the farm and were buried on the property in a place that they chose to be together. They were an inspiration to me in their contentment. Throwing daffodils onto the grave has etched a lovely memory.