Frosty morning in Bonalbo. Wes and his Dad, Lovey, have a concreting project.
Bit nippy, Dad.
Yes, Mate. Not quite Katoomba, but chilly enough. Still, we can make the best of it.
Good day for pouring concrete: goes off slower in the cold. Stronger.
Hah. Allie goes off quicker when she’s cold. Makes her right spiteful.
Allie: I heard that!
Wes: Deny it if you dare!
Allie: I could never live in Katoomba.
Lovey (charmer): Oh, you could make your way anywhere, Alice.
Allie: I don’t know how you stood it, Lovey.
Lovey: Aequo animo accepere*. You just make the best of it.
Lovey cast his mind back to wartime Katoomba winters, when chilblains turned fingers and toes the swollen red of cocktail frankfurts and you walked two miles in short pants to Katoomba High only to find that all your classes were now to be held in the unheated Scout Hall because toff kids evacuated from Sydney private schools had been given your classrooms.
Lovey was born in Narromine. His grandfather, Walter, was innocently driving his horse team along a dirt road near Narromine when the very first motorcycle in the district sped past, spooking the horses, who trampled Wal to death. Lovey was down a grandpop.
Lovey’s dad, Ollie, saw some very spicy action at the Battle of Mouquet Farm in 1916. He returned to Australia with a shattered arm and other, less visible, damage. He didn’t return to his wife and family. Instead, he sent them regular payments for upkeep but made for western New South Wales, where he worked as a baker and eventually married Midgy.
Wait. Wasn’t he already…? Yep, and Midgy didn’t know until Lovey was about a year old and Ollie was charged with bigamy. The judge took Ollie’s war service into account, so he didn’t go to jail, but he had to return to Family #1 and never have contact with Midgy and Lovey again. Harsh. So now Lovey was down a dad too.
This knocked Midgy for a Bazball six. Couple that with the constipated social attitudes of the day and it wasn’t long before she handed Lovey over to her sister, Annie, to raise in Katoomba. Annie was to be called “Gran” and Midgy was to be known as “Auntie”. So, yep, Lovey was now down a mum.
But don’t be downhearted. Baby Lovey’s new brother and sisters (cousins) were way older and treated the little feller like a treasured pet.
Mum, Mum, can I have a go with Lovey?
It’s my turn.
Lovey wouldn’t like you. You’ve got freckles.
You drink your bath water.
Do not! Mum, tell Wal I don’t.
Oh, give me strength! Right. Fifteen minutes each. Jess first, then Olive, then Walter.
So, one day Oll and Wal obtained permission to wheel Lovey to the shops in the pram. With threepence between them to spend, spirits were high, and they set a cracking pace. Wal was due to hand the pramming over to Oll at Railway Parade, but he pressed on.
Hoy! Swap, or I’ll tell Mum.
Here, have it then, dobber (shove).
But Oll wasn’t expecting such a quick capitulation, and the pramfull of Lovey shot straight past her and down the dread gradient of Railway Parade.
Well, who should be trundling up Railway Parade, stand-up driving his new Packard Twin Six roadster but Sydney toff, Edgel Bonut, accompanied by his toothsome stand-up passenger, Lydia Bailee-Bridge.
Stand-up driving? Some sort of toff fad? Sadly, no. Edgel and Lydia were guests at the nearby Hydro Majestic spa and resort.
‘Hydro’ referred to various water treatments ‘on tap’, as it were, for the guests. You name it; if it was wet it was available. Ice baths, steam baths, and even Upper Colonic Irrigation. Yep. Edge and Lyd wanted to be ‘up to date’, so they’d given the Upper Colonic a whirl, but now neither of them could sit down.
Lyd: I’ll never look at a garden hose the same way again.
Edge: I say! Look. That pram’s got a turn of speed.
I’d like to say that Wal and Oll caught up with the runaway pram.
But they didn’t.
I’d like to say that Edgel Bonut leapt from the Packard and halted that pram like the colt from Old Regret.
But he didn’t.
Here’s what did happen:
The pram hit a bump and got air.
The pram handle got hooked around the Packard’s ‘swan’ bonnet ornament (actually a cormorant) and the hitherto luckless Lovey Piddens flew out and landed safely in the sumptuously-upholstered rumble seat of the Packard.
Lovey’s luck was changing.
A lesson to us all.
* To receive with an even mind