Annabelle Hickson: A Day in the Country
ANNABELLE HICKSON ON WHY SHE LOVES PYJAMAS, BUT HATES UNWANTED VISITORS.
It’s 9.30am. I’m drinking a coffee in my pyjamas and checking emails. The sweet sound of my four-year-old laughing as she watches in Minions for the 120th time fills the house. is ink into Minions my chair ready for an hour of uninterrupted bliss. Me, my computer and my slippers. And then I catch sight of someone coming up the driveway, with the thick trail of dust billowing up into the sky behind their vehicle like a warning flare. Please go to the shed, I pray, please don’t come into the house yard and knock on the door. Don’t make me get dressed. One of the joys of the school bus picking up the older kids at the mailbox is that I do not have to be dressed for the day when they leave. I can wave to the driver from my car, still in my dressing gown, hustle the kids out of the back seat, blow them a kiss and then race back home to tackle the jobs of the day in my jarmies. Often it is almost lunchtime before I get around to getting dressed, which feels like the height of luxury. That is, until I see myself through someone else’s eyes, then I may as well have a sign that says: ‘I’m a slob’ pinned to my pyjama top. I don’t enjoy feeling like a slob so, as you can imagine, I don’t like morning visitors. Yet here they come. ‘Who is it this time?’ I wonder, as I race to get a jumper and some jeans on, muttering angry thoughts. If history is anything to go by, it’s going to be one of the following: a) The commercial beekeepers who take advantage of the flowering ironbark trees that grow here. They might even have a new queen bee to replace the feisty one in our personal hive. Ed caught a swarm of bees last summer, which cements his position in my mind as the manliest man in history. But because the bees are so crazy, we’ve been unable to get any honey from the hive. Even while wearing the full bee suit, it’s too frightening to approach. The professional beekeepers assure us a new queen will sort out the hostile vibes. b) The annoying old-school chemical salesman who never calls or emails. Instead he drops in and asks if he could speak to my father about farm matters. “My father lives in Sydney,” I say, as he looks to see if there are any biscuits in the barrel next to the kettle. “Well, the man in charge then.” c) Backpackers. German, French or Italian, but never American, spilling out of a vehicle that is both their means of transportation and their home, asking if there is any work on the farm. d) A stranger who is camping nearby and needs help with a flflat tyre, empty water bottles or is lost. I harbour various levels of resentment for these people — or rather for having to get dressed for them when they come into my little world, uninvited. So I look out at the approaching vehicle with mean eyes, as I try to make out who it is exactly. But wait, is that Gary? Oh yes, it is just Gary the fruit man. I rush out to Gary with a smile on my face, still in my dressing gown because Gary doesn’t care about things like that, and wave as he pulls up. Gary comes to our place every second week, bringing fresh fruit and vegetables in the back of his old red ute, or in another old van when the ute breaks down. He writes a list of the day’s produce and their very reasonable prices on the back of a box. His hair is neatly combed and his shirt is tucked in. Often he wears a bandana around his neck, which gives him a cravat-wearing aristocratic vibe. Gary can’t talk. Instead he gets out his notebook and writes, in capital letters, which seems to me to be the slowest way possible to communicate. It’s part of his charm. “Caught a big cod out here on the weekend.” He then shows me the pad with a huge smile. “Came up to the house to give it to you but you were away.” We then chat about the weather and the kids and to and fro with the notebook for a few minutes until I choose some fruit. He slips an apple into the hands of my little girl, who has left Minions to come outside and say hello. He doesn’t have an EFTPOS machine, so on the days I don’t have cash he waves his hand and mouths “next time”. Gary is a man from a difffferent era. He is utterly charming, kind, proud and non-judgemental. And unlike all the other uninvited morning visitors, I feel nothing but joy when I see it’s him in the driveway, pyjamas or not. Annabelle lives on a pecan farm in the Dumaresq Valley, northern NSW. Follow @annabellehickson on Instagram.