Annabelle Hick­son: A Day in the Coun­try


Country Style - - CONTENTS -

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.

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