The Trammels of Quotidian Life

The Trammels of Quotidian Life

Featured Image: J R G Morgan & W P Howey contemplate ‘The Trammels of Quotidian Life’ in the coffee cafe annex to the Royal Hotel in Scone circa 2016

Of course I’ve borrowed the title line. Write what you read? I subscribe to that. I apply the four P’s to my writing; plunder, plagiarize and purloin where possible. I’d never have thought of the heading myself. If I had I’d have been Aldous Huxley in his brave new world. How prescient was he? He only had the timelines wrong. It’s here already. Following a frantic early pace ABC Radio 702 hosts Adam Spencer and Richard Glover’s dry July has settled into a more familiar staid rhythm and steady routine. They also promote a segment called self-improvement Wednesday. Could that be the nub of an idea? There are however some piquant interludes during a quiet time.

In another life I’ve thrown my lot in with the aged care industry in the Upper Hunter as a volunteer. Otherwise what would one do in the sanguine twilight zone of benign self-imposed genteel redundancy? Perhaps learn to write? Could it be relevance deprivation syndrome? This has involved chairing the Board and assisting generously with resources. We have embarked on major construction of a new Residential Aged Care Facility and Residential Village. The Federal Government has encouraged us with Zero Real Interest Loan (ZRIL) of AU$15.5 million.  Strathearn Village was the brain child of the late great Doctor Walter Pye who is still revered as an icon in the local community. In 1970 his was an idea well before its time. “People should be able to remain amongst their friends and their workmates, hopefully close to their family, their doctor, their clubs, their pub, friendly trades-people and neighbours where they are known. In retrospect it would seem that the greatest and kindest care would be the ability to allow people to die peacefully and quietly in their own homes and supply the comfort and care required to do so. People living far out of country towns would need to be cared for in the towns (hostel or villa) where the auxiliary services are available. Remember the height of any civilization can be judged by the manner in which they care for their aged. This community must rank high”. He adduced the case of the town drunk who had reached the stage of requiring specialised care. He pleaded not to be sent away as ‘he had lived here all his life’. He was sent to Lidcombe and never heard of again. Dr Pye avowed this would never be allowed to happen again.

All this has special resonance in 2013 when we celebrate one hundred years of the Scott Memorial Hospital. Victorian Dr Harry ‘Tup’ Scott represented Australia at cricket and was captain of the second Ashes touring side to England. Fortuitously for us he decided to settle in Scone over one hundred years ago. Having established himself as a community titan he died tragically young from typhoid fever in 1920. His name is indelibly imprinted in the eponymous hospital at the top end of town adjacent to Strathearn Village.

The Friends of Strathearn Village are a dedicated self-appointed charitable claque of senior local ladies who raise funds for the facility. Their flagship event is the Friend’s Dinner in late July every year. It is their version of Christmas in July. This time I am honoured to be invited back as guest speaker. It follows a similar event at the Royal Hotel during Scone Horse Festival in May. VRC delegate and Melbourne Cup Handicapper Greg Carpenter and I presented an historical perspective. The Friends benefitted by $5000:00. Perhaps they think I’m bankable? The subject matter was left to me but they indicated they wanted more of the same. I’ve chosen to tell them about Scone’s unique princess. In early 1969 kindergarten teacher Jean McPherson won a prize as the inaugural Golden Slipper Princess promoted by the Sydney Turf Club. Baerami Creek born and bred Jean was the perfect selection from an eclectic field. Apart from local celebrations she won a trip to the actual Golden Slipper Race at Rosehill where she was photographed with all time champion winner ‘Vain’. It didn’t end there. Jean also met visiting American actress Phyllis Diller. Jean was the more photogenic of the two. She was later when she met the famous ‘Goose Girl’ at Hollywood Park Race Track, Los Angeles. The visit was also a component part of her prize. Major Norman Larkin, erstwhile Scone visiting veterinarian and President of the Australian Thoroughbred Breeders Association was a chaperone for Jean. Jean is very much better looking than Norman! What is the message? I think it will be ‘that from very small acorns great oak trees may flourish’. Beginning with any bright idea you have to be in it to win it.

Strathearn Village also has its own unique brand of eulogy valedictions. Inevitably in any given six months several residents pass on. We celebrate their lives with a combined in-house service conducted by a cadre of priests and ministers from the local Anglican, Uniting and Roman Catholic Churches. We like the idea and it works extremely well. Although some past residents are not represented by ‘family’ we make sure that everyone has someone to place a flower in the vase at the anointed time. Recently I placed a flower on behalf of Brian McGrath. Shades of a stone for Danny Fisher?

Brian had been a giant in the Upper Hunter as head teacher, primary school principal, extreme left wing idealist, socialist, political commentator, radio host, journalist, outstanding Rugby League player, administrator and chairman of the Scone Sports Development Committee. I worked very closely with him on the latter as one of his minions thirty years ago. He was outstanding. Sadly he succumbed to debilitating dementia. His demise was rapid with what the industry euphemistically labels challenging behaviours. I knew widow Nola was not there. I saw her later in Scone Post Office and she thanked me profusely. ‘She could not bring herself to attend’. Nola reminded me that their daughter Cindy had been one of our babysitter. I had forgotten. It was important to her. I gave her a grainy photo finish of the final of the Streaker Boyd Gift at Scone Race Track in 1980. Brian was the judge. I had retained the photo for over thirty years. Although there were only millimetres in it the winner Brian selected had in fact run third? Nola explained that the young bloke from Quirindi Rugby League Grasshoppers was down on his luck. Brain knew he needed the money. Justice prevails.

Tiger Batterham was a founder member of the Australian Stock Horse Society and an early chairman. Also a devotee of the Belmore Hotel Tuesday Boozers Club he was a great character. Pauline was there for him.

On schedule was a matriarch of the scion Fairfax Family. Mrs Sue Fairfax was approaching one hundred. She had lived a rich and full life. She used to order me about at her soirees in her home in Waverley Street – especially to replenish her glass of Scotch! At least two of her granddaughters have excelled. Nicky Bishop is an equestrian Olympian having represented Australia at Atlanta in 1996. Nicky’s elder sister Amanda is Julia Gillard’s nemesis with her merciless mimicry and plangent parody on both screen and stage. Their mother Dinie placed the flower for Sue.

Remarkably Brian, Sue and Tiger although coming originally from very different strata of society discovered congenial company in their nether years. Sue attended finishing school in Switzerland. Brian was born in a tent by a railway track. We like to believe this is Dr Walter Pye’s original vision still at work.