Monday, June 30, 2008

St Hilda, I presume?

So, after the joyful week of family togetherness that was our wedding celebration, we headed to the place that is ours for some time with the wilderness.

We arrived to find proof that there is in existence a wonderful rural spirit of neighbourliness, not that we would have doubted it if the question had been put to us. Our gate which has been through a number of transformations all leading towards a general state of collapse was in a state of wholeness! New wire and a wonderful new bush craft gate latch!
Then once through we saw that we had a driveway and new wonderful slashed homesite surrounding our shed!
Could this have been the work of our neighbour Tom?

As we settled into unpacking, a white ute pulled up at our gate and yes, our kindly neighbour jumped out of his ute to explain that he had fixed up our gate and as he had been out with his slasher he thought he would get the grass around our shed and usual camp site under control! The generosity of the action is really beyond words. We had a lovely chat to Tom who told us the sad news that his 'girl' - his faithful canine companion, had recently been trampled by a bull in the course of her daily work and now got about on three legs. But like a true rural trooper she was soldering on full of life. Tom let us know that his horses had been getting out on to the road via our place so he had fixed up the gate and put up a temporary fence between our blocks. With a quick discussion of our future plans he was off back to his house on the hill and we got to some serious work.

Our plan this time was to camp in the shed. So step one was to drag everything out and get busy with some sweeping!
An hour or so later we had a spiderweb and (almost) dust free shed to set up. We rearranged some of the existing furniture and got our bed set up ready to go.
Dom got to work on the next most important task, the fire pit and with some wood collection done we settled into an evening by the fire.
Both still a bit tired from recent stomach bugs we settled into bed early for what was not the most relaxing night of my life! Cold! Very, very cold! The sleeping bags and doona ensured that we were warm from above but the earth had other ideas and she pumped her coolness from the ground, through the concrete and into our air mattress, making sleep for me a destination I couldn't reach! Eventually I succumbed to exhaustion and awoke to forgive all. Morning at our place is truly the most beautiful thing you could experience. Crisp, clean and raring to go, it fills you with an energy that a sleepless night could not drain.
Our plan for the day was to track down Hilda, the church from our block. With map in hand we ventured west, heading towards Oakey on beautiful wide outback roads.
Forty minutes and few misturns later we were in Macglagan, and then out of it again! A true blink and you will miss it town, so a u-turn was required and we were back again. After a quick stop at the convenient public ablutions we trotted into the local general store for information. The shop owners were not entirely sure which of the four (!) churches in town was the original Anglican church. They told us that all church services had been amalgamated into the one venue, but gave us a good guess as to which one we were after and tickled our senses with the suggestion that the property had been on the market previously and was perhaps on the market at the moment! Dom requested a sausage roll from the hot box as compensation for their help, to be told it was in fact a gourmet beef roll! You will have to ask Dom as to the accuracy of that description...

We scampered around the corner to the church and wandered around admiring the building from the outside.
On the western end was a lovely, but dust covered, stained glass window which in my imagination-fueled reasoning had the letter H and a nun's habit as its features! We clambered onto stump camps to peek in the windows and had become convinced it must be our Hilda. Then, on a whim I reached out to try to the door handle to a rear entrance and she was unlocked!

With a little apprehension we entered to experience the serenity and power that is this building.

The original section (approximately 5 by 6 metres) is beautifully lined and retains a stunning stained glassed window, pulpit and other furnishings.
Next to this, a more recent addition we assume, is a grand hall with side room.
In the midst of some snooping I wandered into another side room of the original building to find piled in the corner a stack of paperwork and to our great joy laying there on top was the most recent registration of a business certificate for St Hildas Anglican Church! Confirmation that we had found her! Laying in the pile were various documents, original account books, orders of service and prayer books all stamped with the St Hildas stamp. Interestingly there was also a half bottle of good quality scotch whiskey, standing abandoned. We took as many photos as possible, from as many angles, to ensure we didn't forget her presence. Somewhat reluctantly, we said good bye to our girl and drove home (the long way, thanks to a wrong turn brought on by BJ deciding to regurgitate his lunch of grass in the back seat!)

We stopped in at Crow's Nest to restock and stumbled onto the second hand store, which I had originally thought to be a bric or brac outlet, only to find that is has a 'hardware' wing complete with original range ovens! Definitely a place to visit again in the near future.

Back to the block and more wood collecting in preparation for another evening. While I wiled away the hours with a good book Dom got busy working on operation build-a-bed. Not too many people can say they have slept in a bed built out of a toilet! Dom took a wall of planking down from the bush toilet and turned it (with help from our collection of water containers) into a delux raised bed!
We spent the evening rugged up (much more prepared this time) by the fire and read our books by the gentle light of our Coleman lamp, then into bed for another restless, but more rewarding, sleepwise, night.

The next morning we awoke to a general sense of dampness! A fog had rolled in overnight and our bedding and everything we touched was coated with a frosty dew. But upon emerging from the shed, once again everything was forgiven, ten fold, as we witnessed the beauty of our block under fog, with the light of a gentle sunrise drifting through the water vapour, slowly burning it away into the clarity of day.
For larger versions of any images on this page just click on them!

A delicious cooked breakfast of crumpets and a casual pack up saw us heading home by mid morning with thoughts of our Hilda in our minds.

A side bar - dogs. You would think that buying 2 1/2 acres of bushland would satisfy the wildest dreams of our canine children. And to some extent this is true, they love to scamper about sniffing out the wildlife and enjoy the spontaneous walks which more often then not end in Mum ducking into the Hall toilets for relief, but our dogs are in essence city dogs. Every time one of us opened a car door to retrieve an item, Gypsy was right there asking in her puppy dog eyes if perhaps we could now go home to the place with the couch and the beds and the walls? So on our second day, frustrated with her whining (despite her fancy new dog dress to keep her warm!) we simply opened a car door and let them climb in! A wonderful evening was had by all, the dogs curled up together in their little piece of civilisation imaging they were at home on their leather couch and we didn't have to worry about what they were up to! Spoilt much???!!!
In a postscript, today I spoke to the lovely Laurel, property advisor for the Brisbane Diocese of the Anglican Church. In the way of everything involving the purchase of this land she responded to my initial inquiry regarding the fate of Hilda by saying - 'Oh, I have her paperwork right here on my desk, next week I will be recommending to the church council that the site be put up for sale!'

I know, I know, this keeps happening to us. Laurel filled me in that the building was officially closed as a church about 12 months ago and closed up for good six months ago. She was intently interested in our dreams of returning her to her original location and took notes. Laurel explained the process that they would undergo to sell her and we swapped contact details. She also provided me with some excellent contacts to help with my search for information on the burial on the block. So here we have something to watch with interest, within the month our Hilda will be up for sale and the universe alone will decide her fate!



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