I am that Blind Man: One Woman's Story (Part V)


Once a year we used to pack the back of our car to the seat height, place a mattress over the top of the seat and luggage and head north to Murwillumbah with mum and dad driving in split shifts all night, while my little sister and I slept head to toe in the back seat. It was always an eagerly anticipated adventure, with the thrill of eating cold hard-boiled eggs and sausages for breakfast in the back of the car as we drove into sunrise.
We would stop for lunch beside the road somewhere along the way and, in my younger years, the little one burner hot plate would be brought out to brew a billy of tea as we munched on sandwiches sitting on the grass beneath the sweeping shade of overhanging gums. The strong smell of the midday eucalypts mingled with freshly brewed tea. Our friendly family banter and laughter joined with the Currawongs, Magpies, Bellbirds and sometimes Kookaburra calls. Though flies buzzed incessantly we smiled and swept them through the air with our hands like all good Aussies.
As we grew older sometimes we’d have the treat of pulling into a local fish and chip shop in some sleepy little town en route, delighting in Chiko rolls, chips, fish and hamburgers; they were the most delectable hamburgers, piled high with onions, beetroot, lettuce and topped with a fried egg. A rare taste sensation nowadays.
As we reached the tumbling green hills and travelled the windy narrow roads, my excitement built. We were nearly there! My little sister and I would eagerly watch for thick white stone mileposts, telling us how far away we were, or more importantly, how close we were getting. We sang songs together, which delighted dad. One of our constant favourites would be sung by the one who was first to see the sea, which she then heralded with the chant “I can see the sea, the sea, the sea, I can see the sea, as far as I can see!”
Then, when we reached Murwillumbah, our car knew exactly where to go. Over the bridge and turn left into Commercial Road on the banks of the Tweed River. We would drive slowly, soaking up the smells, the excitement, the anticipation. Then turn left into that familiar winding driveway beneath the huge palms, to grandma and grandpa’s house.
It was a typical ‘Queensland’ home; Encircled with wide breezy verandas standing on stilts five feet above the ground. Wide stone steps swept up to the welcoming front door, but we nearly always climbed the back steps and went straight into the huge country kitchen; a large kitchen table at one end, benches and sink stretching along one side under the open window a gentle sea breeze always wafting through it which stirred up the aroma of some freshly baked treat and a country appetite which seemed to descend as soon as we did.

One of my fondest memories is of grandma’s pantry.
We children, (including my cousins), loved loosing ourselves in that world of exciting mixed smells, enormous glass canisters lining the shelves which teetered high above. You never knew what you would find there. It was a treasure trove which invited you irresistibly in.
Grandpa’s study was yet another Aladdin’s cave, with a distinctly inky smell about it. Heavily laden bookshelves sagged under the weight of their burden of fascinating and curious old books of a bygone era. The old black typewriter on the table just beckoned little fingers to touch and tamper, guiltily investigate and experiment. There were shelves and in-trays of paper and important looking letters, strange paperweights and weird blotters made of curios from the old powerhouse.

And then there was the chook shed. One day I watched as dad chopped off the head of a lovely white chook, which then ran around the yard, headless, in protest. That was the first and last beheading I witnessed!
I ran and hid behind the old double seater outside toilet, long abandoned but never removed. It was a strange curiosity to young city eyes.
But the most pervasive memory is of the tropical smells and early morning sounds of the town. Anytime I am somewhere with similar sounds or smells, I’m immediately transported back to that place, time and years so long ago.

Then the blissful joy of these idyllic childhood days was shattered.

(to be continued…)

©Jan Stead JEMproductions, 1999 & 2008

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I am that Blind Man: One Woman's Story (Part V) by 

Welcome to Part Five of the saga, currently and progressively unfolding before you. If you are looking for the other parts, here’s a short cut for you:
Part I Part II Part III Part IV

In some senses this is the end of the first introductory chapters, this being Chapter 3.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much I have writing it. Childhood memories are so often full of hidden, partly forgotten gems, until we begin to unwrap them!


The meat of the book and my purpose, alluded to in the title, is about to be revealed….

An avid photographer, both still and moving, since I was 10 years old, I later discovered and developed a particular love of macro, which is one of my main genres. More recently, however, my repertoire has broadened to include stained glass windows and particularly the stunning beauty of outback New South Wales and South Australia.
I hope you enjoy the beauty of the Creation, captured and presented here for you.

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  • Bev Woodman
    Bev Woodmanabout 6 years ago

    Oh Jan – I love this one too – a very exciting serial but you’ve left me hanging there and I’m full of dread wondering what takes place next – don’t keep me waiting too long!! You know I could almost visualise the whole scene – and especially Murwillumbah – I can picture the river flowing through there and the road winding along its banks, and it always had a distinctive smell of the sugar cane, and after it flooded that awful stink of stagnant water – oh wonderful memories Jan and told so well!

  • Bev, your comments just get better and better. You excitement and enthusiasm are palpable, while your visualisation of the text wonderful to read.
    Thank you more than I can truly express for your wonderful comments. They/you spur me on. Many, many thanks my friend.


    : )

    Never fear…I won’t leave you in suspense for too long…but it’s all good.

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisabout 6 years ago

    Wow…now that is terrific writing…took me along on the journey. I remember distant travel similar to this with my folks when little…eating boiled eggs…tea in the billie…listening to the birds…wonderful times…and you are SO right about the hamburgers…hard to find any like those ones anymore…as for the chooks head being cut off…I first witnessed that at very young age (6) when a neighbour across from our house use to decapitate her own chickens for cooking…they would run around the yard with no heads….strangest thing to watch…then after the headless bird dropped she would but off its feet and pull the tendons to show me how the nerves of the foot worked…I was fascinated at the time…lol. Now you really have me intrigued at to what is happening next…so going to find out…off to part VI :)

  • Oh wow! Now that is a massive compliment. I had no idea that this bit was that interesting, as I saw it as very egocentric and personal childhood reminiscences.

    You have nno idea how rapt I am.

    Crossing my fingers that the next bit is as good.


    : )

    – Jan Stead JEMproductions

  • C J Lewis
    C J Lewisabout 6 years ago

    as I saw it as very egocentric and personal childhood reminiscences
    I find the above are sometimes the most appealing to read about…lessons can be learnt from the experiences of others. I don’t think it is being egocentric at all…helps the younger ones to see just what a great life they are missing out on by just wanting to sit at home, playing computer games, taking drugs and all that rubbish…sooo much more to learn by being not only a part of nature but being surrounded by it in its natural glory…gives off good, clean, clear energy that is very needed to function properly, I believe.

  • adgray
    adgrayalmost 6 years ago

    Jan you have us all remembering our childhoods. Those of us who have travelled like this and who have experienced country ways … and those of us who haven’t are stunned that these “Stories” are true!
    Yes I have done the chook thing [but am never doing a duck again! When you strap their wings (coz they fly off otherwise) they stretch their heads out & lay their necks on the block for you! – have done sheep cows & pigs too!] & hidden behind the dunny [lol at the double seater! did your grandfolks do everything together? lol what ever happened to privacy?]
    and my Nannas house had a shed full of printing equipment & paper of all kinds – a joy to hide in & sparked my absolute addiction to stationary! – and from that (coupled with my Nanna telling me to write my stories down) my vocation as a writer!
    But as our memory of scents is the fastest trigger to any other memory I too can remember eucalyptus & billy tea & burning gum wood – but for me it sparks memories of scout camps. It was the luggage in the stationwagon & the kids sleeping on the back seat without seatbelts [brought in as mandatory for cars in 1980] that reminded me of the trips our mother took us on after Dad left us [he only ever wanted to go no further than the parks at the end of the Tram or Train lines – in case the car broke down we could still get home!] we’d do the most amazing touring trips, pulling into campsites after midnight, pitching tents or sleeping in the car then taking off at day break before the ranger came round to collect a fee. once we stopped on the side of the road & pitched a tent but the pegs wouldnt go into the ground so we tied the tent to the car. all night long we’d have cars tooting at us as they passed then in the morning we found mum had pitched us on the middle of a triangular roundabout at the turn off to the Ottways! lol – no wonder the pegs wouldn’t go in & the hooting lol
    Oh enough of my reminiscence lol I’m off to go read the rest of yours! ☺
    Chookas! ♥

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