For the first time in my life I have been to the Melbourne Show. My father would never take me because he always said when he was a boy show bags were free and it was outrageous that now you had to pay for them.
‘Free samples, that’s what they should be,’ he was always saying. It was no use saying I wanted to see the special furry cats and the sheep and cows, he’d say. ‘You’ll just be whinging and whining till you get a show bag. I know what you kids are like.’ Although why would he, because he only had me? Mother raised her eyes and made a rueful face. What could she do? So when Bid said, ‘Shall we go to the Show?’ I was quite childishly excited. She picked me up in her little red car. Nowadays, when she does all the driving I feel rather ashamed of not knowing how to drive. In fact when the weather is warmer I am going to have lessons. We are planning a few trips and I don’t want her to have to do all the driving. Bid is a good driver though. I doubt I could be as calm as her, but she has been a countrywoman and driven tractors. Her son Kevin still lives on the family farm and she wants to take me up there for a visit. ‘We won’t stay with him, though,’ Bid said. ‘Her Ladyship (Kevin’s wife Sally) wouldn’t want us hanging round for long, but there’s quite a good pub in Deniliquin.’ Once again I thank God for giving me a little bit of money and a good job so I can go on these trips without feeling a burden.
We spent all day at the show. Bid knows her way around. We saw all the best things you’d miss out on if you weren’t in the know. The sheep dog trials, the wood chopping, the horse parade. I love the smell of hay and manure, and the clever dogs. We looked at the winners of the fruit cake prize and the scone prize. I whispered to Bid, ‘Your scones are miles bigger than that,’ and we laughed. And keeping what she knew was my best treat until last, Bid led me to the cat pavilion. Oh, the glory of it. The squished noses, the barrelly stripes, the creamy fur. ‘Oh Bid,’ I said, ‘they are so beautiful.’ There was a creamy beige cat with silvery tones. Her eyes were vivid blue green and she squinted up at me and gave a ‘Yiaow’ of greeting. Princess Yamaki, Blue Seal Point, First Prize. I wanted to stroke her. Her owner came up, a bedraggled women covered in cat hair. ‘You like her? Yes, she’s a beauty. She’ll be having a litter next year. Did you want to put your name down? No obligation.’ I turned to Bid. ‘It can’t hurt to put my name down?’
On the way home I was filled with trepidation. ‘Cats, dirty things,’ I could hear my father say. But then my mother’s voice, ‘No dear, I think you’re mistaken there. Cats are very clean animals. Always washing themselves, and they clean up after themselves too.’ I remember he was so amazed he couldn’t think of a reply.
‘Now don’t get yourself all worried about it, Rose.’ Bid knows me quite well by now. ‘You can get books from the library and I’ll help you, although I mainly know about dogs.’ How surprising she is. I hardly knew anything before I met her. When we got home she came in to have dinner with me. As we sat by the fire eating our Welsh Rarebit I looked at her weathered face and wild grey hair, the smile lines round her eyes and her round shoulders and I said, ‘You are a very dear friend Bid.’ She smiled, quite unfazed, and said, ‘Yes, what a blessing we met by chance. We do get on so well.’
My life has certainly been unexamined these last few months, but fuller than I could ever have imagined. Between work, driving lessons, Historical Society, library research into the care of pedigreed cats, and outings with Bid I have not had the inclination to write here. But I’ll just note I’m happy, alive and well and planning a cruise to Fiji with Bid at Christmas.
Happy Birthday again, and forty at last. It seems quite young to me these days. I don’t think age is really relevant. Bid is forty-nine and she seems the same as me (if a little wiser) and Loretta, our new friend we met on the cruise, is fifty three. We all have something different to offer.
The other thing I want to write is that Ern told me today rather gloomily that Sophie has given notice and is leaving in a few weeks. ‘She’s going overseas with her boyfriend. I’ll really miss her. She’s such a bright spark.’
I suppose she was, but after a while I hardly noticed her.
Come back next week for a sortie into the world of art.