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U3A Writing: Moray

...To Joan and I, Moray was a haven, a place redolent of love and caring and we were overjoyed to go there at every opportunity...

Shirley Long remembers with great joy visits to the home of her grandmother and great aunts.

Moray was the name of the home of my Grandma and Great Aunts. Grant was their surname. It was named after the area in Scotland from which our forebears came, and the house was an ordinary suburban house behind a cypress hedge, in a quiet street in the suburb of Ripponlea in Melbourne.

Grandma, our father's mother, was a widow and my sister Joan and I usually called her "Gran". The Great Aunts, Margaret, Bessie, Grace and Julia were called "Aunt", by us, which was less formal than Great Aunt so and so.

Aunt Bessie had died before I remembered her, from cancer I think, but Aunts Margaret, Grace and Julia lived in Moray with Gran. To Joan and I, Moray was a haven, a place redolent of love and caring and we were overjoyed to go there at every opportunity. They were all wonderful to us, but never spoiled us.

Gran would come to our home quite often to stay for a few days, to see Dad and Mum and us children. Dad at weekends would often drive into the country somewhere with us and one of the Aunts, or Gran, taking them in turns, so that each had a nice treat of fresh country air and could see some lovely scenery. I remember once, with Gran in the car we had a beautiful outing to Drouin, Dad's birthplace and a family centre, and where Gran and the Aunts had lived from birth until about their twenties.

Gran met Grandpa there. He was the local general practitioner, a handsome Irishman who qualified in Dublin and then came to Drouin to practice and who married Gran. Sadly, he died as a result of an accident when my Dad was two years old.

On this occasion, at Drouin, Joan and I met our Great Uncle Donald and Great Aunt Maggie, with their son Keith. Dad had grown up in Drouin together with his cousin Keith and other cousins too. It was a real extended family of much love, with other Aunts and Uncles around to give Dad a real family situation. Keith learned to play the bagpipes and when we visited them on this outing day, he played them for us. Quite well it seemed to me. Great Uncle Donald and Great Aunt Maggie were delightful, very welcoming and loving and of course, so glad to see Gran and our Dad again. They had a farm with cows and also an apple orchard. Great Aunt Maggie cooked a superb dinner of roast leg of lamb and scrumptious apple dumplings. Oh, they were so nice. It was a treat for Joan and me to wander around the farm.

Aunt Grace in her younger days had worked at the department store of Love and Lewis, near the comer of Swanston and Bourke Streets, as a buyer. She was sent to France, among other places and there still exists a photo of me aged about two or three, clutching Fifi, a very elegant French doll. I was wearing a fashionable hat with an all around turned up brim and dangling ribbons. After Aunt Grace retired, her boss asked her to come back to help him out. His wife had died and he had a two year old son, who badly needed a "good woman" to look after him. Aunt Grace reluctantly agreed and she became a much loved "Grantie" to this lad. His father remarried a nice lady, who got on well with the son, so Aunt Grace once more retired. As things worked out, the boy kept in touch over the years with her and when his father died, his loving stepmother was there for support.

Aunt Julia was a quiet lady and while she was living, Joan and I never had as much to do with her as we did with Aunt Margaret and Grace and Gran. The ladies had partitioned Moray up and added bits in such a way that each had a bedroom and a kitchenette, sharing the bathroom and sitting room and thus could be independent of each other if desired. Joan and I loved going for walks with Aunt Grace to Elsternwick along an unmade path beside the railway track to Frankston. We enjoyed looking in shop windows and at the traffic and all the other sights and pedestrians, but our special treat was when Auntie took us into the cake shop and bought us both a chocolate cup cake, iced in chocolate and with one silver cashew on the top. Bliss!

Aunt Margaret was the one we loved especially dearly, because she would spend a lot of time with us. Nothing was too much for her, even making dress up clothes for me. I wanted to play at being Mary Queen of Scots, don't ask me why. I ended up with a crinoline skirt over hoops of some light metal and a wig formed from the long black fringe of a cushion, which I draped over my head and felt very special. But to top all of this, Aunt Margaret made me a sword of two pieces of wood, which she painted with silver frost and in this get up I used to charge up and down the hall passage of Moray, yelling, waving my sword and feeling very impressive.

Our quieter moments were spent with Aunt Margaret in the sitting room, playing either with a toy fire engine or wooden blocks, which had belonged to Dad or else playing simple card games or board games. On summer days, Auntie would set up a hammock, swung between two verandah pillars. In that, with cushions for ease, we would swing, pushed by Aunt Margaret who sat on a chair holding an umbrella over us to keep the sun off us. Dear lady, we didn't know until she died that she had angina, because she didn't want to cause a fuss.

When I remember the Christmas dinners she prepared and cooked in her furnace of a scullery, emerging with the dish of delicious seasoned roasted mutton and vegetables and the Christmas pudding, complete with threepences and sixpences, her face quite purple with exhaustion and covered with perspiration, but beaming with love and joy, I could weep with love.

Joan and I always found a shiny two shilling piece under our plates on the Christmas table, replete with fire crackers and coloured streamers overhead. There was always afternoon tea, when we never had an inch of room for the fruit cakes, the iced coconut cakes, the plain cakes and the beautiful old family silver tea set with its welcome cuppas.

Moray was a real fountain of unstinting love and Joan and I have wonderful memories of those happy, happy days.

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