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Western Oz Words: The Australian Affair

Richard Harris tells a love story which is idyllic and sad in equal parts.

She was tall, with blonde, wavy hair, white even teeth, and a ready smile.

She wore dark grey slacks, black loafers, a white blouse with long sleeves. Her fingers were long, the nails clear polished.

The overall impression was of a sensible, well-organised woman, in her late sixties, maybe 70. Her fragrance was a classic French line, her breath sweet and clean.

He met her at a bridge tournament. Her husband had died several years ago and she was visiting Perth from Canada to be with her younger sister.

He’d ask her something – the meaning of her partner’s bid - she’d reflect for a moment, then answer with a smile and considered grace.

He liked her enormously. Later she invited him to tea at her sister’s place.

The sisters improvised a meal which seemed to turn out just right - a salad of sliced tomato, avocado, capsicum, baby spinach, celery, pitted black olives, and a balsamic vinegar dressing.

They placed skinless chicken breasts and large mushrooms in a café-style griller and everybody helped themselves from platters of the prepared food.

There was a glass of wine, a fresh dry white, and afterwards, brewed coffee and a piece of home-made fruit cake.

He returned her hospitality later in the week. They went to a Hans restaurant at Cannington and ordered food and wine by a computer link in the wall. It was a lot of fun. They spoke about gardening in Australia, the smoke house in her yard at home in Montreal for curing wild salmon caught by the Indians. They discussed things they’d like to do - a proposed bush walk, maybe a holiday in New Zealand next year, a walk through a pristine white landscape after a snowfall in Montreal.

“You can’t believe how beautiful it is after the snow has stopped. Everything is so white and clean, the sky so blue,” she said.

He told her he thought she’d like Alice Springs – the blue sky, the red land, the spirituality of an ancient, holy place -nothing moving in the heat of the day – not a bird in the sky or an ant on the ground.

He drove her to East Perth to show her the redevelopment around Claise brook, a traditional picnic area for aboriginal families. Before white settlement the people used to cross the Swan River knee deep in water where the Causeway bridges now stand. Families would meet at the Claise brook and plan marriages. Food was plentiful – birds, fish and eggs, and they’d pound the corms of a native reed to a flour which was then used to make damper bread.

“I’m so glad we met,” he told her.

She smiled and reached for his hand. “My darling man, what have I done to you?

“You realize this cannot be. My family live in Canada. My heart lies there.”

He smiled at her, lightly touching her hand in a gesture of respect and affection. “Let’s live in the now, and find every little joy we can, while we can,” he said.

Later, when the big airliner bore her away, he was sad but soon brightened. “At least I had the pleasure of meeting her,” he said.


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