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The Scrivener: Improving The Shining Hour

"How doth the little busy bee improve the shining hour? Well, this one does it by keeping his brain alive. And by taking occasional pleasant strolls,'' writes that joyous wordsman Brian Barratt.

'I think I can walk down but will we be able to walk back up?'

My friend gave me one of her quizzical glances. We are owners of legs manufactured before WWII. We surveyed the gravel footpath sloping away from us. Agreeing that we could manage, we commenced our careful descent into another world.

The sharply delicious mixed aromas of dry native leaves and blossoms filled the air. Birds were busy on the ground, among the bushes, high in the eucalypts. We had retreated into a world where a feathered chorus was almost the only sound.

Down below us, to our right, the creek was stagnantly brown. No sign of a flow. Last week's brief heavy rain had flattened the tall grasses but now they were struggling to stand up again. Very useful for the ducks, of course, which use the clumps as platforms for pre-paddle preens. We saw a couple of black ducks (they're brown) and a pair of chestnut teal, the male in his usual splendid coat of rich colours.

The inquisitive and aggressive noisy miners made their usual twitty din high above, occasionally flying down to inspect or threaten us from lower branches. Two pairs of kookaburras swooped hither and thither, giving us the general impression that we were trespassing in their private territory. Handsome birds, kookaburras.

Without a breeze to cool our brows, we welcomed the sight and then the comparative comfort of a rough wooden bench. The temperature was 26 (that's the mid-70's on old-fashioned thermometers) and a little sit-down was called for.
'Have you paid your seat toll?' a voice called out from the bank on the other side. A jocular elderly gent had espied us. We exchanged merry quips and he went on his way.

A handsome golden retriever all golden retrievers are handsome came for a perfunctory sniff but would not stay for a scratch and fuss. His human servant, a pleasant lady, explained that if he was going for a walk then he insisted that the walk continued regardless.

And so a couple of hours of a peaceful afternoon passed by, including a naughty ice-cream on the drive back home, and then a refreshing cup of Twinings Tea in a cosy conservatory.
What's that? It's OK for you old people, someone said? You can idle away the hours while we have to work? Don't kid yourself, mate. Some of us have well-filled days.

Let me think. What have I been doing for the past couple of weeks? Well, I confess to spending time watching films about love and departure, and listening to the voice of the immortal John McCormack, but there is a good reason for that. The last of my five older siblings, about 17,000km from here, was released from her pain and months on a morphine pump, and is no longer with us. Every day has been difficult to get through, and the voice of John McCormack helped to liberate the tears.

However, I had to finish off a job I've been doing for over two years. Another member of the family has been researching several branches of his ancestry, and collecting all he knows about his living relations. My job has been to edit it and turn it all into a book. This week I finally printed four copies of a 125-page book with 23,000 words and hundreds of scans of photos and documents. Next, we get on with the other two volumes. Idling away the hours? I think not.

I've been researching obscure branches of philosophy while juggling with tradesmen who are fixing problems in the roof, on the decks, and in the wiring. If they turn up, that is.

How doth the little busy bee improve the shining hour? Well, this one does it by keeping his brain alive. And by taking occasional pleasant strolls, watching and listening to our singing feathery companions, the birds.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2007, 2112


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