There I am, bottom up, in the front garden weeding, and I hear a voice: “Janice? Is that you?” And of course it is yet another friend from Wellington.
“Just passing and thought we’d pop in to see how you are doing in your new house.”
And I think, oh no! The house is in a mess. I have had two days and a night of minding baby Tane and he’s now crawling, everywhere. But these are nice people. Of course they aren’t being nosy. Rather, they are being concerned and caring. Right?
So I pull off the gardening gloves, kick off the Crocs and usher them in. I have to show them every room. They expect no less. I fling open the door of the main bedroom. That’s when I notice the flies on the ceiling. Then I notice the clothes like puddles on the floor. It was cooler earlier. I’d changed mid-morning.
Then, horror of horrors, I see a disposable nappy – all wrapped up but sitting there on my bed, which doubles right now as a changing table for Tane. I must have got distracted when… Oh no! I am now seeing every room through the visitors’ eyes. I see the ripped-up magazine on the sitting room floor – Tane’s new play activity. I see the washing to be sorted. Can’t miss it really. It’s on the dining room table.
I rush them into the kitchen and offer coffee. When I open the larder, I realise my brother has drunk the last of the coffee.
Do you have more unexpected visitors now you’ve moved nearer town? After I farewell them – “Lovely house,” they purr as they leave – I hide in the back garden, pulling out silverbeet that has gone to seed, and I think about planting peas, spinach, spring onions, lettuces, radishes, poppies, stocks, sweet peas and larkspur for the winter. Gardening stills my heart, which is beating wildly from embarrassment.
When we lived in the hills, I lived on a road to nowhere. Now we’ve moved to Masons Flat I live on a road to nowhere much. I have discovered that casual travellers are as little seen on roads to nowhere much as they are on roads to nowhere. The impromptu visitors who do call are not the sort of visitors who want to come in and look around the house. Contractors, seed merchants, lost truck drivers, stock agents – they’re all men. If I did happen to invite them in, I doubt they’d notice the mess. Men tend not to, which explains why they don’t understand dusting or vacuuming.
Harry has just looked over my shoulder and said, “So you’re writing about men and how we don’t hang up our clothes and never put anything away.” And I said, “No, of course not.
I wouldn’t dare reveal your domestic inadequacies to Janice. I’m writing about unexpected visitors.” But I’m not going to write about my unexpected visitors because I haven’t had any. I’m going to write about my dog Bess’ unexpected visitor.
Bess is my exuberant, beautiful, devoted huntaway sheepdog, who came down from the hills with me. You met Bess when she was a young dog and I was training her to exercise restraint when working with sheep. I wanted her to run towards the sheep, stop and bark and hunt them away, as a huntaway is meant to do. Do you remember how reluctant she was to comply?
Restraint has never been Bess’ strong point; she is a bouncy girl with a huge appetite for a good time. Last month Bess was in season and confined to her run, apart from a strictly supervised daily walk. Last week I noticed a distinct thickening of her waistline. This week her belly has expanded a little more. I am mystified and can only assume that an unexpected and unseen visitor has had his way with her in a moment of unrestrained abandonment.