What a great few days!
How fabulous to have the chance to visit Monaro to see for the first time the vastness of that amazing treeless landscape, gently-coloured layers folded one upon another, ribbon roads winding over and through them. By the way, it's Monaro, not the Monaro, and pronounced Mon-air-o, definitely not like the pronunciation of the car.
It’s given me an understanding of the panorama our hero inhabited in the second part of his life, the harshness of that landscape in drought, and the wonderful bonus of a private property tour to see the stone foundations of his house.
And at Braidwood I experienced another in the long line of magic happenings since I started writing this book.
But back to the beginning, at Cooma...
I landed at Canberra and spent my first morning at the library in Cooma reading the Perkins papers, directed by the archivist Chris Batten who'd very kindly put some information together for me.
After straw-sucking an enormous vanilla malted milk for lunch, I did Cooma's historic sights. By the way if you’re ever in town, don’t miss Birdsnest, the extensive online womenswear shop covering a town block. There's also a great homewares store across from the library. Closed of course. Story of my life.
It was a short drive to Bobundara, the property of Trisha Dixon, hostess, adventurer and tour leader extraordinaire.
From the crest of a dusty hill in a bare drought-stricken paddock, it was reassuring to see a cocoon of huge old elm trees along the creek at the homestead. The far hills are tinged with green from a flash storm a few weeks ago.
Such an impressive welcoming committee of dignified matriarchs!
Bumpity bump over the grid to freshly raked gravel in the shade of tall trees, and there was Trisha with her characteristic enthusiastic energy, smiling in greeting.
We strolled to turn on a couple of sprinklers and tip out a wheelbarrow in among the elms where long tables were ready for the next long lunch.
So much to catch up on over a couple of glasses of bubbles and delicious home-made basil pesto on crispy bark.
Glasses in hand we inspected the wonderful old 1903 stone building Trisha is doing up as accommodation.
It's always been called the Steading - for friends and guests, whoever turns up. It's an exciting project.
The garden is an oasis, a rambling exuberant eyeful: a sweeping lawn in front of the house, box hedge parterre with huge central copper…..
Perennials jostling in borders, Edna Walling style stone walls, a tennis court metamorphising into a kitchen garden, fruit trees.
An old ladder resting temptingly on a mulberry tree, promising berries nearly ready for picking.
The nerve centre of the house is the light-filled kitchen, windows on three sides overlooking the garden.
And live wire Trisha.
Like most very old homesteads, it’s filled with comfortable furniture, each piece with a story, possessions from previous generations, memorabilia from decades past, each room whispering of times long gone. All mixed with the eclectic collection of modern acquisitions by the dynamic present owner.
The library literally took my breath away.
The wall of the office had to be cut out to instal this huge old desk.
My room was in the adjoining stone guest wing across an area of gravel - I had my eyes peeled as Trisha had killed a brown snake nearby the day before.
The pretty flowers in my room picked from the snowberry hedge.
I slept like a baby in the finest monogrammed linen sheets, one of Trisha's passions, a brocante find in France.
Saturday dawned fine and clear with two friends of Trisha’s arriving. First a service at our hero’s graveside in the local Nimmitabel cemetery, Father Petros from Canberra officiating.
In the way of small country town communities, a tiny committee cooked an ethnically authentic sit-down lunch and served it to one hundred people, with professional dancers leading us afterwards. Children helped serve the meal, husbands ran the bar. The day raised money for the venue, the Geldmacher Museum.
It was so much fun. And productive! I made contacts, met great-great-great grand children of our hero, and best of all, Trisha introduced me to a man who said he'd try to obtain permission take me to the site of a house belonging to our hero, on Monday. Yes!
Friends of Trisha’s followed us home where we had drinks and dinner under the stars.
And stayed chatting by the flickering glow of a fire pit.
Flowers for you to end this first instalment .... roses on the desk at the Raglan Gallery in Cooma.
And hardworking sedum doing so well everywhere this year....
In the next instalments I'll tell you about lunches at the Wild Brumby in the Thredbo Valley and another with an old friend, the tour of our hero's property, and the strange story of finding gold at Braidwood. Not to mention the gorgeous Airbnb cottage!
Until then buddies, I wait you,
PS. For newer readers, I always end my diary entries with the rather strange 'I wait you'. It's something said to me in Istanbul a few years ago. We were wanting to buy lunch but afraid that we would miss the double-decker tourist bus leaving soon on its tour of the city. When I asked a huge swarthy young Turkish man standing near the bus, he looked straight into my eyes, smiled gently, and said in a deep guttural voice 'Don't worry, buy your lunch, I wait you.'