A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Pied-a-Terre in Our Garden

When I was a kid growing up in the 1940s, I can recall a little verse that did the rounds of my country school, on quite a regular basis.
Part of that verse went something like;
                       "Old King Cole was a merry old soul.
                       And a merry old soul was he."

Now, the rest gets a little rude, so that's all you are going to get from me for now.  Just stretch your imagination and work out the remainder.,

For many youngsters, during those early years at school, perhaps those naughty verses reflected their perception of the 'long drop toilet', down the bottom of the families garden.
Most country folk referred to their long drop as an out-house, or the dunny.
Of course, there were always those who were snobbish, and thought theirs smelt of roses.  Oh by Jove's yes, their long drop was referred to as the Pied-a-Terre.
For ours, it was called the "Throne".  I think that came about because of my sister,  she always claimed to be busting, and had to make a quick visit each time the dishes were to be washed, conveniently returning as I was finishing up.
There were many descriptions of the dunny, but for this story however, many are really too crude for readers with a sensitive disposition.  No matter what it was called though, when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

In several countries around the world, at least until about the middle of the 1900's, the out-house was a common feature beside, or behind a tree, down the bottom of the garden.  That is until modern science did the dunny out of business.
They are however, still a common sight in many an out-back location, such as behind the wool shed.  To visit many of those out-back dunny's, one needs a certain amount of courage, perhaps even the mark of a fearless soul.  For who in their right mind, would dare to plonk their bare bum on those seats of knotty, cracked pine, covered in bird droppings.
Apart from the likelihood of a splinter or two, there is always the thought of that little Aussie Country Classic in the back of ones mind.  "Theres a red back spider on the toilet seat!"
Now, if that's not enough to scare the crap out of you, there is always that other Aussie Country Tune, bound to suppress any sense of humour in the snobs.  "Fifty thousand blowflies can't be wrong!"

In some cases, those who engineered these small shacks, many had a great sense of imagination.  Yes, they made the seat with a double orifice, one for junior, and one for mum, or dad.  Just imagine junior sitting next to mum, and she sort of......you know?   "Ooohh Muumm," says junior, "that's rude!"

Now for the townie, when is comes to household toiletries, it is quite normal for them to frequent the supermarket just down the road, and look for the budget supersoft.
In the outback though, there is no such thing as a supermarket, so, there's a whole new spin attached to that term, Budget Toiletries.  Many who visit that rusty corrugated iron, or drooping weatherboard dunny, will find the only toilet paper is a scrap of newspaper, perhaps a screwed up edition of a local 1915 sports section.  It's brittle, it's crumbly, and it feels like sandpaper on ones botty.

For me, the sight of one of these little places of unmatched discomfort, they rekindle a special childhood memory.  Our family out-house was a way down the bottom of the garden, and as I said before, it was recognized as the Throne.
My mother used to cut the local newspaper into little squares, where each square hung for future use, spiked to a rusty nail.  She also had a regular ritual, with a bucket of hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush.
Of course, there were times in the dead of night, when I was bursting to do wees, and unable to hold off until morning.  I would creep out into the darkness, my eyes protruding like knots on a tree, searching for those bogymen, my sister had conveniently informed me were lurking out there.
Reaching the Throne, my heart pumping overtime, I'd slam the door shut, my little trembling hand holding it tight with a piece of rotting string.  Composing myself for the return flight to my warm bed, I'd take a deep breath, and fly out the door, running like blazes, while keeping a weary eye out for those unfriendlies in persuit.

Now, this story would never be complete, without mentioning my dear old dad, God rest his soul.
My old man, he was a highly skilled handy man, painting being one of his many forte's.  To clean his paint brushes back in the 1940's, he just used a little drop of petrol.  However, to dispose of that lethal mixture, he would pour in down the Pied-a-Terre, at the bottom of the garden.
On one particular occasion, after disposing of the goods through the aperture in the seat, he obviously felt the call of nature.  He did a down trow, behind the closed door of course, then plonked his aging buttocks on the well worn seat.  Contemplating a delay in the passing of a motion, he pushed the door slightly agar, so that he could bask in the warm rays of the autumn sun.
Pulling out his trusty Brier pipe, he proceeded to fill the bowl with tobacco, his favourite, Bears Dark.  Tamping the bowl firmly with his thumb, he placed the stem between his false teeth, and into a special little groove that had taken twenty years to form.
Reaching for a part box of Beehive wax matches, he touched a flame to his special Brier.  Sucking on the stem long and hard, he soon had the bowl glowing and smoking to his satisfaction, that's about when a bout of gut-wrenching coughing brought tears to his eyes.  Leaning his old and wrinkled bum to one side, and with an expert flourish of the wrist, he let the still burning match spin off into the gloom below.
That still burning match met those petrol fumes below with a sound like distant thunder, the 'boom' of which echoed around the hills.  A sudden rush of scorched air, powered upward, through every available fissure in and around the seat.  The dunny door took a major hit, almost wrenched off its heavy duty hinges.  Smoke billowed from around the outside of that little building, after it had been given a not to gentle nudge to starboard.
My old dad, with the look of a petrified rabbit caught in the headlights, he could barely be seen through the dust and the smoke,  his trousers around his ankles, and his shirt halfway up his back.  The stem of his favourite Brier pipe was all that was left between his teeth, the bowl had completely vanished.  His tamoshanter hung from the top of the door, while his spectacles hung skew-wiff from one ear.

According to mother, poor old dad's aging posterior had taken a fair old pounding that day.  Apart from being constipated for the following week, the smoky outline of the seat remained tattooed to his bum, as a temporary reminder of his folly.
Now, if ever there was a moral to this little story, I think it could be;
"never get caught with your pants down."

1 comment:

  1. This blog looks great Uncle Noel! Can't wait to read the rest and love the artwork from both of you. Will put this site in my Favs so can keep up to date