Bland On Bland – The BookThe theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “Up on top of things“.

“Up on top of things,” says JVG, “How hard can it be,” says JVG.

I had a few things to say to JVG, most of which you can imagine, but in the end, I did get a piece that I am happy with.

See what you think…

Ed Bates provided the guitar backing, have a listen to how it went below…

To play this poem directly in your browser – just click the “play” button below:

Up on top of things

The three hour scramble to the top of the mountain was no easy trek, though Margaret was used to the hard life.

Her mother died shortly after Margaret was born.
Her father had a keen mind and an empty wallet, an unfortunate combination in a world that valued wealth over ingenuity.

He designed a stump puller, fashioned out of scrap metal salvaged from old, discarded farm implements, and with his daughter, moved constantly around Western Victoria in the nineteen thirties, cleaning up paddocks, ensuring they were fit for the plough.

Aged sixteen, Margaret found full time work as a nanny on a sheep station, and with the outbreak of war creating a scarcity of male labour, soon found herself employed as a general hand.

It was a move the farm manager initially resisted, reluctantly agreeing when finding himself with no other option, yet within weeks was hailing himself the greatest judge of talent since the three wise men.

Perhaps he should have added ‘matchmaker’ to his credentials, as it was here Margaret met her future husband, Mick, a young station hand from South Australia.

He was the fourth generation of a family who were essentially farmers without the resources to own a farm, and all of them better at it than many of the cockies they’d worked for.
Mick was determined to be the last in the line.

His marriage to Margaret was a happy union; caring rather than passionate; loyal, respectful, supportive.

A nice cup of tea on the veranda versus pink champagne in the bath.

A gentle simmer as opposed to a bubbling cauldron, yet the temperature did not cool one degree in the next sixty years.
They maintained their independence without ever tiring of each other’s company.

They worked together at the station for almost a decade, until they’d saved enough to buy a small holding near the south eastern boundary of the Grampians.

They were both practical and hard working with modest expectations, which was just as well.

Their property was not large enough to ever hope to provide a living much beyond subsistence; but it was theirs and they managed.

Whatever came along, they managed.
Droughts, floods, two children and fluctuating income – they found a way.

Like their old truck, they were used to dirt roads and corrugations; pothole to pothole, they just kept going.

When Margaret needed time to herself, a few hours respite from the demands of daily life, she’d climb the mountain, Mt Abrupt.

It gave her perspective, looking down on the tiny farms and houses; roads, like veins, drifting off in every direction and all going somewhere.

She’d gaze at the horizon; seventy or eighty miles on a clear day; high above the broken fences, broken tractors, hungry sheep and unpaid bills.

When her daughter moved to Melbourne to study nursing, Margaret climbed the mountain.
When her son was shipped off to fight in Vietnam, Margaret climbed the mountain.
The day after Mick’s funeral, Margaret climbed the mountain.

Now, the farm, awaits the auctioneer’s gavel.
The old truck sits on blocks behind the shed, body lost to rust, engine worn beyond repair and upholstery torn apart by mice and weather.

Margaret, supported by her children and grandchildren, climbs the mountain one last time.

They look down on the farm, from here, not even a postage stamp; a tiny square on a large patchwork quilt, all cut from the same cloth; a listless tan, tired and threadbare.

Yet even the drought cannot erase the achievements of a wonderful life.

Aided by a willing sou’ wester, Margaret’s son and daughter cast her ashes to the wind, freed to meld with the mountain, mingling with the Correa, the Golden Heath, the Grevillea and the precious earth, never far from her heart or her hands.

© Copyright 2019 Ian Bland

Also have a listen to “Everything or Nothing

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