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I was nine, almost ten, when we moved from our nice suburban, 3 bedroom, red brick house in the Western Suburbs of Sydney; into two caravans on the top of the hill in the bush. It was billed as a great adventure by mum and dad. And they were so right! It was awesome! Cramped? Yes. Hard work? YES – though mum and dad were the ones who carried that load. But mostly, it was fun.

On the left is dad, Darren, Gina (standing) Mel & Me in the centre, the two other girls and lady are the Reindler's our neighbours twice over.

On the left is dad, Darren, Gina (standing) Mel & Me in the centre, the two other girls and lady are the Reindler’s our neighbours twice over.

We had two caravans set up at right angles with the annex’s somehow joined into an “L” shaped living area and bathroom. The bathroom consisted of an old bathtub and a copper. We had electricity, so it wasn’t so bad, The tub sat in a “bespoke” frame that was high enough to place a bucket beneath the plug hole for easy emptying. Bucketing out the dirty water onto the veggie patch was a job for us kids. Hard yakka, but it didn’t kill us.
The thing that did kill us, or almost, was Dad’s love of Baygon Surface spray and Dettol.
The local flies were smitten with these newcomers. Fresh white skin and dewy eyes must have been a welcome change to the Foran’s Herefords. So a gazillion flies moved into the two caravan/annex home with us. Dad to the rescue, with liberal douses of Baygon, sprayed into the air to kill all and sundry. Flies or kids, it didn’t seem to matter. Even the dog ran for cover when she saw that blue and orange can lifted off the shelf. I still feel a catch in my throat and my chest contracts at the memory of breathless gasping for non chemical air. No wonder I hate chemicals now!
The Dettol, however was another matter all together. To set the scene, we had no buildings; so no roof or tank to catch the rain when we first moved. So 20ltr drums were brought from town and that was our water supply. Drinking, cooking, washing and bathing. As you might imagine, it needed to be recycled somewhat! The bath water was great on the first night. The second night it was reheated in the copper, liberally doused with the Dettol, the enemy of any self respecting germ. By the third night the bath water would be enough to make your eyes water and other parts sting! A lot. Much clutching at vitals and a few squeals were part of the process, but Dad wasn’t having us “undisinfected”.
We were all pretty happy to help build the shed and set up the new 300 gallon water tank. Anything to be rid of the dreadful nights of torturous Dettol burn!
We lived in the caravans for a few months, until Dad and mum built a shed with bedrooms divided up by curtains and wardrobes. We had chickens, a red cattle dog called Lucy and a whole lot of, very happy to see us, flies.
We were on an adventure and had parents who billed each hardship as part of the fun. Mum and Dad’s attitude set all of us up with a resolute approach towards difficulties for life and I thank them for it.
Misfortunes, frustrations and dilemmas were to be tackled head on, determination and more than a little lateral thinking. Tenacity was the example we grew up with and so all four of us knew to be ready to look for a solution. I never have seen; nor ever expect to see, my parents be beaten by a problem or difficulty. What fabulous examples they were.
We all had jobs to do, be it feed chooks, collect eggs, dust and vacuum on Saturday mornings or everyone’s UN- favourite, dig the dunny. Perhaps we won’t venture into the realms of toilet humour. Though there is a tale or two to be told there. Yet another set of memories provoked when remembering, there was the odour. No, not what you’re thinking. I’m talking about Phenyl, there’s no smell like it. Clings to your clothes and body for far too long.
Excuse me while I drift off in a chemical induced swirl of memories. The memory of water has nothing on the headache brought on when just thinking about this stuff. Does anyone else remember this “cleaning” product?
Ahem, sorry about that reader.
How about you? Do you have memories invoked by smells and scents that send you hurtling back to your childhood just thinking about them? Do some smells just make you sick to the stomach or reach for the tissues? (Tissues for tears, not due to stomach upset!) Although these smells were not pleasant for most part, the memories they bring back are, and so I don’t mind. It gives me a laugh, and that’s a good thing.