The T-Team With Mr B (28)
[Extract from The T-Team with Mr. B: Central Australia 1977, a prequel to Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981.
The T-Team with Mr B — In 1977 Dad’s friend Mr Banks and his son, Matt (not their real names), joined Dad, my brother (Rick) and me on this journey of adventure. I guess Dad had some reservations how I would cope… But it soon became clear that the question was, how would Mr B who was used to a life of luxury cope?
And our accommodation in Hermannsburg had sent us on a tour back in time…]
Living in History
I lay in bed and gazed up at the ceiling. Wish I hadn’t. A hessian sheet hung above me, pinned to the four corners of the room and sagging in the middle. It appeared the sand from the Central desert had worked its way into the sheet, threatening to burst all over me. How long before the sheet would no longer be able to contain its weight? I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. A cockroach scuttled under the wardrobe made of oak. I shuddered. Better sand fall on me than cockroaches.
I grabbed my towel and toiletry bag, then padded out my room and down the dark hallway to the bathroom. There I gazed around the small room, sealed with green and white tiles, some broken. In the 1950’s wash basin, waist-high and looking like an enamel pastel-green pulpit, a line of rust coursed from the faucet to the drain. The matching bath suffered a permanent rusty-brown ring, a reminder of how full to fill the tub. I scanned around the room and above the bath. No shower—not even a rusty one.
I heard a knock at the door. ‘Lee-Anne, are you in there?’
‘Yes, Dad,’ I replied. ‘Where’s the shower?’
Dad opened the door and poked his head through. He screwed up his nose and swivelled his head left, right, up and down. ‘Oh, no shower. I guess you’ll have to have a bath.’
‘Hurry, though, we’re off to see Mr. C and his school.’
‘Oh.’ Last year Mr. C was my mathematics teacher. Then, in 1977, he’d taken up a position teaching the Arunta children in their camps near Hermannsburg.
I turned on the tap. Water dribbled into the bath, brown and making the pipes groan. I gazed at the tea-coloured brew pooling at the base of the tub. I like baths, normally. Not sure about this one.
‘Don’t fill it too full,’ Dad said.
‘No, Dad.’ No danger of that happening. The bath looked like it’d take an eternity to cover even to the depth of an inch.
‘Don’t take too long,’ Dad added.
I reached in and tested the water. Cold. I then placed my fingers under the dribble from the tap. Cold. Great! Not much water and it’s cold. Yep, I’ll have a quick wash.
I stopped the dismal flow and rushed through the motions of washing. After raking dry shampoo through my limp strands of hair, I bunched them into pig-tails and returned to my room to change.
Then I walked into the kitchen. Light through the louvers reflected dust motes drifting through the air.
Dad looked up from his bowl of porridge. ‘Oh, you’re finished already?’
I helped myself to the saucepan of porridge on the ancient stove. The cooker squatted there in the corner, brass fittings attached to afford gas to the rings on top. And lime green. I could see Hermannsburg had a theme going—shades of green. Except the table, washed with the thin coat of white paint. Perhaps it was green once, at the turn of the century.
As if taking advantage of my abbreviated bathroom visit, Dad took his sweet time. So, while we waited, Richard and I played cards, on the kitchen table.
‘Mr. B and Matt are taking their time,’ I said gathering up the cards.
‘They’re sleeping in,’ Richard laughed. ‘I think Mr. B’s exhausted.’
‘He didn’t know what he was getting himself into coming on this trip.’
Richard snorted. ‘Bet he’s never been camping in his life.’
‘No, all motels and luxury for him, I reckon.’
Dad stood behind us and coughed. ‘What are you talking about?’
We turned and widening our eyes to feign innocence, my brother and I chorused, ‘Nothing.’
‘I hope so.’ Dad cleared his throat again. ‘Now, come on, Mr. C’ll be here soon.’
‘Can I see Mummy’s house? Did we get permission?’
‘Er, um, later. Mr. C’s waiting. We’re late,’ Dad said and then strode out the door; the green door.
Richard and I followed.
‘We know whose fault it is we’re late,’ Richard muttered as we followed Dad out the historic hospital to meet Mr. C.
[to be continued…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2019; 2022
Photo: Spruced up Mission home, Hermannsburg Precinct © L.M. Kling 2021