Winchester and I.


The cat’s name is Winchester, and the house doesn’t have a name which is strange because it was built in an era when everyone named their house. 

I like the idea of houses having names.

It’s personal, cosy, maybe a little old-fashioned but that’s OK because I’m a bit that way myself.

I’ve thought about giving her a name, but it didn’t seem right. She should have gotten her name when she was built, and it feels like bad luck to do it now, so she’ll have to remain anonymous.

If I live long enough the house will become known as ‘the strange old lady’s house’, and that will be fine by me. 

I’ve had my eye on this house since I was a teenager. 

It has passed through a few hands over those years, and luckily, each new owner has lavished her with care and attention. She’s only tiny, about ten squares in the old language, that’s about a thousand square feet. Most houses are three times that size, and that’s only the average ones.

When I have friends staying we have to go outside if we want to change our minds and there isn’t enough room to swing a Winchester, not that I would, she’s a good cat. More like a dog really. As often happens, she adopted me, or to be accurate, she adopted this house.

The house might be tiny but it sits on a large block of land, and it even has it’s own creek, or at least a bit of one. The creek runs through the corner of my block, and the water attracts all sorts of birds and animals, especially in the summer. 

I keep Winchester inside as much as possible because, if I don’t, her instincts take a heavy toll on the local wildlife.

As you can see, the light is amazing, and it changes character depending on the time of the year. 

This little abode is cool in Summer but can be very cold in winter, so the brick fireplace that you can just see behind me gets a lot of work. Winchester wakes me up in the Winter and drives me crazy until I get the fire going, then she sleeps in front of it for the rest of the day. Sometimes she sits on my lap when I’m working, but mostly she sits in front of the fire, or curls up on the couch.

It’s the small touches that make this house special. Tasteful leadlight in most of the windows, timber panelling in the main rooms, polished floorboards, brass door handles, and delicate plaster ceilings.

I believe that books, dogs and houses find you, not the other way around. 

Considering how long I had to wait for this house I think that is true. 

I did some work for the previous owner and asked him to let me know if he ever wanted to sell. He told me that he loved the place and was unlikely to ever want to leave. It took ten long years, but I eventually received the call. His wife was homesick and needed to move back to the West. He didn’t want to leave but he loved her very much, and he was prepared to make the sacrifice.

He needed a quick sale, and I didn’t have the money. Also, I had an iceberg’s chance in Hell of convincing the bank to loan me the money. I won’t bore you with the details, but to my amazement, all of the insurmountable obstacles fell away, one by one, and within 90 days I was sleeping in my dream home.

The former owner came back for a visit about a year later; he was in town on business. I could tell that being here was breaking his heart. That was several years ago, and he has not been back. I admire his love for his wife, and I give thanks for it because it enabled me to live the life I wanted in the house I needed to be in.   


Painting by Steve Hanks


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Waiting For A Train.


I don’t have long to wait, which is just as well as I don’t like waiting.

I don’t like waiting, and I don’t like standing in queues, but let’s not get into a list of all the things I don’t like because we will be here all day.

Someone wise once said that you can never know for certain what it is that you want until you have worked out what you don’t want.

Personally, I think there are two types of people in the world; those who know what they want and those who know what they don’t want as well as those who play golf, but they are a different species altogether.

I can see the lights of the train which means that it will be here very soon.

It will take me away to another adventure.

As you can see I travel light for a female.

Only one small steamer trunk, a hat box and an umbrella.

I never go anywhere without my umbrella.

It came in handy during my stay here because this town has the third highest number of rainy days in the country.

I didn’t really mind, I like the rain, and I have my umbrella.

My grandfather gave it to me during a long weekend stay at his country house. He took me aside, paused thoughtfully and said, “Never be without this umbrella”, which to my young ears meant that this umbrella probably had magical powers; Harry Potter style, or was that Mary Poppins? I get the two mixed up.

Anyway, the umbrella has been surprisingly sturdy and has withstood the ravages of time, and although it does not seem to have magical powers, it has come in handy a few times and not just for keeping me dry.

Last November I perforated a mugger when I was working in Sydney.

I tried hard to get out of that job. I don’t feel comfortable in Sydney, but they offered me an obscene amount of money for what turned out to be a few days work, and I really needed that Triumph TR3. It was coming up for auction, and I was a few thousand short.

I always pay cash.

Not only does it get you the best deal it keeps you out of debt; one of the things my grandfather said I should never get into; that, and cars with boys ——- I didn’t listen to that one.

Besides, now I have my own car, so I don’t need boys to drive me around.

Triumph_TR3xThe TR3 does not have a top. Not even a rag top. True TR3 owners drive them in any weather and never complain about getting wet. That’s right, we are a bit strange, but we also drive a very cool car.

Unfortunately, I could not bring my car on this trip, but it will be waiting for me when I get home. I rent the garage at the house across the street from my parents. I don’t need a house of my own because I’m always on the road and when I’m in town the company pays for a five-star hotel.

Visiting my car is also a good excuse to visit my folks, so everybody wins.

I guess you might be wondering what is in the trunk and the hat box.

Well, mostly they contain my work stuff. Ordinary travelling containers don’t draw too much attention and the security on trains is much easier than planes, that’s why I don’t fly unless I have to. When I do, the company has equipment waiting for me. I’m very particular about my equipment. You cannot do a good job without the best tools available.

My umbrella falls into this category.

It was made by James Smith and Son in 1880 some fifty years after the company came into existence. It has two secret compartments, and the handle can be easily detached to reveal a dagger. It is also sturdy enough to strike someone and leave an impression, but I would only do that in a dire emergency.

One doesn’t risk damaging such a fine instrument.

Repairs are possible because the company is still trading and is in the hands of the original family.

It’s nice to know that there is some permanence in the world.

My next job is on the other side of the continent, and it will take several days for me to get there, but I don’t mind. I love trains, and I love having time to myself.

I smile when I think that an umbrella and a wily old man could have landed me such an interesting profession.


   Paintings by Steve Hanks

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