We were the only pupils at the “Hughdale Mixed School” ( the farm’s name was Hughdale) and classes were held in a little rondavel set in a grove of blue-gum trees. Our teacher was incredibly good and gave us our grounding in reading, writing and ’rithmatic, history and geography, as well as a sound understanding of basic “nature study”, poetry and drawing. Most importantly, she instilled a spirit of curiosity in her two small pupils.
Her wisdom has stood by me all my life. In those days not many farms had electricity. Most farm houses were lit by candles or paraffin lamps. One of our neighbours had a carbide gas generator, which was considered very modern and rather highly technical. Hughdale was lit by paraffin lamps. Each evening, before sunset, the lamp lighting routine was set in motion. Paraffin lamps were filled, wicks trimmed, mantles replaced where necessary and fresh candles set into candlesticks to replace those that had burnt down to a mere stub.
Later, after farmers had paid off their mortgages and began to make a little extra money, the farms installed petrol-powered generating plants that charged big banks of glass jar batteries. We felt very sophisticated when we simply had to flip a switch and have light in every room. Occasionally the lights would fade and somebody would be dispatched to the engine-room to start the Lister engine and charge the batteries.
For most of my life I have accepted electricity as an integral, and essential, part of daily life. Electricity cooks our food, heats our bath water, drives our heaters, fridges, fans, floor polishers, radios, music systems and almost everything else around us. Until recently we have simply accepted it as part of modern life. Now, thanks to the incompetent mamparas up there in Megawatt Palace, we are once again being reminded that electricity doesn’t grow on trees, asyermightsay.