The Durrant Epistle For 1999

9 Weebo Way, PO Box 296, Leinster WA 6437

24 November 1999

Seasons greetings to all our dear friends.  We haven’t managed to communicate with you mid year but the good old end of year form letter gets us out of the manure every time!

We have now been in Leinster for three and a half years.  The lifestyle is starting to grow on us.  It only takes one minute to travel to work, I come back home for lunch with Kay.  A fifty metre swimming pool and a lane to yourself most times and a whole pool to yourself at other times.  Beautiful clear skies, spectacular sunsets across the dessert and an abundance of bird and wildlife.  Socially very hectic and a job which remains stimulating through its diverse range of duties.  What more could we ask for?

At the beginning of this year Janet was in Sydney with Kay’s family and Gareth stayed home for Christmas and New Year.  Gareth worked over those holidays and set himself a goal to earn $1,000.  He achieved his goal working in the Camp, the Tavern and the Lodge cleaning, the Tavern as a kitchen hand and some baby sitting.  Quite an effort and great experience for a young lad.

When Janet returned from the mystical East she met her cousin Gregory in Sydney, and they both flew to Perth.  Gregory is my sisters’ youngest son.  He stayed with us until 17 January when we despatched him back to Brisbane from Kalgoorlie.

We packed a fair bit into Gregory’s visit, seeing a huge chunk of this vast State.  We

had overnight stays on the stations, driving lessons in the bush and the odd party at home.  One night out at the “10 mile” (shearing quarters on Weebo Station) Janet, Gareth, Gregory and I were swimming in one of the tanks and found a goat abandoned.  It was tiny and still had its umbilical chord connected.  It had a gammy leg, so was left behind, unable to keep up with mum.  Gregory took charge and nursed it for the last week of his holidays.

You may remember from last year’s epistle, I was conned with a little lamby now we had a little, noisy goat and more 4 AM feeds.  This time, we managed to off load goat, because exactly the same as lamby it was never going to be dinner.  I am pleased to report goat is still alive and well, living in Leinster with a young family and eating everything in their garden.

Gareth’s annual Keys boarding house weekend at Rottnest (Rotto for the locals), was our first trip south for the year.  It is an excellent introduction for new boys to Scotch College and great way to meet the parents of Gareth’s mates and peers.

The whole family is involved so Janet has the opportunity to be the centre of attention or just veg on the beach with the other siblings.

The boys run amok while the parents party.  Most civilised and a great deal of fun.

Over the WA Labour Day weekend, (end of February beginning of March) the “Outback Ashes” is held at Sandstone some 150km west of Leinster. This is a cricketing weekend of some note and quite a spectacle to behold.

Teams come from, Leonora, Leinster, Sandstone, Wiluna, Que, Mt Magnet and the Pastoral Stations.  If your lucky your team may land 5 star accommodation at the pub on the floor or for the not so lucky 2 star at the local camping ground, most salubrious surroundings.

The pitches are a mixture of concrete and matting and the fields are pure red dirt, so the whites weren’t ‘whites’ for very long.  The nights in the pub are fabulous, plenty of good company, lots of tucker and the odd two-up tournament through to the wee small hours.

I played in the combined Leonora/ Leinster team but we missed out on the final after being done by Que (small town on the Great Northern highway North of Mt Magnet heading toward Newman).  Que finally won the event.  We are sure to be back next year for more of the same.

Probably the  most exciting news for this year was the arrival of Cyclone Vance on 22 March through Exmouth.  As most keen Aussies during November to March, watch the weather with cyclones forming of the coast almost daily, it was a surprise to actually have one hit the coast with such a vengeance.

Our plans were already in place to go to Exmouth and Broome for the April school holidays and Vance just modified them a little. As you know we have a house there and yes it did survive, fairly well.  Our poor tenants, Mike and Val de la Mare endured the blow, and when they were able to drive out of the area., they headed South.

We had to gain permission to enter Exmouth and negotiated the Police road block by ringing ahead earlier, and providing proof of being a home owner.  We also had to be self contained as the community was in enough strife without others coming in and using their supplies.  When we arrived on Good Friday, the house was empty, without water and electricity. So we camped in our own home.  Doesn’t everybody go camping over Easter?

The devastation was vast and how no one was killed is a minor miracle.  We saw the place ten days after the event and I was very impressed with the organisation of the clean up.  The weather bureau was one of the saving graces as it was able to track the cyclone exactly and Exmouth was well prepared.  The SES management team had much praise for the bureau’s quality of information so they were able to shut the town down to condition red early enough to avoid any confusion.

Following the blow, there was a great deal of positive feedback about the Water Corporation and Western Power, in the manner in which they restored essential services.

We stayed in Exmouth for three days to arrange what we could with insurance assessors and rectification work.  We lost all the extraneous “bits” hanging off the house.  All the shade cloth, fences, green house, garden shed and the car port but the main house and the garage sustained minimal damage.  Some water entered inside the house under the eaves and a number of the fibro cladding panels outside were broken.

As part of the fix, the roof was considered, by the inspecting engineers, to be weakened sufficiently to be replaced.  So I took the opportunity to have the house rewired while the roof was off, we replaced some carpet, damaged panels were replaced and the offending items painted inside and out.  The fencing was reinstated but I didn’t replace the shade areas, garden shed or green house.  Then shade areas and carport around the house will need to be replaced next year.

For an older fibro home it stood up remarkably well.  We had endured Cyclones Bobby and Frank inside that home and were fairly happy the house would survive.  Although Val and Mike are convinced they wouldn’t like to go through another blow like that.

While in Exmouth we caught up with a lot of friends we hadn’t seen for ages and shared in all their stories.  They well may have different recollections of the post cyclone activities than I have.  Mainly because they were inextricably linked to the situation.  However, my much removed impression was one of a very well managed community who worked well in adversity.  My dealings with the insurance company, the builders and tradesmen who fixed my home and the Shire who had to administer the clean up were one of admiration.  The town of Exmouth will be better for having gone through Vance and we have decided to stay connected to the place keeping our house there for the long term.  Who knows it may be our retirement destination.

On our way out of Exmouth we called into Bullara and Giralia stations to deliver presents from Exmouth, sacks of potatoes and Easter eggs from donations around the State.

We knew Rae and Denver Blake on Giralia Station and indeed had spent Kay’s 40th birthday, (not so long ago) as part of the station stay business they had created.  Their station homestead had been wiped off the face of the map.  One really doesn’t know if it was luck that kept them in Perth or just someone looking after them.

I will remember well walking through the ruins with Denver and listening to his recall of the event and it devastation.  He compared it “with the blow of ‘53”, a most extraordinary story.  Subsequently I heard both Rae and Denver interviewed in ABC radio and they heaped praise on all those who helped them and others.  They are also heroes in this, creating and managing that wonderful station for so long through significant adversity, it was a privilege seeing them and having a cuppa with them before we headed North.

Ironically we are now neighbours with their son, Denver and his wife Deanne who manage Weebo station.  Their homestead is 60 km South of Leinster

From Giralia we drove to Broome.  The countryside was still showing remnants of strong winds and water crossed the road in several places.  As we arrived another cyclone was building up north of Broome, this was not a pleasant time, humid showers and no sunshine.  The previous year Gareth and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience in Broome, but we could not convince Janet and Kay that the place was an absolute paradise (which it is).

Janet and Gareth continue to survive at boarding school in Perth.  Both are taking full advantage of their respective life styles and educational environments.  At times I wish the distance was not that far, cause sometimes they need their mum.

Janet is completing year 10, wishing year 13 has already started, her hopes are on a career in hospitality via Edith Cowan University.  Gareth believes he’ll own the chain of Motels/ Hotels and that Janet will manage them for him.  I will watch that with much interest!  Next year our babies are in years 11 and 10, where do the years go!

Their weekends at times are jammed packed with social engagements, ice skating, dances, trips to the city and the odd time to study.  The two schools have cemented a strong relationship, as the residential mistress of St Mary’s is married to the Deputy Head of Scotch, they live at St Mary’s, so Janet and other friends get a lift to Scotch, at various times during the term.

Janet was in the school athletics team this year, this meant early morning training sessions at Perry Lakes.  Perry Lakes is cold most of the time, but at 6.00am in the middle of winter, makes one dedicated team.  She also played netball, her team were minor premiers but unfortunately missed like New Zealand by one goal in the final.

We celebrated 21 years wedded in June this year.  I don’t mention the date as the exact date has always been misplaced in Peter’s memory.  On this occasion we celebrated at home with lots of food, wine and great friends.

Peter is still actively involved in various regional organisations, and continues to travel many kilometres and spends time away from Leinster.  He is a member of a Rangelands study group, a Shire Councillor (re-elected this year for another 4 year term). Peter is involved with the Liberal Party, President of the Leinster Branch, Vice President of the Kalgoorlie South Division and regularly attends State Council in Perth.  Who knows where that will take him.  In August, he became a member of the Board of the Goldfields Esperance Development Commission.

I gave up work in August and I have been looking after, Peter’s extra activities.  He  produces a forest of paperwork that needs attention.  It is certainly enlightening to see the development of the North Eastern Goldfields.  His interest with telecommunications, roads, airports, strategic planning and long term economic growth with Regional Development issues ensures he continues to average forty thousand kilometres a year around the State.

I took advantage of some frequent flyer points and flew across to Brisbane on 18 October to see Pete’s mum and a short stopover in Brisbane with his sister and family.  Bev has moved to a retirement village, and has a lovely two bedroom unit, now on Bribie Island.

I then flew to Sydney and spent a couple of days with my Mum and Dad before going to Gloucester to spend a weekend with Graham (Swampy) and Maree Marsh.  It was one of Maree’s “Oh” birthdays.  We had a fabulous time catching up on all our families news and events.

I had only planned to be away 15 days, but unfortunately my family experienced two unexpected bereavements, in quick succession.  Although sad it provided me the opportunity to spend quality time with the family and be there with them.

We write this epistle as we are about to head for Europe and the UK. Following our 2 wonderful years (‘82-’84) in the UK, we always maintained that we would return, to renew friendships and revisit old haunts.  Little did we know it would take us this long to achieve our goal.  Two teenagers several wrinkles and even more kilos later.

The last three epistles have mentioned two things, the UK trip and Peter’s planned sojourn along the Canning Stock Route.

Our transient lifestyle and Peter’s continual changes with his career, have kept us from returning to the UK sooner.  The exchange rate hasn’t helped either, 39 miserly British Pence for one mighty Australian Dollar, just not fair.  Peter says the Canning Stock Route will come next year.

On the way to the UK we have a ‘stopover’ in Bangkok and are despatching Gareth and Janet to Ying our Thai friend, under the instructions “give them a Thai shopping experience”.  The 2 days stopover will give us plenty of time to get use to more than 100 people, so London will be a breeze after Bangkok.

While keeping the U.K. as a base, we hope to see parts of England, Wales, Ireland, France and Germany, possibly passing through Belgium and Holland.

To thaw out, on the return trip to Australia, we will spend another four days in Thailand.  This time we will travel South East to Pattya and just veg by the pool.

Next year Kay plans to go back to work and what that will be, has yet to be worked out.  There is now a real focus on that trip with Ross Clarke across Australia in June 2000.

My intention is to fly up to Weipa and we will drive two 110 Landrovers down to the centre, up the Tanami Track, down the Canning Stock Route and into Leinster.  Poor old Rosco has to drive back to Weipa, but we are planning to convince some others to join us.  Swampy and Graeme Bennett (page boy at our wedding) have expressed an interest. The rest of the family have whimped out on this trip and have suggested they’ll holiday in a more populated spot, with a bit more amenity than the Stock Route is offering.

We are both still involved in the Community Group and have played active rolls in bringing to Leinster , plays, movies, fairs and entertainers.  One such visitor was Chad Morgan.  For all those that remember the “Shiek of Scrubby Creek”, he can still belt a tune and he hasn’t had any orthodontist treatment done.  We had people travel from Leonora and Wiluna to see him.  He didn’t get the same crowd numbers as Rodney Rude did the year before.  But we did educate our newcomers to Australia, the South Africans and Kiwi’s.  By the way he’s about 80.

I hope you have enjoyed our year  with us and we look forward to hearing from you soon. Wishing each and everyone a wonderful Christmas and a very prosperous year 2000.

Peter, Kay, Janet and Gareth


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