From early April until late September 2012 I was living in an empty house that had belonged to my parents, taking photos, some of which were shown in an exhibition at the Kurb Gallery in August that year. (I was caring for the house, waiting for it to sell.)
During the exhibition I was encouraged by responses to make a book of my experiences living in the empty house, showing photographs taken over the period. The book was Alice Street: Images from a House, published in October, 2015. The written text for the book came from a diary I kept during my stay in the house. This was edited down for the book. In addition to the diary, I wrote other short pieces. What follows is one of these, a version of which I read at the book launch.
It is about a trip my sister Caitlin and I took with our dying mother Robin in 2008. Born in 1929, she had grown up in the North-Eastern Wheatbelt town of Bencubbin, Western Australia. The family lived in a house made of clay and bagged kerosene tins. They were not Catholics (rather, shabby genteel C of E), but because the home conditions were Depression grim, at the age of nine Robin was sent to be looked after by Josephite nuns in a convent school twenty miles away on dirt roads. She hated being away from home and used to dream of stealing a bicycle and cycling home. She thought that if she were able to reach home her parents would not send her back, but she never put this to the test. She loved the nuns, however, and admired their strength and patience. (She told me once that I was named after a kind Sister Philippa, but I am not sure if that is true.)
So we decided to go to Bencubbin, in the middle of summer. Here’s the story: