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Today's quote:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Willows in Winter

Read the online book here


The Mole sat toasting his toes in front of the fire. The winter wind howled safely outside, sending occasional flurries of soot down his chimney. He was thinking that things were nearly perfect, but not quite."

In an act of homage and celebration, William Horwood brought to life once more the four most-loved characters in English literature: the loyal mole, the resourceful Water Rat, the stern but wise Badger, and, of course, the exasperating, irresistible Toad. And right now, sitting here in front of my blazing fireplace, I feel a bit like Mole who has to endure his nephew's visit:

"But he could not bring himself to say what he would like, which was to be left alone and snug in his cosy home, free to potter through the winter evening, free to make himself a warming drink - or not, as the case may be - but certainly free not to have to think about someone else. Free not just for this evening, but for every evening to come!"


Noel's "little house on the Prairie" at Mount Perry
He wrote, "It's as isolated as it looks, but plenty of crows and wallabies for company"
It was still under construction and the KODAK processing-mark dated it March 1983


I am reminded of just such an evening in the cold Canberra winter of 1986 when my best friend Noel Butler came to visit. Just like Mole who'd told his nephew, "Well then, since you're family, you can stay here as long as you want", while wishing "if only he had said 'Till next Friday' or something like that", I had suggested to Noel that he could stay as long as he wanted. That was before he'd told me that he'd sold his "little house on the Prairie" at Mount Perry, and was likely to stay for months. "The longest months of the year, that's how long he's going to be here."

For "as long as you want" soon felt like a life sentence for the bachelor I was then, unused to sharing my house with another for more than an evening at a time. "O, how distant those days seemed when he had been alone in his home, and happy! How far off those wonderful days!"

Best friend that he was, Noel did not stay as long as he had wanted, and for a long time afterwards I told myself how uncharitable I had been, and that I deserved none of the many good things life had brought me, if I could not have shown a little tolerance to even my best friend.


Noel's home on the edge of Childers in December 1990


Soon afterwards I visited Noel in his new home at Childers where, smilingly and without rancour, he received me back. By some unspoken agreement, we never mentioned that Canberra winternight again, and remained best friends until his sudden and untimely death in August '95.

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