Ants at BEES
I received my bachelor's diploma with highest distinction from Queensland at the beginning of December. Mum and dad had driven in from Mitchell. We loaded my books, my bugs, my apparatus, and my clothes into the car and drove home.
UNSW began in February. I'd get to Sydney in January and find a place to live. But I'd have four to six weeks to relax – with Christmas and New Year's in the middle. I'd "won" APA support [Australian Postgraduate Award] for three years towards the Ph.D., but I knew I'd not be able to manage on that. So I'd have to talk to dad when we were at home. I had an idea, but needed his input. I'd have to acquire a vehicle of some sort – small and Japanese, I supposed. And I'd need some clothes. But that could wait till I was in Sydney and saw what people wore on the campus.
We were in Roma before I realized that I'd been sitting, wrapped in my own thoughts. "Sorry, Mum, Dad," I said. "I've got so much to think about that I've been ignoring you."
"It's okay, dear. You've got a lot on your mind. But you must be proud of yourself for the honours. I've invited David and Sandra for Sunday."
"That's fine. I'll stay awake and try not to argue with Sandra."
Dad chuckled. "I've been hearing that for at least four years, Gordy. You didn't like her when you were in school. You didn't like her when David began dating her. And now that they're married, you still don't like her. Surprise!"
"It's her mind I can't stand. She's pretty enough."
"That's enough of that!" Mum said. "And when are you getting married?"
"Not soon. I don't even know anyone I'd want to marry."
Dad swerved into our road. "Here we are! Looks the same as always!" It did.
Saturday I greeted several of the station hands, saddled one of the horses and rode around the place. The cattle were placidly putting on weight and the sheep, in their own fold, were growing wool. The 30,000 acres [12000 hectares] seemed smaller than they had just a few years earlier. After dinner, I spoke to Dad about the APA money and how much extra dosh I thought I'd need. I planned on about $200 for rent, but he advised me to figure on double. [In Australia rentals are per week.] I also broached the question of a car or a ute. He advised me to wait. All in all it appeared that I would need about a thousand a month extra.
Dad said he'd think about it. I knew that that meant he'd talk to Mum about everything.
Sunday David and Sandra, who was complaining because they'd come directly from church, arrived around one. After the customary family greetings, we sat down to dinner.
"So, you're going back to school?" was Sandra's opening gambit.
"Yes. For another three or four years." It seemed to me that simple, direct answers ought to keep me out of the quicksand.
"I barely lasted through my degree. I was so-o-o glad to get it and get married. Another four years!" I didn't think that required anything.
"Gordy received honours," Mum was really proud.
"But that won't get him more dosh, will it?"
"Well, it sort of does," I threw in.
"Well it got me APA support for the next three years."
"So David's taxes pay for you to swan around?"
"Not quite," I was beginning to get irritated. "I have to study."
"Ants? What good is studying ants?"
"Entomology is more than ants, Sandra. David's working for a winery. He needs to know about phylloxera. Dad needs to know about locusts. We all need to know about ticks. Only by studying and understanding all the six and eight legged animals can we survive in Australia."
"That's silly! We could just kill off all the bugs!"
"We'd starve. Bees pollinate most of the fruit and vegetables we eat."
"That's enough, Sandra," David interceded.
After that, we had one of Mum's excessive dinners in relative peace. After David and Sandra left, Dad remarked: "You were very restrained, Gordy."
"I try, you know. You can't blame me, for a change."
"No," Mum said. "And she never learn that baiting you doesn't show her in the best light. But thank you, Gordy. At least there were no real fights."
"No, but she really irks me. She's so stupid."
Dad laughed. "We never thought she was the prize brain, just the Queen of the May."
The rest of the my stay was very pleasant. On Boxing Day I was presented with an offer to drive into Roma and pick a vehicle. That was way more than I expected. The 28th we drove in and I saw a 1988 Toyota 4runner with only 60,000 kilometres on it at Black's.
Dad looked at it, we drove it a bit, and bought it. Then we drove to Tiffin Street where I registered it. I mentioned that I'd be a student in Sydney and asked whether I should re-register it in NSW. "Only if you think you're a resident there; if Mitchell's home, then keep this Queensland registration."
We drove home in tandem. Over lunch, I asked Dad about insurance. He said he'd call later. He found that the most reasonable thing would be to just add it to the station vehicles, with me (same last name) as the principal driver. Before New Year's I had my insurance certificate and the Toyota was "legal."
David and Sandra came for Sunday dinner on the third and Sandra confined herself to disparaging remarks about my "second-hand" vehicle. I managed to restrain myself. After they left, Dad handed me a cheque for $2000. "You're going to need money to rent a place. Let me know how much things cost. We'll settle on a stipend before the end of February. You've got your account here?" I nodded. "At the Commonwealth?" "I nodded again. "Well, there'll be a branch near the Uni. Open an account there and make sure that they know you've got one here. It'll up your credit with them."
It was quite something. I thanked Dad and Mum repeatedly, but Dad summed it up: "The real thanks will be in three or four years. When you're 'Doctor Hollister, ' we'll have our thanks."
I decided I'd leave Mitchell on Friday, 15 January and take a few days driving to Sydney. It's about 1200 klicks, but I'd take it easy, so it'd be three or even four days. I'd go through Toowoombra and then south through Warwick to Tamworth and then angle southeast to Newcastle and down the coast for a while.
There was a lot to do when I got to Sydney. Not least, finding a place to live. Oh, I could doss anywhere, but I needed a place for my books and my collections. So I booked a place for four nights in Randwick, near the University. I hoped that would give me enough time.
I also needed time to get my academic bearings. And to find out about cultural things. I'd spent most of my life in Queensland. Sydney was a lot bigger than Brisbane. It had museums and the opera and much more.
After a lot of good advice from Mum – and a hug from Dad! – I got underway a bit after noon on Friday.