Wednesday, May 30, 2012

9) Dulcinea!

So much for me arriving as the white knight on his black steed. Instead I am wheeled into my Lady Dulcinea's presence, two hours late and the very last one off a choked up plane, by an apologetic Virgin hostess, Emma. My wheelchair was still back in Sydney; it was coming on the next flight. Even at the exit door of the aircraft, when eventually they came to fetch me with a clunky red transporter chair, my first concern was for My Lady. "I have a 90 year old friend coming to fetch me in a taxi," I explained. "I just can't impose on her to wait for the next aircraft. Nor can she push me in this thing." But stories have a way of working out. As I write it is just after 5:30 a.m. and the Australian morning outside of my curtained room is a jazz like burble of the unfamiliar. Parrots and a kookaburra vie for notice. Other birds, Ozzie Oz magpies I suppose, are fluting. Some squeak like violins yet to be tuned. Some are like the horn section. The whistle and gurgle of it all is quite captivating. Distant sounds of traffic underscore the music. And quite frequently there is an alarming door-knocking bang-bash-bang besides my room in this large and wonderfully cozy cottage. I was warned about it just before retiring last night; interior plumbing. Still it did have me peeking out of the curtains into the dark the second time, just in case there was an urgent neighbor at the door. Lady Nancy, my veritable Dulcinea, was attended at the airport by her daughter. Fiona brought her car, since she lives just a ten minute drive from Nancy. It felt like meeting a familiar friend when I greeted her for the first time; we had corresponded when Nancy's health had once been of concern. And so, after establishing that my own chair would be sent to Guildford by taxi, Fiona drove us through the dark to Flinds. And there we three had a delightful snack of rolled salmon, sipped on champaign, and then Fiona went off and Nancy heated up a shepherds pie. After all, in Sydney it was 9:30, in Perth it was only 7:30. And by the time Nancy was washing up the dishes, a knocking at the front door alerted me; my chair had arrived courtesy of a Virgin airline personnel. Again the apologies, with perhaps an upgraded return flight to be arranged for my troubles. In the light of day, Flinds Cottage is a virtual museum. Named after the first five letters of Lady Nancy's children, and their last name, Fiona, Linda, Ian, Nick, Diane, and Sinclair, it poses on a slight promontory above a billabong feeding off the Swan River. Full of incredible artifacts, mementoes, framed certificates, trophies, and war memorials, it is situated in the most luscious of Australian fauna and flora. From every window and from the wrap around deck cockatiels and corella and magpies and stranger than fiction birds are in abundance. A cornucopia of shrubs and hanging baskets and roses and vines and herbs and gardener's delights pluck at the senses. Giant blue gums lean into the sky. Pastoral, verdant, and peaceful. It is so pleasing that M'Lady is so happily at home. Petite, blue eyed, vivacious, pleasant, charming, and sharp as a tack, M' Lady Nancy is a force of nature. Even the birds feed from her hands. Her famous father was knighted, Sir Arthur Street. Her oldest brother, Douglas, was actually the illegitimate son of none other than August Rodin. Her twin brother, Denys, was actually one of the famous fifty caught and shot in The Great Escape. No ordinary old biddy, my Lady Nancy is a force to be reckoned with. A veritable Dulcinea, indeed.

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