IT wasn’t until I reached the exalted rank of officer-in-charge of a patrol post that I had a permanent materials house all to myself.
Until then I had either lived in shared accommodation or in various bush material abodes whose architecture ranged from pigsty rudimentary to spectacular, depending upon the extent to which the designers had advanced along the road to becoming troppo.
I remember one such edifice that would have put the Sydney Opera House to shame.
I think that first house was an AR10, which I presume meant it was an Administration residence of 10 squares, small but cosy.
In any event it had two bedrooms, a kitchen and a combined dining and living room. It also had a verandah with a rail just right for resting one’s feet on while sipping a cold SP.
It was also wholly self-contained. Something I think about whenever I receive another outrageous electricity bill or water and sewage rate notice for our present abode.
My patrol post house had two large rainwater tanks at one end and a smaller header tank on the roof. There was a hand operated pump on the back wall for topping up the header. It was an excellent means of aerobic exercise and Kure, my cook, and I shared its benefits.
The water in the header either gravitated through a system of pipes to the cold water taps in the kitchen, toilet and bathroom or through another system of pipes which took water via the back of the Metters wood stove to an insulated storage tank housed in a cupboard in the corridor between the two bedrooms and the bathroom.
This tank and the taps operated on pressure generated by the hot water it stored. On particularly cold nights or when Kure had the wood fire roaring for hours baking stuff the tank rumbled, gurgled and steamed alarmingly and, despite having a safety valve, threatened to blow up and take us all into orbit. Thankfully that never happened.
The waste water and sewage from the house was channelled to a concrete septic tank buried under the lawn out the back. Where the overflow spilled out was an excellent place to grow beans and peas.
I don’t recall ever having to pump out the septic tank, not like I had to on the farm in South Australia many years later. I guess the climate broke down the solid matter very quickly.
I had a kerosene refrigerator which occasionally blackened the wall behind its chimney but was otherwise most efficient. It worked really well on salvaged and contaminated AvGas if I ever ran out of kero but you had to keep an eye on it in case it got too hot.
Lighting was provided by a flash stainless steel Petromax pressure lamp. This was streets ahead of the government-issue Colemans and also had the advantage of not requiring metho to pre-heat it.
Later I acquired an ancient Petters diesel generator but it was so noisy, no matter how deep I buried it or padded its walls, that I often left it off and resorted to the friendlier Petromax, which just hissed soothingly.
My short wave radio operated on batteries and I rigged up a system using a car battery to run my Akai portable tape deck. With a goodly supply of books all my entertainment needs were met – something that our modern and mostly inanity-sprouting television can’t do.
In short, I had a very comfortable house that was entirely independent of the outside world and apart from the nominal rent taken out of my pay, cost me nothing to run.
It makes you think. We have gained so much over the years but we have also lost so much, simplicity and contentment being among the most notable.