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She occupied a room out the back; in Australian parlance called a sleep-out. Most homes had a sleep out, whether at the front or the back. It was often the spare room, sometimes used for a guest, frequently for the overflow of children from the main rooms. Most homes had either back or front verandah, and it was reasonably easy to partition off a section to create a useful room, either by the use of canvas blinds, or in Nanna’s case her wall was a wooden lattice screen, lined with canvas to keep out the cold. Poor Nanna! At least our sleep out had solid walls between the tall stone pillars of the verandah and a proper door.
The whole family, her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters all called her Nanna. She was a typical elderly woman of the mid 1900’s, always dressed in drab black or navy, with a knitted cardigan to keep the cold from chilling her old bones, and a floral pinny to protect her clothing from splashes and spills. Her black velvet embroidered, slippered feet hurt badly whilst she carried out a few household tasks. I often saw Nanna sitting at the kitchen table peeling the potatoes, or washing a few dishes; never the focus of family activity, but always in the background.
A few of Nanna’s remaining treasures made her sparse accommodation a little less foreign. The cement floor by the bed was brightened by her old hooked blue rag rug, whilst on the black iron bedstead her patchwork quilt lay in mauve and forget-me-not blue splendour; an alien beauty in a foreign landscape. It was hard to imagine those watery blue eyes had ever able to see sufficiently to make all of the minute stitches it took to create that quilt, or her twisted fingers being nimble enough to ply a needle and thread.
Beside the narrow bed was a small oak cupboard that hid the pink china receptacle of her nighttime toilet needs. On top lay a cream lace doiley, her black glasses case, a cut glass vase holding just one pink rose and a large blue comb for her long gray hair, and one or two hairpins for holding up her neat bun. Nanna’s freshly washed hair fell down to her waist in a silver shower, and on a sunny day she could be seen drying it whilst sitting outside under the big old almond tree.
At the foot of her bed rested an old worn wicker chair, softened by a well-stuffed blue embroidered cushion. The chair could be dragged out onto the verandah so that Nanna could sit in the sun and watch the world go by. She would sit; face raised to the warmth of the morning sun, watching the honeyeaters darting in and out of the Morning Glory trumpets that hung over the door. Sometimes we heard the baker’s boy call to her as he bounded through the squeaky gate; delivering the warm yeasty high-top loaf. His horse, out on the street, snorting and stamping his foot to be on the move. On a good day Nanna would enjoy reading the daily paper until shee nodded off, or perhaps her arthritic fingers could be persuaded to work a crochet hook and some cotton. The postman’s whistle would bring her to the front gate to collect the letters from the post-box. She once showed me how to make daisies using a daisy wheel, patiently urging me to tension the wool in the right way and to stitch the centre firmly. She said this would prevent the whole thing flying apart when the daisy wheel was removed. She was right.
However, most of time she sat in the sun on her creaking wicker chair, beyond seeing well enough sew, too tired to read, her fine fingers clasped in her floral-apronned lap, waiting, just waiting.

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