There’s something about the rolling hills of Gippsland that plays around with your sense of distance.
We were eating lunch at a round table in a little house perched on the side of a hill, and the round table was by an enormous picture window that looked out over another green hill just across the valley. That hill looked almost vertical, and the black-and-white cows that grazed on it looked like fuzzy felt animals stuck on a board, as if you could just reach out and pick them up and move them closer to the line of pine trees that stretched across the top of the hill like a giant eyebrow.
You get here from Melbourne by driving east along a flat freeway for an hour or so, and then you take a turnoff and you wind through the forest along a road that is still treacherously wet from overnight dew - or actual rain - and you have to take care not to drive too fast, because the trees are enormous and close to the road. And after another forty minutes you arrive at this small town in the hills.
It was a quiet Sunday, the first in winter. Even though it was sunny, the air was crisp and clean and as cold as falling snow. Tracy's mother had made lunch for us. This is her new home. She moved here last year. Her house has impossible views out all the windows and inside it is warm and comfortable and there are scores of framed photographs of children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and some special ones of her husband, Tracy's late father. Some of the photos go back to the old days, taken in Scotland half a century ago.
Now she golfs a little, bowls. She has friends in town.
We arrived at eleven. While the little house looks out over a valley, the town itself is even higher; and before lunch, while Tracy and her mother fussed over Thomas and fussed around in the kitchen and made pots of tea, I pushed William in his pram up an impossibly steep hill about a kilometre to the main street to buy some bread. Despite the cold, I had raised a sweat by the time I reached the bakery. Then back down the hill. Lunch was thick vegetable soup, that old-fashioned home-made variety that only mothers can make; and fresh bread and a range of cheeses and some home-made sausage rolls with home-made pickles and afterwards there was home-made fruit cake and shortbread. I keep saying home-made because so many things come out of a package or a box these days. William ate a whole bowl of Grandma's soup. She was pleased. Sometimes toddlers won't eat a thing. You can never tell.
Later in the afternoon the shadows deepened and we had some more shortbread and watched the cows get in a line and wander off somewhere. To be milked, I supposed.
Grandma waved at the gate. The sun was just sliding down behind the hill beyond the house and it put flecks of gold into her white hair. We turned the car south and then west.