My Nanna was a primary school teacher at Sacred Heart in my hometown — Ipswich. While I think of myself as having grown up in Brisbane, I am reminded of the fact that every few weekends would be spent at her house and I would be there a great deal of the school holidays.
My Nanna had ample stocks of food in the fridge and cupboards — unlike at home. And next door was an older boy called Ross who was fun to hang out with, even if the age difference meant there was no way I could compete with him at any activity we played.
Nanna was small. Even as a kid she was someone you could talk to eye-to-eye. She was already short in her youth — maybe 5 feet 1 high — but in her old age she got scoliosis in her spine and started shrinking even faster than the wicked witch of the west under a South American waterfall.
When she divorced my Poppa in her late thirties she was firstly forced to go back to her job as a teacher, and a decade later she was forced to learn how to drive a car.
She used to get a lift to work, but then have to catch a bunch of buses to get home in the evening. Eventually that arrangement somehow evaporated so she was cojoled by mum to get her licence and buy a car.
She was 49. It must have been such an adventure. I actually think this is a pretty cool achievement. But it wasn’t without drama. Within months she managed to crash her car when she oversteered at a Blackstone intersection. She took out one fence at the top side and another fence on a different road as she swung around.
But she was wisely consoled by a friend and told to get back up on the horse — so to speak.
On visits to my Nanna she would take me on drives in the country. I was very, very young but that didn’t stop me getting embarrassed. See, Nanna drove so, so horribly slow, it was pretty much an ordeal. I would get so embarrassed looking back behind her car at the epic traffic jam behind us and I would slide down into the chair while begging her to drive faster — which was useless.
On one visit to Beaudesert (where Nanna grew up) I suddenly burst into tears as we were approaching the town. “I don’t want to go to the ‘desert'”, I said, tears streaming down my face. “There’s lions and tigers there!” TRUE STORY.
And when we went to shopping centres she didn’t really know how to reverse so we would end up parking at the other end of the carpark just so she could find two spaces where she could drive through one space and front-first into the other so the car was facing outwards.
And so one weekend it was her school’s fete and we went along. There was some kind of Lucky Dip and I entered and “won” a tour. I was ecstatic. I had never won anything in my life. And this tour was to see the Beenleigh Rum Distillery. I had never heard of it, but it sounded special. I was ceremoniously given the tickets like they were gold and I began begging my Nanna to take me there. It sounded like Oz or just a step down from “Dreamworld“. I was pretty determined and quite zealous in my badgering of my poor Nan.
This is the Distillery back in its hay-day.
So my Nanna eventually obliged — and it was a big, complicated trip for her and her very simple driving skills. And all this in her tiny Holden Gemini — which looked a bit like this, but no where near as pristine or “tough”. And so we had the free tour of the Distillery and I tried my hardest not to be disappointed. There were big vats of stuff and an old guy talking too much and some broken views of the factory.
By the end of the day — the cafeteria was the highlight – but that wasn’t the point.
The distillery closed down maybe a decade ago. It still has a tiny piece, a very, very tiny piece of my heart.