Home' Aurora : Aurora March 2013 Contents Neighbourliness
is next to godliness
BY SUZANNE ROMANI
Suzanne Romani of Newcastle
has been following Aurora's
"Seasons of Grace" stories
and was prompted to share her own
There is a gentle man I know. A former
Nobby's lighthouse keeper, Barrie lives
with Benjamin, his brown cocker spaniel
in an immaculate brick bungalow in Cooks
Neighbourhood anecdotes of Barrie's
kindnesses are legendary --- taking
Friday fish and chips to a housebound
gent on one corner; cleaning the bath
for an arthritic lady on another; supplying
the ailing with tempting meals, and
naturally, assisting his nearby kin whenever
Totally unassuming, he often states that
he could never see anyone stuck. So long
as he is able, he will help those in need.
And it's the 'little big things' that mean so
much - changing a light globe, phone calls,
paying the paper bill.
There is a lady I know on another corner.
She's my aunt, Jean, who lives in her
equally neat-as-a-new-pin cottage.
Barrie and Jean belong to two of the
original families of Cooks Hill. Barrie often
describes Jean as "laying claim to him,
because she knew of him long before he
Over recent years, as Jean has aged,
Barrie has become her quality-of-life-
maintenance man. His unconditional
kindness and compassion give her the
independence to remain where she's lived
for the past seventy-five years.
Fortunately, the two have a common
philosophy. They believe in the adage, a
place for everything and everything in its
A typical well-disciplined week for the pair
rolls by just so...
The early opening of Jean's front door
tells Barrie as he walks Benjamin that his
neighbour is up. Should the door not be
open he will know "something's wrong",
use his key to check and then contact a
member of the family. Jean grew up with
her mother's principle that the inside of
one's home is judged by its outside, so
"doing her front" first thing and the bringing
in of the morning paper are also signals
that all is well.
There is an exact time for the garbage
bins to be moved by Jean from her back
yard to the front. Barrie then puts them in
an exact spot in the gutter that evening.
Immediately upon council collection, he
returns them, precisely where they belong.
Although Jean's main shopping needs and
financial affairs are more than adequately
catered for by her eldest niece, should she
forget items, such as icy poles or potato
crisps, a note is left in Barrie's letterbox.
A competent chef, he maintains it's just
as easy to cook for two (or three or four)
as it is for one. Every couple of days, he
will knock to ask Jean if she would fancy
maybe lamb's fry, roast pork or a curry.
Jean will say "yes", so long as it's ready at
5.00 pm - the time she eats her evening
During the 1989 earthquake he was there
Monique (left) and Yvette Piscopo participated
in the Lenten Liturgy of Hope and Healing at
Following Dad's example, Grace Connors
receives ashes on Ash Wednesday from
Monsignor Allan Hart.
Tom Hogan (left) and Jye Richardson of St John
the Baptist Primary participated in the launch of
Project Compassion on Shrove Tuesday. Please
Ellyerne Collins of St John the Baptist
Primary Maitland enjoys pancakes on
as a strong presence along with other
family members to assist her.
When Newcastle was flooded in 2007,
Jean's house became uninhabitable.
Barrie took her in, installing her in his front
bedroom. There she became The Queen
Mum, hair in rollers, tied with a scarf,
demanding tea in the teapot (not made
with a teabag) and just the right amount of
soup in her bowl.
The coming of the flood initiated another
daily ritual. Barrie knows offending fronds
lying on the road from nearby trees may
block the storm water drains should it rain.
This fear will keep Jean awake at night, so
some time during the day, he pops over to
sweep the road, removing any debris.
In sum, this shy man with his unconditional
kindness is the pivot around which my
aunt's days now revolve.
From his first-thing-in-the-morning look
ensuring the door is open to his afternoon
visit, ostensibly to borrow the now-read
newspaper (in reality to ensure she isn't
in any need), to his delivery of a meal
or perhaps a still-warm date roll; from
his Saturday morning trips to the fish
market for oysters to his Saturday evening
purchase of honeyed prawns, to the roses
from his well-tended garden that so often
grace the table in her hallway, Barrie is
There is the odd occasion when he goes
away for a day or so. We notice our aunt
visibly wilt. On his return, we watch her
Ructions! Of course there are. A
robust sense of humour is another of
Barrie's virtues. He also knows how to
ease frustration by means of a phone
counselling session if, for example, a paper
hasn't been delivered at the appropriate
The Darby and Joan of Cooks Hill? No!
Barrie, fourteen years Jean's junior, is
more the favourite younger brother and
very much part of our family.
When I asked Barrie's permission to write
a small tribute of thanks for his freely given
time and generosity of spirit, he suggested,
in his totally unassuming way, I write about
If the spaniel could speak, I'd wager a
small bet the dog could bear witness to
the qualities I watch weekly in his mate and
master -- trust, tolerance, understanding,
commitment, respect, and of course,
Seasons of grace? Absolutely!
Best of neighbours Jean and Barrie. Photograph courtesy of Emma Blackford.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
SEASONS OF GRACE
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