The teacher

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  • Published 20140801
  • ISBN: 9781922182425
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

MICK FELT EXCITED coming down on the train but got cornered in the carriage by a tall heavy-boned old man with grey hair, who plonked himself down with a suitcase on wheels as they pulled out of Kerang. The man was a slow-talker but nevertheless up for a chat, and straightaway he offered Mick a sugarfree gum and made it known that he was a retired school principal off to visit his daughter and grandchildren in Malmsbury. When Mick made the mistake of telling him that he too was a teacher, currently in Mildura, the retired principal began to describe how ‘perfectly content’ he’d been during his years in education – mainly country schools, from Portland to Wodonga – and how every day in the job had been ‘a gift’ he derived ‘an enormous amount of satisfaction from’. By the time the old bloke had stood up to tip his luggage onto its wheels and get off at Kyneton Station, Mick was himself  ‘perfectly content’ to see the back of him.

Mick was meeting Kathy in Geelong. She was working these days in Werribee and together they’d drive down to the B&B, which was on a property Mick knew well. James Secombe, a farmer turned greenie who’d helped them out every year with the school vege garden during Mick’s years on the coast, had bought the place back in the late ’80s with the idea of creating a permaculture model. By 2000, with scars all over his big-browed head from bashing it against the brick wall of shire regulations, James had given up and taken his ecological vision up to the Riverina. Last Mick’d heard of him he’d built himself a houseboat, had a hothouse on board, no-dig veges on the roof, a compost dunny, and was sailing the Murray west towards South Australia to highlight the demise of the river.

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