I was so not in the mood to go into Tamworth this morning. I IMed with my sister about it last night and she understood, but I was still worried my mum would be hurt. When I said to her at breakfast:

“I’ve been having second thoughts about Tamworth…”

she interrupted to say “Oh thank God.”

So that was that sorted. Instead, we loaded Dad into the passenger seat of my rented Mitsubishi Lancer (his name is Boy Racer) and drove back up to the Horton Falls, where we’d spent a happy morning last year. We all clambered down to the waterhole and Dad and I sat under a tree talking for an hour while Jeremy dangled himself off cliffs with his camera and the girls fell into the creek. It was exactly what I needed. Using my words! Asking for what I need! It’s no guarantee that I will get what I need, but it makes it a damn sight easier for people to give it to me if they are so inclined.

We came back and had lunch and Claire climbed a tree and Dad joined us for mah jongg before we headed down to the pool, where Julia swam the width and Claire leaped off the diving board about one thousand times. And then we went back to Sarah’s for chicken and wasabi prawns, and Sarah’s friend Jane had made the world’s single greatest pavlova, so we ate the heck out of that.

Sarah and Mum had organized for me to buy a painting by Rupert Richardson, and I finally got to see it on this trip. It’s acrylic or oils maybe? A landscape with a mass of mountain hulking across it in cobalt. It reminded us all of the drive back from Upper Horton last year, when we drove through country so beautiful it hurt your eyes. When Dad brought the map of the Horton River for us to study, I noticed that Rupert Richardson’s property sits at the crossroads there. Curious, I googled the strange name written on the painting: Grattai. It is a mountain in the Nandewar Ranges. We would have passed it when we drove to Narrabri a couple of years ago.

Jeremy’s Dad was the best man at Rupert Richardson’s wedding, and Jeremy remembers driving out to that property to watch Halley’s Comet. Tonight was clear and instead of coming straight back to the Playhouse, we drove down to the river park to look at the stars. For every star you can see from San Francisco, Barraba has a hundred. Jeremy pulled up the star map on his phone and we discovered that the star, big as a fist, snapping at Orion’s heels, was Jupiter.

I watched Claire watching stars with a glad heart. It was my Dad who showed me the Galilean moons, my Dad who taught me to navigate by Orion, my Dad who stood next to me when I looked at Halley’s comet. I chose my father well and am so grateful.

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