Front cover for the story "Where do I belong?", the diary-report dr. Magda Heller wrote during the time she was working with The Flying Doctors. Magdaīs Diary: "The Flying Doctors", episode 160-161

Nederlands

Mon 5/10

 

Wow, this is what you call living! My first clinic, and oh boy, such a divine tranquillity... No hurry, all the time in the world for your patients... This is how a doctorīs job originally was meant to be!

We were already up in the air at a quarter past 7 this morning: David, Johnno and me. We brought a bunch of coolboxes and bags, and some personal things. For I was in luck right away: an overnight clinic. So Johnno has just dropped us off; tomorrow afternoon heīll be back to come and pick us up.

It was a two hours flight to the Andrewsī property. Mr. Andrews was at the strip to welcome us. David and Johnno were greeted cheerfully; to me he was more reticent. But okay, David had warned me about that. The people here donīt accept a new face right away; they want to wait and see where the cat jumps. According to David, the only thing I have to do is stay friendly and simply be myself. Then theyīll come round before you know it, and in a couple of months Iīll be the local hero. According to my esteemed colleague, that is.

Lots of tables were set up around the house, but first we were asked in to join them for a cup of tea. Mrs. Andrews, too, was rather reserved, but as soon as David mentioned to the kids (Michael (11) and Danny/Danielle (9)) that I came from Germany in Europe, they had a heap of eager, inquisitive questions! That was fun.

As I said, the clinic itself was informal and pretty calm. A lot of check-ups, lots of stories to listen to. Some patients didnīt seem too happy when they got me, suspiciously asking for dr. Ratcliffe instead. But David simply sent them back to me, assuring them that I was better qualified and more experienced than he was.

"But sheīs a woman!" I heard some old man protesting.

It took more to talk David off: "Well, so is dr. Randall (a female colleague he worked with before), and she did a very good job fixing you up, didnīt she?"

Clearly the old man couldnīt deny that, but he grumbled on: "Yeah, but at least she was Australian. And this oneīs a foreigner."

That made David raise his eyebrows. "What difference does that make? She is just as human as you and me. And she is very well qualified, too, and very friendly. So you couldnīt wish for anything better."

Grumbling the old man sauntered back to me, and over his head David and I exchanged a mischievous grin. It was really hard not to burst out laughing...

In the evening we had dinner with the family. Afterwards, we had a sociable chat in the living-room, but I was actually too tired from all the new things that day to really participate in the discussion. So I just listened. But in the end David got up, with the excuse that we had a couple of things to see to for tomorrowīs clinic. So I followed him outside to the guest-quarters (thatīs where we were having the clinic, and we were to sleep there, too).

But it turned out that there was very little to be done for tomorrowīs clinic, and with a shy smile David admitted that he had just made up that story because he had noticed how tired I was, and he thought it might have been difficult for me to determine when I could excuse myself from the party without offending the Andrewsī hospitality. So he had simply seen to it himself. If I preferred, we could go back inside in a minute, but by now it was okay to stay here as well. Taking care of me, as always...

Yes, I really was tired, but not too tired to accept an invitation to go out for a short walk before going to bed. So I was glad that I had brought my fleece vest (the only really warm garment I had brought with me to Australia; with the nocturnal temperatures here, it seems I might have to get some more!). David put on a sweater, too, and a few minutes later we sauntered out of the yard in silence. And there, when we had left the farm some hundred meters behind us, I heard something. Something immensely impressive. I heard silence.

It was magnificent. It was grand. It was impressive. It was quiet.

I stopped to listen, and shared my discovery with David. He didnīt say a word, but remained standing, too. Listening to this wonderful, all penetrating silence. Though it wasnīt even completely silent. There was a soft rustling sound when a slight breeze touched the grass. There was the squeaking of some little animal. But it didnīt really disturb the silence. It merely accentuated it.

But in the end we walked on. Still silent, but neither this silence bothered me. David is one of those people with whom you can be silent without awkwardness.

It was really night around us. The country here was very flat, and from one horizon to the other there was nothing to be seen but a nightblue sky, spangled with stars. There was no moon, and no human light in sight either. I felt tiny when I looked up to the sky. Never before had I fully realized how many stars there are. Back home in Germany I remembered trying to count them as a kid, just like Abraham did. It seemed like there werenīt all that many, but I always lost count anyway, because I kept forgetting which ones I had counted and which ones I hadnīt counted yet. But this time... really, the entire sky was spangled with stars from one horizon to the other! 360 degrees in all directions, stars and stars everywhere!

By the time I stumbled for the second time (I was looking at the sky instead of watching my step at the uneven ground) David dryly suggested weīd better remain standing for a while, before Iīd really fall on my face. He pointed out a few constellations to me, but I wasnīt really in the mood for prozaic things like names. I donīt need to know a name to be able to admire beauty. And after all: they are just names given to them by earth-people. Who knows, perhaps these stars have a completely different name in their own worlds?

He continued the subject with pleasure. No matter how matter-of-factly he can be sometimes, this colleague of mine does have a certain philosophical streak as well.

Looking up at the sky, I thought this nightsky would be even more impressive if I were to lie down on my back. That way I would be able to oversee the sky in its entirety.

"Well, whatīs keeping you?" David said, and immediately he lay down in the grass.

I chuckled, but I couldnīt resist following his example. And indeed: it was a marvellous sight. I felt as tiny as an ant...

We stayed there for quite a while, lying in the grass, hardly exchanging a word. And apart from admiring the sparkling beauty of the nightsky, I soon started to wonder about the fact that I felt so calm. Everything was good. Nothing missing, nothing broken. Peaceful. Nothing to worry about. Not even about lying here in the dark, somewhere in grassy field goodness knows where, next to a man I had known for less than a week.

I stifled a chuckle. Back in Germany, this would be completely out of the question. Youīd never do a thing like that; not as a woman. Far too dangerous. I didnīt have the faintest idea in which direction Iīd have to flee back to the Andrews farm in case David would start pawing at me. And we had wandered off too far to be able to call for help. So it should be a rather alarming situation, and back in Garmisch I would never have done something like this. (Of course in Munich I would never even have had the opportunity; far too crowded there to find such a solitary spot.) But here, everything was so peaceful that the mere thought of David pawing at me seemed utterly ridiculous. Actually, the thought of him pawing at me at all seems just as ridiculous, even though Iīm aware of the fact that you canīt know what someone is really like after but a weekīs acquaintance. But still, somehow I knew for sure that heīd never do such a thing, so in spite of the possible threat to my respectability I felt completely at ease. All working-stress and all city-stress had simply vanished, and I loved it!

Right at that moment a shooting star shot across the sky, and the first thought that came to my mind was: īI wish Iīll be happy here. Together with David.ī Those last words simply came up by themselves before I even realized what I was thinking. So it seems my subconsciousness has already decided that I want to share my life with him. I turned to look at this apparently already chosen partner-to-be. I couldnīt make out much of his face in the dark, but he seemed completely at ease, watching the nightsky with his hands under his head. I could do worse...

In the end however, we decided unanimously that it was about time to head back to the farm. The evening coolness was getting chilly, and after a while those grass-clumps arenīt all that comfortable anymore either. So David pulled me up. Nearly in his arms, and for one moment I thought I saw that same look in his eyes again. That look he had yesterday evening at the verandah, and last Tuesday at the Weatherheadīs. That look that seems to betray that he doesnīt just regard me as a colleague. But it was so short (and so dark) that it might just have been my own imagination. For he let go of me directly, and led me back to the farm without a moment of hesitation. Not guided by the stars, like I believed for a moment, but he knew the track we had followed. Disappointing...

But he did show me how to orientate by the stars here. There is no southern polar star, that was something I knew. It was something like the lowest star of the Southern Cross and some other very bright star, and then you had to take the middle of those two: that was south. Complicated... Iīd rather stick with a single polar star.

But I do have that Patrick Lindner song going on in my head now:

 

I hab lang schon auf dich gewartet

I have waited for you for such a long time

I hab gespürt daß es dich gibt

Somehow I just knew that you exist

Immer wieder hab i nachts die Sternen gefragt:

Again and again I have asked the stars at night:

īWie ist es wenn man liebt?ī

īWhat is it like to be in love?ī

īEs wird sein so wie a Feuer!ī

īIt will be like a fire!ī

I hab so was niemals gekennt

I had never experienced something like that

Daß man sich einfach nur in die Augen schaut

Just looking someone in the eye

Der ganze Himmel brennt

And the entire sky is burning

Es ist fast schon wie a Wunder

It must be something like a miracle

Denn die Welt ist doch nicht klein

For the world isnīt really that small

Daß i dir heute beim Zufall begegnet bin

That by accident I have met you today

Glaub mir, es muß so sein!

Believe me, it had to be!

Heutenacht haben die Sternerl a Pause

Tonight the stars will have a break

Heute leuchten nur deine Augen

Tonight only your eyes will shine

Und was i da dīrin heute lesen kann

And I want to believe everything

Des möchte i alles glauben

I can read in them now

Heutenacht haben die Sternerl a Pause

Tonight the stars will have a break

Der Mond kann sich schlafen liegen

The moon can go to sleep

Denn wir zwei werden uns die ganze Nacht

For all night long, the two of us

Nur tief in die Augen sehen

Will look one another deeply in the eye

 

What do you mean: an appropriate text...

 

Tue 6/10

 

Good gracious! David and I were lying there, peacefully watching the stars, and in the meantime in the Crossing some badly injured psychiatric patient was holding Clare hostage with a gun!?

I really shuddered when Johnno told us about it on the way back in the plane. These things happen to other people. Far away. Not to someone you know. And definitely not in a sleepy little town like Coopers Crossing... Well, obviously it did.

Thank heavens itīs all over. This morning, Johnno has taken the girl it was all about to some womenīs centre in Broken Hill. And fortunately that guy hasnīt really hurt anyone: just about when things seemed to get out of hand, he fainted because of his bloodloss. So now heīs in the hospital with a police-guard next to his bed, and heīll probably be sent back to that institution he came from.

For a moment I wondered in what kind of hornetīs nest I had ended up here. But upon seeing the astonishment on Davidīs face (and even Johnno himself had hardly got over the shock), I understood that they, too, had only read about such things in the papers. Thank heavens... Still, it does give me the creeps realizing that this time it happened to someone I know personally, and at the same office I myself have my work, too! Scary. Especially when I think about that sense of peacefulness I experienced myself at that very time...

 

Wed 7/10

 

So, Iīve got the day off today. Slept in late, taken a shower, and when I entered the kitchen to fix some breakfast, it turned out Mrs. Grey was there to make a cup of coffee. As a consequence, I had a long breakfast and she had a long coffeebreak, for weīve been chatting very pleasantly at the kitchen-table. Actually, I had hardly seen her before this morning. But she does seem to be a nice lady.

After finishing this breakfast, I decided to unpack first. I couldnīt help chuckling: Iīve been here for a whole week, and still... Oh well, after all it wasnīt until Sunday evening that I made up my mind to stay here, and yesterday and the day before we were out on that overnight clinic, so I didnīt really have a chance then, either. In the midst of the unpacking I moved the furniture around a bit, too, to make it more my own furnishing. Immediately it became much more my place.

When the unpacking was done, I went out to explore the town: another thing I hadnīt found the time for yet! It is built in the same check pattern as Broken Hill. Outside the center (the central part of the Main Street) the town exists mostly of detached villas, each and every one of them surrounded by a verandah and a garden. However, I sincerely doubt whether those villas are rich manīs homes: most of them looked pretty shabby, and they were definitely not built recently. In the townīs center (thatīs where I live, too), the houses stand closer together, and they border directly with the street. Hardly any front-gardens there.

And then there are a few stores of course. Quite funny actually. Thereīs only a few of them, but they try and sell as many different things as possible! At the ironmongeryīs for example, they sell gardening-tools, cutlery, ladders, TV-sets, hammers, saws, axes, nails, bicycles, scissors, clothes-pegs, cameras, picture-frames, household goods, typewriters, lamps, clocks and all you need for pets! If you want to rent a video, you have to go to the garage, and toys and towels are to be found in the kiosk. I had been in the miniature supermarket (more like the quarterīs shop around the corner) a couple of times already, and Iīm still amazed at the way they manage to cram so many different products in such a tiny space. There isnīt much choice between different brands, but somehow it does sell everything you need.

I had a little chat here and there, too, of course, even though many people are somewhat reticent even here in town. To them itīs obviously unbelievable that someone would leave a wet and green country like Germany, to come and bury themselves in a dusty Outback hamlet on the other side of the world. And that out of their own free will! Well, they live here, too, so why shouldnīt I?

Iīve dropped in at the base to see Clare for a minute, too. It was pretty quiet there: David was at the hospital, and Geoff was out somewhere on a housecall. (Yes, I noticed at the roster that Geoff is spelled like this. It looks weird. I tend to read it as īDjofī ) But Clare is a tough one: she had long got over the shock of her being taken hostage, and in the end, she even started to reassure me instead!

But upon coming home, I decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. With a book on the couch and a bowl of nuts at hand. Pride and Prejudice. In English of course; the sooner I get used to it, the better. But it didnīt take long before I caught myself on trying to decide which of the gentlemen most resembled David: Mr. Darcy (perhaps the disposition a bit, but David is much easier to get on with), Mr. Bingley (a little too much of everything; David seems to be more grave) or Colonel Fitzwilliam. And it was this last one in whom I found quite some likeness with David: courteous, friendly, cheerful, but also well-informed, earnest and a good sense of humor. George Wickham was out of the question of course...

 

Thu 8/10

 

Good and bad experiences today. This morning I had my first consulting-hour at the base - and even though it was my first time, I was there all on my own. And Iīd be lying if I said it was a great success. Some people even walked right out of the waiting-room when they became aware of the fact that I was the only doctor available this morning. That was quite frustrating, but I had more trouble with two so-called station-hands (a kind of farmhands, I believe) who did come in. The first one acted so horribly presumptuous that I really had to control myself not to throw him out (he was two heads taller than me, but okay...), with a lot of sexist bragging about how he couldnīt possibly hurt his male pride and take advice from a woman and things like that. The other one was plain obnoxious and offensive, with racist statements like īall foreigners make offī. Itīs not quite clear to me why he had come in after all, for he didnīt want to have anything to do with me. I was glad when I got him to leave in the end.

And then there were a few patients who had to repeat their story a couple of times before I understood what they were talking about. Not really encouraging oneīs self-confidence either. I was under the impression that my English was pretty good. After all, I did pass that exam without any trouble. But this gnawing dialect seems to have very little in common with ordinary English...

Oh well, not everything was this bad. There were two children, too, and itīs never hard to establish a pleasant contact with children. Obviously it doesnīt matter whether you meet German children or Australian ones: children simply accept you the way you are. The first one was a jaunty five-year-old who started off with asking my name, and then continued with endless stories - luckily in comprehensible English. The other one was a rather shy eight-year-old, who opened up pretty quickly however. Strange how they accept you without further do, while their parents take on a much more reserved attitude.

I had lunch in the pub with David, Clare and Kate. They laughed heartily upon hearing my morning-experiences, and related a few similar examples they had witnessed. But David did inquire who those two nuisances had been, and promised to give them a good scolding the next time theyīd show up at his consulting-hour. He had met them before. "They think themselves very sturdy, but theyīre such show-offs that itīs plain annoying," he said. Though he doubted whether theyīd be impressed by a lecture from him. According to himself, he is no more than "a snooty study-brain with no muscles" for whom they donīt have much respect either. Oh well, in case they turn up with me again, I think Iīll just chuck them out as soon as they start annoying me again. Take it or leave it! This time I wasnīt really prepared for something like that, but both Kate and Clare and David think I have every right to do so. So much the better. After all, they do go to the doctorīs to get help; so there is no reason to bully that doctor, no matter if she is a woman and a foreigner.

After lunch I followed David and Kate to the hospital. I was to perform my first operation on Australian territory today, and Kate had promised to show me around the operation-theatre so I could get acquainted with things there before we got to work there. We rehearsed the English terms for the operation-tools, too, so I wouldnīt have to search for words during the operation itself. (Actually, there were no technical terms of that kind in that English exam I took!)

The operation (a hernia) went well. Kate assisted, and we worked well together. She has so much experience that it happened quite a few times that she handed me the tool just when I opened my mouth to ask for it! Wow, thatīs a good way to work...

The day ended with the most fun part: my very first radio-clinic. I hadnīt seen such clinics yet, though David had told me how they are conducted and what kind of questions I might get to deal with there. A number of patients had already registered with Clare in the morning, so there was some time to look through their files before we started. I tried to memorize that numberchart a bit, too, so I wouldnīt have to search too much when talking to the patients. Perhaps - something I think of now - perhaps I should try and get a copy of it, and one of the list of medicine-numbers as well. So much easier if I can simply memorize them.

The radio-clinic was a very special event in itself. Clare sat next to me and kept track of whose turn it was, and I got to talk to one caller after the other. It resembled one of those TV-quizzes, where people can participate by telephone. And all of a sudden I realized that every word I said here in this microphone would be picked up by half of Australia. A rather scary thought! But okay, it was a nice and very interesting experience.

When it was over, the only task left for me was to update the administration of the people who had called in, and when that was done this working-day full of new experiences was over. But back home there was no time for idleness, for I had invited David to come over and have dinner with me. On Thursday-night namely, Mrs. Grey has her bridge-club, and it does seem convenient to have the kitchen annex dining-room to yourself when inviting someone over for dinner. Not that she would be in the way or something, but I just think itīs more convenient for everyone concerned to take this into account when inviting someone over for dinner.

David showed up pretty early, with the excuse of being hungry. So I put him to work cuttin lettuce. Very home-like. And so was our meal, and the washing up: snug, companiable, and home-like. And a little teasing, too (give a man water, lather and a dish-washer and you just know what will happen...).

When everything was cleared away, we decided to retire to my own territory for a little while longer. He inspected the new furnishing and decoration with pleasure, and observed that it really looked like a home now. To my surprise, he then walked immediately over to my book-shelf. It appeared he is a great reader, too, even though our tastes have little in common. Still, I was grateful for his offer to come and borrow some of his books whenever I wanted to. After all, the small collection I brought with me from Germany mainly consists of my favourites. And those I have read many times, but still itīs nice to read something new for a change. But books are so heavy that it was impossible to take more. And if big and heavy ones like Tonke Dragtīs books, and Momo, and Crusade in Jeans, and Saltcreek are among your very favourites... The rest of them is packed up in boxes, safely stored away in Mumīs attic. īOne dayī I might go and get them.

By the way, it turned out that David knows Pride & Prejudice. They had to read it in high school. He had found it rather boring, but admitted openly that this might be due to the fact that they had to read it. The only thing he really remembered was "that censorious rich aunt". Lady Catherine, I suppose. He had thought her quite funny. I declared that in that case heīd better read it again, for as a grown-up, one does read a story like this with quite a different mind than as an unwilling teenager.

So the rest of the evening was spent talking on books and authors, and Iīve had a good laugh, for it turned out that David knows entire pages of Shakespeare by heart! Thatīs a thing you might expect from someone with a masterīs degree in English literature, but not from a doctor of medicine!

Anyway, he offered to take me to Broken Hill some time soon. They have a well-stocked library there; the one here in Coopers Crossing next to the school is rather limited. (You can say that again: I hadnīt even noticed there was one here in town...)

All in all it was a very pleasant end of the day. But I think Iīll quit now, for weīre having an early start tomorrow: clinic at the Robinson property. Together with David, and thatīs something Iīm looking forward to. For I have to admit I missed him quite a bit these past couple of days...

 

Fri 9/10

 

We had a calm clinic. According to David, itīs because this clinic is usually done by one doctor only, but now that people have seen me here together with him, I will be able to conduct this clinic on my own next time if thatīs how the roster turns out. I wonder if I first have to do all clinics together with him before theyīll let me meet the patients on my own... If that be the case, weīll be stuck with each other for months to come.

Just when the end of the waiting-line started to come in sight, Johnno came towards us. He had stayed with us today, and now he had heard from Clare that little Angela over at Meringa Station was suffering from a bad attack of asthma. So if we could pick her up on our way home.

So we did, though we did finish the clinic first; that took only about half an hour.

When we arrived at Meringa Station about an hour later, it appeared the worst of the asthma-attack had already subsided, but little Angela still had so much trouble breathing and was so exhausted that we decided to take her to hospital for observation. So Angela was buckled up on the stretcher, got an extra portion of medicine and was put on oxygen, and then we left again.

David was sitting at the far end of the stretcher, and I was sitting next to it, and the girl just couldnīt take her eyes off me. So I smiled at her and said some reassuring words. But once we were in the air, she pulled away the oxygen-mask for a moment and uttered with difficulty: "Are you a fairy?"

David grinned; I smiled. "No, Iīm not. But when I was your age, I used to wish that I was a fairy."

A touch of a smile came into her eyes. "I want to be a princess."

But David put the mask back into place and said: "Donīt try and talk now. You concentrate on your breathing, okay? In... and out. In... and out."

Obediently she did as she was told. That is: for a few minutes. Then the mask was pulled aside again and she asked: "Will you tell me a story? Sister Kate always does."

"I will," I promised, "but only if you keep that oxygen-mask on now."

She nodded, and put the mask back into place. And I started to invent a fairy-tale about princesses, fairies, elves, godmothers, a malicious witch and a dragon, magic woods and magic palaces, and a prince on a white horse. And since we had some two hours of flying ahead of us, I could explore my fantasy to the full. Little Angela hung upon my lips (and plainly forgot to breathe now and then), and David hardly less. He sat there, his chin leaning in his hand, watching me in amused admiration, in order not to miss a single word. When Johnno in the end announced that we were about to land in five minutes, I decided it was time to let the prince and the princess get married and live happily ever after of course.

The ambulance was already waiting when we landed, and David and Johnno offloaded the girl into it immediately. And while we put the cases and coolboxes in the staff-car, David said with a clear trace of admiration: "You are quite amazing, you know that? You could be an author!"

I chuckled a bit embarrassed. "Just using my fantasy, thatīs all..."

But he shook his head. "Youīre a born story-teller."

But then we resumed the normal routine, and David suggested that Iīd go to the hospital with Angela, and he would take our gear back to the base. So thatīs how we did it, and Angela had recovered well enough not to need the oxygen-mask anymore. By now she was just plain exhausted, so Annie and I put her to bed immediately.

"You sleep tight, okay? Youīll feel a lot better in the morning," I promised when she was tucked in.

"Will you come and see me tomorrow?" she asked longingly.

I promised her I would (Iīm on duty tomorrow anyway), and with a final goodnight we left her alone and I followed Annie to the front desk to fill out the specifics. But before I had finished that task, David showed up. "Hey, fairy-doctor," he greeted me.

I grinned, and Annieīs face was worth a picture. But it was almost as if we previously had agreed on keeping this a secret, for David and I were unanimous in evading her curious questions. So in the end, Annie could do nothing but slink off...

It appeared that he didnīt feel like cooking tonight (it had gotten pretty late by now) and he asked if I would like to have dinner in the bistro with him. Well, that was not something Iīd turn down. I hadnīt been in the bistro yet, and I didnīt really feel like cooking either. And on top of that I was quite hungry, for it had been several hours by now since those delicious Robinsonīs cakes.

Well, I still havenīt seen the bistro, for both there and in the adjoining pub it turned out to be pretty crowded. So David asked Mrs. Buckley if we couldnīt go and sit on the balcony instead. The hotel verandah has sort of a second floor to it: a verandah on top of the ordinary verandah, so to speak. There are a few tables and chairs there, too, and it was there we had dinner - very nice, and in peace and quiet. The food was excellent, we talked a bit about one thing and another; I enjoyed it enough to be hoping to have this pleasure often repeated. Still, we didnīt linger at the table for long, for David was pretty tired and heīs got the night-shift, too. It doesnīt automatically follow that he will miss out on his sleep (it hasnīt happened to me so far), but the risk is there of course. So we broke up around half past nine and he saw me home. But heīs got the weekend off, so heīll be okay.

 

Sat 10/10

 

Some of these days...! It had been terribly quiet all day, and just when your ordinary shift is about to end...!

I had started off with the rounds in the hospital. Everything was okay, except that Angela was rather disappointed. I had put up my hair, and she thought I looked a lot less like a fairy this way... Okay, weīll try and keep that in mind: next time Iīll be meeting Angela, I have to wear my hair down. For the rest she had pretty much recovered, so Johnno would come and pick her up later to take her back to Meringa Station. That news did strike me as rather exceptional: two hours flying to get there, two hours back... Pretty expensive just to take home an ex-patient. But it seems itīs part of the service. Well, fine with me then. And if Angela would have to wait till weīd happen to go in that direction again...

The hours following were extremely quiet. I had the entire base to myself, so I could devote my time to my paperwork and to the exploration of what to find where at the base. Apart from the hospital-rounds, I never saw anyone.

Until twenty to five, when I was startled stiff by a horrible shrill beeping tearing the silence apart. An emergency over the radio! In the consternation (and in the stress caused by that horrible beep; in comparison, a whistling kettle produces a soothing lullaby) I couldnīt find the right switch to turn off the alarm-signal either. I knew which one it was, but in the confusion of the moment I had to try three before I got the right one.

It appeared that a young man at Waterborough Station had sprained his ankle earlier that afternoon. First they had thought it to be a simple strain, for he could walk on without too much trouble, even though he limped a bit. But during the past half hour his ankle had turned all blue and terribly swollen. He couldnīt stand on it anymore, and even the slightest movement made him cry out with pain.

It sounded like torn ankle-ligaments, but to be on the safe side I decided to call Annie at the hospital: if this was urgent enough to take the Nomad. We could, and she reminded me that I had to call Clare as well as Johnno, so she could take over the responsibility for the radio. Annie herself would come and pick me up in about ten minutes.

So I started calling around, and notified Waterborough Station to expect us around 6.30. And just when I got up to go and gather up the things weīd need, the alarm-signal started beeping again! This time it was Wilson Station. A guy had been doing stunts on a motorbike, with a rather unhappy result: at least an open fracture of the leg. I promised we would attend (after all, an open fracture is more urgent than torn ankle-ligaments), and while I was instructing the man how to treat the wound till we got there, Annie came dashing in. (Annie is always running ) I told her about the second emergency, and together we gathered the necessary equipment and drove off to the airport.

Johnno passed on the expected time of arrival (E.T.A. in pilotīs jargon) to both stations, and headed for Wilson Station first. And there I met with a considerable surprise. That unsuccessful stunter was none other than that obnoxious guy at my consulting-hour a couple of days ago; the one that had been bragging about foreigners being a blasted curse on this country!

He started swearing again as soon as he discovered that I was the doctor heīd been waiting for. I tried to examine him, but he simply brushed away my hands. "No foreign witchcraft on me!" (So within a day, I am both a fairy and a witch!)

Mr. Wilson tried to talk some sense into him, but without much success, and in the end, Johnno said: "Look mate, weīve got another patient to attend to, too. If you refuse to be treated by dr. Heller, then thatīs fine with me, but that means weīre going to leave you here. There is no other doctor available until tomorrow morning, and I am not going to fly out here again, just to accommodate to your stupid ideas. So you either come with us now and let dr. Heller treat you, or you can stay here, get that wound infected, ending up losing your leg or even die of gangreen. The choice is yours, but make it fast."

I couldnīt have said it better. At first he remained silent, but when Johnno turned around and started walking back to the plane, saying: "Okay, have it your way then", the honourable Mr. Patient grated his teeth and uttered: "Very well then."

Still, he kept raging and cursing when I examined him and put the plastic cast on his leg. I tried to close my ears for it, but Annie soon had enough of it and snapped at him that weīd leave him here after all if he couldnīt control his tongue a little better. So he went on cursing under his breath... For our own peace (for we still had to go to Waterborough, too), I gave him a little more pethidine than usual, hoping he would doze off. And he did indeed, so we could pick up that other guy at Waterborough and return to Coopers Crossing without further disturbance.

Back at the hospital it appeared that Kateīs shift had already started (by now, it was past nine oīclock...). Which was good, for that Jake had to be operated as soon as possible. Mark (the one with the ankle-ligaments; thatīs what it was indeed) was parked in a bed with a considerable dose of painkillers. We couldnīt do much more for him tonight, according to Kate; weīd see about him again in the morning.

So we were left with that nasty open fracture. But the operation went well, even though the wound had become a little infected already. So weīll have to wait and see, but at least the bones are back in place. But I did warn Kate about his behaviour, so he wonīt scare the wits out of her when heīll wake up.

All in all it was nearly eleven by the time I got home and discovered that I hadnīt eaten anything since lunch. I thought it far too late to cook, so I simply wolfed down a couple of sandwiches. And then I think Iīll just get to bed. Glad that Iīm only on emergency-duty tomorrow, and off-duty on Monday... But first, letīs hope this night-shift will pass without any new adventures...

 

Sun 11/10

 

Well, it obviously wasnīt meant to be that way. I had slept maybe an hour and a half when Clare called me out of bed. A baby on the way with the Carmichael family in the remote Nappa Merie. Which turned out to be a tiny little hamlet that makes Coopers Crossing look like a metropolis...

Delivering a baby is left to one doctor only here. So I was totally thrown on my own resources, and that did seem a bit stressy, since it was years ago since I last handled a thing like that. Gynaecology was not exactly my field after I graduated. But hey, originally I was educated as an allround physician, so I would manage.

Still, I couldnīt help going over everything connected to delivering a baby while we were on our way to Nappa Merie. Enough time for that: it was over two hours away, and sleeping in the plane (in this plane) was something I hadnīt mastered yet. I was lucky if I could doze off a little.

The expectant father came to collect us from the local strip (hardly more than a pretty flat patch of grass along which he had lighted some flares). Johnno stayed with the plane (he could go and take a nap on the stretcher, the lucky dog) and he would stay in Nappa Merie till I was ready at the Carmichaelīs. Unless heīd be called back in another emergency of course.

The expectant father was quite nervous, even though he tried hard not to show it. But he couldnīt even answer the most basic questions! (whether the water had broken, when the contractions had started, how far they were apart) It was almost like he had simply left his wife to deal with it all by herself!

Well, that was not exactly the case, but it was very clear that he was utterly relieved to be able to leave it to me now. In the Outback (whether this goes for all of Australia is something I donīt know), it appears that delivering babies is still a matter for women and doctors. The fathers prefer to stay out of the way as much as they can: they go and fix something in the shed to pass the time and to control their nerves until the child is ready to be laid in their arms, dressed and all. Wouldnīt be my style. If I were to get an Australian father for my children, Iīd want him near me during those difficult hours of labour, no matter what he may say or do. Itīs the least he could do; after all, it is the man who is actually responsible for his wife going through all that pain, isnīt he? And is there anything more beautiful to share with your husband than the thrilling, exciting moment of your own child being born?

Okay, we hadnīt gotten that far yet here. The expectant mother (okay, she had two kids already; they were sound asleep) was lying in bed, and was very much surprised to see a stranger at her bed. It appeared that she indeed had heard that dr. Callagan had left and a new doctor had taken his place, but somehow she had still expected to see one of the familiar faces. So before checking on the uterus, I introduced myself first.

The delivery had progressed pretty well: the uterus had opened about five centimeters, the water had broken and the contractions came at about eight minutesī intervals. Apart from that, it appeared I have quite a bit to learn about the Australian way of delivering a baby (or they have to learn a bit from me of course), for the standard position to give birth appeared to be lying on the back. Heavy and uncomfortable, in my opinion. Practical to the attending physicians, but not for the woman doing the actual job. They have always told us that - as long as no complications arise - the mother is free to decide how she is most comfortable. Michelleīs face brightened considerably upon hearing this: "If they allow that in Europe, it should be allowed for me, too!" So after trying out a few positions, in the end she sat back to front on a kitchen-chair.

From that moment on we got along extremely well. In between the contractions we were chatting pleasantly, and in the end we even got a bit tittery. Soon she trusted me with saying she enjoyed having a female doctor assisting at her delivery this time. The other two children had been delivered by Geoff and a certain dr. Harry, but even though they were excellent doctors, she felt more at ease this time having me around. Personally, I think she felt more at ease because she had already done this twice, so she knew what she was doing. And Iīm sure Geoff has delivered quite a few more babies than I have, so... Not that I told her that of course; why take away the faith the expectant mother shows in the doctor assisting her, even if that faith isnīt quite justified? It would only cause stress.

In the meantime the worst part of labour was drawing near quickly. And as Michelle did prefer to return to her bed, we made her as comfortable as possible there. A very tense hour (and very strenuous to her) followed, and I was nearly as relieved as she was when the child finally was out. Safe and sound and thoroughly perfect. And I was quite happy to discover how logical and natural my actions were. The medical profession sure does have a certain similarity to skiing: once youīve mastered it, youīll never unlearn!

It was a little baby-boy, and he bursted into a healthy roar when I cut the umbilical cord. Michelle basked and hugged him, but then I realized there was another task with which I had absolutely no experience at all: washing the baby! In Germany, thatīs the maternity nurseīs job, and my own experience in taking care of an infant hardly exceeded feeding them by bottle and changing a diaper... And usually those babies I got to baby-sit were quite a bit older and stronger... But okay, with a mixture of female intuition and common sense I managed even with that part of the job.

We had to wait a bit for the afterbirth, but when that was over, and things were put in order and cleaned up a bit, I finally found the opportunity to go and tell the new father.

I left them to themselves for a while, and sat down in the sun on a small bench on the verandah. It wasnīt until then that I felt I had been up and about for over 24 hours - apart from a few hours sleep - and with that snug morning-sun caressing my face I had a hard time avoiding falling asleep on the spot.

After some ten minutes John came to get me to say goodbye and to thank me. The new arrival was named Joshua Morton, and both his big brothers were radiating with pride. Michelle made me promise to force Geoff (if necessary by blackmailing him!) to let me do the next clinic here in town, and finally John took me back to the plane.

I was deadbeat. Johnno noticed, and advised me to go and lie down on the stretcher. Even if I couldnīt sleep by the noise of the engines, at least my body would have a chance to rest up.

He was right. And more than that. For I must have fallen asleep immediately, for the first thing I remember after lying down on the stretcher is Johnno shaking my shoulder to wake me up. And by then we were back at Coopers Crossing airport.

He had to look after the plane, so I drove to the base by myself to return everything. There was no one around; Geoff was probably at the hospital or something. So much the better, for now I could go home right away, have a bite to eat and go to bed.

But when Mrs. Grey saw me, she offered to make me a quick sandwich with ham and fried eggs. That was an offer I couldnīt resist, and I do have some vague memories of its tasting deliciously, but after finishing that, I rolled into bed and didnīt wake up till 7 p.m.

And shortly afterwards David called. Terribly awake and cheerful. If I felt like going to Broken Hill with him tomorrow. He had to take a patient to the hospital there and take him back late in the afternoon, and there was room for another passenger if I felt like coming. But it did mean we had to leave Coopers Crossing at six. A.m., to be precise...

Stuffy as I was, I inquired if he had lost his mind. But still, I would like to go to Broken Hill again, so - with the reservation of my being awake at the time - I promised I would like to come.

"Iīll give you a call at 5.15," he promised teasingly, but upon hearing that I chucked him out. He wouldnīt dare...

 

Mon 12/10

 

He did dare... The fool... Fortunately my biorhythm was still messed up from the day before, which meant I was wide awake at 4 a.m. anyway, but otherwise...!

It was nearly half past five when the phone rang. I answered it with a mocking furious: "Iīm going to kill you, David Ratcliffe!"

I heard him laughing. "Well, at least youīre awake. Shall I come and pick you up?"

"And what makes you so sure I want to come?" I inquired.

The answer was very dry. "Because I just walked by your place and I happened to see you through the window. Dressed and all. And since you havenīt given me the impression that 5.15 a.m. is a normal time for you to get up on your day off..."

"And that gives you the right to call me at this unchristian hour on my day off?"

He chuckled. "Well, clearly youīre awake, so whatīs the problem?"

Hm, to that I had no reply...

It wasnīt until we arrived at the airport and he started to check a tiny little aircraft (no more than four people would fit in there - tightly!) that I realized that it wouldnīt be Johnno flying us today, but David himself. That made me feel rather nervous: after all, Johnno is a real pilot, but David...? But it wasnīt that bad: he had full control of that little plane. But he is only allowed to fly small planes like this one. In case of an emergency he can handle flying the Nomad, too - he had some story about a pilot with a concussion, so that he had had to put the Nomad down in a thunderstorm, no less - but officially he is not allowed to unless Johnno is sitting next to him. So I suppose these flying licences are organized along the same lines as driverīs licences: you are not allowed to drive a truck either if you only have a licence to drive ordinary cars.

The flight (three hours: further than Munich-Athens...) was very sociable. The patient going to Broken Hill was that Mark with the torn ankle-ligaments. Geoff had organized for him to be operated by the orthopedic surgeon in Broken Hill as soon as today. But that meant he hadnīt eaten anything that morning. His stomach rumbled audibly! The male nurses of the ambulance had manoeuvred him in the back seat of the plane, so he could sit with his leg on the other seat.

In Broken Hill we were awaited by an ambulance that was to take David and Mark to the hospital. David advised to come with them; the hospital was quite close to the townīs center. He indicated how I would get to the center, suggested weīd meet at the central plaza around 12.30 (as soon as Mark would go into the theatre, they wouldnīt need him there anymore till Mark was ready to go home), and then I was on my own. In Broken Hill. For the second time in my life. Was it really only two weeks ago that I was here for the first time? Three months seems more likely, as much as has happened since then...Oh well, at the time I hadnīt seen much of it; this time I had practically the whole day (it wasnīt even 9.30 yet).

It was nice to be walking in a real town after two weeks/three months in the rimboo. It simply has a different atmosphere than a hamlet like Coopers Crossing. And Broken Hill was well provided with shops and public places as David had said. So I could go shopping to my heartīs content!

In the afternoon, David would take me to the library and to a hypermarket, so during the morning I thoroughly enjoyed roaming about the other shops. Bought a few books, an extra warm sweater for the evening, and two blouses like that olivegreen one I borrowed from Fiona at the Weatherheadīs. Itīs true that I prefer to be well-dressed, but when living in a rough country like the Outback, it seems useful to have some clothes at hand that are made to withstand the harsh conditions here. And I bought a few things for my room as well.

It was 12.30 before I knew it. So when I hurried back to the central plaza, David was already waiting for me on the edge of the fountain. He relieved me of a few of my bags, and then he took me to a Chinese restaurant.

"I love Chinese food," he trusted with me, "but itīs a bit hard to come by in the Crossing."

It was fine with me. But I did discover that a Chinese restaurant adapts its menu to the tastes of its customers: I didnīt recognize over half of the dishes listed on the menu, and some of the best dishes I knew from German Chinese restaurants werenīt even on the menu! Anyway, it tasted excellent. And Iīve learned a lesson as well: in Australia it is very rude for a lady to insist on paying when her male companion wants to pay for her. Not that David showed signs of being excessively offended, but he did point out that rule of etiquette, and he wouldnīt give way when it came to paying for me either. Oh well, it does have its good sides of course... A little courtesy. Though it does gnaw a little at oneīs sense of independence...

After lunch we went to the library. It was situated just outside the center, and it was pretty big and well stocked. They even had half a shelf of German books! David showed me around a little first, and then we each roamed about by ourselves.

After about an hour he joined me again, carrying a pile of books under his arm. I was standing in front of the medical shelf, looking for a book on Australian gynaecologics. And to brush up on my general knowledge regarding that field. I told him about the events in Nappa Merie, and asked which book he would recommend. He picked one that - according to him - focused pretty much on the medical side, and written by an Australian. So that was pretty much what I was looking for.

But that book had a funny consequence! For I still had to register at the library. David was all done, so he accompanied me to the information desk. Registering was no problem, even though they looked a bit weird at my German passport. By the way: the books can be returned by the mailplane for free. Thatīs good!

Okay, but this guy at the information desk registered my books right away. And when he came to that gynaecological one, he looked up and said friendly: "Are you two going to have a baby? Congratulations!"

"What?!" was my astonished reaction, and a flushed David muttered something in utter embarassment that sounded like: "Not exactly..."

I explained that David and I were just colleagues, and that I needed that book for my work. And then this guy turned as red as a lobster...! "Sorry... I didnīt mean to..." he stammered.

I grinned at him, but David didnīt dare breathing more freely till we got outside. "Just as a favour to both of us: donīt mention this at the Crossing, will you?" he sighed. "Certain people there would only get the wrong ideas into their heads. They wouldnīt leave us alone until theyīd actually see us married."

I chuckled at the idea, but I had to admit his caution was probably justified. In an eventless hamlet like Coopers Crossing, a story like that would probably instantly raise all kinds of speculations. So why should we complicate things by mentioning the funny misinterpretation of a Broken Hill librarian? It was probably wiser to protect oneīs reputation here.

Our next stop was a kind of megasupermarket. According to David, this one provides half the Outback with everything thatīs not to be found in the usual assortment of the local stores.

I really enjoyed it. Itīs always fun wandering about a foreign supermarket: every country has its own special things. Obviously, Davidīs thoughts were going in the same direction, for suddenly he asked if I couldnīt make him a traditional, real German dish one day.

"Sauerkraut mit Bratwurst?" I chuckled.

"Yes, something like that. It sounds German enough," he answered.

"But I doubt whether I can get that here."

"Not at the Crossing, for sure," he admitted, "but itīs quite possible that they do have it here."

So we systematically traversed all the aisles, and indeed: we did find the Sauerkraut! And pepper-balls! But Bratwurst appeared to be too much to ask for. Weīve been at the butcherīs department, weīve looked at all the canned and frozen meat, but there was nothing that even closely resembled Bratwurst.

"Couldnīt you make those yourself, if you would find the ingredients?" my companion suggested unwarily.

Good grief, spare me! I have no idea how! Maybe Mum knows? But as far as I know, she, too, simply buys them at the butcherīs.

But by now, David had really set his mind to this famous Bratwurst: "Why donīt you ask your mother for the recipe then, and then you take that recipe to Jim Mason?" (Thatīs the local butcher in the Crossing.)

Allright then. That Sauerkraut has a tenability of two months, so weīll see.

By now, the time was approaching that we had to go and pick up Mark again. He was still a bit off colour, and far quieter than he had been this morning. The nurses from the ambulance manoeuvred him back into the plane again, David managed to stuff in all his and my books and purchases, and we were back in the Crossing around eight. Mark was taken to the hospital and David took me and my shopping home, continuing to the hospital to pass on Markīs medical file.

Yet he showed up at my door again no more than half an hour later. "The bossīs orders: tomorrow morning weīll be leaving for Cable Hill to finish the clinic there that was interrupted by an emergency today. And bring an overnight-bag, for weīll continue from there to Weston Downs straight away to do Wednesdayīs clinic.

Thanks a lot, mate...

 

Wed 14/10

 

Well, that was a pretty kettle of fish... Yesterday in the plane, Johnno had been rousing our expectations about the luxurious guest-quarters at Cable Hill. For he had already been there on Monday with Geoff and Kate. They were supposed to have stayed the night there, for a lot of patients were expected in those two days. But because of that emergency they had to go back to the Crossing, and now it was up to David and me to finish that clinic. Following that, weīd sleep at Cable Hill that night, and early the following morning Johnno would take us to Weston Downs (which was in this direction anyway).

Everything seemed to go perfectly. It was a long and busy day, but at half past eight we had finally got through all the patients. Lunch hadnīt been much more than a few sandwiches on the run; it had been far too busy to take a real break. But now we were invited inside for dinner. I had hardly seen our hosts yet. They turned out to be rather dignified, formal people of around fifty. The house was furnished rather pompously, and unbelievably spotless. The table was set with damask, and the silver cutlery was polished till it shone. I almost expected a butler in livery to serve the food, but apparently that was a bit too much. Mrs. McLeane did the serving herself, and I have to admit: the food was delicious.

However, the conversation wasnīt going all that well. Especially David did his best to keep up a polite discourse with our hosts, but without much success. Short, stiff replies was all he got. It seemed like nothing could claim their interest. A couple of times, Johnno tried to enlighten the atmosphere with some of his funny remarks, but he received such reproving glances that he judged it better to remain quiet for the rest of the time. Like a boy being called to order. (Johnno does somewhat possess the air of a naughty boy, that is true...) Still, those glances didnīt keep him from pulling silly faces in my direction, making it very hard for me to keep a straight face and to assist David in his obstinate efforts to carry on some sort of social discourse.

The meal seemed to take ages. But when we finally got up and left the table, David excused us immediately. We would have to start off early the next morning, so if it wasnīt too much to ask, weīd like to retire for the night right away, he said. The permission was condescendingly bestowed, so we got ready in the bathroom, and then Johnno would show us the shearerīs quarters where we were to sleep.

On the outside, it just looked like an old shed. What was it Johnno had said about extraordinary luxurious guest-quarters? Oh well, it could always have been redecorated on the inside. In the same kind of stateliness as the house itself.

"Well, sleep tight!" Johnno said cheerfully, and he turned to walk away.

"Hey, wonīt you come and sleep here?" David wondered.

He turned back to us and shook his head. "Too classy for me. Iīll stick with my humble stretcher in the plane."

We should have known... We should have noticed the mischievous twinkle in his eyes and that scarcely concealed smile... But we simply looked after him as he walked away. Shrugging. And we entered the shearerīs quarters. David turned on the light. And we stood rooted to the spot... Extraordinary luxurious? This?! It was a pigsty!

There were three beds. Made and all. There might have been a couple more, but those were covered by - yes, by old junk. I simply canīt describe it more appropriately. Rusty pieces of iron, rotting poles, filthy sawdust, a couple of muddy plastic bags and a lot more of which I preferred not to determine what it could be. Apart from the ready made beds, everything was covered in dust and dirt. Dusty cobwebs were dangling from the rough wooden walls and from the ceiling. And I jumped as a miniature dinosaur emerged from under one of the beds and hurriedly waddled towards the pile of junk.

"Are we to sleep here?" David asked more by himself than he asked me.

"It looks like it," I replied bravely. "They are expecting three guests."

Once more we gazed in astonishment at the three speckless made beds in the overall rubbish-dump.

"Too classy..." David muttered, and I seriously suspected him to give Johnno a good scolding in his mind. But since we could hardly be three to go and sleep in the confined space of the Nomad, I decided to muster my courage and get into bed.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" David hesitated.

I nodded with fake determination. "At least those beds look clean enough. And as soon as we turn off the light, we wonīt see the dirt anymore." So I went over to one of the beds, put my toilet-things on the rickety dressing-table, pulled back the cover and got into bed. It appeared the bed had one of those spring mattresses, and clearly not a very new one, for I lay almost on the floor. And Iīm not that heavy now, am I...

David sighed and followed my example. He switched off the light, and in the moonlight streaming in through a dirty little window he got into the bed next to me. "Well, goodnight then," he wished with resignation.

For a while, we were both quiet. I listened to small paws running around on the floor. Mice? Rats perhaps? That dinosaur? I couldnīt say I was really comfortable. And the bed... it creaked and squeaked on every breath I took! (So to speak.)

After a while I heard Davidīs voice: "Are you allright?"

I took a deep breath (the bed squeaked) before I answered: "Iīm fine. How about you?"

He muttered. "Iīve been more comfortable."

We were quiet again. I heard sounds of gnawing and rustling. Buzzing, as from a fly or something. Running little paws again. Sniffing. Peeping. Fluttering. Did we have birds here, too? Or bats? It was a bit creepy, I couldnīt deny that...

I turned on my side (an infernal squeaking and creaking!) and tried to relax. Nothing else to be done than trying to get some sleep. That would certainly be the quickest way to get this spooky night over with. So I closed my eyes and tried to forget where I was. Donīt think about all kinds of animals running around under my bed.

It took a while, but it worked. But just when I was about to doze off I felt something tickling on my hand. I didnīt really feel like opening my eyes again to see what it was. But it continued to tickle, so in the end I decided sleepily that Iīd better check it out anyway. So I opened up my eyes... and there, right on my hand, giant spiderat no more than an inch from my face, was a huge gigantic black hairy spider! My heart still stops just thinking about it... I shrieked out so fiercely that they might have heard it all the way over in Germany, I shook that spider off my hand and in the blink of an eye I had jumped out of bed and stood on the floor, shuddering with horror. Only to give away another shriek, as something brushed by my legs.

David had already jumped to the ceiling at my first shriek, and now he was next to me in less than three steps. "Whatīs wrong?" he asked completely startled.

At first I was still too terrified to get out a single word. But in the end, I managed to stammer: "A spider! An enormous monster of a spider! Right on my hand, staring me right in the face!"

David turned on the light. The miniature dinosaur startled and hurried away, but there was no spider to be seen.

"Did you get bitten?" David asked concerned.

And that made me jump up with terror once again: "Bitten?! You mean the spiders here can bite?!?"

He nodded gravely. "There are two poisonous spiders living in this part of the country that may bite when they get cornered. But with quick treatment theyīre quite harmless." He took my hands and checked them thoroughly. And my arms, my neck and my face as well. "No painful tingly feeling somewhere?"

I shook my head. "It just feels like some three million spiders are swarming all over me. I donīt dare to get back into that bed," I shuddered. "Please, David, catch that horrid monster and get him out of here... Somewhere far away..."

He nodded with understanding. "What did you do with it?"

"I donīt know. I shook it off." I was just starting to recover a bit, but when David kneeled down to look under my bed, I suddenly realized that there was a fair chance of that monster sitting on the floor by now. And I didnīt know how fast I could get to the safety of the foot of Davidīs bed - after examining it thoroughly to make sure that there were no spiders there either.

David turned the entire surroundings of my bed upside down, but there were no spiders to be found. So in the end, he looked in my bed as well. And there, under the blankets, the monster sat huddled away in a cosy corner! He wasnīt quite as huge as I remembered, but gigantic he was. Never in my life had I seen such a big spider...

David took a mug to catch him, but all of a sudden the monstrous beast took off in a hurry: right across my bed towards the pillow. David quickly tried to put the mug over him, and the second time he succeeded. Just before the horrible monster got onto my pillow.

"Can you give me something flat and strong?" he asked me. "Like that beer-spill over there." Carefully he shoved it under the mug, and the spider was captured. He disappeared into the night, and after a couple of endless minutes he returned.

"I gave him a good concussion, so heīll have a hard time finding his way back here," he reassured me.

But it was still creaking and squeaking and pattering all around me. Who knows if there werenīt any more of those scary spiders? I didnīt dare to get back into my bed...

"Iīll take yours then, you take mine," David suggested. But when I pulled back the covers to make sure there were no spiders in that bed, it appeared that three big fat ear-wigs were snuggling up between the sheets... I barely managed to stifle a third shriek and quickly pulled back the blankets.

"David, Iīm not going to sleep here. Iīm going to sleep in the plane."

When he saw the occupation of his bed, he had had enough, too. So he got his things, too, we turned off the light and walked the few hundred meters to the Nomad through the dark night. He put a protective arm around my shoulders. "Are you afraid of spiders and bugs and things?" he inquired gently.

I shuddered and shook my head. Hey, Iīm not that much of a wimp... "Usually not. But I had never seen one like this before. It seemed so huge... and so close to my face...! It scared the wits out of me..."

We walked on towards the plane in silence, and actually, that arm around my shoulders made me feel very safe and comfortable. For that matter, I wouldnīt have minded if the plane had been twice as far away... But okay: now David knocked at the door, and soon Johnnoīs grinning face showed up. "Whatīs up? Donīt you appreciate the luxurious McLeaneīs guest-quarters?"

David muttered something that didnīt sound too friendly. He helped me into the plane, climbed in after me and closed the door. In the meantime, Johnno had lighted a lantern.

"Donīt mention luxurious guest-quarters..." David grumbled at him.

Johnno chuckled.

"I was nearly bitten to death by a giant spider!" I shuddered in exaggeration. "No, I think Iīd rather sleep in a humble airplane without scary beasts."

But Johnno showed a big grin. "I see: youīve been ragged. You live in the Outback now, Magda! Thatīs what we call īroughing itī!"

"Iīll rag you!" David muttered indignantly, and he threw the stretcherīs pillow at Johnnoīs head. For a moment we had a furious pillow-fight, but together, David and I were no match for Johnno.

"Okay, okay, you can sleep here," he panted. Still, he quickly tried to seize the stretcher, but David insisted he couldnīt very well do that: he lying comfortably on the stretcher, and the lady of the party on the floor. Johnno even let himself talk into leaving the stretcher to me, and shortly afterwards it was I who was lying comfortably on the stretcher, with David in the narrow aisle next to me, and Johnno in exile in the back of the plane, "for punishment".

We had just calmed down a bit when David commented out loud: "I think Iīm beginning to see why Geoff preferred to stay back in town instead of spending the night here..."

I heard Johnno chuckling. "Not just because of the guest-quarters or those two weirdoīs here. That accident we attended to yesterday involved some superannuated jazz-singer and her seedy pianist. It turned out that this lady-singer was an old acquaintance of Geoffīs. And in the way they greeted each other and things, Iīd say they were quite a bit more than just mere acquaintances. It wouldnīt surprise me if she was some old flame of his."

"Geoff??" I heard incredulously from the floor next to my stretcher. "Geoff was in love with a seedy jazz-singer? I can scarce believe it..."

No, neither could I. That impeccable dr. Standish...?

"Oh well," Johnno sounded apologetically, "I take it that it was quite a while ago. I suppose she looked a bit more attractive back then, too. And donīt forget that Geoff has been younger, too, you know."

Yes, absolutely, but still...? It really roused my curiosity. Perhaps sheīd still be there when weīd get back. (But we returned so late tonight that I havenīt seen her yet - that is: if sheīs still around.)

But okay, in the end we all dozed off. It was terribly stuffy in the plane when we woke up early in the morning, and all three of us were feeling quite stiff, but at least we had spent the rest of the night without all kinds of scary animals. And thatīs worth some other inconveniences.

However, after having passed the night in this particular way, we woke up in a rather mischievous mood, so we decided - pretty childish...- not to go back to the house, but to leave for Weston Downs at daybreak, so we could freshen up and have breakfast there instead. Quite silly, but okay...

That second clinic went smoothly, but it was still late by the time we got back home because we had an emergency on the way home. Appendicitis. So upon our arrival, Iīve extracted it right away with Davidīs assistance.

Pooh... some day that was... But Iīm glad that Iīm able to go and sleep in my own bed this time. With no scary spiders!

 

Thu 15/10

 

Operation-day today. Two planned ones in the morning, and in the afternoon an emergency when David returned head over heels from a small clinic nearby with a ruptured spleen (not his spleen, but the patientīs ). And though he had assisted me twice this morning, this time I preferred to have Kate assisting me. For I may work exceedingly well together with David, when it comes to experience in the operating-theatre, Kate is his by far his superior of course. And that seemed a wise thing to do in a risky operation like that one. Still: the only thing David lacks is routine and experience. And those are things he will only acquire by doing it. So perhaps I should ask him to assist me whenever I can. Kate as Geoffīs principal assistant, and David as mine. Great arrangement, isnīt it?

By the way: Iīve missed out on Geoffīs jazz-singer. She left again this morning. Annie had some enthusiastic story about yesterday-night: that jazz-singer - Billy is her name - had given a live concert in the pub. That was something very special, since she had had serious trouble with her voice these past years, which Geoff miraculously had managed to solve. I didnīt quite follow the entire story, but the evening had been a great success. Shame we missed it. Oh well, there will be other opportunities.

 

Sat 17/10

 

I donīt quite know what to think of it... David and I had agreed to go and eat in the bistro tonight, and this time he had been so wise as to reserve a table, so that we were actually able to eat there. It was all very cosy, very sociable, very companiable, good food, a few drinks afterwards and lingering at the table forever. In the end he saw me home with a little detour, for we both found that the evening was far too beautiful to go home straight away.

And there, in front of the door, when I turned to face him in order to thank him and wish him goodnight... all of a sudden my eyes connected with his and for a few extremely long seconds I seriously thought he was going to kiss me... Suddenly, there was a sort of atmosphere expecting that somehow. Not that he did it... After those few moments of tense expectation, he averted his eyes in embarrassment and wished me goodnight without even looking at me. I answered by automatic pilot, and before I knew it he turned away and walked away towards his place. And I went inside with my mind in turmoil... Confused, excited... and secretly a little disappointed, too. Could it be true that he does feel more than just a companiable friendship for me? Who knows: perhaps after that first night, he, too, had decided to safely stick with being a companiable colleague. At least thatīs the way he has been behaving towards me these past couple of weeks. Companiable. As a mate. And it is true: thatīs how I tend to behave towards him, too. Especially that first night, at Bonita Station, I really got the impression he had other, stronger feelings for me, too. Since then Iīve only noticed it a couple of times: that look in his eyes sometimes when he looks at me. That delightful, dreamy look that seems to suggest that he doesnīt just see me as a colleague. That look that turns me into a jelly puppet on the spot.

I donīt know. I canīt make out the way heīs behaving towards me. Perhaps I simply lack the experience in the matter. Perhaps I donīt pick up the signals heīs giving me. Or Iīm picking up signals he doesnīt even send out. Thatīs possible, too. Everything is possible. My experience in such matters is so limited, that I canīt even make out myself. Perhaps Iīm just so determined to establish a social life this time, that I fancy myself being in love with the first agreeable bachelor I run into. Who knows?

As far as that goes, the best thing to do is probably to stick with being companionable mates. After all, there is no need to make a fool of myself. No matter how jelly-like I feel when he looks at me in that particular way. Or like tonight. Iīd better wait and see what will happen. And if I do happen to come to the conclusion that I really do love him - and that he loves me - I really hope he will be the one to take up that subject... For Iīm sure I would never dare to myself... Heīs enough of a gentleman (I hope) to understand that such a task befalls him in that case...

 

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To the next chapter: 162 (not available yet)

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Why this diary: preface

 

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