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Home in the Highlands



LIFE AT ‘WHITE GABLES’


A Tale of Two Chandeliers


All my life I’ve been fond of chandeliers – as a child I even had a miniature one in my dolls’ house! So, last spring, when I spotted the listing for White Gables online and read the description of the living room with a “vaulted ceiling showcasing an impressive glass chandelier to its best advantage”, my heart soared.

Then I browsed the images and couldn’t believe my eyes. The glass chandelier certainly made an impression, but not a positive one. If truth be told, it resembled a piñata exploding over a light fitting.


WG Old Chandelier square 


But apart from the chandelier, the house looked great – a quintessential Highlands home complete with wide verandahs and tall gables. I knew I just had to see the place for myself.

Fast forward to the inspection day . . .

By the time I had climbed the front steps to the wraparound verandah, I was already in love. At the door I gave the real estate agent my particulars and was ushered into the foyer. From there I entered the spacious living room where the aforesaid chandelier was hanging from the 18-foot (5.5 metres) ceiling.

‘What do you think of it?’ the agent asked conspiratorially when she caught me staring at the colourful light-fitting.

As I tried to come up with an answer that wouldn’t offend her, she continued:

‘If this was my house, it would be the first thing I’d replace.’

She was right, of course. On December 1, settlement day, we rang the local electrician but he couldn’t come till after New Year. For the next four weeks, whenever I walked past the chandelier I lowered my gaze. At Christmas I convinced myself it looked festive. But when I took pictures I lowered the camera so that the light-fitting wasn’t in the shot.

I was at pains to explain to guests that the chandelier had come with the house. If anyone expressed the slightest interest in it, I would ask whether they’d like to have it. As a gift. But nobody wanted it. ‘It wouldn’t suit my house,’ they said diplomatically. Or: ‘It’s too big for my place.’

In the same way that I’d scoured the internet looking for the right house, I now sought the perfect chandelier. In the process I didn’t come across anything that looked like ours.

However, we did eventually find a vintage chandelier which was both simple and elegant, with just the right proportions for the room and at a very acceptable price. When the electrician turned up to install it, I offered him the old one for nothing, but he politely declined. I wasn’t really surprised.


WG Chandelier square closeup

The replacement chandelier at White Gables.

What I like about the new chandelier is its subtlety. It doesn’t grab your attention – it just fits comfortably in the room, like a trusted friend.

What happened to the old chandelier? Well, it’s packed in a crate in the garage, awaiting a trip to the recycling centre, where I’m hoping someone will take pity on it and give it a good home.

 

Deborah O’Brien

24 April 2018



Home in the Highlands


LIFE AT ‘WHITE GABLES’


Autumn

 

Autumn tree square

 

After a long, dry summer in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of autumn. But as March merged into April, the record heat wave continued unabated. Finally, at the end of April, temperatures began to drop and we even had some rain. Great, I thought to myself, autumn is here at last.

But at White Gables it didn't look like a cool-climate autumn at all. Why were my fruit trees still green and leafy when only a kilometre away in the main street of our village, the deciduous trees lining the footpaths were boasting glorious autumnal hues? Had autumn decided to bypass White Gables altogether?

I happened to mention my conundrum to a gardening friend who lives nearby, and her explanation was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn't thought of it myself. White Gables is sheltered by a ridge on the coastal side of town – that means the temperature is a degree or two warmer than elsewhere and consequently autumn arrives a few weeks later.


WG autumn 080518

The first tree to realise it was autumn was the Japanese maple on the left. 


When the much-anticipated season finally reached White Gables, it didn’t just sneak in like an embarrassed guest ashamed of arriving late. Instead, it made a grand entrance, transforming the garden into a mass of colour almost overnight. Suddenly the fruit trees glowed yellow and orange, and the rose bushes burst into flower after months of inactivity.


Roses and verandah500

Pink carpet roses are repeat-flowering - just trim off the dead roses but beware of the thorns!


Sasanqua camellias, inconspicuous during the summer, now produced a myriad of blooms. Even the poor rhododendrons, which had barely survived months of heat and drought, started to make flowers. Fortunately, they came to their senses and realised it was autumn, not spring, and they'd better stop flowering and conserve their energy, or they might not make it through the winter.  

Among the fruit trees, the pears were the first to turn golden and lose their leaves, followed by the weeping cherries whose canopies thinned out as their yellow leaves drifted lazily to the ground, forming a rich carpet of mulch on the ground. After that, it was a competition between the apples, apricots, peaches, plums and figs to see which of them would shed all their leaves first.

 

WG Molly autumn

Molly guarding the back door in the shade of the cherry tree.

 

WG Daffodil bulbs 080518

Autumn is bulb planting time.  I bought 100 daffodil bulbs from a lovely elderly gentleman at the local markets,
who was almost giving them away. 
After planting the bulbs under the pear trees
I began to regret I hadn't bought bluebell and hyacinth bulbs as well. Perhaps next year . . .


In the lavender garden the fragrant flower-heads turned a deep blue-purple, attracting a swarm of fat little bees which buzzed from flower to flower with such joyful enthusiasm that they barely noticed WGH* setting up his tripod and photographing them in close-up.


WG Bee and Lavender

 

WG Weeping cherry

Weeping cherry and lavender bushes at the kitchen door.

 

WG White rose and lavender 2 480w 0518

Above and below:  Lavender and rose bouquets from the autumn garden at White Gables.

 

Lavender bouquets

 

 

WG Yellow Rose WG 480w 20180505A

The quintessential autumn rose. Pic: WGH


In less than two weeks it will officially be winter. And if autumn came late to White Gables, winter will no doubt do the same. The preponderance of French lavender in the garden suggests winter might be considerably milder here than the more exposed parts of the district. Although I'll miss the 'mellow fruitfulness' of autumn, I'm looking forward to bare branches silhouetted against a cloudless sky, and early bulbs sprouting from the rich basalt soil. 


WG Mist small

Keats called autumn the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' - he was right!


*WGH = World’s Greatest Husband – it says so on his coffee mug.


Deborah O’Brien

17 May 2018

Read more about White Gables in my Home in the Highlands Blog below.
Just scroll down for:

    Finding the Dream House

    The Secret Garden

    A Tale of Two Chandeliers