Dispatch to Bargoed House - 1943
by Reece Hugh Anderson
The sun was slinking toward imminent noon as Vincent pedalled southward along the Pacific Highway. He had diligently checked the carbon copy of Tudor Evan's delivery sheet, swept a routine eye over his bicycle and left the bustle of Swansea a distant murmur behind him. Small beads of sweat lined his forehead like a crown and the gentle stir of gum and sheoaks seemed to jostle his memories of Bargoed House, Tudor's elegant bungalow. The tireless childhood games played among its streetlights; the magnificent purple sunsets casting ghostly silhouettes down the hill. The hypnotic pulse of bell-birds broken only by the grating caw of a keen rooster.
He glided down Galgabbee Road, buoyed by these idyllic strokes of time as he saw the protruding stuccoed chimneys jutting from the roof of Bargoed House. Its brick facade stood sentinel-like over the hill with majestic grace; red tiles glimmering over a columned verandah. Vincent slowly unloaded an armful of groceries into the house and was greeted with a smile from Tudor as he stood casting a fistful of feed into the chicken pen. His gestures carried a sense of benevolent joy that Vince had observed consistently over the years. He could still recall a Christmas a few years before the war broke out when Tudor had gifted Vince and his friends an entire box of chocolates each. They exchanged a firm handshake as Tudor passed on his ration cards for the sugar, butter, tea and tobacco.
"How are ya, Mr. Evans?"
"Never better, mate. The chicken coop could do with a clean if you wanted some extra earnings today?"
"Can always do with a few extra bob, sir!"
The chickens flapped about and chirped cautiously as Vince scrubbed out and tidied the coop, inspecting the timber and wire as he worked. His face flushed in the heat; sweat streaking the patches of dirt across his face. A large shadow spilled across the tufts of hay that lined the floor and Tudor entered with a dipper of fresh milk from the resident cow. Vince's eyes lit up, savouring each sip with delicate enthusiasm; a treat that far surpassed the broken biscuits he would occasionally salvage from the shop.
Eventually they walked away from the coop toward the house, squinting as rays of light bounced off the peaks of the roof. The building felt almost ethereal in this instant: a palace in comparison to the weatherboard miner's cottages that lined Swansea's wide streetscapes. It was befitting of Tudor, whose kingly stature, material wealth and generosity was as singular among the community as the dwelling.
Coming to the precipice of the hill the house was nestled upon, they descended slowly and methodically down the manicured lawn. Gum-trees stretched skyward on either side of them; a lone rowboat with flecks of missing paint resting motionless in the grassy distance. With gleeful anticipation, they approached a large patch of watermelons that seemed so ripe as to wilfully beckon them forward. Tudor shot Vince an enthusiastic glance, proceeding to cut him a substantial slice. Vince thanked him and cast a sublime gaze over the vast expanse of lake that sprawled toward the distant blur of Pulbar Island. He bit down slowly into the dark pink fruit and closed his eyes - calm pulses of water lapping at his feet - a moment away from the war; the poverty; the fear. He returned the smile back to Tudor, laughing as he wiped the juice from his chin.
This story was inspired by the recollections of my grandfather Vincent Bassett (born 1929). He left Swansea school at the age of 12 and eventually worked as a delivery boy for Uncle Ed's Masters. Then owned by Bill & Rita Hall, the grocer supplied Little Pelican, Swansea and Blacksmith with home delivery. Tudor Evans, manager of a mine near Bargoed House, was a regular customer on the routes Vincent worked up until the end of WW2. Then old enough to pursue a career in mining, he has since been a regular fixture of the Swansea community that is always up for a yarn!
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