I am sitting, staring at the blank computer screen on my lap. I have an idea for a story. I am going to write about my husband Andy, and I am sipping my cup of coffee while I decide how to begin.

Charlotte, my fit and healthy teenager, appears in the doorway. “I think I’ll go for a walk down the bush tracks,” she announces.

I glance up. A walk? That sounds energetic. It’s a hot day, a very hot day. I think of my Andy story that is about to spring into being, and I think of the track just metres down the road, the track which winds its way silently through the tall gums, wild flowers, sandstone... I take another sip of my coffee and then I look at my daughter. I am struggling …struggling… and then I win, “I’ll get my shorts and shoes on. I’ll meet you outside in five minutes.”

The sun is blazing down and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It is quiet and peaceful and the bush beckons. Soon we are striding down the main track, our arms swinging, our lungs filling with the clean air, our eyes drinking in nature, and we begin to chat.

Charlotte asks me how long it is until the beginning of the school term. She is looking forward to getting back to work and she wants to know what we’ll be doing. “Can we continue learning about the Kings and Queens of England?”

Soon we are discussing the various interesting monarchs we read about last term and I am amazed by how much Charlotte recalls. It is quite pleasant walking along discussing haemophilia, insanity, lost heads, protectors, unreliable sons, abdication, murder plots and alliances. We compare the present-day monarchy with the all-powerful kings and queens of times past. And we decide we wouldn’t like to be royalty ourselves.

It is an easy walk as the track is wide and flat, and in a short time we have walked a fair way. Now we start to skip along even more quickly as the path falls away from under our feet. We are descending. We feel we could walk and walk and walk…There is a great temptation to do this but we are wary. We have experienced this track numerous times in the past. I glance back over my shoulder and look up the steep hill. It is an easy walk down but will we be able to struggle back up again? Already we are far from home.

“How about we walk as far as the donuts,” I suggest to Charlotte. “It’s a hot day and it’s going to be a hard struggle back up to the top of the hill.” Charlotte agrees and we watch out for the donuts – a wide sandy clearing where the trail bike riders like to spin around and around.

I am feeling the heat. Charlotte and I haven’t been very good Bush Boys. Father Jim would be dismayed by our lack of forethought. We’ve forgotten our water bottles. My mouth is dry and my skin is starting to glisten with sweat. Finally I say, “I don’t think I am going to make it even as far as the donuts. Do you mind if we turn back now? You don’t want to have to carry me all the way home!”

Charlotte smiles at the thought of having to rescue me. I am a small person but she is even smaller. Not only have we forgotten the water, we didn’t think to bring the phone in case of emergency. Very sensibly, Charlotte decides we’ve walked far enough for one hot day and we swing around and begin the ascent.

It is hard going. The sun has moved higher into the sky and is burning into our backs. Every now and then I insist we rest for a few seconds in the shade of a tree before battling back up the next slope. And as we climb we continue our conversation.

“Hey Mum, do you remember that queen who liked to go on pilgrimages, the one who returned to her castle every evening?”

The story sounds vaguely familiar and I ask Charlotte to tell me more.

“She’d walk all day and then when she was tired she’d shout, ‘Bring the carriage!’ Her servants would transport her back to the castle so she could sleep in her own comfortable bed. The next day, the queen would get back into her carriage and the servants would return her to the exact spot where she’d finished walking the day before.”

“Did she ever finish the pilgrimage?”

“I guess so,” Charlotte replies. “She must have walked less and less each day. It would have taken her longer and longer to get from the castle to the point where she’d finished the evening before. But I suppose she must have got there in the end. Apparently, the queen was known for her love of pilgrimages.”

“And her dislike of sleeping out in the open,” I added. “She wouldn’t have made a Bush Girl.” Secretly, I think the queen was rather a sensible woman.

We come to a clearing and suddenly I exclaim, “Look! The donuts! We walked right through them without even seeing them!” We’ve walked much further than we intended. We must have been so deep in conversation we weren’t paying attention. My heart sinks. It’s still a long way home.

My thoughts have returned to Bush Girls. I glance at Charlotte’s new loose, baggy shorts. “I bet you are comfortable in your Bush Girls shorts,” I remark.

“They’re great. Do you remember Dad’s Bush Boy shorts... and how he and the boys went on that camping trip... and the wombat ran right through the tent?"

I start thinking of Andy and his yet to be started story. I think: “I could be safely at home, sitting under the cool breeze of the overhead revolving fan. I could be sipping my coffee and smiling to myself as I tell Andy’s story. But instead I am hot and tired and I have to climb right back up to the top of this hill…

And then I stop frowning at the rugged rise ahead of me, and I look at Charlotte who is once again patiently waiting for me to catch my breath. My beautiful Charlotte, one of my middle children, my happy teenager who doesn’t demand much attention. I think about how much I have enjoyed talking to her, what a pleasant companion she is, and how much I love her. I am glad I decided to accompany her on the walk despite the heat and the hill... I resolve to spend more time with her, one on one.

The house is in sight. I have made it back. My shirt clings to my back, my lips are dry and my legs feel heavy. I am anticipating a huge glass of cold water and a long cool shower.

“Next time we should walk at a cooler time of day,” suggests Charlotte. “How about first thing in the morning before breakfast?”

Before breakfast? Before my first cup of tea of the day? I think about getting out of bed earlier than usual. Then I remember how beautiful the bush is just after the sun has risen. The air is cool and refreshing, the kookaburras are laughing, and we’d be the first ones up to taste the new day. I think about how I have enjoyed Charlotte’s company. I think about the one-on-one time I have promised to give to my daughter. I am struggling …struggling… and this time I lose.

“A walk before breakfast? Dad wants to get fit. He could walk at 6 am before he leaves for school. You should ask Dad. Just tell him to have his shorts and shoes ready.”

Fathers need one-on-one time with their daughters too, I justify to myself. And one-on-one time can be spent anywhere, doing anything. Perhaps Charlotte and I can go together to a coffee shop. We can chat over freshly brewed coffee, a frothy milkshake and gooey cakes…yes, that sounds good!

I stagger through the front door and I see my computer lying on the sofa where I abandoned it hours and hours before. I think about my Andy story. Will it get written? Of course. I have it all planned out. Maybe tomorrow…

Find out more about Father James Tierney's Bush Boys and Bush Girls: Bush Boys Online

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  1. I am so out of shape... I love walking.. but when you're out of shape and overweight, walking is painful. Your story makes me want to ease back into it again so I can enjoy walking again. But that heat? Gads no. I live in Florida and I know it is hot there too, and I LOATHE the heat and profuse sweating. Walking along in nice weather is much nicer. :) I love the thought of wombats and kookaburras... strange & unfamiliar animals to us, but with such appealing names. They sounds lovely and exotic. :)

    I know you did/do a "Bush Boys" blog. Can girls be Bush boys or do you call them bush girls? Is this a name you've made up or is it something you have there? What exactly IS a Bush Boy? Sounds very interesting! :)


  2. Susan,

    I love walking early on a summer's day while the air still feels fresh and cool, before the heat of the day descends. All the birds are singing and most people are in bed and it's so peaceful and beautiful. Later? It is very draining walking in the heat and I don't like it either.

    Girls are usually called Bush Girls. Father Jim Tierney invented the term Bush Boys to describe his fictional characters who love exploring the "bush" or Australian woodlands. A Bush Boy prefers to get outside and camp and walk and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors rather than stay inside with more sedate activities such as computers. A real Bush Boy knows how to survive the dangers of the bush and have fun. I know a lot of boys who, having read Fr's books, decided to be Bush Boys themselves. They like to dress up like the fictional Bush Boys and do similar things. The girls Fr knows protested and said there should be Bush Girls too. So Fr wrote "Bush Boys and Bush Rangers" which includes Bush Girls.

  3. That's pretty cool! I have found your Bush Boys blog and subscribed. :) (and did some reading!) :) I wonder if I can find these books here. :) We don't have "bush" but we most certainly have woods and SWAMP! LOL!!

  4. Susan,

    The Bush Boys books are available from Catholic Heritage Curricula. They started importing them earlier this year and they have proved to be very popular. We have LOADS of bush, and NO swamp!


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