One night we were out on our front verandah saying goodbye to some family friends. No doubt they had been over for a BBQ dinner and us kids had been playing Murder in the Dark, Spotlight or Red Rover. The kind of backyard games neighbourhood kids would gather for. We lived on a hill, surrounded by gumtrees. Gum Tree Hill was the name of our house, there was a carved wooden sign that said so, it hung from the verandah above our long steep driveway. I’d see it everyday as I arrived home from school and dragged myself up that steep, steep drive.
Gum Tree Hill attracted all kinds of creatures. Possums would visit each night. They would sit on the front doorstep, taking pieces of apples from our hands. Mumma possums would arrive with the babies clinging tightly to their backs.
Kookaburras would visit and sit on the iron railing of the front verandah, above the Gum Tree Hill sign. They would laugh at me as I peeped out above the window sill of my bedroom just a metre or two away, hoping not to scare them off.
Each morning, hundreds of rainbow lorikeets would visit Gum Tree Hill at silly-o’clock. As the sun rose, they would flock in mass to the feeding plates that were hoisted up high into the branches of the trees. They would squark in a chorus that hurt your ears and that surely made our neighbours batty.
On this particular night, it was steamy and hot. Summer back when an afternoon storm every-other-day would cool us down.
We went back inside.
The lights were off in the lounge room in an attempt to keep the house down by even a degree in the muggy December darkness. The screen-less windows were wide open and the 1970 gold curtains drawn to let in every bit of the evening air.
Instinctively, I turned back towards the window and the front door. It was like someone had called my name.
And there he was.
High up on the timber curtain rod, above those heavy gold drapes sat what looked like a huge owl. He was big-headed and stocky, with grey coloured feathers that made him look like the bark of a tree. It was a Tawny Frogmouth. Sitting. Watching. Watching me.
And then he saw me looking at him.
He flew madly through the room, did a few laps and went straight back out the open window.
Last week, I was reminded of Gum Tree Hill and my old friend the Tawny Frogmouth when the RSPCA came to rescue a bird who was calling for help from the vaults of the Centre. The squark was like a newborn baby’s cry, a baby looking for it’s mother. Perhaps attracted by the colour and the volume of the Centre’s space, it may have seemed like a safe refuge to nest. But unlike my old friend the Tawny Frogmouth, Kenny the kookaburra chick couldn’t yet fly and had been separated from his mum. With thanks to the preserving efforts of the RSPCA and the QLD Fire & Emergency Service they saved little Kenny from the precarious heights, pockets and hiding places that can be a heritage listed building.
The kookaburra chick was swaddled carefully and placed in the soft comfort of a towel-covered refuge to make the journey to the safety and caring environment of the RSPCA.
That’s the Paddington Antique Centre; loved by all creatures just like me and Kenny. But, as Kenny & I know, with the Centre’s maze of mesmerising aisles, breathtaking heritage features and stacks of super stock to capture your attention, it can be easy to get in but often, difficult to leave.