It was usually in the autumn or winter when I, for many years, made an annual sojourn to Melbourne to visit my friend Jenny Scott. It was on one of those journeys that I reconnected with Ruth and Neville. Our lives, in the intervening years, had drifted in their own directions for a while. It was wonderful to see them again. And so it was that these little Melbourne sojourns started to include a night or two with the Buch family. They were fun times. Usually beginning with drinking tea on arrival, moving onto a good wine with dinner, and then sometimes later in the evening. After Genevieve was finally asleep, we had a night cap as well, with musing on the year that had preceded, life and its many thoughts and provocations.
I would sleep on the sofa bed in the lounge and my mornings usually began with Genevieve coming in to join me.
Over the years I have come to associate a number of food experiences with my memory of Ruth. We had a mutual love of good marmalade, as well as a love of a piece good fruit cake. Ruth was privy to my first explorations into making fruit cakes when we shared a house in West End. An interesting experience of learning the ins and outs of an unfamiliar oven. And the discovery of my now ongoing practice of the very slow cooked fruit cake. The grand result was my honour of making Ruth and Neville’s three tier wedding cake. It was a weeklong affair which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, it is the way Ruth changed my relationship with scones that I will remember the most.
It was on one of my visits in Melbourne, I arrived, and as usual, the kettle was on shortly after our hugs and hellos.
“I’m just going to make some scones”, Ruth said.
” Hmm, ok”, I thought.
Now, if it was me I probably would have needed to have made the scones beforehand. But not Ruth! Over the course of the first pot of tea, and much meandering conversation, this batch of scones came into being. Without stress or fuss, they just happened as a matter of course. This was what Ruth was like. This ability to be present in the moment, listening, engaging, but also keeping the ship around her steady, methodically working her way thru whatever task was at hand; including making scones. And they were good scones. With Jam and cream, of course.
While there were a number of such visits, we share a daily life: school drop offs, pickups, reading stories to Genevieve, and, yes, many cups of tea. It was my visit in the year 2000 that holds a dearest memory for me. I was expecting on this visit to be greeted by a heavily pregnant Ruth, eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second child, but instead Margs had her own ideas and had decided to arrive somewhat early.
Upon finding Marguerite’s earlier arrival, I immediately said I could stay elsewhere but, no, Neville and Ruth insisted I still come, welcoming me into this special space and time in their lives. Understandably, they were somewhat disorientated by the hasten advent with all the usual adjustments of a new baby. Together we shared in this time of life’s unexpected unfolding, with all its accompanying chaos and sleep deprivation. It was very special. Reading bedtime stories to Genevieve, she could never have enough! Nursing this gorgeous new young baby. We even managed a trip out to a restaurant by the river. And we would still manage the odd nightcap, at least Neville and I would, and Ruth would join us with a tea.
Ruth had a way of finding and seeing the good in something, and inviting you to consider things from that perspective as well. I can recall many times sharing my thoughts and feelings about one thing or another. Ruth would always listen attentively, and then she would speak into the space with her gentle and reflective way. She always brought a fresh insight or observation, embraced the beauty, complexity and contradictory ways of our human nature. She could allow another’s sense of discord just be, wrapping them up in her love and care.
It was our friend Judy who said Ruth was a gutsy woman with a deep and quiet determination, and I think this is a wonderful description of her.
You never blew your own fanfare, but we honour you, Ruth. Your presence will never be lost amongst us.
Lyn Dowling, 24 May 2017