Ageing with Style – Elizabeth Worts

My sister Elizabeth Worts at work in one of the units of her bed and breakfast

My sister Elizabeth Worts at work in one of the garden rooms of her bed and breakfast

An elephant swayed from side-to-side as she picked her way down the side of mountainside in a jungle in northern Thailand. She felt her way with her trunk to test the terrain before she put each enormous foot carefully into a tiny space between loose rocks.

The mahout on the creature’s head turned around to where I clutched Elizabeth’s arm in terror. If it hadn’t been for my dear sister, my life would have been much less adventurous. And I would never have been perched so precariously on a  platform on the animal’s back, waiting to be thrown to the ground and trampled underfoot.

‘Very safe,’ the mahout called, laughing as I shrieked. I swear could hear him thinking, ‘Silly Farang!’ (foreigner).

‘Grandmothers like us should be at home sitting in rocking chairs,’ Elizabeth said calmly, ‘not rocking around like this on the backs of elephants.’ She didn’t seem at all fazed by that experience or others that followed.

A mahout and his elephant (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

A mahout and his elephant
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

In the eight years she lived in Bangkok, Elizabeth orchestrated the most amazing adventures for family and friends who flocked to her apartment in Soi 12, Sukhumvit, right in the heart of Bangkok. She showed us the tourist sites; we explored China Town and travelled the Chao Phraya River on over-laden local ferries where we rubbed shoulders with Buddhist monks – taking care not to touch and so defile them – and with old men holding live chickens and old women clutching babies on their laps.

Elizabeth took me on boat trips on the tiny klongs (canals) that criss-crossed the city, mostly hidden from tourists. We visited the Klong Toey slums near the port with a Redemptorist priest as our escort and a vicious cock-fight an unexpected and unwelcome spectacle. At an international charity workshop we talked to the nuns and to the young women from slum districts who were learning to make patchwork bags, placemats and quilts. One day when we went looking for a medical museum that I’d read about, we even found ourselves in the morgue of a hospital with corpses placed haphazardly on trolleys and only partially covered with grey blankets – and no staff in sight. That was really scary!

When not playing hostess to Australian guests, my sister could often be found in an orphanage in the slums, feeding and cuddling babies or playing with toddlers.

‘I’ve learned not to go to the babies that cry the loudest,’ she said. ‘They get all the attention. I pick up those that are lying quietly. They’re passive because no one cuddles them.’

Fast forward twenty five years. Now my still energetic seventy-two-year-old sister lives in Dowerin, a tiny country town almost 160 kilometres north-east of Perth in the central wheat-belt region of Western Australia – as far from the bustle of Bangkok as it’s possible to imagine. Apart from the few days each year in August, when the Dowerin Field Days attract thousands of people from all over the State to the agricultural displays on the football oval, it’s quiet in the town.

Elizabeth and Peter on their wedding day

Elizabeth and Peter on their wedding day

Always the consummate hostess, Elizabeth owns the Dowerin Bed and Breakfast with her husband, Peter Worts.

‘We thought this lovely house looked like a B & B the minute we saw it,’ Elizabeth says. ‘I’ve travelled overseas and all over Australia and stayed in lots of home-based accommodation. I love entertaining, and thought I could probably do as good a job as many other people in hospitality.

‘Peter and I came to Dowerin ten years ago to semi-retire. We’ve obviously failed at that!’ she adds.

Welcoming corner in spring sunshine

Welcoming corner in spring sunshine

The Dowerin Bed and Breakfast has become a home-away-from-home for many people from government departments who visit Dowerin and the surrounding areas, as well as for tourists and business people travelling in the wheat-belt. Elizabeth’s attention to detail ensures that guests enjoy a warm welcome, delicious food  and a comfortable room or purpose-built garden unit where they can sit on a veranda and enjoy the expansive rural views.

Wheat crop seen from veranda

Wheat crop seen from veranda

During the Dowerin Field Days, the bed and breakfast accommodation bulges with visitors. Some people even park their caravans on the property for the duration of the Field Days. Breakfast begins at six each morning as people prepare to set up and staff their stalls and exhibitions. At the end of each of the busy days, a party atmosphere prevails as twenty or so guests and visitors sit down to three-course, restaurant-standard meals. People book a year, two years ahead, for the privilege of staying at the Dowerin Bed and Breakfast during Field Days.

As well as running the bed and breakfast and helping Peter with his business, Shades Pergolas, Elizabeth has immersed herself in the life of the town – book club, craft group and art classes. She is also a long-term member of the North East Wheat Belt Travel Association, which promotes tourism in the region. As a member of the Country Cousins network of Western Australian farm-stay accommodation, she actively helps to maintain the standards of the network and attends regular meetings and conferences in regional Western Australia.

This active, much-in-demand grandmother of ten and great-grandmother of four makes time to drive to Perth almost weekly – a three-hundred-and-fifty kilometre round trip – to visit family and friends. She often takes care of her younger grandchildren, either in Perth or during school holidays at Dowerin. She regularly visits her daughter and grandsons who live in Bridgetown. Beautiful crotchet rugs, knitted jumpers, hand-made gifts flow from her hands for new babies, toddlers and the older children.

Austin and Elizabeth celebrate his first birthday in Bridgetown

Austin and Elizabeth celebrate his first birthday in Bridgetown

Elizabeth with her grandson Mark (l), great-granddaughter Chloe, and son Steven

Elizabeth with her grandson Mark (l), great-granddaughter Chloe, and son Steven

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth and Peter holiday regularly – in Bali, in Thailand, where Elizabeth’s son Damian manages a restaurant, or further afield. Last year they spent five weeks in England, where they visited Peter’s relations and went to some of the places where he spent  his childhood. Often they take their caravan on short trips to the beach; to the outback where they camp on stations near water holes, perhaps to see the wildflowers in the mid-west; and to places in between.

The Worts on the Hoe, Plymouth UK, 2013

The Worts on the Hoe, Plymouth UK, 2013

Energetic and full of enthusiasm, my sister is a woman ageing with style. Perhaps one day, she’ll settle down in that rocking chair she mentioned in Thailand. But I imagine that won’t happen soon!

11 thoughts on “Ageing with Style – Elizabeth Worts

  1. I so enjoyed reading this story, Maureen. What a full life! It inspires me to look after my health, so I can still be as active as you and your sister in my seventies.

    • Somehow I missed this comment, Louise. Yes, my siblings (we have a brother, Peter, who is a mere baby, not yet seventy) have all led, and continue to lead full and interesting lives. It is partly luck, maybe our genes, and determination to wear out rather than rot!

    • Yes, she is, Christina. And we are lucky to share so many things Thank you.

    • Writing these replies in the Dongara Resourse Cente. I’ve lost Louise Allan’s comment- apologies and thanks!

  2. Tissue time after reading this!
    Well,what can I say? Thank you Maureen, we have had some good times together! I love that you see me as aging gracefully-I thought I was fighting the fight to be the same as I always have been. But without aging, I wouldn’t have all my wonderful experiences and memories. I wouldn’t have beautiful grandchildren. I wouldn’t have Peter by my side to share this part of my life. I wouldn’t have met and made friends with so many people.
    It’s like a ‘wake up call’ and I realise how lucky I am to have had such a life so far, and to realise there’s a few more years left to make the most of every experience.
    Maureen, you and Pete are the best siblings I could ever have. I love you both.

    • Now it’s my tissue time! Soppy family! Hope you have many more years. I’m sure we will also share good times together. Love you. Glad you like the post. M

  3. What a lovely and honest tribute to a woman I have always admired, and am still proud to call my friend, despite the miles that separate us. One day we will catch up again, if I have to hitch up the caravan and drive to W.A. to do it!

    • Hi, Jan. We met in B’kok when I visited all those years ago. Lovely of you to comment on my post. Thank you.

  4. Fabulously written and wonderfully accurate. I love you both Auntie Lee and Auntie Maureen. You’re such great role models for me, for what it means to be a sister, for what it means to be an adventurer and for what wisdom truly is. Time for some tissues here too. *biggest cuddles*

    • Hello, Cushla! How lovely to hear from you. Thank you for your comments about my post. Elizabeth and I are a pair of blessed women, to have each other, our health and energy. Love, Maureen

Comments are closed.