The things you watch on holidays

Getting a little bored with the usual ABC on TV after tea, Kim took me to one of those trashy girly flicks at the Esperance Cinema on a windy cool night. We’d bought some Nannygai at a local co-op during the afternoon, and fried it up in flour in the confines of our cheap arists cabin. Shortly after I’d sheepishly paid for tickets to The Devil Wears Prada, the owner questioned our need to bring takeaway food into the cinema. After the customary earnest replies, WE REALISED WE STUNK OF FISH. Thankfully the cinema had a total of 5 people, who stayed well clear of each other. I could hardly stop looking at Anne Hathaway, so it was a quick 90 minutes, although predictable. Meryl Streep was positively evil, and speaking of evils I just realised I have made another taboo movie/TV post, which I always said I wouldn’t do.

Road life..

This is not a criticism of W.A, but a few things are continuing to surprise me and I can’t separate them as holiday issues or W.A issues. For instance, when we drink a beer in our cabin or (increasingly less) tent, out of habit we store the bottles apart, so they can be recycled. But as we leave, I find I have to just dump them in a bin, as the average Caravan Park here just doesn’t offer that service. And daylight savings is such an issue here also, perhaps because the people in the north of the state get such little benefit from it, and locals seem to automatically assume they should be polled to determine government policy on the issue. I suppose that’s what you get when there’s been 3 referendums in the past 25 years on the issue. When they announced last night on the news that they’re going to trial a three year DLS period in W.A starting December 1st, I immediately felt sorry for all the Windows and Unix admins here, who will have to rapidly patch every machine on their network. Like we did for the Commonwealth Games. bight.jpg
Great Australian Bight Yesterday, when driving south through evocative sounding towns like Salmon Gums, I spent a lot of time watching the vegetation whilst Kim, bored of reading, made stuttering attempts at making a warm red knitted scarf. It looked like so much fun I wanted to do some too, but someone had to drive. It seemed disappointing to me how similar the trees and soil were compared to Bagshot – in my mind in the lead up to the trip, they were incomparable. Then soon, within 30k from the coast, the mallee rapidly turned coastal, the soil white, and monster triffid banksias crowded the roadsides. Despite 3-4 fanatical plant-obsessed years in the early 90’s I’m ashamed to say I’m not sure what subspecies. Maybe Menziesii. But they were awesome, and I’m glad I hadn’t planted them in my yard at home because they would have engulfed my house. bight.jpg
Camels on a roadabout in Norseman. We struck problems again with getting accomodation, and found ourselves a little desperately accepting a “chalet” at a caravan park plonked dead centre in an industrial park far from the beach at Esperance. But it was pleasingly low key and despite the asbestos (or is that cement sheet) exterior and mint green freshness of the nest, I’m really happy with it. I can imagine a writer booking it out for a few weeks in the winter and taking regular strolls within the overgrown, almost tropical park for inspiration from the New Holland Honeyeaters nearby.

3100k’s later..

I didn’t quite curse the Subaru, but when the airconditioning failed on a 36C day, and my cigarette lighter failed to power the small fridge in the back, my patience was tested till I discovered that a pair of common tweezers could double as a fuse remover, and I was saved. And there were spares under the bonnet. Late the same day, a little panicked by the likelihood of landing at the biker-run roadhouse of Cocklebiddy for the night, we made a call ahead to the Belladonia one and did a mad dash to arrive before they stopped making dinners at 8pm. We ended up doing it with 45 mins to spare, but at the expense of a near crash with a kangaroo that saw the trouble awaiting it, and doubled back at the last minute. Kim spent the next hour as my official near-dusk roo spotter as we did 130kph on the longest straight stretch of road in Australia (145k). The meal and beer when we arrived were suprisingly good, and even coffees the next morning were done full Italian barrista style. If it wasn’t for the presence of the drunk-as-scunk road crew singing to an AC/DC greatest hits jukebox, and the inevitable stick mags and coasters everywhere, I would have placed it somewhere between Geelong and Colac for big-cityness. bight.jpg
Nearly hit a kangaroo at 130kph, but otherwise all ok. Next morning, huge ravens clawed their way across the corrugated roof and woke us. We were slugged $1.85 a litre for non-Mobil juice and only having a 5 hour drive, took the time to get to know Norseman, which probably didn’t deserve that amount of attention. Is the reason houses and fences are made of iron sheets because of the scarcity of timber, or because they won’t catch fire. Not sure, but it makes for ugly temporary-looking houses. The tailings of the mines are everywhere, and they become attractive in their own way after awhile. We got into Kalgoorlie and found the town largely booked out due to a mining expo, and if there was ever any doubt about a resource boom over here, it was dispelled pretty quickly. The are mine sites everywhere. And randy miners need places to ease their loneliness, so said the madam at Langtrees on Hay St – on the brothel tour we did there on arrival. It’s a funny old town – the night before we arrived 30 drunks attacked 10 police at 3:20am right in front of our hotel apparently. A guy got his ear bit off. We were pleased to be spending a Sunday and Monday night here only, as they “tend to be a bit quieter” according to the Palace Hotel reception lady. We filled in today at the Mining and Prospecting Hall of Fame, a view from the Super Pit, watching some gold pouring and made a ghost-town visit in which nothing but a cemetary and a train platform remained. It was still somehow very interesting.

The first 2 days

It’s been awhile since we’ve been on the road with a tent, and as a long-time city person, small-town and caravan park life has already been a bit of an eye-opener. We drove out via the Western Highway and discovered Nhill Council’s very effective anti-loutish behavior policy at work in a beautifully appointed toilet block in the city centre, where strains of Vivaldi accompanied streams of urine. Not long after, on the highway, we roared past a pink lake that I suspect will be pinker than Esperance’s famed one – but I didn’t get a photo. Driving into the sun, our sunglasses got a heavy workout, which may be one of the reasons why we both had headaches as we struggled through the Adelaide peak-hour, the other being the relentlessly upbeat noise of JJJ (which only lasted for 20 minutes before I said I couldn’t stand it any more). Once again, with the extra time and lack of computer, I find the news and current affairs via the paper and car radio intensely interesting, though it’s a slog to get through the hourly news each time on the ABC. John Faine is already driving me nuts with his sniping, smart-arsy style and his overly strong opinions on everything. It seems the drought and water issues are on everyone’s mind. tent.jpg
Weather is colder than we expected. These thongs just aren’t doing the job. We count the black and red roadside markers that are I suppose the officially sanctioned injury and death memorials, as opposed to the home decorated tributes that I read last year were being discouraged in many places. As far as I could see, there were about 3 red poles to every black one. Sometimes two side by side. I don’t know exactly where it first began, but somewhere around Port Wakefield we noticed that we’d been snubbing well-intentioned locals by not waving to oncoming cars. It first happened when I lifted some small Black and Gold licorice pieces from a bag into my mouth and saw a car react. I immediately proceeded to over-wave to all, including roadside council workers and if in doubt, would raised a single finger off the steering wheel. Kim keeps talking about how we’re nearing some famed Oyster farming grounds i.e Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay, and that the guidebook says you get a dozen for $5. Then we noticed it was published in 1999. We bought a dozen today (in Streaky Bay, where we’re staying) and I’m telling you, they looked fairly crap to me, and they cost around $10. There are Grey Nomads everywhere (we are the youngest by 15 years) and boy do they want to talk, and tell you how good they are. They all have immaculate caravans and well appointed 4WD’s, speaking of which last night I encountered an exceptionally well fitted-out set of Telstra payphone booths, which had large blue feather dusters chained to them. Keeps those arachnids away I suppose. NOTE TO REMEMBER: S.A has an awesome range of Coopers beer everywhere, including St. Pitt – apparently Coopers Green in a can. Haven’t tried it yet.

Ahhh…the evaporative.

A 14 YEAR WAIT ENDED TODAY. In a rare fit of prudence during a coolish spell, we booked these guys in a few weeks ago and were thrilled to bits that we were having our Evaporative Cooler (with five ceiling ducts) installed ahead of a four day burst of heat (35-33-41-31). Apart from the installers not arriving yesterday as scheduled (which prompted Kim to go into a Ducie-like frothing rage), everything went well, and even the dogs were happy to let total strangers own their house for a few hours. First impressions were not great – I suppose two months of living in an air-conditioned Houston apartment brought unrealistic expectations. Now that I’ve vacuumed up the plaster dust and recycled the Cascade Light beers that I offered the installers, and refocused the duct guides, it cool as anything on the couch, in fact even a little chilly at times. I found it mildly annoying that when scoping the system, they insisted on locating the ducts as far from the windows as possible (this creates the best air-flow) even when I told them that I was unlikely to ever open the windows, as they were all deadlocked as a result of three break-ins over the years. Still, the front and back door are open, and it’s 34C outside and probably about 24C inside. Just lovely. Even the big black box on the roof isn’t overly intrusive.

Another slice of the past

Once I found an old photographic slide on the floor in the bungalow. It was covered in dirt, but I cleaned it because I wanted to know who it was a picture of and whether that person once lived where I live now. When we first moved to Scotia St. in 1991, Betty, the elderly lady next door at number 3 gave us a big welcome and said it was lovely to have a young couple move in AFTER ALL THE TROUBLE. It turns out that the police were regular visitors to the house BECAUSE OF TEENAGE DELINQUENT behavior. This included a collection of stolen bikes, the setting on fire of property down the road(!), and loud music played by presumably angry and carefree teens whilst the single-mother was out. There was graffiti on the INSIDE of our back fence, and some sort of shotgun blast through the original bungalow door. 10 years after finding the original slide of a woman in her 20’s in profile, I found a second one yesterday. This one is in much better condition, and features a couple in their late 20’s (I think) sitting at a table behind a large vase of daggy old lillies. The man wears an unusual silver neckpiece. The woman also wears a fine silver neckpiece. Both have long hair. The man is preoccupied; holding what looks like the handle of a fondue fork. The woman is looking away and is perhaps mildy disinterested in her partner. The background looks pinkish – the inside of the bungalow? My guess is the early 80’s. Is this the troubled mother and her ex? old-slide.jpg

Is it wrong to tick?

I used to work with a guy who prided himself in visiting as many countries and destinations as possible, and then tell everyone all about it. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except he had an annoying habit of using the word “did” to describe his experience. Instead of talking about his experiences in Kenya, he would summarise it by saying, “we did Kenya, then did Johannesberg afterwards”. I realised it was more important to him to say he had been to the country, than it was to actually go there and see things. He was a man who liked to tick boxes off. Last week I ticked a box of my own off – only I hope not as superficially as my old Mobil comrade. There are a handful of bands which I have sufficient longstanding obsessional interest in to say that if I see them, my life is somehow more complete. In the past,these have been Radio Birdman, The Tactics, The Clean, Cheap Trick, The Pixies, Bob Mould and Pere Ubu. Now, John Darnielle has joined my list. I heard his “band” The Mountain Goats in the mid-1990’s on 3RRR and thought they were great – the sort of nasally American voice which turns a lot of Australians away, yet a passionate, desperate man, with lovely poetic lyrics and the balls to talk about relationships how they really are. I went out and bought his Nothing For Juice CD the next week and loved it. Over the years I’ve bought plenty more, and each time he brings out a new one, I think I’m over him, yet there’s always a couple of songs which hook me. He played at the Northcote Social Club (- where else!) last Sunday night to a full house, accompanied by another chap who looked remarkably similar. I was thrilled to find his between-song banter engaging and his facial ticks quite evident. He slugged down a yellow Coopers Stout and made statements about how much he loved it. I looked down at mine and knew we were meant for each other (in the most civilised platonic way of course!). The only band left on my list is The Fall, and that’s going to take a UK trip oneday. The singer is in his mid fifties and is in poorish health. Not much time left! mountain-goats-2.jpg
John and Peter sing their tunes.

Oh Jakarta!

A couple of days ago, I entered this city of madness via my Exxonmobil designated personal driver (Juli) who is an ocean of calm in the seething mess of motorbike-dominated roads in this steamy, hazy morass of 10 million or so. He is dedicated to my comings and goings, and spends the time in between playing chess with other drivers and snoozing in underground carparks, not allowed to mix with the higher caste folk apparently. Last night, Gustaf and Rudi took me out to a music bar where silky voiced locals sang Bee Gees songs and other local favourites, accompanied by a small but deadly serious bunch of regular dancers who cha-cha-cha’d in the perfect rhythm honed by dozens of nights practise. Gustaf chain smoked his 14mg Marlboro’s and I gulped down bowl after bowl of chicken flavoured chips to a jug of Bintang lager, and eventually we were all won over by the hypnotic sounds of the happy 10 members of the Revolution band onstage. It’s quite a strange experience being driven through security checkpoints around town – the mirrors on poles looking underneath the van for bombs, and a strange gas sniffing device probing for explosive particles. I suppose Jakarta is on high alert – the American embassy closed indefinitely today, so it doesn’t sound good for the Yanks. The hotel has lots of barricades and a metal detector when you walk through the door. Somehow it doesn’t seem like a big deal – the staff are so friendly and unperturbed. At work, the coffee ladies make you your drinks – I’m not even sure if I’m allowed into the tea-room area, they just sit around in there all day waiting for requests. The decorations in the office seem drab and daggy; an ochre and brown fine oversized woven scarf in a frame, an abstract splash of sails in olive and tan on a rattan backboard. So, I go for dinner downstairs in the Shangri-La and get slugged $15 for glass of wine and my dinner costs $8. I hope my Supervisor understands – I have a glass with EVERY dinner when at home. Impossibly petite and well groomed tables of local girls (I suppose they’re women?) chat politely and walk arm in arm to the buffet to choose together. The food is great – Beef Renang, Sambal, mildly curried eggs. Fruit platters. Padang eateries where everything is eaten by hand – two dozen dishes on your table – pay for the ones you eat, Yum Cha style. The leftovers go onto someone else’s table. Where’s the hygiene Kim says. Oh well, I’m not sick yet and I’m leaving for home tommorrow. Back in my room, and ESPN is on. But it’s 110% soccer. Liverpool vs. AC Milan. The European Cup championship. When that’s over, there’ll be the next race for supremacy. Only two months off in twelve apparently. The Malaysians and Indonesians just love it. The other sports station is all golf – boring as hell. Leisure for fat old guys. And motorsports. Yuk. It’s been a great trip really. Met about 50 people and took photos of nearly every one. At least my technical changes went smoothly and I think they like me over here. Anyone who fancies the local hot food has got to be reasonable right? Teremikasi! 100_0544a.jpg
A work lunch eaten with the hands on a banana leaf.


Just got back from 4 sunny days in Bright. Kim’s mum babysat the doggies in Preston and we took to the European landscapes and pine plantations of the Ovens Valley highway and rolled into the ski-town of Bright. It was great to finally use some of the traction control available in our AWD to get up the steep, rutted driveway of the Odd Frog ( – I’m not sure if the old EB would have made it. The cabins were pretty fantastic really, all built by the owners with passive-solar principles in mind, and supplied with their own low-sodium/phosphorous soap, shampoo and conditioner. Corrugated iron houses with large expanses of glass louvre windows are orientated more towards removing summer heat than insulating against heat loss in the cold winter months, but the cabins heated up nicely during the day. The floor tiles were freezing in the morning though. Aside from a winery trip to Beechworth and Rutherglen, we did a few longish walks around town and a couple of bike rides along rail-trails to Myrtleford and return (65k) and another from Gapsted to Wangaratta (46k), so it wasn’t a totally lazy and indulgent 4 days. Kim’s grandfather died, so we had to cut the trip short by a few days for the funeral, so that’s why we’re back home tonight. The weather was sunny and crisp every day and we couldn’t have asked for better conditions. Egad – I’ve only got 5 more days of holidays in the remainder of the year – how will I cope! 100_0515a.jpg
A rest stop half way to Myrtleford. 100_0509a.jpg
A view of the “eco-cabin” from the bed.

Eclectic, parochial Perth

I flew into Perth for work on Sunday and got hit with the expected “our weather is fantastic, our air is so clean, our football team is awesome” that I expected from the taxi driver. And he was right. But it seemed so “small town”. I check into Rydges (awful name BTW) and watch my beloved Tigers get trounced by the Saints. It seems to be a premonition of what is to come. I get to the office, and narrowly avoid having the alarm go off on me by typing in the security PIN in near darkness in 29 seconds. I find the computer room, which is more like an overheated large cupboard, and discover to my horror that the server has no graphics card. Egad. After many calls to Houston, K.L, Melbourne, I arrange to have some spare cards air-freighted the following day. I decide it’s time for a soothing beverage and discover a Belgian Beer Cafe right near the hotel – now that could be dangerous. Those Trapiste beers are just fabulous – I only had one though – a Leffe Braun. Why I’ve never been to one in Melb. – I don’t know. I get to bed at 1am after 6 hours at work and wake to walk the streets on Anzac day. Plenty of medals on people’s breasts and a whole stack of sailors wandering the streets in search of places that serve a half decent latte. I find a popular spot and pretentiously (if secretly) read Faulkener’s Sanctuary, which I thought long and hard about tossing in the bin at one stage. Large sections made no sense, which I justified by telling myself that is WAS written in 1931. Boy how language has changed. This is all being done to a background of some laid-back jazz music of the kind that seems to be in every cafe nowdays. Inoffensive and mildly upbeat, but so uninspiring (for a guy who likes a bit of passion in his tunes like me). I look around me and there are half a dozen singles also reading books and wish I had the balls to make a bit of eye contact and have a silly chat about being stuck in a foreign city and wishing our partners were there. Meanwhile, a couple of cafes later – the food is pretty average and the prices high. And work is paying – I’d be a lot less happy if it was coming out of my wallet. I mean, that Tagliatelle (sp?) with calamari was just downright crap. I could make a better one. Now I know I’m tired. Anyhow – it’s quite a nice place and I found a great bookshop this afternoon, where I picked up a strange book about some sailors from Nicaragua being stuck on a boat in the U.S, but not allowed to come ashore – sounds a lot like that recent Tom Hanks movie “The Terminal”. Gosh – did I just make my very first weblog TV/movie reference – I promised I would never do that.