Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chris Pics


It has been a little while, so might take some time for me to resume this habit of thinking out loud on the internet.

I have some mixed feelings about coming back to Townsville after such a lovely break in Brisbane. Especially yesterday’s sailing by the sea at Humpibong. The temperature is milder here than it has been in Brisbane and the sun today doesn’t seem as harsh as it did before I went away, but the streets are as empty and the pace is as slow. I wandered down to the beach before to see if the ocean would make me feel better, but it was a very dirty brown close in to the shore.

Townsville is a still hot place and dull, and you must have a purpose while you are here. If you have a purpose, it can be a nice quiet place to get things done. But if not ...

After New Year’s Day I will begin to look for a part time job, but before then I will be just drifting, drifting still.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday we installed our Christmas Fern (yes with lights), but sadly I only get to spend one more day with it because I'm setting sail for Brisbane for Christmas!

I hope you have a happy one, and I'll talk to you after.




Friday, December 16, 2005

Bad snaps

Here are a couple of snaps of our humble new home.

We’ve now removed the empty boxes from the front porch and we’ve only got a couple of things to do to make the place really feel like home. First of all, we have to put up our hammock. And second of all, we have to lie in our hammock.

Drue, if you’re watching, you can see that your glorious glass-topped table made it here in one piece. Hurrah.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Townsy by Candlelight

Last night we went to Carols by Candlelight and I am sorry to say that it was woeful, maybe the worst one I have ever been to. It just wasn't heartwarming at all.

No-one was singing along, and the kids were hardly even swaying their candles . The only people who were enjoying the music were the performers, and they were all enjoying themselves a little bit too much. It wasn't even compared by a local newsreader. Isn't that the first rule of Carols by Candlelight?

And I spent far too much time being worried about this little girl whose candle, nestled in the grease stains from her chips, kept tipping dangerously close to her synthetic fairy dress.

But the absolute low point was when I went to queue up for the loo and I missed the arrival of Santa.

"Byyyeeeeeee Saaaaaanntaaaaa"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Smart Casual

Before we moved in I was so looking forward to all of our stuff arriving, I couldn’t wait to unpack all of my clothes and finally have something different to wear! But now it’s here I see that it won’t do at all. More jeans. Long tops. All my jumpers, scarves and woolly hats are useless, and I’m going to have to pack them away for the duration.

Last night we were on our way to the casino to take advantage of their $5 steak and chips dinner, and I said to Hayden “I’m going to get some really nice ¾ pants” and he said “Yeah, I’ve gotta get some dress boardies”.


Ah sleep! It is amazing what a difference a good nights’ sleep will make to my outlook on the world. From the time that we left the company accommodation (where we were put up for free for our first month here) to the night before last, I have been sleeping poorly. It has been having an adverse effect.

To bore you with the details: the apartment provided by the company was small enough that if we left the aircon on in the lounge room, we would stay cool enough to sleep through the night and wake up fresh and early the next morning. When our month of free rent ran out, we went to stay in the Spanish Horseshoe Holiday Flats; a bunch of bungalows built in a U-shape (sorry, horseshoe shape) and joined by a covered walk way with arches (arches = Spanish; hence, Spanish Horseshoe). The Spanish Horseshoe Flats are not air-conditioned, and worse, because they are built around a courtyard none of the doors or windows face the breeze. I slept so badly the week that we stayed there that I was really quite ill (not to say bad-tempered) by the end of it. Through that whole week I was busting to move into our own place, our place with air-conditioning and a balcony that faces east to catch the morning and afternoon breezes.

However, on our first night in our new place I still couldn’t sleep! I was getting quite distressed by this time, especially as I was so tired after a hard day’s moving house. The nights here are getting quite warm: the temperature only gets down to around 26°, which I remember fondly as a warm spring day in Melbourne. My mother reckons that as soon as it’s 27°, it’s warm enough to go swimming. That night I ended up sleeping on a mattress on the lounge room floor, which is the coolest room in our place. I slept there for the next couple of nights, because the bedroom, down at the western end of the apartment, is quite stuffy and hot. And the air-conditioner in there is an ancient rumbly monster that conspires to keep me awake first with blasts of its freezing air and then by the noise of its rumbly rumbly fan.

But now I have tamed the rumbly monster! I bought a timer switch from Dick Smith and I got Hayden to work out how to use it, and now it’s set to go off and on at various times in the night. It’s timed so that it never gets too noisy or too freezing, and it wakes me with a gentle breeze in the morning when it comes on at around 5am. Much nicer than an alarm clock. I got up this morning feeling fresh and alive; I went for a delightful stroll along the beach and on my way home stopped in at the corner shop to get an iced coffee. Our corner shop is the best; it has every single drink you could ever want on your way home from a stroll, plus it is run by a wonderful lady who I secretly call Esmerelda. When I went up to the counter to pay for my iced coffee, I interrupted her impromptu dance lesson from the local salsa teacher. Smiling and without a hair of her coiffeur out of place, Esmerelda stopped dancing, rang up the price of the salsa teacher’s cigarettes and my iced coffee, and sent us both on our way. I love today already; I can’t wait to find out what else I’m going to do with it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

New Permanent Home

There. We've done it. We've moved house.

Well, there are still remnants of the 108 packing boxes littering our front porch. (I suppose you would call it a porch. It's like a balcony, but because we are on the ground floor it's ... a porch). But I'm going to unpack those boxes later.

It would have been easier, I think, if Hayden and I didn't have such diverse interests. So many boxes of books! so many pieces of sporting aparatus! So many other hobbies delved into, only to be forgotten soon after: sewing, painting, yoga, tennis, gardening, photography, squash, golf ... and I'm on the verge of taking up oil painting and I recognised a certain glint in Hayden's eye when we visited the velodrome the other night. Unfortunately the cycling club wouldn't let him ride on the velodrome with the bike he already owns, so he's going to need a new one. Excellent.

Anyway, I've taken a few snaps and I'll upload them soon.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ahh the proximity

Standing in Anzac Park and looking west

Looking east out to Maggie Island

One of the things we have been loving about Townsville is the proximity. There is really nothing that is more than five minutes away from anything else, and many things are even closer than that.

For example, one of my favourite peaceful spots is the Anzac Memorial Park, which is kept in lush and immaculate condition (probably) because of the army base here. I love the cool stillness of the massive strangler figs, and the bougainvillea and the memorials kind of somehow suggest South-East Asia to me. From the Anzac park, you can look out past the marina to Magnetic Island; and on Wednesdays it is a tradition amongst the local boat-owners to sail out to Maggie Island and get as drunk as possible on the way. Accordingly, on Wednesday afternoons shortly after knock-off time, you can see all sorts of watercraft chugging out of the harbour, with many a sailor already swaying on deck.

On Wednesday last week we joined Hayden’s landlubber workmates down that way – not at the marina, but at the bowls club which is right next to the Anzac park (and across the road from the ‘Cri’ which host to Australia’s longest-running wet t-shirt competition. I promised Hayden we could go, one time only, as a sort of anthropological research experiment. It can’t be that bad, can it? At least it’s known as the Cri, and not the Crite like the one in Brisbane).

We had a great night at bowls. For $10, we got a game of bowls, with tuition and advice from a local expert, and a barbied sausage wrapped in white bread. Beers were an extra $3.

Looking south to the Bowls Club and the Cri

Friday, November 25, 2005

Weighing the Options

Tonight is a big night. The final celebratory meal for Iron Chief 05. The Melbourne contingent will be dining at Da Noi, but we in the North are hoping for something a bit more special. What to choose, what to choose?

The Bowls Club? Certainly the cheapest option, but perhaps not the very best..

The Holiday Inn? It is the tallest building in town, after all

Fish and Chips on the beach? Could be nice.. but perhaps not celebratory enough?

Or what about Hayden's choice: Tim's Surf n Turf

Ah, Tim! I think tonight we will dine together!

Friday, November 18, 2005

A House!

I am all of a flutter. We have chosen an apartment to rent. Yippee! Ours is the ground floor unit on the left, behind all the trees. To get to our place, all you have to do is step off the beach, walk inland 2 blocks and then turn left. So when can we expect you for drinks?

Drat! The real estate has taken the link to our new apartment down. Well, I guess it is only half-drat really, I would be worried if they were still advertising it, after they told us we could have it.

I will show you some photos after we have moved in. Actually, it’s not that spectacular. The best part is that it was made in the 1990s, in the era before developers became super-stingy with space. That means it has big airy rooms and a nice wide hallway, to let the breeze through. Oh - and it has a big functional kitchen, and a big bathroom which you don't even need to keep the washing machine in! Ahhh laundry tubs and linen cupboads and everything. All the things that I missed so much in our last place, a hotbed of glamour though it was.

How... prosaic.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

30 Days

30 30 30 30 30.

There, I said it.

We went to the top of Castle Hill to see the sun rise and afterwards have coffee and muffins and lovely gifts! And sparklers in the shape of stars.

I have thought about it a bit, but nah, I’m not scared of being 30. It is, as my mum put it in an email this morning: “more self assured and certain with much adventure still ahead”.

That is exactly what I’m looking forward to.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New Habits

I have been trying to read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People but I am stuck on Habit 2, the one where you have to write a personal Mission Statement (yeah, it was the 80s when that book first came out). I thought that I already had a personal Mission Statement, encrypted in a strange language and stored inside my head, but I re-looked at it and it turns out to be as old as 2002! Well, a lot has changed since then, and so I am thinking about my new version. But a lot has stayed the same too, and I am keeping the parts about finding inner peace and calm. I still think they are important.

I don’t think I would describe Townsville as a peaceful place, but it is slow and quiet mostly. Slow and quiet without peace sounds horrid in the heat and dull dull dull, but – I dunno – there is pleasantness here too, and prettiness in the blue hills that ring the town.

And there are peaceful spots. Because Hayden and Marny (Hayden’s cousin who is staying with us) start their working day with a 7:30am meeting, they leave the house early each morning and so I have taken to going for a bit of a morning walk/run along the seafront, down The Strand. In between the port at the south end of the town and the army reserve at the north end, The Strand has been done up a bit like Southbank in Brisbane, and also like Southbank, people only started hanging out there after all the boardwalks, ugly sculptures, swings and paths for walking were put in.

Towards the north end, at Kissing Point, is a sea baths known locally as the Rock Pool and it’s where everyone swims because the sea here is full of jellyfish. In the afternoon, the Rock Pool is overrun with squealing kids, but first thing in the morning it belongs to the old people, the ladies in swimming caps tied under their chins and the old gents slapping their arms and legs while they stand in the water. There is a group of them who meet there every morning to wallow in the cool and quietly gossip before they start the day, and it’s a lovely peaceful sight when I arrive sweating and pounding up that end of the shore. At the Rock Pool I turn around, and head back down the beach towards home. All the long way back I can see the port and the industrial cranes which are there to unload the massive cargo ships that sit calmly out in the bay, waiting to offload the ore to be taken to the refinery which provides our bread and butter.

My other new thing is that I’ve joined a book club, and I met them for the first time last night on the verandah of the historic Yongala Hotel - another very peaceful spot. The bookclub is an informal affair, a bunch of ladies, some older some younger, who meet every month for dinner and wine and a bit of discussion about the book they have just read. It was all very chatty and nice, not intellectual at all, and after my convoluted navel-gazing about my Mission Statement and my Habits and agonising about plot and character and drama and trying to write a novel in a month, it was lovely to hear someone say that she had simply enjoyed reading the book. And at the end everyone gave a mark for the book and a mark for the meal, and the results were to be posted on a website. Just when I was getting sad about missing Iron Chief!

Friday, November 04, 2005

I always assumed I didn't like it

Do you want to know a secret? I’ve been quite enjoying driving around the massive gold hirecar that we have been given. With a nod to economy I started out just trying not to accelerate it too fearsomely, and now I prefer to glide it around as though it doesn’t touch the ground. The best is in the late afternoon when the light turns softer golden and the Pulp Fiction soundtrack clicks over to Dusty Springfield, Son of a Preacher Man.

It’s kind of ironic / kind of apt for me to be listening to that CD so much. For a start, Townsville is reminding me quite a lot of Brisbane in the 1990s, with the houses un-renovated and the prices - only $2.50 to go for a swim in the Olympic pool where Laurie Lawrence trained up all his champions. I’m at the pool right now, and there is a bunch of school kids practicing for their Bronze Medallion Swim and Survive certificate. They are lined up behind the blocks, all set to do a “Survival Jump” – you know, the one for when you have to jump into water that is covered in burning oil. Right hand covers your nose and mouth, the left wraps around in front and tacks onto your right shoulder, you take a big breath then plunge into the water flat-feet first. The kids are all lively and skinny as sticks and ferocious little swimmers. The coach yells out “have you girls picked up your bricks yet?”

I don’t think I visited Townsville in the 90s. I was living in Brisbane, studying music at Uni and too impatient and distracted by romantic notions of travelling the world to appreciate either the town I was in or the movie Pulp Fiction.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Doing Everything But

There were a few pats of rain before breakfast and it’s still grey in the sky and sultry – but only a bit, without ominousness or tension. It’s just as though a shade is half-down on the town. The door to our balcony is open and the fan above me turns lazily, and that’s one of my favourite things in the tropics, a slow turning fan. If I concentrate on the filmy curtains half drawn across the doorway, I notice them stir minutely every three or so rotations. I sit, I gaze, there is little movement in my field of view beyond the curtains, just sleeping boats tethered in the river, houses and buildings and not many moving cars. It’s a time to be still, and listen to the morning sounds: hum of the air-conditioning unit next door. Screeches and warbles of the local birds, who I don’t know yet. Surely some of them must be parrots, they screech so.

Yesterday I drove Hayden out to the refinery to pick up his uniforms, his hard hat and his new boots. As we stood waiting at the security gate, I watched the workers coming out at the end of their shift – hard, red, shiny faces, jeans and boots and grimy green work shirts, men and women. I was never more of a seven-year-old girl dressed in a party frock. My hair was scraped into a high perky pony-tail and I felt so pasty soft and white. Perhaps I should just get a job, any one, but you know what? I’m just not quite ready for that. Not yet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Arrivé !

I've set up my tiny shop in our one-month-for-free serviced apartment. All the furniture here is made of cane, tinged a fake sun-bleached blue. I am sitting on a cane couch, my laptop is perched on a cane side-table. I tell myself that I'm the Professor, but like Mary-Ann I keep hopping up to the cane fridge for a glass of iced tea, which I sip standing at the cane bar. Also like Mary-Ann, I'm wearing the cutest little 1960s tie-in-the-front bikini.

Yesterday we visited the aquarium, and here is a photo of me smiling nervously next to a giant fish: