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: