Monday, December 18, 2006

X Fest Mess

This year I’m calling it X-mas, and not just because it's easier to spell. This year, in contrast to all other years, I’m really noticing the inconsistencies and gross incongruities of it all: the reindeer, the cheery over-dressed fellow handing out presents, the Christian nativity story which, to tell the truth, I never really re-examined since I learned it for the play we did at kindy: a bearded man leads his donkey and his wife down the main street of Bethlehem, they are refused accommodation by two innkeepers before the third one lets them sleep out in the shed; then we see a star and three wise men travelling across the desert, and when we look back to Joseph and Mary, a baby Jesus doll has appeared in the manger! Whatever a manger is. The three wise men then place gifts at the manger’s feet, and all the angels dressed in white bed sheets and bits of tinsel crowd around and sing It’s a Small World After All. I always played the part of an angel, but that seemed alright to me at the time because I liked singing so much better than talking.

It’s pretty obvious that Christmas was never meant to be held in Australia. All those poor scruffy Santa’s in the shopping centres, all the winter food, the bright cosy-making decorations, when quite clearly it is much too hot for all of that. But the parts I do like are the fairy lights on peoples' houses, because it is nice when it’s finally cool enough to go for a walk in the evenings and have a look at what the neighbours have done to their place; and I like the impulse of the family to retreat from the various far-flung places we have strayed over the year, and gather back together around one table at home. The gift-giving thing I actually like as well, even though it does cause a bit of stress in the leading-up. People say that it’s not good to emphasise to children the materialism of getting presents, but I think it’s lovely to emphasise the thoughtfulness and satisfying feeling of giving things away.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we scrapped the current version of X-mas and replaced it with something more climate-appropriate, but I can't really imagine what we would replace it with. I think we're stuck with the mess of X-mas. Hayden and I are extending ours by visiting both our families plus a bit more of New Zealand and a stop in Sydney on the way home. See you after it's all over.

Monday, December 11, 2006

All Photos By Hayden

Hayden has ramped up his triathlon training after deciding to have another crack at the New Zealand Ironman in March next year.

Quite often I find ways to come along and keep him company when he's training (for example, when we cycle on a 2km loop and I "race" him by trying not to let him lap me more than once every round), but yesterday I overstepped the mark entirely by entering a mini triathlon of my own while Hayden stood on the sidelines with the camera.

We swam the tranquil but lilly-infested Aplin’s Weir

cycled off into suburbia

and finished with a short run under the trees.

I came away tired, but with a renewed appreciation for the riverside parks in the middle of Townsville, plus a brand new appreciation of how difficult it is to swim in a straight line without lane ropes beside you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

And Look!

I've finished my first two sewing projects: the first was a pin cushion, and the second a wrap-around skirt (pictured while hemming was in progress). I'm pretty pleased with both of them; hardly any dodgy unplanned nips and tucks at all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Thing

I’ve always found it easy to invest in functional equipment and tools, anything with added usefulness, mechanical parts, or the potential to act as a conduit to creativity. Last time it was a laptop, and this time it is a sewing machine. I love my new thing, but I haven’t yet started on working it out. I’m slightly worried that once I get going, I’ll end up just like the lady who sold it to me, who was wearing a puckery purple home-made skirt suit with appliqué decorations atop each shoulder pad.

I had to go home and watch Pretty in Pink just to get back on track.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Month of Christmas

I’m not feeling Christmassy yet, even though December is here and that means that the retail prelude is over and the real build-up to Christmas may begin. I learnt today that the word the Finnish use for December translates to ‘Christmas Month’, and I like their dedication and clear statement of the Christmas timeframe. It underlines the point of the advent calendar, which is my favourite Christmas tradition, even though it’s a bit difficult to participate in. It takes a lot of preparation to have an advent calendar that isn’t a piece of crappy cartoon merchandise filled with rubbery low-grade chocolates.

Signs of the more Aussie Christmas are here as well: it’s hot, and there are cherries available in the supermarket. (Also, there are mangoes dripping from every big tree in our street, but mangoes are more a sign of summer, I think, than of Christmas. The two are very separate in my mind). I have taken our Christmas lights out of their rest-of-the-year hiding spot … but I haven’t put them up yet. I don’t know what I’m waiting for. A signed invitation from Rudolf?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Excessive Leisure Shows on Feet

My feet are looking very leisured. Just the other day I had my first ever pedicure, which resulted in blood-red shiny Dracula-style toenails, and then this morning after aqua aerobics class I stood in the sun too long yapping with the other ladies; I came home to find I have a new flip flop tan line across each foot.

More news as it happens ..

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Warm again in Townsville today. Warm enough for me to apply cooling peppermint foot lotion all over my arms and legs as well. It worked a treat.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Not altogether sorry to be leaving work

Yesterday was quite warm in Queensland’s North West, and as I showered in preparation for flying home in the afternoon, it got so warm as to be a verging on unpleasant in the tiny airless caravan bathroom. I was not very pleased when I turned on the cold tap and boiling warm water gushed out. The pipe that supplies the camp with water from the bores is laid above ground, which means that it really is impossible to have a cool shower after a hot day. But anyway, when I drew the shower curtain across I found I was sharing with this little frog! Such a cutie, and very clearly as surprised to see me as I was to see her (it must have been a she-frog in the girls showers, no?).

It is hard to permanently dampen my spirits on fly-home day. It is extremely lovely to be home now, and when I arrived I was greeted by so much bounty: for one, our flat seems like a spacious palace compared to the donger I stay in on site, and for another, Hayden has stocked up on all sorts of things I like to eat, plus many extra and extravagant birthday gifts.

Third, we have bounty in our tiny balcony garden: a fat green tomato, three lemons nearly the size of lemon-shaped golf balls, an enormous jalapeno chilli, basil enough to supply the world with pesto and a mysterious something growing keenly out of the compost pot. I have my suspicions about what it is, but I’m going to try to make sure before I tell.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Contrast & Irony

You'll agree it's ironic that the thing most appealing to me about working out at the mine is its surrounding landscape - of course, the landscape is the thing that is most altered by the activity of mining. I've been assuming that you got that.

It did strike me rather bluntly though, this morning as I was clearing all my old photo's off the work computer.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Race Day

I’m not fussed about the Melbourne Cup. I only went to see it once when I was in Melbourne, and only then because I was already living in Flemington – it seemed rude not to slap on my hat and waddle 100m down to the track to watch it in person.

I did catch it on the radio today. I had driven around to the other side of the pit from where the office is, to the West side where the truck drivers sit around in between times, smoking and flicking through FHM. There’s not much over there, just dirt and flies and huge machinery and picnic tables in the 40° sun, so I went directly into the crib hut to see a bloke about the whatsaname, and when I came out, my car was full of miners! About five of them had zoomed in there like flies; they were sitting in silence with the aircon and the race turned up on full. I sat in there and listened with them, but without much interest as I hadn’t even entered the sweep. It cost $50 to enter – and who’s got $50 to throw away on some horse that runs slow? Oh, miners do. People who get paid sh*tloads to work out in the middle of nowhere, that’s who.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Smoky Sunrise

I think I mentioned ages ago that my job at the mine site is finishing up. So why am I sending you a picture of the sun coming up from behind a pile of dirt? Because there has been another bushfire at our door, and it has been making for the most beautiful sunrises.

Like many temp jobs, this one is stretching out just a little longer than anyone anticipated. I think I said at the start that it was only going to be two months..

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I don’t think I’ve ever been mistaken for a country girl. Actually, I don’t think I would have much fun living in regional Queensland without a few key props from urban life: books, CDs & movies, face cream, coffee beans and the particular multivitamins I like I have sent up especially from Brisbane and Melbourne. But I don’t like to give myself a hard time about it; I spent a good six months when we first arrived here, testing out the products that are available in the local shops, before I gave in and decided that it would be easier and better for everyone if I acknowledged that Townsvillians’ tastes run differently to mine, and that I should just order in what I like.

When it came to bathers, it was pretty obvious that what was on sale in the local shops would not do (totally trashy, cheap and ill-fitting to boot). My current costume was clearly not up to a punishing third season, so the only thing was drive to Cairns for a shopping trip.

It was a lovely trip. One hundred-percent-successful, and the best part was christening my new togs at The Boulders (at Babinda just south of Cairns) on the way home.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Big Night

All is abuzz at work today. Cars are being washed down, ratty old garden beds are being weeded and all the dust is being blown out of the carpark, because the CEFO is coming to visit. That’s the C-E-Fuckin-O. Last time we had some hob-nobs from the big city to stay, the mine managers decided that it would be nice for them to have sunset drinks at the edge of the pit. The day before the visitors were due to arrive, dozers were brought in to build a special platform and a marquee was put up upon it. Unfortunately, later in the day, the wind got up under the marquee and blew it over the edge and down into the bottom of the pit. Damn. So down they drove, picked up the tent, dusted it off and tried again.

This time they’re going for a simpler look. They're still going to have drinks at the edge of the pit at sundown, and this time they’re serving dinner for the special guests while the operators continue on into night shift. But they’re not putting up no flappy marquee. They’ve parked up a massive Komatsu 830E dumptruck as a windbreak. That’ll do the trick.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Barbie

My birthday present to Hayden has taken us a step closer to the ultimate Townsville lifestyle. I got him a barbie. I decided on it after a long brainstorming session with a couple of the blokes from work. It went something along these lines:
"Get him voucher for BCF, he'll love ya!"
"Nah... get him a jetski. If a girl got me a jetski, I'd know she was truly committed to the relationship."

After that, a barbie seemed a fair compromise.

What with me being away at work for so long, and a couple of nights earlier in the week being tempered with a bit of wind and rain, it was not until last night that we inaugurated the thing, with a couple of kangaroo steaks and harmless chilli peppers. They were delicious.

Even so, I’m not going to do any more - at present - to propel us further towards the ultimate Townsville lifestyle. I’m shying away from saying the words, because I know that many people from other countries don’t understand how Australians can allow animals from their coat of arms to be farmed and butchered and sold in the shops … let alone actually going out and shooting the roos themselves. Don’t worry everyone, we’ll stop way before we get to that.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

No Whingers

Rule number one of blogging is: don’t whinge about work. The previous post notwithstanding, I’m trying my best here to comply with the rule.

I have been working some long hours and some long stints all through September and into October, and so you might surmise (and you’d be right) that I have collected up a good number of niggles, complaints and issues. Just appreciate my self-restraint as I whinge about only one of them.

The sad fact is that I’m not going to get my permanent part time job. It’s not that they have retracted the offer of the job. It’s that they are no longer offering it to me in the form in which it was initially offered. You might say I have been gypped. Apparently, there are no part-time jobs in the mining industry, and apparently there never will be.

I’m not too bitter about it though, actually I’m not that bitter at all. A job that is 50% filing lost, is a whole-lot-of-hours-spent-not-filing gained. I’ve still got a couple of stints to go, before I finish up working for the mine entirely. And now that I know that I definitely won’t be asked to work over Christmas and New Year, I feel I have a lot less to complain about straight up.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mine Fog

Lovely sunrise this morning. The dry and the dust and the smoke from the bushfires that are headed our way really bring out the colours as the sun peeks over the horizon, and I love the new east-facing window through which I get to see it.

I’m trying not to tell you what I was up to while I was watching the sunrise this morning, Sunday morning. I’d rather you thought I had been out drinking and dancing all night, or perhaps up early for a camping trip or a long drive … but no, I was filing. My new job is extremely heavy on the paperwork, and I was filing before the sun was up.

Just you think yourself lucky.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hayden Goes To the Mine

As a special treat this stint, and because it was going to be his birthday while I was away, my boss arranged for Hayden to fly out to the mine to visit me over the weekend. We had a smashing time. It was fun showing Hayden where I work, but it was even better on Sunday when I took the day off and we drove out to Lawn Hill National Park.

It was such a special and unusual treat. Before we could leave the mine lease we had to confirm with security exactly what time we were leaving and coming back, and that we were sufficienty prepared in the way of spare tyres, first aid kits, emergency beacons and drinking water. The security guy escorted us to the back gate of the mine lease (about 5km away from the mine), and then let us loose into the outback. It was the furthest out back that either of us had ever been before, and that was quite exciting in itself. But we drove no more than half an hour before we reached the campground/petrol station/pub and shop at Adel's Grove. Hayden had to remind me to take the keys out of the car with me (at work we always leave the car parked facing forward with the keys in the ignition in case of an emergency) and we went into the shop to ask for directions to the gorge. The lady behind the counter gave me a bit of a funny look before she explained that there was only one road to take. I suppose it would have been clear if we had driven for days across the middle of Queensland to get there like everybody else. We took that one road, and we got to our canoeing spot in no time.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Flying Home

I have come home for a flying visit, just a long weekend until Tuesday as I have switched jobs at the mine and consequently changed my roster.

It will be a pretty long stint, but worth it in the end. My new job in the Safety Environment Health and Training department (previously I was in Operations) will soon whittle itself down to something approximating part time work. I might have mentioned that it has been a goal of mine for a while now, to find a good permanent part time job. It's a pity I found it several hundred kms from the rest of civilisation.

But I don't think it should come as that much of a surprise. I have always liked wandering off on my own.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

I feel like I just don’t shut up on this blog about swimming. But I have to tell you that I had one of the nicest most relaxing swims ever last night, in the pool at the camp out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by gum trees under a pile of glittery stars.

This is my fourth visit to the mine site, and I am becoming much more relaxed about it all. The first two visits I spent totally overawed at the sheer scale of everything, and the outlandish way of living. It made me question things like, why do we operate on a seven-day week? (Because God said so?) Why do we stop working just because it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon? It seemed to me like the mining company had just created its own version of society, which was perhaps not dissimilar to what Marx had in mind .. the Company providing for all of the material needs, and the workers well, just working. It seemed strangely … successful. I suppose the main difference to the Marxist version is that this one is driven by extreme profit. Oh well.

By my third stint, the novelty and the philosophy were wearing off a bit. This stint, my fourth, is pretty much plain sailing. I’m really enjoying it. My favourite thing by far about it is the landscape. Not the pit itself, but the relatively untouched former cattle station that surrounds it. I took some photos on my walk home from work yesterday, so that you can enjoy some of the Australianness.

I love the form of these low hills. When I flew home last time, I finally got a window seat on the plane and I was able to see that the hills repeat for hundreds of kms in every direction, from the sky it looks just like rumply puppy skin.

When I arrived back at the camp, I found that someone had already put my washing in the dryer and left me suddenly free of chores for the evening, so I slipped into the pool for a quick dip. It was lovely.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Grind

I'm back at work. That's right, I'm a-livin and a-workin in a caravan. (Or as it's known in local parlance, a donga.)

It's not nearly as bad as you might imagine. Ok, sometimes I wish I could just get off at Parliament Station, string my scarf around my neck, grab a reliably delicious coffee from The European and stride off down Spring Street to do my important work for the State of Victoria, knowing full well that by lunchtime I would be window-shopping, eating sushi and talking on the phone all at the same time just like an archetypal city chick planning an evening of drinking fine wine and watching foreign films.

But not often.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Computer Goggles

On Friday, the optometrist told me that all the staring I do at the computer screen has actually been harming my eyes (what??) and so this afternoon instead of reading other peoples’ blogs or doing ‘research’ on the internet or even doing any writing of my own, I have been sitting in the lounge room painting my toenails and looking out the window at the birds squabbling in our bottlebrush tree, which has just come into flower. The lorikeets have most of the territory and they have been defending it most raucously. They can’t stand it when any noisy miners turn up, but they will tolerate some of the tiny little brown birds who have a very pretty song.

I’m hoping my new glasses will be ready before I have to go to work on Thursday. I don’t know if I can hold out for two whole weeks of work with no play on the internet. Either way, I'm pretty sure that blog posting will be spotty until I get them.

Whitsundays Weekend

You might think that because we live by the ocean the idea of a beachside holiday would hold no sway for us. However, we just had the best long weekend mini-break ever, in the Whitsunday Islands just a couple of hours drive down the coast.

We took a boat out through the islands to snorkel on the Reef, we glimpsed humpback whales off the starboard bow, we got back to dry land and ate the most delicious sushi we've had in oh, say, 10 months and my favourite part, we got up in the morning and stepped straight into our still damp swimming togs to do it all over again.

I'm going to tell you more about it, I promise. I'm just too relaxed at the moment.

But let me just mention here how this morning, back at home, I was trying my best to extend that holiday feeling when I decided to start off my day with a swim in the ocean. After Hayden left for work, I put on my togs and went down to the beach. Feeling refreshed and relaxed and ready for some kind of challenge, I put my eye to a small buoy not all that far from the shore, and decided to try for a lap of it. Without any of my usual fuss I plunged straight into the water and began to swim.

Well, the swim out to it was easy and deliciously refreshing, but upon turning around to swim back the other way, I discovered that the tide was coming out. Oh. I swam harder and harder and was a tiny bit scared and started to wish that I had gone to the beach where the lifeguards are, and I stopped putting my face in the water and kept my eyes on the beach and eventually made it back into water shallow enough to stand up in, and then I walked up on the beach and flopped on my towel, breathing quite hard. I looked at my watch. My little adventure-swim had taken me exactly 11 minutes.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sing like nobody's watching

I saw Casablanca on sale in our local music shop the other day, so I picked it up. I’m so glad that the $10 DVD has finally come to Townsville. It was one thing that we had taken for granted in Melbourne and we really missed it when we first arrived here (what? $29.95 to watch a movie at home?), even though the lack of it probably resulted in us getting out of the house more often. I put the movie on in the background yesterday while I was painting, but this morning I decided to watch it again properly from the start (shut up, I’m on R&R, I can watch a video in the morning if I want to) and I was glad that I did. It really is a very well put together movie, even though the poor old Germans suffer for it. German people in general must be so put out that they’re always being slagged off for what they/Hitler did in the Second World War. They totally must be sick of the English-speaking world going nuts for these old war movies.

Umberto Eco, with whom I usually don’t agree, described the world as “a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth”. I can’t remember where or in what context he said those words, but I choose to believe that he’s referring to our clinging to the notions of right and wrong, of good and evil. Of course I don’t want to mention the war. I’m still even tossing up whether to see that movie that is the reconstruction of the events in the plane on September 11. Half of me wants to go and see if there is anything there to help me make sense of what is going on in the world at the moment. And the other half of me just wants to sing loudly with my fingers in my ears “La-la-la-la-la-la”.

There was a question on our recent census that asked what my address was in August 2001. When I answered the question on the form, I thought that they were just asking me if I had moved house since the last census (answer: yes, many many times). But of course they could also have been asking: where were you before the world changed so much?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Work Wear

I have wanted to mention for ages just how much I love wearing Hard Yakka work wear to work. Everyone who works on the mine site must wear high visibility workwear every day, no matter what job they do. Cleaners, payroll assistants, marketing executives, secretaries like me, everyone. I think it’s great. It’s just like wearing highly-reflective pyjamas to the office. Here’s a photo of Hayden in what he wears to work at the nickel refinery (this photo was taken on one of Hayden’s first days in the job, that’s why he looks slightly nervous).

When I’m working at the mine, I wear an outfit pretty similar, except that my shirt is bright safety orange, and my pants are blue with reflective bands at the knees. Overall I’m much more highly visible than Hayden is.

But it’s not the high-visibility of the uniform that I love, it’s the comfort. Not only do I get to wear sloppy loose-fitting clothes, but also I can get as grubby as I like - and it’s expected.

That’s why I have put on my work clothes this afternoon, even though I am at home, a couple of hundred km’s from the office. I’m going to do a spot of painting (inspired by Claire, though sadly without a skerrick of her talent).

Hopefully it’s going to be fun.

The Roulettes

On Saturday, the Roulettes were in town to celebrate the anniversary of Victory in the Pacific. Hayden and I arrived home from our Saturday morning swim to find them swarming around the air above our place like a herd of giant bees. Hayden took the camera down to the beach to get some good snaps of them.

It was a pretty impressive show, and thankfully sans compere, hotdog stand and merchandising. Like I think I mentioned before, Townsville is one of the few places in Australia to have ever been under enemy attack. And, because there is such a large number of actual working soldiers who live here (and it always makes the local news when they are to be shipped out to the next new war zone), the days we commemorate Australian involvement in war are always done with much more tact and taste than I've seen in other cities.

At the end of their show the Roulettes flew off into the distance, and the spectators lined up on the shore were left to calm their dogs and little children.

Long Division

There is a divide in Townsville, and I’m not talking about the divide between black and white, which does exist (and which I am working up to talking about. Stay tuned). The one I’m talking about now is the divide between the haves and the have nots. The divide is this hill, known as Castle Hill.

Castle Hill is a big feature in the townscape. All the roads go about the base of it and the sea air flows around it, creating beautiful afternoon breezes in some places and suffocating stillness in others. Castle Hill divides all that is pleasant in Townsville from all that is flat, brown, suburban, and generally uncivilised. On our side, the Eastern side, is the sea, the parks, the cafes and restaurants. On the other side, and I’ve walked to the top of it and peeked over the other side so I know, there is naught but a flat grid of suburban houses interspersed with massive warehouse-size shops that sell lounge suites and televisions. In every driveway there is a ute, and behind every front-yard fence is a barking dog.

Townsville has a rivalry with nearby Cairns that is not quite as fierce (or as tiresomely talked-about) as the one between Sydney and Melbourne. But there are people around here who feel quite strongly about it and I have noticed that there are many mine employees who chose to live in Cairns rather than Townsville, even though it adds an extra leg to their journey home each fortnight - either five hours on the bus that the mine provides for free or a couple of hundred dollars for an extra return flight each time. That’s easily too much time and/or money for me to consider commuting from Cairns, but like I said, there are a lot of mine workers who do. (There are people who commute from further afield too: Darwin, Adelaide, Christchurch and Bangkok. But that’s another level of hassle altogether).

Those who prefer Cairns generally consider Townsville to be too dry, too ugly and over-populated with boorish yobbos and army dickheads. There is an element of truth to that, (but really, most of it goes on on the West Side of Castle Hill). People who prefer Townsville reckon that Cairns too sultry, too lugubrious, too overgrown and too given over to tourism. And as I see it, Cairns has been lazily and smugly selling itself to Japanese tourists and now, quite late in the piece, Townsville has begun to smarten itself up, much like one of its working citizens who, in preparation for a big night, puts on clean jeans and an ironed shirt and a lot of aftershave (and, most probably, rounds off his outfit with white sneakers and no socks). The tizzing up of Townsville has well and truly begun, and where once Castle Hill was considered an unsightly reminder of the proximity of the desert, it is now considered an interesting feature of the landscape - especially by those who live in the recently gentrified suburbs in its afternoon shadow.

However, there is one feature of trashy Townsville that it just hasn’t managed to cover up: its tattoo.

If you click on one of the pictures, you should be able to see it. It would have been quite a feat to paint it up there in the first place, and when we first moved here it used to irritate me - a stupid tribute to the lengths that some people will go in order to perpetrate such a visible vandalism.

Then I was told by a fairly reliable source that the white graffiti angel has been a feature of Castle Hill since 1963. That's either some very good paint or some consistent touching up over the years. Either way, I better appreciation of it now. It's a piece of historical vandalism. It marks the way that Townsville used to be.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Comforts of Home

I feel I should preface this with a *whinge alert*.

Last time I was home on R&R, back when it was still July, we were having a pizza picnic in the park when we saw a mate of Hayden’s from work who said by way of small talk: “Well, I hope you enjoyed winter,” and I said “What? Is it over already?” and the smile dropped from his face and he said “Yes”. Summer around here, as I already mentioned numerous times all the way through November – March (see archives), is a long hot form of torture. I did not want to believe that the pleasantness of winter was over. I went back out to the mine where it is far too far west for the change of seasons to have arrived yet.

When I arrived home again yesterday, I found that the worst was true. The evidence is that our home has been re-infested by ants and geckos, who are making themselves comfortable in preparation for the duration of summer. The geckos we still find very cute. The ants less so. Last summer when we first arrived in Townsville, the ants seemed but a small price to pay because our new modern (OK 1990’s) apartment was free from all the hassles of our graciously decaying place in Melbourne (to recap: paint blistering from water seeping down whenever the people upstairs watered their plants; power lost to half the flat due to ancient 1930’s wiring embedded in the plaster; residual anxiety due to the safety risk caused by those two problems together; a bathroom too small to turn around in and a kitchen not much bigger..).

To turn this whinge into something positive, I’m trying to think of some way to learn from the ants. Not that I am going to sacrifice myself for the colony by crawling down into a glass of ribena to drown in the sweet sweet liquid, or crawling up into the honey jar to die an even stickier death. But I do want to do something, so I’m going to get busy. I’m going to be as busy as an ant from now on until the heat comes to town.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tennyson's Birthday

Today is the anniversary of Alfred Tennyson's birth in 1809.

In Tennyson's day, poetry was meant to be read aloud among groups of people, as a form of parlor entertainment, like karaoke.

That's the sort of pasttime I just wish would be magically ressurected. Not by me of course, I hate reading aloud. I just want to be read to.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Music Tourism at the Zinc Mine

I don't know what it is about being out in the country that makes country music so applicable. I mean, I've always been a musical tourist. Much the same way that other people pick up colourful knick-knacks to take home from their holidays, I do like to pick up a bit of the local music and take it home .. where it often sounds garish, tacky and out of place. I've got some really terrible examples of "hard rock" from Italy and "cool jazz" from Spain.

And so it is, out here in the country, with the country music. I just can't get enough of it while I am out here in this wide flat place.

My favourite time to listen to it is on the dark bus ride from the camp down to work in the morning. No one talks much on that 10 minute ride. But I like it. It's very early. It's dark. There's nothing to see but stars and the shadows of trees, and the occasional roo, eyes glowing in the headlights, standing rock-still by the side of the road. It's all so good with some slow, simple, whiny music.

So you better watch out, Hayden. I might just done gonna bring some home with me..

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back In Town

Hayden and I entertained ourselves before the start of a party last weekend, on the balcony of a friend of ours who lives above Townsville's main street. It's another one of those inner-city apartments that don't need to have their own clock because the city hall clock is in plain view from the lounge room window.

[OK, two qualifications: one, Townsville is a town and not a city, so it obviously cannot have an inner-city. It just has an inner-town. Two, the clock tower is not above the city hall, it's actually atop the mini-brewery where they make Townsville Ale, in the bar of which we celebrated Valentines Day this year.]

It turned out to be a really good party, with dancing and everything, but a little sad because it was for two friends who are moving away. One's going to Sydney and the other to Brisbane.

Friday, July 28, 2006


One of the less-romantic things about Hayden and me as a couple is that we function really well as a team. Come on, it’s got to be more romantic to be passionate yet dysfunctional, don’t you think? Teamwork just makes everything manageable. For example, Hayden is really good at cooking dinner and I am happy to do a fair amount of washing up. Also, he’s really good at earning a living while I am content to potter around the house all day in my jammies. Perfect teamwork.

Unfortunately, the last couple of days we’ve both been off sick. It was my fault, because I brought home the most disgusting flu from the mine; by the time I came home I had I lost my voice completely and Hayden couldn’t hear me whispering to him to STAY AWAY from me.. so of course he has come down with the same thing, and it has really mucked up our teamwork arrangement. Basically, I’ve had to do everything for myself. It’s been exhausting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another Day

Same walk, same long meditation past sparkly blue ocean and the same absent breeze. The sameness of the warmth and light and muted sounds remind me of a school day, skived off sick.

The same troupe of new mums power-push their strollers and gossip to whittle baby weight. These same mums, later, must be back at work cos then it’s grandma’s turn to take the kids in her crinkly hands and go down to the beach. There’s nobody school-age or work-age but me.

A skydiver wheels down to land, incredibly, on the same thin lick of sand. Nobody has looked up though. It happens every other day.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sun days

At home again, and alone during the day with nothing to do but think up ways to appease Hayden for my going away so long. I wandered up and down the beach today, thinking perhaps that I could impress him with a winter pudding? Because if now is not mid-winter, then I don’t know when is. The beach was strewn with deck chairs and sun hats and the smell of coconut oil wafted up from warm limbs .. occasionally we talk very unspecifically about one day moving to the South Island of New Zealand - Hayden has a thing for his old university town and I have a thing for new places - but I secretly wonder if we haven’t been just a little bit spoilt for that. Still, there’s ice-cream in the freezer. It’s dying to get out.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home again

I’ve got laryngitis. I've lost my voice.

That’s why it's gone all quiet on this blog.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


I love slang. One of the reasons why I love travelling and trying out different jobs in different industries is that I get to learn a whole batch of new slang each time.

Here are a couple from my recent time on the mine:

1. Parked up

When a truck or a bulldozer breaks down it gets parked up on the side of the road, waiting for maintenance. What I love is when this term gets spread around to include larger bits of machinery for example when, a couple of days ago, the whole rock-crushing facility here (the size of a factory) was parked up for an afternoon.

Even better is when it gets applied to people. The following is an example of real-life mine dialogue:

Supervisor: Where's Goose? Is he coming in today?
Operator: No boss, he crook. He parked up at home.

2. "He's got a brand new smile"

If you get into a fight in the bar and you rock up to work the next day with a tooth missing, that's what everyone's going to be saying about you.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I had thought that by not bringing a camera with me on this trip to the mine, I would force myself to sit down and describe in words what's been going on.

Eh, but it's just work.

I like it, though, how on Saturdays and Sundays the mine somehow maintains an air of 'weekend', even though we're all working our usual long day. Something to do, I think, with the fact that the upper-bosses aren't around to generate stress for us minions.

Today is our first sunny day after a couple of rain. The rain was beautiful shining on the gum trees up at the camp, but down in the mine it just made mud. A lot of slippery mud.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Less Said in Haste

Our street is one of many in Townsville that are covered with pink flowers at the moment. It's just like it was almost a year ago when we first came here on a flying visit.

I thought about that a bit (not too much) this morning as I took a walk along the shore to Rowes Bay. I wanted to get some snaps of the water to take with me when I go back to the mine at Lawn Hill. I'm putting one here mainly for myself, to look at when I'm shut up in that donger of an office in the shade of a massive pile of dirt, for twelve hours a day. (I am looking forward to going back, truly. But I do admit that I can't really understand why).

Another thing I want to take with me this time is an ipod or similar. Off to purchase that now.


I reckon I was right to get all sentimental about leaving Melbourne in the midst of spring last year. Regardless of the pink profusion above, I knew that I was going to miss the 'in between' seasons.

I was browsing through the atlas this morning (don't worry, I'm not going anywhere) and I came accross two specimens of delicate spring flowers that I had tucked away near Canada and the arctic circle at the back of the book. The smaller of the flowers looks particularly pathetic, it was squished between the pages in an inelegant way. There was no way they were going to survive the harshness of Queensland.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Italy V. The Rest of the World

I am still 'jetlagged'. Every morning I wake up like a lamp at around 4:30am, in a way that I never did when I was out at the mine. This morning at least I made good use of it and got up to watch part of the Italy/Germany game.

The Italians are my favourite footballers because of the floppiness of their hair - I have a weakness for such hair, and in the past have been blinded to some pretty serious character flaws because of it - and the drama with which they fall to the ground at the slightest provocation. They do those two things better than anyone else. In fact, they do them so well that I can't believe that they manage to be good footballers as well. I'm backing them to win.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Visiting Toomulla

Yesterday we visited the home of some friends in a beachside village to the north of here. It was one of those times when I got a glimpse of what life could be like if I was somehow freed from my innate inability to settle down in one place: a house facing the beach, a beautiful garden, all matching utensils and plates ...

Later, I took a quick look at Marny's exhaustive itinerary and I knew with a sinking feeling what it was that I really want.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I’m home, and I’m jetlagged. It really is like coming back from a different country. My sleeping is all mucked up from going to bed at 8:30pm and getting up at 4:00am. Townsville seems crowded and noisy. And after 17 days of working straight, I’ve forgotten how to wind down.

Ah well, give me a couple of days …

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flying Out

I'm out of here tomorrow. I'm flying back to the coast in order to bring you more photos of palm trees and Coral Sea ripples.

I've loved my stay in the outback and with any luck I'll be back. It's uncertain, of course. But I don't feel it's time to throw my boots up in a tree and head on out of here barefoot. Not just yet.

PS - If you look closely, you'll see that there are quite a few pairs of boots up there. It used to be the tradition that the last thing you would do before leaving the mine forever was throw your boots up into a tree. Eventually, management sent around a memo asking everyone to please stop doing that, and I think the practice has died out. However they didn't go to the trouble of cutting down all the boots that were already up in trees, so it is possible to see some really weathered boots hanging up all around the camp.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Big Scar

For scale, I've zoomed in on that bend in the road, and you can see a white speck of a car driving up out of the pit:

That's this car: