Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The sun's back, everyone look busy!

The rain has gone, and the sun has come back. It is time to get everything back in order.

My balcony potplants are bursting with new growth, including this one (I know, I know, a fungus is not a plant):

And finally, even, the Body Corporate sent around a couple of plumbers to have a look at where our house is leaking. It had stopped leaking by the time they came around, of course, so they had to hose the side of the house to try to make it leak again before they could have a look. After an hour they didn't have a clue about the leak, but they did fix our bathroom taps which apparently hadn’t been sealed to the correct standard. Thanks, boys.

Monday, January 30, 2006

N E 1 4 …?

Last night, Sunday night, we got all dressed up but in the end we had nowhere to go.

Saturday we spent in the usual fashion, lazing around the house reading the paper and, after Rage finished, watching a bit of the tennis. I ended up catching a fair bit of this year’s Australian Open, actually. I got a little bit interested last year, when we had actual tennis players staying in the hotel in our street (we never saw anyone famous, all we saw were were the chauffers going to pick them up. Lleyton Hewitt must have been close by though; soon after the tournament his picture appeared in our favourite nearby Mexican restaurant where they already had a burrito named after Aggassi on the menu). This year, being home by myself so much during the day, I fell into the habit of putting the tennis on in the background while I pottered around the house.

On Saturday, we got the local paper as well as the national one that I like to read in order to feel connected with the rest of Australia. The local paper ran a bit of a critique of the bars and clubs of Townsville, and it got me thinking that we really haven’t been giving them a fair chance. The article pointed out that, contrary to our initial impressions, not all of the pubs and bars around here are blokey, redneck pick-up joints. Many of them are. But there are a couple (yes, more than one) that are quite nice bars where a girl can take her boyfriend for a quiet drink. I thought it was high time we got to know some of these places and, as a low-key introduction, I invited Hayden to go and watch the men’s tennis final with me at The Brewery, a bar that reportedly had a massive telly screen and served some tasty Brazilian beers.

The women’s final (on Saturday afternoon) was pretty dramatic, I thought, and by Sunday afternoon I was getting pretty excited about our night on the town. We even got a bit dressed up: my hair was washed and dried, and Hayden put on whole pants, not just three quarters. But it was to no avail. The bar was closed. And so were many of the others. Townsville is not a town that is interested in tennis. Or in quiet Sunday evening drinking. But that’s OK. It was still pretty fun watching at home, drinking coronas and eating take-away pizza straight out of the box.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Calmer now, with Tea

The rain has paused for a moment and though I haven’t broken out the jeans and jumpers like many Townsvillans, I am celebrating the cooler temperature today by enjoying a cup of tea. Lavender tea. I can’t believe it. After searching high and low for it in Melbourne, it turns up in my local shop in North Ward. OK, so it’s not officially tea, it’s dried lavender flowers with which, apparently, Moroccans like to lace their tagines. But I don’t care because I’m drinking it like tea, and it looks just like the lavender tea I had once in the Moroccan crepe bar at the bottom of Collins Street. And it was sold to me just like it was a food or a spice, and so I couldn’t poison myself by drinking it, could I?

Anyway, it tastes delicious and the effect is amazing, just like a lavender bath from the inside.

Inside-out Palm Trees! A Hoot!

Yesterday, on Australia Day, it was funny. Hayden joined me for my morning walk along The Stand, even though it was raining and the wind was whipping the palm trees inside out. Just imagine any footage you have ever seen of when cyclonic conditions hit a holiday town: the streets all grey and empty, the sun umbrellas folded away and the palm trees getting battered to shreds by the wind. Poor palm trees. Originally, Townsville’s waterfront was populated by mangroves and mudflats, which withstood the extremes of the weather here in a much more dignified way. Oh, except for during that big cyclone of 1996 (or was it 97?), which ripped into all the mangroves and tore up the parkland there as well. After that, they town planners decided to rebuild the beachfront in a much more upmarket style. If you want to see the effect they were going for, you should have a look at SBS’s Remote Area Nurse, on Thursday nights. It’s true that the acting in that show is pretty flimsy at times, but the location is real and very beautiful. (And note, on that show, when they refer to the ‘big city down south’ they don’t mean Sydney or Melbourne, they mean Townsville – that’s a clue right there). The beachfront in Townsville is a not-very-good copy of what you will see on RAN. It serves its purpose though, and yesterday, despite the inclement weather, we saw many people walking and jogging along the Strand. We also saw one family stubbornly preparing for their Australia Day barbie: the husband was having a fine time drinking his beer and poking the sausages, but his wife was having a bit of trouble keeping the kids happy while trying to stop the paper plates from flying away.

While we walked home and got on with the business of having a lazy indoor Thursday holiday, the rain continued to fall. It was quite impressive. Through the windows I admired the new green shoots on many of the plants. The rain got heavier, but it was still funny, even as the pool started to overflow, look:

And a new creek formed down our driveway:

And it was all very funny because we were all snug and dry and safe in the knowledge that this time we hadn’t left any windows open. Not like that other time.

It rained all through the night last night and I slept so well, and this morning it was so pleasant to wake up in 27º rather than 29º. But when I sat down at my desk this morning, my feet were the first to know that the water has started to come inside again. The rain is coming into our house up through the ground. It’s different when it’s not my fault. It’s infuriating because the real estate has offered no help at all. It’s not all that funny any more.

Monday, January 23, 2006

More about the weather, sorry

I am sorry that I’m going to talk about the weather again. But it has such an impact on me. Right now the glass is at 999 and falling, now 998, and that means that there is definitely a Storm Approaching. It is too hot and humid to think or talk, and even Castle Hill is looking gloomy:

I’m sorry now that I tried to change the blog’s header and I am very sorry about how it turned out. I don’t know how to fix it or get it back to normal. I think the internet hates me.

Despite my grumpy tone today, I did have a nice weekend. I planted some mint that I had sprouted from a packet of supermarket herbs, and I bought an aloe vera plant from the Sunday markets in the mall. Most of the rest of Sunday we spent in the pool, right up until it was time to take Nikki to the airport, and say goodbye.

Luscious Frangimapannis

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm glad I'm not on the dole

... because then I would have to explain how I spent your tax dollars and all of Tuesday putting these little coloured beads onto strings, to make bracelets small enough for only fairies to wear.

Ah, but it was such fun!

The other night, our current houseguest Nikki took Hayden and me out to Townsville's African Restaurant (have I mentioned before about how Townsville seems to have just one of everything you could need? well, it has an African restaurant, just one). Though the food was very good, the service was a bit slow, and we noticed that there was only one waitress doing all of the running around. She explained to us that the other waiters were out that evening, performing African music for the Mayor of Townsville. Impressive, we thought.

While we were eating, the other waiters/musicians arrived back at the restaurant and set up their drums to show us what they had been playing for the Mayor. It was a brilliant performance, and one very cute Namibian drummer (who had taken a shine to Nikki) brought a set of bongos and a shaker to our table, so we were able to join in the performance. Later, when he came to clear away our glasses, he told us that every Thursday night they have a cultural (ie dancing) night at the restaurant. I'm looking forward to a bit more of those African rhythms tonight.

PS, the beads were three packets for $3.20 from Crazy Clarks, and each packet comes with three metre lengths of string - highly recommended!

Monday, January 16, 2006

This rain, it’s making me sad

We left a lounge room window open one night recently. It was the night of a big downpour, through which we both slept like babies. Water gushed. And gushed and gushed. A new lake formed in our lounge room. The floor there is tiled, which made the clean-up operation pretty straightforward (especially for me – Hayden had gotten up at 4am to go for a long run, and found the mini lake in the lounge room and cleared it mostly away even before I had woken up). But unfortunately not all of the water could be got at, and some of it has eked its way into the carpet in the next room. My study. Where I had all my important papers neatly arranged and filed. On the floor.

That was a couple of nights ago, and I have to say that I’m disappointed at the way the dampness hasn’t dissipated. And the smell hasn’t improved. I suppose this now calls for some kind of desperate cleaning and drying action. Ugh.

On a happier note, this is a picture of the rain on my potplants:

and this is a picture of a stone staircase to the sky, which has indeed turned blue again.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's raining

Ever since I said that about how it's always fine and 33 here, I’ve been wrong. Just look:

It’s raining right now. The dry riverbeds are filling up. Water is going over the roads. I don’t think it is going to stop. Instead of going for a walk this morning, I just sat out on the balcony with my cup of coffee and listened to it. It’s lovely, gentle, continuous rain in big docile drops – not at all like Melbourne’s nasty fine needles.

Yesterday I ran all over town, shopping, going to the post office, the hairdresser, the library, the employment agency, but today my to-do list is blank. Which is nice.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Crystal Creek

I am exhausted today. Hayden is training hard for the Ironman race in March, and – I thought I was helping – I ran along with him for two hours on Saturday. Oh, I didn’t run as far as he did. I ran about half as far as he did, or even less. We were on adjoining treadmills at the gym.

On Sunday I woke up aching exactly everywhere. Hayden was fine. He was happy to have a fairly quiet day at home, but I was sore and bored, and I wanted to drive somewhere.

He suggested Crystal Creek.

Yes, extremely beautiful. But a bit of a pity it was overcrowded. And typically, there was quite a macho vibe with all the blokes jumping off the high rocks and their chicks screaming when their cigarettes got splashed.

So we continued up the road to Jarouma Falls, which in the late afternoon were nearly deserted.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pass tense

Sometimes I catch myself thinking, as I used to when I lived in more temperate climes, “it’s such a gorgeous sunny day, I shouldn’t waste it inside!” But really, the days here are all sunny and clear. The forecast for us is always the same: fine and 33º. And as I was telling Jan on the phone last night, if you watch the part of the evening weather when they show the time-lapse pattern of clouds moving over Australia, you will see that the clouds swirl across the northernmost tip of Queensland and up from the south across the bottom of the state, but they never seem to cross that point on the coast, just above halfway, where Townsville is. So I was surprised this morning when I wandered down to the rockpool and saw that the sky was overcast. I wanted to take a picture to show the sea a deep strange metallic aqua, and the marbly effect on Magnetic Island with all its dents and hills emphasised under the clouds. I went back and fetched the camera before I realised that its batteries are still flat. Sorry.

Everything else was the same as usual down on the Strand this morning; bobbing heads within the stinger nets showed where people were swimming; little kids were fighting under the outdoor showers while their parents stood by with their arms full of towels, hats, swimming noodles and car keys; a youngish fellow lounged incongruously against a palm tree, his pallor quite grey. He was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, which is nothing but eveningwear in Townsville. He might as well have been wearing a tux or a ball gown. He obviously spent the night on the sand.

Recently I have been spending too much time reading this site and this one, both written by bitter snarky literary agents, and it has been giving me headaches. I read them to try to learn a little bit about what happens when you want to become a published author. You see, I am trying with all my might to teach myself about writing. I have heard a lot of criticism of the creative writing courses that you can do, mainly that they turn out uniform, unemployable writers and masses of unwanted, pale, flabby text, and that the best thing about doing them is that you get loads of free time to read. I already have loads of free time for reading, plus I have two qualifications that I am already not using and I am loathe go into major debt for a third, so it suits me to listen to that criticism. But it is sometimes difficult trying to work it all out on my own. There are whole shoals of people waiting to tap into my desire to be a writer and they’ve all got something to sell: ‘how-to’ books or online courses or whatever. I have to choose who to listen to, who to believe, and so I have been reading those two because they are not paid to write their blogs, and they seem to talk about what actually happens in the business. I have been listening to what they say about the need for writing to have substance and plot and internal dramatic sense.

I agree that a story should have internal dramatic sense. Every good book has it, even the most flowery like Proust and probably even Joyce. It is like the physics of writing. Necessary but painful. Anyone who has known me since high school knows that I am pretty much dyslexic when it comes to physics; in fact anything maths or sciencey. For me, doing a sum is like the bad dream in which I am at a dinner party where everyone is eating daintily with silver cutlery except for me, because my arms have for some reason shrivelled to stumps and I must chase the food around my plate with my mouth. I simply don't have the necessary equipment. So I try to avoid as much as possible.

Even the physics of storytelling is torture for me, and that is what has been causing the headaches. I have been waking up with a sore neck and sometimes a sore back and I have been blaming our saggy mattress, the fan we have on all night, my pillow, everything but the real cause of the problem. It got so bad that I even went to have the tension massaged out of me professionally. And then I thought about giving up on writing and trying to become a masseuse instead. And then yesterday, finally, I came home in the heat and quiet of the middle of the day and put on my How To Speak French CD and listened to the lovely French man say Qu’est-ce que vous preferez? ("What do you prefer?") and Je l’aime beaucoup mieux comme ca ("I like it much better that way") and I finally relaxed properly and let my mind float away with language. Ahh language. Language and words. That’s what got me into this.

Friday, January 06, 2006


I am meant to be looking for work this week, but I just haven’t been able to … you know … start on it. Instead I was sorting though my old birthday cards and I found one from Grandma with $50 in it! Thanks again, Grandma!

Also, I just got a cheque in the mail from the Real Estate, reimbursing me for the money I spent on cutting keys. I never realised that when they said they would pay me back, they actually meant it. $30! Ha!

Feel so rich I don’t need to work, after all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Us n Maggie

Hayden and I NYE’d, camping, on the lovely Magnetic Island. It was great. It was so relaxing. It was amazing how different to Townsville. Magnetic is only 8 km off the coast, but it felt like we were in another country altogether. There is a line you cross when you exit the greyish-greenish waters of Townsville and enter the pure North-Queensland-aqua waters of Magnetic. You pull into the harbour surrounded by massive boulders and native trees. You disembark from the boat quietly and step aboard a bus that takes you to the other side of the island. There is something about it that was like an injection of 50 yoga classes’ worth of calm straight into the base of my spine.

I realised how good it is for my general wellbeing to go camping every once in a while. I don’t know why that is; maybe I just love the discomfort and inconvenience of it.

I also realised that Townsville truly is the ugly navel of an extremely beautiful part of the world. Don’t get me wrong; Townsville is a pretty good place to live. It’s quiet and slow and cheap, and it’s got everything we need – apart from dear old friends and family, of course. But the best part about it is its proximity to all these amazing places to visit, and I’ve heard that there is a line, similar to the line between the grey and aqua waters, which divides the rocky dry ground of Townsville and, say, the lush verdure around Bowen and the coast near the Whitsundays.

Somewhat sneakily, the camera packed up just before we got to the best bits. But here are some snaps of us at Noodies’ restaurant (I know, I thought it was going to be a noodle bar too, but actually the name refers to Balding Bay, the nudist beach nearby. We met the couple who run the restaurant; such relaxed, tanned people, just like a good many of the Maggie Island locals. It was very good to visit a tourist spot where the locals are more relaxed than the visitors).

Monday, January 02, 2006

Update on my hair

A while ago back in Melbourne I wanted to save all that time I was wasting on washing the conditioner out of my hair, so I bought a spray bottle of leave-in conditioner. I sprayed it on but it left my hair feeling like fine dry straw, but sticky. Yucky.

This morning, feeling lazy, I tried the spray on conditioner again and it worked! All I needed to do was spend two months swimming every day in either the sea or the chlorine pool, to make my hair so so distraught that fine dry straw was an improvement. Yay.