Batchelor NT

Journal: 045

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Tonight I’m in Batchelor NT, the old Rum Jungle, I think Mary Gaunt’s emponymous Kirkham was a miner here in the 1890s and was chased off by Aborigines. Tonight and for the next seven nights. I was going to stay in daughter Psyche’s spare room in Darwin but she has taken in a Catalonian refugee – who has sent her father, a pro-independence politician, a link to Homage to Catalonia which he apparently enjoyed. The Catalonians last time I heard were very much at odds with Madrid. Perhaps Emma, who lives just “around the corner”, can bring us up to date.

My customer put me up here last night and the mini skirted, champagne drinking proprietoress (my age) made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. No not that offer, cheap rates for a week’s stay AND parking for my truck.

Living and working mostly in the desert you forget how lush and alive the tropics are. Now I’m conscious of them the birds might drive me mad.

To continue on from my last post, I picked Lou up from Perth airport on Sunday night, installed him in my flat. Monday was his birthday. Millie and Ms 16, his niece, baked him a cake and brought it round. Sang happy birthday through the screen door. I’d been getting my truck and trailers serviced so I went round and collected them all, fueled up, hooked up and was on my way. When I left Lou was well into William Gibson but I made sure he had some Australian women to go on with (Lou, look on my shelves for Elizabeth Tan, Rubik, I forgot to get it out).

In the morning I found the site where I was to load. The address was ‘Greenough’ but was in fact 50 kms away on the other side of Walkaway (tiny spots on the map 400 km north of Perth but well known to me for various reasons not least the historic Geraldton to Walkaway railway line). Somehow we loaded 3 shipping containers, some frames and 2 piling rigs onto my three trailers and I was off, up the coast. Short of Carnarvon the first night. Past Port Hedland. Nearly up to Kununurra, the Ord River scheme and the NT Border. Like driving on Xmas Day, almost zero traffic. Though there was a queue of maybe 10 trucks when we were held up north of Hedland for a few hours while the police cleared a rollover, 7 people in it, code for ‘Aborigines’.

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The (first) NT roadblock was at Timber Creek 100 kms in, manned by police. And army, a chilling sight, though the army boys were mostly sitting round reading books. The policeman assigned to me was cheerful and helpful, sprayed the table and folders before he sat me down and got me to fill in a basic form. I volunteered that I would be self-isolating for 14 days at my daughter’s after unloading, but they weren’t prescriptive and I had the option of getting another load and moving on in the normal way. The next couple of roadblocks I was waved through – I think the internal roadblocks are to protect ‘communities’ ie. remote Aboriginal towns. Just on evening I pulled into Batchelor, found my way to the motel and had a welcome (!) shower, drink, airconditioned sleep.

This morning the project manager (for a new solar farm) was not happy about having an unisolated ‘foreigner’ on his site but no one else was working so he let me out of the truck to help with the unloading. By 9 or 10 I was back here, feeling strangely worn out, and for the first time in years have been napping on and off all day.

I have with me – in my work bag. I have another 20 odd books along the bottom of my storage lockers –

Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
Melissa Lucashenko, Too Much Lip
Ngúgí Wa Thiong’o (Kenya), Wizard of the Crow

It will be interesting to see how much reading and writing I get done, more of the latter than the former probably. I feel this is very much an On the Beach situation, which I’ve re-read in the past few years, with central and western Australia the end of the world waiting for the cloud to arrive from China, USA, Italy, Spain, the (Australian) east coast. You guys are already hunkered down in ways that don’t seem quite real out here. And your reactions are quite varied. Sue is concentrating mostly on her parents. The women in my mother’s village seem little changed or concerned though obviously no longer meeting or going to church, an aunt though, just moved up one floor to ‘nursing’, is left almost entirely without exercise or stimulus. Lisa, amazingly, is posting fewer reviews, though plenty of events; Brona, Emma, home from work (I’m guessing) are steadfastly reading, reviewing; Kate too, maybe. Liz, I realise, has dropped off since her last running post; Melanie seems to be home, worried, pressing on. I am blessed to have made so many friends, more than I have briefly mentioned here. I hope you are all well. I hope we all survive.

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31 thoughts on “Batchelor NT

    • I am in the same position with my driving glasses, they have gone fuzzy, the surface I think not my eyes, but I’ve left it too late to get new ones. My prescription hasn’t changed much over the years, I’ll have to delve through the old ones when I get a chance and see if I can find a pair that suits. Not your position I know, but I’m sure there’s a trusty old fashioned optician out there who’ll do the job for you. I see in the paper dentists are closing, so I’ve left that too long too.

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      • You write so often that I sometimes forget what a battle you’re having. How’s the gardening going? Milly went to put in another vegetable patch but of course all the seedlings are sold out.

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  1. I always like seeing pics of your truck Bill (and it seems quite odd seeing it surrounded by lush foliage instead of a dusty roadside).

    Pleased to hear you are being shown hospitality and kindness – each time I’ve been at the supermarket/ chemist in the last few weeks, I’m aware that we need to all strike a balance between being kind to the people on the ‘frontline’ (the health workers and the people delivering bread and the people selling the toilet paper!) as well as keeping them SAFE.

    I am now working from home. And I’m working hard (nothing like a pandemic to make people anxious!). So much so that at the end of the day, I don’t want to stay in front of the computer and write any reviews… not sure if/when I’ll catch up. Strange times for all.

    Travel safely and take care.

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    • I have found police and heavy vehicle inspectors really easy to get on with these last few years and genuinely helpful. I think I must be mellowing in my old age! The people up here I’m sorry to say mostly laugh about virus precautions so it’s a good thing their government is taking them seriously, otherwise I imagine the pubs and restaurants would be as packed as usual.

      Has any of your practice moved on to skype or phone? I think I would prefer to look into the warm comforting eyes of my counsellor.

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      • My practice has moved fully to telephone. This transition has been easy for clients I know well and all readily said they’d prefer phone to nothing. It’s trickier with clients that require an interpreter (I have a few of those) and the handful I’ve only met once. Starting from scratch on the phone is fine – it’s a different energy but people are quickly adapting.

        I was relieved to see that extra funding is being provided for telephone health and counselling services, particularly in relation to domestic violence which will skyrocket.

        I am trying to feel anxious about people not observing social distancing (it’s out of my control!) and hope that it’s policed in a way that people get the message.

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      • I read a long story in the Atlantic today about Americans and it suggested disobeying rules about social distance was a form of rebellion, an assertion of rugged American independence. The implication was idiotic but understandable.

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  2. Very glad to hear from you and the you made it up there. Loved your little round-up at the end of your blogging friends – thanks. I feel chuffed to be included among your friends. And you comment about Lisa not reviewing as much made me laugh, because I’ve noticed that too. These are indeed really strange times. Lull before the storm – but when will the storm come and how big will it be?

    I hope the fact that you felt strangely worn out doesn’t mean you have the virus! Maybe this trip, with all that’s going on, the road blocks etc, has been more mentally tiring?

    I hope Lou’s isolation is going well. You’ll have to report on what he thought of the Australian women writers he reads.

    Meanwhile, keep safe.

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    • Lou rang me last night for instructions on using the oven. He was using his time to cook a proper meal, not something I’ve done for years.
      I’m not sure why I was so bushed yesterday, although it was partly the heat and working outside. Anyway I slept like a baby all night, so I think I was catching up, and this morning I’m fine. And asymptomatic!
      Lou is very perceptive in his reading and sometimes writes me a few lines but I don’t imagine I’ll talk him into a review. He’s finished Gibson now and moved on to Convenience Store Woman (i think they were the only two non-Australians I pulled out for him).

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    • You remind me that I actually meant to write a literary post. Ernestine Hill and Robyn Davidson at Hammellin Pool, Daisy Bates at Cossack and Roebuck – from where she set out on “3,000 miles in a Sidesaddle”. Hill catching a lift with Michael Durack to the NT border, and later, down from the highway to Marble Bar, Nullagine and Jigalong. Ion Idriess’s Nemarluk, set in the rocky country of the last day of my trip, around Victoria River. Leaving aside Geraldton boy Randolph Stow (because it’s years since I read him) there’s Papertalk Green, Alice Nannup, Nene Gare all from around there, van Neerven set some of her stories on the west coast. Two Sisters and Kim Scott’s True Country are set in the far north and Upfield’s Cake in the Hat Box. I’ll stop now. Don’t go stir crazy stuck at home.

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  3. You asked about the vegie patch? We got the last two of four punnets of Spring Onion seedlings in Bunnings, but did better at a small local nursery…
    So, in the process of transitioning from the summer crop to the next one, we have a few zucchini and some cucumber still producing plus the capsicum is doing well, so there’s baking and pickling to do. We’ve planted seedlings of celery, celeriac, onions, spring onions, peas, snow peas, and radishes are just starting to come up. The local nursery had some seeds too (which Bunnings didn’t) so although we usually plant seedlings rather than raise them ourselves, in anticipation of short supply and the lockdown extending further than any of us want it to, I’ve got some packets of seeds for the next summer crop.
    We know how lucky we are to have the space to grow things like this. There is something very reassuring about having fresh produce from the garden.

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  4. As of tomorrow, I will have been home for 14 days. I made a paper calendar on which I have something to do at each hour that gets checked off once it’s complete. Blog hopping is one hour. Homework for the continuing education course is one hour. I watch library webinars and get credit that goes toward my library license (figured I ought to do something that typically happens at work, see as they are still (for now) paying me). The hardest part, I’ve found, are weekends. Nick isn’t on a work schedule, so we both automatically go into “rest mode,” but if I rest anymore I’ll be in a coffin. Anyway, mostly trying to be patient with myself, though that’s hard to do. Reading is still a struggle, except when I’m reading animal memoirs (so weird). I feel like we’re eating ourselves out of house and home every two days even though we’re eating less. Surely, it only feels that way because going to the grocery store is more like a calculated risk for which one needs to wear a shield and sword than a simple stop for provisions. Today, I moved my laptop into the kitchen so I can look out the sliding door window to the feral cats outside. This fat orange guy keeps trying to get the squirrels but doesn’t make his move quickly enough. The library I patronize started an online book club that virtually meets every other day, so we’ll be at it again tonight. We’re discussing a book by a Gen X woman who seems to think it’s appropriate that she spends a bunch of money she doesn’t have yet and then stresses when the money never materializes. I will never understand such people, but I know many exist.

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  5. Oh, I’m here! But you know that, as you saw and commented on my review today. I had to write a big fancy review for Shiny New Books in the week and I’ve got that weird fatigue of stress thing going on too, as most people I know have, so just haven’t had much energy for reviewing. But just wrote one for tomorrow then there should be one on Tuesday if I finish one of the two sets of three I’m reading (one Virago!). Glad Lou is home and hope you have a good 14 days is it where you are? Take care and happy reading!

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    • Liz I’m glad you’re here. Just as I was writing there seemed to have been a bit of a gap since your last running post, but who am I to comment, my blog is full of gaps. It’s interesting though isn’t it how energy sapping dealing with the coronavirus crisis is proving to be, even from a distance, though in fact I’m the only one who is any great distance from where it’s all happening.

      Today I must start dealing with the banks and bad debts which is proving pretty energy sapping just in contemplation.

      And yes, anyone coming into Australia or crossing into another state must self-isolate for 14 days. That doesn’t include truck drivers, but as my daughter wants me with her when she goes into hospital shortly for an unputoffable procedure, I have turned myself into a visitor.

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  6. Happy to know that Lou has arrived safely.

    I love your trucking billets, please keep up with them.

    I know I’m closer to Barcelona that you are from Melbourne but I can’t explain the Catalonia thing to you, sorry. From what I understand, they did a referendum to know whether the people wanted a separation from Spain and this referendum was not allowed. Then they declared their independance and in October 2019, the leaders were condemned to prison by Spain.
    That’s all I know.

    We are entering our third week of isolation and so far so good. The atmosphere is funny at home, the kids are old enough to be fully occupied by school.
    I have as much work as usual and a lot of stress but at least, I don’t waste time in the car.
    So far, so good. My parents and my inlaws are respectful of the stay-at-home indications, which is a relief.

    I feel lucky to love books so much as they are steady friends when you’re stuck at home.

    Take care of yourself, be prudent, this virus is really nasty.

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    • I didn’t stop in Lyon but I can picture the train route to Barcelona. I thought the Catalonia thing was about as you described it and I think the parents of my daughter’s friend were amongst those imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment, hence her application to be accepted as a refugee in Australia. It’s good to have Lou home – it would be distressing to be out of contact with him – though understandably he would rather be in Malawi working. Still, he can be teacher to his niece and nephew for a while.

      Books can be very demanding friends. I should have brought some Georgette Heyer with me.

      I can’t imagine how it feels with things going so badly either side of you in Italy and Spain. I can’t imagine what we’ll do if it goes through mum’s retirement village – she’s already alone, denied visitors, but dying alone is unimaginable.

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  7. Wow! You’ve been so busy. Trucking is something that is endless here in the States. I respect that you’ll be self-quarantining, but will you continue to take deliveries once “the cloud” arrives on your shores?

    I don’t know much about the Aborigines of Australia. Are there many communities? Do you interact with them much?

    I’m on day 16 of quarantine in Wisconsin. It’s been 11 days of elective quarantine and 5 days of “safer at home” statewide encouraged quarantine. No one is legally enforcing it. Yet. In my county (~1200 square miles) we have 183 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 death. The entire state has over 1,100 confirmed cases and 18 deaths. Sigh. It’s scary. But I’m thankful that I live on an 8-acre farm in a bit on seclusion. I’m keeping on keeping on, as they say.

    Stay safe, stay healthy!

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    • Jackie, I’ll keep working as long as I’m allowed. You’re pretty well self-quarantined all the time in a truck. But as I wrote above, for the next few weeks, until my daughter’s back on her feet, I’ll be a visitor rather than a truckie, unless I can find some local work.

      Indigenous people who for some time had congregated around the larger towns have reestablished communities on their own country, often hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from any white settlement. There has been a lot of discussion about how they can be supported, and governments periodically withdraw police, education, health services which they have always supplied as a matter of course to remote farming settlements. Many of the elders in these communities are ill with diabetes so the NT government is doing the right thing (this time) in seeking to prevent the virus from reaching them.

      You picked a good time to move to the farm. I hope your feed supplies are maintained, or do you drive into town for them too.

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      • Thanks for sharing osme background about the Indigenous people — I have so much to learn. Do we know why so many elders in those communities have diabetes?

        David has to pick up feed from in town once a month. He just did his monthly run yesterday. I have only left the house once in the last four weeks. It’s feeling quite surreal now.

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  8. Ah Melanie, you sound like you’re doing it hard. I get very little done precisely because I don’t set myself a schedule. At home surrounded by food, especially bread, I eat too much. Here in a motel room, living on the rations out of my truck and ignoring the opportunities for room service, I’m eating much less. Mostly I read screen stuff, but I’m also reading a relatively difficult book which has the disadvantage that it will be a couple of days before I have it read and reviewed.

    I must say I’m not a fan of feral cats. Australia has very few native predators so the cats and foxes have driven many small species close to extinction. Still it sounds like your squirrels can look after themselves.

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  9. Thank you including me in your friend post – it brought a smile to my lips on this dreary, grey Sydney day. But I should reveal that the only reason I was posting regularly the last 2 weeks was pre-scheduling.

    Mr Books and I had been on a road trip through western NSW and the wine areas of SA. On some of those wide open country roads, we passed big trucks, little trucks and road trains and I thought of you each time, wondering where you were and what the chances of bumping into each other in a country pub were 😀

    I haven’t finished a book in 2 weeks, so future posts may be scarce (except my covid chronicles that I started this morning)…but I love that you’re reading The Voyage Out.

    Hope you’re all well and safe travels.

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    • No chance of bumping into me in a country pub (says he, on the 3rd of 7 days in a very pleasant country pub). I only stop for fuel or because the law says I must take a break. Another law says I must be .000 at all times. It wasn’t always so! Still we were on the same roads, my diary says I went through Renmark and onto the Murray Valley Hwy on Mar 16. Fourteen days earlier, I was in the same area but further north: Broken Hill, Wentworth, Balranald, Denniliquin, Echuca. I hope you put in plenty of supplies for the hard days ahead.

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      • Thank you , the wine cellar is well stocked! We were in Broken Hill on the 17th then down to the Clare Valley. Came back via Tooleybuc & Ouyen (instead of the planned Great Ocean Rd tour) to be back in nsw before any border closures.

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      • We were a day apart somewhere around Spalding (assuming you came down via Peterborough). Next time you’re planning on going from SA to the Great Ocean Rd, especially if you start at the Mount and work your way across, see if you can squeeze in Budj Bim National Park (Lake Condah and Mt Eccles – see my post)

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