That’s My Truckin’ Life

Journal: 092

Years ago, when Milly and I were young, and I’d gone broke as a truckie for the first time, we, despite already having one child and another on the way, bought a brand new Holden one tonne ute (it wasn’t till a third child came along that I gave in to common sense and bought a car with a back seat). Our first venture was a milk round.

Each night around 10pm I’d load up with crates of milk and drive up and down the streets of Booragoon, a reasonably posh riverside suburb, stop, dash between trees connected by wolf-spider webs, grab the empties from a step or milk box – always home to redbacks – replace them with the right number of bottles, and as I went, tossing the messages and monies left out by our grateful and trusting customers into a bucket to be dealt with in the morning.

Sometimes Milly, advanced pregnancy notwithstanding would be my runner, and sometimes I would employ Bruce, the boyfriend of Milly’s mother’s neighbour’s youngest daughter. Two or three years later I employed the neighbour’s son in a much steadier job at the transport depot where I was manager; and just recently he started going out with Milly’s sister, the little Diva, whom of course he has known since childhood.

The morning Lou was born he had to be transferred from the women’s hospital to the children’s hospital, who, having nowhere else, put Milly up in the flat for mothers down from the country. The next day I came in my old shorts and bare feet, plonked down on Milly’s bed with the aforementioned bucket, and got her to help me count the receipts. The nurses thought we were Beverly Hillbillies. (Lou required a number of hospitalizations, but survived them all).

Once I had the ute and an income, I began building up during the day a commercial travellers round in trucking products and so it came to pass that I ended up as WA distributor for Truckin’ Life magazine, now sadly defunct, but whose slogan as you might guess was That’s my truckin’ life. Which is my starting point for today’s tale of woe.

Two weeks ago today, you’ll recall we had just got into Darwin from an outback station, whose manager wanted me to load up later in the week and head back out with another load of fencing products. The engine felt like it was down on power and an error message was flashing up saying ‘check with workshop’. So the following morning I dropped my trailers at the BP and took the truck into the local Volvo dealer. Who had a fourteen day waiting list.

I got a taxi to Psyche’s and over the next few days we did various seeing doctors and drinking with Lou things, until I, not hearing from the workshop went back to twist a few arms, not to any great effect, though we did decide that rather than fly in a whole heap of new parts in the hope that one of them would fix the problem, we would, sometime during the next week, methodically do tests and swap things around to arrive at a proper diagnosis. This took till the following Wednesday, when we discovered my valves were stuffed – I’d need a new head; one of the six injectors needed replacing (but not the $8,000 ecu which controls them); and seeing as the engine was in bits anyway, I might as well get new this and that, including a new turbo (which is a bit of a relief as they are inclined, as they age, to fly apart without warning).

But. A new head would have to come from Adelaide and would probably take a week to arrive, so let’s say next Friday, and then a week to put it all back together, so that’s October gone.

Psyche has friends to do the carer thing, so I decided to fly home. Which leads us to the next ‘but’. Darwin-Perth direct is so expensive ($1,200-1,400) that it is cheaper to fly via Sydney or Melbourne, which explains why the fine print for some of the cheaper flights says ‘2 stopovers, 16 hours’. I constructed my own dog-leg with Virgin, flew to Melbourne, had a two day layover while I visited mum and did some book shopping, then flew home this morning (Tue), saving a couple of hundred dollars in the process.

If you’ve been keeping up, you will now have in your head that I have in rapid succession purchased a new trailer, so there’s several tens of thousands of dollars; begun an engine rebuild, a second several tens of thousands of dollars; and done one trip in two months – yes, several tens etc. more. Things are going to be a bit tight for a while!

I forget what I listened to on the way up to Darwin, not Son of a Trickster, which I was saving for the home trip so it would be fresh in my mind as I wrote it up, and which, consequently is now another month late. At Psyche’s my heart wasn’t in blogging and I indulged in a couple of SF novels off her shelves.
Corey J White (F,USA), Killing Gravity (2017)
Tricia Sullivan (F,Eng), Dreaming in Smoke (1998)

Since, I have mostly read Twitter and bits and pieces of mainstream news, though this morning I finally made inroads on Dorothy Hewett’s The Toucher which I have been carting around for months.

At the second-hand shop in Warrandyte I bought two hardbacks in beautiful condition, c/w dustjackets – DH Lawrence in Australia (1981) by Robert Darroch, and Pioneers on Parade by Miles Franklin and Dymphna Cusack (1939, A&R 1988 so a bicentenary pub.); plus In a Wilderness of Mirrors (1992) by Ric Throssell, KSP’s son. I reluctantly passed up another lovely hardback, Cuffy Mahony and other stories, by HH Richardson which I already have as a paperback.

Mum makes me cook tea. Here I am preparing a simple vegetarian moussaka.

Such is Life

Journal: 091

Such is Life is a cheeky title to choose, but I feel very Tom Collins, having loaded the wagons with fencing wire and dragged them north to a station in the furthest backblocks – of the Northern Territory in my case rather than the Riverina in Tom’s – taking two and a half hours to cover the last 70 km of dirt tracks in. Arriving just on sunset I got a very Tom Collins reception too, being told to make myself comfortable in the amenities of the workmen’s quarters, dongas on stilts in the approved outback fashion, though I didn’t feel the need to water the cattle at the owner’s expense, nor, not being as gregarious as Tom, rather the opposite, did I spend much time yarning with the workmen coming in from the surrounding paddocks.

And ‘paddocks’ is the key word here. Nearly all stations in the NT are pastoral leases, cattle grazing in the scrub, the only ‘improvements’ yards and bores, but this lease has been approved for cropping. Around 3,000 hectares cleared, the scrub bulldozed into long rows and burned

Probably, it will prove initially viable, but soon the bores will be run down, the poor soils depleted of their last remaining nutrients, distance from market will be a killer and here as elsewhere through the NT, Queensland and NSW, the scrub will return.

I unloaded in the morning (Tues) and came on to Darwin where as soon as I have finished posting this I will catch up with Psyche. And maybe Lou, who left a cryptic comment elsewhere that he might be in Darwin Thurs.

How long since I last posted a journal? A month maybe. Early in September Milly was staying with Gee and the grandkids in their idyllic new home between the bush and the Southern Ocean. I ran down on the Saturday, stayed overnight, and brought Milly home. By Monday, Milly reported she had ‘the flu’. On Tuesday, I had an excellent long lunch with the Gums just off the plane for a flying visit to the west. Thursday I loaded for the Goldfields. Woke Friday feeling crook, but a RAT was negative. Got to my destination mine 300 km north of Kalgoorlie in the afternoon. Another negative RAT but my temperature was over 38 and I was not allowed in. Did a PCR, also negative. Unloaded in a parking bay 100m from my destination but not ‘inside’ the mine and went home to spend a few days in bed. Just a common cold, thankyou grandkids (the babies had very runny noses).

Luckily, I didn’t pass it on to the Gums and they were able to visit Neil@Kallaroo, an old friend of the Gumses. But sadly I wasn’t fit to have dinner with them in Freo before they flew home.

All this not working means I haven’t yet listened to my next North America Project read, Son of a Trickster. Listened to a couple of ‘re-reads’ instead, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and Pink Mountain on Locust Island which I was surprised and happy to see on audiobook at my local library. Also an ok Isabelle Allende (it was a long trip!) and now I have on a book about live-in carers, which might be germane as Psyche has one coming, The Leftovers by Cassandra Parkin.

Liz Dexter asked me which McMurtry I listened to last month. It was Sin Killer, a sort of Western farce about an English lord and his family – daughters, wife, mistress – venturing up the barely navigable reaches of the Missouri. But so many of you like Lonesome Dove that I’ll give it a try sooner rather than later.

A truck pic to end with, at the beginning of the track into the station. Not showing the innumerable gates, so you will have to imagine them.

And the new trailer? you ask. It’s in the home paddock, unused, eating its head off on insurance payments. Its day will come.

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Recent audiobooks 

Natalie Hynes (F, Eng), A Thousand Ships (2020) – The siege of Troy from the POV of women
Jamie Marina Lau (F, Aus/Vic), Pink Mountain on Locust Island (2018)
Ellie Eaton (F, Eng), The Divines (2021)
Henning Mantell (M, Swe), Sidetracked (1995) – Crime
Isabelle Allende (F, Chile), Daughter of Fortune (1999) – Hist.Fic
Cassandra Parkin (F, Eng), The Leftovers (2022)

Currently Reading 

W Green (M, Aus/NSW), The Interim Anxieties & other poems (2022) – Poetry
Alan Wearne (M, Aus/WA), Near Believing (2022) – Poetry
George Saunders (M, USA), A Swim in the Pond in the Rain (2021) – NF/Short Stories
Kylie Tenant (F, Aus/NSW), Ma Jones and the Little White Cannibals (1967) – Short Stories
Haruki Murakami (M, Jap), First Person Singular (2021) – Short Stories

AWWC Sept. 2022

DateContributorTitle
Fri 02Stories FTAE H D, The Aboriginal Mother (poem)
Wed 07Elizabeth LhuedeGender Unknown: the case of R McKay Tully
Fri 09Stories FTAR McKay Tully, The Power of a Child (short story)
Wed 14Jessica WhiteRosa Praed, Sister Sorrow (review)
Fri 16Stories FTARosa Praed, The Sea-birds’ Message (short story)
Wed 21Bill HollowayErnestine Hill, The Great Australian Loneliness (review)
Fri 23Stories FTAErnestine Hill, “The Strange Case of Mrs Widgety” (nonfiction extract)
Wed 28Whispering GumsCapel Boake
Fri 30Stories FTACapel Boake, The Room Next Door (short story)

Women Who Don’t

Journal: 090

I have just read three books, coincidentally one after the other, for which the title of this post is both relevant and interesting. They were , in order –
Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach (2007)
Sayaka Murata, Earthlings (2018)
Melanie Rehak, Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her (2020)

I meant, the order in which I read (listened to ) them, but it seems also to be the order in which they were written.

On Chesil Beach is the least interesting of the three. McEwan clodhoppers his way through a typical 1950s marriage/wedding night in which the bride discovers at the last moment that she would rather not have sex, but soldiers on anyway, and the equally inexperienced groom is excited by his wife’s amateur fumblings into premature ejaculation.

McEwan appears to arrive at the conclusion that the husband’s anger at this outcome is justified, and that the subsequent failure of their marriage is of no consequence. I have read other McEwans, but remember none of them, except that they all left me with a sour taste in my mouth, and am not inclined at this stage to read another.

Earthlings I own and failed to enjoy first time round, put off, I think, by the grotesque ending. I’m not sure what made me pick up the audiobook at the library – probably the fact that any work of Literature must stand out in the great swamp of general fiction in which suburban libraries seem to specialise – but I am now a fan of the book and of Sayaka Murata, who is of course the author also of Convenience Store Woman.

The protagonist of Earthlings is Natsuki, who does it once, aged 11, with her cousin Yuu, which causes such a fuss in her wider family that she never does again. In her 30s, wishing to at least seem to be fitting in, she advertises for a like-minded man and so obtains Tomoya, whom she subsequently marries.

Nancy Drew is a slightly different case, in that although she is 16, and later 18, in all the many Nancy Drew books, her originators keep her in a pre-sexual state to maintain the faith with her largely 10-13 year old readership.

That is all I wish to say about my heading.

Well, nearly all. I should add that Natsuki’s disinclination as an adult to engage in sex also stems from her being molested by a cram-school teacher, and being disbelieved by her mother. In fact, her union with her friend and cousin Yuu, whom she only sees at her grandmother’s house in the mountains each summer, stems from her wish to lie with someone of her own choosing before she is forced to lie with her teacher.

Natsuki is able to free herself from the teacher and this ties in with the ending. But the central thesis of Earthlings is that society is a Baby Factory; that ‘earthlings’ are all components in the machinery of the Factory; that free will can only be exercised by refusing to take part, by becoming ‘aliens’.

Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is routinely read as the amusing reactions of a woman ‘on the spectrum’ to having to find a productive a niche in society. But I think now that Murata is trying to say that it is not rational to ‘find a productive niche’. That society is so antithetical to a freely lived life that it is ridiculous to live within it (Convenience Store Woman); and that we should attempt to live outside it (Earthlings). And I don’t think she means just Japanese society, though it is tempting for Westerners to think so.

If I had a paper copy of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her I would have been bound to write a proper review. Though I should say at the beginning that Nancy Drew was created by a man, Edward Stratemeyer, a writer of children’s adventure stories who turned to creating series and employing other writers to fill them out. The ‘women’ of the title are his daughter, Harriet Adams, who took over her father’s syndicate on his death; and Mildred Wirt who actually wrote the original Nancy Drew stories from synopses provided by Stratemeyer.

Nancy Drew went on for 50 odd years, and may still be going on for all I know, and the story of her creation and the rival claimants to be her sole originator is fascinating in itself. But Melanie Rehak frames her story within the idea of the Independent Woman in American (YA) literature. She claims, rightly probably, that every American girl’s original independent heroine is Jo Marsh (Little Women); then goes on to discuss the importance of Nancy Drew as a role model for career-minded girls within the framework of a discussion of first and second wave Feminism. Did I make that sound too dry? I hope not. This is an excellent, listenable work.

Actual Journal stuff: I purchased my new trailer a week or so ago, but have been too busy to go and pick it up. I spent the last week up north doing wide loads with one of Dragan’s trailers. The great bonus of oversize work is stopping when the sun goes down. Sadly, on my very first night out, I found my laptop had failed. Battery probably, or maybe the charger. At least I caught up with some reading.

Recent audiobooks 

Melinda Leigh (F, USA), What I’ve Done (2018) – Crime
Christos Tsiolkas (M, Aus/Vic), 7 1/2 (2021)
Phillipa Gregory (F, Eng), Tidelands (2019) – Hist.Fic/Romance
Ann Pratchett (F, USA), Bel Canto (2001) – Thriller (I was barracking for the kidnappers)
Lisa Gardner (F, USA), One Step Too Far (2022) – Crime Thriller
Laura Lipman (F, USA), And When She Was Good (2012) – Crime
Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton (F, USA), Curious Minds (2016) – Crime
Kerry Greenwod (F, Aus/Vic), Murder and Mendelssohn (2013)
Ian McEwan (M, Eng), On Chesil Beach (2007) – Hist.Fic/anti-Romance
Sayaka Murata (F, Jap), Earthlings (2018)
Melanie Rehak (F, USA), Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her (2020) – NF
Larry McMurtry (M, USA), Sin Killer (2005) – Hist.Fic., Western, Farce

Currently Reading 

Aaron Fa’Aoso with Michelle Scott Tucker (Aus), So Far, So Good (2022) – Memoir
Drusilla Modjeska (F, Aus/NSW), The Mountain (2012)
Ernestine Hill (F, Aus/Tas), The Great Australian Loneliness (1937) – NF

AWWC Aug. 2022

DateContributorTitle
Wed 03Elizabeth LhuedeG.M.M. A Novelist at Home
Fri 05Stories FTANetta Walker, The Old, Old Story
Wed 10Michelle Scott TuckerPatricia Wrightson and appropriation
Fri 12Stories FTADaisy Bates, Aboriginal Stellar Myths
Wed 17Bill HollowayAda Cambridge, Thirty Years in Australia
Fri 19Stories FTAAda Cambridge, The Fourth Home (extract)
Wed 31Whispering GumsEliza Hamilton Dunlop

Family Stuff

Journal: 089

My last Journal post had me doing a lap of the country. Well here it is a month later and I’m back in Mt Isa, been sitting here for a week, in a cabin in a caravan park (‘trailer park’, Melanie), waiting for a promised load home which keeps getting put back. When this is posted in two or three days time, I hope I’m on my way.

Keeping me company is a blacky-green frog, about the size of my hand when his legs are spread out, living under the lip of my toilet bowl. In the rush of flushing water he’ll wave his legs frantically fighting to hold his position at the top of the slope; when the water is slow to run it seems he is part way up the pipe to the cistern, blocking the flow; a few days ago he voluntarily or otherwise slid down the slope for a swim, but he doesn’t seem to regard the u-bend as a viable way out.

All this free time is dangerous. I’ve come to the conclusion I should sell two of my (three) trailers, buy a new, specialist trailer, and concentrate on wide loads, mostly in WA. The new trailer will be another drop-deck with ramps but the lower deck widens, like a dining room table, from the standard 2.5m out to 3.5 m, and will be better set up for road train work than my current, old drop-deck.

And why would I spend $100,000 on new gear rather than retire. Well, a) because it’s fun; and b) because it seems old truckies generally prefer to keep on truckin’: “the average age of truck drivers is 57, … 20% of truck drivers have already reached retirement age, and less than one in five are under 30 … women make up 7%.” Victorian Transport Association 28/07/2022.

After my last Mt Isa trip, I sat home for a week or so then did a load down to (daughter & son in law) Gee and Oak’s bush block on the south coast (between Albany and Denmark), with boxes and furniture on one trailer, a 4wd and (unroadworthy) caravan on the other, and grandson Mr 12 in the passenger seat. We listened to an Ian Rankin (non-Rebus) book about an art heist. Mr 12 was very involved and would pause it occasionally to discuss the villain, Mr Hate.

I managed to catch up with Milly for one meal and then she flew up to Darwin to be with our daughter Psyche while she has chemo for what was feared might be rapid-onset MS. (Yes, they’ve said I could blog this.)

So, first of all, the first chemo went well – the second of two treatments is today (Thurs) as I write, and the prognosis for the future seems good. At least, Psyche felt well enough last weekend to have a night on the town. Walking is now a hassle but we’ve been discussing on the family Messenger site whether her cane might be a sword stick. Ms 18 found them on the internet: “You can whip it out if someone takes your parking,” she suggested. “Or if someone takes your seat at the pub,” wrote Ms 18’s mother, getting the family priorities sorted.

On the day of the first chemo, Psyche was high on steroids; Milly tripped over a line and ripped out a cannula, spraying Psyche with blood; and the girl babysitting Milly’s little dog, Jute, rang to say she – the dog – had a broken leg. The Messenger stream for that day is full of concern. For Jute mainly.

We still don’t know if Jute attacked a monitor lizard; a dog got in; Jute got stuck under the couch; or, as the vet suggested, she was running and stepped in a hole. In any case, she has a compound fracture and has since seen an orthopaedic surgeon and had a plate inserted. Milly may be stuck in Darwin for weeks until Jute is fit to fly. Luckily she just sold her old house because most of the proceeds have gone on vet fees.

Just to fit all the kids in. I stopped at Tennant Creek and had breakfast again with Lou, at a cafe in the main street. Very civilized.

Despite all the time off work I take I am not blogging very well, either writing or keeping up with you lot. The AWWC gig takes a lot of time, reading and writing for my own once a month piece and chasing/editing for the one or two guest posts. But I find it immensely rewarding. So I guess this site will have to remain erratic for the forseeable future. A case in point is the North American post due last week. I’ve now listened to the book, Life among the Qallunaat, and I’ll write it up this weekend.

Photos 1 & 3 (Psyche & Jute) by Milly

And yes,I finally got away from Mt Isa on Saturday, came around the top through Katherine, Kununurra, Port Hedland and am on my way down to Kalgoorlie.

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Recent audiobooks 

Faye Weldon (F, Eng), Mantrapped (2004) – SFF?
Tea Obreht (F, Serbia/USA), The Tiger’s Wife (2011)
Yrsa Sigurdardottir (F, Ice), My Soul to Take (2009)
Marge Piercy (F, USA), Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) – SF

Currently Reading 

Aaron Fa’Aoso with Michelle Scott Tucker (Aus), So Far, So Good (2022) – Memoir
Claire G Coleman (F, Aus/WA), Enclave (2022) – SF
Yoko Ogawa (F, Jap), The Memory Police (1994) – SF
Ada Cambridge (F, Aus/Vic), A Mere Chance (1880)
Ada Cambridge (F, Aus/Vic), Thirty Years in Australia (1903) – Memoir
Alan Wearne (M, Aus/Vic), Out Here (1986) – Verse Novel
KS Prichard (F, Aus/WA), The Roaring Nineties (1946)
WW Ammon (M, Aus/WA), Wheel Tracks (1966) – Memoir
Jane Rawson (F, Aus/Tas), A History of Dreams (2022) – SFF

AWWC July 2022

DateContributorTitle
Fri 01Stories FTAM.G.B., Her Little Lad
Wed 06Elizabeth LhuedeGender female: “E C Morrice”
Fri 08Stories FTAE Charles, True Till Death
Wed 13Marcie McCauleyKatharine Susannah Prichard, Goldfields Trilogy
Fri 15Stories FTA“Sharp-eyed hussies”, John Dalley
Wed 20Bill HollowayAda Cambridge, A Mere Chance
Fri 22Stories FTAAda Cambridge, A Sweet Day
Wed 27Whispering GumsEleanor Dark’s juvenilia
Fri 29Stories FTA“G.M.M.”, “A Novelist at Home”

Seeing the country

Journal: 088

At the end of May I was flat out for a week running backwards and forwards from Perth to mines north of Kalgoorlie – and then reading about them and the early days of WA’s Eastern Goldfields in KSP’s The Roaring Nineties.

A few days at home turned into 20 before I realised I risked not doing any work at all in June. Dragan had a load to Melbourne. He told me to come in Sat morning (18/06) to load, but then Friday night rang me back and asked me to do a load to Mt Isa instead. I didn’t mind, it would keep me occupied and, bonus, I would get to see (son) Lou in Tennant Creek.

Loading was straightforward, 26 x 2 tonne bulker bags of lead pellets already in Dragan’s depot. There was a small hold up because Sam, Dragan’s dad, who was going to take one of my trailers over the hill to the roadtrain assembly, wanted to spend Sat night at home, but Sunday morning, grey and wet, we were away.

Day/night followed day/night. Every now and then I would stop and put another $2,500 of fuel in the tanks – all my credit cards will be maxxed by the time I get home – Weds morning I had breakfast with Lou before he wandered off to monitor school sports; Weds afternoon I was in Mt Isa and soon unloaded.

Dragan of course had said he would have no worries loading me out of North Qld. I took an early 24 hour break, did some shopping, waited to hear back from him. “Head down to Biloela” (east of Rolleston on the map above). I got down to Emerald mid Friday. Sat. Waited. Biloela had fallen through. No worries, there was a load next week out of Mackay (on the coast a bit north). No I couldn’t have it, they’d have another truck in North Qld by then. Well, how about Brisbane? You’d sit for a week with no guarantee of a load. It was getting too late to phone around.

Ever reliable Homer, called from Melbourne. Come on down AND I’ll pay you an extra $1,000 (on top of the extra I got in April!). So I spent the weekend running empty to Melbourne. From north of Hillston, central NSW, I crossed Wilandra Creek, the Lachlan River, ran down through Hay to Echuca – Joseph Furphy country!

And now here I am. It’s Weds (29/06), I took all Mon as a 24 hour break – in the east I must have one at least once a week. In the West I can work up to 12 days.

I got my James Baldwin post done. Tues I loaded and ran two trailers up to Charlton, which is my road train assembly point over here. Today there is a hold up and so I am writing. Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be on my way. Just 4,000 kms – no, 3,500, I’ve already done the dog run – for a total of 12,000 for the fortnight. Might need another break.

I listened to Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence early in the trip. It’s well worth reading but too much time has passed for me to write it up. I don’t remember what dross filled in the time till Just Above My Head. Last night I had a Jodi Picault on, about a hostage situation in an abortion clinic, strangely chiming with all the (justified) end of Roe v Wade outrage on Twitter.

A week or so after I get home Milly is going up to Darwin to be with (daughter) Psyche, who needs some pretty intensive medical treatment. Milly’s work is accommodating about her ‘working from home’; her little dog has her airline ticket; she might be gone a while. I might have to find some more work ‘up north’.

[Friday morning: Port Augusta. I got in late last night. Breakfast, shower, fuel, on my way 6am WST, due home tomorrow evening.]

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Recent audiobooks 

Caroline Linden (F, USA), Love and Other Scandals (2013) – Hist.Romance
Louise Erdrich (F, USA), The Sentence (2021) – Crime
Colm Tobin (M, Ire), The Magician (2021)
Jodi Picault (F, USA), A Spark of Light (2018) – Crime

Currently Reading 

Aaron Fa’Aoso with Michelle Scott Tucker (Aus), So Far, So Good (2022) – Memoir
Claire G Coleman (F, Aus/WA), Lies Damned Lies (2021) – Memoir
Yoko Ogawa (F, Jap), The Memory Police (1994) – SF

AWWC June 2022

DateContributorTitle
Wed 01Elizabeth LhuedeHiding in Plain Sight: Mrs T C Cloud
Fri 03Stories FTALindsay Duncan, Mr Coulson’s Queer Client
Wed 08Book around the CornerCatherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will
Fri 10Stories FTACatherine Helen Spence, The Literary Calling
Wed 15Bill HollowayBrent of Bin Bin
Fri 17Stories FTA“H J”, Modern Heroes and Heroines: What Women Writers Think
Wed 22Jessica WhiteGeorgiana Molloy: Collector of Seeds and Words
Fri 24Stories FTAHannah Villiers Boyd, Letters on Education
Wed 29Whispering GumsMary Grant Bruce’s juvenilia

All the Friday posts are stories, or extracts from stories, written by the authors mentioned.

SF & Issues

Journal: 087

Earlier in the week Karen/Booker Talk posted “What I’m Reading : Episode 45, May 2022“, and one of the books she was planning to read was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953). I commented: “Good to see you reading some hardcore SF – Fahrenheit 451. OK some SF is just boys toys, rocket ships and guns, but lots of it tackles serious issues that people actually care about.”

Karen’s reply was: “OK, so let me throw down a challenge for you Bill. Give me a few recommendations of SF that does exactly what you say – tackles serious issues that people care about.”

So, given that I’m just an ordinary (lifelong) SF reader, and not a specialist SF lit.blogger – though I have from time to time highlighted women’s SF here, because it tends to have more character development, and often a quirkyness, that ‘straight’ (guy) SF lacks, not to mention a lot less action-for-action’s sake – let’s see what I can do.

We all know Fahrenheit 451, it’s about burning books, something we all care about. So that’s one. Bradbury (1920-2012) was an amazing writer. Sue and Melanie have been chipping me about not reading SF short stories, but I have a number of Bradbury anthologies – I just went off and read a few stories from I Sing the Body Electric. He has a dreamy prose style that is totally unique. There was an android ‘grandmother’; a man alone on Mars 60 years after Armageddon on Earth, with only tapes of his own voice to keep him company; but I didn’t see anything which fit today’s thesis.

My old favourites, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K Dick, Robert Sheckley, John Sladek slid from straight/pulp SF into postmodernism. They were concerned with how a capitalist world might look in the future. I might recommend Sheckley’s Mindswap (1966) because a) it’s LOL funny and b) in one place the hero swaps into a world, into the body of the president, where change of government occurs by a citizen shooting the president. These writers deal with ‘issues’ all the time, so in Galapagos (1985) Vonnegut explores how evolution might work if a pandemic wiped out nearly all the world’s human population.

We could go on to JM Ballard, Doris Lessing and Ursula Le Guin who are all great writers as well as SF writers. Ballard who as a child was imprisoned by the Japanese in China during WWII, was fascinated by the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which set him free. His fiction for a long time dealt only with the world ending. Lessing, as I discussed recently, in Shikasta looks at systems of government and social organisation. Her Mara and Dann (1999) is an exploration of global warming and the resulting mass emigrations or whole countries. Le Guin is an advocate for anarchist governance – The Dispossessed (1974) – for the environment – The Word for World is Forest (1972) – for feminism and for anti-militarism.

A lot of writers, in Australia and elsewhere, are facing up to the imminent end of life on Earth-as-we-know it by writing fiction which is ‘dystopian’ but for which they refuse the label ‘SF’. Over the past few years there has been a rush of such fiction by young Australian women.

The first (to come to my attention) was Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (2013) which posits a Melbourne of widespread poverty, with UN peacekeepers; but the book takes ‘a wrong turn’ into something very much like Magic Realism. I find, as I page through my reviews, that I have a decided preference for quirky in my SF.

Another such novel is Elizabeth Tan’s brilliant Rubik (2017) set in Perth. “This is a novel for our neo-liberal times where corporations run by faceless old white men both know and control everything about us. Tan fights back subtly, with satire, with ‘acceptably brown’ characters, with off-hand analyses of the way we submit to being manipulated.” (my review).

I have reviews for Melissa Ferguson’s The Shining Wall (2019) – an underclass forced to live outside city walls; Krissy Kneen’s An Uncertain Grace (2017) – innovative uses of a total body suit for recording experiences; Geogia Blain’s Special (2016) – a world controlled by corporations rather than national governments; and a time-travelly climate change one set near Wollongong (sorry, I can’t offer a prize for the first correct answer).

Two important ones though are Charlotte Woods’ The Natural Way of Things (2015) which describes the indefinite internment of a group of young women who have been the playthings/victims of men and had the temerity to complain; and Claire G Coleman’s Terra Nullius (2017). Coleman is an Indigenous Western Australian, a Wirlomin-Noongar woman, and she writes of Settlers arriving and enslaving the local people. As in her second novel, The Old Lie (2019), it only slowly becomes obvious how this is SF. Her third, Enclave, is out in four weeks. My order has been placed.

This last week I have been listening to Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018), the third in her Wayfarer series. It’s actually more of a lecture than a story, on how to create a society which runs without money – real socialism in action! The earlier two were much better as stories, with interesting characters and dealing with the problem of are AIs ‘alive’.

Karen, I don’t seem to have actually recommended any particular book but I hope you enjoyed the discussion as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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Recent audiobooks 

Dina Nayeri (F, Iran/USA), A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea (2013)
Emma Viskic (F, Aus/Vic), Those Who Perish (2022) – Crime
Dervla McTiernan (F, Ire), The Good Turn (2020) – Crime
Polly Crosby (F, Eng), The Women of Pearl Island (2021) – SF (actually a soppy inter-generational female friendship thing, but the premise is that the Brits tested an atom bomb in 1955, on an island in the Channel)
Elin Hilderbrand (F, USA), Nantucket Nights (2002) – Mystery
Laurie Halse Anderson (F, USA), The Impossible Knife of Memory (2013) – YA (starts out as grunge, but descends into soppy teenage romance. I skipped the girl’s father’s trendy Vietnam War flashbacks).
James Baldwin (M, USA), Just Above My Head (1979) – Literature!
Tanya Talaga (F, Can), Seven Fallen Feathers (2017) – Non Fiction
Becky Chambers (F, USA), Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018) – SF

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AWWC May 2022

DateContributorTitle
Wed 04Elizabeth Lhuede“Reputed authoress”: Isabel Grant
Fri 06Stories FTAIsabel Grant: The Archangel Michael (short story)
Wed 11Bill HollowayNathan Hobby, The Red Witch (review)
Fri 13Stories FTA“Old-Women’s Stories”: Mrs Langloh Parker
Wed 18BronwynMary Gaunt
Fri 20Stories FTAMary Gaunt, Quits (short story)
Wed 25Whispering GumsEthel Turner’s juvenilia
Fri 27Stories FTALouise Mack, Teens (novel extracts)

All the Friday posts are stories, or extracts from stories, written by the authors mentioned.

Going Round in Circles

Journal: 086

Trucking is always ‘going round in circles’ for the simple reason that you like to get home occasionally, though I suppose if you didn’t mind ‘boring’ you could just go out and back. The other reason for ‘going round in circles’ is that I keep thinking I’m getting on top of my blog reading and writing, and then I’m not.

The road above, 180 kms of (well maintained) dirt is emblematic of both. It is the road to a mine I was sent to after being sent mistakenly to another mine in a completely different direction 600 kms away; and it is the, or very close to the, route – there wouldn’t have been a road back then, just wheel tracks – taken by Katherine Susannah Prichard when she went to Turee Creek station, where she wrote Coonardoo.

I’ve written about this a few times. I’m always conscious of the books I’ve read which populate the roads I travel. This trip just past, I loaded at a mine on the coast north of Geraldton (let’s reference Lisa’s recent review of The Islands) came back to Geraldton (The Fringe Dwellers, The Merry Go-Round by the Sea) and headed west through Mullewa (False Claims of Colonial Thieves), following the now defunct Northern rail line (May Holman) through Mt Magnet, Sandstone (I could reference Daisy Bates all through here) to Leinster, 900 kms and a day later, where I was asked ‘Why are you there?’ (“Because you sent me written directions.”), and was redirected to a new mine, of which I had never heard, 260kms mostly dirt road north west of Meekatharra, itself 450 kms away and a third of that dirt (map).

Northern Line east of Mullewa

KSP wrote “I travelled four hundred miles beyond the end of the railway” and her son, Ric Throssell, added in his biography that by ‘end of the railway’ she meant Meekatharra, where the Northern line turns east to Wiluna (Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence). But as I have written, and discussed with Nathan Hobby, 400 miles takes you way beyond Turee Creek, 150 kms beyond present day Newman. I wonder if she actually took the train to Mullewa – there is a line north from Northam, outside Perth, and her husband’s home town – and was met by a truck from Turee Creek there. But that’s another story.

Assuming she trained to Meekatharra and went the last 300 km/200 miles from there by truck then the route they would have followed, the Ashburton Road, is the one I took to Abra Mine, about 50 kms south of Turee Creek.

To close that particular circle, I am currently reading Nathan’s new biography of KSP and am scheduled to have it read and written up by 6.00 am AEST next Wednesday. And tomorrow I have another trip.

It took me three hours, out of phone range the whole time, to follow that dirt road to Abra all the while wondering if there was a turnoff I had missed and when I came over the last rise and could hear chatter on the CB you can imagine my relief. Before I move on, wild camels are relatively common in the outback but you don’t often see them. I had to pull up while these three got themselves off the road.

For much of the trip I listened to State of Terror by Hilary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny. Penny is apparently a well known Canadian author of crime fiction set in Quebec. State of Terror is a mediocre thriller notable only for what it says about Clinton – that she as Secretary of State was a mixture of Wonder Woman and an Enid Blyton heroine (ie. no adults get in the way of solving the crime); that immediate past President Eric Dumb, sorry Dunn, was a Russian asset; that the US has moved so far to the right that left-over elements of the Dunn administration would be willing to set off a nuclear warhead in the White House; that the Russian Mafia was founded and is still headed by the Russian President, and so on.

AWWC April 2022

DateContributorTitle
Fri 01ELMarie Pitt, Aust Women Poets and “sex-prejudice”
Wed 06Elizabeth LhuedeFinding Forgotten Authors: the case of “Eucalypta”
Fri 08ELMrs H E Russell, “Womanhood Suffrage”
Wed 13Bill HollowayMiles Franklin, My Career Goes Bung (review)
Fri 15ELMiles Franklin, Australian Writers Need Courage
Wed 20Nathan HobbyKatharine Susannah Prichard
Fri 22ELKatharine Susannah Prichard, Working Women of Note 1
Wed 27Whispering GumsLouisa Atkinson Pioneer Woman Journalist
Fri 29ELLouisa Atkinson, The Kurrajong Waterfalls

All the Friday posts are stories, or extracts from stories, written by the authors mentioned.

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Recent audiobooks 

Christos Tsiolkas (M, Aus/Vic), Barracuda (2013)
Marina J Lostetter (F, USA), Activation Degradation (2021) – SF
Louise Erdrich (F, USA), The Plague of Doves (2008)
Abigail Wilson (F, USA), Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey (2020) – Regency Romance
Ian Rankin (M, Sco), Exit Music (2007) – Crime
John Banville (M, Ire), Snow (2005) – Crime/Hist.Fic.
Hilary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny (F, Can), State of Terror (2021) – Crime
Henning Mankell (M, Swe), Before the Frost (2002) – Crime
Terry Pratchett (M, Eng), Hogfather (1998) – SF/Fantasy

Currently Reading:

Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF (Still! But I’m at the end)
Ada Cambridge (F, Aus/Vic), A Mere Chance (1882)
Nathan Hobby (M, Aus/WA), The Red Witch (2022)

Son News Pictorial

Journal: 085

I was going to do this yesterday, when I pulled up for the night, but it was too late. Tonight (Sunday) I got in to Perth, from Melbourne, after 6.00pm and, feeling slack, put it off to tomorrow. But I’ve just (8.30pm) had a message asking me to commence unloading first thing in the morning. So here we go.

Blame Melanie. It was her suggestion that when I’m pushed for time I should do a post in pictures. In this case, my trip to Victoria for Mum’s 90th birthday shindig at B3’s farm outside Bendigo last weekend.

Top: no freight, so put middle trailer on back trailer and ran over empty.

Parked the Volvo behind the shed’s on B3’s farm. Dropped the trailers in a paddock a few kms closer to the highway.

The big day. Mum surrounded by great grandchildren.

Bendigo School of Mines is one of Australia’s oldest tertiary education institutions, these days in sad decline, the unwanted outpost of a Melbourne western suburbs TAFE. This is the upper level of the original domed reading room, which houses the rare book collection but is otherwise unused.

The original Library and School of Mines buildings. My librarian cousin showed me round on Monday.

Seeing as we were still all (nearly all) in town we older generations went to an Italian restaurant for dinner.

Tuesday I drove Milly to the airport and Lou into town. I was meant to drive Psyche on Weds but B3 was taking Mum home so he did that for me and I went off to load. You’ve seen pictures of my standard load, cars over the top of steel, so I’ll save you from another. Homer wants me back running Melbourne Perth and paid me a substantial increase as inducement. I’ll think about it.

Karen/Booker Talk says WP is reducing/charging more for media storage so I’m going to have to come back and shrink all these 3Mb photos. And looking at the preview, I probably should stick to writing anyway.

Still Moving

Journal: 084

Milly and Melanie/GTL have both recently bought new homes and are both still in the process of moving. Melanie, I think, is getting the interior painted – ‘Dorian Gray’. We are not sure if that will make her younger, or the house – and Milly has a new dog-friendly floor, finished yesterday I think, I haven’t seen it yet.

Milly also has workmen in getting her old cottage ready to sell, though there are still painting jobs left for me. And then there’s daughter Gee who earlier this year bought a sea-change property 450 km south and who hopefully will take the bigger pieces of family furniture.

Time to think of housewarming presents.

Melanie, you’re getting flowers. When I was little, mum and dad – dad was nearly always the gardener – had a very English garden, stocks, pansies, hollyhocks, sweet peas, and the big green shrubby one with blue flowers whose name has gone out of my head (hydrangeas); partly because the southern, wetter parts of Victoria – Gippsland and the Western District – have sadly had their landscapes cleared of gums and been Englishified with pines and willows; and partly because that’s how dad’s mum gardened. Anyway, ever since, pansies have been one of my favourite flowers.

I was an ignorant young husband, but after we separated the first time, I got into the habit of bringing Milly flowers when I visited – Lilliums, sunflowers and sweet william (of course). Coming home from north Queensland, to Melbourne, I often passed through fields of sunflowers, and one time I stopped long enough to pick a bucketfull from the side of the road. I’m sure they are a common sight in the Mid West, but Melanie have some more, from me.

I’m afraid I’m ignorant enough of Australian flowers to have no idea what would survive outside your new farmhouse, but I think Melanie, you mentioned one time African violets for your kitchen window. My mum for as long as I can remember has had one or two cyclamens on her windowsill above the sink. When I said yesterday to Milly that I thought cyclamens and African violets were the same thing, she looked at me, as she often does, with unbelieving scorn. I toss a coin and it comes up cyclamens.

The image is from the Alpine Garden Society, Victoria (here), so they might even grow outside.

As I write, it’s Friday and I should be on my way to Melbourne for mum’s birthday, but there’s no freight on the computer and Dragan on whom I was relying has come up with nothing. On Monday I’ll double up my trailers and go over empty.

AWWC March 2022

DateContributorTitle
Wed02Elizabeth LhuedeSuffering, resistance and resilience
Fri04ELJack Rugby, “Betty Pops the Question” (short story)
Wed09Jonathan ShawZora Cross
Fri11ELBernice May, Impressions of Some Writing Women (nonfiction extract) (Bernice May is a penname for Zora Cross)
Wed16Bill HollowayDavid Adams ed., The Letters of Rachel Henning (review)
Fri18ELRachel Henning Writes from Exmoor (nonfiction extract)
Wed23Stacey RobertsExploring the AWWC Archives
Fri25ELMrs Francis Vidal, Tales For the Bush 1 (short story)
Wed30Whispering GumsEarly Australian women writers, 2: Secondary sources

Multitasking

Journal: 083

Ok, I’m home. Before my most recent trip I let Melanie/GTL know that I was “dropping behind” with my posts and might be off the radar for a while -which indeed I was – and she wrote back, “Posts don’t have to be hard. If you take some photos, including ones of yourself, you can just share those and say they’re from a trip when you went from Perth to wherever. Sometimes it’s nice to just see someone.”

Well, I don’t do selfies and no one seems to have captured me anytime this year, so we’ll just have to make do with my truck.

This is how my week went. I get most of my work from two carriers, Sam & Dragan being one, and Anthony, who specializes in heavy haulage within WA being the other. The previous week I pulled a triple for Dragan, grossing 100 tonne which was a bit hard on the truck, so last week I accepted a load from Anthony. He made up a B double load for me in his yard and on Sunday morning I just had to chain it down and I was away. On Monday afternoon I met one of his trucks in Pt Hedland and transferred the load to him (it was all driveable machinery). And the fun began.

My first assignment was to move a machine from Iron Bridge to Eliwana, both FMG mines. Iron Bridge, 100 kms south of Pt Hedland and 50 km of dirt roads inland I’d been to once before. I rolled up in the morning, spent two hours dealing with my vaccination passport – which the federal government had sent me and which FMG deemed insufficient – took both trailers into the mine and up a very steep incline, spent another two hours loading and bringing them down one at a time (having all the weight on the back trailer would have caused them to slide in the gravel and jackknife), returned to the highway and by late afternoon was another 100 km south at Munjina roadhouse (Auski).

Eliwana was somewhere west of me but no one could give me directions. Eventually I got Anthony’s senior driver on the phone, was told to head past Wittenoom, past Solomon mine to the turnoff for Solomon airport and then just follow my nose for 130 kms, all dirt, and the nearest town and for all I knew the nearest phone tower, hundreds of kms distant.

I stopped on the edge of the road outside Solomon and got enough signal to edit that night’s post for the Australian Women Writers Challenge; saw that a scrub fire was burning some kms behind me and decided to move on; almost took a wrong turn averted at the last minute by a frantic call to Anthony’s driver, both of us on one bar; pulled up through the spectacular Hammersly Gorge and came to Solomon airport (all mines have their own airport) where at last I could sleep.

In the morning I pulled into an outpost of the mine, dropped my empty front trailer (top picture) and got directions. As it turned out, the next 130 kms followed the FMG rail line; the Eliwana gatehouse waved me through with the briefest glance at my “passport”; and by late afternoon I was back at Munjina.

Assignment 2 was to make my way 800 kms south and then inland another 150 kms mostly dirt to do two B double loads out of Penny West gold mine – no, I’d never heard of it either – one to Mt Magnet and one to Perth. For once I had excellent directions from Mt Magnet to Penny West (46.5 km east on bitumen, turn right Challa Station, 82.5 km south, turn right 1.7 km … 26 km past Youanmi mine).

I got back to Mt Magnet at 4.00 pm (by now it’s Thurs), with permission to unload on night shift. Advised Anthony – home in bed with Coivd – that I was on my way back to Penny West and he said “it’s cancelled”. He asked me to do a different load on Friday from another mine in a different part of the bush and I said no. I was hot from an endless succession of 38 deg days, dirty, covered in as much red dust as my equipment, and tired from rushing from one job to the next.

I contrived to get cleaned up, got into Perth midday Friday, picked up my other trailer which was getting some work done, and by tea time was at Milly’s with Mr 11, Ms 10 and Mr 2. We got Mr 2 settled – thanks mostly to his sister – and at 6am this morning I was back, ready for pancake duty, while Milly got on with Red Cross work.

In the middle of all that – all these dirt roads, rush jobs and dodgy internet connections – I was corresponding with the “junior publicist” at Melbourne University Press with regards to Nathan Hobby’s upcoming KSP biography. I had an extract prepared, from Nathan’s PhD thesis, to run on the AWWC site for which as you know, I am the editor of guest contributions. JP’s final word was, “We currently have publicity procedures and agreements in place for this title blah blah”. So that’s one spot I’ll have to find something else for, and if she continues not to send me a review copy (and the first reviews are already out) then that will be two. I’m guessing lit.bloggers are not serious enough for the new, serious MUP.

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Recent audiobooks 

Rosalie Ham (F, Aus/Vic), The Dressmaker’s Secret (2020) – deserves a review. Over the top in what seems to be true Ham style. Thoroughly enjoyable Hist.Fic. (but boy! am I getting sick of Caroline Lee)
Salman Rushdie (M, Eng), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015)
Tao Lin (M, USA), Taipei (2013)
Clementine Ford (F, Aust/Vic), Fight Like a Girl (2016) – NF (another I enjoyed and should review)
Ian McEwan (M, Eng), Machines Like Me (2019) – Mediocre SF
John Banville (M, Ire), The Sea (2005)
Hans Rosenfeldt (M, Swe), Cry Wolf (2021) – Crime (more Scandanavian noir, set interestingly on Sweden’s border with Finland, but with too much blood and too obviously written by a movie script writer).

Currently Reading:

Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF (Still! It’s slow going)
Madelaine Ryan (F, Aus/Vic), A Room Called Earth (2020) – review coming.


The map is of course from Google Maps, I didn’t mean to crop their logo. To give you an idea of scale, Perth to Pt Hedland is 1,600 km.

FMG is Fortescue Metals Group, now Australia’s third largest iron ore miner after Andrew Forrest finally managed to launch a winner on the stockmarket (and is now of course considered an oracle on all things to do with anything).

KSP Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883 – 1969). Australian author