Who Does the Dishes?

Journal: 022

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Katherine Mansfield

Following on from my last, I got out of Sydney ok on Wednesday morning and dropped my trailers at Tolls, Perth late Friday, hopefully to be unloaded overnight. I’ve been asked to turn straight around, which I’ve agreed to, Milly’s away working on site till some time next week, but as I write, on Saturday morning, I’m yet to hear from work. Still, I can take today as a 24 hour break and leave this evening.

Despite what I wrote, I did pick up Mothers of the Novel for a while. The next authors after Aphra Benn are Delarivière Manley (1663-1724) and Eliza Haywood (1693-1756). Spender is furious that Manley worked with Jonathon Swift on the Examiner and succeeded him as editor, yet Swift is a celebrated satirist and Manley a forgotten ‘gossip-monger’. Alexander Pope describes her “as one of those shameless scribblers who, in libellous memoirs and novels reveal the faults and misfortunes of both sexes, to the ruin of public fame or disturbance of private happiness.” High, if unintended,  praise! Spender writes:

The entry I would like to see for Delarivière Manley in the history of letters would be as follows: A prolific and innovative writer who helped to develop the genre of fiction by her use of the epistolary form and her introduction of political satire.

I have Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751) which I had better not read until next year, until I have some Australian reading out of the way. So I will put off dealing with Haywood until then. But Spender, in lamenting that Manley and Haywood had family duties which made it difficult for them to earn an income from writing, includes by way of illustration this extract from a letter from Katherine Mansfield in 1913 to her lover, John Middleton Murry.

… the house seems to take up so much time if it isn’t looked after with some sort f method. I mean … when I have to clear up twice over or wash up unnecessary things I get frightfully impatient and want to be working. So often this week, I’ve heard you and Gordon talking while I washed dishes. Well, someone’s got to wash dishes and get food, otherwise – ‘There’s nothing in the house but eggs to eat”. Yes, I hate, hate, hate doing these things that you accept just as all men accept of their women. I can only play the servant with a very bad grace indeed. It’s all very well for females who have nothing else to do … and then you say I am a tyrant, and wonder because I get tired at night! The trouble with women like me is – they can’t keep their nerves out of the job in hand – and Monday after you and Gordon and Lesley have gone I walk about with a mind full of ghosts of saucepans and primus stoves and ‘Will there be enough to go round?’ …. and you calling (whatever I am doing) ‘Tig, isn’t there going to be tea? It’s five o’clock’ as though I were a dilatory housemaid.

I loathe myself today. I detest this woman who ‘superintends’ you and rushes about, slamming doors and slopping water – all untidy with her blouse out and her nails grimed. I am disgusted and repelled by the creature who shouts at you. ‘You might at least empty the pail and wash out the tea leaves!’ Yes, no wonder you ‘come over silent’.

Well that all sounds very familiar. I didn’t go down the pub, or gamble, and I cared for and cooked for the kids when Milly was at her (part-time, manual) work. But I had satisfying full-time employment and on-going education, doing degrees part-time throughout our marriage, and Milly had neither, and I made no effort to back off, or take over housework, to give her space to do either of those things. Milly is not one who “rushes about, slamming doors” but she did try to talk and I couldn’t or wouldn’t hear.

Nine am. Still haven’t heard. My washing’s done, I’d better pay some bills, I’d better go and check my PO box! There’s not much left to do except the library for more audiobooks. Food I can get at IGAs along the way, got some very sweet mandarines from a roadside stand a couple of days ago near Mildura.

Spender has made some remarks about the influence of the middle classes on eighteenth century writing, and when I have time that is what I will be following up next.

 

 

Recent audiobooks

Jeff Abbott (M, USA), Panic (2005)
Gillian Flynn (F,USA), Dark Places (2009)
Camille di Maio (F, USA), The Memory of Us (2016)

Currently reading

Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel. 

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Dragan’s back

Journal: 021

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Last trip – I’m doing one trip a fortnight out of Perth to the east coast – Mum and my cousin Kay were in Toowoomba visiting Mum’s sister, I got two trailers to Toowoomba, unloaded, took a 24 hour break, got a room in their motel, had a pleasant time. This trip I had deliveries in Wodonga and Canberra. Great, I’d finally get to meet Sue, the famous Whispering Gums.

I let her know I was on my way (as a comment on one of her posts, I think).

Sue: Just a quick response. Meeting you somewhere for a cuppa Monday early, mid or even late afternoon should be easy …

Nothing is easy with Dragan. On Friday, I’d left Thursday, he books me to load out of Tolls, Sydney on Monday night, never mind that I’m due one 24 hour break a week. Tolls collect freight all day, we drop our trailers in the streets nearby, and during the night they tow them inside and load them. Then phone us after midnight to say they’re ready.

I update Sue.

Sue: I’m guessing the DRAGON’S (haha) change in plans for you mean we are not going to catch up this time?

I get to Wodonga midday Sunday, to the BP truckstop 15 km south. My paperwork is addressed to “name to be supplied”, 245 Beechworth Rd, Wodonga. Dana, Dragan’s sister, has sent me a text with the mud map above. I can’t read it, on my phone or on my laptop. I get Dragan to come into work. After a dozen phone calls we establish (a) he should have warned the client of my ETA on Friday; (b) it looks like the delivery address is back to front, should read Wodonga Rd, Beechworth (map). I finally get on to the client direct and he tells me to come before it gets dark and he’ll try and get a tractor with forklift attachments. Doesn’t that sound promising!

Beechworth’s not far away but it’s in the Great Divide. So, into the mountains we go, picturesque and exciting! I pull up on the edge of town and Darryl comes out in his ute to guide me. I follow him a short way, he jumps out, gesturing to a narrow gateway into a bush block on the far side of a drain. I swerve around the end of the drain, between the gateposts, drop more than a metre at 45 degrees, find a space to park between the trees (yellow and grey box he tells me). If it rains I’ll need a bulldozer to tow me out. We pull back the curtains but it’s too late to unload.

Up at 5am next (Mon) morning, get all the straps off, the gates stacked under the trailer etc. Eventually an old guy turns up with a tractor with hay bale tines. My load is fireproof sandwich panels that by the end of this week will have been assembled into a house. The old guy makes a meal of getting them off. The tractor has to drive up onto home workshop ramps to reach the highest packs, and of course he drops one that isn’t balanced properly. No harm done. Job done. I find a way to back up and turn around, make a very limited run at the jump-up out the gate, and I’m away. Hook up my front trailer again, head north up the Hume.

Me: ‘Wodonga’ turned out to be a bush block in the mountains near Beechworth, I’ve been having “interesting ” times. Still hours from Canberra, no hope of making Sydney in time to load, but that doesn’t mean Dragan won’t make me try.

Sue: That’s OK … I assume we’ll hear about Beechworth/Wodonga in a Journal post??

‘Canberra’ of course means Queanbeyan. Between Google maps, a real map and advice from the (next) client I find my way around Canberra (map) and get my delivery done. It’s now after 5.00 pm.
I text Dragan in hope, but apparently Tolls is still on. I give up on the “Alternative Heavy Vehicle Route” out for a simpler route through Canberra.
Me: On my way. Dragan still has plans. Heading out via Ipswich St, Monaro hwy.

Sue: Such a shame … Fyshwick would be very doable for me. Good luck.

Three hours later I pull up outside Tolls, Eastern Creek, drop my trailers in the street as requested, go round to the truckstop. But wait, there’s more …

Me: Dropped trailers Tolls 8.30. Went round to BP for shower and was just having a quiet browse before going to sleep when Dragan messaged to say (a) load was off till tomorrow; and (b) another driver would be doing it anyway. So all that rushing for nothing, as usual … Might be easier if your next trip, after the Mallee, is to Perth.

I see Sue has just responded to a comment, so I guess she is still up. She replies, wishing me well.


Interestingly, there is no mention of Indigenous people on the Beechworth tourism sites nor in their wikipedia entry. I have found a detailed post (here) Where were Aboriginal people during the Beechworth gold rush? (decimated by settlers as you might expect – Giving more weight to my belief that it was unforgiveable of Peter Carey to exclude local Aboriginals from his True History of the Kelly Gang). The same blog in a different post (here) names the locals as the Yeddonba. The map I used for Joseph Hawson’s Journal gave the language name Waveroo to this area, more research needed!

 

Recent audiobooks

Edna O’Brien (F, Ire), The Country Girls (1960)
Margaret Atwood (F,Can), Alias Grace (1996)
Linwood Barclay (M, USA), A Noise Downstairs (2018)
Leena Lehtolainen (F, Fin), Before I Go (2000)

Currently reading

Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel. No I’m not but I have it with me, and half a dozen others, notably Eleanor Dark’s Waterway .

Stuff on the Internet

Mrs B’s Book Reviews has reviewed Seven Little Australians (here). A reminder, to me as well as you, that my AWW Gen2 week (13-19 Jan, 2019) is fast approaching.

And the latest issue of Australian Literary Studies (here):

“Helena Kadmos’ essay, ‘Re-Imagining Indigenous Australia through the Short Story:  Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven’, presents a welcome discussion of van Neerven’s acclaimed collection.

Jonathan Dunk examines the use of the short story form by Henry Lawson and John Kinsella.

In addition, reviews of the edited collection Teaching Australian and New Zealand Literature (by Dougal McNeill) and David Game’s D. H. Lawrence’s Australia (by Barbara Holloway – no relation).

 

Childhood

Journal: 020

 

William Inverloch 1955

Coming out of Caiguna on the way home, listening to G&S’s The Gondoliers (Youtube), the USB stick I dug up to save Project Gutenberg audiobooks on turning out to contain my long lost ‘classical’ music selections, I started planning a post on childhood memories. A few rousing songs in – I’d listened all the way through earlier, and was this time just seeking a musical interlude between books, not that I couldn’t listen to endless G&S, Pinafore is my favourite, though The Mikado is probably their best – I started my next book, coincidentally The Night Child (2018) by Anna Quinn, a story of one woman’s repressed memories and her consequent PTSD, which has had the effect of colouring how this post is written. An hour and a half later I came to a bend and realised I’d travelled the length of the Ninety Mile Straight without noticing. You may conclude I’m not an attentive driver, it took me ages when I first started crossing the Nullarbor to even work out where the Straight was.

I had an idyllic childhood. I often said so once, but not so much as I got older. Perhaps now I’ve written My Father was Busy and I’m still Angry I might feel easier about saying so again. I grew up in country towns all round Victoria, a life of sunshine and freedom: visiting my grandfather’s, my uncles’, my friends’ farms; exploring the countryside on my bike; school, at which I excelled and which I always enjoyed; camping, in the Mallee, in the Grampians, down the beach at Yambuk or in the bush at Mt Eccles, with scouts and youth groups; swimming, playing football, tennis, cricket, hockey; going to country dances, “50:50s”, from the time I started high school, back when all ages danced to the same music.

Writers write about childhood because they can? Who knows. But we read writers writing about their childhoods because we love their writing, because we want to know their childhood influences. I don’t think childhoods are intrinsically interesting, well, except for my own and my children’s. Out on the Nullarbor I could only think of two, Miles Franklin’s Childhood at Brindabella, and Sartre’s Words. I will review the Franklin one day when I’ve run out of other stuff but it’s a terrible book. I pulled down Sartre when I got home, it’s years since I read it, the front cover proclaims “I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it.” Of course I soon thought of others, Gerald Murnane’s fictionalised in Landscape with Landscape, Ann Frank, The Children’s House of Belsen, Norman Lindsay’s Redheap trilogy, The Getting of Wisdom, there must be hundreds of others, The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony, MF’s two Career books and Cockatoos.  Fellow blogger Nathan Hobby’s The Furan SF bildungsroman which I imagine draws heavily on his boyhood in WA’s southwest. Funnily enough Alien Son, the earlier parts anyway, is the one that feels closest to home.

Wm, Underbool 1952

My earliest memory is of crawling up the stairs into the rear of the one room school building where my father was teaching, at Underbool in 1953 probably, or maybe Bonnie Doon in ’54. Our house was in the school grounds and the little girls would play mothers and fathers with me as baby. I can remember in the ordinary, patchy way most of my life from about 1955 on. The rooming house above the fish and chip shop we lived in in Inverloch when dad got Leongatha but no house; the subsequent 3 BR housing commission weatherboard, one of five in a row down a dead-end gravel street, facing out onto paddocks of cows and blackberries; hiding in an abandoned car with the girl next door (one year older!) and taking down our pants for mutual inspections; a party for my sixth birthday – I said to Gee yesterday that it was the only party of my childhood, my next was a joint 20th with my housemate, Russell, and the next after that was my fortieth, and she said that we had only given her one too, her eleventh, though I reminded her that Milly and I had gone out for her fifteenth, which she wasn’t game to for our granddaughter’s fifteenth last month, and come home late to a garden full of bottles – at which I got a cowboy belt and holster and a new 24″ bike, blue, which mum pushed round and round the clothesline, giving all us boys a ride, and it occurs to me only now that she was then, aged 24, 20 odd weeks pregnant with B4; the next two years I would ride everywhere through Leongatha and then, when we moved to Murrayville in the Mallee at the beginning of grade four, for miles out into the bush or along the highway.

Television came that year, which for nearly all my growing up I would see, especially the commercial stations, I Love Lucy, The Man from UNCLE, Laugh-In, only at the homes of other children.

For the move from Leongatha to Murrayville, dad and I left mum and the boys at grandma’s and came back to supervise the movers. Dad’s grade six, the big kids!, had performed Pinafore at speech night and as we set off back to Sea Lake, 300 miles, in the FJ, dad sang the whole thing from beginning to end.

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Milly and I had superficially similar childhoods, hers in working class Hammy Hill, mine in the Bush, those seemingly innocent, long passed 1950s and early 60s, a contradictory mix of books and all day out of doors, but problems at home truncated her schooling, left her with stuff she talked about quite freely in those first weeks I first came west and stayed with her and Xenia, (and Psyche, and Rivervale girls constantly in and out) but didn’t start dealing with really until everything else fell on her, me leaving, Psyche leaving, Psyche getting us all into family therapy.

She says she chose me for my ‘stability’, an illusion I fostered through equal measures of ignorance and confidence. An ignorance compounded by my all-boy childhood in no way alleviated by adolescent fumblings, and an almost total lack of empathy. I think I was 40 before I even began to understand that listening involves a lot more than just listening.

The thirty something woman protagonist of The Night Child has some pretty vicious childhood stuff to deal with when it all starts coming back, and if her acceptance of her repressed memories, her ‘voluntary’ hospitalisation, and the subsequent resolution through therapy, all feel a bit pat, then others, and women in particular, may feel differently, I’m not in any position to judge. Either way, it’s a well written and dramatic story. And set in Seattle which seems to this outsider to invoke more genuine affection in its residents than any other US town.

The Man Who Loved Children with it’s controlling father I should also have remembered. Christina Stead, somewhere, told an interviewer that every word of it was from life, from her own childhood in Watsons Bay, Sydney.

 

Recent audiobooks

Anna Quinn (F, USA), The Night Child (2018) Read by Cassandra Campbell
Jane Austen (F,Eng), Pride & Prejudice (1811) Audiogo, Read by Lindsay Duncan
George Orwell (M, Eng), 1984 (1949) Blackstone, read by Simon Prebble
Ruth Rendell (F, Eng), The Babes in the Wood (2004)
Heather Graham (F, USA), A Dangerous Game (2017)
Ian Rankin (M, Sco), Mortal Causes (1994)
Gaston Leroux (M, Fra), The Phantom of the Opera (1910)
Herman Koch (M, Neth), Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011)
Wendy Wax (F, USA), The Accidental Best Seller (2009)
John Le Carre (M,Eng), The Spy who came in from the Cold (1963)
Ann Patchett (F, USA), Commonwealth (2016)
Emile Zola (M, Fra), Thérèse Raquin (1867) – a seven hour sermon on the sin of Adultery contained within the metaphor of Murder. Lisa at ANZLL gives it a more favourable review here.

Currently reading

Toni Morrison, Beloved
Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel

More Mistakes

Journal: 019

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Not a mistake at all. I said I almost never saw wombats these days, so it’s inevitable that from then on I would. At dusk last week between Morgan and Burra, mallee country, there were wombats all along the verge. One started crossing the road, saw (or heard) me coming, and broke into an impressive gallop. I should get dash-cam and take my own photos like the above.


I wrote I’m Making a Mistake at least partly to see how long it would take me to rectify it. The answer, so far, is a while. I thought I might have a job lined up which would keep me closer to home but it fell through, and anyway, while Dragan’s away Sam and I seem to be getting used to each other. There’s regulatory stuff I have to do too. Meanwhile, Milly seems mellow. I took her out to dinner for her birthday and gave her The History of Bees, Maja Lunde and Mary Leunig’s brand new, One Good Turn. We all used to love Mary Leunig and the kids would pore endlessly over her drawings.


Last trip I made a mistake of a different kind, or more correctly I guess, a wrong turn. Following the multiple secondary roads which are the official cross country route (in South Australia) for trucks from NSW heading to the West, I got from Renmark to Burra ok, but then, in the dark with oncoming traffic, turned left 100 m before the correct turnoff to Spalding, Warnertown, Port Pirie and thence via Highway One to Port Augusta. I quickly realised my mistake but, unable to turn around, pressed on. The road turned to gravel, kilometres passed, tens of kilometres, I pressed on. I was forced into a left turn when I needed a right, I pressed on. Finally, I came to a bitumen cross road with a sign pointing right to Clare. I was way, way south of where I hoped to be.

I hadn’t been through Clare for 40 years, there were hills with 35 kph hairpin bends I’d forgotten, then just as the road levelled out:  “Bridgeworks”, “Road Closed”, “Detour”. I turned on to a track through the trees, under a railway bridge with 8 inches (0.2m) to spare and came out at a T-junction onto the main street. No signs. It was after 9.00 pm local time, the town centre was deserted. I stopped where I was in the road and went for a walk. A lone truck came along. The driver said turn right, go over the hill and turn left to Lochiel (which is on Highway One but a long way south of Port Pirie). I took his advice, I was sure there were shorter routes but it was late, drove an endless straight road to Lochiel, turned onto the highway, went to bed. I was hours and 100 km out of my way (map).


I’m not sure if it’s a mistake or just old age, but I’m 20 kg overweight. Since starting this job in April I’ve gone over 100 kg. I feel (and look) like a blob. Yes I’ve stopped swimming, but even in full training four or five years ago, 20 km/week, the best I could hope for was the high 90s. I’m a vego. I live on fruit, vegies and nuts. It’s not fair. And then there’s this article in the Age about the Zoo no longer giving fruit to animals because it’s making them obese. I eat 5 pieces of fruit/day, more if stone fruit or grapes are in season. I’m back on the 5:2 diet. ‘Starvation’ days are porridge, one apple, one orange. It’s already killing me.

When I met Milly I was a rake, and I don’t mean the Georgette Heyer kind. I was 10 stone, driving all night on diet pills; half a briquette, 2 shakers and a bottle of coke every two hours. Eyes like saucers. Hair buzzing. A year into marriage and that little belly started coming. And kept coming. I stood it till 40, then mid-life crisis, vego, competitive swimmer. For a while most of my less than 90 kg was muscle. Now it’s just a foundation for all that extra flab. Hang ageing gracefully, I want to be that 40 something guy again. I want to pull chicks. What is it again I should do with them?


I’m not going to a review any of the books I’ve read recently. Lincoln in the Bardo was try-hard (read Lisa/ANZLL’s post (here) on David Malouf’s comments about “clever” fiction). The 7th Function of Language (Lisa again) was fun, with a Lit. professor hero, and lots of lectures about literature, but in the end was just ordinary crime fiction. The Natashas (2016) by Yelena Moskovich was interesting, worth reading, I wonder if I bought it because one of you recommended it. The other day, waiting for the car to be serviced, I picked up Beloved for $2.00 from an op shop and I’m loving it.

Recent audiobooks

EM Forster (M, Eng), Howards End (1910) – Project Gutenberg
Terry Pratchett (M,Eng) , Strata (1981)
Ian Rankin (M, Scot), Blood Hunt (1995)
Matthew Quick (M, USA), Love May Fail (2015)

Currently reading

Toni Morrison, Beloved
Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel


If you look on the Menu bar you’ll see I’ve started a Journal page to make it easier for new readers to find earlier posts. (Which begs the question, what brings in new readers? In my case it seems to be mostly posts about early Australian and English Lit.)

Crossing the Nullarbor

Journal: 018

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The Nullarbor Plain (nul-arbor: no trees) lies across the WA/SA border and its cliffs hold back the Southern Ocean. Technically, the highway only crosses the plain around Nullarbor Station at the head of the Bight, but generally a Nullarbor crossing is the 1200 km from Norseman, WA to Ceduna, SA, though the Eyre Highway continues another 500 km across the Eyre Peninsula to Port Augusta (map).

The Plain is largely uninhabited except for the roadhouses every 60-180 km and the quarantine workers at the border (Eucla/Border Village Roadhouse). Driving across from west to east, the clay soils of the Goldfields and the Great Western Woodlands give way after Balladonia to limestone plains, light scrub and saltbush until well into South Aust. and the Mallee woodlands around Yalata. The Nullarbor itself is “the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock”, but as far as I can see, sand, limestone and mallee scrub extend all the way across SA and into northern Victoria.

Much of the plain is fenced for grazing, sheep I imagine, though you never see any. Then from around Nundroo – a couple of houses and an old service station – scattered wheat farmers scratch a living from marginal soils and even more marginal rainfall. Penong, 70 km before Ceduna, is the one township, with a truck stop, a couple of shops and a police station. A while ago, I wondered why Kim Scott’s great grandmother Fanny (Benang) and her husband carried supplies from Esperance (on the coast) to Balladonia, 180 km east of Norseman. It was not a sheep station as I thought but a township, although for what purpose I cannot imagine, and is now long gone.

The signs along the highway, when they’re not being stolen by backpackers, warn of camels, kangaroos and wombats. There’s no shortage of kangaroos, or emus or wedge-tailed eagles; camels are a problem when they venture this far south, which is luckily not often, because their weight and high centre of gravity cause a lot of damage when you hit them; wombats dead or alive, you used to see a lot of at the eastern end of the plain, but not so much now.

I can only think of two literary references to the Nullarbor, Daisy Bates’ The Passing of the Aborigines, a selection of articles written by her and collated by Ernestine Hill, and Hill’s biography of Bates, Kabbarli (here); and Stephen Orr’s The Hands with its improbable Herefords (they certainly wouldn’t get fat!) and mathematically impossible train sighting (one hour horizon to horizon at 100 kph). Though at the edge of my memory is an SF novel written by Sean McMullen, a workmate of a friend but now apparently famous, Mirrorsun Rising about a post-apocalyptic future which somehow involves Victoria at war with Western Australia.

The Indigenous map I rely on (here) shows a major language group extending from around the Goldfields (Kalgoorlie) along the Bight to Nullarbor Station in South Australia. As best I can discover, the original languages along the coast were Ngadjunmaya to the west and Mirning to the east, both now extinct. The people of the Goldfields and out into the desert are Wangkatja, Western Desert people

Further east, from Yalata to Ceduna, were the Wirangu whose language was subsumed by the related Kokatha, another member of the Western Desert family of languages to their north, following the establishment of the Koonibba mission near Ceduna (map). Yalata on the highway has been a mission, a roadhouse and is now an Indigenous community centre. And the roadhouse where you could once stop for souvenirs and snacks is closed.

Not just out on the Nullarbor, but in the roadhouses I use in WA, in the Goldfields and the Pilbara, and in outback SA and NSW, you never – I think I can say never – see Aboriginal workers. Racism probably. Chinese-run roadhouses don’t prosper either, though there are a couple of Indian ones. Truckies it seems, like to be served by (white) housewives and backpacker girls.

White 9000 Adelaide 1976

The SA end of the Eyre Highway was sealed in 1976 and I made my first crossing at the end of 1977, so I never got to cross on the dirt, though long sections of the old road still run parallel to the bitumen. I’d always wanted to run east-west and my business, I was an owner-driver then too, was registered as “Go West”. I got my chance when Holymans in Sydney offered me a load of lawn mower grass catchers. I’d brought a mixed load of oranges and general freight up from Adelaide and the Riverland, unloaded Sunday night at the markets, went round to Holymans who had me going by Mon evening; was in Adelaide Tues arvo to top up; and more importantly pick up my girlfriend Tommy who had promised to introduce me if I ever got a load to Perth, to her busty blonde friend Xenia; arrived Perth Thurs, pulled up in inner suburban Rivervale outside Xenia’s duplex; and were met at the front door not by Xenia but by her slender younger sister  …

Milly and baby Psyche. I went off and unloaded. Xenia came home from work and took us down the beach. By that night I had been awake 6 days. I fell asleep in the shower, was discovered, crawled behind a couch and there lay oblivious to the five women who hadn’t seen Tommy for years since they were all together in Alice Springs, and now had a lot to say.

The next morning I woke early. Milly was in the kitchen feeding Psyche. We talked, we sat and read, I held Psyche. Later, the girls said if I was ever back in Perth I should come and stay. I rang Adelaide, organized a load for Xmas Eve. Took Tommy home. “You’ve fallen for Xenia, haven’t you,” she said – resigned after repeatedly losing boyfriends to her in Alice. “No,” I said, “her sister.”

Drove all day Xmas Day, absolutely no traffic, was back in Perth Boxing Day and stayed for 2 weeks. Down the beach, Cottesloe, Swanbourne, New Years Eve at Steve’s (a famous pub). The time of my life. Got regular east-west work, took Xenia to Melbourne, took Milly’s best friend to Melbourne. Brought my Monaro back, to take Milly to the drive-ins. It took a while to convince her. And where was the Young Bride you ask. In Holland as it happens – a story for another day.

I struggled to get work for my trailer, a pantec (van), so borrowed B2’s flattop. Rolled it with a load of jarrah when I came over the rise into Ceduna and there was a train on the line, took it off the road out into the sand and laid it gently on its side. Bought a new trailer but was soon broke and declared bankruptcy. Was a salesman for a few months, then a driver again, crossing the Nullarbor twice a week each way, two-up (one driving, one asleep) with Ipec fast freight. Rolled another truck in the Blue Mountains. Flew home. Retired. Lou was on the way.

After five years in Perth I dragged Milly and the kids to Melbourne where we stayed for fifteen years. Milly flew home sometimes and we made two trips by car, Mitsubishi Magna station wagons, a trailer for the tent and supplies. The first time the two youngest sat in the very back (with seatbelts!), talked and played games, Psyche listened to music, Milly read to me and kept everyone fed. The second time Lou had a broken leg, a corkscrew fracture when he was tackled by all his fellow scouts, including his sister, playing british bulldog, and he got the back. Psyche flew home early that trip to celebrate her 18th birthday while we came home round the coast, the Big Tree at Pemberton, Denmark, Albany, Esperance.

In 2001 Milly had had enough of Melbourne and drove back to Perth in her little Daewoo, came back to see us in July and again at the end of the year when she sold up. I hung on for a couple of months then drove my lovely Triumph 2500 TC I’d bought all those years ago back in Perth, round to the wreckers, piled all I had left in the Mitsubishi and drove over to join her (share housing you understand, we’d been separated a while). Started running out of Perth to north Qld for Sam, till in December (2002) a co-driver foisted on me for a quick trip to Darwin rolled the truck with me in the sleeper and I packed it in. And that was it for Nullarbor crossings until I rejoined Sam and Dragan earlier this year. The rest you know.

Indigenous Stories

Train refuses to stop for injured Aboriginal, Ooldea, 1941 (here)
Aboriginal Astronomical Traditions from Ooldea (here)
Our People, Ooldea (here)

Recent audiobooks

Ian McEwan (M, Eng), Sweet Tooth (2012)
Jonathon Kellerman (M, USA), Heartbreak Hotel (2017)
Margaret Atwood (F, Can), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Kerry Greenwood (F, Vic/Aust), Death at Victoria Dock (1992)
Kate Chopin (F, USA), The Awakening (1899) – Project Gutenberg

Currently reading

Laurent Binet, The 7th Function of Language
Yelena Moskovich, The Natashas

Odds & Sods

Journal: 017

1200px-Sail_n_Anchor_gnangarra-2
Sail & Anchor, Fremantle (wiki)

I’m having (will have had by the time this is posted) a week off. The truck has had a leaking radiator for a few weeks now and on Saturday Sam used it as an excuse not to give me the load he promised me on Friday. I guess one of his own trucks didn’t have work. So I’ve put it in to have the radiator replaced. Apparently modern radiators are too fragile to be repaired.

Hence a journal of odds & sods. My mother used to say “you sod” meaning I think, you duffer. Wrong consonants! My family, all of whom read I’m Making a Mistake, were quick to capitalize on my unexpected availability and I was allocated the task of picking up nearly 15 year old granddaughter from a party in Freo. at 10.30 pm (negotiated down from 11.30). I was already at Milly’s doing some carpentering – she’s never slow to capitalize – so we got changed and went down to Freo for dinner and a movie.

Dinner was ok, we wandered through the markets and ended up at the multi-outlet place next to the Sail & Anchor. I had Malaysian, rice and fish curry, and a glass of cheap white. Outside, in the busking space, a 9 or 10 year old girl was dancing furiously with a hula hoop. I put a few dollars in her hat. The movie was The Insult. Earlier in the week I’d been discussing an Israeli view of the Palestinian ‘problem’ with Sue (Whispering Gums) and this was the same problem from a different viewpoint, that of right wing Christian Lebanese forced to share their country with Palestinian refugees. It was a good movie, until I got a phone call from nearly 15’s father (at home with 6 and 8).

Nearly 15 is in with a bad crowd as they say and it’s impacting on her schooling and her home life and I was a bit anxious about what state she’d be in by 10.30. So when her dad said (Yes, I went outside to return the call) granddaughter and her friend were waiting to be picked up nearby two hours early, I walked straight there, and Milly caught us up a few minutes later. Two more fifteenish 15 year olds you wouldn’t want to meet. They were bored, they were hungry. Their phones didn’t work, or were lost, or the chargers were lost. We fed them, took them home. I think the other girl hadn’t told her mother everything she might as she (the mother) and Milly had a long talk when Milly rang her in the morning. A happy ending. I just need to borrow the movie to see how it ends.


Westerly, our local bookish magazine, has an essay by Claire G Coleman (my review of Terra Nullius) on the perils of being Indigenous and speaking at Writers Festivals – The Risks of Question Time (here). It seems there will always be at least one old white person to tell the Indigenous how to be Indigenous.

I am speaking to whitey now; you made us. You took our land, you raped our ancestors and made our people feel so unwanted, so hated, that they felt it necessary to capitulate by marrying and bonking our oppressors. When our children were born mixed-race, you decided we were inferior even to our own people and tried to breed us whiter, breed out the black and took kids from their families to ensure you had power over them. You told us our culture was worthless and forced your ‘education’ on us. Some of us excelled at your education and those of us who do well within your system are now, in your minds, ‘not really Aboriginal’.

Leaving aside that I don’t go to Writers Festivals and I find it very difficult to speak in public, I hope I am not such a person. I think we have reached a place in black/white relations in Australia where Indigenous people can speak for themselves. Our duty is to choose the right people to speak for us, to negotiate fairly to achieve a situation where Indigenous people can live both with and alongside mainstream society as they choose.


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Weds. I had big plans for this week, all the things I’d put off doing for lack of time (vacuuming for instance!) but instead I seem to be relaxing. Delivered the truck to the repairer, Monday, and Millie’s dog to the kennels. Took Millie to the airport Tues. Had tea with Gee and the kids last night. They all said “Where’ve you been, Poppy?”. I stayed long enough to read two Anh Dos. This morning I did nothing except finish Georgette Heyer’s The Foundling, which I bought at the Addison Road Markets in Sydney last week. I’ve written a couple of posts, had lots of fun with the comments on The Dry. Ok, I’ll stop there and bring my business accounts up to date.


Thurs. Work says there should be work today. Gee gave me a lift – getting her thesis completed is proving a struggle, so she was happy to skive off uni for an hour – so I could pick up the truck and run it back to the depot. Dropped in at Crow Books, got myself a Magbala book, Blackwork by Alison Whittaker (poetry!), and Jane Eyre and a Perth YA, Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson for Ms Nearly 15. Sept/Oct is birthday season in my family so there’ll be more business for Crow when I get back.

No work yet. Maybe tomorrow (Fri.)

Recent audiobooks

Reginald Hill (M, Eng), A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
Jane Harper (F, Vic/Aust), The Dry (2016)
George Eliot (F, Eng), Silas Marner (1861) – Project Gutenberg

Currently reading

Dale Spender, Mothers of the Novel
Georgette Heyer, The Foundling
Frank Moorhouse (ed.),The Drover’s Wife
Yelena Moskovich, The Natashas

 

My Father was Busy

Journal: 015

Wm & Mum 1951
Photo 1951, DC Holloway (Box Brownie)

My father was busy and I’m still angry. Tedious I know, Milly and the kids make that clear! And let’s not discuss how busy I was for them. Busy, Busy.

Mum was a 17 year old farm girl, a pupil teacher when Dad came to town, tall, ex-Melbourne High, ex-Navy, city boy, confident (and competent) teacher but pathologically un-social. His mother, a Luya from Brisbane, had pretensions of class. Her son spent his life in her shadow. He needed a wife he could train up, no challenges, a farm girl.

Granddad, mum’s dad, made him get his truck licence so he could help with the harvest, driving the old ex-Army 7 ton Inter, overloaded with wheat to the top of the bin, to Boigbeat silo. He could never in his life call Granddad ‘Dad’ or even ‘Fred’. I heard Granddad tell him off about it and he skulked back to his room, his books while his sons crammed into the ute, the cab of the truck, drove tractors, chased sheep, sewed up bagged wheat, grew into hybrid farm boys town boys that he only ever imperfectly understood.

In May the year after they met, Mum barely 18, they were in Healesville 250 miles from Sea Lake, waiting apparently for permission to marry. It’s never discussed, would never have come up except Mum’s younger brother, then still a baby, told me over a beer years later that guys in the Berriwillock pub still asked him why Mum and Dad ran away together. Dad said he was offered a married position at a school at the other end of the state. Mum says nothing.

I came along 10 months later.

It wouldn’t be fair to say Dad wasn’t involved. We always went for Sunday drives, often quite long ones, Wilsons Prom from Leongatha and a few years later when we still had the FJ, from Murrayville to Nhill after church, 80 miles of sand through the Big Desert. We got bogged 3 times and it took till after midnight to get home, the long way through Ouyen.

Dad and Mum were both strict and handy with a stick. I cried at the time but being belted never did me any harm. Dad took to me with a piece of dowell once for saying ‘pooh’ when Mum told me to do something and I went to school (his school) with blue stripes across the back of my legs. He said he wouldn’t hit me after I started high school, but once when I was 12 or 13 his parents were staying and I woke them up fighting with B2 whose room I had been forced to share. He was furious, dragged me to his office – our house was in the school grounds – and began laying into me with the strap, hands and legs until he was worn out.

The big problem was I was bright, brighter than he was, and he didn’t know how to deal with it, thought the solution, the least amount of effort for him, would be discipline and an average education. He taught me chess and I beat him, and his father, in primary school. That was the end of chess.

I had sport, I had scouts, I had books. I had a bike. We lived in country towns so as long as I was home for tea, out of sight, out of mind. In 1966 Mr Fast-Track needed to complete his BA to become an Inspector so we bought a 3 br brick house in a new development in Blackburn South (Melbourne). I fought to maintain my country freedoms, he was too preoccupied to fight back. But nights were out of the question. Even at 17 bedtime school nights was 9.00.

He got his promotion, we moved to Mudsville. My english teacher at Blackie South High – you notice that selective Melbourne High, his alma mater, was never considered, nor even mentioned – offered to board me but Mudsville High was good enough and I spent the last year and a half of my schooling with the mud-minds.

Dad was a shocking 1950s husband, made all the rules, was very Mr Bennet with Mum, and yes that rubbed off on me, would shrug off any attempt at affection. I thought after he retired, began doing housework and making speeches about how lucky he was to meet Mum etc, etc. that Mum, who like many fiftyish women grew into mature self-confidence, might have given him an ultimatum, but she says not.

I don’t forget Dad dinking me to school on his bike when Mum was in Leongatha hospital having B3 and B4, or piggybacking me home at Murrayville when I was crook. B2 who had him in grade 6 says that when he played up Dad would take him into the office next door and give the desk a resounding 6 cuts with the strap. I don’t forget the driving lessons he gave me in the bush when I was barely a teenager, or that when I came home drunk from a Saturday night dance in 6th form he just sent me to bed with some newspaper (he always waited up and would sometimes drive into town to search for me if I wasn’t home by midnight), nor do I forget the huge financial strain of giving me a year, and potentially four years, in Trinity College.

I don’t forget that I got my high school girlfriend pregnant, that I failed first year Engineering.

And no,  I’m not bitter about his opposition to my politics, to the Moratorium, to my non-compliance with the Draft Laws. A bit annoyed that he advised the Federal Police who had warrants for my arrest where they could find me in Brisbane  but Mum let me know and the Young Bride and I moved on to Nambour.

He always came across when I asked for money. His first thought when I told him and Mum that I was leaving Milly was for the kids, particularly Psyche who was in a more difficult position than the younger two. In later years, even before his retirement, he tried very hard but it was never enough.


(If you noticed the Journal No., I wrote this some time ago but held off publishing it, so it’s out of sequence. Earlier Journal posts may be accessed from the Journals page above.)

Photo: Dad’s car appears to be a 1930s (so, older than Mum) Chevrolet Series AD Universal (wiki)