Home is where the heart is

Journal: 051

Sunset country

Sunday. Here I am home, so no excuses for not keeping up with your posts, for a week or so anyway. I actually got to the outskirts of Perth last night, but it takes a few hours to run two trailers down to the yard, go back, get the other one, get the ute going, unpack my gear from the truck, and my body seems to prefer Victorian time to WA time, which just makes it all another two hours later, and I was already looking at midnight, so I pulled over, slept one more night in the truck and did it all this morning then wandered over to Milly’s, too late for pancakes but there’s always toast.

She of course wanted to go shopping, so I went home and got cleaned up. We both need new stovetops, mine’s not working at all, Lou making do with the oven and an electric frypan. I think we found what I want. I did the regulation traipsing while she looked at stuff she might want, then diverted her to a local Greek for an excellent lunch – saganaki, honey, walnuts how do I moan in text – (we did eat other stuff as well) and a bottle of white. I’m not properly home till I have that first bottle. I was feeling so mellow I drove half an hour to a native garden centre and helped her spend a couple of hundred hard-earned.

That’s boring I know. Stuff you do all the time. Well all the time there’s not a deadly virus raging through your community. But I spend days and weeks on my own (willingly!), on zero blood alcohol, and boring days doing stuff with Millie, the kids, the grandkids is what I look forward to. And sitting at the computer writing, reading. It might take me a day to talk myself out and after that I’m back to solitary stuff.

The other side of ‘home’ is that this trip, for the first time, I road trained through home territory, Victoria, where I grew up, the last mainland state to hold out. Going over, I dipped a toe in the water and crossed the northern tip, to Mildura, but coming back I went the whole hog, assembled the road train at Charlton north of Bendigo (map), ran straight up the highway through Berriwillock and Sea Lake where mum went to school, and her parents before her, and a cousin still farms, then Ouyen, Underbool, Murrayville, all tiny farming towns where a brother was born, dad taught, I went to school, Sunset country, Mallee country. Home.

My uncle Les, mum’s youngest brother (and father of the cousin who still farms there) ran trucks from the family farm between Berriwillock and Sea Lake, bought his first when he was 20 and I was 16, set me on the path I still follow. He married a year or so later, telling me that if I washed his stock crate I could come to the wedding. I did but Grandma vetoed me. If I came, all the cousins would have to come and there were too many. I’d been at my other uncle’s wedding a few years earlier aged 10 maybe, one of only four or five weddings I’ve been to in my whole life, though for my youngest aunty’s I was stuck in the car with my brothers, outside the church hall, fed sausage rolls through the car window by the ladies of the church auxiliary.

les's truck aaco

Les started off carting sheep. My first job as an owner driver was carting cattle. I ran into him a few times at Newmarket, the Melbourne saleyards across the road from Flemington, posh terrace housing now. I remember telling him one time I’d broken down and he was too busy to stop and help. He took over the family farm and we loss contact except at big family get-togethers but in later years I think his older daughter was happy to take over the tractor work and he ran a few trucks, trading and carting grain. It’s a while now since he died in an accident, but I think of him each time I run up that way, he could have hooked up a couple of trailers behind his biggest Mack and road trained right out the farm gate, and I’m sure he would have.

I should think of dad, too, though he was a very reluctant truck driver. Either the summer before he married mum, or the summer after, Granddad made him get his truck licence so he could take the old ex-army International 7 tonner, rocking and groaning with ten ton of wheat over the dirt roads to the Boigbeat silo, a few miles up the line from Berriwillock where coincidentally I took the ‘sunset’ photo above.

 

Recent audiobooks 

Loren Estleman (F, USA), The Sundown Speech (2016) – Crime
Paolo Bacigalupi (M, USA), Pump Six and other stories (2008) – SF
Erica Wright (F, USA), The Granite Moth (2015) – Crime
Elizabeth Aston (F, Eng), Miss Althea Darcy (2004) – Romance
Dan Simmons (M, USA), Endymion (1996) – SF
Dave Barry (M, USA), Tricky Business (2002) – Crime
Kirstin Chen (F, Sing/USA), Soy Sauce for Beginners (2013)
Will Wiles (M, Eng), Care of Wooden Floors (2012)
Lee Child (M, Eng), The Midnight Line (2017) – Crime

Currently reading

Patrick White, The Cockatoos
Martin Boyd, The Cardboard Crown
Christine Merrill, Regency Liasons. Milly’s working a few days a week at a Red Cross shop and brought this home so of course I started it while she was cooking tea and will finish it before I do anything else. Like choose a book for ANZLL’s Indigenous Literature Week (July 5-12, 2020) for instance.


“Home is where the heart is”. Proverb. Origin uncertain.

Setting Out

Journal: 050

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I’m setting out on this post with no clear idea of where it will end up. It’s Sunday 6.46 am and in a few hours I am setting out on another trip to Melbourne (from Perth WA if you’re new here). Yesterday I was planning to go half empty but a truck came up on Loadshift, I tendered my usual price, within 15 minutes I had the job, within 3 hours the truck was loaded and back in the yard (my mate’s back paddock).

Today, I’ll run that trailer ‘up the hill’ to the assembly area on the highway south, go back for the other two, and head down to Esperance, 800 km away on the south coast, to load scrap steel. Then it’s off across the Nullarbor, to the northern outskirts of Adelaide, then for the first time as a road train in my old home state, across the north west corner of Victoria and down the river, on the NSW side, to Echuca (map). Break up, run one trailer into Melbourne, then the other two to Wodonga where the steel is remade in an electric arc furnace. Which should put me empty in Melbourne Friday too late to load out.

Sue (WG), who is flat out getting her elderly parents settled in new nursing accommodation (I think at 90 and 100 it’s safe to say elderly), says I should cherish my mother while I have her, so I guess it’s out to mum’s for the weekend.

If you follow Whispering Gums, and doesn’t everyone, you’ll see she’s running a series called Bill Curates, which is me choosing representative posts from her back catalogue – I’ve made my way so far from May to June 2009 – picking out items to repost. Lots of fun for very little effort. A good way, as Karen/Booker Talk suggested in her excellent A to Z of Blogging, of revisiting material not seen by most of her followers, and a good way too of keeping Whispering Gums ticking over while Sue is so busy.

I have to write Journals because I read so little, even when I have “days off”, which mostly involves moving trucks and trailers from one spot to another to get them repaired or serviced or new tyres, or a paint job and new guards (mudguards) as with the trailer immediately behind my ute in the picture above, white and light blue is going to be my new colour scheme, not to mention keeping my bookwork up to date, though none of that explains why I read only a few pages in the evening, catch up on the news, solve a killer sudoku and am fast asleep by 10pm.

Remember, four months ago, when ‘the news’ was that the Australian government was doing nothing about climate change, then bushfires across half the continent made even the Liberal Party aware that climate change was here now, and just when we thought something might happen Covid-19 wiped everything else off the front pages and the Morrison (and Trump) governments took the opportunity to begin sabotaging every remaining climate initiative they could think of, and now the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has wiped Covid-19 off the front pages, except for the relatives of 110,000 people killed by Trump’s willful negligence, but of course it couldn’t happen here. Except it does.

“there’s no need to import things happening in other countries here to Australia. I mean, Australia is a fair country … I mean, Australia is not the United States.” [Prime Minister Morrison]

African Americans make up 12% of the adult population, but 33% of the US prison population; in Australia the ratio for Indigenous people is 3% of the population and 29% of the prisoners. [Greg Jericho, Guardian Australia, 7 June 2020]

Do the maths. Black Australians are FOUR times more likely to be jailed than Black Americans and TEN times more likely to be jailed than white Australians.

Since 1991 and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 432 Indigenous people in prison or in the hands of police have died and not one person has been convicted of any offence in connection with those deaths.

That is the Australia we live in, whether we set out to achieve it or not, an Australia founded on the murder of its original inhabitants, as I have attempted to document, and in which those murders continue today, unpunished.

 

Remember: Indigenous Literature Week (July 5-12, 2020) on ANZLitlovers

 

Recent audiobooks 

Stephanie Laurens (F, Aus), Four in Hand (1993) – Romance
as far as I can tell, Laurens has lived in England for a long time, but she does have some reviews on the Australian Women Writers Challenge database. I should contribute another.
Janet Evanovich (F, USA), Seven Up (2001) – Crime
Camilla Lackberg (F, Swe), The Lost Boy (2013) – Crime
Anne McCaffery (F, USA), Damia (1992) – SF
Susan Choi (F, USA), The Foreign Student (1998)
Blake Crouch (M, USA), Good Behaviour (2016) – DNF
Belinda Alexandra (F, Aus), Silver Wattle (2007) – DNF

Currently reading

Patrick White, The Cockatoos
Majorie Barnard, Miles Franklin
Flannery O’Connor, Complete Stories
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (I just bought it, I hope I start reading it)

 

Romances

Journal: 049

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My favourite romance of all time, well, like everyone else, it’s probably Pride and Prejudice. But my favourite romance which is just mine is Beau Ideal, one of PC Wren’s Beau Geste trilogy. A nice young American boy discovers that Isobel, the English girl he secretly loves, has married her childhood friend John Geste who has run off to join his brothers in the French Foreign Legion, and he must go and bring John back. I seem to remember that to secure John’s release he agrees to marry an Arab dancing girl – as in the dramatic picture above – only to be saved at the last moment when it turns out that his father and the girl’s father … But no spoilers!

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These are some of the PC Wrens I collected and loved in the 1960s. PC Wren suited and no doubted moulded my view of the world, that idea of doing the right thing. Not that that was enough to protect Fancy from my raging 17 year old hormones, but that’s another story. I tried. And have always had a romantic and no doubt idealized idea of women, probably due to the misfortune of having no sisters.

Since Fancy, I have had girlfriends and wives and girlfriends. In fact there was always someone I could call my girlfriend as far back as primary school – you’re unlucky I couldn’t dig up a photo of me and Helen Sporn as minature debs in 1960. It often strikes me reading Romance Fiction that young lovers never seem to have any of those almost relationships that precede the just right one, or maybe that’s just me. After the failure of my marriage to the Bosomy Beauty a decade or so ago I tried online dating with RSVP. And don’t say what about Milly! It was her idea, to stop me hanging around. I met some nice women, one raving lunatic, and the Shy One with whom I and Milly and her sisters are still friends. But she was ready for marriage, as is every woman on RSVP, and I was not, I just wanted someone I could go out to dinner with.

Melanie/Grab the Lapels asked me recently to explain my attraction to the romance novels of Georgette Heyer. My father as a young husband bought Georgette Heyers for my mother and as soon as I was old enough I read them all. Years later Gee, my daughter having read them all too – and baggsed them in mum’s will – began a collection of her own so that we all three of us now have comprehensive collections.

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Georgette Heyer’s romances are all slightly ridiculous, girls of good fortune running away with childhood (boy) friends, rescued from lifelong shame by handsome rich single gentlemen who inevitably marry them. I realise I haven’t given a single reason, but I love them. And yes I enjoy Regency Romances and Chick Lit. But not Bodice Rippers. Novels, written mostly by women, in which the premise is that if the guy treats them rough the gals will fall down in love, don’t turn me on at all. I like the boy and the girl in any novel I read to have a happy ending, and get anxious if the boy comes over all jealous and starts to spoil things – looking at you Maurice Guest!

In the truck this last trip I listened to the end of Jane Eyre, about which I will write a separate post, some general fiction of the American thriller variety, and to Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748) by John Cleland. Talk about happy endings!

In each of the three C18th novels I’ve read over the past few months – Moll Flanders, Tom Jones and now Fanny Hill – the woman’s point of view has been put so strongly that I wonder to what extent the stated (male) authors had female assistance. Fanny Hill, said to be the first long prose work of pornography, is an astonishingly erotic work with graphically described sex in every chapter (read this to Nick, Melanie!).

I went through a stage where I read, and even wrote a little, erotic fiction – Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell. James Joyce and DH Lawrence are Literature rather than Erotic Lit but before Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover contained the most explicit passage I had read and the ending of Ulysses the most erotic.

Fanny Hill probably tops them. Fanny, an innocent 14 year old comes up from the country when her parents die. She ends up in a brothel where, while the madam waits for a customer who will pay handsomely to deflower her, she is put under the care of and shares a bed with Phoebe who very quickly initiates her into the joys of woman on woman sex

her lascivious touches had lighted up a new fire that wantoned through all my veins, but fixed with violence in that center appointed them by nature, where the first strange hands were now busied in feeling, squeezing …

Phoebe teaches her about the birds and the bees by showing her a hiding place where she can watch the madam taking her pleasure with a young customer, and another hiding place where she and Phoebe watch a young couple until they are forced to retire to satisfy their raging desires with each other. Before she can be sold, Fanny meets a young man of her own, Charles, and escapes with him to be his mistress. They spend a few happy months before Charles is tricked by his father into boarding a ship leaving immediately on a two year voyage to the South Seas, and Fanny is on her own again.

She finds other situations involving lots of sex, graphically described. I thought at one point she was pregnant but then nothing more was said. Eventually Charles returns, Fanny is now 18 and for some reason I forget, wealthy, and the two live happily ever after. So even Fanny Hill contains Romance.

 

Recent audiobooks 

PK Dick (M, USA), The Penultimate Truth (1964) – SF
Linda Howard (F, USA), Cry No More (2003) – Crime
Linda Howard (F, USA), Kiss Me While I Sleep (2004) – Crime
Linda Howard (F, USA), Cover of Night (2006) – Crime
Shane Gericke (M, USA), The Fury (2014) – Crime
Ray Hogan (M, USA), Soldier in Buckskin (1996) – Biog. Kit Carson
Lisa Jackson (F, USA), Innocent by Association (2011) – Crime
Haruki Murakami (M, Jap), 1Q84 – Lit.Fic.
Robert Dugoni (M, USA), My Sister’s Grave (2014) – Crime
Charlotte Bronte (F, Eng), Jane Eyre (1847) – Lit.Fic.
John Cleland (M, Eng), Fanny Hill (1748)

Currently reading

Patrick White, The Cockatoos
Majorie Barnard, Miles Franklin
Flannery O’Connor, Complete Stories

 

Flannery O’Connor

Journal: 048

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I seem to be using the Covid-19 crisis for remedial US.Lit. First Willa Cather, now Flannery O’Connor, courtesy of another read-along, this time with Melanie from Grab the Lapels. (I’m not reading the biography pictured, but Melanie is). O’Connor, who lived a short life, from 1925 to 1964, in Georgia in the US South, wrote two novels and 32 short stories. Her style is said to be Southern Gothic, informed by Catholicism (Wiki). As I am forced to say increasingly often, I had never heard of her.

Melanie is planning to read The Complete Stories, a prizewinning anthology put together after O’Connor’s death and to put up reviews over four consecutive Tuesdays (Wednesdays in Australia) from May 12th. I have located some of the stories online (here) but I imagine more readable copies are obtainable at the usual sites.

I have already read one story, The Barber (so-so) but I love it that the Catholic O’Connor was the originator of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” which was reversed to such great effect by Mae West. OK, I got lost in DuckDuckGo search there for a while. A Good Man etc dates back to at least a 1918 (I think) song by Eddie Green sung here by Bessie Smith.

As a non-reader of short stories I find I am reading three short story collections simultaneously, to get them over with maybe, Flannery O’Connor, Patrick White’s Cockatoos and an Australian women’s collection called The Babe is Wise. I guess at least I can get to the end of a story before I swap books. I struggle to read novels simultaneously because the stories get tangled in my head.

It has been fascinating following the different responses to Covid-19 amongst bloggers. All of us I think stopped reading/writing in shock when we realised that this was not just another SARS, dangerous but remote, but the real deal, our lives being shut down and the world economy with it. Most of us have fired up again, not just in Australia where the first wave has largely passed us by and we in the middle class have jobs and savings to tide us over, but around the world where it is much more likely that you know people who have been affected.

I am doubly or triply unaffected in that as a truck driver I am not required to stay home, so that I am both out and earning my usual income, and I routinely spend a week or two between jobs at home anyway, reading and writing. But still I find myself singularly unproductive. Today is Saturday. I got in from Darwin last Friday. There’re plenty of jobs on the Loadshift site. I should be on my way to Melbourne.

Of course I blame Anzac Day. Long weekends are fine if you’re loaded but a pain when you’re not, just one fewer day to get stuff done. (I’ve left You Tube running since I fired up Bessie Smith and we’ve progressed through Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood. Now that’s real music. Keep your Mozart, WG).

On the way down from Darwin the truck computer was reporting a fault which I managed to work around (the usual way. By switching the truck off and restarting). I had it looked at while I was waiting to unload Friday. No luck. Took it back Tues. “It must be electrical”, the mechanic said. Electrician, Weds. “It must be the computer”. Volvo squeezed me in Thurs night. They’d replace the whole system if you let them, but I held them down to replacing the Ad Blue pump. Seems to have worked. Meanwhile, another workshop had my back trailer for a service which devolved into new brakes and bearings. I got it back 5.00pm Friday. I have the hint of a load of scrap metal today but no-one’s answering the phone. Looks like Monday.

It’s ages since I had reviews written up in advance of a trip. I should have something for Tues, but Thurs/Fri? Don’t like your chances.

WA is one of the states that have expanded allowable gatherings to ten people. I’ve been down to Gee’s to hold the new baby, and to play with the two who were babies just yesterday, interrupted Lou giving them home schooling (not for Covid-19 but because the school has whooping cough. Life goes on!). Took Milly out to dinner. No, restaurants aren’t open yet. We got Indian take-away – happy to have us drop in with Uber gouging 35% for delivery – a fine Pinot Grigio, and sat on my balcony admiring the sunset over the river.

Where has all my reading/writing time gone? Compulsively reading newspapers and political newsletters mostly. Love Guy Rundle in Crikey. Miss Helen Razer. Where are you Helen? Totally enjoying the Palmer Report’s ongoing take-down of the mentally deficient criminal rapist murderer con artist in the White House. Stay Safe!

 

 

 

 

 

New Additions

Journal: 047

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I love writing, the way words appear almost unbidden on the page making phrases I didn’t know I was thinking. Sometimes when the words are flowing I amaze myself. I had an editor friend who said to me one day when I had written something prosaic, why don’t you write that other way, and the answer is because I don’t know when it is going to happen, it just happens.

The reason I write Journals is so I can keep writing without the discipline of waiting till I’ve researched a review. I write letters. I enjoy schoolwork. And yet I have never considered writing a book. Well not until now. I’m twenty words in, I wonder how far I will get. If I get serious it will impact on my blogging. Or my driving. And driving pays the bills. Even now, I have to stop sometimes to get stuff written down, I wonder if it will get worse.

As you can see above, while I was away in Darwin the family got a new addition, no not Psyche, her op followed a cancer scare, was routine, planned, but a few hours before I drove her in to Royal Darwin, Gee her younger sister back in Perth, had her fourth, a boy a couple of weeks early and unmentioned in these pages for reasons of superstition (don’t jinx it!). And two or three days prior to that, without a word to her mother or father, she up and eloped! Married her boyfriend Oak in these days of plague without ceremony and with the celebrations held over till next year on Rottnest Island.

Oak already had a couple of his own, so our young Dingo pup has five siblings. Welcome to the family all of you!

Lou, in almost constant demand for babysitting and home schooling, is rapidly learning to appreciate the advantages of bachelorhood. I’m not sure what he’s getting from the government here, though I understand reports of the dole being “doubled” are if not exaggerated, at least premature. This is how I write letters, moving through the family and giving an account of each. Milly is hunkering down with her sister, repurposing her garden for herbs and vegetables.

Shelleys Garden

Did I say Psyche is fine. I feel guilty because a road train job came up, had me on my way out of Darwin less than 24 hours after getting her out of hospital, back in to WA through border control – remember the line in our constitution that says Trade between States shall be Absolutely Free (S. 92) – and down to Halls Creek to load for Perth. So thank you Lluna and Melissa for keeping an eye on her while I scoot off home.

Darwin, like every other city right now no doubt, is very, very quiet. Psyche lives only a few hundred yards (metres) outside the CBD. Her local Woolies is in the middle of town with parking out the front. I went in quite often, sometimes there would be a greeter to spray my hands with sanitiser and sometimes not. I found the local bookshop – BookshopDarwin, I suppose one is all they need – open but empty. I bought Patrick White’s Cockatoos and went back on Saturday to buy Marie Munkara for Psyche’s friends but it had closed early. There seemed to be no restrictions on where we could drive. I would drive most days the four or five ks to Truck City where my truck was parked, to check on it or get some work done at Volvo’s next door. To get it started one time when I found I’d left the park lights on.

Royal Darwin is out on the edge of town, past the airport, so I got to know that drive pretty well too, twice a day at 10.00 and 5.00. Psyche spent a couple of days resting under observation and we would go for a walk to stretch her scars. A very nice young doctor came in the first morning and drew a picture of what they’d done and why it might be sore. Between him and Psyche and Mum I learnt altogether too much.

I use the lists at the end of each journal to total up my reads for the year, but I’ve forgotten to write down the audiobooks I’ve left in the truck. Coming down I listened to Jane Eyre with which I thought I was familiar but maybe not. Milly who does remember what is in the book has said she will help me write a review. All I recall is a young Elizabeth Taylor dying in the Orson Welles movie.

It seems to be a day for good news. Our friend and fellow blogger Nathan Hobby (here) has a publisher for his biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard and not any old publisher, but Melbourne University Press (they must have deemed it sufficiently academic). Release is scheduled for the first half of 2021.

Currently reading

Dymphna Cusack, Jungfrau
Ada Cambridge, Sisters
Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wizard of the Crow
Melissa Lucashenko, Too Much Lip
Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
Willa Cather, My Ántonia
Miles Franklin, Bring the Monkey
Patrick White, The Cockatoos

 

Batchelor NT (2)

Journal: 046

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Last night’s tea. I actually don’t eat much in the evenings except when I’m out, so the pizza -roasted root veg – and the pinot grigio were mostly for today.

I’ve just finished speaking to the local police and I’m not allowed to move, “where you start your isolation is where you finish your isolation”, so I’m here, at this very pleasant motel in Batchelor, for another week.

The good news is Lou is on his twelfth day and is showing no symptoms. He says you can look up each individual flight and check whether any one on board has tested positive, and to date no one on his flight in has.

I keep an eye on, Ok, I follow obsessively, the website which lists trucking jobs and there doesn’t seem to have been much fall off in work. Though there also seems to be very little work out of Darwin. There was one beaut load came up on the first day, Mt Isa to Perth. I put in a high price, but without success. Since then, nothing. I’m staying up here because Psyche wants family on hand when she has an op later in the month. Once she’s ok I’ll grab a part load and head for parts east, west or south. Though I hope I’ll be back.

This week I have been eating mostly what I had in the truck fridge and tuckerbox, porridge for breakfast, salad, egg, tuna for lunch. Now I’m down to rice crackers and cheese, I’ll either have to eat room service or get Psyche to ferry down supplies: fruit, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, brown bread. It’s only 100 km. I asked the police could I take the truck for a (short) run, particularly for the sake of the battery, but no, that’s banned too. This afternoon or tomorrow I’ll fire it up and let it run for a while where it stands like Ferdinand the bull, smelling the flowers.

You saw that I finished and posted a review of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out. I saw in an earlier post that I was going to listen to her Night and Day, but if I did it didn’t stick. Now I’m reading a Kenyan book Lou brought me, Wizard of the Crow by Ngúgí Wa Thiong’o, 750 pages and fascinating. A review will follow.

The lethargy brought on by the shock of the Covid-19 crisis seems to have passed and I’m reading and writing as I usually do in the gaps between jobs. I do a little bit of exercise and walk for half an hour in what is basically a park around the motel, or along the road, though even towards dusk the weather up here is still hot and humid. I should read Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip next but instead I have already downloaded the three novels of Willa Cather’s Pioneer trilogy and plan to read the first two in preparation for Liz Dexter’s readalong of My Antonia.

Three bloggers seem actually to have been fired up by the crisis to the extent of writing daily posts for our amusement and edification:

Mairi Neil, Up the Creek with a Pen …, Mairi up till recently was taking creative writing classes and now she is giving what are effectively free workshops (with astonishingly long posts!). This, I think, is Day 1: Ease the Anxiety and Boredom of Isolation or Insulation with Creative Writing (here).

Pam, Travellin’ Penguin is writing 30 Days hath April’s Books (here); and

Karen, BookerTalk, is writing about the process of blogging in Blogging from A – Z (here)

That’s it from me today. I don’t often write short posts, but I have books to read, nowhere to go, no one to see (and wine to drink). I’ll let you know when I’m bored enough to turn on the tele (hint: not in this lifetime).

Batchelor NT

Journal: 045

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Covid-19

Journal: 044

Malawian

Covid-19. What else is there to write about?

There is no doubt in my mind that that moron in Washington is going to double the length of the coming world depression and double its severity. Up till this week I had assumed the Covid-19 epidemic would be the same as SARS – someone else’s problem. But it seems not. I can manage the illness, hopefully I would survive, I certainly don’t like the idea of dying breathless. My working life is a mixture of long periods of isolation, with daily instances of unhealthy propinquity (truckstops!). But the coming deep economic downtown will almost certainly do me in.

So far, work is holding up. You guys need stuff in your shops, though that’s not the sort of cartage I do. (Did you know the average age of Australian long distance truck drivers is very nearly 60. We might all drop dead at the same time, and then what will you do? It seems to me the only large cohort of new drivers is Indians, who are buying up trucks (and roadhouses) as did the Greeks, Italians and Yugoslavs before them, but not so much the Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese. Don’t know why, though the Chinese immigrants were probably affluent middle class).

Last week I got a load to Mt Beauty in NE Victoria – a cherry picker truck for a guy clearing damaged trees from bushfire areas. Unloaded Tues morning and headed into Melbourne looking forward to a day off, but instead was loaded and on my way without stopping, topped up In Adelaide and was home – a 7,500 km round trip – in a few hours under six days. Then, two phone calls/messages.

The organization Lou works for is as we speak evacuating him from Malawi, and he’s due here Sunday evening. Though in fact, he’s already missed his first connection, his taxi driver got lost he said. And even if he gets there I can’t imagine how chaotic the airport at Doha is going to be – I picture him stranded forever in a JG Ballard Concrete Island situation. Anyway, I’ve been shopping – Leeming IGA seemed perfectly normal except for the absent toilet paper and pasta – stocked up my freezer for him with meat and pizzas, got a (another!) carton of cheap grog, and some movies. He’s looking forward to making his way through my library during his obligatory fourteen days, though the books he’ll enjoy most are the same ones he devoured as a teenager. I’m planning to introduce him to Australian women’s dystopian fiction.

The other news was more prosaic. I have a road train load to Darwin, loading Tuesday, which will keep the wolves from the door for a little longer. If nothing goes wrong. I feel like it might.

I listened to three books this last trip: one a bog standard work of genre fiction, one a surprisingly innovative work of genre fiction, and one a work of genius, maybe genre fiction, which I am listening to for the third time. They were:

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (2009,10)
Margaret Attwood, The Testaments (2019)
Karin Gillespie, Love Literary Style (2016)

The work of genius is 1Q84. I had a whole pile of mystery/thrillers with me but couldn’t bring myself to play them when I could listen to real writing. 1Q84 is enormous, 3 mp3’s or around 27 45 hours and with a not very large cast. Murakami seems to me with this book to have decided that anything he wanted to discuss, he would discuss at length, nothing is cut short. There are two parallel stories which gradually cease being separate: Aomame on her way to complete an assignment leaves her taxi stalled in an elevated motorway traffic jam and climbs down a fire escape to street level during which time the world changes, or she changes worlds, as she slowly comes to realise, from 1984 to 1Q84. Aomame’s assignments are to murder, subtly by a needle to a nerve in the back of the neck, men who are abusing their wives. As we proceed, Aomame’s sex life plays an important part, from a view of her knickers as she straddles the motorway safety rail, to experimentation with her girlfriend at school, to encounters at singles bars, where she hooks up with another young woman, a female police officer, who talks her into a drunken foursome, who becomes her friend and who eventually dies, strangled, during violent sex while handcuffed. Throughout, Aomame maintains her love for the boy who stood up for her in grade school, whom she has not seen since she was ten.

Tengo is a writer and mathematics teacher, physically big and athletic, whose editor persuades him to rewrite a startling new work, naively written, Air Chrysalis, by a 17 year old girl, Fuka-Eri. Eri it turns out is dyslexic and has dictated this story of evil ‘little people’ taking over our world, seemingly from lived experience, to her foster sister.

As the stories converge it becomes clear that Tengo is the boy, now 30, who stood up for Aomame in third grade. Aomame is given the assignment of killing a cult leader who rapes little girls, who turns out to be Eri’s father. He acquiesces in his killing but predicts that the little people will ensure that either she or Tengo will die. Aomame chooses the path she hopes will protect Tengo. And so we go. This is a literary work with a strong story. What makes it literary, apart from the compelling writing, I struggle to express. I’ll have to think about it.


Milly and I go out to dinner. On the way I hear on the ABC that NT is closing its borders. That didn’t take long! I discuss by text with my customer throughout the meal the possibility of getting a permit. Milly on her phone is messaging with Lou. He’s back at Lilongwe Airport. By the time we finish eating he’s in Johannesburg with tickets to Dubai (he’s changed over to Emirates) and thence to Perth. Still arriving Sunday night.


Murukami in 1Q84 is writing about one social stratum in Tokyo, slightly outside mainstream society, he is writing about the connections between works, between 1Q84 and Orwell’s 1984, and between 1Q84 and (the fictional) Air Chrysalis, he is playing games with the intersection between Magic Realism and SF, and he is discussing the boundaries between love and sex. Am I happy with a guy writing so much about sex for women? No I’m not. Is there anything I can do about it? No.

I was looking forward to The Testaments, Attwood is a competent writer, if disingenuous about so much of her writing being standard SF. The most disappointing thing is that writers who embrace SF have taken it in new and challenging directions, while Atwood who imagines herself daring for just dipping her general fiction toe in SF waters, is left far behind (I didn’t know it was joint winner of the Man Booker. What a pile of crap!). I’m sure you all know the general story. The epilogue is a paper delivered centuries later at a Gilead symposium. The problem with audiobooks is that people giving boring speeches are really … boring! I didn’t make it to the end.

I’m struggling to recall Love Literary Style now except that I really enjoyed it. Earnest (unpublished) literary author meets untutored blonde bombshell who has accidentally written the outline for a major success. All the tropes of romantic fiction are interrogated as the two budding authors write and discuss writing. Read it. You’ll love it.


An hour ago, Lou had an eight hour flight ahead of him, a very quick changeover in Dubai, and then a similar length flight to Perth. The ABC NT border story (here) has not been updated.

Road Training

Journal: 043

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Many years ago, 35 or so, I was a manager with Fleetxpress, then Australia’s fourth largest transport company and, coincidentally the owner of Luya Julius, a major presence in Qld, started by my great great great grandfather. After giving up truck driving and moving Milly and the kids to Melbourne I was out of work when they employed me as a salesman in Taxi Trucks. When that division was shortly after sold and I was to be made redundant I pointed out to the MD that I was their only employee outside of Accounts with a degree. He put me into Car Carrying as acting State Manager, I dumped the Ford account which was losing money and saved the GMH account, for the cartage of all Holdens throughout Australia, by introducing computerised vehicle tracking.

Unfortunately my complete absence of people skills was already evident and although I set up the new National Car Carrying division, I ended up as National Admin Manager under a newly employed GM. A year or so later Fleetxpress was taken over, I didn’t hit it off with the new owners and I began a decade or so as an independent computer programmer.

Which is by way of saying that I was at the company which introduced B Doubles into Australia (in SA), and got back into trucking just as they were becoming entrenched – was in that last group of drivers able to transition their licences from Heavy Vehicle to Multi Combination without doing the course and the test.

At the turn of this century it was ‘apparent’ that the future lay with B Triples which were then running on a test basis between Geelong and Melbourne and Melbourne and Sydney. I wandered off to WA for 17 years and was considerably surprised on my return to the eastern states to find that they were now giving permits to old fashioned road trains (A trains) and that B Triples were less preferred, especially in Victoria.

This year I have upgraded my own B Double to a B Triple but am struggling to get a permit to cross northern Victoria which is automatic for A trains. Going over last trip I detoured north via Broken Hill, came down to Wentworth and then ran along north of the river (along the Edwards River in fact) to Moama/Echuca, 200 km north of Melbourne, where I broke up to enter Vic. (Map 1)

Coming home I had to do a pick up in Adelaide which meant hooking up at Moama, and then breaking up again to do the 150km between Mildura and the SA border (that is, I had to do the 150 km 3 times – over, back and over). But from there it was a nice run through Loxton and Waikerie right into Adelaide’s northern industrial suburbs, then home (Map 2).

Waking up on Saturday morning in Waikerie, which I haven’t been through for many years, I found I was parked, on bitumen now, exactly where 45 years earlier I had broken down in my old Atkinson, had stripped the motor down in the dust beside the road, to fit a new piston (see The Grapes of Wrath), stripped it down again when I realised the big end bearing shells were coated with sand, then driven off without the sump plug in properly, remembered in time to save the motor, walked back into town where the best replacement I could get was the small bung of a 44 gal drum (200l or 50 US gal.s), siliconed it into place where it stayed until the next and last time, when that poor old girl finally gave up the ghost (her name was Miss Take, but I never did get it painted on).

Atkinson Near Benalla Sep 75

Of course, I’m really just making excuses for not having read or reviewed … anything at all for the best part of a month. Hopefully I won’t get any more work until after this weekend and so will get The Passing of the Aborigines out of the way, as well as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones which took up a whole trip, Friday till Monday, all that roundabout way from Melbourne to Perth.

Recent audiobooks 

Edith Wharton (F, USA), A Son at the Front (1923)
Jeff van der Meer, (M, USA), Annihilation (2014) SF
Anne Tyler (F, USA), Ladder of Years (1995)
Henry David Thoreau (M, USA), Walden (1854)
Anne Stuart (F, USA), Never Trust a Pirate (2013) Rom.
Lee Child (M, Eng), The Affair (2011) Crime
Dorothy B Hughes (F, USA), The Fallen Sparrow (1942)
Henry Fielding (M, Eng), Tom Jones (1749)
Emily Gould, (F, USA), Friendship (2014)
JD Robb (F, USA), Kindred in Death (2009) SF/Crime
Sayed Kashua  (M, Palestine), Let it be Morning (2006)
Marion Chesney (F, Eng), The Viscount’s Revenge (1983) Rom.
Elizabeth Aston (F, Eng), The Darcy Connection (2008) Rom.
Piper Kerman, (F, USA), Orange is the New Black (2010) Mem.
Andrea Camilleri (M, Ita), The Overnight Kidnapper (2015) Crime
Douglas Adams &  (M, Eng), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978) BBC radio SF
Peter Fitzsimmons (M, Aus), Eureka (2012) The author’s breathless anticipation every other paragraph left me unexcited. DNF
Sofie Laguna (F, Aus), The Eye of the Sheep (2014) DNF
Daniel H Wilson (M, USA), Robopocalypse (2011) SF
Boris Akunin (M, Rus), The Winter Queen (1998) Crime/His.Fic.

Boris Akunin is the pen name Russian writer Grigori Chkhartishvili uses for his Historical Crime Fiction. Under his own name Chkhartishvili is apparently well known for his work in Japanese. I just want to point out that Bakunin was a famous Russian anarchist and that the author is probably having a little joke here: “Akunin” (悪人) is a Japanese word that translates to “great bad man”. In his novel The Diamond Chariot, the author redefines an “akunin” as a great evil man who creates his own rules (Wikipedia).

Currently Reading

Daisy Bates, The Passing of the Aborigines
Jane Palmer, The Planet Dweller
Jane Palmer, Moving Moosevan
Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Locust Island
Chris Owen, Every Mother’s Son is Guilty
Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman
Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent

EOY 2019

Journal: 042

xmas 2019 by Raylene 1

Well, I hope you all had a pleasant Christmas. The Resident Judge did a post on the origins of the day (here) which, as I might have discussed before is neither the anniversary of Jesus’ birth nor of any supposed census, but I guess it was handy for the Romans to tie in with the winter solstice.

I ate very well at Ludmilla Agnes’ festivities and by the time I got to the pavlova, cheesecake and cheese platter I was struggling. Everyone else must have been too because there was pavlova for breakfast. I caught a taxi home and rode my bike back in the morning to pick up my ute, so that’s my exercise for the holiday break.

A pleasant end to a good year. A very easy year. Since I stopped getting work from Sam & Dragan there’s been no one to push me along and I’ve dropped back from one round trip a fortnight to one every three weeks. With a concomitant drop in income. So, no more breaks. Hopefully, by the time this post is up I’ll be on my way back to Melbourne [No I’m not]. And then in the new year, I’ll get another trailer, to run as a B-Triple, effectively a road train.

I’ve done my reading stats for the year past and they are as follows –

Books read: 159 (down from 208 last year. You do fewer kms, you listen to fewer books)

Gender balance: Male authors 84, Female 75

Author from: Australia  47, USA  51, UK 36, Europe 19, Asia 4, Other 2
The ‘Other’ were both South America. Sorry Canada, Sorry Africa.

Genre: Non-fiction 14,  Literature  44, General 43, SF  21, Crime/Thriller 37

Year: 2010-19  67,  2000-9  25, 1960-99  37,  1900-59  17, pre-1900  13

There were 16 new releases, more than I expected, and to whatever commentary I’ve made over the past week or so I must add that Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains was absolutely bloody exceptional.

A lot of the US crime/thriller etc. reflects what is available from the library, but Cockburn (my fourth suburban library in ten years) have a good selection of classics and lots of ‘hard’ SF which I enjoy, though I’m probably getting near the end now. I’ve started an Audible account, so ‘all’ I have to do is hook my phone up to the truck radio, and that with Borrow Box will make a difference next year. I hope.

[Inserted later]

Posts for year: 85
Reviews: 60 (Authors Women/Male: 31/29).  Other/Journals: 25
Included in the above, I posted 14 times for AWW Gen 2 or Gen 3 Week, 6 of those were reposts or guests.
I reviewed/wrote about Indigenous writers/subjects 6 times, David Ireland 5 times.
Of the 60 books reviewed, 46 were Australian, 1 Indian, 2 Japanese, 4 US, 5 UK (and all those C19th), 1 Irish, 1 French

[end insert]

Kate W has nominated her ten best reads for the decade (here) which is more than I’m going to do, but I am willing to declare that the best Australian book published in the last ten years is The Swan Book (2013) by Alexis Wright, which will be a classic forever.

For those of you planning (well) ahead, my 70th birthday in Paris (in 2021) is off. Too hard for too many of my immediate family. A shame, because friends had already said they planned to be there.

Now, reminder time:

Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week 12-18 Jan. 2020

Basically, we will be discussing Australian women who began writing between the World Wars. The following year, we will discuss the later Gen 3-ers who got going before the 1960s.

The themes of the Gen 3 period are: Modernism, Social Realism, Pioneering

If you need inspiration, check out the AWW Gen 3 page (here) which has an Introduction and long lists of authors, reviews, posts and related reading.

After that there’s Gen 4, my and Sue and Lisa’s generation, the Baby Boomers, and then Gen 5. Kate W, Kimbofo what’s your lot called? We should have some good ideas about how to define the literature that was being written as we became young adults. Write and tell me what you think. I actually can’t name a lot of Gen 4 women off the top of my head – Helen Garner definitely, but then …

I think (now anyway) that Gen 5 will begin with Grunge in the early 1990s. So Justine Ettler, Linda Javin (who’s actually a baby boomer), Nikki Gemmell.

It’s probably hard to pick a new generation while it’s actually getting underway, but I think Gen 6 may have started in the last few years with the rise to prominence of  dystopian.Lit typefied by The Natural Way of Things.

And where does Indig.Lit fit in?  Anita Heiss, Alexis Wright, Kim Scott have been going for longer than just a few years, so they’re more than just Gen 6. There are some who claim that they are separate from Aust.Lit. That’s possible, and maybe up to them, but Ellen van Neerven and Claire Coleman for instance would seem to be also very much mainstream Gen 6 by my definition – but of course, the trend to dystopian is world-wide.

Happy New Year!

Currently ‘Reading’ (for AWW Gen 3 Week):

Drusilla Modjeska, Exiles at Home
Myrtle Rose White, No Roads Go By
Ernestine Hill, The Great Australian Loneliness
Daisy Bates, The Passing of the Aborigines
Dymphna Cusack, Jungfrau

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The end of a long day