Seeing the country

Journal: 088

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recent audiobooks 

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

Currently Reading 

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

AWWC June 2022

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

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

SF & Issues

Journal: 087

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recent audiobooks 

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

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AWWC May 2022

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

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

Going Round in Circles

Journal: 086

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

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

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

Northern Line east of Mullewa

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

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

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

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

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

AWWC April 2022

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

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

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Recent audiobooks 

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

Currently Reading:

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

Son News Pictorial

Journal: 085

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

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

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

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

The big day. Mum surrounded by great grandchildren.

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

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

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

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

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

Still Moving

Journal: 084

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

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

Time to think of housewarming presents.

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

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

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

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

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

AWWC March 2022

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

Multitasking

Journal: 083

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recent audiobooks 

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

Currently Reading:

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


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

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

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

Milly’s Moving

Journal: 081

This patio has been the centre of our family life for ten or twelve years. And now Milly’s moving! Not to a retirement village thank goodness. Rather, she’s bought a two bedroom ground floor flat in E. Perth, on the edge of the city, where she can walk to work, has sisters living nearby, plenty of parks, including along the Swan River, to walk the dog, and I’m just over the river and a kilometre or two upstream, with a bike path all the way.

Now it’s pack up the books, pack up the china, sort everything else into piles of keepers and chuckers, patch and paint the interior walls. The table in the foreground, 7 feet square and solid oregon, is from my last house (from my last marriage). Can I persuade Gee to make an indoor/outdoor area around it on her new seachange property?

We’ve both had the last few days off, but every time we think we can settle down to a solid day’s work, this grandchild or that, and sometimes multiples of them, have to be run after. Tonight, as I write, yesterday, as you read, ms 10 and mr 11 are staying over. In the morning I will go over (will have gone over, insert tenses to suit), cook them pancakes, palm them off to Gee, their mother and settle down to painting the sunroom walls and ceiling. I hope.

Milly’s done a bit of moving; was born in Kalgoorlie, grew up in the State Housing suburbs south of Fremantle, innumerable post-war jerry-built fibro houses on quarter acre (1,000 sq m) blocks of dirty white sand and patches of yellow grass; moved at 14 or 15 on the death of her father to Rivervale, another State Housing suburb on the edge of the city, where I live now, in an apartment block between the river and the Great Eastern Hwy, as all the old blocks south of the highway are snapped up as they become available, for sub-division (sub-sub-sub-division) and high density housing.

When I met her, I was mostly driving out of Adelaide, to Sydney, but I’d been given her sister’s address – a unit in Rivervale, one of the early ‘duplexes’, down the street from her mother – for “if I was ever in Perth”; and at the end of 1977 I was, drove my truck straight down her street from the highway; Milly answered the door.

By then she was a single mum; had worked all round Australia; came home to have the baby, Psyche; was living with her older sister and a mob of girls, or so it seemed – more sisters, friends, drop-ins from the suburb who had always treated Mavis’s, Milly’s mum’s, as their local hang-out. I was invited to stay, and did. By the following May we were a couple; and by the end of five years we had two more kids and had lived in six houses – Maylands, Karawarra, Northbridge, E. Vic Park – all within a few kilometers of the city.

The next move was a doozy. An old boss offered me a management job in Melbourne; we put our two cars and bits and pieces on my mate Kevin’s truck and crossed the country, me and Psyche (then 6) sharing the driving with Kevin; Milly and the two infants flying.

After a time with mum and dad, and then two run down rentals – and in between getting fired and having to find a new job – we finally had enough to buy a big old weatherboard house in Blackburn, a middle class suburb in Melbourne’s leafy east. Which lasted until we broke up in the early nineties. From there we had a succession of houses each, all in Melbourne; near each other, distant from, together for another 3 years, apart again. Her mother died and Milly was able to buy another house, further out; for a while yet again we lived together, but Milly had had enough rain and mud and went home to Perth and its sun and sand and sisters.

The kids and I kept her house going for a year, made the payments, started doing it up to sell. My most recent business, a partnership in a trucking company, had failed and I was back driving, road trains to north Queensland. Milly sold up – and this was my big break*, offered me a share of the proceeds. By early 2002 we were both back in Perth, Lou was at uni in Melbourne and the girls, separately, were working their way around the country. Milly got an admin job in mining, up north. I bought a flat in her name, bought her out, bought a house with my new wife, got left, bought another flat in Rivervale; while she had a restaurant in Fremantle, sold out, resumed working up north, bought this house, worked and worked in the endless FIFO grind, retired, started with Red Cross, and here we are today.

In all those moves I think we only used a removalist company once, to send Milly’s stuff from Melbourne back to Perth; otherwise it was loads in the ute, or trailers, or trucks borrowed from work, or as general freight at mates’ rates. My latest ute’s still going strong, but the body’s getting tired, so this one will definitely be ‘Two Men & a Truck’.

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photographs:
Milly’s 2022 (If you look hard you can see the famous christmas ladder)
Getting the rules right, 2018
Milly and Psyche, 1977
In a corner of the garden
Her own favourite view

Recent audiobooks 

Paul Theroux (M, USA), Under the Wave at Waimea (2021)
Amanda Lohrey (F, Aus/?), The Philosopher’s Doll (2004)
Mercedes Lackey (F, USA), A Study in Sable (2016) – Fantasy/Sherlock Holmes rip off
Francisco Stork (M, USA), Marcelo in the real world (2009) – YA/more Aspergers!
Ian Rankin (M, Sco), Freshmarket Close (2004) – Crime
Yasmin Angoe (F, USA), Her Name is Knight (2021) – Crime
Alex Haley (M, USA), The Autobigraphy of Malcolm X (1965) – NF

Currently Reading:

Helen Razer (F, Aus/Vic), The Helen 100 (2017) – Memoir
Octavia Butler (F, USA), Kindred (1979) – SF
Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF
Drusilla Modjeska (F, Aus/NSW), Poppy (1990) – Biog.
David Adams ed. (F, Aus/NSW), The Letters of Rachel Henning (1951)
Elizabeth Jolley (F, Aus/WA), An Accommodating Spouse (1999)


I know. My real big break was Milly never (completely) losing faith in me.

EOY 2021

Journal: 080

That’s christmas done. I came home without any leftovers and now after two days of Milly being visited by her sisters, there won’t be any, not even fruit probably. I should have gone down to Gee’s, they got through a whole pavlova for breakfast this morning.

Did I get any books? A voucher from one daughter for a little store in Freo (not New Editions/Crow Books with which I have long been unhappy for their lack of support for Australians in general and WA’ns in particular); Another Day in the Colony which I bought while shopping, and which I hope will be special; and the book above, thankyou Milly’s sister, the little Diva, which will hopefully reinspire me to better (and less!) eating.

I’m writing Monday in the vain hope that a job will pop up Tues or Weds and I’ll be on my way. And no, Liz, I haven’t read any late top ten contenders. Yet. Maybe tomorrow. [Weds evening. No work this week. Plenty left in Milly’s fridge, even pavlova. My sisters in law are all wonderful human beings].

I thought I had posts written in advance way into the forseeable future, I even had a posting schedule on my wall calendar, but of course that ends on 30 Dec. ‘EOY21’. I’d better buy a new one. I see now all remaining future posts are for my upcoming gig on the (former) AWWC site. I do have a couple or three in my head for AWW Gen 4 Week, 16-23 Jan 2022 but as we all know, that is not the same as having them written down.

Ok, here are my reading stats for 2021, 2020 in brackets.

Books read: 145 (164)

Gender balance: Male authors 57, Female 84 (67/97)

Author from: Australia  45 (29), UK 36 (35), USA  39 (79), Canada 7 (3) Europe 12 (10), Asia 2 (5), Africa 2 (1) Other 0 (2)

Genre: Non-fiction 12 (12),  Literature  52 (43), General 21 (39), SF  29 (18), Crime 28 (48), Short Stories 7 (4)

Year of Publication: 2021-20 27 (6), 2010-19 57 (61),  2000-9 15 (27), 1960-99 23 (36),  1900-59 12 (26), pre-1900  9 (8) – I definitely need a few Melanie/GTL pie graphs to make this all readable! Tries Table Block.

Year2020-212010-192000-91960-991900-59pre-1900
202127571523129
20206612736268

That’s made up of 103 (118) audiobooks, 39 (41) ‘real’ books, and 3 (5) e-books (all old, pdf or Proj. Gutenberg)

Fewer audiobooks is down to less time in the truck (in the second half of the year), but fewer real books? What am I doing with my free time? As for the composition of my reading, it doesn’t seem to have changed much. The big increase in current year books (2020-21) is mostly down to new general and genre fiction audiobooks at the library. Although it doesn’t show, I actually read more new release poetry than I did new release Australian Lit.Fic.

And I’m happy that the US/Crime portion of my reading has gone down. At least some of the reason for that is that I’ve been able to target my listening better by using Audible and BorrowBox.

Posts for year: 93 (90)

Made up of: Reviews 55 plus 12 Such is Lifes (63), Journals 18 (21), Other 8 (6). Though some of the Journals were also largely Reviews. Five (8) reviews were supplied by guests or were reposts – all for AWW Gen 3 Week II. Reviews seem to have split 21/35 male/female by author (13/50).

In 2021 I put up 15 (20) reviews to the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Last year I wrote: “Theirs is a great site, I thank them, and hope they keep going for many more years” and bugger me, it comes to an end. Theresa Smith who has done a marvellous job for a number of years needed to wind down and a replacement could not be found. The result is a) the AWWC’s founder, Elizabeth Lheude, has asked Sue/Whispering Gums and me to work with her on the site to produce a weekly journal with a focus on early Australian Women Writers, commencing Feb. 2022; and b) Theresa will continue with the Facebook page “Love Reading Books by Australian Women” on which I hope you will all continue to post.

Last year I had a worst book, Miles Franklin’s Bring the Monkey. Do I have one this year? I can think of two, but let’s say Bill Green, Small Town Rising. The best, mmm … I mentioned three very good new releases last week, but for something different how about my ‘discovery’ of Australian SF/satirist Max Barry, Jennifer Government.

Now, reminder time …

AWW Gen 4 Week 16-23 Jan, 2022

The theory of AWW Gen 4 is one of the posts which is mostly in my head. The definition we are using is authors who began publishing in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. There’s a (hopefully) complete list on the AWW Gen 4 page. These are the aspects of theory I am thinking about – modernist writing; feminism (second wave/women’s lib); post-colonialism; post-War society: prosperous, middle class, increasingly multi-cultural; the slow uptake of postmodernism; and what happened to the radicalism, sexual liberation and drugs of the anti-Vietnam War years?.

All the best for a Prosperous and Healthy New Year!

Recent audiobooks 

Omar El Akkad (M, Can), What Strange Paradise (2021)
Ian Rankin (M, Sco), Rather be the Devil (2016) – Crime
Hunter S Thompson (M, USA), The Rum Diary (1998)

Currently Reading:

Mihail Sebastan (M, Rom), Women (thank you Bron)
Willa Cather (F, USA), Alexander’s Bridge
Richard Brautigan (M, USA), An Unfortunate Woman
Georgette Heyer (F, Eng), The Quiet Gentleman
Helen Garner (F, Aus/Vic), Monkey Grip
Gerald Murnane (M, Aus/Vic), Tamarisk Row
Louisa Atkinson (F, Aus/NSW), Gertrude the Emigrant
Belinda Castles (ed) (Aus), Reading Like an Australian Writer (NF – Criticism)
Clare Bailey (F, USA), the clever guts diet recipe book (NF – Cooking)

Tarella down a Rabbit Hole

Journal: 079

When Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969) went up to Tarella Station – north of Wilcannia in the deserts of far western NSW – in 1905 to be governess for a year, she was to find herself not the only writer sitting down to dinner each night. Tarella was owned by E. Quin, and his oldest daughter, Tarella, but universally called Ella, six years older than KSP, was already a published author.

This came up when I was reading KSP’s autobiography Child of the Hurricane but I was reminded of it more recently during a few drinks with KSP biographer Nathan Hobby, and decided to follow it up.

Searching on Trove for ‘Tarella’ brings up some references to the station (for instance, here) but searching on Ella’s pen name ‘James Adare’ brings up a number of stories published in the two or three years before KSP’s year on the station. So , for instance ‘How the Mighty are Fallen’, a funny story about a Bishop on an outback station who goes missing each evening (Queenslander, 30 Apr 1904).

KSP herself wrote a fictionalized and highly romantic account of her journey to and stay on Tarella, in the form of letters to her mother, ‘A City Girl in Central Australia’, serialized over six issues of New Idea the following year (1906). Sadly, Trove doesn’t seem to have New Idea, and the extensive AWWC story archive has no Prichard at all (She’s under copyright until 2039).

In her only mention of Ella’s writing, KSP is pretty dismissive, and there is no hint they ever compared notes. Tarella Quin subsequently had some children’s stories published plus two adult novels, A Desert Rose (1912) and Kerno: A Stone (1914),.

There was another ‘connection’ between Ella and KSP. Ella’s younger sister, Hazel was in the same year at PLC* Melbourne as Hilda Bull (and Nettie Palmer), and Hilda was KSP’s next door neighbour, best friend, and former primary school classmate. The Quin family had a second property on the edge of the Dandenongs, on the outskirts of Melbourne where they would often spend the summer – and in fact KSP returned home with them after the summer of 1904/5 – but it is not recorded that KSP knew the Quins prior to being employed.

Also in that PLC year was Ida Rentoul, the ‘fairy’ illustrator who went on to illustrate at least one of Tarella’s children’s books, Gum Tree Brownie and Other Faerie Folk of the Never-Never (1907). Years ago when I wrote about Ida’s older sister Annie, I gave her the writing credit for Gum Tree Brownie. Of course I no longer have the source for that. Annie Rattray Rentoul went on to Melbourne University and then returned to PLC as a teacher. A reader of that post gives this sad postscript to Rentoul’s life

Back in 1978, [unnamed] worked at Mont Park Psychiatric Hospital. There was a patient there named Annie Rentoul. Annie was mocked by the patients and some of the staff when she said that she was an author. She went everywhere with a huge handbag. The handbag was often hidden by other patients and uncaring staff, causing her great distress.

I spent weeks researching Annie’s claim of being an author. Ida Rentoul-Outhwaite was easier to find; she was a formerly well known children’s book illustrator. Eventually I found the information; Annie wrote the words; Ida painted the illustrations.

I remember being so excited and couldn’t wait to let Annie know what I had found, but … Annie had died a few days earlier.

I wept for this poor woman who was treated so unkindly in a huge mental health institution.

Madeline Keil, 8 Oct 2018

The last rabbit hole brought up by searching ‘Tarella’ that I want to mention is a quest by the Age (Melbourne) in 1933 to name The Fifty Best Australian Novels. This story was written up by Vivian Smith, in the Australian Literary Studies Journal, 1 Oct 1989.

Following a piece in the Age in Feb, 1933 on the Fifty Best Modern English Novels, readers were asked to write in with their 50 best Australians. Such is the sad state of our knowledge of our own literature, that the staff writer (editor?) begins with:

At first sight it would appear to be a difficult task to choose the fifty best Australian novels published since 1900. Memories of For the Term of His Natural Life, The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn, Robbery Under Arms and a few others float before the mind: one is tempted to conclude that fifty genuinely Australian novels have not been published. Such, however, is far from the truth. Here is a list of over forty novelists whose work, produced since 1900, may legitimately claim consideration on its merits as being more or less permanent contributions to English literature [my underlines].

Unexpectedly, the women appear to make the more impressive showing. Pride of place may perhaps be given to Katharine Susannah Prichard, who has claims to be considered our greatest present-day novelist.

No.s 1 and 2 on his list are KSP’s Working Bullocks and Coonardo; then, 3. M Barnard Eldershaw, A House is Built; 4,5,6 the three books of Henry Handel Richardson’s, The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney; followed by 7. either Maurice Guest or The Getting of Wisdom; 8. Helen de Guerry Simpson “with her gigantic novel” Boomerang; 9,10. Dorothy Cottrell’s Singing Gold and Earth Battle; 11, 12. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career and Old Blastus of Bandicoot; and 13. Mrs Aeneas Gunn, We of the Never Never; before we get to any guys.

I’ll list the first 15 (authors) of the first letter writer, because they are interesting (ie. I largely agree with them): 1. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career; 2. Tom Collins [Joseph Furphy], Such is Life; 3. Louis Stone, Jonah; 4. Barbara Baynton, Human Toll; 5. AB Paterson, An Outback Marriage; 6. KS Prichard, The Pioneers; 7. HH Richardson, Maurice Guest; 8. Arthur Adams, The Australians; 9. Brent of Bin Bin, Up the Country; 10. Bernard Cronin, Bracken; 11. Ion Idriess, Madman’s Island; 12. Velia Ercole, No Escape; 13. FD Davidson, Man Shy; 14. DH Lawrence, Kangaroo; 15. DH Lawrence and Molly Skinner, The Boy in the Bush.

Yes, Vance Palmer does get a run, but well back in the field; and also Martin Mills [Martin Boyd] for The Montforts; Henry Lawson, Joe Wilson and his Mates; and Dulcie Deamer, As It Was in the Beginning; along with quite a few others now long forgotten. The two most prominent women to miss out were Rosa Praed, Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land (1915), and Ada Cambridge, Sisters (1904). Eleanor Dark, Christina Stead, Dymphna Cusack, Kylie Tennant were still a year or two away from sweeping all before them.

To end, one discursive correspondent who wins me with “a single book, a masterpiece in its way, Such is Life, by Tom Collins”, has the sentence which captured my search: “Prominent Australian novels of more recent years have been Deadman’s, by Mary Gaunt, Kerno, a Stone, by Tarella Quin, Boomerang, by Helen Simpson, Black Opal and Working Bullocks, by perhaps the ‘livest’ of our novelists, Katharine Prichard …”


You are no doubt wondering, where’s Dragan? He hasn’t rung me again, and perhaps really only had me in mind for covering the serious shortfall in drivers willing to put up with crossing the Nullarbor and the constant commitment to Covid testing and isolation that requires. We’ll see.

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Nathan Hobby, The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, due out from Melbourne University Press, 3 May 2022.

PLC. Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne. See also: The Getting of Wisdom, Henry Handel Richardson

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The Yield, Tara June Winch

Journal: 076

Since moving back to running up north I have settled into an easy routine – load Thurs/Fri, unload Sun/Mon, back in Perth Tues/Wed, for a round trip of about 3,000 km. Running over east I would do one round trip Perth-Melbourne, 8,000 km, every 3 weeks. So now, over 3 weeks, I’m running a little further and getting a bit less time off – though it doesn’t feel like it – and earning about the same money (but as I’m not always running as a road train, I am using a fair bit less fuel).

Over the course of a weekend I listen to about 20 hours of audiobooks, say three books a week. This trip just past (actually the trip before last by the time this goes up) I listened to The Yield, Max Barry’s wild Jennifer Government (thank you Emma), and Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself.

I originally wrote this post as a review, but as it’s mostly just me bitching about stuff, I’ll keep it between us and won’t put it up on the Australian Women Writers Challenge site.

Tara June Winch (1983- ) was born in and grew up around Wollongong, a steel manufacturing and port city 50 kms south of Sydney. She now lives between Sydney and France. So not a bush person then.

Winch’s father is a Wiradjuri man. Wiradjuri country is roughly contiguous with the Riverina region of NSW, which is to say the country we are looking at in Such is Life, the open grassland and semi desert country of the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers, north of the Murray, and the southern reaches of the Bogan and Macquarie Rivers (such as they are).

“The Wiradjuri language is effectively extinct, but attempts are underway to revive it, with a reconstructed grammar, based on earlier ethnographic materials and wordlists and the memories of Wiradjuri families” (Wiki). Winch acknowledges the actual people working on this grammar, but in her novel ascribes it to the fictional Albert Goondiwindi. (I don’t have a problem with that).

The Yield (2019), which won the 2020 Miles Franklin, is an exploration of Wiradjuri heritage and language through the eyes of a young woman protagonist, August, returned from London for the funeral of her grandfather, Albert Goondiwindi. August, now thirtyish, had been brought up by her grandparents, following the arrest and imprisonment of her parents on drugs charges, on the family property, a 500 acre wheat sheep farm on the banks of the (fictional) Murrimby River outside the town, and shire centre, Massacre Plains (also fictional).

The problem I had with the novel, which others clearly did not, is that it is based on learned rather than lived experience and the history is, as the author says, a composite of the average experiences of this sort of community. Still, it is well written, indeed innovative in the way Albert Goondiwindi’s Wiradjuri dictionary is woven into the text.

There are three stories, with different voices: a foundation story, set in the 1880s – ie. at exactly the same time as Tom Collin’s stories in SIL – told by the Lutheran missionary who gathered the Goondiwindi community onto one property; Albert Goondiwindi’s story of his childhood in the 1940s; and August’s story of her return to be with her grandmother and to attempt to save the family property from (tin) miners who are about to commence mining their land. There is also a further story running in the background, the disappearance of August’s sister, Jedda, as a child, which we hear of first from August then from Albert.

The one definite location we are given is that Massacre Plains is on the Broken Highway, which runs from Dubbo to Broken Hill (more or less horizontally across the centre of the map), shading from cotton farming, to scrub, to open desert capable of supporting only feral goats and pigs, and with, beyond Nyngan, and the cotton country on the Bogan, just two towns – the mining community of Cobar, and the run down rural community of Wilcannia on what is left of the Darling River.

My guess is that Winch was thinking of Nyngan for Massacre Plains, though there would be little chance of making a living off 500 acres there, and the nearest wheat farm would be further east or south. Maybe Nyngan has a modern, three storey shire office, it’s two or three years since I was last through there, but it’s a long way to the Darling, where Albert takes the local kids camping.

The names too, are puzzling. The family name Goondiwindi is from southern Queensland, and Jedda comes from the story of an Aboriginal girl in the Northern Territory (and Australia’s first colour movie).

I could go on but you get sick of my pedantry. And luckily for you, books that I listen to rather than read, I can only make notes in my head, and most of them I forget. Anyway, it’s only fiction you say. But that’s the point, it’s not. We are meant to read The Yield as representative of Aboriginal experience. I’m sure that it is, but compared with, for example, Marie Munkara’s visceral lived experience of colonial racism, Winch’s telling feels second hand.

A better comparison might be with Benang, Kim Scott’s exploration of his Wirlomin/Noongar heritage and his family’s experience of the actual, not invented (or “composite”), Cocanarup Massacre. Even leaving aside the magnificence of Scott’s language compared with Winch’s, the way he incorporates his search for identity into the text is clearly superior to Winch’s regurgitation/reconstruction of stuff she has read.

I’ll admit that as the story went on, August’s and Jedda’s stories in particular, I became more engaged. But did I like it, Melanie? No, not a lot. The problem (for my point of view) of course is that the Wiradjuri’s story needs to be told, and if not by Winch then who? But firstly, I think it could have been told better, and without the inconsistencies; and secondly, from memory, there were actual massacres, the Bathurst/Wiradjuri Wars for instance, which might better have illustrated her telling.

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Tara June Winch, The Yield, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2019. Harper Audio, read by Tony Briggs. 9 hours.


The map is of the rivers of New South Wales (I forget where I got it now). For scale, it is about 1,000 kms from left to right. Sydney is under the ‘River’ of Nepean River. The Great Dividing Range runs parallel to the coast and about 100 kms in, forming the eastern boundary of Wiradjuri country. The western/northern boundary would seem to be some distance east and south of the Darling.