Arum Lilies

Journal: 103

I haven’t had any work for the past couple of weeks, not that you could tell from either my reading or my blogging. I do have a job booked for next week, and I finally sold a trailer that has been on the market all year, so my bank balance is fine. Crass, I know, to talk about money. But having been broke previously as an owner driver I am very happy to be properly capitalised this time around, and anyway, I’m old and a comfortable or at least non-destitute retirement is always on my mind.

Now I’ve sold both my A-trailers, I will no longer run as a B-Double or B-Triple. My standard configuration will be a double road train – two drop decks connected by a dolly. If that’s double dutch, sorry, just let it go. But here’s another truck pic if that helps.

Arum lilies: Last weekend I went down to Gee’s bush block on the south coast. Arum lilies are all through her block, all through all the jarrah/karri/tuart forests; the “cane toads of the South West” according to the ABC. So I spent some hours grubbing out a patch close to the house, till working on 45 deg slopes did me in. Then we started the much delayed business of burning off the undergrowth which the previous ageing owners had allowed to get out of control. It was a bit damp, a bit late in the season, but at least that meant it was unlikely to get away. In fact we had to keep raking material, bracken and leaves, up to the fires to get them to move at all.

We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local restaurant brewery, the Boston if you’re down that way, and seeing I for once wasn’t the driver I had an excellent 7.5% IPA to go with my also excellent (v & gf) pizza.

Going down and back I listened to the second Eden Robinson “Trickster” novel, Trickster Drift, which I won’t review, except here to say it was disappointing compared with Son of a Trickster. Just a drily told story of Jared’s first year away from home, with a lot more Native magic, and none of the grunge or romance of the first.

For my real reading I’m struggling to find the time/concentration to read Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy. I got Jack London out of the way before the month was over (just!) and now I’m started on Agnes Grey. An excellent Introduction by Angeline Goreau – who has written a couple of interesting-looking books, one about Aphra Benn and another on C17th women – gives some more background to the New Woman, and that is, by the 1850s there were nearly half a million more women than men in Britain, so of course they needed jobs.

That’s it for news. I’m on a diet – the 5 and 2 – properly this time, after getting 15 kg above my weight when I stopped swimming (in 2017), and I thought I was 7 or 8 kg overweight then. Exercise is a struggle, but I ride to Milly’s once or twice a week (when I’m home). Seeing as I often talk about us living on opposite sides of the river, I got Google to make a map, though in the middle (below) it takes a short-cut past the football stadium, so let’s say 5 km each way.

Recent audiobooks 

Holly Wainwright (F, Aus/NSW), The Couple Upstairs (2022)
Mark Brandi (M, Aus/Vic), The Rip (2019)
Ian Bone (M, Aus/xx), The Song of an Innocent Bystander (2002) – YA
Helen Fitzgerald (F, Aus/Vic), Keep Her Sweet (2022)
Cecilia Ekback (F, Sweden/Lapland/Canada), The Historians (2021) – Hist.Fic./Crime
Susan Wiggs (F, USA), Briar Rose (1987) – Nonsensical medieval romance DNF
Eden Robinson (F, Can), Trickster Drift (2018)

Currently Reading 

Jack London (M, USA), The Iron Heel (1908)
Anne Brontë (F, Aus/Tas), Agnes Grey (1847)
Alexis Wright (F, Aus/Qld), Praiseworthy (2023) – this will take a long, long time!

AWWC May 2023

Wed 3Elizabeth LhuedeThe gambler’s wife and the fraudster’s daughter: Norah Skeffington Carroll
Fri 5Stories FTANorah Skeffington Carroll, The conversion of a celibate (short story)
Wed 10Stacey RobertsAboriginal domestic servants in colonial women’s fiction, 1854-1906
Fri 12Stories FTAJeannie Gunn, The Little Black Princess (fiction extract)
Wed 17Bill HollowayCaroline Leakey, The Broad Arrow (review)
Fri 19Stories FTACaroline Leakey, The Broad Arrow (fiction extract)
Wed 24Stacey RobertsFemale Domestic Service
Fri 26Stories FTAMabel Forrest, “Frances Floriline” (short story)
Wed 31Whispering GumsThe Australian Literature Society’s Women’s Nights, 1920s

Stuck in the Middle

Journal: 100

Western Australia

Last weekend I was 1200 km north of Perth in the desolate country north east of Geraldton, sheep stations once but now running cattle at maybe one beast per sq. mile; bounded on the west by the North West Coastal Hwy (and Shark Bay), on the east by the Great Northern Hwy; say 800 km south to north and 400 km west to east; traversed by only the meanest of dirt roads. Home to KSP’s Coonardoo and Neville Schute’s Beyond the Black Stump; the epic buggy journey by Daisy Bates (driven by her husband Jack, though she doesn’t say so) probably following the dry bed of the Gascoyne River, from Jigalong to Carnarvon; the last part of Robyn Davidson’s camel trek (Tracks); and home also to the trucking memoir I reviewed a little while ago, Wheel Tracks.

This is Yamaji country, though the language quoted by KSP in Coonardoo appears to be Martu, whose land is centred on Jigalong, further to the west (past Newman, on the WA map).

I had a load of cement and weldmesh for a new mine 300 km north of Carnarvon and 200 km inland. I would have gone via the little community of Gascoyne Junction but the local council stipulated otherwise. My instructions were to turn off the NWCH 5 km before the bridge and rest area at Barradale, a roadhouse that hasn’t existed these last 30 years, and my landmarks after that were to be various stations at 40-50km intervals.

At which turnoff I arrived 3.00pm Friday, having spent a considerable time persuading Milly and Gee that even in the best of circumstances I would be out of phone range for 24 hours and if they hadn’t heard from me by Sunday here were my contacts and if they couldn’t help, CALL THE POLICE.

For once, the situation on the ground was pretty much as the map said it would be. By sunset I was at a parking bay just past where my road joined the road from Gascoyne Junction and there I spent the night. Unfortunately, the rain storm threatening in that photo arrived almost as soon as I pulled up.

Within an hour of taking off in the morning, and only 16 km from the mine, or from the access road in anyway, I was bogged. Luckily, I could hear traffic on the two way and was able to get someone to come out to me. After maybe 3 hours, that guy returned with a big 4wd loader to tow me out, which he did with some difficulty. I followed him in to the mine, unloaded, and by afternoon the road had dried out enough that I didn’t have any trouble driving out.

Back to the highway – and phone service – about 4.00pm, to 15 missed messages just on the family site (Psyche has been seeing a physio who is successfully ‘rewiring’ the connections between her brain and her legs meaning she’s finding walking a bit easier). I’d phoned Gee on a borrowed satellite phone from the mine, but I was happy to let them know I’d come out ok as well.

Me: Thanks for keeping an eye out.

Gee: It’s nice to have the mild excitement!

Me: It’s fun to BE the mild excitement.

Milly: Hmm…

Dragan had a pickup for me to do in Geraldton which I knocked off on the Sunday and here I am back at home, expecting to hear that I’ll shortly be asked to do it all again [not yet].

At various places along the ‘road’ in there were signs to Mount Augustus, which seems to have come into tourist consciousness only in the last few years. It is apparently a big red rock twice the size of Uluru. At a high point on the mine access road I looked out across the plain to see in the distance a mountain towering over the horizon, and I guess that was it. Wiki says “The local Wadjari people call it Burringurrah”. At this time I am struggling with the distinction between Wadjari and Yamaji. More homework needed.

Over the course of the trip I listened to JM Coetzee’s Boyhood, which made no impression on me at all; to an international thriller by the late Melbourne crime (and MF winning) writer Peter Temple whom I discover was born and raised in South Africa; and an interesting coming of age debut, Electric and Mad and Brave by Tom Pitts, set in Hastings on Melbourne’s outer eastern fringe, and which deserves more attention than I am paying it here.

I see ‘Stuck in the Middle’ is/was a US tv series, but what I had in mind was the early 70s pop song.


Recent audiobooks 

JM Coetzee (M, SAf), Boyhood (1997)
Katie Sise (F, USA), Open House (2020) – Crime
Tom Pitts (M, Aus/Vic), Electric and Mad and Brave (2022)
Peter Temple (M, Aus/Vic), In the Evil Day (2002)
Nick Spalding (M, Eng), Logging Off (2020) – ‘Humour’ DNF What was I thinking!
Lisa Unger (F, USA), Fragile (2010) – Crime

Currently Reading 

Samuel Butler (M, Eng), The Way of All Flesh (1903)
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (M, Rus), One Billion Years to the End of the World (1977)
Stella Gibbons (F, Eng), Cold Comfort Farm (1932) – I’m enjoying it so far. Is the humour a bit forced? Maybe.

AWWC Mar. 2023

Wed 1Elizabeth LhuedeBella Guerin, From imperialistic butterfly to democratic grub
Fri 3Stories FTABella Lavender, Mrs Pankhurst: sonnet
Wed 8EmmaCatherine Helen Spence, An Autobiography (review)
Fri 10Stories FTACatherine Helen Spence, A week in the future (fiction extract)
Wed 15Bill HollowayCatherine Helen Spence, Clara Morison (review)
Fri 17Stories FTACatherine Helen Spence, Clara Morison (extract)
Wed 22Teresa PittAgnes G. Murphy
Fri 24Stories FTAAgnes Murphy, To Aimee (poetry)
Wed 29Whispering GumsLouise Mack, The world is round
Fri 31Stories FTALouise Mack, My valley (nonfiction)

ACCO Twinsteer

Journal: 099

When I decided to stop being a cadet journalist at $44/week – and when my father gave my address in New Farm to the Federal Police – I hitched up the Bruce Highway intending to find a driving job and got one at the first place I tried, Marrs Carrying in Nambour, just 100 kms up the road. I got a flat, single bedroom, one of four in a row along a short driveway, and in a couple of days I was given a trip to Brisbane in one of Marrs’ old C-series International furniture vans, picked up the Young Bride and our little furniture, and brought her back to our new home.

Alan Marr was a big, angry man, a former POW on the Burma railway, and he got through employees pretty quickly. But his sons, big like him, weren’t so bad and luckily Danny, the older, took a liking to me and YB and so I got on ok.

A lot of our work was bringing building materials up to Maroochydore where they were just beginning the process of digging the canals and putting in subdivisions. We brought up all sorts of freight to Nambour; did furniture removals throughout the Sunshine Coast; and three trucks, the elite, carried fruit from central Queensland to Sydney and Melbourne.

As well as home base in Nambour, we had a depot in Eagle Farm and every night the last truck out of Brisbane would load up all the bits and pieces off the dock and take them back to Nambour to be delivered. Then, in the morning all the drivers, sometimes as many as 10 or so, would turn up at 6.00 am. All of us would line up beside that ‘last’ truck and sometimes shoulder to shoulder to fit us all in, would pass items from hand to hand until the truck was unloaded. No man could be seen to be unemployed!

If there was a flour truck in from Dalby, one or two of us would be deputed to go down to the bread factory to unload twenty ton of 120 lb flour bags. The driver would drag each bag to the edge of the trailer, tip it onto our shoulders and we would run -yes run – it inside and lay it on the stack, running up the sides of the stack as it got higher. Grown men would wilt and walk away, but I was pretty wiry then and once you got into a rhythm it wasn’t bad work.

Soon anyway I was promoted to a long-distance job running beer and and building materials to the new mining town of Mooranbah, inland of Mackay and about 600 miles or 1,000 km north of Brisbane. My truck was a ‘butterbox’ ACCO towing a single axle trailer, with a carrying capacity of 12 ton. That’s an ACCO pictured but a twin-steer, which I’ll get to later. Mine was single steer and single drive. The engine was a trusty old Perkins diesel putting out 130 HP. By then, 1972, American trucks had 240 – 300 HP motors and even the Europeans, mostly Mercedes at that time, had 205 HP. So progress, with a top speed of 48 mph, was slow. But on reflection it was a good truck in which to learn my trade.

Well, except for the brakes! Sadly, after a few pumps, the old ACCO had no brakes at all. You learnt to approach corners and other difficulties slowly. And usually, halfway down a long decline, you would let her rip, while you revved the engine and built up brake pressure again.

YB and I had the second flat along. In the first were a couple of guys, Spot, who was a barman at one of the hotels, and a tall awkward guy, Nebo. One night we had all been drinking around our kitchen table and I had gone to bed. After a while I could hear tall, awkward guy trying to persuade YB – 18, friendly, and good looking – to come next door with him. I chased him out, and we all stayed friends.

Still, she always came with me on trips. I liked being with her, and it was amazing the friends we made along the way because people liked talking to her. If we had to, we’d sleep sitting up, our heads on pillows in the corners or leaning over the engine cover. But often I would arrange the load, especially if it was beer and soft drinks, so there was a space on the deck where we could stretch out on furniture packing.

The coast road, the Bruce Hwy, was pretty primitive back then, narrow, barely two lanes, and all the river crossings single lane ‘bridges’ just above the water, with a log along each side to stop you driving off.

Summer of course is rainy season, and the water coming off the coastal range would flood all the creeks and cover the crossings. You’d check the level wasn’t above two feet, aim at the road on the other side and head right in. Going into Rocky there was a long stretch of river flats and the road had a big curve, so if it was under water there was nothing to aim for and the police would close it, or sometimes guide us through.

Towards xmas, YB and I went up on a Sunday. There were roadworks north of Gympie and they were a quagmire. There should have been a grader to tow the tucks through but the driver had gone to the Sunday session, so we had to wait. Eventually he turned up, not particularly worse for wear, and we got going, up to Moranbah, unloaded, and home without incident. That should have been our last trip for the year, but the boss had loaded up another ACCO, a petrol-engined twin steer tray with ten ton of beer, for us to take straight back. So off we went.

We got to Gin Gin, outside Bundaberg, that evening and there was a queue of cars and trucks waiting to cross the river which was a bit over two feet. Eventually, a couple of trucks came through southbound and we set up a convoy heading north. I was about third, tucked in behind the truck in front so I wouldn’t splash water on my engine, and particularly the distributor. We got through ok but no-one followed us. The truck behind had run up on the log side and was stuck there. I heard later, up the road, that it was 24 hours before they got a crane to lift him off and re-open the road.

There was more rain on the way, so YB and I made a run for it. The Bruce Hwy between Rockhampton and Mackay was then inland of it’s current route, as the map shows, running north from Marlborough. There were some good roadhouses along there, derelict now. We made it as far as Boyne River where there were already a couple of trucks pulled up with huts and another with oranges. The river was at two foot six, so we went inside to have breakfast and wait for it to go down. That evening it was at eight feet and we’d all backed up, and the next morning it was sixteen and rising. We were stuck there three days, eventually about 50 trucks and a heap of cars. The roadhouse tried to ration what food it had, and otherwise we lived on oranges and my beer, resting in the shade of the huts and playing pontoon. I was selling the beer at 50c a stubby, hot. People would keep coming up to me and YB giving us money. Another guy up the back in a Peters Ice Cream truck told me later he was chilling the stubbies and selling them for 60c. I wish he’d told me at the time!

When we finally got to the Moranbah pub, the publican just laughed and charged us Brisbane cost price for the shortages, so we made a whacking profit. Back in Nambour, friends, a couple from Moura where we also did deliveries sometimes, had arrived to spend the break with us. The guys next door broke a louvre and let them in. YB and I were back by Xmas Eve and we all went to the drive in, at Maroochydore or Caloundra, I forget now, and sat on the ground on rugs and drank the night away.

Welcome, Ms 19

Journal: 098

The pictures I take are mostly of my truck, because that’s what I’m mostly doing. If I’m with the grandkids I take pics of the grandkids. A week or so ago I did a couple of trips for Dragan, to Roy Hill, Gina’s iron ore mine 1300 km north of Perth; wide loads, the first with my own trailer and the second with Dragan’s four axle float because he wanted me to bring home a mobile crane which was too heavy for my (3 axle) trailer. So here I am, ready to load, at Tom Price (a Rio Tinto mining town) with Mt Nameless in the background.

When I say, that’s what I’m mostly doing, I mean that’s what I should be mostly doing, I spend a lot of time sitting at home thinking about working, or thinking about what I might write about for you guys. I told (texted) Kevin, my mate whose paddock I park my truck in, that no-one had phoned me with work, and that also I hadn’t phoned anyone to let them know I was home, and he said: You need to put your hand up like I used to Pick me Pick me, at which we fell about laughing, LOLing probably, thinking about being schoolboys 60 something years ago, and pens with nibs and inkwells, and collecting sticks to light a fire in the fireplace. Meanwhile, the crane’s on.

It wasn’t so hot up north, mid 30s mostly (C), a bit higher sometimes, but I took it slow, tried not to build up too much heat in the tyres, which on these low trailers are a bit smaller than a standard low profile tyre. Had a little bit of excitement getting off the road for 8m wide loads coming the other way, and there’s always a few, 200 tonne dump trucks being carted to and fro between Perth and the mines. I had a lot of weight up high and in places the shoulders slope away pretty savagely, so it’s hard to pull far enough off to make room. I think on one of these excursions a rock may have damaged the sidewall of my left hand front trailer tyre, because coming down the hill to the outskirts of Perth, it blew.

On the last Sunday of summer Perth was having a bit of a hot spell – zero 40 deg days this summer – and I was tired, and the wheel nuts were stuck, and the wheel nuts securing the spares were stuck, rusted in place, and Dragan said he’d send out a tyre fitter in the morning, so I dropped the trailer at a truckstop and motored bobtail (sans trailer) the last 50km home, to sleep in my own bed and have a leisurely breakfast. Of course Dragan being Dragan there was no tyre fitter when I made it back out to the trailer, but another guy got the nuts off for me, and by lunchtime I was on the other side of town at Dragan’s depot.

Where he asked, nicely, if I would deliver the crane the following day to a site (Manjimup) 300 km south, which I did, and a very pleasant drive it was too through lots of touristy towns with windy, tree-lined main streets. I might take Milly that way next time we go down to Gee’s place on the south coast.

By then it was Wednesday, so I went over to Milly’s and we walked to the little Thai place nearby which is only open weekdays, and is cheap with really nice food and you get your own grog at the bottle shop across the road (Hay St, if you know Perth) and sat out in the street where I won’t get Covid, Milly says she has stopped worrying. She had Gee and the kids for the weekend while I was away so I missed pancakes. Ms 19 comes up from Freo if her mum’s in town and they all fit somewhere in the spare bedroom and the lounge. Gee has always had the babies in bed with her anyway – the last two are 1 and 2 now – I wonder if she thinks she didn’t get to sleep in our bed often enough. She is a thoughtful mother and her parenting is a mix of things she’s thought of, read about, that Milly tried out on her, and of course occasional exasperated shouting that she learnt from me. Milly never shouts. She was mad at me the other day, before I went away, and I know why, but I’m still shocked thinking about it. I mean she told me why, after, but is that the whole story? Not likely.

Ms 19 has just discovered I write a blog. She told Milly: Nanny, Poppy writes about a family. Is it us? I think she must have followed the link from a facebook post where I mentioned her by name. So, Hi Ms 19 and happy reading, though I’m afraid most of it is just ordinary old book stuff.


Recent audiobooks 

Jennifer Armentro (F, USA), From Blood and Ash (2020) – SFF
Katherine Scholes (F, Aus/Tas), The Beautiful Mother (2020) – Family Drama DNF
Victoria Hannan (F, Aus/Vic), Kokomo (2020)
Dervla McTiernan (F, Aus/WA), The Good Turn (2020) – Crime
JD Robb (F, USA), Secrets in Death (2017) – Crime
Max Barry (M, Aus/Vic), Jennifer Government (2004) – SF/Crime

I recommend Kokomo, which I think was a freeby from Audible. Set in Melbourne, a daughter dealing with her mother dealing with … stuff. It deserves a review. I hope I get there. (more here). And the Fay Lee SF below, I am half way through and have promised the author I will review. And I will.

Currently Reading 

Fay Lee (F, Aus/SA), Empathy (2023) – SF
Haruki Murakami (M, Jap), Sputnik Sweetheart (1999)
Miles Franklin & Dymphna Cusack (F, Aus/NSW), Pioneers on Parade (1939)

AWWC Feb. 2023

Wed 1Elizabeth Lhuede“A clever and pretty blue stocking”: Ada A Kidgell
Fri 3Stories FTAAda A Kidgell, The triumphant candidate (short story)
Wed 8Jo-Anne ReidKylie Tennant, Tiburon (review)
Fri 10Stories FTAKylie Tennant, Tiburon (novel extract)
Wed 15Bill HollowayKylie Tennant, Ride on Stranger (review)
Fri 17Stories FTACamden Morrisby, A novelist I know: Kylie Tennant (extract)
Wed 22Whispering GumsLouise Mack, Teens and Girls together
Fri 24Stories FTALouise Mack, In a country school (short story)

Nellie Melba

Journal: 097

More farewells then Nellie Melba. Maybe, I can’t see how many that was (here), but I am unloading after my third or fourth ‘last trip’ across the Nullarbor from Melbourne. I don’t plan to do any more. I don’t wish to do any more. But I find myself strangely attracted to loads to north Queensland, and then I have to get home.

This trip just concluding, I hooked up at Moama, found my way across southern, recently flooded, NSW on broken and dodgy roads, finally became free of the Murray via the ancient Paringa Bridge, traversed the Flinders Ranges by more country roads, till at last I reached Highway One at Port Pirie, the last remaining bitumen link to Western Australia, arrived at Northam, 100 km out, Friday morning, three weeks and a day away, brought my trailers in one at a time, got some unloading done.

Got some more unloading done Sat. Just settled home to the idea of lunch and wine, no sandwiches cut or wine poured, no body showered even, when Milly called to say there was a family emergency and I must come at once, pick her up then head down to Freo to pick up Ms 19. I dragged on a clean shirt and headed for the door when – you know it – phone rang, the emergency was sort of over, but Ms 19 was still upset and we should go and get her anyway, and yes I had time for a shower.

I can’t tell you all the story, but at 10.00 am someone, in a Victorian country town, was dead of an overdose, then he wasn’t, and by the time we picked up Ms 19 at one-ish, he was sitting up in bed and asking for dinner. Country town gossips and third-hand information!

And so, by mid-afternoon, we ended up at the Perth Fringe, participating in – ‘viewing’ is not strong enough – a comedy pub crawl, which resulted in me Ubering home and cycling back this morning to retrieve my ute and run Ms 19 home.

Ms 19 had ordered me for Christmas, from Lebanon, PA, the book-ends above and of course they arrived the day after I left, so yesterday I finally got to unwrap them. She wanted a Mack, everyone’s sexiest truck, except (Australian) truck drivers who go for Kenworths, locally made, indestructible, noisy and uncomfortable to drive. I’m going to say this new acquisition is a 1950s Reo Speedwagon. It might be, and Diamond Reo trucks were manufactured in PA up till a decade or so ago.

This post in this timeslot is meant to be my AWW Gen 5-SF Week summing up. Thank you all for taking part. I think I reposted everyone who put up a review, and I’ll update the AWW Gen 5 page as soon as I have my business bookwork out of the way. This is what I got from our discussions: that dystopian and SF were important themes throughout the three decades, driven of course by climate change, and although we didn’t discuss it much, by the rise of the surveillance state. The more fanciful SF of Jane Rawson and Elizabeth Tan, say, comes not just from CLi.Fi, but also from a playfulness always latent in SF and in postmodernism. Indigenous writing became important and incorporated SF in both its dystopian and more fantastic streams – think back to Ellen van Neerven’s Water, or to the innovative SF of Claire G Coleman.

There are other themes. Perhaps only I worry about Grunge, which flared up in the mid-nineties then went nowhere. But I see elements of it still, both in Indigenous writing and in the work of some new novelists. Brona suggested another theme in dysfunctional families. Feel free to expand, Bron. If the discussion continues, I’ll make space for it somewhere.

Next year, I want to cover Gen 0, the writing which however hard it is to trace direct influences, predated and to some extent parallelled the Independent Woman theme in early Australian writing. I’m thinking in particular JS Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft on whom Bron has already done a great deal of work, and then Aphra Benn, George Sand, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, an American woman recommended by Melanie/GTL whose name has slipped my mind (I have it in writing somewhere, sorry Melanie). Even Moll Flanders and Tom Jones, ostensibly written by men, have far more anti-marriage sentiment than was allowed later, post Jane Austen.

After that we can redo the Gens, AMWs this time.

I of course have had plenty of time to listen to books. Those from the library were mostly mediocre, and that includes the fictional biography of Elizabeth Macquarrie, Elizabeth & Elizabeth (the other E. is E. Macarthur) by Sue Williams. Probably the best of the library books was Into the Darkest Corner (2012) by Elizabeth Haynes, a really explicit account of a single woman who hooks up, unknowingly, with a predator. Warning: there were instances of physical abuse which I skipped over.

On Audible, where I only buy books I really want to listen to, apart from the occasional freebies, I listened to Love by Elizabeth von Arnim; and to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, which I am attempting to inveigle Melanie into co-reviewing with me. I sometimes re-listen to my Audible books, or listen to them twice in a couple of weeks to get my review right, and it’s never a hardship.


Recent audiobooks 

Elizabeth Haynes (F, Eng), Into the Darkest Corner (2012) Thriller
Tony McCarroll (M, Eng), The Truth: My Life as Oasis’s Drummer (2013) Memoir
Anthony Johnston (M, Eng), The Tempus Project (2020) – Crime
Sue Williams (F, Aus/NSW), Elizabeth & Elizabeth (2021) – Fictional Biog.
Joy Fielding (F, USA), She’s not There (2015) – Family Drama
Karin Fossum (F, Nor), Bad Intentions (2010) Crime
Helen Hardt (F, USA), Follow Me Darkly (2020) – Romance
Charlene Harris (F, USA), Real Murders (1990) – Crime
William Gibson (M, USA), Agency (2020) – SF
Elizabeth von Arnim (F, Eng), Love (1925)
Tom Robbins (M, USA), Even Cowgirls get the Blues (1976)

Currently Reading 

Martin Boyd (M, Aus/Vic), The Cardboard Crown (1971)
Martin Boyd (M, Aus/Vic), A Difficult Young Man (1957)

AWWC Jan. 2023

Fri 06Stories FTAAlice Guerin, New Year’s Eve – December 1901
Wed 11Elizabeth LhuedeFarewell 2022 – welcome 2023
Fri 13Stories FTAMiles Franklin, Alice Henry (newspaper story)
Wed 18Bill HollowayCatherine Helen Spence, A Week in the Future (review)
Fri 20Stories FTA
Wed 25Whispering GumsLouise Mack
Fri 27Stories FTALouise Mack, My quest: London book shops (nonfiction)

I’m still here

Journal: 096

Just when I thought I’d done enough long trips, and just as AWW Gen 5-SFF Week was getting under way, I was given a string of jobs which has kept me away from home two weeks to date with another week to go. Luckily, I had some posts ready, but though I had a break last Mon-Tue, and again this weekend, I haven’t done any writing and thought I had better explain my absence.

First, I took a couple of road rollers from Perth to a mine out from Laverton, north east of Kalgoorlie; the maiden outing for my new road train dolly. 1,300 km

From Laverton I ran empty to Cape Preston, on the north west coast, south of Karratha. 1,700 km

The reason for this was that a contract I had expected for January had fallen through and so I accepted a road train load from Cape Preston to Peak Downs in central Queensland, inland of Mackay. 6,000 km as the shorter, northabout route via the Northern Territory is closed until the bridges swept away at Fitzroy Crossing are replaced, initially with a low level ford in three or four months. And yes, there are only two made roads east-west across Australia.

A week or so in, in the night, crossing western NSW towards Cobar, the truck started to run slow and a check of the gauges showed I had no turbo boost. For a while I had a top speed of 80 kph until I discovered that by revving the engine really high the turbo could be persuaded to resume working. This problem persisted for a couple of days but is currently in remission.

However, I woke in the morning to a big pool of oil under the front of the truck. Crawling underneath I discovered that the dipstick tube had come away from the sump. I blocked the hole and put a couple of litres of oil in and drove the 200 km remaining to Cobar, the next town. I didn’t seem to be losing much oil, so I bought some more and turned north towards Bourke and on into Queensland.

The days were beginning to blur. I had left Kalgoorlie Tuesday morning and was due in Peak Downs during working hours on Saturday, which I thought could manage by doing 1,200 km a day.

I fuelled in Charleville in western Qld on Friday and was persuaded there by some resting Western Australian drivers to take the shorter dirt road from Tambo to Alpha – which they had just taken in the opposite direction – which I did Saturday morning. It was ok, not boggy, but very narrow and poorly signposted. Soon I was in Emerald and on the phone to my contact in Peak Downs. His directions to me were to go half an hour north to Capella, turn east 75 kms to Dysart and then come up the last short stretch to Peak Downs and I’d be there by lunchtime. Which I was, but Capella to Dysart is a mostly dirt farm track through a mountain range. Next time I’m going the long way!

Still, that was the load done and my money – supposedly COD – earned. The poor old truck desperately needed a service and repairs. There is a Volvo dealer at Mackay, but a phone call to my truck driver cousin in Toowoomba (a major regional city near Brisbane) got me a booking with his mechanic, so I used Sunday to run empty there. 1,000 km

Two days rest for me. A refreshed truck. A part load from Brisbane and here I am in Melbourne (via the inland route for road trains) 2,000 km.

I loaded one trailer Friday, spent a day at B4’s farm near Bendigo where mum was also, and tomorrow (Monday) I load the second and I’m heading for home. 4,000 km

Have you been doing the maths (well, arithmetic really)? That’s three weeks and 16,000 km – about the same distance as Melbourne – London.

On the real business of this blog, I was really pleased with the response to the Gen 5-SFF theme, though I had hoped to get a second author interview. She might still write. I hope I didn’t inadvertently write a question that offended her. I’ll write up the summary when I get home. Thank you all for taking part.

Meanwhile the family message service is running hot. Lou is back in Tennant Creek for another year. The last photo I saw was of him camping at Coober Pedy. Psyche is due for another round of treatment; and as I write, Gee’s bush block which featured in my last Journal post, is threatened, though not seriously at this stage, by bushfires. She and the kids are camping at a friend’s place in town, just in case. Time I was home.

Getting Old

Journal: 094

Getting old is front of mind at the moment so why not use it for today’s title, though I’d really rather not think about it. Last week my big toe started hurting, then the whole of my left foot, until I gave up and went to a doctor, not my doctor because he has inconveniently chosen this month to remodel his surgery, but a clinic a bit further out, which Milly used before she moved house

I tried a clinic nearer home first, called Walk-In, and when I walked in there was a sign on the wall saying “Do NOT walk in, phone this number” which I phoned a number of times and each time after four rings it hung up. I asked the receptionist what the story was and she pushed a bit of paper at me with a website address. So that was the end of that clinic.

Anyway, getting old. I have gout! How C18th is that? The doctor barely waited until I sat down. He said ‘you’ve got gout’, sent me for tests, and gave me a prescription for a few days pain relief. I was up the bush the next few days so my my next appointment was over the phone. That doctor said, yes, the tests confirm you have gout, here’s a few more days pain relief. And that was it.

Luckily, I have a friendly pharmacist who explained gout to me – acid in the joints. She offered me an extract of rose petals – which I didn’t go with – and told me to see my own doctor for long term treatment. Probably after xmas. It could have been worse, I suppose, I might have been treated with leeches and told to stay off the port.

Wiki says sufferers typically “regularly drink beer or sugar-sweetened beverages or […] eat foods that are high in purines such as liver, shellfish, or anchovies, or are overweight”, so that’s one out of three. The phone doctor said drink more water and eat less protein, a bit difficult seeing as my principle food groups are porridge, and salad sandwiches.

Yes, I know, getting old is correlated with talking endlessly about bodily ailments. I’ll stop now.

But what else have I to write about? I’ve been giving my new trailer a bit of a workout, running around the bush and out into the Goldfields. That’s it above. Filthy, I know, from muddy access roads up north and a machine I carried leaking hydraulic fluid. Spent all Saturday morning pressure hosing it, and the afternoon drinking home brew. So much for gout friendly diets.

I spread the lower deck out to clean the mud off the chassis, but forgot to take a photo to show you how it works.

On Friday I got a text message to say that Neil@Kallaroo had died. I’d visited him recently in hospital, so his daughters must have seen me as the most recent non-family caller on his SMS. Neil was friends with Mr Whispering Gums, I think they had been at uni together and stayed in touch. I got to know him initially through his often wry comments on Sue/Whispering Gums’ blog, and subsequently on mine, and his support and banter particularly on matters SF. Sue writes a little more about him (here). There’s not much us areligious can say about dying. Neil was in and out of hospital, struggling with fluid on his lungs, and therefore with breathing, but he seemed to be leading a full and cheerful life. Getting old is a bitch.

Now that you have all fought your way through the various November challenges, I hope you are starting to think about dystopian/SFF novels for Australian Women Writers Gen 5-SFF Week, 15-22 Jan. 2023. I have a couple of interesting surprises in the works, though I’m not sure what books there are that I haven’t read/reviewed already. I’d better have another look at Kimbofo’s list in Comments for my Gen 5-SFF post (linked above).


Recent audiobooks 

Paula Hawkins (F, Eng), A Slow Fire Burning (2021) – Crime
Patrick White (M, Aus/NSW), Voss (1957)
Tove Alsterdal (M, Swe), We Know You Remember (2021) – Crime
John Green (M, USA), Paper Towns (2008) – YA
Susan White (F, Aus/Vic), Cut (2022) – Medical
Mia March (F, USA), The Meryl Streep Movie Club (2020) – General

Currently Reading 

Kylie Tennant (F, Aus/NSW), Ma Jones and the Little White Cannibals (1967)
Toni Morrison (F,USA), Recatif (1983)
Jeff Noon (M,Eng), Automated Alice (1996) – SFF

AWWC Nov. 2022

Wed 02Elizabeth LhuedeThe Lost Stories of Evelyn Blackett
Fri 04Stories FTAEvelyn Blackett, “For the Sake of Scalby” (fiction extract)
Wed 09Debbie RobsonEleanor Dark, Slow Dawning (review)
Fri 11Stories FTASlow Dawning Newspaper Review
Wed 16Bill HollowayRosa Praed, The Bond of Wedlock (review)
Fri 18Stories FTAM Preston Stanley Vaughan, “Is marriage a handicap to woman’s ambition?” (prose)
Wed 23Linda EmeryElizabeth Charlotte Bingmann aka E C Morrice
Fri 25Stories FTAE C Morrice, “Molly’s dilemma” (short story)
Wed 30Whispering GumsTasma, or Jessie Couvreur

The Bond of Wedlock, Rosa Praed

As I write it is Sunday 13 Nov. in Perth. Tomorrow I set out on a trip that will take me away from home for a few weeks. If it works as planned, which is never a given with trucking. I am thinking I will post this on Weds (16th) which is when my post on Rosa Praed’s The Bond Wedlock is scheduled on the AWWC site. By then I will be in Port Hedland and, hopefully, unloaded.

From there I will run empty to Kununurra, in the far north of WA, load two 14m x 3m wide portable huts, road train to Port Augusta and then run the two huts singly to Bendigo (or actually, Elmore) in central Victoria.

When that is done, it is planned that we – there are a number of trucks involved – will return empty to Port Augusta, load two huts each, and road train by the same route in reverse back to Port Hedland. Standard truck width is 2.5m, so we are 0.5m overwidth which is not allowed for road trains on the Nullarbor or south of Port Augusta in SA, hence the single running to Bendigo, and the long way home.

Wednesday: It was a good plan, but as I was driving out the gate Monday afternoon, I got a text saying that Central Victoria was under water and the trip was cancelled. Today I unloaded in Port Hedland, which was pretty non-dry itself, and tomorrow I will go home to Perth with a road train load of oversize tyres.

Running oversize means I get to pull up each evening at sunset, but it also means I usually don’t get to choose a stopover with good phone coverage, so blogging will be limited.

We have covered Rosa Praed (1851-1935) a few times in these pages, not least because our colleague Jess White’s hybrid memoir, Hearing Maud (2019) is at least partly an exploration of Praed’s relationship with her daughter.

My interest in Praed arises from my M.Litt thesis, some years ago, The Independent Woman in Australian Literature. Praed, like a number of Australian women authors of the time – coinciding with suffragism and first wave feminism – wrote heroines who chose to live without marrying, or who, if married, were willing to walk away.

Read on ….

Note that AWWC From the Archives on Friday (18/11) will be “Is marriage a handicap to woman’s ambition?” by M Preston Stanley Vaughan.

I will cross Australia

Journal: 093

November is Brona’s AusReading Month. Also Non-Fiction November, Novellas in November and MARM, but one thing at a time (I hope I get to MARM). Not to mention I am a month behind with my North America Project, for which this month I am reading … I’m not sure I even have anything suitable downloaded, though I did buy Light from an Uncommon Star by Ryka Aoki to feed my SF addiction.

So, AusReading Month. Bron is having a Voss readalong. Week 1 was meant to be Voss in Sydney, meeting Laura and getting ready to depart, but I listened on to his two farmstays – at Rhine Towers in the Hunter (north of Sydney) and then Boyle’s in the Darling Downs (south east Queensland) which is to be the stepping off point of his expedition inland.

In my head I bookmarked Voss saying, “I will cross Australia from top to bottom, I will know it with my heart”. I have at hand the Penguin Modern Classics copy I inscribed to Milly nearly 40 years ago, but I can’t find those words, which are the perfect expression of how I feel about crossing and re-crossing Australia.

Patrick White (1912-1990) is an interesting/unlikely person to be writing the perfect Australian novel. He was born into Australia’s ‘landed gentry’, the squattocracy, with grazing properties throughout NSW, but particularly in the Hunter Valley. He was sent away to boarding school in England then returned home for some years jackarooing on family properties. Especially Walgett in 1931 (David Marr p. 109) which feeds into Voss (1957), and which, along with his service in North Africa during WWII, are his only experiences of desert life. I attempted to cheat by checking Wikipedia but parts of White’s entry appear to be wrong or incomplete.

On his return home – and Australia had hardly been that, up till then – from WWII with his life partner, Greek/Egyptian Manoly Lascaris, they took up a hobby farm on the outskirts of Sydney which is ridiculously blown up into the pair being the Adam and Eve of Australian bush pioneering in The Tree of Man (1955).

Voss is supposedly based on the story of Ludwig Leichardt, of his final, failed attempt to cross the continent from the Darling Downs to the Swan River (basically, from Brisbane to Perth) in 1848. White, inspired by the desert paintings of Sidney Nolan, researched Leichardt from the safety of Sydney. Marr writes:

White came to the Australian desert through Nolan’s eyes… In his magpie fashion White searched for the historical details he needed for the book. He found accounts of Aboriginal painting and ritual in the Mitchell Library. For life in early Sydney he drew on M Barnard Eldershaw’s A House is Built [itself an historical fiction written only 20 years earlier] and Ruth Bedford’s Think of Stephen, an account of the family of Sir Alfred Stephen… Chief Justice of NSW in the 1840s when Voss made his journey into the hinterland.

Marr p. 316

My initial impression is that we are seeing Voss’s actions but Laura’s mind. Here she’s speaking to Voss:

‘You are so vast and ugly,’ Laura Trevelyan was repeating the words; ‘I can imagine some desert, with rocks, rocks of prejudice, and, yes, even hatred. You are so isolated. That is why you are fascinated by the prospect of desert places, in which you will find your own situation taken for granted, or more than that, exalted …’

‘Do you hate me, perhaps?’ asked Voss, in darkness.

‘I am fascinated by you,’ laughed Laura Trevelyan, with such candour that her admission did not seem immodest. ‘You are my desert!’

With Voss we, Australians, asked our greatest writer to write our central story, one man alone against the vast interior, not one that he knows from experience but which he knows from all the Australian writing that preceded him. We had a shot at it once before, asking the outsider, DH Lawrence to write The Boy in the Bush. Both are fine marriages of Bush Realism and High Modernism, but it is Patrick White’s which has stuck.

What else?

The photo above, sunset at Pardoo, is of me (of course) heading home from Darwin after four weeks getting an engine rebuild. Most of which time was spent – by the truck – sitting, waiting for its turn to be worked on, which is standard in these post-Lockdown, labour shortage days. It ran nicely, which is the main thing, and maybe uses less fuel, it will take me a while to tell.

I left Psyche in that medical cliche – stable – which is a good thing, except when you (she) feel the urge to jump up on a table and dance. She doesn’t read me regularly, though her main carer does (Hi, Sienna) but she doesn’t like me to underplay how much mobility she’s lost, or how much energy even simple actions now take.


Recent audiobooks 

Eden Robinson (F, Can), Son of a Trickster (2017)
Patrick White (M, Aus/NSW), Voss (1957)
Robert B Parker (M, USA), Now & Then (2007) – Crime
Sally Hepworth (F, Aus/Vic), The Mother-in-Law (2019) – Crime
Adele Parks (F, Eng), Lies Lies Lies (2020) – Crime

Currently Reading 

Dorothy Hewett (F, Aus/NSW), The Toucher (1993)
Corey J White (F,USA), Killing Gravity (2017) – SF
Tricia Sullivan (F,Eng), Dreaming in Smoke (1998) – SF

AWWC Oct. 2022

Wed 05Elizabeth LhuedeWriter, teacher, farmer’s daughter: Jessie Maria Goldney
Fri 07Stories FTAJessie Maria Goldney, A Daisy Crushed (short story)
Wed 12Jonathan ShawLesbia Harford
Fri 14Stories FTALesbia Keogh, “Angel” (short story)
Wed 19Bill HollowayMiles Franklin in America
Fri 21Stories FTAMiles Franklin, The Old Post (short story)
Wed 26Whispering GumsCapel Boake: Three short stories, and more
Fri 28Stories FTACapel Boake, The Necessary Third (short story)

That’s My Truckin’ Life

Journal: 092

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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