Thursday, August 26, 2010

Road Works and Noisy Jets and Saved by Chocolate Biscuits

It has been a very noisy day. This morning I woke to a low humming sound that I assumed to be the water pump. I was totally wrong. There are trillions of miles of road around here but road workers have set up camp on the closest piece of road to my bedroom. As I look outside I see a man in a yellow jacket holding a road sign standing by my letterbox and as close as it is possible to get to the house. I briefly contemplate the possibility that he is spying on me. It seems so unlikely that he would choose the exact spot that is closest to my peaceful country hideaway

There are only two properties on this road and it isn’t even sealed, so I can’t believe the trucks and yellow graders have chosen today to vibrate the house with their incessant rolling back and forth past the property.

Then I had to call Telstra about an error on my account. Twice. The first time I got that annoying machine you have to speak to, and it passed me on to another annoying machine until I got lost in the system and had to call back. When I finally got through to a person he was the usual robot voiced foreigner that seems to be reading from a script. It took half an hour for what should have been a simple request.

In the afternoon I went out to ride to town to post some mail, buy some groceries and use the Internet at the information centre. It is about 5km’s to town and all up and down hills. By the first hill I was already tired and within 5 minutes I was off the bike and walking. It was like some sort of bizarre triathlon where the downhill is a bike ride and the uphill is a slow walk up the hill. Thirty minutes later I was hot, tired and, although I didn’t know it at the time, stressed and wound up.

Even though I called ahead getting my computer online proved tricky for the two ladies at the info centre who thought that if I plugged my laptop in, it might overload their system and blow it up. After some discussion I finally settled into the middle seat of the computer desk.

I was looking forward to time to catch up on about 130 emails that had arrived since I was last online and to the other work that I usually have all day to do. Then one of the two ladies came over and started to chat. She was a lovely friendly country woman, so I was happy to talk for a bit. Then the second lady came and did some photocopying on the machine on the other side of me and they began to talk across me.

Then a teenage boy replaced the first woman and started chatting with his mum, who was still noisily photocopying right next to my ear. Again I was piggy in the middle as the mother kept telling him how much he smelled and should buy deodorant. It was all a bit much and I told the lady I wasn’t worried about any smell when the noise of the photocopier was bothering me more.

I didn’t notice the woman leave until the man came over to tell me that when staff needed to use the photocopier, they had priority. I was embarrassed and annoyed and I acted in my usual calm and collected manner and insisted I had never meant for her to stop and then dissolved into tears of frustration.

The man was apologetic and the women were concerned. I tried to insist I was okay but it was quite obvious I wasn’t, so I got to use the computer alone while the staff huddled in the office for safety and probably wondered which loony bin I had escaped from. At least it kept the noisy woman away while I did the most urgent things I needed to, and after a bit of PR work and apologies all around I left feeling that it would be okay to come back again.

At the grocery store I was still feeling very sorry for myself. I had very little money but I made good use of it. I bought green vegetables for health and well being and chocolate biscuits and sarsaparilla for my soul.

I am so thankful that I have a bike to ride, but my bottom hurts, my legs are tired and my hands are sore. In addition I don’t look good on a too big boy’s bike and wearing a helmet that looks like a horse helmet in army green. I tell myself all the way back that at least I have a bike, …… over and over again.

For a poor non domestic type single woman, dinner was very good. I had my vegetables with chicken, and followed it with a home made apple crumble I had made earlier in the day. I also had the complete packet of chocolate biscuits and two glasses of fizzy. After all that I was feeling much better, at least until I spoke to Phil and found out he had peanut butter on toast for dinner. Now I feel guilty again. I thought I got over that when I turned 40 but I guess it is always there ready to pop up its little green head in times of stress. I wish I was there to make him dinner.

The day ended as it began with noisy machines, as an unusually loud jet passed overhead back and forth for a bit. Phil says there is an air force base near here; so much for the peace and quiet of the country.

I hope tomorrow is less stressful. I can’t afford to use the chocolate biscuit prescription too often.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Curious Cows, Flat Pears and Buzz Saw Insects

I woke this morning in time to watch a beautiful buttery yellow horizon turn to pink and then to the clear blue that stayed all day. I am in Queensland and it’s like a different country. It’s warmer and clearer and even the birds sound different. As I watch the dawn I try to count the species of birds I can hear and there are just too many. I can hear the familiar squeaky toy sounds I have heard before but it is backed up by scores of little staccato tweets and chirps and twitters of smaller birds. It is a marvellous way to wake up and helps set the tone for the day. After the disappointments of the day before I begin to feel much more positive about what is really just going to be an extended holiday. Even better I find my phone charger so if I get a little credit I might be able to use it to go online

It was so hard to say goodbye to Phil this morning, especially since I probably won’t see him for another six weeks, so I went for a ride up the road with him to get the last few minutes together. I then spent almost three hours walking the five kms back because I kept stopping to take scores of beautiful photos. The trees are twisty and wild looking and it has been raining so there is water in the streams and in puddles next to the road. Along with the many bird calls there is the insistent drone of buzzing insects that sound like intermittent and muffled chain saws.

There are termite mounds and duck ponds and little muddy creeks and fields of tall dry grasses. There is a farmer on a tractor ploughing his field while about twenty crows circle and land as he passes. There are tree studded paddocks with cows of muddy brown or patchy black and they all turn to watch me as I pass, and there are two steer on the property where I stay. I am happy to see them as they are part of my stewardship here at the farm but they are less than happy to see me walking along the dusty road towards them.

They watch suspiciously and turn and run off when I get too close. At one point they attempt to hide behind a few trees. They have to weigh four hundred kg’s each, it beats me why I should look so scary to them; or how they can think I will not see them behind a coupe of scraggy old trees.

I have one more look in the cemetery but the only thing I find is an unusual tree that seems to be hung with pictures of pears. They seemed far too flat and shiny to be real, but on closer inspection, turn out to be pairs of green seed pods. What an amazing country.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gulgong - The Town on the Old Ten Dollar Bill

The place was a shambles of old rusty bits of machinery, broken down structures and what was left of some old burnt out railway hand cars. We loved it.

My partner and I had come with a friend and his two children to a park on the edge of Gulgong, near Mudgee. We loved exploring almost as much as the kids did. There were small holes in the ground surrounded by broken concrete walls and the deep dark depth of a steep sided mine hole that was just visible under a metal trellis that seemed less strong than I would have expected. Towering above it, an old wooden a-framed pylon with a small wheel at the top and nearby, next to the blackened rail cars, a huge yellow rusty specimen of a mining conveyor belt. It looks heavy and must have been very noisy when operating, not to mention a hazard for fingers and loose clothing.

Our favourite was the large old crushing machine, which we all spent some time climbing. The central point of the park is a large spiral shaped structure to commemorate mining families in the region and the whole park is optimistically labeled as a mining museum.
It’s not like any museum I have seen before but it has two very great advantages; we could touch everything and be as noisy as we wanted. We explored all the little holes, tried all the levers and climbed over everything that seemed stable enough. We also discovered lots of sharp edged white quartz stones with shiny flecks on the ground.

It is a nice change from the usual playgrounds, even if it is rather burnt, damaged and rusty in places. It reminds me of the fun I used to have scouring the local rubbish dump with my dad in the days before work site safety made it illegal.

Gulgong has a lot to offer for such a small town of just over 2,000 people. It was apparently one of the last places where poor people could set up a camp and try their luck at gold mining and before that, it was home to a large aborigine tribe that named it “Deep water”.

Gulgong is probably most famous as the place where the poet Henry Lawson spent much of his childhood. Henry Lawson’s poems and short stories are a reminder of regional Australia in times past. He writes about every day life including a somber poem about his time in jail called “One hundred and three”. You can hear it on Youtube and it weaves an atmosphere that certainly fits with the visit I had to an old jail in the area.

Gulgong is one of the most unique towns I have visited. The town center is narrow and the original old two story balconied buildings close in on a narrow street with a few cars. There are many beautiful old buildings here, including some of historical significance. Gulgong is well worth a visit and if you need one more reason to call by. It is the town that was featured on the ten dollar note until 1991 when the notes were all replaced with new designs printed on polymer instead of paper. Now that is quite something.