We stayed up too late watching the SBS movie last night, a Scando baww fest about a brilliant young concert pianist who starts going to pieces, like his father who became an hero by killing himself before the son was born. By the end of the movie it appeared that the lads tutor had been fucking his mother so the father killed himself out of jealousy, and he was now fucking the boys mother again briefly before switching to his girlfriend, another student at the school. Bit of an ethics issue there, and the boy threatened to tell the school principle, but ended up bashing his tutors brains in with a rock.
In the early morning I scraped myself together, put on a khaki parka to blend in, and walked around a few streets. I‘d love to live here. Cheap property, plenty of services, interesting people. Ancient european trees, steeples arising from all parts of town, vacant shops with 1920s style carved wooden back shelves with mirrored panels and pinnacles and gingerbread scrollwork. The Essential Ingredient, a gourmet providor shop which used to be on Parramatta road, is here, catering to who knows? Maybe the local population has embraced foodism as a hobby or way of life, we all know the only way small farmers can compete with factory combines is by growing organic regional specialities. The window was a heaped display of Moroccan tagines and pressure cookers and wooden spoons.
There was a car boot market setting up in the basement car park of the nearby Kmart. A dozens cars had arrived. Fusty old people huddled over blankets spread with hundreds of romance novels and the rejects from a hundred kitchen cupboards. An old man sold homemade fishing lures incorporating a novelty torch he bought from a toy shop. Another had bowls and nicknacks carved from mallee root, the red burl wood that grows in the southern deserts, tough and hard as a briar root. He said that his biggest trouble was making things look the same as each other, because everyone seems to want sets of things and the individuality of the raw material made it very hard to create objects that matched. A creepy old gypsy lady had a table of interesting looking pickles, but there were no prices and I have a policy of never buying something that isn‘t priced at a market.
After checking out of the hotel, I dragged Michelle to the market. She picked through the knitting patterns on a stall and found some war era Patons books. The cheerful tubby lesbian at the stall sold them to us for 10 cents each. We scored a small saucepan for making coffee on the road, and I bought some gingerbread men. I made Michelle try one, which she did reluctantly, but she couldn‘t stop eating them as we drove out of town.
Our first destination of the day was Carcoar, a village renowned for picturesque English scenery and oldness. We pick destinations for reasons but they are really just placemarkers on the map to aim for, the real fun of traveling happens before you get there. Headed south through Forest Reefs, patchy sun and cold air, scudding grey clouds, moving shapes of yellow sunlight moving over the hills like golden manta rays. I fel in love with every gnarled old tree we passed, every knot and bare branch and cascading fall of mistletoe leaves. The lambs were all facing their ewes, who were all facing away from the sun, spread aout across their fields in their grazing pattern, scattered yet regular. Lamb wool still white and new, ewes dirty grey. Black cows with shaggy coats and the broad innocent faces of beef cattle painted on a butchers van watched us go past. We startled a fox, who ran ahead of us dodging back and forth before leaping a fence and watching us leave over his shoulder. I made Michelle stop outside a farm where someone had constructed metal animals and people, a giant red lady bug made from welded disk plough disks, a spiny echidna covered in nozzles from a seed drill. We stopped again when I glimpsed a white shape in a field under some trees, It was our first skull, and nearby our second, a couple of sheep, the wool still heaped around the bones. It was worth ripping my jeans on the barbed wire to see Michelle's face as I bagged them and slung them in the back. The cold air here is so precious, like fine wine, good and pure, clean on my face. I kept making reasons to stop and leave the car. If I lived out here I would always be doing this, driving down an empty country road looking for something in the ditch, some treasure or other, perhaps scraping lichen off trees to make dye, or digging up the ground looking for semi precious stones.
We saw towns on the map named Barry and Neville. I had to send Martin a photo of Neville in memory of his old boss. Barry was very small, a single road with short cross streets and a pub called the Royal, we saw dozens of pubs called the Royal, I guess it turns drinking into a patriotic activity.
I glimpsed a fascinating shape flash by, a bony spinal shape which looked clean. When we returned it was a kangaroo spine, picked clean, attached to legs and a tail, still too fleshy to put in the car. The skull and rib cage lay a bit further down the road, dragged there by a fox or wild dog.
Near Carcoar we passed the Blayney dam, spread out like a loch amongst the grassy hills, still and dead looking water despite the ducks. On a ridge beyond the further shore wind turbines span in the stiff breeze. Several campervans camped near the waters edge, and a huddle of caravans covered in grey tarp, with old style canvas annexes attached and a generator humming in a wheelie bin turned on its side. The inhabitants clustered around a smal fire in the ground enclosed by the vans; older looking dudes and a hard bitten lady al wearing hunter vests made from Drizabone canvas. I felt they were survivalists waiting for the 2012 apocalypse, when the turbines might be the only reliable source of power in the country. A classic car, a 50s station wagon with custom paint job, circled the camp ground revving its noisy engine.
The road crossed the dam wall, which was brimming, a thin sheet of water cascading down the spillway. I wandered through a small pine forest nearby with a carpet of bright orange needles on the ground. The sounds of the wind in the pines, the rushing water, and the beating of the turbine blades, made a symphony of white noise that almost hypnotized me.
I wanted to head for Collector, where my friend Dave told me an artist has created a huge disturbing sculpture of a wall of fused human bodies like a Giger painting. But, considering our progress so far, and the distance still to go, and the fact we would need to go through Crookwell, a town to which Michelle has a strange antipathy, we decided to head instead for points west and go to Young.
We stopped in Cowra, where a mother and daughter with strange small eyes manned a deep fryer and made us a burger and scallops. The scallops were forme, I am a connoisseur of fried potato slices. They were oka, but the potato had been parboiled first and was a little mealy. The batter was a bit underdone and not fried brown enough, or else the oil in the fryer was too fresh. Michelle said her burger was perfect. The local cool couple lounged outside on steel chairs, he in black tracksuit, silver wrap-around sunnies and mobile phone covered in skateboard stickers, she i a white track suit to match her blonde hair. A swirling cloud of hangers on blew around them, affecting casual nonchalant deadpan awesomeness and bulletproof attitudes while secretly wondering each if their inner dag was showing and everyone was laughing at them. I heard the coolest dude talking to a smiling girl who had just finished work at the KMart, still wearing her uniform. A bitch they both knew was just about to whelp puppies. The dude opined that she was comfortable and the puppies would arrive that night, while the girl was worried about the extension of her stomach. A yellow highway patrol car which had been trailing us on the road pulled into the KFC opposite to get some lunch.
There were no interesting hotels in town and it was only three PM, so we decided to push on to Young, where we stayed before, in a pub on the main street. Our path took us right past Bendick Murrel, the small town where we once contemplated buying a blue stone church which had been converted into a dwelling. We passed a lot of road kill, foxes and cats and even a frech looking cow lying in a ditch. A fascinating wooded ridge ran along the left side of the road, maybe a K from the bitumen, behind farms and fields packed with sheep and lambs mixed with cows. I felt the old urge to explore, to climb them and see why they were there and what was on the other side. Sometimes we saw fields of bright green grass and drill swedes, fertilized with superphosphate so they almost glowed emerald.
At the turnoff to Bendick Murrel we passed a gymkhana, a horse jumping competition for local equestrian types. The main street was a rough bitumen road with houses set on 2 or 3 acre blocks. Most yards full of rubbish or farm equipment, piles of bricks and rusty iron sheets, scavenged from around the district. The church looked just the same, although they had replaced the roof. A bus was parked in the back yard, the driveway was overgrown with grass. Nobody lived there. The litte junk shop in the old general store at the end of the road had closed down. A magazine rack sat sadly out the front. Utes parked next door covered in country slogan stickers, MY COUNTRY MY UTE NO PLACE TOO FAR etc. Michelle confirmed that despite our interest she could never have lived there, ever. I coud. As long as it has good fast internet. On the way back out I glimpsed a young man in the yard of one of the houses, delivering mighty whacks with a paddle to a tether tennis ball, belting it back and forth pointlessly.
We drove into Young, the cherry capital of the west. The only local industry is growing and selling cherries. And some prunes. Once we stayed here and drank at the bar of the hotel, and a local cheerfully informed me there was always work down the prune packing plant. Michelle swears we won‘t be staying at that hotel, because she remembers the beds being like wonky wooden tables. I remember being so bored at one point I bought a vegetable peeler and pot scourer at the local supermarket and swore to go on a peeling and scouring rampage through the town destroying all life in my path with my harsh cleansing action. That scared Michelle for some reason. After a few uninspired bog laps we picked a motel on the edge of town and checked in for the night. Motels out here tend to be sprawling haciendas with the rooms spread out in long wings from the office, we were at the end of one such row. I had a long soak in the bathtub while Michelle read her book, the last in the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy of chic porn. She makes a thing of reacting angrily every time I try and read over her shoulder, so of course I always try.
After the bath I donned my waterproof parka and crossed the road to the huge Aldi supermarket, 4 times the size of our local in Sydney, to look for some dinner. We had a severe craving for Salad, since we hadn‘t eaten fresh vegetable matter for about a week. Luckily they had coleslaw and tabouli salad in sealed tubs in the fridge.
By some amazing coincidence, I was dicking around with the TV and satellite box at just the right time, clicking past dozens of channels blocked because they were pay-per-view, when I stumbled upon unlocked HBO just as they were about to broadcast the first ep. of True Blood season 5. We watched it gratefully, but it was disappointing, nowhere near as good as the first season. We can see the dead hand of a committee somewhere making decisions about the story line, insisting that certain characters get screen time and do certain things. Mich noticed that Sookie was wearing jeans in one scene, something her character woud never do in the early seasons, she was always classy and dressed proper. We winced when Jessica, the cloistered fundie girls turned Vampire against her will, suddenly knew enough about pop culture to sing Foreigner songs at a karaoke party. I look forward to finding out more about Russel Edgingtons past history though.