It was my sister’s last morning in Alice today, and she requested that we (1) climb Anzac Hill (for the 360 deg view of town) then go to the Road Transport Museum on our way out to the airport. I was a bit ‘hmmm’ about the latter; I’ve driven past the turn-off often enough but it’s never exerted any allure over me. My sister’s always been rather keen on cars and trains, and had a miniature service station and a figure-of-eight train track by the time she was four, both made by my father. (My sister now being an ethereal, willowy, musical type who looks like she should be performing in quality BBC period piece dramas.)
But we have to please the visitor on their last day, so out we went. You cross the old railway tracks for the Ghan to enter the museum and there’s a small sandstone station and carriages preserved near by. The museum itself consists of a large iron shed with restored vintage cars and big trucks (of the Big ‘Mack’ type). An old cocky was manning the front desk and he said, as we paid our admission, ‘Unusual – you don’t often get two ladies out here.’ And indeed, that seemed to be the case, judging from the largely male clientele in padded flannelette shirts over non-brand jeans and work boots, with peak caps shoved over greying, fraying hair. There were also a few wives present, or ‘truckettes’ in the language of the toilet signage. And the odd father-and-son Sunday morning Steve Biddulph bonding experience in train.
Despite my initial grumpiness about this venture (you’d think it would have appealed, given my earlier musings about dagfests), the transport museum was a great photographic find. So much colour and symmetry – and asymmetry, in the case of some of the unrestored vehicles. I went crazy fiddling with the digital again. (If I could clear more space on my C-drive, I’d download some photos but I think I’m seriously need of some more memory implants.)
Once my sister was on the plane I drove back to, yes, you guessed it, the Festival of the Beanie. Unfortunately, the Festival was over, the grey-turban-haired arts matron behind the counter told me, having been on the previous weekend when I was in Broome (misleading signage still up in true Alice style) tho there were still some beanies on display in the gallery. I was informed that the Fest had included workshops on the cultural significance of the beanie and beanie-making, with people attending from all over Australia, including some of the local Aboriginal people who call beanies ‘mukata’. At the zenith of the Beanie Fest, there had been over 2,500 beanies on sale.
A rather camp middle-aged man wearing a splendid multi-coloured, wool-and-raffia tam-o-shanter style beanie guided me into the gallery where there were still a number of fine beanies on display. There was colour everywhere (not unusually for Centralia) and more wool, raffia, human hair, feathers and so forth. Many of the artefacts on display weren’t merely aesthetic but also stylish, scene-setting beanies featuring hills-hoists, flamingoes, emus, Tasmanian devils, chooks, snakes et al. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed in the gallery, so I wont be able to share any of these visual beanie delights in the blog.
Most of the beanies were sale items; I chose a rather more modest beanie of the community artefact type. It’s predictably (for me) blue and black and rises to a bit of a point at the back. Not so much like the footie beanies of my childhood but more the tea cosy effect. But it wouldn’t be at all out of place on Brunswick St (well…) Icy cold here in Alice today (colder than both Melbourne and Canberra); this is my excuse for such a purchase. I looked at the tag for the beanie’s maker: it was ascribed to ‘kunmanara’ which means the maker is dead or has the name of a dead person (still more of this death streak). It seems to be from Ernabella.
I’m not sure why the beanie should be so popular amongst Centralian communities (tho I could buy the gallery video on ‘mukata’ if I was so inclined). I wonder if it’s a descendant of some helmet-like hat woven from feathers and human hair. Or perhaps they just took to them because of those long cold desert nights. I guess beanie-making isn’t too far a step from basket-weaving, either. Colour is certainly big out here, not only in the landscape but also in their art and their clothes. Community women love nothing more than putting on a hodge-podge of clashing hippy-dippy type cheesecloth clothing, topped with a beanie and shod with a pair of flimsy black fabric sandshoes or ‘happy shoes’. The winter version might feature a padded western shirt or a football jersey; all the same, I’m surprised they don’t freeze to death (perhaps they do).
Some Aboriginal kids smiled nervously at me as I went into the local IGA on my way home, no doubt surveying the splendour of my beanie (or thinking, another stupid whitefella who thinks she’s cool wearing a community beanie). I think it’s rather fine, myself.
Just heard Malcom K_ on the radio talking about his ‘Sydney’ novels (must read them, now that I’m away from the place) which sold better in the US and Germany than anywhere else (they probably still read there). MK admitted to undertaking an ‘autism’ personality test in which he paradoxically scored highly on both ‘extreme femaleness’ and ‘extreme maleness’ of mind, the implication being that these qualities would characterise a literary novelist. Interesting.
I’m now going to do the final whippersnappering of the garden here … quel moan! At least with a townhouse there won’t be the space for too many of the time-wasting accoutrements of suburban life. I never did descend as low as to buy a leaf-vac or whatever they’re called, to blow the shite out of my drive. I’ve been ferrying boxes of stuff to my new abode every time I go into town. There are no cheap removalists here (too small a market) so I’m moving as much as I can beforehand. Perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing, given my past run of luck with disadvantaged removalists. In my student days, there was Disabled Dan and his Kombi – he could hardly carry anything because of his degree of spasticity, tho he could give a fine impromptu lecture on disabled rights. And then there were the Chinese removalists in Sydney who kept on complaining that everything was too heavy for them to carry (I think they were in the wrong business). I’ve been eating the lollies from around the base of the phallic champagne canon for energy as I go.
Stop press: received this week's local paper belatedly. It is the Beanie Festival's 8th year. Apparently, a '"love convoy" of 20 adults and 10 children made a month-long trip from Byron Bay to get to the festival in Alice Springs.' And not only that, but a partner beanie show opened at Bondi Pavilion in Sydney on the weekend. (If you didn't make that one, a further event is being planned for Japan.)