I had an encounter with the Strange Marching Woman today. It's weird how you can be thinking of someone one day then see or hear from them the next. But I think that synchronicity is also easier for the cosmos to orchestrate in a small country town.
I returned to the desert conference halfway through a session to see my friend Case sitting only a couple of seats from the Strange Marching Woman. Would they, I wondered, end up in mutual congress?
They did. In the break between sessions, I saw Case, the Marching Woman and another man in conversation. The Marching Woman was clad in one of her distinctive ensembles: a red short-sleeved, knee-length suit, white short-sleeved shirt, a tie and flesh-coloured stocking with white bobby soxes and black school shoes, all on a 38 C day.
I was intrigued. I made a bee-line for Case at morning tea time (once she was unencumbered by the Strange Marching Woman). 'What did she say?' I asked. 'Who is she? What does she do? I've always wanted to know.' Case said that she had, too. The Strange Marching Woman's occupation was ultimately far more novel than I'd expected: she was a university student who collected quondam seeds for the university nursery. The only problem was that the nursery was to be closed as it had become a target for repeated acts of vandalism, (probably by impoverished, hungry students).
Case felt that in all likelihood, the Strange Marching Woman was just one of those students who come to free events in search of a good feed. I asked her if she knew anything of the Downs Syndrome woman on the girl's dragster? She didn't; did I know anything about the cycling nun who always wore a full habit and white gloves on her bike?
I didn't, but perhaps she was heavily into skin preservation. We were joined by Rob, my Sydney friend, who said that she'd thought the Strange Marching Woman was a nun or a Salvo. I said that she looked like someone who'd been institutionalised, and Rob said, 'Yes, poor thing,' and somehow, the Strange Marching Woman sensed Rob's sympathy and gravitated towards her to ask some question about Aboriginal rights and university nurseries. In fact, it seemed after some observation that the Strange Marching Woman was quite good at working the room, in her own strange way...I saw her in earnest congress with many other conference delegates.
When I came back for a session later in the day, I noticed that although the Strange Marching Woman had her hand in the air at question-time, the people with the microphones were adroitly avoiding her. I asked Case if she thought they sensed she was a nutter. But no, it seemed that the Strange Marching Woman had revealed herself to be one of those people who frequent conferences and make strange, incomprehensible interventions at every session, in this case about the closure of the nursery.
Case shook her head. 'She's definitely an eccentric. I'm fuckin' boring beside her.'
And then there's the Strange Stepping Man. I didn't mention him in my last post, but I learnt more about him today. In case I haven't mentioned this, I'm a bit of a stepaholic (i.e. we're talking aerobics here). I've tried jogging, swimming, cycling, roller-blading but for exercise I always come back to step because it's not boring; I like the intricacy of the routines they do. There's always a few ageing peroxided queens in a step class improvising with disco moves, so I don't feel that stupid. (Actually, the instructor said twice today: 'Everyone follow Elsewhere' when we turned to my side of the room. That's never happened to me before. I thought I was doing the routine with considerable irony.) I always put my step down the front between Michelle, the super-aerobics girl and the Strange Stepping Man, because (a) Michelle always 'gets' the routine and she's funny, (b) it's out of the way of the mirror and (c) I'm too old to be worrying about being down the front. Anyway, the Stepping Man is always out, he's never in time and he moves like a small, plucked chicken. He's very distracting to look at, because he's invariably doing something different to everyone else. He always wears a blue singlet and King Gees, and has a monk's tonsure-type hair-do; I'd pegged him as a scientist, trying to be groovy. I'm sure he thinks he's doing really well.
Today I was talking to Michelle and she said: 'Oh Trevor's here.' (Evidently he has a name.) 'I always like to look past you,' she said, 'and have a bit of a look at him for a laugh.'
'What's his problem?' I said.
'Oh, he's half a beat ahead of everyone else,' she said. 'He's a lovely guy. Works for Telstra.'
That figures. So, mystery solved.
My big boss up north has been charged for being part of the child pornography ring. Horrible, eh? Strange thing is that I'm not totally surprised. He always struck me as a bit of an odd fish, something of a fabulist chameleon type. I had that feeling that he didn't want to have much to do with me because I was a younger woman (i.e. he only liked dealing with men). I felt he was part of what I'd been mentally terming 'the everlasting secret family' network that seemed weirdly present in the substance misuse area across regional Australia. However, the reality of this metaphor is rather more disturbing that I would have liked or guessed.
This isn't confidential or anything, as it's been in the NT news. The good news is that the really competent young woman who was originally pipped at the post by him is now going to take his position. Hmm, seems sordid things don't just happen on the Titanic...