the last post of this blog, the one-thousandth post (yes: and there’s more, but
not for long). When I saw it was
coming up a few months ago, I decided it would be the final one. I was hoping to post it in April, six
years after I started blogging, but other things like life got in the way.
important for me to sign off on this blog, because it's marked an significant chapter
of my life. I'm a bit wary of repeating some of the material from recent posts
(another reason to stop blogging), though I feel in need of closure.I set out originally write an
aide-memoire, of living in Alice Springs, and that's what provided the narrative
trajectory for the View, as much as
it's possible for a blog to have one. As far as I know, this is the longest
running blog about life in the Territory and possibly the first blog about
Many unexpected things came out of my time
in the Territory, and also from blogging.It’s often the things that you don’t predict in life that turn out to be
the best.One aspect of blogging
I’m loathe to leave behind is its unexpected serendipity
(much and all as I hate that word, along with ‘synergy’)…almost everything I’ve
had published that originated in a blogpost, I didn’t set out to write as a
piece for publication. It just
took on its own life. I may find I
miss this unexpected freefall into creative recesses too much to stop blogging
altogether, and start a new blog...who knows?I’ll post a link here or propagate it through facebook, if I
I'm now ‘unexpectedly’ back here in
Melbourne, comfortable as a pig-in-muck in the golden triangle of
Northcote-Clifton Hill-North Fitzroy, eating far too much food, buying too many
cold-weather clothes (tho the Kmart long-sleeved numbers I’d been wearing for
three years were never going to cut it in the Melbourne winter). I feel that ultimately I’ll make my base
here, tho I’ll continue to dip in and out of the Territory.I’ve noticed that although people often
return to Alice the first couple of years after leaving the place, gradually
they move on.Amongst the expats I know, there seem to be two types, often
represented in a couple: one who yearns to be back in central Australia, the
other who might look back fondly, but sees the urban life as their true modus
operandi.I suspect I’m more the latter
type, although Alice made me more of a convert to the regional life than I ever
expected to be.I’d try the
regional life again, though maybe on the coast or somewhere wet and misty, like
One of the deal-breakers for me was
realizing how quickly the turn-over people — i.e. expats — occurred.Long-term Alice residents would comment
on how they saw whole groups of people go, and I stayed there long enough to
see ten of my friends leave within eighteen months…virtually a whole social
network.Up until that point, I
was relishing the regional life…until I realized how unstable it could be in
I saw that I would have to go through the
whole death and rebirth cycle with people, over and over again in Alice, and
more quickly…and that the new people in town were getting younger and younger,
as I got older and older.After
about three years, you also start to become distant from your circles of
friends elsewhere, and to miss out on some of the important events in their
lives and vice-versa, those things that often make for long-term bonding
experiences.So I thought I’d see
what it was like to return.
a place of extremes — of climate, of distance, of personalities, of social
privilege, of racial divides.The
sense of being confronted regularly by some basic issues of human need,
survival and even hatred, as well as constantly being made aware of the cycle
of life — how tenuous things could be — was ultimately wearing for me.You’re also less cushioned from harsh
realities: shopping at Kmart and Target, arthouse cinema once a week and two
cafes that make decent coffee are pretty much the mainstay fleshpots on offer
Having said that, I don’t at all regret
having thrown up the cards to go to Alice six years ago.It’s surely been one of the signature
experiences of my life. But I don’t regret having thrown up the cards yet again
to return to Melbourne.
So, so, so...I'm at the end of leg one of my move to Melbourne, having (a) started my new job and (b) moved into my latest rental abode. When I say moved in, I mean me, the swag, the esky, a suitcase full of workclothes, and later a toaster, a saucepan, a fridge and a microwave. Leg two will involve the cats and the bike, and those finicky electrical goods I could have brought in the car but forgot (the jug, the powerboard, the clock radio, etc). Needless to say, first housewarming gift to self was a secondhand swing-door kitty-litter box.
Otherwise, I'm slumping after five days of hitting the tarmac pretty much running at my new job and organising various bits and bobs before the Big Move. That's right, the real move, leg three, when I load the rest of my stuff into the back of a van and hope that it somehow makes it here from Alice. The removalists have given me a set-down date of 6 April, tho that does seem optimistic, given they're based in Alice and they'd have to be driving over the Easter break. All this removal business is reminding me what an undertaking it is, and how it's not to be done on a whim...every year. I'm leaving my unit semi-furnished so I can go back for a stint in Alice if I want, but I doubt I'll ever do another permanent move back there.
I ended up applying for the first place I saw -- the Greek Grandmother's Delight in blue and white in a divey-looking block with lots of pot plants and cat kitsch -- then rescinding the application after seeing several larger abodes which would take all my stuff easily, but which were considerably more expensive. At one point, I was seriously taken by the renovated ground floor of an old bank -- plenty of cupboard space, and potential for me to subdivide an area into a study and a living room. But there was no outside space for the cats, all the windows were fixed (so I'd rely on air-conditioning to ventilate the place), and a tramline was directly outside: I'd be woken every morning by the first tram that rattled along. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought: do the cats really need to go outside? The Ancient Princess was not in question, as she'd sleep all day on my bed if she could, but did the others really go out when I wasn't there? Answer: not a lot, but they do like sitting on their chairs on the balcony of an evening.
The solution was clear: I must return to the Greek Grandmother's Delight, with its north-facing balcony. (Happily, no one else had applied.) There were other advantages, like potentially clear delineation of cat boundaries (with separate litter boxes). The living area was kind of small, but it had an unusually large dining area opening onto the balcony, which would make an excellent writing nook, especially in the winter. The block might look divey from the street, but it had a quite congenial feel (indeed, the residents have been friendly in a downmarket funky Melrose Place kind of way). In fact, it seemed almost rural, because of its relative quietness and proximity to Merri Creek. "Rural' is good after Alice," a fellow ex-Springian in the office said. He's right; you don't want to get too urban too quickly.
It was also walking distance from High St and, as C pointed out to me on Google maps, it was a 1.2 km walk to work. I could always buy my own floor of an old building if I still liked living in Melbourne as much in a year's time, and subdivide it as I liked. (And who wants to be worrying about having enough money to pay the rent at the expense of all the other things one came to Melbourne for -- like going out and buying books?)
I'm sitting in the Olive Pink Gardens (view from Annie Meyer Hill right), eating my last bigilla before I head off on a road trip. That's right: how could I road trip begin without a fortifying breakfast.
The past week or so, a refrain of 'road trip, road trip' has been going in my head...now faced with the reality, I feel a little subdued. There has been a weekend of brunching and de-cluttering. The cats made themselves scarce, especially once the Dreaded Camping Gear appeared. That is, except for the Ancient Princess, who's scarcely aware of anything except the next feed (her hearing may have gone, but her sense of smell hasn't).
I've been given various sage pieces of advice about the trip south -- how it will clear my mind, lift the tension from my shoulders, help me to think in longer arcs. All of that. We'll see. I think it's a fitting way to ease myself out of the Centre: gradually. The other thing is: talking books. A road trip is always a great opportunity to fill your mind with longer narratives you wouldn't usually get a chance to read.
Over the past few days, I've run into some of the personalities I met when I first came to town ...in the way that one does in Alice (not always a welcome experience), but also fortuituously, like the rounding off of loose ends in a mini-series or like the re-appearance of obscure earlier characters at the end of a Dickens novel. One of the local identities I ran into was the 'desert queen', who brought me here (pictured left). When I told her I was travelling south, she said, 'Ah, you won't last in the Big Smoke. You'll be back.'
I had hoped to leave town before 9.30 am...it's now almost 10.00 am. I guess there's no screaming hurry to reach Coober Pedy tho I'd rather arrive before it gets dark (except to miss all those potholes). No, the cats aren't coming with me. I'm not that mad -- not driving 2,500 km with cats. I am driving the Getz, which has raised some eyebrows amongst my male friends, but I'm sure the Getz is up to it.
I'm now at a cafe on the northside of Alice where there is power...the owner has kindly let me use a powerboard in front of the 'stage' where there is unfortunately live lunchtime music (most live music is fairly unfortunate in Alice, not least because you've already heard the performer several times). I told her I had good powers of concentration, tho I probably can't do much more than blog, under the conditions. I have an hour left on my other, older laptop with the bigger screen and more sophisticated scriptwriting software, which I was using yesterday...I'm hoping to charge up another three hours on this one.
A 43 yo man has been found dead in the Todd...apparently, he'd been drinking then was swept away in the current while trying to ford the river. He's been named as 'Kwementyaye', so clearly he's Aboriginal, and quite possibly homeless or itinerant if he was by the Todd. We're being urged on the radio to 'stay indoors at home' -- not an option for everyone -- because monsoonal waters are passing over the centre to the north-east of town...which doesn't mean that they won't flow to the south where I live.
It doesn't take much to make you realise how dependent you are on a couple of infrastructure elements to maintain your pretentious lifestyle. Once my plans for the day were so rudely thrown out by a power outage, I decided to embark on another decluttering campaign, this time the plastics cupboard in the kitchen. There has been a major pest infestation in Alice, thanks to this inclement weather, and some cockroaches have taken up residence in my plastics. (This is at its most abject when you find roach dirt in the ice cube trays.)
I reckoned I could chuck out at least half my plastics, anyway: you can't take it with you and all that. None of this perfectionistic dithering about whether you might need a certain container again, faintly veiled by internalised ecological guilting. Things can be 'chucked' in the Salvoes' bin, because there'll always be someone in need, especially in Alice.
Yesterday, the cats and I packed into a life-raft fashioned from plastic tubes filled with lentils, almonds and raisins, and set forth on the ever-burgeoning Todd for Adelaide. In case you fear for our collective welfare, we were all wearing flotational vests crocheted from ininti seeds, although one feline certainly didn't need it; indeed, the tortoiseshell blimp has proved useful as a buoy on occasion.
We floated past the Brewers Industrial Estate just after midnight; we hope to make the Marla Roadhouse by noon, then negotiate the currents eddying from potholes at Coober Pedy before arriving in the River Torrens for the opening of the Adelaide Arts Festival.
The Todd, before we left (actually, on my last bike ride, snatched before the floods on Friday afternoon):
Emily Gap (somewhat unfocussed iphone photo: it was raining):
Seriously, the rain has poured down fairly constantly over the past few days. It's a pleasant novelty to fall asleep listening to the rain, tho I do wince when it starts teeming, as I live in the flood zone. Still holding out here, hoping the puddles won't up to the door, though it's pretty swampy outside my back gate.
Otherwise, drinks at Crowne on Friday night, then a weekend of de-cluttering, writing and DVD-watching, tho it might just be de-cluttering today, as the power has been off for a couple of hours. It once went off for a couple of days after some stormy weather (the solution is to boot-up the laptop in a cafe with power).
Last night, as I went into Blockbuster, some Aboriginal men drinking in a car outside called out, 'Hello gorgeous!' Only weeks, maybe even days left of these interesting cross-cultural experiences. The Blockbuster car park isn't a usual drinking spot (in fact, I'm surprised they could get away with it). I suspect they're out-of-towners, here for the NAB match between the Pies and the Crows, which I missed as I was drinking on the other side of town myself. Apparently the match was pretty swampy; I've seen it so many times now not to be disappointed by missing this annual Alice event. Anyway, I may soon have the opportunity for more interesting cross-cultural footy experiences.
In the new releases section of the DVD store, I saw some copies of In Tranzit, which as I understand it is an indie film about German POWs in a Soviet transit camp after WWII. It features John Malkovich and Vera Parmigiana or whatever her name is, who was so good in Up in the Air...but more excitingly for me, I know one/have been taught by of the writers. True, I know/have been taught by some writers of Australian films, but it was a first for me to be able to say that about an international film. Needless to say, I didn't borrow it, I was brought up on a staple diet of WWII stories and have to steel myself to read/watch any more and I was In Search of Something Light, as one invariably is in Alice. But it's made it to Alice, so perhaps another time...
On Sunday morning, I caught up with
the not-so-speedies (a ka: the ‘slowpokes’).For those not in the know, this is a consortium of peoples
who prefer to ride at an average speed of 23 kmh. This coalition of the unwilling was started by my dear friend
L, who was disquieted by the constant 30 + kmh speeds of the bike club’s Sunday
Social Ride, as opposed to the advertised average of 27 kmh.
I told L I might come if I woke up in time.
(Actually, there are a lot of ‘L’-friends in my life, and their names often do
start with ‘L’ – ha!).The biggest
hitch was the meeting time of 6 am, but there were some good reasons to join
them.It’s hotter earlier at this
time of year, and the last time I joined the Sunday Social Ride, they wore me
out, as I’m not ‘bike fit’ enough to deal with the speeding.
Much to the not-so-speedies’ surprise, I
did wake in time (it’s also very bright early in the day this year) and joined
them.We rode about 40 km at 25
kmh, amid protests that I had raised their overall average speed.However, they did get to use me as a
Out riding, I was reminded by
how seductive the embrace of the Centralian landscape can be early in the morning:
the quietude, the gentle light picking out pastel tones.Holed up in my air-conditioned bunker
over summer, I had begun to forget what the place could be like.
There were only three of us slowpokes on
the ride, though many others passed us on the way, evidently with the same idea
of catching the cool of the day.Afterwards, we – L, the Gavster and I — had coffee in the Mall while the
marketers were still setting up their stalls.It was almost impossible for me to imagine I was up so
early, as indeed it was for my companions (mind you, I felt like falling asleep
for the rest of the day).
Gav, in particular, couldn’t get over the
fact that I was actually there, given my aversion to earliness and my
peripatetic lifestyle.At one
point, L related a travel tale about a friend who had been ‘sleeping with
bears’ while camping in the States.
‘Can you imagine that?’ she said.‘I can’t imagine camping with
bears.Would you camp near bears?’
‘No,’ said Gav, ‘But I can imagine texting
El and finding that she was sleeping with bears.I’m always getting messages: “Sorry, can’t ride with you,
I’m in Timbuktu” or “I’m in Alaska”. Next thing you know, she'll be texting to say that she's "sleeping with bears".’
Well, more like penguins in Tasmania or Mormons in Utah… We also talked
about Alice, what a good but difficult place it was to live, and where we might
go next.‘Alice’ is such a common
topic of conversation amongst those who live here, it’s hard to know why (apart
from the obvious ‘resonances’), but maybe it’s because everything is so far
away.So many residents are expats
too and there’s such a great sense of transience that the place naturally
becomes a point of discussion and comparison itself.
L had always wanted to live in the centre,
and had cast an anchor over the side here after travelling round the country
with her ex.Gav, it seemed, was
gradually travelling north from Tasmania, and planned to head further north, to
the Kimberley perhaps, in hope of better fishing prospects.
L asked Gav if he’d seen any of the film
festival or if he intended seeing anything.She handed him a flyer, and he scanned it and said, ‘No, and
the only film I’d want to see has already been on.’
Fox and the Child!’ I said.
‘That’s the one!’ Gav turned to L.‘You see, El knows me so well she knows
which film I’d pick.It’s because it's about the innocence of childhood, and my childhood was disturbed,
so I like to see things like that.’
And not only that, but hence the long
journey north, further and further from Tasmania.
The other day, I went to the physio.I hadn’t been in ages, because
generally I can’t afford these things so often these days, and I try and deal with my various
aches and pains with yoga and exercise. Most of my issues are concentrated round my neck and shoulders from all the computer work I do: I don’t have problems with my lower back or knees.
As soon as I took off my top, the physio
said: ‘Oh, your left first rib’s sticking up.I’ll just pop it back in.’
I said: ‘Hold it right there.’
And I explained to her about the whole
subclavian vein/thoracic outlet episode (the theory is that this shoulder vein
gets compressed between the first rib and clavicle, leading to thromboses and
She looked nervous, but I told her to go
ahead with the manipulation because there wasn’t any clot (as far as I knew).
That done, she examined my back and said
that my left scapula was ‘winging’: i.e. my shoulder blade isn’t sitting flat
against my back. She suggested that it was the cause of my neck problems, and
gave me exercises to strengthen the muscle.
I was given exercises for scapula winging
on both sides by a physio several years ago.Evidently I need to keep them up.It’s raised an interesting chicken-egg scenario for me: did
the poor scapula strength contribute to problems in the thoracic outlet, or did
the scapula problems result from the clot experience?I hardly used my left arm for two years afterwards, which
definitely led to another set of problems.
Anyway, I suspect that both structural
factors are interrelated.Given
that I spend more time at the computer than anything else (tho sleeping with
cats might be a close second), it would make sense that poor posture was a
major contributor and that what I had was possibly an e-thrombosis (getting more special all the time — Ed.)
I also habitually hold my head to the
right: childhood photos show me doing this, so I may have shortened the neck
muscles on the right side over time. If I turn my head totally to the right, I
close the vein, which was the position in which I was sleeping when I got the
clot and which I try to avoid.
A sports doctor once told me that I’m
hypermobile (i.e. overly flexible), a common problem for tall women with long
ligaments (TPS: take heed).Apparently, it means that it’s difficult for you to maintain stability
in different postures, unlike a short, compact, nuggety person, so you tend to
overcompensate and your muscles become tense and rigid in response.I do find it hard to remain
comfortable, sitting for long periods of time, and my neck often tenses into
positions that I can’t undo without professional help (however much stretching
and exercising I try).
So...so...am now sitting with shoulders permanently pinned back in 'must-improve-my-bust' position evocative of characters in Mad Men, the second season of which I am now watching.
In Darwin I noticed
the prevalence of the ‘bubble’ fashion, something I daresay may eventually come
to Alice, but then again not, if we’re lucky (I’m sure we miss many fashions
altogether).If I remember rightly,
the bubble skirt had a flutter a couple of years ago (indeed, twenty years ago)
but seems to have come back in force, in multiple forms: bubble dresses, bubble
shorts, bubble pants, etc.I think
this trend can only be described as unfortunate: does a bubble suit anyone,
outside of a bath?
I imagine it’s the
kind of bandwagon some might leap onto, hoping for greater concealment, though
it’s more likely to create the impression of greater bulk.You could end up looking like you’ve
got two baobabs for legs or as if you flunked the parachuting course and made
yourself some duds from the silk for revenge.(But wouldn’t you be
I tried on a couple of
the bubble fashions at Casuarina Mall, that great northern homage to hyperreal
shopping.Being tall, I reckoned I
could get away with the bubble pants thing, but would I want to?I tried a size smaller than what I’d
usually take (still plenty of room), and I immediately looked like I should be fitted
with a crop and a small horn, so I could ride out with the hounds. But you wouldn’t want to be short and
stumpy; that would be stretching the whole bubble pant thing (actually, the
exact opposite). Lulu's so rotund, she looks like she's wearing furry bubble pants anyway.As for the bubble
dress with its high gathered waist and faux gold trimmings: I looked like an
escapee from a toga party or perhaps from a 1930s girls boarding-school book
production of a Greek tragedy.
So that’s my verdict:
no to the bubble thing, along with its distant relative, happy pants: both should be banished.