Once you’ve cleared Nerang, you’re in the mountains. It only takes about 40 or so minutes to get to this point – so close! I often wonder why I don’t come out here more, knowing the simple answer is time. My camera, Nana Mouskouri and The Seekers are keeping me company. There’s something special about Judith singing ‘A world of our own’ when you’re in a world of your own for four hours. It’s been my first real drive since Mackay, and the first in a long time sans loved ones. An introverts dream – time alone, where the music choice is mine, the route is up to the toss of a coin and I get to do those stops that you promise to do another time.
Recent rain put the rain back in subtropical rainforest. Narrow mountain roads wound through towers of green, arching over my drive like a reclaimed cathedral. Tree trunks spired around me, reaching the heavens for a glimpse of light.
I stop by a creek for some serenity and snaps. Close your eyes and just picture it – the bubble of water tumbling over rocks. Cicadas singing the song of summer. Frogs harkening the coming of more rain. Nettle tingles my shins and my shoes sink into soft soil. Still water pools in a billabong, insects bounce off the mirror-like surface. It’s peaceful, its perfect. I bet you wish you were here!
A side-street with no name provides the perfect detour. The road has light debris, a carryover no doubt from recent storms. It seems like one of those places frequented by the rich and famous, wanting to be rich, but not famous. Farmhouses with unusually high amounts of security dot the no-through road. The letterboxes are named, not numbered. Names like Wurrunyah, Taralgon and Wangawallon adorn high fences containing perfectly manicured lawns and homes that wouldn’t look out of place in Better Homes and Gardens.
The detour is complete, and I head towards Natural Bridge. I slow down going through Numinbah. The post-war School of Arts has a dance on the 2nd Saturday of every month. I imagine the returned soldiers who built the community halls, schools of arts and RSL halls after World War Two, coming back from far-off places to build these carbon-copy halls right throughout this nation of ours. I wonder what it would have been like, coming from Europe, PNG or the Pacific, coming back to Australia, shutting up and getting on with life.
I decide not to turn to Natural Bridge. The unknown road ahead invites me with a mischievous whisper, so forward into New South Wales I go. I’m right in the middle of the hinterland now. My windows are down and the cool mountain air kisses my cheek. Moist mountain air fills my lungs. It smells like eucalyptus and moss, if you could imagine such a thing. Just over the border and I hit green, cleared farmland. Cows raise their heads from grazing on lush green grass to watch me pass. They chew listlessly, tails flicking away ever persistent flies buzzing around. Paddocks surrounded by moss-covered fences hold livestock. Holding them in, but in reality, who would want to escape this thinkers paradise?
Abandoned farm houses with rusted roofs dot the paddocks and meadows. You’d be hard pressed to find one that wasn’t either on a slant, covered in ivy or crumbling over a rusted tractor. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I train my long-range lens on these modern relics, tributes to the sheer audacity of farmers trying to tame the Australian wilderness.
Numinbah Road twists like tangled fencewire through the escarpment. Grime covered homes hide behind the tree line. Letterboxes made of tin milk cartons dare the mailman to put his hand inside and offer all manner of creepy-crawlies sanctuary. The road straightens out somewhat as I approach Chillingham. This little town hosts not much at all – a puddle-covered tennis court, an honesty-box vegetable stand, an overpriced café and an art gallery that opens every now and again. Weatherboard houses are strangely symmetrical and painted in light pastel, and I think this town wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson movie. Naturally, I construct a short story of an eccentric retiree who falls in love with a widowed hippy who bond over sunset tennis and billy-tea.
I’ve hit the plains of the valley, where sugarcane towers in the breeze. The mountains dominate my rear-view mirror. I’ve always loved the mountains, and I’m reminded of the escarpment in my hometown. Houses on stilts perch high above the floodmark, sentries watching over the sweet crops below. Fresh shoots of green explode in rich, dark soil – this rain a blessing from above.
I turn north to slowly head home. My travels will see me navigate the hinterland once more – joys to continue once more. It’s much of the same, but all so different. Lookouts invite the casual traveller to stop – an invitation I take. At one, a dampened bible sits on the rock. A feather is used as a bookmark, next to it a post it note simply says ‘take me’. A bible, and like the valley that soaks up the rain, so do I ache to soak up the truth.
I find myself disappointed to find my way back to the M1. To my west, the mountains parallel the freeway and already I long to be back in her windy roads. Alas, this straight stretch of road and responsibility carry me back home. The better the road, the more cares one seems to have. The faster the limit, the more one has to think. The more lanes brings greater complexity. I reflect back to the single-laned mountain roads, where speed is limited by natural beauty, where distractions are beautiful.
I give thanks for safety on the road, and for a few hours of selfish fun in one of the most beautiful patches of God’s green earth. The Gold Coast / northern New South Wales hinterland – thank you for slowing me down and bringing me back to earth.
We wake at 5.30am, and the satisfaction of waking up our children will be the first of many delights we will have these holidays!
Airports are funny old places – even the new ones, Airports are a mixture of excitement and exhaustion. Business and pleasure. Love, and broken hearts. Every journey is different. Travel diaries aren’t about airports, however. They aren’t the story. Airports are simply a punctuation mark. They can sometimes feel like a full stop – waiting around for something, or someone to arrive, the end of something. A full stop they are not, a comma they are. A small pause in a sentence, a dividing line between the before and after.
If an airport is but a comma, then the actual airplane trip is the space between two paragraphs. It’s the awkward silence in the elevator. You’re groundless for a few hours, rendered to seat 22F next to the smelly Indian man and the isle, both of which invade your personal space. If the smelly stranger isn’t an assault on your eyes and nose, then the complimentary meal would be compliment week old leftovers. Thankfully, the tea and coffee is prefect, if your definition of coffee perfection is International Roast served in tepid water with UHT milk. As they say, beggars aren’t choosers, so you drink the coffee, sit back and think of England.
So we arrived in Fiji – Nadi to be exact. Nadi Airport is a blend of Island smiles and 1970’s technology. We meet our hotel transfer, who tells us to sign in at the ‘last office on the left’, which is kinda funny cause there’s only one office. We are introduced to Pedro, who introduces us to Suelso, who introduces us to Josepha, who introduces us back to Pedro, who’s just gotten off the phone, who tells us our transport is running ‘late’. Of course, if you’ve been to Fiji, you know there’s no such thing as ‘running late’. By that token, there’s no such thing as running on time, either. Of course, it doesn’t really matter, because the only reason you go to Fiji is to do nothing. So it doesn’t matter if you’re running on time, or running late, or just running, because it’s impossible to be in a rush to get to a place where you’re not going to do anything. It’s kinda like wasting time now so you don’t have to waste time later.
Even if you were in a rush to do nothing, or something, or anything, it would be impossible to do it quickly. The main drag down through Fiji is limited to 80km/hour, and 50km/hour when you’re on a bus with a trailer, like we were on. That’s right. 50km/hour, and to be honest, on the Queens Road, that felt a little excessive at times. You know you’re no longer in Australia when you pass a ute carrying 3 horses and three guys in the tray, and it seems totally normal.
In my notes, I detoured a bit and I might jot those thoughts down as a separate blog, cause it frames some key themes I was keen on exploring both personally and in a literary sense.. So stay tuned!
We stopped off at a spot the driver knew where we’d get ‘locals only’ prices. I paid too much for bottled water and wish I’d spent more on nicer crackers. As we left, raindrops fell on the bus window, echoing our drivers announcement that the Coral Coast was green, due to a large amount of the aformentioned rain.
Crawling through Sigatoka with it’s slum-like buildings, dirty roads and it’s faded signs of depicting smiling Fijians selling Vodaphone and Coke-Cola was a contrast. I didn’t see too many people smiling in Sigatoka.
Finally, we arrived at the Outrigger. “BULA” yelled the guard at the front gate – the first of many BULAS that would be yelled our way!! Warm smiles and bulas were a sharp contrast to the cyclonic winds and rain now pounding the usually serene tropical resort. We quickly settled into our resort and thus, began our holiday.
I need to say at this point that when it comes to eating, I’m not really that adventurous. At all. I thought though, seeing as we were here and seeing as I pre-paid for the meals (best decision!!), I might as well try a few new things. As the kids say – ‘YOLO’. At the resort, there was an Asian-inspired restaurant, a steakhouse, a bistro kinda place and a few other nice places. Well we couldn’t get a seat at the steakhouse and it was seafood night at the bistro, so I reluctantly elected for Asian. How bad could it be, right? In the spirit of trying new things, I went for the teryiaki beef skewers for an entree, then a Chinese sizzling plate of BBQ lamb. I need to mention at this point that none of these meals had any meaningful vegetable content, so it looked okay.
Boy-o-boy. Did I simply love dinner! Who would of thought Asian food would have been so delicious? I guess 3 billion Chinese can’t be wrong, right? Sarah had a Singapore noodle dish. I can’t remember what Zo had and Eli had chips – the first bowl of many.
After dinner, we caught the Polynesian fire dancers – wow, were they amazing! Well, the dancing was amazing, as was the way the fire twirled around. The fact that it was outside, in the rain, was kinda ordinary, but the dancing was great! An evening stroll through the grounds and we were ready to turn in for the night. Well, we were, the kids, not so much.
Like any very organised, caring mother, Sarah had packed a chemist worth of drugs for everything and anything. Everything, except, for the phenergen. The kids eventually dropped off, quickly followed by Sarah, quickly followed by me surrounded by snoring, in stereo. Being introverted, I thought I’d use the time to recharge, and listen to some fantastic David Pawson that I’d downloaded. Now usually I’m enraptured by Pawson’s expository teaching, and his musings on Leviticus would usually keep me enthralled, but tonight, even Pawson himself couldn’t keep me awake. I found myself drifting to sleep, imagining what the week in Fiji would bring.
So you want to date my sister?
First up, this has no relation to my sister, or that boy that keeps showing up in her Instagram photos. Or any of my brothers who are hell bent on protecting our sister from teenage boy tomfoolery. No relation what so ever. Everyone in this blog is purely fictional. Please, if you think this is in relation to you, it’s not.
So, you’ve taken an interest in my sister?
That’s nice. So have others.
When you started showing up in my sister’s Instagram photos, I joked with her that I’d probably start checking the police database and googling your name, just to do some preliminary searches. You know, you can never be too careful, can you now?
So after joking that you might wake up next to a horse’s head, my sister told me that you could ‘easily’ beat me in a fight. Now, I expect that she’s right in that respect. Just to dispel any lingering doubt, we probably should go toe-to-toe. I’m usually a bareknuckle man, but we can use gloves if your hands are particularly dainty.
I need to mention that I’m on first name terms with police in every reporting district in SE Queensland and Northern New South Wales. For some reason, I thought you might like to know that.
Well boy, I expect you are quite nice. By the look of those Instagram pics, you certainly have kind and soft features. Let’s not beat around the bush – many gals these days enjoy the company of a ‘beta’ guy. Naturally, I’d prefer my sister to be keen on someone more masculine, but each to their own.
So if this relationship is meant to be, I expect we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of you. Of course, we will love to warmly welcome you into the family. I think I speak for my brothers that we are all looking forward to meeting you and getting to know you.
I’m sure my sister has mentioned it, but every year all the brothers like to go away for a fishing and camping week – we’d love to extend an invitation to you. You can fish, can’t you? I could not see any evidence of fishing, hunting, camping, fire-making, drinking home brew or any other usual manly activities on your Instagram, facebook or snapchat messages that seemed to have made their way into my possession. I remember two years ago with the annual boys camping trip when we brought our sisters last boyfriend, Wayne. Gosh, he was a nice guy, but it’s a shame he left the camping trip mid-week and was never found again, not even by police or emergency services. I do hope Wayne turns up, he was such a nice guy.
Again, I do eagerly await getting to know you some more and spending some time with you.
p.s. a word of advice – when you meet my sisters parents, please, for the love of God, dress up. A shirt, dress pants and highly polished shoes as an absolute minimum. Please come prepared with your resume, your parents last tax assessments and your fathers occupation and of course, yours and your parents birth certificates, if they have been issued in Australia or similar Commonwealth country (Canadian or British preferably) – I’m sure you’ll agree you don’t want to be dating ‘outside your own kind’!
I love photographs. I love instagram. I love seeing pictures of beautiful cities, sunsets, my family and new additions to the family.
Not too long ago, the family would have a camera. Usually an easy to use point-and-click device that had film in it. Some families were a bit lardy-da with a SLR and took nice looking photos. A family might take a role or two of film on holidays. A single photograph might be taken at a family picnic or a first day of school. Once the 24 shots had been taken, the film would be taken to the local camera store, where the photos would be developed. You’d excitedly open the packet of photos and eagerly relive the memories. It was an exciting moment, seeing the photos for the first time. Sometimes, the camera shop would put a sticker on one of the photographs, saying something like ‘I’d look great enlarged!’ if the photo was particularly beautiful or memorable.
The packet of 24 photographs would be taken home. A photo might go on the fridge. One might go with dad to work, to put on his desk. You might send grandma and grandpa a beautiful picture of the kids on the beach. Mum might make a page in the family photo album of the families recent Gold Coast holiday.
Only a select few people would see your family photographs. There was an intimacy to them. A specialness. A romance. When a son or daughter would bring home a significant other, looking at their baby photographs was a right of passage – it signified the significant other was being let into the family, into their intimate moments, into their story.
I just can’t help compare that with how different it is with photos these days. I recently went down south for my brother-in-laws 30th birthday. Even before the party started and the children were playing, I had taken over 100 photos on my iPhone! Can you believe it? Of those 100 or so, I culled them down to perhaps 60. I put maybe three or four onto my instagram.
These days, the trend seems to be that we generally take photos of everything and anything. Our morning coffee. The sunset. A funny face our children pull. A beautiful ocean vista. A family scene. Something arty. Multiple pictures of ourselves. We willingly submit these pictures to a corporation to manage. To hold. To own. To display. For others to ‘like’, for others to see.
Why do we do it? Is it just society telling us to? Do we need validation that our child is particularly special in eating baked beans in a highchair? Do we need to prove the view from our family holiday is amazing? Do we need to show the world that we can eat at some unique gin-joint? Have we all just become narcissists? Perhaps it’s much simpler than that. We want to share these special moments with others on a much grander scale.
I can’t help think that we have lost the intimacy of the photograph. The anticipation of taking a photograph on a camera and having your memories printed out on paper, just for you to see.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Have we taken photographs and social media too far? I’ve read about the hashtag #aftersex has become popular with the young and pretty. Now that’s definitely oversharing an intimate moment! Have we gone too far, or has photo-sharing been a good thing?
The phone was out of range.
There was no internet reception.
We only had each other.
We couldn’t instagram the bush tukka.
We couldn’t log into Facebook at check in with friends.
We couldn’t tweet about how amazing this place was.
Many people scoff when I tell them that I don’t have a phone. Well, I do have one. I share one with my wife. She has it Monday to Friday, I have it on Saturday while she’s at work. She uses it, I pay for it!
It seems that we’ve been so accustomed to sharing the ‘best bits’ of our life on social media. I’m not saying that’s good, bad or ugly. It’s just how we’ve become narcissistic in this social media age.
I truly believe that being disconnected is one of the best states we can be. When it’s just you and perhaps those around you that you love. When there’s no distractions. When you’re not tied to an electronic device that ejaculates inane crap 24/7. Don’t get me wrong – I’m quite partial to a bit of facebooking and my instagram addiction is well documented. What I’m saying is there is just something fantastic about being ‘off the radar’.
It’s hard to be disconnected in this day and age. When we are, it’s usually by technological malfunction rather than choice.
I want to know how you get ‘off the radar’, if you do. I’d love to know what you think about when you’ve got no facebook feed to check out or thought to post on twitter. When all you see is purely nature, and not a filtered photo on a small screen. Do you get scared about being disconnected? Do you relish in no one being able to contact you? No boss to ask about that project. No report to turn in. No phone calls to return. Nothing required of you, except to enjoy the moment.
How do you ‘disconnect’?
(yeah, I’m totally aware of the irony of asking about disconnection on social media, too!!)
Photo totally ripped from http://titaniumrunner.net/2011/09/disconnected/
I’ve had the luxury of recently spending some time in a relatively small country town. My brother-in-law and his family have been very kind to host my family and I for a few days in their gorgeous home overlooking a country vista. The children have loved spending their days playing with the dog, roughing up the chooks, collecting eggs and getting water-logged in the pool!
My hosts have lived in this area for quite some years, and, by all accounts, know and are known by many in town.
The massive proliferation of social media has seen the globalisation of community, which essentially makes me think about the nature of ‘self’. The Onion satirises the perfect ‘facebook’ family, and it can be easy to get slightly envious of seeing others ‘picture perfect’ lives on social media.
I don’t think it is uncommon for an individual to have difference ‘personalities’ on social media. For me, I’m on Facebook, Instagram as well as this blog. On each of these, I’m slightly different. My instagram is stacked with photos of my beautiful children, things I love and things I’ve drunk. My facebook jots random thoughts and chronicles random Friday night happenings. My blog is where I put to words some of my deeper musings in life. I am the same, but slightly different.
I suspect it could be quite easy for one to either project a completely different ‘self’ online, or even fabricate their existence all together on social medial.
Getting back to this country town, I was amazed to see how close my brother-in-laws social circles were. He played football with guys he worked with, traded with, drunk with. The wives met together, chatted together, met at the school together. I compare this to my life in the city. I work in town. My church friends will rarely come across my social friends. My work colleagues will never come across either of those circles.
Essentially, I could be the same or completely different in these different circles, without any major ramifications or affect on each other, due to the geographical and social distance between the groups. This is compared to my brother-in-law, who’s circles are all very closely linked. If you have a bad reputation in one circle, it’s going to very quickly flow into all other circles, due to the close geographical proximity.
What I’m interested in knowing is if people find their ‘selves’ more congruent when their circles or communities are more closely linked geographically.
Tell me – do you differ (or not differ) in your projection of ‘self’, depending on the community you are in?
Dear Parents (and children) who attended Zoe’s wonderful party yesterday,
Thank you all for making the afternoon a success!
On the whole, everyone had a great time, especially Zoe. There is, however, an issue that has been raised with me. An issue that I know we can all resolve with poise and respect, as I know you all will do.
I know that many of you are upstanding, Christian people and citizens of high morals. I certainly did not anticipate the reaction that the ‘vodka strawberry creams’ would have. It certainly was not my intention to deliberately mislead any of you, nor did I expect anyone to consume more than three of the delicious bite-sized treats.
I have fielded some calls from concerned parents notifying that their children appeared tipsy, or even slightly drunk, after the party. For those children who ate more than ten of the special strawberries, this is highly possible. I need to point out, however, the responsibility that you, the parents also had in this situation. By allowing your children to consume more than ten of anything at a party or social event does garner the question of your child’s ability to control themselves when presented with treats.
On the positive side, many of these parents did report that the affected children did have a solid nights sleep, going down just after dinner and having a restful night.
Again, if your children, or you yourself did consume an excess amount of the (clearly labelled) ‘vodka strawberry creams’ and had adverse affects, I do apologise without reservation. One wife relayed to me that her husband consumed in excess of 15 such treats and was unable to go to work that evening.
In retrospect, I should have avoided alcohol after that incident at Eli’s party involving the ‘pirate rum balls’.
Apart from that, Zoe had a wonderful time and enjoyed everyone’s company. I trust that you and your children also had a great time at the party.