There is not much to recommend Ballarat. It’s flat and it’s flatulent. Its people walk slowly along grey bleached streets with grey gold smiles on orange wrinkled faces. To drive through it, to the other side, is to celebrate restrained liberty.
But the purpose of the trip is to celebrate something else. To be able to drive away from Sydney and forget when I’m supposed to come back. If anyone can tell me when that day is I’ll attempt to look at a repatriation plan in line with my current line of thinking.
Day 1. 2.42 pm. Pick up trailer
Day 2. 2.52 pm. Listen to trailer tyre disintegrate at 100km per hour on the F3.
It’s almost a joy, considering the circumstances, tyre blown, car stop, shady deal, pop top, watching who exactly would stop and offer their assistance on a screaming stir fry Saturday and who would ignore me. I thought that I couldn’t be ignored but I’m wrong. I’ve learnt something about myself. Among those who stopped, the buxom immigrant girl who wanted to offer me any number of things – the family of 16 who were heading south in search of their roots, who were themselves in need of help that I could not offer – the hopeful band of jugglers and finally the local photographer who was having a slow day.
Needless to say, none of them could offer me what I really needed and that was half a brick to prop up the car jack with. Wasn’t much to ask. My motto became “get the life threatening episodes over early”. Changing a tyre on the F3 is a life threatening episode.
Another life threatening episode is losing your brakes descending Mt Hotham. It was only life threatening in that I was travelling down a mountain and had no other way of stopping. Other than that the experience provides the opportunity to lean out the window and wonder about pre-season training that your missing, songs that you’ve failed to sing and whether resuscitation will be a waste of time when they winch me up from the valley below.
It was reassuring however that I was almost to my Father’s place. He also reassured me that he would take care of things. I’m not sure what he meant by that.
Caravan parks, all in all, are not places that I believe I am meant to frequent. Narooma is worth visiting and Daylesford (between Bendigo and the grey bleached town) is worth savouring for its tree lined nostalgia and its attention to the past. The second hand book and record shop in Castlemaine, with over 7000 78’s and 5000 books should also be patronised, if you can manage to be passing between the hours of 11am and 2 pm. Otherwise it’s a frustration, seeing the copy of Dinks Song you’ve been coveting for 25 years sitting on the floor wanting nothing more than for you to take a seat on the red clay street and wait to find out if the sign, outlining store hours, is an up to date sign or whether it was abandoned in 1974, when the building was last painted.
There’s lunch in Lake somewhere between the north east part of nowhere and the south west part of nowhere else but with no lake. The pub, which provided lasagne for the best spent 8 dollars so far in the trip, had everything. It consisted of one third of an old cow and all of the ingredients that have ever been put into a salad, anywhere, with chips, the chef’s mums mayonnaise and a knife to eat with that was probably used to kill the old cow. I felt obliged to eat everything because the gentlemen who brought me the meal, by yelling “hey matey”, and he was a gentleman I can tell you, was watching me, his dog was watching me and the two men in blue singlets with tattoos saying how much they loved their mother were also occasioning me with periodic sideways glances.
I’ve played to a small caravan audience near Batemans Bay where the satire of the moment failed to win them over. I’m playing a show tomorrow night in a pub in Portland, whose publican looks familiar to me. Long hair curly and unkempt and in need of a blood transfusion. He looks to be 73 but I bet he’s just left school. I’m looking forward to it although possibly more in vain hope that Victorians appreciate satire.
Portland is near South Australia. It also has koalas walking along the highway. I know that because I had to stop and shepherd one off the road to prevent koala carnage. I asked him what he was doing on the road and he said it’s where he belongs. I know what he means.