Alea Iacta Est

Today I gave notice to my employers.  In just a few weeks I shall continue East and complete my circuit of Australia. I would have liked to do it on a bike but frankly I think I will enjoy it more in my Landcruiser.

I shall head for Queensland to visit an old friend.  After that, to New Zealand.  The good news is that I have a lot of accumulated leave, and I have just earned 70% of three months long service leave in addition, having completed seven years service in local government in Western Australia. With my accumulated leave That is worth almost a half year’s pay.  Plus I have my super.   I came here with nothing and in the last seven years I have put away a reasonable nest egg; far better than I could have achieved in New Zealand.  Far better in fact than I had managed in the fifteen years prior.  But I was paying a mortgage then and raising youngsters.   In any case I sincerely hope it is sufficient, and with the pension, I hope I never need to work again.  I have really had enough.

Looking forward to what comes next.

Apropos of nothing at all here is the wonderful Jacques Brel singing his song that Edith Piaf so famously covered.   A powerful moving performance.

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Comfortably Numb

Friday April 6th.

I am usually a sentimental old fool.  One who weeps during most episodes of Dr Who.

Leaving a place has been particularly poignant for me over the years.
I have usually invested something of myself in every place I have been…
But I am no good at all at doing goodbyes.  Especially when I know there is no going back.

Today I drove out of Billiluna with the last of my remaining possessions in the back of the Troopy.   I said goodbye to only one person. Joe.  A friend who is an outsider in the community, like me.  And Zeus the dog, whom I am leaving with Joe.

I searched my psyche for some sign of emotion, but there was none. No sorrow or regret. Not even joy.  Nor satisfaction. I could not even pat myself on the back for a job well done.  I felt no anticipation for what might be next. I was empty and devoid of feeling.

I was tired. But I really had not expected I’d be so drained as to feel nothing at all.

On the drive back to Halls Creek I thought of a few more things that I had not seen when packing up.  More things that had been stolen. Most notably my UEBoom2 bluetooth speaker.

So finally I felt something.

Irritation.

So it goes.

away

 

Seven Years

Flashback five years:

I can ask the same thing of myself another 5 years later, with probably even less to offer in response, particularly in terms of professional or personal accomplishment.   A year and a half after asking myself that question, I left Katanning and moved to Halls Creek and a new job at the Halls Creek Shire.  A year and a half after that I changed roles and relocated to Billiluna.

Today, the 23rd of March represents the completion of seven years service in Western Australia Local Government.  Which means I am eligible for 70% of my long service leave entitlement of twelve weeks paid leave.  That is around 8.4 weeks.  I have 15 weeks accumulated leave as well.   That is almost half a year’s pay to collect.

My boss has recently gently hinted I should give some thought to the matter of my future, and whether I want to continue this existence in a remote community.  Though I am sure she is primarily concerned for my own wellbeing in my advancing age and deteriorating condition,  I believe I may have good reason to suspect that I, and my way of doing things, may no longer fit comfortably into the long-term strategic view of youth services in East Kimberley.

And probably quite right.  I am not sure I have made any difference at all.

So, perhaps it may now at last be time to take the money and run.  My health and mobility issues probably mean I should get out and have some fun while I still can.

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I must go down to the sea again.

Palau
The Lonely Sea, and the Sky

Polar

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Photo by Paul Goldstein 

Once upon a time, a baby polar bear went up to his mum, as she was preparing seal flipper pie for dinner.
“Mum,” he said, “am I a real polar bear?
“Of course you are, dear.” She answered. “I am a polar bear, Dad is a polar bear, so you are a polar bear too”.
“Are you sure of that? Really really sure?”
“Of course I am sure. Your grandparents are polar bears, their parents were polar bears too.  In fact you come from one of the most illustrious polar bear lines in the arctic circle!”
“Are you absolutely certain? Is there no brown bear, or Kodiak bear, or grizzly bear in me?”
“No dear, you are pure polar bear. If you don’t believe me, ask your dad”.

So the little polar bear wandered across the ice floe to where his dad was fishing.
“Dad,” he said, “am I a real polar bear?”
“Of course you are, son” his dad answered.
“I am a polar bear, Mum is a polar bear, so you are a polar bear too”.
“Are you sure of that? Really really sure?”
“Of course I am sure. Your grandparents are polar bears, their parents were polar bears too.  In fact you come from one of the most illustrious polar bear lines in the arctic circle!”
“Are you really really sure of that?”
“Of course, son. You are 100% polar bear
“Are you absolutely certain? Is there no brown bear, or Kodiak bear, or grizzly bear in me?”
“No son, you are pure polar bear. If you don’t believe me, ask your grandad”.

So the young fellow toddled across the ice floe to the other side, where his grandfather was sitting on a park bench talking to his cronies.

“Grandad” he said, “am I a real polar bear?
“Of course you are, lad” he answered. “I am a polar bear, Your grandma is a polar bear, your mum and dad are polar bears, so you are a polar bear too”.
“Are you sure of that? Really really sure?”
“Of course I am sure! You come from one of the most illustrious polar bear lines in the arctic circle!”

“Are you absolutely certain, Grandad? Is there no brown bear, or Kodiak bear, or grizzly bear in me?”
“No lad. You are pure polar bear. One hundred percent.
Why do you ask?”

“Because I am feckin’ cold!”

Paul Goldstein
Photo by Paul Goldstein 

Adapted from a story told to me in Auckland by Billy Connolly.

Isolation

Living out here and doing what I do can mean that if I don’t visit the clinic or the store, or drop by the school or the community office, there may be days on end when any conversations with someone over fifteen are no more than a passing greeting, friendly enquiry into their current state of health, or a probably false response to a reciprocal enquiry regarding my own. Even if I do drop by those places, that may still be the extent of our chats some days.

I used to have one regular visitor; one of the community elders, who would call round for a cup of tea and a chat.  He would use my phone quite frequently to speak to his family.  Then we would talk about the youngsters in the community, the history of the area, the animals and plants of cultural and culinary significance and such things.

We shared recipes and I sometimes shared some of my fried rice, curry, casserole or baking.  He is the only one so far, apart from my old mate Des, to reciprocate in kind.  He brought me a cut of meat now and then; of bullock, kangaroo or goat, or some bones for the dog.

After we became more comfortable with each other he shared some of his family history and his take on the genocidal social experiment that was the Stolen Generation.  I had already heard a lot about that from  Des who was himself forcibly taken from his family and mistreated in a mission until his teens.  The stories still fill me with horror.  Even worse are the tales of the massacres of whole families that took place out here not so far from where I am now.  These are not century old atrocities either.  I am talking about as recently as the 1950s and 60s.  Within living memory.

We are the same age, to the very month. He is just a few days younger than I yet he looks twenty yeras older.   Our life experiences could not have been more different.  We found we had quite a bit in common when we turned to the old organ recital.  We shared the various conditions and ailments affecting and afflicting our aging bodies, and discussed the medications we had been prescribed for them.

He has moved to Perth now, to be closer to the hospital for treatment.  No one visits me at home any more unless it is to borrow the tyre pump or a spanner, request a jump start for a vehicle with a dead battery, or just to humbug me.   “Humbug” is a term describing the action of “borrowing” something you know will never be returned.  Tobacco, drink, money, food …

So being solitary and alone is not at all about being isolated from other people by distance, but more about having no one to converse with.

Which is why I am very lucky to have the voices.

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Paradise

“Paradise” comes from the Persian for “walled garden”.

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In My Memory Garden

In my memory garden
At the centre, under hazel
Grows a single shamrock.
A spiral path of babies’ tears
Gravels out through blackberries
Bluebells, balm and celandine
Snowdrops under oaks
A solitary silver birch
Pansies, pinks, carnations.

 

Play here amongst the toitoi
Flax, raupo, tadpoles, frogs
A tree hut in an aged willow
Sliding down a scented macrocarpa
Roses from Home
Daisy, dandelion, buttercup
Gorse and gooseberry
Mushrooms.

 

Turn
Sea-salted pohutukawa
Seaweed, rocks, sandy sedge and sunshine
Ferns, moss, forest and waterfall
Jasmine and jonquil,
Mallow and mint
Daffodil and dahlia
Yellow tulips

 

Turn again
Here are hibiscus, frangipani,
Mud, tides. corals, sands,
Tropical palms.
Crabs and coconuts.
Birds and fishes
Chirping in mangroves.

 

Return;
Kowhai, tui, fantail
Rosemary, rocket, sorrel
Bay and cultivation
Potato, bean and brussels
Moonflower, lily of the valley
Holly, wild honeysuckle, rue
Milkweed and butterflies

 

Wandering now
Wattle, Eucalyptus , bottlebrush and banksia
Jacaranda, poinciana, poinsettia; parakeets
Little dragons and honeyeaters
Spinifex and bindii

 

Turn once more, return at last
At the spiral’s end
A little thyme alone
Lichen, lilies, nightshade
And a standing stone.

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Insight

An insight into my character; I
Am the sort of person who,
If told I’ll never walk again,
Will embrace my never-walkingness
And never walk again.

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Worm

Seriously

I fear sometimes I am losing my whimsy.
The Wise man warned me not to let that happen.