Exit.

I just completed my exit interview form. The penultimate question asked why I resigned and whether there was anything the Shire could have done to prevent my leaving.

My reply was:

I am old father William
And it has been said
If I continue to work
They should examine my head.

– with no apology to Lewis Carroll.

 

There are some wonderful sights here.  One appreciates them a little more once one knows one is leaving them behind.

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The sky over Red Hills, Halls Creek, by Patrick Karena.
China Wall
China Wall, Halls Creek.
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Alarm

At 5 this morning in the early lightening dawn, the raucous call of kookaburras sidetracked me from sleep.  I awoke with a headache and very sore back and hips.

I have heard kookaburras several times here, in Halls Creek but I’ve only seen one once before.  Despite my aches and pains I grabbed the camera and came out for a look.  There were several calling, but only one was in view.  The light was poor and I had to wait for it to brighten a little before there was sufficient for the camera at last to focus.  I do not trust my own eyesight to focus manually with any accuracy any more.  Technology usually does a much better job.  The first shots were blurry as the camera vainly tried to distinguish the bird and the tree from the dim background of the sky.

Fortunately the bird seemed to be in no hurry to move on and sat surveying the scene around it long enough for the camera to finally grasp it, and outline it in yellow in my viewfinder.   Isn’t technology wonderful these days?

I then discovered I could transfer the photos from the camera to my MacBook via wifi.  More technological wonder.  What a time to be alive.

I made coffee, took my pills and retired for another hour or so sleep.  I awoke at 11:30 still aching and figured I had better phone in sick.

Despite the circumstances, capturing this noisy little bugger cheered me up.

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Here is the kookaburra call, if you haven’t heard it before:

One Fine Day

Keke rane leana
Haele la sa vineki
Hake koa sa basioto
Meke zama si asa
Qetu hola si asa.
Meke hegere sa basioto. 

One fine day
The girl climbs up
Perching on the crocodile
And she says
She is very happy.
And the crocodile laughs.

Basioto Nomana

 
 Reprise.   1st Posted on 
 

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.

Boomerang

(Yes folks. It came back).

The Kimberley Hotel has two garden bars. One is out the back, beside the pool.  On the sunny cooler days of the dry season, when there is no need for air conditioning, it is a popular place for patrons to sit and drink.  There is an open passage past the restaurant dining room to the main bar.  There, the pool tables are populated by players, who bet money, cigarettes or beer on the outcome of the games.  In the front, there is a veranda with tables where bar meals are eaten and another garden bar where on Thursday nights the weekly trivia quiz is held.
This particular Saturday afternoon I was out on the veranda drinking my usual lemon lime and bitters.  I was only there on the off chance of a conversation with someone interesting.  My bike was parked outside and I was hoping to have a chat with any bikers passing through. I figured the best place to meet them would be the hotel.

The pub was noisy as usual with the buzz of conversation, the knock of billiard balls, and the occasional shout of victory, or a cry of “unlucky!” after a missed shot.  On a high stool at the bar behind the pool tables, an old aboriginal gentleman sat quietly alone, sipping a beer. He stepped out onto the veranda for a few minutes to smoke a thin, carefully rolled cigarette. Then he returned to his stool with his beer.   He was a handsome old man, with white hair and beard, bushy eyebrows and a weathered face from which his dark eyes twinkled with cheerful humour. He looked for all the world like a kindly old blackfeller Santa.

Outside, a tourist bus pulled up and disgorged its passengers. There seemed to be dozens of them, mostly retirees, by the look of it.  They all made a rush for the bar and ordered enough beers and glasses of wine to keep the bar staff busy for a full fifteen minutes.  Some also ordered meals and went to imbibe their drinks on the veranda as they waited for the food to arrive.  The noise of conversation doubled.  One of the tourists, an elderly Englishman with a northern accent, eyed the old Aboriginal gentleman for a while. He seemed to make up his mind about something.  Picking up his beer he sidled over and sat on the next stool.

“G’day” he said. “Are you local?”

“Yep.” Said the old man.

“And you’re Aboriginal, right?”

The old man held his arm out beside the Englishman’s. His black skin was answer enough, but “yep” he said laconically.

“Can I ask you a favour then?” said the Pom. We’ve just come up the Tanami from Alice Springs. I bought a boomerang down there. I did not get a chance to ask anyone to show me how to throw it.  And I’d like to get a few shots of a real indigenous person throwing a boomerang, to take home. Will you throw it for me?”

The old man looked dubious. “I don’t think so mate” he said.

“I’ll buy you a beer”.

“Alright then. Where’s the stick?”

The Englishman went out to the bus and returned in a few minutes with an enormous boomerang and a digital camera.

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The old man took the boomerang and walked out past me to the edge of the veranda.  He raised it and threw it towards the bus.  Then he turned round and walked straight back to his stool by the bar.  He finished his beer in a few swallows, in anticipation of the promised fresh one.  The Englishman had started clicking with his camera as soon as the old chap stepped on to the veranda.  He walked out, still clicking, following the boomerang with his lens as it veered left away from the bus, lifting and spinning through the air. Over the bus it flew, out over the road beyond and back around high over the trees beside the pub.  He ran around behind it, trying to track it as it flew.  Chasing it, he disappeared from my sight around the corner of the building.  I expected the projectile would land in the pool. I waited to hear the splash, but I was surprised at what happened next.

The boomerang came flying down the passage from the back of the hotel and skittered past the old man’s feet, coming to a halt under the pool table, not more than two metres from where he sat. The pool players went silent looking at it, and at the old man sitting calmly on his stool.   A few seconds later the tourist followed it, gushing with enthusiasm.

“That was incredible! That passage is only a few feet wide!” He took a few shots of the boomerang where it had landed and picked it up. Then he went over to the bar and bought the promised beer. “Could you do that again?” he asked. “For another beer?  I didn’t get a shot of it flying around the back of the hotel”.

The old man shook his head. “I only do that once a year” he said. “Come back next year.”

The tourist looked disappointed, and for a moment seemed about to try to persuade the old fellow, but it was plain the old man was resolute, so with a sigh of resignation the tourist accepted the decision and patted the old man on the shoulder.  “Thanks again. That was really amazing. Wait till I tell them about this back in Kettlewell.”

He went over and sat down with his fellow travellers.  He showed them the pictures he had taken on the screen of his camera.  There was a murmur of appreciation as he told the story of what they had missed.  A few of them raised their drinks to the old man, but he was not looking their way.

After a minute or so the old gentleman rolled himself another cigarette, picked up his beer, and came out onto the veranda to light the rolly.

“That was a great throw” I said.

“Bugger that” he said. “I was taken away when I was eight. I was raised at the mission.  That is the first time I’ve ever thrown a bloody boomerang”.