Friday, January 14, 2005

Sunday December 19 1971. 

I was wrong. Widgiemooltha was from Thursday's leg of the journey, not yesterday's. In between Norseman and Kalgoorlie.


It wasn't a blocked fuel line after all. It was just the battery. The mechanic had been charging it overnight but it was dead so he fitted a brand new one. Soon we left and Merredin was dust in the rear view mirror.

All we had to do was follow the concrete pipeline all the way to Perth. Easy.

It was another hot day, close to the century. The countryside paled from the strident red that our eyes had seen too much of, to a soft, rich yellow. We had passed from harsh desert through mining country and now we entered the West Australian wheatbelt. We rode a ribbon-smooth road through rolling fields of swaying golden heads, just like north out of Adelaide almost a week ago.

A week? It feels like a month. A week burned into my memory, and yet I've lived what feels like a billion anonymous weeks since, in many of which nothing remotely exciting happened.

I'm falling asleep when suddenly, bump. Flat tyre. We pulled to the side of the road and groaned to a stop. Rear tyre, passenger side. The tyre had weathered hundreds of miles of unmade roads, only to give up on perfectly smooth tarmac.

Uncle unhitched the caravan and we helped him unload the entire contents of the station wagon's luggage compartment. 'Cos that's where the spare is, see? Under all that luggage. We had cases and boxes out on the side of the road, cans of water, all the usual stuff, then uncle hauled the spare out, bounced it onto the ground, trundled it over adjacent to the flat. Then he jacked the car up after first loosening the nuts (always loosen the nuts first - straining to release them when the car is jacked is DANGEROUS), changed the wheel, put the flat back in its place. Then we repacked the car. (Amazingly, everything fitted. Usually, when you repack, something doesn't fit in. It's Murphy's Law of repacking.)

We set off again, reaching Northam by munchtime (I just mistyped - quite accidentally - lunchtime but I quite like the resulting error so I'm leaving it) at which town we parked under a tree by the side of the Avon river where I took several black and white photographs of some swans. In one of them, a swan is rearing its head back, its eyes narrowed and its beak slightly open as if to attack me. Geese can be quite fierce. I can't remember if it attacked me but the photograph is nice.

I love lunchtime. Eat food then take a walk around. Same every day.

I was drowsy again during the afternoon, hummed into sleep by the tyres singing on the smooth road. Dreaming joyful teenager dreams of life and everything in the future. When you're a teenager, everything is exciting and in the future. One day it changes. Not for a long time, but it does.

Suddenly, Perth.

Shimmering in the distant haze. Just lying there like a lost diamond. Sparkling in the mid-summer sun on a golden Sunday afternoon. Beyond it, the blue Indian Ocean. Demure, silent, endless and as impossible as a mirage. But it was real.

We had crossed Australia and it felt good.


On my cousin's cassette player:

i bet your mama was a tent show queen
and all her girlfriends were sweet sixteen
i'm no school boy but I know what I like
you should have heard them just around midnight

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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