Another Country Diary


For some time I've been storing up whatever the digital equivalent is of scraps of paper, with observations about the pleasures (and pains) of living outside of the city. I've decided to 'go public' with this for the discipline involved (just shut up, sit down and write!), and the creative pressure in getting at least one reasonable descriptive photograph to accompany it each day. Any record keeping diary is like fighting a rear-guard action. After all, the event is done, unchangeably over before you write. If you're lucky you might have caught some significant moment or image that you can take into the rest of your week. It doesn't always work but I figure it's a task worth trying.

Links to images and other pages are in blue, mouse-over pop-up comments are burgundy. After about a week of diary entries, they go to an archive.
9 May '02
Gravel truck, early morningI've been planning to stop and photograph the line of trucks that head in to the Bungendore Sands quarry just out of town. Some early mornings there are two or three waiting at the gate on the road, which is obviously locked overnight. I've seen drivers asleep in their cabs, at around 6.30am. Then there is a stream both ways along the narrow dirt road and they thunder back into Bungendore and split off in various directions.

The gravel and sands of Lake George are a big part of the economy of the area, and the trucks that carry them away, a significant part of the road traffic and wear and tear on the roads. The drivers are usually courteous and pull over going up and down the hills were you can pass, but on most of the road they push the speed limit like everyone else. I felt I had to complain about one driver who was terrorizing a old guy in a ute who had cut in in front of him. The truck tailgated him across the Molongolo river flat and into Queanbeyan. I rang the company and gave his registration. They were concerned but I never heard what happened.

It was a day of 'significant' moments, observed from the car. I was behind a white ute that was sitting on 100 coming into Lake Bathurst and I slowed at the 60 sign but the ute continued. As I rounded the corner I saw the road covered with white flying feathers and a splattered chook being picked up by a tall young man with a look of pain on his face. The chook looked like one of those joke rubber hens with an elongated neck, and the man crossed the road just in front of me, the early yellow sunlight on him against the dark road. I almost stopped, thinking that 'I should photograph this' but I couldn't see how I'd handle it. I drove out of town and sped up, and had to swerve to avoid running over a dead fox. It was young, obviously healthy and it lay with it's face toward me, eyes open, black tipped ears sharp in the light. Again I slowed but didn't stop. I came up behind the ute on the flat and overtook it. As I pulled alongside I slowed and looked hard at the driver. It was a middle aged woman, short, heavy, sitting low in the seat. She had a tough, country sun tanned pudgy face that didn't turn towards me but stared ahead as if drugged.

As I went through Goulburn there was a big fat kid with two soft bags, one of them the large, blue and pink striped, square woven plastic kind, with handles, that people traveling cheap always seem to use around the world. He lifted a long rucksack out of a Woolworths shopping trolley and gave the trolley a kick with his foot and sent it into the gutter where it tipped over, then crossed with his bags to the railway station.

Coming home I sat in traffic in the Eastern Distributor tunnel as everyone suddenly put their stop lights on. As far as I could see there was red, reflected off cars and chrome and the tiled walls. I juggled the camera and did manage to photograph that. 

The descent into hell will be like that I reckon. And when we get there it will be like a laundromat late at night, with fluorescent lights and the suffocating warm air with the smell of soap powder and loneliness.

10 May '02
CWA autumn poplarsThe local CWA meeting rooms are on a long block with a row of poplars on one boundary. I couldn't walk past today without wanting to record the fallen leaves and strips of low autumn sunshine. I've obviously looked at the building a number of times in different light but never photographed. It's a tiny low building with a monogrammed front gate and rose bushes along the metal fence. When I came back from Sydney last in the dark, the front porch was lit up and there were half a dozen cars outside. You can't see any windows from the front so there was this 'secret society meeting' feel about it. Not something you associate with a craft night at the CWA. I've added that picture to the photographs here.
11 May '02
Red WattlebirdWhen I opened our bedroom window curtain this morning it startled a wattlebird in the cypress tree. It was hanging upside down on a branch removing insects and spiders from between the clumps of small cones.

They're large honeyeaters and have the same long necks and beaks. I like their sculpted shape and the red wattles on their throat that gives them the name.  

However I can sometimes do without their strident call. When they're in mating mode (I presume) they start calling at dawn with an aggressive 'paah kack' sound. One bird sent me to distraction a long time ago when living in Melbourne. Calling from a plum tree tree just outside my bedroom, it resisted all attempts to chase it off. I tried throwing things, dancing around in the back yard at dawn, naked in my sneakers, throwing plums, letting off 'tom thumb' fire crackers, and I even taped its call and played the sound back to it, with the hi-fi speakers balanced on the window ledge all night just to be ready. I can't remember who got tired of it first. The neighbours probably, around here they're not a problem.
15 May '02
I was out early at Mirramu to drop off a CD of the images I made of the Weereewa dance event that I photographed weeks back (see this entry). Mirramu is Elizabeth Cameron Dalman's dance/arts community and it is along the Lake Road that runs beside what are now dry grassed flats that must have been under water at some time. I remember driving along the road five years ago when we arrived and it was marshy and wet.

The Lake Road is really the only access we have to get near Lake George, other than to approach the other end via the Federal Highway. When we first came the water was nearly up to the edges of the highway, and it has receded over a few dry years and the lake bed is paddocks for grazing animals now. Lake Road is a dirt road that gets very dusty in summer, passes a few houses with cattle grids to keep their stock in, and I've never been to the end where it becomes private property. Lake George has a fabulous history both aboriginal and to white settlers. It is supposed to be a wild and dangerous place for boating because of the wide shallow surface that pushes up waves in high winds. There have been drownings and stories of failed attempts to commercialise it, even introducing a ferry and building a guesthouse that were left high and dry when it dried up for years.

It's one of the places I'd like to explore more (and of course will tell of it here).   

Fred Harden
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