Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary


Links to images and other pages are in blue. These entries are broken up into weeks, or when the page gets too image heavy. 
26 October -2 November.
More Songs about Buildings and Food Pt.1
Let me know when  it's safe to watch another movie in-flight. Six monitors in front of me, two of them flat screens on the bulkheads, all with different colour casts and none of them showing a good picture. Oh well, reading makes the time pass just as well. I started the new Umberto Eco Baudalino, and Jan raced through Tim Winton's Dirt Music so we swapped. Both were appropriate for the journey. What Journey you (didn't) ask?

A week in Western Australia visiting friends in Kalgoorlie and then driving to the coast and around to Margaret River. Since I've been back I've been trying to find time to write all this down, so I'm going to put up all the images, some quick comments and then go back with more detail as I get time. It's a bit away from the 'Country Diary' experience, but it's me, and fits that 1978 Talking Heads album title just fine.

All Travelers Motel, PerthOut of the airport into Perth heat. Five minutes traveling in the hire car and we discovered the All Travelers Motel, of such pre-fab Californian beauty that it had to be recorded. It's a set built for Wim Wenders or perhaps a setting for some modern horror movie. From the power cables threaded through the palm trees and cactus I'm afeared that they have fairy lights in them at night. Like Bill Bryson I have an attraction to strange roadside motels. I may have to revisit this one. (Image 700pixels wide. 120k)

Fremantle. Be careful how you say it, the locals don't like you saying Free-mantle, it's Frr-mantle. No matter how we said it, we didn't get to stay there. We arrived on a Food and Wine Festival weekend, streets were closed off, no accommodation available anywhere, so we decided to explore a bit and move on.

The old multistory buildings and the very European narrow streets were a contrast to the new tackier tourist wharf area (we did have a good fish and chips meal there however). It's a place to stay and explore. That's what happens on road journeys with a time schedule. You have to suck the essence from a place and move on. I use images to hold some of that. 

You get to Kalgoorlie by following the pipeline. It stays on your left hand side and along with the railway line and the road, it hardly bends in the whole length of it. (You get anxious when it crosses briefly or you lose sight for a while.)

Jan knew more about the history and significance of the pipeline and its politics then I did, because of her research for the Centenary of Federation advertising. All I knew was from my school days. That it  allowed the mines at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie to be opened on a large scale and even today it supplies the whole of the town's water. Which is something of a sore point to Perth people who don't have enough water for their own growth. Next year is the 100th anniversary of its construction so I'm sure we'll all hear more about it.

On the tourist banners on the road into Northam, amongst the 'Avon Valley - home of recreational aerial sports' images, was one of the pipeline. It was not a very surprising attraction after having watched the pipe for the last 100k. but hey, accentuate your positives. 

Northam was gazetted as a town in 1833 and was a crossing point on the Avon river. It became a departure point for the new goldfields and when it was chosen to be the rail hub in 1891, grew to be the biggest inland town in West Australia. I'm an expert now on the town after just a few web searches, Avon.net and Walkabout provided the following information about the town which has the most lovely Victorian period street buildings of any country town I can remember. The visit became increasingly strange however as we drove around.

Read on, but also have a look at some of the larger images of Northam here
(Popup window 8 images 350 pixels wide 320k total)

We stopped in a very country motel on the edge of town, a room that looked over a few houses and then on to paddocks with large round haybales. It was clean and quiet, but you knew that you weren't their regular customer when the sign above the reception desk said, 'We do not split bills'. We dropped our bags and went exploring.

The presence of an aboriginal community was suggested by the ATSIC, Legal Aid and other support agency's buildings we passed, but other than a young aboriginal girl driving a car, and a few older women shepherding a group of kids across the road, this was to the tourist, a white town (with a big migrant community I later guessed.)

Later I found that Northam was the site of a racist scandal in 1933 when the town's entire Aboriginal population 'were rounded up by police and dumped in the Moore River Settlement. The Northam Shire Council said they had scabies and were a health risk.' 

In a country of black swans this white one on a nature strip in a suburban street looked like a garden ornament. Until it moved. There's a notice beside the river that tells how the white swans were introduced to Northam in the 1900s. It appears that the Avon River in Northam is the only place in Australia where the birds have found a natural breeding ground. The swans are fed each day by locals. 
We drove out past the edge of town, past a few humpy's and aboriginals sleeping in the dust of a council yard. The sunset light was getting more intense and then we came to the large cemetery, stretched over a large area of a hill side. It had a one way U-shaped access road that lead me past increasingly photogenic tombstones glowing blue in the fading light. 

Australian author Katharine Susannah Prichard who lived in the town, tells the story of when her husband, Captain Hugo Throssell, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, arrived home from the First World War in 1915 to a hero's welcome. 

On that dark night, speaking in the street to the crowd which had assembled, [he] described with deep feeling the horror and misery of war, and his sorrow that so many fine men (some of whom had been boys with him in Northam) would not be coming home to their wives and families. It was a dramatic moment when he announced that as a result of the suffering he had seen, 'the war has made me a socialist'.'

Katharine Susannah Pritchard from her novel Child of the Hurricane. Hugo Throssell later committed suicide in Russia. 

I tossed a mental coin and chose the bigger of the town's Chinese restaurants for dinner. There were a group of young girls out front, all dressed up and sexy in an innocent small town way. They were grouped together in the street lights, just roaming the foot path outside the restaurant in the warm air. When we went inside we found that it was one of those girls birthday. There was a long table of adults winding down from her party. As we ate we tried to pick who were the parents, uncles, and aunts. We watched as a young mum with the only child at the party, didn't even try to hide her pride as the new baby was passed around, eclipsing the attention on her sister whose birthday it was. 
We were joined at our table by a nun. Slightly hunchbacked, with a round stomach and a big smile, she made some pleasantries then confided that each Saturday night she came to the restaurant, said hello to the kitchen staff and did a round of the tables chatting to the customers. She then was given some take-away which she took across the road to share with some 'nice friends in the deli'. She wasn't in a hurry, had stopped for a slice of birthday cake, but I followed her to the door to ask if I could take her picture. She thanked me.
Traveling back down the near empty street to the motel, the glow of the sign for Cadd's men and women's clothing store washed out onto the roadway. From the street level you couldn't see the faces of the mannequins. As you'll see from the few larger photos, the window models are as otherworldly beautiful as the neon.

Then lying in the warm hotel room with the curtains and sliding window  open to let in air, listening to dogs in a backyard barking nearby, sleeping that night was very disturbed. Our body clocks were out of whack. We were awake and left early, to miss driving in the heat of the day, and headed to Kalgoorlie.

  Pt.2 Kalgoorlie
Pt.3 Esperance - Denmark
,  
Pt.4 Margaret River
Fred Harden  
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