Before this post kicks off, I just wanted to proudly point out that it’s number…
..for me on TGTW!
Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me on this highly erratic journey, and especially to Kate, my original and greatest fan, who’s kept me hitting “PUBLISH” even when I’ve been perilously close to throwing in the towel and doing something useful with my time. Cheers, and here’s to the next 300…
* * * * *
I flopped out of the car onto the grass and lay there with my head cradled in my arm and my eyes closed, opening them only to raise my head a few inches and greet Graham, part-owner of the property and its magnificently soothing grass. I listened as Alex embraced his brother and filled him in on my ailment — “A touch of car sickness, I’m afraid” — while I lay there luxuriating in the shady coolness and the levelness and especially the motionlessness. It seemed unlikely I would ever stand upright again, let alone walk. Getting back to Brisbane was going to be problematic.
We’d driven south for three hours, not counting a stop in Beaudesert for supplies, and another at the side of the Mt Lindesay Highway to wander the banks of a very pleasant stream:
It was when we resumed driving…
..and the road began a tortuous climb up and over the McPherson Range that the car sickness escalated from mild discomfort to full-blown nausea; for half an hour I leaned my head against the window, eyes shut, wanting to die, grunting occasionally out of obligation to Alex, who could happily deliver a very comprehensive tour commentary to a corpse.
Even turning onto the property at last, a sprawling expanse of hilly, eucalyptus-forested backcountry shared by two other distantly spaced households, had brought no relief, and I barely cracked an eyelid as Alex pointed out the other homes while we bounced and lurched up a rough dirt track and shuddered to a stop at the end — quite literally — of the road.
At last I staggered upright. I felt mildly guilty about my very unsociable entrance, but mostly it was Alex’s offer of a freshly mixed Moscow mule that drew me from the grass. Alas, I was immediately swooped by a grey butcher bird that shot from 12 o’clock directly at my head; I yelped and ducked, exclaiming “A freakin’ bird just attacked me!”
“Oh, don’t worry about him, he just thought you wanted to feed him.” Turned out he was indeed one of the household…
..and pretty soon I was seated at a picnic table, eyeballs intact, in a roofed outdoor area serving as living/dining room, draining a restorative vodka-based elixir, feeling much better, while Alex placated my feathered attacker:
Bec, Graham’s partner, got home from a day of spraying lantana, a noxious, shrubby weed that has smothered untold millions of acres of the Australian bush; they have made major inroads in controlling the creeping menace on their very large property. With the nausea dissipating, I began to enjoy my surroundings, and what would be the first of several picnic-table discussions began as the sun sank beyond the ridges:
After my second mule I wasn’t remotely surprised when a walking mattress appeared and headed to the containers that would be our
cells guest rooms:
Graham and Bec are shipping-container aficionados: they already incorporate a couple into their human habitat, not far from the small northern New South Wales town of Kyogle (“Kai-OH-gul”) and are embarking on the construction of a larger, more elaborate and more “permanent” dwelling, essentially a grouping of seven joined containers clustered under a large single roof.
Alex and I would get our own taste of container living that very night…
..in what would be, depending on your point of view, either the most primitive of guest accommodation, or camping comfort of a luxurious standard way beyond what I’m used to:
Shipping containers were an ongoing aggravation for me during my two years in Korea. I lived in one of the more unsophisticated corners of the country, and an already severely compromised natural and human environment was never going to be enhanced by the addition of hulking rusted-metal boxes dumped in the most inappropriate of sites. There were containers everywhere — several had been dumped on my own street — functioning as storage spaces, meeting places, offices, dwellings or perhaps all of these at once.
I’ll say this about the Koreans: they’re a pragmatic people. Wherever I wandered, function took precedence over aesthetics, and I often wondered — as I wandered — whether anyone in the country took the slightest interest in the visual impact of their front yard, garden, farm, river bank or roadside.
There was seldom any attempt to hide them or at least make them fit into their surrounds, to paint or decorate them, to enhance them or soften those harsh, sharp corners. Swathes of my once-rural surrounds were being bulldozed into highways and ever-advancing apartment-tower suburbs; no doubt for poor farmers squeezed into apartments, with prized community allotments replacing farms, containers were cheap, durable options. Maybe the war had some role in the country’s love affair with durable, functional, just-about-bullet-proof boxes:
But this was no time for flashbacks — pour me another mule, I’ve got the jitters. Graham set up tents (with mattresses) for us in our shiny, elegant and completely rust-free metal boxes, gave us the tour of our freshly dug latrine (I’ll spare you a photo — suffice to say it was magnificent), and we were just settling into a cosy backcountry groove…
..when Graham let out a tremendous holler, leapt into their little Suzuki Sierra 4-wheel drive, and went screaming down the track towards something exciting…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote