This month’s Teachers Federation meeting was at Goodooga, a drive and a bit up the Castlereagh Highway. We set off in the little bus, as the sun started to slip down the western sky. It’s flat out this part of the world. Acres of grass and saltbush with the occasional line of trees marking a creek line. Pools of water from winter’s rain still hugged the edges of the bitumen.
The road to Goodooga is quite possibly the bumpiest stretch of road in all of Christendom. Within the first couple of kays we were all suffering the early stages of jogger’s nipple.
Goodooga is not a big city. Its school is the usual rural hotch-potch of demountables clustered around the core of an older building, one that belongs to an era when fifty kids would sit in front of one teacher and be shouted at all day.
There’s something indefinably depressing about the labelling of modern school buildings, something that makes me feel like the autonomy and self-determination is slowly draining from my soul.
I understand the impulse, the desperation, to decorate these buildings but somehow that only magnifies the institutional aspect of the place.
Anyway, we had our meeting, in K Block. We all got pissed off about the government and what it’s doing to our education system, and we made resolutions about Stuff, and we changed the world in teeny-tiny ways. There was a restless energy in the room: people had travelled long distances to be here and to sit and listen to the Bad Things that were happening.
Some of this energy rubbed off on me but at the same time the energy-sapping environment of the school, the pathos I felt when I looked at the decorated demountables, the knowledge that the loathsome politicians in Sydney would not even be able to find Goodooga on a map let alone care about the kids who go to school there, it all left me feeling sad and troubled.
But then came dinner. The people at Goodooga school are wonderful. Whenever there’s a meeting at their school they put on a spread for the teachers who’ve trekked from Walgett and Collaranabri and the Ridge and elsewhere: wholesome food that fills you up and makes you feel good again. And the crowning glory of Goodooga school’s catering is its world famous fried scone.
The fried scone is incredibly versatile. I had one with my main meal; it’s kind of like a doughy Yorkshire pudding, perfect for scooping up gravy and curry goo.
It also works perfectly as a dessert. With a slather of margarine and a scoop of golden syrup you have something that kicks Adriano Zumbo’s arse from Goodooga to Bondi and back. It triggered lots of wistful talk about the Olden Days, when a tin of golden syrup was staple in every pantry across the Commonwealth. At our house we had a tin of syrup and a tin of thick, black treacle. Oh my God, how I miss treacle.
I left Goodooga restored, with the sense that there were still places in the world where Goodness and the Right Way prevailed. I bet Adrian Piccoli and Mike Baird have never eaten a fried scone. Forget resolutions and petitions: this is how we should change the world – make them travel down the bouncy road to Goodooga, sit in K Block and eat fried scones. THAT would be change. THAT would work.