Opal Queen

It’s the last weekend in July. Can that even be possible? If it is indeed true then the middle of next week will be August. Glaaarrrgh!

But if it IS the last weekend in July, then that would explain the stupidly bigly number of cars on Morilla Street, and the depleted shelves at Khan’s, and the fact that Walgett Shire Council sent up a road crew to kick some dirt around the busted pavement edges and roadsides.

Yes! It’s Opal Festival time! And that of course means … Opal Queen!

I didn’t make it last year due to circumstances that I can’t remember. Maybe I just didn’t want to go. But this year I was determined to go! Yes! Exclamation marks!!!

Friday night was the annual gala dinner of the appallingly acronymed IOJDAA, which stands for something to do with opals. It was $100 a ticket and themed “Great Gatsby” so I went to the pub instead, which was a good move as I won a meat tray in the raffles and swapped it for beer tokens. I knew from that moment on that this was going to be a most excellent weekend.

Saturday was a hive of activity. The local junior rugby league team, the Tigers, were playing Saint George, so the area around Spider Brown Oval was already choked. Add a few dozen market stalls and you have instant bedlam.

City folk will of course scoff at this definition of congestion but it’s all relative. There were lots of elderly drivers in hats struggling to navigate the side streets; kids ran – unfettered and willy-nilly – between moving cars; people parked at alarming angles wherever they felt like. But once inside the area marked off for stalls a kind of calm resumed, the calm of familiarity that you feel when you walk around these sorts of things. There was jam and chutney and balsamic vinegar.

There was salami.

There were olde timey Aussie bush signs. I really did fancy the one about pigging. Should I go back and get it?

These gentlemen want a minning truck. I wasn’t sure if it was a typo or if “minning” is a thing.

I went to Urban Dictionary and found out that it most definitely is a thing:

A foriegner, who acts very gay to another man, then blaming his gay actions on the “fact” that’s how they act in their home country.

(foriegner grabs a guy’s butt suggestively)

Minning Victim: “Hey man! What’s with that?!?”

Minner: “huh huh, that’s how they do it in Korea!”

Bystander: “Man, that guy is Minning all over the place.”

I live, I learn.

Earlier this year I blogged about drinking in the Pub in the Club, a strange other-worldly venue nestled within the Bowlo. This cavernous place only comes to life once a year, and this is its weekend to shine. The interior was packed with opal sellers.

They’re not just Lightning Ridge opal sellers of course; some have come from White Cliffs, Coober Pedy, Queensland – all over.

But the best location in the house is always reserved for one very, very important organisation: the Lightning Ridge Historical Society. Yet again the stall was held together by a team of volunteers led by the redoubtable, the indomitable Barb! Barb is out of hospital having had joint replacement surgery, and only just off her sticks, and yet there she is, selling raffle tickets, calling out to old-timers and locals, answering dozens of questions to baffled tourists. What a woman!

If there are opal sellers then there are also sure to be opal buyers. These guys rock into town every now and then, rent a room at the pub or the motel, and stick out their shingle.

It all seems a bit dubious but people who know about this stuff assure me that it’s legit. I wouldn’t like to be the one driving around these outback roads, alone, with a car full of cash and opals though. I bet they can tell some stories.

All this talk of cash and opals reminds me to go back to the story. Every second year the IJODOAJA, or whatever it’s called, holds a competition for the best opal jewellery design. The entries were displayed in the upstairs function room at the Bowlo but, due to photography restrictions, I can’t show you any of them. You’ll have to trust me that they were very, very good. As was the humungous blue opal necklace that Serena Williams once wore. Jeepers.

I wandered back outside for a bit to eat. The sausage sizzle trailer run by the Men’s Shed was out of sausages but I did get a magnificent steak and onion sanger. The number of food stalls was a bit down this year, which might explain the extra-long queue for the curly, battered spuds on a stick. It felt like pure greed to get one straight after a steak sandwich, but blow me down I think I’ll go back Sunday for a “mad feed” (as the kids say) of battery potatoey goodness.

After that it was home to admire my booty: caramelised strawberry balsamic vinegar; lemon, lime and ginger marmalade; wild boar salami; a tin of Kiwi Dave’s leather balsam; and a cutting board decorated by supa-talented Ridge art teacher Priscilla Martinez. All in all, not a bad morning. And still time for a nanna nap before the Big Night.

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Well, that was satisfying. I never used to be a napper but now that I’m older than Methuselah I rather enjoy an afternoon lied down. Where was I? Yes! Opal Queen!

I headed into town around half seven. On my way I passed the community church, which had this sign out the front. Is it just me or does that not sound like the kind of club you want to join?

I bumped into E in the car park. E organises the primary school’s dance troupe, which apparently kicks off the show every year. This year they did Rock Around The Clock. It was exceedingly very cute.

I had no idea what was going to happen, but luckily there were plenty of people who knew the drill. It goes like this: arrive on time and sit around for ages waiting for something to happen; little kids do dance (see above); Opal Queen parade; winner announced; band comes on and everyone gets drunk and the whole thing gets loose and shapeless.

That sounded like a plan I could work with. The whole premise of women parading themselves for group approval sounds a bit medieval and there’s a time in my life (say, the first fifty years) when I would have moaned on about it being as bad as living in a Taliban caliphate or something, but from the lofty vantage point of late middle age I can just do a little nod and go, “Yeah, Opal Queen. I’m cool with that.”

There were ten entrants in total. Each of them fills out a form saying what they do in the community but, thankfully, they don’t have to read this out or anything. One by one they’re escorted across the dancefloor, do a wee curtsy to the judges (John and Leanne: opal traders from Winton), then up onto the stage. No swimsuits, no declarations of wishing for world peace, no Donald Trump. All in all, very tasteful.

In true Ridge style the entire event was devoid of pretension. As the hopefuls cruised past the judges the MC read out snippets of backstory: “K enjoys cooking and helping her dad fix his mining equipment” and “When she’s not working, T relaxes by pig hunting” were two that stuck in my mind.

L was there, looking extremely dapper. He showed me how to fill in my People’s Choice card, but I must have done it wrong because someone else won. Or maybe more than one people gets to vote?

When the winner was announced a throne was brought onto the stage. I had a sudden and cold clammy feeling at the back of my knees. I knew that throne!

I may even have sat in it!

That night at the Pub in the Club: it all came rushing at me like a Nam flashback.

Luckily L bought me two vodkas (two because he thought I’d drink one too quickly and it saves queuing). I bolted one for medicinal purposes and nursed the other back to my seat. (The ordinary one, not the throne.)

The band came on; they were called Crawfish Soup. Or Stew. They were a three-piece and the bassist had a six-string. I know it’s in the job description for bass players to look bored and disengaged but he looked so SO bored that I thought he might actually fall face-forward at any moment. They were ok, and I had a few dances with J. Here’s a thing (more learning time). I have an English friend whose sister came to Australia. She likes swing dancing and she pointed out that in Australia dancers twirl in the opposite direction to northern hemisphere swing dancers. I’d kind of doubted this but when J and I were twirling we found out that it was actually true! It had nothing to do with the medicinal vodka.

Here’s another thing I learnt.: there is a product called “finishing spray”. After you’ve put your makeup on you spray it on your face to “finish” everything off. I guess it’s like a resin or varnish, but maybe not as harmful. Maybe. There is also something called “volume powder” which you put on your head if you want to get “effortless ‘French Girl‘ hair”. I’ve never had effortless French girl hair and, sadly, never will, but I do like the idea of volume powder. And effortless French girls.

And yet another thing! (All this learning!) There is a phenomenon called “straw lips”. That might not be the actual name for it, but it describes the wrinkles that ladies get on the part of their face between their top lip and their nose and it comes from drinking drinks from straws. Or smoking. Or both. M claimed it was actually “a thing” and challenged me to Google it. I did. M: I could not find it. I photographed my lips to see if I had this condition but we were outside in the smokers’ area where it’s dark so I couldn’t tell. What do you think?

It was indeed getting very loose and shapeless by this point. I was at the bar with L when the newly crowned opal queen popped by. L insisted that I have my photograph taken with her. I was very reluctant, possibly even more reluctant than she was, but L is quite formidable and, when he has his mind set on something, it happens.

He also insisted that I include this picture, his favourite, “the one where she’s laughing and you have this really dumb blank expression”.

He also demanded executive producer credits. Blimey.

I’m not sure what time it all finished up. Someone said that someone said there was a stoush in the ladies toilets, which is par for the course at this kind of affair. I left the young folk to it and toddled off down the Three Mile for an early night. I have a job of work to do tomorrow. Those curly battered spuds on sticks won’t eat themselves.

 

Executive producer: Mr Leon Allen

 

PS: What is it all for? The Opal Queen, and Opal Festival, raises funds for the Australian National Opal Centre. To find out more, visit their website.

Food Safari 11: Bruno’s

When Fancy Folk from Out Of Town land in the Ridge, they will often ask their host: “Where can one dine out in style?” If your guests are on a budget there’s the Bowlo, and if they’re looking for something with a little more atmosphere there’s the bistro at the pub. But if you really want to roll out the red carpet there’s only one place to go: Bruno’s. (Possessive apostrophe optional.)

The first time I came to Bruno’s I was deeply tickled to receive, with my menu, a drinks list. But it wasn’t called a “drinks list”, it was called the “alcohol menu”. It makes me smile every time I see it. When the waitress comes to take my order I’m always tempted to say, “Don’t think I’ll bother with solids tonight. I might just work my way through the alcohol menu, thank you.”

Bruno’s is nicely presented. It has a little chained off area that leads into a tobacconist, but other than that it’s like any Italian restaurant: a bit loud and clattery, a bit heavy on the Dino and Sinatra. But that’s ok, it’s what you expect and it’s what you get. Nobody wants nasty surprises in their Italian.

The fancy folks from out of town in this occasion were children’s book illustrator Craig Smith, and publisher / artist Erica Wagner. Of course, if you’re going to take an illustrator to a restaurant with paper tablecloths, only one thing is going to happen.

I mean, come on. I don’t start writing blogs on the tablecloth!

I was taking this photo when I had one of those Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moments. It’s a food safari! And I’d been enjoying myself, and the food, so much that I’d forgotten to take pictures of it. Here’s the leftovers of what was a pasta dish with prawns and a creamyish tomato-y sauce called, I think (yes, it’s all a bit vague) penne monte mare, or something like that. Does that sound right? It was good!

I think we all drank a bit too much, or maybe that was just me. But at least I didn’t go tearing up the tablecloths.

Apart from Wednesdays at the Bowlo I never ever go out to eat in the Ridge. And yet, two nights later, I was back at Bruno’s. Unprecedented! The fancy folks included another illustrator and yet this one showed great restraint and did not draw on anything.

We started off with the pizza base with cheese on it, and fortunately Trevor reminded me to take a picture. We then had more pizzas – a supremo and a diavolo – and a Greek salad but I forgot to take pictures of those. They were good too.

However! What did I say about not wanting any nasty surprises? My fancy out-of-town friend was perplexed when he went to add seasoning to his salad. In my world, and his, there’s an unspoken agreement between people who go to restaurants and cafes, and people who run them: salt comes out of a pot with one hole in it, and pepper comes out of the pot with lots of holes in it. This situation, the one pictured below, caused great consternation and a distressingly large amount of discussion. It was like turning on a tap expecting cold water to come out but getting hot custard. Pepper pot with ONE hole? Salt with LOTS OF HOLES and a label? Woah! Just not right, Bruno’s!

Thankfully we regained our equilibrium. Steve got the afogato, with kaluah. It was already late at night and I warned him against it but he claimed to know what he was doing. He was wrong and was awake for a long time. But the afogato was very, very nice indeed (I had a bit).

Mmmm.

BTW, here’s a picture of Trevor struggling to understand which pot to shake over his salad. Can you see how perplexed he is?

On Sunday morning we went to Morilla’s, the cafe next door to Lost Sea Opals. This deserves a food safari of its own, but who can be bothered. Anyway, it was all very good (I know I’ve described the food in both places as “nice” and “good” which is massively lame but I’m typing this late Sunday arvo during the Tigers – Eels game and I’m not paying as much attention to my writing as I should do. Bite me.)

The point is this: at Morilla’s they have salt pots with ONE hole and pepper pots with THREE. Look at the picture of Trevor, Bruno’s: he is now content and the social contract between customer and cafe owner has been restored.

But, pepper/salt dissonance apart, Bruno’s is a classic country town Italian restaurant. Great service, lovely food, stereotypical soundtrack, tearable tablecloths and a good atmosphere. Bellissimo!

Colly back road soundscape

There are two ways to get from the Ridge to Collarenebri. The first, and the one that most people use, is to head south on the Castlereagh Highway towards Walgett, then turn east. It’s bitumen all the way and is safe and is exceptionally dull.

The other is to head out past the bore baths. This way is much shorter, but is unmade and gravelly and corrugated. This was the way I took on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, on an afternoon when the sky was smeared with white and grey clouds and there was a stillness and silence, the type of which you only get these days on public holidays in small towns.

It’s left for Angledool and right for Colly. I swung the Subaru’s wheel and headed along chocolate-brown dirt. Dead bandaarr ‘grey kangaroos’ littered the roadside. In all the drive to and from Colly I saw only four vehicles, one of which was towing a hopper and travelling at about forty kays per hour, and so was hardly a hazard to wildlife. You’d have to be an exceptionally unlucky or stupid bandaarr to hit someone’s bull bar on this road. Yet there they lay, pungent, clouds of flies swarming around them in a display of frantic energy.

The soil changed from the deep chocolatey brown to a pale dun colour. The vegetation changed. A geologist would be able to tell me what was happening but, while I was aware of the changes around me, I couldn’t explain them. This lack of understanding of my environment has always frustrated me. But, like my ignorance of the night sky (in spite of dozens of attempts to remember the names of stars and constellations), I’ve come to accept that I’ll die without ever mastering this corner of human knowledge.

I did notice that the number and height of the trees increased. This one had a huge mistletoe growing on it.

I have a friend who did his Phd on mistletoe. Seven years studying mistletoe. This friend is a good man whom I admire deeply. He knows about geology and the night sky, as well as chaos theory and international finance and the US criminal justice system. I don’t feel intimidated by him and his immense wisdom, or inadequate in his company; quite the contrary, after talking to him I always feel like a better person. And I always think of him when I see mistletoe.

I headed through areas where I’m guessing there were ephemeral waterways or dried out creeks. The sun made occasional appearances in awkward places and so I swung the shade thing above the car’s windscreen this way and that to shade my eyes. Out east they’ve been getting day after day of rain but we’ve had none of it. Last week it was close to freezing at night but with this cloud cover it’s been much milder.

There were cactuses dotted here, there and everywhere. I’ve never liked cactuses, and seeing them in the Australian bush makes me like them even less.

There’s a horrible one called Hudson Pear, which is on the register of Weeds of National Significance. Some bright spark thought that this would make an excellent garden plant for the arid zone but now it’s the bane of farmers’ and rangers’ lives.

At Dunumbral Station there was also a sign up for African Boxthorn, another WoNS.

Just past the entrance to Dunumbral I stopped next to what I think might be a large body of water, certainly much bigger than a dam. I huge stand of rushes or reeds lined its banks. I paused for a while and listened to the Earth. In the 1960s a musicologist called Murray Schafer invented the term ‘soundscape’ to describe the relationship between humans and our acoustic environment. Schafer believed that we are formed by these sounds: wind in grass or trees, birdsong, water on rocks or sand. In Australia some people have tried to use Schafer’s theory to better understand Indigenous spiritual connections to country, but this seems to be something eternally lost in translation or relegated to blanket terms such as “songline” or “dreaming”.

I tried to hear the breeze in the reeds, but there wasn’t enough wind, or maybe they were too far away, or maybe I didn’t have the correct listening ears.

I drove on further. Sheep lumbered across the road beneath the weight of their fleeces. When I stopped the car they too stopped and stared dully back at me.

At the junction to Willis Road I paused to look back and was delighted to see the old sign.

It was barely legible and was leaning precariously, beginning its gradual descent back into the earth.

I’m generally a sedate driver. I pick up speeding tickets every now and again. The Wife fondly and regularly reminds of the time I didn’t slow down to 80 kays when passing some godforsaken wheat silo in outback South Australia. “You’re in an 80 zone,” she remarked. I said, “Pfft. That’s only a guideline.” There was a stack of brown envelopes waiting for me when we got back from our holiday, fines and double de-merits, and the words “That’s only a guideline” have gone into family folklore.

So I was toddling along at a steady 80 when this white Commodore flew past at about one-ten. I pursed my lips like an old codger and silently admonished these young men bustling around the world at high speed. As I’m sure they pursed their lips at me, driving on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, wearing my hat inside the car, probably leaning a bit over the steering wheel like Elmer Fudd.

It was disappointing to hit the bitumen again, about ten kays outside Colly. I’m guessing this is the point where everyone speeds up because the bandaarr kill rate escalated sharply. There are three in this picture, within about 20 metres of one another, and I counted 12 in the first kilometre.

Collarenbri has a waste facility and an offal pit. It’s not often you see one of those any more. I’m wishing now that I’d gone down and had a look, but maybe it’s best to keep some things in reserve for next time.

There was another sign, this one asking trucks to drop their dust. How do they do that? Can a truck shake itself like a dog? Or do they go really, really fast then suddenly slam the brakes on? Or do the drivers get out with little dust pans and brushes?

I did a lap of Colly but didn’t get out of the car. In fact, I didn’t even stop. I’ve been here before and, frankly, there was bugger all worth looking at, especially on a Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Instead I swung the car round and headed down the short strip of bitumen until it turned to dirt again, past the crumbling Willis Road turn off and the bank of reeds by Dunumbral Station and the endless bloated bandaarr under their clouds of flies.

As I neared the Ridge, maybe 25 kays outside, the clouds parted and then closed again across the early afternoon sky.

I pulled over and turned the engine off. I could hear the occasional calls of birds whose names and identities I do not know. I heard the car tick and ping as the engine cooled. I heard the dust that I had stirred as it settled back into the chocolate-brown soil of the unpaved road.

The air sounded like it had mass or weight, like I could hold it in my hand, like the sound of public holiday in a small town.

I AM THE TRAIN

As Johnny Nash so eloquently sang, “There are more questions than answers”. This sign, which appeared on a telegraph pole outside Khan’s the other week, certainly got me asking a few.

 

I have, as requested, checked the internet. In vain. What do the Pope and Ronnie Biggs have in common (other than, apparently, being the same person)? The implanting of what?

And what kind of train are you, Lord? Diesel? Steam locomotive? Light rail?

Please come back with another sign and answer these perplexing questions!

[Photo courtesy D. Barclay.]

Angledool

Recently, as part of a school professional development day, we staff were ferried around nearby parts of the Ridge to look at scar trees and old homesteads and sites of cultural significance for Yuwaalaraay people. I enjoyed the whole day, but the place I immediately felt the need to return to was Angledool. This Queen’s Birthday Monday was the perfect opportunity.

It’s not far from the Ridge, less than an hour up the Castlereagh Highway, but I elected to do a loop and head there via the back road. I set off down past the bore baths just after lunch. The sun was warm through the windscreen. Just as I was about to leave the bitumen a livestock truck headed towards me, churning up dust and gravel. As it passed me I kind of knew I’d been marked and, sure enough, on Tuesday a kid at school says, “Headed out to Colly on the weekend, sir?” I managed a small moment of satisfaction when I shook my head. “Not me, mate.” Pause. “I was off to Angledool.”

The bore baths road (which actually has a proper name: Shermans Way) hits a T junction: turn right for Collarenebri; turn left for Angledool. Then it’s across the first of many cattlegrids, and the first of many signs to watch out for cows and sheeps.

Outback roads are irresistibly photographable: all that sky and horizon and the sense of a track heading to who knows where.

The patch of country immediately north-east of the Ridge, through which this road cuts, is vast and flat and open. Some of the black soil was ploughed for crops but mostly it was livestock country; nibbled short by sheep or grazed by beef cattle.

The kill rate was moderate, less than the Colly road. I guess fewer cars pass this way, given that it’s just as easy to get to Angledool via the blacktop.

This little piggy wasn’t so lucky. Its carcass was shit-stained by the crows and magpies that had paused to strut across its back before making lazy pecks at its eyes and tongue.

I’m not Patricia Cornwell and I’ve never been to the Body Farm but the wallaby next to the pig looked to have been taken out at almost exactly the time. Must have been one heck of a bump for whoever was driving.

Apart from the great outback highway-and-horizon shot, the must-snap is the bullet-riddled road sign. I’ve seen a few over the years but this was a particularly good example, more like a piece of Belgian lace realised in metal. More holes than sign.

The vegetation thickened as I neared the Narran River. The trees became taller and packed in more closely. The river itself is a murky affair at this time of year, with barely any movement.

I wandered into the damp cool beneath the Yaranbah Bridge. The concrete stanchions were decorated by martens’ nests, many of which had fallen away from years and years of being built upon and built upon until gravity took its course.

I looked back as I crossed the bridge and was glad I did, as I got to see this beautiful still life. The dingo carcass was strapped with fencing wire to the sign post. It was hard and desiccated and yet to start falling apart.

But then it was on to Angledool proper. The building that had caught my eye on that cultural awareness day was the School of the Arts. This utterly gorgeous building dates back to Angledool’s heyday, when it’s population peaked at several thousand people.

I was taking this photo when I felt a car slow down behind me. Yup, been spotted again.

This time it was M, who works at the school and drives down each day from Angledool. She told me about this magnificent building. It’s built of rammed earth (I think, it may have been mud bricks but I’m pretty certain it was rammed earth). The cracks, M tells me, are due to the digging of bigibila, the echidnas that roam the area.

It’s empty at the moment but I understand that there are plans to reinvigorate the place. Maybe it could become a School of the Arts again: someone is at least trying!

The iron work was wonderful: a huge, cavernous roof that arced above the hall. What things had happened here? Celebrations, birthdays, weddings, love blossoming, fights happening, all the usual rum affairs of human beings jammed into a tiny patch of dirt in the middle of a vast, empty, open space.

I was intrigued by small details. What were these wall spaces used for? Was there a kitchen next to the hall, and these were the serving hatches?

After the hall I mooched a wee way down the road to All Saints Church. You can just make it out in the picture, down the way a bit.

All Saints is, by outback church standards, pretty big and is a reminder of just how much of a deal Angledool must once have been. M told me that at one point it was almost sold and was about to be relocated, but its heritage status halted the process. Now it sits and, like the hall, enters that wabi sabi state of gentle and graceful decay.

A pane of glass was missing from one of the north-facing windows so I poked my head, and my camera, through. The altar is still in place, but no pews. I guess they’ve been on-sold to garden centres.

I bird shit-stained piano sits in the opposite corner. What hymns have been bashed out on that over the years? I wondered about the journey that piano had taken to get here: on the back of a truck or a dray, after months on a ship from who knows where.

The interior of the church is in remarkably good condition and is utterly breathtaking. I’m guessing that the timber is termite-proof cypress pine. The mansard ceiling is like the one in the nurse’s quarters in the Ridge, the building that the Historical Society now calls home. It’s a style that must have been all the go back in the day.

I headed back down the bitumen to the Ridge. It was quicker, for sure, but it felt like an impoverished journey, a just getting-there commute with none of the wonders of the back road. The vegetation was thicker – dense stands of pine and gum – and the vehicles in both directions more frequent. But if I go to Angledool again it’ll be by the back road, through the big sky country of vast horizons and bullet-riddled road signs and slaughtered dingos.

Food Safari 10: Dhinawan omelette

I went out to dinner with a bunch of linguists on Friday night. I know what you’re thinking, something along the lines of sticking pins in your eyes, but hold up. Linguists are fun. I’ve had some great nights with linguists.

This bunch were heading towards Goodooga and took the time to drop in to the Ridge. There were meetings, as there always are, and then there was dinner. In Walgett they’d taken the time to drop in to Gingie Mission and had come away with a beautiful big dhinawan (emu) egg. I’ve put a Hilary next to the egg to give you some idea of its size. (Hilary is eleven feet tall by the way.)

Hilary is also a Kiwi and knows what to do with an egg. We scrappled around the flat looking piercing objects (they were renting an AirBnB place) and eventually we found a moderately sharp knife and a corkscrew. Game on!

There was a lot egg in there. Again, for the purposes of scale, that bowl is four feet across.

As well as Hilary the linguists had brought two glamorous German exchange students, who worked like Trojans to make a feast worthy of this offering from the Big Dhinawan.

I must admit that I was one of those horrible lazy guests who does nothing. I bought a $20+ bottle of red from the bowlo bottle shop and I acted as though that somehow gave me permission to sit around, eat, pontificate, not wash up etc. I felt a bit bad about it, but not bad enough to change my behaviour. Sorry, hardworking German ladies.

There was enough dhinawan omelette for huge servings for everyone. It was very nice too. Danke und guten Appetit, meine Freund!

A big dong on the roof

Saturday night I’m writing quietly when I hear a massive dong on the roof. At first I thought it was kids chucking rocks. When I lived in Alice Springs in the 80s the kids there would stand in the bush next to the new developments in Sadadeen and fire rocks onto the tin roofs. Their David and Goliath act of resistance to the creeping development over their land was captured perfectly by my good friend Rod Moss in his painting Stoneslingers 1:

But this wasn’t a hard sound, like a rock makes. It was softer. A tennis ball? Or maybe a possum – they do get them round here. But there was no rolling of ball or scrappling of little feet.

I wasn’t going to give the kids the pleasure of going out and looking for whatever it was with a torch, and it was all quiet after anyway, so I left it.

Next afternoon I was out watering the lawn when I looked up and saw this weird shape on the roof. What could it be? I climbed up and retrieved it. I was, to say the least, a little surprised!

Only scroll down if you have a strong stomach!

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I mean it.
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Stop here if you get shocked by pictures of rude things.
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Again, I mean it!
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What more can I say? You’ve been warned.
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My big dong!