Monday, June 27, 2005


Goin' up the country

I’ve been away, been up the country , and you’ll be pleased to know, I’m back.

It’s important to get out into the country. To leave these smoggy environs and get out amongst the rural folk. To get a sense of what’s happening at the grass roots. And I figure a visit every ten years or so will keep me up to date with the glacial like progress.

I’d been preparing for this trip to the country for some time. My mullet, had now reached the necessary length, as I recalled from my last visit, and I’d dusted off the Amco jeans, The Miller shirt with the gold thread though the weave, and naturally, given that it’s winter, my tartan lumber jacket.

Saturday morning, and I was preparing to go. I was admiring myself in the mirror, noticing that although this gear still fitted me. It had somehow gone out of shape. The last wash seemed to have shrunk the Miller shirt around the midriff, and the button of the Amcos was strangely incapable of mating with its buttonhole. Then while trying to figure out how they used to stay up, I remembered the utility belt.

I turned the house upside down looking for that belt. Time was ticking away, precious country moments were being lost as I rifled though the attic, clothes drawers, the dog kennel, but then ‘thar she blow’s’ hanging from its own hook in the toolshed, next to the spirit level, with its own silhouetted shape traced out on the backboard. Sometimes even I forget how organized I can be.

The utility belt, in addition to being eminently practical, completed the image. It’s got a water bottle, for desert survival. A bowie knife with quick release scabbard located on the right hip, next to my throwing hand. A secret inner pocket with a miniature swiss army knife in case I’m ever held hostage, and a pouch for holding a calculator so I may calculate sun and star azimuth and angles if celestial navigation ever becomes necessary.

The picture now complete, I hitched my swag into the back of the jalopy, and took off. Through the city, over the Westgate and headed in a general westerly direction into the vast interior.

After many hours of travel, I was parched. My water supply was close to exhaustion, and I needed to stop. I was busting for a leak. As I motored into a town I knew it was likely to have at least some basic level of civilization because of the signs announcing its presence. Daylesford : Lattés next 500m.

It was into this little cultural backwater that the jalopy came to rest. Though the day was clear, it was cold, and not for the first time did I congratulate myself for donning the lumber jacket, as I prepared to enter the world of these simple rural residents of Daylesford. I stepped from the car and sauntered casual-like across the road. Well halfway across the road actually, because the bladder was now insistent. I picked up the pace significantly, and burst through the doors of the closest saloon, and made a beeline for the Gents. The relief was blissful, and the weekend took on a distinctly more positive feel.

I exited the Gents and found myself in a time-warp, or more accurately a space-time warp. Surrounding me were tables of slick, sophisticated people all dressed in black, all conducting conversations about tiles and interior decorating, all drinking lattés. This was not what I was expecting. Ten years and the country had changed.

I wandered up to the bar. I needed coffee, and I sat down on the bar stool next to two gentlemen, whom I noticed were sitting rather oddly. As they ordered their lattés, I was aware of something peculiar about their body language, and then the giveaway snatch of conversation…”Well you know I’m the only gay in the village”, and sudden laughter.

I was shocked. This was not the countryside I was expecting, and when the waitress came for my order I was lost for words.

“What would you like Sir?”

“Er… coffee”.

How could I order a latté under these circumstances? People might get the wrong idea.

“Yes and what type?” she said. “Cappuchino? Café Latte? Machiato Espresso? Espresso con Panna? Ristretto?”.

I was mortified. Any one of these choices and the two gentlemen on the adjacent stools would turn their attention to me. But then I remembered I was traveling incognito. I reached deep into my character, and ordered. “Pablo!”

“I beg your pardon Sir”, said the waitress. I’m not familiar with that style.

“You don’t have Pablo?” I said. Now on the front foot. “What sort of coffee shop are you?” “How about International Roast?”

“No Sorry Sir”

“Maxwell House?”

“Er no. Don’t have that either”

“What about Caterers Blend? Surely you’ve got some Caterers Blend out the back for the staff?”
“No Sir I’m sorry. We’ve only got the ones I mentioned”

Now very much in control of the situation, I lowered my voice and said. “Look. I don’t want to make a scene here, so just don’t ask any questions. Just point me in the direction of Melbourne and I’ll be on my way. And here.” I thrust my empty water bottle at her. “Fill this up”.

As I stepped outside, I could sense that she was already on the phone to the authorities. That’s why I gave her the misinformation about heading to Melbourne. I could not afford to be tailed. I was going to go deeper. Deeper into the countryside, where the insidious influence of city culture had not permeated. I was going to go in search of the lost Australia.

I was going in search of Uncle Jack’s farm

…… To be continued

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