Night vision goggles give green vision, I found out yesterday. Today I learned that water lettuce is a real nuisance in freshwater river. It could probably destroy a boat motor with its lanky root system. On Monday I learned that an affray is just a fancy word for a fight in a public place.
Tonight I learned that I don’t quite have the courage to walk into an Outback pub by myself. It’s more disappointing than realising you cannot cry when you’re trying to be heart-broken.
I’ve been hanging out in Cunnamulla this week. My journey from Brisbane to Charleville – which takes just eight hours – has spanned visits to Tamworth, Sydney, China, Laos, Cambodia, Coffs Harbour, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Cunnamulla. My destination eludes me, but the travel sensation is richly embedded in my psyche.
I prefer to call this place Funnamulla. It is so packed full of character it’s hard to walk down the bare streets without finding something to amuse my city brain.
A few days ago I noticed a charming sign on the way into tow. It read ‘slow down or piss off.’ There is no chance to ponder what the sign writer is getting at here, except perhaps in which direction one should piss off to. I’m guessing the local doesn’t care, so long as your hooning car isn’t spotted outside the Cunnamulla Hotel.
Earlier this morning I spotted a caravan parking itself across the street. I could tell it was purposefully trying to get in the way of oncoming traffic. There was no beeping. No one minded, they just slowed down to check out what was going on and silently moved past on the other side of the road. Most folk waved to the guy who clearly got his licence before driving tests included reverse parallel manoeuvres.
I love the people here the most. One lady I met the other day was describing a friend of hers. “She’ll put her hand up for any bun fight going ‘round,” she told me. Obviously she is not talking about baked goods here, but rather her mate’s poor track record arriving at events she said she’d attend. In some cases the lingo is so powerful my mind takes off into a fantasy land where I imagine the ladies in the town stripping off and throwing sesame seed creations at one another. The day that happens I’ll be a very happy little journalist.
My boss determines the length a story should be based on whether the tale is a ‘ripper’ or not. It’s an excellent criteria, I reckon.
The beauty of living out here, I’ve found, is that your expectations are shattered the moment anything happens. Anything at all. The interview with the man about the water weeds today far surpassed my planned afternoon writing about what happened in court. I cannot wait to roll out my facts about the root-length of the infectious weed at the next dinner party I attend.
Yesterday I was summoned to take photos of the army’s new MHR 90 helicopter that was landing in town. The army were doing some training exercises and because the trainer is marrying the daughter of a local couple, he thought it’d be nice to join in the Funnamulla shenanigans for the afternoon.
About 17 locals, myself included, rocked up for a guided tour of the $42 million aircraft. Some little girls got their 15 minutes in the cockpit. One of the more enthusiastic young’uns was keen to fly the beast, but the army lads managed to prise her away from the chopper kicking and screaming.
I tried on the night vision goggles and quizzed the friendly AJ with abandon. It was a fantastic moment, easily outshining my afternoon plans of fastidiously checking facebook.
And I did have my day in court on Monday. That threw up a few surprises.
Firstly, I was shocked that I’d never come before a magistrate before. Surely some of my more impressive antics could have warranted some time before a grey-haired man wearing a gown. Secondly, I now know that an affray is not the newsreader having pronunciation issues. It’s a public brawl. (At least I think that’s what it is. If I’ve got that wrong could someone please correct me before deadline on Tuesday?)
Another fact that came into sharp focus on Monday was my dire note-taking skills. Gosh, my hand was writhing after a day jotting down the details of Cunnamulla’s less savoury incidents.
This town is unique. It has spunk. Tonight, after I had shamefully avoided the local watering hole, I was meandering along the streets when I noticed a man sitting in the middle of the road with a high-visibility vest on. I have no idea what this dude’s caper was. Maybe it’s a new form of hitch-hiking that ensures the traffic actually stops for you? I’m still confused about that man.
The night sky is an attraction in itself out here. The streets are quiet, but the skies are bustling with stars blazing down at me.
The only issue I have with the cute little town is the pooches. There are plenty of dogs in Funnamulla, too. And these beasts are getting years’ worth of amusement at my expense. I reek of fear when I pass by their fences. Their barking becomes feverish as I quicken my pace, determined not to let the bloodthirsty monsters get the better of me.
The biggest surprise this week is how much I have enjoyed living in this desert-rimmed town where there is nothing much, bar a chilly frenzied breeze to keep me company at night. I’ve traded the Chinese summer for frosty mornings and a beachy, boozy holiday for early starts. It has been thrilling.
I never imagined I could be so happy sitting alone on a Friday night, sober.