There is one pal who unquestioningly accompanies me on all of my journeys out here. It’s Shiraz. She’s been so supportive.
On these chilly winter nights when it’s just me sitting around my tv-less lounge room in a dashing ensemble of tights and a poncho – mind, I don’t want to sound too pathetic here, I’m not that bloody lonely – she will come and sit with me, bringing a beer-goggle shine to the room.
There is only a small smattering of flies in my otherwise perfect outback ointment. The job is bonzer, I have a stunning jogging track that I share with the kangaroos on the river and my house has a mighty fine feel about it, even without the beer goggles.
But I haven’t had hordes of lasses or lads lining up at the bar to be my friend, as I expected. I thought there would be no easier place to make some new mates. In Funnamulla it took mere minutes before I was ensconced with the curly-haired Josephine laughing over embarrassing school stories. I found myself a pseudo mum just a few days later.
It’s a different story for Charleville. I don’t even have a nickname for the town yet. It’s scandalous!
My best mate here is the journo from the other paper. I thought I’d hate him on principal, but he’s actually a nice guy and I’m hardly in a position to be choosey. I’ve also developed a soft spot for Steve from the Thai restaurant and Fred from Fat Freddy’s burger joint. I get along well with Rob from the produce store and my ol’ favourite Graham at the hardware store.
The school is a gold mine. It’s my Everest. It sits there, taunting me with its bounty of fun-loving, ridiculously good-looking young folk. Occasionally I get invited through the cast iron gates and I get to see what I’m missing out on. But I haven’t managed to wangle a dinner party invitation yet.
At one of my missions into the school, it was for a story on distance education kids gathering from their isolated bush properties, I found myself quizzing the teacher in a similar manner to the barristers I’ve been studying in court.
“So how long have you been in Charleville,” I asked the art teacher. I elicited that she’s been here six years, loves the place, watches the footy on the weekend, drinks at the pub which is scarily close to my pad and she has a cosy group of mates.
“Oh I’m so pleased to hear that,” I can recall pandering to her. “I’m just new in town and haven’t made many friends yet,” I told her, pathetically searching out some sort of companionship like a forlorn fox. “I’m sure you’ll love it,” she told me with a disgusting amount of cheer, clearly missing my searching enquiries.
I do bloody love it here, I thought. I’d just like someone for Shiraz and I to share our risottos and cheese platters with.
Perhaps my friend-making standards are too high. It seems a mockingly short time ago that I was lamenting making too many friends and having to put up with all the teary goodbyes. What a woe!
It’s a confronting struggle for me. Friendships are often easier for me to make than spaghetti bolognaise. But that was the point of coming here – I was craving a challenge.
Of course, my friend-making machine is slightly inhibited by my status in the town. As the reporter from the local rag I am definitely not trustworthy, to some, I’m flattered by the lashings of suspicion poured upon me by many locals. “We can’t talk to you, you’ll just put whatever we say in that paper,” they tell me.
“Will I ever make any friends,” I begged of Robert today. “Nah, you’ll be right,” he assured me.
And the people in Charleville are, on balance, brilliantly friendly. One geezer in the street yesterday dipped his Akubra and said “g’day sweetheart,” with genuine sentiment. And when I’m at the footy – which surprisingly is now the highlight of my life, but more on that later – or at any event which requires me to squint my brow and squiggle away in my notebook, people are absurdly friendly and helpful.
It’s boggling me, frankly.
In an attempt to cope with the lack of new pals I’ve taken to reinvigorating time-worn friendships. I often find myself scouring the facebook chat bar for company. When I lived in BrisVegas I never opened that bar. I couldn’t shake the fear that I might get stuck chatting to someone who had changed their name on the social network in an attempt to be funny or disguise their identity. Those people are so lame (ha!).
Now, I’m catching up with old mates from America, Sweden, Indo, Spain, Coffs Harbour, everywhere but bloody Charleville. Of course, Shiraz and I have some pretty witty conversation with these backpackers, but it’s not good enough. Something must be done.
Luckily, there is one little trick I’m yet to yank out of my bag. This one involves Shiraz.
I’m going to send her behind enemy lines and thrown a little social lubricant at a few folk who I’ve earmarked as good friend material. I’ve already checked that they’ve got cars and jobs. Top of my list are the ladies who I’ve caught throwing their head back and laughing with reckless abandon while walking along the street with their pals. I reckon with the help of Shiraz we’re going to get along just fine.