The never-ending southwest weekend.

Tuesday is my first Friday, but it’s rarely a crazy affair. Wednesday is dinner date night. Thursday and Friday are solid work days at the Watchman, cranking out yarns and scouring the streets for gossip. Then, it’s Friday again. What to do?

The absence of nightclubs and a few pubs that insist on calling last drinks at about 10 can inhibit the loss of inhibitions. But, the clever country folk won’t compromise on their alcoholic ways. There is always somewhere to drink.

School fetes, for instance offer more than bric-a-brac out here. Children will still tear around the playground with snow-cone addled brains knocking over anyone in their path, but the adults are offered special red cordial and the night becomes a social gathering. I’ve never seen a fete like the one I went to on Friday night. Three vodka lemonades hit the back pocket like a butterfly at just $12. The first ghost in the haunted house had an air compressor that he sprayed everyone in the face with. The next guy had the creepiest horse head you’ve every seen. Screams whistled around the streets for hours. Usually there’s also a yabbie race, but at this fete the patrons were deemed too drunk to gamble on crayfish.

When a significant dent was made in the bar’s stock the jumping castle became a freeforall. The twenty-somethings who had happily returned to school on a Friday night tried to reclaim their youth with king-of-the-castle antics. A fair few adults lumbered off the castle clutching various body parts and swearing about knee injuries. A few of the more ambitious kids ended up in tears.

It wasn’t just stressed parents and bric-a-brac enthusiasts that ambled along either. A fair proportion of the crowd were young and all seemed to think the school fete a thoroughly worthy social event. Which it was.

In the middle of the fete I wandered down to an art exhibition opening and had a nice yarn to the artist Julie Latcham. She’s pushing the envelope with new-age patchwork installations. She told me she’d never date a man with smoother hands than her own.

That’s just your average Friday. Then on Saturday it’s a two-hour drive to anywhere for some country races. They can make the fetes look like child’s play.

Fancy clothes, oh yes we do fancy clothes out here. Wine, champagne, XXXX and rum cans are put away with a momentum that even outstrips the time it takes for heels sink into the mud. Bets are laid with the local bookies and crowds flock to the fence to see the local kick up the dust. It’s an interesting affair when you know the local trainers and jockeys and can barrack for someone you shared a Chinese meal with a few weeks ago. The party usually continues well after the steeds are back in the stables. When the band strikes its first chord, it’s on for young and old. The men twirl you out here, so you’re likely to get a nice spin and a dip on the dirt dancefloor. You can camp in your swag that night, if you want to.

Of course, the cricket interrupted my race meet yesterday. A few photos and chats with the wags offered a relaxing respite from the horsing at the racetrack.

Then today, Sunday, it’s bowls. You can read about the shenanigans that go on at a bowls carnival here. With an esky stationed at each lane to avoid pesky trips back to the bar, the banter can escalate. The men were in fine form today. One oldie busted out some Gangnam style moves while another offered to check my breasts for lumps next weekend at the breast cancer bowls night. One bowler remarked that keeping up with the social schedule was bad news for his liver. Such is life in the southwest.

Occasionally I am treated to a campdraft. That means watching horsey folk cut out steers and chase them around barrels. It’s quite entertaining for the first few rounds. However the dust and country music can see a moderate hangover switch to high alert rather quickly. Luckily they usually serve hot chips and a hair of the dog.

Then Sunday night arrives. I liken it to Monday morning. The photos and scrawled notes must be translated into something that looks more like a newspaper story than a torn, scribbled notepad that somehow always manages to smell like rum. Then Monday and Tuesday roll around and the weekend begins again.

She got married and I shared a roadtrip.

I watched one of my best friends marry a guy is a smart vest on the weekend. Tessa and I grew up together, fighting over putt putt golf sticks, fishing and pulling each other’s hair.

She never looked so beautiful as when she walked towards the bloke she’s spent the last 5.5 years with. I cried like an old man on the gin to see her happiness and excitement. My school pals and I giggled over shed party tales.We’ve come a long way from the luscious hills around Kyogle.

Then, her brother, another mate and a guy who moves around a guitar with more smoothness than a prestige car salesgirl, sang this to them.

Honey you are a rock
Upon which I stand
And I come here to talk
I hope you understand

That Green Eyes
Yeah the spotlight
Shines upon you

And how could
Anybody
Deny you

I came here with a load
And it feels so much lighter
Now I’ve met you

Honey you should know
That I could never go on
Without you

Green Eyes

Honey you are the sea
Upon which I float
And I came here to talk
I think you should know

That Green Eyes
You’re the one that I wanted to find
And anyone who tried to deny you,
Must be out of their minds

‘Cause I came here with a load
And it feels so much lighter since I met you

Honey you should know,
That I could never go on
Without you

Green Eyes.. Green Eyes..
Ohohoh…

Honey you are a rock
Upon which I stand.

It was pretty beautiful. Groomie told his new wife that he’d found what he was looking for. I even managed to hog the limelight for a few moments with a speech that kindly refrained from mentioning the more embarrassing moments of Tessa’s youth. Then they cut the cake. The bride did not throw the bouquet, leaving the guests with at least one less injury to contend with. And we danced, and drank red wine. It was marvellous.

The experience got me thinking about love and why we choose to share our lives with others. I’ve been a love cynic for a few years now, riding solo, desperately clinging to my independence and swatting men away like an opal miner does a fly. That’s not completely true, but we’ll go with the black and white version of events of the past few years. Bottom line, I’ve spent a fair few hours alone on many different buses.

The single life treats me well. Friends are more accessible and weekend stories deliciously juicy (please note this does not refer to promiscuity, but rather a liberated view of sleeping arrangements). I figured out a way to lie with pillows surrounding my body so it feels exactly like someone is cuddling me. Exactly the same. No that’s a lie, too, but I stopped worrying about being alone. The freedom is intoxicating and the lifestyle can be more fun than hosing someone who just donned their best dress for the races.

And the single life makes great blog fodder. But I feel changes are afoot.

Last weekend when I checked the Greyhound website I imagined myself nestled up with my iPod gnawing through a bag of carrots and sipping a Corona. I knew I would sleep well and arrive refreshed in Brisbane. Undoubtedly a story about drunk passengers would come up in the wedding banter later on in the weekend. Ultimately it would be an adventure.

Or would it?

Suddenly, an 11-hour bus trip didn’t seem much of an adventure or a risk anymore. I’m more at home on a public transport than on my couch, which can be awkward for other passengers.

I decided the real adventure would be to ask someone to come along, to push an entirely different comfort zone.

My co-pilot on the 20-hour return trip was someone I’d met just a few weeks ago. I hoped he would be good company, that he wouldn’t mind driving so long in the senseless heat without air conditioning in my banged up old car. And I really prayed that he’d do some of the driving.

We stopped for a dip in the Condamine river, fully clothed in an attempt to stave off the heat. We held hands in the car. I was happy. The trip passed far too quickly.

The road trip made my bus ride look like a day watching the campdraft compared to a night of barefoot dancing with friends.

Let’s see where this new adventure goes. I hope it will be cheeky and that my broad grin continues to look so foolish.

Trying to be fancy.

On a quiet Sunday in the country it’s nice to relax by the river. I love to feel the sharp branches poking in my back, the bees swarming around in the tree nearby and the biting sun beaming down. Schools of fish cruise past and the water is deliciously earthy.

It’s the perfect moment for some skinny dipping, for those who aren’t so shy. After the boat with the kids in it passes, of course.

I wonder at times why I choose to do things the hard way. Why I packed and left a life that I loved. It was for that moment. And it was sweeter because it wasn’t easy to get there.