My Papa.

When I was a little girl my Dad took me fishing in his boat. He’d put the worms on the hook for me and he taught me how to jerk the rod back swiftly to hook the bass. He always caught more fish than me so occasionally he’d hook them, then let me reel them in and say it was mine. No wonder I have such delusions about my fishing talents.

Apparently he’d walk the streets with me when I was a horrid baby that wouldn’t stop crying, rocking me gently over his shoulder. I can’t remember that and doubt I was ever a troublesome child, but it sounds like a nice deed.

When I was a teenager I’d come home from swimming club on a Friday afternoon to find him drinking red wine with the lights out and Pink Floyd as loud as the stereo would manage. Dark Side of the Moon is still one of my favourite albums.

Breakfast in bed was a staple when I was a teenager. I think he thought that was the only way I’d ever get out of bed.

He’s still a gem. Look at this garden he made me after driving for miles and miles to visit me in the middle of the outback. It’s flourishing, by the way and I don’t have to buy zucchinis, tomatoes or spinach at the moment. What a legend!

So here’s to you Papa. Not because it’s your birthday or some day that Hallmark told us to buy a card for, but just because you are an amazing man and I appreciate everything you have done for me. And for looking after Mama so well, even when she makes you move the tent after it’s already up.

See you soon!

City slickers go outback.

Roma is a far cry from the usual dusty western Qld race meet. The bar had paid staff and a slick ticket system. The music had a bass line and was hardly country. But that didn’t deter hordes of city folk looking for a dinky-di outback experience last Saturday. At just five hours from Brisbane, the races attracted about 8000 people from east and west Qld.

Toowoomba trainer Michael Nolan’s Blow A Kiss took home the cup but the lightning, rain and fashion stakes competed with the horses for attention. A sign at the edge of the track described the situation. “This is a race meet (believe it or not). Please be considerate of jockeys and horses – keep track clear of rubbish and party animals,” it read.

The horses were the main attraction for Charleville racing stalwart Eric Fraser who lined the track for every race. He said he had always loved the racing at Bassett park. It’s a chance for the western horses to try their luck against steeds from the east.

For Toowoomba local Jake Ward it was a different location to celebrate his 19th birthday. He was camping with mates at the tent city adjoining the track and thought the races were an outback experience. “It’s something different. Why not? We’ll give anything a go,” he said.

The fashion tent pulled a sizeable crowd as transvestites Lidia Box and Voille La Vont lent a caustic note to the compering. Not all were pleased with the crude commentary. An older lady was moved to tears by the lewd sexual jokes. Big-breasted women copped some flak.

The rest thought the Brisbane-based broads were a hoot. Charleville judge Carmel Hunter said it was a tough field as usual. Quilpie girl Kate Houghton took out the contemporary category with a Michael Lo Sorodo feather fascinator. “There’s plenty of good-looking girls here, I was just stoked to get in the final,” Kate said. Her prize included return flights from Roma to Brisbane, a holiday on the Gold Coast, a $100 gift voucher and a pearl necklace.

Bundaberg lad Robert McRae stayed at a mate’s place for the weekend. Shenanigans began on Friday night. “It was Donkey Kong last night,” he said on Saturday. He thought the meet was an authentic bush experience and a good chance to meet women and … “It’s very country. Do you know how long it took us to get here? It was a long time,” he said and seemed to think he had earned a beverage for the effort.

Tegan Byrnes had been nursing at Mitchell. The races were a good chance for her to break out the swag. Mate Grace Clulow commented that there were more hot guys than she’d anticipated. Nathan Cusack from Dalby dubbed Roma the best race day in western Qld and he’s been to a fair few west of the gas country. “I’d rather go to Roma races than Eagle Farm any day,” he said, adding that at four-and-a-half hours from anywhere the location is ideal for catching up with mates.

Amber Shadlow came out with a few friends from Brisbane for a camp and a party. She said western race meets had a certain reputation. “My mum told me to keep myself tidy,” she said.


Eclipse the early-morning pain.

I liken getting out of bed in the morning to allowing a rabid dog to lick my face. Loathe it.

Luckily my job occasionally requires early starts and in these cases my steel-like work ethic will propel me from a luscious doona cocoon.

In the ute, to the local observatory and, bam, there’s the eclipse. Funky glasses to block harmful rays were included and a few telescopes showed the moon covering the sun and its black spots – which a helpful guide carefully explained to me are the coolest spots on the sun.

And like all good things in Charleville the cool peeps were there to share a chuckle with.

So this early morning was worth the alarm clock agony. But I think I’ll keep the pre-7am starts for special occasions.

Boyfriend is not a four-letter word.

If boyfriend were a four-letter word, like say cork, fork or germ, I’m sure my southwest potty mouth would have no trouble wrapping peachy lips around it. It’d boyfriend this and boyfriend that and where’s your boyfriending beer or what’s that boyfriend’s issue? But it’s a nine-lettered soft word that carries a soft meaning that is much harder to say than your average curse. It can be tricky.

If you missed the memo I met someone recently. I like him a lot. We hold hands in cars and stuff. I reckon he counts as being my boyfriend after the ultimate event, which happened a few weeks ago – we shared a toothbrush.

We’ve done a few things together since then. Just the usual courtship rituals, he staked my tomatoes and charmed my cousin’s daughter who has now lost all affection for me in favour of him and I, well I’m not sure I have contributed much but I did make a cake that leaked icing through my car and was thrown out the window of the vehicle.

It’s still early days, I admit, but the two of us make a nice team. I even told Ben our teamwork was solid and he agreed although wondered what contribution I made to the squad. Never mind, it’s an easy-to-comprehend scenario – we like each other and want to spend a lot of time together.

Still, that word chokes out like a regurgitated fish bone. We went to a friend’s wedding on the weekend, together – and that’s quite a boyfriend/girlfriend thing to do – but it still felt weird saying the word. Other guests were confused about our status until they saw the photobooth shots. It was a mighty fine wedding too, I must say.

The reassuring thing is that I’m not the only one.

I’ve seen couples battle with this word in the early days more time than I’ve heard David Attenborough say the word mating. It’s harder to get out than Shelly sells sea shells by the serpents door seven times quickly with a shared toothbrush in your mouth. People who have started to look at each other with intimate expressions quickly revert to business-like, frank looks when confronted with the B-word. Ironically it can be the ultimate mood killer.

So, why is it so hard?

Is it the vulnerability? If you say you are and the other thinks you’re still just friends that makes for a conversation more awkward than meeting the parents for the first time. Or maybe it’s the feminist in me trying to keep the solo adventure pumping. However, I try to keep that feminist side tucked away most of the time so the boys can carry my bags, so I doubt that’s it. Commitment phobia is a possibility, but fear is useless here.

Perhaps there is a feeling of losing independence, of future compromises that will be brokered on whether to have crumbed steak or normal steak for dinner. The vegies or salad decision may be taken away. Nar, at this ripe honeymooning stage I would even eat a well-done steak without complaint.

I don’t have the answer here. For me, right now, I think it’s a matter of taking time to change my mindset. It’s been almost five years since I had a boyfriend, officially. Don’t worry Nanna it hasn’t been too dull. Having someone to call, just to hear their voice, that’s a nice change.

So I’m going to reach out on a limb here, and I’m only doing this because of this blog that I’m determined to maintain even though I feel less like sharing the intimate details of my life now there’s someone in it, but I will say it.

He’s not just my travelling companion or the auctioneer. Please meet my boyfriend, Ben. (That’s ok to call you that, right, Ben?)