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Archive for the ‘on the road’ Category

Nobody told me there’d be days like this.
– John Lennon, 1984

Are there strange things afoot at a Yass cafe?

On a flying road trip to Melbourne to see the paternal factor, Bald Man and I paused for an early morning coffee hit at Cafe Dolcetto in Comur St.

The coffee was, well, warm and brown, and there was bookshelf with an remarkable selection of second-hand agricultural titles for sale, but that’s not the point. The point is that I left my handbag hanging on the back of my chair when we left.

And didn’t realise until I went to pay for petrol at Albury, three hours down the road.

Thankfully a quick call established the cafe staff had the bag, and would hold it until we drove back through on Monday. So apart from the minor inconvenience of being separated for four days from my purse with all cards and two phones, and the humiliation of having been so stupid (I’ve only ever left a bag behind once before, more than 20 years ago) all was well. A happy ending in the making.

Now here’s the odd postscript.

We pulled into Yass late this afternoon, I introduced myself to the cafe staff, and asked for my handbag.

The girl reached into a draw beneath the counter and, smiling, produced a very ugly brown vinyl clutch. My heart sank.

“Um, that’s not my bag,” I said.

She reached up to a shelf above her head and drew out a small, nasty gold-cloth handbag.

“Is it this one?” she asked.

“Er, no…” I began.

The lady making the coffee said, “No, no, it’s not that one…” while a man from the kitchen came out, rummaged on another shelf and pulled out a third handbag and handed it to me – which I refused, because it wasn’t mine, either. What the?

“Exactly how many handbags do people leave at this cafe?” I asked.

The man shook his head, and the coffee-lady said, “Don’t ask. You’ve no idea.”

A bit more shuffling, and they eventually produced mine. Phew.

So what’s with the handbags at Cafe Dolcetto? Bald Man reckons it’s a ghost who hides handbags. Well, it’s no less likely than a minor wormhole in the space-time continuum.

Whatever the cause – stop at Cafe Dolcetto and enjoy their coffee with impunity, but make sure you take all your things when you leave.

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A sorrowful tale I’ll tell,
Concerning of a hero who through misfortune fell
His name, it was Ben Hall
– (trad), Weddings Parties Anything, 1989

Does anyone else find the Logies excruciating? It seems to get more puerile every year. Funny people aren’t funny, and smart people look insipid and/or embarassed. Only Johanna Griggs looks excited. As Dave From Albury twitted tweed observed mere moments ago, “When even Rove doesn’t respect the Logies anymore, does that mean that they have officially jumped the shark?” It’s enough to turn you back to the computer on a Sunday evening.

Okay, what happened with the rest of that long weekend? A little while after the Dawn Service, The Bald Man hopped on his bike, joined two friends and rode to Collector. Collector is not a cafe, not a shop, and not in this case a common noun, but one of the weirdly named places* within cooee of The Berra. This Collector is a smidgen of a town about 60km to the north-east not far from Lake George**, known for its annual pumpkin festival and not much else. It was a stupid brave thing to ride out there, given the filthy weather (the drizzle had cleared a little, mostly blown away by the gale-force winds). I am not so stupid brave and therefore opted to drive out there to meet them. The plan was to stay overnight at the famed Bushranger Hotel.

The Bushranger Hotel, Collector. Ominous.

The Bushranger Hotel, Collector. Ominous.

The Bushranger Hotel was founded in 1860 as the Kimberley’s Commercial. A heritage study of the Hotel I found at the bar notes that the name Collector is probably a corruption of a local Aboriginal word ‘collegdar’, thought to mean either ‘pelican’ or ‘hill’ (of course, they’re so similar). The Hotel’s name was changed after an incident in which Ben Hall and his mates Gilbert and Dunn shot a Constable Nelson right outside the pub.

With that sort of heritage, I suppose I should have expected a rowdy night. Certainly the plasma TVs, one over the otherwise-empty bar and one in the main lounge blaring the Country Music Channel at full volume mid-afternoon, should have been a hint. But no. I was captivated by the many rustic touches, including the sign labelled “dunnies” confusing some non-English speaking tourists who were also visiting, the strangely attired and unravelling stuffed kangaroo, and the collection of dead snakes in jam jars on the shelf behind the pool table.

The counter meals certainly lived up to the hype; I thoroughly recommend the pork roast. The beer on tap is fine. Together, they make a nice day trip. But that’s all I’d recommend.

To cut a long story short, all other business at the Collector Hotel was conducted at an excruciating volume. As patrons started to flow in, the volume of conversation went up, the music went up to compensate, and the conversation rose to shouting level. Tribes of feral children ran screaming through the premises accompanied by dogs and chasing cats. At one point The Bald Man turned the music down a little, but it was promptly turned back up to ear-splitting. At about 9.30pm, tired from the ride and tired of shouting, our group retired to our respective rooms. At about this time, the plasma was retuned to a contemporary music channel and the party began in earnest. Our bedroom was directly over the lounge, and the floor vibrated with the noise. This continued until 2.45am. At this time someone turned off the music halfway through an appalling song, which was all the better to hear another half hour of whooping and shouting as the remaining patrons wound down. I can honestly say I have never paid for a more hideous hotel experience, and believe me I have plenty to choose from. The morning wasn’t much better, as the bathrooms turned out not to have been washed for some weeks and were too vile for use. We fled into an oncoming storm.

Bruce Stadium, or rather, Canberra Stadium. Those are cheerleaders on the turf, freezing their rumps off at half time. I don't get this cheerleaders thing. Personally, I'd rather have the Little League.

Bruce Stadium, or rather, Canberra Stadium. Those are cheerleaders on the turf, freezing their rumps off at half time. I don't get cheerleaders. Personally, I'd rather have the Little League.

Sunday had one good experience in store, however; my first ever a-grade Rugby League match. In fact, it was a Raiders game at Bruce Stadium, making it a truly Berran experience. The weather was a disturbing mix of sunshine and sleet, and the crowd a piffling 10,000 (the AFL girl in me sniffed) but I have to confess watching good footy in the flesh is always a joy. It was a good match too, although the Raiders lost. I think I am finally on my way to understanding and perhaps even appreciating the northern codes, a little. Go you Raiders.

* There’s also a place nearby called Tarago. Not related to Toyota in any way, I understand.
** Another strangely named place, seeing as there’s never any actual ‘lake’ at Lake George. Well, I saw water in it once, but that was decades ago.

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She usually just reads between the lines
– Effigy, 1998

I got back from Albury this afternoon and there at work was a care package from my old housemate Damian, who now lives in London. We’ve been collecting and sending random mementos across the world for some time now, about once a year (or whenever we remember).

Along with the ceramic bull from Tijuana and the signed Weddos t-shirt (Australian band plays in London, t-shirt flies back to Australia, how’s that for carbon kms?) there were three books of poetry by three London poets (I did say ‘random’). Not being familiar with any of them, I took the book by Linda Cash and did the open-page test: you open a book at a random page, and read the poem, see what it tells you. I suppose it’s a bit like a poetry version of the Tarot, or the I-Ching.

How about this, I got a poem called Woman with Exploding Head. It reads, in part,

Meanwhile fighter planes with improbable names
rev up in her temporal lobes

Hmmm. I’ve had quite a few days like that lately. There may be something to random poetry.

The Dog on the Tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai

The Dog on the Tuckerbox, five miles from Gundagai

On the way back from Albury, my colleague and I stopped at Gundagai, or more correctly the roadside stop five miles from town, to refuel and stretch. It’s always a pleasure to see the dog sitting on his tuckerbox. It makes me think of the real story of the dog on the tuckerbox, which I first heard from Jim Haynes when we talked about one of his published collections of Australian rhyming verse. I recall it mostly because it was one of the few times I found myself helpless with laughter whilst on air. And if you wonder what’s so funny about Australian folk verse, it’s not the version of Five Miles From Gundagai that you probably know, but the doggerel that you don’t.

A tract I bought from the little shop at the truckstop ($1, 20c of the cover price donated to the Gundagai District Hospital) also tells the story.

Back in the day, more than a century ago, Gundagai was the halfway point on the inland route between Sydney and Melbourne, and bullocky teams camped at nearby Five Mile Creek on the highway. That’s where the dog’s story was said to have occurred. The tract says,

A faithful friend, the guardian of the teamster’s possessions, a dog accompanied every waggon that pushed inland. It was the action of one such dog in spoiling food stuffs whilst he sat on a tuckerbox that so amused the [unknown] poet that he wrote:

Good morning mate, you are too late,
The shearing is all over,
Tie up your dog behind the log
Come in and have some dover.

For Nobby Jack has broke the yoke,
Poked out the leader’s eye
And the dog shat in the tuckerbox
Five miles from Gundagai.

The original doggerel was crude and vulgar and verse after verse ran on depicting incidents along the track that leads to Gundagai.

I suppose that says it all. Poetry in (bowel) motion.

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