Saturday, 11 July 2009
I've always maintained that northerners are different.
This is one of the reasons that southern pundits (those who don't live north of the tropic) haven't got a clue when it comes to forecasts of voting trends. The last Queensland state election is a good example.
I lived the early part of my life in North Queensland, went south as a boarder to attend high school, and didn't get to live in the North again until I was in my thirties. I married a northern girl, and spent two stints in Townsville as a school principal, and then went west (Mt Isa) for a few years.
Combined with the twenty or so years I've lived in the south-east corner, I've picked up what I believe to be an accurate understanding of the differences in attitudes of the inhabitants of the north and south of this state.
My dad, who had a similar experience as a bush schoolie, used to mutter, when we drove across the tropic on our annual Christmas holiday in the south - "back to the land of narrow minds, square heads, and shallow pockets".
I didn't understand what he meant back then.
I do now.
I conducted a small experiment in demographics on our recent trip north to examine this hypothesis.
I have an out-of-date concessional fuel card. It entitled me to 2c per litre off the price of LPG when produced. It's been out-of-date for a while, but this hasn't bothered me, as when home I can buy LPG cheaper from another outlet bringing the price paid to less than the 2c concession.
This is not the case away from home, and the further north you travel, the higher the price, so I packed it just for the hell of it.
Between Toowoomba and Rockhampton, the discount was refused, usually with a curt explanation, and a disdainful glare. At Mackay, the attendant said "That's out-of-date mate - you'll need to get it renewed". She still gave me the discount.
The same occurred at Bowen, Innisfail, and up on the Tableland. I got the discount every time. The other thing I noticed was that nobody up there wished me a "nice day" - very refreshing.
It has something to do with a characteristically northern approach to bureaucracy. They see it as something to be defeated - to be got around. It's not universal, but pretty close to it.
Up there, people generally can't be bothered with laid-down procedures of any kind. They make it up - very successfully - as they go along.
No wonder I feel out-of-place in Toowoomba.
During our wanderings north, we called in on some rellies. As I’m one of six, and my wife one of eleven, there are plenty.
Two of them (a niece and a sister-in-law) have built homes in spectacular environments and clad them in corrugated iron.
My niece’s new house is a gem. It’s built on a hillside with sea views (and the all-important sea breeze) in the Mackay hinterland. There are also views to the west across the Pioneer valley. As the sugar cane season proceeds (called the “Crushing” up here) – the landscape changes daily. The perfume of the valley wafts up the slope when the wind is in the right quarter. In short – a beautiful environment.
The house is environmentally friendly, and is self-sufficient with the exception of electricity. My niece and her husband had intended to install a solar system, but were defeated by the bureaucracy, and the fact that the concept was a little too novel for the local council.
To me, there’s something quintessentially Australian about corrugated iron. It’s tough, durable, flexible, unpretentious and functional. These are understood as characteristics that are part of our national ethos.
It also looks pretty good when used by professionals, and recent refinements to how it’s finished have made sure that it lasts. It’s also lightweight, inexpensive and practical.
As a material, it has also been used by prize-winning architect like Glenn Murcutt. His Marie Short House at Kempsey has made us look differently at this once humdrum building material.
When I was a kid, we used to make canoes with corrugated iron castoffs. You needed tar to plug the ends, and they were buggers of things to cut yourself on, but they were light and easy to make.
Monday, 6 July 2009
There's something about the name “Lucinda” that has always held a special magic.
When we lived in Townsville in the nineties, we often drove north through Ingham to visit family on the Tableland. There were always two rituals – fish and chips on the beach at Cardwell, and a family debate as to whether we should detour through Lucinda.
We always managed the first, but never the second. This was probably because we never felt we'd arrived in FNQ until we did the Cardwell thing, and the fish and chips was inevitably of high quality. Lucinda remained a mystery.
This trip, however, was done for the first time without children, so we were a little less driven by practicality and a little more by whimsy, so we took the Lucinda detour.
I'm glad we did. The road narrows and meanders through a vivid green landscape of canefields, art-deco houses, and scattered cane harvesting machinery. Everything shrinks in scale, the road takes unexpected and eccentric angles, and the sights and smells take me back to my childhood.
The smells particularly, are something else. There's a mixture of the characteristic odour of decaying cane trash, diesel, sarsaparilla grass and mould. It's a unique combination – experienced nowhere else but here.
We drove through Halifax and finished up at the Lucinda Point Hotel where we had a coffee, outdoors in the fantastic sunshine. The boat ramp just down the road was crowded with people – it's a great springboard to the Whitsundays.
We joined the Bruce Highway and continued north. The rest of the trip was uneventful with the exception of a strange encounter with a tinnie sitting forlornly in the middle of the road near Tully.
There was a gaggle of fishy looking characters with anxious expressions standing around an empty boat trailer by the side of the road. I guess there were two issues under discussion. One would have been who forgot to tie the tinnie on the trailer – the other how they were going to get it off the middle of the road.
I had no ideas and there were more than enough of them to lift it, so we kept driving.
The best fish and chips at Cardwell can be found at Annie's Kitchen.
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