Got up early, lost an hour last night due to daylight saving, so pretty tired, ran up to the train station and hopped on, taking the top deck for viewing reasons, I just had the urge to look out the window even though its getting very familiar, it still seems new.
We headed over to Petersham where we lost our way as soon as we got off the train so we called up Geoffrey, who we were visiting, to find out where the hell we were, he told us to wait and he’d come and get us. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, Geoffrey comes streaking up the street with a big grin for us, pleased that we are here.
We stop off at his place for a while, the more I’m getting to know him I realise how well he’s doing and how he’s coping with his illness, he also comes up with some pretty profound stuff occasionally.
We decide to head into the city and go up Centrepoint and dig the views across the city out to the ocean east and the great dividing range west, the north shore and south to the airport, Botany Bay, where we live and the bush further on where there’s a bush fire raging away on the horizon, we look down at the tiny figures navigating the busy city traffic, the cars all stuck in gridlock, busy on this Sunday midday.
The elevator takes us back down the thousand feet in about ten seconds, our ears pop and through the slight gap at the bottom of the door you can see daylight seeping in reminding you there’s just a flimsy elevator door between your body and the view, rushing past it would be, wind up yer drainpipes.
We all come back to our place and when Geoffrey leaves a while later I feel sad again, maybe because I’m not distracted, because I’ve got time to think and I seem to be spending more time thinking rather than acting at the moment. It’s a long struggle but I’m determined to make it shorter and easier, I will soon be living in the now again.
I climb out of the comfort of the bed, over sleeping Broni. I stumble in the half blindness of the early hours of the morning to the toilet, I feel like something’s following me. While I stand over the toilet I recall some of my dream, it’s pretty hazy but it felt big, it was a big dream, scary and huge and I kinda woke and everything felt strange and I realised where I was in this world and how I’d got here and what I was going through subconsciously, emotionally. It was big. I got scared, climbed back into bed and went to sleep to mad dreams.
When I woke up it was my birthday and after initial happiness and some present receiving a big gloom set in for the morning which Broni helped me out of in the afternoon and we went out to a bar and I thought back to times when we’d sit in pubs in England and relax for the afternoon for a couple of beers and just waste time, and maybe everything had been catching up with me and I’d been making a bigger deal out of smaller things when they didn’t go quite right.
We went off to the cinema and saw Spider and Rose which is a really good movie, Australian again, cool filmwork, script etc which really lifted our spirits too.
Later we went up to the Basement, which is this cool expensive jazz club and got some food and champagne and beers before watching Dewey Redman and his quartet improvise their way through a couple of numbers, which was about forty-five minutes, the first number was kinda trad jazz/blues which incorporated a solo by Dewey then the piano player then the double bass til they all hit back in together to finish. The second number a more swinging affair, again with the solos, which I was thinking was a bit of a drag, like they’s all good players and all but it was predictable. The last number was way cool though started with Dewey mumbling around for a bit getting the rhythm in his head and letting the rest of the band in on the secret, then he plays a few bars solo in the swing and mumble the beat and snap his fingers in time and on some parts he missed his sax bit or hit a bum note and instead of carrying on he mumbled the notes out aloud carrying the mood, laid back and crazy, then the rest of the band joined in on the few bars, dropping off letting the audience feel the beat with just the tap of Dewey’s feet and the dance of his crooked body and then they all picked it up again and the song got into full swing for about a minute before the drummer had his turn at a solo, now I’m not one mad on drum solos but this dude, old dude, looked like he’d been exhumed, probably played with Zappa or something you know, he really kicked the shit, made that kit talk man, keeping the beat then exploding off and before it all got out of hand, kicked back in with the beat to let the double bass player have a little go and wow, he made that chunka wood sing little bird songs in harmonics before getting real mean and hitting hardcore riffs, really powerful in yer face double bass before relaxing back into the sweet melodies, the piano man, facial contortionist, quietly joining in with the odd chord strike here and there, builds it up and takes over the piece and stamps his mark all over it going wild crazy man, fingers a blur with the speed, hanging onto the rhythm by threads, shut yer eyes and go with the ride, it’s alive, finally Dewey comes back on and blows his own, hot tootin’ tune and they settle at the end like how they started, Dewey with a mumble and a shot.
They’re exhausted and go off but, fuck that weak shit, I wanna hear us some more, but time and alcohol is catching us up, we depart during the first song off their second set, stumbling drunkenly through the city’s streets, the tall buildings tower over us, shielding us from harm like a security blanket, the neon somehow comforting us, light defeats the fear, or maybe we have a drunken dutch courage but tonight we are not afraid of the dark!
We laugh ourselves silly on the walk back from the station and I’m starting to feel more comfortable now I’ve had a good night out in the city. Broni drops herself onto the bed and falls asleep with me following shortly afterwards, good night world sweet dreams.
Sometimes I lose it, all this living is too much. What happened to my nice ordinary life! This big move I’ve made has been very easy up until now and I’m probably experiencing some kind of post trauma, only natural that I’m going to miss people and all the regular stuff I was used to doing on the other side of the planet.
I’ve been in touch with those people which is good, though sometimes after talking to people on the phone, later in the day I get kinda depressed for no particular conscious reason. At least I realise all this, so I know what’s going on, to be able to change or have some affect on my life and the few problems it throws up.
Remember I’m always saying to live life and here I am doing that – I didn’t realise how scary it could get! But it has got to be done, I don’t really want to go back to how things were, back to England (just yet*), not while there are things to be gained from this experience and even if I don’t get to understand the meaning and impact of all these things til I’m seventy, then that will be the time to change, move on to something new, head for a different direction. Then I will know that I’ve gone down this avenue and explored it fully.
*it would be eleven years before I first went back
Last night we drove back from Bathurst, over the beautiful mountains, unfortunately covered in a dense fog, scary for me to drive through, up those tight turn tracks with ten ton trucks overtaking in their haste and knowledge of the roads (poor little scared foreigner I am) straight into the city like an arrow from the mountains.
We quickly stop off at the flat to dump a car full of Broni’s stuff (more clothes, workbooks and electric piano(yeh, brush her up on her ivory work because she’s great when she gets her act together on the piano)) and then we’re off again, we don’t ever stop, to Marrickville for a family and friends meeting on mental illness.
Broni’s brother G_ suffers from schizophrenia, he was there with his elder triplet brother C_. (the triplets, C_ is the one who made good, so to speak, and has a job, wife and five kids, A_, the middle trip started the mega famous band Icehouse and could be described as on the rock and roll journey of experience and has been known to go off the rails from time to time, married and divorced and a child by someone else and then there’s G_, born tiny and recognisable in boyhood photos as the not so happy chappie, now 37 and coping with his illness)
For someone who sometimes loses control he’s quite together and the meeting tonight helped me understand a little bit about mental illness plus I get to see a bit more of G_, like all the rest of the brothers and sisters of this Smith generation are fairly simple to work out, you know where they are coming from, G_ needs a bit more time to consider.
So, the meeting’s cool and there’s more to be covered over the next three Wednesdays, so we promise to go to them for our own interest as much as for G_’s comfort. We give G_ a lift home, not far up the road and drop C_ off at the train station but we end up driving him all the way up the north of the city home cos hell, we feel like it and he promises us some food and drink, something we’ve forgotten in our long day.
We drive for miles and miles eventually reaching his place, where the promised goods are delivered, we also pick up Broni’s piano music which their kids had been using while Broni had been in England, so after this short relaxing break we trek back across the city, on the harbour bridge at midnight, wow what a sight, the city’s lights tiny beacons of life, parties happening, people working late, lights for no good reason, and then we get lost and then we get found and then we get home and get ourselves tucked up in the security of our luxurious double bed, spoonlike.
We get up early to take the hire car back, which we do with no hassle and stop off for breakfast in a beautiful vibrant but secluded cafe. The waiter is a charmer, sweet french accent, soft tone, looks intelligent and moody, the waitress, his girlfriend or wife, beautifully sexy, all in black, moody and sultry, they’re both running around like crazy at this crazy hour of the morning, their french friends sat at the end of the cafe sneaking quick snatches of conversation. The food is delicious. Betty blue sits on the wall in posterol glory no spelling error, the very definition of France and its beauty.
A cold whisper of darkness came over me as I stood waiting for service in the post office. Both doors were wide open as normal, outside blue sky and sunshine. When I’d finished and stepped outside onto the wide clean sidewalk I saw the reason for my cold shudder. Up in the heavens something was a-brewing. The sky had divided into two, one side bright blue the other a steely grey, like the rumbling of oncoming evil and bad tidings, a low bubbling cloud so unlike the beautiful clear sky that it was now taking over.
I ran home excited and at the turn at the top of the street I saw out into the distance the enormity of the storm as it came in across the ocean. As my eyes flicked across the long horizon a bolt of lightning shot down to earth about a mile away. The wind was whipping the tall eucalyptus trees into a frenzy of excited rustling noise, deafening the low mellow tone of thunder in the distance.
I dragged Broni out to see, she’d promised me storms and here they were, and we ran back up the street, over the road and up to the train station for a better view. Things were now very grey, but still visible a line across the sky where this storm was invading our beloved sunshine. Cracks of thunder and shots of lightning whizzed around in the distance as gradually the drops of rain became harder, heavier and more numerous. We stood in the eye of the storm, getting wet in the delicious rain, soaking our bones and then ran home to dry off in the shelter of our flat.
We found the Twilight Zone yesterday – here in Bathurst. You know the one where Joe Normal is in small town Hicksville and everyone is weird!
We went in search of food and drink for lunch and ended up in a small cafe up a side street. We looked over the menu and thought we should be able to get some decent food. We were still deciding when the waitress came over and so we asked for a couple of cups of decaf coffee.
We noticed the unusual size and shape of this young waitress with piggy red cheek jowls and the glisten of swear across her brow and matted hair, a poor girl happy for employment. We stuck with it as she went to find out what decaf was! It was then we decided not to get any food. She came back – no decaf (whatever it is!) so I ordered iced chocolate and Broni ordered an apple, carrot and celery juice.
We waited and waited while the only other customers seemed eager to leave, accepting apologies from the blimp for earlier mistakes that we’d missed. Eventually, after much juicer noise from the kitchen, the blimp brought out half a glass of brown sludge with a diarrhetic dribble on top and apologised that the juicer had broken and that it was only dishing out small amounts she was showing us. We told them to forget it and she brought out my iced chocolate – which looked ok – unfortunately the chocolate was still in powdered form and the milk must’ve been left in the sun.
As I attempted to suck the lumps through the straw, the blimp’s mother came out with the broken juicer, covered in years of old fruit and veg and explained that the machine had broken, offering it up for our inspection. We nearly chucked, paid and left and ran and ran fast! I was worried someone was going to run after us, grab us and slaughter us in some midnight full moon ritual ceremony – phew! Got away for another day.
So, early a.m. we catch the commuter train with the suits and the smart dressed young ladies into the city to pick up a hire car. Broni handles the controls, this being our first Oz car driving experience together. It’s already a blistering hot day at 9am. Slowly but surely we make it across the city to Wendy’s (Broni’s oldest sister) to pick up some stuff, then on out of the city, where suburbia ends and turns into farms and small town communities.
In the distance we can see the Blue Mountains beckoning us. We stop off for some salad, watching big carrier planes taking off from the army base close by and yippee, I get to take over the controls and charge us through the countryside, to the bottom of the mountains, slowly up, twisting turns, the smell of gum invading our nostrils, sun blazing in blue, oh blue sky faint whisper of cloud.
We catch a brief glimpse from hilltop back to where we came, a breathtaking spectacle but we are still onwards, upwards, through orchard country and then into the real mountains with burnt scrub bushland, crickets screaming out their mad calls deafeningly loud in unison, cancelling out the radio. Road still twisty we balance on the edge of precipices looking into long deep vale valleys covered in black eerie gum tress caught in last years fires, for all the eye can see everything burnt, charred, like a graveyard to the flora, to nature and it’s wonder, each tree stood like a monument proud into the sky, now beginning to show signs of growth again.
For some half an hour we carry on through this beautiful landscape before descending down into the old coal mining town of Lithgow, and from here we drive for another hour across plains and farms to our destination, Bathurst, Australia’s oldest inland city. And here, at Broni’s parents, we make a brief stop before we head out to some places to look at with the intention of finding some place to get married and as usual, with our positive outlooks and thinking we find somewhere quickly that is an ideal place for marriage ceremony and reception so then we high tail round town to try and find a priest who might marry us outside, something which they are not known to do.
We run out of time doing that but not before a quick run up Mount Panorama round the race course there, where some guy got himself killed in the Janes Hardie 1000, going much faster than us I might add. During the rest of the year the course is open like a normal road, with a picnic stop at the top. Weird driving round roads with tyre barriers and red and white caution markers on the corner bumps.
Back to base we lazy away the rest of the evening in conversation and old photographs.
P.S. The crazy natural amphetamine of youth! Ya!
Main picture taken on top of Mount Panorama with my best man, Rob, March 1995.
Oh wandering spirit in my soul, guiding me away from trouble and blasting me forward into the furnace of life – I embrace you, hold you and cherish you. I cherish this time, this day, this very second. I love my life, I love Bronwyn (deep, deeper), I love myself, I love the earth, the trees, the birds. My inner vision (and outer vision) now expanded with world awareness, my third eye open to positive elements (earth, wind and fire – oh yes, I feel a lot of funk in my life) and all that hippy mumbo jumbo shit.
Like someone said to us today, “you cannot convey to someone who hasn’t been to Australia, the space and feeling of freedom” and also it is that “that intimidates some people while others embrace it” and you see what I feel.
To bring you up to date we spent three pretty torturous stressy days at home together with a lot of all our stresses surfacing and causing us brief frictions but we understand each other and our situation and realistically just why these things are occurring as I probably explained some text earlier. So the last thing we wish to worry about is getting married yet this is what we’ve thrown ourselves into and we trip out to Bathurst where Broni and her 8 brothers and sisters were raised and her mum and dad still live.