The Voles at the VIC

I have a long relationship with info centres. When my mother lived in Broken Hill, the Info Centre was a meeting place and had the best coffee in town. You could fall off an overnight bus or the Indian Pacific (in the days when people still smoked down the back near the baggage car with the animals and sometimes it wasn’t tobacco they were smoking), mainline caffeine, and regroup. My mother would meet friends there for morning tea even when no one was coming or going, that’s how good the coffee and the ambiance were in the Silver City VIC.

Riding a bike through the Flinders Ranges and the empty, barren stretches of the Stuart Highway I always liked the info centres that had public toilets, a tap, and some shade. Driving my evil Lithuanian ex-mother-in-law through the rural areas of Victoria and South Australia on an ill-conceived road-trip, info centres were the only place where she didn’t whip out her toilet-seat covers (we won’t speak badly of the departed, but fuck I hated those disposable toilet seat covers). A good info centre can impart the flavour of a town, give you those sneaky bits of information that don’t appear on tripadvisor, set your journey on a weird and different path. I drank beer one hot spring day with the volunteers at the Cardwell info centre and wound up on the Culpa Road, in the strange and eerie high country around Tully Falls, on their somewhat inebriated advice. The info centre in Mackay charged our battery for us during floods, and found us a tarp that got washed away (sorry, Mackay VIC). I have forgotten the name of the little town in western NSW where a crocheting woman in a crypt behind the church directed us to the $20 a night ‘Pumpkin Cottage’, but that was up there with great finds of my travels.

It was inevitable that I would end up working at one of these havens with a covey of extremely elegant and articulate older women. Let me introduce them. There is cat-lover S., who dyes her hair a medley of blue and purple, more punk than little-old-lady. There is hyperactive L., just back from India and staunch advocate for the National Parks of the area. N. knows everything there is to know about local history and can answer tricky questions about the water-courses that feed into each other and the direction in which they do so, and new recruit C. is so enthusiastic about the area she bounces as she gives people directions, even when their destination is only the local IGA.

There is talk of the Info Centre where I work becoming more entwined with the one at the other end of our LGA. In an increasingly homogenised world there is a wonderful (and frightening) amount of passion for our uniqueness and originality among the vols (a title I always hear as ‘voles’, with the accompanying image of slightly manic rodents), and the specificity of our little crease in the map along the Border Ranges.

Happy fifteenth birthday, VIC. We wish you another fifteen years in your funny little stone building with the beautiful light and the incumbent water dragon.


I didn’t watch tv last night

Now that uni is finished for the year, I can start reading novels again. I can listen to music and cook odd vegetarian things in a bid to trick the Owl into thinking he is consuming flesh. I can listen to the back-log of radio that my fellow RN junkie R.  has told me I must hear and that I missed because I was working at the world’s most boring job, and I can fantasise about the best way to kill Michael Cathcart. I can watch marathons of a certain crappy vampire series, and I might wash that down with some zombies, but they’ll be on DVD because neither of us care enough to waste good plane-ticket money on technology. I can blog every day and bore you all rigid with my opinions. This is going to be fun.

I won’t be watching tv. I tell everyone this is because I live somewhere with no signal, because that’s easier than explaining that I hate tv and was as happy as a clam when the analogue signal got switched off. I hate facile half-hour snippets that purport to represent human lives and I hate reality shows that are less realistic than sit-coms. I hate the cult of the chef as Messiah, and I hate anything misogynistic to do with cars and men who cultivate an air of mystery because they are such boring fuckers otherwise (Andrew got me to watch ‘Top gear’ once, and once only, by promising me that there would be a bogged Lancia Beta surrounded by crocodiles). I hate anything to do with renovation, gardens or lifestyle and I hate ads. Most of all I hate ads. C. tells me this is because I am undiagnosed adult –onset ADHD and have the attention span of a platy, but I prefer to think of my inability to sit through advertising as a symptom of an unmaterialistic outlook with a small component of anger management dysfunction.

I hate one thing more than ads. People who have a ‘favourite ad’ should be placed in a sinking Lancia Beta surrounded by crocodiles. (So should Michael Cathcart, but I’m trying not to think about him, for fear of exacerbating my anger-management issues). People who can rehash every second of a piece of advertising, reminisce about ‘ads from long ago’, analyse the characteristics of the characters in an ad or, worst of all, quote from an ad like it is a meaningful document with something to offer the world, desist. Go and read a novel or work out how to make textured vegetable protein taste good. Don’t talk to me, or I’ll force you into a car in a swamp in Botswana, throw Michael Cathcart in there after you, and lock the door.

Dear Greg Hunt

Dear Greg

Can I call you Greg? I’ve felt on first-name basis with you for some years now, and in my house, we even have cute pet names for you.

I’m not sure why you’ve decided not to go to Warsaw for the annual climate change talks. I know you are busy trying to repeal the carbon tax, and I appreciate that this will entail a lot of work, but Warsaw is quite a nice city, and you probably will need a holiday away from all those nasty greenies. You’d better not be saving your energy for Paris in 2015 – it would look like you were engaging in stereotyping and overlooking a former Eastern Bloc country while still being willing to show up in the City of Light for a wine-swilling junket. Anyway, Poland has quite a lot to offer the discerning tourist, and with this in mind my partner (also called Greg) has put together a bit of an itinerary and some recommendations for you.

Definitely take in the archaeological museum. We didn’t get there on our visit, but I believe there are a lot of fossils. You should enjoy that. Take a walk along the Wisla and contemplate the beauties of nature within a large city. Beavers hang out there sometimes. Remember that guy in the Ukraine who bled to death when a beaver got him on the femoral artery? If you don’t see any beavers and you want some wild-life action, I believe there might be some rabid squirrels in Lazienki Park.

The Palace of Science and Culture might be a nice place to spend an afternoon contemplating…well, science and culture. Seeing as we no longer have a science minister, or much culture for that matter, we’ll leave it up to you. Maybe you can suggest it to Campbell as well.

I know you’re short on time, being a busy man, but the Museum of the Uprising might be a good place to finish up before you fly home. There are a lot of quite colourful illustrations of the kind of things that can happen when the masses get really, really, really pissed off. And that’s always worth contemplating.

Of course, if we still haven’t sold you on Warsaw as a destination, my niece and nephew would be happy to take your place. They can’t really talk coherently yet, and they don’t make a lot of sense, but they’re really good at babbling and flailing about as if they have a meaningful contribution to make, and after all, it is their future that is at stake.

Revolutionarily yours,

The Owl and the Quoll