Thank you

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To you, my dear reader for reading some of my stuff.

I have been writing on this blog for over four years (I think) and it’s been kind of a mess. I was inspired by a writerly uni-mate who has a kick arse blog. Although my blog has never been as organised and my posting is sporadic it’s been a place for me to experiment with my writing, do reviews, stalk the Melbourne literary crowd of happenings (exhausting). There’s been recipes and unicorn stories and truths badly disguised in fiction.

One of the things I have enjoyed doing on Freedom Tights was my ‘Book That’ blog series in which many great people wrote about their personal experiences with a book they have read. If you think a book can’t change your life then read Ebonie Hyland’s piece and you’ll have to think again about the power of books.

I have been to blogging workshops which have told me how to make my blog the coolest kid on the block and get a heap of followers. Problem is that I needed to focus on one key area only and market the heck out of that. And where is the fun in that? 

Freedom Tights has been and will most likely be a bit messy, but I’m cool with it.

And I’m cool with the fact that my most popular post is Devon and Chicken Loaf – the worst kind of meat there is. Feel free to join in with that trollin’ orgy going on in the comments page there.

Thanks again for your eyeballs!

xxx

 

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Dutch Bar Runner Slave

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His name was Root and he was to be my slave for the rest of the night. He was Dutch and when he first told me his name I thought he said ‘Roo.’

Roo would have been okay. I could handle Roo.

‘Root’ was another matter. But people name their kids all sorts of crazy things these days so you just have to accept that he may have been named after a part of a plant. Maybe it was a common name in Holland.

I was the cashier for the gig and he was the bar runner. He would do as I say which was commonly one of these things:

Ginger Beer

Bottle of red

Bottle of white

Cable Ale

Mango Beer.

For I was a slave to the customers and their sweaty wads of cash.

If he had been a real slave and not getting paid $31 per hour (Sunday rates, same as me) I would’ve ordered him to perhaps, rub my feet (sore from the previous week of waitressing) buy me one of those delicious smelling pizzas in the van next to us and please, please pop that yellow pimple on your chin because, well, it’s a bit yuck.

I tried to be a good master, I tried not to yell out the orders but sometimes Root acted like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an on-coming truck. Was I the truck? Or was it the culprit the current customer, the aggressive Santa with the strong Aussie accent?

‘I SAID RED WINE MATE NOT BLOODY WHITE!’

Bad Bar Runner! BAD!

When it did slow down, the one slow moment where the crowd was not looking to intoxicate themselves – drunk on the music instead, PK’s ‘Dumb Things’ – Root and I danced a little. A sort of bopping from side to side in front of my cash register.

He told me that he had been in Australia for only a few weeks. He had done the WA coast in a week, because: ‘Why would you need more than that?’ Stopping at the attractions during the day and driving through the night. You don’t need longer than a day to see one beach. He had scored a job at the local IGA just by posting an ad on gumtree. You know those desperate ones like: ‘Good worker, single Dutch guy want work?’

Apparently they do work.

And then he had gotten the shift at the gig too. Like me, and ten others, we were donning black tees and serving a crowd of two thousand on Cable Beach.

By the end of the night Root and I parted ways without a single see you or, ‘I’ll add you to facebook’. Our relationship was complicated. He was free from the shackles of the bar and from me shouting orders.

I counted my till, it was up $6,000. It had been a team effort, but Root had fled before I could tell him of our achievements. 

I didn’t ask to be the slave master, I wanted to be Spartacus – the good guy.

After the gig, feeling depressed and sorry for myself I went to Dominoes.

I ate a whole pizza.

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Forget about it all

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I wondered if I had enough time to cross the street before you saw me. Hide in that Off Ya Tree shop and pretend I was inspecting a bong, looking down the mouth-pieces and tubes and hoses. Checking for velocity and slurping power and god knows whatever else you look at in a bong. I would fit in too, with my red-rimmed eyes and grey trackies making me look like a legendary member of the club. Livin’ the dream man.

But you saw me and your face changed from that of a person pleasantly cruising down Swanston Street, to a face of surprise, shock and then awkwardness. Your smile drooping slightly like a stroke patient. It didn’t help that I was staring right at you, like that toy Furby we used to play with that had broken eyelids. 

‘Hey you!’ 

You said regaining movement in your mouth and giving me that trademark customer service smile that people get after working in the area for nearly ten years. The dimples rose like a soft bread but the eyes sat like two marbles in your sockets.

‘How the heck have you been?!’

I lie, because being honest would make my eyes change from weed-smoker to full on meth head red. I lie about my great job, my new fantastically shiny car in my drive-away, about my planned 10 day trip to South America.

It’s all bullshit and you know it. But you respond in the same bullshit way, you’re a manager now, engaged (shiny piece of rock that I have to compliment because that’s the rule isn’t it?) and your honeymoon to Fiji! 

We already know all these things about each other, but we pretend that we don’t follow that silly Facebook site, that we haven’t zoomed on each others profile pictures and compared our figures, the creases around our eyes, analysed each other status updates.  

We used to play barbie dolls and not much later share our Dolly magazines and all of the crushes and  secrets we had. We wore those best-friend heart necklaces where I had one half and you had the other. We imagined ourselves old, wrinkly toes poking out of patchwork blankets as we both sat on our rocking chairs on a balcony in a house we shared, necklaces still hanging loose around our throats. 

You smile wider and inspect my outfit, lingering over the cheese stains on my t-shirt, the holes in my pants.

‘Laundry day.’ I lie and you nod again, politely, even though laundry day is no excuse for my greasy hair, my body odour.

After a few minutes you excuse yourself, there’s so much to do for the wedding! And I say, oh yes of course! I’m so busy myself!

But I can’t move for a few minutes and need to lean against a pole. If we were twelve again you wouldn’t leave me here. You’d wrinkle up your nose and tell me I stink and I would cry and you’d hug me and let the tears and snot drip down your favourite Roxy t-shirt. Then after we would go back to your house and paint each others nails bright pink and forget about it all.

 

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Tourist Trade

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1.
This was tourist trade. They wrap themselves in the bright colours of the sky and earth and wield their camera phones in every direction. #Betyouwishyouwerehere #sun!

Herding towards the authentic aboriginal art prints, they will look at the price-tags. Could I get this on eBay for cheaper?
Or, a collective sigh between their partners: how hard is it to dot paint anyways?

But some will buy the paper bark, the stretched out canvas, because for a fleeting moment they want to be in touch with the real Kimberelys.

2.
The backpackers play cards at Cable Beach, eat crackers with sour cream and watch the sun repeatively dive into the sea. The locals hate em. Hate all em freeloading bastards. And who can blame them? They are tanned, beautiful and living free on the cemented car-parks that the council built for the tourist trade.

3.
My favourite part in the Lonely Planet guide on Broome is the section called:
NOT CAMELS.

But day after day the tourist trade mount a camel hump and thump along the beach as the sun sets, their cameras gripped between the saddle and their white fingers.

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Visiting The Retreat

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Me: Haha going to the retreat hotel

Alana: Woah. Take photos and tell me everything.

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Central Queensland doesn’t look like how you think it would. In the west, going out towards Longreach the earth turns a fiery red that sticks to your thongs. But this isn’t the outback you have on your desktop computer, there are trees here. Not skeleton ones, but full branches with leaves of green. Cane toads hang around the toilets like loitering teenagers. I try to kick one but the wrinkled monster is too fast.

At night time the stars nearly swallow the flat earth.

In Sapphire we fossick for gems. The sweat pours off our faces as we sort through the rocks with the willowby. Pour the rocks in the pan, push it into the water. Wash it. Repeat.

The Willowby. Dan likes that word. Our shorts are covered in dirt and it only takes us a few hours until we’re too cranky to be friendly to each other anymore.

I go for a run and I wonder as I do in most places, why people live here. The caretaker at Great Keppel Island says it’s a shithole but there is beauty in ugliness, even the shittiest holes must have some attraction, right?

I get lost on my run as the sun sinks beneath the shadow of the tree-line. I use the camels in the paddock to find my way back. I’d be lying if I said my heart wasn’t thump-thumping as I try to escape the country of rusted, gutted old cars. I could always ask for help, but I don’t want to go to the weather board slums with dug out backyards strewn with prospecting gear. When I get back to our camp-site the sky is purple.

The lady who teaches us how to fossick speaks bitterly of the slums.

Dole-bludgers, pensioners, living off mining land for nothing!

The lady has been living in the gemfields for over thirty years. Her face looks like a vintage bag you’d find in an op-shop.

We leave the gemfields with our small fortune in an eclipse packet that we hide in the glove-box. Our GPS takes us on an obscure route and we pass nothing but country-side with fat cows and grass too green to think you’re in Central Queensland. But the land changes around us, black hills with flat tops appear in the distance. It’s beautiful.

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Then the land opens up and drops beneath our feet. The modern gemfields.

Man can destroy the land by digging craters deeper than you can imagine. But at the same time the mechanical wheels of the train over five kilometres long, of the truck the size of a mansion carrying coal, well, it’s a different kind of magic. An ugly kind that still makes you take a second glance back in the rear view mirror.

We have lunch in Moranbah. Wikipedia tells us that it’s the most expensive town in Queensland to live in. The main attraction going for it, as far as we can tell, it the unlimited salad bar at the RSL club. We fill our plates up with three different types of salad. Dan moans, grabbing his full belly when we get back into the car. The town is only 25 years old and you can tell, it’s cement face has been whacked up quickly to accommodate the mining riches. A Red Rooster and a McDonalds do not make a town.

We can’t find anywhere to camp for free in Moranbah so we head back onto the highway and 90 k’s later we pull into The Retreat Hotel.

My friend Alana wrote this amazing piece about this place. In 2009 she worked and lived in the pub for two months. She endured sexism and saw some of the worst aspects of the outback working here, something that you cannot really experience by just staying one night and with a first glance it seems friendlier than staying on the endless highway.

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We ask the blonde bartender if we can camp for free?

Where?

A shrug.

Wherever.

We set up our tent on the grass, about 200 metres from the hotel. Dan wants a beer so he gets a beer and I take advantage of the free tea served in a styrofoam cup. As I look around the hotel I play I-SPY. I spy hundreds of rooms in portables, for miners hitting the piss. I spy signs promoting a topless waitress night (Thursday!) and another with a cartoon man squeezing a woman’s breast. I-SPY a sleaze hitting on the same blonde bartender. Alana wants me to say hi to the manager, but I don’t see any males in charge, only females running the show, so I stick with my tea and read through a selection of magazines: Mackay Lifestyle (YOUR WEDDING DAY!), Cosmos, Mining Life (DREDGING IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!).

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Dan and I use the showers which are also in the portables. My shower smells like someone was sucking on a cigarette while having their daily wash. On the door the sign tells us in a motherly tone, please flush the toilet after use. I tell Dan later that obviously that sign is written up for the dirty males that frequent the pub and don’t have basic toilet manners. Dan says I’m being sexist but he knows I’m right.

The next morning I wake up too early and like an old timer go for a walk. Utes and trucks speed past towards the holes in the earth. I help myself to another complimentary tea and count the caravans in the rest area: three, the number of fat bulls with no necks: six and the number of people in the pub drinking or having breakfast: zero.

There is nothing else to see so I head back to our camp through the wet grass.

I have another three teas and by 10am we are back on the highway, the hot sun burning our necks.

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Writing while travelling, ‘Travel-writing’

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This Sunday, Dan and I will take off in our 4WD named Whoopi Goldberg (it’s gold, getit?!). We’re travelling around Australia and are not really sure how long we will be gone, but our estimate is around six months. Whoopi is fancy, we have had a dual battery system installed so we can run our special car fridge all the time. Dan, being a handy carpenter has made a storage system in the back for our bags, tent and our life.

It’s a bit daunting but I’m really excited, although it won’t be until we set up for our first camp in Jindabyne that it’ll finally click: so this is our life now is it? But I am also looking forward to getting away from all of my Melbourne life, the countless useless items I surround myself with, not using my myki card and breathing in non-cigarette, non-car pollutant air.

A few friends have told me that I must keep writing. Travel writing, share with everyone what’s happening on the road and expose all those myths about Australia – do Australians really ride kangaroos to work? I’m yet to find out whether this one is fact or fiction.

And I want to do that, I like to write and I like to connect. But how can I experience things properly if I’m trying to document everything? You need to disconnect.  One of the great (and awful) things about Australia is that the phone and internet coverage is not so reliable. This forces you to disconnect. You truly do camp out under the stars and don’t bother checking in, or uploading or liking stuff. You just be. I’ve talked about being present before and it’s something I constantly struggle with.

I have to find a balance between taking enough photos and writing enough to remember and also living in the moment.

So, this is a post to say that I’m going away and I might be on hiatus or I might pop up from time to time depending on what’s happening. But don’t worry, I’ll be back.

 

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4.

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She says that she’s got all the time in the world. She’s still young. There’s time later to get her license. You can count the number of hours she’s had practice driving on a single hand. Straight lines through the back-streets. Easy Sunday driving with a nervous parent.

‘I can take you out, if you bring your L’s,’ you suggest, hoping that she doesn’t take you up on the offer. She doesn’t.

You forget that you’re 24. Your first thought is, okay, I don’t care and the second is fuck. If you’re going to follow your life plan, written by seven-year old you, you’re expected to have your first child in three years. A girl named Fiona. You’re also expected to marry an Andrew and live on a block of land outside of Albury. You don’t know any Andrews, except one who threw a chair at you in year 8. You’re not Facebook friends.

Some friends have babies and after a year or two the babies grow teeth and hair and rounder cheeks. Sometimes you feel like you need a baby to feel the passage of time properly. Would it slow it down? Or would it stay the same, sometimes exciting but usually stagnant like a pond?

Everyone seems to be having mini-crisis’s post-uni, but with much less drama. It’s like finishing high school again but with added responsibility because you’re more adult than you were at 18. You’ve paid bills and bought your own cereal. You’re succeeding at life.

She says you’re still young. But when does that stop, because some days you feel so old that you think about doing your will. You’re an organ donor, you’ve got the card, but you kind of hope to live a bit longer, write a bit more and find a way to slow time down.

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