Sharing the love — little heart warmers

2016 has been a bit shit in a lot of ways, hasn’t it? Loss and meanness and downright ugliness. But, as Heart would say, or sing, rather, what about love?*

Well, recently my writerly community was gathered in Melbourne** celebrating their love of the written word, in various literary and visual forms, and my wife and I were off at the other end of Ballarat taking a quiet anniversary weekend out. Here’s a picture: let’s call it Love 1.

Worldmark Ballarat resort

If you like willows and lake reflections and red bricks against blue sky, you’ll find more pictures here.

On day 1 of the weekend, we ate dumplings at our favourite dumpling house (Fu Man Lou) and then went on a ghost tour***, the tickets for which had been given to me for my birthday. That’s love right there — a gift from someone who “gets” you. For the record, the tour started out pretty well, in a haunted Victorian-era bakery subject to flooding, but kind of went off the boil as the night wore on and the cold set it. Too much sauce, not enough substance — unlike the dumplings. Nom nom nom. Funnily enough, the site of the dumpling house was also the setting for one of the ghost stories. What the hell, Love 2.

The second night, we went to Catfish Thai. Oh my, times a bunch. Seven courses, each one delectable. We had a window seat looking over this old brick place and next to it a wall covered in winter ivy — noice. Wonderful restaurant, great service, divine tucker, with a bill best suited to special occasions. Love 3.

And then, as there are on anniversaries, wee small gifts of affection: a Plague Doctor Bird! My beloved secured this months ago, a fabulous work by KJ Bishop, a damn fine writer who also is a dab hand at gardening and sculpture. Round it out with a Batman mug: Love 4!****

Plague Doctor Bird

The weekend wasn’t entirely without its “literature”, of course. We slummed for a day and watched Anomalisa, a disappointing film from Charlie Kaufman about a dude not coping with his decisions in life and hurting everyone; the well-constructed and quite engaging, and infuriating, The Big Short; and a surprisingly entertaining Trainwreck. Claymation annoyance, effective rom com and political statement: Love 5. The wine and cheese gets the movie marathon over the line. Also, do check out a card game called Sushi Go! Great for pairs or groups, quick and easy but not without its strategy. It’s Australian, and, I’ve just found out, was the subject of an Indiegogo campaign: more love!

And, as readers of this blog might realise, I finished off that weekend by sharing that other love of mine: my vampires. But that’s enough about that.

As shit as it all gets, we’ve got nature, and art, and each other. It’s worth taking the time out sometimes to remember that. Love out.

* New album out next month! (New versions, a couple of new tunes *drums finger* still no Oz tour, but.)
** We missed youse all!
*** We did their Ararat ghost tour a few years ago and it was brilliant.
**** In return, there were poppets. We love poppets 🙂

Dickabram bridge’s 125th anniversary and the water that’s flowed under

dickabram bridge at mivaThe Dickabram bridge at Miva is an unusual piece of architecture: massive pylons, that arch midway, the timber decking that rattles with every passing vehicle. It’s unusual historically, too, being one of few remaining joint rail and road bridges in the country — a famous other one, with arch, is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Dickabram bridge opened 125 years ago and made a massive change to its corner of Queensland. My great-great-grandfather recalls the strife and inconvenience of having to ferry produce across the Mary River in the days before the bridge. The delay in getting to market could be costly.

How do I know about my ancestor’s travails as a primary producer at the turn of the last century? Because he left a memoir. The written word: you’ve got to love the insight into history it can provide, with all due care for its jaundiced eye.

There was plenty of history at Miva at the weekend: oral, written, steam-driven.

This spot on the map, little more than a couple of houses now — vacant blocks where the railway station and the shop used to be, but the QCWA Hall where I went to Sunday School is still standing and looking smart — had a massive population boost at the weekend. Caravan city. Music. Hubbub. All to mark the anniversary of the local landmark.

The governor, Penelope Wensley, was there and all, amongst a bevy of politicians. She gave a good speech from the back of the truck that served as a stage: gentle humour and a mention of YouTube, evidence of decent research about the mighty span and the way life was back then, right down to the ghost of the bloke they say might, or might not, have been entombed in a concrete pylon. And she gave acknowledgement of the indigenous people, too: elsewhere, a few snapshots of Kanakas and Aborigines, if you cared to look on an otherwise white colonial day.

On the stage with the governor was Will Nahrung, one of the chief organisers, a rellie as you’d gather by the name, a bloke who used to deliver groceries to our farm from the back of a big flat-bed truck, once upon a time. He still lives just up the road from the bridge, right next to that vacant space where the family store once stood.

My uncle, Lex Kunst, was among the singers — country all the way, as you might expect when you’re surrounded by cane fields and paddocks dotted with beef and dairy cattle. Another relative, Don Nahrung, was among the exhibitors showing off machinery of yore: massive chainsaws and a steam engine, old vehicles and more pumps than you could point a dipstick at; one mob had a wall of electric fences.

Up the hill there’s a cemetery containing my great-great-grandfather’s bones, and on another nearby hill there are the stumps of the house where he and his family and descendants lived, my dad and his brother and sister included. Maybe it was those stumps. Maybe it was that ridge. Maybe it was that fig tree. Landscape and memory not quite meeting. They left in 1949; back at the celebration, we saw a picture of the truck laden with their furniture crossing the Dickabram bridge.

At the anniversary bash, the Queensland sun beat down and the dust rose underfoot. A local hall association sold $2 soft drinks, tea and coffee, and $6 burgers, and around the riverbank park the conversation was all about the years gone by, the weather, the good-sized crowd. The day, and the people, too, passed all too quickly, all caught somewhere between the then and the now.

And down below, the river, mud-brown and languid, flowed on.

Remembering Ian Curtis

It’s thirty years ago today that Joy Division singer Ian Curtis took his own life. So sad, and such a waste. To mark the anniversary of a great songwriter and performer, one whose music has affected me deeply, here’s a tribute video pulled from the interwebs, set to a suitable anniversary song, New Dawn Fades:

Could be a good night for a Twenty-Four Hour Party People/Control double – two exceptional films, the first about Factory Records and their artists, the second an amazing biopic.