Monday, December 11, 2006
notes and reflections from my time in brisbane (about three days ago)
Well peeps it’s been a heady week here in Brisbane. I have attended three days of a most interesting conference at UQ, seen two owls, had some utterly harrowing driving experiences, taken the ferry five times, and spent time with some most charming people and probably dominated conversations with nonsense but who cares or knows. Or notices probably. Unless they’re on some other head trip.
Today (Friday 8 Dec) is the first day here – and this summer is already notorious even if it hasn’t happened yet – that it does seem really Brisbane summery. It’s only supposed to make 27 (whereas Melbourne has been quite a lot hotter the whole week – the only time in my life I can recall, when a change of location has been in my favour weatherwise). (Later: I think it got much hotter than 27 – I certainly did, anyway).
The college I am staying in for the duration (Mia urged me to get a hotel on the last day and I think this is sensible in some respects but ultimately just too much of a hassle considering I spend almost no time here and moving would also take time) is a full-on dump, I think I am actually the only person in this building (not right now, as there are painters across the corridor) and the first thing that struck me was the similarity between the corridors with their empty rooms like everyone had got out fast and The Shining, which is typical of my hysterical nature, but there were visual similarities. My accommodation does seem a bit like a public toilet. And I don’t think I could even really say ‘at least it’s clean’, so I won’t. They put on breakfast and dinner, I have only attended breakfast (this morning I couldn’t face it) which is stodgy baie marie fayre, I see it as a portent that dinner will not meet my delicate requirements.
I would like to here add some positive buts but there aren’t any, except I suppose, I’m not paying for it. Oh, there is air conditioning, which ironically hasn’t been all that important. Well, anyway, there’s no particular need for me to express on this subject. I am OK with it.
Yesterday I rescued a beetle on its back which was showing a great capacity to propel itself around despite its obvious problem. The UQ campus is great for wildlife, and a couple of nights ago while walking two colleagues back to their colleges (I had been disturbed to discover there is a ‘safety bus’ operating at night on campus, which indicates that walking around is an unsafe activity, so once my colleagues were returned to their quarters, I felt most uneasy by myself, but you know what? I lived) we saw two owls of different species in the one tree, and by myself I saw some unusual and unafraid herony birds poking around in the bushes, also there are literally (measurable) tonnes of ducks, geese, etc.
Later Friday – What a day of strange happenings. I saw a Dutch architecture lecture, was ripped off by a second hand record dealer (the swings of my yesterday roundabout when I scored an immensely valuable [and not just to me] album by Procession for cheap) and destroyed the computer catalogue at the State Library of Qld out of pure malition. I took a ferry and ate a felafel roll with cheese in it. I had a peach and apple juice and bought some socks (didn’t bring enough but you know me, any excuse to buy socks – the only thing I envy about Prince Charles is he always wears the best socks and he only wears them once). I took some photographs of the former Toowong library and drank three coffees.
I have good things to say, as you know, about all the state capitals. I was driving in Brisbane on the first day and that took years off my life, literally years. But it is a beautiful city, and some of its people are exceptionally charming. There is too much good food (I have doubled my mass since Monday) and also, too much bad food (nevertheless…). The Courier Mail is not to my taste, and I have read the Australian all week, and it's not either. But overall, it’s been a cool week in a hottish place, and I aim to be back within six months looking for more good times.
Saturday morning – well I went up to the South St Lucia shops, which has become my very familiar hang this week but which I imagine I may never visit again, and read the Australian and had a coffee. I had two dumbarse conversations going on either side of me. Family at next table all enlightened, mother father three kids under 10, father ‘I shouldn’t read the paper it’s very antisocial of me’ middle boy (around 7/ 8) ‘it’s very, very antisocial! Even though I don’t know what that means… (plaintive) what does antisocial mean?’ they all laugh, ugh. On the other side 40 year old boy with chick’s voice, slender figure grills friend about how much he reads. Boy obviously struggling to make conversation (friend clearly just wants to read the paper!) on a topic, reading, he is not that clear on. ‘Did you really read all those newspapers you had yesterday? And now you’ve got more!’ etc. Wife/ partner presumably of friend comes to table, early middle age, a fixed grimace smile on her face that looks like she’s put rubber bands around her head, has now to make conversation also with the boy, it is excruciating. Meanwhile, people, I am trying to read an unconvincing 2/3 of a page in the Australian magazine about Mike Brady’s 1980s battle with alcoholism, and Ruth Ostrow’s delightful unintentional counterpoint about irresponsible drunken youths.
I had gone out with no shoes on and a shirt with a pineapple on the pocket. I thought this would make me blend in with the natives but apparently they don’t let their feet touch the soil here, and nor do they pledge their allegiance to growable fruits so obviously. I mean who the hell do they think they are. I am about to check out of this dive forever, and am sitting at a table with a view onto a quite ugly courtyard, a procession of young women wearing shorts and with very muscular legs goes by, muscular I think because whatever else they’re doing here they’re rowing too. Many of them also have laptops and no I am not going to lapse into some froth a la that great character played by Warren Mitchell in the tv adaptation of the Glen Tomasetti book Man of Letters. But most interestingly I just saw the second Iron Maiden t-shirt I’ve seen in 24 hours. Are Iron Maiden the new Ramones (in this regard)? Golly. Or is there just a local fanbase of youngsters?
As mentioned, this dump is presently being painted/ refurbished – a staff member, while getting me an iron, told me this had to happen at the end of every semester. This morning I heard one of the painters saying to a couple of others (I don’t know who this was regarding, I choose to think not me, he certainly was not looking at me), ‘they’re the kind of people who look at their own shit’. Something else that obviously isn’t done in Brisbane society.