Arrived in Portland just before the sun went down, which I won’t call good timing, because I didn’t time it, but which was opportune, because I managed to visit and photograph four decent sites before the light ran out (well, in truth the last few pics look weird, all washed out, but ultimately I don’t think it’ll matter too much they’ll probably only be reference photographs) and then got accomm.
The accomm. in question will not be named, but it is a late 19th century hotel on the waterfront, somewhere between Orwellian or Lynchian, or Porteresque perhaps, or there is always the possibility that all the rest of the time I am entirely ensconced in cotton wool and this is how life is, but anyway, it’s a cheap ‘n’ miserable pokie joint with some rooms upstairs. I enquired about the room price and it was so cheap I asked to have a look at it, was given a key, went and had a look, thought, god, all I want to do is exist on a Sunday night in Portland, I’ll be back on the road before the sun comes up so what difference does it make and it IS cheap, so I went back downstairs and the guy was on the phone and I said ‘I’ll be back in a minute’, and then moved the car out the front etc and went back in and the guy said ‘oh, you’re back!’ and I guess we were both surprised.
Now you’ll probably expect a tale of dread, fear and woe, but no, it’s just a slightly creepy old hotel with small rooms and full of second hand furniture (I did wake at some point to hear someone tortuously edge across the floor outside, step by laboured step, but they didn’t sound like they had tremendous upper body strength and were wielding a samovar, well maybe a samovar, but not a scimitar).
Portland actually seems (I am not sure I’ve ever been here before) a delightful place, with its brilliant brutalist’s brutalist civic centre, and its arts centre which is to the pyramids what the Sydney opera house is to ships’ sails. It also has a rad building called the Ruth Martin Centre (why they would name a building after a late 1990s Neighbours character I don’t know, but I am NOT against it) which is two storeys, all 1930s cream plaster and brick trim. I went to sleep extremely early after two glasses of a Pemberton pinot noir and a small pizza at the local pizza restrong (a day’s driving and half a bottle of pinot and I felt totally trippy; I saw these amazing clouds that turned out to be a fir tree, and I saw a woman completely outlined by a window on the side of a three-storey theatre building and thought, as you do when you are trippy, ‘did I really see that woman?’ and dreamed the dreams one dreams when one reads half a Pat Barker. And then woke up unfeasibly early and read the rest of Pat. And now I am on the verandah with lapsang and laptop, in my newly acquired Fletcher Jones getup (yep, I went to Fletcher’s factory outlet when passing through Warrnambool… what a grouse place… I had a wander through the gardens too… love the huge stone baskets… it’s completely overdone in the statuary department… the factory has been sold, a developer’s dream, though the guy in the shop told me the shop may stay and the gardens definitely will.)
So this morning I am heading out to Heywood, then Casterton which is my furthest western point, and slowly edge back from there, taking in Hamilton and Coleraine. I actually have a slight set against Hamilton though I’m not sure why. I am going to have to steel myself against the constant temptation of op-shops, well, maybe just a couple can’t hurt.
And now my dream is to get out of this hotel without actually having to see any of the other inmates. That would be sweet.
Later (Casterton, 10:14 am)
Apart from the fact they do not have a sign as you enter Casterton saying ‘Welcome to Casterton: rhymes with Mastodon not plaster nun’, or the other way around, (there is a sign but it just says ‘You figure it out’) I like Casterton. It reminds me of the gold towns of eastern California, stuck as it is in a bit of a valley, & full of grouse 19th century two-story balconied buildings in a reasonably narrow (because everyone parks in it) main street. I have a minor beef with myself because two people from History, or at least from the History of CJ Degaris in which I have an interest (Mary Degaris, CJ’s sister, and George Hervey who, in a manner of speaking, killed him) were born here but I don’t really know where. I have to keep reminding myself I don’t give a loose root about those kinds of things, though I suppose if I knew where the houses were I’d go and see if they were still there, maybe break in, have a look around, film myself, you know.
I have about five more places to go today, but from hereon I’m going back home, so whatever I don’t manage, it is at least closer. I have already made my westernmost stop (Dartmoor, quite an attractive town, though it’s easier to find a map of Gallipoli there than it is to find a map of Dartmoor - !) and Casterton is my most northwest. Coleraine, where I have five sites to visit, is as northerly but it’s further east. OK? In the meantime I have been struck by the beauty of the small towns in this region, Merino was hilly and delightful (I took a picture from the top of Maud St – actually it was almost but not quite the top, because I stopped the car and a cattle dog came out to see wtf I was doing, so I went half a block downhill).
Digby, much smaller, has things going for it too. Yeah. Digby.
Looking forward to Coleraine, I hope it is all I imagined (I have no expectations).