Monday, November 16, 2009

launceston memoreez

This is a more auspicious occasion than I appreciated until I thought about it one second ago; it really is the last gasp of my travels across the landscape looking at small civic buildings for the project I was first employed on 3½ years ago. The book is being written, the MS due at the end of the year, and indeed this is much less a journey to Launceston to trawl for places and facilities, and much more an archive visit to pick up some images and maybe a few extra good ideas to slap the face of the various chapters I’ve been working on (libraries, kindergartens, community centres – all co-authored with respected colleagues). So, even though I am getting a hire car it’s at least as much a pragmatic response to the reality that Launceston airport is far from Launceston, and that taxis to and from in two days, plus the little bit of journeying I am likely to do this evening to check up on the current status of any of the places I find out about today, will add up to pretty much the same kind of price as the tiny Getz (later: no, it was a less-than-tiny Tiida) I will be driving for brief periods of the day.

I would feel overall better about this whole shebang if the last few days/nights of extreme heat hadn’t been so wearying. It is very hard to get to sleep in a heatwave and it’s also hard to cope with when you know that it’ll probably be over in a few days and back to some normal November weather, so we don’t (for instance) put away the warm clothes just yet, etc. Repulsively last night the iced water I had by the bed had seemingly become higher than body temperature by about 2 am though this can’t be right. Nevertheless it was a little bit like what drinking vomit might be like.

So it’s good to be going to Launceston where it is predicted to be only mid-20s (whereas Melbourne today is going to be, I gather, low 30s). I anticipate a few hours in the Museum archives (local history collection), a few hours in the library archives (er… local history collection), and maybe a couple of hours of field work, then an appropriate sleep in the ‘heritage accommodation’ I have obtained for myself. I am then going to repeat most of the activities of today, tomorrow, mainly because the museum archives are only open to the public for three hours of the day, for some reason.

Other complaints aside from hot weather: my right wrist is very stiff and quite sore, perhaps even a little swollen. I may die of it. Also, this Hudsons coffee is quite watery.

Later: Well I dithered around for quite some time, taking wrong turns and going to the wrong place (i.e. the old museum site when I should have been going to the new, but I had no idea) and trying to circumnavigate all the one way streets, difficult considering for some reason as soon as I arrived in the CBD my orientation went 90 degrees counterclockwise, if you know what I mean. I kept thinking I was travelling east when I was , in fact, travelling north and I still haven’t quite got the hang of it in my mind. I saw the ‘no jobs on a dead island’ banners suspended from what I since discovered is something to do with Gunns and its pulp milling activities, but didn’t realise this was a new thing until I heard about it on the news. Another protest, somewhat obscure:

It is an exceedingly pleasant day in Launie today and I have said it before but I suppose I have to say it once more: I really love Launie, it’s one of those amazing towns where half of it is up an unfeasible hillside and there are far, far, too many (i.e. more than zero) men with big fat bellies and ZZTop beards (you rise to the top in this social strata particularly effectively if you got a bald head too), and as I write additionally a shit of a two-year old pounding around yelling at people. His name seems to be Lyn so I reckon his parents got everything they asked for.

I am still tired but I am going to take the archivist’s advice and travel to Lilydale this afternoon, checking out the memorial hall etc. He said it was only 20 minutes’ drive north, but considering my proclivity for wrong turns I will probably end up taking – ooh – 30 minutes.

Later: I did that, and it worked, so I was pretty happy. It was really worth doing actually. Lilydale seemed like a very pleasant small town. It has an ancient shop, too, which is weird. I was told this and like you I thought, an ancient shop? But well, what can I say. That’s what it is.

I am going to rest now, as I am very tired. This room is an oddity. I suppose it suits me.

Next day: not a bad sleep though I did wake at 3:18 for a brief period. The B&B I was staying in, Windmill Hill Lodge, is to be highly recommended and if you go there you will see my name in the guest book, recommending it as ‘excellent!’. Being a B&B they not only supply B but also B, and the B in this case was a deluxe affair riddled with things they specialise in and manufacture on the premises, various stewed figs and rhubarb and then jams they also make and I was told they make their own bread, though I didn’t sample either of these. I was happy with porridge, some cardamom tea (I’d never tried that before and I liked it) and while I was there a small Burmese (?) came through the window which was obviously a drama for the proprietor as it was a H&S issue I am sure but it was a nice cat and I certainly wasn’t outraged.

This morning I encountered what I have to say was surely the most absurd intersection in Australia – I can’t even conceive of a more ridiculous one – on a highway along the river, where you can only turn right when the cars to your right have finished turning left in front of you, which they clearly never would. This was so ridiculous and unlikely to be resolved within an hour or two I quickly figured I had two options – to reverse (this was doable, there was no-one behind me, everyone else in Launceston obviously knew this was an impossible route) or to make an illegal (I assume) left turn into the road I had wanted to turn right onto, and find some place to do a uey. I did this finally it was a little dodgy.

One thing I always like to do in Launceston is visit the Country Women’s Association of Tasmania shop, however, my sense of direction in Launie is if anything getting worse and I was finding it extremely hard to figure out where this place was. I mean, I had been there many times before but the more I find my way around, the less I remember my original orientation (which as I have already explained is crap anyway). So I called directory assistance (‘You’re looking for Taxis Combined Services Launceston – right?’) and got their number. When I called I could not imagine a more suspicious and belligerent conversant, a woman who was unaware of the term ‘street address’ and actually asked who was calling. I suppose this could have been an opportunity to turn hatred into friendship but instead I just said ‘a customer’ and she said thank you and hung up.

I guess when I come to towns like this (is there a town like this?) I throw my weight around a little and upset the locals with my self-importance. Every response I get from them seems to me to be bizarre and small-town-David-Lynchian, but it’s probably not, or even if it is, it’s only a miniscule per cent of the population I am dealing with.

There is probably also some residual unhappiness about the fact that Launcestrians founded Melbourne and Melbourne doesn’t remember. Hence the bizarre billboard of a man floating on an enormous rubik’s cube in the mist, for whom a Melbournian could not possibly provide a solution. I have to admit, being from Melbourne this ad makes entirely no sense to me whatsoever, and I most definitely would have no answer for this person. Maybe the Launcestonians could tell me why the only AM radio I can pick up in Launceston is a very staticky and fuzzy (Melbourne-broadcast) Radio National and 774 Melbourne. I guess this is one of those things where you don’t have time to figure it out, you don’t know anyone local who can tell you, and you are going back in a few hours anyway so it doesn’t matter, really.

At the airport, about ten minutes (???) from boarding: mocking me as fate so often does, very soon after writing the above I encountered, at the Launceston Library, a man older than me who had never used a photocopier before (that said, unlike every other person who ever used a photocopier for the first time, he got it right first time, even though he was trying a tricky manoeuvre that involved folding part of a page over to get the beginning of an article on the same page as its bulk).

I saw Gunns propaganda in an op shop which was basically a spiel about Gunns’ caring management of forests sandwiched between some bits and bobs about wildlife. Nearby – for free, but I didn’t avail myself – was an 80s book for kids about AIDS and why homosexuals deserve it (but people who caught it via blood transfusions just got in the line of fire). That particular op shop was quite amazing, actually. Now I can’t even remember where it is and that’s good because you’d just go there and clean the sucker out. It was a Mission Shop, which is the brand of a heck of a lot of op shops in Launceston, and they are huge!!! One very much got the idea that in Launceston a lot of old people die and someone has to throw out their stuff, and someone else prices it either chuckling to themselves about how much the mainlanders would pay for this junk, or just prices it, randomly, either way, I know that if I had five hundred dollars and the return fair on the ferry, and five free days and a wish to propagate junk to the wider world, I could drive down there from Melbourne and fill up the stationwagon with the geegaws and chattels of a bygone age there and then for almost nothing and come back to the mainland and supply idiots with rubbish to my profit. I’m sure of it. The material was all pretty much useless and one felt a bit dirty hanging around it a long time. Crockery and canisters and utensils and so on. Pretty extraordinary. Even the AIDS book had camp value I reckon I’d stick a tenner on that. The first word in the index was ‘anal opening’.

On returning, I would like to affirm that I am a solid fan of Launceston, and I find it a most engaging city. There is clearly much to the Launcestacian experience that I have not quite got on top of and I wonder if I ever would, even if I moved there tomorrow. Probably not. It’s one of those huon things – you need to always have been there to understand it (like being a white South African or even perhaps a white Australian) and then, of course, you can’t understand it at all really.

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