Monday, September 20, 2010

A world of contrasts

A friend of mine is currently touring Ireland and is posting gorgeous photos on her blog. The country-side in the photos is nothing at all like I'm used to seeing here in Australia and I've started making comparisons.

I spent my very early years, and some time during my teenage years, in sheep country out west (way out west: 12 hours' drive west of Brisbane; about 1100km). It's the beginnings of desert out there with a few lonely Marino sheep - until shearing time and they're all rounded up and you realise there're thousands of them. The desert changes just as dramatically too when the floods come. There's no or little rain out there - just drought and then flood from the Channel Country up north. Then the country becomes a carpet of colourful wildflowers, the colours so strong that when the sun rises, your eyes hurt.

I have a photo taken in 1989 of a paddock full of golden daisies. If you're not sure how large a paddock is, just imagine those thousands of sheep and how much space they need in dry country that offers little food or water. There's no such thing as a half-acre plot out there; most stations are thousands of square kilometres. Usually the bright red soil is mostly covered by coarse grey-green grass and pock-marked with scraggly eucalyptus trees, but when there's rain or a flood the flowers come out and suddenly you begin to wonder if you're really as far west as you thought.

The photo is from so long ago partially because I don't go out there any more and partially because the area rarely gets enough water for the flowers to bloom. Those sorts of floods happen once a decade.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a difference a decade makes

Ten years ago, getting passport photos done meant I walked into the Post Office and asked for them. I stood against the wall, stared at the camera, paid my money, collected the photos and I was done.

I tried that two days ago. The process was the same but the results weren't.

Getting passport photos today means I need to have my eyebrows and eyelashes tinted and wear a foundation to even my skin tone. I even have to brush my hair - something I usually only do at night before bed.

I don't usually pay into the vanity shit for women, but then I've always been a reasonably good looking woman (and it's amazing what a difference smiling makes to your face). Now I'm seeing signs of aging. There's some grey coming in: not enough to colour my hair but enough to notice. My eyebrows were hit first, oddly enough. I also have sagging skin under my eyes that's a different colour to the rest of my face - hence the need for foundation. It's disheartening.

I don't mind getting older. I really like the person I am now and know I wouldn't be that person without all my life experiences. But I don't want to LOOK it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Father's Day

I always get a Father's Day present. I know it seems strange because I also get a Mother's Day present. Yes, it's double-dipping, but I've done both jobs for so long I think I deserve the recognition for it.

Tomorrow is Father's Day here and Lauren gave me my present tonight.

F111 during afterburn
Tonight was the annual Riverfire celebration. Basically it's an hour of fireworks along the river that bisects the city. Before and after we have an F111 fly over and afterburn. It's a spectacular sight and this year was the last year for the F111s before they're retired from active service. Lauren rang at 5pm to see what my plans for the evening were.

The fireworks.
"Want to come up to Mt Gravatt and watch the fireworks from there?"

"Sure, sounds fun. What time?"

"I'll meet you at the bottom of the mountain at 6."

That's right. The bottom of the mountain. The road was closed off for the night as Mt Gravatt is a popular place to go to view the fireworks over the city. It's far enough away from the city so we can see the whole show without the interference of the bends in the river or the crowds. We can't hear the music either but that's not such a big problem. We get the birds' eye view. But it's nearly 2km from the road closure up to the top, and with the road closed we had to walk.

It took us nearly half an hour to walk up to the top. We were more interested in chatting so we just took our time and enjoyed the evening. The view from the top is spectacular with the city laid out all around us. Spring has just begun so the breeze was cool with a promise of rain later. Cool here in Queensland means that about half the people up there with us needed long sleeved shirts but mostly short sleeves were fine, even at night.

Afterwards we started the walk down again. Someone in the crowd called out 'shortcut' and, like sheep, we all followed a narrow, barely visible path down the mountain in the pitch black. The path was so steep it was like walking down a very steep flight of steps, only there weren't any steps, just slippery grass and gravel. And did I mention it was night time and dark?

Of course I can't ever suffer in silence.

Me: "We'll never find our way out. We'll still be wandering around the bush in three days."

Lauren: "You didn't bring any water with you, did you?"

Me: "No, but I know how to gather the dew from leaves in the morning."

Lauren: "Oh good. We'll be fine then."

Me: "They'll probably find our bodies next week."

Lauren: "No. With so many of us going missing at the same time, they'll find us before then."

You can't argue with that logic. It took less than 15 minutes to reach the road again.

Just to put it in perspective Mt Gravatt is a popular destination for walkers, runners and cyclists, and it's surrounded by suburbia. I've walked up there fairly often myself and have used the shortcut - in the daylight. It feels different at night because there's no perspective on distance or direction. And there were kids in the group I could scare. Couldn't miss that opportunity!