This can be a romantic and creative time. It might be full of love or the illusions of love. You may have the ability to create beauty around you by what you produce and how you act. While such beauty and romance is wonderful, be careful about projecting your fantasies on others, only to be disappointed when you see the situation in the clear light of day.
It takes me weeks to notice that there are no traffic lights. Someone gently points it out to me one morning and I am shocked, racking my brains for at least one incidence of "green means go" in the past eight weeks. But they are right. I have been coasting along, dreamlike, arcing around roundabouts and pausing at stop signs, but never once stopping for a red light. Strike one for road awareness, it seems.
Did you notice? Eight weeks. Perhaps you skimmed over that part but for me it seems inconceivable. Two months since my eyes were first dazzled by the blue waters of Gantheaume Point, 63 days since I left my old life behind. Now I feel suspended in limbo, caught between the recent past and this strange new path. Work is busy and demanding enough that it causes the days to slip by at an alarmingly rapid rate - we seem to arrive at Friday before we've finished Monday's morning coffee and somewhere in that lapse of consciousness we've produced and produced and produced. By the end of the week, we're wrung dry and the words need to be coaxed out with hits of sugar and promises of sleep.
Still, I am strangely energised by this and have learned a few things: I turn out better features when I have only an hour to bash them out as opposed to a couple of months. Working as a journalist can be endlessly fascinating and mind numbingly boring (stand up and take a bow, advertorials). When you write pleasant things about people or their property, they treat you like their best friend. When you sit in a tiny and sweltering country court scratching out notes, during a case where six members of the same family are up on serious drug charges, one of them will sit there and stare menacingly at you for the duration (and suddenly the wall clock on the opposite wall becomes very, very interesting). And paedophiles look like normal people.
I have decided that court reporting is one of the most terrifying things I have come across so far. The need for accuracy is absolute and so far there's been any number of obstacles thrown in my way. I can't do shorthand. The judge is Belgian and mumbles his verdicts in an indecipherable accent. The police prosecutor is harried and harassed and usually reads out her statements at 1500mph so by the time I've got down times and dates I've missed names of victims and descriptions of their terrible deeds. But my god, it can be fascinating. Ignoring the litany of petty drink driving charges, the occasional biff up outside a pub and servants pilfering from their employers, the Magistrates Court is a soap opera in the making.
Even the lawyers are great. Lawyer one is the Foxy Lady, who wears bright red mini-skirt-suits and knee high black studded patent leather boots. She doesn't walk, she strides, and heads turn. And she's a dab hand at the argument, dazzling her opposition and the Magistrate with her turns of phrase. Lawyer two I dub the Old Rocker. With an impressive blonde mullet, stained yellow with years of nicotine ingestion, in court he pairs his acid wash jeans and dirty sneakers with a dry wit and laconic approach which sees some hard-worn crims get a second go. Favourite lawyer number three is The Elf, a short and sprightly man who's completely irreverent and knows the system inside out; he's jocular with the prosecutor and never seems to let even the most unpalatable cases sink underneath his skin. Finally there's the "Have You Had An Accident" lawyer, he of the TV infomercials and banana-slippage claims. He's dry, distinguished and handsome and I suspect hired by the lucky crims who have a dollar or two to spare.
Each Monday, we start our week in the company of criminals, and each Friday we end it with them too. There's the guy who gets drunk and decides to beat up on his girlfriend, elbowing her twice in the face and punching her to the ground and dragging her along the ground by her hair. He saw her talking to another man. He's done it before. He gets a fine and she decides she still loves him, asks for the violence restraining order to be withdrawn. The police prosecutor shakes her head. There's the woman on the other side of a domestic violence dispute. Sick of being someone's punching bag for years, one day she does it. She picks up a kitchen knife and plunges it deep into his heart. They live on a remote community, too far from help. He dies and she is taken into custody. But jail, fines, whatever - she can't ever go back to her family and community because she'll be dealt with under tribal law. And that is an eye for an eye. Minor drug charges, wayward kids, alcoholics being alcoholics ... it's mostly the poor end of society, people wending in and out of the system, being slapped with fines they'll never be able to afford to pay. And so the cycle continues.
I find myself staring at the ones who beat up on girls. They're usually big and strong with a solid look to them, big paws that could fell a small woman with one or two swipes. I try to rationalise the words with the person before me but it's very hard to do. They usually stare at the ground while the charges are read in gory detail and pictures proffered to the Magistrate, showing split lips and bruised faces, skinned knees and arms. I have to concentrate very hard on being impartial, reporting the facts as opposed to editorialising.
A DERBY man was sentenced to six months prison in the Broome Magistrates Court last week for breaking his girlfriend's arm in a violent assault.
As opposed to:
A big hairy beast of a man decided to take out his life's frustrations on an innocent woman last week in an unfair fight which left her with a broken arm and him with a momentarily inflated sense of self - "Yes, I'm clearly a big man now," he thought proudly as he dragged her along the ground.
This morning outside court, the police prosecutor and I stand in the sunshine. "How does this not get to you?" I ask, as she rifles through her papers looking for the particulars of Broome's latest accused paedophile (a taxi driver, a big, ugly man with an enormous stomach who has allegedly forced young indigenous girls to perform sexual favours in exchange for cash). "I've only been doing this for six weeks and it's so ... depressing."
"Hah!" she barks. "You're depressed." She smiles wearily, tells me the man is 47, and lugs her enormous pile of papers to the car.