And then a bad fairy waved her wand
... and "pouf!" Flip was transported to a barren wasteland devoid of beauty and populated by strange beings with questionable haircuts. For forty days and forty nights Flip wandered the land in search of waters so turquoise they hurt her eyes, and rocks so red they resembled flames, and sand so white it glittered like diamonds, but she found only spinifex and a deep, deep hole in the ground. Finally, filled with despair, she leaped into the "super pit" and tumbled down, down, down, into the darkness ...
Okay, so it might be a bit dramatic but it works. A week and a day after leaving my beloved Broome, I am typing with fingers like icicles and toes like a frostbitten Eskimos in a cute little weatherboard house on the edge of Kalgoorlie's main street wondering where on earth I have landed. I don't think my heart has caught up with my head, because while I am being completely functional at work I still feel completely unable to form an opinion of this place. I keep studying maps to gain a sense of place, practicing the unfamiliar place names that I associate with bearded men and picks for some reason: Coolgardie, Leonora, Laverton.
Partly this is due to the fact that I am yet to wander further than the self-imposed Bermuda triangle of work, home, and Kalgoorlie's thriving courthouse, which is populated mostly with bogans in possession of some of the best mullets I have seen in all my years. Forget the post- glam rock ironic style mullet (moo-lay), the boys here are rocking the honest-to-god version that would make Barnsey and Farnsey proud.
The other thing of note is breasts, in all their glory. When I had my first drink thrust at me in Kalgoorlie's famed Exchange Hotel, I accidentally caught a glimpse of Charity or Vesuvius or Veronica or whatever their "skimpy of the week" is called bending over delicately to attend to a beer while Dave or Dazza or Bazza or whoever leered on. All I could think about was what an occupational health and safety risk her lace-up knickers posed and whether or not her pneumatic bosoms in purple mesh could possibly be real. A question enthusiastically discussed by my male companions at some length ... and discussed several times over in the past week. The bar man is a relic in this town, it seems.
In comparison to when I first arrived in Broome ...
((Arriving feels like a dream. We fly over the beach, its colours and scope like the brochures had promised. I put down my trashy magazine to watch as we coast onto the runway, the vague thought playing in the back of my mind that I have done something phenomenal at last, at last. My heart stops in my throat as we land.
Xavier picks me up from the airport in his dusty Landrover, filled with the minutiae of country life - tools, fishing equipment, a battered esky
- which he shoves to the side to accommodate my luggage. We drive for miles and I stare. From the pristine sands of Cable Beach to the mangroves alive with skittering crabs, it feels like another planet.
Gantheuame Point, on the very tip of the peninsula, is otherworldly; the glossy beach against red, red dirt and striated rocks in stacked formations stunning and the sky so blue and cloudless it stings the eyes. I am so dazed I barely notice the first tentative nibblings of the sandflies. After a whirlwind tour and truncated history it is clear that this is a land of contradictions ... of pure white coastline stained with a grim past.
The lazy drift of paradise laced with the unease of disgruntled locals.
The light and the dark, the luxurious and the poor...))
... I cannot feel inspired by this landscape, which is scrubby and dry and arid. Every fence conceals a mangy, salivating and rangy dog that leaps and quails at me as I wander past on my walk to work. I keep expecting to see tumbleweeds drift down the main street, past the quaint buildings and orangeclad men, reflective in the undulating light. Yes, men are yellow and orangeclad here, dusty-faced and tired, chasing the great Australian dream in droves while spending lives underground in the dark ...
But I have been pleased to discover that I love my job here already with the same kind of passion and frustration as the last. Things are serious now - I am part of the sausage factory of journalists on daily newspapers around the nation, fingers whirring across the keyboard as I produce, produce, produce for the daily deadline. I am comfortable in the court house, documenting short sorry snapshots of the lives of those who fall through the cracks, prey on children, cheat, lie, speed and steal. A bigger town brings bigger problems and a stronger commitment by the underclass to rob the society that bleeds them dry. Cops, I have discovered, are the same everywhere you go. People ae surprised that I should be so interested in writing about indigenous issues, and possibly a little uneasy; this is possibly a divisive place, with salt of the earth people.
Surprisingly, the deathly dull "transport" round produced my first front page within days of arriving, a fact I can't help but feel gleeful about. A freight train unexpectedly drove into the back of a woman's car; she tearfully thanked her angels and I thanked my lucky stars for such an early break. No-one was hurt, so I wasn't tempting fate.
I already have friends, the media pack that lurks in dark corners looking for entertainment. They took me to De Bernales, where we creased in horrified laughter as we watched people sucking face on the dance floor as their octopus hands roamed the cracks and crevices of the opposite sex. They drank shots and I sat back and watched, trying not to think of the sticky-carpeted comfort of the Pearlers Bar or the flash new surrounds of the Bungalow. This is it, I was reliably informed, and when they saw my face fall: don't worry, you'll get used to it. When the band broke out into a rousing rendition of "Take the Pressure Down" by John Farnham and the crowd's mullets shook as one in a frenzied bout of headbanging, I wasn't so sure ...