Friday, March 25, 2011

Swooshing through Jan/Feb

Inevitably for a Brisbanite life went a bit crazy for the start of 2011 what with floods through here and Ipswich and a whopping great cyclone (Yasi) in the north to focus the mind. And there was more, sadly close to home, as you'll see...

Two parts to this. First a quick flick through the mad month of January, then a preview of an early section of one of the chapters from my 22-chapter novel "A Dirty Rainbow".

Part 1
  • New Year's Eve, big black dog attacks "Little O" the papillion; slows down plans to head to Mt Morgan (already on hold after having to turn back due to flooding on Bruce Highway north of Maryborough the day after Boxing Day)
  • January 3, finally on road, get through OK to Mt Larcom, huge downpour and tales of doom from Hollywood-style old timer in local hotel about getting washed away
  • Three days in the mount, beautiful weather then third night nearly four inch (95mm) downpour in an hour; also word of big rain for Moreton Bay area to south; leave a day early, just as well because highway through Gympie cut for three days - we're lucky to get through to Brisbane
  • Starting around January 11 a series of disasters - inland tsunami devastates Grantham, Ipswich goes under a day or so later and by the 12th Brisbane suburbs near river Oxley, Jindalee, St Lucia etc getting swamped (photo above shows Brisbane River shortly after its January 13 peak surging through the lower reaches of city buildings)
  • Then just as this getting cleaned up, on mother's 88th birthday January 25 she's found dead mid morning, sitting fully dressed in her favourite chair ready to go out for lunch with her sister - shock, sadness...
  • Days after this the drama continues with all eyes glued to Bureau of Meterology maps as  Cyclone Yasi equal in size to Hurricane Katrina approaches Queensland's north...
  • And so the year swooshes on with more flooding in Australia; a devastating earthquake in Christchurch (which we only visited last March) and of course the mind boggling tsunami in Japan.

Part 2

Chapter 14 – ROLLING ON THE DOWNS (extract from "A Dirty Rainbow")

“Well there’s two trains a-runnin’…”

The black-silver Transit van soared to a hilltop above bold splashes of golden sunflowers, waves of some throbbing purple crop, underlined by roadside wild flowers striped red and white.

“Yeah one runs at midnight/Other’s just for today…”

Wearing its new winter coat – a deep lustrous black with a flash of silver – the van was flying towards the yellow caterpillar goods train chomping its way through lush green plains, emptied of its cargo of wheat or whatever and heading back west for another bellyfull.

Digging the Butterfield Blues Band’s supercharged take on the old traditional number covered by Muddy Waters, Dylan, the Grateful Dead and godknows who else, Dirk was flying high and even faster.

“Yes, I wish I was a catfish/Swimming in the deep blue sea/ I’d have all you pretty women/fishing after me…”

Butterfield’s vocals smooth as butter riding above the joyful clamour, then a pause, nothing but thumping drums before Bloomfield’s whiplash guitar cut in, then the interplay with keyboards funking with a gutsy prettiness that sounded like, probably was, Al Kooper.

Dirk’d caught up to the train now…thinking of gritty Chicago blues, trains and blues, leaving woman blues, moving on blues…

Flocks of brilliant pink galahs, white sulphur-crested cockatoos and small yellow birds feeding off spilt roadside grain exploded in clouds as the Transit tore through. The van’s tyres caught a recent rain puddle, water splashing and spinning from the wheels, kaleidoscoping in the early morning sun.

Dirk looked at the speedo – 140 ks. The old 4.2 litre six could really haul, breathing easier than ever, sucking in the misty early morning air. And the new paint job. Shit…that must be good for another 10 ks an hour, sliding the beast more smoothly through the air! He eased back, the better to think as Butterfield’s harp wailed orgiastically towards some sort of resolution.

Another flock of birds – another multicoloured eruption. He thought of his stay on a relly’s wheat farm as a lad and of the birds – everywhere around the harvester - diving in all directions. “They’re not after the grain,” his stepfather’s normally silent brother had told him. “Nope, it’s sure not the wheat. It’s the meat. All the insects and mice that are getting stirred up by the harvest. The birds are having a right old feast. All part of the big food chain. Lucky we’re on top.”

Dirk had shivered then, as he did now thinking about it all. He wasn’t so sure where he fitted in the great chain - normally didn’t even bother to think about it. These bloody tripping mushies certainly did things to the head…moved you into thought spaces you didn’t want to be.

He didn’t have a crystal ball – thankfully - in this thrilling, flashing, buzzing blue/ green/ yellow/ purple/ pink/ white and red sphere to foresee that, one day, not too far down the track, it’d be moments like this – just the hope of these sparkling days returning - that would sustain him through the long grey stretches. He couldn’t know then either that a drought was just around the corner – one that would ravage and suck the life from this paradise for two decades.

And there were other dark forces afoot. Those not nature-born. Fact, if he’d strained his ears past the joyous blast he might have picked up a monotonous droning, getting closer. A faint, but ever increasing monotonous hum. It was the drone of ever proliferating ‘servers’ that would find ways to stop random movements of these gentlemen of the road and their kinfolk. Dirk didn’t realize of course that he was one of a dying breed. Powers that be were working on ways to ensure that the lower ranks would never again enjoy such freedom.

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