Postcard from a wireless week
Hello. Just got back from a solitary week in a fisherman’s cottage at Brindabella Station, west of Canberra, where I was working on a writing project.
A full week without phones, telly or the internet. And you know what? It was great.
The world is richer when you turn the electronic chatter off. Here’s a selection of stuff I noticed (or didn’t)…
Dust storm? What dust storm?
Wednesday was a touch hazy, but the dust passed mostly to the north. Wind and snow, not dust, did the damage out Brindabella way. A 100 year old elm tree planted by the property’s original owners, the Franklin family, blew over on Wednesday. By Sunday, the dirt road into the valley was blocked by a foot of snow.
Bunnies have taken over
Farmers bait ’em, shooters shoot ’em and still those wascally wabbits wun amok, chomping everything in their path and eroding the landscape with their burrows. We’ve really got to start demonising these little buggers like cane toads. A good start would be banning Easter Bunnies in supermarkets and hastening the move towards chocolate bilbies.
Buttons. I need to press buttons!
Electronic deprivation strikes in strange ways. After a day, I needed to deploy random bits of electronic wizardry that went bing! or dzzzz! Then I found a torch, which I shone at some kangaroos munching the lush grass near my cabin. Most didn’t look up, unpuzzled as to why their grass was now conveniently lit so they could avoid eating their own poo. Then a few hopped away. That did the trick.
Man, do you need a lot of firewood to stay warm
Reckon I got through over 100 football-sized logs in a week. I’m assuming this method of heating is wildly inefficient compared to coal-generated electricity. Somebody, please tell me, so that one of life’s simple pleasures can officially become a guilty pleasure. I like to know where I stand on these things.
Beware of breakthroughs
In the course of a week’s writing you will have seven or eight major breakthroughs. At these moments, you will dance around the room, punch the air, swear like a Tourettes sufferer and walk up to a cow and make an exaggerated AFL goal umpire’s sign for a goal, with a manic smile, your arms wide apart and your index fingers extended. The cow will Moo back in consternation, and half an hour later, you will realise she was right and that the idea was shocking, just shocking.
Radiohead are crap
These whiney, miserable little creatures are Pink Floyd with a fun bypass and the instruments out of tune. And Sarah Blasko is plain boring. An abstract painting of her music would be grey on white with a faint splash of beige. In my isolation, I really needed something upbeat. Thank you, Michael Franti. I also needed some vaguely melodic noise. Well done, Echo and the Bunnymen. Early U2 did the trick too (Boy, October, War). Late U2 most certainly did not.
Farmers work really, really, really hard
These people deserve every subsidy, every grant and every gentle, soaking rainfall that comes their way. They never switch off. They are always driving hay around on tractors, or fixing stuff, or delivering calves in the middle of the night, or chopping firewood, or baiting rabbits, or chainsawing up a fallen 100 year old elm. God knows when they do their bookwork. Or eat. Or sleep.
A packet of peanut M&M’s can last a week.
After dinner at home, I destroy anything sweet in the house, then eat the cooking chocolate, then walk to the nearby Caltex servo to buy overpriced caramel anything. On my writer’s offensive (I hate the term writer’s retreat) I made a whole 200 gram packet of peanut M&M’s last the week. Still got eight of the little suckers left. I think I’m prouder of that than the 35,000 words I wrote.
Douglas Coupland has jumped the Shark
The once brilliant author of Generation X has been too clever by half for several books now. His latest, Generation A, which I read at Brindabella, is a clever allegory and a fun read. But ultimately, it’s an unsuccessful hybrid of sci-fi and social commentary. It nearly works. But it doesn’t. If you ask me, the guy needs to get a real job for a while. People aren’t yet as weird, or the world as screwy, as this self-obsessed semi-recluse would have us believe.
Real twitter is a miracle
The blue breast of the male superb fairy wren is the prettiest thing I can think of in nature. Its delightful twitter is like a room full of laughter. By the way, I spent the week saying “superb fairy wren” in a Richie Benaud accent. In isolation, you have to make your own laughter.
Richard Carleton was a lucky man.
The controversial but celebrated journo, who died while covering the Beaconsfield mine disaster, owned Brindabella Station for a time. His favourite spot was a bend in the Goodradigbee River, where his Ashes were scattered and where there is now a memorial plaque on a humble wooden seat. I sat on the seat, overlooking a perfect trout stream, snow-clad mountains and wombats foraging for green shoots – all this, just one hour from Parly House, by the way.
Donkeys have souls
They are beautiful creatures. I fed the farm donkey an apple each day. Then he started following me around and eee-ooring in dismay when I left. You can’t bond like that with cows. Cows are just stupid. Even newborn calves have no personality. I feel like veal for dinner.
Everyone should disconnect for a week
Don’t go to some expensive “Eco Retreat” where they pipe the internet up a tree trunk into a plasma screen fixed to your canvas-walled, architect-designed “tent”. Just turn the phone off and bugger off somewhere simple where you bypass the whole work/reward cycle and just exist. I’m going back to Brindabella over the summer and I’m taking the wife and kids this time. Bet we all find something to do.
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