Thursday, 29 March 2012
Toormina to Grafton
Received this today :
Just looked at your blog. You left a bad taste, Adrian, in your mouth and mine.
Pity you didn’t take my cycling advice, and a pity I agreed to having you during the week instead of the weekend -see my Warmshowers listing. I went out of my way to host you to have you arrive so inconsiderately late to a near burnt dinner, expect everything to suit your needs and then make a rude remark about me on a public blog. Are free-loaders always such charmers?
May we both live and learn.
I just wish she'd posted a comment instead of me having to copy and paste from an email. Sheesh! Everyone's entitled to their view of course. This was my reply :
Sorry if I offended you. I'm also sorry I turned up so late, but had no idea it would take that long to get through Sydney. It has to be said you are somewhat uptight and I'm not sure if you should be hosting people. I'm sure everyone else I have stayed with would regard me as a guest and not as a freeloader. I bought a bottle of wine and I host people as well after all.
Steve related more fascinating tales. Once he'd discovered a cyclist lying by the roadside in the dark, took him to hospital, following which he recuperated at the house for six weeks. He was a Norwegian on a world tour. What a freeloader! Another touring cyclist who stayed was a British Olympic triathlete, who would ride 150 kms before noon every day! Zoomed into the fair-sized town of Coff's Harbour at the tail-end of the rush hour. Crossing bridges can be a heart-in-mouth situation, as the shoulder suddenly disappears. Steve had told me the safest option is to move into the middle of the lane, so traffic can't pass. What, with trucks bearing down on you at 60 mph? No thank you. I'm sure a lot of drivers are mad with me for being there, on their road, and feel justified in teaching me a lesson by not slowing down AT ALL and whizzing by an inch from my mirror. Passed the Indigenous Co-ordination Centre en route to the library, before heading to Grafton on an alternative route to the highway on printed-out maps Steve had supplied. I'm such a freeloader. (It's called humour Patricia!) Today it was hot and windless, and toiling uphill, stickily arduous. Then, downnhill, the breeze and cooling sweat; what a tonic. Had the sudden need to take a dump in long grass off a long driveway. Someone drove past 10 yards away...
In South Grafton the McDonald's (those 30 cent ice creams are hard to resist) is on the first floor of a building and customers have to climb about 30 steps. It's something I suppose.
Today I met two of the most fascinating characters I've yet to encounter. The first was an Aboriginal who sidled up to me, a little worse for wear, with a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag. He introduced himself as Colin and told me his life history, as if he'd been provided especially for my benefit by the state. Originally from Sydney, he'd stolen money as a boy and spent it in arcades. Up before the judge his father persuaded him not to pass a custodial sentence; instead he would look after the boy at his ancestral homelands on a river island near Grafton. Between the age of eight and 12 he lived in a tin hut with hessian sacks drawn over empty window frames. Later he became an alcoholic, dried up in rehab for three years, then returned to his people and the bottle. He told me he was "pissed off" with his cousin, who had been taking a nap in the toilet of a motel with him, but was nowhere to be seen when Colin woke up. Now he had no-one to drink with - although he told me he was a smoker (of marijuana) and not a drinker - except for Johnnie Walker.
The other interesting character I spent time with was my Couchsurfer, Chester. Chester, who was about to retire from elderly care work, lived in a ramshackle house with his shih tzu/Jack Russell, Molly, a fearsme creature who liked to bite and scratch A LOT. With a charming knack of downplaying his achievements, he had lived in Europe for most of the seventies (including a squat in Notting Hill) where he had worked as an illustrator for Private Eye and the legendary Oz magazine. More recently he lived in a tent for ten years in the bush in northern Queensland's Gulf Country. His 'project' at that time was the production of a linocut set of tarot cards. He cut the linos in the bush, made a printing press and then screen-printed them in full colour (not in the bush I don't think). After printing 61 editions, he made individual wooden boxes for each deck. These were made with separate tongue-and-grouve pieces that slotted together. The man is a genius. He is in the throes of doing up his home and has already built the kitchen units, using two types of wood (salvaged from next door). The draws slid beautifully. Unfortunately I had missed the homemade ravioli from a couple of nights back, lain out in a two-part compartmented wooden mould of his own creation. Instead, snags (sausages) boiled spinach from the garden and potatoes, followed by peaches and custard. The bathroom was au natruel; walls on one side, nothing on the other. I really liked the feeling of taking a shower looking on to a garden and didn't feel in the least bit embarrassed. You could just about be seen from a couple of next-door's windows - and if this was in the UK, people would complain and the police would be down on you like a ton of bricks.