April 24, 2014

So, I’m back from my (really quite eventful) trip to Tasmania with my Dad. Spectacularly sunny and clear days on the West Coast of Tassie – almost unheard of and just glorious. If you’ve not visited our southern-most state, you really should; it’s a beautiful part of the world.

On a bright Sunday morning, we flew into Burnie and picked up a brand new Falcon XR6 as our hire car. (Yes, please.) After checking into the hotel, we took a drive to nearby town called Penguin. The whole town is decorated with pictures of penguins – brilliant enough – but as far I’m concerned, it’s main claim to fame is the playground. Check out the building the background; it’s really the same but different playground. (Oh, the first picture is of Dad and me.)
penguin playground before penguin playground after

We enjoyed a surprisingly good Thai meal on that first night in Burnie, and not long after that, given I’d had about ten hours sleep in the three preceding nights, I dropped like a stone and slept the sleep of the dead.

In my BIO on this site, I talk about my hometown, a place called Luina. This is where we drove to on our second day. My understanding from bits I’d read online was that it was ghost town. Well the truth of it is that it’s not even that. The old roads still remain – barely – but the entire town has spontaneously has completely re-forested. It’s quite amazing and a little haunting. With some searching and scraping through the undergrowth, my father was able to locate the site of our home. It’s still possible at the front of the block to make out where the driveway went over the culvert and moving towards the rear, there’s the now overgrown grass verge that I used to oh-so-carefully climb down (backwards) as a three-year-old.
Luina back Luina after

Our street back then:
Luina front

That same street now:
Luina

From Luina, we drove down to Queenstown, where Dad was metallurgist and mum was matron of the hospital. Among other adventures, Dad caught up with an old friend from his school days – so very cool to hear the old boys talking nostalgically and happily about their shared experiences. We also were invited into dad’s old family home by it’s current owner – which is remarkable in itself, I think – but in addition, she’s gone so far as to purchase the furniture that was in the place from new. My grandparents furniture, in the house that my Dad’s uncle built. Pretty incredible. My dad also built a yacht just next to this house. Yeah, a yacht. He showed me where he had to subsequently break down and then re-build the boundary fence in order to turn it right side up when it was completed so he could transport it to the ocean. I’m a bit more emotional than my dad – after we left the house at 55 Cutten St, I asked him how he felt about the whole experience… and he looked at me like he didn’t even understand the question. Oh, get this; we also took a guided tour through the (now disused) hospital of which my mum was the matron. Don’t misunderstand, this was not a tour-guide-type arrangement; this was the live-in caretaker who just offered to show us around when we turned up to look at the exterior of the place. Is there anything creepier than an old run-down hospital? Where maybe only half the lights still operate and where the operating theatre still has equipment in it? Again, my father’s face as the caretaker talked about the ghosts in the place… a sight to behold. The West Coast of Tassie was/is delightfully referred to as the wild west, and after many beers in the local pub(s), and many endearing, enlightening (and alarming) chats with locals, I was beginning to understand why. Aussie country towns; there’s nothin’ like ’em.

The population of Queenstown has dropped dramatically over the past few years, and right now the tin mine (the only real source of employment) is closed due to a recent underground death, so there’s a palpably depressive air about the place. Having said that, there’s been money spent on the town to try to make it a bit shinier, but at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for a young, working population to keep a town feeling “alive”. The company-owned homes are in very good condition, which only shows them in sharper relief against the others with their peeling weatherboard and rusting corrugated iron. Sadly, Dad’s old school is abandoned; windows busted, nu-graffiti all over the classroom walls, and I lost count of the number of times Dad said things like, “Oh, there used be a blah blah over there.” And holy hell, I also lost count of how many times he told a building, or a pub,or a service station had “burned down”. The inverted commas actually weren’t implied in the way he said it, but really, it begs the question, doesn’t it? Dad (Peter, his name is) told so many great stories about his formative years, his drive and determination to do something with his life – not to escape necessarily, but just to BE something. Great stories from a great man.
We had some other surprises, saw some great sights, and we both unfortunately caught a nasty stomach bug in the last couple of days, but overall, I’ll remember it as a wonderful bit of my life and a brilliant experience.
Thanks for entrusting him to me, Mum. x

 

My name’s Matt, and as well as writing pieces like this, I also do gigs:

Thursday (Anzac Day Eve): Matt Bradshaw & G-Force @ Groove Bar at Crown, 11pm-2am.
Friday: MattyB solo @ the Elephant & Wheelbarrow (Bourke st, Melbourne), 5.30pm
Friday: The FAT, @ The Manhattan, 11pm-2am
Saturday: Matt Bradshaw solo @ Blu Restaurant, Patterson Lakes, 2.30pm
Saturday: Matt Bradshaw & G-Force @ Elephant & Wheelbarrow (Bourke st, Melbourne), 11.00pm
Sunday: Matt Bradshaw solo @ Bayside Daveys Hotel, 2.30pm
Sunday: MattandPaul Duo, @ Elephant & Wheelbarrow St Kilda, 8.30pm
Monday: MattyB solo @ Jackpot at Crown, 6-9pm

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