Australia in the 70s

Tuesday, September 08, 2015
M. S. O'Shaughnessy

   (extract, Lakeland)

... One night, almost half way through my six-week stay, my aunt suggested we take a trip, What about the Little Desert? she said. I’d been looking at brochures the day before and mentioned to her that I was curious to see what lay further afield, away from the coast where I’d read most of the population lived.

So the following morning we headed out of the city and drove through country that flowed through your eyes like a wasteland. It made the hairs stand up on my arms. It was not desert as such, not for most of the way, but the landscape was wide and barren, the kind that brings a dazed nervousness to the way you think. I thought about the atomic bombs that had been tested not so far off, not so long ago. I thought about the snakes and spiders and dingoes. When my aunt pulled up to the motel, five hours after we’d left the outskirts of suburban Melbourne, she said, Do you want to swim before nightfall? I thought about the mosquitoes and scorpions. If it’s ok, I said, no, I won’t.

The next day the sun rolled from the horizon, hard and white. The window to our room was long and faced east, and the pool, shiny in the dawn light, lay spread out in front, flat as a stone. A concrete wall sliced the view to the national park and over the stunted trees hung a huge oblong of blue sky. Seen from this angle the highway was a featureless strip of bitumen tapering to nowhere; its stillness looked like fake stillness, like the staging of stillness...    

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