A Bubble of Bliss and Bug Spray

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back in Brisbane, for the third time of asking (not that they'd ever asked for it), Uncle Alex and Jo had a housemate. Life on the open road had its attractions, of course…but I'd decided to give battered old Randy a break and find out more about what surburban Australian life had to offer.

In short, it didn’t offer very much at all. But then everyone needs a break now and again.

And so, over the course of six weeks, Al, Jo and I cosied into the bosom of family life, cooking ever more elaborate cuisine as if in an attempt to out-do each other and nurturing our ever expanding waistlines on the sofa of an evening.

With the coffers at an all-time low (that’s what salmon dinners do for you), I decided to make a break for it, all of one hundred yards from the house in the suburbs, and take up a temporary job working on reception for a local air conditioning firm (which, ironically, seemed to have one of the most temperamental air conditioning systems I’ve ever come across in an office environment).

It was hardly back-breaking work, and before too long I’d concluded that my list of highlights in this particular role were:

1. Free beer in the afternoons.
2. Free food on a Wednesday.
3. Teaching the apprentices new 'Words of the Day’.  They found the word 'fetching’ particularly, er, fetching.

I’d taken on another job, too, and in the evenings and at weekends found myself typing up an entire brochure for a new recruitment firm, who’d stolen the booklet from another company and weren’t overly concerned about plagiarism.  Don’t shoot the typist.

It was a good job that my new life as an administrator didn’t take me too far from the safety blanket of suburbia as Randy had, reasonably enough for a 1986 van with 300,000kms on the clock, decided that he didn’t like starting very much, if at all. 

Luckily, friendly neighbours were always only a swoosh of a spying curtain away, and before long I’d attracted the attention of middle-aged Roger.  This sprightly chap clearly came from the same school of home repairs as my father, who’s convinced that anything and everything can be fixed with either WD40 or Araldite.  In Roger’s case, though, he thought the solution was bug spray.  Never have I seen a man so delighted at being able to start an engine with insecticide, even if the cynic in me remains convinced that the real reason Rand started was that the petrol flooding had finally started to subside.

But Roger wasn’t the only one.  Cue Bill, a divorced whale of a man who resided opposite Al and Jo and who I hadn’t realised was an arch enemy.  Later I’d understand why.  Spotting Bill tinkering with a motorbike in his garage, I decided the time was ideal to pounce on him, adopting the usual ‘lost female’ routine and asking for help with the beastly van.  Much like Randy, the plan backfired when Bill turned out to be more interested in ‘tit for tat’, so to speak, and when I rejected his invitations for late-night drinks, the offers of help for the van dried up quicker than the petrol reservoir.

Ultimately, my saviour came in the form of Warren, a local mechanic, who patched Rand up over the course of about a month.  Frankly, the pained look on his face gave away the fact that he’d regretted ever taking on the job, but at least the hunk of junk was ready to get back on the Highway.

Occasionally, I managed to break away from the lure of the sofa.  Sal, my boss from the cattle station, lived in Brisbane, and one night I went to meet her, half cut I might add, at a friend’s house at the other end of the city.

Walking into the driveway was like entering some kind of utopia.  The open plan house sat in a tropical garden, and the inside sparkled with stainless steel.  Gasping as I made it through into the lounge, Sal simply ‘shooshed’ me as I let the whiff of money – and lots of it – waft over me. 

Unsurprisingly, the palace was owned by a stockbroker, Donny, and his lovely wife, who’d designed it themselves (natch).  After pouring me about a gallon of red (Chateuneuf, no doubt), Donny broke into song, only pausing to eye me up and down and exclaim "Christ!  They don’t make them like you any more!  Would you like to marry my son, Tommy?"

Tommy, as it turned out, was a stockbroker too.  But I’m afraid that any man who wears a matching checked shirt and loafers is probably never going to be the man for me – call me picky or not.  Money can buy you a lot of things – but it can’t buy you style.  Or me as a wife, apparently.

With all the stresses of suburbia, it was no wonder that every night at home in Wishart ended with a group crash onto the couch to indulge in Australia’s answer to prime-time viewing – either the British version of Location, Location, Location, or that house renovation show where that perpetually pregnant and mardy woman seems to take pleasure in shattering the dreams of new property developers.  (Frankly, why anyone would want to subject themselves to her frowning prophecies of doom is beyond me, but I digress.)

I’d sunk blissfully into a life in the suburbs, but before long felt the pull of the bright lights.  It was time to bid the family farewell once again, and, soon, to say a final, fraught farewell to the very fetching Rand.
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