Sunday, November 16, 2014

The third River

When I first saw the Never Never River in Gleniffer I thought that I'd arrived in paradise, a crystal clear flow with deep pools for swimming, huge grey rocks for sunning, lush green trees bending over, garden like, kingfishers for colour and movement, it was a perfect river.
We built a tall house on stilts beside the river with a platform out over the bank looking down to the water, and the life going on, twenty feet below. On one special night we were taking some wine out on the deck and the fireflies danced for us, right there in front of us, in our faces, like a message from the life force to respect where we were, respect even the huge red bellied black snake that lived under the laundry and the enormous eel that swam idly around the sunning rock with me naked on top.
It was a lovely place to swim in the summer, after hours slashing in the baking paddock I used to drive the tractor over to the bank in top gear, send the dog, Lizzie, in first and then jump in with all my clothes on, instantly twenty degrees cooler.
My first Christmas present there was a li-lo and a perfect 35 degree day, plus a jug of black velvet. As I floated up and down the river all day in n alcoholic dream my never seen the sunshine bum went alizarin crimson, by the end of the day I felt like one of those monkeys with the red arses, which is the only thing you ever notice about them, never their faces of their hands.
In the winter when most of the rain fell, this is the wettest part of southern Australia, the river would turn into a raging, noisy, black beast, rocks rolling and crashing past, fence posts, cows, trees, anything caught would race past or lodge awkwardly in the bank. I stopped buying firewood and got in the river to pull out fence posts and chain saw them up into firebox sized fuel. I used to play chicken with that chain saw, being at a very low ebb in my life I wasn't very mind full of it's dangers, I didn't really care about those but being very scared was enlivening. (to be cont)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Three Rivers (cont)

At one point in my valley life  Nambour Council, always short of water for the coast, decided that they'd dam Brown's Creek and flood our valley. This would have been a double whammy for them - get rid of the hippies and supply the thirsty, moneyed golf courses by the ocean with a limitless supply of fresh green.
When I became an Australian citizen in a ceremony in Nambour in 1977 I was seated at one end of a long table with all the other candidates, next to the mayor, the very same man who was trying to drown us out. I don't think he'd ever met a hippy before, I dressed to impress by wearing shoes for the day and I remember having a reasonable conversation with him about what interesting, well behaved people we were living out in the bush, and certainly not the anarchistic antichrists that the straight people imagined we were.
The ceremony itself was surreal, especially the bit where I had to deny all other allegiance and then swear allegiance to the Queen of Australia, who, because I'm a pom, was the same person I'd just denied all other allegiance too.
They did give up on the dam but only because of the expense, nothing at all to do with words in the mayor's ear and so left another generation of hippies to grow up in relative peace.
In the wet season we could be isolated up the valley for extended periods as dark, cold, cyclonic water poured down on us. There were two clankety clank wooden bridges, one car wide, that the menacing, swirling water could cover in half an hour, followed by a dirt road into town, fine and dandy in the dry but impossibly dangerous in the wet. So when it started raining I'd make a dash to town for supplies as you never knew when it would stop raining. I went to get food but much more importantly lots of wine, you didn't want to be stuck in a leaky shack out bush with no phone, electricity or booze, that was how people went troppo.
It took me years to train myself not to run out and shop every time it rained, which would be a pretty stupid thing to do if you lived on a wet, windy island on the edge of the North Atlantic like I do.