Monday, September 27, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 14

Merry Christmas

“The Best laid plans of Mice and men gang aft agley", wrote Robert Burns. These words are as relevant today as when written, and were brought to my mind yesterday. I had no plans for Christmas other than stay put here in the hotel. Yesterday the boss said if I wished I could travel south and spend almost two weeks with my family. It took only five minutes for the suggestion to gel in my mind as a good idea. I looked at the calendar, worked out when coaches travel south, and return, and what days would suit. A few hours later tickets were booked and paid for. I am heading south to spend Christmas and the New Year with my family.

No doubt the coach south will be fuller than on my previous journey and I may not have two seats to spread out over, and catch a little sleep. This time I will have a longer period in which to catch up on sleep. I have hinted to eldest son that I wouldn't mind a trip to the Casino … knowing he likes an occasional visit there. Otherwise what happens, happens. As Robert Burns tells us, plans often go astray.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 13

Meeting History
Cue has a fascinating history. I was speaking with a guest about some of the buildings within a stone's throw of this hotel, and was informed that a gent who later became President of the USA built some of the structures that date to last century. He wasn't sure which President it was.
As is often the case once we hear of an event it takes only a very short space of time before we hear more. I often think that our senses link to an event, and the tiniest whisper sets bells of interest ringing and we ask a question that leads to more information. Sure enough it didn't take many hours before the next piece of information filtered into my hearing.
A couple staying at the hotel came in for breakfast … I hadn't realised they were staying, even though they had dinner the previous evening. I wrongly as I found out, assumed they had come in off the street, from the caravan park, or were just passing through, and was washing the dishes and the pots and pans when they appeared in the dining room. Smiling … one can't let on they were unexpected … I enquired what they would like for breakfast. It was a cooked one … I had to wash those pans twice!
Once their meal was over they came into the kitchen … this is a friendly place and anyone is welcome in the kitchen. I have noticed no one offers to help with the dishes! I guess that goes beyond the realm of being a paying guest, though we did have one who said she would make an omelet … an offer that never transpired. The lady asked me if I knew where the big sideboard with two carved eagles on either side, had gone to. I didn't know. I could tell the gossip I had heard … that some previous owner had taken most of the chattels when they sold. Obviously that was before Real Estate agents push a ream of paper to be signed, before a deal to sell is finalised … and we sign on the dotted line hardly bothering to read the small print. [The vendor will leave fitted floor coverings, light fittings, drapes and washing machine etc.]
She then said that a chap who later became President of America had it shipped here. The trail was warm! I asked which President was that. "Hooper, or Hoover or whatever his name was", she replied.
From the dim recesses of my mind I recalled the name was Hoover … we have vacuum cleaners of the same name, and one must have a simple way of remembering important facts. A science teacher impressed the unimpressionable students of physics that ions in electricity could be remembered by a line from a song of a long time ago … "Any old ion, any old ion" … the cry of the rag and bone man … now was that from Steptoe and Son? It worked, and from that day forward I look for simple methods to remember facts that would otherwise be pushed to the back of my mind.
She had seen this magnificent specimen of furniture in the hotel about 15 years ago. She thought it would be worth at least $A100,000 today. I know my eyes popped. I was, naively now I recognise, thinking she was wishing to view this carved sideboard for altruistic reasons, and discovered she was walking along the road of materialism. I lost interest in the conversation, though I did comment that with the value today of antiques I thought her estimate might fall considerably short of the actual value … of course that depends upon who would want it.
I still held the fascination of such a specimen having been in existence, and the fascination of the ever-increasing history of this town. Now we had a direct link to the White House. I must say I don't think many of the recent presidents of the USA would bother to come to Cue. Perhaps as there is such a richness of hidden treasure in natural elements … gold, and iron ore being but two … in the ground in this isolated area, the $ signs of profit, might be impressive. A little like Uncle Scrooge who dived, in comic after comic, into his hoard of gold coins with such desire and consummate delight.
At the next opportunity I asked the boss. It was as I suspected … the sideboard had gone by the board, kept at a time of sale, and despite legal efforts by the Shire, this piece of history is lost to the town.
To add to my knowledge I did a little research … Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer and was in this area in 1902, and another reference says he was a Shire President … perhaps his taste for politics began in the little Outback town? Or of course that could be just a figment of the imagination.

It is a shame the sideboard … huge that it was … isn't still in this town but as is so often the case, treasures that should belong in one particular area are hijacked by those who consider they have rights of ownership, and forget that yesterday and today need to be kept alive for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 12

Ho Ho Ho

Santa came to our town … riding on a fire engine.

Last evening I went out onto the balcony to see what was happening in town, and sat chatting to one of the guests. We could hear the siren of the fire engine. I looked for smoke. As many areas of Australia are experiencing terrible bushfires, smoke and fire are the last thing we desire to see. Bush fires and Australian summers go hand in hand; but are not welcome.

No sign of smoke, we breathed a sigh of relief. Around the corner came the fire engine, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Bursts of song came wafting towards us, "Ho ho ho", followed by a burst of " Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way". In the back seat of the red fire engine stood a red-coated Santa, his white beard [was it cotton wool?] a focus point, and his red hat with white fur, or was that cotton-wool as well, perched on top of his head, a microphone held in his hand all the better to spread the Christmas cheer. No sign of Dixon and Donner or Rudolph, but perhaps they do not venture out until Christmas Eve.

I laughed when I noticed one of the angels, or fairies, in the front seat, though there were no sign of wings or halos. It was our barmaid who has recently joined the local fire brigade. The driver I couldn't identify, but then again I do not know everyone who lives in this town. On the back of the engine perched another local, a colourful lady who works along the road at the Emporium, capably manning the hose.

There was no fire to extinguish but any person walking on the street received a light dowsing. In temperatures that were still in the 30's this was not unwelcome! They drove slowly along the street, turned the corner by the bar and sent a shower of water onto the footpath. I called out my approval and as a reward the siren blared louder and longer. Everyone was in good spirits.

The fire engine toured the main street, the side streets, and back again, and around again, and all the time Santa sang his song … his repertoire did not extend beyond Jingle Bells [perhaps he needs an introduction to some of the other old favourites], and water was spread by his angelic helper.

This morning as I was cooking breakfast for the guests our barmaid, Santa's little helper, came into the kitchen. I thought she was hungry and wanted breakfast, but no … she had just arrived home and was looking for the boss to see what time she was to work today … she hoped it wasn't the morning shift!

It did cross my mind that only in a small town would we see such a display. In the city it would not be allowed, or worse still it would be organised, crowds would line the streets and children would become fractious, and certainly there would be no water display.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 11

Daylight Saving and Rain
Western Australia has just adopted Daylight Saving. [This was written in 2006] I hate Daylight Saving! I know those who advocate its wondrous convenience [a little like scented toilet paper] do not begin work early in the day. I do! Thankfully yesterday was my day off. I took advantage of that fact turning my clock forward after I awoke.

This morning I arose in darkness, using my mobile phone as a torch to find the corridor light switch making the finding of the kitchen door and keyhole less of a challenge.

The Post Office clock, that I could see in daylight last week, was a blur in the dim dawn, the birds asleep in the trees, and the rooster had not risen from his perch to herald the new day.

Dinner plans are uncertain. Are having dinner between 6.30pm and 7.30pm or are reverting to yesterday's time, if not clockwise, then real-time wise, and eating an hour later, making the night short for the small minority of us, who are required to rise early.

I hung out my personal washing before noon and as I was foraging in the kitchen for lunch the boss advised me to bring in my washing as rain was hovering. To be truthful I hadn't bothered to look outdoors much. There was a party in the beer garden the previous evening … one of the girl's had a birthday … the beer garden was decorated with streamers and balloons greatly adding to the festivities. I attended … after I washed dishes and tidied up. What with that and a short night, sitting out on the balcony held little appeal.

I rescued my laundry … it was dry. Looking skywards I was impressed with the banks of clouds building up from east and west, from north and south, and surmised that rain indeed was on the agenda. I moved outdoors to the balcony and was treated to a free display more impressive than some of the organised fireworks displays ever witnessed. Lightning forked across the sky, its jagged flashes had red edges … something I had never seen. I am positive it was not a figment of the imagination as the phenomenon was not a once only show. Thunder boomed as loud as the bombs that razed London in the Blitz, rumbled and threatened to render apart the tin roof. One part of me wanted to sit and watch; the other part was a little afraid of the power in the heavens.

Just imagine if that enormous amount of energy could in some way being harnessed. We could clean the world of nuclear power, we could dismantle the dams destroying the rivers and the land in their vicinity, and we could do away with mining the black gold of coal; no longer would pollution be such a problem. I don't think mankind is astute enough to work out how to harness this energy. If they were, surely it would be implemented?

The heavens opened and it rained. Big blobs of water left their mark on the pavement until, moments later, the street was awash. I came inside, simply because the rain was making me wet. I went downstairs to see if all hands were required on the mops, but the repairs undertaken a few weeks ago were effective; only one plastic bucket was needed under a small drip.

The day wore on. The rain stopped, the sun came out. Later thunder and lightning lit the skies, and once again it rained. Children crossed the street paddling in the running water, the workmen, who were several miles out of town, came hurrying back as the lightning was too close for comfort. It was more comfortable sitting in the bar watching the pyrotechnics from a dry spot.

At bedtime, after the sun had sunk into the distant Indian Ocean, another display filled the skies. I sat out on the balcony, camera poised to take the shot of the year. Have you ever tried to capture lightning on film? I do not have one of those fancy cameras that take a series of shots, and my reaction time was too slow. I gave up. I went to bed and, through closed eyelids, was aware of the flashes that lit up my room. I slid gently into dreamland leaving behind the blue flashes and the loud rumbles.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 10

Water, water, everywhere
Yesterday the lightning flashed, a jagged streak across the grey sky; I counted … one, two, three, four, five … the thunder crashed, reverberating across the town like an explosion of dynamite ripping the land apart. The heavens opened and our town was awash. The streets were running red, stained with the red dirt that mixed indiscriminatingly with the water that fell from the clouds. It was a welcome sound.

Until … I was in the kitchen preparing tuna patties for the evening meal when a drip dropped on my elbow. I moved to the left. Another hit me on the left shoulder. Leaks were appearing. I knew about one, but not the other. I also knew water ran down the wall between the kitchen to the passageway that leads outdoors. The lightning and thunder continued. Rain beat upon the tin roof and found its way through less obvious apertures.

When I stumble downstairs in the morning and walk along the darkened passageway to the kitchen door, should I chance to glance upwards the southern skies are visible through gaps in the roofing iron. I must add these views are only obtainable when the manhole is left open, for whatever reason … maintenance or other essential servicing. There is something rather basic about seeing the stars through a roof. It puts life into some type of perspective and keeps the ego firmly grounded.

A suggestion was made that it would be wise to prepare extra food, as the roads have been known to isolate our town. I added another can of tuna to the bowl and mixed in more mashed potatoes.

The sound of running water captured our attention and the boss came through to warn us not to walk in the corridor between the dining room and the stairs. I took a look. Her warning was valid as there was a small waterfall raining down onto the slate floor and running in a determined manner towards the back corridor where another stream was bustling through the back door, and another in from the beer garden. Outside is higher than inside, and as we know, water quickly finds its own level. As I stood, elbows tucked in to avoid the splashes from the two drips that threatened to turn me into a dishrag, wet and bedraggled, my workmate and the boss tackled the rising waters with mops and buckets. One mopped the water from the beer garden towards a doorway and swished it onto an already wet street. The other mopped, squeezed, and mopped again. They did win that battle. After my preparations I mopped the kitchen floor … a daily chore, adding substantially to the water level in my bucket from the lake that formed under the bench. Two people booked in. The road to a mine site was impassable. Maybe there would be additional guests.

Upstairs once again I opened my balcony doors to watch parents collecting their children from school in motor vehicles. They drove through the water that sloshed spectacularly in a perfect vee formation. Some children chose to walk, their saturated yellow tops and green shorts clinging to their skin. Children not wearing shoes splashed joyfully through the water.

The thunder quieted and the lightning disappeared. In the distance a little strip of blue sky spread across the heavens and fluffy white clouds moved towards us. The sun came out and the wind dropped, the bird song is again audible, and the gutters are still running red.

I wonder if the little brownish green frog that resides in the overflow pipe of the mauve hand-basin in my bathroom will move to a country abode. Frogs and fishes in this part of the world go into inanimate hibernation during a long dry spell. When the rains come, a month, a year or even longer, later, they burst into life, mating, laying eggs, in a frantic attempt to reproduce the species. I think the little frog, the one that peers inquisitively at me when I brush my teeth, deserves a little Life.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 9

To A Mouse

To A Mouse … Robert Burns

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
The cultivated fields of Scotland are far removed from the Outback of Australia. Today, to me, their common denominator is the humble mouse. I could easily use stronger adjectives as the activities of the furry gray/brown, four legged, and bright-eyed, long tailed creatures that roam the kitchen of this hotel have indeed irked me.

When I first arrived the sight of rat poison lain in strategic places barely caused me to raise an eyebrow … better poison bait than a trap. A trap needs emptying, and while the little mouse is hardly my best friend, emptying a stiff corpse is not one of my favourite chores. I understood the mice that had partaken of the green poisonous capsules crept away to some dark place and quietly left this life. I now know I was wrong in that assumption! They lie around in a stupor until they expire. Then they have to be disposed of!

I have swept up dead mice from the four corners and disposed of the corpse; I have stumbled across a dopey mouse, only hours from death, and helped it on its way, then disposed of it. Once a mouse sat crouched on the floor near the stove, and I hurried to get the broom … to help it on its way. When I returned it hadn’t moved an eyelid. I touched it with the broom [murder was not in my mind] and the mouse fell forward onto its face; life was extinct. It too was disposed of.

One would never imagine the task of a kitchen hand, come breakfast cook, included the disposal of mice. Disposing of them is preferable to walking around them, or indeed tramping upon them unexpectedly! There are few options, especially when I am the only person likely to be in the kitchen for the next several hours.

Over the last two or three days the mice that have made the kitchen part of their territory have been lively, frisky, and full of energy. It slowly dawned upon me that the rat bait must be depleted. Time for a new meal! This morning, after washing down all the shelves and removing all visible traces of mice infestation I opened new bait and carefully placed it in what, I sincerely trust, is a very strategic place!

I told the boss we needed more bait. He said that the mice at the moment are particularly bad and that everyone is complaining. It was only last week that the Pest Control men stayed in the hotel and their presence in our community was solely to eradicate mice and rats. Thankfully I have seen no sign of rats! That would be a different story as there is no way I would consider it my duty to dispose of them!

I daresay mice are of some use on this planet, though to be completely honest I am not sure that I can come up with one. I know that scientists breed them to experiment on, and while these wee tim'rous beasties may not be the type of pet I prefer, neither do I agree with creating a life with the intention of taking it in a laboratory. But that is another debate!

The bait takes three to seven days to work, if the placement is strategic enough. Until I start noticing dopey, sluggish mice I cannot be positive the bait is working, or indeed if I have laid enough. I have written Rat Bait on the shopping list!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 8

Go West

Go West young man has been the catch cry for generations.

Discover a new land, find riches, build a new life … all are reasons for going west. Why always west? I have no idea, and to all intents and purposes it doesn't matter. Intrepid sailors discovered the western world; often those sailors were on a mission to safeguard their life by keeping on side of the ruling monarch. Gold was discovered in the west of many a new country, and Australia is a case in point.

Towns were built, populations rose into the thousands until a new 'find' was discovered elsewhere, a discovery that made for easier access, and the miners moved on. The town either died, or existed as a poor relation until the charm of yester-year became popular. Cue followed a similar path. Once a thriving mining center, home to 1000's, it is now a town of 100's, it’s heritage buildings a legacy to the past.

Things come and things go. Mining comes and mining goes, only to come again, albeit wearing a different uniform. Where once it was gold, now it is iron ore, iron ore rich in its purity. Once men and horses trudged the mining trails, now men wait for roads to make access easier, and a trail to move the massive machinery deployed in the mining industry.

Today is Sunday. I often write on a Sunday, because it is my day of rest. As I sit on the balcony I watch the trucks pass through. Some are huge, but the load they carry is bigger. Sunday afternoons have seen the passage of trucks so big they have small vehicles ahead as pilot vehicles. Flashing lights herald the impending approach of a yellow monster. The yellow monster sits uncomfortably, like an overstuffed cushion on a lady's wicker chair, defiantly, proudly, and pompously claiming its ownership of that space, on the back of a truck designed to carry such a load.

Last Sunday I noticed a small van parked at the south end of town. I wondered if the driver was taking a lunch break, if he was eating a sandwich made by the woman in his life in the city some hundreds of miles south, or had he purchased a burger and chips at a road house enroute. Later a pilot vehicle came into view, and the van and its driver made a move. Still the connection was not made. It was Sunday … my day of rest, the day of the week when I can turn my powers of concentration, my powers of observation, off. I do not need to think on a Sunday.

Another vehicle, red and blue lights flashing appeared around the corner from the south. Aha, two pilot vehicles … that signified action. The van edged closer to the shopping center, the CBD.

The Central Business District takes up two blocks, two blocks of historic buildings that are photographed by many who pass through daily, towing caravans, or travelling in campervans.

Around the corner at the entrance to town a monster of a truck crawled, carrying an even larger load. I moved along the balcony to get a better view.

The driver of the van stopped, clambered out of his vehicle, and with a long pole lifted the power lines to allow the truck with its oversized load to pass through ... on the wrong side of the street … on the side of the street directly outside this hotel. They were going exceedingly slow as they inched under the wires, the pole lifter shooting ahead to hold up the next set of wires while the huge truck and its oversized load crawled along behind.

I am on a balcony of an old hotel that features high ceilings. There are cream and green heritage coloured wooden balcony railings to stop folks from falling off … should they imbibe too much of the bar's products of an evening.

Closer and closer they crept. Suddenly the entourage was directly in front of me, towering above me. Scrapers, loaders, and other massive machinery travel west to a mining area. Going west in fact.

In today's modern age to travel west there needs to be roads. Today I am more tired than last Sunday when that impressive parade passed by. To build roads we need men … machinery needs men to maneuver it. This week this hotel has become home to the road construction gang. They are optimistic this time their work will not be undone by a cyclone, as happened earlier in the year. Cyclones often go unreported in World News because of sparse populations, and apart from a handful of station homesteads being inundated by floodwaters, and the road being undermined by floodwaters, nothing else of significance is damaged.

The frogs, lying dormant in the dried-up mud from the last deluge of rain, spawn and leap their greenness around copulating and laying eggs. Little fish, whose eggs lay dormant for an equally long period, hatch and swim in their golden glittery-ness, mate, lay their eggs in readiness for the next rains. Life goes on, dependent upon the rains. Roads can be rebuilt.

The road builders need breakfast at 5.00am. I am breakfast cook, which means the alarm signals the start of a new day for me, just before 4.00am. Bacon, eggs, baked beans and sausages are in the bain marie by 5.00am, food is set out for lunches, the urn is boiling for flasks and cups of coffee and tea, and by 7.30am the rush of the morning is over. Salads and sandwich materials are concocted at noon, and in the evening we welcome the weary roadmen to their final meal of the day. It is a long day, for them, and for me.

Today is Sunday … I am having a well-deserved rest while roads are being constructed for intrepid miners, albeit of the modern machinery age. Go west!