DAY 143: Deciding whether the countryside is a) sinister, or b) non-sinister

21 Jan

MY country town is hosting Wake In Fright night, promising games of two-up (a lie, or today’s header would have been more concise), a barbecue and as much West End Draught as you can drink.

Wake In Fright encapsulates city folks’ fear of country towns; a fear I’ve tended like a bonsai tree. Released in 1971 and filmed in Broken Hill, it follows a schoolteacher (looking unnervingly like Bindi Irwin) who drunkenly gambles away his train fare to civilisation and becomes trapped in his own nightmarish benders and prejudices. It’s famed for its drinking scenes (drink of choice is West End, back in the day when ring-pulls sliced your fingers but gave a satisfying splurt of beer as they did so) and the lengthy roo shooting footage.

When I moved to the bush in a surge of head-for-the-hills adrenalin, the local paper was rife with stories of shadowy men driving around spotlighting roos and leaving their carcasses in plastic bags at the side of the road. Why? the paper rumbled, in between columns on jam-making and fetes. Fucked if I know.

Those first few months on the land were fraught with such paranoia. The local cab drivers seemed suspiciously chatty (when not lapsing into long silences); there were plenty of reed-choked creeks to casually lob bodies into; gunshots went off near my house; mysterious skid marks criss-crossed every road; and endless white utes drove slowly past. And they shoot rabbits, don’t they? I expected to round the corner to my house every evening and find a wicker man built in my honour.

The trees by my house sneak closer whenever you turn your back.

Mine is kind of like a starter town for treechangers, though. I mean, it’s got two IGAs and a train line and it’s featured on Getaway. It even has Target Country, which sells slightly less fashionable garments than Target. This place has got too much of some stuff – French glassware, candles, quilts, lattes, picture frames – and none of others, as if it caters only to the poncing visitors it’s simultaneously trying to terrify. But is it really sinister? I don’t know. I haven’t even seen a snake yet.

And where else but the bush would someone come and anonymously mow your grass while you’re out; flowers and all? Nothing sinister about that.

Keeper? I can’t pack up and leave yet – next week they’re showing Razorback, about a giant feral boar that terrorises city blow-ins. And there’s a guest Q&A with the local bloke who operated the snout.

2 Responses to “DAY 143: Deciding whether the countryside is a) sinister, or b) non-sinister”

  1. Gary January 23, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    What about the seven-year-old girls that charge you on their bikes, thinking (although not actually saying) “Red Rum”? And their laughing parents when said seven-year-olds come a-cropper? What about them, hey?

    • valentish January 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

      I was glad that happened to you, because you also met the sinister cab driver I speak of, yet pronounced him normal. How the tables soon turned.

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