Thursday, July 21, 2011

onward to woop woop

The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band classic Wangaratta Wahine

In the days BVC [before video clips] groups would mime their hits for TV pop shows. No one ever bothered lugging around leads or speakers, but the question here is, did the guy on the harmonica suddenly realise half way through he wasn’t kidding anyone, or did he simply drift off?
Stage 2 of the journey: [map]

Leaving Longwood, with one last lingering look, it’s back onto the Hume and heading for ‘You rowa da boat I catcha da fish” - Euroa. The last ever Victorian town to be bypassed by the Hume it was once a regular halfway point for travellers to stop for body and car fuels. The town started to die when wayside stops with petrol stations and food chains began popping up along the newly renovated highway, then the bypass almost killed the town completely.

Now, you can drive into Euroa and just past the very pretty park on the banks of Seven Creeks find the unappealing sight of several abandoned petrol stations; all concrete, weeds and cyclone fencing. They occupy what should be prime parcels of real estate, but apparently the cost of decommissioning service stations is phenomenally monumental – not just digging out old fuel tanks but also cleaning all the soil into which toxic goo has been leaking for years.
A nice little bookshop/café on the banks of the creek would be fantastic. Oh well.

Another reason the town is terminal is probably the almost total lack of insight into what good customer service means.
I sat in one new little place for 30 minutes after ordering a devonshire tea one day, listening to the staff in the kitchen having a right old blue. If I hadn’t already paid I wouldn’t have stayed. When our scones finally arrived the plate was banged down with such force they went flying across the table and into my lap.
Another place I went into, the door was open but it was about 15 minutes before someone noticed I was even there. In this case I stayed because I just wanted to see how long it would take to be noticed. [If you live in a small town long enough you can develop a distorted attitude to time.] When the owner finally came out he asked me “Did you want something?”
I could say a cafe and the Chinese restaurant in the main street are both excellent, but I haven't eaten there for a few years so anything is possible. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Euroa is at the centre of a large area containing all the towns my many Great Greats settled way back when. This means all the bad customer service is coming from people I am probably, in one way or another, related to.
You’ve got as good a chance of seeing platypuses [or is that platypi?] in Seven Creeks as anywhere, but it’s probably easier to go to a good zoo, like Healesville Sanctuary. Ornithorhynchuses are actually very tiny tackers and hard to spot.

Euroa’s historical society stole the old bank building from Longwood, how desperate is that?

There are 3 very strong memories attached to Euroa:
  • swimming in the creek [before the pool was built];
  • riding my aunt’s giant bicycle [which only had one pedal], to collect beer bottles then take them to the bottlo for pocket money;
  • magpies singing, flying, looking, landing, warbling and making me smile

When the highway was finally duplicated, the two northbound lanes were laid smack bang over the very spot where the old family homestead was first built, near Balmattum. The property was called Tara. No it wasn’t, I just made that up. The property was actually named before Gone With the Wind was published, so it was named after the town in Ireland these particular Great Greats came from.
Lots and lots of people claim the name Balmattum is an Aboriginal word for “the place where the big man is lying on his back”. This might be a corruption of a Dreaming story, but it might also be a bit like the translation of the word Moomba - as in Melbourne’s Moomba Festival – “Let’s get together and have fun” - my a***!.
Lots of memories of family stories passing through Balmattum but, to be honest, if you blink on the way through you’ll miss seeing it altogether.
There was an original [except for the roof] stone cellar right on the Hwy, but a truck hit it in 2001. [I must have a look on the way through and see if it has gone from eye-sored to re-stored yet.]

Next non-stop is Violet Town, the first fully surveyed inland town in Victoria. If this does not make you want to rush there for a visit, how about the street names? The town is named for violets and one of the main streets is Cowslip. [No, this was not meant to be a joke about the local dairy industry; when the streets were named, they were all named after flowers.]

Killing Heidi hail from VT. Another good thing to come out of the town is a road connecting the Hume Hwy with the Goulburn Valley Hwy.

Before we head off there is one other, big claim to fame for Violet Town that rates a mention: In 1969, the southbound train The Southern Aurora crashed into a northbound freightrain just south of VT, when the Southern Aurora’s driver had a heart attack.

If we go back to 1895 and Mark Twain again we gain a hint of why this crash was – deaths and injuries apart – such a big deal:

Now comes a singular thing; the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the most baffling and unaccountable marvel Australasia can show. At the frontier, between New South Wales and Victoria, our multitude of passengers were routed out of their snug beds by lantern-light in the morning in the biting cold of a high altitude to change [rail] cars on [the way from] Sydney to Melbourne. Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth; imagine the boulder it emerged from on some petrified legislator's shoulders.
It is a narrow gauge road to the frontier, and a broader gauge thence to Melbourne. The two governments were the builders of the road and are the owners of it.

This is the state of affairs that prevailed until 1962 when there was finally a single gauge railway link between Melbourne and Sydney. The Southern Aurora was the equivalent, to a traveller, of a great big life changing lottery win. As for Twain’s assessment of Australian government competence, well, it’s not 1962 yet.

And so to Benalla; a reasonably large town of 9,000 people. It’s a town that’s small enough to be welcoming and big enough to be useful. One of its major attractions is an annual bonanza of roses.


I’d be happy to live in Benalla except it would be hard to find a job. [Though how it might be harder than in Franga I don’t know.]

Long before Jackie Kennedy made the pillbox popular, Ned Kelly wore a hat which looked like a letterbox. Glenrowan, the site of his famous last stand, is a little town which has a lot of Ned Kelly type attractions for people who like that sort of thing.

14 Kms further up the road is the rather large provincial city of Wangaratta, home to about 17,000 people. 
Way back in the 70s when Wangaratta Wahine was a hit, greasy spoons were as common in Wang as anywhere. It probably says a lot about the culinary and customer service standards of the time that people were more likely to break their journey at Euroa.
Wang is not a town I’ve ever been able to warm to, but a few months ago we went to visit a cousin of The Other who had relocated there, and did find a nice little coffee shop with nice coffee, a waitress who listened, a cook who smiled and all sorts of special treats. I’d love to recommend it but can’t remember the name.

Outside Wangaratta we turn off and take a minor road called Federation Way to Corowa, a little town just over the NSW border. This is one of the border towns where large meetings were held to talk about Federation. I’m not sure a lot has happened since then, except for The Other’s brother taking up residence there.

The next day it’s east along the Riverina Highway which, oddly enough, runs parallel to the Murray River. Then we visit The Other’s other sibling in Albury, before crossing back over the river to Baranduda, where we can visit The Other’s Mother who is about to celebrate her 90th birthday.

For the first time I’ll not only suffer withdrawal symptoms without the internet, I think I’ll be experiencing blog withdrawal symptoms as well. When I return I might have some photos [not too blurry] of some very interesting places we’ve not yet discussed.
That Weird American Who's Obsessed with Australia had an interesting blog discussion about The Hillsong Church, and what is referred to as Prosperity Theology.

I have a personal fascination with two of the topics polite people refrain from discussing at a dinner party - religion and politics. 
To get good value from our pay TV subscription, I sometimes watch Joyce Meyer flogging prosperity - partly because it seems so weird and partly because she has a dry sense of humour. Really, she might seem fundamentalist because she quotes scripture, but my lasting impression is she is simply quoting scripture as a means of selling her self-help products; i.e. the scripture is used to justify the self help stuff, whereas Hillsong uses the self help - and a promise of heaven on earth - to flog scripture.

In any case, I had a "duh!" moment when listening to Tanya Levin being interviewed by Andrew Denton. Why have I never noticed before that the more radically fundamentalist a Christian sect is, the more likely they are to draw unpalatable or even bizarre conclusions from the Old Testament, than to draw nice conclusions from the New?

I can't speak for other people's experience of a Catholic education, but there are several major differences between Catholicism and other branches of Christianity.

The first difference is in the level of insistence on a single, strict interpretation of scripture. I was taught to question. I was taught that a necessary condition for sin is knowledge that one is wrong. This has a parallel in the legal notion of mens rea, of what the Laura Norder TV shows refer to as criminal intent. 

Yes, there are some not so tolerant Catholic clergy, but most Catholic clergy focus on the New Testament notion that all people everywhere share, somewhere inside themselves, a little bit of God. If we hurt other people with a criminal intent or through indifference, we are hurting God.

Another difference is that although the Catholic party line is that Christianity is a continuation of Hebrew religion, the Old Testament is largely interpreted in a way that supports the New Testament view. rather than the New Testament is interpreted in a way that supports the Old.

I'm happy for people if any belief system can give them confidence, but not if it's an excuse for avoiding responsibility for their own actions. There has to be a line somewhere between "the Devil made me do it" and "I blew up this abortion clinic because God told me to do it".

People who seek certainty from religion - and fundamentalism without question certainly provides certainty - are living on the edge of physical or social terrorism.  

And the whole "flag" or "my country right or wrong" thing is just a secular form of fundamentalism for people who crave certainty. Scary.
Having said that, The Other has for years said she wants a flag pole and an Australian flag in the front yard. This has been a bit of a running gag - or so I thought. I told her I don't want to look like a redneck, tear the house down and replace it with a caravan, or to buy a Ford Pickup Truck. 

A few months ago we came back home [along the Hume] and there was a ruddy flag pole and flag in the front yard [a gift from a friend].
The Other has offered to buy me an Aboriginal flag for Christmas, but I am torn between this option and a pirate flag, or a flag with graffiti on it.

The Other is not a redneck, she's a very nice person. She's like no one I've ever met before in my life. I've had to revise all my preconceived notions about flags and rednecks and certainty. Darn. The world would be a much happier place if I could just tell people what to believe. 

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