Saturday, May 21, 2005

Wet behind the ears

Finally, a window of opportunity while my layout of Robbery Under Arms is printing out, before I have to start cooking the slow-roasted lamb shanks for dinner. Probably just enough time to relate a few choice anecdotes about my adventures Out West.

As you may know (if not, scroll down a tad), I flew to Perth last week for my Grandad’s funeral. It was held on Friday 13th, or 'Black Friday' as it was most refreshingly dubbed by the Perth media the next day. I would have called it 'Wet Friday' myself. It started with rain and ended with floods, but not from the clouds – from a water main that burst next to the freeway (have a blank mind about the name; the one that crosses The Narrows bridge and connects north and south Perth). Apparently the amount of water that covered the south-bound lane was the equivalent of two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Anyway, we all got to the funeral before this startling event and had a jolly good time weeping and moaning and gnashing our teeth. Of course, I exaggerate there. It was a lovely, sedate, respectful funeral that incorporated an RSL component to celebrate Grandad's time in the Navy. We didn't have too much preachiness, no singing to embarrass the old fella, and played his favorite tune, Acker Bilk's Stranger on the Shore (which is also one of my favorite tunes, I was pleased to note. We did, in the end, have some sort of connection).

After we were kicked out of the reception area to make way for the next funeral (they whip them through every 45 minutes), everyone jumped in their cars to go to the wake, which was to be held in south Perth at a pub owned by someone's in-laws. We all knew that $2500 had been put aside from Grandad's estate for the bar tab, we all knew it took about 30 minutes to get to the pub from the cemetery in north Perth. None of us knew, at first, that the water main had burst and that Perth was gridlocked. As usual, none of my family were listening to the local radio stations; they were probably all crooning to Roy Orbison or listening to the Sports channel. I was driving with my dad in our hire car, debriefing about the funeral (he’s ex-army, I'm used to it). Suddenly we were stuck in traffic, going nowhere. We could see other family cars around us among the general public. Not too desperate to get anywhere, we kept dissecting the things we’d seen and heard at the funeral.

My grandfather had 6 children, 4 boys and 2 girls. Apart from my dad, all the other kids and their partners like a drink or five. As do their kids and their partners, and their cousins and their partners. So there were a lot of people desperate for a free drink, stuck in traffic, all imagining that everyone else were arriving at the pub before them, eroding that magical bar tab. There was a bit of road rage developing until Dad and I turned on the radio, heard about the water main, and started the mobile phone grapevine letting the others know that they were all in the same situation. Except, we found out later, for the bright spark who got his wife to drop him at the nearest railway station and caught a train to the Carlyle pub, which was right next to Carlyle Station. He had a head start, and by the end of the evening it showed.

It took over an hour and a half to get to the pub, and everyone made up for lost time. It was fun to sit back and watch, with about five cider stubbies queued up in front of me (I don't drink beer!) because people kept thinking they’d get me a drink while they were up. I couldn't stop drinking at any point because the peer pressure would have been intense, and besides, how often does your crusty old Grandad die? Grandad's brother, who had never got along with him, was shocked to discover that Grandad, whom he described as 'a tight old c—t', was paying for the whole shebang. He made sure he had a few more drinks after that.

We drank the whole tab, between about 50 of us, and had $130 left over. Ace.

We went back to my cousin’s place afterwards and I remember falling out of the car when the door was opened for me, but thankfully I fell onto soft but scratchy couch grass. Next morning I went out and found all my makeup and pens on the grass where they'd fallen out of my handbag. Luckily from that point I could just drink water without anyone noticing, otherwise I'd have been talking to Grandad on the Great White Telephone that night. The next day was fairly rough, but the following breakfast got me through the pain:

While we're on the topic of photos, this is what we drove through coming from Bunbury to Perth (well, we were in the middle of it, so it didn't look this picturesque. A friend sent me these later. Aren't they wonderful?)

And the crane that hit Bunbury's ABC building? I was there only hours before! Here's the proof. I was taking some research photos of the Bunbury Regional Gallery for our proposed Travelling Exhibition, and you can see the crane in the background. This was Sunday. Before:
After (this is a media photo):

And finally, speaking of ears, I went to see my Grandad at the funeral parlour before the funeral. He had been completely ravaged by the cancer, even more so than by the booze and cigarettes. I'm certainly never lighting up again (still want to booze but). He looked so different, thin and smooth. The only thing that looked like him was his ears. So I took a photo of his ear, because it reminds me of him more than anything else they talked about at the funeral:
And I think that's quite enough for your delicate stomachs.


Lucy Tartan said...

those are some amazing photos, Ampersand.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and informative web site.I used information from that site its great.