It’s been a month since I left the cultural hub (BWAAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!) of Perth behind, and joined Luscious and the kids in the Northern Sunlands of Karratha. It’s been a breath of fresh air for us– hot, dusty, red-tinged air. Luscious has taken to her new life as a High School teacher as if it’s the job she’s been waiting 25 years to do, because it is. The kids are exploring social opportunities they wouldn’t have accessed where we were living before, and there’s a new sense of freedom in being by ourselves.
As for me, well, not having to report to the hated day job has resulted in exactly what we wanted: I’m writing again, with purpose and intent. After months of stagnation, I’ve taken Ghost Tracks past 40,000 words and on towards a final first draft tally that should come in somewhere between 50 and 52,000. It’s entirely conceivable that the first draft will be wrapped up well and truly before the end of March. I’m enjoying a sense of freedom that I had forgotten existed, and slowly, those part of my creativity and soul that had withered are beginning to recover.
So, by way of recording some of the things that have changed with this new location, here are five aspects of life in the Northern Sunlands that have provided new impetus for me, my writing, and my overall well-being.
5 For Friday: Life in the Northern Sunlands
Part of my goals whilst here involves losing weight and gaining fitness. But gym prices are beyond insane, here, and most of the day is simply too hot to do much in the way of outside exercise. So I gave myself one indulgence from my payout– an annual swim membership at the local Leisureplex. After dropping Luscious and the kids at school, I head across the shared car park, and walk and swim lengths before taking up the day’s work.
It’s been thirty years since I swam with any intent. I represented my school as a teen, and the muscles remember, however dimly, but it takes a hell of a memory to haul a 110kg body up and down when you haven’t done any real exercise since Homer was a boy. Still, in a town where there temperature is above 30 degrees before I even get out of bed, it’s a cool, invigorating way to start the day, and my current capacity of 42 walked and 8 swum lengths gives me 40 minutes or so to visualise the day’s writing before I start.
My watery domain.
2. Filtered water
It’s an irony that, in a town where the consumption of water is constant and critical, the water itself is so unfit for consumption. An extraordinarily high calcium content leads to an increased risk of kidney stones if unfiltered, so the first thing we were advised to do was get filters on to our taps. The drinking taps are filtered, the water jugs in the fridge are filtered, and the big, white hunk of plastic hanging over our sink is a constant reminder of our new surroundings.
There’s no way to avoid it. Karratha is hot. Brutally, punishingly so. The town is situated between a flat, open plain that catches the sea breeze and heats it as it struggles off the ocean, and a ridge of hills that traps the heat and circulates it back across the landscape. Unlike Perth, where the temperature climbs throughout the day, peaks at about 2pm, and then decreases towards night, Karratha dawns towards 30 degrees, climbs from there, and never really lets go.
Every building is air-conditioned. Every room in our house has an air-conditioner and a ceiling fan. Buildings are oases between heat sinks. Acclimitisation is a slow process. I’m not unused to it– I lived on the edge of the Great Victorian desert as a child– but still, it’s a major lifestyle difference from temperate, beach-side Rockingham.
Picking the kids up from school this week. Clockwise, from top left:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
4. Red horizons
There’s no escaping the desert, here. The landscape is sparse, scatty, and red, red, red. It has an austere beauty, a remorseless combination of rock and hardship. The wildlife is small, and largely reptilian. Compared to Rockingham, which contains several micro-climates within it 600+ square kilometres, the land is a single swathe of empty brutalism, dotted with rocky outcrops and stunted, leathery scrub.
I find it astonishingly beautiful.
The view back along the main path from the car park to the High School,
taking in the hills that stand watch over the town.
5. Splendid isolation
1500 kilometres away from Perth. No writing groups. No theatre. A cinema that only has 2 sessions per week. Very few restaurants of genuine quality. No beach. No bookstores. No friends. No book launches. No Lego User Groups. No art gallery. No museum. No active arts groups that I can find. No distractions. No deadlines. No embuggerances.
What is there to do but write?
I’m living in a two-year writing retreat.
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