When I as in second year at the University of Queensland my parents left home. They moved from Oakey on the Darling Downs to Eudunda in South Australia. My brother and I finished our studies in Brisbane; two other brothers went to Adelaide Uni.
So for 30 years we have been a family divided by 2000 kilometres.
I reckon at least once a year for those 30 years I have driven between Brisbane and Adelaide, or in recent times, Melbourne and Adelaide.
I know the Newell Highway very well: every tiny siding, every creek and crossing, every hamburger joint, every banana milkshake maker. Indeed, when I was popping on to the Breakfasters at 3RRR with Squaredy, 3G and Tinsel Tony Wilson, I wanted to do a segment called Know Your Newell. It didn’t quite get up. Instead we did Harmsy’s Highway which was great fun anyway.
The Handicapper is also a Queenslander so, in recent years, we have driven to visit her family (and my brother and his family, and a lot of old friends) for Christmas. The Newell is still wonderful.
On Monday and Tuesday The Handicapper and I and the three kids (Theo, 6; Anna, 4; and Evie, 2) travelled north. Leaving far too late on Monday we only made it to West Wyalong.
Yesterday (Christmas Eve) we just kept heading north. The kids were fantastic.
There was this great sense of people heading in the direction of loved ones.
Nanna had given us a new Christmas carols CD – very traditional choral music which resonates very deeply with my own childhood experience (and beyond).
At the same time, Damian Callinan gave us three CDs from his wedding – each is an excellent compilation of music from different eras. The first CD opens with Run Rabbit and the second track is Teddy Bear’s Picnic – both are in the style of early production which evoke memories of Movietone news and men and women in hats. Given the last two days, these two songs will have a place in Harms Family folklore forever. It is these simple things which carry complex meanings, whether we have words for them or not.
We made it through Goondi at about six last evening. There was a small storm to the south-east. Then on through Yelarbon and Inglewood. This is the bush. The kids were singing Away in a Manger. That memory will also last, the pipe organ swelling, the car filled with the voices of innocence.
We will be going to a Lutheran Christmas service in the city this morning and on to Christmas lunch with the extended family of The Handicapper.
Two days crossing the country with your own gives you time to contemplate – if you can ignore the chaos in the back seat.
Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden ute
Kelpie by my side
Esky in the boot.
The kids love it. Shocking hyperbole I know! But, in a secular and parochial sense, somehow appropriate for the trip.
Thanks to everyone who has been part of the life of www.footyalmanac.com.au this year.
The Handicapper and the tribe and I wish you all a very happy Christmas Day, whatever it means to you. I hope you find as something as deeply satisfying as I will: people around, Victorian sparkling, High country Riesling, Rockford Shiraz, (Mickey Randall’s) chook, mango salsa salad, and pav.
I also hope that, however you understand the world, you will experience the momentary paradox of simplicity and complexity, and feel that some things transcend the life of the mind.