365+88=?

Day 365 - Margaret River

A couple of notable milestones had passed. The first was the completion of my 88 days of regional work. This was a cause for relief and elation given the slender margins of time I had to get it done. Despite the sheer monotony of each working day the weeks had zipped by at an acceptable pace. Despite the specified 3 months seeming to stretch endlessly into the distance on that frigid first morning in the vineyard I could now thumb my nose at Labour Solution's exploitative employ and return to the cosmopolitan splendor of Sydney. Except I couldn't. Whilst I would consider it an appropriate gesture for the Australian government to buy you a plane ticket back to civilisation at the completion of your regional work this doesn't appear to be official policy. So, though I calculated that I had pruned, wrapped, pulled, thinned, constrained and otherwise manhandled in excess of 21,000 vines up to this point I would need a few more to return east. The other notable milestone? 365 days on the road. In truth I didn't even notice it pass. This blog is the only means by which I register the accumulation of days and I was so woefully behind in my writing in Margaret River that the anniversary of the trip's beginning elicited only an 'oh' when I did realise a week later. But...a year on the road. It feels like words are needed, a weighty treatment or microcosmic summary. And the question hangs in the air like a fresh piñada....why? What is it to travel? What is it to move? What does it give us? More to love or more to hate? More to pity or more to envy? Does it place us in the world or does it break us from our bonds and cast us adrift? Am I running from the inevitable or chasing the impossible? Neither I hope. Perhaps the roads and rails and waterways of the world are my bloodstream. Is this the imperative vitality of perpetual motion? I've noticed that It is hard to define oneself during a trip such as this. Where I'm from, what I do - these markers fade in significance. My goals become amorphous and scattered by the wind, the fragments land in England and India, Asia and Australia. They fall down the cracks between rocks and hard places. How you judge your success at this life is hard to know, there isn't an easily applicable template for the wanderer. I hope I'll know it when I see it but I'm a long way from home.
My final weeks in the little town in a quiet corner of Western Australia were nothing if not dramatic, I recall feeling at the time as if my life had been set on fire. Set on fire partly by events beyond my control, partly by events...not beyond my control. I met some great people, I said goodbye to some great people saddened by the probable finality of it. I made dubious decisions in the name of chivalry, I played diplomat and cuckold on the stage of the world. I strengthened then scuppered relations with Italy while Germany warmed. I left the 'entente cordiale' a shunned shadow, I uneuphemistically drove a tractor. Interspersed with the flames of diminished responsibility were some more genteel highlights. There was sea fishing from the rocks at Conto beach as the sun went down. There was the night we had Japanese friends round to create fantastically fresh sushi, my stomach still growls at the memory. There were some enjoyably rudimentary barbis in the back garden and tear-drenched laughter at the musical stylings of Rappy McRapperson and his track 'Fishsticks' (Spotify, you won't/will regret it). There was the day 5 of us piled into 3 inflatable dinghies and paddled up the eponymous river, hot sun in the sky and cold cider in the hand. It was Matt's idea to recreate the 'River of Golden Dreams' from his time in Canada. He and I both bagged a dinghie and decided the tallest member of our group (Emily) should pile in with the smallest (Oli), thankfully the craft's rated carrying capacity wasn't too strict. We didn't get very far upstream despite, oddly, being assisted by the current. After about half an hour of paddling we spotted something worthy of investigation. A ruined mansion sat ominously on the riverbank, devoid of roof and window and certain to be stalked by ghosts and apparitions, we moored up. The grounds surrounding the building were immaculately cared for, as if the long gone occupants had forgotten to give the gardener his notice. The flowers in the border were tended, the grass precision mowed and yet not a soul (or ghoul) in sight as we trepidatiously explored. The property would be worth millions, just the land thousands, why did it lie in crumbled waste? Perhaps a victim of the bushfires that tore through the area a year past? Suddenly we heard voices and aware that our trespasses might not be forgiven (based on the 'no trespassing' sign) scuttled back to our boats. Scuttled was an operative word as mine had seemingly sprung a puncture in the landing and now lay disappointingly deflated. So 4 went into 2 and we swiftly paddled away to the safety of open water.
All these things were very pleasant, in stark contrast to the drama shortly to unfold as my time in Margaret River drew to a close...