Halls Creek

2014 – jet engine to Broome, then rocketry turbo prop to Halls Creek. Like a flying bus the plane stopped at Derby and Fitzroy Crossing before it’s final destination. It was baking hot, but the pilot was kind enough to put me in the seat behind his, the benefit being a vent of cold air that blew out. It was a sticky flight though.

A good thing about these types of journeys is how tactile they make the experience of flying. I usually had a deep fear of flying, somehow managing to board a plane, but pretty much in a state of anxiety the whole journey. In these small planes, flying amongst the clouds so close you feel you can touch them, or seeing what the pilots see because they literally sat in front of you, it changes perceptions. Nowadays I’m pretty casual about flying anywhere.

I was astonished by the scenery. Expecting an endless red desert I was met instead with lush greenery. There had been heavy rains from a storm recently (maybe a typhoon) and so the water had invigorated the plant life. It was almost surreal.

It was a country relief job. They put me up in a Department house for a week. I was covering the office while the staff went on training. There was just me and an admin worker from Karratha – I can’t remember his name but I do recall he was from Chile.

It was quiet. I think the local community knew the regular staff were away, so were content to wait a week. I only had a couple of clients the whole week.

Halls Creek was a quiet town. Quite sedate in many ways. It was a ‘dry town’, with restrictions on alcohol. Maybe that made a difference I don’t know. There was an IGA, a couple of pubs (one dodgy looking, the other not so), and some other municipal buildings. A wayfarer town, on the Great Northern Highway. I was only there four nights. I came back a month or two later, but nothing occurred to alter my perspective.

It was quite a cruisey week, with good opportunity for photos. A little nugget of country living I would otherwise not have had the chance to experience.

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Come on you Lily Whites! Watching football matches at PNE

I didn’t grow up a Preston North End fan, but after living in Preston for a number of years it seemed a natural evolution to go to matches.

The first match I went to was Preston v Norwich – a fairly mundane encounter until PNE scores in the last minute. The whole stadium (well, apart from the Norwich fans) erupted in celebration. I must admit I was quite astonished by the sudden sharp change. I mean, my mate and I were already walking out when they scored.

Never a regular visitor, I was always intrigued by the social and communal nature of the occasion. The walk across Moor Park towards the stadium, entering the turnstiles, the throng of people gathering beneath the stands, and then the stands itself. This collection of thousands, all cheering on 11 blokes knocking a ball around for ninety minutes. Football, like most sports, may be a shallow humanistic endeavour in itself, but that belies the wider connectivity it provides to a town or city.

I always felt more of an observer than a fan. Familiar enough with football I didn’t need to ask what was going on, but I was always curious about the changing patterns of the crowd. It was a curious mix of local townsfolk; young kids with their parents; large men on their own eating sizeable meat and potato pies; teenagers running up and down the steps of the stands, gathering together in their distinctive tribe-like groups; older people, mainly men, who I suspected used the opportunity to vent decades worth of anger. Seriously, never underestimate the ability of something like offside to bring out pure rage.

My favourite moments were the chants. Most were fairly standard fare – ‘Come on you lily whites!’ (PNE wears white or their home kit). Others we’re quite antagonistic, sometimes directed at the ref for a poor decision (real or imagined by the fans) – ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ – but some chants were utter nonsense, primarily designed to insult the visiting away fans. My favourite was the chant for regional rivals Burnley. The rural area of East Lancashire – “the Dingles” – always carried a quasi-serious accusation of inbreeding (like many rural areas suffer). This led to the chant ‘your mum’s your dad, your dad’s your mum, you’re interbred, you Burnley scum’. I found the whole thing quite hilarious, and the chant itself was sheer incoherence, even though to many unfamiliar observers it might seem quite astonishing. You had to be there I suppose.

It’s been about five years since I last went to see a match, during a holiday to the UK. I still keep an eye on the often frustrating ups and downs of the team. It’s be good to go again, watch the whole spectacle, and enjoy that strange communal unity that sports like football seem to bring. More than just a match, football is a whole event for individuals, friends and families that unifies a community. I enjoyed being part of it.

Selfie Fetish Phase

For a couple of years before I moved to Australia, I had developed a growing interest in photography. Lacking proper opportunity to develop my skills in the UK, I took the opportunity to start practicing in depth once in Australia.

One particular trope was inserting myself into photos, trying to build some sense of drama or something artistic. Maybe it was a narcissistic streak, who knows? Some of the photos look peculiar now, and raise a self-deprecating chuckle or two, but I can also see some familiar elements that carry on to this day. Notably, there is a darker theme in some of these photos, which manifests now in my fiction writing more than my photography, but I guess it’s a universal artistic trait. It was also winter when I took these photos, so maybe that was an influence too.

Reflecting on it, I think I may have been more experimental back then than I am now, but with less focus. I was just keen to take photos of anything and everything, thinking less of composed form and more of pure trial and error. Back then my success to failure ratio was quite poor, but I probably second guessed myself a lot less than I do today. I miss that old me sometimes; innocent, green, but being more spontaneous.