Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Know Where You Live #11

Last November Jon posted the tenth instalment of I Know Where You Live. Having proven our critics wrong (some guy two years ago: "They'll never make it to ten!") we then proceeded to sit on our thumbs and twiddle our buttocks, or something along those lines, for the next five months. During that time loyal Sterne readers have voiced concern that we no longer know where you, or indeed anybody, lives, and expressed disappointment that this should be the case, especially given the sheer volume of living that goes on in this country, often with our knowledge. Fear not, however, for IKWYL is back, and this time we're crossing the border into NSW to have a look at that bustling burg, Gundagai. Ladies, take a Bex; menfolk, do try to contain your tumescence.

I owe the discovery of Gundagai to the conjunction of a broken car and a surly mechanic. The car belonged to my parents (note the past tense: it has since been shot). The mechanic belonged to Gundagai, and probably still does unless he's managed to purchase his freedom. Car and mechanic were brought together when the car - in which I was travelling, along with my partner, youngest child and parents, to our international drug cartel's AGM in Wollongong - broke down on the highway twenty k south of Gundagai. We called the RACV, the RACV called the NRMA, the NRMA called the ACCC, the ACCC told the NRMA they had the wrong number, the NRMA hung up and called the RACV, the RACV called us to pass on the number for the NRMA. Finally a mechanic was despatched from Gundagai to collect us and our ailing vehicle. Upon arrival in town, the mechanic used an intricate system of grunts and flinches to convey to us that our car was fucked and that we'd have to wait five hours for a hire car to be driven over from Wagga, the sole hire car in Gundagai being a Ford Festiva and therefore suitable only for transporting families consisting entirely of small children or hobbits.

As you might expect, we were rapt at the opportunity to spend a few hours wandering the streets of this quaint country town in the 35+ degree heat. Gundagai is truly the jewel in the crown of whatever the name is of the region it’s in. John Curtin practically said as much in 1942 when he stopped en route to Canberra for a bite to eat and a swallow to drink at the Niagra CafĂ© (note: not actually proximate to or in any way associated with Niagra Falls). The crockery used by the wartime PM is now displayed in the Niagra’s window. Legend has it that if you stare at Curtin’s unwashed coffee cup and repeat his name five times the PM’s ghost will appear and grant you one wish. You will of course immediately find yourself somewhere other than Gundagai.

Long before Curtin rode into town Gundagai was a favourite haunt of many bushrangers including Captain Moonlite, Captain Starlite Express, and the notorious Lieutenant-Colonel Daylite Savings, who fled to Gundagai after an extended campaign of curtain fading and tomato over-ripening in the Goulburn Valley. “The road to Gundagai” is of course famous for the “dog on the tuckerbox”, a forty kilo rottweiler who, upon learning that Gundagai was his master’s destination, sat on his tuckerbox and refused to budge. The dog’s calcified remains continue to momentarily distract thousands of motorists each year while inexplicably inspiring only the worst poets and songwriters.

Gundagai is clearly a tourist mecca, and indeed a bill is currently before the NSW parliament that would require all tourists to face Gundagai and pray five times a day. There is so much to see and do – from the historic bridges to the abandoned asbestos mine – that a mere afternoon is barely enough. Luckily we had to stop on our way home to collect the car, only to find it wasn’t yet repaired and we had to spend another few hours in good ol’ Gunners. What blessed luck!

Unfortunately, we were too busy eating pastry goods and bickering to enjoy the town’s most revered attraction, Rusconi’s Marble Masterpiece. Local monumental mason (read: enormously fat bricklayer) Frank Rusconi spent twenty-eight years carving a miniature Baroque Italian palace from 20, 948 pieces of local marble. The result is now on display in the Gundagai Tourist Information Centre, itself carved by Frank Rusconi out of 20, 948 pieces of local cow. The stench is truly awe-inspiring, and will leave you gasping for air long after you bid Gundagai farewell. Which, of course, is what we ultimately had to do. As we left, I raised my hand to salute the mechanic whose lack of dedication, aversion to hard work, and can-not-do spirit had resulted in our having been delayed not once but twice on our trip. Seeing my gesture, the mechanic muttered something quaint and country, raised his own hand, and threw a spanner at my face. But we were already hooning out of town, leaving Gundagai hacking its lungs out in a cloud of its own dust.

Gundagai: 2.5 droplets of John Curtin’s spit out of 5.

The Complete "I Know Where You Live"

No comments: