Sunday, September 30, 2018
Mr and Mrs Smith of Rockhampton
Our mother gave my splendid sister quite a pretty Christian name but about 30 years ago she married a very fine man who was a Mr Smith. And they are still together, wonder of wonders. And Smith is a very useful surname. When you give your name as Smith and people give you strange looks you can produce ID that completely authenticates you. But you are still almost as anonymous as if you had used a real false name ("real false name"?) Who in his right mind would even try to track down a particular Mrs Smith out of all the millions of Smiths worldwide? You might be traceable if you lived in Ulan Baator but that is about all. And with all due respect to Ulan Baator, not many Smiths would want to live there.
So to preserve their valuable anonymity I am going to refer only to "Mr & Mrs Smith" in my ramblings below.
I kitted up for my brief stay by packing my genuine Cabrelli wheeled bag. Cabrelli are mostly distributors of ladies' fancy handbags but they do luggage too. I was given mine but I rather like it. I don't like the hard angles of traditional suitcases
Anne and I arrived on the Tilt Train at Rockhampton station at about 6:45pm Friday 28th and were met by Mr & Mrs Smith. They had booked us in to a very flash motel so Anne and I just dropped our bags off there and we all went to dinner at a nearby Malaysian restaurant. It was rather flash as such restaurants go but the menu had us all a bit bamboozled. I have been in Malaysian restaurants before so I immediately suspected that the cook might be rather "creative", which is often not good. Anyway we ordered and found that the food was indeed "creative". But we got it down. I paid the "creative" bill.
But the company was good so the food was not an issue. I have seen the Smiths rarely over the years so getting to know them better seemed long overdue. We discovered fairly soon that our political views are not lightyears apart. The Smiths even had a good word to say about Mr Trump! You see why I am preserving their anonymity! We are actually something of a conservative family. Myself, my son and my brother rarely disagree on much in our extensive discussions. The twin studies tell us that Left/Right orientation is highly hereditary so that should not have been a surprise.
What the Smiths approve of in Mr Trump is mainly his opposition to political correctness. As Mr Smith said to me, "If I think a think why can't I say it?" And they also saw Trump's shaking up of the existing political system as being a very good thing.
Mr Smith is a technician by trade so is good with his hands. He enjoys putting mechanical things right. So even though he is now officially retired he still does stuff like that for its own satisfaction -- though he also is well paid for it. There are zillions of people knowledgeable in the arts but practical men are in short supply.
An interesting thing that I share with the Smiths is that we have both done rather a lot of real estate renovations and made good money doing so.
And their most recent project has been to build a really swish place for themselves to live in. The result is immaculate. It would even get approval in Amsterdam. From the outside it just looks like a simple and humble suburban home but once you get inside you find lots of rooms with every conceivable facility. And it has great views from the top story.
When they bought it, it was basically sound but a big mess -- a big enough mess to deter most buyers. So they got it for a very reasonable price. Then over a period of many months they got it right, doing a lot of the work themselves -- but getting in the experts where appropriate. They are justly proud of their result.
Mrs Smith has done many jobs over the years, including a spell at a meatworks where our father also worked. She liked the orderliness of how the place was run. You didn't know that an abbatoir could be orderly, did you? It hadn't occurred to me. Nowadays she is a senior teacher at a Primary school. She does not teach a regular class but fills in doing all sorts of jobs that keep the place running.
She is very critical of the Department of Education. She says that they are always issuing new instructions about things that should be taught -- thus taking time away from the regular curriculum. But the innovations tend to drift away after a while and the school gets back to doing the same things they always did. The bureaucrats can propose and instruct but it is the workers "at the coalface" who determine what is actually done. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
The Smiths are very health conscious and avoid eating any food that might be a bit suspect. They are big on vegetarian food but are not fanatical about it. My indulgent lifestyle rather horrified them so I did mention to them that my last blood test showed me to have the internal organs of an 18-year-old. Even my blood sugar was dead centre. So my indulgent lifestyle hasn't hurt me yet. And seeing that Mrs Smith and I share 50% of our genes, what is OK for me is probably OK for her too. So I wonder whether that will move them towards a more relaxed diet in some way.
But they have me totally beaten in their fitness. They still walk miles on a daily basis and do things like cycling up hills!
On Saturday morning the Smiths took Anne and me on a tour of the region, seeing mountains and seascapes and localities etc. I was particularly impressed by the many old buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras that still stood in Rockhampton. Instead of tearing their beautiful old buildings down like a lot of fools elsewhere have done, the Rockhampton people have renovated most of their old buildings to look as good as new. That was a most pleasant surprise to an old sentimentalist like me
The thing I was most interested in seeing in the region was the immensely controversial Iwasaki resort at Yeppoon -- now known as the Capricorn resort. It is mostly dormant at the moment awaiting a refit but nothing has ever moved fast there. The extensive buildings are still all there but the grounds are not up to an immaculate standard at the moment. In one of the few parts of the resort that is still operating is the Japanese restaurant -- so the Smiths were kind enough to stop there even though Mrs Smith is very suspicious of Japanese food. I of course am a great fan of Japanese food.
I shouted lunch there and Mrs Smith decided on ordering the Japanese curry. I encouraged that by noting that Japanese curry is always delicious without being "hot". In the end she did seem to enjoy it. Anne and I had the pork Tonkatsu, which was as good as it comes. The restaurant was pretty packed when we arrived so many of the locals must share my opinion of the food there.
After lunch we went to have a look at Yeppoon, which I had heard of as a beach to which people from inland go for their holidays. So I expected a small village. I found however that it was a substantial town with lots of shops and facilities.
As it happened, Emu beach was nearby where Anne used at one time in the now distant past to go for holiday breaks. A friend of hers once owned a holiday house there. So she was interested to revisit the house and take some photos of it, which she did
All in all, the Smiths went to a lot of trouble to make our stay comfortable and interesting, which was much appreciated.
The Smiths also insisted on paying for our two nights at the motel. It was a large and imposing apartment motel which was very spacious and comfortable and with good views of the huge Fitzroy river.
It was however odd in having neither a minibar nor room service. Life is full of surprises.
On Saturday night neither Anne nor I felt like a big dinner after our Japanese lunch so we just had Angus burgers at a nearby steak house. And they were remarkably good.
We managed to get up at 6am the following Sunday morning to get a taxi back to the railway station. And the taxi driver was a chatty Australian, which was rather a blast from the past You mostly get Indians with limited English as drivers in Brisbane
I did not like the trip on the Tilt Train. Too slow and cramped. but I have expanded at length on that elsewhere.