From Brooklyn to the back of Bourke, and beyond

Australians like to think of places far afield as being “beyond the Black Stump” or “the back of Bourke”. Last night I experienced spatial dislocation of the most extreme kind while talking to my friend Fiona.

Fiona lives on a farm four hours west of Brisbane. That, as far as I’m concerned, redefines remote. Apart from a violent thunderstorm two nights ago, the place hasn’t seen rain of any significance in years. She and I were talking via Skype – what did we ever do without it? – about books and writing and the philanthropic sector (in which she works) and … feral cats, as it happens.

Strangest of all was our respective weather experiences in the 24 hours prior to our conversation: Fiona’s thunderstorm, which momentarily threatened the viabiliy of their sorghum crop, was juxtaposed with my first experience of being caught in a snowstorm – brief, sweet, soft flakes of snow descending at a gentle angle on to my eyelids, nose, cheeks, lips. I poked out my tongue and licked them away and blinked them out of my eyes, marveling at this meteorological miracle. Like Fiona’s lightning storm, the snow in Brooklyhn lasted all of ten minutes. But not a feral cat in sight.

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