Monday, August 2, 2010

Sparkles in our Boots

This weekend we followed signs for a Sunday Market and found ourselves at an old OneSteel mining camp.  Tanderra Craft Village has taken the place over, the bedrooms turned into shops, and common rooms into the headquarters for the local Wood-turning and Machine Knitting Guilds.
           It was a busy market. The competition between charities peddling Sausages 'n Onions was fierce, and one local woman with a genius for business had a little chicken wire enclosure full of kittens, ducklings, baby rabbits, and cocker spaniel pupies and was renting them out to children at "thirty minutes of cuddling for $4".  She planned to retire to a life of luxury at the end of the day.  
            Out in front of the Wilderness Rehabilitation Center Plant Nursery there was a small stage and a rasta man with a pair of bongo drums.  Solemnly billing himself as "The Nigerian Drum Master" he chanted weed-fueled wisdom with a Jamaican accent thick as toffee and banged his drums, mostly with the rhythm.
            "You can be good or you can be smart or you can be both.  This next song is called - Be good and be smart. Be-ee GOOD! (Pam Pam)  Be-e SMART (Pam Pam)  Be-ee GOOD and SMART, YAH!"
The man is something of a local institution.  A row of kids with kid-size bongo drums sat at his feet and bongo'd along with him and parents clapped and cheered and the leader of the Cape Eyre belly dancing troupe (her costume mixed kente cloth with Hindi spangles AND jangly scarves dripping with gold coins) played backup with a tambourine.
            Next on the bill was the local Ballet Academy and the aforementioned Belly Dancing Troupe (a score of kids in harem pants and spangled belts tinkled their way through the crowd) but we were busy investigating the wood-turning workshops and watching races at a meet of the local Model Car club.  Voom!  Vroom!
            The wood-turners club was making extremely intricate model ships in bottles. The Quilting Guild was demonstrating nine-patches. The Machine Knitting club we passed through with a shudder. When I was at fashion school, knitting was the one class I never ever got a handle on.  Week after week, threads snarled and tore and wrapped around posts, and the sliding thingie sprang loose and knotted threads from here to Christendom, and the weight fell off the comb, and when it bounced across the floor, upper-year students would walked past me and gave me looks that said as strongly as if they'd spoken aloud: "do they really allow people like that loose in this place?" and I'd crawl under my machine to join the four-or-so miles of yarn puddled there in a shameful little bundle of failure.
            Some people have an instinctive aptitude for certain tasks.  The concepts they grasp almost at once; intuition tells them all they need to know about when and where and why to make the tiniest fiddliest adjustment, and they grow in understanding by leaps and joyous bounds.
            I don't have that.
            The way Mozart played the piano is how I don't do knitting.
            Almost precisely how I don't do it.
            So we scuttled past and because we weren't paying attention, we landed in the craft shop.  My word, country women tat an awful lot of tea towels! There was a terrible selection of knitted beanies and beaded necklaces. Tatted orange tablecloths and scented clothes hangers. Rusted spoons twisted into rusty bracelets. It is perfectly acceptable for beginning potters to make formless pottery horrors; it is not acceptable anywhere in the multiverse for the said potters to slather them in pearlescent glaze and attempt to sell them for real money.  There were chamber pots.  Prolapsed ewers and leaky basins.  Anguished clay swans with adenoids. Tinkly-wee dolphins and fairies and dragons all tipping sideways into puddles of pink neon paint. The glitter got up our noses and, giggling madly, we almost bought a sparkly purple ewer and basin for my in-laws' wedding anniversary but they threatened never to visit us ever again if we did, so we went and explored the Tuck Shop instead.
            There I was really torn - should I buy Mr Tabubil a handful of White Christmas or a very large Chocolate Freckle? An impossible dilemma.  I settled on a toffee cup sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.  He'd squinted dubiously during my deliberations, and at the toffee cup he looked very askance, but I told him severely that home-made toffee with sprinkles was a very traditional Australian school-fete treat and he needed to learn about my culture.  So he walked about the place with his face all puckered up, sucking on the toffee and asking periodically for tic-tacs and breath mints.  Wasn't my fault he hadn't noticed that I hadn't bought one for myself.             
           We'd wrung the place dry, we reckoned.  We dodged the home-made tomato chutney and the Dutch man selling painted maracas and bongo drums ("Of great hereditary importance to the Nigerian Drum Master" he told us solemnly.  "The deep tones of the bongo are the only sound that will pass from one end of the Equatorial jungle to the other") and the junior ballet dancers performing aerobics to Middle-American power ballads - and we went home and read a book about Danish Modern - just to cool our brains. 
            And shook sparkles out of our boots.

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