READING

Some like it hot (and dry)

Some like it hot (and dry)

This month’s review shirks food in favour of activities that present themselves like sparkly, gift-wrapped unicorns during the Dry. Starved of the international touring artists and exhibitions regularly afforded our Southern cousins, ‘tis the season we attempt to cram a full year’s worth of activity, frivolity and foolish outfit choices into three months of glorious weather…

Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Park, Butterfly Gorge
Arriving in the dark after an instantly regrettable 120km/h encounter with a kangaroo, Lynda, Sexy George and myself pounced on the only campsite still available. Come morning however, it became apparent that we had plonked ourselves in the middle of an extended Greek family of aproximately 400.
Our new neighbours had laid a ground tarp the size of Christmas and erected an extravagant chain of marquees, under which stood a fully-functioning commercial kitchen. You know that joke about bringing everything but the kitchen sink? Their two-trough sink was expertly rigged to a massive portable water tank, which in turn fed a free-standing camp shower. Next to that were the beginnings of a campfire that would soon be visible from space.
We introduced ourselves and made small talk for a few minutes before Sexy George politely ticked them off for burning plastic on said fire. An hour later we were presented with an olive branch in the shape of three fat, juicy lamb yiros, borne on paper plates like sacrificial offerings by a flock of the smaller children.
The Springs themselves are divine, but the real treat was Butterfly Gorge. That is, once you’ve crossed the orangey-red, stagnant pond that guards the Gorge against the unadventurous. A British couple came up behind us as we were pulling off t-shirts, shorts and shoes and asked, with disbelieving incredulity, ‘I say old chap, we don’t have to go through THERE do we? Because jolly gosh, that’s just not cricket!’ (They may not have used that exact phrasing, but they did speak as if they’d wandered from the pages of a Biggles novel.)
We waded across through dead leaves and rotting branches and emerged on the other side at a gentle curve of pebbled beach facing towering cliffs. Between them a russet-edged expanse of water of exquisite beauty. It was worth every slimy, slippery step.
We swam from the beach towards a distant crevice in the rock cleaved by aeons of gushing streams. We dragged ourselves with scant handholds through the gap, up slanting rocks and through icy pools, until we rounded a bend to a breathtaking basin of cool, still water surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs. People queue for hours to view the Mona Lisa from behind a barricade within a crush of 4000 other tourists, but here was something even more beautiful, unique and remote that only seven other bogans in ill-fitting boardies were there to spoil it.

Carnival of Colour (Darwin Cup)
My colleagues and I approached the course on foot; the girls were already complaining that their feet hurt and weren’t the boys lucky as they didn’t have to bother with things like heels or fascinators. The boys retorted that they were wearing long pants and neckties in a climate that suggested anything but. I, who had decided on black pants, Converse and an open-necked man’s shirt won the comfort contest. We needn’t have worried though; upon reaching our table in the super-fancy Legends of the Straight marquee we found our nearest neighbours were kitted out in singlets.
Sexy George was holding court with his own colleagues in a neighbouring marquee, so I popped over for a visit. Lynda turned and said ‘Oh hello, I … OH!’ Her eyes widened in shock, horror and then even more shock as her hand flew to the back of her dress.
‘Oh crap! Oh CRAP! My zip has burst! No, I’m serious, my zip has burst … IT’S NOT FUNNY SEZ. Oh crap … I have to go! GEORGE!’
Trying to compose myself, I suggested finding the First Aid tent so she might procure a few safety pins to hold everything in place. At that moment all her rage, mortification and impending humiliation wound into a little ball of toxic fury, Lynda spun towards me and hissed ‘Clearly you have NO idea how FROCKS work!’. Silenced by the truth of this statement, I left them to it and went to place a bet.
All up it was an excellent day, and I left the track $30 up, not because I’m any good at this kind of thing, but because I read the form guide wrong and fluked it. On the way out I met an older gentleman who I gather was the father of someone very important (or so he told me). He introduced himself as ‘I’m Dick. As in DICK’S ENORMOUS, HAHAHAHAHA! Want to see a photo of my boat?’ Aaah, Darwin. Never change.

The Great Mayoral Debate
The first thing my associate Laverne and I observed as we arrived at The Railway Club was the eyeball-watering electric blue suit worn by one of the candidates. It was exactly the hue I would have chosen for the Carnival of Colour, however in the glare of the stage lights was a little… well, lurid. The candidate with the floor was stating that his old man was the sort of bloke ‘who was always making duck curry… but without the duck’. As mystifying as this statement was, we knew we were in for an interesting night.
In truth, the debate was a little like watching the World Cup Cricket tournament, but one that Australia, Pakistan, England and South Africa have neglected to turn up to. The majority of the candidates on stage were, I think, outside hopes at best. (In a cricket context, think Holland or Scotland.) None of the major players had attended, perhaps because the whole thing was unofficially arranged on Facebook but also because they had other things on.
Laverne maintained a scathing commentary as each candidate spoke (who, unlike me, was able to identify at least a quarter of them), hissing at their policies and haughtily declaring in a voice that was a tad more than audible, that such things were ‘not in Council’s jurisdiction’. Unable to take any more, and also because we were being angrily hushed by all the people in our immediate vicinity, we decamped to the beer garden to unpack the chances of the political heavyweights we had just seen grace the stage.*

National Indigenous Music Awards
This year’s NIMAs were always going to be a special affair after the premature silencing of one of the greatest Indigenous voices this country has ever heard. The tribute to Dr G. Yunupingu was fittingly moving; his family were invited onstage to speak and perform together, and his uncle Djunga Djunga Yunupingu gave a heartfelt speech honouring his nephew’s contribution to building a bridge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture through music.
There was an audible hush of surprise when Troy Cassar-Daly won both album and artist of the year; given A.B. Original’s earlier wins for song and video of the year (the politically charged January 26), everyone thought they were a shoe-in; I for one was certain Briggs would bound back on stage to accept the awards while taking the piss out of his fellow nominee and good mate, Dan Sultan.
In a night of superb performances, A.B. Original, Dan Sultan, Caiti Baker and living legend Paul Kelly brought the house down with a hip hop mash up of Dumb Things. But truly, the night belonged to New Talent of the Year, Electric Fields. I’d be understating matters if I said the audience didn’t know what had hit them when frontman Zaachariaha Fielding opened his mouth and released a deep, velvety baritone, that soared up the octaves into the heavens, drawing gasps then cheers from the crowd as they rose as one from their picnic blankets and revelled in this Indigenous interpretation of soul and EDM. It was simply magic.

Sandbar cricket
There’s something so tropical, so north, so… Darwin about loading a boat with eskies and deckchairs and heading out to a lonely sandbar off Cullen Bay to watch a charity cricket match.
We went in Sexy George’s Very Sexy Boat and somehow arrived before anyone else bar the barge delivering the portaloos. We chose what we thought was a likely looking spot to be within spitting distance of both the sausage sizzle and the match, but boy did we get that wrong. I was vaguely aware that there was a cricket in progress at the other end of the island, but we were more preoccupied with trying to prevent our cheap marquee from flipping over in the stiff wind and being flung into the deck of a nearby yacht.
We even missed out on sausages; by the time we went looking for them the wind was so fierce the gas kept blowing out. We consoled ourselves with quick dip in the ocean instead. The next day at work my colleagues voiced their concerns about crocs, sharks and other bitey things. I assured them we let the dogs go first so they could provide a sort of safety perimeter around us assuming that one of them would be picked off the pack first, thus alerting us to any impending threat.

Darwin Festival
The Festival is in full swing as I speak, and while I have a number of shows I’m keen to get to I’ve only managed two so far. While I’m gutted I never organised tickets for Blanc de Blanc (I hear it’s sensational), I’ve enjoyed some smaller, more obscure shows.
A Prudent Man is a searing political monologue that manages to blend John Howard’s love of green and gold tracksuits, his appalling behavior during the Children Overboard affair of 2001 and the current political climate. Weave a blunt thread of misogyny and powerlust into the dialogue and you realise that things have changed little in 15-20 years. And that’s depressing as hell.
Comedy wise, once he’d got past the expected jokes about how hot Darwin is, Tommy Little was a laugh a minute, riffing on marriage, intoxication, children and the correct application of a condom. Smutty and hilarious. Next up, Onstage Dating and Clairy Browne …
Get amongst it everyone, before it’s too hot to leave the house.

*At the time of printing the Election was still 24hrs away; if one of the Debate candidates is now Lord Mayor I’d like to sincerely apologise, state for the record that your hat was very lovely, and could you please do something about the waste contractors who keep leaving my bins in front of Number 42?


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