A Tall Boy in Australia, extract from a book.

Many years ago, in the days of yore, my husband, Bruce, was a young man Doing His Thing in Australia.  He travelled out there supposedly to emigrate, as was the way in the 1960s.  Because he was under 19 the passage was free, and because he was over 18 he could go by himself.


I wrote a book (unpublished as yet) about his adventures in the three years he stayed.  A good job his mother didn’t know about half of it!  It is odd to think that in those days there was only post by which to communicate, otherwise one had to book what for some reason was called “a trunk call” – and which would have been too expensive for him anyway.


Here is an extract from the book, just one adventure out of many.


“Some miles out of Townsville I noticed a bush fire.  I pulled in, my fine old Dodge already dusty after its recent wash.  I watched the fire on the horizon, at first a thin black smokey line far, far way, where the heat haze made the horizon and the sky merge in to a yellow-grey watery film. It was extremely hot, and the sandals that I’d gone to so much trouble to repair chaffed against my skin, the grit and the dust and sweat all intermingled in sore grubbiness.  I considered taking the sandals off altogether, but the dirt was way too hot to stand on, and my sweaty feet made for dangerous driving, even out there in the bush where there was not a soul for miles, nothing to crash in to and, God knows, nothing of note to drive off of.   I picked the piece of wire out of one sandal, standing there, on one foot, leaning against the car. It had been a clever repair, but the worst of the chafing was from that.  I wrapped a hankie round my foot.

When I looked up I saw that the fire was far closer to me. I hadn’t realized it was traveling in my direction.  There was barely a hint of a breeze and it seemed remarkable that the fire was able to travel at all.  Soon I could smell the burning soil and the soot as the flames swallowed up the bone-dry twigs and branches of the scrub land.  It was fascinating.  They say fire is hypnotic, and there’s truth in that.

It was already very hot without the fire, and as it approached, its speed gathering momentum, the heat became intolerable.  The air was starting to fill with black smoke.  Time to go.

I had had trouble with an airlock in the fuel pipe all week, caused by the extreme heat. The trick was to open the bonnet, disconnect the fuel pipe and blow vigorously in to the petrol filler.  The fuel was then able to go through the pipe.  I had done it twenty times by now and it took barely a minute.  In fact apart from a nasty petrolly taste on my lips, it was no bother at all.

With the fire now barely a hundred yards away and I realized it was time to move – and quickly.  Bonnet open. Fuel pipe. Blow. In fact, blow hard. But I had forgotten that I had filled up the tank– a very rare occurrence as I could normally put in only a few dollars’ worth of petrol at a time.  The petrol whooshed up and over my head.  Doused in petrol and the fire almost upon me, I grabbed a carton of milk – the only liquid I had with me – and as I revved the engine in to life, I tipped the milk over my head…..”

(This extract is taken from “Travels with a Biro”)

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Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.  She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites.  Her sketches are on her web site http://turquoisemoon.co.uk .  Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.

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Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.

Her books are available on Amazon & Kindle, or can be ordered as paperbacks from most leading book stores and libraries.


Posted on 19/08/2012 by Catherine
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