Thursday, February 27, 2014

Attending the Mining and Gas Conference

After the opening party of the Perth Writers Festival I tried to get home to my daughter's house across the city.
A flock of children's authors descended upon me like raucous budgerigars at the opening, brandishing street-side witch's hats as megaphones and shouting bad jokes and anecdotes. There was the rather lovely South American waiter who clocked that I liked the free shiraz and cruised by every half hour to fill my glass. There were the international authors who had flown in that night to perform, talk and flog their books the very next day.

It was balmy. I was wearing stockings and quite bamboozled by the celebrities. You know, I'm not used to this stuff; the fly in, fly out whirlwind of people who stay long enough to say something really good, connect with other industry sorts and talk about writing books and then leave again. I don't know if anyone gets used to this state. It was inspiring and heartening. But I was thinking about how to deal with the heat, my daughter in transit across the city with her daughter, the killing of an asylum seeker at Manus Island, what to do when I returned home to Albany. Anyway, I had to sneak behind a tree to take my stockings and shoes off in the meantime.

So I left the artists' party quite drunk, jumped on a bus to the city, intending to catch a connecting bus to Pearlie's neighbourhood. In the city, I read that the last bus had left for Como two minutes ago.

I walked upstairs from the bus station thinking I would call a taxi home. I ended up in a deserted shopping mall, with bright white tiles and only the cleaners and a few vagrants walking around. One man sat with his swag of belongings on a plastic chair and sipped from a water bottle. They all watched me get more and more lost. I didn't even know the phone number for a taxi.

I asked an Asian Australian cleaner about a taxi but he didn't know where to catch one so I went across the road to the entertainment centre. By then it was midnight and I realised I was present at the closing cathartics of the International Mining and Gas Convention. Now this is West Australia guys. Sharp suited men, men with their shirts hanging from pot bellies and black pants, and women in nasty red dresses spilled from the centre, busy on hooking up after the scrutiny of the conference. Men gathered in herds with didgeridoos slung over their shoulders. Price tags dangled. Everyone was drunk.

They were leaving the entertainment centre and catching the taxis that were like magical unicorns to me. By this time, I was thinking Wake in Fright. I was one moment away from my night being a fun extrapolation of a writers' festival to ... being found naked and spread-eagled in a gutter in the sordid light of morning.
Well, it might have been not that bad but I was aware of the potential. One woman shambled beside someone she'd just met, arguing the Catholic versus the mainstream Australian ethos. Both of them were shitfaced and looking for a taxi.
Great. So.
I sat on the bench and played Words with Friends on my phone. C'mon taxi driver. Take me home.
When he finally arrived forty five minutes later, we sat quietly as he drove. He was pragmatic. "If you miss the last bus, you have to ask your family to drive you home."


  1. You need to get over to Scotland in the next few months. There will be mining and gas conferences aplenty as the North splits away from us down here, and they have a lot of whisky to get rid of, like the Cubans have a lot of rum they don't know what to do with either. And I thought you were nose-down on your next book. Silly me!

  2. Them Cubans have got baccy too, and plenty of the best.. Great report Sarah, and that pic of the didgeridoo slung conference goers is a classic. Kind of scary actually. I'm smiling at you being accosted by the traffic cone brigade -what did you call them, raucous budgerigars.. :-) I'm with Tom, was biting my lip here thinking you were locked down in deadline district. It's dull out here you know..

  3. Half locked down and half jet setting really, Ciaran. But that was a very strange experience. I was very glad to get back to Pearlie's house!