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Monday, May 25, 2009

A difference of approx. 20,000 well-chosen words

Click on the AFTER picture to see the BEFORE

Mt Perry, a hundred kilometres west of Bundaberg, is the proverbial one-horse town.

I first heard of it when my long-time friend Noel Butler moved there sometime in 1983 or 1984. He had bought a 5-acre piece of dirt across the track from what was grandiously described as the Mt Perry Golfcourse - a collection of cowpads drying in the hot Queensland sun - at a price which would've been an absolute bargain anywhere else in Australia but still outrageously expensive in this town which was slowly disintegrating: the local mechanic had moved away to Gin Gin, the local store sold little more than bread and milk and newspapers, and the local picture show had run its last reel in 1967.

I went up to Mt Perry in late 1985 when I was on my way from Townsville to Sydney, having, after many years overseas, totally failed to make a new beginning in the former and hoping that the latter would be kinder to me. I stopped over with Noel for a couple of days in his newly-built one-bedroom prefab, cranking up the generator at night to watch television and lighting the PRIMUS-stove in the morning to cook our cowboy-breakfast of baked-beans-on-toast. It was all very forgettable and I was soon back on the highway heading towards Sydney (which didn't work out too well either, at which point Noel invited me back to Mt Perry because my company would give him, as he put it, "a new lease on life" - but that's another story for another time).

Owing to failing health and eyesight, Noel sold his Mt Perry hide-away the following year and settled in Childers where he passed away in 1995. For old times' sake, I kept an eye on Mt Perry and even revisited it in 2003 and in 2005 was surprised to read of the reopening of the old Mt Perry picture show (originally known as the Federal Theatre) as the refurbished Federal Inn. Who were those people that would be coming to Mt Perry to fill the $130-a-night rooms and eat those à-la-carte dinners? The History page describes how "Bob & Helen Gilbert purchased the delightful building in 2003" but the front page mentions only Bob as owning and running the place now and - another surprise! - it is up for sale again - at a cool, or crazy, $697,000 !

What had gone wrong with Bob and Helen's dream? There's a story there somewhere and old Somerset W. Maugham would have turned it into a good one. The difference between his and mine is approximately 20,000 well-chosen words!