I grew up in Sydney. On the beaches, in the suburbs. I fell off a boat, surfed in the waves,
played a little guitar, attended parties and drank some vodka. I fluffed my way through a school I didn't
ever want to go to. They were familiar then, those places and the people,
and weren't strangers at all. They didn't remain that way. At that time they were
in my life, now they're strangers again I suppose.
At uni I was in the groove, but I should have been like my friends:
serious and hard-studying. Those uni strangers became my friends
and I hung out with them. I was on a very slim scholarship and
the best I can remember was always asking them for cigarettes,
attending parties and playing cards. There's only one person I
know now. If you like, I filtered all those strangers down to one,
and jettisoned the rest.
In the back country I was the stranger. Shot like a cannon ball out
west by the department of education into hot days, beer, pigs, pies and black people.
They were strangers at the time but I learnt a lot. I now know that in
adversity they're tough. They have thick skins.
They fight at football games and grin without their
teeth most other days. Somehow I adapted and survived and became
temporarily like those strangers myself. I know their names still,
but otherwise there's no-one, perhaps one, who isn't a stranger again.
The intervening years are just a blur.
At the start I was the new boy, but we were all like that.
I was just a stranger among strangers in a high school that
I don't even remember. It was there I settled down and
grew a family and I should look at it like a triumph of progress, but it's still a blur.
Those strangers are strangers again. I did carry my family on,
or they carried me.
The move into travel I do remember and there I met
so many people. I visited every western school, and every
western person. They were strangers at the time but I
became involved with them and then I knew them all. Now there's no-one I recall.
Occasionally a head pops up. 'I was at a course you ran and I remember the acoustic coupler
cable running down the street to the phone booth' Now the acoustic coupler is in the museum.
The western staff are there too, in my mind.
Here I spent about 25 years. All that time among my colleagues and I'm
defined by just this last place and my current work. Now I think about it,
there's just one person I really know now from this time.
Sometime in the next few months we'll move again, into a place not far from where
I started. The beaches again, the coastal life, perhaps with vodka
for a different reason. There will be strangers again and somehow
I guess I'll fit in. Perhaps that's the way it is for everyone,
strangers everywhere, in a mixing crowd of 'who are you?'. Take one and let the others go.