An exercise in pragmatism: A comment on I Drove Around Australia by Lyn Boyes.
72 pages (?), Printed by Geraldton Newspapers Limited, 1980.
I picked this book up at the Canberra Lifeline Book Fair, under the ‘what the hell’ provisions of the ‘fill a bag for $15’ (or whatever the cost is now) act they employ on the Sunday afternoon of the fair. It’s an interesting, though hardly essential, read.
The printing and production on this little volume — self published, perhaps? — is excellent if modest. The type is clear and professional, and the layout simple and highly readable. Indeed, it makes me think that many designers of desktop published magazines and books perhaps have been seduced by the power of the modern software and over-complicate their productions. It sports no page numbers, but it does have an ISBN — or, in fact, an ‘I5BN’, stamped onto the copyright page after the booklet was printed. Whoever made the stamp confused ‘S’ with ‘5’ so it tells me this:
Lyn Boyes’s memoir relates in a direct fashion her drive around Australia, beginning and ending in Western Australia. On the way she proves herself resourceful, philosophical and extraordinarily pragmatic. The narrative is so mater-of-fact it is, objectively, rather dull; it virtually is a list. Went here, did this, had that for tea, saw this, visited so-and-so, this area is known for production of X and Y and has a factory making Z. Road was terrible, went on to next town…
The most interesting thing is how this is a ‘primary source’ view of how little and how much has changed in Australia over thirty-five years. Boyes takes us back to a world before mobile phones, when slide nights and Datsuns stalked the Earth and Australia had manufacturing industries in every town. She works a few days here, a few days there, taking a cash pay packet and moving on. At one point she is paid by cheque and this is quite an annoyance as she wants to be moving on but has to wait for a bank to open.
In the end we get an inferred portrait of a proudly independent woman, a doughty little car (Datsun 1200 Wagon) and a friendly country where people help her out as she goes and are happy enough to trust others, especially when those others are in a bit of a bind. At one point she pays a mechanic half the fee, then promises to send the rest by mail once she can get her cheque cashed. He says, ‘No worries,’ and off she goes.
It would, of course, be an interesting exercise to repeat the trip, with a similar approach (one person, a little car with a mattress in the back and a bit of camping gear, and that’s it) and see what really has changed. One thing I suspect — today’s driver would not have to deal with as many unsealed roads.
The English expression is plain, very terse at times, and the book appears to grow out of the ‘annual update’ that she sets herself to post to her friends and which she periodically works on typing up as she travels. Perhaps she got home and decided to have that update printed and bound and this is it, I don’t know.
More than a curiosity. An interesting snapshot of Australia as it was before the economic opening up of the 1980s.