17 December 2010

Two O'clock at Mataranka

Lindsay Dropped me off in Mataranka, a town of around 1000, mostly people indigenous to the Waramungu area. I stopped at the pub as usual (the best place for information in any small town) and got chatting to Derek.

Like most blackfellas there, he was killing time until two o'clock when licensees are allowed to start selling takeaways. Derek introduced me to his mother, cousins, uncles, aunties, all waiting patiently at the pub, sipping beers until two o'clock when the real drinking would begin. Many of them had featured in the classic 1970s film, We of the Never Never.

They were cracking jokes and having a laugh. Derek showed me some of his paintings in the gallery next door and invited me to drink with them that afternoon. The bartender, a white woman, said she knew Derek well. She warned me not to let him humbug me too much - for cigarettes, booze, money etc.

When two o'clock arrived a few of us chucked in for a carton of VB and went to sit in the drinking area, a shady field about 500 meters from the road.

By four o'clock Derek was drunk and the atmosphere was beginning to turn. He and his mother were trying relentlessly to make me buy them another carton. Derek was rowdy and demanding. But when it became clear I would not be buying any more grog, he lost all interest in me. It was my cue to hitch a ride onwards to Katherine.

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