Saturday, September 02, 2006

Our rites of Spring and mango madness

This article was taken from the NT News on Thursday, August 31, 2006 and was written by Barry Doyle...

"Can you feel it in the air? The first sure signs of the build-up are upon us. None of that airy-fairy Mother Nature stuff like the temperature rising, a change of feather colours in some birds and the marching hordes of 'roaches and ants. No, the more tangible, mundane indicators.

Take the sudden ballooning of maternity leave departures from workplaces around the Territory - the legacy of those hot nights during the Christmas and New Year party season. Humidity, good times and a frisson of excitement stirred by storms, lightning and possible cyclones certainly do the trick in the romance stakes. And the ninth month since is near. Heat. A Top End aphrodisiac. Memo Tourism NT: now there's a selling point for visiting the Territory during the Wet. I'll even throw in a couple of slogans to get you off and running. How about, "Get all hot and steamy"? Or "Troppo con carnal". Or just take the John 'Singo' Singleton hard-sell and hit 'em right between the eyes with "Wet, Wet, Wet". Perhaps not.

Other sure indicators of the end of what has been a ripper Dry are Territorian musicians. As the Star Shell in Darwin's Botanic Gardens comes down after the Festival, the instincts of local musos become similar to those of Northern Hemisphere migratory birds. "Going south," they chirrup. "Going south." Some even do.

Then there are the big, hairy bikers. You'll see more blokes riding their Harley-Davidsons at night now. It's been too cold in just a black T-shirt for the past few months. The wind-chill factor could freeze your tatts off, mate.

There even signs to be found in pubs and clubs. While the barmaids remain beautiful - that all barmaids are beautiful is a basic tenet of my religion - they suddenly become less exotic and fewer in number. Yet those who remain serve you faster, remember what you drink and occasionally your name. Now there's a phenomenon for earnest scientific study. A doctoral thesis at least lurks in there somewhere.

Other clues about the changing season can be found lurking in the classified columns of the Northern Territory News. "Backpackers welcome" is seen less often in the situations vacant section - a tacit admission that many of them have packed and gone back. But they're still welcome to pick mangoes. Anybody is. Please. Expect a call for workers from East Timor, PNG and Siberia any day now. And there are vacancies for sub-editors at the Northern Territory News. Yep, it's definitely that time again. Remedial English teachers of eccentric habits and fetishes that in some way feature crocs may like to consider a change of career path. Nothing too weird, please. Write a nice letter to the editor. And just yesterday I saw the first "vacancy" sign go up outside a motel on the Darwin city fringe - the first such sighting for months. The "no" will presumably go into storage for about six months. But the Territory is still jumping. There are plenty of visitors about and work aplenty.

It is still too early for another sign of the build-up to show in the rental property market. These are the "lease-break" rentals that come when work dries up during the Wet or people suffer brain implosions in the sweaty atmosphere and would rather suffer some potential financial loss than hang about for the relieving rains. Reading between the lines of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the next few months are the peak time for the Territory to experience its annual 3 percent to 5 percent population shift. Hands up if you've been here more than two years. Congratulations, you are more likely to stay than people who have been here for less time.

Seeking advice from a weathered old Territory veteran, I asked if some build-ups were worse than others, as I have often been told. "Nah," was the answer. "They're all bastards. People just forget." And what do you do to survive? "Sweat. Everybody does."

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring down South. Tomorrow is the beginning of the Territory's six-month obsession with what the weather is going to do to us."