Category Archives: Mt Panorama

Craftivist frenzy

I’m in a craftivist frenzy. Craftivism is a blend of craft and activism. When you put them together you get people like the Knitting Nannas who are campaigning against coal seam gas (aka fracking). After an interval of a couple of years, I’m back on the 1970s ring-pulls. These were ripped from beer and soft drink cans to disappear in to the grass to cut bare feet at barbecues. These days ring-pulls are of a gentler design, and mostly stay put on the can. Mount Panorama, home to wild beer-drinking car-race fans for generations, is still studded with the old style ring-pulls. I pick up a few just about every time I walk up there with Bertie, the black Labrador. It was gorgeous up there tonight. The air was particularly soft; there was a gentle breeze; and the last golden rays were picking out the shapes of the town below. I should have been lapping up the view or looking up into the trees at the crimson and eastern rosellas, but I was scanning the dirt at my feet. The pickings are best after a heavy rain. They get washed out like specks of gold. They go into my pocket, and when I get home, into a jar. I got three in my haul this evening; one had lost its tail. And now I’m mulling over how I’ll use them in this year’s Waste 2 Art exhibition up at the Flannery Centre.

I’m thinking I’ll use the ring-pulls to represent carbon dioxide. It’s carbon dioxide that causes the fizz when a can of soft drink is opened; it’s carbon dioxide that’s emitted when the oil is burned up in those giant V8 engines. And, like the ring pulls of the 1960s and 70s, it hangs around. Some of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere over the last two centuries will stay there for thousands of years. Last year was planet earth’s hottest year since we started keeping records; this year is quite likely to be hotter still. So, how do I get my ring-pull collection into a piece of climate change craftivism? Mulling, mulling.

Just a few beers on a hot day. Pic from our local paper, The Western Advocate. Getty Images/Mark Kolbe



This year marks the two hundredth year since Governor Lachlan Macquarie pitched a tent beside the Wambool River while his aide, Captain Henry Antill, declared the place a delightful spot for a town. The bicentenary of white settlement (the river is now known as the Macquarie) will be celebrated in a number of ways, including the naming of 200 “living legends” about town, and the dressing up of 200 cardboard cutouts to represent pioneers and other worthies. In the midst of all this celebration of Important Persons, I feel the need to honour the place itself – this place, as it was and is, with its particular plants and animals and bodies of water and layers of rock. It’s threatened and extinct natives, as well as the newly-arrived sheep and cows, pet dogs and cats. Birds. Insects. All these creatures, barely noticed, with whom we’ve been living. Yesterday, at the first BCCAN meeting for the year, I said I wanted us to collect 200 pictures (photographs, drawings, paintings, specimens) of different local plants and animals and display them somewhere. Big job. Need a committee. See? Frenzy.

Bathurst, 1815, showing British flag and Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s tent. State Library, NSW.


The hot lap

Last night the moon was blood red. This morning, six planes did a loop de loop in the blue spring sky. Now it sounds like a giant swarm of bees is coming over the horizon. Yes, it’s the Bathurst 1000, our yearly orgy of noise, beer, fossil fuel and bonfires. When I worked at the Western Advocate, it was always rich pickings in the days afterwards, when all the chickens of drunkenness and hoonery would come home to roost in the magistrate’s court. The burning mattresses! The antics on top of moving vehicles! The punches thrown! The slabs consumed!

Anyway, here’s a hot lap of Mount Pan from Fango Fables. Fango Fables, a series by Jock Alexander, was always the best bit of our WARP TV Show, made here in Bathurst and screened on community television in Sydney.

Meanwhile, I have dusted off my column-writing hat to submit this piece to the Advocate on behalf of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Here, I get back on my yearly hobby horse, which is to plead for an electric car race on Mount Pan. It’d be slightly eerie to have a quiet race, with just the sound of the wheels on the tarmac and the air whooshing, but it’d be amazing, too.


The other side of the mountain

When I was a kid, we sang these words: The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain. And what do you think he saw? The other side of the mountain! This week, it’s all about the car race up on Mount Panorama. This is the image that will be beamed around the world. It’s what puts Bathurst on the international map. But those of us who live here know the mountain for its other attributes as well: as a place to look out over the town and across to Windburndale, to take the dogs for a run, to fly through the air on a dirt bike, to park the car for a pash, to grow fruit and wine grapes, to see albino wallaroos, to graze sheep. It’s the highest point of land hereabouts, and for tens of thousands of years, it was known as Wahluu.

It’s a timeless ecosystem, as well as a place to have a good time. It’s a physical place, but it’s also a symbol. It symbolises what we value, how we see ourselves, how we want to present ourselves in the world and how we see the future.

The story of Mount Panorama is now widening to encompass the other side of the mountain. In the co-naming project, we acknowledge the long view of history; in the kangaroo project (a long-term ecological study led by the University of Technology), we acknowledge the ecosystem.

Another project that would express Mount Panorama’s history as well as its aspirations for the future would be an electric car race. It could include cars of all shapes and sizes, bringing to mind earlier incarnations of the great race. But, like the V8 race, it could be run between cars built just for speed. Serious, fast, expensive. An example is the ELMOFO car, which has possible top speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour. The vehicle incorporates dual AC motors and a high power liquid cooled lithium battery pack. Its lap times are, according to a recent Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) story, approaching those of petrol-powered cars.

We could start slowly, with a special race in the lead-up to the big race, or an event at some other time in the year. As the car-race capital of Australia, but also as a town committed to sustainability, we should be taking the lead.

Life goes on

I’ve been sitting here doing my tax. After all the horror and magic of the past six or seven months, this is certainly a return to ordinariness. I have a pile of receipts on a spike, all relating to the whirlwind of work I was doing until January, at which point everything stopped. Teaching, video making – I handed it all over to others. I stopped generating receipts. I stopped having a taxable income. I was on Pause. But now, doing my tax, I feel the pause button has been released. I’m back on Play, if not Work (except for a tiny bit of online teaching). It feels … ordinary. I miss the magic, if not the horror. But I’m also appreciating the chance to get back to ordinariness, one tax receipt at a time.

Over the past week I’ve returned to walking Bertie the black Labrador. I’d been avoiding it because he is a bad puller on the leash, and that wasn’t going to do my tender guts any good. But now that the scars have healed, we’ve been getting back to what I call The Soccer Fields Way, which is: over the bridge to the Vale Road, turn left, down to the soccer fields, optionally over the metal bridge, optionally over another set of playing fields, and return. The other day, I even ran with Bertie, just a bit. Running is something else I hadn’t done since surgery. Nothing bad happened, so I did it a little bit again today. What about swimming, riding a bike? Yet to be tried. But I can feel them coming on.

Bertie_Mt_Pan_July_2014And then there’s the wider world. After months of focusing on my own stitched-up navel, it’s starting to crowd back in. Gaza. Syria. Planes being shot out of the sky. The trashing of the Great Barrier Reef. Closer to home, there’s something to celebrate:  the mayor of Bathurst is supporting the Aboriginal Land Council’s application to have the Indigenous name for Mount Panorama – Wahluu – formally gazetted by the Geographical Names Board. You can just make out Mt Panorama in the background of this pic of Bertie. Unfortunately, this has set off passionate opposition, with those against the co-naming saying it’ll be confusing to car race fans and they’re sick of being called racist (see comments on the Leave the Name the Same petition). Supporters of the co-naming (like me) say it’s time to widen the story to encompass not just 80 years of car races, but a culture that existed for thousands of years before that. The Mount Panorama brand is safe: promotions for the car race will continue to refer to Mount Panorama. And, far from confusing people, the co-naming will simply add to their knowledge. In June, when Australian basketballer Patty Mills was playing for NBA champions the San Antonio Spurs, millions of fans heard commentators talking about Mills’ Torres Strait heritage. They would have learned a little bit more about Australia and Australians from that. It could be the same with the car race: if  commentators mention the Wahluu name, even in passing, they’re enriching the world’s understanding of this place and its people. Unfortunately, the naysayers have garnered more signatures on for their online petition than the supporters have gathered on theirs. But the “yes” petition is gaining momentum. Note: You don’t have to be in Bathurst (or even Australia) to sign the petition!

Tiny_gutsMeanwhile, I’ve been working on a tiny version of my crocheted guts. I’m going to present them in a small yellow box to Professor P, who along with Dr A, rearranged my insides so effectively. I’ve still got to poke in the dangling threads, stuff them and sew on some details. I’ll be talking about crafting my way through illness in a short  presentation at 3pm in Kandos on Saturday, August 16, which includes a screening of my doco Lost Arts of the 1970s. More info:


Brought to you by the letter P

Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter P, as they used to say on Sesame Street. P is for pancreas. Here’s my pancreas Before.
Pancreas before By now I’d meant to alter my suite of crocheted guts to explore how they’ve changed before and after my debulking surgery, but the pancreas is as far as I’ve got. Before surgery I’d crocheted it free-form, without a pattern, learning how to do the bobbly bits on YouTube. This morning I pulled out some of its stuffing, poked the tail in on itself and sewed it off with black wool. And here it is, After.
Pancreas after I’m scared of my pancreas. It apparently disgorges acids that can eat through soft tissue, and if threatened can cause diabetes or make it hard to digest fats (chips!). Pancreatic cancer can carry you off very quickly, as happened with our wonderful local Independent federal member of parliament, Peter Andren. In hospital, before my conclusive diagnosis, Professor P casually said he hoped it wasn’t pancreatic cancer because it wasn’t really treatable and I’d be better off with ovarian cancer. So I was suddenly, bizarrely, hoping like hell I had ovarian cancer. Now, I’m trying to make friends with the remains of my pancreas (Professor P chopped off its tail on May 13) but it’s a hard call. It feels like an angry animal that might turn on me if I relax.

P is also for Pink Pills for Pale People. And for Patricia, my childhood friend from Carnarvon, whose family used to run Fong’s Drapery. She turned up here in Bathurst on Monday, just as I was falling into the ghastliness of a post-surgery blast of chemo. Tricia was asking me if I remembered the day we went into a temporary antique store on Stuart Street, in what used to be an old boarding house, where I bought a tiny bottle stamped with the words Pink Pills for Pale People. I didn’t remember the shop, or the day, or the bottle. Nothing was surfacing from the memory banks, nothing at all. Tricia wondered if we still had the bottle in the family. I said Mum might still have it. Then I remembered that just a few weeks ago, Mum had given me boxes of shells, feathers, rocks, driftwood and old bottles for safekeeping until she was sorted in her new home. I looked over at my display cabinet and saw three tiny bottles. I walked over, picked one up, and there it was: Pink Pills for Pale People.
Pink Pills for Pale People

Yesterday morning, I was a very Pale Person. After a hot shower I was standing there in the bathroom dealing with my weird post-surgery abdomen when I started listing and the world went dark. I hung onto the wall to stay upright and then Steve helped me slide down, slowly, to a position sitting on the floor. I saw myself, bald and miserable on the bathroom tiles, and felt Pissed Off (there’s that letter P) that all this was happening and that it was happening to me. But I didn’t actually faint. After a few minutes, even without a pink pill, I felt my paleness lift. Tricia made tea and toast with Vegemite, which revived me quickly, and a community nurse turned up and took my blood pressure and pronounced me not too badly off considering. Later, we drove up to show Patricia Bathurst from the top of Mt Panorama, and I looked out at the late afternoon sunlight picking out the shapes of the town and felt Peaceful. Really.

A winning formula

Mount Panorama, Bathurst.

Bathurst’s Mount Panorama on a non-racing day. Could this be the site of an enviro-friendly electric car race?

When I was a small child, Dad told me about the Bluebird, the fastest car in the world. In 1964, driver Donald Campbell broke the land speed record when his sleek bright blue car zipped across Lake Eyre at 403.10 miles per hour (or 648.73 kilometres per hour). Donald Campbell died in a spectacular crash in 1967, but his extended family, based in Surrey in the UK, has not dropped its love of speed.

The Bluebird has now gone electric, and will compete in the Formula E (as in, Formula Electric) races that will begin in ten major cities around the world in 2014.

For many people, the idea of an electric car race is associated with the creeping speeds of the solar-powered cars cobbled together by university departments. But Formula E is a game-changer: it’s about serious speed in serious battery-powered cars. The Formula E championship will be held under the rules of the official Formula 1 governing body, the FIA. Sponsors include Michelin and Renault.

Meanwhile, a new land speed record for electric cars has just been set by the UK’s Lord Drayson, CEO of Drayson Racing Technologies and a former Labour government minister. He was behind the wheel of his Lola B12 69/EV, when he achieved a top speed of 204.2 miles per hour (328.603 kilometres per hour) on a racetrack at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire, on June 25. Drayson’s car is a modified Le Mans vehicle weighing less than 1000kg to conform to FIA standards.

Electric cars are getting faster and more popular. The technology is evolving fast, making this an exciting time for this particular motorsport. So what are we waiting for? Bathurst is on the international map as a car racing destination. We could have a flagship race that symbolises both tradition and the future. It goes without saying that it could be a major international tourist attraction and welcome boost to the regional economy.

The field is moving fast, with locations being scouted and sponsors being wooed. It may be that Formula E is not suitable for Bathurst – some other category could be more suitable, or, like the early days at Mt Panorama, an all-in race could be fun – but there must be something we can be doing in this space. If we don’t, we could be left behind in this particular race into the future.

Tracy Sorensen is the Treasurer of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. This is the text of a column piece submitted to the Western Advocate, Bathurst’s daily newspaper.