Monday, 27 April 2009

A winding road

I have a pair of capris that for some reason have a zip on the side of each leg. When I am wearing these and feeling jumpy, I can frighten myself walking into a room and hearing the slight jingling. I quickly look around to see what is making the rustling and if I have to do anything about it. I don’t think that I am an excessively nervous person, but with the rain and lingering warmth of the year there have been snakes and mice and rats and spiders galore everywhere. So I am a little twitchy.

I also have a bit of a thing about being under houses. The undersides of Queensland houses in particular are often festooned with an astonishing variety of eight-legged inhabitants and their webs.

On Sunday I was at the birthday party of one of Merry Girl’s friends. The party was held under her house. This was fine for the other adult guests all of whom were about 20 centimetres shorter than me. The children of course didn’t care. I had to keep stooping to avoid hitting my head and suddenly changing direction to prevent being draped in sticky webs. I didn’t want to look too closely to see what the webs contained – them being at eye level and all.

So it was all a little difficult for me. Somehow or rather though, the topic of our project on the history of local mines came up. One woman said that she had only found out a few weeks ago (via a photo in the local newspaper on the Picture Ipswich project) that there was a railway into Marburg and that coal went out on it. Another person was astonished to hear that there were coal mines in the area other than the large New Hope mine. As we were on Cochranes’ Road I asked if anyone had noticed the old mine workings beside the road? Amazement all around. And the prominent decaying mine ruins on the Krause’s property beside the Rosewood Road? Further astonishment.

Sometimes I think that people don’t really look around them. They get into their vehicles and move from point A to point B without considering the landscape through which they move. Familiarity may also breed contempt. If you’ve grown up in an area you may never question why something is so or how things came to exist in a place.

To me, the notion of place is vital. How did we come to be where we are: socially, physically, politically, economically? It’s why I am a historian. That, and my sense of curiousity. I always want to know why, how and when.

It’s good to discover that people are interested in the topic of the book. Perhaps I can write it into the grant as market research. What’s the going rate for an hour of focus group research?

1 comment:

Vivi said...

Don't know if it was a serious question, but in case it was: I've made $500 (USD) for a three hour session, which included the time to write up the notes later. That was several years ago.

But then, perhaps I'm overpriced.

I agree, people surprisingly often don't know what's around them all the time. For me, it is less place knowledge than word knowledge. People, shockingly, don't seem to know how the words they are using came to mean what they mean, which of course, affects the current meaning. And, more shockingly, they often don't care when I tell them!