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And Then We Were In Newman

31 Jul 17
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Finally, we reached Newman. Not sure what I was expecting but, as with all the outback towns I have visited or passed through – I was very pleasantly surprised. Newman is a lovely mining town in the Pilbara region of outback Western Australia. After checking into our accommodation, we found some lunch and then I tried to contact Paul Foster (aka Ole GrandDad). No luck at that stage.

Up early next morning – after a yummy breakfast, I tried Old GrandDad again – success! What a lovely person he sounded to be – both Steve and I were impressed and were really looking forward to meeting him – and not just for his ice-cream! Off we went – and got completely lost – again. Paul does live slightly out of town in a very pretty spot. We finally found him and he proved to be even nicer than we expected. We had several cuppas, lots of chat and laughter and then – finally – turned to discussing the interview for next morning. 

Paul (Old GrandDad) himself.


Between them, Paul and Steve decided that our actual location for filming should be on top of a small but steep hill just behind Paul’s house. We climbed this (the hill, not the house) and the view was spectacular. We settled on this location and returned to the house where Ole GrandDad started up his van and ice-cream maker and gave us one each. Yummy! These in hand, he showed us the very impressive Newman Speedway Track, for which he acts as caretaker. Then, once we had sorted out all the technicalities for the interview, along with another cuppa, Paul took us on a fantabulous guided tour of his town. One of the first stops was the lookout over Newman and surrounds. Another spectacular view. I was drinking it all in when an almighty explosion scared the living daylights out of me. My immediate reaction was to look at the sky to find the thunderstorm which hadn’t been forecast. No sign of one, strangely enough. And then I looked at everyone else up there – Paul, Steve and a few others. Why was I the only one who seemed to be reeling from this huge explosion – and looking for the thunder clouds? I sure as heck didn’t imagine it – or did I? Could I have? But no. Seeing my confusion, Paul pointed to a red dust cloud which was forming near the mines. Ahhh – a blast. While it did scare the living daylights out of me, I was also thrilled to have heard and seen it during our first visit to Newman. Something I wouldn’t normally see nor hear. Paul showed us quite a lot more of Newman, including the Tourist Centre – which, again, more than exceeded my expectations. We were introduced to some of the staff, all of whom were friends of Paul’s. Actually, I think most of the population of Newman and surrounds are friends of Paul’s. We also drove out to see Opthalmia Dam which is Newman’s source of water for swimming in and for drinking, I think. Maybe not for drinking.

After this, it was time to return home – to Paul’s home, so we could grab our car, leave him in peace and head back to our motel – after a final cuppa and final arrangements for filming the next morning. It was a fantabulous day and I cannot thank Ole GrandDad enough – for everything. 

Setting up for Ole GrandDad’s interview

Bright and early next morning, after another yummy breakfast, off we set. Up to Paul’s again – it was a bit colder that morning and there was a bit of a wind, so we decided against the hill after all and settled on filming next to Paul’s house, with the mine in the background. Paul and I settled into our respective chairs while Steve set everything up. Some time later, interview over, believe it or not, there was another blast. Again I looked skyward and again realised it was not a thunderstorm at all. But no dust this time – or should I say, there was but it took its time to appear. My only disappointment was with the timing of this blast – I really wish it had happened during the interview. I would have loved to have captured it. Darnit! Never mind. 

Ice-creams all round!

We then followed Paul down into Newman, stopping in front of one of the houses. We wanted to film Ole GrandDad in action, serving his ice-creams to the public. The previous afternoon, Paul had contacted the wonderful Willis family to organise this so as soon as we arrived, the family appeared in their front yard with the three older children wasting no time in getting to the van. Steve quickly set up his camera and got some wonderful footage – then it was time for ice-creams all around and a chat before we all headed our separate ways.

This is all adding to this enormous learning curve that I have been on since 2011, when the idea of writing ‘Red Dust Dreams’ started to form. While at that very early stage, I had absolutely no thoughts of doing anything more than writing the book (I had not even thought beyond the end of the research trips. I figured something would happen at the very end – but I didn’t really ‘click’ properly about what exactly it would be…publication? Naaah…). All I could think about was getting out into the outback and loving it – which I did. The idea of making a documentary was suggested when I was in the NT – but again, didn’t really gel until I was back at home in the west. As time has moved on and with the doco finally underway and changing repeatedly – so the idea of the YouTube channel was suggested. Again – that learning curve. Most of the technical/internet side of this entire project has been self-taught as a lot of it has occurred between stations – when I have been out of range, suddenly finding myself in positions where I had to learn very quickly – and no-one to turn to for help. While some of it has proved to be the biggest challenge – I have done it! 

I had absolutely no idea how to start up a YouTube channel – yes, I have watched videos and looked at instructional websites, or vice versa – but much of it I haven’t really understood or hasn’t been tailored to exactly what I have been looking for – so, again – largely self-taught. Still a long way to go – but I am getting there. And this last part of the full project – the fashion website in the USA. These people contacted me a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would be interested in collaborating. No charge to me and it’s a very worthy cause. It’s also another wonderful way to further showcase our spectacular outback and all we have to offer, to the rest of the world. It is also given me the chance to resurrect my art – I used to love drawing, but apart from decorating children’s clothing in my late 20s – for a very short time, I haven’t used my art for years. But – now – here’s my chance. I am sketching and colouring some of our beautiful fauna and flora. These will then be photographed and submitted to the fashion site. I do also plan to make videos of them to put on the YouTube channel and also put them on the website. And this blog. 

As for the book – well, I am pretty  happy with progress thus far. It was a finalist in the 2017 International Book Awards and yesterday, I received my first full, official review. Four stars, out of five. Not bad. I am still reeling from all this. Just so much happening – all of it so good. I still feel I am ageing backwards – most of the time. When in fact, I am zooming toward my 62nd birthday.

Life is GOOD.

But – I digress. Back to the doco quickly. After we left Ole GrandDad and the Willis family, we returned to our motel to get stuck into emails and other ‘work’ related things, before leaving Newman altogether early next morning. We have already decided that we will be returning – as part of doco 4 in October, 2018, before heading over to Port Hedland and up to the Kimberley. We had a good trip back to Meekatharra – passing signs to stations, all of which bore familiar names. Just love the outback – cannot get enough of our country. Once back in Meeka, we ventured out for a yummy counter meal at one of their pubs – nothing like mixing with the locals. Loved every nano-second. 

We had already decided that we wanted to stop in Cue for a while to take photos – what character that town has! I wanted to find out how to get out to Big Bell and also who I had to approach about permission to film etc. The other thing I really wanted to see again was the Masonic Lodge. The most amazing building. Perfect horror movie stuff. Again I need to find out if we need permission to film it, outside and in, if possible. I did visit the Council Offices quickly and was given a map, showing Big Bell as well as the multitude of other ghost towns, all from the early mining booms, in the area. Soooo much to see.

When I think of how much I have yet to see in our outback – it is slightly overwhelming. But all I want to do is get back out there. Yes, I saw a lot during my research trips and am now seeing more through the documentary – but there is always – always – more to see and I plan to continue this for as long as I possibly can.

Next trip is a quick one up to Mt Magnet – I have accepted a lovely invitation to talk at the Astro Rocks Festival in August (25th and 26th) so I am really looking forward to that. Then I have a one day coach tour to Wave Rock. 



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