Elaine Forrestal

From the ‘Ideas Box’

This week I opened up my ‘ideas box’. I looked at all the scribbled notes, newspaper cuttings and bits and pieces I had been throwing in there, saving them up for times like this when one project is away with the editor and I am beginning to think about what I might do next. I found a lot of things I hadn’t thought about for ages. Some I put straight back in the box. Others I put aside to look at and puzzle over some more. But for some reason two of them, placed in the box at very different times, seemed suddenly to fit together.

One is a newspaper report from March 1st 1995 when Cyclone Bobby crossed the coast at Onslow, in the north-west, and travelled all the way through the outback of Western Australia. It dumped so much water that the inland lakes overflowed and flood waters rushed down towards the Southern Ocean. These floods cut both the Indian-Pacific railway line and the Eyre Highway. For almost a week Western Australia virtually fell off the map. No road or rail traffic could get through in either direction. And it was a long drive back to Norseman in the west, or Balladonia in the east. Over a hundred vehicles of all shapes, sizes and descriptions were stranded on either side of the flooded section of Highway. You can imagine how many people that would have involved. Very few of them were prepared for camping in their vehicles, but there are lots of stories about how they got together to pool resources and help each other, sharing food, bedding and shelter from the continuing rain.

The other cutting is from Tuesday September 27th 1983 and tells of a treacherous waterhole in which a young Aboriginal woman drowned herself after her lover was killed by her angry husband. The husband’s family then put a curse on the waterhole so that she could never rest in peace. But this was not the end of the story. Fourteen young men, all visitors to the area, have been drowned in the waterhole since 1959. The locals believe that the restless spirit of the young woman is looking for male company.

I haven’t worked out the details yet, but somehow these people on the Nullarbor, stranded with time on their hands, go exploring and discover this waterhole …

At the moment the first draft of a story linking these two very separate events seems to be taking shape quite well. Who knows if it will ever turn into a novel? But It is fun to explore the possibilities.

This cyclist, dwarfed by the road train, is trying to cross the flooded section of the Eyre Highway.