A Christmas plague of locusts


I’m sitting under the awning outside Gloria (our campervan), trying to get into the swing of working in my new outdoor office. On a small island opposite our campsite, a black swan is sitting on a nest of eggs. I’m not much of a photographer and the picture can’t do justice to the setting. Or capture the images of the locusts that are swarming in the sunshine. They don’t like shade so they leave me in peace beneath Gloria’s awning.

The Professor and Mr Punch are off doing shows at Stawell Library and I am making my first serious attempt to figure out how to set up my portable writing space.

We left Melbourne on Sunday evening and drove up the Western Highway to the Wimmera so Mr Punch could do three days of performances. Last night he performed at Mt Difficult Golf Course for the Halls Gap Community Christmas Party. The golf course is at the foot of the Grampians. As The Professor set up the booth, kangaroos bounded across the green and a small boy ran through the a swarm of locusts, kicking his feet into the air as if he were doing a strange locust-inspired dance. I suppose I should feel appalled by the locusts but I actually find them intriguing.
Yesterday, as we walked down Main Street in Stawell, thousands of locusts dipped and glided their way through the shopping centre. Christmas carols were broadcast from loud speakers and in an odd way, the locusts added to the seasonal charm. Later, Mr Punch would tell the children watching his show that Stawell was full of Christmas fairies. He’d seen them, flying around in Main Street, dancing and weaving to the tune of “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”. A local told me it’s thirty years since she last saw a locust plague like this year’s so it’s not a regular Christmas event, just something particular to Christmas 2010.

This evening, I’ll be giving a talk on India Dark and historical research at the Stawell Library. Hidden stories, secret histories is the topic but there are so many stories from regional Australia that fit that premise, that aren’t part of our collective imaginations whether it be dancing with locusts or Christmas in the shadow of the Grampians that I’m starting to feel a little worried. This experiment in wandering with Mr Punch could deliver more potential story material than I’ll ever have a chance to use.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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