Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 1, 2012

Sensational Snippets: Red Dirt Talking (2012), by Jacqueline Wright

Red Dirt TalkingI’m posting this Sensational Snippet for my friends feeling the cold in the northern hemisphere winter!

Maggot, the garbo, is explaining the climate in the Top End.  His language is, a-hem, a bit fruity for a ‘family-friendly’ blog like this one (which is often read by school students scouring it for help with essays) so I’ve had to tweak the occasional adjective:

We have two seasons up here.  Visitors call them summer and winter.  Summer’s not far off the mark – hot, beer-drinking, shorts and thongs type weather.  Thunderstorms.  Heat which has you leaping off the vinyl seat of a parked car minus a layer of skin.  But winter – well I dunno ’bout that.  If you describe winter as six months of sparkling weather in the high twenties with only a squeeze of rain – I s’pose winter’s the word for you.  Up here these seasons are known as ‘the wet’ and ‘the dry’.  Wet and dry hit the nail on the head better than summer and winter, although the wet is better known as the ‘silly season’.  Silly as in mad…

He gives examples of the odd behaviour this weather brings on, and then explains its prelude:

To be honest, the silly season really gets split into a build-up part and a sh– part.  In the build-up, the clouds spend the whole day building up into fluffy bl–dy promises, and then the rain goes and sticks out its tongue some place you’re not. Close but no banana.  Gumtree sap runs so thin it starts dripping all over the footpaths and by beer o’clock, I reckon you can hear the hiss of cans opening up all over town.  Now if anyone’s gunna lose it, they’ll lose it then: ten to one, even the dogs.  The thunder sends them off.  Reckon they must think it’s one big mother of a dog up there in the sky.

The sh– season is sh–ful because you’re six months into temperatures in the high forties, and the air’s pi–ed off down south, mosquitoes whine in your ear all night and the atmosphere’s cocked and loaded with ninety-nine percent humidity.  On the few occasions when the wind does crank up it brings more mozzies than relief into town.  Dark time’s the only sensible time for movement. 

He goes on to describe the night life that provides the only relief in the build-up that goes on for months, and then

When it finally does pour down everyone’s as happy as a fox in a chicken coop, but after, you’re smack-bang in the middle of the sh– part of the wet.

It’s the time of the year when your scungy date-rash cranks up, your boots get furry with mould and the washing stays strung up soaking on the line for months on end.  Clouds of mozzies carry all manner of scary diseases, not just during dawn or dusk either but all day, all night and, like I said, not a breath of wind to shoo them away …  all my cigarette papers stick together and they’re out of the packet like a string of paper dolls … That’s when I say to myself, ‘You’d have to be a bit mad to live in a town like this’. 

 Red Dirt Talking by Jacqueline Wright, Fremantle Press, 2012 pp. 42-44

 And then there’s the dry season with its freezing cold evenings and mornings and the risk of bushfires, but Maggot reckons it’s a medal for those who’ve sat through a wet.

So you see, there might be worse things than an English winter!


Fishpond: Red Dirt Talking

Or direct from Fremantle Press


  1. Ha! I lived in Brisbane for two years, so I experiened the ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ — it made me very sick of blue skies EVERY day and 4pm DOWNPOURS. I missed the four seasons.

    (By the way, we experienced a lovely high of 4C!! here in London today — I haven’t even bothered to step outside, but have been curled up on the sofa reading and catching up on TV programmes recorded during the week.)


    • 4C, ooh, that’s bitter. I think I’d be holed up indoors too.
      I spent a wet season in Indonesia once when I was at university there, I found the humidity worst at night when trying to sleep. I had aircon in the hotel but I couldn’t stand the noise and it actually made me feel worse when I had to spend the day at the university where there was no cooling, not even a ceiling fan.
      In the end I took to the pool. Last thing at night, at about 11 o’clock, I go down and swim round and round and round all by myself until I was shivering with the cold, and then I’d dash back to my room and fall asleep while my body termperature was still faking a Melbourne winter!


  2. […] the book and prompted me to read it. For an example of voice nailing a character, see Lisa’s “Sensational Snippet” of Maggot the Garbo describing the seasons. Other informative reviews are by Ed Wright at The […]


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: