This Saturday (19th July) is the day of the University of Southern Queensland’s first ever Bookcase – an off the page event showcasing the power of the written word. And a copy of my book has winged its way there in time to be given out in a draw.
The event happens to coincide with my 2001 Round-The-World Walkabout Diary stop-off in Australia, so I’m treating you to some thoughts which crossed my mind nearly thirteen years ago, when I visited “my” University for the first time.
On the drive from Brisbane to Toowoomba on the Darling Downs, nine helicopters clatter overhead. Bearing swinging burdens of spilling water, they pass us as we ascend the final hill and when we leave the city three hours later, nine more return in swift succession, their loads lightened. Evidence of a bushfire hangs in a pall over the area. The rains have failed, but on roadside stalls plenty of fruit and succulent vegetables are on sale. The land is spacious – like Kenya farming country.
Toowoomba city is well spaced, laid back and sleepy. The University campus has a pleasant air about it, quietly industrious and multi-cultural; the surroundings are lovely, especially the Japanese garden. It is a compact campus with good facilities.
They lay out the red carpet for me, and I am quite unprepared. A journalist and photographer hover for an interview, and here am I dressed in casual shorts, my sunglasses slung round my neck – I should have known better, perhaps.
An award winning dual University in 1999, their external students, of which I was one in the early ’90’s, far outnumbered the residents and came from 55 different countries round the world.