Sunday, 1 September 2013

Carla - Queen of the Murchison

Two weeks ago two busloads of photographers and artists rolled into the old gold mining town of Cue 650 kilometres north of Perth. I had a bit of a feeling of deja vu as we pitched tents in the Cue Caravan Park. Forty years earlier in 1974 I had led a bunch of 24 TAFE photography students from Mt Lawley Technical College to Cue and Daydawn for a week long photography excursion. How I returned with all 24 students alive is beyond me. At one stage three 17 year olds went missing. I found them at the bottom of a vertical mine shaft pushing an old rail trolley along in pitch blackness.

So here I was back in Cue; this time with a bunch of very respectable, mature age photographers and another bunch of even more respectable artists with easels and watercolours led by renowned watercolourist Ross Patterson.

While the painters painted, the photographers pixelated. We shot HDR and historical architecture in Cue's main street. This IS a street; wide enough to fit the MCG and Subiaco Oval side by side. You could probably land a 747 in the main drag, resplendent with wonderful old historical stone, wooden and galvanised iron buildings. Abandoned shops, the old bank of NSW, the Gentleman's Club, Police Station, Post Office and the Queen of the Murchison Hotel.

Above eye height, I noticed a small throng of people on the upstairs balcony of the Queen of the Murchison Hotel which is now a Bed and Breakfast  and upmarket Backpackers retreat. When we finished the workshop curiosity got the better of me and I wandered inside the front door of the old hotel, and then opened another closed door which rang a bell.

All was quiet when another 'Belle' sounded - a blonde Belle. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed when she saw the 'intruder' - a slightly crumpled, dusty photographer with camera and tripod.

Carla - Queen of the Murchison - Cue - August 2013

'This is NOT a public thoroughfare. You can't come in here.'

A bit a f a jolt. Not exactly a warm north-west greeting. More like an icy nor-west blast.

'I'm sorry' I said (I've learned its best to make the mistake first, then apologise).
'I saw you standing on the balcony and would really love to photograph you.'
Her furrowed brow relaxed a little.
'Why?' she quizzed
'You've got such an interesting face. Are you the owner or manager here? This is such a lovely old building'
The thaw commenced. A watermelon sized smile started to emerge.
'I suppose so. I've been in the movies you know, when they shot a movie in Cue. And three years ago I was crowned Queen of the Murchison; my name is Carla.'
I shook Carla's hand.

I was starting to like Carla (especially when she didn't follow up 'My name is Carla' with 'and I'm here to help you'; or 'My name is Carla and I'm from Queensland')
I smiled back, 'Can I have a  look at the other rooms. I want to find some good lighting for your face'.
Carla danced down a  passage, through an atrium, passed her collection of Harley Davidsons, pausing briefly to sit astride her favourite HD Softail, then and into a olde worlde dining area.
'This would be great just here. The lighting is really good for you' I said.
She beamed.
'I was given a tiara when I was crowned Queen of the Murchison. Would you like me to wear my tiara?'
Now it was my turn to beam.
'Of course! A tiara would be perfect. After all, you are a Queen!'

ps The pub has no beer. But it does have Carla.
pss When I next visit Cue I'll be staying at the Queen of the Murchison. Hospitality guaranteed. By then they may have a liquor licence and I'll be able to order a Rum and Coca Carla at the bar.

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