Years ago when we announced to our friends in Brisbane that we were moving back here, their general reaction was: “Gladstone?! Did you lose a bet? Gladstone?! Surely things aren’t ‘that’ bad? I mean… Gladstone?!”
Now half the country wants to move here.
The local population has swollen to the point where at a recent public function, which I’d like to add was non-courthouse related, it occurred to me that there were quite a lot of folk I didn’t know. It felt strange to gaze into a crowd and not know most of them, having become accustomed to seeing the usual collection of familiar mugs I knew from my school days and workplaces.
Just as I was starting to wonder if my memory was fading faster than cheap paint on a Queensland roof, an old mate wandered up, shook my hand and asked, “Who on earth are all these people?” Now, he’s a third generation local, (his sixth finger hasn’t quite formed yet), and I was quite relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only person baffled by the sea of new faces.
Anyway, we both agreed that most of them must have arrived as part of the latest gas boom, (hopefully the only ‘Boom!’ to be associated with this new industry). And, as in the past, a lot of these workers will have arrived with two aims in mind:
1. To quickly earn the sort of money that would make Donald Trump envious, and,
2. To get out of Gladstone as soon as possible.
Years later many of them will still be here, planning to move, or retire, to somewhere else, but not just yet… perhaps next year, well, definitely the year after. And those who do go, quite often come back, often with sheepish looks after having vowed on a stack of Bibles never to return. Having left and come back myself, I’m something of an authority on the subject.
Gladstone may be a hard place to love, but it’s a lot harder place to leave. And I’ve been back long enough to have learned a great deal of interesting stuff about this place and its’ people, and will accept quite a lot of money to keep that information to myself.
I’ll sling that cash straight into my retirement fund; I’m not sure where we’ll move to, but until we decide, we’ll just stay right here.