NORMALLY there’s nothing even vaguely amusing about irrigation cutbacks, drought-crippled farms, disintegrating communities, dog-mauled livestock and neighbours fighting not only each other but in some cases even themselves.
Rosalie Ham can add a wickedly satirical twist to any storyline, however, generating wry smiles and sly sniggers with her caricatures of stereotypically flawed individuals who under any other circumstance would be irretrievably irksome.
Take, for instance, Ham’s cross-section of residents in a fictitious Riverina town whose once-robust river is now barely flowing.
Mitch and his wife Mandy are at odds, hurried into marriage by an imagined pregnancy after Mitch’s high-school sweetheart, Neralie, decided to broaden her horizons – and love-life – by moving to Sydney.
Lana and Jasey, on the other hand, share the same boyfriend: Kevin. It’s an unconventional arrangement that gives the gossips plenty of inspiration, but as far as these best friends are concerned, having half of Kevin is preferable to having all of any one of the area’s supposedly eligible men. They have a point.
So dire is the outlook that when a new water authority representative sweeps onto the scene in his cycling lycra, legs shaved and receding hairline combed over, it’s not only the young singles who suddenly develop a taste for break-of-dawn power-exercising.
But Stacey’s mission is more about retrieving water – and in so doing padding his commission-based takehome pay – than winning female hearts. His partners in the plan, Glenys and Cyril, are the scourge of the district, shunned for controlling the river’s flow either too tightly or not nearly tightly enough, depending on where individual priorities lie.
At the heart of it all is an overarching mystery: who now owns local pub? It’s been sold, they all know, and renovations are in progress, but what will this mean for their one remaining reliable watering hole?