Greetings from planet Oz, where the sublimely vacant heart of the land is red as beets or blood. It's terra incognita to big-city Aussies of the coast, here where men are men and women are barmaids.

Internal flights are so dear, you see, it's cheaper for Sydney-siders to go to Bali than to say, Darwin, and anyhow what the hell is there to do in bloody Darwin? The sea seethes up there with creatures big and small, all nurturing a taste for human flesh, and in the months of 'the Wet' (season) people of the Northern Territory at large fall into a state of torpor and alcoholism known locally as 'going troppo'.

And before you begin to complain yet again about what a scorcher your summer has been, take note that dust storms in Coober Pedy, floods in New South Wales, and seasonal heatwaves of up to 140 degrees in stretches of Western Australia make weather reports here read not unlike the Book of Job. In the roadhouse which is Sandfire on the map - I mean all there is of Sandfire is the roadhouse - the barmaid told me not to worry, she'd swept the redback spiders out of the gutter behind the Portakabin where I slept.

'What about crocodiles?' I asked a bearded fisherman in the port of Wyndham. 'Does anybody ever get hurt by them?'

'Naw,' he replied. And then he added, without a trace of mischief, or even a smile: 'But I guess a few guys have been eaten.'

I put it down to education. None of your urban dithering here about whether or not or when or where to send Jeremy and Georgia to boarding school. Kiddies on the remote stations of central Oz all study by television, via School of the Air, there is no other way, and when they've outgrown that, the only choice is to pack them off to boarding school in the nearest big town, probably Alice Springs, a thousand miles or so down the red, red road.

'My oldest son is 12,' a woman from a remote station told me. 'He can drive a tractor. He can shear a sheep. And he's seen enough on the farm to know where babies come from. But he's never played on a team, or even thrown a ball to another boy his own size.'

A kangaroo lives in the yard here, and it's time to feed him his favourite chocolate cake; as he eats out of my hand, he watches me with his big wistful eyes. He's mute, not made for our gregarious planet Earth; he's bottom-heavy and rudder-tailed, designed for a lesser gravity. I must hurry away, so I'll sign off now. 'Goodbye' and 'farewell' become ironic against such space as this; I'll simply say, as they do out here: catch you later.

(Photograph omitted)