Drifting down the Darling can best be described as the incoherent thoughts of a traveller who will use any excuse to put a boat onto the Darling River and then write crazy stories about birds. These stories are often made up and he blames others for ‘not understanding him’ as the reason he exaggerates. Do not listen to anything he says about Australian birds-none of his observations are based on skill, truth, or even reality.
Although he often denies it, Tony Pritchard was born and raised in West Dubbo. He spent his first twenty years staring at pigeons but is not sure why he did this. He has resisted various attempts to educate him and subsequently cannot count beyond twenty-one. He is also an ungrateful swine who blames his Dubbo upbringing for his personality disorders, the reason he drifted on the Darling River for almost eighteen months and the fact that he tells lies every time he opens his mouth. He is a failed tradie who has caused several hundred roofs in Dubbo to leak, a former footballer who ran onto the field at least twice, and a confused person who keeps searching for things.
In an effort to gain sympathy, he also recalls the difficulties he faced in foreign countries. Things such as being strip-searched in Israel, and a couple of unconventional departures (usually known by customs as being deported).
Throughout the Darling River story we learn about Pritchard’s insecurities, anxieties and other fine character points. He says this river trip made a man out of him, but we’ve heard of those who say he may have his genders mixed up.
After drifting down the Darling, he lived alone for a year next to the Macquarie Marshes, and this is where Pritchard unravelled. He rejects the assumption that he had a mental breakdown. ‘It was a spiritual awakening’, he said. ‘One that gave me great insight into an approach to living that to this day gets me by. I am now more secretive with emotions.’
This book will surely set back memoir writing fifty years.