Tuesday, May 3, 2016

New stuff

Tonight I cleaned the lanterns with precious newspaper that the copper gave me.
I lit one lamp and set the other glasses on the table in front of me. I read the paper by the light and then I tore the newspaper into thin, cleaning strands.
Three pages I kept, and folded them neatly into my breast pocket.

Coulter and Treffene Found Guilty and Sentenced to Death
The Verdict

The cleaning takes an age: careful squeaks on charcoaled glass. Glass waisted and curved like a woman, with fancy, fluted edges. Imagine if I were to break a glass, a lantern that would no longer fire, with the wind as it is here.

I kindle my night fire with the dried leaves of the marris or the tea tree that I keep stacked in tight bundles against the back wall, never a newspaper. Blackboy shards too. That copper rarely gives me a newspaper on his monthly sojourns to the inlet. But he was sure that I was to have this one.

I am not a fugitive, Iris. I am not guilty of murder. I am a Witness Of the Crown. That is why I am here. I am not a fugitive, Iris. I am not.

The foreman added the rider: We wish to add your honour,that we very much deplore the fact that Mr Clarke is not in the box too.

So the jury wanted Mr Clarke to swing as well. Mister Clarke. This I learned as I cleaned the lamp glasses tonight. This is what made me pen my letter to you, dear Iris. You may have heard many a story about me over the years but you were just a babe when I left. I want you to know what happened, Iris.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Nic and Jo returned to the inlet to take some more pictures. It is strange to be photographed, be the centre of focus and not feel uncomfortable ... but then Nic was the one who had to take off her shoes and pants to wade out with me and Selkie (who charged about in the water threatening cameras and bodies) - and to have gings aimed at her, to climb in and out of small boats. None of us were precious anyway and all of us were artists, of one sort or another, so it was fun. And cold.
I was blown away by the pictures she took.

"Is that thing loaded?"

This is Jo, calling Selkie's bluff.

The next morning was given to the fog and the light of a white rainbow.

Voice of the people

In an interestingly ageist vox pop, the local newspaper asked baby boomers whether kids played enough sport these days. Not a soccer mum or dad amongst them, let alone a (gasp) child. Vox populi: voice of the people, heh heh. You'd never guess the response.

Admittedly Grumpy Old Man may have been playing to the interviewer (though not playing much sport obvs). And I guess it is normal for boomers to be a little disappointed in a whole generation, especially when they are preparing to rent those kids their negatively geared investment properties for an obscene rate, screwing them out of the housing market, and setting them up for an employment future of subcontracting, job insecurity and casual labour. Kids of today, hey?

It's nothing new. Plato also had a great big whinge about the 'kids of today'.
To the people who complain that kids are lazy and don't play enough sport, I would suggest they head down to the aquatic centre at about 6.30 in the morning and watch these swim squad kids churn a hundred or so laps before putting on their uniforms and going to school. Or go to the Saturday footy matches. Mindless condemnation of a whole generation just shits me and, in this case it is quite untrue, and mean.

I think we have an amazing generation of children and young adults. They shake their heads at all our 'adult' public hand wringing about such no-brainers as marriage equality, climate change, environmentalism, feminism and social justice. I'll bet a lot of them want us to get out of their way! No wonder the boomers are scared.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Black cat crossed my track

Black cat crossed my track as I drove through the gloaming. It crossed at the Inlet River bridge; a thin, desperate feral and black as night. Prone to superstition I am, though in a contrary sense, in that I usually take the meaning opposite to popular tales to preserve an old omen's usefulness. Born on a Friday the thirteenth and all.
Keep your eyes peeled, I thought, be ready. There's that black cat to ward off bad luck or bad judgement.
... And on the next blind corner, emerging from the columns of karri trees came two houses on trucks, the houses' verandas slewing into my path. No lights, escort car or signs. The second driver reefed his truck into the gravel and I did the same on my side, saw the corner of the moving building just miss my mirror.
Lucky cat, that one.

The story of three Dots
Two of the three Dots are regularly pulled over by the local sergeant and warned about hooning about on their gophers. The third Dot lives next door and spends an age in the roadhouse, asking people what day it is, so she wouldn't get gypped buying yesterday's paper. After asking a dozen people, she still eyed the date suspiciously. Never forgets her PIN though. Her and the second Dot hunched over the ATM machine like a pair of witches over a cauldron, stabbing at buttons and sighing.
The third Dot was taken, just the other day.
"They're cleaning out Dot's house," said the second Dot, nodding to the house next door to the roadhouse. I was making her a coffee: regular cappuccino with half a sugar, hot hot. "They got contractors to do it."
"Where's she gone?"
"They've taken her." It sounded so ominous; the dementia unit in the city. "Doctor's orders, apparently."
"You must be devastated, Dot."
She nodded. "Dot'll be having a bad week." She looked frightened.

Circular Ruins
I was reminded of Borges' story The Circular Ruins by another blogger. It is the story of a man who dreams a man into existence, only to realise he has been dreamed himself.

We lay on smoothed stone, on the edge of the rapids. Roaring water, water rushing down to Circular Pool, foam curling frothy balls into laterite knuckles and granite palms. The day was warm. The roaring was relentless, not the metronome rhythm of the sea that I am used to, but constant rushing of blood in the ears, water the engine of the river. Our legs were hooked together, our bodies almost braided. We lay motionless, lulled by the sound of the river and lizarded by warm rocks.
I dreamed, awake. I didn't sleep. Dreamed for a thousand years, until we both were a mummified strand of people left as a long forgotten dream upon a lichened rock. Storms and droughts came and went. Above the crickets chanted and birds called, and below, the river ran but I dreamed on.
A twig cracked, or one of us shifted. Maybe the step of a tourist on the boardwalk above or the cry of a child. I can't remember what happened to make everything fall through the skin of that dreaming. But, when he opened his eyes wide and stared at me, I knew he'd also been dreaming for a thousand years.

Life's two percent surcharge
That experience was pretty difficult to explain to myself, let alone write down for someone else to comprehend. I haven't been writing for a while and even the qwerty layout feels a bit alien to me. I feel like there's not much I need to say/write. I just want to exist. It's funny because, although I don't feel a creative or analytical bone in my body right now, there are still narrative arcs barging about in my head. It was supposed to be my 'putting things in place' year; where I write some academic papers in order to have choices next year when I return from the inlet. Tenure. Travel. Publishing. Adventures. That sort of stuff. Stuff that compliments this stuff:


That's my PhD thesis and a link to its more ethereal version, containing biographies and history of 1826 when the sealing communities of the Hunter and the Governor Brisbane lived on Breaksea Island in King George Sound. If you are super interested (like I am), you don't have to spend six or seven years researching the story (like I did), you can just download the whole thesis from that link and read it.

Maybe this creative inertia and feelings of qwerty inadequacy stems from finishing a couple of big jobs. I just want to get under a doona for a few months, or lie on a rock and dream. I do like what novelist Elena Ferrente says about this state: "When you've finished a book, it's as though your innermost self has been ransacked, and all you want to do is regain distance, return to a whole."

Anyway, instead of being creatively productive, I've made an awful lot of coffee. I've said, "Which account are you using?" about twenty thousand times, followed by, "There's a two percent surcharge on credit but not savings or cheque accounts." Lots of customer sighing. Some remonstrations. They don't see me. Only their credit card and the EFTPOS machine.
Me: "Credit? Okay."
Click click click. That's Doctor Two. Per. Cent. Thank you very much.

Nic Duncan, award-winning portrait photographer, now she got the real me the other day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Hey! Hello. Here's something to shake me out of my blog paralysis ... yes sorry about that. It's about electricity or lack of it, and every time I get online there are so many things to do, blah blah ... Anyway, I have an insider at the post office. In the language of the day, us 'Poles are agile and innovative. Which means that all the Artists, Classical Musicians, Doctors and Lepidopterists who live here are also very good at:
teaching kids with special needs,
spotting for fires at the top of the mountain,
making coffee for people,
operating a 1970s cash register,
sorting mail,
lawn mower mechanics,
lifting heavy things,
Pretty much anything to make a buck really. Which brings me to a phone call while I was in the city to say that a certain book-sized parcel fro a certain publishing house had arrived for me.
I drove back from the city, to screech into the post office just before they shut.
Then I didn't want to open it. The post lady and I chatted about organic gardening and bluetooth speakers for a while.
I waited until settled on my veranda by the inlet before I opened the parcel.
By myself (hence the title).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Stuff, things and the universe

This is Paul. He’s the Tip Shop Guy.

Paul is not just a council worker though. He is a keen gardener and consummate artist.
“I try to set things up so that wherever you are, the more you can see,” he says of his garden.
“Yeah, it’s that kind of a garden. Can you tell me about your pine forest here?”
He looks at me. “The Christmas trees?”

“Well, they’re everlastings. Don’t need any water.”
“They’re evergreens, I guess.”
“Well I prefer 'everlasting' myself. Instant green, instant screen.”
“Do you ever get people come and chop them down at Christmas time?”
“No. What usually happens is that in the month before Christmas everyone brings in their old crappy ones to throw out. No one ever buys a Christmas tree from the tip. They never get a pram and they never get a Christmas tree. I dunno why. So I’ve always had Christmas trees and as we speak, I have another two, waiting to go into the garden.”
“I don’t really want to hedge them all in this zone, so I’m thinking about a hedgerow over the back there.”
“Can we go over there?”
“Sure. I make this bit all weird, to slow the punters down from coming into the back zone.”
“Yes … “ I’m climbing over flimsy plastic pallets at this point. “It works, it’s a bit tricky … oh, a golf club garden!”

(Definitely not the golf club garden)

“Well it’s more like some strange creature with spiky hair.”
“Oh. Yes. This is hard terrain.”
“He got blown over in a storm. I haven’t rearranged the spikes correctly yet.”
We stagger past a woolly thing that I realise is a sheep.
"That was a sheep, yes?"

“See all the community now, from wide and far, they bring me unusual things that have something wrong with them, and they say ‘Here’s something for your garden Paul’, so it’s kinda developing into an obscure … not gnomesville really, but an eclectic collection of … things.

Paul is Wombling overland and Wombling free in his garden now.
I say, “But they’re not just things are they? What about your collection of propellers here?”

“Ahh, I like the the three pronged shape, and the way they’re set up as a spiral reminds me of some of the fractals, so when I look at three, I see the propeller blades and fans but I can also see glimpses of, of like everything.”
“The universe?”
“Well, it’s like, it shows how connected we are, because on a subconscious level we use all the tools the universe uses to make all our stuff. But from a waste point of view, you see the destructive side of how we take all our resources and make it into stuff that has to be chucked away. What I’m trying to do is say ‘Look, forget about that you think is rubbish and think outside the box. Look at it as a building block. You can make amazing things out of stuff if you use your imagination’. And that’s pretty well what nature does, I reckon.”
“Nature uses its imagination to make stuff?”
“Well yeah. It’s just like there are all the building blocks of life and how they come together really dictate how things evolve. And that’s also how this garden happened.”
“A harmonious balance.”
“Yeah, well see like this little bit here. This was supposed to be a curve to finish off this garden, so I’ve got these things here and all these posts to do the same thing as this, sort of tapering down in a curve … but for some reason, I just chucked them down and now they’ve been here for nearly two years. It’s almost like the random chaos theory brought back into life.”

I look doubtfully at the mess of copper log ends strewn at my feet.

“D’you know what I mean?” Paul asked, “It’s a delicate balance of chaos and order …”
“Mm. So what’s going on over here?”

“Oh, I really don’t know. But I do like to watch this space, so I put a couple of watches in here.” 
He pointed out the fucked Casios perched atop their silver plinths. “You need to watch this space. It’s just a representation of time and texture.”
“How about your mop garden?”
“You know, they’re crappy old mops.”
“They’re the ones that everyone chucks out, hey?”
“Yeah. If you stand them up like that, when I first stood them up, it was a forty degree day and while we were here, two of them opened out. Well, that'll be the mops opening.”
“They look like they’re chatting.”

“Well they are, and they’re also a barrier to the wheel garden.” 
Beneath the mops were circular beds of … wheels. “Everyone’s gotta have a wheel garden. To keep it wheel.”
“Keepin’ it wheel. Cool.”

“I was really intrigued by your tulips. How do you get such wonderful tulips growing in the middle of summer?”
“They’re fake.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t say that.”
“Well they are.”
“You’ve gotta come up with some amazing theory here, Paul.”

I worried at this point, because I’d had a lot invested in the interview when it came to Paul’s tulip garden, but then he rallied. “Oh, yeah. Well they’re like the fans and the propellers. It’s probably because they’re growing in the canoeing helmets from the Outward Bound mob. Think about all that collective conscious energy going in to make some plastic fantastic thing grow … I’m making this up as I go … but at least it rhymes.”

We stopped in front of the saw garden.
“This is my saw garden,” said Paul. “Well, it’s saw grass really.”
“With a toucan.”

“Yeah, well you know, with all good grasses, something always wants to make a burrow in there. It’s evolving. Just like I’ve got power points in the garden, ready to be plugged in, just in case anyone feels like they need to do some work.”
“Not today.”
“So you know, I just like to have fun.”

“I like the chainsaw.”
The chainsaw hangs from a peppermint tree and is balanced with a bird feeder, complete with a rather unhappy-looking plastic budgie.
“Yeah, the chainsaw was turned into a bird feeder.”
“Which is apt.”
I stared at Paul.
“Of course.”

“Yes. The reason I put this all together was one, out of boredom and because I like to make things, but essentially two, when I first took over here, everyone would come in with a big trailer full of rubbish, unsorted, you know.”
"You've got a good eye."

He sighs a tip-sorter’s sigh.
It’s about educating people into re-using things. But also at the same time I was setting up a salvage shop. The main thing is to stop things going into the ground unless it absolutely has to.”