Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sirens

In the morning I heard the women singing in the water. They were swimming in the warm brown water and stopped for a song, a fishing song from the Torres Strait. Smoke rested over the still inlet. A bit of north in the wind then.

Along the track smoke idled in the karris where ground crew put some fire in four days ago. It’s a mountain day today, firetower day. I’m up in the tower writing this and have logged the smoke from near my place, first job since clocking on. The radios buzz from other districts, other spotter pilots. I can hear our spotter drone over the mountain, heading for a smoke.
Now the Sou easterly’s in, the air is full of smoke and sea mist and dust. Birak, the season of dust and smoke. It’s real fire weather now; windy, hot and low humidity. Crickets.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

We got a live one!

Something usually goes wrong when I buy a frozen pizza. There's no oven for a start and if I'm on the road, the pizza usually goes to the stage where I don't feel good about eating it and Selkie gets a special seafood treat.

On this day, the pizza was stashed in my icebox on the back of the ute, along with a swag and cardboard boxes of recycling for the tip. I turned on to the highway after ten kilometres of bone jarring gravel. The track always gets ripped up by tourists this time of year. Anyway at the lay by just ahead there were flashing lights and coppers stood in the middle of the road directing traffic into the side road.

Walpole: population 400, but this time of year it's about 6,000 and every four wheel drive is loaded up with bicycles and bright plastic canoes and tinsel. So I pulled into the side road behind all this festivity and waited in line while thickets of heavily armed city coppers moved from car to car. I was breathalyzed by one cheery fellow who gave back my straw when I asked for it. The next was a beefy Irishman saying he required a saliva sample for drug testing.

I've not comfortable giving my bodily fluids to authority. They never seem to be able to guarantee that they won't sell my highly superior DNA to the highest bidder, and anyway, we were never obliged to give saliva or fingerprints unless we were charged with a crime, until recently. I asked Irish about what my rights were when it came to refusing a drug test. His smile disappeared. "We'll arrest you immediately and take you to Walpole police station."

I tried to argue the point and state my opposition to this drug test and he asked me if I was refusing. I said I didn't want to give him my saliva. I didn't want him having my DNA. "We don't want your DNA, ," he said. "WE'VE GOT A REFUSAL OVER HERE." A police woman moved to stand unobtrusively beside Irish. She wasn't armed like him, who was bristling with guns and tasers. "Okay, I'll do your drug test," I said, as more coppers headed for my car, eyes skimming the tyres. "Good," said Irish, and unwrapped the kit. "Lick this."

It was gross. "See? No problem, Mam." Mam. Grr.
"I'd like that sample back, please."
"If it's negative then no problem. Drive over here to the shade, while we wait for a result. Be about five minutes."
While I was waiting, Irish came over and with another copper started a hearts and minds campaign with me. "I'm just not happy about it," I said. "She thinks we want to sell her DNA," Irish said to his mate, like I was a crazy. "We don't care about your DNA," he said to me. "Exactly! Point made," I replied. 
"It's just like a breathalyzer test."
"No, it's not! I'm giving you a saliva sample."
"Refusing a test is as serious a felony as driving under the influence, did you know that?" Irish pointed to the copper beside him. "See his body camera? You were being filmed the whole time back there, refusing to take a drug test."

"Um, I haven't turned it on yet," mumbled the other copper. "Should I turn it on now?"
I pulled a shock face. "I thought you were supposed to have body cameras turned on whenever you wore them."
This was too much for Irish. "Have you got your drivers license, Mam?"

This whole time, Selkie had been lying quietly on the back seat. But she's got a thing about blow flies. I mean, she's obsessed and gets a big pat from me when she chases one down. She's really very clever at catching flies. So as I was handing over my license, a forty kilo rottweiler lunged into the front seat and started attacking the windscreen. I saw Irish's hand go to his pistol. Jesus!

I guess, being a twitchy city cop, he was expecting some crazy drug test refusing meth head throwing a rottweiler at him, but this is Walpole fellas. "SHE'S GOT A DOG IN THE CAR," he yelled, to anyone really. "Have you ever been charged with a drug offense, Mam?"
"No. I don't take drugs," which is true. Selkie jumped in the back, happily munching her blow fly.
"I'm just going to check on that while we are waiting,"
Another policeman walked over and said something to him quietly. 
"Your registration is due in five days! That's a two hundred and fifty dollar fine if you don't pay it!"
"I'm aware of that," yes, thanks Mr Policeman who nearly shot my dog, for letting me know my car rego was due.

"Okay, we have a result," said Irish, holding the drug test kit. He looked at it for quite a while in a way that could have won him a screen award. "Negative," he said. He was about to bin the sample. I had to remind him that I wanted to keep it. "Fisheries would like to talk to you now," Irish nodded to the two Fisheries officers next on the gauntlet. They went through my icebox and the recycling boxes as well. 'Make sure you clip that lid on good,"  
After been breathalyzed, drug tested, threatened with arrest, filmed, searched and the dog nearly getting shot, I finally got to drive away, clean, sober in a registered car with good tyres and a current drivers license, a happy dog and a pile of unsecured rubbish on the back of the ute.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Medusa and the lobster


I have a beautiful old book of natural history with engravings and colour lithographs of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It lies open on my kitchen bench and this week it is the medusa starfish and a spiky lobster, that I pass on my way to the kettle.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Tower and Teach

I’m supposed to be up here (points to mountain peak) but the because of the rain over the weekend, there is no fire tower today. It’s my first rostered day for the season.

Mt Frankland, by Elizabeth Edmonds


The teachermen are back in the hollow just down the hill from my place. They convoyed in yesterday. I sit in bed reading Patti Smith and in their camp they play Neil Diamond and Leonard Cohen and shouts go up as one of them wins a hand. The first year they arrived here, all nine of them, Cohen had just died, and as the strands of his Hallelujah’s drifted through the trees, I knew they would be good people. They drink rum and beer and wine and sing a lot. They light a campfire and lay out swags. They are kindly men; these teacher men and they seek seven day’s healing at the inlet after a year full of teenagers and politics. I wonder what the teacherwomen do. Maybe I'll get to go up the mountain tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sylvestris - living in the forest


 Just wait around for a short while and nature will throw on an event for you. I didn't have a camera the day this lady's lover arrived but I did see him and he was dapper. Cryptostylus ovata, or the Slipper Orchid, has a wasp for a lover. There are small forests of the orchids over near the burn.



Billardiera or what Noongar call Cummock are a tasty little bush food, that is glorious this year, straight outside the front door.


I know when the sea eagle is about: the seagulls start carrying on. There was a herring frame down on the beach and everyone wanted a piece of it. Seagulls out my way have probably never seen a hot chip. Their diet is pure bush food. Seagulls harried the eagle who swooped around for half an hour and then the crows joined in. Cawk ... cawk!


Finally Selkie joined the fray. She hates anyone who is after her fish, even if she's not interested in eating it herself. I think the rest felt the same but I was all good, cooking up herring fillets in a fry pan.