Friday, August 14, 2020

On lost dogs

We found an old dog the other night. She got lost in the bush down the hill from my place and she cried until we found her. Selkie and I were sitting in the dark, when we first heard her cry. My dog looked at me. I put on my headlamp. It was raining. The lost dog was soaking wet when we found her.She looked at me, blinded by an LED lamp.  Old, lost and wet.

'You're okay. Stay here. We'll get you some help,' I said to her.

Quails scritching scratching through the marri litter. They scuttle for cover as shouts ring out through the forest. It sounds like people are calling for their lost dogs, no doubt on an excellent adventure and not lost at all. When I look over my journal, the last few weeks are nothing creative but quotes for nbn, phone numbers, notes from work zoom meetings, quotes for servicing the boat motor.

Red Robin burrs onto the veranda, snatches a bug and whirrs away. Honey eaters carry on in the banksias. The fishermen are motoring back from picking up their nets. None of them hit that rock to port side of the channel marker. The inlet’s charts are inside their heads.

Selkie barks as a figure steps through the scrub. A young man, eating something. Breakfast. ‘Have you seen a couple of dogs around here?’

‘No, they’ve probably gone off after a roo.’ A pair of dogs will do that. When there are more than one, they don’t need you anymore. They’ve got each other.

I can hear the fisherfolk sliding boxes of their catch on to the trays of their utes, and the crunch of a spade into ice. A motorbike down by the beach. Someone whistling.

I drive to the neighbours at the squatter's huts. It's late at night now. They are getting about with torches, looking for their dog.

'Are you looking for the old girl?' I ask. 'I think she's at my place.'

In my headlights they come rushing towards me, five or six people at once.  'Have you found her?' 'Have you found her?' There are torches going in every direction and I say 'follow me'. They follow my car back to my place, track me through the bush to where the old dog has managed to stand and walk. Someone catches her in the torch light, slinking off like a ghost dog. 'There she is!'

Her owner, a man I've so often thought as loud in his masculine violence (or whatever ...) gathers the dog into his arms. I can see by the way he hugs the old dog, so wet and so cold, that he loves her dearly.  He says, 'She can go on the back of the ute. I'll sit by her. Drive.'


Thursday, July 30, 2020

On why Clive Palmer is a dickhead

So the interwebs got pretty funny this week, what with "person, woman, man, camera, TV" and then a serial litigant billionaire tries to litigate his way into our state via litigation.

While the premier has shut down the border for months, allowing us to begin behaving as normal now, Clive Palmer wants to fly over here for a meeting. The rest of us are doing zoom quite happily thank you very much. Frex, I have a meeting with a journalist in Japan on Saturday.

In taking the state guv to court, so he can have a meeting in person, Clive Palmer is taking us all to court. As a billionaire businessman he is asking, no actually demanding, that we open our state to him. West Australians are naturally pretty pissed about this. It's a test case, yes, but fuck it. Keep the coal-fuelled billionaires out and keep the borders shut. It's a no brainer.

Let's hope the state government wins this case.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How to party?

On the weekend I drove to the southern city. It's a two hour drive and my car needs a wheel alignment.
'Go to Harv's' the local mechanic told me. He didn't want to do it himself and basically offloaded the job to someone who lived 200km from where I live and the borders were shut at the time. I was on the wrong side, so it's been several months of driving around with the wobblies.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, drove to the southern city, to attend a birthday party teeming with my oldest bestest friends in the world. Got a wheel alignment on my car. Taught the first week of semester at the university where I work.

Last semester was a bit of a washout, as everyone will know. All classes went online. I ran most of my classes via zoom from the Walpole laundromat, where I had a power point, a desk, some mobile reception and somewhere to do the washing. However, the uni has gone back to face to face teaching this semester, with a back-up online plan should shit hit the proverbial. 

I'm naturally isolated where I live. My nearest human neighbour is 25km away. So when I walked into the party in the southern city, the band was going off and it was dark but full of people shouting over the music and a fire burning in the back yard, my social anxiety kicked in immediately. An old friend spotted me standing uncertainly on the outskirts of the crowd. "Oh my god! Sarah! We were beginning to think you were a myth."

She moved towards me with her arms outstretched.

I used to love this scene. "This is our band!" I'd announce at every gig. "Everywhere we go, we get the band to come and play for us. Whoo!" And we'd be dancing and drinking ... and by the end of the night, we'd be rolling around in the dirt beside a fire. 

Nothing right now strikes me as more terrifying.

"No hugs, I'm not hugging tonight," I said to my old friend from the southern city and she kinda didn't believe me. I tried to explain that it wasn't her, it was me, and that Victoria was freaking me out. Victoria had it nailed and then they failed. For the rest of the night, I felt like I needed a sign written on my forehead - NO HUGS NO KISSES - because I had to negotiate it with every old friend I saw, and there were heaps there on Saturday night. Some took it personally, others shrugged and others looked me in the eyes across the fire, nodded and got where I was coming from.

We should never feel obligated to hug or kiss someone when we don't feel like it, but this virus is a whole new ball game. I sat with another old friend. We both had babies in the 1990s and these days she lives on a farm with her husband. When I first saw her at the party, I noticed that her body language was the same as mine. Don't hug me don't breath on me etc. I asked her about that.

"I've felt so safe on the farm," she said. "Now I'm here. It's really nice to see our crew but ..." And that's when it kicked in for me. I've been so isolated that I've felt really safe. Going into a party where everyone is shouting over the band and kissing ... it wasn't only social anxiety after a spell of being alone, it also felt existential.

I don't want to be the fun police here. As I said to the party host today, (she rang me because she saw how uncomfortable I was) this is my own personal viewpoint. I've lived in the bush on my own for a long time. It was just quite confronting to be in close quarters with a large amount of people.

How long will this whole thing last? Dunno. I feel we have to learn to live with it. People have adapted their behaviour in the past. We can too.

Update: there's a mob camping on the beach right where Selkie drowned that kangaroo, and where I dragged the carcass out and plonked it into the inlet with a brick and rope. The carcass is still a floater.  I've warned them not to go swimming there.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

'An easy life does not make for good copy'

The inlet vibe has turned pretty gothic lately. Mid winter, winter solstice, all that. I'm always coming back to Nora Ephraim's 'everything is copy' and so now I'm going to subject you all to my version of 'everything'.

You know that feeling when you look at your dog a bit differently and think, 'She's actually a wild animal. She's descended from wolves and I forgot all about that while she was sitting on my lap.' Anyway when all the fishing shacks were broken into, a few people expressed concern for me because I live in the bush on my own. I can't see people coming in and out from the shacks and felt a bit bad that I hadn't clocked the thieves. But I felt pretty safe 'cos my dog kills cats!' (More about this incident later.)

My sister came to stay after the borders opened. While I pursued my Sunday afternoon pastime of newspaper and wine on the back veranda, she took Selkie for a walk along the beach just down the hill from the house. 

A few minutes late I could hear, 'Selkie! Selkie! No No! Come here. Oh my God Selkie come here!' I put on my boots and headed for the beach. Sister's yelling changed from commanding to cajoling and then back to screaming, 'Sarah! Get down here. Selkie! Please. Oh Fuck.'

I could hear splashing around in the water and thought maybe the dog had caught a pelican. Negligible chances but anyway. By the time I found my sister along the beach, she was taking off her boots and getting ready to go into the water. 'She's got a roo out there,' she said. 

I called the dog, who was swimming around the kangaroo, and she started coming back but then would turn back to finish the roo off. They were fighting each other in the water. Three times she turned back. Sister was still intent on going after her and I told her to stay on shore. 'You can't wade into an underwater dog fight,' I said. All we could do was watch as the kangaroo's head sank beneath the waves and Selkie returned to shore. 

Kangaroos will lead a dog chasing them into deep water in order to drown or disembowel the dog. Friends have given me anecdotes that have gone one way or the other. Sister and I both knew this, hence our panic. When she finally got to shore, I turned over the dog on the beach sand to inspect her belly and saw ... not a scratch on her. We went back to the house with a totally hyped dog who was wired for at least the next few hours.

She'd chased the roo through shallow water and then they'd both fallen into a hole, which is where they both started fighting. Anyway the carcass washed up a few days later. Sister took Selkie for another walk. 'Don't find any roos!' I said jokingly and she came home with, 'Found that roo.' 

Bugger. Now I have a carcass right next to my home, I was thinking. I tried to keep the dog away from it but she'd take off to inspect her kill. The other day the carcass was on the beach in front of my house. She'd dragged it along the beach and was dragging it closer to the house every day. I could see the marks in the sand where she'd moved it. I mean, this is where the gothic comes in. a dead kangaroo steadily advancing towards my home.

A decision had to be made. I have a dead kangaroo on the shore, disintegrating by the minute that I'm pretty sure Selkie is going to be rolling in soon. She was also guarding the carcass: every time she heard a crow or sea eagle, she'd bolt down to the beach to see it off. This was her kill.

Should I bury it on the beach and cover the grave in corrugated iron and stones, so she couldn't dig it up? Should I shovel the body onto the back of my ute and dump it into the bush several kilometres away? (I've done this one before) But I couldn't stomach either of these options. It was a dilemma. The carcass was too far gone for any respectful treatment. Knowing I come from a black powder family, a friend suggested this:

That's not quite adequate either, really.
In the end I gathered some rope and a house brick today, put on my covid mask and trudged resolutely down to the beach in my gum boots. Selkie followed, watching bemused, as I towed the fifty kilogram dead kangaroo out to sea and set it, like a net, where my dog had drowned it.

'Why can't my life be easy?' I emailed (wailed) my friend last night, as I was trying to nut this whole thing out.
'An easy life does not make for good copy,' she replied.

Friday, July 17, 2020


Why isn't anyone doing anything about this situation?


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The absence of quokkas does not mean quokkas are absent

It's raining and blowing really hard here tonight.
That is all. 
No quokkas have been seen.