This was a mad night peopled with Mauritian Patagonian Toothfishermen and glamour. The South Bound Champion is in town with a story to tell. Blowing a con rod five days out of Mauritius and then lying up for two weeks at sea, the crew borrowed each other’s DVDs, raided the alcohol stash and got bored out of their brains. They limped into town a week ago for running repairs and have been setting hearts on fire ever since.
Becoming a town mouse has changed my social life somewhat. Being without a car or a CentreLink approved job for a while has too. (I’m starting to feel like Bob. Dammit, I’m even starting to look like him. Mr Moon’s eulogy for Bob mentioned his pink tredley, polystyrene helmet, bicycle clips and perpetual poverty. Hmmm.)
So last night I pedalled off into the metropolis to attend Shark’s exhibition of photography, images I’ve seen before but are thrilling all over again on the wall. Trousersnake boys mingled, shared canapes and a brilliant local whisky with the Glamazons. It was. It was a glamorous affair. Lots of great shoes.
This story is not about exhibitions or con rods. It’s about more pressing and important matters than that. This is the sordid and complicated history of how I got drunk and fell off my bicycle. Twice.
An artist recently criticised me, for being a fish murderer and plundering the ocean’s resources for cash. He took a pin to my ballooning ego, at the crucial moment when I was being greased up to feel like a ocean going hero by everyone else, an intrepid fisher woman with biceps like a … a fisher woman.
This is rather small scale plundering though, when you compare it to the Toothfish industry. The Patagonian Toothfish has only recently been discovered in the deepest of Antarctic waters and is probably the ugliest fish you’ve ever seen. They grow to the size of a man and weigh about the same. They can live for 120 years. Because they are an oily, ice water fish, their omega 3 count is through the roof. And that’s about the extent of our knowledge of this fish. We don’t even know how many there are. We do know that people will pay lots of money for dead ones.
Toothfish poachers led the Australian Navy on a merry chase through the Antarctic a few years ago. The poachers – the age old gamers, the modern day pirates, chancers with a visionary streak and one eye on the horizon - were portrayed in the media as mercenary thieves in dastardly rusting hulks.
The Fed’s issue with toothfish poachers is not territory or ethics but money – serious money. If it was about territory, conservation or the ethical marauding of natural resources, then perhaps we would see the same reaction from the Navy, when the Japanese whalers cruise through Australian territory and the Antarctic whale sanctuary to slaughter Minkes.
The fleet of Australian owned Toothfish boats (read – Australian = non poachers, folks) head down to hunting grounds around Heard Island for a bracing three month’s sojourn. For a few years, they returned to Albany for the boat unload, a seasonal employment bonanza for strong young men who didn’t mind a touch of frostbite, hurling 100 kilos of leviathan from one freezer to another. Now they unload in Mauritius, closer to the market action and a source of much cheaper labour.
Sitting outside Shark’s exhibition last night, I watched the extravagant scene unfold through the window. The menswear shop was decked out with a kind of Zen opulence (an oxymoron perhaps) and peopled with the most sublime creatures I’ve seen in a long time. Shark’s ethereal and gritty desert images completed the vision.
I was woken from my whisky induced reverie by a bunch of sturdy young men, one of whom I’d met a few days earlier. What an assortment! Please refer to my theories on this in "Overpaid, Oversexed and OverHere. (Haven't worked out the link thang yet). Mauritius, South Africa and New Zealand, the United Nations of Toothfishermen stood before me.
“Hey, Sarah! I’ve gotta ask you mate. Do you know where we can get some … you know … some hootie?”
I get asked this by strangers all the time. Maybe it’s because I look like some kind of shaggy stoner. ‘Hang on,’ my internal polylogue explains patiently, ‘he said Hootie. Not Hooch. W t f? O-Oh.’
“I’m kind of out of the loop with those things,” I explained apologetically. Why was this nice young man asking me to pimp for him? I got all flustered. His Mauritian mate smiled at me with carnivorous intent and took my photo with his mobile phone.
Mr Mauritius, the small dark man of tarot and myth, took another hour or so (roughly on closing time at the pub) to decide he was definitely coming home with me. He was a decisive sort and there was no changing his mind. Small Dark Man was on a quest to uncover the sensual gifts of a true Albanian. He would not consider ‘no’ as a reasonable obstacle. Unfortunately for him, he was dealing with Sarah Toa, the Warrior Princess and she possessed a bicycle.
I fled into the WineDark night. I am fleet of foot but fleeter by wheel. I could hear his footsteps thudding behind me and his anguished, throaty cry. “Sarah! Sarah!” I rode that bicycle like a demon. My heart thumped with whisky and hubris.
I made it all the way up the main drag in one piece. Don’t know what happened to the polystyrene helmet, collateral damage I expect. Took the corner at the town hall and gunned it home.
Well. It sounds good. Gunned it. Like I ramped the throttle on some iron charger throbbing between my thighs and performed an attention seeking rumble-streak down the highway.
The truth is I came to grief quietly and in slow motion when I hit the kerb outside the day care centre. The whole Christmas party came down with me, 2 half empty (yes, not half full) bottles of wine, handbag, mobile phone and my beautiful grey coat which I still haven’t retrieved from the gutter. (If you find it, give it back. You will never be able to wear it in this town and anyway, it’s itchy.)
It hurt, but still my my whiskied adrenaline helped me to my feet and I rose to travel the road once more. I’d forgotten all about my bereft toothfisherman and was alternately giggling and nursing a rapidly expanding elbow.
The second crash really hurt.
(With aknowledgement to Banjo - who can spot the lifted line?)