Sunday, January 31, 2010


On a low, low tide, the Kingfisher lies with her ribs exposed, laden with cormorants sunning in the dawn warmth. She is a steel barque, a coal hulk, blown ashore by a hasty summer wind of 1885.

On the northern shore, at Pelican Point, if you tread carefully between ancient flagon and car tyre flotsam, the engine block and anvil jetsam, you can still find little black pieces of her final load.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Way Way Waychincup

I commented to Aussie, when I took this picture, that mobile phone cameras always seem to flatten out landscapes. Mount Manypeaks, towered over us on the trek we made, after we met Gyroscope and went hunting for the mythical second sealer's oven. Towered? Well alright, compared to New Zealand mountains it's just a big hill showered with stones - like some giant rock-eating monster lost his dinner during a nasty case of gastro.

The inlet (or 'embayment' as Old Salt calls it) is Waychinicup, one of the rare stone-bound inlets in the south west. In the picture above, the white water shows the inlet mouth. Most inlets around here are bound by sand bars, opening yearly to the sea when the rivers are swelled with winter rains. This inlet is guarded by massive megalithic bosses of lichen-clad granite and its belly is coated in the same.

Waychincup is home to the 1080 weed, the bane of early cattle and sheep farmers. Three of those tiny heart shaped leaves will kill a man, and yet the local fauna are immune to 1080, making it an ideal bait for foxes and cats. Shame about introducing 1080 to eastern states areas where the locals are not so savvy, but still, D.E.C. will work it out one day ...

This place is considered a 'biodiversity hotspot', meaning that more species of flora and fauna are found here per square metre than most places on this planet, excepting perhaps the Amazon and errm, a few other spots.

All the critters who live here are big and well fed. The carpet sharks are like Cessna aeroplanes, the possums are friendly and the bungarras don't give a shit. We met a Dugite on Tuesday, thick as my arm (trufe!), trying to climb a perpendicular stone, only to fail and flop, unhappily, at Aussie's feet.

'Jesus (#%$* standard snake expletives *$%#)!'

The carpet python was friendly. She just lay there, looking at us ...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gyroscope's Human Smoke Machines

Greedy, Aussie and I decided to trek and find the mythical second sealer's oven at Waychinicup. Last week, a fellow history guy rang me. His son had found a sealer's oven on one of his fishing trips. "It's right up on top of the hill. East of the inlet. Ramjet walks over there through the bush to catch kingi's off the cliffs."
"Can you get in there by boat?"
"No way! It's mad, that bit of coast."
I know all about mad coasts. So why would a nineteenth-century sealer build an oven right at the peak of a hill, on a bit of coast where he couldn't even put a twenty foot whaleboat in?
Methinks, the presence of the 'oven' actually means Cairn Man is back, building his phallic territory markers, an Andy Goldsworthy version of 'Kilroy woz 'ere'.

Anyway ... why the hell am I digressing?
Much more exciting things happened to us, yesterday. We did not find the second sealer's oven, of course, or I wouldn't be chastising myself for digressing, would I? Now. Where was I?

We provided a bit of local flavour for a Gyroscope film clip instead!
Yes! Gyroscope!
Driving along the road to Cheynes Beach, we flashed by thirteen dead bungarras and a blue drum kit. The bungarras had all been squashed by heedless drivers but the blue drum kit was alright, even though it was sitting amongst the recent bushfire grounds. We had to stop.
"We're making a music clip for Gyroscope," a lovely blonde told us, waiting for our gasp of recognition. Thankfully Aussie provided that. And we were in.
We graciously provided a 'verbal', "My name is ... and I give consent to Universal to use my image for anything, ever. Please. Thank you."
Then they cranked up the speakers, cracked the champagne and started filming.

These are our famous feet. Forget about Gyroscope, just feast your eyes on these feet. These are smoke machine feet. We were human smoke machines yesterday, fluffing up the cinders, stompin' the Albanian granny dance to Gyroscope's new tune.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Spotter Plane, Spy Plane # 4

Alright, I've nearly finished banging on about Australians renting spy planes to Japanese whalers. There's a little side story though, about a bunch of renegade Tassie folk, that I want to tell.
While some Australian companies are happy to help out illegal whalers for 'truckloads of cash', other individuals and companies are doing amazing things to keep poking the federal government and whaling enterprises where it hurts.

Being dogged by spy planes and Japanese 'security vessels', meant that the Sea Shepherd fleet were on the back foot when it came to finding the actual whaling fleet, because their co-ordinates were being relayed constantly to the fleet.
Enter Taz Patrol.
Captain Paul Watson described them as '6 people on a small motor vessel, touring the South Pacific.' Taz Patrol found the Yushin Maru, and twittered the co-ordinates to the Sea Shepherd crew. Then they left the scene. Job done.
Even the Sea Shepherd crew seemed bamboozled as to the the identity of the Taz Patrol crew. Their twitter page lists them as coming from south of Hobart.
Here is a list of their posts: Italics are mine.

5.23 pm Dec. 29th, 2009. We are at sea heading for the edge of the EEZ. Hoping to tag on to the Shonan Maru 2 and relay her co-ordinates.

10.17 am, Dec 30th, 2009. Reached EEZ limit. Starting search for whaling security vessel.

6.13 pm, Dec 30th, 2009. Search continuing. So far no ships spotted. Should any boat wish to help we can provide details of areas already searched.

4.16 am, Dec 31st, 2009. Our last update of 2009. Our New Year resolution is simple: we will not back down. We did not come all this way to run away.

8.18 am, Dec 31st, 2009. Happy New Year to everyone except the whalers. To those scum: heads up, we're coming for ya.

1.15 pm, Dec 31st, 2009. Steve Irwin has left port. It is now urgent we locate SM2. Increased speed to cover more area. This reduces our range but time is limited.

12.34 pm, Jan 1st. conditions been difficult recently. One large wave hit side on. The old girl is handling amazingly well. We continue our search.

4.17 pm, Jan 1st. Radar contact!!! As yet unknown vessel.

6.09 pm, Jan 1st. Steve Irwin claims to be out of danger area. We wish the crew of the Steve Irwin good luck in finding the whaling fleet scum.

6.13 pm, Jan 1st. Still intend to investigate radar contact. Conditions + heading + speed of target mean a few hours before visual contact possible.

7.19 am Jan 2nd. Whaling vessel found! Nearly 300nm south Tasmania. NOT Shonan Maru 2 visual shows superstructure is one of Yushin Maru class (1, 2 or 3).

7.23 am Jan 2nd. YM 1,2, or 3 was found over twelve hours ago at 47'48" S, 146' 33" E. SM2 location unknown. It's Possible SM2 scared and called reinforcements.

7.30 am, Jan 2nd. How many vessels are searching for the SI? (Steve Irwin) Seen one harpoon vessel of Yushin Maru class. How many others up here trying to track SI?

7.32 am, Jan 2nd. Whilst Yushin Maru class harpoon is up here it isn't whaling. Well done SI for diverting ships! Is SM2 scared to face us without backup? (SSCS later said the SM2 was probably refuelling at that time.)

8.30 am, Jan 3rd. Fuel situation required us to head back to port soon after confirming contact. Over halfway back to port now running at most efficient speed.

12.24 pm. Jan 6th. Back in port. Whalers up the ante (regarding Ady Gil's ramming and sinking by Shonan Maru 2). We are thinking of ways to bring the Capt'n of SM2 to justice.

Somehow, I wouldn't put it past them! I want the T-shirt.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spotter Plane, Spy Plane # 3

Nope, the story has not died, yet ...
The Humane Society International has warned Australian charter companies that they are willing to take legal action against them, if they have been found to supply spy planes to the Institute of Cetacean Research, or it's media company Omeka Public Relations.
"Companies that assist Japanese whaling operations in Australia's Antarctic territorial waters are assisting criminal activity that is in contempt of the federal court," said Nicola Beyon, of the H.S.I. "We suggest that any company considering their involvement in whaling activities of any kind be aware of the legal ramifications."

The operative words here are Australia's Antarctic territorial waters. The Australian Whale Sanctuary is included within the exclusive economic zone and Australia's Antarctic waters.

The Institute of Cetacean Research's own catch logs, (their catches are called 'samples' and include pregnant cows and the measurements of their foetuses) are provided by the Japanese government to the International Whaling Commission. Through these records, the H.S.I have been able to prove that the Japanese whaling fleet have caught whales within Australian territorial waters within the last few years. Here is a list of some of their stats: (sorry, put yer glasses on!).
I was wrong when I wrote that it is legal for other countries to hunt whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. It's quite illegal. "Within the Sanctuary, it is an offence to kill, injure or interfere with a cetacean. Severe penalties apply to anyone convicted of such offences." (
I haven't heard of the Japanese fleet working inside Australia's E.E.Z this year. Well, not killing whales, just ramming boats whilst blaring sirens that induce vomiting and deafness. Perhaps the Australian government has a territorial agreement with the Japanese for this year's whaling season and that is the reason for their 'relaxed and comfortable' stance, not sending out the Oceanic Viking to keep an eye on them. Like I wrote previously, it's not really about the whales.

If the whalers are found to have worked in the E.E.Z, or the Whale Sanctuary this year (as they were in 2008), or found conclusively to be running a commercial whaling program, then the Australian charter companies who hired spy planes to them, and the little regional airport fascilities like the Albany one that refuelled those planes, will have committed a criminal offence by assisting an illegal whaling operation.

Anyway, the Melbourne charter company who hired planes to Japanese whalers over the New Year was Direct Air. There's a Direct Air company in Perth too. I rang them up, hoping to unravel the Albany connection. "I've only just started working here," she told me. "No one else is around at present. I don't know anything."

AWS map:
JARPA stats:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spotter Plane, Spy Plane # 2

It was reported, initially by Fairfax outlets last week, that aeroplanes were sent out from Albany and Hobart by the Institute of Cetacean Research (Japanese whalers), to spy on the Sea Shepherd's fleet. This story came out on the morning of January 6th and was swiftly eclipsed by the ramming of Sea Shepher's Ady Gil by the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru 2.
Here is the footage of the collision, as filmed by crew of the Shonan Maru 2 and here is footage filmed by Sea Shepherd crew aboard the Bob Barker.

It's pretty dramatic stuff, but unfortunately the ramming took absolute precedence over the spy planes issue in the media, and the story died. One of the few people who kept talking about the spy planes was Greens Senator Bob Brown. He noted that, seeing as Australian ports were closed to Japanese whaling activity, why are our airports and planes readily available (for 'truckloads of cash') to them?

The spy planes story was buried completely the next day when aviation writer Geoffrey Thomas speculated to the ABC that the Harry Riggs Airport in Albany could not possibly have housed planes suitable of Antarctic flights, and that such Antarctic planes would have been noticed anyway.

They were noticed actually. The editor of the Weekender, the only local newspaper to cover the spy planes story, talked to pilots who told him that the planes had come from Perth but were seen refuelling at the Albany airport. He could not find out which Perth charter company had hired the planes to the Institute for Cetacean Research but was adamant, after phoning around the local Albany charter companies, that the planes came from Perth.

The public relations company who takes care of business for the whalers, and orchestrated the hiring of planes from Perth, Hobart and Melbourne, is New Zealand's Omeka Public Relations. The director Glenn Inwood is known as Ginza Glenn to the Japanese and as ' a Maori voice for a Japanese cause' in New Zealand. Inwood rides on the back of his Maori ancestry in more ways than one; he claims it as his indigenous right to hunt whales and lists his company with other Maori interests such as maraes and fisheries. Obviously, championing the right for Japanese to continue their traditional, timeless hunting technique of sending fleets of diesel powered gunboats to Antarctica, to shoot whales with explosive-tipped harpoons, is a personal passion for Omeka P.R.

Glenn Inwood also works for Te Ohu Kaimaona, the sole voting shareholder in Aotearoa Fisheries. These guys own half of Sealords. Guess who owns the other half of Sealords? Nissui, a Japanese whaling company. One of Nissui's ships, the Nisshin Maru was accused by GreenPeace in 2006 of deliberately ramming their protest vessel, Arctic Sunrise.

Omeka Public Relations' web page was up and accessible (albeit with no links) until yesterday. The site has since been taken down.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spotter Plane, Spy Plane

There is a 'things to do list' that's gone astray; put out crab pots (check), do paperwork, pull up milk thistles, do more paperwork, go hunting along the beach for a missing crab pot bouy. The list went astray because this morning, I heard on the radio news that someone in Albany and Hobart hired out some planes to a public relations company, Omeka Communications, in late December - and the public relations company is the client of Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research.

Just like back in the good old days, spotter planes are being used for whaling. However, the difference here is that the Japanese are not spotting whales, but those balaclava-clad sea-ferals, the Sea Shepherd fleet. Basically, these are spy planes, rented by Japanese whalers from an Albany business. For those who don't know; Albany was the site of the last working whaling station in Australia. Thirty years later, Albanians are completely enamoured with our cetacean brothers and sisters. Oh, the irony.

There is nothing illegal in this latest chapter of the saga on the high Antarctic seas. Anyone can charter a plane. The International Whale Sanctuary is only a name, because the Australians and a few other countries said so. It's not internationally recognised and not signed off. The Japanese and Norwegians can do what they like there. And the whales being hunted are not a species recognised as being endangered. My feeling about this? The legality does not matter. Hunting down these animals and then killing them slowly - very slowly, too slowly - for a product that is not essential to our own well being, is just fucking immoral, and the kind of behaviour that belongs to the days before synthetics made whaling obsolete.

At the markets on Sunday, I stopped for a coffee break with Rooster. He used to work on the whalechasers and is still a patched up member of the local bikie gang. These guys put down their drinks at the White Star one day in 1978 and rode out to the whaling station. The were all whalers in those days and their intention was to tell the rabble who'd collected there - the GreenPeace protestors, ex Prime Ministers and Catchalot and Co. - that it was about time they fucked off.
Thirty years and a bit of perspective is a great thing. "Well, we couldn't keep doin' it, could we?" He laughed. "There's something wrong with killin' an animal like that. It's like killin' dinosaurs or something. And it was all gonna end, anyway. The company was fucked, quotas cut down to nothing and market prices down in the dumps. Greenpeace did the company a favour, you know and covered themselves in glory at the same time."

Today, Bob Brown asked where the Federal Government's own surveillance vessels were. You know, the ships that were to be sent out to keep an eye on the whalers.

'"It's outrageous that the Japanese have stolen such a march on the conflict between the whaling protesters and the whale slaughterers," he said. "And the Australian Government is doing nothing about it and is allowing Australian facilities to be used against the whale protesters."

The Federal Government says it has seen the reports.'

This story interests me (and shut down my day of paperwork quite successfully) for three reasons. Firstly, the Antarctic is one of the last spaces on the planet that has not been entirely carved up by humans, nation states or real estate agents. In the conspiracy theory party that is my head, I wonder whether plying trade in waters over a century or more may deliver a kind of de facto native title over those waters. It's unlikely that the Japanese whalers are actually making a profit from their killing, considering the quotas versus operating costs. The Australian government are watching these guys very carefully, but it feels like they are still quite unsure as to what to do about it. In other words, the Australian government's dilemma is about jurisdiction, maritime boundaries and the potential of Antarctica's unplundered resources, such as oil, gold and Patagonian toothfish.* This isn't about the whales at all.

Secondly, I grew up in this town and saw men dismantling whales the size of buildings with razor sharp hockey sticks, along with the accompanying stench of death. Being into history a bit, I also have access to some of the best records on ancient and modern whaling in the world, second only to records at Nantucket and Sandalfjord. My favourite plaything is a wrecked whalechaser!

Thirdly, like most people, whales just do something to me. Seeing a whale, no, meeting a whale while out on the water, or standing on a rocky headland, helps me understand the size and diversity of this planet we live in. They are a magical presence, a physical evidence of the journeys and memories they have undertaken in their work as the record keepers of the earth.

Today, I keep having these scenes played out in my mind. A little charter flight office in Albany. Perhaps they received a request so distanced as an email or a phone call, where a mysterious company requested a charter flight over Antarctic waters. At some stage, at the hangar, did the aviators twig as to what was really going on? Maybe they knew the whole time. It's an interesting scene to dwell upon, and to wonder if the story will go any further than single sentence on the news. Not long after I heard it today, the story of the Albany spotter/spy plane was eclipsed by the sinking of a Sea Shepherd boat, by the whalers. Rough waters indeed.

In this image provided by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a whaling protestor throws a bottle of butyric acid (rotten butter) at the Japanese harpoon whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 1 in the Antarctic Ocean, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, as the Sea Shepherd helicopter flies overhead. (AP Photo/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Adam Lau, HO)

Above quote in green text is from the abc website,

* An example of this hypocrisy is the Navy chasing a decrepid toothfish poacher all over Antarctica for nine days, because those toothfish are 'our' fish. We don't hunt whales, therefore there is no economic advantage in sending out the Navy to watch foreign whalers in Australian waters.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Midsummer Dream

I have this bike. She's outrageously cowgirlish, because a nice young man has been overhauling it for me and somehow, he just intuits that I really wanna be a cowgirl. He's added tooled leather chaps to the front forks, fringed the saddle and somehow modified the back end with a single Chesterfield couch, the same yellow and black of Pauline Hanson's dress.

I'm off to the studio, right in the middle of town, where my family live and all of our cats and dogs, including some kids and some cats and some dogs that just arrived and never left. The studio is glass-fronted and the glass smells of Windex.

I'm sailing over the hill, around the roundabouts of Aberdeen Street. I know I'm way over the limit, because it's New Years Eve and I've got that flying, soaring feeling before the heaviness. Ahead of me, blue lights flash. They are always ahead of me, I never actually see the police car, just that shadowy, blue loom of lights. I fly over the hill on my beautiful cowgirl bicycle and know that they'll be picking someone else up and I'll just be able to sail past while they are busy.

But at the next roundabout, they're waiting for me. Three police cars, their lights spinning like one of those Red Dot battery operated disco balls, are clogging the road. But I'm fine ("not", a little voice says) because I'm riding such a beautiful bike.

A blond policewoman, coiffed, a kinder, prettier version of Bronwyn Bishop, white gloves and even a handbag, she pulls me over. All the blokes begin to look rather interested when they see my bike. But I'm fine. (Not.)

Everyone is surprised, including me, when I blow 6.945. They were too busy admiring my bike, checking out the tooled leather chaps, and having their pictures taken sitting in the Chesterfield couch behind the fringed saddle. They all look at each other, not quite sure what to do. "We've never booked anyone for being this drunk on a bicycle before."

But they book me anyway. Not even the production of a cute black puppy from the fringed saddlebags works. NicePretty BronwinBishop Policewoman collects her winnings, from all the wagers they'd made on the state of my sobriety, and smiles gorgeously at me. I know exactly what I blew - 6.945 - because she gave me the little white plastic thingy and the number is written on the side, like a pregnancy test, but in numbers, not colours.

I put it in my coat pocket because, I think, I might just go home and blog about it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More Stolen Yarns

More stories from fireside folk.

Donna Toa, (no fire) Otago University student flats:

My Dad was a beautiful man. Scandinavian. He looked like Paul Newman. He taught us to be strong girls. Once we were sitting on the verandah, when we lived at Port Chalmers, and a woman walked by, legs up to here, tiny, tiny skirt and high heels and stockings.

Thinking back, she was a prostitute, you know. And my Dad, sipping his cup of tea, laughed away to himself, just laughed and laughed. You know, so many men would be whistling or ogling that woman, but he just laughed. It was that moment, one of those moments, as I remember him, how he related to me and us as girls and women. 'Cos he could see the humour in her situation, struggling up the hill in her high heels.

Dayshift Barmaid, Fireplace, The Royal George, Albany:

We had a bloke, he was here everyday. His wife was pregnant and so was I (though I wasn't showing, so nobody minded too much). I was six months gone and it was my first child. When his wife went into labour and had the baby, this man spent the whole time in the bar. He went on a week long bender at the pub and only left to get a feed and have a shower.
I was so pissed about this!! He should've been with his wife (even though he was in no condition to visit the hospital, unless it was for a liver transplant).
Finally after days and days of him basically living in the bar, my boss, the publican (his name was Priest, truly. And everyone told him their secrets) had a word with him, a quiet sit-down near the fire.
Here was me, pregnant, thinking this guy was an asshole, that he was soaking up all the congratulatory drinks. He even had a black eye, from some bullshit fight. That day he told Priest that their last child had been stillborn and he thought it was his fault because of some kind of genetic weird shit. He was too scared to go near the hospital or his wife, in case the same thing was happening all over again.

Donna Toa, (no fire) Otago University Flats:

I knew the worth of money when I should have been too young to know. I was having sex for bangles. Since I was seventeen, I was under the thumb. Four babies. My Dad saw me one day, ready to drop Jani, still breastfeeding the boy. "You're getting cannibalised!" He said.

Four babies and one husband who screwed me into the ground with violence. It's like I've got the same thing as those Vietnam vets - the amount of times I thought I was gonna die. I've had a shotgun in my mouth, been beaten and then kicked in the head when I was down on the ground.

You don't just get better when it ends. You can't just turn a switch and be okay from that day onwards. All of a sudden, there is freedom, from him and his control, and it's just too much. It's almost as bad as the violence. I didn't know how to deal with the freedom. There were too many choices. I made a lot of wrong ones. I lost my way for years. And he kept the kids because I wasn't strong enough to stand up to him. So my life was even looser - nothing to tie me down.

Once I was in a bar - I used to drink with some of the Mongrel Mob - and this young blood started trying to chat me up. I must have been about forty then, four kids. He was just growing some bum fuzz on his face, he was a boy, and he kept coming up with all these raspberry sweet lines. I laughed at him, just laughed and laughed, like my Dad did, at that woman walking up the hill in her heels. I thought it was great! And pretty funny, and then this young blood punched me, broke my nose, made a real mess of my face.

Toa Sister, Fireplace:

A short little man used to run the market arcade where I worked. His family were all religious, of some sort. He built a lovely little bric-a-brac shop for his wife, in secret, and presented her with this shop on the opening day. I don't know whether she had any say in her new job. He seemed to think that's what she'd always wanted and I never heard anything else.
She dressed the same as the rest: long skirts, demure shirts, very well behaved. The rest of us tenants were ferals, the normal kind of people you see running market stalls.

Every day, the short, little man and his demure, pretty wife ate lunch at the Mexican stall, run by an Iranian family - a feisty Iranian mother and her son and daughter. The son claimed to have fought in Beirut and could quote Robert Burns, whilst standing on a laminex table, full of Fruity Lexia, I saw it. Small, dark man. The quiet, beautiful daughter was very dark, lithe limbs, springy, black hair.

When the whole thing fell apart, when the centre finally did not hold, when the stall holders mutinied against the religious callings of the managers and the old man had a nervous breakdown, the short little man told me of his affair with the beautiful Iranian daughter.

"She showed me a new life. I had a new blood surge into me. I was besotted, entranced. We went skinny-dipping. I've never done that before. I tried to stop seeing her, but I just couldn't. It was like I was addicted and she was the opiate. Her mother knew, of course. Her mother knew all sorts of things ...
Do you believe in magic? Like Black Magic?" Here, the devout handclapper stares at me across the table, his eyes pleading with me to absolve him. "I think that family did something to me."

"I don't know anything about that stuff," I told my former, quite destroyed boss, "perhaps if you believe in it, then it works."

He told me then, that every evening, how he would drive out of the markets and swear he'd go home to his wife and two young sons. But then he'd look up to the mountain that overshadowed the town, to her house. The house glowed with light, it shone like a beacon and he just drove towards it. Out of all the houses that collar that mountain, that house just glowed and glowed. He'd be at the house and in her bed, before he even knew what he was doing. "Her mother did it. I know she did. She knows all about that stuff."

The next thing ... well you know what happened. All came crashing down and the Iranian family shot through overnight. Rent on the shop not paid and they were long gone. Just like that. The good little wife,when she found out, she was gone too and the two sons, all in one day.

That afternoon and the next day, and for the rest of the week, after he told me all that stuff, when I looked up to that house at the end of the day - it did not glow. It stood like all the rest of the other houses. I couldn't even see it any more. I look up there now and I don't even know where it is.

That house had huge panes of glass. When I think about it, when his affair with the Iranian girl kicked in, the sun was directly opposite that house, at five-thirty, when he drove out of work. A few weeks later, the sun had moved on. Pity, he didn't.

Other People's Yarns

Sitting around a fire that burns inside an old washing machine tub - the holes glowing bright with flame in neat diamond lines - and listening to other people yarning; this must be one of my favourite pastimes. Aussie sees my ears prick and that hungry gleam in my eyes(fireglow, red wine and a ripping yarn) and laughs at me. "Okay, Sarah," she says. "You can have that one. I just gifted you that tale."
Other tales are stolen, and that's the thing about writers and storytellers. We are thieves.

Maxine on the Horses' Birthday, Fireplace.

When I was a teenager in Perth, I used to gatecrash all the other school balls. I'd stand in the entrance, all dressed up, and tell the teachers that I was the school councillor and discus champion. I went to all the balls, it was great fun.

They always let me in. They always did, not becuse they were gullible, but because I understand checkpoints and how to get past them.

I was a child in Northern Ireland. At checkpoints, as a ten year old - "Do you have any weapons?"
"Of course I don't! I'm ten!"
But they never found out that I was clad with guns. I had guns taped to me, from me nipples down to my waist and then from the top of my thighs, down to me knees.

Our whole street was a collection of one massive family, living in separate houses that were all joined together through paths over the rooftops. All the sympathisers used to hide there, moving between houses from the rooftop paths.
At our back door, there was a British soldier. He stood there with his gun, day in, day out. We fed and housed the sympathisers. Then we'd go to the back door and give the British soldier his supper as well.

Toa Sister, Fireplace.

We lived right next to a prison, in that window period when the prison moved between minimum and maximum security. During that time, men escaped a lot. One man, to get into prison, he poured petrol over some lovers and raped the woman at match point. To get out, he forged a key to the outer quadrangle in art classes, then he banged a nail into his wooden leg and he used it to climb over the razor wire.

Mum took me to her walk-in walkrobe that day and showed me where they hid the guns. She reminded me how to load and clear it. She showed me where the ammo was stashed. She was worried that an escapee would find me or my sisters alone."If he comes, just aim for his guts," she told me. "Don't worry about fancy head shots. I know you'd be able to do it. Sometimes, I think your sisters would be too afraid, but I know you would be able to do it."

Charlie, Fireplace.

This fire is so smokey and smoke makes me laugh and laugh, wink, wink, say no more hey. Can I hug you? I'm feeling so stoned and happy and I'm a huggy bear really. I've been in prison, just done three years, moved all over the place. What did I do? Killed three people, ha ha. Okay I'm a bit of a fibber. Actually I defrauded the tax department a few mil or so. Set up all those bank accounts and moved money around. Might as well have killed a few people. Prison is full of people who wanna fuck you up the arse. No - really. Not just a rumour. What did I do? Well, look at me, sister, I'm blonde, blue eyed, cute and cuddly. I learnt how to fight. Just start punching on. I could take anyone here down in seconds. I know how to fight. Learnt how to box. It's the only way out. I learnt how to fight young, really young, because I was abused at a Catholic boarding school, when I was a kid. So I may look soft, but I'm not. Was I raped at boarding school? Well, yes. Next year, I'm going to London, where the school is. I'm testifying, against the priests. A nice holiday, don't you think? All paid for. I used to be such a cute, blonde-haired boy, but I'm still a huggy bear, you know. Yes please, I'll have another toke of that.

Allan, Kitchen Table.

A few years ago my father and I travelled around New Zealand. He was a dying alcoholic and I'd just broken up with my missus, so we were just a fine pair, him and me. We'd get to talking, one of the first times we really talked like that. He'd crack one of those crappy N.Z. beers (which one is it? Speights? Tui? Can't remember) first thing in the morning and I'd drive and we'd just rave on about our fucked up lives.
That country, the South Island, everywhere you go, it's the sort of country where you'd take a woman to propose to them. Just me and Dad though, no proposing going on there.
We got a flat tyre out near Milford Sound somewhere. Dad sat in the car and kept drinking and I changed the wheel. I heard a big car, like an eight cylinder, pull in. I could hear Dad talking to someone, but I just kept working.
Then I heard this voice, "You want a hend, Cuz?"
"She's right mate, nearly done," I told him. Then I turned around from the jack and looked up. There's about eight of the fucking hugest men I've ever seen and they're all tattooed. One bloke, one half of his face was almost black with tattoos and the the other half had streaks of blue back from his nose across to his ears. Fuck man, you should've seen those guys.
They all just sort of looked at each other and laughed. Then three of the guys picked up the front end of my car and held it there. I changed that tyre pretty quick!
They said there was a good pub down the road, then they all piled in this black Holden Statesman and took off. Dad and I went to the pub. It was like something in the wild west, with those swinging doors and all dark inside. Music cranking and the place was packed full of Maori's, drinking straight from perspex beer jugs. What a place. We had a great time, Dad and me.