I met a poet from Tipperary. A man in his fifties; his frailty, humour, his wisps of hair and pale, elfin face made him a different creature from anyone I’d ever met. I wanted to tell him that, despite his bemoaning the status of poetry in Australia, clandestine visitors to my isolated bush shack had stolen nothing but a copy of Phillip Larkin’s Collected Poems. They could have shot holes in the rainwater tank or taken my gas bottle or generator. But no ... a book of poetry.
He nodded slowly. “Larkin. They showed good taste.”
“I thought so too.”
“I heard that you are a fisherwoman,” he said.
“Yes. We work the estuaries with nets, in a little boat.”
He took his time during the conversation. He looked distracted and stared across the table at something or someone. “You look like you are strong.”
“And how did you begin this fishing life?”
“I grew up here. Then there were tuna fishermen and whalers, hard men, and it was a woman’s job to serve them beer or shovel the fish in the factories. I did that for a while but I wanted to work on a boat. One day I started working for Old Salt.”
“Do you argue on the boat? It must be hard, sometimes ...”
“We fight, often. It’s a small boat.”
“But you work for this man, because ... you must feel some affection for him.”
“Yes. Yes. I do feel affection for him.”
Later, he shook my hand goodbye and said, “I would like to read your book and I shall tell my wimpy friends in Ireland all about you.”