Friday, December 19, 2008

And it's a Poguemahone Christmas to Yer!

I would post a Christmas song for you, my very most bestest favorite, if I could navigate the link thing! (I will work on that one again, when past the Luddite-rage stage.) The song features Kirsty McColl, in a duet with his sodden handsomeness, Shane MacGowan, who collects together aviator sunglasses, his usual random assortment of bad teeth, and that mad genius Celtic/punk ensemble that are The Pogues - to sing The Fairy Tale of New York.

Kirsty McColl died eight years ago in a scuba diving accident, when she was run down by a Mexican supermarket millionaire driving a speedboat. Shane McGowan usually looks like he is three days settled into morgue ice but is still quite alive.
Happy Christmas friends, stay safe, may your wake be straight, watch out for scuba divers and eat as much yummy food as you can stuff down yer gullet!

Seashell and the Horned God

He is my new friend and one day soon he will return to my home. He is the strong silent type but not adverse to creating controversy. I don't know what his lineage is, I don't even know his star sign.
"I think you are the only girl who will really appreciate him," Seashell told me, as she presented him to me on the doorstep one day. Good call, Seashell. We left straight for the bedroom, this horned God and I.
"My goodness me," my step mum exclaimed. "How can you keep him in the bedroom?"
"Pretty easily really," I leched. "Anyway, there's just nowhere else he should be. Imagine one of my kid's mate's mothers seeing him, when they dropped by? He has to stay in the bedroom."
I kinda got used to him being around. He was like my mate. I'd wake in the morning and there he was, my boyfriend by proxy. It is to my great regret that when I found someone else, the Horned God had to leave, exiled, his existence compromised by jealousy and insecurity.
He can draw a strange reaction from men. Bob had problems with him. Old Salt reckons he's disgusting. During his exile to a friend's house, my horned god had a sarong draped around his hips and finally was turned to the wall, to avoid offending the other house males. Now, why is this?

Like his mate Pan, perhaps the Horned God only really exists when people believe. Seashell lovingly painted him into life during her Minotaur stage. For a while he was lonesome except for other minotaurs and exquisite monsters, until he found someone else who really loved him, which was me. Sometimes, he is just too powerful but I kind of miss having him around.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cairn Man

I am in danger of becoming my nemesis school teacher, the history buff, that woman who glared at me over her weird glasses and decided that dead people were far more interesting than us squirming and very much alive 8 year olds. (She threw a duster at me once. She could have read my obituary and finally approved of me, if she'd been a better shot.)
Okay, not quite that crusty. But history grabs me. It grabs me the same way a good tale hooks me out of the present - which according to all the lotus-legged existentialists is where I should be - and back into Enid Blyton land, a far more pleasant place.

I've been reading about the initial European forays into our area lately. Their prepossessing assumptions that the land was theirs for the taking, classifying the plants, measuring the 'indians' and climbing mountains to view their new territory is quite astounding. Says I, with my computer and a car out the front, sitting in a tidy cottage overlooking the very same bay. It's difficult to remain indignant when we are so bloody compromised by our comforts and ancestry.
Anyway. I wasn't going to write about all that. No, it was cairns actually, those beautiful, ceremonial piles of weathered stone that humans need to build, and a particular character of these parts whom I shall name only as Cairn Man.

Vancouver had his men build two cairns, one atop Point Possession and one on Seal Island, adjacent to what we now call in peacetime, 'Whale World'. They built sealed bottles into the heart of these monuments, with notes inside advising of the HMS Discovery's visit.
After an English hiatus of ten years, in 1801, while William Westall sketched the island and the others killed seals, Flinders climbed to the peak of Seal Island and searched for this cairn. Everything was gone, the staff, the sealed bottle. Even the stones were gone.
Looking at Seal Island, I think that the stones would have been rolled by a bored sealer or Frenchman (after they discovered the promising bottle only contained a shitty piece of paper) down the smooth, streaked granite and into the sea. That would have been fun.

Maybe there's more to the disappearing cairn.

Reading this stuff brought to mind Cairn Man's plight. Aussie and I were sunning ourselves at gorgeous, deserted Whaler's Cove, when a fit-looking young man came and lay about fifteen centimetres from our camp.
Aussie smirked at me, because she just knew. She knew me well enough to anticipate my next sentence - "Hey mate! There's a whole beach here!"
"I always come to this spot," was his reply. "There's less march flies up this end."
For the rest of the morning he subjected himself to our snorts of laughter, every time he slapped one of those bloodthirsty march flies off his body.

A few weeks later we saw him again, at another little cove nearby. He waded shirtless through knee deep water, carrying two basketball sized chunks of black basalt. He looked amazing, if a little ... um ... demented.
"They've just knocked down my last one," he explained angrily.
I'd seen it. The cone of black basalt rose from a granite monolith surrounded by snow white sand. I'd even taken a photo. I told him this, forgetting all about the march fly incident, I was so impressed.
He laboured back through the water to get more stone. "Where are all the stones from the last cairn, the one they knocked down? Aussie asked.
"They're gone," he said. "They always put them back."

It gets better. Cairn Man built cairns all over the place. He told us some names and they were far and wide, east of Albany, to the islands and all over Torndirrup.
They get dismantled regularly and the sum of their parts scattered or placed back where they came from. I could tell that it absolutely infuriated him. In fact, it made Cairn Man so upset that it had become his mission to regularly revisit these 'destroyed' cairns and rebuild them.
I also realised that on the day of the march flies, he didn't camp next to us because we were the only humanoid females on the beach. It was simply his spot.

I walked away from Whaler's Cove that day with more questions than answers and I've been wondering about it ever since - in my Enid Blyton moments, usually when someone is saying my name over and over. That afternoon, Aussie was plagued with my text messages.
"Maybe he needs people to knock them down, so he has something to get angry about, a life purpose?"
"Who puts all the stones back? Why?"
"Why does he build them? Art? Beauty? Post-pissing?"

That was about eighteen months ago. I haven't seen any of his cairns for a while. I haven't seen Cairn Man either.
A few months after that day, Aussie and I climbed down into the cave at The Gap.
It's just past the Natural Bridge and you have to know how to find it. You have to trust, to squeeze through the narrow passageway and wriggle through the next. It's very claustrophobic and there are moments of real fear.
Then, suddenly, you can stand up and walk into a cavern the size of two classrooms. Graffiti going back to the 1950s is daubed all over the granite. The surf booms in your ears and you feel way below sea level, even though the flat earthen floor is bone dry.

We lit some tea lights and looked around us. As our eyes became accustomed to the light, we both laughed wonderingly at the complete cairn, right in the centre of the cave.

Post Script: Maybe I have not been looking hard enough. I found the cairn pictured above, today out at Torndirrup. And just as interesting, I found this carving in the stone beneath it.
"C. Keyser. 1957"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Breath of the World

Swollen golden moon rose over Mt Martin and dwarfed a container ship that swung on its anchor, waiting.
The flathead of legend chose not to offer itself up to the wily entreaties of Old Salt, yet again.

Gawain is out checking his leather jacket pots. He bends over the beam, red anorak illuminated by the dangling fluorescent light. The wind drops. Water heaves with the breath of the world.

We pick up nets with rows of whiting heads and fish rendered utterly unrecognisable. Stingray.
I like stingrays. I like to stand in the water at Whalers Cove and watch their dark shadows fly by. But then I ate some one day and I never again felt the same compassion to tip them out of the net.

Staunch tugs nudge the Kwan Yin with her cranes, into the timber. The Goddess of mercy and motherhood once had her iconic place on dash of my car. She now distributes super phosphate all over the earth.

Wheat laden silos, smooth-plastered chrysalii amongst the preying mantis gantry, chugging conveyor belts, orange lights and steaming hot woodchips, waiting for those vessels high on the water, out near the islands. Ships in, ships out. Breathe in, breathe out.

The moon is swollen, fecund, bigger than seen in years, closer to the earth. She's right here.
The oceans rise up to her siren song. It's a huge tide. At the jetty, after only a few hours fishing out in the Sound, the briny is swilling all over the wooden planks and gently but forcefully, as water is wont to do, urging our return to land.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dorothy, Dorothy

Dorothy Porter has just died, of breast cancer at age 54.
She was my first verse novel. She writes (she wrote) spare, telling novels that you can read in an afternoon and then again the next afternoon because you just don't want to leave. A lesbian detective genre set in Sydney, the grotesque, nightmarish reign of an Egyptian Pharoah, a madhouse run by the rapist doctor.

Like Borges (although the bar is raised here and how to compare anyone to Jorge Luis Borges?) Porter could deliver a novel in a few pages, tightly drawn, poetic, rhythmic - and yet as dense and as intricate a tale as 70,000 words.

My first time; The Monkey's Mask. It was an epiphany, that moment when I knew exactly how it should be done. This is how to write, this is how to deliver a tale. By cutting it back and cutting it back until the bare bones are released and bleached stark with the sun's light.

She is an Australian Great. I still feel a bit stunned to think there won't be any more words from Dorothy Porter.

Verse Novels

Akhenaten 1991
The Monkey's Mask 1994
What a Piece of Work 1999
Wild Surmise 2002
Eldorado 2007

Photo. Steve Baccon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Big Cloud Town

This afternoon, steam rose from the bitumen roads.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Little Girl

Eclipse Island
A little girl, strayin' from the East.
It is the 1820's.
Our Allegiance-
India, England and
Not a white woman to be seen.
Sealers, they say
Are the scum of the Earth
They sailed her here,
This motherless child.

The lost child - painters love that theme. Led away by the twittering Gidaichy birds, deep into the bush, never to be seen again.
Sealers stole this lost little girl and took her to the ends of the earth, so far away that no one knew the sound of her name, and they dropped her over the edge.
She may have hailed from Van Diemans land, stolen with her mother for wives and divers of crayfish.
It is 1827, wild days. Allegiances were with India and England. Gangs of sealers roamed all along the south coast, dropped off by their boss on some godforsaken island with three months of victuals and told to await the return of the schooner. They could be waiting eight months, a year, forever. They found things to do with their spare time, like mounting violent raids to steal women from the mainland.

In Albany, sealers from the Hunter, a Hobart owned schooner, slid into the harbour in their dinghy to find the Amity and Lockyer waiting for them with a few questions.
"Why is there the body of a man on Green Island with a bullet through his side?"
"And why are there four more men marooned out on Michaelmas Island?"
The Major didn't know about the girl yet.

They were a colourful assortment, the gangs of the Hunter and the Governor Brisbane. Thomas Tasmin was a 'Blackman', as was Robert Williams, probably African Americans. William Hook was a Maori, Pigeon - a Sydney Aborigine. This was back in the Wild West days, long before the administration got bored enough to fiddle in eugenics or introduce a White Australia policy.
Not that the sealers would have taken any notice. These men were feral, pelagic like the Great White sharks that roamed the same winedark seas, well outside the jurisdiction of any fledgling nation state.

Hook confessed to taking the men out to the island, because he'd been asked to. The Aborigines wanted to go muttonbirding. I don't think they expected to have to swim back and it seems that they were quite dismayed to see the boat leave for shore again.

Four other sealers must have been feeling opportunistic with some of the tribal men away and, armed with cutlasses and guns, had left on a foray at 5 a.m. and abducted four woman from Oyster Harbour. Two escaped. The other two were taken to Breaksea Island.

On discovering this, Lockyer checked all the other islands around the Sound for women and culprits. On Eclipse Island, that craggy dinosaur of granite and low scrub that lies off Torndirrup, Lockyer found another woman, in terrible condition, "who had obviously suffered much at the rough hands of the sealer," Samuel Bailey.
The little girl is almost an aside when D.A.P. West tells the story in The Settlement on the Sound. After all the drama and public floggings to appease justice and assure the local Nyungars that they were Nice Ghosts, Lockyer "himself escorted the unfortunate woman and a small girl who had been Bailey's unwilling slaves."

A small girl.
The locals welcomed back their women but indicated that the Sydney Aborigine Pigeon should take the child home to his people. She wasn't Nyungar. She didn't belong with the two Tasmanian women, Dinah and Moonie, nor the woman stolen from the mainland opposite Kangaroo Island.

Lockyer wanted to keep Pigeon as he was a worthy interpreter. (Interesting huh? 270 language groups coast to coast.) So on the 24th of January 1827, three days after he officially annexed the whole western third of the continent to the British, he put the little girl aboard the Amity and sent her to the Governor in Sydney to deal with. He also put her persecutor Samuel Bailey on the same deck, to stand trial in Sydney for the murder of the Aboriginal man on Green Island, and sent the Maori, William Hook, to testify against him.

England's stake in the whole of Australia had been proclaimed and the work of the Amity was finished at King George Sound.

And the little girl? What happened to her? Did she survive? I think about her sometimes and wonder. The stories of Aboriginal women and children stolen by sealers are usually only documented in the form of begging letters requesting flour rations from the colonial administration. Maybe she is somewhere in the state records of New South Wales. I'd like to find her.
She is a lost child. She is folded back into history, stitched like a wraith of smoke into the inky night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bad Fairy

Miss Tooth Fairy has gone too far. I should have known this frail relationship wouldn't last until the molar stage. Now she wants hush money!
"You don't want his heart broken, do you?" She flexes some brawn on my doorstep and thumps her fist into her other palm. "Fifty dollars a month in this bank account will fix everything."
She is Good Fairy gone Bad, embittered by an identity crisis only the mythical can suffer, being told she does not exist, being told she does exist, supplanted by greedy parents who insist on keeping teeth themselves, then being blamed when they get drunk and forget to drop the cash in the jar of water.
"'The tooth fairy must have forgot!'", she mimics me. "I heard that, you know. I'm over it. I'm sick of being nice and forgiving. Just hand over the cash, bitch."
She won't accept peanut butter sandwiches, Anzac biscuts or counselling. She wants money or she will tell all, even where the stash is.

This makes me especially nervous because my ownership of these glossy, bloodied little pearls is dubious at best. I have been hoarding them, hiding them, bringing them out in secret late at night, just to look at them. One day I would like to make a necklace from them.
When I plead poverty, she says, "Okay, well just hand over the teeth and we're square. I can make a few add on sales somewhere. Come on, you owe me."
"No way!"
"Look darling," she levels me with a jaded, flinty eye. "Heaps of folk just chuck them out. What's the problem?"
"You are the problem!" I say, getting rather pissed off now. "Just tell him then! Go on! Break his heart. Santa just dropped in a few days ago and laid the hard word on me. So we might as well get the whole lot done in one shitty week!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

$How Shall I Spend Thee?$

It's official. I don't have to sell the children for scientific experiments until at least January.
Working a lot has been good for the bank balance but having a "child that attracts Family Tax Benefit Part A or B" makes life even better this week. My rigorous genetic selection criteria has paid off yet again. It's great having attractive children.

Sooo... mmm a thousand bucks, how shall I spend thee? It's a calculated move by the Man, delivered with all the same benevolence of Roosevelt's Resurrection campaign during the Great Depression. Imagine handing over a thousand bucks to every cashed up exec? It would be stashed under the bed quicker than your neighbourhood Casanova. Rudd knows that those on the bare bones of their arse will spend, spend, spend and right before Christmas too. Doesn't really matter what on.

Rough estimation time (and it is very rough because I'm having problems downloading Census data) - a population of 28,000, an ageing demographic who are likely to be as attractive as my children + 3,000 primary school children, fifty percent of whom are attractive.

This equates to at least one eighth of this town's population being in the aisles of Kmart by Wednesday next week. That's three and a half million dollars, a conservative estimate, injected into this town's retail sector in a matter of days.

A friend says, "Why don't I get a thousand bucks? I could do with a thousand bucks."
"You're a single, white male," I tell him, suddenly feeling heady and arrogant due to ingesting too many economic stimulants. "You don't have to pay the tooth fairy her hush money."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Flotsam #3 Rubbish

My son arrived on the long, hot toil home from school, ambling past the road side chuck-out and collecting bits and pieces as he went. Originally, it was bicycles he was intending on rebuilding but it is rapidly degenerating each day into defunct barbeques, sofa lounges and old men's suitcases.

"But look, it's got a waterproof covering!" he cried, giving me the remnants of a busted umbrella. "It's got that famous artist all over it." Van Gogh's Sunflowers. "I brought it back because I thought you would love it, Mum." Hmmm. What to do.
It calls for diplomacy, humility and the love only a mother can give, on the day you are presented with a broken umbrella by your son because it has Van Gogh's sunflowers all over it. "Take it out to the verge, son!" I tell him. "It's really pretty and I've trained you well but ..."

The city of Albany is entering a new phase in the art of recycling rubbish. Every couple of months they throw everything out of the tip shop and into the dump. It's strange policy for an administration that is trying to avoid landfill. Their next strategy is even better. It's called 'Waste Minimisation.'

Have you tried to give away a television lately?
Oven? Computer? I mean actually give it away, no strings attached. Ask your neighbour/best friend/policeman/day care lady/guy on a park bench if they want a free TV/oven/computer/printer/scanner/microwave. Odds are they will say no because they bought a you-beaut piece of shit for $29.95 just the other day from Hardly Normal, because it's cheaper to buy a new printer than replace the ink cartridge. Either that or they are hocked up to the eyeballs on G.E. Finance, trying to pay off something a whole lot more expensive.

I discovered this recently, when having to clear out two whole households of functioning electrical debris. You can't give it away.
The next step for me is to ask the Op Shops. No. Everything electrical must be certified by an electrician as being safe to use, due to State government legislation that came in about six months ago.

I finally found a nice old lady at one Op Shop, who said she would take the bedside lamp, computer monitor, scanner, television and breadmaker on the condition that she would ask for a donation only and not make a sale on the items. Blessed are the resourceful elders, hey?

The Albany Tip Shop won't take anything electrical, any soft goods such as mattresses, clothes, couches, shoes, gas appliances or toys. It has morphed into a sad arrangement of failed pottery careers, oversized,wooden balinese salad spoons and wardrobes with Lego stickers all over them. This is all down to the city's 'Waste Minimisation Strategy', something that primary school kids visit these days as part of their educational experience.

Strong words? Do you know how heart broken I was to sit two perfectly good televisions and a gas stove upright in the rain at the dump and hope that someone would take pity on them and give them a good home? Meanwhile the landfill grows at an exponential rate due to a window between the availability of cheap, expendable crap and the council's inability to deal with the resulting effluent.

I also have a grudge. This is the girl who has letters after her name, due to an unfortunate incident where I was banned for good from the tip face for 'scavenging' two dozen pots of Cymbidium orchids. I don't know anyone else who has been banned from the dump, which is why I appropriated the letters for myself. Sarah Toa.BFTT.(Grad Dip.)

(I think after that spray I will have to find a use for the Van Gogh umbrella.)