Friday, April 30, 2010

Not a Problem!

In a cafe today:

Me: "Can I have a mug of flat white?"
Waitress, a local beauty: "Sure!"
Me: "And can I have one of those meal-in-one muesli cookies?"
Waitress: "No wuckers!"

How I love the Aussie language. Let's break that 'No wuckers' down ...

I think it began somewhere back when people would say, "Not a problem, sir/ madam/ miss."
It morphed into, "No worries,"
Then, "No worries, mate."
Then, "No fucking worries, mate."
Then, (for the more delicate of ears) "No wucking forries, mate."
And finally, "No wuckers."

Ain't that great?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm As Mad As Hell and I'm Not Gonna Fake it Anymore

This post is comprised of a letter that I handed to the manager of a local fishing and tackle store yesterday. It's to do with a fisho-political shitfight that's going on in this town right now. To put it in some kind of perspective, there is a petition campaign waged by two recreational anglers to stop netting in Oyster Harbour on the premise that the by-catch is largely under sized black bream. It's an easy petition to get signed in the macho-charged environment of a fishing and tackle shop.

Commercial fishos, those shadowy, old families of the town are, well, upset to say the least.

Yesterday, I bought my yearly quota of wet weather gear there (really nice purple quilted, waterproof jacket and plastic pants, yay). I spent the money I'd earned catching fish - totally appropriate I thought, until I saw the petition. It was a moment. It made me feel like a total fuckwit, for handing money to this man. The only way to get the shit off my liver was to give him this letter.

Dear manager of major local fishing and tackle store,

I have been fishing Oyster Harbour commercially for a couple of years. This morning I bought from your store some wet weather gear and Polaroid sunglasses. I noticed that I handed my cash (from netting black bream) to you over the top of Robertson's petition on the counter. The irony does not escape me.

Robertson's petition is premised on the slander that we as commercial netters catch under size bream and kill it. We use large mesh and rarely catch under size fish as a result. If we do catch under size bream, anyone who knows the fish can tell you that they remain alive for a long time and so, consequently, are thrown back alive. It's easy for people to get hysterical about the netting of fish if they don't know these facts.

Over the years I have bought tents, shoes, raincoats, fish cleaning gear, fish smokers, lures and many other items from your store. Today for the first time, the money transaction made me feel sick and a bit used. I looked around at all the anglers' gear and back at the petition. I thought about Robertson's plan for a Black Bream Classic. I realised that as a small local business, you are not supporting the community, only looking after your own best interests.

This petition is slanderous against a small minority of workers who make their living in an honest and sustainable manner. You are helping to perpetuate this slander in order to sell more fishing rods.

As a result, I will no longer shop at your store. I will go the the nation-wide franchise along the highway and encourage other people who support local commercial fishers to do the same.

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Toa.

It's been a week - the Toa in me is sniffing the wind and getting more annoyed by the moment. I really feel for those old Albany fishing families who are having to justify their existance against this kind of leisurely bullshit.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Selkie Skin, Pallawah Skin

The Selkie mythology derives from cool waters of the northern hemisphere and the language of the seal people. Selkies were seals who could turn into human beings and back into seals again, by shedding their skins like wetsuits. This mythology is easily transposable to Antipodean history and I will show you why.

An old origin of Selkie stories is that of the 'Fin Folk' - a dastardly, frightening mob who swarmed into small coastal colonies, shed their skins and ravished the women, even stole them away. These Fin Folk were Scandinavian men (possibly from Finland) who paddled their animal hide kayaks over to Irish and Scottish outposts. As they travelled this icy journey, their skin canoes absorbed water and sank deeper and deeper. Still they paddled, until they reached the coast and by then they were strange creatures to behold, their ocean-going craft beneath the water and only the trunks of their bodies visible, fleets of human invaders travelling magically through the sea.

You can only imagine the warnings within those Celtic seaside households, from father to mother to daughters, to daughters, to daughters. The people of the Orkney were so afraid of the attentions of these Fin Folk that mothers would paint a cross in blood on their daughter's breasts, to protect them, before they undertook a sea journey.

Eventually the Selkie myth transformed from fearsome invaders to angelic, sexualised sea spirits. Selkies became female, sirens even. Selkies were the seals who, on a full moon, were able to shed their skins and become human. They danced and sang on the shores of the Orkneys. They brushed their manes of long red hair and stroked with wonder the new curves of their pale, pale bodies.

If a man could find a Selkie skin when she shed it on the sea shore, he would have power over that seal woman. He could keep her as a wife and, if he had babies with this Selkie spouse, he could make her stay, so long as he never divulged to her the whereabouts of her skin. She forever hunted for it, torn between her love for her children and for her kin and the sea. Often the husband was desperately in love with his free spirited seal wife, beholden to her and yet tormented by his knowledge that she would leave him the moment she found her own skin.

In 'The Red Curtains', I wrote an Australian version of the Selkie fable. The story crosses over surprisingly well when you consider our history. Most Selkie stories come from regions in the north where people hunted seals. They hunted seals here too - and the sealers, in the tradition of the Fin Folk, stole women right off the beaches.

The Pallawah women of Tasmania were famed for their swimming and diving skills, garnering muttonfish (abalone) and crayfish from the deep. These women, when the sealers hit the Bass Strait, were traded as wives for kinship rights and the more immediate concerns of dogs and food, but they were also stolen away as they went down to the shore to hunt and gather.

Early in the morning the women meander on the beach, with their kid daughters, toeing tidal sands for cockles and oysters, filling string bags with meat and juicy samphire. A whaleboat laden with strangers comes, a dark spider across the water ...

Once a sealer had chosen his wife, her life choices narrowed into a thin string of circumstance. Often she lived with a few of her peers on an island populated with Irish, African American, English, Maori or Indian men and women. Her homeland and family from what is now named Tasmania was being decimated by wars, and Black Line genocide, her people hunted down. She worked hard. She scraped salt, fished, killed seals, hunted tammar and made some mercenary decisions about her numerous pregnancies. A thousand cuts. Always, she looked for her skin.

It is a dangerous place, in changing times, on the sea shore.

Selkie image - Forest Rogers , www.
Pallawah image - Sketch of Van Diemen's Land. D. Colbrun Pearce.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Help Save Our Sound

We are blogging to Save Our Sound from dredging, infilling the last piece of natural coastline on the southside of the harbour and dumping the (possibly) mercury-infested spoils inside King George Sound.

Yes. This is my WineDark go at garnering supporters, followers and commenters.
And think about it - clicking on 'follow this blog' makes helping our cause so much easier than standing in the rain collecting signatures.
We'd like hundreds of followers, from all over the world, so we can send the link to every single Grange Resources shareholder and board member and show them just how unsexy we think their portfolio is.

Here's the link. Save Our Sound

For more information on the international makeup of Grange Resources, check out Michelle's post on A Cave by the Sea, "Selling off, Selling Out."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Short History of Thing Lust

There was a Thing that sat in the garden of my hippy, mad scientist neighbour; a broken thing, turquoise blue. It was a piece of pottery that I walked by everyday on my way for a teapot cup of tea. It lay in his garden like a sidelined, problematic friend; beautiful, neck broken, stretched up into a truncated crimson passion.

"Can I have that busted vase, Bob?"
"No ... a friend made it and gifted it to me." It was special to him, this piece.
For years, whenever I visited, I lusted after this broken thing shining in the wintergrass. Not his enamel chamberpots found in ancient bush camps, his late night dope-induced brilliance, the pages of scrawled music, guitars in galvanised and padded cases, his C.G. Von Brandenstein's Nyungar language first edition books; just that broken vase. The bower bird in me just wanted to possess that pretty turquoise and crimson glaze.

One day. Dying he was and decided it was up to me, as his former neighbour and old friend, to look after things.
And that vase, turquoise with a crimson throat and broken at the neck, lies in the same place, patient against a long, dried out summer and the emerald green of a post-thunderstorm nitrogen-cranked rain. It has never lost its whacky, oriental glow. Twenty years later and after all my pestering, it was never gifted to me but every morning, during my teapot cup of tea, I catch its gypsy flare amongst the leaves.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reader Writer Reader

Good Friday wasn't all Bad. A few hours after all the excitement of a close encounter with Super Fisheries Officer Guy, the managing editor of indigo journal drove me out to Denmark, to the Tea House Bookshop. She'd twisted my arm into reading my stories, for the launch of her latest edition.
I am not a media tart. I am not a media tart. Despite being called that all weekend because my picture was on the front of the local paper sitting in a little rowboat with a bald pirate and brandishing some pilchards, I really am not a media tart, honest. I like to sit at home and write things and then go fishing. It strikes me that a lot of people known for their gregarious, out there, 'yang' nature, are actually quite shy. The thought of standing in front of forty people and reading my story out loud was, and still is, quite horrifying.
"Have you got a copy for me to practise reading?" I asked Donna in the car.
"Have you practised at all?" she sounded a bit worried.
"Well ... not really."
It was getting dark, so I read it out as quickly as possible.
"You've got to pause for commas and full stops, Sarah."
"Okay ... At least most of this story is true," I mused. It was in the non-fiction section.
"What do you mean? Are they verifiable facts?"
"Well, everything happened ... just not all at the same time. The bit where the Maori woman scares the crap out of that bikie, that happened at the Royal George in 1989. But that doesn't matter does it? It still happened."
Poor Donna. First, her opening act had not, ever, practised a word of reading out loud, then I get flaky with the facts in my non-fiction piece.
She drove on, resolute. It wasn't a patch on getting her house flooded during the Perth storm only a few days before, anyway.
We got there and I read it out and it was fine, after the first few minutes when I thought I'd do an octopus and die of apoplectic embarrassment.

Esteemed local poet Caroline Caddy selected the poetry for this issue and she gave a talk on her selection process. She said something - and I really want to write about that tonight. I cannot remember her exact words but got the sentiment, so I'm paraphrasing here:

"The poems that I selected are aware of the reader. They are not insular, inward-looking poems. They attempt to communicate something to a person unknown, who, in return, sees what the writer is seeing and feels what the writer is feeling. This kind of poetry negotiates a kind of relationship between the writer and the reader."

Caroline Caddy put this so succinctly and elegantly (perhaps her profession of putting words in the right order has something to do with it) and I can't really do her quote justice enough. But it perfectly encapsulated something that I began thinking about a few years ago.

Perhaps all writers begin with introspection, sorting out their minds with pages and pages of scrawled down emotions. I don't know. I know I did. The heap of diaries, had not they been burnt in a fit of teary pique, would be testimony to that. About eighteen months ago, I realised that I didn't really want to write stories for myself anymore. I wanted to write for other people, tell them ripping yarns, a lot of fibs that lie closer to truth, in that insidious, convoluted way that only beautiful lies can do.

This minor epiphany changed the whole way I saw the writing thing. Now it is more of a construction effort, in constant need of tweaking. It's not gonna kill me, like it may have a few years ago, if someone gets out the red pen. Editing is nearly exciting as ice cream with sprinkles, now.
I want to communicate with a reader.
I'm not happy, anymore,
with good work stashed in a drawer.
I just need to practise the act of reading out loud, maintaining a heartbeat and breathing, all at the same time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Albany Portraits This Week

The Wedding

Red HT GTS Monaro
Ahead of a red Ford, same ilk,
(Now there's a marriage of compromises).
Babies, Mums and Dads wait at the beach restaurant.
They don't fight for parking, this day,
Those white crepe paper ribbons over the bonnet
Give them right of way.

Tom the Piper,
Always a random element,
Just happens to be warming up,
On the white sand, as the easterly swell rolls in.

Cruel Flower

Rose sits, all legs. One ankle rests on her other knee.
She drinks beer and drags on a rollie.
Thin legs, thin hair,
With glinting studs in her ears
And hungry, glittering eyes.
She could be a guy, with that hungry look, I think,
If it weren't for a flowering of blood through
The crotch of her jeans.

House Fever

He jingles his keys
He plays with a plastic bag
He chinks coins
His fingers rub against each other, 'til they click.
At work, he doesn't do any of those things.

Year Seven

One day at school without his meds
And Lachie loses every single fight that he starts.

Ooga Booga

He's 50.
He's carrying gift-wrapped fish and chips.
From the fish and chip shop
To his family's summer house.
He recalculates the value of the ageing beach-house blocks
From last year,
From the last fifteen steps.
He really wants a piss
Because he had to wait so long
For the fryers to heat up
And there's too many houses
And not enough bushes.

Albany Classifieds This Week

wanted - second hand rifles, shotguns and gun safes. Cash paid. ph ...
Holden parts or whole car, EH - HG, 6 cyl. Grandpa to teach g/kids basic mechanics. Can pick up. cheap or free if poss. ph ....
Workshop manual to suit Lister 1, 2, or 3 cylinders. ph ...
Kitchen cupboards and overheads. 2.8 mm min. ph ...