Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beautifully Out of Order

There is always a strange kind of beauty in the obsolete.

The most gorgeous good ship Not For Sale,
The house with corrugated iron windows,
A circus graveyard in the shadow of Mt Wellington,
A recalcitrant swing
And the bar fridge that promises you everything of the best,
tomorrow ...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Women and Dogs

"It was a singular sight to see the women return from the bird rookery with their numerous dogs, most of them of a very large kind. Robinson counted up to forty and was told there was fifty on Gun Carriage. At Woody Island there were ten besides the herd of dogs the women have taken with them to Flinders. There cannot be less than two hundred dogs in these straits, all of a large description. Most of these islands are infested with wild dogs.

From the sealers, the natives have obtained a great many dogs. The natives have stolen them when the boats come ashore."

G.A. Robinson, 12/11/1830.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Archival Magic ...

Colonial Times 21st August 1829

The Black Natives

On Saturday last, a tribe of black natives visited Tea Tree Bush, a circumstance rather remarkable, insomuch as our readers are aware, it is a rather populous district. Their approach having been discovered by Mrs Smith, who fled, leaving only one infant chid. They plundered the house of such articles as they could consume and carried off the babe!! Upon Mrs Smith alarming her neighbours and returning to the house, she found the infant gone. The feeling of the parents, of course, are more easily imaged than described!! A pursuit was instantly commenced, when, within about one mile from the house, the little child was found lying on the grass, and what is very remarkable, a quantity of sugar placed near its mouth. We may easily conjecture how overjoyed the parents of the child were. This humanity on the part of the black natives, shews that they are not of so savage a nature, as they have hitherto been supposed to be; or that they now have sense enough to discriminate between the innocence of a child, and of the grown people, who they doubtless consider their invaders and enemies.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Curious Body and Mine

Tonight a friend looked at me from across the table.
"You're different. What is it? You've lost lots of weight."
"Dunno. What am I doing differently? I've stopped fishing."
My favourite jeans are falling off me. Whenever this happens I think that the denim is getting looser in its weave or stretch. I never suspect the opposite, that my body is shrinking away from them.
"You're leaner, curvier, more girly, or something."
"I've stopped fishing. That's all."
"That's it. You were always pumped. You're losing all that muscle. " He stopped and looked at me again. "What are you going to do now?"
"Oh, I don't know! Ride my bike more?"

My fingernails are growing. Years of wearing briny wet gloves have softened them to a constantly tearable state that included strange fungal incursions into the quicks. Three weeks after giving up the fishing I've realised I'm going to have to file them or cut them or something, because they're growing harder and stronger every day.

My hair and skin, oddly, is drier and less healthy, despite all the salt and windburn that they copped on the boat.

When I first started fishing, my body muscled up within weeks and then hardened into a well oiled net-hauling machine. She repossessed the memory from my adolescent years of swimming, canoeing and running.

I quite like these sudden life changes and watching how this body I'm living in adapts to them. Pregnancy, working a lawnmowing round, fishing, setting up garden centres, running, sitting on my arse studying, breastfeeding, courier driving ...
... They are the most curious, intuitive things, aren't they, our bodies?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'Fusty' is a Word that Springs to Mind

It's a real shame to see bookshops major and minor collapsing all over the place. People say there's no money in books anymore. I disagree. I can go into a bookshop for a browse and come out a hundred bucks poorer, a hundred years richer.

What bugs me is trying to order a book in. I have said many times "I want to buy from you, not some internet depository. So can you get me this particular book?" Eight weeks later, I'm still dropping in and asking whether my book has arrived. It seems there is a deal with the publishers - orders have to be backed up with twelve others from the said publisher before they can afford to send a parcel from Perth or Sydney or wherever. It's the same scenario with music. Sometimes I even get a wry face with a "Sorry, I don't think it was ordered at all," after eight weeks.
Why don't they try to flog me Ebooks or a sexy Kindle? No wonder they are going broke.

The clunkiness of this system in the face of their online competitors just frustrates the hell out of me. I'd be happy if the bookshop folk went on the internet, ordered the book straight from the publisher and charged me the commission and the postage. I'd pay for the pleasure of walking into the shop and buying a book meant just for me. (In fact, recently I made a local bookseller do that and it only worked because I knew him and told him I wasn't credit carded enough to buy it online.)

No bookshop in the universe, other than those ones that include clicking, 'shopping trolleys' and credit cards, can stock every book we could ever lust for. So why is it so hard for small bookshops to get in on the act, instead of going out of business and blaming the internet or the lack of people who happenchance their shop?
Honestly, why is it so hard?
Sorry but I have no sympathy for the broken bookshops. On the other hand perhaps it is just a Westralian thing and elsewhere there are bookshops that are embracing this new movement of literature and thriving.

 ... discussion is welcome.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A WineDark Sea

A WineDark Sea turned into, among other things, a story about the commercial fishers on the south coast of Western Australia and especially that intrepid septuagenarian Old Salt. Don't fret, this isn't an obituary. As I have written before, you can't kill Old Salt with an axe. It does bother me that this year he will be fishing alone, most of all because when he had his last 'mishap' his loyal deckie was around to put his nose back on and call an ambulance.

 This year I'm devoting my time to dropping a completed book on the publisher's desk, looking after Storm Boy, my hulking swim-like-a-seal teenage son, building a fetching and comfortable abode at Kundip and finishing the thesis. Two years into my PhD candidature, I've got twelve months of stipend left to nail this work, create something beautiful, or else find full time work and spend the next decade trying to finish it. As MF has written, it is a major rites of passage in anyone's life and I want the finished product to be something I don't feel I could improve upon later.
So, for the moment the fishing has to go.

The Sunday market has been so much fun and helped renew a fresh seafood groundswell in our maritime town. But working Sundays meant I have been working seven days a week for the last three years. Didn't feel like work, most of the time and that's not my beef anyway. It's the commitment. Number 5 Aquarians can't handle that factor for too long. I've quit once or twice and Old Salt has sacked me too but we always end up back at sea and bringing our produce to the markets.

This isn't a rash decision. Rashes, even trumpeter spikes, don't come into it. I've been working up to this for a year now. Old Salt is cranky with me even though he's had twelve months notice. He came around and picked up the filleting table the other day, the table I have spent many a Saturday afternoon cleaning flathead and whiting and black bream on, listening to Johnny Cash and the Sundowners radio show on 100.9 fm. He wanted the knives back too but I busted one blade trying to scrape flesh off a boomer hide and the other knife is 300km away in Kundip. Reckon I've earned them anyway.

Commercial fishing is not an easy life but it's a beautiful life. The work has been my muse for five years. It's helped me shape ideas about sea people, how they are intrinsically different to land people. I've seen some things that I find impossible to attach words to and other things that have made my words bloom on the page. Witchery it is, when it happens.

The other job I am culling this year is tutoring at the uni. Again, wonderful work. Reining in my deckie's mouth, whilst taking a class through the last coupla centuries' founding sociologists, has been a challenge. I usually overcome this foible by getting out of my fishing boots and putting on a nice pair of shoes. The students seem to get through okay. I think they like my class. In fact another tutor and I were nominated for a few teaching awards last year and because it was the first time that it had ever happened in our rural, satellite campus, nobody knew quite what to do about it.
But again ... headspace cramming and 'commitment restructuring' means the tutoring has to go, for the moment.

Sam Neill, the actor, said once, "Always trust your talent, never your career." I wrote that quote in black texta on my toilet wall. It looks tacky because the print is fading and I sort of scribbled it down in my excitement but it has felt like my manifesto for a long time now. I'm good at teaching. I'm good at writing and I'm fucking good at catching fish.

Old Salt reckons I can go fishing with him whenever I want and I'm going to take him up on that offer. Mmm, fishing when I feel like it. Far out.
So there will still be a few fishing stories on A WineDark Sea. I'd like to buy a license from him too. If twenty five thousand of my loyal readers gave me a dollar each, I'd almost be there. In the meantime, stay tuned. Times they are a'changing. I'm just not sure how much or in what direction, yet but I'm already missing all the action. In the last week, I've become a boat ramp tragic.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What Was in the Bottle?

Aw ... okay then ...
I cracked away the blue wax and removed the cork from the bottle while sitting by the fireplace later on that evening. The Glad bag inside was easy to pull out because whoever had inserted it had done so with much care to leave a twist in the mouth of the bottle.
 The message was tightly rolled. It looked like whoever had thrown it into the briny had bought a 'message in a bottle' kit and it was from a lad who lived in Perth. The date was 19th of December, 2010.


 But then, rolled inside that letter were two business cards. One from a man who fixed garage doors and another from his wife ...


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Message in a Bottle

Whilst collecting firewood or stone at Kundip I am the happiest girl in the world. When I found a bottle with a message inside washed up on Masons Bay, something shifted in the definition of a happy Toa.
Imagine finding a true blue message in a bottle ...
I did, on New Year's Eve.

I picked it up. Potter, walking along the beach ahead of me, stopped when he saw my consternation and stillness.
"I've found a message in a bottle!"
He jumped around and whooped and waved and said, "I've walked for miles along beaches. I've found ambergris. The bane of whales. Ambergris! I've never found a message in a bottle. I've been looking my whole life for a message in a bottle."

I too have been searching the beaches my whole life for a message in a bottle. The strange thing was that when I found a Glad sandwich bag stuffed into a tiny bottle, lying in the kelp I felt no surprise, no amazement. I've walked countless shores and waited and hoped for this moment. And now ... here it is, just like I thought it would always happen. Fate. True love. The Leeuin Current. Whatever.

"Open it," he said.
The bottle was small and stoppered with a cork, sealed with blue wax.
"I think I'll wait." I put the bottle into my handbag.
It was New Years Eve after all.