Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Self medication: mushrooms, crabs, sunshine, poetry.

Happy Winter Solstice folks! We didn't have a family bonfire this year, instead there was major flooding, lightning bringing down power lines, wind at 9 or 10 on the Beaufort scale uprooting whole trees and other extenuating circumstances that involved women without nipples...*

 During this time I've had the worst head cold in years, spent a fair bit of time at the inlet cold, sick and lonely (in isolation basically; no one wants me any where near them), surrounded in butter menthol wrappers and dirty dishes. Yes, and whingy whiny too. So a day or so before the Solstice, when the morning was still and warm with pre-storm languour, I popped a mushroom in my mouth and dragged my sorry carcass down to the beach to sit on a rock, to feel the sun ripple through my chilled spine.

I sat on the same rock where I snapped the crocodile a month or so ago and sipped some hot apple cider vinegar and honey. Over at the boat ramp sat a white ute with fish tubs on the back. Couldn't see the man's boat and then I could - a white rooster tail over the other side of the inlet. As he got closer, I could see that it was Steeleye, his red checked shirt and khaki waders his standard dress code. Dog sat to attention at my feet and whined.

We chatted about the cobbler while he packed the fish. 'Caught three last night', he said as he hefted some stingray wings into the icebox. This is really unusual here and worrying for me as I love wading. 


Pelicans began to crowd his boat, growling at each other like kelpies waiting for the scraps. Steeleye gave me a couple of blue manna crabs, rare as well in these parts but the inlet was open for so long last year that all sorts of strange things have been going on - cobbler, stingrays, blue mannas. I even found a marron once, trying to find the fresh and stranded in salt water.

The shroom began to kick in, doing its work on my molars first and spreading to my jaws, behind my eyes. I thanked Steeleye for the crabs and gathered them up by their claws. Walking up to the house, a lightening of my spine and the clicking of crabs at my side, I heard Steeleye's ute rattle along the track, boat trailer thumping behind. Wouldn't be back for a while, he'd said, too many yellow eye mullet and they're only 40 cents a kilo at the moment.

Back in the kitchen I boiled up the crabs to crimson and spread newspaper over the bench. Wasabi and some vinegar in a little bowl. I jointed the crabs' limbs and sucked out my first feast of the season, lifted the carapaces and vinegared away the yellow guts.

I was supposed to drive down south and stay with family that night before the Solstice but I couldn't handle the thought of swagging it on the floor, sick. So instead I fed on fresh crabs, feeling the heady rush of the shroom trip swimming into the fuggy ache of the head cold, listening to Marianne Faithful recite The Lady of Shalott.#

* Not really.

# 'She Walks in Beauty' by Marianne Faithful and Warren Ellis is a wonderful album if you are into either of these two AND the Romantic poets all in one place.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Searching for shacks

 Bird and I went hunting in the bush for shacks.

It's shack country after all, the country of old mining ventures and recent ancient massacres. Anyway, after several wrong leads that ended up being kangaroo tracks, we found the shack I'd come across years before, by the side of the River Steere.

 It'd been built by an idealist and by the tea cup hooks, I'm thinking an aesthetic thinker too. There was a pile of kindling protected from weather by tin, a well, created from an old rain water tank that had a run-off tin, a fish smoking set up and an open rainwater tank with a stick thoughtfully placed in the centre to save bees and other critters from drowning. The sense you get from this shack dweller and their thoughts is that they were profoundly sensitive to their environment, yet wanted to live within it.

Bird and I went down to the river to have a cup of tea from her thermos. We didn't talk about the shack much. We hadn't seen each other for a while and there were more important things to discuss. We drank from paper cups as the pups whizzed around on the river bed.

It's gold country, hard country. It's easy to imagine a man building this shack, smoking fish and panning for gold, living on the edge of the river.

I never saw myself as Davy Crockett when I built a shack about 20 kilometres from where we sat. After we'd had our cup of tea, Bird and I walked back through the flowering hakeas and pooled wheel ruts, got into the four wheel drive and went to my hut that I'd built myself.


Friday, June 4, 2021

On Hitch Hiking #2

It's quiet tonight and the only sounds are the dog licking her feet beside the fire and the local owlet nightjar doing her four point calls before roosting. I've just returned from a south coast road trip that I set out upon a week ago. It's so good to be back in my own bed after sleeping in hotel rooms and my swag every night.

I was headed for the Esperance Readers and Writers Festival, the final weekend of several months of readers and writers getting together in the remote outpost (not that the locals would call it that) of a little port town on the south coast of Western Australia. 

The drive was more than 700km so I broke it up by staying with my son the first night, dropped off the dog for him to care for and set out again the next morning. Driving east meant getting into the salmon gum and mallee country that I so loved when I built a little shack in a ghost town out that way. The deep dive into the river systems of the Phillips and the Fitzgerald is always a moment I find exhilarating. I do love this part of the earth.

Five kilometres past Ravensthorpe, I stopped for an older woman walking along the highway, dragging a pink suitcase. As a perennial hitch hiker it is my karmic responsibility to pick up other hitch hikers and there she was, sticking out her thumb and reckoning with me to slow down and pick her up. 'Why didn't you stay closer to town?' I asked her as I threw her suitcase on the back of the ute. 'People are driving too fast to pick you up once the speed limit is upped.' Hitch hikers' rule: stay close to town rather than walk out to the 110 kph zone. She grinned and did a little dance, sang an approximation of Nutbush City Limits and then said, 'I'm like a kelpie dog, love. Just have to keep moving. There's no way you'd catch me sitting around on the outskirts of town. I have to keep walking.' She had short blonde hair, she looked strong, her eyes gimlet brown. Later on the drive she told me that she was 72 and her oldest daughter is the same age as me. She also told me she is a prophet.

Here's where the hitch hiking thing gets weird. When I tell people this story of picking up a septuagenarian, homeless prophet, they ask 'So what were her prophesies? What did you learn?' or, like my son, they'll say 'Mum, you are the only person I've ever met who could find a story like that from a simple road trip.' (That's fair enough. I'm the only person he's ever met who, when buying a car, had an exotic Indian Ringneck parrot thrown into the deal.) The thing is, when you pick up a hitch hiker who is not nuero-typical AND a prophet, it's a job to avoid road trains, keep up conversation and the peace and this is often a over a period of several hours and within the cramped confines of a ute cab. So no, I didn't press her on her prophesies but I did hear a thing or two about Prince Philip ('The Queen was giving out chairs and the one with his name on it was empty. Same day he passed.' Meaningful look) and of course the Corona Virus.

Just out of Ravensthorpe, the visuals of salmon gum country are quite suddenly smashed by the new mines; massive upheavals of dirt and trees and minerals. It's quite full on and we were stopped on some samphire flats by a road crew who were building an overhead conveyor belt to cart ore. 'Why are we waiting like this?' cried the prophet and then chattered through some more family history. Then she was impatient again at the standing still line of road trains ahead of us. She opened the car door and was about to step out. Kelpie mode. Keep moving.

'Hey, get back in,' I said. 'Listen to the radios.' I have a UHF in my car, permanently set on channel 40 because it picks up most road crew and truckies' comms. 'Have a listen to this.' 

'It's just common fucking sense,' crackled one road train driver to the road crew supervisor. 'There's no one standing on the side of the road, it's a fucking traffic light and there's no one coming the other way. Just let us through mate.' In the indelicate communications that followed between the two, some kind of treaty was brokered and finally the road trains ahead of us began to move. The prophet grabbed my radio console. 'Jesus loves you guys!' she shouted. 'Thanks for the excellent entertainment.' and slammed the radio back in its slot.  

Sunday, May 23, 2021

How not to die 101

 Raging storm here tonight ... the crashing of branches on the roof as fronts move through and the chill of a nasty sou-westerly.

It's been just over a year since (and you know the rest of the sentence wherever you sit on the globe). Right before our state government shut down regional borders and restricted travel, a few randoms turned up at the inlet where I live. Their thinking was that since this is one of the more remote places in the state, free of people and other anxieties, that it was a good destination to ride out what we all thought would be a month or so of this pandemic. Heh.

Anyway, a man turned up here in his camper van. He's a regular Bibbulmum track walker who normally lives in the city. We sat on the verandah one day and chatted. We were both a bit frazzled. He was contemplating returning to the city and I'd been consigned to teaching via zoom for the rest of semester. He started telling me a bit about his life. His brother had died in what was "a bit of an odd manner".

*Sarah's ears prick up*

Apparently this man's brother was about to go on a fishing trip and needed some worms for bait. The previous night, he'd had a yarn with someone at the pub about how to catch worms. So what you do right, is cut the female end off an extension cord and push it into the earth, then plug the male end into a power socket and turn it on. This punter told old mate's brother that the voltage through the soil would force the subterranean worms to the surface and that he could just go around and pick them up.

Perfect! So simple! So, he followed the punter's instructions to the letter. Unfortunately, when he went out in the morning to collect the worms, he was bare footed and had left the power on.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Boomer meets Selkie

 In the gloaming hours, those hours between dog and wolf, I was woken by my dog. She was barking, howling, at an ageing kangaroo kicked out by his mob and condemned to a life ending by the inlet. They both stared at each other, an old boy roo and my dog. After hours, indeed years, the boomer took off and chased the dog along the track.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Cockle bottle

 A baby cockle walks into a bottle:

Just found this in an old bottle collection that we are collating. The very image stinks of poetics and story telling, yes? 'Double shell', said a friend who understands filter feeders. 'No octopus would ever get to this cockle.' She paused. 'It would have been safe from predators for  its whole life.' We were cooking dinner together. We looked at the bottle again. 'It's just so sad,' she said. 'Its whole life ...'

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Broke Ness Monster

Look. I'm more than a bit bothered by this talk of monsters.


I mean, it's bullshit right? A freshie at Broke Inlet, indeed an endangered and protected Johnson River Croc sighted on the Southern Ocean.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

A meta mayday

 Through the deep sand track bordered by blood root

he towed the boat, bouncing on its trailer, to the water's edge.

He backs up to a stony boat ramp, peppered with blue bathroom tiles and asbestos

scattered to ward off the clay.

Tilts up the motor, pushes the boat off its rollers

until it sploshes into the water.

Checks his nets are pulled over all neat.

First set of the season.

Smoke rises lazy from a chimney to the north.

He can hear her chopping fire wood in the still wind,

the sound of her axe cutting through still air.

May Day and the inlet season begins.

Motor rumbles into life, peaceably.

Watch for the rocks.

Watch for the rocks.

Chug chug with the prop lifted high.

It dies ... pull again.

Birds call their evening alarm and drizzle

slides from his water proofs. 

Choke: check

Fuel pump: check.

The fisherman knows from the smell that she's burning green peppermint  wood.

'Brooom!' and the gentle hum of a 4 stroke behaving itself.

Jam it into reverse and back away.

Turn the tiller to port, jam it into ahead.

And off he goes

through the labyrinth of stones

then he fires up the throttle to go set the nets.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Some thoughts after reading a novel all day

 Firstly, how privileged am I to be able to read a novel all day, uninterrupted by anything but long weekend bush warriors doing jet ski burnouts.

It's been grey skies for days. My solar powered batteries have been so depleted that the inverter gave up the ghost. 'The fuse has blown' was my first thought. But logic kicked in. No sun, no inverter, no satellite, no mobile phone, no internet, no lights. Still have hot water and cooking facilities though. Turn it off and then on again, after the sun has been out for a little while.

Tomatoes are finished for the season. The green ones with white star bottoms straight to the kitchen sink window sill to ripen. Who even thought to use cable ties to stake them? Was that really me using single use plastics? Now I need secateurs to cut the cable ties and then I have to chuck said ties in the bin! Fuck.

Thank god for that ball of string and a pair of scissors.

Good intentions and a strong mind. These sentiments both enhance and cancel out the other.

Are there still cloakrooms?

At the bar, my ex says 'We're taking bets for $100 if the barmaid will take off her top.' I say, 'For a hundred I could buy our son a trampoline, but cool cool.' Later as I walk home alone I see him and his mates drive by in a matt black Valiant.

Spiky plants are the Bear Grylls of this country.

Someone at the Easter Sunday markets yesterday was selling home dentistry kits for twenty bucks. I thought they were grooming kits inside the fold out case, until I saw the mirror-on-a-stick. Definitely home dentistry kits.

Piero del Pollaiuolo's Apollo and Daphne. How can we possibly see this image as romantic, when he is prising apart her knees and she is literally grounded to the spot, unable to move? It's disturbing, to me anyway.

Cops, telling us not to park our cars where we normally do while we work the fire season because they're parked up there with guns, bullet proof vests and body cameras, all  on a penalty rates Easter weekend junket watching a bikie mob on their run down south. Ahem. 

Very important men. All of them.

I miss being at sea. This is why I miss being at sea.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Uluru Statement

 In 2017, Indigenous people gathered at this continent's heart Uluru to develop what is now known as The Uluru Statement from the Heart. Such a getting together from so many nations to clearly articulate a singular unity of purpose when it comes to our constitution and our national relationship to history ... it was mind blowing to me at the time. Imagine a collective of Indigenous peoples from the Europa continent doing the same thing, on the same day, with the same sentiment. 

They know they stand on the shoulders of giants.The Pallawah of Van Diemen's Land petitioned to the Crown in the 1830s that their treaty pleas had been ignored, and the letters from Corranderk, calling for a treaty and a voice in parliament, the Burunga Statement, the call for National Day of Mourning on the 26th of January, 1934, William Cooper et al. It goes on and on.

Anyway, after the statement being originally rejected by our then Prime Minister and kicked to the side by other ministers, who misunderstood the statement enough to say it would mean a third tranche of parliament (not true btw and some of those MPs have since apologised for 'not getting it'), the Uluru Statement is gaining traction again as a fair and true campaign for Voice Treaty and Truth. 

Out of the many British colonies, Australia was never ceded to British ownership by its people. There was also never a treaty. The Uluru Statement seeks to cut through that history in really practical ways: We need a makkarata, which is a reckoning and truth telling about our history. We need an Indigenous voice to parliament and this voice has to be enshrined within our constitution, so that any Indigenous advisory mob cannot be kicked out when the government changes hands or ideologies, which has happened in the past.

These statements are the voice from our country's oldest people. Their requests are simple and a profoundly generous solution to our way forward as a nation.

Here are some explainers on why the Uluru Statement is momentous. The first one is from Dean Parkin:

And the second one is the statement itself:

Finally, if any folk want to voice their support, please visit this spot where it is all happening and you can jump on board.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Djeran skies

 Our season turned on the pin of the equinox. Woke up on the 22nd and the car was coated in dew. Any rain before this was fringing the cyclone systems up north and now soft rain and stilled winds tell us we are coming into the Noongar season of Djeran. The Southern Ocean country is pretty different to Indian Ocean country or inland though, and this season down south is translated by some as Pringren. This comes after the two summers and before we head into the two winters.

The other night I was sky gazing and thought ... 'Mare's tails and mackerel scales, tall ships with shortened sails' ... there would be a weather event in twenty four hours and so there was, although a vestigial thunderstorm of the second summer. The moon was amazing.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Bathroom Mirror

This mirror can be brutally honest first thing in the morning. The lines on my brow and fleshy, wrinkled undersides of my arms. The window full of light and luminating the sight of me. Gah!

Skinny Gran looked into this mirror once, long ago. Then her son built her a house in the House Paddock, next to the Apple Tree paddock. It was said her husband, Viking stock, went away to war a good man and came back a bad one. North Africa campaigns. One of the Rats. She survived the car accident, when her drunken husband and some of her children did not. Her son survived it too and left school at ten to go to work. He became adult, slicked back hair, weekly dances at the community hall, shearing teams. Skinny Gran moved with him here, to this house, when he married the daughter of a Dutchman and they staked all of their money into a patch of dirt on the south coast.

Skinny Gran died quietly. The men here die violently as a rule. The women are taken by a more interior means – clusters and squamous cells. For decades, a lifetime, Skinny Gran’s daughter in law, a merry-eyed woman with tight curly hair inspected herself in this mirror before making tea in an aluminium pot in the mornings, quiet time before the children awoke. Listening to the bulls and the magpies. Curly Mum’s daughters were babies and then suddenly they were teenagers, the oldest wielding a tight-lipped authority over her squally middle child brother. Sometimes when she looked in the mirror, she could see the straight brow and nose of her children’s’ genes, the Dutch, the Swede, the hard scrabble life land. 

Sometimes I wonder, as I look in the same mirror, whether Curly Mum thought of the farm as unceded Aboriginal land. It must have been a silent reckoning and certainly not of the times. The work, the constant work and interest rates and carting water for the cattle in the dry years. Her son was old enough now, angry enough and strong enough to take on his old man. Her son went away at fifteen.

Her youngest, who idolised her big brother, sat on a stool in front of the bathroom mirror and cried as Curly Mum stood behind her, cutting her hair into a blonde crown of curls. If only they wouldn’t fight, she said to her mum. Why do they fight? It was a Saturday and the midsummer light through the window was fierce. She was starting high school in a week. Her mum reckoned that there is always a week between a bad haircut and a good one.

They tiled the bathroom, took out the bath with its lion claw feet and installed a sliding glass shower cubicle. No one had baths anymore anyway and the water pressure was improved with the new electric pump. Curly Mum stood in front of the mirror, a towel around her waist, right arm raised and crooked over her hair, her left hand feeling around her boob, seeing if the lump was visible to the eye.

Two years later and, stepping out of the shower in the mornings with bright light shining in, confronting again the scars beneath her absent right breast. So … an Amazon now. Silences from her husband and fearful looks from her daughters. Trips to the city were a necessity rather than privilege. Clearances, cleared, remission. Twenty years. Her son returned.

Her son’s girlfriend was a sturdy, uneven girl who already had a daughter from another man. Curly Dill (‘daughter in law, love’) would seek refuge in the kitchen with Curly Mum when the two men, now bonded in mutual recognition after all those years of antipathy, became intolerable to her in the shed. Curly Mum found this kid’s activism around the forests and feminist thought tilting at windmills and pretty quaint. She’s pregnant, her son said to her one day. How do you feel about that? Curly Mum asked her son. I’m not sure, said her son.

Curly Dill gave birth on the side of the road on the way to the hospital. Not long after that, Curly Mum had a proper hospital bed delivered to the house, and a nurse, so that she could die at home. Which she did.

Grannie Violet had been sweet on Curly Mum’s husband from the days back when Skinny Gran was a single mum and her son was slicking back his hair and going to dances. So when Curly Mum died, Grannie Violet moved into her house and soon became grandma to the expanding progeny of this family. At first there was resistance from them, then acceptance as they realised she was staying for the long run. She would see herself age in the bathroom mirror, over the years. She kept her own house and worked still, cleaning houses and government department buildings, as her partner grew older and his heart condition worsened. Grannie Violet went into the house two days after he died to ‘collect her things.’ I’d like to think that she stopped in front of the bathroom mirror but maybe she didn’t.

Curly Mum’s son took over the farm when his father died. He worked full time at a sand carting company to pay back the loan incurred by his father’s lack of a will, and spent his nights in the calving season with a calf-puller, a torch and his four-wheel drive. He looked drawn and shadowed. The next woman to look in the bathroom mirror brushed her teeth, inspected her fringe, eyebrows and hair, before rushing her daughter off to the school bus that rumbles along the gravel road past the gates, every morning. She hoped for a future, any future. At the gates sit concrete casts of a pair of lions, an Italian plea that the people within own this piece of land. 

Yesterday, Curly Dill looked in that bathroom mirror, remembering this history. She first looked into that mirror when Curly Mum was still alive and she was 24, and in love with her son. If she looked a bit emotional in the mirror, it’s because the farm is about to be sold after the death of her own son’s father, Curly Mum's son, and so this whole story comes to an end, of sorts.



Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Red dress dancer

 There's music, and there's a woman in a red dress, dancing on the yellow beach this evening. She's joined by a man in a white shirt. They dance to the strands coming from a speaker they've stood upon a stone. I can see them from my veranda, through the paper bark trees.

This week I drove to the city to work and also to attend the March for Justice. These protests happened around the country and the Albany march was attended by plenty of women, men and children.


We were asked to wear black (something I'd neglected to let my mum know, who turned up in full pink regalia). As I neared the railway line on my way to the rally, an old bloke fell in alongside me. 'Well, you're wearing black and holding a sign,' he said. A train chundled by and so we stopped to talk. 'I think I'll follow you.'

'Are you going to the rally as well?' I asked him and he nodded.

As we walked across the green lawn marked with so many pram tracks, he said, 'My wife is speaking today ... and here she is!'

Out of all the English and Indigenous Studies unit's I'm tutoring, this week we were doing the depiction of the 'other' in colonial discourse, plus Enlightenment period thinking, Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication for the Rights of Woman and some work by Mary Robinson, among others. It seemed so fitting. We are still asking for individual freedom, that our senior law makers be impeccable in their behaviour past and present, and that the rights of man continue on to the rights of women.

I guess this is why, when I returned home from a long drive, I was so pleased to see a woman in a red dress dancing on the yellow beach on the edge of the inlet.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Here is a radio interview with me. 

With lots of my ummms.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Day off

Even though it is a lovely day today, I was stood down from the fire tower as there has been rain all through the district over night. When I climbed up there last, the cloud was so low I could barely see a thing but the forest was breathing in the mist. As you can see below, the karris are moulting again ... as the swans are too, out on the water.

... and heading higher, into the granites, the moss and the marris, as the country changes suddenly ...

I'm feeling quite posh these days (more about posh later), as I no longer have to drive five bone-jarring kilometres along gravel to the in-range spot to ring my boss and ask if I'm working today. Getting a satellite dish and wifi means I can ring work from my home and then pack my back pack with supplies, driving off sure in the knowledge I'm heading up the mountain.

So today, after the early call, I took my work boots off and thought about prepping for my other job as a tutor at the uni. This semester, as well as working with the School of Indigenous Studies, I'm tutoring a couple of English courses and one is all about the Classics of English literature, the canon, so to speak. 

The canon has all sorts of definitions and can be applied to religious law, relations of power or an appeal to authority, among others. It's always interested me as an Australian, in particular a West Australian, whose people in 1933 entertained our own version of Brexit ...

... to read classic English literature, while simultaneously learning about the colonial and pre colonial history of this continent and the expansion of western empire. So much of our English language, although never in stasis, is bound up with European notions.

Did you know that the word posh comes from Port Outwards, Starboard Home? The word comes from the early days of Trans-Atlantic cruise liners. If you were rich enough, you could buy a cabin on the port side where the sun was always sunnier on the way out, and then on the starboard side on the way home. Poorer folks paid economy class and stayed in the shade all day long, for a trip that may last weeks. Now, if this were in the Antipodes, the first class would be called SOPH, starboard out, port home but no such word exits. So now us Aussies are stuck with the word posh.

It's a tricky business to appreciate classic English literature and its social/political activity, whilst also appreciating the attempts to dismantle the ongoing colonial activities in this country. We are not even Antipodeans anyway!

The antipode is basically the point on the opposite side of the earth's surface to you. It can be translated as 'the opposite pole'. We're only called Antipodeans in Australia because, based on European language, we are at the end of the earth, when in reality, we should be calling ... um ... well from where I am, the island of Bermuda the Antipodes.

According to this map, if I burrow from my place to the Antipodes, I come out somewhere near Bermuda, off the coast of North Carolina. Hi Jennifer of Sparrow Tree Journal!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Not sure what to think about this

 Okay, so there's this thing when it comes to ethical considerations of what is wrong and what is right. I've been plundering my own mind about this for weeks, so please indulge me.

Two nights ago (actually it was four am to be exact) my dog killed a feral cat and I watched her do it. I had a torch. I was in my underpants and wearing ugg boots, as I watched the dog swinging a cat around and then, because she didn't actually kill the cat, I had to do it myself. I later used the same pitchfork to put the dead cat onto the back of my ute, with the intention to drive the carcass to a place where my dog couldn't possibly dig it up again.

This morning I had a visit from some inlet friends, and on seeing the carcass on the back of my ute, they said,. 'I see you're collecting cats, You are like the cat woman of Broke Inlet.'

I said, 'I'm so not! It was my dog!'

Selkie is sleeping outside tonight, on guard against future cats or other interlopers. I'm really worried she'll go after another mammal. Her attitude against ferals is really interesting. She had a domesticated cat for company (Ebony) since I got her as a pup and they seemed close friends but she goes hard against (and does kill) feral cats.

'She's turning into a bush dog,' my Mum said. My dog has killed two feral cats now and drowned a kangaroo. 'I'm not sure what to think about this,' I say to my inlet friends. 'She's a good dog ... but. Bloody hell.'

Friday, January 29, 2021

Another sterling delivery

Today after work, I arced up my old laptop in the resource centre to find that the faithful machine I've been working with for the last five years had completely broken down and was sending me dire hard drive and error messages in bright blue. She had the digital version of the flu. I only have a two day writers workshop beginning tomorrow, that I've been working on for weeks. It was a horror moment, that electric blue notice, and the old puter kept sniffling and shutting down every time I tried something new.

Once the stomach churning settled and I'd got my wits about me again, I rang HP support and a kind woman called Rasha talked me through rebooting the whole shebang. Now this is not a sponsored post, far from it, but as a freaked out pleb with a failing five year old laptop, HP's customer support today was amazing. So ... winning on that front.

Then I ambled down to the post office for a mail check. There are no letterboxes where I live and consequently no street numbers either. People describe their house when I am trying to find them as 'it's three houses past the yellow house on Park Avenue, about four houses before the turn off to Swan Street.'

I digress. I went to the post office to pick up my mail and the post mistress (yes we still have them here) handed me over a bubble-wrapped parcel. I fingered the plastic lining of this parcel. Whenever a book that I've written or that I have a piece in comes out, my publisher tends to send it with no return address, like a mystery gift, like they know us authors will unwrap it and find their new baby swaddled inside.

The book: Women of a Certain Rage, edited by Liz Byrski, will be out on Monday and I received my copy today.

 So yes. Love affairs! The bikie wars and then a strange reconciliation! My story The Club goes into what happens when we are forced to understand that people who may not think like us ... no bugger it. The story is about a culture that I seriously disliked and how I realised that the men within that culture loved the same man as I did.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever written, for several reasons. I'm so glad that it is on the public record now, within this anthology. My editor, in her note wrote 'Another sterling delivery from Drummond!'

That's a pretty nice sentiment to drive home with. Computer fixed. Anthology out in the world. Sterling delivery.

A good day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tall tales

There are many odd stories about the inlet where I live. Some of them fade into myth and the truth is rarely in service to a good ripping yarn. Clarkie's Camp was named after a man who lived here as a hermit from the late 1920s until the 60s. It was rumoured that he was here under an unofficial witness protection after he testified against his mates in a gold-stealing ring. They'd shot dead two gold squad detectives in Kalgoorlie and Clarke had helped cut up the bodies and hide them. His friends Coulter and Treffene were hung and Clarke disappeared.

A kind of folk mythology surrounds Clarke’s presence at Broke Inlet.

‘Didn’t someone live out his days at Broke on the run from the cops?’

‘Dad reckoned he was a spy and the government hid him there.’

‘Wasn’t Clarke that butcher? With the big knife?’

The most common story is that Clarke was stashed at Broke Inlet by the state government, and that, once a month, a policeman would leave him supplies at the turn-off from the main road. 

From 'Living at Clarkie's Camp' in Women of a Certain Age, Fremantle Press, by me. 

Back in the 70s, a journalist friend heard the rumours and published a story in the Sunday Times called 'Living in the bush in fear of his life'. He said to me recently that this story still haunted him as the one he got totally wrong and that the next day, three separate people came into his office to say Herb Clarke and Evan Clarke were very different people. Bum steer, you could call it.

Anyway, keep that info about the two dead coppers in mind because I've just happened across another ripping yarn about the inlet. 

Thomas Hughes, known as the last of the bushrangers in West Australia, was born at sea aboard the Corona (oh yes) in 1866. He was the son of a pension guard and this too plays out later. 

It seems young Tom fell into some bad company. He was caught attempting to steal explosives and other munitions, went to jail, escaped and the manhunt was on. On October 1887 Hughes was charged with the murder of Constable O'Connell and the attempted murder of Constable Carroll while resisting arrest. (Carroll died later from complications due to his injuries.) This story is a whole basket of oddities. O'Connell, on having his head wound examined by the doctor, failed to mention that Hughes had also shot him in the chest. The doctor declared O'Connell's head wound a mere flesh wound and sent him home, where he died a few days later 

Hughes was sentenced to life in prison, later reduced to a much shorter sentence, possibly due to public sentiment and romanticism over Ned Kelly's recent hanging and the fact that Hughes and O'Connell went to school together and were both the sons of pension guards. He was released from prison on a ticket-of-leave in 1896, granted conditional release in April 1898 and was given permission to carry firearms later that month. So ... nine years for shooting two coppers, bashing a prison guard nearly to death and stealing munitions, and then they give him back his guns. This tale is so weird.

So Thomas Hughes, now a sort-of free man, caught a train with his brother to Bridgetown, where they then walked to Perup (something a modern day Bibulmum track hiker may appreciate in effort). He and his brother went into ticket of leave service for some local farmers in the area. One farmer was a Muir, part of a large family of land holders whom I sometimes refer to on The WineDark Sea as The Meadowmen, Muir or Moir deriving from the mere, or meadow in old English.

Every year, these families ran cattle down to the coast at Broke Inlet. Apparently it was a rowdy debacle, with every third cow wearing a bell and occasional stampedes through the main street of Pemberton. A lot of the old roads around here were made by cattlemen droving down to the coast. Place names like Poison Point alerted them to where the gastrolobium bush grew, deadly to grazing cattle. They built huts to stay out the summer in and some of those hut folk are my neighbours now.

It was on one of these cattle runs that Thomas Hughes and his brother Edwin first laid their eyes on Broke Inlet. If it was anything like my first experience, I can understand why he was so transfixed. For me, it was late afternoon. The wind had dropped and the inlet lay out before me like glowing sheets of silver paper. My heart and brain said, 'This is where I want to be. This place. This place. This is Boodja.'

 At the time, they apparently didn't have to apply for land tenure. Broke Inlet was off the edge of the colonial world and so the brothers stayed here, squatters on Aboriginal-owned land.

In 1939, Edwin Hughes was granted a conditional purchase lease. He had thirty two years to pay it off in tiny increments but he died in 1940 and by 1944 the land was transferred to his brother Thomas, the bushranger. A few years later, he died too and the property where I live now was inherited by, yes, a Mr Herbert Sydney Clarke. This is the only piece of private property now within the massive Dentrecasteaux National Park, a tiny enclave in a park named after a Frenchman, once owned by a bushranger and cattleman and then a man rumoured to be under witness protection.

Thomas Hughes, in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, was said to have died at the Claremont Insane Asylum, and someone once told me that Herb Clarke had gone out in much the same way. It's not boding that well for us residents! Obviously I'm wondering if the stories of these two men have been mixed up. An Evan Clarke definitely was involved in the killing of two policemen in Kalgoorlie and a Tom Hughes was definitely charged with the killing of two policemen in Fremantle. It doesn't surprise me that both of them may have ended up at Broke Inlet. Their histories are only 40 or 50 years apart and who is willing to sort out the facts that will get in the way of a good yarn?