Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Bike Pump

Recently I went to the tip shop and there was a bike inside the shed. Bob's yelling at me, 'Oh Sarah, take this bike. You can have it for five bucks. FIVE BUCKS!!! Look at the brand. Look at it this bike.' 

He stepped aboard and pumped the front wheels. The bike had shockies so he was able to bounce this bike up and down on it's front wheels. This particular tip shop guy had managed to distract me from the red lady's bike that was of a proper vintage with a front basket and carrier, to a welded, factory bicycle, sporting only a water bottle bracket and shockies. Anyway, I bought it. Five bucks after all.

'Front tyre's a bit flat,' he said. 'But it's FIVE BUCKS.'

I've been more in need of a decent four wheel drive car recently, than a bicycle, because living 35 kilometres from the nearest town tends to make you need to drive everywhere rather than do the school or shop run on foot. But when the bar breaks at the inlet, there is this long beach to ride along. The sand is hard and I've often wanted a bike to ride along that beach. 

I bought the bike with dreams of riding it along the shore ... but then I needed a bike pump for the front tyre. So the next time I ventured into the city, I went to the nearest bicycle shop.

As soon as I entered, I realised this was not that kind of hipster bicycle shop where kind, bearded men sold hot cups of cold-pressed coffee on leather lounges, while asking me to peruse their cargo bikes. No. These blokes were the enablers of the lawyer and accountant clique of cyclists. They came towards me in tiny shorts and with their hard, chiselled faces asked me what my business was.

'I'd like to buy a bicycle pump,' I said.

So they sold me this really expensive thing that looked like it was from outer space. I got it home, unscrewed the top (there's no tube here) and all the valves fell out and I couldn't work out how to put all the valves back together again. Apparently you can reverse the valves to release air from the tyre in this one trick pony.. Awesome. We used to do that with match sticks when I was a kid.

I was telling this story to a mate of mine yesterday. She looked at me, incredulous.

'So let's be clear here Sarah. You paid five bucks for a bike, right? That's cool. And then you paid forty bucks to pump up the front wheel?'


Saturday, September 10, 2022

How do you write about a tree?

 A quiet day today, a walk around the block and thoughts about human and more-than human relationships. I've just re-read the essay by Ingrid Horrocks about writing nature called Dissolving Genre: Toward finding new ways to write about the world. Together with a colleague, I've run workshops and talks about writing the environment and the Anthropocene - and it always great to read what other writers have to say about this immersive but elusive practice.

The hound and the guardian tree

In the essay, she writes of meanings and modes of what she calls eco-nonfiction, ways to move beyond human frames of reference ('Is it possible to write or draw a forest?')


Velvet Earth Tongue emerging from the Marri litter

Close observation and attention

     This kowphai bloom, that estuary

     This possum, that coal fire


Hovea elliptica are really popping!

Ordinary or unpromising locations


     The flourishing of motorway burbs

A secret pond in the bush near my place

Avoids idealisation of pristine wilderness

     Fewer epiphanies in national parks

     Fewer men on mountains


Favours systems that include humans

     More suburbs, kitchens, children parents

     But also oceans, rivers, oysters

Mother Marri

Observes altered worlds

      Eucalypts in San Francisco

       Ice melts in Antarctica



And lost worlds

      Endlings: an animal that is the last of its species

Peppermint paving

Often draws on memoir

      I, sometimes we


Finds continuities between the human and nonhuman

       Warm breath misting


Demands we move outside a human frame of reference

“Is it possible to draw or write a forest?”


Struggles with how to do this

signed here.


Searches for organic forms and structures opening out stories of confluence

“What do I know but pieces, all at once?”


Understands that in the 21st century “to write about nature is a political act”

Hopes (within hopes) that a shift in attention
–a yielding of consciousness to a world beyond human–
will give to a shift in action.

 Ingrid Horrocks, 'Dissolving Genre: writ with water', in Bending Genre: essays on creative nonfiction, Bloomsbury, 2014.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Threatened Species Day

Yesterday was Threatened Species Day in Australia. The date was chosen because it was on this day in 1936 that the last Thylacine died. (I do notice that goggle spellcheck tells me I'm writing about hyacinths here. Even the Tasmanian Tiger's name has become extinct in the etherwebs. Thanks blogger.)

The day is beset with a complicated stew of feelings about colonisation, the Anthropocene and resurrection. Apparently some Australian-born movie stars, among others, are helping fund an initiative to clone the tiger using numbat, tiger and dunnart genes. More practical ecologists are asking how this funding could be diverted to managing future extinctions. But no, the tiger clone/sighting bling always wins. 

The video of the last surviving tiger does me in. Yes it is a species made iconic for its extinction, but there are many other species that have suffered and become extinct over the last two centuries. Birds, marsupials and insects. Personally, I see the attempted resurrection of the tiger as the ultimate human arrogance. It's using Euro/settler 'science' to justify the elimination of a species ... and then bring it back from the dead. Wow. It's Frankenstein stuff for sure, with an added dose of Theseus' boat. But ultimately, 'building' another tiger is not absolving us of our past. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Pensioner Road

There is a road that runs in a perfect dog-leg between two highways, in the town I grew up in. On the corner of the bottom highway, there was the family house of girls I went to school with. We'd pass the house every day in the safe bubble of a country kids school bus and this house was prone to drama ... entertainment. As kids we never understood why the mum was so big and angry and her daughters were fighters. I sort of understand it now. I didn't then.

Anyway, Pensioner Road. This is the same road but I guess people living on there didn't want to be labelled with living on Pensioner Road, so it must have been petitioned to turn the road name to Pioneer Road.

Between 1850 and 1868 a lot of British men were sent out to the colonies. They'd previously fought in the Napoleanic wars, the colonial wars in Afghanistan, Africa and India. They didn't seem to want to go home to a domestic two-up-two-down rental situation in England. So they were offered a patch of land in great southern land in return for being cheap trained soldiers for garrison or police duties. These men were trained as soldiers and had fought for the empire but part of their pensioning off scheme meant they could emigrate with their families to ... Pensioner Road.

Eleven hundred Pensioner guards, eight hundred and seventeen women and a shitload of kids (about fifteen hundred) emigrated to Western Australia during this period. The influx of Pensioner Guards at this time has been called by some historians as 'a noteworthy genetic and cultural influence on colonial Western Australia.'

After 1857, most of the Pensioner guards who where in Albany were fighting in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. This is where it gets interesting for me.

Dad said to me recently, 'You henna your hair. It reminds me of those women from Pensioner Road. They hennaed their hair.'

'Pensioner Road?'

And then he told me the story of the women who'd arrived with their husbands in Albany in 1850. They used henna in their hair and khol to decorate their eyes.They'd come straight from India to Albany. Their hands were henna tattooed. When I told this story to my son, he said, 'Oh my god mum! These women must have seemed like a bunch of witches! 1850s Albany.'