Friday, April 25, 2014

Wearing purple in the Royal George Hotel

I always liked the look of those lean women whose everyday jeans revealed their flat, hard working arses. Thin women who had lived a bit. Their arses say 'I’ve lived.' Their eyes are riven with a trauma that I could never fathom as a teenager. I never understood what had happened to them, just that they’d lived.

Dad said once, “ and we were in a queue behind a woman just like from Kath and Kim, you know skinny, not like she worked out or jogged but like she smoked 40 a day.”

That kind of woman. I like her. She's always got a story to tell.
At the pub, I aligned myself with them. I was the bad barmaid returned and gone virginal through pregnancy. I was swelling and juicy and maternal. All the lunch time blokes looked after me and the women suddenly swayed from seeing me as a matrimonial threat to a potential sister. They began to confide in me, as I covered my condition with a hippy orange and purple shawl.
“My husband doesn’t like me wearing purple,” one said.
“I don’t have a husband,” I said, wrapping my shawl tighter around myself and pouring them a sherry.

I was just starting on the early 90’s feminist texts at the time and reciting them like any good fundamentalist. Paglia, Greer, Starhawk and Marilyn French. Even Erica Jong didn’t go down so well in the front bar of the Royal George Hotel. The women didn’t like it but everyone else put up with me.

One day, a woman walked in with her partner. She was beautiful, a model, elegant, so, so thin, smooth skin, glittering and untouchable. Like an alien landed in our town, like a deer in the cross hairs; she looked around at us barflies, wide-eyed and hyper alert.
“Looks like she needs a good feed,” muttered Soupy and the bar cracked up.

That afternoon a girl I know was raped by a man in the gated alcove where the spare kegs were stored. We forgot all about the model, when Eve came in to the bar with mascara, tears and punch marks streaking her face.
The locals tossed back the drinks I served them, confident that she’d deserved it because Eve was an uppity, challenging bint, and so they turned their faces away. Eve left as soon as she realised her pack had turned against her. I poured them another drink and I did not follow her as she walked up the hill.

It doesn’t matter how many times I was pregnant, or the babies I’ve had, or what I've said or the books I’ve read or written. Eve hasn’t talked to me much, since that day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rapa Nui

William Hodges
Easter Island

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fremantle Press release!

Fisherwoman memoir longlisted for Dobbie Literary Award

10th April 2014

Albany author and fisherwoman Sarah Drummond was having lunch with her current boss, a landscaper, when she got the call to say she was longlisted for the Dobbie Literary Award.
‘We’d had a difficult morning working out levels and angles on some sleeper stairs. Everything seemed to go wrong, including the angles we’d decided upon – and then cut,’ said Drummond.
‘After lunch the mood was quite different. As soon as either of us got annoyed with our self-created debacle, the other would lean in and whisper “Nita May Dobbie.”’
It’s a typical story from the down-to-earth writer whose debut book Salt Story has been described by reviewers as ‘lyrical and utterly absorbing’ and ‘thoroughly original’.
Drummond said that while the longlisting came as a shock, award recognition was important to writers who feel they need to have a conversation with others in the world.
‘To me, awards can be signposts to a reader – here is a writer who wants to talk with them,’ said Drummond.
The Dobbie is one of two prizes awarded by the Nita B Kibble Literary Awards for Women Writers: awards which aim to encourage Australian women writers to improve and advance literature for the benefit of the community.
Drummond said she saw Salt Story as a love story for her region and the fishing culture that had stayed strong throughout the decades.
Salt Story both examines and busts up the gender tropes in Australian culture. I’ve always liked doing this – in writing – and in my other life where work is often physically demanding. I think the link is the poetry, the beguiling tales, an ear for “voice” and an antenna for provincial narratives,’ said Drummond.
The Dobbie Literary Award (currently valued at $5,000) recognises a first published Australian author. Fiona McFarlane, Margaret Merrilees, Kate Richards, Inga Simpson and Jill Stark also made the list. More information about the award is at
Salt Story was Fremantle Press’ fastest selling new release of 2013 and is now in its second print run. It is available from all good bookstores and online.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Up on our hind legs

Grinderman's song 'Go Tell the Women' has been construed as an anthem to male musicians throwing off the shackles of their wives' anxieties and control freaky behaviour while on tour. Sorry ... if only. One quick read of the short story 'Tell the women we're going' by Raymond Carver will put you straight on Nick Caves' modus operandi. The story ends in a quarry and you can never, ever unread the ending. Here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,

   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.

   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;

   For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar. 

by Tennyson

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fred's Shop

Fred's Shop was on the school bus run, on the main road that ran alongside the harbour. Next door to Fred's Shop lived a Maori family who were named after the first canoes. The kids ran up the driveway just as the bus pulled up. Some days they didn't turn up at all. Across the road from Fred's Shop was a mountain rising quick and surprised from the estuarine floodplains. Named after the wedgetail eagles that circled the place once, it is crowned in granite, dugite snakes and the Marri tree home of the sea eagles.

The teenage boys who grew up in the orchard beneath the mountain, well, I remember them as quiet, wild and angry. One of those boys died recently: by then he was a lanky, middle aged man whose trademark bikie beard had turned white. Opiates killed him in increments, as did his tendency for violence, the ongoing disaster of his wrecked boat, a random blight in the family orchard, his conviction for manslaughter and his troublesome little brother.

So, backtracking .. Across the road, Fred's Shop sold milk and bread and lollies. Fred's Shop felt dirty and dusty whenever you went in there. The counter was to the right of the ringing, clanging door. Behind the counter, Fred stood, watching.
When I was eight or nine, my parents commanded, after long whisperings in the lounge room, "You are never, ever to go into Fred's Shop again." It felt like us kids had done something terribly wrong.

This kind of lolly shop apartheid was a problem because Fred had a butterfly collection. He'd collected butterflies from all over the world and the evidence stood in the room right behind his shop counter. We could see the butterflies, pinned to immaculate white boards under glass, whenever we triumphed in our clandestine treks to his shop. We knew we weren't supposed to be there because for some reason this place was off limits, but ... oh those butterflies.
I still think of butterflies as dangerous.

Fred never let me see his butterfly collection up close. I could smell his disgust with my clumsy, girly-scented presence in his shop. He would sell me a twenty cent bag of lollies and shoo me out of the place like I was a blowfly. But at around the same time, something happened. Neighbourhood gossip and anxiety heightened and within the next year, Fred's Shop was burned to the ground. The Maori kids moved out. Fred just disappeared. The quiet, wild boys across the road started acting up and carried on like that for the next twenty or thirty years.

I still don't know what happened next or who burned down Fred's Shop but when it burned everyone breathed out. Perhaps the burning out of a man who'd identified himself as something deviant to a 1970's white bread town would be construed as a different crime these days. Maybe someone got rid of Fred because he was the recalcitrant creep in their street who traded their sons' futures against cash, lollies and butterflies. Dunno. I only remember the mountain and finding Noongar camps; their mattresses and enamelled cooking pots stuffed into deep clefts of granite, and a sea eagle buzzing me on the road as she flew back to the Marris with a fish flapping in her clenched fists.
The sight of those butterflies.

They were all the colours of the rainbow - magnificent, perfect chrysalii - fresh, brilliant trophies pinned against a white board in the back room of Fred's Shop.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Huge. Bigger than a whale.

Apparently Japan's whaling regime in the Southern Ocean has been deemed by the International Court of Justice to be unscientific.
Now who would have thunk it?

I've had plenty of arguments with Old Salt about modern day whaling in the Antarctic, but my final answer came when he tried to explain that it was a 'cultural thing'.
"What. With diesel powered gunboats? Thousands of nautical miles from their traditional hunting grounds?"

It's rare for 'cultural things' to dress up in a sciencie frock to justify a commercial industry, but this particular frock has been doing the hokey pokey in the Australian Whale Sanctuary and getting away with it for ages*. So it was with a glad heart that I learned the ICJ has ruled that Japan's whaling program over the last decade or so has been carried out for commercial purposes. Not scientific ones. Therefore, the court has ruled, no future permits will be issued for the Japanese to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean. There is to be no appeal.

Here's the news:

*Did you see what I did there? The shittiest sentence ever, dressed up in a frock with fractals. And it has whales in it.