Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"Where are we going Nanna Sarah?"

"Where are we going Nanna Sarah?"
"We are hunting kangaroos, granddaughter."
I wrapped my skin around her. She took the wooden spoon from the kitchen sink and followed me outside.

We walked for a long time. We were both quite tired by the time we got to the sea.

"Look at that island!" I said to Gracie, at the top of the secondary dune. "We could swim to that island!"
"We need a boat," she said. My grandie is practical in these respects . Both of us looked at the ships on Gage Roads.

"Maybe that one?"
"Too far to swim, Nanna Sarah."

We both jumped into a boat in the playground at Cottesloe. Parents in puffer vests, compression tights and expensive joggers scattered with their labradoodles, as we jumped in.
"Matilda," I said, "How are we gonna get to the islands?"

"We have to take over! We need a boat!"
 "We need a boat!" I shouted and she waved her wooden spoon.
I jumped around, rocking the playground boat.
"The jellyfish are taking over. We need a boat!"

We were kicked out of there by some three year olds and so we walked over the next dune. By then my grand daughter was exhausted. Her gumboots were full of sand and I worried about her blisters. The kangaroo skin was now over my shoulder.

"Look, at the next cafe, I'll buy you a juice," I promised her, thinking that the next cafe was probably   pretty close.
"Yes, Nanna Sarah," she said, stoic, trudging on.
And she did, that kid. She trudged. She walked for miles with me. An hour later I bought her a bottle of black currant juice from the corner store.She'd walked the whole way home with me, refusing to be carried..

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Writing Workshops

I wanted to tell y'all that I'm running some workshops in Perth. At the moment I'm writer-in-residence with Western Australia's Fellowship of Australian Writers, thanks to FAWWA and the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund. It's an awesome opportunity for me to knuckle down and just write my Love Advice from Broke Inlet project, without getting tripped up and distracted by the machinations of everyday life.
Yep, you guessed it. No excuses. Terrifying. Ha ha.

On Saturday September 2nd I'll be running a workshop on writing historical fiction, based on skills learned from writing The Sound. I like to focus on landscape and character here. Then the next Saturday 9th I'll be doing narrative non fiction and memoir. I'm really interested in how narrative non fiction works, and I've been reading a lot of Americana: Hunter S Thompson, Martha Gellhorn, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese etc. Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk does it for me too. But the nonfiction work that first set off all the bells and whistles was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

As you can see by the flyer, the workshops are really well priced. You can jump online at to book, or else ring 93844771. It would be lovely to see you there.

Some more news ... The Meadow Man rang me yesterday to say that the sandbar at Broke went on Saturday night. I had my money on the 28th but she broke early. The inlet probably looks a bit different now. Wish I'd been there.
From this:

           to this

Monday, August 21, 2017


By Silvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams
Earless and eyeless

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies.

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Corrugated Lines

 Once we'd sorted out that the car wasn't badly damaged, Pat and I went into the Mangrove Hotel. Peter in the red shirt presented his one man cabaret show about trochus poachers and various other Kimberly dramas. He sang, he parsed, he versed. It was a great show, and completely unexpected. (For me anyway. Someone else commented that he was forever surprising and always fantastic.)

Later we ate chips and looked out over the sea to Buccaneer Island, close to where the Dutch sea planes lie on their silty, tidal sea beds. Bats flew in huge mobs home to roost. I talked to a Barrumundi farmer who wanted to take some time off and camp at the peninsula but "three more swings and it'll be the wet season."

The Corrugated Lines readers and writers festival finished up on the lawns of the Mangrove Hotel. Here are some of us:

I stayed with my cousin while in Broome and the next morning we went to Redell beach together. That sun on my back, and the silky, warm sea. (And Lucy, the happy camp dog photo bomber.)

Critter tracks: It's quite a busy place.

And classic Broome: frangipani, a wide blue sea and a four wheel drive.

Finally, how freaking cool is my cuz:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The day and the day after I flew into Broome

On Saturday afternoon I flew into Broome.

Seeing this landscape from the plane made me feel quite emotional. That startling contrast of red pindan and turquoise sea is like a memory trigger. Later my cousin drove me to the Mangrove Hotel and I caught sight of that sea again and gasped. She is used to it, yet it blasted me back to the late 1980s when I was used to it too. This is the first time I've been back.

I went to Broome for the Corrugated Lines Readers and Writers Festival, and walked straight into the welcoming arms of Kimberly family, artists and writers.

'How are you with sandflies, Sarah?' asked my cousin's partner, and I remembered when I was here as a kid getting hammered by sandflies at Streeters Jetty, and later so itchy that I was tearing strips off myself with dirty fingernails in the middle of the night. I still have the scars on my legs from the infections that followed.
'Oh, last time was pretty bad,'' I said. He pointed towards the bar. We were outside at Pearl Luggers to hear Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe speak, and there was a communal aerosol of industrial strength insecticide at the bar. Steve Kinnane interviewed Pascoe, who spoke beautifully of the historical silence around Aboriginal agricultural methods, and also the silence as he grew up around his own family's Aboriginality. The night air was warm and silky. Across the road, the jukebox blared from the infamous Roey. The women wore fabulous dresses.

Later we repaired to said infamous pub for Word of Mouth, a spoken word and open mic for anyone of a poetic bent. I spent the night wandering between this event which showcased some excellent writers and slam performers, to the 'beer garden' where a bald shoemaker in an Hawaiian shirt was arguing the line-up of the Highwaymen and the Travelling Wilburys with a dark man with less teeth than me. I'd be listening to Aunty Pat's story about walking into a lap dancing club in search of fish and chips, head outside for a smoke where the shoemaker called me 'Miss Woolly' (so original), then back inside for slam poet Emilie Zoey Baker's rendition of Get a Bloody Job. Sophia's story and music made me seep tears and laugh out loud.
A most excellent night.

Early Sunday morning I wandered down to Streeters Jetty across the road from boab trees and stilted fibro houses, and rubbed fine pindan dirt into my lily-white, down-south feet. My feet are usually clad in Blundstones and thick woolen socks this time of year, or sheep skin boots. Now it was thirty two degrees and I was wearing thongs. I could smell the mangroves and the sea and the sweat of everyone who walked past me. I saw evidence of people who had walked before me ... yesterday.

 It was nearly time for my author session at the Kimberly Bookshop, the whole reason I'd flown here, and I was feeling a bit nervous. A good nervous, but still nervous. I met my interviewer Mohini at dinner the previous night and knew I was safe in her capable hands. But in the hour before getting miked up to talk in front of a crowd, I always need a quiet space alone to circumvent the freaking-myself-the-fuck-out scenario. Breathe Sarah. I rubbed that red dirt into my feet. Introduced myself to Country. 
That's what I did on the mud flats below Streeters Jetty.

 This year is the 30th Anniversary of Broome-based Magabala Books, one of those little publishing houses that seriously punch above their weight. I nearly didn't make it to Corrugated Lines. I was made unexpectedly redundant at the service station and wondered how I could justify the expense of travelling to the Kimberly in these straitened times. Then I read the story of Magabala a few weeks ago in the paper. AND Marie at the Kimberly Bookshop offered to chuck in some money for me. 
I just had to go.

It was a great session. The audience were super engaged. I had wondered how Kimberly folk would identify with Southern Ocean history, but of course there are so many parallels when it comes to explorers, ferals and colonist's 'contact' narrative that the locals got it and the grey nomads did too. Broome is laden (beautifully and heavily) with colonial history.

Anyway, after that I needed another quiet little sit down. Tis an energising and exhausting thing, that reader/writer interaction. After the book signing I sat down on the pavement in the shade next to the Community Resource Centre. A man walked past, stopped and asked me for two rollie papers. 'Where are you from?' he asked me. 'Walpole, down south,' I said, 'Where are you from?' 'Hedland, down south,' he told me.

I went to the library to hear an hilarious play reading by playwright Dan Lee. This play is about grey nomads doing the loop of Australia and it's really freaking funny and about to premiere in Los Angeles. Then I went up the hill with Aunty Pat to see Peter Bibby do his thing at the Mangrove Hotel. I was thinking of walking up there but Pat talked me out of it. 'It's too hot to walk up that hill,' she said. 'I've got a car, let's go.'

We were so busy talking about music, writing and art that we didn't notice the concrete curbs whilst doing a U-ie. This can be a problem, especially as 'I've just borrowed this car' as Pat explained. I got out at the Mangrove to examine the damage. 'You can pop that panel back in,' I said, looking at the plastic nudge bar and hub caps. I felt a little bit sorry for the car. Aunty Pat shrugged, 'Those scars were already there, love,' and we went into the Mangrove Hotel.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

The cat trap

In the supermarket, the violinist stopped me and said, 'Your cat trap hasn't gone out of circulation, Sarah. It's at my house if ever you need it.'
'Ah! Nice work Maestro. Thanks for letting me know.'
I'd passed the trap on to a mate in a recent divestment regime, thinking that if ever I really needed the trap again, I would know where it was. So it was a bit perturbing to see it several weeks later at the tip shop.

There is often an eeriness to this inlet country, especially mid winter when all is silent, the oystery gleam of glassed off water and massive trees dropping past rain. There is a bird here who shrieks like a woman without warning. Some people cannot be in these places, and I know what they mean. It feels emotionally and sometimes there is a darkness. But I am drawn to these places, here at the inlet and places like the ghost town of Kundip. Maybe it is undoing a puzzle, a mystery beyond my ken, finding the story in the land. It's not that I am particularly interested in trauma but I am aware of Country's scar tissue. What happened here? I admire how the country heals her wounds ... remembers, forgives, but never, ever forgets.

When I moved back out here after a short stint in town, I returned thinking I was armed with the mental tools to live through this winter a little better than the last one. Feeling more positive and thinking, 'Well, this country is obviously not done with me yet.' Back driving the pot holed track, littered with the fallen bark and branches of Karri, and waking early in the morning to the silhouettes of crazy-dancing old man Marri against the water.

I lit the gas fridge and then tried out the hot water system. No hot water. Plenty of gas. Bugger. Unlike the commercial fishers who are camped out the back in the damp hut they call Old Smoky, I have no intention of seeing out the winter with cold water showers. Nup. Nope. No way.

My first morning back and I woke to an awful smell that permeated everything. I couldn't work out what it was but the smell reminded me of something toxic in Dad's shed, or maybe his workshop at the fish factory. Something hydraulic, burning, terrible, alarm bells kind of smell.
A few bumps then, coming from the spare room. Selkie went to investigate and all hell broke loose.

I soon forgot the terrible smell because what followed was a fucking insane fight between two animals. I've never seen Selkie behave like this before. She'd picked up the feral cat by its neck, shaking it, trying to kill it. Then the cat wrapped itself around her face and both of them started screaming, leapt apart, and then went for each other again. Wisps of black fur spiraled around in the air. I got a broom and jumped on the spare bed, grabbing the dog as the cat retreated into the corner of the room, growling. The dog's body was hot and she released a heavy, primal scent. Adrenaline I guess. Crazy.

In the end ... no hot water, blocked up gas fridge chimney which could have burnt the place down, and a feral cat nursing its injuries in the spare bedroom, I gave up. Time for a couple of days in town, I reasoned. I'd been back out at the inlet for, oh, about twelve hours.

I went to see the fishermen when we returned, and asked them if they could knock the cat on the head for me. Polly shook his head. 'I've been feeding it. It's injured and been living under the hut, since Selkie attacked it.'
'Polly, look. I'm no good at killing things but it has go. It doesn't belong here.'
Like me, he didn't want to do it. Unlike me or Polly, most hut folk around here will kill a feral cat as soon as look at it. There are heaps of feral cats out here and they are always small, black cats, not the stripy monster toms of myth and legend.
'Please Polly.'

I went back into town to track down that cat trap, the one I'd last seen at the tip shop. I thought if I could trap the cat, I could tie a rope to the mesh and throw the lot out into the inlet, walk away. I borrowed another trap instead but by the time I got it home, Polly had donged the cat, hidden its body from the other fishermen, and would hardly look at me.

PS. Fixed the gas fridge and the hot water system because FIG JAM