Clyde was in the Mardi Gras Parade …

Tuesday 16 March 2010

… and, yes, he is still pissing around and hasn’t written anything, but until then take a squiz at his flagging performance in the 2010 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, as part of the Harbour City Bears float:

(courtesy of djcolingaff)

(courtesy of all188)

But if that’s not enough for you, scroll down and see a couple of pics of Clyde in his onesie …

WARNING: ENORMOUS BULGE!!

NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE
WITH HIGH MORALS OR WEAK KNEES.

MAY CAUSE DIZZY SPELLS, SALIVATION,
OR UNRESERVED LEVELS OF ENVY.

(courtesy Ann-Marie Calilhanna via The Sydney Star Observer)

(and thanks to David for this one)

I did warn you …


What I did on my holidays – Home

Wednesday 22 July 2009

You have to love Sydney. After an uneventful flight, in a state of joy to be nearly home, Sydney decided to do trackwork on the Eastern Suburbs line so I had to battle the elegance of the bus system while laden with my bags to get myself home. I was buggered by the end and, after dumping everything and reconnecting the laptop, fell onto my bed and straight to sleep.

I started this holiday diary with a list so let’s end with another. What have I learnt?

I’ve learnt that:

  • The capital of Western Australia is Perth.
  • Perth’s official symbols are the numbat (animal), the black swan (bird) and the green and red kangaroo paw (flower). No idea what the fish is.
  • Perth has an excellent public transport system, though services tend to fun infrequently.
  • Jäger bombs will kill you.
  • Outside of Rottnest Island, no-one gives two shits about quokkas. There is not a single postcard, small fluffy figurine or fridge magnet bearing its cute face anywhere on the Mainland, even at the zoo, which doesn’t have a quokka.
  • Quokkas are best served braised.
  • No-one who lives in Perth have ever rung the bell.
  • Food is shockingly expensive. So’s the wine, which reminds me…
  • Margaret River thinks itself too snooty to produce quaffable wine. It leaves that to the Barrossa Valley.
  • Nothing, I repeat, nothing happens in Perth on a Sunday night.
  • Surfers are sexy.
  • Gay culture in Perth leaves a lot to be desired.
  • People wearing face masks look stupid (at Perth aiport a handful of Asians were walking around wearing masks. Eveyone else just looked bemused though occasionally someone would cough in their direction just so they felt like they were getting their monies worth.
  • A pint of beer is a lot of beer.
  • K-mart is a very comforting place.
  • Project Runway Australia could just possibly be the best show on television.
  • You should never carry milk and eggs in a cheap backpack.
  • Riding a bike is exactly like eating a banana riding a bike.
  • Animals always move when you are trying to take their picture.
  • Two and a half weeks is a long time.
  • Relaxing is far more hard work than it should be.
  • Perth is far more than two hours behind the rest of Australia.
  • Everything tastes better with aioli.
  • It’s nice to spend time with your family. Probably not a lot of time, but time none-the-less.
  • The red-eye flight knocks it out of you.
  • It’s not good to drink so much you can’t remember going to bed, even if that bed is just up the stairs.
  • As much as I adore it, Cats is a bit naff.
  • It’s good to come home.

Oh, I’ve also learnt through a hedonistic lifestyle of food, beer and wine of many years, not just the last two and a half weeks, I now weigh a very disturbing 90kgs. I’m a little frightened about this and need to loose 10kg before I can be happy. I’m afraid that it will be harder than I think.

Right, holiday’s done now. Time to go back to work.


What I did on my holidays – Brisbane for two days

Wednesday 22 July 2009

On the train out to my sister’s. Shouldn’t be much longer. I’ve got no idea when my stop is and relying on the gentleman voice over to tell when to get off.

JUST WHERE DO YOU GET OFF MATE??
Umm… Wacol Station.

Quite proud of myself for remembering where the Sportsman Hotel is (stop just called – my station is next) – down the road and up the hill, though I don’t remember the hill being that steep. Still, I’m all checked in. Instead of a mint they’ve left on my pillow a condom and sachet of lube. Positive thinking, how nice of them. With a gay bar downstairs, here’s hoping.

(Damn. There’s a carpark on both sides of the track. I can’t remember which way to go. I’ll stand at the top and hopefully someone will wave.)

–+–

Back at the train station waiting for my return ride. Louise (my sister’s partner) was good enough to drive me from their house. For a station they say is “just around the corner” it’s a bloody big corner.

What an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon: playing Uncle. I haven’t seen my nephew Zackary and niece Lucy since March last year and I was surprised how much they have aged. Zack is so much more literate and considered; Lucy co-ordinated and elegant. It does sadden me that I’m not there in their lives, except these few rare visits (depending on what exhibition is on at the gallery) because it does bring me joy and allow me to feel I am making some influence and contribution into their lives. I suppose, though, being in Exotic Sydney, at least I can be the one they run away to in their teenage years. Just don’t try to hit me for any money.

We jumped on the trampoline and read books and were shown assorted prized toys and talked about moon phases and dancing and how Lucy’s not going to have a baby (apparently they hurt). After their dinner I tucked them into bed and they both complained about my scraggy beard (I’m in desperate need of a trim). Louise came home from work and she, Michelle (that’s my sister) and I had a roast pork dinner piled high with veggies. Considering that Michelle was such a bastard eater I was quite surprised. Her potatoes and pumpkin were particularly superb. I asked what was her secret. She took a packet from the cupboard and tossed it across the table:

McCORMICK
Produce Partners
Country Style Roast Potatoes

“You’re secret’s safe with me,” I said.

–+–

The whole “hangin’ with the kids” thing did get me thinking of a conversation that Anita and I had sitting while sipping tea in front of a large open fire in Margaret River. For some reason (I can’t remember why but it seemed a sensible question at the time) Anita asked me if I wanted to be a father. I answered truthfully: I don’t think my life will ever be fully complete and I will go to my crematorium a slightly sad man knowing full well that I will never have the opportunity to father children. It’s very true. I think parenting is one of the greatest gifts and greatest responsibilities of Life, and it bitters me to think it is wasted on so many people who have no desire, respect or appreciation of this… greatest thing. This is not some Darwinian theory of forwarding on your genes for a greater society (if this was the case can I start the list of those who should be neutered now?), it is solely about being there and comforting and teaching and guiding a new being; hoping to teach that child what is right in the world and to allow that person the opportunities to see what a huge influence they can make. And on saying that it so terribly saddens me that I know with all my heart that I can never be whole because I am a gay man and will never father. I would go as far as saying that I envy my friends who discover their “gayness” late in life, after they were married (though I also believe they were fooling themselves into a life of “normality” the entire time… until they woke up to themselves) as they at least from their slight adventure have children. Not that I would have to think that children are some sort of prize, like a kewpie doll – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll this is not – but they have… I don’t know… made an input into the next generation. And I think that’s a swell thing. And at times I look at the bottom of my glass knowing it’s not mine.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m Todd McKenney! Thank Gods for that!

On saying this, Zackary did keep calling me by the wrong name. Zack has a gay couple set of uncles who are friends with Louise and Michelle and he kept calling me by their names – a small mistake. While I was happy that Zack had some sort of male role models, Louise did tell me that the two had recently adopted a set (very Franklin Mint) of children whom they have named “Will” and “Grace”. Perhaps there is a reason why gay men can’t have children after all…

Got me thinking, though, what would I name my children. Well, if it were a girl, it would have to be Kylie. If it were a boy, then something really butch… like Madonna.

Back at the hotel I had a few too many beers.

–+–

Next day, Friday, I got up exceedingly late – after 12 – then hurried to the gallery to see the American Impressionist exhibition. Beautiful show full of artists I have heard of and works I have never seen. One of the greatest things an exhibition can achieve is a sense of honour that you have witness these pieces away from home, and this show certainly achieved that. It was certainly a case of the wrong shoes as I was tired standing looking at these masterpieces. At one stage there were no chairs for an entire two rooms! I had to force myself to fully appreciate their brilliance before moving to the next room and having a bit of a sit down; I could see the chairs in the next room but I wasn’t allowed to go a rest the toes till studying every available work. It’s very much a case of Mr Bean: “I look at the pictures” for me, or – my preference – Mr Chance: “I like to watch” (actually, I’ve got another blog about these two stored away, I’ll pull out sometime). I love Art – capital A, and art – little a, and shudder at a life without it. To look at these beautiful things is a joy that so few will ever understand.

I’ve been known to burst into tears at Art. It was a 1904 Frederick McCubbin work called The Pioneer at the Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria. Have a look at it; it’s beautiful. The first time I saw this work I sat in front of it on the perfectly positioned stool and I sat and I stared. This work is speaks of two generations who have live/fought Australia’s landscape, the second generation burying the first and in tern being buried by the New World. That’s how I see it. So I sat in front of this work and I looked at it and allowed my mind to experience everything that McCubbin was trying to suggest one hundred years’ earlier. And I looked at the immense hope and the intent sorrow that this represents, and I started to cry. I allowed myself to pleasure of tears trickling down cheeks; that strange mix of happiness and sorrow that comes through such an action; and to a certain level I felt cleansed. It’s nice to have a cry. Then a bunch of schoolboys rambled in and I quickly wiped my eyes and left the room. It’s one thing being in touch with your motions – it’s another being called a silly by someone who uses Clearasil.

You should also check out (check out?) other McCubbin works, such as Lost and On the Wallaby Track to understand what a superb artist this man was.

On the subject (this does link, me joining Heidelberg artists to London’s West End, believe it or not), that night I saw a new production of Cats. Now, if you would ask me (and believe me, not enough ever do) what my favourite musical of all time was I would promptly say Cats. I don’t’ think it is the best musical – I mean there are so many Gilbert and Sullivans out there, but I think they’re excluded being Operettas, but also My Fair Lady which is horribly perfect in every way, A Chorus Line, or new works like The Producers (a perfect stage play) or – quelle supreme! – Mamma Mia! – but I will always say it was my favourite musical is Cats. Why? Well I will tell you.

My parents used to own a corner shop, a local deli. I still don’t know how I feel about that time. I wasn’t very receptive to the change, I had other interests, I was unwilling to work in the store, but in my defense I was stupid and 17, so that I apologise about. On the other hand I did find the store nothing more than an excuse for my parents to not participate in my life (“Oh we have to be at the store”, they would say to every reportorial show I was in. Now I’m not saying I was performing Shakespeare, but I do, to this day, still rue them for seeing only two shows in my entire nine year theatrical career.) but I still thank them for one thing above all others. In 1989, there was a lady who used to visit the store who said she was going to see the original production of Cats and Mah said that I would like to see it. The lady invited me along and Mah allowed me to go.

I sat there in this huge room, the Festival Theatre in Adelaide, biggest room I had ever been it, and it was chocka block full of people, and the lights dimmed and the room went silent. Then the overture began and the stage started to sparkle with lights representing the night sky, as the overture for Cats works, and I burst into tears. It was that exact moment that I knew that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life is sit in darkened rooms and have people entertain me. And I was 16.

Since then I have done everything I can to see every show, being it professional or amateur, since. I don’t care, I love being… entertained. It’s not that, that sort of cheapens it. It’s more than that. It’s the talent of the artists, it’s the music and the direction, it’s the escapism, that keeps me in this imaginary world of lights and make-up. There is a lot of envy too, I know I could never be good enough to be in this world – and I blame both myself and my parents for that – so I please myself by sitting in the bleachers and watching.

People in my life, I take them to shows, but they usually disappoint me by not valuing them as I do. It has never bothered me buying a single seat, but it is so nice to drink a glass of bubbles with someone and to see their face and for it to hopefully suggest that blind awe that mine did when I first saw these shows. There are times where I have been so disappointed – one time I vowed never to share a theatrical experience again – but others have been worth it – my Dah seeing The Lion King is one of them, my Beautiful Creature seeing The 39 Steps is another.

Anyway, enough of this.

–+–

Back at the Sportsman Hotel there was drag shows on ground and Karaoke in basement. In the Karaoke Bar a gentleman came up to me.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I said back.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said.

“No, sorry,” I said.

“Last night,” he said. Then it dawned on me.

“Oh, I have completely lost a lot of last night, I’m really sorry if that offends you,” I said.

“Not at all,” he said, “but I can tell you, you had a good time.”

Upstairs a handsome boy in a blue singlet was bopping along to the music. Anyone who even caught his glance he would approach. “Oh no mate, I’m straight,” he would claim. All that I watched said something on the lines of “Yeah, whatever,” and carried on with their conversations.

In the far corner, by the pool table, was a chap I do remember chatting to in the toilets the night before. He was a tall thin shearer complete with flannel shirt, brimmed hat and a front tooth missing. There was something so incredibly physically attractive about him, even though he was with his wife and you completely knew he was “Out-of-Bounds”. Anyway, we’d got talking at some time, I think it was because I had commented on his hat; it was a very nice hat. So there is me talking about this fantastic hat and he was talking about how he was straight, and I think “well done” to him, though I can’t work out why he was in this bar – perhaps he as staying the night, it’s very cheap and very central. But as we talk he tells me he was going to sue that movie – you know the one, that movie – Brokeback Mountain – as it painted a negative image of shearers and suggested that all “cowboys” they were gay. “I was gonna sue, you can’t do that sort of thing, it’s wrong,” he said. I dried my hands and left.

On the walls of the toilets are posters for AIDS awareness, which are great thing. This horrible – yet completely preventable – disease continues to grow. It did bother me, though that the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities – or QAHC. My trouble is if you pronounce it with the ‘Q” being hard it says “kak”, which is not the best promotion of Queenslandic health. On saying that, if you say the ‘Q” with a faked “U” it would come out “kwak”, which is even worse, being the worst possible advertisement of northern Australian AIDS related awareness. It did get me thinking – what they needed was to rebadge themselves as the Queensland Association of Medical Awareness – or QAMA (“khama”) or Queensland AIDS Caring Communities’ Alliance, or “kwakka”, or perhaps I’ve just been overly influence by my time in Western Australia…

–+–

To cut a long story short, I didn’t get a root and instead simply got incredibly durnk drunk, but still woke up and was able to get out and to the airport with plenty of time before my 12 noon flight back to Sydney.

one more to go…


What I did on my holidays – Melbourne stop over

Sunday 19 July 2009

I’m standing in front of the Flinders Street Station waiting for my pares to arrive. They will be at least another 15 minutes. It’s now 9.15am and the city is beginning to wake.

Haven’t been able to check into my hotel room, which is a bugger, but the bill’s paid and everything is being held in storage till I get back. I’m in Melbourne to see two exhibitions: John Brack and Salvador Dali.  The trouble is I think my pares only want to see the Dali. The reason why this is a problem is because the Ian Potter Gallery (Brack) closes at 5pm while the NGV (Dali) not until 9, so I could easily see both if I saw the Brack first. I’ll mention this to them, but I’m not sure how eager they’ll be. They’ll still need to travel back to Bendigo and I’m sure they’ve already planned their homeward timetable. Anyway, breakfast is the first thing. I’ve had about an hour and a half’s sleep and will kill for a coffee, bacon and eggs.

–+–

I needn’t have worried about the exhibitions. While my pares didn’t know about the John Brack I did spent a bit of time selling its fine points (how Bendigo’s gallery has a couple of his works, how they would probably recognise his very early work 5pm Collins Street, how Dah might appreciate Brack’s representation of 1950’s men) before steering them towards the gallery and towards the lift. I think they really enjoyed his work and were particularly impressed how diverse his styles were. Like Mah said, you’d have thought that the works were done by three different artists. I think Dah was impressed too as he regularly commented on realistic some of his older pieces looked, or on the faces of his earlier pieces. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time – well, not a huge amount for me anyway, but we did see everything and went back to some pieces to review again. My legs were starting to feel tired too so I’d had enough and was desperate for a cuppa. So we trotted down the road to the NGV for a pot of tea each before tackling the Dali exhibition.

The Dali was designed as a retrospective and covered his very first works (at 15 years old) through to his final days in the 1980’s. I’m in a quandary but this exhibition; I’m not sure if I’m disappointed that his iconic works (melting clocks, swans turning into elephants, bowls of fruit becoming faces, the Venus chest of drawers), or pleased that I was able to see unfamiliar work (umm… well, basically everything on display). I was happy that two of the pieces were film works: An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou) (1928), Dali’s collaboration with Luis Buñuel; and the 2003 completed Disney piece Destino (2003) that was considered for the second chapter of Fantasia. The two last pieces I went back to the gallery and saw after saying good-bye to the pares. I rushed back, saw them, then went back to the hotel and fell straight asleep till my alarm went off at 9am.

In between my two visits Dah and I were dragged to the casino – “for a late lunch” Mah said –  but we both knew better. After our meals Dah and I sat in one of the bar areas while Mah went and fed coins into the bandits. She enjoyed herself, I suppose.

I’m very glad we did both exhibitions, especially after Mah said that she enjoyed the Brack – who she had never heard of – more than the Dali. There is more a commentary with Brack’s work and what he was trying to achieve throughout his career – to capture human interaction. I enjoyed his work much more too.


What I did on my holidays – Last day in Perth

Saturday 18 July 2009

Standing on the wharf, things are not going good. In front of me is an Indian trainload of messy families, all winging children and bitching mothers, and the zoo ferry has just left on it journey packed starboard to port. They’re running a less service winter timetable – you would think they would put on extra bloody sessions for the bloody school holidays though, wouldn’t you? It’s another half hour before the next craft. I’m already in a foul mood from the bus trips – the first with a kid crying for a toy – he sounded like air escaping from a balloon; the second an Indian man sniffing – no – snorting every 10 seconds. I’ve now got a bunch of teenagers complaining that they’re going to miss the movie – oh good, they’ve left. It’s not so much that I don’t like waiting, it’s that I don’t like having other people waiting with me.

Wait, I’ve got my ipod – ahhh, Diana Ross, always there when I need you.

–+–

Why did I ever decide to go to the zoo during the school holidays? It’s not the children that I mind; they’re usually too excited it’s a buzz to watch their awed faces; it’s the fucking teenager fucking girls with their fucking Oh my God! and No, seriously, and Wow, it’s that, like, a zebra? FUCK THE SHUT UP YOU FUCKING STUPID EMBARRASSMENTS!!! Teenage boys, on the other hand, KNOW that they’re stupid – but are smart enough to keep quiet about it.

–+–

I like zoos. I believe they are extremely important to the survival of animals and for the better understanding of human beings. I often think that zoos should have a domestic section with cows and sheep and stuff, so people better understand where their din din comes from.

Which segues nicely to my next thought.

Very much like how looking at different parrots can show how creatures have adapted over millions of years to better suit their environments (eat shit Intelligent Designers), zoos also are evolving. The small cages of yesterday are disappearing and being replaced with large-scale chicken wire free open spaces as natural looking to the animal’s natural environments as possible. The orang utans (personal favourites of mine, might be the hair, I don’t know) have completed Stage 1 of their refurbishment and are now living in these wonderful arrangements of ropes, boxes, lookouts and cubbyholes. It looks like Tarzan’s Dream House if designed by Lego. The Asian otters’ new wet and wild fun park is to be opened in the next month, and the Sun bears are waiting patiently for their new homestead. But it is comforting to know that some things in zoos never change. The food was its usual overpriced over fried poor excuse. What I took from the bain marie was labelled a chicken burger and fries. The chips were nice (I saw the spotty lad take them from the kitchen) but the burger was some crumbed, dry, white piece of crunchy Styrofoam (if you can have such a thing) with some green and red things smeared on one half of the bun. On closer inspection I think they were tomato and lettuce but after eating the burger I still wasn’t sure. And all with a gob smacking price tag. Oh well, I suppose they’ve got to keep the funds coming in somehow.

–+–

It’s 11pm and I’m sitting at Perth Airport waiting for my 1.10am flight. I’ve given up on trying to read Moby-Dick. Down the way a bunch of kids are chasing each other around and giggling madly. An Asian couple about 2 metres away have got out their laptop and have decided to watch R&B music videos. To my right a family have plugged in their laptop and are busy filling their ipods. Moby-Dick is confusing enough without all these further distractions.

I never made it to see the sun set, which is a pity. I spent longer than I thought at the zoo, and much longer than I had wanted in the zoo shop. I did, though, find that unique Perth souvenir I was after: a painting down by the zoo’s Asian elephants. Soon as I walked in to the shop it caught my eye but I ummed and ahhhed for a while before deciding to buy. Eventually I did the old walk-away-and-have-a-final-look-at-everything-else-and-if-it’s-still-there-when-you-come-back-then-buy-it trick. It was still there and so now I’ve got a painting done by some very talented elephant.

Dinner for Mark’s birthday (happy birthday Mark!) was at the very swanky Matilda Bay restaurant. I had a creamy, but small, risotto for starters, then the whole fish for mains; I’m getting better at removing the bones. Desert we went to a little café around the corner from John’s workplace called Tiamo (“I love you” in Italian) and – boy – did I fall in love with the waiter. Tall, dark, Italian with the most drop-dead smile, I’m sure he had a thing for me too as he “accidentally” dropped the spoon for my affogatto and had to come back especially. Sigh, he was gorgeous, but there’s a dark Italian (but not as tall) waiting for me back in Sydney, so that suits me fine.

I got through the airport check in without hassle – I thought that I might have had a problem. My luggage was 15.5kg – I’d only arranged for 15kg but the let me through without worry (I’ve been told that Tiger Airways can be very strict). The jam I have in my hand luggage for Mah wasn’t a problem either and the security guard couldn’t find any traces of explosives on me either – phew!

Boarding is not until 12.40am. I’ve a window seat so hopefully I can grab a few Zeds. I’ve a very long day tomorrow.


What I did on my holidays – Back in Perth

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Friday, out of Mark and John’s place (very nice too) by 9.30, which is pretty good for me. I’m hoping to master the public transport system today. I think I‘ve got the buses down pat ($1.70 to Anita’s; $2.40 to M+J’s) but they have some sort of beepy card system that the locals all flash at a screen. I’ve a feeling it’s that automatic system that they were planning for Sydney back before the Olympics. Nearly 10 years on it still hasn’t been achieved. Perhaps someone from Transperth can come over to Sydney and have a chat.

–+–

I’m on a train out to Fremantle to explore the markets and the neighbouring streets: Cappuccino Strip for one. It’s on the list they give you when you fist arrive, you see: Ring the bell in the Tower, go see the stuffed bison, have a coffee on Cappuccino Strip. I’ve done one of the three so far, will probably pass on the bell, but must have that coffee. On the subject, I’ve just realised that I got a cup of tea ready this morning then forgot all about it. Be nice and strong when I get back.

The train system seems to be on a 2-hour ticket. There’s no return ticket but there is an all day. This trip to Fremantle, it works out cheaper just to buy another ticket when I get there for return.

–+–

So that was Fremantle. I had a coffee and eggs benedict (with the greatest poached eggs eva!), then went to the markets and bought a new shoulder bag … and that was it. I’m not interested in the maritime museums (they have two), and I find prisons just a little distasteful – Ok, I get it! They had small rooms! They suffered! Don’t you think it’s about time ya built a bridge? (Of course I can say this being an overfed white male Generation-Xer with a secure well-paid job and a tertiary education) – so after wandering around the second hand bookshops for a while, trying to remember who wrote Dangerous Liaisons, I got back in the train and went back to the city.

I think the problem is I keep trying to talk up (think up?) what Perth is, making it bigger than it really is. As pleasant as Fremantle was I didn’t see any reason to hang around any longer and was more interested in just going home to Mark and John’s and, well, read a book. Perhaps it’s time that I started relaxing on this holiday and do nothing?

–+–

Back in the city I went to the State Library and did some research for my Beautiful Creature.

The Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary (2004) had this to say:

brasco a toilet. Recorded first in 1955, defined as ‘the dummy at a showground’. Some have conjectured that it arose from a toilet manufacturer named Brass Co. – but there is no confirmation that such a company existed. At any date, it is pronounced with a short ‘a’, not the long ‘a’ of ‘brass’.

Stunned Mullet & Two-pot Screamers: A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialism; Fifth Edition (Oxford University Press. G. A. Wilkes, 2008) defines with the more polite “lavatory”. It also lists the first written use with a possible origin:

1967 King’s Cross Whisper No 32, 6: Brasco: Toilet. A play on words, ‘where the brass nobs go’.

The most recent use being:

2002 Australian 30 August, 17: The boutique brasco [heading to article on new fashions in toilets]

Can also be spelt brassco, brascoe and brasker

Now, someone told me that the word had an American origin due to the US Navy coming over in WWII, with the toilets in the American ships being made by Brass Co. I searched through all the American lingo and colloquialism and slang books but couldn’t find any evidence of this.

As a sort of bibliography (and thoroughness) I also referred to A Dictionary of Australian Underworld Slang (Oxford University Press, 1993, Gary Simes).

–+–

After dinner (where I had the most fantastic osso buco in the history of all osso bucos) M+J and I went to the Court so I can see the Friday crowd. Had a great time. They have this back beer garden area that they have covered with a large permanent tarpaulin tent thing. It was interesting to see the night fill up; we got there about 9.30 and it doesn’t really get going to after 10 – ever half hour a new level of people would pour in. There is also a separate dance floor with a separate DJ, and the front bar, which I think was playing R & B music videos (what’s with all the damn R & B, the worst style of music ever invented?). We stayed to stumps – 2am – by which time I had knocked off seven pints, so that’s… let’s see:

7 x 570ml = 3990ml

which is:

3990ml ÷ 425ml = 9.4 schooners

Gosh!

Fell straight to sleep when we got home. Felt right as rain in the morning. Mark was pretty much okey doke too, especially considering we were basically going one for one throughout the night, though we all did start the new day very late.

What did we do Saturday? The boys took me to see the ocean, which was lovely, then, after perving on some incredibly hot surfers standing with their suits rolled down to their hips, we strolled the boardwalk at Sorrento Quay, sort of what Darling Harbour used to be before it went commercial. The Quay is your traditional touristy souvenir type place but there were also two English lolly shops (where I picked up some steak and onion chips and some marshmallow wafers dipped in chocolate – delicious!) and – which I’m still trying to understand – an Everything Egypt store. This concept shop sold Pharaohs, little figurines of black pointy nosed dogs, scarab beetle wall hangings and other paraphernalia that has come to be associated with Ancient Egypt thanks to the Mummy series of movies (Funnily enough, in the city a few days later I walked past another of these Everything Egypt stores. I wouldn’t have imagine that there was that much of a demand but maybe it’s the picture framers all over again?). Sitting on the water’s edge we feasted on fish and chips and more vinegar that can be possibly good for you. Unfortunately we needed to get back home to prepare for Mark’s birthday party otherwise we could have stayed and watched the sun set. I still haven’t seen the sun set but I understand it’s pretty magical considering it sinks into the Indian Ocean; I’m looking forward to the sizzle and the steam.

Mark’s party was a great success with lots of booze, lots of nibbles and lots of friends. I got chatting all friendly like to one fellow named José, who I had jokingly said earlier that day that I would date someone called José simply ‘cos he’s called José. The party ended with José, two lesbians and myself commandeering the ipod and playing DJ and taking requests for people’s favourite songs. Bananarama’s Love in the First Degree got a very early playing, I can tell you! So then about seven or eight of us piled into some cars and headed for the Court.

Now it gets a little weird and messy. I probably should add here that at the party I had drunk at least a bottle of white wine, 6 or 7 vodka jelly shots, and a Jäger bomb, which is a shot glass of Jägermeister dropped into a glass of Red Bull which you then scull. So I’d had my fair share of booze. Anyway, as we’re walking to the Court I lent one of the girls my leather jacket as she was feeling the cold, the rest of us had drunk enough to be protected from the elements, so at the Court she’s got my jacket and I’m just in a shirt, a very fetching shirt but just a shirt none-the-less. Mark buys the first then half an hour later I go the far far back bar to get the next round.

With me so far?

Now, at the bar was a bunch of BLONDE PERKY STRAIGHT WOMEN all standing around in that blasé way that BLONDE PERKY STRAIGHT WOMEN have that fully inconveniences everyone else as they can’t get past without tripping over their handbags. There’s a gap next to them – about 6 inches, no more – so I walk up and with my hands squeeze my way in, opening my hands apart as if I was giving a sermon, and gently – I said GENTLY – eased – NOT PUSHED – aside one of the BLONDE PERKY STRAIGHT WOMEN so I could get to the bar. They had all ordered and were just in the way to the bar: YOU DO NOT MILL AROUND A BUSY BAR!!! Anyway, I smiled at the barman and before I could even asked for a drink he, whom we are guessing must have been friends with the girls, gave me this outraged look as if I was wearing a Dirty Sanchez. All of a sudden this Indian bouncer has me by the arm and Mark and I are outside behind a locked corrugated gate garnished with barbwire. The whole thing took a matter of seconds, like some sort of SWAT operative. “What just happened there?” I asked Mark. He just shook his head.

On telling this story to others the next few days many were not surprised. Some told likewise stories of not even being allowed in on numerous occasions as the same bouncer was at the door, others of people being kicked out after being complained about by BLONDE PERKY STRAIGHT WOMEN. It’s all very strange, very serious and very sad. Sunday night I was back at the Court (reason soon) and of the dozen or so people in the entire bar two were a STRAIGHT COUPLE canoodling on the couches. All I could think was: Why? The Court is the only gay bar in all of Perth, and there are plenty of great straight bars with much nicer music and far better beer gardens, so why why why come and kiss and cuddle in the gay bar? What’s the fucking point you are trying to make?

So Mark and I (no jacket) head down to Connections, which is a gay nightclub open one day a week. I don’t remember much (truthfully, I don’t remember anything) but apparently I was chatting to a couple at one point of the piece, but somewhere along the line I got separated from Mark. So now I was jacketless and friendless and far too drunk and in a foreign city. So, in a brief moment of clarity, I said, “Sod this,” and caught a taxi back home; lucky I was able to remember the address. John let me in (he’d stayed home due not being all that able due to a recent knee operation) but there was no Mark. So I went to bed.

In the morning I felt horrendous, though I hadn’t drunk nowhere near as much as I had the night before. What did I do wrong? I mixed my drinks. Mark looked just as bad and spent the whole day either napping or laying on the couch. But he didn’t have my jacket. There was a phone call from the girls: my jacket is in the Court cloakroom and they will be bringing the stub around later. It’s after 5 when they finally show and, even though I know there won’t be a problem, I’m feeling a little frantic at being so long separated from my lovely Target-brand leather jacket. So that night after dinner I go to the Court and pick up my jacket (there was no problem) but then leave after one sole drink. I was expecting Sunday nights in the gay pub in Perth to be like Sunday nights in the gay pub anywhere else – packed with people trying to get that last bit of excitement out of the weekend. As I mentioned before: twelve people. Defeated I went home and to bed early.

–+–

Monday I was all planned to go to the zoo when José rang to see if I’d like to have lunch. I could do the zoo tomorrow, thought I, so slowed down my morning preparation and met up with José at noon. Had a nice time with him then walked him back to his work and then down to check on the zoo ferry timetable. One of the great things about Perth is it has three free travel buses that scoot around the city constantly taking you north/south, east/west or around and out a bit (for wont of a better description). I picked up the timetable and there was one of the buses so I jumped on that and went to Perth’s outlet centre: Harbour Town.

Picked up a nice pair of pants and a nice shirt, which M+J said I must have got from the ladies’ section (doesn’t matter what they think, I like it). Did try on some pants in the Roger David store. They had a stand of 2 for $40, a great bargain, and they were all of patterns that I like, so I grabbed a few pairs of Size 34s and went to the change room. (This isn’t a very interesting story, is it? It does get better… not much but at least better.) In the change room there was a bit of a problem because every pair I tried on… well… they left nothing to the imagination. I don’t know but whatever man they designed these pants to fit obviously does not have a scrotum. I was certainly dressing to the left. Gay Los Angeles men of the late 70’s did not have their balls so fully pushed forward as I was displaying. I had the groin of a rock musician appearing on “Count Down”. I know I’ve put on weight but I don’t think it’s actually possible to have fat testicles. “Is that a kransky and two boiled eggs in your trousers or are you just happy to see me?” DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY – MY PACKAGE WAS ALARMINGLY HUGE! So naturally I bought six pairs.

BOOM BOOM!

No I didn’t; I put them all back and caught the bus back to M+J’s.

Quiet night in with me mostly on the laptop typing in my blog entry (I’ve been very slack for a few days) and the boys upstairs watching taped eps of Home and Away and Eastenders. It’s Mark’s birthday tomorrow (Tuesday) and my last day in Perth. I fly the red eye that night (Wednesday morning) to Melbourne for the next stop on the journey. But now, time for bed.


What I did on my holidays – Rottnest Island; the story on a penguin in search of a quokka

Thursday 9 July 2009

All my days so far in Perth have included a sky as clear and blue as Daniel Craig’s eyes. Today, the day before I leave for Rottnest, the sky is more like Charlton Heston’s cataracts. Grey… completely grey… and wet. Delightful. I wasn’t planning on adventuring far today, if at all, just to the local café perhaps, but the rain has … um… dampened even that plan. Pity, especially considering I’ve a load of washing handing on the line. Now, rain has never bothered me – it’s only water – but damp socks and underpants do. So it looks like I’ve an adventure destined for me after all – a trip to the local Laundromat!

With a bit of on-line research I find a self-service Laundromat about 20 minutes walk from Anita’s in Maylands, a suburb I have yet to explore. Bag packed, with the first sign of the raining easing, I leave via Anita’s garage door and strut off down the lane. It’s a nice walk though a little damp, and the rain begins its casual downfall again. I was also getting a little concerned – I seemed to have walked a lot further than 20 minutes; but tucked away on the side of a little shopping district (next to a picture framers – imagine that!) was the Laundromat.

Inside were four dryers: two being used, a third “Out of Order”; and the final with a gent clearing out his dried load. Soon I chuck in my assortment of smalls, t-shirts and jeans and close the large glass door. I now notice the sign:

DO NOT PLACE SMALL
ITEMS OF CLOTHING
SUCH AS:

socks, items of baby
clothing
g-strings etc in this dryer

IT EATS THEM!!!

Considering it’s the only machine available, I take my chances with my socks.

Fifteen minutes later, my clothes toasty dry, I head back out into the world. In that short amount of time the sun had broken through, the clouds had become fluffy and white, and the puddles were acting like mirrors, making me cuss that I had left my sunglasses in my other bag.

I go for a bit of a wander and slowly meander my way back to Beaufort Street and then to home. Along the way I find an ancient hard back of Pride and Prejudice, complete with illustrated dust jacket, in the Maylands’ Salvos. I know a certain colleague’s daughter who would love that, and promptly handed over my $2 because, as we all know: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a copy of Pride and Prejudice is always in want of another copy of Pride and Prejudice.

On Beaufort Street I popped into a fabulous little shop called COOK/book which sells … oh I can’t be bothered finishing that sentence. There I got myself some silicon egg poachers (I’ve wanted some for ages but always thought they were too expensive. Here, for $20, they’re half the price I’ve seen them for in Sydney. Bargain!), and a little “thank you” present for Anita. A couple of days ago Anita made the most scrumptious kangaroo and Guinness pie, but what I thought she needed was one of those little pie birds to stick out the middle of the crust. I bought the last one they had in stock. I picked up a nice bunch of flowers too.

Incidentally, on reading this back, and other pieces in this Holiday collection, I notice that I constantly jump tenses between present (“I go for a bit of a wander”) and past (“I popped into a fabulous little shop”). This is because these entries are written swiftly and segmentally, and so lose an over-all editorial eye. Sometimes I go back and change it, other times I just can’t be bothered. Please excuse this lack in standard. Oh, but if I get my “it’s” and “its” mixed up, chastise me promptly.

Later I went to IGA to get some goods for Rottnest. It’s very much a “bring-what-you-need” situation. I got some tea, tetra pack milk, choccy bickies (I am on holiday), juice, eggs (to try out my poachers), dijonnaise sauce (they didn’t have hollandaise), bread rolls, cuppa soup, and some spag sauce and pasta to cook up one night. I’ve plenty of food, and there’s a shop on the island, plus a restaurant and a pub, but I’m covered for breakfasts and for at least one meal over the two nights. What I don’t eat I’ll bring back and donate to Anita.

Standing in front of the tea, tossing up between ten packs of the Irish or English Breakfast, there was next to me a middle-aged man considering the coffees. An elderly woman tottered up, had a quick look, then took down a small jar of Moccona and popped it in her basket. “A good choice there, hey?” said the man; the woman just smiled. “Yep, I often get that when it’s on special. That or the Riva, that’s a pretty good coffee there too, isn’t it? When they’ve got that on special, I sometimes get that. But usually I get the Nescafe 43. Now that’s a good coffee. I think that’s my favourite coffee of the three.” The woman kept smiling as she backed away. I quickly grabbed the Irish Breakfast, then scooted past.

Dinner was a quiet affair with lots of brussels sprouts. While I roast my sprouts with balsamic vinegar, John bakes his in a thyme and cheddar cheese sauce, with a parmesan cheese crust. They were extremely yummy – always nice to find new ways to eat a brassica – but I think I’ll stick to my method of just sticking them on the tray with everything else. After dinner we watched a little telly, then I excused myself and went off to pack. While I’m leaving most things at Anita’s to pick up on my return, I still do need to get some things organised. I’m taking Rose, my laptop, for instance, which reminds me: don’t forget to pack the DVDs.

–+–

The sky is clear, the wind is nil, and the ferries are certainly running to Rottnest today.

I woke up at the alarm, showered, had some toast, finished packing, and was out the door by 7.40am. Perfect. As I wandered down the street a bus was pulling into the stop. Even better (not that you can have something that is even better than perfect, but let’s just go with this for now). I break into a trot. Then the handle snapped on my mountain deluxe backpack and – wham! – the bag fell to the road. I grab it up and keep running when one of the straps snapped and – wham! – the bag fell to the road again. Cradling the bag, which was a lot heavier than I remembered, I finally made it to the bus and sat down. “Excuse me,” said the woman next to me, “but your bag seems to be leaking.” Sure enough milk was seeping across the floor. “Oh dear,” I said. ‘Don’t worry,” the woman said, “It can only get better.” She paused. “Or worse,” she finally concluded.

I sat there, trying to remain calm, practising my breathing, and working out the extent of the damage. A man tapped me on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me but you’re leaking milk.” “Yes, I know,” I said and thanked him. Soon another woman tapped me on the shoulder. Again I thanked her, then continued practicing my counting.

At the Perth train station, the first useful stop, I disembarked and checked the damage. One of the tetra packs had sprung a leak. It might not be that bad, I thought, but in the back of my head I knew I won’t know completely until I checked in to the cabin six hours later. All I could do for now was remove the bastard carton and re-zip the bag. I toiled the backpack the few blocks down to the wharf, cussing all the way. Bloody cheap bag! Still, what do you expect for $14

–+–

Turns out the morning ferry is not running due to technical problems, so it’s a bus to Fremantle. Lovely. I ask where I can get a coffee and am pointed towards a shop down a bit and to the right. I get a take-away flat white – $3.80. THREE DOLLARS BLOODY EIGHTY!!! I’m over this Rottnest trip before it’s even begun. I’m telling you – I better get to keep a bloody quokka!

We all piled into the minibus. Across from me sat an elderly couple – he in a Scottish peaked cap complete with pom pom – and their daughter and her son. “We should get hour money back,” they moaned. “We payed for a river cruise not a bus ride. That’s why we came all this way, for a river cruise. We should at least write them an email of complaint. It’s not good enough to just say the boat’s being fixed. It’s your business and it you’re going to offer a river cruise then customers should get a river cruise. I reckon next time, next time, what we’ll do it not book before hand on the internet but come down on the day and if they’re not offering a river cruise then we go with another company. Still, at least we’ll get a river cruise coming back, but it will be dark, wouldn’t it? And we won’t be able to see anything. If we don’t get a river cruise coming back then I’m demanding my money back, ‘cos that’s what we paid for, wasn’t it?” And so on. It was incredibly grating. But I was quite happy to take the bus as the driver pointed out this attraction and that landmark, with a bit of home grown gossip thrown in. He was very entertaining. 

Waiting at the Fremantle Port for the ferry there was this intense smell, like no water borne smell I have ever smelt. It wasn’t that salty, rotting seaweed smell, or that gutted fish at the market smell. Funny, though, it was strangely familiar, like something from my deep dark past: a heavy, heady, dusty smell, with a touch of manure. It was then that I noticed on the other side of the Port a great carrier painted with the words: LIVESTOCK EXPRESS. Oh, so that’s the smell. I knew it was familiar.

A long time ago, when I was very small, my family spent some time of a cousin’s sheep farm. I have no idea how old I was, mostly like 6 or 7, I should ask Mah when I see her in Melbourne, but I have incredibly strong memories of the trip. I remember running across a paddock. I remember that Mah and Dah left early and I stayed for a few extra days. I remember sheep dogs, but I don’t remember sheep. But what I remember more than anything is being in a sheep shed. It was dark, just natural light piercing through the beams, walls, and floor boards (I remember that light seemed also to come up from the floor), and the timber floor was slightly waxy from all the lanolin. The floor was covered with a mixture of wool tufts and sheep droppings, and I remember so strongly that I didn’t want to walk across it – I’d get pooh between my toes! I was a delicate flower, even back then. But what strikes me the most is the smell – a mixture of sheep droppings and fine red dust and lanolin and labourer’s sweat. And the sun, there was also the smell of the sun – natural forces instead of the fluorescent light; or maybe that was a sound – a clean air and not one gently humming? I don’t know, but if the sun could have a smell, it was there. Nearly 30 years later all that came flooding back just by standing on an unfamiliar wharf in an unfamiliar city.

As the ferry was about to leave an old duck and her granddaughter leapt on board and squeezed in next to me on the back in the open air. We got chatting. Another Sydney-Sider over here to see her granddaughter compete in the national gymnastic championship. She’s only here for a day. “That’ll be enough,” she said.

I’m on the island 40 minutes later, but check-in is not until 2pm: another 3+ hours. I go for a wander while I wait and stand on my first Western Australian beach and see my second Western Australian lighthouse. As I was heading down to the beach I spy – oh joy of joys! – my first quokka. Slowly I sneak up and take photo after photo, each one a little bit closer. The big rat (sorry) marsupial just kept munching its seedpods. I got closer and closer until I was near enough for it to sniff my hand. I t wouldn’t let me pat it though, but they sure look cuddly. I WANT TO KEEP ONE! Finally, bored, it slowly started to hop away. I looked at my watch – 11.15am. “There you go,” I said to no-one in particular, “I’ve seen a quokka. I could easily go home now.”

After wandering back along the coast line and through all the holiday cottages jammed with vacationing families – the young scooting about on bicycles, the old sitting on foldable chairs on the verandahs enjoying either a cup of tea of a bottle of beer – I chat a while to Patricia, a guide trainee, in one of the many heritage spots. She’s doing her exams later in the week to become a fully-fledged volunteer. I wished her luck and promised to come to her session tomorrow as support. (I never made it)

I popped into the information centre – according to the board my room is still not available – so it’s a stroll down to the Quokka Arms Hotel for a pint and an enjoyable beer battered fish and chips with red pepper aioli (they love their aioli here in Western Australia – sort of the focaccia of the Noughties). As I ate I watched the ferry return with its next load of passengers; I was relieved to see it had a load of luggage this time, in a cage at the back. Hopefully my milk-sodden bag is amongst it.

Quokka Arms is a great place to people, and peacock, watch, though at $9 a pint I think I’ll be mostly drinking in. Groups gather around tables and order Coronas; kids clamber over the old stone fences or leap on the wooden stools in the beer garden, a bit like a human version of Q-Bert; young girls in skimpy shorts; lads over loaded with surfboards and enormous head phones; the occasional gents obviously thinking they’re in the Tour de France, peddles up, unclicks his specially designed shoes, then does that strange click-click waddle walk. The peacock strolled over to my table a number of occasions but I never got a good photo of it. He was either scared away by marauding children or realised I had no chips to spare.

At 2 minutes to 2pm I get jack of the waiting and join the service queue. My room is ready. At the pick-up/drop-off spot, a couple of doors from my cabin, my bag is waiting. Everything is looking rosy. I yank open my bag expecting my clothes to be a little damp and yoghurt smelling, but things were stickier than I wished. Three of the eggs had cracked also on the journey and leaked their albumenic goodness all over my new striped hoodie. I haven’t even had a chance to wear it yet. Five minutes in the bathroom sink with the bottle of body wash and my hoodie is soaking wet but seemingly egg free, a bit like a vegan cake, if you think about it, and probably just as tasty. Everything else, and I mean everything else, has the damp signs of the busted milk carton so I drape everything over the bunk bed railings in an attempt to dry. The moment I get to Mark and John’s I’m washing straight away. Thank goodness I had the insight to pop into the Rottnest grocery and pick up some booze. I was hoping on getting something Western Australian but – they don’t call me Cheap Clyde for nothing – I ended up with my ol’ favourite 2-litre cask of Yalumba Shiraz. It does me. I’ve finished my first glass just while typing this, and there’s plenty more where that glass came from!

To my amusement (or is that “dismay”?) the grocery also had, believe it or not, every food item that I had brought with me. I check using the IGA docket – every item. I could have just bought everything here and now not have a broken bag and clothing covered in eggnog. Oh well. Now that I think about it, I’m sure someone at work had mentioned this. Perhaps next time I’ll listen.

The room: Caroline Thomson 705. It’s quite nice really, I’ve stayed in far worse hotels. It’s a cabin designed to sleep 6 via a double and two lots of bunks (I thought I was getting a 2-person but I’m not complaining), an average sized kitchen table, a refrigerator (fantastic), a gas stove, and sink. Attached is a little bathroom being bison (sorry) basin, shower with one of those overly friendly curtains that just wants to cling to you, and toot (or “brasco” – hello Beautiful Creature!). Out front (where I’m sitting and chewing up Rose’s battery) is a picnic table under the little verandah. It’s all very nice, very comfortable, and very holiday. I’m feeling serene just writing about it. 

The seven cabins in my allotment form a squashed semi-circle around a communal barbeque.  I’m on a straight side so my neighbouring cabins (703 and 704) are on jaunty angles to complement the circular shape. I know that 704 has a young child in it as I’ve heard both the child and the mother, and they’ve hired a bike with a baby seat (absolute giveaway). 703 has a pink kids bike thrown out the front of it, so I’m assuming there’s a little girl there. Funny – the dad from 704 just rode up on his bike (the bike being the only form of transportation on the island. Actually, that’s not true – there’s the bus service and also (I was surprised) a train that used to carry artillery to the Oliver Hill Lookout, Western Australia’s first line of defence against enemy attacks. I’ll hire a bike tomorrow. Sorry, where was I?) Funny – the dad from 704 has just peddled up. Seems a nice guy – a Mac user so he can’t be at all bad – but I couldn’t help noticing the stupid bike shoes.

Let’s think about those stupid bike shoes for a moment. Sure you can click them into the peddles of your bike and go speeding along. Sure they are incredibly comfortable and great for your feet and make cycling an ease. And sure they give you a sense of belonging to a club, a movement, an identity. So sure to all these things and many more. But they make you look like a knob. Sense Factor might be high, but the Knob Factor is off the scale.

O-H M-Y G-O-D-S !-!-! A quokka – A QUOKKA – just did that cute little bounce up to my cabin to say hello. He came up, had a little sniff around, took out some discount brochures it had in its pouch, pissed on the doorstep, and then meandered off to the next cabin. Now, that’s what I call service!

It’s just started raining. And now it’s stopped. What’s the time – 5.09pm. I’ve been sitting here on the verandah (I went and bought an extension cord), typing in my notes and now I’ve suddenly realised how cold it has become. Brr, I say. I go inside and grab my jumper – luckily un-egged and un-milked – to put on. Noticing the clothes on the railings I realise how little clothes I’ve packed. I’m really doing this holiday on the easy with all clothes demanding a second wearing. Actually, I think I’m finally starting to perfect the notion of holiday packing – you really don’t need much at all, but with my new hoodie out of action it’s interesting how much you being to have to rely on just the basics. It’s very muchgoing to be the same t-shirt and jeans kind of days.

O-O-H-H M-M-Y-Y G-G-O-O-D-D-S-S !-!-!-!-!-!-! A QUOKKA JUST WENT INTO MY CABIN!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Is that not the most amazing this ever!!! No, wait – I’ve now got two quokkas – DOUBLE AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!! There are signs everywhere saying not feed the quokkas as they die or start forming gangs and mug you. Well, I can’t help myself and pinch off pieces of bread roll to tempt them closer. Oh no – I’ve created a quokka fight. One bit the other and now there’s fur. Oh gods they are so gorgeous! Why don’t we replicate them and have them as house pets.

It’s a bit later on (5.47), the rain has recommenced, and I’m now wearing my jumper, scarf and leather jacket. I could just go inside but what’s the fun of that? My 704 neighbours, who have been here for a week and have another week to go, have cycled off to the hotel. It’s raining in that “I’m not really raining” type of way. The information centre gave me some postcards. I’ve a few birthdays coming up but what do you write?

Having a lovely time
Wish you were here
Our room is marked with an “x”

Hmmm… I’m having a bit of trouble writing neatly, even just trying to hold the pen. The night’s a bit of a blur after that.

–+–

Wednesday I wake with just the palest of heads. What did I do last night? Nearly finished the cask of red for one thing. I had also cooked – I have no memory of this – and the stove is covered with fettuccini and stir-through pasta sauce. I didn’t bring any cleaning products (I would have thought they would have supplied at least a bottle of washing liquid and a brush) so I’m a bit lost to how I’m going to fix up this mess. Hot water and the towel once I’ve finished with it will have to do. I’d also left the gas tap on so was slowly killing myself all night.

I finally get out the cabin, after first checking on the state of the milked clothes (still damp), and walk down to the bike hire shed. The bike is the only form of transport on the entire island and a necessity if you wish to explore away from the settlement. At the shop I order a bike for the day. The lady asks if there are any additional things I might need: a basket, a light, a pair of those stupid bike shoes that make you look like a knob. I politely say no and just stick to ordering a geared bike and helmet. While waiting in line I worked out that I haven’t been on a bike for 16 years and I’m curious to know if riding a bike is like … well … riding a bike. Soon, seat adjusted and helmet on I find out that it is like riding a bike, though I’m pretty wobbly when I start off. Map in hand I set off anticlockwise on the yellow line which circles the entire island right down to the very western tip. Total estimated journey: 3 – 5 hours.

What I hadn’t counted on was just how exhausting cycling can be, especially considering I just set out as if the last time I cycled 22 kilometres was yesterday. After 2km, on reaching the Geordie Bay shops, I thought I was either going to throw up or have a heart attack. I buy a bottle of water and slowly sip away half of it. Great, 9% in and I’ve already halved my water supply.

I’ve also never ridden a bike with gears. The last bike I had was 10 Speed – you just clicked the dial to the resistance number you wanted. This bike has got dials on both handles. I think the idea is you have it at a low resistance that you can still pedal but at a high enough one that you propel yourself forward as you go. After a lot of mucking about I settle on a 2:5 combination. It seems to work the best.

I’m wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper. I had hoped to wear the hoodie but that’s still damp from its egg mishap (examining it later, I missed some of the bloody egg. I’ll chuck it in the wash with everything else when I get to Mark and John’s). The sky is cloudy and the wind is crisp. The island is a lot hillier than I thought it would be but the struggle to get up one side (sometimes walked) is made up by the exhilaration of zooming down the other. And I’m enjoying myself immensely.

As I travel I stop and enjoy the views of the bays. Rottnest has 63 inlets and bays and, I reckon, I visit 59 over the day. The most spectacular spot is the West End. Standing on the timber lookout and watching the force of the waves come crashing in is a momentous experience, but try as I might I couldn’t see any whales; I’m a month too early.

On my way back, though, standing at the southernest point of the island, I spied a large shape bobbing out in the water. I washed it for a while as it seemed to dip under the waves to then come bounding back. IT’S A WHALE! IT’S A WHALE! I’VE SEEN A WHALE!! YAY!!! Turns out it wasn’t a whale, just a speedboat out fishing. Shoulders slouched I got back on my bike and treadled away.

I don’t know if I took the easy or the hard route, travelling anticlockwise around the island, but the hills seems steeper and the wind fiercer, but eventually I saw a holiday cabin and I realised I was back in Civilisation. I had made it! I stopped off at my cabin to refill my water bottle. It was 2pm. The entire journey had taken me two and a half hours.

I’d walked to the Bathurst Lighthouse on my first day but I still hadn’t been to the central one – the Wadjemup Lighthouse – or the Oliver Hill cannon for that matter, which was Australia’s first line of defence back in WWII. Unfortunately, I had now missed all the tours (The last tour for anything is 2pm. I tell you, they really need to reconsider how they manage the tour schedules but I suppose it’s designed for day visitors only.) so I decided to peddle the distance instead, and at least go and stand next to the landmarks and admire the view. The path heads out west from the Settlement and weaves its way through the inland lakes so it was a nice journey on mostly flat land that gave you the chance to do a little bit of bird watching too. Did I say “mostly flat land”? Not the bits to get to the Lighthouse or cannon. You’ve got to build these things on hills, you see; I was just a little shocked to think that they made hills so tall.

The cannon could fire an armour-piercing bullet a distance of 28km, which is sufficient to do some pretty serious damage if fired Perth-wards. Can’t remember how far away Perth is from the Island but the Old Duck who I was chatting to on the way over said that it the distance was no more than from Sydney Harbour to Manly. I didn’t stay long at the cannon, just enough to walk around; I find there’s something incredibly morbid about glorifying defence. Yeah, sure, the cannon was there to defend Australia but the display boards go into graphic detail about how much damage the cannon could do. It was so very proud of how much it was prepared to kill and destroy. The trouble is that Australia really has had absolutely no world importance except to produce movie stars and fight in other country’s wars. It’s a bit late now to ponder but what would have happened if Australia had told England to bugger off back in World War One? We wouldn’t have a public holiday at the very least. That sounds even more Un-Australian than fighting.

The Lighthouse is on an even taller hill but the view was magnificent. You could see the water horizon the entire 360 degrees – the full distance. It was the first time ever in my life that I have realised I was on an island. I’ve been on islands before (well, Australia’s an island, isn’t it?) but when do you get the chance to visually realise this? I am awed by the experience. I am disappointed, however, when I discovered that the lighthouse had been fully automatic since 1990. That’s such a pity as I always had dreams of marrying a lighthouse keeper and keeping him company. Will just go and have to find another lighthouse.

I took a detour on my way back that crossed north through the lake system, which meant that I retraced some of my earliest bike path, but this time travelling clockwise. It was head on wind the entire way and I was seriously buggered. The slightest sign of a hill was enough for me to get off and walk to the peak. I did make it back to my cabin, of course, and finally realised that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Standing out the front of the cabin, watching the blackest of black crows, I devoured half a packet of chocolate wafers and two cups of tea. As shattered as I was I felt so proud of myself; first time on a bike in too many years and I had completely circled and criss-cross the island.

I looked at my watch: it was just going on 4pm. I go for a little lie down. I wake up at 7.

Food-wise I’ve got two cups of soup, a bottle of coke zero, and about a third of a carton of milk. It sounds like it’s raining but it turns out just to be the wind in the trees. All the shops are now closed (they close at 6) so I get dressed and plan for dinner at the Quokka Arms; they’ve a Wednesday special of beer and pasta for $20. Getting on the bike, though, was a shock to the system. I seem to have bruised my entire undercarriage; sitting was a tender subject. I take the ride very slowly.

As I wince my way through the settlement, I am stopped by the road being completely covered with quokkas. It was like the final scene from that rarely shown cinematic masterpiece Alfred Hitchcock’s The Quokkas. As I approached the little buggers all looked up, their little beady eyes catching in the street light, and I was reminded of that scene from that other cinematic masterpiece 1960’s Quokkas of the Damned (John Carpenter remade it in 1995). Silently, I slowly steered my way amongst them; they just sat there and allowed me to pass.

The Arms is packed, it being the only place open after 6pm on the entire island. The pasta options turn out to be macaroni cheese, tomato and fettuccini and a creamy carbonara. I ordered the carbonara and took my beer to sit outside. It wasn’t raining, just occasionally spitting, and it was nice sitting their watching the perfect row of lights on the horizon. There’s Perth, that must be Fremantle, but the lights kept on going; Albany perhaps? The meal eventually arrived (it wasn’t anything special) and I finished my beer. I considered another, but no, I’ve had my full for the day and really just wanted to go back to my little cabin and watch a movie while tucked up in bed. The rain has started too so it looks like my timing is right.

–+–

Thursday, 7:30 and I’m packed ready to go, listening to the My Fair Lady original Broadway recording. My backpack, now dairy product free, is out sitting in the pick-up zone for someone to either collect and transport back to Perth, or steal. I’ve wiped down the stove and the sink using the towel dipped in hot water, which seems to have done the trick. I’m not going to mop; I think you are expected to but bugger that, I’m on holiday!

Oh damn. The battery just went on Rose. No more My Fair Lady.

Oh double damn. The zip on my shoulder bag just broke, even ripping out some teeth in the process. I’m not doing well with bags, am I?

It rained solidly all night, paused long enough for me to put my backpack out, then started its downpour again. I may finally get the opportunity to wear the rainjacket I bought. I’m just waiting now till the bike hire reopens, so until then I’m sitting inside, or standing outside, sipping tea.

I’m also walking a bit like a cowduck – a wide gaited waddle. All my private bits are tender from all that cylcing. I’m just glad there’s no full length mirror, otherwise I’d have been tempted to take a gander (to continue the duck reference).

The rain stops at 8.30 and I lock the door and peddle off to return the bike. I’ve enjoyed having the bike; I’m sure I could get used to the bruises. By the time I have recollected by bike hire deposit the sky is prefectly clear and it looks like it’s going to be another wonderful Rottenst Island day.

–+–

The rest of the day was a tedious collection of waiting. I waited for the ferry, I waited for the river boat, I waited for the bus back to Anita’s. It’s now just past 3pm and I’m halfway through a cup of tea and still the waiting game continues. I’m now waiting for Anita so I can hand over the keys, then waiting to travel to Mark and John’s, my next hosts. I can’t remember if they were going to pick me up on the way home from work, or if I was to get their myself. Might go make a phone call.

–+–

All this waiting and travelling did give me a chance to think about the last couple of days. Me, who never likes to be mroe than a stone’s throw from the theatre district, had a truly great time on Rottnest Island, but I don’t know if it was relaxing. The first day was a mess of trekking up and down with my bags and waiting to get in to the cabin, but I did get to do one of the nature walks and had a nice lunch at the pub and chat to a very helpful guide. But then I just got pissed that night and lost about 4 hours. Yesterday I was on the bike for 5 solid hours, circling and criss-crossing the island. Considering I haven’t been on a bike for 16 years I think that’s a pretty impressive feat. I slept well before waking for dinner, but it wasn’t till late last night that I got to just sit with everything done and simply relax.

If I had booked another night then today would have been taken up just sitting and reading and thinking. And relaxing! Someone once told me that that was what you are supposed to do on holidays; I seem to spend mine constantly rushing from gallery to pub. Still, I’ve five more days here.

Tomorrow I’m going to Fremantle Markets, which should be fun, see if I can get a new shoulder bag, and I think we’re hitting the Court that night. Saturday is Mark’s birthday party so I’m invited to that. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all presently free. I’d like to go to the zoo, and there’s the aquarium. But then again I might just sit around and read Moby-Dick and try out this “relaxing” that people seem to talk about.

Decisions, decisions, just as long as I’m enjoying myself.