Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recently i bought a Samsung tablet. Very excited I was. 

I took it on a trip to Europe and promised myself to publish regular blogs, but do you think I could find a way to copy the tales from Polaris to the on-line blog? No. Not possible. I tried everything.

anyway, forget all that, here's one I would have posted. It's based on a dream I had. Forget where, but I think France.

In the dream I wrote a letter to Bono, lead singer of U2, world fighter against poverty.

Dear Bono,
Maybe you don't remember me but just in case you do I am the man who yelled at you in Paris that I only had three socks. You laughed. You thought I was joking. You Irish are well known for your music, your drinking, fighting and laughing, but I was not joking.

A life with three socks is not easy. You cannot wear them all at once, because one foot would be heavier than the other, and also much tighter in the shoe. And you cannot wear two socks one day and one sock the next. On this day the one sockless foot is a lonely and cold foot. Why does it not have it's own sock? It cannot understand. It becomes resentful and will attempt to take a sock from the other foot. It is only natural.

There is only one answer; every day one foot is wearing a dirty sock and one foot a clean sock. This also is not easy because the foot with the dirty sock feels badly treated and longs for it's turn with a clean sock. It becomes a life of juggling socks, to make sure that one foot does not always get the clean sock, or the dirty sock. As long as each foot knows it will have a clean sock tomorrow if today it wears a dirty sock, they can live side by side with little conflict.

But since I yelled at you in Paris things have changed and I am now the owner of four socks and each day I can wear two clean socks, one on each foot. Every day now, both feet are happy at the same time.

How did I come by this extra sock? Did I buy it in a fashion store, or off an Indian street seller? No, Mr Bono, and here I am not proud to say, I took it from another man. He did not give up his sock willingly. I had to take it and run and hope never to see the man again, because I know he, like one foot in a dirty sock, will be resentful and try to take back his right to have one clean sock on each foot each and every day.

It happened because I saw an opportunity. The man was sitting on a seat by a public fountain. He had washed his socks and they were drying over the back of the seat. In front of him a large group of those stupid fat pigeons were trying to convince him to throw them some of the bread he had in his hand. The birds I call rats with wings were winning him over and he became distracted. This caused me to lose any respect I had for him and so I took one of his socks. Just one, I am not a thief. I am a human being. As I ran away I turned and yelled: I am sorry, my friend, but my feet are angry and even the Irish laugh at me.

The man stood up and chased me but his feet became tangled in the running and flying pigeons and he fell over.

I am now safe and my feet are happy.

Friday, May 09, 2014

I'm sore as hell and I know I have to take a lot more before I'm done.

If I was smart, sensible and retired, I would take it easy, sit in a comfortable chair and rock myself to sleep, slowly, with the sun on my face, a book on my lap and a sock in my mouth.

Do I know I can do this? Yes. Have I done this? Yes. Why did I do this? Because I was bored, depressed or my stomach was distended, packed with more food than a Clive Palmer snack but I ate it because I hate waste. And the sock? Just a thing I have with socks.

But it won't happen again, because when I wake on an average morning the first thing I do is check for breathing, then I get up, strap my legs, and head for the beach.

It doesn't matter how sore and sorry I am, as soon as I hit the great southern ocean, all feelings wash. I swim, I roll, body surf, swim, roll, surf, float,  then, when the cold has owned, me I run for the piping hot showers at Ellen Cove, Albany,  as far as I know the only hot steamy showers on any beach, anywhere.

How  do I guess this? Because there are two showers in the room and inevitably I am joined by another, usually an out - of - towner,  and he always exclaims: "Man, these showers, I have never been on a beach before that had such hot showers."

I have heard this said in the following accents: French, German, Polish, Dutch, Canadian, Czech, and Peppermint Grove.

Nothing like getting out of a cold cold ocean and plunging under a  steaming stream of public water.

If you are not sure where Albany is, here's a map:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's football season - Time to reflect

When I began my football career my father was there to record it on his 8ml movie camera. What the footage shows is a little blond bombshell chucking his body into packs like it belonged to someone else.

The game was played hard and rough and in the end Boyup Brook Primary came out in front of my team, Bridgetown Primary. The Brookers won because they flooded their back line and we got caught in the wash.

Even with the cinematic evidence captured for all time my game still wasn’t good enough for my father, who said, as soon as I got back in the family car, a Simca Vedette: “Why didn‘t you kick the ball when you had it in front of goal? That big kid with the black hair, you should have knocked him over.”

And so on, until mum pipped up with: “Stan, leave the boy alone. Can’t you hold off until we get that gaping head wound stitched up?”

All right, I made that last bit up, and, to be honest, making stories up has brought me a lot more success than my football. 

Which brings me to my heyday, my three years with the legends of the Lower South West Football League, the mighty Deanmill Hawks.

Over those three fabulous years, I played three great games. Well, two ordinary games and one I don’t remember very well because big Johnny turner from the Pemberton Southerners smashed into me and I got lost in a weird time warp. The Pemby trainer found me a week later in Big John’s hand, trapped in his life-line.

Eventually I became a writer and many legends of the game are now immortalised in a national publication of stories and essays on Australian Rules.

Australia’s Game, Slattery Media Group, ed Ross Fitzgerald and Ken Spillman.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014



  Doust, JonToby, Xavier

Danny Katz (right hand on chin, glasses)
Jon Doust (hat)
Xavier Toby (right hand on chin, no glasses)

Cash for Comment

Sat 22 Feb 2014

Comedians and authors Xavier Toby and Danny Katz moonlight as newspaper columnists, putting a humorous spin to their opinions on life's big issues. They speak with Jon Doust.

Free, no bookings

This writer will be at the festival all day Friday 21 and Saturday 22. He loves a festival. he has been called a "festival slut". By his life-partner.
Should he, and all the other writers, be home and writing? Yes. So if we seem out of sorts, a little edge, perturbed, dysfunctional, then you know why. We are away from our comfort. Treat us kindly. Only touch if we request. 

Did you read what it said above: FREE!
You see, Danny, Jon and Xavier, are doing this, not for money, for love, their love for you.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Ubud 2013

The Bali flight from Perth was full of screaming children and parents trying to look cool and be cool. Some made it. Other didn’t. Me? Can’t remember. I was so tired it was all a blur. All that remains in memory are the screams.

Denpassar Airport is new, very new. We got off the plane and gathered in a huge barn and lined up in long queues that seemed to take a week to reach the immigration desk, where I received a smile, which was nice.

Outside in the flurry of names held up by eager taxi drivers I could see no name that looked like mine, so I chose one at random and finished up in Kuta with a group of chartered accountants attending an international conference on global money transfers. 

Sorry, I made that up. What happened was someone up the back yelled at me because they remembered me from last year and because they once had a farm in Denmark, just down the road from Albany, and they knew me by face.

There were other faces in the Ubud cluster and one of them belonged to Julian Burnside, so I told him the name of my face and he told me the name of his. I reminded him we were in a session together, People of Letters. He asked me if I knew what it was about. I pretended I had no idea because he said he didn’t and I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the others. Later, I realised I had no idea too, but the realisation helped me to discover the secret, to adapt, and make a good fist of it. Something similar must have happened to Julian because his fist turned out all right too.

That sorted I got in a taxi with Ian Burnett and his delightful partner whose name sits in my memory as a sound but I have no way of knowing how it looks as a word and so will not write it as a word in order to save embarrassing both of us. Mainly me. Ian wrote a book about the spice trade with all its murder, mayhem and romance and called it Spice Islands.

The long drive up the hill to Ubud with Wayan (first born man) was a lot of fun and full of lively discussion, most of which I can no longer remember because of the floating cloud in my brain and the constant battering from the lack of sleep drums and the residual screams.

On arrival in Ubud we drove around for what couldn’t have been a day but felt like it, trying to find a way through the road works to Ian’s resort. I never saw him again. But I did get to Honeymoon Guest House No 1, owned by the wondrous Janet DeNeefe, Festival Founder and Director and the master of cool, Ketut Suardana, Chair of the Mudra Swari Saraswati Foundation, the not-for-profit organisation behind the festival.

And so it all began, one mad rush through sumptuous feasting, thrilling panelling, intense, lively and intimate conversations with people you know, people you never met, then did, and loved in an instant, and people you have admired for decades who suddenly appear in front of you with your book in their hand asking for your signature and you want to refuse because they don’t seem to understand that you are not worthy because of the image you hold of them in your mind’s memory of fine and great people.


Here are a very small collection of highlights. The true and honest list is too long and I would have to live it all again and not sleep again and my doctor has given me instructions I must obey if I am to live longer than my father.

Catching half of the David Vann – Legend of a Suicide - and Jennifer Byrne conversation. David was funny, sad and behaved like an American who has left his country for New Zealand, which he has. If he talks in a place near you, go listen.

The Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Michael Cathcart chat was engaging and insightful. All about war and love and family and fragility.

Laki Laki Yang Lucu was a session all about comedy and a pleasure to be sitting beside Tom Doig, Morris Gleitzman and Ernest Prakasa and the hilarious Khairani Barokka. If you look them all up you will notice they all carry credentials and I’m pretty sure each and every one of them hit me with theirs at least once during the discussion.

Jalan Jalan meant a long walk on a wonky ankle but I met others worse off and the lush paddy fields filled our souls with hope and when we arrived at Sari Organik we were tired but ready for another sumptuous feast and travel tales and who better to yarn with than two seasoned walkers and talkers, Jan Cornall and Claire Scobie. 

The Second Sex Debate was full of lies and cons and featured a stand up stoush between the champion on my team, on any team, Olin Monteiro, and a woman in the audience. It was a thrilling encounter and reminded us all that Indonesia is, in practise, a democracy. Others on the team were Wayan Juniatha, who last year took me to West Timor and left me there, Florence Williams, a rare American presence, Tom Doig, an insane and funny New Zealander, and Clementine Ford, an hilarious feminist from Adelaide. We were all chaired with charm and wit by Chip Rolley, once director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

My personal highlight was a gripping session with Ben Quilty and Augustinus Wibowo. Both men spoke with quiet intensity about their experiences in Afghanistan. Ben won the 2011 Archibald with his painting of Margaret Olley and was in Kandahar as the Official War Artist for the Australian War Memorial. Augustinus is an Indonesian travel writer with a fascination for the Afghanistan most of us know nothing of. Both men spoke from deep places about their experiences but what struck me was the startling revelation that rape was an issue on both sides of the security fence. Augustinus spoke about the local tradition of Playboys, these are young men older men buy, or hire, or win over, for their sexual peasure. Augustinus told of being sexually harassed as he travelled through the country. When Ben arrived at the Kandahar base he was handed a “rape whistle” by the camp commandant because a few days before a young Dutch soldier had been raped by five American soldiers and that rape was a constant problem at the base. I, like many others in the audience, sat dumb with horror in our minds, hearts and souls.

Do you mind if I finish on a happy note? Thank you.

I had the pleasure of working with the fabulous People of Letters team – Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. These two wonders arrived in Ubud from Jakarta where they had presented a Women of Letters. In Ubud they presented another mob of Women with their notes and then us, the people. On the team and reading were Julian Burnside, Cate Kennedy, Claire Bowditch, Ketut Yuliarsa and Morris Gleitzman. Our instructions were to write to the thing which we wished we had written. And we did. And the laughs came thick and fast. Eventually, it is possible, rumour has it, these letters may appear in a book.

Now, to the conversational highlights. To be fair, there were many, because if there is something I love, it is an intense and intimate conversation. I won’t name names, except one, Bob Connolly, that great Australian documentary film maker. Here’s how it happened.

I join a cluster at the Australian Embassy cocktail party. There is a flurry and I am in the middle and running four conversations at the same time. Someone says Bob Connolly would like you to sign your book for him, the one you wrote about boarding school, Boy on a Wire. I stop them and ask, who did you say? They repeat and I turn to see the great man standing there with my book in his hands and I go down on a knee and refuse to sign until he recognises that I have long admired his work and that I am but a boy and naive and innocent in the wilderness of artistic endeavour. He takes pity on me and helps me to my feet, saying he can feel my pain because his knees aren’t too good either and then he introduces me to his partner Sophie Raymond and it is she who has told me who he is as though I don’t know but I do and the next day Bob and me huddle together like two old men who have known each other forever and talk a talk that belongs to him and me.

Just in case you have forgotten Bob’s work: Mrs Carey’s Concert, Rats in the Ranks, Facing the Music, First Contact, Black Harvest, Joe Leahy’s Neighbours.

Did I mention where I stayed? I think I did, the Honeymoon Guesthouse No 1. And, yes, it was a hot-bed of conversation. Will I name names? No. But I remember them all. (I’m writer, I keep notes.)

Finally, the big question: Do I love the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival? What a dumb question. It fills me, enriches me, I come home changed.

Jon Doust's passage to Ubud was made possible by a grant from the Department of Culture and the Arts through it's Artflight program.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Big Big Sky, Geraldton, 2013

There is no doubt I love a festival, in particular, a writers/readers festival. My favourite? Too hard to call, but, if you were to pressure me for a short list, on it would be two I have just attended: Big Sky Readers and Writers Festival  in Geraldton and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali.

Big Sky had been denied me for some years due to other engagements, or perhaps the lack of a book to talk about, whatever, I missed it. It is fine little festival full of good cheer and camaraderie. For this year’s event I again signed up for a quick flight over to the Abrolhos islands. And what better company: Ailsa Piper, Rosemary Sayer, Toni Jordan, Brenton McKenna, Mitch Becker, Di Wolfer.

 Malcolm, Ailsa, Diane, The Captain, Toni and Sue.

On the way we flew through a rainbow.

 And when we got there, such beauty.

One man, Brenton McKenna, is a brilliant graphic novelist, the other is an idiot.

Fine story tellers: Doust, Clarrie Cameron, Brenton McKenna, Boori Monty Pryor

Below: Geri Bar, Laureate Project Manager for Australia's Children;'s Laureate - Boori Monty Pryor.

Above: the full contingent, all named here: Big Sky Writers 2013