Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 7/12/2010

In an ideal world Paul Terry would still be with us and one of his gifts, the Esplanade Hotel, would still be standing. But he isn’t and it isn’t.

Ok, so let’s imagine another world.

In this world the hotel has been demolished following its purchase by a group keen not to offend the locals. The group builds a magnificent hotel that not only utilises the scenic setting but also takes full advantage of the potential for green energy. It features north facing windows, solar panels, wind turbines and aspiring young hospitality students from the Great Southern Institute of Technology (GSIT) are employed part-time earning credits for their diplomas.

The new building attracts visitors from all over the world, who take advantage of the abundance of activities programmed by students from the Adventure Seekers training course, also offered by GSIT. And let’s not forget the succulent menus presented by Australia’s up and coming GSIT trained chiefs, who train here because of our excellent wines and fine food. Right, too late for that.

Ok, so the site is bought by greedy property developers who have no respect for local customs and company executives decide to build a ten story block of holiday apartments. The City, desperate for something on the site, approves the plan, the building is built, despite widespread local offence, and when complete no locals are employed and the apartments are serviced by illegal immigrants.

Well, clearly, that’s an impossibility. It would never happen. No way. Not here, not anywhere in this beautiful state of ours. Let’s have another go.

The site is bought by a property developer who has every intention of doing the right thing, culturally, environmental, socially, economically, but, unfortunately, due to the Global Financial Crisis, the developer runs out of money. The site lies vacant for six months and the developer acknowledges publicly that it is not in a financial position to build its promised hotel and holiday resort.

In a move revealing the cultural and emotional intelligence of the company’s executives, they call for community consultation in an effort to determine what to do with the site while it lies vacant and dormant.
The community is enlivened, engaged, many meetings are held and most parties agree that the best solution would include a small bar and cafe, with the rest of the land to be landscaped and opened for public use.
Everyone is happy. The mayor is re-elected. The developer wins the National Community Project of the Year Award for 2012. All right, stop your sniggering. It could have happened.
One last crack and then I’m out of here.

You know the story up to now: the developer buys the site, knocks over an impressive building, cancelling a legacy, offending many locals, promises to build a space-age replacement, exciting many locals, nothing happens, many locals hang socks, developer tolerates the sock protest and, finally, the socks are removed by order of the city’s mayor, citing a very strong desire to sell the site and cultural offence caused to an unnamed culture.

Well, excuse me, but neither the City, nor the mayor, is in the real estate business and many people I know are offended by the removal of a cultural icon, have felt insulted by inaction on a site once full of celebration, and by the dismissal of their desire to make their views known in a creative, fun and non-violent form of protest.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 23/11/2010

There were about 40 of us there, but only one of us rode a bike. There was a reason. It was raining prawns and parrots. And the single man who rode his bike boldly admitted he didn’t own a car and his knees didn’t like walking.

We gathered to talk about bikes and the city. Without exception, each and every one of us wanted more of them and more of the things that go with them, cycle-ways and bike racks. All this takes money, of course, but the possible benefits might surprise you.

Here are some Australian facts:
-          More bikes were sold in 2009 than cars for the 10th consecutive year (1,154,077)
-          70% of bikes sold are mountain bikes
-          In 2009 there was a 29% increase in the number of Australians who cycle to work

And you know what, no Australian town has yet pronounced itself Bike City. There is an opening, for a town to embrace the bike like no other, to become the Holland of the South. Maybe this is the move that puts Albany on the map, the bike map. And don’t sneeze, there is a bike map. 

The mountain bike stats in particular interested me because I know a bloke who reckons the Great Southern is the perfect setting for a mountain-bike heaven. He told me there’s a world-wide circuit and Albany could become a Mecca for mountain bikers.

A quick check on Google revealed a number of mountain bike festivals around the world, with one in NSW, SA and Victoria but none in WA. There’s the opening. We could be it, Mountain Bike Capital of the West.
But let’s not just take the bike to the mountain, let’s take it everywhere. Don’t panic, you don’t have to love lycra to ride a bike. There are no lycra police stopping riders dressed as I am in old jeans and torn t-shirts.

Wait, there’s more.
Some of us make a lot of fuss about the cruise ships. Sure, they look lovely as they make their way into the harbour and the passengers provide some amusement as they stare in wonder at the town hall, but there’s even more money in bike tourism.

Murray Gomm works for the Munda Biddi Foundation and at this gathering of pedal bike enthusiasts he revealed that in New Zealand cycle tourism is worth more than cruise ship tourism. I thought that would make you sit up.

What we need is leadership on this matter. We need the Mayor, Councillors, local members of parliament, CEOs, private business owners, managers, farmers and home owners to get on their bikes, ride to work, to the beach, up Mt Clarence, down Mt Clarence and to both Saturday and Sunday markets.

Let’s fill the town with bikes and make Albany Australia’s first Bike City, full of cycle-ways, bike racks and cycle friendly shops, accommodation and transport providers.
Many of us at the meeting agreed that the City’s councillors should lead the way by riding to council meetings, hail rain or snow. That would show real leadership and they could hand back their petrol money.

There is no way, of course, that such a saving would pay back the city’s debt, but it would show the rest of us they are willing to make an effort.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 9/11/2010

You probably have the flu, getting over it, or know someone with it. It’s nasty. I know that now. I‘ve just had it, for the first time ever.
Luck’s been with me, unlike the 30-odd million who died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/1919. Then there was the Asian flu in 1957, the Hong Kong flu in 1968, followed by the flues we know well, the bird and the swine.
The negatives are obvious, but, for me, there were at least two positives. The first was that I realised I had never been sick before. Oh, sure, I’d had a sore foot, a busted shoulder, an infected finger, a cold, a headache, a 24-hour wog, but they were nothing compared to the swine called flu.
My particular version included violent headaches, chest pains, dry throat, no breath to speak with, move with, or argue over a hotel bill with.
At first, like many folk, I assumed it was just another cold and, because I was busy, I got on with things, none of that namby-pamby man-flu attitude with me. I got on a plane, then another, then another, and another still.
By the time I got to Victoria I was delirious. That was the tip that something really was wrong, because Victoria and delirious don’t normally go together. By then it was too late to cancel my engagements.
I arrived in Melbourne at 11.30pm. got in the hire-car, drove like an Albanian  in Moscow, arrived at the hotel at 2am, climbed into bed, got up at 6.30am, got ready, arrived at my appointment, spoke to 150 testosterone riddled boys, got back in the car and drove east towards Sale. 
And so it went: into a car, out of a car, into a hotel, no sleep, off to an engagement, back to a hotel room. What a life!
All this lead, naturally enough, to a worsening of my condition. I left Albany an idiot and arrived home a signed, sealed and certified idiot. Thank heavens for our doctors, because my local man said, plainly and clearly: “Yes, Jon, you have had the flu, but now you have pleurisy.”
Pleurisy? Brings back memories doesn’t it, of the Amity, scurvy, men and women huddling together in a hold, fighting over crusts of mouldy, rock-hard bread and tiny pockets of fresh air? 
The second good thing about having the flu, or pleurisy, is that it requires a lot of lying down, sitting, staring into space, watching crappy TV, old comedy videos, or, as in my case, reading. So far I have read everything within reach, including a couple of Inspector Maltabano novels, a history of 1968 and all sides of a packet of rice flakes I found decaying in the back of a cupboard.
As I write this I am finishing the marvellous Love in the time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez. This book I saved for last because Márquez writes with such rich colour and madness that reading it in the fullness and insanity of the flu may well have tipped me over the edge.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 26/10/2010

Now we are well and truly settled in Albany, a number of things have become clear – we should have done it years ago, the weather is even better than we knew it was, and we never want to shift again.

We know a number of families moving house right and we have counselled them to take great care, because moving house not only brings out the worst in people, it can be dangerous to personal health and wellbeing.

It’s not a good start, for example, when the truck arrives to collect your stuff for the big move and the driver admits he hates shifting.  My wife, our driver said, has made us shift five times and every time we shift we almost kill each other and that’s not the worst of it because she’s a Docker’s supporter and I’m with the Eagles.

Here’s the full tale.

Before the move I was in the bush and had to drive like hell to get back in time to load the truck. When I got home I discovered I was not as well advanced with my personal packing as I thought and so stayed up well past midnight packing books I was sure I would never read again, files I couldn’t remember the contents of and computer equipment that became obsolete just after Kevin Rudd started shaving.

Anyway, up first thing in the morning for the truck, no time for breakfast and hard at it long enough to realise that not everything would fit it the available carriers: the truck, the back of my station wagon, my mate’s half truck plus two-ton trailer and my wife’s sedan.

But, as is the way, when you have to leave you have to leave and so we left.

On the way I decided to take the long route through Bridgetown and pick up a spare gas heater from my brother the beef breeder. My sister-in-law, forever sensible and well meaning, suggested I stay overnight and rest. No way, I insisted, must be there with the sparrow to help unload the truck. I am a man and must push on for fear of letting down the truck-men.

I didn’t make it, because 45ks out of Manjimup, on the Muir Highway, a kangaroo, after a shocking week on the stock market, decided it could go on no longer and threw itself in front of my car. Not only did it take its own life, it took the life of my car.

There we were, kangaroo, car and me, stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to show for it but a busted radiator, busted bonnet, busted body and busted ego.

Luckily a car soon arrived on the scene but as he slowed he looked and what he saw was clearly a demented man in filthy clothes, with dishevelled hair and wild eyes. He planted his foot and left me standing.

I thought, hang on, this is my country, people know me, so when the next car slowed I yelled out: Hey, Jon Doust here. I’ve hit a roo. The occupant, a decent and local man responded: Dousty, what the hell have you done now?

And that’s how I arrived in Albany, looking like a rat flying out of some kind of hell.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 12/10/2010

 We’re not big on anniversaries in this house. We never remember the wedding. Good reason too. It was a stinking Perth day, the groom was somewhat bruised from the previous night, the witnesses turned up late and the marriage celebrant was drunk.

But this one, we know it well. We love it. It’s our second year in the Great Southern.

 It was not easy making the big move south.  First we had to sell our house in the city and then we had to buy another house by the sea.

As usual, we didn’t do it the right way around. First we bought the house by the sea and then we tried to sell our house in the city.

I know what you are thinking: “Clever, innovative, imaginative”. Not really, because we chose to buy just before the market began to scream, kick and fight its way into a dive and we chose to sell as its plummet gathered momentum.

We are not, you see, the classic Baby Boomers.  No, indeed, we sold our city house to a Y-Generation couple who didn’t have enough money to complete the transaction and they still don’t.

What’s more, we were not cashed up after years of real estate manoeuvres, or share market profits and I had not decided to retire from my advertising agency after selling it to a multi-national.

In short, we were a couple of late-starters who met on a communal farm in Israel during the hippy boom of the early-middle 1970s. Oh, don’t get me started on those stories.

Indeed, we belong to that group of Boomers who will have to keep working until the man in the suit comes to measure us for the box.

That’s ok with me because I’m one of those blokes who has difficulty sitting still and if there’s nothing to do I’ll find something and do it, or re-do something already done, or undo something so I can do it again. Or even write a column for a local newspaper about it all.

Oh yes, there are benefits.  The beach is only three steps and one jump away and on a good day I can be there for three hours, walking one length, picking up human debris as I go, body surfing, then running back to the steaming hot showers like an old man who loves to run but his body wishes he wouldn’t.

Fishing is something I promised myself I’d get back to one but I haven’t yet. I’ve had offers, plenty, but they never confirm. What is it? Have they heard? Have they spoken to members of my immediate family who remember well my lack of patience and inability to sit still for ten hours on a dead flat ocean, only to come alive when the wind picks up and the ocean tosses us about like sardines doubled up in a tin for one layer only?
All this is because I grew up in a family that only fished or played tennis and when I hit eighteen I changed them for activities more in keeping with a young man who thinks he’s in the prime of his life.

I was wrong, the prime was up ahead. I’m in it now, I’m excited, I’m two years old.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 28/9/2010

Over my long and illustrious-less career I have come to terms with the fact that I am not much good at many things, ok at a few and hopeless at a vast number.
Often people ask me: How does a bloke like you make a living?
And I reply: None of your bloody business.
Then, after I pick myself up off the floor, I answer truthfully: Essentially I make a living out of writing, speaking and acting.
All right, I know the next question? Acting? Do you know Russell Crowe? Or Hugh Jackman? What about Cate Blanchett?
No, but I have worked with people who have worked with people who have worked with them.
And I have worked with Jack Thompson. All right, not with him, but I once said “gidday” to him and ate breakfast on the same table during the shooting of one of the worst Australian movies ever made, Under the Lighthouse Dancing.
It all started in South Africa in the early 1970s when I was plucked out of obscurity by a German TV crew to star in a soft drink commercial.
I was chosen, of course, because of my serious good looks and my shock of Aryan blond hair.
I starred as a champion cyclist who rode his bike into a throng of seriously blond German models who threw themselves at me with soft drink in their hands, kissed my entire face and, once the shoot was over, dumped me like a sack of onions.
Then I was called on for an Afrikaans language movie, which entailed sitting next to the two stars at a rugby match and screaming “Achten tachta yoghurt asteblift”, or something that sounded a lot like that.
All this convinced me I had a big future in the movies and back home I scored major bit-parts in a number of Aussie films. Here is a short list: Justice, Thunderstruck and Needle. (It’s short because, well, it’s short.)
But, and this was my real Big Break, I have starred in many TV commercials. Oh, yes, everything from selling shoes, to lotto, healthy living, garage doors, and air-conditioning.
For the most part, people get that you are acting, but every so often someone misses the point.
I once took a phone call from a woman who was convinced I was a non-existent man called Doctor Coolbreeze.
I explained, with increasing agitation, that I was not a doctor, not an air-conditioning mechanic and, no, I was not coming to her house to fix her air-conditioning.
She was mortified. She would have been horrified if I had attempted the job, because no doubt I would have taken her house out with the entire ducted system.
So, in case you were wondering, given I’m on your screen sometime soon, no, I do not break into houses, I am not a cleaner of display homes, and I certainly don’t live in one with a much younger male friend.
And, finally, no, I am not a postman, I cannot fly a plane and I don’t work in a bookshop.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 14/9/2010

In my line of work I have to drive a lot.

Moving to Albany was a perfect lifestyle choice, but not sensible for the making of a living to support that lifestyle. Travel is essential if you do what I do and as soon as I discover what it is, I will let you know.

These days, given I have history with kangaroos, I drive with a good deal more care and nowhere as fast.

When I say fast, I mean, of course, well within the speed limit of the section of road I am on at the time of asking. Or as near as I can get.

On the long drive there are many things to see and many experiences to be had.  Some of the roadside signs, particular those mentioning the current targets of local police, have themselves been targeted.

In the old days, about a minute ago, the usual way to target such signs was to use them as target practice on your way to a fox hunt, but graffiti artists have made their way out bush and some of the signs, although politically incorrect, have caused a smile, sometimes joined by a chuckle.

One sign I spotted last year suggested local police were targeting “mullets”, while another warned that the police were targeting overweight people of the female gender, although not in those words.
We even have our own version not far out of Albany that clearly warns us we are in “Mafia Country”.

But the places causing the greatest mirth and pain, for this writer, are the motels. In particular, the internal designs.

Whoever designed the internals of country motels has never had to stay in one, sit in one, dry himself in one, go to the toilet in one, or lie in one, or then get out of bed in one.

And I say him because, please excuse any hint of sexism, I cannot imagine that a women designed such pokey, ridiculous places. They would surely have considered people, whereas the man who designed the places I occasionally stay in was only thinking of a bottom line and noting at all about the line of a bottom.

On countless occasions I have opened a door only to find myself trapped between two doors; sat on a toilet and had to get up to reach the paper dispenser; banged my shoulders, elbows and knees while drying myself following a shower that only directed water against a solid wall; tiptoed around a shattered glass shower wall; and made a cup of tea with the kettle sitting on the bed.

I was in one a month ago up in a wheatbelt town which shall remain nameless and no sooner had I entered that I felt like a kangaroos trapped in headlights on a wet and misty night in the middle of a road in the middle of nowhere.
I had no idea which way to turn and finished up trapped between a shower curtain, a toaster and a bed rail. I’m lucky to be alive.