Friday, December 23, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 20/12/2011

You want my view of the change of route for the annual Christmas Pageant? Here it is.
I was one of sock creatures walking alongside the giant Christmas stocking in the Albany Comedy Club’s ground breaking float last Saturday.  Well, hardly a float, more a stack of recycled socks carried along by feet.
We don’t reckon Flinders Parade is the place for a pageant. At least half of it runs alongside the caravan park and nobody stood there and only a few took advantage of the CWA lawn.
Our vote goes to York Street and most who hung around for a chat at the end said the same thing: York is the king. The Ellen Cove grassy verge did, however, seem very jolly all decked out in stalls and frippery and a number suggested it would be an ideal venue for the next boat load of baby boomers with more cash than sense.
And now let me respond to the suggestion that the change was about refocussing the event to make it a “less commercial, more family oriented affair.”
Hang on, there is no more commercial time of the year than Christmas. It’s all about commerce. When it’s over economic statisticians will reveal how well the economy is doing by disclosing the amount of dosh spent in the lead up and aftermath.
Christmas is no longer about the birth of that great bloke Jesus, it’s full of pagan symbols and mainly about consumption - eating, drinking and wrapping paper.
The mighty York is designed for a pageant - it’s our Main Street, provides perfect viewing both sides, up, down and middle, plus plenty of places for a coffee and milkshake. Middleton - a magnificent beach – might once have been an entertainment hub, but until Calamari’s gets back on the boil, it’s a dead dud. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 6/12/2011

Sorry, it's a bit late this one. too much on my mind. Too much to do. Enjoy your festive season.

As always at this time of the year you will find me in Manjimup working on the Cherry Harmony Festival.
It’s not easy, eating plump ripe cherries for a solid week. You have to train yourself, take a couple here and a couple there, then, finally, plunge headlong, mouth open.
 What’s it all about, people often ask, assuming that it’s about cherries? Nothing is all about cherries, not even a cherry festival. But it is all about food and the ability of this rich and fertile south western corner to provide an abundance of delicacies for those who live in the northern wastelands.
It started 10 years ago when Manjimup was in the grip of despair following the dismantling of the timber industry. A couple of local groups and Paul Omodei, ex-MLA for the region, decided to hold a public meeting.
What a day it was and all day I spruiked: “What this town needs is a cherry festival!” and all day tired old men came up to me and said: “You’re an idiot.”
Then, when all seemed lost, four women stormed my personal space and yelled: “You’re right. You’re a genius! We’re having a cherry festival.”
I shook their hands, congratulated them and wished them well. They refused to let me go and said: “You don’t get out of it that easy, matey. You are on the committee, you’re part of the team, stacking chairs, consoling lost children and calling the Australasian Cherry Pip Spitting Championships.”
This year is the 10th, all in a row, and each year bigger and better than the previous and even though a number of festivals have threatened to be cherryless, they always magically appear, ripe and plump enough to send folk away in much the same condition.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Doust Files - 22/11/2011

Don’t you just love it when the tourist boats slip into Princess Royal Harbour, tie up and let their human cargo lose on our well prepared town awash with eager volunteers?

We know who they are, in their brightly coloured shirts, smiles at the ready, full of information about here, there and everywhere.

The town fills, all the shops scream “come to me”, bands play in the park, buses distribute folk all over town and the coffee shops fume with over-heating machinery.

It is, after all, only for a day and so we make a huge effort to ensure they leave saying things like: “What a town. The people are so friendly and there is so much going on. It must be exhausting to live there.”

But we know the truth, don’t we, because when they all leave, we sit back, exhausted, knowing full well that there is nothing else to do until the next boat comes in.

Oh yes, there was once a life here for those of us not prepared to cram into a tight spot in the night club, or brave the bar at a pub. Not that long ago we had a top notch hotel with a bar facing Ellen Cove and luxury rooms fit for our visiting friends, those with more money than sense.

Those were the days. And recently we had a great little venue down there, tucked into one corner of the Cove, where local musicians could play their hearts out while the rest of us tossed our bodies around like we never left the teen years.

You don’t need me to tell you - you know it’s going to get worse.

Eventually we’ll lose the pubs because alcohol will be banned from the centre of the city and deemed “not family friendly”. The next to go will be the shopping centres, which only encourage problem-shoppers, the churches because they only pray on the vulnerable, and the library because it houses books and look at the trouble they have caused over the centuries.

We’ll kick and scream and cry out and some idiot will hang socks but when it is all broken down we’ll realise that it’s probably all about something quite simple, like insurance.

The thing is, no-one can guarantee anyone’s safety, anywhere, anymore and the only way to stay alive is to not really live, but to hold out in your house, lock the doors, bolt the windows and if someone knocks, call the police.

The police, of course, will not come, unless your insurance policy covers public officials visiting your property.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 8/11/11

The recent kerfuffle over the people banned from the city during CHOGM reminded me of the time I was on the WA Police Special Branch list of suspects.

Let me be honest, it all began because I was out of work, not long out of university and struggling to make prospective employers recognise my great skills and accept my promise that I would be the next Laurie Oaks.

But I’m not a chap to sit around even with loads of time on my hand so I planted a massive and much admired vegetable garden. I think it was the first, the last, and the only community vegetable patch in the district.

In between plantings I read a book by a man called Henry Root. Henry filled in his time by writing letters to pompous people, pricking their balloons and enclosing money so they felt obliged to reply. I got right onto it.

Among the many I wrote to were Alan Bond, the PM of NZ Sir Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, the PM of the UK Margaret Thatcher and Queensland’s very own, Joe Bejelke-Petersen.

They all replied and no doubt a number of them reported me, but the one that forced the Special Branch to take action was the note I penned to the French Consul congratulating that nation on the development of the Exocet missile. This was during the Falklands War when Baroness Thatcher was at her virulent best.

Within the week a delegation from the Special Branch knocked on our suburban door to find my pregnant wife who welcomed them in with a cheery “Yes, he is my husband. Would you like a cup of tea?”

That knocked them off their feet for a second or two but they still insisted on meeting me in a carpark in the centre of the city and when I did I explained to them that my letters were satiric, meaning “a criticism of a folly and the holding up of said folly to scorn”.

Their collective brow curled over but fell back in place after I told them the joke about the Frenchman, the Irishman and the Lithuanian. And I added that I was a working comedian and compiling a book of letters to sell at comedy shows.

Years later when it was announced that the Special Branch would be disbanded I wrote in to demand I be retained on a list of social threats because without it my life would lack meaning and I would lose major bragging rights. Unfortunately I forgot to include money and I never heard from them again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 25/10/11

This can be a very anxious time of the year for both parties - the parents of the young and those who fear the fear of the parents.

The parents, of course, as the experts constantly remind us, are only protecting their young from perceived threats and there is nothing to do but walk with an umbrella, wave a stick, or perhaps wear an empty ice cream container on your head.

I don’t do any of these things and yet I have never been swooped by the bird Noongars call coolbardi in my entire life. Why not? What is it about me? Does my head look like an upside down ice cream container? 

What’s more, I am not alone and whenever we meet we share stories and marvel at the inability of others to recognise the intelligence of the creature or see the simplicity of the solution – don’t be a threat, be a friend.
But don’t try now, not if you live in the territory of a mob that have a habit of swooping at anything that moves , wears red, reminds you of someone they once knew, or walks beside a dog that chases anything that moves, flies, or barracks for Collingwood.

Now is the spring of their discontent and the smartest thing you can do is stay away from the nesting places.
When we arrived to occupy our Albany home the local mob were in a terrible rage and we kept well clear of them even though it resulted in some inconvenience. They were in a rage because some in the area were intimidating them with sticks, stones and threatening body language.

We waited until peace reigned once again over the earth and then we began our conversation, whistling as they flew by, installing a bird bath, making sure they saw us spread the sunflower seeds on the lawn and looking at them direct, without fear, as though they were the friendly landlord come to collect rent.

Right now I can hear their early morning calls, their carols to the new day and their cries warning others in the mob that something is not quite right in their territory. I love those sounds and I love their night song, that one that no-one quite knows the meaning off but my magpie loving son and I are pretty sure one of our possibilities is more than likely.

Local Menang elder Carol Peterson will tell you the coolbardi  is the messenger bird and if you’d only take the time to listen, it could change your life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 11/10/2011

This time last year I was in the grip of pleurisy. Breathing was difficult and, I’m pretty sure you’ll all agree, taking a breath is probably more important than what’s on the telly tonight.
To be fare, I should have spent time pondering the question: what will the God’s chuck at me this year? They have answered - a sore tooth.
My last sore tooth was at least 20 years ago and when my dentist at the time, a humorous chap called Rob, pulled it, he pulled it clean and healthy and all was good.
Rob was the kind of bloke who left jokes on his counter, not all of them funny and none funny enough to keep the smile on your dial while he stuck needles, miniature crowbars and other implements into your gum.
Dentists, by nature, are not happy people and not surprising given they spend most of their day looking down in the mouth. We are no help, because when we arrive we are in pain, vulnerable and as soon as the drill starts up we sweat from unusual places.
There are two things important to me in a dentist, okay three, because I do insist on a white coat. Then there’s competence and a sense of humour.
My Albany dentist has both and given the history of this column dictates that I make up a name, let’s call him or her, Doctor Hamersley. A column, you should all know by now, is not to be taken as an accurate account of what took place. We have a reputation for exaggeration, hyperbole and, well, making stuff up.
Dr Hamersley wanted to save the tooth: “It’s a good idea for people at your age to save as many teeth as possible.”
My age? That got me going. Then I remembered how old I was and settled into the excellent chair where, I must admit, I have fallen asleep as the drill entered a nasal passage.
I’m not sure why, perhaps because I am a clean and sober man, but the injections failed to numb my gum, my cheek or any part of me. The first session ended in failure and I had to return.
The needles worked this time, almost, and while Doc Hamer pushed, pulled and tugged, I was not bereft of pain, but by then I was so eager for the devil’s tooth to get behind me that I gritted and bore it.
You’d want the story to end there, but no, the devil wasn’t done. He arranged for an infection and I had to go back.
Next visit I’m having them all ripped out and then you can call me gummy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Writer's in the Library - Jon Doust "Boy on a Wire"

Date: 18 October
Venue: Mandurah Library
Contact Details:
Mandurah Library
Phone: 9550 3650

Sent to boarding school at a young age, Jack Muir decided he's a survivor. He gets by with a quick wit and fast mouth. Others aren't so lucky. The Age called Jon Doust "a writer with a distinctive voice" while The West Australian said the book was "a hilarious, angry and sympathetic portrait of boys behaving badly.
Boy on a Wire was long listed for the Miles Franklin Award in 2010.

Jon Doust was born in Bridgetown and has had diverse careers from banking to comedy.
His second novel - To the Highlands - is due for release in August 2012.

Book your seat at the Library - space is limited so book now to avoide disappointment.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 27/9/2011

Here’s the thing about conversation, the guts, the meat: I say something, you listen, then you say something, I listen and so on, back and forth until we tire of each other, or one of us raises a fist.

At its best, it’s an art form. There are folk in this region who have a fine handle on the art and craft and I would consider them to be master practitioners.

There are, of course, others who stare with a great blank wash on their faces and sometimes small flickers of fear.

We should not abuse them, for natural conversation may be denied them because of a committed introversion, or because your face reminds them of a monster from a dream they once had at a very early age. Or even the night before.

There are others who believe they have mastered conversation but what they have is an intense belief in their right to speak non-stop in the face of anyone who gives them one tiny window of opportunity.

This is not conversation. This is hammer-speak.

This column, for example, is part of a conversation I am having in my head, but it is meant for you, the reader. And if you see me in the street, you are more than welcome to approach me and continue it.

Take care, of course, because some days I am more volatile than others.

You always know when you have had a good conversation, because you feel like you have been listened to and not yelled at.

My father was a good conversationalist, until that point where he felt like he was in an argument, then something grew in him and he became an opinion evangelist. His primary objective quickly shifted and he had to make you agree with him, to admit that he was right and you were wrong.

It could have been about anything, the colour blue, the core message of Karl Marx, the future of old growth forests, or the best way to fish for trout.

I miss the old bastard.

Now, to bring this piece to a head, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind the electronically hooked, that email, Facebook, sms, Skype, and so on, all belong to the same genre. They are vehicles for conversation.

Here’s how it should go: I email you, you read, respond, make some points of your own, ask a question or two, I read, respond, and so on.

Oh, there is one major advantage - no need for the fist. You simply delete.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jonathan Denmark's Videos

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'via Blog this'

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 13/9/2011

Don’t you just love it when people come down here and fill your ears with stuff we’ve been banging on about for years? It happened again recently, this time an acquaintance of mine, a chap who dabbles in politics and motivational speaking.  Here are his words in full.
 “Friend,” he began, “lend me an ear. I have a few things to say and keep in mind that although I may seem arrogant, I am an honourable man.
“It will not be my intention to talk down to you, or to bury your pretty little Albany, but to empower you and your fellow townies.
“You know what you should do with York Street? Pull it up and install a tram. Tourists want an old fashioned mode of transport on an old fashioned street. This should connect with a high-speed railway that brings people direct from Perth.
“What’s more, given the allure of Albany, why aren’t there direct flights from Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Buenos Aires. Pam Am should be offering holiday packages to cashed-up private equity partners and merchant bankers looking to escape the next financial crisis.
“Albany has all the allure of Copacabana, but all the attraction of Darkan. What are you making of it? From what I can see, nothing.
“Your port could house a permanent steamship docked as a museum and testament to the grand old days when Albany lived and breathed the life of a major town, rather than the coughing and choking life of a decaying appendage on a mighty state’s rump.
“Think big - hot air balloons over Ellen cove; hover-craft running from the Boatshed to the Yacht Club. Build yourselves a chair lift from Mt Clarence to Mt Melville; a water slide from Mt Adelaide to Middleton Beach; install giant emu’s at emu point and a hair restoration facility at Bald Head.
“And that sand patch at Middleton Beach, that’s prime land down there and ideal for a Scarborough beach type development featuring wine bars, small intestinal restaurants, a drag strip and luxurious multi-story apartments. Haven’t you got any property developers in Albany?
“This town needs a focus, a major entertainment centre, coffee shops, markets selling fresh produce and you should make something out of your Anzac connection.”
He offered to forward me list of suitable entrepreneurs and property developers, all friends of his and all honourable men.
I offered to drive him out to the airport and, amazingly, a plane arrived. I shoved him on it and encouraged the pilot to take him somewhere else, and leave him there.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 30/8/2011

People often ask if you remember what you were doing the day such and such happened. I do. Let me run through my list.
First, there was the day queen Elizabeth II came to Perth. 1954 it was and we, almost the entire extended family, were on Stirling Highway and because of my size I was constantly demanding to be lifted high above those in front. It was easier to lift me up because while down I was unmanageable and kept yelling: “Is she here yet?”
Then there was the day Big Johnny Jones ran over a lady during the annual Bridgeton Soap Box Derby. Most folk have heard about it but I was there, front-row finish-line and saw him knock her clean and break one of her legs. The other one didn’t look too good either.
When President John F Kennedy was shot I was asleep in my boarding house bed but woke early to listen to the news on my little trany-radio and lay there sobbing believing life as I had come to know it was at an end because my hero of the free-word had been assassinated.
Who could forget where they were and how they saw the first man place his foot on the moon? I was in a South Perth Motel with my then girlfriend and her brother and we watched it unfold on a very fuzzy little black and white tv.
And, finally, that day, how can I forget it, the day Julia Gillard, the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, came to town. Everyone was talking about it, asking the same question: “What are you going to do when Julia walks down York Street?”
I had no idea. I had no plan. Once I had completed my meeting at one of the city’s most fashionable coffee houses, I stood for some minutes looking up towards Anthony Horden - he’s the bloke up the top of York, in the middle of the first roundabout – but nothing came to mind.
Feeling empty headed, I climbed into my car and drove to Ellen Cove, which was in a glorious mood. Not only was the ocean just my kind of temperature, it rolled in waves the perfect size and shape for an aging, injury prone baby boomer.
What next? Of course, the automatic car-wash. But no, hang on, what’s that on my windscreen?
 And that’s why I’ll never forget the day Julia came to Albany, for it was on that day I received my first ever parking ticket, slapped on my windscreen for overstaying on York Street.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 16/8/2011

Here we are living in the Great Southern with three towns on the cusp of powering themselves entirely with renewables: Albany, Mt Barker, and Esperance. And even, possibly, maybe, Denmark.

You’d think a government in the current climate, both weather and debate, would relish the opportunity to proclaim: “In WA we have four major towns powered completely by renewables.”

We are living in a state rolling with money and every quarter the Royalties for Regions team hands out buckets for all kinds of lovely new things that sparkle and glitter.

Meanwhile, power bills head for the sky while the sky shines on empty rooves and power authorities reap huge profits. Since the new man with the puffed chest came to the helm we are paying about 53 per cent more for electricity.

The money stacks up, the surpluses stack up, the bills go up.

Hang on, let me run through it all again just to make sure I’ve got it clear.

We have gas in abundance, but we can’t guarantee supply because we’ve given the selling rights to blokes who export it to make bundles of money for themselves and a State that makes us pay double the price of states that don’t have abundant gas.

We have solar energy in abundance but the puffed up team dumped the solar panel subsidy because solar power is too popular and too many people are supplying all their domestic energy needs, at their own cost, and thus relieving the under-the-pump power grid.

Is there something in this simple picture I am missing? Can someone explain to me why the R for R team is unable to recognise that it has an opportunity to do something lasting with the buckets of money, something smart that will ease the State’s energy crisis.

Minister for Regional Development, Brendon Grylls, said in a public forum that the grid is the problem and that it is unable to take all the power coming back at it from our rooves.

My mates in the solar panel business tell me that’s a load of old fish. Others say solar and wind will not fulfil our complete energy needs.

If the grid is a problem, fix it and if you remove four major towns from relying on power stations 400ks to the north, that surely makes sense and adds to the mix of energy sources.

Late News: The Premier seems to be insisting the major gas producers retain 15 percent of their output for domestic use. Well done, sir.

What next? Solar subsidies for the Great Southern? Our breaths are bated.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 2/8/2011

We didn’t have to go out. We could have cancelled, stayed on shore in the warmth and comfort of our homes, our workplaces, our holiday homes. But we didn’t. We were brave.

The rain was already pelting down as we left the boat pen. The Zimbabweans climbed on deck but three of them decided very quickly to return below. One of them never ventured on deck again.

I stayed up top with the actuary. I didn’t get his name but he said he was doing his honours in actuary studies. About six others stayed with us.

Once we were out of Princess Royal Harbour the weather took a nastier turn. The rain came in harder, the swells got deeper and the boat rocked and rolled as though Bon Scott himself was at the wheel.

The Captain of the day, Tony Harrison, did his best to yell above the roar of the Great Southern Ocean and the flapping of the spinnaker.

He told us all he could remember about hump back whales, why they were out there, why they were there this time of the year and why they were giving birth when they normally saved that part of their lives for the Indian Ocean.

The actuary and I stayed with him and helped each other with the words we collected on the wind, putting them together to make complete sentences that made sense.

On shore not far from Ataturk the lookout spotted a whale slightly north of Bald Head. Off we went in hot but careful pursuit.

We found her and hers and Tony said it was probably last year’s calf.

With the weather refusing to improve the support crew refused to be intimidated and clambered around the deck with Anzac biscuits and scones.

The actuary and I screamed: Whale ahoy! Four of the beauties.

Tony pulled the boat around and we were treated to a marvellous display of hump back gymnastics. Whales were leaping out of the water, twisting, turning, flapping their great tails.

People struggled on deck, laughing, screaming, cheering. The rain pelted, the ocean washed on board and drenched most of us, including me and my mobile phone which never worked again.

We stared in awe as the great mammals calmed, then swam around us, checking us out to decide if we were friend or foe, then heading off for the Indian Ocean while we headed back to Princess Royal Harbour.

What a day. It’s a tradition for me now. Every year I go twice, once for the hump backs and once for the southern rights.

As I said goodbye to the actuary and his friends, I said: You wait, tomorrow the weather will be glorious. And it was.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 19/7/2011

A couple of weeks ago the Men’s Resource Centre in Albany invited Julian Krieg from Wheatbelt Men's Health to town and he gave a strong talk about men and their risky behaviour.

During his chat Julian said that throughout his life he had always had a older male mentor, someone other than his father, someone he could talk to about his journey.

In my boyhood years that man in my life was my grandfather, a journalist and story teller, a disabled man who never complained, even when the fish refused to bite.

For many of my middle years there was no such man, but last week an old friend turned up in Albany and as I sat listening to him I was reminded of his intelligence and wisdom.

This is him, I thought, if ever there was an older man in my life who caused me to listen and learn. The funny thing is, he’s younger.

I first met Richard Walley when he turned up at a radio station at WAIT, now Curtin University. I was working at 6NR as an announcer and Richard arrived with his friend and teammate, Ernie Dingo. The two were regular contributors to an Aboriginal radio show and inevitably they were tossing around a basketball and tall stories.

We next teamed up when Richard was the master of ceremonies of a weekly comedy show at the Federal Hotel in Fremantle, a hotel run by Mark Manea, of the well-known Bunbury Maneas.

By then Richard had all the poise and confidence of a seasoned performer and he could tell a joke, a long story rich with meaning and a bloke to leave the premises.

During that comedy run all kinds of funny people turned up, Austen Tayshus, Russell Gilbert, Elliot Goblet, Peter Rosethorn and a few humble locals desperate to make their way. These included this writer in a trio called Off the Wall.

Through all this mayhem Richard Walley stood tall, humorous and dignified. The rest of us did what we could and there were times when Off the Wall had to be scraped down from one.

Over the years I bumped into Richard here and there and he always sat, talked and left me feeling warm, honoured and enlightened.

About six years ago we spent a few days together in Manjimup, during a cherry festival and it was over that weekend that I realised the man meant more to me than I had previously acknowledged.

Richard Walley’s CV includes a gig blowing didgeridoo at London’s Royal Albert Hall, an honorary doctorate from Murdoch University and involvement in the greatest modern Olympic Games in Sydney, but all this fades when I consider what he has given and continues to give, to his people, both Noongar and Wadjela, his country, and to me.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 5/7/2011

Makes sense, doesn’t it, to get the police out of Police and Citizens Youth Clubs.

What the hell were they doing there in the first place? I mean, why would you want the police mixing with young people in a safe environment where they can get to know them, build a relationship and be a mentor for those in need of one?

All right, according to reports, the cops will still visit the centres to run certain programs. That’s very nice, and in the meantime they will be patrolling the streets wearing their authoritarian hats plus full battle kit and intimidating young and old for minor misdemeanours.

But before I get carried away, let’s remind ourselves.

The first PCYC was started in Sydney in 1937 as an initiative of the Rotary Club of Sydney and the Police Commissioner, William John MacKay.

The purpose of the club was to provide a venue where boys could engage in healthy sporting, cultural and recreational pursuits and mix in a safe, non-confrontational environment”.

When I was a boy my home town Bridgetown did not have a PCYC and so I never attended a club, but many of my city friends did, learning to play badminton, table tennis and to box. Along the way they also built firm relationships with policemen who had a strong sense of community.

Let’s face it, if there is anything we need to work on, it’s a sense of community. As our cities explode and neighbours find less and less time for each other, community is what we need more off, not less. Having a friendly face stationed down at the PCYC, who happens to be in a police uniform, can only be a good thing.

However, we can’t stop progress and we must come to terms with the modern world and realise that such decisions are not made lightly, or by people on the ground, but by eminently sensible economic rationalists who have nothing else to consider but the budget.

It may well be a budget based on a very narrow view of the broader economic reality, but it’s theirs and they will stick to it. And they haven’t got time for fluffy stuff like community.

But, heed my warning, removing the P from the PCYC is just the start. Other removals will occur shortly.

Here are my predictions: The C will be taken from YMCA, the E will be removed from AEC, the D from the GSDC and the CI from the ACCI.

Finally, I know it’s frightening, but I do believe there will come a time, that in order to save printing costs and infrastructure expenditures, days will be removed from our calendars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 21/6/2011

In my time on this planet I’ve made a few friends and I can’t think of one of them who agrees with me on everything, but that’s one of the reasons I’ve kept going, just to annoy the buggers and to have a go at them when they make comments that hurt my ears.

Last week I got into a slanging match with a young farmer mate from Manjimup. Now, for most of its life Manjimup, or as I prefer to call it, the Warren District, has had plenty of rain.

Not anymore and pressure is mounting. By now in a normal year the dams would be full, the creeks running, the Warren busting its banks. My friend Jamie told me the only thing busting was his dad’s nervous system.

“What the hell are they doing to us, Jon?” yelled Jamie.

I knew who he meant, of course, but here was a bloke wanting to open his spleen and he needed an enemy. I was up for it. I asked who and got five ears full.

“The bloody politicians,” he yelled. “Are you paying attention? Are they trying to kill off farming? They want to tax water and we’re in a drought. Do they understand bio-security? Do they eat meat? Have they heard of the verroa virus, fire ants, fire blight, apple canker, cane toads, paterson’s curse, arum lilies, or watsonia? You there, Jon?

“What was that in the US constitution about giving up all your poor and bedraggled? Well we might as well hang a sign that says: Send us all your rotting fruit and veg and fill the boxes full of viruses, toads and diseases ‘cause we eat that stuff for breakfast.”

By now I was onto my sixth ear because the other five were numb and every time I tried to get a word in he snatched it and used it.

“I think Indonesia has about 60 percent of our live cattle trade,” I ventured.

“Did you say Indonesia? What the hell are those poor sods going to eat? I go to Bali every three years but I won’t be going this year even though it’s my turn and not because I can’t afford it because I can but because my head will hang in shame that we would cut exports without any talk, or warning, or without taking Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) by the scruff of the neck and strangling it within an inch of its lazy pathetic life.”

Trying to introduce a little humour I asked if he would use a stun gun before the strangling?

“Stun gun? The beef boys are making money out of this trade, they’re not doing it for nothing, so why the hell didn’t the MLA pack up 500 stun guns and get them on the next plane? How hard would that be?”

My mouth was still. I was stunned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 7/6/2011

In a couple of weeks an old mate of mine will visit the Great Southern and talk about the risky behaviour of men.

He is a big man with a short name, Julian Krieg, and he drives a ute. I won’t name the brand because if I do at least half the ute owning population will scream “useless!”

Julian is employed by Wheatbelt Men’s Health as a community educator and, let me make it quite clear, the bloke is no slouch. Before he took up this post he was once Director of Agricultural Education.

Julian once had the misfortune to use this writer on road trips around the wheatbelt. We would hum into a town, park easily, and climb out to much amusement.

Why? Well, when sitting down in the cabin of the ute we may well have looked roughly the same size, but when out, he was a mountain and I was molehill.

Both of us know something about the risky behaviour of men and why we hand in our mortal coil long before our opposites in the gender business.

Just for example, take me. All right, I can hear you “Yes, please, take him!”

Recently I bought myself a sea-going kayak, one not built for the surf, but, of course, I had to give it a try and after the 25th dumping, crunching and smashing, I decided it might be a good idea to respect the boat’s design flaws.

All this after last year’s incident with the neck.

My partner has been telling for years not to body surf because more than once I have speared my neck into solid sand due to my summersault exit technique and last year I did it again. The radiographer took one look at the pictures and said “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

Of course I had and I hadn’t stopped the risky behaviour because that’s not what men do and it’s why I have a shattered shin, a stuffed shoulder, a broken foot and a hammered hand.

When he’s not talking to, or about men, Julian lives a sedate life on an acre of land out of York. He shares it with his life-long partner but, if you drive out that way, you may well hear her yelling: “Put that potato cannon down, Julian, and come inside and act your age.”

Keep an eye out for Julian’s visit. The big man also has a big heart and he knows how hard it is to be a man in an ever changing world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 24/5/2011

When I tell people I have a kayak the first question they ask is: “Do you go on the ocean?”

And when I answer “yes”, they then say: “What about the sharks?”

Inevitably I pull a face and say something like, well, they are always there and as long as I go out with a couple of mates hopefully they will take one of them before me.

This is a joke, of course, because with my luck I will be the first to go.

So far we have never seen a shark and I have never spoken to an ocean-going kayaker who has ever confronted a shark, had an argument with a shark, or done a property deal with one.

And if you are a kayaker who has, please, by all means, keep it to yourself.

The thing is, there is nothing quite like doing the thing you love and right now I love getting in my little boat and paddling like the devil as far as I can until my body screams.

I am rarely alone. There are others like me. We are always well prepared.

The night before we pack our water bottles, our muesli bars, our chocolate bars, our thermos flasks, load our boats on car rooves, wake before the sun, rendezvous at water’s edge and head out. One of our little group is not quite up to the packing and his partner makes up a sweet something for him but we shall not mention that his name is Steve.

Once on the ocean all else leaves, the rhythm of the paddle takes over. My eyes wander the surface, but more than anything I love watching the bow of the boat as it cuts through the water making its little white waves on either side. It mesmerises, hypnotises and whatever it was I was thinking of, ever thought of, ever looked like thinking of, empties.

I paddle, bereft of thought, eyes on water and coastline, arms and shoulders working as though in a trance and every so often I look up as a magnificent creature of the sky flies by. So far, not one of them has left a calling card.

Sometimes we stop, look around, give thanks, count our blessings, share a private thought or two, then go like the clappers again.

Even on a mad and ugly day there is somewhere to launch your kayak in the Great Southern. An estuary, a harbour, a river, and it is a rare week we don’t find ourselves on water, floating in flow with the great oneness that is the heart and soul of this, the water planet.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 10/5/2011

Not long ago local government was the domain of the tired and over the hill desperate for recognition before they packed their bags for the final journey, but not anymore. Have you seen the latest mob leading the way in local communities?

Take the current Lord Mayor of Perth, the 23 year old Lisa Scaffidi, who took over from the 107 year old bloke who was probably better known for keeping house for the deputy leader of the Federal Opposition, Julie Bishop.

All this came to a head last month when I met the 12 year old Brad Pettitt, mayor of Fremantle. He was elected in October 2009 and he replaced a bloke who retired to contest a seat in state parliament and I was reliably informed he had only recently finished primary school.

All right, I may have got the ages wrong but, as Mark Twain once said, I am not one of those people who, when expressing opinions, will confine themselves to facts and, besides, the occasional tweak helps you get my point.

And just in case you missed it, here it is again. It’s time for Gen Xers to take the reins of local government, wrest them from the clutches of the baby boomers and set about instituting policies that will save enough of everything and ensure they can put locally sourced milk, cheese, bread and fish on the tables of their grandchildren.

Mayor Pettitt is clearly a passionate man and when I asked him if the time was right for his generation he said: “I think we are seeing lots of bright and capable younger people ready to step up and I encourage that. When we get to work alongside those who are experienced that can be a great mix.”

Most Freo-folk I spoke to said they liked him. A couple said they were undecided, but everyone admitted it was great having a mayor who could surf, run 100 metres without calling for oxygen and someone who was not chained to an ancient code of local government dress or behaviour.

The night I shook his hand, for example, he spoke in front of 300 people wearing a shirt out of his pants, tieless and holding a bottle of tonic water.

And now I’m going to issue a challenge to all boys and girls, sorry, men and women, between 30 and 45 to step forward and offer themselves up to lead Great Southern communities. Pettitt reckons two terms is plenty: “One to learn the reins and one to put your ideas into practice.”

As for us, the baby boomers, most of us will welcome you gladly as we fade away disgracefully, amusing ourselves with coloured socks, silly hats and dancing wildly while screaming “Hallelujah Leonard Cohen”.

Right, race on, we’ve got about four months to find another Brad or Lisa. First prize is the city you want to live in in ten years time.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 26/3/2011

Anzac Day is no longer the day it was when I wore short pants, long socks and a baggy cap and I am almost ready to join a throng paying their respects to those who are forever with us but no longer here.

Usually I pay my respects in the privacy of my own home, quietly, when no-one is around to hear me whisper to those I have known.

Unfortunately, my public Anzac Days were scarred at a very early age by people in authority who failed to adequately explain its significance, others in authority who engaged in inappropriate discipline and occasional ugly behaviour in public drinking houses.

As luck would have it, when my marble went in the Vietnam barrel it stayed low but being an Australian male imbued with a spirit of adventure and a need to inhabit a conflict somewhere, anywhere, I made my way to Israel.

I arrived early in 1973, fell in love with a soldier whose father chased me out of town, withered in exile and returned during the October War to work on a communal farm bereft of able bodied men and women and where all work was carried out by older men and women, volunteers, school children and soldiers home on leave.

I worked the orchards and because the manager knew I was Australian he gave me an M16 and a pistol and every day on the trek out to the fields I either drove or rode shotgun. In the middle of the night I stuck the pistol in my pants and guided a spraying machine up and down rows of apple trees.

Luck stayed with me and I never took a bullet, although one was aimed at me but missed as I hit the dirt and scrambled. My life was spared again by a man who shoved a shotgun in my mouth while I slept on private property not far from Tiberias. He thought I was an invader.

There were other incidents but the luck continued and I experienced nothing approaching the intense and relentless horror of war known to too many. My three years in Israel left me with a very clear view that living in a permanent state of war was no place to bring up children.

Something else stayed with me. It is that if a nation asks men and women to kill or be killed on its behalf, that when those warriors return home the warring nation should acknowledge that no soul leaves a war unscarred and it should guarantee life-long care.

Look out for me next year. I’ll wear a hat.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 12/4/2011

Three weeks ago I was on Christmas Island. First, let me tell you how I got there.

I flew, naturally, from Perth, but on the way flight attendants handed out immigration and customs forms. Why? Good question. Don’t ask me.

Christmas Island was bought from Singapore in 1957 and since then has been an Australian Island Territory. It has two tiers of government, local and Federal. The local government must sometimes wonder why it exists, given the dominance of the Federales.

The Federal Government seems to think, for bureaucratic purposes, that when you fly over the Indian Ocean for a long stretch that you have left Australia, even though you have not touched ground and that you must, therefore, re-enter.

It is possible, apparently, while high in the sky, to pick up objectionable objects and, hard to believe I know, to exchange your nationality. In other words, l flew out of Perth Australian, but by mid flight I may well have become Mexican.

In addition, there’s a lot of shopping to be done mid flight and I’m not talking trolley-shop, I’m talking extra-terrestrial retail and all these goods must be checked and, if necessary, quarantined.

All this means that by the time you hit wet land, for in those climes rain is inevitable, you are pretty well over bureaucracy but there’s more, because Christmas Island is overrun with the creepy bastards.

Yes, they not only check you in, they also check you out all the time you are there and when you attempt to get a table at one of the local restaurants you are competing with short plump desk bound bureaucrats and tall buffed agents of control, or as we call them in Mexico, the Federales.

In all my days on the island I met many local community leaders, including executives from the Christmas Island Phosphate Company and not one single resident expressed any fondness for the Detention Centre. This is not to say there are not such locals, but all those I spoke to were keen for a return to fame for the wondrous and migrating red crab.

I could not agree more.

Christmas Island is a tropical paradise, a living breathing thing of beauty. What madness would want to transform it into a prison and contain folk deeply traumatised by their past, their present and, increasingly, their future?

It is the madness of disconnected governing. It is endemic. It belongs to all sides of all houses. The detention centre is a festering boil on the rump of a natural wonderland.

If we as a nation decide that we cannot turn these boats back from our shores, then we should bring them all the way to the mainland, to a place closer to us. Ideal locations, I believe, can be found in our national capital.

My local Canberra source, a highly credentialed chap I shall call Brian to protect his identity, has suggested a number of places.

His first choice was the Department of Climate Change Building in the city’s heart because “the government doesn’t seem to use it anymore”.

“And then there’s the new ASIO building,” Brian said. “It’s still under construction, but, let’s face it, spooks should be invisible anyway.”

Last on his list and my favourite is the old Parliament House, very close to the New Parliament House, a quick hop and step for a daily dose of how a truly thriving, vibrant, creative and sophisticated democracy works.

My guess is that in no time at all most of them would be screaming for a return ticket home.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 29/3/2011

Yes, I am on Facebook, and Twitter, but not Myspace. I drew the line at that space.

Thanks for the question, yes, why would a man of this age be on such a new world, hi-tech, conversational stopping, human interaction distorting, internet jungle thing?

I wasn’t sure in the beginning, but now I am. Let me explain myself.

It all happened because of a man who married a cousin and he seemed so worldly by comparison to me, born and raised in Bridgetown, Manjimup and still raising in Albany. This cousin by marriage lives in the high flying world of Blackberries and iPhones. He said to me: “Get on Facebook, Jon, get on Twitter, it will help you sell your books.”

That was enough to get me excited, the prospect of pushing book sales into the stratosphere, all the way up the ladder to “Best Seller”.

To be fair, the book has sold well. To be honest, I don’t think Facebook and Twitter have done much. Although I am sure it resulted in at least three sales, but to three people I already knew.

Now here’s the real plus, a big one, and it all came to a head recently when I got this message: “Are you the Jon Doust who worked on a hop-farm out of Worcester, England, in 1972?”

My face exploded because I was that very same Jon Doust. There was no other Jon Doust but me. I was him. I couldn’t believe it was me. Sorry, I couldn’t believe it was her, Sarah, she found me, after all these years.

What would it all mean? The end of my current marriage? The rejection of all that had taken place in the interim, between when we met and now?

No, of course not, because we weren’t lovers, we were just the very best of friends. Sit back, relax, let me tell you the tale.

In 1972 I was madly in love with an Israeli soldier, but her parents pushed me away and I went all the way to the rolling green hills of Worcester, where I found work on a hop-farm run by a delightful and decidedly English family.

I lived in an old workers cottage with an Irish chap who only drank beer, only ate hazelnuts, and only washed the top half of his body. There was no electricity, no hot water, but there was a gas stove with one plate in working order. Outside our yard was a forest of stinging nettles and underneath the growth, a horse trough.

Stung, screaming, but determined, I cleaned out the horse trough and once a week I filled it with hot water I boiled on the single plate. I then removed all my clothes in front of a fire I built in the downstairs fireplace, ran for the trough, plunged, lay there until the cold hit, then ran back to the fire.

The police were called and I was incarcerated for sixteen years.

No, of course not, but Sarah and her mother were the kindest of folk and when the harvest was over they invited me into their 16th century home where they plied me with scones, tea and all sorts of fresh and exuberant foods.

I stayed with them until the Israeli called me back. I never forgot their kindness.

And that’s why I love Facebook, because Sarah found me on it, and so did Debra, the New Yorker and Graciela, the Argentinean, Tania, the Israeli, and on and on the list goes and all these people who impacted my life, who I was sure I would never see again, are with me, every day I turn on my computer.

It’s a nightmare come true. And I enjoy every minute of it.

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 15/3/2011

Every so often I have a cup of tea with my old mate, Pete. But before I tell you about our last conversation, which got pretty low down and dirty, let me tell you about Pete.

Pete’s a Noongar and he’s crawled through a few mills in his time and been dragged through a couple as well.

There’s a lot I like about the old bugger, but, in particular, as is common with most of my friends, he has an over active sense of humour.

In his day he was a fine footballer, boxer, and charmer. He would, of course, still lay claim to at least the last.

Anyway, when Pete and I chat, we don’t beat around the bush, we get straight to it, whatever it is and this time it was about our health.

Earlier in the day I had spotted Len, another of my old mates, a retired farmer from Bruce Rock, but he didn’t want to talk. To be fair, it wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk, rather he didn’t want to talk about what I wanted to talk about – men’s business.

The thing was, that very day I was due a visit to the Big Clinic, you know the one along Stirling Terrace opposite the Police Station.

I suppose I shouldn’t have walked right up to Len and said: “Hey, Len, you ever had the ultra sound run over your private parts? Or your head examined?”

Frightened the hell out of him and he made a dash for the sand hills, with me yelling out at him: “What about a colonoscopy?” A lot of blokes are like that, like to keep that sort of thing to themselves. Not me and Pete.

We ordered our tea, had to be tea, we’re off coffee and sat back in what little sun was left in the day.

“So,” said Pete, “You’ve had your scrotum squeezed?”

See what I mean, he gets right to it.

I have to tell you, when we parted I felt a whole lot better, because Pete has also had the full range of men’s probes and both of us agreed it all came as a bit of a shock to hit the Big 50, because up until then we thought all the probing and squeezing belonged to women’s business.

As blokes we’d had it easy, right up to that first day when the doctor asked us to set a position on the table we had never set before and before we could say “Jack Thomson” the man you thought was your friend and confidant was invading your very being.

“I nearly hit him,” said Pete.

“What stopped you?” I asked.

“He was the footy club doctor and I took it all thinking I was doing it for the team. I was, but not for the Kangas, it was for us, manhood. I decided that from then on I would insist all my mates got the same treatment.”

Len, are you listening? It’s for the Man Team, all of us, not just you. So make an appointment, you grumpy old bugger.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 1/3/2011

According to Clean Up Australia, WA’s beaches are the filthiest in the nation. In its annual missive Clean Up reports finding about 11000 items per WA beach site.

That’s not a good look.

Can you imagine 1100 items at Ellen Cove? Or even 1100 items between Ellen Cove and Emu Point?

I don’t know if Clean Up has a representative in the Great Southern but I reckon our beaches stack up well when compared to city sandies and most beaches along the western coast line.

That‘s not to say we can be complacent, or that we couldn’t do better.

On my usual jaunt one day last week I picked up quite a collection, including a single bra pad, four plastic bag fragments, a pair of boxer shorts, plastic goggles, two plastic cups, two plastic cup tops, one old doggy bag full of old doggy poo, six pieces of twine, two plastic forks, six hard plastic fragments, and a friend who stumbled as she left the water.

All Items I disposed off in the receptacles provided, except the friend, of course, because it was clear she had a few years left, was not cluttering the environment and was not likely to cause the death of a sea creature if swallowed in her entirety.

About 18 percent of all items found on WA beaches on national clean up day were metal and 10 percent were glass. The top five items were cigarette butts, glass pieces, alcohol cans and bottles, bottle caps and lids.

I don’t find a lot of cigarette butts on our major beach. There was a time when, if I saw someone walking with a butt in their hand, I would ask them nicely to dispose of it appropriately. I stopped after one chap invited me to his place for a barbecue and hinted that I would be expected to be the meat in the sandwich.

My top rubbish items collected on our beaches include plastic bag fragments and plastic bags, lolly wrappers, rope and twine fragments, plastic bottles, drink cups both cardboard and plastic and polystyrene fragments.

It also depends on the time of year. During a Great Southern summer I would expect to collect a lot of glass bottles, but with the weather in its current mood they have been few and far between.

There is one more item I must include on my list, balloon fragments. I didn’t get the balloon gene and am often left standing with a blank face while around me folk shift hot air from their lungs to pieces of flat plastic, blow into them until they are on the edge of bursting, then let them go so they can add yet another layer to the layer upon layer of human debris.

WA leads the country in waste, no other state wastes like us, but there is no doubt that the Great Southern leads this state in beach cleanliness and it is time we stood up and lead from the front.

Here are two things we could do. Create an active volunteer clean-up force, perhaps decked out in t-shirts emblazoned with “You drop litter, we’ll drop you.” Or, perhaps a little softer “Litter kills, don’t temp us.”

Finally, keeping on the front foot, why not become the first WA town to ban the plastic bag.

Crushed, but true to law of 'gaman' | The Australian

Crushed, but true to law of 'gaman' | The Australian

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 15/2/2011

The Doust Files on the 15/2/2011 was a re-write of a letter I wrote to Brendon Grylls. Here is the original letter.

Hon Brendon Grylls MLA

Minister for Regional Development; Lands
Minister Assisting the Minister for State Development
Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport
Parliamentary Leader of The Nationals WA
Member for Central Wheatbelt

Level 9, Dumas House,

2 Havelock Street,

West Perth WA 6005


Dear Brendon,

As you probably know, I was born and raised in Bridgetown and I still receive the Manjimup Bridgetown Times, or, as I prefer to call it, the Blackwood Warren Times. The January 12 edition contains a piece by Adam Orlando. I don’t know Adam but he has obviously misquoted you.

  • National’s leader Brendon Grylls believes centralising the operations of Western Australia’s regional development commissions will make it easier for Royalties for Regions to be administered.

Haha, what a joke, Adam was obviously not listening. Does he not know that you are the Minister for Regional Development? Such a position, by definition, means you are not for centralisation, rather, regionalisation.

And you’re a wheatbelt bloke and know well and good that concentrating regional development in Perth is an insult, inefficient, costly, stupid, na├»ve and, if I may be bold, dumb.

Please, Brendon, get back to Adam and put him right, put him back on track, complain bitterly to his editor, make a statement in the house. Of course, you know what the problem is as well as I, centralisation. In the old days the paper was run, edited and subbed in-house. Now it all goes over to Bunbury.

I know you’re busy and I’m happy to help you out. Here are some major issues to put to the lad:

  • The centralisation of the control of RDCs to a Perth based department removes on ground, local, regional, RDC ability to be immediate, agile, responsive and locally accountable.
  • The new office will require new staff, new office space, and a cause a budgetary blowout. (Brilliant!)
  • Removing the ability of local CEO’s to deal directly with their Minster - the CEO will become a RBEO, a Regionally Based Executive officer - and will work under the Metropolitan CEO’s direction. (This, again, is a monstrous insult and budgetary stupidity because we all know what big shot, city-based CEOs want for their egos.)
  • And the funding? Where will that come from? The regions’ budgets or RforR money? In addition, will staff be transferred to Perth to fill the proposed new positions? (Oh, that’s a great idea!)

Of course, this has to be a political push from the Liberal hacks, the blokes who have no idea where cheese or potato chips come from, or what it’s like to wake up at 3am and have to run out in the cold and rain and help a sick cow give birth, and, no doubt, they are in the poor lad’s ear. For God and Region, Brendon, put a stop to this rampant idiocy. Or else. Oh yeah, you know how hard we play out here, you are one of us.

Meanwhile, let’s here more from you.

Some down here (Albany) are saying the Libs have swallowed you.

I don’t believe it.

I don’t think they have the stomachs.

Best, Jon Doust

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 1/2/2011

What a year it’s been already.

Albany had one really hot half-day and in typical fashion rose to hell by 11am, then plummeted to a very pleasant heaven by 2.30pm and, in an attempt to enhance the cooling off, arranged for accompanying rain.

What else happened? Of course, Oprah came and went and her website suggests that WA is a “gem waiting to be explored” and that if you join us you can “swim with sharks”. There’s the tip, folks, you see any American tourists wearing an Oprah t-shirt feed them to the sharks. Sorry, show them where they are.

Oh, the Esplanade Hotel site was almost sold, nearly sold, but not yet sold and then there were no buyers on the horizon but some said it looked a lot better without those revolting, culturally offensive socks.

But let’s face it, all these and other local events and non-events don’t amount to a hill of asparagus when we recall the oceans of water that fell on Carnarvon and Queensland.

Given that we are part of WA, as is Carnarvon, you could be forgiven for thinking our media has not keep us as well informed as it might of events in our north. We are, however, swamped with news from Queensland and you would have to be a lump of 4 x 2 not to have been moved by the way Queenslanders and now Victorians have responded to their greatest floods in living memory.

Thousands of citizens have answered the call to spade, shovel and broom and fill the streets in their neighbourhoods and in other suburbs some distance from their own.

And as my old mate Len, the retired Bruce Rock farmer, said to me the other day: “I thought this country was bereft of leadership, but then both the Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, and Anna Bligh stood up.”

Love her or dislike her, there is no doubt the Queensland Premier has worked herself above and beyond and has looked real and knowledgeable even though denied normal patterns of eat and sleep and nice nights at home with the family. She has even been subjected to a rousing round of praise from her arch enemy, the Leader of the Opposition.

To be fair, other leaders of other parties from other places have visited, but none of them have left any impact other than that of folk out of place, out of depth, out of sync.

Just in case we had forgotten, Queenslanders have taken every opportunity to remind us: “We are Queenslanders and we are different.” If the rest of us on this vast continent don’t take notice, we are missing an opportunity.

And, finally, the tale that made me weep more than most, that of Jordan Rice, the 13-year old boy who was afraid of water, the quiet, reserved lad with the nickname Weedsy. Jordan was stuck on a car roof in a raging torrent with his mum and younger brother and when the rescuers arrived and chose to save him first he said: “No, take my brother.” They did and Jordan and his mum were washed away.

As Len said: “That boy may not have looked it before the floods, but he showed leadership qualities of the highest and ultimate quality.”

Let us not forget Jordan and try and make 2011 the year of keeping things in perspective.

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 18/1/2011

My hairdresser, Sandy, has a son. No surprise there, right, but he is also a plumber.

And as soon as I heard, right then and there, I called a halt to the snipping. I wanted his name, his number, his Facebook, uTube, email, MySpace, the lot, each and every way possible to contact him, to find him, to have him visit my house and fix all those little drips, drops and pipe screams that scare the hell out of you in the middle of the night that you have never fixed because you are an incompetent goose.

She looked me right in the eye, with her scissors held high and said: I will never ever give you my son’s phone number.

I was shocked, flabbergasted, perplexed. I asked her to lower the scissors, to calm herself, to take the comb handle out of my nostril and hear me out.

The thing was, I could understand her predicament. Everyone wants a plumber for a friend and that has been the gaping hole in my life in Albany: I have yet to befriend a plumber, a plumber’s son, or even someone who used to be a plumber.

Back in the Big Swirl, I had a great friend, Paul, who was a genius plumber. Paul and I were great mates. We drank coffee together, winged and wined together, went to local shows together and once, during a meal, we shared a toothpick.

All right, not a toothpick, a napkin, but we often shared a shovel.

If I had a plumbing problem, or a problem that in any way remotely looked like it had something to do with a pipe or a tap, I called Paul: he came, he saw, he fixed.

And he never charged. Unless there were costs. And if there was any heavy lifting, or digging, I did it, or we did it together. We were a team, but only at my place.

Like the time my French drain exploded and flooded our block, the block next door, and all blocks on the down side of the hill, with its foul contents, contents we denied all knowledge off.

For example, we don’t eat aubergine. Where the hell did that come from?

I rang Paul. He directed the digging. I dug. He came back. He fixed.

What a guy. But he lives in the Big Swirl.

I know what you’re thinking, that I took full advantage of Paul’s generosity and naivety and that the street was all one way, my way. Wrong.

Paul had the same rights. He knew my skill set and, if he had need of me, all he had to do was call out my name and he knew that wherever I was, I’d come running, to see him again.

Once he had me call a 20/20 cricket match from the middle of the field. That was fine until the Warriors’ Luke Ronchi came out to bat and he thumped a ball that caught me in the rear as I turned to make a dash for the boundary. Couldn’t sit for a month.

Paul was a great local sports organiser and he also had me work benefit nights with the likes of Chris Mainwaring and Kim Hughes, who signed a cricket batt with: Jon, don’t give up your day job.

Paul was well aware of what lay in my French drain and Paul made sure I took plenty of it in return.

What I’m saying is, if you are a plumber and you need a friend, call me, I’m here for you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It will be a shame when that fence comes down

This sign has mysteriously appeared on the fence surrounding the demolished Esplanade Hotel site, Albany WA..
Gone are the socks, the undies, the towels, the bras, but the Christmas tinsel remains and now this.
Just goes to show, you can't stifle comment in a democracy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 4/1/2011

Given it is that time of the year again, the one when our town is packed to the skirting boards with visitors, I thought it might be timely to offer a few tips.

The first set of pointers will be for those who have chosen to join us and before I go any further allow me, on behalf of the entire town, to welcome you and say that if you have any problems while here, please, don’t hesitate to call.

 The second set is for us, the real locals, the wannabe locals and people who live here.

-          No, you are not wrong, this town does not have one single traffic-light. Before entering a roundabout, park your car nearby, sit, relax and watch how the locals enter, move through and depart.
-          Even better, park your car on the outskirts of town, call a taxi and ask the driver to take you through the system 10 times. Make sure you ask to see his or her Roundabout Tour Guide Certification.
-          If one of your party passes on while you are in town don’t take them to the large mortuary on North Road. It is not a mortuary. It is, in fact, the Albany City Council.
-          More than likely you have brought socks, fully intending to hang them on Albany’s famous Esplanade Sock Fence. Be warned, the Sock Fence has been declared a Public Menace, all socks removed and the culprits have been hoisted by their own petards.
-          No doubt you have brought rubbish with you and will collect more while in town. Please dispose of it in the proper way. If you are seen littering, a large sea monster will rise out of the harbour and eat your parents.
-          No, I’m sorry, we do not have a Big W. It’s been lovely seeing you, thank you for visiting, goodbye.

-          If you see a tourist entering a roundabout, the same one you are in, there is no need to show them a finger, or even fire a hand-gun at their wheels. Give them time, after one week they will probably use Aberdeen or Collie Street s. Or drive to Bunbury.
-          The wonderful thing about tourists is that they have come to town fully intending to hand over most of their money. Let’s make it easy for them, be welcoming, try a smile and if they complain about the coffee, bring them another one and try not to spill it on their lap.
-          If you meet a tourist who seems bored, tired of the magnificent scenery, the world’s finest beaches, the excellent local produce and superb cooking, the historic landscape, the brilliance of local musicians, visual artists and fine literary talents, take them out to Misery Beach and leave them there.
-          If one of them approaches you in the street and asks where the Big W is, don’t use the phrase “Go forth and multiply.” 

Finally, to both parties, please, do your best to get along, we don’t want a repeat of last year’s incident, the one involving the dead fish, the Volvo, the man with the wooden leg and the tree that used to be on Middleton Beach.

Oh, by the way, word is out that 2011 is going to be the best ever. Make sure you stay in it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 21/12/2010

It’s almost Christmas and, before you know it, it’ll be the next one. And they told us technology would give us more time. What a lot of poppycock. What a con. We have less time. Australians are working longer and harder than ever. We have to. We must. It’s imperative. Is it?

I remember it well, that day, about this time of the year, when mum asked me to ride into town to buy a fresh loaf of bread and a bottle of lemonade. I rode to the baker, bought the warm bread, all wrapped up in tissue paper, and was half way home before I remembered the lemonade so I turned back and it was only then I noticed my hand had been hard at it, ripping soft bread from the middle of the loaf and stuffing it into my open gob.

For a brief second I panicked, but then my clever little brain realised I had just enough for the lemonade and another loaf. I bought both while my hand continued to rip and stuff, rip and stuff.

Half way home again, belly bloated, I decided to lie down on the side of the road. I day dreamt, dozed and two hours later got up and continued on home. When I got there, mum was so busy in the kitchen she barely noticed me sneak in.

I often hanker for those days when time was timeless, meaningless and only one in five wore or could afford a watch.

Just in case you have forgotten, or never knew, time is a human contrivance. Nature doesn’t recognise it. We made it up. Skinks don’t know the time. Kangaroos couldn’t care less. As for magpies, well, they have a rough idea because they keep a close watch on all our comings and goings.

For those of you who feel a hanker coming on, here’s a tip for this Christmas: ignore the clocks and watches, don’t organise too much and try and find a soft grassy patch to lie on and let your mind wander.

Yes, life is short, but you don’t have to rush it.

My favourite festive periods were those spent at the family’s beach house in Safety Bay. Back then we might take a day to catch a feed, most of the night to eat it and around a week to clean up the mess.

Back in Bridgetown we lived on part of the original Doust farm which had been split among three brothers and some years all of us would gather at my grandfather’s and rip into what seemed a massive pig, laid out on a huge table with a granny smith in its mouth.

One of my uncles liked too many Sherries and the other one too many beers and a cousin had a hanker for whiskey. By the end of the day, and the pig, the grassy knoll was full of tired and emotional bodies flung out to dry.

Looking back on it all I have to admit my favourite festive days of all were spent on my brother’s farm, because by then we were all grown men with wives, sometimes new ones, and children, not always our own, but none of us had lost our love of action.

My brother would make a water slide down his back yard into the river and everyone armed themselves with water cannon, water bombs, buckets, anything to ensure no-one left un-drenched. The party ended one year when the brother brought out his fire fighting equipment and blasted an older family member into the river and we had to drive to Augusta to recover him.

Whatever you do this Christmas and Boxing Day, do it slow, do it with warmth in your heart and have a bloody good time.