You want my view of the change of route for the annual Christmas Pageant? Here it is.
Friday, December 23, 2011
You want my view of the change of route for the annual Christmas Pageant? Here it is.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Venue: 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
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 19, 2011
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, April 17, 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.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Friday, April 01, 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.
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
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.
Tuesday, February 22, 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
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, naïve 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
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.
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
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
Monday, January 03, 2011
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.