Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 10/4/2012

Inevitably when people from the Big Swirl, Perth, haven’t seen me for some time they ask: “Where are you living now? You back in Bridgetown?”

It is nice that people remember where you are from but it probably has a lot to do with my mouth, that slit in my face that never ceases to amaze me and more than once a week catches me unawares.

But no, although I will forever be “from” Bridgetown, there is no chance I will live there again. This is a matter of choice and has nothing to do with my brothers requesting that I never return because their business is worth more than their love for their “other brother”.

Once I reveal my current address to the Big Swirlers they always exclaim: “Oh, cold. How can you stand it? I could never live there.

There always seems to be a queue of responses sitting on my vocal cords, waiting an opportunity to emerge. Here are a few.

“I agree, Albany is much too close to the Antarctic and only last week my neighbour lost three toes overnight due to frostbite.”

“You know what, it is nowhere near as cold as Bridgetown, where you can wake up one morning in winter and find your partner frozen to the toilet seat.”

“I’m not sure you are aware but temperatures are rising so fast that over the next decade or two you will be rushing south and, guess what, we’ll have the No Vacancy sign up.”

They scoff. I laugh.

Sometimes they visit and when they do I pray for rain and cold, just to prove their misconceptions.
However, during my time as a volunteer tour guide for the boat people, I have noticed a strange phenomenon: every time a boat comes in, the sky clears and the sun shines.

The boat people are always stunned because the last port they called into, usually Bunbury, they couldn’t get off because of bad weather.

I always say: Bunbury? You missed nothing.

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 27/3/2012

Three weeks ago I was in Singapore’s Little India on a Sunday night, searching for my friend’s favourite Indian restaurant.

The streets were packed, tight as a drum, thousands of men walking in all directions. Occasionally a woman would walk by but no man stopped to leer, pass a comment, or reach out to touch.

And the women strode through with confidence and complete lack of fear or trepidation.
I kept saying to Andre: “All these men, and no agro. How come?”

Andre has lived for five years on the island state and he knows his way around: “There is something in the culture of these people, something gentle,” he said. “And, look around, no alcohol.”

He was right. The men were walking, sitting on the pavement in clusters, or standing and chatting with friends. I saw lots of water bottles, but no alcohol.

The other startling aspect of the massed multitude was that although thousands seemed doomed to clash in their forward movement, it was a rare event. One man did bump into Andre and he turned immediately to apologise.

How many times have you walked up York Street fully confident you will not meat another human most of the way and when you do, you are surprised, as is the other human, and as you face each other neither can work out which side of the pavement to occupy?

What follows is that awkward one-step this way, one-step that way, only to discover the other party is mirroring your every movement.

If you’re lucky you get to share a laugh. If not, embarrassment.

Back in the car, Andre said: “In Singapore my wife can walk home any time of the night from the train and I know she will be safe. I don’t feel like that in Perth.”

I assured him that if Albany had a train, he could feel safe here to. But the look he gave me suggested he wasn’t so sure.