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DAY 234: Dwelling in the gutter

22 Apr


I’M dubious about driving this ute; I’m sure it’s all fairly roadworthy and everything, but it’s like steering a sodden mattress that only wants to go left.

Despite his years on the road, I notice the bush pirate is gripping the handhold above the passenger window just as futilely as I gripped the map pocket in the glider yesterday. He’s already skulled a can of Monster so that there’s absolutely no danger of him falling asleep while I’m at the wheel.

My task today is to practise driving with the left wheels in the gutter, partly to stop my habit of hugging the white centre line, and partly so I will know not to overcorrect if I have to steer off-road in an emergency.

Inching into a gravelly trench at speed is as uncomfortable a feeling as deliberately punching yourself in the face, but after a few kays I stop thinking about it. In fact, I notice a couple of dead kangaroos on the other side of the road and automatically veer over to take a look.

“It’s time to pull over,” the bush pirate says tightly, “so let’s go through the stopping… process.” I’m not actually trained to drive manuals, so the stopping process pains us both.

“I’ll assume you indicated and checked your mirror there,” he says, voice deepening an octave in displeasure.

With the bush pirate back at the wheel, we reach the desert in double time and the rain stops abruptly. You could score a line where it starts; wheat fields and earth suddenly giving away to witchy black trees and white sand.

The sight of a sidetrack fills the bush pirate with unadulterated glee, and he gets me back behind the wheel for some four wheel driving. At first I’m hammering along, but I’m thrown when a Land Rover approaches and I veer up a verge sideways, burning rubber on sand. I’m as rattled as the suspension, and suddenly can’t find neutral or work the park brake, and have to do the humiliating slide along the bench seat to let the bush pirate take over in front of our new audience. It takes all his skill to hoik us out of both the sand and my gathering storm clouds, but of course he manages it.


Keeper? It’s really tempting to idle, dribbling and glaze-eyed, in passenger mode forever when you’re in the company of a shit-hot driver. I blame VicRoads and their lack of encouragement.

DAY 231: Appearing in someone’s autobiography

19 Apr

ON page 168 of Dave Graney’s autobiography, I stumble upon myself, sliding spookily through the narrative like a dictaphone-wielding apparition.

In theory it’s a bit part, but since Graney hasn’t named many of his characters, not even his band mates – not even The Go-Betweens for goodness sakes – we’re all on equal billing.

“It’s not often you come across yourself,” I remark to Old Dog, trying to sound modest.

“Unless you’re a teenage boy,” he notes.

Keeper? Enjoyed that. Am available for appearances.

DAY 226: Braving bongos

14 Apr

THERE are few sounds that instil a sense of dread in an urbane sophisticate like a bongo drum.

It rings nightly through the festival campsites and squat parties of one’s youth, as insistent as gurning teeth. It mocks your inability to sleep, and taunts you that somewhere – just out of thumping distance – lurks an earnest white uni drop-out with a drug stash bigger than yours, drawing in ever-increasing numbers of the sort of people you wouldn’t like, Lord of the Flies-style.

The horror, the horror.

I decide I need to face my fear head on.

The first thing I discover at this African drumming workshop is that not all hand drums are bongos; quite often it might have been a djembe chilling my blood. Bongos originate from Cuba and tend to huddle in twos, while djembes are from West Africa and sit singly on the floor between your legs.

The workshop’s equally split between men and women of all sorts of nationalities, and to my surprise, no one’s sporting a macramed hat, the colours of the Jamaican flag, or dreadlocks. In these hands the djembe takes on a less sinister slant. I think I’ve got drumming all wrong.

For the next hour, we work through four different rhythms, around 20 minutes on each. A couple of regulars get up to dance in the middle of the circle, which is quite awe-inspiring in the case of the dancer from West Africa, and a different matter entirely in the case of the bloke from Elsternwick.

I enjoy the challenge of sticking to my pattern throughout as other drummers go off on tangents, or coming up with my own solo in the middle (it’s okay, they ask me to). By the end of it my hands are on fire, and we should probably hug or something, but I slope out the door to get the tram.

Keeper? Wouldn’t mind trying the dancing. It’s the sort of dancing you usually do when no one’s looking, hence the challenge.

DAY 209: Watering down footballers

28 Mar

The mountain's called 'Arthur'.

“YOU’RE not putting lipstick on, are you?” Old Dog growls.

“Only a little bit. Why not?”

We’re in Lilydale, a Tasmanian mountain town, and Old Dog’s arranged for me to be watergirl for the home team reserves in their first game of the season. They’re playing Old Scotch, who have a nasty habit of kicking arse.

I’d pictured bush footy as being a bit of a jolly boot around in a paddock – having not actually given it much thought – whereas in fact the whole town’s turned out to scream community-spirited abuse, likely between mutters of “who’s this sheila fannying around the oval in her jeans and lipstick?”

I go and sit down away from the thumping commotion and musclebound nudity of the clubhouse changing room. Bucket comes over and sits by me. Thank you, Bucket.

Bucket looks how I feel.

It’s safe to say everyone here knows the etiquette of Aussie Rules but me. I’ve lived in Australia for five years, but I’ve never barracked for anybody, and whenever I’ve gone to a match I’ve wound up glassy-eyed, thinking about sex. Not because of the aesthetics of the players; just because those are my default thoughts when I’m bored stupid.

Old Dog takes me on the oval and runs through the rules – no being in the semi-circle when the bloke’s holding up a flag; no being in the square when they’re throwing the ball in the air.

“I take it I’m only offering water to our team?” Yep.

A young lad is also acting as water carrier, so I take the opposite end and decide to just mirror what he’s doing. And we’re off!

“Water?” I apologise to sweating footballers with thousand yard stares. They grunt like buffalo, barge each other and ignore me. I feel like a crazed spaniel that’s run onto the pitch in a panic.

“Oi waterboy!” one of the crowd hoys, to laughter. I ignore him.

“Are you a scotchy?” some bloke from the opposition’s interchange box asks incredulously as I reload. I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but I suspect the answer is 50:50 yes or no.

“Yes.”  I run onto the pitch.

An old dude runs after me, takes the water bottles off me, and furnishes me with two from my own team’s supply.


By halftime, our team’s down 88 to 1 or something, and there’s a fair bit of spewing, spitting and gasping going on as the coach bawls them out. Old Scotch have won the last four premierships and have not lost a game in over two years. Our boys, meanwhile, have been thrown together this week. Old Dog points out that their half-forwards are pushing down to half-back and making enough numbers around the contest to run the ball forward and over our loose men with handball. (Actually, that’s a direct quote – make of it what you will.) His coach’s answer to this observation, however, is to keep it simple:

“They’re college boys. Hurt them.”

It seems to work. With half a game of playing alongside each other under their belts, the locals go the man a bit, and match Old Scotch in the second half – regaining a bit of idiot pride and, while not close, making the scoreboard far more respectable.

The seniors are up next, so I get to experience life in the crowd – with all its inventive violent abuse. Whenever someone bellows out something particularly murderous and foul, everyone laughs like they’re at the panto. I’m introduced to Porto, who has hands like rusty shovels, and he and Old Dog discuss a bullyboy on the other team.

“Thinks he’s up here,” Porto says, raising his hand high, “when he’s down here.” He mimics fucking someone rigorously from behind.

The seniors win their match and we all crowd into the clubhouse to hear them sing their song – I might be ambivalent towards footy, but I’m not averse to soaking up a bit of glory. Lilydale wear the same colours as the Melbourne Football Club, so the song’s the same.

It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag, it’s the emblem for me and for yoooou…” they yell, and I nearly shed a tear.

Nusty, Old Dog’s partner-in-crime with a physique made sturdy from drinking, has played as hard as he can with no pre-season. He’s exhausted and has been chucking up ever since the reserves game ended.

He reels outside for one last spew.

“Bloody oath. Can’t be good with blood in the cunt,” quoth he, regarding his mess in sorrow.

Keeper? Not sure how useful I am on the pitch, so I’ll be angling for a physio role next time.

DAY 203: Forcing berets down people’s throats

22 Mar

TODAY I’m on a campaign to make berets fashionable. It’s a lonely crusade all right, but one I’ve been forging since primary school, when I published my daring debut, Girl’s Mag.

I count four berets and a disturbingly phallic post box.

And then there was the editor’s pic in my sophomore magazine aimed at sort-of adults, which earned me derision from the art editor and posturo-rockers Grinspoon alike – the latter after I simply remarked on the fact that one of their number was wearing socks and thongs in a national photo shoot.

Grinspoon "aren't about to take fashion advice from someone wearing a beret". But you would, wouldn't you?


Enough with the subtle leading-by-example – it’s time to step up my game and start forcing my rhetoric down throats. Haughty women in berets (it’s pronounced “be-rrr-AY”) are sexy, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it. What’s more, I’m sticking them up all over Melbourne’s lampposts and dunny doors in an insidious attempt to influence locals. Naturally I’m wearing a beret as I do so.

The propaganda.

Viva la resistance beret.

Keeper? Indeed. Winter approacheth, and with it, fashionable head gear.

DAY 195: Baiting Miranda at Hanging Rock

14 Mar

HYPOTHETICALLY speaking, if one were to take a moonlit saunter into the Hanging Rock reserve – to retrace the steps of 1900s schoolgirl Miranda and her ethereal, doomed chums – one would have to first climb the fence, then tiptoe past slumbering rangers (or perhaps they’re playing cards, or learning Jack Johnson tunes), then hike up sheer slopes of thick bracken and thistles.

One would thus be a bit of a dolt to embark on this hypothetical mission with bare legs, slippery-slidey cowboy boots and a handbag. Ah, the wisdom of hindsight.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, set at these volcanic boulders some 70km northwest of Melbourne, is a novel and film “of haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria”. Missing schoolgirls, corsets, undies and a suicide plummet – it’s got it all. In real life, though, this spot was an Aboriginal initiation ceremony site until the 1850s, for boys coming of age.


I’m getting pretty spooked – not least by the low mutter of the bush pirate explaining the worst case scenario if we get caught. As we crash through the undergrowth, beating our way upwards into blackness for about 20 minutes (nope, can’t find the path), we hear kangaroos thudding loudly, weird birdcalls and furry things thrashing around in the trees.

“Wait!” The bush pirate hisses, freezing. My heart lurches. I prick my ears for eerie panpipes.


“I think it’s a ring-tailed possum, look – up there.”

For fuck’s sake!

Once at the summit, we lie down for a bit and look up at the constellations of stars in the cloudless sky. The moon lights up the rock formations around us. It’s a wild and woolly romantic spot, when the tourists aren’t around. “Beats staying home and watching Entourage,” the bush pirate notes. “Is that your hand on my balls?”

While the bush pirate talks to Miranda, I take pictures – our spoils – and type stuff in my phone. It occurs to me that if we do get caught or go crashing to our deaths, I have all the evidence here to put us on Australia’s Dumbest Criminals.

After a spell, we follow wombat tracks back down the slope and then stage-tiptoe down a horribly crunchy gravel road to get back to the gate. The bush pirate starts doing Robert Crumb and James Dean-style tiptoes to calm my nerves.

Keeper? A real kick… but I’m not a gambling girl, and twice might be pushing my luck. A word of advice to anyone planning on scaling a wiry fence any time soon – don’t wear a loose-knit jumper. I hung, crucified, from the top, plucking bits off jumper off fence spikes for what seemed to be an age.

DAY 122: Leading the zombie parade to death and/or glory

31 Dec

MY FACE is caked with black, red and white pan stick, my wig is yanked on, I’m in full marching band regalia… and then there’s a sharp pang of horror.

My eyeballs aren’t disguised! The world will surely know me, as I lead the NYE zombie parade through the Falls Festival, and thus my resolve will sociophobically shrivel and my baton will wilt mid-twirl. We’re all fucked, sorry about that.

This is no reflection on my spirited sisters from the Red Brigade or the shuffling undead behind us – rather it’s based on data collected from previous performances in my back catalogue of ill-advised public ventures:

2004: Playing surf bass in grass skirt, a lei and grimly set jaw. Are there firing squads in Waikiki? If so, I am authentically recreating the death-in-paradise vibe.

1998: “Fall to your knees in your guitar solo,” the singer hisses before we crank out our single. As if. Stare morbidly at the drummer, more like.

1982: Mid-recorder recital in assembly I suddenly can’t remember a single note of Morning Has Broken, and am forced to play air recorder. Still – good save.

The Red Brigade are girly militia led by Brandy Alexander, Stacey Starbright and Dr Randy Beaverson. They’ve sportingly let me join them for one night only, and I’ve had around 50 minutes to learn various marching formations (bicycle wheel, circle, cross…) and a few dance routines.

As we gather for the real thing in the campgrounds of Falls, we’re quickly surrounded by our very own cheer squad of shirtless toolbags, drinking beer and heckling. We’re not actually going to set off for an hour yet, but that’s okay – they’ve got all the time in the world. I suppose it’s good for me to learn what heckling feels like though, just as it was good to find out how it feels to have your lyrics critiqued. Yeah… don’t like it.

Meanwhile, information filters through the ranks that last year the parade was bottled.

“I’m scared,” I hear someone say.

“Me too,” someone else chips in, reassuringly.

As I sit down for a sec to contemplate the fact that I’ll be in the frontline, a searing pain hits my leg. I look down and it’s crawling with bull ants. Brilliant! Maybe I’ll need to get it amputated and I’ll miss the parade.

No such luck – we’re off. I quickly get “in character” – avoiding eye contact, not smiling, staggering a bit – hey, just another night down the pub. Unlike the layabouts in the campsite, whose jeers still ring in our ears, those in the main arena are totally amenable to having the undead walk among them. Only one guy comes up for a bit of a go, but then when his girlfriend screams at him, “Why would you DO that?” he’s not sure.

As I lead the pack through the festival grounds at a bit of a sprint, we’re attacked only by paparazzi. Admittedly I shirk on the dancing front a fair bit, but we’re going down a treat.

Keeper? Was pretty pumped after – this must be how Bono feels. But I’ll leave it to the professionals.

DAY 119: Confessing online

28 Dec

POST-a-confession websites have spread like herpes, which isn’t really surprising, since the internet’s taken over from the pub when it comes to blurting out inappropriate stuff. is the original, to which people send decorated postcards with unspoken secrets. It’s even spawned a book.

Then there’s where people approve your misdeed by pressing the ‘like’ button. On, readers can respond to posts – although I notice the 20-year-old guy from Delhi who confesses he’s a good person that wants to make the world a better place receives no comments whatsoever.

By contrast, over on, the 13-year-old girl who is cutting herself and implying her father is, at the very least, beating her, receives this from ‘Tom’: “I genuinely feel sorrow for your situation but I’m afraid I’m too much of a pervert to be of any help to you. I would only end up getting you involved in deplorable situations.”

Meanwhile, on, I find: “I have put a live octopus in my asshole and farted it out.”

I think this one is my spiritual home, so I decide to post. It takes me ages to think of something that’s bothering me that isn’t total garden variety, which is good, I guess. HOW times have changed.

Keeper? I chose a site without feedback options, so I get neither the approval I crave nor the disapproval I fear. Pointless.

DAY 118: Squalling in the surf

27 Dec

WELL, I guess I can kiss my eyelash extensions goodbye. Any hopes of not getting too pounded in the 8am surf are quickly thwarted by the first pulverising double waves here at Lorne Bay.

Our instructor, Sam, has a zinced nose and bouncy blond curls, like he’s just walked straight off the set of Home and Away. He runs us through the art of getting to one’s feet. Easy.

On the 9ft board I slide straight off the deck in kneeling position. These are slippery little buggers, aren’t they? On the 10ft board I get to my feet but the beast swings sideways in a rip and I fall off. Repeat x 100.

The pie and giant coffee I’ve just downed aren’t sitting too good, what with all this gasping and gulping. In an hour and 20 minutes I manage to stagger to my feet for all of three seconds; and that’s debatable. At best I’m stepping on and stepping off, really.

This leaves plenty of time to: get tangled in leg rope, get smashed repeatedly in the face, get slam dunked into my board. FUCK THIS SHIT.

Forty minutes early, I wade back to shore on ice block feet and throw in the towel. Wower, wowser, wowser.

“You English are useless at everything,” Sam quips as I wrestle myself out of my wetsuit, adding darkly: “Except cricket.”

Yeah, evs. Seriously, when it’s his time of month he can tell me that. And he can try and stay upright on his board with severely diminished motor skills, too. See, not so easy is it?

Keeper? I’ll be back. Not here; too embarrassing.

I KNOW you want to see how cold my foot was.

DAY 111: Having terrible things done to my head, then getting some badass tools

20 Dec

I AM feeling very glum today, knowing that I will be obliged to make a big joke at having failed my driving test again.

After being shown the door at Vic Roads, I decide to detour to Bendigo Marketplace where I might drift aimlessly and find something new to do; now that ‘Acing my driving test’ is no longer today’s headline.

A sign for Chinese acupressure massages draws me in. I like massages. They’re all soft and soothing, and the head ones make me want to roll over.

Not this one. Tissues, sinews, muscles, fat… nothing gets in the way of this dude’s digits in his mission to grind my bones into a fine powder. I feel like I’m being filleted like a fish by his elbows, knuckles and any other pointy appendage, and he works over my spinal cord Wolf Creek-style.

The head massage is worse. I slice my fingernails into my palms as he literally punches me about the skull, sculpts me a new fontanelle, tries to separate my head from my neck with his thumbs, and comes close to gouging out my eyes as he mulches the sockets.

By the time I’ve handed over my twenty-five bucks I’m even tenser, but I get the inspired idea of buying some badass tools. Tools are great – they get stuff done in the country, and at times like this you can bash the crap out of things. Plus I’ve been meaning to practise my axe / pickaxe / sledgehammer swing so that I can help Keith properly on the railroads.

At a hardware store I buy a hammer, an axe and a wrecking bar, which, between them, should be able to destroy anything. When I go to pay for the haul, the bloke refers to my “little wrecking bar” – a phrase that could deflate anyone’s balloon.

“I suppose it’s how you use it that counts, isn’t it?” I put to him.

“It’s a lady’s bar,” he retorts.

Anyway, off to vent some spleen – being very mindful of my non-steel-capped-tootsies.

Keeper? The smashing, not the massaging.