Posts Tagged ‘The Cod War’

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‘The Phyla Laff’

We’ve been in this wonderful country for just over three months now, and we’re settling in fine. Jane has started her job at the University, and I’ve a few gigs under my belt – in Perth and Fremantle to the north, and Mandurah to the south – and, in tandem with the ebbing chaos of the move, I’m getting the time to do a little more writing. It’s all a bit Pleasant Valley Sunday here in Safety Bay – suburbia forever, with very little going-out culture. No wonder Aussies like their Barbeques.

There is a type of ‘club’ culture but, quite frankly, not the one I’m used to? There’s the Swimming Club, the Tennis, Club, the Bowls Club, the Watercolour Painting club, the Jewellery Making club, the Motor Mower Appreciation club, the Crystal Healing club, the Psychic club, the Barbie club, the Catholic Church…

Basically there is nothing to do.

As well as discovering what there isn’t to do, we’ve been trying to get a handle on the local fauna and flora, so last week we signed up for an evening Frog Walk – organised by the local Environmental Centre – around the historic, and brackish, Lake Richmond. Apart from being a nature reserve and home to numerous species of birds, as well as five species of frog – including tree frogs – Lake Richmond is world famous for its community of Thrombolites.

Thrombolites may sound like a lost tribe with clogged arteries due to overdoing the barbies, but no, they’re far more interesting than that. Thrombolites are clumps of accreted matter thrombolite formed in shallow waters by the photosynthetic actions of early life-forms – specifically Cyanobacteria – and we’ve a lot to thank them for – everything, in fact – even the very air that we breathe. They are probably our oldest common ancestors and they, along with their close cousins, Stromatolites, oxygenated the planet and provided food for the more complex carbon-shifting life-forms which came after them.

So, no Thrombolites, no Frogs. No Frogs, no Environmental Centre. No Environmental Centre, no Frog Walk.

We turned up at the Centre next to the Lake at 7:00pm armed with a torch, stout footware, and clothing suitable for inclement weather. What we had forgotten, apparently, were children. We were the only adults there without any.

We’d paid our eight dollars, however, and were not to be deterred so, after eating our Sizzler (a type of Aussie hotdog) and collecting our Bag of Sweets, both included in the price, we switched on our torches and set off into the darkness taking up the rear of the giggling screaming group of children, for all the world like some child-snatching paedophile couple hoping to catch a healthy looking straggler, or at least failing that, the one with the taped glasses and the limp.

We went home via a Bottle Shop and laughed our way into drunkenness.

Yes, basically there is nothing to do.

That said, I walk Molly, our Collie, every day along beautiful, and deserted, Indian Ocean beaches with Dolphins frolicking a few metres away (do Dolphins frolick?). At the end of our road (Penguin Road – check it out on street-view) is Penguin Island – no cigar for guessing what lives on that. If there was a competition for the best place in the world in which to have nothing to do then this would win first prize for the place to not to do it in.

There are three small (and very good) restaurants, but we’ve used them extensively already and have realised that to stay sane in suburbia you either drink, copiously, or use the facilities – to wit, the beach and the ocean. So, in order to achieve perfect mental health, we’ve just bought a little sailing dinghy called a ‘Mirror’, and three months’ supply of ‘Coopers Pale Ale’.

Our Flagship, as yet unnamed, was built in 1968/9 and I’ve been working on getting her ready for sea all week. tubby 3Jib and mainsail have been repaired, and I’ve finished re-rigging her in between the occasional tea-break to catch up on ‘Sailing For Dummies’ – it’s an old book that advises tying cassette tape to the mast stays (they’re called ‘Shrouds’, don’t ya know) to alert you as to wind direction. ‘Course, we download all our wind direction these days…

Provisional launch date is this Sunday, but sadly the Queen had already said she’d babysit and now can’t get out of it – you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, eh, Liz. Still, Eric – Jane’s father – will do as honoured guest, along with her elder brother David, and his family. As for naming, we were going to call her ‘The Free Trade’, or ‘The Cumby’, or ‘The Broken Doll’, in honour of three great watering holes from our own, sadly missed, going-out culture back in Blighty, but we’re now thinking of keeping it in the family and calling her ‘The Phyla Laff’, after my Mother.  She’d love to be known as ‘The Face that Launched a Dinghy and a Case of Pale Ale’.

We’ll see. It really depends on how drunk we get? Not that I’m condoning ‘Drink-Sailing’ or anything like that – but it is Sunday, so there won’t be much traffic? Probably take the neighbours kids out for a spin.

It’s in our blood, see, sailing. I served on an aircraft carrier during the Cod War – yeah, the ‘forgotten war’. Even to this day the British government fail to recognise Cod War Syndrome yet after all these years I still can’t walk past a chip shop without breaking into a cold sweat. Jane, on the other hand, was brought up racing sailing dinghies in Anglesey, crewing, with her brother at the helm. She tells a great tale of him screaming at her for not bringing the jib in fast enough after a particular tack across the wind, and with their boat only just in the lead. She bailed and swam directly back to shore ensuring that David and boat were disqualified.

Jane reckons that the good ship ‘The Phyla Laff’ will need some TLC on the water and, due to her age, will probably need some running repairs. I’m not that worried. Jane, her brother Dave, and her father Eric, are from North Wales where they have a tradition of make-do-and-mend.

I’d love to give you an example of a nautical bent in order to keep with the theme, but the one that instantly comes to mind is this: During one of those rare total solar eclipses that wasn’t bedevilled by British cloud (Jane recalls this as 1983, when she was fourteen, I think?) teachers at Jane’s school asked parents to purchase one of the many proprietary viewing appliances available for this once in a life-time school yard spectacle.

Whilst all Jane’s classmates were provided with such appropriate eyewear, Jane was deposited at school, by Eric, welders maskreplete with a welders mask.

I can’t wait for Sunday. I’m going to be Captain and Jane will be Crew – there will be heavy sanctions for abandoning ship.

Anvil Springstien.

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Links to previous: Pom De Terre IPom De Terre II