Before Rob Ward set off to Cactus I asked him about the ‘Elite Clique Surf Club’, Roger Mansfield and how his preperations were coming along.
Elite Clique Surf Club – I can’t quite remember how it went but evidently we weren’t allowed to compete for a reason that still escapes me, so John Ainsworth, perhaps Len and I started our own club in about three days and had it ratified by the British Surfing Association – if that was the name of the umbrella organisation. We competed and I think we might have won. It was a bit of politics and I honestly can’t remember who was behind it and what the motivations were. But I think the IW surf club had made it difficult for us to enter and be a part of the contest. That would have been about 1969. I was on my way to Australia.
What we did was silly (the name was intended to be) and to make a point.
I can report that the inverter works the coffee grinder. Tomorrow I’ll charge the MAC on it and after that, the world’s our oyster.
When I built the canopy for the ute, I bonded-on 2 20-ply bookshelves. Today I loaded an unfeasibly extensive line of books and had heaps of room for more! Rog Mansfield met me first when I was camping at M, Etchegoan’s valley and he was the reciprocal guest of Francois-Xavier Moran, the junior French champ, I think. He’d been a friend when we lived at the Villa Baccharis on the Chemin des Falaises. (Cliff Road.). Etchegoan was a lovely old dipsomaniac with a tiny herd of Friesians that used to wake me with their lovely cold, wet, black noses when they peered through the tent doors. I was under instructions from my friend Douglas Jardine (then in his late 60’s – he died in his 90’s) to leave the old dear a bottle of Martinique Rhum. Which was done. I can’t remember what the little pair of left and right reefs was called… ooops (‘Seniors’ Moment) it was Cenitz. I had a tent full of books then. Among them Arthur Koestler’s “The Act of Creation”. I must have been afraid that tent book-critics wouldn’t take me seriously as I also had Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy”. My reflections were sophisticated: “What the f### are they on about?” Roger later credited that as a guiding moment in his ambition (to beat me?) into print!
Busy day, setting up solar panels, getting inverter to work, 3 board repairs, loading box on roof with long-term food-stuffs.
I’m hoping to get off some time after Monday. If, by any chance, the ‘blog’ – if that is what it is – gets a bit raw, it will not be to provoke but merely where I may happen to be (“at”, as American hippies used to say.) I hope I may have your collective indulgence. One needs to trust those whom one imagines one’s readers to be. And yet not alienate. It’s hard to guess where that line might be with people one has not met. And looking at about 4 months alone on the road or in the desert (though not by accident but of free will) it is not always possible to anticipate how it may go. This is by way of a wavering and uncertain pre-emptive apology if things go a bit pear-shaped.
On a lighter note, I leave the light on where the basin is during the nights so I can find my way there from the ute where I sleep without, perhaps, stepping on a snake. Yes, it can happen! I came out of my office to find a large Brown snake 3 paces away and quite alarmed. (The snake, actually). It could get no traction on the concrete so spun its wheels for a bit before it was able to gather some composure. It slid off and out of the building by descending one of the small tunnels made by the corrugated steel overlapping the concrete slab. Finding itself in bright sunlight, which perhaps offends a snake’s delicate sense of privacy, it immediately returned to the shed and finding me not much of a threat, relaxed for a while before having another go at outside. But that’s by the bye. The light has been attracting some lovely insects. Today a 6″ long stick insect. It can’t feel very comfortable against the white paint. On any of the ten million trees that cover this Island it would be invisible. The two previous days a couple of bright green mantises wandered in, intent to make the most of the sterile surroundings. If you watch them closely they swivel their triangular heads this way and that and it is impossible not to conclude they are having a very good look at you. They also oscillate from side to side at about 3 movements per second. Whatever it is they grab and eat (head first if it is a mate) perhaps struggles to decode this endless movement. A good friend called Neil Harding, kept preying mantises wrote two books, one of which was called “Bizarre and Macro Mantids”. He was obliged to learn German as the main field work had been done by German entomologists. (Always a struggle to know if one means to say “etymologist”).
And that leads rather smoothly to a joke. Since I can only ever remember one joke at a time I rather hate to tell them as it is more or less inevitable that my audience will have heard it. That’s always assuming I don’t fluff the punch line, which happens often. Far safer to write them:
At a convention of philologists in Costa Rica (obviously this was suggested by the reference to etymology… IF I have that one right… my 2 volumes of the SOED are somehow packed in the ute) a Latin American philologist addresses an Irish visitor to the convention.
“Tell me, por favor, senor (sorry can’t do the enya!) do the Irish have a word equivalent to our “manana”?”
Looking up from his pina colada, the Irish man replied,
“To be sure, oi don’t think we have a word with quite that pressing sense of urgency!”
Going back, finally to snakes, I have never suffered a desire to kill them or throw things at them. DH Lawrence wrote a shamed poem about a snake who visited him in his garden in (?) Corsica. He heaved a stick at it and the poem was born of remorse. I have a picture of myself taken by a Cornish friend at Cactus 40 years ago. I am playing chess and have my head in my hand looking at the board which is supported by a Post Office cable spool serving as a table. As I straightened up I looked down to my right and there was a Red Bellied Black snake curled up asleep touching my right thigh. I was delighted and said to my friend, “Hey, Tris, look at this”. Unfortunately this disturbed the snake which quietly slid up the small bush-covered dune at my back. Two friends and I had a more serious brush with a large Western Australian Brown snake locally called a Djugait. These are really poisonous and, with the quantity of venom they pack, out-kill (measured in units of hypothetical dead sheep) the King Cobra. We had been diving for fish and were walking back loaded with wetsuits, lead weights and spear guns. We were chatting about the fish we had missed and in so doing, in a clearing with lawn-short grass on it, found ourselves on top of this 2M Djugait, whose head was raised about 300mm to strike. My friend on the left managed to get out one word,
We were in a diagonal line, he was behind me on my left and my other friend was less in harm’s way to my right. I did stop, with my bare right foot in the air above the snake. For the longest time (at least 3 seconds!) it was a stalemate. I had plenty of time to admire the beauty of it. A lovely fox red-brown with a belly of lemon yellow, clearly apparent from its raised portion. It moved off slowly in quite an odd manner, with its raised head remaining so and slightly turned back toward us. There wasn’t a moment when any of us felt any fear, which perhaps tells us something about the nature of fear. It is only useful in preparation for an event. In the instant, it has no use. Last week a friend, (Doctor) Ross Shiel was surfing when he looked up to find himself being charged by a large Tiger Shark. He told me about it 2 days ago. Astonishingly he reacted perfectly in the instant. He paddled hard AT it. It stopped 1M from him and he was able to gauge the width of its body at twice the width of his board, that is, it was a full metre wide in the body. I guess there was a moment of stand-off and the thing took off, thrashing water into Ross’s face, almost one imagines with childish pique. Tigers are scavengers and I have seen a documentary showing young Tigers trying to get the hang of catching and eating seabirds afloat on the water. It was far from impressive, but one finally got a bird down its neck. Well, I’d better not follow this line of discussion as Stradbroke has too many tales. In fact you can see some of them around you. Bruce, who drives the small car ferry to Moreton Island (to the N) has one leg. He was surfing at Main and a Tiger shark took his other leg. He tells of the relief when his leg came off as he was on the bottom and close to drowning.