Thursday, June 30, 2011


When I was an impressionable teenager, my revered brother poked fun at the hippies who embraced a carefree life and sat in contemplative lotus chanting om to the stars.  He labeled them “mungers” after their supposed excessive consumption of mung beans.  At this stage I hadn’t been introduced to the wider world of legumes, nor met a real live breathing vegan, and thought my brother was the very impression of the perfect man.  He drove a yellow Hilux, windsurfed, and oscillated between work as a carpenter and the exotic world of crayfishing at the Abrolhos Islands.

At this age I didn’t imagine I would marry a surfer, build my own thatched house on an Indonesian island and sprout mung beans bought from a toothless betel nut chewer at the weekly market. The suit boy of my future was wearing Armani, not neoprene. I thought you had to aspire to a shiny Landcruiser or a Holden ute and the latest TV.  You filled your days with "honest" work for a good wage and happiness would flood in through your bank account and the recognition from significant others that you were successful.  However, somewhere deep down, the admiration I had for my brother, despite his mockery of mungers, molded my values and visions of the perfect husband.  An aquaman that knows how to swing a hammer and looks hot in boardshorts.
So here I am sprouting mung beans, peanuts and alfalfa, and picking organic rocket from my garden.   I do head stands and cartwheels and have daytime naps.  My heart beats faster when I pick up a well weighted pen or push an audible camera shutter.  I love our rusty '89 landcruiser, I haven't owned a TV for 15 years and like to pretend I don't have a debt that supports the Macquarie Bank Christmas party.  

Yet there are still times when I find myself on Seek or Careerone fumbling through the drop down lists of job titles, searching for me, for something to define me in society, to answer my most dreaded question "what do you do?" A fruitless activity that does little but rouse fear, doubt and confusion.  Then I get up, walk down to the lagoon and give myself up to the ocean.

I empathize with the words of Richard Bode, the beachcomber of Miramar : "As I walk the beach, I like to think I am an autonomous being, moving through the world as I wish to move, free of encumbrances.  But despite my deepest yearnings, there is a contrary force, buried in some secret, shameful part of my being, drawing me toward conformity.  I am still trying to meet the expectations of others, still afraid that if I don’t the whole unstable world will come down about my head".

What does the real world look like?

Monday, June 27, 2011

the son of sleepy

There have been comments made about our expat community; that it is a retirement home for Australian surfers, that old surfers don’t die, they just come here with their longboards and settle in for their autumn years.  Tom and I lower the average age, and are inspired by the thought that in 20 years, when most of the diggers will be rocking in their hammocks, we'll still be charging at dawn.

As is common with isolated groups of fanatics, focused around rock, reef, snow, opals or wilderness, they tend to attract the outliers of society, the ones with stories to tell of a life less ordinary.  Most of  them are called Dave.

Sleepy Dave is an affable and entertaining character, with a remarkable ability to fall asleep mid sentence, catch a few quick z’s, then resume the conversation.  Sleepy spent most of his adult life on a small yacht, then traded her in for an old landcruiser, parked it up in Broome, then retired his sea legs to the stability of a home on the beach.  He married a beautiful Indonesian woman and they are expecting their second child.  Their first boy, Rowley, recently turned one and most of the village gathered under the vast verandah to celebrate. Sleepy knows how to throw a good shindig.

The customary Indonesian party involves a mountain of rice, fried noodles and various chunks of meat.  For those with the money, the food is divided equally onto a single-use plastic tray inside a cardboard box then distributed to the masses. The bigger the budget, the better the cuts of meat, and the greater the chance of a vegetable appearing somewhere in the mix.  All washed down with a cold Bintang at sunset.

Rowley's other Indo/expat playmate, RJ (who also just turned the big one) was on site for the action, which continued into the wee hours with song, dance and power naps.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the wave awakes

After more than six weeks of smaller than average, windy conditions, today's double overhead faces were a welcome sight to Aquaman and his fellow wave hunters. 

A session begins on the poet's platform, then moves to the dressing room, where war paint and armor are layered for the full transformation. What Aquaman possesses in speed, flexibility and endurance, he lacks in padding, so currently employs a four layered system to keep warm on the long mid-winter sessions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

wheel your barrow

Do you remember our market trolley, fashioned from an old golf buggy?  It was retired to the pile of useful crap around the side of the house when the road proved too rough for the sand tires and the bananas bounced out of the box.

Then a free range pig decided the cool shade under our floor would be the spot to snuffle and grunt and store his rotten tit bits for later. Aquaman took off his superhero suit for a stint as a rock monkey, and relocated a pile of rocks from our old fence, with the aid of our trusty wheelbarrow buggy.  No more pigs and a cleaner yard.

mystery item needs identifying

This massive steel "bullet" washed up on the beach last month and while the locals were at first feared it was a bomb, they didn't hesitate to haul it to dry land with visions of cutting it in half to make two canoes.

  It doesn't have any distinct markings, only a couple of roughly painted faint letters.

Does anyone know what it is?
Should we be evacuating? Is it full of radioactive waste from Japan?  A lost missile from WWII? Or is it a funky anchor or a steel banana boat?

Friday, June 17, 2011

a pod sunset

Dropped in to see the boys at the pods, who were knocking back a few cold ones on a tropical afternoon. As is the custom of many where surf and holidays coincide.  I was a bit thirsty after my walk, but there wasn't a drop of water in the whole place; all refrigeration and bench space was reserved for the Bintang.  The bottle top mosaic is their doing, not the intervening hand of a stylist. When you get to 100, it is time to go home.

bait fishing

Fishing takes many guises in the lagoon. Crude spear guns, a single line from a wooden canoe, violent splashing into a fish trap, a hand woven net, or a bit of shade cloth tied to two sticks.  Most fisherman have some or all of the above techniques in their artillery.  But first one must have bait, and it is not a matter of stopping by the tackle shop to buy a block of frozen mulies or prawns.

This fine demonstration shows the scoop-and-hope technique.  Grandad walks in the shallows, searching for tiddlers, and when he spots one his granddaughter scares them toward the net.  One quick scoop and hopefully a capture.  The unsuspecting fish is put into a plastic bottle and the process repeated.  What doesn't get used for bait will be eaten for dinner with some rice and chilli. 

The most simple technique, requiring no tools, is to dig a hole in the lagoon sand and sift for sand critters. 

low tide beach walk

During the spring tides of full and new moon, the sea level drops from a high of 2.5 metres to a low of 0.1 meters, leaving the lagoon as a series of large puddles and sand flats.  Locals gather to tend their seaweed plots and chip anything vaguely edible from the rocks and pools. Even the cows make it down for a wander and to drink from the fresh spring water that flows in rivulets under the beach sand to the ocean.

Boats are left to rest on their hulls and starfish are stranded, curling their arms in protest. 

Kids dig holes to gather skippers, shells and crabs. Their desire to capture and control brings to mind a poignant  paragraph from Beachcombing at Miramar (by Richard Bode)

Once we possess another creature, we alter forever the inherent nature of that creature. As children we think we own a crab.  As adults we think we own our husbands, our wives, our sons, our daughters.  But the only life we own, truly own, is our own.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

moo shots

She hasn't done anything wrong yet, but if she does, I've got her photo.

Just in case there is some other nutter out there that finds joy in a simple life fueled by bananas, and they want to start a website about it, I registered the domain name for Remote and Raw and attached it to this here blog.  I am officially a dot com.  Don't panic, you're subscriptions and bookmarks for will still be directed here (I hope...).  The good news is the address is easier to remember so you can tell your mates to drop by for a surf, a green smoothie or a fresh coconut.  We've got them all; but we don't have cookies.

While I've got my secretary hat on, if you haven't yet subscribed to have the updates delivered trouble free to your email, I invite you to do so.  There is an easy sign up link on top right side of the page. Any problems leave a comment below and I'll get the IT team from the basement to help out.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

you take the high road

There isn't a day go by where I don't immerse myself in the lagoon.  Sometimes, just a cooling dip; at others times a test of my strength against the current.  I follow footpaths through the sea grass, suspended above the narrow highways, and swim the length of the sand patches, as clear and vast as a pool.  Thoughts are few; my mind calm with the rhythmic pull and kick, my eyes watching for the occasional glint of fish.  I cherish the freedom, the opportunity to preserve the splashing child within, the simple joy of moving forward quietly with my own power.  

north of the river

The shop is the heart of the village, the reference point that divides south and north. The radius is small, less than one kilometre in each direction, before a small concrete pillar or crude sign marks the official boundary for the next village.   We are south of the shop, in the next locality.  Way off in the sticks to the north, along a neck rattling road and over a riverbed is George's pad.  Holiday home to the Patterson's, and their escape from the chilly winters of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

Designed by the principal Aquaman and pencil pusher at TMc Architecture, the project was completed late last year.  The design draws strongly on local materials, and the site plan maximises ocean views and ventilation for each pavilion.  Bricks are made from  limestone rock, cut by hand, rooves are whole lontar leaves gathered nearby, and bush poles feature as verandah posts.  A spiral bathroom design suggests the logarithmic curve found in nature, and provides privacy while preserving the open air plan. 

Already, the pavilions are well lived in, and a wild, productive flower and produce garden has been established by George's diligent pembantu. She has planted  frangipani, bougainvillea, Asian greens, papayas, bananas and tough ornamentals.  We have been the lucky recipients of organic bok choi, direct from the red dirt to our table. 

George is a keen fisherman, and the barbie takes centre stage to grill the daily catch. The camp is powered by solar and wind, giving George independence from the town generator, and a constant supply of reliable energy.

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