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first published in 'The Age' (Melbourne) in December 07): "Waiting to be Seated'
The following link leads to an
interview in Atlantis. It is an interview with me conducted
Dr Gerardo Rodriguez Salas
from the University of Granada.
The following memoir was published in 'The Sunday Age'
The coastline of
is pretty ragged. To my father and uncles and their friends this
coast was a clear invitation to go fishing in the summer holidays.
To me the beaches were naturally an invitation to swim – and
then the intricacies, cliffs and crenellations were an opportunity
to imagine, to enter into fantasies and romances. The scariest
things for me were the blowholes where the sea roars and boils up
into a deep hollow in the rocks and sucks small children and dogs
and blissfully unsuspecting honeymoon couples to their doom. There
are sad stone monuments carved with the names of the dead, rising
in poignant testimony to lives lost to the waves, speaking in mute
warning on sunny, carefree afternoons.
Father, mother, uncle,
aunt, six kids, car, ute, boat, trailer, caravan, tents. It was in
the early fifties, just after Christmas, and we trailed down the
east coast of
until we finally reached
where we set up camp for two weeks. I must have been about
thirteen. There was a broad grassy piece of flat open land that
went from the sea to the ruins of the old convict settlement, and
that’s where we camped. We had it all to ourselves. The idea of
then was fairly new. There were primitive showers and toilets
nearby, but that was it, really. As far as I know nobody asked us
what we were doing, or cared. We built a fireplace for cooking.
On New Year’s Eve we had fireworks. The gold-grey ruins of the
shells of Victorian prison buildings loomed in the background, a
great miserable threat with gaps and crumbling hollows and rusty
bars. The wild waters of the jagged coast surged before us. But on
the grass between the two extremes, where our gipsy caravan had
settled, we feasted, and then screamed as we sent up rockets and
showers, whirled Catherine wheels and hurled squibs. We cast wild
and devilish shadows as we leapt about in the light of our
The locations of our summer holidays were governed by where it was
good to fish, and this time the history of the
was an added extra. For me the past became the focus of my days.
With my cousin Loris I explored the land and the ruins. I had
brought with me a creepy old book called Shadow
Over Tasmania and we referred to it for information on things
we found, or thought we found. We would take lunch and disappear
for the day, walking for miles and climbing all over the forlorn
and eerie walls of the old derelict prison buildings. We had
sketch books and box brownie cameras and took pictures of each
other staring mournfully through grim barred windows. I should
point out that we thought this was holiday fun. It was also
thrilling because it was quite dangerous, since much of the
structure was unstable. We ignored danger signs and crawled down
into spaces in the jumble and decay of brick and stone. I have
memories of broken walls of lovely old red bricks. With the
reflection of a knowing adult I now see that we could easily have
been injured, could have become lost. At some point there was a
kind of ticket-seller who let us into a cell and locked us up in
the total dark and silence of solitary confinement. We would never
try that again.
TO READ THE END
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