WRITING 4 PLEASURE
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Meredith Arnold. 2018
We had spent the early part of the day enjoying the glorious sunshine, a cooling sea breeze, and seeing the sights on offer at Mandurah, mingling amongst tanned and sun burned tourists, happy families, and holiday makers strolling along the quays and marinas at the western end of the estuary.
Colourful signs and banners were spread here and there along the jetties, all promoting the many activities available in this area of spectacular waterways. With so many attractions and adventures to choose from we decided the best option was a lengthy dolphin cruise offering a seafood lunch, good coffee, guaranteed dolphin sighting, and whale watching during the spring and early summer season.
One solitary shiny dolphin lazily making it's way along the shoreline heading towards the open sea was our only sighting for the day, but our skipper expertly positioned the boat for cameras and phones to capture the precious moment.
Lunch was delivered on board when we moored at a busy marina crowded with noisy restaurants, so it was very relaxing to set off again to enjoy a leisurely meal cruising under expansive bridges overhead, and making our way along networks of canals where luxurious multi storeyed homes, all with wide frontages, manicured gardens, and luxury boats moored at private jetties contrasted dramatically with country living as we know it.
Perfume point, a low sandy outcrop where the odour of colonies of seabirds hangs heavily in the air, and wafts inland at times of strong breezes was our turning point to begin a slow sunny trip back to where we boarded.
Needing to make the best use of our remaining time we headed to the visitor centre nearby to check out more local colour.
"You'll want to see the thrombolites of course, they are at Lake Clifton on your way home" the busy volunteer behind the counter had replied with an indifferent wave of her hand directing us toward rows of stands stretching the full length of the room. This strange and interesting information was intriguing. What on earth were thrombolites? We located the glossy folded brochure.
Living Fossils. The most primitive life form on earth, dating back 3500 million years, predating plants, dinosaurs, and man. Living rock, to be found in only a handful of places on the planet, and located south of Mandurah at Lake Clifton where the 6 kilometre x 120 metre reef is the largest in the southern hemisphere. The unexpected details had surprised and astounded us as we read them, and the photographs showed a mass of rounded lumps that were not easy to discern. We left Mandurah and drove south prepared to be amazed.
Dense coastal scrub edged the highway where a road sign indicated we should turn to the right toward the lake. Tall Tuart trees poked through the under growth of peppermint eucalypts. Their creamy summer gum blossom looked like newly shorn fuzzy fleece scattered across each canopy. We found parking at the end of the bush track where helpful instructions on the first of several signposts warned us of the dangers of leaving valuables in unlocked cars, and that Australian snakes can be venomous.
We read a detailed fascinating explanation on the formation of thrombolites, rock like structures a result of the activity of single celled bacteria, micro organisms called microbialites, among the first creatures on earth to produce oxygen, thereby making all subsequent life possible, then we continued on to the strongly built boardwalk stretching ahead over boggy ground. A swamp, and limestone bedrock are usual where this rare and ancient process occurs.
A wide jetty led us over the sandy shoreline of the long shallow lake, land locked, but still 30 percent salt water and home to huge black bream, tolerant of both salt and fresh water, with some living 20 to 30 years thanks to the prohibition of fishing in 1996, and also, the location of the unique living fossils we had travelled to see.
A community of humble rounded scone like structures lay just beneath or breached the surface of the moving water as far as the eye could see along the shallows. Limestone coloured porous rocks resembling swirled discoloured meringues lay baking in the sun above the waterline. The wind had become strong in this open area, agitating the surface of the lake into choppy currents and whipping up white frothing foam which blew back and forth then snagged in drifts against the rough thrombolites.
A couple with a wire coated, keen eyed, red setter laughed to each other and teased the dog in German, as he lurched forward to catch the flying foam, then propped in stiff legged confusion as it changed direction and blew wildly and unpredictably, including directly at him in attack.
We joined the strangely quiet groups of people gathered here and there along the railings on the jetty and stared down at the puzzling circles of stone below, simple evidence of a time when life dawned on earth. A span of time so great it presents a difficult challenge to neatly file the knowledge of it into a comfortable niche of understanding.
We travel to far away places at great expense to visit the ruins and wonders of the ancient world. We marvel as new discoveries of the evolution of man stretch back even further in time than previously known, and yet all of our prehistory pales into insignificance against these thousands of millions of years.
Yes we were glad to have seen the thrombolites at Lake Clifton, a place where time passes daily and yet stands still.
Cardinal Sin (Born that Way)
I take this opportunity to introduce Writing Class to the little known science of Nominative Determinism. This is one of those more soft or inexact sciences now occupying the minds of our academics at Latrobe. In simple terms it is the way in which one’s name seems to influence, one’s chosen occupation. For example, that Harry Carpenter is more likely than not to be a builder of houses, a maker of cabinets, or at least a honer of wood. You may be aware of real life examples, such as Layne Beachley, the world surfing champion, Peter Bowler the ex-Australian cricketer, and Usain Bolt, the world record holder for the 100 m dash.
Now science always demands a mechanism. Professor Guy Teacher from Latrobe University believes that this phenomena has its genetic origin in the derivation of names themselves, when John the Tinsmith became known as John Smith. He then passed this trade on to his son, thus establishing a long line of Smiths who still work with their hands. The same applies to Bob Carter, the carrier, Bill Butcher, a prominent butcher in my old town of Deniliquin, and Igor Judge, onetime Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.
As in all aspects of biology, environment also plays a part. You can understand that the name Patience Scales would play on a young lady’s mind. What was my parent’s intent when they named me Patience! Surely Flora, Sarah or Hermione might have been more suitable to define my demure personality. No, they clearly wished me to be a piano teacher and to have the patience to master B flat Major, together with all the minor, chromatic and pentatonic scales. Likewise Douglas Blood became a professor and first Dean of the School of Veterinary Science at Melbourne University, while Sue Yoo rose to be a prominent New York attorney. Blood’s blood, by the way, is worth bottling. He turned one hundred in April. Clearly nominative determinism contributed a highly profitable boost towards an OBE, three honorary doctorates and a long life.
There is little doubt that the opposite also applies. Greg Sipher somehow missed his cue during childhood and became a ticket collector on the railways when he had the chance to become a famous code breaker during WWII. My heart goes out to the girl named Skye Blizzard, who I saw stacking shelves at Coles when she might have become Senior Forecaster at the Met Bureau. The list also includes Bill Lamb who left the farm after a tiff with his father, only to become a grave digger.
The current trend for young parents to seek innovative spelling for the names of their children is causing some concern in higher circles. I recently spotted the names Coophyr and Thatcha in the paper as monikers for two new arrivals. The concern is not that the names are neither male nor female. The concern is that the trades of cooper and thatcher has gone out of fashion and that they may be denied a backup career in teaching because they will not be able to pass the entrance test for spelling. What was UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnston thinking of when he named two of his now adult children Lara Lettice and Cassia Peaches? What vocations may they find today in a depressed London workforce? Larry Speakes, former Whitehouse spokesman for Ronald Reagan and Cardinal Sin, late Catholic Archbishop of Manila, had no such trouble.
And what about the Science you may ask? Well it proves that if you believe this you will believe anything.
LYNNE HUME (March…From the point of view of paper)
Originally when I first came into Tom`s office I looked after his appointments. He was such a gentle soul and these were happy days. I suppose it was because I worked closely with him every day that I fell hook, line and sinker for him. We had a very open relationship and I was just happy to hang on to his every word.
After a couple of months, working with him, he decided I should go home with him every night. I was ecstatic with this arrangement. This meant I could be with him twenty-four hours a day. When you really love someone, that makes you very happy. But we all know there are consequences if one is too happy don`t we.
When Tom and I were together in his bed he told me everything. I was his best friend; his confidante. Sometimes his stories were just mundane things. Other times they were intimate ones. I knew every detail about the boy`s nights out, the money he lost on the horse racing and the winnings at the Casino. He told me about the one night stands. . I knew they meant nothing as he always came home to me and told me about them. I don`t think I`m the jealous type so I enjoyed his intimate descriptions of what he got up to.
Then, every morning, he would gather me up with such care and we would drive in to his office as if nothing had happened the previous night.
From the beginning I never liked Alison Low. I realised trouble was brewing when he first sighed, “Oh Di. You should have seen Alison Low last night. She was the life of the party and soooo beautiful. She was wearing an emerald necklace and earrings and even the fingernail colour matched the jewellery. Just the colour of her beautiful green eyes. All the blokes were around her like bees to the honeypot but it was to me she secretly handed her phone number.”
He was as smug as the cat licking up stolen cream.
Damn beautiful, green eyed Alison with the matching jewellery and fingernails! How could plain old me compete with that? My eyes were turning green but it was the ugly green eyed monster within.
He said he was going to phone Alison Low from the office first thing. Just like every other morning he showered and had his breakfast, but he flew out the door without me; his mind full of other things. A couple of minutes later I heard his key in the lock and he came through the front door.
“Oops. Couldn`t forget to take my best friend with me,” he smiled.
So now I had just become a best friend. To be fair he never promised anything else but I had thought those long conversations in his bed at night time may have counted for something.
Over the next few months he talked incessantly about Alison Low. He had too much respect for her to want to get her into the cot straight off like he had with the one night stands. He sent her flowers, took her to expensive restaurants and live shows. He met Mr and Mrs Low and they seemed to like him. Why wouldn`t they? I had every dress she ever wore described to me in detail. He asked if I could imagine how soft her hair was, how delicious she smelt, how wonderful he felt when they were kissing. Every night we`d go to bed there would be another story to lower my confidence.
Eventually I heard about the night I did not want to know about. They drove down to the beach where he dropped to one knee and proposed marriage. I wanted to cry buckets of tears. Of course she agreed. That`s just what any damn Alison Low would do isn`t it. I know I would have.
The marriage plans were made and they were to return to his home, after the honeymoon, until they could afford a bigger place. I now pondered my situation. Where did this leave me? I didn`t have to wait long to find out.
Tom picked me up, gave me a little kiss and looked at me apologetically.
“Goodbye my love. You`ve been my best friend all year. Always there when I needed you but I`m sorry old girl, I don`t want Alison to discover you.” And with that he put me to bed in the attic and locked the door.
I slept in that attic for a long time. Seemed like a hundred years but I`m sure it wasn`t. One day the attic door was unlocked and two young boys crept into the room.
“Mum said we could have anything we find that`s useful. You look in that box and I`ll search this one Joey”
“Fancy someone selling their house and leaving their boxes in the attic Jack. Grown-ups are silly.”
“Yes I would always take everything I owned if we shifted again.”
“Hey Jack. Someone`s left an old diary here. This is ideal.”
“Just the thing Joey”
Jack put the diary under his arm and the two excited little boys raced out the front door and down to the creek.
Sitting on the bank they excitedly tore out my pages, making me into little paper boats and setting me afloat on the stream to be tossed and turned by the breeze … sailing into oblivion.
I cursed Alison Low; her green eyes, her emeralds and most of all her diamond ring.