Monthly Archives: May 2013

A quaver of quivering cockatoos

Last week we lobbed on the mother on a gorgeous Sunday, girl #1 running wild in the sunbaked suburbia, girl #2 obliging with a gentle nap in the car as I drove the streets of my old town, Bexley North, festooned as they were with an accumulation of consumerist rubbish. I love a clean-up campaign, but, with Ebay and gumtree and the like, they ain’t what they used to be.

Anyway, over coffee, my mum told me a flock of yellow-tailed black cockies had gone overhead. Raucous, like a bunch of Yabbas heckling Jardine.

I was sad to miss them; I like a good bird almost as much as I like a good plane.

We headed home as the sun disappeared, and around the corner, I heard a voice – “Mr Jardine, you leave our flies alone”. Up on the Foxtel cable, 17 black cockies. Diving in and out of a callistemon (bottlebrush). Talking shit and dropping shit.

I pulled over and snapped away with the phone. When I downloaded the images today, it struck me how musical this little quartet looked. Someone with actual musical knowledge might like to explain what notes they are playing on the stave…





A couple of years back, I developed an addiction. It grabbed hold of me, relentlessly. I must have an obsessive personality, or compulsive, or both. Because once i worked out how to use the black and white function on my Blackberry’s camera, I couldn’t stop.

My name is Peter, and I am an addict. Well, WAS an addict, the Blackberry went with the job, and Iphones just don’t cut it. They have clarity, colour, and ease of composition. The ‘Berry was cumbersome, clunky and crustating. But, in the right light, or should I say dark, it took these incredibly interesting (to me) low res pictures. They were more like sketches.

So I would deliberately get off the bus in the winter and snap 50 shots in 50 seconds, as the light failed and the dark took hold. The interplay of light and dark, of reflection, of built form; 50 shades of grey.

I harboured the ambition but lacked the discipline to sift, sort and show these shots. I dreamt up a poorly-conceived installation, “Mist”, where I would somehow source life-expired mobile phones, and glue a photo on the viewfinder, sell these for $20 a pop, keep some and give a chunk to an environmental education program around recycling. My arse got bigger and the installation idea stalled.

But this blog gives me an opportunity to test the idea. Do you like the photos – a sample is enclosed? Would you give this man $20 for a used phone, with original artwork? Is the recycling value of the phone more than $20? Do you know anyone with 100 used phones? Do you like the name Mist, and should I call myself Mister Mist at the launch? Do you have a Blackberry you don’t use, because I really miss mine; I promise to only use the camera… and Brickbreaker!

It’s grants season in Marrickville, and if your feedback is positive, I might chuck something together and see how it fares. It would be mistifying :p

All photographs copyright Peter Warrington, 2013. The chick with the teeth is a photo of a photo and the original photographer would have copyright, too, and they can share in the $20 if they contact me, if the project goes ahead.

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Drowning heart

When I was last in Scotland, more than 18 years ago now, I went, as I always did, back to Orkney. That strange collection of islands off the north coast, windswept, rugged, as much Scandinavian as Scottish, with a Pictish past to boot. Not for me the obvious delights of Skye or the other Hebrides. I went to Orkney the first time because everyone in the Edinburgh hostel was going to Skye. I fell in love instantly.

That time, in March 1995, I was accompanied by my partner, Rachel. She obliged me by sitting on a train north for two days, and then braving a two-hour boat crossing, sea legs not really running in her family. We ended up in Stromness on the Mainland, trying to track down a friend from Sydney, Cathy. We sat in the pub and looked across the water to Hoy, the sun blinding but the wind freezing, the weather so cold in Kirkwall that even the locals wore gloves. They could not believe we had come there in near-winter, when they were all itching for their regular break in Turkey. We had to settle a bet about which way Cook arrived in Australia. We got pissed, swore a lot, ate McCoy’s cheese flavoured chips.

We were going to give up the hunt for Cathy when we saw a note in the general store, saying “Ahoy, come to Hoy”, or words to that effect. So we caught the small boat the next morning, and were met by Cathy who, at 160cms or so, was working on a creel boat (the creel is a basket used for catching shellfish). They guy who owned the boat, Rick, happily offered to put us up. He took me out on the boat, which was an incredible experience, working the cold waters around the deep cliffs, plucking the crabs and lobsters from the deep and packaging them up to be air freighted to the Costa Brava. I did a bit, but not much, the boat was small and there was danger everywhere, from tangling ropes to flailing hooks. It was one of the best days of my life. That night, we all peeled a sample of the catch and had the best seafood buffet you could imagine. Beers at the pub, after watching Everton beat Spurs 4-1 to make the Cup Final. Reading Viz. Silly stuff.

We nicked off early the next day, going boat-boat-bus-train-train-train via a Force 10 gale, Inverness and Glasgow to hit London 24 hours later, en route to Paris.

The trip had to end, as all good things do. We came home, moved to Melbourne, came back. One night, the phone rang, it was Cathy, who had moved back about a year after we came home. Terrible news, Rick’s boat had gone down, all on board had drowned. Sadly, a common occurrence in the treacherous waters around Orkney. My heart sank. We had only known him for 48 hours, but he felt like he would always be part of the family. I imagined we would visit him for years, he would come and visit us in Australia, he was our special connection with a special place.

There wasn’t any sense that it could have been me. That would have been mathematical stupidity. It could have been Cathy, I guess. It was more that maybe it should have been me. He was such a warm, giving soul. Fun-loving, decent, hard working, family oriented, generous.

For some reason, I took it upon myself to write a tribute. I didn’t really have a choice, it just flowed out of me one night, I found a voice that I could never find in the years before when I had tried to be a poet or write songs. Then it hit me – this was “feeling”. This was “loss”. Not some abstraction, but a hole in the heart. I guess I’d been sheltered from true grief, or had just rationalised away the bad things that happened in my life, or to people around me. But I couldn’t rationalise this, it was personal, he had become Orkney, which was always meant to be my get out of gaol card.

Anyway, I asked Cathy and she said to send it off to Rick’s family. I did. That was pretty much it. We’ve never been back to Scotland, let alone Orkney, but not really because of this. More circumstance, and a love affair with Italy and Spain. Like most, we have headed towards the sun as we have aged.

I don’t think I wrote any poetry for 10 years, either, not until we had kids, and I started telling stories. Silly stuff.

I found the poem tonight, when looking for the Ring of Brodgar shot posted earlier. I’m going to have a scotch. And I’m going back to Orkney, if not before, then for my 50th. And you’re all coming!


Ring of Brodgar

Just found this photo from 1991, from Orkney. Amazing place. Need to go back… if you have never been, you should!