There’s something about plonking yourself and your car on a ferry and crossing a bunch of water that makes you feel removed. Kangaroo Island has it’s own mood and pace, and there are no traffic lights. You very much feel like you’re ‘somewhere else’ and that’s precisely where I wanted to be for a little while. This is the first time I have taken a chunk of time out by myself, so there were was excitement and maybe a little reticence…
Would I wig out? Would I find myself unable to stand my own company for a week? Would I enjoy it too much and not want to come back? Would I become like the guy I saw at the Foodland in Kingscote with one singular dreadlock, indivisible from beard and scalp?
By nature I’m a reasonably social person. I love my friends and family and all that stuff but there’s also a part of me that enjoys, and needs solitude and silence every now and then. Sometimes it’s just an evening to myself. A few hours. A walk – whatever and as i ground through a fairly unrelenting winter of work and routine and groundhog day shit, it occurred to me that i needed more than just a Saturday afternoon plonked in front of my laptop writing. I need more than the couple of hours after work and before dinner.
I needed a week by the ocean. I needed to not talk and not worry about work or my phone ringing or the media cycle and I needed some serious sea-ogling, and when i wasn’t staring at it, i damn well wanted to be able to hear it because the ocean is my SSRI. I also wanted a fire. Because it’s winter, silly.
So I found a place and booked it and counted the weeks and then the days until i got on that ferry. And lo and behold! almost one week before departure I was struck down by a lurgy that appeared to be some virus borne out of a dying chicken fucking a diseased pig and producing some rotten biological bacterial aberration that destroyed remote farming villages and children and the elderly and even family pets – that’s how nasty it was. Somehow the fucker found its way into my respiratory tract and decided to call it home.
Let me tell you, it sure is wearing out its welcome. Now more than 10 days since – I am still not 100% well. I have coughed literally tens of thousands of times, some of the fruits of said coughs containing bountiful gifts of blood and caramel coloured phlegm. Meanwhile my sinuses have been filled with some form of roof sealant, some of which leaked also into my left ear, rendering it mute(d).
But who cares – I’m on the ferry. I’m recovering. And I’d rather be sick looking at the sea than stuck at my desk in climate controlled fluorescent purgatory. Plus I have pseudo-ephedrine and codeine and I can make a mean hot toddy so the chicken/pig virus will soon see the tables turned god damnit.
The ferry to Kangaroo Island is expensive for such a short trip but there is much excitement when the ferry docks at Penneshaw and drivers are told to go to their vehicles. So after picking up some KI honey for my hot toddies, I headed towards D’Estrees Bay to meet Ben, the owner of the place where I would be staying. Earlier, I learned that KI had recently experienced (or rather, was experiencing) a once in 100 years weather event. Unprecedented rain, roads flooded out. Not very cool for the locals, but I have to say that It was great to see Kangaroo Island so green and lush.
So I headed to meet Ben out closer to where the place was… to where the ‘main’ road leading to D’Estrees Bay was washed out. Ben was going to guide me ’round the back’ to the place. I was expecting a little mud, but wasn’t quite expecting to see the aftermath of such a big wet. It was a good opportunity to see just how ‘all-wheel drive’ my vehicle was too, as there were sedans and other cars parked on the side of the road – presumably neighbours with 4WDs would do the neighbourly thing and ferry people through the flooded bits to and from their cars and their homes.
In the previous years that I’ve come to KI – it has been pretty parched so this was quite a treat to behold. Everywhere was teeming with bird-life.
As Ben was showing me how the house runs (it’s all solar powered and ‘off the grid’) I got to meet Bella – a ferociously intelligent and adorable dog (there’s some poodle in there but i don’t know about all those fancy hybrids – or maybe she’s just an old fashioned poodle cross, not a spondoodle or a schnizoodle or whatever the designer fuck. The bottom line is she’s a great dog, and at least twice a day she would just pop by and check up on me and get some free pats. The little cape coat isn’t for show. It’s Winter, silly. Hell – there were a couple of times I wish I had one.
Seeing as how a major reason for having this little retreat was so I could get some writing done. I was pleased to see that the place offered a good table for doing just so.
And for a few days that’s what I did. I got a very decent chunk of writing done (expanding a short story, working on another short story and plotting a longer piece). Plus I cooked, drank , slept like the dead, spent a lot of time looking at the ocean and i coughed up around a birdbath full of yuk. Hey, better out than in!
I also drew a picture, which is a sign that I’m actually starting to relax. In fact the last time I drew a picture was I think – when I was last at KI about four years ago. I drew a picture of a crab. But this time I was using conte rather than pastels. Yes, all that time at art school wasn’t wasted (he said sarcastically).
I listened to a lot of music too. I wanted to mix it up a bit this time around. Because I was going to be by myself, I wanted a fairly strong mix of instrumentals and ‘longer’ type atmospheric stuff… did someone say prog?
Abridged Music List:
Pink Floyd, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Camel, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Bowie (70s era), Ennio Morricone 5 disc soundtrack collection, DJ Shadow, Big Star, Swans, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Goblin, Captain Beefheart, Kraftwerk, Television, Tom Waits, Mogwai, Dr John, Thin Lizzy, Sigur Ros, Straitjacket Fits, Calexico Einsturzende Neubauten, Cinematic Orchestra, The Fall, Miles Davis and more…
I also spent a fair chunk of time also listening to a Cormac McCarthy audiobook. It’s nice to have someone read you a story, particularly a story by the greatest living writer.
After three days of complete solitude I felt like a drive. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find my way out of the circuitous detour that led me here and so I wanted to test my sense of direction. I was also in need of wine, and I managed to find my way back on to the main roads and headed to Kingscote for the wine. And that’s when I found a bunch of very photogenic Pelicans…
The next day I had some lunch and realised that for the first time in a week, I actually had some energy… the back of this lurgy had well and truly been broken and I was starting to feel normal again. I felt like another drive, and I was craving spaghetti, so I checked the map and thought I’d check out Emu Bay – by way of getting things to make spaghetti.
And I get to Emu Bay and guess what? no Emus. More fucking Pelicans. It’s like they just hang around making Kodak moments… but let’s face it, they are pretty excellent creatures, no? So after a bit more of a drive, it was time to get back and batton down the hatches for some more writing.
I guess I went into this little escape with the plan of some ridiculously prolific writing binge where my inner muse was going apeshit and I was churning out the words faster than my fingers could tap tappity tap them, but this turned out to not be the case. Though I still got a fair bit done.
I think I needed to defrag my head a little. Blank out. Decompress. It occurred to me that this little retreat was also about being empty just as much as it was about being full of ideas.
And there’s no better thing – for me – than looking at a big expanse of water and breathing in that air, and falling asleep to the sound of wind and waves and as it happened – it rained almost every night so I was also gifted with that most wonderful sound of rain on the roof ost nights.
but sadly, the week went all too quickly. I found myself there on the last night, already! and that’s when I began to take stock, while I watched a lone solitary pelican fly across the horizon presumably flying off somewhere to be impressive and photogenic.. I was told I might see a whale. No dice. But I did get a full moon on the last night. And that was pretty special.
And in a blink, I found myself back at Penneshaw, about to head back to the Mainland, on the same ferry but going the other way. It’s all pretty similar except I’ve made some great progress on a story and I’ve managed to empty my head and the fill it with better things – and thankfully less snot.
After getting off the ferry, I just wasn’t quite ready to deal with things like traffic etc… it is so nice cruising the KI roads at speed with music on, I wanted to do a bit more exploring, so I took a little detour and checked out Rapid Bay and surrounds. After that, I was ready to head back to town.
Anyway, time to get back to it…