Friday, August 29, 2008


Winter warmers: crab meat and asparagus soup

20 minutes
Serves: two

1 bunch fresh asparagus spears
2 tins crab meat or freshly-cooked equivalent
Vegeta (vegetable stock)
1 egg
1 lemon

This month on Cooking With Art Director we are going to explore soup.

At one time i found myself going out with a dark-haired, skinny girl, whom i shall call Tanya, because that was her name. Tanya didn't eat much, which in those days was a common trait amongst those skinny, attractive girls with expensive drug habits. One day, dining with Tanya in a cheap Vietnamese restaurant, i discovered that one of her all-time favourite dishes was crab meat and asparagus soup. She had a plate of it in front of her.

"Mmm, this is good," says Tanya, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. "This is my favourite."

Let me have a look at that, i said, pulling the plate over and scrutinising it. The dish appeared to contain crab, asparagus, and other bits of stuff floating in it that looked like egg. I tasted it, and apart from the subtle flavour of crab and asparagus, it tasted of lemon with a hint of msg. How hard can this be, i thought.

After some experimentation, i discovered a secret ingredient: Vegeta, that vegetable soup stock in the blue tub with a picture of a chef on the front twirling a moustache. This instant soup stock from Croatia has the added benefit of msg to give that elusive and authentic cheap Vietnamese restaurant flavour.

Once you've located a tub of Vegeta at your local supermarket, gather some asparagus. One way to tell where the succulent part of a asparagus ends and the woody part begins is to snap it near the base. Where it snaps is precisely that point. Keep the long pointy end and throw away the rest. While this theory is not based on any science, it certainly looks and sounds impressive. Chop the spears into thumbnail-sized pieces but leave the tips intact.

Fill a pot with enough water to make two decent-sized bowls of soup. Or so. I don't know. We're making soup, not something critical like meringue or N,N-dimethyl-5-hydroxy-tryptamine. So see how you go, you can add a bit more water later if the consistency is too thick. Just chuck the chopped asparagus in and boil until really soft - about 10 minutes or so. At some point, and i don't really care when, throw in a tablespoon of vegeta.

Next, open a bottle of cabernet merlot and pour out a couple of good-sized glasses.

Once the asparagus is soft, things just get easier. Bring the heat down to a light simmer, and tip in two tins of crab meat. Then fish the papery bits from the bottom of the tins out of the soup. If you're lucky enough to live in Carnarvon, forget the tins - just throw in a handful of freshly-cooked meat from those blue swimmer crabs that you can just grab out of the water at Miaboolya Beach.

Using one hand, crack an egg and drop it in with a flourish. Give this a bit of a whisk with a fork. The egg will combine with the crab meat to give it a more interesting texture while doing wonders for your cholesterol. Once the egg is cooked, say in a couple of minutes or so, squeeze in the juice of a small lemon or, better still, a lime. Ladle the soup into bowls while singing "Oh Lordy pick a bale of cotton." Don't be shy with the cracked pepper.

"Mmm, this is good," says Tanya, flicking her long black hair over her shoulder. "You know, this is my favourite."

Crab meat and asparagus soup. For when you've had all the sex and drugs you can take.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


“It’s a tragedy,” says Lorenzo, looking out the domed-glass pod into the night. He shakes his head. “I can’t believe it.”

I stare out the floor-to-ceiling windows, down at the long crystalline beach. It curves, like a swung white cat, far below us. The night casts an eerie cold light over the scrubby hills. The distant moonlit granite peak of Waychinicup is a lone beacon. The doomsday cult compound has a chill, other-worldliness about it. Surrounded on all sides by glass, with pod-like rooms radiating from its vast central corridor, its centre is open to the elements. The plexiglass, geodesic-domed roof has vanished, along with whoever once inhabited this strange commune. There is no sign of the Japanese doomsday cultists.

The rest of our party are still on the ramble, exploring the labyrinth. But there is no sign of life. The water and power are on, but nobody’s home. Beds, TV, a lounge, a fridge – but no Japanese. The doomsayers have simply vanished.

“A disaster,” says Lorenzo.
“You think they finished themselves off? Drowned themselves in the ocean, or maybe –”
“No. I mean its a disaster that you forgot the marijuana. We could be mulling up by now.”

Bing walks past along the corridor, his long black coat flowing behind him. He holds a tray of candles, giving his pale face a horrorshow glow. His expression is distant as he exits into the open central arena. It seems he has become a character in a Stephen King novel.

“We could be mulling up now, right here on this table,” Lorenzo jabs his index finger down emphatically on the marble-topped, circular table.

Bing continues on his solitary path, climbing the large rock at the centre of the commune. He places the tray of candles on the rock, then carefully lays himself down beside it. There he remains motionless, staring up at the cold dark sky.

Martine and Dylan amble in. “Wow,” says Dylan. “It’s like we have found ourselves at the centre of some kind of mystical black hole. Or at least, Bing has.” He wanders into the kitchen and returns with some teacups. “Scotch?” He begins pouring out the Ballantine’s. Martine watches as he fills her cup. “I’m driving,” she says, taking the cup in both hands. She takes a sip. And another.

“Oh, alright,” says Lorenzo, taking his teacup of scotch. “But we could be mulling up by now.”
I shake my head. “It’s back at the apartment somewhere, it’s got to be. You know, I could get some more from Ray and we could all come back Saturday night. Have a party. A doomsday death cult party.”
“Yeah!” says Lorenzo. “Yeah!”
“Did you see the spa outside?” asks Martine.
“A spa?” I wander over to the glass corridor. There, amongst the kentia palms, stands a shower head, and next to it, a fibreglass spa. Empty now, but a spa nonetheless. Bing is still laid out on top of the rock. I wander back and sit down at the marble table.

“It’s a spa alright.” I shake my head wistfully. “I used to have a spa, back in the bad old days, when I had the recording studio. It was under the frangipani tree...” I take a slow, warming sip of scotch, and recollect my housewarming party with Justine, the artists’ model. “For some reason now I always associate spas with orgies.” Lorenzo’s eyes light up. “An orgy!” he shouts. We turn to stare at him. “An orgy!” he repeats, enthused. “Saturday night! We’ve got hooch, we’ve got a spa, we’ve got a beach party ... now all we need are some nurses!”
Dylan nods. “Nurses. What’s the difference between a nurse and the Eiffel Tower?”
“I know that one,” I say. “Not everyone’s been up the Eiffel Tower.”
Dylan downs some more scotch. “Well, what’s the difference between a Ferrari and a nurse?”
“Not everyone’s been in a Ferrari.” I look at Martine. “I have, of course. My friend Lewis has one.”
Dylan pours out more scotch and hands it to me. “Alright then, Mr Man With All The Answers And A Friend Who Has A Ferrari. What do you call an Aborigine flying an aeroplane?”
He has me there. “I don’t know.”
“A pilot, you fucking racist.”
Lorenzo looks confused. “What’s this got to do with the orgy? Are we inviting the Aborigines?"

We stumble down the steep hill, crashing through the scrub. After several scotches, I feel impervious, indestructible, as I bound whole headlong metres across tea-tree and saltbush. I reach the wire fence and simply bound across that too, kangaroo-like. The others scramble along the fenceline, looking for a suitable opening. There is none, and the fence wire is pulled taut.

“Ach, it’s not a problem,” says Dylan. He hands me a teacup, still miraculously filled to the brim with scotch. He grasps the fencepost at the base, and pulls it holus bolus from the sand, then lays the entire wire fence forward onto the saltbush. Our party climbs across it in an alcoholic haze. We find the sand track that leads back to the car. “Man,” says Bing. “That was intense. Are there any other places like that in Albany?”

Friday night, we’re at the Premier for farewell drinks with Bing. He is heading north to Carnarvon, following in the Art Director’s footsteps. Lorenzo, Dylan and I are getting steadily plastered in honour of Bing’s promotion to the Tropic of Capricorn. A good-looking barmaid with a wild gleam in her eye comes over to our table, seemingly just to make idle chit-chat with Dylan. She seems to have taken a shine to him. “I’m Nova,” she says. “That’s an interesting name,” says Dylan. “I work at the Vancouver Arts Centre,” Nova says, looking across at Dylan coquettishly. “Well, that’s interesting, because I –” begins Dylan.
“Do you want to come to a party?” Lorenzo blurts suddenly to Nova. “We’re having a beach party tomorrow at midnight and I think you should come. We’re having a bit of a smoke.”
“Mary, mother of god,” Dylan says. “I thought for a minute there you were going to say we’re having an orgy.” Nova looks a flustered, hastily collects the empty glasses, and heads for the bar.

“I’ve got to get my plane,” says Bing.
“Well, I’ll see you at the Carnarvon Cup,” I say. “If I don’t make it, here’s Nurse Nikki’s mobile number. Say hello to her for me.” Exit Bing. Enter Martine with her husband Derek and her friend Dolores the Journalist.

Derek offers to buy a round of drinks. “I just heard about your trip to some weird house on the beach last night,” Derek says, smiling. He’s always smiling. Such a nice guy. “Martine tells me you guys are trying to organise an orgy out there.”
I shake my head. “No, no, we were just saying, it was the kind of place where –”
“With the nurses.”
“Well –”
“And I heard, secondhand, some really bad jokes about nurses,” says Derek.
“Well, we were just –”
“I’m a nurse,” Derek says.
Lorenzo is totally unfazed. He raises his glass. “Well I guess that means you’re invited.”

He’s a dark horse, that one.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"We also have anecdotal evidence of people renting garden sheds." Garden sheds? A garden shed would be luxury. I text Sarah Toa to tell her that i am on the front page of the Newspaper.

She texts me back. "I never knew you looked so good in an Eagles jumper." I assume this is just her trying to be funny. The journalist who wrote the story comes over to my desk. "Have you seen our website?" she says. I shake my head. "No, why? You haven't put a picture of me up there? I'm supposed to be the invisible homeless." She shakes her head. "No," she laughs. "But when you see the picture they've used, you might wish i had."

Over a pizza, i explain to Dylan how i asked our esteemed journalist to remove a couple of quotes about how i was forced to wash and shave in public toilets during my three-month sojourn living in a storage unit. She removed one of them, but left the other.

"It was in the copy twice," i tell him, taking a big gulp of red wine. "Two separate mentions of me habituating public toilets. She made me sound like i was some kind of pervert."

Dylan laughs. "I like that. You are fussy about which bits of copy you will allow to make you look like a total loser. 'Oh, sure, you can write a front page story and make me look like a total loser. Just don't make me look like a degenerate total loser.' Ha. You idiot."

I munch our alleged Mexican pizza in silence. Since when were Mexicans so big on bacon and peperoni, anyway?


The moonlight is bright enough not to need the torch. The lunar eclipse is not yet upon us. We stumble through the bushes and low scrub, Dylan leading the way, whiskey bottle in hand. It is a steep climb. We weave our way towards the top of the ridge. Do we move in these independent, meandering, ululating paths because there is, in fact, no one true path? Are we merely irreducible individuals seeking our way - chaotically, fractally, fatalistically - toward that same, ultimately unattainable goal? Or are we unable to walk a straight line because of the alcohol? It's difficult to tell. "Don't tread on the snakes," i warn, as i crash sideways through a melaleuca.

Dylan stops briefly to fortify himself with a drink. He stares down at us as we lumber up the slope towards him. He gestures expansively, taking in the moonlit beach, the vast untrammelled scrub, the granite-peaked mountain in the distance. "Sweet baby Jesus," he cries. "We are at the centre of nothing! We are nowhere - nowhere! What fresh hell is this?" He takes another draught from the Ballantine's. "I came to this beleaguered land and the God in me evaporated! If the end of the world is to come, let it come now!"

I pause with the others to catch my breath, and survey the land below us. The saltbush tang is sharp in my nostrils. A dark, tea-coloured inlet separates us from the hills beyond. We can sense, rather than hear, the rolling swell of the Southern Ocean, as it expends its energy further refining the fine white sands of the long crescent beach. Arcs of phosphorescent foam sketch a bright impressionist pattern eastward as far as the eye can see.

"That's the building over there, i reckon," says Lorenzo, pointing to a light-coloured smudge atop a distant ridge. "No," says Bing the Googlemeister. "It's this side of the inlet. We get to the top of this ridge, and we should be able to see it." We crash onwards and upwards, relentless in our quest for this Japanese doomsday cult compound. Up the hill to our right, two large water tanks loom into view. We crest the ridge, and as one, we come to a sudden halt.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" says Dylan. There, below us to our left, perched on the edge of the vast ocean, is an enormous, sprawling construction. There is no other human habitation for miles around. Nothing. This sudden, almost alien signal of civilisation is surrounded by glass pods, and oddly angular, curved white surfaces. Long strips of white light blink at us in slow pulses. It looks like some interplanetary settlement, sprung from the mind of Chris Foss, the cover art designer of Isaac Asimov's 1970s science fiction novels. It looks simply as if, as Roland Barthes said of the Citroen DS, it has fallen from the sky. We stare at it in stunned silence. Is architectural semiotics are totally alien to us. It is dark, eerie, and silent. Silently crouched upon this remote coastal ridge as if waiting for ... what?

"Let's go, Hardy Boys," says Martine, grabbing the torch and setting off towards the compound. As we get closer, it begins to look less alien, and takes on the characteristics of a suburban shopping mall. Curved concrete. Glass domes. A white roadway looms, and we scramble down to it, making our way to the large front door, oddly shrouded in darkness. We come right up to it. I reach out my hands and feel vertical strips of wood, secured to the massive doors. Jarrah. Smooth. I tentatively push and pull at it, but it does not give. Martine turns on the torch.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God!" says Dylan. There before us, nailed to the doors, are an immense number of sandals and thongs. Nailed singly, not in pairs, to the woodwork. A wooden sign hanging from a string says "Welcome."

"Welcome to the end of the world," i mutter. We climb a low stone wall to our right, and find ourselves on top of one of the curved, pod-like spokes that radiate out from the massive circular centre of the building. The building is constructed like a giant ring, or arena, and we can see down inside to its centre. This is dominated by a large, flat-topped rock. Around this is a pond, and innumerable, tropical-looking plants. There is no sign of human life.

"I was told it had a dome on top, a huge geodesic dome," i say to the others. "But it's gone." Martine climbs out along a galvanised-iron rib to the very rim of the circular wall and peers down into the innards of the death cult. Running along the rim around her, large jarrah posts thrust upwards in a ring, pointing like silent fingers into the night sky. "It's gone, and so are all the people."

The relentless waves crash against the moonlit beach. The interior of the compound is surrounded by walls of glass, and the pod-like structures that radiate from it appear to be living quarters. A communal kitchen and living area is on the opposite side, and we can see right through this to the scrub beyond. There is no sign of any doomsday cultists, no sign of any human habitation whatsoever. Only the empty living quarters and the flat-topped, sacrificial rock.

It seems as if there was never a dome on top of this incongruous structure. But it shows clearly on the satellite imagery, a shining curved surface. It has simply vanished into thin air. And with it, all the people who lived in this bizarre compound. It looks like we missed our flight. I stare upwards at the moon. The stars. Other worlds...
to be continued

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The French artist Jacques Vaché produced no work of any significance and died of an opium overdose at the age of 23. Vaché, the suicidal matyr of the surrealist movement, defined humour as the 'theatrical uselessness of everything'.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Dylan passes the Ballantine's into the front seat. I knock back a slug, and pass it to Martine. She's driving, so only has a quick snort. Women drivers. They're so responsible. I hand the bottle back and study the map by the glovebox light. Outside, dark trees lean in, whisking by our windows, as rabbits make their sudden, manic-depressive lunges for the wheels of our speeding car. The full moon flashes between the treetops on its inexorable path towards a lunar eclipse.

"It's on Saxon Beach Road," says Bing, taking a slug and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He passes the bottle to Lorenzo. Bing, the Googlemeister, has isolated the exact position of our destination using Google Earth. It appeared on the computer screen as a strange, circular shape with short spokes radiating from it like thick leaves. An exotic succulent, it sits atop the contour lines of the satellite imaging, sublimely imposed at the centre of a topography that takes in a river, an inlet, and a long, pristine beach that runs the length of a national park to a granite-peaked mountain.

You've got to love a Japanese doomsday cult. When i heard about the cult waiting patiently for the end of the world on a remote beach east of Albany, i thought it best to lay hands on whatever mind-altering substances i could find, grab some mates, and head on out there. If the world is to suddenly and literally go pear-shaped, we might as well have a scoob and catch the spaceship with the sushi people. Such was my reasoning.

According to the locals, this mysterious Japanese sect has calculated that this remote wilderness site is the only place that will survive the impending global cataclysm. Just how they arrived this conclusion is not known. Perhaps they have laid hands on Japanese translations of the works of Immanuel Velikovsky. Or perhaps they have read it in the stars, in the elliptical orbit of some far-out comet or asteroid. Either way, they are quite serious. The cult compound has been constructed. It shows up on the satellite imagery - and there's no arguing with that fact.

"Take the next left, Dempster Road," i say.
"It's on Saxon Beach Road," repeats Bing, passing the scotch.

The possibility of raiding the doomsday cult compound arose over a few pints of beer and chicken parmigiana at The Hurl. After a few more pints, we were resolved. We gathered supplies and equipment. A waterproof torch. A map, a notebook, and a bottle of whiskey from Dylan's cheap motel room. And at the last minute we stopped by my apartment for some of New Zealand's finest.

Last week i had a visit from a Maori musician, whom i last met at Mr Moon's party. A large man with an imposing personality, Ray always wears an immaculately pressed white suit with wrap-around dark glasses. Day and night. Ray came to my apartment after the pub, with my flatmate Catherine the Great Artist and Sarah Toa, the Warrior Princess. We put on loud music, danced, smoked Ray's stash, and went to a nightclub. With impeccable etiquette, Ray left behind on the kitchen table a sample of New Zealand's second biggest export to Australia - the first being, of course, New Zealanders - from which i selected for safekeeping one bud, leaving the rest to that unrepentant bohemian, Catherine the Great Artist. Never know when that might come in handy, i thought, putting the little green bomb away in a small, carved stone container. There it lay quietly for days before it became, tonight, the most necessary of our supplies for the raid on the death cult.

It's always good policy to get thoroughly loaded before storming a doomsday cult compound. Temporary insanity is the best defence, should push come to shove.

As we head out along the winding gravel of Dempster Road i begin rummaging in my coat pockets. Hello. The carved stone container is no longer there. I grab the torch and scan the floor of the car. Queens of the Stone Age. PJ Harvey. A point-and-shoot Olympus film camera. Notebook and pen. No drugs.

"Stop the car!" i yell. Martine pulls the car up in a cloud of dust on the gravel road.
"What's wrong," asks Lorenzo.
"I can't find the smoke," i say.
"What the fuck!" yells Lorenzo, launching himself out of the back door. "It must be there somewhere!" He pulls me bodily out of my seat, grabs the torch, and begins a desperate search of the interior of the car. The torchlight flashes wildly, like a laser at a Chemical Brothers gig. "Have you looked under the seat? Have you looked under the seat?" The four of us, Martine, Bing, Dylan and I, stand by the car and watch as Lorenzo's head angles upwards awkwardly, his face set in a grim expression, eyeballs rolling to and fro. His free arm waves about as he thrusts his other arm deep into the space under the front seat. "Fuck! Fuck! Have you checked your pockets?" he yells. "Check your pockets!"

He's a dark horse, i'm thinking. Never seen him like this before. "It's not there, man," i say. "I must have dropped it back at the apartment."

I take a swig of the Ballantine's, and pass it to Dylan, who takes a vehement pull on the bottle, shakes his head, and passes it on to Bing. "Let's just go," says Bing, and takes a long gulp. "It's on Saxon Beach Road." Lorenzo emerges from under the front seat and checks under the car with the torch, clearly the act of a desperate man. He straightens and stands, staring, at the offending vehicle. "We'll have to take it apart," he says.

A few kilometres later, and we are through to the main highway. The whiskey bottle continues its slow circuit of the car's interior. I offer it to Martine. "I'm driving," she says, taking the bottle. She takes a swig as she pulls out onto highway one and passes it back as she accelerates. The pine trees run by us in the moonlight. Some of them have been snapped like twigs. Last month's storm. Now THAT was a storm. I wonder what we will do when we get to the compound. The combination of a full moon and a bottle of scotch is beginning to get us fired up. This could end like Waco, i'm thinking. I make a mental note to leave the matches in the car.

"Fuck man," says Lorenzo. "Maybe it's in the hood of your jacket." He and Bing begin to tug at my jacket. I push them away. "You drug-addled fools," i say. "How could it have fallen from my pocket into the hood of my - hey! That's the turnoff!" Martine locks the brakes and puts the car into a four-wheel skid. The gears whine in protest as we reverse. The signpost glows eerie in the silent moonlight, pointing southeast. Honeymoon Road. The map clearly shows it leads down to Saxon Beach Road. With some late-night cross-country scrambling through steep terrain, we should be at the doomsday cult before midnight. Martine looks at me askance. I nod. She shifts into gear. I hear the bitumen crunch as we turn southeast.

to be continued

Friday, August 08, 2008


Western Australia is the greatest exporter of models in the whole of the southern hemisphere.

Most of these models, many as young as 11, are shipped out of our capital, Perth, or its port, Fremantle. Our State is focused merely on the wealth these live exports bring to its coffers. Very little concern is paid to the inhumane conditions under which these models are exported.

The politicians who trounce about in our ivory towers have no inkling of the fact that many of these models are being forced into overcrowded conditions, packed into very small holding pens, often drugged, arms and legs akimbo, forced to shit and piss where they stand. Many reach their country of destination only to be placed into a holding pattern because of quarantine restrictions, owing to the diseases which are rife amongst their breeding stock. The death rate is alarmingly high.

A candlelight vigil to help stop the live export of models from Western Australia will be held at Fremantle Port on Saturday, August 23. Please, bring your friends and family, a rug and some candles and make your feelings felt.

Help us stamp out this inhumane trade.


Monday, August 04, 2008


Never turn up to a motorcycle driving test drunk.

"You are an outrage," Mayhem texts when i tell her the bad news.

And it is bad. The driving test officer and i stand in the early morning rain on Stirling Terrace, as the front comes sheeting across Princess Royal Harbour. I'm swaying, confused, and very hung over. And inebriated. He asks me again to actuate the brake light with the footbrake lever. I press the brake, but then i suddenly realise that this exercise is in vain, because the switch has been disconnected. It disintegrated somewhere between Geraldton and Gingin, and the brake light was permanently stuck on. So i disconnected it. And promptly forgot about it. Oh, my head hurts.

The front brake will light it up no worries, i say. I squeeze the front brake lever, and, sure enough, the taillight glows like a Hay Street brothel. I indicate this with a flourish. See? i say. The officer shakes his head. "Footbrake," he says. Wearily, i fiddle about under the bike to find the wires leading to switch. The rain is dripping off my nose. Water, water, everywhere, and i'm dehydrated as fuck. I make the connection and the brake light immediately comes on. "You haven't got your foot on the brake," the officer points out. Obligingly, i put my foot on the brake, and indicate the glowing taillight. The officer is unimpressed. He shakes his head.

This is not entirely my fault, of course. The previous evening, one of our esteemed journalists left The New Newspaper under dire circumstances. The circumstances were dire. So there was nothing for it but to drink. A photographer, a couple of tv news girls, the journo Dotti and i were the last to leave the pub. We were literally shown the door, which was a good thing, because by that stage i had difficulty seeing it. Things had deteriorated rapidly once Miss TV turned up. A couple of weeks ago Miss TV volunteered to do some Musing. We were both fairly trashed, well at least i was, and i mentioned that i needed another model for an upcoming exhibition. Miss TV seemed really keen. What about me, she said. I'll do it, she said. She gave me her mobile number. I sent her a text the next morning. "I'm going to Waychinicup to take some photographs. Want to come for a ride?"

There was no response.

Later i heard from my agent at the art gallery. Miss TV had mentioned she had not heard from me, which seemed a little strange. But i just put it down to One Of Those Things. We were trashed. It was probably for the best. I had neglected to tell her that i needed a model in order to paint her blue and lie her naked on the orange rocks of Waychinicup. And perhaps tie her to a railway track. Or maybe i did tell her that. I can't remember.

Over a few pints of beer we untangle our crossed lines. I didn't hear from you, Miss TV says. I texted you, i say. About Waychinicup, i say. No i didn't get it, she says. Maybe i gave you the wrong number, she says. Let me see. She looks at my phone. Oh, no, she says, that's not my number. That's my boyfriend's number. I'll give you my number.

She is totally insane, i'm thinking.

"Can you start the motorcycle," the officer says. I jump on the bike and kick it over. Nothing. The rain makes its way down the back of my neck. Down my spine. This morning i had to start the bike with jumper leads. It seems that all the mucking about with indicators and headlights and brake lights has flattened the battery again. I kick it over a few more times. Nothing. Oh my head. I'm not just hungover, i'm flungover. Which is like hungover, only further over.

A friend once told me he'd ridden his motorcycle home from the pub drunk. Really plastered. Couldn't remember getting home. (Let's get this clear: the Art Director does not condone this behaviour. I walked to the pub last night. On foot.) Anyway, he wakes up next morning and his head is swollen like a balloon. He can't hear anything. Just the blood rushing in his ears, and the pounding in his head. His peripheral vision is gone. He gets up and staggers into the bathroom. His head weighs a ton. It's the hangover from hell. Then in front of the mirror he discovers he still has his helmet on.

So later that night, much later, after being shown the door of the Tanglehead pub, i send a drunken text to Miss TV with another proposition. After a while a reply pops up. This is her boyfriend, it says. Oh sweet baby jesus. I pour myself a large glass of port and stare at myself in the mirror. What kind of fool am i, i ask. There is no response.

"How about we reschedule for next Monday?" says the driving test officer. "And you fix your brake light."

Thursday i drive the 400km up to Perth in a borrowed car to see Mayhem and to attend our lawyer's wedding. I pick up a replacement brake light switch from the wreckers, then head back down to Albany on Saturday night slash Sunday morning. I get into Albany at 5am Sunday, put the motorcycle battery on charge, and go to work. Monday morning i fit the switch, go to work again, meet deadline, and front up for my rescheduled motorcycling test at 1.30pm.

I do have a motorcycle licence already, of course. I just need an all-class bike licence so i can ride the 650. I have been putting it off, which is not entirely my fault. I mean, how was i supposed to sit a licence test when my licence was under suspension?

After the emergency braking test, the turning in a tight circle test, and the leisurely ride over Mt Clarence test, i do the obligatory park and hill start and we head back to the station. I wait in the Departmental office. That went really well, i’m thinking. Poised and elegant. Sweet lines through those corners. Very smooth braking and gear changes. Occupying the correct space on the road at all times. Using both mirrors and looking over my shoulder when changing lanes. Fully aware of the traffic around me. Indicating correctly on roundabouts, as per Albany Roundabout School methods. The driving test officer comes in.

"Does your speedometer work at all?" he asks, exasperated.
"Not exactly," i say. "Well, no. The cable is broken. Why? Was i going too slow?"
"You were speeding," he says. "Once in a 40k zone, once in a 50k zone, and once in a 60k zone." He hands me back my papers and shakes his head.

Well. At least I was sober.