Tuesday, May 31, 2011

“That Millicent is unbelievable.”

Author – Arthur, with Millicent’s approval.

She turns up here with Inge the other day and before she’s out of the car she claps eyes on the Hardly Driveable parked out the back.

Just grabs her gear, sashays upstairs with Inge and ten minutes later she’s back down in a pair of snappy jeans, bike boots and this little suede jacket with, would you believe it, the skull and cross bones emblazoned across her back.

Uh, oh, she has Inge’s helmet under one arm, mine in the opposite hand and is pointing to the Hardley with her left foot as she skips through the office toward the back door.
She can’t say much other than mumble ‘cos she’s got her shades clenched between her teeth.
Anyone would think the old dragon was on holiday.

This is ridiculous. I haven’t seen a woman that keen to go out and play biker’s moll for many a year.

Here we are out the back beside the scooter as it warms up.

Looks like this was prearranged between Inge and Millie on their way back from their conference that I, Arthur, should give Millie a motorcycle tour of the town; what with me being the bloke with the most hours up on the shop beast.
Conniving women.

But now she’s in full battle armour, bone dome on head, and all cinched up tight; she doesn’t look half bad from twenty feet away.

I don’t believe this dame. She’s popped on her shades. Black framed wraparounds encrusted with a string of marcasite brilliants, gold misted Polaroid lenses, propped on her pert little hooter.

A serious looking lady if you like the foxy sort.
What a transformation from the dusty old dag that climbed out of Inge’s car only a few minutes ago.

Hoo boy. Looks like Arthur gets to squire a movie star around town.
Bound to be trouble when we stop by anywhere anyone recognises Arthur.
Inge will be hearing about this for the next six months.

“Ummm, Millicent.”
“Yes Arthur.”
“Ever been pillion on a big motorcycle before?”
“To tell you the truth, Arthur, only once, quite a few months ago.”
“Will you be okay – I mean you won’t fr –“
“Freak out at the first corner and sit bolt upright?
Hardly make a difference would it, a little old lady like me?”

So on we climbed, made ourselves comfortable, sorted out the intercom, and, kalunk, putt, kerfuffle, blatt, off we went down the driveway and onto the street.

I have no idea why the shop hack just lurched left somehow as we came out onto the street – but lurch left it did, then snapped upright and toddled down the street as if on autopilot.
Normally I have to wrestle with this dog at slow speed, just to get it pointed in the right direction.

“So, where would you like to go Millicent; anything you want to see?”
“You just work the throttle and change gears, Arthur – oh and tweak the brakes when you need to.
Inge worked through the tour with me while we were driving home and I’ve got it all drawn out on this map here - look.”

“Uhhh, Millie.”
“Yes Arthur?”
“Would you please get that map out of my face. I can’t see where I’m going.”
“Oh, righto Arthur.”
“That’s better, now where – oh, to the right around this roundabout.”

Whatever is happening here we’ve executed a 90 degree turn and now, flick, Bingo, we’re heading down the street without me having much say in the matter.

If this dame has only ever once been a pillion on a big bike she’s a damned quick learner with an amazingly retentive memory.

“Yes Arthur?”
“When you said you’d only once been pillion on a big motorcycle – what did you mean?”
“Oh, it’s just that I’ve been a passenger on small motorcycles now and again and even bought a license back home.
I was never really fussed with little bikes, Triumphs, Nortons and so on; never felt all that safe.
What do they say, not enough ‘footprint’.
Then one day I visited this motorcycle shop with a friend and colleague.
We were researching this paper about Hunter S Thompson and his influence on motorcycling culture; you know, how it’s panned out lately.
The way silly ageing men afraid of losing their ‘Fallorum’ have driven up the price of what used to be poor man’s transport and elevated motorcycles to status symbols.”

“Dead set, Millie?”
And there it was in the showroom staring me in the eyes; the expression of my own mid-life crisis.”
“What was that Millie, a nifty fifty – Owwww!”

I can tell you for free – always remember you young bikies, that if you are ever doubling some assertive, short fused, feminist strumpet about on your scooter, that they are in complete control. A good sharp jab in the kidneys always sorts you, the chauffeur, out in short order.

“Yes Millicent.”
“When we get back to the office I’ll find my scooter’s web-page for you, okay?
We can add it to your ‘further reading’ list if and when you write your article.
But in the meantime just head down this road until I tell you to turn left.”
“So that was your new motorcycle was it? I mean the salesman took you for a ride on it to show you the ropes.”
“Well, a bike similar to mine but set up for a pillion; if you could call it that. That was the only big bike I’ve been pillion on.
No, mine is solo seat but with all the bells and whistles set out the same.”

“Okay Millie; I’m looking forward to checking her out. I guess she’s a she, isn’t she?”
“No, he’s a Montie; named after my ex-husband. Loud, cantankerous, more trouble that he’s worth, but so much fun to be with.
That’s my scooter.
Okay Arthur, left then a quick right up ahead, according to this map, then after the stop sign you can just follow the road.”
“ Right you are ma’am ‘and don’t spare the horses’, as me mum used to say.”

So down the road we roll, up over a bit of a rise and dip, a right hand curve and now we’re cruising along a narrow road, up close along the edge of the riverbank.

Dotted about down there are fishermen in their little outboard powered ‘tinnies’. And check that out, a ketch, sixty, seventy feet, a Canadian, judging by the flag, sails just unfurled, maybe still under power, but carefully following the leads out to sea, barely leaving a ripple for a wake.
She’s definitely a deep keel hull making best use of the tide height, right now working against the last of the incoming to her advantage and being bloody cautious about it.

Barging upstream comes a trawler, pugnacious, GM diesel bellowing loud enough to be heard over the Hardly and sloshing a bow wave clear over the top of a stone breakwater wall barely visible at near high tide.
A couple of  fishermen on the wall grab their creels and as best they can, run for it before they get washed off the rock wall  into the river.

“Ahhhh. My hometown,” thinks I “almost an idyllic scene except for that dickhead in the trawler. Steam gives way to sail - no. Follow the leads – no. Watch for damage to riverine environment caused by propwash/wake – no. Watch for danger to other mariners caused by propwash/wake – no. The fishermen?  Oh Shit, that little kid – whew, Dad caught on and grabbed him just in time. He’s safe now.

Keerist, I’m getting too old for this brainless crap!”

“Hey Millie, did you see that?”
“Unfortunately, Arthur, I did. In a way what we’ve just seen has something to do with why I wanted you to bring me here.
And I’d say we’ve reached the spot where we can stop.”
“What, here – this dump?”
“Yes Arthur, according to the map.”

So we turn on to this muddy, cleared space, a few trees here and there but a clear view of the river.
The view of the river is clear mainly because there is nothing at all to warn the unwary that they could easily miscalculate and drive right over the edge of this cleared space, down about thirty feet and into the river.

I think I’ve worked out what Millicent is up to.
I couldn’t catch her expression behind those classy shades but all the time the river has been visible I’ve felt her sitting up, her head arched, staring over the other side of the river.
Leastways, that’s what she was doing until the toolhead in the trawler did his stuff.

“Can’t make it out, eh?”
“Make what out Arthur?”
“Paddy’s Island.”
“How did you know I was looking for Paddy’s Island.”
“Well, for one thing the Hardly was tracking pretty well until we came down this stretch. Since then it’s been wanting to crab off to the left and into the bloody river. Something to do with a swollen head stuck out in the slipstream, I reckon – Owww! Millicent.”

“Arthur, I swear. I’m beginning to believe that I’ve known you for a thousand years –“

“Anyway Millie; Paddy’s Island is about all there is on that other side of the river – other than mud, mad fishermen, mangroves and mozzies.”
“And if you’re right, Arthur, and I wanted to take a look at this Paddy’s Island. Would you wonder why?”
“Millicent, It’s now past 4pm on an autumn afternoon.
Regard. Evening is approaching and in an hour or so you could watch the sun nosedive below the horizon.
I used to watch that here when I was a kid; dragged along here fishing with my bro and old man.
When they were with me it was just a place: one so peaceful at sunset.
But this place can get scary; it’ll up and bite you badly in a second.
You can be skipping over those rocks like a mountain goat – then land on a wet one or get some mud on your foot. Next thing you’ve slipped into the drink or brained yourself on a rock.
Amounts to the same thing; you end up fish food.
When I was a kid I had no idea of Paddy’s Island or what happened here when the Old People tried to escape massacre over there by frantically swimming across this stretch of river.
Now I do.
The place doesn’t scare me but, by Christ, I know that the place deserves respect and constant attention while you are here.
If that is the shades of all those murdered Aboriginals tweaking away at the sub-conscious level – they are doing us a favour.
Leastways they ain’t playing foul with the sunsets.”

“You believe that Arthur?”
“Oh yes.”

“Arthur; why does Django reckon you are ‘a bit of a Gonzo’?”
“Gonzo, eh. Probably because I call him a ‘Nazi straight arrow’ whenever I want to wind him up.
He’s not of course, but by the living Harry, it winds his rubber band over snapping point every time without fail.
If Django had taken you here and noticed that trawler driver the entire focus of his account would be all about the stupidity and arrogance of redneck trawler drivers.
It would never have occurred to him to merely mention that the incident happened and leave the reader to work out the link between redneck behaviour in 2011 and bloody massacre in 1850.
In other words let them work out for themselves that, attitude-wise,  diddly squat has changed around this part of the world.
Even if he did cotton on to that he’d still be moaning about lost tourist opportunity or whatever.
 After all, didn’t those blacks spear that famous explorer, Gregory Blaxland’s son, a week before the mass murder here?
Come on Millie, climb aboard. Before it gets dark I’ll show you the famous ‘Kanaka walls’ – stone walls built with slave labour, the old sugar mill where Kanaka slaves were buried under palm trees beside the approach roads.
We’ll even go past ‘The Oaks’, where apparently Blaxland’s dad started to get even with the tribe.”

“It’ll all look boring and regular because if there’s one thing we’re good at doing here it’s burying our history under a veneer of respectability.”

Further reading -
http://ps3beta.com/story/12950  - Paddy’s Island massacre
http://confederate.com/motorcycles/existentialist/  - Millie’s scooter, on the left

                       Please read carefully. Hunter S. may offend

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