storm over the ocean
was five on Friday afternoon when I walked to the office window and
saw the tall black storm barrelling in from the mountains. I had spent
the afternoon brooding over Timor and unresolved cases and I made an
instant decision to take the ferry to Manly and stay overnight in Joadja's
threw half a dozen apples, a banana, a six-pack of cider, the old grey
army blanket, my battered copy of The Origin of Species and a
length of rope into my backpack and walked down to the Quay.
stood on the stern deck of the ferry as it pulled out of Circular Quay.
Dark grey clouds boiled overhead, and there were bright flashes of lightning.
drops of rain splashed on my face as a tall drunken Maori swayed towards
me and thrust out his hand. He was a good-natured drunk. We did the
Brothers handshake and he told me he was from Rotorua.
at thet Brother ... doz 'ol warriors fightin' in the sky. Mother Nature
... magic, magic. You gut a smoke?"
regretted that I didn't, and asked him how long he'd been here, and
if he was staying in Manly.
here three weeks, Bro. Sleepin' under the wharf. Six of us there ...
and you know what? Every night two of those little penguins come up
on the sand, walk right past us ... jes' little fellas. Magic, magic."
staggered off. The ferry had outrun the storm which still hovered over
the city. The buildings were just a flat silhouette in a fog of grey
rain but the red light on the Centrepoint Tower still blinked like an
we got to Manly I walked up to North Head in the fading light, and,
making sure nobody was watching, I pushed through the scrub and found
the rock bolt above the cave. I secured the rope and abseiled down,
found the cave years ago when she was into rock climbing. It's more
of a horizontal slot in the cliff face, really -- about three metres
deep and a couple high. Enough room for a hermit or two.
spread the blanket and opened a cider and sat down buddha-style facing
the endlessly-rolling Pacific. The storm had drifted out to sea and
the gloom was lit by occasional forks of lightning.
ocean crashed against the base of the cliff, seventy metres below, the
last daylight faded, and, as the cider went to my head in the dark,
I realised how much I had been weighed down by the Timor horror. It
wasn't the images of burned bodies on TV so much as my imagination of
the countless scenes of final terror played out casually in banana plantations
the back rooms of simple tin-rooved huts.
can't remember falling asleep but I woke in time to see the sun creep
up out of the ocean, throwing the swells into relief and touching the
ocean spray with a warm luminous glow. The storm had passed and the
sky was clear.
was bright and muggy when I finally packed up and dragged myself back
up the rope. New Holland honeyeaters were chattering as they flitted
through the scatter of wildflowers on the low heath and a couple of
joggers pounded by.
was just past midday when I got down to the Corso and I realised it
was Jazz Festival weekend. The New Wolverine Orchestra was playing to
a happy crowd, the long weekend stretched out before me and Wiranto,
Alitas, Mathahir, and their Australian quislings didn't seem to matter