Fifth news item

"You've Got to Sleep With Your Mum and Dad" is now available on Amazon. Childhood angst, marathon swimming, international exploitation and the threat of impending pinniped intimacy. on 2014-08-13
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Fourth news item

Have a look at my page on Amazon. Still plenty of summer left for challenging literature. on 2014-08-13
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Third news item

Check out my Amazon Kindle page. 'The Baby Who Killed People for Money' is now available. An utterly charming child with a unique and lucrative skill. A father with no defence against his daughter's impulses. Would you take your little girl around Europe for a spot of murder tourism? Of course you would. on 2014-06-30
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Second news item

My story on the Tate gallery website on 2013-11-11
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First news item

A Thousand Natural Shocks An anthology that includes two of my stories. Available now at Amazon. on 2013-11-11
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January 2021
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I walked the Overland Track in Tasmania with a bunch of friends in December of about 1983 or 1984. We cuddled some small marsupials and set off from Waldheim in bright sunshine. Clouds lowered onto the top of Cradle Mountain and we went to sleep with a bit of rain spattering onto us. It bucketed down for the entire next day. At one point there was the sort of hail that covered the ground. We took photos that we hoped to pass off to credulous and drunk friends as snow in Australia in summer. We giggled at the absurdity of it.

Clouds on Cradle Mountain - details on why I don't have any good photos later in this article.

Clouds on Cradle Mountain - details on why I don't have any good photos later in this article.

The next day saw the wind shift to due south, straight from Antarctica. The rain was colder. Every step through the Pelion West Rainforest involved wading in knee-deep water. The rivers had risen so that streams that weren’t marked on maps were almost impassable. At about midday, it started to snow. We stopped making jokes. Pelion Plain was pure white. Langlauf skis would have been lovely.

Next day was freezing. We had decent equipment but we hadn’t expected this in December. The surface of the snow had frozen and the sleet was slashing at the hard crust. Going down into Pinestone Valley was where we met our first uncharted river. From then on, we sloshed through snow covered bog until we came up against Kia Ora Creek. It was huge. By this time, one of our number had revealed that she had forgotten her low blood-pressure pills. She was unable to carry her pack. I took it, which made a decent load combined with mine. I couldn’t really see where I was going and stepped into a lot of things that I shouldn’t have.

Eventually, we realised that we just had to wade across the river. It was nipple-high and the torrent had some force to it. With two packs, everything I was carrying got wet (except the stuff in the double-sealed plastic bags) and my camera filled up with river and died. However, we did make it. I emerged from the deluge with one boot missing. A patch of submerged sphagnum moss had proved to have a lot more grip on the boot than my Explorer Sock. I dropped the packs on a snow bank and splashed and dug around in the river bed until I gave up. No boot for the rest of the trip.

I had a pair of Adidas Hurricanes (vintage even then, in the time before there were vintage things) in my pack but we looked at the map and there was a hut only 50m from the river. I could take that. The snow was soft and the comfort was close. I hoisted the packs onto my back and front and trudged on.

After a couple of kilometres, I had lost feeling in my foot. There was still no hut. It must be just over this hill. No. Just over this hill was a swathe of raging water. It stretched way into the distance. The rest of our party were putting tents up in the snow. I put the packs down, had a quiet internal scream and started to get my tent out. This was Kia Ora Creek. The one before had been a ditch that hadn’t appeared on the map because normally it wasn’t noticeable.

Our bearded man-of-action leader turned up then, supporting the low blood-pressure patient. He summed up the situation, emitted a stream of obscenities and plunged into the inundation. We watched him splash crossly through the deep, at times with only his Peter Storm bobble hat showing. He emerged on the other bank with a triumphant roar. Off we went, no longer caring what got wet. The food was no longer dehydrated. The spare sets of dry clothes were now ten times their original weight.

Still, the hut really was only 50 metres away now. We grabbed some firewood, squelched inside, and hung everything up in a sort of Chinese Laundry décor effect. Then we started cooking. At this point, someone pointed at my foot. I still had no feeling in it. This was probably a good thing as the bottom part of my big toe and a few other bits had disappeared. Apparently, it is not a good idea to walk several kilometres barefoot through snow and rock.

A vague sort of picture of snow in Tasmania

A vague sort of picture of snow and a large expanse of raging water in Tasmania

Next day, the weather started to get warmer. We set off rather late. I packaged up my foot – lots of bandage but it still fit into the old Adidas because of the missing flesh – and limped along through Myrtle-Beech forests that looked like scenes from the early stages of Lord of the Rings. By the next day, it was proper summer and the walkers coming the other way looked carefree and joyous.

On the final night, we camped by the serene Lake St Clair and ate a lot of food. We had intended to spend a few more days on the trail but considered it wise to cut it a bit short. It was an idyllic location with wallabies, rat kangaroos, and a wealth of other marsupial and bird life. I removed the dressings from my foot and stuck my toe out into the air to begin healing. Some quolls, marsupial cats arrived. These were lovely, shy creatures with pretty, polka-dotted fur. While I was trying to photograph them, a large brush-tailed possum surveyed my toe, identified it as food and sank his hefty dentition into it. The feeling was well and truly back in my foot by then. When I checked, the foot looked very much like Veal Parmigiana. There’s another possum story here.

Marsupial hobbits

Marsupial hobbits

I had intended to go on a cycling tour of Tasmania after the walk. I dropped into Launceston Hospital to get my foot checked out. The doctor was downright angry. He (correctly) said I had been neglectful and that it was all my own fault. Apparently, I had frostbite –something that he thought was completely avoidable in the Australian summer.

I ended up in Launceston Airport on Christmas Day, waiting for a plane back to the mainland. There weren’t many people there. The airport staff had been drinking. There were two people in the public address system booth. They spent two hours stretching a rubber band next to the microphone and twanging it, occasionally giggling maniacally.

This is the cartoon panel that we adopted to represent the Overland Track debacle:


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