To all my street art friends, or as Wattsie would say, “I wrote for Bob Hope”. There it is. Ten years. Thank you one and all. All the friends met and unmet across four thousand posts and a hundred thousand comments. Was anything achieved? Bland wall murals still go up. Tim Winton still writes his W.A. cliches of fish and wind. Even She-Ra and Paul Nurrie hang on grimly. And yet, the city, Perth city, is a different planet for sure. Some of that we can claim as ours perhaps? At least there’s thousands of tiny pieces of original scenes that would have gone unrecorded otherwise. Several people who moved here have said that TWOP is the only way they were able to understand the city.
What am I going to do between wine glass five and nine from now on? Sit back in the La-Z-Boy and wait for the Future Cunts to come knocking, hopefully in a vintage hover Commdoore? Let us finish with the last scene from our unpublished masterpiece phwoar. It seems to fit the mood, with Tom Whitebait coming home to Freo, a three times Booker loser, beaten down again by Coetzee, Rushdie and those other Magical Realism tools and condemned forever by the accusing hiss of the Rancilio.
There is talk about an exhibition and book with The Museum of Perth next year.
Goodbye and thank youse pigs all. Now it’s just another vanished worst. Look after yourselves.
Andrew, David and Bento.
27 September 2007 – 27 September 2017
Freo yawns out before him, two-dimensional as a turd on a tramline. What’s he ever seen in this craphole? And it’s not like he’s never travelled before – it’s just – usually it feels like… like the feeling you get, when the interminable beyond converges beneath your wheels into a familiar turn, a flash of memory, and you realise a part of you never really left. Usually.
Today, it’s just him and the distant processional of black cotton and sunburnt flesh, of effortless casual with just a touch of class, of vibrancy, vagrancy, old piss and commerce. Him and those Fremantle streets, worn as the muscles of his writin’ arm, trudged down and trampled, places between places where hemp anklets and help-me-please exist in happy harmony, coexisting, as peaceful as the surfer and the whale, the lion and the lamb, the road-bitten Brownes Mocha Chill and the latte sipper-lid.
But a town where a Man Booker can be won is, of course, a totally different matter to a town where one can not be won. Where one can never be won.
phwoar had taken every remaining simile, every last descriptor, every final metaphor. Every pithy, one-word sentence. Every missing apostrophe on a colloquial contraction. All of ‘em. Everything. The whole lot. He’s empty, like an old oak barrel whose bottom’s scraped out three vintages past, into which no one will ever again entrust the trampled grapes of popular acclaim, suitable only for the habitation of ghosts.
He’s as drained as…as…well it doesn’t matter how drained he is in comparison to anything else now does it? There’s a certain relief, even a certain dignity in simply being just drained, isn’t there?
“Phwoar.” In any case, the pressure is off. No more hungry eyes and thirsty ears waiting on his words. No more forced analogies, no more salty similitude. No more ceaseless bloody obligation to remember every tiny fucken fragment of feeling you possibly could have had back on any god-damned one of those fucken afternoons you could barely fucken remember. He no longer has to – or even could – offer a comparison with any fish, bird, marsupial or tidal or meteorological anomaly of any fucken classification conceivable. No authentic Holdens, or even Ssanyong Korandos for that matter. No Eucalyptus, no Melaleucas. No blowies, no burley. And no fucken dunnies.
You gotta laugh, the old man used to tell us, as we’d lay back on one of them bracing late June arvoes as the wind swept in like one of them early morning, or mid-season, or maybe it was also late arvo, or hang on, it isn’t really like any time especially, is it? Whatever time it might have been like – and even now every last little basal nugget of his brain is whirring like an overclocked Kombi on the road out of Ledge Point, for anything, anything at all, an empty Passiona, a misbegotten boogeyboard, six and out during backyard cricket at Nan’s, – but back then there had still been promise, and an upward projection.
You gotta to lose one to win one eh? The old man again. So much promise, so much hope.
But he’s three strikes, and that’s it. No more goes.
It’s finished. He would never write anything Booker compliant.
Furtive hands fish hardbacks from store windows, and phwoar flutters backwards. Perhaps it’s to nestle with the rest of his opus, in their grotto under W; perhaps, instead, it homes toward Bill Peach and Australiana, that other, broader school, that great jumbled morass of Booker maybes massed together, as if to deter potential predators with beguiling, unnatural homogeneity.
You could only wonder; all is lost in the depths. Only the shopfront is clarified by piercing, generous sunlight; only the foremost shelf, the window display, shows its wares, a monolith of alien menace, a thousand crowns of thorns.
Veldt Grass (Booker Winner!) Coetzee! Booker winning bastard.
He passes quickly, not wanting to notice the polystyrene kraal and plastic hyenas that had stretched the imagination of the window dressers.
And now what? Trip to Bunnings? Maybe get a Nespresso machine? Can’t face the Strip. Fuck, no more free shortbreads he didn’t even want! Just averted eyes, and the accusing hiss of the Rancilio. Jeezus, you could kiss goodbye to the odd free case of Cape Mentelle, – and actually having to pay for breakfast? No more mini quiches?
And then he knows, and his lips loll easy side-to-side like a dinghy in the sluice, and it’s all good.
He knows it for certain, it is pure redemption. He’ll actually finish the bloody bathroom tiling! He oddly feels a surge of elation.
He drifts like a bluey past a thousand ugg boot and Krazy Tee shops. He hums like a well-tempered outboard, lips pursed in a determined non-frown for all the world to see. Tourist pizzas, synchronised drumming, new craft beers, bare feet on the pedals of a tandem bike. He smiles wanly as a lone juggler acknowledges his passing. Probably hasn’t heard the news of another Booker loss. Commotion behind him. He turns, following the squabble of the gulls as they hurtle skyward, and for a moment there’s almost something mystical about the way the chips and gravy seem hang in the air as they tumble to the boardwalk, as if all possibilities were as yet unresolved, as if the Booker itself was still in the air, unsettled and unwon, back when the future was still his.
Hard packed limestone crunches under his bare feet. How did he get here, at the Roundhouse promontory, looking out to sea?
He breathes in deep. Satisfying. “Phwoar!”.
The waves roll in, unencumbered by the groaning weight of simile.
Just like waves.
The grass beneath his feet, soft, cool.
Like grass. Like only grass.
The scents of salt, and fish.
Fishy, salty. Only.
And the Freo Doctor soothes him,
and only like,
a fucken breeze.
Glossary of Tom’s Terms
Albany: Cold town that used to have whaling as only claim to fame. Now has nothing. Oh, there’s a rock that doesn’t really look like a dog, Dog Rock.
Alcoa: Well, do you want aluminium foil? Then shut up.
Arvo/e: Afternoon. Great time for fartarsing at Cottesloe.
Augusta: Dreary south-west town – only saving grace is it’s not Margaret River. Also the sea outlet for the world’s most overrated river, The Blackwood.
Baby Crays: Unexpectedly small turds. Hopefully only seen in the Dunny.
Bakewell: In Tom’s school days, one of the twin pillars of pie-dom. See also Peters.
Balingup: Don’t drive a Kombi down there in spring or autumn.
Basin, The: Unpleasant, but unaccountably popular beach on Rottnest Island.
Barrel Dweller: South Australian. Formerly Crow Eaters. Reference to Snowtown murders. Proof Tasmanians can swim.
Basso: On the Midland line and only two stops from Baysie. Once the home of (the now-disgraced) Rolf Harris.
Battler, Aussie: The mythologised working class man.
Bibbulmun Track: A bloody long walk. 1000 kilometres. You will need to catch and eat quendas to survive.
Binningup desal: When Western Australians run out of water, they make their own. Which they then waste by pouring it onto their lawns.
Blackarse: One of the 1225 types of fish in Whitebaitworld.
Blackwood, The: Western Australian river that peters out at Augusta. Several Whitebait protagonists have their first root and/or catch their first blackarse at Toolibin Lake, at the river’s upper catchment.
Bluff Knoll: You’ll call it “Bluff Mole” if you try to climb it to quickly.
Blundies: Footwear, unaccountably frequently favoured by arseholes.
Blue Heeler: Loyal, but dimwitted dog. Essential accessory to would-be rural types.
Bluey: Nobody really knows what one is.
Blowie: Blowfish. Worthless puffer fish that infests fishing spots. Not to be confused with Nor’ West Blowie. Well easily confused actually, but legend has it that this one can bite your toes off.
Bobtail: Would you believe 75% of these are in WA? Predators are bamboozled by their (bobbed) tails looking like their heads.
Bon Scott: Shortarse, best known for having a statue and a grave in Fremantle.
Booker, The: Officially known as The Man Booker Prize. The only literary prize Tom would bother wiping his arse with.
Boondy: A hard nugget of dried yellow sand. Useful for throwing at schoolmates. Think Western Australian snowball. Chiaking might include the throwing of boondies, but fartarsing probably wouldn’t.
Bucket: An incredibly stupid and messy way to smoke marijuana. Also requires a two litre Pasito bottle.
Burley: An open letter to fish.
Byrne, Jennifer. Professional literary fawner on the idiot box. (Phwoar! A good sort! – Tom).
Busso: A thriving vibrant metropolis south of Perth (but not Down South).
Bunker Bay: Where you might see Gilly on holiday.
Canning River, The: Think The Swan River, but with more turds.
Chardonnay: A heavily overrated wine. Reminds many Western Australians of their first root. Wikipedia says: “A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalisation of wine”.
Chiaking: See fartarsing.
Cheynes: Where whaling was once conducted. Closed for 30 years, however, sharks still hang around for the lulz.
Chicos: A lolly/candy/sweet. Inedible, only eaten by grommets when they can’t get sherbet sticks. Not to be confused with a Chiko. Those that don’t know the difference are self defined as foreigners. Chicos are LOCs – Lollies of colour.
Chikos: Iconic savoury snack consisting of cabbage and salt. Usually kept lethally luke-warm in a bain-marie. Essentially giant dim sim. Racist in that they imply that Asians can’t make big enough spring rolls.
Chinese safety boots: Bare feet.
Choko: Type of gourd. Has no detectable taste. Used to be grown over outdoor dunnies by the old man’s folks.
Cliché Street: The breakout Whitebait novel, which is about being an Aussie battler. Millions of young Australians are forced to study it at high school. An amalgam of the most tedious Western Australian cliches.
Coetzee: Farcically reclusive author, sometimes Australian, sometimes South African. Refuses to show up any time he wins the bloody Booker. Wanker.
Coopers: Beer made by Barrel Dwellers.
Cottesloe: Beach occasionally popular with white pointer sharks.
Courtenay, Bryce: The Jerry Seinfeld to Tom Whitebait’s George Costanza.
Cunac: Doesn’t exist.
Cutoffs: A fashion that will hopefully be over by the time this book is published.
Cray boat: Boat used to catch crays, Western Australian rock lobsters. Also useful to dispose of bodies, aka “craybait”. See Gerro.
Crays: Catch too many of these and yer in strife. Also see Baby Crays.
David Williamson: Once famous playwright. Keeps on writing, although everyone begs him to stop. See also Wanker.
Dinking: Two souls on a treddlie meant for one.
Dirty Ditties: A book that Tom would really like to forget. Came with a CD of pan pipe music, and has an ending that even Tom would like to rewrite. Legend has it he wrote the ending while on the dunny.
Dogbolter: A dark beer from the Fremantle craft beer ouvre.
Dockers, Freo: The team that can’t kick straight. A Tom Whitebait hero roots for the Dockers and never the Eagles.
Dog Rock: Rock in Albany, that from some angles looks nothing like a dog.
Dorothy Hewett Award: An otherwise worthy award that, unfortunately Tom wouldn’t bother to wipe his arse with these days. The only award Tom WOULD bother to wipe his arse with, is of course, the Man Booker.
Dowerin Field Day: An event in the small town of Dowerin where farmers get to show off their produce, livestock, tractors, and racism.
Down South: A vague term for an area south of Perth (but not fucken’ Bunbury) where people go to drink SSB, grow/buy/smoke drugs, have car accidents, or have their auras cleaned. See Augusta, Prevelly, Dunsborough, Margaret River et al.
Drop Punt: Particularly anodyne football kicking style. (Australian Rules.)
Dugong: A creature that must be saved, whether it wants it or not. Tom is the founding patron of the Organic Hyde Park Dugong Sanctuary.
Dunny: Toilet. Plural is dunnies. Backbone of most of Tom’s stories. Occasionally his Bete Noir.
Dunsborough: South West town (Down South) modelled on the worst that suburbs can offer. Often referred to as Dunny, due to it being “a bit of a toilet”.
Duyfken: An insubstantial sailing vessel. Translates as “whoopie doo” in Dutch.
Eagles, West Coast: A Perth team that used to play Australian Rules Football (footy) but is now a business conglomerate.
EH: When you’re at a party and people start debating the relative merits of Holden cars, run.
EK: See above.
East Fremantle: A gentrified version of Freo which has a football oval; used to be home to a Charlie Carters, a long-vanished supermarket chain.
Esky: Portable container that keeps beverages cold; used on fishing trips. Known in New Zealand as a chilly bin.
FACP: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. A former insane asylum.
FB: Even less popular than the EH.
Fartarsing: See Chiaking.
Ferro-Cement: For a time in Western Australia it was fashionable to make yachts out of concrete. Most now serving as artificial reefs for Flatties, Whiting, Groper, Garfish, Crays, Blowies, Cobbler,
Flattie: Flathead. A type of fish. With a flat head. Often skittish in the presence of chiaking.
Floreat Drain: beach sewer outlet popular with a number of Tom’s fish cliches, particularly herring, aka “little dunnies of the sea”.
Footie Shorts: Summer formal wear for an Australian.
Fordson truck: An American-made vehicle now consigned to the dustbin of history.
Freo: Fremantle. Semi derelict port town in which a Booker can now never be won.
Fremantle Doctor: The afternoon sea breeze. Foreigners rhapsodise about “the Doctor” (especially commentators at the WACA cricket Test), but no sensible West Australian calls it the Fremantle Doctor. A tediously reliable and predictable wind.
Gage Roads: Just a lot of water between Freo and Rotto. Named by Captain James Stirling for a Pommy rear-admiral. Rumoured to be the location of Tom’s next novel.
Geraldton Wax: Native WA flower; gets a mention in Cliché Street. and Dirty Ditties.
Gerro: Geraldton. Regional Western Australian town known for its crays, baby crays and serial killers.
Geordie Bay: WA’s answer to Monte Carlo, where yachts choke the water in summer and tourists get yelled at by security guards for daring to have a glass of wine on the beach (on Rotto).
Gilly: Ridiculously humble Australian cricketer.
Guild Hall: Where they hold the Man Booker ceremony. (Phwoar!)
Heath Ledger: Little known West Australian actor. Has a theatre named after him, the interior of which is often the best part of Tom’s plays.
Herring: Number 679 on the list of Tom’s fish. Also known as “Little dunnies of the sea”.
Hillarys: A fly-blown marina in the northern metropolitan area of Perth.
HQ: See EH.
Hyde Park: Native spot for drug addicts, flashers, and Mr Whitebait’s dugong sanctuary.
IGA: Supermarket where Tom would buy his maize. Or smoked cunacs. Not to be confused with a Supa IGA, which has two varieties of smoked Cunac.
Ingrown Toenails: Painful condition suffered by Cliché Street characters.
Jarrah: A wood that’s like a working class version of karri, but still classier than wandoo. Now threatened by fungus.
Jarrah Burl: Amateur artists and wood-turners cannot resist the siren call of the jarrah burl and turn it into wall clocks. Unbelievably ugly in any manifestation.
Karri: The dugong of trees There are a few of these giants left to be saved.
Kerosene Fridge: Stands next to your Metters No.8
King Brown: How a wanker or sometimes a battler would describe a large beer bottle.
Kojonup: A south-western WA town with about 2100 people and no attractions.
Kylie: Aboriginal word for hunting stick. Nothing to do with a woylie.
Lacky: Strine for an elastic band. Tom’s young men fantasise about loosening the ‘lacky on the cozzies of nubile young things.
Lancelin: Place that has sand dunes. And wind. And is lucky to have even these.
Laminate: Communication medium often used by wankers. Badly kerned notes encased in plastic. Often used in offices to remind people that “The use of the microwave is a privelege (sic) not a right”.
Laminex: When you encounter this material (decorative laminates used on kitchen benches and tables in the 1950s and ‘60s) you know you are deep in a Tom-tale. Beloved by nostalgic tragics and other wankers.
Little Creatures: Famous pub/brewery where you can see the beer being made while urinating. (Men only.) Alternative to The Newport.
Malley Root: Don’t even ask. Can’t get ‘em anymore anyway. Sigh. I don’t want to talk about them.
MCG: Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Guild Hall of sport.
Melaleuca: What a wanker might call a shrub.
Mammoth Cave: Cave supporting a gift shop near Margaret River. Good place to hear women and bearded rangers in shorts whingeing about the environment if that’s your thing.
Margaret River: A town in the south-west of Western Australia (Down South). Full of real estate agents and hippies.
Meat & two Veg: Nickname of brain damaged child in Cliché Street.
Mentelle & Lamont: Tom’s faithful dogs. Named after Margaret River wineries, Cape Mentelle and Lamonts.
Metters: Cast iron wood stoves numbered according to their cliche or nostalgia value, (eg. Metters Number 8…)
Metronomic: Life’s rhythm, as revealed in Whitebaitworld. Anything can be metronomic, from the dying gasps of a blackarse to the sad cough of a pensioner falling down the stairs at the shops.
Miles Franklin Award: Literary gong won by Tom FOUR TIMES! How many more does he have to win before they give him a Booker? Tom wouldn’t wipe his arse with one these days.
Mini Quiche: A staple of work functions, particularly arrivals and farewells. If someone really important retires, they may rate the rare “giant mini quiche.”
Mt Clarence: A pointless hill in Albany.
Newport, The: Where you go if Little Creatures palls. You can’t watch brewing from the dunnies though, just be warned.
Numbat: The WA term for an anteater. Not as endangered as a woylie, so not as interesting.
Occy Strap: What his belt was to Aladdin, so is the occy strap to an Australian. Blinds a supermarket trolley-collector every six months. Holds surfboards to the roof of an EH.
Ouvre: Yet another of Tom’s Australian novels where the hero is beaten and a bit of a droob/noong.
Paperbark: A shrub (see melaleuca). Tom Whitebait wants to be a paperbark writer.
Pasito: When the servo doesn’t stock Passiona.
Peters: See Bakewell.
Phwoar: An expression of admiration, tempered sometimes, with lust.
Polony: If invited to see Polony being made, decline.
Prevelly: A magical spot down south if you are Nouveaux Riche are are fond of bathing in chardonnay.
Quandong: Native Australian fruit seen, never mind eaten, by very few Aussies. Wankers refer to them as wild peaches. There is a Quandong Road in Nollamara, a Godforsaken northern Perth suburb.
Quenda: One of a number of small marsupials, virtually indistinguishable from each other, except by scientists. You’ll never see one anyway. See also Quoll.
Quoll: A marsupial you will never see. See Quenda.
Rancilio: The accusing hiss of which Tom just couldn’t face in the end.
Redback: Could be either a lethal spider or the precursor for a Dogbolter.
Redskin: Delicious lollies eaten by the bagful before Australia was Americanised and infantilised.
Ripple Soles: Suede “Desert” boots with a rippled sole favoured by Australians in the 1970s.
RMs: RM Williams. Bushwear chic. An essential accessory. Much like a blue heeler. A bit more “country” than a pair of Blundies.
Root: Australian for intercourse.
Rotto: A holiday resort approximately 19.7km from the WA mainland where As and Bs rough it, prices are sky-high, but the sense of a Butlins is never far away (see Basin, The; Geordie Bay, et al).
Rough Riders: The one Whitebait novel without many fish. Suspected reason for it not winning The Booker.
Roundhouse, The: Oldest building still standing in WA, at Arthur Head, Freo.
Renos: House renovations or improvements; involves trips to Bunnings.
Rocky: Rockingham. A suburb where 80% of the vehicles have been on fire in the previous 12 months.
Saxa: The salt that used to be consumed before artisinal was invented.
Sea Shepherd: A Ship of Fools. Time consuming and often dangerous way of getting a root on a boat.
Servo: Service station, where one purchases fuel for one’s Zephyr or Hillman. In the olden days, servos were rostered, which meant most of them were closed when one needed fuel the most. Very WA!
Settlers Tavern: Licenced premises in Margs. The name is WA’s version of The Red Lion.
Skittish: A favoured Tom adjective; usually attached to fish, women, and quendas.
Shark Bay: Tourists swim with the dolphins here, after realising there’s nothing to do in Freo.
Shaun Tan: Artist condemned forever to put great art alongside poor writing in young adult fiction.
Shenton Park: Part of the Golden Triangle, a leafy affluent area regarded scornfully by man and beast in the Tom-times.
South Terrace: The 8 Mile of Fremantle.
Stomach Turning, The: Collection of Tom’s Short stories.
Swan, The: Swing, low, sweet chariot! Watch as our hero crosses the Perth-dividing Swan River in his magic treddlie, like Teh Prophet Elijah.
Tinny: Aluminium dinghy. Teenage bodies are advised to buck and roil with care, otherwise they’ll be in the Blackwood.
Thomas Keneally: Annoyingly cheerful Australian writer with an unaccountably bad beard. See wanker.
Thylacine: Australia’s Bigfoot. Extinct Australian marsupial also known as the Tasmanian Tiger. Still regularly “seen” by crackpots.
Toolie: Older man who preys on schoolies, or 17-year-olds letting off steam at Rotto and Down South. Older toolies are known as droolies.
Tracky: Winter formal wear for an Australian.
Treddlie: What kids never called their bicycles.
Twenty eight: The common name for the Australian Ringneck bird. Mythologised and sentimentalised by Tom, despite most people wanting to wring its neck.
Twinpole: An iced treat, unfortunately easy to share with a mate.
Tuart: A tree not a jarrah or karri, so of no account.
Ugg boots: Formal winter footwear for Australians. Known as “uggies”.
Vajazzle: Like hegemony, and twerking, not a word used by Tom.
Vic Sanger: a fictional colossus, the son of an honest cop, appears in The Stomach Turning, may have boofed Ruthie Blackshaw behind the whale-flensing machine in grade ten.
Vogel: Vogel Prize. A literature prize Tom would NOT bother wiping his arse with these days. He’s too old now anyway. See also Miles Franklin Award.
Wandoo: A type of wood to use when writing if you have said jarrah too many times in that chapter.
Wanker: See Coetzee. Also Kenneally.
Wedge: Wedge Island. A place like dugongs that always seems to need saving. Full of illegal shacks full of wankers who don’t want anyone else to be able to go there.
West End: The architectural hub of Fremantle. A serious cultural rival to London’s. Also, what the tip of Rotto (Rottnest Island) is called.
Whitebait: A very small fish in a big pond. Why chew on these when you can have a big salmon steak? Also the surname of a national treasure.