Seagulls still fly


14. 20THINK

Dr SUZANNE COVICH is a local author and high school teacher. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED she says we’ve lost something along the way to gentrifying our coast.

I HAVE taken up fishing again, so unlike the old days. I am heartbroken by the changes to Fremantle’s shores.

Jetties to the south have disappeared, small dirt roads through bush—almost all gone. Packed in, multi-storey houses lining streets have taken over. Cultivated green verges, brick-paving.

Park lawns here and there invite residents mostly, to walk kids or dogs.

Speed bumps shake the guts out of cars, taking the pleasure out of trips to the ocean.

Thick black tyre marks, burnt rubber over and between them indicate someone’s contempt.

I imagine young drivers as children, sitting with grandparents listening to them tell of the times they took their parents fishing, always coming back with bucket-loads of big tailor, herring, whiting and garfish.

It was like this for one old man I knew, always food for his table when money ran short. Robbs Jetty. That’s where he fished.

Signs everywhere now. No Entry. Big rock walls surround wealthy estates or jut into the ocean making way for boats to come in and tie up in artificial harbours.

Little jetties in shallow water extend from private properties.

For people who remember what it was like without this order, all that’s left are museums, stories, family photos and internet images.

I wonder what the rich—or those up to their necks in debt—think and talk about, as they, high up, look over the sea.

The new rock walls are not safe for someone as old as me.

I tried to climb down one the other day and was afraid I’d fall.

Far better to walk through soft, grey sand to get to the old one in front of the vacated power station.

Smashed windows and graffiti took my eye.

I’ve heard that homeless people sleep there.

Made me think of them in Fremantle streets, pushing shopping trolleys loaded with their belongings or squatting on footpaths to beg for money.

The old rock wall stands out—pitted and grey, it’s easy to climb.
I talk out loud, taking it slowly to get closer to the water—cursing shorts that catch on rocks.

Little hooks nick my finger when I cover them with squid. Makes me glad I can still feel, not just this but the warmth of the sun—the salty breeze.

Casting my line I note where it lands, look up.

Big houses
The opposite rock wall and the big houses it protects, makes me glad to be where I am.

Sea bugs and starfish cling to rocks and little crabs scamper to safety.

A small school of fish, flash in the water and break the surface.

My car is hidden from sight and I hope I’ll not get back to find it with broken windows.

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