Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #6: Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the final entry in the six part series.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman
Read entry #4. William Chapman
Read entry #5. John Griffiths

From Where I Stood

6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker


The Griffiths’ shipyard was full of steam and sweat. Sydney stood between the slips, watching over his men as they sawed and steamed and hammered. Two ships were rising, growing like trees from the shore, nearly ready for the final push into the water.
Sydney was good at building ships. He was good at building fast ships, ships that could cut a few hours or a day off the trip to Melbourne. Good and workmanlike ships. It was a damn shame that the J.L. Griffiths had gone down. She had been the fastest. She had been the best.
Sydney smiled wryly and privately. Only his father would have the luck to name a ship after himself and then lose the damn thing.

Sydney was interrupted by the ringing of a bicycle bell. The telegram delivery boy darted through the yard, running between the towers of wood and the jets of steam. A red envelope was in his hand.

“Is this it?” asked Sydney.

“It’s from Melbourne, sir.”

“The Captain should see this first.”

Sydney started and looked about. Where was the old boy?

“Harry! Harry Wood!”
The best apprentice looked up from his work with the calking iron. His face was red and his hands were blistered.
“Harry! Have you seen Captain Griffiths?”
“He went for a walk along the shore, sir!”
Sydney swore. He rushed from the yard.
Along the street he almost ran, the town on one side, the endless parade of shipyards on the other.  Sydney sweated as he clambered onto the beach, the wind whipping up stinging blasts of sand.
The old man was there, leaning into the unrelenting wind, a telescope against his eye.
The old man pretended not to hear. Sydney slowed, as though he was approaching a strange and dangerous dog.
“Captain, I have it.”

Sydney’s father looked at the envelope, and his face fell. He raised the telescope again and continued to gaze, with wide and empty eyes, into the sea.

“I was thinking she might have been blown off course, lost a mast in a storm … If they jury-rigged another it could take three weeks to get back …” muttered the old man.

“Captain, I have the report …”

“…She might come in any day …”

“Will you open it?”

“I had a lot of faith in Captain Brown, you know. He’s a good mariner …”

Sydney let out a long, angry sigh. A dozen men – live men – were waiting on his instructions at the yard.

“Will you open it, Captain?”

The old man looked at Sydney, and the son could feel his father’s silent and empty despair.

Sydney tore open the envelope.

Captain Stalker…




The report of the search made by the steamer Pharos for the missing vessel J.L.Griffiths is as follows: – The Pharos left for King’s Island on Wednesday morning and reached Cape Wickham at 3pm same day. Lieutenant J. A. Stalker immediately communicated with the superintendent of the lighthouse, who reported that he had seen nothing whatever of the vessel, nor yet any portions  of wreckage afloat or on the beach. The Pharos then made a circuit of the island, and the whole of the coast line and adjacent islands were carefully scanned. Lieutenant Stalker also communicated with the lighthouse superintendent at Currie Harbour, but there was no information to be gleaned. As none of the lighthouse people at either station had seen anything of the missing vessel, or any fragment of wreck, and as Lieutenant Stalker could not discover any himself, he returned, leaving the island on Friday, and reaching the Bay on Saturday morning. The fate of the J.L. Griffiths is thus still an uncertainty.

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #5: John Griffiths, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the fifth entry in this six-part story.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman
Read entry #4. William Chapman

From Where I Stood

5. John Griffiths

The old man stood, wavering, on the sand. All he held was his old, brass telescope. All he could do was search from the shore, scanning each ship as they came in, counting masts, sizing them up.

But she never came.

For three weeks John had stood on the shore. The beating of the waves, the rise and fall of the tides, gave him his own time, and sometimes the years disappeared into the grey ocean.

What was he even looking for? Was it the J.L. Griffiths? The Resolution … Socrates? His own poor son , who John had watched drown, dumb and useless on the shore? Where had they gone, these men and these ships and these years? As a young man, John had always been able to press on with each mounting tragedy – build another ship, move to another city, start another business, start another family.

But now, as an old man, he was left alone with the dead men.

John clutched his cold telescope and he was cold, too. The sea was growing dark in the afternoon, and it felt he spent now as much time looking below the water as above it; water and sky and sand pouring into one great, empty blur.

Where have you gone?

John looked along the beach and saw his son, hurrying through the biting, wind-whipped sand, a red-enveloped telegram in his hand.


Read entry: 1. Harry Wood|
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman
Read entry #4. William Chapman

Read entry #6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #4: William Chapman, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the fourth entry in this six-part story.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman

From Where I Stood

4. William Chapman

William waded into the sea.
The sky and the sea were one rip of darkness, and from his residence in the town of Formby he had no chance of sighting ships as they came into the port. Instead William splashed and clambered to the middle of the river, stood ankle-deep on the sandbar, and lifted his telescope to watch the horizon.

His own boat was anchored close by, ready to sail to any ship that signalled a need for his help. William knew this river better than any man alive.
William could feel the tide flowing around his ankles, and brown kelp tied itself around his legs, as though he were a rock or a buoy. He had worked this river for twenty-five years. He had seen towns appear, wharves and storehouses sprout along the water, and the shipbuilding yards in their slow creep along every patch of riverbank. He had seen it all.

And so William stood in the river, now as the harbourmaster and pilot, and was in control.
Already a dozen sails rose and fell in the Strait. Fishing ketches ran out and in. There was his brother-in-law’s smart ketch, Colleen Bawn, making her twice-weekly rush into the Strait. The big trading cutters lifted their sails into the cold wind – three masts, four – in their endless race to Melbourne and back. There were whaling boats and sealers, too, though not as many as in those early days.

William was cold to his core. He looked down into the brown water.
Where have you gone?
Where have you all gone?
Every year, a dozen men were pulled, grey and frozen, from the dark tide.
And every year, dozens more sank into the waves – like old ballast stones – far from William’s searching telescope, and far from the safety of his old hands at the wheel.


Read entry: 1. Harry Wood|
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman

Read entry #5. John Griffiths
Read entry #6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #3: William Holyman, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the third entry in this six-part story.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers

From Where I Stood

3. William Holyman

William heaved on the rope, leaning as a weight against it, until the mainsail rose and caught the wind. At once William was on the other side of the deck, pulling the rope tight into a stanchion. For twenty or more years he had sailed the Strait, and he still had the energy for it.
There were four more crew on deck, and Young William took the wheel. The Colleen Bawn flew into the Strait, bound due North for Melbourne. Both mainsails were up, pushed taught in the ferocious wind.
“How does she feel, William?” roared the old man.
His son didn’t hear, but smiled at the helm.
Old William walked down the deck, ignoring the wash that covered the deck, ignoring the endless pitch and the roll as they headed the waves. William stood behind his son.
“So how does she feel?” he shouted again.
“She’s keeping well in this breeze, Dad.”
“Good. You’ll be running her from now on.”

They nodded at one another, and that was all that needed to be said.
The boat climbed a perilously high wave, her bow piercing up into the sky, a silhouette against grey cloud. They hung a moment; then the crash of water and the sting of salt spray overtook them all. Young William had already lashed himself to the helm; the other men all scrambled for a place to cling – to masts, to ropes, to hatches – as the sea rolled in and over the deck.
Father and son both laughed with the exhilaration of familiar danger.
“We’ll make good time to Melbourne in this.”
William held firm as the boat heaved under another wave. There would be no stillness, no calm sailing. For now, they were in a world of endless movement, of rise and fall without end.


Read entry: 1. Harry Wood|
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers

Read entry #4. William Chapman
Read entry #5. John Griffiths
Read entry #6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #2: Mary Ann Sayers, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the second entry in this story, which we will roll out as a fortnightly series for you to explore.

Read the first entry: 1. Harry Wood

From Where I Stood

     2. Mary Ann Sayers

Mary Ann stood over the boiling water. Using all of her weight on her laundry stick, she pushed the clothes down into the copper tub. Clouds of steam and black smoke filled the little laundry room. Mary Ann breathed deeply. She caught the linen on the end of her stick and heaved it onto the edge of the copper, like landing a fish.
The door of the laundry opened and cold air rushed in. William was here. He stood close to the copper, warming his wet hands and his wet feet. His face was red from cold.
“Morning,” said Mary Ann. “Have we heard anything?”
“About the J.L. Griffiths?”
William didn’t reply at first, but waited until his wife had hauled another load of linen out of the copper, and the sound of dripping water had subsided.
“No sighting,” he said. “They’ve sent a search vessel from Melbourne, word is.”
“It’s been two weeks.”
“Nearly three.”
They stood together in silence. No ship would ever take three weeks across Bass Strait. She was lost.
“Shame for the old man Griffiths, then.”
Mary put down her stick and stood with William, her back to the warm, wet wall.
“Are you going to tell Bill today?”
“Tell what?”
“Tell him your plan for the Colleen Bawn?”
William nodded. Today, he would gift his son his first ship, and now two William Holymen would sail Bass Strait.

Today was a good day, even from the view of the dark, stinging morning.

Read entry: 1. Harry Wood|

Read entry #3. William Holyman
Read entry #4. William Chapman
Read entry #5. John Griffiths
Read entry #6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker

Next fortnight, we’ll hear Jane’s story as told from the perspective of William Holyman.

Young Writers in the City: Sonder, and the Lucid Dream by Skye Cusack

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Skye Cusack
Residency: Rooke Street Mall, Devonport

Skye Cusack - residency image.png

Sonder, and the Lucid Dream


I am going to be honest with you. Sitting in the Rooke Street Mall, watching people I have never met and will never see again float by me, I had an existential realisation.

It dawned on me that all of these people were not split seconds of my life, but in fact real people with lives of their own. I learnt afterwards that John Koenig, creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, created a word for this: sonder.

Whilst not a legitimately credited word, the concept of ‘sonder’ led me to remember a theory I studied in school. The theory suggests that your brain cannot create new data whilst unconscious, so the people in your dreams are people you have seen in real life and subsequently forgotten after the moment subsided. This, in turn, inspired me to play around with the idea of dreaming about people I saw at the mall.

Now, whilst it is frowned upon by many to play the ‘it was all a dream’ card when explaining story inconsistencies, I was very excited about the prospect of using literary techniques to create a piece that seemed genuinely like a dream. The possibilities seemed endless. Of course, I did have some limitations – I wanted all the characters present in my ‘dream’ to be influenced by people I seen during my time in the mall.

I strongly encourage you to reflect on the fact that every single person in the piece below is influenced by a real, living, breathing person.


The Characters

The first thing the Girl senses is that she is late. She can’t figure out what she is late for, but the feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach is a special feeling reserved for missing an important appointment. It is only after this feeling simmers down slightly that she becomes aware of her surroundings, her place in the world.

She is in a familiar place – a mall of some kind, she can’t recall the exact area. There is a large Christmas tree up ahead.

“Christmas already…” she mumbles.  “But if this is Christmas, then why am I so cold?”

Light, fluffy snow falls to the earth around her, decorating the roofs of stores and outdoor café tables. The Christmas tree looks like something from a bakery – the crisp, clean fir of the tree sprinkled in powdered sugar. She stands, mesmerised… her first White Christmas.

“I’m so glad you’re here!”

She instinctively closes her eyes as she reacts to the sudden voice. When she opens them the snow is gone. A bead of sweat drips down her face from the sweltering heat.

“I’m sorry?” she replies to a lady in a ringmaster’s outfit. Her makeup is reminiscent of the ‘60s, with a clean wing drawn on both eyelids. Her orange hair is teased and decorated to be glittering shrubbery on which her top hat sits.

“Please, don’t apologise,” says the Ringmaster, kindly. “We just really need you in position next to the other contestants over there.”

The Girl looks to where the Ringmaster is pointing and sees two people standing on a small stage in place of where the Christmas tree just was. One is an extremely beautiful lady in a wedding dress, her hair and nails styled perfectly. The other is a child, around the age of twelve or thirteen, with almond-shaped eyes and a mullet.

“Contestants?” she repeats. “Oh, no, you must have me mixed up with someone else. I’m actually late for-”

“Please!” the Ringmaster cries. “I’m begging you.”

“But I’m late for… I’m, um…”

“Are you alright?” inquires the Ringmaster, concerned. “This game is really fun. Maybe you could let off some steam. Please?”

Looking into the Ringmaster’s pleading eyes, the Girl knows she can’t say no. This lady seems so gentle and sincere. Plus, she is right – the Girl did feel quite distressed. She follows the Ringmaster to her spot on stage.

Beside the other contestants, the Girl notices things about them that she couldn’t have from a distance. The Bride, is beautiful, yes, but there is a haunting sadness in her eyes that gives the Girl an immediate drive to look away. The Child is quivering, whispering random words under his breath in intervals. The Girl looks at her feet. What has she gotten herself into?

A sudden burst of commotion stops the Girl’s rapidly beating heart. Out of nowhere, there is an entire crowd of people on the upstairs balcony of the building parallel to the stage, the Tapas Bar. They are laughing and flirting with one another as if they have been there the entire time. The Girl even spots a few people holding half-smoked cigarettes.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Ringmaster booms in a voice entirely different to the polite, timid one from earlier. In fact, the Ringmaster’s entire demeanor is different. She is now holding herself tall, chest out, like a male peacock putting on a show for a field of peahens.

The people on the balcony settle down in response.

“Thank you all for coming,” the Ringmaster continues. “Let’s welcome our contestants. Give a round of applause for…” The Ringmaster turns towards the contestants and smiles. “Actually, I don’t feel like introducing them. It would spoil the surprise. Besides-” she turns to the audience. “You already know who they are.”

If the audience knows who we are, then who would it spoil the surprise for? the Girl thinks to herself. Maybe I should just leave. I really am running very late by now.

“Before you consider leaving, you must at least want to know about the prizes.”

The Girl jolts back to reality. How did she know I wanted to leave?

“I see the word ‘prizes’ has your attention. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose what your prizes will be, as they are all something very personal to each of you.”

The Girl looks at the other two contestants, thankful to see that they also seem confused.

“You each want – no, you each need something. We can provide that for you…given you play along.” The Ringmaster looks pointedly at the Girl, who jumps to attention at the wordless accusation. Suddenly, the Ringmaster’s expression brightens. “Well, now that that’s out of the way – let the show begin!”

Promptly, three men approach the stage to escort the contestants to their first challenge.

“But, I didn’t even agree -”

“Hush,” says the Child, and the Girl quietens down. “Think about what you want. It’s not worth backing out.”

“But I don’t know what I want-”

“Me either,” sniffles the Bride.

The Child looks exasperated. “You two are ridiculous! Haven’t you been saying this entire time that you’re late for something?”

He points at the Bride: “and you’re obviously in a wedding dress and not at a wedding, so I’m guessing you want a rich husband or something.”

“No,” cries the Bride. “It’s the complete opposite! I left my fiancé at the altar. I just couldn’t go through with it. I don’t think I’m ready…I’m too young.”

“Well there you go,” sighs the Child. “You probably want a trip to Schoolies or something.”

They reach their destination. They have only walked a few steps, but it feels like miles.

“Chin up,” the Ringmaster booms to the Bride. “You can’t aim far staring at the ground.”

The Girl’s blood goes cold. Aim? Anything involving weaponry is surely illegal…

“It seems you have quite the imagination,” says The Ringmaster. The Girl looks at her reluctantly, calming when she sees a football in The Ringmaster’s hand. “The only thing we kill here is boredom. Anyway, we’ll do a few warm-up challenges before we give the big reveal. Just to get everyone in right state of mind.” She winks at the contestants and throws the Child the football.

“It’s simple,” she continues. “Whoever throws the ball the farthest wins.”

The Ringmaster steps back and lets the Child have the spotlight. He takes a deep breath and steps forward. Everyone waits in dead silence as he holds the ball in his hands. He lifts his arm, pulls his elbow back and…

Places the ball on the ground.

“What?” the Bride mutters. The Girl looks over to the Ringmaster, shocked to see the Ringmaster giddy at the sight of the Child’s rebellion. The Girl looks back at the Child and sees that he is muttering frantically again.

“Throw,” she hears him say firmly. “Toss. Hover. Throw!” He is getting embarrassed now. The Girl can see a pink flush in his cheeks. He drops his voice to a whisper. “Fly.”

As soon as he utters this word, the Bride shoots up into the air. The Girl, bewildered, looks up and sees a white ball of fabric wildly flailing in the air. “What’s happening?” The Girl asks the Ringmaster. “We have to get her down!”

The Ringmaster just smiles.

“How did this happen?” The Girl feels faint. Is this a rouse? The sound of the Bride’s screams makes it seem otherwise. But then…what on Earth is happening?

“Down,” says the Child, and down the Bride comes. She floats softly to the ground and lands on her feet. The Bride calmly fixes her appearance. She looks astoundingly poised considering the situation. She turns to the Child and smiles. “What was that about?” Her eye twitches. “Seriously, tell me. What was that all about, you little-”

Suddenly the Girl finds the football in her hands. She looks up, bewildered. There are so many people watching her. Their stares feel invasive and unclean. She suddenly feels claustrophobic, even in such an open space.

The Girl, completely fed up with this entire situation, turns 180 degrees and throws the ball in the opposite direction.

It falls inches away from her feet. In her anger she had forgotten to calculate her aim and sent it nosediving into the ground. Hot tears appear, rapidly affecting her vision. She stays with her back turned to everybody, ashamed.

“You’re lucky I specified that you could throw the ball in any direction.”

“What?” The Girl turns to confront the Ringmaster. “You never mentioned anything like that.”

The Ringmaster grins. “Now, now, don’t try to take all the credit. You still only tied for first place. You threw it farthest this way and she threw it farthest the opposite way.” The Ringmaster gestures to the Bride before turning to the Child. “I guess that makes you second. Chin up, it’s much better than third. Anyway, onto the next challenge!”

The contestants are escorted back to the stage, where the Ringmaster is waiting to deliver the instructions for the next challenge. “This challenge is simple,” she informs them. “It’s a classic case of ‘First In, Best Dressed’. Kind of. Basically, whoever puts together the nicest outfit wins. You can go to any store and get anything, no matter the price. You have ten minutes. Go.”

The Girl feels the sudden urge to co-operate. Potentially losing the last challenge has brought something out in her. She doesn’t feel like herself as she races through store, grabbing bits and pieces to wear. She feels like a warped, lucid version of herself. Like something from a dream.

She runs into the fitting rooms. As she frantically undresses, the Girl can hear the Bride crying in the neighbouring cubicle.

“I can’t take it off,” she is sobbing. “If I take this off, surely a part of me will die. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t…”

The Girl forces herself to ignore her compassion and continue getting dressed. Once she is done, she kicks open the door and runs back to the podium. She notices with a shock that the Bride is already there, her face in her dainty, pale hands.

“Welcome back,” the Ringmaster says to the contestants. “You all look quite nice.”

The Girl tries to look at what the other two are wearing, but the Ringmaster speaks before she has the chance.

“And the winner of this round is…” The Ringmaster looks at the Bride. “You.”

When she does not react, the Girl gives the Bride a small tap on the arm. The Bride looks up from her hands, astounded. “Me? But I didn’t even change.”

“Oh, but dear… You didn’t need to. Every girl wants to be a princess.”

The Girl looks over at the Bride, noticing a tiara atop her blonde curls. “Was that always there?”

The Bride reaches up to touch the head piece. “It must have been.”

They look back at the Ringmaster, waiting expectantly to hear the next challenge. The Ringmaster doesn’t speak. She is barely even moving, her head turning slightly as she looks between the competitors.

The silence becomes too much. “What’s the next challenge?” the Child cries.

“Change of plans.”

“What?” The contestants exclaim in unison.

“Show’s over. It’s come to a nice, clean ending and everybody is bored.” She gestures to the audience, who aren’t even paying attention anymore. They are back to chatting amongst themselves.

“But we haven’t even gotten to the main event!” The Girl is furious.

“And what about my prize? Didn’t I win?” The Bride looks as if she may cry.

“I think you’ll find you all received your prizes. Don’t you all just feel like winners?”

The Child seems to understand before anyone else. He shares a knowing smile with the Ringmaster. “Thank you,” he says, putting his hands in his pockets.

The girls watch as he walks off the stage. They watch as he walks the length of the mall and disappears into the distance. They share a look of confusion.

“It would appear someone is waiting for you.”

The Girl looks to where the Ringmaster is pointing and sees only empty space, but the Bride suddenly cries out: “Thank you!”.

The Girl watches as she walks off the stage. She watches as she holds her hand out to thin air and begins walking the length of the mall, disappearing into the distance.

“But… what about me?”

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time with pointless questions like that. Aren’t you running late?”

A flash fires through the Girl, sharp and silky, like a ribbon made of metal. It ties all the jumbled bits inside her together and suddenly her face lights up with joy. “Yes, I am. I really should get going now. Thank you.”

Everybody watches as she walks off the stage. They watch as she walks the length of the mall and disappears into the distance. They watch, and then they all go home.

Young Writers in the City: A Writer in a Radio Station by Lauren Hay

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Lauren Hay
Residency: SeaFM studios

SeaFM Studio.jpg

A Writer in a Radio Station



______Entrée ­­­­­­­­­­_____

This is a creative non-fiction, personal report-style parody essay.

As this is an artistic impression, the views and opinions expressed can only be considered as one possible representation of the people, places and events described. No – Liability. Yes – Deniability


– Day 1 –



Today I’m embarking on an expedition. Daring to go where no bibliophile and technologically illiterate individual has gone before! Okay, so perhaps radio stations and wordies have more in common than I want to admit. Doesn’t change the fact that this will be – as my cowgirl bestie would say – my first Ra-di-oh! (At this point I wanted to insert a tech savvy and intelligent metaphor; then remembered that I am not tech savvy and subsequently substituted it with a subpar pun.)  He-hem. As I trundle down the sun-stained and dimpled driveway, my ears catch the first vibrations of what is to come – “It’s Sea FM’s Lee and Jess for breakfast!”.

On the drive there – to prepare myself – I’m sure to sing loudly to whatever songs the station plays. As I don’t know the majority of these songs, the lyrics become little else than garbled and ill-glorified syllables that bleed into one and other. Good thing I sound better on paper.



I arrive early, a miracle. After hesitantly pressing the doorbell – then wondering whether it was is a doorbell or a button to call security deciding that it has to be a doorbell, only to go through the whole dilemma again – I am greeted by John. Luckily, it appears my absolute befuddlement in the face of the common doorbell – very advanced technology that –hasn’t raised any red flags and I’m welcomed into the building and shown about. I’m assigned a desk in the sales department. Soon after, I meet Kayden, Jerry and Teena as they arrive at eight on the dot.

Teena is an account manager and the contact with whom I liaised to organise my residency. As I listen to the charm and debonair with which she holds counsel over the phone, I envy her call making aptitude. I’m doubly impressed when I realise the conversation she’s having is with the woman attending reception (whom I’m yet to meet), visible and audible through the open sales department door. It’s nostalgic, like covert $20-Chickenfeed-walkie-talkie conversations separated by one room; and risqué Facebook group chats at uni with my flatmate… separated by three feet of empty-McDonald’s-packaging-strewn sofa.

John suggests I relocate to Studio 1 where Lee and Jess are in the middle of broadcasting their morning show; a weather update. Apparently it’s going to reach 20 ˚C today. I’m wearing jeans and sneakers; I eye Lee’s board shorts and flip-flops pensively. So this is the wisdom of a radio host…

Between presenting, Lee and Jess are busy editing upcoming segments and perusing the net for material; as well as communicating with their listeners. I spy a familiar, royal blue banner, infamous block white font. Facebook. The Omnipotent Overlord of all human interaction. The Friend, The Like and the Holy News Feed. Facebook, Amen.

I feel a little less guilty about tuning out during university lectures now. Or I would, if it weren’t for the fact that; even whilst roving Facebook, Lee and Jess appear ten times more tuned in than when I attend any university lectures. I have not yet noticed a USB port or direct cable attached to either of them. But, I’m sure if I knew what bionic people smelled like, the scent of android would be …on the air.



Kayden pops into the studio to pre-record a segment. As part of 7AD’s production team, Kayden assists by voicing ads and creating accompanying segments for the show. Today, he will be taking the Sea FM cruiser out to the bluff, listeners who bump into him there may obtain a Friends with Benefits keychain. Owners of the keychains receive discounts at participating local businesses. A clever name, I muse, the sensible sort of person that is likely to go out of their way for a bargain is also likely to get a little thrill from being able to use the questionably risqué phrase, friends with benefits.

Come to think of it, maybe I should find myself one of those tags.

Lee is an efficient wizard when trimming Kayden’s recording to broadcasting perfection. So fast, is he – in fact – there is cause to worry if Kayden has made it to the location before the recording is aired.

I’m a literary fly on the wall as Lee and Jess navigate the topics of their summer show. “It’s seventeen degrees, Thursday morning. This is Sea FM’s Lee and Jess.  Coffee, Best evil laugh, President Evil and the temperamental Tasmanian traffic and weather. The atmosphere in the studio is easy and familiar despite the influx of information that the dulcet duo trawls through, moulds and edits into something tantalising and entertaining.

The great dedication the Lee and Jess pay their show is profound. Good thing teachers have always been such sticklers about waiting till recess to visit the loo, I note. Not every ad break is long enough for a sneaky toilet stop.



As the morning show calls for curtains I retreat downstairs. The sales department has sprung into a lazy summer life in my absence. I meet Emma – the aforementioned legend holding down Forte Reception; Darren and Karen – both scions of the sales department. I eye the yoga-doing emoji on the poster above the desk I’ve been allocated, the text on the poster reads, “THINK digital”. I hope my new acquaintances don’t realise that I can barely think analogue. Rather than my alarm clock, it was the sunrise and my sister’s cat that prompted me to rise from my bed at a quarter past five this morning.



While I’ve been sitting here, hacking away at my keyboard, listening to the crooning of the swanky summer tunes in the background, the activity in the sales department has trickled in and out. Shortly after ten Teena has a visitor. She introduces herself, with a smile, as Lin: The Hanger-On. She’s here to do some laminating. We’re Sea FM for the community. Someone laughs. Someone introduces herself as Tex. Theresa. But, call me Tex.

Lin: The Hanger-On talks to Teena about a cookbook she’s planning to make. She wants to burn the pages, to give it a rustic look, like her grandmother’s. I think of my own mother’s Christmas cake. She’s burnt that every year she’s made it. I make a note to self: don’t try to make a rustic Christmas cake. Charcoal is carcinogenic.



Tex and Teena mention that there will be cake. This rouses the rest of the station, Lee wanders through the Sales Department, Darren materialises from his desk like a mammal from hibernation. The question on everyone’s lips is – when? John re-appears at some point. Have I missed it? Tex assures him no, he hasn’t.

Cake – it turns out – is code for birthday. Isn’t it always? Everyone gathers in the kitchenette and I meet a second Leigh[1]. It’s his birthday. If we go by the candles, Leigh is turning five. The fully grown man that blows them out isn’t fooling anyone. Leigh hosts the breakfast show for Burnie’s station, 7BU. Though, he’s clearly part of the 7AD family. When everyone sings Happy Birthday I’m struck by how, no matter the talent of the singer, it’s a song that cannot be tarnished. The cake is cut and I introduce myself to Leigh. People filter out and I meet Nathan. I haven’t met you before, I’m Nathan. Nathan is relatively new, he tells me, and works in production. Leigh, Nathan, Jerry discuss the marvellous inclusive nature of radio, and how many of the people in the business had little to no background in radio before they began working at a radio station. It’s a comfort to hear, my novicey nature feels a little less like the tacky gum that sticks to the bottom of a shoe.



Studio 3 is Nathan’s haunt. He offers to show me what it is that someone in production actually does. The short answer is, Nathan makes ads. The array of buttons, knobs, dials and twin computers that claim a majority of the desk space appear a little like a marshalling solider crab, microphone claws poised. I warn him I’m technologically illiterate. He laughs and describes his first impression of the tech and production of the program– terrifying and magical.As Nathan explains further, it’s not hard to see why.

7AD is part of a network of fifty-one stations across Tasmania and the mainland. These stations all assist each other with the production of the ads that air on their various shows. For the stations that share airways this also means coordinating timetables so the programmes run smoothly. Nathan pulls up a complex, colour-coded, computerised schedule to exhibit what an average day looks like. My brain pulls up and stops like the awkward-vertical-rainbow-bleep at the end of a ‘90s VCR. Nathan makes making ads seem awesome.

At the same time he educates me, Nathan completes his tasks for the day. It’s hard to believe he’s only been at this for three months. The tasks he is assigned come from On High. On High – is actually a man named David, based in Launceston. According to the speed dial list by my assigned desk in the Sales Department David’s title is: Creative Writer. A unicorn in this sea(FM) of technology! The scripts Nathan receives, to edit and record, all go through David.



It’s about now that Lee wanders into the studio to record the dialogue for some ads. There are only two. Didn’t we have an ad that needed to be recorded within the next hour? The ad’s script isn’t amongst the others. Jerry, Content Director – A.K.A the guy who says what airs and when – suggests Nathan call up On High, to ask about it. David is as nonplussed as Jerry and Nathan. They decide the recording can’t have been that urgent. Nathan turns to me and shrugs, and I learn a new idiom – We’re not saving babies. It doesn’t have the same ring to it as Hakuna Matata but it still means no worries.

I end the day ec-static… (puns on me everyone) and even get the dramatic-driving-off-into-the-sunset journey home.


– Day 2 –



Happy Birthday is a song that cannot be tarnished – less than 24 hours since I wrote it and already I’ve been proven wrong. Driving through Ulverstone I hear something great… and terrible. Jess’ amped up Happy Birthday rendition to Lee has the same cringe-worthy wonderfulness of an aptly executed pun. Highlight of the day. Oh, and yes, that does mean that in two days Sea FM celebrates two birthdays for two Lee/Leighs.

On air, Jess gifts Lee dessert bowls and a cake decorating kit. The story of why they aren’t wrapped involves The Moth from Hell and Jess seeking shelter in the guest bedroom. I ponder the wisdom of letting Jess in on how I got over my own fear of moths, but can’t picture her downing half a bottle of vodka to experience exposure therapy by throwing them at her friends.



I arrive and manage to navigate the doorbell successfully. Can’t fool me twice. I’m greeted by everyone – Good to see you! How are you today? – The atmosphere feels like thoughts of fairy-bread and bubble-wands. As I settle in the Sales Department John draws me into a conversation about what my residency actually entails. Good question, John.  My answer is that it entails whatever I can fit into 2000 words as I am “influenced by the space”. There’s a reason they call us creative writers.

The rest of the morning consists of kooky conversations as I edit yesterday’s jottings. Teena, Tex and Emily laugh, work and swap stories. Lee emerges from Studio 1 to join the conversation and pass on Jess’ farewells, as she had to leave early. And then, it is time, once more: to get our cake on!



Another day another cake; what a cake! So, I missed my opportunity yesterday to wax poetic about 7AD’s confectionary of choice. It’s a decadent tri-tiered mud-cake, topped with whipped cream and syrupy cherries. Jealous? Lee, waves us down from singing Happy Birthday in favour of Jess’ masterpiece. Kayden pops a champagne bottle of confetti – seeing as you’re not drinking he tells a dumbfounded Lee. Lee laughs – have fun cleaning this up! What Lee doesn’t realise is that Kayden will take this advice literally; and when Lee later goes to leave for the day he will find the confetti in his car after Kayden has poured in in via the open sunroof.

As the 7AD crew stand around the kitchenette enjoying the cake and each other’s company they discus campervans; holidays and journeys they’d like to make with their families. I ponder how many different forms the word journey can take. Mine, coming to 7AD headquarters, has been relatively short, a mere sixteen hours. Still, it’s been an incredible privilege to be allowed a glimpse into the 7AD world and meet the masterminds behind 107.7. On the scale of great journeys, it sits somewhere between Frodo’s epic to Mordor and the average recluse’s midmorning jaunt to the mailbox. Yeah, I think I won that luck of the draw.


[1] Different spelling but pronounced the same as “Lee.”

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #1: Harry Wood, by Jane Beeke

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the first entry in this story, which we will roll out as a fortnightly series for you to explore.


From Where I Stood

  1. Harry Wood

The boy lay in the hull of the boat. Through the open ribs of the unfinished deck, he could see the grey of the morning sky. In the little space in the bottom of the boat, it was still dark, and the warm, dry wood of the timbers formed a gentle cocoon around Harry.
Perhaps this darkness and closeness is what let Harry’s father, a coal mining man, slip so easily into work at the shipbuilders’ yard.
Harry was luckier than his father. He was born into boats. His life had been spent here in Formby, watching the ships slide from the slips into the welcoming waters of the Mersey River. He and his father had come as a package to Griffiths’ shipyard after the mines had closed, and quickly Harry became the star apprentice.
In the channel opposite the shipyard, Harry’s ketch – built with his own hands alone – rode quietly at the anchor. Harry was nineteen, and his ketch had just turned three.
Harry heard the knocking and creaking as someone scaled the ladder at the side of the unfinished boat. He took up his axe and began to gently shape the ribs of the ship, shaping the edges.
A silhouette appeared against the grey sky. It was Harry’s father.
He let himself down into the hull, and Harry handed his father an axe. They worked together. This is how it had been with them – a relationship of shared work, of building things together.
“Have you heard any news about the ship?” asked Harry, eventually. “Has she come back in yet?”
“The Pharos has been sent to search for her. A government steamer.”
“How long has it been?”
“Nearly twenty days, Harry.”
No ship would take twenty days to cross the Strait, least the J.L. Griffiths, the fastest ship ever to sail to Melbourne. Harry had shaped her sharp bow himself.
A shuddering thought came into Harry’s mind. Somewhere, that sharp bow had smashed and splintered onto the black rocks; had been consumed in a sea, boiling with fury.
Harry sighed a white cloud of steam into the cold morning air, and gently, gently shaped the ribs of his new creation.

Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman
Read entry #4. William Chapman
Read entry #5. John Griffiths
Read entry #6. Sydney Griffiths and Captain Stalker

Young Writers in the City: The Piece of Small World by Kyle Perry

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Kyle Perry
Residency: Spirit of Tasmania


The Piece of Small World

This piece I have assembled on a back-to-back voyage on Spirit of Tasmania.

We begin with questions in my notebook. What is it like to sleep on a ship? How friendly are the crew? How clear are the stars in the middle of the ocean? What is there to do? What is the food like?

Then we explore the ship. It’s movement and swell. If you walk on the ship, you sometimes feel like you are walking on a train. Everything smells new and fresh, and the furniture is like a lounge bar. In every wall there is something to do with travel, and curiosity, and life. And Tasmania: of course, Tasmania.

And there are also Wet Floor signs. The Spirit boasts roughly fifty thousand.


It’s night and I’m sitting at the back of the Spirit, out on Deck 9, watching the lights of Devonport flicker in the distance. There’s no one else out here, and I’m trying to capture the scene, the pitch of the ship, the sheer speed of the ship, the pastel yellow of the horizon that deepens to midnight blue, a streak of black cloud above silhouetted mountains, how the wake is briefly white in the deck lights and then disappears into the night, how I wonder what makes the city lights twinkle like stars – maybe it’s the heat rising off the ocean – and now the Milky Way is-


Holy…!” I shout, notebook flying out of my lap in a whirl of arms and legs.

Heart pounding, I spy the loudspeaker above my head.

I twist a finger in my ear and mutter under my breath.

I gather my things and stalk inside.


The live entertainment is a laid-back man called Brad with long hair and a nose ring who’s playing Clocks by Coldplay per a passenger’s request. “I’m making this up as I go,” he confides into the mic. Then he stops to tune his guitar. “Sea air and guitars aren’t always the best of friends.” I sit with a drink and Brad asks me why I’m on the ship.

Out of the blue.

From the stage.

Like he’s a real person.

Later, he asks if I have a request. I ask him to play what he wishes someone would request. He plays Chantilly Lace, which I don’t think anyone saw coming.

Again later, after his sheer Fulsom Prison Blues guitar mastery, we sit down for a chat.

“Any good stories?” I prompt.

He grins, then tells the story of a group of about 300 “wild farm boys” all dressed up as pirates, all 300 of them in character, on the ship for a car rally headed from Mackay to Hobart. They had all these hidden rules and the first thing they did was trick him into saying one of their trigger words, “mine”:

Pirate: “Can you play Sweet Child of… oh, um, Sweet Child of…”

Brad: “… Sweet Child of Mine?”


He had to do 20 push-ups, right there on stage for them, while they cheered and chanted in pirate cant and drank straight spirits.

Brad said, “But when you’re coming out of Port Melbourne, the first hour and a half is calm, like you’re on a river, but when you hit the open ocean, everything changes.” On this night, the Bass Strait was rough, and for 300 pirates who’d been drinking since morn, it was, in Brad the Singer’s words, “absolute carnage”.

It sounded amazing: wild farm-boys dressed up as pirates with banter and secret rules and a quest, drinking way too much because they thought the ride would be easy all the way across. How is that not amazing? This truly is a magical ship.


That night, when all else have gone to sleep, I walk up to Deck 10, as high as I can get. The black wind sucks and pulls at my feet as I clutch the cold rail, heart pounding, and after one glance I refuse to look at the hungry wake. All around is darkness and starlight and the tumultuous Bass Strait.

I’ve lived forever on an island, but I always forget the scope of the ocean, the abysmal size.

“Don’t slip,” I murmur.

After an age, I edge back through a sliding door, my face slick with sweat.

Absently, I pat one of the Wet Floor signs, like a faithful dog.


My night on the Spirit is rough: it’s such a different feeling sleeping at sea. I’m also a tall guy who rolls around when I sleep, but the ship was already doing the rolling for me, so my leg kept sliding off the edge and then the world would tip and there was this strange car-horn noise now and then, faint above the rumble of the ship.

So I watched the stars for a time, sliding past my porthole, until I pulled the mattress off and shoved it in-between the two beds, so that the edges curled up, and I built a nest of blankets and pillows to hold me in place while the sea tipped and I fell into fitful sleep.

I woke up at a-quarter-to-six by the Voice of God informing us we had 45 minutes before the ship arrived in Melbourne, not trying to push you into anything, take your time, but we need you off our ship in 45 minutes, thanks for the experience; also, leave your cabin doors open when you leave.

For a guy who likes his sleep, I can tell you this: if I smiled that morning, it would have been faked.


It’s the following day, and my plan is to try all available entertainment, which introduces me to Dolly, a wonderful lady with stage presence and perplexingly tight pants who runs the Disco Bingo. It’s bingo, except with song titles, most of which seem to be ‘80s songs I don’t know. A randomiser plays the songs and you have to tick them off on your randomised sheet. I have to listen carefully for clues in the lyrics that might have the song title. It was the best bingo I’ve ever played.

After that, I decide to watch a movie in the cinema, but in case I get seasick, as I am wont to do, I take a travel-sickness tablet or three. But I had bought the non-drowsy ones, which literally means they just lace it with caffeine so you’re feeling both tired and awake, which put me in an absolute stellar mood for watching a movie.

I almost sit through half of it, and then the Voice of God tells us Spirit of Tasmania II is passing on the port side, so go have a look if you want, you curious travellers, you. I wrestle for a moment but decide fresh ocean air might be better for me than finding out how Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Childrenends. I have to ask someone which way is port, because of course I do, but then I stand with fellow passengers and watch the Spirit II pace past us in the middle-distance.

That’s when I meet the gypsies camping on deck.


Gypsie Dad’s eyes are deep blue above a black beard inexplicably plaited by a pink hairband. He, his kids, his wife, and her sister are on the deck, lying on a swag mattress and rugged up in picnic blankets, surrounded by wicker-baskets of food. Like absolute champions, even though it is highly against the rules.

“Is it nice, lying out here?” I ask.

“Yeah mate, of course,” says Gypsie Dad. “It’s quiet and it’s fresh and look, the ocean is just there. And we’ve got everything we need out here. We’ve got our rugs and picnic baskets. What else do we need? Maybe our ukuleles.”

“The ocean is nice to look at,” agrees Gypsie Mum from her prone position, “but if I look too often I get queasy.” She puts a hand to her forehead, in emphasis.

“Are you enjoying the ship?” I ask.

“We’re having a little family reunion,” says Gypsie Mum. “We didn’t plan it, but my sister -” she gestures to the smiling woman on the end of the mattress, “just happened to be on the same trip as us headed home for Christmas, so we’re catching up. We haven’t seen each other for months. It’s a small world, hey.”


It is a small world.

I have two friends I met on Spirit of Tasmania without prior planning.

The first is Laura the Teacher, who by pure coincidence scheduled her passage on the same sailing as me. She boards in Melbourne, and I tell her to drop her bags off in my cabin instead of hauling them around with her the whole time.

Oh, didn’t I mention I have a cabin, Laura? On a day sailing? Well, yes, I do. A life-saver? I know.

We head towards my cabin down the leagues of corridors it takes to get there. You think you’re to the end of the ship, but then you look at one of the maps and you realise you’re not even half-way.

In my cabin, which has four beds (did I mention my cabin has four beds? And it’s exclusive to me?), Laura takes a nap while I have a shower.

It takes almost as long to puzzle out the shower tap as it does to walk down the corridors, but finally the water comes. The pitch of the ship is just enough that I rest a hand on the wall, but the water washing away the grit of travel is like a tiny hole in heaven has opened up and I am stunned­ –stunned – with how good it feels. A shower on a ship, who would’ve thought! The pressure, the temperature, the steam, the life. A disbelieving chuckle escapes my lips. I am in awe. I am shaking with fulfilment.

When I die, I want to be buried in a shower curtain from Spirit of Tasmania.


My friend Loucas the Missionary is on the ship, too, but I didn’t know prior. I’d never actually met Loucas, but we were friends on Facebook, and he knew from my updates that I was writing a piece on the Spirit at some stage but he didn’t know when, but he felt like the Holy Spirit told him I was on the ship today, and then he had a nap in his recliner, and then the Voice of God came over the loudspeaker calling me to the Purser’s desk, and he recognised my name and so stalked me there and followed me as I spoke to crew members. I really admired his dedication. Then he introduced himself with fire in his eyes and a grin that made us instant friends, and he and I and Laura went back to my four-bed cabin and we talked about deep and meaningful things, and then we all had such a good nap and Loucas got to have a glorious shower, which he’d prayed for as he drove onto the ship.

A cabin on a ship is a nice, insulated pocket of space. Almost like its own little world.


Michael the Hotel Manager sits down for a chat with me. He has those stripes on his shoulders that means he’s An Important Crew Member and he looks me in the eyes the whole time, as though he is comfortable and in control but also happy to have me there. He’s been working on the ship for THIRTY YEARS, longer than I’ve been alive. I didn’t even know they had ships back then. Nipunika the Stewardess also sits down with us. She talks softly but every word is golden.

I ask them what they like about the ship. Nipunika talks about the crew – they’re one big family and she loves working with them, she loves them, that’s why she’s been doing it for 11 years – and also the travellers: how it’s always different, how she sees regulars and she can catch up with them, how they have prime ministers and singers, movie stars and sports stars, all of them using the Spirit, and the ship acts as the great equaliser: everyone is in the same boat, and everyone brings something different.

“It’s like a small little world,” she says, and I can tell that she means it.

Michael is the leader of the hospitality crew, ‘the human side of the ship’, and he wants it to be stress-free. He talks about the comradery of the crew: they live and eat and serve together, and they’re close-knit, and content. They’re a family.

It shows: the whole staff, so far, has been suspiciously relaxed. One of them had banter with me when I bought my meal. Another asked about my family. Another called me “sweetheart”.

“But as for travelling on the ship itself…?” I prompt Michael.

He glances away in thought. “I think it’s the experience of being on a ship, but also, it’s the life. Not only out on the water – I mean, look at that big blue horizon – and you can see seals and whales and dolphins, and other ships and boats on the water, but here on the ship itself, there’s always something happening and someone to talk to and something to see. It’s like Nipu said: we’re a small little world.

“But there’s also the fact we’re Tasmania’s flagship. Our restaurant here is Tasmanian produce, there are photos all around of Tasmania, most of the staff are Tasmanian, we have people to answer any Tasmania questions. It’s like when people come onto the Spirit they’re starting their holiday, not preparing to start it: we want their Tasmanian experience to begin here, with us, not when they disembark in Devonport. In a way, this ship is part of Tasmania.”

A little piece of Tasmania, floating on the ocean.

A little piece of the world in itself.


Laura and I eat breakfast by the window, while the Spirit is dormant and docked in Port Melbourne. Finally it rumbles into life, and everything starts rattling.

“Look at the water!” says Laura.

“Describe it to me,” I say.

Laura says, “It’s foamy… it’s making the water green… no, that’s not poetic enough… it makes the water look like marble… and the foam is being blown in the wind… there’s so much foam, where is it even coming from?”

We’re following a line of red and green channel markers, right to the horizon, leaving behind a trail of seagulls, miniature in scope.


“Oooh, let’s go to Deck 4,” Laura says.

“I don’t think we’re allowed,” I say, as I eat my Tasmanian yogurt, which is so good.


I meet two young couples who are travelling in vans together. I sit with them as they eat their lunch, because one of them, Katy, has a whale-tail pendant and looks like a child of the forest so I figure she’ll be interesting. Both her partner, Chase, and the other guy, Cade, have hair with the texture of too much sunshine and salt-water, and when I say that, they laugh. They’re surfers. Well, body-boarders. Sponsored body-boarders. They have an Instagram for their trip, called @stokedandbrokeaus. They’re happy 20-something wanderers, following the surf.

“But what about the ship?” I ask.

They say the Spirit is better than they expected. “It’s a hectic ferry,” says Chase the Surfer. “Fully feels like a cruise ship, hey?”

They’re calming to talk to, and friendly. I can see what Nipunika means, about travellers. They tell me about their travels, about the freedom of the open road, about not worrying about things, about following passions, and I’m jealous.

They ask me about Tasmania, and I am honest.

“Tasmania feels like a whole different country. It’s beautiful, and there aren’t as many people, and the roads take a lot longer to drive than you’d think because there are so many mountains. And it’s nothing like the rest of Australia.” I am firm on this. “We’re like a whole different country.” A beat. “Our own world.”


My new friends Joe and Tianaha are taking the ferry with their three kids. I speak to them because Joe’s beard is more impressive than mine, and he was friendly to me in the restaurant line. They say the ferry is “something different”, and the kids prefer it: it’s easier than keeping them seated on the plane – they can eat and drink and play card games, they can watch the ocean, it actually makes the time go quicker but it’s not as tiring.

“It’s actually kind of fun.”

After our conversation I go for a walk. People play cards, sit on the floor, chat and drink, and sleep in the oddest places: against tables, on benches, leaning against each other, leaning against the wall.

What happens when you travel for a long time? You get creative.


Later, I see dolphins swimming alongside the ship. I press my nose against the glass, as they jump in and out of the wake. I’ve seen dolphins before, but never this close. They move under the water with their own wakes, and leap in and out, and my first thought is, “We’re so far from land, it can’t be safe out here for them”.

Great, I’m worrying about fish now.  I’ve been travelling too long.

They fade into the water and disappear, but I keep my nose pressed against the glass for a long time after they’re gone.

And then I spot Tasmania.


The ship docks in the evening, and everyone goes home to their beds and their dogs and their non-wet floors.

And I – insular, islander, Tasmanian I – am back home in this, our own little world.

But now this question in my notebook:

On Spirit of Tasmania, did I ever even leave it?

Young Writers in the City: Bigger on the Inside by Kate Elphinstone

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Kate Elphinstone
Residency: Devonport Regional Gallery


Bigger on the Inside

I’m writing in a church that has changed its insides.

You wouldn’t know, entering from the outside unless you read the sign that says ‘Devonport Regional Gallery’. I like it in here, though I know not everyone would because there are opposites of everything.

You can’t forget the gallery was a church because its memory is everywhere: in the high ceiling, the archways of doors, and the glossy wooden floor. The artwork hangs on its white walls. I’m sitting in a rolling chair at a desk on what was the altar, a place of the privileged few, and this lets me look down over everything new.

First I think I like sitting here writing in the gallery because of the peace and silence caused by the absence of others. Silence, to me, is always a comfort. I get nervous every time I hear the entrance door open and think I’ve never really liked to share. Not in this day and age where Facebook stores all our memories away, and Instagram imparts the record of our past. Then when people arrive, I realise how much it aches when you’re alone.

I often forget to miss things when they aren’t right in front of me.

I look at the hanging works made by all sorts of people, who decided that creating is better than not creating, and an audience is fine, too, if you can get it. But mostly it’s about doing something in this life to help make a mark of understanding in a world that makes no sense. These artists tell their points of view to whoever is willing to look. Some of the artists comment on our country’s history, which is good, we shouldn’t forget it, because we all know we’ll repeat it without reminders.


The gallery sits between a laneway and a video store, full of big ideas in this small city. Inside its walls you are vulnerable, even more so when you’re alone because the art around you is placing a mirror to everything at risk to the tides, agony caused at sea, in our oceans and our place as people of an island country. Each artwork hints at big and scary ideas: the end of humanity, questioning mortality, tidal waves and thoughts of torture. Some pieces tell the story of our politicians banning refugees from our borders, saying: ‘don’t come to the land of the lucky and the free’.

‘Hold the mirror up, what do you see?’ say the righteous artists, asking we do better.

Thank goodness for artists.


I don’t know much about art in that I’ve never studied it, only what it makes me think or feel (or not) when I see it. I had a conversation with a friend some weeks ago about why art can’t be explained. All ownership is given to the viewer, leaving them to interpret from their life experiences, and that’s why the artist can’t explain, shouldn’t explain, what they’ve done.

My friend wanted an explanation. Apparently young people are more open to authoritarian rule. I read that the other week somewhere reputable, maybe The Guardian online. I realised more often than not I want to be told what to do because I’m scared of the thoughts I think, the decisions I make. I want to blame someone else for my mistakes. So I understood why she wanted an explanation. You want to know the right things, be correct when you’re speaking. But then again, Trump is president.

Is it safe to assume the world is now ending?


I take my time to stare at the artist’s works and think of the hours they took, the thought put into choosing the materials and painstakingly placing them in precise positions. Speaking to what no one else noticed, trying to tell us, ‘this here is important’.

I think we need people taking the time to show others, others who just churn through their lives. Out of the twenty-two artists’ works, I look longest at the two pieces focusing on refugees. I think of people stuck on islands, in muggy heat with bad water, wondering the risk to their daughters, seeing endless days in sight and wondering ‘is it worth all their might?’. Time is never there when you want it to be and won’t leave when you’re begging for reprieve. The never-ending boredom of being stuck in a place where you can do nothing, be nothing, told: ‘you are nothing’.

I shake because it’s been over a decade now and even when the community stands up and says, ‘no, enough’, the right people aren’t listening.

They mustn’t spend time in galleries to realise our lives are about more than a budget that needs balancing.


I don’t know real boredom. Crushing, mind-numbing, insufferable, infinite time, stretched seconds of days that make it feel like it will never, ever end. I can leave here, free. Go home and see my mother and father whose only worry for their daughter is that she isn’t happy.

Here, I am happy. I’m allowed to sit and write, and if I’m honest, it’s one of my favourite places in this small city by the water because I feel I could be anywhere. I know what is there on the outside but after a while I forget it exists. I’m here in an inner world, within bricks and mortar. Away from the pub down the street where people are looking to slaughter their histories with too much drink. I could be anyone when I’m in here. It’s when I go outside again I’m faced with my reality.

It’s exposing to be sitting here in the gallery, so I pretend to be busy writing even if I’m not. People walk past, and some say hello lightly, open their mouths slightly. I wonder where they come from and look at them while trying not to look at them but after a time the novelty is gone, and I don’t even look up.

There is a lot I don’t see in my everyday, but here I have the time to notice. Sitting in the gallery on my third day I notice there’s a crack in the wall, maybe half a metre tall. I realise some of the walls are grey, not white. I note just how long a minute takes. Sometimes it takes five minutes. Sometimes five seconds. Sometimes time stops. Every little sound is magnified. I’m afraid I’ll make too much noise with my movements, so I try to do everything with care.

In the silence, I have nothing but my thoughts and it turns out I don’t have many that tell me a story. I think of snippets of memories or words, but there is no running commentary in my brain that is helping me out with writing this, not one bit.

I look again at the artists’ work and feel wonder that I live in a country with freedom of expression. To even be here surrounded by works created by people who had an idea to make and finished it. I rarely finish anything. I can’t, I get distracted with more ideas, observations and memories. Like from the other day when my partner tried joking that if I fall pregnant, it will be with twins. It’s not a joke I find funny because I’m still young, I don’t yet want kids.

‘It’s in the family,’ he said, and his sister didn’t have twins, so it must be him.

‘It’s a scary world to bring kids into,’ I say. ‘I’ll break with the weight of two humans.’

‘No,’ he tells me, ‘your body is the right shape. Look at your hips.’

I just nod while thinking of the stories I’ve heard of tearing and hips displacing and traumatic pain that somehow love helps you forget.


A few hours into to my second day in the gallery I notice the security cameras. I wonder if anyone is watching me. Should I wave? Are they even connected? I suppose they have to be. There must be a lot of money on these walls.

When I’m inside the gallery, I wonder perhaps everything is ending, and I wouldn’t know sitting inside this constructed world. There’s no bugs or spiders, no dust or dirt, no sunlight. There are bright bulbs of electricity, shining because they are told to.

I’ve forgotten how to think in silence when there’s every opportunity now to be distracted away from it. Time stretches. My head itches, face itches, neck itches, arm itches. I panic, try to direct my thoughts. I start thinking of water, the tides, the give and take of the ocean. I’m reminded of an Instagram feed of a Russian fisherman sharing photos of his catches from the deep. I told that story at a Christmas party. I thought it was interesting, but I’m not sure I said it in an interesting way. I’m not good at telling stories. I didn’t say how they looked with their translucent scales, hideous, monstrous eyes and sharp teeth in wide mouths. ‘They look like, like, well, ALIENS!’ I’d say with big eyes and hands outstretched. People just nodded. ‘Yeah, unreal,’ they said, waiting for me to ask another question they can answer about their lives.


I’m beginning to get used to the silence of the gallery when it’s broken by people entering, bringing their noise. I realise how it warms me. What is worse I find, after being here for a time, is the people who enter alone and continue the silence. They don’t know the warmth or bring any with them. Or mothers that shush their rampant children. I know it’s polite and it’s what we’re told is right, but I want to say, ‘let them run! Don’t stop them’.

Almost every adult acts the same but differently: the quiet shifting, hands behind backs, hands in pockets, hands crossed or stroking their chins, looking at a loss. There are long leather backless seats where people sit, not always, but they can if they want to. And just when I think this is all it will ever be, a woman walks right up and speaks to me.

Her hair is long and curly, she held a bag from Target, and I didn’t know her, but that didn’t stop her saying, ‘does it feel like you should be watching a class full of people doing an exam? Where’s the ruler, heh? Snap, snap, snap!’.

I laugh over the lid of my laptop, look down at the wood grain of my desk.

‘I’d never thought of that.’

A little later.

‘Which one do you like?’

‘Oh… um…’

‘I like the one with the scribbles. The black bits with the pins. You can see animals in them.’

She looks over to her partner, turns back with a knowing grin.

‘You can’t rush them.’

Points to a painting.

‘I don’t like this one. I didn’t like the rubbish in the bottom corner. Didn’t like what it was saying. It reminds me of the Caribbean, though. I was there once, met a big Rastafarian.’


‘He took down his hair and told me he wanted to wrap me in it.’

A grin.

‘It didn’t happen. But he did get me stoned.’


And then she walked away, quick wave, smiling.