Friday, March 31, 2006

The middle of nowhere... literally

For those of you who are overseas visitors, I thought I'd show you an image from our Bureau of Meteorology radar of quite possibly the most remote place on earth, Giles. This exciting metropolis is located in the Great Sandy Desert and really is as uninteresting as this picture would suggest...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cyclone Glenda closes in

By Jeezus, I wouldn't like to be the poor bugger out at Mardie Station up there in the Kimberly region - the latest Bureau of Meteorology radar image shows it copping a fair hiding from Cyclone Glenda right now:

It's amazing to think that Cyclone Tracey was a category 4 storm, just like Glenda, yet Larry was a top of the range category 5! The BOM shipping warning puts wave heights in the path of Glenda as "phenomenal"... says it all really, doesn't it?

Go Saints & Heave Ho Freo

On the eve of the very first AFL match for 2006, West Coast versus St Kilda, all I can say is GO YOU SAINTERS!!! I hope you give the Toasters a glorious hiding on home soil and pave the way for a sensational weekend, punctuated by the Fremantle Dockers' first win away at Launceston against the happless Hawks... HEAVE HO FREO and no dragging the anchor across Bass Strait!

Image: Fraser Gehrig oils his mullet in preparation for tonight's game.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yacht racing on the Swan River

Corporate days out in Perth are always a treat - invariably involving drinking cold beer in the sun, eating copious amounts of shellfish and flinging about a few business cards... and a day out yesterday sailing on the mighty Swan River out of Royal Perth Yacht Club was no exception.

Of course, nothing like starting the afternoon with a few gourmet sangers, washed down with a couple of icy cold Coronas before jumping on board our Foundation 36 yacht under the helm of 'Skip', a veteran of the 1983 Australia II America's Cup win.

We headed out into the 25-30 knot breeze - a faint tinkle of Land Down Under running around inside my head - and I was unanimously chosen to steer the boat as opposed to being a 'winch wench'. Nice move I thought, until I realised that steering a yacht straight into a stiff breeze is akin to driving a Holden Berlina station wagon through mud with two flat tyres and a broken axle. But it was okay, Skip was on hand to take over when it looked like we might be sliced in two by one of our dozen or so race competitors, or tossed into the river to swim with the jellyfish.

The idea that sailing was all about sipping champagne and giving the odd tug on the jib while you watched someone else trim the main sail soon flew out the window (if we had one), along with half a dozen caps. The boat tilts up on such a steep angle that at one point I thought I'd soon be hanging vertically, clinging to the guide wire railing, with nothing but salty air and the river beneath me... it was like driving a car on two wheels.

Going back down wind it's much more civilised and battling it out to beat the opposition around the markers is quite a thrill when you aren't scrambling around on all fours on the deck trying to prevent yourself being garotted by wet ropes - at one stage I ticked when I should have tacked, but Skip took most of the pain out of the situation and I only ended up with a bruised winged keel for my error. However, one of our crew gashed his leg open and someone on another boat lost a toenail.

We took part in two races, finishing in second spot both times, which placed us in third position overall - a bronze medal if you like. Our team all won steel meshed reinforced garden hoses, complete with stainless steel fittings - next year I've got my eye on first place and a Ryobi Cordless Powerdrill...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ben Cousins - 'piss' poor verdict

It's moments like these that make you wonder if Perth isn't populated by aliens who have a fondness for fit young blokes in yellow and blue jumpers, chardonnay, four wheel drives and the odd line or three of Bolivian marching powder.

In fining Ben Cousins the grand sum of $900, plus costs, Magistrate Peter Malone has reduced this incident to nothing more than a joke - he couldn't even help himself from bleating on about what a huge fan of the Eagles he is and how "uncomfortable" he'd feel in sentencing his idol. The defence counsel, Mambo-jambo or whatever his name was, had to console him - that's okay judgey, everyone loves our Benny.

Christ, why didn't he just get out the cheque book, pay the fine himself, then take young Benny out for a slap up feed and a night at the strippers? Perchance the opportunity might even arise to relieve themselves by the Canning Hwy motorcade...

So what was the excuse that warrented such a lenient penalty?

"Oh, ummm Ben thought the media would get on his back even if he didn't blow over the limit... what? That sounds like a lame and stupid excuse?" Gee, I can see it now, can't you? BEN COUSINS BLOWS UNDER 0.05 IN BOOZE BUS SHAME... doesn't do it for me.

"Ummm, another excuse? Oh yeah! He really needed to do a wee, so he abandoned his car in the middle of the road, ran off and wissed, then just decided to keep on running".

Possibly he was weeing and running at the same time as he was chased by the police? I don't know about anyone else, but when I have a leak I always get the urge to run away and leave my friends stranded in my car in the middle of a major highway.

I'm sorry, but if Ben Cousins is that paranoid about media scrutiny and/or has a strange wee-and-run fetish, then he needs professional help. Either that, or once again he's flaunted the law and escaped with nothing more than a bit of lost pocket change and a captaincy that the Toasters have already mooted will be his again in 2007 anyway.

How do you reckon Jeff Farmer would have fared if he'd been in the dock facing these charges?

Chimp - Can't Stop, On Fire

As Molly is want to say, do yourself a favour and buy this album by Chimp - or at least listen to it at

Lead guitar Jon Stewart is a former housemate of mine from the late 80s, when we were living in the 'on the edge of gentrification' suburb of Islington, N1. Jon went on to form the Brit-Pop band Sleeper with fellow housemate Louise Wener. He now teaches music in Brighton and Lou writes books.

My claim to fame here is that Jon credits me with helping get the band up and running after introducing him to the music of The Pixies, arguably the best band ever - in my books at least. A shame I wasn't around when Sleeper hit the big time - Jonny owed me a couple of drinks and I really would have enjoyed that rock 'n' roll excess.

Oh and Jon, I'll never forget the exploding 'doobie' you gave me on my birthday - damn thing nearly took an eye out!

Anyway, here's my review of Chimp's latest album, Can't Stop - On Fire:

Sublime, poignant and tinged with a distant threat of madness and sitting in a hot tub by yourself in the middle of a pine forest on the cusp of spring - wind in the branches - elements of warmth and chill that lull, caress and somehow invigorate - mulled wine and hot rum toddies.

Can't Stop, On Fire is an eloquent collection of well crafted tunes that hang together as much on their emotional pull as their musical charm.

It's an old car lost on a bush track in the red dusty outback carrying Alex Lloyd, Grant Lee Buffalo, Lou Reed and the ghost of Jeff and Tim Buckley... there's a bottle being passed around and an odd scraping sound coming from the roof that no one really cares to investigate...

John Cooke, 3 October 2003
buy 'can't stop, on fire' online at

Monday, March 20, 2006

Great White Shark

For those of you who thought my last shark wasn't quite exciting enough - you try pulling the bugger in on a handline! - here's one I caught in 1978 off the main jetty at Rottnest Island... nah, only joshing... it was around at Parker's Point - they love a bit of occie those great whites.

More piccies of large dead fish hanging from hooks here:

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Contiki Kid

Thought I'd write a book based loosely on a Contiki Grand European Tour that I took in '84... at least I think it was '84... anyway, here's the first chapter.

Tales of sex, booze & bowel complaints on the 18 – 35s Grand European Tour
By John Cooke

Chapter 1 – Arrival…

When the raffish young hotel porter insisted that I smell his proffered index finger, I knew it wasn’t a good start to the jolly 18 – 35s adventure that I’d been promised.

It was a warm and (dare I say it) ‘sticky’ day in London and I’d just bussed in from Heathrow Airport to begin my very first overseas adventure. I felt like shit warmed up and the combination of a jetlag hangover and the porter’s stinky finger wasn’t making things any better.
Indeed, a swift kick in the nuts would have been a preferable option right at that moment.
“Go on, ‘ave a sniff,” he offered. “She was a right corker you know…”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” I responded, weaving to avoid the offending digit as it sailed past my left ear.
“I’ve got a room booked in the name of Cooke. It’s been made through Contiki?”
“Ah, yeah, ‘ere we go – John Cooke, Aussie lad – room 193, ninth floor,” he answered, handing over a key attached to a wooden block the size of a brick.
“Hey, before you disappear,” he whispered with a conspiratorial leer, “tell me is that dirty bugger ‘Arold still giving it to old Marge then?”

Ten minutes later and free of the finger I was in my dreary shared room, wondering which unmade bed was mine. I settled on the one with the least amount of pubic hair under the sheets, dumped my stuff and pondered what sort of axe murderer I was rooming with. As it turned out, my hirsuite roomy failed to materialise – no doubt shedding away in some other far flung corner of the hotel.

After a futile attempt to wash away the jet lag, I headed down to the Contiki Club Bar to meet the people I was about to spend the next 56 days with. The thought of my first pint in Blighty had lifted my mood somewhat… then I found myself sharing the lift with Mr Stinky Finger. Of course we stopped at every floor.

The Contiki bar was chockers when I arrived, with more thick Aussie accents bouncing off the walls than you could poke a stick at. I grabbed a pint of Carlsberg and wandered over to the designated meeting area, taking a seat and scanning my fellow tourists. Nothing immediately registered on the “possible shag” radar, but then again, I probably sailed in well under their radar too.

No, my arrival had hardly proven a conversation stopper for the assembled antipodeans, but it was still early days and I was only halfway through my first pint. Little did I know that there was a shrimp vindaloo with my name on it bubbling away in a Tottenham Court Road eatery at that very moment...

Image: Four Riders of the Apocalypse, Daniel Truscott, 2005

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More Shark Bay pics

Thought I'd put up a few more pics from my Shark Bay trip, including a piccie of John Cooke Snr, a view looking to shore from the Blue Lagoon Pearl Farm and an evil eye shot of sharkie - note Dad's foot, complete with yellow thong in the top right hand corner!

The other pic is Dad's shadow as he's holding the handline on the pearl farm platform while I try and take a pic of the shark action in the water below - didn't work very well, but it's got a certain artistic atttraction.

If you ever get up that way, be sure and drop in for a cold beer at the Shark Bay Bowling Club!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Great Bronze Shark Hunt

An amazing three days in the wilds of Shark Bay just wouldn't be complete without a bit of shark action would it?

We launched the boat mid morning Saturday in beautiful Monkey Mia - and yes, there were dolphins swimming around our feet as we got the boat ready! - and then set off on a choppy sea towards The Blue Lagoon Pearl Farm.

The wind really gets up in Shark Bay, so we'd decided on a tour of the pearl farm first and then a spot of leisurely fishing just offshore in the bay. The farm itself is an amazingly ramshackle structure anchored a few hundred metres offshore, with its own facilities and a state-of-the-art pearl shell breeding laboratory. It also provides a much better platform for fishing than dad's big tinnie, so out came the rods, reels and handlines, along with a bag of mullies and a bucket of squid for bait.

Five minutes after the first cast the outlines of two young bronze whalers came circling the platform looking for an easy feed. Three minutes later and Dad had hooked one up, alas it spit the hook and cruised away - three times!

I switched to a smaller line and caught a young parrot fish and as I pulled it in, old sharkie had a go at it, but missed. I pulled the parrot fish in, hooked it on to the big line and hurled it back into the bay. Sure enough, sharkie was interested and bang, it hit the line and took off.

For the next 10 minutes I fought it back towards the platform, amazed to see it leap out of the water a few times, give a couple of flips and crash back into the water. Finally we hauled it on deck and were about to go the catch-and-release method, but the silly bugger rolled itself up in fishing line and we weren't going near those snapping jaws to cut it loose.

I'll tell you what though, those fresh fillets soaked in milk, rolled in flour and pan fried in virgin olive oil with garlic and chili made the effort very worthwhile.

More Shark Bay pics and tales shortly...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Shark Bay adventures

Just spent three days in remote Shark Bay, eight hours out of Perth by road, where indeed I not only saw sharks in the water, but managed to catch one on a handline and pull the bugger in. I was going to do the catch-and-release thing, but ol' sharkie - a 1.2 metre young bronze whaler - tangled himself up in fishing line and I wasn't going anywhere near that snapping jaw! Pics and full details to come shortly...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Perth is baking...

Well, we're now heading into our fifth consecutive day of 36-degree plus temperatures. It's punishingly hot - great when you can slip into something cool like the Indian Ocean, but not so great at the desk or trying to sleep at night.

Spent the long weekend up at Lancellin teaching the young bloke how to boogie board and wallowing in the ocean - superb - even lunched on a lobster to complete the scene while I watched the Dockers complete a narrow win over the Woods. Imagine playing AFL in this sort of heat!!!

Anyway, took a photo of this interesting, yet unfortuately rainless cloud that hovered above me over the weekend - at least it blocked the sun for a few fleeting minutes...