The stories of strangers. My spirits are always lifted by them. Funny, sad, thrilling, shocking, they are confirmation that the fabric of life is indeed a rich one.
This is Des. He fishes down at the point every morning. I know he seems far away but he really didn’t want his photo taken. I began hearing his stories after asking him if he ever caught much. I also wondered if he ate what he caught because everyone knows you shouldn’t eat anything caught in the Harbour because of the high incidence of heavy metals in the water.
Des began telling me stories of what the waterfront was like when he was a boy. The waters were abundant with fish of all kinds. Bream, flathead, yellowjackets, orange roughies; even prawns. People used to fish there all the time. Many people were able to feed their families on what they caught.
The waterfront was still a working port when Des was a young man. If a man happened to be short of a dollar or two he could speak to one of the foremen at the port authority and get a day’s work. Good money too.
The mangroves grew right up to the water. Bird life abounded, there were even heron and sandpipers. Crabs popped up and down in rhythm like the valves in pipe organs.
Where the waterfront apartments are – apartments that cost up to two million a piece – there were artists’ studios. The Blackwattle Studios. On a still day you could smell the oil paints and hear the canvas being stretched. Rumour had it that the legendary Brett Whiteley painted there on occasion and his paintings sold for more money than a man could hope to earn in his lifetime.
As well as being a fisherman and a great teller of stories, Des is a bit of an eco warrior. He regularly trawls the waters in the bay for what he sees as the bane of modern existence – plastic. Sometimes his little boat is filled to the brim with slimy, filthy plastic that has been thoughtlessly thrown away. He is on a quest to get NSW Maritime to clean up the waters. I have no doubt that he will succeed.
I have gleaned an entire history of the place I live from making a passing comment while walking one morning. It is one of the things I love about life – sharing knowledge and experiences. The stories of strangers. Another thing that lifts my spirits.