When I first spoke with the author, Graham Whittaker, I had not yet grabbed a copy of his memoir. I had assumed and that is a very bad thing, that it would be a bit of a travelogue about his touring in Australia. I was not expecting what I got. I should mention, too, I seldom read blurbs. I was not expecting to enjoy a category I seldom read or wanted to read. Real life tends to be dreary.
I did know from Graham Whittaker’s interviews that he was going to be an engaging and interesting writer. I had no idea I would be shaken to the core with his story. This book gives an insight into the highs and lows of a survival lifestyle in the untamed areas of New South Wales in Australia.
This book for me was a fast page turner but one where I needed to digest each section because each portion is rich in emotion. There was one section that cut me to the heart and that one I had to nurse for days. This is a book you want to keep to revisit, one where the players are indeed real and become part of your world because you are drawn deeply into Whittaker’s world.
Graham Whittaker has a sister book to be published in late October, entitled Travels in Charlotte – I am fortunate to present a chapter here below
Travels in Charlotte
Mumbles spent so long attempting to break a beer bottle on the sandy soil at the Golden Orchid Caravan Park that he forgot whose face he was going to shove it into.
The Golden Orchid was directly across the road from the Top Pub. Mumbles was banned. Just as he was from the Middle pub, and the Bottom pub.
The old caravan in which he lived had pretty much rotted to the ground. As long as he paid his rent every Thursday, or Friday, or Saturday, whenever he was the most conscious, that was okay. Cooktown was short on population between late November and late February. The majority of residents of the Golden Orchid who had stayed on had nowhere else to run to.
Only the incredible fishing off the Cooktown wharf made the heat and humidity bearable. The monsoonal rain too, forced us all to wear as little clothing as possible.
Mumbles could stagger down the main street, his filthy long hair scattering droplets, Ned Kelly Beard as unkempt as any rat-breeding nest, and greasy from gnawing on brisket bones. There was, of course not another soul in sight.
Anyone who had happened across the unappealing spectacle would slip into a shop doorway and refuse to acknowledge Mumbles the naked banshee.
He was, dear companion, a murderer.
Mumbles’ brain, someone said, had been blended and served with vodka decades ago. The two policemen in Cooktown had found a way to deal with his violent outbursts. He could easily be diverted with loud shouts of “Crocodile! Crocodile!” Crocs fascinated mumbles.
He had worked himself into a lather. The campfire, sodden in the monsoonal rain gave the half dozen others a reason to pretend to be moving everything undercover with haste.
Then there was me. “Mumbles! Mumbles! maaate! What you doing son?” He was now hitting himself over the head with the bottle and feeling no pain.”Gnr fkn killenfricker!” Hence the name Mumbles.
“Aw! Come on son!” Holding my hand palm up against his head so that the apparently unbreakable bottle slapped it hard. It hurt.
“Stop worrying mate!” I said gently. Mumbles, as with many feral creatures had an ability to sense fear. To a feral animal, fear often means attack. “Let’s go get a drink eh?” Now with an arm around his shoulders, not quite gagging from the smell of him.
“Nah! You won’t do that Mumbles.”
“Gonnafkn killyer!” He repeated.
“Okay. Just remember that I will kill you right back.” With the bottle out of danger, I tossed it at the waste bin, big and green, ten yards away. A top shot actually. Straight in.
Mumbles adorned his face, what anybody could see of it, with a puzzled frown. “Whatyawannakillmefer?” He was genuinely puzzled. “Because you said you were gonna kill me?”
Mumbles laughed deep in his throat. “Hey! Yergottasee this!” He yelled. “This longstreakopiss gonna kill me!”
My arms tightened around his shoulders, at the same time guiding him towards his dump of a caravan. “Bravestfukr around this place!” He was shouting. “Gonnakill me!” Then he turned, laid his head on my shoulder, and allowed me to quietly lead him through the door, (what was left of it,) and push him gently onto what appeared to be a large mound of dirty washing, but was in fact the squab on which he slept. Curling up in a foetal position he muttered “Whatyer wanna killmefer?” Ridiculously, I noticed he was weeping. I put a hand gently on his shoulder. “But only if you kill me first Mumbles. You gotta kill me first.”
“Me mate.” He was actually articulate. “You longstreakopish!” And then he was snoring. What’s few people never noticed was that Mumbles responded to the gentle touch. So, from then on, even when the police were on to it, it was I who got the call to settle him down.