Ages ago, I said that Sarah Toa was- in my opinion - the best writer around in the Bogosphere that I was aware of (with Amy Saia an extremely close second), and now she has been signed up for a book, as she was yelling in my ear a while ago. My ears are still ringing.
People like this make me wish I was an old-school publisher, but at least the old school renew my faith in their profession, every now and then.
Here's one extract from Sarah's blogs. Like I keep saying, I can smell the sea when I read it.
Interview with a Fisherwoman - 3
When she was two years old and living on the island, her father would put her in a wicker basket and lower her on a rope down the long walls of granite to the groper hole.
He was a strong man and a lighthouse keeper.
He would climb down after her and together they berleyed up crabs and abalone roe.
Some of the groper were as big as he. He’d climb back up the rock with the tracer over his shoulder, hauling the creature out of the sea.
“We used to eat fish every day, and rabbits. Loads of rabbits on Eclipse Island. The Kestrel only came out every few weeks with supplies, firewood, kero, flour, all that stuff, so we ate whatever was around.”
As a family they worked sharking at Hammelin Bay and rarely went past the little island for prey. It has always been a popular holiday spot and I think netting is now banned there. “So many sharks! Right where everyone swam and mucked about.” She showed me a photograph of her as a kid, surrounded in shark carcasses slung from racks and lying in the sand at her feet.
Black and white photographs of huge sharks, the images peeled at the edges, sometimes a date, names and other details neatly typed on a separate piece of paper and glued carefully beneath the fish – I see these pictures often when talking to older fishers.
Far from macho posings, the commercial fishers tended to take pictures of women wearing shady hats and aprons, or children with bleached, wild hair sitting astride a monster that they hooked off the beach or dragged out of the salmon net. Women and their daughters have always been part of the action.
“I was snigging salmon up the beach when I was two years old,” Ms Mer tells me proudly.