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the catspaw

We live high above the Richmond River, a handsome sweep of water treacherous at the mouth but benign inside the entrance. Deep and broad, it winds upstream from Ballina past Coraki then Casino to where it rises at Mt. Lindesay in the McPherson Range.

Some days are wasted in their completeness as we watch it move up and back with the tides.

Yesterday a pale manta ray crossed our vision as it flared up to the surface. Last week a bullshark surfaced for an instant with a fat Jewfish clamped in its teeth. Pelicans glide past, weightless, monarchs of the air. Hundreds of gulls squabble all night on a sting-ray shaped, mid river mudflat that sits a hundred yards offshore  in the Straits of Ramada.*

Other days, depending on the condition of the water’s surface, a minute and express right-hander peels for 300 feet down a shoreline sand spit every time one of the local trawlers passes by.


The afternoon sun reflects hard off the river and through the lounge room window in late summer, and to combat the glare, especially when sitting back watching an hour or two of television before dinner, we place a rattan screen against the inside of the window. Then move a marble-topped coffee table into its shadow and place the new Panasonic 42″ 4K UHD LED LCD Smart TV upon the table.

Everything hunky-dory.

Pour the drinks, plump up the cushions, keep the novel, iPad and iPhone handy then sit back and enjoy an array of life’s simple pleasures. Netflix, Raymond Chandler and a triple Bacardi with Bundaberg Lemonade and a squeeze of fresh lime.

The sliding door by the screen open just a shade to catch what little breeze drifts across the river from the east.

And outside a sudden catspaw roils the surface then speeds towards the shore, towards our open window. Then through the window. Into the room where we recline, it’s progress accelerated when it senses escape up the steep incline of stairs and the freedom that beckons from the open windows on the top deck.

Airflow. Wind is like water and cats cannot be contained.

The invigorated catspaw breathed around the back of the rattan screen. The rattan screen slowly toppled forward on a gravity induced path only to be momentarily checked by the top-edge of the new Panasonic 42″ 4K UHD LED LCD Smart TV set handsomely upon the marble-topped coffee table. Then that too toppled forward, now ridden hard by the screen, both heading for a landing on the table just as my wife, in a brave attempt to arrest the threatening carnage, trapped two fingers in the rescue attempt. A brave little woman my wife of fifty-three years, and not prone to insincere language in normal circumstances.

The replacement TV, I’m told, will cost me $300 more than the one with a shattered screen.


  • So named by the local sailing squadron as the winds about the Ballina Ramada Hotel often prove too fluky to read.

The Ramada Straits, looking south to Mobbs Bay.

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