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smoked cod, cliff richards and living dolls

Ed is one of the regulars who fish the Ballina boardwalk for blackfish most days, that’s after an hour down Wardell way cropping for a bag of sea-lettuce, something the luderick find tasty.

Not today though, the south-easter is blowing too hard and the Richmond is full of mud after the rains. So it’s the TAB and a corner stool in the Australian. Ed likes a beer and a bet when there’s no fish for the biting. Problem is, is that when Ed can’t eat fresh fish he gets testy.

He’s about sixty something, big, solid, tattoos creeping out of his shirt and up his neck, another couple on his bare skull, more on his fingers and what you can see of his forearms. Nobody fucks around with Ed, this is gospel. Especially the young bloke who was working the deli counter in Woolworths when Ed  went shopping for a fish feed early this morning.

‘Give us a kilo of smoked cod, will ya?’ said Ed, who never asks.

The young bloke looked into the sea-food cabinet which was only quarter-full with a tray of year-old prawns from Thailand, another of filleted white-fish imported from a river farm in Vietnam six months ago and in the middle a tray of smoked cod from Outer Mongolia. Three trays. One yellow. How hard can it be?

The kid looked them all over, looked up at Ed and shrugged.

‘Sorry mate, don’t have any today.’

Ed pointed.

‘What the fuck do you call that?’

The kid looked again.



The kid looks at the smoked cod. Who knows what he thinks it is.

‘Grab the sign stuck in the tray there,’ says Ed, ‘the one with the price on it. Whatsit say?’

The kid is getting a little antsy now. Yanks out the sign. Reads it. Ed’s thinking a high school education in Ballina isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

‘It says smoked cod.’

‘Congratulations, Einstein.’

‘How much do you want?’


There is only one radio station in this town and if a man was to lay out their playlist end to end he’s looking at about one hundred numbers. Twenty of them being Tom Jones and the rest a compilation of Abba, Cliff Richards and the Beatles.

This morning they were playing Living Doll by Cliff Richards again. We get this punishment daily. It’s very debilitating.

Cathy answered the phone.

‘Good morning,’ she chirped, ‘can I help you?’

‘You know that song you’ve just played, Living Doll?’


‘Do you know what it’s about?’

‘No, are you going to tell me?’

Blackfish bite like that, they have lovely soft mouths.

‘Have you ever read the lyrics?’

‘No, can’t say I have.’


‘It’s about a travelling salesman and his sex doll.’


Got myself a crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living doll
Got to do my best to please her, just ’cause she’s a living doll
Got a roving eye and that is why she satisfies my soul
Got the one and only walking talking, living doll

Take a look at her hair, it’s real
And if you don’t believe what I say, just feel
I’m gonna lock her up in a trunk
So no big hunk can steal her away from me ..


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