8.00 am on New Year’s Eve and I am sitting on a table at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, while Woody takes a phone call from his accountant.
It is not where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be riding south on a gnarly yellow GS, not sitting looking at a placid harbour. I am between bikes. The ailing GS has been returned, and, rather than leave me in Rockingham with a book, Woody has taken responsibility for me for the day. He says that he doesn’t mind at all, that it will be a good opportunity to see how Trac Tor, his immense new Kawasaki, copes with a pillion. It is possible that he is just being polite and he would rather be at home with his wife and a glass of wine than entertaining me until Colin arrives back at Witch Suzuki to rent me a Bandit. But I choose to believe him. I spent too long with a man who would brood on every statement until he could turn it into something dark. It is not a habit I wish to acquire. Woody says he has done well out of life and now he enjoys helping people. I enjoy being helped, although, like cream cakes or tanning, it is something I ought only to indulge in sparingly. He is an entertaining and informative guide. He came to Australia as a young man with half his family – they only had enough money to pay for one parent to emigrate. He began as a policeman, and later became a very successful businessman, though the day is quite well advanced before he lets this slip. In Fremantle he tells me about the Kailis brothers, who own a fishing fleet, and a restaurant, and now a pearl business. In Scarborough and Cottesloe he tells me about Alan Bond, who made himself a rich man by spending other people’s money. Over coffees and lemon squash we talk about families, and bikes, and from my immense, comfy seat I watch the beautiful people on the beaches, and the trees which now have to be called Grasstrees, and the charcoal-and-ash fire breaks, and the windmills, and Woody doesn’t even let me pay for lunch as a thank you.