Interview: Michelle Shearer and Mamabake
Big Sky Wire
Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire. Tocday Michele Lockwood talks to Michelle Shearer.
British ex-pat, now Lennox local Michelle Shearer shares her passions about the rekindling of communal living through the pioneer founding of MamaBake, she also gives us a glimpse into her documentary surf film that is in the works and offers up some sweet vignettes on her mad flock of birds. This week’s Big Sky Wire is core proof that you never know whom that might be bobbing next to you out there in the big blue.
You grew up in England, can you tell us a bit about what life was like back home? Did you start surfing there? What led you to Australia?
Life in the UK was very different to here. It fluctuated wildly between Bacchanalian hedonism and straight-down-the-line fuckery. I wasn't really feeling like that was the right path for me for me so decided to wander further a field for shameless navel gazing and surfing. Byron Bay was mentioned a few times as a pretty unique community and that appealed to me so I decided to make a beeline for the place and settle in for a while. I got a job at the local Hare Krishna joint and there I stayed (in Byron Bay, not the cafe). I ended up in a caravan in a rainforest with Steve, barefoot and pregnant.
Lennox Head is your local break, how do you deal with the challenge of surfing around those oyster-ridden rocks and navigating the crowds?
I tend to surf away from the crowds and oyster shells. Being married to an old sea dog has its uses -he always knows a little spot I can go without lots of people. I've only surfed the Point a handful of times and when I did I got merrily gashed up – painless razor slashes –a bloody mess. The other places I surf, I've learnt to navigate around the rocks.
When it comes to getting waves out there do you ever feel it helps being a female? Or is the gender factor not an issue?
I don't think so, no. I think here they tend to see if you can surf all right – it's like a true meritocracy – you earn your place kind of thing.
Can you tell us about your project “MamaBake”, what was the inspiration behind its inception and how has it grown?
It is the movement of a group- big-batch-baking for mothers. It has grown massively since we were first listed as pioneers of the ‘collaborative consumption movement’. A movement that embraces sharing what we have instead of consuming more and more in an age of hyper-consumption.
It came about after having two kids and realising pretty quickly that the domestic burden falls mainly to the women, so I tried to think of a way around it and after a friend brought me some dinner one afternoon, I came up with ‘MamaBake’. It means mothers can share the load and have time off from cooking every night. . Women as a whole are drowning in domestics, so the idea offers a little relief from that and therefore has mass appeal.
Amidst mothering two children and all the rest, you have embarked on the making of a documentary film about older women surfers. What is the premise of the film? Why a film? Why this story? Why now?
It's a short hobby film that highlights three surfing women from Lennox Head who are between 50 and 65 years old and who surf every day. They bring a beautiful quality to a very male dominated line-up. Their demographic is one that gets entirely overlooked by the surf media, which is amazing to me. Whenever we see female surfers in the media they are of a very narrow and specific demographic and I felt like a little something should be made about these older women and the friendship they have as a result of surfing. The idea started out huge but has had to be narrowed down somewhat for obvious reasons. It's taking me ages...
You are a bit of a bird lady. Tell us about the flock of parrots that live in and around your home. (How did you first begin to ‘keep’ them, what are their temperaments like, are they ever as intimidating as they seem?)
I love my parrots. We have four now and they are all free- flying and incredibly intelligent. There's research now that shows that parrots have way more intelligence than we ever believed. Not Dexter though.
So I went into a pet shop one day with a chum of mine who was seeking fish food. Dull, I wandered off to the front counter where a pair of beautiful white birds were sitting. One of them hopped over to me and started nibbling my ear and I took him home with me that afternoon. I'm not really a pet shop person but I made an exception that time. That is how I met Pippi who is an Albino Ringneck. He's come on many a camping trip with us and one night was smuggled into the Pacific Hotel at Yamba where we sought refuge from a storm. He likes to sit on the steering wheel as we drive and go round and round. Pippi taught all our parrots to fly.
Then Dexter was next. I used to drive past Dexter who lived outside someone's house and one day left a note for his owner letting them know that I would love to have him if they were ever looking to re-home him. I got a call that same day and he came home with us. He's supposed to be really intelligent. He can be the most intimidating because he has a big beak. He applies a vice like pressure when you piss him off, finale-ing with a bite that could take your finger off. He doesn't do that anymore.
Henry is a Green-cheeked Conure – he started out being a little shit but he's great now – a mesmerisingly good flyer – he's the red devil of them all – he ducks and weaves all those dastardly Currawongs. Steve snuggles him up in the morning like a little baby. He loves it, that is, Henry loves it.
Then we have Benny, who is another Indian Ringneck. He only came on the scene in recent weeks but has fitted into the flock really well. He's very welcome here.
They attract all the local Lorikeets and Eastern Rosellas who swoop down and feed with them and sometimes land on our heads to see what we're all about.
Lastly, if you could have a super power what would it be?
To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog here.
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