J’s nine with wine featuring Pete (Petel) Layt
It’s a cool night outside, the stars are shining and a waxing gibbous moon illuminates the nearby ice cliffs. Again the wine remains on a shelf in the bar as Pete hands me a James Squire Golden Ale (top-shelf according to our interviewee). We conduct the interview in the dog room, surrounded by guitars. I move three of Cookie’s instruments and recline in the plush leather chair. Pete looks at me like ‘come on man, I’m ready to talk’. Alright — pen poised and feet on table we begin.
You’ve done Casey, Davis and are now here at Mawson. What keeps bringing you back down here, and is Macca on the to-do list?
'Cause I’m allowed! Cause the wife will let me…
We both ‘man-chuckle'.
I like it. I like being here. This place has a lot of different aspects than the others. The penguins, the ice cliffs. It pretty much has everything all in one spot. As for Macca - yeah, that’s my intention. Maybe not a long one though. Just a short winter or summer. Whose knows? I reckon Macca just for the wildlife would be pretty specky. Its good coming back here. Every trip is different. I don’t really have expectations so it’s pretty easy.
Your right into music and love listening to it all the time.
Pete becomes enthusiastic now and informs me he likes hard rock — or well that’s what he calls it. I finish the question.
Has this always been the way and what are some of your musical highlights?
Oh yeah, since high school. I started to listen to the old bands back then. I guess they weren’t old back then. Yeah I guess It was a privilege back then to listen to new tracks such as ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or even Jimmy Hendrix when he was alive — to be one of the first to listen to tracks that are now old classics. Seeing the big name acts is pretty cool like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Sound Garden, Status Quo, Jethro Tull, The Sweet, Chuck berry, U2.
I Ask about ACDC and Pete casually informs me…
Yeah I saw them and a few others, just as pub bands like Midnight Oil, INXS, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Sky Hooks and stuff.
Well Pete, I for one am jealous.
Yeah music has been a big part of my life. It’s rubbed off on my kids as well.
You’re an east coast boy (southern NSW) ripping it up somewhere near Batemans Bay. Has this always been your playground and what is your favourite surf spot?
Yeah Batemans Bay, Ulladulla. I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. I didn’t spend much time there. My mates and I used to go to the beach by train. Once we got our licenses we would drive further south to places like Wollongong and Kiama and later further south still. As for my favourite spot? Well maybe I shouldn’t say. You can get in a lot of trouble with the locals for naming a good secret spot.
Cool, Pete. I respect and understand that.
Lets just call it ‘spot X'. Yeah, spot X is just down the road as are a lot of good breaks back home. Spot X is a little left-hander that breaks over a reef. It’s got little barrels — yeah.
Yeah here too! We both start to get that glazed look that only a surfer can get. It’s like the thousand mile stare soldiers are known to get, but with us it’s a magical revelry that foreshadows all other comprehension shown in our eyes — hmmm, peeling left-hander. Picture Homer Simpson drooling over a doughnut. That’s us! We end up talking about the surfing for another ten minutes at least.
Back to Antarctica now. You seem very enthusiastic about getting out and seeing our winter wonderland. Any highlights?
I reckon the first aurora would be a highlight. The first iceberg we ever saw, coming into Davis. The first piece of ice in the water we ever saw — you know the little um, bergy bits - you knew you were getting closer and closer to station and the continent. Well actually almost anything really. The sheer size of the place. When you go up in a helicopter or plane and have a look down, it’s then that you realise just how small the stations really are and just how huge the continent really is. The biggest highlights would have to be the aurora and first iceberg for sure. There are so many great things like the days that never end when the sun is up all the time, and how well established we are. Like how large the stations actually are. Very substantial buildings. The whole process of coming down here was pretty amazing as well. Like putting your application in and getting accepted, then going through selection centre and getting accepted, then doing your medicals and psych and getting accepted, then coming down here. It’s all very cool. It’s a long process but very exciting. I actually had three tickets to go and see Ozzy Osbourne on the night of the selection centre — it was a tough choice! Well, I ended up giving the tickets to my wife, son and youngest daughter. I still haven’t seen Ozzy yet.
He says this with a smirk on his face.
You’re a chippy down here (and BSS — Building Services Supervisor). Have you always been one and what sort of projects have you worked on?
Yip. I’ve always been. I’ve been a chippy for about 40 odd years now. And yeah man, I started off on really big stuff as an apprentice. Multi-story sky scraper stuff in Sydney, commercial, industrial, churches, sports centres and cottages and stuff — yeah and hospitals, Hoyts cinema centre. I spose I’ve covered all the bases really.
We start to talk about the building game and some of the pitfalls that can happen.
I helped my boy finish his house just before I came down here. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.
Pete then tells me about the house he built and how when he started small and just kept adding on and how he slept in a shed for two years while doing it. This goes on for a while. I sit back and enjoy his story — he’s got a lot of cool stories.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Oh, um, ah, I don’t know? Um, it’s good to be here. It’s a good crew.
Where is Cookie or Cliff? My first uninterrupted interview!
Pete, thanks for the stories man. I really enjoyed listening to them. Check out some of Pete’s photos if you have a chance. Not only can he wield a hammer but also has a Midas touch on the shutter button.