Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, September 29, 2008

Life at the pointy end

This is a photograph of what a passenger in business class looks like after ten hours in the air. There’s a certain lack of actual stress evident, even though she’s clearly sitting in the old style seat that was a relic from the days of steam rather than one of the more modern capsules for passenger comfort. I suspect the frequently filled glasses and canapes to order more than made up for any actual discomfort, not that there was any felt, unless of course one fell asleep and woke with an imprint of one’s pearls on one’s chin.

This stylish travel experience is in rather stark contrast to the earliest experience of the youngest of our offspring, who the observant will note, was the subject of a wry comment or two after the last post. (That is to say the most recent post on this blog and not to be confused with the soulful bugle tune popularised at dawn on ANZAC day.)

When our youngest bobbed onto the scene, we determined that our scruffy hoard had grown to the extent that as our progeny now outnumbered the number of hands we had available after each carrying a bag of life’s necessities, our former world girdling ways could be quite hampered, so we contented ourselves with nautical pursuits for many years.

More years than we realised apparently, as the youngest was well into her teens and to be fair to her, she had even learned which way was up on a fish shop ticket, by the first time she saw the inside of a commercial aircraft.

Many people will know that aircraft are usually boarded at what is euphemistically known as “the pointy end” and although that name is a complete misnomer, most understand that on boarding a plane one first must tip toe through the velvet lounges which are the first and business class seats, before reaching somewhat lesser standards of space and comfort which seem to diminish in direct proportion to the distance from the cockpit.

She apparently didn’t count among that number.

On entering the metal tube, thrust as she was into those sumptuous surrounds she made a quick mental count of the seating arrangements, and quite publicly expressed her disappointment in noting that the seats were so big and so far apart that they wouldn’t be able to sit together, her mother her sister and she.

Fortunately her disappointment was very short lived, lasting bout as long as it takes to get to the very last row in an aircraft. Where the toilet is usually located.

The real pointy end. The seat was so far back in the aircraft, they were ushered to assume the emergency brace position just so they’d be able to sit in their seats without bumping their heads.

The reality of international travel was about to hit home.

At the other end of the travel naivity scale, her eldest sister but one, as a somewhat world weary four year old some years before had joined her kindy group on a tour of an airport, during which the tiny horde was shepherded to all corners of an aircraft, and even served light refreshments while seated in the passenger positions on board.

While her parents were trying to elicit news of the days adventure later in the evening, and wondering why it seemed all so underwhelming, she simply rolled her eyes and replied “We didn’t even go anywhere.”

Friday, September 26, 2008


I know it's an oldie, and yes I know I took liberties as the father of the bride when telling it, but it was really used, if you recall to describe the compatibility of the two young people in question.

I'd tell the whole story, this is the bit about her, but it's more fun knowing that he'll be squirming in angst ridden discomfort until the second part is released, perhaps in a few minutes, or perhaps never.

I was reminded of it while cleaning up the street number above, a found item whose history is safe until next week, and since this is the first time I think, since I decided that I would meet a regular publishing day that I've missed it, it's time for the to wheel out a "ready made".

We were in the local fish and chip shop, my youngest daughter and I, (clearly it was my turn to prepare a meal), waiting amid the wafting smells of seafood boiling in an ocean of vegetable oil. One other customer hovered just outside the doorway, but apart from that the town was deserted, as though it had been evacuated in the aftermath of some monstrous natural disaster.

"Number four" called the cheery voice from behind the counter in an accent that showed just a hint of Vietnamese.

"Oh no", enquired the youngest, by then an almost mathematical prodigy, but some years before her collection of University Papers began to litter the walls,"We're going to be here all night!"

"Why?" I inquired, looking around and failing to notice anyone other than the aforementioned doorway hoverer, who clearly was next in line before us.

It was at that moment I realised that while there are the sort of people in life who believe their glass to be half full, and there are the sort of people who believe it to be half empty, there are also the sort of people who read their fish shop queue docket upside down.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bin Etiquette

Wheelie Bins were designed to hold hippopotami I’ve heard it said, or was it that they will hold as much as a hippopotamus, I’m not quite sure?

Well I am reasonably sure actually, as having spent the goodliest part of Friday fitting six cubic metres of Jenna and Steve’s former stuff into a three cubic metre skip, I had plenty of time to contemplate wheelie bins, and their impact on our lives.

I’ve never been one who’s been happy wasting even a cubic centimetre of wheelie space, and given that we pay by the year to have one bin full of stuff removed each week, if the truck arrives to collect it and it isn’t absolutely brim chock a block full, I get a strange sinking feeling somewhere in the depths of my being, to the effect that we are having advantage taken of us. Sadly of late, with the onset of age, recycling and an absence of time at home and visitors in the household, the bin has been trundled to the footpath on more than one occasion, with more than enough room for a family of Hippos.

It’s not at all like the good old days, when if I’d had a pile of debris the size of Jenna and Steve’s, it would have all gone into the bin. Eventually.

Sure it might have taken months to get rid of it all, but rid we would be, and I’d even top up the neighbour’s bins in the process, so they too could feel good about themselves if perchance they’d noticed a teeny gap between lid and top of load.

We’ve had tonnes of bricks removed, twenty at a time to keep down the weight, and we know from personal experience that a monster television will fit exactly sideways into green plastic bin once it’s legs have been removed.

The fridge required a little more enthusiasm, but with the aid of a good axe to dismantle it into bite sized pieces, it was gone in three weeks.

Probably the most challenging object to exit using this technology was the half ton industrial photocopier that ceased functioning within a few minutes of nine of us carrying it up the stairs. We couldn’t give it away, and it was going to cost a small fortune to take it to the dump, not to mention the necessity of finding another nine souls who didn’t realise just how heavy and cumbersome it was.

Thanks to the miracle of the modern battery screw driver, it quite quickly came to pieces week by week, into handy chunks, small enough to carry and fit you know where. Some of the chunks were so small they even filled the spaces between the other refuse, and the screws neatly wedged it all together whenever a crack appeared due to subsiding vegetable peel.

Unfortunately, we lived in exactly the place where the garbage collector began his day.

Our bin was the very first to be lifted and tipped, the contents had the full height of the high sided truck to fall, and not so much as a single potato peel already in place to dampen the sound as each week enough metal to keep China in car production for a year, or a formerly intact a television set or refrigerator, or the entire lower story of a block of flats landed triumphantly on the bare steel floor.

Even more unfortunately for those who considered five am to be a particularly unpleasant time to be woken by a loud resonant clanging and banging, the fully enclosed steel body acted as an amplifying echo chamber too, turning the entire vehicle into a massive drum.

We were often awake at five on garbage collection days, although we spent the time very silently, crouched indoors, hiding in embarrassment and hoping that no one connected all that noise to us.

Perhaps they didn't connect the noise to us at all, perhaps they simply thought it was old Mrs Solomon from across the road taking her hippos for a walk.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


OK it's tasteless to even discuss it, but so what?

Now that they are coming to a close may I say that I have nothing but admiration for all the competitors in the Paralympics, and there are some wonderful examples of masterful feats and courage and all that sort of stuff. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to travel and to compete with people with similar ability.

I even know a couple of people who have competed in games past, and they are brilliant folk, who tend to think of themselves as "differently abled" rather than disabled, which of course leaves me terribly discriminated against.

At first glance I do appear to be "similarly abled" to the athletes in the real games, but in reality I am disabled by virtue of the fact that I can't run as fast, jump as high, or keep in time with anyone I jump off a diving board with. No matter how hard I've trained or tried, I've never beaten anyone at anything that can be remotely considered to be sport.

I can’t run as fast as the one legged runners, can’t swim as fast as that amazing bloke with no arms, and can’t see the ball as well as those blind goalball players, even with their eyes taped over, and I'm certain that even if I could throw a javelin as far as those blind athletes, I certainly couldn't throw it as straight.

Shouldn't there be an event or two for me to compete with other similarly hopelessly uncoordinated, genetically unsuitable "differently abled" people at our own level too? Why are we left to wallow in our own unfulfilled dreams of competing on the world stage, just because we are hopeless?

Many sports have grades of competition at a local level after all, my friend Rod won his golf club B grade competition last week, which means that he got a prize for being the best of the second best lot, when all but the winner in the best lot didn’t.

Why can’t we ALL compete internationally at our own level, at the people’s games?

I wouldn’t mind having a go at synchronised swimming I think, although I’d be terrible at it and I admit that the thought of being beaten by a team comprising two limbless, one palsied, and a blind girl all sloshing about to music is just a bit too much to contemplate.

Perhaps I should contact the girl who was sent home because she wasn’t blind enough, and the wheelchair basketballers who were disqualified when it was discovered they could walk, and see if we can find a category of disability that would allow us to compete on the world stage.

Perhaps a “Blistered thumb from video gaming” might be the start of a whole new sporting movement.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Naming inanimate objects is a mysterious custom. Just why certain people see fit to call their car “Karen” instead of “my green Suzuki” is something that I can’t quite fathom.

In some parts of the world and in that particular time in history before street numbering was invented there was arguably some relevance to providing names for buildings. Telling people you lived in “Windsor Castle” is ever so much more impressive than “16A High Street”.

The custom lived on through history though, and even the most humble of abodes took on personalities of their own through their simple nomenclature. Over generations there were so many “Rose Cottages” and “Vicarages” that new and increasingly original means of identifying properties were invented, reaching something of a climax I think with the mysterious ‘Chunda Lu”, a fibro beach house which sat for at least a century on the highway at Burleigh, tucked quietly under the hill.

Often, in the elusive quest for originality and perhaps relevance, parts of the occupants names were mashed together in an invented word which phonetically reminded one of a place far, far away. My maternal grandparents lived in a succession of houses called “Wilmaur” an altogetherly respectable and suitably sounding melding of the first syllables of their surnames :Wilson and Maurice.

I wonder if “Suevic Flats” in Coolum would lose its vaguely exotic aura should one actually meet Sue or Vic?

The naming of resort properties causes particular angst among those who are charged with such duty. Of course it’s all about marketing, and enticing one to dream that truly one is in St Tropez or on Costa del Sol, and not at 27 Brisbane Road, Caloundra no matter how surreal that circumstance may be.

Which reminds me of one particularly frothy afternoon a long time ago, I attended a marketing meeting convened by arty agency types who these days would turn up dressed in nought but black, which come to think of it is exactly how they were dressed even then.

To a man, they bubbled about the research, and the undoubted popularity in the marketplace of the Australian Aboriginal language, citing recent commercial successes with buildings named Ballah and Allungah, which could well have been the Kom-bumerri people’s words for “Sue and Vic” for all we knew.

They asked for some suggestions for aboriginal names for the twin towers.

I offered the names of the only two Australian aborigines I knew at the time:

“How about Lionel and Kevin?”.

The room fell silent, there was a sort of dull snicker from somewhere in the direction of my client, and the black attired ones seemed to be concentrating very hard indeed to hide their displeasure.

And that as they say in the classics, is how the project came to be named:


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Saving Forests

Opening junk mail can be a strangely satisfying experience I’m sure, particularly when it’s offering glimpses of a world one would normally barely dare to dream of.

Of course the promoters of Art Unions various are quite aware of my susceptibility to their unrelenting temptations and ply me often with vast quantities of opportunities to “Win”, whether it be the trip of a lifetime, the home of my dreams, or merely my choice of seven cars.

Clearly their technique of bombarding all and sundry with pretty brochures and reams of printed papers is financially viable, if not a little disturbing if you happen to be a tree.

There is one particular organisation which sends me an envelope every six weeks or so, jam packed with flyers and posters espousing the virtues of their particular prize choice of the month. The choice is always a house or apartment of substantial value, and I enjoy taking a few minutes to cast a professional eye over the intricacies of the design, before deciding that I couldn’t live with it and discard the entire contents.

It is always at the point of release that I realise that the impossible has been achieved. Each month someone manages to cram two and a half entire paper baskets full of waste into one small DL envelope. Each month I feel terrible about the cost and waste and carbon emissions and global warming and am prompted to pick up my keyboard and fire off my protestation to someone.


And each month in the process of ditching it all I get to the return envelope they so thoughtfully enclose, and feel the unpolished brown recycled paper and see the little frog logo and the thoughtfully printed “enviromail”, no doubt in carbon neutral organic ink, and I just know the world is safe.



Thank goodness. Without that I'd start to believe it was all just waste.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Gone to Lunch

Perhaps some will recall mention I made a few weeks ago of Dot, an artist working away within a work of someone else’s art.

It may be that Mr Solokov had deliberately provided the framework for any number of whimsical pieces during the course of his exhibition, but I like to think that there was an ever so tiny piece of anarchy happening from within the exhibit itself.

Performance art meets Pop.

I think I'll call the next one "Back in Ten Minutes"

Things it seems weren’t all that they seemed within the gallery either, because while by day she was content to slave away with her pot of white paint, by night she was splashing colour round getting ready for an exhibition of her own.

For those with an inclination toward such things, I’m sure she’ll appreciate a visit starting tomorrow (Tuesday) night, details below.

Two New Views:
including paintings of Glebe, Newtown, Narrabeen and Carcoar.
Sept 9 to 14

More information.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fathers' Day

I'm not sure about the need to celebrate Father's day.

There's enough pleasure to be derived from just being in that predicament without having to be reminded of it with a new pair of socks, although that is not to say that it's not appreciated, nor that the odd or even quite frequent bar of chocolate between the annual events would go astray in allaying fears of one's inadequacies as a Dad.

My own father was somewhat less demonstrative than some would have one believe is the standard for fatherly expression, and probably for that reason I value, (rather than the terribly unblokey "cherish") both of the times I can recall when his guard dropped briefly to allow a verbal expression of (shudder) love for his offspring. There was certainly an underlying concern and pride and other apparently unspeakable emotions lurking just below the surface, seen but not heard, and sadly he seemed completely lacking the ability to express them, at least verbally, until that fateful night after the birth of our second child.

In those days fathers and grandfathers for that matter, weren't allowed anywhere near the 'secret women's business' surrounding the first weeks of life of a new infant, so we were standing outside what amounted to a shop window, staring in at three rows of cribs, wondering at our extraordinary good fortune that ours (third from the left, middle row) shone out so remarkably above all the others in every respect. With us was our eldest daughter/granddaugher, exactly two years of age and behaving as only the cleverest, prettiest and cutest of two year olds can do.

I looked at both my progeny, and then at him, and remarked that it had been a wonderful two years, with never a day passing without something special happening. Some new piece of learning, a cute expression, a copied action, it was all too wonderful to comprehend.

"When does that phase stop?" I enquired.

He looked me square in the eye, and if it hadn't been a sissy sort of observation, I would have sworn I saw the makings of a tear forming in one of his, and he replied:

"I don't know. It hasn't yet."

It was simply the nicest, mushiest thing he'd ever said in my earshot, and now, almost thirty years later, with the merest hint of blurred vision as I recall that moment, I can confirm he was absolutely correct!

Happy Father's Day kiddies!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I love this place because...

Last week on a whim, I entered a competition.

It must be a sign of my advancing years or something as until earlier this year, I'd never done that before, and my inexperience tells in the way I scrupulously abide by the rules as published.

In the first one, I got an honourable mention for writing about the computer I was using at the time, but I made the mistake of getting my entry in at the very last minute, just before the competition deadline was mysteriously extended, when I could have taken more time and entered a week later. I didn't actually want the prize in that affair, so I was fortunate when the judges decided to award it to an entrant whose circumstances turned out to be such that they were quite deserving of it, though that entry was well over the word limit set in the rules and entered beyond the original deadline.

There are some absolutely brilliant entries in the current one as well, which require a photograph containing an element of the built environment and a maximum of 100 words explaining "why I love this place", and while I'm not for a minute expecting another honourable mention, I must admit in an effort to further my "art" I might have rather pushed the context of "love" in one or two of my entries to the extent that had I enough spare words I should perhaps of added "and of course I'll respect you in the morning".

Things don't bode well for success either. Three hundred odd entries including mine were happily lodged on Flickr exactly on time, only to see the competition extended by a week, allowing a further four hundred of what turns out to be the cleverest photographers and writers in the country sufficient time to finely hone their hand crafted masterpieces while effectively preventing the punctual among us from last minute changes of heart.

Perhaps the organisers have been inspired by Fiona O’Loughlin's response when she was asked why she had so many children and she replied "we're not stopping until we get one we like"!

We really do like Joan and Ian's place (pictured) quite a lot though!:

I love this place because it provides a refuge not just from the subtropical climate of our own home but from the present time itself.

Burnbrae was originally a guesthouse in the Blue Mountains. It isn’t a grandly restored manor but an honest building preserved by the sympathetic stewardship of its few successive owners, each providing modest concession to their current time without disguising the patina hard-won over more than a century of passing guests.

This view of the library, it’s interior distorted through ancient glass, exudes the warmth that is within.

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