Legends from our own lunchtimes

Friday, December 31, 2010


Suddenly the end of the year is here.

It seemed to take so long while it was happening, yet surely it was just yesterday that Mr Three as he was then, told me about the fireworks "last night".   It's a happy accident I think, that as we began the year with the youngest of the clan, we close it with the oldest staying with us, if not on the mattress on our bedroom floor.

She will be eighty-five next year, all being well and by then, the great-grandmother of six.  For her, it seems like yesterday that I was Mr Three.

None of us will be up at midnight, we'd rather see the new year in properly, in the daylight, without being tired and hung over, and in any case we've wrung all we can out of the old one without having to worry about wasting the last few hours of it.

It's been a wonderful ride really, this year and I've been grateful for having the opportunity to document it in a medium that my mother can't hope to understand and that my grandchildren will take for granted.

A few days ago I wasn't sure if I would continue into the next, after a year amid all our other distractions it had become too hard, but I've caught up now, and there are things that will happen in the future that we'll need to remember I'm sure.

The fireworks in the photo are not from tonight, but from July, Bastille Day in Lagarde, posted as a reminder of all of the places we've been this year, and that we do indeed live on both sides of the world now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


When we woke this morning there was something strangely unfamiliar about the place, we couldn't put our finger on it at first and then we realised that it was sunlight shining through the windows for the first time this month.

It wasn't the bright, yellow burning light that we are accustomed to, just a warm sort of glow. Strong enough to cast a shadow, although not to illuminate the house, but sunlight none the less.

It didn't last long either, but with most of the state flooded, every major highway impassable and many towns completely inundated we are glad to have seen it.

The rain will apparently remain for a week or so, but in more moderate amounts at last, perhaps just enough to keep the grass wet enough so that it can't be mowed till next year at the earliest.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


The cloud lifted briefly this evening and we saw the sun set for the second time this month. Half an hour later the rain returned, but we had seen enough to know that the sky is still there, right where it is supposed to be, and it doesn't appear to be quite as full of water as it has been of late.

Just as the sun has been struggling to make its presence felt in the time that we have been "back" and while much has happened in those two months, we have been struggling in our efforts to stumble across the merest hint of a germ of an idea as to just where it is we might want to live when we are between our bouts of peregrination.

"Struggling", because we are too comfortable right here in the Home of the Biting Midge to apply ourselves to the problem, and we use our busyness of recent days as an excuse for having failed thus far to address it.   I suspect we were both deliberately denying that there is a need to do so.

Today on the drive home we made some progress.

We have been asked on many occasions on our travels if we are retired, and to that our response is succinctly negative. We reason that since we do not technically qualify for any sort of retirement income, we must actually be doing what we do for a living. With that thought in mind, it logically follows that when we are not doing that, that is, when we are at "home", we must be on holiday.

So we have decided that we need to find a holiday house.

One that is near the beach, and from which we can see sunsets, and mountains, and pine trees, and will make us want to come back to it from time to time. That's it.  It took a hundred kilometres to work out that we need a house just like the one we live in now.  Perhaps in another hundred we'll have figured our where it should be.

As we looked down from Anne and Jaap's holiday digs we saw a dozen houses that could suit. They were not for sale of course, or if they were it would be for a figure far in excess of our budget, but it is a beginning.

Perhaps it would be fair to ask just why it has taken a year to arrive at this rather simple conclusion, and while the answer is not entirely clear, I suspect it has a little to do with some sunlight shining through a break in the clouds.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It's nice to be staying with Sam the long suffering wonder dog even if he does bear more than a passing resemblance to the mythical chupacabra in his current closely cropped livery.

He has the most even tempered demeanour of any small animal we've every met, and is tolerating the new round of lack of attention somewhat manfully, just as he did when his first "sibling" arrived. After a particularly tortuous time involving Mr Four and a one-sided wrestling match, we were surprised to see him somewhat manfully lifted onto the hip of his master, and "disappeared" into the depths of the other side of the house. There was the sound of a door closing, shortly followed by the return of just one of them.

After a round of enquiry which in a short flurry of questions escalated to the heights of a mini inquisition, Mr Four admitted that yes indeed, Sam was locked in Mummy's bedroom, and after initially refusing to rectify the matter, when pressed he offered that it might not be a good idea, because he explained unable to keep his face straight, "He's afraid of Papa and Jojo."

Look at that face, and ask yourself whether that is the face of an animal that is afraid of anything. In a week or two when the fluff grows back, perhaps, but for now, I don't think so.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Big Wet

As the rain increased in direct proportion to our lack of desire to drive anywhere, we dragged ourselves into the car and headed south for the day. Roger had travelled a few thousand kilometres so it was the least we could do, although every inch of the way we wished we were in a submarine, or perhaps curled up somewhere with a book.

Being there was fantastic of course, looking across the ocean or where we knew it used to be before the sky fell on us, but we had to repeat the journey at the end of the day, tip toeing up the highway, studiously avoiding trouble, while listening to the endless flood reports on the radio.

Amazingly in the ninety minutes we were on the road, the only time the announcer drew breath between reading flood conditions on rivers various and evacuation notices for towns across the state, was to apologise for not reading the lists of road closures as they comprised some twenty-five pages and it would be, she thought, impossible to do anything meaningful with them.

Then came the hysterical calls from listeners for the Premier to return from her holiday to do something about the floods. Exactly what she could do, no one was prepared to explain, but I did wonder if thought perhaps they'd carry her to the water's edge in a gilded chair so she could simply tell the water to go back.

Perhaps it will, if we wait long enough.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Herding Cats

Anyone who has been asleep under a rock, or has not read anything of these pages of late, may have escaped the news that it's been raining for a while.

Boxing Day is typically the busiest day of the year on our highways, and sadly for us there is nothing but highway for the hundred kilometres between where we live and where we wanted to be. Even more sadly the rain in buckets combined with a few other factors to cause an accident which was sufficiently serious to stop sixty kilometres of traffic.

Serious and sobering enough to have caused the loss of a life.

Perhaps the thousands who were delayed in the course of the day will, like us, reflect on their mortality and drive just a little more cautiously in the conditions.

When we did arrive, the sobriety of the journey was forgotten in a flash (although tucked away for future reference), we ate pizzas and gathered round the Christmas tree and gave each other presents and refused steadfastly to sit still for photographs. A dog, three grandchildren and their parents in one place, surely that can't be too much to ask.


It was like herding cats.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

But it didn't feel like Christmas!

Let me hasten to point out that my harsh headline is not a reflection on Mic and Mat's prowess has hostess and host, not at all, indeed the company, the food, and the event itself were indeed sublime, even from all reports the bits of it from which I were absent didn't appear to suffer. It's just that my personal take on the event involved a sudden-onset illness of strange and ridiculously discomforting effect before I could partake of much of the food or any of the drink.

Between the hours of lunch and well after dinner my view of the world was mostly through closed and unconscious eyes. When they opened at all it was to view the Christmas tree, apparently on it's side, from my recumbent position on the couch.

I did wake once, late afternoon, in a lather of sweat and shivers, and made my way unsteadily and cautiously to a discreet corner of the garden intent on emptying the contents of my stomach as quietly as I could. Unaccustomed as I am to this sort of malady, I was until that time unaware that my definition of "quiet" does not correspond with another more popular view, nor that doing so over a plant with large and springy grass like leaves would not provide the discrete outcome I had been seeking.

Alas, what I now know that I did not then, was that large and springy grass like leaves when loaded with a syrup of yesterday's breakfast, actually fight to overcome their load by springing it in a fine mist in all directions bar the one from which it had arrived.

Fortunately when facing circumstances like this, the "we'll probably laugh about this later gene" kicks in, and so it was that I was able to return to my repose, leaving the rain to tidy up.

On our arrival at home that night, after finally waking in time to see the dinner plates being cleared and feeling well enough for nothing but a sliver of Christmas Pud with a trickle of custard, to pack and drive home into the night (because I was the one who hadn't had a drink after all), it was difficult to believe I hadn't just made it all up.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holding Back the Tide

No matter about my protest of yesterday, two things seem certain in my life at the moment: rain and Christmas.

In a few hours we'll be off to help Mat and Mic celebrate their first Christmas as Australians, and there aren't too many creatures stirring round our house at the moment I have to say, except the occasional frog or jumping fish.

Everything seems inordinately calm and quiet.

It's not the calm before the storm though, that's been going on long enough for the river to be rather higher than we'd prefer! It took eight years for it to reach these heights just once, and now it's been there half a dozen times this year. I suspect with a dam that's at 120% capacity a little bit of water coming down the river is to be expected.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


After yet another fortnight of continuous company, we took advantage of the foreboding weather forecast to cancel our dinner out, and took an early mark under eerie but none the less somewhat decorative skies. 'Tis the season to be constantly busy it would seem, busy for the sake of it, busy in the name of fun.

It's the first year that I can remember that I've been truly "unemployed" in this time, and it's the first year that some unexpected pressure from work has not bobbed up to put a little bit of extra icing on the busyness but I still feel busy, perhaps mildly stressed about a few things that need doing sooner rather than later yet not at all related to the season.

A few weeks ago Michele asked me what I wanted to do for Christmas, and I truthfully answered that I am happy just watching in while everyone else does their respective things. There are usually too many ambitions in that regard to accommodate one more, and I am mostly truly content not to have to worry about me in all of that.

But today I feel differently. The stresses of watching are I think, worse than the stresses of doing.

One year, just once, not this one nor the next, but some time in the future, I'd like no one to be busy in at least that last week. I want the week before to be relaxed, so that the day itself can be the pinnacle of the celebration rather than the tipping point. I don't want any shopping, or endless cleaning, or endless cooking or endless everything else.

But that's just me, and alas I am alone in that thought!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Hiatus Continues

As does the rain.

The ducks that used to live across near Margaret and Roger think it's splendid, and have moved camp to our beach.  They seem to like the munching on the fresh tips on the pigweed, not to mention feasting on the drowning lawn grubs.

It may well be a poor year for chemical sales I think with lawn grubs nearing extinction as the water table rises to what seems like a few metres above the ground level.  Even our sandy soil turns to the sort of mush we haven't seen in a decade as we walk over it.  We almost got the wheelie bin bogged the other day and more rain, a lot more rain, is on the radar screen for the days ahead.

They say it's been a while since we've seen a summer this wet, and of course it has, but do they really need to look for reasons?  How quickly they forget about the drought that spanned the last decade!

We are only three or four weeks short of the anniversary of the Brisbane floods of 1974, so it's fair to say that inordinate precipitation at this time is not unprecedented.

Neither is inordinate procrastination, so I will try to catch up on the backlog on the morrow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Well may he hide.

I'd be hiding too.

Using the miracle of modern technology, combined with slackness in writing, I have been able to reproduce this photograph of Matt four days before it was taken!

It came about because of those lovely pre-Christmas smells from the kitchen. The culmination of a day of buzzing and clanging and washing up.

There, on the bench, on the cooling rack was the Christmas Cake.

"I can't wait for it to cool", I recall saying, or words to that effect. They were hollow words though, for if I'd had the slightest hint of approbation the knife would have been despatched in an instant, as indeed would the first portion of cake.

Instead of the reply that I was expecting, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not to touch it lest I should surely suffer an unimaginable fate.

"It's for Matthew" she intoned, and to emphasise the impact of this unwelcome news, added "he likes Christmas Cake."

And that is how it came to be, that we didn't need a Christmas Cake this year, apparently, and Matthew (bless him) declined to be photographed whilst eating that first wonderful slice.

I hope it gives him the runs!

Monday, December 20, 2010

You'd better not Pout

The week before Christmas always seems to be a hugely productive time at our place. One of us picks up things, and looks at them wistfully running away to plan a new project or twelve and steadfastly failing to complete anything, while the other just plugs away, finishing all sorts of tasks and projects.

Perhaps it was the pressure of other things, or the hour of the night, or maybe at this time of year Santa himself gets a bit testy after posing for all those photographs, but whatever the reason it was initially a very grumpy Santa whose visage appeared on a bag marked "Elliott" this year.

The Big E is not yet too secure with his place in life. As seven week olds go, he is a happy chap although quite prone to wearing a perpetually startled expression which may or may not be due to the fact that his nearest and dearest continue to surprise him by picking him up, or putting him down, or patting him, or not patting him as the case may be.

One can only imagine the horror that could have been wreaked by this image, had the furrowed brows not been surgically restored to a more sympathetic angle before delivery.

Mister Four meanwhile is amazed at just how, despite his lack of maturity, the Big E seems quite confident that the bearded one will deliver all he desires in a few days time.

Baby Wipes, Disposable Nappies, Baby Oil…..

How does he know?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Driving Rain

Unsurprisingly the sound on our roof when we woke was a familiar one.

While neither of us really mind the odd drop of rain, nor do we mind driving several hundred kilometres to catch up with a group of friends we hadn't seen together in twenty years, it has to be said that the combination of the two is not one of our preferred methods of spending a morning.

Never the less, we gave the "stupid" gene a bit of a polish, and set off doggedly into the gloom in direction Coolangatta. Lights on, mid morning, wipers on fast.

Summer, and the wet season doesn't begin for another month or two.

Lunch was OK, the company splendid, but neither did enough to lift the gloom of the return journey. 

That was up to Lily.

It's amazing how ten minutes reading a good story can make one forget all else.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Big E goes to the Beach

We went to the beach today, Elliott and I. The rest of them came too, his brother and mother and father and grandmother, but they left us to our own devices and disappeared into the surf.

It's summer after all.

The rain stopped for barely long enough for them to squeak in a swim among the flood stained waves, but we didn't care the Big E and I. We had our tent and our hats and pillows, and somewhere to lie insulated from the grit of the beach and the glare of the cloud.

We thought about going for a walk for a time, but with the UV index hovering at an improbable sixteen on a scale of one to ten it was not the sort of day that inclined one to test the durability of five week old skin, so we stayed snugged in the shade, talking blokey stuff.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting things done.

Why is it, I wonder, that when we are on our boat doing nothing, we seem to have no difficulty in completing many things, yet here at the place we call home, we attempt to do many things yet complete nothing?

Thursday, December 16, 2010


As if to remind us that we've been praying for rain for ten years so we'd better jolly well enjoy it, the storms arrived today.

Not grey skies and intermittent showers interspersed with big rain dumps that we've been seeing for weeks. Genuine good old fashioned summer storm fronts.

Thunder, lightning, and hail the size of mothballs, golfballs and pinballs or chupa chups or match heads. Why can we not just use dimensions to measure the size of hail?

Darkness as though the night had come. The Ashes are playing in Western Australia and we wish they had the same storms.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Some have noticed that a few days have elapsed for which there is no report. Well some have noticed that it's been more than a week actually.

For my part it's been a strange mix of guilt and helplessness as one day goes by and then another without the urge to combine photographs and words. Some days there are the words but as yet no photograph, on others there are photographs but no words.  It is perhaps a measure of just how quickly time seems to be travelling that when I uploaded this photo, I dated it November.

I have come to within two weeks almost of completing a daily report for the year, and a small corner of my brain seems to have run out of inclination, although I suspect it is more to do with that small corner being needed for other things.

The missing days aren't actually missing though. They actually happened and the reporting of them will slowly return over the next few days or perhaps even hours, filling in below, just as surely as the ladies from the gym filled our house last night, while I discretely retreated to the contemplative silence of the river bank, and the stinging repostes of the midges.

It's the better part of valour they say, discretion.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Galahs before Breakfast.

Strange Days Indeed!

Sue called from the breakfast table.

"There are galahs on the beach" she said. Not believing her for a second, I grabbed the camera and quietly slid open the door. There were indeed galahs on the beach, two of them, a long way from home. The strangest thing of all though, was the shadows that fell. We have had fewer sunless skies thus far this summer it seems, than a typical London winter, and if it weren't for the family and perhaps the temperature we'd almost be asking ourselves why we came back to this.

But then if we hadn't, we'd have missed the galahs, and we'd be really, really cold and lonely about now, so there's not really any reason to ask the question!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Test Pattern

In days of old, when there wasn't much to show us on the tele, they'd show a test pattern and play endless loops of Richard Clayderman music which made one feel for all the world as though one's living room had somehow become an elevator.

Summer radio on the ABC is a bit like that, endless repeats of interviews held during the year, music that was never quite in vogue but repeated for good measure anyway yet I dare not find another station for fear that I would be deserting an old friend very much in need of company. Occasionally something interesting and new and fresh arrives for my listening pleasure, but it always coincides with the exact point in time when some massively noisy machine needs using or I am called away beyond listening range and therefore the good bits always go unheard.

The projects are something of a test pattern themselves, perpetually comprising little sticks that never actually move or multiply.  No matter how much work goes on, they never seem to form any completed or useful object.

Even the frangipani outside the workshop seems to run in sort of half-cycles, never quite deciduous in our presence, always flowering, yet never in full bloom.   

Perhaps we are part of a test pattern called life.

Or maybe the Matrix is real!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Street

Each year for at least a decade, there's been a Christmas party right there in the cul-de-sac and everyone's turned up with steaks and snags for the barbecue and eskys and chairs to sit on. The party starts in the dark and finishes before morning and everyone spends their time catching up with the news of the year as if somehow they weren't aware of it as it happened.

This year things have changed.  Some of the old crew have gone, their houses vacant and like ours, owned by the people of Queensland or tenanted by people who have thus far managed to remain invisible.

It wasn't going to be the same without them and we wondered if, like the community that once we shared, the annual gathering would pass into history.

The end of the street sits in the rain, silent and empty.  At the other end, where once there had been bush there is now a friendly three metre high barrier, kindly erected by the developers of the new estate.

Someone suggested we take the mountain to Mohammad, or in this case to Don and Shirley. Don has always been in our eyes at least, the mayor of our street, or at least was the one who owned the mower and assumed responsibility for all our lawns.  As the dark cloud hovered over us all through the resumption process, they were the last to be contracted and eventually resettled seventy kilometres away, closer to family but leaving our yards to go to ruin.

It may not have been the same cloud, but it was certainly an indifferent if not ominous sky that hung above all day as we joined the convoy heading south in the drizzle, to spend the afternoon revelling in their joy as they showed us the ins and outs of their new surrounds.

We took our places around the monster table which they'd bought "just in case we all turned up at once". They had suffered more trauma than most during the resumption process, losing a son, two dogs and waging a war against Shirley's illness, yet we'd never seen them happier.

The cloud under which we had lived was after all, lined with silver.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weather Report

Rain, rain go away come again another day.

I've got places to go, things to do and a new shirt that seems to get wet every time I wear it.

It would be wise to leave the shirt at home I thought as in the late afternoon snuck down to Beerwah to do a repair job in what appeared to be without doubt, clearing weather.  I managed nearly an hour's work too, and the sun came out briefly and quite fiercely for a time, but when it did the steam rising from the ground was so great that I ended up just as wet as if I'd been in the rain anyway.

If the rain hadn't returned I may have finished the job too.

Friday, December 10, 2010


"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

John O'Brien

I think I'm tending to agree with Hanrahan.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bonjour Mr Four

"Bonjour Mr Four" I heard in the background as the grandmother spoke to her eldest grandson on the telephone.

"Bonjour Jojo" came the not-unexpected reply.

"Ça va?"

"Ça va" came the reply, whereupon, having plumbed the absolute depths of their respective foreign vocabularies, the conversation switched to news of the day.

"Are you going to kindy today?"

"Yes, but I'm not going to play with Bradley.

Bradley doesn't speak French."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


It's a continuing theme I know, but the list continues to grow as if by magic.

It would be good to get the seal coat on the painting I thought, so I proceeded to pull down the framing/layout table, except that I remembered one of the boys had borrowed it, and it would be a lot easier to make a new one than to retrieve it. Well I could do that at the same time as making a frame for it which reminded me that I'd promised the router table to Steve and it's going in the next few weeks, so there'd be no time like now to build a new one, which reminded me that we really won't want to take all that timber when we move, which prompted me to start laminating a couple of bench tops, which reminded me that I can't finish those unless I rejig the table saw enclosure.

After all this reminding going on, I started to tire so it seemed entirely appropriate to mow the lawn while there was a break in the weather, which reminded me we don't actually own a mower.

So I borrowed the mower, and cut the grass, and their grass, and the footpaths, and our neighbours footpaths, and got all sweaty and itchy and raced to finish before dark or the next storm's arrival and it was touch and go which would come first.

All of which reminded me why I don't actually like mowing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


I got him finished today, except for the frame, (the bits at the top and the bottom of the photo are wall or a photoshop facsimile thereof, not painting).

Our resident pelican seems to be on vacation at the moment, in central Australia with lots of girl pelicans and Oprah I'm guessing.

Late last year, as the impact of having to sell the house and having bought a boat in France was starting to have a bit of an emotional impact, I was sitting on our back steps, perhaps my favourite place in the whole house, and having a coffee and a think.

The old pelican walked up the beach and had a bit of a stretch.

He seemed to be trying to tell me, that if one wants to keep one's life in balance, sometimes it's best if one doesn't have two feet planted firmly on the ground.

I thought I'd paint that picture one day.

And now I have.

(and he'll fit on any wall longer than two metres.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

I should be full of beans.

I should be just wanting to get stuck in and do things and I am on the one hand, on the other I just want to lie in bed and doze.

When the rain keeps coming at better than an inch per hour, hour after hour, it's not even conducive to being awake. It almost makes me yearn for the airconditioned, hermetically sealed office with no windows I lived in for all those years. We couldn't tell what was happening outside from within, and our mood never changed accordingly.

There's not enough light in the shed to work on a painting, it seems to be darker than night even with the lights on, and with a half finished painting on the easel, working with the wood machines is out of the question.

I can't even hear the cricket on the radio above the constant din of the rain, wonderful though that sound may be when a more sensible number of drops are hitting the roof. Ahh cricket! There can be no better excuse than sitting in front of a television set than when there is a risk of drowning whilst doing anything else.

I don't like whinging about the weather, and I won't start now other to note that to date, after six days, we have actually already received our average monthly quota of precipitation, and I'm not sure if it's climate change to blame.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Parting is such sweet Sorrow

I know it was Shakespeare who wrote about the sweetness of the sorrow of parting, but if he hadn't I'd have to have stolen it from somewhere else.

Often when we visit friends, or vice versa after an all too long an absence, it is as though the intervening time has stood still, as though some great TV controller has put the scene on hold while attending to a a telephone call, yet when we are reunited it all gets fast-forwarded so that a weekend passes in the blink of an eye.

We try our best to prolong the magic, but there comes a time invariably when we are all standing in a driveway, one party unwilling to get into the car, the other unwilling to stop the conversation lest the former do. New topics appear as if by magic, ones that need days of further discussion and should have been raised two days before, but eventually there is a stop for breath and a shower of rain to ensure the conversation doesn't start again. The car starts, the visit is over, and the journey down the mountain begins, to a place where the climate is exactly different.

"Until the next time", we say, and we mean it!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Three Dimensions

We know a couple of people who will have spent this weekend tucked up in front of their 3D televisions, watching endless shoot 'm ups, oblivious to the world outside. If ever there was a need to draw a line on a piece of consumer technology, surely now is the time, before holography gets here and the virtual worlds that it will bring will truly blur the transition between real and imagined.

The default 3D settings for our life placed us five hundred metres above the place we call home today, where the weather at the top of the Range, from the perspective of one seeking clear sunny days and the temperate warmth of summer, was not up to scratch. Animals with a thick coating of down and a propensity to breed in times of precipitation, would however have a completely different view, albeit because of the cloud cover, not a very long one.

Viewing life in three dimensions on days like today as opposed to watching a digitised facsimile of it, provides, a significantly colder, damper and infinitely more satisfying way of passing an overly humid Saturday. This is particularly so when that Saturday involves a shed crawl. In addition to the well known assertions about messing about in boats, there is much satisfaction to be gained wandering among other people's tools and half completed boats, and bio fuel stills (and alcohol stills for that matter), picking up pistons and having discussions on the finer points of a paint job, or methods of sharpening a chisel. It's probably OK to have the cricket running in the background while this is happening providing it is on an old radio or a CRT screen scrounged from a tip and the whereabouts of the controls long lost under a pile of stuff, if indeed they ever existed.

With real life in 3D, adverse weather gives time to reflect on projects old, and those not started, to run hands over timber freshly milled, and to sort nuts and bolts into old ice cream containers. It allows us to plan things for when the sun comes out, to work out where to put the drain, and to think about fixing the mower after Christmas.

Best of all, with life in 3D no two replays of any given day are the same.


Friday, December 03, 2010


I've often defended our major banks against the barrage of criticism that pervades our media and public opinion.

They are each after all unashamedly in business, and by most measures they remain moderately successful. The very fact that four of our major banks ranked in the top ten world wide at the peak of the global financial crisis was enough for our government to sing their praises, and introduce temporary protection measures which would strengthen them even further.

However the tide of political popularity is driven by a fickle wind, and within two years, the very same government began to view those saviours of the Australian economy, the banks that actually made a profit, as a greedy enemy. Perhaps, I thought, it stems from jealousy. Most other countries after all were forced to take controlling positions in their major banks to ensure they survived the crisis, but here the government share in profit is limited to the tax it can extract.

Today though, my sympathies lie not with the bank. Today, we received a letter dated the 22nd November advising that our "investment" funds (the ones that we have aside from the proceeds of our house sale to rehouse ourselves in due course) had been invested on the 20th November for a further six months at almost 25% less interest than we had been earning, and if we didn't like that we could kindly contact them within seven days of that date and kindly let them know. Since the interest from those funds is what actually pays our rent, it didn't take a lot of calculation on our part to determine that indeed we didn't like this arrangement one bit.

We let them know, and while in doing so we didn't feel like being as kind as they would have hoped, everything was sorted in a prompt and cheery manner.

For a time the metaphoric mist in which the bank obviously thinks we live turned pink and then red before returning to it's normal fuggy grey, and when it did, we loaded the car and popped up to Toowoomba, for a weekend of clarity.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Satisfaction guaranteed.

I suspect if there's anything more satisfying that making something for a grandchild, it's repairing something that one's father had made for his own grandchild, so that her daughter in turn may experience the possibility of another thirty years of pleasure from it.

I more than suspect.

I know.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

When all else fails, take a snap of a frangipani.

When we woke this morning we were at Lily's place. Her mum was asleep and her dad was at work, so we had an hour of precious morning giggle time all to ourselves.

We pinched ourselves and wondered just how that had come to be, but it doesn't matter, we had a whole morning with her and the boys and their mum's, then home when we'd had our fill. Home in the rain visiting a few friends on the way, and suddenly a day had gone with the camera firmly in its bag, and my writing head with it. Was it the weather? Or perhaps it was the headiness that the children impart.

Just maybe the first day of summer brings with it (along with 100 mm of rain), a certain holiday attitude.

I don't know, but I'm sure the world is none the worse for it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Down by the river

As if to prove my comment of yesterday, I finished all eight beehives today.

Finished, painted sitting on the garage floor, waiting for me to return tomorrow and tie each with a bow before putting them away until needed. Finished, ready to put tools away and clean up and sort out the scraps.

With just a bit of glue and a clamp or two, I have enough timber left to build another.

I'm not finished after all, don't cross beehive off the list just yet then.

It's time to start a painting I think, and forget about the list, or perhaps I'll just sit in the boat shed for a while, with a coffee, watching the river go by. Sitting close to the river reminds me of being somewhere else this year, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels like home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bottomless Cup

Last week I made a list, and looked at the mess and got started on the process of making the list shorter and the mess tidier.

I've tried for seven days, tried really hard to make progress on both, but the list and the mess I have to say seem to be self perpetuating.

Oh sure, I've almost finished the hives, and almost finished the first stretcher for the first canvas, and almost started on the new pipes for the busker organ, and I've fixed a couple of sanders and made stands for the outfeed rollers too, but even though I sweep every ten minutes or so and try to put tools away as soon as I've finished with them, I'm still up to my neck in offcuts and sawdust and tools, and a list that no longer fits on a single sheet of paper.

If a genie was going to give me a packet of something perpetuating, why did it have to contain sawdust and list of things to do?

Why couldn't it have been TimTams and perhaps a cup of half decent coffee?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Old John Again

When Maurice phoned the other evening to remind me that there was a meeting on Sunday, I had to ponder how it is that someone in his mid eighties can take time out from building banjos, teaching ukulele (and building one for his wife), while working at the community radio station and doing a thousand other things, to keep tabs on someone who is thirty years his junior and clearly incapable of planning ahead much beyond breakfast time each day.

I try not to miss the Musical Instrument Makers meetings, not because I have an great aspirations in that regard, but because of the inspiration that group provides. Most of the attendees are a generation ahead of me, and I never tire of hearing how one gets from Redcliffe to Russell Island via public transport and electric wheelchair, or the best way of fairing an aircraft propellor, or being showed how to stop the keys for a Nyckelharpa jamming.

Today though, I had to confess to John.

I told him I'd painted his portrait, and that he was hanging in a bank in France, that Sebastian, the "owner" of the office in which it hung was fascinated by the way the jazz filled the room whenever he walked past. I told him that Sebastian saw in the painting an old Jazz player lost in the music, and how the hair on my neck stood on end when he told me, how the hair on his neck stood on end when I showed him John's website, the picture of him at twenty and again at eighty playing one of his guitars, and then I waited.

He looked at the photo, then at me, then at the photo again. I apologised that we couldn't get him up to our place to see the real thing before it went to France, we both would dearly have loved that.

He chuckled and asked me for a copy of it, then showed me the dies he'd been making to fabricate the wing of his latest aircraft, and I wondered if I'll stop making guitars while I build an aeroplane when I'm eighty-two.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas is coming

It's less than a month till Santa comes and one of us, (the one who thinks about these things, plans them and expends all the effort along the way), thought we really should think about what we might like to do "for Christmas".

Having chosen not to gate crash the parties of our children, who will be spending time with their respective "Dark Sides", we somehow set out on a quest with Mat and Michel, formerly our pet Canadians to create a memorable celebration of their first Christmas as Australians. With that in mind we (somewhat optimistically I thought) set off into the hinterland to find some
a) reasonably priced,
b) available, accommodation.

Having failed entirely to do that, we decided that staying at home would be a wonderful experience, wandered round Maleny for a time, looked at the flowers, had a cup of coffee, bought some sheep's cheese and wondered why in the month we've been back we haven't been for a drive in the country before today.


Friday, November 26, 2010

On Being British

It's my being a British Citizen that continues to fascinate us.

Why should it affect us so, we ask ourselves in turn, each feigning casual disinterest but we catch each other sneaking a look at the passport as it lies on the table as though lying in state. It is yet to find the drawer in the cabinet alongside its cousins as if we are wary of its power.

For thirty years or so we've discussed my obtaining a British Passport as some sort of novelty solution to a problem that hadn't arisen. For a decade or more the prospect of working in the EU had intrigued us, but we had more intrigue than we could handle on our own soil without adding further to our complications.

We'd always viewed it as some sort of discount voucher accessible through quirk of birth, like a free rail pass or perhaps a seniors card. It came therefore as something of a shock to realise that the little maroon book itself does not bestow any new status, but provides physical evidence of my Citizenship of another country.

Citizenship of another country! I have, it seems unknowingly carried this burden invisibly since birth as indeed have my siblings, and hence the fascination and analysis.

In a strangely and perhaps over-dramatic way, it is as a marker of a part of who I am, a hard copy of part of my genetic makeup, and while these few paragraphs may incorrectly give the impression that we are perhaps wasting too much time thinking about it all, it's also a rather nifty excuse to drag out a photograph of the old country.

It leaves us incredulous when we realise that exactly one month ago we were standing on a beach in Wales, yet so much has happened since we wonder if we were really there at all.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Ashes

When I was eight, my father took me to the Gabba for the first time.

Then, it was a sort of park affair with bench seats where there were seats it and a railway line that ran through the five ways and the workers from the nearby industry would gather by the scoreboard gate after work to get a glimpse of the action. The fence was of white palings and the grass was a stupendous green colour the likes of which I'd never seen before.

The sounds though, are the things that really stand out in the memory.

The sound of bat on ball, of willow striking leather, and the occasional call from the crowd to "have a go" or perhaps something witty that was beyond the understanding of an eight year old, but which left a muffled titter rippling through the crowd like the Mexican Wave would do many years later, and the crisp, gentle applause after a ball had been well bowled or a ball returned over the bails from near the boundary.

There was a particular kind of food too, a biscuit-cake affair that Mum made, a sensational thing made with "bought" biscuits layered in a tin filled with a chocolate and copha mix that cooled to result in something ever so much better than the modern Tim Tam. It may be that it was only be once or twice that we carried that particular delicacy with us, but to me, that recipe is synonymous with the Gabba.

It occurred to me as I began to write this, that yesterday I clocked up my half-century of going to the cricket, a feat which would these days attract a short standing applause were it a batting score, but sadly my lack of aptitude for the game put that particular experience well beyond my reach.

Much has changed of course. There are seats, and tickets and security people, and grandstands lining the entire ground, and the pitch hasn't been visible from Vulture Street for decades, but the sounds remain untouched.

The sounds of the first few minutes of the first test are always to script.

A subdued clap as the opposition team takes to the field, a roar when ours does, chatter as the bowler marks his stride, a hush but not silence as he walks back to his mark.

The crowd wants to be quiet but it can't contain it's excitement.

The bowler runs in as the not quite silence builds to even less. 

There is a crack, the ball has been struck, the game has begun.

The crowd gently erupts, pacing itself for the day ahead.

Summer is here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


We've never been the sort of people who plan too far ahead for anything, so it's quite out of character to find ourselves with tickets booked already for next year's commute to the boat. Instead of being some nefarious date in the future which is infinitely flexible as is our usual practice, it's cast in stone.

After a lifetime in the construction industry, where everything revolves around only two deadlines, Christmas and Easter, we now have the third of April to contend with, and arbitrary date to be sure, but the one, none the less on which we are now committed to fly.

Nothing else in our lives has changed, we have the same things to do, the same places to go, the same people to see, but now we must go do and see by the third of April, and I woke at one this morning wondering how we could fit it all in.

Perhaps I shall start by milling the new timber for the hives, and see how everything else falls into place.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The List

The realisation that one day we will have to move prompted an audit of unfinished projects round the workshop this morning. Actually it may just be the realisation that the time is nigh when one may have to get stuck in and actually finish a few things that prompted it, but undaunted by that prospect and with pencil over my ear I began a quick inventory of the bench.  That, I thought, should take my mind off the important things, like having a car that needs to be sold.

There, the trio of footstool parts sits patiently at one end, one of them Sue's Christmas present from last year, the other two first birthday presents for the new babies, so I have some time up my sleeve. There's Mr Four's pull along duck to be repaired too, since it met an untimely demise when he was Mr Two, he's probably not so into ducks just now so that can wait.

The busker organ pipes need something, perhaps completely rebuilding, and then the rest of the workings need to be built for it, and I'm not allowed to even mention the canoe, nor it's half finished paddles stored neatly in the ceiling. The rowboat parts store neatly enough flat against the wall.

Somewhere there are some pictures awaiting framing, and now a new one thanks to Gerry's wonderful generosity a week or two ago.

There's the doll's high chair that needs repair, built by my father for his grand daughter who naturally now would like it fixed for my grand daughter, and the pond-sailer which just needs a mast.

It's not as though I have a particularly minute attention span, but it is not difficult to be distracted in my cave, and so it was that I decided a nice drive in the country to my favourite sawmill to find some timber for next year's hives would fill in the morning nicely.

Sufficiently distracted on my return, I added a pile of timber to be milled to my list, then discovered that the planer blades needed what could only be described as "attention" before that could begin. A few hours of chat, a coffee and a milo bar later, I left Mat's shed with sharp blades and a machine to reassemble in the morning.

Then I remembered I have some canvas round here somewhere and it might be time to build a stretcher or two.

I don't really need any hives for a month or two after all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

We live in strange times

It came in the mail today.

Red it is, with just two words inside which change the way some of the world will see me: "British Citizen".

I didn't think it would affect me at all, but it has. For instance I have no idea what to expect next weekend at the Gabba when my country plays, well my other country actually in the first test.

Will I be disappointed if "we" lose? I suppose "we" will have the Ashes in any event, so my new found schizophrenia may well leave me happy-sad no matter what the outcome.

Now that I am a Pom, I suspect I shall have to address the class issue. Surely I wasn't meant to be "Working" Class was I? Heaven forbid, I'd have to join a union and drink in pubs and eat fried food and start watching television.

I think I'm more suited to being a Gentleman actually. For a proper Gentleman, I am led to believe, work is a vulgar concept, as is the thought of handling all things to do with money.

Yes, that will do, another decision finalised!

Now I just need to find myself a chap to take care of all those nasty things, and perhaps to iron my newspaper paper before I have him read it to me.

Carry on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010



We are home. At least we are at the place where we keep our stuff is until we decide where our next home will be, but for now let's not split straws.

It may be just a pit stop, but for now we are at last stationary and the motors are turned off.

We have stopped. No babies on the way, no exhibitions planned (yet), no house resumptions to battle, just a house to find and we'll do that later.

For well over a year we have been on a roller coaster of emotion and travel, and now we can stop for just a bit and take stock of exactly where we are and what we must do before we start it all again. We have time to think, but not the inclination, we almost feel as though we need a holiday, but from what?

So here we'll stop to feel the midges, until we get the urge to move once more.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flying Solo

Tonight is her big night, their big night, and our big night.

Tonight Lily flies solo, or to be more accurate, her mum does. The Office Christmas Party has come after only six months you see, not enough time to adjust to life without each other for more than sleeping hours which even now rarely come more than four hours at a time for either of them.

We've done all this before, once or twice or more come to think of it, but they haven't.

She had a big feed and a bath before they left, and a long walk in the evening left her dead to the world.

Would her mum forgive us if we phoned to ask how to turn on the TV?

Friday, November 19, 2010


I was mucking around photographing the boys and their dog today, standing above them as though I were Annie Leibovitz and they were John and Yoko, and coincidentally just a few minutes later read of an exhibition of her work opening in Sydney, which just may be worth the admission price if not the cost of travel.

I thought it might be worth a visit to see if I can figure out how she:

a) managed to keep the chair leg out of shot


b) was able to rack up a mere $24million in almost unsecured debt before someone realised she may not be able to pay it back and grabbed what they could.

Both of these things take her a level approaching immortality in my eyes.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Note to Mem Fox

Dear Mem,

We read "Where is the Green Sheep?" today, Lily and I, and we quite liked most of it. Actually we liked it enough for her to bob up and down and want to eat the pages.

I know, because I've read your papers, that you think an awful lot about political correctness, that you think a lot about racial and gender stereotyping, that you are truly trying to make the world a better place and I am sure that you must really get tired of people drawing your attention to all sorts of innuendo both intended and accidental in your work, and using very long sentences when they do, but why oh why do you call thin sheep "thin" while the considerably less thin sheep is so insanely politically correctly labelled "wide"?

The opposite of wide is narrow, not thin, and even at five months of age, Lily seems quite confused by your juxtaposition of these not-quite antonyms. Those among us who are narrow of frame are equally capable of taking offence at the use of such stereotypical adjectives as those who are wider. We are, after all a minority.

Why, may we ask, are wide objects given such deep and thoughtful consideration when less wide are not?

I have a wide chance of you ever seeing this, but I have written it anyway in the hope that some time in the future you may consider the incorrectness of political correctness.

Perhaps you won't, but I shall not be deterred. It's not over as they say, until the wide lady sings, or perhaps until we find yoghurt on our supermarket shelves labelled "95% wide free".

(Note:  Despite my harsh critique, it took two years for Mem to craft those 190 words, and grateful for her skills though I am, I remain bemused by her reluctance to use the "F" word.  Her story of the story may be found here.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sand Pits

Today as I was shovelling and chipping away digging the drain down the side of Mr Four's shed, I couldn't help but wonder where in our makeup the desire to dig comes from. When we are small there seems to be some sort of instinct to dig in anything that is softer than our finger tips.

After yesterday's sand pit adventure with our boys, it would be remiss of me not to record that I am something of a sandpit guru, having spent hours honing my craft in the sand pit under my grandparent's tank stand when I was Mr Four.  Even though the structure was removed midway through last century my memories of that wondrous space are still as fresh as when they were planted.

There was little head room for me even then, and a crawl-way through the lattice gate through the papyrus, mint and fish fern to what was really a very secret if perpetually damp spot.

The smell of cat poo would mingle with the mint as I mined the sand using a couple of prosthetic hands my grandfather had left there for the purpose.

One of us has suggested that that very memory may explain a lot.  Perhaps I should leave it there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Food for Thought

It's day three with the kids and for reasons completely unrelated to the little ones, a sort of general restlessness is apparently starting to become apparent on my countenance.  I need to chop or sand or dig or paint something.  

The girls are happily doing their thing, shopping and cooking and gooing and gaaing non stop during daylight hours and beyond.  Mr Four and I can only take so much of that, so we disappeared to the sandpit for the afternoon to save the world from pirates and sharks until we deemed it bathtime and therefore safe to return indoors.

Bathtime means it's not long before we get to go out to catch up with friends, to share their view as well as their company, and to wonder briefly whether living once more in the city is really an option for us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Here we are once again not at home.   The bites on the ankles aren't from the midges for once but from the glorious plethora of rug rats we are surrounded by.  There does't seem to be a minute in the day when someone doesn't need a hold, a feed, a bath or a noisy milk with banana in it.

The colds are slowly clearing up though, so it won't be long before the boys are relegated to their rightful spots once again.


Sunday, November 14, 2010


Just how many days, I wonder,  can I fluff around without exactly having to say: well that was another day in which we did nothing but clean.  We've only been there a week, just how dirty can a house get for crying out loud.

Today is definitely the last of the annual cleaning days.  The oven's clean, or as clean as it's going to get, the workshop floor is all but shiny, the towel rail in the ensuite doesn't wiggle any more  and we are back in the big smoke tickling Mr Four and passing the little one's round.

Actually we're not passing them round at all, I am having all the turns, because MY cold has gone completely.  My nose isn't runny nor my eyes watering, so I get them all for my own selfish grandfatherly purposes.   

Now I'm looking for something that I can slip to her to prolong the common cold.

This all seems a long way away from the life we were leading just a few weeks ago, but I can always pop out into the yard for a bit of canal boat respite.
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