Sunday, August 31, 2008

Claytons Whale Watch

I met a buoy!
(for my American friends, it's pronounced BOY, not Booey)

Remember that advertisement for Claytons - a non alcoholic drink that tastes alcoholic? "The Drink You Have When You're Not Having a Drink" . . .well today I had a Claytons Whale Watch. "the whale watch you have when you're not having a whale". Today I went not-whale watching . . mainly because there were no whales to watch. However we did:

Miss the city bus because Amy was busy driving the porcelain one after a big night out at the RSL and couldn't get her act together quickly enough. Once we dropped her home for a day of couch love I had to drive into the city to make our connection.

Get high on Travel Calm a nasty cocktail of caffeine and anti histamines designed to quell sea-sickness. We took them as a precaution because the trip was about 5 hours on the open ocean. Seriously, half an hour after taking two tablets each we were high as kites, light headed and having difficulty getting on the escalator at Darling Harbour, thank God we didn't attempt the steps or we'd have never got on the boat! Adam slept like a baby for about an hour, bolt upright in the freezing wind!

Catch a far-too-small- catamaran to my mind! I was rather disappointed when I saw the size of the 'ship'!

Pity the bridge walkers who attempted lofty heights for an amazing view on what can only be described as a grey day

See three nudists at Lady Jayne harbour beach

Brave a wet, cold and windy day on what is normally a beautiful harbour and I have since vowed to buy myself a sailing parka just for that very reason (and because they're high visibility and very pretty colours). I froze. My fingertips have barely got their feeling back.

Sway precariously on a 1.5 metre swell outside the heads (on the ocean)!

Get totally ripped off at a posh Darling Harbour restaurant where obviously we were paying for the view and not the food. $46 for two greasy chicken burgers, more chips than were necessary, a coke and a latte and a rather precocious young waiter who looked like he was serving us in his school uniform!

Get a voucher for another go in the future, hopefully next time we'll catch a glimpse of a humpback or southern right whale!

Sydney Maritime Museum, opposite where we caught the 'boat'

Circular Quay Ferry Terminal . . .but it's not circular

The Opera House . . .beautiful in any weather . . .

Can you see the two groups of bridge climbers, top left and approaching the flags?
Notso, you - me - January!

Nudie bathers braving the cold.
Sydney's only 'legal' nude beach is in full view of water traffic

North head - gateway to the Pacific ocean

South head lighthouse, gateway to the 'bra boys'

Claytons Whales

Jesus sent me a sunbeam but the whales weren't impressed!

Okay not a whale but it's big! Please note the pitch on the horizon!

A terny seagully thing, the only living thing we saw all afternoon other than French and Japanese tourists

I NEVER get sick of this view, coming back into the harbour
A photo you're unlikely to see on a postcard

Heading back under the coathanger

Sadly, despite the best efforts of Jamaican Captain Clayton and his cheery whale spotting tips (look for the spurt!) there was nothing, nada, niet . . not even an accompanying dolphin! Very disappointing. Still, even in the cold and wet, it's a lovely place to be bobbing about on a Sunday!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's a Blaze of Light In Every Word-

Remember Leonard Cohen? I didn't think much of him in the 70s when we used to smoke dope at Maxine's and eat toasted cheese and cucumber sandwiches and just chill after our KFC shift during our school days . . .he was just old and 'chill' I never thought much about his lyrics and certainly didn't think much of him as a singer. Tonight I watched a tribute to him and an amazing array of artists singing his songs and I'm not sure if it's age or what but all of a sudden his voice, his lyrics are pretty damn cool. LOTS of people have sung this song . . my favourite, without a doubt is Halleluja.

I thought it was actually about a relationship with heroin, maybe that's because I always associate it with addiction for a few reasons - maybe it's a love song - maybe it's about being trapped and frustrated - maybe it's about the emasculation of a lover or maybe it's just about love - apparently it's biblical, old testament stuff and a deeply moving love song.

The meaning of the song is left intentionally vague. King David in the Old Testament, both wrote Psalms (with the frequent repetition of the word “Hallelujah”) and engaged in an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, whom he saw bathing on her roof. But from there Cohen moves to a host of themes touching on spirituality, sex, sin, regret, repentance, and longing. I can identify with this song on so many levels.

The late Jeff Buckley did it justice, KD Lang's dulcit tones also warmed the heart but tonight it was Rufus Wainwright . . a rising star . . He is the son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, brother of Martha Wainwright, and half-brother of Lucy Wainwright Roche. So the gene pool is strong.

I used to love Kate and Ann McGarrigle's "Dancer with Bruised Knees". Clever cookies those Canucks.

So as I slip into the mystic, here's a little rendition of a most beautiful song . What do you think it's about?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Fuckwit

At lunch with the lovely Thommo today, (happy belated birthday my poppet) we were talking about why some parents ‘need’ parenting classes. Not challenged parents, not parents with disabled, difficult or gifted children, not underprivileged parents who need assistance but upper middle class parents of precious possums who seem to think that they need to explain the life, universe and everything to their 8 year old because they haven’t been picked for the ‘gifted and talented’ class in 3rd grade!

What happened to letting kids explore, get dirty, spin cartwheels, eat strawberries from the garden, break their collar bones falling off monkey bars, discovering where baby things come from by taking them to the farm, letting them throw up after parties, washing their mouth out with dishwashing liquid when they swear, sticking them in the naughty corner after a tantrum and giving them at least 10 cuddles a day because you’re the mummy that’s why?

So, our politically correct and overprotective society has gone one step further. A North Queensland primary school has banned cartwheels and handstands in the playground. At first I thought perhaps because little girls flashing their Bonds in front of the boys might be a tad inappropriate (hey I remember Catholic schools banning patent leather shoes because you could see the reflection of the girl’s knickers in them)

Belgian Gardens State School in Townsville has banned all gymnastics activities during lunch breaks, declaring it dangerous because it has the potential to cause back and neck injuries. Cali Buschgens, 10, has been reprimanded for cartwheeling on school grounds and her grandmother Val Bryce says the ban is a sad reflection on modern society.

"Sadly I think this is probably linked with the current society where litigation is rife and I feel that schools are probably trying to avoid a child being hurt and an irresponsible mother then trying to sue them for it," she said.

Education Queensland has defended the ban on unsupervised gymnastic activities. Regional executive director Vicki Baylis says fear of litigation was never a factor in the decision and it was made purely for the students safety. Oh PISH! And we have th hide to complain that kids are not becoming engaged in enough physical activity and becoming obese.

"The issue around the gymnastics is around the safety of the kids and it was not motivated by any concept of litigation, but certainly [by] that safety and well-being component of those kids when we're talking heads and necks and potentially backs if there were an injury." (can you see her nose growing by the metre?)

Here you go kiddies: How do to a Cartwheel . . .frankly, I never could!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Sort of busy getting on with a few things yesterday and today but I shall be back before too long:

more animals

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Am a Legend in My Own Lunchtime!

Today, I had to venture over into Castle Towers to change a sweater that I’d bought, typically not tried on in the store and then realised that it looked like something my Nana would have worn on a bad day once I got it home. I do it all the time. Anyway, en route to the appropriate store are wide terrazzo tiled avenues with shops on each side, the odd cafĂ© plonked in the middle and plenty of those portable, market stalls adorned hair accessories and wigs, sparkly jewellery, mobile phone holders, Gym spruikers , ‘wholesale’ perfume, and a plethora of sea mineral cosmetics or skin care providores.

I usually walk very briskly through and avoid the, spruikers springing out at me from all sides. I rarely succumb to flattery and more importantly I hate shopping so I'm usually a woman on a mission and power shopping my way forward . . forging ahead . . .leading the charge! I am never sucked in by the desperate young things vying for my attention to sample their sweet smelling unctions or trying to tempt me into a Gym membership even though one or both could make me look 30 years younger!

Today, I was cornered . . I tell a lie – I surrendered!

I knew as I walked past the pet shop I was going to stop and he made eye contact . . that flash Brasilian smile on a beautiful man with hair exactly like mine, even ponytailed and the odd squiffy curl around his face- I was gone before I arrived! I didn’t know what he was selling, his accent was mesmerising, his face engaging and he literally grabbed me by the hand as I walked by and straight away sploshed some hand cream on my palm and began massaging . . .oooh er . . .

“Oh Miss . . .you have bootifoolandz . . . .

(I don’t but his long fingers are doing their thing across my wrists and fingers and it is slightly erogenous)

Each question is punctuated by the whitest of smiles and 'Excuze me for askin' personal queschins.' If he'd played his cards right I'd have given him my bloody ATM PIN!

“ . . but if yoo dozn’t mand me zayin’ you ‘ave very dry skin on your ands . . . Ow ole iz you?”

I answer truthfully as always, he jumps back,

Nowaye! Nowaye! . . . . Surely you jokin me? . . Tell me your friendz zay you iz very yung for your aje? Zay do doezn’t zay?”

(Well no actually, they used to but those complements stopped the day I turned 50! Either they’re jealous of my fair and reasonably unwrinkled visage or hitting the half century suddenly made me look like a bucket of smashed crabs.)

Now I KNEW I was being played but it was oh so nice. Getting a bit goose bumpy by now and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck are standing up like they do when the man of your dreams sneaks up behind and just breathes on the nape of your neck. Feeling a little goosebumpy in a nice way . . . his pitch falls trippingly from his particularly beautiful mouth and youthful lips. At this point, I am alone, with him, somewhere warm and exotic . . . I’m overcome with waves of warmth and latin jungle beats and he’s cool as a cucumber!

‘ . . and finally, ze white buffer to smooze out ze lines, now look eeznt it a miracle! But alzo, we ‘az the fablious, cuticle balm. . Oh and Miss if you don’t mand me sayin’ you need some help on ze cuticles, zay are dry no? From ze dishes, and ze gardening and ze workin’ too hard. You needz to be pampered . . .’ere”

So while he daubs the very essence of Dead Sea minerals on my cuticle and begins massaging my fingertips, I am seriously now in another dimension and ready to jump the guy after we've danced the Lambada and had at least 3 caipirinhas!

Finally, there is a kit, the buffer, the cuticle stuff, some other bits and pieces and a choice of Vanilla, Frangipani or ocean smelling hand and body creams that are not greasy and if I buy the kit I can have it for half price and if I buy two he’ll give me one free . . ‘becoz obviously you have lotz of friends no? They will love eet for Christmas gift no?” . . .

OK, the record scratched, the frame froze . . time for a reality check rather than being a legend in my own lunchtime. That was quite enough sensual activity in full view of all the shoppers, in broad daylight and during my lunch hour. GAH! I’m in a shopping centre having an orgasmic delusion! Right where were we?I’ve been massaged, and buffed and have one very attractive ring fingernail with a shine he guarantees will last for a month. OK I’m convinced, I like this hand cream and the little buffery thing so I bought the little kit and happily parted with $50 for the priviledge.

All in all though, money well spent . . hell he even gave me a hug before I moved on! I’m going back tomorrow to check out the skin care range! Then again, two sessions in a row and I’ll have my palpitations back!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Be Still My Beating Heart

I'm a pretty outgoing, tell it like it is kind of person. What you read/hear/see is what you get. Heart on sleeve and sometimes less than diplomatic. I'm not one of these quiet brooding types or someone who suppresses their feelings in order to convince everyone that everything's just fine. I learned a lesson a while ago being married to a very relaxed and easy going man who never appeared to be stressed, even when under intense pressure. He took his own good time, never rushed (in fact we were always late), relaxed on the weekend to the point that a pile of topsoil left over from our turf laying became a grass covered feature because he was too lazy to spread it elsewhere. . . he napped if he was tired, was very cool, very calm, very collected and I only ever saw him angry twice in our 11 year relationship. Underweight, regular exerciser, non smoker and light drinker, fit as a fiddle . . . died at age 35 of a heart attack!

Me on the other hand, I let my feelings show and whilst I'm not much of a crier, I have been known to scream like a banshee, tell people off, slam a few doors, voice too-loud opinions and demand my own space and time. I always thought people like me vented their stress and so wouldn't have weird symptoms . . but no . . .

This weekend, I've been having symptoms of stress. I don't have them often and I only know they're stress symptoms thanks to extensive tests 4 years ago after my father died and they first manifested themselves as Cardiac arrhythmia (fast irregular heartbeat) when I'm emotionally stressed (can't be physical cos I haven't done anything more physical than hang the washing out!). I can hear my heart pumping in my head, my shoulders, every pulse point on my body. Then I get panicky because I think I'm going to die and it gets worse before it gets better and then somehow, I fall asleep and all is well with the world, until I wake up groggy and lacklustre and require a 'sanity day' to recover. It was decided by the cardiologist that that I have sympathetic stimulation due to physical or psychological stress (the so-called "fight or flight" response), but can also be induced by stimulants such as amphetamines (nup havent taken any of those) or caffeine. I did have three cups of coffee with Babysis on Saturday morning? Hmmmm.

My problem this time, is I have NO idea why I'm stressed. I feel calm, I'm pretty healthy apart from creaky knees and some RSI in my 'mouse' arm (yes decades of pushing a mouse around have given me a clicky wrist and 'mouse' elbow!). Sure I have the normal every day job stresses, worry a little about ClareBear, money issues, there's a shit load to do around the house and my motivation levels are below zero but these are hardly reasons to get the ticker out of whack.

So today, I had a day off, watched a few DVD's crashed on the couch and they're still coming and going . . . it's more than irritating . . . and impossible to stop until I work out what's bothering me. In the interim, it's off the caffeine and alcohol and into some meditation. Right, off to dive into my inner cave and practice my deep relaxation techniques. And if Laughing Wolf has anything to say about it, I probably need to get me some! Oh be still my beating heart!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rudi's Rockets Rule

When I first saw ClareBear's soccer team play, they were . . well . . . hopeless. They ran with their hands in the air which is an invitation for a handball call. They fell victim to 'snipers' (a fall with no obvious reason for impediment, very similar to the Italian soccer team), tripped over their boots, reached for their puffers, fiddled with their hair do's and tweaked their knickers and generally had a hard time standing on two legs.

I haven't seen them play for over a year so when Em asked if I'd like to watch possibly their last game this season, as it was the semi-final, I trundled along. Our girls, (dark blue)were playing North Rocks and both teams did themselves proud despite a rather bolshy spectator from the other side and an unusually quiet sideline from coach Rudi.

It was nice to catch up with a couple of other parents who I hadn't seen for a while and a few of ClareBear's friends who were there as the cheersquad (those who are still in Oz that is! They're all overseas!). It was a fantastic game! Went into extra time and then a 'best out of five' penalty shoot out. Very tense . . The Rockets won . . . someone said I might be their lucky charm so I'm doomed to repeat the event when the final is played! Now, where's that drawing I have of the 'off side' rule again?

Miss Bianca has a strong arm

. . and it's on . . no more pussy footing about . . .

A ball in the face is no laughing matter . . coach Rudi offers his condolences . . .

Emily poised for the ball . . .

. . oops . . Sniper?

No time for practising the can-can but she can can-can . . .

The littlest goalie! Fortunately not too many balls down her end (ahem!)
Our goal's down that way girl . . watch where I'm pointing . . .

And a Victory huddle . .

So ClareBear, they won even without you and Schmecky, you were missed but the girls did you proud . . that sister of yours packs a mean punch and scored an amazing penalty goal! I'll post the rest on Facebook tomorrow night and tag the usual suspects.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Wonders of Webcam

She has always been a capable girl but now she's the same but different. A Skype webcam session tonight with she who has traversed the planet was lovely. It's been a week since we spoke so it's nice to see that she's healthy, happy, wearing about 16 wristbands from her adventures and seems to have made the headband a new fashion statement. Of all places, Germany, the bastion of high technology has crap wireless internet so she has to resort to hostel land lines or internet cafes. Still there's nothing more heartwarming, more tearful, more hug needy than seeing your daughter on a webcam wearing a green 'Peace' T shirt and asking "What was that cute German village we went to with the awesome Christmas shop!" God love the internet . . I can hear her voice, see her face and almost touch her skin . . oh how I long to stroke her hair and give her a hug . . you know when you walk into your child's room before going to bed and you just stroke that cheek, move that out of place hair and tuck their arm into the warm covers . . .I miss that . .

She's explored the Gringo trail, partied at Carnivale in Brasil, cruised with camans on the Pantenal, marvelled at the Iguazu falls, seen religion at a Machu Pichu, lived with a family in Bolivia, mountain biked down Death Road, ridden the trails in Ecuador, walked on the equator, silver mined in God knows where. Taken silly photos at Uyuni salt flats, pretended to fall off the Grand Canyon, played slot machines in Vegas, kissed orcas in San Diego, been shouted all night drinks in San Francisco and swirled in Tea cups (for the second time) in Disneyland. Eaten hot dogs and seen a Yankees game in New York, been sprayed at Niagra, chased witches in Salem and played Team America in Washington, stumbled through French speaking Montreal and cycled around Toronto, been an Au Pair in Surrey England, smoked dope in a Delft Coffee shop and rocked out to Pendulum at Lowlands, explored Berlin and now on to Dresden, Munich, Prague, dinner with Schmecky's Italians before a yacht cruise along the Dalmatian coast before . . . .not sure what.

I see her blurred and staccato image on the webcam and she looks the same, she sounds the same but there's something about her that is different. This trip has seen her grow, become more confident, more self assured and a little more distant. I just hope when she comes home, she's the same . . yet different! Prepare for major hugs my darling because I'm not letting you out of the house for at least 2 weeks! Only 14 weeks to go, it sounds so much closer than 3 months . . .but who's counting. I don't miss her until I see her . . then when I see her I want to buy a plane ticket for her to come home tomorrow. I know what she's doing is life changing, important, satisfying, worldly but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had a stay at home kid.

So to all you ex pats who are away from home, exploring foreign climes and chasing your dreams . . don't forget your mothers, because we pine. We love you, we want you to be happy and safe but boy do we miss you!
Clare and one of her best friends Schmecky at Lowlands Festival - Netherlands

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Fuckwit

Today, The Mayor of Mount Isa, John Molony who has the answer to the female drought in the male dominated north Queensland mining town: Ugly girls

Men outnumber women at a ratio of about five to one in the testosterone town and the female famine is taking its toll on young blokes. But the quick-thinking Mayor suggested these could be the perfect conditions for `ugly ducklings' to flourish into beautiful swans and find true happiness in the Isa. "May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa," Cr Molony said.

"Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness. " Often those who are beauty-disadvantaged are uphappy with their lot.

"Some, in other places in Australia, need to proceed to Mount Isa where happiness awaits.

"And, really, beauty is only skin deep. Isn't there a fairy tale about an ugly duckling that evolves into a beautiful swan?"

Naturally there was a huge backlash the next day , demands for apologies, outrage by Mt Isa women . . politicians distancing themselves and cries for poor old John to resign.

Then I heard this on the radio on the way home last night:

“Look I tell it as I see it and I’m not the most politically correct person in the world but lets face it there’s no way to pick up a turd by the clean end!”

I am definitely stealing that one . . .Gold!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mystery Pix

Bit busy tonight so something of a tease . . . I took these shots last weekend . . ., outside, in broad daylight, at the same spot and only seconds apart . . . no photoshopping, no enhancement just point and shoot, crop and post so what on earth is going on here?

Sorry Kahlerisms and JD are in the know so they're not allowed to play!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nature is Savage but We're Worse

I have a godzillion posts in my head today . . many will be put in the "One I prepared earlier bucket" but after watching the news . . frustration about so-called withdrawals of Russian Troops from Georgia, Mugabe not being able to form a coalition government, Flooding in Ireland and Hurricane Fay approaching Florida, Australia apparently "failing" miserably at the Olympics (I know,I'm supposed to be boycotting but it's on the news and hey we've been relegated to 5th place in the medal tally with a population of 20 million . .srsly did anyone think we'd be up there - and congrats to GB who are storming ahead this year.)

But heart strings are tugging, I mean really tugging. As I mentioned before, it's whale season here and Adam and I are heading out onto the open seas on August 31st for a Whale Watch Tour but a little baby humpback has been separated from it's mother and is pootling about the calm waters of Pittwater in Sydney, attempting to suckle small boats. I'm so upset. Don't know why but for some reason it's mother has abandoned it and attempts to coerce the little one out to sea aren't working. There are no facilities here big enough to hand raise a humpback so the poor little sap hasn't had a meal since Friday last. Had he been abandoned in San Diego, apparently they have successfully hand reared and released a grey whale there . .

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman John Dengate said today the calf was about two to three weeks old and would not survive for long on its own. "It absolutely needs its mother, or another whale to adopt it,” he said. “It's heart-wrenching. Normally whales stay very very close to their mothers, they're inseparable and they suckle for 11 months before being weaned.” Maybe mum was sick, maybe the baby's a sandwich short of a picnic, or just a very naughty boy who went exploring instead of staying with the program, but there is no saving this little darling who thinks that boat hulls are potential dinner plates.

Pittwater is the inner side of the Palm Beach peninsular. On one side, surf beach (those who watch Home and Away will recognise Palm Beach) on the sheltered side is exclusive hillside housing and the calm refuge of moorings for boat enthusiasts. "Colin" (God it's even worse that they've given him a name, the Stockholm effect is in full swing!) is floundering in the calm waters of Pittwater and hasn't had a feed since Friday.

Attempts to coax him out through the Heads into another pod have failed. He's a baby . . . he's like a three year old lost in a busy shopping centre and incapable of crying "Mummy!" and totally unaware of Stranger Danger!

Poor little Colin has days rather than weeks. Apparently, artificial feeding would not be possible, and the calf's only chance was is to find a female whale that would accept him as her own. Never have I wanted more to be a humpback whale! Unlikely he'll find an adoption since most females are cruising up the coast with their own calves. They're starving, having given birth along the north western coast of the Arctic Circle and Canada, swum just about 12,000 miles along the west coast of the Americas, across the Great Southern Ocean and waiting for the smorgasbord that awaits in Antarctica

This begs the question, intervention or leave alone? I often marvel at documentary makers such as those who make Big Cat Diary and how they can watch these animals fade and flounder without interruption or interference. Personally, I'd net off the entirety of Pittwater, leave the rich and famous isolated (they can do without their yachts for 3 months) and feed the kid formula until he was big and strong and did a Happy Feet kind of mega-sojourn into the Antarctic, wave him off with a big huzzah! "Go Col, kill some Krill!" But sadly wildlife conservation isn't like that.

It seems to me slightly ironic that Greenpeace will cause a helluva hullabaloo to save adult whales from Japanese slaughter in the most in hospitable of environments yet one baby begging for food in the affluent waters of Pittwater faces euthanasia or starvation . . they remember you know! He's a babe in the waters and destined for a dart (ultimately preferable to starving to death I suppose) probably by the end of the week. Poor little possum . . at least he'll end up with a posthumous tale to tell in the Maritime Museum or Sydney Aquarium, where his bones will be displayed as a scientific specimen for all to wonder at and admire. Surely this is madness. Net Pittwater, feed the kid and when he's strong enough (and at the rate they grow, we're talking October) drag him out beyond the heads to catch the stragglers. . . .

God I hate seeing animals suffer . . . it's far worse than people because they have no control over their destiny. We on the other hand devise ways to shoot the shit out of each other, wield machettes, poison our air . . . Shit just happens for animals. Tell me this doesn't tug at your heart strings? If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it fall ?. . . How many others fall without the gaze of Channel 7 Cameras? I don't care, I think we could do something to help this one! Maybe being a mother separated from her own 'calf' has turned me into moosh.

Having read this back I sound quite hard but really, this has made me feel incredibly emotional and highlights the fragility of nature and how lucky some of us are to be who we are . . . maybe my maternal instincts are still intact after all . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Street View Reveals Baino's Birthplace

Ever wonder who's really sitting in those solid sided suspicious looking vans that you thought was the ironing man delivering newly pressed shirts to your too-lazy or too-busy-playing-golf doctor's wife next door? They're the Google gang using whiz bang fancy pants cameras to photograph your house at street level! Although since 1997 they've been whizzing about in nifty new VW's provided by Immersive Media, the company that came up with the 360 degre view GPS camera. That's right, Google maps in many places now offers you 360 street level technology. Photos can only be shot from public streets but in combination with Google Earth, I wouldn't go running out to the washing line in the nuddy just in case!

So naturally what do four women munching sandwiches during their workstation lunch do? Google their houses . . except I googled the house I was born in and hey presto! IrwinDrive, Handforth Wilmslow! . . OK Street View isn't available but by a stroke of luck it's for sale so there was a photo in the side bar! A little semi detached on a corner block! My bedroom was on the top right. What a funny little house? I remember it really well . . .and the only thing that's changed is the removal of front lawn in favour of pebbles and what looks like a plaster sculpture and the addition of a red paint to the door!

Slightly different to where I ended up and who'da thunk it! Three children were born in this teensy place. So have a go, see if you've got Street View on your Google Maps, hours of fun for all the family.

At first I thought it really, really cool then wondered about the privacy aspect . . .I'm too tired to debate that right now but we all know that Google Maps can be scary!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Nostalgia

There's a little piece of history just a couple of kms walk from my house. Before development, we used to exit the back paddock on Laurie and Chippy and gallop the entire length up to Bella Vista farm. A decrepit and dilapidated old homestead with rickety old wooden buildings purported to be the original Seven Hills Post Office and the relative outhouses of a once attractive farmhouse. Clare do you remember galloping along this line of Norfolk Pines from the Norbrick site up to the house?

Norfolk pines were planted by settler farmers to define their ridges and driveways. Elizabeth probably rode her horse drawn sulky along this same path in 1801. In today's PC society however, apparently there are hidden dangers that require a bright yellow sign:

The property is now cyclone fenced to prevent trespassers and vandals but akshully Labradorz duznt readz good.

They're only a mild irritation to a determined 'let's pretend I'm a photographer' as well . . .

John and Elizabeth Macarthur (John being credited with bringing the Merino to Australia from Spain) farmed sheep on this property in addition to their properties at Camden and Parramatta. The untold history is that John, partial to duelling and being recalled to England to account for his bad behaviour, on more than one occasion, left his enterprising wife Elizabeth in charge of the farms . . she is rarely credited with the work done in introducing wool as a major industry to the colony. He was sold the land by an emancipated convict called Fovaux in 1801 and farmed it until its sale in 1821, preferring the vaster and less wooded Camden property.

When Clare and I first started riding up here, these sheds were covered in cobwebs and still had signs of life from over 70 years ago within their walls. Old mouldy saddles and yokes, boots, workbenches, pots and pans, tools and shears, 1920's magazines and newspapers . .it was a weird wonderland but we never thought to souvenir them. We just loved the musty 'oldness' of the place. We did hitch our horses to a hitching rail so old I bet they could feel the vibe of years gone by. Come to think of it, they were a bit spooked by the place.

I must admit, I never really understood the obsession Australians had for corrugated iron, it's everywhere. (Tin Roof's Rusty - think Love Shack!)

In the 1890s, Edward Henry Pearce of Bella Vista was declared the "largest and most successful orange grower in the colony." Bella Vista was sold by the Pearces in 1950. The old stables below were still being used about 10 years ago when the place was an agistment property. (God that's a nice accidental shot through a piece of wire 3 x 3 cm, Ken Duncan eat yer heart out - no photoshop retouch there yer mug! . . The rest of you may applaud now!)

The homestead and old farm buildings are now being preserved. No longer can we freely walk up to it's back door due to building works and the installation of the protective fence. It's now owned by the Baulkham Hills Shire Council and The Friends of Bella Vista Farm Park are working actively to achieve the restoration of the site, they spied me suspiciously wondering the perimeter whilst sitting in their plastic bunnings chairs and having vegemite sandwiches for lunch.

There were of course bees, happily gathering pollen from the daughter of a 200 year old citrus . . the leaf looks quite different to that of modern orange trees but the blossom smell was unmistakable.

There are several massive Moreton Bay Figs in the garden. Due to the limitations of the fence, I couldn't capture the huge tree in its entirety without it looking like it's surrounded by wire (which it is), just enough to show it's gargantuan roots. These are romantic roots (stop giggling) . They're the sort you want to lay a picnic rug between and schnoox with someone special on a balmy summer evening . . . Seriously, there's nothing nicer! Trust me I've done it . . more than once . . .ahem! Can you see the kookaburra?

The historical significance was lost on Lily who saw her first sheep! Very impressed but they were fortunately protected by said cyclone fence and despite their objections, remained untouchable.

She did have more success meeting up with some friends and managed to roll in something foul smelling although neglected to notice the pond of putrid water thank goodness or she'd have been in like Flynn!

And that brings me to Henry . . .I think I have a crush on Henry, we've met a few times walking our pampered pooches . . . the little black Kelpie cross is his - he's adorable and ever so friendly (the Kelpie although so is Henry), the rough collie . . .*sob* belongs to his wife! Who is a 'show dog' person hence it's incredibly flooofy fur and aloof demeanour . . unlike Henry who is so cute I just wanna bring him home! For a steak dinner you understand.

Ahem . .back to the history lesson . . .Part of this land was later acquired by the Pearce family and became known as Bella Vista. The suburb that now surrounds the farmhouse is named Bella Vista. This real estate is so expensive that recent attempts to name our development area "Bella Vista Meadows" rather than the more mundane "Kellyville" met with violent objection from the residents who felt their little enclave would be 'devalued' if absorbed into a greater area. Snobs! Frankly, why anyone would pay up to 2.3 million to have a view of a fake fountain and a light industrial estate is beyond me. You can click on this to see just about where our five acre street lies in comparison. You can see what I mean about the encroachment of suburbia.

I wonder what John and Elizabeth Macarthur would make of all this?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Your Feet's Too Big

I just watched a rather sweet and I suspect little known movie "Be Kind, Rewind". Not a super fan of Jack Black but DrummerBoy hired it and it was sitting on the bench so after squeaky clean Saturday chores, I plugged her in. The basic premise . . . A man whose brain becomes magnetised unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend's video store. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, an aging woman with signs of dementia, the two men set out to remake the lost films. So enterprising young shopkeepers replicate, badly, movies of the popular hire outs: Ghost Busters, Driving Miss Daisy, Rush Hour two the list goes on . . . .I don't want to give too much away because this is a really great little find. And perfectly suitable for ankle biters. It sounds like a silly premise but by the end you feel part of this little NY community's fold, it was filmed in Passaic, New Jersey. Oddly, directed by a Frenchman, some of the most endearing parts of the movie were the special features where local residents talked about how the movie 'lifted' their once vibrant, now typical New Jersey landscape. Is that all it takes, a movie coming to town.

I live on the suburban outskirts of Sydney and 'community ' has a new definition, it's selective. There are the Church goers who swear they're part of the 'community' yet exclude the non Christian members, there are the Rotary Clubs who are also part of the 'community' yet there agenda is formal and open only to invitees, there are the sporting clubs but the only members of 'their' community are the sports players and parents, so what defines a community. Some might say I'm a little too big for my boots but basically the shoe doesn't fit. I don't fit, I don't feel any sense of community.

I remember in earlier days, much earlier, as a child in Handforth England, . .you walked down the street and knew your local MP, the Vicar, the shopkeeper, the teacher . . . you're kid got a ride home from Shenton's farm on a Donkey because she would sell her soul for a ride on a pony. The milkman was known as Doug and the Rag and Bone man knew to linger a little longer outside your house so you could pat the Shire . . .things seemed much tighter, you'd get a lift from the guy down the road on a wet afternoon, people had time to talk. Neighbours chatted over the fence . . gossip maybe - but old people didn't die at home and remain undiscovered for weeks. Because the town or village was small and tight, there really was a sense of 'community'. Jesus, I was only 7 at the time and could feel it!

In the burbs, I can't find it . . . sure I run into people I know, wave at walkers in the morning, there is 'familiarity' but not community. I know and am aware of, the Orange Blossom Festival or Castle Hill Show but I don't feel part of it. Even my local village shops, I'm recognised only by the guy that owns the Liquor store! The Welcome Mart has very nice and well meaning Seihk owners running it now, but try as they might, they can't emulate the local knowledge of it's previous owner (who I might add was a cantakerous little Yorkshireman but knew his local area).

Nick the Greek no longer owns the chippy . .it's been bought by Koreans who have none of the Greek charm (I'm sounding racist but seriously, it's business, they're not interested in their customers) . . the fish and chips are the same but they're not as friendly or fearsome. He retired after 45 years in the Hills and I miss him much. He was deliberately cantankerous, used to make the kids count out their change!

I miss our Chemist, a gentle man who you didn't mind whispering words like "thrush" or "maybe pregnant". He sadly died of cancer and sold the business on to one of the big chains with "Can I help you?" don't really care, teens giving advice on things they cannot possibly have experienced such as recommending natural therapies for the waves of warmth. God forbid if you're a 20 something looking for a large flavoured condom! Now there's no direct link to the pharmacist. Chicky babe comes and asks you what you're looking for . . runs to white coated pharmacist and your prescription is delivered in a little basket by a girl wearing too much lipstick. Now two people know that you're looking for a cure for tinea!

What really struck me about this gentle little movie was that 90% of the cast were members of the community. It drew them together, this one little event brought the break dancers, school children, street sweepers, shopkeepers and the police together. It was sort of like the Olympics in 2000. Everyone seemed happy, helpful, friendly. I had a family of Americans living in my house for three weeks. Besides being lucrative pour moi (they payed for the privilege), they were lovely and we barbecued (or 'grilled'), socialised, I drove them to the bus stops, took them to the shopping centre (or Mall as I believed it's called) and picked them up and earned a tidy sum for surrendering my little cottage to the Perkins family from Washington State. They had a great time, I had a sense of being involved in community.

My point? Suburban sprawl reduces community to street level. If you live in a decent street, get on with your neighbours, life is good but this is rare. We're all so fast paced and insular . . community now means 'doing something for' not 'participating in'. I tried, honestly, I was the Playgroup Secretary, got involved in the Heart Foundation's door knock appeal, local coordinator of CleanUp Autralia day. Was totally put off by the Gilroy College Art Show although they hounded me to take part and then determined that Clare and I, despite giving up our valuable time, were not capable of pinning a painting on a partitian. It seems being part of a community also means being on a committee . . .not going there!

Needless to say, I feel increasingly alienated from my community, despite having lived in the same area for 21 years. Unless I join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Probus, The Garden Gurus, a Church group, the Orange Blossom or Castle Hill Show organising committee or some other 'organised' community group, I don't feel 'part' of my community. Surely community is an inherent affection and sense of cooperation for those you live with and around and not necessarily having to join a club or cause?

No wonder I feel separated from it . . . actually that's a lie, one can't be separated from something that does not exist . . . we don't have a 'community' any more. Or if we doo, maybe me feets too big! Tenuous link but the movie was about Fats Wallah

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Fuckwits

A boy surnamed Yang was detained by police in Shangqiu, Henan province last weekend on a charge of colluding with two men to fake his own abduction.

Local police launched an investigation upon receiving a report that Yang's "kidnappers" were demanding a 10,000 yuan ($1,400) ransom. (He wasn't greedy . . reminds me of that line in Austin Powers "

Dr. Evil: I demand the sum... OF 1 MILLION DOLLARS.

Number Two: Don't you think we should ask for *more* than a million dollars? A million dollars isn't exactly a lot of money these days. Virtucon alone makes over 9 billion dollars a year!

Dr. Evil: Really? That's a lot of money.
Dr. Evil: Okay then, we hold the world ransom for... One Hundred BILLION DOLARS!

. . .I digress . .

Yang and his accomplices surnamed Zhou and Pan were apprehended upon withdrawing the sum from an ATM. It had been duly transferred into his account by his worried parents.

Yang admitted to conspiring to "kidnap" himself with the intent of extorting money from his parents, because they had refused to buy him a Nintendo Wii. (At least you'd have thunk he'd have the sense to by an XBox 360 or a PS3!)

And another Friday Fuckwit:

I nominate myself. I was driving in heavy homecoming traffic (everyone hits the road at 5pm on a Friday) and a woman had broken down at the Wrights Road lights right at the intersection, as I pulled up about three cars behind her. I felt a pang of "should stop and give her a push", looked over my shoulder, changed lanes and whizzed past. What an asshole! I felt so awful that I went to the bottle shop, bought my chardy and headed back to give her a hand. Fortunately, someone else had already pushed her away from the busy intersection. I hate people who don't stop when someone's in distress . . .GAH! I am evil!