Sunday, December 28, 2008

Change

We cannot change anything until we accept it.  Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses
-Carl Jung

Change before you have to.
- Jack Welch

Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens.  The sleeper must awaken.
- Frank Herbert

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor

Change in all things is sweet.
- Aristotle


Things do not change:  we change.
- Henry David Thoreau

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
- Jimmy Dean

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
- James 1:17

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

I'm actually writing this one on Tuesday but I'm setting it to post on Christmas Day.  May I wish everyone of my diminishing band of readers all the best for the season and hope that your wishes come true.   Provided of course they aren't meant to harm anyone.

This year marks another change in what Christmas has been and if I look back over the past 4 I can see each one was very different.   2005 was the last of my old family Christmases.  2006 was marked by me spending Christmas lunch alone.  Last year was the first with my new partner and the last time I will go to the home of my old family for Christmas mornings.  It was also marked by my treatment as a ghost by a number of people who didn't acknowledge my presence on that day.  That experience continued during the year with old friends deciding to terminate contact with me for reasons they know but I fail to understand.

This year, probably by the time anyone actually reads this post, my kids are coming to my place for breakfast.  My new partners family is arriving for a mid morning breakfast, after which we will eat alone again.  Last year we actually took the dog for a walk on Christmas Day, this year with an extra dog we may do the same.   And later in the afternoon my family will arrive for dinner, for the first time in my new home.

So new traditions begin and the old can go their own ways.  Maybe paths will cross again some day.  Maybe not.  But if I've learnt anything over the past few years it is not to take things personally and not to make assumptions.  To do either simply leads to that old familiar bitter and twisted sort of feeling and life is way to short to dwell on the past.

Merry Christmas everyone from this person who was once a ghost and who is now prepared to live again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ettiquette

Is that really spelt with four "t's" - i can't be bothered looking it up so if someone cares to comment I'd appreciate it.

Must be getting a bit weary after a big year and a little cranky at times too.  Not enough to do a full on rave like some I've read lately, but maybe enough to point out a few things about manners.

It has been a long time since I worked regularly in the city, more than 10 years and there are both things I enjoy about it and other things that I'd prefer not to have to deal with.  Is it just me or do other people realise that manners seem to have been forgotten.   Here's a few things about that 40ed [ 4 "t" ed get it - groan, very bad pun I know] word up there.

Don't walk 4 abreast on the footpath.

If you are walking to an intersection and approaching a red light, let the people through who have the green light facing them.

Remember there are such things as lift [elevator] protocols.  If there are a lot of people queued up waiting for one to arrive, which happens often in the building I work in, don't effin push in to the front.

There, that's much better *sigh*  ;). 

And if really doesn't have 4 t's please accept my apology.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mr President

I had this one sent to me today:

Osama Bin Laden decided to send George Bush a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game.
Bush opened the letter and it contained a single line of Coded message:

370H-SSV 0773H

Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Condoleezza Rice. Condi and her aides hadn't a clue either, so they sent it to the FBI.

No one could solve it at the FBI

So it went to the CIA, then to MI6 and Mossad. Eventually they asked ASIO for help.
Within a minute, ASIO emailed the White House with this reply:
'Tell the President he's holding the message upside down.'

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What are they thinking?

How is it that our Navy can shut down for two months over the Christmas New Year period.   Who's minding the borders and what's going to stop the drug and people smugglers from using the hiatus to penetrate those borders.  I don't believe that the working sailors would expect to be shut down for that amount of time.  They all joined up knowing what the job entailed.  It makes no sense at all.  I can just imagine what my soldier son is going to say about this one.  He's volunteered to work over Christmas so his mates with families can have the time off.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smooth

Days were simpler once.   Protocols were followed, manners expected and given.  If a bloke was seated on a train, tram or bus and a female got on he got up and gave her his seat.  Now there's a shit fight to get to the seats first.    Please and thankyou are things of the past, sometimes.   I'm not sure when times changed.  It was a while after that young bloke in the photo left behind his bowtie and fedora.    Sunday best was always worn on a trip to the city in those days.   No longer, and that's not a bad thing.

Well that's my ramble for tonight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Moon Rising

Last night was a full moon.  If they come around every 28 days does that mean they are always on a Thursday?  I've never thought about that before.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sliding Away

I'm scanning some old slides which is something I've been meaning to do for a long time and I'm up to 1978.  My 21st birthday in fact.  The photos were taken on a Pentax K1000 SLR which unfortunately was stolen in a burglary in around 2001 and was a present from Mum and Dad for my 21st.

What has struck me looking back is the number of people who have now died - family, friends - some way too young.  And it is also funny to look at these images from so long ago through eyes that are way different from what they were then.  Older and wiser - maybe.

Certainly I had no idea at that time how things were going to unfold and what direction life would lead me in.  Despite the porn star moustache, I did not become an actor.  I am glad that tight turtle neck sweaters are now way in the past because, whilst I'm not as bad as some, the roof over the tools shed has grown a little since those slim and taut days of the 70's.

There were some things that occurred on that weekend that I had totally forgotten about until I looked again at the photos.   In this one, take not of the envelope on my mates lap.   It says "Ërection Instructions" and I was greatly amused by that at the time I got the slides back and realised what it said.    All of my mates had banded together and bought me a hiking tent and we had spent that afternoon erecting it.

I used that tent a fair bit over the years.  I never actually did a lot of hiking but we did camp every year and that was the thing we used until kids came along and we needed something bigger.

And in the next photo you will see a blanket hanging on the clothesline.  That was from my bed and it had been washed because a mate of my Dad's got blind drunk, was put to sleep in my bed and he wet it.    I know why I hadn't thought about that incident for years.   It was the middle of winter and pretty difficult to get the mattress dry.   That wasn't the thing that turned me off drinking but it helped keep me from it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Times Change

The lady with the gun and wearing the apron is my Grandmother Lily Smith.  The photo was taken in around 1943 and my mother, who is the one to the right of my grandmother, is the only one left alive.

The lady on her knees is my grandmother's sister, May and the girl at the front right is my aunty Nancy.

The menfolk were at war.  Grandad was besieged in Tobruk and Uncle Phil in Papua New Guinea.   Two of my Nana's brothers were POW's, one at Changi and the other on the Burma Railway.   One brother in law, Laurie Mayhew, after whom I was named, was already dead in Rabaul, killed by the Japanese within hours of their invasion.

And yet for all that, the picture is a happy one.   They've probably been out rabbiting, something we also did as kids, and then finished off the day with a picnic on the beach.   It looks a bit like the beach around Cape Schanck but I can't be sure, and that would have been a major day trip back in those days.

Things were oh so much simpler then.  The world was on fire and yet there were times of normality, and the courage of ordinary people is something to be admired.   I am very proud of my family.   All of the men went to that War, those who were old enough.  Some didn't come back, but those who did returned to their womenfolk, knowing they had kept things going, taken the rifles and shot rabbits to put food on the table, hunted fields for mushrooms and dangled string in farm dams for a feed of yabbies.  And despite the worry found the time to laugh and joke, and live life to the fullest.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keating's Change of Mind

It's no secret that former Prime Minister Paul Keating had a touch of arrogance about him and at times since he left politics he's seemed like a bit of a dummy spitter, in some ways like me and the way I feel about my former employers I guess.  Bemused that people could have the audacity to get rid of us.

Still for all that he is the author of one of Australia's greatest speeches and I will reproduce it in full here down below because when you read it, you may find it difficult to understand his latest comments.

In a speech last week Keating stated that the notion that Australia's nationhood was born with the ANZAC spirit at Gallipoli was "utter nonsense".  The disappointing thing for me is not that he said it but that it devalues the speech below.   That if out Prime Minister at the time held the same views this ex-Prime Minister now holds then the speech seems tainted by some political expediency.  I hope that is not the case.

Funeral Service Of The Unknown Australian Soldier
Speech by Paul Keating
November 11, 1993
We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances - whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was. 
Yet he has always been among those we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war, and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century.
He is all of them. And he is one of us.
This Australia and the Australia he knew are like foreign countries. The tide of events since he died has been so dramatic, so vast and all-consuming, a world has been created beyond the reach of his imagination.
He may have been one of those who believed the Great War would be an adventure too grand too miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are that he went for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty - the duty he owed his country and his King.
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle distinguished more often than not by miltary and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible, war - we might think that this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But in honouring our war dead as we always have, we declare that this is not true.
For out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly.
It was a lesson about ordinary people - and the lesson was that they were not ordinary.
On all sides they were the heroes of that war: not the generals and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors and nurses - those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.
The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.
That is surely at the heart of the Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is a legend not of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity.
It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
This Unknown Australian is not interred here to glorify war over peace; or to assert a soldier's character above a civilian's; or one race or one nation or one religion above another; or men above women; or the war in which he fought and died above any other war; or of one generation above any that has or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia.
His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained.
We have lost more than 100,000 lives, and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy.
We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and with it a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore, that this Unknown Australian soldier might continue to serve his country - he might enshrine a nation's love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cone of Silence

I haven’t worked in the City for a long time and I’d forgotten about the things I liked and disliked about it. Last time I worked in the CBD mobile phones were the size and weight of 6 housebricks. Even so, some people did take them from their car and walk around the streets with them. If they happened to bump into your leg you would just about need a full knee reco such was the damage that could be done.

So phone manufacturers have a lot to answer for. Miniaturization of mobile phones now means we put up with people being totally oblivious to everything going on around them. And I have been guilty of the same thing myself of course.

People wander all over the place, cutting others off, stopping in the middle of footpaths and wandering aimlessly, totally oblivious to everyone else around them.  It's even worse if they happen to be texting instead of talking.

Once we would never have discussed issues as private as some I overhear in such public places. I sometimes feel like I’m in the midst of a town full of Maxwell Smarts under the cone of silence. Today I heard one girl breaking up with her boyfriend, steam coming out of her ears, another, whose every second word was “like” talking about how good in bed the guy was she’d picked up at a night club last night and how wasted she was, and another who was talking about dear Aunt Molly’s hysterectomy.

I reckon there might be a TV show in following people around recording what they talk about, a sort of Candid Phone Conversation, or True Confessions. You could run the whole gamut of human emotion, comedy, pathos, hatred, all the weird and wonderful things that make us human. Or maybe you could just follow people around and drop a cone of silence over their heads.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Train Travelling and Books

One of the things that I enjoy about my train commute is the chance to read for a couple of hours each day.   Getting lost in a good book is it's own reward.  So here are some that I've read over the past few months.

Simple Genius is the third book featuring Sean King and Michelle Maxwell and one in which Michelle's demons are revealed.  Baldacci is a great read, perfect for dipping into for an hour or getting lost in an adventure for several.  If you like a thriller then I thorougly reccomend him.

 
As a kid I read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively.  Nah, not almost,  it was all I read except when school text books intervened, and they were more of a chore because of the joy I got from the other genres.   Still somewhere along the way I missed Lois Mcmaster Bujold even though she is a multi Hugo and Nebula award winner.  I am glad I have belatedly found this Vorkosigan series.   Cordelia and her partner Aral Vorkosigan are introduced in this book, Cordelia's Honour, a classic space opera with strong characters you come to care about.  No great dwelling on the technical details here, these are novels of relationships and politics, which I guess is the same thing anyway.  I am now deep in the second multi volume book and I'll report on that later.
 
 American Gods by Neil Gaiman has become one of my all time favourite books.   What does happen when old Gods lose their worshippers.  This is a road story with a difference and I urge everyone to enjoy the journey.
 
 
A lot of reviews of The Good Thief talked about the Dickensian atmosphere of the book, but not having read Dickens I can't comment on that.   What I will say is that this is a terrific and moody story of a young orphan and his adventures on being claimed from an orphanage by a bloke best described as a grifter.  I'll certainly be reading more of Hannah Tinti's books.
 
I really enjoyed Eric Flints 1632 and 1633 books about a west virginian township transplanted back to Germany during the 100 years war, but this spin off, 1634 The Galileo Affair, although OK, didn't grab me as the others have.  I found myself wanting to know more about the characters who had been introduced in the first two books rather than follow this side show.   I'm not saying it wasn't entertaining, just not as good as the first two.   So if you read this one first I'd urge you not to give up on the series and make sure you grab the first two books.
 
S.M. Stirling is another in the growing line of writers of alternate histories and I have yet to read a bad book of his, having thoroughly enjoyed his Island in the Sea of Time series and the companion volumes of The Change series.   The Peshawar Lancers is set mainly in 21st century India but after a comet hit earth in the late 19th century with devastating effect.  A rollicking tale of adventure with great stiff upper lip very English heroes and well worth  whiling away a few hours.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Morality and the police

I've been a cop in my life, for sixteen years in fact, although I did resign in 1997.   And there were times of moral dilemma that occured throughout that time, particularly in the early years when the old school coppers were still around.  I saw no great evidence of corruption, although there were times when blind eyes were turned to minor crimes and other times when people were bricked for offences when the evidence for conviction wasn't quite enough.   And I hasten to add that I never falsified evidence at any time, although I did let some people off minor offences using my discretion.    But I did know some old school coppers who did push boundaries at the time.   Blokes who learnt the ropes in the 60's and 70's when the world was a differnet place.    For the most part the old school detectives knew they may have to stretch the truth and the old school crooks knew it was a fair cop anyway.

Times change of course.  Footing a kid up the bum when they were wrecking letter boxes became unacceptable, beating confessions out of armed robbers is no longer allowed, and that's not a bad thing.   One of the things that has really changed is the release of information.  In the old days it was common practice to pass on information to outsiders, other agencies, law enforcement professionals, private investigators etc., but that can't be done anymore.

That's why the revelation that Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said something to Collingwood Football Club President Eddie Maguire about the recruitment of Ben Cousins raises a number of concerns in my mind.  The Chief has to practice what she preaches.  Now the information is public it is in the public interest to know exactly what was said and in what context.  If it was innocent then there should be no issues.  If you are head of a department that prosecutes it's own for unauthorised release of information then you must be prepared to put yourself up to scrutiny when it appears you have done the same.   Of course people can have an opinion but when you are in the public eye and your opinion counts you have to be very sure of what you say.

At this stage it is Ben Cousins who stands to lose out because of what may have been said by the Chief Commissioner.  And in many ways it doesn't matter whether what she said was correct or not.  Perception is what is important here

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blink of an eye revisited

It's only around 9 weeks to Christmas and the year has flown, admittedly a lot has happened - new house, lost job, new job, new dog, overseas holiday.   But the rush of years continues apace.  

Somewhere I read of the major measurements of stress and when I look back over the past four years they're pretty much all there - death of a parent, collapse of a marriage, shift of house, sacking from a job.   I look at that and wonder sometimes how I've still ended up relatively sane.   And I look in the mirror and see an older man, greyer, more wrinkled and more tired at times.   But for all that I feel that I have changed for the better in many ways.   I am a better communicator, although in saying that I've lost people along the way who I do care about.  I understand the neceesity of change because it does lead to growth.   So whilst there have been times of incredible sadness, there has also been great happiness.  For someone who did lock himself away for so long these changes are ones I intend to continue to embrace.

Over the past six months I've let the blogging slip.  Firstly because of the negative comments and secondly because I'd simply lost time.   I also worried about having it exposed when I was looking for work.  It was bad enough that there were articles out there telling the story of my sacking and former employers out there spreading false stories about the nature of my departure. 

And I let the anger take hold.  I was angry with lots of people and I've come to realise that I cannot change what any of them say or do.  Whatever is said about me to other people by other people is their problem and not something I can control.   I've lost a lot of friends through no desire of mine and that's also made me angry.    I suppose that is something I simply have to accept given that it is also again out of my control.   So there are some days when the anger ages me, when I feel the weight and rush of years far more than others.   And days when reflection is worthwhile and I suppose others when it is nothing more than a burden to bear until the next good day dawns.

So in the spirit of a midlife moment and at the risk of boring people with an old post may I point you to this one  - In the Blink of an Eye

And here is a song for the moment as well.

Friday, October 17, 2008

To fart or not to fart

I work in a 50 odd story office building in the city with a revolving door at its base. The door is one of those with three arms, not a huge four armed beast I’ve seen in some places. This morning as I entered, peristalsis kicking in, I wondered what would happen to a fart if I dropped it at the air lock stage of the door cycle. Would it exit with me or would it continue to revolve with the door?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Financial Crisis

Now I'll put my hand up here right now and say that I am not a socialist but I've come up with a socialistic solution to the current financial crisis.  Kevin Rudd has pledged $4b to be given to non-4 big bank home loan lenders to make it easier for them to get funding and hopefully increase some competition into the market.

Now $4b is $4,000,000,000,000 if my high school memories serve me right.  So if we divide that by our 20 million population you get a figure of $200k per person.   If we give every man woman and child $200k most of them will be able to pay off their mortgages and there would be a flood of money into the banks that could be released for other purposes.

It would mean that all those people who currently rent could afford to enter the housing market and think about the construction boom that would ensue.    I guess maybe we would have to put a freeze on house prices to stop inflation caused by people bidding too much money for whatever was on the market, but that wouldn't be a bad thing.  Those who already own houses would be able to upgrade with the extra money anyway, thus freeing up the lower end of the market for poeple who currently can't afford a home.

And for those who don't want to own a home they would have $200k each to plough into other investments - new businesses, superannuation, or even just household goods which would help the economy even more.

Maybe there would need to be some caveats on when it was spent and in what manner, maybe half would need to be put into some sort of savings account or government bonds.  But it seems to me that rather than give the lenders the chance to make more money for their shareholders, that all of us who are contributing to the payout should get some direct benefit.

I guess those sort of ideas are why I'm not an economist.  Sounds like a good solution to me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fathers Day

I've said often enough that I miss my Dad and that I didn't tell him that enough when he was alive.  I've written many things about him and maybe haven't done justice to who he was.  I've often concentrated on the negative but that is unfair.  So maybe a photographic essay is better for today.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The River


"When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come."
Leonardo Da Vinci
So in a flowing river can time stand still?  Such is the mystery of midlife and the self centred perspective of that experience.  If we travel faster than the current can we catch up to our past and if we anchor for a while will our future pass us by?   How important is it to just go with the flow?  And why must we be at the mercy of life’s current?
And yet there is comfort to be found in a river.   Close your eyes and imagine drifting off, sleeping to the sound of the water song, rocking gently and feeling embraced by small comforts.  Is it true that the river knows where it goes even if we don’t?  Do we truly follow in the paths of those who have gone before as Leonardo says, or is each experience unique, does one small eddy, or drop of new rain, make such a difference that no two of our selves would experience the same thing, much as shadows are a reflection of our true selves slightly distorted.
So we touch the river and in touching it we change and alter it’s course even as it changes ours.   The journeys end remains a mystery and would we have it any other way?

*****************************************************************
Photo - Erawan Falls, Thailand

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unconditional

Pets give unconditional love. In the past couple of weeks I've been looking at getting a new dog. We have one, a maltese shitzu ewok called Bella who belongs to my lady, but a friend of son number twos has a spoodle who has had eight puppies. This weekend I picked one out to be mine.

It occurred to me that I haven't actually ever chosen a pet of my own. Billy Jack, a dalmatian cross was given to me by my Godfather and put down by my Mum and Dad after he kept escaping from the yard. My German Shorthaired Pointer Chai was a gift from my Aunt.    L chose Calli, Jess, Connie and Gambit.   So this little feller is the first pet that I have chosen for myself.  Folks meet Ramsay, four weeks old and in four weeks he'll walk permanently into my life.

 
  
 

14th August

This blog has been hidden for some months. Months when I have not found a lot of time to write and that has made me poorer because I've lost contact with my blog friends. My former real life friends have all abandoned me anyway and I hid the blog because of criticisms and sensitivities associated with what I've written and the way I wrote it. Since I've lost them anyway I'm going to reveal this blog again.

14th August passed without me knowing for the first time in 4 years. In 2004 on that Saturday my Dad died and that served as a catalyst for a great deal of change for me - my marriage ended, I commenced a new relationship, bought a new house, got sacked from my job and started a new career.

I did not remember the date my Dad died this year for the first time since it happened. That seems weird to me, maybe it's a sign that I am moving on, that this midlife adventure is slowing down. That I can now start to get back into the stream and slowly paddle forward again.

There is barely a day goes by when I don't think of Dad but I am making my peace with what went before. Yesterday I was watching a Garth Brooks special on CMC and "The Dance" was played. There are some songs that make me emotional every time I hear them and that is one. So for Dad and for what has happened in the past four years please have a listen.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's in a name?

It's been freezing here today. Flurries of sleet and snow on the nearby hills. According to the weather bureau, the most widespread snowfalls across the state in 20 years. I guess we can blame global warming for that too.

It's been noticeable standing on the railway station platform this week with the cold seeping in through the cuffs of my trousers and sleeves, insidiously tickling the warmth from my body. When the wind blew, as it did on Friday morning, you could feel the tendrils of cold reaching in and shaking the warmth away.

Have you ever had the experience where you've been watching someone walk past and there is an unfamiliar familiarity about them, an echo of a face from the past hinting of memories from a briefly glimpsed past. Such were my thoughts on Friday when a bloke walked past me who reminded me of a face from 40 years ago. A young lad at primary school called Peter Heard. I have no idea whether it was him or not, chances are it wasn't but he may have grown into a man who looked just like that one who rushed past me in the cold.

Sometimes those thoughts trigger a sort of free association of other things and I started to think about the names that were common when I was a kid and about how many other Peter's I knew, along with John's and Mark's, though few Luke's and Matthews, they were names belonging to a later generation. Amongst the girls the most common names were Jennifer, Julie and Cathy.

I never met another Laurie until I entered the Police Academy and even then he was a Lorenzo rather than a Laurence like me, and I don't see much evidence that my name will ever come into vogue, never was, never will be.

I've checked facebook and there are seven other Laurie Joyce's listed and a couple of Joyce Laurie's, all female. Maybe I should start a Facebook group.

This ended up being a post that went off in a direction somewhat different to what it started as, but it got me thinking, how common is your name?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thailand Pics 1

It seems like a long time ago now that I said I would post some photos of Thailand but I decided that tonight would be the first part of the journey. We arrived in Bangkok where we spent the first night and then travelled to Sankaburi via Kanchanburi the next day. We spent two nights at the P Guest house on the Lake over which the longest wooden bridge in Thailand spans.

I hadn't looked at the photos for a while and it surprised me how much we packed into that first couple of days. Day one we traveled by bus to the west of Bangkok getting to know our fellow travellers. There is so much to write about but maybe it is best to let the pictures speak for now.

We journeyed with Interpid Travel. So watch as we travel in a long tale boat on the Lake, visiting a sunken Wat, then on to a jungle village for our first elephant ride, followed by a trip to the Thai/Burma border, a visit to the Wat overlooking Sankalburi and then a walk along the wooden bridge in a magical sundown.

Merging Blogs

For a long time now I've toyed with the idea of switching to wordpress and even set up a bog which is a compendium of the three blogger blogs that have been public, although not the one that has been and always will be private. But Blogger has now introduced the capacity to merge blogger blogs together and I have now pulled everything from Sunrays and Saturdays as well as Visions of Oz into this one place.

I have neglected my blogs for a while now - shifting house, being sacked from my job and finding a new one, all meant time for wrting was stolen from me. And the issues I had with people criticising what I was writing did get to me. Even this blog, which is the one that has been my record of the journey, has been incognito for a number of months now. I have been debating for a while now whether I should reveal it to the world again but have decided to hold off until I actually feel like I'm making an effort to keep it going again.

I also thought when I was looking for work that it may actually have been better to keep it hidden, not because I think there is anything wrong with what I have written but because I worried about what any prospective employers may think if they came across it. I still wonder about that now.

I probably should also update people here about what happened at my last job. Truth is, I don't really know. I was told on the night of my sacking that the Executive had decided that they wanted to go in a new direction with someone who had a different skill set. Having spoken to one of the Executive members a couple of weeks ago I found out that they made the decision in February, when I was away on holiday, and that they decided to keep it from me because they wanted to get through the AGM and also wanted the financial audit completed. He reiterated that it had nothing to do with my work performance but simply about setting some goals for the next few years and they thought someone else could do a better job.

At Erin's game yesterday I saw one of the young blokes I've had a bit to do with over the years and he asked me how I was getting on. He said that he didn't trust the Executive "What happened to the theory about if it's not broke don't fix it...They said they wanted a new direction but they haven't done anything different since you left and they said they wanted someone from outside basketball and then appointed a basketball person. Doesn't make much sense to me."

Nor to me either. The hard bit for me is getting over the anger. I haven't been able to do that. I fume. I seeth and I struggle to understand why it happened. Ironic eh, having left my marriage with people suffering the same sort of emotion, I get lumbered with similar feelings of helplessness. Nothing I did wrong, just time to move on. I don't enjoy irony.

You had to be a Sumerian

News this week of the world's oldest joke which dates back to 1900 BC in Sumeria. I was expecting something like Ä man walks into a bar...''or ''My mother-in-law said to me the other day...'' but what do we get -

"Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."

I don't get it. You had to be a Sumerian!

Monday, March 24, 2008

My own dark night


I am reading an interesting book, "Dark Nights of the Soul" by Thomas Moore. In it he writes -

"Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?"

A dark night can be many things from severe depression to a period in our lives when we doubt ourselves. Moore states that we should embrace these dark nights as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and that if we do that we will emerge at the end of our own dark nights with an insight and clarity about who we are that we did not have before.

I have often used the analogy in writing about midlife using the river journey and that a midlife episode is when we find ourselves with a need to find a backwater and sort through things before we are ready to get back into the current. There is a problem with that analogy when it is observed by people from the outside. Questions arise about why decisions weren't made more quickly, why in fact no decisions appear to being made at all. The person in the backwater can be seen as being totally selfish, as keeping other people on hold whilst they sort their own shit out. The observer does not necessarily understand that the process of sorting through the rubbish takes time and whilst it appears that someone is just treading water progress is actually being made.

In this book Moore uses the analogy of Jonah and the Whale. I won't go into a lot of detail about the actual story here but suffice to say that Jonah ran from his obligation to God and found himself swallowed by a whale. He sat in the whale's bely for three days and nights and could do nothing other than ponder his fate.

The point of the story in the midlife context for me is this. To an observer simply watching Jonah there appears to be nothing happening. He cannot move around, he cannot escape, he can do nothing but sit there and think. If the observer was able to take a step back then they would see that whilst Jonah appears to be immobile, he is actually moving in a direction that does give him insight into his fate, both through the process of contemplation and prayer, but also physically through the movement of the whale.

My whale was my childhood beliefs. That was the vessel that bound me in indecisiveness and was the reason I appeared to be unmoving to the observers. And it was in unravelling their mystery that I was able to set myself free to move forward once again.

I have also come to understand that the journey cannot be forced that in some ways the memories or chains that do bind us are like combination locks. You cannot move on to the next tumbler until the last one clicks into place. So whilst the time taken in the process does not suit the observers, the person whose journey it is can only move at his own pace.

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This is a song for my Dark Night



The photo is one I took at Ao Nang on the recent trip to Thailand.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Time to move

We have spent the last couple of weekends looking at houses. The unit we are renting has served it's purpose but we now find that there are one and a half children at least who wish to live with us and the unit is too small to accomodate everyone.

But we don't have a lot to spend so it's going to be a bit of pot luck in finding something affordable that is halfway decent. Not impossible but tough. There are two we are looking at pretty closely at the moment but both are only two bedroom although they do have a fairly easy conversion of a garage into a bungalow which we may need to do. Three bedroom houses or units of similar quality are around $40-50k beyond our budget.

Melbourne's weather has been oppressive for most of the last week with temperatures hitting close to 40 again today. I know that's not as bad as Adelaide Gypsy [if you're reading] but still way too hot for March.

We will need to put an offer in on one of the houses tomorrow and the other later in the week so wish us luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

They Don't Understand

I am beginning to think that one of my greatest failures was to tread water after the separation. Perhaps I should have made decisions more quickly to allow the healing process to begin earlier. I've thought about that over and over again and I keep coming up with the same conclusion. I wasn't able to.

Whether the midlife episode includes a separation or the desire to buy a fast car or drop out of the ratrace for a while is in a lot of ways immaterial. For me it was characterised by confusion, by a total lack of self esteem [and I'll tackle that one in another post] and an inability to actually put things into context.

I was not able to actually move forward until I had a number of counselling sessions and I was finally able to put some of my childhood beliefs into context. And that was the true revelation.

I had grown up thinking that I had shouldered responsibilities that were thrust upon me from an early age when what I had actually done was run away from them and hidden in my bedroom through much of my teenage years. As a consequence I grew up unable to open myself up to truly intimate contact or to true deep and abiding friendship.

Am I going to apologise for treading water? No. I couldn't do anything else until I had sorted through all the other baggage and the problem was I didn't even know what the baggage was at the time. So for those who criticise that indecisiveness consider what you may also do in the same situation because you may one day also walk in my shoes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Victim, Judge or Both

"How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on Earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake. The rest of the animals pay once for every mistake they make. But not us. We have a powerful memory. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves. If justice exists, then that was enough, we don't need to do it again. But every time we remember, we juge ourselves again, we are guilty again, and we punish ourselves again and again..."

Don Miguel Ruiz - The Four Agreements

I have mentioned this book many times before because it became the road map by which I was able to leave the backwaters and start to live again. But there are still times when I fall into old habits and with the comments from my friends and former family I find that again I am judging myself, again I am guilty and again I seek punishment. This comes in the form of restless sleep, perhaps of ungracious thoughts about other people, certainly in belting myself up about things again.

The very worst part is that you feel the need to step on eggshells again and maybe begin to compromise on what you think is the right thing. Despite the rocky start to the last week it ended well, far better than I expected and I am really grateful for that, but with the guilt I find that I look over my shoulder and constantly expect the worst.

So I sit here wondering what is going to go wrong this week knowing that those sort of feelings have absolutely no rational basis.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Great Expectations


It's been a big week. My daughter has been with us full time and it couldn't have been better. But there was also the criticisms of once good friends and the truth from ex family members. And as usual those things did get me thinking.

I like the metaphor of life being like a river with it's ebbs and flows, it's twists and turns, the rapids of white water and the sluggardness of the backwaters. Midlife for me was being caught in the backwater and it is a difficult thing to explain how that feels. You can have all the desire in the world to move forward but that is impossible until certain revelations come, until some of that baggage we have been carrying is ejected and left on the bank, so that we can go forward with a lighter load.

It is interesting that some people believe that I should have been able to just get back out into the current and keep going. Those who actually recognise a midlife episode will know that for many that is not possible. The pondering, the questioning and the ultimate truth come in their own time and at their own pace. Force it and the current might bring you down as soon as you get to that next bend in the river.

In the past week I have learnt that E and my mate and his wife had great expectations about the way I should have behaved. I failed their expectations, but I have wondered if they actually had any right to place those upon me. Does anybody really have the right to expect people to behave in a manner that fits with their beliefs? In these instances I have been told that it was not what I did, but the fact that I did not act to a retrospective timetable that they believe I should have been governed by. But none of them were in the river with me, they were all paddling their own course. None, not a single one of my friends, actually took the time to stop by and ask how I was getting on, whether I needed help, or even just take the time to stroll along the bank with me. So in not taking that time what criteria do they judge me by? None have heard my story.

So here is my advice. If you place expectations on other people and they fail to live up to them, understand that they were yours in the first place. If you make presumptions about people and they don't conform to those presumptions do not judge them too harshly. Recognise that people can be in dark places and are able to hide the fact that they are wandering lost to everyone, even those who think they know them best. Understand that people change, that change can be a positive thing even when it springs from what appears to be very negative situations. But also understand that change occurs at its own pace, you have no right to impose your timetable on anyone else. And finally, if you know that a friend is struggling, offer a hand, it is sometimes enough that your friend knows you are there for them even if they don't immediately take up the offer.

Two Dogs


Things have been a bit grim here lately so I thought I'd post something I was forwarded last week. Apologies for not acknowledging who the original author was.

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I've got 2 dogs. I bought a large bag of Meaty Bites at Big W and was standing in line at the check-out.

A woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

On impulse, I told her that no, I was starting The Meaty Bites Diet again, although I probably shouldn't because I'd ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 25 kgs before I woke in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IV's in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Meaty Bites and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry & that the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again.

I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story, particularly a guy who was behind her.

Horrified, she asked if I'd ended up in the hospital in that condition because I had been poisoned by the food. I told her no, it was because I'd been sitting in the middle of the road licking my dick and a car hit me.

I thought one guy was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard as he staggered out the door.

Stupid bitch...why else would I buy dog food??

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Update on Mum

I saw her this morning and it is absolutely remarkable to see the change in her foot. It is a totally different colour and temperature and you can actually see blood in the veins. She is pretty sore but was sitting in a chair for a while and I expect that they will have her up walking around tomorrow or the next day. All we have to do now is wait and see whether there are any signs of rejection or infection and the critical period for that is the next month. Thank you to everyone who has passed on their best wishes. I really value your support.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

E is not "E"

The E who commented yesterday is not the person I thought it was and I want to set that record straight because it probably requires a different response from me. To the real E's credit she did send me an SMS to tell me.

Right now though I am off to hospital where Mum is being operated on so it will be a while before I clear it up.

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Mum came through the operation and everything apparently went to schedule. She is very dopey and we won't see the surgeon until tomorrow morning, so I'll go straight over before work. My mate messaged and asked how Mum was which I really appreciated.

Now onto "E".

I have read again what I responded and I don't really see anything that I should change. Only thing was I didn't send this person an email. I guess that the same response stands and that is that I would ask you not to make presumptions about my motivations, about what you think was happening or why I stayed too long in your eyes. Believe it or not I too went through the sleepless nights and the grieving. Never ever think I didn't. But no one saw that because I hid it. That is another weakness of mine, I find it very easy to close doors and not let anyone see the real person. And it takes time to unwind lessons of a lifetime. Maybe for some of us it is the midlife period that becomes the opportunity to begin to understand ourselves. And maybe understanding comes too late for some of us to solve the problems we have.

The why is a question that may forever remain unanswered and do not believe that the same thing can't happen to you.

Finally, E what is your motivation in reading the blog? How did you find out about it? If I am unforgivable and gutless, if you have a total lack of respect for me and you believe I had such an inflated opinion of myself that I considered myself perfect, why read this? Do you do it in private? Do you discuss me openly with other people? Do you sit around and offer the sorts of opinions about me that you have expressed in the comment to anyone who will listen, or do you simply keep your own counsel? I am not paranoid about it, I just find it odd. I know that I cannot change your opinion and that any issues you have with me are your issues. I have no control over that. But know that I did enjoy the times when we were family. And everyone else should know also that despite a bad ending, the marriage had good times, many of them.

I assume [and yes I know I shouldn't make assumptions] that you think that the people who give me positive comments are wrong and that it may hurt you to see that others may hold a different opinion of me than you do. All I can suggest is don't read what I write.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

E's comment

A comment on the last post said I was wrong about L bad mouthing me and I responded that I had never said she had. On re-reading what I wrote I can now see how that conclusion may have been drawn. Let me say again that L told me that she would never bad mouth me and I believe her, and maybe E was right in his comment that my actions were what condemned me more than anything. Or from what he has said more likely it seems my inactions.

I make no excuses for my apparent gutlessness. I think one of the major lessons I have learnt is that relationships fail because of a lack of communication. Purely and simply. Molehills become mountains when people don't talk. Possibly my biggest mistake when I did confess my wrongs was that I then continued in a vein where the communication between us was still stilted and uncomfortable. But old habits do sometimes die hard and when you spend a life time bottling things up it is really difficult to all of a sudden expect to be an open book.

It has taken me the best part of the two years of separation to learn that lesson, way too late to save any previous relationships. And let me say now that there is a lot more to the story than I will ever reveal to anyone. Deep seated things that go way back to childhood that came to be put into perspective through counselling.

I titled this blog "Midlife - A Journey" because that is what it has been. Here I have tried to be honest where I haven't been honest in the past. For someone guilty of infidelity I expect to be judged about my degree of honesty. I have tried very hard in every instance to make sure that people know this is my perspective, my reality, and it may not correspond with what other people believe is true.

Writing has been cathartic for me and maybe somewhere along the way what I have written will help other people. Everyone is capable of making mistakes that they regret. If I may offer a word of advice to people who do judge those mistakes, please think about how you would feel in the same place. Don't sit back and think that one day the same thing won't happen to you. E said that I held myself up as someone who portrayed himself as perfect but I don't think that is true. I did however have a set of standards and a morality that turned out to be capable of being breached. That is my true failing and it can happen to anyone.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What others think.

It is no secret that I have made mistakes. Last night after I had told my lady about the events of the day she broke down and made up her mind to leave. It was all too hard. We were judged, despised and condemned by people who knew only one side of the story. And sometimes it is really difficult to see when things may begin to improve. It's often one step forward, two back.

And in any story whilst both sides have elements of truth the ultimate reality lies somewhere in between. In my desire not to hurt anyone anymore than I already had I let other people either tell my story, or let them listen only to the one side that showed me in the worst possible light. And in some ways that did suit me when you harbour guilt or lose your self respect it is easy to believe the worst. I have done my best to accept all blame and not make negative comments about my ex to anyone. Yesterday made me believe that perhaps I hadn't been afforded the same courtesy.

It was a message from her daughter that convinced my lady not to walk away. "You know Mum" she said, "I am sure everyone is hated by someone, but at the end of the day if you come home to a really nice guy it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."

That made us both feel much better.

I have begun a private blog taking the lead from some of you and I'll send out email invitations to those of you who wish to view it. I will definitely keep this one going but there are times when I need to be a bit more circumspect with what I say. If you haven't received an invitation but would like one please drop me an email.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Old Friends and the Ghost of Me

There have been many times over the past few years when I have wished I had someone to talk to. In the end I found that voice in my blogs and the willing ears to listen to my woes, my concerns and my stumbles along the way, as my relationships with people changed and changed again.

I have spoken before about the fact that I've spent a lot of my life being a loner and an observer. I haven't actively sought friendships and in fact I've probably feared them in some ways. Safer that way sometimes. The mother of my children has had no problems along those lines and has had many friends to lean on during those times. And I'll say again that the failure of the marriage was in my eyes my fault, not hers.

Anyway, she's moving on and has a new partner, as do I, and I trust that one day everything will be OK for all of us. I said a couple of posts ago that my daughter is staying with me whilst her mother is on an overseas holiday and I thought that was wonderful but I will admit it hasn't been all smooth sailing. I won't go into details here but I am thinking of a private blog where I can air that stuff too.

This weekend she has stayed with friends of mine and her mother...really good friends, god parents to our kids, best men at each others wedding etc. And I know that they have been a great shoulder for my ex-wife to cry on and I'm glad that they supported her. But with what's happened things can't go back to the way they were and that came home with a thud this morning.

Yesterday I asked if they minded whether my new partner came over with me to pick up my daughter and they said that they didn't, but on speaking to them this morning they said that it would be too uncomfortable to meet at this time. Now in my mind I know that this is their issue, not mine, but it also draws a bit of a line in the sand. I am not sure if they have met the new partner of my ex or not, but I hope when they do that they don't see him with the ghost of me hanging around. He deserves the chance to become their friend too.

My ex is lucky that she has been able to maintain those other relationships with friends that she had before the break up. The fact that I haven't maybe simply rests with that fundamental flaw in my character that makes friends hard to come by. Maybe the fact that in my desire not to burden anyone with my version of events I have simply allowed other versions to become the reality.

Perhaps the friendship I actually thought was there may have passed into memory some time ago and all I feel now is an echo of what once was. My only choice now is to leave further contact to them. One day I hope they may be ready to move on too. It reinforces our need to make a new circle of friends now, because you can't substitute old relationships with new ones. You really have to start again.

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Addendum: 9:30pm
My mate wasn't there when I picked my daughter up obviously choosing to stay away. His wife did ask me to step outside when I arrived and said that she would never forgive me, not for what I did, but for the way I did it. She also said that she wasn't one to judge people and therefore this was not an issue related to my new partner, but to me. I told her that people make judgments based upon their personal knowledge of issues and that in this case, given she had never discussed anything with me, that she was basing those opinions entirely upon one side of the story.

To be honest I have absolutely no idea what she meant by "the way I did things." I told her that if ever she did want to ask me about my actions that I would be willing to talk about it with her and that she knew where to find me. I have arranged for my daughter to stay elsewhere next weekend.

It had been my mates 50th birthday when I was away and I bought a book for him which I gave him yesterday. In it I wrote "Thanks for the years of friendship and memories. May there be many more." Somehow I no longer think there will be.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Me Mum Too

Thanks to everyone who sent their best wishes. Mum's artery in her left leg is totally blocked from her groin to above her knee and again from below her knee to her foot. The doctor's will insert a plastic artery from her right leg to bypass the other blockage and hopefully return some blood circulation to her left foot. She is booked to go into hospital on Monday and is to be operated on on Wednesday next week.

Of course there are a lot of risks involved with a 77 year old undergoing a general anesthetic as well as risks of post operative infections but the risk of not having the procedure done is that gangrene may set in and ultimately that would lead to amputation. She is still in denial about the cause of the blockages. In her mind it is due to her back pain despite the doctor telling her it was caused by her smoking. I've just hung up the phone from her and I could tell she was smoking while she was talking to me. What's that about old dogs?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Me Mum

I had close to 2000 emails waiting for me on my return of which around 600 have required some response and I am now still at work waiting for a meeting so forgive me for not yet having gotten around to reading any of your blogs and catching up on what you've been doing. I know I owe people some emails and I promise I will get around to answering. This again will be a quick post.

Whilst I was away I got a message from my sister telling me that Mum had received some results from tests she had done and that further investigation from specialists was required. Around 18 months ago she had an operation on her spine to fuse some disks but the surgery showed quite extensive deterioration due to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. It now seems that the arteries in her legs have collapsed and that she has no blood circulation to her feet.

Tomorrow we visit the specialist for the results of the tests and the prognosis. There are several possibilities. The best case is that a stent can be inserted and open up the arteries, the worst case is a possible amputations. I'll know more tomorrow.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Little Wonders

I'm back from a wonderful trip. I've spent the past two days processing some of the photos and over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting about Thailand and what a great place it is. I want to go into some detail in the off chance that people searching will find some of the information useful.

I'll get around to visiting my blogs friends over the next week as well.

In the meantime I am really pleased to say that my youngest daughter stayed at my place last night for the first time in around 18 months and when her mother goes away at the end of the week on a holiday she'll be staying with us.

So in celebration may I ask you to listen to the following from Rob Thomas.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Taste of Thailand

Hi all,
Monday 5:20pm here and we're in Sukothai which is in the Central north of Thailand about 6 hours from Bangkok. Hot and humid, must be hell in the wet season. I'm going to keep this brief but have written a journal approaching 40 pages of notes so far and taken around 2000 photos in the first week.

Having a fantastic time. People are beautiful and the groups we have been with have also been great. Last week was spent with a bunch of Aussies and one Canadian in the west of the country. Had our farewell dinner with that group last night which is always sad and have commenced the journey this week with a whole new group of people - 4 Aussies, 3 girls from the UK, one from Chicago and a swiss couple.

Tomorrow we are on a bike ride around the ruins of the ancient Thai capital of Sukhotai and after that head up to the Chiang Mai area for a few days. Couldn't get into Ko Samet so have booked internal flights and 4 days down at Krabi. Connecting flight takes us back to the International Airport in Bangkok at 4pm on Thursday of next week before catching the flight back home at 9pm arriving back in Melbourne at 9am on Friday.

Highly recommend travelling with Intrepid. We've got a great local tour guide who is absolutely lovely and we've been lucky enough to have her again this week. Everything has run like clockwork and we have enough spare time to go exploring or chill if we want to. This is not a 5 star tour so we are in guest houses with squat toilets in some cases and travelling on local transport which has been a great way to experience the country. I don't think I'd want to travel any other way.

I look forward to posting more when I get back and have really missed all of you blogging buddies.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Confucius say....

I'll start this with a very corny joke -

Confucius say man who run naked through turnstile at airport on way to Bangkok.

And that's exactly where I'm off to tomorrow, fully clothed and uninjured I might add. The trip has been booked with Intrepid Travel.

So I'll be absent for almost three weeks arriving back in Melbourne on Friday 22nd February. The itinerary is below. It will be my first taste of Asia and I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be the first of many trips with Intrepid and I look forward to writing about it on my return, with plenty of photos of course.

The trip is $850 Australian for 14 days and that's incredible value. Browsing their website there are tours upwards of 80 days for example Beijing to Bali $A4435 plus a local payment of $1350 US. That's around $A6000 for nearly three months of travel, pretty good I reckon, but that one will have to wait for long service leave.

Day 1 Bangkok

The ruling heart of Thailand is Bangkok, home to temples, palaces, floating markets and the frantic pace of a city on the move.

Days 2-3 Three Pagodas Pass

Staggering views await on a journey along the winding road to Sangkhlaburi. Travel through the limestone mountains and forests that are home to the Karen and Mon people and take an elephant ride before stopping off at the historical Three Pagodas Pass.

Day 4 Thong Pha Phum

Learn about the customs, religions and way of life of the Karen and Mon people and wander through the produce market that has remained largely unchanged over the centuries.

Day 5 River Kwai

Make an sobering visit to the Hellfire Pass Museum before taking the infamous Thai-Burma railway to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.

Days 6-7 Bangkok

Visit the spectacular Erawan waterfalls and take a dip, try your hand at Thai Cooking or take a kayak for a paddle before returning to Bangkok. Enjoy a stay with a local family in a traditional teak house.

Days 8 Sukhothai

Travel to Thailand's first capital and explore the 12th century ruins by bike. This historical park is dotted with temples, lakes and beautiful gardens.

Day 9 Lampang

See the wooden temple at Wat Phra That Lampak Luang and admire the inspiring murals or step back in time and be chauffeured around town by horse cart. This is the only town in Thailand that still uses this transport. For a bit of indulgence head down to the local herbal sauna for some pampering.

Days 10 Elephant / Homestay

Watch elephants at work and play before jumping aboard one for a ride through the forest. Say goodbye to our majestic friends and spend the night in a remote village to learn about hilltribe crafts and rural Thai life.

Days 11-13 Chiang Mai

Fabulous temples await in Chiang Mai and there is ample time to take a cooking class, bamboo raft down the river or hire a bike and cycle off into the countryside.

Day 14 Bangkok

Return to Bangkok for last minute shopping and sight seeing at the end of an incredible journey.

I'm not sure if I'll get the chance to post during the trip but if I get the chance I'll give a quick update.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

On a train bound for nowhere

I had a few meetings in the city yesterday and caught a train for the first time in years. Here were some of my thoughts.

I'm on a train to the city winding on tracks that echo with the sights from my young manhood. Past graffiti spattered walls and fences, some with elaborate paintings, others with tags like mythz, serv, zent and fable. Most of these done with spray cans but the oldest daubed in paint like vosko and "Free Zarb" have been there viewed by train travelers since the days of the red rattlers more than 30 years ago. Zarb was gaoled in the 1960's as a draft dodger.

The river of backyards, rubble strewn factories and blackberry choked chainlink fences haven't changed all that much in three decades. All strangely familiar. The graffiti hints of hidden after dark lives, lived outside society's mainstream, the over abundant use of chrome paint perhaps an indication of the ruin to come.

On the train in front of me is a mother with a late teenage daughter; both a little overweight, mum telling daughter that she was wearing the exact same junmper she had seen on someone else a few days ago.

In front of them was a group of four young blokes in fluro t-shirts and with big hair reminiscent of the Bay City Rollers. I wonder if they've ever heard of that group or if the thought of looking like an eighties Scottish gay icon boy band would disturb them at all.

There are few men in suits - ths was the 8:58 from Tecoma and way too late for most office workers, but there is one head shaven guy in a pinstriped suit talking on a mobile phone. I smile as I get a memory of an ex-partner in the police force who returned from a trip to Bali with two tailor made suits he said were the latest in European fashion - one was aubergine in colour the other had horizontal pinstripes; he only wore the once.

Sitting at Camberwell Station for a few minutes, a young girl behind me with an ipod turned up way too loud sat urging the train to "come on" obviously late for an appointment.

Unlike 30 years ago their is a preponderance of mobile phones and people engaged in loud conversations oblivious to the fact that they are revealing snippets of private lives to all and sundry.

To my left is a man with a very bad toupee and in front of him an old guy in a 1970's two stripe tracksuit top wearing a black fedora. There was a lady with lips that were way too dark and in front of her a woman with an obviously deaf companion because everyone in the carriage was able to hear what she was saying.

After Richmond Station I couls see the cranes in Olympic Park above the building site of the new rugby and soccer stadium slowly taking shape. The MCG looms above the railway line completely rebuilt since the mid-1970's with only the light towers, the battle ground of greenies and building workers who tried to prevent there construction, left as they were circa 1980.

Before I knew it I was disembarking in the City. The old Museum Station renamed Melbourne Central in homage to the commercial precinct rather than the cultural since the museum moved to Carlton. I used to know every inch of those city streets when I was a young policeman on foot patrol but it struck me that not a lot has changed over the years. There are still hordes of people including kids who I thought should have been back at school.

The Hare Krishnas still walk around banging drums and cymbals chanting incomprehensible but strangely tuneful songs. It occurred to me that I've never seen an old Hare Krishna proving that they have either discovered the Fountain of Youth or that as you get older, you get wiser and leave.

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Between meetings I spent a couple of hours testing out a new camera lens. For those interested it's a Tamron 18-250 zoom and here are some results which I hope show my town in a light different to what you normally see.

For those of a more technical bent I use a Canon 30D and capture the images in RAW before converting them with Rawshooters Essential to JPEGS. I shot at 1000 ISO. The lens performed well with very fast focusing and the range is impressive. The photo of the detail of the lions head was taken at the 250mm extension and the photo immediately below it from exactly the same spot at 18mm.