Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here's another Dad joke sent to me by a mate of mine - don't read if you're offended by political incorrectness :)

I took my dad to the mall the other day to buy some new shoes (he is 84).
We decided to grab a bite at the food court.

I noticed he was watching a teenager sitting next to him.

The teenager had spiked hair in all different colours: green, red, orange, and blue.

My dad kept staring at him.

The teenager would look and find him staring every time.

When the teenager had enough, he sarcastically asked:

'What's the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?'

Knowing my Dad, I quickly swallowed my food so that I would not choke on his response; knowing he would have a good one.

And in classic style he did not bat an eye in his response:

Got stoned once and fucked a peacock. I was just wondering if you were my son.'

Monday, November 29, 2010

Young Monks

I should say that our Thailand trip was with Intrepid Travel and that we would gladly go with them again.  We had a terrific time spent travelling with locals and enjoying the local hospitality.  This set of photos are of some young Burmese Monks who were staying in a temple in a village near Chiang Mai where we enjoyed a homestay.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What was he thinking????

Most people would know that men's toilets aren't the most hygenic of places.  Today whilst doing some shopping for the new house and printing off some of the photos you folks have chosen over the past couple of weeks, I decided that I needed a leak.

The gents is down at the end of a long corridor, past the parents room and the ladies, outside of which is a couch, on which a bloke was perched obviously waiting for his missus.   On the floor immediately outside the entrance to the mens was a kid about three years old.

"I'm gonna roll down to you Dad." he said, and proceeded to roll down the floor to the bloke sitting on the chair. 

Now inside the dunny on the floor beneath the urinals were puddles of piss.  There was no way anyone, who'd been in the toilet could miss getting his shoes wet, and in getting them wet, trailing wet footprints out and into the corridor where this kid was rolling towards his old man.  And what did the Dad say -
"Are you going to roll all the way down to me?"

Now even if he hadn't been in there and seen the state of the floor, what type of bloke would let his kid roll around on a floor anywhere near a water closet????

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Land is settled

Well we are now the owners of a new plot of land in Cranbourne North.   Actually we fully own a bit and the bank through a mortgage owns the rest but not forever.

We are still waiting on the construction loan to be approved and whilst our builder has scheduled us to start on Tuesday that will now have to be postponed.  The bank valuer is still refusing to budge on the grounds that houses the value of ours haven't been sold in the area and therefore he won't put the right value on either the land or on the construction.    Our broker has been busily tracking down sales in the area and has now gone back to the valuer with evidence of similar sized houses in the area having been sold for between $50k and $100k more than what he has valued ours at.

The other option we are pursuing is discharging the mortgage on our current house and taking that to the CBA as well, thus including the equity we have in this one in the overall formula.  Even if this one is valued at the lower end of the range we will still save $10k in mortgage insurance.  The only problem is this will all take time which will mean delays in building and possibly in our place in the queue.   In any event I am hoping it will be sorted out in the next fortnight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's not 80-30

And in visiting yet another on my blogroll Pearl over at "Pearl, Why you little..." wrote a post about carrying a notebook everwhere and writing down things that become fodder for her posts and I remembered I overheard something on the train the other day that I was going to mention but had forgotten about.

A young girl talking loudly on her iPhone said "It's a 50-50 proposition you know, it's not like it's 80-30..."

Now there's a budding economist.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Doi Sutep Magic

This was a magical night and I would urge anyone visiting Chiang Mai to make the treck up the mountain to the temple at Doi Sutep for the evening prayers.  As the sun goes down the gold leaf of the temple comes to life.    Again please indulge me with your opinions of which photos I should print off and hang on the wall.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Will Congress Repeal Health Care Reform?

Today I am putting up a guest post from Barbara O'Brien whose main blog is The Mahablog.  A little while back Barbara contacted me and asked if I would allow her to guest post on this blog and after  bit of toing and froing, mainly because I didn't really see what benefit there was to her in publishing an American Health story on an Aussie Blog, she sent through the article below for me.

Here is what she wrote to me -

My name is Barbara O’ Brien and my blogging at The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, AlterNet, and elsewhere on the progressive political and health blogophere has earned me the notoriety of being a panelist at the Yearly Kos Convention and a featured guest blogger at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC.
I’m contacting you because I found your blog in a health care site search and wanted to reach out to you to tell you about my newest blogging platform —the public concern of healthcare and its relationto the baby boomer and those over the age of 40.
My main goal is to increase awareness on these important issues, and Iwas hoping you could help me. I am interested in providing you a guest post to be placed, but I realize this may not be a viable option. I am also willing to inquire about link opportunities. I hope to hear back from you soon.


Barbara O’ Brien
Barbaraobrien (at) maacenter.org

Now in my lifetime I have voted for all main political parties in this country, except the Greens [and don't get me started on that bunch of fairies at the bottom of the garden], but as I've gotten older I've probably tended more towards the slight right of centre, mainly because I believe that they are better economic managers.  However, there are two areas where I am probably a bit more of a socialist and that is in the areas of Education and Health Care.   People, in our society have fundamentals rights to a good education, good health care and I'll throw in the right to feel safe and secure as well.

I believe that we in Australia are generally in pretty good shape from a health care viewpoint when compared to others.   Sure we have problems with waiting lists, and ambulance delays and shortages of beds, but most times, people who get sick and need help can get it.   And that is why I've agreed to put up this post by Barbara - from what I know of the American system, it sucks, and whilst we have political interference in health care reform in my country, it pales into insignificance, compared to what appears to be happening in the States.  I make no judgement on whether Barbara is right or wrong here and would be really interested in any comments, you as readers care to make.

So here is Barbara's post.

Will Congress Repeal Health Care Reform?

As soon as Republicans knew they had won a majority of House seats in the midterm elections, GOP leaders vowed to repeal health care reform. Can they do this? And should they?

Frankly, chances that the health care reform bill could be repealed completely are remote, especially since such repeal would have to override President Obama's veto, and the Senate still has a Democratic majority.

House Republicans say they have some tricks up their sleeves, such as refusing to provide funds in the budget to implement health care reform. However, provisions of the law that will expand Medicaid and help subsidize private insurance won't kick in until 2014. Until then, there's not much the House can do to the budget to stop health care reform from going forward, short of defunding the entire Health and Human Services department.

Another "trick" might be to dismantle the bill piece by piece. One provision that many people want to remove is the individual mandate, which will require most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty. This provision also kicks in in 2014, and it's one that Baby Boomers in particular will want to fight to keep.

Here's why: Beginning in 2014, private insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to insure someone because of a pre-existing condition. But without an individual mandate, there will be no incentive for younger and healthier people to purchase health insurance until the time comes when they need it. This means those left in the insurance "risk pool" will be older, and that drives up the cost of insurance.

By the time we reach 50, nearly all of us have "pre-existing conditions." Some of our conditions are common, and some are not -- mesothelioma, for example, is rarely diagnosed in patients younger than 50. And without Medicare or other good insurance, mesothelioma treatment would be financially devastating.

But without the individual mandate requiring that healthier people share in the cost of insuring all of us, the health insurance premium bills for people aged 50 to 65 will be ruinous. We can scrap health care reform entirely, of course, but keep in mind that if you lose your insurance before you reach Medicare age you may not be able to purchase insurance at all, at any price, if you have a pre-existing condition.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Funny how sometimes memories are triggered by unexpected things.  I was browsing some of the blogs I follow the other night when I came across a post on Gaelikaa's diary about kites and how her son loves them and it brought me back to a time when my Dad made me a kite.

Dad was a commercial taveller - a salesman these days - for a paper merchant company and we were never short of stuff for school, pens, pencils, paper, lunch bags.  You name it and Dad would bring it home. 

I must have been around five or six and Dad decided that he would build me a kite.  He got two bits of one inch square timber, somehow fastened them together with string and no matter how tight he tied them they still moved around.    

He then got some heavy thick brown paper which he drew a face on with the Derwent pencils he'd appropriated and glued it to the timber cricifix.   After punching a hole through the nose on the face he then tied on heavy twine and finally a tail made out of ripped up material.   I don't remember what it was he ripped up but knowing Dad, it was probably a dozen pair of old y-front undies.

I swear when it was finished it must have weighed about 10 kilos.   Still, we ran up and down the street for hours and every time we launched it into the air, it crashed straight back down to the ground.     The paper tore, the frame loosened and splintered and the only time it got more than 6 inches off the ground was when we threw it as high as we could.     It was completely devoid of any aero dynamic properties and proved that a kite didn't have to fly to be fun because it didn't matter, he made it for me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Settlement is coming

After buying our block of land in January we will finally own it on Friday. We've been talking over the last week about whether or not we should delay the build until after we sell our curent house because we have to borrow more than 80% of the cost and the bank wants to charge us around $19,000 in mortgage insurance.

The bank will only value our land at what we paid for it back in January despite the fact that you try and buy a block of similar size to ours on the estate now, you'd be paying at least $50k more. And to add insult to injury they are only valuing our build at $30k less than what it is costing us. The problem is they don't look at the plans they base the entire assessment on the price per square meter for a built house in the same suburb have been going for recently. That's despite the fact that there are many houses bigger and more expensive than ours being built in the same estate now. No wonder these pricks made $5 billion profit this year.

So the bank wants me to pay insurance for them in the event that I renege on the loan and the house is worth less than what is owed on it they can claim on that insurance.  Not me - I can't claim, even though I'm paying for it.  How does that work?  Never mind that since I bought my first home in 1982 I have never been late on a payment, not once.

What a rort. I understand why the bank needs to protect themselves but why do I have to pay a premium for insurance when in three months time I'd be under the limit anyway? Any bankers out there please explain.

Anyway - delaying the build would mean we'll have to rent somewhere, which means moving twice and probably also having to put stuff in storage. We'd have to find a place that would let us bring our dogs and it's just too much of a friggin pain in the arse to go that way. So we'll pay the bloody insurance and get the place built so we can move in and enjoy it.

On a much more pleasant note, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have met a number of our new neighbours already and we're both really looking forward to moving into the area and putting down new roots.

My lady is keeping the entire house building saga up to date on her blog Destination 3977 so please feel free to pop in and say hello.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Doi Sutep

Post three of my Thailand photos - this time of a little Hill Tribe girl we saw at Doi Sutep overlooking Chiang Mai. Let's have your votes folks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fantastic 4

It's been a long time since I started or took part in a meme, and on returning to blogging over the past few months after a period of time when I wrote little it would seem that maybe they aren't as popular as they once were.    So I'm gonna try another one and invite each of you to take part.

We all write our blogs for different reasons, for me, it began as a place to explore my feelings and has changed a fair bit over time depending on what is happening in my life.   So just like ourselves our readers also come and go so there's a good chance that most of you who visit this blog now have not dipped much, if at all, into my past posts.

I'm calling this meme the Fantastic 4 and the challenge is to choose 4 old posts that will tell us something about each other that we may not know if we are new readers.  So here are my 4 -

Blink of an eye revisited from 18 October 2008

The Heart of the Onion from 3 November 2007

Musical Memories from 21 June 2007

Remember when Mum said if you ate an apple core from 16 April 2009

This one is a Blog Hop so write your own Fantastic 4 post and leave the link below where it says "Click here to enter".  And remember to leave some comments as you move around the blogs.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The second in my series of posts asking you which ones I should print off frame and hang on the wall.   These are of the Buddha statues found in the ancient ruins of Sukothai.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

With great age comes...

I am about to start the third week of my new job.  This is a new start up company and we are building a new data centre in an inner city suburb, so at this stage we have a total of 17 people on board, mainly project managers and network architects.  My role, at least initially, is to commence the process towards achieving certification in a number of ISO standards - ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO27001 Information Security Management, ISO 14001 Enviroment Mangement, ISO 20001 ICT Service Mangement, and ISO 30001 Risk Mangement, to name a few.  There are a few of those I have a fair bit of experience with and others I'll be learning but that's part of the fun and not really the purpose of this post.

I have just realised that for the first time in my life I am actually the oldest person in my work place and that scares me a bit. Not sure I'm ready to don the mantle of the wise old sage no matter how white my beard is.  To paraphrase Spiderman I am aware that with great age comes great responsibility and being a bit of a tosser I feel the weight of responsibility.  At least the Dad jokes are still getting laughs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vicroads - WTF????

Thursday was Remembrance Day marked to remember the end of World War 1.   It is traditional in my country to wear a Red Poppy and as a mark of respect to observe a minutes silence at 11 am.    I have attended the funerals of many relatives of mine who have served our country and have placed red poppies on their coffins or in their graves.    It was great to see the number of young people this week wearing poppies, pinned on suits and t-shirts, dresses and blouses.    That for me is a wonderful sign for our future.

In my home town of Melbourne the Shrine of Remembrance was designed so that at precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month a sunbeam would shine through the roof of the cenotaph and illuminate a memorial in the base of the building.  When daylight saving was introduced a mirror was set up to intercept the beam and ensure that it still passed at the correct time.

This week we got the news that Vicroads, our vehicle registration, licensing and road construction and maintenance authority had decided that they would no longer observe the minutes silence.  In fact what they said was -
"VicRoads have not observed a minute's silence for a number of years as they are conscious of possible different cultural issues and don't wish to cause offence."

And in saying that, they have offended my culture and those of any person who believes that we should remember the sacrifices made and the fact that the end of wars is far more important to remember than the start of them.   This is Political Correctness gone mad once again.   The idiot that thought this was a good idea ought to be sacked.   The goose who wrote the press release ought to go back to school and learn a bit more about the difference between being culturally sensitive and understanding the reason for marking a day like this goes way beyond any cultural differences any of us may have.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eye of Wisdom

I am trawling through my collection of photographs looking for some to get printed off and framed for the new house and I'm finding way more than I need so I thought over the next few weeks I'd post a selection and ask you who do choose to read the blog to pick one or two from each collection that you think may be worthy of hanging on the wall.

The first few posts will be from our Thailand trip in February 2008.   Let me know whether they should be framed individually, as a tryptich, or in colour or black and white.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumb and Penny Bungers

It was Guy Fawkes night a few days back and I remembered that I had previously posted a story that I'm going to resurrect here with a few additions given I am going through that reminiscence stage again.

Talk to kids these days of Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumbs and Penny Bungers and they may well think they were three of your school friends but a long time ago they were synonymous with Guy Fawkes night. A celebration of the plot to blow up the British Parliament something I didn't know at the time and probably something that didn't really matter either because for us it was just an excuse to blow up letter boxes, stick sky rockets in milk or beer bottles and stand in front of a bonfire for hours with all the other families from the neighbourhood.

In the old orchard estate where I lived there were still plenty of vacant lots in those days and in the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes night all the kids and most of the dads from the neighbourhood would spend every spare minute dragging whatever the could find into the middle of the lot and building a bonfire that seemed to stretch for yards into the sky. It didn't matter what you threw on there either as long as it could burn - there'd be old furniture, mattresses and plenty of old car tyres that burnt with thick black acrid smoke. The blacker the better.

For weeks in the lead up to the night we'd be dragging rubbish from everywhere usually with the Dad's leading the way. In the end the pile would literally reach yards into the air and Dad, as he did, would pour a can of petrol over it on the night to make sure that it burnt properly.

The nights would start with a gathering on the corner with the fireworks our fathers had brought home and we'd watch in amazement as the catherine wheels spun and the rockets burst high overhead and when ours were finished it seemed to be a signal for more to begin rising from other parts of the neighbourhood and the show would go on for what seemed like hours.

There were no huge symphonies of fireworks. Each rocket and penny bunger were to be savoured in their own right. The odd fizzer didn't matter, the ones that leapt spluttering to the moon more than made up for those.

We'd all be dressed in our pajama's and dressing gowns and be allowed across the road to watch the lighting of the bonfire where the sparklers would be brought out and we spend what seemed like hours writing our names with the light. We never saw the bonfire go out because at some stage the Mum's would gather their kids together and usher them off to bed. I'm not sure, but if I know my Dad, he would then break out the beer and I'm sure the Dad's would stay out there watching the fire burn down. It would have been for safety reasons of course.

Do you remember the sound of penny bungers being set off in letter boxes or down drains and for days after the stacato sounds of a strip of tom thumbs being let off in the school toilets.

Now kids have all their fingers but a lot less fun so I count myself lucky to have lived in the days before fun was banned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hey I've got the fever

Is it just me or is the hayfever season lasting longer than usual.  Maybe it's the extra rain and the fact that the grasses have gone gang busters.   And how the hell do you blow your nose politely on the train when it's packed full of people doing their best to ignore the bloke in the ill fitting suit honking into a hanky already dripping with...well with snot; can't really call it anything else.  So you have to try and manoeveur your hand into your pocket and hope that the hanky isn't so wet it will leave suspicious patches on the trouser leg.  And then when you finally get it back in another sneeze approaches and you have to grab it quickly before you spray the lady with the blue rinse sitting in front of you.   And the worst part of all is that as I am getting older it seems to be getting worst.  Give me another couple of years and I'll be blowing my nose into a beach towell and that means I'm gonna need much bigger pockets.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's a long way from the Hills to a cow paddock

It occured to me that I haven't posted a lot this year about my personal life and what has unfolded do it's time I gave an update.

At the end of 2009 my lady and I were living [and still are] in a small three bedroom cottage on the side of the hill in Ferntree Gully.    Between us we have six kids, her a boy and a girl, me two boys and two girls, a regular Brady Bunch without the Alice - the three boys are the oldest and the girls the youngest and whilst I say kids they range in age from 17 up to 26.    At the time my lady's two were living full time with us and my youngest daughter stayed every second weekend.  My second son, having lost his job earlier in the year and having to vacate the place he was renting because he couldn't pay also needed somewhere to live.

So we sat down and discussed everything with the four who wanted to live with us and said that they were welcome to stay and save for their own place for as long as they liked but we needed to look at extending our place and put on at least a couple of more bedrooms. 

We started visiting display homes to get some ideas about what we could do or what we wanted to do and then made some enquiries with architects about the price of an extension and it turned out that it was going to be cheaper to build a new place from scratch than it was to extend where we are.

The decision then became about finding a block of land to build on and after exhaustive searching around the Gully and around the general vicinity of where we currently are, we came to the conclusion that land was either too expensive in this area or the terrain meant that the site costs were prohibitive.

So after returning from holiday in Narooma in January and after continuing the search for a suitable 5 bedroom home we ended up buying a block of land on a cow paddock in Cranbourne North.   That land was supposed to title in August but as I sit here now in early November we still do not own it but have been told that we will get the title by the end of this month.

We had originally decided to build the Marina 42, a five bedroom, two storey place, by Porter Davis, but in the next few months my lady's two kids moved out, my number two son moved in and we decided that it was stupid to pursue a five bedroom place when we didn't need it anymore.   The search continued and we have now settled on a house called the Monaco 36 by Carlisle.

And now we've gone from a cow paddock to a full blown housing estate with house popping up like mushrooms and with any luck we'll start building next month.

The full story is being told on my lady's blog Destination 3977.  Please drop by and let her know you came from here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

RIP Gambit

Around 15 years ago friends of ours who owned Brittany Spaniels had a dog who had a litter.   We had just lost my old dog Chai who at 17 had a long and great life and so felt ready to find another companion for our other old dog Jess.

So we went around and chose a little Black and White puppy who we called Connie after Constance the Duchess of Brittany in the 12 century.   When we went around to pick her up there was one puppy left who no one wanted.  The runt of the litter with a shortened pallet he wasn't deemed to be in good enough shape to be worthy of breeding.  And so we ended up with two wonderful little dogs, Gambit and his sister Connie.

When my then wife and I split up almost five years ago the dogs stayed with her and apart from a few visits when my daughters walked them around to the unit where I lived I didn't see a lot of them.   For the past few years they have lived with my ex and her new partner and on occasion have come up to the gate of the property to greet me.  Getting slower and struggling up the hill I know that they both still knew who I was because their tails wagged and he gave a funny little groan that he always gave when I scratched his ear.

On Thursday my youngest daughter and her Mum took Gambit to the vet and he had to be put down.  He had struggled to get up for the last week and it was no longer fair to watch him begin to waste away.  My ex was always much braver than me in being able to make that decision.

Even though I hadn't had the chance to have much to do with either of the dogs for a few years they were still a part of my family and I'll miss him.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Karen's Home

Here is my oldest sister Karen's recollections of our childhood home following on from my post Home at the Olflinks Estate and our sister Deb's post  Deb's Home.

Richardson Street, Box Hill South is the place I grew up. It was here I spent my lifetime before marriage and raising my own kids in Warrandyte, a suburb so far removed from the one I grew up in.

Richardson Street is not just about how our house looked and the memories this conjures particularly around the retro 70’s with the wallpaper, orange blinds and brown and orange furniture. To me, Richardson Street is mainly about the people.

We grew up in an era when our close neighbours were referred to as Auntie and Uncle and the other neighbours as Mr and Mrs. My childhood friends, whom I am lucky enough to still be in contact with, no matter how long the time between catch-up’s, were my world in a sometimes chaotic home environment.

Across the road lived the Scott’s - Auntie Hazel, Uncle Andy, Janet and Judith – in a beautiful white well maintained weatherboard home complete with garage. Next door, to the back of us, lived the Hellier’s; Auntie Claire, Uncle Bill, Annette and Joanne.

When I was younger I was friends with the Hoogens, but my memory here is rather vague as they moved away when I was very young. For a time, Peter Brown lived across the road and was lucky enough to own a horse and also had an above ground pool in his backyard. In fact, his house was built on the vacant block on the corner of Richardson and Massey Street’s which was where we built the annual neighbourhood bonfire for Guy Fawkes night. This particular night was a huge event in our Dad’s calendar as it allowed the pyromaniac in him to surface. I do remember that it was fairly gross to build “Guy Fawkes” and then set him and the bonfire beneath him alight and would often have me reflect, even at a young age, how horrible that would have been for the real Guy Fawkes. As the bonfire burned, we also set off skyrockets, sparklers, roman candles, halfpenny bungers and plenty of crackers let off just close enough to scare the living hell out of you! Dad was in his element!

Next to the Scott’s were the Dollenkamps, though I only spent a little time with Yolanda (Jolly as she was more commonly known) as she was a bit older than me. However, Laurie and Robert were friends.

So my best friends were Janet (Scott) and Annette (Hellier) and not only did we play together as kids, we all hit the pub scene together when we were old enough discoing our way around the town and setting the world on fire – or so we thought.

I remember a time when Laurie and Robert were pushing each other around in a pram and looked like they were having the best of fun. Of course, Janet and I wanted to join in, and boys being boys, they encouraged us, but only because after we were both stupid enough to climb in, they pushed us down the hill and let go. Down the hill we flew in this bloody pram until it crashed into the gutter – Janet landing on top of me! Of course, when I went sooking in to Mum about what a rotten brother Laurie was, somehow I ended up with the strap around my legs for being silly enough to get in to it in the first place. He was sneaky like that, my bloody brother!

Another time, I remember Janet and I climbed a neighbour’s fence to “pinch” some plums from the tree. Janet lost her footing and fell off the fence straight on to a rose bush! I remember a thorn from the bush went in her bum as deep as her little finger. Poor Janet, laid up in bed on her stomach, with stitches in her bum, and a box over her bum to keep the bedclothes off her wound. I was horrified, and of course, that was supposed to be another lessen we learnt – don’t steal from the neighbours. It was only a plum after all!

Mum spent every night after coming home from work, over at the Scott’s with Auntie Hazel, discussing the day’s events. Unfortunately for us, this meant that for hours, every night, these discussions would be had over a multitude of sherry’s, so Mum was pretty primed most nights of the weeks and dinner was often had well after 6pm. Dad and Uncle Andy used to have their “pleasant Sunday mornings” in the Scott’s garage – Dad always said as long as it was after 11am it was OK to crack the first beer!

As Annette’s Dad was a painter, he had these wonderful HUGE timber work horses that used to sit in their backyard when he wasn’t using them. Many an afternoon as kids, Annette and I would pretend we were riding real horses and would be shooting cowboys, travelling the countryside and letting our imaginations run absolutely wild. I remember Auntie Claire used to do a lot of cooking, cause the house used to always smell wonderful. We also used to spend hours in an old car that used to sit outside the McGowan’s house who lived “up the road” and the adventures we spent in that “car” on the “road” were amazing! Uncle Bill also played the drums in a band, and from a very young age, I wanted him to teach me how to play. For some reason Mum would never let me learn – perhaps it wasn’t “ladylike”

Christmas’s and birthdays were always spent at Richardson St with a multitude of family and friends. Mum and Dad always knew how to throw a party and we celebrated many grand occasions at Richardson Street. Whether a tent erected in the front yard, a tarp swung over the Hills Hoist in the backyard, or an indoor celebration, we only needed to have family and friends there and know it would be a good party.

Unfortunately, Richardson Street also recalls some sadder memories – those that I do not wish to reflect on here in detail, but are still etched forever in my memory. These however cannot be outweighed by the great memories of a street I lived in for 21 years.

“Home Is Where The Heart Is” was Richardson Street – my childhood Street.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When we were Hobbits - Mind Maps 1

I wrote in Home at the Golflinks Estate about growing up at Richardson Street and in The Five Longest Years I wrote of the first five years of my life.   Whilst when you are moving through the world at that age it seems a huge place, the reality is that our mind maps in those years are very tiny indeed.  Looking back I see snapshots of places I frequented, how I got to them is a blur and the strength of the memories is directly proportionate to the time we spend in each place.  Thus my home looms large in my memory and as I grow older the geography locked into my brain expands.

In those earlier posts I spoke at length about home – 24 years distilled into around 2,000 words which hardly seems enough to do it justice so in this post I want to explore how I came to know a bigger world.

The open drains running along Massey and Richardson Streets were a playground.  When I didn’t have to worry about Dad throwing gallons of petrol on the water and lighting it, or dodging the rats that ran from the conflagration I spent hours playing along the edges and in it.  Funny, it never seemed dirty, the water was just waste from the houses, the sink drains and the storm water runoff.  
There were myriads of fascinating creatures that lurked in the weeds that grew bigger than I was.   Caterpillars of all colours and sizes and the butterflies and moths that they later became.   There were spiders everywhere too, Daddy Longlegs, which we were told were one of the most poisonous on the planet but had a mouth too small to bite a human, even a little one like I was at the time.   Sad to say that the real story of the Daddy Longlegs is very different to the myth and if you want to know what it is you can check it out at Misconception Junction.

In the water were red worm type things that looked like singular anemone tentacles and I can say that none of them ever bit me either

I remember the warm, balmy nights of late spring and summer, and a young boy with skinny legs and baggy shorts listening with wonder to the song of the crickets somewhere beneath the ground. It amazed me that as I approached them attempting to find them beneath leaves or wherever they happened to be hiding, that they would fall silent.

One day I discovered that if I walked very softly I could locate the crickets burrow and with a quick stomp of my foot I could stop the song. This was a great game and the song nearly always began again. One day the grandfather of the girls next door was visiting them. He was obviously watching me creep around the garden stomping on cricket songs but as he was hidden by a screen of shrubs alond the common fence, I did not see him. Suddenly a deep gruff voice yelled at me across the fence.

“Why are you killing those crickets? What have they ever done to you?”

I was ashamed. I didn’t know that stomping on cricket sounds would kill crickets. I didn’t even know what a cricket looked like. From that day on, although the sounds still fascinated me, I tread warily near the cricket burrows and never stomped on one again.

Gradually the neighbourhood expanded.  Firstly the homes of neighbours were mapped in my mind and as we got older we were able to venture a little further afield.   Dinner time saw the Mum’s of the neighbourhood come to their front doors and call out in our case “Laurie and Karen.  Dinners ready.”   And no matter where we were we seemed to be able to hear it.
There was a vacant area along Eley Road which is now a park.  Back then though it was the dumping ground for the excavations of the houses and it was full of piles of clay.  It was a BMX track before there were BMXs and we spent hours riding up and down the piles doing jumps and generally racing each other around the various tracks. 

Winding through it was a creek which is now barrel drained.    It was actually a storm water outlet on the corner of Swinburne Street which eventually found it’s way into Gardiners Creek near the golf course on Station Street.  The outlet pipe was huge, at least to someone under three feet tall hobbit sized that we were and we explored it up the hill towards Nash Road.  Yeah I know it might have been dangerous, but it was fun and we all did it.  We could only force ourselves to go as far up there as we could as long as we could still see the light at the end.

The clay piles bordering the creek were also great places to have battles.  We’d break up into groups and toss yonnies and brinnies at each other like they were grenades.   Oddly enough I don’t recall anyone ever getting really hurt.  Falling off your bike caused far more scrapes of legs and bloody cuts and bruises.

Further down the creek near where the lane way came through from Roberts Avenue to Brook Crescent was a pond which filled up when the creek was raging and in flood.  It was surrounded by blackberry bushes and like Brer Rabbit us hobbits used to crawl through the brambles to the edge of the pond where we’d catch tadpolesto take home and keep in a bucket.  I managed to raise quite a few to frog hood and at one time Dad built me a small pond lined with plastic to keep them in.   Oddly enough as soon as they got legs they disappeared.  I always hoped that they’d find there way back to the creek eventually.

If we followed the creek further downstream towards the golf course we’d come across an abandoned farm house.  Of course it was a place we explored even though it was haunted by the ghosts of thousands of murder victims from past centuries.    There were plenty of times we scared the crap out of each other and ran all the way home as fast as we could.

So the world got a little larger when we were hobbits in a slow methodical manner.   More about the world beyond the neighbourhood to come.