Sunday, April 16, 2017

Not unlike... Peninsula

Ra Ra Ra, Hey!

Reflecting on my trip to Melbourne in February, a nostalgic mania must have overtaken me!
Hanging around old haunts, spinning freely on my bicycle and riding trains.... not much money but no limitations and an eager desire to recapture youth!

I'd never spent any time on the Mornington Peninsular when I was young. To us that was the wealthy side of the bay. We holidayed over at St Leondards, pretty much a fishing town, with only a meter's width of coarse grit sand to play in and plenty of rocks and sea grass reefs full of blue ringed octopus.

The bike ride from Sorento to Rosebud and then on to Frankston along the coast was quite an education... So much beach, so many people, bars, restaurants, sailing clubs... One thing that really caught my attention was the dominant Anglo culture along the coast and the obvious presence of wealthy pseudo upper class snobs. It was so weird, like a culture that just doesn't exist in Darwin.... or at least not so visibly.

This is a part of Australian culture which existed when I was a kid in the 80s and has somehow managed to thrive along the sheltered coast of the Mornington Peninsular.
I've spent my life getting worked up about the state of the world and here are these people living in some kind of luxurious middle class bubble of leisure. oblivious to the suffering in the world! I could feel it all around me! It was freaking weird and completely unfamiliar territory. I found it kind of exciting! After all I'd spent most of my youth drinking to excess to block out the ugliness of the world, yet here are these people blissfully quarantined from giving a shit about anything other than what bottle of white to have with their crumbed prawns...Welcome to the Insular Peninsular!

I hadn't had any experience of this culture, growing up but I did have exposure to 80s Aussie pop music and identified with a lot of it but there were some songs which I never truly understood until I ventured along this road. For some reason my head was full of Australian Crawl! I hadn't listened to them or even thought of their music for years but as I rolled between parked BMWs and Mercedes on the Nepean Highway it was their songs that materialized subliminally to knock out their rhythm through the salt air and sand roadside  verge. I felt it vibrating up through my handlebars and sensed it deeply all the way from the sparkling glare of Sorento's shallow waters to the downhill stretch at the Mt Martha bluff! A few lines from 'Indisposed' left their mark on every turn of my peddles, 'Oh no not you again'... Now I'm getting a feeling for just who those "Two young lovers living down the coast..." are. What coast? This one!
I felt this incredible urge to sing out loud 'Hoochie Gucci Feorucci Mama'! But realized as familiar as their songs are to me, I have no idea  what most of the lyrics are! So I googled and discovered that they're a bit cleverer than I'd originally thought! The tunes sound a bit up beat but the lyrics are far more cynical than I'd given them credit for, some are actually quite brilliant in my opinion. As I read the lyrics I realize it's not just James Reyne's singing that makes the songs illegible, it's equally a combination of unusual words, words that don't actually exist and the odd way they've arranged the words with the music. Some songs are arranged quite awkwardly almost to deliberately hide their criticism in plain view. Weird but makes a good sound.

Now here I am listening to Australian Crawl from a completely new perspective! I had no idea where they actually started out but the music fit! As I read about the band online I discoved that they originated from where else but the Mornington Peninsular! Their music expresses the character of the place so well! 

As I watched a few youtube videos I realized that James Reyne didn't sing all the songs. This 'other guy' was singing one of my favorite songs, the glint in his eye caught my attention, it was something bigger than a performance. He had a great voice and his manner on film lead me to wonder if he may have written many of their songs. There was something about him. Then I discovered (Please excuse my ignorance) Guy McDonough. I looked him up and was horrified to learn that he'd died back in 1984. He was only 28!  

The article below gives a very good review of the band, how they formed and a critique of their very special style and gift for bringing down the 'materialist culture' that birthed them.
"The idle rich are subjected to vicious broadsides and deft ripostes are flung at the decadent, wealthy snobs."
Now I'm back in Darwin, where the flow is very different. Something in me wants to get back there to that white middle class ghetto of spoiled privilege and willful ignorance... For a moment I almost believed that world actually existed.

In their own words from the song White Limbo:
"...Babylon is broken
Alice cried the dream has died
There is no wonderland."

Or maybe it's all really still just like this but there's no longer room in Australian Pop music to take the piss!

Thanks Australian Crawl for the very accurate roadmap to a soulless existence in the Land Down Under. Far cleverer than I'd ever realized!

Monday, April 03, 2017

Pretty things

I've been taking my camera along on my daily  commute to work.
For some people the daily commute equates to nothing more than precious minutes, sometimes hours lost from their free time before and after work. NOT Me Though!

My trips to and from work each day have become quite precious to me. Between family and work commitments I rarely get any dedicated free time to just wander about in nature, but who says traveling to work has to be a bore?

Here are some Beauty things:
Pools... Rapid Creek Marrara

Vigna Vexilata

Photos I've taken over the past couple of weeks on my way to work. Just to remind myself how truly blessed I am.

Riparian recruitment

Red Backed Wren (Blurry)

coastal sculpture, rocks and flowers

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Slime in the stream

It's not rocket science,
We have a creek close to Darwin which has a catchment of a fairly limited and measurable size. The majority of the creek catchment is contained within land under the management of the Darwin Airport.

Dragonfly larvae are dependent on a healthy aquatic environment
The origin of inputs to the system can be easily tracked to fairly specific locations and water quality tests can tell us at each point in the creek certain contaminants exist or at which point they are likely to have been introduced into the system... I don't possess the water quality testing equipment necessary to identify exactly what the composition of contaminants might be, however logic tells me that a creek which flows through predominantly undisturbed land should have quite clean water...

This morning I went for a ride down to the rock pool at the weir to get some film of the native fish swimming in the creek. There is nothing unusual about rainbow fish in Darwin Creeks today, but given the disgraceful mismanagement of our waterways it's only a matter of time before this habitat is completely ruined.

Rapid Creek appears to be quite clean until it reaches the site of the Mecure Darwin Airport Resort! Then you see something slightly different!

Drain from Mecure flowing into the clear water of Rapid Creek

Filth meets pure

Sludge flowing through nicely formed drain

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Word of the day

Today is Harmony Day...

I'd like to use this day to take a brief look at a very special word in the English Language which has drifted out of use in some quarters but is a much used and loved word here in the NT, in fact it is so commonly used here that some people believe it originated from an Aboriginal Language. This is not true but I am sure Aboriginal people have had enough experience dealing with Colonial bureaucratic BS to know that this word fits the Status Quo perfectly!

That word is Gammon.

I believe the meaning of the word hovers around the concept of something being essentially, False. It may have originally had a fairly narrow range of interpretation, but here in Australia, this land of utterly reprehensible political deceit, shonky traders, thieving speculators and generally disrespectful charlatans I'd say those who have taken to using the term over the past 100 years or so, have a far greater appreciation of the the breadth, depth and range with which this word can be applied.

Here's the Macquarie Dictionary definition of the word as it is currently used.


noun 1. deceitful nonsense. --
verb 2. to pretend; jokingly lie; to kid. --
adjective 3. false; fake; pretend: Gammon plants made of plastic. 
4. lame: What a gammon idea! --interjection 
5. an exclamation of disbelief, equivalent to "As if!". --phrase 
6. gammon around, to fool around. Also, gamin, gammin. 

So as our Government, proceeds with the dismantling of our racial discrimination act by repealing Section 18C on this day Tuesday 21st March (International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination). I would like to make use of my word of the day.

"This Shit is Gammon!"

Yes a most appropriate word which can be applied not only to this and multiple other matters of Public policy and legislation which are currently under attack from the Australian Government but can also be used to describe the nature of the mechanisms of Law and Government they have corrupted and most importantly the actual nature of the people involved. It's all simply "Gammon".

Happy Harmony Day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fairwell to a neighborhood bike shop

I learned to ride a two wheeler quite late, actually my first bike was just a little smaller than a full size man’s bicycle. I might have been about 8 or 9 I suppose. 

My first bike
Me on that old bike, with my sister and neighbor kid, I have no idea where they found training wheels to fit. (circa 1977)

The bike was handed down to me from my cousin in South Australia. Back in the 70s new bike were still fairly expensive, at the time I got my first bike it was a reasonable proposition to restore an old bike, including re-painting rather than to buy a new one. That's how I got my first bike, a hand-me-down farm bike with great big skinny wheels and a leather saddle when a lot of my mates were riding brand new dragsters with high handle bars, fat tires and a sissy bar on the back! 

There were no department store specials back then. Unbeknownst to me, my cousin's ancient but trusty old farm bike with the leather saddle which proved to be a literal pain in the arse (and embarrassment) to me at the time, was taken down to the bike shop in the back of the Kingswood station-wagon and checked in for a full overhaul. 
The 'bike shop' was Watsonia Cycles in Greensborough road, Watsonia. This was a real workshop where 'wheelmen', (serious cyclists) and hardcore bicycle mechanics (cross between a fitter and a blacksmith) tooled around with greasy bearings and hand made frames all day. This is the place where my first bike was re-born. Watsonia Cycles the place where bicycle guru's (who I believe even back then were slightly arrogant experts in their field) lovingly restored a seriously rusted clunky old piece of farm machinery (possibly belonging to the dawn of the safety bicycle) into a slick and gleaming piece of slightly dated, daggy, too big for a kid to learn on, bike! 

I'm not sure how long I owned that bike, or how long it took me to learn to ride it, but I do know that as soon as I could get rid of it and onto my brand new Malvern Star Dragstar with the extended frame I bloody well ditched that old bone rattler!

Watsonia Cycles (Later called Super Cycles) must have existed in the same place for more than 40 years. On a recent trip to Melbourne I discovered that the shop had closed.

In the 1980s Watsonia cycles played a pretty big part in encouraging the new era of BMX. I recall the time they set up a small circuit on the vacant land across the road which has since become the railway car park. They organized a demonstration day and kids came from all over Watsonia, Greensborough and Macleod to see the best of the best in exciting world of elite sports, Bicycle Moto Cross, do their thing! I have no idea who the guys were but their bike skills were mesmerizing and ensured that every kid in the neighborhood would be nagging their parents for the latest chromolly framed, plastic wheeled, knobby tyre'd over priced dragster usurping machine by, if not before Christmas! (Of course that was the year I finally got my dragster!)

Watsonia Cycles special
Virtually exact replica of my very first bike, on display

In the early days of my cycling life I have to admit I was only an occasional customer at Watsonia Cycles, I rarely had money to spend on bicycle repairs, the stripped threads on my axle nuts and bodgy attempts at puncture repair will attest to that! Actually as time went on nothing much changed, even when I wasn't broke I avoided parting with my hard won cash! However I did spend some money in the shop from time to time and I am very happy to say that I was expertly set up with the Shogun Katana I bought there nearly 30 years ago and still love to ride today. 

Super Cycle Bicycle store (Watsonia, Vic)
Super Cycles, used to be called Watsonia Cycles. Shopfront 365 Greensborough Rd.

A lot of stuff used to revolve around that old bike shop, but I haven't been able to find any references online. It's likely once they re-paint it, the shop will pass out of memory. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Starting from this

Starting point for my writing 'my' history of a small section of the Plenty River begins with this...

Exploring the hand cut gold mine on steep cliff edge of Plenty River bank (circa late 1980s)

A few odd photos from times spent on the river bank and exploring an old mine on the hillside of the plenty river...

The author with the dogs Tessa and Ben at camp A (circa 1987)

pinging tin
Renegade delinquents honing their skills (circa 1987)

Good ol boys
The Outlaw retreat - Camp A

Holding my old Bowie knife and dusting off a moldy pair of boots.

Not much of a starting point but a bunch of fading memories could polish up ok with a few visual prompts and the help of my new State Library of Victoria Library Card.

Some say the river was lost after they built the Yan Yean reservoir... Gold was a passing fad... But there is treasure beyond gold in the past and I pray the future of the Plenty River Valley.