Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's wrong with Rapid Creek?

(Written in November but left on the shelf for about six weeks I thought I'd post this just to clear the blog)

Recently local residents and others who value Darwin's Rapid Creek gathered to challenge the  potential threat to clear mature trees and riparian vegetation by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure along the banks of Rapid Creek.

At the time people noticed that trees had been marked with pink spray paint, commonly used to indicate trees for removal.

A public meeting was held at the footbridge across rapid creek, which was attended by local residents, members of the landcare group and various other stakeholders.
See Rapid Creek Landcare website: HERE

(29.12.13 There is now a Save Rapid Creek facebook group)

Many issues were raised, including zero consultation with the community, zero coordination with Landcare group, lack of scientific foundation to support removal of riparian vegetation etc...

Members of Parliament were contacted and invited to take part in the discussion but they declined. Three members of the department of Lands Planning and Infrastructure turned up to answer our questions. We were told that the markings were only part of preliminary work on the creek, that it didn't mean any trees were going to be cut down and that it's all part of a flood mitigation program. (Some of the trees were even marked PRUNE)

It is obvious that Rapid Creek is under a lot of environmental pressure. There are now massive alterations to tributary water courses and man made drainage lines. Creation of a large paved carpark at the Airport has effectively means that the land it is on is no longer able absorb water and recharge groundwater. The excess water is directed into wide open channels which feed directly into the creek an obvious contributor to increased velocity of flow. I found their answers to be contradictory and somewhat dishonest. It was obvious to everyone who was there that it was the departments full intention to cut those trees.

The conversation followed about flooding of McMillans Rd and the potential threat to property when the creek floods.

It concerns me that the Department has employed 'Engineers' to manage this delicate ecological zone, with the single objective of flood mitigation. Their linear approach to the management of a waterway borders on criminal and from an environmental perspective is insane! There are multiple contributors to flooding in Rapid Creek. The presence of trees in or around the creek is hardly one of them! Natural vegetation is fundamental to reducing erosion in waterways and reduces destructive velocity of fast flowing water. Most of the elaborate water calming devices that engineers introduce into their man made water course are poor attempts to immitate natural obstructions to water velocity such as trees and vegetation offer naturally.

During the meeting people had to explain to the Department representatives other contributing factors to flooding that absolutely dwarf any impact few trees might have on causing water to back up.

Potential contributors to flooding in Rapid Creek:

Storm surge: If there is excessive rain during a high tide it is extremely likely that fresh water will back up along the rapid creek catchment. What is the elevation of the creek? How many metres above sea level?
Siltation: The removal of vegetation along the catchment has lead to increased erosion which in turn has caused culverts to become blocked, water takes longer to flow through the culverts and so backs up in the creek and man made open drains that contribute to Rapid Creek.

Erosion at McMillans Rd drainage 5/11/13
Increased flow: Land clearing and hardening of surfaces to make carparks and increase infrastructure at the Airport causes larger amounts of water to be shed from the catchment soon after rain. This is likely to have two long term affects. One, I suspect that the incidence of flooding will increase since there will be higher quantities of water entering the creek whenever it rains. The second negative side effect of creating hardened surfaces is that it will reduce the long term flow of the creek and reduce groundwater recharge. Instead of water slowly filtering through the landscape and eventually running into the creek it is shed immediately after rain.

Mc Millans road drainage 5/11/13

Cutting trees will not address any of these issues and in the case of the second and third points is a major contributor to flooding!

At the moment what concerns me most is the excavation work taking place on the Airport side of Mc Millans Rd. A huge amount of earth has already been washed into the open drains. The immediate results of this are obvious and plain to see. Large scale siltatation of the drainage channels, blocked culverts, increased water flow. Longer term the consequences are predictable increased turbidity of the creek, siltation of the creek, blocking of culverts, potential flooding etc...

I believe that due to the storm surge factor there may be no way of mitigating against flooding... although this may not stop the departments engineers from trying to enclose the whole creek in a concrete drain. (Actually confirmed by a current Department of Infrastructure and Planning report 29/12/13)
As far as the health of the creek is concerned I believe that the irresponsible upstream developments within the catchment are the major cause for concern and will likely contribute heavily to future risk of flooding. Yet the department appear to have chosen not to address negligence of developers, instead their engineers have turned their eye to elimination of the creek's remaining natural defense against extreme hydrological conditions downstream. Our creek is already stressed and threatened by irresponsible upstream development, by removing the riparian vegetation that holds the creek bank together the Department would be responsible for delivering the death blow to our creek!

Silt buildup at McMillans Rd drainage 5/11/13
If the creek were a living organism it's riparian vegetation would be like it's immune system. It Absorbs the shock of extreme weather event's such as flooding, holds moisture in times of drought, prevents erosion, provides habitat and creates a micro climate which facilitates the existence of many species of plants and animals  etc... Vegetation helps the creek maintain it's form, filters water entering the system and so on. Removing riparian vegetation would be something like introducing a virus to the organism that has the capacity to destroy the creeks entire life cycle. 

To any ecologist or anyone schooled in land management this seems like madness. But I guess not so to an engineer. There are many reasons why we need the help of engineers to develop and manage our environment... However they should never have full power of decision making when it comes to natural systems!    

Clogged culvert, what happens when you let engineers design watercourses.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Wasted...

Just ordered a cool new CD.
Can even download the lot straight to my mp3 music playing thingie...

here's a sample.

 Awesome deal on some pretty funnnky permaculture, Greenie style music.

Check out the Formidable Vegetable Sound System website.

And what have I been doing? Well I got pretty caught up with the election... Unfortunately I didn't succeed in preventing a disaster of biblical proportions but my conscience is clear when it comes to not turning a blind eye when evil entered the room! Now we'll all have to live with whatever that's going to mean!

Actually there were even a few benefits from the recent election. I took on a contract to deliver political flyers in my neighborhood. (OK you've probably got your own opinions about that.) 
I really enjoyed myself just peddling around on my old bike with coaster brake. Having spent 10 years as a postie, delivering mail while being barked at and chased by dogs is kind of like second nature to me, in fact I found it quite therapeutic (None of the dogs actually got out). After a couple of full days of delivering pamphlets I could feel my legs getting stronger, I didn't have to think about anything except slipping pamphlets into letter boxes while keeping the bike in motion. Cruising the suburbs on a bike, listening to my favorite tunes with nothing important to think about and no one else to please, or serve left, me feeling totally blissed out! Can't wait till the next election so I can do it all again...

Monday, August 26, 2013

A walk in the light Greens

Who's listening? Who's playing?

Nearly a whole dry season has passed and I've only spend one night camping! Although I'm nearly totally recovered now, I was out of action for camping during most of the dry!
Coming off my bike has been quite a setback in that respect. The fracture to my T4 appears to have healed well and the wrist bones have set as they should although my left hand is considerably weaker than it was before the accident and I still get a few aches and pains but it's only been 12 weeks so I reckon by next year I'll be fine.

A little while back I caught up with a friend I've known since kindergarten and haven't seen for about 20 years. I nearly cried to see him still living, too many old friends are all finished up now! I think a lot of the bravado of our youth has been washed away. I'm sure he's survived harder times than me but I still felt that connection that is sometimes talked about when people who share escape from a similar peril. I hope we meet again as we trudge this new path....  
(P.S. How bizarre! If you want to know what my God is like, here's a great example! In the previous post I absolutely slammed the friends of my youth and criticized them savagely! Pledging that I never wanted to see any of them again... then what happened? An old mate turns up out of the blue. Just like that! OK OK I'm sorry!)

It's a good thing there's plenty to do around town at this time of year. A couple of weeks ago I attended a Stolen Generations family day in the park and who should turn up and play but Archie Roach! For FREE! His song Little by Little is such a great recovery song! Sorry I can't find it on the tube.

Over the past week we've been out every night catching every free performance we could. The drumming has been absolutely awesome! The highlight though was a performance we paid to see called The Arrival. It was a haunting story taken from the picture book by Shaun Tan, about a man fleeing persecution and portrayed through still images projected on a huge screen. The images were accompanied by an amazing ensemble of all kinds of instruments violins, trombone, drums, and various other objects to create sound effects performed by Ben Walsh and the Orkestra of the Underground. It was awesome and emotionally challenging particularly considering the current situation for Asylum Seekers in Australia.
Check out some of the images in Shaun Tan's book The Arrival HERE.

The boys behind the wire enjoyed Tods playing but really they just wanted to have a go themselves.

On Saturday arvo a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Greens candidates and awesome song men,Warren H Williams and Tod Williams when they came to visit Asylum Seekers at the Darwin Airport Lodge. Here's a song they whipped up in the morning at Parap Markets and then performed in the afternoon outside the DAL.

Warren H Williams and Tod Williams performing "I Want to be Free"

Then on this Saturday just passed Sam the kids and I joined about 80 other cyclists for a ride along Nightclif foreshore to a spot near the pool where we gathered to listen to the director of the Edmund Rice Centre, Mr. Phil Glendenning. Mr Glendenning has done a lot of work monitoring the welfare of Asylum Seekers who have been returned to dangerous countries. The outcomes have been grim. Having heard this man speak so honestly and with such authority I am now utterly convinced that it is totally necessary for everyone with any sense of humanity to speak against the current political agenda which demonizes Asylum Seekers and punishes Refugees!

Phil Glendenning speaks to a crowd in the NT about Human Rights
On Sunday Phil spoke to a smaller group at Cazaly's, but was unperturbed by the low numbers. Instead of being disheartened or grumbling about the futility of preaching to the converted he praised those who came and reinforced our sense of purpose in being there. When I feel like quitting I'll think of you Phil. Thanks!

Now we're just a couple of weeks away from the Federal Election. Rumor has it that the majority of the population of this country are prepared to vote for a party who don't give a rats arse about anyone but the Super Rich but that's OK so long as they save us from the women and children who may wash up hungry and scared on our shores! If the Coalition get the senate then they will have full power to approve any BS policy their sociopathic benefactors might concoct... Looks like we'll have front row seats for a national decent from a semi enlightened nation into a hoard of self serving savages?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rising up

Arrived back in Melbourne again last Friday...

Plenty of family time. I managed to get the bike back on the road and have been taking it on the trains. It's awesome down here, you can ride the trains both suburban and rural with your bike. The Geelong train even has a bike rack... Sorry no photos.

On Friday night I received an email to say there would be a rally against Ruds oppressive Asylum Seeker Policy to send all boat arrivals to PNG. I don't bother too much with political stuff on this blog since I am sure most of my old friends and those I grew up with are racist, bigoted pricks... Sorry guys it's just the shit you say and do... If you're wondering why we aren't friends on facebook it's because I've had a gut full of that shit and I really don't want to offend your insular sensibilities or rock your boats... and I certainly don't want to be constantly reminded of the good old days...

Anyway I rode the train into Melbourne on Saturday morning and hoofed it off to the State Library where I joined a small group of people who were setting up for the rally. It's always a bit daunting attending these things, you never know if anyone else will turn up or what kind of opposition you might meet. I was glad to see there were about 30 people with banners and placards. I noticed one of the banners was sagging so I thought I'd hold it up for them... Within 15 minutes a crowd had gathered larger than any I've seen for a very long time. By the time we marched there was a crowd of over 500 people marching on Melbourne's coldest day in 6 years... in the rain! What a buz!

Now apparently poles have been taken and despite the benefit of the doubt afforded to the Australian Public by some speakers I've heard there is an over riding sense of malice held toward asylum seekers in Australia. Back home in Darwin people have openly asserted that boats should be sunk and people shot in the water! I am not surprised. Actually I was more surprised when I heard a local public figure stating that he was sure it is only a small minority in Western Sydney who are generating most of the ill will towards Asylum Seekers. What planet has he been living on?
So friends... Here we are. At a cross roads, a turning point for our national conscience. We are not naive children or innocent unaware folk. We can't go on claiming to be the poor little country of battlers who believe in a fair go and continue to support policies that condemn people we have a moral and legal obligation to help... We will have to choose. We are not being The Good Guys!

I've just now listened to a political Rap song, not my usual style of music... but it took me back to my teenage years and reminded me of how I managed to hold to my political beliefs despite the attitudes of my friends and acquaintances... I was lucky that my parents weren't like that but what got me through feeling totally isolated was Music. I listened to heaps of music that backed up my gut feelings. Red Gum, Lou Reed, Midnight Oil, Warumpi Band, Bob Dylan.... and heaps more! Even if you grow up surrounded by ignorance maybe music will provide safe harbor.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I don't read your blog... any more

Keepings up…
Since the bicycle accident my life has undergone a significant downscale… Besides not being allowed to drive or ride a bike, my concentration and energy levels have dropped too. 
Even though my enthusiasm for the cyber existence had been waning prior to the accident, a couple of fractured fingers has made it very difficult to type and my back doesn't like the idea of sitting at a computer for hours so I've pretty much given up reading blogs… The fact that flickr has drastically changed it's format hasn't helped either!
It's old news that Google reader would cease to exist after July 1st but by the time July came I’d completely forgotten that it was scheduled to be shut down! How ironic that I should look for it today July 16th and discover that I could have migrated my subscribed blogs to another RSS feeder up until 12pm yesterday!

I guess that’s one way to cure me of my voyeuristic romanticizing of the world through the eyes of others…  Maybe now I can just get on with my own life instead of coveting the fascinating lives I’d subscribed to over the years!
I must have been subscribed to a couple of hundred individual blogs, Possibly a quarter of them had ceased publishing since I started reading but there were some that were exceptional and which I would have liked to have continued to read. Of those I can only recall the titles of a handful…

To all the skilled, gifted, green fingered, mechanically minded, artistically driven or just plain cooky  bloggers, writers, artists I’ve followed over the past several years thanks for the inspiration… Maybe I’ll stumble across your blogs by accident again someday but chances are… I won’t.

Since I do remember some of the titles of blogs I used to subscribe to via my old reader, I thought I'd post them here so I can find them again... You might like to check some of these out there's some serious artistic talent and happy cycling/sailing tales to read here.

The Smallest Forest

The Homeless Guy

Up in Alaska (Oops now it’s called Jill Outside)

Free Advice on How to Fix Bikes

What I did on Friday

 Outrigger Sailing Canoes

Green Commotion

Art of Kris Larsen (He says he’s through with this blog but… you never know)

 After several years of skipping around the internet I think the luster has finally worn off. I don't get online social networking at all, I don't like having the free stuff I use fiddled and tampered with... (OK I'm seriously resistant to change... Big F---ing Deal) 
I'm ready now not to be aware of every nuance of change affecting the socially aware universe of hipsters and cool Steele... So much phony baloney! I've had a gut full of the coolest happenings, flashmobs, community inclusion, ukelele playing, moustachioed fishermen's pant wearers, nude cyclist, AK47 machete wielding survivalists, gender neutral, Organic Perma-anticultural-subcultural super networks, bean eating jet-setters chasing celebrity love harmony and Government grants for feeding the downtrodden and underprivileged children... (so long as it looks good) 
Name droppers... Oxygen thieves... But wait... 

"You think that's air you're breathing now?"
(Morpeus (Laurence Fishburne) The Matrix 1999)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nuclear waste.... dump on Muckaty

Meanwhile back in Darwin the gang were getting down at the Music for Muckety protest rally. Here's a couple of the banners Sam whipped up.

muckaty post

Muckaty poster

Here's a little Japanese Reggae from Rankin Taxi to help you ponder life in a nuclear waste dump....

...meanwhile the stinging irony bites me in the ass as I consider how many x-rays and radiology scans I've had in the past three weeks! 

Bikeless in Melbourne

Tomorrow I will attempt to leave Melbourne... (I've been told it may be difficult without medical clearance to fly... but I'm hoping I won't be asked.)

Although my mobility has been fairly restricted I have actually enjoyed walking. Today I visited some Darwin Friends who live down here half the time. They live in Montmorency, not far from the Plenty river... I was offered a ride home but passed it up preferring to walk back along the river.

Here's a few snap shots from my walk... Along the way I passed two footy matches which might have made my photo journal more interesting... but I don't care much about football so all I've got to show is green trees and brown river shots.

Plent River in flow
River frontage
These days Plenty River is often dry... but when it flows the old charm returns

Old Greensborough pool
This section of the river, once the public swimming pool is not so attractive as it was

2013-06-15 15.45.43
Swing bridge to Partington Flat. Football game in progress
Bless this River... She has been abused and neglected but she still carries life.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Transport Safety message with Zing

While in Melbourne I'd been noticing these strange posters on billboards and walls around train stations.
The posters had a variety of cartoon figures in various states of ill health, from decapitation to being bitten on the face by a snake... All of the posters have the same slogan...  "Dumb Ways to Die..."
I didn't get it... What are they selling? Every time I saw one of those posters my curiosity bugged the hell out of me!

Teach yourself to fly - (pretty much how I landed my bike!)

Conditional use of railways- With some safety advice thrown in

Wipe away the spew? (sorry about the reflection)

Completely bored stiff one day last week I decided to open some old youtube notifications. Up pops Emily Lubitz (Tinpan Orange) singing a song..."Dumb Ways to Die"...(with an impromptu ref to a beverage at the end). I listen... Its cool so off I go and finally search the title and discover another 'official' video with over 45 million hits! Emily has hit the big time!

According to Wikipedia:
" Dumb Ways to Die is a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia to promote rail safety. The campaign went viral through sharing and social media starting in November 2012."

Not being from Melbourne or connected by any regular media to the cultural Mecca, I'd never heard of this campaign. It's a weird way to promote safety on the railways but with over 45 million hits on youtube. (Not counting hits on the Official site, They must be reaching their audience.)

For me this campaign is just a little too close to home! After crashing my bike badly in a stupid accident which could well have been avoided I am now condemned to use public transport where I am constantly reminded that my accident would have qualified me for inclusion in that stupid bloody song!!

My current status...? Can't drive, can't ride, can't fly... Condemned to trudging around Melbourne in the cold twilight, waiting at deserted windy railway stations surrounded by public safety adds reminding me of what a looser I am... And to top it off I have the voice of my favorite female singer confirming this perpetually like a broken record in my head! Emily if we ever happen to meet on a lonely railway station on a cold and windy night... Please forgive me if I slink quietly away nursing my fractured hand and hiding my wounded pride.....

Oh yeh... Nice performance on Rockwiz by the way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Post-Op Euphoria

Surgery complete!
(A one handed journal entry)

Many an undaunted Valkyrie has held my fate this past week. God bless em all! 

5:45am  - Wake to the sound of my mobile phone alarm. Get dressed sit quietly on the end of my bed... Thank the almighty for the taste of air.

6:30am - My friend and all-round good guy Graham pulls up outside in the dark... He's my ride to the hospital. He cracks a few jokes, reminds me I'm gonna be sore when I wake and drops me at the door of the hospital with a good luck handshake and a smile. "Call me when you're ready to go home!"

7:00am - Admission processing with a bunch of other day surgery  patients... Stand on the scale, answer the questions, wait... How long? Who knows how long we'll be waiting? I'm told it could be all day.
I look around at the other patients. No one screaming or crying... everyone is fairly comfortable. I settle in for a long day. How did I feel this morning? ...A little bit shit actually! It's two weeks since the accident and my hand is beginning to resemble a bruised limp claw of a freshly killed chicken! Twisted, shrunken and useless! The pain had radiated from the wrist up my arm to my elbow and shoulder... "Errrrgh" 

7:30am - Called into the surgery ward for pre-op processing. Filled out paperwork, answered questions, gowned up... I don't mind the open backed hospital gowns even if the do leave the ass exposed but I felt a bit like Mardi Gras queen wearing those see through knickers! Nurse came back to inform me of the procedure once I managed to get the full kit on... (Of course with a bung hand I couldn't get the back done up but who the hell really cares about nudity in a hospital...right?) So the deal is, she says:
"You're on the emergency list for day surgery. There's a bunch of other patients on the list, you're about 6th. Some of them are serious and could take a long time, you might not be seen until tonight. Oh and if there's an emergency liver transplant day surgery will be canceled." 
"Errr.... OK." Say I, hoping that I can be treated without costing some poor beggar a liver...

8:30am -  Anesthesiologist drops by to double check my health, allergies etc... she explains the process and tells me I am now first on the list... five minutes later I'm being wheeled into theatre. Smoothly and gently the nurse slides another hollow metallic shaft through the skin and into a tributary to my heart... a mask over my mouth and nose she let the fluid flow... "Breathe deeply..." Said the nurse. My eyes wide oped I play at resisting sleep... I smell the rich chemical sleeping potion. Breathing fully, extending the abdomen holding for a second, fully exhaling, then repeating... fully conscious... I feel a queer ridiculous smile stretch across my face breaking the seal on the gas mask....

11:15am - Levitating over coral reefs in a sailing boat on a crystal sea, The Mainsail is full (actually sail looked more like a hot air balloon...Red and Yellow), we're on a close reach, gliding narrowly between the deep water and the shore...  (Colours! I thought dreams were black and white?!). First mate reclining luxuriously on the deck with a sparkling mineralwater and fruit juice pressed to her lips...(It's my wife of course!)
"Daaaavid......Daaaavid....CaN yooou hEar"  The Island starts to fade.... waves turn to foam... palm trees evaporate... girl... disapears like a genie back into her bottle.....
"David WAKE UP...." Something's not right!
"What the F#*!" Someone is calling me! I clutch at the remains of paradise as the last grains of sand slip through my fingers... sea wisps into a vapor and then gone... I hear my name again... I think I'm somewhere else.....
"David can you hear me?" Oh... I realize I am being woken up.... I'm in hospital... 'Did I miss the operation?' **Pain throbs through my left hand**  'Nope... I must have slept right through it!'
I respond to the voice.... "Yes... I can hear you, I'm wake..."

11:30am - They bring me a glass of water, then a coffee and sandwich... I sit quietly on the edge of my bed... The dream gone but the warm happy feeling remains... I feel a strange sense of compassion and affection for everyone... I want to hug my surgeons, nurses and everyone... Of course I don't see any of them after the operation and Hospital staff rarely have time for human interactions with patients. Probably not a good idea anyway, since my gown has been removed and all I'm wearing is my see through paper panties! Soon I am given permission to get dressed, I do so clumsily and sit quietly on the edge of my bed until I am released.

12:00pm - My poor mum turns up on the ward to spring me from hospital. I'm out! It's only midday and it's all over!

Came home to blue flowers... maybe this is the unreality?
Dad drove us home where I have spent the rest of the day in some kind of drug induced euphoria! I have a fair bit of pain in my hand now but no anxiety, no restlessness. It's now 9pm and I haven't looked longingly out the window once in the whole day... I've made a few phone calls to close friends I'd forgotten to appreciate due to my various distracted longings... What has happened to me? I feel content! What a strange feeling this is! How long it's been since I was here...

A parcel arrived today... mail order hamper from my darlings in Darwin... Byron Bay coffee, Siena Panforte cake from Trentham Tucker and a bunch of other treats to share! Instinct tells me this is dangerous territory. Just a couple of days ago I was massively depressed now I am elated... Who knows what tomorrow will bring.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Walking in Melbourne

A rough outline of city walk 10/06/13

Being stuck in Melbourne, unable to drive and worse still forbidden from riding a bike I have been desperate for some kind of physical activity. It's taken me nearly two weeks to feel OK about doing anything at all but rest will only get you so far! At some point the body must have movement in order to recover!

A long time friend of the family likes walking so I asked if he'd bring me next time he goes... I thought we'd be bush walking so when he called he told me to meet him at Jolimont station at 10:30am...  for a city walk I was a little surprised.

Well beggars can't be choosers! I rode the train to Jolimont Station, hopped off facing the gates of the MCG.
We walked Fitzroy Gardens and up to the Queen Victoria Markets, which are very much the same as they have always been... crowded and full of tourists. My favorite spot at the market is the Deli. Back in the good old days the Queen Vic Market was about the only place you could find European style food... (Very exotic back in the 1970s and even the 80s) a lot has changed in Australia since I was a kid, I remember when spagetti was considered foreign food.

My friend is German, he does this walk fairly regularly, the first part of the walk includes stopping at the Vic Market for a Weisswurst sausage with sauerkraut. We arrived at the vendor and 'D' walks through a throng of Chinese tourists straight to the serving area, as he orders I realize the throng was actually a queue and he had jumped it! Funny thing was that the 20 odd Chinese were all so preoccupied texting, tweeting and god knows what else they didn't even notice. I was in no mood to queue half an hour for a sausage so I kept quiet. (It was delicious by the way)

We wandered around the market for a little while but it was all so predictable and crowded! We wanted jam donuts but gave up on this idea when we saw the line of people waiting! Hot jam donuts are a real Melbourne treat but who the hell wants to stand an hour in the cold waiting for one! This is something I just don't get. There were enough customers to keep at least 3 maybe even four donut vans busy all day but there seemed to be only one donut vendor in the whole market! Someone's got this market thing all stitched up!

Leaving the market we walked down to South Bank where 100s of Yuppies enjoyed their Sunday Lunch, then crossing St Kilda Rd we walked up past the Shrine of Remembrance and through the Botanical Gardens. The gardens made news recently when a bunch of vandals got into the succulent garden and chopped up all the tall cactus trees with a machete or something. Some of the plants were 30 years old! We didn't bother gawking at the damaged plants but wandered around the various paths and checked out the ponds where I was glad to see eels had returned after the drought.

From the Gardens we crossed the Yarra and wandered back through the sporting grounds, Enormous new stadiums for soccer and tennis, then back down to the river walk where the rail-yards have been converted into parkland. I couldn't believe how Melbourne has changed since I was I kid. These were the seediest, grittiest corners of the city. Places I used to wander around, amongst the true drunken underbelly of Melbourne. The parks and gardens were once the domain of gutter drunks and hobos. I used to wag school and bring my stash down here to drink... now it's all cleaned up. Families ride bikes and have picnics, there's a children's art centre in one of the old red brick track switching houses where drunks used to sleep. Trees have been planted, grass, sculptures everything has changed... It was fascinating and very pleasant to see.

Strong Men performing at Federation Square opposite Flinders St Station

By now my back was aching... I'd slowed down a lot but was still enjoying the walk. We climbed the steps from the Yarra trail and entered federation square. An undulating cobbled surface spread out like a natural landscape on the site which was once a bland concrete rooftop! There were thousands of people in the city all eating drinking and having fun. The dark and dreary miserably empty city has gone, now the city is full of life on the weekends.

Finally we made it to a coffee shop in China town, enjoyed a reasonable brew and a Danish before heading back to Flinder's St station for the train home. Total distance walked would have been about 15 km. Finally a day out for me. Mum and Dad are completely over having me pacing the house like a caged animal.

Tomorrow I go back to the Hospital for surgery on my gimpy hand. I have two fractured bones in my wrist that are not knitting properly and have to be re-set! Damn! Still no idea about the status of my back but at least my bowel is starting to work again... nothing like a long walk to sort that out.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

On The Road...hit it hard!

I came back to Melbourne again last week to see mum before she started Chemo.
Walked most of the way from Airport to Greensborough... lost the path too many times did too many extra miles and was saved the embarrassment of quitting when my sister called and offered me a lift just before the trail ran out... ;)

Crossing Western Ring Rd

Creek reserve near Broadmeadows

A rare signposted section of track

I wish they'd painted these at intersections.... This was a fair way down the path

Locals turn roadside reserve land into orchards and veggie gardens

The path was blocked from Edgars Rd, there was nowhere to walk after this section...
Walking the Western Ring Path took me several hours I had to jump a few fences and double back a lot but the bicycle trail has some very nice sections for walking and cycling. A lot of disused land, old horse paddocks and creekside paths to explore. My legs weren't up to such a long walk after having no sleep the night before and a 2am flight but next time I'll be do better (or I'll ride. ;)


I would have posted more about this trip and earlier but while down here I had a mishap on my bike and have been unable to do much at all for the past week.

What happened? Well; determined to make the most of my time in Melbourne I decided to cycle to Ceres down on the Merry Creek. It started as a lovely ride through Greswel Forest, Bundoora, I noticed the axle nuts on my front wheel had come loose, I had no spanner so tightened as best I could by hand... (Stupid!)
Of course hand tightening is not enough for axle nuts... They loosened and as I was riding down the hill on Plenty Rd, just past the cemetery, I came over a bump and something went wrong... Cognitively I knew what went wrong but it all happened so fast I don't remember much more than thinking... "Oh shit somethings wrong..." ..........***DUSH***THUD***

I got up... spitting blood and bits of tooth from my mouth... with a heavy feeling all over. My bicycle helmet was hanging in pieces from the strap around my neck... sunglasses smashed all over the road... my bike somewhere between the curb and the middle of the road... fronth wheel somewhere else... I hit the road hard.

Thought I'd got a ticket to the Bear Mountain Picnic!

People appeared from somewhere or other and helped me to the side of the road. Somebody called an ambulance, I remember hearing them reporting that there was "blood... lots of blood..." "...err no it doesn't appear to be squirting out but it's hard to tell..."
"OK" I thought, "Stay calm. There doesn't appear to be anything sticking out of where it shouldn't... Blood is not squirting out of anywhere at a rate that can't be handled with the sleeve of a shirt... I managed to stand and walk... I think I'll be OK."

Ambulence came and took me to the Hospital where I was x-rayed and spent the next 2 days flat on my back with no food, an IV drip in my arm and a catheter carefully inserted where I'd rather it wasn't. That was a week ago today. They finally sent me home, to my parents place on Saturday where I am expected to convalesce until they deem me fit to fly home!

How do I feel? Sometimes OK. Mostly not so good. Although there was no internal bleeding in my head I am still foggy and get muddled. My back is aching, I get tired quickly and I still can't shit properly. (apparently a combination of trauma to spine and use of certain pain killers can mess up bowel function) But, it could have been much worse! If I hadn't been wearing that helmet there would have been no need for that ambulance! My injuries were minor compared to what they could have been!

2013-05-31 cycle crash
"...They unsnapped his skull cap and between his ears they saw a gap..."

I have no idea who the people were that helped me on the side of the road but I am very grateful that they did! The Paramedics in the Ambulance were first rate! Im grateful also to all the hospital staff who patched me up and provided pain relief... Thanks to Pete the orderly who took me for my x-rays and provided me with some real human interaction! A big thanks to the Nurses who rolled me onto my side, gave me a back rub and a flannel bath... that was strangely pleasant.

Thanks also to the great spirit who fucks with me from time to time and stops me in my tracks, when I think I'm calling the shots! I'm sure I must have missed your subtler messages... ;)
I guess I must be needed here for a while. I can spend some time with my folks while mum commences her chemotherapy. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Synth spin'n floppy invasion

I know this is nothing new to geekdom but synthesized music never seemed so cool until it became recycled, retro....

Star Wars - Imperial March played by floppy drive

I've just watched a bunch of youtube videos of these floppy disk drives converted into a magic retro synthesized orchestra. I love this Imperial March, another good one was Axel F - Beverley Hills Cop Theme.

Enjoy.... or not... Suit yourself.

Help... Nonsense

After a somewhat harried day I come home to be swamped with kids running amok in the house, crap all over the place, playing fighting yelling... making noises you would only expect to hear in a zoo.... Their mother sitting numb and stressed, non responsive on the couch.

I try to contain my agitation, sit down and pick up the latest children's book from the library and find a short poem that pretty much sums up the condition I am in 95% of the time.

Here it is....


Help, help
nothing's right
I can't find my ears
and my pants are too tight.

There's a clock in my sock 
there's a rose up my nose
there's an egg on my leg
and there's a stink in my sink.

Help, help
I've had enough
I can't find my eyes
and the going's getting tough.

There's bread in my bed
there's flies in my fries
there's a slug in my jug
and there's a ghost in my toast.

Help, help
I'm in a mess.
have you got my head?
the cat says yes.

The donkey says no
the hamster in the swimming pool 
says he doesn't know.

 (Michael Rosen's Book of Nonsense)

Thank you Michael... Thank you illustrator Clare Mackie.

And this is me when I have got my shit together.
lol. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A walk in the grimy grey

Escaping the nothing...

Like many Australians the first place I ever ventured over seas (abroad... outside my own Island Nation) was Bali. I think the first time I went there I was 18. I wanted to explore the world, Bali was relatively cheep to get to and I was pretty sure it would be a relatively easy place for my first international destination. I remember a fair bit about that first visit. Initially all that existed of Bali for me was the knowledge that lots of people go there for the beaches and to party... I thought it was some kind of Polynesian island paradise, like a cross between the pictures I'd seen of FIJI and scenes from the movie South Pacific. Then I bought my first lonely planet book and was shocked to discover that Bali is in Asia and the natives looked a lot different to my romanticized swarthy Polynesian coconut drinking people of the sea... They were Hindu and apparently looked to the mountains rather than the sea... All this was far too foreign for me... My illusions couldn't cope with the contrast! I had been tricked by my own imagination and ignorance!


What was I to do? Cancel the trip?  No way! I was determined to follow through with my plan. (Actually I would have cancelled except pride wouldn't let me back down, I'd been bragging to everyone that I was going!) I didn't cancel, instead I decided to save myself more embarrassment and read up on this new Bali which I hadn't planned on. Before I left home I had learned that Bali isn't a country, it is an Island in the nation of Indonesia... (I knew nothing of Indonesia) and they eat rice not BBQ'd fish from the bellies of dusky beauties as I'd been dreaming about. (they also eat BBQ fish but not the way I fantasized about). I also learned that the weather there wasn't a bright sunny 25 °C it was humid, hot and sticky... (except on the mountains, where, I learned later, it got bloody cold!) Coming from Melbourne humidity was just an exotique word, I'd never really experienced it. 
I picked up a phrase book practiced a few really basic words and started getting excited again about my trip. I learned about appropriate dress code and behavior in Indonesia, practiced not using my left hand and all those exotic manners I'd never heard of before.

I remember back in the late 80s Bali had already been well and truly 'discovered', Australians had been going there in their masses for decades before I arrived and the locals were very familiar with our surfie culture and other customs and rituals. I arrived in long pants and attempted to use my 'terima kasih' and 'permisi' etc... whenever I could. I soon discovered that in Kuta nobody gave a shit about Etiquette and long pants can become uncomfortable very quickly. I remember the road out to Legian was still mostly dark and nobody ever went to Seminyak. That time I think I spent two or three weeks on Bali, exploring on a motorcycle. Back then I couldn't go very far without a few drinks in me and on my first night I fell asleep at the SC Bar... but now I'm straying from the point of this post.

When I first went to Bali Kuta was already over developed and Ubud was well known but still small. Tourism was a major feature but there were still many aspects to life in Kuta which were distinctly Bali or at least Indonesian. There weren't many hotels over two story high and there were plenty of Losmen (guesthouses) in the main tourist areas. I have read about unfettered development on Bali and the tragic loss of agricultural land, fresh water and just about everything else that is special, thanks to Tourism generated development. But for some reason when I was there last week I realized that Southern Bali is no longer sinking... It has sunk! There was such an ominous feeling of absolute desolation that I felt ill. When I first visited Bali I got really sick, unfamiliar bugs invaded my body, I had dysentery for a month and was later diagnosed as having Hep A. I kissed the soil when I arrived back in Australia and swore I'd never go back there! Once the illness wore off I was left with a strange longing for the smell of burning cloves and the sound of gamelan. I have been back a few times since and have always felt at home there. But this time it was different. A new sickening feeling came over me. This was kind of weird. As I looked around I discovered that everything was too familiar! The Kampung had been smashed and all around enormous multi story hotels were being erected. Concrete on every side, western meals served in every restaurant! The Kaki lima had vanished, the warungs were gone! No ABC sambal at the dining tables... swimming pools everywhere... miles and miles of 5 star luxury air conditioned nothingness! Just like in 'The Never Ending Story', the Nothing's consumption of Fantasia was almost complete! Just like the salt water inundating the dwindling aquifers, the magic that drives Bali had been infiltrated, diluted and polluted with bland Western Consumer driven ugliness!

The New Bali rises... Don't fall in!
In the old kampung there were trees, mango, papaya, jackfruit... space for lizards and birds. Wild bees could nest in the cracks of walls and the sweet smell of incense on carefully folded palm leaf offerings of rice, saffron and fruit kept everything in balance. Now the offerings are less but the debt is so much higher. Who will pay?

Concrete will crumble!

Want a room with Air Con? How about those bad boys?

Kuta and Legian have fallen! Ubud is no longer a village or a town... I followed several lanes and streets out of the centre of Ubud only to find that along each lane hotels entered the rice fields like the tentacles of an octopus stretching out and annexing neighboring villages. I once read an amazing book called 'On the Edge of a Dream: Magic and Madness in Bali' by Michael Wiese. It described a place full of mystical power, of raw and quite wild beauty, where powerful mystical forces kept nature and man in a symbiotic dance of life. Maybe that Bali is gone.

Of course there are some places where life appears to continue as it always has... for now.
Beautiful place
Not saying where this is! You can stick your golf clubs where  the sun don't shine
Maybe I have made a mistake? Maybe when I first visited Bali in 1990 I never really wanted to learn the truth about the place. What if instead of seeking truth all I was really doing was trying to re-sculpt the romantic images in my mind to fit what my senses were barely able to perceive? What if that place never really existed? Who am I, a tourist, the cause of the problem to question or challenge any of this? Maybe with all my dreaming and romanticizing I am just part of the virus that is spreading across this place and obliterating every shred of balance nature, time and the careful honour of the Gods had taken so long to create.
I decided we'd drop both Ubud and Kuta from all future itineraries. We and headed for another region where I'd been before. Where it was quiet and still suited my romanticized version of reality... When I arrived I discovered that my secret hideaway had already been infiltrated! Apparently the market for romantic falsehoods is enormous! Everyone's looking for someone else to deliver them to paradise! A book had been written, about some middle-class American woman finding spiritual healing, food and rooting (romance) in Bali! You can guess the rest!
Naturally the film has drawn the eye of the great Nothing to another, unspoilt corner of the Island on another coast and so the blank spaces on the map are filled in until nothing special, no life, no magic remains.

Next time I want to escape I think I'll just get on my bike take a book and go and sit under a tree for a week.