Monthly Archives: March 2009

Once Upon a Time – Part 2 (how I went from Reading to Writing)

In my last post I outlined some of the books I’ve enjoyed over the years, and named The Hobbit as one of my all time favourites (including Lord of the Rings), and mentioned that it is a very rare night that I don’t fall asleep with a book in my hand. 

It was a book that started me writing novels several years ago.  After being blown away by LOR, I started devouring works from other authors:  Douglas Adams,  Harry Harrison, John O’Grady, Westerns (Larry and Stretch in particular), Harold Robbins, Wilbur Smith, Jack Whyte, Tom Sharpes’ wickedly funny novels, hundreds of joke books, books on magic, how to books, building model aircraft, boats, tanks etc.  Bicycle repair books, folklore from all countries, Dreamtime yarns, the Homeric classics, The Iliad, The Oddyssey, Les Norton books by Robert G. Barrett, Wendy Holden (when my librarian told me to start reading some female authors and gave me her recommendations), then Jackie Collins, Sue Townsends’ Adrian Mole series, JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, Douglas Kennedy, Spike Milligan, Tom Holt, Ion Idriess, Tom Cole, Neville Shute, John O’Grady (fantastic), Frank Hardy, Hugh Lunn, Hector Holthouse, Colin Bowles (the Flying Doctor novels are brilliant!), Mike Hayes (Prickle Farm series = legend), columnists like Glenn A. Baker, Mike O’Connor, Vitali Vitaliev, Bill Bryson, Dave Barry and on and on.

Part of the 'Collection'

Part of the 'Collection'

I found a lot of books and authors that had come highly recommended who’s novels I never finished… and never will.  Obviously I’m blind to their particular brand of genius.  It was one group of novels that really kickstarted me though.  A cheesy series by Harry Harrison. 

Harry was responsible for starting me writing.  At sometime in the early 90’s, I’d just finished one of his Stainless Steel Rat novels (about a futuristic space cop), put it down, lit a ciggie, sipped my rum, and thought, “Shit, if I couldn’t write a better book than that…”  I said the same to my wife who said, “Well, why don’t you?”  So I did.  It was terrible.  That novel lies festering in a brown box under my bed.  It is beyond salvation.  The only reason I don’t put it out of it’s misery is because part of me doesn’t want to give up on it… but it’s a dog on it’s last legs.  A dog I am loathe to put down.  

I continued to write, short biographies, short stories, humorous column articles (not for publication but for my own entertainment and stress relief!), then, years later I stumbled across Harry’s ‘Hammer and the Cross’ series.  Harry is no hack.  Harry, the bastard, can really scribble.  That’s when it dawned on me that Harry was using the Stainless Steel rat books as a light hearted romp to keep his hand in while he researched his ‘proper’ novels.  It nearly crushed the writing spirit in me that discovery.  But by then I was in too deep and had to keep going. 

And, I too have a Stainless-esque novel which I turn to when my current novel is bugging me, or the characters won’t do what they’re damn well told.  It’s fun, light hearted, and above all an escape.  The words flow, and I give myself little tingles of joy as I scribble merrily away.  Then the pieces of my ‘real’ novel start to fall into place and I go back to it with a tad more enthusiasm.  Hey, it works for me, but more on this later.

Finally, for those of you waiting with bated breath re: is my youngest enjoying The Hobbit?  Well, the answer is ‘Yes, so far’.  She made me laugh very much the other night when she interrupted me, “Dad, those naughty dwarfs’ are going to trick him into going on an adventure aren’t they?”

And I replied with an answer that all tellers of tales, and readers of books have given throughout the ages,

“Well, we’ll just have to see what happens little mate, won’t we!”

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Once Upon A Time – Part 1

This week my youngest daughter finished her first real novel, The Tale of Despereaux.  She read most of it, and I read a few chapters to her each night before bed.  It is a big achievement for her, and tonight, we will start another book, one of my favorites, The Hobbit.  She can’t wait…

I’m so happy that she likes to read.  One of the chief pleasures of my life is to lose myself in the pages of a good book, and it all started so long ago as a very young tacker.  It was the last day of Grade One, 1972, and as we wheeled into class on that hot, humid morning at East Innisfail State School, I saw a book rack full of Little Golden Books.  After a year of reading Dick and Dora books, the end of year gift from the school was the choice of a Little Golden Book for each student. 

One of the benefits of having your surname start with a ‘B’ is that you are usually called up among the first group to be awarded anything.  One of the downsides of having your surname start with a ‘B’ is that you are usually called up among the first group to be given work, punishment, or to give a talk, or be volunteered for some horrible task…

So, I was among the first of my class to approach the bookstand, and my lovely teacher Mrs. Moya (?) spun the display stand and told me to select one book.  I saw it immediately and my little hand shot out and grabbed, ‘Scuppers The Sailor Dog’.  I’ve still got it.  It’s a great read.  The opening line had me from the start:  Born on a ship in the teeth of a gale, was Scuppers, the sailor dog. 

He goes on to have all sorts of adventures, gets shipwrecked, survives, adapts, and overcomes.  He’s a real adventurer our Scuppers.  I’ve read his story to my girls numerous times over the years, but they remain unimpressed.  Preferring the classics, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White etc. 

In later years another teacher (her name lost in the mists of time) told us that we should read at least one novel a week.  I did.  I continue to do so.  I can’t remember a time without a book nearby.  The nights I have gone to bed without reading are few and far between. 

Some of the titles have stayed with me:  Kidnapped, Pirates’ Island (not about pirates at all but about some Cockney kids having an adventure in the Thames… quite good), Treasure Island (still got a nautical ‘islandy’ theme here!), the poetry of Henry Lawson (doesn’t evey eight year old fall in love with Harry?!), Captain Midnight and his talking cat, Walkabout with Rolf Harris, Colin Thiele (Bluefin and Stormboy), Childcraft Encylopaedia stories, Bedtime Bible stories, and thousands of cartoon books filled the gaps:  Archie, Crock, B.C., Hagar, Asterix, Snoopy, Tin Tin, Mad Magazine, and so help me, Richie Rich, Casper, and Hot Stuff (the little devil).

I had friends who had the same love of reading, and many happy memories of long afternoons whiled away with a mate, each of us lost in our books or comics, then spending time discussing them afterwards… obviously I needed help!  Is this normal?  I read everything.  Anything.  Anywhere, Anytime.  Backs of calendars, match boxes, National Geographics (drool), cereal packets.  Apart from TV there is nothing in my life that I’m so passionate about.   

Books taught me about the big, wide world.  They made me laugh, and sometimes cry.  I’ve trekked through strange lands, faced numerous foes, overcome tremendous obstacles, sailed the oceans, dived their depths, visited space, and been on viking raids.  Have been left elated, shocked, saddened, breathless, terrified and inspired.  To me, Hell would be a place without books. 

My favourite all time read?  I was 13, short, and harrassed in high school.  Like all misfits, I wound up joining the local wargames club.  During the week I might have been bullied and harangued, but on Saturday afternoons I was ‘Greg the Conqueror’, marching my plastic armies to victory across the gaming tables in the school auditorium.  It was here that I was introduced to the fantasy genre at the start of the Dungeons and Dragons era. 

I read Conan, Cormack McArt, Julian May, Stephen Donaldson, David Eddings, novels and short stories.  But the start of it, the book that preceded and topped them all was, ‘The Hobbit’.  I was in Grade 8, when I was tossed a dog eared copy one Friday afternoon after school.  I finished it just after midnight.  Tears were rolling down my face as I put it down.  The next morning I got up, made breakfast and started reading it again.  By the end of the weekend, I had read it three times.  When I handed it back to my mate on Monday morning he asked, “What did you think?”

In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit...

In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit...

I was effusive in my praise, and said, “It’s a shame the story had to end!” 

He laughed, then handed me the thick, one volume copy, of Lord of the Rings, “It gets better,” he said.  Four sleepless days later I gave it back to him.  It was the greatest read of my young life.  It still is.  Every year, around June, I drag out my four hard back copies, and re-read them all.  Winter is the best time to enjoy these books.  Tolkien is obviously The Master (and let us never ever mention the travesty that the Peter Jackson movies made of these books again!)

Then in the mid-eighties, my one armed mate Steve, (or Bandit as the rest of the world knows him as:  short for ‘one armed bandit’) gave me his brand new copy of The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.  Another love affair began that day, and has continued since as Mr. Pratchett expands his ever growing list of novels.  Many of which I re-read each year as well. 

In between the re-reads I’ve dabbled with other authors and genre’s.  Romances, biographies, motivational books, sci fi, and historical literature.  For a further run down on my thoughts on those books, dear reader, you’ll have to wait until the next post 🙂  

By then I’ll be able to tell you if the little one liked The Hobbit, geez I hope she does, because that’s what I’ll be reading to her for the next couple of weeks… wether she likes it or not!

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Hard Yards at the Hardware Store

It’s been a big week on the home front with a stack of work being done round the ol’ Plasterboard Palace.  This is why my blogging (and every other form of writing) has taken a bit of a backseat over the last couple of days. 

I ‘had’ initially planned on enjoying a couple of drinks down at the local Irish Bar to celebrate St Paddy’s day on my first day off, but got held up chasing hardware all over town.  If there’s one thing that pisses me off the most with Gladstone, it’s the fact that in order to get, say, 5 items of hardware, I need to visit every hardware shop in town, and at least one specialty tool, or building supply store to get the stuff.  There is no ‘one place’ in this town you can go to, to get paint, silicon, pipes, tools, concrete, garden edging, wire. etc.  Nope. 

Oh no.  That would be too easy.    

We have a major hardware store in town.  A big warehouse, chock full of stuff… apparently.  I won’t put the actual name here, but it rhymes with… ah stuff it, it’s BUNNINGS!  Every week I find myself wandering through it’s massive aisles, clutching my list and looking desperately about for the things I need.  Every week I stand in front of empty spaces where the stuff I want is supposed to be, but for some reason, isn’t.  Every week I swear blind that I’ll never return, and every damned week, like some optimistic, drooling moron I go back there and repeat the exercise all over again. 

I’ve filled in customer feedback forms pointing out their inadequacies.  I’ve contacted head office (no reply), spoken with someone who is part of their management team, and eventually, on Tuesday got chatting with the kid who does casual work there, who was a mine of information.

Me:  Mate, please, for the love of Jesus, tell me you’ve got some 90 mm downpipe stashed somewhere?

Him:  No.  It should be here.  (points to an empty space)

Me:  (sigh) So, you don’t have any at all.

Him: (taking another look just in case it magically appeared in the last few seconds) No. 

Me:  Mate, I’m not a shopkeepers arsehole, but if I was working here, and I saw a popular piece of stock was starting to run out, I would think to myself, “Time to order some more in.” 

Him:  Good idea.

Me:  Yes, I’ve got lots of good ideas.  What I don’t have though, is the necessary hardware supplies to put them in place.

Him:  It’s not our fault.  We don’t order the stuff, it’s up to the reps.  They come through once a week, check the stock and put in an order.

Me:  You’re kidding!

Him:  No, it’s a good system.

Me: (staring at the empty space, then at my list with a lot of items unticked) Yeah, I can see that.  Just to let you know son, I’ve got 13 items on this list, and this store (start waving arms wildly about) with all it’s f*&*ing shelves, boxes, and storage space, has managed to supply 3 things that I need.  This is the last f*&%ing time I come here!  Look at this, I’ve managed to find a spoon drain, do you have the mesh cover that is supposed to go with it? 

Him:  Um, they should be there (points to another empty shelf).

Me:  So, you’ve got all these drains and traps without covers, which means all these drains and traps are basically useless.

Him:  Yes.  I wonder why someone bought all the covers?

Me:  I wonder when you’re going to get some more in? 

Man behind me:  Yeah, you’re right, this joint is a joke!  (turns to young casual) mate, where do you keep the 90 mm storm water pipe?

Me: (laughing hysterically… walks from the store.) 

The hunt begins as I trail round town looking for supplies.

By this stage, I’m not even looking for a bargain, I just want the stuff (at whatever cost), so I can get home, do the jobs I need to do, then relax.  What I need is a store whose ads run like this:  We got it!  Whatever you need we’ll have it!  Ok, you’ll pay double the price of anywhere else, but at least we’ve got the shit!      

So, my first day off was spent mostly behind the wheel of my car fuming and fretting about the crap service in this town, the uselessness of computer generated re-ordering systems, and wondering just what sort of message it is that the universe is trying to send me, and why?

It took 4 hours, of driving, hunting, and begging,  but I got ‘most’ of the stuff, along with elevated blood pressure, and a twitching right eyelid…  unfortunately things got worse from that point onwards.

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The Journey So Far

There must be something in the air up here in Queensland… apart from a stack of pollen which has been making me sneeze every morning!  Narnie (Hiya mate!) from the Craig Harper forum mentioned today on her post that she was thinking about this time last year when we first met on the forum and I wrote that I wanted to be a writer.  The funny thing is, as I was on my knees last night scraping muck out of a pump well, I was thinking about the same thing…  and it gave me hope, which is a necessary part of maintaining a certain level of happiness, no matter what situation you may find yourself in… even when hot, wet, tired and sweaty :).

12 months ago I was writing sporadically, complaining (loudly) that I didn’t have the time to write, had too many jobs to do,  or had too many interruptions.  But last night it hit me (much like the horrendous smell coming out of the pump well) that I still don’t have any more time to write, still have a stack of jobs to do, and have more interruptions than ever (thankyou computer spammers!), BUT, unlike a year ago, in spite of all the calls on my time, I’ve been able to do much more writing. 

The saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person” certainly holds true. 

Having a clear goal, which I wrote down, pinned to the toilet wall, then made public has certainly helped (um, my goals were made public, not the toilet wall).  Having my own ‘personal’ cheer squad on the CH forum has been a massive booster as well for my productivity.  So instead of blowing away my spare time in front of the tv, or procrastinating until all the stars line up and the time is right,  I find myself scribbling down jobs in my diary, allowing slightly extra time for unexpected difficulties (like timber garden edging that warped itself inside out during the only shower of rain we had last week 😦 ) and planning time for writing, exercising, family time, and alone time.  And my creative writing in general has improved as well.  Less TV, has meant more scribbling, more creativity, and more output. 

Same amount of time in each day, more work getting done.  More work = more success = more encouragement to keep going = even more success, etc.   

Work has been as busy as ever, but instead of wandering around in a fog of uncertainty and desperation, I find my mind is brimming with writing ideas, and that has helped me focus wonderfully on my scribbling.  Of course, it has also improved my attitude at work, to my work, and to the people I work with, and this has had some wonderful knock-on effects as well, if my latest performance review is anything to go by.   

When I took on my current position late last year, stepping back down the ladder to the ground floor, part of my plan was to use my ‘drone time’ (jackhammering, hammering, hosing, etc.) to expand my creativity, to dream up new ideas, plot lines, subplots, articles etc.  And, this has been the case, which makes me the happiest little ground floor worker in the place, who is not on any sort of medication…  But for some reason folk above me want to develop me in a direction that I’m not all that keen on.  So, I’ve taken on a few more jobs, tasks etc., and have so far been able to cope wonderfully whilst keeping the bosses at bay, but unfortunately this means that you are further targeted for more jobs, tasks etc.  So, I’ll have to get a bit more creative in learning to avoid being loaded up with more ‘tasks’ in my real job, in order to further focus on my future ‘unreal’ job  🙂

'The hand, having writ, moves on...'

'The hand, having writ, moves on...'

It is my ‘writing time’ that I’ve enjoyed the most.  Researching (with a purpose), jotting down ideas, the discipline of blogging, joining up with motivated people on the CH forum, writing column articles, and struggling with my novel has given me a great amount of satisfaction in the last 12 months.  Could I do it for a living?  Geez, I hope so.  How?  Well, I don’t fully know yet, but I have a dream, and at least I’m on the road… and where it leads to will no doubt be a wonderful adventure!

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Life Purpose

What’s my Life Purpose?  What’s Yours?  This generation has become obsessed with the quest for finding their role in life, their ‘thing’.  This is what happens when you have too much free time, and too many choices.  You get very confused and despondent as a feeling of ‘I’m missing out on something special’ sneaks over you. 

The Search Is On

Countless books, guru’s, and motivational type folk are constantly telling us to, Find Your Life Purpose to achieve inner happiness.  Not satisfaction, not contentment, but an almost delirious joy of abundant, thrilling, ‘synapse searing’ level of happiness.  It’s out there, all you have to do is find it…  

A Quick History Lesson…

In the past, the working classes and the poor made up the bulk of the population, and their ‘life purpose’ was to survive for as long as possible in the face of some pretty overwhelming odds.  Plagues, poor food quality, lack of clean water, and war all combined to shorten the average persons’ life span dramatically.  It is only in recent times that we in the industrialised / civilised / modern world have had access to better food, clean water, and a safer environment (less wars, more laws!) as well as a reduction in the number of hours worked each day. 

No longer do we labour day in day out, living hand to mouth.  Modern technology has combined to give us even more leisure time.  Household technology such as washing machines have reduced the ‘man’ hours needed to maintain hygiene.  Industrialisation means that no longer do we need to forage, competing with other members of our society for food, timber, and any other resources needed to stay alive.  Now, all we have to do is drive to the nearest store, wander up and down air-conditioned aisles packed with foods, and return home.  Yet, amazingly, we still complain at having to do that! 

At work, we now take for granted a 40 hour week.  At the very least, many of us get two days off each week, plus public holidays, and best of all, 4 weeks off a year to travel about.  Pretty tough eh?  It was never like this in the past.  In the not so distant past, workers only had 1 day off each week, and the church demanded that you spend most of that sitting in a pew.  Holidays were only for the idle rich, or royalty. 

Back to the Future

So, with all the free time our modern lifestyle has given us, all the benefits of leisure time, family time, travel, and access to great medical facilities, you’d think we’d all be pretty damned happy.  Apparently not. 

In fact, on average, I think we’ve actually managed to achieve a level of misery that would stun our grandparents.  If my Grandfather was able to see my house, car, conditions of work, and how I spend my free time, he would marvel at my success.  Compared to his house, and limited working conditions I’m living like a king.  But am I happier than him?  Probably not. 

You see, his life was pretty simple.  As long as he had access to limitless cups of strong black tea (some with a dash of rum), tobacco, and some time in his boat, he was satisfied.  His home was a fairly spartan affair, and the range of technology inside very limited, a washing machine, a gas oven, and a radio (really, that was it.  Even into the 1970’s, when the only other addition was a black and white tv set).  He saw houses go from gas lights to electric lights.  He didn’t own a car, he owned a pushbike.  It was all he needed to get from A to B.  Buses and trains were available for any longer trips.   

Compare his house and life with todays’ average home.  I’ve got more technology in my dishwasher than he had in his entire life.  I live in an air-conditioned mansion compared to his little, weatherboard two bedroom house.  A two bedroom house that that was home to him and seven others!  And their pets (including dogs, chooks, goats and horses). 

He was content.  And by comparison I should be living a life of undying elation, but for some reason, there’s a feeling inside that is niggling me.  Is this all there is?  Having more, buying more, wanting more? 

If buying more stuff bought joy, then as a society we would all be walking around with manic grins plastered all over our faces.  But when you go to the shopping centres, or downtown, you’ll notice that most people aren’t smiling, or looking very happy at all.  We’ve all got the same illness… Is this it?  Is that all there is? 

A Life Well Lived

There is something missing today from the majority of our lives that wasn’t a consideration for previous generations.  Serving others.  Giving up free time for the benefit of your community. 

You see, I was fortunate enough to read a eulogy that had been sent to me this week, and afterwards I sat in front of my computer like a bull that had been struck with a large hammer.  A life of service = a life of happiness.  A life of selfless giving made this person very special, gave her character, and a driving sense of purpose.  There appeared to be no ulterior motive in her decision to take on the burden of more charity work other than to make her community a slightly better place.  Contrast that with the modern motto of “What’s in it for me?”   

The other thing that struck me reading the eulogy, were the things that were missing.  For example, there was no mention of what type of house the person lived in, how many gadgets she had, what ‘latest gear’ was available for her use, what TV shows she liked, how fancy her clothes were, etc.  Instead it was filled with memories of meals cooked, time spent together, the little things she did to make her family happy, places visited, shared memories, both good and bad.  Above all else was the legacy of helping her children develop the ability to think for themselves, encouraging them to improve, challenging them to never be satisfied but to keep pushing, to keep finding their boundaries and crossing them.  And all this while serving with various community groups, in schools, and sporting clubs!  ‘Not Giving’ did not appear to be an option for this wonderful person.     

These are the grains of gold that make a full and well lived life. 

Serving others, in even the smallest ways, makes you feel wanted, and isn’t that really what we all crave?  To live a life of happiness, we must learn to serve, joyfully, and without restraint.   

And folks, that is going to be a very hard thing to sell…

Now What?

Well, my search has only just begun.  This year, I was determined to find My Life Purpose.  I’ve devoured books, tapes, DVD’s.  Spent time in deep thought, pondered possibilities, knuckled down, drawn diagrams, planned and plotted.  And I’ve slowly become a better person for all of it.  A better person with an awfully long way to go I might add…

Family First

My first step will be to start Serving my Family.  Seeing my regular tasks around the house, and all the other jobs that I’m doing (or putting off), not as bothersome ‘things’ that keep me from doing the activities that I love doing, but as an expression of my desire to make my family happy.  Be it by digging a new garden, reading a bed time story, painting a room in colours that my wife, or children would like, or taking time out to spend some ‘fun’ time with them.  Doing the messy jobs, the little annoying tasks cheerfully.  Yep, cheerfully.  Without complaint, or making self congratulatory (or whiny) noises. 

Big Ask 🙂

Then What?

Serve my community.  There isn’t a charity in existence that isn’t screaming for volunteers.  Our generation has seen the death of Apex, Lions is on the ropes and bleeding heavily, Meals on Wheels is taking a battering as well.  And they’re the biggies.  There are countless hundreds of other community groups going begging for lack of volunteers, and they are all worthy, but which one to choose…

Well, feel free to join me over the next few months as I find out…

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A Light-hearted Look at ‘Things All Men Should Know’

In my wanderings over the net in the last few weeks, I stumbled across a list that someone had made and was currently ticking off: How to Be a Man.  I can’t remember the original list, and I can’t find it again, but at the time I recall reading it and thinking, “You’re kidding?! You need a list to work this out?!”  And some of the things on the list were laughable.  I won’t go into them here, but let’s just say it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that this list had been cobbled together by a twelve year old.  Or someone who has spent all his time living a life of ease and comfort in the heart of a large city.

But, for some reason, it piqued my curiosity, and I found myself Googling other sites and lists on Manliness.  It’s been an education… and I found myself mentally ticking some items off, ‘Yep, done that,’ ‘Did that yesterday,’ ‘Haven’t done that, and don’t particularly want to,’ etc.

The folk who wrote the BCF commercials are up to speed with the same lists I think, and they are using them to cow men into ‘getting outside and living’. Of course their idea of living is tramping through the wilderness, bouncing over the waves, killing large fish, ski-ing behind powerful boats, etc.

Do these activities make you more of a man?  Does killing an animal make you manly?  Of course not.  Anyone can do these things, once properly trained.  Someone at Popular Mechanics put together the following short list:

1. Patch a radiator hose

2. Protect your computer

3. Rescue a boater who has capsized

4. Frame a wall

5. Retouch digital photos

6. Back up a trailer

7. Build a campfire

8. Fix a dead outlet

9. Navigate with a map and compass

10. Use a torque wrench

11. Sharpen a knife

12. Perform CPR

13. Fillet a fish

14. Maneuver a car out of a skid

15. Get a car unstuck

16. Back up data

17. Paint a room

18. Mix concrete

19. Clean a bolt-action rifle

20. Change oil and filter

21. Hook up an HDTV

22. Bleed brakes

23. Paddle a canoe

24. Fix a bike flat

25. Extend your wireless network

I scored 22. I’ve never had to rescue a boater who has capsized, unless you want to count the time I tipped my brother out of his blow up boat years ago, and I simply refuse to bleed brakes. Brakes are something I leave to experts. We shouldn’t play with brakes folks. I’ve seen enough people try to save money by repairing their own brakes, and what they are doing is gambling with their own, and their families, safety. 

Fixing a dead outlet is one I have done in the past (under sufferance), but I’m pretty sure is very illegal.  This is also a job for an expert.  Those experts are called electricians.  Other experts you may get to meet doing this sort of job are Firemen, Ambulance Officers, Electrical Inspectors, Insurance Agents, Forensic Scientists, Policemen, and Judges.  Not smart.

And extending my wireless network is not all that high on my list of Things to Do either.  But is it a comprehensive list?  Nope.  Far from it. Other lists included such gems as:

Tie a bow tie (yeah right!)

Shake hands (if dogs can do it properly so can you)

Handle a blow out (screaming like a little girl while you do this is going to lose you a lot of points fellas. Try and remain calm, if only for the sake of your family, or the bus load of passengers you are transporting.)

Get a car unstuck (hopefully it will be someone else’s fault that the car is stuck in the first place.)

Light a fire (but not in Victoria!)

Build a shelter (a cardboard fort doesn’t count… then again…)

Kill, clean and eat an animal (another seagull anyone?  There’s plenty here…)

Treat snakebite (how about ‘Avoid a snakebite’?)

Fell a tree (without hitting your house, car, or your mate who is standing nearby drinking your beer and laughing at you)

Tie two knots (does not include shoelaces, or double granny knots)

Learn a poem off by heart (The sun kisses the morning sky, the wind kisses the butterfly, the dew kisses the morning grass, and you my friend can kiss my … is not a poem.  Seriously, learn another one.)

Of course there were others who added their voices to the lists:

Ride a motorbike (sensibly)

Be man enough to play dollies with your little girl (but be smart enough not to let anyone photograph you doing it)

Not panic in an emergency (even if you are to blame)

Hang a door (and fix a door knob)

Learn to use a variety of power tools (still have all ten fingers afterwards)

Hunt (for what? Animals, wanted crims, lost car keys, socks, edible stuff in the back of the pantry?)

Handle puncture wounds (on others and yourself… see ‘power tools’)

Mix drinks for a large group (more beer anyone?)

Cook for a large group (more snags anyone?)

Whittle (why?)

Parallel park (without swearing, or acting all smug)

Another gave sage advice from the Karma Sutra: “Give orders – take orders, prepare food, arrange flowers, design and build a home, sew clothing.”  And I was thinking that the Karma Sutra was all about ‘flexible exercises between consenting adults’.

And then there was this from sci-fi writer Robert Heinlen: “A Human Being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, co-operate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly.” (Yes, then after breakfast…)

Wait a minute, ‘Plan an invasion’?!  Where does this bloke live, and what do his neighbours think of his list? And he shouldn’t he have added, ‘Wash your hands after pitching manure, prior to cooking a tasty meal’?

My wife, on the other hand, said that there were other important skills that all men should know that were missing from the lists. They should be able to:

Give good back rubs (for a long time, without an ulterior motive, and without complaining)

Put the toilet seat down

Not ignore dripping taps

Change the toilet roll

Be civil to in-laws and old school friends.

Say ‘Thankyou’ when handed dinner. Do not grunt.

Offer to help with the dishes

Break wind outside the house

Admit when you are wrong, and learn to apologise

Realise that you are always wrong.  Don’t argue. 

The list went on and on, and there was some stuff in there about listening and paying attention… I think.

Of course I think that Real Men would scan such lists on How to Be A Man and laugh derisively before gazing toward the horizon in pensive way, as their thumb tests the sharpness of their knife’s and their right hand guides the tiller of the ship they’re  sailing to New Zealand, as part of the invasion force they put together, to show the world that “You, my Son, are a Man.”

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Painful Lessons in Pilates

This morning I did my second session of Pilates training.  It was Amazing!  Amazingly difficult, Amazingly painful, and Amazing that I lobbed up for a second session 🙂

I’d heard about Pilates prior to my first session late last year, I mean who hasn’t.  During the 90’s it seemed that every second commercial was for a Pilates course, or machine (remember it slips right under your bed… along with all the other junk that you bought that slipped right under your bed, and was immediately forgotten). 

When I first met our new instructor, and she informed our happy little group that we’d be doing an hour of Pilates an excited buzz went round the room.  It started off so well, with relaxing music, (pan pipes, mingled with the sound of waterfalls sort of thing), and lots of meditative movements and breathing exercises.  I lay on my back, deep breathing in and out, and slowly waving my arms around in circles thinking, ‘I could get used to this’.  

The instructor looked super fit, well toned, slim, and was extremely flexible.  How do I know she was extremely flexible?  Because things started to ramp up after we’d warmed up.  Initially, being the only bloke in the group, I chose to do the slightly ‘harder’ method of each exercise, and as I stood, or lay, shaking like a leaf while my muscles slowly disintegrated, it struck me that there would be no shame in trying the ‘easy way’. 

The easy way was a slight improvement, but still horribly painful.

I won’t go into the gory details, but that hour was one of the most intense workouts I’d ever had.  For example, how hard is it to do ten pushups?  Not that hard right.  Wrong.  Doing them slowly, an inch at a time, whilst trying to remember how to breathe properly, makes for a extremely hard set of press ups.  I did 10… eventually, but had a couple of rests in between.  I wish now I had done them on my knees… 

Will I do it again?  Will I back up for a third time.  Yep.  Why? 

Because anything that bad, just has to be good for you!

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