Monthly Archives: October 2009

Mondays Column (from last week) – Ripper Time

Hi all, this column appeared while we were on hols nearly 2 weeks ago.  It was initially inspired by a comment from a mate on a forum who has made it one of her goals to ride a Rip Stick.  At the time I had no idea what the hell a Rip Stick was… I do now!  Cheers, Gb

Q: Why do men spend less time in therapy than women?  A:  Because they have much less distance to travel back to their childhoods. 

There is, unfortunately, a lot of truth in this.  No matter how old a man is, he always has an eighteen year old lurking inside him making some insane choices. 

For example, during our weekly amble down at the marina we were passed by a kid on one of those new rip skateboardy things.  As he slid by us in a lazy serpentine fashion, gliding effortlessly along the path, Long Suffering Wife muttered fiercely to me, “Don’t!  Don’t even think about it!”  Her mind reading abilities still continue to amaze and confound me on a daily basis.

When, the Littlest Princess shouted out, “Mum can I have one of those?!”  I silently cheered, because there isn’t too much she doesn’t get.  “No,” came the stern reply, “they’re far too dangerous.” 

“Ohh Muuum!” 

“I said No!  And don’t bother asking your father, because he agrees with me, doesn’t he?!” she said, turning to face me.  I had actually raised a finger in order to state my case in favour of the Littlest Princess, but instead muttered, “Your mother is quite right Chook.”

“Yes,” said LSW, “why don’t you ask Daddy about the last time he thought he could ride a skateboard?’

Oh, she had to bring that up!  I was nineteen years old when my brother dug out his old skateboard, and as we pootled about in the driveway, cracking our shins, and twisting our ankles, we reminisced about some of the fun we’d had on the little wheeled plank. 

“Hey, remember the time you tried to ride down Suicide Hill near Cypress Court?” he chortled.  The smile vanished from my face, “No,” I said grimly, “I had, in fact, actually managed to forget all about that until now.”

“I’ve never seen so much blood!” he laughed.  Neither had I.  Unfortunately it was all mine. 

“Then that time you…”

“Yeah, yeah!” I snapped, interrupting his reverie, “I’ve improved quite a bit since then.”  He said nothing; the look on his face said it all. 

Minutes later I was standing on a nearby hill, staring death in the face.  Below us lay a long stretch of bitumen, and at the bottom was an intersection.  As it was a Sunday there was no traffic, so I kicked off before I had time to think.  And I actually managed to stay on the thing, much to everyone’s’ astonishment; especially the bloke driving the truck. 

Staring into his equally shocked face as I raced toward him, I offered up the skateboarder’s prayer to Bingle, the God of Small Prangs, which basically goes, “Ogod! Ogod! Ogod! Ogod!”  Bingle outdid himself, because I missed the truck and smacked into a nearby gutter instead.    

In those sweet few seconds before the mind numbing pain cut in, I lay staring at the clear blue sky, enjoying the sight, sounds and smells around me, delighted to be alive.  Eventually my brother arrived and he helped me home, where I spent a long and agonising evening sitting in the bath, having gravel and glass scrubbed from my bleeding hide.  In those helmet-less days, I was fortunate to get off so lightly. 

We haven’t bought a skate stick thingy despite the Littlest Princesses’ pleas.  Partly because I don’t want her to experience the heart breaking pain of gravel rash, but mostly because I can’t be trusted not to have a go on the thing.  At forty something years of age, I have the flexibility of a house brick, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used up all my favours with Bingle.  Perhaps we’ll get one when the eighteen year old in my head finally shuffles off in disgust, allowing me to make saner, more rational choices; just like any other mature, wise, and sensible twenty-two year old does.         



Filed under Columns, Writing

Off to the Movies

Well, it’s been an epic movie watching month for me and Mrs Gb.  This month we’ve been to the movies twice.  The first movie we took in was Couples Retreat.  Not a bad yarn, some close to the bone moments, but, a movie we both generally enjoyed.  And one that made us feel pretty good about NOT being Americans!   

Then yesterday we got our chance to see Charlie and Boots.  Gladstone Cinemas managed to wrangle a copy from somewhere, and a couple of months after it was released pretty much everywhere else, we got to watch it. 

Now, I’m not a movie reviewers armpit.  I never will be.  I enjoy movies, but not the popular Blockbusters.  The Batman film with Heath Ledger is a case in point.  We hired the DVD, and I spent the night gripping the remote to turn the sound waaay up to hear what the hell Batman and Commissioner Gordon were mumbling, before having to turn the sound way down every time an explosion occurred or a gun was fired, before it punctured our eardrums.  I tell ya, DVD’s should come with a decibel control, so everything is at the one sound level.  Heath Ledger deserves an award for being the only character we could hear, and understand during the movie!  Leave it to an Aussie or a Pom to play a good psychopath I say. 

Charlie and Boots

Charlie and Boots

So, it was with no surprise that Mrs Gb and I entered cinema #6 and found ourselves alone in an empty theatre.  Charlie and Boots is an Australian movie, starring Australians.  There are no American love interests, no shots of the opera house, the Sydney Harbour bridge, and North Queenslanders weren’t wearing safari suit tops, and shorts with long socks and white shoes.  What were they thinking?! 

It was a good yarn, with a few tear jerking moments, and a few laughs.  What I like in a movie.  As an added bonus I was able to point out to Mrs Gb a few of the places I visited last year on my little trek round the countryside. 

Hell, there were even some good shots of Emerald – a place just to the west of Gladstone, and the makers of the film did us proud by not depicting everyone outside of Sydney and Melbourne as gun toting, inbred, rednecks, hellbent on shooting or raping everything and everyone in sight.  Again, what the hell were they thinking?!  All those years of loud mouthed larrikin stereotyping down the drain…

But the best part of our film going experience was discovering we had the entire theatre to ourselves.  So we picked up where the Charlie and Boots producers let us down, and acted like complete yobbos.  We talked during the film, loudly.  I made the odd rude comment without being shushed.  And at one point I was even able to lie down across several seats in total comfort.  How good was that?  Ok, not too great for the Oz film industry, but fine by me!  Can’t wait for the next Aussie offering to make it’s way here…  which will hopefully contain footage of some sunburned city slicker getting shot at by crazed yokels in utes with pigs head glued to the bonnet.  Just like we do every day up here. 

So to wrap up – Charlie and Boots.  Go and see it.  It won’t change your life, but it will make you smile, which alone is worth the price of admission.

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Mondays’ Column – When the Bough Breaks

The event in this column actually occurred, and has left me very wary when strolling through the scrub of late.  The drought drags on; rain to the North, the South, and even to the West… yet the land round here is aching for moisture. 

During the last couple of years I’ve been trampling through the bush at the back of our house in order to exercise the dogs, and keep them sane after being locked up in the backyard all day.  The funny thing is, I’m the one who didn’t want the mutts, yet somehow it’s become my duty to walk them every day.  How that happened I have no idea, but there you go. 

So, while the dogs eagerly fossick in the long grass for any ripe smelling carcasses, I meander along behind them, sorting through the days’ mental clutter and pondering some of the big questions of life.  But thanks to this long drought, a new terror has appeared in the bush.  Far more alarming than the time I stumbled across some people dumping a fridge and a roll of carpet in a small gully.  Even scarier than being mowed down by wild-eyed kids on motorbikes.  And, much more frightening than the time we were chased home by two large and extremely angry dogs.  It’s the trees.  Big trees.  They’ve started dropping branches harder and faster than a down-on-his-luck millionaire dumping excess family, friends, and mistresses.  And some of the more stressed trees have become so panic stricken that they’re opting for an even more drastic way of ending their suffering. 

A couple of weeks ago I was wandering along a well beaten track, grappling with the question, “What would happen if the entire state voted for independents at the next election?” when I was snapped out of my reverie by the sound of a cannon shot.  If you’ve never been in close proximity to a large tree that has decided to commit suicide, then you have no idea how loud the noise is.  I was in mid-step when the first big branch cracked off the trunk, and my left foot remained in mid-air but was soon joined by my right foot as I levitated on the spot.  Both feet hit the ground, decided that my brain was taking too long to react, then took immediate action.  Had they actually stopped for a moment to discuss which direction to run in, things might have gone a little better, because each foot took off in different directions.  As a result, I galloped about in small, frantic circles while large lumps of timber rained down around me.

By the time I regained control of my flailing hooves, the bulk of the tree was on the ground, so I wrapped up the hysterical discussion I’d been having with God, then went and surveyed the damage.  At that point, my faithful hounds returned from wherever it was they’d escaped to, while their Lord and Master fended for himself.  A quick look at the tree’s remains revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but, I’d like to point out that my knowledge on the topic is fairly limited, i.e., kindergarten level; the brown bit goes at the bottom the green bit at the top. 

As I stood gawping at the wreckage, a large branch from a neighbouring tree thudded to the ground alongside me, at which point I leapt into the air, resumed my earlier discussion with God and fled home, where I poured a beer with a shaking hand, and recounted my miraculous escape to Long Suffering Wife.   “Well,” she said, “if the dogs come home without you then I’ll know exactly what has happened, and what to do.”  

 “And that is?” I replied, keen to hear her rescue plan.

“First I’ll call the Merry Widow Insurance Agency, then book a nice sea cruise to get over my grief,” she said brightly.  It wasn’t exactly what I had expected to hear, but it did give me an idea, and as a result I’m seeing a bit more of the ocean myself these days.  The dogs and I are now strolling across the treeless mudflats until we get some decent rain.


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Nanowrimo – The Countdown Has Begun!

15 days to go bofore this years novelling event!  This year, I decided, I would give it a miss.  The only other year I’ve missed was a couple of years ago when we moved to the new Plasterboard Palace.  That was the month from hell.  I wrote a few desultory paragraphs, but the pressures of moving, changing jobs at work, and well, just life in general was too much.  But in the last couple of weeks I’d had a change of heart, and I’ve found myself plotting story outlines in my head as I walk the dogs of an afternoon…  


Last year, I tackled my first (and possibly last!) Romance novel.  It was bloody hard work!  This year though, a story has formed based around the song “Sons of Vengeance”, by the old metal band, Krokus (they rock harder than the Swiss franc… apparently).  It will be a fantasy, swords and sandals epic.  I get to choose a mythical land, minus the mythical creatures and monsters, and tap away as my hero sets off on his epic quest.  I’ve got a ‘love interest’, warring kings, a rogue knight, and a couple of deputy sidekicks who will make life a bit more interesting for the hero. 

As a result, I’m quite looking forward to this years event… it’s the Nano curse, who will save me from it?! 

So, in preparation for a month of novel scribbling, I’ve upped the number of columns contributed to The Observer this month so I can concentrate on my ‘masterpiece’.  Thus my night time scribbling is consuming at least 2 – 4 hours each night, as I tap away in bed on my little laptop, writing, editing, re-editing, and writing.  How the hell I’m keeping up with this blog, work, house work, renovations, and finding time to read at least 2 books a week I don’t know… but I’m not unhappy with this situation, life is certainly a lot more interesting 🙂 

Meanwhile, in the loungeroom, my family are enjoying shows that I wouldn’t normally let them watch…  everyone’s a winner!

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My Kind of Writer

This week I’ve been pretty busy…. to say the least. But in my few spare moments, I’ve had a bit of time to read some books, blogs, web pages, newspapers, and do a bit of scribbling. 

The two most powerful things I’ve read this week though were: 

The Freelance Writers Bible, by Dave Trottier.  An excellent read, and one that I would highly recommend to anyone in the scribbling game.  It’s easy to follow, has so many excellent tips that I think I’ll have to buy my own copy, and above all, is highly encouraging and motivational.  It makes you want to to write! 

The second thing I read this week was over at Laura Goodins’ blog, “A Motley Coat”.  I usually pop in once a week to catch up on Laura’s musings, there’s usually something there that makes me think, and at times laugh… everything I like in a blog 🙂  But this post 

was worth its’ weight in gold.  A hearty pat on the back and a “Well Done, Madam” to you Laura!   

I want to be that sort of writer… and the good news is, I can be. 

Right now.


Filed under Becoming a Full Time Writer, Writing

Mondays Observer Column – Clean With Ease

“You know you’re soaking in it?”  Remember the ad where a woman has paid for a nail treatment, and is informed by Madge, the alleged beautician, that her hands are actually soaking in cheap dishwashing detergent?  And instead of being outraged and upset, and rightly so, she shrugs her shoulders and grins as Madge firmly pushes her paw back into the dish.  That highlights the problem with advertising, we don’t buy the product, we buy ‘the story’.  Especially the stories written on the labels of beauty and bathroom cleaning products. 

Recently I was swanning past the bathroom on some errand, when I noticed Long Suffering Wife on her hands and knees scrubbing the bathtub.  “Ah, the scent of cow urine,” I remarked, sniffing the air.  Brushing some hair away from her eyes with a forearm, she looked up at me and said, “What?!”

“Cow urine.  That’s what bleach is made of.  You know you’re soaking in it?”  Moments later she was frantically scrubbing herself clean in the laundry tub while I tried to wrestle her gloves on.  Rubber gloves are fairly stretchy, but not quite stretchy enough to fit my mitts and when one of them snapped off, rebounding off the mirror and draping itself over my shoulder, I tossed them aside with a sigh, and got scrubbing.      

Things were progressing smoothly until the bleach ran out.  Sitting in front of the laundry cupboard, I read the labels on all the bottles stored inside:  Smashes Scum.  Mauls Mould.  Grapples with Gunk.  Tussles with Tarnish.  All of them promised so much, for so little effort:  No scrubbing.  No scouring.  Polish with Ease.  Spray and Rinse.  But in spite of all the blurb, there wasn’t enough left in any one bottle to finish the job.      

Inspiration struck, and as I merrily poured all the remains into a bucket, the thought occurred to me that I might be actually be brewing a cleaning product that really works.  Humming a cheerful little marketing jingle, I made my way back to the bathroom carting my bubbling and smoking concoction.

Splashing the chemical cocktail all over the shower cubicle I waited for the magic to happen.  And it did!  A little cartoon bluebird appeared on my left shoulder.  “Hullo,” I smiled, “shouldn’t you be hanging out with Snow White?”  He shrugged and said in a rough New York accent, “Nah, I got sick of all the singing, and she don’t need me no more since the dwarfs found that uranium deposit.  So watcha up to?”

Waving a hand round the bathroom, “Inventing a new cleaning product,” I replied proudly.  He looked unimpressed, “Should it be dissolving the grout like that?”

“Um, no,” I said, grappling for the shower taps, “but it has removed the mould and soap scum though.”  As I frantically rinsed, the fumes grew stronger, and at that point a second birdie appeared, this time a miniature vulture wearing a napkin, “What’ve I missed?” he asked the Bluebird.

“Mr. Glow here has been mixing bathroom chemicals,” came the bored reply. 

At that point LSW emerged in the doorway, “What’s that smell!” she cried.   

“Sshhtruth! It’sh, the mishuss,” I garbled to the birds, misplacing a slightly singed warning finger to my ear instead of my lips, “better let…, better let, me do all the thingy…, talking.” 

“Hallo! O Queen of the Shuburbs!” I warbled, bowing deeply and falling to the floor.  Turning on the extractor fan, she shuffled me outside away from the worst of the billowing vapours, and while I sat propped up on the back deck, she hosed down the tiles.      

Further experiments with my ‘Wonder Product’ were halted when it burned through the bottom of my good steel bucket, but my hands will definitely be much softer when the new skin grows back.  And as an added bonus, I haven’t had to clean the bathroom since;  I’m not allowed to.


Filed under Columns, Writing

KLE 500 – A Tale of Woe… for someone else!

It’s been a few weeks since my last ride, and my old battery finally died, point blank refusing to start last weekend.  It’s been recharged a couple of times over the last 7 years, but it’s not holding charge for long these days.  

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I pedalled to the nearest bike shop, and while I was in there deciding which battery to buy, one of the mechanics ushered me outside and showed me a KLE 500 the same era as mine, that was waiting for work to be done on it.  It had had fallen over and the brake pedal had gone through the clutch housing cover, and some minor damage had been done to the plastic cosmetics.  When he told me how much it was going to cost the owner to fix the bike I nearly had a heart attack.  The owner was toying with writing the bike off, or spending a fortune to fix it. 

Here was a perfectly good bike, parts should still be available for it, particularly off an old GPZ 500 for the clutch cover, or many of the parts off the later model KLE’s should also fit, (the design hasn’t changed that much!) and the poor owner was looking at scrapping it.  Bullshit! 

Ok, KLE spares are as rare as rocking horse shit in this country, but not impossible to source.  I’ve dropped my KLE on a couple of memorable occasions, and generally the worst damage has been a busted indicator light and/or clutch lever.  There’s a large dent in the left hand side of the tank where my mates’ knee was slammed into it when a Virago 1100 took him out while we had swapped bikes.  No biggie.  It’s one of the things I like about the old girl.  She takes a hammering, and keeps on, well, hammering! 

But, most parts I’ve bought over the years, including one of the footpegs that got bent out of shape by the Virago, have come off the thousands of GPZ’s littering most cycle wreckers yards.  It would be a shame to see the KLE in the bike shop scrapped because of a few dinky parts.

The mechanic said the owner was keen to get the bike going again, but the bike shop are probably pushing him towards upgrading, possibly to one of those neato Versys 650’s (although wait til he drops one of those and see what it costs to replace those big lumps of plastic round the tank).

I’ve been toying with contacting the owner and seeing if I can help him get his bike back on the road… (God knows how!), But on the other hand, if he writes it off, then there’s a heap of spares for me if I can get my hands on the bike. 

You can see what sort of moral dilemma I’m having!


Filed under Kawasaki KLE 500

Gladstone Fitness Park

About a month ago the local council started building ‘something’ near one of our local walking tracks up town.  Speculation ran rife until the first of the machines went in, and everyone said the same thing:  “Great Idea!” 

Exercise machines in Happy Valley Park (Pubtruck included for scale!)

Exercise machines in Happy Valley Park (Pubtruck included for scale!)

It's becoming pretty obvious I need to upgrade my camera...

It's becoming pretty obvious I need to upgrade my camera...

Then they said two more things: 

2.  Who will use it?  The answer, from what I’ve seen so far, quite a lot of folk actually.  And good on them.  In fact, going by the popularity of the park they may need to install more gear.

And, 3.  If it’s not locked up at night then it will be vandalised.  Well, it’s been a month now.  No graffiti, no smashed gear.  So far so good. 

 Which says a couple of things about our town; we’re fairly law abiding, and are starting to enjoy getting out and getting fit.  Or the vandals are too lazy to bother…  either way, you’ve gotta be happy with that!

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Mondays Column – Running On Empty 5.10.09

He looked wiry, well toned and fit.  Very, very fit.  I met him through a mate who had learned that I was going to attempt a marathon, “Hey!” he had said, “I know a marathon runner!”  Not long afterwards I met up with the Marathon Man, and was suitably impressed.  He was aged in his fifties, and didn’t have an ounce of fat on him.  Unlike the person who was standing in front of him

I wasn’t sure how to start discussing the ins and outs of long distance running,   so I started off with an easy question, “I hear you’ve done a few marathons then?” 

He nodded, “Yeah, I do at least one a year.  Are you interested in running too?” he asked.  I nodded eagerly, “Yep, I’ve set a goal to do the Gold Coast Marathon next year.” 

His eyebrows shot up and he took a moment to give me the once over, then shaking his head he took another, slightly longer look.  “Um,” he said eventually, “have you done much running?” 

“Nope!” I replied brightly.

“Do you have a training plan?  A coach?  Motivation of any kind?” he continued.


“Right.  So, why are you doing this?”

“I have no idea!  But it sounds like a lot of fun, and it’s given me something to aim for.” 

He nodded his head, gave me another ‘once over’ then sighed.  “Look,” he said, sitting down, and dragging me onto a nearby chair, “marathons aren’t easy, you’ll be pushed to the extreme limits of your physical and mental endurance, training for a marathon requires persistence and dedication, because when the going gets tough, and it will get tough, you’re going to need a very good reason to keep going.  Do you understand?”

I nodded keenly, “Yep, marathons are tough.” 

He rubbed his brow then asked, “So, why a marathon, why not something…” he searched for the right words, “less demanding, I mean, do you know how far a marathon is?” 

I knew the answer to this, “Forty two kilometres.  Oprah Winfrey ran one in four and half hours a few years ago.  I reckon if she could do it, then so can I!”

He smiled, “Well, let’s see,” he said, “from what I recall, Oprah had a team of professionals training her.  She had a running coach, a fitness coach, a personal trainer, and a motivational coach.  Her dietician provided nutritional foods to help her reach optimal running condition.  Whereas you,” he waved a hand vaguely in my direction, “have no experience, no coach, no plan, vague motivation, and, I’m going out on a limb here, no dietician either.  Is that right?” 

I nodded again, but this time I wasn’t smiling, “So, what are you saying, I can’t do it?” 

He shook his head, “No, but if you really want to get through this thing, then you’re going to need a lot more help.  With the right advice, the correct running equipment, some diet tips and a whole lot of luck, you might just pull this off.  Perhaps you should set your goal a little lower, maybe try for a half marathon, and see how you go?” 

“Half marathon eh?” I muttered, “Twenty-one kilometres, hmm.” 

“Look,” he said, standing up and offering his hand, “I’ll be happy to give you some advice and training tips, but” he said, looking me up and down again, “you’re going to need a lot more help than I can offer you.  Seriously, consider hiring a coach, or a personal trainer, marathon running is a lot harder than you think.” 

We shook hands and parted ways, and as I pedaled home I thought about what he had said.  Ok, so I wasn’t a joggers’ armpit, but on the bright side, after talking to one runner, I’d manage to halve my running distance… now that’s progress!

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Gladstone on Fire

“School holidays,” he said and shrugged, he was one unhappy firey.  

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Over the last couple of weeks, several fires have been lit around town, and the resulting haze and smoke have been choking us ever since.  Added to the mix are dust storms which swept up the coast diminishing the already dim view even further, and covering us with a layer of fine dust.  This is not the sort of Spring weather I’ve grown used to up here.

On the weekend, I took the dogs for a walk over the hill where a large fire had burned last week.  The damage was incredible.  Large trees had been toppled, and while we walked, we witnessed a huge gum tree falling near the track, which scared nine colours of crap out of me.  But it was when we returned to our usual walking track did things take a much more alarming turn for the worst. 

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Someone had lit not one fire, but three, and the wall of flame that greeted us on the rim of a small hill literally took my breath away.  It wasn’t moving too fast, so we jogged off down a side track, staying in front of the fire, but desperately looking for a way around it, so we could get home.  Near the railway line, the long, dry grass had been incinerated fairly quickly, so we were able to dash across the smoking ashes to safety behind the advancing fire.  As I ran I saw a motorcycle on the other side of the tracks, and to my surprise saw the young boy stop and take a photo of me! 

I kept running til I got home, then dragged my family out to look at the fire. We didn’t venture too close, and while we were watching the fires and taking some photos as well, I saw the boy on the bike again, still taking photos.  A 4WD fire truck turned up driven by a smiling young lady, and I was able to give her some advice on the condition of the track ahead.  They disappeared into the smoke.

Little Dog was keen to get home!

Little Dog was keen to get home!

Back home we saw that a fire truck had parked at the end of our street, so I wandered over and had a chat with the driver.  He asked me if I’d cleared the bush behind my backfence and if my gutters were clean.  I had, and they were.  Giving the girls a wave he drove off to help his mates back burn. 

We watched the flames during the night when the wind changed, and our house filled with smoke.  It’s been hard enough for us, but the poor animals out there must be doing it pretty tough.  Heaven knows the trees are!  At night you can hear, from time to time, the crash and clatter of big trees falling over as their trunks give way.  The bush is a war zone at the moment.

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