Monthly Archives: November 2009

Nanowrimo – Winner 2009

Well, it’s been a little bit of a hectic time here in the Bray household.  November is National Novel Writing Month, and this year I went out of my way to ensure I would have plenty of time to write my novel, without the usual frenzy of scribbling that I normally have to endure. 

I cleared my calendar, pushed back appointments, cancelled others, and caught up on a few jobs around the house in October.  I had even worked out a basic plot outline that I was very pleased with… clever me.

Well, that was the plan.  As the poet Rab Burns says, “The best laid plans of mice and men, are aft to gae awry.”  He was right.  He was also right when he wrote this oft quoted little ditty, “No matter how much you shake and dance, the last drops always land in your pants.”  So true, so very, very true…

Anyway, long story short (well shorter), appointments were bought forward, the hot water system died, my airconditioner died, and we had some unexpected visitors.  All of these things needed my undivided attention, and they got it.  The thing that never fails to impress me is this;  it has been proven time and again that I don’t need perfect conditions to write eg: a silent room, no interruptions, weeks off work, a clear calendar etc.  In fact, all I need to do is squeeze in some scribbling whenever I can… just like a real writer I suppose! 

Anyway, I’ve finished.  A few days early, which is good, because tomorrow I have to be in Caloundra for an appointment on Friday morning, after which I’ll be dropping out of society up in the back hills of the Sunshine Coast for a few days.  I can’t wait to be surrounded by the peace and tranquility of the forests up there.  Unfortunately, I have to drive through Brissy on Monday to visit a mate who is recovering from surgery (Hi Rob!), then back home sometime next week.  Hopefully taking the long way round, and making a few stops along the way.    

Life is good, we have hot water in the bathroom, cool air in the bedroom, and a cold beer in the back fridge which I am about to open and enjoy the long awaited taste of to celebrate this years Nano win. 

Cheers!

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Mondays Column 23.11.09 – Stick it to ’em

Several years ago I purchased a walking stick at the Harbour Festival, and unlike the rest of my impulse purchases, I actually get quite a lot of use out of that stick.  It quickly became a useful travelling aid on my evening strolls with our dogs, and I wish I had a dollar for every time it’s saved me from falling over like a drunken acrobat on loose gravel, wet cement, uneven footpaths, or when my idiot dogs tangle their leads around my ankles.   

Your average walking stick user is either someone who is aged, or physically frail, and apparently it’s quite rare to see a hearty and hale looking bloke, strolling around with a walking stick.  So when acquaintances first spied me trundling along behind my dogs wielding my new stick, they immediately thought I was suffering from an injury, a bad back, or trying to pull some sort of compo scam.  When I eventually convinced them that I perfectly fit and healthy they would give me a puzzled look before wandering off muttering under their breath.  Others though, boldly stated that I looked like a prize goose. 

 “Well sir,” I replied on one memorable occasion, “I personally prefer the term eccentric, and it is a sorry state of affairs indeed when a gent can’t stride forth from his house, with a stout cane in hand, and a gleam in his eye, without being accosted by ill mannered yokels such as yourself!”  You may be not be surprised to learn that my comment only served to upset the kids’ father, and he fired off a few choice adjectives in my direction as well. 

But it was an unexpected feature that cemented the stick as my constant walking companion; it’s almost magical ability to stop aggressive dogs in their tracks.  I’ve encountered a variety of large and irritated mutts over the years, and most of them have taken an instant dislike to me.  This is nothing new, as all my life nearly every big dog I’ve met has wanted to rip me to shreds, including the one I dragged home as a boy.  My parents weren’t swayed by my pleas to keep it, as it was trying to gnaw my arm off at the time.  Added to this, is my unerring ability to locate streets where big dogs roam with gay abandon, attacking anyone, or anything, at will. 

As the part owner and Chief Walker of two small dogs, I’m often on the receiving end of some extreme canine bullying.  So, you can imagine my delight at discovering that one tap of my stick transforms even the most aggressive dog into a four pawed pacifist.  If only their masters were as easy to deal with.   

For some reason, the owners of these hounds won’t bat an eyelid while their snarling beasts race at me like huge, furry missiles, but the moment I prod their precious pooch with my stick they get a tad upset, which inevitably leads to some intense footpath discussions.  I have tried pointing out that allowing a large and savage dog to roam free is akin to letting a child loose on the street with a loaded handgun.  But they usually argue that their adorable doggie has never attacked anyone until now, and I must have upset it somehow.  Obviously it’s my fault!  Possibly my raucous breathing has pushed their allegedly meek and mild mutt right over the edge, turning it into a deranged assailant?  

When things degenerate to the point where earnest threats are made to insert my walking stick where the sun doesn’t shine, I stroll off, merrily swinging my battered cane and silently wondering if I’m actually hitting the wrong mongrels.      

 

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Running 10 K’s for Fun, and Ruan

Sunday morning, 15 of Nov, I lined up with I don’t know how many other runners to go on a 10 k run which was titled, Run for Ruan.  Ruan Burger (yep, his real name) is a local finance advisor, and had the idea to host a run for charity, namely childrens cancer.  Good for him. 

I have never run 10 k’s, ever.  And I still haven’t.  I have run, jogged, walked, crab-walked, and staggered 10 k’s though. 

On the day I was feeling pretty good, ate brekky, took the dogs for a walk to the shops, then drove down to the carpark at Bunnings with my wife and mate Rob from Brissy.  There were a stack of people lining up for the 5 k event, and what seemed to be an equal number doing the 10 k. 

It was hot.  So I downed a stack of water.  I also asked where the water stops were along the route.  The consensus seemed to be that there was one at the 2.5 k mark, and possibly another at the 5 k turnaround mark.  No worries.  I was glad I had not decided to carry a water bottle.  I had another couple of cups of water. 

After some group stretching / warmups we were given a briefing of the route, which I possibly should have listened to… instead I was giggling at a mate who was telling jokes.  Then came the countdown… and we were off. 

My goal was to run for as long as possible before walking, and by the 2 k mark I was still feeling pretty good.  Lo and behold I pulled up alongside a walking Ruan, clapped him on the back and said, “Go slower mate, it’s not a race, the goal is to finish, not win it.”  Speaking of which, some superfit young fellas had streaked ahead from the get go, and were moving like greased lightning at a pace that I could have sustained for about 40 metres before dropping dead.  Oh, to be ‘that’ fit! 

At the 2.5 k mark I scoffed down a couple of cups of water as the heat built up.  Crossing the Police Creek bridge the water sloshing about in my stomach made its’ presence felt lower down… I pulled up at the set of toilets in the park, then thought, ‘Nah, keep running, you’ll be right.’  I hit the track again, but my bladder sent out another emergency warning signal, so back to the dunnies I fled.  A minute or so later I burst back out through the door, a relieved and slightly lighter man. 

The track wound on, and I got to the 3 k, then the 4 k mark.  Lots of runners were walking, and we were being passed by the runners returning to the start.  Geez they were still moving quick, and many of them waved and smiled, or offered a ‘Goodonya mate!’ as they passed.  Runners are certainly a friendly bunch… 

The 5 k mark beckoned, and when it came into view I was slighty dismayed to see that there was no water on offer… should have been listening to the race briefing, because I can’t remember the jokes now.  Turned and kept going.  But something else was wrong ‘downstairs’.  Chafing on my upper left leg on the inner thigh.  I hadn’t counted on this.  And it was starting to hurt.  Add to that the heat from the rising sun and the lack of a cool breeze and things were starting to hurt much more.  At this point I stopped running and had my first walk, about a hundred metres later I started to run again.  My plan was to take it easy until I could find a tap to get a drink from, then up the pace again.

The path wound on, and when I got back to the shady park I found a tap, guzzled down several litres of water, wet my head and back, and took off.  I was feeling supercharged by now, and on my MP3 player, Aerosmith were hammering out ‘Living on the Edge’.

Crossing the Line!

The 7 k mark passed, then the 8.  I passed some people!  At the 9 k mark, my MP3 player died.  So did I.  I strode for about another 100 metres, then lifted for the last 800 metre run to the line.  My wife and mate would be waiting for me and I didn’t want to cross the line at a snails crawl.  As I hit the carpark, I could hear people clapping and yelling out encouragement… LIFT!  I crossed the line, as a nice lady took a snap, and made my way straight to the drinks truck where I consumed my body weight in water. 

My wife took a snap on her mobile phone (don’t ask me how to get it onto the computer) while my mate patted me on the back.  Home to the pool where I peeled off and dived in.  Did a few laps walking, swimming, feeling great.  Later that day we hit the beach, where the salt water stung my chafed leg, but did it a world of good.

The end result?  Well, I’m mentally ready for the Gold Coast Marathon.  As an added bonus I will be better prepared because I’ll buy a pair of those running pants to prevent the dreaded chafing (or hopefully lose enough weight and the tops of my legs will stop rubbing together), and get an MP3 player with a longer life battery!  Also the GCM is held in the middle of Winter, so overheating won’t be a problem… probably, and I hear they have thousands of toilets available, so I’ll empty ‘the tank’ before the run this time!

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Mondays Column – The Great Australian Dream

Some time ago, after many years of renting and chasing work around the State, we felt the urge to settle down and let the taxman and telemarketers have a shot at a sitting target for a change.  Long Suffering Wife and I managed to extract a loan from a financial institution and we bought our first home; a little fibro box in the ‘burbs described as, “A Handyman’s Delight!”      

I spent the next two weeks lying awake at night worrying about how we were going to pay back the loan, because at the time, it seemed like a horribly large amount of money.  These days, that ‘huge’ loan would barely be enough to buy a couple of cars. 

While we were waiting for the settlement day to arrive, we took to driving past our new home, in order to scrutinise the house, and our new neighbours.  I learned later that they were also scrutinising us.  Taking in the sight of our old car, my scruffy clothes and suspicious looks, they must have been wondering if they should have taken the opportunity to sell up prior to us moving in, before real estate prices in the street plummeted like a machine-gunned duck.

The great day finally arrived, and things started going wrong from the moment I backed the moving truck into the carport, knocking the gutter off the roof.  At this point it dawned on me that home repairs were my responsibility now, not the landlords’.   

This was driven home moments later when I switched on the kitchen light and was stunned to see the bulb flicker to life before dropping off the ceiling trailing wires behind it.  At least the power was working.  While we waited for an electrician to arrive, we unloaded our belongings, and by the time he turned up, we had pretty much finished unpacking and I was trying to tune in our TV.

After a quick check he informed us that our new home was an electrical disaster area and turned the TV off, “You’re wasting your time mate,” he said, “because you’re also missing a cable to your aerial.”  He added a few more zero’s to his quote and handed it to Long Suffering Wife who went white in the face.

I put my arm around her and said, “Don’t worry love, the worst is over.”  Seconds later a power surge roared through our ancient wiring effectively killing the fridge and washing machine.  The electrician started writing another quote.     

Long Suffering Wife disappeared into town with the last of our savings to replace our dearly departed electrical goods, while the Sparkie organised a team of expensive sounding folk to assist him with the necessary repairs.  Grabbing a warm six pack from our dead fridge, I staggered out to the backyard and sat on the grass wondering how we were going to get out of this mess.  My new neighbour, and soon to be best mate, ‘No Worries’ Neville turned up, and sitting down next to me, smiled and said, “Can’t be that bad, can it?”

I silently handed him a hot bottle of beer, which he held like it was a black snake.  Leaping to his feet he dashed off, returning soon afterwards with a couple of beers under each arm.  “No worries,” he beamed, removing the tepid beer from my grip, and replacing it with an icy cold bottle, “We’ll have a couple of sociable drinks then I’ll give you a hand to get the place fixed up a bit ok?” 

And he did.  Together we quickly turned a nightmare into a home, while Long Suffering Wife made us sandwiches, poured cups of tea, looked after the children and kept an eye on our dwindling finances. 

After many years of saving and renovating, our little home was finally completed.  At which point we stood back, smiled in delight at our handy work, then sold up and moved to another house that needed renovating… as you do.       

 

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Mondays Column – The Great Australian Dream

Some time ago, after many years of renting and chasing work around the State, we felt the urge to settle down and let the taxman and telemarketers have a shot at a sitting target for a change.  Long Suffering Wife and I managed to extract a loan from a financial institution and we bought our first home; a little fibro box in the ‘burbs described as, “A Handyman’s Delight!”      

I spent the next two weeks lying awake at night worrying about how we were going to pay back the loan, because at the time, it seemed like a horribly large amount of money.  These days, that ‘huge’ loan would barely be enough to buy a couple of cars. 

While we were waiting for the settlement day to arrive, we took to driving past our new home, in order to scrutinise the house, and our new neighbours.  I learned later that they were also scrutinising us.  Taking in the sight of our old car, my scruffy clothes and suspicious looks, they must have been wondering if they should have taken the opportunity to sell up prior to us moving in, before real estate prices in the street plummeted like a machine-gunned duck.

The great day finally arrived, and things started going wrong from the moment I backed the moving truck into the carport, knocking the gutter off the roof.  At this point it dawned on me that home repairs were my responsibility now, not the landlords’.   

This was driven home moments later when I switched on the kitchen light and was stunned to see the bulb flicker to life before dropping off the ceiling trailing wires behind it.  At least the power was working.  While we waited for an electrician to arrive, we unloaded our belongings, and by the time he turned up, we had pretty much finished unpacking and I was trying to tune in our TV.

After a quick check he informed us that our new home was an electrical disaster area and turned the TV off, “You’re wasting your time mate,” he said, “because you’re also missing a cable to your aerial.”  He added a few more zero’s to his quote and handed it to Long Suffering Wife who went white in the face.

I put my arm around her and said, “Don’t worry love, the worst is over.”  Seconds later a power surge roared through our ancient wiring effectively killing the fridge and washing machine.  The electrician started writing another quote.     

Long Suffering Wife disappeared into town with the last of our savings to replace our dearly departed electrical goods, while the Sparkie organised a team of expensive sounding folk to assist him with the necessary repairs.  Grabbing a warm six pack from our dead fridge, I staggered out to the backyard and sat on the grass wondering how we were going to get out of this mess.  My new neighbour, and soon to be best mate, ‘No Worries’ Neville turned up, and sitting down next to me, smiled and said, “Can’t be that bad, can it?”

I silently handed him a hot bottle of beer, which he held like it was a black snake.  Leaping to his feet he dashed off, returning soon afterwards with a couple of beers under each arm.  “No worries,” he beamed, removing the tepid beer from my grip, and replacing it with an icy cold bottle, “We’ll have a couple of sociable drinks then I’ll give you a hand to get the place fixed up a bit ok?” 

And he did.  Together we quickly turned a nightmare into a home, while Long Suffering Wife made us sandwiches, poured cups of tea, looked after the children and kept an eye on our dwindling finances. 

After many years of saving and renovating, our little home was finally completed.  At which point we stood back, smiled in delight at our handy work, then sold up and moved to another house that needed renovating… as you do.

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The Year in Review

This year I’ve stumbled over some great books which have all combined to help the journey I’m on.  At the moment I’m reading ‘The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die’, and it’s sort of blown me away.  I’m a shocking decision maker, and for me the revelation was imagining an ‘old me’ sitting on porch looking back on my life and wishing he’d done things differently.  What decisions would he have regretted making, or been happy with.  Geez, that’s made my life one hell of a lot easier! 

Goal Man

All of us have so many deep seated fears, and once you drill down to what it is stopping you from doing something, it’s kind of laughable.  Eg: I’m terrified of flying.  Why?  I’m worried that the plane will crash.  What’s the worst outcome?  Dying.  Am I scared of death?  No (really, I’m not!), I’m scared that I’ll die before doing the things I’ve always wanted to do (also, I’d like to spend more time with my family, you know, really make them suffer!).  What do I want to do?  Travel!  Why don’t I travel?  Because I’m afraid…  geez, I tell you, Headology is ‘something else’.  

I’ve also learned this year the difference between Simple and Easy. 

Ask anyone at all, How do you lose weight?  Simple they will say:  Exercise more, eat properly, avoid binging, and excessive drinking.  Why are so many people overweight?  Because it’s not Easy. 

So, with this in mind, I’ve started reviewing this years To Do List, and started toying with next years List.  But before I do, I can’t stress enough how important it is to WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS, then pin them up somewhere prominent. 

Every time I sit on my toilet seat, they are staring at me… has it helped?  YES!  Because my goals are fresh in my mind, and I’m reminded of them everyday, which allows me to act on them, as opposed to finding a dust covered list years down the track and getting that horrible feeling of regret that comes at discovering an opportunity lost. 

So, this years list still has 3 things to be ‘ticked off’: 

Run 10 k’s – with a bit of luck I’ll live through that this Sunday.

Biographer – yep, got all the questions, teed up a time with my first ‘client’ next week for the initial interview (I’ll be doing a few freebies until I find the format I’m happiest with, or work out if it’s for me… as much as I love finding out and interviewing other people I may not have a gift for communicating it, but will give it a go). 

Get to 85 kg and maintain it – Not going to happen… maybe.  I was 93 kgs a few months ago, and since we tossed out the scales I haven’t really given a rats rectum what I weigh since.  Body Shape, Clothing Size, and General Fitness, I’m a lot happier with, but some work to do next year.  At this stage I’m looking at hiring a personal trainer to do the Bill Phillips ‘Body for Life’ workout.     

This years successes (Things I’ve been able to place a ‘tick’ next to 🙂  )

Humorous Columnist – Yip (next step, get paid for it, or publish a book with a selection of the best so far)

Novelist – Yep, made some big headway here (mostly in my head, telling the ‘Nun in My Head’ to shut the hell up and annoy someone else.  Progress has since been very encouraging!)

Blogger – Yep.  Will look at stepping up to the next level in the New Year, a Web Site.  Beyond my current skill level, but the option of paying someone to build the site I’m after, and running it as a business is looking very likely at this stage.  

Focus on Positives and Solutions – the motto for this goal was, “No more pity parties, Do Something About It.”  This December I’ll ask my family for some frank feedback on my progress so far on this one… they’re the toughest critics I know, so it might not be pretty!  But I’m a lot happier with myself, and the progress made in the last year.  The motivation for this particular goal came from a book called “Your Roadmap for Success” by John C. Maxwell.    

Ok, better get some rest before tonights shift.  This time next year… where will I be working?!  Better give it some thought 🙂

Gb

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Mondays Column – Drinking In The Scenery

Hi All!  This was one of those, “Why don’t you write about the time… ” suggestions.  The event in this column certainly made a lasting impression on my girls!

Cheers,

Gb

In the not so distant past, I can recall when the many waterholes and creeks around Gladstone were full of young folk seeking a place to cool off during the heat of the summer months.  During the holidays, most of us could be found swimming, dangling off Tarzan ropes, or just lazing about in the cool, clear water under shady trees, in spite of dire warnings from parents, teachers, and the stern faced greenkeeper who patrolled the golf course.

The fact that these waterways also catered for the runoff from the towns gutters, or had sewerage treatment plants located on them, did little to deter we carefree kids.    I can recall passing several treatment plants one afternoon when a tribe of us navigated our inflatable mattresses through to the saltwater section of Auckland Creek, and we were as right as rain afterwards; although our mats sustained a fair bit of damage from hidden snags and, according to one unverified and overly dramatic report, an eel attack. 

But these days when I come across the same creeks and waterholes of my youth I hesitate to walk through them, let alone go for a swim.  And as for drinking out of them… 

But recently, while driving south on the back road to Bundy, we crossed a bridge over a clear running creek, and on impulse I pulled over.  Long Suffering Wife turned to me, “Not another toilet stop?” she said, “You really need to get a check up!” 

“No, oh light of my life,” I muttered through clenched teeth as I flung open my door, “I heard Nature calling, and I’m going to give the girls a quick life lesson.” 

“Who wants a drink?” I asked, opening the back door, my face wreathed in smiles. 

“We’ve got water here dad,” said the eldest Princess holding up a plastic bottle. 

“Ha!” I cried, “Come down to the creek with me, and you’ll taste the sweetest water in the world.”  They looked at me dubiously, so I resorted to yelling, and threats of allowance docking to winkle them out of the car.   I frogmarched the three of them down to the waters edge, where I knelt reverently on the sand; “Ah nature,” I beamed, and leaning forward, scooped a handful of water into my mouth.  It tasted brackish.  Undeterred I swilled down a couple more handfuls before turning to my offspring.  “Right, who wants to go first?” 

All of them were wearing expressions of horror.  “Come on, it won’t kill you,” I said. 

Middle Princess, her eyes wide open, pointed silently upstream to where a cow was standing knee deep in the creek merrily emptying her bladder into the flowing water

I lurched to my feet, gagging and coughing, “Why didn’t you say something?!” I spluttered.  Eldest Princess shook her head, “We thought you had seen it,” she said. 

“Do you think daddy makes a habit of drinking cow urine sweetheart?” I cried, desperately trying to remove the taste by frantically wiping my mouth on my sleeve.  She shrugged, indicating that she didn’t have a clue what daddy made a habit of. 

Long Suffering Wife got out of the car and wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.  Middle Princess told her, and moments later the four of them were rolling about laughing while I stood by clenching and unclenching my fists.  “Right!” I yelled eventually, “Everyone back in the car!” 

As I gunned the family hotrod back onto the highway my dear wife asked, “So, what ‘life lesson’ do you think the girls learned today?”  I kept my eyes on the road and my mouth firmly shut.   

Although I soon learned that no-one wanted to share their water with me, and just how expensive bottled water is when purchased at shop in the middle of nowhere.  Before leaving the store, Nature called again, and as I gazed into the porcelain bowl I wondered where they got their flushing water from, and where it went afterwards.  For some reason, I’d developed a keen interest in the subject…

 

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