Monthly Archives: January 2010

Duyfken vs Ex Cyclone Olga

I’ve just woken up after finishing night shift earlier this morning, and the weather here is abysmal.  Well, it’s good for Gladstone, lots of rain, but the wind is gusting between 20 – 30 knots here in town, so I can imagine how hard it is blowing outside the harbour. 

Right now there is a little ship out there bobbing about in 3 metre seas.  The crew will be drenched, and dry places out of the wind and rain will be at a premium.  I’m sort of glad I had to work now.  

I know it can’t always be plain sailing, and that this is all part of the ‘replica sailing’ adventure, but still, I hope the crew aren’t getting too knocked about. 

At least they don’t have to worry about scurvy…

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Duyfken Visits Gladstone Jan 2010

Up at dawn this morning, took the dogs for a walk to get the paper, wandered home and sit down to read the paper before going for my first jog of the year.  On page two, I see a familiar looking ship, and read that it has berthed in Gladstone for a couple of days.  I’m so surprised that I spray my Weet-Bix across the table, and while I frantically grab my carry bag and bicycle helmet, I hurriedly explain to my wife where I’m going.  The run is forgotten…

On the way down to Auckland Creek, I wonder if the ship has already left, I hope not.  Parking my faithful pushie, ‘Pubtruck’ outside the Yacht Club I gaze up and down the creek, Duyfken is nowhere to be seen.  Two men hosing down their outriggers are watching me, and one of them says, “Miss ya boat mate?” 

I smile, “Don’t s’pose you saw an old sailing ship round here somewhere?” 

The younger bloke points out to sea, “Yeah, passed one about an hour ago, it was in the main channel making for open water.” 

My heart sinks.  I thank them, saddle up and drift along the road that follows the creek to the inlet.  Riding up the road alongside the creek I glance into the marina and spy three masts covered in old fashioned rigging.  With a whoop of joy, I turn Pubtruck around and hammer across the bridge to the marina, where I find the Duyfken alongside and securely moored.  Excellent! 

I am watched by a young man and an older man with a beard.  We get to chatting about the ship.  Brian, the older bloke is a mine of information, and I tell him I am writing a novel about Portuguese caravels, and he immediately invites me on board. 

The next half an hour is an education.  We stay above decks, and chat, I pepper him with questions, and he talks about the historical journey of the Duyfken, and the story of the current replica.  He is a good natured sort of bloke, easy going, laid back and knowledgeable.  The sort of person who is perfect to organise groups of volunteers to keep the ship afloat. 

I am full of questions and he tells me that the best way to learn about the ship is to join the crew and do a trip.  Sweat breaks out on my brow.  They are leaving tonight he tells me, but they are short a cook and a mate.  A cook is coming, but the mate, well that’s a different story.  Am I interested. 

Am I interested!  Right then, the appeal of running away to sea is very real.  I’d read about it, dreamed of it, and watched movies, and now, right now, I’m being offered the chance to throw in my lot with the crew and sail off tonight. 

His phone rings.  I take the opportunity to get some photos, and give myself an uppercut… I have to work tonight, my team is shorthanded, I haven’t prepared, I worry about the coming weather, I’m searching for excuses…  I haven’t got the guts.

The ship will sail tonight if they get a mate.  If not, then tomorrow, maybe.  It is, as Mark tells me, in the lap of the Gods. 

The crew is mostly asleep, scattered about the deck, some are under the deck.  Room is sparse.  They look tired, and Brian tells me about the shifts, how they work for 4 hours, on a round the clock roster.  I ask him about travelling at night, do they stop.  He laughs, “Every landlubber asks that!” he says.  I am a landlubber.  No they don’t stop at night.  It takes too long to get the anchor up and down, and anyway, the anchor is poorly designed, the ship will drift. 

I want to stay, to learn more, but instead I go silent.  He tells me that the ship is always looking for crew numbers, they rely heavily on backpackers, or enthusiasts.  Because it is a replica, you sleep rough, it is not a luxury cruise, but a working ship.  I am entranced by the idea, and ask him when he will be back.  He shrugs, “Might not stop in Gladstone, maybe Bundaberg, or Mackay.  We’ll be down south for three months, before returning to Cairns.” 

I shake his hand, and bid him farewell.  I have a plan in mind.  I will not sail tonight, but will do my best to sail with Duyfken from Brisbane, on her journey northward.  This gives me time to prepare, to organise time off from work without rushing.

I pedal home from aerobics, and tell my wife about the trip.  She asks, “Why don’t you just go?  Ring work, and join the ship?”

Sweat breaks out on my brown again.  I’m reaching for the phone as I post this, I have to make some calls…


Filed under Here In Gladstone

Mondays’ Column 25.01.10 – Gay Ol’ Time

I wasn’t sure if this column was ever going to be used… but here it is.  I was a bit surprised to see that they had edited the part about Long Suffering Wifes’ response.  Anyway, have inserted the edited sections in italics.  Cheers,  Gb.

One of funniest skits on the TV show ‘Little Britain’ is when the outrageously dressed Welshman cries: “It’s lonely being the only gay in the village!” as he struggles to hold the pub door shut against a mob of gay people clamouring to get in. 

Recently, some people in our town were delighted to discover that they weren’t ‘the only gay in the village’, while others were stunned to learn that, not only do we have gays in our village, they also wanted a nightclub. 

A little research revealed that the average percentage of gay biased folk in most communities is approximately two percent.  But I think what these figures actually revealed was the number of people who were honest enough to admit to a researcher that they were in fact, gay.  My investigation was interrupted when Long Suffering Wife strolled by the computer and stopped dead in her tracks.  “Um, is there something you want to tell me?” she asked eventually.    

 “Just gathering some data for the column dear,” I replied as I scribbled frantically away. 

  “Bit of a sensitive subject isn’t it?”  she said in a worried voice. 

“Don’t worry little mate,” I answered, patting her arm in a reassuring way, “I’ll treat it with my usual tact and sensitivity.”  She tottered off for a lie down as she had suddenly come over all faint.   

Anyway, if the statistics are to be believed, then Gladstone could potentially be home to nearly one thousand gay (Rainbow Folk), and I wondered why I didn’t know any.  Or perhaps I do…  And there’s the problem; it’s not something you can actually ask someone is it?  Not unless you’re seeking the sort of response which may quickly turn violent.      

Obviously I’m not the only one who has difficulties knowing who is and isn’t gay, thus the calls for a ‘Pink Nightclub’, for people who want to hang out with like-minded folk, comparing designer clothes while sipping expensive cocktails.  And if the stats are correct, then the venue may need to be much bigger than first thought, and will require a lot more little paper umbrellas than is currently available in our town.

But, I’m very cynical when it comes to statistics, particularly since the 2001 Census, when over seventy thousand Aussies claimed to be Jedi Knights.  Can you believe that?!  Some of them may be living in our town!  You may even be working alongside one, but who would know?  Maybe one day they’ll have a club too, where they could meet, socialise, and compare light sabres.  Until then, all I know is; ‘It’s lonely being the only Jedi in the Village’.

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Fitboxing Fun

Yesterday I struggled awake at 5.30 am, sat on the edge of my bed then thought, ‘Not today.’  Another run postponed due to heat and tiredness. 

Instead I walked the dogs to the shop, got the papers, did some scribbling, then, because I was feeling guilty, decided to go to the gym and do an aerobics session.  A quick check of my schedule revealed that at 9.30 am they were doing a Fitbox class.  Right on!

There were two blokes, me and some lad who looked superfit, among a class of women of varying ages.  Three of us were first timers.  We did some warm ups, learned a few basic positions then teamed up with a punching partner. 

I got Betty (yes, her name has been changed!)

Betty has been a keen participant of these classes, and it shows.  She has a mean right.  Real mean.  We take it in turns to punch, jab, and uppercut each other, glove to pad.  The counting thing is my downfall.  Thankfully Betty counts while she hammers the pads.   

At the halfway point, I’m in a lot of pain.  Every inch of my clothing is dripping with sweat, and my punches are definitely losing their ‘oomph’.  Speed is also not my thing by this stage.  Betty is not only fast, but still hitting with considerable impact. 

During a break, I apologise to the entire group for anything I may have inadvertently done, or said to them in the car park prior to the class.  I don’t want any of these people upset with me… ever. 

The other bloke in the class has had some boxing training in the past.  The loud smacks coming from his gloves reverberate around the room.  I try to match the sound, but can’t keep up the pace.  My arms are turning to custard, and I can’t seem to catch my breath. 

In spite of the pain, the fact that I can’t count, that I’m often leading with the wrong hand, and my left arm refuses to play the game on the uppercuts thanks to an old break, and that I’m being outpunched by a girl, I am actually surprised to find myself having a good time. 

Betty is encouraging me, and I crack jokes.  We push eachother a bit harder.  Then we swap with the rest of the group.  One woman is literally shaking, her arms are like jelly.  I sympathise and don’t hit her gloves too hard, and count faster than she is hitting.  We are both happy with this 🙂 

At the end of the class the Little Pocket Dynamo running the session laughs and says, “You won’t recognise your own handwriting for a while!”  She’s right.  My hands are shaking so much I think I’ve contracted galloping palsy. 

It’s the hardest workout I’ve done in a long time.  Apparently we burned more calories (approx 2300) in that session than an hour on the treadmill.  I’m hooked.  Well, hooked, uppercut, and jabbed.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox & The Tooth Fairy

In a desperate attempt to stave off watching the Chipmunk ‘squeakuel’, I managed to divert the Littlest Princess into the following movies over the past couple of weeks. 

The first offering, Fantastic Mr. Fox was quite enjoyable.  We got a few laughs, and (for me anyway) a couple of ‘close to the bone moments, eg:  “…does anyone read my column?”  “Why can’t you be happy with the life you’ve got?”  etc. 

There was no Disney schmaltz either.  The baddies were bad, and the goodies actually killed chickens.  Ok, they didn’t show them actually ripping the heads off, but as close as you can get.  In fact I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one of them having a dump!  Maybe it was my eyes, but the colours used were reminiscent of an old movie, maybe this was a deliberate move by the director, tipping his hat to the author, Roald Dahl. 

Anyway, we left the theatre with smiles on our faces, and a desire to watch the show again.  Probably not a movie for the littlies, but one for kids over 8-ish? 

This week we waddled back to see The Tooth Fairy.  Now, I’m not a big fan of the Disney, ‘Paint by Numbers’, cliché ridden, oddball character gets girl and saves the day type films.  And I’ve haven’t actually seen Dwayne Johnson in a film yet, which goes to show you how out of touch I must be.  But… I actually enjoyed this film.  The Littlest Princess enjoyed this film.  We both laughed, enjoyed some whispered private jokes, and left the theatre feeling pretty damned good. 

The character, Tracy, played by a stringbean Englishman, cracked me up.  He is the spitting image of an old workmate of mine, and has the same characteristics, which was probably why I liked him so much.  He and Dwayne worked well together, and Billy Crystal’s small parts were equally enjoyable.  He’s good at what he does ol’ Bill. 

On the way home, the Littlest Princess asked if we could buy the movie, so I’ll give that 4 thumbs up on the enjoy-o-meter, and I decided that I could also sit through it again.    

I must admit I was sort of reminded of Hulk Hogans’ films back in the 80’s & 90’s (when he had hair) which seemed to strike a chord with kids, and another ‘certain audience’.  Which has left me wondering, “Am I really a redneck?”  Maybe it’s time I took in some adult offerings to redress the balance?!  Soon.   

Anything but that damned chipmunk movie.

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Mondays’ Observer Column – For Arts Sake 18.01.10

This week I edited out 200 words from a column I had sent in a few weeks ago.  I was pretty happy with the result, and may have to look at my novels to see how much ‘fluff’ could be trimmed out of them!  The Subs’ still managed to trim a few words from this weeks offering (have inserted them in italics).  Enjoy.  Gb! 

One of my favourite places in Gladstone is our Art Gallery, and a few times a year I drag our kids through it, in a long, whining procession, in the hope that they’ll pick up a bit of culture.  I’m a father, it’s my job. 

Gladstone has many outstanding artists who deserve our fullest support and encouragement, and the gallery staff do a wonderful job of promoting their work.  And never have any staff members uttered a cross word in my presence, threatened me with violence, or tossed me from the building. 

Let me explain.  Several years ago I took Long Suffering Wife to the State Gallery and gazing at an ancient marble bust, I wondered how someone could look at a block of rock, then chisel away the shaded bits to reveal a perfect human figure.   

“Don’t touch the statue please sir,” said a security guard. 

“No worries,” I replied, quickly removing my hand.  Five minutes later, I clambered down off a huge metal structure which I had been closely inspecting, and was met by three guards.  One of them was my old mate, “Sir, I asked you not to touch the exhibits!” he bellowed. 

“No,” I countered, “you said don’t touch the statues, and… Hey!  Get your hands off me!” 

As I was bustled to the door, the guard muttered in my ear, “It’s the acid in your hands sir,” he grunted, giving my arm a further twist, “it wrecks the finish.”  Long Suffering Wife joined me in the car park, eventually.   

I returned months later to see a travelling exhibition from the National Gallery, and things were going well until I took a photo of a huge portrait.  A guard appeared, “Hand me the camera, please sir,” he said. 

“Why?” I asked. 

“You’re not allowed to take photos of the exhibits.”

“Listen,” I started, “I’m a taxpayer, so I’ve contributed to the cost of… Aargh!”

Tossing me out a side door, he smiled and said, “Your taxes also pay my wages, sir.”    

Whipping back to the front entrance I was confronted by a posse of heavy set, and grinning security guards.  I’ve heard of suffering for your art, but I wasn’t prepared to suffer that much. 

“I’ll be back!” I cried shaking a defiant fist. 

“And we look forward to seeing you again sir,” came the merry reply. 

In our art gallery they actually mean that when they say it.  So, I heartily encourage all of you to pay a visit.  And best of all, you won’t have to wear a disguise like a certain individual does when he visits the State Gallery.  Oh, and don’t forget to take the kids.


Filed under Columns, Writing

Butterfly Journey

There are some things we take very much for granted which, are actually quite amazing. 

Think about this for a moment.  A caterpillar.  A grubby, fat worm, which crawls about on it’s stomach hoovering up leaves, transforms into a butterfly.  Big deal?  But imagine the reaction a child would have if you told them that an earthworm can transform into a peacock?  Or rat into a horse?  Fantastic!  That’s really how amzing the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is!  Some things we take too easily for granted. 

Ok, this is all well and good, but what is the point I’m trying to make here?  Well, potentially, we are all butterflies.  Some of us are still crawling about, gorging ourselves on leaves, while others have crawled into their cocoons and are starting the wondrous transformation process.

This is no small thing!  Except the biggest changes occur to us, on the inside.  We develop, change, and grow on the inside.  The first part of our conversion revolution occurs on the day we decide that we’ve had enough of crawling, and grubbing about.  Now it’s time to take to the air.  To change forever.

Now, this is a giant first step, Deciding to Change, but before we leap off the branch and start flapping our chubby little legs, there are a few things which have to occur first in order to avoid disaster. 

We have to build a cocoon, a safe place where we can be alone with our thoughts, to work out what we want to be, and how to do it.  Once we find our safety zone, a park, the back deck, a shed, your bedroom, we can concentrate, and focus on what it is we want to change; and how we have to go about it.   

Inside our cocoons, our minds, we’ve been growing slowly, changing, transforming, but from the outside, there are few visible signs of that change.  The outside of the cocoon still looks pretty much the same as the day we decided to change, but inside, things are rapidly progressing!

After a while, you’ll know when, you’ll feel a restlessness, an overwhelming urge to break free, face the sun, and spread your wings.  There’s a whole world out there beyond the branches and leaves of the tree that you knew as a caterpillar, and you have to get out and see it.  NOW! 

The next step is the all important struggle.  This is when we really add the punch to our resolution.  If it was too easy we wouldn’t grow to maturity.  If someone did all the hard work for us, then we wouldn’t appreciate it.  Through our struggle and endeavours comes a strengthening of much needed muscles:  Resolve, Determination, and Persistence.   

And you will need these in abundance as you struggle to break free.  Again, if someone does all the hard work for you, then you won’t develop properly.  You will have weaknesses, doubts, and fears.  You must put in the hard yards yourself.    

You can’t see the changes yet, you can feel them though.  The big struggle ends, and you crawl from your cocoon and sit on your favourite piece of branch.  Then suddenly, you spread your new wings and a feeling of elation spreads throughout your entire body. 

There is no going back now, no way you can return to your old shape, your old life.  You give your new wings another flick and are delighted to feel your new, lighter body lift a little.  In exhilaration, you begin to flap your wings and you fly!  You FLY!  You are FLYING!! 

The branch drops away, in sheer elation you lift toward the sun, the smells, the breeze, the view is magnificent!  You have never felt so ALIVE!  So, HAPPY!  For one moment you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner, and then you smile, you always knew that you were a beautiful butterfly, you just had to wait until you were ready. 

You have become what you always knew you could be…

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Latest Guest Post over at ‘How to Get Published’

For those of you who are keenly following my progress as a guest columnist, here is the latest instalment at Bernard Jansens’ site:

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Filed under Becoming a Full Time Writer, Writing

Stripping away the excess!

The Long and the Short of it...

My last column in the paper was edited by the team at the paper.  So, I sent them an email asking what was the new size required, and the immediate reply was 450 ‘ish words.  My average is 650…

So, deciding that this was a challenge to ‘have a crack at’, I sat down with a couple of columns I had been working on, and looked at trimming off 200 or so words.

The result was… excellent, and proved to be a lot more fun… I know, I need to get out more… 

 The smaller columns are much more concise, easier to write, and will be definitely easier to read.  I love reading columns, but when I see row upon row of print it can be a bit daunting.  Whereas smaller pieces, which have been trimmed of excess tend to get more readers.

It will be interesting to see how they develop.  In fact, I can see myself reducing the word count to a Haiku version: 



End with a Twist,


There you go!  How hard could it be?  I reckon I could write one of those each week 🙂


Filed under Columns, Writing

Mondays Column – The Legacy 11.01.10

The bloke in this yarn was a well known identity round Gladstone.  I actually do miss him, even though we had limited contact.  He was a genuinely nice bloke. 

As an aside, the last chapter of this column had been edited as part of the papers’ drive to trim lengthy articles in the Editorial section (I think!).  I’ve included the missing part in italics.

The other day I was mooching about uptown when I spied a bloke on a tricycle, and in a flash I was transported back to the 1980’s, watching old Cliffy Boles pedalling merrily along on his trike, carting a basket full of crushed aluminium cans.  

I first met Cliffy late one Thursday night in the early eighties when I was a young bloke.  I was sitting next to my car down at the waterfront, along with one hundred and fifty of my closest friends when he turned up on his three-wheeler.  Some wag yelled out, “Hey mate!  Strap a turbo to it!” 

“I wouldn’t need a turbo to beat your heap of junk!” he shot back, which got a laugh from the mob.  He wobbled to a halt and, wandering over to a nearby bin, started digging through it.  “Struth, he must be hungry,” whispered my mate. 

“You looking for something in particular in there?” I asked warily.

He pulled his hand out of the bin, “Yep!  These.”  He held up an empty soft drink can.   

“I don’t suppose you’ve got any cans in your cars?” he asked.

“What do you want them for; can’t you survive on the pension?”

He laughed, “I collect them for the special school,” he said, “someone’s gotta help the kiddies.”       

“That’s pretty decent of you.”

“Just doing my bit,” he replied, “so, has anyone got any spare cans?” 

We started downing enough soft drink to rot the tusks off an elephant, and eagerly handed over our empty cans.  “What’s your name mate?” I asked, stifling a belch and offering my hand.

“Cliffy Boles,” he replied, giving my hand a solid shake.  He hung round for a little while, telling us yarns and making us laugh with his quick wit and wry sense of humour, before pedalling off into the night.    

From then on, each time I saw Cliffys’ trike, I’d beep and wave.  He’d grin and throw a lazy wave back.  One afternoon I saw him outside his house, and after giving him a bit of cheek, and getting some back in return, he called me over.  His house was like him; modest, had obviously seen better days, but very welcoming.  We sat on the veranda yarning as the sun dipped toward the horizon.  He told me about the old days in Gladstone, and seemed to have a never ending supply of stories about its’ people and the changes that had taken place during his lifetime.  He talked of his travels when the work was seasonal, and, as the sun set, he spoke softly of Grace, his much missed wife, recalling the good times they had shared, and the loneliness of life without her.        

After a lengthy period of silence, I said, “You know Cliffy, you ought to write this stuff down.”    

“Who’d be interested?” he asked. 

“I dunno?”

He laughed, “Nah, I’ve got more important things to do,” he said, nodding to where his trike sat with its’ small pile of cans in the rear basket.   

That was the last time I saw him.  The ‘recession we had to have’ was in full swing, and as Cliffy had done before me, I left town chasing work.  Some years later I returned, and discovered that Cliffy had pedalled off into the Great Beyond, but just before his last ride, he did a series of interviews for the paper, and some of his yarns were captured for future generations to enjoy. 

 And at the sight of that trike the other day I couldn’t help but smile as the memories came flooding back.  Fond recollections of a friendly old man making the world a slightly better place, one crushed can at a time, while sharing his wisdom, some laughs and advice, because ‘Someone’s gotta help the kiddies’, no matter what their age or how cheeky they may be! 


Filed under Columns, Writing