Monthly Archives: July 2010

Girly Stuff

This week has been pretty busy… at times, insane, but in a ‘good’ way.  Lots of activity, running around and entertaining etc.  Some writing, some reading, and even got to see most of ‘The Godfather’ Part 1, before I lapsed into a coma last night…

So, this week, instead of raving on about me, I thought I’d focus on ‘Stuff My Kids Did This Week, Which Really Impressed Me!”  So here they are:

The Eldest Princess went above and beyond for The Littlest Princesses birthday and whipped up this Sponge Bob Squarepants cake: 

Sponge Bob Sponge Cake

 

 

 Middle Princess won a few ribbons at her school sports day (these are some of her older medals, I couldn’t find where she’d stashed the new ones…):

And the other night at work, I managed to tear my new work pants on a piece of metal sticking out off a pipe rack, and when I asked Mrs Gb to have a look at them, The Littlest Princess leaped up and down in front of me yelling, “I’ll do it!  I can do it!  Let me do it!”  She’s been doing cross stitch with Grandma, so I handed over my ‘tweeds’ and she rushed off to get her little sewing kit.  This is the result: 

Not too shabby!

So, in spite of the numerous things they did (and in some cases, didn’t) do this week, I’m still one Happy Pappy at the moment.  Gee, I love those little bats!

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Mondays’ Column – Tour de Tannum 26.7.10

Seized by a sudden desire for adventure, I decided to pedal ‘Pubtruck’, my faithful pushbike, to Tannum Sands.  I told Long Suffering Wife, who immediately phoned the Merry Widow Life Insurance Agency and increased my policy.

I set off for the beach, hoping to enjoy a feed of fish and chips (and possibly an ice block), before pedalling home again.  Twenty terrifying minutes later, I was whimpering as cars and 4WD’s flew past with millimetres to spare, even though I was riding on the dirt verge.  Several unintentional, and alarming, forays were made into the long grass as trucks hurtled by.

The road widened slightly on the downhill run to the 11 Mile Creek, and just as I was finally picking up some speed, my rear tyre went flat.  Pulling up before the bridge, I flipped Pubtruck over and discovered that a piece of wire had pierced the tyre wall, and punctured the tube in four places.  Opening my repair kit I was underwhelmed to see three small patches.  Marvellous.

I managed to stretch them over the holes, and breathed a sigh of relief when the tyre stayed inflated.  I was soon back on the road, and could just about taste those fish and chips when the tyre went flat again.  This time it was a rusty screw.  I was up the 11 Mile Creek without a patch.

Spying a road gang in the distance I waddled onwards, and as I neared them, some wag yelled out, “Didja lose a bet mate?!”  When they grew tired of making fun of me, one of them kindly loaned me his phone, and Long Suffering Wife came winging to my rescue.

Keen to try again, I asked Long Suffering Wife to follow me in the car, like they do on the Tour de France, but she refused outright.  I thought this was a bit inconsiderate of her!  Honestly, how hard could it be holding back fifteen kilometres of infuriated motorists, while I happily pedalled down the road, indifferent to the pandemonium behind me?

So, the Tannum road remains unconquered by Pubtruck and I, as the call of the wild has been temporarily put on hold.  But it’s still on my list of things to do, because not only is it good for me to get out of my comfort zone occasionally, it’s also given me a deeper appreciation for the term, ‘Death by Misadventure’.

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The Night Sky over Gladstone

I received this email earlier this week:

“Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That’s pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!”

Now, as someone who has dipped their toe into the huge pool that is astronomy, I’ve come to regard these sort of announcements with a bit of cynicism.  Actually, quite a lot of cynicism…

Earlier this year, I upgraded my dinky little telescope to a more powerful unit, and have been a tad disappointed with it to be honest.  There are no instructions with the unit, so I’ve been left fiddling with it in the dark trying to see the wonders of space that have eluded me for many years.

Unable to locate anyone in my town with a telescope who knew how to get the best use out of it, I’ve been bumbling along sporadically, dragging everything outside, and risking Ross River fever from swarms of mozzies, as I change lenses, eye pieces, and crawl about on the ground looking for bits I’ve dropped. 

But lately the skies have been crystal clear, and although it’s warm enough for mosquitoes there have been any around (even though I was shocked to see a cane toad hopping about last night!), and I’m thinking of using this brief window of opportunity to work out how to use my new ‘scope.

So, tonight, I’ll drag it out of the shed, set it up on the driveway, pour a glass of beer and hope to lock onto something interesting.  And if I really crack the jackpot, I’ll be able to focus it long enough on Mars which has literally been diamond bright in the sky for the past few weeks, and if my luck holds the girls will get to see it as well… 

Here’s looking at the skies!

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No News Week

It’s been coming for a while now, but the recent election announcement tipped the scales for me over the weekend.  I’m not watching the news for a while.  I’m over it. 

Normally I watch one of the six o’clock bulletins, or the local news at 6.30 pm, and the ABC news at 7pm.  I read some national daily papers, The Australian, The Courier Mail from time to time, and the mighty Gladstone Observer everyday. 

Usually in the Observer I’ll scan the headlines, then skip to the Letters to the Editor, the daily columns (check out Mondays’ columnist, that bloke is a genius… apparently), comics (Overboard, Trevor and The Swamp being my faves), death notices and Today in History.  The rest is filler…

And once a day I’ll pop over to the ABC News website to check out the latest, and read the readers comments, there are some very funny people out there, and I genuinely enjoy seeing what they have to say.

Mrs Gb likes to watch Sunrise of a morning.  Sunrise and its’ ilk, represent all that is wrong with news reporting today.  The news has been turned into ‘infotainment’, where the news readers have become ham actors (smile, frowny face, knit brows together, smile again, crack inane joke).  I’ve come to the realisation that these shows are basically designed to fill space between ads for Harvey Norman and  other big retailers. 

Regional news is either shunned, or duckshoved away to the back after all the ‘breaking stories’ have been presented, and only if it’s a particularly slow news day.  

The last time I gave the news the flick was when the ‘War on Terror’ began back in 2001.  Watching Bush, Blair and Howard act up a storm to get the world involved in a never ending conflict for oil was too much to bear each day, so I stopped tuning in.  And it took a couple of years before I tuned in again; much to my regret. 

I was not surprised to see that Israeli’s were still being bastards, the Palestinians were still firing rockets and encouraging young men and old women to be suicide bombers.  The US was still at war and threatening more war.  And at some point China went from being the Evil Empire to Our Economic Saviours, and newest bestest friends; even if they still don’t care a lick about human or animal rights, and don’t have a problem poisoning the environment, or our food, or executing folk by the truckload for numerous, and often spurious, reasons.  Horrendous things were still happening to good people and cameras would be shoved into their faces to capture all the grisly details of their grief and trauma, while the broadcasters licked their chops and watched ratings soar.  Obviously people like tuning in to get depressed and angry. 

If only we’d started ‘The War on Stupidity and Dumbing Down’, or better yet, ‘The War on Greed’ imagine how much better off the world would be?    

So, without further ado, I shall avoid the tv and radio news, and any current affairs for a while.  Maybe this time it’ll be forever, because life is too short to be treated like a drooling moron. 

James Dibble!  Come back, your country needs you!

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Mondays’ Column – Prang Pranks 19.07.10

Big Mate rang me immediately after coming off his motorbike the other day.  As he is the only paid up member of our gang, the Staggering Vulture’s Motorcycle Club, and I was the person who had talked him into buying a motorbike in the first place, I popped on my thongs and headed off. 

Big Mates' bike... not looking this good now 😦

We ‘Vultures’ have a long tradition of being in minor bike prangs.  For a long time we were on a first name basis with most of the emergency services personnel around the district, but lately we’ve eased up on our stunt riding.  We’re more mature now, and so are our bikes, which means spare parts are getting much harder to find.  

Big Mate was being bundled into an ambulance when I arrived, and I gave him a quick nod as I dashed past to where his bike lay forlornly on the road.  A couple of Firies helped me lift the old girl out of harms way, before I wandered back to see how the big fella was.  Among other injuries, he had several cracked ribs, so I immediately started telling jokes.  He grimaced as he tried not to laugh, and called me several unkind names, many of which the young lass attending him wrote down, possibly for future use during her next argument with hubby. 

I was merely doing my job.  You see, if a bloke is lying in agony in a pool of his own blood, can’t feel his left leg and is pretty certain he’s short several fingers, but sees his grinning mates standing about cracking lame jokes at his expense, eg: “Get some butter ‘cause he’s toast!”, then he knows that he’ll be just fine; probably.  But if he hears one of them say in a calm, carefully controlled voice, “You’ll be right mate,” he’ll realise that he’s a goner, and react accordingly, i.e.: very badly. 

You may be stunned to learn that they don’t teach this sort of stuff to medical professionals.     

Anyway, since Big Mates’ prang I’m taking extra care on my bike now, and I’d heartily recommend other motorcyclists around town do the same.  Not because accidents are painful, expensive, embarrassing, and generally bad for you, but because the last thing you want to see after your crash, is a couple of Staggering Vultures hovering over you cracking jokes, while the rest of them scavenge bits off your fallen bike.

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That was the week that was…

Recently, I made the following comment to a fellow traveller:  “You know, I’d kill for a boring week!”  This isn’t entirely true, in reality, I’d only be prepared to lightly bruise.

Busy!  The Littlest Princess turns 10 today, and we threw a little shindig for her last night.  The elder Princesses have quite a few things going on as well lately, so Mrs Gb and I have been in full ‘Taxi Mode’ rushing hither and yon on children related activities.  And in between going to work, kid ferrying, and hunting for hardware, I’ve been slapping paint on walls non-stop, which has meant the house, our routines, and all our furniture has been thrown into turmoil. 

Hey, the place is looking great, but right now we’re all too tired to notice!  Which is why today I thought I’d try something different.  Today, I crawled from my bed at 4.30 am, hammered out next weeks column, put together a little list of jobs to knock over, and half an hour ago, put a very excited Littlest Princess back into her bed for another hours sleep… hopefully. 

Right now The Goon Show is playing on Radio National, and I’m having a few quiet chuckles as I type…

Which means my little change has paid off already.  I feel relaxed, in the moment, and motivated 🙂  I’m not fretting about stuff to do, stuff undone, and stuff in general.  At 6am, I’ll go wake up the Birthday Girl, and the rest of the house, and celebrate the fact that she’s officially ‘A Big Girl’ now, and maybe make some brekky for Mrs Gb before she flips on her Taxi cap and heads out for another day of commuting, while I take the dogs for a stroll. 

Today, I won’t paint. Today I’ll scribble, read, potter, and sleep, then head into work tonight rested, relaxed, and revitalised.  

The painting can wait, as I’ve just remembered that I’m not in some sort of competition.  We aren’t in the throes of a medical emergency.  No one has a gun to my head.  And the very fate of the world doesn’t depend on me slapping paint on my walls.  The only person placing a sense of urgency in my life is… Me.  Well, who’d have guessed that?!

So, the only person who can remove that sense of urgency is… wait for it… Me! 

And today, I have.  And with a bit of luck, the benefits will flow on to the rest of my busy little household.  Just in time for the weekend.  Nice 🙂

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Mondays’ Column – Rates Rant 12.06.10

When the council amalgamations were forced upon us a few years ago, we were told that they would be good for Queensland, improving efficiency and delivery of local services.  Secretly, I was hoping that the new Super Councils would be the first step towards dismantling our State Government system, but then, I am a bit of an Optimist, aka: an Idiot.

But even we optimists were left speechless by the first of our Super Councils’ super rates rises, and each year we’ve watched in shock as our rates climbed steadily skywards.  However this year, when I saw the latest increase, I could no longer maintain my silence and loudly vented my spleen to my surprised household.  My lengthy tirade won’t halt the inevitable hike, but it made me feel slightly better, and it did stop two shocked Jehovah’s Witnesses from knocking on my front door.

So while I’m unable to do much about paying rates for the chunk of clay that Bray Manor is sitting on, I thought perhaps we could save money in other areas to offset the rise.  But lately there have been so many other price increases to offset that I’m starting to think it’s time Long Suffering Wife got a third job. 

Simplify!  That was my watchword as I stormed about the house turning off all non-essential electrical items.  Perhaps I went a little too far.  Later, as we sat eating dry bikkies in the dark, after our quick and extremely cold showers, the bickering started.  In particular, why was my beer fridge considered an ‘essential electrical item’ but the TV wasn’t?  Like our council, I had no convincing answer that would pass intense scrutiny, so I caved in to my family’s demands.  The smell of bloody revolution quickly disappeared as the lights, tele, and oven sprang back to life.

Then I realised that even if every resident started saving money by bucketing untreated water from Auckland Creek to their candle lit houses, it would only be a matter of time before officials began handing out huge bills for the newly created Pail and Wax Tax; along with severe fines for individuals who swore loudly at said officials.  Government at all levels want more money, which means we ‘the Sheeple’ will cop more shearings, even if our wool is getting a bit thin and patchy.

It can only be hoped that our money is being wisely and responsibly spent, but even I’m not that big an ‘Optimist’.

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On Writers’ Block

One of the things about being a part-time writer, full time employee, dad, maintenance man, dog walker and Minister for Fun and Recreation, is that sooner or later something has to give.  This week it was my writing.

Now, I’ve never really been a big believer in Writers Block, the name given to the syndrome which paralyses a writers’ ability to produce good copy, but this week, I’ve had a rethink on the matter. 

Pressing concerns, numerous interruptions, school holidays and a head cold have plagued what little time I usually reserve for my ‘fun’ time (scribbling, and researching).  But what really hurt was when I did manage to sit down at my computer desk, pen in hand, and monitor warmed up and raring to go, nothing happened…  it was a profound shock to be ‘wordless’. 

Now, in addition to a weekly newspaper column, I try to write 3 blogs per week, a few emails, some forum entries (Hi Ladies!), as well as jot down some more notes for one of my novels.  I have never been at loss for a direction, motivation, or words when it comes to writing, but this week I was. 

Worse, as I started to think about my column deadline, panic set in.  Now, I usually keep a couple of columns in reserve for just such an event, but in recent weeks I used them in order to focus my full attention on painting inside our house.  And this week, I decided to try a more topical, up to the minute subject, which added a little more pressure to my deadline. 

Normally I write about things or experiences that have amused, irritated, titillated or intrigued me, then add my own unique spin, a couple of quirky jokes and voila. 

Well, the topic certainly irritated me, and I had an angle, but I couldn’t wrestle it into the required shape.  Usually I do a ‘word / brain dump’ of about a thousand words, which takes an hour or so, then I start the laborious task of refining and trimming.  After 4, sometimes more, hours (over a period of a couple of days), and numerous edits, cuts, pastes, deletes, re-shuffles and re-reads the column is reduced to approx. 400 words, and when I am happy with it, I fire it off via email to the editor of my local paper, make the required note in an Excel spreadsheet, and the next time I see it, it’s on the printed page next to my grinning mug.  But this week…

But this week, I had to force myself to sit at my computer in spite of the runny nose, the non-stop ringing of phones, and sheer tiredness, and just type.  I really churned out some crap.  Well, crappier than normal!  And just as I was about to abandon all hope, inspiration struck, with just one sentence, and I was away.  Bit by bit I managed to build a column I was happy with, and after many more hours filed it away for a final review, which it will get tomorrow before I send it off. 

I have had a complete re-think about writers’ block, and am prepared to say now that ‘Yes, it does exist.’  I don’t have all the answers to overcoming it, but certainly sticking your bum in a chair and typing anything that comes to mind does help. 

Perhaps a time may come when the words will completely fail me, and my motivation dries up, but until then, I’ll continue to hammer away every day, regardless of how good or bad my scribbling is.  Failing that, I could opt for long moonlit walks along crashing sea shores… it might not get me writing, but it would be a pleasant change 🙂

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Toy Story 3 in 3D! Now with MORE Popcorn!!

In my last movie review blog I had a bit of a whinge about how we here in the ‘boonies’ don’t get the latest and greatest, ‘Mickey Mouse’, whizz bang technology when it comes to new release 3D movies.  Well, it has been said before, but for those of you who missed it, I will repeat it again (possibly not for the last time):  I am – an Idiot 😦 

Apparently Avatar has been released here in 3D, and Toy Story 3 is the latest show to go ‘fuzzy’ before our very eyes in order to enhance the viewing experience of Gladstone’s movie going public.

So, the other day The Littlest Princess and I fought our way through the carpark for the morning matinee, and prised open the cinema doors to discover that of the 30 000 people living in Gladstone, some 600 000 of them, had the same idea as us that day, and were patiently waiting in a line longer than any of those found in theme parks around the world.

We battled our way back to the car and drove home.  Later that day we returned, and there was still a sizable crowd but not as bad as the morning matinee’s.  Sloughing through the piles of knee deep popcorn that had been spilled throughout the foyer and beyond, we purchased a couple of tickets to a movie I didn’t particularly want to see – Toy Story in 3D.

Well it was great.  It really was.  We laughed, we sat thrilled, and some folks even shed a tear at times (not me though, because I’m a big tough bugger and I don’t cry… I just had sore eyes from looking through the 3D glasses…)

Anyway, after the film we were the last to leave (again), and as we waddled down the corridor to where the family chariot awaited, TLP looked up and said, “I really, really, really want that movie for my birthday Dad!” 

Which gives Toy Story 3 a ‘5 thumbs up’ rating from her.  I’ll lift ‘4 thumbs up’, it was pretty good, but the daycare centre scenes and attitudes were a little too close to the bone for me; it reminded me of work and some of the people there 🙂 

I’ve no doubt it will be another movie playing on the continual loop at home in the near future… not a bad thing.

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Mondays’ Column – Phone Phun! 5.6.10

“Hello, we’re not in right now,” said a well spoken American chap, “but if you leave your name and number, we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  I hung up perplexed.  Who was he, and why was he on my Auntie’s answering machine?  Was there something important she had forgotten to tell us?   

Then I started hearing him on other answering machines.  ‘He’s certainly getting around,’ I thought, as I hung up on him yet again.  Turns out that Yankee Doodle’s voice is the one that comes with most answering machines these days.  I’m not a fan; I prefer the personal touch when it comes to recorded phone messages.  So if you ring our place, you’ll hear a message taped by Long Suffering Wife.  It was a duty that had originally been entrusted to me; a person who bores very easily.

It wasn’t long before I grew weary of the standard answering machine greeting, and started recording messages that were a little more ‘interesting’, eg:

“Huwwo, this is Elmer Fudd, I’m out hunting wascally wabbits.  Pwease weave a message at the sound of the shotgun bwast.” 

“You have called Darth Vader…. I’m currently out of the galaxy… Leave your message… at the sound of the exploding planet… you rebel scum!”

“I had a ‘hunch’ you would call Notre Dame Cathedral.  Sthpeak when the bell stopsth tolling.  The Bells! The Bells!  Oh, sanctuary!” 

“Count Dracula is not in his crypt.  Please leave your details after the bat squeak, and Igor will relay your message to me before dawn.”    

Our answering machine was soon filled with messages like: “Funnee Guy!”  and, “A friend of a friend of my friend gave me your number; can you do a message for my machine?”  or, the ever popular, “You’re a deadset goose mate!” All from total strangers; some of them living interstate!  Oddly enough, the only people not leaving messages were family and friends. 

My glittering career as an answering machine recording artist came to a screaming halt the day Long Suffering Wife rang home and heard this:  

“Hurro capitarist pig, this Chairman Mao.  Prease reave message, or I send Red Army!”

But she can’t guard the machine forever, and I’ve got a ripper idea for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ message, although I’m going to need some help.  Hopefully that well spoken American chap will call me back soon.

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