Category Archives: Life & Thoughts

‘Evicted’ – A painting for our times?

Last week I visited the Brisbane Art Gallery, and was delighted to learn that you can now take photos inside the gallery, as long as you remove the flash.  Great!

And in the various collections on display was this one by Blandford Fletcher, painted in 1887:  Evicted

(Double click on the painting to enlarge)

I first saw this painting in the Gladstone Art Gallery a couple of years ago, and it really made an impact on me.  Possibly because the little girl is staring straight at you as she walks away from her home.  It’s a look of bewilderment and sadness, and you would have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by it.  Unfortunately scenes like this were not uncommon.  Usually when the man of the house died, or left, the bailiff would arrive and evict the woman and children as there was no pension, or hardship payments, available in those days to help make ends meet.

What was most likely to happen was that both the mother, and her little girl, would be taken to the Workhouse where they would be seperated, and made to work long hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions for many years.  There was little time for rest, very minimal health care, and no schooling.  A most joyless and unhappy future.

Funnily enough, there was a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but nothing to help poor women and children.

And now in Gladstone, we are seeing a modern version of this each week as many of our elderly, poor and sick are forced to find cheaper places to live outside our region.  Big wages being paid by competing companies have forced up the price of rents in our city, and some unscrupulous landlords are pushing for weekly payments far beyond the earning capacity of many low income renters.  And it’s distressing to see online comments, and letters to the editor of the Gladstone Observer, drily stating that those affected have only themselves to blame, and that they need to ‘get off their backsides and earn big $ to keep up’.

If only it were so easy…

Personally, I’d like to see this portrait bought back to our gallery, as a stark reminder of why we need a safety net for the poor, the sick, the elderly and the frail.  And anyone wanting to make a super-profit from society’s less fortunate, will hopefully stare into that little girls eyes, take in her ragged clothing, the broken toy, and the look of desolation on her mothers’ face, and with a bit of luck, will think twice before putting personal greed ahead of our community’s human needs.

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Mothers Day

How's your hayfever Mummy 🙂

For those of you without a good calendar, I feel I ought to warn you that tomorrow is Mothers’ Day and, unlike Fathers’ Day, this is the one day of the year that you really can’t afford ignore.

Mothers are wonderful.  They kept you safe, warm and fed as a little tacker, saw to it that you avoided bad company, helped you with your homework, and patched you up when you came home with any number of injuries.  Not once did my mother complain when I came home bawling in pain, trailing blood, mud, dirt and go-kart parts through the house, propped up by a swarm of mates who were keen to see what would happen next.

Mum would calmly mummify me with bandages and iodine, then set about cleaning the blood and grease stains off her rugs, lino, and walls while the rest of us sat plopped in front of tele shovelling food into our faces; it almost made getting injured worthwhile.

And no-one else cooks like your Mum.  I’ve seen grown men come to blows over whose mother makes the best stew, because there’s no stew like Mothers’ stew.  Honestly it’s a silly thing to be fighting over, especially when it’s a well known fact that my Mum makes the worlds’ best stew; with sultanas in it!

And Mums care, they really are ‘The Last Chance Saloon’ in the Town ofLife.  When everyone else has given up on you, good ol’ Mum will always have something nice to say about you, even if it is how neat and tidy you’re keeping your jail cell these days.

Tomorrow you should go out of your way to make Mum feel special, because in addition to all the good things I’ve mentioned about mothers, I’d also like to point out that mums’ also happen to know quite a lot of stuff about you, personal things you might not want her mentioning to your children, friends, workmates, or passing strangers.

So, build, make or buy your Mum something nice to say ‘Thanks’, particularly for all the times she threatened to brain you with the wooden spoon, but didn’t.  She’ll be grateful, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll not only buy another year of her silence regarding your delicate personal information, but she might also dish you up an extra helping of world class stew, with extra sultanas.

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Anna Bligh is coming to Gladstone – but not by road…

Last week the Gladstone Observer informed us that the Premier was coming to Gladstone for a 3 day visit.  Unfortunately details of where she will be holding meetings, forums and Q&A sessions haven’t been forthcoming.  I’m not surprised, I’m a Qld’er, we’re used to being told nothing…

Like not being told before the election that our leaders were planning to sell off State owned assets: Qld Rail, and State Forests to private interests (I’ve already posted on this topic here:  )

Yes, I’m still angry about it.  As a long term Labour supporter (who is now considering Anarchy the only viable political option I’ve got left!) I’ve been appalled at the world wide trend of what used to be the ‘Workers Party’ to swing so far to the right spectrum of politics that we are basically voting for a slightly pink version of the blue Liberal/Conservative parties.  Tony Blair, Obama, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, and Anna Bligh have as much empathy, and similarity, to the working classes they purport to represent as a fox does towards chickens.  They only appear to be interested in meeting with business representatives and lobbyists (and possibly charging accordingly).  Anna’s comments in the paper prove this:  “I’m looking forward to spending some time in the area, meeting with the area’s business leaders…”

Trust is a fragile thing.  And if you have proven that you are unable to be trusted, and have lied about your true intentions, and worst of all, are prepared to sell out your own principles, then you my friend, are someone I don’t want in my home, or any part of my life. 

So, this week, if given the chance, I hope to stand up with others in my home town who hold similar views.  No big change ever occurred without the courage of a principled few who decided that ‘Enough is Enough’.  It didn’t come from compromising your principles and treating your followers with contempt.

Many long term Labor folk I know have all but given up on the politics at all levels, but I think this is playing into their hands.  When people shut themselves off from the political process, the powers that be (Left or Right) will continue to treat the ‘sheeple’ with continued contempt, without any fear of reprisal, or reprimand. 

Until an election looms 🙂

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Classic Novels I’ve Never Finished Reading

Today I returned Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ to the library.  Another classic novel returned unfinished.  I’ll watch the movie instead 🙂

I just couldn’t do it.  I thought it waffled, waverd, and diverted too much, and somewhere around the halfway mark, I thought, “Nope, I’m outta here.”

I’ve added Moby Dick to an ever expanding list of novels I will never pick up again:  Catcher in the Rye (Jesus, this guy had some problems!), Cloudstreet (I ended speed reading through it, and actually cheered when the hero suicided at the end), James Joyce’ Ulysses (nightmare), anything by Peter Carey (I’ve yet to read his Kelly Gang novel, but my previous experiences in ‘Carey Land’ have put me off wanting to read it), and War and Peace (the sheer size of this volume makes it a nightmare to cart to work and back each day).  There are many others, but my memory appears loathe to recall the titles.  

 Obviously I’m missing something in each of the above mentioned, but for the life of me I can’t think what it is?!

Not that I’m too concerned.  I like what I like, and others like what they like, ‘And so it goes’ as Kurt Vonnegutt used to say…

But once I did return to a book that I had bought, started then threw away somewhere near Chapter 3; Wilbur Smiths’ ‘When the Lion Feeds’.  I mentioned to several people that I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, and was roundly abused by Wilbur’s fans.  So much so, that I hada re-think.  The bloke had a swag of novels, most of them bestsellers, so I concluded that there must be something in his scribbling worth looking at. 

I found the book, re-read it, and fell under Wil’s spell.  I read them all.  Then re-read some favourites.  Some of them, I ended up tossing after starting (River God) but for the most part, I remain impressed. 

Never say Never!  Who knows, I might even have another crack at Moby Dick sometime down the track… you never know.


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Normal Service Will Be Resumed Shortly

Well, it better be worth it!

Things have been a bit quiet here at, as I’ve started a new job, and am currently enjoying the many challenges this has entailed.  Plus my column spot in Monday’s paper is being used to promote the Gladstone Harbour Festival.  Easter is Harbour Festival time in Gladstone, and has to be the greatest time to visit our fair city.  For an entire week we have one hell of a party!   

In the meantime, I’ll be using this brief column writing break to hammer out a few backup columns, and make a fresh start on my long running novel, as well as doing all the other stuff that a bloke in ‘burbs is expected to do…  when it isn’t raining, too damn humid, or entertaining guests… as one does 🙂 

So I’ll have to get a bit creative with my weekly blog!  Particularly as I’ve been reading some great and interesting books lately. 

Life rolls on…

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Alistair Hulett

On Saturday I was filling in some paperwork at work, and in the background ABC Radio National was playing, and the feature artist this week was Alistair Hulett, a folk singer/songwriter.  I couldn’t believe it, I’d only just said the other week that I never hear my favourite artists on the radio, and Alistair has consistently ranked up there in my personal top 5 artists I regularly play (torture my family with) at home.  And here they were playing his music!  Brilliant.

I’d been given one of his CD’s “Cat Among the Pigeons” back in the mid-90’s by a mate of mine who is a collector of folk / indie/zydeco/swing / punk / pop / hard rock… you name it, music.  The first song I heard, “Uisge Beatha” blew my socks off, and I instantly fell for the music genre we now call, Celtic Punk.  I’ve been a fan ever since, but access to other bands with a similar sound has been difficult, until now.  Thankyou Jeebers for the internet thingy. 

Unfortunately, Saturdays’ show was also the moment I learned that Alistair had died earlier this year, and I was taken back a bit.  I’ve enjoyed his music for some time now, playing them on my guitar to the walls of my room over the years.  And on Saturday night I did just that, playing his brilliant “Swaggies have all Waltzed Matilda Away”. 

Needless to say, my hopes of meeting him are now dashed.   Another working class hero has bitten he dust.  Fortunately he left us a wonderful musical legacy.  

If you want to read a little bit more about Alistair, and hear some of his tunes, then click on the links below:

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It’s funny how life works.  In the same week I wrote this column:

where I gave the Win News mob a bit of a shellacking, guess what happens?  Yep, I’m walking my bike up the cliff face that is our main street, and I’m approached by a young lady and a cameraman… from Win News. 

I was half expecting to hear, “There he is!  Get HIM!”  Instead they asked me for my opinion on the LNG / Rental crisis that Gladstone will be experiencing.  I gave my answers, as did my mother, who also happened to be up town. 

Then I slunk off. 

I don’t think I can handle any more coincidences for a while…

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“I’m going to the LNG!”

The title of this post is an abridged version of  the comment I’m hearing most lately, the full sentence goes something like this:

“Stuff this place!  I’m going to the LNG!” 

To which an old workmate muttered the other night, “Have you contacted them yet to let them know of this earth shattering news so they can prepare for your arrival?”  🙂

Many workers in the various plants and industries around Gladstone are all anxiously waiting for the Liquid Natural Gas job vacancies to appear in the paper.  Rumours abound about people / mates / etc. currently working at jobs on Curtis Island, or out west, and being paid in exess of $2000 a week to sit about twiddling their thumbs.  Doesn’t sound very exciting to me, and I’m yet to see a pay packet to confirm the validity of this particular rumour.   

As for me, I don’t think I’ll join the ‘gold rush’ for a job at the LNG plant.  Instead, I might take my pick of all the jobs that will be vacant when the other folk leave.  Or, just drop out of heavy industry altogether.  Unfortunately this will result in a big pay cut which may mean having to leave Gladstone altogether.

Our rental market is starting to crank up, although nowhere near the ludicrous levels of a certain mining town out west, which I’ve been reliably informed has increased rents to $1200 per week, all but guaranteeing that the mine workers will be forced to take the Fly In/Fly Out option in order to save money.  An option which will be the death of many small mining towns and communities. 

Gladstone too is gearing up to take on FIFO workers as well for construction of the LNG and steel plants.  So, I’m thinking that a lot of locals who have been pinning their hopes on changing jobs may be a tad disappointed.   

Regardless of what happens, there are some big changes in the wind for Gladstone and surrounds… hopefully the breeze won’t be full of toxic gases.  At the moment though, it’s quite full of hot air…

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What you really want, what you really, really want?!

Ah the Spice Girls!  The lasses who were able to bundle up all the meaningful questions of philosophy into one line of a song.

On my last night shift I was reading Carmel McConnells’ book,’ The Happiness Plan – Simple Steps to a Happier Life ‘, it’s a good read, and I highly recommend it.  Anyway I got to the section where she asked the question:  When are you happiest in your job?  The consensus amongst my workmates was – ‘When we finish our last nightshift on Monday morning and are walking out the factory past all the unhappy day workers.’   

We spent the rest of the shift laughing about it… unfortunately, it’s true.  That really is the best part of our jobs.  I’m not going to go into great detail here about what I don’t like about my job (WordPress has a limit on how much you can enter into one blog), except to say, I’ve been looking for ‘something else’ now for some time.

The big trap is to just say, “Stuff It” and quit.  Sometimes this works, mostly it doesn’t.  Many of us are trapped in jobs we hate because of debt.  This is a sure way of retaining good workers, and bad companies make the most of it by abusing their employees.  Other options include, winning Lotto (don’t hold your breath), marrying or inheriting wealth (see Lotto), finding a better employer (call me if you do… anytime), buying or starting your own business, or dropping out and living on home grown vegies in a commune.

Some leave to follow their dreams, and find themselves in a situation where they are forced to leave their dream career and return to their miserable jobs because the pay is crap (eg: The Simpsons episode where Homer gets his dream job as a Pin Monkey at the Ten Pin Bowling Centre, but has to return to the Nuclear Power Plant when Marge falls pregnant with Maggie… that episode still makes me cry 😦 ). 

I also am a big fan of the following post by the very funny, and wise, Tim Brownson:

So, at the end of the day, What Should I/We do? 

Continue to buy books like ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ which I bought, read and have grave misgivings about… and hope that one of them contains “THE ANSWER“? 


Give up, and join the ranks of the Working Retired (people with jobs who do the bare minimum to avoid trouble), and find, then enjoy, what Happiness you can in the world about you?

I’m starting to lean towards the latter, maybe it’s time to stop assessing my options and just accept that while things could be better, they could also in fact, be much worse.  Much, much worse. 

So, everyday for the next week, I’m going to start each day by mentally listing all the things that bring joy into my life, starting with Good Health, a Loving Family, and a Safe and relatively Secure Lifestyle.  Everything else is a bonus. 

I’ll keep you posted.


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New Idea Ginger Bread House

The Eldest Princess decided to make the Ginger Bread house featured in New Idea this month:

A picture perfect result


It took 4 hours, and Dad (me!) had to help with some of the structural difficulties, mortaring, and shoring in particular. 

Maybe we need a better camera...


As you can see, we need a bit more practice…

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