Monday, 24 July 2017

The clock ticks, the hair goes from brown to grey to white..

The clock ticks, the hair goes from  brown to grey to white.. I guess bringing us (well me) much closer to that long good night.

Sounds a bit maudlin... but no, I am not thinking dark thoughts.

But with another birthday passing and now the next big birthday will have a 7 in front of it...  I have decided to stop along the way and think.. and plan.

First the thinking. (I wasn't much good at this at school!) But tonight I am thinking about the past 6+ decades and all of the people and things that have come and gone in my life. Sort of like watching a big movie in my head really.

Lots of sunny days.. but a few rainy ones too. I give thanks for the folks who shared the sunny days with me, and even more thanks to the ones who helped me through the rainy days.

And forgiveness to those who caused the rainy days. From those dark days I came to learn that what doesn't kill you really does make you stronger. And that is all I want to say about the dark days.

I was blessed to have an amazing father who was 55 years of age when I arrived on planet earth. And I got to spend 25 years with him until in 1979, the grim reaper came for him at 3 in the morning. The things my father taught me in that big old house at Clayfield, I still carry with me to this day. His knowledge of the human condition & his way of persuading others to see things his way in meetings was legendary.  The great thing I either learned or inherited from him was his ability to write letters that get results. For me that is something that I do regularly and in 8 out of 10 cases I get the result I want.

When I think about a 67 year old man rebuilding a bicycle for his 12 year old son with skills I didn't even know he possessed. (He actually learned how to do that in WW1 in the British Army) Or watching him restore an old coffee table for me at the age of 80 when he was riddled with cancer. I loved that table as it was the last thing he worked on under our family home... sadly no longer mine. The division of spoils by the family court saw to that.

As he lay in his death bed, he talked business, gave me advice and also talked about the war. He said to me.. "Son, war changes men." At the time I was having issues with my father in law, a WW2 vet who along with his wife was an alcoholic. I was less than charitable to him.. but I did lighten up a lot following my father's passing. Dad was very stoic about his pending shuffle off this mortal coil. And would often quote Gray's Elegy. He had as a young man sat in that church yard and recited Gray's lines... but for him the first few versus were enough at this time of his life's end...

"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
         The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
         And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
         And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
         The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
         Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. "

And then he was gone out of my life forever.... to this day I miss him so much.

That big old house where I grew up. Hard to leave.

Then there was mother.. she loved all of her sons to death. A less charitable person might say she was over possessive with her sons. For my 6th birthday in year one, she invited the entire class. I kid you not. Around forty or so  5 and 6 year olds tearing around the lounge room at Clayfield must have been quite a site. But later in life, bring a new girlfriend home and boy would she give them the third degree. Funny thing is.. she eventually came to love them too. Because of this weird attitude of hers, I tended to keep quiet about the girls I met. She had been a school teacher (English and Maths) earlier in life.. and it never left her. As a small boy she would educate me in the physics of metal fatigue at the age of 10. (Truly) And also explain how things got hot and cold. She didn't know it at the time but she was talking about the Laws of Thermodynamics. Specific heat, latent heat of vaporisation etc. Amazing to already know this when it popped up in year 10 Science B as it was called back then.

Mum sending the traders crazy in Nadi in 1975

She sent me crazy with things to be involved in.. Methodist OK group on Friday night, Violin lessons on Saturday morning, Cubs on Saturday afternoon, Sunday school and church on Sunday morning and then homework on Sunday afternoon. As an 11 year old... I thought this was over the top. Eventually we just stayed with violin lessons until I wanted to change to guitar.. well that went over like a Lead Lancaster I can tell you. She (and father) hated Rock and Roll.

Still she was there when I started my apprenticeship and made sure my work clothes were washed and cleaned. Welcomed my friends into our family home and I don't know how many times the Ford Car Club of QLD ended up having functions at our home. The day my father died I saw a sadness in her that she never recovered from in the remaining 19 years of her life. And now I look back on her with love and thanks and realise that like all of us.. she struggled with life at times.

A happy day.. May and Ron on their wedding in 1949. 

40% of the siblings reunion in Oz. Dad, Uncle Bill, Aunty Tilly and Uncle Geoff.

Of course life went on.. new cars (lots of them) new motorbikes (lots of them too!) and lots of friends. Some I met at school and am still in touch with today and some I met through MAX Instruments and also still in touch with now too. My friends all started to marry and in the fullness of time, so did I. As it turned out.. that was mistake. Not the marriage itself, but rather marrying the wrong person. I learned the hard way never to assume fidelity was a given in a marriage. And that is all I have to say about those 10 years.

So in my 30s I found myself living the life of a bachelor in my little cottage at Albion. My bachelor mates and fellow divorced friends would drop in usually on a Friday night and the Sansui was cranked up and the music played. Sometimes the photographers would come and we would shoot our friends in the studio and print in the dark room those magic B&W prints till dawn's light.

We even shot the Honda in the studio... getting it out!

And then one day, when I least expected it... Debra came into my life. My niece Toni and her now late ex husband set us up on a blind date.. just for a joke. They thought Debra and I were cheese and chalk. Well we were.. but something clicked. A passion for travel was the big thing that united us from day one, plus Debra's assistance at all of my weddings. The brides and the guys loved her. At one wedding at Indooroopilly Golf Club, one of the groomsmen got me aside and said.. "Your assistant is hot and I think she digs you. Play your cards right tonight and..."  Funny as. She carried my camera bags, calmed the brides and designed some amazing shots for me to capture. What a girl. Talk about a keeper.

Phuket in 2012.

Deb's shot of me in Amsterdam in 2104

Our travels have taken us on over 40 overseas trips in nearly 30 years. (One year was when we went to Scotland to get married. Well after 11 years together we figured it was time) We actually stopped counting at 40 trips ... and travel really brings out the best in us as a couple. These past 30 years have just flown past... and Debra has been so supportive along the way. When I wanted to leave MAX Instruments after 27 years and run the studio full time, she was fine with it. And when I wanted to get back into motorcycling, she was fine with it. In fact the last birthday card she gave me had written in her own handwriting.. "get back on that bike and get out there." We built a new house together. Now that was very important. The house I had when we met was picked by the ex wife, the one we recently lived in (Armagh House) was picked by my parents... but this one is ours. And we just love it. Our friends come and break bread with us and share a drink and fine conversations. We love them all and are so lucky to have and know them. Makes getting older fun!

Our life is rich! We are blessed and we know it and give thanks.

The new home under construction.

Getting closer!

Here on independence day 2016

Our Stars & Stripes cake in the kitchen.

Debra designed the master bedroom. Magic!

Deb on Fat Max before the Winton excursion last year.

So now after that burst of looking back.. comes the planning. How we spend our time.. well it's the currency of our lives and this isn't a practice run. It's game on! So the planning continues.

Canada is on the list.. possibly next year for us both. Another assault on the Snowy Mountains for me on Fat Max when it doesn't bloody rain down there. And spending more time with our friends. And we both would love to return to the scene of the crime, Dingwell in the Scottish Highlands where we were married on a rainy Friday afternoon 19 years ago.

Deb is thinking she would love a V8 Stang.. but her 12 year old Z4 roadster hasn't done 20,000 km yet. I am happy with the Calis v but am thinking of a new Fuji Medium Format Camera. We will see what the universe provides. Of course these are mere possessions and we really never own them.. after all we are only visiting the planet for what is a very short time it would seem.

You know, it seems to me that most people aim for nothing and hit it with amazing accuracy. For Debra and I .. why not choose where life takes you. (Well as much as you can.)

So looking at the calendar and planning is what I was doing tonight when I got this mad impulse to write it all down. I hope it hasn't sent you all up the wall.



Monday, 3 April 2017

Maximus Obesus goes to Melbourne.

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. Over a few glasses of beer sitting out by the pool, the idea of a tour to Victoria and the Snowy Mountains on Fat Max seemed like a great idea.

But.... man makes plans.. and God laughs!

The plan itself was simple, ride to Melbourne in 3 days, spend 3 or 4 days with my wonderful in-laws down there and then spend a few days exploring the Snowy Mountains. And, the Monaro Highway. Ever since I saw my first Monaro in 1968 at Westfield Toombul Shopping Town and was told it was named after the road.. well I had to go there. Actually always wanted to drive a Monaro on the Monaro... perhaps in the future.

March was chosen as it was a compromise between a bit of rain and still not really cold temperatures. Max had his 30K service, new Bridgestone Battlaxe A40 tyres were fitted and all was well. Panniers with tyre repair kit, compressor and tools and also my clothes in a dry bag packed, GPS programmed, cash and plastic in the wallet and a camera with a fully charged battery.

What could possibly go wrong I asked out loud?

Debra had some ideas on what could go wrong... so I asked her to keep them to herself.

So from my perspective, what could possibly go wrong?

Let me put it this way, we really aren't in control.... of anything!

As I headed out to mount up on the leaving day, good mate Brian Wakefield came across the road to wish me well. "This will be a great adventure"' I excitedly told Brian. I mounted up and headed into the Legacy Way tunnel to find a quick way to Ipswich Road and Warwick. The excitement was amazing.. finally the time when the rubber meets the road.

Onwards and up... and hang on.. out of the tunnel I came, to find the Western Freeway bumper to bumper... doing around walking speed... and ..... bucketing down with rain. About an hour after I left Grant Street, I was finally on Ipswich Road.

And wet.

But it is supposed to be an adventure? Right?

Around two hours later McDonalds in Warwick was a heavenly sanctuary that served hot chocolate.... and I tried in vain to dry off while I drank that warm chocolate.

Walk outside and the rain has stopped!


Mount the bike, stab the starter button.. and somehow it is connected to the clouds.. down comes the bloody rain.. again.

Next stop is Deepwater Bakery where they have the world's biggest cream donuts. But today I want a hot lunch. Of course.. it is one hour later in NSW and so when I arrive.. they have a choice of two things in the hot box.

A meat pie (Ned Kelly special pie) or.. nothing. That is it, one miserable bloody pie left. Beggars cannot be choosers as my dad used to say so I settled on that and a bottle of water.

Eventually I ride into Armidale and I decided it was time to give it away for the day. So no pictures because all the way along it has been bucketing down with bloody rain.

The rest of the trip to MEL was rain, rain, speed cameras, rain, more rain and then it rained!

Although I did find a great car museum in Shepparton. Amazingly ALL of the cars and bikes belong to folks who leave them on display here.

2CV Bought one of these new in Paris in 1988 & drove it around Europe.

HK 327. What can you say. Now worth north of $250,000

XR GT. My favourite was the XT GT.

A cabinet of old valve radios.. just for brother Paul!

The mighty EH. Yes a lot of us boomers had them... second hand.

One of my favourite trail bikes, the Yamaha XT500

So gazing at cars and bikes was over.. time to hit the highway and play Russian roulette with the bloody speed cameras. They are bloody everywhere.

Finally hit Melbourne and try my luck riding on wet tram lines... stayed upright. Bonus!

Rolled into 40 Brunel Street on day 3 at around 15:00 hours.

And really glad to get off the bike.

So this was home until the following Monday morning.. 4 days of R&R.

And the sun came out.

Thursday finds me at the Victoria markets.. love that place. Picked up some stubby coolers and a nifty LED torch to carry on the bike.

On Friday, John drove me to Footscray to meet up with an ADV inmate at Big Fish Art Studios. What amazing workspace and what a nice guy Alfonse turned out to be. He had recently purchased a spare Nikon Camera from me so I figured I should stop in and say hello while in Melbourne. Just love his studio.. lots of room to be creative!

This must be the place John!

Got to keep the studio warm in winer.

And motor bikes too! Bonus!

Then we went for a bit of a walk after a coffee next door at a really arty coffee shop / cafe.

Just love these old buildings.

Love doors... just love them!

Lots of good food with the in laws each night and then on Saturday, Steven (Deb's cousin) takes me to Williamstown. Love that place. Home port for Sea Shepherd and one of their ships is in. Also in port is a floating museum.. in the form of the former mine sweeper the HMAS Castlemaine. A good tour of this after lunch and what a day.

Steven manning the anti aircraft gun. Look out for Zeros mate!

The good ship's main gun. Note Golden Circle muzzle cover.

Go get those bloody whalers guys!

Love their logo.

If I was PM I would have black ops crew with a submarine... I would sort the Jap whalers out.. permanently.

I fell in love with this old tin shed.. a bit of judicious cropping and some tweaking and I had this.

These old buildings have character.

Saturday night is barbecue night at Steven's home. And it is here I discover his arty Malvern Star. Slowly being consumed by the environment.

Ashes to ashes and rust to rust in rest.

Sunday dawns and John is off to play bowls so Patrick (cousin Steven's son.. keep up with me here.. written test at the end) takes me off to make some pictures at an old abandoned warehouse. Sort of place crooks tie up villains in distress.

I make some pictures....

Young Patrick... apprentice journalist!

Art for arts sake.

And there is a Buddhist Temple near by too!

With a public toilet.

Finally Monday arrives.... saddle up the bike.. press the start button.. and.. it bloody well rains.  Again! So following the magic GPS I am off to Marysville by a most circuitous route. But it's the journey, not the destination.. right?

This is the bakery at Marysville that I visited in the past, one year after the fires.

So different to just after the fires!

After a rotten pie (sorry bakery) it was off for a look see. Lots of rebuilding has occurred  and the town seems like a magic place to live... when it ain't fire season. While looking for a dunny I found this sign....

Bloody hell!

Readers of past posts on this blog will know about me and snakes.. time to go! Like now! But first a picture of Max!

By now Max was very dirty!

The trip plan now was to ride to Maffra to meet up with Dr AT. However when I got there, the town's motel was full so I ventured on to Sale. The ride down through the forests was pure delight.. apart from some wet leaves on the shoulders of the road.

The view through the windscreen.

Or if you were in a car.. this is what you might see!

In Sale I stayed at the Pit DiFlea Motel.. but the people were very nice and the meals were great. No sat TV however so I missed Paul Murray live. More's the pity...

Tuesday morning arrives and it looks like it might stop raining. Dr AT picks me up in his old truck and we head for a consult in a more relaxing environment... his sailing boat.

Dr AT and the art of being still.. on water. 

Had a magic time with the good Doctor (for a Doctor is what he is) and detoured past Bairnsdale on the way back to Sale to get some new water proof (hopefully) bike gloves along the way. Thanks for the consult Doc.. catch up again soon.

So the next morning the plan is to ride up to Cooma in the Snowy Mountains and spend 3 or 4 days there exploring the area. But on leaving Sale... down comes the rain. And heavier than before. I ride up the Alpine Way towards the Monaro Highway. And even in this freezing, torrential rain, the Socialist Republic of Victoria have their unmarked speed cameras out ripping money from motorists. It is impossible to travel faster than around 80 and still the camera car sits there. In the middle of nowhere. Looking for targets. Speed cameras.. don't get me started.

Eventually I arrive in Cooma and find a nice hotel. Get my gear off and drying out in front of the reverse cycle AC and a hot shower and I am feeling better. Clean dry clothes and time for a walk around town. This place is magic and in a little thought bubble I could imagine retiring up here. Or.. perhaps not. Yes Debra.. I can hear you.. it ain't like the Italian Riviera. That night a great steak in the dining room.. but I do wonder why the chips arrive about 5 months after I have finished my steak and leaves. Yes leaves.

So let's get into this now. Whatever happened to iceberg lettuce? Everywhere I go in the Socialist Republic of Victoria, it is impossible to get a salad that has iceberg lettuce in it. Every single cafe and sandwich bar has a bowl of leaves they shovel onto your plate or into your salad sandwich. They look like weeds pulled out of the ground near the wall of an outside dunny. God I am so over this. I want iceberg lettuce.. not weeds on my meal. Is anybody listening????

Next morning dawns overcast, but no rain! Yippee!

Breakfast over, suit up and ride Max to the visitor's centre. A lovely lady compliments me on my matching outfit.. blue skivvy and blue glasses.. Debra you have trained me well. She gives me a map or two... I go outside to find a Highway Patrol Cop looking at the bike. Nice bloke and we get into a conversation about all sorts of things.. and yes mate.. your helmet camera is legal down here. Unlike Victoria where they need the money.

Mount up, stab the starter and the bloody rain falls down. GIVE ME A  BREAK!!!!

So I ride across to Tumut stopping along the way to look at the Tumut #3 hydro power station. The roads up here are magic, highest point I reached was 1490 metres, fresh!

And it would have been magic to explore all of these roads on two wheels.

But the bloody rain just would not let go. Ended up riding down to Goulburn (Only been here once before in 1974 in my Celica to visit Stephen Hart, my first childhood mate) and the next morning slabbing it all the way home to BNE. A full day of 13 hours and 1150 km to Hendra. I did manage to make a couple of images from the Snowy Mountains. And the one thing that I did see was the wild brumbies. They are magnificent and I urge the Government to let them be.

The views up here are marvellous!

I just love this place.

Magic motorbike roads.... if the weather is sunny.

Tumut Number 3

The Snowy Hydro System.. what an amazing thing it is. Multiple hydro power stations some situated 250 metres underground. And built by an army of Australians. Many of them new Australians seeking a new life in Australia after World War Two tore Europe asunder. They all worked hard, bloody hard and they all got on together. No religious intolerance, no segregation where only those of a certain persuasion could live. These workers, and the engineers and leaders who made all of this possible, a 25 year project, the largest ever undertaken in the world at the time..... would turn in their graves to see Australia now. People worried about being offended, new Australians who refuse to assimilate and want the place changed to resemble the shit hole they came from. Political leaders who cannot lead, can only see the next election and throw up populist policies. Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten. Imagine what the fathers of the Snowy Scheme would think of them.

And imagine what they would say.. stuff 18c. The would tell it like it is!

They would say what they thought.

A sad day for our country now when people are being told not to say what they think. PC gone mad!

The Snowy Hyrdo supplies water to 75% of all irrigated land in Australia. Imagine the Greens and imagine how the project would NOT have happened if they ran the place back when it was being sorted.

I will go back to the Snowy, either on Max or in the Calais as this is something that ALL Australians should see for themselves. What we can do as a nation when we put our shoulders to the wheel and get on with it!

And as for the PM's new Snowy plan.. according to an engineer, that was tried and booted about 20 years ago. Pumping water uphill to let it flow back through turbines costs about 20% in efficiencies according to the hydro engineers.

It contravenes the basic law of nature.. "There ain't no free lunch!"

Until next time....

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016, the year that was!

Well sitting back on a hot day on the first day of 2017, my mind is thinking about the year that was. Sometimes I wonder how we all do so much in just 365 days.

First of all, this was for us the first year in our new home. We actually shifted in at midnight on December 18, 2015. Home was not completely finished.. no pool for last Christmas, but we loved it. And we still love it. Not a day goes by when one of us doesn't say, "I cannot believe this is our home!" We love the clean look, the tightly closing doors, lack of bugs inside, the air conditioning and we just love our pool. (Going to jump is a soon as I finish this).

Debra loves her end of the media room with her big TV and I love the other end.. my studio!

Well on the way!

Finished.. expecting Angela.. so Scottish flag flying on the day!

Local Councillor David McLachlan is a good friend so when he called on us for some pictures, we were happy to front up with a camera or two!

Fixing the roads in David's patch.

There is that CAT machine again.

At a new tyre store being built.

So 2016 rolled along, Deb busy at her shop and me making pictures for clients. Then older brother Max turned 80... wow I remember his 50th like it was yesterday, so off to the Sunshine Coast we go to celebrate.

Me, Paul, Max & Peter Collins. The Auto electricians are ageing.

No sooner have we fished eating Max's Birthday cake and I am off with great mate Gregor for an adventure ride to visit Boeings and Dinosaurs.

T minus 10 minutes to lift off!

It was a great trip filled with unexpected adventure.. like me coming to grief on wet clay on Fat Max. You can read about it all here if you are so inclined.

Back in Brisbane with my knee on the mend the year keeps ticking by.. Deb thinks that Hawaii would be a great spot for a week of R&R with good travel mates Mark & Libby.. so the planning starts.

Meanwhile, July 4 is creeping up so we decide to do a "Clayfield Studio says G'Day USA" at Grant Street. A lazy Sunday afternoon with hotdogs, spare ribs, Budweiser, Pepsi, Coke and Dr Pepper ensues. Lots of fun and Captain Ben even brings his spanking brand new Mustang to complete that USA ambience.

How's this for a Stars and Stripes?

It's all the way with the USA here!

Now is this a Pony Car or what???

But back to work, there are units to photograph and head shots for clients too. Got to keep those coins and cheques rolling in.

One of Devcorp's Projects.

And then I had a project of my own too..... have actually written a magazine article on a garage that pumps your gas. A real 1950s time warp!

Fat Max at Hendra Motors. 

The wonderful guys at Hendra Motors. 

One day melts into another, the weeks pass and before you know it we are Hawaii bound on a big jet. And we just know that with mark & Libby on board we will have a week of fun. Shopping, eating, drinking, sight seeing and on and on it goes... as it always does.

Mark & Libby wanted to buy the car!

The USS Missouri on board which the Japanese signed their surrender.

Mighty Mo and the Arizona Memorial

That famous photo now a sculpture.

Well see are on an island!

Waikiki beach... pure magic.

The bus tour continues.

Hawaii shares its runways with the military.

Pocket rockets waiting to fly!

Eat your heart our Magnum!

Flying over the Arizona Memorial.

All good things must come to an end and so we headed back to Brisbane so I could shoot a job for the Brisbane City Council. I really like working with their team of people; always so polite and appreciate the work the studio does for them too,

Always love this final group shot!

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is an easy person to work with and I photographed  him a few times over the course of the year. Like on this CAT road making machine!

The ever smiling Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

Other adventure rides happened through the year and I had a lot of fun with new neighbour (well we're new) Brian Wakefield and old mates Ian and Gregor.  As well as Brian's brother in law Frank. We did a few trips including visiting Captain Heidi on her farm as part of a loop through Northern New South Wales.

Look like Spitfire pilots waiting for the bell!

Frank and Greg discussing something...

Saddling up!

Outside a magic cafe in NSW

Brian and his slice! MMMMMM!

Cheers Frank!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month also happens in October and as usual Deb and I have a few functions to attend. One of our enduring favourites is the Brisbane North Chamber of Commerce.

Debra and the always smiling Jo Hassan

Councillor Norm Wyndham surrounded by beauty yet again!

And before you know it.. Christmas has arrived.

For me this is a time to give thanks to all of those people who have made our lives just so wonderful this past year. To the bride Debra.. I am so thankful to have you as a life partner. Supportive of me and freely give me time to wander off on my bike.. no need to apply for a leave pass in this house.

So from Debra and I to all of our friends and relatives, both here and in the UK.. a big heartfelt thanks for your support and above all else, friendship this past year. We love you all and wish you nothing but many good things in 2017.

Rock on!