Thursday, December 31, 2009


Well it is still just 2009 as I write this.

It seems hard to believe we are almost a decade through the Twenty-First Century.

Yet here we are.

On Tuesday Deb and I passed one of those milestones that mark the flight of the years. The 29th of December was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

We didn’t have a big celebration. I took the day off work. We spent the day together, simply enjoying each other’s company. As we so often do, we went for a drive and finished the day off with a meal at one of our favourite little places.

Deb and I were in our twenties when we met. I think we have been very fortunate in growing and maturing together. We have shared so much: love and hardship; joy and tragedy; laughter and tears. On the way we have raised three girls into wonderful young women.

Of course there have been arguments and furious fights. But always what we shared seemed far more important than our differences.

So many people seem to grow apart. We on the other hand seem to grow closer.

I can honestly say that after all these years, Deborah is not only the love of my life, but also my best friend.

Goodnight and have a happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stairs Again: A Lazy Afternoon

I was up early on Christmas to open up for the breakfast program. We had a good crowd through for brekky.
After we closed I gave each of the volunteers who had made the effort on the Holiday morning a token gift of Swiss chocolates. I keep saying it, but our volunteers make all the difference for our programs. We couldn’t open on public holidays and weekends if we had to rely entirely on paid staff.

The rest of Christmas was a lazy day for me. Our eldest daughter E, has gone on a mad keen Christmas cooking frenzy over the past couple of years. It is an amazing luxury to sit back and do nothing until it is time to clean up.

On Boxing Day I was again in the city early for work. After that we had a BBQ lunch and went for a lazy drive out to the Maroondah Reservoir near Healesville .

It was a gorgeous afternoon so we went for a walk around the park. The park lies around the dam wall of what was once part of Melbourne’s water supply. It is a series of well manicured gardens, a mix of native and exotic species.

This piccie shows the dam wall seen through some of the plantings. The dam was completed between 1920-27. I guess that means most of these trees are between 80 and 90 years old.

We seem to be picking places with plenty of stairs just lately. Not as many as the weekend before last, but if I keep doing this I’ll be in danger of getting fit.
And this is from near the top of the same stairs.
The gardens are quite relaxing with plenty of places to picnic or simply sit and rest.
We strolled across the top of the dam wall. I paused to take some shots across to the other side. The lake being a former river valley has a shoreline of little bays and inlets.

This is what was the water works intake. I like the touch of the rotunda you wouldn’t see the extra effort on public structures these days. Maroondah is no longer part of the water supply as it is too small to be of relevance, so now it is just a public park.

From the far end I took a few photos.
The view down across the dam wall.
And straight down, the people at the bottom give a scale.
This view is back through the park. As you can see many of the trees are exotics. I think the conifer in the centre of the frame may be one of the American redwood species. (West Coasters What do you think?) The conifer to the left is definitely a cedar of some variety.

Then we turned and went back across the wall.
Finally before we left the park I attempted to get some shots of this Noisy Miner nest . Unfortunately this was about as good a shot as I got. The nest was high in a tree and quite well hidden. While I was setting up for the shot we saw a couple of adults feeding the chicks, but by the time I had the camera ready this bird was sitting still, keeping an eye on me. Noisy Miners are interesting in that, like many Aussie birds, they have a strategy of grouping together to help raise a single nest of chicks. Mum, dad and older siblings all have an interest in raising the current crop of youngsters.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greetings

Well time for a very quick post.

The piccies are of Fitzroy Falls in the NSW Southern Highlands.

The close-up shows a rainbow that was dancing in the spray off the falling water.

As it is already Christmas Eve here and the young ‘uns are clamouring to decorate the Chrissie tree…

So I will say good night and wish you all a Very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Chrissie Brekky

As many of you know, I manage a charity service that provides breakfast (and other services) to people who are homeless.

Well Christmas is almost upon us. We have debated for some time what to do for “our guys” over the Chrissie period. We have come up with a couple of solutions.
There seem to be a profusion of Chrissie lunches, some in the days leading up to the 25th and some on the Holiday itself.

So breakfast being “our area of expertise”, we decided to put on a BBQ brekky. Well our brekky has happened and I am pleased to say it was a roaring success.
We provided lashings of steak, lamb chops, sausages, bacon, eggs along with bread rolls and assorted condiments (plus of course our more usual fare of toast, cereal, coffee and tea for those who wanted it). We had a generous donation from a local church to cover the cost so we went to town on the amounts.
By the time we opened we had a large grill full to overflowing of food ready to go.

It was a real pleasure to see the delight of many of our guys at the sight that greeted them as they came in.
One of our regulars for example, a guy who is old beyond his years and who wears an eye-patch and has massive facial scarring from the ravages of cancer treatment, chuckled with glee when he was told he could pick whatever he liked and could come back for as many servings as he wished. Another fellow said he loves eggs and hadn’t had one for over a year; he came back for at least half a dozen.

These guys have so little and live such desperate lives. Their joy at something so simple was really one of those moments that help make a tough job more than worthwhile.

The other thing we are managing to do for the guys is to keep our service open throughout the entire Christmas period. Christmas coincides with summer here. This leads to a great number of charities and other services not only closing for the holidays themselves but in some cases closing for weeks. Fortunately because we have a very dedicated team of volunteers we are going to be able to stay open right through Christmas and January.

Now a couple of piccies.
On our way home on the weekend we stopped a couple of times so I could grab the chance to capture some evening shots.

This first was captured near Yarra Glen.The silvery look is partly due to a combination of haze and cloud, but is also an artefact of a very narrow aperture because I was shooting almost straight into the afternoon sun.
The next is taken a little later from a point called Garden Hill.It is looking across miles of suburb to the distant Melbourne CBD.

Finally, again from Garden HillThe city with a 300mm telephoto as the Sun set behind.

A brief note about the self-publishing experiment. Formatting is almost complete. I have to chose a different name for my publishing venture. I am also working on layout and images for a couple of web pages. This last has not been going very well as I have not been at all happy with what I have put together so far.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Well the weather has entirely turned around here. From the 41°C (106°F) heat of Wednesday it plummeted to 20°C (68°F ). As an aside I should probably say that I am speaking relatively and for those who are currently experiencing extreme cold in the Northern hemisphere all I can say is after 41 a fall to 20 feels decidedly cool. (Sorry Lisa no rubbing in intended).

Anyway because of the cooler weather we decided to go for a drive and a walk.
All in all it was a rather busy day so lest I become too Uncle Harryesque I’ll limit myself to one spot in our day.

Being the boring creatures we usually are we went in the direction of some of our favourite haunts- in this case Mount Donna Buang.
High up on the southern flank of the mountain, just past the turnoff to the peak the road gets narrow. Right there tucked down in a gully carved by Cement Creek is a pocket of remnant rainforest.

A quick note here about language. Aussies use the word creek in more or less the same way as our American, Canadian and Kiwi brethren. In the English of the old-country the word “creek” usually refers to a coastal estuary. Here it is used to refer to any watercourse smaller than a river.

Where was I? The remnant rainforest, this patch of forest is of the cool temperate variety. The dominant trees here are Antarctic Beech an ancient genus (not at all related to Northern Hemisphere Beech trees) left over from Gondwana days. These trees cling on to existence in high places where it is still cold. Most of these trees are hundreds of years old and it was thought until recently that they can no longer germinate in Aussie conditions.

At the top by the road there is a viewing platform from which you can see the first stage of the stairs that dive down into the forest.
Once on them they keep on going down.
And down. That is my youngest Lu, turning back to see what is keeping her Dad.

To protect the fragile soil here, Parks Victoria has put in these walkways to keep people off the forest floor. They are great except when you want to balance a camera tripod. Here Lu, having given up on her Dad, moves on to see what is around the next bend.

And around the bend is Cement Creek babbling down the mountainside. The water here is almost as clean as it gets. Quite a number of people collect this water above the road to use at home.

From the creek you dive in under the taller trees. This a majestic Beech towers over a companion that has been broken in some mountain storm.

But towering over all are the Mountain Ash trees . Here a moss covered trunk.

The scale of the mountain Ash is incredible. A Eucalyptus species they are the tallest flowering plants in the world. The tallest confirmed specimen was 114 metres (374 feet) almost as tall as the biggest Sequoia specimens.
It is claimed that Mountain Ash specimens were in fact the tallest living trees anywhere with giants of over 132 m (433 ft) allegedly felled by timber getters in the Nineteenth Century.

Then you begin the climb back up.
And up.
Thank goodness it was cool!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Heat and Cricket at Arthur's Creek

It has been quite hot here today 39 ° C (about 102 ° F) in the City and 41° (106°F) out here to the north.. So once I finished work I just came home and stayed indoors. 40 -41° are not uncommon summer temperatures here. We got as hot as 47° (117°F) last February, which was a record for Melbourne. The Bureau of Meteorology is saying we may top 50° (122°F) this coming February, If they are right I am not looking forward to it. It will cause a lot of people a lot of problems.

Melbourne City Council will be running emergency heatwave programs this year. I attended a briefing last Thursday because homeless people are one of the at risk groups in heatwaves.

Now to change the topic entirely (don’t I jump around a lot) I am going to return briefly to Arthur’s Creek. Phil at Walk Talk Tours asked a rather odd question after reading my post on the Cemetery there and I quote “Are you related to the former England wicketkeeper, Robert Charles 'Jack' Russell?”

My answer to Phil was “I'm probably not related to Jack Russell. I do have ancestors from Gloucestershire but they are on my mum's side. The Russell side of my family left England for India over 150 years ago. Before then they hailed from Jersey, London and Yorkshire.”

But there is a coincidence here, I had been thinking about posting on cricket (a wicketkeeper is a player on a cricket field) and the reason is after driving down from the cemetery I paused briefly to take some photos of the Saturday cricket at Arthur’s Creek.Here the batsman stands ready for the ball as the bowler completes his run up.

In this close up the wicketkeeper is the man with the gloves crouched well behind the batsman. His job is to not only stop missed balls but also to attempt to get the batsman “out” if he makes any of a number of errors.

In this case the batsman hit the ball. It wasn’t a great strike and he probably shouldn’t have “run” because one of the fielders had the ball while he was running and it looked like he would be “run out”(unlike baseball a batsman is not obliged to run if he hits the ball).Fortunately the fielders aim was not what it should be and he missed the "stumps"

I should probably stop there. Attempting to explain anymore will take far too long and get me in hot water with cricket fanatics (like Deb my other half). If anyone is interested in how the game works you can find a description at Wikipedia.

But before I go, one last word. I remember attempting to explain cricket to an American guest at a dinner party. Not only did he struggle with the rules but he could not get that the “pure” form of the game lasts for five days and then is more likely to end in a draw than anything else!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Emma, India, and Dawn Starts

You are going to have to excuse me but I am in a rambling mood tonight.

One of the things that is nice about the work I do is that there are early starts. And no before you all say “is he mad?” I do not enjoy getting up at 5:00am any more than the next person (except of course this has the big plus that my commute time is less than half what it would be if I was going in at more normal hours).

The nice thing is the early finish and time in the afternoon and evening, this gives me the opportunity for all sorts of pursuits.

Often they are mundane, like hanging out a load of washing or mowing the lawn.
But as often as not I am able to use the time more creatively. Last week for example I went exploring with my youngest.

Yesterday, I worked on formatting my book before the house got busy in the evening.
Tonight I am in a culinary frame of mind. I am putting the time to cooking a decent curry. Oddly (or perhaps not oddly in this day and age) although I am an Aussie I also have a large chunk of Indian Heritage . My father’s family took a rather long (over 150 years) detour via India on the way to Australia.

As a total by-the-by, if you ever walk through Russell Chowk in Jabalpur a city in Madhya Pradesh India, you are close to some of my family history. If you do a Google you might discover that the Chowk (square) is named after Bertrand Russell, but in fact it isn’t. It was named for one of my ancestors considerably before Bertrand was famous. But that is another story, one I might put into a book… someday.

In the spirit of rambling I am going to jump to an entirely different topic. On Saturday as is our wont we went for a drive. This time we struck out along a road we haven’t used before though Arthur’s Creek. Up on a hill before you reach the village is an old cemetery.
I love cemeteries, they are such a vivid store of the culture of their time. Such a prompt for imagination.

This grave for example speaks of a tragedy, a young woman burying a much loved husband. Clearly at the time Emma, no doubt in love and grief stricken at the loss of her Harry could not imagine resting anywhere else. She has bought a double plot so one day she could sleep alongside her dear one.
Yet a hundred years later there is no sign that she was laid here. No headstone for Emma here.
What happened, the writer in me wonders. As her grief passed did she come to love another? Does she now rest alongside a second husband?
Who knows, but my mind races away across the valley below, thinking of other stories that perhaps one day I could write.Too many books not enough years.

Bless you Emma, I hope the rest of your years were joy filled.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Joes of this World

As I posted this morning, Joe passed away yesterday afternoon.
First of all I want to say thank you to all you guys who have commented over the past couple of days. I really appreciate your kind thoughts.

We were all very surprised by what happened. In particular Greg was shocked as Joe had seemed okay, when he visited, given his injuries and given his confusion over the whole situation. Greg, wondered for a while if there was anything more we, as a service, could have achieved for Joe prior to the accident. It is natural to ask yourself such questions.
I had to reassure Greg that we had. I honestly believe that we had. I think Greg did too when I reminded him of all he had done for Joe and for all the others.

The frustrating thing in all of this is while we in our service did all we could for Joe, especially given the resources we have as a charity, he was badly let down by our community as a whole.
Worse still, Joe is by no means unique. There are so many Joes out on the street. Our support systems here in Oz have been badly neglected for a couple of decades now and the people who pay are the helpless. And that makes me angry.

However, in this line of work dwelling on the failings of the system will only drive you to despair.

At times like these, what it is good to focus on is the individuals out there who do give a damn.

The people like Greg who works his butt off for our guys because he cares, and then beats himself up because he hadn’t done enough.

The people in the system like our RDNS nurse friend (I’ll call her Kay).
Kay is an outreach nurse for the Royal District Nursing Service. She knows how badly the system sucks, but she goes above and beyond every day to provide assistance to the people we work with. She covers huge distances on foot every day in this city of ours. She goes into derelict buildings, squats, under bridges, and many places I would never dream of going on my own, all to check that people are OK. To check that the Joes of this city are as well looked after as can be. Kay also fights like crazy against the system she works in: to get a bed for someone who can’t spend another night out; to make sure someone is given the medication they need; to demand that a bad decision on care is reversed; and to show people they should care.

And the people out in the community who: give money because they can’t do anything else; volunteer at charities like ours to help keep the doors open; and the guys like a Lawyer, I saw a couple of weeks ago, who took his own coat off to give to a total stranger (homeless) because it was raining and she was cold.

For Joe:

A Tragedy

I would have posted this last night but I was out very late at a work function.

Unfortunately poor Joe died yesterday. Our RDNS friend let me know late in the afternoon.

What she said was that he seemed comfortable enough but then suddenly had massive heart failure. From what she says an embolism has detached from one of the leg injuries and lodged in his heart.

We are all gob-smacked, it seems such a waste.

I am sorry I can't say more but it's 6:00 am and and I have to get to work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Cheerier Note

Well my post tonight is a bit cheerier.

Thanks to daylight savings we now have ample time to begin poking around the local area.

About twenty minutes drive from where we live is a spot called Plenty Gorge Park.

Now I haven’t been down there so taking my youngest, I went for a walk.

To be totally honest the spot we chose is not the most beautiful, but there were a few things worth sharing.

The scrub here is fairly open and made up of predominantly mixed species of Eucalyptus trees.
This piccie shows how the warmer weather as summer is coming is beginning to burn the countryside to the more familiar Aussie colour palette. It’s a marked difference to the green of only a few weeks ago.

A close up of this tree shows one of the interesting features of the Aussie landscape.
The bark on many of our trees goes pink in spring and early summer. Then the bark splits and sheds revealing a fresh skin.

Tucked into a hollow in the ground is the old Hawkstowe homestead.
Down behind the homestead lies this pond. Around this little patch of green we found an assortment of wildlife.This heron was busy trying to look inconspicuous. I tried stalking nearer to get a better shot, but he or she spotted me when I got about 4 metres away and shot off across the pond.
My daughter borrowed the camera stating that she would get closer and went stalking, but our heron wasn’t having it and shot away to another corner of the pond.

My girl, not to be disappointed, took this shot of a damselfly that caught her eye.

A moment later we noticed this mother grebe with two chicks.
Then with a splash she was gone diving down to retrieve some morsel to feed a hungry mouth.
Walking back out of the park I paused to shoot this lovely old bluestone and iron farm shed.

A quick postscript on Joe. Greg saw him in hospital yesterday. As I said both his legs are broken (both femurs fractured) nasty injuries. Joe was apparently very happy to see a friendly face. He has only had one other visitor a RDNS nurse who does outreach work around the city (she is a regular at our service and is worth her weight in gold). A side benefit is that for the minute at least Joe is receiving good care and we and the RDNS are going to push hard that he gets more support on discharge. Given his injuries we are going to have weeks to hopefully get some wheels in motion.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Few Bits and Pieces and a Grumble About the System.

Last night the Dr Who special “Waters of Mars” ran on ABC TV.
In a homage to a misspent youth I watched it. Well actually I have to admit that having never grown up, I have enjoyed most of the Dr Who series starring David Tennant.

Sorry to those American fans who haven’t yet seen it (I believe it screens on the 19th in the USA) but I found it boring. This special is basically a not very suspenseful zombie show. Some of the new series have been really worthwhile. I particularly enjoyed the 2007 episode called “Blink”, it really built suspense beautifully.
Alas no such brilliance was on display last night. For a Dr Who fan I would rate this effort 5 out of 10 and for anyone else 2 out of 10 (I suppose a die hard Zombie fan might give it 6).

I continue to format my manuscript. It is such a slooow process. Looking at every page line by line, paragraph by paragraph is likely to send me barmy. I live in dread of seeing my imaginary Uncle Harry again.

Finally a quick word about work. We heard today that one of our younger service users (I’ll call him Joe) has been hit by a car. According to one of the Royal District Nursing Service nurses we work with he is in hospital with two broken legs. Greg, my offsider, left work early to visit him.

Where the grumble comes in is that poor Joe has a previous acquired brain injury (ABI) from a car accident some years ago (one of his parents was driving). Because of the ABI Joe is unable to properly look after himself so he has ended up homeless. I find it endlessly frustrating that there are not enough resources devoted to assisting people like Joe keep their lives together.

Joe is usually confused and I have witnessed him crossing roads with very little idea of how dangerous cars are. That he is left essentially to fend for himself makes me very angry. Government services for the Joes in this state are woefully underfunded.

Joe is in hospital following a serious accident on a street he should probably never have been on. As for the driver who hit him heaven knows what sort of trauma he or she is going through, I am pretty sure Joe would have walked straight out in front of the car. That person is also potentially paying for our negligence as a society.

Now a Random photo from 2007.
The grey kind of reflects my mood tonight.I took this on the rear deck of a Manly Ferry pulling out of Sydney one evening, I think the sky looked just amazing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


On my to do list, I managed to leave off buying an ISBN. It was on my mental to do list but somehow slipped off the typed version. A big thank you to Mary of The Woo Woo Journal Teacup Journal for reminding me of that little oversight. Mary thank you also for your fantastic comment on my last post. Advice like register your business name before you set about organising your ISBN should be straight forward, but is in reality easily overlooked.

Mary’s blog has a great deal of information on self publishing. It is well worth checking out on that basis alone. Mary does not limit herself to that single topic but posts on a wide range of interesting subjects.

One thing I have begun while I wait on little delights like business name registration, is working on layout. The joys of consistent formatting beckon.

As part of this process I have been looking at how to lay out my chapter headings. I like crisp and simple.

For example this is from Beevor’s D-Day.
I’m not sure about this style though. I don’t think the italics quite work and there seems to be too much blank space between the heading and the first paragraph.

Paula Simons, The Girl in Times Square
I think the simple use of a larger version of the text font works. Also there is less stark white.

Kate Grenville has gone for the super simple in The Idea of Perfection. Just the chapter number. I quite like this but need chapter titles as well.

So maybe a mix.
Chosen at random the top of page 10 of Veiled in Shadows.

Now because this has been such dry colourless post.
It's Summer and many of the Eucalyptus trees are flowering, this one is a pink or red flowering gum probably Corymbia ficifolia.