Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


These fruit bats or flying foxes hang out during the day and can be very destructive.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spinning colours

I think this is a bubble captured by the unknown photographer.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I'm not sure what this is. It appeared in my camera but I suspect as a result of human intervention.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Got myself becalmed recently. Looking forward and looking back.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Short macchiato

I've recently discovered that there are short macchiatos. The alchemy of their creation results in a drink that is richer and smoother than the maccs I'm used to. I'm now wondering if the ones that have really stood out over the last 15 years were crafted by baristas who make short maccs automatically.

There's only one place to drink coffee in Glebe - Sapphos. The baristas there take it seriously without becoming too twee with it. They also remind me of an old fashioned breakdance crew where the young pups are all keen to have a crack at the old man but realise that when it comes down to the wire he's probably going to bust moves they've only read about. Or at least looks like he could.

Every time one of the boys look like getting close to the captain's skill level and consistency they usually disappear overseas for some months and avoid crunch time. It's a mixture of loyalty and ego. Is it better to knock over the Master of Steam and feel guilty or fail to dislodge him and feel embarrassed? If they stay too long they risk becoming Prince Charles or Peter Costello. Or at a stretch Al Gore. Not that I'm saying The Steve is a mixture of HRH QEII, John Howard and Bill Clinton - far from it. Less English than the Queen, more attractive than the lying rodent and more reliable than Slick Willie.

Sk8er Bois

I helped break up and remove small sections of concrete that skateboarders had shaped at the bottom of large pre-cast barrier walls. The walls were put in place by the local council probably as a cheap alternative to fixing the rotting concrete and rusting armoco safety barriers at the top of a ten metre drop along one side of the street. Over the last few weeks the new sections of what I assume are temporary additions have become a combination of ramp and rail for skateboarders. They were there again on Friday early evening taking photos and on Saturday morning.

The noise they make is surprisingly load, repetitive and grating and led to a confrontation with a local resident. She was advised to move, do something creative with her life, make more of a contribution to society and be careful where she parked her car lest it come to harm. It was after hearing of the abusive and threatening manner in which this life coaching was proffered that I felt that taking direct action in response to these invaders was reasonable.

Might've been the timing. Seems like the amount of anti-social activity in the neighbourhood is going through one of its occasional periods of increase. Good to have a chance to chip away at this process.

So here's a basic principle - if you want to share someone else's neighbourhood do it with humility, respect and graciousness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Glebe Point Road

When I worked in an adolescent rehab unit I asked one of the residents why beggars seemed to target me and ignore people around me. She said it was because they could tell I was likely to give them something. Still not sure how.

I often give money to one of the regular Glebe Point Road beggars. Well I did until her last complex story fell apart within minutes. Usually they sound credible for a day or so. I'm annoyed that she believes she still needs to play me. Probably unreasonable to be annoyed.

More recently I spoke to the local Big Issue seller. He'd been celebrating selling the mag for eight years and intends to keep going for another two and then retire. I find this admirable. Maybe I'm just stuck in a "deserving poor" mindset.

Sometime in the last hour another four shots were fired along the street. Same address, same gradual build up of police response. Probably the same limited coverage by the SMH and more excited response by the Telegraph.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flight of the Codchords

Cod. The Monster Cod. At the Lansdowne. Scheduled to finish at 10.30 (at night) so I could be home with a cup of green tea watching classy porn on SBS before real night begins.

Crossing City Road I spotted Thor, G-cod, in a wife-beater singlet. What next? A Merv Hughes mo? Didn't put me off though. After the usual dweeblings the band started. Straightaway I noticed a difference. Where's Dave? A no show? Some Oasis-like punch-up? Or had Dave formed his own band? "The Original Cod feat. D-cod"?

No matter. The boys did what they do best. I think if I was a musician and had spent years honing my craft and creating songs that were of the now but not too obviously derivative I would hate Cod. It looks easy. Underlying their music is a respectful acknowledgement of the past which anchors the song they are "doing". On top of this is a musicianship that allows the song to be used as a framework to embellish without destroying. So you get an alt-Classic Rock feel which becomes the setting for the show.

When you see a drummer and bass player with a "Holy Shit! What's he doing now?" look to them you know something is happening. G-cod, the wife-beater replaced with Marc Almond's shirt and Peter Fonda's kerchief and the sunnies Partis Hilton would buy if she was po' white trash, is working it. Around me people were laughing out loud. On the stage people were laughing out loud. Where does he get it from? It just keeps on coming.

There was a different feel to the pub than last time, a lot less people. It was Mardi Gras night so I didn't feel as old, fat and badly dressed as I normally do of a night. All the beautiful people were being fabulous somewhere else. This was more your saddies, maddies, baddies and daddies scene. And of course the flock of PYTs that G-cod attracts to the bewilderment of the posse of predators that trail them. Like hyenas they (we? surely not?) wait for the leftovers once the lion in G-cod's pocket has roared.

It's all about the music. They nail it. I've seen it happen with rhythm sections before. They lock it in. They become one and that thing they do gives them and the rest of the band the chance to soar. I once saw Art Pepper talking about being in the zone. When he was playing at his best he would leave his body and go somewhere in front of and above the stage and watch himself play.

When the Cod are in the zone and leave their bodies they seem to think "These fools can play. Dang me if I ain't getting up on stage with them". So there is the song, the "cover version" locked in and playing along quite nicely, thank you, ma'am, and then there's all this room for the performance on top. Part jam session part catwalk for the stylish struttings of G-cod - a new way of relating to old music is created.

I worked briefly at the Hammersmith Palais when Luna Park was the resident covers band. Between the seven or eight people on stage and the thighsands and thighsands of pineds worth of equipment they could do note-perfect renditions of every song ever. If you shut your eyes, always a wise choice, it was like listening to a record. Cod's not like this.

The record's still playing but the kids have taken to the pots with the spatulas again, Uncle Bernard's got into the Bundys again and Barrel from Maintenance is channelling Englebert Humperdinck, again. The PYTs from telemarketing have turned into the Amy Whitehouse precision dance team and the bloke who had to leave the army has turned into a mechanical bull and is being ridden by a blonde without a stetson. It's like red cordial day at the creche (Please remember our nut-free policy).

In the movie Purple Rain there's a moment when Prince glances briefly at the camera and then tears into some gee-tar playing. It is as if he is saying "If all I wanted was to be as good as Hendrix it'd be this easy but I've got ambitions". Or maybe it's like the moment in Town Bloody Hall when Norman Mailer says that straight men can do all the sex that lesbians do and the other stuff as well. Mailer got booed off stage - quite the tongue lashing.

But I digress. Cod say "Yes we got the songs down, plus we got the licks, and the show and we're having fun".

Later a disco starts up. For no good reason. It's like being at a cousin's 21st in Wagga Wagga. I'm not sure why there was a DJ. Half a dozen Disco Magic CDs downloaded to the i-pod, into the dock, "Random Select" and Woohoo! Arnold van Whoever, eat ya heart out!

Driving ambition

On my way back from Coogee yesterday morning, tearing along Anzac Parade at 70km someone started moving into my lane. Into the space my car was occupying. I had to brake noisily to avoid a crash. I would have been sitting in his blindspot and moving at exactly the same speed. He veered sharply back into his lane neither of us having been at risk of losing control.

Seconds later he passed me and moved into the lane. I could see that he was waving in an apologetic fashion, first via his rearview mirror and then with his hand out the window.

Once the moment of potential impact had passed I mainly felt a sense of relief. I also knew that we were both lucky that the other person had been comparatively sane. I felt a bond with him. We all make mistakes and this time we were lucky. I was calmer about this than any of the other near collisions I've had that are part of driving life in Sydney.

Then today I encounter:
"Surfing in traffic, merc's tips.

1. there's always another peak further down the beach away from the throng
2. remember every day in the water is a good day
3. be humble paddle harder
4. give a wave get a wave
5. if you start to lose calm leave the water and take a walk along the beach
6. remember what D told you (GOM's suck)
7. this may be your last wave ever
8. the best surfer in the water is the one having the most fun
9. grumpy loses karma given waves
10. like attracts like"

If there are sets or patterns of traffic movement perhaps only taxi drivers, cops, couriers and other all the time drivers notice them. These tips feel like they apply to city driving and I discover other aspects of modern life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

D is for dawn is for merc

At Coogee from behind a cloud the sun's rising got steadily brighter. From the grey sombre quiet a brightness blossomed which erupted into a joy. There were so many people, so much activity I had to leave.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Glebe shooting

I've struggled to write something clear and positive about this.

Underbelly 2 screens on Monday nights. We try and get the children well away before it starts at 8.30. About 8.20 last Monday as one daughter was getting out of the bath I heard a series of five or six small explosions. Fireworks or possibly some minor act of vandalism I thought. A little later there was some shouting outside and the other daughter went out on to the front porch to look but wanting to avoid attracting attention I urged her back inside.

Much later I realised that a large noisy engine or generator had been running for some time and looked out the front to see a police truck turning into the street. I noticed that Police Line tape had been stretched across the street and across the laneway at the back of the house. Summat's up I thought.

The next morning the online Sydney Morning Herald had a brief report of a knee-capping in the laneway. The more sensationalist online Daily Telegraph report relishes the drama. There was, perhaps, a party to celebrate the release from prison of the 25 year old target. The comments section of the Telegraph added nothing productive to the situation.

I hope but don't expect that something positive will happen as a result.

This article in The Glebe of March 5 sums up the situation but doesn't seem outcome focussed:

Modern Pharmacy, Fareham

My Great-Aunty Lavinia was married to Wilf Smith from Fareham. Wilf's brother Syd was a photographer and produced a series of real photo postcards of Fareham and the surrounding area as well of others of ships at Portsmouth. Their father W O Smith was a pharmacist and his Modern Pharmacy advertised High Class Artifical Teeth amongst its wares.

As children we thought Aunty Vini (pronounced Veeney) had been married to a man called Wolf. The family story was that Wilf had been gassed in WWI and never recovered but like all family stories I now don't know how accurate this is.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lovett Bay

My wife's family has had a weekender or bach in Kiwi-ese on Lovett Bay near Church Point for fifty or more years. The bay has gained some recent publicity as the fictionalised location of 'Salvation Creek' in which a romanticised view of the local floating population is part of the setting for a living with cancer book. My best friend is dying of prostate cancer and he and one of his fellow end-of-lifers call this approach to discussing cancer an "organ recital".

I spent new year's eve at the house on my way back from London in 1986 and perversely feel protective of a place I have a one-step removed connection with. My daughters are the fourth generation of the family to belong there. There's something about being an incomer that gives desperation to developing a sense of belonging. Like a cuckoo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kings Bloody Cross

I first visited Sydney about 28 years ago. I'd been in India for a month or so with a tour party organised by the Religious Studies Department of Victoria University of Wellington. We had a night at the People's Palace in the Cross on our way home from Singapore.

I went with two people to a pizza parlour and encountered a group of young Aussie suburbanites who'd come into the Cross to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show which screened continuously for years. Although the sheilas were all dressed in regular Friday night going out clobber the blokes were wearing black corsets and fishnets and too much make-up.

It was somewhere between garish misogynistic Rotary Club fund-raising drag and serious cross-dressing. Somehow it was a useful stop off experience between the confronting otherness of India, the manic capitalism/tourism of Singapore and the dreariness of early-1980s Wellington.

Now that binge-drinking is the main nocturnal activity in night-time Sydney men dressed like that are bashed by men like the ones who used to dress like that, as a laugh, 28 years ago.

The Mardi Gras may move to Homebush because Oxford Street, Darling-it-hurts, etc have been abandoned to the self-destructive. Too much revenue in alcohol for the situation to change much. It seems a million schooners away from stilettos and pizza.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Let there be music

Two band posters - the old for a gig at the Glebe Rowing Club featuring Nunbait who are worth a google and the new for Cod who are the most entertaining live act currently strutting their stuff around Sydney. Years ago and next month.

One webpage giving Nunbait's history says the name came from the singer's interaction with his Christian flatmates when he was tripping.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australia Day

The day began with no real sunrise just a lightening of greys.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Anniversary Days (for aml)

As well as being Australia Day Monday is also Auckland Anniversary Day.

The following week the writer of the Art and My Life blog has a birthday. if you want to read about NZ art and life without feeling either patronised, annoyed or bored this is the place I'd recommend

The Spanish wine shop in Glebe Point Road has been selling Cuba '59 for a few months now. It's made by an Australian independent brewer as a tribute to the spirit of Cuba. The Cuban revolution and I were conceived and emerged in the same year. Despite obvious problems with the implementation of good intentions we're both doing OK.

It took me a few weeks to realise that it's not imported from Cuba.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Industrial neglect

I went to the fish market on Sunday, a mixed experience as usual. On the way I noticed that the coal loader is deteriorating even further. Every so often there is a flurry of activity resulting in further sanctioned demolition of the structure. The signs claiming that it was going to be restored, preserved, or an appropriate interpretation rebuilt from or of it have now disappeared.

My prediction is total destruction through neglect, some twee statue in its place and the rumoured apartments and retail complex planned for that section of the foreshore, a little slice of the ugliness that is Port Douglas, will go ahead in the next year or two.

By then the asleep-at-the-wheel state Labor government will have got their just desserts but it will be too late for this and other heritage sites. The city will have been Sartorised almost completely and the Land value and anti-Environment Court will have sanctioned the bulldozing of everything of any historical merit.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bondi surfers

There seemed to be three places favoured by surfers this morning - three kinds of waves and three clusters of ability.

Coogee pool

A magnificent dawning and a pool of memories -the stellae guarding the first swimmer

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On solid ground

After a week of the sun, tides and weather determining activities I now feel like I'm back on dry land.

A bushfire in Killara, 31 degrees in Glebe and the new owners pottering around at 72 all conspire to make me feel back from the sea.

I got two loads of washing on the line but it's too hot to get them in yet. I heard back from the Powerhouse Museum about Ken's objects. The Social History curator may uplift them as a collection. This'll make a change from Kylie's hotpants and blockbustershows from American movies which seems to be the public face of what was a technology and industrial history museum.

This used to be called the Disneyfication of museums but is probably better known now as the Paris Hiltonisation. The superficial made flesh.

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A passage to the sea

merc's lessons. Things to be mindful of:

1. Sun protection
2. Hydration
3. Fuel (bananas)
4. Approaching the sea
5. Staring at the Ocean
6. What are waves?
7. What is sand?
8. Where do waves come from?
9. What is the tide doing?
10. What is the wind doing?
11. Breathing
12. Where is my mind?
13. Never run into the sea. Walk on sand in seawater with a pronounced thump, stingrays sense you coming and disappear.

Pittwater mornings

We spent Monday to Saturday in a weatherboard cottage at Lovett Bay that my wife's grandfather bought in 1964. Each day began and ended differently and activities were determined by the sun and the tides.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009


The local trees have grown so much over the last few years that our back of the bridge view has almost gone. The Darling Harbour fireworks are easier to see and this year someone had their own to set off in the street along a few doors.

We went to Kirribilli for the 9pm lot and then home for the midnight ones. Lots of people at Bradfield Park on Milson's Point rushing around excitedly.