Around the Massive Stone
We have bought the bus, the AWD car, the trailer and have now sold the house. Soon we will be off. Join us for our adventures, travelling round this big land, Australia. To quote a young lad we met a few years ago in Lampeter Wales, "That's that place with the massive, massive stone innit?". Hopefully we will indeed see the massive stone and a whole lot else besides!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I am almost ready to head off to Queensland, will be leaving in three weeks today. I have about 25 pieces of art to pack in to my van and drive to the Sunshine Coast and display them at the Australian Steel Association’s National Conference. There has been a lot to organise and also keeping in mind that I am planning an exhibition in Melbourne for the 22nd. July. The next few months will tell if it going to be viable to keep going along this path. I am creating some nice work and I can see my style developing so am hoping that the next two shows will be successful.. I am missing Helen and the kids although I would not have been able to achieve what I have in the last seven or so weeks without leading the life that I am at the moment. I am very lucky to have such a great place to stay and work, Matt and Soph are very accommodating and I try to pull my weight as much as I can and not be a burden to them. It sounds like Tal and Rennie are having a great time in Scotland. Tal is very popular at school, so popular in fact that one of the girls in his class will not leave him alone and the boys are taking turns at lunch time to guard him!! The kids have a lot of freedom, different to how it was for them in Melbourne. Helen is having a bit of a hard time, There is no child care on the Island and she has to look after Jarra full time. There is also not a lot to do on Mull, so with the weather as it is over there her options to amuse him are quite limited. I am planning to head over there in early August hopefully in time for Tal’s 10th birtday. Wow, I can’t believe he is turning 10…… Will keep you posted about my progress on my odyssey North.
FRIDAY THE 13th.
The weather has been lovely, although a bit of rain would be quite welcome. The drought continues in earnest, dominating the news and conversations country wide. So I took the kayak down to the river to take advantage of the lovely conditions and paddled along the Gellibrand towards the river mouth. It is a beautiful and peaceful way to travel, accompanied by the sounds of various birds in the tall reeds which line the banks, the splash of the paddles and the rippling of the bow wave as the kayak cuts its way through. On the return leg, approaching Princetown, a car was putting in a jet-ski at the boat ramp just next to the old bridge and had some trouble getting back up. I stayed to watch, a bit of free entertainment for the afternoon. He was pretty well stuck, the exhaust pipe of the white station wagon was underwater and was bubbling away, making a funny noise like blowing a straw into a glass of water. The girl who was with him was looking a bit worried. A guy with a ute tried to tow him out but his wheels were spinning. I mentioned that I had a 4WD up the road but no way to get there. Ben offered to take me to it on the jet-ski. Cool. We flew up the river from where I had paddled and in about 2 minutes we covered the distance it had taken me about 40 minutes to paddle, great fun. I drove the ute to the ramp and hooked up and towed him out. As Ben’s car made it on to level ground he shouted “SHIIIIT”. His car had filled with water while sitting with its back in the river and it all rushed forward as the car levelled out, gushing out the doors. He was taking this girl out for the first time and I do not like his chances for a second date. She got her bag out from the front passengers floor and pulled her dripping wet digital camera out, but luckily her mobile phone was spared. I put the kayak back on the 4WD, I had probably had enough by then anyway and was saved the paddle home, so all in all a fun afternoon for me!
The Easter weekend at Kangaroobie is an annual event. Many folk come up here from Melbourne and help to herd all the cattle into the stock yards so that we can separate the cows from their calves and do what needs doing. The cattle need drenching and the calves need to be ear tagged and injected and the boys need their tackle removed. It is an experience to be amongst a herd of 1000kg animals, persuading them to go where we want them to. They are a funny creature the cow, imagine weighing more than ten times as much as something and being frightened of it? The noise of them all mooing is a strange and surreal sensation as we push them into the yards. Each calf is put through the “race”, the narrow fenced section that runs through the stock yard, it puts them into single file so we can deal with each one in turn. If it is a girl it gets tagged in the right ear as it is squeezed inside the crush, then a couple of injections and off she goes. The boys are a different matter. As well as all that, Matt gets his sharp knife and bending over behind the unfortunate creature slices and cuts and removes the reproductive bits. It is a pretty swift operation. But hey, they do not go to waste, oh no. As an entrée to the evenings cocktail party (an appropriate title) the bits were threaded onto skewers and spiced. Moroccan style kebabs were then barbequed and sampled by most. An unusual texture and psychologically challenging, but not too bad. The things you do on a farm……..
LAKE BOLAC EEL FESTIVAL
The Eel Festival at Lake Bolac was an interesting event. Not quite as big as what I imagined, but being only the third year it can only get bigger and better. The quality of the music was fantastic and I am sure it will attract a larger audience in the future. Unfortunately Lake Bolac is pretty dry, being a salt lake means that the salinity is double what it should be and subsequently most of the eels have died. It was an important place for the Aborigines in the past, a gathering place to harvest the eels. I bumped into a couple of people I knew. Robyn who we bought our bus from was there with her two boys (Hi guys!) and it was great to catch up. She gave me a hard time about not keeping the blog up to date, so here you are!! Also bumped into a guy who came to Camp years ago, Ian from the band Suade. I took along a couple of pieces to show in their art exhibition. I made a piece called “Eel Festival” which the Committee of the Festival bought and want to use in their promotions for next year which I was really happy about. So if you are interested I would recommend going to the Festival next year, I hope to see you there.
Friday, March 02, 2007
THE DAY I BLEW MATT UP !!!!
It was one of those moments that would have had the headlines screaming about stupidity and the talk back lines jammed. It all began with the idea of making a bait launcher to fire our rigs out over the sets of waves into shark inhabited areas for our upcoming Friday night fishing odyssey. Tyson, our shark obsessed Mate in Melbourne came up with the ingenious idea of shooting the squidded hooks out there with an orange gun. If you are not familiar with the peculiarities of this beast then Google it, and take heed of the disclaimers and warnings of possible death. So the two mad professors headed into the lab (shed) and started their experimentations. The implement basically consists of a length of PVC tube and an igniter. An accelerant (hair spray, fly spray or such) is sprayed into the chamber, your choice of missile is loaded and then the spark is set off to ignite the spray and hopefully the missile is safely launched into orbit. It is probably better to now envisage Matt and I as two cartoon characters, bumbling ones at that. All things were in place for the first test fire. Squirt in accelerant, load foam plug and……..ready………steady………..click…………click………click………. Nothing happening. Try again……..squirt, load and click…………click………….click…. And now for the fateful words…. “Hey Matt, just have a look in there (down the barrel) and see if the spark is working will ya?”……click………click……..Matt gets a bit closer, squinting behind his sunglasses…….this time it doesn’t just click…… Now picture this……. ….a ball of flame balloons out of the tube and engulfs his head, negating the need for Matt to shave or consider a trim of his curly locks. Actually, he no longer needs to even trim the hair in his ears or the top of his chest as it was all singed away. Looked like he had had blonde tips in his hair, the trendy thing. As the smell of burning hair filled the shed (sorry, lab) and we established that there were no serious burns, we both fell about laughing. It would have to be the funniest thing I have ever seen. But like all good cartoons, no matter what happens, singed hair and blackened face, they always seem to make it back for the next segment with a clean bill of health. Sophie has now banned any more experiments, so our next idea is to make a huge slingshot to get us into the shark zone. She doesn’t think we care too much for her husband, sending him out on surfboards for bait drops and now this. But I am sure she will enjoy all the fish we will catch………..
It was a strange time seeing Helen and the kids off at the airport on Saturday night. A new adventure beginning for them, a real contrast awaits them in the Scottish winter. I am back at Kangaroobie, getting a few things organised and slowly adapting to the quiet and lonely bus. We had a bit of excitement here today. I will describe it in my next entry……………
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Well we finally made it! Despite a 5 hour delay in Dubai due to fog, we finally made it to Glasgow in one piece. The trip went well and the kids were great, drawing quite a few compliments regarding their behaviour. A family consisting of parents, three adult children, son in law and grandson which I named the Large family (how they managed to squeeze into those seats was beyond me) were sitting to our left in the double seats. After not drawing a smile the whole trip, I was surprised when the two daughters turned to me as we were about to disembark and suddenly announced "You deserve a best mum award, your children have been wonderful the whole trip and you are amazing to tackle this on your own." I was stunned! The children to their credit were very good, but I cannot take all the credit as they emerged at the end with red eyes due to the equivalent of a whole day watching TV! But it just goes to show that you never really can tell what other people are thinking. So finally we arrived weary, but excited in Glasgow and from the moment we stepped off the plane I was filled with nostalgia as I was surrounded by Scottish accents, sparkling eyes and warm smiles - well they needed to be warm smiles as the temperature was about 8 degrees! With the sun shining in our eyes we headed into the airport across the tarmac from the back of the plane and Jarra finally realised just how big the plane actually was. Standing under the wing, his eyes full of wonder he uttered "Our plane very big plane mummy!" My wonderful friend Sheila was there to meet us with her friend Ann there to take the luggage, as Sheila's little 'green minty' wasn't up for such a big load. Standing for the interminable wait for our luggage to appear on the carousel, Sandra ( Glasgow airport employee, or so her badge said ) saw me trying to keep Jarra from climbing on to the conveyor belt for the tenth time and approached me.She asked if I had anyone meeting me and then offered to take Jarra and Tal through to Sheila while Rennie stayed with the rest of our stuff. In the seconds after I saw them walking off I suddenly had a moment of "Oh my God! What if she isn't who she says she is!", but she was just great and returned to help me through customs and beyond, dissappearing back into the arrival area with a smile and a wave. I wonder if she realises how much her warmth and kindness re-asserted all that was good in my memories about Scotland. The weather may be shocking, the Aussie dollar not go very far,but the people are great. They smile often, chat freely about their cousin in Australia or whatever and it is as if they have known you all their life. I smiled. I was home.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
DAYLIGHT SAVING AND THE SHRINE
Today I learnt another thing that the introduction of daylight saving in 1971 has caused problems with. For readers outside Australia, daylight saving was introduced so as to provide an extra hour of sunlight for people to enjoy in the evening. This phenomenon occurs in the summer months, the clocks being shifted back an hour for 5 months of the year, between October to March. It has been blamed by various dim-witted folk over the years as being the cause of their tomatoes ripening too quickly and their curtains fading prematurely. Dairy farmers have also accused this extra hour of confusing the cows…… $ I am back in the big smoke again; Tal and Rennie are staying at their Gran’s for the next week or two and going back to their old school for the first couple of weeks. So while they all went out for the day, I headed into the City to do a few things. It is great doing touristy things in your home town, and having my day-pack from my previous overseas travelling days made me feel more like a tourist than ever. $ After lunch I checked out a few different galleries and found that one of the main items on my fairly incomprehensive agenda, The National Gallery, is closed on Tuesdays, handy that. For some reason the Shrine of Remembrance seemed like the next place to visit, I saw a photo of it recently, can’t remember where, but I do remember thinking at the time that I should try and get along there some time. Quite a few of the books I have read lately concern the wars, so it seemed like the right thing to do. A nice walk through the parklands beside St. Kilda Road found me wandering up the hill towards this impressive stone building, and I followed the signs for the visitor centre, which was quite a surprise in it’s own right, I never imagined the Shrine having a visitor centre. It wasn’t that impressive but a good thing for school kids or such. $ The First World War finished on the 11th of November (the 11th month) and each year at 11am a ray of sunlight passes through a carefully designed hole in the roof (which took 142 pages of calculations) over the word “LOVE” in the centre of a line of a poem inscribed on the stone plaque in the centre of a special room with a vaulted ceiling. The impressive ceiling has some wonderfully carved stone reliefs, of action from the war, originally sculpted in situ over 2 years by a 20 year old sculptor in 1931. You need to crane your neck to look at them; they have been purposely created out of all perspective so they look correct from the ground. $ I got chatting to one of the attendants who was a font of information while not quite as wet. Every half hour there is a simulated ray of sun from a spotlight mounted in the hole through which the sun comes on this special hour. Robert explained that all was going well for forty years until daylight savings was introduced and suddenly the hour for the “LOVE” was pushed forward to 12pm. Moving the orbit of the sun would prove a bit difficult so now they set up mirrors on the roof to achieve the original concept. So all the dignitaries are present for the sham, smoke and mirrors ceremony, while the public are let in for when the real ray of sunshine takes place, after the removal of the mirrors on the roof. One day I will try and make it there for the 12pm start, that is, so long as I have picked all the ripe tomatoes, milked the cows, and shut the curtains.
Please excuse the lack of paragraphs in these entries. For some reason all the writing gets grouped together. From now on I am going to put a “$” in where I would like you to draw a mental breath…….
THE GREAT SHARK HUNT
26th January, 4pm, Australia Day. So there we were, 8 guys rocking down the deep sandy track towards Rivernook beach in two 4WD’s, full of gear including a surf board, a full esky, 200 metres of rope with a shark rig attached and various other fishing implements. The plan; catch some decent salmon in the afternoon to put on the big rig and get Matt to paddle the bait out behind the breaking waves for the bronze whalers to find after dark. How much more Australian could you be on Australia Day? We caught the salmon ok, but the problem was Matt getting out there in one piece, carrying a sand bag weight and dragging the 200 metres of rope behind him. The waves were hammering him, throwing him about like a cork, but he is a determined fellow is Matt, although even the most determined must finally accept defeat. After a 15 minute battle with the surging white waves he came back in, dropped of the gear and this time attempted the paddle out without the added weight, which he finally succeeded. The second attempt with the rig went pretty well, Matt getting it about 100 metres out from shore. This time he paddled to the first sand bank and dragged it to himself and then paddled to the next sandbank and repeated the procedure. We should have just covered him in tuna oil first and put the two big hooks through his wetsuit!! The waves were big, the wind coming in strong, bringing with it the occasional shower of rain. We collected a huge amount of driftwood and had us a magnificent bonfire which warmed us up as we kept a check on the battery of surf rods lined up along the beach until close to midnight. The shark rig wasn‘t touched, probably not out far enough, and the conditions were not great. But it was a lot of fun, and if we had of gotten on to one it would have been an experience to remember, a bunch of guys hanging onto a rope and having a tug of war with a big sea creature. We did end up with a few salmon and a couple of snapper though and are already planning our next assault. Stay tuned!!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Happy New Year, and what a new year it is turning out to be! Our plans and directions have taken a huge turn, and we are all excited about the challenges ahead. For many reasons we have decided to finish our bus trip, it has been a great experience for us all, but 10 months solidly together is about enough for us. We have made it around the Massive Stone and will catch up with the western side of the country some time in the future, possibly without the kids!! So what’s next?? We always talked about going to live in Scotland for a year or so before the kids were too old, and it was going to possibly be when we had finished the bus trip. So that is what Helen and the children are going to do. I am not quite ready to head over to Scotland just yet and am going to stay for a while, tie up some loose ends and work towards having an exhibition of my work mid year, before heading over and catching up with them all. It is all systems go on the farm here. The lack of rain, and subsequent shortage of feed has forced Matt to buy $35,000 worthy of hay to feed the 150 cows. Each morning, a huge round hay bale is loaded on the back of the ute and the tractor spikes and lifts a couple more and are driven to the cows. Placed on a downward slope, the bale is given a push and unrolls itself over a length of about 30 metres, normally collecting some unsuspecting beast along the way, ending up with a face full of straw and a dazzled expression. While we were feeding the cows this morning there was one standing at the bottom of the field by herself and not with the rest of the hungry, mooing lot. When we were closer we could see a red baloony thing was hanging out her behind. She ran off with the afterbirth swinging from side to side, we followed in the ute until she stopped and gazed at us with eyes full of emotion. She was standing over her dead calf that the flies were busy buzzing over and many questions were being asked by her in her silent stance, it was so sad. Matt reckons she might be carrying twins so we will keep an eye out for another new born tomorrow. The dry conditions up here remind me of a clever poem written by Banjo Patterson many moons ago, it goes something like this; “How can it rain”, the old man said, “with things the way they are” “Youv’e gotta learn off ant and bee and jackass and galah”, And no man never saw it rain, not for fifty years at least, That is of course when the parakeets were flying to the east. Well the weeks went by, the farmer wrote to tell his bank the news, “It’s still as dry as dust out here we’re feeding all the ewes” “The overdraft would sink a ship, but put your mind at rest” “It’s alright now the parakeets are flying to the west”. The Gellibrand River which snakes through the flats at the bottom of the hill is a great place for the kids to swim and canoe. A layer of warm, fresh water covers the colder salt water beneath. We were having a nice swim the other day when it started pouring with well needed rain and it was quite a surreal experience, the large rain drops hammering the surface, looking like it was boiling. I met the local tiger snake in the shed today, Dan told me he had seen one about. I walked past it and only noticed it when I heard some rustling behind me, glancing around to see the last half of its stripy body slithering into an old box. It has made me a bit nervous…… Matt was correct in his thoughts that the cow yesterday was carrying twins as he met and patted her new calf this morning, I am very glad for her. So there are some challenges ahead for all of us and we are looking forward to seeing what happens from here. PS, It poured with rain last night, filled up the water tanks and relieved some hard, dry times.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, JIGGEDY JIG
We left the bus at Kangaroobie - our friend’s Matt and Sophies farm - near the Twelve Apostles (although there is only about eight and a half of them left), and headed on back towards Melbourne. As the city came into view, blanketed by a smoky haze due to the continuing bushfires in the east of the state, it was quite a surreal experience, having been looking forward to returning for a while now. Over the West Gate Bridge the butterflies buzzed around my stomach with the anticipation of being back “home”, although home now is Bessie and wherever she happens to be. We are staying at MPG’s place (Mum, Penny, Gran) and she is very happy to have the clan under her roof. We have caught up with a few people between finishing the Christmas shopping and doing the usual every day living requirements. But it is great to be back in Oakleigh, having access to our favourite shops, the cafes, souvlaki bar, the dried fruit and nut shop, the various fruit and veg markets, the Italian deli. Funny how much revolves around food! Our plan is to stay at Kangaroobie for a month so I can concentrate on making some more artwork, the kids are going to go to their old school for the first two weeks of the year, starting on 30th January. It will be great for them and also for the school, as they will get funding for them, which they are in need of. We will take this opportunity to wish all our friends a safe, happy and very Merry Christmas. We will not have enough time to catch up with all our friends now but will be back again towards the end of January and will work out a time to hopefully have a BBQ at a park somewhere, we will be in touch once we have worked it out. There is a party happening at Kangaroobie for New Years Eve so if anyone is interested, get in touch before then for more details.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I camped at Hattah Lakes National park when I was 6 years old, so was interested in going back to see it. Just south of the Murray in dense dry scrub, plenty of bird life, screeching cockies, magpies and the charismatic apostle birds. Unfortunately a few days before our arrival, blue green algae developed in the water there and prevented us from swimming to relieve us from the heat on the 40 degree day. So we drove 20 km to the mighty Murray and had a fantastic swim, the current was strong and refreshing, sandy banks and mud holes for the kids to play in, it was beautiful. The road south was like a giant had shoved it together from each end causing it to be gently rippled up and down. Endless fields of yellow lining both sides of the road as far as the eye can see, but the smoke haze from the bushfires in the east made it a surreal sight, We passed the turn off to Patchewollock, cruised through Speed, Brim and Dooen to Horsham. Next stop the Grampians and then to Kangaroobie.
THE EMU ROAD
Heading South from Broken Hill along the Silver City Highway towards Mildura provided a change in scenery. The dry clumps of knee high grasses sitting amongst the red desert sands gradually grew closer together until they became a blanket of greyish green, with no more sand to be seen. A few straggly goats grazed about the sides of the road, along with the ever present dead roos with the mobs of crows feasting upon their rotting carcasses, flying away to the nearest tree on our approach, and straight back to their meal once we are past. We saw many families of emus prancing about in their search for food, with their cute babies tagging along behind. They are a strange looking bird, their greyish, ruffled, feathered bodies blending into the colours of the fields behind them and their long, swan like necks with the bright blue flash poking up out of the feathery mass. They are an impressive creature, standing as tall as a man, on long poky legs, and it is always a thrill to spot them in the distance as they watch us trundelling by. Every adult seems to have a baby or two with them, like a mother duck with her ducklings. So we have finally crossed the Murray River, back to Victoria the Garden State, the place to be. Before leaving The Hill we went along to Howard William Steer’s gallery, we had seen some of his work around the town. A prolific painter, completing 812 paintings last year, he is quite a character, very friendly and happy to chat. He gave me a few ideas for my work and was quite inspirational. He has quite a bent sense of humour, a bit like myself, and this comes out in his work. My meeting at the Regional Gallery went ok, they have exhibitions booked in for the next two years but are interested in me sending in a proposal.