Saturday, January 29, 2011

As I continue to write of my Dear Old Dad's progress and his Lazarus like revivals I've had the odd contact come through from fellow travelers in life, the sea and the ether, just to say hi, I hear you, I've been there or are there myself.

Patch dropped by the other day, and just last week a new voice said hello, her name familiar through her occasional contributions to Kurungabaa, and because, as a name, she has one that is pretty unforgettable.

Rebecca Olive is a twenty something who I'd be proud to know. Her blog, Making Friends with The Neighbours, is a new discovery to me, a gentle voice of a life being very well lived... in all the best ways.

Of course this is an assumption on my part, but looking through its pages I get the feeling her friends are fortunate people.

She writes in an enviably easy stroll, and, as you'll see from "Endless" below, she understands that with beauty comes terror, to vaguely paraphrase a national mythic poem, and that we all dance on a thin edge, making our dance all the more glorious.

... by Rebecca Olive

I have grown

on sands,

soft and white;

in waters,

blue and warm.

I have grown

on the coast

by the sea,

safe and sound

and quiet.

It is my place

to play and laugh,

to sit and think,

to love and mourn.

It is the place

that offers me comfort.

I have never felt fear there.

I have never wailed,

nor felt the sting of

of its thieving violence.

I have never

been asked to know

the ocean when

it plays

so black and blue,

so sharp and hard

so callous.

So oceanic.

I have never

been asked to pay

for my passage,

for my escape.

For me

the water is;









A beginning.

An embrace.

I have never faced

the ocean as

a barrier;









An ending.

A drowning.

It has never

offered me so much

yet taken

so much more away.

It has never lied to me

(The fiend!)

The sand,

white beneath my feet,

has always offered

a path home.

My heart can

barely bring itself

to imagine

the rocks,


broken boats,


loss and

floating bodies,

as part of the same

Australian coastal

vision and embrace.


The pic: Our Little Devil, displaying that casual familiarity a lot of kids display if they grow up in close proximity with the deep blue. One fin, snorkel, who needs it?... a lungful of air and a black ocean behind.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back in Melbourne.

Finally and with great difficulty, both emotional and physical, I left Brisbane on Saturday morning for the big drive south.

All roads out of the city were blocked for days, but a window appeared and I had to take it as I needed to return for work.

There were amazing sights as I passed through recently flooded areas, crossing rivers with evidence of water flow up in the trees as we passed over bridges. half highways washed away, mud everywhere, sober driving and silence as we carried on into the clear country further south. Two twelve hour drives, a zig zag through southern Queensland, into New South Wales and on into Victoria.

It is a beautiful country, but as we know all too well, there is the threat of treachery.

Home now and getting into gear for the jobs a-waiting, and a year bound to be unforgettable.

Sitting with Dad before I left on Saturday, a quiet moment, holding his hand and just being there. He looks up and says, " you know mate, in the next six months or so, I'm going to discover what it's all been about".

Indeed. Though I think he already knows in the faces of people who love him as they've sat by his bed, just like me.

These times do give pause to reflect on mortality, and also of times past.

Serendipitously, I came across, in the wonderful blog of Ed Sloan, a film clip.

The music video for the Aussie band the Go Betweens, it's called 'Surfing Magazines".

I instantly knew it, as the producer of the clip had contacted me when they were making it, wanting to know if I knew of any old footage from the seventies and eighties, old home movies of surf trips and mucking around, before the throwaway, hi res video saturation of today.

Naturally, I did know of some stuff, a couple of mates being very keen though vaguely dodgy practitioners of Super8 film craft.

After delivering the footage it was all up to him, and some months later a tape arrived with thanks, and it has sat at home, unwatched except for the first time, ever since.

Looking at it now a lot of emotion wells up, as time takes its toll and life stories are written.

One of the guys in it, in particular, springs to mind. You'll see him with that perfect dead straight page boy blonde surfer look a couple of times in the film. Leon is a great friend and now is dealing, very well indeed, with multiple myeloma. Lee and his family punch well above their weight, as he is four years into it, still surfing well, still strong, and still possessed of one of the most positive personalities I have ever come across. We used to call him Neon Leon behind his back, just cos it gave us the shits a bit that he never seemed to have a bad day. Always a smile, always in the moment.

Perhaps he might find a way to bottle it, because his spirit must be partially responsible for his amazing vitality.

In concert with Dad's attitude, there are some lessons floating about there about how to attack life and squeeze the best out of even the most miserable of circumstances.

The other thing I loved about the video, though, was that glimpses of some of our best of times. We were all on the cusp years of marriage and mortgage, innocent of what that would bring and in a last, tiny self centered enjoyment of life. Our kids were yet to be born, we were still big kids, doing big kid things.

One of those big kid things for me featured in the film. A 1983 trip to Cactus in the coastal deserts of South Australia with Leon and a couple of other great mates was one of those source films. At 2:09 and 2:38 you'll see a very fuzzy me doing a couple of cutties on my 5'8" channel bottom thruster. It was blue and sprayed with fried eggs. I called it The Egg Board.

I figured it fit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Someone recently described the situation here in Queensland as 'Biblical'.

Though not a religious type I'd have to say "amen' to that.

An area way bigger than Texas is under flood and having seen yesterday the Brisbane River at its peak the concept of a tsunami hitting the towns in the city hinterland was catalysed in my mind, as even the most monumental TV images sometimes need direct experience to drive home the impact.

On our return to Brisbane on Monday we knew something was in the air, the subsequent downpours once in a lifetime sights. Massive amounts of water cascading down with visibility reduced to a hundred meters or so at times. Flash floods wiped out towns, many killed, many more missing, tales of personal disaster and true heroism intermingled and interchangeable too.

The one that sticks in my mind is a young lad who told a rescuer to take his little brother first as he, his brother and mother clung to a pole. He and his Mum were lost, the stricken younger brother pleading with rescuers to go back and get his Mum and brother just before they were swept away.
It puts the concept of sporting heroism into perspective as the true heroes do things so beyond themselves and yet when asked the response is always 'I just did it" as if there were no other alternative.

My family and most I know managed to avoid all this, being placed in a higher part of Brisbane, and lucky stars must be thanked as Dad holds on too, rallying sometimes, amazingly, but faltering more and more often, too.

Because I've been 'marooned', all roads out being cut and my way south a no go for days, I've enjoyed the time with Dad and family, but I do need to get back as a living needs to be won.

Today was to be the drive out, a route is clear but I can't make myself.

One more day, for Dear Old Dad.

I can see myself flying north again soon, and I don't relish that flight one iota.

You have to give it to him though. Just the other day, skeletal bag of bones that he is, he pipes up and says..." I don't want to be seen as a man dying of cancer. I want to be seen as a recovering stroke victim."

The old bugger keeps doing it too us. A combination of choke up and inspiration.

Don't concern yourself with the things you can't change. Work on the things you can.

Pics. A shot of flooding near the Brisbane River that does no justice to what it felt like, it really had to be seen, and yesterday's Dad, when I asked him to "frown, and look mean".

PS: Surfing? What's that?

Friday, January 07, 2011

I read somewhere that simply to be alive is like winning the biggest lottery in the universe.

Of course if the math is done the likelihood of life out there seems to be quite high, but still, with the scale of all about us, to have your particular little packet of atoms come into being, and for a happy life to be granted it is, to be fair, quite small.

So you don't give it up in a hurry.

Dad, bless him, is hanging on, and back at home, happy to be there though his decline continues. Anywhere would be better than a hospital room, and his increasing confusion meant that at one stage he had managed to deduct a plot of some sort from the arrangement of lights and vents in the ceiling. He really did need to be surrounded by good memories, and not the hallucinations a blank wall can birth.

With his improved circumstance, a couple of days ago the family said to take some days away, and have a break. The boys were going stir crazy in rain soaked Brisbane, and though enjoying time with cousins, as outdoor types the chance to stretch some limbs needed to be granted them. Heading south to wave soaked Angourie, home of the fabled point and the even more legendary Nat Young, we found instead simply soaked Angourie, with Nat off skiing.

I did have a surf on arrival, crowded and fairly crappy, my surfing rubbish from no activity, and perhaps as a punishment for leaving Dad. The bad shoulder got worse to top it off but the exercise was welcome.

I must admit to feeling very conflicted, despite familial assurances it's ok. Perhaps so, and perhaps not, though the signs, if you take any notice of that sort of thing, could be taken that it was the wrong thing to do.

Since then it has rained solidly for two days, with more on the way, and yesterday, while taking an umbrella sheltered dusk walk around the house we are staying at, I came across the Demon Kangaroo, a hugely muscled six foot tall male that gave me a white eyed glare as I took a flash assisted shot just before he hopped off in disgust .

Today, onshore and small, our plans to head back to Pa Sunday coinciding with a projected swell. You have to laugh, but the reconnect with a little quiet reality has been good anyway.

For those out there who remember my film Musica Surfica, you may also remember Warren Pfeiffer, the master mat rider who featured in it. Warren very graciously has allowed us use of his home for the break, and his company has been a delight, though for a couple of nights he has left us alone as he headed north to catch up with his pal George Greenough.

Today, it looks like we might, just might, see the sun, so perhaps a skate is in order for Tom, though judging from this morning's shot of the surf, we won't be getting wet.

Pics: the morning's surf check, and Hell Roo.