Everyday magic

Recently I was visited by a couple of my uncle Martin and aunt Arlene from North America.

It was lovely to hear Martin recount courting Arlene by taking her to a restaurant dumpster, where they waited to see a brown bear.

I was reminded of a recurring feature of my childhood when my mother would treat my sister and I to McDonalds but insist we eat it on Chapman Hill, so we could look at the lights of Weston Creek.

Love Without Violins

Keep coming back to this song.

I like the vibe up until the key change, then I find myself kinda intrigued by Brian Eno's cadence and lyrics.

Neko Neve

Burnie Courts

I lived at Burnie Courts in the suburb of Lyons while finishing my first degree in Canberra during the late 1990s.

By then it was increasingly unoccupied. The block that I was in had tenants in half the apartments and then they weren’t replaced as people like my elderly neighbour Dave moved on.

Burnie Courts had a reputation for drugs and it was deserved. Even though there were no longer people openly dealing while I was living there, it still saw a lot of traffic from people hoping to score.

You can see an example of the reputation in this mural that once adorned the bus interchange at the nearby Woden shopping centre. That “25” above the $ sign that serves as the S in Courts reflects the price for a gram of marijuana. It amused me almost as much as the graffiti that later appeared saying "South Central Niggas" like it was the name of a gang.

One night a young woman passed out in front of my door. I checked on her occasionally and could see she was still conscious enough to be wary of me. After a couple of hours she moved on after showing no interest in joining me for a cup of hot chocolate.

Things were relatively quiet there until after about a year, then I was burgled three times in six months and my insurer refused to continue covering my contents. There were also nights when you’d hear windows being broken, which was very unsettling.

Friends would visit for a meal and comment how it was hard to believe I lived at the Courts. It was one of those lessons for me about how much a living room remains a living room. I think I could furnish a room anywhere and be relatively happy because much of what sustains me takes place within my head.

Burnie Courts have since been demolished and replaced with housing that blends a better ratio of public, elderly and private tenants.

NGA Sculpture Garden

While I'm thinking about the National Gallery of Australia's Sculpture Garden, here's a pic of me taken there in 1994.

It remains one of my favourite spots to visit at odd hours in Canberra, particularly as the lighting at night always plays tricks with my eyes and I start to imagine the sculptures moving.

Recently I returned to record Fiona Hall's magical fern garden.

Rodin and I

Saw this pic having fun with Auguste Rodin's The Shade this week.

It brought to mind this pic taken in 1998 with some of The Burghers of Calais at the National Gallery of Australia, which appeared in the ANU's student newspaper Woroni.

Elvis is not available right now

When I shared an Elvis cover recently, it was part of a couple of other conversations about the late singer.

My friend Dave recommended another song, which turned out to be off-limits according to Youtube.

Around the same time, my friend Narelle was visiting from Parkes, a town that has had around 25 Elvis festivals.
She said that, while not a fan of Elvis, she'd appreciated the opportunity to see some of the lesser-known Elvises.

For example, inclement weather had led to sighting dozens of rain-dampened Elvises and strong winds one year had produced a grouping of the rarely seen dust-blown Elvis.

Ice in glasses

Fires and heat

Ever since newspapers have cut back roles like sub-editing, it's become commonplace to find typos.

So I've had to look for spelling mistakes that add something more to the subject matter, such as those that work with the theme of the piece -- perhaps subconsiously.

Which is why I like this one, where the word 'heat' has been used instead of 'head' to follow the discussion of campfires.

Return of the King

Seems appropriate for Easter ;)

Functional alcoholic

Pablo Picasso’s noon

the palms keep vigil over the tired countryside. orange trees bear clusters of golden sun ripened in the red noon. cypress clean clouds from the azure where insects glimmer, sparks born of incandescent sunlight. i listen to the rhythm of silence scented by fabulous blossoms. and my spirit is drawn towards these heavy desires that haunt the coolness of shade.

Didn't know that one of the 20th Century's most famous artists also turned his hand to poetry before my partner showed this to me last night.

She was looking for material for a cut-up poetry workshop that will be at Pioneer Park Museum's 46th Action Day this Good Friday.

It's interesting how much the description matches the Riverina landscape, which I guess is part of the reason why this part of Australia has thrived with Mediterranean influences.

The cypress pines that were widespread on the sandy loam of the floodplains aren't the same cypresses of Europe but must have been recognised as such, much like the Australian magpie is a distinctly different bird to the European variety.

Orange trees thrive here under an intense summer sunlight that, again, must share character with that of southern Europe. Walter Burley Griffin drew comparisons with Spain when he designed the town of Leeton, drawing in a bandstand in the centre of town:
The central Town Square, with refreshing shaded promenades, fountains, pool, and music, can set a standard that will tend to induce a high plane of attractiveness in private shows and places of amusement and refreshment that must compete where they do not collaborate. Perhaps the good old afternoon band concerts of the Spanish towns may be revived here, where the environment and the temperament of the people are so well suited.

Animal in a predicament

Recently I was introduced to the Facebook page Animals in Predicaments and have been amused by the sometimes surreal images and GIFs they share.

Just now while reading news websites, I saw this image from a story about a program to return pandas to the wild in China and wondered how long before it appears on their page.

The photograph is by Ami Vitale and has been shortlisted for a Sony World Photography award.

Simple trick to reduce power bills

In recent months there's been much discussion in Australian media on whether the national energy grid can meet demand.

A variety of commentators have weighed in, even Elon Musk contributed to the mix of options of available.

One thing that seemed to be missing from the flurry of words was discussion of how to reduce power consumption.

I am an energy miser and in the habit of turning everything off when it doesn't need to be on, which is one reason why you can't call me when I'm not home. (Another is I rarely answer the phone.)

Two things have contributed to reducing my electricity bills.

The first was buying a new fridge. I didn't realise the efficiency gains made in recent years, so when I was forced to replace my old fridge I saw a benefit in following months.

The second tip is more relevant, as people don't want to spend money to save money: turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater.

I can't remember where I read it but it was while living in a rental property, so it's a good tip for everyone.

Just head over to your hot water heater, look for a cover that's likely to be held down with one screw near the base of the unit.

You'll likely find a variable dial and it may even have temperatures written on it.

Turn the hot water heater down to around 55°C to 60°C.

It'll still feel hot but maybe not scalding hot. If you need hotter water while washing dishes, boil the kettle or microwave as much as you need.

If you're a parent there's an added bonus in that, should a child turn on the hot water tap in the bath, they are less likely to suffer severe burns.

Bladerunner poster

Saw this poster for Bladerunner and it's so beautiful that it jars with my memory of the grittiness of the film.


It doesn't seem so long ago that I wrote about being haunted by the image of a Syrian refugee holding his dead child.

This week I've had a number of reminders as this photo seemed to follow me around on my online travels.

I tried googling to find the name of the photographer and found many images of Syrian fathers holding dead children.

I've heard that throughout the 20th Century it was mothers who played a significant role in movements against wars and think these images of father grieving the loss of their children are worth reflecting on if humans are ever going to move beyond violence.

Mixed signals

Late last century a friend of mine was working in the public service in Canberra.

Specifically he was working in the Department of Defence, though somewhat unhappily. One day he showed me an internal mail bag marked Defence Signals Directorate.

It didn't mean anything to me, so he explained that the Signals Directorate were a secretive part of the Australian military that were often unacknowledged as their role was intercepting foreign communications.

These days they're better known, particularly after the 2013 news they had overheard conversations between then Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.

Anyway, this morning I remembered the DSD mail bag when I saw this advert appear on Facebook.

Funny thing was that as soon as I got the screenshot it vanished from beside my news feed.

Chastity clamp?

I've been pondering this clamp, which might be the male equivalent of a chastity belt.

I worry that, if I tighten it too much, my nuts might bolt!

Money fabulous

As a former editor I get a thrill finding typos in the local media.

This one is particularly great as the word that's wrong is like a 'Freudian slip' in the way it picks up on the theme of money from the paragraph before it.

History in the air

More than 80 years after the Gibbs brothers flew their homemade glider over Warburn near Griffith, it continues to generate interest.

Many have wondered what it would be like to fly and it’s been a pilot who has focused on how Gibbs flew. Dennis Buck recently visited the glider at Pioneer Park Museum and initiated correspondence to learn more about the aircraft. Captain Buck is a pilot who flew for the RAF and British Aerospace and also trained pilots for Australian airlines East West.

"Looking at William Lionel Gibbs' glider I wondered what inspired him to build and fly this aircraft,” explained Dennis Buck. “As he worked his farm he would have heard of the youth of Germany taking to the air in great numbers in primitive gliders. Forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles to have an Air Force, from this nucleus of partly trained glider pilots would grow the mighty Luftwaffe of World War Two.”

If it was this phenomenon of German youth taking flight, then it is ironic that William Lionel Gibbs would be killed over Holland fighting in World War II.

William Lionel Gibbs’ brothers Aswald and Harold assisted in the construction of the glider, which was an undertaking after supper over three years. In an interview in 1991 Aswald would recall the glider was built based on plans in a book titled ‘Primary Glider’.

“The fact that the glider flew would confirm that a set of plans was used otherwise the chance of getting the centre of gravity right would have been pure chance,” agreed Captain Buck.

“The aircraft itself must have been extremely well-made, suggesting William had exceptional woodworking skills. To tow a glider behind a car to launch it would certainly not have been recommended as the forces on the aircraft at even 20km/hr would have been immense.”

Fortunately the structure remained intact and the glider flew. “Had the framework been covered with linen and dope instead of silk and later linen and paint, greater things might well have been achieved,” speculated Captain Buck.

Lionel Gibbs’ diary records a total of 13 minutes airborne achieved over five flights in 1936, reaching an altitude of around 100 feet.

Captain Buck’s interest has been spurred on by questions from a glider pilot and former colleague in the UK, who is keen to know more about the aircraft. “I have a very interested glider pilot in the UK asking questions. I should not have mentioned it to him!”

So far the design of the Gibbs' glider remains a mystery. “There were magazines especially from the USA in the 1930's on how to build and fly a basic glider. It would seem that he considered flying lessons perhaps too expensive and like many glider pilots of that era learned by taking small hops and then mastering turns.”

“One thing that is interesting is that William was not selected for pilot training in the RAF. This would suggest that he had no formal training before attempting to fly.”

When the glider was donated to Pioneer Park Museum in 1972, Harold Gibbs was recorded by The Area News as saying Lionel was a self-taught pilot.

“He was the only glider owner in the district at the time... First he read books on ‘How To Be a Pilot’, then he practised flying by balancing the glider on a roller, in this case a small galvanised iron tank, facing into a sufficiently strong wind to give him soggy control. Then, with the aid of a motor tow, he took to the air.”

It is known that William later flew in a Tiger Moth but by then it would seem the glider made no more flights.

William would later join the RAF but being too old to be a pilot he was selected as an Air Gunner and died in a Lancaster crash while serving with 83 Pathfinder Squadron.

“Now is the time to recognise the Gibbs brothers' achievements by determining the origins of the design of the glider and restoring it to its former glory,“ enthused Dennis Buck.

Councillor Eddy Mardon, Chair of the Pioneer Park Museum Working Group, said Mr Buck’s comments highlight there are many remarkable stories in Griffith’s history and on display at the Museum.

“Exhibits such as the Gibbs Primary Glider contribute to telling the story of pioneering life in the MIA so that future generations can continue to learn about the can-do attitude that can still be seen today,” he said. "It seems incredible that a young man yearning to fly achieved his dream without leaving the family farm."

Visit the Museum and discover other great local stories from 9.30am to 4pm each day.