Monday, August 30, 2010

INTRICATE BEAUTY





Woke up late but still headed out for a brisk morning walk, and I was well and truly rewarded for my effort. Both the mountain and the valley were obscured from view as the village huddled in its cold, damp blanket of fog, and early visitors told us it was just us, the sun was shining everywhere else. The chilly start brought with it a heavy dew which revealed something rather beautiful.

If you’ve read any of my early entries you’ll know I’m not overly fond of spiders, but a dew drop laden spider’s web, I marvel at such a sight. What the spider weaves as a matter of course becomes something quite magical, the droplets sparkling like a string of tiny diamonds or pearls.

Wonderful how what is ordinary can become quite extraordinary with just a light touch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A TRANQUIL INTERLUDE





Headed off this morning, not on an energetic walk (naughty me, got up too late), but out with friends to the Evandale Market, then on to Tranquility Gardens just north of Launceston on the West Tamar Hwy. Since moving to Tassie fifteen years ago I’ve really enjoyed the fact you can drive into and out of even the major cities in a matter of minutes to reach the greenery on the other side. Though we’ve only had about half the amount of rainfall for the corresponding period last year, at the moment everything is lush and green, dams are looking healthy, and the brilliant sunshine of the past couple of days has brought people out and about.

Tranquility Gardens has been open as a restaurant for only four years, but was built about thirty years ago by a Japanese businessman as a holiday house. Situated atop a hill overlooking the Tamar Valley, a Japanese style garden was gradually established on the hillside, leading down to a man made lake. As is the case with traditional Japanese gardens, it is easy to see how the setting can become a place of quiet reflection. Meandering paths and bridges lead you gently down the slope, waterfalls, rivulets, manicured shrubs, stone sculptures, moss covered rocks and the lake with its fountain all combine to create a calming little world set apart from the busy pace of life outside.

It’s in these moments, as we sit and have lunch together in a delightful setting and wander around the gardens, I am reminded how vital friends are to our emotional well being. It’s all too easy to drift along in the daily routine, doing what I have to, then retreating to my cave at the end of the day. We all lead busy lives, and it would be easy to not make the effort to spend time with others, but when I do, my life is enriched.

I not only make contact with a world outside my own, but the time spent with friends reaps its rewards. It reminds me that these people are important to me. I care about them, and what’s really affirming, is I know they care about me. Investing in each other’s lives can have lifelong benefits, both for those who give and those who receive.

The day was topped off when on the homeward journey we witnessed the antics of the newborn lambs in the paddocks, and the black swan on her nest in the middle of a dam. Spring is coming, the promise of new life is already evident.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

7 WEEKS TO REACH "THE 10"

Finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, donned the trackies and walking shoes and headed off into the sunshine. After this week’s snow on the mountain, icy air and gale force winds, I’d run out of excuses for refusing to motivate myself once I peeped out from behind the bedroom blind.

The sun was glorious, daffodils and jonquils everywhere lapping it up, had a chat to the Shetland pony in the paddock as I went by. Managed 3km, got me going for the day, and I didn’t even mind hanging out the washing when I got back, first time it’s made it out as far as the clothes line for a while.

So, why the burst of activity? I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said “Now this year I’m going to do it” but never do. The annual Burnie Ten 10km road race is coming up on Oct 17, only 7 weeks away, and I’m already three weeks behind personal trainer Mark Connelley’s suggested ten week training schedule. Not that I have any illusions about getting super fit and actually running it. All I want to do is walk the distance and complete it. The elite athletes who turn up every year make the distance in half an hour or thereabouts, though I reckon it’ll probably take me a good hour and a half at the rate I go.

The Burnie Ten has become one of those things which I aspire to do but never get around to. I’ve given up all too soon when I’ve made an attempt at preparing, and the arthritis in my feet and hips reminds me I’m not the athlete I once was back in my school and college days.

We all have “To Do” lists we face every day, whether written down or in our heads, but as I said yesterday, I also have my procrastination list to work through, and this is as good a time as any to start ticking off the items.

Maybe the prospect of Spring just around the corner has woken me up, maybe it’s because the spare tyre round my middle has thickened and is weighing me down, whatever it is, anything that motivates me and produces some self discipline has to be positive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

ALL LOCKED UP

Yay…I did it myself. The front door lock is replaced, I can now open it from the inside as well as the outside, took me about 40 minutes all up, not bad for a novice ‘not very’ handy type person. Getting it apart was simple, but then had to go out to the shed and get the drill as the holes for the new one weren’t quite in the same place as the old one.

Managed that ok, put it all together then couldn’t get the key out of the lock. The little doo hickey that slots into the whatsit was the wrong way round wasn’t it, so had to unscrew it all, turn it round, put it all back together again, then hey presto out came the key. As you can see from the pic the left bit doesn’t line up 100% with the right bit, but I did the best I could with the section chiseled out of the door jamb from the last striker.

Procrastination definitely slows me down at times. The job itself wasn’t difficult, but believing I’d be able to do it, that’s usually the hard bit. I wonder how many other, more important things there are I put off doing, simply because facing them seems like a mountain way too high to climb. More often than not, it’s our relationships which suffer because we don’t bite the bullet and make the first move toward resolving whatever is the issue. A simple ‘sorry’ can work wonders, a word of encouragement, a compliment, ‘thank you’, a card or letter or email if face to face is too scary, it really doesn’t have to be that hard.

Ok, one job down, what’s next on the list.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IF ALL ELSE FAILS, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS

After three months of talking to visitors through my front door because the handle broke on the inside and I can’t open it, I finally made the obligatory trip to Bunnings to get a replacement. From $20 to $200, the vast array was a little disconcerting, so I was relieved to find there was really only one to choose from in the same style as what I had, otherwise I would’ve been there for ages scratching my head deciding what was best for my purpose. After my painting exploits, which I’ve put on hold while I muster up the energy to transform the laundry and the loo, I thought I’d attempt a few small jobs around the place.

Now I’m not totally incompetent, but for this one I thought it best to read the instructions, having never replaced a lock before. If I was whatsisname on Better Homes & Gardens I’d have it done in as much time as it takes the camera operator to move from one side of the door to the other to show us thickheads how simple it is. But I’m not whatsisname, and for me this is a major undertaking.

So, what’s a ferrule? Had to get the dictionary out for that one, otherwise I wouldn’t have known where to connect the cylinder connecting bar. The instructions look simple enough, there’s even pictures, so how hard can it be?

How many times have you purchased a new gadget or appliance and in your excitement to set it up and use it have completely disregarded the instructions? More than once I’ll hazard a guess, though there are some people who just seem to have the knack of knowing what goes where. The rest of us wonder why there are screws left over and why flat pack jigsaw puzzles with their trusty Alan keys simply destruct instead of construct.

If you’re anything like me you have any number of gadgets and appliances which have features you’ve never used. My digital camera and VCR guides are so extensive they guide me everywhere other than where I want to go, and the computer, well, one thing I have discovered is that the Help button is anything but.

Maybe that’s why life gets so complex at times. Things would be so much simpler if babies came with an instruction manual for instance, and if the tricky situations we encounter had a relevant “How To” manual to show us the way forward. Unfortunately, we have to negotiate our way through a myriad of life experiences, subjected to conflicting expectations and values both from within and without, so how do we do it without clear instructions? Where do we go when we need help?

Rules and regulations can sometimes feel like an imposition, and the natural tendency is often to go in the opposite direction. Whether we like it or not our behaviour affects those around us, so to plot a course where we remain intact without disaffecting the world around us, certain self limiting choices need to be made. To respond with any sort of integrity. I have to make the conscious effort to look beyond myself and operate from a solid value base, otherwise I become the centre of the universe, not a healthy place to be.

The thought on my desk calendar for today says “If you’ve been shown mercy and forgiveness by those whom you’ve wronged, don’t hinder the ripple effect. Show mercy and forgiveness to others who’ve wronged you.” The same goes for initiating positive actions, in the fashion of Pay it Forward. Random acts of kindness done without the expectation of a reciprocal response are as much a blessing to the one giving them as those receiving them. I know my day feels that much brighter when I’m on the receiving end of someone’s encouragement or generosity, and makes me more inclined to do the same for someone else.

But back to the nitty gritty. Got the lock, got my screwdriver, now where’s those instructions?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

DAY OF RECKONING

Snowed again during the night, but the sun is out, and about forty of us worked our little butts off this morning on several projects around Poatina village to clean up and beautify the place. There are certain jobs that are just too big for one person to do, or even if they’re not it’s a bit more fun to tackle them with someone alongside you sharing the load.

Election Day today, though I took the opportunity to join the long queue in town and voted yesterday. It’s in those moments when you’re faced with all those little boxes to tick next to many names you’ve never even heard of before, that you wish you could just get all the ones who really really know what they’re doing and give them the responsibility, no matter what political persuasion they are. A government that’s just a government, not a Labor or Liberal or Green or whatever, now there’s a novel idea.

One thing I am thankful for, is that the election campaign only ran for five weeks. It was plenty long enough, and compared to the interminable ordeal that US citizens have to put up with in their presidential election campaigns, we probably got off pretty lightly. Have tuned in to The Gruen Nation on ABC for the duration, appreciating their critique of the barrage of ads which have been driving us insane and probably have little bearing anyway on what our final choice will be. The best ads for each party have been those which the show commissioned advertising agencies to produce on certain issues. Done with so much more finesse than those we’ve actually been subjected to, you have to wonder who’s been producing them and endorsing them, believing they will actually have an impact on us poor unsuspecting public.

The last Federal election in 2007 was on my birthday, and I watched as the votes gradually tallied up in Labor’s favour. Well, there wasn’t anything else on TV that night, and tonight’s no different. The polling booths have been closed just over an hour here on the east coast, while those in the west with particular interest in regard to the mining tax issue still have time to influence the outcome. Watching the commentators interpret the 3% of votes already counted is a bit of a laugh, predicting swings this way and that, and you wonder what on earth they’re going to talk about while they wait for figures of any relevance on which to comment.

Tassie’s recent State election went down to the wire to such a degree it was three weeks before we discovered which party had won out. With this Federal election looking very similar and being on a knife edge either way, I certainly hope we’re not going to be dragged through a similar protracted agony while we wait for every vote cast from every corner of the globe before a conclusion can be drawn. That said, I have friends in Nigeria who headed to the Australian High Commission in Abuja a couple of days ago, the only place in all of Nigeria for Australians to vote, and I’m sure they’d want their vote to count whether the outcome was close or not.

I shudder to think how much has been spent on useless campaign material which could have been spent a lot more wisely. No matter what blurb we receive in the mailbox declaring the credentials of whichever candidate, we really have no idea who they are, or how competent, until they’re actually in the position. I drive past the offices of my local candidates, both Federal and State, but I really don’t know what they do all day. Do they care about what matters to the small business owner round the corner, the young parents with kids in childcare both working to make sure they can cover the mortgage, pensioners having to squeeze more out of their small income as prices rise? I hope they do.

I’m tired of hearing both Julia and Tony rabbit on about “my” government. Sorry guys, but it isn’t about you. It’s about all of us out here who put you there. As far as I’m concerned whoever becomes Prime Minister doesn’t hold a position of power, but one of service. You have the interests of 20 million people to handle, so get over your own agenda and do what’s necessary to get the job done.

It wasn’t easy voting this time. I want a Prime Minister who will inspire me, who will be a leader, who will instil confidence, and I’m afraid that has been sadly lacking this time round for me. So whatever the morning brings, whoever has the job, here’s hoping they get the right people around them who have a heart for this country and who are going to share the load.

Time will be the judge to see whether they have the true leadership to bring the rest of us along to share it with them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WINTER AT LAST

After a rather mild autumn, winter took a while to get moving down on our little Island, but it became difficult to concentrate on work yesterday afternoon as the snow started to fall right outside the office. An Antarctic blast which roared throughout the night brought our first decent dump of snow for the season on the Great Western Tiers, but you had to be up early to appreciate it. By 9am the sun had already melted most of what we could see on the northern side of the mountain where we’re situated, but some headed up for a better look and a bit of a play.

Funny how with the changes of the seasons, my habits seem to develop corresponding changes. Winter is my ‘hermit’ phase. The minute I get home from work, on go the ugg boots and trackie dacks and old woolly jumper, the fire is lit, coffee made, I grab my blanket and curl up on the couch to read for about an hour, and then when I can be bothered I start thinking about dinner. You’d be hard pressed to get me out of the house on any evening during winter unless something exceptional is happening; I much prefer to be warm and cosy.

I remember as a kid spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen during winter, for the delicious smells of winter soups and stews and puddings drew you there from any point in the house. The wind might have been howling, money might have been a bit scarce, but to see my mum going about her ordinary daily tasks gave me a feeling of ‘all’s right with the world.’

There’s something reassuring about finding a place of warmth, a place where we belong. Unfortunately for many, finding that with their own family simply isn’t possible, so the business of attaching oneself to a ‘family’ of some description where you can be yourself and feel safe can become a major preoccupation. I live very frugally and some would consider my existence pretty spartan, but I know I find it confronting when I compare my lot with that of others who are struggling.

I might live on my own, but my family extends far beyond my own children and their wives and my grandchildren. My siblings and all their tribes, my workmates, some of whom have been friends for decades, and other friends I still stay in contact with even though we meet up only rarely, are all part of my extended family. If I’m to be the person I’m meant to be, I need them all.

‘No man is an island’ is a much hackneyed phrase, and no matter how much I might enjoy retreating into my winter cave after a busy day, the need for meaningful interaction with others and a place to belong is in us all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

RELEASING THE PRESSURE

Have just washed the kitchen floor, nothing unusual in that, though I am having trouble remembering the last time I did it. Doesn’t exactly get very dirty most of the time, but my second kitchen disaster for the week meant the mop and bucket had to come out of hibernation.

All I did was open a bottle of soda water to add to my ginger, whereupon the cupboards, floor and most of me copped it. Amazing how much mess half a glass of soda under pressure can make.

I work in a pretty stress free environment, my workmates are good friends, so any pressure I feel is probably what I put myself under, having more to do with my own internal unresolved baggage rather than any external expectations. Whatever it is for you, in those times when we’re caught up in the ‘stuff’ that hooks us and brings us undone, things can tend to get a bit messy.

We can create quite a bit of collateral damage as we go through the day, being impatient, insensitive, feeling hard done by, excusing our behaviour by blaming anything and anyone other than ourselves for the tension, discord and lack of productivity lying in our wake.

Fortunately, each day dawns anew, with its chances for redemption and opportunities to address the often neglected internal and external stresses which have a habit of simmering away before blowing out sideways.

I’ll remember next time. It really is much wiser to lift the lid slowly, release the pressure gently.

Friday, August 13, 2010

'ALIENS' ARE PEOPLE TOO

Have just finished an interesting novel, The Air we Breathe by Andrea Barrett. Set almost a century ago in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Adirondack Mountain region in the US, close to the border with Canada, the patients feel far removed from the events of the First World War in Europe. However, things begin to change in this rural community when President Wilson brings the US into the war in 1917.

One of the patients, whose friend’s son dies as a result of being gassed on the battlefront in Europe, joins the local branch of the American Protective League and takes on what he believes is his duty to keep a watchful eye on all German nationals living in the region. The parallel to the bulletins aired some years ago in the Australian media about things to look out for which might arouse suspicion of terrorist activity on home soil were quite striking. Too easily, the mindset can become one of suspicion, distrust, blame, doubt, expecting the worst, pigeon holing people because of their race, religion or cultural practices, assuming their affiliation and behaviour will go against our national interest.

I’m all for being diligent and I wouldn’t want our defence forces and security agencies to assume there are no credible threats out there to our country’s national security. For me though, if I operated off that sort of mindset I think I’d go crazy. If you looked hard enough you could probably find likely suspects anywhere, under every rock, in every workplace, lurking in every corner and under every streetlamp. So how do you walk the fine line between good sense and hypersensitivity?

In times of war, internment camps have been full of foreign nationals, herded up and isolated from the general population regardless of whether they are a threat or not, often in diabolical conditions. These people became as much ‘prisoners of war’ in the country in which they chose to live, as those captured on foreign soil in the midst of battle.

With asylum seekers now fleeing the violence and persecution of their homelands searching for a spot somewhere, anywhere on the planet they can feel safe and make a new start, Australia has become a destination for many. Whether going through the correct channels or attempting to enter the country ‘illegally’, the promise of what the Land of Oz offers can sometimes be a long time coming for those lingering in detention centres, sometimes for years. They pretty much equate to the internment camps of the past, people groups fenced off and isolated, hoping against all hope their stories of horror will be believed and that those in authority will eventually allow them entry to a new country and a new life.

With the major parties on the election trail ensuring they will “stop the boats”, who speaks up for those in the interminable queues? I’m no strategist or formulator of foreign policies, but it’s obvious national security needs to go hand in hand with showing compassion and providing sanctuary for displaced refugees. Somewhere in there the humanity of the whole predicament has to be paramount.

Justice, mercy and compassion are central to the Christian message, and should likewise be central to any nation‘s dealings with those who are vulnerable. More than a few centuries ago the prophet Jeremiah spoke out to those in authority in a similar vein, reflecting how a nation’s character can be seen in the light of how it responds to the needs of its widows, orphans and aliens. You could easily include today single parents, homeless young people, those with disabilities, immigrants (both legal and illegal), and probably many more categories of vulnerable people who feel marginalised.

I would hate to think Australia would become a nation of closed doors, where we would be judged by others as a hard hearted people, interested first and foremost with the protection and preservation of our own lifestyle. If for some reason I faced a crisis of the proportions so many are dealing with on a daily basis right around the world, I would like to think there would be someone somewhere with open arms only too ready to provide the physical and emotional support such a situation requires.

Surely it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FIZZY PASTA, DINNER DISASTER

Left work early, eight people coming for dinner, and I still had to clean up after the second coat of paint completed last night. The offending dodgy wall is passable for the moment, but only just, so think I’ll still cover it up as soon as possible.

Anyway, back to today, clean up done, dishes done, herbed spuds in the oven, pizzas crisping up, fried rice on the go, now, how to cook the chicken curry pasta. With only two elements working on my stove, into the microwave it went, not the usual way I cook it. As everyone arrived with more casseroles in hand, the pasta was looking decidedly runny, not its normal creamy consistency.

Tossed it back in a saucepan, thought I’d hurry it along and thicken it with cornflour, grabbed the jar from the cupboard, mixed a spoonful with water and chucked it into the pan, whereupon the whole thing erupted like Vesuvius in a massive fizzy explosion.

Ooops, grabbed the jar of bi carb instead of cornflour didn’t I. Made for an interesting domestic science experiment as well as an entertaining start to the evening meal. Even ended up with a multi-coloured concoction, the bi carb somehow transferring the red out of the capsicum into some of the pasta, turning it orange.

Some of us were game to test a mouthful, but suffice to say, the neighbourhood chooks will be the ones feasting on that little culinary disaster for breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SURROUNDED BY SAHARA SAND

When you live on your own, there are certain jobs which take on such unnecessary proportions in terms of size and difficulty that procrastination sets in so I’ve retreated to write this instead of facing the monster. I’m in the middle of redecorating, well not really redecorating, just painting walls, covering the bland dull whatever with a warm shade of ‘Sahara Sand.’

It’s in these moments it would be very handy having a bloke around with a bit more expertise than me. Not that I’m useless, have painted plenty of walls in my time, but this house is fifty years old, and one wall, of course the one staring you in the face as you walk in the front door, is the dodgiest one and not looking that great. Did the right thing, scraped out the cracks, sanded all the rough edges, spakfilled with great abandon, sanded again, and that’s when the problem became apparent. What I thought would result in a lovely smooth surface definitely wasn’t so, and bits of filler started to crumble off. Repeated whole process in bad spots to no avail, doesn’t look much better.

Too bad I thought, I’ll put the first coat of paint on and see what it looks like. Did that last night, and in the light of day, decided I’ll probably buy some wallpaper and make a feature of it to hide the disaster!!


Have watched many a Better Homes and Gardens over the years, and am always perplexed how a whole house can be transformed in a weekend or a backyard paved and landscaped in an afternoon, all with smiling faces and seeming ease. I think the DIY shows have a lot to answer for in terms of people’s frustration, for what looks so simple on TV can turn into the most monumental disaster lasting a lot longer than a weekend. I have to remind myself they are Tradies and have been doing this stuff for years, have exactly the right tool for the job which never seems to be in my shed, and are paid to make it look easy so we’ll all go running off to Bunnings to recreate what they inspired us to do.


Funny how the picture we have in our head, whether it be a renovation or a relationship, new career or job, holiday, fancy gadget, whatever it is, doesn’t always materialize. The promise of what was to come somehow takes on a different shape, and the initial enthusiasm and enchantment can quickly lose its gloss and we wonder why we staked so much on this new thing dangling in front of us.


So what do we do with the disappointment? I guess we could wallow in it, doesn’t achieve anything apart from state the obvious, and doesn’t move us forward. Somewhere in there we have to do a reality check and reassess what is achievable, adjust our expectations, acknowledge that sometimes the dream we first envisaged may not be so bad even if it does receive some adjustments here and there.

My friend Jen has a quote on her blog “Oh Happy Day” which I reckon is very sound advice at such times.

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B – James Yorke

Oh well, second coat, here I come!