Tuesday, January 31


To a man with a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. Since I started strengthening my grip with those coiled spring handles, everything suddenly looks like a neck to wring.

I've been banking on the return to work to bring back the joie de vivre, but I'm still waiting for it to kick in.

Even though I'm glad I stayed away from last weekend's deifheid barbie and babble, I didn't make good use of my freedom, and the evening felt wasted.

I swam yesterday in sunshine but took little pleasure in it.

The wasps have been stinging for 3 straight days. You can't blame them when the bonehead hacking at their tree just won't take the hint.

I stupidly popped a tooth out of its moorings. The one that was so laboriously root-canalised last year. Now I've to wait and see if it goes ballistic and has to be pulled.

Thanks to the marvellous bliss pills, I'm immune to low spirits. But there's more to optimism than just a lack of pessimism.

Next week the clients will come in, and things will take off. That's nice, but the day will come when I stop work for good, and what will I fall back on then? My one and a half friends (even less since the dog died)? I daresay I could keep busy in the garden and on the web, but there's something to be said for euthanasia.

Happily, these are only feelings, which will pass.

PS - I was simply tea-deprived since Monday. One cup later, and the world's pretty wonderful again. Muddah Faddah kindly disregard this letter.

Sunday, January 29

mind and body

Getting on pretty well with my office-mate at work. Talk quite a bit. He appreciates me when I'm right, and stands up to me when I'm wrong. His sense of mischief goes well with my gallows sense of humour.

During the holidays, this was what I saw from my bed in the mornings.

Dreadful! Thankfully two of theme were only on temporary loan from work.

I downloaded two tracks from Electric Music... by Country Joe and the Fish. Strange how music that used to freak me out, can now sound so lovely and centering. I can actually hear each instrument now, instead of a single wall of angst.

I was immersed in that album one night, while minding Vinnie while he was tripping. As we listened to the circus-type music, he suddenly got the urge to visit the circus down in Leith. Against my better judgement I sat on the pillion while he piloted his scooter across the city. When we arrived intact at the other end, Viinne said for the whole ride he believed he was piloting a Spitfire, and all the cars were Messerschmitts. I hated the ride on the ferris wheel - Vinnie was cackling away and trying to capsize our bucket. Until then, I had assumed that the tripper, not his carer, was supposed to be the one in mental danger.

Pruning the mango tree, I was stung by several bees all at once. Face, arms and hand. I applied the bicarbonate of soda remedy, and within a few minutes it was bearable enough to forget about. I expect some people might say the bees are instant karma for my garden burning last week. Speaking of burns ...

(Not) The Selkink Grace

Some hae feet but cannae tweet
Some would Skype but want it
But we have Virgin
Of that we're certain
And sae the lord we thank it

(Not) To a Mouse

Wee Courin' Timorous Toastie
You're the lunch I like the Mosty
So I would chase thee with murderin' prattle
and if I don't catch thee, I'm sure the cat'll

Saturday, January 28


Victorian Albert lives in Australia. He likes to whinge about the place. If you believe him, Australia is a third-world wild west, running on crooks, incompetents and slackers. Their politicians are forever passing new laws, few of which are ever enforced. Albert despairs over the number of criminals who are let off. As recently as the 1990s, a man could still get off a murder charge by using a defence of homosexual panic: "he made an advance to me so I had to kill him".

But I think Albert may change his tune after his recent experience. I'll let you read it in his own words.

I had several piles of tree branches and leaves to get rid of, and some left over petrol. So I thought I'd bring the two together and have a bonfire in the garden. It's illegal, but I coudn't see the harm in it. It had rained for days so there was no chance of starting a bush fire.

Next thing you know, there's sirens, and a fire truck outside, and the garden's crawling with fire brigade in full battle dress.

Because it wasn't bush fire weather I probably wouldn't be arrested and shamed on national TV. I apologised and wondered how big the fine would be.

The captain guy stood beside me as we watched his men putting out the fire. He said "your neighbors dobbed you in mate, you can't light fires these days". Then he said quietly "there's a way around the law. Next time, build your fire in an old oil drum, and have a wire grill and some sausages nearby. When we turn up, you say you're just having a barbecue".

There was no talk of a fine. They were almost as apologetic as me. Makes you proud to be Australian. What a great country this is!

So it looks like Albert is all for enforcement of laws, only "not in my back yard".

Wednesday, January 25

the recurring dream

A busy dreaming night last night. Same old variation on a theme. For decades I've dreamt situations where I'm arriving to stay for a while in a new house. The focus is usually on how I'm going to fit in with the other people, especially where I'm going to sleep.

Sometimes I'm arriving alone to stay with old friends (usually a happy couple). Other times I'm arriving with a whole lot of people at an empty house. Last night, with the cellmate and her friend, plus all our kids including my son (based on my brother Peter), I was arriving to stay at the ruins of Dazzle's big old house.

As the only person who knew the house layout, I showed our group around all the bedrooms, explaining the best features of each. I reminisced over times when I had slept in some of the rooms, and with how many folk, and the camaraderie. And I explained the advantages of each room, like an estate agent.

Then I suggested that people in our party choose their rooms and room-mates, based on who snores, who likes the window open, etc.

Because of my age and experience of the house, I was in a role of authority yet keen to remain an equal.


The theme of choosing a billet reminds me of a long time ago, when I was in a Scottish co-counselling network/circus. As well as our regular evening meetings, we used to go on holidays together. On arrival at some rented house, we would choose our dorms based on who we wanted (and who we didn't want) to share with.

Often we had mixed dorms, but it was never sexual (as far as I noticed). I loved the cosy comfort of sleeping in a room full of comrades, male and female. At the same time I hated sharing with noisy or difficult people. One time I made up a bed in an airing cupboard because it was warm and I wanted to be alone.

The dream reminds me also of my backpacking world tour followed by a year touring around Scotland, cadging lodgings with friends and even a week in hospital on one occasion.

The recurring dream could be a metaphor for my life. Always shifting, making new decisions. In some ways I'm still a rolling stone. But maybe we all are.

I notice that in the dreams where I'm travelling alone and a guest of old friends, I'm always aware of the power-disparity between them (usually a wealthy and established couple) and me (solitary, rootless and traveling light). That's what it was actually like when I was a gypsy.

Monday, January 23

the accused

I was watching The Accused with the cellmate. Half way through, I said "I never know with Jimmy McGovern whether he's condemning working class machismo or apologising for it".

The cellmate said "well it doesn't have to be one thing or the other". I do believe she's turning into a freelance taoist.

Sunday, January 22

i wish this would go on forever

It's not often you find yourself thinking "I wish this would go on forever". Last night's jazz concert was like that. "Please don't stop playing this number. But when it finishes, please say you'll play another one."

Music for the head and the feet. Complex, relentless, playful and joyful. Just two musicians, at the top of their game. In the best hall in the city. Americans. A timely reminder that America's still great for some things. I saw a tweet recently, "The US is the laughing stock of the world". There's truth in that, but it's also arguably the greatest country in the world. It's never a case of either/or.

In life, only rarely is something so good that I think to myself "I wish this would go on forever". Maybe that's appropriate when we're all going to die sooner rather than later. I still have brief moments when my mind or my body jumps for joy. And longer periods when I accept mother nature and my role as a decaying organism.

And now a word from our sponsor. Taoism reckons that a thing isn't black or white, it's both. And even black contains a wee bit of white, and vice versa.

Friday, January 20

there goes another one

Friday, the last day of my summer holidays, and the rage levels are about 90%. I like my job, but I wanted more from the hols and now it's too late. Dying probably feels like this but worse.

Thank goodness for the small consolation of Cookies and Cream:

Wednesday, January 18

learning experience

I was going to see a jazz band in the park, so I invited along some jazz lover friends of ours. They kindly brought along a picnic rug and some wine, but that turned it into a natterfest, and I was trying to listen to the music.

As the designated driver I was the only sober one, and when I went off to find myself some lunch I was seen as a party pooper. I copped a lecture on the way home. Allegedly as the jazz instigator it was my responsibility to stick around until everyone else had enough booze and chatter.

Will I never learn? If you're serious about something you have to go it alone.

But the day was not a total washout, as I introduced 3 or 4 new yoga poses to my routine tonight. I found them in a book. That's progress. And I made a fantastic dessert tonight - chopped up nectarine with creamy natural yogurt.

PS After wasting another couple of hours trying unsuccessfully to modify the black background, the best I could manage was a different colour for the surround. I know when to give up. Since I started blogging, blog templates have evolved to be much more complex, and life's too short to learn advanced CSS.

cutting down the monster

Spent all yesterday in hot sun, cutting down this horrible strangling creeper that was colonising several trees.

Each tendril is yards long, dotted with cluster bomb colonies at intervals. If you try and just tear it down, either the tendrils snap or the bomb colonies fall to the ground and break apart into separate tubers, that roll away into gaps, where they sprout hundreds of new plants. Like metastatic cancer.

So you have to take them by stealth, either unravelling each strand individually (too slow) or chop down all the affected tree parts, then dismantle the spaghetti on the ground.

It would have been dispiriting work, except I was fuelled by hatred of the stuff. And I had enough ladders and useful equipment.

Friday, January 13


I tried deleting the twitter widget and going back to normal, but Blogger won't allow it. So meantime I've chosen this black thing from the standard templates on offer, as a mark of respect for my faithful old template, sacrificed in the pursuit of twitteration. Farewell old friend, one of a kind.

Thursday, January 12

random acts of progress

Well I've finally found some of the things that I hid from the burglars before going away. I still have to work out where I stashed the hard drives.

My New Year resolution lasted all of 2 weeks (which is probably still longer than some of the people who visit this blog). I wasn't going to buy any more books, but today I picked up a wee non-technical user manual for Twitter, to help me pick up the finer points of twittiquette.

In the bookshop I suddenly got the screaming neck pain. Hardly surprising really, as I was doing all three trigger activities - wearing headphones AND an overloaded backpack, AND browsing through bookshelves with my head tilted. What an idiot! That's the first neck pain in about a year. Instead of the usual reaction of sweating panic, I had the presence of mind to work out what to do (stop in the street and do neck stretches).

One upside of the screaming neck pain was an excess of adrenalin, and so tonight, after half a bottle of freedom ale, I went jogging for a whole ten minutes without stopping.

Back home, coming out of the shower, I mixed up some plant food solution, and went out the back door to feed and water the plants. The garden is completely hedged in with shrubbery, except for one gap. And the Christian neighbour happened to be gawking in at that gap, which is how he saw me appear starkers carrying what looked like jugs of urine. What could I do, but act normal and say hullo?

new year reso rediscovered

Even before I remembered one of the N Y resolutions that I had lost on the iPhone, I had already been putting it into practice without realizing it.

The resolution was to start catching up on all the large and small projects that I had shelved or procrastinated over the years.

For instance yesterday I finally finished painting the kitchen, a job that I started years ago, and had done 95% of, before losing interest around 2009.

I've also resumed the job of scanning old 35mm slides into the computer. Partly in order to bin the physical objects; and partly so I can blog some. Looking at photo memories is actually very engrossing, and allegedly helps ward off senility. Eventually I'd like to scan all the photo albums too, and send them on CDs to surviving family.

Books. Before I borrow or buy another book or ebook, I want to read some of the dozens sitting on my shelves (and several from the cellmate's shelves).

Other jobs I have been putting off include getting people in to build new doors for the garage and the shower.

And that reminds me of an associated N Y resolution - to recognise whenever a job is best left to the experts. I know I can turn my hand to most jobs, but life is too short to master everything.

Wednesday, January 11

reading/writing sentences

Research shows that reading makes us more empathetic. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/-1ph65.html

Maybe there's implications for ASBO policy - forget community service sentencing, put them in libraries, chained to a book. You might have to sew their eyes open, clockwork orange style. And a new type of librarian would be required to manage these readers - librarians with boxing experience could demand astronomical salaries.

And if reading has been shown to change brain structure, what effect might writing have?

PS. Since I added the twitter feed to this blog, I have been unable to comment here, and thus unable to reply to comments. Typical! For every step forward, there's a step backward. It all balances up.

Tuesday, January 10

twitter widget nuisance

Since I added the Twitter widget to this blog, in an effort to become au fait with one of the newer social channels, I find it's impossible to comment from a pad/pod/iPhone.

Luckily none of the regular commenters here seem to be using Apple devices, but I like to be able to reply. So I'll have to start using a PC again. In the long run I may eventually have to remove the twitter thing if I can't fix it. Anyway, I mostly use Twitter to read (people like Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins, as well as Scottish folk I know), not to tweet.

Sunday, January 8

international excellence

Every day, at least two Australians are arrested for crimes somewhere in the world. When Albert told his cellmate, she said "I'm surprised it's so few".


Friday, January 6

world champions

Some people think the antipodes are a bit behind the rest of the world, but according to The Lancet, Australia and NZ lead the world in per-capita use of dope and speed.

So maybe I'll retire there, and catch up on all the decades of missed drug opportunities. It all balances up.

Thursday, January 5

volcanoes, mushrooms, planks

Near the end of the NZ time, I had a great day out with some outlaws and their in-laws, all good people and hardly deifheids at all. What fun! All my training in misanthropology went out the window.

We walked up a couple of extinct volcanoes, and came to this. What is it? If you need a clue, Vinnie's Moll's guess was ingenious but wrong: "some kind of antipodean putting green, where you have to hit the ball up onto a mushroom instead of down into a hole".

Rory planking on a "mushroom".

Rory's fit auntie planking.

Rory planking on a cannon.

Rory planking over a drop.

Rory planking on his dad.

Albert using his dome as a beacon, to guide helicopters to the landing pad.

Monday, January 2

minor triumphs today

I repaired the washing machine by fitting a new drive belt. Something I've never done before and will probably never have to do again. Still, even if I could have got a tradesman to do the job on a public holiday, it would have cost a bit.

I updated the operating system in the phone without mishap. Well almost without mishap - of the hundreds of apps, the only one I lost was the app with all my new year resolutions in it. Quite convenient perhaps.

I found and drank a bottle of Batch Number 6 (a home brew lager I made nearly 7 years ago). A golden sparkling lager, and about 3% alcohol.

When I weed the garden, I like to put the weeds in a bucket and fill it with water. It slowly rots down into weed tea, for feeding to other plants. A month ago I spread the tea around the bottom of the garden. Today I noticed the ferns and the ginger were as tall as me, and the bamboo is up to the sky like a beanstalk.