Friday, November 30

Brisbane - Miles - Charleville

Here I am in dusty hot Charleville.  It is what I thought it would be like - but some things disappoint me.  I know this part of Queensland has faced flooding, and it is awesome to see how far the water came through the town, but the town looks tired and worn out - which I don't think can be blamed on the floods.

I had three nights in Miles in my No 17 Bunker at Possum Park.  This is quite a remarkable property with David and Julie Hinds running it since 1985.  It is a working cattle property, but with a big caravan park, train carriage accommodation, the bunkers, camping and more.  As this area is in the midst of a huge mining boom (coal, and coal seam gas) they have a number of cabins or dongas too.  They are wonderful hosts - even when I arrived I was invited in for a cup of tea in Julie and David's bunker.

I spent much time in Miles especially the Historical Village which is worth many hours to explore the many amazing exhibits.

Does anyone remember when butcher shops looked like this?

Registered and ready for the road.

Inside an empty large bunker.

There is plenty to see around Miles, especially if you are interested in history.  Do you remember learning about explorer Ludwig Leichardt?  He visited the area, I think in around 1844, and named the place Dogwood Crossing - the town of Miles is on the high side of the Dogwood Creek, which is a pretty lazy creek until the big rains come and fill the whole area.

I set off to Mitchell after three nights in Miles, and was disappointed.  REally, it is a very small town, dry, dusty, and as a new bridge is being built over the river, there is an element of chaos at one end of the town.  I had hoped to swim in the Artesion Spa, but that was closed too.  My cheepie motel was ok, and funnily the owners used to live at Tingalpa - close to where I have lived for nearly 20 years in Brisbane.

Mitchell to Charleville was a good run - though dodging emus was the challenge.  There were so many - many adults with three or four chicks feeding on the side of the road.  Clearly driving overnight or dawn or dusk is kangaroo time as the deceased animals litter the road, and the challenge driving in the day is avoiding great corpses on the road.  Luckily there was little traffic on the road, in fact I only saw one vehicle travelling in the same direction as me,from Morven and Charleville and it was a water truck that turned off not far from Morven, and perhaps less than a dozen vehicles passed in the other direction.

I spent a few hours at the Cosmos Centre - learning all about the stars.  A very interesting exhibit.

Saturday, November 24

24 Hours to go!!!

Well, I should be packing, but it is early and I am on track. I think.  I hope.  Have a few things to do and then it is hard slog to do the final preparations.

All is well though.  No time to write.  Must keep going.

Wednesday, November 21

Is it the last House Sit?

Well, it is for a while, that's for sure, with my Driving Oz Adventure starting on Sunday.  I moved out of the last house sit yesterday.  The owner came home and saw my pile of stuff to pack into the car.  It is surprising how much stuff one accumulates.  I have quite a few things - in part because I don't have a base, and in part because I actually use a lot of things.  I had my sewing machine and my sewing box with me this time, and a bag of wool, needles and fabric.  I must keep busy, and crochet, knitting and playing with fabric helps me.  I will take a bag of wool and needles and crochet hook with me on my travels!

I had two bags of shoes to pack yesterday - some are going to the poor, two pairs I don't wear any more but are still in good condition.  I had bags of food - some just bits and pieces that I will eat over the next few days and others I have ready for the journey.

My computer, printers, etc and so it goes.  I saw on TV a lady who flies from place to place for house sitting - I don't think I could do that!  Maybe that is the way to downsize.

Oh, well, from Sunday, it is whatever fits in the car!!  And no, no roof racks.

Sunday, November 18


I have three more nights here at my house sit - so I am tidying up and doing a few things.  There was a  garden box of dead plants so I have put a leittle garden soil and some lobelia - blue ones actually, so I hope they flower well for the owner.

I bought the plants at a little nursery at Wellington Point, and was thrilled to see that they had some huge bamboo plants growing.  So, having my camera on board, I took a few photos.

Friday, November 16

Old Places

Often I am surprised to see derelict homes and sheds in suburbia - and reflect on the story.  My previous post with the old house rigt in the midst of a suburb less than 20 kms from the city centre.  Today's photos are from around Birkdale on the outer fringes of Brisbane city, where there are many more acreage properties and many acres of bushland, market gardens, flower farms etc.

Above is a derelict home on the edge of a market garden - you can see the worker (owner?) tilling the plot by hand.  I remember once, a long time ago, I used to buy vegetables from the farm here - from a shed near a house on the other side of the plot.

This old farmshed is on government property now.  I am not sure what is done on the property now - it is huge, and out of bounds, but the old shed hangs in there.

Thursday, November 15

Last Few Days

I am a bit fragile these last few days - is it contemplating the huge task I have driving around Australia solo, or is it the bashing threat of last weekend, is it the thought of packing up and moving, and fitting everything else into my life at the moment, or could I just be very tired?

Last night I handed over the reigns to a new President of Bayside South Development Forum, Inc. so a new team will take on the responsibility for taking the organisation forward.  I wish them good fortune.

I am going to miss being around Wynnum, as I also contemplate not returning to this place when I finish my journey.  Still undecided.  We will see what life brings.

Earlier this week I took my camera to Wynnum - just a few photos that I thought I would share.   I do like photographing old buildings.  This derelict house is not far from the Wynnum CBD.  Not far away was this sight - which always amuses me when I pass.  Who would have thought of using a car for this?

I am headed out today to take pictures of some sights around Birkdale.

Wednesday, November 14

Some Thoughts on House Sitting

I only have six more nights at this house sit - before moving back to my daughter's place for a few days before I set off on my journey.  A few have happened at this house, that have made me reflect.

A week or so ago, I noticed finger prints around the door of the owners car.  It is thick with dust - undercover and as I don't have the key, it stays where it is.  Did someone come and do something to the car?  A would be robber perhaps?  I  was alert to the possibilities, but wasn't sure.

Last night I received a strange phone call from Origin (the company that supplies electricity) saying the bill had not been paid, so I called the family member who was 'in charge' of matters financial. Family members came and sorted through the mail.  It seems the home owner pays all the accounts automatically online, so it was a strange!  It appears that there were some changes made as she is about to have solar panels put on the house.  Another call came through later again reminding that the bill needed to be paid, or else the electricity would be cut.  Help!!!!  I am sure it will be paid, if it has not been done already.

Then the dog was chasing something in the garden, and we found a big cane toad.  While one family member held it in the spotlight of my small torch, and the other went looking for something sharp, I donged it with a broom, and it was quickly caught and put in a plastic bag for disposal.  Then Allie (the dog) found another small one, which I also donged, but it disappeared.  So poor Allie was locked in the house overnight.  Luckily she didn't get any poison, and is sitting happily beside me as I write.

I learned that the family had indeed been at the house, and it was they who opened the owner's car door, and quite appropriately started it up.  However, I would have appreciated a note or an SMS to say they had been to allay my concerns about a possible intruder.

After saving Allie from the toad, I have come into the house and in the bathroom was a huge spider, which sadly I had to kill.  Insect spray works well!!!

When I look around I have piles of things to sort through before I leave.  One pile is the camping gear - tent, inflatable bed, various bags (one with all my brochures and travel magazines).  I have a pile of clothes on my bed, now two printers as I had to do some extra printing for someone, and so on.  It is a fact that a long house sit (and this one has been two months) one gathers things.  Especially as I am setting out to travel and I have bags of Christmas gifts which I hope to distribute to the appropriate families this week.  I have no cupboard space.  I just have boxes and small piles of bits and pieces.  I had wardrobe space but no hangers.  I have food, but apart from the refrigerator no space to store my meagre supplies.

I intend to leave the house as good as, if not better, than when I arrived.  I have lots of work to do.

Digital Conference

I received an invitation to Click! Digital Expo through the Bayside South Development Forum, Inc, of which I have been president for the last two years.  The AGM is tonight (November 14th) and I have my fingers crossed that there are volunteers to take over from me as I will be on my journey from November 25th.

It was an all day event at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane, conveniently located above the Brisbane Central Railway Station.  The various conference rooms were the venue for speakers on a range of topics about the digital age.  Some were way beyond my ability to understand, but of course, I am not a high flying business person with huge needs in the digital sphere.  Interesting as it all was, I am highly unlikely to even be associated with those who are using, or should use these products and services.

I was invited to listen to Lord Mayor Graham Quirk's address, and I was mightily impressed.  It seems that there are only two major cities in the world that have focused on the digital world and what it can do for their cities, and their people.  One is New York (should be no surprises there!) and the other is,  (drum roll.................) Brisbane.  Did you know we have our very own Chief Digital Officer, and our city subsequently has a Digital Strategy.

Recently 500 businesses in Brisbane were surveyed about their digital awareness, capabilities and plans, and those and other information is available at a website, Digital Brisbane.

One question for those in business, or in not for profit organisations is -

Do you have a Digital Strategy?  Mmm. I'll have to think about that one.

It is more than just having a website, and an email address.

Several of Brisbane's "Digital Champions" were in a discussion panel and explained what they do, how they do it etc, and clearly there are some awesome results out there.

(As a postscript I note my daughter, after failing to find a carpark after 45 frustrating minutes of driving around Carindale Shopping Centre, has decided to do all her Christmas Shopping online.)

Food for thought!!!

Sunday, November 11

Lest We Forget

I don't know if everyone remembers it as well as I do, or perhaps as folk who were around in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's would remember so clearly, but I would never be able to forget Remembrance Day, in part because both my parents were in the Army, but living in post Second World War II Australia, war was at that time recent history.

I know that on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour, we stopped and remembered.  Lest We Forget.  The ceremony is clear in my memory - the words and the mournful sound of the trumpet.

Today I saw it on television - I had just turned television on to the Cricket at Woolloongabba here in Queensland, in time to see the end of the ceremony there.  It did, as always, move me and tears do fill my eyes.  I think age is making me more emotional about a lot of things - especially ceremony.

My mother is now 97 years old.  Her birthday was last month - and sadly I was not able to be with her as she is in Adelaide and I am in Brisbane.  I will see her in a few weeks.  I know she would want to, but not sure if she would remember what this day is all about.

Dementia is a terrible condition, robbing her of her memory, though sometimes I am grateful that she does not remember much, as she lives in her own twilight sort of world, where, for the most part she has found happiness.

Last Night as Photographer

I have been the "official" unofficial photographer for the Wynnum and Districts Chamber of Commerce for several years now, and last night was my last function before I head off on my journey.  And what a busy night it was as the Premier of Queensland was a special guest/

Friend JH and the Premier, Campbell Newman

Federal Member for Bonner, Ross Vasta and Manuel.
 doing the Wynnum wave.
There were some very strange characters in attendance, not just the politicians, and a good  night was had by all.  We had a little 'studio' complete with reflector white umbrella, borrowed from my photography teacher Paul Farris, at at the end of the night there were quite a lot of shenanigans in the "studio".  For me it was a very busy night!

Our State Member of Parliament Neil Symes as life guard.

Having fun at the party!

Friday, November 9

Berlin Wall

I guess that few people, unless they are around my vintage or older can remember much of events in Europe following World War II.  OK, I was born just prior to the end of the war, so clearly have little memory of much of it, though I do recall as a child sharing the fear of my parents and others, who wondered if any other such catastrophe would pit country against country again, and slam us into the destruction and death that was World War II.  I certainly can recall having nightmares about it - as it was the topic of conversation at times with the adults around me - perhaps partly becasue both my parents had been in the military.

It is recognised that on this day, in 1989, that the Berlin Wall came down.  It didn't happen overnight, but piece by piece, bit by bit, it was pulled down.  People from both sides came with hammers, and various tools and helped demolish this blight on Germany.

There is much to read about this sad part of history - and perhaps Wikipedia will give readers some insights.

There are more images here. 

Also Time LIFE magazine has a series of photographs that are worth looking at too.  Click here to see them.

War is so terrible, and I don't like it, but unfortunately there are some wicked people in the world that we need to protect ourselves and our country from - so our military must be prepared to fight, and sadly die.  This week is a time to reflect on what sacrifices are made by those who protect us!

Lest We Forget.

Monday, November 5

Plans Underway

Every day now, I make further plans, check my list of things to do and to take, and count the days until I leave Brisbane on my epic journey around Australia.  I must say there are days when I have almost panic attacks thinking about it, but mostly I look forward to it all with great excitement and enthusiasm.

I've put the tent up, but acknowledge that a little bit of male help, or at least a second person, would be great, and I managed to fold it up and fit it back in the bag - though folk have told me that was the most difficult part and I managed it first go.

On the food side, I have started collecting items to take. Coles have skim milk in UHT packs at $1 each, so I have a good supply of those and some meal replacements. Bargain at that price and I have tried it and quite like the taste, even with the meal replacement powder.   I figure that using these will help me save money and perhaps even lose weight!  I've bought a few containers of tasty meal replacements, as well as a range of other foods.  I could probably live for almost two weeks off the supplies I already have, and that is all I need initially to  get to Adelaide.  I will eat food, fresh fruit and vegetables especially and look forward to a steak on the barbie occasionally too.

I have booked my first accommodation at Miles, some 5 hours drive from Brisbane. My first port of call. I had been excited to stay at a place called Possum Park - as I do want to stay at unusual places.  I will of course stay in some motels, but if I can get accommodation at a fair price at an interesting place I will do so.

Reminisces of Guy Fawkes Nights

Today is November 5th - a date which was significant in my childhood - the celebration of Guy Fawkes. I feel somewhat sad in a way that my children and their children and so on will not know about Guy Fawkes, but how we celebrated his misdeeds.  He was the man who, in 1605,  was plotting to blow up the House of Lords in London, was arrested and found guilty and set to be hanged. He  avoided the hangman’s noose by jumping from the scaffold from which he was to be hanged, the following January, and broke his neck, killing himself, thus avoiding the noose.

As a child I knew little of the story, but we celebrated Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) every November 5th.  In the lead up to early November, timber was collected and built into a huge pile, usually well away from any houses or trees, and on the evening of November 5th, families would gather around the pile, taking with them the fireworks which they bought from local shops. There were a range of fireworks, including sparklers (which I think is the only type still available freely in Australia), penny bungers, sky rockets, spinners and lots more.

The fathers and other males would be in charge of the fireworks, as everyone knew that there was a risk of injury (burns were common) and the fear of setting of a fire in the usually tinder dry bushland of Australia at that time of year.  There was always an effigy – scarecrow like figure sitting on top the big bonfire, and around the children played with sparklers and occasional let of one of the other safer fireworks.

It was such a fun night, and the next day around the embers or coals of the fire, children would search for unexploded fireworks.  It was not uncommon around this time for children, usually ‘naughty’ boys to let of fireworks in other places too – lighting one and putting it in someone’s mail box was one common event, and for those who had an outdoor dunny/toilet, letting one off in the dunny also created much amusement.

Sadly, but probably wisely, the Australian government around 1982 banned the sale of fireworks (except sparklers) for public sale and consequently only qualified or registered businesses were allowed to purchase and use fireworks in Australia.  Now of course, we see amazing firework displays at special events, e.g. New Year’s Eve, Riverfire and often local community events.

Guy Fawkes Night was so much fun, and despite the fact that we can watch in awe the amazing displays of modern fireworks, I do think the local community event with our own fireworks was amazing fun.  I do acknowledge that there were many people burned, and often grassfires and even houses bore the brunt of a wayward spark.

Fireworks were invented in China, and I was always amused at how easy it is to get fireworks and use them there.  Almost every day one would hear fireworks!  Even at dawn they would go off if someone had died, and in the afternoon you would hear great explosions.  Apparently achieving the day’s goal of sales or manufacture would cause celebrations in this way, and weddings too – in fact any reason for celebration would include some fireworks.

In the city of Shaoxing we would pass small shops with a wide range of nothing but fireworks – huge rockets which made the ones we played with as children look like tiny toys, and many others that I could not recognise.I remember one of our Aussie teachers purchased something she thought was a roll of wrapping paper, only to discover she had bought two huge fireworks!

These days I can only reminisce about Guy Fawkes Nights in Adelaide!

Friday, November 2

Requiem for Eli

As I have mentioned earlier I listen to ABC Classic Radio.  Several times recently I have heard a special piece of music played.  Yesterday when in the car I heard it and wrote down the name, to remind me to look up details of it.  Again I heard it this morning.

A search on YouTube brought up the video below, and the extra ordinary story of how Australian composer Nigel Westlake came to change something he had been working on, to a glorious tribute to his son, Eli, who tragically was killed in 2008.

The video below tells the story and you hear some of the music, but if you want to hear it all, you will have to buy the CD - it is available at ABC Bookshops and online.

While researching Nigel Westlake I came across a website called  "Happiness and it's Causes" - an organisation that has been operating for some either years.  There is an awesome conference in Melbourne in June next year with some amazing speakers.

Today I have shed tears, about Nigel's story and after listening again to some of the music of Eli's Requiem, which I will buy very soon.  I'd love to go to the conference so I will try and work out how to do so.

There is a CD at ABC bookshops for around $20, or at ABC Bookshops online.

ps  I bought the CD on 3/11/2012 and just love the music! I will post more about the story of the music which I found on the CD packet.

Moreton Bay

I don't know where I first heard this song, a rather mournful but telling tale about the way prisoners were treated in the early days of Australia.  It is called "Moreton Bay".  The Bay is where I love to live - at least on the land side.  Moreton Bay is that huge area into which the Brisbane River runs.  Of course we know that the city of Brisbane was built around the huge Brisbane River, the one that sadly has flooded causing much damage in the area in recent years.

Not far from the mouth of the Brisbane River is St Helena Island, not a tourist destination and National Park, but the 'home' to some of our state's early criminals.  It is said that no one escaped from the island - it is a long swim from the mainland, and there were  bound to be hungry sharks waiting for a feed.

This morning I heard the song Moreton Bay on ABC 106.1 (my so very favourite FM Radio station which I listen to from the minute I wake in the morning and in the car.  I love my classical music - and almost anything that is played on this station.  Not real keen on much classical singing, but mostly I can put up with it.  It is the instrumental and orchestral work that I love. I digress.

These are the lyrics (courtesy of Wikipedia)

One Sunday morning as I went walking
By Brisbane waters I chanced to stray
I heard a convict his fate bewailing
As on the sunny river bank he lay
I am a native from Erin's island
and banished now from my native shore
They tore me from my aged parents
And from the maiden whom I do adore

I've been a prisoner at Port Macquarie
At Norfolk Island and Emu Plains
At Castle Hill and at cursed Toongabbie
At all those settlements I've woked in chains
But of all places of condemnation
And penal stations of New South Wales
Of Moreton Bay I have found no equal
Excessive tyranny each day prevails

For three long years I was beastly treated
And heavy irons on my legs I wore
My back with flogging is lacerated
And often painted with my crimson gore
And many a man from downright starvation
Lies mouldering now underneath the clay
And Captain Logan he had us mangled
At the triangles of Moreton Bay

Like the Egyptians and ancient Hebrews
We were oppressed under Logan's yoke
Till a native black lying there in ambush
Did give our tyrant his mortal stroke
My fellow prisoners exhilarated
That all such monsters a death may find
And when from bondage we’re liberated
Our former sufferings shall fade from mind

According to Wikipedia  "Moreton Bay is an Australian Folk Song attributed to Francis MacNamara, originally titled 'The Convict's Arrival' or 'The Convict's Lament on the Death of Captain Logan'. It tells of the hardship a convict has experienced at different penal settlements around Australia, in particular, the penal colony at Moreton Bay which was established to house convicts that reoffended in settlements in New South Wales. "  A very brutal time in Australia's history!