Française classes 🇫🇷

Just finished my first in-person Française class, with Alliance Française de Ballarat. Learning face-to-face is so different, and good for both my pronunciation and my ear. Thoroughly enjoyed the class, looking forward to next week…

Driving lesson #1(b) 🚙

Took my boy out for his first real driving lesson on a quiet road in a park near our house. We learnt how to:

Altogether he did OK. I figured we’d argue and the lesson would take all of five minutes but he listened and obeyed and it was good, far better than my first with my old man, which resulted in a road rage incident1, me throwing a man’s keys into bushes nearby and not driving for another 5/6 months!


  1. The other driver caused the road rage incident, angry at having to wait at an intersection for an ‘L Plater’. [return]

Check out the awesome patina on a belt I made for a mate, who has worn it every day in the years since.

Watching a model yacht sail the pond at Victoria Park in Ballarat, during one of my ‘Recovery Walks’. Had a nice chinwag with the ‘sailors’, one was an actual Navy sailor until 1985, we were the same rate! Beautiful and interesting afternoon…

Sharks of Lost Island documentary 📺📽🐟🌊🏝🇵🇳

Just watched Sharks of Lost Island on Disney+. It was a little ‘American’ in parts — what I mean by this remark is that American documentaries tend to overexaggerate how dangerous a reef shark is, etc for ‘dramatic purposes’ that aren’t truly needed for a good documentary. Sure they have teeth and might bite. So might a poodle. Nature is inherently beautiful and fascinating and awe-inspiring. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need fast racy music and suspense to grab viewers’ attention. I find this style most prevalent in documentaries made for the American market and hence my remark.

That said, I watched this doco for two primary reasons:

  1. I love fish, sharks and underwater footage; and
  2. I have been intrigued for years about Pitcairn Island and its centuries-old history and troubles with modern day sexual assaults and culture.

On these points the doco doesn’t really disappoint — the sexual assault stuff is not mentioned, of course, being out of the ‘scope’ of a nature doco — and the viewer is treated to an up-close view of one of the world’s most remote, and difficult to reach, islands. At 45 minutes it’s worth watching just for these things. There was also a young bloke named Alan Turchik who was pretty funny, a kinda wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn on his maiden sea voyage who is all nerves and nerdiness and has to prove himself to the team after a mishap, which you can either watch in the doco or read about on the National Geographic blog. This was very interesting and endearing and something you don’t always see in documentaries (‘character development’ of doco crew).

Recommended. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gave my son his first “driving lesson” today. Half an hour in front of the sewing machine, learning to control the foot pedal, followed by half an hour in the car in neutral, doing the same. 🤣 He was shitty about not actually moving, but our next lesson he’ll be the better for the practice and control. 🛻

Gene singing Alone in S9E8 of Bob’s Burgers 🍔 📺 🎵

I’ve been watching Bob’s Burgers pretty religiously the past few months (I’m in Australia so have only just discovered it) and even though I’m in Season 9 and thought I’d seen some pretty good stuff, nothing could have prepared me for the hilarity of Gene’s rendition of Alone by Heart in S9E8: Roller? I Hardly Know Her! I almost pissed myself laughing!

streamable.com/1pior

Listening to and thinking about Kris Kristofferson, and other country legends I hope to see live one day, before it’s too late 🎸🎵💬🎨

Casey leaves the under-ground and stops inside the Golden Crown

For something wet to wipe away the chill that’s on his bones

Seeing his reflection in the lives of all the lonely men

Who reach for anything they can to keep from goin’ home

Standin’ in the corner Casey drinks his pint of bitter

Never glancing in the mirror at the people passing by

Then he stumbles as he’s leaving, and he wonders if the reason

Is the beer that’s in his belly, or the tear that’s in his eye?

Casey’s Last Ride by Kris Kristofferson.


No matter what mood I’m in on a particular day, or in a particular period of my life — happiness, sadness, anxiety, contentment, fury, passion, indifference, love, hate, quiet reflection or a need for a pick-me-up — Kris Kristofferson has written something for me. The master songwriter is my all-time favourite, and I love his music, I love the poetry of his lyrics and how he takes the most profound of life’s loves, challenges and turmoils and makes them simple; he takes simple motifs and makes them profound. You can listen to his songs and hear a simple story and a simple tune. Or you can hear something deep, something perhaps not even intended but you see it there anyway and that’s why his work is true art. For he is that: a true artist. A Kristofferson song can mean whatever you want it to mean to you; a slow, hung-over retelling of a drunken Sunday morning for an addict can reflect your own struggles with depression (sans the addiction), the monotony of life and the world itself — its funny little ways that make it both wonderful and irritating at the same time. Or, again, just a bloke bemoaning a hang-over and the life he lost to addiction. We’ve all felt that same loss of something, whatever the cause. I appreciated Merle in the same way.

I was lucky enough to see Kristofferson perform in Ballarat one night in September 2019. Coincidentally, it was a one-night-only kinda gig and I was on my first day of a solo long distance charity bike ride from Melbourne to Adelaide. I had just ridden 120 gruelling kilometres, only to quickly throw off the school dress — read the story to answer your sudden “WTF?” — to change into my western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots and head down to the Ballarat Civic Hall.

I was enraptured. Some in the audience bemoaned his diminishing performance compared to shows of yesteryear: his vocals struggled and he lost the words to a song at one point (he has Lyme disease which causes memory loss). But not me. I quietly raged inside at their judgment: “He’s in his 80s you bastards,” and just revelled in seeing him live, in listening to him sing his beautiful lyrics and marvel in the true artistry of his work. (He did ultimately retire later that year.) It was one of those days I’ll remember forever, and it ticked off one of my Bucket List Artists, those I want to see live before I, or they, leave this world. I was lucky enough to see Bowie in 2003. Alice Cooper not long after. Pat Benatar in 2010, opened by The Bangles, a nice little two-for-one.

I guess the reason I’m thinking of all this now, tonight, it has struck me that with COVID-19 still raging and international travel still a long way off, especially for us Australians, I stand in great danger of missing my other Bucket List Country Legend.

You hang in there Willie!

🎸🎵💬🎨

Just watched the first episode of Secrets of the Whales narrated by Sigourney Weaver 😍. Awesome footage and story about orcas and their differing cultures. They all have different languages, behaviours, etc. Fascinating, sad and very worth watching. 📺🐳🌊

rmm.bio/28l

I made my son a kangaroo-leather sword sheath for his foam/latex LARP swords. Kangaroo outer, kangaroo fur tail lining (to protect the foam) and kangaroo lacing to tie it together. Adjustable to fit multiple swords. 🦘🧵

Ever had to buy mobility equipment? Industry is wide open for someone with enough capital to clean up! ♿️

There’re so many over-priced disability/mobility products. It’s an industry just begging for a disruptor with enough capital and business nous to come in and clean up. $30 for a plastic shoehorn? $300 for a ugly aluminium frame chair? $50 for cheap aluminium crutches? $1000’s of dollars for frames, rollators and scooters? And these prices are having to be met by those on disability pensions, unable to work or borne by loved ones such as children and/or spouses! For (mostly) old pensioners who live under the poverty line already?!

In Australia at least, the industry is very underdeveloped. (According to IBISWorld), 14% of mobility aid suppliers to the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) are sole traders!!

Almost totally reliant on imported goods, you can’t tell me a smart entrepreneur can’t figure out a way to get the goods in, still provide the individual service needed (which drives huge wage costs) and still not benefit from economies of scale merely by investing properly? Ageing population? Increasingly sickly and obese population? Cha-ching!!

If only my daddy was rich enough I’d have a go. Just begging for someone to make big money and provide lower costs.

Am I just being too “male” when I find some sort of dumb pride in my surgeon telling me I’m overdoing my physical rehab? As in: “Hell yeah, I’m walking the shit out of that shit!” and treating it as some stupid confirmation of my toxic masculinity and toughness? 🏋🏻‍♂️🤣

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 📽

So I’m a huge fan of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Il bruno, il brutto, il cattivo in Italian). I love most spaghetti westerns but this one masterpiece, this perfect movie, I’ve seen it now 1,300 times. That’s right, tonight I watched my 1,300th replay. I swear on my life, I’ve counted all these years since my father showed me the movie as a kid. I’ve even watched it in both Italian and French. It plays when I work, it plays when I’m down and need a morale boost. It plays simply when it’s been a few weeks and I want to watch it again. A little weird and sad maybe, but it’s one of my life’s great loves.

If you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk!

I remember seeing the movie a few years ago at The Astor Theatre in St. Kilda one night when they had a showing. By that time I’d seen it just shy of 1,000 times but never on the big screen, as I was only born in ’82. So I walk into the Astor, and I’m excited. Like, birth-of-my-kids, Bulldogs-winning-the-flag, EXCITED! I hear Ennio Morricone’s L’estasi dell’oro, The Ecstasy Of Gold, playing in the lobby and the emotion of finally seeing this movie in the theatre just overwhelmed me and I quietly, but still quite publicly, wept. So yeah. Big fan.

My wife and kids groan, and ask when I’ll stop watching it. My answer is always: “When I get sick of it.”

I’m hoping to one day travel (maybe a bike tour post-COVID) on a pilgrimage to Burgos in northern Spain, where the climax in the graveyard was filmed.

Does anybody else have this level of deep love and obsession with a film? If so which one and why (if you even need a reason!)?

📽

My son is now old enough to start learning to drive. Watch out out there folks!

Just learned of the Brazilian goblin spider Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri, named after Predator and Arnold Schwarzenegger because the scientists who discovered it were big fans of the movie, and also the male’s chelicerae resembled the Predator’s mouth. 🕷🍿 The individual species of the genus are named after characters from the film.

A review of Batavia by Peter FitzSimons: Makes Lord Of The Flies seem tame 📚📖

With a prolonged period of bed-rest and boredom forced upon me, I’ve been reading a lot more. This is one of the positive consequences of my situation: more time for introverted activities like reading. In my youth I couldn’t read enough books. I always had my nose in a book and my imagination on some far-off exotic adventure. As an adult I’ve tended towards nonfiction, and particularly history, on the rare occasion I do get time to read.

I am fortunate enough to be presently enjoying all of these things concurrently; I have passed the last few rainy Ballarat days curled up in bed with Batavia, by Peter FitzSimons. Having thoroughly enjoyed FitzSimons’ Burke and Wills, of which I was lucky enough to have a hardcover copy signed by him when I met him at a function in Ballarat; following his journalism in the Sydney Morning Herald; interacting with him occasionally on Twitter; and being keenly supportive of the Australian Republican Movement, which Peter chairs, I guess you could say I’m a big fan of his work.

The author Peter FitzSimons (centre) with my son Declan (left) and daughter Anneliese (right) outside the now-defunct “Museum of Australian Democracy in Eureka (MADE)”.

So standing in Collins Bookshop in Ballarat, I was faced with the choice of either Batavia or Eureka, the history of the Eureka Stockade rebellion during the 19th-Century Victorian gold rush, which held some interest for me living here in Ballarat where it all happened. In the end though, Batavia’s promise of a bloody tale of historical tragedy, murder, treachery, mutiny and drama on the high seas, nearly four centuries ago, won me over. And boy was I not let down!

Batavia is the amazing true story of a treasure-laden flagship of a fleet owned by the Dutch East Indies Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC). The Batavia and its accompanying ships embarked on a nine month journey to Batavia (known today as Jakarta, in Indonesia) in 1628–29, on a mission to trade in the lucrative exotic spices that shaped that era of exploration and ultimately changed the world. Tragedy befalls the ship and its crew before they reach their port of destination, and mayhem quickly ensues amongst a crew of desperate misfits and malcontents. The events unfold during a fascinating historical period, full of seafaring adventurers, pirates, vast empires, colonial brutality, the birth of multinational corporate greed, you name it…

As I followed the Batavia’s journey from Amsterdam to the Indian Ocean I was equally appalled and enthralled by the characters that FitzSimons portrays very skilfully, remaining as historically accurate as possible whilst allowing himself the requisite artistic license to bring the characters to life after 400 years. One must remember these people — protagonists, antagonists, major and minor characters alike — really existed. The epoch itself was one of brutal and harsh reality, a world of strict social structures where disobedience could result in death. Where forgetting one’s station and rank was unthinkable and seriously punished. This makes the reckless actions taken by the crew that much more incredulous, but it happened!

Without spoiling the story for those like me who until reading this book had never heard it before, it’s actually quite difficult to read. The brutality, the disregard not only for human life but all shreds of decency, is stark. In the first chapters I was a bit uneasy about the way FitzSimons sets up the central characters, feeling perhaps he was being unfair to paint historical figures — people who actually existed, who had mothers — as “evil incarnate”; by the end of the book I was in total agreement and just staggered at the emotional toll I endured reading about events four centuries ago.

In the preface FitzSimons discusses the struggle of “breathing life into a 400-year-old story” and humbly hopes he is up to the task. I couldn’t put it down. I was totally transported back in time and could almost smell the salt air. A wonderfully written and researched book, appropriately embellished for readability’s sake without sacrificing historical accuracy, this is the best work of FitzSimons I’ve ever read.


I also found the details of the fateful island where the tragedy unfurled interesting from a personal point of view, as I have sailed those waters myself and gazed with the same wonder and awe at the forbidding coastline of Western Australia, or as the Dutch of the time called it, het Zuidland, ‘the Southland’. I also have seafaring ancestors from Geraldton, and in fact one of the small little islands that form part of the Abrolhos Islands chain is named Akerstrom Island, and I intend to find out if this island is named for a relation of my great-grandfather, Erik Albun Åkerstrom.

Where did it go?

Awake all night, sleep all day, grumpy a lot, can’t entirely fend for myself and getting increasingly shitty about it: my surgery has turned me into a teenager! 🤣 Fun times…

Parenting failure: when is it OK to admit I tried but no joy?

Struggling to teach my kids some financial sense. Have tried many methods, philosophies, schemes and rules for saving, spending, etc.

  • Barefoot Investor for Families? Yep, tried it: great book, great advice, zero result from the kids.
  • Forced savings? Endless fights, tantrums, cheating and even stealing to get money to buy crap snacks down at the local low-price supermarket.
  • Showing our own budget and savings as examples? They don’t care at all.
  • Matching savings (dollar-for-dollar style idea)? Well, at least when they ignored that one I saved some money.
  • Asking a friend to “employ” them and then mandatorily saving half of the “wage”? They want to quit their extremely cushy job because they don’t get enough in their hand to pay for lollies.
  • Letting them blow the lot, then go penniless? They just beg/borrow from friends with a sob story.
  • Ensuring they have zero cash on hand when they leave the house? Again, they just beg/borrow from friends.

So totally and utterly frustrated, is it OK if I finally just give up and admit I’ve failed financially as a parent? When do you say “enough is enough”?

Four weeks post-op!

Still feeling very sore today, maybe due to the cold weather, however I remain very happy to reach the four week post-op milestone.

I’m hoping my surgeon will tell me on Tuesday that I can drive again, and especially get back to some light fishing. I’ve been following all the rules, doing all the rehab and walking, and now just want to start getting back to my regular life a little…

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