So here’s some extra pics from the Killarney overnight adventure. And for those of you who are keen to get on board for the next one — save July 9/10. Just quietly.
And for those who missed what we just done: here are the links:
A Thing From DAY 1 (see it here) I Forgot To Mention:
At maybe the 4th or 5th Condamine river crossing we see this 4WD waiting for us to finish crossing. It’s completely stopped at the other side. In no time we get out of the river and then the car sets off and just starts gunning it across the river as fast as it could go — so unnecessarily. It was bouncing all over the place and making such a racket. We all just lol’d. That’s not how you do it. Duggie said (like he was talking to the driver), “Dude, the river isn’t that deep. If I dipped my dick in the water I wouldn’t even get my balls wet.” TRUE STORY.
So it was about 3:30pm when we got to the pub. Killarney Hotel is definitely a country pub. Lining up at the bar was a genuine cowgirl in boots with spurs. Later Scott was like, “I only thought that stuff existed in old movies.” Dan went inside to sort out the rooms but then he was back saying they didn’t have my booking for the motel section. Argh! But they did have a room upstairs and so I took that. We all paid upfront and I was desperate to get outta my kit so I raced upstairs with my bike. Then I hear this, “Excuse me love…” And it was one of the hotel workers telling me to put my bike in the shed out the back. “Is it secure?” I said and she said it would get locked later. Last time we were here we got to put our bikes in our rooms. Oh well.
After I had changed Scott and I went out to the shed to check it out. There were kegs and cartons of beer and hay bails so we figured there’d be no way they’d leave it unlocked overnight.
Later in the night Dan took this shot. Someone had hidden or secured or just dumped some hay in front of our rigs. Hmm
Just after we had arrived in town we had convened at the local Foodworks and I had scoffed down 2 of their rather dated-looking sausage rolls (plus an ice-coffee and a coke) and then after my first beer once we got to the pub it all felt super-tight in my stomach and I had to go for a bit of a walk to get things loosened up again. So I was a couple of beers behind when I got back. We were all camped out in the smokers section on the front deck.
I went inside and found a spare form-guide and stuffed my Condamine-soaked-through shoes with the scrunched up paper. Later I found more newspaper and did the same to everyone else’s shoes. They would thank me later for that bit of genius.
Some locals started talking to us — a little patronisingly it should be said. But we didn’t care. We were on our best behaviour and having a good time. There was a lot of hi-fiving and back slapping and talk of how tough the day had been. I asked Duggie if he would have included that first detour loop if he knew how epic the ride would be and he said, “No…I wouldn’t…but I’m glad we did it. You know?” And I totally understood what he meant and agreed. It hurt, but it really gave the ride something special.
Here’s Scott getting acquainted with the pub-dog.
After a tag-team system we were soon all showered and changed and the pub was now getting pretty busy. Lots of guys in cowboy hats. Lots of kids in cowboy hats. Heaps of people wearing sleeveless puffy jackets. To order food you lined up at a section of the bar. We let the line-up get a little shorter and then jumped on it. Most of us ordered this steak sandwich and James Squire combo deal for $15. Bargain. But the barman looked a bit perplexed at this fancy city-beer and had a bit of trouble finding them.
After hoofing down all our meals and sides (I think Scott had two mains) Duggie then spied the jukebox and as we all had unwanted coins weighing down our kit we all pooled our resources. And Duggie set about queuing up the next 50 or so songs. (Only a slight exaggeration). He said there was a LOT of Pantera. Thankfully he didn’t select any of those tracks.
Photos by Dan!
Suddenly we were back in the smoker’s lounge opposite a group of three women. Gradually we all got talking. I think the two pub puppies facilitated things. (They belonged to the pub but the two cats were strays they said). We were all having a good time but it seems there was some politics going on that we weren’t aware of. Suddenly that famed “country hospitality” wasn’t as forthcoming. Some of the staff seemed to be a little upset. Agitated even. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t get to witness much of this as I crashed into bed at 9:30 well before stuff escalated. So what follows is sometimes what I remember, and sometimes what I was told the next day.
I’m gonna try and be impartial here. So I will just point out the case against us and you can decide.
1) We drank everyone under the table. I certainly thought I might get refused service when I started buying rumbos. Scott said exactly the same thing.
2) We were eating some snackfood (like nuts and chips) from the Foodworks. And I guess that is a bit uncool seeing as they were selling that sort of stuff too.
3) I bet the tracks Duggie picked on the jukebox hadn’t been ever, ever been played in that place.
4) We were just being friendly with some local ladies and how were we to know their facebook status might have been set to “It’s Complicated”.
5) And I guess we were charming and funny and super cool. I can understand our awesomeness was a bit confronting.
6) We were a pack of blow-ins on push bikes for Christ sake. How offensive can you get?
7) And yes, we did stay up a bit late… More on that later.
According to Scott the staff suddenly called last drinks just before 11pm while there was still 20 people about. The 4 crew remaining went upstairs to the back balcony with some takeaways. Some of you may have seen *that* Instagram pic of Duggie. Here it is in case you missed it:
I think Dan wandered off to bed next. Then Duggie. But Scott and Wookie were still socialising.
At about 1:30am I drifted out of sleep. My room was at the farthest end of the hall — next to the bathroom. All of us had been put in the southern wing of the hotel in rooms 1 to 5. I think I heard the lady that organised our rooms saying that she had put us all together and kinda implied that we were away from other guests.
This was my bed BTW. My feet went way over the end.
And by the sound coming from across the hall I just prayed that was the case. By “sound” I mean a woman giggling and then a voice I kinda recognised as maybe Scott delivering another zinger — then more giggling. The walls of this place were paper thin. Ancient VJs. And Scott seemed to have a lot of zingers up his sleeve. Far more than Bill Shorten.
Eventually I drifted back to sleep praying we wouldn’t get in trouble. Then at approximately 2:15am I woke up busting for a pee. Just as I stood up out of bed I hear this BANG and then a bit of muffled commotion, the toilet being used (rather noisily) and definitely no more zingers. Then silence. But by then I had dived back into bed and folded my legs together and willed myself back into slumber. At dawn I was woken by cows bleating and then bizarrely a voice coming from a loud speaker quite a long distance away. The Country is weird.
I went to the bathroom and then as I came out this random guy was coming in through the still dark hall and I said, “G’Day” but he just kinda gruffed at me.
“Oh man.” I thought. He must hate me (us). I looked up the hall and the only open door was only metres away from what I assumed was the centre of all that partying just 4 hours ago.
By 6:30 I was downstairs and made myself a coffee (I didn’t realise they still sold International Roast) and read the paper — which incredibly was the Sunday edition: pretty civilised for the Country. Then that guy from before was there. I said hello again as warmly as I could manage expecting some more grief, but he must have mellowed after his shower and he said “Hi”. I waited a minute then asked him what he was up to today. He was doing the 10k fun-run up to Queen Mary Falls which started at 7:15. Right! Duggie had warned me about this. One of his mates was doing it too. We caught up with her later.
It took quite a while for anyone else to join me. Eventually Wookie was down and I set about getting the bikes out of the shed. The air was pretty crisp but it wasn’t brutally cold. I was comfortable in my kicks with arm and leg warmers to cover almost every other bit of my appendages. I guessed it was just above 10 degrees. (No where near as cold as last time we were here).
Soon Duggie was down and then Dan looking far more rested than anyone. When I brought up the delicate details of what happened last night it seemed Dan was even more oblivious than me – having slept like a log the whole night through. Jelly.
COMMOTION? (OR WOOKIE TAKES A STAND)
So then I quizzed Wookie and Duggie about just what had gone down last night. And we all had to be very quiet cause it was so early and we had some controversial subjects to discuss. But I slowly pieced together what that commotion just after 2PM was all about. I can’t really explain it, but all I can say is that Wookie had had enough and banged on Scott’s door demanding the partying ended and that led to some guests leaving and the hotel being dead-quiet again. As far as I know everyone got home safely.
WAKE UP SCOTTY (part 2)
So for the second time in two days I was the designated “get Scott outta bed” guy. My first strategy was creeping up the creaky stairs and quietly knocking on his door. Unfortunately no one knew the exact number of his room. So I ended up knocking on this door and an old guy emerged looking entirely mystified. At least he was dressed I thought.
I apologised as profusely (and as silently) as I could manage and then knocked on the door next. No answer. Not even any stirring.
Back downstairs we collectively decided I should try calling him. Ring. Ring. And then, “…Hello.” Thankfully he sounded quite composed. “Time to get up Scotty,” I said. “Ok.” he replied. And though it took him a lot longer to get ready this time, he was downstairs and eating breakfast and looking quite decent. I gave him the sliver of Panadol I had left after me and Duggie had got stuck into it. He was very excited about that.
The dude who I had just met upstairs (and his mate) were now downstairs in the backyard area with us having a durrie. They didn’t seem to have noticed (or cared) about all that nocturnal partying.
Scott eating his breakfast at the kids table. Deservedly it should be said.
So that part of the adventure over and we were rolling again. About 7ks in and we were starting that climb up to Queen Mary Falls. Immediately we saw the straggling runners on the road from that running thing. I felt I needed to say hi to all of them I was passing but after about 50 I just kept rolling and minded my own business. Most of them looked like they were cooked and didn’t really mind having to make an extra effort of saying “Hi” back at me.
This was a thing. At least twice up the climb. (photo by Dan)
The runner’s sag-wagon. (Photo by Dan)
We stripped off all our extra layers only about 600m into the climb. Just above where this Dan’s pic was taken. It was getting warm. Duggie got to say HI to his pal and at the top it was madness with runners and buses and cars everywhere. But the climb wasn’t over and we headed up to the Carr’s lookout about 15ks from the bottom.
A quick stop at the lookout and we were into that first crazy downhill. (3km of nuts-berg) I warned everyone as much as I could about how steep it was and how it had this left-hand hairpin which had almost been my undoing last time I was here.
We made it down safely and the cows on the verge at the plateau didn’t mind us (unlike last time). I forgot to tell you that on Saturday we had to deal this massive cow chewing the grass on the verge half on the road and seemingly oblivious to us. I was leading and came to a complete stop about 30 metres away. Despite it being midway through a downhill section I signalled to everyone to stop and while everyone skidded to a halt Scotty did a big “WHOOP!” and the cow freaked out and charged away — we resumed rolling.
The next descent was steeper and longer and there were bunches of motorbikes coming up at the same time. When I saw the first bunch I was so freaked out I did a few skids in my attempt to lock-off some speed. (Last time we had this road to ourselves cause of that fallen tree blocking all traffic right at the bottom.) So I was at least 200 metres behind everyone else. The disc brakes on this rigs were now whining and sounded like they were rubbing the pads. Scott explained that when they get that cooked they can get warped by the heat.
So I had missed this IN-JOKE about spotting windmills that Duggie and Wookie had designed. Anytime you called out a windmill you got a point. So at the end of this ride the stakes were high. Everyone except me and Scott were on almost equal points — at about 4 each. So there was a bit of competition happening. Anytime a ridge was looming it was best to be in front just in case you got the first to spot one. And Scott was now in on it too after getting a single point on the board and thinking with just 20ks to go he was still a chance. It took a bit of getting used to when someone would SCREAM and POINT and I thought the world was coming to an end — but it was just another one calling out a windmill.
Naturally Scott the most enthusiastic. I tried to get on board but the only contribution I made it was a tie with Duggie. Oh well. At a few points right in the death the crew was swaggering all over the road not concentrating at all on the conditions desperately looking at the country on either side like a new-age Don Quixote. At a few points I almost ran up the back of someone who just decided to stall while they scanned the horizon or wondered if a car smashing over a crest would wipe someone out because they were drunkenly taking up all sides of the bitumen.
So the tally was:
DUGGIE, WOOKIE and DAN — 6
SCOTT — 4
ME — (1)
Photo by Wookie
I was really suffering in the last bit. It was hot and I wasn’t getting enough food or water in me. My kit had that halo of extreme salt-sweat. I had really underestimated how brutal this section was. Exposed to the sun and a lot of shitty little climbs right at the end. I had no chance of spotting windmills let alone keeping my shit together. Thankfully Wookie got a flat (sorry Brad) and I got a decent rest and a chance to stock up on fluids and food.
But then we were back at Mt Alford and the windmill prize was divided equally. Thankfully the cars were just as we had left them. The pub was open and we packed up our gear and I was first to stumble inside — I was so cooked. I started looking around a little bleary from all that previous effort. The place looked kinda nice. I found my way to a menu sitting on the bar with a sign saying “Order All Food Here”. And then I hear this rather annoyed voice saying, “Kitchen doesn’t open until 12”. It came from a woman sitting at a table all by herself who just might have looked related to that grumpy staffer back at Killarney. “What time is it?” I ask. No answer.
I ask Scott who has just joined me. It was 11:20. We can get lunch at Boonah I say. Scott agrees but then looks like he is on a mission. He disappears deeper into the bar. I walk outside into the hot glare and heat and break the news to the rest. Everyone agrees at my suggestion to go to the cafe at Boonah — the one from the Boonah breakfast. “But do they have beer?” everyone asks. “Yes they do. Totally.” I say. I was only about 50% sure I remembered that. But thankfully I was right.
Then I was in the car cranking the aircon and Scott eventually emerges carrying a 6-pack of VB. Oh right — that’s what he was doing.
On the way to Boonah Dan was pointing out windmills from his car. Unfortunately they didn’t count. Soz.
At Boonah most of us got chicken burgers and then it was another all-over-hi-five and we were separately heading home — adventure done!
There was talk of a new one on July 9. JUST SAYING.
Another one of those 12% bullshit signs. UGH!
Although this ride was fucking awesome and epic and beautiful and a bunch of other superlatives — ultimately it ended up being a much tougher ride than anyone expected. Like much, much tougher. Both days. There were moments when I thought this was a bridge too far. I couldn’t help but compare it to the Boonah Ovanightah from April which was another gravel adventure in a similar direction and over pretty much the same distance. But this ride was twice as tough as that. More hills. Much, much more gravel and a real remoteness. For instance if disaster struck in the 35k section around White Swamp there would be real, real trouble. Plus there was the absence of any opportunity to replenish water, which led to (in my opinion) desperate measures. More on that later.
80% gravel and hills and hills and more hills
I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say Day 1 was about 80% gravel. I kinda fucked up here. I really didn’t do enough research to work that out. I just saw road on the map and assumed it would be a bit of gravel, then a bit of bitumen. Stuff would even out. I did a bit of google street view exploration and of course that stuff just cannot accurately detail what the practical conditions are. It’s all lies. The severity of any steepness is entirely under-represented and any gravel looks smooth and inviting.
BEFORE THE START
So I was being a conscientious Di2 rider and put my bike’s battery on charge on Thursday night. Friday morning I attempted to plug that battery back in but the lever that secured it suddenly snapped. Disaster. I rode it over to Scott at Velo in the Valley single-speed-style for rescue but the whole system was fucked. I would need a new bike. I thought this adventure was all over for me. Luckily Scott had his Specialized Crux. But it had no wheels. Then Jesse, god bless him, donated his wheels to complete the ensemble and I was back in business. But in my heart of hearts I was super glad to ride a cross-bike — a bike much more suited to these conditions. It would be far more comfortable and ideal for the hardest part: the 20ks and 14 river crossings at the end. But I was wrong.
WAKE UP SCOTTY! (part 1)
So I was picking Scott up in a car and ferrying him to the meet point at a place called Mt Alford, just south of Boonah. I rock up only about 10 minutes early and there is zero sound emanating from his flat. I can see into the living areas (which are empty) so I knock on the window I assume belongs to the bedroom. Something stirs. Suddenly the front door opens and here is Scott in some flesh-coloured jocks and my reflexes kicked in. It takes me a micro-second to spin away (hoping they were in fact flesh-coloured jocks and not a completely-naked-just-woken-man) and I start dragging the bikes to the car. Thankfully they were on the deck and I could get busy without actually entering the flat with this possible naked person lumbering about attempting to get ready.
Only about 5 minutes later and Scott appears at the car fully dressed and carrying his panniers looking almost completely composed. Well done. Soon we are heading south and although Scott has not had a chance at his morning poo, I assure him there is a public toilet at the ride start that will suit this necessity.
At Boonah we get pastries and pull into the Mt Alford Hotel’s carpark only just a bit late. Us parking here didn’t seem like an issue, but we got some grief for it later as you shall see. Duggie (AKA Cameron) and Wookie (AKA Brad) were setting up. A minute or two later Dan arrived — making our full crew of 5 complete.
Of note, Duggie and me (et al) had done a trip to Killarney back in 2014. That was a super-tough ride too, but a road-bike and bitumen thing. That standard route to Killarney.
MORE ON “THE ROUTE”
Duggie and I had collaborated on this ride — both of us being such fans of the country out here and that first adventure. We were both super-enthused. And Duggie wanted to put in the Condamine River Road, while I was all about adding this White Swamp arc. Then Duggie included an extension at the start — just to make the final tally of kilometres respectable at about 82. This excursion out to Moogerah Dam was super-beautiful but pretty bumpy. 20ks later at its end I could feel that it had taken a big chunk out of my overall awesomeness. In other words, my legs were starting to whinge a bit.
So the route when viewed from above looked like a figure 8 with an extra circle attached. On the map Duggie layed-out — and stuck to the pannier on the front of his bike — it looked beautiful. There wasn’t much overlap between Day 1 and Day 2. Maybe only 4ks.
So it took us about 20 mins to get all our shit together and just about 100ms after we started rolling I remembered my wallet was still in the car. Bullet-dodged we were properly off. Then I said to Scott, “Oh yeah, how do you change gears on this thing?” (I wasn’t used to a SRAM gear-setup.) It turned out to be pretty cool. You only had to use your right hand and it was a half-click to go down to a tougher gear and a full-click to hit the granny-gears. Loved it. But in saying that, my hills-gear only went to 40-28, which meant a lot of grinding while everyone else got to spin almost twice as much. But beggars can’t choosey.
Around the dam we hit an amazing road that skirted the Main Range peaks south of Cunningham’s Gap. It was so “Australia”. There was even a flock of gallahs and occasionally we saw kangaroos leaping out of sight.
30ks in and we passed the “Head Road”: the route up from that 2014 ride. Duggie shuddered when he contemplated what we did that day. “That climb gives me shivers,” he said. And so we committed ourselves to a new way up. It turned to gravel almost immediately and it was pleasant for about 5ks and then it started getting shitty. By now the sun was getting near it’s peak and my jersey was saturated. Despite it being deep into May, the humidity was nuts and I knew exactly then that water, or lack thereof, was going to be an issue. We stopped for a break just as the first 12% hill loomed. We could literally see it snake it’s way up. In my head I was like, “Yeah, once that’s over that’s the worst of it.” I definitely even said that. So up we went and at the point where it looked too epic to waste blowing up my legs I got off the bike and walked. And Wookie instantly reciprocated. He was so appreciative. Wookie had been off the bike for 5 weeks due to life-stuff and needed to take it gentle. I have a philosophy of no-shame-walking. When it’s so steep there’s no need destroying your legs when you can get up that bullshit by walking. And especially when you get to the top only about 30% later than riding up.
Me! taken by Duggie.
That pinch done we rolled on expecting things to get civil, but then bang! Another sign saying “12%”. Ugh. Once again me and wookie did a bit of walking. I kept telling everyone, “I think this is the worst of it over”. But sure enough I was proven utterly wrong and everyone started cursing any optimism I tried to put down. Quite rightly it should be said. The third time the sign came about (this time 13%) Duggie and Dan started walking. By the 4th, another one of those evil 13% fuckstains, Scott had succumbed too and we five were all trudging up the road on foot.
Eventually at the top was the NSW border and we rested for a bit and then thankfully we did get some relief — in the sense that is was more down than up for 10ks. But there were a few shitty little hills randomly biting us whenever they felt like it. The terrain was just so random it just didn’t make sense. There were super-crazy descents but then another pinch straight away. We’d get a sudden burst of bitumen on a downhill only to find that at the very bottom, where you were travelling so fucking fast, was a point where it changed to gravel.
Another random section was a super-incredible descent (on bitumen) which Wookie nailed — he is one of those fearless downhill riders and has a bunch of KOMs or near KOMs to prove it. At the bottom in a dip was a dodgy culvert and Scott got a flat. But it was a beautiful place to change a tube under this big ancient gum tree with Mt Wilson looming over us.
A bit later, at White Swamp proper, we were turning right and it was up and up again. There was more walking and it was now super-warm. Touching on 28 degrees and super-humidity. Meanwhile Scott decided he had to roll. He explained that with the panniers at the back of his bike it was just fucked to walk his rig. Every step and your calf would bang into the rear bag. So as he struggled ahead we 4 just sauntered up. Everyone was really, really feeling the intensity of this adventure.
At the dilapidated border crossing where we went back into Queensland again we could see our next target: the Condamine River Road. But then everyone was like, “I’ve got no water left.” I had about 600mls (some of which was still frozen) sitting in my backpack. Everyone was too polite to drink more than a mouthful and thus was determined to drink the water from the creek. I was mortified. “Dudes, there’s houses down there. I will knock on a door and see if we can get some.” Implying there was no need to drink untreated river-water from country surrounded by cattle. But no one listened. It seemed like a challenge. Something primal. Meanwhile I just thought of how Bart dared Lisa to drink the water in that episode of the Simpsons. EEK.
We slid down and turned left onto a brief section of bitumen (the same bitumen as from 2014) and then right onto white gravel. According to my Garmin we had 21ks to go. But seeing as the last 60ks had taken well over 4 hours I was starting to wonder if I would start suffering soon. Like “Suffering” in the EVIL sense. There was no question that I was suffering in a GENERAL sense, I just feared that situation escalating. And confronting us now was all dirt and 14 points where the road crossed the river. After a particularly brutal pinch Wookie looked in trouble. We stopped and assessed the situation. He ate some more food and drank some of my water, but he was struggling. I really wondered how brutal this next section would be.
Photo by Dan!
As it turned out, this period was incredible: beautiful and awesome and all our spirits were lifted. I would almost rate this section as a “breeze”. But just quietly.
See we got to stop and get our feet wet. Like saturated. Some of us (not me) tried to smash through and ford the crossings. It should be said the other four got quite good at it towards the end. Me: I managed to only cross the river once in a very easy section. (I made a promise to Jesse that I would walk the bike over all the river — so as not to potentially damage the wheels).
But back to the third crossing, where the river suddenly didn’t look as muddy from all the 4WD activity. Here is where the crew started filling up their water-bottles and drinking the water. Gulping it down. They said it tasted amazing and was clear and cool. I was horrified, but I was in no position to argue. We were desperate and everyone was sick of my optimism.
Onwards and it was actually really fun every time a crossing came up. It was like a computer game working out where to cross and there were 4WDs around either being dickheads or gawking at us. At one point we passed an honesty-system stall where you could pay $5 to get to feed some horses. As awesome as that looked, we really had to roll on. Everyone agreed this section had really made the ride exponentially special.
In most crossings you had no idea what the bottom looked like cause the water was so muddy.
I think Dan was the first to successfully get across without stepping down. Kudos.
Pic by Duggie!
And then we were back on sealed roads and in Killarney central and at the Foodworks buying all the hot baked-savories they hadn’t sold yet before they were due to be thrown out.
OMG. NEXT TIME (in PART TWO):
1) Too much baked-savories
2) Room booking fail and your bikes are not welcome here
3) Locals only!
4) Friends are made
5) “You outta towners stealing our sheilas!”
6) A definitive list of things you can literally get away with at a country pub (some of which are awesome and some of which are not that.)
7) Drama with barman
8) More “Friends!”
9) 2:30am and some of us are still awake
10) Wookie takes a stand
I HAVEN’T BEEN TO A HAIRDRESSER, NOR LET ANYONE CUT MY HAIR, IN 15 YEARS. (See below)
So while I have been listening to that amazing debut album by The Goon Sax for the past few weeks I was recently struck by two things:
a) Home haircuts
b) The fact that Conan got a bit affronted by it. (What?)
Here’s a pic of the Goon Sax. Louis, Riley and James
FIRSTLY: HOME HAIRCUTS
Louis sings, “Do home haircuts ever go right?”
Well I can tell you Louis, almost definitively — “Yes, yes they do.”
And he tries to get his mum to help but she seemingly refuses. All I can say to Louis is — Dude, I got all that push-back, but eventually I just went at it on my own. And I survived.
And here’s how. I have been cutting my own hair for about 15 years. That is a TRUE STORY. It’s not something I advertise, and when people find out, cause my fiance Dee likes to blab about it, they are genuinely surprised.
THE DENTIST (OR “HOW IT STARTED”)
See, just like Louis, I HATED going to the hairdresser. When I graduated from the barber (perhaps because they just refused to exist anymore) going to a hair-dressing-salon was always an ordeal. It’s so intimate. And then it’s all that forced “chat”. It’s in a space that was so alien. You’re almost strapped to that chair with that cape like you’re in a straight-jacket. It’s just like being in a dentist’s chair — the same amount of indignity, but without so much physical pain.
When I was just still in high school we had one up the road and they insisted on washing my hair before they cut it and it brought back bad memories. Nits (hair lice) were a big deal when I was a kid. We were all afraid of them but that didn’t stop us swapping hats, sleeping over sharing pillows and epic wrestling and generally being always in super-close-quarters. At the start of a school camp the teachers inspected everyone’s scalp before we were allowed on the bus to Binna Burra.
And then my grandmother, whenever I stayed at her place, insisted on personally washing my hair. She was such a control-freak. She assumed I was being mistreated because my dad wasn’t a religious nut like she was. It was like my Dad had made me so dirty because I had rejected religion and I needed purification — even if it just was super-cleanliness.
But home-haircuts were a thing when I was growing up. A chair got dragged out into the backyard and some unqualified scissors got dug out of the kitchen drawer. Both times it was one of my dad’s girlfriends who would just announce that they would “have a go” at cutting my hair. And both times it turned out great. “Great” in the sense that I was super-less-shaggy and neat and no-one knew any wiser.
A spark in my brain formed.
As a teen I tried growing my hair long just to be cool. And for two years I didn’t need a hairdresser. But as a late-teen my hair was so, so thick and consequently had no option but to get wavy and super-puffy. If it even got a whiff of shampoo it got even worse. It was like I had a wavvy-hair-afro. I got so sick of the puffiness I cut my hair short again and didn’t grow it long again for 10 years. So I then I was suddenly committed to keeping my hair short and because I was officially an “adult” and thus responsible for keeping my hair in order I asked my sister to cut my hair — which failed. But then I convinced an early girlfriend to have a go. I didn’t care if she failed. I just didn’t want to go back to the hairdresser. And she did amazingly for about two years. Then we broke up.
My hair grew out and when it got a bit too shaggy for my job I asked my new girlfriend to have a go at cutting my hair. She refused. Looking back I guess it was a bit much to ask from a woman who you had only been dating for only a few weeks.
But then I just gave it a go myself. And it worked. It wasn’t perfect — it never has been — but I got better and better at it.
HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR
And here is the exact point when I started cutting my hair on my own.
And then I realised that one side of my head wasn’t behaving like I wanted. So I changed the way I parted my hair. A complete revolution. To all you kids out there: you never know what side your hair will get thinner first.
So then I looked like this:
But the part of my hair was all wrong.
So working it all out was also the necessity of being in one of those corporate jobs where I had to look civilised — meeting lots of important people all the time — so I just hacked at my hair and prayed for the best. I learnt a lot just trimming a little bit universally. Then trimming some more over the same universal if that didn’t do the required.
The more I hacked the more I got good and then suddenly it was effortless.
BUT: I could never, ever cut anyone else’s hair — I was only trained to cut my own. I would definitely freak out if I was given that job.
Nowadays I look a bit like this:
I have used the same scissors this entire time. They are shorter than paper-scissors — but they are still just ordinary ones. The shortness helps your confidence that you are not going to chop off a chunk of ear. You start at the sides taking what you can best figure is an inch from every bit. And when I say “inch” I mean what you figure your hair needs to be ruley again.
Then you take an inch from the top. Then you just shorten the fringe how you think it would best suit — usually on an angle away from how you part your fringe.
If that is not to your liking you chop away at your hair again taking just a centimetre. So it’s basically a cutting that you do in stages. Start hacking, then trim. You’d be surprised how forgiving your shag upstairs can be.
And you might have to re-visit the cut maybe 2 or 3 times again in the hour or so that ensues just to target any issues you missed. I don’t cut with wet hair, because it made me cut a bit shorter than I might have wanted and when you cut dry what you see is what you get. The WYSIWYG principle. I can cut my hair in under two minutes. And that is no exaggeration. Crucially I could do it WITHOUT a mirror. It gets that automated.
Beard trimming took me a bit of practise. The first time I tried it on my own (Dee did the a good job of the first) I hacked a great big chunk out of the side of my face and was mortified. But no one noticed until I pointed it out and with a bit of a stroke of my chin like I was thinking hard it was instantly disguised.
So tips: go even.
EVEN: It’s the exact same principle as head-hair-cutting but it is super-trimming rather than hacking. It’s a finer detail. You just snip all over at the most even rate you can muster.
But as a right-handed person it is so much harder to trim on the right side of my face — so take a bit more time with those snips. And be more vigil lest you leave your face totally unbalanced. And just take your time, stroke around your beard like you are solving all the world’s problems, and work out what bits are too long and thick and what is fuzzy and not. Simple.
The moustache is a bit trickier. Just go slow and go even and it will become ok. I would say you need a mirror here. Just snip what is getting in front of your top lip and then trim elsewhere if it’s necessary.
OH YEAH — THE GOON SAX
Personally I never expected to like the Goon Sax much. I knew the band existed well before I saw them play at the Zoo supporting Darren Hanlon last year. And of course I was interested. I had never officially met Louis, but I had seen him around when his dad was about. He seemed like “that teenager” I used to be. Sullen and bored and wanting to be anywhere else but there. Just like I me at that age.
And so I watched then at The Zoo that night and they were a bit tentative and awkwardly swapping instruments all the time. It wasn’t a super exciting set — but that is not a criticism. The thing that was most awkward was the fact they seemed — on the surface — like a parody of the Go-Betweens. Two songwriters and a female drummer. And all the songs had a very “Lee Remick” vibe.
It’s a bit awful of me thinking back, but I cynically thought, “Is Louis…like *trying* to be like his dad? Really?”
IMPROVING ON YOUR HERITAGE
See when I was a kid I wanted to be nothing like my parents. I certainly wanted to be as successful as them, but I wanted to do things different. But then I thought a bit more and something occurred to me: “What choice did he have?”. This is my bias and my ignorance.
If your parents have impeccable taste and skill, and they’re not douchecanoes, and they’re obviously not telling you what to do — naturally you just might find your way to making your own awesome music…and it just might be in that same vein. Because awesome music is awesome music — right?
And Wintah is the best example I could think of. Wintah has an equally incredible musical dad who is actually a great guy. Wintah, son of Glenn Thompson (from the nouveaux Go-Betweens, Custard, Adults Today etc), was an incredible role model. He had the best taste in music and christ I wished my parents had brought me up like that. Why would you not want to emulate? Wintah was always ahead of the curve with music. I used to think I was pretty accomplished, but he introduced me to some amazing stuff and broadened my taste quite a bit. And thus his band, The Little Lovers, was not a huge leap from what his dad’s bands did. Stylistically and aesthetically it was almost a mark 2. Just quietly I thought Wintah had improved the model. (But that’s just between you and me.)
BACK TO THE SONGS
The thing that struck me personally was that this album by The Goon Sax seemed like a collection of “first songs”. They all seem like the first generation of songs in a songwriter’s career. And again that is no criticism. They remind me of my very first attempts at songs. And hearing songs like these (back when I was very little) inspired me to write something and form a band. (My inspiration in those days was The Melniks — but that’s another story.)
The difference is it’s just amazing how great this generation of songs are — I cannot imagine what the second or third generation will bring. Very excited.
Production-wise the album is much richer than you would think. They have been genuinely nurtured by whomever produced them. A definite hands-on producer. I know it was recorded at the JSS studio. The songs seems so earthy and pedestrian, but there’s a deliberate complexity. A bunch of layers you just might not notice. There’s a lot there supporting everything — like in the Home Haircuts song. . The first thing I really noticed was how bloody good James was at bass playing. I am just assuming he is the one playing on Louis’ songs. Just cause they seem so much more lush.
ALSO: I think the decision to put one of the strongest songs last — “Ice Cream (on my own)” — was inspired.
The drumming is so incredible too. Riley, a ginger like me, is apparently a brand-new drummer. She learnt the skins just to join. I know how tough drums are — being a frustrated one myself. She is pretty damn interesting and tight at the same time. Just see the mad-skills she displays in the “Boyfriend” and “Target” tracks. And live she has to sing back-up as well.
And just BTW: I genuinely had to look up who “Roger McGuinn” was. I am so uncool. But not so uncool to wonder once I saw his picture if his hair, circa 1967, is really aspirational.
And finally here is the Goon Sax at the Planetarium. One of my favourite places in Brisbane!
Oh and Conan’s judgement doesn’t really count. He has great taste in music, but it is highly, highly Patrician. He just doesn’t get this stuff. His loss.