My Tiny Nanna’s Big Adventure

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My Nanna was a primary school teacher at Sacred Heart in my hometown — Ipswich. While I think of myself as having grown up in Brisbane, I am reminded of the fact that every few weekends would be spent at her house and I would be there a great deal of the school holidays.

My Nanna had ample stocks of food in the fridge and cupboards — unlike at home. And next door was an older boy called Ross who was fun to hang out with, even if the age difference meant there was no way I could compete with him at any activity we played.

Nanna was small. Even as a kid she was someone you could talk to eye-to-eye. She was already short in her youth — maybe 5 feet 1 high — but in her old age she got scoliosis in her spine and started shrinking even faster than the wicked witch of the west under a South American waterfall.

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When she divorced my Poppa in her late thirties she was firstly forced to go back to her job as a teacher, and a decade later she was forced to learn how to drive a car.

She used to get a lift to work, but then have to catch a bunch of buses to get home in the evening. Eventually that arrangement somehow evaporated so she was cojoled by mum to get her licence and buy a car.

She was 49. It must have been such an adventure. I actually think this is a pretty cool achievement. But it wasn’t without drama. Within months she managed to crash her car when she oversteered at a Blackstone intersection. She took out one fence at the top side and another fence on a different road as she swung around.

But she was wisely consoled by a friend and told to get back up on the horse — so to speak.

On visits to my Nanna she would take me on drives in the country. I was very, very young but that didn’t stop me getting embarrassed. See, Nanna drove so, so horribly slow, it was pretty much an ordeal. I would get so embarrassed looking back behind her car at the epic traffic jam behind us and I would slide down into the chair while begging her to drive faster — which was useless.

On one visit to Beaudesert (where Nanna grew up) I suddenly burst into tears as we were approaching the town. “I don’t want to go to the ‘desert'”, I said, tears streaming down my face. “There’s lions and tigers there!” TRUE STORY.

And when we went to shopping centres she didn’t really know how to reverse so we would end up parking at the other end of the carpark just so she could find two spaces where she could drive through one space and front-first into the other so the car was facing outwards.

WINNING

And so one weekend it was her school’s fete and we went along. There was some kind of Lucky Dip and I entered and “won” a tour. I was ecstatic. I had never won anything in my life. And this tour was to see the Beenleigh Rum Distillery. I had never heard of it, but it sounded special. I was ceremoniously given the tickets like they were gold and I began begging my Nanna to take me there. It sounded like Oz or just a step down from “Dreamworld“. I was pretty determined and quite zealous in my badgering of my poor Nan.

This is the Distillery back in its hay-day.

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So my Nanna eventually obliged — and it was a big, complicated trip for her and her very simple driving skills. And all this in her tiny Holden Gemini — which looked a bit like this, but no where near as pristine or “tough”. And so we had the free tour of the Distillery and I tried my hardest not to be disappointed. There were big vats of stuff and an old guy talking too much and some broken views of the factory.

By the end of the day — the cafeteria was the highlight – but that wasn’t the point.

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The distillery closed down maybe a decade ago. It still has a tiny piece, a very, very tiny piece of my heart.

A Mystery

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So with quite a lot of help from a fellow Auchenflower blogger, I have been looking into the history of our home.

I suppose you might be thinking, “Why?” or something worse, but I guess I have some predilection for the dreaminess of history. And sadly there is not much actual meat to the facts you find — just random names and dates from long, long ago and perhaps some other minor details — but it’s fantastic to dig and with every bit of discovery — let your imagination swim around those few skerricks of information and perhaps build a mental time machine that transports you around this home you know and love.

But there’s also a real mystery to this house.

Although the original/cool part of the house is over 100 years old, and the land has been owned privately since 1862 (a very early land release in Brisbane) — the house wasn’t built at this site. It seems the house was built and lived in at some other location for about 70% of it’s lifespan — then split in two — and transported here at about 1980/81.

This was only discovered through viewing the aerial survey of Brisbane made by the Council in 1946. And when I zoomed in on the site of our house all that was there was grass and trees and the roll of the land. The next-door house on our right was there, a much more humble version it should be said — but our house was bizarrely absent.

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But that strangely made a bit of sense because when we first had the building properly inspected (during the settlement process) we discovered a lot of recent timber in the roof and it seemed the floorboards were all modern too (except for the deck). Half the living room had ancient VJs and the other half were from a different period. And that is not to mention the extension out the back and then the other extension in the 2000s to modernise the kitchen. It was a real jigsaw puzzle then and is now even more so.

So my awesome blogging-history-helper delved a little more into the records and discovered a name — “Palazzi” — who had bought the property in the 1980s and had got building approval for some sort of structure. Bang! So I fired off a few snail-mail letters explaining the mystery and seeking help to all the “Palazzi’s” in the phone book. And there were only two — so not such a big deal. That was a week ago and no response as yet — but it is early days.

Upon asking another quasi-local-history buff — she told me houses got moved all the time in Queensland. Indeed then I remembered the house next door when we lived in Clayfield was shipped off to Macleay Island in the dead of the night. And although there are no real signs of the house being split in two — dad was saying they split it along the natural joins and so it looks like a jigsaw puzzle when split but looks entirely natural when put back together. And seeing as they replaced the stumps, the floorboards, the roof timber and perhaps the tin on the roof too, it would be a pretty simple move.

THE LAND

But then something else was weird. From all the records for a few weeks we believed the house was the product of a bloke called John Potts who in 1890 acquired the land here and then took out a mortgage — presumably to build a house. 1891 seemed to be the magic date where our house began. That date was just amazing to discover. What else was going on in Brisbane at that time — and the world?

And then 25 years or so later it became the property of a Herbert Lindsay — a railway worker — with 2 sons and 5 daughters who died in 1936 but the land stayed in that family for another 45 years — another epic tale. The house had a dynasty.

So trying to learn more about Herbert and his family I was trying to decipher the handwriting on the title note (because the middle name was obscure) and posted it Facebook. And the consensus was “Colross” or “Colrass” and soon enough my mate Andrew posted a link to a Trove story about Herbert’s death and his address. And that address wasn’t here. BANG! It was the house directly behind us. So suddenly everything made sense. Our land was part of their backyard and was eventually sub-divided.

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So where now? I don’t know, but hopefully the Palazzi people get back to me. But there is more searching on Trove and Ancestry.com.au to do.

ANOTHER MYSTERY

My mum is visiting from Melbourne this weekend and yesterday upon hearing the story above we decided to try and track down the house in Auchenflower where my first memories of the world were. See mum (and dad) had totally forgotten where it was — how does that happen? We did move around a lot. By 12 I had lived in 11 houses/flats over two States and four towns. Anyway mum drew a little map of how she remembered getting to the house from Milton Road and we did some google map searching and eventually we found a location that made sense. Then we trekked off to find it. It was a bit of harrowing journey for mum — I forget how ridiculously steep the streets here are.

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Being only 3 (almost 4) back then — the things I remembered about the location of that house were limited to the fact it at the top of a hill, and the road had a kink in it and the house was wooden and raised and the cars parked underneath. So when we got to Patterson Street and stood outside mum was instantly convinced this was it. Mystery solved. And I was convinced too — the street indeed had that kink and the house was on a hill etc.

I desperately wanted to knock on the door and look at my old room (which I do remember) but no one was home and just standing outside looking intensely at the building seemed pretty creepy enough already.

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A cover-up

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Today I am going to encourage you all to visit a site called “There once was a creek…” And it deals with a subject that fascinated me (as well) when I moved to Auchenflower and started researching the history of the area.

Over the course of the excruciatingly-long 6 week settlement period (to buy our new house) I was so itching to move here I visited our State Library on a couple of lunch breaks — one of the perks of working in a building only 4 doors down the road — and read as much of John Pearn’s book on our suburb as I could. As well as that I looked at all the old photos of the area via the John Oxley Library’s online collection. It was amazing to move to such an old place — and the oldest place in my living memory. See I had lived here, in two separate dwellings, as a toddler and my very, very first memories of the world were carved into my brain right here.

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Two pictures from the John Oxley Library collection

And over at the Auchenflower Resident’s Alliance webiste — which seems to be a bit dormant — they had this little story about our “hidden creeks”.  So when the 2011 floods came that knowledge meant I almost instinctively knew where all the flooding would occur and crucially how to get around our neighbourhood in this saturated condition. In that period I spent ages riding my bike up and down the blissfully deserted Coronation Drive (once at 3am) seeing all these natural water-courses so gloriously alive again. And I know all that water brought a lot of pain and destruction — and I want to acknowledge that — but we live in a very natural world which we do our best to ignore with the artificial world we blu-tack on top of it.

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Some shots I took in January last year

Anyway — the research on the “There once was a creek” site is outstanding and the way Angus (the creator) has merged the old maps with google earth images is absolutely inspired — and pretty much ART (see a few examples below).

Even if you don’t come from Brisbane — his thorough and insightful examination of the story of John Oxley and his search for water, plus his contact with the local indigenous community, is fantastically absorbing. And again, I say that knowing this was the beginning of a white invasion of this area and the beginning of many, many years of suffering for the original owners of this land.

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Another pretty sobering point Angus is possibly making is the fact that Brisbane has a history of trouncing all over it’s own history. By turning these once beautiful waterways into invisible concrete drains is like an analogy of the fact we have no respect for our history or for natural beauty.

The other thing that was cool about this blog was that I learnt who our street was named for and he seems like a decent chap. (And Angus’ street was named after him too).

SEE ALSO

This site, which Angus hooked me up with, is also amazingly cool. It’s basically a mixture of local history, renovations to an old Auchenflower home and the observations you can only make if you lived here.

How I embarrassed myself…again.

This morning at work Alex, my boss, came up me and asked me to take some photos at a press conference he was doing. I didn’t ask any more details cause Alex is always doing these sorts of things and he looked in a hurry. Alex is now the most famous person I know. (And I do know our Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, but that was a while ago and he might have forgotten me.) He is always on the news and getting important phone calls and hob-nobbing with Clive et al.

So I grabbed the camera and then in the foyer there was this bloke in a suit who, it became apparent, was coming with us. He gave me a warm hello and introduced himself as “Adam” and we shook hands. But I still had no idea who exactly he was and what exactly we were all doing.

And soon from the conversation he was having with Alex it was apparent Adam was from the Greens. We all jumped in the car and there was talk about Canberra and so I figured he worked there and so at a break in the conversation I said, “So Adam, are you based in Canberra?” And he said, no, but it’s just a quick flight home to Melbourne on a Thursday evening after Parliament.

“Oh,” I thought. “He’s probably a political staffer for a Greens senator”.

But then as we approached the reporters gathered in Bowen Park to meet us he was getting more attention than Alex and it dawned on me he was maybe not a staffer for a senator, but possibly an actual Senator.

“Right,” I thought, entirely pleased I had figured this out all on my own.

Soon another dignitary arrived — Larissa Waters, Queensland Greens Senator. And I knew exactly who she was having met her before and getting a bit weak at the knees in her presence. After saying hello to everyone else and giving them a “kiss-hello” she turned to me and I instantly thought, “Oh Christ if you give me a kiss-hello I will die.” Luckily she just shook my hand and I mumbled how I had met her a few years ago when I filmed a video of her for the Your Rights at Work campaign. And she was like, “Oh yeah — in that tiny room”. And I made a fumbling attempt at humour by saying, “Yeah I get that comment quite a lot every time I shoot a video of someone.” — which isn’t even a joke and is really creepy and stupid. Jesus Davey — get it together!

Luckily she didn’t hear it properly — or pretended not to — and I got stuck-into my task of taking photos.

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But then I got in more trouble as I rustled around at the back of the pack taking shots. The TV camera people kept shooting ugly looks at me everytime I made a noise in the dry, crunchy grass. Ugh.

At this point, quite bizarrely, this stench of cannabis smoke drifted over us — which I swear wasn’t my fault. It seemed to be coming from some dodgy-looking people on a park bench behind.

But then in my head I started to think about Adam. And then BANG — his actual identity flew into my brain. He was Adam Bandt, the Member for Melbourne, and one of teh cross-benchers who had joined with the ALP to form our current government. The FIRST Greens member of the Lower House and yes, quite a big deal.

And then I remembered how I had just asked him if he was “based in Canberra”. What a deadshit I am.

Anyway, of course after the press conference was over I almost got myself into more trouble.

We were driving back to the office and the topic of the bushfires in the distance came up and Adam said something to the effect of, “Oh yeah, I thought I could smell some burnt particles in the air today.” So I said, “Actually, that would have been whoever was smoking a joint in the park.”

Luckily he laughed.

Later I got to apologise for my stupidity. Again, sorry Adam. I thought he was a really nice guy btw.

And here is more info about what was announced today.

I plagiarised my entire kissing technique

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I think I am, well, half-decent at snogging.

I don’t think I am the greatest — but I presume I can get by. But that said, other people may have a different opinion.

But it wasn’t always this way. The technique I was born with was woeful. You name everything and anything conceivably bad you can do while kissing someone — and that was me. I pressed too hard, there was too much tongue, I was really, really sloppy and just treated it like a marathon — to name just a few.

ADVICE

In my defence I had some very bad and cryptic advice in my youth which I had years and years to ponder upon.

So before I had my first kiss I had attempted to learn some things because I assumed this was important business. I asked questions of anyone I knew who had engaged in this activity. The first bit of advice was from an older boy — a family friend called James who explained via diagrams the reason why you tilt your head. He was like, “So then you make this big cavity between your mouths so you have all this room so you can touch tongues.”

Before I could ask anything else he then proceeded to show me how he could fart on command by lying of the floor and contorting his body into this weird position with his bum facing the ceiling. I was utterly impressed and laughed myself silly. TRUE STORY.

BUSY

The only other person I knew with any experience was one of my best friends at school — Paul. And he was a bit reluctant to offer specific advice. Instead he said this — and this is verbatim — “The secret is, you have to do something with your hands at the same time.”

“Woah,” I thought. Suddenly a very complex procedure, which I had very little idea about, was made even more complex. What you did with your hands apart from touching boobs — which I presumed would be a no-go zone — was a mystery. “There’s no hope for me,” must have crossed my mind.

And looking back this was definitely not bad advice — it just wasn’t entirely helpful. That is — unless you were so bad at kissing that distracting the poor girl involved with touchy-feely theatrics might help the situation.

So when it came to those first kissing adventures, it felt amazing and different and cool — and I was really busy with my hands and made sure I tilted my head — but secretly I knew I sucked. Like — really sucked! Indeed I seem to remember one girl when I was 15 actually dumping me and siting my lack of kissing skills as a reason. Yep. Another TRUE STORY.

My final two years of school were a deadzone as far as women were concerned and I didn’t kiss anyone again until I was 18 when I met this woman at uni. She was a whole 18 months older than me — which seemed bigger than the universe to me at the time — and somehow she reciprocated my interest in her and various things happened that meant we arrived at that highly romantic situation where we were on my bed, at home, while my parents were only a few metres away, suddenly pashing halfway through watching an episode of NYPD Blue. It should be said I never watched an episode of NYPD Blue ever again. Not because it was a bad show — but because the world changed that night.

And she must have sensed I was such a deadshit because she took charge and she silently and maybe even telepathically guided me in certain directions. And over subsequent interactions she taught me even more skills. Everything got slowed down (this wasn’t a race) and things got delicate and there was attention to detail.

TEACHING

If I ever have a kid and I am telling them about “the facts of life” I just might go a bit further and teach them some “extra” skills — the things that I have struggled with so badly over my life. And one of the skills I just might elude them to is the fact I used to think it was all about that tongue-fighting business. But just like the old movies – it was all about the lips. But unlike the old movies, you need to break up the activity into stanzas — swap sides, keep the moisture levels under control, do something with your hands (lol) etc.

PLAGIARISM

So that relationship lasted only weeks but I learnt everything I now know about kissing in that short period and I have literally copied her entire technique as precisely as I could — to this very day. TRUE STORY.

So cheers Kellie — credit where credit is due.

POSTSCRIPT: THE SECRET

The secret of a good kissing technique is being in tune with your partner and maybe leading the way, but being mindful of what they want, or don’t appreciate. Go with what works and don’t persist with what doesn’t work. Empathy.

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GUEST BLOG — Massive ‘Heart of Nothingness’ Road Trip

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So today’s guest blog is by Michael — who plays guitar in our as yet un-named ‘band’ (though I am leaning towards “Vandermint” — what do you think?). Anyway last week he drove his parents’ car, and their dog, all the way from Darwin to Brisbane — a 5-day trip through the vast emptiness of Australia’s interior. When I heard he was doing this I said, “You gotta write me a guest blog!” And he said, “But nothing will happen. There’s literally nothing out there for forever.” But I insisted and here is the tale. For a sense of the scale of the journey, here is a google map route.

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So I’m sitting several thousand feet above Darwin, and we’re coming in. For some reason, just as I should be considering the possibility of our impending doom, I choose this moment instead to get nostalgic about childhood television shows, and all I can think about is how this all seems like a cross between Sliders and Earth 2.
“90’s TV shows I’ve never seen, or care to remember?” You ask.
Well yes actually. Those ones.
Listen, Earth 2 was not only a great sci-fi show, but also contained one recurring cast member whose very presence marks the succuss or failure of any film production. You know of whom I speak, namely — Tim Curry. I mean what can’t he do? Sweet transvestite; the voice of the evil sludge from Fern Gully; laser-shooting ape fighter in Congo? The list goes on I’m sure.
Looking out past the couple beside me, the insane expanse of relentlessly un-varying trees around the airport caused me to jolt, then remember just how bloody remote Darwin is. I mean, it could have been a strip of dirt in the bush we were landing on for all I knew. That was it: we were about to crash-land into Earth number two.
And similar to Earth 2, Sliders was also set on strangely Earth-like worlds, except of course there were subtle differences because, as you know, they were actually in a parallel universe (naturally). On top of this I was about to meet John Rhys-Davies in the car park—aka my Dad, his doppelganger. For any post-good-Indiana Jones peoples out there, that’s flippin’ Gimli.

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So here’s the story. I was heading to Darwin and mentally preparing myself for what would be roughly a 3500 kilometre drive back to Brisbane. Though I was more worried at that point about mentally preparing myself for news of my cat’s death, or lack thereof. You see, I had heard whispers that the cats would not be taking the journey to Queensland; that they were to remain in the NT, immortalised I suppose. But perhaps I should put this into context. I wasn’t that unhappy. Sad yes, but my cat was about fourteen and too old for such a shock., so I get it.

What was hilarious though, was overhearing my Dad say cautiously to Mum:
‘Have you told him about the C-A-T-S yet?’
Dad! I can spell you know.
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After leaving a dimension that was far too hot and where everyone wore thongs and had beer bellies, I began my slide south to what would hopefully be a parallel closer to my own.
I had with me one Smokey Joe. A devilishly keen doggy that did not share, but share we did, a liking of photography.

The view was really quite something. Once you get out past Mt Isa, the sheer distance between you and the horizon filled up with gallons and gallons of absolutely nothing is mind-blowing. To just see grass meeting the sky in every direction is quite surreal—I might have been on the moon, had the moon been hairy.

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I was somewhere around Mt Isa on the edge of the desert when the crazies began to take hold. Okay, enough with the Hunter S. Thompson impersonation, but I did at one point realise that you can start to pick up some pretty freaking weird things through the AM channels when you are out as far as I was. For a period there, I was listening at full volume to what I can only describe as (and will now coin) neo-alien dub-step. It sounded something like an elephant jumping on a trampoline while in a nearby building, someone threw a Korg synthesiser down several flights of stairs. Then again, I can’t tell the difference between one dub and another.

I’m not sure if I did make it back to my own dimension after all that, but I suppose it’ll have to do for now until something better crops up, like a dimension where public busses are replaced with those huge war-elephants from The Two Towers — that would be neat-o.

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Netball and how I came to have a band called “Wing Defence”

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The first time I played Netball — or “nettie” as I affectionately labeled it — was because I caved after months and months of pestering by a woman in the office who managed/captained our work’s crappy mixed netball team.

Every Tuesday afternoon she started fretting as she realised the team was significantly down on the required 7 persons necessary. It was an exercise I wish I had paid more attention to — because I would soon be a nettie captain and be just as desperate — doing the exact same begging and cajoling and handing over my own cash just to make up for the deadshits who negated responsibilities.

So that Tuesday I very reluctantly agreed and turned up to the courts at the Valley and cut my nails as best I could and put on a bib and tried my best to pay attention for the 1 minute I got to hear the RULES. And there were many rules. (More on that later). To my sheer and absolute surprise — I actually enjoyed it. And this was despite the fact I seemed to break every single of the many, many rules in Netball — and repeatedly — but still I went home that night just a bit interested.

And so of course the next week someone from the work team was missing so I said again, “yeah, alright.” But unbeknownst to me at that moment from then on I played nettie every single week, and for a year or so — twice-a-week — until the team was eventually dissolved in 2008. In that period I only missed nettie for only a few weeks, just once, when I went overseas. And even then I was so committed I organised some replacements via phone from Europe.

ACCOUNTABLE

But still Nettie was a mystery. It had all those rules and it took me many months to work it all out. In the beginning practically every time I touched the ball or was even near the ball I would get in trouble with the referee. And the rules of nettie make any person infringing said rules so acutely accountable. If you get in trouble you are made to stand in the “naughty-corner”. Nettie is one of the only sports where a penalised player is taken out of play and made to stand next to the opposing team’s player who is awarded the penalty.

But gradually I worked it all out, not before I wrote a song about Nettie. It was called “There’s too many rules in Netball”

Meanwhile my fitness grew and the competition was cool and I was soon obsessed. I joined a second team, and then a third, and then I would show up incredibly early for nettie hoping to get a game with a random team that was short of a player and if that didn’t work just spending ages with a ball and a net practicing my shooting skillz.

OUR LOSER WORK TEAM

How that team kept going — losing, and losing so harshly each and every match — is an achievement we should be proud of. It was an epic weekly self-flagellation.

And that first year of nettie was quite miserable in a competitive sense. We lost that first game, and we lost each and every other game we played. Once we came so close to victory but lost at the last moment. When that team won they were so surprised and so excited because that happened to be their first ever victory and as I was shaking hands with everyone at the end of the match I heard them start to organise post game drinks to celebrate. That loss felt particularly brutal.

The work team was a bit of a revelation. It was pretty profound seeing work-mates, including those on rungs much higher — in such a different, well “venue”. And competitive sport, no matter how humble, can get a bit “primal”. That’s all I will say.

Eventually the work team dissolved. I wasn’t disappointed. I had realised that team historically had some dramas. Initially it seemed crazy to me to hear of their stories of fights on court and all-in-brawls and the netball-centres where they were banned — but then I experienced all that nonsense for myself. I was usually very calm out there on court but once when I was playing GA and getting practically assaulted by this loser playing GD – I realised he stank of alcohol. And I got so righteous and angry I shouted at the referee (and so loudly everyone on the court could hear) that he was intoxicated and he was behaving appallingly. She nodded or something similar but literally just shrugged her shoulders. Nettie was just a few rungs higher than anarchy. “What hope is there for the world,” I thought.

NEW TEAM

Once I got in a “proper” team (sorry work) — the whole adventure seemed to improve and make sense. And being “competitive” was pretty cool. My skills improved and I was even more interested. Eventually I came to “captain” that team and it was an effort with all the organising and begging. But I loved nettie so much I suffered in silence. And they were all such nice people like Emma and Jackson and Cath and Nicole and Michael and Amy and Alannah and Ally etc.

COMPETITION

Often I will write these blogs and get the hits in my wordpress stats and just assume every person in those hits has read every single word of this entry. But I’ve learnt that is never, ever the case.

So just for you who actually stop to read all this bullshit I will tell you this is the most important and personally revealing bit: I am highly competitive but I feel so guilty if I win by too much. It seems I have a “fairness” gene. If ever we were in a nettie game and we were winning too much I sometimes just “accidentally” threw a bad pass just in a vain hope to make things more even. I hated those games. I would rather lose by a billion than effortlessly defeat an opposing team.

I guess that’s what endeared me to the work team. But when I joined another team suddenly we started winning occasionally. Once we even made the finals which were played on a Saturday and one of our defenders turned up 10 minutes late and cost us the game. Ugh. But that’s nettie.

INJURY

I suspect I have fractured two ribs at nettie. Both involved a collision with a much shorter woman, probably WA, smashing her head into my ribs. And I think both of those times was a collision with someone on my own team! At the time I was more worried about the woman involved — but both times she was like, “Whatever”. Meanwhile I was feeling ugly but dismissed that initial pain and soldiered on because adrenaline is your friend. But then later that night as my chest started swelling and the pain went into overdrive I realised I was damaged. Both times I went to a GP sometimes gasping for breath but there was nothing they could do.

SKILLZ (written at the time)

Once at band practice, whilst seriously affected by alcohol, I accidentally locked the band in my garage and then I went outside to check how much noise we were making and then locked myself out of the house. So they were locked in and I was locked out. After I explained this to the rest of the band, Wintah shouted that he desperately needed to go to the toilet and I contemplated panicking. Instead I drew upon my sweet nettie skillz and went round to the side of my house, climbed up the side and carefully pulled out the bathroom lourves, one at a time, and climbed down with each of them so as not to break anything. Then I climbed through the tiny gap in the window I had created and freed the boys just as Wintah was about to pee into a cup. Phew!

WING DEFENCE

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At the height of my nettie obsession I formed a band with Little Jess called “Wing Defence” — cause wing defence (WD) is the nettie position that is arguably the least important and where you put fill-ins. And now I think about it – that is where I started. Adam Scott suggested the name it should be said.

Wing Defence played at least 3 gigs which seems unbelievable to me now.

THE END OF NETBALL

Once I had started riding bikes nettie got boring and more a chore and the perpetual struggle to organise a full team every week was just fucking evil. “FUCK IT,” I decided. So our spot wasn’t renewed and I walked away that night never really looking back. I do miss it occasionally, but at the same time I am pretty damn cool with the independence of cycling.

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Me and Jess ImageDee and Laura pretending to be interested watching me play nettie

HOW DO YA LIKE THEM APPLES!

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So apparently my new iPhone is coming tomorrow. Now I say that, it will get delayed — but whatever. And in that spirit I just wanna go back to where it all began.

COMPUTERS

When I was growing up, home computers were incredibly primitive. Our first computer had a black and white monitor. In fact it wasn’t even arty enough to be black and white — it was in sickly snot-green and a contrasting darker-snot-green.

That computer was an Amstrad. My dad inherited it from his father who upgraded to a colour version. You loaded the games via cassette tape and literally waited 20 minutes before they were playable — even text-based adventures. If any of my friends came over to play computer-games (all of whom had cartridge loading instant-gratification Ataris) I’d have to entertain them in this deadzone. Maybe that’s where I learnt some social skills.

When I moved to Sydney my mum was dabbling in freelance publishing — so she bought herself an Apple SE. It cost at least $6,000 — she had to take out a personal loan. And it was our only computer and that’s all I knew.

When I moved back to Brisbane after school finished I wasn’t interested in computers until the internet came along. And because my dad was all PC I just had to suffer through that. I didn’t bother understanding anything apart from switching it on and clicking on a browser icon — I just used what I knew and if anything got too hard I whined and carried-on until someone else fixed it.

One day I asked my dad why the lawyers I worked for all used Macs and he said, “Well Apple is easier when you are just starting out.” And he said it like that was a flaw. Like computing was hard and should always be hard and anyone who tried to make it easier or intuitive or human was a fool. I accepted that at the time but naturally now I think he was an idiot for saying such blithering nonsense.

So when I got my first real job I suddenly found myself in an office full of Macs. I looked around the room and asked why. “It’s the industry standard” was the response. And I accepted that in the same frame as I had accepted dad’s “they’re easier” quip. Like you only use Macs if you are forced to.

So I sat down at my job doing basic back-end web programming. And gradually I learnt how to use and enjoy the Macintosh platform. I found them incredibly accessible but also highly sophisticated. All the nonsense and drivel spread by those in the PC world about them being “kiddy-computers” melted away. I was now a fan, which of course evolved into me becoming almost wedded to them.

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I “computer drew” this for a band poster in 2005. Would be very naff now – but it was pretty attention-grabbing back then

THE CULT

People wonder why I am so rabidly “Apple” — and it’s mostly because their aesthetics and their philosophy spoke to me, and continues to do so — but it’s also because these were dire days for the whole Apple brand and for ages I seriously wondered if one day they would implode. And if that happened our whole office might struggle to survive too. It felt like you were walking along a knife edge all the time you supported the company. And so you needed faith in Apple in those days and that “faith” has stayed with me.

BONDI BLUE

One day my dad took my sister on an overseas trip and to balance things out he bought me one of those first Bondi-Blue iMacs for Christmas. And with that very first computer I owned I started self-publishing zines and had a ball doing so.

So fast-forward a few years and I bought my first iPod as a birthday present to myself in 2004. It cost a great deal of money to someone working part-time and with a massive mortgage but I had “faith” that it was worth it.

That morning I had an “experience” without evening touching the iPod. Just opening the packaging was fucking incredible. In those days Apple really invested a lot in the packaging and included lots of extras in there as well as the actual machine — like a remote, a soft case, booklets etc. But it was also an experience just opening everything up.

For years I saved that packaging — it was THAT good.

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I might not have saved the packaging — but I saved the brochure.

But 7 days later things soured a little when Apple upgraded the iPod range and they all got cheaper and had bigger capacities. Ugh. But I learnt a valuable lesson about the Apple purchasing cycle.

After calming down from the event that was just opening the box — I got to know my new toy and it’s no exaggeration that my life changed that day. A week later I took two days off work just to rip all my CDs.

WALKING

And a few weeks later I started working part-time in the city at our union and I walked to and from work and listened to my ‘pod the whole way. So I got an insatiable desire for more and more new music. I became ravenous. I would harass my friends for new music tips and lug my computer to people’s houses just so I could rip their music collection. I think mining Jeffro’s collection was my favourite. (I need to do that again!) So my music library exploded and my whole appreciation of music improved exponentially.

Meanwhile in the city I would get puzzled looks as I swaggered around with my white earphones leading to that tiny bulge in my left pocket. (LOL) You could see people just couldn’t fathom a music player fitting into that tiny space. It was like they were contemplating the physics of the TARDIS. You could literally see the cogs in their brains going, “A walkman can’t fit in there. WTF?”.

And if you saw other people with iPods you would give them a smile and maybe even a wave and it would almost always be reciprocated. Someone once described it like the nod members of Fight Club gave.

I sold that first iPod (to upgrade) and just this year I tried to buy it back — just for nostalgia — but it seems to have been lost to time. Oh well.

After that I wrote a song about my iPod. It went:

I can’t stop talking about my iPod (x2)
Someone’s gonna choke me the next time I take it outta my pocket
But I can’t stop talking about my ipod.
They’re so goddamn impressive, and everyone seems interested,
Until I keep going on and on and on
They’re just hanging out the sheets, mowing the lawn or trying to sleep,
But I can’t stop talking about my iPod. (x1,523)

TRUE STORY

And this is only a fraction of the story. So Apple and me have had heaps of other adventures and we will, perhaps, continue to do so — and yeah — start a brand new one tomorrow.

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 Little Jess and Craig trying to get out of the shot

Since He Started to Ride (Pt 2)

Part one is here.

CHARITY

The first group ride I ever did was a charity ride organised by a former boss of mine and it introduced me to the wonders of sucking the wheels of a group — or “drafting” as it is better known. I was pedalling along on my own, in quite a bit of pain, when without much warning about 20 other riders just swarmed around me and I tried not to panic as I became part of that entity (but also NOT a willing part of that performance) — so I slowly filtered my way to the back of that group but for some reason I decided to stay in touch, just behind the last two riders. And it was then that I realised how much easier it instantly got, just being dragged along by a bike-riding black hole. It seemed I was constantly soft-pedalling or squeezing the brakes on downhills so I didn’t go crashing into their backs.

But of course this was simply a clear illustration of one of bike riding’s most interesting facets — on a flat surface you expend more effort pushing through atmosphere than actually keeping you and the bike rolling.

This is a collage of the awkward professional-photos they take at these events and put thumbnails up on the web for you to perhaps buy. Embarrassing.

A COMPUTER TELLING ME I WAS ABOUT TO DIE

Before Garmins the best computer you could get was the Polar CS200. It measured the usual things like distance and speed but it also had a heart rate monitor. And to set up the monitor you plug in your age and weight and height and stuff. But I hardly ever used it, except for this one time when I strapped it on and went out on an early morning mash. It was a Saturday and I was coming down Old Northern Road at Everton Park (which is a dual carriage way) and there were hardly any cars about and just at the top of the hill there the shoulder disappears so I had to move into the lane and this Tarago beeped at me in such hostility as it went past and I was naturally pissed off at this mindless aggression so I started chasing. Down the hill I went and almost effortlessly smashed up and around so I was alongside the driver’s window and I screamed at him, “WTF?”

Then I hear this insane beeping, even though I was going at 60km/hr — a speed at which the wind tends to deafen you. And so I realise it is coming from my bike computer and it’s telling me my heart rate is over 180 — which is pretty damn high and possibly higher than the maximum for someone at my age. OK. Slow down Davey! In that state I still managed to overtake the Tarago — just coasting — and in doing so I underlined my point, even if it did have that beeping nonsense as an accompaniment.

FIRST CRASH/FIRST SCABS

My first crash happened not long after I started riding seriously — but I just had to get it out of the way. It is a little bit of a mystery as to what exactly was the cause. All I can say is that it was a wet day, I was jumping from the road onto the footpath up a tiny lip in a driveway and at that point the bike slid from under me and I was sideways.

The mystery part is I then noticed the bike had a flat rear tyre so whether that happened as a result of the crash or contributed to the crash — I don’t know. But I will also say this — all this happened in the middle of town while everyone was rushing to work so consequently I had a billion people who witnessed me looking like a douchecanoe. Yay.

The best part of this whole affair was road rash. I love picking at scabs. I think I must have a very mild form of dermatillomania.

CENTURIES

The next goal for me was a “century” — 100kms in one day — a purely symbolic achievement. As a fail-safe to my extreme pussyness I decided to ride as far away from home as possible so I couldn’t just give up when things got tough after halfway. So I made it to Ipswich one afternoon and then turned around and only just made it back home before it got dark. I had really underestimated how long this would take. And it was a tough ride, with all the hills in the latter half tackled in the grannyiest of my granny-gears. I suffered and suffered and had to constantly rest — which isn’t surprising because I remember I hardly ate anything on that ride. Proper nutrition while riding is a bike lesson I refused to learn for years and years and years. I am such an idiot.

Oh god. Look how fucked that geometry was. I was such a deadshit. (But in saying this the wheelbase wasn’t as bad as it looked – the downtube was just at an evil angle)

FIXED

Pretty soon I decided to build my own bike and so I bought an old Malvern Star frame from eBay and set about transforming it into a fixed wheel. (See above) My motivation wasn’t to be cool or hipster or whatever (I wasn’t really even aware of that emerging scene) — I just wanted to build something retro-classic and because I had exactly ZERO skills at bike building — a fixed wheel was the easiest place to start. I was also a big fan of Sheldon Brown who had written a series of articles about bikes and riding that taught me a great, great deal. And Sheldon, who died not long after that, loved riding fixed. So I was keen to also give the process a try.

So I bought tools and then all the parts I needed and I assembled what I could and when it all got too hard I took it to the bike shop across from work to finish. And then I went for my first ride through the city fixed. On that short cruise I made all those rookie mistakes — like trying to coast and getting that “shock” and taking a foot off its pedal and not being able to get it back on etc.

But it was exciting and challenging and made overtaking other bikes much more gratifying. So I started doing all my commuting fixed and saving the roadie for weekends.

POTATOS

The Malvern Star soon got replaced by a bike built in Brisbane — a white Berretto and meanwhile I started reading some fixed blogs and I was really influenced by what was happening in Japan — with their colour mashups, asymmetry and general wackiness. That’s when I ordered a white aerospoke for the Berretto. Only about 2 weeks later I rocked up to race in an alleycat for the first time.

I was petrified at the thought of racing and really only turned up just to watch. Bizarrely I actually knew three people there already. There was Marty and Ranga Dave who I had randomly said hello to (cause they were also riding fixed) just rolling around town, plus I knew Erik from Brisbane’s first fixed-centric bike store — Gear. So I had someone to talk to and people to allay my fears and insist I have a go. The other cool thing about that night was the fact it was tag-team and I was teamed up with someone you all might be familiar with — Shirts — also racing for the first time.

The story of that race is told below.

After that race I was dubbed “Potato Dave” because there were too many other “Daves” and that’s what Aerospokes are semi-affectionately known as here in Australia.

MASHING

Alleycat at Surfers Paradise.

A whole bunch of things happened now. Suddenly I had a whole crew of awesome new friends who were all quite rock n roll. And soon I was unashamedly proud to be a bike rider. It wasn’t just a hobby and a way to get to work and back — it was a new lifestyle. You could ride bikes and be not be naff and boring. And I didn’t care what my other friends in rock n roll felt. Indeed — many of them soon started getting into bikes too.

A bike tower pile after an alleycat

And so I hardly touched my road bike. It literally gained a layer of dust. I still did long distance rides — but I did them fixed – including a 200km to the Gold Coast and back in March 2010. I also got into the bike polo scene and I gave that a go a few times but I sucked so bad I gave up and just came to hang out and watch. For a while I knew 90% of the fixed gear community and if I didn’t know them I still waved when we passed.

And then I organised my own alleycat. I loved alleycats so much I organised it so I could race in it too. And each and every one of the ‘cats I have run since have been designed so that I could ride too.

AN UGLINESS

Just a few weeks ago Tom was hit by a driver in a car that cowardly fled the scene. Tim, one of my besties, got car-doored earlier this year. And on top of that I have witnessed Ryan knocked over and even been there when Shirts got cleaned up by an idiot pedestrian crossing the road without looking. On top of that it seems a few months cannot pass without me hearing of one of my friends involved in some sort of drama.

But back in those heady days when I was just starting out, while I was hyperaware of what Bike Snob NYC calls “the indignity of cycling” I was still a bit oblivious to the “tragedy of cycling” and consequently a bit cavalier about it all.

And this attitude prevailed even though from stories told to me by other riders and reading other accounts on forums and blogs — and just the many, many close calls I had personally experienced in the short time I had been riding seriously — I quickly realised it might not just be a matter of “if” I would be hit by a car — it just could be a matter of “when”.

And when that day came — it was a particularly ugly, ugly incident. I was riding along a 3 lane road, and I was in the shoulder, when a car “buzzed” me as close as he could and the driver leant on the horn at the same time. I was infuriated and charged on and very soon caught up with the vehicle at a set of lights. I pulled in front and just glared at the driver and shook my head. Then the lights changed and I pushed off owning the lane and he managed to get around me and just as he got past he swung the rear of his car directly into me and sent me crashing into the road. I tumbled for a bit then came to a definite stop. I lay there with my face against the bitumen in the middle of that massive intersection of Newmarket and Enoggera Road for at least 10 seconds not really sure what to do.

I didn’t feel particularly in any danger because the world around me had froze as well. Although I looked up for a second and saw his car speed off — every other car, bus and truck stopped like they were hit by a comic-book immobilisation/freeze ray. And then someone pressed “play” and the world started moving again as a few people who had got out of their cars swarmed over to me and I got up and carried my bike to the footpath and said I was ok. I mean — I was bleeding and bruised and the bike was a bit of a mess — but I was OK. Mostly it was shock. I put the bike back together as best I could and rode home and reported the incident still covered in blood and road grime at the Valley police station. I managed to get a few bits of the number plate and the make and colour of the car but the cops were useless. They refused to do a wildcard number plate search and generally treated me in a callous and uncaring manner — even insinuating it was my fault. Thanks.

OTHER BAD STUFF

Of course I got hit by cars again and again — and one motorbike just to make things more interesting. Each and every one of those incidents involved the other vehicle turning into me from the right with the driver failing to look properly and it mostly just knocked me over without much damage — but once one of those collisions sent me to hospital on my very first trip in an ambulance. Maybe I will document that story another time.

But I’m still here. And despite all that evil drama — I love bikes so much this bullshit hasn’t broken me. And perhaps it has just made the right side of my body just that bit tougher.

Taken on my hospital bed

BIKE TOURING

That’s Ryan just behind Shirts in front

And one Saturday morning I met a dude called Ryan at that square at the top of the Queen Street Mall with some silly name. It was just Gypsy, me and him on a ride to Scarborough and I’d just accidentally joined it after seeing the proposition posted in our fixed forum. And I had no idea that day I would meet one of my bestest friends ever. We all went for a very ordinary ride and that was that. But I soon realised Ryan was one of the true believers in this burgeoning crew. He was organised and wanted to improve our skills. He would turn up and he could suffer. On top of all that he got inspired and it was Ryan that made me do things that I never thought possible and all this improved my life exponentially.

Ryan rode fixed for a while, then bought a road bike and I dusted off my Trek so I could hit the mountains with him and just keep up. And it was then that I started dividing my time between fixed and road biking again.

Ryan soon had this idea to do an “overnight ride”. He planned it all. We would ride the 180+ kms to Byron Bay on the Saturday morning, then the next day hit the hills that surrounded there (about 140ks) , then ride home on the Monday. I decided to get on board. This would be the toughest thing I have ever done — and I say this despite the fact I could do that ride without as much suffering now — but back then it was at the very limit of my abilities and fucking, fucking hurt. And to add the conditions were appalling: torrential rain for the first two days, then the hottest day of that new Spring the last. This, again, is another story for another blog.

But when I got home it was like heaven. It felt just like when I had first summited Coot-Tha, except with far, far more pain. I wanted to tell the world. Once I got back to Brisbane it was just after 5pm and there were bikes everywhere. Even though I was cramping up and so, so very weak, I looked around at every opportunity to tell someone my story. Eventually, just metres from home, this unsuspecting douche-bag rolled up to me at lights and the poor dude had his ear torn off. I told as much of the story as I could in the 1-2 minutes we had waiting for the light to change.

We have done many more of these rides including one to Woodenbong in northern NSW which sent me to the darkest, deepest depths of the pain cave — and where I was scraping the bottom and my brain wondered if it got any worse, I just might need medical intervention or worse. And naturally that ride took a chip out of my resolve to do these sorts of things ever again. Luckily I realised what had gone wrong — the intense heat had just sapped all my hydration and sent me into epic organ-meltdown. But once again, this is a story for later.

OVERSEAS

In 2010 I bought a bike bag and took a bike with me on a trip to the States and Canada. It never made it past the 14 days in New York because I mailed it home deciding I loved it too much and it had suffered enough and would get killed with any more transit. But that fortnight in New York riding around on my own bike just felt like bliss. It was my muse for my photographs of NY and the mashing through traffic over there, and the riding in general, was so different — it just opened my eyes. It was like bike-drugs. It felt so different, so intense and there were so many people witnessing it — it was like you were in your very own movie.

GARMIN and 2012

I’ve talked about my Garmin so much already and will link to stories soon. But it really did transform my riding. It made me conscious of what I was doing and made me strive for to achieve more. I set that goal of 10,000kms in a year and got there. And halfway through that year I decided to attempt 100,000ms climbed too — and got there with a massive effort in the fading light of 2011 spending so much time on Coot-Tha I felt like a local.

And just yesterday I signed up to Strava and I had no idea what it really meant until now. So that is going to be another albatross around my neck. Any Strava segment I run through I will be conscious of and just might need to bust-a-move, which might have consequences later.

So we come to 2012 and there has again been many achievements. But they are already documented so I’ll just link to a few selected highlights like:

1) The new Felt

2) The big wet ride

3) The Toowoomba Tour ONE | TWO

4) The Nambour Ride

5) Noosa overnighter

Shirts: Photo by Ranga Dave

THE NIGHT I FIRST MET “SHIRTS”

So Saturday evening Dee and I walked up to New Farm and the mood was somber – mostly on my part. I was shitting my pants. I had no idea what to expect tonight except it would somehow involve racing my fixie around town going from check point to check point. And my legs were sore. I had ridden up Mt Coot-tha that afternoon and my legs hated me. Eventually I made up my mind just to watch.

But when we arrived at the Alibi there were a few bikes there already and luckily one guy called Marty (who I had met at a bike shop a few months ago when he stopped to admire my bike) gave me more of an idea what to expect and said because it was tag-team that would make it easier and more of a “fun” format.

After dinner I couldn’t sit down – I was too nervous. Before I knew it I had paid my five bucks to enter and fate was sealed. I was given position “8” (which was eerily empty) because someone had refused that spot cause he thought it was unlucky. Eek!

Everyone was looking at my bike which was pimped out with a new aerospoke front wheel. They call them “potatoes”. I don’t know why.

Soon it was time for the briefing. Names were drawn out of a hat and I was paired with a guy called Nate [SHIRTS!] who looked VERY keen to win. In fact one of my friend’s actually said to me before the race – “He looks like he’s in-it-to-win-it!”. Like she was saying – “Get ready to be decimated”.

I took a deep breath. I knew I had to ride EVEN faster not to let this guy down. And I had no idea how my skillz matched with these dudes. I mean, I ride my bike quite a bit, but I am pretty much a pussy when it comes to the crunch. SHIIIIT. So there were four manifests – messenger-talk for pick-up and delivery points – but each rider would do only two of those, plus a 5th manifest which the two teamed-up bike riders would do together. But interestingly all the teams would be split 4 ways so that not all riders would be riding to the same checkpoint at the same time. (Except the last one)

On top of this there was a secret something to “do” at each checkpoint. So we got our first manifest and Nate was going first. His mission involved going to the city botanical gardens and scoring a goal. (We guessed it had something to do with bike polo).

So he was away and riding blindingly fast up Brunswick oblivious to traffic and danger. “Oh fuck,” I thought. “Oh FUCKING, FUCKING FUCK.”

Soon riders were coming back and tagging their teammates but I guessed these crews had shorter checkpoints. Then I saw a bike hurtling towards us at a speed one might seriously consider was literally “BREAK-NECK”. He was now on the wrong side of the road. “Oh shit…that’s Nate,” I realised.

He did this massive skid perfectly coming to a stop right in front of the guys handing out the manifests, adding to my woes. I got the next manifest and saw that it was Doggett street in the Valley. That’s all I read and started caning it down the road. I decided to avoid Brunswick to avoid lights and traffic. Soon I was at Doggett but the street was deserted. I looked at the map again and hunted down the street in a panic. Again I stopped and re-read the map. Fuck! I had missed the words “laneway”. Then I saw it and almost at the end I saw some women drinking beside a pile of shoeboxes. This was it! I said hello, they said they liked my bike, I said “Thanks!” and took my box and was off – back to the Alibi.

Nate’s next mission was somewhere on the Story Bridge. I moped around thinking I had blown it spending so much time in Doggett Street and being so silly as to not read the manifest properly. Soon riders were saying the cops had set up a patrol at each end of Brunswick Street to catch anyone running lights.

But before I had too much time to worry Nate had returned. I grabbed the next manifest and saw that it was on Melbourne Street in West End – the Gear shop. I knew where this was and bang! I smashed it up Brunswick heading for Ann. I actually overtook a rider up Brunswick which raised my spirits that just maybe we wouldn’t come last. [PLEASE GOD – CAN WE NOT BE LAST]

I got a pretty good run of green lights though I took one just a few seconds after it turned red and prayed that no cops were about. I filtered through the taxis and dodged peds and soon I was on my way down Ann. I jumped up onto the footpath at Town Hall to avoid a red and snuck in front of a bus at George. Then I rested a bit at the intersection near the Treasury and the Victoria bridge.

Down Melbourne Street I got another good set of green and was at Gear in no time. The task here was to snort a line of whizz fizz. Erik took a photo and stamped my manifest and then I was away. Up Melbourne I wondered about which way to get back and instantly just decided to go up Elizabeth. There was no debate. It was just the first route that came into my head. I got hit with heaps of red but took the time to rest. I was red-lining and pretended the break was necessary. Every second I was spinning I was spinning at 100 per cent. Then I suddenly saw the Ivory Street tunnel and decided to take it. I’d never gone this way before but hell – this was an alleycat: all rules were gone. It turned out to be Genius! It was deserted and soon I was in Moray Street but feeling DESTROYED. The hill after the tunnel was BRUTAL. For the first time in my life I was so buggered (no matter how much I wanted to) I couldn’t get out of the saddle.

but then I got some rest on the quiet streets downhill. When I got to the Alibi I was just barely able to stand without wobbling but managed to hand my manifest to Nate and he sorted out getting the final mission. That 10 or 15 seconds of rest was all I got and then we were away heading for Breakfast Creek. Nate let me navigate and we went through the Emporium carpark and dodged a few deadshit cars and turned right into Wickham. As I glanced up Wickham I saw a bunch of fixies heading our way at serious speed. SHIT!

Through the next light Nate took over navigating and suddenly he was turning right up THE steepest hill and my heart sank. I thrashed away at my bike but halfway up I was suddenly going nowhere so I jumped off and ran my bike up. Luckily the checkpoint was at the top and ranga-dave stamped my hand and we turned around. We were in the lead as the other fixies were still climbing up!

I didn’t have time to slip either of my shoes into my cages so as I cornered the clips scraped along the bitumen – scrape, scrape, scrape with each revolution of the cranks.

Then we were back on Doggett and we looked back and no one was following. Maybe they had taken a different route. On James we looked back again and the road was empty, but we rode hard still. Then we were on Annie which has a huge dip in the middle. Spinning like crazy at about 60kms an hour we pulled up outside the Alibi and threw our bikes down and handed in our papers.

I collapsed on the road. Then Nate came up to me and said we had won. WTF!??! No way – that’s crazy! On my first alleycat? There were many high fives and tales about eachother’s individual missions. Nate had had to chugg a beer on the Story Bridge and then had hit his head running up some stairs. Ow.

My friends brought me water and beer and then it became clearer that we had indeed came first. It took about 30 minutes for the other teams to all finish and then we had a presentation. Nate and I won 50 bucks on the bar and some Vans from Apartment in the city. Swt.

Me on extreme left

 

 

Belle & Sebastian (and how this introduced me to Dee)

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I took this at the second Brisbane show in 2004. This is arguably the best live rock n roll photo I have ever managed I think.

I have this tendency where I become a sickly-fan-boy sometimes. And it is not entirely dignified – yet it strangely makes me happy.

And my next favourite band, after Custard, was Belle & Sebastian. And it was actually Paul Medew, Custard’s bassplayer, who introduced me. It was like he was passing the baton on. See I somehow managed to get Paul a job where I worked and he became just “Paul”, not OMFG! PAUL MEDEW!!! (And this story will soon be related in my Custard stories).

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Anyway, Paul went to Rocking Horse one lunchtime and bought at least 10 CDs of bands he was interested in hearing — but had no real understanding of. This was super-brave I thought, or just a bit feckless with money. So while he was listening to something else, I asked if I could have a go at the B&S cd. And it was “Fold Your Arms Child, You Look Like a Peasant“.

And the first track on that CD was called “I fought in a war” (and that Youtube clip is a  rather confronting homemade clip btw) and as I sat at my computer doing a rather boring, repetitive task and actually having to play the CD through the computer in the days before iPods and even iTunes, I was dumbstruck at its power and ability to suck you in to its story. It was hypnotic and dark and fucking “heavy” without having to nail the point home with distortion and big drums. But at the same time – it was still rock n roll.

So I was a little late on board with this band. Ex-girlfriend Liesl had been a fan but from what I knew from looking over her shoulder every now and then while she dabbled in their music — quiet, sensitive or wordy songwriting just wasn’t something I was at all interested in.

But within 3 or 4 weeks and I had bought every stick of musical furniture Belle & Sebastian had produced. And then I munched on those tunes almost exclusively like I was a white ant and told everyone within earshot how much I fucking loved it. Like REALLY loved it. And to make things even more acute B&S were the kind of band that had a very rich and consistently above-average output. I couldn’t flaw them. It was like art. While Custard had been humble and imperfect and willing to embrace those flaws, Belle & Sebastian were still humble and “little” but also so precise, so much depth and their grandiosity was actually deserved. A more prosaic soul might describe them as “All killer, no filler” — ie a deadshit like me.

And to further illustrate this I would say a few of their B-sides I just might count in my top twenty favourite songs (like Photo Jenny, Slow Graffiti, Belle and Sebastian, I Love My Car etc).

All the while I wasn’t quite sure why I liked this band so much but I soon stopped wondering and just concentrated on the fact they were so good at what they did, I just couldn’t help but be hooked.

And one day they came to Australia. Their first show was in Melbourne and it just happened I had already booked tickets and flights to see Franz Ferdinand and the Fiery Furnaces — two of my other new most favourite bands. So it was complete coincidence they were playing as well and I organised tickets and although we missed a show in Brisbane (so we could see the FF and FF) we got over it.

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My sister and her partner came too – this was the family pre-party

Back up in Brisbane we saw their second show at the Tivoli and I was so excited and so inspired I took the day off work to make a few t-shirts for them and I gave them to my friend Shelley to give to the band. Shell had previously used to live with Beans (Chris Geddes) in Glasgow and Shelley even appears in a few B&S film clips. This is one of them.

EDIT: And today I am reminded that I met Kate, a woman I was with for a few years, when I randomly sold her an extra ticket for this show, having posted something about it on a forum. Holy moly. Life is strange and sorry Kate for forgetting that!

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The t-shirt design I made — a play on my favourite song, and the state we were in of course.

And all through the show I was just silently wondering if they would acknowledge that effort and then in the encore — BANG! Beans came out wearing that shirt I had made and I could hear the crowd go nuts around me, “OMG Look at his shirt!” I was fucking chuffed. Total Amazeballs!

Also during that show my friends Cat and Alex got to sing on stage for Lazy Line Painter Jane. Here they are:

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AN INTRODUCTION TO DEE

The next time Belle & Sebastian played in Brisbane I made another t-shirt, but this time just for me to wear. It said, “I got thrush from licking railings” — with a picture of a fence. One very, very beautiful woman complimented me while we were alone at the bar. I almost fell over with pride and absolute terror that someone so hot was talking to me. I just smiled and walked away with my drink being too shy to talk to her.

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The shirt itself was lost to time, but here is the design file I kept. The song it refers to a line from this song

And I say all that above because my most dearest Dee was in the same room at the very same time, for THE very first time — and I had no idea, and she had no idea either.

And this was my very first introduction to her despite the fact we didn’t meet or even make visual contact and she would only know I existed much, much later.

DEE:

It was my 18th birthday and, because the universe hated me, I had a uni exam at 5:45pm that afternoon. Just before I went into the exam, I got a text from Laura K or Jess saying they had just been speaking to the band. Being in my petulant late-teenage years, I was jealous-angry as I filed into the UQ Centre instead of lining up to see B&S. I later arrived at the Tivoli, proudly brandishing my ID for the very first time, and got a ‘happy birthday’ from the security guard. When I joined my lovely friends up the front, I was (not proud to say) wearing my best bitch-face, and continued to do so for a while. Later in B&S’s set, Stuart announced that they were going to sing a special song and suddenly one of my favourite bands was leading the crowd in wishing me happy birthday – all orchestrated by my amazing friends, of course! What pals. I definitely could have done worse.

Meanwhile I was up the back thinking, “Who is this goob ‘Dee’ getting all this special treatment – Birthday- Smirthdays. Ugh. Get on with the show ffs!”

TRUE STORY

After all this it should be said I was appalled by Belle & Sebastian’s new direction. So cheesy and uninspiring. And so their last album is absolute shite. Worse than evil. They are now dead to me. Full circle.

POSTSCRIPT (My favourite B&S songs)

1) The State I am In
2) The Boy with the Arab Strap
3) The Boy Done Wrong Again
4) I Fought in a War
5) The Chalet Lines
6) Slow Graffiti
7) The Rollercoaster Ride
8) This is Just a Modern Rock Song
9) Lazy Line Painter Jane
10) The Fox in the Snow