A Grant McLennan Story

This story happened in (I think) 1999 at David McCormack & Emma Tom’s wedding reception one Sunday afternoon in a backyard at Bulimba. My girlfriend (at the time) and I knew a few people there – but they were all much cooler than us and we were very little in those days. We were shuffling around in a corner somewhere looking awkward until I saw Grant was all alone and I had something to ask him — so up I went.

I think I either assumed he remembered me or I gave a very vague introduction. (See previous story). But he didn’t seem to mind and let me launch into it. “Have you heard of the Belle & Sebastian song Shoot the Sexual Athlete?” I asked.

“No,” he said. And it almost looked like he hadn’t even heard of Belle & Sebastian — or was only vaguely familiar.

“Well it’s all about how Stuart Murdoch loves the Go-Betweens!” I said excitedly and perhaps shocked he didn’t know about it. Although Belle & Sebastian were in their heyday at that time admittedly this song was not on any album or b-side — it seemed to be only available through a download on a fan’s website. The lyrics to the song go:

“Now I’m in a band people try to make me do things
Kiss arses and pay tribute
But I’m inclined today to do those things anyway
And I don’t care who hears it
‘Cause I’m a fan of the Go-Betweens
A fan of Robert, and I always have been
But I like Grant, now that I’ve met him
Because he’s charming
Of all the stars, and all the would-be stars
I’d take him home, to my mum and dad
Yeah, he’s charming, but he’s a trouble-maker too
He amuses me greatly”

I tried my best to relate what I remembered the lyrics to be to Grant and no doubt exaggerated my own perception of conflict and drama in the song — when now I look at it — it’s only ever so slightly balanced in Robert’s favour. And again — that was probably never the intention. It’s almost a love letter to Grant the more I think about it. But the way I told it, it was another of those Grant vs Robert tales where Grant always comes out second best.

Also — what I didn’t realise at the time — there was another song about the Go-Betweens by Sydney band Smudge — released in the early 1990s which I bloody guarantee you Grant was super-familiar with. It was called “Don’t Want to be Grant McLennan”. And I am sure it was intended to be cute and ultimately reverential: but I bet Grant wouldn’t have taken it that way in his heart of hearts. 

“Want to be like Robert Forster and rock and roll from heaven 
But the songs I write in the middle of the night make me sound like Grant McLennan 
Don’t wanna be Grant McLennan 
Don’t wanna be Grant McLennan 
Paul McCartney Ringo Starr 
George Harrison and John Lennon 
Don’t wanna be Grant McLennan”

I mean it is called: Don’t want to be Grant McLennan and even somewhat implies Robert is greater than all the Beatles.


The more I learnt about the Go-Betweens, the more I listened and talked to friends about them, it was a bit of a running gag — Grant wrote the hits and Robert wrote the deep stuff. And there was this bizarre thing where if you were a true fan — you had to choose. 

And although I am a massive dork — I do possess at least the semblance of some social skills and perhaps the most modest ability to pick up on some cues. So when I told this story to Grant I could see he was secretly a bit guttered. You could almost see him thinking, “Not this shit again. oof”. 

But he bounced back.

Almost immediately he said, “Well I like the other Stuart better!”

I almost fell over laughing. It was so funny and revealed he was indeed a true Belle & Sebastian fan — and especially so because the band were famously very secretive in those days.

That was Grant.

The subject was quickly changed and he then told me how much he loved The Cardigans. I was like, “You are kidding – right?” But a few weeks later I bought their album and he was right. So, so right.

Stupidly I tried to get this story to Belle & Sebastian a few years later — and I am pretty sure I succeeded. But perhaps thankfully they didn’t acknowledge nor reply! 

And I guess I am supremely proud Grant got the last word in that conversation.


(Some shot in Brisbane, some in Melbourne 2 nights before)

Photos by me! In Brisbane at the Tivoli in 2004

How I uncovered some long-lost Go-Betweens pictures

It began with a desperate call from my Dad. He’d lost his birth certificate and citizenship papers. Were they in that box of his old negatives and prints he’d given me during 2020’s lockdown he asked.

He was applying for a new passport and mumbled something about getting deported. I said I’d look and call him back. I soon found the papers he was after but in doing so I saw a picture of a smiling blonde woman lying on a bed, holding a hairbrush. I’d completely forgotten about this strange image.

I’d rung my mum when I first saw it and said, “Is this Lindy Morrison?” Mum had explained it was indeed Lindy from the Go-Betweens. But this was a promotional shot taken by my father for a play Lindy was acting in a year or so before she had joined the band.

Once Dad had calmed down he said the play was called “The Kiss” which was written by someone called Jackie McKimmie.

I began to wonder if Lindy had a copy of this photo – or had even seen it. That night I messaged Adele Pickvance who played bass for the reformed Go-Betweens — someone I knew through my days playing in a rock band with Wintah Thompson – the son of another member of the reformed Go-Betweens – Glenn Thompson. Glenn is also famous for drumming in Custard.

So Adele got permission and I soon had Lindy’s email. I waited until the next day and fired off a message with a copy of the photo. Very soon I got a wonderful reply.

She was delighted. “You have no idea how much joy this photo gives me,” she wrote. “I have nothing but a poster from this period….It was such a great play. Such a great time.”

I wrote back promising a better scan as I’d only taken an iPhone photo of the print. Plus I said I’d have a dig around those negatives because I suspected there were other photos she might be interested in.

Photo: Paul Hannah

See back in 2020 I had had a cursory look at those negs. Dad had dabbled in photography in the late 70s and early 80s. A few weddings, some sports photography for The Sun newspaper. He’d even had a Polaroid camera and had gone to restaurants seeing if punters were interested in a picture for a small fee. (Of course none of those ended up in this collection.)

There was a pub shoot of a 1979 meeting of the Brisbane Poets Union with some extra shots taken out the back of the Pink Palace Apartments on a massive fire-escape. These shots ended up in Time Off and in the UQ student paper — Semper Floreat. And there were many more shots from the play Lindy was in – all on negative film.

Photo: Paul Hannah

Now I was determined to have a proper look at all this stuff so I bought a cheap negative scanner from the internet and a few weeks later it arrived.

I got stuck in and after a few hours I had got through most of the film but there was a grubby bag leftover labeled my aunt’s engagement. I almost didn’t bother looking at these but I eventually pulled them out and sure enough the first 9 or 10 shots were of the happy couple but then there were shots of a weird party with a band I didn’t recognise. (There was even a couple lying on the floor pretending to be dead.) I texted my aunt and she was equally mystified: there was no party for her engagement. 

But then I got caught up in tracking down everyone in the other pictures. My mum’s friend and my old boss Robert Whyte helped by sending me the Time Off story for the poet’s union. The big group picture was thankfully captioned and I reunited lots of people with pictures of themselves they hadn’t realised (or had forgotten) existed.

Meanwhile my dad managed to identify those party shots as a pretend “Wake” my mum had held for the funding cut which led to the cancelation of the 1978 Queensland University Review. Another important detail here is that my mother worked at Activities in UQ and was part of the production team for that play Lindy was in. She had roped my father in to taking all those promo shots — perhaps for flyers, posters etc.

My mum on left. Photo: Paul Hannah

Then I was at my sister’s place on Sunday afternoon and telling her the story. She used to work at State Library and suggested I get in touch with John Willsteed – another member of the Go-Betweens and a local academic and according to my sister — a good old-fashioned local historian and archivist. That night I sent him a Facebook message and started feeding him random images. Turns out John used to live in the Pink Palace and he recognised a few people. He sent me his number and I promised to get in touch the next day.

So I had a chat with John, told him the story so far and he was keen for me to write everything down and submit the pictures to State Library. I said, “No problem!” And in the meantime I promised to send him the rest of the scans.

Later that day I dumped them all on him in a series of emails. And at the end I decided to tack on those images of the “wake party” and the band which I assumed were just the entertainment that night. I labeled the photo “Mystery Band”.

Next thing I know John sends me a message saying the mystery band was in fact The Go-Betweens. Like THE GO-BETWEENS. One of the most, if not THE most, iconic bands from Brisbane. One of my favourite bands it should be said too. And here I was, the biggest dork in the world, sending someone an image of the band he was actually a part of, with a message practically saying I have no idea who these jokers are.

In my defence it is Tim Mustafa on drums, Grant McLennan has an odd haircut and Robert Forster is looming in the dark in a difficult profile. Plus the image was taken over a year before Lindy joined. You kinda forget that there was an extended period when Lindy wasn’t part of the band in their formative period.

Photo: Paul Hannah

And then a whole lot of things made sense. Growing up I knew my mum had some connection to the Go-Betweens. In my head over the years the story became mum had given the Go-Betweens their very first gig. And this was at the UQ Student Union refectory. And so in 1997 the very first gig my own band ever played happened to be supporting Custard and Grant McLennan. After our soundcheck I brazenly went up to Grant and said as much and he was very polite and pretended it might be true. And then I think I backtracked – maybe it was just your first paying gig? Maybe you were just, like, at a party…? Oh gosh!

And then of course all those documentaries came out and I did my own research and eventually read Robert Forster’s book and there was never any mention of a gig at the Student Union Refec. I cringed over and over at what I had said to Grant that night. And much, much later I met Robert Forster a few times but every time I carefully took note to never mention that story.

But now there might be some truth to it. It was definitely not their first gig – but it was most definitely one of their earliest. And these pictures are perhaps some of the very first of the band performing — and the very first time they have been seen. I certainly cannot find any image of Tim Mustafa playing with Grant and Robert – so there is that.


After all this I sent my dad a message: “You know that picture you took of the band at the Wake? You won’t believe who they are.”

All photos below: Paul Hannah

The Brisbane Poet’s Union on the fire escape behind the “Pink Palace”; Photo Paul Hannah

HELSINKI – September 8-9

Had my entire backpack searched at the airport security in A’DAM. I was cool with that, but boy oh boy — they were thorough. I got in trouble because I didn’t realise I should have taken my camera and the iPhone charger out of my pack and put into one of the trays (just like the lappy). Look — I travel quite a bit and this was the first time I had encountered these regulations. Anyway I did my best to be polite and apologetic.

On the flight we tried one of Ben Law’s little tips. We deliberately booked a window seat (me) and an aisle seat (Dee) separated by an empty seat (some random who we could negotiate with later). It was genius. Thanks Ben! No one got booked into that middle seat and we had our row to ourselves. Pity it was only a 2 hour flight.

Over Helsinki we swapped seats and Dee got a decent look at all the lakes of her homeland. “It’s the land of a thousand lakes,” she said, quite authoritatively. And it looked true. They were everywhere down there. But as I learnt later — there are about 188 THOUSAND lakes in Finland. So Dee was basically lying. I am used to that.

Anyway I bloody dare you to look up Google maps and witness all that land vs puddle bullshit. It is bloody crazy. Wait. I can do that for you just cause I am a decent guy. Observe:

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.46.24 pm.png

We should establish at this outset that Dee is 1/4 Fnnish. Her mother’s maiden name is the unpronounceable “Veijalainen”. Phonetically you could get away with saying VAY-A-LINE-ANN.


Finland has a population of about 5.5 million people, so about a quarter that of Australia. It’s relatively flat — didn’t see any mountains or even that many hills. Lots of lakes and ocean coastline — as mentioned previously. Finland has been around as an autonomous state only about 100 years. Was part of Sweden for a bit (in Helsinki all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish), then Russia (further east you get the road signs begin in Finnish, then below is the Swedish, then below that is the Russian). Finland allied with the Nazis at the beginning of WWII and fought the “Winter War” with Russia and punched well above it’s weight. (But in the peace deal, possibly cause it killed a highly disproportionate amount of Ruskies (compared to Finns) — it lost quite a bit to Russia.) Mostly it has been pushing against Russia, rather than Sweden. Monuments and markers of the War(s) are everywhere here.

The language is like nothing I have ever heard before. Apparently it has more in common with central-eastern Europe than Scandinavia or even Russian. It is still a tiny bit high-pitched, but not sing-song like Norwegian. Everyone seemed to speak an incredible amount of English so you can truly get away with “Hei” (Hello) and “Kiitos” (Thank you).

Sauna is a big deal over here. You pronounce it “Sour-nah”. According to wikipedia there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. Than is over one sauna for every two inhabitants. Wiki: “Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.” We got to experience this all first-hand. But more on that later!


We arrived by train from the airport and found our way to the hotel which was basically in the dead centre of town. We had missed lunch and it was now too late so Dee sent me on a mission to find snacks, a drink, fruit and a tinned coffee. But finding a convenience store was a super-challenge. I got the fruit (berries) just at a market-kart near the station but failed on most of the other criteria. Finland has that thing where you can only buy booze at State-run facilities. And these can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Meanwhile my phone-card from the UK refused to work so on the agenda for that night’s activities was to get a cheap Finnish phone plan. We eventually found R-Kioski. Pretty much exactly like a 7-11 but it also had these massive gambling machines (like Pokies) in a corner. Very weird.

Later we scrambled around to the big sights like the Cathedrals and the big Square and the waterfront. Dinner was at this pub place around the corner.








So in Finnish – “Linna” basically means fortress or castle. We got to see a few other “Linnas” around the place. The vibe in Finland is that it is a tiny country squished between superior nations but it will defend itself to the hilt. To the HILT. And “Suomen” is basically the word for Finland. So Suomenlinna is a bit of a big deal. And it isn’t just one island. It is six islands connected by bridges. There’s a bunch of people that live there permanently. There’s even a school. And just quietly — the Pokemon were going riot over there. I saw a bunch of kids who had obviously skipped school just to go nuts over there.

The place was huge and there were always tiny nooks and details of the fortifications to look at and explore unimpeded. Tunnels and ramparts and actual batteries. Plus cute houses and views over the sea towards Estonia. It made the our pathetic “fort” in Brisbane (Fort Lytton) look pretty ordinary.

Lunch was at a ramen place. Look — it is so much easier ordering food in the language it was invented in when you are in a place that is a billion miles away. So consequently there is cultural neutral-zone.You kinda appear quite knowledgeable, and be a deadshit tourist at the same time. It’s a level playing field. “Tonkotsu Ramen Kiitos.” And then you can proceed to know the condiments and use the chopsticks (and spoon) with super-dexterity. It is a revelation. (ASIDE: In London we would order Pho, but we would get the kudos by pronouncing it “Fir”.)







Here’s the thing – I will not try to pretend this next bit wasn’t tragic. It is what it is. I have been the biggest fan of this song, and it’s film-clip. Like almost equally. It is just the perfect marriage of sound and vision (and dancing). One of the very first children’s shows on TV I watched was called “Words and pictures”. And that was what it was about. Perfect. Art or just lowly “entertainment” wasn’t necessarily confined to just one medium at the same time. You could be the best of both or all worlds at the very same time.

Anyway this film-clip was so amazing and I just had to go there. Luckily the wikipedia page had the very specifics so I could go there and KNOW I was in exactly the same place. Nothing was changed. I even attempted to play the song on my iPhone but accidentally sent the music LIVE to everyone on the train cause I hadn’t quite got my headphone jack connected. Dee was horrified, but I didn’t care.





That night we had dinner in some brewery and prepared for the next day into the heart of Finland via Dee’s great-uncle — Marku. He was picking us up at 8am.






IMG_0895.JPGSome art installation!

HOME HAIRCUTS (+ a sneaky Goon Sax review)


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?)

the_goon_sax_h_0915.8145e2fe310ccf8cd901434ffccebd02.jpgHere’s a pic of the Goon Sax. Louis, Riley and James


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.


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.


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.

pore pack.jpg

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.


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?”


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.)


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.


Camp Mtn Railtrail + Goatness

I love checking out new bike infrastructure, and so I was keen to see the freshly sealed rail trail from Ferny Grove to Camp Mountain.

This former railway line was the scene of the worst rail incident in Queensland’s history, almost exactly 69 years ago. 16 people died and dozens were injured.

The train was charted by federal government workers keen to celebrate that Labour Day with a picnic out at Cedar Creek in Closeburn.

It was absolutely laden with people — over 200 — and the driver had never driven that route and on descent into Camp Mountain the train was going too fast and derailed on a tighter bend.

And our route today took us right over the top of that fateful journey. Just about 50m before we turned left onto Camp Mountain Road was where all that awful shit went down. Back all those years there was a train station at that intersection. It is pretty wild to think how things have changed so much in just the living memory of my grandparents.

Anyway. Just while I am feeling philosophical, I should note this ride was a bit like “Waiting for Scotto.” He was meant to meet us at Lifecycles but when he was late Mark texted him and it emerged he had only just left his house way over in Annerley.

We decided to roll away, going slow, and let him catch up. But that was a bit hard cause these were rubbish roads with a lot of traffic so you just naturally want to get through them as fast as possible. But we only had to “Wait for Scotto” for about 15 minutes. Mark started doing laps of the carpark. That looked like fun so I joined him. Benny practised track standing.


Eventually he arrived, looking resplendent in his new Pedla kit —  and we rolled on.



So here was where the rail trail started:


The new pavement has been a tiny bit controversial — as some people loved the dirt and grass and naturalness. And I get that, but if it makes people ride bikes more or just exercise (it was pretty crowded with walkers), then that is a good thing in my book.


We didn’t see any horses to yield to it should be said. Horses seem to be on the very top of the rail-trail food-chain.


Just cause I have been so neck-deep in gravel these past weeks, and have far more on the horizon, I decided to pick out a tiny bit extra on this ride. First was this dead end street traverse:


Then there was this dodgy next section which I had researched on Google Maps, but it was just a hunch that we could get through. Scott and Benny were a bit ahead and naturally missed it because it was hidden down this tiny grassy path obscured by this massive “End of Road” sign.

And they rode left up the bitumen before they realised we were all waiting for them to notice we had stopped. When they saw the route Ben said, “Well that was obvious”.


And this section, though short, had some super-treacherous sandy sections. And the last bit I lost it and did a half crash. I managed to unclip both legs and stay semi-upright. I don’t think it counts as a crash — but my sandy rear-derraileur attests to the fact the bike at least went totally sideways:


Here’s a shot of Ventura smashing through the last of that shitty section:


And here is a shot of a puppy. This is for my fiancé, Dee:


Next was the main road again and then up the Goat Track. Here’s Ventura again:



Scott and Ben talking new bikes




At the top we gently rolled on to the Cafe. Cake-time!

There were several things to note here:

  1. On the way to the Goat Track we saw a kid heading in the opposite direction getting motor-paced by a guy on a scooter. (“That’s weird”, we thought.)
  2. Then as we were waiting for our coffee’s and food we saw the same kid and the scooter roll past. This time the kid was ahead of the bike and Ben said, “Look, he’s dropped him!” And it seemed this kid had smashed it to Samford then back up the mountain. Impressive.
  3. There was a random roadie sitting next to us and he knew the kid from the Coot-tha Burn last whatever. His name is Sebastian Something. He’s only 16.
  4. Another teenager then turned up in a very expensive sports car with a very beautiful date. They didn’t stay long and then the two tried to leave. But the poor kid seemed to have no idea how to work the car and took a few minutes and a few gear crunches and even more engine stalls to reverse and then eventually head down the road back to Brisbane. I was too embarrassed for the douchecanoe to even look.

Back to Brisbane and Ventura had a mechanical and so I suggested we fix it at my place. It was a great chance for Scott to be horrified at my lack of, and poor organisation, of my tools! oh well.

It was a good ride. Legs still feel sore from Boonah, but they are getting better. Just need to remember how to suffer more.


Boonah Overnightah (PART 1)

Traditionally, well in my experience, overnight tours have been about being super-minimalist. Basically these following “rules”:

1) Keep the weight to only what is truly necessary. They call it “credit card” touring.
2) Ride hard and fast with the Garmin on all the time on the smoothest route possible to maintain an impressive average speed.
3) Drink, sleep and eat at the local pub (or sleep at a cheap motel if you really have to).
4) Remember: if you think you just might need something — well you won’t. Leave it at home.
5) Lots of beers and dodgy pub food make sleeping easier so you can just jump out of bed and get a super early start for the limp home on day 2

But it seems there are other people out there in the world who do things decidedly differently.

1) They take an inordinate amount of stuff so they can be almost totally self-sufficient. Camping gear, cooking gear, most of the food and spares of almost everything.
2) And they ride the rough and dusty way. The slow way.
3) They might visit the pub but only for a counter meal
4) They leave their Garmin at home (Wait – what?)
5) Not so many beers and thus a very long and relaxed and super casual start on Day 2 – and that’s even before they even get on the bike.

And this was one of those overnighters. A very, very different experience for me.


Because I am only set-up for the former I rode this overnighter just like I would normally. Crazy huh? So I was *that guy*. I was riding a carbon bike with a dodgy seat-topper and a pretty much just a credit-card in my back pocket. I would be the one that would get ALL THE FLAT TYRES and maybe worse and slowing everyone down and be generally useless. Story of my life.

Plus I was the only one with a Garmin rolling and super-interested in its results. (Ryan’s doesn’t count cause that was ostensibly just for navigation).

The only thing I did to perhaps help my argument was to change my tyres to a set of 25mm Maxxis Re-Fuse. Scotty assured me they were bomb-proof. (So a little wider and heavier than I usually use). ASIDE: On that Killarney ride back in 2014 we met some old veteran overnighters and they said they don’t let anyone come on one of their rides unless they are rolling with the Maxxis. True story.

As it turns out I wasn’t “that guy”. Various other people thankfully took that mantle. More on that later.



This is one of those rides where you get a train at the start and a train at the end. This can be a bit awkward cause maintaining conversation for 1.5 hours at the start of a ride (at 6am when you are a bit blergh from just having woken up much earlier than usual), and then the inevitable 1.5 hours of conversation at the end (when you are super-tired and dehydrated and have spent literally every waking hour with these people and so you have NOTHING left to talk about).

Anyway. This trip out wasn’t so awkward. I got to meet a dude called Ryan — not to be confused with the other Ryan. So this ride’s “Ryan” I am dubbing “Planet Ryan” cause he’s a mechanic/bike-builder at Planet Cycles and not the Ry Ry from many other bike adventures. Planet Ryan is also a Ginger!

Also with us was Bennett, our leader — then Dan (not Antmandan), Daniel Licastro (AKA “Gypsy” in times gone by) and Scott. So six of us — though Dan was joining us just for day 1 and then riding back to Ipswich. All of those guys were rocking tyres no thinner than 40mm (even Dan). The other overnighters were also carrying 8-10kgs of extra stuff on top. Maybe even more.



And then there was this secret seventh member of our crew. A ghost rider ready to maybe judge us once we had uploaded our Garmin data. See this ride had been proposed, mapped, tested and then ridden (a few months back) by one Bradley Norman. Brad of Queensland Cyclocross fame. So we were essentially following his directions — even though he wasn’t there because he had to work this weekend.

Brad’s imperatum, and the fact that Bennett didn’t print the map out, meant we were kinda wedded to his plan. It was Brad or Bust. I stupidly suggested a slight variation to the last stanza of the Day 1 route but no one was having any of that shit. That idea got shot down in nano-seconds. Brad or Bust.



Off the train at Rosewood we went to the bakery and had some pasties and a toilet-break and then we were heading south. The gravel started almost immediately. On a road bike gravel means this:

1) You have to swim about the road like a drunkard hopefully avoiding any stones larger than a Jawbreaker.
2) And in doing so you are concentrating on the road-surface 100% of the time. Vastly more than you’d usually do.
3) The excessive vibrations mean your hands get very sore and you’re constantly shifting positions to get some relief.
4) You don’t get excited for downhills. Any speed above 25kms/hr is adventurous so that basically meant I was constantly on the levers trying to keep my speed in check on the backside of any hill. But in saying that when everyone else smashes past you at 40+ you eventually get a bit more relaxed.
5) The 90 degree turns are the worst cause that’s where the gravel has been washed over by traffic and seems to congregate like it’s a gravel-party — so you are slushing through much more junk.
6) Uphill is where I felt the most stable — cause it was so much slower. See point 4.
7) Downhill on grass I just had to get off the bike and run with it. True story.

So we were a bit clueless as to the route but luckily Ryan had this brand new super-fancy Garmin 1000 which he had pre-loaded with Brad’s route and we were sweet. I mistakenly believed I knew the turns but we would have been fucked if the crew had relied on my directional skills.






The next 30ks was a variation of dirt, gravel, bitumen and various previously undocumented road surfaces which were quite refreshing. The views were great and we mostly had the road to ourselves. The terrain was rolling but no serious pinches.




At about 15ks in I was about 100ms in front and I saw this dog on the left start getting nuts and barking and carrying on. He stated sprinting towards me and I was zen, assuming the fence would secure him. But then s/he was suddenly ducked under the fence and was on the road-verge charging at me and I heard this massive growl. The kind of growl that only means, “I want to fucking BITE you”. My heart jumped about 20 beats per minute and I jumped out of the saddle and sprinted away as best I could. Luckily it was on a downhill incline. Once the the dog was no threat I looked back at the crew having no chance to verbally warn them. But they seemed fine. Later everyone was like, “the dog was just playing with you.” But in my heart of hearts, that dog was only a bit more civil faced with a crew of bikes rather than just me on my own.


It should be said that there were no shops or water opportunities for these first 65kms. But there was a chance at a place on the map called Rosevale which was a “maybe”.

At a gully/creek crossing about 20ks in Dan’s only full water bottle jumped out and he lost all that water. So we stopped at the Rosevale hotel but it was deserted. We saw a tap but it was protected by a fence and a “beware of the dog” sign. But eventually we realised this place was empty — the “foreclosure” sign helped. We jumped the fence and got this shot with an old train carriage in the background.





The next section was all bitumen and Dan said to me, knowing I was a bit worried about my tyres being compromised, “It looks like you might be alright.” Meaning I had dodged a bullet with respect to gravel. But then almost as soon as he said that there was a sign saying “Gravel next 6.8ks”.

And this gravel was very “AUSTRALIA”. So ginger. It spectacularly contrasted the super green of the vegetation. And the main range was now so close and so beautiful. There were cows everywhere and I love dairy cows, and there was a bit more shade — but my hands and arms were suffering from constantly cushioning the road surface on my body. Steadily I was starting to feel a bit shit — in the “can-I-do-this?” sense.

I did my best job of keeping that to myself cause everyone else seemed to be smashing it.

Meanwhile I was doin the maths trying to calculate when the gravel would end and suddenly it did about 800ms before it was meant to. And the country opened up and now we were so amongst the majesty of the northern section of the Main Range National Park. And I just got a bit excited and sprinted ahead amongst all these views and smooth bitumen and sweet downhillness.



IMG_0210 2.JPG




About 8ks later Ryan couldn’t figure out Brad’s map. It seemed to be sending us down a no-through-road. And we collectively decided that this was a Brad Special and not obvious enough for us goobs so we would all stick to the road. Admittedly we were all really hungry. Supposedly Brad’s special side-tour involved a creek crossing. I am just about 20 per cent disappointed we didn’t explore that. But then getting lunch 20-30 minutes sooner was magical. Just saying.



After a decent lunch at Aratula at the BP truck stop where we saw a douchecanoe pull in with a number plate that effectively said, “MY ASS” we headed up the highway. It was a bit hairy when massive trucks smashed past but thankfully only about 2ks later we were on side-roads again. Skirting around Mt French we hit the main road to Boonah and soon we were at the fabled sign that said, “Kent’s Pocket Road”. I won’t bother you with an explanation of why this event was so meaningful in a LOLOLOL kinda way. But it did mean we KENTS spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting this crew-shot.

The Kent’s Pocket road was a detour. An extra few kilometres over rocks and sapped our arrival time at Boonah by at least 20 minutes. But it was all worth it. Great scenery and at least one untethered and un-fenced cow standing inches away from the road which I did my best to avoid but Scotty tried his best to seduce.

IMG_5290.JPGPhoto by Bennett

IMG_0230.JPGAborted timer-shot photo

IMG_0231.JPGTimer-shot I nailed!

IMG_0237.JPGThe beauty of Kent’s Pocket Road


At Boonah I was just absolutely ecstatic that I had not flatted (or caved in any other fashion). I was pretty chuffed with myself. I had successfully rolled 80ks without being “that guy”.

To celebrate we got some brews from the drive-thru and went to the park to relax but the sun and the ants made that a bit shit. I headed back to the motel where I was staying. I would have stayed at a hotel but there’s no way I would do that if no one else was doing the same. Meanwhile Dan headed back to Ipswich on his own making his total ride over 130ks. (that was an extra 50s).


As it turned out Scott was bunking with me cause he couldn’t source a tent. I don’t think I have had a friend stay on the bottom bunk for like — maybe 20 years.

It was a bit daunting, but it worked out ok. He snored a bit, but then I had to pee in the middle of the night and I woke him up super-early.


To be honest I think Scott won the WEIGHT AWARD. His bike was so super-loaded. Indeed he seemed to purposely overload it just for lols and maybe for a bit of ballast. I am sure Bennett would agree. Scott was constantly offering us all the excess food or water he had lugged. And then he was like, “Do want my spare tyre?” “What about this bean-bag and flat-screen I stuffed in there too?”

And for all the shit Ryan and Bennett carried — they forgot the sunscreen. WHAT? And they payed for that! More on that later.


I managed to get a 30 min nap while Gypsy and Scott lounged in the Boonah Motel pool. Meanwhile Bennett and Ryan set up camp at the Boonah Showgrounds. Thankfully they got a section a tiny bit more secluded. After I woke I was a bit sleep-drunk and made Gypsy and Scott ride up to the lookout just above us up this 20% climb. “TRUST ME — THIS WILL BE GOOD” I said and Scott was like, “No one who has ever said, ‘TRUST ME’ has come up with the goods.”

But I think I nailed it. You can judge by the pics. We could see all the major peaks, the entire town and the gliders getting towed up.

Panorama from the Boonah Lookout


DINNER (and camping)

So after my nap, and Scott and Gypsy having a swim we went over to the camp grounds just in time to see Bennett cook his dinner.

IMG_0250.JPGHere is Bennett (with his epic sunburn) cooking his baked beans


After unsuccessfully trying to destroy Bennett’s tent by constantly tripping over his main anchor line, we headed for the pub.

We went to the Dugandun pub about 1k down the road on Scott’s insistence. It turned out to be an inspired decision. It was a beautiful old pub and it was just a bit lively. Crucially — at least for Gypsy — they had at least 6 different types of parmy’s on offer.

While Gypsy chose the traditional parmy, Scott and me went the “Nacho-Parmy” which Bennett described as “Bogan-Fusion”. And he was right. It was shithouse. But I just wanted sustenance. Here’s me and Scott getting our meal:


Look I learnt a lot more about Tinder than I needed to know that evening. But that is another story.


So after seeing a sign saying there was a “Courtesy Bus” that became a “thing” or a “challenge”. I was always like, “Dudes, it’s only 800ms back to town.” But I was voted down. The van was there and I just wanted to get in just to document the adventure. Here’s the photo:


And here is Bennett winning $31 on the pokies!


DAY 2 coming later!

Here’s some bonus pics via Bennett:




Gravel grinding on Mt Perseverance


Today’s ride had EVERYTHING.

Crashes. Blood. Mud of the stickiest type you could imagine. Gravel of all shapes, variety and colour. Mist — like the kind of mist that fogs up your camera and where everyone more than 10 metres away looks like a ghost. Drinking untreated water. Rain and baking sun. (the kind of SUN that means I am now sunburnt despite 2 layers of sunscreen.) Five hours in the saddle.

And officially THE MOST flat tyres on a ride ever. (I am pretty sure it beats every single Werewolves ride. Maybe even them all combined!)

Oh and epic ‘Gramin of course. After all — Bennett was in attendance. 

So Brad had researched and organised our super-gravel-ride today and it started, 7am, at a place called Helidon just at the base of the Toowoomba Range — about an 80 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD.

On a computer screen it looked like this.

And I figured it was achievable. 62km and around 1100m of elevation. I haven’t done much riding lately but I’ve kinda kept some skills up-to-date. Up until today via the tales I’d heard on the internet — 62kms on a MTB roughly equates to about 100km on a road bike. But I don’t believe that shit anymore.

I had no idea how tough this ride turn out to be.

Gravel isn’t just that dirt and rocks that sap your speed. It’s those ruts that are virtually 50 speed bumps all 20cm apart that don’t just fuck your momentum — they render much of any effort you put in redundant. Gravel is also swimming left and right about the road trying to find the smoothest and safest route. Gravel (can mean) you have to stay in your saddle while climbing lest you lose traction in your rear (drive) wheel and thus you spend much more time using certain specific muscles — whereas on bitumen you often get the chance to share the effort by standing up (and give your bum a break). Gravel can turn to mud which cakes your tyres like it was superglue and instantly doubles their weight.

Gravel is a massive challenge.


But let’s get back to the start. There were 15 of us. And here is the tally of tyre flats (in alphabetical order – SPOILERS!):

Adrian – 0 (but about 5438 times his chain fell off)
Bennett – 0
Brad – 0
Connor – 0
Declan – 1
Dave (me) – 0
Geoff – 0
Jeremy – 2 (a double flat)
Jon – 0
Jordie – 0
Josh – 3 (incl a double)
Mark – 0
Nate – 1
Rhys – 1
Scott – 0
Stefan – 3 (including broken spoke)


So I was on an MTB (with 2 others) while the other 10 riders were on CX bikes. They are lighter and have thinner tyres so require a little bit less effort to roll. But they do get a LOT of flats. I think after the 25km mark I would have cried if I had got a flat. (more on that later)

IMG_0085This is Geoff — also on a MTB (as was Mark)


The first 10kms was mostly bitumen — but here was our first taste of gravel. And then DISASTER!



We all hit this massive succession of ruts and suddenly water bottles were flying out of cages everywhere. Well — only two but they both happened in stereo. I stopped and retrieved them knowing water (or lack of) might be an issue on this ride. One belonged to Bennett who had the sense to stop. But Jordan kept riding! And he only had that single bidon. Anyway, the crew waited for us about 2km down the road and Jordie was pretty relieved to get his bottle back. There was only two chances of water later in the ride. At Murphy’s Creek and supposedly non-potable rainwater at the lookout at the very top of the ride (34kms in).

Meanwhile Connor had packed 2 bottles for the ride in his car but had completely forgotten to put them on his bike before we left. He then found a random Orchy Juice bottle on the side of the road and then filled it up at a tap in Murphy’s Creek.

That’s resourcefulness.

Personally I would have abandoned the ride in that situation.



And then the dirt was omnipresent. We wouldn’t see bitumen until the last 7km.

This next section, roughly about the 20km mark meant the group split. The tough guys were all trying to get Strava KOM’s on this virgin territory so they sped ahead. (They were also quietly trying to pwn Brad).

But while they were going nuts I was starting to feel a bit rubbish. I was towards the end of the bunch and found myself talking to Brad (pictured below).


Brad attempted to talk to me about my favourite subject — Star Wars — but I was so fucked that I had trouble concentrating and responding. Normally I could talk Star Wars underwater but right then I was in real trouble. My legs had these hints that cramps just might get involved.

Rhys was struggling like me and eventually I got off the bike and walked. He soldiered on on but did succomb at one point. I had to walk about 4 times in total over the next 12ks.

At the top the world got foggy. I had to take off my sunglasses as they just became opaque. There was a lot of rainforest up there and big, big trees.

The guys up front reported they had been threatened by a dog that was at one point about to bite through a tyre. The dogs out that way aren’t fenced in. It seems to be a recurring story. On Brad’s earlier reconnaissance he had a similar experience.



IMG_0108Jon getting acquainted with a random horse

IMG_0112Bennett ‘Gramin!


After this picture above — that’s when the flat tyres started. Just a few seconds into our next stanza. There was a double flat (Stefan) and then Josh punctured too. They literally hit the same rock it seems. Rhys and me and Adrian just soft-rolled onwards. I was in such trouble I was happy to just get through a few kilometres at the most basic of speeds while repairs were done and we could find a nice place to wait a bit further down the road.

We waited in that epic cloud at what I now realise was the highest point of our adventure. Around 800m I presume.

Rhys attempted to ‘gram a pic of his bike trying to keep it upright with a stick. Unfortunately I missed the bit when that failed and just as he was about to take the pic his bike was sideways!


And then everyone else arrived through the mist. The only reason I could take this picture was because I heard them first.



IMG_0127.JPGMy tyres just got nuts with mud

So the next bit was a whole lot of down via a road designated as only traversable in “Dry Conditions”. We were almost immediately were met by a car coming up (flagerantly ignoring that dry-road vibe.) The road was so narrow we stopped completely to allow it to pass. It should be said that these roads were so remote I think this was one of only 5 or 6 cars that engaged us that entire day.

Meanwhile the route was all downhill but this was all mud. Red, red mud that stuck to everything. My wheels were now twice as wide and when you went over gravel the rocks stuck at low speed but then spun out into your face when you got a bit faster.

The road steadily deteriorated. At times it had bathtub sized holes — conveniently filled with brown water if you felt inclined for a swim.

Then it was up and up to the lookout. Of course there were no views. But Brad assured us it was a truly amazing vista in clear conditions. I believe him. On the way down I spied a few glimpses through the trees that were gobsmacking.

Here’s what it might have looked like: (NOT MY PICTURE)

Gus Beutel Lookout.JPG

Here’s what it looked like today:




Next we headed down. With all that speed and being on a refreshing sliver of bitumen my tyres suddenly started spewing out all that mud. It was like a mud version of a Catherine-Wheel. I was sans-sunglasses courtesy of the misty-gloom. So I wasn’t just blinded by mist — but mud too.

But the faster I went the more mud was decamped. So I was in a bit of a conundrum. See Brad had warned us that there was a very acute right turn coming up that would arrive very suddenly. But a few of us forgot that instruction (looking at you Adrian!) and found themselves having to backtrack for not the first time. I managed to pull up and do that rather technical turn over what could be described as a potential bit of quicksand.

Then the flat tyres started again. It was one after the other and then another.

It just got ridiculous.

And the road was descending quite rapidly. The CX riders were going nuts. Over 70kms per hour at some points. And Rhys was in front and he over-cooked a massive downhill chicane. He went through a bush at the right and done one of those emergency unclips to stop. But Stefan was right behind him and had no option but to crash on the left. Geoff was third and procedurally decided to stop by deliberately washing out sideways. I arrived only a few seconds later. Geoff was signalling the danger to everyone behind but I was in no trouble having been very generous with the brakes.

Stefan was all bloodied and had another flat. Rhys had to give him one of his spare tubes.

Somehow Rhys had chopped the top off one of his bidons. Impressive.



Thankfully those last 30kms were about 70% downwards.

There was a few pinches but they were brief and I took it as easy as I could. Thanks to all those flats a big bunch of the crew were miles behind. Nate said they had just repaired a tyre and then literally 50ms down the road they had to do another. Must have been stupidly frustrating.


Scott and Rhys and Stefan and Declan and Connor went ahead and me and Adrian kept a more conservative pace. Mostly cause Adrian kept dropping his chain. He would roll up to me and then suddenly say, “Oh shit, I’ve dropped my chain again.” This literally happened three times.

So Adrian and I enjoyed the last 7kms which was on tarmac and on a sweet, sweet descent. Here is Adrian doing a sweet skid for the camera:



So it was just Adrian and Me in that last 10kms. And we were a tiny bit worried we were lost. The guys in front had long since disappeared and there was no sign of any one behind.

But we got to this built-up area and felt a bit more confident. At this cross road we couldn’t work out which way to go. I saw a woman in her garage and asked her if this was “Helidon”. “Yes,” she said. Awesome. Then we asked directions to the centre of town. She was instantly befuddled. After a bit of trying to give us directions she went and got her husband to explain. We had that time to look it up on our phone but we were polite enough to wait.

And it turned out we were only 200m away. What?

Meanwhile at the SPAR it only took about another 15-20 minutes for everyone to reconvene.


Geoff had brought the VB. It was Australia Day after all.



IMG_0146.JPGThis is Stefan having just washed up all his wounds at the public toilet in Helidon.

IMG_0147.JPGI took my shoes off and my legs were ginger


Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.33.18 pm.png






Star Wars — Force Awakens



So I am actually writing this in the dark of a movie theatre (for our second look at the new Star Wars). The projector just broke down but only after Dee and I had suffered through all the hundreds of ads – about 25 minutes worth. (Maybe that is a record?) When the movie tried to boot it went through this bizarre phase where sound was OK, but the picture was replaced by a still from one of those ads we had just been tortured with. It was maddening.

We then went through three of these false-starts. Now we are being ferried into the 3:30pm session. (From our original 2:30 timeslot).

Some people are getting narky. The cinema people were very nice and apologetic. They just gave us all free tickets but now some people are demanding their money back. I can’t see the value in doing that. I know it’s really disappointing – but it’s no reason to take it out on the poor staff who probably have no idea why the technology fucked up. I have seen this sort of anarchy when our flight to the States got cancelled a few years back. Maybe this is the power of Star Wars. But in saying that if I hadn’t already seen the film maybe I too might have gone all Wookie on that shit. 🙂


So we saw the new Star Wars at a midnight session. It was my very first midnight movie-going experience. Two months ago I chose the 12:02 session (as opposed to the 12:01 session) just to avoid any nerds dressing up or any other distractions. I wanted to study this film. Be clear-headed and absorb it as entirely as I could.

So I tried to have a nap at 8pm but I only slept for 10 minutes in the space of 1.5 hours of frustration. I was just too excited.

Eventually Dee woke and we were on our way. We stopped at McDonalds (cause we were strangely super-hungry) and it was full of Star Wars fans. I scoffed down my cheeseburger and chips and we were there. I expected some epic lines but it went super-smooth. Although the place (Indooroopilly) was stuffed full of people and every theatre was booked out and all the movie sessions were starting at almost the same time — everything went pretty smoothly.

There was clapping at the beginning, but apart from that, everyone got down to business  — just like me. We all took this so very seriously. And here is why:


Star Wars is of course hard-wired into my existence. It has literally always been there. I don’t even remember seeing the first two movies for the first time. (I did sit through the first 30 minutes of Star Wars in roughly 1978 as a 3 year old – but at the Mos Eisley Cantina scene it got a bit too much and I begged my dad to leave.)

So until it appeared on TV – I had to piece together what actually happened in the movies from what was told to me in the school yard and what little else I could pick up just in the ether. It may seem ridiculous, but I managed to gather an incredible understanding of the entire story, with just word of mouth and what clips were shown on TV. Plus there were comic adaptations too (borrowed of course) making-of books (similarly just rifled through at a friend’s house) and crude “audiobooks” (which were only just the basic story with grade 2 text and the audio aspect was some sound effects by R2 telling you it was time to turn the page). On top of that virtually all characters and major scenes had pictures everywhere and plus those appearances on The Muppets were just magical.

But in my tiny brain – despite NOT ACTUALLY SEEING the movies didn’t make Star Wars any less valuable. Maybe it even made it bigger. There was a mystery to them and an extra majesty when I finally got to view them.

See we were too poor to go to movies and if we did go to the movies it was at the drive-in which was cheaper and you got better value — two movies. So I think it wasn’t until grade 2 when I saw Star Wars properly — in black and white — and maybe grade 3 for Empire. (We didn’t get a colour TV until I was in year 7.)

So the idea of “Star Wars” without actually seeing Star Wars was more about the characters. It was the Kenner action figures you got at Christmas or for a birthday. The story was kinda important – but it was those characters that really made it. In the yard at the kindergarten and eventually at school I remember we would act out the movies, even though I was oblivious to the plot. So when I was told in this game I was playing “Lando Calrission” I demanded to know: “Is he a good guy or a bad guy?”. The answer made me love the movies even more. “He’s a bit good and a bit bad.”

I didn’t really know how this worked, but to play this apparently conflicted character, I guess I did my best. In retrospect “Lando” was a character that was probably just left-over. Everyone else wanted to play Luke or Han.




It really nailed the new characters (with one tiny exception). And I would say all the old characters (with one tiny exception) just stepped up too. They were so real – alive – and you cared about what happened to them. They were funny — like REALLY funny and they reacted to situations in a way we could all understand.

When the first trailer came out I watched and I literally teared-up when the theme hit and the Falcon smashed out and it did that massive loop with it’s vapor-trail drunkenly following behind. I watched it again and again.

And I devoured all the forthcoming trailers and TV spots and the international versions. I didn’t care if it spoiled the film. I watched the nerds speculating and deconstructing the details on YouTube.

And you know what? It didn’t ruin the film. It just added an extra dimension. With one exception. When that scene with Han and Kylo came about I KNEW EXACTLY what was going to happen next. I had guessed it myself: (There was that scene in the trailers of Rey getting super-upset looking downwards). And from the trailers I knew there was the light-saber battle between Rylo and Finn in the snow and obviously that was yet to happen.)

I wasn’t pissed off at all. Dee grabbed my arm like she knew too. And of course we knew Harrison Ford had wanted to be killed-off ever since ESB — hence the carbon-freezing scene.

Making all this seem even more poetic was the fact Han had had some fucking amazing scenes in this movie. He had so many jokes, so much coolness and was still a hit with Leia (despite dumping her). As a fan-boy, watching for the first time, at about 1.22minutes in, I decided he was the best thing about the movie. But of course upon reflection I realised there were other incredible elements.


So speaking of “Leia”. She was so necessary to the magic of this new film, but let’s face it — she was a bit ordinary. Her voice is a bit weird these days and she just doesn’t have the look of desperation in her eyes like she had before. When Indiana Jones looked back and saw that massive boulder rolling towards him I bet he was channelling Carrie Fisher.

So it was a bit hard to connect with her — except for that interview she did with her dog on that US breakfast show. Amazing. I don’t care.


I fucking loved all the jokes. Star Wars (A New Hope) had so many jokes in the first stanza or two. The banter between R2D2 and C3PO was hilarious. The bit where R2 is in trouble with Luke and then beeps something apologetic to C3PO — who says, “No, I don’t think he likes you at all.” R2’s next dialogue betrays some hurt. “No, I don’t like you either.” C3PO replies.

But this movie had jokes almost the whole way through. Really, really funny stuff. It was hilarious. And as incredible as it is to say THE TWO BEST JOKES were made by droids. There — put that in your pipe and smoke it! And the THIRD (and FOURTH maybe) best joke was made by Chewbacca. Again, a character that has no intelligible dialogue and limited facial expressions. But still we all got it.

Next in line for comedy was Han (who really stole the movie as far as everything really). He was such a glorious presence and every scene he had he rocked it out.


I know this movie has been labelled “fan-service”, maybe even derided that way. All the critics that make up the 5% on Rotten Tomatoes that have dissed the film, and the other 95% that probably referenced that fan-service aspect have said it was essentially a re-boot of Star Wars, almost a Special Edition disguised as a sequel. Look, I get that critique. It does seem super familiar. Like the major characters must be forever thinking, “Why is this all happening (almost exactly the same) all over again?” Han even jokes about it towards the end. While they contemplate that deja-vu I will say there are a bunch of diversions and a bunch of surprises I experienced while watching that 12.02 session on Thursday morning.


The character I thought was just stupid was the “Supreme Leader”. I know General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson) was a bit stupid too, but the CGI just looked so exposed against the rest of the movie. And he looked (and behaved) almost exactly like Voldemort. I mean, come on. In such a brilliant movie, these short scenes I can forgive. (But hey Disney – just don’t do it again — alright?)

IMG_9044.JPGFrom left to right: Lego Chewy, Kylo Ren and General Hux. (Avec ginger side-burns) 


1) Rey learns the Force just on her own. Although we suspect her heritage, she is badass enough to work it out. She is also a FAN of Han Solo just like us. She is so positive but has that complexity which we see in her vision and her devotion to get back to Jakku.

2) It’s definitely got more jokes (see above). It’s almost a gag every minute for the first hour and a half.

3) It ends with a super teaser. And I know Empire ended a bit like that — but that movie didn’t end on a SCENE that needed a resolution. Luke looks so brilliant up there on that lonely mountain like the Hermit from the tarot cards or Led Zeppelin 4.


4) REY! She ripped shit up. Acting-wise she really looked so convincing. You felt for her from scene one. I loved her enthusiasm. One of the first characters in Star Wars to be actually excited to be thrown into this story.

5) FINN! His arc with BB-8 was so cool. That bit where he was accused of theft (or worse) made it so much more funny when he turned it around to make a deal with BB which resulted it that incredible thumbs up. So, so good

6) BB8 had a much bigger emotional role than his “counterpart” R2D2. He seemed a bit more bad-ass as well. So ready to expose Finn and be brutally torturous too. R2 was my favourite character from the old movies but BB-8 has charmed the fuck out of me. You could really physically see when he was sad. Whereas R2 just got kicked around in Star Wars, BB-8 had his heart torn out. He went through a big bunch of shit in the first half of the movie and looked just as much the orphan as Rey did.


7) Poe! Poe Dameron had that charm and raucousness and swashbuckling nonsense.

8) A new B-Wing!


So in the movie Rey discovers “Luke’s Lightsaber” — which is apparently the saber that didn’t just belong to Luke — but it belonged to Anakin too. Though the one in “A NEW HOPE” and the one in “EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” were a tiny bit different: they looked much like this:


Rey touches the weapon and has various visions. (this was a really cool bit in the movie btw). Flashbacks it seems but maybe the clairvoyance Luke had in ESB. So I have a feeling there is some future elements in this sequence. But I am probably wrong.

I will say that I definitely hear Yoda in that sequence and I shit you not: Obi-Wan says something too with the word “Rey”. I may be wrong.

But it is curious how that lightsaber came to be there. I mean — didn’t it have the same tragic fate as Luke’s severed right hand?

And here is a picture of the aforementioned saber from the Force Awakens trailers:

lightsaber.jpegTBH: the scene above doesn’t seem to be actually in the movie. WTF? (there were other bits from the trailers and teasers that weren’t in the actual film)

Looks pretty similar. Maybe even exact.

So if I am getting this straight — that lightsaber is the very one that was cut from Luke’s arm and fell into the pits of Bespin’s Cloud City — seemingly lost down through those clouds forever.


But it is possible if it didn’t fall towards the centre of the planet and be crushed by all sorts of atmosphere. It just might have got stuck at the bottom of that massive pit in Cloud City where Luke and Vader battled and was eventually discovered by someone. And just like The One Ring in Lord of the Rings, it was strong with the force and this rescue was deliberate and by hook and crook it made it back to Luke. (Spoiler)

I’d like to think that. That makes more sense than Han and Chewy just choosing that point in their life to salvage the Falcon (and rescue Rey and Finn and BB8).

PRODUCT REVIEW: BO Gear’s “Bullpup” Backpack

IMG_8324Here it is with Totoros and my iPhone 6 as a guide to its real-world size

PRODUCT REVIEW: “Custom BO Gear BullPup”

So this is my very first product review. As a disclaimer I must put it down that I have known the owner of this business for about 7 years and he is one of my bike-riding buddies — and Dave is a ginger just like me. Indeed he was the first ginger known to the crew and thus was dubbed “Ranga-Dave” while I had to settle for “Potato-Dave” (which was a reference to my Aerospoke front wheel).

Anyway — I will do my very best to be as objective as possible. I have owned two of Dave’s bags before — a courier bag and a duffle bag (which I won in an alleycat race). I tried really hard to embrace that “Courier-Bag” vibe when it was a big deal back there in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But it didn’t fit with me. They were too big, swung about on your back all the time and just weren’t functional to either a person casually riding a bike, or a person just walking about. (From a courier’s perspective they apparently loved how you could spin it around without undoing straps to get to the contents but just quietly I think they loved the fashion statement.)

So I have always been a fan of backpacks. I love the simplicity and the fact they sort of become part of you. Without much weight inside them I hardly notice they are there. Indeed on epic bike-rides I always take a pack and it is never a bother. But other peeps like Shirts just cannot stand that shit weighing down on their spine.


I have loved each and every one of the many backpacks I have owned.

They’ve accompanied me to the most awesome places on this Earth. I have only ever traveled with a backpack. (Often two). I have never used one of those bags with wheels.

I’ve had the very cheapest and the mid-range and the super-lightest and the very-smallest and now I have the BO Gear BullPup.

To be brutally honest, my other pack —the Deuter SpeedLite 10 — is an amazing bag and so light and perfect for bike-riding. Probably my favourite pack for everydayness including running and taking on bike adventures.


But this review is about a pack suited for either:

1) One day adventuring in the wilderness
2) those days you need to haul a bunch of stuff to or from work
3) or a pack (which I will demonstrate below) could easily accommodate a week-long holiday — or even more.

But before I begin, here is some pics of my customised Bullpup on adventures just this month: IMG_6989 At the front of the train transiting from Beijing Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 IMG_7117Jiankou

IMG_7122 Forbidden City IMG_7138 Great Wall of China — Jiankou Section IMG_7145 IMG_7254 IMG_7373
Somewhere in Tokyo

IMG_8299IMG_7581 Shirakowa-go IMG_7658 Ok there is no picture of the pack above — but it was there at the base of the Daisekkei Glacier (pictured above) and it hauled up all our water and cold-weather clothes and everything else. IMG_7713 Hakuba — at the top of Happo-OneIMG_7741
Tsugaike Nature Park


Ok — So I assembled about all the stuff I might take on a week long trip. Including 9 t-shirts, shorts, running shoes, a jumper, a jacket, a rain-jacket and a laptop with cables.

I managed to stuff all this inside with a tiny bit of room to spare.

IMG_8318 image1

The only thing that didn’t fit in was the plastic folder, but that was mostly cause I didn’t want to damage it. I reckon if I had been a bit more strategic, it would have got on board too.

So yeah — it fits a lot of stuff. Apparently this equates to 18 litres. By my rough kitchen scale test, it weighs about 750 grams.


The pack’s zips (I added yellow para-cords) will go all around except for the base. So like 270 degrees.

It has a full length interior pocket on the back (the maroon section in the picture below), plus two netted (see-through) and zip-able pockets on the front side. All three of these pockets are designed to expand.

There’s three hooks at the top which integrate with a water-bladder. (Plus there’s a protected hole at the top centre for the bladder’s tube.)

That’s about it for the inside.



The outside has an option for this velcro strip for “Supporter Patches” which I will invest in soon. I guess the idea here is that you can add or subtract patches to give the pack a fresh look every so often.

On each side it has compression straps which you can double if you so desire. To be honest I’ve never used this feature, but it kinda looks good.

If I had a criticism of this pack it would be the outside zip pocket. Because it sits hidden under the velcro strip (probably as a waterproofing feature) it is a little hard to access and sometimes takes a bit more effort to open and fully close.

I also think that space was a tiny bit too small – or the pack could benefit from another outside pocket. I am a big fan of the veritical-zip pocket — kinda like this one.

But there’s plenty of sections inside to store fiddly small stuff. So not really that big of a deal.


So I have to tell this tale. We were on our first full day in Beijing and we were in Jingshan Park and Dee was like, “OMG Your bag is leaking!” And broke open the pack and a big pool of flavoured water was at the bottom. I dragged everything out (including an SLR) and tipped the water from the pack. I’d forgotten to seal a bottle properly and had been walking around for about 20 minutes with it leaking. The bag was so water-tight that it took that long for the water to finally escape and only a few drips.

A lesser bag would have meant the water drained, but instead it pooled. Of course this is not a criticism. It was my own stupid fault.

So the camera stopped working for 24 hours, but then miraculously came back to life just in time for our trip to the Great Wall. Phew.


You can customise the webbing (those horizontal strips), the “bartack” (basically the stitching securing the webbing), the para-cords, the internal colour and of course the external colour. I chose “WTF Camo” which is basically a mixture of 4 camouflage designs. We have an Army Reservist in the office and apparently there’s 3 Australian designs (old and new) and that digital one which might be US military. I liked the contradiction of camouflage and fluro-pink.

If you want you can get even more customisation like this badboy — but I think that requires a special order. (Picture by BO Gear).



So yeah — I love it. But Dee hates it.

I did a straw poll in the office and women generally thought it was stupid while men tended to think it was cool (if a little nuts). Make of that what you will. That was just aesthetically of course.

(It should be said after 3 weeks traveling Dee admitted she was kinda warming too it).

Finally this should be noted: BO Gear has this catchphrase of “Dirtify Me” or “Dirtification” or whatever. But I found it pretty hard to get this badboy dirty. Like it just stayed clean. I’d kick it around airport floors, chuck it on dirty snow, sweat all over it — but it remained like new. Even when the bag was soaked in peach-flavoured water (see water bottle story above) it refused to stink. Like I gave it a wipe with a wet cloth back at the hotel and it was good as new.

And I don’t think that is a bad thing. 🙂

You can order them, and find out more info, here.