Wogblogger wraps up a two week road tour of France and Spain in a Mazda MX5. Check out her unique commentary on the trip supported by copious images of countryside, museums, cathedrals, markets and more. Great stuff.
Two shots of Port Macquarie at sundown. Couldn't decide between under exposure or normal exposure. Yours truly planting a commemorative boab tree last week for Steve Irwin. Raindrops on a deserted gravel road. Have a great long weekend. Drive carefully though, lots of traffic police early this morning enforcing the double-demerits points period which started at midnight. Go the Swanees ! (forget the NRL)
During the week I’m forever carting home young office jockeys who work till whenever, for no extra money, just to get the job done. In fact these white collar workers are the new exploited class, often only getting a cab fare home for the gruelling hours they do.
Often I’ve pretended they look upon the night cleaners with envy for their simple tasks and set hours, jobs with no worries to take home. But in no way did I consider it true. Until last night when a young systems analyst in IT related how an office colleague had recently quit to become a taxi driver, for this very reason of fixed hours and less stress. ‘He couldn’t be happier’, my passenger insisted, ‘with none of the previous high stress'.
Returning to the city I stopped at a cab garage to gas up and came across the president of the Taxi Drivers Association being interviewed for a forthcoming documentary on cab driving. He was lamenting how drivers are poorly trained, especially in relation to safety and avoiding confrontations and assault, major stress factors.
After ten years I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid assault, yet the possibility is always there lurking in the back of the mind. The new cabbie from the IT world will be dealing with a different kind of stress; menacing, sudden or deadly. In time he’ll work it out.
A week ago today, I stopped in at one of my favourite North Coast locations, a small cemetery bordering the Araluen National Park, near South West Rocks. Visiting remote rural cemeteries is a hobby of mine. Whilst some may consider this a morbid practise, I find these places endlessly fascinating.
Besides the picturesque locations, the main attraction for me is the sense of solitude and tranquillity associated with headstones old and new, bearing witness to lives once lived in the district. Rather than these visits being a spiritual experience, I revel in the history and hints of personality sometimes revealed by the various plaques and engravings. Or favourite items such as fishing lines, beer cans, dolls, figurines, making bush cemo's unique.
Generally my travels are during the week and the cemeteries are deserted. However on arrival last week for my annual visit I came across an old fella exiting the joint. He was around seventy five years old carrying wilted flowers under his arm and was accompanied by a small, neatly groomed lap dog.
After exchanging greetings I asked him, ‘You got family here ?’. He smiled wanly and replied, ‘Yes, my wife’s grave is over there and my son’s next to the wall here’. His son had previously been a high-powered financial businessman in Sydney who had succumbed to leukaemia at age forty five. I asked him, ‘How long has your wife been here ?’. He took a deep breath before replying, ‘Six years ago last week. And I still haven’t got over it. She’d died of secondary cancer, brain tumours, after beating breast cancer’.
Explaining this he became emotional, not due to her passing at age sixty nine, but because the doctors failed to diagnose her tumours. Apparently this is a common development for older women surviving breast cancer. ‘By the time they found the tumours it was too late’, he said. ‘She knew something was wrong for months beforehand but the doctors just wouldn’t listen’.
Sad, but not all bad for the old fella. He still had daughters and grandchildren living nearby and otherwise lived an active life, in one of the nicest districts on the North Coast. We must of chatted for some thirty minutes before he departed and I wandered amongst the graves thinking I’d love to be buried there. Funny how one increasingly considers one’s mortality after reaching fifty. Or just pathetic, but that’s life...and death.
Later whilst lunching on the Macleay River I was listening to a world music program on ABC radio’s The Planet, when the host introduced a beautiful piece of music, with the voice of an angel. It was an Hawaiian compilation of Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World, by Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole,
Iz's versions of "What a Wonderful World" and "Over the Rainbow" have become Hawai'i's unofficial anthems...with the innocent humming and plaintive 'ukulele accompaniment, a proverbial pot of gold...
Whilst listening to this(scroll down for sample) it occurred to me that, if given the chance, I would happily choose the tune for my own funeral. Which had me recalling a mate’s bush funeral some years ago. He’d pre-arranged the service, including his own musical compositions, traditional psalms, video, plus a guitar for sale to help with family expenses. That may sound weird but he’d been a master craftsman whose quality guitars sold for $5000. But the pièce de résistance was his stipulation that mourners wear Hawaiian shirts to the funeral. Brilliant!
Needless to say there was much laughter and clapping during the hour long service which culminated with a rousing rendition of the Monty Python song, Always Look on the Bright Side. This was started by his wife raising her arms in the air, singing and swaying to the gentle beat, leading the mourners to follow suit. Best funeral I’ve ever attended.
P.S. Checkout 28 year old Foz's grave. Local surfer, Souths supporter and party boy, his final request reads..."CALL ME BY MY OLD FAMILIAR NAME, LAUGH AS WE ALWAYS LAUGHED TOGETHER, PLAY, SMILE, THINK OF ME". Cool, eh.
Had a chat last night with a passenger about the weekend bush fires which claimed seven houses. He insisted the proliferation of fires in recent times is due to changing weather. ‘Well maybe’, I told him, ‘but there’s always been bush fires around Sydney. The only difference now is they’ve become ‘super-fires’ due to reduced hazard reduction’. ‘Yes, they are bigger fires’, he agreed, ‘but the weather has been too dry to back-burn. So what’s the answer ?’.
‘Well, firstly the urban building code needed to be upgraded’, I suggested, ‘to incorporate more fire-resistance measures and materials. But until we stop siting houses next to areas with heavy fuel loads, then more lives and houses will be lost’.
Ultimately though, I suspect the day is approaching when insurance companies will simply refuse to cover houses located anywhere near bushland. Their risk assessors will insist on large buffer zones of open space rather than continue paying an increasing numbers of claims.
Yet under current council regulations it seems life and property is considered less value than that of trees. Especially eucalypts, weapons of mass destruction by another name.
I love Ramadan, the Islamic holy month which commenced yesterday. A period when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sensual pleasures during the daylight hours, part of an larger regime of scripture study and spiritual contemplation.
Due to Ramadan large numbers of Muslim cabbies don’t work during this period which accounted for last night's takings being better than usual for a Sunday. Consequently, next month will also be busier than usual, in the lead up to the Christmas period and maximum takings.
For this cabbie, the two religious festivals signify the most profitable months of the year. Well, actually, one religious festival and one retail festival. But it's all good.
Often I've watched fishing charters returning to the wharf at Port Macquaire and their large catch being cleaned by the crew. And many a time I've vowed to join them one day. So last Thursday I rose at dawn and went out on a six hour fishing trip off the coast. The weather was fine and mild with a two metre swell offshore. The boat was around twelve metres in length and powered by twin Volvo Penta 285 hp diesel motors. However the best bit of gear was an electronic fish-finder which gives the fish little chance when eight double-hooked lines hit the water. Cruel but that's life, for a fish.
Due to a strong current though the fish had an even chance and we only landed some twenty five sizable fish ranging from leatherjackets, parrots, flathead, bream and red rock cod. I jagged a lovely parrot fish around a kilo weight, but only ordinary eating.
By midday we'd all had enough of throwing back more than we kept and gladly headed back to port. This proved to be one of the highlights as we crossed the notorious breakwater sandbar at low tide. For $110 it was good value and something I'd do again.
The holiday is now over and I'm back in the cablog-saddle. This was my first decent holiday in some years. 'Decent' meaning more than four of five days as this vacation proved that one needs at least a week to ten days to get in the zone and really relax.
Fortunately I returned a few days early in order to rejig my body clock for a return to work Sunday evening. Hence this blog at 2am whilst I download 288 new images from the phone. The best will be posted over the next few days.
My apologies for not sending more moblogs but hey, you know how it is on vacation. I trust those I did post gave you some idea of how it was on the North Coast in spring, just delightful, especially as it was off-season and school holidays hadn't commenced.
Finally, thanks to those of you who commented in appreciation of the moblogs and posted best wishes during my vacation. Here are a few thumbnails of some beaches I visited... (all images enlarge)
Above left - Yamba town beaches; right - South West Rocks beachs. Below left - Gap Beach, Araluen and Smoky Cape south beach; right - Cresent Head, north and south.
A typical Aussie beach on the NSW mid-north coast, somewhere near Scotts Head. Excuse the vagueness for I'm now in full holiday mode, drifting from beach to beach. Back to reality on the weekend. Go the mighty Dragons !
My Sunday morning vista from bed. It felt like waking up in a church, very spiritual. Which is how I felt after a home cooked meal of local mussels washed down with a superb red wine, or three - speaking in tongues.