flashing heart

shiver me timbers

Egads; a tropical winter is the coldest kind of winter.

Houses built with a view to allowing (by design or default) a constant flow of air both under, over and through (by virtue of holey floorboards and impossible-to-close windows) work wonderfully well in summer, which to be fair lasts around 9 months of the year.

But in what passes for winter in these here parts, these flimsy little beach shacks are to be quite frank, frickin' freezing.

Oh, I know - not really freezing, but lawks a lawdy Mizz Claudy, this morning it was all of 1.8 degrees. Celcius.

Indoors, this can mean temps of as little as not much different. By the time I cracked the ice blanket covering the doona, it was a balmy 8C in my house, which rose to a moderate 14C with a short blast of air-conditioning.

Don't worry, in a few short months the weather will clear and all will be complaining about the trickle of sweat down the small of their backs as the mercury hovers around the 30C mark, and the humidity makes our eyeglasses fog up when making the transition from air-conned car to airless outdoors.

But in the meantime:


Give me strength.

Failing that, give me one of these:

It's an electric fireplace; a casual $899, for which price I could kick a hole in the walls of my flimsy beach shack, install a long pipe to an old woodstove, and get the exact same effect.

The $899 should cover the cost of paying someone to replaster the walls around the boothole, pipe and subsequent fire damage when it all goes to hell and I have to inform the landlady about my little 'renovation rampage'.

So perhaps I will get a rather cheaper version, with the same pseudo-fireplace effect; faux cosiness in a can really. An imitation cast-iron can that is.

Or I could just use this:

And my imagination.
  • Current Music
    crackling wood
flashing heart

the vintage score

Travelling North through torrential rain, I could have sworn I'd seen a yellow-tinted sign, tacked onto a tree with what to me are a near nirvana: antiques and collectibles sale.

Thinking I was delirious after a 5 hour drive spent bolt upright and concentrating hard on the rain-slicked road, it took another 30 or so kilometres more to see that the sign not only said what I thought it did, but appeared to refer to an event right in the town I was headed to.

So of course I went there before checking into my hotel.

Objects within the image above may in fact be those which were purchased. A strange sight indeed: a plethora of vintage goodies in the backblocks of Airlie Beach.

Searching for vintage can be like that; those little op-shops in tucked away towns in the hinterland of the Whitsundays have the absolute Holy Grail of vintage - it's real, it's cheap, and it's sold by nice ladies named Myrtle, who are only too keen to help you out, have a chat about where the items came from and even take pride in their opportunity shop and decorate it with a stellar collection of antique tins.

They're also good sports about having their shop photographed.

It really is astonishing what one can find in the least likely places.
  • Current Music
    the half-price sound on the register
flashing heart

the floating world

Being at a conference this week on small islands has made me consider life on the water far more than ever before, so much so that this ad immediately caught my eye and made me puzzle over whether I could indeed live on a houseboat.

It would be rather snug:

Here's a couple of places selling them: (sometimes) cheap accomodation, and potential for the future as house prices get out of the reach of many.
  • Current Music
    dig radio
flashing heart


There is, for those of you who don't know, such a thing as Islomania; a definitive and distinct love for all things related to islands.

For some more information, please turn your attention to a good little article about it here, and here we find the wiki entry for it. People write books about this stuff and of course, there are organisations  dedicated to the study of smaller ones, the members of which hold conferences celebrating / researching / analysng it.

And that's where I come in. Having run a fairly successful writers workshop on an island, having camped on, travelled to and snorkelled off of some very beautiful, very small islands I feel fairly confident in my ability to spend a few days thinking and talking about them a little bit.

Oh, and as is the norm, I will be presenting a paper, schmoozing with the academic elite and spending some time swanning about in a hotel-supplied bathrobe. As one does in the heady world of academia*.

Here's a photo of where I'll be, just to make you a little bit sick and annoyed. This is Airlie Beach, in Queensland.


Yes I know: it's a tough little life folks, but someone's got to do it.

*Some of this may not be true. The hotel has free wifi though, so that's a bonus.
  • Current Music
    one dead Ipod nano
flashing heart

a bike i like

I will put magazines in the front basket.

Oh, I have a bike, a very good and reasonable retro-style bike, personally restored by moi to the exacting standards of any decent backyard bike shop; the kind that may or may not be a front for a dirty laundry laundering business, as evidenced by the loads of mouldy sheets flapping in the breeze whipping its way through the stilts of a faded Queenslander, gap-toothed children hanging over the rickety fence and calling out to the mangy mutt wandering, sniffing around your car as you sit inside and wonder whether its the best idea to buy a bicycle from a man wearing white-topped pluggers and a pair of Stubbies, and little else.

You know the kind of place.

But that bike, while a source of considerable pride and not insignificant amounts of envy from local stallholders at the monthly markets down the road, is heavy with a capital grooooaaannnnn. Legs feel like ropes lugging a tugboat into port, arms ache like something really painful and sore...in other words, its a bit of a Lego house: all style but largely hollow, and a pain in the arse to step on.

That metaphor doesn't really work. Such is the search for a new bike; I keep putting it off, over-thinking it, under-researching it. The bike depicted just looks cool - I don't know any specs. More research and development is needed, pronto.

But it will happen. Really. 
  • Current Music
    piano solo
flashing heart

words to aspire to


Something we collectively don't do enough is re-use, recycle and repair. The latter is my goal at the moment - to fix things instead of replacing them, to give things a second chance and to not replace things just for the sake of it. I've done this recently with socks, a rug, my bathroom, old bits of fabric and especially, some garden stuff.

Here's an old rusty table I fixed at home. Some heavy sanding of rust spots, a quick lick of paint, and voila; perfecto.

In other recycle / renew / reuse news, I also reclaimed a few pieces of furniture and found a useful little trinket box, to fill with those very useless little trinkets one acquires from travelling relatives...


Now they are self-contained in their Cornell-type box, I am fair better satisfied at their continued occupation of my otherwise trinket-free house. And so the retro reclaiming revolution continues.
  • Current Music
flashing heart

humpy island camping

Two days on a little tropical island, camping with a family and some friends: good food and company and excellent bushwalking and snorkelling.

Some location shots:
Ah, very nice.
  • Current Music
    unpacking to miaowing
flashing heart

glamping, poshpacking and other forms of insult

For some people, the distinction between a tourist and a traveller is one they are great pains to make. Well, folks who regards themselves as travellers are always indignant about the appelation 'tourist'. Tourists on the other hand, which is what we all are, whether we like it or not,  don't give a shit; they're too busy using the coupons they found in the Thomas Cook catalogue to get a discount on their Disneyland entry.

Travellers don't do Disneyland. They do however, like to say how they've done certain places, an expression which annoys the hell out of me.

Anytime a self-professed world weary traveller sighs and says 'oh, I've done Egypt, and next I'd like to do Central America' it's almost as irritating as listening to a person sigh and smirk as they tell you that ever since the tourists found [insert name of out of the way place now completely run over with hordes of indolent backpackers, capitalising on the regions paltry living standards for their own el cheapo holiday they'll brag about later, like screwing third world countries is something to skite about...but I digress] it just hasn't been the same, and you really should have done Sri Lanka back in the old days.

See; that's two annoying arrogant phrases in the one sentence. No wonder its such an irritation.

The new snarky putdowns, favoured anywhere we find people who are insistent they are not tourists, unlike those other people dressed pretty much the same as them and lugging the same kind of luggage and checking into the same fleabag hostels, are of course glamping and poshpacking.

Poshpacking is a kick in the teeth from a Teva-clad foot, the worst part of which is the rubbery aftertaste. Glamping on the other hand is probably what anyone dressed in head-to-toe Kathmandu should be regarded as doing, given the price of their gear. That shit ain't cheap.

It's kind of ironic that I didn't have the head-to-toe gear junkie uniform back when I actually did try some backpacking, staying at shitty hostels and showering, well, every now and then, sleeping next to five strangers on the Green Tortoise bus. Relatively rich in comparison to then, I've got enough gear to last a full year backpacking, but now I'm too old and wealthy to stay in just hostels. I did try the GT bus again, but this time bedecked out in Icebreaker gear with a tek towel stashed in my daypack.

It was pretty much the same you know. I was just a tad more comfortable and probably a little bit better dressed.

Funny that I often take the tek towel and daypack to conferences, just in case of some time out spent soaking up some sand between my feet, or the odd occasion I spend a few days afterwards, taking some time to visit the place the conference is held in.

Then I'm usually in another accommodation. Single-room hostels with ensuites, B&B's with breakfast included.

I'm not a savage you know.

Work pays for most of these hotels. It's only distinguishable as a Lynda-funded trip when my accommodation is somewhat less than salubrious. The array of proper hotels I have stayed in now is even the subject of a Facebook album, being as I decided early on to keep a record of the rooms I've stayed in. I even started writing reviews for Trip Advisor. How touristy is that.

But anyway; that's my little rant.

There's very little difference between a tourist and a traveller, save for self-righteous perception and almost laughable indignation; I'm afraid if you're the only person in the village taking photos of other peoples interesting way of life, clad only in the latest zip-off cargo pants with the Icebreaker lining and unused caribiner hanging from your Camelbak, chances are you're just a regular old tourist like the rest of us.

Amusingly, I'm thinking of this stuff while packing for a short camping trip; possibly part-glamping, judging by the quality and labels on this gear I've laid out before me.

The weather is fine and I have been promised some kind of camping creme brulee tomorrow night, so its hardly roughing it. But there won't be hot showers, and the toilets are the self-composting kind...if any of us can be bothered to use them, if you know what I mean.

I'll post some pics of the adventure soon.

  • Current Music
    regina spektor