Saturday, 30 November 2013

Bikes: The mighty Honda XL250R; 1985

The last trail bike I owned before a 20+ year hiatus was a magic red Honda XL250R trail bike. This was a pure magic state of the art bike back in 1982. Electronic ignition so you didn't watch the sun set out the back of Lake Manchester while you struggled to clean the points and kick start a recalcitrant Yamaha 2 stoke into life. Pro(gressive) Link rear suspension which made the ride so much more comfortable and a six speed gearbox for more relaxed bitumen cruising.

Yes, this Honda was my magic two wheeled escape machine! My dear friend Ken bought a smaller XR200 Honda and away we would go on the weekends following our noses all over the best back roads that our little patch of South east QLD had to offer.  I must have been a mug lair as I also had the Honda riding top and matching bum bag.

So fast forward from 1982 to 1984. We were living at Wavell Heights and my Honda had a little shed to live in out the back. But the times were a changing.. and I didn't see it. My better half decided we need  to shift to a new home. I was happy living where we were; but her mind was made up. After a couple of  false starts we ended up buying an "unusual" home in Albion. It appealed to me because it had a studio already in it! Bonus! The down side was no under cover car accommodation.. and nowhere for the Honda. So the Honda came to live under the house at Armagh Street.

The studio space was still full of unpacked tea chests some three weeks later (and the first mortgage payment yet to be made) when my wife walks in after work one day to tell me she will be leaving.

And leave she did the next day.. never to return.

Turns out she was going to set up a happy home with the gardener from her work place.

Bloody excellent timing.

Miss Irresponsibility 1984 I called her! (She ended up unintentionaly pregnant and married around 2 months before her child was born. In hindsight… the best favour she ever did me was leaving!)

But back to the Honda... in order to help me sort out my now pressing financial dramas.. the bike had to go.

One Sunday morning in early 1985 I put it in the studio (ride it up the stairs) and photographed it to produce an advert. This is was before digital cameras, eBay etc… a lot of work went onto producing the flyer!

It was very sad to see the bike loaded into a truck some 3 weeks later and go to a new home! A really great bike and I often wonder if I should find one and restore it.. perhaps not! Might end up divorced again!

Riding the Honda down the studio front stairs - 1985

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Youth: The Day James Bond Came to Toombul

You Only Live Twice. What a great movie! I remember sitting in the cool air conditioned Winter Garden Theatre in Queen Street at the start of the  Christmas school holidays.

I so looked forward to those Bond movies… and those 6 week  holidays too!

There is a scene in the movie where Bond calls for Q to send Little Nellie to him in Japan. Now Little Nellie is a Benson Gyrocopter equipped with rockets and all sorts of incredible gadgets. In fact there are two Little Nellies in the movie. One that packed down into a few suitcases and the real one that Bond flies over a fake volcano in Japan.

The owner of the real Little Nellie who actually flew the gyrocopter in the movie, brought it to Australia. And so it came to Brisbane in 1968. The DCA would allow him to only fly it over the lower car park at Westfield Toombul Town shopping centre between Sandgate Road and Widdop Street.

Wow.. to a teenager this was a sight to behold. So my mate Wayne Pinna and his younger brother Glen jumped on the push bikes and headed off to Toombul. And me with my 127 TLR around my back. My parents had allowed me a couple of rolls of colour film to shoot this beast on the day. Just could not get that Massey pushbike to go fast enough.

We get there… and here it is before us! We are kept a fair way back.. a pity as there is no telephoto lens on the old TLR but what a morning it was. This little beast powered by a VW flat four zoomed backwards and forwards over the car park and   we just couldn't believe we were actually seeing the same aircraft used in the movie!

So here is one of the old faded colour prints from Mr Kodak. As a matter of interest the film was handed into Mr McSweeny's Pharmacy at Clayfield for Kodak processing… where Deb's shop is now located.

The sad sidebar to this story is that the Benson crashed a year or two later killing the pilot!

The Pilot preparing to board the little beast!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Photography: Nikon FM. The tool of a generation of newspaper photographers.

The Nikon FM. A fully manual focus, non automatic 35mm camera. Thousands of these cameras wielded by grizzled newspaper photographers all over the planet have produced literally millions of images that have enthralled the population of readers.

What an amazing piece of kit. Lower in cost and features than the Nikon F3, this camera was the ideal choice as its lower price meant one could have 2 bodies in the camera bag. Able to be fitted with a motor drive for sports images .. or any action images for that matter, these things are as tough as nails.

Long before the current crop of fresh faced young digital photographers had even been born, guys and girls with a purpose and vision and only 36 exposures at a time created the images that stopped the world. If you have one memorable image from the front page of a newspaper from the 80s.. it's a good bet it was shot with a Nikon FM or it's automatic sister, the FE ! It was a different time… HP5 or Tri X were the films of choice… and the magic of watching that 8x10 image form on a piece of Ilford paper in the dev tray was something that today's digital folks will never know.

When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, confusion reigned supreme on the streets of Kabul. One enterprising young French press photographer booked a flight from Paris to Kabul.. spent a day there shooting everything and then flew back.. before the Russians shut the place down. His were the only images of the utter chaos that was unfolding.

You have probably seen the images, if not try Google.. all captured on film and probably with a Nikon FM. Imagine his joy looking at each neg as the film strip came out of the dev tank.

Now that is pure magic photography.. created with the human eye that can "see the light" and a sturdy Nikon.. and not a hi speed digital camera & bloody photoshop to fix your mistakes!

Sorry to see this go to a new home!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Life: The passing parade! J.F.K.

It seems like only yesterday, but I remember it so well. A normal Saturday morning in the Taylor household. My parents took turns to get each other a cup of tea in bed on weekends. On Saturday mornings, my mother brought dad a cup of strong tea and the Courier Mail.

This particular Saturday, half a century ago is indelibly engraved in my mind. I am sitting on the side of my parents bed while dad unwraps the Courier Mail. And as usual I am pestering him for my pocket money. And also as usual he is teasing me about have I been a good young man to my mother. The usual father/son stuff!

Suddenly I hear mum rushing up the hallway. She bursts into the room and says..

"President Kennedy has been shot!" I knew who he was even at 10!

Dad says… "Is he all right?"

Mum burst into tears.. "No! He's dead!"

It was probably only the second time I had seen my mother cry.

My father was stunned by the news.

"An absolute tragedy! This is not good for peace!" he says.

A pall of gloominess hangs in the air… but slowly for a ten year old at least, life returns to normal!

1983 finds me in England.. large billboards show a rifle bullet shaped like a missile with a blood covered American Flag in the background. The headline says.. "Twenty years ago, a missile killed America" They were promoting a BBC special on the Kennedy assination. I watched in Drymen, Scotland with my now ex wife.  Very sad!

I still often contemplate what would have been different if Kennedy had of had his 2 terms of office? Still open to conjecture I guess.. and as for all the conspiracy theories surrounding his death? They don't really mean a damn thing in my opinion.

A good man, a war hero, was stuck down in his prime and we, the citizens of planet earth are the poorer for it!
Captured at his.. "We choose to go to the moon…" moment!

Youth: Music; the magic time machine!

Today I had a dental appointment with my good friend Don the dentist! So I took the bike. And plugged my iPhone into the helmet's blue tooth system to listen to some music.

Accelerating onto the ICB what should come through the helmet speakers but.. Oliver's Good Morning Star Shine, from the musical Hair. The time machine in my head begins to spin up….

It's C1967 and my good mate Robert Fysh and I have been to a meeting of the RSKOM (Jnr) Astronomical Society at Greenslopes. His mother has picked us up and we are going to visit her friends out in he leafy Western suburbs. We arrive at this amazing house surrounded by trees.. the stereo is playing Good Morning Starshine and we sit outside on a cool evening and gaze at the sky.

At this point one of the family members tells me they own a Land Rover and take it to Moreton Island where they drive on the beach! Now back in 1967 only the Army and the RACQ had 4WDs. Then the  average family hack was a station wagon of the two wheel drive kind. I am over the moon on hearing this.. they talk of deserted beaches.. sitting on the tailgate and dragging toes in the sand.. and all of this story is coming to me against the background of Oliver's voice.

On that night. I know that one day I would own a Land Rover. (Have had 2 actually) And this tail of high adventure on the sand just blends in with a cool evening breeze in a stunning home in an area I have  never been before.

That memory surfaces every time  I hear that song.. and again today.. the video played again in my head. Robert, if you read this.. do you remember that night? I only ever think about it when I hear THAT song!

The mind is a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Life: The young years; our wings were drying in the sun!

1988 and I am 35 years old. It is Australia's Bicentenary and EXPO 88 is in full flight in Brisbane. Because Virgin Blue hasn't been invented yet, air travel in Australia is relatively expensive. Interstate coach travel is the go! And with the explosion of the number of people travelling to Brisbane to visit EXPO 88, the coach companies are run off their little wheels. And so they need new coaches. And back in 1988 both Denning and Austral who build most of the coaches in Australia are based in Brisbane.

Their order books are overflowing.

MAX Instruments cannot despatch the dash instruments and related hardware fast enough to enable these coaches to roll out of the factories. I am at my desk at 07:00 and lock the doors at 19:00 as Max is in Europe (I have just come back) and it really is high tide and green grass for us.

When the Germans come to visit us (actually they want to visit EXPO 88) we dine at the Sheraton.. and when they don't come.. we dine at the Sheraton. Talk about the Hollywood lifestyle. What we didn't know was that the "recession we had to have" was just around the corner!

One of the hottest cafes in town was Puzzles at Paddington. Casual breakfasts (when we weren't at the Sidewalk Cafe at the Sheraton) or a hamburger after a movie. Puzzles was the place. And a much younger Mark and Debra used to haunt this place along with Andrew and Toni and Sally and Greg and many others.

Debra found this picture during the clean up.. her comment was.. "Look how young we were!"

So I looked at that picture of a younger and thinner (much) Mark with the permed mullet cut and full beard.

Wow! Was that really us?

I think back to 1988.. Skyline Silhouette, Nikon film cameras, stealing Max's Van De Plaas for a more formal motoring experience. And seeing those endless great monthly results for MAX Instruments. Deb and I are flying high and planning our first overseas trip. (Stopped counting at 25 since then)

And the part time studio was really busy too! Taking days away from the office to cover assignments!

At 35 I had a different mindset.. the world was my oyster, a divorce under my belt and I was eager for any new life experiences. Now 25 years later I know what I like and want. Tradition has become a big part of my life; but our love of travel has not dulled. Actually we're busy planning our next trip around selling and buying houses. I guess I could now describe my life as one of contentment.

Gunter Klein from VDO told me back then that I should not be so totally focused on winning!

He said.. "Winning isn't everything!"

My reply was.. "No, winning isn't everything; it is the only thing!"

I hated losing sales competitions or deals… "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser!"

Hey.. it was the 80s. Greed was good!

Actually I still subscribe to that theory although I am now selective in the battles I choose!

Never mind…..

And here we are outside Puzzles in Paddington one Saturday night!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Life: How do we manage to accumulate so much stuff?

Because we are selling up Armagh House, I am confronted with how much stuff I have accumulated! Where on earth did it all come from? And unless I move into Windsor Castle or perhaps Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, then I simply cannot take it all with me!

So I need to sort and chuck out… a lot!

Deb and I have come to realise now that we don't own this stuff.. it owns us. That American comedian who said… "Your shit is stuff.. but other people's stuff is shit!".. was wrong.

It's all crap!

I'll give you an example of stuff that's gone into the skip…

A framed letter signed by Robin Hood and his band of merry men. This letter guaranteed safe passage to the bearer should he travel through Sherwood Forest. Now I have been to Sherwood Forest.. a magic place in Autumn.. well what is left of Sherwood Forest as it has all been cut up and redeveloped. But right near the little village of Edwinstowe is a little parcel of Sherwood Forest that has the Major Oak in it. (Google it)

Twice I ventured through this said Forest.. the first time in 1983 without the letter from Robyn and crew (because I didn't own it then) and the second time 7 years later again without the letter because it was in a frame on the wall of my lounge back in Brisbane. You see I bought this letter from a gift shop in Edwinstowe.. and as it turned out.. I never needed it. My trips through the forest left me unmolested by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his band of bad bastards!

Now that is just one thing I threw away. Then there was the framed piece of Nottingham lace.. a picture of Robyn with his bow and arrow that was probably woven on a Mitsubishi sewing machine in a factory in Asia somewhere. Yes.. into the skip it went too.

As I sit in the office and look around me (and this is only one room in a 14 room house) I gaze upon all this stuff… the guitar, the two amps, the violin, the 2 stereo amps, the 6 speakers, the 8 camera bags I no longer use, more compact digital cameras than Photo Continental, an old mobile phone, a not so old mobile phone, several classic National Panasonic Transistor Radios from the sixties (just love them) and these are the things I can see. God help me if I open a draw or the safe!

Let's not forget the 4 electric razors, a gazillion CDs.. no longer played because of my iTunes thing, a plastic set of draws the fax machine used to live on. (Remember those quaint things?) Perhaps I should just take the cameras, the amps and speakers, the axe and the violin and dump the rest.

My days of collecting stuff are officially ended!

Clean up this week.. and then the shed……. don't mention the shed!

The axe sits waiting for fumble fingers to learn!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Photography: Being part of something bigger can be immensely satisfying!

For a lot of my clients, having professional photography services supplied is just a part of their projects. For example a marketing department needs to have catalogues and brochures designed. For these they need copy to be written and a graphic artist to put it all together.

And.. of course great images of their products!

Now when these projects are all coming together, I get to have usually a free hand in creating the images. These clients are all wonderful people to work with and I would happily have them as friends.

In fact, some of them are!

So let's take the Brisbane City Council. Yesterday I photographed the Council's Apprenticeship Awards at City Hall. This is organised by Tony Sinclair and his team from Employment Services within the council. Being there on the day really is gratifying, apart from any financial reward. Tony's team are great people, very friendly and I love working with them. Although a sub contractor to the Council.. I feel part of the team. And for somebody who works by himself.. it's a great feeling.

It was also great to catch up with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk who went to the same high school as me.. although I think he enjoyed his time there. I was introduced to Graham by Tim Niicholls MP when he was our local Councillor many years ago now. Graham always comes over to say hello and chat if he sees you. He really is a nice guy!

The LM with an interpreter at the awards. A magic morning!

Photography: Clouds… there's magic in the skies!

I have always loved clouds. When I was about 10 I was visiting an old Buffalo member with my father. This fellow had been a Spitfire pilot during the war. On the wall of his home was a painting of several Spitfires.. "Morning Patrol Over Kent" was the title I think. Now I loved aeroplanes, but what really got me in with this painting was the rim lighting on the clouds. Absolutely fascinated me. And it still does.

Fast forward to 1983 and I was lucky enough to spend an hour in the jump seat of a QF 747 on the way to Hong Kong! Wow.. what a view of clouds from up the sharp end. And still I love that rim lighting.. something about it finds a place within my own view of the wonder of mother nature. And  to think the genesis of this came from a painting of  Spitfires on patrol!

So this morning I went looking for my Weekend Australian… again it wasn't there! But some magic rim lighting on the clouds was. As usual by the time you rush inside for a camera and return.. well the best of it is gone.

But this is what I did get…… magic clouds!

Clouds.. I love them!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Youth: A roll of carpet, an old trailer & half a bottle of rum! What could possibly go wrong?

My family had a beach house on Bribie Island. It was an old timber and fibro shack in Campbell Street, Bongaree. The road was sand.. so you had to turn into our street at high speed to get to our driveway before you got bogged! Of course when it rained, the sand was a lot firmer and supported your car's weight.

Dad spent most weekends up there.. mum and I went along sometimes.. great memories from my early teens spent there. One Saturday I was sent to Renton's hardware store to have our gas cylinder for the Primus refilled. We had a slow combustion wood stove, but for a quick cuppa  it was the Primus. Now out the front they had a community notice board.. and on this was an advert for a large piece of carpet. The house had timber floors and I had heard mum and dad discussing the idea of carpeting the "lounge" area.

Back to the house I go.. tell my parents and before you know it we are in the old EK Holden and headed to Woorim (on the ocean side) to buy this carpet. Now dad had this old boat trailer, and he had made a box frame out of handy angle bolted to the top. This trailer was not a great example of something that should be taken out on the road! It should have been used as reinforcing in one of dad's under house concrete slabs that he used to make nearly every second weekend! It was basically stuffed. I learnt some of my auto electrical skills on this trailer repairing the wiring to the lights as a 13 year old.

We find the house, knock on the door (no phones) and ask if the carpet is still for sale. Yes it is.. the cash changes hands and I am despatched to roll up this carpet and tie it to the trailer. This is 1965 and I am just about to turn 12.

Talk about sending a boy to do a man's job!

Job finished.. where's dad?

I hear his voice from the back of this house.. and he and the former carpet owner are sitting in the shade  demolishing a bottle of Bundaberg Rum! I am offered and accept a Coke.. while the rum and iced water mixture continues to flow from glass to lip of dad and his new friend. They discuss Robert Menzies.. as the carpet salesman notices a strong resemblance between the great man and my father!

It doesn't take long before the bottle is less than half full.

Dad looks at his watch.. "Is that the time? We need to go son!"

Into the mighty EK we hop and back across the island. The road was different back then.. straight as a gun barrel without the dog leg at it's Eastern end.

"Dad.. you think we are going a bit fast?" says I. "No son. only doing 60 MPH!" comes the gruff reply. He tells me I sound like mum!

Into Campbell street we turn.. big burst of power (well what power there was in an auto EK) to cross the sand and pull up at the garden gate.

"Son; untie the carpet and put it under the house would you please?"

Around the the back of the car I go…. "Er dad.. the trailer is missing!"

Now my father never swore.. so I cannot tell you what he said.. as this day.. well he made up for 67 years of abstinence!

We drive back across the island and look for it.. nowhere to be seen.

The mighty EK is turned around and we retrace our steps home.. nothing!

All of a sudden I see two wheel tracks heading off into the bush.

"Stop the car dad.. we stop and I walk back up the road a bit.. and in the bush is the trailer.

And the carpet is still on it!


The trailer plug wiring is stuffed .. but we reconnect the trailer.. putting a split pin through the release handle this time and head for home.

When we get back mum says.. a car like ours pulled up here before and then drove away!

(Mum couldn't tell one car from another)

She continued on… "I knew it wasn't ours because it didn't have a trailer on the back! Ron.. have you been drinking? I can smell rum on you and it's not lunch time yet!"

We never told mum about that little episode; although the following weekend when the carpet was laid by a bunch of dad's boozy mates.. she commented on how much sand was in the carpet.

Ah.. golden days at Bribie Island!

Our weekender at Bribie!

Monday, 11 November 2013

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.. the guns fell silent!

Remembrance day! Did you pause for 1 minute at 11:00 AM to remember the fallen? This morning outside our local Bendigo Bank in the middle of a fund raiser for breast cancer research.. we stood silent for that one minute.

And as usual.. I teared up. For every rembrance day at 11:00 AM I think of my late father. In 1914 in London he left school to join the army. He wanted to serve. At the barracks the recruiting officer asked him how old he was. "I am 16 sir!" he replied. Well then said the officer.. you had better come back when you are 18! In my father's own words… "So I walked around the quadrangle and came back to the same officer. Hello Sir.. I am 18 now!" He said good.. sign up here and here is your shilling. My father finished the war as a Captain.. because in his worlds.. "Everybody else got shot!"

Including his schoolmate who signed up with him.

His parents were horrified.. but soon he found himself at the Somme. On the first day of battle over 40,000 troops died. While the British were at war with the Germans, they also had problems in India with the locals wanting independence.

Before the war ended in 1918, my father found himself in Poona in India running the dispensary for the British Garrison. In his spare time on leave he headed to the foot hills of the Himalayas.. and spoke about their magic all the rest of his life.

He went to war a mere boy at 16 in 1914 and did not come home until 1921 when he was 23 years old. As his sister, my Aunt Tilly told me.. the whole family went to meet him at the railway station. We were so amazed to see this young man of the world who could now speak 3 languages. He saw some bloody awful things in his time in the Army; and always had time for former soldiers who suffered from PTSD. Although back then it was called shell shock. He always told me to be charitable and never judge the behaviour of a returned serviceman as "War does terrible things to men." I still have one of his swagger sticks not unlike this one he is carrying in this picture. He had 2 legs then too!

Ron Taylor in Poona.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Experiences: Sexism? Not my daughter's jeans? No! Not my husband's car!

I find it interesting that all people (me included) have these ideas that spring into our minds when we confront or see something we don't expect.

Let me explain…..

When Deb had a "significant" birthday, she asked if we could buy her a car. Of course darling, why not?  Well two conditions were as follows.

1. I want a new car. (She had never had a new car before)

2. I want a sports car.

So deep breath and friendly bank manager and wallah! A shiny new BMW Z4 roadster comes into her life! And she loves it! Even has personalised plates DL-04Z. (Debra Lee and obviously the 04Z from the Z4)

The few times she drove it to functions, the most common questions she was asked were…

1. How fast does it go?

2. Is that your husband's car?

Guess what the gender break down was on the inquirers? Well the men (without exception) asked Deb how fast it could go and it was the WOMEN who asked her if it was her husband's car. In fact it became such a common thing she had our sign writer put a little sign on the back window:

"This is not my husband's car!"

Deb with the fast car and the fast plane! Not Mark's car!

Bikes: How the Super Tenere got to be called Fat Max!

Well it is no secret that I love my motorbikes. Not cruisers, not sports bikes, but adventure bikes. Basically an adventure bike is an overgrown trail bike. You see I like to explore the road less travelled, whether that road be a minor bitumen or dirt road. It makes for magic riding and lovely views! Now in the old days, we used to ride 250cc trail bikes.. magic things in the bush, but if your destination was some way away, we would trailer them behind the car to our destination. (They didn't make good high speed highway cruisers)

With an adventure bike, it is big enough to "cut the mustard" on the highway. Usually starting from around 600 cc and upwards, they are a magic way to explore Australia. My last bike "Grande Rouge" was a red (what else?) Kawasaki KLR650. And apart from many other journeys, I rode out to Birdsville and back on that bike. Pure Magic!

Grande Rouge and me at the Birdsville Pub. (2011)

But on the longer bitumen sections I wished for a more relaxed and comfortable ride! Enter the Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z. When Yamaha announced that bike, I read about it in the media. Never thought I would actually own one in the near future!

Fat Max on the Mann River NNSW

So in the fullness of time.. the new Yamaha came to grace our driveway. But why Fat Max?

For the answer to this, one needs to travel back in time to 1970. I am a first year auto electrical apprentice (technically I am an electrical fitter, automotive) and I meet up with a fellow called Peter Orth on my first day of tech college. We become good mates and still are to this day. At the time Uniroyal used to make car tyres here in Australia in South Australia. They have a "chunky" radial model called… Fat Max. Peter is tickled by that name. As I work for Max's Speedo Electrical Service, he christened me.. Maximus Obesus.

By 1979 Max's Speedo Electrical Service has changed to MAX Instruments and all of our company cars have MAX-## number plates. My first plate is MAX-11. I remained with and a partner in the business until 1995 when I left to run the studio full time. (Well it saved taking days off to do commercial shoots all over South East Queensland)

And it came to pass that two of the former company number plates came into my possession when Max sold the business sometime later. MAX-11 and MAX-20. (My second MAX-## number plate) So why not put MAX--11 on the new bike for a bit of nostalgia? And.. the Yamaha is a fat sucker; over 260 kg when fueled up.

So.. ladies and gentlemen.. I give you Fat Max, the Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Experiences: The huntsman spider, the old Electrolux vacuum cleaner.. and me!

Killing Huntsmen spiders...

I had never seen a bloody huntsman spider until lI was in Melbourne in 1981.

So.. fast forward to 1984 and me and the ex bought an old worker's cottage in Albion. 

It had been renovated by a National Geographic Photographer in about 1974 and had a studio.


Anyhow.. we had been there about 3 or 4 weeks and the ex gets cerebral diarrhoea  and decides that it is time to set up happy home with a bloke she works with.

Don't  worry about the mortgage... Mark can pay that!

So.. I am now living by myself and discover the house is full of bloody huntsman spiders.

And they terrify me.

Around this time my elderly Aunty offers to give me her Electrolux vacuum cleaner... as mine has departed!

This thing is a pre WW2 model and has a metal body and bakelite end caps.

So.. when you see a huntsman.. you suck the little bastard up.

Trouble is you lie awake at night wondering if he is going to walk back along the tube out of the vacuum cleaner and come looking for you!

So.. the answer is this:

Suck the spider up and while the machine is running.. spray Moretein up the hose!


So Saturday Morning I am doing my washing and I spy a huntsman on the wall in the lounge.

Grab the old Electrolux... fire him up.. got you!

While the machine is running.. spray Mortein into the hose.

Big Mistake!

You see the machine is old.. the brushes on the motor are worn... and they arc when it runs.

Effect is I have my own jet engine going here.

The hydro carbons in the mortein ignite... the sound of the explosion is deafening and the resulting fireball blows the bakelite cap off the end of the vacuum cleaner and it describes a neat arc (cause it is still attached to the hose) and hits me on the forehead.

And the entire room is filled with a cloud of about a kilo of fine dust particles and dog hair suspended in the air.. and spider body parts too....

End result is the Electrolux is totalled, I have a gash on my head... and the inside of my open plan home is coated with shit.. every where.

Even the plates in the kitchen cupboards copped the fallout!

So.. vacuum cleaners are not the go for killing spiders. Cattle prod might explode them if you get them to sit still for long enough!

As as PS.. I should have followed this guys advice:

Politics: November 11, 1975. Hardly our finest hour!

Monday next is November 11.. a special date in Australia's political history!

In late 1972 I had become swept up in the It's Time campaign (so brilliantly designed by Mick Young) that swept Gough Whitlam into office. I was too young to vote at 19 back then. But my word, he did impress me. The McMahon Government seemed to me to be outdated and led by a man that Whitlam could verbally lacerate with his acerbic tongue.

By the time of the  1974 election.. well I could vote and I voted for Gough! Actually.. I thought he was making fist of it all, but his "Give us a go and we'll get the job done" seemed fair enough to me. Around the time of the election I gave up the tools and went on the road as a rep for MSES (the forerunner to MAX Instruments).. and boy did that open my eyes.

What I saw was inflation out of control and small business failures everywhere. On my 22nd birthday in 1975, I sat down with my father and talked at length about the state of the country with him. He seemed objective enough… my vote was my decision.. but after discussing business and other issues with him, well I knew my next vote would not be for the ALP.

Fast forward to late October 1975. One night I am having dinner with my good friends Ken and Carol Brand at their Coorparoo home. The talk of the senate blocking supply is all over the news. As young people we believe it won't happen.. probably because it hasn't happened before.

Unfortunately, we all underestimated the sheer ruthlessness of Malcolm Fraser!

Remembrance Day1975. I am visiting a client.. Performance Craft marine in Newmarket. They made desirable hi speed ski boats. This is where I hear the news of Gough getting the coke and sars! I cannot believe it. Over the coming weeks the country is going into melt down. Families are tearing each other apart over the dinner table on this one dividing issue!

My older brother Max and I go head to head on this one too! I say it is wrong. The people would have voted Gough out anyhow.. this is pure opportunism. Fuelled by one man's desire to be PM! That is it. Max thinks the end justifies the means.  We argue. A lot! Even today 38 years later we still don't agree on this one.

As I am going to Fiji for a week with Terry Lewis, I cast my pre poll vote for the ALP! For me it is the principle that matters here. Nothing else. The Sunday after the election we are onboard a QANTAS 707 at Nadi airport. The aircraft stairs are stuck hard up against the plane and we're going nowhere. To fill in time the Captain tells us the election result.. a Landslide for the Liberals.

A cheer goes up in the plane! But not from me!

These days.. well I am a conservative voter.. cannot stand the way the ALP go mad with the country's  credit card.. don't get me started!

But November 11, 1975? Hardly the Lib's finest hour. And to this day I cannot stand Malcolm Fraser!

EG Whitlam has an incredible intellect, I have met him and photographed him.. even been photographed with him! An amazing man. Sadly his lack of ability & interest in the country's finances was his downfall!

Lives in my cupboard as a reminder!

Gough and me! C2002

Friday, 8 November 2013

Youth: No word could describe the joy I felt...

July 1960. I come home from school on my 7th birthday. There in my bedroom is my brand new Cyclops scooter. And.. it has pump up tyres. A foot brake for the back (with a hand control for it as well) and a luggage rack.

I had never known such joyous emotion.. still to this day I sometimes wonder if  anything since then has made me feel the same. That scooter was made in Australia. And unlike other scooters of the day that had no bearings in the wheels or steering.. or perhaps needle roller bearings in the wheels… this one had ball bearings in the wheels and steering!

And man could it fly. It even had a centre stand for parking just like my Super Tenere Yamaha. Mum would often send me to the shop to buy a bottle of this or a packet of that; and that scooter would be parked on its centre stand outside the local delicatessen.

I fitted a small wooden box to the back rack and carried all sorts of things home in there.. even dad's fags or cigars. All my friends were in awe of it.. they all wanted to ride it. Brother max gave me a VDO speedo for it and when the paint looked a bit off from a few prangs.. he had it rebuilt for me when I was 10. God I loved that two wheeled freedom machine!

When I turned 12 a bike came into my life.. and the scooter sat forlornly under the house behind the fireplace for the old copper boiler.

The days turned into months, the months turned into years.

How many years?

Try 48!

Until today when I dragged it out… poor old thing. It's once shiny red paint long gone like the once sparkling chrome wheel rims. What I now had before me was a rusty hulk with perished flat tyres. The road to hell is paved with good intentions so they say.. and I had always intended to rebuild this little scooter. One day!

Well you know what John Lennon said…. "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."

So with a heavy heart, I loaded the little beast into the skip. Genuinely sorry to dispose of a very happy part of my childhood here at Clayfield. But, one cannot drive through life looking in the rear view mirror and we need to junk a lot of stuff for our move to our new house.

The next part of this exciting journey as we orbit the sun each year.

Sixty orbits completed so far.. and hoping for a lot more to come!

But the really sad part is this: This little scooter was made here in Australia as were the Dunlop tyres. (Have a look at the photo) We don't make scooters here any more, nor even tyres for cars, let alone scooters. To me it is another stark reminder that we are killing off our manufacturing industry. No tyres, no refrigerators, soon no cars… Australia is fast becoming a quarry.

My little scooter will probably return as part of a Chinese gas barbecue to be sold at K mart one day. And while I am on the subject; if I hear one more person tell me that Ford and Holden don't build the cars we want.. well I am going to be sick. The biggest selling car in the world at the moment is the Ford Focus. And we Australians buy a lot of them.  Yes Ford (and Holden) do make the cars we want to buy.. but they make them in Thailand and we import them with no import duties as they are a developing country.

When all of the factories shut.. where will our kids work; and don't forget the secondary industries that are component suppliers to these factories.

Ending that scooter's life in that skip is a symbol of the ending of our manufacturing industries!

Although I look forward to our new home and we'll be alright mate; I wonder where Australia will wind up!

About to leave this mortal coil!

Dunlop - Made in Australia. Not anymore!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Youth: Hendra State High School & Me. A tale of a square peg in a round hole!

The year in 1965 and I am in my last year at Eagle Junction State School. I haven't thought much about high school.. too many places to go on my new bike! One afternoon we are sent home with a note for the parents.. standard fare. But this one tells parents the times and dates that the principals of the various local high schools would be visiting to talk to parents and the kids.

That night at the dinner table I give it to my father.. who dutifully reads it and delegates that to my mother. "You were a teacher once May.. you sort it out!" were his words. The mates I hung around with were mostly going to either Kedron or Wavell .. but my mum had an issue with Kedron. She said to my dad and me, "Well he cannot go there; fifteen girls left there pregnant in 4 years!" Now I have no idea if that was true or not.. but to me it sounded like an ideal place for a soon to be 13 year old who had testosterone coursing through his body.

But alas.. the decision was made for me.. Hendra State High School it was to be. And shortly after that my mother and I sat in the library at Eagle Junction (right next to the glass cabinet with a model of the Souther Cross made by some past student)  while Clarrie Muller rattled off what a nice place HSHS was. It had only been opened for 2 years and that stage all was new.

Break up day 1965 arrives.. the girls are crying as they won't see their friends again.. we go bowling after school and I walk Linda Morris to the train station. I didn't see her again until 1997! Amazing!

Christmas holidays are quickly over and I am at school at Hendra. Naturally I stick with a couple of mates from primary school but soon I make new friends. Bruce Vaughan, Robert Fysh, Tor Fromhyr, Graham Priestley, Charlie Cleator and Leigh Davenport to name a few. Oh yes.. Jim Douglas comes to mind too!

Our form teacher for Grade 8 is Miss Dahl. She has lived in Hendra all of her life and has been everywhere. Used to give us slide shows of her trips through Europe. And tell us of life as a young girl mixing with all of the great jockeys of her time. She drove a little faded red Daihatsu Champagne car and lived in one of a block of four units she owned in Manson Road.

When she was nice she was very nice.. but when she was upset.. I was terrified of her. Of course we had other teachers too. One I thought was crazy.. I mean really crazy. As an adult I later found out that he had a fondness for feeling the girls' bra straps through their uniforms.

And so began 1966 and grade 8 for this young man.

For sports I chose golf. We used to play at RQ and were taught by Charlie Earp. He also taught The Shark.. so I guess I was one of his failures! The bus trip from the school was always interesting.. as we passed the chemical and oil storage tanks at Eagle Farm, the air was heavy with some sort of chemical smell. For some reason I actually liked it.

But by halfway through that first  year.. I was way out of my depth. Algebra.. adding letters and numbers together? Man that is against the laws of nature. You have letters.. and you have numbers.. and never  the twain shall meet. I tell you it is the dark side!

I hated the place! To be blunt I could not follow what they were trying to teach me, the teachers thought I was being smart and pretending not to understand.. but it just wasn't  getting through. My father had an IQ of about 3750 and even he could do my algebra homework in a heartbeat. But he too couldn't explain it to me.

In year nine we got a new principle. Mr Winkle He was nuts. No, really bad. Was power crazy and loved to use the cane. My father's Rotary Club was having a father/son luncheon and so I was sent to see this nutter with a hand written letter (in my father's beautiful handwriting) asking for permission for me to attend this luncheon. The day clashed with the school's cross country so my father had no issue with me missing some school time. Well.. didn't Mr Winkle go nuts. He lectured me about the Rotary Club being irresponsible as was my father etc.. I suggested he ring dad at work. So he did! He had no idea who he was taking on.. I could see him turning red as my dad gave him a talking to about a "broad education" for today's young men etc.

The Rotary luncheon was great.. although a lot of club members thought dad was my grandfather because of our age difference. On the ride home in the car, dad told me that Winkle had insisted on a meeting with dad to "clear this up." My father had said fine.. we shall meet in the education minister's office next week. My secretary will arrange it and advise your secretary. That was the end of it.

Soon I didn't want to go to school.. all I wanted to do was go for a ride on my bike with my trusty twin lens reflex camera and take pictures. On the hottest days we stood on parade in the sun while Mr Morrison belted out the news.. the teachers stood on the shade. The males wore shorts (we had to wear long from year 9 onwards.. so long is what I got) and the ladies.. well I envied them in their cool skirts.

But.. I figured i would need some sort of education to get a job! But what could I do for a job when the time came? One afternoon after school I was walking home with Edward Baden and he told me he thought he might try for the public service. He had a cousin in the public service; he earned good pay and had bought a good second hand souped up EH Holden!

Only one problem for me.. I had no idea what a public servant was! So I went home and asked my father….. he quickly pointed out that all of our family worked in free enterprise.. and I should do the same! So that avenue is closed then! Glad we sorted that out!

Back at school life dragged on; I started taking more days off.. I just hated the place. I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. Maths had me foxed.. and science was close to that too! As for manual training my lack of coordination was very much apparent. Couldn't cut a straight line or drive a nail in if my life depended on it.

Eventually in grade 10  I saw an advert for a copy boy at the Sunday Truth. My brother Viv had started there as a copy boy and gone on to become a cadet photographer, in fact he was still there. So, on the train to the valley and in to the the Truth instead of school.

I was so excited until… "Job was gone at 8 am this morning son. You're Viv's kid brother aren't you? Should have told him you wanted the job and you could have had it!"


So.. back on the train and over to see my father at Milton Printing Company. Told him my sorry tale about school and how I hated it so much and what could he suggest? He picked up the Courier Mail and said.. "Go find a job!"

I didn't do that.. but I did leave that dark school and shortly afterwards enrolled at another that my mother had found.. where I met a magic teacher called Mrs Ewart.. and my education and general knowledge levels blossomed, but that's another story.

In summary.. Hendra State High School was the worst 3 years of my educational experience. The good part was my mates and the afternoon bell. My inability to learn what they were trying to teach me was pure hell!

Mrs Ewart at Power Coaching College was about to make a big change in this boy's life. As a 60 year old I look back at that group of teachers at Hendra and wonder what there wasn't a Mrs Ewart in their midst!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Photography: Why does digital seem to have replaced quality photography?

Confused by the title? Well let me explain.

These days it seems that anybody with a digital SLR and a Facebook page is a photographer.

And some of the professional organisations court these people and encourage them to join as members.


Since the digital revolution I have never seen so much crap dished up to consumers in the name of professional photography .. and the consumers think it is good work!

Then they realise that.. hey.. I could do that myself.. so why hire a professional photographer?

Or, well if I take enough pictures there must be a good one in there somewhere !

And if it isn't good enough I will run it through Photoshop!

Well here's a flash… photoshop can enhance, correct and even restore photographs.. but it cannot make a silk purse from a sour's ear.

Any old time pro who cut his teeth on a Rolleicord and roll of 120 VPS (or E6) knows that the shot has to be right to start with. When we shot on film, each press of the button could cost us $6.50 in film and processing. And those prices are from 20 years ago!

So yes.. I am not a total dinosaur, I do shoot digital, I shoot RAW and I very rarely use photoshop.

I make sure I have it in the can first go!


Because photoshop won't fix bad posing, incorrect lighting ratios, badly over or under exposed images and it cannot inject creativity into the picture. The creativity part starts before you even pick up the camera. Try this out.. before you take that picture of your girlfriend, ask yourself, "What is this a picture of?"

Your answer could be.. "Well it is a picture of my girlfriend on her Vespa!"

If you take that picture and bring it to me.. I will see things like.. a light pole growing out of her head. You didn't see it because your camera has full aperture metering and so it was miles out of focus in your view finder. Why has she got a blue tinge to her skin? And for that matter the entire picture has too.. well did you shoot a custom colour balance? The exposure is under too.. the white scooter has fooled the meter. And why is she posed in a masculine pose. Is she butch? If so then it might work! And you have shot into her crotch.. not a nice look! But why is she in the middle of the shot? Even high school art students understand the rule of see where I am going with this?

Whatever camera you use doesn't really matter… its job is just to record the image.. once you have created it. And old time pro photographers know all about this.. it is just that we have changed the method of capture! Nothing else! Our style, creativity and ability to "see the light" cannot be bought with even the best digital camera.

iPhone, film or digital.. it's all the same to us. It's either good photography or it's not. If you have to "explain" what a photograph is about.. you have failed!

When I bought my 2 Rollei 6008 Professional outfits for around $40K with lenses in the 90s… the owner's manual on page one said something like… "We assume you know how to take photographs. This book will show you how to operate the camera"

Famous 60s English Photographer David Bailey (Google his work) said recently in an interview that EVERYBODY had a least ONE GOOD PHOTOGRAPH in them! Even you!

But working pros have to make a "good photograph" every time! They need to make every post a winner.. every assignment from a client, has to produce a bucket load of "good photographs".

In this industry you are only as good as your last job!

If you see pictures the same as what you can produce on a back yard photographers website.. then why bother hiring that photographer? But if you want magic.. look for  grey haired blokes who knew how to shoot on film!
They have been there and done that many times before… and he (or she) will give you magic!

Rollei 6008 Pro.. no ghost in this machine. BYO Creativity!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Experiences: Max, Neville, me, the EK Holden & the carpet snake!

My dad was the Grand Secretary of the RAOB in Queensland. (The Buffalo Lodge)  Because of this he used to go to a lot of Lodge meetings all over the place. (And I used to go to a lot of lodge XMAS trees every year... lots of presents for this young boy) Anyhow, dad had a mate who was also a Buff. Charlie Freeman was a banana farmer from Beechmont on the Gold Coast hinterland. And as Charlie had rainforest all around him, he used to bring my mum staghorns every time he visited us.

The year is 1962 and both dad and Charlie drive EK Holdens. And they have to fly to PNG for a lodge meeting. Charlie drives to Brisbane and leaves his car here in our front yard. He tells mum on arrival he has a new staghorn for her. So mum and I go out to his car. He opens the boot and immediately slams it shut. Now mum was from the bush, she knew right away! “Snake in there Charlie?” “Yes May”, came the reply. It seems Charlie had left the boot open the night before after loading the plant into the car and a large carpet python had slithered in!

“We’ll get the plant in the morning when the carpet snake is cold and sleepy.”  Well that was the plan. 

Morning dawns.. 

Charlie extracts the staghorn and leaves the snake in the boot. 


Mum is not happy Jan!

Charlie and dad fly off to PNG and leave the snake-mobile in the front yard. 

Mum is terrified, "What if it gets out? What if it has babies? What if they eat my dog? Or Mark????"

This is actually what she said on the phone to my eldest brother Neville when she asked him to come and kill the poor snake.

So Neville and also brother Max come to sort out the problem. 

Armed with the proverbial selection of blunt instruments they tentatively open the boot. 

No snake!

I lean into the boot and look.... no snake! 

All of a sudden Max picks up this 9 year old and hurls him into the boot and slams the lid! 

God did I scream!

And over my own screaming and locked in that boot I could hear my mother wailing at Max for doing such a foolish thing!

The boot lid opens; daylight floods in and Neville reaches in and hauls me out. 

I stand there whimpering.. we all look into the boot .. still no snake.

And then, all of a sudden from the dark depths of that rubber matted boot floor comes the bloody snake! 

He is in full charge mode aiming for me! 

I am too scared to move. 

Neville springs into action and slams the boot on the poor thing’s neck. 
So try to picture this.... my mother is screaming her lungs out, I am riveted to the spot and a large carpet snake with his jaws open about 100mm from my face is trying ever so hard to bight me!

He cannot move as he is trapped by the boot lid!

Again Neville quickly moves me out of the way. 

Then he and Max “convert” the snake into an ex snake.

And the wash up on all of this....

Charlie comes back and is really upset mum has dispatched his snake.

To this day there is a rusty kerosene tin buried in our back yard with a carpet snake in it. (In case the dog dug it up you see)

I am absolutely terrified of bloody snakes!

Max and I do talk. Actually we are close and used to be in business together.

And talk about karma... Max retired to Maleny where an Eastern Brown Snake tried to nail him one day. About 7 hits on him; on the end of his steel capped boot. Covered in venom it was, but none of it in Max. He was holding a hose at the time and eventually hosed the snake and it left.

As for EK Holdens..... have never, ever opened a boot on one in case it was Charlie’s old car!

An EK Holden.. just like Charlie's

The race that stops a nation!

Well today is Melbourne Cup Day. And I sit in a quiet house here in Clayfield and think about the ghosts of Melbourne Cups past! Although right now all I hear now is the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen, I suddenly am carried back to this house in a different time.

The year is 1962 and my mother hosts her first Melbourne Cup party here for her beloved Clayfield branch of the CWA. For the next 30 odd years it was a tradition. For a week beforehand she would clean the place and polish the house and her collection of brass Chinese Dragons. On the day up to a 100 ladies in their best race wear (really!) would arrive, pay a small amount for entry and away the day would go. I would sneak home from school (on the next block) for lunch to grab a good feed. My mother's staple were apricot chicken and her version of curry. And of course sausage rolls and horses doovers too! (Her words, not mine!)

After lunch the cream sponges, apple pies and jam tarts would come out along with my mother's competitions to fill in time until the horses jumped. Her favourite was getting the ladies to tear a sheet of newspaper into a map of Australia. And guessing the weight of a large cast iron pot with a fitted lid. As she used this one every year, she would add small stones to vary the weight in case anyone had a good memory.

In 1962 & 1965 I won the sweep. Even Stevens I think and Light Fingers?  Bought a siren for my bike with my 25 shillings on the second one!

1994 was her last party.. the slowly advancing effects of then undiagnosed  dementia were starting to show. I came by from the office and found her in a hell of a  mess in the kitchen. Off with the suit coat, on with an apron and start cooking and serving.

The final trick of her Melbourne Cup day was this: She liked to collect souvenir tea spoons from all over the world and use them on the day. When the event was over.. nobody got out the door until she had washed and done a stock take of those bloody tea spoons. Today most of them are in a wall rack gathering dust.. and tarnished.

Ah.. those were the days!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Youth: The pure magic of steam!

My late friend Ken Brand was given a Mamod steam engine for his 12th birthday.. some 50 years ago. And not just a single cylinder steam donkey engine, but a superheated steam driven twin cylinder engine. God it was a sight to behold. The burner was fuelled on metholated spirits and the base plate was drilled to match the Meccano brand construction kit. So you could literally build a merry go round and bolt the steam engine on its side.. then run a drive pulley and cable system to make the whole thing ... go around! 

And the glorious noise and steam it made as its flywheel spun around and the twin con rods shot in and out.. totally mesmerising it was!

Ken was very fastidious about this beast.. couldn't use Brisbane tap water in it as the minerals would cause too much boiler scale. Nope, you had to use rain water. And where to get that? Why from Mrs Eldershaw's tank next door of course. Ken would hop over the fence and collect a gallon of the stuff at a time. Enough to run that steam engine for an eternity I reckon.

Of course.. I had a Mecanno set.. so I wanted one too! But my mother said no! She had visions of me burning down the house with it. (What she didn't know was that I had already nearly succeeded at that.. but that is another story) My old dad nearly gave in.. but mum got final say on that one.

The steam bug never left me and I eventually bought a steam traction engine at Hamley's Toy shop in London in 1983 when I was 30.

A German one too! And the entire magic had started again.

Poor Ken departed this earthly life in 1990 and some time later his widow Caroline asked me if I would like that steam engine. What an outstanding piece of childhood memorabilia to have and to remember my mate by.

So write this today because of two things...

1: I came across the steam engine in its original box yesterday during the big clean up and..

2: Ken would have been 62 tomorrow. Yes his birthday was on November 5, Guy Fawkes night!

I could never have imagined back 50 years ago when I first saw that steam engine run that one day I would have it.. but not my mate Ken, in my future life.

Ken's Mighty Mamod SE3

And my Wilseco Traction Engine

Photography: Well this was a one of a kind bridal shoot!

I photographed weddings for over 33 years.. then gave it away to concentrate on commercial work.

Although having said that, I do have 2 or 3 to shoot next year for close friends. But back in the mid eighties I was as busy as every Saturday.

And there was one wedding that stands out....

It was to be a very small wedding and in fact the bride and groom had no attendants at all! The bride was a tall willowy blond who was stunningly beautiful.

As Philip Marlowe would have said... "To say she had a face that would have stopped a clock would have been to insult her. It would have stopped a runaway horse."

On the day of the big event I arrived at this top floor luxury unit with a stunning view of Brisbane. On my shoulder I had a bag filled with a Bronica 645 camera outfit and 2 x Nikon F3 bodies for candid colour and B&W images. I was a little early.. 5 minutes.

I checked all my gear again and at exactly 14:00.. I pushed the door bell.

In about 30 seconds the door opened.. "Hi Mark.. nearly ready.. can I get an opinion on something please?"

And there before me was this stunning bride.... dressed in a white G String.. and nothing else.

Gees.. I didn't know where to look.. but being a male my autopilot  solved that problem for me!

Her question was.. "Do you think my boobs are perky enough not to wear a bra under my dress?"

So how do you answer that question? I mean they were a superb example of natural non augmented female breasts. At the time I was single (again) and these were the first set of boobs I had seen for a while! On a scale of 1 - 10.. they were definitely a 15!

How about I see you in the dress first I stammered.. so she put the dress on.. and reappeared.. just then the door bell rang.. "That will be my dad.. can you let him in?"

Thank God he wasn't early!

"Well Mark.. what do you think?" she asked me.. in front of her dad.

"You look great! Go with that" I replied.

Her dad looked puzzled... "Well what else could you wear today?" he asked.

The bride looked at me and winked!

That experience will remain forever etched in my memory of all the weddings over the years.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Now I lay you to eternal sleep. Tranquility base, your soul to keep.

Today as I clean out the family home.. my trusty 4.5 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope is about to be loaded into the skip. He will probably be underlay for Brisbane's second runway.. if BAC ever build it! Sadly his mirror is oxidised so much that he is almost useless as a telescope. In fact he has been superseded by a 6 inch cassegrain  scope with all manor of electronic guidance systems for some time.

But it wasn't always like that......

Just over 45 years ago, that telescope was my 15th birthday present. It came in pieces in a large red box from Greenfields in George Street. All the necessary parts were carefully wrapped in brown paper by some loving technician in Japan. When I unwrapped each piece carefully and assembled the instrument.. I felt like I was bringing it to life! I couldn't believe that this very instrument would show me Saturn's rings, or some of Jupiter's moons. And boy did I love using it. On clear nights my good school friend and fellow astronomy nut Robert Fysh and i would be out in the front garden of Armagh St chasing the planets, constellations and the moon if it was out. I remember the night Robert and I found Antares.. the red star in Scorpio. What a buzz. Or the "jewel box" in Orion's belt. Robert had this enormous pair of binoculars and we would often use them as well.

This was my second telescope.. my folks gave me my first, a 60 mm refractor for my 14th birthday. When this new reflector (on an equatorial mount no less) arrived, Robert purchased the 60mm for his own use. We even belonged to the ROSCOM Jnr Astronomical Society. These days I can only remember Ross Mattingly from that crew. Robert's Grandfather would drive us out to Holland Park for the meetings on a Friday night. Very generous of him when you consider it was all pre freeway. It took a long time to get there.

The first time I saw the craters on the moon.. wow.. was I blown away. I still get a buzz from it now! Over the years the reflector has been loaded onto many cars and dragged out into the scrub for a clearer view. One night at Clayfield the street light that was suspended over the middle of the intersection was killing the view in that part of the sky. I used to own a Chinese made .177 air rifle. And I wasn't a bad shot. Sorted the bulb out real quick! (That rifle is another story in itself)

In 1969 .. Armstrong walked on the moon. I had my telescope set up at the bottom of the front stairs looking at the moon... it was a magic night. I remember from that night 2 quotes.. one from each of my parents as I focused that telescope on the moon.

My father said to me, "Son if a boy raised on a farm in America can walk on the moon today, then there is nothing your generation cannot do with some effort!"

My mother said, "Can you seen Neil Armstrong on the moon?"

So good bye old telescope.. your life was good and fruitful!

The moon over Clayfield

Awaiting the scrap heap after 45 years.

Youth: Kenneth Robert Brand MB BS was my friend.

Dr Ken Brand casual style 1985
When my family moved to clayfield in Easter 1958, I managed to go for a walk around the block by myself at the age of nearly 5. It was a big adventure, worried my parents silly.. but I met this fellow who lived at 100 Bayview Terrace.

Ken Brand was his name. He was 2 years older than me, and as the years passed we became the best of friends. We had a lot in common, the babies of the family with a big gap in ages to our siblings. And we liked mechanical things. We made go karts out of timber with wheels and axles that we purchased from "Handy Needs" at Clayfield. (Where the Sultan's Kitchen now stands) For my 7th birthday, my folks gave me a Cyclops scooter with pump up tyres and ball  bearing wheels. Most unusual as most scooters had solid rubber wheels and ran on needle roller bearings. Ken was fascinated by this and I can still remember his reaction when first he saw it. Ball bearing wheels?

His dad Victor was  a keen  gardener and as he was digging weeds, Ken said.. "Look dad, Mark's scooter has pneumatic tyres!" That was Ken.. I called them pump up.. he used the right word to describe them.. and he still was about to turn 9!

In fact today the 53 year old scooter is about to be loaded into a skip as I clean out our home. This fact and also that Ken would have turned 62 on Tuesday, were he still alive, was the Genesis of this post.

Bicycles came into our lives.. we would often ride to the old Airport at Eagle farm for a milkshake.. or even down to the sewerage treatment plant at Luggage Point to get up to no good. We both went to the Eagle Junction State School, but then Ken went to Grammar in the city. He joined the air cadets. I can still see him in my minds eye walking up our street coming from the train station on his way home in full uniform... carrying his 303 rifle.

You see they used to get the cadets to take them home to clean them! Hard to believe now!

So the years roll by.. we make gunpowder in a mortar and pestle that my father had from his days as a "chemist" in the British Army in Poonah. What do you do with gunpowder? Well.. you blow things up.. what else? But that is definitely another story!

Then cars come into our lives. As a second year medical student Ken bought a brand new Torana GTR. With a stove hot 2600 S motor. Man.. what a machine. And didn't we have some fun in that car. A week trip to Sydney and back in early 1972. Racing an E Type Jaguar through outback New South Wales. (We actually won that one.. the Jag chickened out... or perhaps the driver was more mature than us)

And then.. bush walking and camping (we walked to the wreck of the Stinson and also climbed Mt Barney amongst other things) trail bikes and Land Rovers. Ken loved to explore. We always had to see what was around the next corner before we headed for home (it made for some long days) and we always had to have lunch by some water.. rock pool or creek! Trips to Fraser Island by land Rover and later trail bike followed. He was a great mate.

But something I never knew about Ken until he married Carol in 1974 (I was groomsman) was that he suffered with cystic fibrosis. Not long after he graduated his health really stared to decline. Although he wanted to do research in medicine his health wouldn't allow it. He was very bright.. all "A"s in Junior and all "7"s in senior made this man one clever Doctor. Eventually he opened a General Practice in Sandgate. His patients all loved him for his empathy, compassion and brilliant medical care.

He was a my best friend.. always guiding me in so many ways. When my ex took off with the gardener from her work place, leaving me in a great financial mess.. he was there with sound, caring advice. He offered cash to help.. but I declined. Money going back and forwards between friends is always a bad thing it seems to me. Life went on and we enjoyed many things.

But always the evidence of his failing health was the elephant in the room as his hospital stays became more and more common.

And then came that sad phone call from his sister Bev at 07:00 on Good Friday, the 13th (a real black friday for us all) in 1990. Ken had passed at 06:30 that morning in hospital from his CF.

I was shattered and even now 23 years later I get teary when I remember our firendship. Ken was only given 38 summers on this earth, but the world really was a better place for his being here.. just ask any of his patients from Sandgate.. or any of his friends.

We scattered Ken's ashes in a creek out the back of Mt Glorious where we used to trail ride. And I brought home a river stone from that creek.. every time I look at it.. I remember Ken and some of the best days of my life! And you know that sometimes when I ride the Yamaha in that area I feel his presence too!

Dr Ken Brand MB BS at graduation 1974
Me with Ken on Moreton Island Easter 1986.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Youth: Guy Fawkes night 1967.

So I used to go to school with Russell XXXX from grade 1 in 1959.

Russell was the baby of the family like me.

And by the time we got to 12 we were both mad on push bikes, motor bikes and of course cars!

Now Russell had an older brother Eddie (who worked at the XXXX in years past) and Eddie had a Malvern Star bike with 4 speed Sturmey Archer gears.

Most bikes were only 3 speed.

I was impressed!

As soon as Eddie got his licence.. Russell inherited the bike!

So.. where Deb's shop is at Clayfield, there used to be a Chemist shop.. Mr McSweeney's Pharmacy.

(Used to buy my B&W film there as an 8 year old)

And Russell used to deliver prescriptions on the said Malvern Star after school each day.

Behind our house at Clayfield lived Mrs XXXX who worked in the chemist shop.

She and Russell didn't always get on.

Cracker night is upon us in 1967 an as usual Ken XXXX and I were up to no good!

We used to like to stand on the railway bridge at Eagle Junction Station and drop lit crackers down the funnels of steam trains as they passed underneath.

The trick was to time it all.. the length of the fuse / when you light it / train speed to get the cracker to explode just as it dropped into the funnel and so a great big blast of soot would come out!

As I said.. we up to no good!

Anyhow.. with Ken and I were Wayne XXXX and his younger brother Glen... I can actually see their former home from my back deck.

If you ever watch ACA they often do stories on bugs in cooked food from cafes.. they get Glen XXXX to look for bacteria.

He has come a long way since then

So.. remember Russell.. well we run into Russell and another mate Rowan XXXX (his mother started Margaret XXXX Cheese cakes which became the Cheesecake Shop)

Russell was off to blow up Mrs XXXX letterbox to get revenge for the way she spoke to him at the chemist shop.

So.. Ken and I and Wayne and his brother Glen watched from the corner of our street.

(Mrs XXXX was our neighbour)

Russell had enough bungers taped together to blow up a small building.

Long story short... BANG!!!

We scamper for home.

Come Sunday morning... Mrs XXXX goes to the local Catholic Church and tells Wayne's mother that someone blew up her letterbox the night before.

Wayne's mum knows that Wayne is out and about with me.. so blames him for the blast.

Despite his protestations of innocence... which were true... she made him go around to Mrs XXXX house and apologise for blowing up the letterbox.

And.. try to fix the bloody thing.

It was a home made job made out of thick aluminium with a heavy wooden floor.

It didn't deform too much at all.

(Her ex husband who had made the letterbox was an Ansett Electra/Viscount pilot and I suspect the aluminium came from Ansett)

So.. by noon that Sunday.. word got back to Russell's mother and she made Russell apologise to Mrs XXXX, square off with Wayne and his mother... you could have written a song about it.

Talk about a Clayfield Incident.

A bit like Ode to Billy Joe.

So... 46 years later.. where are all the players?

Well.. Russell is a self made zillionaire with XXXX Wholesale Cars, XXXX Tyre Co, etc.

Wayne drives a bus for the RSL at XXXX to bring in poker machine players.

Ken became a GP at Sandgate and sadly died in 1990 from cystic fibrosis.

Glen owns his own biology lab and features on TV now and then.

I am the pro photographer.

Rowan XXXX drives a BCC bus.

And Mrs XXXX?

Well she eventually joined the public service, sold her house in 1972 (it was demolished and now units stand over my back fence instead of her old Queenslander) and bought the house next door which also borders our place.

She lived out most of her days there and  sold it about 10 years ago.

Her daughter was retiring to Tassie and she was going to join her.

It was sad that she died from the flu before she got to Tassie.

Back in 2008 from memory we bid her farewell at a local Catholic church.

Here is a picture of Russell XXXX that I took of him in our garden in 1965.

And so endeth this story.
Russell XXXX

Mrs XXXX house.. letter box on the RHS,.