Wandering Thoughts

March 30, 2010

New Things

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 9:27 pm
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Things I like:

Sunset on Mount Ainslie, waiting as is Canberra is mapped out by its street lights, watching as the last of the red ebbs from the continent and into the sky.

Driving east on the Kings Highway, on dawn, down towards the coast, in and out of half asleep mist. On the way to the beach, anxiously watching for Roos.

March 22, 2010


Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings,Staying Places — terence @ 9:23 am
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Well it’s indisputable, I’m definitely in Australia now: I’m listening to the AM programme on ABC Radio National (think morning report on Radio NZ) where an extended debate is taking place between Bob McTavish and Dick Brewer on who invented the shortboard…like nowhere else on Earth except maybe Hawaii  surfing is part of the Australian national story.

March 20, 2010

The Magpie and the Bush Vet

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 8:43 pm
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It was a lazy thwap. On the quiet suburban street, in the leafy morning light. It seemed too absent minded, too inconsequential to be what it became. But the collision was an uneven one. A big white ute, with its big white driver, ugly, a motherfucker, that just kept on its way. And a magpie, whose way was ended, with a bounce, from flight, onto the road, where it flapped like a torn flag.

We stopped our bikes, and Jo, who’s always better at these things, took my shirt and carried the bird in it from the road to the grass. At first the Magpie’s movements seemed to ebb, blood seeped from its bill.

I think it’ll die soon. I think we can just wait here. It won’t be long.

But instead it revived. And when it did, it made to fly away, to safety. But there was no flight. No safety. It’s back, or some other integral part, was broken, and all it could do was haul itself along the grass with its wings, frightened eyes staring at us.

We can’t leave it suffer.

I called directory. And then the RSPCA where I sat on hold as my credit evaporated.

As we waited there, Jo standing and me pacing, the bird lying on the grass, another magpie flew in, with a cry, over our heads, alighting in the tree that stood above us. Then another magpie followed it. And then the strangest thing happened. Birds of all sorts began to gather in the tree – magpies, smaller myna like birds, and colour-splashed Rosellas. They filled the spindly pine like Christmas decorations. An avian deathwatch, quiet, watching, waiting, looking down, as I alternated between anthropomorphising and trying to figure out what on earth to do.

“He’s a bush vet. He’ll probably wring its neck, but it’s just down the road, and he’s helpful.”

Jo had ridden home, got the car and come and collected me, my bike and the bird, before asking our landlords’ advice on where we could get the bird put down.

I doubted the bush vet bit. The bush is never that far away in Australia. Biding its time until it gets to reclaim the suburbs and upend the asphalt. But we were in the middle of well-heeled Ainslie. A poodle vet maybe, but definitely not a bush one.

I was wrong of course, like I’d been all morning. The  clinic was an old brick building with a sign that was almost swallowed by trees. The vet had an old leathered face that was almost swallowed by his beard.

“What? I thought was finished for the morning?” He was complaining, but not unfriendly.  His shirt and jeans were grubby, and his boots dusted with red dirt. We might as well have been out the back of Bourke after all.  What mattered though, is that he took the bird. And was kind about it. No need for payment. Promising to help if he could. And to end its life quickly if he couldn’t.

And so we offloaded the broken magpie and set off, on our way, after our plans for the day.

March 13, 2010


Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places,Surfing — terence @ 6:08 pm

As a kid I learnt to surf on a succession of dinged-up old boards. Like everything else in my teenage years, it was a source of embarrassment. Big and bulky, and browned by the sun – these ‘dungers’ didn’t look anything like the sleek white boards that all the good guys owned. I felt like a frumpy gumby carrying them down to the water’s edge. It wasn’t fair.

Despite the start,  I learnt to love old boards. Some still surf great once you figure them out. And it’s nice to rescue a forgotten board from the back of a shed and return it to wave riding life. I also learnt that the least cool thing in most surfers’ eyes isn’t owning an old board but rather being learner with a bright new one. If you’re going to learn you’ll do just fine on something old and floaty. A new board under a beginner’s arm will be a waste of money. A sign of vanity. Or that’s how most surfers feel.

Better still, is if you can paddle out on an ancient old clunker or obvious learner’s board and rip. That’s got style.  And everyone else will be so surprised you ought to get a few extra waves while the crowd re-adjust their expectations.

Or, at least, that’s the story I told myself as I lugged a big bright blue learners’ soft board down to my favourite surf spot. It’s the same wave where I’ve failed at least a couple of times in recent months. Fast walls and chunky sections, down into a bay. Out the back thick swells which are hard to catch. None of this easy for a broken old body. Nor quite what learners’ boards are made for. But I’d shipped everything else to Australia and I really wanted one last surf before departing. And so there I was, quite a sight to the guys out the back as I stumbled into my wetsuit. And lugged the board down the beach. Paddling out from the wrong part of the bay because I was too tired to walk any further.

The one good surfer in the pack paddled around me like I didn’t exist. Fair enough. I wasn’t sure if I existed either. Or more accurately. I wasn’t sure I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it to my feet. Or that the board would let me down the line. I floated about in sparkly blue sea wondering about this for a bit. Looking up at the eroding grey hills. And out into the patterned ocean. Waiting for a swell, a manageable wave to come my way. When it did I paddled just as fast as my lungs and heart would let me and half lept, half staggered to my feet. It wasn’t graceful. But my feet ended up where they needed to be and the board, big blue and floaty, turned just fine. Off I sped down the bay. On subsequent waves I started taking off deeper and turning harder. And the board, this blue pop-out thing, cut from soft foam so as to be safe for learners, went just fine. It flew even. Down drops. Past sections. Into turns.

Who knows what the other guys out there thought off all this. The weird old guy on a learner’s board and in a sun hat. But I’m figuring they were surprised. They sure let me get my waves. Let me have my chance to say a surf-happy goodbye to my favourite slice of coast. Left me with plenty to day-dream about over here in Canberra. Not to mention inspiration to take the blue board with me on the two hour drive to the nearest bit of Australian coast. First chance I get.

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