Sunday, August 31, 2008

nature boy

a couple of Lize's mates, Lisa and Vicky had their combined birthdays on saturday night. The party was held at Lisa's bush block about 30kms from Ballafornia, a place called Cape Clear. The weather was challenging to say the least, but fortunately they have a very large shed where the majority of the festivities took place. There was also a bonfire of gargantuan proportions that both cheered the spirits and roasted the flanks of the merrymakers that gathered around it after nightfall. It was brutally cold though, with gale force wind and icy showers. To combat the cold the ladies laid waste to cases of champagne whilst the menfolk plied themselves with rum and bourbon. Vast quantities of steak and spuds were on offer, and later icy bottles of fortifying german digestifs were passed about. Hilarity and good spirits were in good supply and had some great converstaions with some really interesting people. One of Lize's workmates Darrel is ex-Navy and served in the Gulf and East Timor and had some crazy stories. Some pretty funny ones too about what the lads (and ladies) of the navy get up to in port. Also had a drink with a couple who are amongst Australia's premier dog sled racers (!!) as well as a young bloke just back from Beijing. The ladies one by one hit the wall as the night went on and I was fairly happy to retire when not long after Lize stumbled in to our little tent. I'm pleased to report the hitherto untested tent is both rain and wind resistant and the only disturbances during the night were a long walk to the conveniences and a spontaneous dawn chorus that featured birds, a dog, some Angus heifers and a fellow camper being heartily sick.

After bacon butties and pints of orange juice it was a pleasantly short drive home, where we spent the day flopping about lazily reeking of woodsmoke and enjoying toast and tea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I walk the line

i'm really enjoying going for walks. The dog and I saddle up about 3pm each day and go for a waddle through the botanical gardens near lake wendouree. The old lake has done it tough in recent years, drying up and basically being an eyesore. But recent rain has put a thin sheen of water over it and it at least looks like a lake again. The swans, ducks and moorhens have returned and the grass surrounding is green and lush. Squitter and I normally go for a bit of a wander through the botanical gardens proper, generally taking the route past the prime minister's busts. I'm trying to train him to piss on the Tories if he has to go, but so far he seems to be taking a bi-partisan approach. The dog's unpredictable behaviour continues, with a headlong dive into a pond and a succesful theft of my lunch making headlines today.

I'm up to 45 minutes a walk currently and happy with progress. The belt has been reeled in to it's last notch and I'm not running out of breath going to the mailbox. Fitness ahoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

pop musik

played a theatre show on Saturday night. It's not something I've done very often, most of my playing life being spent in pubs or parties. Christ I wish I'd done more of it. It was paradise -crystal clear sound, a sold out room, no clinking glasses and a crew of techs waiting on your every sonic whim. I was supporting the Dead Salesman duo again and it was of those nights that renews your faith in the old game. It was great to see a couple of players whom I respect both as artists and people play a great show and for once not be a mere soundtrack for drunks on a Saturday night. Had a good show myself, sang my arse off and the jumped up and played some pissed but enthusiastic mandolin with them in their encore.

As a change of pace I jammed with Ruddo and a couple of the Wednesday night pool boys tonight. Good craic even though the lads were a bit rusty, with a spanking version of Paul Kelly's Desdemona being the highlight of the evening. I haven't played with a straight two guitars, bass and drums combo for maybe ten years and to be honest it felt damn good. Like an old jumper that you had lost at the back of a cupboard and you put it on and realise how much you missed it.

Monday, August 18, 2008


played an afternoon gig on saturday at the Holgate brewery in Woodend. I supported my mate Hap from the Dead Salesmen as a warmup to their 20th anniversary show. I'm doing the main gig as well but Hap rather nicely put me on the bill as I haven't done a solo show playing my own stuff in eons. It was weird how familiar the nerves are and how the little rituals come back. The half drunk cokes and half smoked fags and the sudden blank where you can't remember the first line of the first song. I ended up playing mandolin on a couple of Salesmen tunes which was good craic too.

It ended up going quite well, nowhere near the class of the Salesman duo, but a reasonably solid effort nonetheless. The pub was intriguing, one of the few genuine microbreweries in Victoria. I wasn't really drinking but I did try the pilsener which was nice and the chocolate porter which was very good indeed. It was funny watching people being beer wankers, holding their glass up, swirling it and making wise pronouncements. Beautiful old pub too, lots of stained glass and irregular polished boards. Got home about 7.30pm pretty knackered so it was pizza in front of the olympics for me and an early night. Rock and roll!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

two dogs

we're dogsitting at the moment. Dougal is Lize's parents' scottish terrier, a canine of advanced years and dubious bladder. Squitter and Dougal aren't fighting, but do seem to be bringing out the worst in each other. So far today they've had a pissing contest (currently deadlocked at 5 all), howled with gusto at varous upsetting events (Lize going to work, me going into the bedroom, the gate swinging in the breeze etc) and indulged in unhealthy bouts of dry humping. They're both neutered males so the doggie man love is a little disconcerting. They're both staring at me as I type, like some sort of four legged children of the corn. Its going to be long week.

cooking up

i left home without a lot of life skills. Irish Mammy had in her own loving way doted on her great lump of a son leaving him to read, play guitar and drain the cooking sherry while his clothes were washed, meals cooked and the house cleaned around him.

Moving to Melbourne a week or two before my eighteenth birthday, this lack of domestic ability didn't phase me as much as it should have. The 7/11 down the road provided fine chilli dogs for under a buck, and Four and Twenty products were cheap and plentiful. Dietary variation came in the form of fish & chips and pizza washed down with shit wine and worse beer. Laundry was a giant stripy bag dragged home to Ballarat on the train once a month and as for dishwashing cleaning etc it just didn't happen.

Meeting Lize should have fixed all this. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Lize, while a domestic goddess and harsh taskmaster, came unstuck on two fronts. Firstly the darling girl can't cook unless you count toast as cooking. Secondly my poor cleaning habits were ingrained at a level that would take a behavioural psychologist aided by a brace of Maori bouncers and numerous prayers to St Jude years to change. So the poor girl had no hope.

But slowly change did came upon us. I discovered I not only could cook, but actually enjoyed it. It started slowly, and suffered the rude interruptions of businesses and shift work, but it gradually came to be. Early days it was packet pasta, fish fingers, sausages and mash. Then came pasta from scratch, pot roasts, steaks and schnitzels. Then came the frills. I learnt how to make a roux. How good stock makes good soup. How not to turn vegetables grey with overcooking. The power of the fresh herb. Grilling over charcoal. Olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, chilli. Fresh fish. Slow roasting a joint for eight hours on low heat with the meat sticky, juicy and falling off the bone. Pancakes with bacon and real maple syrup on a hungover sunday. Dark chocolate, whiskey and cream with summer fruit. Chicken breast poached in semillon blanc with thyme. Home made souvlaki and pizzas. Caesar salads. Steak and fries with aioli.

I still like pies and the cleaners come once a week in the interests of domestic harmony. But the takeaways don't see much of us these days. Which ain't a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

behind the 8 ball

i hate pub pool, or 8 ball or whatever you want to call it with a passion. All my years working in pubs I have too often seen this game provide an excellent opportunity for dickheads to meet, disagree about the finer points of 'pub rules' and punch seven shades of shit out of each other. When thats not happening the damn things malfunction, get balls/cues/chalk stolen and provide an excellent surface to spill drinks on. Which further annoys the pool buffs.

But tonight was a bit different I guess. Eight or so dudes in their mid thirties, in a shed drinking beer, playing pool and listening to tunes is a bit of a different proposition. All eight of us in one way or another have known each other most of our lives. All our parents travelled in vaguely similar circles, 3 of us were born within 10 days of each other, and all of us became even tighter as we were drawn into one particular indie music venue in Ballarat in the early nineties. The venue was the Bridge Mall Inn, a legend in its own life time and a hallowed watering hole for freaks, druggos and some sweet ass rock and roll. The pool table we played on tonight was spirited away from the very same venue under dubious circumstances around the turn of the century and helped bring forth a few pithy yarns and salty stories as the evening wore on. The pool table had involved itself in wider considerably wider spectrum of activity than games of skill as it turns out and we all had our favourite stories that seemed to revolve around the well worn playing surface.

It set me to thinking. I managed that venue for few years and things became fairly acrimonious between myself and the last owners. They weren't indie people and didn't get the down at heel , loose feel of the place and in the process of improving the place threw the baby out with the bathwater. The punters and bands slowly dried up in front of me and it made me pretty bitter. The place had been a labour of love for me, working for bugger all and just vibing on the art while keeping the place moderately profitable. Anyway the war stories tonight helped me close the book a bit. The memories these guys have taken away with them will last longer than a scene or a business. And in the shifting sands that are rock and roll pubs I guess that's all you can hope for.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


today was a good day for Lize and I. The final annoying bits and bobs of the business have been finished and Sharpshooter the accountant gave us the happy news. We no longer have a mortgage! We have to go and see the bank and get the rest of the balance put into what in effect is a teensy little car loan, so while we ain't totally debt free, we are near as buggery to being so. Mission accomplished!

To celebrate we went out for Mexican to a place called Zaragosa. The staff are lovely, the food is a little better than the regular Oz take on Mexican and its a really nice room. I still feel a bit crook and Lize is swamped workwise so we kept it civilized drinkswise (a couple of glasses of sangria for her, two margheritas for me). We both had enchilda type meals with beans and rice which were really enjoyable in a spicy but stodgy kind of way. Joy of joys we got to sit next to a nice young family whose 'lively' 2 year old managed to throw a couple of spoons at me in between screaming fits. My personal highlight was overhearing devil child's mother ordering a semi long blonk, a drop which I gather is a close relative to the semillon blanc.

Anyhoo we kind of let the chaos flow past us because of our excitement. We keep coming up with ridiculous ideas to use our ill gotten gains on and it feels good to be able to plan and get enthused together again.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


its saturday night, and instead of tripping around Ballafornia drinking vast tankards of bulls blood and being fawned upon by fragrant young things i'm sitting at the computer in a lather of sweat, coughing and choking and red in the face. I have some sort of super flu. It's been smacking me around like a red-headed stepchild for ten days and frankly I'm sick of it. I can't taste food, my voice sounds like broken glass and everything hurts. My lungs are full of green goo and even breathing is painful.

As a consolation Geelong did the right thing and clinically despatched Richmond by 10 goals in the footy, then joy of joys I caught a Chappelle repeat. Whilst I've been sick I've done a bit of dross reading. Read Maire NĂ­ Brennan's bio which was pretty crap to be honest. It read like a Maeve Binchy book, a lot of romanticised catholic childhood guff followed quickly by abortion, cocaine, divorce and new age christian bollocks. It did prompt me to check out some old Clannad stuff on youtube. The early trad material is amazing, and some of the later synth era gear was ground breaking even though to modern ears it sounds very day spa/relaxation tapes lame.

Also read the Boy George bio which was very much what it should be. Camp, bitchy, self-obsessed and with the barest of mentions of the actual music involved. I was taken aback by how confronted I was by the fairly graphic descripions of gay sex. I've got plenty of gay mates but I guess they spare me the more lurid details of their love lives. I wasn't disgusted or anything just kind of shocked. I must be more conservative than I thought.

Also I've been indulging in a lot more Podcast listening. Kevin Smith's Smodcasts at View Askew are bloody funny. Clerks and Dogma are two of my favourite flicks and while not everything the guy touches is gold he is piss funny for a Yank. Down loaded some Stephen Fry and Coodabeens podcasts as well. Fry is a funny old sod, one of the podcasts is a very Wildean 30 minutes on how much he hates dancing the other being a heavily medicated rant about breaking his arm up the Amazon. Odd but witty stuff. The Coodabeens are great relaxed sport related humour, of absolutely no interest to anyone not au fait with the ephemera of AFL football, but i find them fucken hilarious.