66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The net result … no net result

In no particular because I'm shit at organising it: The conveyer belt in Gove harbour, a pimple on the arse of the area, as opposed to the untouched other side of the harbour; dolphins surfing alongside the bow of out fishing boat; a shark on the pristine beach at Port Bradshaw; the foreshore at the gulf; fishing with the boys in the gulf; purple-lipped and brown-lipped giant clams; our fishing boat (note how calm it is) at Port Bradshaw; and there’s a bonus shot of Warnie’s first-ball duck at the Hong Kong Sevens that I covered a couple of years ago. It may prove that I missed my calling by not being a sports photographer.

Life without the internet should, by rights, have given me more time to do stuff. One thing it has done is give me time to ponder friendship and what it means. I’ve had a recent friendship bust up, the sort that is usually helped (temporarily) by an abundance of claret. This time (think light bulb moment here) it was an abundance of clarity. Everything happens for a reason or reasons … this one was no different. The clarity came when I thought “if we were really good friends, we’d rise above the reasons. Friendship would prevail”. It didn’t and that’s a sad, sad realisation but life goes on. Guess I’m growing up after all and learning what life is all about.
I’ve certainly learnt more about the internet and not having it.
I finally, on the advice of Optus, took my modem to the Optus shop to have it tested. I dutifully explained the trials and tribulations that have been my intermittent life on the internet.
“Sorry we can’t test it, we don’t have a computer to plug it into. Did you bring your laptop,” was the response.
Really, are you serious? This didn’t augur well for fixing something that has been rooted for a long time.
“We’ll replace your SIM card free and you can try that. First I’ll check the signal at your house.”
Check. There is no record of a service at my address. I read it in black and white on the screen.
“Well that explains plenty,” I suggested. Anyway, I got a new SIM card, headed back to the ranch and bingo. Fuck-all signal.
There I was again on the phone to tech support. “Don’t know why the shop told you there is no signal at your house,” the operator said. “I can see that there is.”
“Well,” I ventured, “whatever it says doesn’t quite match what I have or don’t have at this end.”
“Probably the best thing you can do,” said the operator, “is go to the Optus shop and buy an antenna, that may help.”
May help? “I want something that will help, not something that may help.”
The woman kindly offered to send me a new modem, suggesting that that would be the best option.
It wasn’t. It arrived, I plugged it in. It didn’t work.
There I was again, on the phone to tech support, going through everything I’d discussed before.
After deciding that there was bugger all else to try, I was given the option of terminating the contract. “As long as there is no payout fee, I’ll go with that.”
And so it came to pass. No contract, no fee and no internet.
The subsequent ringing around trying to organise an ISP is as much fun as I’d imagine it is listening to Kevin Rudd talking on the joys of pumping for sandworms before a fishing trip.
I went to the Telstra shop where a disinterested bloke went through the motions of explaining the million dollar installation fee (OK, that’s shit, it’s not a million but it is plenty), the wait and whatever … it was like he was doing me a favour and couldn’t be stuffed either way whether I wanted it or not.
Back home to the Yellow Pages.
AAPT, which claims in its ad to be the best value. Not.
The Connexus ad says to see the main ad on page ***, despite the fact that I was in four-digit page territory.
I rang NetSpace and was told by the robot that it would take one minute to answer. That turned into 18 minutes of listening to shit music broken up by the robot telling me to log on to its service and check this and that.
Jesus, that’s why I’m calling. I can’t log on was what I wanted to say, but these robots apparently just don’t listen.
When I finally talked to a human, it was “We use Optus signals.” Like I’m gonna go there after the bullshit of my time with Optus.
So, I’m patiently waiting for a new phone and an ADSL connection with Spintel, where a bloke called Paul gave it his best shot … and he was good … and I signed on the dotted line. Waiting, waiting.
About the best thing (and possibly the only nice thing) I’ve done lately was to go and see my ex for her birthday, armed with a beautiful, gift-wrapped bunch of tulips, a fact that was hard to fathom for her sister.
“What did your husband think of that?” she asked her incredulously. Jesus, some people don’t just get it. We’re friends, for Christ’s sake and that’s what friends do.
Talking of friends, as I’ve said many times hereabouts, I work at The Weekly Review office in the afternoons (after Crikey in the AM) and TWR is, by a country mile, the best office going around.
On Friday, it was an office-cooked lunch (it usually is) to celebrate our time at the address before we move to new digs just near the South Melbourne Market.
And what a lunch. The night before, the boys (I helped after putting the mag to bed … it’s the only thing I’ve put to bed in far too long) set up a gyros machine on which was to be cooked the biggest chicken/lamb extravaganza I’ve seen.
And so it came to pass. Freshly warmed, split Turkish bread, salads, hummus, chilli, all the usual suspects … and the meat. It was so good. Oh, and beer and wine … the boss (she’s a treasure) set the agenda when she got me to pop the cork on a bottle of Moet.
I spent most of the time drinking the imported chianti I’d taken (can’t remember the label, but it’s a cracker at about 24 bucks a bottle).
Sure, I’d taken wine, but I was really taken with someone else’s offering.
It was Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2009 Chardonnay from California.
It was gold.
In more ways than one. It was a beautiful colour, had a big nose with plenty of fruit and tasted like angels dancing on the taste buds. I’ve gotta get more (although inquiries so far have amounted to nought).
Most people’s attention turned to vodka with fresh lime a bit later, which was a lead-in for me to introduce the troops to my latest concoction … vodka into which had been dissolved a packet of Fisherman’s Friends. Yeah, all right, it sounds like shit, but it tastes good. You drink and still have fresh breath. Gotta be a good thing, right?
And I just happened to have a flask of it in my bag. For tasting purposes, you understand, nothing more. I’m not that desperate a drinker. The verdict was in the affirmative (about the vodka not the desperate drinker bit).
I first had it with some Brit backpackers sitting around a campfire and passing a bottle around down on the coast. I’ve loved it ever since.
Vodka time also signalled music time, which in turn was also a signal to be not far away from hitting the road.
But not before a challenge was issued.
“I can out-Elvis you,” I said to Sean (I hope he’s not a Shaun), who has two Elvis suits made by the people who made The King’s costumes. “You’re on,” he said, alluding to a party some time down the track. “We’ll get a karaoke machine.” We managed a truncated duet of In The Ghetto (which bastard changed the music?) before some modern music (that’s an oxymoron to me) started to rule (should that be rile?) the airwaves, surely a signal to grab my coat and bag and walk home.
I did.
It was a pleasant walk along the beach before hitting a local watering hole for a quenching ale or three, just the thing before heading home to see out the evening with a reliable bottle of Charlotte Sound pinot.
I’d rather have seen out the night with someone called Charlotte (or any name really) rather than a wine and that’s something that needs to be addressed.
The time is right to find a woman with whom to share life as I know it. That’s not being selfish, the “as I know it” bit. But Jesus, it’s difficult to find anyone who can cop me for who and what I am … people can change their minds but they can’t change me. I just hope it’s not too big an ask.
It probably isn’t too big an ask. I spent an hour or so on the weekend sitting in the sunshine, having a coffee (two actually), a fruit muffin, a smoke or three, a read of the latest Delicious magazine and a spot of people watching.
The muffin took forever because no sooner had I ordered, it was time for their microwave to turn up its toes. It was, however, worth the wait (should that be weight?).
Albert Park is a great people-watching venue on weekends. Lots of happy couples, holding hands, doing their thing. I watched one couple crossing the road. He patted her arse halfway across and gave her a quick peck on the cheek (that’s her face, not her arse). She was an attractive girl (OK, the bloke was punching above his weight) and they walked to my local café where he barged in front of her to get through the door. Bad-mannered prick, I thought. He must be a good cook or something. Judgmental? Yeah, but judging on what I saw, that’s OK.
I figured that to meet someone, it’s time to resume what, for me (and yeah, I usually punch above my weight because I’ve got a rough, unkempt head and no dress sense) was always a successful intro to a woman.
I recall a while ago when a gorgeous curly haired blonde started at the office. It was her first day and she was a topic of conversation among the blokes.
As I was walking by her desk, I stopped and said, “G’day, I’m Michael. Welcome to the company.” She smiled and we chatted for a couple of minutes and then I said, full of bravado: “I know this is pretty cheeky, but I don’t suppose you like to go out to dinner, would you?”
She smiled and then said “Yes, that would be nice.”
We went out for a few months. She later confided that she said yes because she liked the fact that I had the balls to ask.
I think there’s still a message in that … be yourself, be confident and, hopefully, be happy.
Reckon it’s time to have a crack at being confident.


It was with a fair amount of disappointment last week that I saw the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, putting on the glad face (she’s good at that, so sincere, just like a politician should be) at Nhulumbuy in the Northern Territory, where she was celebrating yet more mining in the area. Yeah, that’s what we need. Gouging minerals out of our stunning landscape to satisfy the bottom lines of these shareholder beholden companies.
It’s almost as if the pollies have a script to follow (am I a cynic or what?) in order to get the most out of a photo op … smile, you’re on camera, be nice to the child, shake hands with someone important to the project … Do any politicians have a heart or a conscience? Nah, party lines win every time. Just ask Peter Garrett.
Kevin ’07 was/is a great example of following the script. Being seen during the Queensland floods, trousers rolled up (they’re supposed to roll up their sleeves more than their trousers), and doing his bit to help out the poor bastards who lost their everything.
But I can’t help but question KRudd (OK all pollies) and the way he follows the script.
"I'm just an average dude in the street," he once told The Sydney Morning Herald in an interview to mark his first 100 days in office.
Dude? Jesus, that’s not surely a word that’s ever pulled out of the KRudd vocabulary (I’ll bet it’s not even in there) without a prompt or three. The cynic in me has him questioning the script with his advisers, “Dude? What does that mean? Is it rude? Do I really have to say that? Don’t tell me I have to wear a back-to-front baseball cap when I say it.”
You want further convincing? Try this, although bear in mind the KRudd is articulate in the extreme (a good thing and to be encouraged).
A while ago (OK about two years or so) there he was chatting to Steve Renouf and Gus Gould to put his stamp on the importance of the indigenous cause (let’s all celebrate that) for the indigenous all-stars rugby league match.
Draped with a scarf (that looked convincing … yeah right) and wearing an open-necked shirt, there he was talking up the great game, the great cause but something just wasn’t quite right, certainly not to my ears.
Mr Articulate (aka KRudd), a man who enunciates words to within an inch of their lives, was busily dropping his Hs and his Gs, as in “ow’s it goin’ mate”.
Was this all to do with being the common man, about winning the odd westie vote, appealing to the purported perception of what rugby league fans sound like? “Shit, e’s one of us,” I could imagine them saying … not.
Yes, the script would have said that’s what he should do. I can’t help but wonder why he wasn’t wearing a flannelette shirt (unbuttoned of course and bought from somewhere such as Dimmeys). That would have added just as much credibility to his appearance.
Sorry, I got off track a bit there. I was supposed to be talking about the new mining deal, eh?
Sure, Australia is a big, mineral-rich place, but Jesus, let’s be careful in the way we mine it.
I spent some time a while ago up around Nhulumbuy and Gove doing some fishing in the Arafura Sea and around the top of the gulf.
The following is part of what I wrote in The Age at the time.

Cruising out of the harbour we passed the huge Alcan alumina plant, variously described by locals as a cold sore on the lip or pimple on the arse of the area.
It soon gave way to a spectacular coastline, made to look even better by the conditions -- 30-odd degrees, flat seas (we didn't see a white cap all trip) and a cloudless sky.
Quickly it was a pod of dolphins' turn to take a bow ... actually the bow of the boat where they surfed along for the ride, occasionally breaching the water.
A few hours into the cruise, after lunch, we headed out in the runabout to relieve the sea of some fish, while our mother ship powered on for us to catch up with her later.
It was a fruitful four hours, providing ample fare for the night's dinner.
Back aboard our floating home, we powered on to Port Bradshaw.
At its entrance, a small rocky outcrop was almost hypnotic. It had a thick thatch of greenery atop it, with a small, pristine, white beach on the inlet behind it. And then another smaller beach, a cave, created over millions of years. Another cave, another tiny beach ... it spellbindingly went on. The landscaping gods had excelled.
The water resembled a mirror as we threw the pick (boatie talk for anchor).
As the light faded, there wasn't much to do but kick back with a gin and tonic and wait for the day's catch to be cooked after which there were some excellent wines, and we went well into the night.
Timmy Djawa Burarrwanga is owner/manager of Bawaka Cultural Experiences.
His late father had a vision for the area. ''This is the Bawaka development plan. It should help us work hard, work together, take control of our lives, our land, our people and our future. We have put this plan into action in order to make our tribal land a better, beautiful and peaceful place for our family to live.''
With the leaders and members of the Burarrwanga, Mununggirritj and Yunupingu families (Gumatj clan), Timmy carries out his father's wishes by offering visitors a chance to experience their traditions and culture.
As we walked up the beach, it was handshakes all around. We sat and chatted, marvelling at the relaxed feel of Bawaka (unknown heaven), which is accessible by four-wheel-drive from nearby Nhulumbuy. Soon we were part of a ceremony for which clumps of leaves were plucked from a tree and thrown onto the campfire to get them smokey. Timmy's mother, Babara, oversaw the ceremony as we were brushed with the leaves. It was to get the land to recognise us and protect us.
It was a moving moment.
We then took a walk along the pristine beach. A dead shark, which had become tangled in a net, was lying at the water's edge. The net wasn't his only worry. During his entanglement, he was beset upon by Nike, the resident saltwater croc. Nike is three or four metres long, depending on who's telling the story. Oh, and he's Nike because he goes ... well, whoosh.
We then split into groups to collect oysters and giant clams.
I was on clamming duty. We set off in a four-wheel-drive, into an area where seemingly there were no tracks, through metre-and-a-half high spear grass for as far as the eye could see. We stopped at what the locals call the aquarium, a large area teeming with fish. ''Do you fish there?'' I asked. ''Nah, it just a beautiful place to look at.''
Also teeming with life, this time insects, was the bonnet of our vehicle. It was alive with least a year's research for David Attenborough. As we took off again, I enjoyed at the persistence of a largish green grasshopper that tried several times to take off into the wind before taking his windscreen-induced headache along the sideways escape route.
Soon we were at the spectacularly sculpted Gulf of Carpentaria, where we made our way to the water (it must have been 28 degrees), passing rocks that could have been miniature Asian temples, and waded into rock pools in search of large clams ... purple lipped and brown. As we collected them, we were shown how to extract the meat and clean them ... and what a taste. Slices of meat just seconds out of the crystal-clear water.
The area was alive with small fish (and some larger ones) and walking by rocks above water induced a flurry of activity from an endless march of crabs. Once we had enough ''we only take what we need'', we headed back to home base where we enjoyed fresh, giant black-lipped oysters and damper, which the women had made by rolling it between leaves that oiled the dough, smoothed it and stopped it from burning.
We spent the afternoon with three locals at sea on the runabout catching, among other varieties, giant trevally, surely for a mug fisherman such as myself, a piscatorial triumph.
Back on the beach after unloading the catch that swelled the locals’ larder, the chat centred on Timmy, who can hold his own on many and varied subjects (he studies business).
''I want people to come and see my country,'' said Timmy. ''In our culture, we don't have strangers. I went to Sydney recently and felt like a stranger.
''We don't have strangers.''

And see the country we should … forget travelling overseas … but we should see Australia without the blights that come with mining.
I’ve seen it on the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, one of the world’s most beautiful areas.
One minute you’re cruising along, soaking up the boab tree-lined scenery, the bumps in the road and the next minute you’re on bitumen, courtesy of a mining company. It usually goes on for just for a few clicks, put there to make life easier for the giant mining trucks that carry the stuff that has been raped from the land.
It’s so very incongruous … bitumen in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing for the landscape … and, as quickly as it appears, it’s gone.
God forbid, when I was there, talk centred on possible mining in the Mitchell Plateau area. If there’s a more pretty place on Earth, I’ll go he. We walked for hours (it was, I think, 48 degrees) to get to the Mitchell Falls, on the way seeing all manner of wildlife, Aboriginal rock paintings and fabulous flora. The swim above the falls wasn’t bad either. And the chopper flight over the falls and back to base was worth the price of admission.
When the time is right, I’m heading back that way for a longer look, hopefully with a like-minded woman.
Governments have a lot to answer for. We have an amazing, beautiful country. The time is right to stop fucking with it.
To quote a song, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.

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