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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The end of the hols, in the Van, the hypnotist and a bite (or two) to drink

Yep, it came to pass that before I went on holiday, I went to the hypnotist to quit smoking.
I always say to Angelo (I’ve seen him four times) as I leave his house, “Mate, I never want to see you again.” And so I did.
I went there with my friend, Gaynor (she drove, what a woman), and we did a dual session. Again, I went deeper than Jacques Cousteau, sometimes being shaken from my almost slumber by the sound of Ange’s voice, which seemed to be coming from somewhere in another suburb.
It was a great session although Gaynor I guess didn’t plumb the depths that I did. But it worked, or did it?
I did the only sensible thing after Gaynor dropped me at home.
I went for a drink (OK, quite a few drinks) and I hung with a couple of smokers. No problems.
The next morning, hangover notwithstanding, my joie de vivre had hit a level that I hadn’t experienced for a while … and it was good. I threw around a few weights (it’s part of the look better in summer campaign) the next morning, something that got easier by the day … and night.
About the only downside of being a non-smoker is listening to people who say things such as “Oh, you’ve given up before. You’ll be back on them soon”. What is it with these people? Haven’t they heard of a thing called positivity? Jesus wept, these people go through life being negative and with a glass half-empty philosophy (my glass is almost always full).
Another positive thing about being smoke-free is that after 5-6 weeks of not buying tobacco (yeah, I roll ’em), I’m in profit … that is, I’ve covered the cost of the hypnotist.
Yet another positive is the increased energy levels. My son, Joel, got home one night and there I was, halfway through a bottle of red, standing in the hall and pumping iron. “I gotta burn some energy,” I said to him. He just shook his head knowingly.


I was supposed to burn some energy (OK I made that up) in the lead-up to Christmas at a gathering of friends for our (almost) annual croquet match in the gardens around the corner from home.
It’s usually a pretty toffy affair (OK, I made that up too). We have cucumber sandwiches, a bucket (no, true , we buy a stainless-steel bucket) full of Pimm’s with lemonade and dry ginger ale (see the perfect Pimm’s recipe elsewhere on this blog) and my mate, Hanks, brings his most-excellent Henry Buck’s croquet set.
The lawns, by the way, are better suited to playing a five iron rather than wielding a croquet mallet. I even remembered to bring a folding chair … God knows, it was going to be so hard to get perpendicular from the ground given that I was nursing a hangover big enough to photograph … and a bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro, aka Spanish cava.
I actually opened it before I left home and poured it into a crystal flute for the walk to the gardens (I’d taken all the stuff like tables, chair and grog earlier in the back of my ute). Reckon I cut a dashing figure (OK, that’s stretching the truth) as I walked through the Albert Park village sipping from a crystal flute.
Dunno what it is about the strange looks I got. Don’t those people have any class? I mean, haven’t they ever seen a man, dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and a green satin shirt with puffy sleeves and huge lapels (I had the shirt made from my wedding in 1980, so it’s not a Seinfeld reference) and sipping bubbly as he walks?
OK, I wore the shirt as a bit of a joke, but I’m just happy that it still fits.
It was a great day, with the trophies presented later at Lina’s wine bar, where I prepared in an appropriate way to ensure that my hangover the next day was of the proportions of the previous. It was (OK, maybe a tad worse). Reckon my tongue resembled Ghandi’s sandal.


The rest of the Vanuatu trip (see earlier post) was a cracker. Liam and I spent most of our time just hangin’. It was good to be in his space.
We didn’t go out to dinner at all and only went out to lunch twice in the week and then only because we had to get supplies from Port Vila.
There something kinda cool about being in a house where, when you hit the kitchen in the morning, there’s a crab in the sink … there was another that had taken refuge on top of the door, not a good place to be when the door is opened. Sorry about that.
Speaking of crabs, there were a few coconut crabs wandering the garden at night, which augurs well for the season.

The biggest that we saw (and yes, it was cookable size) was a female laden with eggs, so she was never gonna see the inside of a pot.
One thing that amazed me was the absence of bird life ... I mean, not so much as a seagull, which is not a bad thing, just a motley collection of mynahs. I mentioned it to Liam, who said: “Yeah, the locals eat ’em. They eat just about everything. They even eat stonefish.” Right.
Seeing Port Vila in its best light was from a vantage point on a hill overlooking the harbour enjoying a shell of kava in a nakamal. The view of the sun setting was worth the price of admission.
A true Nakamal is where the men from a village gather to drink kava after work. Traditional nakamals are a men-only and many islands, such as Tanna, still do not allowing women or children even close to a nakamal.
Tanna, by the way, is the island from where Liam’s gardener and security man, Sampson, originates. He’s a great kid (he’s 19) who has landed on his feet. He lives in the self-contained cottage at the entrance to Liam’s house. Sampson gets a decent quid for his week’s work, a house and a mobile phone.
Security is paramount, given that some villagers reckon that shopping is as simple as going to someone’s house and helping yourself, so the phone is important should anything untoward happen at the house.
Getting out of Port Vila was the hardest part of the trip.
And as promised, I met up with the bozo from the flight in. He was with someone who was a friend of Liam’s, so having a chat was compulsory.
It seemed, that true to his word on the way over, he hit the grog. He spent six hours in the sun one day, drinking until he fell asleep and he ended up redder than a trade union meeting. Ha.
After a final farewell to Liam (yeah, I teared up. Always do), I hit security and about 3.20 and headed for the duty-free shops. The plane was due to leave at 4.10 so I should have had just enough time for shopping and a final smoke (yeah, I started again over there) before I took up my emergency aisle seat (Air Vanuatu is so good to me).
Alas, the plane was running a bit behind schedule and, the announcer said, would be touching down at 4.10 instead of leaving then. Shit. There was a humongous thunder storm doing its thing and the plane didn’t land until 4.30. That meant a 5.30 departure after refuelling and loading. Shit, shit.
I had just enough smokes to see me out … there is an outdoor smoking lounge at Vila and it was actually cooler out there than it was in the terminal. And that meant that the formerly sunburnt bozo made regular appearances. He was at his aircraft reassuring best when the plane finally landed.
Yeah, he went again with the Qantas reject line, but qualified it with: “She’s a good bus, but. They just serviced her here and used a plane borrowed from Air Hawaii.” I guess he meant Hawaiian Airlines, but who’s quibbling?
Finally we boarded and I was sitting next to a couple who had a sail boat that they kept in Vanuatu. I’d met them in the smokers’ lounge. Nice people, but Jesus, did they enjoy a drink.
Now, I’ve been known to stop a drop going stale (yeah, I have a crack) but they were full on in taking advantage of Air Van’s excellent service. Think scotch on the rocks, scotch and Coke, Kahlua and milk, Bailey’s and milk, red wine, all in multiples and not necessarily in that order. It was a pretty handy four-hour session. Me, I had just two glasses of red. Christ, I can be a sanctimonious bastard sometimes.
Still, it was good to hit Melbourne, have a final smoke before grabbing a cab (he was a mega-friendly driver) home in time for a debrief with Joel, who was busy watering the garden when I got there. It was good to see him.


I got back to the rough and tumble that is life.
Finally, I’ve got my camper trailer stored close to home, which means weekends away. See http://mickontheroad.blogspot.com.au/ for my adventures with the trailer.
Now all I have to do is sell the Subaru Forrester (yeah, one car is enough and I prefer the LandCruiser ute. If anyone is interested, it was first registered in December 2005 and has done just 48,000-odd clicks, bugger all, and it’s the full luxury pack. If you’re halfway interested, drop me a line in the comments section on the blog.


In the lead-up to the festive season (OK, that’s crap, it’s the festive season 12 months a year at my joint), there has been more than the odd good drop pass the lips.
I grabbed a few bottles of 2009 Seppelt Chalambar shiraz. It’s cracker drinking … spicy, smooth and a blend of Grampians and Bendigo grapes and weighs in at 13.5%. The label says it’s elegant. I’ll go with that.
My favourite tipple at the moment is 2009 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone Grenache-syrah. I snaffled a case a little while ago (there another on order). It takes smooth to a whole new level.
Among others, there have been:
• 2011 Paul Mas cab-sav (13.5%)
• 2011 Paul Mas chardonnay (13.5%)
• 2008 Balgownie Estate sparkling shiraz
• Mountain Goat Before The Dawn black Indian pale ale
• A fantastic (my second favourite drink at the moment) blend from Swords Wines’ Full Fare label – ameis (spelt amies on the label), savagnin, riesling grapes come together for something that wouldn’t be out of place on any French or Italian dinner table. It’s fresh, with citrus, apricot and floral notes with a touch of minerality. Super drinking and 12.5%.
• 2011 Mitchell Harris mataro, grenache, shiraz from the Pyrenees. There’s a bit of raspberry, earthy and peppery flavour about it. I’m pretty sure there have been plenty of others, but that maybe a story for another day.
And there’s more than a few good ones in the drink-next queue.


Alas, it’s back to work in three days. OK, no alas.
I’m looking forward to starting a new contract as deputy editor of The Weekly Review … http://www.theweeklyreview.com.au/ … in new offices that are even closer to home (think walking distance). I had a look at our new digs yesterday.
Bring it on.

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