Thursday, September 25

Dramatic re-enactment of an actual discussion I had today...

"Can you make these changes for me?"
"Sure, no problem."
"Great, thanks. So, what's the timeline on getting that done?
"Well, when do you need them by?"
"Well... I kinda need them now, if not yesterday?"
"I see. Well, strictly speaking, 'now' wouldn't be a timeline at all, would it? Graphically represented, the duration between 'now' and 'also now' is more of a dot than a line. Shall we call that a 'timedot' from here on out?"
"I don't think I follow you..."
"OK, let's start with 'I need that yesterday', that might be simpler. If we can grasp 'yesterday' then maybe we can come back (actually, that would be 'come forwards') to timedot in a minute."
"So... you're saying you don't know when it'll be done?"
"Not at all, I'm just saying that the timeline for 'can i have that yesterday' is very different to the timeline for 'can i have that now'. It starts at now and goes backwards to the point in yesterday you'd like to have this. You understand that, right?"
"Uhh... I guess so..."
"So, do I already have it done?"
"Huh? you're asking me if you already have it done?"
"Sure! Because if you need it yesterday, and that's something I can do for you, then I've already done it, and you've already got it. In fact, you've been sitting on it now for a few hours at least. What's the damn hurry if you're not going to do anything with it now I've given it to you? Really, you people amaze me sometimes."
"So, hey, I'm sorry, I must have forgotten about it. Maybe it's in my Inbox - I'll go look for it, and let you know if I need anything else."
"OK, great, thanks for stopping by."

Monday, September 15

Dear Lindsay,

One of the unexpected pleasures of having a name that starts with 'A' is that I get to listen-in on many people's lives via their mobile phones. It happens surprisingly often with many friends and workmates because I'm often the first person in the number list on your mobile phone, and people only rarely use the keylock feature on their phones, to prevent it dialing numbers when it's in, say, their handbag.

The only downside from my perspective is the momentary disappointment I feel when i realise it's not you ringing, just your handbag. The inconvenience of answering the phone for the occasional 2am handbag-in-a-nightclub call is outweighed by the odd juicy snippet I get.

Anyway, over the weekend your handbag has rung me twice, and once again this morning, so if I'm listening in on your life from your handbag's perspective, I think you should know.

Up to you, but I'd be happy to show you how to turn on the keypad lock, or to setup your own home phone number as "AAAA" as your first number in the phone, so you're at least only leaving handbag messages for yourself.

Have a great day, and best regards to your handbag,


Tuesday, September 9

Last weekend I climbed to the top of a mountain, and travelled back in time 23 years.

It happened like this...

Last Friday after work, my best mate, Tony, and I drove until 11pm to get to the Budawang ranges, a wild and isolated part of the Great Dividing Range south of Sydney, between Braidwood inland and Nowra on the coast.

Traditionally, we stop at a bad pub for dinner on the road, we play the kind of music we don't get to play much at home (Warren Zevon, Led Zeppelin, Slaid Cleaves, etc) and we sing at the top of our lungs (pause here to remember Warren Zevon, sadly let down by his lungs at last this week, may he rest in something approaching peace, with happy hour every friday night between 6-11pm.)

Tony and I had been bushwalking in this area for 15 years, and although we we'd crossed just about every inch, there was one goal we had yet to conquer together - the tallest mountain in the Budawangs - Mt Tarn.

"Mt Tarn is a harsh mistress," we'd say to each other, turned back on previous attempts by failing light, hostile weather, or lack or time, sometimes all three. She's not a mountain in the Tibetan sense, Patagonian sense, or even the Rocky Mountains sense - rather, she's a mountain in the Australian sense - fairly small and craggy and, well... obdurate. Two long rock chimneys and a tricky entrance combine to make an easy scramble for a talented rock-climber with all the equipment, but a dashed-tricky heart-in-the-mouth escapade for two old buggers pushing 40 and without even those clever sticky-soled climbing shoes or a bit of rope.

I'd climbed Mt Tarn a few times in my youth, so long ago I'd forgotten how many times and how long ago. And I remembered there was a 'visitors book' left up there in a metal canister, and that I'd been so full of myself on my first successful ascent that I'd eschewed a mere description of the weather and the route to the top for a full two or three verses of doggerel verse, the sort practised by senior high school students majoring in English and History but not getting very high marks.

Anyway, this time Tony and I were not to be denied, and whereas previous expeditions had included an ascent of Mt Tarn as an optional extra should the Gods permit, this time Mt Tarn was the sole focus of the weekend, and we planned the whole weekend around making it up and down in one piece before Sunday night and the end of our food supplies.

We used rented mountain bikes to speed our way across the long, boring fire trail entrance to the park. We invested in a GPS to minimise time wasted getting lost, then getting unlost. We walked as hard as we could all Saturday, barely stopping for a cup of tea, and singing tasteless songs to each other to keep our marching pace up, eventually covering nearly 38km in two days. We even camped as close as we could to the ascent route, meaning hiking right past a couple of very servicable camping spots and spending the night in a rather windswept valley by a little waterfall. It was all we could do to slip a decent bottle of Shiraz into our backpack to help us... umm.. get a good night's sleep before our big adventure the following day.

The following morning dawned bright, sunny and still, and after ascending the ridge and saying a brief prayer to the Goddess of the Mountain, we began our attempt on the west face.

Don't know if you've ever wedged yourself into a crack in the side of a mountain so tight that you are no longer likely to fall to your death, but if you have, you'll know that, in order to move up the mountain, it becomes necessary to drag those same flesh and bone surfaces up the rocky crack, inch-by-excruciating-inch, leaving behind quite a bit of skin and hair on the sandstone/granite composite surface of the rock chimney for your climbing partner to collect and store in a ziplock bag, for later use in a voodoo doll.

If you've never done that, you can simulate the experience yourself at home. Dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, drive your car out to a hill on an unsealed road, tie yourself by the neck to the handbrake lever, and start the car rolling forward. The more friction you apply to the road surface with your body, the more the handbrake will slow your progress. You get the idea.

By the time we'd scraped ourselves up 20-odd metres of conglomerate rock chimney, we were ready for a muesli bar-fuelled dance of joy, having made it to the top on such a beautiful day. Walking to the other end of the mountain we found the cairn bearing the container bearing... yes, the visitors book, in which we hoped to record our posteriors for posterity.

I flipped open the mouldy little exercise book to the first page to find out how long the book had been up here on this windy escarpment, only to find to my complete surprise that it had been here since 1980 - 23 years ago! Somehow the little exercise book had suffered through 23 years of wind, rain, snow, and untold onslaughts of other summitteers, though obviously not too many of the latter, since the book was still one-third empty.

What absolutely flabbergasted me was the first entry in the book ("When this book is full, someone please take it to the Mitchell Library where it can be stored") which was written by me!

I'd forgotten all this until I began to leaf through the pages, but at the age of 15 my brother Andrew (only 14) and I had been part of a group of six who'd made it up the mountain and replaced an earlier, full book, with a new one. We'd been attending Camp Conqueror then, a boy's camp-slash-christianity-indoctrination program run by an organisation called Scripture Union.

Camp Conqueror took boys from all walks of life, including many referred by welfare authorities, and pretty much threw them in the deep end, bush-survival-wise, with only the Bible and some untrained volunteer 'leaders' barely younger than the boys to protect them.

My parents hadn't cared much for organised religion, but they knew an opportunity to unload two of their three sons for two weeks over the summer holidays was too good to go quibbling about higher moralities, so as soon as we were old enough, off we were sent.

Actually, we wanted to go even more than our parents wanted to send us. The Camp Conqueror mob were great people, motivated by the love of helping others, and with a respect and love for the environment which was way ahead of its time. Eventually I became too old to remain a camper and became the group's first non-christian leader. Incredibly, the book indicated that Camp Conqueror was still going strong - the last entry in the book was from a Camp Conqueror group (now co-ed) that had summitted a month or so earlier.

From 1980 onwards, as the visitor's book recorded, I'd made six subsequent ascents of Mt Tarn, some with my brother Andrew, and many with a group of people I've long-since lost contact with, including Murray 'Sledge' Hammer, Michael Mowbray, Geoff Broughton, and Greg Martin. One of them I have since met up with again - Andrew 'Chicken Legs' Hughes, who grew up to become a Neurologist, and married one of my wife's best friends, but who has now moved to Tasmania (I hear tell they get a lot of brain injuries down there, largely from lack of use.)

So many things have changed in 23 years! I was just a boy then, and I don't know if I've matured much at all, but I have certainly changed. As I read through the pages of the book and found so much of who I used to be - who I was becoming - between those pages, I was overcome with emotion. I basically had a bit of a sob. Tony patted my shoulder, as mates do.

After all, in that time I'd finished school, dropped out and then restarted and finished a degree, married my teenage sweetheart then separated and divorced, found, romanced and then married my true love, been blessed with a beautiful son more wonderful than birdsong, been hurt-by and hurt, been loved and given-love, smiled, laughed, and cried and cried and cried. And here I was again. It was worth a sob, a laugh and a shout of joy, all at once and over again.

I came so far, climbed to such a rarely-visited place, and then rediscovered myself, almost perfectly preserved, there in the pages of a little exercise book, in a tin, on a cairn, on the top of a lonely, wind-swept mountain.

We added another two entries in the book, put it back in the tin, wedged it in the cairn, and made our way back down the mountain. If it had survived the last 23 years, it could possibly go another 23, and there were still more pages to fill. Maybe someone would eventually take it to the Mitchell Library, where I hear they preserve these things and store them away.

Maybe that someone would be me, perhaps accompanied by my brothers Andrew or Owen, perhaps one day with my son, Alec, and definitely with my best and truest mate, Tony.

We'll definitely make that climb again one day. I wonder who we'll be by then?

(Here's the photos and streaming videos)

Tuesday, September 2

...and a little cross-promotion - my son Alec's great website (considerably cooler than my blog) - at last! an insight into the mind of the great man, and his nemesis, little johnny!

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