Big storm coming. North Pine Dam, Queensland, Australia

The photo below was taken yesterday afternoon at North Pine Dam just north of Brisbane at about 4:20 in the afternoon.

Big strom coming

 About 30 minutes later I was in a large motor coach heading into Brisbane as a storm began. It was the worst storm that has hit south east Queensland for 25 years and it was amazing to see so much rain fall in such a short time. Many of the roads in low lying areas that we passed through were flooded.

The north west of Brisbane around The Gap received the brunt of the storm with a large amount of houses being damaged and many millions of dollars damage being caused. Sadly there was one death as a young man was swept to his death photographing a flooded stormwater drain.

Meter Maids meet some Kiwis. Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

The Queensland tourist bureau used to advertise their state with the slogan; “Queensland! Beautiful one day, perfect the next!” Back in the 1980s the Japanese found out about the place and heavy Japanese investment began. There was a lot of local resentment about the perception that the Japanese were buying up all the real estate. Many Queenslanders I knew back then liked to parody the tourist slogan with, “Queensland! Beautiful one day, Japanese the next!” The truth of the matter was that the Japanese were the fourth highest investors in Queensland. Third were the Americans; second were the English and first were the New Zealanders.

The Kiwis like it here in Surfers Paradise and yesterday as I was walking down Cavill Avenue (the main drag) I could hear that their accent almost everywhere. There are a lot of New Zealanders working in the stores and walking down the street as tourists.

Back in the mid 1960s a local businessman, Bernie Elsey, afraid that the local council’s plan to put parking meters on the streets would scare off trade, came up with the idea of creating the “meter maids”. The first meter maids were dressed in gold lame bikinis, wore tiaras and were paid by the local chamber of commerce. The function of the meter maids was to put money in parking meters that were about to expire so that shoppers wouldn’t get fined for over staying. Bernie’s idea was a huge sucess and the meter maids became a tourist attraction in their own right.

I had to laugh today when I went to the meter maid website and I saw; “Gone are the outdated tiaras, replaced by the sun-conscious and true Aussie Akubra hat ideal for our tropical climate, while Gold Lycra Bikinis with the occasional sequin have replaced the traditional lame bikini”.

A hat isn’t much of a help when most of your skin is still uncovered.

Instead of the meter maids being paid by the local business people, they are now “self funded”, which means that walk around the streets selling little tourist knick knacks and charging to have their photos taken. The days of putting money in the parking meters are well and truly over, as well.

So yesterday I was walking down the street, when I hear behind me, Kiwi accents, “hey look, it’s the meter maids!” Sure enough two of those legendary creatures were crossing the road. Immediately the meter maids were mobbed by some rather large Kiwis and I could see that the smallest meter maid looked quite scared. The poor things must get that sort of attention all the time. I took out my camera to record what was happening and one of the Kiwis saw me and said to his mates, “stand back bros, a guy wants to take a photo of the meter maids”, to which they all stood back, like the gentlemen they were, for me to take a shot. I explained to them I actually wanted a shot of them interacting with the women. Meanwhile the smallest meter maid pipes up with; “we’re self funded and we’d like a donation of $5 if you want to take a photo of us”. “Fair enough”, I thought and I handed over the money and got this shot.

Kiwis like meter maids..... a lot!

I came away from the experience thinking that being a meter maid was pretty hard work for very little money.

“Hello boys!” Gymnasts get too close for comfort at the Marriot. Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

This post is coming to you from the Marriot Hotel at Surfers Paradise in the state of Queensland. My wife (Engogirl the engineer) and I flew up yesterday afternoon to a conference on large Australia and New Zealand dams, that Engogirl is presenting a paper at.

The veiw from my hotel room

As part of the conference a “meet and greet” social event had been organised in the evening, complete with food, drinks and live entertainment. Unlike what some people would have you believe, engineers are a pretty civilised lot and I’ve never met a dumb one (I’m probably not smart enough to recognise a stupid engineer anyway; truth be known). Conversation in such company can range all over, from what work they are doing, through to how, learning to paint and draw can help with lateral thinking. Always erudite, quite often insightful and always (for me at least) very interesting. One of the things I really like about socialising with engineers is that they tend to be very, rational, unpretentious and down to earth.

Live music was played (covers of “Crowded House”) as we all chatted and on the nearby marked off area two small (they were about 150cm or about 5ft tall) scantily clad gymnasts did their acrobatics. Unlike many of the female gymnasts one sees in the Olympics, these gymnasts were adults in their late 20s. The women went through their routine, lifting each other up to form various shapes together, executing back flips etc. We the audience were very close (only about 2 metres or about 2 yards away) to the supple young women. Most of the engineers were much more interested in their conversations and ignored them, but some (along with me) watched. Most of us guys were about 180cm (about 6ft) tall and since we were so close to the gymnasts we were looking down at them.

Before I continue with my story of last night, I feel, for clarity’s sake, that I should offer a glossary of Aussie slang used instead of gymnastic technical terms in the following video featuring Roy and HG from the Australian TV show “The Dream” which ran during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Bag = scrotum

Date = anus

Flute = penis

Hello boys = upside down splits

Sav (short for Savaloy, a type of sausage similar to a hot dog) = penis

Battered Sav (same as the American “Dagwood dog”) = smashing penis into floor

[youtube XKFWE1xt_x0]

I find it a bit unsettling being so close to live performances as you can see every little detail whether you want to or not. In the case of the gymnasts, things got a bit weird when they started doing their contortions. Bending over backwards to stand on their hands and then doing the “hello boys” as we peered down their barely covered clackers.

It was just too close!

My complements to their Brazillian waxing technicians. 

Most of us just didn’t know where to look.

After all one wouldn’t want to even be seen looking.

As the gymnasts kept repeating the manoeuvre (who knows? Maybe their boyfriends had told them it was their best angle.) I began to feel more and more uncomfortable, plus I noticed that I was the only one watching. Suddenly I wished I had my camera with me so I could’ve photographed the women doing their “hello boys” as the audience had their backs turned to them.

Now, I know it’s probably churlish of me to knock a couple of women with great skill and flexibility who are just trying to make a living, but all I can say is that next time I hear that gymnasts are performing I’m going to stand back quite a bit further as some things just don’t bear up to close scrutiny.

P.S. The colour and levels of my photos will probably look a little different to what I normally put up because I’m using my wife’s laptop and the screen is very different to what I’m used to.

The trouble with Kangaroos

Whenever I see scenes like the one in the photograph below, that I took at Sawpit Creek in September this year, it puts me on edge.

Don't let your kids get this close

Kangaroos can seem to be so benign.  Let’s face it, they look so cute and harmless.  For the most part that is the case, but I know from personal experience that things can change very quickly and with absolutely no warning that all. 

As you can see in this next photograph the kangaroo is holding the little girl’s hand in place as she feeds it so she wouldn’t go away and it wouldn’t let her go until all the food was gone.

Don't let your kids do this

The kangaroos in the photographs with the girls are immature Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus). A fully grown male grey kangaroo can grow up to about 6 feet tall. Red kangaroos (Macropus rufus) can grow over 6 feet tall and the largest of the kangaroos.

I had an experience up in Queensland at the Currumban Wildlife Sanctuary, with a smallish immature grey kangaroo years ago. It was just sitting in a field and I walked up to it and it made no movement as I came closer.  When I was within about a metre (about yard) of it, it reached out to me with its paws.  So I reached out my hand and touched it on the paw, to which it just raised its paw and touched me back on the hand.  This little exchange repeated itself several times until without warning the kangaroo leant forward to place its paws on the ground, bringing its back feet forward to come closer to me. It then leaned back on its tail and, BANG!!! It kicked me full force, fair and square right in the chest.

There was no warning.

No change of facial expression.

No growling.

No bearing of teeth.

I couldn’t believe with how much force it hit me, and it wasn’t even a fully grown kangaroo, but it had knocked me back about a metre.  To make matters even more disconcerting it leaned forward again to drag itself forward and leant back on its tail to wallop me again, BANG!!! I backed up another step, to which it just followed up with another kick to the chest, BANG!!!

Again, without warning.  

As I backed up another step I was starting to get a bit concerned as I couldn’t tell when the kangaroo was going to stop kicking me. Once again, the kangaroo dragged itself forward to wallop me again, BANG!!!

It was starting to get beyond a joke and I was starting to think I was going to have to punch it out. I took another step back and readied myself to get kicked again, but the kangaroo just went back to eating.  So, I can most assuredly inform you, dear reader, that those cute fluffy little kangaroos can turn on you without any warning at all. I was lucky because I was an adult and the kangaroo was a small one.

I think the reason why I was kicked, was because kangaroos spar a little with their arms before they get stuck in with their back legs and the kangaroo that attacked me may have thought I was going to fight it, so it got the first shot in.

I’ve met other people who’ve told me stories that didn’t end so well as mine.

Some friends told me recently about a couple they had met up in Queensland. The guy was an older Englishman and he had a Thai wife, and they’d been complaining to my friends that they had not seen any live kangaroos. They went on to say that all the kangaroos they ever saw were road-kill by the side of the road.  My friends thought that they would have a bit of sport with these foreigners, so they told them that they weren’t dead kangaroos by the side of the road, but kangaroos that were asleep. These friends of mine then told me that at a few days later, they saw the couple again and they were covered in deep lacerations. When they saw the state of the foreigners, they asked them what had happened to which they were told that they had been driving along a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere when they saw a kangaroo lying by the side of the road. The husband thought it was dead and told his wife not to worry about it but she insisted on him stopping the car and getting out to investigate.  Apparently, she picked up a stick as she came closer to the kangaroo and poked it to see if it was alive. Quick as a flash, the kangaroo was up and grabbed a hold of her with it’s upper arms and leant back on it’s tail and started trying to disembowel her with it’s back legs. The husband ran to help to help his wife, and the kangaroo gave him a kicking as well. They were pretty unlucky as it’s very hard to sneak up on a kangaroo.

Here’s a video to show how unpredicable kangaroos can be.

[youtube 8B66gFbN3sg]

In area where kangaroos are hunted you can’t get anywhere near them.

Usually kangaroos in groups are known as mobs. A mob of grey kangaroos can be up to about 30 individuals. Usually, the females and the young eat in a group surrounded by males that usually lay on the grass and keep an eye out for predators. 

Another time in Queensland, I was out taking photographs in a field near the Glasshouse Mountains, when I unexpectedly came across a large mob of grey kangaroos. I had just walked up the river bank over a small rise, and suddenly I was within about 3 m (about 9 feet) of a very large male lying in the grass. It didn’t get up but it turned around to look at me right in the eyes and then it flexed it’s muscles in it’s upper body (to illustrate what happened I’ll show you two photos that I took last weekend). 

I've seen this behaviour before and I know it sometimes leads to tears

As it flexed a few other males bounded a little bit closer to me and started flexing their upper bodies as well.

Let this be a warning

It was as though I had been sized up, and they knew they could take me.  They certainly weren’t scared of me, and after the experience that I had before with a small kangaroo; I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I beat a hasty retreat.

Just in case you think you’re “well ‘ard”, and that kangaroos aren’t a threat you can’t handle, check out this video.

[youtube xVq7Mo6LY-A]

As the video shows, kangaroos have plenty of heart and won’t back down so easily.

The “Big” Trout. Oberon, NSW, Australia

I’m fascinated by those old fashioned “big” things that are built for advertising purposes.

The Big Trout in Oberon

They are always so tacky and surreal but they interest me on several levels.

  1. They always look so roughly made.
  2. I always find myself thinking about the decision making process that led to them being built.
  3. They are quite often very ugly.
  4. I’ve never seen one that is associated with anything that is good.
  5. They hardly ever look like they get maintained.

They are basically huge 3D billboards and as such I’m reminded of what that old wag Ogden Nash once said; “I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree. Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all”.

In short, “big” things seem to be monuments to the waste of resources and a lack of taste.

Last weekend at Wombeyan Caves. NSW, Australia

This last weekend, my wife and I went down to Wombeyan Caves, 180kms south of Sydney to meet up with some friends and go camping. Instead of going down the freeway via Gouldburn we went down to Mittagong, and then cut across to the west along 60 km of winding dirt road. We like to take the back roads, but in this case, I think we made a mistake as the road is very narrow, and quite dangerous due to poor visibility around corners. The next two photos will give non-Australian visitors to this blog an idea of how dry most of the countryside is in this area.

tunnel through the sandstone

All the same it was an interesting trip to pass through an area covered in dry sclerophyll forest that is in rain shadow caused by the Great Dividing Range. To call the Great Dividing Range, “Great”, is a bit of a joke because it only rises to about 2,000m at its greatest height, but it does affect rain reaching further inland from the coast.  Although many of areas along the eastern coast of New South Wales have received a lot of rainfall lately, there are still many areas that are quite dry.

the grass was still brown in many areas along the way

On Friday night, we after we had set up camp we sat around the campfire with our friends, Brad and Linda and my wife’s uncle Ray.  All of us love camping, and we don’t care what the weather is like so when it started to rain we just got out a plastic sheet and sat under it.

When the going gets tough, the tough keep drinking

To be honest, I don’t really care much for caves, as I feel once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. 

same old stuff

But Wombeyan Caves has a very good camp ground, and it was great to get out of town for the weekend and catch up with some friends.  One of the things that I really love about camping is sitting around a fire at night.  Ray brought along a guitar and kept us entertained with well played hits from his youth. 

Ray kept us entertained

He did a very passable rendition of Peter Sarstedt’s classic hit, “Where do you go to my lovely” (about the easiest way to find this song is on the soundtrack CD of the movie The Darjeeling Limited)

[youtube fDdgYLmGGF8]

The blame game. Parramatta, NSW, Australia

I was in Parramtta yesterday and I visited an old sadly neglected historic cemetery from the early days of settlement, where I came across this gravestone. 

Gravestone in Parramatta

The epitaph reads:

Sacred to the Memory
of
SAMUEL BARLEY
son of SAMUEL and MARY BARLEY
Who was unfortunately drowned in a
Well on his Parents Premises the 23
Day of October 1834
Aged 3 years and 7 Months
The Well having been left uncovered
By a careless Female Servant who
had Charge of the Unfortunate
Infant who was a beautiful
Promising Child

Weep not for me my Parents Dear
I am not Dead but Sleeping here
My days are past my grave you see
Prepare yourselves to follow me

Stencil graffiti in the King Cross tunnel. Sydney, Australia.

On the way to a wedding last weekend I was caught in a traffic jam in the King Cross tunnel and I saw this stencil graffiti.

As we slowly crawled by it, I asked my wife to photograph it. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like most graffiti and I really hate tags, but I do have a liking for stencil graffiti. Because the tunnel caters to heavy traffic, it wouldn’t usually be possible to take the shot above.

It looks as though whoever put the graffiti up, must have felt real pressure to get out of the tunnel as soon as possible. The light sabre is misaligned and one of the eyes wasn’t completed. On one hand, the drips remind me of what Andy Warhol said to the famous art dealer, Leo Castelli, when he was asked why he had drips on some of his Campbell’s soup tin series; “so you can see that it’s a painting”, and on the other hand, David Hockney’s photo collages. One of the reasons why Hockney made collages of scenes like “Scrabble, Hollywood, 1 January 1983“, is because he wanted to give a sense of time passing.

The evidence of the stencil’s hasty production makes me think about the time span and near panic it would’ve been made in. So for me the graffiti, inadvertently makes me think about the act of painting and time passing.

Thanks to Grasswire from Slovenia (where I will be visiting next year) for his comment and posting a link to this crazy video about traffic and tunnels in his country.

[youtube G0DJOu7T5SE]

After seeing this video, I’m starting to have second thoughts about driving in Slovenia.

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