Love & Kindness — A Diamond in the Rough.

I am addicted to the remotely located Ningaloo coral reef at Cape Range National Park. It is the worlds longest onshore reef so you can just snorkel off the shore and you are immediately in the wonderland of coral and sea creatures.

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The best bit about this obsession is that it is only twelve hours drive away from my home.

The North West of Australia where the reef is located has a harsh climate with extremely high summer temperatures, dangerous animals, lack of water, very long distances between towns, droughts and cyclones.

The adversity of living in this part of the world can create deeply authentic people who have had to  connect to make things work.

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Advice for cycling this path. Packs of dingos are known to bite bike tyres. Stand as tall as you can, face the pack of dingos (as they circle around you?), if you are with someone stand back to back, look the dingos in the eye, stay close to children and small teenagers, etc. A person needs to be tough to live here.

Cape Range National Park has been upgraded by the Australian Government from prickly, boiling, scratchy desert so that it now has pristine drop toilets, rubbish collection and camping bays at some of the bays.

Yearly I stay at Cape Range National Park and am enthralled by the hump back whales breaching and playing off the back reef. I am delighted when swimming with whale sharks, manta rays or turtles. I enjoy paddle boarding, kaiaking, wind or kite surfing with other large marine animals such as sharks, porpoises and stingrays.

Snorkelling here is like diving into a kaleidoscope of beautiful movement and colour. Within a few minutes you may see enormous green turtles nestling quietly under the reef an arms length away or octopi in tight holes in the coral, then there are swirling schools of gigantic pelagic fish, swaying reed like sea snakes, delicate Spanish dancers plus anything else that can be seen at a tropical reef.

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A small sting ray at the shore.

Last time I visited it was inky black at night with the moon a tiny slit so that the stars jumped out, the milky way was a band of diamonds. The silence felt to me like I was cradled safely in a hole in the cosmos.

There are no more facilities than the toilet and rubbish bins, no mobile phone service, wifi, fresh water, shops or anything else. For that you have to drive an hour away to Exmouth.

At Ningaloo one morning bleary with a healthy hangover of a deep sleep in silence, I almost walked into to a kangaroo that had reached into the “dry” vegetable box that was inside a tent — he was quietly eating carrots. He had already eaten a couple of kilos of bananas so was content. He nibbled away at his ill gotten gains as I walked around him to brew an early morning coffee.

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Just as the coffee boiled two white galahs swirled into camp, and stalked around. They only left after I gave them a plate of fresh water.

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There are many beautiful and interesting bays in Cape Range National park.

In Turquoise Bay I relaxed and surrendered to the current as it swept me over the reef where I came close to a white tipped reef shark and then enormous purple lipped clams that appear to breathe the water.

Later at Oyster Stacks I almost swam into a wobbly gong shark as it sat camouflaged on top of a coral outcrop and then I shied away from a deadly cone shell as it sat on the sea floor less than an arms length away.

Exmouth is the closest town to the paradise of Cape Range National park so after days of no showers and lots of swimming I’m feeling a tad crusty, in need of some civilisation and fresh water.

I took my salt encrusted self into town to have a wash before I travelled on. My hair was standing on end and I couldn’t get a brush through it. I love not having to brush my hair but after some time well…

After days of camping my habit is to have dinner cooked for me at the restaurant in the caravan park where I stay before heading south and back home.

The last time I was there I wandered over to the Potshot pub for a pre dinner drink and quiet read before heading to the restaurant for dinner.

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The Potshot Hotel

I’m a people watcher so when I heard lots of loud talk and laughter at a near table I noticed a very tall, man who appeared to be about fifty or sixty years of age —  it was hard to tell. His hair was dark without any grey and his body was shaped like a modern day Chinese Wealth God. This man had a huge tummy swaddled in a bright blue “T” shirt. He moved lightly on his feet for such a heavy man so I imagined that imperceptibly over time he had swapped his six pack for a keg.

Mr “Blue” as I named him had large heavy framed black glasses with coke bottle lenses that slid down his nose. When he chose to see he tipped his head back and looked down from his great height. His skin was the deep red of a European who had —over the decades — been sun burnt so much that his skin had given up and was perpetually a deep red. As he laughed loudly I noticed the gap in his teeth.

Blue walked lightly and quickly but with the waddle of a heavily pregnant woman. I noticed that he was talking to a couple of young women and that the energy between them was loving, engaged and they seemed to be excited to be together. There was a pinkish glow over these people and they had easy familiarity and respect that made me curious.

I then reminded myself that it was madness to assume anything about anyone or anything in life so I went back to my book.

Later I wandered back to the caravan park and restaurant. In the dark on the excellent bike paths of Exmouth I felt safe because the paths were filled with cyclists, runners and dog walkers enjoying the cool evening air.

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Emu warning signs

The only unsafe part was the emus who are known to be aggressive at times.

Over the last couple of years I have been invited to join people at their table in this restaurant. I guess because it is too embarrassing for the locals to see a single woman eating alone? I’m not sure really.

I had forgotten this quirk in the fabric of the universe so excitedly entered the restaurant thinking about the next chapter of my book.

A backpacker waiter with a strong accent I couldn’t place hovered over me as he showed me my table. He was much taller than me and he bent over the top of me and bumped me as he gave me the menu.

I was distracted by the waiter until I was accosted by a man at the next table who was loudly calling out “Come and sit here!” 

It is the larger than life “Blue” mountain of a man from the pub and he is there with four younger people.

Resigned that this is the way of it in this restaurant in Exmouth — I do.

I notice a couple of grey nomads sitting at the table behind “Blue” and they take a lively vicarious interest in what is happening. It is easy for them to follow the theme as “Blue” is joyous, loud and open with his speech.

Upon sitting down I learn that “Blue’s” name is Walsey — this is because he comes from Wales.

He is excited to have me at the table because he had noticed me reading at the pub.

Walsey emanates smiles. He is loud and funny and seems out of place with the other occupants of the table. Yet they sit there with a sense of protection and caring.

I’m introduced; First to a German couple both slender, refined, beautiful and quiet. Their  eyes were intelligently taking in the play of words as they wash over the table. This couple chip in at times with remarks that are well thought out. I learn that they have opened an amazing business in Exmouth called Social Society where they serve delicious organic food and sustainable clothing.

At the other end of the table are a married couple. The woman is Korean with a round face an easy smile and lots of dead pan jokes. Her newly minted husband is from Ireland. These two are fun they have twinkles in their eyes and a ready humour. They work from Perth in the fly-in/fly-out mining industry. They are a joy to be around because they keep the conversation flowing no matter what Walsey says.

I am the only Australian born person at the table and I recognise that this has been the familiar experience all my life. I am constantly exposed to a soup of different cultural perspectives and ideas without having to travel overseas —I well up with the feeling of luck and gratitude.

Curious I ask what brings them together and the story unfolds.

During the boom time in Western Australia the Korean woman and German couple were in Exmouth working twelve hour shifts in hospitality. They couldn’t  afford the extremely high cost of accommodation in town, so they camped in the bush out of town. They had no facilities — no water, toilets, rubbish collection or electricity. Sort of like being at Cape Range National Park however, without the toilets, camp sites or rubbish collection.

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The bush is harsh in this part of Western Australia

The bush here is hot, dusty, full of insects that bite, plants that sting, snakes, and other poisonous creepy things. There are very few trees around Exmouth and the ones that are there are stunted and provide little shade. I imagined that their tent would have been hellish. After a twelve hour shift they would have had to cook and clean for themselves, cart in their own water, food and everything else and only God knows what they did for a toilet.

These people were from Korea and Germany where they have every facility imaginable so they probably would have been exposed to extreme culture shock.

Their story is told in snippets between jokes, rude comments and various other stories.

At one time Walsey relays that he thought that the Korean woman would never get married because he thought she was a lesbian.

At another time he says he knows that his twenty-three year old Australian daughter is a virgin — for sure.  

He then relates how he behaved when he met the only boyfriend she ever let him near. We then totally understand why he thinks that she doesn’t have boyfriends.

Then he questions me. “Where do you live?”

When I answer he loudly asks “What is the value of your home?” To which I reply; “Way more than you can imagine, I’m a purse.”

I then say to the table “I’m a total nurse and a purse — I understand this is a real turn on for men.” They look amused and then cringe a little when his next question; “What type of car do you drive?” 

I am ecstatic at this situation so in answer I slap my keys on the table. When he sees it is a Mercedes he looks happy.

The two couples wince again and then protectively try to say something to ameliorate his crash-bang queries.

I am in a place of joy, such open gall and innocence all mixed up together in a fully grown man.

At the end of the meal he whips out his credit card and pays for everyone including me.

Back to the story of why they were all together. This is how I heard their story — I am not really sure if I have it exactly right.

Walsey who was living in Exmouth with all the facilities of modern life noticed their situation.  He invited them to live with or maybe around him.

These back packers moved out of the bush and they all lived as a community protected by this big Boomer of a man and for this they love him and respect him.

At the end of the evening Walsey turns to me and much to the delight of the grey nomad couple he says; “Come back to my place.”

By this stage my love for this kind bumbling man knows no bounds — He is a fine soul and I respect him. I let him down gently. I say; “Thanks so much but I have a long drive tomorrow so — no.”

When he insists I gently say;

“Walsey, I don’t want to drink anything more tonight so thanks so much for inviting me but no.”

He has had a few too many wines so asks couple more times until he finally gets the “No” in good humour.

The grey nomads are hysterical. I am blissed out.

Kind, generous and genuine people come in many guises.

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Horses, dogs and children… Sage Advice from an Australian Jackaroo

Silhouette of a CowboyMy school in Wubin had a program that linked you with a “pen friend”. This was sort of like an old fashioned “facebook friend”. My pen friend was called Michael Boladaris and he lived on Wonganoo station that was miles out of Wiluna in the Western Desert.

We sent letters to each other for many years all the way through primary and high school. At the Wiluna gymkhana we would meet and hang out together.

Going outback to the gymkhana was a long adventure of driving down roads into the desert often not seeing another car for up to half a day.

We would drive by soft yellow sand plain with a mad profusion of crazy coloured wildflowers, and then into the red dirt that got up your nose in your ears and every crevice of everything.

 

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Beautiful red dirt with a pristine blue sky.

We would stop along the way in deserted gold mining towns and we children would fossick for junk.

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Desert finds. In the past there were many gold mining towns near the roads. These are now just concrete. broken glass and bits of metal with the odd find.

Finally we would be in Wiluna and camp in the bush as there were no caravan parks.

No showers or toilets for camping in those days, we would just camp somewhere flat use the showers provided at the gymkhana and when we felt the need we grabbed a shovel and squatted behind a bush.

Families  would cook on an open fire and after dinner we would sit around  and gaze into the fire or someone would grab a guitar and sing.

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Fire gazing — the original TV

We would all be so exhausted from the gymkhana that as soon as it was really dark we would sleep in our swags under a pitch black sky with a myriad of diamond like stars.

I would watch for satellites — they were really infrequent then, and then I would go to sleep with the sound of the wind, cicadas and at times; night birds.

One night just as twilight was occurring and dinner was cooking on the open fire a old guy was sitting with my family around the campfire.

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Open fire cooking makes the food taste better — sort of smoky and crispy.

I remember that the bush had that soft orange glow that it gets as the last rays of sun hit the tops of the low bushes and reflects from the gum leaves. There was a quietness in that evening where sound carried for a long distance.

This man was probably somewhere between 25 – 30 years old and seemed so OLD to the young me. He was dressed in jeans, heeled cowboy boots, and a check shirt. His body was lean and muscular with skin that was thickened and dark from the sun. Around his eyes were smile wrinkles with white in the crinkles where the sun didn’t tan due to his habit of smiling.

He gently cajoled me aside from my family through the scrub and away from the fire in that beautiful early evening. I clearly remember the beauty of that soft light on the bushes, and the quiet.

I was a shy farm child but he felt OK and he worked hard at overcoming my shyness until he really had me on my own and had my total attention.

He then gently and repeatedly told me some of the best advice I have ever been given in my life and it was:

“Never go with a man who is not kind to horses, dogs and children.

If they are not kind to horses, dogs and children they will not be kind to you.”

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Check out how people treat their dogs and that is how they will treat you.

He asked me to repeat it for him to show that I understood and then lead me back to the fire.

In my life, I have noticed that this advice is true for both men and women — if they are not kind I know not to give them much attention — to leave them alone.

The times I have not used this advice I have always regretted it.

I have never forgotten that man and I wish I could thank him.

Snakes as pets…

My father collected poisonous snakes for the Perth museums stuffed animal collection — this was back in the 1960’s when it was a preeminent thing to do. At that time most people didn’t think about extinction and animal rights. It was a time where there was still plenty of wildlife around.

There were oysters growing on the back islands at Jurien Bay that I loved to pick off with a screwdriver and eat.

There were plagues of emus piling up on the rabbit proof fence during times of drought.

Snakes were commonly seen both on our farm and at our Jurien Bay holiday home. As a child I felt connected to all that is— to all of nature and all that was natural—the human world seemed strange to me less pure, less honest.

I lived on a wheat and sheep farm that had its own petrol pump so that we had over sixty forty four gallon drums all stacked neatly up on a high platform.

On slow summer evenings the 44 gallon drums would “boing” and herald the cool evening air with deep drum like sounds as they cooled down — that was one of those sounds of my childhood…

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When they grew old some of the drums were used for BBQ’s others for foundations filled with concrete and others were used for snake “homes”.

When my father caught a snake he would remove the top from a drum and that would become the snakes home until it was time for the trip to Perth for the “freeze alive” position they would maintain in death with the help of taxidermy at the Perth Museum.

These snake homes were housed in our old garage where we fed the snakes and gazed down at them as they waited their fate.

My father didn’t only collect snakes he also collected marsupial mice, and other strange animals.

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His passion for animals exposed us to wild goats, a wild horse called Zany who was tamed and trained to be Polo cross player, mountain devils, echidnas and I remember once climbing a tree with my father, brother and the Barnes family to peer into a Wedge tale eagles nest. It was huge — all thick sticks — and a small area in the middle where the chicks would have lived.

At Jurien Bay we children would shake out seaweed rolls and collect the tiny blue ringed octopi and put them in a bucket and watch the blue become iridescent when they became overly stimulated.

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We had been told by our parents that they were deadly so were very careful. In retrospect it must have been risky to pick up a seaweed roll to shake out.

I can only remember my parents saying that we had to put them back in the sea because they didn’t deserve to live in a bucket as we didn’t know what to feed them.

My parents expected us to do as they told us — this was to respect wild life and respect out own lives.

My father was the animal person and my mother was a wildflower person — that is whole other story.

However, my father really had an attraction to snakes. He had learnt how to handle them and I remember that when he was catching a snake he would give us a running commentary.

First he would run after a great poisonous snake deftly lay a stick over the back of the snake’s head so that he could reach the tail without the snake striking.

He would be saying to us as though instructing us on “snake catching:”—“Put the stick close to the head then you have no chance of being bitten, now grab the tail like this!” — he would reach down to the squirming tail and adroitly grab it.

He would then release the head while saying “you have to be quick” and he would swing the snake around in a slow circle so that the momentum prevented it from reaching up to bite him.

Sometimes he would stop the swing and show us how the snake would start to bend upwards to try and strike his hand.

He would then calmly instruct us “Grab that wheat bag and open it”. Then he would bring the swinging snake over and somehow stop the swing and for a very quick moment hold it still over the opening of the sack — then drop it in the bag. The snake’s head was really close to us as we held the bag open — it was scary for us!

Quickly closing the bag the job would be done — another snake captured.

Other times he would lay the stick against the back of a snake’s head and then simply grasp the snake there. The snake would then wrap itself around his arm so that he had a sort of tourniquet around his lower arm. This was no problem with smaller snakes as they weren’t strong enough to be a problem.

One day at Wubin Rocks he caught a huge black tiger snake and did the grab behind the head thing. The snake started to wrap around his arm and he realised that the snake was too strong so he squeezed the “throat” of the snake so hard that it died. I remember the limp and flaccid snake after this had occurred and thinking how quickly life could be completely ceased.

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I have been around snakes since I was really young, and I remember an incident at home when I was a very young child.

Our farmhouse had a well-watered bright green lawn enclosed with a brick fence and this was a “safe” place for us to play. When I was about three years old and my brother Kim was about one a big black tiger snake came thought the opening in the fence onto the lawn we were playing on. I remember that we were both dressed the same — simply in a pair of underpants — Kim was curious and started to toddle over to the snake. I remember calmly leading him away. I called and my mother came out from the kitchen. She asked us to go inside and stay there. We went inside but could see her and the snake from the windows.

Mum got an axe and a stick and tried to whip it with the stick to break its back and then axe the head off.

I was really disappointed that I couldn’t be out there with her having all that action and excitement. She was balancing on top of the low verandah wall with her axe and stick as she tried to kill it.

We were calling out “Please can we come out now—we can’t see!” She was screaming “No!” I felt incensed that she would not let us out — it seems so unfair at the time.

Once she had killed it and removed the head we were allowed to play with the body to feel what a snake felt like, it was cool and smooth beyond imagining. When we asked my parents if we could play with its head my father did the commentary thing.; “Never play with a dead snakehead. The teeth could still release poison or have poison on them even although it is dead.

 When I was in Grade one at Wubin primary school I took a whip snake in for show and tell. I had caught the whip snake on the verandah and put it in a glass jar with holes in the lid.

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A whip snake I had been informed by my father was poisonous but not enough to kill a child. This obviously made the snake “safe” enough to catch and I know that my parents would have helped me with the holes in the lid of the jar so they must have supported my show and tell snake.

A fellow school student reminded me of my show and tell snake in my adulthood and until that moment I had not realized how unusual it was for a five-year-old child to take a poisonous snake in a glass jar on the school bus and to school.

My parents simply trusted their children to follow their strict rules for the handling of snakes, guns and cars and we did.

After show and tell the objects were placed on a shelf in the classroom until the end of the day when they were taken home (again on the school bus).

The whip snake sat there on the shelf until a curious class mate opened the jar and it got out and started to slither around the classroom of thirty-two young students aged between five and seven.

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I remember being a tad confused about what to do. This was because there was an adult in the room and adults usually did the “catch the snake” thing. I had only caught the whip snake when the adults weren’t present. I then noticed that my teacher — Miss Irvine — a 22-year-old Perth girl didn’t know what to do!

I caught it and put it back in the jar. I thought nothing of it until I was reminded of this much later in my life.

This story is actually about a special snake called George and a teacher and the feeling of unrequited revenge.

When I was about eight years old we were off on one of our yearly Christmas school holiday trips to Jurien Bay.

We had the second house ever built in Jurien Bay and went there for the whole of the Christmas holidays, Easter and often at other times. It was our second home away from the farm.

The drive was long because the roads were gravel and on the last couple of sand hills the road was a sandy track and we sometimes got bogged.

On a gravel road somewhere out from Eneabba where the trees and bushes were crowding in on the road a large snake slithered across in front of our car leaving that sinusoidal track behind it. Dad came to a quick halt jumped out of the car and chased it — grabbing a stick on the way. This was a “normal” occurrence when we spotted a snake or unusual animal.

He did the “trap head thing” then the “grab tail thing” and then the “swinging snake thing” and then came to a complete conundrum, as we didn’t have a wheat bag in which to put the snake.

My parents loved holidays — the longer the better — so they had picked us up directly from school. My plastic school bag was the next best thing to a hessian wheat bag.

We emptied out the uneaten rotting school lunches, schoolbooks, used tissues and other detritus that I had kept in it for the whole year.

Dad then dropped the six-foot long snake into the bag. Zipping it up was a tad tricky but it was managed.

So, the school bag with snake was on my lap for the rest of the long trip.

By the time we got to Jurien Bay we had named the snake George, and he needed a much better home than my school bag.

A very large glass jar was found and he was coiled into that and that is where he lived for the time he was “on holidays” with us. The metal lid had breathing holes punched in it.

He had been carsick in my school bag. I remember being a really upset because my school bag already had a disgusting smell — this was why I couldn’t eat my school lunches and now it was even worse. Maybe he was car sick because of the smell?

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George lived in his jar in the middle of the dining room table of our beach house for the whole of the school holidays. My father informed us that snakes respond to vibration so to keep him happy we talked and sang to him and we figured the more thumping of cards the better. “Snap”, “Galloping demons” and “Whist” were his daily entertainment. This was a time when playing cards, reading books and cooking we the things to do when not at the beach or riding our bikes.

We had an ancient dancing doll music box from my mother’s mother and we would wind it up and play it him endlessly.

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My father didn’t know what sort of snake he was so when we did the yearly Perth trip, George came along to be identified.

The Perth museum staff let us know that he was a non-poisonous Children’s Python. They didn’t need another specimen so George’s life was saved. With that information my father decided that he would become our new pet. While in Perth he purchased a breeding pair of mice and a home for them so that we could feed him. We then all went back from Perth to Jurien Bay.

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George displayed supreme patience in his glass jar. He really had no choice — for the rest of the holidays he continued to be entertained with our card, music, talking “vibrations”.

My father would take him out and play with him. He was tame by this time and would slither around my father and easily go back into the jar.

At the end of the holidays we all went home with George and he was given a beautiful snake home — a large box and the front glass was one half of a windscreen from a 1950’s car from our prolific rubbish dump that had many ancient harvesters, trucks and cars.

George became a part of our normal life.

On one occasion George slithered up a chair and then balanced on his tail up the side of a doorframe. He then poked around at the top of the door slowly manipulating it until it opened. He went over the top and dropped himself into the next room. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes I would have thought it impossible. I became to believe that snakes are very intelligent and able to sneak into the most difficult places.

Once a year in the August school holidays we would go to Carnarvon to visit our family from the Quan Sing clan. On the way home we would drop in to friends in places like Geraldton and Northampton. One family we visited had photographs of a little girl of about four all over the walls. We were later told that the farmhouse had a sleep-out where the four children slept. One night the young daughter had a temperature and was crying — she started to be really ill so they rushed her to the Doctor. She died without them knowing why. When they came back home they stripped the bed and there was a poisonous snake still in the bed. Only then did they find the tiny bite marks on her legs. The snake had managed to get into the sleep-out.

Infrequently we fed George baby mice and watched as he swallowed them alive and whole. We played with him and daily enjoyed his company—he was our pet.

One time when my father and we three children playing with him on the lawn a cat came close. Cats kill snakes so George had every reason to be scared and he was acting jumpy. I touched his tail and he must have thought that I was a cat — he flipped most of his body around and stuck at me. I did a summersault backwards and luckily missed a bite.

George had been scared before and had bitten my father. While my father was prizing George off this arm he did the commentary thing to educate us. He explained calmly that a snakes teeth angle backwards so that in order to get George off this arm he had to push his head towards his arm and then lift him off taking the angle of the teeth into account. I am guessing that he told us this just incase we ever needed to do that when he was not there.

George and my father became great friends to the point where George would slither into my father’s shirt and fall asleep around his waist and my father would forget that he was there.

I have come to believe that a kind and caring bond between people and animals is part of the evolution of the both parties. It seems to me that when animals are bonded to people who are loving both parties are uplifted and this is what I believe happened with George and my father.

Wubin at the time had this schoolteacher called Mr. Flynn. He had red hair and a famous temper.

He caned both the boys and the girls and even caned the child called Gordon who we had been told was spastic (Cerebral Palsy). Of course the cane would stimulate Gordon into a frenzy of spasm — such cruelty. Humans in the “good old days” were often not kind — it was the culture to not mention abuse or not act when abuse was noticed.

I remember the huge purple welts I would get when he caned my lower legs for being too loud when emptying the bins…

I was helping and I got the cane!

My parents dismissed my welts by saying I must have deserved it.

These were parents who didn’t hit their children, and yet they allowed this teacher to cane me. Like I said; abuse was not acknowledged for what it was.

I could never figure out adults when I was a child. Although my parents were intelligent and stimulating they seemed so devoid of joy and understanding. I still can’t figure most of them out — most seem to just be like robots doing what everyone is brainwashed to do, on their march towards the grave.

Mr. Flynn was a cruel man; yet it seemed to me that my parents were oblivious to his cruelty. I am guessing that when he first arrived he was OK but his cruelty built up over time?

When he went over to the teacher’s house for lunch we would often hear him shouting at his children and wife.

My parents would invite him and his poor bullied family out for dinner a couple of times a year and on one of these occasions the men needed more beer.

My father got into our Studebaker car and Mr. Flynn got into the passenger seat. I was in the back seat.

George was asleep inside my father’s shirt and as my father leaned back in the seat George woke up — by this stage the car was doing 60 miles per hour that is 110 kilometres per hour in today’s language.

George popped his head with his flickering tongue out between the button- holes of my father’s shirt and then started to look left and right as more of him came out.

The fantastic bit of this story for my nine-year-old self was that Mr. Flynn was petrified!

He opened the door to jump out of the car — it was a gravel road and the noise when a car door is opened at that speed was really something!

Dust; gravel, loud rattling noise; teacher panicking; me delighted!  Inside my head I was praying that he would jump!

Such is the mind of a child.

Unfortunately that was not to be because my father casually grabbed George and moved him away from Mr. Flynn and drove on.

The Doctor who confused arms with legs!

It was 3.15 am and I was in a taxi speeding towards my daughters home in Melbourne.

I had been in Melbourne for a couple of days catching up with Kia and had a wonderful time with her showing me around her favourite spots.

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I had seen Victoria night markets,

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seen quirky fashion and even bought a real 1960’s pair of bathers for summer. We had eaten interesting food seen crazy dogs

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and people plus enjoyed streets of cafes and bars and even Daiso!

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Back to the taxi ride, the taxi driver was asking me about what I was doing so early in the morning. I told him my 21 year old daughter Kia had moved from WA to Melbourne a few months ago and I was visiting. I told him how she had just phoned saying that she had been vomiting without stop since 10pm and needed help. Lucky I was in the city really…

The Sirian taxi driver told me that all his children stayed at home until they were married, some at 34 and one as late as 39 years old. He had five sons and a daughter. He wasn’t judgmental that my daughter had left home so early — just observing difference. He said that he couldn’t understand why a person would leave a loving family to move in with strangers.

I was wondering about our Western need to have independent young adults. I had left home at twelve for boarding school and was living with a girlfriend from school at seventeen. I thought nothing of the fact that Kia was off in the great wide world living life at twenty-one.

A small part of me just wanted to protect her and keep her close and make sure she was safe —my heart remembers her as the vulnerable baby and toddler. In times of stress my heart retreats to the past to those wonderful times— reminiscing the time where I could fix most things for her easily.

The taxi sped the wrong way down Kia’s empty one-way street where she was waiting at the door with a large bowl. After a “U’ie” we were whisked off to the famous St Vincent’s hospital emergency department.

It was really quiet in there with two people in the waiting room—both were sleeping on the chairs and one was snoring loudly.

We booked in and waited, Kia noisily vomiting every few seconds, and crying in pain so much so that she awoke the other two “waiters” in the waiting room.

After half an hour she was given an injection to stop the stomach cramps and she too lay down on the seats getting up every five to ten minutes for another spasmodic emptying.

By 5.30am all three of the emergency patients were still in place in the waiting room. Apparently they had been busy with severely injured ambulance clients.

Kia decided that she had been there long enough and wanted to go home. She got up went outside and I followed. She then had a semi collapse in the street—so back to the waiting room. By this time the drug had worn off so she crying in pain and vomiting her heart out.

At about 6.30am she was shown a bed and after half an hour the nurse gave her some medication and things settled down a bit.

Again she was left until the medication wore off. At this stage she was making such a noise retching and crying in pain that a Doctor finally came to see her.

At about 8.30 am a smiling rounded young Doctor came and in his lilting accent asked her to move her arms straight whilst grabbing her legs and pushing down on them.

Kia was a bit confused and straightened her arms but he insisted that she moved her arms straight and again pushed down on her legs.

Kia asked; “Do you mean my legs?” He responded; “Yes, your arms” and pushed some more. When she straightened her legs he said; “That’s right”.

Now this Doctor who didn’t know the difference between arms and legs was a bit of a worry!

He seemed to know his drugs—even if he didn’t know her body parts!

He gave her some morphine and when that didn’t really work — some more morphine. Finally the pattern of spasm, pain and vomiting stopped. He ordered a battery of blood tests, ultrasound and lots of poking and prodding. He seemed to know that bit of his work and I found out that his accent was Romanian so forgave his ever so slight misdemeanour about arms and legs after a frantic night for him in ED.

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At about 2pm she was discharged with more drugs and no diagnosis. All is quiet finally.

Unofficial Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb in the mid 80’s

In the 1980’s life was a little more simple. Perhaps it was that I was more relaxed and less fearful of doing silly things?

I was in Sydney visiting a friend who I will call Harry. We were sitting around in Ugg boots and Lycra having dinner at his house in Paddington.

I spent the whole of the 1980’s in designer Lycra. I hand spray painted and had elaborate designs stitched onto my tracksuits and other stretchy exercise clothing that I wore all the time. I remember once voting in Cottesloe in a pair of bikinis as though that was the most normal thing to do. My memories of the 1980’s was that it was a chilled time of extreme exercise and physically comfortable clothing.

Just as we were finishing dinner he said to me “Would you like to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge?”

Well… as a very fit and healthy person I was up for any fun so said “Yes”.

There was no official bridge climb at that time. The bridge climb came almost a decade and a half later in 1998. In the 1980’s the only people who climbed the bridge were people who looked after it in some way — or people like Harry and myself.

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Harry had been told how to access the bridge to climb it, so we jumped into his car and drove to the area at the base of the pylons. On the picture above it is that area where there are the upright brick structures. Harry had bought some carpet along so that we could climb over the barbed wire fence.

Once we got there I found out that before the barbed wire bit was a bit of an obstacle course. First we had to scale a very steep wall with the carpet. On the top of the wall was a six foot high fence and on the top of the fence was the barbed wire.

Being athletic and strong that was the least of our problems. The first problem was to find a time span between the security vehicles so that we would not be caught. We waited in the car until a police car came and just as it left around a corner we got into action. We quickly scaled the wall and then the fence, immediately pulling the carpet into the opening at the side of the brick structure where we could enter the bridge struts. Adrenaline pumping stuff! We were both panting and sweating by the time we were secreted way in the dark of the entrance to the bridge.

We went up some stairs and eventually we found the opening where you could climb within the metal spans. Each metal span seemed a bit wider than I was and higher than it was wider.

Here is an old photograph showing a span that we climbed within.

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An old photograph showing one of the spans. We climbed within one of the upper spans.

The slope upwards was really steep and there were large smooth bolts and metal lips at very regular intervals all the way up. It was like climbing within a slippery metal cave. We climbed and at intervals there were openings in the top where you could push back a metal plate and look out.

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The bridge is covered in smooth metal bolts.

My main problem was the Ugg boots as they were not the least bit useful for gripping on to the smooth iron base of the column. After some time we came to the place where it flattened out where we were going to  look out at the very top. As far as we could tell it was the top because there is little slope at the top. To our great disappointment the lookout slot had been fixed shut. I am guessing that this was because the bridge people wanted to dissuade people like ourselves from climbing.

We then retraced our steps slipping and sliding our way downwards again to get to the bottom and back to our piece of carpet. Anxiously we waited for ages for the next security patrol and when it left we quickly threw the carpet over the barbed wire, scaled the fence and then thundered down the sloped wall to be back in the car again after our adventure.

In 2010 I was in Sydney and decided to climb the bridge the official way.

It was such a let down — the original climb was so much more interesting and fun — and it was free. I don’t mean free in cost as the cost was reasonable, I mean free in spirit.

The official bridge climb required enough equipment —the cost of which would probably to keep a whole third world family in food and education for a year. It was slooowwwwww… as slow as the most unfit of humanity.  So slow I could have fallen asleep at any time during the climb. I couldn’t help thinking “Wendy you are spending your life one moment at a time. Is this experience worth it?”

However I have to admit the views were much better.

How I got a thief to give me his money.

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get to meet the local people who have children at the same school. Fremantle has a quirky demographic so there were some true gems and then we had the opposite — those people who have a sense of entitlement.

When my daugher was young some of the school parents would turn up at my home in pain and expect me to park her in front of TV while I treated them for free. Interestingly enough I noticed all of these people either had government jobs or were on benefits!

Some of these people —not all of course— are use to being supported with all of those entitlements that are not common in the private sector. Things such as a permanent position no matter how useless they are, endless clients who are not paying who have no choice but to deal with you.

A very small percentage of these “workers/receivers of government money” can be rude, obnoxious or even worse take forever to do the smallest thing—all the time knowing that they are wielding huge power of the lives of the poor public. They know that no matter how they behave their income and entitlements are secure. That sense of entitlement makes them depressed unhappy and takes away their zest for life.

Of course, some government people work hard and do really fantastic things with a high standard of care, even although they have all of those entitlements.

This story is about my brush with some people with that sense of entitlement.

That whole co dependent scene where I was asked to work outside working hours for free was simply not my style I couldn’t for the life of me understand these people.

To sort this situation I simply opened up a room in Fremantle and got rid of the couch at home. I then advertised this fact in fairly firm terms and Voila! The problem was solved.

I now understand that these people did me a favor, as I am not sure I would have opened the Fremantle clinic if I hadn’t been forced. It was not intentionally a “business” but over time it become very successful.

At the time of this story one of my clients was a chief from up north. She had been involved in a motor vehicle accident where the car she was traveling in had hit a bull.

This woman was a large woman in more ways than one—a real character. When the car hit the bull her knees had smashed into the dashboard and they were shattered. Due to a number of medical reasons she was unable to have knee replacements, so she was unable to walk for more than a few steps. She would arrive on her “gofer” and park it in the middle of the waiting room so that the whole room was practically filled.

She would then use some sticks to struggle painfully the few steps to the treatment couch in the closest room.

One fine sunny day I was in the room treating her when I heard a sound in the waiting room. I went out and found a man behind the front desk looking through the drawers.

Of course you never know what your response would be when something like this happens and I was rather surprised by mine.

I started yelling at the top of my voice “Thief! Call the Police! – Thief! Call the police!” and without any thought I rushed over to the front door and slammed the heavy bolt shut.

Only then did I realize that I had just bolted myself in with a maybe (?) a violent man.

I tried to step back from the door but had nowhere to go as the gofer was in the way.

The thief rushed to the front door looking frantic and stricken. I was in his way so he shoved me so hard that I fell to the floor. Luckily I bounce so I bounced back up and moved away from him wondering how I had got myself in such a silly situation.

He was so nervous and upset that he had difficulty in unbolting the simple bolt! His hands and whole body were visibly shaking.

During the whole time I kept up my screaming “Thief! Call the police!!!”

My poor client was immobilized on the coach listening to it all. We had quiet a chuckle about it afterwards!

Eventually after some fumbling he managed to unbolt the front door and he ran outside. Well, much to my surprise — I ran after him and this is where my early childhood training of practicing wolf whistles with the Crayfishermen at Jurien Bay paid off. I have the loudest wolf whistle of anyone I know.  Logically, I started with my piercing whistle and then I would yell “Thief! Call the police!!!” as I ran after him.

He realized that with me carrying on like that he was likely to get caught. So, he turned and faced me and gave me his bum bag. He said that he had not taken any money from me and he was simply going to use the toilet in my rooms. I guess he was practiced at lying his way out of trouble. I grabbed his bag and marched back inside with him following meekly behind.

I opened his bag and inside there were three wallets. I took no notice of this, as my brain was still a tad discombobulated by the experience. All I noticed was that my money pouch was not there.

As he stood quietly on the other side of the desk I checked my money and found that he had not had enough time to find where it was hidden. I then gave him back his bum bag and dismissed him.

Only afterwards did I think: “Why would he have three wallets?”

So, I rang the police.

One of my lawyer friends once told me that the only difference between the Police and the criminals is which side they are on and my conversation with them on this occasion suggested that he could be right.

I was told that if I reported this event they could charge me for deprivation of liberty for bolting the door. Not much joy there.

Fremantle is a small community so I would see “my special thief” sitting on a bench and I would go over and sit next to him.  I would tell him that he could do things differently and not be someone who goes around doing the silly things that he does. This was not an uncomfortable conversation. He would not make eye contact however he would sit there in a relaxed way.

A couple of years later I noticed my “special thief” waiting at a bus stop in central Fremantle in florescent workers clothing with what looked like a packed lunch. This was on my 5.30 am runs, I would run past every day and here would be there.

At first he would not make eye contact even although he would acknowledge me with a nod. I thought the lack of eye contact thing was cultural so just accepted it.

After a few months he started to look up look me directly in the eyes and smile as I ran past.

He is now working and appears happy and unhindered by his previously crippling sense of entitlement. Who knows?

Ora Banda Pub — A dalliance on the way to Lake Ballard

 

So many huge metropolises in the outback of Western Australia are now just broken glass, a bit of tin and some shrubs. Ora Banda has been a bit more fortunate and in its current manifestation it is a beautiful stone building that is operating as a pub.

A pub in the middle of nowhere as it is a one hour 40 minute drive from Coolgardie and Coolgardie is in the nearly at the end of the Earth.

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Coolgardie streets were made wide enough to turn a camel train.


I was there on my way to the desert sculptures at Lake Ballard. This is a sculpture installation by Antony Gormley and consists of fifty one sculptures over an area of ten square kilometres. I wanted to “run the sculptures and this is what I eventually did.

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Running the Sculptures in the salt

I will explain how I got to Ora Banda and what happened. 

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Distant Sculpture on Lake Ballard

Around the Coolgardie area there are many tourist attractions but they are spread over 1,000’s of desert miles.

The locals know the way to these places because that is part of their being, the places of their childhood holidays and memories.

They have not looked at their signage in a way that makes the slightest bit of sense to a visitor.

I thought that I was on my way to Lake Ballard and I was doing my best to go via Rowlands Lagoon, however with many a side road unmarked I ended up in Ora Banda.

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Ora Banda Pub where an unsolved bikie murder occurred in 2000. I’m guessing that it must be a good place for a murder as it is isolated.

I stopped at the pub because I decided to ask a local if I was on the right road to get to Lake Ballard.

I was planning to take the gravel road that didn’t take me via Menzies.

I like the isolation of dirt roads — the lack of traffic. I revel in the feeling of the slippery-slidey roll under the tyres as they spin and slide against the round stones so that if you don’t correct extremely gently you will be flipped and the car will simply spin, career out of control or tip over and slide on the roof for a while.

Meditation and focus at its best — a little slice of heaven.

Ora Banda pub is a beautiful stone building and as I walked towards it I wondered how it would smell. It didn’t disappoint because it smelt of alcohol and dust.

It didn’t have that terrible chemical smell of Perth hotels where they have used a bucket load of “products” that results in them smelling like public toilets.

The Ora Banda pub had that honest smell of sweat, dust and plonk.

It was dark inside in the way that old buildings are and it took some time for my eyes to adjust, and then I noticed that it was decorated with ancient photographs and quaint bits of history.

At the bar was a young man who looked Maori — and when I asked about the roads he said that he didn’t know a thing about the area and he motioned to the two women who were sitting at the far end of the long bar.

They only two patrons of the place at 11.30 AM — he said that they would know.

I walked down the bar to these women and I immediately had eye contact with a woman in her 30’s who had those sorts of 1980’s “Ita Buttrose” eyebrows that had been shaped so that she looked constantly surprised by life. She also had bottled jet-black hair with very pale skin. I started to ask her which road was the unsealed one that went directly to Lake Ballard.

The woman next to her simply took over—the surprised looking, black haired woman didn’t get a chance to speak.

This other woman was large in a brick shit house sort of way, not fat but huge — all muscle and tone. Her manner was butch and she walked over to me and hovered over me with a presence that seems to block out the rest of the world.

To me it was as though she had decided that I was someone who needed to be protected from my “delusional city slicker ideas “ and that I should not worry my “pretty little head” about driving on a gravel road.

Every query I had was answered with a protective “go to the left, there is bitumen” answer.

She had beautiful clear blue eyes and she eye balled me and twinkled them so that I knew that she was interested in protecting me.

Attraction energy has a sort of buzz and she was buzzing me with full force.

She kept telling me that the way that I wanted to go was simply too difficult, too many wash-a-ways, too much trouble for me. She even said that maybe my car would not make the journey!

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My trusty “Landy” in Coolgardie – it loves the outback roads.

My heart was smiling at this situation and with that feeling I quietly said that my car was designed to drive down roads…

I decided to retreat as I had learned that the gravel road I thought was the right way would get me to Lake Ballard.

I moved over towards the door and she followed me and hovered that huge energy over me and it felt that she was trying to trap my will to leave.

Her presence was so huge and overbearingly protective that I could have felt small and dependant.

Yes, I am small but I don’t ever feel small except when I can’t reach a top cupboard. I only feel small when it is a bonus such as sleeping in the back of my car.

I don’t feel small around people — that’s not an option.

As I was leaving she followed me and at the door were tourist maps on the wall.

She took a few of them out and explained to me the best way —which was the way I didn’t want to go— and as she did this her alcoholic breath made me a tad dizzy.

At this stage the black haired woman decided to eke her way back in to the conversation — she agreed with her friend.

I thanked them both and left and took the “wrong” gravel road and had a wonderful trip to Lake Ballard.

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The sunlight reflected on the salt with a distant sculpture that was quite a run away. I didn’t get to run all fifty one it was way too hot.

 

 

How to get a free trip worth thousands $$$

This is a story of how to get a free trip worth thousands of dollars. It involves initial straight out pain and agony that transmutes eventually to… free travel to the USA.

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When I was in my 20’s I was living with a man and together we had few limits — I will call him Luke.

Anyway Luke and I were always interested in pushing the boundaries of what was possible.

This is what I wrote about how I felt at the time.

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To live with my partner is to live with my best friend, not only my friend but also my lover and teacher. He is the clown in my life, the brainteaser.

He stretches my limits and holds me close when the limits seem too daunting.

I am able to do what ever takes my attention when he is around, be it pulling faces in the mirror, singing at the piano, trading the share market or having a bath in the goldfish pond. We impose few limits.

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Cooling down on a hot day while making a gold fish pond.

When we find a limit, after a little insecurity, a few tears and laughs, we gently remind each other that limits are the death of our fun time together, so we push the limits until they go.

Being with him is so much fun that it seems impossible to imagine life with out such a loving companion.

We are each other’s teacher, lover, muso, Macintosh freak, sexual dynamo, or what ever. Label a label and we can be it together, then, change the label and try that!

One thing that I have learned, the more I let him be, the more freedom I have to be me.

When we are apart we have the practice and confidence to be ourselves around others, because we have already been bathed in each other’s acceptance.

Learning this together has been frightening, fun and always exciting.

How could I ever get bored with him when he is always changing? Just when I think I know him, he finds another skill, another way of doing something, another view of planet earth. My inspiration is no longer stifled and I also find new and better ways to surprise myself — and of course — him.

This mutual acceptance inspires us both to look at the world differently and constantly search for new and better ways of behaving and having fun.

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This story is about our lack of limits regarding creating a new career in the computer business and thus getting the free trip.

We both decided that we would like a new challenge so after a great deal of discussion, many glasses of wine and some laughter we decided to start a computer software company that specialized in computer security.

I think we registered it as DATACOMP SECURITY SERVICES at least from my recall. This was a serious business that suited Luke’s intellect but not necessarily our sense of fun.

We purchased an expensive IBM clone computer and decided to learn DOS. We set it up in our spare bedroom on a table and we would go into that room and learn how to use it. It was big, bulky and serious. A large hard disc and a screen and a clunky keyboard.

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The CLONE

For all the people who don’t remember DOS it is a computer language where every single thing that you type has to be absolutely correct. Not a full stop or a space wrong or the whole thing wouldn’t work.

For example to open the word processing program we would have to type;

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C:\>winword.exe

Then press ENTER.

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…and don’t forget the :\> in the whole shebang!

Another easy example:

When you want to print on a Laser Printer 2 on your network.

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C:\>net use lpt2 \\pserver\laser1 /persistent:yes,

and then press ENTER.

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We both started to learn DOS and it was excruciating. We would get so frustrated that we would actually cry real tears.

I remember the conversation when we decided to leave a box of tissues by the computer. It was a practical conversation about what was required if we were to succeed and still be able to see the manuals and screen while we were learning.

We didn’t give our frustration much attention we would simply sit there and cry, dab our eyes with the tissues and blow our noses.

We had no formal training in computers and no help from teachers let alone Google. Google was not to be invented for at least fifteen years later.

It was such a stretch — the pain of it was like purposely using a pair of pliers to slowly… and with great conviction….pull out our own finger-nails, one by one…

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It felt like an excruciating type of self-torture that was not to be ceased until the goal was reached.

You people who have never lived without Google simply can’t understand that at that time you had to get in your car and during opening hours — which was mainly work hours — go into to the library or a bookshop to get the books.  To make it even harder back then shops and libaries didn’t open after hours very much.

Sometimes I would go to a library or bookshop and have to order the book and it would take a couple of weeks or a month or two to arrive. This is the way it was then.

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Digger would lie on the manuals and soak up the knowledge.

Many of the computer tomes at the time were written by geeks not educators so they were really difficult to decipher and almost impossible to understand. All at once we were learning geek language, DOS and then finally the actual language we were going to program in such as “C” or “C++” etc.

I never did get to the programming.

The library had old computer information therefore we finally found out that we had to go to universities and buy the very latest text books.

We actually went to every university bookshop in Perth at the time that had computer studies. We bought all of the books for the courses we needed to know.  I remember having three text books on System Analysis and Design. By the time I had read them all I knew what to do.

It was expensive and then we had to actually allocate the time and brain space to read them with some sort of understanding.

We read and discussed them ad infinitum. In the bath, when drinking beer on a late Sunday afternoon, at the beach and we read and read until they started to make sense and slowly our brains became computer savvy.

Digger ever wanting to join in. He would study and then demonstrate different DOS commands.

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Luke focused on the programming side and I focused on the design side. I read huge books about systems analysis and design while he did the nit picking work of programming.

The whole time we were learning we were also each others teacher and student. We were relentless and used a kind type of “tough love” to gently and lovingly “bully” each other to keep going.

Neither of us had the time to attend the university courses. It is amazing how quickly you can learn when you don’t have lectures, assignments and exams to hold you up.

It was slow and agonizing pain as our neurons had to grow dendrites and our minds had to reshape so that we could be that perfect that we could type every single letter, space and symbol in the correct order.  Conversely when we had a mishap we could calmly and easily correct our mistakes.

After some time we got better at it and things started to move along…

Then we both realized that my Physiotherapy business would benefit from having a computer with the right software. That would require specialist software and there was nothing around that was suitable.

We then changed our minds and decided to develop software for Physiotherapists.

Luke researched this scenario and we decided that we needed a graphical interface so that I could write an exercise manual with graphics. The idea was to create a program that would print out individualized exercise programs for clients. Luke would write the program. Then write the user manual and I created the extensive exercise manual of over 400 exercises and write and publish that manual.

We designed a simple accounting program for Physiotherapists to go with it.

In the end Macintosh computers were the way to go. The IBM’s at the time had extremely limited graphics of the pac-man variety while Apple had beautiful crisp graphics of a high quality.

Our beautiful Mac +
Our beautiful Mac +

An absolute no brainer so we switched to the Macintosh +  computer, and replaced the clunker with a  beautiful being. I wrote this about it at the time.

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Macintosh Adoration — Wendy Schox 1988

When I switched on the Macintosh, the lights in my little old house flickered perceptibly, and the Macintosh made humming and tringing sounds as the disc searched to find itself, ready for the next sessions of musings.

Finally the disc ceased the noise and sat shining brightly waiting for me to sit at the keyboard and tap.

Reaching for the mouse I “double clicked” the word processing application and began.

Luke was ironing and as the thermostat of the iron caused the iron to repeatedly switch off and on I began to wonder why I was living in such a place.

My Macintosh had to suffer all sorts of electrical indignities because of the old wiring and dust in this house. Often when I worked at home the electrical chaos caused strange behavior from my computer, so much so, that I often had corrupted files.

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My new best friend a Mac +

This resulted in my Monday mornings being times to repair the computer before I could begin work.

I was addicted and I knew it, home was not the place to bring this small grey friend of mine.

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If only this worked!

Mac through all this just glowed and hummed, checked errors, gently reminded me with beeps, wizzes and trills when it was saving my thoughts on to the disk.

A gentle but powerful companion.

How could I leave Mac on its own in the office all weekend?

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After the IBM DOS clunker — how much easier was a Macintosh ? It was like distress and pain versus ease and joy.

We called our new company Schox Corporation – this was a mixture of our two surnames. Then we named our Physiotherapy program “Physi-soft™” and we were open for programming design and coding.

Together Luke and I worked mindfully and the programs were completed and tested at my clinic.

We had contacted Apple Computer Australia and they made us into “Certified Developers”. This meant that we could ring them for support, plus they would send us the latest information of what was happening in “Apple world”. Additionally we could attend conferences and get hardware at a discount etc. It was an absolute buzz to be included with all the geeks!

I felt that we were just impostors who had worked our guts out trying to understand the industry.

The next step was to write the manuals. Luke researched and we decided to take our inspiration from the beautiful Apple Manuals.

Apple had a saying that went something like this;

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Imagine that the screen is a quiet room

and everything you put on it is a noise.

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To this day I still refer to this phrase as it applies to many things in life. Steve Jobs may or may not have been a fun guy to know — however — he certainly understood beauty and quality and we were hooked.

We copied the Apple Manuals. This meant 12-point Garamond text with 14-point bold Tahoma headings, two returns between  paragraphs, fine lines (0.5 point) to separate subjects and wide columns. We learned about kerning and leading and included that in our manuals.

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Clean and with lots of white – Physi-soft™ Users Guide.

We then researched paper — I had no idea that the choice of paper was so extensive and Luke finally chose mat gloss 90gsm. Then binding, packaging, floppy disc covers and the list went on and on.

Every detail had to be correctly researched and then implemented. All of those tears and tissues started to pay off, we were able to do detail to the ‘nth degree.

I decided that the graphics for the exercises needed to have no gender, age or race.

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Zee

I developed a character that we called Zee. We hired a Graphic Artist—Steven to draw them. I spent ages physically showing Steven exactly how I wanted the exercise graphic to appear and what to emphasize.

I wanted the graphics to be so clear that a child could understand them without reading the description.

The exercise manual had hundreds of pictures that we had to scan, and then save at 300 dpi— any higher then we would run out of disc room — then we had to “box” each graphic in a clear box (yes this was a detail not to be missed) so that they would each sit on the page correctly, with the right amount of space around them.

I remember scanning saving and “boxing” for days.

There were two manuals the “user” manual and then the “exercise” manual.

We bought a laser printer. At the time they were $6,000 each at the Certified Developer discount price! This created some financial stress as getting software coded, was also a huge expense in both time and money. We printed the manuals and had them professionally bound.

Hundreds of hours of work, yet Luke and I enjoyed the challenge, as nothing could be as hard as the initial stages of this project.

Finally we finished and sent a copy off to Apple Computer Australia so that they could assess if the quality was OK.

There was a conference scheduled at Leura in the Blue Mountains out of Sydney. We went along but really wanted to stand out from the crowd because only two companies in Australia were going to be given a free trip to the USA by Apple Computer Australia.

This offer would pay for airfares, plus a conference booth at a World trade show in Washington DC. The whole lot was worth thousands of dollars and we wanted that trip. 

We gave this some discussion and I decided that I would have my head shaved and have a lightening bolt shaved into the side of my “Grace Jones” inspired crew cut.

I had very long blue black shiny thick hair that was probably my signature feature at the time. I had it all shaved off and the lightening bolts shaved in the side.

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Please notice the Femo broach of a lightening bolt in Apple colours.
We went ALL OUT to get that trip.

To drive our point home Luke and I decided to change our surnames to Schox. We paid the $79.00 filled in the forms and officially by deed pole became Luke and Wendy Schox of Schox Corporation

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My business card with lightening bolt!

Off to the conference we went and we were noticed!

Yes, we got the trip – how could they resist us?

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 Me in Washington DC six months later – my hair is long here.

Now how did that happen so quickly? I will write about that later…

Post script

Andrew Mason was one of my nerdy windsurfing computer friends at the time. He was the other Apple certified developer who won the other trip at the time so it was a win for Western Australia that year as only two companies got to go.

Andrew  wrote the following comment on my Facebook link when I posted this story.

“It’s all true. I still remember being at the Apple developer conference in Leura in the Blue Mountains, and Apple giving out CD ROMS of developer documentation. Unfortunately CD drives for the Mac were not yet available, and you sarcastically asked if we were supposed to hold the disks up to the light and read the zeroes and ones ourselves. Later when I asked you about changing your name to Schox by deed poll I remember you replied “it’s amazing what you can do with $20 and a sense of humour”. And Garamond is still my favourite font.”

Kia and I on the edge of returning to dust.

One of my favourite photographs of Kia reminds me of all the adventures we had outback in her childhood, this was before the time of mobile phones that could simply sweep over the vista and make an amazing shot. I had to carefully take shot after shot hoping that I could paste them together in the end and show a tad of what I was seeing.

It is a photograph of her in the sitting quietly in a gorge that is so vast and beautiful — she didn’t know that I was worried about the heat and my ability to get her back to the car. I was thinking “Maybe we could perish in the beautiful place — hopefully not”. At the same time I was just so happy to be walking in my country with her sharing the beauty.

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Kia is about 1/4 of the way up this picture seated on a ledge.

It all started when I was 8 months pregnant with Kia and I had a calling to be in the desert. Sort of like a pregnancy craving, it just had to be sated — no question!

I drove up to my parents farm in Wubin. At that time of the year they were doing the grey nomads thing and were on their property in Broome. I left my Mercedes Sports SLC 500 and took their Toyota tray top and went to the land of my childhood. The land east of Wubin, beyond the rabbit proof fence onto Ningham station.

During my childhood I spent time in the desert with my family checking out the vast lakes, ancient human markings, abandoned gold mines, creepy deserted towns and weird natural landmarks of the desert.

Kia on Wardagga when she was older. I took her and her friends back there often.

Wardagga is a monolith on Ningham station and it is larger around the base than Ullaroo (Ayres Rock) yet because it is in wooded desert it is not able to be seen until you are at its base.

It was at Wardagga where I and sat for 4 days at 8 months of pregnancy.

I did it so that my daughter could “know the land.

During this time I just walked on the rock and contemplated life. What it would be like to be a mother and what it would like for the being in my womb to be the child of a mother like me…

The view from the top of Wardagga - I took Kia here many times in her childhood

I actually slept on the tray top of the Toyota. I had never done that before I had always slept on the desert floor feeling the pulse of the land under my body as I slept. However becoming a mother seemed to make me more timid and I was very aware of how vulnerable I now was as a heavily pregnant mother.

I had factored in the “worst case scenario” situation that I could think of. That was going into labour when I was alone in the desert.

I knew that the average time for a first time labor was 12 hours therefore I could make it back to the farm in Wubin in 2 hours. From there I could telephone and call an ambulance.  This seemed like a fairly OK situation to me.

Why on earth didn’t I think to drive to the local service station in Paynes Find — that was closer? I could have thought to drive to the service station in Wubin so that I had people around me to support me. At that time I had that streak of independence — sort of like a silly teenager.

I have always said that I was a thirty seven year old teenager and then I had Kia.

Before this most wonderful event all I did was have fun doing lots of exciting things such as absailing, exploring the desert, sailing, running, rock climbing windsurfing off the back of Rotttnest from Eagle Bay until I couldn’t see land. Adventure was my life. When Kia was born I had three businesses to run! I had been hitch hiking around the planet in remote places for decades — generally I lived the life of a spoiled Western Brat.

Back to the desert and away from the past…

I was most fortunate to have four wonderful meditative days in the desert observing the land, so I didn’t have to test my back up plan.

I actually don’t remember that I told anyone where I was for those four days so perhaps my bravado was just a tad short of stupid?

All over Australia we have some of the most ancient art galleries in the world. They are out in the open where the art is all subtle earthy colours and abstract design.

Beautiful ancient art – it makes my heart sing

I took Kia to the desert on many a trip and when she was two years old we took a “big trip” across the centre of Australia. Just the two of us on the Gun Barrel Highway from Carnegie Station to Warburton then across the back blocks of Queensland and then up to Cape York. We must have travelled about nine thousand kilometres during this holiday.

On the way home we went “across the top” and back down the coast to Perth. When the opportunity was presented we would stop off at these places and take a peek.

One day in Queensland I noticed a road sign about an art sight and as we were due to stop for a snack I drove off the road down a dirt track.

In Queensland we found a gallery in the outback and we were the only people there.

Having travelled the world I find it amazing that a forty thousand year old art gallery is deserted. How does that happen? In Europe and Asia anything a few thousand years old is a cultural treasure with thousands of visitors.

Australia is one of the last incredible travel adventures in the world and luckily for me the rest of the world hasn’t discovered that yet.

There was an arrow sign showing that the art was up a steep winding stone strewn track.

I am a very light traveler so minimised what I took for a walk to see art. The minimum was a camera, car keys and a water bottle. Kia was just under three years old so she was light and portable. I put her in the sling and traipsed up the steep path to the sights with her happily on my hip.

We spent some time walking up along the track and observing the artworks that were high above us. The place was signed-posted with arrows. An arrow pointing along the path to me meant go that way. So, I did. I took photographs and followed the arrows.

All over Australia is rock art more ancient than the Pyramids!

The day was on the hot side of warm, one of those sleepy Australian days where even the blowflies sound slow. The occasional puffs of wind would rattle the dry leaves and swirl up some dust.

This art gallery had the music of the wind and more importantly the silences between the gusts.

The site was on the side of a hill and we finally came to a rise to one side where there was an arrow that pointed onwards through a small open-ended cave.

Kia in the open ended cave.

On the other side of the cave was another arrow pointing down what appeared to be a narrow animal or human track around the side of the hill.

My body likes to move and be strong so I was motivated onwards and upwards around the hill.

After about 20 minutes walk I had not seen another arrow so was very careful to take my bearings so that I would find my way back.

Kia happily sat in her human carriage and chatted away as I walked along. The weathered rocky hill had many unusual strange shapes and cut outs so the artistic sites were nature created rather than human.

At one stage we came to a natural passageway where the rocks each side appeared to be human hewn, yet I knew that they were natural. Inside was dark, very dry and cold and it was a sharp contrast from the heat of that day.

Kia in the natural passageway

When we came out the other end into the hot sun the disparity was like a slap it the face and we were again hit with the heat, flies and slow burning of muscles traipsing in unfamiliar territory where the slightest mistake could mean death by snake bite, strained ankle or lack of water.

The track was just as clear so I kept walking wondering if I would get to see more art. I was also calculating how dangerous it was to be in the bush with a young child with only a small bottle of water.

After another 20 minutes walk we came to an overhang. It was of such wonder that I placed Kia down and walked backwards so that I could get a shot.

After some time I realised that if I walked away any further Kia would not show up in the photograph.

Double click on this image and  1/3 of the way up the photo you will find Kia

That photograph again.

After the extreme photo opportunity I then put my girl back in the sling and carefully retraced my way back.

Kia didn’t understand the state of play so she asked for and drank all the water in the bottle. I just chose to slog on back to that car park…

We made it!