Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bobbin Head

Yesterday I stole myself out to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, situated at the upper-north shore of Sydney, for a bushwalk. I'd been looking forward to some serious tree action all week, to immerse myself in primal, living 'real' estate. The only problem was that, despite the closing down of summer and the arrival of autumnal equinox, it turned out to be one of the steamiest and hottest days of the year. By the time I finished my walk after some three or so hours I was ready to combust, hyperventilating and sweating as I was almost dangerously. And looking ahead at the weather forecast that's projected onto the coming week, I can see no sign of an evening come-down in temperatures. It's usually by late-March that morning minimum temperatures begin their healing descent into cooler, sleep-easy realms.

I stopped off at Turramurra on the way to the national park. Turramurra, like all of the upper-north shore, is a leafy village that's bisected by the Pacific Highway. There remains an air of hazy, supernal nonchalance about Turramurra, as if old-standing values remain sacrosanct in the many leaves that breathe their living lives there. If I were to suddenly be transported back to 1967, I would be sure to find that the suburb would feel no different. Turramurra, in its lofty leafiness, seems to transcend both time and place, and with it, the prevailing attitudes of those who dwell in somewhat 'lesser' locales.

I turned into Bobbin Head Road and drove right to the end. My great-uncle - I call him the "main man" - lives with his wife in a retirement village right up at the end of Bobbin Head Road where one of the many entrances to the national park is situated. I didn't visit him but I would like to sometime.

My first port of call on my hike took me to the 'Sphinx'. It was kind of like a mini-Egypt with gum trees in the background.

Here is the Bobbin Head in. I love Art Deco architecture and fonts.

A view from Bobbin Head Trail when descending into Bobbin Head.

Classic Australian bush. Ku-ring-gai National Park was the locale for the filming of the 'Skippy the bush kangaroo' series c. late sixties.

Down at the Bobbin Head picnic grounds.
Ubiquitous (and happy) ducks.

This tree will be glowing amber within the next few weeks.
I love interesting rock formations. You can see a face in this one. You can see faces in most rock formations if you look hard enough.

Gorgeous Gecko!!

This lizard was huge! And beautiful. It stuck its tongue out. It wasn't blue.
Twisty tai-chi roots.

It amazes me how Ku-ring-gai National Park, situated at the northern end of Sydney, differs markedly in vibe from the Royal National Park that's situated at the southern-most end of Sydney. Whilst the fauna, for the most part, remains the same, you'll find that Ku-ring-gai has a vibrant, mercurial, even "warring" energy about it. The Royal National park, on the other hand, is more sedate, damp, more ancient in its emanation, as if she will not release her secrets easily, if at all. In Ku-ring-gai, if you gaze at an interesting flower or herb, you can feel the spirit of the land bursting to tell you of its properties and powers. I love the Royal National Park, but I think I'll come to open myself up to Ku-ring-gai more.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

school daze (aka ancient history)

I've been thinking a lot about my old school subjects recently. School, I finished 23 years ago. I've taken to discussing school subjects with friends, such as discussing which subjects we excelled in and those we bombed, and so forth. I've no clear idea as to why I'm harking back to an era that passed over in October 1987. I suppose I'm merely manifesting my incorrigible quirkiness and way of mentalising everything, the present, the future and the past. Maybe it's all because of Facebook. I've been making facebook-friends with people I went to school with and hadn't thought about for 23 years since leaving school. I suspect my nostalgia buttons are reignited as I wonder about all those old faces (or older faces) on Facebook of those I went to school with 23-plus years ago. Maybe I'm nostalgic because I'm hitting 40 and I'm wondering what the hell have I done with my life?? Other than learn piano. Or acquire a small(-ish) collection of acoustic guitars & basses. Which is worthwhile in itself. Kind of.

Relating to this, another of my current obsessions is 'brain power'. To this end I've enrolled in Lumosity courses that provide a series of games designed to increase brain power, in those facets such as speed, memory, flexibility, focus, information processing, visual perception, etc. So far so good, but some of these games are positively nightmarish!! I love the birdwatching game, and the word game, but 'memory match' and 'monster garden' are positively freakish, relying of vast quantity of memory to achieve great results. Nevertheless, I'm doing well with it and will continue on with the course. I do a session almost daily and each session takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. At present I'm in the top 77% of users in my age group 5 years younger and older.

School. I was a very average primary school student. It wasn't until I hit about year 5, in a new school, that I began to demonstrate some degree of academic prowess. By the time I was in year 7 I found myself streamed in the higher maths level. I got good results in maths, physics and chemistry. English started to fire up for me too, racing into the advanced stream by years 9 & 10. I failed Biology in year 10. And in year 11 and 12 I was failing economics until I decided to pull my socks up, to which I did very well with the subject in my final exam in 1987.

I was always good at history. I found myself to be particularly good at Ancient History, especially Ancient Greece. I should have taken the Ancient History prize. Really, that prize was mine. It occured to me just last week of the distinct possibility of a small conspiracy against me at that school in my final year. I received a very 'lukewarm' school reference. A few years later I returned to the school and quietly demanded to the headmaster to issue me with a much more positive reference, to which he did. I sensed an almost open hostility in my final year from a group of teachers that weren't even teaching year 12. These were the brat-packers, surfer, lay-about teachers who appeared macho and racist in their manner and outlook. I was musical and a thinker and was known, back then, to have an intense glare. Outwardly I was well-behaved, but my whole being emanated belligerence and non-conformity toward the established mode of things. Thankfully I'm a lot more laid back now, and comfortable in just being myself.

They weren't very good teachers, on the whole, at that school. There were a couple, or 3, very good English teachers but the others were woeful. The head of English - he was terrific - died of AIDS. The other guy, Mr Davis, went to teach at another school. And the other good English teacher was a cadet-master with strange proclivities, but he was a good English teacher. Regrettably I tended to have the poor teachers for most of my stream. I don't recall being taught grammar except fleetingly. Still, I flew into advanced English in high school and took the full three units of it. I'd do especially well with English if I liked the book we were studying at the time. And back then my brain was spongey and young enough to handle a wide oeuvre of literature, including two of Jane Austen's books. I wouldn't read Jane Austen now, the reason being that my brain as it is now wouldn't absorb this material, but I enjoyed it at the time. I thoroughly enjoyed 'Pride and Prejudice' but found 'Emma' something of an endurance test. I vividly recall coming up to Chapter 35 and thinking out aloud that there were another 20 chapters to go after that!

But if I could go back I would've taken 3-units of Ancient History instead.

I would've taken higher levels of Maths too, and kept on with Physics & Chemistry in the senior years, all of which came naturally to me. But you can't do everything. I was taken by music and the written word back then, still am, so the maths had to give. I still did the advanced stream of maths, but only 2 units of it.

The subject I did best at for my HSC was the 1-unit subject of 'General Studies'. I must have come in the very top stream in the state for this subject, scoring 47 out of 50. It helped that I subscribed to Time magazine throughout 1987. Notwithstanding, my best attribute academically is a keen sense of perception and understanding, and General Studies allowed me to convey these skills in the wider context of current events.

And funnily enough, my worst subject at school was Music. Music didn't matter so much. I was doing 12 units of study and only the top 10 were counted. Music was my relief period, my sanity check, to get away from the awful, drab, normal subjects and enjoy a bit of r&r with a few peers. I was playing trombone. I played very well in the trials but I bombed the HSC performance. I didn't care. Trombone was never my passion although I enjoyed playing in the school orchestra. And I recall showing the examiners a notated copy of a song of mine. I vaguely remember all those innocent notes written by a 17-year old hand. Must've been cute. Anyway, I did much better with Music when I took it up at tertiary level.

I'll say it again; I can't believe how fast time's flown since 1987. The dates themselves don't matter, the bottom line is that time goes by fast. I feel better now I've written this down. I feel I can leave it behind me. For life is about to 'begin'. Life begins at 40.

Unless you're John Lennon.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

the hunt is on

The hunt is on. I inspected a couple of lovely, small art deco apartments in Kingsford this morning, two blocks away from UNSW. My nephew and I met up for some breakfast at one of the numerous cafes on Coogee Bay Road, accompanying me later to the inspections for some guidance and moral support, of which there was plenty, and of which I'm grateful.

My problem is that I just don't have a bloodlust for property, meaning that I'm just not going to jump over hoops to be the highest bidder. Property prices are exorbitant, but if these are the prices people are willing to pay, or to be more precise, borrow from the bank, then so be it. I think it's best to proceed carefully and inspect as many properties as possible before making the decision to jump through the hoop like an innocent dolphin at a friggin' playpark.

The apartments I inspected were within two attractive dark-red brick art deco blocks standing right next to each other. One was a two-bedder with no balcony and no garage but a car-space instead. It was renovated and presented tastefully. There were no laundry facilities within the apartment. The second apartment was a one-bedder that had a small balcony and lock-up garage, but the kitchen was rather shonky and in need of some tasteful renovation, with a washing machine dangling around in one of the corners. All up though, I felt pleased to be inspecting these properties. Art Deco apartments tend to have very homely room differentiation, and with high ceilings, are actually very cosy and livable. They're architecturally very well designed and built.

Both apartments were like thoroughfares for the royal easter show, or new years eve in the city. There are loads of people sniffing around for property right now. They all tend to wear the same, rather circumspect, facial expressions at these inspections, like they've sniffed bad egg, or been caught with their dirty laundry. It's pretty much the same expression you see in people who are standing in queues to buy lottery tickets. Eye contact is avoided. And that's a shame really. We should all see this caper for what it is and rejoice that we're alive and well enough to walk up the stairs to view the apartment in the first place!!!

Unless I become more motivated I'll never buy anything. I don't enjoy dealing with solicitors and building inspections etc. But this is the plan: I'll inspect a lot, see a lot, and then I'll decide on what I really want. And when I think about it, what I want is a permaculture garden somewhere out of the city. But the city is where the work and art is. We're back at the bottom of the circle now.

And if you're bidding soon, good luck to you! ;)

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...