For Lease

The sign surrendered long ago,
it now hangs loose, bored,
content to let the wind
push it around,
rattle its chains,
rusted but resilient;
Harold J Crowley & Sons
Picture Framers.

Inside, still silent air yearns
for an open door, a breeze,
a voice, the smell of glue,
a creaking floorboard,
a broom to agitate,
not just a scattered pile
of unopened mail.

The morning sun throws shafts of light
illuminating dust,
suspended in time,
drifting through faint
echoes of lost dreams
now half-obscured
by peeling window paint,
graffiti, and shadows.

(from Silence… – my collection of poems)

Vasse Felix is Heaven on a Plate

I don’t often write about food, but for the Vasse Felix restaurant I have made an exception. This is a gorgeous winery in the Margaret River region – famous for it’s world class wine. Vasse Felix does a wonderful selection – my favourite being the Cabernet Merlot, although the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is also a stand out for me.

But to the food – the glorious food. I should have got a copy of the menu of the day, but here goes from memory. I started with the scampi (raw I think – but I’m no expert) which was accompanied with a sort of salad. This took me right to the pearly gates – in a good way! The main course was lamb off the bone which just dissolved in my mouth accompanied by enough vegetables to enhance he experience, but not too many to take away from the lamb. I was definitely in heaven. Then, oh then, there was the dessert. It was a rich chocolate, with cardamon sponge, a delicious ice-cream, and passionfruit – and then I realised that I had scored a time-share in heaven. The staff were knowledgeable and vivacious, the wine was it’s usual excellent self, and the setting, overlooking the creek lined with tall eucalypts on one site and the vines on the other, snuggling under a blue sky, was perfect. And the price was very good – no complaints from me after that meal.

Full marks for Vasse Felix. It’s been 5 years since I ate there (that was the best meal I have had, at least up until now) and it will certainly not be 5 years until I return. This has to be one of the best restaurants in Australia.

Eat there – that’s an order!

Geoffrey the Sodslopper

Geoffrey the Sodslopper lived in what is now Shropshire on the Welsh border. He was born shortly before the Statute of Merton was agreed between Henry III and the barons of England in 1235. He never realised that this statute considered the first English statute and became the basis for English common law.

The Statute of Merton allowed the Lord of the Manor to enclose common land and it also set out how manorial lords could assert rights over waste land. This was all about rights and ownership. Geoffrey never really appreciated that it allowed his mother to bequeath her land to him when she died, even thought his father was long since dead. He was only 16 at the time and had bigger things on his mind.

Geoffrey soon got bored with farming and took to spending long periods of time leaning on his equipment and thinking. He thought about many things, but what he eventually realised was that the English language was very limiting. While he admitted that it stole many words from other languages, and was a bit a cobbled together form of communication, he noticed that it very rarely included new words – totally new words. Geoffrey took upon himself to invent words.

The local people of his village Titley-on-the-Wrash tolerated the young man’s eccentricities. Many of them wished that he would find a good woman and settle his mind to the job of farming (or sodslopping as Geoffrey insisted on calling it.). He didn’t. Some of the words he came up with are listed below. He was unaware that Chuntage was an actual village in Lincolnshire, whose residents, on hearing his definition, reluctantly agreed it was probably not too far from the truth. It later became a slang word for a large chin area and the original meaning was lost in the mists of history, however it is my pleasure to reacquaint you with its true meaning.

Geoffrey’s first five words were:

Chuntage – a period of time so boring that it is physically painful.

Muttocks! – an all-purpose, all-encompassing swearword.

Twattled – to be ignored by your friends and acquaintances after doing something very silly.

Foddybucked – a feeling of general unwellness and lethargy.

Crummergunt – a person or object that is a complete waste of space with no redeeming features.

Eventually the village head, Stephen the Long-Suffering, took Geoffrey to one side and had a quiet word with him. Geoffrey always insisted his words were used when speaking to him and it is alleged that Stephen said:

‘Muttocks! Geoffrey. Talking to you is complete Chuntage. It makes one feel quite foddybucked. You’re becoming a real crummergunt and in danger of being twattled by the whole village.’

Geoffrey took this to heart and retreated to his farm where it is alleged he invented a whole new language before his untimely death at the hands of King Henry III soldiers. They passed through on their way to Wales to subdue the locals there. When they accosted him in his fields, they asked who he was and what he was doing. He wasn’t used top company and told them, in his own language, that he was, in fact English. They couldn’t understand him and he refused to speak English, so they decided he must be a Welsh spy and promptly executed him on the spot. His language died with him – and that was probably a good thing according to the inhabitants of Titley-on-the-Wrash.

This is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History, available at this site



When silence was banished,
sent into oblivion, hiding between
each sound wave, wary of discovery,
now surplus – a waste
of time and space
derided as unproductive –
it lay dormant,

no longer there to reflect
the moment before,
wanted or not,
best ignored, passed over
lest it judge, question
accuse –
slow down life.

Still silence survives,
sneaking into lives as
insidious peace,
unwanted quiet,
calming angst and haste,
ambushing the unwary
with sudden serenity.

(Exile is a poem from my book Silence…)

Fairytales – another of the small things in life

I have been thinking about fairytales – and for once I am not being satirical! Just recently I sat down to watch Enchanted – great movie – a sexy Amy Adams might have helped too. But seriously – it’s a wonderful film – full of joy. It’s not my usual fayre of Crime Thrillers, Film Noir, The Bourne series, sci-fi etc, but I’m beginning to like them more. And I don’t even have kids to watch them with. The same is true for Stardust, and more recently Snow White and the Huntsman – although I think the wicked witch steals the show. But enough of me dribbling on. Watch any of these movies and I guarantee that you’ll love them. Fairy tales are one of the small things that make life great – even the dark Brother’s Grimm ones.


My Other Half

My Other Half

At night, in silence,
as I lie awake,
listen to you breathe,
I sometimes wonder
what my life would be,
if not for your smile.
It then comes to me –
it simply wouldn’t

Rogue Sheep – a danger in the Aussie outback!

In Spring 1993 I was doing soil sampling, putting grids in for drilling, or doing any one of the jobs an exploration assistant does. Spring is also the time that the days can become just that little too warm for rogue sheep.

Rogue sheep? 

Yes. Rogue sheep.

Most, if not all, of the land on which I went soil sampling, putting in grids, cleaning up, or drilling, was part of one sheep station or another. These are vast holdings that can contain thousands of square kilometres of land. Just imagine the difficulty in keeping the fences in good shape. Also, try imagining the difficulty in making sure that all the sheep are rounded up when it comes time to shear them. This is where rogue sheep come into their own.

Bearing that in mind, there is one more thing that I want you to try and imagine. Picture wandering though the outback and coming across the stereotypical galvanised iron windmill-powered water pump and sheep troughs. The scrubby bush is quite thick around here and this clearing provides a pleasant place to stop for a break. The windmill is clanking, almost screaming, along but producing no water – the farmer probably hasn’t been around to maintain it yet – and the troughs are dry. Then there is a rustling sound and an apparition appears out of the bush. It looks like a sheep, but it has wool hanging off its severely matted fleece and wild red eyes that seem to be struggling to focus. You have been found by a rogue sheep.

It has escaped shearing for a couple of years and is now half-crazed by the heat caused by three years of wool growth. A closer look and you see that it has seen you and is struggling to decide what you are, as short-circuits overcome normal thinking. The one thing it knows is that you are at the water trough and that is where it wants to go. It is time to move, and move swiftly. An assault by a crazy sheep can do you some serious damage.

A spring thunderstorm can be the end for these poor creatures. As their fleeces become saturated, the weight can cause them to be unable to walk. They collapse and die from exhaustion, leaving only the smell of death, scattered bones, and some wool as a reminder of their presence. In bad shape or not, these creatures need to be avoided as they are unpredictable. I didn’t want to have to go back to Leonora and admit to being gored by a sheep. A camel would have been acceptable, and there are plenty of feral camels out on the outback, and even an enraged goat, and there are so many feral goats in the outback that it’s not funny, but not Shaun the sheep.

So if you’re out in the bush in Spring keep your eyes out for crazed red-eyes rams that have lost their grip on sanity. I mean it!