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Monthly Archives: May 2009

My deck of cards

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The few friends I have in this world who have been able to tolerate my peculiarities will know that on a very good day I exhibit all the social graces of a reclusive warthog with a migraine.
Included in my catalogue of aberrant behaviour, quite apart from refusing to apologise for defaming the warthog community, is a total disinterest in playing card games.
To me they are an absolutely frivolous waste of time and life.

Now, for the one person or warthog who I have not yet terminally offended, I wish to continue.

The love of playing cards even has the dubious distinction of at least once being incorporated into the lyrics of a popular song.  Tex Ritters 1948 "Deck of Cards" (here) tells the story of a soldier who took his cards to church in lieu of a prayer book, then proceeded to hoodwink his commanding officer with some cock and bull story about all the spiritual reminders his deck of cards provided him.   Rubbish.  The man should have been courtmartialled, manacled,  and sent to solitary confinement.

I humbly submit my own version of that song for your abhorrence.

When I see the Ace, it reminds me that playing cards is a singular waste of time, when I could be more productively occupied.
The Deuce reminds me that idleness of mind is contagious, and two or more people can simultaneously fritter their lives away with meaningless boredom.
When I see Three, I see a tricycle, with a young child more intelligently engaged in healthy outdoor activity when the adults are inside shuffling pieces of cardboard in some ancient heathen ritual.
When I see Four, I think of the 4 corners of the Earth which would never have been discovered if Columbus had similarly squandered his years with trivial pursuits.
When I see Five I remember that only one fifth of the Earth's surface is land, with humans having evolved onto it from the oceans.  Card playing represents evidence of a chink in that evolutionary process.
When I see Six, I know that God made heaven and Earth in 6 days, including presumably one stupid pack of cards.
When I see the Seven it reminds me that on the seventh day God rested and showed Adam and Eve how to play with them, and apparently some other things as well, given that there are several billion of us on the planet today.
When I see the Eight I think of the two complete games of Aussie Rules football, each with four quarters that I could have watched instead of playing cards.
The Nine, is for Channel 9, the broadcasting host of cricket, the most wonderful, complex, uplifting, subtle sport ever devised by mankind and infinitely more educational and entertaining than mindlessly turning a few picture cards upside down in the vain hope of finding something meaningful or profitable.
Ten reminds me of Bo Derek.

Fifty two is the number of cards in a pack.  There are also exactly the same number of matches in my matchbox.
After collecting every single pack of cards in the world I will ignite them in a conflagration the likes of which will make the Great Fire of London look like a precautionary backburn.

Then there will be Zero playing cards remaining.

Zero… strange coincidence the number of readers I have remaining at the conclusion of this dissertation.

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Sideshow alley

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Until relatively recent times the main tasks in human life involved the provision of food, clothing, fuel and shelter.  Sadly, and unnecessarily, for many in our world it remains their only occupation.  Survival.  Little surplus time remains for the indulgences and distractions many of us now take for granted.

In societies of affluence we now view hobbies and extracurricular activities as necessary and essential elements for our physical and psychological wellbeing.  
Indeed we used to have a colloquialism in this country which acknowledged that when our lives were full of sundry interests along with a busy working life,  it was enough "to stop you from farting in church".
A phrase now, I suspect, sadly languishing on the refuse pile of linguistic history.

My own past is littered with an assortment of dead-end distractions which consumed time and probably, if I cared to add it all up, a small fortune in money.

In childhood, perforated steel Meccano construction sets.
Toy boats made from pieces of balsa wood held together with glue that I could legally inhale and blissfully savour the modifications it was making to the functions of my cerebellum.
A Monopoly-like board game called "Oil" to prepare the boy for a life of magnate-hood.
Hundreds of postage stamps alerting me to life in Magyar and the Norfolk Islands and other magical places.
Triang model trains clattering through papier mache mountains.

Later, sparing my parents the expense;
Correspondence courses in Psychology and Geology commenced but never completed.
Golf clubs….including a glossy red fairway wood, of such atrocious design that it only worked correctly twice in one thousand swings.
Keyboards; squeeze, pedal, and one with spinning reverb and vibrato speakers.
Music; vinyl, cassette, CD, MP3, many played only once before either my tastes or technology altered.
Flight simulator hardware and software.  A hangar of 40 aircraft in which to escape to any destination of earth.

All a waste of time and money?    I think not.

For in between I also found time to work hard, support myself and raise a family.  The main event.

I am simply grateful for the good fortune which enabled me to attend all of the other sideshows surrounding it.

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Not about Megan

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Television travel documentaries rarely exceed the high standards set by the Lonely Planet Pilot Guides (Globe Trekkers) series.

Megan is one of the guides who I have chosen completely at random, and I hope no-one will accuse me of favouritism for including her for illustrative purposes, whilst ignoring all the male presenters.

Each episode is an informative travelogue providing historical background, as well as current information for travellers.

Megan is just here to advertise the product. Unfortunately something I wrote last year during a bout of youthful hormonal imbalance dwelled a little too much on Ms McCormicks own personal body of work, and failed to give sufficient tribute to the exceptionally good production values of the entire Pilot Guide series.

It is shown on Australian TV at 12.30 on Thursdays.
An hour of Pilot Guides leaves me with an understanding of all those exotic destinations, and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside with desires and dreams

for travel.

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Backing up

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It is time for me to fess up.

GOF has an obsession. 
An obsession to provide backups and backup plans for lots of things in life.

I will claim that it is driven by necessity, given that 45 years of my life have been lived in places not served by city amenities like water and electricity supply.

If a psychiatrist ever got hold of me I suspect a different opinion would be proffered, along with a lot of muttering about my "need to control".

The diesel powered water pump way down the hill beside the dam which provides our house water has a backup pump, for use in the event of failure of pump No. 1.

The house water tank has a backup tank up on the hill, along with a couple of hundred metres of poly pipe to connect it if required.

The solar power supply has a 60 year old diesel generator for emergency use if the sun does not shine enough.
( and no, Mrs GOF, some new man getting into Brooke's knickers on Bold and Beautiful does not constitute an emergency of sufficient magnitude to start the generator on a cloudy day simply to watch television.)

This backup generator has another petrol generator on standby.

Every piece of machinery has a spare fanbelt, injector, sparkplug, filter and dooverlackey in the shed.  Many of these dooverlackeys have been sitting there for 25 years and never been called into service.

Mrs GOF's little lawn mower has a backup thoughtfully provided by me, so she will always be able to enjoy the health benefits of pushing one or the other around our one acre of lawn, whilst wearing her little denim shorts.

There are enough pairs of work shoes in various stages of dilapidation cluttering the verandah so that if it rains for 40 days and 40 nights, I will at least have a dry pair of shoes ready for when Uncle Noah Onassis comes to pick me up in his luxury yacht.

Our cupboard is filled with enough tinned food to feed an army of invaders for a week. (or if Elle ever turns up, enough to keep her adequately victualised for a month while we discuss world affairs.)

I also have a more personal backup story to reveal.
A very long time ago I found myself on a marriage train which was rapidly running out of track and heading for a very deep ravine.
It became obvious that I was going to need to search for, then jump onto, another train.  (this may well prove to be a poor choice of metaphor)
The first suitable one travelling in my direction turned out to be equivalent to the Orient Express with luxurious suspension, accommodation, dining and sleeping facilities. 
It also has, after 29 years of travel, no terminus in sight.

Yes, backups have served me well in this life.

Now, if someone can just provide me with a backup youthful body to replace this old worn out heap of junk, then I will be forever grateful.

P.S.  For the mechanically inclined, the green diesel engine depicted above is a 6 HP Ronaldson-Tippet  800 rpm, manufactured around 1950 in Ballarat, Australia.

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Guan’s bi-tri-penta-whatever-cycle

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The Bucket has always held permanent tenure over Row A, centre seat number 20, when it comes to providing applause for those gifted individuals who choose to lead the rest of us mediocre mortals by providing innovative design.

So it is time For Comrade Guan Bahua of China to step into the spotlight of centre stage and accept his deserved accolades from the rest of the world.

In the possibly forlorn hope of dispelling the rumour that this column contains little more than piss and wind, I have formed a business partnership with Mr Guan to market superior products to those nations labouring under the weight of flawed systems and objects.

Worldwide Patent Applications have been lodged for the following;

1. Kaleidoscopic traffic lights.  Each set individually equipped with an electronic equivalent of the WW2 enigma code machines.  Every day they will choose three new random colours from a palette of 75 to display in place of the repetitive and outdated red, amber and green. 

2. Ecologically sustainable telephone directories. These will be published with people in order of advancing chronological age rather than alphabetical listing.  Periodically just rip a few pages off the back to remove those subscribers who have probably dropped off the perch, and staple an annual supplement of new arrivals onto the front.  The pages off the back will be recycled to produce the new front pages.  See?  Simplicity itself.

3.Retributive smoke detectors.   They will spontaneously combust if you fail to replace the batteries after 12 months.

A prospectus is available from Guan-Gof Technological Solutions.

Cash donations may be made by following the links at  They will be gratefully received and promptly misappropriated

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Picnic time

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There is an old Hungarian saying which goes like this;
"Before you have a chance to look around, the picnic is over."

At my picnic, the food has already been served and consumed. The leftovers, spills, and crumbs cleaned up, and I have settled with my back against an old tree, glass of port in hand, to savour the memory of roads travelled, and to simply enjoy "being" in the space that surrounds me.

As I look around my world I find constant reminders that, when it comes to happiness, it is certainly a matter of "different strokes for different folks."

I have previously provided a glowing report of my favourite traditional old-fashioned Aussie breakfast joint in Cairns. 
A place where, once a week, Mrs GOF and I pause in our work travels at 5 am to enjoy food and conviviality.

Each time we visit, there is the same group of taxi drivers also refuelling after their night shift.  Among them, one looks like Clive James. Another Keith Richards. And then there's Steve Martin. They are all somewhere around my age, and, to phrase it politely, all very large gentlemen.  They chain smoke while enjoying large helpings of greasy bacon and eggs washed down with bottomless cups of coffee.  I presume they are in attendance most days of the week.
Some of their conversation involves sharing graphic updates of their current health problems, ailments, and treatments.

I choose to write about them because this group of men, regardless of the topic of conversation, exude happiness in bucketloads.  Their laughter and good humour infects all patrons within earshot.  They are content in their own skins, and find comfort, companionship and cameraderie with their contemporaries by sharing a common gender and occupation.

Perhaps in a way I envy them, yet I know their lifestyle is not for me.  I derive equal happiness and contentment from "aloneness" and my own company and solitary occupation.

So…..long live my taxi driver "friends".
You have each, unknowingly, contributed in a small way to my wonderful picnic.

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Just farnarkling

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The word "farnarkling" has become firmly entrenched in the GOF family lexicon.  From the verb "to farnarkle" it was coined in Australia back in the days when television pictures only came in black and white.
It means to waste time, fart around, or otherwise indulge in an unproductive occupation.

For a brief time it was frivolously redeployed as the name for a team sport where underwear was worn on the outside of normal clothing.  This was however only a temporary perversion of its true etymology.

When Globet was born I tried my very best to ensure "farnarkle" was the very first word she would annunciate to the world.  It was not to be.  She was a miserable failure in that regard, merely siding with the masses by uttering something predictable like "mama" or "ice cream" through the dribble and bubbles.

A word which rolls so beautifully off the tongue obviously deserves wider promulgation.  
This is why I am placing it before my intelligent and discerning readership.  It is a word which, among many applications, also elegantly and succinctly describes the process of blogging.  Are we not, every single one of us, simply farnarkling.  Could we not be doing something more useful with our lives?
I mean, for heavens sake, right at this moment you are reading an epistle of drivel penned by some odd dude called GOF.  And I have spent a lot of potentially productive time writing this rubbish.
I rest my case m'lud.

In an attempt to introduce farnarkling to a level of International acceptance I have taken the liberty of drafting an amendment to the Greenpeace Constitution Clause 7 item (d).

" Our Organisation will cease to farnarkle with the Japanese whaling fleet by indulging in such farnarkling activities as throwing abuse and paint bombs.
We are deeply indebted to Mr GOF of Australia who has manufactured for us a very large harpoon equipped with a small but adequate explosive device sufficient to promptly relocate one whaling mother ship to the floor of the ocean.
This one simple action will effectively and promptly terminate all illegal commercial-whaling-in-the-name- of-research activities.
We need not be concerned at ramifications from International Courts of Law who have reputations for ineffectiveness and farnarkling second to none.  No legal decision against us will be made for at least 50 years, by which time whale populations will have returned to normal, and populous pods of them will be happily farnarkling in the oceans of the world. "

And who said blogging can't change our planet?

So, my friends, go forth and farnarkle.

I think I might just go forth and seek some psychiatric help.

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Silence is not always golden

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(With thanks to Chris, my pilot friend, who was very much in my mind while writing the penultimate sentence in this story.)

One of the most disconcerting scenarios for pilots of single engined aircraft is "lack of noise".  That moment when the grunt of horse power in front of you ceases to be, and all that remains is the hissssss of air as you decend rapidly through it at 200 kph terminating with an inevitable "kerthunk".
In my very modest flying career it occurred twice.  Fortunately both times in outback Australia where there was adequate flat land available to ensure minimal kerthunkage.

In Papua New Guinea engine failure is an entirely different and more serious matter.  Terrain and weather is inhospitable, so aircraft maintenance is necessarily conducted to a high standard.

Despite this attention to detail, certain aircraft gained bad reputations and pilots sometimes refused to fly them. 
Cessna once produced an elongated 206 at least one of which, according to some pilots, flew with all the elegance of a supermodel working the parallel bars and pommel horse, and it earned such an appalling reputation that it was removed from service.

Another Piper aircraft was mothballed for a very long time after a series of mishaps and repairs, and gaining a nasty reputation for being rather loathe to leave mother earth during test flights.

The Cessna 206 has a worldwide reputation as a rugged and reliable cargo carrying workhorse, but P2-BCB, had a series of mishaps in some sort of mid-life crisis which must have made at least a couple of pilots wonder whether or not flying should be left to the birds.
Firstly at Pindiu, a short sloping one-way grassed bush airstrip in PNG at 3000 feet altitude, the nosewheel strut fractured after landing, allowing the propeller to do a fair imitation of a horticultural rotovator before coming to an undignified nose-in-the-ground halt.
Two weeks later it was repaired, but shortly after takeoff it apparently decided it didn't want to be an aeroplane anymore and with total engine failure crashed back to earth with fortunately no serious injury to the pilot.
(The memory of watching this incident occur will never leave me.)
P2-BCB was however not finished with providing excitement for pilots.  It was dismantled at Pindiu for transport to, and reconstruction in the regional town of Lae.
The fuselage, minus wings, being helicoptered out in a sling under the chopper began to rotate uncontrollably and had to be jettisoned on a remote beach to prevent the helicopter from crashing.
Eventually the aircraft was rebuilt and put back into service.

I once very briefly considered upgrading my qualifications and beginning a career as a commercial pilot, but  rapidly came to my senses understanding that I had neither the aptitude nor the unrelenting commitment to excellence required.

It is a profession best left to those with a singular passion for flying, and a natural gift of airmanship.

The 155 passengers aboard Captain Sullenbergers Airbus earlier this year would agree with me, after he successfully and safely alighted them all on the Hudson River after a serious case (very rare in twin and multi-engined aircraft) of total "lack of noise".

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