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Reasons why pilots fly

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Occasionally in the past I’ve tried to describe the sense of magic, freedom and exhilaration that comes with flying aeroplanes. Each time my vocabulary has disappointingly lacked appropriate superlatives. Now I’ve discovered a 4-minute video which does the job much better.

It is a pilot’s eye view of the final approach into Queenstown, New Zealand. Beginning with breathtaking views of solid gold mountain tops before descending through a blanket of cloud. We are then treated to aviation’s most astonishing conjuring trick; making an airport runway appear out of nowhere.

Instrument Landing Systems must surely be high on the list of mankind’s greatest technological achievements.


PS….It does however worry me slightly that the aircraft still seems to be traveling rather fast when the video cuts out at the far end of the runway.

Inga and the bird

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First some essential definitions for the benefit of my new reader;
Inga is my adult daughter who lives and works as far away from me as she possibly can without having to leave continental Australia.

Birds are 2 -legged animals which fly in the sky. They all have feathers unless one happens to be a plucked chicken equipped with a GOF Mk1, 3-stage experimental rocket strapped to it’s undercarriage.
Oops……newcomer’s gone already.
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Next thing;  I now need to waste some of your time with history;

I have occasionally written about the ‘sense of place’ and connection with the land that Mrs GOF and I feel after having lived for 30 years on this soggy and secluded place which has nurtured us, provided food and water, and protected us from harm.
White-fellas in Australia have a difficult time coming to terms with the spiritual depth of connection to ‘country’ that aboriginal people feel, but I think I am beginning to understand.

I’m guessing Inga feels something similar even though she will have her own unique perspective.  She was only an infant when we arrived here and to this day she remains the only child who was raised to adulthood in this neck of the woods.  Today there are three children in the neighbourhood, but in Inga’s day there was only herself.  She grew up with Merial her pet cow, played in the mud and wandered around our 46 acres making her own entertainment. Inga’s formative years were spent being an integral part of this very special natural environment.

Something attracts her back here for holidays every year and I’d venture to suggest that there is a force at play which is greater than simply the close relationship she has with her parents.
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And finally; The main event;

parrot feeding time

Every morning either Mrs GOF or I distribute a cupfull of bird seed on the garden path as supplementary feed for the wild birds living in the rainforest.  We’ve been doing this for at least twenty years.  Depending on the season, between 50 and 100 individuals arrive. King parrots, emerald doves and assorted finches. Whenever we try to approach them, they all flock-off up into nearby trees until we’ve disappeared from view, then they fly back down again to resume eating.  We’ve made several attempts in the past to ‘tame’ some of them and failed, so they will forever remain wild birds.

Last Christmas Inga came home for two weeks. Apparently this must have been a very tiring experience because most mornings she got out of bed well after the birds had eaten their breakfast and disappeared back into the rainforest.

On the final morning she was up early making preparations to travel back home to Melbourne.  As soon as she went out onto the verandah with a small handful of seed a lone King parrot came out of the blue and landed on the roof above her head. It peered over the guttering at her before fluttering down and landing on her arm.  Then it ate all the food from her hand before taking off again into the bush.

There is only one acceptable explanation. 

Inga was offering a token departing gift to Mother Nature in appreciation of the connection she has with this ‘country‘ and the bird was accepting it on behalf of all the spirits of our land and thanking her for returning.

Until such time as science can provide me with a more sublime conclusion, I’m going to cherish this one.

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A flabbergasted Mrs GOF hurriedly found a camera to record the moment.

Ingabird 1


Big Mama surveillance

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On the evening of the winter solstice last month, the Annual Conference of Small Creatures was held under the Ancient Wattle situated on top of Sacred Mountain on GOF’s Paradise.

In recent years, delegates had chosen to disrespectfully heap scorn upon the Divine Creator Bubbidge for his creationary ineptitude which left GOF’s Paradise with something the wise oracular dung beetle often referred to as ‘seasonal variation’.  The general consensus was that a far superior model would have included year-round constant temperatures between 20C and 28C, with a ten-minute zephyr of breeze on the hour every hour and a shower of rain each night between ten and eleven to compensate for the daily evaporation.

This year the mood of the gathering was more sombre in light of the rumour that GOF’s Paradise would come to an end in December 2012.

In order to cover all bases, the steering committee had commissioned renowned American artist and sculptor Reverend W. Wood-Pecker to carve an image of Creator Bubbidge into the trunk of the Ancient Wattle.
The life-sized work, precisely two and a half poofteenths high and three-eighths wide was unveiled at the beginning of the conference to the massed flapping of wings and thumping of thoraxes from the gathered devotees.

After the din had died down Conference carried a Motion of No Confidence in the management of GOF’s Paradise, particularly in regard to surveillance. It was noted that in recent times anything which moved, immediately had Mrs GOF’s macro camera lens shoved into it’s face.

The following evidence was tendered to Conference;

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Small spider on a dead gladioli flower

Garden spider hanging out on lemon grass

Blue fly peering at Mrs GOF over a taro leaf

Grasshopper nymph sunbaking on banana leaf

Moulting locust under choko leaves

Native bees harvesting hippeastrum flower nectar

Tiny insect on brachiaria grass flower head

The Undara Lava Tubes

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Another ‘Learning Through Activity’ initiative for Primary School children from The Bucket’s Education Department.


Hello boys and girls.

Grandpa GOF here again, and today we are going to learn all about Australia’s awesome Undara Lava Tubes. When you finish reading this I’ll show you how to do an experiment at home to demonstrate how it all came about.

Handsome young man and his beautiful daughter in a lava tube

190,000 years ago in the Cainozoic Era, slightly before God was invented and well before Pythagoras discovered the lost hypotenuse, the small volcano Undara made a liar out of all the highly-paid Vulcanologists who had been pretending for years that they knew what was going to happen.

Undara suddenly spewed lava at the rate of 1000 cubic metres every second which is like, well you know, it’s like a really really awesome and cool amount of lava except that it was like really really hot, like 1200 degrees Celsius which is like enough to singe your grandma’s moustache at a really really long distance of like 5 miles or something.

In total 23 cubic kilometres of lava flowed out of the Undara volcano following one dry creek bed 90 km to the North, and another 160 km to the North-West.
As it flowed, the outer layers cooled and crusted over while the hot lava inside continued to flow out, leaving these really cool massive tunnels for us to explore today.

Practical experiment  (wait till Mom and Dad go out first)

1. Clear the kitchen table. This will now represent the surface of the Earth around Undara.

2. Spread the best tablecloth you can find over the table. We will now call this tablecloth “granite” for the surface of the earth here was already covered with granite rock before the lava flow.

3. Find two of Mom’s best and strongest cups. Turn them upside down on the floor and place two table legs on top of them. See, now the earth and it’s granite layer  have a slope towards the North.

3. Collect all the dry ingredients you can find in the pantry.
Flour, rice, sugar, pasta, salt, cocoa….it doesn’t matter…..just empty them all out onto the table, mix them up with some water then mould them into the shape of the countryside with a volcano near the top and a valley leading down towards the bottom.

4. Somewhere near the back of the kitchen cupboard you will find a large container of Treacle or Golden Syrup. If you can’t find it then honey or maple syrup will do. Tip all the contents of the container onto the top of the volcano. See how fast it flows down the valley? Now, if you quickly grind up some ice cubes in the food processor and sprinkle it all over the top of your lava you can actually make your own lava tubes.

5. If Mom or Dad are surprised at what they find when they get home, just tell them that it was all your very own idea and that you’ve just scientifically demonstrated the plasticity of flowing lava and the creation of lava tubes.

They will be so proud of what you have just done, although it may not be immediately apparent.

Now, here’s some other cool stuff you can see at Undara Lava Tubes.

Queensland bottle tree

Totally cute Antilopine wallaroos

Extremely attractive tour guide pointing out extensive savanna woodland

You can stay in 2-person or 4-person tents

Or refurbished old railway carriages

Green and grateful GOF

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I was blessed with an almost idyllic childhood growing up on a little farm in Australia.  Despite that, I can always remember wanting to get it over and done with quickly.  To grow up so that I could view the world from full adult height then ‘go out and do something useful.’

‘Doing something useful’  I have since come to understand means different things to different folks, and my interpretation is no more or less legitimate than that proposed by others.

My life’s dream of ‘usefulness’ was enabled by a three-year tertiary Diploma of Agriculture which included practical experience in a broad spectrum of rural activities.

These included barbed-wire fence construction, chicken sexing, repairing farm vehicles using only Jesus Juice, pliers and fencing wire, blacksmithing, doing time trials with Howard mini-tractors racing in reverse gear around chook sheds, milking cows and making butter, butchering almost anything which moved and was edible, distributing DDT liberally onto anything which moved and was inedible, and shoveling more tons of animal shit and stinking fermented silage than any city dweller would think possible.
I’m exhausted just recalling this comprehensive education and indeed the Diploma proved to be one of Great Usefulness.

Then followed twelve years inflicting these dubious skills upon unsuspecting natives in remote parts of New Guinea, but taking time also to observe the inner workings of the Government Department for which I worked.
The experience taught me that many corpulent people who were even more pale-skinned than I actually ‘worked’ in comfortable town office buildings, and they considered that shuffling pieces of paper and attending committee meetings and conferences constituted a genuine form of ‘usefulness’.  Perhaps it did.  They certainly thought it did.

For me ‘usefulness’ invariably meant doing physical work and constructing something tangible.  Preferably alone.  I always pig-headedly and obstinately refused assistance from well-intentioned friends and neighbours. Perhaps this is an unfortunate legacy of being raised as an ‘only child’.


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As the curtain closes on 2011,  I will sit on the verandah each evening watching the cumulo-nimbus clouds germinate in a clear blue sky before burgeoning into massive tropical thunderheads at 40,000 feet.
I will reflect upon the absolute magnificence of the nature which surrounds me and review my lifetime spent attempting to do ‘useful’ things.  I will absolve myself from transgressions made during the year past thereby allowing myself to repeat the more enjoyable ones  in 2012 without any guilt.

I will also accept that most forms of human ‘usefulness’ including my own are a cosmic irrelevance and when reviewed from half a millenium hence my lifetime achievements will have been of no greater value or lasting importance than those of Nelson the dog who is presently attempting to dehusk a coconut outside on the lawn.

Nevertheless I am absolutely content with my place in the universe and my limited understanding of it.  Despite a lifetime punctuated by some regrettable occasions of ineptitude and thoughtlessness I am satisfied that I did my best to be ‘useful’ in the only way I knew how.

In the final anaylsis nothing much really matters apart from treating ourselves, our families, other people and Mother Nature with the care and respect they deserve.

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The following “before” and “after” photographs show the results of our ongoing 20 year reforestation project covering 30 acres.
A token act of appreciation for this small piece of earth which has sustained and nourished our little family for the past 29 years, but which should never have had it’s rainforest clear-felled by the original lease-holders half a century ago.

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1A 1982

1B 2011

2A 1982

2B 2011

3A 1982

3B 2011

More than just a happy snap

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Your chortling time begins…….now…





And ends about…….now!    Thank you for your restraint.

Photographs of me are not in abundance.
Whenever someone produces a camera I normally find an urgent reason to be somewhere else.  Whilst my visage probably resides within the envelope of normal human appearance, I nevertheless determined early on that I was threatening to cause bulges to appear in the extremities of that envelope.

I recently discovered this old picture and reflected that it captures much more than simply a moment in time.

My life has been blessed with many things.
One of them is some unknown factor which enabled me to always easily accept my lot in life, deficencies and obstacles included, and cultivate a place of lasting inner peace and contentment.
That place is always enhanced by quiet solitude and nature.

I hope I am not wasting your time by telling the story behind this picture.

My parents had a holiday shack, a little tin shed, where we would spend a few weeks camping out each Christmas in the middle of unpopulated alpine forest 120 km from the nearest town of Wodonga.

My young-teenage days were spent mostly alone, trout fishing,  climbing small mountains, and discovering in the bush abandoned gold-miners huts and related relics from a century before.

One day, as I was walking deep in the forest, this bird just unexpectedly flew out of a gum tree, landed on my hat, and every day, perched up there, it accompanied me on my walks.
It adopted me and refused to have anything to do with my parents or other people.  It was unlikely to have been a previously tamed bird because of the absence of permanent human habitation in the area.
As we were not feeding it, or any other birds, there was no motivation for it to accompany me in expectation of food.

When we returned the following Christmas the bird came back out of the bush to me again.
Seeing this long forgotten photograph after so many years reminds me of the valuable early lesson I was given about my connectedness to nature.

Now, several times each week, there is this old geezer who wanders through the Wooroonooran National Park for a couple of hours with an extraordinary degree of inner happiness.
He reminds me of the boy who behaved similarly in Victoria's high country 48 years ago.


These days I don't have a bird sitting on my nut, and I can now see that this marvellous journey has an ending, not too distant, at the far side of the forest.

(Thank you to Freedom Smith for inspiring me to post this photograph and story)

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Oh dear, it’s back.

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GOF, it would appear, has returned.

As that troubled 20th century philosopher LaPoone once observed;

"Putrid marine sludge will often disappear from the beach out to sea on one high tide, only to eventually return again on another."

I was quite happy to leave GOF where he last found himself.
Deaded, desiccated, and processed into a nourishing Soylent Green biscuit.

Thank you to those friends who gave me encouragement to resume blogging.  Especially Globet, who, when every pulse of her intelligence must have been happy with my biscuit option, nevertheless chose to give me inspiration to write again.

During the last few weeks (apart from waiting an eternity for someone to come and fix up my satellite internet) I have spent many hours walking around my favourite place, Wooroonooran National Park, just a short bicycle ride from my front doorstep.

Here are just a few reasons why;

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The old dead tree

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                                          Life has gone from the old dead tree
                                          Lights extinguished, curtains drawn.
                                          Who cares, or feels, or wants to see
                                          The reason for me to mourn
                                           Its passing, an ordinary tree, just one
                                           Of thousands in the cast.
                                           Part of nature's plan begun
                                           In mists and clouds of aeons past.

                                           Feathered friends remember now.
                                           A bough where songs were sung
                                           In winter warmth and sunshine glow,
                                           And home to fledge their young.
                                           For death provides a space to grow.
                                           Where life will start anew.
                                           Eternal cycles ebb and flow
                                           Where the old dead tree once grew.

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