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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’.


*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

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.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

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.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

1A 1982

1B 2011

2A 1982

2B 2011

3A 1982

3B 2011

The Sunscreen Song

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This is my second favourite piece of popular philosophy.
(Desiderata is #1).

I have edited out small portions of the lyrics in the interests of brevity.
The unexpurgated version is here.

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, by Mary Schmich:

Wear sunscreen.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Dead or alive?

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Early in 1996, the year when I was going to turn 48, I decided that this was the year during which I was probably going to die.

No family predisposition to early mortality.

No clinical indications of depression or ill health.
I was still firing on all cylinders, although lower gears needed to be selected when going up hills, and there were a few other worrying mechanical noises and exhaust emissions which indicated that the journey was not going to last forever.

My life had been interesting and productive up to that point, so I simply decided that my time was probably up.
I figured it was better to die with only preliminary signs of decrepitude in 1996 than hang around annoying people into the next millennium with my malingering whilst waiting for the wheels to fall off completely.

Nineteen ninety six was also a nice looking even-numbered year.
Born in an even-numbered year I like the idea of symmetry and balance.  Forget astrology and all that sort of bunkum. 
It all comes back to numbers.

If I ever died in an uneven numbered year I would be forever pissed off afterwards.
Forty-eight plus forty eight equaled ninety-six. (and probably still does)  Beautiful numbers.
All exquisitely divisible by two and one into the other.
Time for GOF to depart in this moment of exotic equilibrium.
Observers of my gravestone would remark;
"there lies a man who lived a life of exquisite numerical balance."

So I paid my taxes, packed my pillow and waited for the train to take me to the Kingdom of Eternal Rest.

The trouble is that now, fourteen years later, in moments of deep philosophical contemplation, can I ever really be completely certain that I did not die? 

All these current preoccupations I have with middle-aged ex supermodels, flight simulators, growing pretty plants and blogging might just conceivably be components of my afterlife.

One or two of our deep thinking Vox neighbors seem to know a lot about this "proof of life" stuff but I probably never paid enough attention to them.
But then again, how can I be absolutely certain that they too are not also dinner guests seated at some heavenly table from which we may all be dining.

I'm confused, and what's left of my either dead or alive brain is overloaded, so I'm off to have a little lie down.

Please wake me up when you think you have an answer to my conundrum.

But only if you have unequivocal and absolute proof of your life status.

I don't want some dead person trying to tell me what to do.

I'm not a complete weirdo.


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Newell beach

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For the better part of 20 years Newell Beach has been the place where I return to the ocean and give thought to the universe, life, my past and my future.

A lot of the beliefs that I now hold as truth occurred to me while sitting alone, doodling in the sand, watching and listening to breaking waves, or the more gentle cycles of ebb and flow of tides in the Mossman River estuary.

Newell Beach is marked with many contemplative milestones from my road of life.

Only I can see them.

And, while I am in a reflective mood this Christmas time, I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to read this blog, and especially the loyal Voxers who have encouraged me and made this a nice place to be in 2009.

May you all have a a happy festive season with your loved ones.
Take care of each other, and the planet.
I wish that your 2010 be filled with happiness, good health and contentment.

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Just chuck it out the window

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The world is in a spot of social and environmental bother today because modern western society has evolved enabling us, as individuals, to avoid seeing and experiencing directly the consequences of our actions.

When Mrs Gof and I were building the Paradise Mansion all those years ago, after we had dug all the foundation trenches by hand we decided to hire an excavator to dig the septic tank hole and absorption trench, as well as a very deep hole for domestic rubbish disposal.
(after all, that is what the local municipality did)

For 3 years we assumed we were very smart until one night we had ten inches of rain which filled the hole with water and floated an entire 36 months worth of rusty tins, toothpaste tubes and assorted plastic debris across a large expanse of our front lawn.

When we travel on a medium haul flight in a Boeing 747 it is difficult to fully comprehend that it will consume 30,000 gallons of fuel, not all of which can be accounted for in the four plumes of smoke and noxious gas we leave behind.  Droplets of unburned kerosene  (the result of incomplete combustion especially at lower throttle settings) are also left to drift about in the atmosphere and slowly return to earth.

Electricity comes at the flick of a switch without us seeing the coal smoke belched out of the power station chimneys.

Sewerage gets flushed down pipes to outfalls in the ocean.

Punishment for those who harm us is taken out of the hands of the common man and community, and placed in those of a disconnected learned elite.

When our loved ones die, society not only enables, but often legislates that the body be taken away by a disinterested third party for dissection and processing in a manner prescribed by the State.

We are denied, and often all too happy to avoid, any traditional practices of spending time with, and preparing the deceased for a dignified and respectful final moment.

Our personal and environmental responsibilities have been whittled away to make space for what may well historically prove to be little more than an unsustainable social experiment.

One day, just like my previously out of sight garbage, the consequences of our life choices today might just re-emerge to spoil tomorrows picnic on the lawn.

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Avoiding rattlesnakes

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Christian evangelists long ago perfected the art of making oratory mountains out of scriptural molehills.

What follows is GOF's first tentative step on the road to becoming the world's next Benny Hinn……or maybe even Jimmy Swaggart if I get lucky with my staff and congregation.

I have chosen a text today from the Gospel according to John.
John Laws, that is, self appointed deity of Australian talkback radio.

If at any time you feel the power of divine extortion annointing, please tithe your salary, or place a generous number of shekels in the collection plate which my henchmen stewards will soon be passing around .  
Bless you.

"The world is full of wonder.
 One day you will have to leave it for good.
 Make sure you absorb all its mysteries and pleasures
 while you have the time"   

I would like to speak to you today about John's use of the word "all".

Some degree of circumspection needs to be employed when it comes to experiencing what our world offers if we are also to score well in the game of longevity.

There are probably many mysteries and pleasures to be "absorbed"  at night in the back streets of Bogota, the favelas of Rio, canyoning in the Alps, or cave diving deep beneath Australia's Nullabor Plain.

Now admittedly I personally have the courage of a newly hatched chicken who is reticent to venture very far from its mother's wing.  
For me that "wing" is my instinct of self preservation which tells me not to go base or bungee jumping, parachuting, train surfing, swimming with sharks, or truthfully telling that big tattooed Maori security guard that he is a fat bastard who should lose some weight.

Some things are just not worth the risk.

Recently while decending a particularly steep section of the Mt. Bartle Frere walking track Mrs Gof and I came across a young man, alone, half way up, carrying a mountain bike on his shoulder.

The narrow track is in places almost vertical, and strewn with loose rocks and exposed slippery tree roots.  There are deep chasms between boulders where you cannot see the bottom.
He had chosen as a challenge to ride his bike down several kilometers of this trail.

In fading afternoon light.  With only one functioning eye.

The other had, at some stage of his young life, obviously been lost in some sort of horrific facial accident.  I do not wish to focus particularly on his disability or deny his right to adventure, but anyone attempting this particular project, alone, in a remote area and ignoring basic survival rules will inevitably draw attention to the very thin line between bravery and foolishness.
There were no other people on the mountain that day to help him if he got into trouble.
(I hasten to add that I returned specially on the following day to make sure his car had departed from the mountain base carpark)

Maybe my eagerness to survive life has also denied me some of its other more obscure pleasures.

Injected drug use and autoerotic asphyxia, apparently, can be fun, but the possible side effect of death always put me off those ventures.

No, I don't need to experience all the mysteries and pleasures of life to guarantee my happiness.
Some of them are located far too distant from my protective wing, and neither the destination or the journey involved in getting there appeal to my sense of responsible exploration.  

Now if I can just work out what chemicals Benny uses to get all that body and bounce into his silvery mane.


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Things I eventually learned # 12

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Gates and Fences.

Build a little fence out of first impressions and gut instinct,
with a gate that opens in both directions, to help regulate your circle of friends.

Inside it, construct a brick wall to protect your emotions.
Entry is restricted and by invitation only.

Then, finally, build a fortress to contain your inner sanctum.
Complete with guards on 24 hour duty ready to forcibly remove anyone you might have,
during a momentary lapse of judgement, allowed inside.

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