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Ah, weekends! I like driving a cab around Canberra's parks, monuments and wide roads, especially on these crisp autumn days with the leaves gold and amber under a clear blue sky. But a week of twelve or thirteen hour shifts and I'm needing a bit of relax.

We get two lovely thick Saturday papers, full of news and opinions, features and reviews, travel sections and lifestyle extras, magazine inserts and classifieds. There's enough to keep me grazing the hectares of printed word for the whole two days. No Kindle or iPad can ever match the cheerful feeling of a coffee table covered in half-read newspapers, half-done sudokus, half-drunk coffee mugs. And maybe under the television guide, half a square of chocolate (bliss) or half a slice of pizza (oops!).

Weekend words

Then Sunday's paper arrives, full of disaster on the front page and "prepared-earlier" features inside with the funnies.

Breakfast today, and I'm reading a political opinion piece on the Prime Minister. It's so right. Rudd, who glows in the sunshine of friendly journalists, is a sorry sight when he's on the slide. It's a vicious circle, and when he snarls at the princes of the press gallery, the sharks move in to savage him.

I read out a paragraph to Kerri:
The sense that Rudd is over has permeated the corridors. The macaques aren't quite jumping up and down on his body yet, but the sense is that it's not far off.


Who wrote these wonderful words, I wondered? Chris Wallace is a Canberra Press Gallery member and publisher of www.breakfastpolitics.com it said.

That name rang a bell. Could this be Christine Wallace, nightclub-owner, political journalist, mother, biographer, quirkily smiling television panellist? Someone who once employed me for a few minutes to tweak her fax settings?

I clicked the link, and there she is, tough-looking political blogger serving up headlines for breakfast. There's a list of "BP Extras", and I was immediately attracted to a post on lying, called "On Lying".

All politicians lie. Some for small reasons, some for large, and some because they can't help it. It's one reason I got out of politics. If you didn't outright lie, you told untruths that were cleverly shaded, or could be denied, or seemed to be someone else's lies. It sickened me.

Christine pointed the finger at two politicians she had caught out in lies, and I nodded my head in agreement. Both of the men she named had outraged me in the past with their smarmy dishonesty.

I signed up for her breakfast politics newsletter. I can't say I care much for politics nowadays, but I do like her wicked way with words.

"Ooh, look at this!" Kerri laid a page of the Sunday paper before me. It had a picture of a tiny book. A book with a BookCrossing sticker. A book I recognised, because I had last seen it at an airline lounge in Japan, where I had tucked it away from the ever-tidying hands of the lounge attendants in a window niche. My jaw fell open.

Apparently it had been found by a journalist who needed a book to read on his flight home. A Canberra journalist who did some research on BookCrossing.com, was charmed by the quirky idea, signed up, made a journal entry, and sent the book travelling on to Seattle.

I'd read the initial journal entry, saying the book had been found, and had been chuffed immensely. Releasing books in airports is a chancey business, and I've yet to hear from the book I released in The Wing at Hong Kong International that same trip. I set it free in the lounge's library, increasing the number of books in that plush library from eight to nine.

But I had not expected to find Doctor Johnson the centrepiece of a newspaper article, smiling up at me between the coffee and cornpone.

Yes, cornpone. Kerri experiments with odd foods on the weekend, and this was breakfast. Warm, a hint of spice, sour cream. The last cornpone I had was in Missouri, and it wasn't half as nice as this!

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's more paper to be devoured.
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Well-Travelled Tote Bag

I posted a couple of days ago about packing. All my books go in my big yellow BookCrossing tote, which is made of awesome and holds about a bazillion book and gets slung around by airline baggage handlers and puzzles Customs people: "It's books ALL the way down, buster!"

So I got a package of books from the wonderful Jenny-G and others from here and there. I've been snaffling up the light books at recent BC meetups, and they have all been accumulating in corners.

So I drug up the big rolling duffle from under the house and began piling clothes and Tim Tams in, and hunted around for my big yellow tote bag. Hmmm. Not under the house. Not in the study. Not in the bedroom. Not in the shed. Not in the library. Not in any cupboard. Not under couches. Not in the roof space. Not in the cars. Not, *gulp*, anywhere!

I must have left it at a BookCrossing meetup, possibly beside my car when I drove home. Maybe it was chucked out with piles of old clothes, possibly as a container, not meant to go into the charity bin but nevertheless included by well-meaning offspring.

Stressing about this. I don't think they still make the BC tote bags, and I loved this one a lot. OK, it's battered as anything, having been around the world six times and six halves, not to mention here and there in Australia and New Zealand. It isn't new anymore, and there's only so much that even the "durables" heavy-duty washing cycle will do for it.

Oh well. Have to buy a new bag. Rollaboard size. Nice and square to carry books. Yellow for preference. Do it on Tuesday when the shops are open again.

Never mind that Easter Monday was positively BUZZING in town on half-price Easter Egg day. I coulda gone in and bought it yesterday, but I have this naiive idea that on a public holiday shops will be shut, you know?

Lucky I didn't. Mentioned this to the offspring this morning as a last forlorn hope, and DD, bless her heart, looked around in her wardrobe and brought it out!

I don't go into my daughter's room. Kerri does, but I don't. Kind of an Abandoned Area. How it got into her wardrobe I don't understand, but that's by the by. I have my big yellow BC bag back and it's filling up with books and I'm a happy chappy again!

Pete and Bron
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Roadragers
Long day's journey into Ginkgo )
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Janice
Very long entry - with photographs )

Midway

May. 27th, 2009 08:54 am
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I'm halfway through my cast. At the rate it's shedding small but irritating fibreglass dust, it might not last the distance!

No, just kidding, it's as stiff and solid as ever. But I can feel the dust on my left fingers, and I've learnt not to rub my eyes, even if they are itching, because it just makes things worse. Every now and then I'll get a sneezing fit, which is no fun at all.

Two more weeks and I'll be back on the roads, but I'll only have a few days between resuming driving and going off on my next big trip. While I'm enjoying the time off, I'm really annoyed that I'm missing out on some superb autumn times in Canberra and the chance to earn some badly-needed money.

I can't even drive. The only time I've set paw to wheel has been to reposition one of our cars in the driveway. I have to either walk or be driven. On the upside, that means that if I want something from the shops, I'll walk into Civic, which is both pleasant and good exercise. I stride along with my "Smiles" playlist going, feeling supremely happy.

And I have been happy. It's been good to spend some solid family time. Too often I'm driving a twelve hour shift out of phase with my wife and children, and then on the weekends I'm catching up on sleep. My holidays are mostly spent away, travelling by myself.

Then there's the chance to chat and email and share forum space with my friends. I am constantly thrilled and amazed by the love, generosity, fun and creativity displayed by those around me, most notably my quirky BookCrossing mates. Seeing the photographs coming back from New Zealand brings the warm memories of what was truly a magical holiday.

And, of course, I'm catching up on tasks neglected. There's housework and cooking, blogging and journalling, reading and writing.

I'm currently writing up my blog of the New Zealand trip, printing out the episodes, punching and gluing them into pages of a Levenger Circa journal and then adding in the various boarding passes, dockets, maps and ephemera I collect along the way. Some items are big enough to punch and slot intio the binder disks, some need to be cut out and stuck in.

And when I get around to it, I'll get my photographs printed, to be added to the record. The end result is a scrapbook I can look back on in years to come, rekindling memories of the wonderful time I had in New Zealand.

I've got a stack of these books now, each one a happy storehouse of a part of my life.

All in all, I'm happy at the moment. Supremely happy.
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Gandhi in Glebe

I guess I'm a bad blogger nowadaze. It's been four weeks since the Christchurch convention ended, and two since I broke my arm, and in almost every respect my life is not at all what I thought it would be just now.

Seldom have I enjoyed a BookCrossing convention so much. It was so close to perfect, with the setting, the season, the fun and the friends. I don't think anybody wanted it to end!

I got home, and felt so incredibly blue. Yes, I know that Canberra is a beautiful city, and autumn is the best time of year, but after a week in paradise, everywhere else is bleak winter.

My friends found ways to buck me up, and I'm back to my normal operating mode, fondly remembering the good times past and dreaming of those to come. Looking forward to the Edinburgh trip, capped off with a few days in Rockhampton, which is always pleasant in midwinter, compared to Canberra's chill. Especially with the family around me. I'm getting to be one of the older generation now, with the youngest members down around kindergarten age.

I had a fairly normal week back in the cab, swapping shifts with my day driver, enjoying his twice-daily chats, and getting back into the swing of things. But then he went away on his own delightful holiday - and yes, I'm grateful for the updates, Paul - and I did double shifts until the owner found me a co-driver.

Doubles mean that I have the car 24 hours in a day, and it pretty much means dawn to dusk and beyond. Fifteen or eighteen hour shifts with a nap in the middle.

And then I broke my arm. No more driving, not even my own cars. I stay at home, do all the things I've been putting off for months if not years, read books, do housework, cook meals, and best of all, get to enjoy the company of my wife. My usual cabdriving life sees me spend huge amounts of each week either absent or asleep, and that's probably not the best way to be a good husband and father.

I'm enjoying the break. Could not be happier in fact. It is so pleasant to be able to chat with my friends online, or watch evening tv shows with the family. And I'm even getting a bit of exercise. My plan is to lose ten kilos of excess over the next 50 days, which should see me reach a healthful weight, rather than being just a bit tubby.

I walked into Civic yesterday, listening to my "Smiles" playlist on the iPhone, kicking through piles of leaves under trees of rapidly disappearing gold, and feeling on top of the world.

Currently reading "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I gave away a copy of this book in October, and a friend has been kind enough to give me a replacement. There's something about BookCrossing - never short of a good book to read. A good book or two or three or four hundred!
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Picnic in paradise

Sleep knitted up my ravelled fatigue and I arose bright, early and ready for the day. Cereal and a hot drink in my new mug. I decided on tea, because it was a Tea Papa mug.

Long, long post! )

And finally, to bed. What a long but lovely day it had been. Heaven must be like this.

On a high

Apr. 12th, 2009 06:24 pm
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Sunday 12 April 2009
QF560 Canberra to Sydney
B734 VH-TJY "Maryborough" Seat 17F
Scheduled: 0645
Boarding: 0625 (Gate 11, ground)
Pushback: 0645
Takeoff: 0654 to north
Descent; 0710
Landing: 0725 34R (from south after circle)
Gate: 0735 (Gate 2)

QF47 Sydney to Wellington
B734 ZK-JTS Seat 5F
Scheduled: 0915
Boarding: 0855 (Gate 36)
Pushback: 0917
Takeoff: 0936 34R to north
Descent: 1400 (NZ time)
Landing: 1417 (from north)
Gate: 1420 (Gate 28)

You couldn't put a wider smile on my face. There's New Zealand just appeared out of the blue Tasman. What a feeling - back in heaven!

Here's a week and a day of fun with my BookCrossing friends, and all those long nights of driving a cab are paying off. "Beats working," I tell my passengers, when I mention I've still got another nine or ten hours to go.

Snow on the mountains below. A fine tracing of silver on the very highest ridges below, and way off in the distance some real mountains, jutting up.

And then we flew lower and lower over the Marlborough Sounds, Cook Strait, Wellington and onto the tarmac, the single runway jutting out into the ocean at both ends. I was in heaven.

Heaven with a smile. Smiles all round after immigration. I hugged Discoverylover and alkaline-kiwi, and included Kevin and Erik for good measure.

The day began early. Dawn was breaking and the fog lifting as we pulled into Canberra airport. Checkin seemed to take forever, but there was time for a coffee in the lounge, before I gave my daughter/driver a farewell hug and filed aboard.

I read the Qantas magazine, taking an extra pleasure when I saw a couple of mentions of my travelwriting competition win. Breakfast was a muffin and a juice, but there was only five minutes to wipe the crumbs from my vest before the crew was clearing for landing.

Five minutes wait for the transit bus, hustle through passport control and the duty-frees, and then I was at the lounge, passing that incredible living wall and ordering breakfast.

As usual, superb. I had every intention of losing weight this trip, but good intentions were postponed as the aroma of bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh coffee and sourdough toast wafted up from the table. Barely time to do savoury justice to breakfast before it was time to trot down to the distant gate.

Excellent seat. Not quite Business Class, but forward of the wings and oodles of legroom. A quick look over some of Sydney's seaside suburbs as we lifted away, and then the ocean colour deepened and disappeared under thickening clouds.

No individual screens on this flight - a 737 of generous vintage - but the movie sown on the ceiling mounted screens helped me pass the time smiling and laughing at Jim Carey's antics in "Yes Man".

Lunch was served. I asked for champagne and got some sparkling Aussie white. Fair enough. A tiny Lindt bunny for Easter, which I saved to smuggle through Customs for Discoverylover.

And then I pulled out my laptop to make a journal entry, and there was New Zealand rising from the Tasman.

Off

Apr. 12th, 2009 05:03 am
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The adventure begins. Road trip, whales, hot springs, museums and wine. And books, lots of books.

I'm off to Canberra airport in half an hour. I'll have breakfast in the lounge - I'll only get a muffin and some OJ on the plane.
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I'm not the wunderblogger I should be. Time and Twitter are big obstacles.

The last two Saturdays, Kerri and I have been going to a massage course. More on that in a separate post.

My mate Ken has suffered a personal crisis, and this has caused a few long angsty sessions over coffee when I should have been out on the streets. More on that later.

I'm considering WordPress on my Joyent server that is otherwise going idle. That would let me consolidate a couple of blogsites. But that will take time. And skill.

Kerri notes that I'm rubbish at housework, cooking, looking after the garden, decluttering, tax, and a hundred other vital things, but when it comes to travel, I'm all enthusiasm.

Yeah. That's me.

Next trip is New Zealand for the BookCrossing convention. I've got tickets, cars, accommodation and excursions all booked, paperwork for same printed out - all I need do is turn up at Canberra airport next Sunday and let myself be swirled away.

A short transit in Sydney. One and a half hours to make the transit bus, go through security and passport control, and board the plane. Unless I'm very lucky, there won't be much time for hanging around the lounge having a decadent breakfast.

Oh well. Wellington in mid-afternoon, to be met by Discoverylover, on whose floor I shall be sleeping for two days with sundry other BXers.

Morning ferry to Picton, where our group will load into a couple of rental cars and drive down to Hanmer Springs to soak in the waters and do our best to monopolise a hostel.

Next day is whale-watching at Kaikoura. Pricey, but one of those once in a lifetime treats. I've seen humpbacks off Cape Byron and Surfers Paradise, and random whales and dolphins from Aurora, but this is probably my best chance to see the mighty sperm whale.

We finish the day by driving down to Christchurch. The others in the party will be staying with friends and in youth hostels, and honestly, I toid with the notion of sharing a bunk room with my friends, but two things stopt me. First, I snore, or at least there is the risk of snoring, and I am not keen on keeping my friends awake during the night so they don't enjoy the day.

Second, I'm up at odd hours, night and day. That's why being a night cabbie is no great hardship and why I never get jet lag - my sleeping habits are already screwed up. So, I'd be doubly disturbing my companions.

Usually I try to find a private room in a hostel, where I can keep my own hours, and if I want to go from two to four in the morning writing a blog entry, I can. I've got a room to myself in Hanmer Springs, for example.

However, all the private rooms in Christchurch's hostels were booked out - by people more organised than me - so I went hunting up Wotif.com to see what was available. There were some bargains available - one night in "Chateau on the Park" for $19 caught my eye, but eventually I settled on the Crowne Plaza, for its nearby location, reasonable rates, and the fact that I'm a member of their loyalty program.

(After making the non-refundable booking, I find that Newk has discovered a far nicer place, one that offers breakfast and evening drinks, for just a bit more. Oh well.)

Wednesday, we have to be in Christchurch in time for dinner at some swish China place. We'll have about three hours to make the 2:15 hour drive, checkin to our hostels etc and make dinner. Working out who goes in which car could save a little time. Luckily one of the cars doesn't have to be returned until Thursday morning, and I'm keeping the other until Monday, dropping it off at the airport.

Thursday is the Tranzalpine train trip over to the West Coast. Have to be at the station about 0745, and we don't get back until 1800 for dinner at 1900, so that's going to be tight again.

Friday looks to be a rest day, at least in the morning. There's a bookshop tour in the afternoon ("May be a small extra cost if we use public transport to get to the more far-flung bookshops. May be a large extra cost if you buy lots of books," according to the website.) Dinner at five, followed by the meet'n'greet.

Saturday is packed. Release walk in the morning, beginning at 0830, Presentations and talks in the afternoon, quiz night.

Sunday there's a live internet chat with the BC in DC group (and anyone else), followed by the farewell brunch. Afternoon activities include a wine tasting trip and a harbour cruise. I think I'll go for the wine trip, with an eye to writing a story. Very likely there will be some sort of dinner with the diehards.

Monday it all ends for me. My flight is after lunch, and there'll be a bunch of us going at the same time. Two hour transit in Sydney, and I get back home around dinner time. And then I resume work Tuesday arvo.

All up, it's going to be an expensive week for me, but this is exactly why I drive a cab twelve hours a night, five nights a week. There's also the chance to write some great travel stories.

But most of all, I'll be hanging out with my BookCrossing friends. Forget the fancy excursions and dinners - put a bunch of BookCrossers together in a bare room and we'll have a wonderful time.

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