Friday, 30 January 2009

Looking for Answers

So – assuming everything happens for a reason, I'm thinking that my current pathetic and crutchified state is supposed to teach me something (see, that might make it bearable instead of just being bloody annoying.)

Think think think...lightbulb!

Aha - maybe it's giving me a reason to develop the following virtues (ones that are sadly lacking in Miz Betty):

Patience. It's impossible to take short cuts with broken bones. They heal in their own sweet (swear swear) time.
Acceptance. Anything else just leads to mega-frustration and rage.
Ability to ask for/accept help. This is one I have trouble with, but I will try!

And maybe it's time to stop putting all my sanity eggs in one basket! Motorcycling is my main source of sanity. Whenever I can't ride, I get twitchy, niggly, down, depressed, bloody miserable, homicidal (you get the idea.)

Over the last 3 years and 4 months – i.e., since I got my bike L's - there have been approximately 50 days when I did not ride. That's right, I have ridden almost every single day. I have about another 35 bikeless days ahead of me till my ankle is better. That's going to bite. I'm twitching already, and it's not a good look.

My other sanity saver has been trying to bring a little bit of order to my overgrown, weed-infested, drought-ridden “garden” - and I was doing so well! Until this little incident, that is.

So what else am I going to do? Knit? No thanks – tried that when I was nesting. I was hopeless, and hated it. Cook? In this heat, are you kidding? (Plus it would entail too much washing of dishes and eating of delicious, calorie-laden things). No thanks.

Looks like I'll just have to embrace insanity and learn to love my twitches.

But wait! What about blogging? I could blog to my little heart's content while I'm boring myself to death and going nowhere...but this is about my Occasional Adventures, and I'm not having too many of those at the moment.

Oh, here's an idea – how about “writing”??? Real, honest-to-God, make-up-a-story-and-write-it type writing. I'm an author, for goodness' sake – I should be authoring!

You know, the reason I started this blog in the first place was so I could spread the word about my books. Somehow I got all caught up talking about all the outdoor adventures that I have, and forgot all about the Other big adventure – my life as an author!

Hmmm. Maybe that's it. Maybe my current incapacitation is supposed to be a bit of a kick up the bum, to remind me that I'm a writer and that I need to be sitting down to write. Sheesh! A tap on the shoulder would've been enough!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

More random thoughts on crutches

Forearm crutches are more comfortable than underarm crutches. The technique required to drive them is a little different, though, and very unsettling at first.

Uphill on crutches with a full backpack is harder than downhill with an empty one.

My local shops are over 500 (I lost count) crutch hops from my gate.

Walking to the shops and back is a better workout than you'd get at any gym. Especially in 33-degree heat (that's 33 degrees Celsius...) which adds a sauna dimension to your workout.

Such a workout should only be attempted once, just to prove something to yourself (to prove what? That you're an idiot?)

Going to the loo on crutches at night is very difficult. Cats tend to sprawl on the floor and in doorways in the dark.

Cats make a very loud noise when you poke them with a crutch in the dead of night.

Cats are a death trap.

No matter how difficult it is to get around on crutches, crawling on hands and knees is worse for anybody over about 12 months of age. Baby knees crawl, grown up knees creak and bruise.

Stairs are a death trap.

If you're on crutches it probably means you aren't riding a motorbike around. Have that glass of wine with lunch! (just one – wine and crutches don't mix very well.)

Using crutches develops your brain. You find new and interesting ways to do things that have suddenly become impossible.

Bathrooms are a death-trap.

Gardening, far from being the therapeutic activity it once was, becomes an exercise in frustration. Multiple kinks in a 30 metre hose can induce apoplexy in a very short time. Weeds will always be just out of reach.

Everything – everything – takes ten times longer on crutches. The exception to this is the rate at which your bladder fills.

When you only wear one shoe and one sock you discover that a pair of socks lasts twice as long, but the same doesn't go for shoes.

If crutches can fall over and land in hard-to-reach places, they will.

The toilet is a death-trap.

Getting ice-cube trays full of water from the sink to the freezer gives new meaning to the expression aaaaaaargh!

Oh, one more – crutches aren't just for walking. They're also for opening/closing doors and gates, lifting dropped things, switching on lights that are several feet away, pulling things towards you, tripping people up, pushing things away from you, poking cats... the list goes on.

Amazing things, crutches.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Words, weasel-words and damned economics

I like words. No, I love them. I love what they do, and the way, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, they can bring ideas to life, give them flesh and texture, colour and movement. I doublepluslove the fact that they can make you feel – make you laugh or cry, soothe or incense you, and make you think.

I love thinking about and playing with words, manipulating them and making them up.

It's probably why George Orwell's fictional concept of Newspeak fascinates me. Newspeak is the antithesis of everything I love about the English language – its colourful imprecision and nuance, its enormous mongrel vocabulary and the apparent vagaries of its rules. Newspeak would do away with all that, and supposedly narrow the range of human thought, to make the possibility of rebellious thoughts - well, impossible. Take away the word for a concept, and the concept itself becomes unthinkable. That's the theory.

I have enough faith in the human spirit and intellect to believe that Newspeak wouldn't work. The evolution of language – especially abstract language – isn't anything like the chicken/egg conundrum. “In the beginning there was the Word” is pretty misleading – but it's the sort of nifty opening line most authors would kill for.

See, the word doesn't give birth to the concept. It's the concept that comes first – a vague unnamed feeling niggling away inside someone's soul, just waiting for the word to be invented that will fling it into the public domain, shrieking and howling its presence and adding a new shining thread to the tapestry of our linguistic existence. The word simply gives the concept a vehicle for common usage – ah, and therefore growth, I suppose, as more people learn the word. New words enter the language all the time to fill the tiny gaps that develop during our evolution as a culture.

Erk. This wasn't meant to be so serious! It's just that there's an expression I've heard a lot lately as this financial crisis tightens its grip on the world's economies, and more and more of them choke and slither into recession. It's cranked up the rusty cogs inside my middle-aged brain and got them cogitating!

The expression negative growth is surely an expression of monumental weasality[1] – I love it! An economy is officially in recession when it experiences two consecutive quarters (one half?) of negative growth.

Is that the same as shrinkage? If it's not growing it's either staying the same or shrinking, right? 'Negative' implies it's going in the opposite direction to growth, so yeah, I guess it means shrinkage. Well why the heck don't they say so? Why complicate things with this quirky, well-dressed little euphemism?

Because they can! Wheeeeeeeeee! It's all part of that rich linguistic tapestry I mentioned earlier. It's a doubleplusgood expression that looks and sounds so much cleverer than shrinkage (which, after all, is a term that Jerry Seinfeld used to great comic effect, describing what happens to blokes' bits in cold water. For a subject as serious as economics you need a serious expression!)

Our language experiences negative shrinkage every time an idea needs to be intellectualised or sanitised. Euphemisation is something that the most vegetabular [2] amongst us can do with great ease – and it's great fun! While many government-generated weasel-words ('collateral damage' comes to mind) leave a garbacious[3] taste on one's tongue, they are proof that human inventiveness and linguistic playfulness are alive and well – just don't be too sucked in by those weasel-words.

The English language continues to be a dynamic, unstoppable juggernaut. It's a beaut mode of communication, and sheer artistry at best. At worst it's a trap for the unwary – a sly means of intellectual and social control. But it's always fascinating.

Vive la lingo!

[1] sly manipulativeness
[2] cabbage-brained
[3] rotten, stinky, like garbage

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Random thoughts on crutches

Things that do not "go" with crutches:
Narrow hallways
Baskets full of laundry that need to go on the line
Bags full of shopping that need to be carried

Things you need to be if you are on crutches:
Early - start heading to the loo long before you feel the need!
Organised - do NOT under any circumstances leave your mobile phone anywhere but in your pocket.
Coordinated (uh-oh...)

Things you need to have if you are going to be on crutches for any length of time:
A whopping great sense of humour
The patience of a saint
Armpits of steel
A chair by the stove/fridge, where you can sit and eat/drink. You're not carrying that plate of dinner/cup of coffee/glass of wine anywhere!
A bag you can hang around your neck, for carrying non-spill stuff around the house
An extra pair of hands

Things that might take you by surprise on crutches:
Slopes and hills and uneven paths that really didn't seem all that steep or uneven when you were on two legs
How far away everything is - the corner shop, the bus stop, the toilet...
When you reach down to ground level to pick something up, and then can't get up again with one leg.
How relieved you are that you live alone and noone can see you rolling around on the floor like a deranged beetle, trying to find a way to get up again with one leg.

OK, it's only been 4 hours. I'm new to this. I'm sure a resourceful person like me will find a way around just about everything. My "cast" isn't even really a proper cast, for goodness' sake - I can take it off to have a shower (YAY! That had been worrying me, I confess.) As it's so easily removed (as simple as unwinding a bandage)the temptation to take it off so I can hang out the washing/hobble to and from the shops etc is going to be a biggie, I can tell.

My willy willy incident on Monday caused an avulsion fracture, when one of the tendons in my foot started to tear away away from the bone, and took a piece of bone with it. It needs compression and immobilisation, to try and encourage that bit of bone to "glue" itself back on again. Hence the back slab cast and the crutches.

Here's something I hadn't thought about. I no longer have a "good" leg. I have a bad leg and a worse leg. The bad leg is now having to do the work that the worse leg used to do when it was the good leg. This is bad. Very bad.

I have a week off work to learn how to drive these crutches, before I have to sprint to the bus stop every day. And get on and off the bus and get my ticket and put it in the ticket machine and find a seat without falling over. All before 7am every day.

Oh goody.

Monday, 19 January 2009

An attack of wind

No, this is not another post about the perils of ageing!

willy willy: A dust devil is a strong, well-formed, and relatively long-lived whirlwind, ranging from small (half a meter wide and a few meters tall) to large (over 10 meters wide and over 1000 meters tall). The primary vertical motion is upward. Dust devils are usually harmless, but rare ones can grow large enough to threaten both people and property. - Wikipedia

So I'm sitting at the lights this arv on the way home from work, waiting for the
green arrow so I can turn off Belconnen Way onto Coulter Drive... It's been a pretty warm day and there's a lot of gusty wind about.

On the other side of the intersection, along the median strip, a willy-willy forms. No kidding. I'm fascinated. It starts off as a tall thin column about 5-6 metres tall, and it gets lower and wider as it crosses the intersection. For a brief second I'm sure it's going to go around the corner, but no - it wavers momentarily and then dances straight towards me, showering the area with the fine gravel they use on the median strip.

The lights change. My green arrow. If I gun the engine I might be OK. If I keep both feet on the ground and don't try to move the bike until the willy-willy passes (possibly a safer option) I'll probably be rear-ended. What to do, what to do?

This goes through my head at warp speed, at the exact split second that the willy-willy sideswipes the bike and knocks it (and me) flying. Holy shit! I can't believe the power of that thing!

The two lanes of traffic waiting to turn right, don't. They watch as I narrowly (and I like to think 'gracefully', ha ha) avoid the falling bike and wrench my ankle. Hmm. Maybe not quite so graceful. I hobble back towards the bike. Hot and sweaty, I pull off my helmet so I can breathe while I try to lift the bike. The nice man in the car behind realises I'm a small female and not a nuggety little bloke, so offers to help me pick up the bike.

I'm shaking like a leaf, right? I straighten my mirror and take quick stock of the damage. Bent bar end, smashed right indicator, couple of little scratches. Any off you can walk away from is a good one. An off you can ride away from is even better!

The bent bar end, I discover, makes the throttle stick. Every time I change gears I almost chuck a wheelie. Just what I need! My right ankle's throbbing, but I can wiggle my toes, so I figure riding to the mechanic is more of a priority than riding to casualty.

The lovely Bruce & Matt have their usual laugh at my expense "Tornadoes in Canberra eh? Yep.... right.... you get a lot of those..... " but they straighten things out and add the latest expense to my current half-paid bill.

Of course, now that the adrenalin has worn off, I'm not so sure about the ankle. It's throbbing, swollen, and is turning an interesting colour. Ouch. Damn it, this was my good leg!

I don't think I'll be going anywhere in a hurry - looks like I'll need tomorrow off work, and will need to go see a doctor! OUCH!!! This is the kind of adventure I can do without!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Attack of the Killer Eyebrows

OK. I've come to terms with my nose hair (even though it drove me crazy on today's 543km ride, down one mountain and up another.)

I have increased my soy intake to counteract my hot flushes. (It works!)

I love my “laughter lines”.

I deal with the aches and pains and stiffness that middle-age and a family predisposition to arthritis have brought.

I don't even mind the increasing number of silvery hairs that are appearing on my head. Redheads go grey in a weird way, bit by bit, so that they end up looking sort of “pink” when the white:red ratio increases enough. Silver threads amongst the red.... it's not so bad.

But you know what really bothers me? Pardon me while I rant a little. My eyebrows SUCK! My eyebrows have always been so fair as to be almost invisible. I've spent a lifetime using eyebrow pencil. I've had them tinted, and have even contemplated having them tattooed. Now they have turned on me. This is Revenge of the Eyebrows. Maybe even Attack of the Killer Eyebrows.

Over the past few years I have grown some of those “old lady eyebrows” - you know - wiry and unruly and far heavier than your real eyebrows, so they end up dangling downwards and tangling with your eyelashes. Until now I've just trimmed the worst of them. The good thing about them is that they've been darker than my regular eyebrows. A bit of colour at last!

But then last week – eek – my latest old lady eyebrows appeared – two hairs as white as snow. Thick and wiry and grizzled. And. Pure. White.

What next? (I am refusing to remember Bill Cosby's discovery of his first grey pubic hair.) LA LA LAAAAAA!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Betty Country Pub Guide and Photo Tour

I bought my 2009 calendar today – halfway through January they were all on sale - 75% off – wheeeee! And I've only missed 4% of the year – ooh I do love a BARGAIN!!!

For the grand sum of $2.50 I got Australian Country Pubs - and it started me thinking about some of the Aussie country pubs I've stayed in since I started riding.

So... here's the Betty Tour (condensed version) of a selection of country pubs I have loved!

The Homebush Hotel, Penarie NSW.
Already mentioned this one in an earlier post – it's in the middle of nowhere, out past Balranald, and a quirkier publican than Phil you are unlikely to meet anywhere!

The Jamberoo Pub, Jamberoo NSW.
Rode through a severe thunderstorm (and I do mean severe) to stay there. When we arrived we were pouring gallons of water out of our boots, and wringing out our gloves. The pub seemed so warm and inviting and DRY! I didn't sleep a wink. Rain tinkling down a downpipe outside my room kept me awake most of the night, but one of the staff was kind enough to take the bike gear of our group to a clothes drier.

The Court House Hotel, Boorowa NSW.
Only 100kms from Canberra. Me and "The Goilz" are known as the “mud-wrestling bikie chicks” out there (long story). Trust me, there was no mud-wrestling! It was just an ugly ugly rumour. Honest. Graham, the publican, is a rider, and we “kidnapped” him and had a great ride out to Wyangala Dam in 40 degree heat. We all felt like old friends after that.

The London Hotel, Ardlethan, NSW.
Brown carpet, low-wattage lightbulbs and a gruesome Ladies' bathroom, with opaque plastic thumbtacked over the missing pane of glass in the door. You don't care about that stuff when you're having an adventure – and we had an adventure all right! Went there with my mate Deb, and we had a ball – met some out of towners whose ute had broken down, and spent a very late night with them at the Bowling Club, then back at the pub playing pool half the night. Was hilarious!

Jerilderie Hotel, Jerilderie NSW. Ned Kelly cut-outs sit atop the buildings in the main street of Jerilderie. Great place with fantastic hot showers and the best savoury mince in the universe. The room didn't appear to be heated though, and there was only one blanket on the enormous comfy bed. It was June, and freezing. Thank goodness I was on my way back from the Wintersun Rally, and had a sleeping bag with me. I dragged it under the blanket and spent a very cosy night. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep before 7.30pm, in the middle of composing a text message. You know, one of those text messages that biker mums send to their daughters at the end of a long day's riding - the "don't worry, I'm alive" messages.

Here's a view down the main street of Jerilderie. Note bushranger Ned Kelly in evidence...

Tathra Hotel, Tathra NSW. Tathra, on the NSW south coast, is one of my favourite places. The bistro had hearty pub food and the locals were friendly. The motel attached to the pub was clean and roomy. Tathra's great – just about every house in the place has magnificent ocean views – but you need to hang out over a clifftop to get mobile phone reception, heh heh.

Mallacoota Hotel, Mallacoota Victoria. My all time favourite town – great roads to get there and had a ball there with my (grown-up) kids for my son's 24th birthday... The pub is very bike-friendly, and offers discounts to bikers.

The Australian Hotel, Coffs Harbour NSW.
Has a fantastic bistro which makes the most delicious garlic mash. Oh I am drooling, just thinking about it! One of those big country pubs with wide verandahs and atmosphere atmosphere atmosphere.

The Agricultural Hotel, Singleton. "The Aggie" is right across the road from the railway station. Brilliant if you're a heavy sleeper or kinky about trains. About every 20 minutes another bloody train from the coalmines goes rattling past. All night. The bangers and mash in the bistro were pretty darned good though!

Corryong Hotel, Corryong Victoria. I shared a room with 2 other girl riders, and woke up with their possessions all over me – shoes, sweaters, you name it. Allegedly I had been snoring the night before (yeah, right!), so they had entertained themselves by chucking things at me to try and shut me up. God we had fun.

The Black Stump Inn, Coolah NSW. This one deserves extra special mention! I'd been touring with some friends, and this was part of the trip home. By this time there was only JB and her Ducati, and me and my Suzuki GS500, whose name was Gus.

The day's odyssey began at Port Macquarie and ended at Coolah.

View Larger Map

Disaster struck at Tambar Springs when Gus fell over in the gravel outside the servo (which is a couple of bowsers on the footpath outside the general store.) The lady from the shop told us "The kids reckon bikes always fall over gettin' to the bowser.... fall over gettin' back on the road too". (Yeah thanks, thought I, not yet back on the road.)

On the store lady's advice, we headed to Coolah, the home of the Black Stump, and had a brilliant night at the Black Stump Inn.


When we first walked into the bar to ask if they had any rooms, it was like a scene from a movie - a hush fell over the bar and everybody (all 15 of them) turned to look at the "strangers".... An hour later, everybody in the bar knew where we came from and what we were drinking...

All credit to the young bloke behind the bar. Put yourself in his place. Tiny country town. Two short-haired women in motorcycle gear stride through the bar and ask about accommodation. He didn't bat an eyelid.

“Um, so – will that be single rooms, or – gulp – a double?”

As it turned out, we couldn't stay in the single rooms we asked for anyway, because of a problem with smoke alarms. The lovely publican offered us a room in the shearers' accommodation instead. I was a bit reluctant. In my head I had visions of the bunkhouse in Of Mice and Men. The last thing I wanted was John Malkovitch waking me in the middle of the night and asking me to tell him about the rabbits.
You should've seen our room in the shearers' "shed" at the back of the pub - vomit-green lino, pink chenille bedspreads with peculiar stains - and it was straight across from the "kitchen" that the boys used, which had nudie posters all over the walls. Yep, real bloke territory....and don't even try to imagine the toilet/bathroom set-up!
Being tough motorbike sheilas, though, we were unfazed by it all - particularly as the publican let us stay there free of charge - "it's not real flash, girls - a bit rough, so I won't charge youse". We had the BEST night – and the shearers were nice young blokes who made us welcome. The night at the Black Stump Inn ended up being one of the highlights of the two week tour!

The bikes parked in front of the Black Stump - really and truly!

Well – that's the Readers Digest condensed version – a short guide to some country pubs. My 2009 calendar features some more pubs I wouldn't mind visiting! Watch this space!

Playing with poetry 2


Howling metal beast
Gliding on treacherous roads
Medicine of wind

(c) Sue Hines 2009

I'm no poet, ("No shit!" I hear you saying) but it's a giggle to muck around with form, playing with words and ideas within the rigid constraints of certain poetic forms - just for the heck of it. I like the tight rules of sonnets and haiku.

Mine may be execrable poetry, (speaking in terms of artistic merit) but good mental gymnastics! Hmm, what next? Stay tuned for a motorcycle limerick, tee hee!

Yeah - not giving up my day job anytime soon *sigh*, and I should probably get out more...

Playing with poetry 1

Motorcycle Sonnet

Oh come with me along a winding trail
A mountain steep and shadowed in deep green
Each bend potential pain if we should fail
The answer, perfect trust in the machine
Each twist and turn a challenge for the mind
Defy the laws of reason! Love the fear!
And know each time we ride a perfect line
The summit and deliverance are near
Each throbbing beat of engine and of heart
A love-song in a symphony of light
Each swooping lean a moving work of art
A ballet of adrenalin and might
Only a rider knows the way it feels
To lean hard through life's corners on two wheels

(c) Sue Hines 2009

Heh heh

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Helmet Head

If you don’t need a head, you don’t need a helmet.

I don’t know who said that - I think it was an ad campaign years ago - but it makes sense. I think if you’re going to get onto a motorcycle and ride fast (or even not so fast) on roads where cars, trucks and buses aren’t looking for you, often don’t see you and sometimes run into you – your head and the brain inside it need the best protection you can give them.

A good helmet is essential. To be legal, all helmets sold in Australia have to have the AS1698 sticker affixed, meaning they pass the Australian Safety Standard. Prang in a stickerless helmet and you risk being booked for “not wearing a helmet”. Truly.

My helmet is a Nolan. I have a Nolan shaped head. I’ve tried on many different helmet brands, including the expensive Shoei and Arai ones, but my head just isn’t the right shape for them. No point spending big bucks on something that doesn’t fit properly.

The fit is really important. Too loose and it will move around – that’s not safe, especially if you hit the road or something else. Too tight and it will give you a headache and make riding an ordeal. It has to be, as Goldilocks said, “juuuuust right”. Snug.

Somehow a helmet, like a lot of bike gear, has become a fashion statement as well as a bit of safety kit. There are some fabulous designs and colours available. You can match your helmet to your bike or your gear, pick something that looks artistic or aggro, retro or revolutionary, pretty or punchy. Some helmets are a real work of art. But this is where it starts to get weird. In some circles, the look of the helmet seems more important than its function – keeping your scone safe.

I chose my helmet on the basis of fit and visibility. It’s comfortable and it’s bright. I like the thought that I can be seen on the road. When I bought it, the guy at the shop said “Oh, you got the Casey Stoner replica – nice choice.”

Now, I’d heard of Casey Stoner – I knew he was about to become world champion in motoGP racing, but at the time I wasn’t the race fan that I am now. I thought it was a funny coincidence that the helmet I liked just happened to be the same as Casey’s. And I liked the helmet – it has Aussie motifs on it and a kangaroo on the back that I thought was a nice touch. What I didn’t realise was that I was about to enter the dark side of motorcycling where some people judge you by the gear that you wear.

And then I read a long thread on a bike forum about race replica helmets. The prevalent view seemed to be that people who buy race replica helmets are wannabes and wankers.

I met someone in real life who’s actually on that forum, and I noticed he kept looking at my helmet and doing weird things with his eyebrows and his head to communicate with his friends. He even commented on it – said something like “Nice helmet” but I felt instantly paranoid, and was sure what he was actually thinking was “Oh, a Stoner replica helmet – Wotta wanker!”

I don’t get it. I’ve never heard people called wannabes for wearing their favourite footy team’s jersey. People in AC/DC or Led Zeppelin t-shirts aren’t wannabe musos, and nobody will accuse you of wanting to be Marilyn Monroe or Marilyn Manson if you wear clothes emblazoned with their image.

I’m thinking that maybe – just maybe - the comments of some people say more about themselves than about the people they’re criticising. Wankers!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Elvis Lives! Day Ride: Parkes NSW

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Parkes is a town in the central west of NSW. The population, according to Wikipedia, was 11,700 in 2006. It's not very big, although it's very spread out. It's also the home of the big radio telescope that featured in the fillum The Dish.

But it has another, far weirder claim to fame - it's the home of the annual Elvis Festival. There's something seriously unsettling about that (a bit like the Goodies episode with all the Rolf Harrises...) but what a hoot for a day ride!

The Ancient Submariner and I went with some of his regular riding buddies , and weirdness was the order of the day. After a late breakfast and a serious overdose of Tammy Wynette at the cafe in Murrumburrah, and much giggling and Elvis impersonation, we continued on our way. I did a bit of a double take when we rode past a roadside stall proclaiming it sold "free range wombat eggs" - WTF? Since when did wombats lay eggs? I chuckled for ages after I realised we were riding through a tiny tiny little town called - you guessed it - Wombat.

But wait, there's more... Just outside Grenfell, on the road to Forbes, there's a roadsign pointing you in the direction of the Guinea Pig Races. I'd never heard of such a thing! (Note to self: there's obviously a lot more to country NSW than meets the eye! Check out Grenfell one day!)

I've been wondering what the collective noun for a group of Elvises (Elvii?) should be - suggestions from friends and today's riding group included: a thrust of Elvii, a swivel of Elvii, and my personal favourite, from Glen - a gyration of Elvii.

So when we actually got to Parkes and parked the bikes in the main street, with Elvis music blaring from street-mounted speakers, and all the shops resplendent with "Jailhouse Rock" themed window displays, the excitement was almost too much for me!

Let me hasten to add here - I am not, and have never been - an Elvis fan. That was my mother's domain. She used to leer and make horrible lewd noises and say "Fwoar - Elvis could park his shoes under my bed any day" - and the thought of that was just too icky for words. My mum and Elvis? Eeeeeewwwww! I guess I've always thought of Elvis as a potential homewrecker, ha ha!

We wandered to the park in search of Elvii, and were not disappointed. They were everywhere! Look!

We couldn't let the real Elvii have all the fun, so we headed to Elvis Central and bought Elvis hair, modelled here with varying degrees of Elvisness (Ross looks like Papa Smurf, hee hee!) I think the award for Elvisness should go to Glen - the rest of us look a bit like Klingons...

So anyway... eventually we had to leave. Storm clouds were gathering. The trip home was via Cowra for an ice cream and Boorowa to put on wet weather gear! Thunder, lightning, horrible winds, rain... the sort of stuff that motorcyclists love!

It was a big day - from the time I left my house this morning to the time I got back, it was 614kms - but it was a hoot! Now I can say I've seen a gyration of Elvii - in terrific company - discovered wombat eggs and guinea pig races, lost about 5kg from sweating inside my leathers and learned some more about regional NSW!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Annoying Things People Do 1: on the road

OK, if I had a rocket launcher attached to my bike, some of these people would be in big trouble!

At the top of my Hit List are those jerks who behave badly in overtaking lanes. Their top two crimes are:

• Hogging the overtaking lane when they’re actually slower than the traffic in the “slow” lane. There are plenty of roadside signs telling them that they should keep left unless overtaking, and that there are fines (in excess of $110!) for doing what they’re doing. But of course, I don’t know that anyone has ever been caught and fined for it. You’d probably have to do it to a police car – and for some reason road users start to do the right thing as soon as they catch a glimpse of a police car. Mind you, it’s not quite so annoying if you can simply move back into the left lane, overtake them - or should that be “undertake”? - and continue on your way. That’s often the case out on the open road. In urban traffic, though, it drives me mental.

Why do they do it? I think often it’s because they know that at some point they will want to make a right hand turn. But that point may be 10kms down the road. Aaaaargh! Or maybe it’s a power trip. It’s often 4WD vehicles that do it – they’re bigger, so they can sit anywhere on the road that they damned well please. Other frequent offenders are girls in small cars with frangipani stickers on the rear window, and Toll Priority courier vans. I guess they think that the word “Priority” on their van means they have first dibs on the overtaking lane, even if they’re going slower than a snail on Valium.

• Deliberately stopping anybody else from overtaking. Now that is definitely a power trip. You know the scenario – there’s a long line of traffic stuck behind a slow-moving truck on, say, the Pacific Highway heading up towards the north coast of NSW, or the Monaro Highway between Canberra and Cooma. Long straight roads with a fair bit of traffic on them. You’ve been waiting for the next overtaking lane for the last 5kms, right? So eventually an overtaking lane begins, and one inconsiderate bastard flies into the lane, races up to the slow-moving truck, sits right next to it until the overtaking lane is about to end, and then pulls in front of it and usually slows down to a speed slower than the slow-moving truck is doing. It’s the driver’s revenge on the truck for having held him up for the last 5kms, but the moron forgets about (or perhaps just doesn’t give a rat’s arse about) the other poor suckers he’s just doomed to another 5kms of crawling along. Is it any wonder road rage is on the increase?

Next on the list are the people who give Junior a driving lesson out on the Monaro Highway – or anywhere else, for that matter, where the speed limit is higher than 80kmh and there is a dearth of places to overtake. Learner drivers in NSW are limited to 80kmh, so even if the limit on the road is 100-110kmh, they hold up the rest of the traffic until an overtaking lane appears and one miserable inconsiderate bastard flies into the lane, races up – oh, there’s that moron again!

Here’s a clue for those “responsible” licensed supervisors/parents – get Junior to pull over and let the traffic past before somebody snaps and does something stupid. I can almost hear them sitting in the passenger seat: It’s ok dear, don’t you let them bully you – you have as much right to be on the road as they do. No, no, stand your ground, and don’t you go a skerrick over 80. How are you going to feel if Junior stands his or her ground and someone gets killed? I narrowly avoided certain death on that road one day when Junior stood his ground. Junior was at the head of a long line of oncoming traffic, being a good little L-plater and sticking to his 80kmh limit. There were maybe 15 cars stuck behind him. All of a sudden, an impatient and inconsiderate bastard in a blue car near the end of the line decided he wasn’t going to sit there for another second. He gunned his motor and roared into my lane. I slowed right down and pulled onto the shoulder of the road – yes, I actually had to get off the road to avoid being killed by this moron. He was flying to the head of the queue at warp speed, and guess what – none of the other miserable inconsiderate bastards were going to let him back into the long, slow caterpillar simply so he could avoid killing a law-abiding motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction. (picture little thought bubbles coming out of their collective heads: HA! We’ll show him!) By the time he flew past me (in my recently vacated lane) he still had 2 or 3 cars to overtake.

My own personal justice meter can’t decide who was more at fault – the stubborn little learner driver who held people up long enough that the impatient inconsiderate bastard lost his cool and behaved stupidly; the impatient inconsiderate bastard in the blue car who would’ve killed me, or the miserable inconsiderate bastards who refused to let him back into the line when they realised disaster was imminent. I think they should all share the responsibility – but as the one who would’ve been dead, I wouldn’t have had much say in it.

There’s a special room in hell set aside for 4WD drivers who find it absolutely impossible to stay in their lane on a twisty road. They straddle the centre line and fly through the twisties, having a marvellous time and forgetting that there may be oncoming traffic that needs the lane they are currently hogging half of.

Then of course there are the people who:
• Take forever to pull away from traffic lights. The sequence goes something like this. Light goes green. Driver sees it go green. Driver realises it is green. Driver contemplates moving. Driver begins the release hand brake/engage correct gear/accelerate away from lights sequence. Then the driver behind him starts the process afresh.

• Tailgate. There’s something about a tailgater that makes me very twitchy as a motorcyclist.

• Insist on getting in front of you and then slowing down.

• Race up to a corner and engage their brakes at the last possible nanosecond, so you’re not sure whether they’re actually going to stop or pull out in front of you. That’s a behaviour that can cause a UCM (Undie Changing Moment) for a motorcyclist.

• Apply make-up, talk on the phone, change CDs, read the paper, eat their bloody breakfast while they’re driving.

• Throw lit cigarettes out of the window. Quite apart from the fire hazard it is in this bushfire-prone country, I really don’t like being hit by a lit cigarette butt while I’m riding.

• Drag me off at traffic lights. Hello? If I want to race I’ll go to a race-track. You and I both know my bike is going to pull away from the lights faster than your shitbox car with very little effort. Don’t try to make me prove it, coz I can’t be bothered. Enjoy your little ego trip.

• Don’t “read” the traffic.

• Are so nervous that they touch their brakes every few seconds. Your brakes work, ok?

• Tow caravans on steep twisty narrow roads like Brown Mountain or Clyde Mountain.

Gee, I’m going to need a lot of rockets on that rocket launcher!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Elvis has left the building - and he's in Parkes, NSW!

Sometimes, do you feel as if you're on (or from) another planet? Holy crap, I do...

A few days ago I walked down the hill to my local shops. In the space of about 20 metres I witnessed a drug deal (what IS the correct procedure for that? I just kept looking straight ahead cos I was petrified!) a bunch of teenage boys looking for trouble (they were prowling around the back of the shops with a baseball bat) and a crazy lady (she was talking very loudly to herself - I looked for the cellphone headset but there wasn't one). Anyway - I was just going about my business, walking to the shops to buy a bottle of wine, and I was confronted by all this weirdness. Is it any wonder I drink?

But for weirdness and "cognitive dissonance", nothing can compare with this - the Elvis festival at Parkes, NSW.

View Larger Map

This morning's news had this little snippet:

400 impersonators crowd Elvis Express

One for the money: Elvis impersonators prepare to catch the Elvis Express. (ABC TV)

About 400 Elvis impersonators and fans have boarded a special train from Sydney to Parkes for the annual festival honouring 'The King'.

The passengers on the Elvis Express will be among about 8,000 visitors expected to crowd the town in the state's central west for the next five days.

Impersonators and dancers performed at Central Station before departing at 8:30am.


Can you imagine how that feeling of being on another planet would kick in? You're minding your own business, going to work - and all of a sudden a horde of Elvises (Elvii?) appears. You'd start to wonder about your sanity, wouldn't you?

Guess where I'm off to on Sunday!!! Uh-huh-huh! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Day Trip: destination Junee

Rural NSW is full of interesting towns within day trip distance of Canberra. My friend the Ancient Submariner (he's not really ancient at all, but I like the name!) decided the licorice/chocolate factory at Junee would be a good destination for a Sunday ride. The two magic words (licorice and chocolate) were all I needed to haul the Bomber out of the shed for a 9am start.

View Larger Map
Junee is a bit over 200kms from Canberra. We did a sort of loop - went there via Harden (stopped there for a cold drink) and Cootamundra, and came back via Gundagai (where we stopped for another cold drink). It's a great road from Junee to Gundagai, passing through places like Wantabadgery, Nangus and Eurongilly (where I saw a willy-willy), and with lots of bends that were a cross between twisties and sweepers - very nice!

Holy dooley it was warm! I discovered two important things - this bike cooks my legs in hot weather, (the previous two were fully faired jobbies, and I bet that made a difference) and mesh pants are crap on longish rides. It's like sitting on fly-screen. Oh my delicate petal legs! Next time I'll wear my leathers.

The licorice factory is brilliant! It's all organic, offers tours of the factory, a gift shop, a cafe (with live music on Sunday!) a factory shop, picturesque outdoor area...

Even in the heat we couldn't resist one of their hot chocolates - and it was well worth the trip!

Junee itself is an old railway town, and the buildings erected in its boom days are gorgeous - lots of long two storey buildings with iron lacework balconies. It's also the birthplace of many rugby league luminaries, and home to Australia's most haunted house, Monte Cristo - another place well worth a visit. I went there a couple of years ago, and it's seriously atmospheric!

The giant grasshoppers that bothered me out that way a few weeks ago have gone - now there's just searing heat and dryness. Carrying an extra waterbottle is a good idea. I soaked a bandanna before tying it round my neck, and poured some cold water inside the front of my jacket, for some fabulous evaporative cooling. Next time I'll remember my neck sausage.

Now there's a nifty device! It's a flat tube of fabric, just long enough to tie around your neck, and it contains some gel crystals. If you soak the tube in cold water the crystals swell up to about fourteen MILLION times their size, and you have this cool damp sausage to tie around your neck so you can keep your cool for HOURS! (It also acts as a shield for some of the flying beasties that you encounter on the road - and believe me, that's a good thing! I once found a bee embedded in it - better the neck sausage than my neck!)

By the time I got home (and we got home as fast as we could to stop the chocolate melting!) my delicious bag of chocolate coated licorice was a little the worse for wear - oh, the HEAT! - but fifteen minutes in the fridge restored it, and it was truly delicious!

I was not so easily restored, and needed several glasses of iced water, a cool shower, and afterwards, a glass of chilled white wine as I wandered around my garden , fighting off mozzies and checking my baby plants for heat damage.

It was a lovely Sunday - thanks, Ancient Submariner!

Bike Gear and Helmet Hair

According to Trinny & Susannah's Body Shape Calculator, I'm a Skittle. A shortish one. There are some things I should not ever wear - capri pants, wide belts, ankle strap shoes... that sort of thing. Thank God I'm a motorcyclist and I don't worry about any of that!

I have my summer bike gear and my winter bike gear - and all of it makes me look a bit like the Michelin Man! All that protective armour takes up space and adds unwanted inches all over the place. There's no point asking "Does my bum look big in this?" because there's only one answer when you're all geared up.

But I don't care that my bum looks the size of a small country in my protective pants - I want all the protection I can get if I go for a slide down the road on it!

And then there's helmet hair. There's no escaping it, although some lucky people don't seem to suffer from it as badly as others. Those people are inevitably men. Why is this so? Is male hair somehow genetically predisposed to come out of a long day inside a helmet looking good?

I suspect there really is a difference between boy hair and girl hair. This is the only explanation for the fact that boy haircuts only cost a fraction of what girl haircuts do.

Here's a true story. I asked a barber for a haircut once - short back and sides, I said. I don't cut women's hair, he said. I pointed at the bloke whose hair he'd just cut.

But I want a haircut just like that! I said.

He wouldn't do it. So I went to a hairdresser, got it cut super-short, paid the lady and went straight back to the barber. He took one look at my hair and said "Sheesh, if you'd told me that's what you wanted I could've done a better job."

He's lucky I wasn't PMSing.

I go to him now all the time. My hair is so fine and it grows in several different directions. It's plagued by cowlicks. The barber agrees that for me, shorter is better - especially as I'm always sticking my head into a helmet. He is a whiz with the scissors - a proper old style barber - and he cuts my hair just the way I want it!

Now I can forget to comb my hair and no-one can tell the difference! I can ride all day and my hair looks the same at the end of the day as it did at the beginning!

I save heaps on hair product, coz I just don't use it - and because I hardly have any hair, I hardly use any shampoo! WIN-WIN!

Don't I look like a boy though? I guess not - the bumps on the front help - and those special bum-enhancing padded pants would give just about any girl "childbearing hips"!

I love my gear!

Monday, 5 January 2009

three years...and counting.

I haven't blogged for a few days. It's not laziness or apathy. It's a kind of fear.

What I want to write about today has been floating about in my head, nudging harder and harder at the edges, and I've been resisting it. I'll tell you why later.

On the weekend I reached the third anniversary of the attack that changed me and my world.

Three years ago a stranger called Shaun Burke broke into the house I was looking after, raped me at knifepoint and escaped into the night to stalk his next victim. I was one of several victims in his horrible 5 year "rape-fest".

It's a matter of public record that Burke is now serving a well-deserved 25 year non-parole period of a 37 year head sentence - probably the most just sentence ever handed down to a rapist in the Australian Capital Territory, thanks to the late Justice Terry Connolly of the Supreme Court in the ACT.

I'm not going to say anything more about serial rapist Burke, or about his attack on me, apart from the fact that he was a calculating and evil monster.

What I want to talk about is - gee, this is why I've been avoiding writing about it - it's so hard to put it down and give it a heading. I think what I want to talk about, three years after the event, is why I am finding it so hard to write about it.

After Burke was sentenced I asked the police who had conducted the investigation if there was anything I could do to give something back - to show my immense gratitude for the tireless work that they had put in to catch Burke and build the case against him. And that was the beginning of a very rewarding road for me on my recovery. Speaking up can be very empowering.

Publicly I have spoken twice to groups of trainee detectives, to give them a victim's perspective. I will undoubtedly do it again next year.
I have spoken on radio and television about "sexual behaviour" education.
I have spoken to football teams and groups of schoolboys about inappropriate sexual behaviour.
I have taken part in surveys about restorative justice.
I have helped to launch a government publication to help rape victims navigate their way through the legal system.

I have only ever done this by invitation.

Privately (no invitation necessary!) I speak out against "humour" that uses rape as its basic premise. I'm afraid I don't think there's anything funny about non-consensual sex, no matter how it's dressed up and "funnified" - and I'm speaking from the pointy end of it. Acquaintances, colleagues and even friends who send those e-jokes cop it from me. It's all about making a statement and raising awareness of the fact that HEY, THERE'S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT RAPE.

This is where I tell you about the fear I mentioned earlier.

Why was I reticent about mentioning this anniversary in my blog? After all, this is something that looms large in my life. It's with me every minute of every day. It's part of who I am, whether I like it or not (and I have to tell you, I don't like it one bit.) In my down moments it nearly destroys me. In my up moments it simmers and threatens, and I fight it off by talking about it publicly to raise consciousness, to reinforce the concept of recovery to myself and hopefully to help other victims realise that it doesn't have to be the end of the world. It sucks. It's crap and it's hard and you sometimes think you would rather be dead, because trying to drag yourself out of that shitty mindset is so hard - but dammit, if you don't it means the rapist has won. It means the rapist has succeeded - has managed to demean and dehumanise you to the point where you give up.

My rapist will never win. He is scum, and I suspect that is all he will ever be.

So- the fear I told you about ... why didn't I want to mention this?

Several weeks ago somebody sent an e-joke to a motorcycle forum of which I am a member. I thought the content was objectionable, and the word RAPE figured largely in the punchline. I kicked into activist mode and said I found it tasteless and offensive, and inappropriate in such a forum.

And another woman took issue with it. The private email conversation (initiated by me) that followed ended with her telling me I was nothing more than a publicity seeker, and that she didn't believe (and had never believed) that I'd been raped anyway. She thought that my speaking out against rape "downgraded the real victims". Hello?

Strangely enough, she'd been someone masquerading as a friend of mine who'd come along to one of the hearings. If I had any respect for her I suppose I might've been really hurt by what she said. Instead, I was furious.

Recently I read a news snippet online about the courage of a Miss World entrant who had been raped. She went public with her story to help other victims, and to send the message that it's ok to speak out against rape. I was so thrilled to read about her!

But in the "Comments" section below the story, sure enough, somebody had accused this courageous young woman of publicity-seeking.

And then there's Tegan, an incredibly gutsy young woman who became a victim of gang-rape at the age of 14, but who spoke out, louder and louder. She refused to be cowed by lawyers during the court case - what courage - when the FATHER of her rapists played the race/culture card... She was subjected to cross-examination and scorn by the Defence, but maintained her dignity and integrity throughout. I'm sure I would've fallen apart - that Tegan is a legend. I'd love to give her a hug.

And while there was overwhelming support for her courage in the onlne comments, there were some amongst them who wanted to criticise her...

I suppose it was reading about those things that made me decide I would actually blog the passage of this awful but significant third anniversary for me, and to reinforce the notion that speaking out really does help.

So how did I spend the awful anniversary night? I did nothing. I spent the evening home alone. I felt a little creepy and irrationally fearful as I went around the house checking locks. I went to bed very very early. I woke, unfortunately, at around the time that it had happened... but was able to go back to sleep. That's a plus. Usually when I wake in the night (which is pretty much every night) I have a bugger of a time getting back to sleep.

I take that as I sign that I am getting better.

And as I believe that speaking up has been so instrumental in this whole "getting better" thing, I will continue to do it. And if some people don't like it, it's their problem.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Ernest(ine)? Is that you?

Remember this, from my 18 December post?

The giant spider currently in my kitchen may or may
not be Ernest(ine). It's a lot less bulbous in the abdomen these days. I have
pondered this, and come to the following possible conclusions:

  • It is a rival giant spider - which could mean I have
    TWO giant spiders in my house at the moment.

  • It is a rival giant spider and it ate Ernest(ine).
    If that's the case, I have one giant spider, but it's clearly of the predatory
    persuasion. And it knows where I sleep.

  • It is Ernest(ine). She has laid an enormous egg-sac
    somewhere, and regained her girlish figure.
As you know, the spider I thought was Ernest(ine) - or someone rather like her - was sadly despatched just before Christmas when she broke the Prime Directive. I am, however, assuming the new and terrifying (as yet unnamed) giant spider in my loo - which looks a lot like the old Ernest(ine) of the big belly - may in fact be the original Ernest(ine), empowered to reappear by the demise of her rival giant spider. Or of course, it could be the ghost of Ernest(ine), come back to haunt me for murdering her. Or it could be a new giant spider altogether - it's not like there's a shortage of them in Canberra. Great.

I learned some interesting things this morning; chiefly, that the presence of a giant spider in the loo:
  • can actually inhibit the peristaltic imperative!
  • can cause a normally sane person to develop a sudden insane desire to be at the office instead.

My bedroom is across the hallway from the loo, and my vantage point - that is to say, my bed - is probably 3.5 metres away from where the hairy behemoth is currently located, high up on the loo wall. I was disturbed to realise that I could see the whites of her eyes from that distance! OK, teensy exaggeration... Even from such a distance, though, I could count all her legs - count all the hairs on all her legs, even - and was fascinated to watch as she scratched her bum with an enormous hairy leg, and then lazily turned around 360 degrees before scratching it again. Maybe she has worms... That's all I need - a spider with worms.

I'm glad I didn't make a New Year's resolution along the lines of "I will be braver about giant spiders", coz I would've broken it only 2 days into the new year...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Ambling Irresolutely into 09

I have had about 50 New Year's eves in my life. Some of them have been memorable. There have been - in no special order of importance, frequency or chronological correctness - drunken frolics, wild parties, city celebrations, quiet nights at home, abstemiously pregnant early nights, kisses, misses, broken resolutions, falling asleep on public transport nights, arguments about driving too fast, and once even a looong walk home in fancy dress after being thrown out of the car by the person whose too-fast driving I had complained about. That one was kind of embarrassing. Even more embarrassing was the fact that I still went through with the wedding, even after such humiliation. I should've known better...

Then there was the night that was supposed to bring in the much talked-about y2K disaster... what a fizzer that was, although I must confess to a certain amount of relief. I watched the New Year's eve telecasts from around the world, and when the New Zealand one didn't go dead at their stroke of midnight, two hours ahead of Canberra's, I went into the garage and looked at my understocked y2K cupboard with a faint sneer.

"I knew it wouldn't happen all along," I said to fourteen tins of baked beans and a packet of celery seeds.

There was no fanfare this year. Just aches and pains, lots of green stuff and a killer sore throat. I spent the entire day and night of New Year's eve in my bed, moaning and groaning and being woken occasionally by the arrival of cheery text messages from hordes of other people who weren't being misery gutses and wallowing in their own mucous. Eeeew, now there's a mental picture!

This morning, as the aches and pains and the tide of snot recede, I remember that I forgot, in my enfeebled state, to make any New Year's resolutions. This is immensely cheering.

Resolutions are a yearly reminder of my total inability to stick with anything that might improve me as a person. Annually I resolve to be tidier, to lose weight, to exercise, to save more and to drink less - and annually I don't do any of these things. My resolve lasts anything from 10 minutes to about 3 weeks before I inevitably slide back into my shambolic lifestyle, a glass of red in hand and my feet up on the coffee table. If I bother to remove my bike boots I'll notice there are holes in my socks - and I won't even care.

So.... this year I may have missed the fun, but I've also avoided the failure! Wheeeeeeeeee! Now.... out to the bike shed to wish The Bomber a Happy New Year and to decide where to ride my messy flabby badly dressed (but contented) self to today?