Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Bad Karma Monday ...

Is It Voodoo?

On the 15th of December, 2014 one of our good friends, David Billings, a fly fishing guide, was up on the Central Plateau at London Lakes with some clients. They were going cross country when David put his foot in a rabbit hole, as you do. (Aside: we can thank the colonising Poms for this: rabbits are not native to Australia.) He felt a bang in the back of his leg. Sore it was, as you can imagine. Nevertheless, the professional he is, on into the boat they went where he managed to carry out his duties and found a fish for his clients to catch. Upon return to Hobart it was confirmed that he had ruptured his Achilles tendon and would need to have it surgically repaired. Bad luck, eh!

I too sustained an injury on the same day, whilst up climbing on Mt Wellington with my friend Tony. As it turns out, along with having a badly sprained ankle, like David I also have a fully ruptured Achilles tendon, which was only discovered today (8 days later) after I was referred for an ultrasound by my physiotherapist.

To cut a long story short (yes, this is an act of which I am capable!) I was attempting to do the second ascent of a sport climb, pulled off a loose handhold, took a pendulum fall, hit my foot - badly  twisted my ankle and, apparently, totally ruptured my Achilles tendon. Not the best thing to happen at the start of the summer.

Here's a very scrappy graphic representation of what happened ...

Smack goes Doug, Snap goes Achilles
I knew I was in a bit of trouble; by the noises I was making, so did Tony. I worked out pretty quickly that it wasn't going to feel better any time soon, and Tony lowered me to the ground. We slowly made our way back to the car, with Tony doing a fantastic support job. Home for a rest, to the hospital the next day for an x-ray, nothing broken. Big sigh of relief. Still kinda sore though. Here are some lovely pictures of why ...

Some bruising occurred ...
... which extended well up my calf
The next photo provides a fairly good indication of the swelling ...

Which foot was it ... ?
After a lot of faffing about today visiting various medical establishments, it looks like I will be having a little repair job done tomorrow and then in hospital overnight for monitoring. The GOOD NEWS is that I will get to go home on Christmas Day.  You beauty! (At least now I know where I'm at and where I'm going.)

Isn't this all a bit weird though? Two friends have Achilles tendon ruptures on the same day, within an hour or so of each other. Interestingly enough the Achilles tendon is the strongest but most frequently ruptured tendon in the human body. Both David and I will be having somewhat different summer holidays than what we anticipated ...

Anyway, wish me luck with my surgery and we'll see you later.

Merry Christmas
Joyeaux Noel

Postscript: 7:35 p.m. Christmas Eve

Home now after what appears to be a successful operation. Di has fed me a delicious, healthy stir-fry with squid and vegetables. Feeling a bit dozy after having only about 3 hours sleep last night and a full anaesthetic today. I wanted to say how wonderful all the staff at the Royal Hobart Hospital were to me today. There was no sign of low morale as far as I can see, despite the abysmal way they have been treated by our government. Which takes my to a nice little metaphor I just came across on a climbing website. I hope might bring a pre-Christmas chuckle. Here it is:

An elderly farmer was in the Emergency Ward having stitches put in his hand, due to an accident with a piece of machinery. The doctor carrying out the procedure struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Politicians and their role as our leaders.

The old farmer said, "Well, you know, most Politicians are 'Post Tortoises'.''

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him, what a 'Post Tortoise' was?

The old farmer said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a tortoise balanced on top, that's a post tortoise."

The old farmer, seeing the puzzled look on the doctor's face, continued to explain. "You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, he's elevated beyond his ability to function, and you just wonder what kind of dumb fool put him up there to begin with."

Don't get me wrong: I certainly don't think that all politicians are useless, but I did like the analogy. And quite a few of them could do a lot better. But so could we, the electorate. A start would be a groundswell movement to change the voting rules for the Senate so that voting above the line was done away with and the possibility of allowing one to vote just for the number of vacancies: i.e. either six in the case of a half Senate election, or twelve in the rare case of a full Senate election.

Anyway, it's great to be home with the surgery behind me and on the road to recovery. What with Di's efudex treatment and recovery, and the physical limitations I'll have over the next few months, it's going to be a different kind of summer than what we'd planned. Not to worry: we'll find something to do with ourselves. And one always has to look on the bright side of life, nest-ce pas?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mango Madness versus Apple Apathy

It's Summer in Australia ... or is it ?

Everybody in Australia, from Darwin to Hobart (6 hours flying time or abut 67 hours of driving), has expectations of the summer ahead. For the sport fanatics, it's the start of the cricket season and today the first Test between Australia and India started in Adelaide. Although it was a perfect day in Adelaide, in other parts of the country the summer is yet to live up to expectations. Those in the far northwest corner of the country are hanging out for some consistent thunderstorm activity to break the brutal summer humidity, while we in Hobart just want some sunshine  to break the depressing day after day of drizzle that has persisted since summer began.

They've had only one decent storm up in the Territory since the beginning of December, with every day in the mid 30's and humidity in the 60's and 70's ...

Where is the Wet?

Down here in Hobart, we've had day after day of overcast, easterly drizzle with temperatures well below average ...

Where is the Sunshine?
For those who don't know, the Northern Territory grows a lot of mangoes, those wonderful fleshy fruits that exude sexiness. Actually, as an aside there's a terrific poem about mangoes by Richard Tipping that I'd like to share with you ...

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are fleshy skinful passionate fruits
mangoes are hungry to be sucked
mangoes are glad to be stuck in the teeth
mangoes like slush and kissing

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are idiosyncratic seasonal seducers
mangoes are worse than adams apple
mangoes are what parents and parliaments warn against
mangoes like making rude noises

mangoes are not cigarettes
mangoes are greedy delicious tongue teasers
mangoes are violently soft
mangoes are fibrous intestinal love bites
mangoes like beginning once again

mangoes are not cigarettes mangoes are tangible sensual intelligence
mangoes are debauched anti socialites
mangoes are a positive good in the world
mangoes like poetry

To me, mangoes are the epitome of tropical fruit. But hey, it's this time of year that I'm particularly pleased I don't live in the tropics. The heat is fine; it's the humidity that's the killer. Did you know that there is an identifiable condition called Tropical Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka "Mango Madness"? For decades we've known about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a big bugbear in the far north latitudes in winter. Now scientists have identified TSAD in Darwin. The following graph shows how levels of assault increase in Darwin during the hotter months ...

Don't you love the mango highlight in this graph?
Australians are familiar with the term "going troppo"; for those who aren't it is basically a metaphor for going crazy from the heat. It seems even Shakespeare knew something about what the heat does to folks. Back in my teaching days I used to love taking students through Romeo and Juliet. Of course, the opening scene is only a foreshadowing of the tragedy that is to unfold in Act III, which kicks off with Benvolio trying to persuade Mercutio to get in out of the heat ...

I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;

For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

 And thanks to Noel Coward (and, later, Joe Cocker) those of us who are of a certain age also know about Mad Dogs and Englishmen ...

If mangoes are Australia's seductive tropical fruit, then it's worthwhile remembering that apples like cool climates best. And there is of course the whole business about sinful Eve tempting  poor Adam with an apple - which he simply couldn't resist - leading to the banishment of all of us from the Garden of Eden, innocence and all that. So I guess it's worth putting up with a bit of nondescript weather to live in a place that is close to perfect. While Tasmania is no longer known simply as the Apple Isle it is still one of the best places in the world to cultivate that forbidden fruit.

Back to Hobart.  Notwithstanding a brief interruption due to rain, there was a reasonable amount cricket played at Bellerive Oval. It didn't quite make it to 17 degrees and there was a lot of cloud about pretty much all day. We haven't seen Mt Wellington for about a week and this dreary photo from the Rose Bay webcam that I just took a screenshot of is pretty representative of the cloud cover that we've had for the first 9 days of December ( albeit without the rain that has fallen every day but one) ...

Another dreary day in Hobart
This pattern of greyness has led me to coin a new phrase (a counterpoint if you like to the Top End's Mango Madness) that might represent the mood I'm in at the moment due to this ongoing period of blahness: Apple Apathy. Don't get me wrong: Tasmania - and Hobart in particular - is a wonderful place to live. We can have absolutely sublime weather as good as or better than anywhere else I've been, thanks to a generally moderate maritime climate. Actually, I like it here so much that I found this little YouTube video to share with you that gives a bit of a glimpse of some of the delights of our little island paradise on the edge of the Southern Ocean ...

Despite it being such a good place to be alive, what with this weather I've been  having trouble getting motivated to do much outdoors - partly because Di is confined to indoors at the moment. Apathy has set in.  With rain falling on seven of the nine December days so far it's been hard to get enthusiastic about cycling, and climbing outdoors hasn't been very appealing either. (Although no rain was actually recorded today there was light drizzle around noon and the humidity ranged between 50 and 80 percent the whole day.) However, with the cool damp conditions I summoned enough motivation yesterday to embark on the construction of two mini greenhouses for the eggplant and capsicums I planted at the start of the month. I'm now waiting for one of our local nurseries to get some greenhouse quality plastic back in to stretch over the frames I've put together. When they are in place I'll put together a new post with some photos of them in the garden.

When it comes to the weather altering one's mood, I'll take Mango Madness or Apple Apathy any day over Cabin Fever, a hazard of remote living in far northern climes where there just isn't enough daylight during some times of the year. Imagine being stuck in a tiny, remote dwelling, surrounded by trackless snow, forty plus degrees of frost and almost no daylight for a couple of months. No thanks!

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary the phrase Cabin Fever was first coined 100 years ago. When Di and I took a year off to Canada for a year to travel, work (just a bit of that) and play we were introduced to Stan Rogers, a legend of the Canadian folk music scene. He wrote many fine songs before his tragic and untimely death when he was only thirty-three years old. His song Canol Road is an extremely evocative rendition of a man driven to madness and paranoia by cabin fever ...

Let's hope that it doesn't get us this time, eh!

While we're on the Canadiana kick, in particular the far north, one of Robert Service's poems has a very strong cabin fever flavour to it. If you're not familiar with The Shooting of Dan McGrew, it's a very early 20th century classic set in the Yukon goldfields. You can read it here, or watch and listen to it being read on YouTube ...

With a little luck, the weather will pick up significantly before the Cygnet Folk Festival rolls around in the middle of January. We have tickets and plan to take our Ultimate down for the weekend. We'll have some bike rides (even if it does rain!), listen to some music and enjoy the ambience. In the meantime, hopefully my new little mini greenhouses will make the eggplants and capsicums grow! And if the sun would only appear unveiled and share some of its power for even a few hours we will have cherries in the garden ready harvesting. Life is good.


I really like hearing back from folks after I've made a post, especially when they discover something new that they like (but also when people let me know of little glitches - spelling mistakes, bad grammar, etc that need fixing, as I am often blogging late at night and not always at my sharpest). My reasons for blogging is that it's all about sharing and having a bit of fun, so I appreciated Austra's comments about Stan Rogers and Noel Coward. Also really appreciated Graham's comments on some recent weather the people in New South Wales have been experiences. He was happy for me to use his words verbatim, so here they are:  "Last Monday my brother and I set up camp in the Snowy Mountains near Kiandra. Later that afternoon we got a monster thunderstorm, hail and lots of lightning and thunder. The same thing happened the following afternoon. Then on Wednesday we moved to Long Flat Plain. One minute it was fine and 30c, within 10 minutes the storm hit and the temp had dropped to 11c. It was still raining an hour later. So feeling somewhat shell shocked, we drove 5 hours home to assured shelter.
Each afternoon since, Sydney has experienced the most spectacular electric storms. Last Friday night I watched out our kitchen window towards the city as a lightning bolt hovered, literally for some 3 seconds, as it decided where to touch down.

"She'll Be Apples" - again
Older Australians will remember Tasmania as the "Apple Isle". That phrase hearkens back to the days when massive amounts of apples were shipped to "the auld sod", aka "THE UNITED KINGDOM". When I first arrive in Tasmania, car licence plates were still emblazoned with I've just been reading our local rag online. It seems that, thanks to China and cider making, Tasmania is becoming the Apple Isle once again.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Saying Goodbye Before Heading Home

Back to PoCo

So, after spending a delightful weekend with Konrad and Izabela we headed back across on the ferry to Campbell River. There was a sobering sight to be had when a tow truck pulled up next to us with this wreck on the back ...

Leaving Quadra Island in style ... not!
All the school kids who got on the ferry to go to school in Campbell River had a pretty good look at it as they were getting off.

 We'd stayed on in Konrad and Iza's place when they left on Sunday for the long drive back to Calgary. So the first thing we did when we got off the ferry on Monday morning was pop into the Java Shack for breakfast. It's strategically located right next to the ferry terminal and has fantastic coffee and heaps of great stuff for breakfast. 

 As we drove down island the weather started to worsen. We were on our way to Nanaimo to catch the ferry to the mainland to spend a final couple of days with Diane and Murray before flying home. On the way we stopped to see Mom and take her out to lunch. We'd talked about going to the Old House Restaurant - an institution in the Comox Valley. (I actually worked there for a few months while I was recovering from a back operation way back in 1977.) As it turned out the Old House closed its doors about a year ago and has been replaced with "Locals Restaurant at the Old House". 
This is what the place looks like ...

Locals Restaurant at the Old House

Apparently, The Old House had gotten a bit tired but as they say, there's nothing like a breath of fresh air. Locals makes a point of sourcing and featuring much of its ingredients from nearby producers on Vancouver Island, hence the name. We hadn't checked out any reviews but were pleased with our choice: it turns out that Locals is rated number one of all restaurants in the Comox Valley. If you're up that way, I highly recommend a visit.

Di took a photo of me with Mom. She was looking a bit serious so I told her I'd tickle her if she didn't smile, which made her laugh ...

There's a bit of life in the old girl yet, eh Mom!
While we were on Quadra it had been fine during the day but raining quite a lot at night. Now the rain had set in properly and it was quite wet travelling all the way down island through Comox and on to Nanaimo. It didn't let up when we got on the ferry either. We have all these wonderful photos from ferry crossing in the sunshine during summer so Di thought she should venture out on deck to take some photos to show how dirty the weather was. This is what it looked like from through the window before she ventured outside ...

You can go out Di, I'm happy in here!

... and outdoors it was like this, with the lack of clarity in the photo down to rain lashing and pretty low light levels ...

It was a pretty dirty day for a ferry ride ...
And the weather got progressively worse the closer we got to Vancouver. When we landed in Horseshoe Bay darkness had fallen along with the Pacific Ocean falling on the city of Vancouver. Later that night I had a peek at the forecast for the area and this is what it showed on the agenda for western Canada for the next couple of days ... 

Good for the skiers, I guess ...

We were scheduled to leave at midday Wednesday so it looked like we weren't going to escape without a bit of regular west coast winter (which effectively starts early in November) weather. Not to worry. It's (mostly) only water.

In fact, it took a little while for the rain to turn to snow in the lower mainland. Just after arrived home in Hobart I got an email from Murray to let me know that it was snowing at their house. I quickly jumped on the internet and looked up a webcam for Grouse Mountain, which is a little ski hill just behind Vancouver. To my delight, the webcam showed bright, sunny conditions all around with a good covering of snow and skaters zipping about on the frozen pond at the chalet. Here's a screenshot I took (the skaters aren't moving of course!) ...

Grouse Mountain Chalet

A  Short, Selective and Haphazard Foray into the Annals of the Bruce Family

The main purpose of this trip was to visit with my baby sister, who isn't well, so it was fitting for us to finish our trip where we started. On return to Diane and Murray's place in Port Coquitlam we were delighted to see that my sister Chris was there. She'd spent the day with Diane and stayed on to see us and have dinner. I had to take this photo of her and Diane with my Dianne ...

Three gorgeous chicks ... or should that be ... hens, perhaps?
And I got Di to take a photo of me with Murray ...

Brothers in arms
We spent our last full day in Canada with Diane and that night had a farewell dinner. My sister Susie and her husband Earl ...

Susie - my middle sister - and her husband Earl

came over to say hello and break bread with us before we left for home. Another real treat was to see my favourite aunt and uncle, who'd come to spend a few days in Vancouver. Florence and Eddie  ...

Auntie Flo and Uncle Eddie ~ you champions!

...live in Kelowna, and Dianne and I have had many visits with them over the thirty years we've been travelling back to Canada. If you're betting that's a twinkle in Flo's eyes you are spot on the money. And if Eddie didn't have his eyes shut you'd see a twinkle there too! A more good-natured couple of people you'll never find.

And that pretty much wraps up our quick trip to the west coast of Canada. However, being back in my old environment, and catching up with family got me thinking about bygone days. Recently when  was poking through some old photos I found this one of Eddie and Flo with my Mom and Dad. It's from about forty-five years ago (Dad still has most of his hair and even Eddie has got a healthy crop on his dome) and was taken in the first house Mom and Dad built in Comox. I think they are on their way out to a dance at the Legion (for those of you who can be bothered reading these ramblings that link is a hidden gem, especially if you are of a certain generation) ...

Going out for a soiree?

Going way, way back in the archives I found this photo of my big brother Bob, my middle sister Susie and me ...

What's going on, Dad?
... and here's a grainy old photo from a couple years later of the whole Bruce brood ...

All dressed up with nowhere to go
I won't need to tell you how old the next photo is because you can see for yourself. The challenge for you though is to download the photo, find your correspondent and then send it to me for checking ...

Where am I?!?
Much later, after I'd spent some time skiting around at Uni I decided that it was time to do something different and went hiking with my mate Asker Naesgaard.  One of the trips we did was the famous West Coast Trail. Here's a photo of the two of us with a couple of lasses that we met while camping at the (now world famous) Tsusiat Falls ...

Having a laugh or two
If you're looking at the big picture, you will have noticed all the driftwood in the background. It's almost all due to the logging industry along the coast. More about that in the next post.

Time passes, we get older. Eleven years ago, Dianne and I made a special trip back to Canada. It was my Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. A pretty good effort considering they had 5 kids in a 6 year stretch starting less than a couple of years after they were married. Here's a photo of the Bruce clan assembled for the special occasion ...

Jack and Edna's 50th wedding anniversary

Closer to the present day, we had a great trip to Canada (and the USA) in 2012. Mostly we were running around the traps indulging our passion for climbing and hiking but we did do some family stuff, including a visit with Murray and Diane. Unlike the end of November, August in Vancouver normally comes up with the goods as far as sunny skies goes. Diane and Murray must have been enjoying being out in the sunshine judging from this photo ...

Diane and Murray, August 2012

While we were in Canada for this visit, one of the things I did a bit of was to head out first thing in the morning with Murray to take Lucas for a walk. Back in 2012, we went out to Buntzen Lake, one of my sister's Diane's favourite spots, for a walk with Lucas. I could be wrong, but I think being outdoors walking the dog was one of Diane's top three things that she liked to do. Here I am with her and Lucas, crossing one of the bridges at the lake ...

On the bridge with Lucas

That's one of my all time favourite moments with Diane 
so it's probably a good time to stop rambling. See you later ...