Use Recycled Materials They Said….


G’day everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve put pen to paper (or should that be fingers to keys in this age of technology) due to getting my video series ‘On This Day in Australia’ up and running. If you haven’t seen it, firstly let me say I’m very disappointed in you, and secondly pop over to Youtube and have a squiz.

So as well as writing, filming and editing the series, continuing work on my next novel, working full time and all other necessary requirements I am also in the process of turning a back yard which resembles Berlin circa 1945 (ie pretty desolate with lots of building stuff lying around), into a thing of beauty.

Why is the yard in such a condition, you may ask. Well go on, ask……

I’m glad you asked. You see late last year me and the financial burdens (kids) moved in with the poor individual who is soon to voluntarily join this mob through matrimonial processes. I know what you’re thinking – who in their right mind would volunteer for that? Please don’t ask her that question though, as we’re all working on the theory that it’s best not to get her thinking about such things.

Prior to our arrival, her abode was a nice cosy little two bedroom job, with the outside laundry attached to the back. Obviously it was going to be difficult to accommodate a grand total of five nearly-adults in that kind of accommodation. So what does One do is such a situation? Well my lovely future marital partner decided to whack on a wee extension to the house. Ya know, nothing major. Just three new bedrooms, a bathroom, toilet, lounge room and covered deck with a new laundry. I know what you’re thinking “is he the luckiest Bogan ever to live”, and the answer is “yes, yes I am.”

Anyhoo, the construction of this mansion required the dismantling of the old laundry and the removal of about six inches of top soil from about 90% of the back yard. All the old posts, beams and palings from the old laundry as well as doors, windows and some left over material from on old shed were left in a pile up against the back fence, and the top soil was never seen again. Hence the yard now looks like Berlin circa 1945 as previously mentioned.

What to do with all this left over stuff? Well any normal person would just hire a skip bin, dump it all in and be done with it. But nay, that would be too easy for this husky gent.

“I shall build stuff with it.” Said I, grandly implying possession of carpentry skills which in reality do not exist.

And so construction of the bird cage began.

First up were the posts left over from the old shed. These posts were, rather inconveniently still in the ground, secured with large amounts of concrete. This would’ve been great except they weren’t where I wanted them to be so they had to be extracted.

Too easy Campese. On the end of the crow bar and a shovel and after working furiously for an hour, I was about two inches down on the first post. Dang that ground was hard. But fortunately, dear reader, good old Mother nature came to my rescue with a deluge of rain which managed to soak in improving digging conditions and over the next few weekends all four posts were extracted with their concrete bases intact.

Now to dig the holes where they would now be placed. Now a wise man would go hire a post hole digger to permit a more accurate placement and digging of the holes, but I’m not a wise man, and I kind of have a penchant for doing things the old fashioned way – by hand. So again with the shovel. It was only after all the posts were in that I noticed one of them was not where it should be, in fact it was about thirty centimetres out of place. Did I dig it up and try again? Hell no. I was over the whole digging thing well and truly by this stage.

But then, good old Mother Nature showed her sense of humour. Having gone to great lengths to ensure the holes were deep enough to fully cover the concrete, old Mum sent down another deluge which washed away the loose soil, leaving the tops of the footings exposed. So much for a nice smooth, flat working surface for the frame to go up on.

So with a quick change of plan, boards from the old laundry were hastily nailed around the base, a heap of sand thrown in and some semblance of a base was established, but not with incident. It appears the posts were not exactly square, with each of them having some degree of a twist. So when attempting to nail boards between two posts some ‘encouragement’ was required to bend the boards sufficiently to enable the nails to hold them in place. Unfortunately this was not always successful, with the occasional end springing free and providing a wholloping great whack on the shins. This was usually followed with expressions such as “oh my golly gosh that does hurt somewhat” or “fiddle dee dee, that will leave a bonzer bruise.”

With the top beams going in slightly easier it was now time for the wire. Now for those who have never done this before, here’s a bit of a heads up for you. Aviary wire is distinguished by one stunning feature – it will defy all your efforts to nail it up straight and true. It’s only after you’ve constructed the entire frame and have it all in a vertical position that you come to realise it would be exponentially more effective, with much less swearing, to secure the wire to the frame before introducing the added difficulty of gravity. I won’t tell you how I succeeded in overcoming this challenge, not through any desire to spare you the tedium of reading about it, but more out of a deep desire to ensure that at least one other person in the world may suffer the suffering that I suffered. I’m a tiny, petty man sometimes.

Anyhoo, with a bit of old corrugated iron a roof was installed and a strip of turf filled in the bit of the floor which an insufficient quantity of paving had left bare, and all that was left was the door. We had an old screen door laying around which would make for a fairly decorative door for an aviary. The old insect screen would have to go, to be replaced with aviary wire (yes in the bloody vertical orientation again, no one ever accused me of being a quick learner). But it was during the hanging process (the door, not me) that the old ‘nothing is square or straight’ problem reared is ugly, deformed head once again. The door was straight and square but the posts, as previously discussed, were not. Square peg into a not-so-square hole. So what is one to do? Bend the bloody door, and say it’s close enough of course. What else!

Photo of DIY birdcage/Aviary
The Taj Mahal of Birdcages

Anyway, it’s now installed and operational with four little budgies flapping around in total ignorance of the trouble undertaken for their benefit. A lesser man would begrudge them their luxury, but as a tragic indication of my total lack of carpentry skill, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever constructed in my life, so they’re welcome to it.

Life is good.


That Wonderful First Time – The Second Bit


The Wonderful First Time – The Second Bit.

So where did we leave this last time? Ah that’s right, in the Birdsville Hotel with a group of Army helicopters lobbing in for the evening.

So there we were, enjoying a few beers and a game of pool with the locals, at a pub that felt like it was a thousand kilometres away from the rest of civilised society. No better feeling on the planet, let me tell you. All the usual concerns that a young lad would have back in the real world, such as, um, aw geez, I dunno, I didn’t really have any concerns back then, but whatever they may have been, out there on the edge of the Simpson, they really didn’t amount to fart in a cyclone. All that mattered was that Old Joe was about to sink the black ball and the pride of the Army Apprentice School was on the line. We were getting whipped, figuratively speaking.

Humpa was doing his best with the young lady behind the bar, but she’d heard it all before and the big fella went down in a screaming heap. And when Tony suggested that she was the sister of one of the bigger locals who happened to be sitting at a table in the corner, Humpa decided that on second thoughts he wasn’t really interested in that young lady after all. Now that I think about it, that was among the first of many evenings that saw me and Humpa occupying seats at bars over the coming couple of years. And that’s the other great thing about heading bush with a bunch of blokes, the shared experience turns casual acquaintances into good mates.

So anyway, the next morning as the sun slowly rose it turned out that Tony had organised a bit of a joy ride for us young fellas in the helicopter piloted by the former mechanic. This was going to be great, an opportunity to not only experience the landscape from the ground, but to see the great expanses of sand dunes to one side and bugger all on the other. And with the sunrise to add to the spectacle, couldn’t ask for more.

Well actually I could’ve asked for more, or less to be more accurate. Less of a hangover to be exact. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a small scouting type helicopter with a dozen empty stubbies clanging together in your head and god knows what churning in your guts, but I don’t recommend it. Trying to enjoy the scenery while simultaneously struggling to prevent regurgitation somewhat diminishes the whole experience. And a quick look to my left confirmed that fact that Skins was also experiencing the same struggle. But we both claimed victory and managed to land, a bit green around the gills but otherwise unsullied.

So with that out of the way and with a solid breakfast now on board it was time to pack up and head off into the Simpson. Now originally we were supposed to take the  French Line and head over Big Red, but things had been a bit soggy in the region and it was decided that the Rig Road would be the safer alternative, so that was the new plan. And just as a bit of an aside, my first Birdsville/Simpson experience was affected by rain, in that the original plans involving Big Red were scuppered by rain. Fast forward 25 years, my Man Child headed out that way for the Big Red Bash for his first time out that way, and despite being on the edge of a dessert in the driest Continent on Earth, his first time was also affected by the rain. They couldn’t have the event on Big Red, so it ended up happening in town. Ah and the wheel continues to turn. Sun rise, sun set. The Cat’s in the Cradle with a Silver Spoon, Yes we have no bananas. (Diehard fans of The Simpsons will understand that reference.)

So anyway, we were off on the Rig Road. At first it was pretty easy going. Flat, smooth, well-maintained road out of town for the first few klicks, a couple of little dunes that you probably could’ve made it over in Aunt Mavis’ Corolla. But as we went further the conditions deteriorated until we were going along at a crawling pace, picking our way around washed out sections of the track and negotiating the increasingly more impressive dunes. Not that I’m complaining. I mean that’s what we went out there for and it was actually a lot of fun. The four-wheel driving bug started to bite even harder.


By the end of the day we’d probably covered a bit over 100 kilometres, maybe. I wasn’t paying too much attention to those kinds of details. But by the end of the day we were definitely into the Simpson proper. It also happened to be the auspicious occasion of my 18th birthday. Now, there’s a bit of a tradition down at the Appy School whereby the celebration of a birthday was usually accompanied by the person being celebrated getting thrown into the nearest body of water.

“Ha!” I thought to myself. “We’re in the middle of a desert. There’ll be no non-consensual swim for me this evening.”

And so it was that on this first night we pulled up next to a desert spring.

“No worries.” Thought I. “That water has been baking in the desert sun all day. It’ll be nice and warm.”

So I didn’t struggle too much as the lads took a limb each and carried me down to the water. I wasn’t concerned when they started swinging me, building up sufficient momentum to ensure I was thrown far enough to ensure a thorough dunking. Nor was I concerned as I followed a graceful arc on my way to middle of the spring.

And then I hit the water.

Holy snapping duck shit! Spears of freezing cold icicles stabbed into my soft unprepared flesh as a couple of lumps suddenly appeared in my throat due to my gentlemen’s berries retracting with the speed of light to escape the Antarctic conditions which now surrounded them. The water was as cold as a mother in law’s kiss and while I plummeted to near hypothermic temperature all that the pack of dingoes responsible for my suffering could do was laugh.

So afterwards with the sun going down and a cool breeze gently blowing over us we stood around in a convivial circle of mates, with me wearing nothing but a pair of wet shorts and shivering so hard you could hear my bones smacking together. A bottle of Bundy which the pub had donated for the occasion was passed around. When it came to my turn to upend the bottle, the first sensation was one of desperately needed warmth flowing down my throat and into my stomach, and I forgot I was drinking rum. It was only after a good half dozen large mouthfuls that they decided to separate me from the bottle.

Well the events of the rest of that night are best left in the memories of those who were there, but it did involve more celebratory drinks, a passed out birthday boy and at some stage a midnight search for Onk who seemed to have gone missing after heading out for a leak. After searching for god knows how long, we ended up back at the camp and there he was, snuggled into his sleeping bag and snoring his head off. Best Birthday Ever!

Anyway, to be continued in the third bit next week.