If I was still on Facebook, I’d definitely share that.
Today I swam 3,175 metres in 167 minutes. That’s 1.14 km per hr or 0.62 knots. An improvement, but still slow. I swam slowly, but continuously the whole time, stopping only once to adjust my mask strap when the pressure on my upper lip became uncomfortable.
At this speed my goal of swimming 5 kilometres is still a way off. Not because I can’t do it, but because of the time it will take. Today at the end I did not stop because I was tired, or even uncomfortable. I stopped only because I was hungry. So hungry in fact I got the low blood sugar shakes, and had to go buy an ice cream and a cappuccino at the pool shop. I must have a better breakfast if I’m going for a marathon swim.
I have found the perfect accessory to help me get along while swimming a long time. When I went to Solomon Islands in 1984, I bought at the duty-free on the way out of Auckland a new-fangled Sony Walkman Sport cassette player and was delighted to learn it was waterproof. So back then I used to go snorkelling with it. There is nothing more delightful than the slightly surreal sensation of swimming over a gorgeous coral reef, surrounded by colourful fish, while listening to Beethoven, Mozart, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, and all my other favourite classical and classic rock music.
The Walkman cost me $300, which was a lot, back then. Of course it is long gone. It is the only possession of mine that has been stolen twice. It was recovered the first time, but not the second. Obviously.
I wondered what the modern equivalent MP3 player might be like. I Googled, and found a lot to choose from on line in a range of prices from the sublime to the ridiculous. I finally chose one I thought the most suitable for my purpose. It cost less than I would pay for a pack of cigarettes, if I still bought them. With free postage.
That is how I these days justify buying these little extravagances; by converting them to cigarette equivalents. I only just the other day found out how much fags cost these days. A frightening amount. Enough for me to rationalise a treat now and then. A restaurant meal costs less than a pack of fags here in Australia.
But I digress.
I like this player, apart from the price, because it has 8 Gb memory, which can store many hours of music, and because it fits around my neck like a Celtic torque. I did not want one that clipped to my mask strap, or to my swimming togs. I did not want long dangly leads to get tangled. Nor did I want wireless earbuds to lose.
It arrived three days after I ordered it from Amazon. I charged it and filled it with my favourite music. Much the same stuff I was listening to back in the 1980s (Despite modern tech, my musical development was pretty much arrested in the eighties – With some exceptions) but instead of playing cassettes which can’t be changed while swimming, it is now all digital and downloaded to my computer. Enough for many hours of swimming without getting tired of the selection.
Today, Thursday, is the first day I have swam this week. My shoulders and back were aching on Sunday so I gave the pool a miss that day. I slept most of the day, awoke out of sorts and found myself sleepless all night. The black dog visited and for the next three days I diverted myself from my existential problems by snoozing or binge watching assorted movies and TV series on Netflix, ABC and SBS on demand. I only left the caravan to visit the toilet and shower block.
On Sunday, in a mood, I deleted my Facebook page. I joined Facebook in 2009 to stay in touch with family and old friends. It no longer serves that purpose. The news and posts are mostly depressing, and I find myself either reinforcing, or being reinforced by others who have similar opinions to myself, or getting into pointless arguments with those who don’t. mostly, however, I have concluded social media is not good for me. And reading that sentence I have just realised I am still uncomfortable putting “is” after a plural.
Media. Data. Criteria. But again, I digress.
I stayed home four days, leaving the caravan only to visit the ablution block for the conveniences and showers. I did not go shopping, so I ran out of fresh vegetables. I turned to comfort food, finishing off the last of the less healthy food choices I still had in the pantry. Pasta, cheese, packet meals, frozen hash browns. I undid some of my positive achievements and gained a couple of kilos.
Time to get back on track. To get back on the bicycle and back into the pool. And back to healthy vegetables. Today after my swim I pedalled to Aldi and filled my little trailer with onions, carrots, green and salad vegetables, fruit and tomatoes.
After my three day withdrawal period, I am quite over Facebook, and have turned my attention to other ways of passing the time. Books. Kindle, world cinema, British TV, and those model boats I started on over a year ago. I may perhaps even turn more back to my blogs.
I spotted some beautiful parakeets while riding the bike home. Now the weather is improving I might start carrying the camera and taking a few photos. I’ve already found a couple of locations I can get to by bicycle where I can settle comfortably and wait for a photo opportunity. That’s always a good way to pass the time when I’m not swimming. I may even try extending my walking time.
“Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality”
— Clifton Fadiman
The Crow was reading poems aloud
From an ancient vellum manuscript
I strained to hear but could not parse,
Because of his strange accent, the words
– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –
I figured he was Irish.
Writing my short piece of blank verse about my expedition into Mayor Island reminded me of another small odyssey undertaken in the same month. I was camped in South-east Bay for a couple of months. I had originally gone there with Glenn for a fortnight but I was having such a good time I stayed on after he went home. I was getting on right well with some of the other campers in my own age group, though I don’t recall their names now. We dived and fished together, shared meals, and drank at the big game fishing club where we also traded crayfish for supplies. The demand was high and the payments in kind were generous.
It was mainly through that illegal activity I was able to stay on camping so long, though at one point when the weather was bad and I couldn’t fish or dive, I was down to half a bag of onions and a loaf of mouldy bread. It was then I learned that if I trimmed off the mouldy crust and the black fruiting bodies of the mould, I could fry the bread in butter and it tasted like Madeira cake, because the hyphae of the fungus had grown through the bread and turned a lot of the starch to sugar. Fried bread and onions. Great sustenance.
I was even recruited as deckhand on a charter boat for a couple of days. I worked for food. The skipper loaned me a dinghy for a day. I took it out to the eastern side of the island where I caught the largest snapper I had ever seen. I took it back to the big game club and they weighed it for me. It was, as I recall somewhat over thirty pounds in weight. There was much excitement and the manager went off to consult the books (no internet back then).
It turned out I had caught a pinfish. A new weight record. Unfortunately as I was not a member of any fishing club it did not count. No pin. No record. But for a time I unofficially held a record. I heard later next year that a larger fish had been caught. The internet tells me that the latest record holder is Kiwi angler Neil Gorringe who caught a 32.5lb (14.75kg) snapper on 8kg line in 2016.
The biggest adventure was a snorkeling morning that turned into a bit of an odyssey. Five of us set out from western bay and at some point, far from where we had entered the water, we wondered how far we had come. I decided it was far enough to have go at continuing all the way around the island. The others were not so keen. In the end, being young and foolish, I decided to go it alone. The others turned back.
I was fit, I had flippers. I knew I could make it, though I had no real idea how far I had to swim (turns out to be just over 11 km).
It was an adventure. I experienced a lot of firsts on that trip and logged a lot of new sightings in the logbook I kept in those days. Particularly on the ocean side of the island, where the cliffs went deep below the surface, there were species I hadn’t yet encountered. Morays, congers, sharks, grouper. Most notably an electric ray. One of about 14 electric ray species in the world, Torpedo fairchildi, is found only in New Zealand. Exciting.
I was in the water seven hours or so, without a wetsuit, and even though the water was warm I was pretty drained by the time I got back to camp. The others said they had been about to send out a search party. As I said, I was young and stupid then. Now I’m old and stupid because I’d probably try it again. The sea is still my spiritual home.
Now that I think about it, I did not really complete a circumnavigation after all. I set out from Western bay and emerged in south east bay. I didn’t swim round the promontory between the two bays. I may have to go back, and do it again.
The trail leads up a bush-clad mountainside
Singing with birds, redolent with earthy attar
Rustling with hidden afternoon activity.
I catch an occasional glimpse
Of furtive feathered ground dwellers
And fleeing lizards.
The path is rough; rock and root-strewn
I need my stick to steady my steps
The summit touches the sky, above the highest trees
Which are shrouded in evening mist that washes
In slow floating waves as on a time lapse shore
Branches reaching out like dark coral rock.
Above the washing white tide
Here at sunset, I made my camp
With one desire;
To sleep, and awake at dawn
To the bellbirds’ famed chorus.
The morning came bright
The birdsong, sublime under a clear sky, echoed.
The island below me a taonga of poenamo
Set in lapiz: Around my camp
Came curious weka
Enquiring after crumbs from breakfast.
On my descent I followed no path.
I had set my course on line of sight
Towards the green and black lakes
And beyond, to the obsidian cliffs
My second objective.
Though taking the obsidian is forbidden
I had set my heart on finding a piece
Suitable to nap a knife.
The going was slow. The bush impeding.
I came upon a place of silence
No birdsong, no rustling in the undergrowth
Eerie. The nape of my neck tingled
I fell into a hole
Unhurt I climbed out
And saw the overgrown hole was regular, square
And there were more; many more, man made
It was a place where people had once dwelt.
Lived and died.
I moved on as swiftly as I could
One lake was black, one algal green
I cooled myself but did not drink
I had a feeling Lethe might live within
At the foot of the cliffs I found
Tumbled shards of shining atramentous
The volcanic glass I coveted.
I took some; perhaps there and then
Began the curse that follows me yet.
I cannot return the tuhua; I no longer have it
I left it somewhere, some time, I don’t recall.
It is lost. It does not matter.
© 2019 ARF
At 5 this morning in the early lightening dawn, the raucous call of kookaburras sidetracked me from sleep. I awoke with a headache and very sore back and hips.
I have heard kookaburras several times here, in Halls Creek but I’ve only seen one once before. Despite my aches and pains I grabbed the camera and came out for a look. There were several calling, but only one was in view. The light was poor and I had to wait for it to brighten a little before there was sufficient for the camera at last to focus. I do not trust my own eyesight to focus manually with any accuracy any more. Technology usually does a much better job. The first shots were blurry as the camera vainly tried to distinguish the bird and the tree from the dim background of the sky.
Fortunately the bird seemed to be in no hurry to move on and sat surveying the scene around it long enough for the camera to finally grasp it, and outline it in yellow in my viewfinder. Isn’t technology wonderful these days?
I then discovered I could transfer the photos from the camera to my MacBook via wifi. More technological wonder. What a time to be alive.
I made coffee, took my pills and retired for another hour or so sleep. I awoke at 11:30 still aching and figured I had better phone in sick.
Despite the circumstances, capturing this noisy little bugger cheered me up.
Here is the kookaburra call, if you haven’t heard it before:
The old, the new, and the same old same old. It is that time of year again. Time to look back, time to look forward, and time to reflect that in the long run nothing really changes except our age and, with a bit of luck, our outlook.
My facebook header and profile pictures currently reflect that attitude.
This time last year I had already been burgled once, and was about to be burgled again. The year since has not been one of great achievement for me, party due to circumstances and partly due to my response to the circumstances. The coming year will see renewed effort in my current chosen profession and I hope to see some progress that I may, perhaps, be able to point to eventually with pride. I have also pretty much come to the conclusion this will be my last working year. Age and disability gradually encroach on my good intentions and ability. I increasingly feel a need to return to the country I know and love best. And I want to be idle. My own man to pursue whatever whim I may have. And can afford.
In the meantime I have a new camera to master. The new Sony RX10 Mark IV has arrived and it is a technical marvel. There is an excellent review of it here. It makes me realise that I should never have strayed from the brand, even for the Nikon. Over the last year my Nikon photos got worse and worse but until I replaced my glasses late this year with a new pair I could not see how bad they had become. The Nikon’s focus is badly out of calibration, something I put down to rough travel through the Kimberley. I now have a nice padded Pelican case to keep my cameras secure and safe.
I am learning to drive the Sony step by step. But I am mostly still in auto point-and-shoot mode. Even so, it does better than one might expect. I bought it on recommendation of a Canadian bird watcher, photographer and blogger friend. He warned me there would be a learning curve. It is a sophisticated toy with a lot of features to master. One thing it cannot do however, is infra red photography using the nightshot mode feature and IR filters which I enjoyed playing with using my old Sony 717 and 828. I may resurrect my ancient 828 and dedicate it to that purpose if I can get the batteries to hold a charge.
I am also keen to investigate HDR more, using the real technique of bracketed exposures rather than the ersatz method of software manipulation.
So here I am in Halls Creek, house and dog sitting with a month of idle time that I must try to use creatively. With five cameras at my disposal, counting the drone, I hope to produce a few images worth looking at. Here are a few practice shots;
And finally, a belated greetings card to everyone. Not my photo, but the same bird as above, at his home (via FaceBook).