All that you can’t leave behind.

What a warm-your-cockles shot. Someone who has lost almost everything, we assume, and she’s ecstatic at finding her daughter’s graduation certificate.

It’s fair to say we were all touched by the enormity of the tragedy in Japan early last year. A picture like this should touch us all, just as pictures of the tsunami destruction did.

It prompted me to recollect an old school bus trip. All was bouncing along well on this journey home from school. I’d exhausted my food supply and was probably reading a book. Reading quietly, I reckon. Or playing the game where you pair up and flick each other’s foreheads until one can hack it no longer. Highbrow stuff, I know, but I’m still going to boast that I often took out the title in that particular courageous pursuit. I was not so nifty with the game where you have to hold your hands together and try to move them quickly before they are slapped.

But I digress. There were only a handful of us left on the bus this day; unsurprising as I was the last stop. We were stopped by a neighbour who was checking the kids at the next house were not on the bus.

The house ahead was burning down.

We drove on to have a look as most morbid bus drivers do and because that was the only route. The heat permeated the glass (I didn’t know it did that) and the blaze was a mighty beast as it consumed these people’s lives. No-one was hurt, but I later heard the two young girls had been particularly upset at the loss of their teddy bears. It was an awful sight. I remember having a little cry as we drove on, leaving the anguished parents and local fire brigade behind.

But don’t despair. The story had a happy ending. New teddy bears came along and they built a new house. A much nicer house actually, which they deserved after the trauma.

This picture and that story got me thinking about what I’d hate to lose in such a tragedy.

If I’ve been practising yoga regularly I can be a bit of a wanker about this. I’ll happily pretend material possessions have no meaning to me. I’m very live-in-the-moment about it. I can do without them, easy.

Yeah right.

I reckon I’d be upset about my iPod – what a cliché! But, if I had spent as much time cosied up with a person as I have with my iPod, I’d probably be proposing to them on this very leap day. (I’m enormously upset to have no-one to suggest matrimony to today. Now, I have to wait another four years for the chance.)

I do have a few favourite books that I’m attached to. I’d like to say it’s Kite Runner or Cloudstreet that I’d miss, but it’s more like Girls Night In one and two.

Photos are the obvious choice.

So what would I miss the most? It’s none of those – and it certainly wouldn’t be my graduation certificate.

It’d be the big world map on my wall. My dream machine. That baby has taken me places! I guess you can get a dirty old map anywhere (actually mine is laminated and really very big and, it’s just cool), but that map has value to me. Sentimental value.

Yuck. Not very live-in-the-moment.

OK, I’m sure I could do without all the junk (and please refer to my garage sale post for more on my junk), but look at this lady’s face. How great to have things that we can love. How wonderful to have a map and some chick-lit that I want to hang on to.

The key then, is remembering to take pleasure from them. Or something like that.


This photo won first prize in the People in the News, Stories category at the World Press Photos. To see some of the other great snaps go here

Photograph courtesy Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/World Press Photo

My garage sale, an unlikely sign.

I was planning to host a little garage sale on Saturday.

Garage sales are the perfect two-birds-one-stone equation. Old junk goes; money comes. Perfect.

I cannot get past the beauty of the one-person’s-trash-is-another’s-treasure idea. The thought that someone would want my old, full-of-character, dark green chair is just delightful.

And in a perfect world the sale of my junk also lines my pockets. This bit, in particular, fills me with child-like excitement. Like the first time you’re paid to wash the family wagon after having to do it for free all your life. It’s heady stuff.

Then Shorn Lowry walks in and tells me that you need a permit for garage sales. I thought he was joking, like the time he told me I wasn’t allowed to dump the old couch in the park across the road, but no, he insists there are tight rules on yard sales in Brisbane.

As it happens, he’s not pulling my leg. Permits are not required, but there are fairly tough requirements on the contents of the sale and on signage. Yes, that’s right folks, signage.

“Directional signs” on “public land” are a great concern. You can almost imagine the bureaucrat nodding along with a face full of worry.

Here is an excerpt from on the important issue:

“The Brisbane city council considers that directional signs can contribute to visual clutter in our residential areas, lead to increased amounts of litter, and produce untidy streetscapes. Council officers work both during the week and on weekends to ensure Brisbane retains its clean and tidy image, thus ensuring its livability. Signs which are contrary to the policy (such as garage sale signs) may be confiscated and fines of $375 (for each sign) may be issued to the holder of the garage sale.”

But don’t be dismayed. They’re a thoughtful bunch at the council, as you’ll see below.

“Don’t let fines eat into your garage sale profits. Please ensure any signage is located within your own property only and not located on streets, power poles or other street furniture such as bins and bus shelters.”

As if my crappy old chair and crappy old books were going to raise $375 for the dumpling fund. (That’s not to say you shouldn’t come to my garage sale this Sunday, because there are sure to be some bargains!!)

The fuss about the signs reminded me of a recent trip to Whale Beach in Sydney. Along the winding, picturesque coast road there are stacks of signs yelling an assortment of greetings at motorists, from the less-than-extraordinary Happy Birthday and Welcome Home signs, to more obscure posts which included curious in-jokes. I’m not sure how distracting the signs were for the driver, but it provided great entertainment for us passengers. I felt there was a tight community hidden amongst the beaches. How lovely!

In Brisbane, however “it should be noted that Council Officers patrol 7 days per week and will look at any issues which appear to fall outside the appearance of a garage sale.”

Now I’m worried that my poor green old chair will never find a happy new owner…

Photo by Chiot’s Run.

Any questions for Ben? Nup, none.

If you’d like to spend the afteroon indulging in a portrait of hedonism, Any Questions for Ben is the flick to see this Sunday arvo.

That’s not to say this movie is too trivial and whimsical to bother with; it’s a delightful and heart-warming tale. But Ben’s hopelessness in love and failure to give the beautiful Alex (Rachel Taylor) what she wants, is tiresome. I’d love to give you a full synopsis, but I reckon you should probably go and see it for yourself.

Some brief highlights: Melbourne looks stunning. The scenes of the city hustle and bustle, the Melbourne Cup, tree-lined streets and the Yarra’s bridges give the city a real ambience. Not only does the place look spanking, but my plus-one could excitedly point out a few places she knew. This was pretty annoying. I’m not a big fan of movie talkers and those awful patrons that laugh too loudly, or keep on laughing when the joke is long gone, but the familiarity was, well, nice.

Also, it’s funny. The Aussie humour, although occasionally overdone, portrays an honest picture of the laconic Aussie bloke. Ben’s best mate’s girlfriend, Em, is bloody hilarious quizzing his ditzy model girlfriends. “One more question,” she asks the first one, “ooooh I love these games,” Fleur squeals. “If you were stuck on a desert island and had to choose just one accessory, would it be shoes or a handbag?”

Then there is Rachel Taylor. She plays the role of Alex superbly and brings to life a selection of the frustrations that Aussie dudes bestow upon us poor dames.

So, there’s three good reasons. Now go and see this movie!

If you don’t like it, at least you’ll know that you supported Aussie cinema and that can only be a good thing if we can get more movies like this and less like Charlie and Boots (which I haven’t seen, but Shorn Lowry says it’s up there with some of the worst Aussie flicks, ever).

Leave your ego on the bridge.

To bungee or not to bungee? Is the canyon swing better than launching yourself off the bridge face first? And, of course, the best bungee question of all: how high?

This is where we ended up last night after a few cheeky reds at Lock n Load in West End: in an enthusiastic discussion about jumping off bridges and other platform structures. Of the five around this table, five had taken the plunge, and loved it. Great stats, I thought smugly. How adventurous were we!

But along with the adrenalin exercise comes a certain competitive streak that is hard to avoid. More than one participant, myself included, claimed to have done the biggest canyon swing in the world. Clearly there’s some false advertising in either New Zealand or Nepal, or both.

When I returned from Nepal after a 160 metre jump a friend told me, with enthusiasm, about their 60 metre jump in Cairns. “Do they even call that a bungee,” I scoffed. How rude, I think now.

The experience, at any height, is surely very similar. And is the competitive, my-jump-was-better-than-your’s attitude really necessary?

The point of this blog, then, is not whether my bungee was better than the guy who got a dunking in Cairns or the chick who jumped off the dodgy platform in Queenstown – that’s just silly. Rather the bungee, and the swing, of course, are to be encouraged. The feeling of liberation as you slice through the air and the achievement of facing fears and defying family are what we should be discussing.

High fives all round, I say.

A splashing success

It’s about 1am again. This time I am strolling home with my heels in my hand and a huge grin is splashed across my face. the night has been a success.

I’m about 20 paces from my house, reminiscing about my free bus trip into town, the free daiquiries and, of course, the free cab home. The night itself was not too shabby. The surprise party was a surprise, the company delightful and hilarious. Again, a success.

Naturally, I’m fairly chuffed with my Friday. The house is in sight. I’m skipping across the puddles and thinking of my warm bed, smiling and holding my umbrella to the rain, staying dry, then BOOM! A taxi zooms past (where it came from I cannot say; perhaps out of a black hole nearby) and a torrent of filthy street water splashes straight into my eyes, drenching my hair, the heels dangling from my hands and my clothes.

Suddenly, I’ m a dirty, drowned street rat. Another success?

Coffee by night.

Here it is. 1 am. And I’m not strolling through the door heels in hand and hair askew. Thanks to a perky post-dinner, post-icecream cappuccino, which was just delightful with a dusting of cinnamon, I am still wide awake at 1am.

The extra time is a God-send. Here I am re-connecting with my blog. I’d forgotten I had a WordPress. I’ve finished my book, cleaned my room and done a hundred sit-ups, give or take.

But, self-indulgence aside it’s strange for me to stay awake on a week night. Bucking that trend and having a caffiene hit at 10pm is almost as counterintuitive as smashing down a big bowl of carbonara and going for a run immediately after. Or travelling to the beach and not frolicking in the waves. It’s abnormal, for me at least.

So, the point? It’s the little things that matter. Breaking those tiny routines that we don’t even notice can lead to other changes, productive changes, even. I’ve crossed things off my to-do list tonight that have been there for over two years (and it was getting progressively more difficult to see my bedroom floor).

And it’s all thanks to the night-time coffee. I reckon I’ll save it for special occasions, but it’s definitely a winner to trade the Rooibos for a cappuccino here and there.