Men at Work or Boys with Toys?

A self portrait of the photographer in a the refelction of a muffler on a bike

This week’s post is  the first of a series of photo essays about boys and their toys or perhaps men at their work.  I hope to capture  environmental portraits of people doing what they love.

These shots are of my (ex)-neighbour Marty and his mate, Matt.  Marty is a miner and mechanic and Matt drives trains. They both love big touring bikes

I made these images in the Marty’s garage when they were fixing Matt’s Harley.

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Thank you to Matt and Marty for being my first ‘subjects’.  Marty moved a few months ago, you know its funny I always felt safer when he was living next door!

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Wollongong Snapshot: Wollongong Botanic Gardens

Being a tourist in your own town has its advantages. It’s quick, inexpensive and you don’t need much planning.  I took myself off to the Wollongong Botanic Gardens on a glorious spring day in search of colourful flowers and interesting textures. I was not disappointed!

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Plenty of bird life to be found in the gardens

It seems like ages since I have been out for the express purpose of taking photos.  The  Gardens are one of my favourite places for a close-to-home photo safari.

The Gardens are across the road from the University of Wollongong, but it’s best to park in Murphy’s Avenue, Gwynneville.  (click here for a map of the area) Because it is right near the Uni, parking can be a bit tricky during Semester time. There is a small designated parking area in the gardens itself. (Enter on Murphy’s Road)

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Sculptures adorn the lawns

The Gardens are free and a fabulous place for a picnic. There are limited BBQ Facilities near the entrance. An “all-abilities” children’s’ playground with a big sandpit, climbing web and maze will keep kids occupied for ages. The design ensures that is accessible for everyone including those with limited mobility.

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Well organised picnickers nab the best spots!

In summer, you can take along your family,  bean bags, cushions and a picnic dinner and catch a movie on a big outdoor screen as the sun sets and the birds twitter in the trees.   Not all movies are suitable for kids but many are, so best to check the program here Sunset Cinema first.

The highlights for me are the Dryland Gardens (good all year)  and the rose garden (you need to pick the season). In spring, of course, you will find the garden in full bloom. Since most trees in Australia are evergreen and our Autumn’s are not very cold, there is not much leaf colour  as you would find in colder climes.

If you wanted to make a full day of it take a packed lunch,  include a walk around the Uni which has pleasant grounds and have a peek at Glennifer Brae, the stately home of the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, both within an easy stroll from the Garden itself..

There are  guided tours run by the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and there are various gardening workshops advertised on the website.

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These photos were taken on September 30th and while its  officially been spring for a whole month the weather was only just starting to warm up.

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I have edited some as black and white to emphasise the textures; especially in the cactus.

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These photos were all taken with my Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 and edited in Lightroom. Some frames where further edited using Nik software or Jixipix.

I hope you enjoy them!

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Israel – A final encounter.

By now you’ll know I am a bit of an experimenter! I am trying to find the best software to turn some of my photo books into flipbooks for viewing online. This one is from Yumpu. This is the free version. It was really easy to do but the view is very small and I don’t see a way of making it bigger. At present you can’t read the text in the stories but they are in this blog.

I had trouble loading it from my phone.

Sometimes this link works and sometimes it doesn’t! Not much of an experiment was it!

Yumpu fullscreen version

https://www.yumpu.com/s/17ZbnjNa3Dy0YtVR

I’d be pleased to know if any of you have found a better solution.

These photos were taken in January 2018 and are subject to copyright.

Canada – just like Australia but with mountains and bears

Shot from the lake looking up at a huge waterfall.

I have just finished watching Series 2 of the Handmaids’ Tale.  While the show itself is fantastic, if not a little bleak, I wonder if it was made by the Canadian Tourist Bureau. It certainly highlights some of the good political and social features of Canada! What is doesn’t show us is the beauty.

In 2016 I did a solo travel adventure to Canada. I flew into Vancouver and drove from there to Calgary and then flew over to the east coast visiting Toronto and Ottawa. As an Old Chook travelling alone, I would really recommend it as a safe and fun destination with plenty to see and do.

I have put together this short photo essay on Adobe Spark Page. It’s an experimental post to see how blending these two platforms works. Clicking on the picture will take you to an Adobe page. Then scroll through to look at the photos.

Why would any (sensible) Australian ever want to go to Canada?

Go west Old Chook!

Move over Max and Priscilla  – the Old Chook is coming to town! To Broken Hill that is, one of the richest mining areas in Australia.

As of a few days ago, I have accepted a one year secondment to work in Broken Hill commencing in January 2019.

 

Broken Hill is in far west NSW and was the location for Mad Max 2 (aka Road Warrior), and Priscilla – Queen of the Desert. It creates the desolate moody background for  lots of other movies like Mission Impossible 2. Even though I have only been there for one short visit, I have a soft spot for Broken Hill. It was the original Old Chook’s first destination (see this post )

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Being 1,100 km northwest of my current home, the landscape is very different and almost alien. The sandy beach of my home town will be replaced by sandy desert. Summer temperatures hover at 40oC and above for days on end. The winter is mild and it’s always dry.

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In Australian we say “that’sabloodylongwayaway”

It’s still a few months away but I am already getting excited. I don’t know anyone who lives there, I don’t know where I will live (yet) and I am leaving behind family and friends.  My friends are calling me brave, but to my mind this is a “safe” adventure. It has limits. It’s only a year, my old job will be waiting for me when I get back and I won’t be any worse off financially. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“If you always do what you always did you will always get what you’ve always got”

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I am looking forward to

  • stargazing with a totally dark night sky and doing some astrophotography.
  • Watching the sun rise and set on a horizon that is so vast you can see the curvature of the earth.
  • Getting to know the locals and
  • Stretching my own comfortable life.

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Over the next few months I will be getting ready to go. There will be lots of planning. No doubt there will be spreadsheets!  Plenty of spreadsheets.

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I will chronicle my progress  here and share this Old Chook’s  adventures in the outback! I hope you’ll enjoy the virtual journey.

The images here are from a road trip I took to Broken Hill in 2013.

This excerpt comes from a newsreel made back in 1953

Transit through Incheon

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The new Terminal 2 is impressive.

Over the last five years I have boarded a Korean Airlines flight  32 times. That’s 8 trips with four flights per trip. Six times to Israel, once to Canada and once to the States. Travelling via Korea is not always the most direct or fastest route but I have decided to make KAL my SkyTeam as I try to accrue enough frequent flyer points to get an upgrade for an entire trip (i.e. all four legs). I think I have only about 20000 to get!! On the forward journey, flight schedules have meant that I have scored a stopover in the 5-star Incheon Grand Hyatt courtesy of the airline. Sweet!!!!

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Songdo

Despite being in South Korea at different times of the year, I think I have seen blue sky once.  Every other time, whatever the season, there has been a grey misty, smoggy veil shrouding the sky, casting wintery hues on frostbitten grass. It’s a bit depressing. You can stare directly at the pale orange disc of the sun – an unnerving consequence of the pollution.

I wonder if it’s is ever sunny and clear as the shuttle bus to the hotel  passes under a digital sign that lets me know in Korean, there is 3.24ppm of something in the air – particulates I expect. Many people wear face masks.

Reflection of cone shaped buildings in water

I haven’t ventured beyond the airport precinct yet. However en route to Israel, I have had almost  a full day to explore before the next flight.

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Reflective walkers

This short photo essay shows some of the scenes around Incheon and Songdo (the location of another one of the transit hotels).

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One day I hope to stay in South Korea for a few days to have a better look and try some of that Girl’s Big Chicken!

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Wrapped Trees (RAH from my previous life!)

Yoni and the smelly underpants

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Once again I was standing in a snake-y queue. This time in Sydney, waiting to board the American Express SkyTrain at Taronga Park Zoo as part of Vivid, Sydney. It would take ten to fifteen minutes to get to the front to the line. The family ahead of me was having a great time.

“Ok one… two.. three… say Yoni has smelly underpants” the young man said to the two boys in matching beanies. They giggled and smiled and the young man snapped away with his phone. I turned around and realized, too late, that I was photobombing their family moment.

“You photobombed our family photo!” the young man exclaimed in a theatrical style. He showed me the screen and there I was in the middle of everything. We bantered back and forward.

“Well since you are going to be on our fridge, what’s your name?

“Robyn – and since you are going to be in my blog – what’s yours?”

“Yoni”

“Ahhh ….the one with the smelly undies”

“Yes that’s me!”

As we twisted around another loop he asked “So what do you blog about?”

“Travel, mostly and …and stuff like this” as I waved my hand over his family.

“So you’re a writer then?”

“Mostly a photographer… but I want to write. I’m a teacher.”

“Teachers are awesome. Our mum’s a teacher” Yoni said.

So it’s Uncle Yoni I thought. Finally, we got to the top of the queue. I said goodbye and giggled to myself. Yoni and the smelly underpants.

The cable car door closed behind me and I was launched into the blackness and then the lights started.

The lights of Vivid…

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Australia, land of beaches and sunshine. Hot sun …babes in bikinis… beer in the sun.

That’s the image that comes to mind, even as locals. It’s not always beach weather and we do in fact, have a winter. Compared to the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not much of a winter, but heh… sometimes it can get as cold as 6oC in Sydney! That’s COLD! Tourists come in droves in the summer to sit on our sandy beaches, slap shrimp on the barbie and enjoy our great outdoors but their numbers drop in our winter.

This is (apparently) a marketing tragedy.

Back in 2009, the NSW government decided to try capture more of the winter tourist market. They created Vivid – a winter festival. It started small in the area round Circular Quay. It’s now a huge success. Locals and tourists flock to Vivid in the last weeks of May and early June. In 2017, over 2 million people visited Vivid!

Vivid is now an interactive collection of light, music and ideas. Over the years it has spread out to include more and more of Sydney, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay and the Zoo. You can find more information here www.vividsydney.com/

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The highlights include the images  cast up on the Sydney Opera House and Customs House as well as the lights on Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Zoo Light Walk is amazing! The ferry ride across the Harbour gives you a great view of the skyline and all its brilliance. I might be a bit biased, but an already beautiful harbour comes to life during Vivid. Sparkling cold water, bright lights and friendly crowds all enjoying a mystical musical wonderland. While Vivid is over for another year, make sure sure you pencil it in for 2019, just pack a beanie and a scarf.

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PS: Yoni, I hope you enjoyed Vivid with your nephews! Good luck in your life. Stay fun! Stay friendly! You gave this old chook something to smile about! If you ever read this please, share my photobombing snap in the comments!

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A run in the Park.

The “Park Run” is a free event that happens in lots of different places world-wide on Saturday mornings. It’s a 5km timed run/walk organised by volunteers. There are three park runs near where I live in Wollongong, but strangely there wasn’t one in New York.

This weekend I am in Old Bar on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Australia for a 40th School Reunion. That in itself is a scary concept which I will write more about later for my regular Friday post.

In the meantime here is a little CHOOKUMENTARY about the Park Run in Taree. Today I ran the course in just over 27 minutes. The course is relatively flat and follows along a footpath on the foreshore of the Manning River.

Check out Park Run’s Website for more information. This link is for their Australian chapter but there are others in other countries. Park Run Australia

Mothers’ Day

Bah humbug! Today is Mothers’ Day in Australia. The second Sunday in May. I don’t “do” Mothers’ Day. I have told my only daughter not to worry about gifts, or breakfast in bed and all that jazz, because in my honest opinion it is just a marketing beat up. A bit like the diamond lies in this story[1] that is doing the rounds of Facebook.

Mothers’ Day more than any other day epitomises to me the overreach of marketing and consumerism. Hang on, hang on! On second thoughts there is also Easter (buy more chocolate), Christmas (buy gifts nobody really wants or needs because they might get you something), Fathers’ Day, Halloween, Back to School, Valentine’s Day…. the list goes on.

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I don’t think there is a time in the calendar when we are not bombarded with messages to BUY things for the one(s) we love. But more and more scientific and psychological research shows that STUFF is not how we get happy. We get happy by DOING things for and with people.

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Part of an exhibition at the New York Public Library

I have written before about my quest to spend my disposable income on experiences rather than stuff. See my blog post entitled A consuming interest. https://wordpress.com/post/oldchookenterprises.com/1845

 

However, if we stop buying things our economy will come to grinding halt and we will all be in dire straits. What to do? It’s an issue I don’t know how to answer but I am trying to do my bit by not buying stuff. My year long challenge to not buy anything new comes to a close at the end of June. I have not succeeded, as I have bought some new things but for the most part  I have stuck to my rules of nothing new unless it was a replacement for a broken or worn out thing and essentials.

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I ‘spent’ my Mothers’ Day pottering around, not doing much. My Grandson and I inspected the beetles that live in a nearby tree. I rang my own Mother and chatted with her. I wrote a couple of future blog posts and I answered some emails all before cooking a big pot of tasty soup. All in all, a very nice day.

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I am glad to say no flowers were killed in preparing this post!

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oh dear! Spelling and apostrophe fail!

[1] https://www.facebook.com/todayeyewatched/videos/199952127459890/UzpfSTE2NTgwMTU1Mzc6MTAyMDk2ODYyODI4NjgwMTE/

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PS: I certainly I don’t want to devalue the effort of others in celebrating or valuing their mothers. I think we could celebrate it without all the marketing hype and make it more genuine.

 

PPS (Added after publication) one of my friends told me about this article where the founder of Mothers’ Day try to stop the commercialisation pf the day.  https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/mother-started-mothers-day/story?id=47333654

 

Making Adult Friends: Trusting your gut instincts

All my planning was complete, and I was stepping on the final flight from Incheon to JFK International and it came to me in a thunderbolt that I had committed to spend three weeks in New York, in the house of someone I didn’t know very well. I didn’t have a Plan B if things went sour and that was an oversight.

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A common interest in photography

My intended host and I had met in a bar on a rainy afternoon in Jasper in October 2016. We spent the afternoon and evening together, drinking, eating and chatting to other hikers who were also trying to keep dry. Did I mention the drinking part? To tell you the truth, we all got smashed together and had a fabulous time. After that RJB and I stayed in touch via Facebook. We had a lot in common.

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We both love Springsteen

It turned out that RJB lives near Central Park on 5th Avenue and she invited me to visit. Sensibly, I said yes and then we spent a few moths planning my visit.

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We both love hiking
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and road trips
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and nature

My sudden concern arose from a fear that in the flesh and sober we might not be so compatible.  What happened if she turned out to have some strange and dark secrets? Could she be a member of a weird, radical religious cult and I was destined to become a captive?

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and the same sort of food!

From her Facebook posts I knew our taste in music, politics and ethics aligned well. Still I had a niggle in the back of my mind. It still might be an elaborate hoax. My worries were of course in vain. RJB was a treasure and although a self-confessed crazy cat lady, everything went well. Her husband was a lovely fellow and we got on well too.

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One of the downsides of being divorced is that your old friends find it hard to take sides and you tend to lose contact. I didn’t have many friends to start off with. The friends my ex and I did have, fell by the wayside as we spiralled down into a very unhealthy vortex of introspection as our marriage collapsed around us.

Since “getting my shit together” I have made a few really good friends. These friendships have in fact be an integral part of that renewal of my life.

As an adult it’s not that easy to make new friends. We are a little pickier and harder to please. We have much higher standards than we did as children.  Even though it is hard, I think we make it harder than it needs to be. I think we disguise fear as pickiness. We are just a bit scared to bare our souls.

This blog, Science of People [1] has some really good tips on how to make friends, but I remember reading somewhere else that how you make friends and them keep them boils down to a few basic things.

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1: You meet by being in the same pace at the same time, so you are already involved in some common pursuit.

2: You spend an intensive period of time with them participating in that common activity

3: You commit to staying in touch and

4: You actually do stay in touch.

It’s not rocket science. Of course, the most important factor is you need to trust and be open.

 

I guess with RJB I should have just trusted my gut. If she was an axe murderer I think I would have guessed in that first meeting. Little bit crazy cat lady I can deal with! 🙂

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High Tea at the Plaza

[1] https://www.scienceofpeople.com/how-to-make-friends/