Three themes


I know it’s all quiet here. As usual, back in Australia, I don’t have too much too say. I have to look much more carefully for the delightful and the ridiculous and the provoking. I am more blind here. That, or I am just too disinterested in this society. But I do, now, find myself observing a few themes that rile me, that characterise our lives here:

Fragmentation, trivia and distraction.

We live fragmented lives: I drive 15 mins to drop our daughter at a family day care centre, in a place where she does not know the carer, nor the other two children, and with whom she has no contact, the rest of the week. We drive 10 minutes to a church, where we join with around 80 other people, again, with whom our lives do not otherwise intersect. I drive 25 minutes to work, where for three days a week I work on development effectiveness theories and planning, with three guys, all of whom I have known for years, and whom I like a great deal – but whom I see pretty much only at work. Our son has piano lessons from a stranger 10 minutes away. And so on. Thus it is that I have a fragmented life, with the different groups of which I am part – school, church, work, child-care, friends, family – rarely overlapping, barely intersecting.

We live trivial lives. Twitter, the X-factor, celebrity diets, junk mail, 15 TV channels, background noise, pop star birthdays, magazines Princess Diana’s new love child, Madonna’s third boob, Youtube. There is endless opportunity to turn away from what matters.

And so we are distracted. Life has no continuity, its rhythm is broken and made shallow, daily and hourly by many, many interruptions and disruptions and eruptions, by the glare and the glitter of trivialities, start-stop, park the car, deliver the child, get back in, go shopping here, see friends there, visit the sister or the grandmother, go to the bank or the post office, get the thing, drive home, do it again.

We have lived a life that was not fragmented, that was not trivial, and where distractions were few. It had a rhythm and a continuity that was right, and how we live here, I am convinced, is wrong.

One really good thing is that I sold all my Nikon gear and bought a Leica. A beautiful move in photography.

These three shots are all from Margaret River, slowly recovering from the fires of a year ago. First up is a Giant Spider orchid – these come back well after fires, and many of these are found on our land. They are a declared rare species.

Then two shots from the beach at our place. All these with the 90mm f2 lens, later cropped to size. It is taking me a while to adjust to using a rangefinder, but I love it.



Images of fire

For years now, until he died, my father and I burnt off patches of bush at his and Mum’s bush block in Margaret River. Every summer, we would anxiously watch the weather, wondering if this year the fire would come.

This year, the fire came. I care not to blame any one person or department or decision; if it wasn’t DEC it might have been a motorist with a cigarette butt, or a piece of glass, or an arsonist. The fire came, and it burnt the lot.

Here is the old railway carriage that we first lived in, back in 1975. I did it up a few years ago: restored the floors and walls, pulled out the old fittings, painted it. It was a lovely studio space.

And here below, is the view of the beach right in front of the land. It is a view that I have never tired of. When the brown dust of Afghanistan gets to me, I remember this place.

Here is what remains of that railway carriage.

And here is the view down to the sea. Few patches of the fragile coastal heath remain.

My sister used to work in a bookstore while she was at med. school. She collected antique books, first editions. Of the hundreds of books stored there, this was all I could find.

Some years back, we built a shed for the tractor, the vehicles, the tools and equipment necessary for caring for 160 acres of bush. The shed is now a wreck: the roo-bars melted off the ute; the windscreen draped over the steering wheel like silk, 8m ladders reduced to pools of metal on the floor. The diesel exploded, blowing off the roof.

I have often described Afghanistan as being brown and blue: brown land and blue sky. Margaret River has new colours for me: white and black.

The tractor we pulled out and left to rest under some trees. I will later sandblast and repaint it. It is good to hold onto to some of the destroyed things, they are a way to grieve and go on.

After four days of solid work cleaning, repairing the water and the electricity, salvaging items, talking to a crowd of officials and inspectors, we went down to Gnarabup beach and swam.

That night I went down to pull the old padlock of the incinerated back gate, and I saw that a bare week after the fire, the bush is coming back.

We’ll fly back to Kabul on Sunday. ‘We’ is Nathan and I. Nathan and Bronwyn and their kids are friends of ours in Kabul. When they heard about the fire, Nathan said he would come with me. I shook my head. But he just went ahead and paid $2500USD for a ticket, and with his wife’s blessing, he came and worked along side me, all week, through all the destruction.

Thankyou Nathan.

Earlier in the week, without being asked, another friend, Dave, had driven down to Margaret River, evading police blocks and closed roads, and walked in through the still-burning bush to conduct the first reconnaissance of our place, and give us some picture of what was ahead of us.

Thankyou Dave.


Have been away… in the south. It was renewing.

A series of new photos are posted – beach scenes. These are all untouched close-ups of the Margaret River beaches, following some hard Spring storms – the fine white sand has been washed away, leaving the tiny rocks and stones and shells. Quite beautiful. Here’s the link: Beach photos