How many cobblers do you know? Not as in the dessert, but as in the shoemaker. I’m fortunate to know two. I met Jackie at university, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and university education in Australia was free — must be about 30 years now. Adrian, her shoe-business partner, a few years less than that. Together they run — are — Pendragon, a two-person cottage industry that’s been going almost as long.
A few days ago I was stopped in my tracks on the Sandgate waterfront by the warning whoops and gnashing beak of an enraged (or possibly just bored) magpie. I wasn’t the victim this time — an unfortunate cyclist, his helmet bristling with absurdist cable-tie attachments, had inflamed the territorial instincts of the bird, and I did what any reasonable passerby would have done, which is laugh out loud and reach for my camera. It’s always amusing when it happens to someone else.
Just back from a few blissful days of doing nothing much at all in the mountains of northern New South Wales. Alex and I stayed with his brother and his partner at their cozy and evolving home in the gorgeous Border Ranges near Kyogle. I’d forgotten how magical and soothing the Australian bush can be. There’ll be a few posts about our time there coming soon… This is how a typical day begins for me in the coastal suburbs of northern Brisbane.
CHRISTMAS 2010, SOMEWHERE IN THE SWISS-GERMAN HEARTLAND I’ve never enjoyed Christmas much as a (relative) grown-up, but I loved my introduction to the European version. In Australia, backyard beers and sizzling sausages on a 30C afternoon, followed incongruously by hot, heavy — and admittedly delicious — pudding drowned in custard and littered with antique threepenny coins, had just never worked for me. But this felt like the real thing. It actually seemed possible to believe that something deeper or more meaningful than an orgy of shopping, eating and bad television was taking place in this ancient little town between Zurich and Lucerne.
As a kid living in a village-like Bayside suburb on the outskirts of Brisbane — one store/post office, a one-teacher school, around 80 houses, many of which were essentially remnant fishing shacks from the early days of the settlement — I was often subjected to jokes about the place from classmates at my “elite” Brisbane high school. I was much smarter in those days, and won a partial scholarship, the only way my parents could have afforded to send me there. I was mingling, generally uncomfortably, with the offspring of lawyers, doctors, graziers, but when I fled each afternoon I hightailed it with relief back to the mud, mangroves and — as the alliterative putdowns went — mosquitoes of our home on the edge of Moreton Bay.