Saturday, 20 November 2010


I'm off to Vanuatu for two weeks (Nov 21 to Dec 5) on a community development project.

I'll blog from Port Vila if I can get internet access.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Spooky Men

This collective of Gregorian style singers from the Blue Mountains west of Sydney may just have the answers to all the questions ever asked about us. MEN!
Here they are: "The Spooky Men's Chorale"

Mirror Mirror - Magpie 40

In the hall of mirrors
Nothing can be hidden.

The warty nose of a cane toad
to some
can be attractive.
The toad world is full of warty complexions
competing for the affections
of equally warty wenches.

Thighs like a mule
mark me as strong and reliable
hard working;
A practical catch
in the muley world of

Arms of sinew
tell of a tender touch
my fingers working their magic -
their golden touch.

My head is large
bulging with wit and charm.
My mouth is full
with lips like mangoes
pouting sweet kisses.
My poppy eyes are simply
a testiment to my vision.
I see all there is to behold.

I'm told I have a tail,
twitching with excitement
in your presence.
Unable to hide my joy
and yet
when I turn from the mirror
it's gone.
All these things I see.

who are blind to these monstrosities
see only
youth and vitality
the radiance of love.

In you, my other mirror
I am a prince.

For other creative responses to this Magpie prompt click here or on the Magpie stamp.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Sailing hubris revisited

Today was heat 5 of the championship series at the SBSC (South Brisbane Sailing Club).
We came last.
The blind skipper didn't show.
How unreliable is that?
see Sunday 31 October - A sailing story - Double Triumph
See also Stafford Ray Hubris again.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Chooks - Magpie 39

A headless chook runs around the back yard of my childhod home.
A friend publishes a knitting book which features a tea cosy in the form of a chook.
An urban myth about a headless chook living for six months turns out to be true.
People under pressure run around like headless chooks making choices they might regret.

Every year my father bought a chicken or duck in November
and gave it the run of the back yard for two months.
Life was good, plenty of feed and no inkling of what was to come.
I can still conjure up the smell of those plucked feathers.
A headless corpse dunked into the boiling water in the downstairs copper,
then me up to my elbows in a pile of feathers and down.
Christmas dinner tasted all the better knowing it was home grown.

Loani Prior is the international queen of the tea cosies.
having two runaway best selling books of patterns
based on the simple idea that tea cosies can be fun
and that knitting and craft is BACK.
Women flock to her workshops to sit at her feet and knit
Chooky tea cosies.

I'm watching TV.
One of my favourite eccentrics, Stephen Fry, is hosting a wacky show called QI.
It's a play on words - QI IQ.
He's infuriatingly bright and his panellists set out to subvert his intellect
by answering his questions as wrongly as possible.
He asks a question about Mike the Headless Chook.
No one has any idea what he's talking about
but this Colorado freak (the chook that is)
has achieved international stardom.
Even if the whole thing turns out to be a fabrication.

I am watching quite intelligent people make unintelligent decisions.
They are under pressure to solve unsolvable problems.
The old 'do more with less' edict from an organisation in meltdown.
They seek to solve the irresolvable by 'making decisions'.
Even a chook will tell you that making decisions
when your head is on the chopping block
can be fraught with problems.

Chooks without heads don't seem to think straight.

For more writing by a bevy of international writers click here or on the Magpie stamp.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Beautiful Day - Serendipity

Stringmansassy featuring Aaron Hopper
One phrase was all it took to change my life. Jan Oates said it to me in a park one sunny Saturday in 1980. 'You're good at that' she said, 'you should do more of it'. Six months later I'd thrown in my secure job as a teacher and was driving to Melbourne in a baby-poo-yellow Datsun 120Y to take up a three month contract as a clown with a small suburban theatre company.

My wife was by my side. She was pregnant and had left her equally secure government job where she worked as a speech therapist to live in a caravan in an as yet unidentified location somewhere in Melbourne. Why did we do this? In retrospect it seems a bit rash. But in effect it started me on a thirty year journey in the arts. I've been employed every year and Andrea and I are still together. And the baby is now 29. If anyone is to blame it would have to be Jan. And her one phrase.

We all like to think we make a difference, even if only a small one, don't we? So what does it mean when someone you haven't seen in thirty years contacts you and asks 'Is that the Mr Capelin from Ascot State School - year three 1980?' Aaron Hopper had heard me being interviewed on ABC Radio. I was their "Meet the listener" for the day and I'd told the running away to join the circus story. He's heard it and recognised the voice? the name? part of the story? and sent me an email to say hi. He's added ' I remember your classes, they were fun.'

When he says 'they were fun' he means we did a lot of art and plays and music making and notoriously set fire to the school swimming pool mid way through the year. We'd built some clay sculptures using raku clay and I'd done some research and found out that you could use a large metal rubbish bin as a kiln using sawdust as the fuel. So I found a bin and bought a barrow load of sawdust and loaded up a layer of sawdust followed by a layer of clay sculptures, more sawdust etc. Before this I'd drilled a series of twenty odd holes in the sides to allow it to draw air to make sure the fire survived. Once lit, the theory was it would slowly burn from top to bottom and reach high enough temperatures to convert the clay to pottery. It did. It worked a treat. Unfortunately it was not a quick process. For two days and two nights a plume of smoke billowed from the deep end of the empty school pool much to the concern of of the headmaster and staff of this very conservative school. I am still adament that I resigned and was not asked to leave.

Aaron was seven I was thirty. I ran away to join the circus. He went on to become an outstanding contemporary guitarist. I can't claim any responsibility for his guitar career, but perhaps I did play my role in helping sow a seed, a love of art and creativity, which played its part in his later choices.

Tonight he was in town for a one off performance. I went to see him perform. It was a great night. Four guitarists of widely differing styles each did a twenty minute set and then combined for a finale. Afterwards it was like a mini school reunion. I said hi to Aaron. His mother introduced herself and it turns out I know the young woman who manages his performing career. 'It was clear you didn't fit into Ascot' his mother told me. 'You were different. Though I was glad Aaron had you as his teacher.' I took that as a compliment.

Not fit in. Tell me about it. I had loved teaching primary kids but that school killed me. It was a rich kids state school pretending to be a private school. There were 'certain expectations' which I was aware of but not interested in conforming to. setting fire to rubbish bins in swimming pools was definitely outside the guidelines. Running around in parks wearing a red nose and being assailed by anklebiters was like being let out of prison. It was a dream.

In a strage way my posting to that school was a blessing. Perhaps I'd still be a primary school teacher if that hadn't happened.

I can identify a whole range of other moments each of which turned me in a new direction. Some were people I met, some were travel experiences, some were serendipitous crossing of paths no one but a fatalist would believe could happen. What or who was it for you?

To listen to Aaron playing 'Beautiful Day' as his duo Stringmansassy click here or on the image above.