Another Country Diary gumboots
Another Country Diary

Links to images and other pages are in blue, mouse-over pop-up comments when I have them are burgundy.
18 August '02

Harpbreak Hotel - the Harp Inn BungendoreDown at the end of Gibralter Street is the ... Harp Inn Hotel. 

Tonight it was transformed into the Harpbreak Hotel by Bungendore's John Shortis and friends. 'To mark the 25th anniversary of the alleged death of Elvis Presley', John and his partner in musical theatrics Moya Simpson, called together a great band and had the audiences at the Harp Inn jumping. Held over just two nights, I'm sure it could have run for longer. We went on the Sunday and had a great time. John and Moya's shows are always clever, professional and usually very funny. Tonight they were obviously having fun too, playing rock and roll. 

Treated as a homage rather than a recreation of Elvis, they skipped across the periods of Presley's musical life and pumped out great versions of the better songs that Elvis sang with a sharp dig at the worst ones. It was held in the backroom of the pub, with the windows taped over in black plastic and to the accompaniment of the added percussion of woks being wacked in the chinese restaurant kitchen next door. On the tiny stage area beside the ladies loo, the usually smoky bar and pool area was smoke free for the night and filled with a lot of people my age and older. It was a strange audience demographic made up of Simpson and Shortis groupies, who as we discovered, follow them to all their shows around Canberra. (Lead by the pair's active mailing list, you can get your name on it by emailing  The rest were obviously Elvis fans who wouldn't have been at all disappointed in the evening's music, and some town locals like us. 

One of the pleasures of the evening for Jan and I, was 'discovering' Adam Conroy who did a lot of the lead vocals. I've seen Adam's name chalked on the entertainment board outside the pub and heard his songs on the country music radio driving home in the car late at night. Adam is great performing live, and you'll see from the pop-up page of photo's here, he also took part in the comedy. In the same breath, you'd have to compliment John Shortis on putting together the rest of the band, Jon Jones on drums, who has played in lots of bands including with Eric Bogle (who contributed to the entertainment on Coral Bennett's 80th birthday that I wrote about in the entry on 22 May here). As Moya said when introducing the band, there were lots of Johns in it. Yanto Shortis, John's son from Melbourne, played lead guitar and sang two contemporary Elivis tribute songs (Light on in Memphis by the Badloves, and Dan Warner's Elvis), John Coates of the Canberra band Annie and the Armadillos was the bass guitarist (and who looks like a young Harry Dean Stanton I reckon).  

It was a great night, and finished with everyone up and dancing (yeah even me!). We're really lucky that we can walk five minutes to the pub and see entertainment as slick as this. I just hope that John and Moya get to spread that pleasure and the work they've put in this show to a bigger money paying audience.

It would have made a great musical doco. Damn!
Have a look at those images 6 x 25k jpegs.

They've all got websites of course, and Go visit.

19 -20 August '02
Breakfast of champions. Sunday Times TVCSunday and Monday I played agency producer for Jan. They had a table top TV commercial to do for the Canberra Sunday Times and no money as usual . On Sunday I did an animatic using my daughter Aurore's MiniDV camera and then cut it on the PC. I went into Queanbeyan and bought all the props and then shot each set-up. It took out most of the day from other chores, but it meant that when the cameraman with the SP Betacam came for a half day shoot, I had it all worked out and it went smoothly. We used my big softlight and I played director, food stylist and props person. 

It was cut the next day at Images Online and the only hiccup was the headline that was partly visible on the folded newspaper. Horror Smash. The client rightly thought that the headline would be distressing for the family, especially played over and over. Greg and Andy at Images tracked a few letters in Adobe After Effects and it read Hobub Smms by the time they finished. Usually we would have a mockup front cover but the redesign of the paper started this weekend and they needed it on air on Wednesday. Although I bemoan the low budget, no time Canberra advertising pressures and complain loudly when Jan gets forced into working like that, I had fun. (And the client loved it and wants another version for their Tasmanian paper.)

21 August '02
Detail of P&O posterI look at this poster as I step from the lift at the Sydney client's office where I'm working. It evokes another time and the travel symbolism is perfect. It always makes me feel good. I can smell that place.

I spent two days in Sydney this time and it will be three days next week, just to get the process going a bit faster. Staying overnight breaks the drag of the long drive and adds another few hours of productive work time in the day. However it also means that I'm away from the the things I love, the garden and Jan. 

I've been offered some work in Canberra but I'll have to finish the other project first or try and juggle them both in the interim. There's a feeling of dread. It sounds like another of those periods where the paid work takes over, and the pleasures of working here at my computer looking out to the yard, will fade. I'm not sure why it feels so 'dark' this time, as I've done this all my life. Shuttling back and forth from the need to make a living and the need to recharge the things inside that keep you sane and happy. Living in constant balance means living with less, and I'm no better at that then you. There's the technology I crave, and the pleasures of eating and drinking. Making a choice to live a frugal life is a lot harder when you've also got three children dependant on you for education and their mobile phone bills.

The current book by my bedside is A Year of Slow Food by David and Gerda Foster. They live outside Bundanoon, where I drive past each time I go to Sydney. They have lived a country life for 25 years and with a larger block, have a cow and sometimes a pig. David keeps bees and milks each day, making butter and soft cheese. With grown up children from a previous marriage and their own children they often have big family meals and lots of visitors. 

The book is interspersed with seasonal recipes I'm not really tempted to try, and the bits of interest to me are the struggle to keep garden and rural life a part of their lives. There's bouts of bitchiness between them, often as they say honestly, alcohol fuelled, and you hear both sides of how they cope. Given the contents of the book, the Slow Food tie-in seems more like a marketing angle despite their protestations to the contrary. They do work hard to keep their food natural and homegrown as much as possible, and I envy their warmer climate which makes that just a bit easier than here. 

The photographs used in the book are very ordinary, matter of fact stuff which makes me think of testing myself on a project like theirs. David quotes John Seymour (known to all 'back to the landers') about the impossibility of being totally self sufficient, and said that he sees his writing, like Seymour, as his 'cash crop'. David also believes he couldn't really look after his garden unless he worked from home as he does.

So it's going to be interesting (as in the supposed Confuscian curse that goes "may you live in interesting times") to see what happens around here.

(While I was searching online catalog software for a client presentation I found the Herman Miller (of office furniture designer fame), sponsored e-zine called jugglezine. It seems to have better than average, intelligent articles about life/work, and working from home.)

22 August '02

Two guitars and drums. Fendahlene.One of the band members of Sydney three-piece Fendahlene, works in the Ad agency were Doug has his office. Doug has promised to see them perform live and always chosen he says, 'to have his Horlocks and hot water bottle and toddle off to bed rather then visit a smoky pub at midnight'.

The band were playing at 7.30 tonight so Doug suggested we visit, and go on to dinner somewhere (Bills 2 as it happened). The back room at the pub filled when the started to play and I thought they sounded ok. with a hint of old UK. Squeeze. I took some photos and gave them the disk. The gave me their self produced CD as thanks. I then realised that illustrator friend Bill O'Donovan had done their CD cover art and website, something I'm sure I was told but had forgotten. If you haven't seen Bill's work, see it now at Secret City. Fendahlene's website is were I'm sure the pictures will end up.

24 August '02
Broadway busker, UltimoMore music, not electric. Leaving for home on Friday night, I stepped out of the Broadway shopping centre to the sound of this neatly dressed older (Greek I presume) man busking. He was playing a recorder and the music sounded a bit thin and repetitive, but the accompaniment was the thing that grabbed my attention. On his feet he had layered silver bells that I hear bells he tapped and shuffled as he played. 
I put some money in the plastic basket and asked if I could take his photograph. I then tried to catch the passing traffic as a time exposure blur but he was too animated to get a sharp image. I don't know how folk authentic the recorder/bells combination is, but it felt right in a cosmopolitan that he was there. 
Coming out of Tarago, just half an hour from home, in the cold full moonlight, I slowed as a young stag walked across the road. This was the spot I photographed three deer grazing around Christmas time. He was well ahead of me and trotted on his long legs quickly off the road and up the bank. 

Feeling pleased at seeing him so close, I was scanning the road for more when a kangaroo came hopping towards me diagonally across the road. This time I hit the brakes hard and swerved in plenty of time to clear it, but I was cautious about how they sometimes cut back in fright. I've always prided myself (and felt lucky) how in the six years I've been driving these roads, I've always been traveling at a speed where I can stop, or have seen them in time and slowed. You train yourself to look for patterns of light and movement that are not right. There have been some close misses and the only one I hit was already dead, lying in the middle of the road and I couldn't swerve around it because of oncoming traffic. It ripped the exhaust pipe out and the dogs crawled under the car for days, sniffing and licking. I wrote about how I feel about the roadkills in an entry here.

Ten minutes later I saw the old grey wombat I've noticed before, on the edge of the road. He moves very slowly and if it's the same one I saw in daylight, it's old and diseased. I was still thinking about that when in front of me was a grey roo that I hit in the middle of the bonnet. It rose up on the car, crazed eyes in the headlight, was flipped over and tossed ahead of me, rolling over and down the side of the road into a deep gutter. It was all so quick that I never braked, just threw the clutch and coasted to a stop. I got out and looked at the car which was crumpled, the grill shattered, headlight surrounds broken but the motor seemed to be running normally. There were no radiator leaks so I walked back down the road in the moonlight to see if the roo was dead. I'd been listening to music on the radio and left it and the the car running. I couldn't see the roo anywhere even though it was so bright, and I only have a penlight torch, so I gave up and walked back to the car to a techno musical soundtrack. 

I drove slower the rest of the way home thinking how much it was all like a video game. The windscreen/monitor view, the lack of reaction time and no feeling of impact. The kangaroo's face lit up against the background and the cartoon-like eyes, with the  impossible behaviour of the body of the animal tossed into the air, lacking the real effects of gravity. And like a video game I didn't feel anything to kill it. All of which would be an argument for the de-sensitising effect of video game violence except that I never play video games.

The car goes into repair on Monday, if like last time it will be around $1500 worth of damage.  It's all covered by insurance but there's still $400 in the excess and I've no car for a week or so. After seeing the deer, I was thinking of the scene in David Lynch's The Straight Story where the women in a new BMW hire car hits a deer, having done so just days before. Her anger and distress at having killed 'such beautiful creature'. Alvin Straight, the lead character is then seen guiltily eating the meat beside a campfire, while in the shadows, the eyes and shapes of deer watch on. 

The lucky spell has been broken and I can feel the eyes on me.

Fred Harden  
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