Letter to the Editor


In response to outrage at a soldier fined $4530 plus severely reprimanded for attempting to take a nude photo of a fellow soldier.

Following on from Major General A.J. Campbell’s letter to the editor in The Canberra Times,  Sunday, 28 July; the comments made by Peter Moran and Greg Cornwell, as well as Dr Susan Harris-Rimmer of the week before, confirm the ignorance with which many people who have never served in the Defence Forces view actions taken by courts of military justice.
The soldier was fined almost $5000 and received a severe reprimand.  His permanent record is forever marred by his poor decision making, misogyny  and offensive actions. Leaving the financial penalty aside for a moment, a reprimand of this sort in the military, almost certainly means the end of this soldier’s career. Would this punishment, plus the loss of the equivalent of two to three months income, have been delivered in a civilian jurisdiction?
Lt General Morrison’s order to the troops that if they can’t respect ALL of their colleagues then get out, is valid and will continue to take some time to fully integrate. It may surprise the above mentioned 3 civilians, that just as our Prime Minister cannot demand the court deliver specific punishment in civil cases, nor can General Morrison order an independent military courts martial to do so.
Jim Smith



As my morning becomes filled with a host of First World Problems; I find myself growing increasingly frustrated.

Dog throws up on the sofa in the Fancy Room

Each new section in the mystical government form I’m trying to fill out requires me to find other, older forms. These tend to be stored under the house.

Coco decides to pee on the rug in my office. I discover this using only my sense of touch, resulting in a change of socks.

Subjected to the purgative whims of our little fursons and unable to interpret the bureaucratic desires of Bob from Department B, I decide to take control of my life and proactively sit my online Spanish placement test for university.

Contrary to the email I received yesterday, the test turns out to be unavailable until 5:06 pm.

The program I bought over a month ago to synchronise the diaries between my laptop and phone is still a-synchronistic. This despite daily help desk attempts to fix the issue. Nelson seems a lovely guy, but I experience a growing sense of disappointment within myself, while sensing no urgency from him to take our relationship to the next level; A relationship where we can both be free to express ourselves through a well organised, functioning and unified planner.

The back bedroom blind cord needed unknotting, the washing machine screams for someone to redistribute the load (the shrill pipping apparent only to MY super hearing as the rest of the house remains immune to its entreaties), my car lease remains in limbo, a paper clip turns feral and lodges under my thumb nail, and I STILL CAN’T FIND THOSE BLOODY FORMS!!!!!!

And so, here I sit: bloodied and blocked, smelling of wee and embarked on whimsy; for if this is the hand dealt me today by the cosmic croupier, I have no choice but to follow the instructions on the packet and play it.



Well, I’ve been having a real nice time on my first month off.

Although it took a few weeks to find my wheels, I’m now fully invested in my days. Unencumbered by the clock or the will of other men, I form my days around those things I find important to me at the time.

There is something immensely satisfying about deciding what you want to do, at that moment. 

Without the guiding hand of a master, the things that are of real value are enjoyed without concerns of time or place.

I wake when I’m rested.

I take Jemima to school and horseback riding.

I can let Ollo take the car to go where he needs to go, when he needs to be there. I don’t need it.

I can set aside time to gather, compose and communicate my thoughts.

I see that a room needs sweeping, or some laundry needs washing, I do it.

I golf when I fee like it, and surprisingly, that’s less than I used to.

I have slept in my own bed for almost four weeks in a row.

And though I can do, and have done, all of these things while not on long leave, the one thing that is missing from the equation now is the constant and pervasive feeling that I should be doing something else.

That I have missed something vital.

That I must fix someones problem.

That I must be somewhere else mentally, regardless of my physical address.

The greatest thing I have discovered in the last 4 weeks is that I have the capacity and ability to live in and enjoy the moment for what it brings me.

And this realisation, though seemingly simple to many people, has taken me 36 years of work to figure out.

36 years, and 4 weeks.

Babysitters and their habits.


Hi All,

Today, I’ve decided to post something that I’ve been working on in the  Non-Fiction section of my brain.

Having lived in a wide variety of locations while growing up,  I’d like to chronicle some of  the adventures my brothers and I enjoyed in various parts of the USA.

This particular offering is about some of the high quality child care we endured, er, enjoyed.

I’d really like to hear back on what you out there, my reading public in Australia, the USA and, apparently, one person in France (?!), think of the style and content.

Sorry, Mum and Dad, if you haven’t heard these stories before… 🙂

Oh, and if anyone knows how to create this sort of thing as a ‘link’ instead of a post, sing out!


I think, on average, the fact that my brothers and I survived childhood is pretty impressive.


Not because we grew up in a war zone or a home next door to an explosives factory, but because we experienced care from such a wide range of babysitters; most of whom seemed to have forgotten to read the manual.

You know, the manual that explains your number one priority as a babysitter is to keep those you are minding from experiencing violent death or bodily harm, and, if you have time, stopping your charges from inflicting anything like that upon each other or passers-by. That manual.


For instance, there was the babysitter in Owosso,  who, when I was 3 (making Todd, 4 and David, 2), decided that she liked our cocker spaniel, Paddlefoot, more than she liked us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known a number of people who like animals better than they like humans. There are also several particular people that I like significantly less than I like our dogs. So, I would understand if the babysitter simply insisted on feeding Paddlefoot before she fed us. Or, if she played with Paddlefoot while we sat in front of the TV. Or, if she would bring Paddlefoot home cooked treats, bringing us nothing.

However, I’m not so understanding when her passion for Paddlefoot caused her to abandon us at home one day (don’t worry, the TV was working and we weren’t spoiling our appetite with any home baked treats), while she and her boyfriend set off on an adventurous move cross country to California, taking Paddlefoot with them.


I loved that dog and his ridiculously large feet. Paddlefoot couldn’t help the fact that the babysitter wanted to have those feet with her in California. I hope he had a great time out there. I kind of hope that at some stage of her life, the babysitter enjoyed a lengthy, invasive audit by the IRS.


We had another babysitter who used to simply lock us in our room so she could more easily enjoy daytime television. This incarceration would last until just before Mom or Dad came home, when she would unlock the door, give us a sandwich and tell us how well behaved we were that day. The situation wasn’t really so bad as, being resourceful young boys, we invented a game that you could only play in the bedroom as it involved the use of a large mattress and base set.


The game was called ‘Giant Clam’ and was very simple, but ridiculously enjoyable.


My brothers and I would lift the top mattress away from the base and lean it up against the wall. One of us would start the game by lying spread out on the base, eyes closed, while the other two climbed on the top edge of the mattress and plotted strategy.

Once the two ‘pearl farmers’ (the two boys on top) had decided on timing, they would slowly push the mattress away from the wall, falling back onto the top side of it as it came crashing down on the third brother, crushing him against the base.

As the mattress began it’s descent, the boy on the bottom was supposed to curl himself into a ball, forming a ‘pearl’. If he couldn’t do this before the mattress pinned him to the base, both of the other brothers would vigorously jump up and down on top of the ‘clam shell’ while the squashed sibling would scream and try to form the required pearl. This is actually quite difficult to do when  you’ve got someone jumping up and down on your head and someone else ‘reading’ the mattress surface to find the best place to smash your groin.

We all became quite good at reading mattress bulges and interpreting what part of the body they represented.

Occasionally, the game would take on extra wrinkle when one of the pearl farmers would slip up in his timing and instead of falling back onto the descending mattress would be launched through the air into the opposite wall. We never actually put any holes in the wall as the cast iron radiator tended to prevent us from hitting the plasterboard.


I loved that game.


I sort of like to think that this exposure to lackadaisical babysitting prepared us for the paragon of poor child minding, Steve.


When I was in third grade, my parents decided that maybe we should move to Idaho and join one of Dad’s cousins in a drive-in restaurant business.


‘Don’s Drive-In’ was situated on a bluff overlooking the Clearwater River, on the edge of a semi-industrial waste area, on outskirts of Kamiah and attracted a regular clientele of high school kids, truckers and other folk  who were heading up into the mountains.


One of my fondest memories of the drive-in was sitting at a linoleum covered table on our first day there, eating one of ‘our’ chilli dogs, drinking one of ‘our’ milk shakes and listening to ‘Spinning Wheel’ by Three Dog Night.


However, on to Steve.



It’s time I admitted something.


I think many, many people have been there before…

Those first tenuous moments of understanding.

Is it…?

Oh my God, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before…

Some people come to it early in life, being forged and guided by the interior fire it provides.  Its presence literally charging and changing the atmosphere around them, and those they love.

Others don’t discover it until much later, not even realising what they’ve been feeling for so long or having felt and recognised; simply failed to acknowledge.

The little nervous sweats, the faint stirrings in the abdomen…

That sudden rush of realisation…

It dawned on me this morning as I was jogging across the bridge with one of the girls from my morning boot camp.

How could this possibly be right, when it feels so wrong?!

That sudden awakening, the full and unequivocal understanding…



I’m lactose intolerant.



Those crackers last night (the crackers are innocent in all of this, please don’t blame them, they merely introduced us) topped with Double Cream Tasmanian Brie and Heritage Blue from Jindabyne.

As delicious as the moment seemed at the time, the cheeses’ true intentions were more strongly revealed with each additional step across Lake Ginninderra. My once delightful dairy friends were rapidly expanding, both figuratively and practically in my lower intestine. Their savoury creaminess had turned on me and now demanded immediate release from my person.

The irony of being able to use my well honed, boot-camp-built, core muscles to hold back this tidal wave of milk sugars was lost on me at the time and occurs to me only now…

So, what way forward for me?

Does my life now become a series of tawdry little affairs where a furtive latte in some Belconnen back alley is followed later in the car by raging guilt, high velocity wind and the taint of death?

Must I look with suspicion on every ice confection, asking it, ‘Are you dairy free?’

…or do I go on to act as so many others have done before me; continue to enjoy the forbidden fruits of the cow,  proudly crowing to all and sundry of the recent dalliance, regardless of company or olfactory sensibilities?

I know that my boot camp colleagues, I suspect, would vote for complete abstinence; or at least on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as the occasional Tuesday morning.

My family, I discover, have long been party to my charade and have made excuses for me for years.

What was, just last night, a delightful, enlightening interlude now becomes a pivotal point in my life.

Does this warrant its own space on my Facebook timeline….?

Which way forward indeed.

This one’s gonna be just a little bit dirty…


As one would imagine, a number of things change when you’re on an extended period of leave.

Eating habits alter dramatically as you have a very unfixed schedule; you eat when you are hungry instead of when the socially designated time is reached.

A cup of coffee on rising, nothing to eat until the middle of the morning, maybe some lunch if you can be bothered. A small can of tuna in the afternoon.  Eh, whatever. Very relaxed, very functional. The lack of social context does seem to impact on the activity.

Jenny has been off work with me the last few days and I find myself falling back into old eating patterns around breakkie and lunch. A cup of coffee for breakfast becomes coffee with porridge; the carrot (OK, the ginger snaps), at morning tea become baklava with an espresso and lunch is a must; usually something substantial enough that it lives on for a few extra days in that wonderful little spot in the fridge reserved for leftovers.

To help illustrate how my life with food is different when I have a ‘leave partner’, Jen has just walked into my creative space and asked “You gonna cook me breakfast Bitch?” Nobody usually calls me Bitch when I’m by myself…

Another change to my normal routine would have to be my clothing choice.

No more ironing shirts the night before, making sure my shoes are polished. The suit pants and jacket stay in the closet, which is a big change as I would normally wear them five days a week. I haven’t worn a pair of dark socks in almost a month. Clean underwear sits idly in my basket while I choose to go without.

I also seem to burn a lot more incense when I’m by myself.

I must say though, one of the most notable aspects of my extended ‘weapons free’ period is my seeming indifference to personal hygiene….

It’s not that I smell bad (although that could justify the increased use of incense…), I’m NOT surrounded by a cloud of flies like Pigpen, I just don’t spend a lot of time cleansing myself at the moment.

Rest assured, I will shower after heavy physical activity, eventually. I try to visit my toothbrush at least once every other day or before I’m meeting up with people other than the family. I even put on deodorant and aftershave occasionally although this, after failing to shave.

My beard is coming in at a manly rate of knots and I’ve only been tempted to trim it once. I haven’t had a full beard since Oktoberfest 1986 and we all know how that finished up!

What seems so strange about all of this is that my normal daily ritual of showering, shaving, brushing my teeth and putting on my smells is something that I actually like doing when I’m working. It helps me change my persona from a groggy, shambling man with bed face (I don’t get bed hair, but my face can absorb a pillow mark like nobody’s business), into a freshly trimmed, oiled and primped man of business.

And maybe, that’s it.

I don’t need to change into my Super Hero outfit now! I don’t need to wear my underpants on the outside to show I’m the boss! I don’t need to wear underpants at all!!!

And so, I sit here: Cup of coffee, the smell of patchouli rising over my keyboard, three weeks of ridiculously itchy facial growth and nothing between me and my Calvin Klines.

This must be what Heaven is like.