A-camp-olypse Now – Part the First

“Brisbane… Shit! I’m only in Brisbane… I’ve been here one night now, looking for a holiday… Everyone gets what he wants. I wanted a holiday. And for my sins they gave me one…””  To dreadfully misquote Apocalypse now

So I haven’t been feeling quite myself lately. A little frustrated, a little scared, a little directionless, and to top it all off, a little under the weather. Not full blown flu, just an annoying tickle in my throat that is creeping into my lungs. Just not feeling terribly together is how I’d put it and desperately in need of a change scenery.

This is how I arrived in Brisneyland, with my wife and two sons (13 & 11), about to embark on a school holiday camping trip with our dear friends the Smiths.

Now It must be said that we are not a camping family. My wife’s idea of camping is an overwater villa at the St Regis, Bora Bora… and a fine idea of camping that is, believe you me! Bille Carte and a butler is one Hell of a way to rough it. The boys are apprehensive. They’re not that worried about the outdoor living (they have camped before) but being away from the PS4 and a reliable wifi signal for three days has them pretty spooked. My youngest is very concerned about his K/D stats on COD and “losing his edge”, while my eldest is seeking solace in the pages of a book about the Silk Road and the deep web. He’s not above going analogue for his digital fix is that one.

For me it’s about cleanliness; I’m not a germaphobe, I’m just not a big fan of dirt. Put it this way, when get home from a trip I unpack my bag, put all the clothes in the wash, vacuum the bag, then vacuum the house. I find nothing more therapeutic than cracking out the Dyson. In my small corner of the world, in my home, I will have mastery over the dirt.* However, in a camping scenario there is no vacuuming. The dirt runs free. It is the predator and I am its prey.

I seriously considered packing the Dyson handheld for this excursion and when I say packing, I mean like heat. If I was going to take on dirt on its turf and I was arming up for bear. Then I realised I’d have nowhere to plug it in and found myself seriously considering an investment in a rather expensive portable solar panel to charge it. Eventually, I knew I had to abandon that plan. There is no way my wife would have ever gone with and with good reason. While the Smiths are our dearest friends, my wife goes back a lot further with them than I, and as much as they have accepted me and my all my fortes and foibles there is no way on God’s green Earth that they’d understand this. I’d convinced myself I’d only use it in the tent. If there is one thing I cannot bear it is grit in my bedding. Just one particle of grit when I am trying to sleep is like a pice of blue metal road bed delicately abrading my tender flesh.

And while we’re about it, what is with the whole tent thing?! I love my wife, I really do. She is the Sun and the Moon to me and I count myself the luckiest of men to have such an intelligent and beautiful woman to travel through life with… 

But do I really want to seal myself in an oven bag with her overnight?! 

More to the point, does she want to seal herself in with me? If it is anything like the last time we went camping with the Smiths**, we would be condemning each other to death by asphyxiation***, not to mention the potential threat of rapid and catastrophic combustion. I don’t care how many vents the damn methane rebreather has. Did I mention my wife is a smoker? This just is a holiday tragedy waiting to be reported on.

The Smiths on the other hand are the antithesis of us. They are camping machines. When the Apocolypse comes, as soon as there is a sniff of Armageddon, I am packing up the family and heading to where the Smiths are. They will survive and probably quite comfortably. I would swear they must have the tents from Harry Potter! They seem to magically create stuff to eat and drink and do (coming up with things to do while camping is actually quite challenging… well it is for me). And they have two daughters – yes, around the same ages as my sons just make things even MORE interesting –  who are completely at ease with the whole great outdoors milieu.

Where are we going? I don’t know. All I know is that at 9am tomorrow morning I will make my way into Queens St in downtown Brisneyland to pick up a 4WD and most likely the last real coffee**** I’ll enjoy until the weekend. I’ll return to our Brisneyland digs (my mother-in-law’s über apartment overlooking the Brisneyland River. Very clean. A full description requires an article all of its own), load up the family, pick up the camping gear, meet up with the Smiths and head off into the wilderness off South East Queensland.

Right now I feel a little like Martin Sheen in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now, sans all the dancing and punching of mirrors. I’m like Willard desperately waiting for something he doesn’t really want, knowing that he is hopelessly unprepared for what is in store: “Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker… And every minute the dust squats in the bush, it gets stronger…”

Camping… the horror… the horror…

7 April 2015

*Of course, my family are completely the opposite. They could not care less about mess. Welcome to my own personal Hell. I have never told them that I have this fastidious streak and I’m pretty sure they don’t know the true depths it runs… or maybe they do…

**My wife and I went camping on North Stradbroke Island for New Years Eve 1999 with the Smiths just for one night. We were yet to have kids and I was just getting to know the Smiths and I really didn’t want to make a tit of myself. So I quashed my dirt aversion and just went with the flow. I recall four-wheel-driving, beer, the beach, beer, fireworks, beer, meat, beer, beans, beer, bacon, beer, eggs, beer, rum, Jägermeister, laughing my arse off, more beer and the drop toilet from Hell. I came to at 5am when I actually heard the sun rise and it proceeded to peel my eyelids open with a rusty spork. I was lying in half in a tiny tent with a mouthful of sand – Sand! It’s just dirt with ocean views – skin crusted with salt, clothes that reeked of farts and the fire and I’m pretty sure from the headache I was now suffering that I had slept face down using a tent peg for a pillow. No, camping is not my thing.

***I am typing this while my wife snores next to me and in a moment of divine synchronicity, she let rip. The prosecution rests its case.

****While the handheld Dyson was seriously considered, the single boiler Vibiemme coffe machine and my coffee grinder was, for me at least, a no-brainer. Right up until my wife caught me measuring it and our luggage did it in any way seem even vaguely beyond he realms of possibility or common sense. 

Budget 2014 for Dummies…


In the interest of those not quite so economically literate, we present the following simple list of Hockey-nomic Measures in this years Budget…

– if you live in a foreign country and we were helping you out, we aren’t helping you out anymore;
– the Federal Government is pushing the cost of education and health care over to the States;
– the States are being encouraged to sell off their assets to pay for new roads that we will have to pay to use;
– the $7 GP co-payment is the first step in dismantling Medicare;
– part of that $7 co-payment will go into a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund to find a cure for the dementia and Alzheimer’s that’s riddling the Liberal Party (they don’t seem to remember where all that wine and money keeps coming from… or what a promise is…);
– the wealthy are being taxed more, but not much more and not for long;
– Company tax has been cut by 1.5% so when the top 3000 companies get hit with the 1.5% tax increase to cover the Paid Parental Scheme they won’t lose anything;
– rich people will still get their superannuation rebate;
– miners will still get their cheap diesel;
– our petrol will be going up, but only by about a cent a year (which means at least four to five cents a month because fuel companies will no doubt have to “factor in the cost of factoring in the cost”);
– you wouldn’t want to be on the pension (but if you are the chances are you won’t be for much longer);
– you wouldn’t want to be 40 and working in the building industry;
– you wouldn’t want to be a student;
– you wouldn’t want to be a under 30 and lose your job;
– you wouldn’t want to work in the Arts (unless you’re a ballet dancer, then you’ll have somewhere to live when you’re unemployed);
– you wouldn’t want to work at the ABC (and if you’re under 30 and work at the ABC you’re royally screwed);
– if your parents aren’t rich, your education stops at year 12;
– Universities can now charge like US colleges;
– politicians will have any pay rises frozen for 12 months but will no doubt give themselves an increase to make up for it next year:
– A quarter of billion is earmarked for a god-botherer in every school;
– Just under 90 million is being spent on finding that Malaysian airline that even the Malaysians have given up on;
– NBN? What NBN?
– Joe Hockey likes to dance to “Gonna be the Best Day of My Life” before delivering bad news;
– Everyone is already sick of the phrase “Earn or learn”;
– half a billion is being ripped from indigenous programmes (which means Tony won’t be visiting any aboriginal communities for a week despite saying that would be the FIRST thing he would do as PM);
– Tony Abbott has discovered definitions for “truth”, “promise”, “surprises” and “no” that defy logic, morality and reason;
– Tony Abbot is a reptile

My apologies if I missed anything, however this is a Budget for Dummies by a dummy.

Mad as Hell…


In Network, Peter Finch as Howard Beale implored us to “go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!'”

What follows is the 21st century email equivalent…

To: Fastway Couriers, Sydney

Dear Sir or Madam,

Good morning. I would like to draw your attention to the valuable lesson I learned this morning about your service and those who provide it.

When leaving my home at 9.10am this morning to drive my ten year old son to school I was surprised to find a Fastway Courier van (registration number REDACTED) parked in my driveway. My first reaction was of slight excitement: “Oh joy,” I thought “I am having a parcel delivered to my home!” This however was not the case. There was no sign of the driver anywhere on my premises and my excitement at this possible delivery was fast becoming growing frustration at not being able to get out of my driveway and making my own dellivery – to whit getting my afore-mentioned son to his school.

Upon closer inspection of the Fastway Couriers van, I noticed the driver had left his Fastway Couriers ID badge hanging from his rearview mirror. The name on the badge, easily read through the windscreen, was “Nick”. When I went to have another look around my property once again to see if I could find “Nick”, “Nick” came jogging up the street from a neighbouring residence, resplendent in his Fastway Couriers shirt. I am unsure which residence he was making his delivery to, suffice it to say it was not mine so I was somewhat confused as to why my driveway was being used as a parking spot. Even more so when there was a perfectly good parking spot right next to it on the street.

As “Nick” jumped into his Fastway Courier van, I called out to him: “Excuse me mate! Can you not park in my driveway. I’m trying to get my son to school.”

“Nick” responded in a way that I felt I should share with you as he is a member of your company and as such I thought you might like to know what how he is representing you in public. His answer was, and please excuse the language but these are his words:

“Fuck you! I’m doing a fucking job!”

Charming! When I then pointed out that there was a perfectly good parking spot right next to my driveway, “Nick” countered with a hearty “Fuck off!” over the roar of the engine of his Fastway Courier van as he tore out of my driveway and up the street. I can see why “Nick” is driving and not working in your PR department.

What is most disappointing about this incident is not the inconvenience that “Nick” and his Fastway Couriers Van caused my son and I (Oh yes! He was late for school. Thanks for that.). What is most galling is the fact that “Nick”, the driver of the Fastway Courier van couldn’t care less about my inconvenience and in fact thought it unreasonable for me to point out:
a. That my driveway isn’t a parking spot and,
b. Maybe he should use the parking spot not three metres away.

I understand that “Nick” has a “fucking job” to do and that is time-specific. However, as a parent I also have a time specific job to do, especially on a school morning. I might have been happy to let it slide, but “Nick” didn’t even think that his inconveniencing of others was even worthy of an apology. It seems that for “Nick”, his convenience and that of Fastway Couriers is paramount over everybody else and anybody who questions this is open to abuse.

As such I am writing this email to you informing you of your driver’s conduct and also to let you know that I am going to conduct a little public relations experiment of my own. I am posting this to all my social media contacts (sans the rego number, of course) to let them know the kind of service they can expect if they use Fastway Couriers, and especially if they get “Nick” as their driver. I’m sure they will find it most reassuring that Fastway Couriers and “Nick” won’t let little things like common courtesy, good grace, or trespass laws stand in the way of having their packages delivered. And rest assured I’ve got quite a few friends online and they love sharing feel-good stories like this.

I hope this doesn’t inconvenience you too much.


David Callan