Can I be forgiven

Mike never really forgave me. How many times do you have to hear the same tragic story told over and over again? There we were – so the story goes – in the hot summer sun driving down the Great Ocean Road just near to the famous surf break of Bells Beach. The roof was off the little 1 litre (61 cubic inches) Suzuki Sierra four wheel drive vehicle and the sun was bleaching our youthful skin and hair. We were on our way back to the house.

All of my mates had banded together and rented a house for the summer holidays in the beach town of Barwon Heads. We sure raised hell in that little beachside town – and had a blast. A week was too short a time to spend with mates at that time of life, so once back at work, I pathetically implored of my boss: “Astrid. You have to let me have another week off work!” And that sad appeal worked. Astrid was a lovely boss after all. Prior to that time, she memorably encountered my friends waiting for me just on the other side of the glass security door. She was a bit taken aback and remarked: “Chris, there are a couple of young gentleman here to see you.” But then she added as an afterthought: “They don’t look anything like you!” Indeed for they were dressed like street kids.

But back to the little underpowered, but more importantly two seater Suzuki travelling along the Great Ocean Road with the roof off, the sun beating down, and the CD player blasting out some solid grunge tunes. Mike was the first one to spot the three young surfer girls wanting to hitch a ride back to town. A brief argument ensued. For the record Mike lost the argument, but won the day on points for his overall sense of adventure. Mr Practical (me), pointed to the two seats which were otherwise occupied, and the lack of space for the three young ladies plus their surfboards. Mike reminded me that he had once observed eight people in the car. He had a point, but I retorted that this was a major highway after all and not some dodgy late night pizza run adventure in an undersized car for you and seven of your mates.

Mike was cool, and stoically resigned himself to not picking up the three young lady hitch-hikers. Instead he just gave them a cheesy grin and wave as we headed back along the highway to the accommodation. Anyway, the band which was comprised of several friends, were probably going to play that night at the beach house. And who wouldn’t want to see how the neighbours rated the loud music?

Going back a few years before that, there was a share house of five people in a snooty suburb. The street name was Royal Crescent and it doesn’t get more snooty than that street name. It was my first house out of home and only one of the people was known to me, and that was Matt. Matt introduced me to his mates: Mike and Tony. It is hard to believe that the five us said to the landlord in all sincerity that the party days were behind us. Mate, we sure lied.

The lie was a sad thing for the landlord, if only because he lived next door with his young family. He sure had his revenge on us though, and most certainly didn’t return any of the deposit.

Mike and Tony had been mates since boarding school. They were like family those two, thrown into a rotten situation and then making the best of it. If grammar school is ten, then boarding school is right off the scale at eleven. But far out those guys sure knew how to throw a party. Here’s a photo of Mike at a very memorable party.

Mike the Viking with cigarette and drink enjoying an epic party

The guys just knew people. Lot’s of people. And people likewise knew they threw epic parties. It is worth mentioning that no party was really complete unless the police turned up. Nay, their attendance was like a barometer as to the general vibe of the party. The more people and the more visits by the local constabulary, the better party was. That was the general consensus. And the parties went on until the wee hours of the morning. The ‘what exactly did happen’ debrief the following day was always an important event to attend, as well as just being fun and illuminating stuff.

Mike worked in sales. And he was good at his job, because during the recession of the 90’s whilst most people were only just scraping by, Mike was rolling in mad cash. For a couple of years Mike used to work around the corner from my place of employment. We used to have lunch together and talk rubbish. He was very casual with time, and fortunately for me nobody much cared what I was up to as long as the debt collection job got done. Lunches used to extend on as long as was necessary. It’s important business talking rubbish.

The business was a computer wholesaler, and who can forget the exciting day the Australian Federal Police raided the business. You coming down to lunch, mate? It seemed like an important question to ask. Nah, maybe later, was the reply. The office I was in provided a good view of the unfolding events. And good to his word, we had lunch much later with a side dish of juicy details. He was cool. The business survived and went on to continue wholesaling, or doing whatever it was doing.

Other jobs he did involved computers and something or other with them. Despite persistent and repeated questioning it was really unclear what some of those businesses were actually doing. Mike was unfazed by the questioning and said just come and have a look for yourself. During the visit the question was raised: So you’re getting paid to set up a virtual golf course for the boss and keep the other staff entertained playing car racing games? Yeah, was the only answer possible. A true mystery for me, even to this day.

Mike and Tony continued with the share houses. For a number of years they had control of a Californian Bungalow, and it was huge place. House mates came and went. Some stayed longer than others. All of them were amusing company. In the backyard there was even a motorcycle buried half in and half out of the ground courtesy of an epic party. As the guys got older, they learned how to be on better terms with their neighbours, who were unwittingly providing them with internet access.

At the end of the lease, the landlord gave them back the full deposit. Turns out the landlord demolished the house and had failed to inspect it before the bulldozer went in. A stroke of luck.

In Mike’s early years it would be a fiction to describe him as being neat. After all it was he who introduced to me the concept of the floordrobe. Mike was too busy living life to worry about being neat. That was for other people. At times the household even had trouble committing to toilet paper. The telephone book was found to be a useful substitute.

If you didn’t look too closely at the state of hygiene in the kitchen you could enjoy some of the best cooking around. But you were warned – don’t look too closely at the kitchen. Despite the excellent food, Mike loved take away food. There was that weird time however, when the house became all super neat. It was akin to entering a Star Trek spatial anomaly and it just somehow didn’t seem right. A friend was couch surfing at the time and paying for the accommodation by doing all of the cleaning. Mike thought that this was the best arrangement ever, but all good things come to an end, and eventually the house returned to its normal state of being.

It has been noted before by others that one thing that private schooling teaches students is how to casually wear a suit. Mike had that act down pat. He was always well presented, but in a very casual manner. If food had been inadvertently splatted onto his shirt, he’d just not worry about it. That was what cleaning was about apparently. Mike’s love of take away food lead to an expanding waistline though, and who can forget the arrangement he had with the tailor? The tailor used to hand-make a custom suit for Mike. The suit was called the ‘Big Mike’, and Mike used to call up the tailor who already had his measurements and ask for a Big Mike in Purple, or Blue. He looked very cool, just like Ozzy Osbourne, but in the early years.

As these things happen, circumstances, economics and time force people in all manner of different directions. We drifted apart and in the last decade only saw each other at as Mike put it succinctly at ‘Birthdays and Barbecues’. Here’s one:

Tony, Chris, Mike and Alfie at a wedding

And here’s another wedding photo:

Mike, Chris and Tony

A few years back at another wedding in a small country town there was a long interval between the ceremony and the reception. Mike and Tony decided to spend that time with the editor and I. We all went to a local cafe and scoffed down some yummy cake and coffee and just talked rubbish for hours. It was as if no time at all had elapsed.

But time had indeed elapsed. On Saturday morning, Mike who loved and lived life to the fullest died suddenly. Mike and Tony were like the brothers I never had. I miss ya mate.

I planted an oak tree as a memorial to Mike. The source of the oak seedling was a bit dubious, and I sort of feel that Mike would have approved of the appropriate gesture.

The author plants an oak seedling as a memorial to Mike

The weather over this corner of the planet has been warm but changeable. A few storms have rolled over the land and the clouds have looked awesome.

Storm clouds roll over the area this week bring warm and humid weather

The greenhouse project has continued. I was hoping to have the building finished this week, however it is a very complicated building. The timber frame received a good coat of paint.

The greenhouse received a coat of paint. Ollie appears to be dodging any and all work!

The door was then hung on the greenhouse. It is worthwhile mentioning that obtaining a timber and glass door at this time of unusual supply shortages was not an easy feat. The door had to be painted. Then we were able to attached the steel corrugated sheets around the lower parts of the greenhouse.

The greenhouse project is moving along. Plum approves

Aviary mesh was attached to various areas so as to provide ventilation. The mesh will also stop all of the wildlife which lives on the farm and in the surrounding forest from getting inside the greenhouse and feasting on the seedlings.

Aviary mesh was attached so as to allow ventilation and stop the wildlife from getting inside the greenhouse

Hopefully the ventilation is good enough to stop the plants inside the greenhouse from cooking on seriously hot days.

More details of the roof ventilation mesh can be seen

We continue to clean up the surrounding forest. I have an odd notion that the job has not been done properly since maybe, say, 1834 at a wild guess. Whilst not quite 190 years ago, it is not that far off the number. A lot of cleaning up needs to be done.

Clean up of the surrounding forest continued this week

Some friends supplied us with a bottle of very tasty Limoncello. An excellent use of lemons, And we have a lemon tree and inspiration. What more needs be said?

Limoncello production

The two sheep dog pups, Plum and Ruby are getting bigger. Their first birthday is in November.

Plum is getting bigger and her tongue is getting longer

Unfortunately for the local skinks (a gecko equivalent reptile) the two girls have discovered the joys of hunting them. Fortunately the reptiles are fast as and plentiful.

A skink enjoying the now warmer spring sunshine

There’s a huge diversity of birds living on the farm. This little fella (a red breasted robin) has recently taken to admiring himself in the car windows.

A red breasted robin enjoys farm life

The Globe Artichokes have been producing tasty chokes. If ever you get the chance to consume one, I recommend them highly. A very tasty vegetable.

Globe Artichokes are producing a few chokes now that spring is here

Onto the flowers:

A huge succulent flower
Aluminium plant and Alkanet (A.K.A. A close relative of Borage) are good friends
How bright are these Leucodendron flowers
All of the trees in the forest flower. It is awesome to see a hugely tall Blackwood in full flower
The flowering Cherries lining this path are a really lovely thing to see and the honeyeaters are loving the easy feed
The orchard has begin breaking its dormancy

The temperature outside now at about 10.00am is 13’C (55’F). So far this year there has been 836.8mm (32.9 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 824.6mm (32.5 inches).