With the woman from your office that you left her for
away at a weekend conference, you found yourself
at a party staring at your ex-girlfriend and her
new boyfriend, and deciding that the new boyfriend’s
jumper was the kind favoured by train spotters or
watchers of birds (the sort that fly without any help
from you) repaired to the bedroom set aside for coats,
got as close as you could to the dressing-table mirror,
and practised saying For old times’ sake with your eyes.

But you didn’t know that on the evenings you were
working late, she had put off going home to an empty flat
by browsing in a bookshop near the station, and read
in the poetry section that hope is the thing with feathers
and in the natural world section that ninety per cent
of bird species are monogamous compared with
three per cent of mammals, and bought herself a pocket
guide by Bill Oddie and binoculars one lunchtime from a
sports shop, and waited for the day when you would leave.

So when you approached her at the buffet table
your “come to bed” look didn’t register and you found
yourself demanding Who’s the fucking jumper?

Refilling their glasses in the kitchen her new boyfriend
picked up that stunned silence in which he could have
told you about the day on Hackney Marsh
when from his hide he saw her walking towards him,
a new variety that he couldn’t name, who wanted to learn
everything he could teach her and had him describe swans
mating for life again and again and again, and how much
she loves his jumpers, particularly this one,
bought by her and worn by him to repel birds of prey.

– Lorraine Mariner


Once in the 40’s

We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold–but
brave–we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time
when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

– William Stafford




I lifted this Wednesday’s picture from an eBay auction.

The listing wasn’t for the motorbike but rather this original Glass plate negative and as is par for the course I was outbid.

Still, a great looking motorcycle though?

Alcoyn were a French manufacturer who closed for business in the late 1950’s.

They were quite successful in their day with an extensive production range running from largish capacity Vee-Twins like this one (493cc).
To cheap and cheerful runabouts (100cc) that they punched out in great numbers during the depression.

Apparently this photo was taken in Hobart, Tasmania where there was a dealership.

Just how a dealership came to be established in a small provincial town (& Hobart would have been very small in the early 1900’s)

as far from France as you can go without falling off the earth’s edge is, well it has my mind boggling?

‘bon nuit mes amies!’


Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

– Dorianne Laux


Today is Remembrance Day;
the 11th day of the 11th month.
In many ways it’s a more solemn occasion then that other day in April when we remember those who didn’t return from war.
In the last few years Anzac Day has almost become a circus. Each media outlet seeming to outdo the other with hyperbole and jingoism and gawkish sentiment.
Give me the the quiet reflection of Remembrance Day where, if you listen you can hear what the dead have to say.
In the the jostle of crowded Dawn services or the clamor of noisy parades their voices are drowned out.


We visited the Australian War memorial only a few months ago and you can’t help but be moved by the dignity of the place – it’s hallowed ground.
You walk in past the two stone lions from Yipres that guard the entrance. From there you can choose to walk between the Pools of Reflection flanking the Courtyard or climb the stairs to the Two long Cloisters that frame the Roll of Honor. At the end is the Hall of Memory and within, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is here at the entrance that you will find the transcript of the speech that Paul Keating delivered back in 1993, the Eulogy to an Unknown Soldier .

Paul Keating was in my opinion a titan of his party, which in turn is my party; the Australian Labor Party. I consider him one of our greatest PM’s (though the unwashed masses will never acknowledge that). He was a complicated man. Not the populist that philandering buffoon Bob Hawke was. A man full of contradictions, a leader that people found it difficult to warm too. He was an unabashed intellectual that loved “those beautiful straight lines of logic”. A swaggering bar room debater that would take on all comers in Parliament yet also a sensitive speaker with an abiding appreciation of the delicacy and the power of the spoken word. His more famous Redfern Speech probably better illustrates the strength of his oratory but this Eulogy is equally moving:

“We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will .
We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.
Yet he has always been among those we’ve honoured. We do know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front; one of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War; one of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil; one of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century. He is all of them. And he is one of us.
This Australia and the Australia he knew are like foreign countries. The tide of events since he died has been so dramatic, so vast and all-consuming, a world has been created beyond the reach of his imagination.
He may have been one of those who believed the Great War would be an adventure too grand to miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are that he went for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty; the duty he owed his country and his King.
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible war–we might think this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But, in honouring our war dead, as we always have, we declare that this is not true. For out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.
The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who, by his deeds, proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.
That is surely at the heart of the Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is not a legend of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity. It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
This Unknown Australian is not interred here to glorify war over peace, or to assert a soldier’s character above a civilian’s, or one race or one nation or one religion above another, or men above women, or the war in which he fought and died above any other war, or one generation above any that has been or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia. His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained.
We have lost more than 100,000 lives and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy.
But we have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and, with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore, that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his country – he might enshrine a nation’s love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.”

–  The Honorable Paul John Keating

Home to Roost (extract)

I don’t remember any of what happened.
Just those howls, like dogs, as we drove out.
The fields and trees all black and green.
Perhaps some of the very first rounds.
But nothing else.

I had to pick it all up second hand,
as my hearing came back in the chopper,
and then again in Bastion.

How when my driver had reversed
he’d hit a roadside IED.
How the explosion had hit a fuel tank, or ammo tin
right under me.
Shot me out, like a jack in the box,
60 feet. And then how it had all kicked off.
Rockets, grenades. The lot.

They took me straight to Rose Cottage.
A special room in the medical centre
deep among the tents and containers of Bastion.
A room for the lads or lasses who’d taken a hit,
which even the surgeons on camp couldn’t fix.

It was manned, back then, by two blokes,
staff sergeants Andy and Tom. It was them
who took me in, off the ambulance,
and into their room. It smelt of sweet tea.
“That scent,” Andy said to me. “It’s the Eau de Toilette. Rose.
The Afghans insist we spray it on their guys.”
“Don’t worry though Arthur,” Tom added on my other side.
“You’ll soon get used to it. We did.”
And then they laughed. Not for themselves
but for me, I could tell. And they carried on talking too,
chatting me through all they’d do,
as they put what they’d found of me onto a shelf,
saying “sorry it’s so cold Arthur”,
which it was, like a fridge.
Then they said “sleep well” before sliding it shut.
My first night of three in Rose Cottage.

I saw them again just before I left.
When they slid me out into the light again,
still passing the time of day
as they placed me in the coffin
that would carry me home.
Always calling me by name.
“Not long now Arthur.”
“You’ll be back in no time.”
Gently, they lowered the lid
then, like two maids making a bed,
they unfolded, smoothed and checked for snags,
before draping me in the colours of the flag.

– Owen Sheers

Whatever is rightly done …

royce (2)

I’m a half arsed kind of mechanic; close enough is usually good enough. My wife on the other hand is a perfectionist. Several years ago she enrolled in a certificate course in Calligraphy. She excelled at it. Topping her classes, winning awards, her tutor told her they even had to create a new grading classification for her ‘major piece’.

I think Sir Henry Royce would have approved of my wife’s work ethic and despaired of mine. He was famous for his exacting standards and drive to achieve the best. On his death-bed he apparently said “My only regret is that I did not work harder”.

Anyway, Sharon quickly scribbled this out for me and I placed it in an old 6 x 4 film negative holder that I found in the trash.
It’s in the garage, directly above one of the work benches. A not so subtle reminder to do things properly.

Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace,  even
the gods speak of God.

– David Whyte

a perfect planet – small and blue

2011-MotoGP-01-Qatar_Saturday-0047-sharpScott Jones Photography is part of what makes MottoMatters THE best site for motogp information on the planet.

This Wednesday’s image is of the rear end of Hector Barbera’s, Ducati Desmosedici motogp bike. It was taken at the night race in Qatar in 2011.

The blue flame is only visible for an infinitesimal fraction of a second. It’s the byproduct of unburnt gases that escape the combustion chamber and are then ignited in the super hot environment of the exhaust system.

Purty, Aint it!

If you skip across to scottjones.net you’ll find more background on the shot.