The Physical Experience of Reading

Kindle with books - whiteI’ve been using a kindle for around 18 months now and its functional, small, gives fast access to heaps of good reads, but… it just doesn’t feel like a book.

Which raises the question – ‘what is a book?

Is a book a collection of information and ideas or is a book a physical item to be held, smelled, thumbed and treasured?…

You can see where this is headed can’t you?

I see great value in the kindle and I doubt I’ll get rid of it, but after reading 60 or 70 books on it I always feel a little gypped when I finish the book. I am realising I have a physical attachment to books more than I do to ideas or storylines.

I have tossed plenty of books out in the last few years – a kindle would be a real winner for these kinds of books – simply hit ‘delete’… but I have also got a collection of my favourites, the ones I like to have there just in case… Just in case what?… I’m not sure. Maybe so I can pick them up and read them when I feel like it, maybe to lend to a friend?…

I like the ‘sample’ versions on kindle, I like the savings in $$, I like the portability… I really do… but I miss a ‘good book’.

Which leads me to wonder if there is something in the kinaesthetic experience of reading that is more significant than maybe we have realised. Sure – you can read a kindle in bed, in the beach, upside down, you never need to worry about it being too thick, or destroying the pages when you fold it back on itself… But I’m missing books.

So I think its time for me to clear the shelves of some more ‘junk’ and to replenish again with some treasures.






The Other 4bies

This is purely for my own entertainment and a little bit of reminiscing.

Up until we came to Butler I hadn’t got into 4wding at all. I was more a sports car kinda guy… yeah… I’d be thinking that too.


But one day my father in law left his cruiser with us for a while and I decided it was time to give this 4wding thing a go. So I hopped in and took it down the tracks north of Jindalee and onto the beach, where it promptly got bogged. Not all that surprising seeing as I was figuring it out on the run. There was a fairly ugly internal panic going on as I realised I was on the beach alone and out of phone range… with someone else’s car. Ooops

I got out and started to dig it out and then remembered something about letting the tyres down. Once I dropped the pressures I was away, and headed straight home. I didn’t want my next move to be bogging it below the high tide line.

After that drive I decided it was time to ‘get one of them’. As you do… Nothing like a bit of adrenalin to get you inspired.


So I began to look around at the bottom end of the market and found an old 1981 Landcruiser on LPG and bought it for $4500.00. It was a 4 speed, with way too much rust, but it was unstoppable. It was the kinda car that didn’t matter if it copped a few dents, or if the kids played on the bonnet…

We took that car everywhere and it certainly was the goods when it came to the dunes or anything off road. Its great when you can smash a car and just not care!

On the road the 4 speed was just a bit annoying once you got to 100kph and the fumes that made their way into the cab from the exhaust were at times a bit overpowering. The only time it really gave us grief was on the way back from Busso in Dec 2004 and the crankshaft pulley and harmonic balancer fell off. The engine bay was covered in oil and we had to get towed home. You can read about that saga here and here and here and finally here

We eventually decided to retire it after a couple of years and a local kid bought it. It became legend of the Butler neighbourhood until it was stolen from him and never seen again. So Big Blue is out there somewhere but we don’t know where.


After Big Blue – (which could have been called big red based on the amount of rust in her) – I decided to look for another cruiser but free of rust and picked up a stunning old 1985 Cruiser with no rust and just 185ks ks for just $5K.  This was a beautiful car but with the old 3F motor on LPG but there were days you wondered if it could get up a decent hill. It wasn’t going to be our round Oz car, and while it was comfortable and spacious  I just couldn’t see us towing a camper around Oz in it. Bummer because it was an awesome old car.

From here it was onto Big Red the 1996 Patrol and that was a beast. She lasted us 5 years and a round Oz adventure and wsa a brilliant car.

Of course I have already mused on the latest cars here.








If Not For the Snake










If Not For the Snake 

Yeah we like to keep to ourselves
And that was the end of that…

One lazy afternoon
As the winter sun warms the couch
And the buzz of the builder’s saw penetrates the silence
There is a new noise
A car horn blasts
And again
Almost enough to cause me to move
And see what’s happening in our sleepy street
But the couch is comfortable and the sun is warm
Its’ none of my business anyway

Unfamiliar and unexpected footsteps clink up the wooden steps
A woman I am guessing (or a bloke in stilettos…)
The shadow at the door becomes a knock
As I open
I am rifling through the mental filing cabinet
To place who this is
In my mind’s eye
I see a dog and it clicks
She is the ‘dalmatian lady’
Because when you don’t know your neighbour’s names
It’s easier to name them by association
The bloke in the old green Landrover
The lady from the purple house
I have seen her walking the dog
She is the dalmatian lady

I’m your neighbour…
From across the street…
I think there’s a snake on my driveway…
I have been beeping my horn…
But it won’t move…
She needs my help
The dalmatian lady
Who likes to keep to herself
So I go and poke the sleepy snake
With a length of pipe
Like an angry drunk
He rears his head and tries to look threatening
Before sliding off into the bush

Thank you.
We’re moving house
Back to Queensland
This piece of information
Hangs clumsily in the air
I feel like I should care
But I don’t
The snake is gone
The crisis is averted
I can return to my side of the street
The dalmatian lady can move house
And keep to herself again


Today the house appears empty
The cars have not come and gone
The lights have not flickered
A shipping container has been to visit
A handyman’s van spent a day there
Fixing things
As you do before inspection
The grass is mowed
The yard is tidy
The carport is empty
I’m guessing the dalmatian lady (and the dalmatian man) have gone
But we won’t know
Until some new faces appear

There has been no goodbye
Because there was no hello
And it would seem odd to farewell
The ‘snake poker man’
Who has lived opposite for two years
If not for the snake
We may never have met
We would have lived close but separate
Together but distant
Dante’s hell
Proximity without intimacy

And so I pray for more snakes
Or maybe just for people
Who don’t like to keep to themselves

Another Aussie Prophet

















I have often wondered whether some of the most potent and insightful prophets in our country aren’t found outside the walls of the church.

I’m thinking voices like Leunig, or Clive Hamilton, or Hugh Mackay even. Tonight I discovered another prophet – Morris Glietzman – author of young adults novel Girl Underground. I haven’t read any of Glietzman’s other stuff, but this one took on the tough topic of mandatory detention for kids and really gave it a big knee in the soft bits.

Its a novel told in a very kid friendly style with a fair bit of Aussie humour and some likeable characters, but what really intrigued me was the subject matter itself. I guess it could be considered a bit weighty for young people – or maybe Glietzman ‘gets’ that kids can think and take action…

The story revolves around a central character Bridget who hails from a family of petty crims, but who gets sent to a posh private school to try and ‘give her a chance’. There she meets Menzies, son of a politician who has been corresponding with a family in detention (without his father’s knowledge or approval). The two get appalled at what is going on and hatch a plan to free the kids.

You can read the rest yourself… We read it as a family after dinner over the last week or so and the kids enjoyed it as well as being challenged by it.

Without wishing to spoil the story, the final chapter sees Bridget and Menzies face to face with their friends in the detention centre, locked up under guard and it isn’t easy reading. Danelle choked up as she read it and passed it to me. I did the same and passed it back… Because its a true story – a very real story – and a vile obscenity that has become normal in the ‘lucky country’.

Just last week my mate who is a chaplain in a Baptist school surveyed his Christian ed class and asked the question of his students ‘is it appropriate for our government to lock up children who come to this country by boat?’

The result?…

Twenty three out of the twenty four students in the class said ‘Yes – they should be locked up’

One said ‘no’.

Where did they learn to think like that? And is it indicative of where the rest of society is at?

Also this week Danelle drove one of our Iranian friends to the airport to pick up his wife and 3 year old daughter who he hadn’t seen for 18 months because he fled Iran under persecution and came to Australia by boat. She had finally got a visa and was able to come to Oz and join him. It was an emotional re-union as they saw each other again after much time apart.

They didn’t look like wannabe terrorists secretly scoping out the suburbs for a bomb plot. They looked like a mum and a dad who wanted to find life and hope and thought maybe Australia could be the place

When we left Ireland in 1974 I didn’t think of myself as a refugee – but in reality that’s what we were, fleeing a country divided by a war supposedly to do with religion and seeking a better life. In our part of the world there are now more South Africans per square kilometre than you would have ever thought possible – also refugees from a country in trouble.

But Irish and South Africans are both ‘white’ or caucasian in appearance whereas most of the refugees we don’t want have different coloured skin.

Surely that’s not it…

Is it?…





Where The Magic Happens


Late yesterday afternoon I headed down to check the surf at The Spot. It was sunny, offshore and looked great, but no one was out… When there’s no one out at The Spot you have to ask ‘why?’ Because there’s never no one out… Looks good though doesn’t it?…

The French guy who has been camping in the carpark for the last two weeks was sitting by his van and we got chatting. Apparently the ultra low tide meant the water was barely covering the reef and there wasn’t much point in paddling out. But I went home and checked the tides, to see that high tide was 10.30 today and the swell was on the up.

Now to be honest, the idea of going surfing is always much more appealing than the reality of getting into cold water on an icy winter day. And yet I’ve been doing it for long enough now to know that if you don’t go you regret it later.

So at 10.00 I flipped the laptop lid down and strolled out the door with somewhat half-hearted intent. It was a bit more than cold this morning and and the breeze had kicked up. If I could only surf without freezing my butt off… Exmouth in 4 weeks… Now that will be the go…


I got to the carpark to see 5 guys in the water and some lovely strong sets pushing thru.  Better than I thought it would be – less crew than I expected too… It was certainly cold, but with a day off and nothing in particular to do this was looking like a nice way to spend a couple of hours. ‘Nails’ (image above) looked great and had on one on it so I thought I’d paddle out there.


After 10 minutes at Nails I paddled over to join the crew at the main break. And straight away latched onto a good sized set wave, and then another… I’d decided to take ‘big Mal’ (my 8′ 8″ old faithful mal) out for a ride today and it handled it well.

I dunno what you do to ‘bring yourself alive’, but for me there is nothing quite like an uncrowded morning in good surf. I think it is simply the feeling of speed as you tear down a wave. I’m close to 50 now, and every time I get held down I realise I have the lung capacity of a chipmunk, but when I get moving on a wave I feel 19 again…

And I like that… while it lasts.



It’s Days Like These


Back in December we were in the middle of a heatwave – 35 degrees + for about 9 days on end.

I remember rolling up to a job an hour from home at 7am and it was already 32 degrees and dead still… and humid… The client hadn’t prepped properly so we had to dig out a pile of old cooch lawn before we could start a big retic and turf job. I began knowing I had 4 other repairs to attend to once this first part was over.

It was a huge day and by 8.30 I was dripping with sweat and wondering what on earth I was doing… At 2pm we finished working in the 40 degree sun and I headed off to all those other jobs.

Then there’s today. The image above was where I was working this morning.

A job in the next street right on the beach… And I have all day to do what will take 4 or 5 hours… Great clients… And a perfect sunny winter day…

Does it get much better?

I dunno…

I vacillate between keeping this business running and giving it all away. The last month has seen me gain energy for it again as I’ve had time to slow down and really enjoy it, as I’ve had time to chat to the people who I meet and spend that extra time with them, rather than rushing off to the next job. And some like to chat, while others are obviously busy and just want me to do the job and move on.

And I enjoy the opportunity to create something that looks good and gives people a bit of a buzz.

The job I did today was a follow up from a job I did last year. We did the backyard last year and then this year came back and did the front.  We don’t often get to go back  and see how our jobs look a year or two later, but this is one job I will stay in touch with because I drive past it every day.

Here are some shots from a year ago as well as some pics of how it looks today.


Just starting… retic in…


Laying the turf


Love that view


Lawn done…

That was last year and here’s today…

brazier back

And then I got stuck into the front.


Levelled and prepped and looking like an alien spaceship is about to land!


Turf down


And all complete.

I reckon a fire-pit in the middle would be a great idea…

I’m pondering whether I can work at this pace in spring and summer, because if I can then I might just survive a bit longer. It means either saying ‘no’ a lot more often or maybe restricting the areas in which I will work.

Everything’s doable, but bizarrely when spring rolls around I feel this strange surge of energy that tricks me into signing up for more than I can manage.

Some challenging decisions ahead.

10 Years of Blogging

This blog has been doing its thing for 10 years now.

I never thought when I started that I’d still be writing after all this time… but it has been a passion, an obsession at times, a place to think out loud and now an ‘old friend who I visit occasionally’.


The blog began when we left Lesmurdie Baptist to plant a new missional community in Butler. I actually started out on blogger with as the site (click on the image above to see it as it looked in 2003), but later moved to a free site at wordpress before getting my own domain.  Many thanks to an old friend (who I am yet to meet in person) Justin Baeder who has overseen all of this since 2003 and who bales me out when I manage to ‘delete the internet’.

The original blog was a way of staying in touch with the people we left behind and also a way of grappling with the questions of church and mission that were pretty hot at the time. I’m not sure anyone from our home church ever read it, but it certainly became a hot forum for discussion of all things ‘mission and church’.

It was inspired initially by my long time mate Tallskinnykiwi (who has just re-jigged his own online efforts) and by Darren Rouse, who at that time was church planting with Living Room in Victoria. To say Darren figured blogging out more than the rest of us would be an understatement… There was money to be made in the earlier days of blogging and Darren figured out that one pretty quickly!

The blog led to lots of online connections and plenty of online arguments. I remember flying to Melbourne once and staying with Phil & Dan McCredden authors of ‘Signposts’, another popular blog of the era. We had never met in person so that was a novel experience. Fortunately I discovered before arriving that ‘Dan’ was ‘Danielle’ and a woman… as in the absence of any images I imagined two blokes writing Signposts… The original ‘Signposts’ has been deleted but there is still a site at that domain.

‘Backyard’ once rated very highly as an Aussie Christian blog – and (depending on whose stats you believe) had around 2000 hits a day. But it also became an obsession and something of an ego trip. I think it was 2006 when I sensed God asking me to stop blogging for a while, or maybe permanently. It was a big call and not something I’d expect anyone to understand unless they get a kick out of writing and online interactions.

I committed to stop blogging indefinitely, or until God gave me a green light to get back into it again.

it was after about 6 months that I sensed God saying ‘ok – blog again if you want to…’ I did, but it has never been with the same sense of obsession (I used to post 2-5 times a day…) My readership had dropped to around 100 a day, the whole ’emerging church conversation’ had lost steam and unless I intended to write consistently about issues like homosexuality I was unlikely to pull a crowd again.

More recently my blogging efforts have been sporadic at best and non-existent at worst. I’ve thought about wrapping it up, but I like a place to come and spruik when I have one of those rare moments of inspiration.

What I do have here though is 10 years of my life documented and expressed, something I hope might be of value and interest to my kids at some point. They now have their own blogs which we use for creative writing.  Sam and Ellie both enjoy writing, and have managed to rack up a few posts already. So I’m thinking they may have fun trolling the archives some day and laughing at what their old man thought was so important.

If there was one post that started a fire more than any other then it would be this one and it still ranks no 1 in Google if you search for ‘incarnational v attractional’. Unfortunately all of the original comments got deleted in a blog transfer so the fire of the conversation isn’t there any longer… maybe that’s a good thing…

If I’ve learnt anything then it would be not to write on a controversial topic once you’re had two glasses of red… or three…  I do still write the odd provocative piece and I do occasionally like to ‘poke the bear’, but I’m also aware that I don’t have time to really engage here like I used to.

Anyway on that note let me finish with a quote that kinda captures the original flavour of backyardmissionary

‘Challenging the church is like goading a rhino. Pissing it off is the easy part. Getting it to change direction once its charging… well that’s a different matter entirely.’

Source unknown

Thanks for sharing the journey with me!