The 6th of June, 1944

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D-DayToday is the 62nd anniversary of the D-Day landings, as was pointed out to me by my far more educated-on-the-subject friend, Will. Take a moment to look around you and be grateful you’re not storming the beaches of Normandy right now.

It may seem strange, but playing games can be highly educational. The Days of Wonder game Memoir ’44 has taught me a lot about this particular subject, and also given me an insight into the specific struggles that happened during and after the landings. I’m also playing the XBox game Call of Duty: Finest Hour at the the moment, and it’s certainly as close as I’d ever like to get to real warfare.

Thanks to those men, most of us can never imagine what they had to go through. And we can only imagine what the world would be like if it wasn’t for their sacrifice.

(Photo from the U.S. Coast Guard/National Archives, Washington, D.C. Used without permission.)

Fear of Food


I’m happy to say I’ve surmounted a few challenges in my life—travelled to interesting places, climbed a few mountains, started my own business, worked in a foreign country alone—all things I thought were pretty difficult at the time. But they all seem chicken feed in comparison to the challenge I find myself faced with lately—an allergy diet.

Let me tell you about it. For quite a few years I’ve been plagued with various stomach problems. No need for details. But I was beginning to wonder if stomach cramps were just something I’d have to learn to live with, when a friend recommended an allergy specialist. Not just any allergy specialist, but one experienced and qualified enough to not only decifer my allergies through a series of blood tests, but to prescribe a course of treatment that would fix them.

Well, a couple of appointments later I have learnt I have the classic symptoms, and I’m allergic to a number of foods. And here they are kids—wheat, grains, dairy, nuts, soya and nitrites (processed meats). And, I hasten to add, this is a mild allergy problem. You could also be allergic, should you be so unlucky, to eggs, yeast, fruits, sulphites (things like onion and garlic), msg and glutamates; not to mention any number of inhalants from the lawn to mould to the family dog.

Apparently, it’s a symptom of modern life. In the case of foods, there are so many chemicals in everything, and so many foods used in other foods (look at a few labels and be shocked at how many things contain wheat), that our systems are going haywire.

For me, unaccustomed as I am to denying myself much of anything in the food department, it has been a hell of a shock, which I’m only just starting to adjust to after two weeks of truly monumental whinging. I’ve found myself always thinking about food, having to plan all my meals again, searching out foods I’m allowed to eat and rejoicing when anything passes the test (Smith’s Crisps are only potato, oil and salt. Hallelujah!) Living without beer, however, is hell.

There are some advantages to this whole life upset. I’m learning to cook again, and we save a lot money on takeaway. My palate is becoming re-educated to enjoy the most basic foods again—ye olde meat and three veg back on the plate instead of Indian curries, Thai food, gourmet pizzas. And I’m learning the many virtues of herbs.

The real good news is, with luck and strict discipline, the diet will only last thirteen weeks. If all goes well an allergy vaccine I’m taking will build up an immunity and I’ll be able to reintroduce all those things that we all take for granted. Not to mention live a life free of stomach cramps. But I’m telling you now though, when finally I get the all-clear, I know the first thing I’ll be tucking into with gusto.

A big bowl of the chocolatiest, nuttiest ice-cream I can find.

Bin Wars


After buying our own place recently, I vowed I would make an effort to better get to know my neighbours. But people are … weird. Take the saga of our recycling bin, for example.

I notice we don’t have a yellow recycling ‘wheelie bin’ in the back lane behind our house. However, there’s one a few doors down that is suspiciously missing a second numeral. Could it be ours? Well, I have no proof, so I don’t go grabbing it and saying it’s mine, of course. I call the council, who send someone out to try and track down my missing bin.

Sure enough, they identify my bin as the one with the missing numeral, slap a sticker on it to identify it as such, and I think the problem is solved.

Only next collection day, my bin goes missing, and I get a note—sure, a pretty friendly one—in my postbox from the neighbours. “We noticed you took our bin, so we took it back” or words to that effect. The bin is now out of the lane and sequestered away in their back yard, out of reach of nasty neighbours like me. Oh well, confusion on the part of the council, I think. I go round and apologise for the mixup in person. Then I call the council again and this time they send me a new bin. That’ll be $81.50 thanks. Oh, and if you ever find a bin with this code number—it’s yours.

This morning, I notice the old bin is out in the lane. You guessed it, same code number. It was ours all along.

So, do I let the whole thing slide and, in effect, pay for my neighbour’s bin? Or do I go round there with the proof?

You think war, pestilence and famine are tough? Try getting on with your neighbours.



Guitar (taken in my bedroom with a desklamp—part of a series).


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Guitar (taken in my bedroom with a desklamp—part of a series).


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Conga skins (taken in my bedroom with a desklamp—part of a series).


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Old walking boot (taken in my bedroom with a desklamp—part of a series).

Indiana Giff


Sorry things have been so quiet around here, it’s been a busy month. Now that March is finally over my girl and I can breath a sigh of relief that we made it out the other side intact.

We moved into our first house at the end of last month; I got was sick with a virus for two weeks; both my parents visited from overseas; it seemed every bill imaginable—especially the raft of them that appear when you buy a house—was due in March and I finally got around to holding my 40th birthday party, which I was determined to have even though the actual birthday date was back in December.

It was quite a bash, and I feel like the occasion has been well and truly marked, and our new house has proved to be very able to hold a successful party. In a nice bit of synchronicity, some forty guests came, most in costume for the night’s theme, Indiana Giff in the Raiders of the Lost Youth. To ensure that people would dress up a created a small site with costume ideas. There’s a link there to photos from the night if you’re interested.

There was some mammoth preparation involved; I created a pretty big ancient temple entrance out of foam pillars, complete with gold idol surrounded by snakes. As you entered the house a stone ball surrounded by vines and featuring a big rubber snake loomed over you. I like to get people in the mood.

Oh, and by the way, please don’t send the lawyers Steven, George—it was only a one off and it was purely a not-for-profit event (though I did get some excellent presents …)

Now, it’s time to pick up the pace here a little at Headless Hollow, dear reader.



The office is set up, the bookcases are filled (is there anything more satisfying than getting all your books out of those imprisoning cardboard boxes and back on the shelf again?), the blinds put up, and despite the back room still pretty much being full of unpacked things, we’re here in our very own house and getting back to normal. Symbolically, they removed the ‘Sold’ sign from the front this morning.

I can’t describe what a relief it is to have that whole house buying experience behind us. Having a place I could call my own is something I was beginning to think wasn’t going to happen—well, not a house in Sydney, at any rate. I’ve been renting for twenty-one years. Let’s not think about how much money has gone into other people’s pockets in that period. But my girl and I somehow managed to finally do it. House prices finally came down a little from the ‘you-have-got-to-be-kidding’ range into the ‘just-affordable’ range, and six months later here we are.

It’s a great spot too. There’s a large shopping centre around the corner; close enough to walk to but far away enough to be out of sight and hearing. There’s a nice big park around the corner. We have rear lane access and a decent-sized back courtyard. And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, we’re in a cul-de-sac, so no passing car traffic. What a difference that makes.

Now, I can finally stop worrying about whether we might have to move again in six months, or whether I can save enough for a house deposit. All I have to do is make sure there’s enough money in that bank account every two weeks to pay my mortgage. And, at last, I don’t have to wait for real estate agents to fix things that are broken. Every time I fix or improve something here I feel like I’m doing it for us; improving the place we live, and increasing the value of our home.

God, I sound like an ad for a bank. Anyway, if you’re wondering if it’s worth buying a house, I recommend it. The runaround with solicitors and real estate agents and banks is an absolute nightmare (I’ve never felt so at the mercy of luck in my life—buyers have very few rights and caveat emptor is the excuse for every kind of slackness on the part of the seller), but once you come out the other side it’s a great feeling.

Oh, and that’s the floor of our living room in the picture above.

Happy Xmas to you, happy Xmas to you …

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Here’s a little Xmas story I wrote for my writing group, for your reading pleasure. It’s called Bah Humbug. Happy Xmas and New Year, Headless Hollow readers. Time is precious—thanks for spending a little of yours here.

Usually, the first indication that another bloody Christmas is about to hit comes when I’m walking around my local shopping centre, happily minding my own business, and I suddenly realise with mounting horror that Christmas Carols are playing over the sound system. And not just any Christmas Carols these days, oh no. The people who make these decisions have decided to blend two of the worst forms of auditory torture known to mankind—a combination which I hereby christen “Carols and Carey”. The songs are the same tired old favourites that get trotted out year after year, but now they are sung by the most atrocious, screeching harridans that the American music industry can produce. This produces the kind of irritating and prolonged cacophony that one might hear should your dear Aunt Agatha, who fancies herself a bit of an Opera buff, accidently stumble backwards into the stove and put her hand on a hot plate with her full weight behind it. A relatively peaceful shopping expedition becomes akin to a trip through that special Circle of Hell reserved for people who use leaf blowers on a Sunday morning.

Read more …

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