No matter what country it is, regardless of faith or faction, age or education, politics or persuasion, you’ll always find people waving at trains. Passenger trains especially, but goods trains also have drivers to return the gesture, and even if his existence is masked behind reflector-glass windows, the waver knows that he is a presence, guiding his irresistible charge towards it’s destination.

How many of you have never waved at a train ? Be honest now. The response of silence is quite deafening, like the roar the beast makes as it clatters through a cutting, as it rattles over a bridge. As a kid, I was blessed with the good fortune to live near a railway line in a small Tasmanian country town. That boon all the greater for the location of our house being just half a kilometre from the rail-bridge across the river, where the trains rattled over.

From the glass-fronted living-room, I could watch the great metal serpent speeding on it’s way to destinations further afield which at first I could only imagine as an exotic ‘somewhere else’! Continue reading EVERYONE WAVES AT THE TRAIN


Many times while bush-walking, or roaming my land, I’ve felt an uncanny tingle – my snake alarm – which has sharpened my attention to reptillian danger. An extraordinary number of times, this sixth sense has been confirmed an instant later with an encounter of a reptile. Never threateningly, but at close quarters. So I tramped the bush with a certain confidence that, on the rare occasions when a snake would not slither away at my approach, then my chances of falling prey to it’s fangs were very slim indeed.

Mind you, I don’t like the creatures, and despite faith in my intuition, I still react whenever one crosses my path; first with heart-thumping fear and then, when recognition tells me that it is harmless or definitely retreating, with a healthy respect.

After twelve thousand units of tiger snake anti-venene, and countless earnest expressions of ‘You’re lucky to be alive’, my confidence in having a built-in fool-proof snake detection mechanism has deserted me, and that respect has grown many times over. Continue reading TIGER!!


Must be getting soft in the head, old mate, he muttered to the kelpie at his feet. What would she want with a pair of rough diamonds like us?í

Jack tossled the dog’s floppy ears, smiling at the raucous laughter of a kookaburra further up the ridge. The dog, warming to the calloused hand’s ministrations, rolled back onto his master’s laceless boots and implored that the massage include his belly as well.

He sat on the edge of the packing shed bay, taking in the familiar panorama, and sighed appreciatively. Down at the foot of the banana slope, the cottage already lay in shadow, nestled amongst the rounded domes of avocado and mango trees. Framed by two hills to the east, the sea shimmered, still basking in sunlight.

Continue reading THE BROTHER’S WIDOW

AGRA – 1975

Ramesh the cycle-rickshaw wallah: Mughal-style baked partridge for breakfast?

We arrived late in the evening at Agra Cantonment station. As usual, a mob of rickshaw drivers advanced on us aggressively, each demanding our patronage.

Me sahib, madam – take me. I am strong and cheap.”

No no, ji, he is a scoundrel fellow who will cheat you. You must be taking me!”

One fellow waited beyond the melee, apparently refusing to be a part of such indignity. I approached him and named the hotel where we wanted to go.

Continue reading AGRA – 1975



 It’s early evening after another perfect winter north-coast day. Cloudless, with not a breath of wind, the temperature sub-tropical cool. Not cold, and in the clear fresh air, the stars are emerging sharp and bright as the last reflected rays of light of the day softens and fades from rich lapis blue towards inky blue-black night.

 I am standing there on the broad open verandah of the beloved crude little wood and mud house I have crafted , with laughter and passion and so much hard work with hands and muscle. Together that house and I have grown, and I have learnt so much, practical and personal.

Continue reading A TURNING



After almost two years work in a very different field, we are finally back on the Permaculture track, and more enthusiastic than ever. But why the pause in the first place?

I’d been living as most of us do; as if I was immortal. Like all of us, I was not. Far from it. Two years ago I discovered that I had significant liver cancer. It was made clear to me that without rapid surgical intervention, my chances of survival for more than months was very remote.