Macclesfield is a small town on the upper reaches of the River Angas in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia. 958 is what Wikipedia says is their population. Allegedly we upped it to 960 for a couple of days last week. Good on us.
That is not the story I will tell though, our addition to the population. That is a given.
My mate Sandy Mathewson sent us an invite on Facebook several months ago to hear his band, The BoogieMen, playing at The Goats Head Festival at The Three Brothers Arms over in Macclesfield. As one does in Facebook, we said yes. We were in Spain at the time so saying yes seemed reasonable. However, we forgot about the festival and anything to do with anything in Australia after we got back from three months in Europe and started busily planning our next trip overseas in six-months.
We complained how long before we got to go anywhere when Narda remembered last Thursday that we had said we were attending some sort of festival. I texted Sandy to say I thought we would go to hear him. We had not seen Sandy for years even though he lives half an hour away. I have known Sandy since about 1990. Back then we lived in Victor Harbour, with lots of ideas of what to do in life. One of those ideas was to start a radio station. Sandy was an ex-ABC radio dude and had lots of knowledge about the business, We started E-FM (Encounter FM; Victor Harbor is in an area called the Encounter Coast – has to do with Mathews Flinders first encounter with some other dude in 1802) in 1990. Sandy was president, I was secretary and newsperson (I was doing a degree in journalism at uni at the time) and several other characters were other things. Even our children were involved. There was a story about my children’s involvement in a magazine (https://www.neuage.org/neuage_radio.pdf) with photos. Over the next twenty-five years our paths crossed (oh, we both quit and passed the radio station on to some other people a couple of decades ago) a few times. I remembered Sandy as a very talented bass player so an opportunity to see him was good.
On Friday, the next day after we said we were going, we rang the Three Brother’s Arms to enquire about tickets; they had sold out, but were told they could probably rustle up a couple of tickets if we got them soon. We were also told we could park our caravan in town. Free accommodation had us packing our van and on the road three hours later. Macclesfield is only an hour away. We hadn’t been in our caravan for six-months and an excuse to get out of town worked for us. We definitely are restless nomads. I have been since age 16, fifty-five years ago. To make a long introduction short, we realised we did not need to flee Australia to have a good time and to be the on-the-road explorers we were meant to be.
To borrow a line on their webpage (https://www.macclesfieldhistory.com.au/). This small town from the 1830’s still retains much of its Old-World charm in this present era.
We found Davenport Square with a large parking area, public toilets, even a power point which I was quick to plug our van into for a few hours.
The first place we found on our bike meanderings was the local footy oval – in Australia these are the sacred grounds; in the Adelaide Hills they are the Adelaide Hills footy clubs. Narda’s three sons have played many games here (they played for Birdwood; Stu, Narda’s youngest – somewhere in his mid-30s, still plays) but it is the two acres of once scrub land next to the oval that impressed us. It has been landscaped into a garden with walkways, seats and statues from local artists. The park is a memorial to various wars. For example, there is a brick paver for every South Australian military person who has served in Australia’s defence. There are memorials to dogs in the service, horses and camels from various wars, as well as every aspect and every battle Aussies have been in. Below are a few photos – if you get to Adelaide go to this park, it is well worth the visit.
My favourtie scuplture was this helicopter from the Viet Nam era made of horseshoes (I chopped out some trees to hopefully show the horseshoes better). More info from somewhere on the web tells us: “RAR Somalia Veteran, Greg Hopgood, unveiled his Huey made with nearly a ton of horse shoes. Commissioned by the Mt Barker District Council for the 100th Anniversary at the end of WW1. Using a 112-year old-hand-cranked coke forge, he carefully sculptured and created the Iroquois helicopter, commonly known as a “Huey”, which is synonymous with the Vietnam War.”
We found a favourite café to purchase a meat pie for Narda and a veggie spinach-cheese roll for me (BTW, there is only one café in Macclesfield) and to learn about the town a bit.
The sculptures are crafted by master sculptors from around the world every two years. The last one was in 2017 and the next is schedule for April 2019. Over nine days nine sculptors will be doing their stuff. We leave for the States mid-April and will depend on you to tell us about it and share photos. (don’t let us down) Other towns throughout the Adelaide Hills will be doing this too. In 2017 there were 26 sculptures done. Find out more at http://hillssculpturetrail.com.au/
We rode our bikes over to Crystal Lake only to not only discover some good stuff but to conjure up a memory for Narda; which she will tell…
I’m sure this is the site of a Bible camp I attended when I was 10 or maybe 12 years old! I remember this building with its metal double bunks lined up along each wall. This one was for the girls and there was another one (now gone) for the boys, and a dining area. It was a weird feeling, all those years ago; memories I thought I had forgotten. If anyone reading this blog knows more, let me know. There was also a small recreational lake, now wetlands, where I’m pretty sure we got to ride in small boats. I even remember the camp councillors saying early each morning to we-sleepers. “wakey wakey, wash, make beds”.
Here are some photos of sculptures we came across…
After a day of riding around, well two days, Friday and Saturday morning it was time to experience what we had come for, The Goats Head Festival at The Three Brothers Arms. It started at 2:30 pm and would go until midnight. Our bedtime is 9 so to be up with the young ones (those still in their 60s…..hey! careful….N) we took a nap and walked the two blocks from where we were parked to the venue. We were told once we went in, we would not be able to go back out which troubled us at first; the idea of nine hours in a pub was a bit hard to come at, especially as we never go to pubs, or out at night for that matter. We got a wrist band and made it clear we would need to leave to go to our home on wheels to get a jacket, take a nap, who knows what? We went in for half an hour listened to the first group and went back to our caravan for an hour then back to the pub where we caught up with my mate, Sandy. His group was not until ten pm, but he came in six hours early, so we could catch up with years of each of our adventures. Sandy has been playing with his band at local venues for the past couple of decades and he travelled too. See https://www.facebook.com/The-boogiemen-126909057487071/ to check out where he is shaking up the neighbourhood next. We told him about our travels which he has been following for years on Facebook and other spacey places but all we knew about him (except for making fun of people like me with our low-carb veggie diets and hanging on to a 1960s San Francisco/New Orleans/NYC mindset even when living in Australia) was that he had gone to Scotland. He looked up and tracked down his family genealogy from his father’s side and he had many great stories of that experience.
During the day we drifted in and out of the Blues thingy. We were very impressed by the Kelly Menhennett (http://www.kellymenhennett.com/) What a singer and performer! Be sure to catch her on your next night out. Sandy’s band as always had everyone up and dancing and gave us a good dose of the Blues. They were on only for 45 minutes which is not enough of their good listening and dancing music. Look up where they are doing a solo gig to get three hours of high-quality blues to top off your working day, retirement life, or just another week completed.
Then evening ended with the well-known South Australian Dixieland group ‘Gumbo Yaya’ https://www.facebook.com/gumboyayaadelaide/ a top Louisiana type of blues band. I have lived in New Orleans off and on for several years in the 1960s and 1970s (I was a streets artist along Jackson Square in the early 1970s) and even took Narda there six or seven years ago. New Orleans has always been my favourite city (next to NYC) and whenever I can I am listening to some of that Louisiana swamp music, especially blues from the early 1900s.
We managed to get back home (to our caravan) by half past midnight. A fair effort for us. What we learned from this weekend was two things: We can go out at night past eight pm and have an enjoyable time; and two, we should be exploring more of South Australia. For example, this year we spent three-months in India, three-months in Europe, it is time to enjoy the small towns of South Australia. Our next blog is our time in Germany and then our month in Spain, then we will tell you about the groovy small towns of South Australia.
This is Misty. She was rescued from her mother who had sadly become roadkill. The kind lady who took her in is now her surrogate mum and Misty follows her everywhere. A beautiful little ‘roo, I believe she is a Western Grey, typical of this area in the Adelaide Hills. We met her watching some kids playing tennis, trying to pick up some tips (we have started a new venture: tennis playing, inspired by tennis rackets and a vacant tennis court left for us in at our lovely apartment complex in Noja, Northern Spain.)
There were always evolutionary steps, there always will be. Whether it is the biggies in evolution when sea-stuff such as fish clambered out of the sea, breathed some air, got a leg up, developed then lost enough intelligence to become reflective-questioning humans millions of years later or this current crop of folks tossing about within the evolution of love, parenting, making a stab at understanding the moment; there will be change. Every moment is the big-bang – with the unforeseeable consequences of not only enfoldment of that moment but the resultant climax of it, or the big crunch.
Encounter and Victor, what descriptive terms of not only life in general but of a particular patch of my own life; 1984 – 1995 I lived down south in the Fleurieu Peninsula in Victor Harbor also known as Victor which is part of the Encounter Coast. I even helped start a community radio station in 1991 call E-FM – Encounter FM. Look up why it is called the Encounter Coast – I am not getting Internet reception where I am writing this now because the motel I am staying at outside of Melbourne has large hills surrounding it and there is not a phone tower nearby to pick up through my phone. So what I remember about the Encounter Coast is that some white folks encountered some aboriginals in the area then I suppose killed them all as white people do with any native culture they first encounter. Maybe there is no point looking it up, it would just be depressing.
This is an unusual week; I could not have choreographed such synchronicity no matter how much I wanted to or past experiences I wanted to integrate. It is pointless to see how tomorrow can be anything more than a composite of today meshed with yesterday and spiced with times before.
I look for a perfect moment like a chef does with dessert or a programmer is able to smoothly watch a binary code dissolve imperfection in order to release a sensual video clip or smoothly disrupt someone’s cherished production. Evolution is hacking at its finest. We will hack the genetic code, we will hack the false concepts of God and her sticky dolls: Jesus, Mohammad. Zarathustra, Janis Joplin, Krishna, Buddha, Microsoft, Honda, Paris and all the other cream poofs that have tricked so many into believing, killing, and drooling in their name. Everything is sensual; everything except religion, spirituality and other mind-numbing fantasies. Breathing is the sexiest thing we can do; breathe in, exhale – unification, growth, immersion, the vital humour of a passionate organismic evolution.
It wasn’t always so. After waking one morning as a single parent with children aged less than one year old and two and a half living in Mt. Compass I was not sure if I would continue to inhale the prana of the south of South Australia. I was too far away from home, which I had lost track of where exactly it was though four years earlier I had been living in Hawaii and before that in New York, Maryland, New Orleans (here I am in the south coast of South Australia and it is February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras Day but I am 40 years too far away from there to reach and touch it even with my mind), and there was California, Kansas, Wyoming, Florida and many states that I was in many states in before waking one morning with two children here in the south of the south.
We are here now. Last week we were in northern China and the afternoon we left it was -15C. It is in the 30s here – 30+ Centigrade not Fahrenheit like I use to think in. Nothing is like the way I use to think. That is the thing with ageing, our thinking changes; perhaps evolution is really a change in our thinking and when people don’t change then we don’t evolve; lessons aren’t learnt, innovations stagnate and business is unable to put us all into debt buying new electronic devices all the time.
Besides the point…
It is Chinese New Year week – something to do with a full lunar moon. Whatever it is we got here through a Chinese-Miracle – see the previous blog http://neuage.us/BLOGS/35-A-Chinese-miracle.html.
We: Narda + 3 sons (one here from Hanoi, another from Atlanta, Georgia , one from Adelaide), a granddaughter, couple of wives and me or seeing it as another format: seven adults and a bit are spending four days, three nights at a large house we rented in Pt. Elliot. 4 Stock Street and what a good place it is; four bedroom, three bathe with a large yard and view to the sea.
When we lived in the area: Pt. Elliot for six months, Middleton for a year, both houses along the coast and after that we; the boys and me, lived in Victor Harbor a block from the sea for several years and then in another area in Victor, our lot in life was not that good; nine homes in ten years and too many schools; 1985 – 1995. A couple of years at Mt. Compass Area School, a couple at Pt. Elliot Primary, a couple at Victor Harbor Primary and even awhile at Meadows because my tofu factory (http://tofu.neuage.us) was there, all before middles school. I may have been the stereotypical single parent, male-single-parent at that. I even moved my tofu factory four times in seven years. Maybe it is me that is so unsettled. Since I left my home in upstate New York in 1965 I have had more than fifty homes in multiple countries and states and provinces.
I look at where we are staying now and it is so far from when I lived here twenty years ago.
There were a couple of years we did not have a car, which is difficult when living an hour from Adelaide. I walked a lot and would send my children on a bus to Adelaide the weekends that their mother would take them. I lost my tofu business in 1988 which was devastating after seven years of hard work but tofu was not a real goer in the 1980s. Now, in China, I buy a large block of firm tofu for about four-RMB which is like 70 cents. I use to sell the same size block of tofu for a buck back in the early 1980s. So I lost my tofu business and car and we lived pretty much in poverty along a beautiful coast.
Below, 1989 – the arrow points to our house on the seashore; Sacha and Leigh ages eight and six and Puppy walking to the main road to catch a bus to school at Pt. Elliot Primary.
In 1990, realizing my life was shit; I started university through distance education at Deakin University in Melbourne. It is the only thing in my life that I became constant at; 15 years non-stop: BA in journalism, honours in children literature, Masters in literature then seven years doing my PhD at the University of South Australia, proving that even a drop-kick can re-invent their life at 44 and get their act together, together, according to Western evolutionary standards. Now I even have fifteen years of teaching accomplished including teaching at four universities in two countries and teaching in every grade K-12 in six schools in three countries. But when I lived in Pt. Elliot my life looked quite hopeless.
Leigh (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) started baseball in Pt. Elliot in 1988, he was five and we had a baseball, a bat and a glove. My oldest, Sacha, was not quite so interested in baseball, he was seven and a half. We had moved to Victor Harbor by the time Leigh played his first organized baseball – tee-ball. Sacha played too. Leigh was seven or maybe eight. He started little league when he was about ten – we were still in Victor. By the time he got into serious baseball we moved closer to the city; Hackham then Christies Beach. He kept getting better. We had spent hours a day on his baseball since he was five. He started representing South Australia then Australia. He played in World Series, firstly at age 14 in the Under 14 World Series in the States, and under 16s in South Africa and under 18s in Canada and in the World Cup in Taiwan. He was in so many teams and was even South Australia junior sports person of the year when the, at the time, world’s number one tennis player, Lleyton Hewitt, was the senior sports person of the year. We did fund raisers and even went to the welfare group, The Smith Family, for funds to pay for trips. I studied and kept getting degrees, Sacha worked on his hip hop, and graffiti – with lots of court appearances at the Victor Harbor court to verify his emerging skills and life seemed it was going well. I had met Narda in 2001 and we got married and moved to New York where I started to teach at the State University of New York and Narda at the Albany Academy for Girls and I was completing my PhD. Sacha was in Melbourne actually making money doing spray art murals for the council and working in a youth centre running drop-in hip hop workshops for street kids. He is still doing that now in 2013; along with working with asylum seekers.
At age 17, in the year 2000, Leigh signed with the LA Dodgers, and went off to Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. In 2003 Narda and I were in Adelaide for a summer (winter in Australia). The last I knew about Leigh was that he was doing well; I had his rookie card, something amazing considering our difficult life in Pt. Elliot and in South Australia in general, he had played a year for the Georgia Waves in the minor leagues and there was talk from the Dodgers that he was going to get moved up.
I saw in the Adelaide Advertiser today that only six Australians had ever made it to the major leagues in baseball in the States. Ten years ago Leigh was on track to be another Australian in the majors.
August 16, 2003, I was in my office at the University of South Australia, well a temporary office that I used for July and August to put the finishing touches on my PhD thesis. We were due to leave for the States the next day in order to get ourselves back to work. Narda came in and put her arms around me and said “Leigh is dead”. Ten years later I still hear those words. He was having difficulty with his girlfriend who was in Sydney in the finals of one of those Australian pop idols things and Leigh left the Dodgers, flew to Sydney and went off his 15 story hotel balcony. I wrote this all extensively long ago in a book I wrote for my children; “Leaving Australia” and have no intentions of ever writing it all up again.
I am not sure why the mother’s name got into the newspaper as she had almost nothing to do with Leigh’s life and surely nothing to do with Leigh’s baseball except fight me in court every time he wanted to go overseas to play. I had to get a court order every single time he left Australia or even South Australia when he was 14 and 15.
I do not feel bad that where I am staying now I could never do with my children, I was just unable to provide luxury or extras for them. We had a really rough time in South Australia, but there were times of real happiness here in Pt. Elliot and in Victor. We even got to get out of Australia a couple of times though I had to get court orders to take them both times. My parents paid for us to come to New York in 1985; traveling with a two year old and a five year old is a challenge but we made it there and back and I have wonderful memories though my children would have been too young. In 1992 we did the trip again, they were 11 and nine and we had a hoot; stayed with a friend from my 1960s hippie days in Hawaii, visited my father in New York, met my blood sister who I had just found a few years earlier, visited friends in Los Angeles and Baltimore and stayed with my brother in New York City and hung out with him which was good as he died from AIDS a few months after our visit.
We went to London and Paris and travelled through Germany, went back to New York and on to Australia. Poverty is fine when someone else is footing the bills for traveling experiences. My father came to visit us at the age of 87; my adopted father who went on to live until 102, my mother died long before. Actually two mothers; the first died when she was 40 in the early 1970s but I never knew her and my adopted mother in 1990 or so – I forget the exact date. So many people around me die I forget when they do it. When my father came to visit we collected him at the Sydney Airport, rented a large camper van and my father two sons and me drove up to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, on over to Broken Hill and down to Victor Harbor – took us a couple of weeks. Overall it is still a great memory though at times the three of them pissed me off. They would all complain over something or the other; an 87 year old and a nine and eleven year old. I of course did all the driving, cooking and trying to keep everyone happy. My father paid the cash for the experience and that was good.
Today I saw two of my friends, and considering I have about five friends worldwide, to see two in one day is quite the odds. Sandy and his wife visited this morning. Sandy was a single parent in Victor too. We started a radio station; Encounter FM, in 1991 and that went well for a while until the local Christians took over and booted us out. And Don Cannon my photography friend took me to a photography meeting in Goowla which is down the road a bit from here.
I have lived in a lot of places since the Encounter Coast days twenty years ago. Driving between Pt. Elliot and Victor today I felt at home. I do not feel at home anywhere; New Orleans was a great re-visit last summer after having had such a good life there 40 years ago but it did not feel like home, neither has Adelaide, upstate New York where I grew up or even our living in New York City for five years before moving to China even though I lived there quite often in the 1960s and 1970s. I have two passports so I am not even a one country person but I did feel at home driving along the Encounter Coast. I could not live there again, too many memories, but for a few days I just chose the best of those memories and enjoyed my encounter and feeling like a victor over my Victor Harbor past.
Now, February 15, two days after being on the Encounter Coast living in the past I am with Sacha in Melbourne; holy cow he is 32; how did that happen? I drove around in his BMW sports car, what a yuppie. Where did I fail? But he is happy with his hip hop stuff, piecing (legally) and getting paid for it, working with asylum seekers, telling me about his next set of tattoos he is getting. I really do not like tattoos but I am not saying anything.
Evolution! Take me back when I was living along the Encounter Coast dreaming of a great future with my children. Tomorrow I am back to freezing northern China. I love the warm days here in Australia but in reality I cannot keep up with Sacha’s fast paced life style. I keep thinking about taking a nap and then we are off again. He said last night he and his girlfriend were going to bed early so we could leave early to go out to the country. At 12:30 – thirty minutes past midnight, three hours past my normal bed time they went off to bed saying we had to get up early which turned out to be ten am. Evolution? Not for me – I am going to regress and get caught up on sleep. Oh wait I can’t. Tomorrow we return to China and the next morning we are at work. Damn.
Below, Horseshow Bay at Pt. Elliot and below that The Bluff at Victor Harbor.
Below, Leigh age 9 and Sacha age 11 at our E-FM (Encounter FM) radio station in a small caravan in
Victor Harbor, 1992.
We had the first of two-days of parent teacher’s conference at our school today. I have done this at schools before, nothing new, but I did get to thinking about life in general and the turns and twists one takes on the journey.
Sitting there with parents I remembered my days as the parent with my children. Life was so different then. I was a single parent in South Australia (I was the foreigner there, being a Yank and all, though allegedly I spoke the same language as the teacher) and usually there was a problem with at least one of my children, I will not say which one. Of course I blamed the teacher because obviously the reason my child acted out was because the class was not challenging enough and my son was creative and beyond their slowed down standards. Actually I was probably the parent from hell.
This was between 1985 and about 1999. Not sure why but my children attended lots of schools. We started off with Mt. Compass, and then there was Pt. Elliot, Meadows, Victor Harbor, Christies Beach High School, and that was just primary. There was Wirreanda High School later on and a temporary school because of some discipline stuff and maybe Seaton High too; I lost track.
I started my own studies in 1991 and went straight through to 2005; 14 years of university, from starting my BA when I was 44 to collecting my PhD at the University of South Australia when I was 58. I started teaching in 1999 at age 52, when most people start to look at retiring. Before that I had been a tofu maker for seven years, a brother in a religious order, a cook, street artist in New Orleans, NYC, South Australia, Honolulu; a happy hippie living in communes in the 1960s and a variety of things but sitting in front of parents talking about their children always amazes me; especially here in China, where I need an interpreter for Chinese, Korean, German and or etc. and I am happy to present myself as the teacher or as is the case now, the student’s advisor. I try to recall my children in school and think of nightmares – principal’s phone calls, me defending my children, the fire in the boys toilet that many years later a son said yes it was him, to the court appearances for graffiti and on and on.
One of my favourite moments (not) was when I was being showed my son’s diary (this happened with both children). There were lots of absent days with my signature – this was at Wirreanda High School, my children would have been in about 8th and 10th grade. There were days when they did not have their uniform with some excuse about it is in the wash –this was in many entrees. The reasons for missing school were everything from baseball practice at another school (that son was later signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher) or meetings at the dentist, doctor and a host of visits I barely could have imagined. All signed by me. When I pointed out it was not my signature anywhere in the diary I was shown the front page of the original signature – my children had signed my name from day one. OK so I never looked at their diaries – poo hoo on me. I had other things to deal with like being a perfect parent.
What I find really fascinating is when two parents are talking a mile-a-minute in a foreign language, and looking up every once in a while at me then going back to saying stuff I have no idea what. 他无法组织一个妓院的螺丝 (He couldn’t organize a screw in a brothel).
Today a student was the interpreter for the mother. “How is my daughter doing?” So I go on about if she stopped using her cell phone, talked less during class, did work… I am sure she did not tell her mother what I said. The mother looked at me with a bit of – was that amusement, disdain, surprise, shock…? How would I know? The daughter could have said, “Dr. Neuage says if you do not have enough water in the basin when cooking beans they will burn.” I did hear the Dr. Neuage part.. the result was a blur of sounds and pitches; some going up and some going down.
I also never know when to bow or shake a hand. The Koreans like to bow when greeted the Chinese will go for the paws. But then I never get the Europeans and Aussies kissing on one side then the other thingy. I lived in Australia for 22 years and still never know which cheek to peck first. I am not saying I still can not tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese that would be rude I suppose but truth be told I can’t. And what happens if we bow at the same time and hit heads and one of us gets knocked out?
I love my job – teaching broadcast journalism and being our video media person and creating our school news shows and working with teachers with technology and teaching my middle school publications class. It is just a long ways from being a single parent living on a pension with naughty children and a tenth grade education until one day I thought shit I am in my 40s and doing not much and then 14 years later I was Dr. Neuage. Whats next? The only thing that is the same is that I am, as always, in a foreign country.
Well tonight is Friday and early tomorrow morning we are off with the International Club of Dalian for a two day trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – Bingyu Valley 冰峪沟! “Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people…” More about that next week, after the trip.