13 Reasons to move to the country

I have just finished recording a short 5 minute video for the YouTube Channel on why I want to move to the country. This is the third video I have recorded and for the first time I have included a short ukulele introduction and also a short tag over the credits. As you would know, playing ukulele is one of the things I do for pleasure so it is extra special to be able to record a tiny refrain and use it on the video.

Learning how to record that little 4 second piece, then edit it, then load it onto the video was such an exciting thing to do. When you hear it, you wont believe that such a tiny piece took so much care and attention to get where it is. It makes me smile, a lot. Some of my friends would not be able to do that at all, so that also makes me proud. I have a few friends that do little else other than record music so it is no big deal to them at all. I would like to think that they would appreciate the effort I have made, to get it right.

Recording the video and the music piece has been an interesting challenge. My lovely neighbour is fixing his bathroom, by fixing I mean completely removing it and replacing it all himself. He really is amazing. For a few days as soon as I started recording he started working, so that was less than ideal. I was happy to have the real sounds of the city in the background, but that level of authenticity was a bit over the top.

So I waited until he went for a walk and did it all as quickly as I could. Does it show? I hope not. To listen to the video you can either follow the link below or type in Barjols Sth to YouTube and you should get delivered to the video anyway. If you have ever thought about moving to the country, the video series may be of interest to you.

Sharing something quite beautiful

Sharing something quite beautiful

If I sound like a doting parent, then so be it. If you click on the picture below, you will see an advertisement my son Elliot painted for a european chair company. I think its amazing, but let me know what you think please. If all ads looked like this, I would watch them, rather than muting and turning the channel.

The gift of the gab

I was born with the gift of the gab, or so I was told about one million times growing up. Spending time in church and youth fellowship groups as a young man I also knew one other thing, we are all equal. I don’t believe either of those things now.

Both statements strongly resonated with me as a child. Who doesn’t want to be ’gifted’ after all. I wasn’t even sure what it meant to be completely truthful, it just sort of registered with me that I could ‘gab’ my way through, around, under or over things, events and people. I became an auctioneer partly because of my confidence in my ‘gift’. I played in bands for the same reason or at least a branch of the same reason. I had spoken in public many times therefor playing and singing in public wasn’t so scary.

I didn’t ever challenge the notion of being gifted in this way because it was a nil sum game in my view. If they were right, nothing was going to change and if they were wrong I was in a deep dark hole with nothing to pin my hopes on. None of that is true in reality of course, but this was the battle raging in my head and heart. The reality is, the label was not helpful, and this is why.

Because we are all born equal, my gift meant i was deficient in some other area. So every time I came up against something I struggled with, I was way too quick to write it off as the pay back for my gift. For example, I struggled to get any enjoyment from reading as a kid. So I simply wrote that off as the other side of the coin to being able to talk. You can’t do both obviously, I could talk therefore it was OK to be really bad at reading. Once again, not reality or sensible, just what was going on in my head.

I didn’t hit puberty until my eighteenth year, so I was a little gobby brat. Poor organisational skills was another of those gaps in my development that I was way too quick to write off as the price to pay. I would have been so much better off knuckling down and working on getting organised. I spent a lot of my youth keeping people at bay lest they figure out just how deficient I was. What a waste of my energy that was.

So the moral of this little tale is, while it is lovely to point out strengths in young people as they grow up, make sure that young person is developing a well-rounded personality. Self assessment will almost always leave us feeling short of a pass mark, so providing assistance to a young person while they develop their personality can be invaluable.


A change of plan


As regular readers of this blog will know I have a small grassy hillside in the country that I escape to. Ostensibly I am fiddling around building infrastructure on the land preparing it for the time when I can afford to build a house on it and retire. The views are sublime and the bird life is incredible from tiny busy-body little baubles of winged colour to majestic soaring eagles. Every star in the universe has chosen that piece of land to hover over as they fill the sky, in complete contrast to the sky over Sydney.

For the last year and a bit, I have driven the three hours north with a plan laid out for the two-day visit. Either digging, building, problem solving, creating or mowing and thanks to some sage-like advice from a mate of mine, I make sure I spend a little bit of time doing nothing. The doing nothing usually means trekking up to the house site and taking in the magnificent sweeping view to the north-east and off to the west over hills and ridges forests and fields.

When we first purchased the block I paid a bushfire consultant to do a feasibility study and let us know where we could build and we all agreed on this spot. Now that we are close to submitting plans to council, the process involves engaging a bushfire consultant for a full bushfire report as well as some other experts prior to submission. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I was told that the house couldn’t go there. I gritted and ground my teeth and furrowed my brow for a week as we tried to find a compromise, which was going so badly at one stage I thought I may have to just sell the place and move on.

My quiet time, on each visit has been spent standing on the spot where the deck will go imagining the future and picturing my state of contentment and satisfaction. I really struggled with the idea of having to move the house block entirely. Not helped by the fact that Mr Bushfire consultant was now advising me to move the house to exactly the spot my mother in law thought the house should be built on in the first place. That’s just not fair at all.

It took another pair of visits to reconcile myself to the new building site. I have recorded a short video from that site. I am itching to get started.

Im about to start the Life Log Project YouTube channel


I have said to myself many times that I have a good head for radio, and indeed that is where I worked for a while. The screen has always been a scary no-go zone for me. I have terrible teeth and I’m old and grey and overweight, hardly the ideal specs for any sized screen. However I have recorded a few trials and I’ve decided that Barjols Sth is too good not to share and recording short video pieces up there is the perfect way to get the message across.

I will let you know when the first piece goes public. There is just so much stuff I would like to talk about, way too many things to cover in a blog. My book is in the works as well, Ive completed the first draft and waiting for the proofreader and editor to tear it apart and then the real fun begins as I try to put it all together again.

In a strange way it was in the process of writing the book that I veered toward doing some video logs. There were subjects that I covered in the book that really needed to be explored on a deeper and more personal level and the book was not exactly the right channel through which to do that so it got me thinking about blogs, and vlogs.

I have always been very self-conscious of my very crooked teeth. All of my siblings were born with the same ridiculous teeth. My parents could only afford to pay for the girls to have theirs fixed at the time, and eventually my little brother had his done, by that time the folks were earning a little more, and could cover the expense, So in the end I was the only one in the family that didn’t have braces. Bitter? Me? No I don’t think I am to be honest. It hasn’t held me back much, I still got on the rostrum and performed the task of auctioneer for almost fifteen years professionally, so it didn’t make me shy or anything, that’s for sure. I have a silly (smile for the camera) grin rather than a full hearty laugh that I have cultivated over the years to cover up my horrible teeth, but thats OK too.

Now I’ve said I’m over it OK? No really, I am not that fussed about the teeth anymore. At 57 Im not about to get them fixed that’s for sure. I will just record the video blogs and forget about them. Im excited about the Vlogs because I get to show you beautiful Barjols Sth, it is amazing. Im also excited because I will be able to talk about things that I can’t really cover in the blogs. One of the young women that read the blog, described it as ‘cute’ the other day which I guess is a good thing.

I’m not exactly sure that ‘cute’ is where I was pitching it, but Im fine with that. The Vlog I am guessing will be a little more about the process of the impending tree change that Anna and I will undergo, and the preparation for that. Regular readers will understand I have ZERO farm skills, so learning it all from scratch is a bit of a task. No doubt that it will morph into its own thing as time goes by. Whatever happens with it, it is me telling my story, as part of the Life Log Project. I hope you can check it out and join me from time to time.


An extraordinary story told

Some books compel me to talk about them, others drive me to a corner to think and others force me to share them. The book I am reading is all of the above and yet I am so reluctant to enthusiastically share it. Let me explain.

‘Insomniac City’ by Bill Hayes, is beautifully written, and incredibly insightful. It also contains some fascinating stories about intersecting intellects, which I find simply compelling. It is however completely frank and written by an openly gay man, and some of the bits in it may shock some people. So perhaps it needs to come with a warning of some sort, I’m unsure.

Bill Hayes was Oliver Sacks lover and writes beautifully about their relationship and particularly beautifully and respectfully about Oliver Sacks. “O” as he is called, you may know from his books on matters of science. Generally regarded as one of the great modern minds, O is described in intimate detail as is the crazy city of New York. It is a wonderfully curated bunch of insights and observations many of which were direct diary notes.

Bill is often self-deprecating, and yet never makes the reader feel sorry for him other than for his loss. O on the other hand is funny, other-worldly and so unused to the love of another his enthusiasm is awkwardly contagious. I loved every page.

It is not often I need to have a pen and paper next to me while reading, but Bill Hayes has such a wonderful turn of phrase and captures so many of O’s random ideas and thoughts, I have filled several pages of my own jotting them down. He also captures a range of gentle vignettes from his meanderings around New York, stories that he paints with great richness and keenness of eye.

I am not yet finished reading this lovely book, which is rare for me, as I would tend to race through well written novels. I am taking my time for two reasons. I’m pretty sure the last bit of the book is going to be about O’s death, and that is probably going to make me cry and partly because I am only reading this late at night, because it is such an intimate life account.

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5 Things I learned about myself on the 5 day trek.


Lets be absolutely clear here, my five-day trek was well organised and well led by a fully professional outfit, Outward Bound Australia. So it isn’t like I was ever in any danger. Every single one of my complaints about hardship were deliberately created by the organisation to put me out of my comfort zone or rather into my Discomfort zone, and it certainly did that.

Too cold, too tired, too heavy, too clumsy and I could go on and on. It was a very challenging environment, as I have spent most of the last forty years trying to make my life more comfortable not less. So even though I did a bit of trekking and camping as a kid, I haven’t done anything remotely like this challenge in over forty years. I had avoided abseiling altogether, and canyoning is just something that makes my blood turn cold. Wriggling through rock crevices using your elbows and toes in turn, looking for all the world like an overweight caterpillar, is not my idea of a good life.
Five days of trekking through the bush on fire trails with a backpack is also well outside my description of fun.

So what did I learn? I learned that I have good listening skills. My cooking skills were only required once, but they are pretty good. Though it is sometimes a real struggle, I am capable of letting people take charge. Those three are a pretty good start. As someone who has spent a good deal of time recording other people’s life stories, it is no surprise I’m an OK listener. My bride is a strong advocate of “active listening’ if you know that process, and just by way of osmosis, I have absorbed some of that.

Having a love affair with good food and cooking every night for the last fifteen years, or pretty much every night, it is no surprise that I have OK cooking skills. The third thing I learnt was about taking charge and letting other people take charge. I definitely have a preference for leading the way, which is very occasionally balanced by allowing others to do so when I get tired or I am need of recharging my batteries. On this trip, even when I had the wherewithal I chose not to lead. It made me a tiny bit anxious, but that’s OK too.

I learnt two other things on this trek. One is about the importance or significance of your personal style in dealing with internal struggle. In order that you develop and grow as a person, it really helps to have some awareness of the form or style of internal dialogue one uses in times of stress and struggle. Some people internalize and analyse their struggle, preferring not to share it for one reason or another. Others actually thrive on sharing it. Sometimes with some people, the more often it is shared, the less real it becomes. Regardless of the style, and there are undoubtedly dozens of other styles, unless you draw a line in the sand somewhere and say, this is where it changes, you haven’t really dealt with it.

From personal experience, I know that I need help to do that. The help of a trained and skilful practitioner. No doubt others can do it for themselves, but I can’t. I need help from time to time to know that I am indeed drawing a line in the sand and to articulate what I am putting on this side of the line and what I am putting on that side of the line, or indeed what I am putting a line through the middle of.

Finally the thing I learnt on this trek was an uncomfortable fact. I would be a lot more successful if I worked as hard every day, as I did on the trek. It didn’t kill me. It was just bloody hard work. It was the same hard work I do when I work at the farm. I work until I can’t work any more, until I’m exhausted, until my sense of humour leaves me entirely and I am on the brink of tears. Clearly that is not sustainable every day, but I rarely do it. I need to do that much more often. I need to drive myself a little bit harder, or in truth, quite a lot harder than I am currently doing. I need to work harder, produce more, do more things. There you go, line drawn.

Why I do something as dangerous as riding a scooter in Sydney

Some of my friends still can’t believe I would do something as dangerous as riding a scooter in this town. This is a car town. Ask any driver and they will tell you. Roads are for cars, and these roads, in this town, are not for anybody or any thing else. Absolutely not push bikes, and not even really scooters or motorbikes.

I drove cars for years. Several of my jobs involved hopping into cars and visiting sites or clients and I have to say, driving was drudgery. Riding on the other hand is a completely different ball game. With very rare exception, I am smiling when I hop off my scoot. Weather has some say in that of course. From time to time I am silly enough not to look up the forecast and I head out at the wrong time, wearing the wrong stuff.

The English say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. I reckon every scooter rider may put up an argument on that one, but the right clothes definitely help when you are up on two wheels that’s for sure. A trickle of cold water down the back of your shirt as you sit and wait for the lights to change is a real sensation.

Travelling on two wheels is such a liberating, fun and truly interactive way to travel I just love it. I’m keen on the wind in my face, leaning into corners, throttling my way out of traffic and the direct hum of the engine under my backside is wonderful and immediate.

The bit I like the best, and it doesn’t happen all that often, is when my bride hops on the back and we go somewhere (most likely to the footy). You cannot beat the feeling of someone special hugging you, no matter how gently or confidently as you conquer the world. That is how riding feels. As if you are truly the first person conquering the world, or your tiny bit of it anyway.

Riding well takes 100% concentration. You need to be aware of what is in front, what is behind, what is about to enter on the left or right, that car door or that stupid hole in the road they haven’t fixed yet. You have to make room for that huge truck or that bus and account for the foibles and inadequacies of all of those people driving and texting.

I often hear my driving friends say, “I wonder if I’m right to drive, if I’ve had too many?” That never happens when I’m riding because you can’t ride well with even one beer in your system. If you are not riding well, you wont be riding for long. Please be kind to my fellow riders, be considerate by using your indicators and doing head checks.

I’m writing a book


I have finished the first draft of a book about how to record your family history and family stories. The proofreader is about to do their stuff. Some people have warned me about “selling the farm” in terms of writing a book about what I do, but the way I have got it figured, I couldn’t possibly record all the worthwhile stories out there in ten lifetimes so it is a better idea to show people how to do it themselves.

I have almost settled on a title. I can’t believe how difficult that has been. Every few days another better title pops into my brain and rattles around for a while. If you or someone you know would like to receive an E version of the book before it is published, for free, let me know. Simply send me an email I would be happy to send it to them. michael@thelifelogproject.com.au

The proof should be back in a fortnight so I will email it out to anyone interested. I have really enjoyed writing it and it has forced me to go right back to the start and truly think through the entire process which has been great fun. While it is clearly not as simple as pointing an iPhone at someone, it can almost be as simple as that. The book shares interview skills, tips on interviewing particular types of people, question lists, equipment for recording, how to get started, even some parenting tips in there.

For anyone interested in how best to gather their family stories before it is too late to do it, this book will help you for sure. With Mothers Day just past, a Life Log would be a perfect present for a new mum.

I got help when I needed it.

11179998_896819233693389_486530138_nThis coming weekend marks eight years since my scooter accident. It was something of a defining moment for me, as it is remains the only time I have come close to death. Though I didn’t walk away, there was very little blood and almost no lasting physical damage. You hear it all the time, “I was so lucky” but that was me. Riding down a highway at 80kms and have some goose pull out of a side street right into you is quite an experience.

Flashing through my mind was, no, no, no you couldn’t be that stupid! But he was. My big 500cc Yamaha Tmax scooter was firmly wedged under the front of his car as I was thrown up and over the bonnet, just clipping the front wind shield enough to put my body into a spin, in flight, before it hit the road with a whack and a bounce or two.

I said there was almost no lasting physical damage but it did do my head in, for a while. My knees got a hell of a bashing which required many weeks of physio. My bride was kind enough to ferry me around to appointments. It soon became apparent that I was damaged psychologically by the event perhaps more than physically. Sitting in the passenger seat, I flinched badly every time someone tried to enter from a side street on the left, or aggressively merged. I felt the need to swear at them and even wanted to get out and punch them if they were too rude. Pretty silly stuff.

A few weeks of this and Anna suggested I get some help. At first I was a little bit insulted. That lasted until the next intersection. My GP gave me a referral to a local psychologist and in the blink of an eye I was on a six-week program of counselling. This was, hands down, the best thing I have ever been cajoled into doing.

The psych and I dealt with the entire accident in about one and a half visits. So then we moved on to other areas of my life I felt could benefit from airing. I gave her both barrels over the next few weeks and by the end of the six-week program I felt almost completely unburdened for the first time in my memory. It was such a liberating feeling I can remember people smiling at me in the street as i walked by, because clearly I was smiling at them. That had never happened to me before.

So it has been eight years since I found the space to move on from stuff (events, history, people) that wasn’t very good in my life, but didn’t need to define me. It was so liberating to discover that. If it hadn’t been for that horribly scary scooter accident in the Blue Mountains, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am today. Counter intuitive I know, but that’s the rub.

Needless to say, I would encourage anyone to seek out counselling. It was a life changer for me.