Mar 30

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I wasn’t going to write a Part 3 – I thought I’d covered it all.  However, this has taken on a life all of its own and is a good example of how the media has its own agenda and will use their strength to steamroll anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria.

Today The Australian, and I won’t link to them any more, ran another article on Michael and his activism.  They go digging into the past, give little snippets and avoid the whole story.  This tactic enables them to paint a less-than-rosy picture of Michael’s activism.

The headline screams, well, that’s a bit much, it doesn’t scream at all, it is a headline.  There in big letters it says:

Twitter troll who bullies brewers has little love for LGBTI peers

Now Michael has a bunch of new labels.  His name badge is getting quite large.  He is now a Twitter Troll and a Bully and  a Little Love.  I consider him to be my big love.  That’s all he needs on a badge.  I shall get one made up.  He isn’t a Twitter Troll.  You want to see trolls, go look on the Internet, there’s plenty of real trolls.  Michael has raised concerns with people in positions of authority over conflicts of interest.  Hardly trolling.

It’s true of Michael that for some of his peers he has little love.  I have little love for some of my peers too – I guess you probably do too.  You know, just because we’re all part of humanity doesn’t mean that we have to love everyone.  Just because we’re all part of this rather odd bunch of GLBTI people doesn’t mean we all get along.

I want to go through this article sentence by sentence, but I won’t.  Let me be selective, fill in some gaps and leave out a bunch of stuff.  After all, that seems to be the way the media operates.  They have all this essentially unlimited space online and still leave stuff out.  Go figure.

Having pressured Coopers, IBM and PwC and their senior staff to sever links with Christian associations, gay rights activist Michael Barnett has turned his sights on academia, demanding Macquarie University force one of its lecturers to renounce a Christian educational organisation.

He didn’t pressure Coopers any more than the hundreds of other people did.  Likewise there has been no pressure on IBM, PwC or Macquarie University.  It’s about as much pressure as you’d apply to a leaky balloon with a bit of sticky tape, not the weight of an elephant stepping on your head.  As for ‘force’ and ‘demanding’ and ‘renounce’ I mean, really?  

Barnett doesn’t want to talk about how Aleph members tried to sack him? Star Observer, April 15, 2010:

A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week, with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convener Michael Barnett for being too hostile.

Sack him?  I was at the meeting, no mention of sacking at all.  People were very cross and expressed themselves.  Of course, what is missing here is the background as to how it came about.  It’s easy to create a picture of division when you only part tell the story.

Melbourne’s LGBTI Jews were not happy with Barnett’s bullyboy act. Star Observer, continued:

… other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.

Yeah, that’s right.  The 80-strong group, they talked a lot.  Offered little support before they were embarrassed, made a lot of noise and disappeared up their own clackers never to be seen again.  In the long run, Michael’s ‘angry’ emails paid huge dividends in the community.

Barnett hasn’t changed his spots. Aleph’s official Twitter account, Nov­ember 25 last year:

We have cancelled our registration in the 2017 Pride March due to @midsumma accepting @newscorpaus sponsorship. First absence since 1997.

What do you mean spots?  Clearly you don’t know him very well.  Michael has remained steadfast in his commitment to diversity, celebration and acceptance of people over all the years I’ve known him.  We, he and I, continue to learn and modify our approach to how we engage.  Boycotting Pride March and Midsumma this year was because of  The Australian and other News Limited media sponsorship arrangement with Midsumma.  It was a reaction to the ongoing vilification that these media outlets engage in on a regular basis.   I still can’t believe that Midsumma didn’t give up this sponsorship.  Again, Michael’s actions are vindicated by this continuing unwarranted attack on him.

The smear campaign is supported by the Letters to the Editor in The Australian.  They show just how the influence of the media can skew the intent and influence the reader.  Here’s a smattering.

Activists are engaging in systematic persecution

A provocative headline to the letters, and simply untrue.  

I thought we lived in a democratic society where freedom of speech, religion and association were protected (“Gay rights activist turns on Christian academic”, 29/3), so I find the actions of these LGBTI campaigners disturbing. They are doing to others what they have suffered in history.

Somehow we aren’t entitled to enjoy freedom of speech?  So, others have suffered in history.  I’m here to tell you, Vita Mezzatesta from Pascoe Vale, Vic, we are suffering right now, and we are kicking back.  Using our free speech and pointing out what’s wrong with the world.

These activist groups can’t touch me directly, and so I write to express my displeasure with all the self-centred, self-serving, intolerant minorities that now attempt to control our lives. There was a time that you could just say bugger off and that was the end of it, but now they have this need to force feed their views on everyone.

You make me laugh Richard Thomson from Kent Town, SA.  Michael is not self-centred or self-serving.  Control your life?  You’d like to tell us to bugger off?  Get back in the closet perhaps?  Force their views on everyone?  Come on.  Perhaps you simply don’t like having your attitudes and beliefs so directly challenged.  Perhaps those beliefs are outdated and wrong.

Then we hear from Alex Greenwich from the lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality.  Alex is a key player in the group and a NSW MP.  This is what I’d call the lead group from our community that is leading the charge to achieve equality for us in marriage rights.  They are self-appointed.  It’s unclear as to how they are funded or how they decide what to do.  

Here’s Alex’s letter.

Our campaign for marriage equality has always been and always will be based on positive, respectful and inclusive conversations to win over the hearts and minds of Australians. The national conversation about marriage equality will only be won if people can have conversations and are allowed to ask any genuine questions they may have.

For many people, same-sex couples having access to civil marriage is a straightforward reform that takes from no one but provides a profound positive change to the lives of lesbian and gay Australians, their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friends.

However, there are still people who have genuine questions and it’s important that we continue to listen and engage respectfully. It is because of our respect for the institution of marriage that we will keep engaging until we can join millions of Australians in marrying the person we love in the country we love.

As we continue along the journey to achieving marriage equality, we must do it through uniting, not dividing, and being respectful of everyone’s views along the way.

Alex Greenwich, Australian Marriage Equality, Darlinghurst, NSW

Alex has really let the side down on this one.  He has an ideal opportunity to reset the debate, but instead goes on the sneaky attack.  Essentially Michael’s activism around Pride in Diversity is thrown under the bus by AME.  Michael has supportively pushed, promoted, encouraged and engaged with AME for many, many years.  Not one of them so much as picked up the phone for a chat with him.  Not a Facebook message, an SMS or even an email.  It’s not like they don’t know who he is.  Alex says that we must achieve marriage equality through uniting, not dividing and being respectful.

Michael’s current concern has zero to do with marriage equality.  Alex could have discovered that quite easily.  He could have distanced himself by saying that Michael isn’t talking about marriage equality, he’s talking about Pride in Diversity and members of the ACL employed by organisations that pride themselves on the diversity.

Let me put this as clearly as I can.  The ACL is not the church, they don’t represent a denomination.  They exist to promote their version of christianity, and in that version there are no gay people, no lesbians and no transgender people.  They might tolerate the bisexuals if you only have married sex with the opposite sex, and intersex people if you have surgery to conform to either male or female.  The Lachlan Macquarie Institute is wholly owned by the ACL.  

These two organisation are intolerant of anyone that isn’t heterosexual.  They pretend to be nice, but underneath the facade is a real desire to spread their version of Christianity far and wide.  They are not our friends.  They seek only to have it their way.  They represent a very small part of our society, even smaller than the GLBTI community.

They are not our friends.

Alex had the chance here to give them a kick in the nuts, instead he plays the nice gay boy who doesn’t want to upset the apple cart.  The News Limited media support the ACL.  They don’t play nice and need to make Michael out to be the bad boy, hold him up as an example of what is wrong with the ‘gay lobby’.  Make their readership, that already hates us, justify that hatred.  We play into their hands, and to the hands of the ACL when we, the activist, the ‘gay’ lobby groups and the ordinary GLBTI folk placate them, pretend we are being inclusive when in fact the media is driving the wedge between us and the rest of society.

That is a missed opportunity.

 

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Mar 30

In Part 1 I looked at the background of how Michael’s tweets started, what was driving them and the conflict between holding personal views that are at odds with those you’ve signed up for in the work place.

To recap, Board members of the right-wing religious institution, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute hold positions in organisations that are part of Pride in Diversity, an organisation that benchmarks diversity in Australian workplaces to gauge how inclusive those workplaces are.  The institute is fully owned and run by the Australian Christian Lobby, an organisation that lobbies to keep gay people out of the public sphere and deny equal rights because that’s what Jesus would want.

Michael’s activism in this case has been around the conflict between the two organisations; a simple question of how can you deny the GLBTI community their place in society (Institute’s view) while working at a place that encourages and values the GLBTI community.

The Australian newspaper, owned by News Limited, is no friend of the GLBTI community.  News Limited constantly publish stories, opinion and cartoons that vilify me and everyone in the community.  It’s not a pretty look for a news organisation.

The non-heterosexual citizens of Australia have long been the plaything of the media.  They love to get a good ‘gay’ story to play with.  It drives people to read and interact with their publications. It enables them to generate outrage and to dehumanise those who are different.  I’ve seen it time and time again and have blogged on it.

This is the ultimate.  To take a few tweets and conflate them into something quite ugly.  The tweets asked the two organisations how it was possible for someone who clearly doesn’t support diversity is able to hold positions of leadership at both organisations.

Once The Australian had run front page stories on this, other media ran with it.  However, The Australian made the issue about marriage equality, which it has never been about.

Let’s just track this through a little.

It all starts with the head honcho of the ACL and openly-straight man, Lyle Shelton.  I  say openly straight because whenever someone is not straight, they need to be labelled as such.

Wilson, an openly same-sex attracted man, spoke in favour of redefining marriage and Hastie, an unashamed “Bible reading” Christian spoke for retaining the definition of marriage.

Moderated by Matt Andrews, the short video was simply designed to showcase the Biblical virtue of disagreeing agreeably as part of the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The issue being discussed was immaterial as the Bible Society has not been a participant in the political debate.

I assume that Matt Andrews is an openly opposite-sex attracted man.  It would help if Lyle said so, just so we are clear.  I’d hate to think he was some middle-aged gay bear.  In his meandering blog post Lyle says:

A quick scroll through the #boycottcoopers hashtag on Twitter revealed many of the same vicious people who troll me.
Michael Barnett (Twitter handle @Mikeybear), for instance, was instrumental in spooking Price Waterhouse Coopers last year because one of their senior partners was a board member of ACL.

Lyle goes on to bring every other issue dear to his heart into the blog and finishes with the Leak cartoon of men in rainbow uniforms, a really very disrespectful and downright vilifying cartoon.

At this stage, Michael has called for Coopers to clarify if they support marriage equality.  Which it turns out that they do.  All good in a days work.

Then we have all these CEOs from top Australian companies signing a letter that calls for the government to make marriage equality a reality in Australia.  This made big news, everyone was onto that one, after all one of the people to sign the letter was Alan Joyce, an openly-gay CEO.

Mr Dutton yesterday suggested CEOs, including openly gay Qantas boss Alan Joyce, should “stick to their knitting” rather than trying to “bully” governments into certain positions.

And here starts this notion that writing a letter asking for something is bullying.  It’s a theme that the media and lobby groups love to tout.  It would seem that if you disagree with another’s point of view that somehow makes you the bully.  If you tweet about something that makes other uncomfortable you’re a bully.

The Australian’s Rebecca Urban,  then publishes this headline:

Jewish LGBTI activist defends his role in Coopers boycott saga

along with this paragraph,

A vocal gay rights activist has defended his role in the Coopers boycott saga, claiming he did not accept that the company was hounded into professing public support for marriage equality.

Michael Barnett, convener of Jewish LGBTI support group Aleph Melbourne, said it was unfortunate the brewer had severed its long-term relationship with the Bible Society in response to the backlash over its beer featuring in a “lighthearted” debate about same-sex marriage.

Michael is now a gay rights activist, a Jewish convener.  Neither label is appropriate.  Any more than an author being called Rebecca Urban, Lesbian Writer and Member of the Knitters Minders Club.  (I made both of those up).  Why define Michael as Jewish, what’s the point of that, apart from saying to everyone something along the lines of look – this gay Jewish poof is getting out of line.  This Jew is telling us Christians how to do things.  He’s way too vocal, let’s put him back in his box.

The next part in the saga happens when Michael notes that a member of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute board is also on staff of IBM.  IBM, as I discussed last time, is pretty big on Pride in Diversity.  Our Lesbian Writer and Chief Knitter takes to her paper and says:

Marriage equality advocate IBM Australia is being targeted by ­militant gay rights activists who have condemned the company over a senior executive’s links to a ­Christian organisation.

Urban makes it about marriage equality.  Which it isn’t.  It’s about the conflict between the company diversity policy and an executive’s personal position.  We now have more labels; Michael is now militant and gay.  Militant.

Others jump into the discussion.  Andrew Bolt uses the phrase ‘Totalitarian Gays’, the ACL says he uses ‘standover tactics’, he’s on a witch-hunt on the ABC.  The Australian editorial calls him a ‘Jewish Campaigner’, the ABC’s God Forbid show thinks he is ‘thin-skinned’ and somehow free speech is under attack.

Meanwhile all sorts of abuse is hurled our way with none of the big guys calling anyone to account for their hatred and vilification.  Not IBM, not Macquarie University.  Silence.  They’ll just ride it out.

The best bit comes when the ACL takes the really odd step of removing all directors information from their website and asks the ACNC to remove details from the public database, something about safety fears.  Pretending that somehow hordes of the gayz will descend upon them with desires to gay marry them to their knitting or something.

The saga will go on I’m sure, and from where I stand I’m aghast at how quickly the media gets off track and makes things up.  I’m not surprised at all.  It’s the way it works.  It’s important to have a villain in every story.  The Australian love to vilify those who aren’t, well, aren’t like them.

Michael’s actions are described as ‘the gay lobby’, ‘rainbow agenda’ and various other untrue areas.

And where are the gay lobby groups in all of this.  Where is our gay press?

*Crickets*

Not only has nobody from Australian Marriage Equality told him to shut up, they haven’t uttered a single word of support.  Not one of the Just Equal crowd have re-tweeted or Facebook-ed a message of support.  The gay press is silent and happy to let it run.

Yes, there’s support out there, plenty of it.  Michael runs alone with this, doing what I would see as good work it holding big corporations to account, as much as a single solitary person can.

It’s not an easy task and we often talk about how each of us handle the onslaught, how we respond and what we think about our approach.  We do it with respect and love.  Something that other parties should think on.  It doesn’t take much to respect other people and to question why they are doing this.

There will be a Part 3, there’s more to talk about.

To finish, the Twitter sphere is going off and there are plenty of nasty people lining up to tar us with all sorts of things.

 

 

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Mar 29

It all starts with a tweet:

That’d be my activist husband.  He calls himself on his Twitter profile:

Campaigner for human rights and equality.

Not gay rights, not marriage equality rights, human rights and equality.  For everyone.

Of course, it’s not so simple to say it all starts with this tweet.  Michael had already piqued the interest of The Australian following the Coopers Brewery debacle with the Bible Society and a couple of right-wing Liberal party members.

The misinterpretation and bad reporting by just about everyone starts with this tweet:

Sure, Michael gets sweary.  Some people find that challenging.  I myself try to limit my swearing to private conversations, I’m not always successful.  I don’t find tweets with ‘fuck’ in them much of a problem.  It’s easy to pick up on public swearing as some sort of measure of a person’s moral standing.  Or, you could use it as a measure of the stress and frustration by Michael when a section of society sees non-heterosexuals as deviants, perverts, sinners and plain and simply evil.  They play nice, say nice things, they mean really mean things.

As an aside, as I don’t want to dwell on the Coopers Brewery situation too much.  My objection to this was simply that the Bible Society thought it suitable to have a light-hearted conversation about marriage equality.  That is, my right to have my marriage to Michael recognised by the State.  Human rights are not something our politicians should be having a light-hearted conversation about over a beer.

The Australian has led the charge in indignation following Michael’s tweets.  They’ve splashed his name across the front page of their newspaper and generated quite the media storm with various outlets making assumptions. Most of those assumptions are incorrect.

I can categorically say that Michael has not asked for anyone to be sacked.  I can also say that he has not made a connection between the current marriage equality quest and people belonging to the Australian Christian Lobby’s board or the Lachlan Macquarie Institute Board.  It is so much more than that.

So, the background.  Michael has tweeted about Mark Allaby from IBM and Steven Chavura from Macquarie University.  IBM and Macquarie University are part of Pride in Diversity.  These men also sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute.

Pride in Diversity runs the Australian Workplace Equality Index.  Organisations undertake the bench-marking for a variety of reasons, at the crux of the work is the value that they see in ensuring that their employees are happy in their workplace and that managers are supportive of the diverse workforce they have.

IBM is considered a silver tier employer in 2016 benchmarks.  That is, they have undertaken a significant amount of work in the area of GLBTI inclusion and are currently very active in the space.  Macquarie University are on the bronze tier, they have provided sufficient evidence of work in the space to be considered to have GLBTI inclusive workplace.  Both organisations take their workforce seriously in relation to inclusiveness and diversity with respect to the non-heterosexuals amongst them.  The Pride in Diversity participation is voluntary, and I would guess seen as important to these workplaces, it’s a lot of work to get to the top rankings.

I’m sure that IBM and Macquarie University have staff ethics statements and codes of conduct that talk to this diversity.    One of the sections in the benchmarks is about policy and practice.  Like all workplaces you would be expected to sign these codes and statements in good faith and agree to abide by them.

Lachlan Macquarie Institute is attempting to train up-and-coming leaders of the future.  They would like them to carry the Christian message into their public lives.  They are guided by a board, and that board is very similar to the board of the Australian Christian Lobby.  The ACL has been going out of its way to make life for people like me difficult.  The Institute’s director writes this on the web site:

What we seek to achieve by this programme is the transformation of the nature of politics and governance in Australia. By helping develop the character and intellectual foundations of future politicians, journalists, advisors and public policy influencers before they step into public life.  The hope is that  we  will see more decisions based on a solid understanding of what is good, true and beautiful in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”

– 2 Corinthians 5:20

Nick Jensen – Director – Lachlan Macquarie Institute

In a nutshell, they want to train people to carry the hard-right religious message into the world.  That message that says the only good thing in the world is heterosexuals, white and middle class.

How then is it possible for Allaby and Chavura to sit on the Board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute while at the same time working in organisations that actively work to attain status in the Pride In Diversity Program?

This is the question that is being asked.  The evidence of the staff at both organisations would appear to be at odds.  Further questions I think that are worth asking is do the organisation really want to belong to Pride in Diversity or is it just lip service?  Is it possible to shield your faith from your work when that faith actually requires you to influence your work place?  What protection do the GLBTI community have from those that consider them to be second class citizens?

In part two I’ll take a look at the media-shit-storm that is raging from inaccurate reporting.

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Mar 02

An early morning walk is always good – however I must admit to a certain level of madness to be walking in the hills before dawn.  The rewards are quite stunning.

My watch started vibrating right on 6.00 a.m.  I was already awake, lying there waiting for it to go off.  It’s important never to get out of bed before the alarm goes off, it’s a universal rule and as I will show, universal rules are not to be toyed with.

I turn the light on, stumble around the room, find the suitable attire that I’d carefully laid out the night before, brush teeth, beard and hair, throw some items into the backpack and head out the door by 6.10 a.m.

It is dark.  The stars remain bright, overhead is Spica with Jupiter sitting next to it, well, at least in my sky, there’s really 550 light years between them.  There’s also Antares, I mistook it for Mars as it’s red, next to it is Saturn.  The sky to my east is starting to brighten as I head along the footpath through the middle of Halls Gap.   My only company is the kangaroos and wallabies who are enjoying nibbling the grass without hordes of tourist hanging around trying to get close enough for a photo.

In a couple of minutes I have crossed the little village, moved beyond the football oval and begun the climb upwards towards Chatauqua Peak.  It’s only a short walk, about 3½km.  The track is a sandy white, it stands out in the pre-dawn light, however it’s dark away from the village lights, and before long my toes are hitting every rock and tree root, causing me to stumble.  Last thing I need is to be rescued by the SES before I’m even out-of-town.   Luckily a thousand years in the Scouts taught me to be prepared and I whip out my headlamp, remove my cap, attach said light to my head, slap my cap back on,  turn on the light and continue upward.

As the blackness gives way to an eerie grey, the birds start to awaken, first kookaburras begin the morning with a solid round of laughter from all directions.  Like a real laugh it seems contagious and in a few seconds I’m surrounded by the calls of the early birds.  The currawongs aren’t far behind, their distinctive call bounces around the mountains.  The magpies join in with their early morning warbling, like the kookaburras it seems contagious and soon there seems to be hundreds all speaking to each other.  Throw in some ravens and lots of small wrens and we have an orchestra of morning song.   However, nothing compares to the awaking of great flocks of cockatoos who begin their morning by screeching to each other.  It’s like a 3 year olds birthday party, everyone wants to play with the new toys now and they’re all going to yell until they get their own way.  Now that’s a sound that really bounces off the mountains.

I can’t tell now if my headlamp is getting dimmer, batteries running down, or the encroaching daylight means it’s less effective.  As it’s now light enough to see, I turn it off and continue the trek and manage not to stumble so much.  Still to early to be rescued, I’m still in mobile phone range.

As I ascend the sky to the east has a bright orange bubble in the middle of a grey sky, the west is still black.  As far as I can see there are no clouds in the way.  The stars don’t fade away, they simply wink out of existence, all the background stars disappear as the sky changes from black to grey as the light extends from east to west.

If I’ve timed my walk right, I should get to the rock hopping stage of the walk in fairly good light.  I know I’ve been rushing a bit, sunrise waits for no person!  As I get to the fork in the track, I pause to look eastward.  The orange now extends across the eastern sky and I can pick where the sun is going to pop up.  I’m a little worried as I think it might be behind Boronia Peak and I’ll miss day break.

I’m now on the final stretch, it’s 6.50 a.m., I’ve made good time and can slow down a little.  This bit of the walk is along the ridgeline and there’s not a lot of space between me and the edge of the cliff.  The light is good and I hop along the rocks with ease.

I reach the summit of Chatauqua Peak just after 7.00 a.m., I’ve got about 15 minutes before the sun rises above the horizon.  I drag out my phone and fire up Sky Maps, I want to be sure I’ll have a clear view of the right point.  I can see that Mercury has just risen on the map, alas, the sky is already way to bright for me to see it.  I have a clear view of the horizon, a few low hills on the edge, but that won’t matter.

I eat an apple and wait.  I mean, what else can you do while you wait for the universe to spin around?

I snap a couple of photos.  The mountains to the west change colours from their nighttime muted tones to a soft orange colour, the trees that spill around their bases a dark green with spots of moving white as the cockatoos take flight.  The eastern sky is blue with an increasing orange bulge in the middle.  It’s 7.16 a.m. This is the time that has been allotted for our nearest star to put in an appearance.  I know this, because I asked Google.  It’s the only conversation I’ve had today.  I said “Sunrise” she said “The sun will rise at 7.16 a.m. in Halls Gap” and went quiet, not much for small talk, either of us.

And there is the proof of the final universal adoption of Google as the holder of all information.  A bright orange light appears on time and in the place that Google said it would.  The little bit of the sun quickly turns into  a huge ball of glowing orange, within moments it’s too bright to look at.  The world is suddenly bathed in a fantastical hue (I’m trying to avoid using orange again), the high peaks behind me are bathed in a warm glow and this shows off the brilliant whites and reds and all the colours in between.  Now with the sun fully risen I snap a few photos of the daily spectacular.

I have no idea what it is about sunsets and sunrises.  They happen on a continuous basis, as the earth spins there is always one of each happening somewhere on the globe.  Yet, every single one of them is unique.  It is its own moment.  This one feels richly deserved, I’ve climbed a mountain, well, a peak.  Risked life and limb to reach the summit in time to see this daily event on a beautifully clear night that is then pursued by a beautifully clear day with a brilliant blue sky and a now white star marching across it.  It is a moment of renewal, it reminds me of the daily grind of the world and how each day starts afresh with a world of possibilities.  Today is a day for me to renew, refresh and start again.

I sit for 30 minutes enjoying the warmth of the morning sun, I can feel the temperature rising already, heading towards a top of 34°

Below me I can see the long shadows of the trees in the brown paddocks, reminding me that the seasons are turning and it won’t be long before summer ends.  The sun is yet to reach the Fyans Valley in which Halls Gap sits, it’ll be another hour at least before it peaks over Boronia Peak.

I start my walk downward, within a couple of minutes I’ve dropped below the peak and into the shadow.  It’s still cool here and I meander down to Halls Gap where coffee and breakfast calls.

My second conversation is “Good morning, I’ll have 2 eggs and 2 long blacks please”

“Morning, how would you like the eggs?”

“Poached, please”

“No worries”

Not one for small talk.

Click all the images for a better look!

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Feb 21

 

It took me a while to get there, I’ve been struggling for some time and finally my emotional and mental health crushes in on my physical health and I’ve gotta get away.

My go to place is the Grampians, I’ve always loved coming here since I first set foot as a child in these mountains.

I surround myself with the bush. I thrive in its noises, its smells and its sights. I have two weeks to explore and soak in the ancient landscape.

I walk, it gives me time to think, to unwind, to restore the internal batteries.

I become so aware of my surroundings, the breeze blowing gently across my ears, the sound of distant traffic and the singing of the birds. The water gently trickling down to the valley, my footfall as I make my way upward and the sound of my breath at the exertion.

As my feet crunch the sand beneath me I can see the footprints of those that came before me and there’s another story. This white sand is millions of years old, it’s the worn down mountain, the wind and the rain has reduced the rock to this sandy white floor and its been trodden on for over 40,000 years. I’m connected to the land, to its history and I’m reminded that I’m a passer-by, someone who leaves a footprint, washed away in the next rain storm.

I aim for the top. I want to see the world beneath from on high, to thrill in its beauty. I want the blue sky above me and the land below me. I see and hear the wildlife around me, I see the delicate flowers to the big trees, the rocks that look like long forgotten dinosaurs to boulders that form mountains.

Here I find serenity and the chance for my mind to still. To recuperate and ready itself for the next phase of life.


First photo of me on top of Mt William taken by Michael Barnett
Music – Spa Music – Relax, Mindfulness, Yoga (2016) Matti Paalanen
All other video, sounds, words and images are my work.

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Jan 29

I am a man.  I’m pretty complex, I think we all are.  As it happens I’m gay.  Which is just as well, because I got married to a man.

I’m a proud gay man.  It took years to get here.  To take ownership of the sort of man I am, to recognise who I am and to accept it.

That’s pride.

Today is Melbourne’s Pride March, I have attended every year for the last 10 years.  This year I’m not marching and I’m not watching.  I’m boycotting.

As I’ve often said in this here blog of mine, people like me, you know, the non-hetero-normative types, are often the media’s play things.  That’s certainly the case with News Limited publications.  They have some key contributors that continually vilify people not like them.

Regrettably Midsumma have a sponsorship arrangement with News Ltd.    An organisation that runs the Midsumma Festival and Pride March for the queer community has a deal with a media company that uses gay as a way to drive division in our community.

The right thing for Midsumma to do was to walk away from the deal as soon as it was pointed out to them. They didn’t.

I can’t support that.

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Jan 09

Somewhere in the distant future humanity settles another planet and private enterprise manages to run passenger ships between the two planets.  5,000 people sign up to be transported in suspended animation for the 120 year journey.  By the time they arrive on their new home everyone they know back on Earth is probably dead.  Some days I’d like to sleep for 120 years.

The ship is fantastic, it is a big loopy thing with spinning rings and a long pointy nose that generates a protective shield or something, that pushes small objects out-of-the-way or burns them up.

Everyone is having a snooze, the 259 person crew too.  So the machine is fully automated.  For the sake of the movie the ship has lighting on for the 120 years and the computer systems continue to display vital information on big screens although there is nobody there to see it.  You’d probably trim a few years off the journey if you turned it all off and re-routed the power to propulsion, which is displayed as a lovely blue ring of burning stuff.

This is why I come to see science fiction movies.  I love to imagine the future and what it might be like.  I love the special effects and the thinking behind the devices of the future.

As you’d expect, something goes wrong on the Titanic, the iceberg hits and one of the passengers wakes up.  He’s a mechanic, James Preston, although he quickly tells the automated wake-up routine that he likes to be called Jim and every automated system throughout the ships address him as such from then on.  Clearly the original sign-up form didn’t have ‘Preferred Name’ or Jim forgot to fill it in, names can be so difficult.  Trillions of dollars on space travel, still can’t get a simple form right.

Jim is played by Hollywood heart-throb Chris Pratt.  We’d all love to spend a few years with Chris travelling the universe.  He has dreamy eyes, a cheeky smile and a body to die for.  Sexy.

For the rest of you that aren’t gay, bi or a straight woman you have to look at Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s a delight to look at too, although I’m not expert on that.

Aurora, which is a wonderfully futuristic name, is also woken up.

So, Aurora and Jim wake up 90 years early, which is a problem.

Jumping to the end of the movie, Aurora the writer and Jim the mechanic manage to plug the hole in the ship using nothing but a few manuals that are printed on laminated cards and some high-tech devices.  The final part is, as you’d expect, full of impossible things and keeps you on the edge of the seat.  However, the mechanic and the writer save the Titanic from sinking.

The middle of the movie is appalling and is the reason I’m writing this review.  Jim spends a year by himself, his only company an android bartender named Arthur.  Arthur has been programmed with cheesy bartender type advice and is always polishing glasses.  The non-human becomes the confidante of Jim.  Jim tries to wake the crew, break into the bridge and send a distress call, all to no avail, and of course, goes mad.  During his many travels around the ship and presumably looking at 4,999 sleeping passengers, he discovers Aurora’s hibernation pod.  Helpfully the ship still has all its displays lit up giving full details of who is in the pod.  Not only can he gaze upon her beauty, he can glean basic information from the pod about her.

In the stalker of the future he manages to tap into her ‘Facebook’ type account, read everything she has ever written and become quite fixated on her.

In the ultimate Genesis moment of the entire history of everything, the voice of god thunders out “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  And so Jim sets upon a plan to wake up Eve, sorry, Aurora.  That’s right.  This super sexy man is going to wake up the super sexy woman, not one of the other 4,998 passengers who may have a useful skill like hibernation pod repair or a degree in astrophysics.  No, no, Jim thinking with his waggly bits wants the woman, because she is beautiful.  It’s OK though, he struggles for months trying to decide whether or not to wake her up. He knows that she will face certain death because he also knows that there is still 89 years to go and they’ll both die.  He even talks to Arthur about it.  He knows it’s wrong, he struggles with the decision, and for a man who has spent 12 months looking at all the other options, he sets upon this as a course of action.

His waggly bits win out, he cuts his hair, removes his beard and he wakes her up and promptly lies to her and sets about spending the middle bit of the movie trying to win her heart, because she’s beautiful, he’s a man and he has needs.  She’s a woman and we have sexual tension.  We would all fall in love with him, even though he is a creep, a stalker, a murderer, a liar and a complete dickhead.  But it’s OK, he has eyes that beg forgiveness.  When Aurora finally works it all out she is, as you’d expect, very upset and yells a lot.  She even takes to breaking into his room and hitting him in the dead of night.  Predictably she then spends her time ignoring him and he spends his time trying to win her back.  He is not called to account for his actions, yet he is redeemed because he alone, the big brave man with the brown eyes puts his life on the line saves the day and Woman swoons.  Ugh.

Who writes this crap?  Who writes a really good beginning, a really good ending and stuffs up the middle bit?  There are thousands of ways to write the story.  The sexy woman could have been a mechanic that specialises in hibernation pod repairs, or an astrophysicist or an amateur astronomer or leader of the free world or a company executive able to give him access to the First Class passengers privileges.  Instead, we get a writer, nothing wrong with writers, perhaps not first choice in a crisis.  He didn’t wake her to write the story of what was happening, or to draft a stern memo to the company to give them a jolly good telling off.  He woke her because he was ‘in love’ with her.  He stalked her.  He then decided that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, to take the life of another human as it’s not good for the man to be alone.  Woman is swept off her feet by the bad boy who saves the day.

She forgives him, of course, and they live happily ever after.

His character is a creepy arsehole.

The writers should hang their heads in collective shame.

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Dec 22

I first donned a backpack and climbed the Major Mitchell Plateau in September 1985, I’ve climbed it a total of 4 maybe 5 times now, including the latest hike in 2016.

A lot has changed in our world since then, firstly the medium of recording the story.  I can’t find my log book for 1985 or I simply didn’t have one.  However, my second hike in 1986, dubbed the “Comet Hike” was written in my log book that was a foolscap Collins Minute book.  Written after the event.  Not long after that I started recording in a smaller log book that I carried with me and wrote every chance I had.  These days my rough notes become a word press blog and I share the story with lots of other people!  In the 80’s I would use my log books and diary to record daily life and then record letter tapes for my friends.

The invention of word processing on a typewriter and then computer also means that my spelling is checked.  I also have Michael who proof-reads for me!


Other changes.  Get a load of the car, it’s an HQ Belmont station wagon, not a Kingswood and the rear door has a roll down window and drop tray!  Click on the image, Marcelle and I both have mullets and we’re both wearing our scout uniform.  For whatever reason we thought these heavy cotton shirts were the go for hiking in.  In the other photo we’re dressed in special hiking gear, our shirts have special wicking abilities, we have decent boots and Goretex raincoats.  Marcelle’s backpack is the same one that Michael is carrying, however, check out my old one.  It has an external frame and you can see the aluminium hoop at the top.  That bloody thing use to snag on every low hanging branch I passed under.  You can still buy the sleeping mats, a single piece of pressed material, nowadays you wouldn’t use them as a yoga mat.  We travelled with lightweight self-inflating mattresses.  However, mine had a seam explosion so I would have been better off with nothing more than a sleeping mat.

We spent hours packing in the 80’s trying hard to get the packs as light as possible, these packs had about 16kg.  I carried 18kg this hike, so a little more but a lot less time to pack.

 

In the days before colour photo copiers we carried two A2 paper maps that were very detailed.  If we wanted to check where we were we needed to triangulate our position, so needed 3 landmarks within sight, and using a compass, rotate the map, draw 3 lines and basically have a guess.  The information on the maps was already 10 years old when we bought them.  In 2016 we downloaded an app onto our phones, paid $9 for 3 maps that has information that is regularly updated. The app even puts a little blue dot to show us where we were along with the full longitude and latitude.  There’s no need for wi-fi or mobile reception, just the trusty satellites overhead.  We could zoom-in for a closer look, or out for a wider look and drop a pin, here’s where we had lunch and where we camped.  We printed the maps out in colour to carry a paper copy and gave a copy to various people in case we got lost!

Cooking has changed too.  Here we are with a fire and a billy hanging over it on a structure we’ve fashioned out of sticks, compare that to our lightweight cooking pan sitting on a tripod above the flame.  No need to search for dry wood.  Still, once the matches got wet, even though they were waterproof, no fire was possible!  The menu in 1986 consisted of fresh hamburgers, dried peas and Deb potatoes, sandwiches and pikelets.  In 2016 we had fresh fruit, freeze-dried chicken and potatoes, along with packaged rice and salmon.  Luckily the taste of freeze-dried food is much better!

 

And then our sleeping accommodation.  In 1986 we wanted to go as lightweight as possible, so slept only under a tent fly.  In 2016 we carried a lightweight 2kg tent, including attached groundsheet and fly.  Lucky for us it didn’t rain back in the 80’s.  Ever.

In 1986 my log entry says:

As we descended we watched the mist blowing straight up from the bottom of the mountain.  About half way down the mountain we watched as the plateau revealed itself to us, the mist started to clear up before our eyes

This hike was the reverse, the weather was quite nice as we headed down Mt William, however, half-way up the other side we watched as the mist hid the mountains.

The significant event in 1986 was Halley’s comet, hence the black and white photos.  Marcelle lugged her big camera and tripod to the top of the mountain.  We took photos of the night sky.  I don’t have any of those images.  Michael and I took our phones and snapped many photos of the bush, the flowers and each other.  No need to have a film developed, instant delete, and much easier to manage.

The one thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years is my sheer delight and enjoyment with walking and hiking in the Grampians and sharing that with people who I love.


 

Read Part 1, Part 2 and look at the gallery of images

 

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Dec 22

Sunday 13 November 2016.

I woke up many times during the night to the wind, it was making so much noise.  There’s not much up here to stop it.  The driving rain came and went.  When it stopped the wind would continue to blow drops off the trees and so the fly of the tent was subjected to a steady stream of water falling.  In between all this I could hear the little creek burbling away.

I wanted to go pee.  How I wanted to.  The thought of gearing up to do so was way to scary.  So my bladder and I came to an understanding.

By 6.30 I had to get up.  I discovered that a lot of our gear in the tent was wet.

I climbed out to see the clouds whisking past me, every now and then a downpour would follow the clouds

It was quite magical.

The creek was up a lot.  Yesterday we could jump it to move around the campsite, that wasn’t so easy now.

I tramped through the wet undergrowth to get to the toilet.  The ‘flood waters’ had surrounded our little tent, and the tent itself was now in the middle of a huge puddle.

My hands are freezing.

I manage to make a cup of coffee, no easy task.  I enjoy sipping it, mostly because my fingers are wrapped around the hot plastic cup.  Subsequent attempts to light the stove fail.  The waterproof matches have gone to shit and even the cigarette lighter is so wet it won’t spark.

I spend the next hour and a half standing with my back to the wind, however, the rain continues to fall from all directions and there is no relief from it standing here in the clouds on top of the Major Mitchell Plateau.  Michael wakes and spends his time in the tent stowing our various gear into bags, stuffing bits into sacks.   I resort to running on the spot to keep warm.

We eat a carrot, apple and muesli bar for breakfast.

Somehow we manage to transfer our belongings from the tent to the backpacks, then we pull the tent down and shove it into its stuff-sack.

Ready to go by 9.00 a.m.

The clouds, mist, fog and rain are being pushed by a gale force wind.  With backpacks on we make a start.

Worm out for some sun

Parts of the tracks are on boardwalks, mostly however the tracks have become rivers of water.  I’m surprised at the amount of water about.  The worms have come out of the dirt for a swim too.  There are so many of them on the track, and they’re huge.

Still the wildflowers abound.

The reason for me being here is the view of the western plains from the eastern edge of the plateau.  Alas, I’m deprived of this.  Beyond the escarpment to my left is nothing but grey clouds.  A huge wall of what seems to be solid concrete all the way from the bottom of the mountain, up over our heads.    The rain turns to hail, hitting our faces and stinging.

We trudge along the boardwalk, the rocks and the sandy tracks with the water, gradually making our way towards the southern edge to begin our descent.

It’s very rocky and slippery in places, we take our time, being very careful about where we place our feet.  We arrive at a point where the path seems to stop, the drop to the next bit is quite steep and to big for us to navigate, so we go around.  This proves very difficult.  No track, big rocks, trees and undergrowth in the way.  We bash our way through to get back on the steep downward track.

Swamp wallaby.

Some two hours later we drop off the Major Mitchell Plateau and onto Stockyard Creek track.  The narrow mountain path in the closed bush opens into a grass plain with scattered trees.  The track broadens to a 4WD road.  We see a couple of swamp wallabies, the only wildlife we’d seen apart from insects and worms.

We arrive at a turning point, to the left Mafeking Picnic Ground, to the right Jimmy Creek.  6 kilometres to go.

The path now takes us up to a helipad, over the top and down into the bush.

Compared to the walk on the top this is fairly easy.  Still plenty of rain, down here, though the wind has died down.  I am now very wet.  Water has seeped into my boots and my toes squelch about in their socks.  My hands are in my gloves, keeping warm, but the gloves are soaking.  Every now and then I clench my fists and a stream of water falls onto the ground.  

 

 

 

 

 

In these mountains, away from the rest of the world, we see fields of wildflowers.  Carpets of woven colours in all their glory.  The visual of the track winding up the hill in front of us, the bush, flowers, mountains and the aroma of the flowers and the wet eucalyptus and wattle trees make this a magical experience.  The rain has somewhat abated and I’m happy to be out here in the Grampians.

 

It’s just on 2.30 p.m. we arrive at our rendezvous point and Merv and Naomi are there in the car, avoiding the weather.

I’m sore and wet and I’m very happy.


Read Part 1 of the story and Part 3 that looks at 30 years of change!

Be sure to check out Michael’s gallery of images.

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Dec 22

Friday, November 11, 2016

And so, here I find myself sitting in Halls Gap with my husband, Michael and our parents (in-laws).

Michael and I are about to embark upon a hike.  For the first time since 2002 I have opened my hike log and taken pen to paper.  This is the first overnight hike I’ve done in all those years.

We’re here to walk from the Mt William car park, down into Boundary Gap and then up the other side to the Major Mitchell Plateau.  We’ll camp at 1st Wannon Creek Camp and stop there the night.  Next morning we’ll head around the eastern edge of the plateau, drop off at Stockyard Track and down to Jimmy Creek.

I have my trusty backpack, my boots, food and water.

Ready to go.

I wanted to start at Kalymna Falls.  When I submitted the notification of intention to the National Parks, the ranger rang me and said I couldn’t.  It’d been washed out.

My heart sank.

Bomjima Picnic ground I suggested hopefully.  No, she said, it’s been closed for years.

More heart sinking.

I was a little worried that perhaps Boundary Gap was out of action.  Can I start from the Mt William car park?  Yes.

This is the launching place of so many adventures of my 20s.

Preparations have taken ages, new tent, water bottles, socks, pants, hats, stove.  My pack weighs 18kg.  Michael’s about the same.

Saturday.

Our morning started with the sound of a thousand cockatoos right outside our bedroom window.  Begging me to get out of my bed and ready to go!  There were so many other bird calls in there too, they were gently calling me to arise.  Unlike the cockatoos who seemed rather more insistent.

We all had breakfast in Halls Gap and by 9.30 a.m. we had made all the final adjustments to our back packs, including an emergency repair on Michael’s.

Dig that fancy footwork on the left 🙂

We drove to the Mt William car park.  I’m really quite excited as we drive up the windy road.  It wasn’t long before our bags are on our backs, kisses, handshakes and advice of taking care before we are heading off to start our adventure.

Slowly we start.  It’s just after 10.00 a.m., it’s overcast and a little windy.  On the top of the mountain it’s probably 10°c.  We take some time to get used to the back packs.  Pulling on the straps, make adjustments to the waist belts.  My calves are screaming at me, as they do, when I walk up here.  I remind myself that we have plenty of time and I slow down.  My legs thank me.

We got to the top of Mt William in good time, it’s only a 2km stroll on a made road.  We avoid the summit and turn off to the right before.  We’re now on a rocky 4WD road with plenty of low vegetation.   The flowers are magnificent.  Lots of small blooms, fantastic colours.

The walking was good and while being careful to put my feet in the right place, it was pretty easy.  Michael stopped to take photos along the way.  This first part of the walk is fairly short, so we had plenty of time to smell the roses, or the native flowers as it happens.  The road runs out and is replaced by the rocky path that will take us downwards.

 

By 12.15 p.m. we’d reached Boundary Gap.  It’s quite a steep walk down the side of Mt William to the gap.  I really love this little spot between the mountains.  As we walk off the top of the mountain the low shrubs give way to taller trees and less rocks.  Nestled between these two mountains, still high above sea-level, is this well-wooded area, tall thin trees, small ferns, flowers.  I’ve walked this track many times over the years, mostly with my hiking partner, Marcelle.  Michael has borrowed Marcelle’s Macpac backpack.  The same one that has travelled around the world and up and down hills.  I find myself in the same position that I’ve been in so many times with Marcelle.  Struggling along behind her, with a view of her pack.  I glance up and see the same view now, the blue backpack with the Macpac logo.  I’m transported back 25 years.  The vision is popped instantly when I see Michael’s furry face.

We stop for lunch on the valley floor.  Rice and salmon, both out of sealed foil bags.  I heat the rice on my new stove and then mixed in the salmon.  A little bland, but ok.

The next bit of our adventure beckons, from the floor of the valley, the only way out is up.  So up we went. I trace my eyes along the rocky track and can see the forest giving way again to more rocks and less trees.

Steep.

Then it began to blow a gale, followed by rain.  We stopped to put on our new over-pants and continued to head up.  The clouds hurled through the gap behind us, out past Mt William as if being ejected by a great force.  The rain set in with few breaks between squalls.

It was slow going now, the rocks are slippery as we scramble up and over them, before long though we are on the edge of the plateau.  We haul ourselves up and over huge boulders.  My memory is clearly faulty, I imagined this part of the walk to be much longer and harder.

Still, I love this.

Great wildflowers abound.  So delicate.

A howling wind is blowing the clouds that obscure my view of the world.  In what seems a blink of the eye we attain the top.  I can’t believe it was such a short distance.  The top is rocky, low trees and shrubs, plenty of grasses.  Still lots of colours from the wild flowers.

At around 2.00 p.m. we see the first sign of the camp ground, it’s the ventilation pipe from the loo!  The creek is flowing, so much water.  It’s the first time I’ve seen this.  Previously it was simply a trickle and I struggled to fill up drink bottles without a heap of silt.  Now we have an abundance of tannin stained water, and our water bottles are still full.  We need to jump the creek to get to the camping site that we’ve picked.  We quickly erect the tent and unroll our sleeping mats.  It’s difficult to keep everything dry. The mats are mostly in the tent, all they need is a couple of quick breaths to inflate them.  Michael is done in no time.  I grab the valve on mine and blow into it and there seems to be no inflation.  I keep blowing as if I’m filling the biggest balloon.  It takes a couple of minutes before I realise that I’m not having any impact and that there must be a hole.  An inspection of the mat reveals that the seam along the edge is no more and the innards exposed.  I may have muttered a bit.  There’s little else to do because of the rain so we climbed into the tent and slept for about 3 hours.

When we awoke, it was very very wet, still raining.  That didn’t stop us pulling our wet weather gear on and heading off for a walk in the rain, without our backpacks.  We saw lots of wildflowers with a rainbow of colours.

Back at camp half an hour later we had a cup of coffee and then prepared dinner.  Which wasn’t hard.  You cut the top off the foil bag and pour in boiling water to reconstitute our roast chicken, gravy and mashed potatoes.  Was pretty yummy, considering the freeze-dried nature of it.

It’s been raining the whole time since we arrived at the First Wannon Creek camping ground.  Nothing for it but to go to bed.

This is quite an elaborate dance that needs to be done.

The 2-person tent is only large enough for one person to sit up at a time .  The process begins by loosening your laces, then sitting with your bottom inside the tent, feet outside.  You take off shoes and socks, put shoes between the fly and the tent, put socks near sleeping bag to keep dry.  Slip off your coat, carefully, so as not to spray water around the tent.  Roll coat up and place at edge of tent, just on the inside.  Remove outer garments. pulling jumper over head without extending arms outside the tent, unbutton shirt and try to remove while keeping elbows bent, then slip into thermal top.  This will make your arms wave around in a confined space in a most unbecoming way.

Slip off your over-pants by raising hips slightly and trying to push them down your legs then roll up.  Try not to get water over anything.  Stow them near the raincoat.  Remove trousers by lying down, lifting hips and trying to get them over your knees without hitting the roof or having your legs protrude beyond the tent opening.  Then try and slip into your thermal pants by slipping both legs in and trying to stop the legs of the underwear from getting wet on the over-pants or coat.

Now you’re ready for bed.  Lie back on your sleeping back and search for the opening.  When found, bunch your knees up under your chin and attempt to slide your legs into the opening, work out you have to unzip the bag , do this by lying down on the bag again, locate the zip and undo.

Try to climb in again.  Twist your legs and body to make the bag straighten out.  Make sure you can get feet to appropriate corners.  Realise the bag is upside down as the hood now covers your face.

Lie down and spin the bag around to make sure the hood is on the sleeping mat.

Now, find the zip and try to pull it up.  It won’t work and will need you to contort your body to use your other hand to hold the bag material still while zipping up.  You body temperature will have risen, you’ll be puffing slightly and wishing this bag wasn’t quite so efficient in retaining body heat.

Oh, where’s my pillow?

Once settled lie really still as your partner commences the same dance.

I lay down on my flat sleeping mat that at least gave some protection from the cold wet ground underneath the tent, only to discover that my sleeping bag has a draft too!

It rained all night.  The wind rattled the tent and the rain pitter-pattered on the roof.


Read Part 2 of the story and Part 3 that looks at 30 years of change!

Be sure to check out Michael’s gallery of images.

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