Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Here is an essay I wrote in year 8F in high school, when I was 14. Which makes it 1985. I am currently planning a trip back to Malaysia for my 40th birthday in 2011 which has me looking at guidebooks on the area I spent three years of my childhood in.


The environment I am about to write about is an environment I have lived in. I have lived in many environments but I find that none of them are as beautiful, fun and memorable as the tropical rainforests.

Those that I am talking of are the ones of Borneo, in Brunei. To live there is like a dream. It is my ideal environment.

Lets imagine a stroll through the jungle. Picture in your mind rich, green trees, clear streams, friendly Iban natives who still live in their ancient ways, and a smell of the jungle that is enough to recognise from the city.

The city is actually a large community or small town. It involves a few blocks of shops, hundreds of flashy cars, a market place.

The market place is no Rodeo Drive of Hollywood, I guarantee. It is a two story building with no glass in the windows and no proper doors. There are stray cats and dogs everywhere. There is insufficient light and lots of water on the ground. It may sound terrible but it is quite and experience!

If you are an 'expat' (white person from overseas), you usually live in a comfortable home with your own maid who lives downstairs or next door. For about $400 a month she will babysit, cook, clean, do your laundry.

There are clubs with swimming pools, golf courses, theatres, dining lounges, playgrounds, beaches, sporting activities, summer holiday activities, bars and restaurants all together.

In the centre of the capital city (Bandar Seri Begawan) is a beautiful mosque with a gold dome roof. As well as one of the richest palaces in the world belonging to the richest man in the world. The Sultan (King). He owns the richest land in the world (Brunei) which happens to be my ideal environment.

Here's a photograph of the entrance to Niah Caves, some of the biggest in the world and a spectacular sight. Have you ever heard of the famous 'Bird's Nest Soup?" Here is where they get the bird's nests.

Notice the beautiful rainforest in the background.

In the midst of the beautiful jungles are crystal clear, icy waterfalls which are very, very beautiful.

One of the favourite pastimes is the K.B. River. Many people enjoy boat rides upstream to the thick jungles. I and most people, liked to water ski on it. You have to be very brave as there are large crocodiles, sea snakes and jellyfish in it. Here is a photograph of my mother while she is skiing on the great river.

The sunsets in Brunei are supposed to be the most beautiful in the world. I have seen and believed.

Brunei is a very dirty country as well as a very beautiful country. Like I said it's a dream and my ideal environment.

A Malay woman. In many parts of the Jungle, the natives have become more civilised, receiving electricity, western food and other products eg. the bicycle in the background.

In the background, a beautiful mosque, belonging to the Sultan of Brunei. To him this place is old and old fashioned. His new palace is priceless..

* * * * *

Obviously things have changed since then, including my parochial views and privileged position in society, but one thing remains, my fondness for that period in my life. I was 9-12 years old, and it was the last years before my parent's divorce, and the weather was nice. Most of these photos are by my mum.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stem the Tears

I haven't been outside once today, which for me, is weird. I think I'm forcing myself to stay away from the shops which are pret-ty scarey places on wet weekends. Yesterday i went to IKEA, on a rainy Saturday, say no more.

Today was more about your back to basics wet weekend pastimes. Rekindling marital bonds, reading, talking to my mum on the phone for an hour.

My daughter and I decided to make some more mini-purses, they are basically ribbons folded in half with beaded sides. We made a basic one last week, today we embellished another one with a fringe. On the first purse I got her to paperclip it together, design all the ribbon/thread/bead combinations and did my best to hold my tongue, I can quickly lose my patience and she is quick to tears. I think we both tried hard and made it through. Today she was close to crying straight off the bat because she'd forgotten what she'd learnt.

We have a secret word that I say when she is about to cry when she can't do something. It is a dumb word with no relation to what we are doing except we both agree that it means "try not cry, lighten up" and she can use it back at me and it means "stop being mean, Mummy". Learning to sew, to use needle and thread is fraught with opportunities to give up, on both sides. Small steps, including a nap on my part mid-way, we got through.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Procrastinate Later

Something is going on today, some sticky chi is getting moved, is it the the extra coffee I had? I’ve opened Pandora’s box and in it is 74 undeveloped black and white films I have never got around to seeing what is on them. Years of hard work not wasted, hopefully. I finally feel the urge to get around to dealing with my neglected art.

There was that 5 year stint in the media that made me only live for the day and have the time to shoot/develop/upload the work I’d done that day. There was never enough time to go back and organise or rework the previous year’s efforts. There was only this rushing wave of ambition that headed in one direction - the future. Then there was the 7 year stint of full-time parenthood/part-time photographer. I could hardly string 10 full minutes together to gather my thoughts let alone create anything that took more than one fifteenth of a second.

Now the youngest child is at pre-school, I have three days a week to myself. I’ve had naps, watched ‘Cougar Town’, made elaborate salads, jogged with girlfriends, taken yoga classes, shopped, vacuumed, Facebooked, done laundry and sloughed my late thirties feet. But lately I have this hankering to actually do something about that nagging feeling called ‘my lost career’. It wasn’t really lost, it was just on the pause button.

There is a box of black and white film that dates back to 1991 that has been following me - it documents all the awful relationships I had, all the exotic places I went and now dream about, all the films I just couldn’t find the time to develop in my makeshift darkrooms in the bathrooms of Surry Hills or freezing laundry of Clovelly in the nineties, when I was holding down a day job and night school and shooting my heart out in between.

I’ve looked online and found my old favourite labs still open (surprisingly after the slaughterhouse of the Day of the Digital Camera) and I’ve got tomorrow pegged as lab drop-off and begin the process of exposing these little windows into my history.

I’m starting off cheap and cheerful by the seaside with Charing Cross Photo in Bronte at $6 a roll. But what I’d really prefer is the Blanco Negro hand job experience with a happy ending for $13.75 a roll

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Heaven is Only 45 Minutes Drive Away

Yesterday we made it by dingy to Dangar Island. It was perfect, a shabby, beachfront holiday shack with an overgrown garden, friendly, down-to-earth folk, simple food, lots of children and sun and water. The view was glorious, looking south across the mighty Hawkesbury towards Cowan Waters. The tide was at maximum height but soon after we arrived it began receding off the beach and not long after some cherries and strawberries there was space to play.

We all swam in the warm, brown waters which I haven't enjoyed in many years. The children responded to my joy with double their own. We built a sandcastle Christmas Tree together, and decorated it with sticks and flowers, and they made rolled up balls of sand as 'presents' which we later 'opened' to reveal whatever their imaginations wanted - chocolates and bowling sets (!)

Lunch was delicious and simple, around a wooden table on the verandah. Salad, bbq sausages and garlicky potato salad, wine and the children eating cucumber! Near us the bucket of yabbies twitched. Grandad John joined us whilst Linda caught up on her sleep in the shaded hut.

We heard stories that had often breezed about Dangar Island - like the one about the Baron's Crescent bloke who drank two bottles of rum and started a third - his last, for he as not long in this world after that. Or the mysterious history of Matthew's grandfather (details still foggy) who'd won the land in a poker game, the only time he ever won. I loved Mark's quip then how 'it'd be cheaper to buy the place' (meaning he'd wasted much money on poker games). There were more stories over the long afternoon, the men talking on the beach as the children streaked past, racing from one end to the other. About how there there had once been no hut, just the land and they'd slept in a boat shed, and how Matthew had been coming since he was four. Now his own four year old daughter took that spot. They camped at night in the garden, this new generation, the big, private garden with towering trees still uncut, that had seen all these stories unfold.

The tide reversed so far to reveal the muddy flat teeming with oddities. Armies of blue soldier crabs marching for food, strange sponges, hermit crabs shells, sea snails and large crabs encrusted with barnacles and vegetation, so heavy and yet a disguise. I poked one for the children, leaning down close and saying "haha, look at this plant, it looks like a crab - poke - ARGHHHH!!" for it moved like a crab upon that poke and its eight legs erected itself into an unmistakingly defensive crab pose.

A kayak was pulled from under the house complete with two sets of paddles and we were offered its use. Mark and I began to squabble, still on land, about which way to go. I said right, he said left, it was settled by Matthew, and we headed right but ten strokes later the current and wind made us go left. It was a new perspective for me, from such a tiny craft on the big river, that for once, was not so strange, but now a warm, close thing that I knew much better.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stripped Studs down to their Bare Nuts

Nothing worse than having your nuts stripped, as we found out today. Hmmm, stranded in Drummoyne amidst a lot of non-existent pedestrian crossings, loud construction work for the new Rozelle bridge, and our second attempt at two new front tyres thwarted again.

The first time the K-Mart auto tyre chaps couldn't get them off, then on the next visit those stud's tight nuts were given a beating. It warranted many phone calls around town to find some replacements, which Moshe of VW King was always going to offer the best deal to fix. A drive out to Canterbury tomorrow for a whole new rim $30. Sigh, it's not easy looking after a 38 year old sometimes.

Much more fun was hanging with my 3 year old. We killed time at the 'Christmas Shop' who were primped and ready with every kind of glow in the dark decoration, we even checked out the Vespa showroom and got a free magazine with poster just for being their only customers. Even the rainbow Paddlepop at the petrol station could not make the tyre change go quicker. Bacon and egg sandwich at The Cove cafe, play at the park....I was running out of ideas here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Wobbygone day 1
Originally uploaded by marksp54
Relaxing on the Hawkesbury River, in a holiday house, amongst the vines. We have several Shangri Las to hideaway in, all of them in the country, all of them beautiful. This one has a wooden hot tub and a fantastic garlic crusher. Other places have kangeroo mobs or trailertrash bongsmokers next door. The main thing is they are all rented and all mine for the time we are there. Caravan, tent, deck or dive.....take the kids and the man and get some fresh air x

Monday, September 28, 2009

Visibility Poor

I learnt a lot this week, I am amazed by the power of the internet, the speed with which so many locals responded and recorded the Sydney Dust Storm, the truth that rang loud with so many different photographers coming up with the same 'red' that couldn't possibly be faked by touch ups. But mostly, for me, not only just following 'the call' to get in my car, badly dressed and GO (I ended up walking over the Sydney Harbour Bridge), but after seeing thousands of images from all sorts of photographers, both amateur and professional, the STAY came loud and clear at last, stay where you are too, and see the beauty in that, be here now, love your life, love the light in your life, it doesn't need the Opera House or the bridge, it just needs love. I thought later that night 'oh my god, I should have gone to the swamp', my favourite place in the last year. How I wish I could have photographed that. So I shall file this little piece of self-earned knowledge away for the next time.

Do you know what? I asked the universe for this. Remember the copper skies of around 2002 from bushfires. I was tiring of photography, as you do, and I just couldn't be bothered to take many photos, even though I could really appreciate the beauty of the red light from the haze, I never took advantage of it. The day before this dust storm I lamented that and told the skies I wouldn't miss that opportunity ever again. Instant rewards. This photo is out the front of my house in the first minute after my family woke up and realised what was happening, after the three year old alerted us loudly to the fact the sky was orange and creeping around the edges of the venetian blinds like an alien light source. They have never seen me leap so fast out of bed. Those rubbish bins are in order L-R yellow, blue, red and green. I thought it was a good measure of how crazy the light was that you could hardly distinguish their true colours. After this shot I grabbed my car keys and just started driving, initially heading to our local bridge which has a fine view of the city, but visibility was so poor you couldn't see more than 100-200m so I kept following the city traffic and had this 'call' to walk over the Harbour Bridge. By the time I made it there and a few stop offs on the way to snap, they intensity of the red light had faded, so this shot here was the most red, and captures my daughter's fear, she went inside after this and started putting lots and lots of clothes on, too many, leggings, winter jackets, as if to protect herself. It was like waking up in a disturbing dream.