My kids recently had ‘lockdown’ training at school – think of fire drills, except for other adverse events. I don’t know what they do in this training, but it seemed to upset my son a little. He hasn’t wanted to sleep near a window, has been taking a while to get to sleep and has been a bit clingy at night time.
My natural reaction to seeing my boy upset is to comfort him – I’m sure that’s a natural reaction for most parents.
I held my little boy close, gave him a cuddle, prayed with him and generally settled him. My boy, without a care in the world, in a safe home, in a warm bed, with a full tummy. His room full of toys, his draws full of clean clothes. He has electricity that turns on, running water and a pantry full of food. He has emergency services literally a phone call away. My little boy, I held him close.
It dawned on me as I held him close – I want to keep him safe, but I think there’s a bigger lesson to be learned here.
I sat him on my lap and looked deep into his brown eyes.
“Boy, inside of you is a man-in-training. When you’re learning to be a man, you’re going to have to face things that are scary, uncomfortable or frightening. Sometimes, my boy, you’re going to have to be tough, and you’re going to have to be courageous”. I settled him, put him in bed and once again reminded him that sometimes, he will need to face his fears and just be tougher than the situation he finds himself in.
It’s a hard thing, looking into your kids eyes knowing you won’t always be there to protect them, knowing they’ll have to face hardships in their life that you won’t always be able to help with. Just like Johnny Cash’s classic ‘Boy named Sue’ . I don’t want my kids to live in fear, but I want them to have the fortitude to face challenges in their life.
So I’m asking, what have you dads (and mums) done to develop a bit of toughness in your kids? I’m so aware that our kids, certainly in Australia, are probably the most pampered, protected, safe generation ever. Our kids are well fed, immunised, protected, educated – the works! How do you prepare your kids for possible eventualities? How do you gently push back and help them find strength within themselves during hard times? To give them permission to fail, to gently let go so they can start building resilience within themselves?
There’s a colloquial term used by Antarctic researchers called ‘MOOP’, or Man Out Of Phase. It relates to the body’s natural circadian rhythms being out of sync during three months of unrelenting darkness in winter, and the alternative three months of summer sun. You may have experienced low-level MOOP on a Monday morning when you’re at work, feeling disorientated, unmotivated, delirious and questioning every life choice you’ve ever made that’s lead to this point in your life.
The thing with MOOP is it’s very easy to fix, and the body fixes itself naturally when the usual daylight / night time patterns commence. The body’s circadian rhythm starts kicking in again, and you go back into phase.
It’s funny to say MOOP. MOOP. It’s a funny sounding word, with very real consequences, and thankfully very easy to fix. MOOP. You’ll be thinking it in your head long after you’ve finished reading this article. MOOP. Man Out Of Phase.
For all the funniness about MOOP, what happens when a society becomes out of phase?
Sounds like a strange thing to say, right? But it is. Our culture – our Western culture is defined by many rhythms. Patterns. Occurrences. Cultural patterns. Biological occurrences and truths. I’m sure you could rattle off a few cultural or religious patterns we have in Australia – Christmas, Easter, New Years Eve, Australia Day, Anzac Day, Labour Day. Days that have deep significance historically to Australia, our cultural identity and the patterns of our society. Many of us know that Christmas relates to the birth of Jesus, that Australia Day commemorates British colonisation of Australia and Labour Day recognises the importance of the labour movement in fighting for better working conditions.
These days represent significant events. Significant culturally for western culture, and significant events in the development of our great nation. I want to emphasise that these events are significant, and for some these events may bring up painful triggers. Australia Day, for example, is recognised by some as a day of invasion, dispossession and the start of some horrible ills against aboriginal Australians. Australia Day is also a recognition of all the wonderful things brought by England and through the tradition of enlightenment – the Westminster System, democracy, railways and beer in a bottle.
These days, occurrences and events keep us anchored. They help us remember, and they give us an identity to forge ahead in life. They form part of our sense of wellbeing, security and culture.
What we are seeing, however, is our great Australian society quickly becoming ‘MOOP’. We are quickly becoming adrift from these defining remembrances, occurrences and observances. Original meanings of events are being drowned out, replaced or deliberately forgotten. Almost all notions of Jesus have been removed from Christmas and Easter, replaced instead by the gods of consumerism and consumption. Australia Day is being attacked, with over-reaching local councils especially deliberately throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
The result of being culturally MOOP results in society being disorientated, unattached, unsure of its identity and grasping at straws. Tonight is Halloween. All the shops are decked with gaudy inflatable pumpkins, faux-spider webs and irritatingly garish ghouls. Shelf-packers at my local shops are dressed as zombies, bloodied morticians and characters from terribly twee horror movies. ABC is having a Halloween fright week on the kids channel, catalogues are encouraging us to stock up for trick-or-treating. It’s the most ridiculous ‘event’ ever, and it’s a symptom of a culture out of phase. I’m not opposed to Halloween. I’m opposed to these traditions of zero relevance to Australian culture of society elevated to a place of almost reverence. Forcing a celebration of something that isn’t culturally significant, doesn’t remember something that adds to our understanding of the world or helps us reflect on what it means to be part of this great country. It’s a symptom of a society that doesn’t know who it is, and is having her age-old cultural traditions deliberately forgotten, and replaced with something of zero cultural significance, relevance or observance.
Since WW2, Australians became accustomed to immigrants and refugees, mostly from Europe. I’m sure many of these ‘New Australians’ were treated terribly, and probably suffered at the hands of racists. I recall stories from my dads family, who were accepted as refugees and resettled in Australia. They had some pretty mediocre times. Through this experience, however, Australia learned to be accepting. We learned a little bit about these different cultures – Italians, Greeks, Balts. I’m sure many had a rough start here in Australia, but they made their way. On a baseline level, however, these cultures had a common theme with the western / British culture of Australia. This connection, however lose, was a baseline cultural acceptance of Christianity. Be it protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox, there were baseline understandings, even if the outworking looked different. Baseline understandings on what Christmas and Easter was. Baseline understanding and acceptance of a day of rest. Baseline understandings of personal responsibility, liberty and democracy. It took a few decades, but we learned to accept, get along, work, marry, laugh and celebrate with each other. If these groups were to ‘re-tribe’ to their original groups in Australia i.e. all the Greeks live in their own group, all the Italians live in their own group etc, they would still fit in with Australia as a whole. Why? Because of those baseline understandings that these groups have in relation to the significance of events such as Christmas.
I’ve mentioned this before, but cultures that forget their identity quickly perish. They become absorbed by the dominant culture around them, or collapse under their own deliberate forgetfulness. One of the reasons that the Jewish culture has continued for over 4000 years is they have been following the same calendar, traditions, observances and rites every year since the exodus from Egypt. The same observances – every week, year, seven years, fifty years. The same food, prayers, observances, scriptures, at the same time, over 4000 times.
If we follow this cultural MOOP through to possible eventualities, what do we find? I foresee a few possibilities.
The first may be spiralling into a death-roll of consumerism. Almost every ‘event’ now has been reduced to a celebration of consumption, rather than an opportunity for remembrance and reverence. Christmas will continue to be an opportunity for hyper-consumption. Easter will continue to be about eggs. Australia Day will become a forgotten embarrassment, not a day for thanksgiving and reflection. Days of non-significance – mothers and father’s day for example, will become just another opportunity to consume.
The second possibility could be the emergence of a more dominant culture. A culture that is also very old, very ridged and from the outside, very uncompromising. A culture that does not share the same baseline expectations, understandings, festivals and traditions. A culture, an ideology that focuses on submission. However right or wrong this ideology is, it is very focused on it’s end goal, and how to achieve that through everyday submission. When a culture forgets why we celebrate Christmas, when a culture forgets the birth of enlightenment, when a culture forgets the fight for individual liberty, it is easily overcome by an ideology demanding total submission.
I don’t want this essay to sound like a call for a Christian theocracy. It’s absolutely not. It’s not a call to return to strict societal roles. It’s not a call to return to the 1950’s. It’s a warning. A reminder. We have a rich cultural heritage. Imperfect, sometimes violent, sometimes unfair. We also have rich reminders though, these things I have mentioned before.
So here’s the question. Are you going to succumb to cultural MOOP? Are you going to allow yourself to continue to be culturally and historically disorientated? Will you allow your history be forgotten, amputated, corrupted? Or will you remember the whys of western culture? The hows of how we got here? The whats that our ancestors had to do to get to this point?
What are you going to do to remember, respect, preserve and continue?
We woke up early. To early. The early bird gets the worm, and the early traveler gets the dolphin, so to speak. Yes, we woke up early to get to Tin Can Bay to see and feed the dolphins.
Grey Nomads aside, it was a pleasant journey to Tin Can. Nestled at the point is a cafe and the internationally famous Barnacles Dolphin Center. Nanny-no-fun had arrived their first (by a few years, by the looks of things) and had signposted the entire place with penalties regarding feeding, touching, swimming or sharing moonshine with the dolphins. Fines of thousands of dollars for dolphin related infractions. If the dolphins didn’t want to be touched, why do they flock to humans? I just found it bizarre that there was a host of legislative penalties to protect the dolphins, like they couldn’t choose to swim away from humans like every other fish in the sea.
So we arrived and paid our money, took off our thongs and washed our hands, and stood in line for our turn to be in the water the same time as the dolphins.
For about 10 minutes, we got to stand in calf-deep water about a meter away from about five playful dolphins, constantly being reminded of the penalties involved in swimming, touching, approaching, imitating, or otherwise enjoying the dolphins. Just standing, watching the dolphins, being reminded again and again of the penalties. Thrilling. We then had to proceed off the beach, and wait in line again to feed the dolphins. I’m sure it would have taken longer to get off the beach, if we were behind Grey Nomads. They like to take their time and liberties when it comes to these things.
Well after the thrill of watching the dolphins wore off, we were at the front of the line to feed the dolphins. We got our bucket with one fish, waded down the the water, fed the dolphin, and filed off the beach. With one more reminder of never ever to feed the dolphins and the penalties involved, we were done, and the dolphins had their state-mandated quota of three kilos of fish for the day. I wonder if feeding dolphins would ever be an election issue.
After a pleasant morning of dolphin-penalty education, it was back to Rainbow to prepare for a lovely afternoon of whale watching. We had plenty of time after checking out to pop up to Hervey Bay, via the lovely town of Maryborough for an afternoon in the Bay. We enjoyed lunch at Migaloo’s Cafe near the pier, and I was slightly dissapointed that no whale was on the menu. Still, a nice ham cheese and tomato toastie filled me up ready for the cruise. Naturally, I ‘shared’ the kids beer batter chips. A skip to the marina and we were ready to go!
“Before we hop on, ladies and gentleman, can I just get your attention please” the overly tanned lady corralled the group “The seas are a little rough out there today. We will have a little bit of rock’n’roll, so if anyone has any medical conditions just let me or one of the staff know”. At that point, I should have taken the recommended seasick tablets.
The trip out was fantastic. The boat smashed through the waves, splashing over the hull, engulfing the boat in a roaring white wash. I perched against the side and waxed lyrical in my mind, Old Man and the Sea style. Yes, I was enjoying the high seas, the waves, staring out into the offing and generally loving life. I was unworried by the horizon rocking like a swing in the breeze, oh no! Those suckers around me were looking green, some even taking the vomit bags and quickly filling them. HA! Not me though, I had my sea legs on, feeling the sun and the salt and the spray on my face. How wonderful!
Finally, the overly tanned lady’s voice came through the ship’s PA “Whales, three o’clock”, much to everyone’s excitement. Camera primed, I raced to take some photos of these wonderous creatures.
Snap snap snap. Snap snap snap. The mother and her calf breached, flapped and wallowed just meters away. Snap snap snap!
The gentle rocking of the boat suddenly didn’t feel like a dream, and life didn’t seem so wonderful. A certain grumbly rumbled across my tummy. Nausea rippled through me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so good.
Fast forward three hours, three full vomit bags and generally wanting to die, I crawled across the gangplank, back onto dry land.
So, whale watching didn’t go as planned. I’ve got a few nice photos, and some very unflattering ones!
It may not have been the best end to the holiday, but in the scheme of things, it was a minor setback to a wonderful, wonderful holiday.
We packed the car for the final time, readying for our final trip – the four-or-so hour trip back to Brisbane. After Gympie, the Bruce opened up to a smooth, multi-lane highway, and we comfortably sat on 110 without the risk of going up the back of any Grey Nomads. There was a comforting familiarity of passing the Sunshine Coast beaches, north Brisbane, over the Gateway and down for our final stretch home. Home. Home, from a wonderful, wonderful holiday.
Thankfully, the sand boarding didn’t kill me, so we decided to spend the morning collecting some of the spectacular coloured sands on Rainbow Beach. We had planned on going whale watching that afternoon, but more about that later.
Originally named Black Beach, the new unoriginal name Rainbow Beach was adopted after a local aboriginal dreamtime story involving a snake and spilled blood. Naturally, rainbow coloured sands lends it’s name to Rainbow Beach. Thankfully, we saw neither black nor rainbow coloured snakes during our morning on the beach!
Right along the beach there are seams of colour – whites, yellows, reds, greys, oranges, even purples! Armed with waterbottles, the children meticulously collected coloured sand, layering them in their clear water bottles with stunning effect.
The photos absolutley don’t do the sands justice. Brilliant yellows. Rich reds. Pure whites. Golden oranges. Landslides of colour, invading the beach below. Seams bursting with fine sand. A kalidescope of sand right down the beach. The children went to great lengths to find the most beautiful colours, clambering high sand cliffs for that perfect colour for their bottles, racing down to the water when things got too hot.
The plan was to go whale watching up at Hervey Bay, but ocean swells prohibited safe passage out. We toyed with the idea of sandboarding again, however my poor calf muscles were still in a state of shock. A drive was taken out to Inskip Point, a departure point where 4WDs can get to the beautiful Fraser Island by barge. Inskip Point – what can I say? Camping and Grey Nomads. I’ll leave it there.
Rainbow Beach lies within the Great Sandy National Park, aptly named because it’s sandy, and great, but mostly sandy. Held in this great park was Seary’s Creek. Down an easy boardwalk we found a collection of families splashing about in a delightfully cold, clear freshwater creek. It looked like the place you might hang out as a teenager, without the enjoyment of underage drinking. Kids splashed around in the frigid waters, a welcome relief from the warm coastal sun.
The day ended up being delightful, even the Inskip Point part. We hunkered down for our final day of the holiday. On tomorrows plan – dolphin feeding and hopefully whale watching!
When you wake up on holidays, you never really expect that you’ll be dying on a sand dune. I certainly didn’t, but on our first afternoon at Rainbow Beach, that’s what I found myself doing. So here I was, trying to haul two kids and two sand boards up a piping hot sand cliff, sweat dripping out of every pore, thinking ‘this is it, this is my time’.
The Carlo Sand Blow is natures way of saying ‘something so beautiful can kill you with a smile’. Situated a stones throw from Rainbow, the Carlo Sand Blow is a natural sand amphitheater, the walls of which were steep and sandy and perfect for sandboarding. Now we never had much luck in the sandboarding department, and thankfully I didn’t end up face down in the sand.
Rainbow Beach is aptly named for it’s rainbow coloured sand, more of that in the next blog. It’s windswept, rugged and handsome, just like yours truly ;). Like any little town on the Queensland coast, it’s packed with the usual suspects – tanned and impossibly beautiful backpackers, chubby holidaymakers and carpark-clogging Grey Nomads. The beach doubles as a road, with two way 4WD traffic going from dawn till dusk. It’s a relaxed place. As you’d expect, the food is expensive, the road is rough, the beach is beautiful and the streets wide.
Apart from nearly dying on the dunes, Rainbow Beach turned out to be a wonderful adventure…
Unexpected joys were found in Rockhampton. It was really just meant to be a sleepover stop-off between Mackay and Rainbow Beach – it turned out to be so much more!
We sadly said goodbye to Mackay, and I truly hope we will return again. I hope we return to her crystal blue beaches, her swaying cane farms and handsome mountains. I hope we return to Cape Hillsborough and all the rich natural beauty that fine town has to offer. Goodbye Mackay, you’ve been a fine city, and we’ll miss you.
Approaching from the north, Rockhampton is home to a series of caves. Found by accident by a Norwegian back in the day, these interesting, interesting caves were open for tours. The information center had a fascinating display of early life in this central Queensland city. If you could look beyond the spelling and grammatical errors, it truly was an informative snapshot of the hardships of early life. Picture, 30oC weather, a hot wind, on a horse or buggy across a dirt track, dressed in full suit or dress, visiting this inhospitable place. At least they didn’t have Grey Nomads to contend with. We visited and explored these caves, and wow, what an adventure! Now no longer full of guano (look it up), these caves were truly wonderful to explore.
The drive to Rockhampton was surprisingly bearable, despite multiple roadworks and herds of Grey Nomads. Rockhampton lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, so the local tourist board erected a pole on the southside of town commemorating it. Think of the equator mark in Uganda, sans political unrest, desert and local militia. Our airbnb host, an amiable lady of a certain age enlightened us to the Rockhampton Zoo. Before you ask, yes, there is a zoo in Rockhampton, and yes, it’s free! We spent a wonderful few hours strolling around the simple but satisfying zoo. The usual things were there – kangaroo, emu, koalas and token crocodile. Rockhampton Zoo also had some more exotic animals, the names of which elude me.
Being the beef capital of Australia, we naturally had to have steak for dinner – yum!
Our airbnb was a cute miners cottage, brought in from Mt Morgan. It was nearly 90 years old, quaint, cozy and I’m sure full of memories. Rockhampton itself is a fascinating town. Full of old buildings, with a train line running through it, it truly was an interesting place.
Refreshed from our stopover and lovely sleep, it was time to hit the road once again for our last location – Rainbow Beach!
You’d never know it at first, but Mackay is a hub for excitement. We rolled into town as Elton John was doing his ‘Last Man Standing’ tour, so half the town was excited and the other confused. Shops were playing the Piano Man’s tunes, but no-one seemed to be humming along. Mackay isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of pop culture, but Elton thought Mackay would a good place to stop off. I’m just glad he flew in, I suspect he’d fit in with the Grey Nomad crew quite well. You know, of a certain age, self-entitled, white and chubby.
Another exciting thing is happening to North Queensland at the moment – their footy team has once again reached the grand final. Quite an effort really. Unlike Sydney teams, they have to travel every fortnight to a game, their team stacks the ranks of representative teams and their marque player was on the bench for the later half of the season. The colours of the Cowboys certainly held sway over this northern city.
Mackay city, believe it or not, has a remarkable collection of art deco buildings. From pubs to more pubs, garages, shops, pubs and the occaisional pub, Mackay is littered with art deco. I thought I got some photos of Mackay city, but I didn’t.
Mackay is filled with beauty, from stunning lookouts, crystal blue waters, amazing beaches and miles of lazy sugarcane. We spent two wonderful days, exploring, enjoying the water.
Cape Hillsborough is maybe 40 minutes north (double that if you’re stuck behind a Grey Nomad). I’ve often said that northern New South Wales is God’s country, however if he ever went on holiday, it would be here. Hillsborough – wow! Where the forest meets the sea. The word on the street is that kangaroos and wallabies come onto the beach at dawn and dusk. We saw some in the scrub, but sadly none on the beach. Imagine green bush, sweeping beaches, craggy cliffs and stubborn islands, and you have Hillsborough. A true hidden gem.
We spent two amazing days in Mackay, on our push north to Airlie Beach for our trip out to Hardy Reef…