Walking the Riverwalk

Nothing to do on Good Friday, so I headed off to walk the length of Brisbane’s Riverwalk – one side of it at least. This is a pathway you can use to walk along the river (hence the name). It’s quite popular not only with walkers, but also cyclists, rollerbladers and so forth. It’s also a good way to see the city.

Since I live in Hamilton, that’s where I started, at one end of the walk, heading for Toowong, 11 kilometres away.

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The first park approached is Newstead Park, with historic Newstead House in it. This is the oldest surviving residence in Brisbane, dating from 1846, and occupied by Patrick Leslie at that time. Also here is the charmingly named Breakfast Creek. Apparently this is where early explorer John Oxley paused for…well, for breakfast. The story goes that a curious aboriginal stole his hat. I’m glad they didn’t name it Someone’s Pinched My Hat Creek. But it obviously made a deep impression on Oxley, who decided to memorialize the incident by naming the creek after his bacon and eggs.

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There are some lovely Poinciana trees in Newstead Park, along with a whole lot of other plants and flowers. People also spend a good deal of time here fishing. I wouldn’t be eating anything I caught out of the Brisbane River, though. Occasionally people even swim in the river, but they don’t usually do too well afterwards.

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Then it’s further along the Riverwalk , past the rather expensive-looking apartments in Teneriffe. This is an old warehouse section, and remains of docks and port facilities remain. There are still a lot of warehouses (wool mostly) along here but they have been converted into apartment blocks, retaining the outer facade and interior wooden beams etc. A mix of old and new that doesn’t always work, I have to say.

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Lourdes Hill College is a Catholic girls school in Hawthorne. I only put this here because I did my teaching Internship there back in 2001.

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Another bit of personal nostalgia. Here we are in New Farm Park, further along the walk. This is the rotunda I got married in. I’m not married anymore, but it was a great wedding. We had a string quartet and a swan made out of ice, which really wasn’t a great idea n the Brisbane heat, as it soon looked more like a lump of ice made out of ice.

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The walk continues through New Farm Park around a major bend in the river, heading to Merthyr Park.

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One of the City Cats (I’ve written about them previously – see my post “Cats and the City”. Here we are at Sydney Street near Kinellan Point.

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It is here that the Riverwalk stops for a bit and we have to take to the streets for a while. During the floods we’ve had in the last few years sections of the walk were washed away. Most famous of these incidents was a 300 metre section that broke off and was narrowly stopped from drifting out to sea under the Gateway Bridge by two quick-thinking men in a tugboat. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/weather/riverwalk-becomes-300m-floating-missile-20110112-19nwp.html

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Just before the walk resumes, and above the place where the large section was washed away, we get a great glimpse of the city centre and the iconic Story Bridge. It was going to be called the Jubilee Bridge but when it was opened in 1940 it was named instead after John Douglas Story, a public servant who had pushed for the bridge’s construction. It is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia. Unfortunatley, it has been associated recently with two grisly murder-suicides and suicide barriers are being contructed.

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We also get a look back along Shafston reach of the River. Yes, we’ve come all that way since we left New Farm Park. On the left is New Farm, on the right bank is Kangaroo Point. Unless someone has a pet, there haven’t been any kangaroos there for a long time.

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Merton, soon to be Brisbane’s tallest building, arises beyond the Story Bridge. Actually, we have height restrictions for buildings here. There are some concerns about planes coming into the airport and having problems if the buildings are too tall. That doesn’t stop developers scraping the limit though.

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Then we pass under the bridge. The rumble of traffic overhead is quite loud.

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…and we emerge into the central Business District. The riverwalk continues to skirt the city at the water’s edge. Lots of retaurants. offices and shops along the way.

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People live here, too, in the towering apartment blocks. River-front views and handy to the city, but I can’t say that the lifestyle appeals to me much.

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Brisbane is not as large as other metropolises go (population just over 2 million), but it has a few buildings worthy of the name skyscraper. The skyline has certainly transformed since I’ve been around.

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Leaving the city behind, we continue on to skirt the Botanical Gardens at what is known, appropriately, as Gardens Point. we are heading now to the Queensland University of Technology, where I got my Masters in teaching.

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The tide was in during my walk, the water almost up to the footpath. Being tidal, and situated on a flood plain, the Brisbane River is prone to flooding quite easily. Even a moderate shower can produce flash floods in low-lying areas. It has a heavy silt content, too, and has to be dredged out for the shipping in the lower sections.

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There are some wonderful Moreton Bay Fig trees near the Queensland University of Technology.

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Being a public holiday, Southbank, opposite the city centre, was crowded. This was all warehouses and wharves until 1988, when it became the site of World Expo ’88. After the expo was over, the area was converted into a recreational park that has been the scene of a lot of entertainment. I performed five years in a row at entertaining crowds in the week leading up to Christmas. One year I headed the parade as a prophet – the next year I was relegated to one of the Wise Men (Mr Myrrh if I remember correctly). Our Mary that year had an accident when the donkey she was riding baulked at a pattern in the sidewalk tiles and both she and the baby Jesus (a doll) went off the front of the animal. Fortunately, she was able to catch him before he hit the concrete. Well done, Mary!

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Meanwhile, back on the north side of the river the walk continues under the Riverside Expressway. We are down on the river bank looking up at historic buildings: a contrast of old and new.

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The underworld: the cycling and walking path under the Expressway heading out to Toowong.

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This part of the river has five bridges in quick succession: The Victoria Bridge, the Kurilpa pedestrian bridge, the William Jolly Bridge, the Merivale Bridge (railway only) and the Go Between Bridge. Further downstream are the Goodwill Bridge (pedestrian) and the Story Bridge. Finally, just before the river mouth, the Gateway Bridge. Apart from that, we also have the Clem Jones Tunnel (affectionately known as the Clem) going under the river as well (under the Story Bridge). There are also ferries plying back and forth all day and long into the night.

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Then we emerge back into the upper world and leave the city behind at last as we face the final few kilomtres of the walk, heading out to the suburbs.

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On the final stretch below Coronation Drive, which is on the right above and on the other side of the trees.

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My ride home, one of the City cats, 11 kilometres and 3 hours after setting out. A leisurely ride back to Hamilton, passing all the places I had just walked through.

So that’s it, my river walk, showing some of the highlights of Brisbane. It is a beautiful city, and the riverwalk is definitely a must for tourists.

What did I get out of it? A bit of nostalgia. Many of these places I grew up in or around. It was interesting to see the changes made. I’ll do it again someday – and there is always the other river bank to walk on, too.

Giving away signed copies of “Plato’s Cave”

I received a great review of my novel “Plato’s Cave” from Kirkus reviews. Check it out at: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/russell-proctor/platos-cave/

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In celebration of this, I am giving away three autographed copies of the book to the first three readers of my blog to request one. You can email me from my website at http://www.russellproctor.com/. Just go there, click to the contact page and send me a message as to why you would like a free copy.

While you’re there, check out the site. There is information about my books, links to this blog and my other blog where I post stories and poems, and other news about my writing and editing services.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS OFFER IS RESTRICTED TO THE FIRST THREE REPLIES I RECEIVE. ONCE THREE SUCCESSFUL REPLIES HAVE BEEN RECIEVED, THE OFFER WILL BE WITHDRAWN.

Should you miss out, please feel free to go to Amazon and buy a copy. http://www.amazon.com/Platos-Cave-Russell-Proctor/dp/147930879X

 or a copy of my other novel “Days of Iron”. http://www.amazon.com/Days-Iron-Russell-Proctor/dp/1460934636

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The Other Kids – You Know, the Good Ones

A few posts of mine recently have been about kids going wrong. “It’s not what kids do” is one of those, where I point out how some kids these days just don’t seem to get it. They are also, apparently, being treated leniently by the courts. (See my post “Crime and Punishment”).

So today I thought I’d blog about the other kids.You know, the good ones, just to show I have no hard feelings and that I do acknowledge there are good young people out there doing extraordinary things. I may be a grumpy old man, but I do try to see both sides of the coin.

So, here are some amazing people under 18:

1) Malala Yousafzai.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/20/taliban-victim-malala-yousafzai-school 

Malala Yousafzai

This is the Pakistani girl shot on the head by the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls should be educated. Apparently she has been advocating for equality since she was 11 and has already won  won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest nominee in history. What happened to her was horrific, but she has achieved an enormous amount in her short time so far.

2) Daisy Morris. Daisy, an English girl, discovered a dinosaur when she was 5 years old. How cool is that?

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-21850080

What kid would not want to discover a new species of dinosaur? I’d like to discover one even now. The creature is now named after her. Vectidraco daisymorrisae. It means “Daisy Morris’s Isle of Wight Dragon”. It even has a cool name. She stumbled over some blackened fossilised bones on the beach when walking with her family. She’s always been interested in dinosaurs, apparently. Well, all that dedication has paid off.

3) Zack Kopplin.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/03/02/young-atheist-and-science-advocate-zack-kopplin-interviewed-by-bill-moyers/

 

Ok, he’s 19 now. But he started when he was 14 as an advocate for education law reform in the USA. He is against the teaching of creationism in Louisiana science classes. Apparently, some teachers wanted to kick evidenced-based science out of the classroom altogether. No more evolution, just what the Bible tells us is so. Zack has been successful in thwarting these attempts. He is also an advocate for “good science”. And, of course, for the teaching of science in general. Oh, and he’s actually studying history.

These three “kids” have done some extraordinary things. I seem to have been biased towards the science/education side of things, but those are my interests.

It’s encouraging to see young people achieving amazing things. Sometimes, like Malala Yousafzai, they almost lose their lives doing it. But it doesn’t stop them.

So, if my previous posts about teenagers have been a bit negative, I hope these three wonderful people make up for it. There are a lot more out there. Let’s encourage them.

It’s not what kids do.

Another party advertised on Facebook got out of control here in Brisbane on the weekend.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/two-police-officers-hospitalised-with-head-injuries-after-acacia-ridge-party-goers-beat-them-with-bricks-in-cowardly-attack/story-e6freoof-1226599348872

Two police officers were injured and a City Council bus damaged as idiots decided they didn’t like the police closing their party down. Poor little darlings. Apparently there had been complaints from the neighbours about noise from the party and reports of fighting in the streets. So the police decided to attend and told them to shut it down. Most of the partygoers – some as young as 11 – left peacefully. Some stayed and proceeded to break other people’s property and ended up injuring two police officers.

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Following this, the host of the party, 17 year old Jordan Fuller, made one of the great stupid comments of the day: “It’s what kids do.”

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No, Jordan, it isn’t what decent, civilised kids do. It’s what stupid thugs who can’t get their own way do.

So your party was closed down? That is no excuse to hurt other people. Is your party more important, more precious, than the health of two police officers? Is it worth more than the bus? I don’t think so.

Just because other people (the neighbours – remember them, Jordan?) didn’t like what you were doing is no reason to throw bricks at someone. It really isn’t.

You are not the centre of the universe, and we do not revolve around you.

The party was advertised on Facebook, another brilliant planning idea in the mind – if I may use that term – of Jordan Fuller. There have been a number of parties that have spiralled out of control here in Brisbane lately after being advertised on Facebook. I’m not blaming Facebook here, just the mentality of people who don’t have enough friends they have to call on anyone who is a friend of a friend of a friend.

People who advertise their parties on Facebook must be wanting trouble. They cannot be ignorant to the recommendations of those in authority who say don’t do it. They must have seen reports (or even perhaps attended) parties of a similar nature and decided to “go for it”.

Hopefully, as indicated in the news article, people will be charged over this and Jordan gets the bill. He has an 18th birthday party in a year’s time. God help us.

We’re Just F***ing Monkeys in Shoes

I first heard this phrase listening to Tim Minchin’s wonderfully irreverent song “Confessions”. I presume he came up with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bEGLbCNRqw

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The song, “Confessions”, is Mr Minchin’s tribute to human mammary glands, at the end of which he states, if I may be allowed to quote:

“From the first little suck of colostrum/To the grope of the nurse in the old people’s hostel/We’re just fucking monkeys in shoes.”

He was, of course, referring to our (albeit laudable) fascination with boobs. But his phrase holds true for other aspects of human existence as well. We are just animals. Always have been, always will be.

Some Animal Instincts we have are as follows:

Animal Instinct 1) The Herd Instinct. We love crowds. Most of us prefer to follow, not lead. Whether it be in fashion, opinion, religious belief, politics, whatever…we would rather follow so that we don’t have to think for ourselves. Leaders are also usually only leaders for a short time. Someone else thinks they can do a better job. Think of two bucks vying for the position for alpha male in the herd.

Animal Instinct 2) The Mating Instinct. This is of incredible importance to us. People are giving birth to other people at an enormous rate. I know parents who didn’t even want children, but they had them due to Animal Instinct 1 above – there was peer and/or family pressure to produce them. I’m not talking about the desire for a partner here. While some scientists would disagree, Love is largely a human affectation, or at least a mammalian one. I mean the desire to reproduce. It is a necessary one, but humans seem to exceed natural population trends. We have children even when we can’t afford to, or can’t actually feed them.

Animal Instinct 3) The Eating Instinct . This is a bit like the Mating Instinct. Here we have people eating large quatities, more than they actually need. Animals tend to be opportunistic eaters – they don’t know where the next meal is coming from, or when, so they take the opportunity to fill up whenever they can. Some people do this too. And often we can’t blame them – there are many people in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Animal Instinct 4). The Survival Instinct. This one has its basis in the other Instincts. We survive by eating, staying in herds and mating. But behind these is the basic need to stay alive long enough to pass on our genes.

I’m not criticising the fact that we are animals. Animals are great. If it wasn’t for animals, we wouldn’t be here. But just because we humans are self-aware does not mean we should forget our ancestry. We do so at our peril. It is good that we are animals.

Angry animal ... a monkey in India.

A lot of human behaviour is explainable by remembering our animal instincts. Tim Minchin’s metaphor is right: we may wear shoes (sometimes most dysfunctional ones – high heels for instance) but we are still monkeys.* We can achieve whatever we put our minds to; we can do good and we can do tremendous evil. The future of the world is in the hands of a bunch of monkeys. We would do well to remember that next time some remarkably stupid piece of reality blindsides us.

*Yes, I know we were never monkeys in an evolutionary sense. Monkeys and people evolved from a common ancestor. But the metaphor still works. No correspondence on this point will be entered into.

Douglas Adams, Where Are You?

Dear Douglas,

On this birthday that you never got to see, your 61st if I am correct, let me please assure you that wherever you might be right now, even if that is absolutely nowhere, that you are sorely missed.

We miss your forthright statements, your clever wit, your irreverent humour, your insight, your candour, and your unfinished quest to bring enlightenment to our lives.

A religious person would believe you are in heaven or some equivalent nebulous zone, but since you were an atheist we know you wouldn’t want to be there.

As a writer, I have laughed out loud over your wonderful summaries of the human condition. I only wish I could be as good as you were, and change so many lives and opinions.

Thank you Douglas. For everything.

Russell Proctor

Bullying the Queen Street Gunman

We had some excitement here in Brisbane the other day. The Queen Street Mall (the heart of the city) was evacuated on Friday when a gunman appeared and looked about to shoot himself.

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/breaking-news/brisbane-mall-evacuated-amid-gunman-fears/story-e6freono-1226593160916

The man was Lee Matthew Hillier, and he was disturbed because a court had denied him access to his children, which was what drove him to the extreme measure of drawing a gun in Queen Street.

The Mall was cleared and the police did a fantastic job in calming him down and eventually capturing him. No one was injured (apart from the gunman). No one died. No one panicked. A good result from a situation that could have been a tragedy.

The thing is that mere hours later, this picture appeared on my Facbook page:

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It’s the gunman, surrounded by police, both uniformed and plain clothed. Some “wit” (or is that half-wit) has inserted a speech bubble that has two major qualities about it:

1) It is not in the least bit funny;
2) It is making fun of a man who is seriously disturbed emotionally.

The speech bubble is, I believe, based on the Half-wit’s belief that the man was looking for someone. He wasn’t.

My complaint is that Half-wit, and the people who liked his link, are laughing at a man who needed help, not mockery. Sure, he could have hurt someone, but he was apparently asking the police to shoot him and held the gun to his own head for a long time. That leads me to believe that harming someone else was not his intention. If he had wanted to shoot someone, he had plenty of opportunity, and he didn’t do it.

So, why laugh at him? Are we that cruel, that heartless, that we can’t see a call for help when it’s there? The police acted correctly. They acted bravely. They did exactly the right thing. And some Half-wit comes along and thinks he’s the funniest guy in the universe.

This is bullying. What’s worse, it is cyber-bullying, where potentially millions of people can see the post, and where the victim has no chance to defend himself.

I personally hope that Lee Hillier gets the help he needs. I have  pity and sympathy for him, not derision and mockery. Laughing at someone who needs help is a cowardly act.