Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Lord of the Dance.

I was at my desk with my head deep in some piece of complex journalistic endeavour when my work colleague here at Byron Central Apartments whispered, "Hey, come and look at this."
My immediate unspoken answer was that 'I'm too busy', but then Susanna doesn't send the balloon up for no reason, so I went to take a look, and I'm so glad I did.
For there, in the main piazza of our workplace was a middle-aged man dancing.
It wasn't an overly warm day, so his entire attire of shorts and a cap would have caused comment on its own, but then as we watched his cavorting, we realized that his dress was of far less note than his actions.
He didn't seem to have any music (that we could hear), but instead seemed to be dancing for the sheer joy of it, and damn right too.
Seeing him reminded me that when I started this blog a year ago it was called 'Only in Byron' and the genesis of it was the crazy characters that inhabit my town, and here was one writ large.
We watched him for a while, but he took no notice of us and continued his dancing with every semblance of enjoyment.
It was a genuine 'Byron Bay Moment' (BBM) and reminded me of a twist on the famous saying that my flatmate Tash had told me when sharing a house with her in Bondi back in the go-go nineties.
The original quote is from William W. Purkey and reads: 
"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.” 
Our shorts-wearing friend in the photo is certainly doing the dance part of that.
Well Tash added her line, "And Fuck like you're being filmed."
And judging from the noise that came through the common wall between our rooms at Frances st, Bondi, she was putting the philosophy into practise on a triweekly schedule.
But leaving such salacious talk of flatmate bonking aside, I would like to add my own line, which is: "Garden like you've got no money."
My training for gardening stems from two main pieces of education, my degree in Science, working in biology and chemistry for three years, and a two week intensive Permaculture course, which I completed in 2001, not far from where I live today in Byron Bay, in a tiny rural village called Tyalgum.
Peraculture is a trademarked word, and it basically refers to sustainable design, not just for gardens, both large and small, but ANY design, your house, your shed, your suburb, your workshop, you name it, anything can be designed, and redesigned to be more sustainable.
Trying to sleep while Chico's
claws dig in is not easy.
Permaculture has a few tenets that are always worthy of repeat, one is, "Nature and wisdom rarely disagree", another is, "There is no such thing as a waste, only an unused resource".
So it was with great pleasure that I was able to put this into practise recently.
Recently I had to move house and so I loaded up my meagre belongings and moved into town.
The multi-trunked, hairy palm on the
right was the one to be removed.
However, I couldn't move into my flat straight away and so was happy that pharmacist Fleur was able to offer me temporary accommodation at her lovely home in Suffolk Park, south Byron.
It was a wonderful stay with the only slight disconcercion coming from her two cockatiels.
You had to be ready, as at any moment, the male bird, Chico, would suddenly feel the need for company and land on your head.
So with a gardener on the premises Fleur asked me to cut down a palm tree that had been bugging her.
I said 'I would' and we headed out to appraise the job.
Happy to be able to pay for my accommodation with contra work, I set to and removed the palm.
As I was working, and as I watched the pile of green refuse grow from the cutting, I mused 'there must be a way' to make use of this rapidly building pile of green waste.
The waste pile only half formed.
So I worked away and eventually came up with a plan.
This particular garden is in a very exposed position at the top of a ridge line and very dry, so I decided to use the trunks of the palm to make a border for the garden, and the leaves of the fronds as mulch.
Palm fronds are of little or no use for nutrient, but would provide good cover, enabling moisture retention, which on the sand dune that is Suffolk Park, is vital.
The tedious process of stripping palm fronds.
NB: "Bare soil is death", is another Permaculture tenet.
So with the palm cut down, I then began the process of stripping nearly 500 palm fronds of their leaves to get a ground cover.
I can't say it was the most stimulating time I spent in the garden, but I've spent plenty of time doing worse.
Luckily for Fleur though there was no surf in the Bay at this time and so I worked away, frond by frond, and covered the surface of the garden bed.
The fruiting body of the palm, I cut each time I found one and stuck it in the cut off base of the former palm, and to my delight, birds began coming in and eating the fruits as I worked, so the garden had had an eco-bonus for the local wildlife as well.
In the end I was happy for several reason a) I'd been able to "pay" some rent, b) I had covered some bare soil, c) the local bird life had benefited, and d) it had cost Fleur nothing.
the next phase will be to plant in among this ground cover, with Fleur favouring a Mulberry tree.
I agree with the choice as anything that is productive, e.g a food bearing plant, is always a better choice in this modern world of ever narrowing margins of viability for our eco-systems.
NB: On that topic, Fleur didn't plant the palms, they were there when she got there.
Job done: The trunks of the palm made the
border and the leaves of the same plant
provided ground cover. The fruiting bodies made a colourful feature.
So with my gardening done and the birds fed, eventually the day came when it was time for me to finally take possession of my new flat.
And just a piece of superb irony here, I've mentioned it before, but it's always worth a revisit.
For the last six years I have lived in a tent on the outskirts of town, the irony is that due to my Wandering Albatross of a life one Sunday arvo I realised that the longest I had ever lived anywhere as an adult (six years), was a tent.
But now I was moving into an apartment built for human beings.
And so with great pleasure I took possession and it's already been wonderful beyond my imaginings.
No longer do I suffer if I forget something at the supermarket, my tent was four k out of town and so getting back in the car and revisiting Woollies was a major endeavour.
Now, if I forget something I can just walk three minutes and get what I need.
Secondly, there are no rats.
I can't really overstate what a difference this makes.
Back in the tent when I was preparing for bed, I had to near spring clean the bloody place to ensure that there were no food crumbs or any other food waste lying around or sure enough come three am I would be woken by the truly unnerving skitter of rat feet on the floor just centimetres from where I slept.
Thirdly, I can walk to the surf.
Although my new place is $80 a week more pricey than the tent (and I might add, even the tent was $170 a week, such is the housing pressure in Byron), I have already reduced my petrol consumption from $120 to $60 a week, and so am doing something for the atmosphere and reducing my 'real cost' of my rent to the old levels.
The only downside of the new place, and bringing this post back to design principles, is the noise that occurs at night.
So you may be wondering what this picture (below) portrays?
Well it is the back wall of the backpackers opposite my new place.
This particular wall is of the shower/toilet block and as such it leads to an almighty echo of reverberating noise at three am when the backpackers come home form Cheeky Monkey's, the late night cheap venue for these revellers here in the Bay.
Every night (partying doesn't stick to the weekend here) three am comes and an assortment of Kylies Courtneys, Joshs and Kurts, come back pissed (Please note for any North American readers, in Australia and Britain, 'pissed' means drunk, not angry) out of their tiny minds and go into this block for their late night ablutions before passing out on their feculent beds.
But that is a small price to pay for living close to the beach, and saving a tank of fuel a week.
Mind you, I remember reading once in Mad magazine of a good technique for getting your point across to the neighbours who like partying.
What you do is record their party after midnight, then the next night when your neighbours are having a quiet night to recover, you play it back at high volume with a speaker placed carefully to funnel the sound in through their bedroom window.
In my current case, I get up at six a.m these days and so I think that would be a good time to broadcast a replay of the previous night's events.

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