One problem at a time Sarge (One problem at a time)

The other day I was caught up in what seemed to be a never-ending stream of problems, you know the sort of day.

Nothing was going right, everyone and everything was conspiring against me. One problem after another, mounting, crushing, the world on my shoulders, leaving me pleading why was this happening to me?

In reality the world wasn’t going to come to an end, the sun had risen in the east, and in all likelihood it was going to set in the west, and a few deep breathes would probably have dispatched the garbage that was mostly going on inside my head to the trash…

But it did get me thinking why do we allow seemingly insignificant problems to morph into something that requires the Fantastic Four to resolve?

Human nature was my guess.

And then I recalled a quote by Frank MacAlyster, a member of the US Military’s elite Delta Force. Frank was involved in an operation to help free US hostages being held inside the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in the early 1980s.

The story is recounted in the book ‘Inside Delta Force’, by Eric Hany.

As the doomed rescue attempt unfolded Frank was sound asleep in a US C-130 Hercules aircraft that was parked on the ground inside Iran.

He awoke to intense flames licking all around him, the aircraft was on fire.

Frank thought the aircraft was airborne, but the intensity of the fire left him no choice, he jumped from the plane without a parachute and went into a skydivers arch.

Of course he fell for only a fraction of a second before hitting the ground.

Frank had assessed his options and jumped. It must have taken a lot of courage. Death was almost a certainty, but he was buying time at least.

I reflected on this and thought that even under intense pressure Frank was still thinking through his problems and wasn’t letting the situation clutter his thinking, and by this time there were any number of problems to deal with. Of course the first was to survive.

What could I learn from that?

Meteor Peak
Meteor Peak

How could Frank’s experience help me as I pursue my goal of high altitude climbing, and how might it help others to deal with their own ‘burning aircraft’?

When asked a few days later by his Superior what he was going to do once he was out of the plane without a parachute, Frank replied…

“One problem at a time Sarge, one problem at a time.”

 

We’ve been cloned – Cookie Cut-outs (Fair Dinkum)

Baz & Ray

One of the wonderful things about participating in outdoor activities with your mates, whether it is recreational or in competition, is the camaraderie it engenders. The struggle, the hardship, the good, and the bad, it is there to be shared, enjoyed as a team.

I am fortunate to have spent many years pursuing outdoor pursuits and activities with brother-in-law, Ray Tong.

Let’s just call him my partner in crime.

And just so there isn’t any misunderstanding, we aren’t fugitives from the law, it’s just a figurative saying us “down under” tend to use to describe a good mate…

Okay, Ray is a Kiwi, but hey, he’s still a good mate none-the-less…

Now we’ve participated in many things together, mostly recreational,  with a smattering of competitive events here and there.  And yes, there is always an underlying competitive streak between us, but that’s just good old fashioned Aussie versus Kiwi rivalry

You couldn’t expect anything less!

Ray overlooking Hunter Valley, Australia

Anyway, we tend to spend a lot of time out in the bush, walking and trekking and many of these have taken on mammoth proportions.  We’ve walked from Sydney to Newcastle together, bush-whacking it 240 kilometres through the “scrub” – mind you if you drive, it is only 140-kilometres along the freeway.

We’ve spent countless hours on the water together…

Baz & Ray, Terrigal Beach, Australia

I chased him from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast, a journey that saw us cycling, running, and white-water kayaking the 240 kilometres over two-days.

We’ve run rapids in our kayaks together, and even struggled through the mud in Tough Mudder helping each other to the finish.

We’ve pursued paragliding and skydiving…

Baz and friends over Picton

And then there is the most dangerous of them all, the notorious Newcastle Bike Ride.

The “NBR” as it is known colloquially…

It isn’t for the faint-hearted.

This is an invitation only event open to those who can demonstrate superior time-trial qualities on a bike.

It covers a two kilometre sprint on a racing bike from Ray’s home in Newcastle to the Albion Hotel, followed by an endurance test of being able to drink at least half-a-dozen schooners of beer with lots of bellowing laughter, the city and back home.

The ride home is always used as a warm-down and should be done at a leisurely pace, unless of course you’ve stayed for one too many had a few flat tyres out on the road and your arrival is long overdue. In which case, the every man man for himself rule applies.

The Sprint

Many have tried, few ever rise to the occasion…

On the many trips to the pub time-trials we’ve done in Newcastle we’ve had plenty of time to solve the problems of the world.

 As one does!

Nothing is sacred, all topics covered.

Okay, we don’t touch Rugby ‘cause it always upsets the Kiwi’s when they lose the Bledisloe Cup, and there was one time when Ray wanted to discuss a problem he had after a “real” bike ride where we spent a long time in the saddle – haemorrhoids.

I told him I couldn’t touch that one and best to take it up with Leah, his partner, the sister of my partner, Janet.

Did I get that right?

 Confused myself there for a ‘sec.

What I tried to say is we married two sisters, Leah & Janet…The “Fawthrop Girls”.

Yes, “The Fawthrop Girls”…

So anyway, perched atop the bar-stools down at the fountain of all knowledge; The Albion Hotel, our bikes during these training sessions we’ve covered many time favoured topics.

Albion Hotel, Newcastle
The Boozer

On our last NBR only a week ago sometime back we started comparing notes on what we share in common.

As you could imagine there was plenty of back-slapping and congratulations going on as we reviewed the impressive list, after all we were on our 3rd 6th schooner of beer each…

  • Good looking – tick
  • A physique many would give a left-arm for – tick
  • Modest – TICK
  • Have a sister named Debbie – tick
  • Adventurous – tick
  • Competed in the Coast to Coast Race in New Zealand – tick
  • Kayakers – tick
  • Extreme endurance hikers and adventure racers– tick
  • Almost fallen off the same ledge on a mountain – tick (True story! Mt Tibrogargan in Queensland before we even met each other)
  • Climb Mountains – tick and half-tick (Ray was too traumatised to climb again sissy)
  • Both have flown under skydiving canopies – tick
  • We’re both cookie cut-outs – WHAT?

Strewth, we’ve been cloned, we chorused together in unison as we considered the similarities. 

Kneaded expertly and pressed with a cookie cutter; a cutter passed sister-to-sister, a cutter revered like one’s very first training bra.

Okay, yes, somehow I came out the better looking of the two of us, you know, a bit like pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, some are perfect, others possibly a little overdone and a touch rough around the edges...

Anyway here we were, seemingly virtual twins…

To be honest, I took some comfort in this as I was a little worried that Ray might have been thinking he should have married me given we had so much in common.

I mean, he gazed looked at me just a bit too longingly for my liking as we waited for our next beer to be poured. But I just put it down to the beer haze fogging his mind a tad…yeah, that’s what it was, a beer haze, yeah…

And as we rode sprinted home on our bikes, the wind gusting so hard that it’d blow your dog off its chain, the most favourite Fawthrop Family saying resonated loudly…

You don’t know how lucky you are!

Yep, there is no doubting it, we are both partnered to Angels, and we’ll put that to the top of the list,  for sure…

And while you’re here hang around and take a squiz at this You tube video…a little bit of that “cookie cut-out” adventure!

It is some footage of Ray flying a sky-diving canopy on the East-Coast of New Zealand in the early 1990s. It was quite out there at the time, for a Kiwi anyway!

And following is what us Aussies do, jump first, then fly…

Just pulling Ray’s leg…what they were doing was ground breaking at the time. He is wearing the white helmet!

Adventure, comes in many forms, and you’ve just gotta love it!

Butt your Bum’s Broken…

Last weekend we had a pleasant and impromptu get-together at our place with a few friends. These evening’s are always enjoyable, unpredictable and a good laugh is always had, frequently at my expense…

 The increase in banter and laughter seemingly correlated with the number of wine corks being pulled.

A few of the world’s problems were solved, and Janet, my partner, managed to organise a major shopping trip with her girlfriends whilst I’m climbing in New Zealand next week.

 And then somehow we got on to a discussion about ‘what have you broken?’

Now don’t ask me why, it just did.

Bob kicked it off by saying…

 “Yeah, I fell out of a tree, broke me arm”

Ray, a rugby-mad Kiwi, has a nose that’s been moved off-centre courtesy of failing to catch a high ball…

There was a couple of broken legs in their somewhere, I can’t remember who, but let’s face it they are kind of “dime a dozen”…

Jeff managed to break a finger in a schoolyard dust up. Mind you, it would’ve been a brave person to take him on, the bloke is about six-foot-six and has shoulders as wide as Beyoncé’s booty, and a bit firmer as well.

And hey, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with her booty!!

 Kimbalee, bless her, broke a couple of nails and had to spend half-a morning in the beauty parlour sipping lattes while a team of specialists worked their magic on her.

Eventually it got around to me,

 “Baz, how’d you go, you’ve bound to have broken something?”

Janet, her cheeky grin barely contained, egging them on…

 “Yeah Baz, tell them what you’ve broken”…

Blushing,

 “My bum”.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so funny any other time, but this was a crowd that was only warming up. They laughed so hard and long that many were in tears…

“Thanks Janet…”

My broken bum had its making back in the early 1980s at a Sunday session at the Brekky Creek Hotel, in Brisbane.  Back in those days the pub only opened for a short time on Sunday’s and it was a case of getting as many beers into you in as short a time possible.

 

I’d like to say that I was responsible in the way I approached these sessions, but I can’t…

Anyway, they were always very sociable and fun affairs…

After a few jugs of beer, the boys decided we should go and learn to skydive, sounded awesome, I was in for sure.

And thinking that I could always claim ‘beer talk’ if I needed to back out of it…

No chance, Bush-rat, as one of our mates was known, saw to it that wasn’t going to happen, and by the next Saturday we had done our first jump out in the Brisbane Valley at Toogoolawah.

At the time it was only a fledgling drop-zone. Today it is a major skydiving centre run by the bloke who tossed me out that very first time, Dave McEvoy.

Customary as it was, we had to shout the bar at the Toogoolawah pub on that Saturday night.

It was a big night…!

We went on to do quite a few jumps over a couple of years and enjoyed the shenanigans that was part of the skydiving scene, a crazy bunch by any standard…

 It was fun times back in the days when sex was safe and skydiving was dangerous.

How things have changed!

Eventually work commitments saw us all head our separate ways, and skydiving tended to take a back seat to other activities…

Fast forward to more recent times and I thought it would be good to go back and do some more skydiving.

I sounded out Janet, who was right on to it and wanted to go also.

Back in the early 1980’s she was literally the girl next door, and yearned to go skydiving with us, but was to shy to ask. All of eighteen, and sweet as…

There was no such shyness this time around.

 And, yeah, I did marry the girl-next-door…

We signed up to do an accelerated free-fall course, which went well…

So how about the broken bum they chorused?

On a jump I deployed my chute as I was diving away, it was a little sloppy really, and my foot got caught in one of the lines as the chute was opening and it flipped me through my harness.

The upshot was I went from 200 kilometres an hour to zero with one leg above my head, stuck in the line.

It was a leg split that even the most practiced ballerina would’ve be proud of, unfortunately for me it ripped my hamstring right off my bum…

The pain was intense, but I managed to land safely…

A couple of weeks later and after a few thousand dollars changed hands it was sewn back on again!

There was quiet around the table, I was hoping they would simply move on, no such luck, it was just the calm before the storm erupted with a burst of laughter!

Needless to say, I’ve been the butt of their jokes ever since…

One problem at a time Sarge. One problem at a time…

The other day I was caught up in what seemed to be a never-ending stream of problems, you know the sort of day.

Nothing was going right, everyone and everything was conspiring against me. One problem after another, mounting, crushing, the world on my shoulders, leaving me pleading why was this happening to me?

In reality the world wasn’t going to come to an end, the sun had risen in the east, and in all likelihood it was going to set in the west, and a few deep breathes would probably have dispatched the garbage that was mostly going on inside my head to the trash…

But it did get me thinking why do we allow seemingly insignificant problems to morph into something that requires the Fantastic Four to resolve?

Human nature was my guess.

And then I recalled a quote by Frank MacAlyster, a member of the US Military’s elite Delta Force. Frank was involved in an operation to help free US hostages being held inside the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in the early 1980s.

The story is recounted in the book ‘Inside Delta Force’, by Eric Hany.

As the doomed rescue attempt unfolded Frank was sound asleep in a US C-130 Hercules aircraft that was parked on the ground inside Iran.

He awoke to intense flames licking all around him, the aircraft was on fire.

Frank thought the aircraft was airborne, but the intensity of the fire left him no choice, he jumped from the plane without a parachute and went into a skydivers arch.

Of course he fell for only a fraction of a second before hitting the ground.

Frank had assessed his options and jumped. It must have taken a lot of courage. Death was almost a certainty, but he was buying time at least.

I reflected on this and thought that even under intense pressure Frank was still thinking through his problems he wasn’t letting the situation clutter his thinking, and by this time there were any number of problems to deal with. Of course the first was to survive.

What could I learn from that?

How could Frank’s experience help me as I pursue my goal of high altitude climbing, and how might it help others to deal with their own ‘burning aircraft’?

When asked a few days later by his Superior what he was going to do once he was out of the plane without a parachute, Frank replied…

“One problem at a time Sarge, one problem at a time.”

 

Three Girls and their Credit Cards – It’s all a matter of perspective

Leura Galleries

Okay, there are many pursuits that could be classed as risky, dangerous, some more so than others, but really, it still comes down to one’s perspective, doesn’t it?

So Janet, my partner, and I were having a bit of a debate about this earlier today ahead of a trip we are making to the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney this weekend.

And I will set the scene here, Janet is no wallflower, together we have flown aeroplanes, jumped out of them, abseiled off the side of the AMP building in Sydney side-by-side, and even rafted down some wild rivers in Papua New Guinea – so there’s no doubting she’s up for adventure and happy to balance risk against outcomes.

So when I said to her that a weekend of shopping in the Blue Mountains with her two girlfriends, we’ll just call them Kimbalee and Lisa to protect their identities, is risky and dangerous it seemingly fired her up a touch. It actually made me chuckle a bit, because it was a bit like when you were a teenager, you know, when you got sprung by your parents, as though they were mind readers, before you did whatever it was that you weren’t supposed to, and left you with no option but to go on the defensive…

“How’s that she asked? And besides, aren’t you climbing and abseiling off some rock walls isn’t that a little risky?” was the retort…

And true, I will be doing that, thankfully spared from being dragged from boutique to boutique, art gallery to art gallery, mind you, some of the art galleries are very nice, and the prospect of being in the company of these three attractive young ladies was pleasing, but I was looking forward to the outdoor activities I had planned.

I thought I’d better choose my words carefully here because as lovely natured as Janet is, she could stare down a stampede of cattle at a hundred paces.

Well I suggested these girls, Kimbalee and Lisa, were seasoned shoppers, fearless and old-school who live to the creed “if you can’t decide which one you like, buy the lot”. In the right setting that might be okay, our bank balance might just scrap through relatively unscathed, but these boutiques were high fashion, and that’s before we get to the galleries…

Sensing she had me on the ropes, of which there was a certain amount of irony, and with a glint in her eye she said…

“But haven’t you always said that if you are going to do something, learn to do it properly, and then go out and practice it until you are an expert?”

True I thought, and about this time I was wishing I hadn’t tried to be so smart, and had just gone about my daily routine without throwing out the bait, so to speak.

I should have seen it coming…

“So how much did you say those climbing boots are, you know the ones you’ll need for New Zealand, $700, $800, I’ve never bought a pair of shoes that have cost anywhere near that amount”. Was that a smile I detected, a cheeky little grin, as she turned away slightly?

I was looking for that big hole to swallow me up, and started to understand just how a stampede of cattle might just be feeling right now, stared down by Janet.

Yes risk and danger, it’s there wherever we look, in whatever we do, and as I climb and descend tomorrow, I’m sure that the klinking sound of carabineers on carabineers will be equalled by the ringing sound of a cash register playing the tune of three wonderful lady’s having fun, and of course, giving their cards a workout…