Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nice Wreath, Witherspoon

Jolly Under The Holly, Molly

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Unfortunately, there is nothing in this picture that gives you an idea of perspective, but this wreath, in the lobby of a Melbourne office building, is about three metres in diameter. Also, this was shot in broad daylight, so you have to look really closely at the image to see the many tiny lights - and their reflection - that are interspersed through the design of the baubles.

You've Got M@il

``Have a fantastic 2007 and write another book. By the way, I read `Vegemite Vindaloo' and pal, how you remember Calcutta! Amazing insights.''
Email from Barnali Mitra, New Delhi, India

Saturday, December 30, 2006

For He's A Jolly Good Yellow

That Car Looks Pretty Hot, Rod

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

We were at the Giant Koala at Dadswell's Bridge in country Victoria recently and I spotted this roadster in the car park. Well, it wasn't too hard to spot, really, because there were only about four or five vehicles there and as you can guess, this one kind of stood out a bit among the sedate sedans! The sun was in the perfect position in a clear blue sky for me to take the first picture, with the rays reflected in the giant headlamp, whose spotless concave shape in turn reflected the chassis of the car. I was fascinated by the angle, because the warped shape of the car in the reflection looked like an image in those trick mirrors at fairs and circuses. I didn't get to meet the owner, but it had New South Wales number plates, so maybe one of my readers in NSW knows someone who knows someone who owns a yellow roadster.....

You've Got M@il

``I did have a chuckle at `Jack and Chill'. I tried to post a comment but it's too complicated. Write some real Australian stories every day, my friend.''
Email from Binoo John, New Delhi, India

Friday, December 29, 2006

Madame Tussaud Was Right - Wax Works

Like A Candle In The, Er, Window

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Just a fun Yuletide shot, taken at Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula. The candle had been burning for a long time - so I guess this must be an old flame. Sorry about that, Jason Steger, I know you're groaning, but I couldn't resist the corny line.

Readers Do Digest

A Simple Vote Of Thanks To You All

As a journalist and first-time novelist, I know exactly how vital it is to acknowledge readers. Some of you might remember the recent blogpost Chocolate Moose, where I listed the 26 countries that are home to people who read this blog. In the past week, that total has risen to 34 nations, with the addition of visits from readers in Belize, Slovenia, Poland, Korea, Spain, Mongolia, Dominican Republic and Ghana. My humble thanks, for without all of you, I would not be blogging.

You've Got M@il

``Your novel (`Vegemite Vindaloo') sounds fascinating. As the librarian for the Australian Anglo-Indian Association in Perth, I look forward to obtaining a copy for our library.''
Email from Errol James, Perth, Western Australia

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Yule Log? Or Yule Logon?

Is This The World's Biggest Advent Calendar?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

There are Advent calendars - and there are Advent calendars! You know the ones where you peel open the date and eat the chocolate? Well, this picture was shot at Federation Square in Melbourne - where the entire side of one of the buildings in the Square was dressed up to look like a giant Advent calendar. Every day, there was a different pageant to mark the date - but the chocolates would have been the size of office windows!

You've Got M@il

``I remember your mother well - she was an example to all in her selfless mothering of her own and other children. Her family was her joy and pride, and every child a miracle.''
Comment from Carol Perrett-McFarlane, Idaho, USA

``It was the least you could do for (your mother's) memory. There is a saying in Sanskrit that three debts can never be hoped to be repaid in full -- to either parent, and to "the" teacher.''
Email from Tirthankar Mukherjee, Ulan Bator, Mongolia

Starring Role

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Tram Driver

I just thought this would be the perfect time to share a photograph that shows a typical Melbourne Christmas scene.
The trams are such a symbol of this city that a mockup of an old W-class tram played a starring role in the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games this year.
The old trams still ply on some routes, but the tram in this shot is a much more modern version and the red colour is in perfect keeping with the festive season. This picture was taken on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street, in the heart of the central business district.
The entire street is festooned with the stars you can see in this picture, but can you spot the other Christmas touch? Yes, you're right. The advertisement on the front and side of the tram is for Antler luggage, a very appropriate touch when Santa and his reindeer have dominated our thoughts.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You've Got M@il

``Why do they refer to your novel `Vegemite Vindaloo' as a surprise bestseller? I knew it would be – no surprise at all!''
Email from Jillian Brand, Switzerland

Hail The Christmas Spirit

Summery Melbourne Has A White Christmas

Photographs copyright: PATRICIA D'COSTA

These are unedited photographs sent to me by a longtime friend, Patricia D'Costa, a former flight attendant whom I have known for 25 years. Remember how I wrote (see the post Jack and Chill from yesterday) about freeways being closed because of hail? She was on the M1 (the Monash Freeway, as Melburnians know it) on Christmas morning. Traffic was at a standstill as emergency crews worked to clear the road surface. As you can see from the bottom left-hand quadrant of her second photograph, conditions were so bad that cars had their headlights on.

You've Got M@il

``Would u believe I tried in THREE bookshops, looking for `Vegemite Vindaloo' and they're all sold out here :) BRAVO David ... so I have put my name on the list and they're in the process of ordering it. Will begin 2007 with `Vegemite Vindaloo' :) ''
Email from Madhumita Dasgupta, Bangalore, India

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jack And Chill

Examine The Cold, Hard Facts

Photograph copyright: MATTHEW McMAHON

My old friend, the New Delhi-based author, Binoo John, has told me more than once (with undisguised glee) that my young son Matthew is a better photographer than me - so this one is for you, Binoo. He shot this picture at dusk today, using my Pentax K100D. It was a cold day - even for us Melburnians who are used to wild fluctuations in our weather, with temperatures often dropping 25 degrees in 25 minutes. Ironically, we had the hottest December night on record about three or four nights ago, but we had snow yesterday and the Monash Freeway was closed on Christmas morning as emergency crews cleared banks of hail. The oddest bit of world trivia is that Christmas day in Melbourne (we're in summer, remember!) was two or three degrees colder than New York, which is in mid-winter.

You've Got M@il

``Read your story; quite beautiful. That, of course, is what Christmas is all about. Hope you had a splendid Christmas.''
Email from Jayaditya Gupta, New Delhi, India

Parsley, Stage, Rosemary (And Time)

Poem Says It All, For Rhyme And Reason

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These two figures caught my eye in a Muskoka shop called Christmas Thyme that I have mentioned a couple of times on this blog. Being a Southern Hemisphere person, I immediately wondered about the significance of the figures. Of course, it was my first introduction to the 1961 poem by an English woman, Jenny Joseph. The theme of the light-hearted poem revolves around growing old in idiosyncratic style and it seems her poem is known by many titles. Some people know it as ``Warning'', while other titles include ``When I Am An Old Woman'', ``The Purple Poem'', ``Old Woman'', ``I Shall Wear Purple'', or simply ``Purple''. Because responsible bloggers adhere to international copyright laws, I shall not reproduce the poem here, but I can direct you to and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, December 25, 2006

You've Got M@il

``Keep up the good work of writing, my friend. I love the play on words you title your daily blogs on. How DO you come up with such wonders .... you have great imagination!''
Email from Ashok Sadhwani, Los Angeles, USA

Chocolate Moose

Um, That's Not The Horn Of Africa, Is It?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The wonderful eyes of this Christmas moose caught my attention at a shop in beautiful Port Carling, in Muskoka, Canada. Alas, the moose was way too big to fit into my luggage, or else it would have found its way into our home in Melbourne. Instead, I bought a selection of decorations for our tree, as a reminder of my time in Muskoka. As I write this, it's just past midnight so it is now Christmas Day here in Melbourne. This is the perfect time to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas, as everyone gears up for the big day. Thank you too, for your resounding support of this blog. It is just three months since I took the decision to update the blog every day and in that time I have been lucky to attract regular readers from 26 countries around the world. So, a very Merry Christmas to all of you in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Chile, Brazil, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Italy, China, Russia, India, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Dubai, Bahrain and the United Kingdom.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

You've Got M@il

``Both your parents were wonderful people and it was a privilege to know them while I was in Calcutta.''
Email from Bev Christopher, Sydney, Australia

We Bring Ye Gifts

Aunty Mac's Christmas Message

Could I take a minute to tell you about the most amazing Christmas gift I ever received? It wasn't gift-wrapped. It wasn't bought in a store. Yet I carry it with me wherever I go.
It was a gift I would like to pass on from a remarkable woman who taught me and my brothers that the most important Christmas attribute is to give, not to receive.
She had so little as a child. She was raised in a Bangalore orphanage, then was looked after by English nuns. The school was her only home; the nuns her surrogate parents. She had nowhere else to go. She never had a home to go to until she married. Yet she never had a chip on her shoulder.
Instead of seeking therapy, she sought only to spread great love to all children. Generations of kids at St Thomas' School in Kidderpore, Calcutta, loved her like their own mother. They hugged her and kissed her - and four decades later they still tell me how much she meant to them. They called her, simply, and with such love, ``Aunty Mac''.
I know just how much she meant to them. Her name was Phyllis McMahon. She was my mother.
If you'd like to share her gift, go to and read `The Great Christmas Surprise'. If it touches you, please send the link to friends and family and ask them to do the same. It is the least we can do at Christmas.
My mother would have liked that, too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Goose Bumps

Peas On Earth, Goodwill To All

Okay, here's a Christmas confession, on behalf of me and Jeremy Cowper, my oldest friend and schoolmate who is now Charlotte, USA-based, with his wife Debbie and their three kids whom I've never met. I always steered clear of peas in Yuletide fare, while Jeremy boycotted the goose in 1966. Want to know why? Check out this simple story (originally written for today's Christmas Special in The Statesman) and re-published with an amazing accompanying display on Lisbon resident Terry Fletcher's website. Use this link and just scroll down to the story, `The Great Christmas Surprise' and let me know what you think.

The Thirst, Noel

Memories Of Montreal, A Much-Decorated City

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Those of you from Montreal would be able to tell me some more about this shopfront, but it caught my attention as I walked away from Notre Dame. It wasn't just the wreaths that caught my eye, nor the bright window display, but the beautiful stone facade of the building itself. It was on the left of the square (if you are facing the cathedral) but I'll have to check my records for the name of the street and other details.

Oxford's Collar

`Vegemite Vindaloo', The Surprise Bestseller

While I come to terms with the fact that my debut novel has been on the bestseller lists since July, I was invited to write the ``story behind the story'' for a popular, lively publishing website. I am extremely grateful for the forum and the invitation from Satarupa Ray, the content editor at Apeejay Oxford Bookstores Pvt Ltd. If you'd like to get my point of view on how the novel came about and how the characters took shape and why the women are so much stronger than the men, go to and let me know what you think. You can contact me through the Oxford website, or by leaving a comment here. My very humble thanks for all your support.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Buy, Buy, Miss American Pine

Reflections Of A Summer Christmas

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This one is dedicated to all my readers around the world who have been kind enough to keep visiting this simple blog. I wanted to take a shot that represented not just Christmas, but also Melbourne, the city that has been home to my family for almost two decades. This photograph was taken just after sunrise, and shows not only a close-up of the baubles on a giant pine tree at Southbank, but also the landmark orange-and-yellow exterior of Flinders Street Station. The station is one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, and is named after the English mariner and explorer, Captain Matthew Flinders. But the shot (as you've no doubt noticed) has yet another element. Reflected clearly in the silver bauble is the interior of Southbank, the beautiful complex developed in the Nineties to bring another dimension to the city's graceful arts precinct.

Christmas Presence

If Only There Was Someone Called Carol

A Gainesville, Georgia family has the surname Christmas - and two family members are named Mary. ``People ask me all the time, `What were your parents thinking'?'' said the younger Mary Christmas, 30. ``I never minded. It's a conversation piece.'' According to a report on, it all started on Christmas Day 1935, when the elder Mary married Henry Christmas, thereby becoming Mary Christmas. One family member is named Christy Noel. And when another relative, Jeane, married into the White family, she became (wait for it) Jeane Christmas White.

When Bush Comes To Shove

Ready To Chute The Breeze?

The news headline said: ``Bush saves skydiver in free-fall''. And I'm thinking, is there no end to Dubya's heroic deeds? There's a mental picture of the President rushing out of the Oval Office to save the skydiver. Ah, nope. It's a story on about how a skydiving instructor in New Zealand escaped death by landing in a blackberry bush after his parachute failed during a 15,000-foot free-fall. Hmmm, who said BlackBerries were a curse?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa's Car Is An Elfer Romeo

No, That's Not An Advertising `Jingle'

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

If you look up at the intersection of Malvern Road and Belgrave Road, Melbourne (not recommended if you're driving) you'll see this inflatable Santa on the roof of the Dairy Bell ice cream outlet. This picture was obviously taken as Rudolph and all of the other reindeer were doing circuits and landings on Australian roofs. A very hot day here today, with the mercury edging above 36 degrees Celsius. Methinks it might even be too hot for Santa to come down the chimney, so we'll leave a window open - just in case.

Buyers Show Mercedes Bent

Must Have Been A Mixed Grille For Santa

Christmas is for indulgence, but even this is extreme. In less than eight minutes, Saks Fifth Avenue sold all 20 special-edition 2007 Mercedes-Benz CL600s in its gift catalogue for $160,000 each. And that’s not all. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Neiman Marcus' 50 limited-edition BMW M6 convertibles sold out in just 92 seconds. The $139,000 price included a four-day trip to the company's factory in Munich, Germany.

Give You A Finch And You Take A Mile

What's That Chirping In Your Pocket?

I guess this is the prefect example of flipping the bird. According to kirotv.coml, US Customs agents caught two bird smugglers at the Peace Bridge that connects western New York and Canada. The men attracted the attention of agents when they said they had gone into Canada to buy 25 pounds of birdseed. Agents searched the men and say they found seven tiny, live finches that are worth up to $200 each, hidden in a coat pocket and a fanny pack.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bushfire Sunrise

In The Heat Of The Moment

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It looked as though someone had set the Yarra River on fire this morning, but it was just the reflection of the sun that looked like an orange fireball in the early morning sky.

You could smell the smoke that enveloped Melbourne's CBD and suburbs long before first light, when it became apparent just how thick was the blanket of smoke from the bushfires in Gippsland.

The first shot posted here shows the sun rising through a thick sky that looks like beach sand, and you can see the distinctive shape of the Victorian Arts Centre on the right of the frame.

The second shot shows the reflection of the fiery sun in one of the office buildings on Flinders Street. Nomally at this time of the year, the building would reflect clear blue sky and white cloud, but today it caught my attention because it looked dark and threatening, like something out of Darth Vader territory.

There've been some great pictures from other photographers during this bushfire period. One shot from the actual firefront shows a property silhouetted in black against a blood-red sky. It looks so surreal it could be mistaken for a painting done in only two colours - black and vivid red.

And another shot (I'm not sure where it was taken) shows a chalk message scribbled on a blackboard, great evidence of Australian gallows humour. ``Sorry about the smoky atmosphere,'' says the message. ``The bloody cook's burning everything''.

Lager Than Life

Pint-Sized Technology For UK Drinkers

My knowledge (such as it is) of the world at large would be worth nothing without the regular schooling I receive from my colleague and soul bruvva Kit Galer. He just gave me the socially vital nugget of information that pub-goers are pulling their own pints after a bar set up self-service booths in the UK, where he was born. The tells us that the Tapped Self-Serve Bar, in Otley, West Yorkshire, has lager taps in booths for punters to help themselves. The pumps are linked to computers for pre-paying. Owners Ryan Blackburn and Dave McKendrick are claiming they are the first pub in Britain to try it. Ryan said the taps put an end to the ``pain'' of having to queue for ages at the bar. One final thought: did they ask Kit Galer's permission to start the Social Revolution?

Happy Feat: Old Saab Is One In A Million

He's Lucky The Car Didn't Peter Out

Milwaukee man Peter Gilbert has been given a new Saab for free - after logging a million miles (that's 1.6 million km to those of us who use metrics) on his old one. Gilbert, a travelling salesman, donated the 1989 Saab 900 SPG to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum, telling The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time he was a little disappointed he hadn't received so much as a Saab T-shirt, much less a replacement car. According to, when Gilbert's story was told, the company decided to provide him with a new Saab 9-5 Aero and offer one to anyone who put a million miles on a Saab as the original owner.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Breaking The Ice

Stalac's Tight, But A Stalag Might

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A friend of mine, Anick Cesaria, who works for VIARail in Montreal, gave me a list of must-see places in her home city. McGill University was one of them and she assured me she wasn't kidding. I walked across early one morning and was rewarded with the sight of a beautiful campus, great skyline and graceful architecture. Oh yes, and there was this great sign. I guess you could say I was in a no-standing zone!

Jocks Strapped

No' Enough Kilts To Go Around, Laddie

A shortage of ceremonial kilts could leave thousands of soldiers without a stitch of plaid to wear as they parade to the skirl of the bagpipes. Military officials said more than 5000 Scottish soldiers must share their kilts because defence chiefs have not finalised a contract to buy enough of the garments to go around. According to, the men have just 320 kilts, or one for every 15 soldiers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

From Star To Finish

A Burst Of Colour In The Night Sky

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It was about midnight and we were driving past Victoria Square in Adelaide when we spotted the giant, illuminated Christmas tree that is about the size of a six-storey building. So we backtracked and pulled over to photograph the tree and this surrounding display. This was one of those high-mounted stars, probably two metres in diameter and maybe three metres high. The light pattern started in the centre and radiated swiftly outwards. I tried timing my shot to get it exactly as the LED diplay reached the outermost part of the star. The first time, I wasn't even close, but I reckon I nailed it the second time.

Alpha Mail

Russian Postal Bosses Blame The Finnish Line

According to, postal authorities in Russia have started delivering 4.5 tonnes of letters and parcels that were sent from the US in 1999. The state-owned service said the delay was not its fault - a shipping container with the mail had languished at a port in Finland for years. The container finally reached Russian shores a week ago. A spokesman said: ``The mail has been very well preserved because the container was hermetically sealed.''

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where Have All The Showers Gone?

The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowin In The Wind

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

As you can see in this photograph, I wasn't kidding when I said the bush was tinder-dry. I pulled off the Western Highway between Nhill and Ararat in Victoria to take this shot. The windmill was turning faithfully, but the cloudy sky held no promise of rain. Because of the drought, the ground is straw-coloured, as far as the eye can see.

Some People Swear By This Scheme

The Outlook Is Fine (Literally)

Employees in the Portage, Indiana, city clerk's office are turning their colourful language into good cheer. Since July, workers have generated about $120 by fining themselves for using profanity in the office. The money goes into a flower vase on Clerk Ellen Mesich's desk and eventually will go to buy gift cards to give to teen cancer patients. Fines range from five cents to $1.50, except on Monday mornings, when there's a general amnesty. Some people use IOUs or pay in advance of stressful times.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Plaice Station Portable

I'm Not Green Around The Gills

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Sometimes you just have to stop the car, get out, get your camera bag off the back seat - and take a shot. This was taken on Bower Road, Adelaide. Musta been near the swims and roundabouts.

Drag Racy

Red Alert For Palm Beach Police Officers

Palm Beach County police and sheriff's deputies have brought an entirely new meaning to the term ``dragnet''. Drivers who ran red lights at busy intersections were booked by officers who were dressed in drag. According to, police told TV station WPBF that 183cm, 113kg (6-foot, 250-pound) ``Officer Delicious'', who in real life is Officer Terry Golden, attracted a lot of attention while dressed as a woman during the Red Light Runner campaign. Tickets worth about $12,000 were issued.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Make Haze While The Sun Shines

Smoke On The Water, Fire In Our Sky

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I took this photograph yesterday, looking across the Yarra River to the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground. As this frame shows, there was only a single rower on the river. There was not a trace of the clear blue sky that we are so accustomed too; instead it looked as though some unseen painter had covered the entire sky with some thick, opaque coating. Today's most dramatic story of a bushfire escape was Eric and Joan Gardiner of Cowwarr, who drove their burning Holden Commodore sedan through the fires in Toongabbie, Gippsland, for more than three kilometres. They only stopped when the windscreen cracked from the heat, but they were rescued from the surrounding flames by a fire crew. ``Bloody oath, it's the only time I shook in my life,'' Mr Gardiner told The Herald Sun.

Bid For eBay Fame Ends In Surrender

Velvet Underground Offer Is No Record

A US man who can barely afford ``gas money'' cannot honour his own eBay bid of $US155,401 for The Velvet Underground's first recording. According to, bidding is to reopen today after the buyer confessed: ``Seriously, I can barely afford gas for my car to get to work.'' The record is owned by Montreal collector Warren Hill, who said he bought it at a New York flea market in 2002 for 75 cents. Hill says he's not going to sue the defaulter.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Bushfires Cast A Pall Over Melbourne

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph, taken early today, shows the sun rising above the trees that fringe the Melbourne boatsheds on the Yarra River. There was still a fair amount of early haze from the bushfires, but it was a much clearer day than yesterday, when a quiet, all-enveloping shroud covered the city. Today's edition of the Herald Sun has photographs of people using masks to combat the smoke. There was also a vast difference between yesterday's sunrise and today's - yesterday, the sun glowed ominously, like an orange-red fireball.

Santa's Bankers Avoid The Sack

Many Happy (Investment) Returns

Santa has good reason to rock around the Christmas tree this year, according to His hypothetical sack of 2006 investments recorded a year-to-date return of 21.2 per cent, according to analysts at Amegy Bank of Texas in Houston. While Santa's portfolio featured both naughty and nice stocks, the majority were so good that Santa is ho-ho-hoeing all the way to Wall St with a five-year average return of 18.8 per cent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Amazing Lace

Iron Out This Historic Issue

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I couldn't help myself; I just had to take this shot, because it is so typically South Australian. There's the corrugated-sheeting fence, which you hardly ever see in Victoria, my home state. There's the scarlet bougainvillea in the foreground - which thrives on the hot, dry conditions (and often sandy soil) of Adelaide, capital city of South Australia. And there's the iron lace on the wide verandah of the neighbouring home.

When I grew up in India, iron lace was very common in Calcutta's houses and in the old business precinct, except that it was referred to as ``wrought iron''. I'd never heard the phrase ``iron lace'' until I came to live in Australia, but I think it is the more evocative of the two terms. I was probably in my teens when my father, who had spent his entire working life in the shipping industry, explained the profusion of iron lace.

Apparently it was used as ballast in the merchant vessels that plied to and from the United Kingdom and India. And when it was unloaded on Indian soil, it was put to good use on building sites in what was then a very young colony. If you ever wondered why so many old homes in India had crazy-paving floors, there's a perfectly logical explanation for that, too. Dad told me that tons of broken china and glazed pottery were loaded in the holds of the early steamships - also for ballast. And instead of being put into landfill or garbage tips, the shattered pieces were used to create the haphazard crazy-paving floors.

Like Canada-based Rene said in one of her comments on this blog, it was the perfect example of early recycling - on an international level.

Great Snowmaker, If You Get My Drift

Gene Long's Flurry Of Activity

Living in balmy south Georgia, Gene Long knew his wife Crystal pined for the winter snows of her native Pennsylvania. So he scoured the internet for instructions on how to build a homemade snowmaking machine out of an air compressor. Then, according to, he stayed up all night and presented her with a 2.5cm-deep blanket of snow on their lawn. ``She thought it was pretty cool,'' Long said.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kit

The Sky's (Literally) The Limit

Photograph copyright: NIRMAL GHOSH

This great image, almost like something out of a cinema verite sequence, was emailed to me by my childhood friend, Nirmal Ghosh. Regular readers of this blog would know that Nirmal is an author, photographer, wildlife expert and award-winning documentary maker. You can see some of his impressive body of work at but in the meantime, here is the story behind this picture, in Nirmal's own words .....

``I have often been up on my roof in Bangkok (on the 11th floor) doing my workouts and yoga and noticed the sun set in the little patch of sky that is left between the buildings that have steadily risen, blocking the sunset in the four years I have lived in the same apartment in Bangkok. I have often said to myself, I must take some pictures of this one day. This week I remembered, and lugged my camera bag up nine floors to the roof, telling myself it is good exercise (and it is, with one camera and three lenses!)

``I put on my Nikon 300mm f4.5 ED lens for the series of shots, but in the beginning because my heart was pounding from the climb, I was unsteady. Still, the shots were ok, I slowed my breathing, and the shutter speed was fast enough to compensate for the shake. Eventually I also rested on the parapet to steady myself, and took some care in composing the shots.

``The scene reminded me perhaps of the mesmerising Michael Winterbottom film Code 46 - a sort of post-global warming world dominated by smoggy cityscapes. I wanted to take the shots before lights came on in the buildings as well, so that the city looked grey and defeated - and empty - against an ominous sky. The camera is my now-trusty Nikon D70.''

The Wedding Belle

Our Little Girl Becomes A Bride

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The stunning bride in the first picture is my niece Tracy, just before she walked into St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide on Saturday, to marry Grant Myers. The second shot shows the bride and groom - both of whom are very close to our hearts - in the beautiful cathedral, after the exchange of rings and the signing of the register. Technically, they were difficult photographs to take; the first because of the harsh light outdoors in the fierce heat (it was 41 degrees Celsius) and the second because of the muted sunlight inside the cathedral, casting orange tones through the amazing windows and across the dark timber interior.

The Wedding Belle (Part Two)

All In The Family

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

That's Tracy and Grant after the church service, with their immediate families - but you probably guessed that, didn't you! (Just a quick technical note for family and friends: these are low-res images so they will not show the clarity of prints. If I posted high-res images, the blog would take a very long time to load on your computers.) We were all in the shade cast by the beautiful sandstone cathedral, but let me tell you, it wasn't much cooler than being in the direct sunshine. With the strong northerly breeze, too, it was like standing very close to a blast furnace. But, hey, the bride and groom were ultra-cool.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Station Master

A Great Way To Express Yourself

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

So there I was, walking down the pier at Semaphore, trying to get a shot of the sand dunes and the beach and the gulls - and I heard the whistle of the miniature train about two hundred metres behind me. I knew the mini-train had pulled into Semaphore and I knew it would be gone in a couple of minutes. Now I'm no Olympic sprinter, but I was out of there like a shot. Back across the pier, then trying my best to race across the sand (yes, I know it must have looked funny, but we'll discuss that later). I got to the train just as the driver climbed into the cabin to reverse back down the track.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

That's Not Morse, That's Semaphore

Every Waterfront Must Have A Great Pub

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken at the beachfront suburb of Semaphore in Adelaide. It was a warm, cloudy evening as the temperature slowly began to unwind from the fierce oven-like heat yesterday. The Semaphore Hotel must have a rich history, but I was on a tight deadline and only had about fifteen minutes to shoot scenes on the street, on the pier, near the waterfront and at the miniature railway that runs parallel to the beach.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hot Under The Collar

Even The Footpath Is Sizzling

Last post before the wedding, here in Adelaide in a coupla hours. Gotta get dressed up to the nines to watch my niece walk down the aisle. We've all been watching the weather with bated breath. It was 40.3 degrees yesterday and it's 41 degrees today. And that's Celsius, too! Still, nothing's going to get in the way of a wonderful occasion, especially when members of the family have flown in from all round the world.

Yule Remember This Image

Star Light, Star Bright

This is probably the most appropriate time to post a picture like this one, as we remember the Yuletide story of the three wise men and how they followed a star.
Actually, I took this shot in Melbourne, not Bethlehem, but it's just a handy Christmas image, I reckon. The glow in the sky is not a star; it is the mid-afternoon sun. And the spires at the bottom of the frame are the Cathedral on Flinders Street.
The wires and down-lights that criss-cross the frame provide a handy pattern for the photograph, but they are simply the overhead lights at Federation Square, built to commemorate the centenary of Australian Federation in 1901.
In a way, I guess they add to the attraction of the photograph, rather than detracting from it.
This picture has not been enhanced or digitally modified in any way. Nor did I use any special-effects setting on the camera. It was simply taken in ``landscape'' mode. No tricks. No gadgets. No gizmos.
What you see here is simply what I shot. Remember when we were kids and people told us never to point a camera at any bright light? I guess this frame shows you can do it - and use it to good effect.

Friday, December 08, 2006

All Systems Goat

Swedes Thwart Burning Desire

Officials in Gavle, Sweden, are confident a 15 metre-high goat - a centuries-old yule symbol that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts to Swedish homes - is now vandal-proof. It has been burned down 22 times since it was first set up in 1966. For its 40th anniversary, it has been doused with flame-resistant chemicals and officials said ``not even napalm'' can destroy it. Security guards that guarded the goat in the past have been called off - and a 24-hour webcam has been set up to monitor the goat.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Three's A Cloud

Looks Like A Painter's Sky

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken a couple of evenings ago. We were in the car when I noticed a wonderful range of colours in the sky, but I could not pull over and grab the camera. Sitting at the wheel, I thought the colours would evaporate by the time I was finally able to pull over - but to my good luck, they were even more arresting when I was finally able to stop, park and get the camera out. The light was changing very quickly and I didn't want to waste a couple of minutes climbing to a vantage point, so I just made the best use of the scene. The tree branchess on either side of the picture didn't really bother me, but of course there was nothing I could do about the street light. In retrospect, though, it does provide a point of perspective to the frame.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stark Side Of The Moon

When Bush Comes To Shove

Here we are, in Adelaide, capital of South Australia. It's an 800-kilometre drive for us and of course, once you leave Melbourne behind you and get onto the Western Highway, most people think driving through the bush is a pretty boring proposition. But whenever I do this drive, I click (okay, that pun was not intentional) into photographer mode. Yes, ``highway'' is a misnomer because it's really only one lane each way and you don't encounter what a European or a North American would call ``traffic''. And yes, there isn't a lot to see. But I find the stark beauty breathtaking. Flat brown land. Clear blue sky. No clouds. The Wimmera region stretches across the dry land as far as the eye can see. Red shale, powder-dry. None of your European emerald green anywhere. Endless ribbon of highway with heat shimmering across it like the opening scene from `Lawrence of Arabia'. Yup, that's beauty.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tunnel Vision

This Was Done With Smoke, Not Mirrors

Photograph copyright: MIKE KEMBLE

This remarkable photograph was sent to me by UK-based military historian Mike Kemble, who describes it in his own words, while chuckling at my comment that it looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie:

``I spent a beautiful day on the North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway in early September, with my wife, and as we left Gosforth for the return journey we had to pass through a tunnel. I leaned out of the carriage window and took this image. The people who have seen it all remark about Harry Potter! I was so lucky to capture this once in-a-lifetime image.''

Email Redress

The Invocation That Went Around The World

In 1999, a Melbourne father, amused by his six-year-old son's solemn mis-rendition of the Lord's Prayer (what this child of the computer generation said was: ``Deliver us from email'' instead of ``deliver us from evil'') sent a two-line description to a friend in California - by email. A few months later, it came back to the Melburnian, after being circulated around the world - as an email. I can vouch for the accuracy of this story. You see, I was the father.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Christmas Karel

Mosaic Denotes The Birthplace Of A Nation

Photograph copyright: MIKE BRUCE

This picture is from my colleague and friend Mike Bruce, the Deputy Editor (Features) of the Herald Sun, Melbourne's largest-selling newspaper. I'll leave it to him to tell the story behind the photograph ....

``Obecní Dům, or Municipal House, quickly became one of my favourite buildings during the year we lived in Prague. For several reasons. It's one of the best examples of the decorative art nouveau style for which Prague - among only a handful of other European cities - is renowned. Not only does its facade leap out at you as you approach the threshold of the Old Town, but also features a stunning art nouveau restaurant and a cafe, with the most beautiful chandeliers that form a kind of soaring jungle of glass that hang like a canopy over each room. Downstairs is the iconic art nouveau American Bar, upstairs is home to the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

``It was also here that the Czechoslovak nation was born in 1918. But my fascination, and frequent lingering, was for the mosaic on its facade - the Homage to Prague by Karel Špillar. I loved the way the mosaic would sparkle against the building's buttery facade in the spring and summer sunshine, and would provide that splash of much-needed colour against the concrete-coloured skies of the relentless Czech winter. If you're in Prague, brush your way past the red-coated and wigged Vivaldis and Mozarts spruiking concert tickets and head inside Municipal House for a lingering look.''

Not A Kanga Ruse

Be Thankful For Mall Mercies

Shoppers in Brno, in the Czech Republic, saw a kangaroo hopping around outside a mall. Several people called the police, who initially thought they were hoax calls. After the roo was caught and reclaimed by its owner, officers found the animal had crossed a 3m wide river to get to the mall. The boomer got plenty of attention from curious children - and totally overshadowed Santa Claus.

Give credit where it’s due: Thank you to my colleague, Mike Bruce, for his diligence in bringing this news item to my attention. (And also for agreeing with me when I suggested that the roo, like any true-blue Aussie, was looking for a pub to escape the cold.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

That's No Rooster, That's Bertie Wooster

If At First You Don't Succeed, Tri, Tri Again

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These shots were taken in Calcutta, at an amazing workplace. Trisys Communications is headed by an old friend and former colleague of mine, Mudar Patherya, one of the most effervescent blokes I've ever known. Later on, I'll share the story of how, in the early Eighties, he wrote a letter and addressed it to ``Sir Donald Bradman, Australia'' - and received a handwritten reply from the most famous cricketer of all time. More of that story later on, but the first of these shots shows the sign at the front of his Trisys office, before you walk up the stairs with Mudar's collection of historic Calcutta memorabilia. And the second shot shows a feature wall in the office, with quotations from P. G. Wodehouse. So different, so unique, so creative.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Photo Finish

Let's Just Wait And See What Develops

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Everything was just right for this picture. The flawless blue sky. The old-fashioned shop front, so redolent of Melbourne's English influence. The strong colours of the brick, freshly painted. The early afternoon shadow. The graceful roofline. And it's interesting too, to see the ``one-hour photo'' sign, that was such a crucial marketing tool in attracting customers in the Eighties and Nineties, before digital cameras became common. I had to pick up my camera and shoot this reminder of an era that is silently slipping away.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Like Father, Like Son

A Tribute to Ray and Mark Hanna

Photograph of Mark and Ray Hanna reproduced with permission of OFMC

Earlier this month I asked if anyone knew of pilots who had flown Spitfires and Me-109s (see Who Made A Mess O' Schmidt?). The question was prompted by the fact that the RAF flew and assessed captured 109s and Fw-190s during World War II, just as the Luftwaffe did with Spitfires and Hurricanes. There has been a significant discussion thread on this subject on the Axis History Forum and I have received valuable feedback from around the world.
Before I post the details kindly sent to me by Mike Kemble and Ville Pitkänen, I just want to cite the example of the late Ray and Mark Hanna (pictured above), who both had an international reputation not just on the basis of their Old Flying Machine Company, but also by virtue of their accomplishments in the cockpit.
I recalled, from my research on my forthcoming novel, `The Jadu Master', that Mark had flown not just the Spitfire but the 109 as well. I immediately emailed his sister Sarah, who replied promptly, ending her email with the sentence: ``By the by, my father flew both aircraft as well, but it was Mark who really loved the 109.'' This rare distinction probably makes them the only father-son combination to have flown Spits and 109s - but if you know of any others, please let me know.
Interestingly enough, there are some very dramatic shots of Mark flying the 109 in New Zealand, taken by Richard Seaman and displayed on his site, There's also a great story I'd heard about Mark, so I checked its authenticity with Sarah, who confirmed it did indeed happen ....
Mark and another OFMC pilot were flying a 109 and a Mustang (as you know, deadly adversaries in World War II) to an air show in Europe, when one of the planes developed a problem, which meant both pilots had to ask for permission to land at a US Air Force base. They were immediately met by a very perturbed officer who asked in an agitated tone: ``Are these planes armed?''
The punchline certainly belonged to Mark, who replied with dry humour: ``Not since 1945.''

Watch this space for more details on men who flew Spitfires and 109s.