Bush Music Club Songs, Tunes & Poetry competitions

April 3rd, 2014 | Poems for adults, Songs

I was thrilled to learn last night that I had won first prize in the poetry section of the Bush Music Club Song, Tunes & Poetry competition.

This is the first time I have entered. Indeed, I would not have been aware of its existence if Maggie Somerville, singer, mandolin player, and songwriter from Ringwood Folk Club, had not drawn it to my attention.

Congratulations, too, to Maggie, for winning the Tune section, as well as being runner-up in both the Song and Tune sections.

Here is my winning poem.

Australian Dreaming

You talk of old Australia, with the flooding rain and drought;
Of the shearer, of the drover; of the cook, the rouseabout;
You talk of paddle steamer, or of bullock team and dray;
It’s the noisy, smoggy city where we congregate today.

You talk of red Australia, and the hulking Uluru;
Of the emu and the brolga, of the bounding kangaroo;
You talk of Kata Tjuta, like a buried monster’s spine.
It’s in the boutique restaurants we like to meet and dine.

You talk of white Australia, and the mountains capped with snow,
Where only hardy currawongs and wombats care to go;
Or hibernating possums fast asleep beneath a drift.
We like a bright skyscraper with a fast ascending lift.

You talk of blue Australia, with its narrow rim of sand,
Where breaching humpback whales provide performances so grand;
Whale sharks up at Ningaloo, or dolphins in the surf.
The bitumen and footpath offer more familiar turf.

You talk of green Australia, with the moss, the ferns, the trees;
The dew drops in the morning, and the cool and healing breeze;
The nesting cassowaries, or the stealthy thylacine,
But we prefer the steady purr of petrol-fuelled machine.

We don’t think of Australia as we make our busy way
Through the surging hordes and traffic of another hectic day.
“No room for sentiment,” we say, but all’s not as it seems.
Australia comes, with scented gums, and greets us in our dreams.

© Stephen Whiteside 07.11.2013

You can’t take a tram to Mount Buller

August 23rd, 2013 | Poems for children, Snow, Victorian alps

I thought I’d post this poem before the ski season finishes.

You can’t take a tram to Mount Buller

You can’t take a tram to Mount Buller,
‘Cause trams do not travel that far.
I’m afraid you will just have to hoof it.
Better still, go there by car.

You can fly in a plane to Mount Hotham,
By chopper if you are a star,
But you can’t take a tram to Mount Buller,
‘Cause trams do not travel that far.

The train takes you close to Mount Baw Baw.
A push-bike will build stamina,
But you can’t take a tram to Mount Buller,
‘Cause trams do not travel that far.

There are none on the Summit or Baldy.
Never were, nor ever shall.
You’ll not find a tram-car on Burke Street,
(And Burke Street isn’t a mall).

You can take a tram all ‘round the suburbs,
But don’t be a silly galah.
You can’t take a tram to Mount Buller,
‘Cause trams do not travel that far!

© Stephen Whiteside 03.08.00

Hotham and Mary’s Slide

August 7th, 2013 | Photos, Poems for adults, Snow, Victorian alps

These photos were all taken at Mount Hotham. It is a very photogenic place, especially on a bright, sunny day in the middle of winter.

My beautiful picture

Here is the road into the Hotham village, coming from Harrietville.

My beautiful picture

Here is one of the access tracks, looking from above. Doesn’t it form a lovely sinuous curve?

Probably the most famous ski run at Mount Hotham is Mary’s Slide. It is steep and dangerous. Fortunately, it is out of the way, and there is no tow to take you back to the top, so it is only attempted by fairly experienced skiers. This is just as well. Not only it is steep, but it is narrow, and it becomes steeper and narrower the lower you go. Eventually it drops off sharply into the icy water of Swindlers Creek.

The “Mary” of “Mary’s Slide” is a real person, Mary James. She was a champion skier, and a regular at Hotham during the early years. I spoke to her briefly once, and eventually wrote a poem about her, and her famous ski run. I will put it at the end of this post.

My beautiful picture

This is the top of Mary’s Slide…

My beautiful picture

…and this is the view looking down.

My beautiful picture

Here is a little bridge that spans Swindlers Creek not far from the bottom of Mary’s Slide.

The Story Of Mary’s Slide

There’s a ski slope near Mount Hotham that is known as Mary’s Slide.
A little off the beaten track, it makes the strong feel weak.
It’s steep and very icy. At its tops its smooth and wide.
Then it narrows to a funnel, and it drops to Swindler’s Creek.

I often used to ski it, and I often used to wonder,
Who on Earth was Mary, and just what was her slide?
Down the left, or down the middle did she make her famous blunder?
(I was sure I would have heard if she’d been injured, or she’d died.)

Did she slide down on her belly? Did she slide down on her back?
Which, her head or feet, was travelling first?
Or did she slide down sideways? Or did she slowly spin?
And what exactly happened at the bottom?

Well, I now know who was Mary. We have spoken on the phone,
And she told me, very sweetly, that she didn’t slide at all!
She often used to ski this slope. (I tell you, I was thrown!)
Not only did she fail to slide, she didn’t even fall!

For in her younger days she’d been a very able skier.
A regular at Hotham, she had skied with skill and pride,
And she told me how, one day, while skiing homewards, in good cheer,
Her confabulating colleague had dreamed up this fabled slide!

Well. If ever any ski-slope spawned a slide, then this was it!
Accuse me, if you like, of opting out of life’s dull grind,
Of not accepting facts. I tell you, I don’t mind a bit!
For I much prefer the version I have pictured in my mind!

© Stephen Whiteside 19.03.90


August 5th, 2013 | Photos, Snow, Victorian alps

The snow is here once again.

Skiers understand full well the impact of global warming.

My father introduced me to skiing. His first snow trip was Mount Hotham in 1964. It was a bumper year. He told me how, at the end of the season, when the snow melted, cars were found to have been parked on top of other cars. Caused a lot of damage.

So, how much snow do you need before you don’t realise there is another car under you when you park? At least two metres, I would have thought.

These days, you are very happy to get one metre of snow. When I checked the Hotham web-site last week, there was about 30cm of natural snow, and 60 cm of man-made snow. There was no need for snow making in the 60s!

My first year of skiing was Mount Buller in 1968. It was another bumper year. I was in Year 8, and staying in the Scotch College lodge, Koomerang.

A long flight of steps had been dug down through the snow to gain access to the front door. We skied off the back balcony every morning. Shelves dug into the solid wall of compacted snow that greeted you when you opened the lodge door downstairs served as a second fridge.

Here are a few photos I’ve taken up in the snow country over the years.

My beautiful picture

This would have to be the best photo I have ever taken in the snow. I was skiing from Mount Loch across to Spargo’s Hut. I looked up to my left, and could not believe how beautiful the view was. I snapped it quickly. Blue sky. Virgin snow. As close to perfection as I’m every likely to see.

My beautiful picture

Mount Feathertop would have to be Victoria’s most beautiful mountain. (It is also the state’s second highest mountain, after Mount Bogong.) This photo was taken with a telescopic lens from Hotham.

My beautiful picture

The currawongs are your constant companions up in the snow.

Koflers (front view) copy

Mount Buller is also a great place to ski. My favourite place to eat there is Koflers Restaurant, shown here. Don’t forget to try the Chocolate Rip-off Cake or the Apricot Mogul – preferably both!

Koflers:Bluff copy

This photo, with the Bluff in the background, shows just how isolated Koflers is. No wonder the food is not cheap!

The Bluff copy

Here is a great shot of the Bluff!

At Hotham, the surrounding mountains are generally also above the snow-line. At Buller, they are mostly below. It makes for a very different view, but it is also very beautiful.