Remote work from the gay pub

Friday lunch at the Wickham, Brisbane’s local gay pub, is one of my favourite new traditions.

I’ve been intending to go on Fridays because it’s a great spot, there’s plenty of places to work, and it helps keep the lights on at a place that’s important to me. This is where I’ve met a lot of my friends, done a lot of growing as a person, and really it’s a nice spot to be.

It’s been wet, and I’ve had other commitments so I’ve only been twice in the past month but each time it’s been great.

Last night my friend R arrived after work and we stuck around for a few drinks which turned into a bottle of wine back at my place, where he stayed on the couch for the night (he lives on an island, it’s a trek).

For a person who “doesn’t drink” I have a low grade hangover this morning. Coffee is brewing now.

This is part of how I’ve been getting a bit more experimental with how I’m approaching remote work in a pandemic world. There’s a bunch of picnic shelters down by the river that I’ve been working at from time to time, and the local coffee shop has pretty good outdoor seating. Depending on my meeting load it’s not always possible to do, but I think it’s important to get out and be a part of the world.

Brisbane floods

Thursday

I saw a tweet earlier today along the lines of “I don’t like living in interesting times”, and I thought it was amusing. Referring to the alleged Chinese curse which from memory I don’t think is real, but is very clever nonetheless, “may you live in interesting times”.

Sometimes an idea will get stuck in my head, a wordplay usually, and repeat over and over until I put it into the world. Throughout the pandemic my little brainworm is a similar corruption, “you may live in interesting times”.

Among other world disasters, the one a little closer to home right now is the effects of La Niña on East coast Australia. Earlier this year the Bruce Highway was washed away by flooding near Tiaro, and just yesterday a freight train derailed on the north coast line when the track washed away. We’ve had a lot of rain.

Yesterday the ABC made passing reference to the Brisbane River catchment, which put me on edge. My place is in a low lying area and while I think technically it’s above the council’s flood level, I don’t especially want to risk it. I was pretty annoyed that it was mentioned in a single article with no follow up at all, so I suppose we’re probably not going to flood? I’m sure I’d know about it.

It’s been on my mind because I was planning to visit my parents this weekend, the weekend of my birthday. But between the rail catastrophe and breathless news reports advising people not to travel, I’m sort of thinking I’ll stay in after all.

Anyway, I’m doing fine. Just really aware of the emergency fatigue that’s probably got everyone to some degree.

So I’m sitting outside in the dark wearing trakky daks, hanging out with my plants. There’s the white noise of raindrops hitting the leaves in the garden and pattering down onto the courtyard. A streetlight across the road lights up the sheets of rain as they blow past. And occasionally a car will drive by and make the cosiest wet asphalt sound you can imagine.

I do like the rain.

It’s cosy.

Gezellig.

Reminds me of the summer storms in my childhood home, beating down on a tin roof so hard you could barely hear each other talk. Looking out the window at a wall of water while being inside, safe and dry.

We may live in interesting times, but at least there’s comfort in the familiar. I don’t know if I’m going to see my parents tomorrow, I suppose I’ll have to make that call to the QR support line. In the meantime, no point worrying right?


Friday

A screenshot of the message from QR travel: QJ11 Tilt Train 25 Feb is cancelled with no alternate arrangements. Another notification forecasts rain.

The train line is still out. Now the highway is out.

Deep Creek (ironic name, it was a trickle when I was there) has gone over the highway. This kinda blows my mind.

I know Gympie floods, I read as much when I visited last year. All the riverside infrastructure is concrete and brutalist to survive the water going over it.

At Alford Park, there’s a massive great flood marker showing where all the historic floods have reached. Pretty scary stuff.

Anyway, it’s just weird because that road bridge is SO high I would never have expected it to go under. At least that’s the decision made for me.

Undearneath the Bruce Highway bridge. It's suuuuper tall. There's old wooden foundations from what I can only assume is the old bridge.

Saturday


Sunday

I hardly slept last night. I kept waking up to check the river wasn’t lapping at my door. It wasn’t, but that just meant it hadn’t happened yet.

Tae lost power. She’s in a low-lying part of the neighbourhood. She came over to charge up all her bits and bobs and we watched TV and chatted for a bit. I fell asleep and slept for what felt like hours.

The rain still hasn’t stopped, so Tae decided to just make a run for it. I got drenched just opening the gate to let her out. I can’t imagine what it would be like riding in that.

The forecast is looking pretty grim, but the flooding is supposed to coincide with high tide tomorrow at about 8.


Monday


Tuesday

By the time I got up the street was already completely cleared. You wouldn’t have known it had flooded if it wasn’t for the people cleaning out the businesses that were inundated.

I was expecting to get out with my shovel picking up trash. But Peter told me the RCC Builders from the construction sites were all out cleaning up the streets in the early hours. I suppose it benefits them not tracking mud everywhere, but it’s such a nice thing to do. I’m very grateful.

The river is down about five steps at the end of my street. Enough to clear water from most of the streets around here.

Looking down a staircase into water and slick brown mud. There's still trees submerged, poking out of the river

I went for a little walk down Duncan Street way. I don’t know what to call that little precinct of West End but it’s the built up area, as opposed to the gritty sort of partially industrial area I live in. There were a lot of pumps running to pull water out of basements, and some that were completely full to the top.

Peter’s was full to the top.

He told me the building manager was here for the ’11 floods, and the painstaking lengths they had to go to to clean out the mud and debris from two levels of basements. I think the mud army can probably help, but it’s going to be days before that water clears.

His lift was out, and the emergency stairs led to deep water, so we had to climb a ladder from the lobby to get to the stairs, to get to his apartment. It’s the penultimate floor, which is ordinarily lovely, but absolutely destroyed me. I’ve been working on my cardio fitness, but apparently there’s still a ways to go.

I had my first hot shower in 2 days, and left a powerbank to charge, just in case. I also guzzled all the water in his jug because, as I realised later, I was super dehydrated from not taking care of myself the previous days.


It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m surprised to find I still have ice cubes. Most of them are stuck together, swimming in a puddle in the bottom of the ice cream container where I store them. But there’s a few separate blocks. I scoop em out and put them in my glass of warm cola.

Later that afternoon Peter, the ghost of Adam, and I went to a town hall organised by Jonathan Sri and Amy McMahon, council and state representatives, respectively.

There was a free sausage sizzle and people sitting around powerboards charging their devices. Real disaster vibes, but I think folks were largely okay.

Jonno and Amy on the mic, next to a portable loudspeaker.

It was a useful meeting. But the message I got was that while the flood waters are still up and there’s not a lot we can do until they go down. I get the feeling everyone just wants to do something but we can really only wait until we know more.

As I was walking home past the gym I noticed the lights were on.

“Great” I thought, I can go there for a warm shower.

Then I realised the lights were on in my building too.

There were people milling around the street outside one a that was still dark. A lady was gesticulating at the utility closet that had been beeping for two days straight, so I went over and offered to let them charge their stuff at mine. Her kid proudly told me how they’d been using candles and a lantern, it was cute.

There’s a kind of survivor’s guilt in all this, I try not to indulge too much. I lost power for a couple of days, and the basement that I never use got flooded with 30cm of water. That’s nothing, right?

But then I realise I’ve been amped up on stress for the past week, I’ve lost the contents of my fridge and freezer, my backpack and a pair of shoes are ruined because they just couldn’t dry out, I’ve got loads of washing strewn all in the laundry because they asked us to conserve water before the power went out, I have a sunburn and a caffeine withdrawal headache because I regularly forgot to feed or water myself while everything else was going on.

I don’t need to feel guilty because I got my damn power back.


Wednesday

The dishwasher and washing machine are humming away. I appreciate the breeze from the fan. It’s 31 and partly cloudy. Humidity is cloying. But we’ll work things out.

Ten years of Brisbane CityCycle – love letter, hate mail, eulogy

One of the better ways to explore a new city is by bike, because you can take as much time as you like to stop wherever something catches your eye.

As the owner of a not very well maintained biking website, I had a particular affinity for the Brisbane CityCycle scheme. CityCycle was the much maligned pet project of our milkshake duck of a former lord mayor to install a physical station-based bike hire scheme throughout the city, with the small catch that JCDecaux got to install advertising billboards throughout the suburbs as well.

Glenelg St / Merivale St CityCycle Station. A pylon with a screen and buttons, with yellow Lipton bikes spread off to the horizon.

CityCycle and Me

I had a bit of a love hate relationship with the scheme. For starters, Australia’s mandatory helmet law meant that a bike share scheme really required a helmet share scheme. Initially the council expected you to BYO helmet, which I think showed a complete lack of foresight or perhaps care. Eventually they relented and left helmets with the bikes.

But ick factor aside (apparently studies showed sharing helmets was fine) a lot of the time you’d arrive at a station to find no hardhats around anyway. So you had to run the risk of getting caught by police, or just walk.

I remember one night coming home from Toowong via ferry. There were no hats at the Orleigh Park station so I took the risk: after all what are the chances? A block away from home and the police pulled me over, lights and all. I was let off with a warning but I had to walk the the bike the rest of the way.

The CityCycle bike handlebars read "Important notice: it is a legal requirement to wear an approved helmet at all times whilst cycling"

Beyond that, the payment system was way more complex than it needed to be, the bikes themselves were SO heavy, in the beginning the system closed at 10pm, and a lack of sensible places to ride at the time turned off a lot of people.

Despite all this, it was a great little scheme. The free 30 minute window meant if you timed things right you could pretty much ride all day without paying a cent, so it was a really great way to explore the city on the cheap.

And I think just having the bikes around town was good promotion for a sustainable and healthy transport option. Puts a spark of an idea in your mind.


The network

Being a river city, the Brisbane CityCycle network followed the ol’ brown snake from Newstead down to St Lucia.

Stations were dotted around the river and by railway stations, so you were never too far away from one, provided you didn’t stray out the network.

I took this screenshot from the map on the Brisbane Council site, but I don’t think it’s comprehensive because I know for a fact there was a Citycycle station up the street from my place which isn’t listed here. Alas.

A map of Brisbane with Citycycle stations listed. Mainly clustered around the CBD and New Farm.

The online subscription required a credit card and sent an email with an account number to plug in at the kiosk at each station. The website was painful to use because it wasn’t optimised for mobile, and each person had to sign up individually. So if I knew I was going out with friends sometimes I’d create a couple of burner subscriptions we could all use without having to sign up.

A day pass on the scheme used to cost $2.00 and usage was billed in 30 min blocks. The first 30 minutes was free, the next two blocks were $2, and subsequent blocks were $5, capped at $48/day. Slightly confusing.

But there was no penalty for checking a bike back in before the 30 minutes expired. So the trick was to check in before your 30 minutes was up, wait a moment for the system to reset, then check it back out again for another free thirty minutes. You could hire a bike for effectively the whole day as long as you checked it back in periodically, for a grand total of $2.00.

A CityCycle PDF containing the link code to unlock the bike. Extremely not optimised for mobile.

But once you were going there were no limits*!

I remember once I’d organised to ride with some friends but my own bike was broken. So I checked out one of the trusty yellow workhorses and cycled the heavy bloody thing along our route, and the only complaints were from everyone else that I was going too slow. I cycled way outside the coverage zone that day and I don’t remember how much that one cost, so it can’t have been too bad.

I also have a friend who legendarily rode a CityCycle up Mount Coot-Tha. A few people did over the years. I could never.

The ride took me fifty-seven minutes, end-to-end. Forty-eight of those were spent riding, most of the balance was waiting at the Hale St West construction site and refilling my water bottle at the top. What’s sort of cool is that when a did a similar ride a few months ago, it took me forty-four minutes. That was slightly more circuitous, going around the graveyard but skipping the initial Planetarium climb, but the point remains that despite a CityCycle bike’s weight and positioning, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Nevertheless, the uphill segment of my ride did take the record for the slowest front-side Mt Coot-tha ascent.

Mt Coot-tha on a CityCycle, Thom, 2011

The downfall of the dock

The French style docked bike hire schemes were really a product of their time. In the late 2010s dockless bikes were trialled around the world with kinda horrifying results (the scale of waste in this photoset of abandoned and illegal bike share bikes in China for example is truly mind boggling).

A purple Beam scooter parked smack in the middle of the footpath. Some people are just the worst hey?

But Bird and Lime changed the game with dockless escooter hire, launching in Brisbane in late 2018.

Despite not sticking around to see their work pay off, it really ushered in the era of micromobility for the masses. These days you can now find a Beam or Neuron scooter parked across the footpath on pretty much any city street, and the app-based signup is leagues easier to use. I still love my bike, but sometimes you can’t beat a scoot for the perspiration-free convenience.

In late 2021 the CityCycle stations finally began to disappear, one by one turning into car parks, scooter drops, or reverting back to footpath. The one thing that didn’t disappear though? Those JCDecaux billboards. Funny that.

An old Citycycle parking spot turned into motorbike parking. A small billboard says "have a Bris-better day out on e0-bikes and e-scooters across out bikeways"

Council has converted former CityCycle spaces on the footpath to e-mobility parking hubs. We are also continuing to investigate the future use of former on-road CityCycle spaces, including converting these spaces to other parking options where possible.

Works to decommission and remove each of the CityCycle stations included: saw-cutting, jack-hammering and core drilling to pull apart elements of the station, removal of the existing material around the station, reinstatement of the site area to match existing surfaces (as close as practical).

CityCycle decommissioning, BCC 2021

While CityCycle is gone, the pandemic and rise of the scoots means there’s even more people than ever looking to active transport to get around.

There’s still plenty left to do, but eleven years of council focus on cycling infrastructure has given us an increasingly comprehensive cycling and scooting network. It’s obvious that this is the best way to get around, and it’s great news that from here there’s only going to be more focus on making it possible.


That’s about it. If you’re interested in more, my vlog about the Brisbane Festival includes an art installation where the remaining CityCycle bikes were turned into sculpture.

Alternatively this 2018 era vlog about the Night Noodle Markets includes riding a CityCycle into the city montage to meet up with friends. A different era.

The leadup to a Brisbane summer

I don’t know why, but the washing maching turned off before it finished draining. So the door was locked and I had to run another 15 minute cycle before I could get my bits out.

It was 38 degrees today, for like, no reason. But it was a welcome change. I feel like I’ve barely had a summer since I’ve been in Australia, so I took a walk and basked in the oppressive heat for a bit before taking shelter in my apartment which inexplicably kept a level 25 degrees throughout the day without aircon. I assume it’s a combo of good insulation and the heatsink properties of the massive concrete structure.

So I’m happy. I’m really enjoying being here, in this place and time.


On the weekend I went to visit R on Macleay Island. He moved from the very middle of the city for a somewhat literal sea change. More specifically a bay change.

I never realised how gorgeous Moreton Bay actually is. From Macleay you can see all the islands, Peel, Moreton, North Stradbroke. On Saturday just after sunset we saw twinkling lights on the horizon which turned out to be boats mooring off Peel which is apparently a popular getaway spot.

Apparently there’s a (not so?) secret bar on one of the islands that’s popular with seafaring types. Just float up and grab a meal. My hairdresser owns a boat, so I know these things you see.


Last year I took a trip to North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) just to take a break. It was pre-vaccine so it was a weird and anxious experience, and I didn’t have appropriate clothes so I came home with a nasty sunburn. To top it off I accidentally and irreparably deleted most of my photos and vlog footage in a freak MacOS accident. So I wasn’t happy with myself, and truth be told it wasn’t a super relaxing experience.

But with my newfound appreciation for the beauty of the bay and the islands, and a bit more of an understanding of what centers me, I think I want to get out there more in some way.


For perhaps a year I’ve had some notes scratched down and a vague hand-wavy plan to do a vlog series centered around the southeast Queensland rail network. Partly as an excuse to get out and travel more, but also because I don’t have a car and don’t want to get one while our weird supply chain issues are making everything increasingly expensive.

So my idea is that even if I can’t drive to all the beautiful places I know exist around SEQ, I can still explore plenty of other options that don’t necessarily get as much love. The concept of travelling to the ends of each line really appeals to me both as a train nerd and also as a poor schlub who doesn’t have his own transit.


My first trip was an easy one, something I’d already done. Back to Macleay Island to circumnavigate it by bicycle.

I wanted to visit Ryan again, but also find my own way under my own power without needing to catch an Uber or a lift. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The day before my trip I found my bike was making a noise, which was super annoying because of COURSE I should have made sure it was in good working order before I set off. The guy at the bike shop didn’t have time to do a service, but he tightened everything up and it fixed it (for a while at least).

The trip itself consisted of bike to South Brisbane station -> train to Cleveland station -> bike to Redland Bay Marina -> ferry to Macleay -> Bike to Ryan’s. It’s a modest 14 km ride on paper. In practice the trip from Cleveland was hilly and without amenity. I lost count of the times I needed to ride on the grass to get back on the path, or a tiny shoulder as cars raced past.

I sent a random email to the council asking what their preferred route is, in case I missed something.

Anyway the rest of the journey was incredible The ferry is starting to show its age, but it’s amazing to be on the water, watching all the islands slide past. The boats everywhere, doing their thing. Some kid on a jetski.

I never realised Stradbroke Island was so mountainous. I was in awe of it in the distance behind the relative flatness of the South Moreton Bay Islands.

I’ve got a vlog planned, I’m not sure how it’s gonna pan out because that bicycle leg of the trip I didn’t have a GREAT time. But I won’t spoil the rest.

My take-away is that Macleay Island is an incredible, weird, surprisingly normal suburban place completely out of place that I enjoyed riding around. Again, it’s deceptively large and I didn’t get as much done as I originally planned, but I had a fantastic time doing it.


Tomorrow I’m leaving on another trip, this time to Gympie (North).

It’s an odd one, because most people don’t realise the trains go up that far. And to be fair, they hardly do. I think it’s two services a day and the rolling stock are OLLLLDDDDD as heck.

It’s an old gold rush town with a steam heritage and not too much else going for it.

But it’s a cheap destination I’m excited to get out there.


I’m sitting on my balcony, the sun is going down casting golden rays across the walls, and I’m watching a tiny money spider bounce around the table in front of me looking for a bug to eat.

I kind of started this post a month or so ago, and checked back in occasionally but only just finished it now. If “finished” is how you’d describe it. Published at least.

But I’m happy. Things are good. And I’m really enjoying being here, in this place and time.

Brisbane Winter

When I first moved back to Brisbane I had nothing, really. Ben was kind enough to give me his old TV that he wasn’t using, and it was probably one of the best hand-me-downs I’ve ever gotten. Thank you, Ben.

Reddacliffe place. The sun has gone down behind the library building. It's very blue and cold, but there's a hint of golden sunlight in the distance.

I have a particular affinity for a good TV. The one I had in Amsterdam was small and bad, so I really appreciated upgrading to the forty-something inch goodness and crisp clarity of the 720p display. I’m convinced everything looks good on a 720p display, it’s the great equalizer.

Now it’s been a bit over a year and I’m back in my place and I want to decorate. I want to mount the TV and cabinet on the wall and have a proper cosy space. But if I’m going to do that, I need to get the right TV first. Measure once, cut twice y’know? 😅

Looking down George Street. The road is super damaged, and the skyscrapers form an urban canyon. There's a glimpse of sunset on the horizon.

So that’s what I did. I saw there was a one-day sale online, and the model I’d had my eye on was just the right price. So I jumped on my bike and rode into the city to look at them in person.

It was just before closing time, but the guy was very helpful. I suppose he got himself a nice commission from the transaction, so we both win.

The golden sun on the horizon streaming light through the fence at the top of the Kurilpa Bridge.

It’s an extravagant purchase, and I feel like all I’ve done since moving home is buy more stuff. So I’m feeling a little guilty about it. But it’s been on my list for at a year now, and if it’s like the last TV I bought I’m hoping it will last pretty much forever.

It’s getting delivered on Monday so I have a few more nights with the trusty old faithful. Then comes the tricky part, working out how to mount the new one.

An old broken down pier that the party boat used to use before the 2011 floods. The sun is really low on the horizon, casting yellow rays everywhere.

Pictured: some bits from the bike ride.

Blockies with Gav

I have just now finally got my shit together and am just about to leave the house.

First officeworks

Then maybe guzman? idk i need food

My Friend Gav

We had been loosely planning to catch up this weekend, so after some finagling we decided to meet at Office Works and have burritos in the park.

A panorama of a field with trees overhanging. People in uniform playing hockey to the left, and a pair of trash and recyling bins to the right.

It wasn’t an especially beautiful day, but it was nice and cool to sit outside on the bleachers (what even is the Australian word for these?)

There was a women’s hockey game being played nearby which was strangely compelling. I don’t really care for sport, but I was drawn into the action on a couple of occasions. The number of times the sticks went flying reminded me of the SBS feature on concussions in women’s sport from a couple of nights ago.

All in all, a decent way to spend a few hours. Gav mentioned this area always feels like the gross old sporting area, as seen while walking along Enoggera Creek. But it’s quite lovely when you’re in it.

The beautiful old fig trees, or at least I think they're fig trees, along the sides of the field. A couple of bleachers, and a soccer goal in the distance.
The beautiful old fig trees, or at least I think they're fig trees, along the sides of the field. A couple of bleachers, and a soccer goal in the distance.

Lokal & Co

The exterior of Lokal + Co on a rainy day. Umbrellas and greenery everywhere.

The little West End trendy Scandi brekky cafe. Tae and I hadn’t seen each other for some time and we decided to catch up.

It’s been a fairly miserable week weather-wise. Wet and dark. But that’s a welcome la niña change from the usual Brisbane dry, so we were both happy to head out and grab breakfast before work.

I had the chilli scrambled eggs, crispy coconut sambal, plum chutney, roti bread for $17.0. Tae had almost an entire pumpkin on sourdough. We both drank our volume in coffee and it was nice.

I’ve missed breakfast. The best I managed in Amsterdam was brunch at 11 am, which was fine but I remember it being a stressful affair. Working weird Dutch hours means I haven’t really had mornings since I’ve been back. But I’ve been working on that.

So I hope to do this more often.

Enoggera Creek

A green-brown creek surrounded by mangroves and gum trees. The sky is bright blue with only a couple of small puffy clouds.

Took this photo on the way back from lunch today. The ibis roost in the trees to the right, and fruit bats live out-of shot to the left.

I always thought this was “Breakfast Creek” but my lunch buddy Gav called it differently so I did a little research.

Google Maps and OpenStreetMap both label the entire stretch Enoggera Creek, but I found the following snippet in a local newspaper:

A Department of Natural Mines and Resources spokesman said “significant research” in 1992 confirmed the name changed where the North Coast Railway Line crossed the creek, south of Albion Station and west of Burrows St and Hudson Rd.

A News Corp publication

Apparently there used to be a small tributary creek around the area that was used as the distinction, but it’s always been somewhat of a mystery:

“Confusion over where Enoggera Creek becomes Breakfast Creek dates back to the 1850s when a survey plan labelled the creek at this point as ‘Breakfast Creek or Enoggera Creek’”

Department of Natural Mines and Resources spokesman

I may need to dust off my OpenStreetMap account and make the controversial edit based on this info.

But suffice to say, this segment does appear to be Enoggera Creek after all.

You can download the original photo.

Girl power-tool by Dominique O’Leary

A bright pink and blue traffic signal box reads "you can do it"

This brightly coloured signal box caught my eye just outside Bunnings so I had to stop for a look. I find it amusing that signal boxes are now something that “interests” me, but here we are.

‘Girl Power-Tool’ illustrates the strong modern confident woman wielding power tools to get the job done. Wo-manual Arts is an empowering thing!

Dominique O’Leary

I absolutely love the art style, the strong contrasts and pastel colours. It’s also a really nice bit of representation to inspire young makers, especially being right outside a two-floor hardware superstore.

From the artist:

I think the BCC traffic signal box initiative is one of the best creative projects in Brisbane. It connects the community and is a visual representation of Brisbane’s sense of place. 

I know from painting on the street, (literally…sometimes you’re laying down doing the low parts on the actual freaking street) so many people came up to say how much the artwork gives them a high! 

Dominique O’Leary

You can check out the artist’s website for more works, and some much better photos than the ones I took.