The Quiet Hours

The shop started out as a second-hand bookshop, but beginnings are important only as a window to arrivals.

I didn’t own the bookshop back then.

I applied for a job.

The owner didn’t want to sit in the store all day, especially during the quiet hours.

I arrived at just the right time — don’t you just love how that works — arriving at the right time?

I didn’t mind being there during the quiet hours.

My world was teetering on the edge.

The edge of what, I did not know, but it scared the hell out of me.

The dusty old building was teetering on the edge also. I crawled under it once to retrieve a favourite pencil that had fallen through a crack in the floor.

The foundations were minutes away from not being foundations anymore.

I wasn’t worried, it gave the shop an extra edge — a sense of peppermint danger.

The cracks in the floorboards came in handy during the warm weather. 

In the winter, not so much. 

I became proficient at rolling up pages out of destroyed books and wedging them into the larger gaps. Old, obsolete encyclopaedias worked best.

I left my anxieties at the door each day. They just dropped away like an old discarded overcoat.

The shopowner, Derick, could not get out of the place fast enough, which was fine by me. He was an ex-teacher and a real pain in the arse who would fire me ten days before a particular Christmas because I missed a shift. I ended up in the Emergency Ward with stomach pains and couldn’t make it into work.

“Don’t bother coming back,” was all he had to say.

I’d never missed a day of work in more than a year, but he didn’t care.

I didn’t know it, but people kept asking him where I had gone.

He closed the business about two years after firing me.

Towards the end of my time working for Derick the Dick, I noticed an uptick in customers — the uptick ate into my ‘quiet hours’.

I guess it started with an old man who lived about half a mile up the road. 

I saw him every Thursday afternoon. 

We would talk, and he would tell me stories from his days as a Real Estate agent.

“If I had a buyer who couldn’t make up their mind, I would ‘accidentally’ book another potential buyer to turn up at the same time. Worked like a charm. They would panic that someone else wanted ‘their house’. Signed on the spot.”

Henry was at least eighty-eight years old, and even though I would have disliked him if he was my age, I cut him some slack — he told great stories.

Henry told his friends about me. 

Most of Henry’s friends were dead, but the ones who were hanging in there came to see me.

“Henry said you are a good listener.”

I’d never thought of myself as such, but there you go. Other people don’t always see us the way we see ourselves.

I found that I could easily remember the stories they told me, and over time I would retell one or two in response to a problem that was posed.

“What an excellent idea,” they would say, “I would never have thought of that.”

For a while, I thought I was hot stuff. 

I got all puffed up. 

There is a real rush that comes with helping people.

Of course, I came crashing back down to Earth when I got fired.

Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am sitting in my own bookshop, the same building I used to work in, doing my thing.

The shop had sat vacant for a while. It’s off the beaten track, and only dedicated book buyers will find it.

I named the store Twice Sold Tales.

People come to my store because I’m a good listener.

Occasionally, I tell them a story I’ve been told, and it changes their perspective. They are grateful for the direction I head them in, and in return, they buy a second-hand book — sometimes more than one.

I’m never going to get rich, but I do get to enjoy the stories I hear, and there is always the quiet hours.

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Muhammad Ali


I took this shot a few months back at the Busker’s Festival in Belgrave. I posted the shots on Facebook and over those months quite a few friends have found this particular shot and commented on it.

Most photographers will tell you that luck has a bit to do with any good shot.

This little bloke held this pose for several minutes while I fumbled to get my camera to wake from it’s slumber. I thought I was done for the day and then this opportunity presented itself.

You can tell from the shot that the little boy is not looking at me. He wasn’t doing me a favour by holding this pose, nor was he mugging for the camera, it’s much cooler than that.

He just liked the way the world looked from this position!

He Who Loves An Old House.


“He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”
– Isabel La Howe Conant, late 19th Century author


And every old house needs a backyard and a dog………… or two.




This amazing, little old house was built nearly one hundred years ago and the oak tree that you get a glimpse of in the first photo (on the right) is one hundred and seventeen years old (you can measure the age of an oak tree by its circumference. one inch per year). This means that the original couple who built this house probably laid out the garden many years before they began building. We know a little bit about the original owners because when we moved in there was a very old bloke living across the road from us and he had lived in our street for many years. He remembers when they died and the family came and dug out many of the plants that they had nurtured! He was disgusted. He would be very sad to know that his descendants unloaded his excellent old house the minute he died. The lady who bought the house has been a good neighbour, most of the time.

The window in the photo above is the reason we now own this house. The owner at the time asked me to repair this window and I instantly fell in love with this house. Years later the next owner asked me to repair another leadlight panel for him and I told him that I’d been at his house before. He showed me around and showed off all the improvements he had made and as I was leaving I said that if he ever wanted to sell the house that he should ring me. He laughed and said that there was no way he would ever sell that house.

Fast forward a decade and he makes that call.

A few months later and we are the new owners of this house.

One day I will post the story of our journey to living here. It is an excellent story and deserves it’s own post.



The 117 year old oak tree is on the right.

ImageThe lamp belonged to my grand mother who came to Australia in 1910. My dad smuggled it out of her house when she died to avoid a family feud.


Back in the day I was approached by a bloke who collected tins. He wanted to sell a big chunk of his collection so that it would not be a burden on his wife when he died. He was a great bloke and although I could not afford to keep all of them I did manage to hang on to a few.


Our front deck looks over a creek so we get a few visitors who drop in to dry off after bathing.

ImageOld dogs love old houses too.

My wife gets the credit (or the blame) for photos 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11

Nevermore Feeds His Family.


This brave fellow had a nest nearby and it reminded me yet again how brave wild creatures become when it is time to feed the family. I guess this applies to humans as well. My dad worked at a job that was not fulfilling for most of his life because he had a family to feed. Here’s to all the brave dads out there, whatever the species.

This is not a long lens shot, he was right there. I was lucky to get this shot. He really wanted a bit of my pie so he stayed there long enough for me to get off a quick shot, and yes I gave him a bit of pie. Models need to eat as well.


They were poor but happy enough, and one of their jobs was to chop wood for the fuel stove.


They took it in turns but generally they would all pitch in as this was a satisfying job. A large pile of wood was evidence that you had been there.
Brothers can be rough and ready even at the best of times, and although it happened more than a hundred years ago and the story suffers from being strained through a lot of people’s memories, it seems that while chopping wood a piece flew into the eye of the brother named Ansel.
If it had happened now, someone would have bundled the boy into a car, and hospital staff would have assessed the injury. With a bit of luck, his injury would have healed leaving him with only a story to tell.
But this was a time before cars and doctors were rare and often lived a long way away.
The boy lost the use of his eye.
I’m sure that his brothers were affected by what happened, and his parents were upset, but this was a time when much worse things happened on a regular basis. In some ways, it was a miracle that the boys grew up to be men as many children died in childhood. Families would often have ‘extra’ children to compensate for the expected deaths. Maybe Ansel’s injury was such that he would have lost the use of his eye in any case, but I cannot help but think that the time he lived in contributed to his disability.


He must have been devastated.
I remember when I was told at age 8 that I needed to wear glasses. My world seemed to be collapsing around me.
I thought that I would not be able to run, swim or play Footy ever again!


I thought that the kids at school would make fun of me and in this regard, I only felt a bit better when the message came back that the older boy who lived across the road promised to belt anyone who made fun of me!
Ansel probably felt the way I did, but as often happens this misfortune turned out to be a blessing.
In fact, it saved his life.


When World War One broke out, Ansel’s two brothers signed up as most young men did at that time. One brother fought at Gallipoli and survived, only to die in France. The other brother saw action but died of disease as many of our soldiers did. Ansel was not accepted into the army due to his disability and went on to father five daughters and a son.


His troubled son signed up to fight in World War Two, received the second highest bravery award, survived the War, came home, fathered two sons and a daughter.


One of those sons is writing this now.
A simple childhood accident allows several generations to live their lives and tell their stories.
I met Ansel a few times.
We didn’t like each other very much.
Probably because we were a bit too much alike.
Neither of us ‘suffered fools gladly.’


As I do with all my ancestors, I owe my existence to Ansel, my grandfather.
He came to me in a dream and warned me not to let my arrogance get out of control.
Good advice.
Thanks, granddad.