Dance Hall Days

Back in 1982 (when I was a very young 13 year old), I once spent a very uncomfortable night at a Blue Light Disco held at the Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre. The source of my discomfort wasn’t solely because there were GIRLS!!! there, or that I was expected to talk to GIRLS!!! and ask them for a dance.

The main source of my discomfort was the realisation that I would never be able to convincingly wear a yellow or pink woollen jumper like the cool boys (and they were dancing with GIRLS!!!). I remember trying to articulate this frustration about my fashion choices to my parents, but just like my feeble attempts to talk to GIRLS!!!, it ended up being an incoherent mumble. I have stayed away from pink woollen jumpers since that night.

Jimmy Barnes played the Leisure Centre in 1986 – I couldn’t afford a ticket so a mate and I hung outside pretending we were cool and liked all of Jimmy Barnes’ songs (especially Flame Trees). I couldn’t grow a mullet and didn’t have a flanny shirt, so my fashion choices quickly highlighted my outsider status to the other patrons. We trudged home, happy in the knowledge that Flame Trees is a really stupid song anyway and we didn’t want go to the stupid concert anyway.

In what has proved to be the loudest concert I have ever attended (my ears were still ringing 2 days later), I saw Hoodoo Gurus at the Leisure Centre on a freezing winters night in 1987. Brad Shepherd was in all his rock-godly-hirsute-sweaty-glory that night, but the drummer was brutal. The power he got from the bass drum was astounding-sitting here now I can still remember how it felt crashing against my chest. There were no dodgy fashion choices that night (well, maybe. It was the 80s after all).

The Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre was an integral part of my community growing up. I vaguely remember the opening of the centre, but I know I attended many events at that venue as I was growing up. Someone once broke into my car (causing $400 worth of damage to get the $6 in coin in the centre console) so they too could pay the entrance fee to the computer fair that was being held there, highlighting how important it was to the community. Eventually I moved to another suburb, so the Leisure Centre receded from my view.

And I guess, that is the problem right there – the importance of this facility receded from many peoples’ view.

The ex-mayor has now been vocal in his disappointment of the demolition (despite toeing the corporate line as mayor), but that is too little too late. The decision has, rightly or wrongly, been made and cannot be unmade.

I’m sad that the Leisure Centre is going to be demolished, but not surprised. The last time I went there, two or three years ago, it was obvious that the upkeep had been neglected. I don’t whether this was a deliberate strategy or just one of those budgetary things.

I also don’t fully understand why the Leisure Centre could not be incorporated into the new Aquatic Centre plans – there is no other facility like it on the southern side of the city. I believe that is a huge mistake, but that is a post for another day.

Vale Kangaroo Flat Leisure Centre. Thanks for the memories (and the slight case of tinnitus).





House of Love (Bendigo mix)

The news that, once again, Bendigo councillors are issuing formal complaints against each other should be concerning for residents. The normal day-to-day workings of the council once again mired in the sludge of the mediation and appeal processes.

However, even I have found myself saying ‘Meh’ and turning to the AFL draft news.

How have we got to this point?

This current council is certainly the most fractious and ill-tempered council I have been aware of. Apparently there was little love lost between councillors during the 2004-2008 council, but to this casual observer it seemed okay in the council chamber.

This current council has comprehensively dropped that façade of professionalism.

With the election of Elise Chapman and Peter Cox, there was always going to be a certain amount of conflict; a shake-up of the old order if you will. (Helen Leach was an unknown quantity, the Steven Bradbury of Eppalock Ward. I honestly can’t remember anything of her election platform, I just know I placed her last on my ballot paper.)

Chapman set the tone early, publicly questioning the viability of the Art Gallery, a day or two before she had even been sworn in as a Councillor. Sensing a bumpy ride ahead, I did what anyone would do – I strapped myself in and followed her on Twitter. It was a wild ride, until I was ultimately blocked by her earlier this year.

Cox, Chapman and Leach voted as a bloc (or is that a block?) on many issues in the first 2 and a bit years. Anything to do with council finances, or large planning projects that was supported by council officers, you could almost always count on 3 votes being in the negative straight away.

And then the application to build the mosque was lodged.

The support by Cox of the mosque application has broken that loose alliance, with no obvious chance of repair.

These tantrums must stop – it is hurting this city and distracting from the real job of the council to govern.

Either get over it, or get out.


As the only non-Catholic/Christian in my immediate family (except the rabbit), I am calling on the oppressive and all-pervading celebration of this Christian festival to cease immediately.

To be fair, I don’t know if rabbits actually do or don’t celebrate Christmas. We have only had a rabbit for 3 months, so I don’t proclaim to know everything about them.  I do know that in Watership Down, no mention was made of Christmas, so I’m going with ‘no celebration’ until proven otherwise

But I digress.

Effective immediately, I plan to tell my children that the magic of Santa is a furphy. The presents they will be receiving is the result of countless hours of research (some would say obsession) by their Mother during the July toy sales. Those mysterious trips she took “shopping” but never came back with anything was to pay the laybys, exchange the outdated gifts or to pick up the hoard. She deserves some public credit and kudos for the hours poring over websites and catalogues to pick the perfect gifts.

The presents themselves are not sitting in Santas’ cave; they are sitting in my side of the wardrobe, cleverly hidden under the old doona. I will explain to them that is why you are not allowed to open that particular door – it’s not because the door is broken. The lies have gone on for too long.

Rather than venturing to the wilds of Strathfieldsaye to attend the Christmas Eve kids mass, I will insist that we sit quietly and meditate for the full hour at home, as that will be greater assistance on our path to enlightenment. The St Francis school hall can be hot, is full of children singing and talking, you have to keep standing up and sitting down and the 3G reception is patchy at best. The nativity play is derivative, the animals in the manger look human and the beards on the 3 wise men look decidedly fake. The only participant who is completely believable is the baby playing the role of the baby Jesus.

I have decided that we will not be undertaking our annual Christmas Eve Christmas light tour. It is a waste of petrol and frankly the increase of the carbon footprint because of these lights concerns me. We can see flashing lights and pretty colours on the TV. At this time of year, every one is tired so an early night won’t hurt either. I plan to catch up on some the Homeland episodes I have missed.

The annual Christmas feast is cancelled too, which means the annual mad dash of wrapping presents and setting up for the lunch meal will not occur. (Fun fact: One year I went to the local “open 24 hour” supermarket at 2am Christmas morning to pick up some red food colouring. Apparently the only time throughout the year that this supermarket closed its doors was at 1am on Christmas Day.  The only place left open was the 24 Hour Shop on Williamson St. I had to leave a deposit and come back with some more money before the colouring was mine).

Because the Christmas day falls on a Tuesday, the normal 6am present opening orgy is banned. It is my day off from work and I will be looking for a sleep in.

We may have some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, but I plan to lead the children through numerous recitations of the Medicine Buddha mantra, to focus our minds on these people who are unwell from overeating. Of course we will eat the Plum pudding that my Mum makes, but only because it has already been made. It is a sacrifice, but we Buddhists know that life is suffering.

So join with me (and the rabbit) in declaring enough is enough.Take a stand and lets make a sober, controlled and rational decision to cease this glorification of the Christian calendar immediately

Besides, we all know that Easter in Bendigo is the better celebration.

The Gibbo I know

I’m going to be upfront.

I like Steve Gibbons.

I like him as a bloke, I like him as our Federal member. I have voted for him in every election.

I like the way has embraced Twitter. Sure, some of his tweets are awkward, but he is really trying to be open and honest. His recent exchanges with Latika Bourke have been GOLD.

I like the way he has fought for local businesses – Thales and McPhersons are two that spring to mind. I like how his looming retirement has loosened the shackles and he has become more of a straight shooter, publicly.

As our longest serving Federal member, ever, there are obviously a lot of people who like Steve Gibbons MHR.

However, I don’t like the spin that has occurred about the recently announced hospital funding cuts. I don’t even pretend to understand the funding arrangements and the dark arts behind it. It’s all magic as far as I’m concerned. I do understand when a hospital administrator comes out and expresses his concern about the size and timing of the funding cuts. Anyone who listened to Mr Mulder on ABC radio would have recognised how emotional he was about it.

However the instinctive reaction for any politician or prospective politician seems to be blame the other side immediately and the quicker the better.

“They didn’t do this” “They failed to mention this” “When we came into Government we fixed up the mess…” “It’s a beat-up/conspiracy/left-leaning bias/party stooge/muck racking/blame game/weasel words/blah blah blah”

Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected leaders, you know, led. Without the spin, without the vitriol and duelling press releases and dredging up of archaic points to pad out their arguments

Just lead. Accept that something is wrong, apologise and fix it. Or better yet, fix it and then apologise for the confusion.

Just lead. The voting public don’t care about the political point scoring. They care about how their families will be affected, how they will be affected by the decisions made by their elected leaders

Just lead. We voted for you, so at some level we trusted you enough to expect that you would show good judgement and look after us. We didn’t vote for the spin and the name calling.

With something as important as local hospital funding, my expectation is that my local member would work hard to either fix the problem or tell me clearly what the problem is.

After all, that is why I voted for him, not because he gives good press release…

From media release dated 6/12/12

“I fully understand Bendigo Health’s frustrations as they attempt to manage their finances responsibly and the retrospectivity of these changes is of considerable concern to me.”

Mr Gibbons said media comments that Bendigo Health has had its budget slashed by the Federal Government are at best an exaggeration and at worst just another beat up.

“These are the facts regarding Bendigo Health experiencing a lower level of funding than anticipated under the current agreement.”

“The Federal Labor Government is adjusting a component of its funding contributions as per a well established funding agreement with the State Government. Funding is based on a combination of factors which are indexed to ensure transparency and equity and include population changes, growth rates in the cost of health services and a technology factor of 1.2%”.

“The agreement allows the Commonwealth to adjust a component of its funding if any cost increases in providing health services are not as high as anticipated and population figures are higher or lower than anticipated.”—the-facts/

From media release dated 10/12/12

Our budget papers show federal funding for Victoria’s health system will rise every year from $3.6 billion in 2012-13 to $4.5 billion in 2015-16.

Mr Gibbons said statements by the State and Federal Coalition MP’s and Senators were dishonestly designed to blame the Federal Government for the current situation in Victorian Hospitals.

“I call on David Davis and the Liberals to stop this ridiculous sideshow and come clean to the people of Bendigo – admit his Government is slashing health services to the bone, and apologise for his scare campaign”.—the-facts-/

Welcome to my midlife crisis

Originally published 20/12/10. Still relevant now

Over the last 3 years a lot of extraordinary things have happened to me – I turned 40 (then 41 then 42!) with no discernible effort or consequences, welcomed my new son to the world, ticked off numerous goals that I had no idea how I was going to attempt let alone achieve and started the Accounting Degree I should have really started 25 years ago.

Despite all that, there has been a gnawing sensation that I have some failed to make my mark in the world, that with my life at the halfway point I have underachieved.

It gradually dawned on me that I was starting to have my MID LIFE CRISIS! What to do?

Buy a red sportscar!

(With what? I have three kids you know, do you know how much those things cost? Where would you put the car seats? The speed limit is only 110km, not point going faster than that! It will pick up all this little dings from the supermarket and crèche carparks. What about the insurance and petrol?)

Hook up with a hot 20 year blonde!

(Why, I’m more in love with my wife than I have ever been? I’d miss the kids too much. I would need to get in shape first, do you know how much energy it would take to keep up with someone that young? Frankly, sleeping with a woman half my age seems a bit creepy.)

Chuck in my job, refuse to work for ‘the man’ anymore!

(Does anyone really say “the man” anymore? This does sound like a good idea for the first few weeks, but I’m not sure how my parents will react when we are forced to move in with them because the house keys have gone to the bank. I guess I’ll live in the caravan, the kids can visit on the weekends and live in the house during the rest of the week.)

And so on and so on.

And then it afternooned on me. (I was going to say ‘dawned’ again, but I thought it was sounding too clichéd. Afternooned hasn’t really worked as I would’ve liked though).

My burning ambition since I was 8 or 9 was to be a writer (and an astronaut and a Carlton footy player in the winter and an Australian cricket player in the summer). Over the years, these ambitions have been let go – even though I’m still waiting for the call up to fill an unexpected team vacancy, I know that I don’t run as fast as I used to and I can’t throw the ball as far as I could 25 years ago. I (reluctantly) accept that I may not be called up at all.

I don’t do well in confined spaces, so the astronauting gig may be out as well in the short term – not ruling it out all together though. Happy to tough it out if needed.

Which then, inevitably leads me back to writing.

Look, to be honest, I’m not sure how many people will actually read this. I can probably count on one or two to read the blog occasionally, but I’m sure I will be doing this for my own pleasure. And that is ok with me.

It’s said that to get better at writing, you have to write. I have many great 1st chapters of books, but have never progressed past that point. I started a Diploma of Writing course, but had to give that up when I started working full time. I have many starts, but have always scared myself and stopped.

This blog is a way for me to practice writing without thinking, without scaring myself. It’s a way for me to re-capture the joy of writing I had when I was 9,10,11,12,13 and 14 years old. I have no expectations that I will write a book and become financially comfortable: I just want to have some fun with it.

I think it has a bit more dignity that letting my comb-over gently waft in the breeze while I’m driving my shiny red convertible.

Phillip John

originally posted 15/09/11

Today is the anniversary of my brothers’ death ~20 years dead which is a counter balance to his 20 years of life. The year after that he will have been dead longer than he was alive. Every year the circle of people who knew him gets smaller and smaller ~ this year an Uncle passed after a long and difficult battle and my Dad is really starting to struggle in his battle.

It deeply saddens me that my wife and children have never met this man who has paid an integral part in my development as person. My eldest son, who has his Uncles’ name for a middle name – seems to be exhibiting some of Phillips’ personality traits, which is very pleasing.

I’ve recently been doing family history stuff – I blame my mother for this -and have tracked strands of my ancestors back to the 1500s. As I’m researching and completing the family tree, it strikes me that I know nothing about these people except their name (John Toman), their approximate birthdate (born about 1750) who they married (Jane Lavis m14 Feb 1778) their children (John born about 1778, Jane about 1780, Samuel about 1782) and their death (12 July 1839). For a stretch of about 100 years, all my direct male ancestors were named John Toman, but I have no idea what they were called on a daily basis. Was John, Johnny, Jack, Little John, JT or Sam? Some of these people lived 80+ years, but all I have is a bunch of dates, no other record of their life.

My brother, the middle child, is Phillip John Toman. He was born 15 December 1970, and was killed whilst crossing a wet dark Melbourne road at about 6.30pm on Sunday the 15 September 1991.

For me, at the grand old age of 21 and some months, it was my first real experience of death. Since then of course death has come to me in various guises- suicide by car, cancer, old age and unfortunate circumstance. Victims have included favorite Aunts, Nan, work mates, the guy going out with your girlfriends best mate and guys you had a nodding relationship with. However, as my first real taste of death, Phillips’ was a excruciatingly painful one.

For 18 or so years, we shared a room and I like to believe we were close-certainly in the last 18 months or so of his life we became closer. I don’t have any great stories to tell you or some great insights into the meaning behind his death – the stories are kept alive in my memory for my own private reflection. I simply could not do justice to any story by writing it down.

In June 1991, Phillip, his girlfriend and I went for a holiday in Surfers – the first time I had flown or been to Surfers. I’m pretty sure it was the same for Phillip. We stayed at his girlfriends parents holiday apartment, a block from the beach on about the 15th floor. We stayed for 10 days, maybe 2 weeks. Phillip managed to set foot on the beach the night before we left Surfers Paradise – in some ways that typified him.
As a brother, he was hopeless with outdoor games – couldn’t kick a football, wasn’t interested in cricket. He was always more interested in reading, or playing board games or listening to music.

On Friday the 13th of September 1991, I was at work and thought that I should call Phillip, it had been a week or so since we had spoken the Bank could pay for the STD charges – Nah, I’ll do it Monday I better serve that customer – Next please!

On Sunday, Phillip and some mates went to the Daimaru Shopping Center that had just opened. I know they were there for some time and really enjoyed it. They all went back to his mates flat at the corner of Dandenong Rd and Williams Rd. Phillip went to the nearby shop to get something- I’m not sure what but probably the crappy clove cigarettes he was smoking at the time.

As nights go, this was pretty cold and wet. It was also the really dark dark you get when the weather is terrible, the sun has just gone down and your headlights really aren’t having much effect. Phillip had some new shoes on, with little to no grip and dressed all in black. The little red man on the traffic light was red- not flashing red, solid red. Phillip pushed past the waiting pedestrian onto the wet road.

The driver of the car was a teacher, who had had a few over the course of the afternoon – I don’t know his name and have never had cause to find out. Thankfully for him he was under 0.05 – I always felt he didn’t need the extra guilt. The green arrow came on and he turned right into Williams Rd, crossing over the tram lines and other 3 lanes of traffic

The spot where Phillip was hit is innocuous enough in the daylight, and it is hard to believe that anything could possibly occur at that spot. He slipped, and was on one knee when the car hit him. He was dragged 20 meters down the road, and the car had to be lifted off him. The best guess is that he died instantly, though I have never seen a coroners report – I certainly hope he felt no fear or pain in his final seconds.

In some respects Phillip’s death was the best thing to happen to me.

It took me some time to move my way through the some times paralysing grief. It wasn’t helped that I was in the middle of a relationship break-up and all my support was 120ks away. Once I had managed to survive one day, it became easier to survive other days. Gradually over time, I was able to string good days together. His death led me to Buddhism and views on death.

Phillip was not a saint, had no real answers about life or special way about him. He was taller than me- close to 6ft, but ran like a girl and smoked his cigarettes in a really weird way. He hated being called Flip, tolerated Phil, preferred Phillip. He barracked for Collingwood when he was younger, but outgrew that. He was always the Elven Thief in Dungeons and Dragons games and liked to listen to Kylie Minouge and the Cure. He worked in a library and lasted one semester at Monash. He took pride in his hair and once helped me push a stubborn floater down his toilet.

As the circle of people who knew Phillip start to diminish, it saddens me that he will be a footnote in a future genealogists family tree. This is my attempt to use up some kilobytes in the hope that someone sometime will read this and have a sense of who he was.
His name was Phiilip John Toman, born 15/12/1970, died 15/9/1991.

His family still miss him everyday.

Bus stop

originally posted 15/03/12

Back in the day, I frequented many of the hotspots of Bendigo. Velvets, City Club, Pinkies/Stratus/Hot Gossip, Abbey Road, Club Casablanca. One of the nightclub managers/owners, Jimmy P., was rumoured to be the man who ran Bendigo and was a man to be respected. Those nightclubs seemed destined to live on forever, their sticky carpets and neon signs lighting the way for future generations.

Sadly, along with an unmentionable amount of my money, those nightclubs (and Jimmy) have gone the way of the Dunny Diner and now only exist in our (admittedly hazy) memory.

Which brings me to this, an artists rendition of a $700,000+ glorified bus stop, plonked in the middle of a lovely little shaded and nominally grassed area in the centre of town. This bus stop safe transport space is a place for socially excited and lubricated young people to gather together under shelter and wait for a taxi.

There is more detail on the proposal here (Howard Place)

Apart from almost condoning excessive drinking, I have some concerns about the councils approach. I have made a few predictions.

Fearless prediction number 1- at least one sheet of Laserlite roofing material will be smashed within the first 4 weeks of opening. More will follow quite quickly and the decision will be made to change the roofing material to something hardier and less see through.

Fearless prediction number 2 – the 3 toilets will be rendered useless and unusable quite early in the night. Every night. The stench will unfortunately linger for longer.

Fearless prediction number 3 – the roof WILL act as a beacon as well as a target. The Discovery of Gold monument will become collateral damage.

Fearless prediction number 4 – in 5 years, tastes will change and these particular nightclubs will no longer have the same crowds. This problem will no longer exist at Howard Place.

Fearless prediction number 5 – in 10 years, the underutilised/vandalised toilet and bus stop will be quietly dismantled.

Fearless prediction number 6 – Urgent remedial work will be needed on The Discovery of Gold monument. As part of the process someone, somewhere will utter this phrase “Who knew vomit could do THAT?!”

Nightclub fashions come and go- todays Huha is tomorrows’ Velvets. The Universal is on it’s second or third resurrection, so is the Star Bar. These venues, despite our hopes, are transient by nature. This seems to be creating a $700,000 semi -permanent solution to a temporary problem.