Blinking good times

By John Lewis

There's nothing better in this life than finding more ways to stare into space and blink in amazement.

When you have two magpies who deliver a Mozartian melody from the verandah deck every morning while waiting politely for their portion of your dog's breakfast, there's plenty to blink about.

I particularly like staring and blinking at the toaster while the kettle boils. This is focused blink time because there is an end point.

For 250 seconds the passing parade of the rates bill on the fridge, the grapevine that needs trimming, the CAPS-LOCK certainty of climate change deniers who failed year 9 science, and the cat at the glass door with a leaf-strewn cobweb on its whiskers causes a blinking frenzy.

Then your toast pops up and you're back in the world.

Lately I've discovered backyard burning off delivers a solid practical reason to stare and blink a lot.

I've never been much of a logician when it comes to getting rid of unwanted storm litter and overgrown bushes. I grew up in concrete backyards where the only debris was bottle tops.

For the past 20 years I've tried to fill the green council bin with garden debris, but the amount of twigs and weeds can never keep up with fortnightly collections.

Then my neighbour, who is the font of all sensible backyard knowledge, suggested a small brazier. He even let me borrow his brazier so I can get the hang of braziering.

For the past two weekends I have been mastering the art of the brazier burn-off.

I have discovered it's a good idea to clear an area around the brazier to avoid flaming spillage that could reduce the neighbourhood to ashes.

Try not to chuck fresh green stuff, wet leaves or dirt into the brazier. The resulting Apocalypse Now plume of smoke could earn you a poke from anyone with a full washing line, or a visit from a group of angry men with large hoses.

Also — do not wear cheap rubber-soled shoes with long laces. They just look ridiculous.

I have found two minutes of branch-gathering and leaf-stripping delivers about three minutes of solid blink time.

During this period you can think about the towering gum trees turning into incendiary bombs as summer approaches. Then lift your gaze further out into the bush and wonder how on earth firefighters could possibly get in there with the tracks reduced to Somme trenches by four-wheel drives on Sunday fun bashes.

Then blink time is over and it's back to feeding the brazier.

Whole afternoons can be whiled away like this — as the amazing dumbness of other people makes you blink and blink some more.

Or it could be the smoke.