On 27th June 2018 the Diamond Creek OM:NI Group and Eltham Mens Shed lost a valued friend. Sadly, Nick Grange passed away after a battle with cancer. Nick was a long standing member of both groups, with OM:NI being a keen member of the cycling group, encouraging us to ride further and more widely astray, and with the Men’s Shed he started the bike repair group.
We all had fun riding alongside NIck on the trails, chatting about cooking and life in general, and enjoyed comparing coffee notes during the mid ride break. Nick also started this web site, which became one of his passions as he converted it from a simple blog to a formal web site. All who knew Nick were influenced by his dreams – the blog, the bike repair group and the peleton.
He is still sadly missed, but his memory lives on in our minds and in the annual Nick Grange Memorial Ride. Each year close to his anniversary, the group goes on a ride which duplicates the last ride Nick rode with the group.
This year the ride was held on July First.
Ron, Joe, Bill, Lindsay and Bruce started the ride from the usual meeting place at the Eltham Tennis courts.
The first stop was on the way to Diamond Creek, in a gentle bend in the creek where Nick’s ashes were scattered. This was a time for a gentle reflection on Nick and life in general and the realisation that it can be shortened at any time. The learning here was to make the most of each day and enjoy it.
The ride then continued on to Hurstbridge via the new section of the Diamond Creek Trail to Wattle Glen, then on the road to Hurstbridge and back to the cafe at Pepper’s Paddock where Peter, Lou, and Steve joined the group for coffee and friendly chatting.
Then the peleton returned home to Eltham Tennis Courts, stopping to walk the labyrinth near the Diamond Creek Play Ground. Nick, together with Ken Ramplin was largely instrumental in persuading Nillumbik Council to construct this project, and after a number of years and much consultation the labyrinth was completed. By good luck the labyrinth is just across the Diamond Creek where Nick’s ashes were scattered, a lovely example of good karma.
Finally the group rode home to Eltham, gently reflecting on our friendship with our mate Nick, who still rides with us in our hearts.
In 1966, while working as an exploration geologist for Western Mining Corporation, I was sent to the remote Kyzylkum Desert in Western Uzbekistan to report on various gold projects. This area is near to the Aral Sea, which has essentially dried from a large fresh-water lake with a thriving fishing industry into a dried dust bowl with a saline playa in the lowest portion.
The trip was organized by the Geological Survey of Uzbekistan and we flew out to Nukus where the vehicles were waiting for us. We travelled to the Karakalpakistan Gulag at Sultan Uizdag, which was a women’s prison from the former Soviet era.
This was to be our base while we explored the gold workings in the area. We slept in cells on old prison bunks using our super-down sleeping bags. The gulag was being used as a storage compound for drilling equipment. One morning I got up early at about 5 a.m. to photograph an old fortress about one kilometre from the gulag. It was named Fortress Gyraur Kola and was built in the 4th century AD from mudbricks. Due to severe damage over the years from Mongul attacks, it was rebuilt in the 14th century AD into an interesting structure. However, with the salination of the river basin by excessive upstream irrigation, the water table of highly saline water has risen and is gradually destroying it. What a pity!
While there taking photographs, I noticed a vehicle approach the gulag entrance and four guys jumped out armed with Kalashnikov rifles. Two of them stayed to guard the gate while two entered the gulag. I also noticed that one of the two Russian-speaking geologists had gone out to the pit-drop toilet well outside the gate just before they arrived. I sneaked around to the toilet to talk about how we should proceed. In the end we decided to bluff it out and approached the gate openly and cautiously. We were pointed into the prison at gun-point by the guards. On entry we quickly discovered that they were Islamic extremists who had come to capture us for ransom. Luckily, the Tartar Russian-speaking geologist, who had been employed back in Melbourne, knew the leader of the group (they went to university together and had been friends). This leader decided to let us off this time. In order to celebrate this very fortuitous meeting, we purchased a sheep from the locals. I watched as it was killed by pointing its body towards Mecca and then cutting its throat with an evil-looking Islamic knife. It was quickly dressed and the cook turned it into a sumptuous meal. The excess sheep meat went back with the extremists as a token reward to their colleagues back at their camp.
This was just a typical occurrence when I was working around the world in all the places tourists never see. The odds of employing a Russian-speaking geologist in Melbourne, who knew the leader of some Islamic extremists in Western Uzbekistan, is mind-blowingly miniscule! We completed the trip safely.
A Tenth year celebration of Diamond Creek OM:NI was held on 16th March at the recently refurbished Diamond Creek Netball Clubrooms, the venue of the Diamond Creek group since its inception.
About 50 guests attended, including members from the Nillumbik, Banyule and Whittlesea area groups, family members, the Mayer of Nillumbik, staff from Council On The Ageing, sponsors, and representatives from Nillumbik Council. Before the proceedings the audience was entertained by a band ‘Luna the Moon” an enthusiastic trio of young women who won the Young Creative Leaders award recently.
Daryl Morrow, one of the original members of the group facilitated the event, and opened by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, and paid respect to their Elders past and present. He thanked the local traders who have supported the group, including Mason White McDougal Real Estate, Reece Plumbing, Coles, Diamond Valley Hire, Valley Financial and Bendigo Bank. Daryl also thanked the Netball Centre for their assistance in supplying a venue for the group over a number of years.
The celebration then continued by various people telling their stories of their involvement with the group.
Michael Slaughter, Manager of Bendigo Bank congratulated the group on operating for ten years, stated how he has enjoyed the relationship and looked forward to an ongoing support.
Ken Ramplin, the originator of the group, spoke on the importance of OM:NI in engaging older men, particularly after their retirement. He gave a moving tribute to the group members who have passed away – Kelvin Kaires who was the respected elder of the group, Tom Hendry an original group member who was a keen traveler, Les Robertson the group’s bush poet, and NIck Grange, who started the Diamond Creek Group blog which contains the mens’ stories, and who with Ken came up with the idea of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace Labyrinth and worked with the Nillumbik Council to enable its construction.
Tina Hogarth-Clarke, CEO of Council On The Ageing, presented a ten year certificate to the group. She stated the importance of OM:NI in supporting and bringing men together after their retirement. Even during the recent restrictions OM:NI managed to meet in various ways, principally via Zoom. She congratulated the achievement of the group in continuing for ten years. Karen Ivanka, also from Council On The Ageing, congratulated the group, saying how she has enjoyed supporting the group, and in general interacting with the now 28 Victorian groups.
Peter Perkins, Mayor of Nillumbik spoke on how he was first introduced to the idea of OM:NI groups at the launch ten years ago, and how he met with Ken from time to time on a park bench in the area. He acknowledged the work of Ken within the community and OM:NI, and paid tribute to Ken and NIck Grange’s work in getting the labyrinth going.
Anna Maio a council Officer from Nillumbik Shire Council was also acknowledged by Daryl for her assistance in obtaining grants and other help and encouragement to the group.
Representing Banyule group, Ken Young spoke, stating how he started in OM:NI in 2006, and has had an enjoyable time, meeting good blokes and making new friends.
Graham Gobey from Watsonia group spoke on how he has shared many life experiences over the years, but how sadly a few blokes have passed away, however their families always say good things about OM:NI. He was proud of how Diamond Creek group has lasted ten years.
Lindsay Clarke and Ian Sandham, representing Eltham spoke on how the Eltham Group has been going for nine years, Lindsay saying how OM:NI has given him increased confidence, Ian mentioned their new location at the footy clubrooms, and also thanked Diamond Creek Group for their support.
From the Hurstbridge group, Peter Clarke stated how OM:NI is the best kept secret, and how he is enjoying bringing OM:NI into other parts of the state, particularly in areas where there is a range of ethnic groups.
The final representative to speak on behalf of a group was Ken Ramplin. Ken told how his involvement with OM:NI began after a health issue when he retired. He started attending the Greensborough Goup. After about three years, he was challenged to start up a new Group in Diamond Creek.
After an exhaustive advertising campaign, a meeting was held to launch the new group on 15th March 2011. About fifty three people attended the launch and the new Group had its first meeting at Creek’s Cafe on 29th March. Ken then led a committee starting the Eltham Group, launched a year later with more than ninety people attending.
Two years later, another committee was formed to launch another Group in Hurstbridge, confirming Ken’s conviction that there were many men in the community needing this type of service. Since then, the groups in the Diamond Valley have disproved the notion that men don’t talk, all groups have great discussions on a wide range of topics.
The formal part of the proceedings finished with an old standing member, Jim Duncan, cutting a splendid ten year anniversary cake, which all present tasted together with an afternoon tea and socialising.
Thanks are also given to Darryl Morrow, for his excellent job of facilitating the celebration.
Three and a half years ago, OM:NI – Diamond Creek put a proposal to Nillumbik Shire Council that a labyrinth be built at the Diamond Creek Reserve.
To test the concept Council built a temporary hay bale labyrinth next to the netball courts. This was a runaway success with the younger members of the community.
After many conversations and onsite meetings, the labyrinth is now a reality. Council were able to incorporate it as an integral part of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace.
What is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a simple contemplative pathway used for walking meditation. The labyrinth has a history of more than 4,000 years. It has been described as a stress management tool and watering hole for the spirit. Walking the labyrinth is a detour from the everyday path of our lives – an opportunity to slow down and reflect. It’s an easy way to meditate – to simply quiet the mind and open the heart.
How do you walk a labyrinth?
There is really no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. On the inward journey, it is an opportunity for personal reflection. Pausing for a moment in the centre, refocus your mind, think about the difficulties you may have had in the recent past, then retrace your steps, refreshed and anticipating a brighter future.
The local Nillumbik OM:NI groups have greatly appreciated the assistance of Nillumbik Shire Council and their cooperation in bringing this community project to a successful conclusion. For more information about this project click on the following link.
Walking past a small spiky bush on the way into the veggie garden I felt a sharp sting, I hadn’t noticed this plant before it appeared overnight, strange feeling was overcoming me the plant in my eyes suddenly became very large, like a mature Gum Tree . I was becoming scared every thing was large, overpowering like being in the amazon rain forest, it was then it became apparent that I had shrunk down as small as and even smaller than the inhabitants of most home gardens. As I ventured timidly further amongst the vegetables I was confronted by a monster grub on a cabbage leaf.
I quickly scurried under the leaf out of sight. Shaking I ventured further into the garden when I heard a very loud croaking noise by a large expanse of water and standing higher than me I saw a monster frog dancing and croaking, enjoying the sunshine.
Dashing further into the foliage I was confronted by an armoured beetle on the war path. He headed straight for me, smashing through the forest with little effort, I thought this was my end – things flashed before my eyes.
Then I heard a thunderous crashing of some dry limbs. Glancing behind I saw a coloured dragon lunge forward and save me by eating the attacking king beetle. A giant Slater was dashing by in a great hurry pretty much camouflaged watched by a very patient Spider. But alas he will go hungry I assume as the Slater slid under cover. Some onlookers watched silently from their escape routes expecting to witness the demise of some other competition in the plant eating chain.
I couldn’t believe the horrors that exist in the garden where survival of the fittest and most aggressive still rule today Even the field rats have learnt to fly as they offered me a free ride out of danger, but I declined as l am scared of heights and flying owls. As the rat took to the sky he frightened the grasshopper who had eaten too much and found getting out of the way and airborne much to his dislike and he said it is all your fault planting those climbing beans which have blocked our flight path, to home.
The flowering Wattles were trying to avoid the yellow Grubs from destroying their yellow blossom before fertilisation, they had grown spiky thorns but some how the grubs had developed a way of avoiding those spikes.
Some unnamed residents tried to hide fearing my intrusion into their world. This one was trying to wrap its legs around me then devour my body for its next meal and protect its babies.
But I was rescued by this Soldier Ant just in time, he suggested I get back into my own world and to inform our species to be more considerate when working in the their world. The Blue Tongue also issued a stern warning as it protected its strawberry patch. He was backed up by by some other quiet inhabitants.
Suddenly I started to resume my full size again, but was left with a new awareness and respect of the homes and food of the world beneath our feet.
At last I was on my way .A great adventure was in front of me, heading into NSW to fly along the Blue Ranges in a light aircraft across high ridges and foggy valleys, the pilot said no one flies this way as there are only sketchy maps, but you wanted a spine tingling adventure he said as we suddenly dived into a deep ravine, my blood pressure nearly made me pass out when with a blood curdling laugh the pilot banked to the left nearly touching the tree tops and then levelled out above the craggy mountain top, civilisation had disappeared, no roads or houses were visible. I started to become scared, the pilot was no doubt an odd ball, he laughed again and started to do a barrel roll as we entered into a cloud bank. Visibility was like zero. Suddenly the motor started to cough and splutter, we must have been upside down because I fell out and started to tumble towards earth. I could see the ground now rushing toward me only the sound of the wind in my ears made me realise I was still alive, what to do now before it’s to late; luckily the mad pilot insisted I wear a parachute – all you have to do if you fall out is pull this cord, I never found out what happened to him or the plane but thank the lord the parachute worked and I landed on the mountain side all in one piece except for a bruised bum, it was about two pm and further along the ridge I could see the sun reflecting off some metal, thinking this was the plane or a building I hurried towards it. It was getting cold and I hoped to find shelter there.
Upon arrival I firstly found a cave and nearby was a cigar shaped long metal object with its door or hatch wide open. I was really scared and alarmed by now, but proceeded to inspect the cave and found signs of activity, but no body was there , although there appeared to be radios or radar equipment and other unfamiliar stuff, it was very eerie so so I went back to the cigar shaped object, inside was more equipment with lights flashing and buzzing still no one to be seen. Deeper into the vessel it was obvious that it was occupied there were seats, beds and Control panels and windows. At that moment I felt my shoulder being gripped firmly. I was immobilised and laid on a bed with wires attached to my brain area, the figures were grotesque but inquisitive.
They started to control my brain and were downloading all my knowledge and language, my biological structure and ability to reproduce.
Suddenly they were talking in English to me about knowledge gained from their download,
They explained they are here to help our survival, they told of what happened to their world, they had searched the Galaxy to find a uninhabited planet where they could stay to no avail. They would help and guide wherever they could but would be staying out of sight, deep in the sea in the mountains and on the dark side of the moon. Their civilisation is doomed as they can’t reproduce.They will capture some one from all countries so they could learn all spoken languages and cultures they would be trying to avoid our self destruction.
With that they put me into their drone and flew me back across the mountain range asking that I tell people about what all those mystery sky lights were doing for our world and they should not be afraid. We do look spooky but they will do us no harm.
When I walked up to the small farm house circled by police , fire brigades and SES personal and people on horseback and told them who I was, there was shouting and cheering amongst the rescuers, hugging and even some tears.
Bursting with excitement I quickly started to tell my incredible story but the Ambulance Doctor gave me a sedative and I remember him saying, look he’s has had a traumatic experience and is delirious – some people never recover and continuously tell stories of extra terrestial fantasies , I guess we will never know what happened to him out there.
I recall some time ago,in the 20’s I was working in the city when the news was full of reports about the pandemic spread of Corona Virus here in Australia,stay at home,don’t touch your face,self isolation etc. I guess I was lucky working in an essential service industry and as such was allowed to continue travelling into the city to carry out my governmental work. Yes I got scared of what to do to stay safe and at lunchtime started by leaving the office to get fresh air and sunshine and distance myself from other commuters,I got some inspiration take my own sandwiches from home and eat in the park just at the end of the street.
The next day I brought along my corn beef and pickle sandwiches and a small thermos of black coffee. The day was sunny, no wind Autumn is like that and at lunchtime I found myself wondering through the flowers and shrubs near a small pond covered in flowering water lilies,I decided this is an ideal spot to eat lunch there was only one bench seat and to my dismay it was partly occupied by an elderly man with his rolled up blanket and a battered green bag his clothes were tidy but his old hat seemed a bit large for his head. As I approached he gathered his belongings and moved to the end of the bench, I took this it to be a kindly offer to share his seat he appeared non threatening so I sat and stared at the pond and water Lillie’s.
I poured out a coffee and whilst waiting for it to cool pulled out my sandwiches and said to the man what a lovely day he seemed pleased to be acknowledged and we chattered some more all the time his eyes travelled to the food, I offered him a coffee which he drank eagerly, time had slipped away quickly must get back to work, he looked hungry so I offered him my sandwich and I noticed he had no socks on, I asked where he lived he replied mostly here in the park these days.
My mind was full of questions about this lonely person, that night I cut extra sandwiches and more coffee to take to the park hoping he might be there and that he might share his story with me. Lunch time came very slowly that day but when it did I rushed to the pond in the park I guess we were both looking forward to each other’s company again,we quickly ate our lunch ,eager to chat. I won’t disclose his name but for the purposes of this story I will call him Sunny. He seemed keen to tell his adventures in life, he was born in the dusty northern parts of Victoria in a very small wheat belt town, six houses in total, a weatherboard one room school,four grain silos and a railway track beside a road less traveled.
He never knew his mum or dad they died in a home fire and his dads brother took him in, he never got to know him much as he travelled a lot shearing and when home he seemed very tired and slept most of the time, his wife a big woman never hugged him or even seemed to like him she was to busy washing ironing for neighbours and baking bread and cutting wood for the firebox.
School was a torment other kids teased him and told him his mum and dad ran away because he was so ugly.
He spent a lot time on his own down by the old railway dam watching the wildlife there, he tried catching the little green frogs and tadpoles, staying late till sunset he saw the kangaroos come in to drink and saw the joeys jump in and out of mothers warm pouch whilst the big bucks stood guard.
When he was 15 he left school and worked for a while on the farm just out of town but that job did not last long now with no work and the drought it forced him to jump the grain train and later he found himself in the big city with nowhere to live, he now wished he had gotten a better education but too late now.
He got some work in a factory this gave him some money and he could afford a room with an elderly couple but he had to eat alone read the old newspapers and do his own clothes washing.
He lost his job after three years and found himself on the streets again.
He started to look unkept and grubby, why couldn’t he get a good job and live like others he sees every day walking past him. Back to work for me my head still of wonderment and thirsty to learn more.
It is the end of Tuesday and we agreed to meet each day at noon.
Wednesday noon sun still blessing us both,Sunny agreed to tell me about surviving on the streets, I asked about being cold he said yes for a while you feel the cold then somehow you get accustomed to it; you can always find a corner away from the wind where the sun is shining or a doorway to shelter from the rain, see that Pandanus plant near the pond with overhanging fronds that’s where I sleep And keep my belongings, I also sleep on this bench and get warm and dry my clothes here when the suns out. Opps I am going to be late back to work, so much to hear and learn.
Thursday, Sky a little greyer to day but I have a special lunch home made meat pie and a large Apple pie, Sunny’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. He had made friends with other homeless people and learnt how to make money from passes by, some had a dog for people to pat and drop some money into a food bowl,one did chalk drawings on the concrete pavement, others recited poetry and others simply begged.
I was very good at drawing , said Sunny using a grey lead pencil on scraps of paper I loved drawing people’s faces, the Salvos gave me some pencils and a sketch pad one day and I sat in the street drawing a persons face, got quite a crowd some times I used to get a fiver from some and a couple of bob from kids, look I will show you some he opened his tattered bag and several pages fell onto the ground and I was spell bound at what I saw and asked if I could buy one.
You can get lots of food from bins late at night and wash from the garden taps he told me. Leaving a bucket of water in the sun you can get hot water to wash in. If you are quick clothes can be obtained from charity bins, shoes and socks are harder to come by. Some of the churches put on a great meal on Sundays and its there you find friends with even worse stories than mine, I think I am very lucky really.
Sunny seemed a bit ill that day feeling feverish and a dry throat so I left the last of the thermos of coffee with him hoping to comfort him during the nighttime.
Friday came and I was anxious to catch up with Sunny and lunchtime arrived I grabbed our lunch and hurried to the park, Sunny was no where to be seen his blanket and tattered bag was neatly stored on the bench, I waited for nearly half an hour where upon a parks gardener come up to me, and said I was worried I wouldn’t find you, he said he had observed Sunny and I becoming friends and having lunch together lately. Anxiously I asked had he seen Sunny he looked shaken as he told me an Ambulance came early this morning but it was to late, but he said he had found a parcel marked to me, I nervously opened it up Sunny had drawn a picture of me on a sheet of brown paper signed from “Sunny to my dearest friend”
Sometimes when digging the garden soil preparing for the next crop of veggies
you turn over a clod to see a brown prehistoric style insect about 15 cms
long scurry away and quickly bury itself again.
I have never been able to photograph one of these beautiful characters,
however I have managed to photograph a distant relative, the elusive Preying
The mystery of the insect world always fascinates me - what was he doing.
There was no apparent damage and so onwards I go, preparing and planting my
The weather had been very dry and lots of plants were starting to suffer.
I never sighted the Cricket again, thinking he may have perished. I thought
it strange how he got called a cricket. He didn't look like a bat nor like
a ball or cricket stumps, somethings are lost in the transit of time and one
can only ponder.
Then In Autumn when the rains broke late in the afternoon I heard a high
pitched chorus of noise coming from ever corner of the veggie garden and also
from the lawn and flower patches. After listening for some time it began to
make sense; it was a symphony of music coming from under the ground. These
invisible crickets being in great numbers were giving thanks for the rain.
The next morning on inspecting the still soft soil, evidence showed the
crickets had tunnelled just under the surface making patterns going this way
and that way, keeping out of sight searching for the mysteries of the insect
This chorus of music went on day and night for days, the high pitch when
standing between the contestants was hard to endure, however if you stomped
on the ground those closest stopped only to start again when you moved on.
As the season progresses crickets seem too hard to find and the music stops.
With the large number in the garden in Autumn one could be excused for
expecting to see many crickets when tending the various crops but rarely is
People are so busy in their walks of life they miss the mysteries of the
Remember that spiders had the first Web pages.
0418 376 863
The birds gathered overhead as dawn broke and formed a rowdy flock, then headed north.
Buses and Trains
Silence now as Ken, Lee, Kaye and Daryl studied the timetables for a mystery day on the buses and trains. The weather looked promising after the heavy rains of the last two days.
Whilst we waited for bus 902 from Eltham a Vietnamese lady took our group photos, she was visiting her son, but could hardly speak English.
The bus arrived and the journey had started. Later we caught bus 280 and stopped at the Pines Shopping centre, boarding bus 906 to Warrandyte, there was evidence of last night’s large hailstone storm, wind and rain, the tree leaves were stripped and lifeless on the ground and roadway.
Here we boarded bus 364 to Ringwood and gazed at the high rise apartment buildings near the new railway station which is elevated like a sky rail with a bus terminus on both sides at ground level. Then we boarded bus 380 to Croydon, then the 670 to Lilydale, which is on the outskirts of Melbourne.
Here we decided to walk the long main street, marvelling at the earl architecture, some as early as 1850. We had lunch at a noodle shop, very large serving, and then walked down Chapple St, passing an old brick church with a weatherboard chapel still in great condition.
Nearing one o’clock now, we decided to travel by train to Box Hill, waiting at the Lilydale Station. The train pulled up and the driver alighted and locked the train up. We were surprised to note the driver was a lovely female; we engaged in conversation and were surprised to learn Rachael was previously the local Postie and delivered the mail on her motor bike for years, how her life has changed, now she is the Lilydale electric train driver.
The train was a much better ride than the buses, through Mooroolbark to the high rise apartment blocks of Box Hill. What a culture experience stepping out of the train down stairs one level to a very large food market. Box Hill seems to be the love child of China. Kaye, who had taught in China for 6 years, explained this is a carbon copy of Chinese homes, transport, shopping and employment; perhaps this is the answer to future development.
Well, what a great day of adventure and comradeship, nearing the end of the day now, but wait there is more – onto bus 293through and past Doncaster across the Yarra River stopping at Montmorency where Lee and Kaye live, Ken and I walked down Were St Monty to the train and I disembarked at Eltham whilst Ken journeyed alone on to Diamond Creek.
In the morning, we gathered together us four and enjoyed our time together, but as the day ended we dispersed and disappeared separately as shadows do in the night.
Written and photographed by Daryl Morrow, 23 January 2020 and still going.