Magpies and Combi Vans

I know the weather is getting warmer when the magpies start their turf wars. They send their chiming cries out over the tops of the gum trees which are on a low simmer beneath the pale blue skies. As the days grow closer to summer the skies turn even bluer, so blue you cannot believe someone hasn’t thrown enormous tubs of dye up into the air. You think : ‘There is no way that colour has occurred naturally.’

But it has.

The magpies are building their nests, checking out suitable locations like mobsters in well-cut Italian suits. Smaller, more timid birds like wood pigeons have the heavy put on them and are forced unceremoniously, to leave their favourite tree. It is brutal out there in bird land. But no less brutal than the pecking order among humans, I suspect.

They swoop and circle, diving and falling like kites for hours on end, their calls weaving through the branches like bells. It is a call that for me is reminiscent of warm, summer days. I know when I hear it the air is fresh and clear and that soon the evenings will be lighter.

I know the weather is getting warmer when the combi vans come, backfiring and spitting oil onto all the streets facing the bay, and the tourists parade up and down Glebe Point Road with their T-shirts that say I Heart Sydney.

Every year he comes. The German. The blondest man I have ever seen. Hans Von Breckendorf. At 24 years of age he is a seasoned traveller. Sydney is his second home. He lives in his combi van – The Love Machine – from late September to January, partaking in all the delights Sydney has to offer in the summertime.

His speech is peppered with Dudes, Whatevers, Totallys and Sweets. So much so that I think he has mistaken Sydney for California. He has a bumper sticker on his van that reads –

‘If the van is rockin’, don’t come a -knockin’.’

I believe that Hans is the ultimate optimist, because in nearly four years, I haven’t seen that van rock once.

But he is here – a fixture. Already forming volleyball teams in the park.

Once when I was very lucky, I saw the two things that remind me of summer together. Hans had spent the night in one of the many youth hostels on the main drag and was hanging some washing on the line on a breezy morning. A magpie watched him from the fence, stretching his wings. Magpies like to steal shiny things to decorate their nests and I could see him eyeing Hans’ blond locks. As Hans hung out his smalls the magpie watched, waiting for an opportunity to snatch the coveted golden prize.

Hans pegged more of his laundry, reaching down into the basket containing the clothes and the magpie struck, swiping and tugging at the blond hair until he emerged neatly with a single, golden strand. Hans called out but laughed when he saw his hair being carried up into the sky.

I have often wondered if the magpie chicks who found themselves in that nest with the golden strand of hair felt more special than the other chicks in the neighbourhood.

Magpies and combi vans. A welcome gauge of summer, a sign that the bluest of blue skies are on the way.

17 thoughts on “Magpies and Combi Vans

  1. >>His speech is peppered with Dudes, Whatevers, Totallys and Sweets.<<

    I know what you mean! We weren’t taught the word ‘cool!’ in French classes at school, but all the kids around here seem to use it.

    Why does Hans have a Union Flag painted on the side of his van?


  2. What a wonderful ‘feel good’ post Selma!

    Hans is lucky he didn’t lose more hair than he did yikes….Love his van, so 70’s!!!

    It’s so cool to ponder summer on it’s way in your part of the world as I share a poem about Autumn today at MPP.

    Hugs, G


  3. I want to meet Hans! He sounds like such a hottie – where is a picture of him, you should have asked him to pose with the van! And when you say “smalls” is that Aussie for underwear? Great post!


  4. I’m at 19.5 degrees north, yet winter is slowly approaching. I enjoyed reading your story. It makes me wish I could turn back the calender, and enjoy summer all over again.

    Great story, you must get a picture of Hans while he’s there. A classic ” Dude ” .



  5. Honest to god Magpies? Really? (I’ve only ever used then proverbially.)

    I have a soft spot for characters like Hans and his vans.


  6. Oh, Hans sounds like a “totally rad dude!” It sounds like he lives the life o’ Riley, but the cynic in me is saying, “is it REALLY that good…?”


  7. TRAVELRAT – I believe the Union Jack was his attempt at the Aussie flag. Trouble was he forgot the southern cross.

    TEXASBLU – he is a very interesting guy. I think you would really like him!

    GERALDINE – we are at opposite ends of the spectrum, aren’t we? That van is a classic. I’m surprised it still goes, however!

    TBALL- I’ll try and get a photo for you. You are absolutely right – ‘smalls’ are underwear. I think the term is probably British in origin. Many Aussies I know call underwear ‘grots.’ (Aussies are an odd bunch, LOL).

    PUNATIK – it is lovely when summer comes around. I like it as long as it doesn’t get too hot. I will try and get a shot of the ‘dude.’

    NAT – the magpies are everywhere. I have a soft spot for them too!

    MELEAH – I think he’s all talk and no action. LOL.

    PAISLEY – I have been attacked by a magpie. He tried to get the gold hairclip I was wearing (they like a bit of bling). I needed four stitches and a tetanus shot. Whenever I see one now I instinctively cover my head.

    KAREN – I wonder that too. How can he afford it year after year? I know he’s young with no commitments but it must be hard to get by. Many people do suffer from a bit of wanderlust, though. I guess that must be it. I should ask him, shouldn’t I?


  8. Birds seem to be the rule of the day. I don’t think I would like those swooping magpies though. Do they ever go for earrings? That would be painful! OUCH!

    As for Hans- shame man- 24 and no rocking van???? That’s gotta be a bummer.


  9. Sounds like the kind of guy that I used to know way back in my carefree youth (ha!). If I didn’t have a job I might like to come around and hang out with him. The minute I saw the picture of that van I was reasonably certain that its owner wasn’t over the age of 30.

    Don’t you have some alternate term for “dude” down there?


  10. You are not an odd bunch, well except that lady that was in our tour, she was a bit odd – I guess we can’t all be perfect LMAO! So were his smalls briefs or boxers?


  11. LAURI – they do go for earrings. There is a sign in our local park that says : ‘Watch out for swooping magpies.’ They love anything bright and shiny. That is funny about Hans and the non-rocking van. Poor guy!

    RICHARD – I agree, definitely under 30. Everyone tends to be called ‘mate’ down here. But ‘dude’ is used quite a lot too. Or if you’re Scottish, ‘pal.’ (Usually in a more threatening sense though such as ‘What are you looking at, pal?’)

    GROOVY = I can’t believe the raven got the chips. Cheeky thing.You would be surprised who might want your locks. I’ve heard silver is quite the thing in the magpie community!

    TBALL – you are very fascinated with Hans and his smalls, aren’t you little Miss TBall? I think they were boxers but then I wasn’t really paying attention. I am far too old for that sort of thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  12. Oh well what can I say… you know I have a vivid imagination, so I picture this tall blond blue eyed surfer dude hitting the beach with his surf board and well I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks ๐Ÿ™‚


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