Monday, August 31, 2009

Reading material

Yesterday when Graeme and I were reminiscing about the early 60s in isolated postings in Papua he mentioned that, as an avid reader, it was very difficult for him to get books, newspapers and magazines etc. He relied on the newspaper packing in his regular supplies from Port Moresby’s Steamships Trading Company. In one box of supplies he thought he had won big time as there was a mountain of pages from the Post Courier newspaper. Unfortunately they were all the same page; misprints sourced from the print shop of the newspaper.

Today I collected a computer nicely packed in its original box with lots of newspapers as padding. I dumped most of the papers, but one liftout magazine must have fallen on the floor. In front of TV tonight I noticed Joan with a puzzled look thumbing through the supplement. I enjoyed pointing out the date….January 2009.

Some years ago, brother Graham and I would save the April 1st newspaper still wrapped in plastic and substitute it for the current paper retrieved from friends’ lawns. Always a good result with that gag.

I must confess here that my bro first pulled that prank on me. I read the entire paper without realising that it was a year old. Even the comics looked good.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

47 years ago...

Yesterday we had a visit from a couple touring around Australia in a caravan. Graeme and I taught in the same district in Papua 47 years ago. We had a lot to reminisce about that year we shared in the Gulf District in 1962.

If we could sit down with a few other colleagues, primed with a few drinks, we would have the material for an amazing book of our adventures in colonial times in PNG. Papua New Guinea, as I remember, was never referred to as a colony of Australia and the main thrust of education in the country was to work towards independence. I can also remember at the time that I could not perceive that independence would come in the foreseeable future. It did come about in 1975 and Joan and I joined the celebrations in the Northern District of Papua.

It has been said that Independence came a little early when Australia handed over the reins to a democratically elected government. That statement is probably true, but at the time of independence there were no armed independence movements fighting to ‘throw off the yoke’ of colonialism.

Since independence PNG has relied heavily on foreign aid mainly from Australia.

Graeme and his wife Elaine, visited us here and we took them on a tour of the local area which they probably would not have the time to explore themselves. I wonder if we will ever meet up again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I've been had!

Last night I had a late phone call about the computers I distribute for free. The lad wanted to come visit at around 10.15pm to collect a machine. I told him no because it was late and I wanted to go to bed. He asked if his father could collect it the next day after 5pm and I agreed. When dad arrived he was a very large and loud Chinese fellow who in the space of 10 minutes took five calls on his mobile. I showed him the basics of operation and we carried the bits out to his large shiny black Mercedes. He gave me his card, mentioning that he was a successful finance broker. Just the sort of needy person I try and give computers to...Not!

Over the last couple of days I have been doing maintenance on a unit we own at Quinns Rocks a seaside suburb about 58 kilometres from our place in Bibra Lake. Over the years there has been little maintenance done and lots of work needs to be done before the new tenant moves in. The previous tenant has left a huge garden shed, mainly because it would have been too hard to remove. When he was cleaning up he threw a kids trampoline and a slide over the back fence onto a vacant block. The block has great ocean views and is for sale for $900,000. I have asked the agent to contact him and see if he can't take his rubbish to the tip. I don't want to be too mean as he has left me a nice shed.

Quinns Rocks has attracted a large British migrant population. It seems like almost all the businesses are run/owned by Brits. In the Bunnings hardware store every person I spoke to was a Pom. I guess the word gets around that there are plenty of like minded people in certain areas and that draws them to those areas. Rockingham is similarly attractive to Britishers.

In a previous posting I mentioned a smart crab; and a friend, Dennis, today related a true story about an evening of crabbing off the Bicton jetty in the Swan River some time in the 1950s. When we were young there were so many crabs in the river that bathers had to be careful they didn't get bitten by them. In Den's story, a Mr Hugh Rudderham, who was a neighbor of Den's was crabbing with a drop net off the end of the Bicton jetty and operating a carbide lamp for light. As Mr R. pulled his drop net, the assembled mob cheered at the size of the Blue Manna in the net. He leaned over the monster holding his carbide lamp and the bluey grabbed his carbide lamp finger. In the ensuing dance the crab and the carbide lamp went in the drink. Mr Rudderham continued his dance exclaiming...'For Cracking Great Lumps of Ice'. I will leave it to the reader to interpret that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Timor Sea oil slick

I watched part of the football match between the Eagles and the Crows on Saturday and our home team was crushed. The psychology of sport is very complex. Anyway after the defeat of our lads the victorious Crows’ Hymn (?) was belted out in the stadium. Oi, I thought, they have pinched the Marines Hymn! And they had. It seems that most of the AFL teams cannot write an original song and have filched traditional music (out of copyright) from somewhere. Looking into it a bit further it seems that even the marines acquired their Hymn from France

U.S.Marine Corp Hymn

The song has an obscure origin-the words date from the 19th century, but no one knows the author. The music is from the Gendarmes' Duet from the opera Geneviève de Brabant by Jacques Offenbach, which had its début in Paris in 1859. The Marine Corps secured a copyright on the song on August 19, 1919, but it is now in the public domain.

So there you go. I am now working on a new version to be sung at my funeral service: Kev's Hymn. The words will include such as… Nature’s Gentleman; respected by all, pillar of society etc.

There is a major oil spill from an oil drilling rig in the Timor Sea. It is unknown how the leak has occurred, but the crew has been evacuated and an aircraft is spraying a dispersant on the slick. It is estimated to take about seven weeks before it is under control. Apparently it is not a biggy as the leak is a mixture of gas and oil and evaporation is helping somewhat.

Although I was only a wee kid during WW2, I have read much on naval battles and convoy sinkings , but strangely nothing about oil slicks. The amount of shipping sunk in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was huge. What happened to all that oil? Similarly when I was a youth, Fremantle Harbour had few restriction on dumping of wastes from ships into the harbour and subsequently the Swan River. When swimming in the river near the harbour entrance we had to look out for blind mullets set loose from ship toilets. Strangely with all the garbage from ships heading up river with the incoming tide, fish were abundant, mussels and crabs everywhere. One of the fish species in the river was the Trumpeter..commonly referred to as shitfish. The crabs were large and delicious. I recall one huge crab after being tossed into the pot on the stove reaching out with its claw and turning the gas off.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The largest car dealer in Western Australia is one John Hughes. He is very successful and is Australia's largest Hyundai dealer. He also sells VWs and other brands. He regularly takes out four page newspaper adverts of customers' glowing letters of praise. We have bought several new cars from him. On his recent TV ads he did the bought/brought confusion and I wondered why someone didn't step in and say to John that it is brought rather than bought. I guess that he spends so much money with advertising that no one wants to upset him.

I have collected more good computers from W.A. Newspapers. they are relatively late model computers (Macs) and have 20" LCD screens. I now have about 25 machines ready to be distributed to needy folks. I will contact the known organisations letting them know that there are more loaded and ready to go.

I gave our son a nice fast PC which will be helpful in his CAD studies. When I delivered it to his place I was amazed at his latest collection of gear from GutterMart. There is a large TV and a bit of good furniture. He will soon have to put some of it out on the road himself. Methinks he could become a bag lady.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wray Family

Whilst at the old Albany Cemetery we found a headstone of the Wray family. Joan’s side of the family are Wrays, so we took a snap of the headstone and printed it off to take to her uncle and aunts’ 60th wedding anniversary celebration yesterday. It turns out that the grave was indeed Boy’s great grandfather and great grandmother. The mob at the Sunday celebrations didn’t know of the grave’s existence. ‘Boy’ is not his real name it is just that he was the only boy out of five children and that name has stuck throughout his life.

The celebration was a biggy. The current Wrays number 8 kids with 20-30 grandkids and great grand-children approaching double figures. Their family shows are always accompanied with musical items poems and speeches and usually a humorous quiz.

Yesterday, letters of congratulation from QE2, the Governor General, the State Premier and Leader of the Opposition and other pollies were read out. I thought at the time that they were fake messages, but later found that there is a system for getting such messages from notables. I think there are a few conditions and so cannot possibly hope to get a note from the Queen for my 70th birthday in November. Damn!

Here is a snap of the headstone….

This Photo shows the second generation Australian Wray family. The father in the centre of the photograph is the son of John and Celia, and Joan’s grandfather, Albert, is the handsome bloke at right hand rear of the pic. The Wrays were, and are, into large families. The family group photo shows 12 siblings, but one had already died and another is absent from the photo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cemetery, waterfront and old Post Office...Albany.

The old Albany cemetery is close to the CBD and the headstones of old tell some interesting stories. A couple of recent (1947) graves have what, at first, seemed accusatory statements that the two men were ‘Killed’ at Sea aboard the ship the SS British Confidence. The Albany library has an extract from the local paper explaining what happened.

Article in Albany Advertiser 26/06/1947 "Two Killed When Wave Strikes Ship", describing an accident on board the tanker British Confidence which resulted in the death of Geoffrey Todd and William John Murt.
There are a few graves of Chinese people and all their graves face north to China.
This is a spliced copy of two very old, mucky photographs of the waterfront at the bottom of the town.
The railway station on the left is now the Visitors’ Information Centre and on the roadway above the waterfront there is a rotunda (?) which now looks like this….

The old photograph was almost certainly taken from the old Post Office, a wonderful building which now houses the local campuses of UWA and Curtin University.
Tired of Albany yet? Too bad, there's more to come!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Albany History

When we stayed over at Albany our accommodation was at Middleton Beach which is about 6 kilometres from the Albany CBD. This is a pic of a bus trip to Middleton Beach circa 1910.

Another landmark in Albany town is Dog Rock. Here are two pics, one around 1895 and another a few days ago.

I have two photographs of the Albany waterfront taken around 1900 and will attempt to stitch them together for another posting.

This photo is of a house built circa 1872 by the Cull family and became the home of Mathew Cull, the verger of St. John's Anglican church. It is still in the family and rented out. It must be quite dreary inside.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Albany Aboriginal Centre

We have just returned from two nights in Albany 406 kilometres south of Fremantle. It was a busy, but very pleasant trip. Going down we had about three hundred Ks of rain which was not that nice for an oldie like me doing 110kph. Those big wheat trucks create a water wash whirlwind but fortunately there are plenty of overtaking lanes on Albany Highway.

Once in Albany we got set up in our motel room. Should give a plug for the Dolphin Inn at Middleton Beach…excellent facilities and inexpensive. $79 per night for a two bedroom apartment. That saved on having to brave the cold evenings to go to a restaurant.

That afternoon we had arranged to meet a coordinator of the Albany Aboriginal Community Centre to deliver and set up four computers with the aim of helping combat the alarming suicide rate amongst aboriginal youth in Albany.

Unfortunately nobody turned up and we made arrangements to return the next day at 9.30am hoping that there would be people to give some instructions in the programs we had loaded on the machines and general instructions on the Mac operating system. This time we were let in and had the place to ourselves until a retired aboriginal lady came along and we were able to show her how things worked. Although she had not used a Mac before she very quickly got a handle on the operation and the software and is going to be the IT specialist. It was stressed that they did not want to place computers in individual homes and they are hoping it will bring youth and oldies together to learn to write letters, play games etc and communicate with each other.

She is a very pleasant person and we chatted about the organization and the building. We were told that there is no ongoing government funding for maintenance and development of the facility. Another younger woman joined us and we were told that although funding was good, their community had for too long been welfare dependent and for funds to keep their community centre going it was better for them to fund it themselves with the help of a few donations such as ours. There is a perception among many white Australians that aboriginals get too much welfare.

The computers are ready to be used and we have requests for more machines for specific cases…one being a young woman who has recently been released from prison and is starting full-time studies.

Although the centre was a little run down, we were impressed by the efforts of the people to get their people together for cultural events etc.

Whilst down at Albany we did all the touristy things and there is much to see there. It is a little chilly there at the moment, but the coast and islands are magnificent. The town (is it a city?) is very hilly with many fine houses with wonderful views out to sea. It is however, mountain goat country and one needs to be quite a good driver to negotiate very steep driveways.

Some Pics of Albany tomorrow.

A teaser.....Albany Town Hall

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Albany Western Australia

We have made the arrangements to install some computers at an aboriginal drop-in centre in Albany. Albany has a quaint colonial feel to it with many old original buildings still in good repair.
We will be heading down south on Monday morning and hope to be in town just after lunch.

When we lived in Bicton, we were the second owners of a large colonial house built by a Scottish emigrant in 1897. In the house was his diary of his voyage to Australia in 1888. I have reproduced a part of his diary pertaining to the ship's first landfall on Australian soil at the port of Albany. It makes for an interesting read. The observation he made about aboriginals and their skin problems is similar to some native people in Papua New Guinea where skin fungus problems are quite common. The long time taken to 'coal' the ship was because the coal had to be transported to the ship at anchor by small boats. The ship was the Orient Line's SS Ormuz.

Thursday, a splendid day and we are now in sight of Australian land and what a great commotion it causes on board ship, all eagerly eyeing it with such a relish as we have not seen land for nearly three weeks.
In the evening we had a lecture on Temperance by Mr Booth the Temperance orator who gave a first class lecture and afterwards invited all to come forward and sign the pledge and get a piece of blue ribbon attached to their button hole, but only half a dozen availed themselves of the opportunity.

At twelve o’clock tonight we anchored at Albany, after which we retired for the night. Friday, beautiful weather still, when we got up we find them busy coaling the ship, which takes a very long time when compared to other places on the route. It was expected that they would be through at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, but instead they got through at 12 at night. The notice was posted up that passengers could go ashore till 5 o’clock and which a great number did. Albany is a very young place at present, but it is a very pretty little place you would almost think that they had just cleared away as much of the bush as allowed them to build as all the rest seems nothing but bush and sand. There is also a good deal of granite Rock, same as Aberdeen granite but much softer. The shops here are very neat and clean and they also sell their goods at a very moderate price, fruit being very cheap.

The people here are principally English, we took on about two dozen passengers who have left it owing to it not being well enough developed yet for their businesses or trades. There are a number of aborigines here who are about the most miserable looking creatures man looked on, being covered with some kind of a skin.

Charles Darwin also visited Albany in 1836.

The 'Beagle's' final port of call in Australia was the infant settlement of Albany, on the southern coast of Western Australia. Darwin was not very impressed with Albany as it was then. But he and/or Covington did manage to collect some zoological specimens that were new to science, including a non-marsupial bush rat, two fish (namely the longhead flathead and the common jack mackerel), and 48 insect species.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ibex and us

Last night I watched a National Geographic special called 'The Wall of Death'. Brilliant!

The Wall of Death is an almost vertical cliff face in Israel on the Dead Sea where there are large colonies of Ibex (large goats) that live on a barren mountainside and have to descend vertical routes to get to food and water daily. They make the daily descent to water and food and manage, mostly, to survive the attacks of wolves, leopards, snakes, hyenas and vultures to return to the safety of the clifftop.

I found the fact that leopards, wolves, wolves and hyenas existed in Israel pretty amazing.

What did hit home to me is that the Ibex, at about two weeks of age start to practise their maleism. Is that a word? Anyway, they, at a very young age, know that they have to be strong and a winner to mate with the female Ibex. Plenty of clashing of heads and later, large horns.
As is the case in all of nature the tough guys win out and get the gal(s).

Made me thankful that somewhere back in the past, humans established a few rules about marriage and Kev was able to get a good wife without too much agro. In humankind there is that same, albeit diluted, animal attraction. I do see it sometimes when I notice the very attractive of the females of our species go for the the more animal of humanity.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


South Australian authorities have recently taken another look at the operation of crematoria, something that wasn’t taken seriously at Auschwitz. Strict conditions apply to crematoria disposing of human and animal remains. Pollution in the form of odour, smoke, greenhouse gases and chemicals is addressed with requirements in the design of crematoria.

My brother lives quite close to Fremantle Cemetery and at odd times we, enjoying a lager out the back of his house, have noticed a smell not unlike that emitting from a McDonalds outlet? Nah; can’t be?

We have made arrangements to install five computers at the Noongar Centre in Albany and will drive down to Albany in about ten days. The director of the centre said it was a good idea and would give bored kids something to do. There have been a number of suicides amongst aboriginal youth in the town. We plan to stay overnight at least and take a lot of photographs of the historic town and maybe catch up with an ex-student who is teaching there.

Albany, like Fremantle, was a U.S. Navy submarine base during the second world war. It was at Albany that test were carried out to prove to navy authorities that early torpedoes were faulty and that many misses were because the torpedoes were running deep and missing targets. See here. Those tests caused the redesign of the Mk XIV torpedo and with that high success rates against Japanese shipping. One of the successful sinkings was that of the Montevideo Maru, a Japanese cargo ship carrying Australian POWs and civilians from the Japanese held New Guinea port of Rabaul en route to Hainan. All prisoners died in the sinking.

To this day there are people who believe that the Montevideo Maru was not carrying Australian prisoners when it was sunk. One suggestion is that they were embarked on the ship at Rabaul and thrown overboard at sea. For those who love such conspiracy theories, you can read more here.

There are calls for a HMAS Sydney type investigation and search for the wreck of the Montevideo Maru. There were more Australian deaths on that ship than on the Sydney.