Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Yesterday my job was to be around when our (my) solar panels and inverter was installed. The whole installation by a team of four men took around 2+ hours. Then I followed the team around to Helen and James’ house to do the same. When their house was finally connected a bit of sun poked through the clouds and their standard meter was running backwards. Good sign!
Looking at the panel on the inverter one can see the input change with cloudy or clear sky. The inverter is quite a large beast and it has piggy-backed a large heat sink. I guess there is quite a lot of heat produced converting the incoming to 220/240 volts.

Last night on Four Corners on ABC TV, there was an expose of the cruelty of the live cattle trade. The report was specifically about the trade with Indonesia. The live cattle trade with Egypt was suspended years ago because of the cruelty carried out there. The argument is that they must be live to assure consumers that they are slaughtered according to Muslim rites.
Surely those rites must not condone the horrid treatment given to the cattle. I felt quite sick with what I saw.

It is time that Halal slaughter is done humanely in Australia, supervised by Imams and frozen meat only be exported.

PS. If you can stomach it, here is an edited version of some of the cruelty.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More on waste water

Click up both images to enlarge

In today’s paper there is a follow-up article with a graphic explaining how waste water is refined and placed in the aquifer for further filtration. In the same paper a letter to the editor tells us that it is impossible to filter out hormones and consumers will ingest them as do battery chickens. As it happens Australian battery chickens have not been fed hormones for some 20 years. The hormone for growth story is still around as an urban myth. At the moment just 6% of Perth's waste water is used to recharge our groundwater reserves.

Here is a scan of adverts on the back page of a theatre programme from 1961. Ads have certainly changed since then. Western Australia has also changed. In 1961 there was only one major brewery in W.A. and most of the beer drunk flowed from the Swan Brewery. The advert did not even mention the Swan Brewery but in one of the sketched there is a bottle of Swan Lager on a table. Subtle eh?

Today is John Wayne’s birthday. His epitaph featured a piece that he himself wrote. Nice!

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself into our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

Last Thursday was just four months since my Joan died.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Joan, Amber and Ravens

I have been inviting Joan’s friends to visit and look through her clothes and shoes. I had no idea she had so much even though the walk-in robe was/is a mass of colour not associated with my drab wear.

Masses of clothes and shoes have been taken by friends who are not only very happy with their selection, by feel good about keeping a few things of Joan’s. I am thankful too that I won’t have to take it all to the Good Samaritans. There will still be quite a lot that will go to charity.

A couple of days ago I wrote about our cat Amber being unfriendly and the possibility that she would have to go. This morning, as if Joan has warned her, Amber is being quite nice. She has rather a Pavlovian existence, conditioned to wake me at around 5.45am and yowl until I get up and give her some food. I hope to break this habit by making a self feeder filled with food that is not her favourite eat. That way she won’t necessarily get too fat, but will keep off my case every morning.

This morning I put out on the lawn, a plastic meat tray with scraps for the morning Raven visit. Through the kitchen window I watched as a Raven circled the tray about ten times, obviously suspecting that this black tray was some sort of trap. Eventually the bird gingerly flipped the tray over and ate the contents from the lawn, away from the tray. I recall as a young lad on my grandmother’s farm that I could go out onto the verandah with a broom and point at crows in the field without any reaction, but if I did the same with a ‘pea rifle’, (.22 calibre) the crows would take flight. Smart buggers!

The West Australian newspaper this morning had a typical journos sensationalist beat-up headline.
Click to enlarge to read the article
We will not soon be drinking sewerage, but eventually getting water from what is called the Gnangara Aquifer to which has been added almost pure water from treatment plants which will be further filtered in the aquifer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cats and Lobsters

I have just stumbled across Oprah Winfrey’s first of her final three shows. I had to turn it off after a few minutes. The audience looked like about 5 or 6 thousand in a foot ball-like stadium. The fans could be easily convinced had she announced that she was in fact a reincarnation of Mary Magdalene; many of them would have gone for it.

Maybe not.....they might be hoping that she would give everyone there a BMW. Crass stuff!

Our cat has developed some strange behaviour patterns. I had reason to yell, and scream at her recently when she urinated on a heap of computer cables in the house. Now she is quite happy to be friends in my bedroom but in the room that I gave her a bit of grief in she sees me in a different light and runs scared when she sees me. We have not been good friends since she came into our household and I am thinking that she may have to leave.......maybe to a friend who has a lobster boat.

That should get a few comments.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Joan's Rose

Today, in accordance with Joan's wishes, we planted a rose bush intermingled with her ashes. I was happy to have the pot placed at Helen and James' house as they are more likely to last longer than me and I do have a track record of neglect of rose bushes. Helen also told me that my ashes could join with Joan's when I go. When we had finished the planting Helen gave Joan, and the rose, a glass of champagne. A few tears were shed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jesus and Mary in Kingaroy

Today is the start of the end of the world. Apparently it will end at 6pm U.S. time....not sure if that is East Coast or West Coast time. If it is East Coast time we in Western Australia have until 6am tomorrow to finish off all the grog in the fridge.

I don’t think it will happen, as recent reports tell of a couple who live in Queensland declaring themselves to be Jesus and Mary....it seems reasonable! They have purchased a large property and as many 40 disciples have purchased adjoining properties to be near Jesus and Mary. A few couples were interviewed on TV and they seemed to be of above average intelligence. I see a compound in the future and possibly a Jim Jones termination of the faithful. As he (Jesus) says, many people have claimed to be Jesus, but I am the one.
For the short list see here.

How come Jesus selected Kingaroy of peanut fame to settle down. What's wrong with W.A.?

Check out JC and M here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dinner Fail

Wednesday evening I decided to go unhealthy and cook fish and chips. Just about everything I cook now is unhealthy. At the local supermarket the seafood trays had ‘fresh’ scaled and gutted fish which looked OK to me, so I bought a couple to fillet at home. I also bought a packet of frozen chips. This was going to be good!

I preheated the oven and opened the chips only to find they were sweet potato chips. After almost ten years in PNG eating sweet potato or yams because of the lack of real spuds I had to force myself to even try a few chips......Nah! The fish was also lousy.
I broke another of Kev’s rules which says don’t buy fish when the head has been removed. Sunken eyes are the giveaway for non-fresh fish. Consigned to the compost bin.
I started to read a book Joan gave me a few months before she died. I was a bit busy then and only yesterday took some time out to finish it. The story is narrated by Death himself. The Book Thief is a great read. I recommend it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More from the drawers

When we returned from our six year stint in Papua New Guinea at the end of 1975 our son Martin was hospitalised in Fremantle Hospital’s infectious disease ward with typhoid.
It was quite a shock as the last case of typhoid in Western Australia was in in the 1950s or 60s (?).

When we left Popondetta in PNG for our final flight back home we stayed over for a couple of days in Port Moresby with friends before flying south to Sydney. We had a few days in Sydney and because of a baggage handlers’ strike had to fly to Perth on an Air India 707. That plane and the general cleanliness in the cabin was a bit of a shock and later I thought that it was the source of Martin’s sickness.

During our previous leave from PNG we had purchased a wonderful old colonial house in Bicton and of course, when we moved back in all our friends and relatives came to welcome us home and take a look at the house.....around 60 people in all.

Less than a week after our return Martin got sick and listless. We went with him to a GP who was unsure what the problem was and suggested we watch him carefully. A couple of days later we returned to the GP and he immediately had Martin admitted to Fremantle Hospital and the next day or so test results showed he had Typhoid.

Every person we had had contact with over the previous three weeks had to be contacted and tested by Public Health. That included the friends in Port Moresby. The PNG Health Department had an investigation as it was thought that the Popondetta fell within the three week contact/infection period. No one tested positive.
We, however, had to remain isolated from the general public.

Then the media circus got into gear. Daily phone calls and visits to get some tidbits to pad out the story. In all there were 12 newspaper articles in the one newspaper.
Click to enlarge the image

After 5 weeks in the infectious disease ward, Martin was discharged and returned home for good. Whew!

Monday, May 16, 2011

50 years ago

Today, May 16th, is exactly 50 years ago that a group of 60 trainees, selected from all states of Australia, landed in Rabaul in what was then the Territory of Papua & New Guinea.

We were the second batch of teacher trainees rushed through to bring fast tracked education to remote and isolated schools throughout the ‘Territory’. The big push was in answer to the United Nations criticism of Australia’s progress in bringing PNG to Independence.

Of the 60 trainees on my course, I was the second youngest at 21 years of age. Many friendships were formed and I still keep in touch with four of that group. A good friend during training and since, is Jim Meehan who is still teaching at Batchelor College south of Darwin. Batchelor College is not as one would think, a college for batchelors. The town of Batchelor was named after a politician.

Only one successful reunion has been made. Many of the 300 plus teachers were in their 40s and 50s at the time of training and have since died. The reunion in 2010 in Queensland’s Gold Coast rallied only about 20 attendees which included two of the original lecturers. They looked in better condition than most of the teachers there.

Growing old gracefully is a myth.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Every day that I find more of Joan’s personal stuff I am amazed at how modest she was.

One envelope had programs for 16 plays which she acted in from high school to university and beyond. Our walls do not have Joan’s degrees framed and on display. Other documents show that she was editor of her primary school newsletter and the front of house for university productions. She was a Prefect at Geraldton Senior High School; etc etc.
Joan, probably at Bridgetown Repertory Society performance circa 1964

A couple of our friends would wax lyrical about Dylan Thomas and his classic ‘Under Milk Wood’. Joan never mentioned that she acted in Under Milk Wood in the 1962 Festival of Perth. I would have milked it to the max had I been in her shoes.

Here is a photo of Joan when I first met her at Bridgetown High School where we both taught. I cannot believe that she selected me to be her lifetime mate; and now I am alone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Growing up

I have been searching through drawers for some software for one of Joan's sewing machines and found some quite wonderful stuff. There are a couple of notes our kids wrote to us when they were quite young.

The first one was after we made a trip to Bali, Indonesia, with our children. One night we were walking along a footpath and Martin fell into a smelly drain which was open with the metal grate set aside. He was stuck with his arms supporting him until I managed to lift him out. As we struggled to extricate him a street vendor was trying to sell me some silver jewellery. I told him to POQ. Martin didn't much like it when back home we told the story to all our visitors....and so the note.
Helen's note is a much earlier one and I think we told her that we might get a new daughter if she didn't do her chores. Martin once told us that he was going to run away and live at the tip in a cardboard box with the seagulls.
Joan has lots of interesting bits in places around the house and I am reluctant to dispose of them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ruby the Destroyer

Over the weekend I dined at Helen and James’ house. Helen made a great Fish Pie.

Here is the recipe....

On Saturday I helped James and Helen collect their ‘island bench’ from a furniture place. Very heavy. I fell backwards helping unload it from James's ute and cracked my head on the concrete driveway. No damage, but a note to myself..I am no longer a young bloke. Ruby the destroyer made a thorough inspection, probably with the thought of eating it. She is still a puppy, and eats anything and everything including stones in the garden. She is particularly fond of cat poo.

This cartoon could well be about Ruby.

Mothers day passed with a few tears.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A scaredy cat

Our cat, Amber, usually spends some time outside in the yard, but something...probably the aggressive black male cat which cruises through our yard, has spooked her and she won’t venture outside. So now she is a full time house cat. That could be a good point if I try and give her away. She was given to Joan as a lap sitting companion during her sickness, but that never happened. Amber remained either timid or aloof.

She does, however, watch me wherever I go around the house. Yesterday I was about to take a shower and went out to the kitchen to bring a phone into the bathroom should someone call. I was naked and Amber showed no emotion to this most unattractive sight; she continued to look at my face only. Strange? I scared myself when I looked in a full length mirror upon returning to the bathroom. Cats don’t seem to give TV a second look either.

I noticed that the price of dried coffee beans (parchment) in Papua New Guinea is for Robusta K4 per kilo and Arabica is K7 per kilo.

Those prices are not at roadside in villages and are factory door prices. Also the exchange rate for Australian$ to PNG Kina is $A1 = K2.6. Hard work for not much reward.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Theft by Lewy Body

Our friend Joyce rang and told me of her visit to see John, her husband, in care. He was as usual unaware of her visit and after some 20 minutes she went to leave when he called her back.

She wrote this of her sad visit.

Painful Memories..

Is there an end to the sadness of heartache

When all around are reminders of happier days.

The love of music that takes you to a special place

Alone, and wishing it wasn’t always this way.

He sits in his chair, unable to walk and barely talk.

A beautiful man who gave his all to life and family

Most times now too difficult to break into his world

As his tired body drifts into untroubled dreams.

We watch and wait for signs of recognition

Willing his face to light up for just a second

Validating that his life with us can still be remembered,

Those eyes that once spoke volumes, now lifeless.

Just as it seems he is trapped in a dark passage

He sometimes comes back to life, as we know it.

Uttering aloud words that are very clear, to remind us

He still has thoughts and feelings of bygone days.

Today was a sad day, with words now etched upon my soul.

“Why wont you stay – this has to change,”

“All I want to do is teach and talk my head off,

But no one can understand me”

“Where are my family?” he said.

And who could possibly have believed

These memories were still within his mind.

I cannot think of a worse imprisonment.

Joy Rowe

30th April, 2011

Over the years John has been in care, I have visited him and often not really had a glimmer of recognition of my presence. John was an academic at a local university and a good friend. Lewy Body Disease stole his character and personality.

Today, I and a friend, went to visit Bronwyn Owen who taught us in the 1940s. She recently celebrated her 102nd birthday and whilst she was chatty, we doubt she really knew who we were. When we visited her on her 100th birthday she recalled both our families and remembered all the names.