I Only Drive The Speed Limit

I was sitting on the couch in the front room and looking absent mindedly out of the two front windows. My view was filtered by the fronds of the new small artificial pine tree. The tree was already decorated with clear white mini string lights and we had complemented the lights with glass ornaments and a few select silver ornaments that were collected through the years. It was mid December and the neighbourhood houses were wearing their Christmas lights together with other seasonal decorations. Dusk was arriving between four thirty and five; at the same time the postman was pushing letters into the letter boxes. Letters make a distinct sound when they are pushed through our letter box flap and allowed to fall into the metal box; even the cats had come to recognise the sound. We empty the letter box by reaching through a small hinged wooden door  in the wall of the front coat closet. The obscure envelope arrived in the letterbox unexpected.

image source:johnmcadam

On the top left of the envelope was
If not delivered return to G.P.O. Box 1916Melbourne 3001.
On right hand side of the envelope was an International ParAvion stamp with an address
PO Box 91980 Victoria Street West Auckland 1142.
And on the lower right was
suggestions to save money by reusing the envelope
When Reusing Ensure No Address Shows Through Window
To Reuse This Envelope Open At The Red End.
The back of the envelope was filled with other tips on opening and reusing the envelope, and how to make payments. There was a large red arrow pointing to the red end of the envelope which had printed on it
Insert Thumb Here.

The obscure envelope contained a Victoria Police Infringement Notice. According to a speed camera at the intersection of Fitzroy Street and Lakeside Drive in St Kilda, my detected speed was 52km/h but my alleged speed was 50km/h; the lower speed allowing for tolerance in the detection system. The permitted speed at the intersection is 40km/h. The infringement offence was exceeding speed limit in a vehicle other than a heavy vehicle by 10km/h or more but less than 15km/h. The infringement penalty was AUD $311.00 and 3 demerit points. The Victoria Police Infringement Notice arrived two months after I had been driving in Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne; just a few days before I left Australia to return to the US.

image source:heraldsun.com.au

The Victoria Police Infringement Notice was a surprise and shock because whenever driving on the left side of the road just happened to come up in conversation I would nonchalantly announce that for me it was as a duck takes to water. If a cashier at the super market, an associate at the ACE hardware shop, or a server at a restaurant just happened to mention driving in Australia, I would, with a disguised sense of satisfaction and pride, recount driving to get petrol and having to chuck a U-ey because I had passed a servo a couple of clicks back. And I sensed their admiration and wonderment. I would gesture with my right fore finger, nod and with a smile softly say; on the left side of the road.

The Victoria Police Infringement Notice presented four options to resolve the infringement penalty

Pay in full by the due date to avoid additional costs and enforcement action
Nominate who was driving if I wasn’t; there was a nomination statement included in the mailing and a new infringement notice would be sent to the person I nominated
Apply to request an Internal Review to the Enforcement Agency if I believed I had cause
Apply to have the matter heard and determined in the Magistrates Court

I replied to Dear Sir or Madam from the Civic Compliance of Victoria to request an Internal Review of the infringement offence.

image source:pixabay

I reside in the United States of America and was visiting Australia during November 2016. I rented a car to spend a few days enjoying the attractions of the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne. I have been driving for 30 plus years in the States, which has a traditional systems of weights and measures; traveling distances are measured in miles and speeds are given as miles per hour. I was aware that Australia uses the metric system. So as not to confuse myself I chose my driving speed in Australia by going with the traffic flow. I am a cautious drive and unknowingly I drifted over the speed limit for a short period of time. I accept that at no time is speeding safe. I would like to request a caution or waiver for this infringement. I thank you in anticipation and look forward to visiting Australia again in the near future.

Not long after I posted my humble request for an infringement review I received a late payment infringement notice for AUD$333.60 which was followed by another obscure envelope with a letter denying my request for amnesty, because my offence was of such a serious nature that it could not be wavered. I struggled over if I should pay the infringement penalty. My ethics won through, so I sent the Civic Compliance of Victoria a US bank cheque for US $253.00; noting on the back of the cheque that the exchange rate when I purchased the cheque was 1.00 AUD =.7581 USD.

image source:pixabay

I hadn’t been in the US all that long when I first went for the driving skills and road test to get a Nebraska driver’s license. I drove a sixties or seventies two door Ford automatic for the test; a big car when you were used to driving a VW beetle, Mini Cooper, or Holden EH station wagon. I was still used to the steering wheel being on the right side of the car and the windscreen wiper controls and turning light indicators being on the other sides of the steering column; instead of flipping the turn signal with your left hand I did it with the right hand; and gear changing was done with the left hand.

The woman evaluating my driving skills and practical knowledge of the road rules thanked me for opening the car door for her. I was the only one that knew I had gone to get in the wrong door; the steering wheel is on the left side of the car in the US. She was cheerful to my reply of; no worries, she’ll be right mate. And we both started an enjoyable conversation; she had an insatiable appetite for everything Australian. I stopped at the exit to the mall parking area and my examiner, without looking up from her clip board, requested that I turn right. And turn right I did; onto the left side of the road.

image source:registriesplus.ca

She stopped her next question about Australia’s unique collection of animals mid sentence, looked up from her clip board, turned to me and said; do know you’re on the wrong side of the road. I thought this was a new question that she had just thought of about driving in Australia; I started to look around a bit and think about an answer. The cheerful lady interrupted my thinking with a firm; you just turned onto the wrong side of the road. As I veered to the correct side of the road I looked over to her, smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right, mate. And I was soon on a straight stretch of road and the enjoyable conversation about Australia continued. I was stopped at a corner and my driving skills and road test examiner punctuated my discourse on the fair dinkum backyard Aussie barbie with; turn left here. And turn left I did; onto the right side of the road. After another smile and no worries, she’ll be right mate I politely asked her to stop talking to me; suggesting she was distracting me. We drove in silence for several miles, and with renewed concentration, I turned onto the correct side of the road at the next five corners. My examiner wrote something on the clip board paper when we arrived back in the mall parking area. She turned to me and said; you know what you did back there with the turns onto the wrong side of the road was an automatic disqualification, but I’m going to recommend a license anyway. I smiled and said; no worries, she’ll be right mate.

image source:pinterest

After posting the cheque to Civic Compliance of Victoria for US $253.00 my guilt from the infringement offence in the The Land Down Under was tamed. Now I was renting the flat so I could choose the curtains. Twelve days later later another obscure envelope was in the letter box. The US $253.00 bank cheque was still stapled to the photocopy of the infringement notice that I had stapled it to. An accompanying letter began with

Dear Sir/Madam, I refer to the above Infringement Notice Number. We are unable to accept your cheque as Civic Compliance Victoria can only accept cheques issued in Australian dollars. You can pay by one of the payment options below.

1. Send your Bank Draft (in Australian dollars) with this notice to: Civic Compliance Victoria, GPO 2041. Melbourne Vic 3001
2. Present this letter Civic Compliance Victoria , Ground floor, 2777 William Street, Melbourne, between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday
3. Call 613 9200 8111 or visit, fines.vic.gov.au

I explained to my US bank that I would like to deposit a bank cheque that I had purchased and made out to the Civic Compliance of Victoria back to my account.

image source:pixabay

And now I am wracked with worry because the drivers license demerit points exist somewhere in limbo and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria won’t balance. I suppose I could convert my Nebraska drivers license into a Victorian license so the 3 demerit points could be assigned to a license and the demerit point columns at the Civic Compliance of Victoria would balance. The paperwork can be completed online and the interview appointment can also be scheduled online; but I must be living in Victoria. But I don’t suppose there’s cause to worry about the 3 drivers license demerit points because as we enter the era of digitisation of everything, Civic Compliance of Victoria will create a digital record and assign the demerit points to a virtual licence.

The final obscure envelope arrived not all that long ago and the accompanying letter began

Dear Sir/Madam, We acknowledge receipt of your recent inquiry in relation to the Infringement Notice above and wish to advise you that the matter is now finalised. Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to phone or attend in person at the above address. Our hours of business are 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays. Alternatively, you can visit, fines.vic.gov.au for further information.
Yours faithfully,
Correspondence Officer

I checked back on all the correspondence in the obsure envelopes and whenever there was an enclosed letter the closing was never signed. It just read Correspondence Officer. I think I would like to begin a new career as a Correspondence Officer.

 

Civic Compliance Victoria

Melbourne’s Top 10 Speed Camera Locations

Driving Down Under: What You Need to Know

No Dramas, No Worries

I sat alone in the waiting area anticipating the return of the associate from the service centre workshop. Why is it that you can go for years without a puncture and then you have flat tyre after flat tyre. Omaha was caressed by a gentle soaking rain the other day so all of the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters. But how does a nail or screw lying on the road puncture a car tyre

1. a car in front of you runs over part of the nail or screw and cause it to
stand upright ready for you to run over it
2. you drive over the nail or screw and your front tyre flings it up
and into the path of the back tyre
3. the nail or screw is sitting pointed head up on the road and it’s nestled
into your tyre as soon as you run over it

I anticipated the associates return to no doubt tell me the tyre couldn’t be patched because a nail or screw had lodged in the sidewall. I focused on the waiting room tyre wall display and was soon musing over common causes of punctures; jagged pieces of wood, screws and bolts, knife blades, sharp rocks, potholes, stiletto heels, or indoor tv aerials, when a sign hanging from the ceiling caught my attention. A bearded smiling mechanic was staring out at me and to their left was written; tightening, torquing, wrenching. As I stared at the sign the words faded and became; tightening, torquing, spannering, and I was soon singing along.

I think it’s safe to say that if you own a car in the The Lucky Country then your going to have a small tool kit in the boot or glove box; a spanner set, a couple of screw drivers, pliers, that sort of thing. You never know when your motor might go bung and you need to do a quick fix under the bonnet to get to the nearest servo. And when you ask where’s the nearest service station your probably going to be told; there’s a servo another two clicks up the road, if you get to maccas you’ll have to chuck a U-ey, you’ve gone too far.

And it’s not just the way Australians spell and pronounce words, or the slang they use, that make up the little differences that are the The Lucky Country.

image source:excelle.monster.com

Australians keep their knife and fork in their hands when they eat. Food served on a plate comes with a knife and fork; it can be a meat pie and sauce, full roast with veggies, fish and chips, or grilled steak with salad, or anything in between, and it’s eaten with a knife and fork because it comes with a knife and fork. If the pie, dimmie, chico roll, or fish and chips is ordered as take away forget the knife and fork; it’s eaten from the bag or the paper it’s wrapped in. You’ll never see anybody forking food separately; different foods are combined on the fork at the same time. A plate of roast lamb and mixed veggies is worked on by cutting the brussel sprout into bite size pieces, and keeping the knife and fork in both hands cutting a chunk from the roast potato, and then a bite size slice of roast lamb. And with the lamb still on the fork, collecting a piece of brussel sprout onto the fork tines with the lamb, and then loading some of the peas and a chunk of roast potato onto the back of the fork. The knife is used to help move food around the plate and to push food onto the fork. No one cuts up food and then puts the knife and fork down and then picks up the fork to bayonet the just cut up foodstuff; and no one would ever use a fork to cut up food. There are no appetisers in the The Lucky Country; the entrée comes first, followed by the main course and then dessert. And a salad is served with the main course, not as an entrée.

image source:johnmcadam

Coffee comes in a cup. It comes as a flat white, long black, short black, latte, or cappuccino; good luck finding the bottomless cup of percolated or drip brewed coffee. At a cafe or restaurant no one is going to bring a coffee carafe and cup to the table and leave the carafe after pouring a cup of coffee. And you won’t see a commercial pour over coffee maker behind the counter. Order at the counter, pay, take a number with yourself to a table, and await the cup of coffee and refreshment to be carried to your table; if you want a refill of coffee, repeat the process. You won’t find a one cup coffee drip maker or single serve brewer in a hotel or motel room. Rooms are equipped with an electric kettle to boil water, a supply of tea bags and sachets of instant coffee crystals, sugar or sweetener, and milk in the mini fridge. In the morning boil some water, empty a sachet of freeze dried coffee grounds into a cup, stir with a spoon, and BAM!!; good morning coffee.

The The Lucky Country decimalised on the 14th February 1966. The national currency is the dollar, and fifty plus years later the dollar comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes; coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. You’ll always get a $1 or $2 dollar coin as change whenever you buy anything; they add up fast in your pocket.

image source:johnmcadam

There’s no better way of getting rid of those little gold nuggets than ducking into the nearest pub for a glass of the amber fluid. Walking up to the bar in any pub and announcing I’ll have a beer mate will get you a cold one; but ordering a beer isn’t that easy. The size of a beer varies in each state and territory and each size has it’s own name. Most but not all states use schooner as a name for the large size, but the name for a small beer could cause confusion; its a half-pint in the Capital Territory, a middy in Western Australia and New South Wales, a pot in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, sometimes a ten in Queensland and Tasmania, and a handle in the Northern Territory.

Bartender: G’day mate ya right?
Ian: G’day, schooner of New and a middy of VB mate
Bartender: Sorry?
Ian: Schooner of New, middy of VB
Bartender: Sandgroper mate?
Ian: Freo
Bartender: (holding up a pot and a glass) Which one mate?
Ian: (pointing to pot): The middy
Bartender: No worries
Bartender: (placing pot on bar) Cheers
Ian: Cheers

image source:chicagotribune.com

You don’t need money in the The Lucky Country for tipping because there is no tipping; but you can if you want to. Tipping isn’t a substitute for a persons salary; it’s not part of the The Lucky Country culture. Australian workers are guaranteed a minimum wage by law. Depending on the industry or the job they work penalties and allowances could increase their minimum wage; currently the basic minimum wage is around twenty dollars an hour. However you need cash when you eat out with friends; splitting the bill is not an option. Most staff will act more like your mate than your server so don’t ask what they recommend for an appetiser or request they spend their time organising your bill and figuring out who ordered what. Work it out amongst yourself, throw what you owe as cash onto the table, and then one person goes to pay.

image source:pixabay

It was nine o’clock on a Monday morning and I was in a hotel room just a stones throw from Streets Beach at Brisbane’s South Bank Parklands. I was starting on me second cup of instant coffee and Karl and Lisa had just signed off from The Today Show, so I started channel surfing. My thumb hesitated, and I stared; Atlanta Falcons were leading the Green Bay Packers. I was watching American Football, live, in a Brisbane hotel room. Now it’s safe to say that Australians love sports and it’s also safe to say no one really cares about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl. The Lucky Country has Australian Rules Football; players don’t wear padding and helmets, and are not running off the ground every few minutes to take a rest and put a towel over their heads. It’s summer in the The Lucky Country when US football is broadcast on Australian television, so it has to compete with cricket; the national summer sport that allows sports fans to showcase both their excitement and fatigue for a game played over five days.

image source:beingindian.com

Cricket is played between two sides, one out in the field and the other in. Each man that’s in the in side has to be got out; men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in, and the next man in goes out and goes in when he’s out. When all of the in side is out, the out side goes in and the out side that’s been in goes out, and tries to get those coming in, out. When both sides have been in and out, and if there is still enough time, then each side gets to go in and out again. The side who scores the most runs wins; sometimes after five days there are men that are still in and not out so the game is a draw. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the in men are out.

In the The Lucky Country young and old recognise and admire the drive, creativity, commitment, and finesse of the athlete who competes alone, but against themselves. They admire none more so than those who are not fond of rules; those that have no respect for the status quo. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, Australians see genius.

And just as I was thinking, the battered sav could be called the battered deep fried saveloy, the battered deep fried hot dog sausage, or a corn dog, the associate returned from the service centre workshop and told me that I must have driven over a small nail. And he started to explain that because of the rain showers the other day the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters.

After the puncture was repaired I drove to Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and ordered a Chicago Dog Freddy’s Style.

 

Tipping in Australia: Who should you tip and how much

The top 10 cafés for coffee lovers in Melbourne

Pots, Pints and Schooners

I’m Still Spewin’ Over Last Night’s Footy

The other Saturday afternoon the sun was streaming through the front window; I was stretched out, head back with my eyes closed, listening to Way With Words on National Public Radio. When Martha and Grant were giving the closing, could not have made this program possible without spiel, it sprung to mind that I had just spent an hour doing nothing else but listening to the wireless. I tried to make a mental list of other times I had just listened to the wireless; driving all day, brisk exercise walking, sitting in a dentists waiting room, and long haul air plane flights don’t count.

I would head straight for the dining room as soon as I got home from school, and sit glued to the wireless listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, Adventures of the Sea Hound, Tarzan, Hopalong Cassidy, Robin Hood and Hop Harrigan. Mum would bring my tea into the dining room so I could listen to the cliff-hanging end of the last serial. Back then the only vegetables I would eat were peas and potatoes so she would carry a plate with a couple of grilled lamb chops or cutlets, boiled peas, and mashed potatoes from the kitchen into my world of mystical adventures and danger.

But there came a time when I was no longer distracted by the Air Adventures of Biggles and the Sea Hound, or Hopalong Cassidy. Perhaps I was just growing up; or maybe I lost interest in the serials because a His Master’s Voice television became part of our lounge room furniture. But I didn’t desert the wireless. The kitchen wireless was my retreat from the cold and rainy Saturday afternoons for the next couple of Melbourne winters.

The city would come to a stop on Saturday afternoons. All Victorian Football League football games were played on Saturday afternoon and supporters invaded the six sacred grounds where the twelve teams were playing; North Melbourne’s home ground was Arden Street, Carlton’s Princes Park, Hawthorn’s Glenferrie Oval, South Melbourne’s the Lake Oval, and Footscray’s the Western Oval, and the other seven teams had their own hallowed home suburban footy ground. There was little choice about what team you barracked for. If you were born and raised in the working class Western suburbs you barracked for the Footscray Bulldogs. I barracked alone in the kitchen; it was cosy and warm.

image source:westernbulldogs.com.au

Brownlow Medallist John Shultz, and Ted Whitten, led the bulldog boys into battle at the wind swept, wintry, hostile enemy grounds and the adoring Western Oval. It must have been the young boy in me that decided to ride the coat tails of a wining side; I drifted from barracking for the Bulldogs to barrack for the Geelong cats. It was the heyday of Polly Farmer, Bill Goggin, and Doug Wade. The distraction from the Bulldogs only lasted a couple of years and the wireless dial once again was tuned to the boys of the Bulldog breed.

And there was the Victorian Football Association as well as the Victorian Football League. Association games were played on Sunday afternoons. The Williamstown VFA team was the Seagulls and they played their home games and trained at Point Gellibrand Oval. The grandstand was at one end of the ground and a grass mound stretched from just past the grandstand to the Morris Street gate; and the old lighthouse, seagulls, and unpredictable waters of Port Phillip Bay flanked one side of the oval. Watching the ships entering and leaving Port Melbourne, and the Melbourne docks was a welcome distraction when the cold, salt water laden, strong Port Phillip Bay winds kept the ball at the far end of the ground away from the grandstand. And trying to stay on your bike as you free-wheeled down the grassy mound was another distraction.

image source:slv.vic.gov.au

Half time and the end of the games were the meaning of footie; you herded into the dressing rooms as the boys walked in from the field. At half time you watched in amazement as ankles were re-bandaged, and you became intoxicated by the suffocating scent of the liniment that was splashed and rubbed into every inch of bare skin. And you were mesmerised by the coach’s passionate speech; it was inspiring and rousing whether the boys were winning or losing. At full time you were with the boys when they dropped onto the dressing room’s benches at the same they were unlacing their boots; the room was filled with the incredible scent of sweat, liniment, and cigarette smoke and beer; the proud fragrance of the football brotherhood. And the coach followed up his half time rousing address and caps were popped from tall bottles of the golden amber and they celebrated.

image source:pinterest

As I entered into the world of change and uncertainty that was the sixties and seventies I lost interest in the kitchen wireless and riding my bike to Gellibrand Oval. During my first journey of searching for inspiration, and idealism in the ordinary I found myself at an afternoon game of rugby in Edinburgh. I stood among a crowd of passionate Scotsmen; passionate for their team. When I was overheard confessing I didn’t know the rules of rugby because I was a boy of the Bulldog breed, a boy who only knew Victorian Rules Football, a nearby passionate Hearts supporter reached into his inside coat pocket and produced a flask of whisky and proclaimed

Now I’ll be telling ya what’s happening and we’all drink whisky and
you’ll be a Hearts supporter

. On a cold, dank Scottish winter afternoon, surrounded by cigarette smoke and Scottish whisky, I stood together with the proud brotherhood of football.

On cold winter Saturday afternoons I stood on the sloped terraces in front of the Whitten stand with the familiar faces; the veterans sat in the front two rows of the Whitten Stand stand; their sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper and a thermos full of hot tomato soup rested in their lap, or at their feet. We ambled to the Western Oval turnstiles after a few starters at either the Rising Sun, The Plough, or the Buckingham carrying a thin paper bag with a couple of bottles of the golden amber under each arm.

image source:foxsportspulse.com

We drank our beer and cheered the boys on with a selection of affectionate obscenities and insulting encouragements; we could reach out and touch Gaz, Bernie, Laurie, Sockeye and Bazza: there was only red white and blue on the ground; they could do no wrong. As committed one eyed barracker’s we encouraged the umpires to make the right decisions with indecent and threatening support. The last quarter was greeted with the tribal ritual of a pie in one hand and raising a beer in the other as a salute to the sounding of the siren to start the final onslaught; the four n twenty would either be hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth or more on the cold side of warm. On a cold, dank, Melbourne winter afternoon surrounded by the smell of meat pies and tomato sauce, and cigarette smoke and beer, I stood with the proud brotherhood of football.

I went back to teaching when I returned from my first journey of searching for inspiration, and idealism, in the ordinary. Wednesday afternoons at Victorian Technical Schools were sports afternoons; usually football in the winter and cricket in summer. Each Technical School had a football or cricket team cobbled together from the best of the best senior boys in the fourth and fifth forms. Neighbouring schools would play against each other on Wednesday afternoons. Someone at my school decided it would be a good time for the boys if they could watch a football match played between the teachers, and the school football team. On a mild winter’s Wednesday afternoon I ran out onto the school oval with the teacher’s team. The entire school, form one through form five, wearing the school uniform of grey pants, grey shirt with tie, and maroon jumper lined the oval.

image source:wikipedia

I closed my eyes and the boys became a cheer squad, dressed in their duffle coats covered with badges of their favourite player names and jumper numbers. And they waved their floggers; six foot long sticks with massive amounts of streamers taped to the ends. The teachers team had four players who were better than any of the senior boys in the school footy team; two physical education teachers, and a couple of teachers who played for Williamstown’s AFL reserves team. Our plan was to play keepings off; four teachers against eighteen boys. The cheer squad welcomed me onto the ground with a chorus of barracking. It was just a few minutes into the game when my excitement caused me to forgot about the plan; I jogged towards the corridor, the ball was kicked my way. I heard the roar from the boys lining the oval fence and then I was lying on the oval ground gasping at the air; it seemed to take forever for the air to return to my lungs, and for my eyes to focus.

I had been shirt fronted by one of the man mountain teachers that played for the Williamstown reserves. I spent the rest of the match standing alone on the half forward flank. A few of us went to the local after school; the lounge was soon filled with the incredible scent of sweat, my liniment, and cigarette smoke and beer. We were the proud brotherhood of football celebrating the victory of a heroic, stout hearted, sweat stained battle.

Australian Rules Football is now a national competition; Melbourne provides ten teams, Sydney, Queensland, and South and Western Australia two teams. Melbourne games are no longer played at the old suburban footy grounds but at the MCG, Etihad Stadium, and Geelong’s Kardinia Park. Smoking and floggers are banned, and no alcohol can be brought into the grounds. You can’t use indecent or obscene language, or threatening or insulting words toward the players or umpires, and you can only get rid of your rubbish in a receptacle provided for that purpose.

image source:johnmcadam

And the Footscray Bulldogs are now the Western Bulldogs; some say that the local magic of the game has been lost.

Sons of the ‘scray,
Red, white and blue,
We will come out smiling, if we win or lose.
Others build their teams my lad, and think they know the game,
But you can’t beat the boys of the Bulldog breed, that make ol’ Footscray’s name!

I think I should take a class in gesturing hypnotically just like Mandrake the Magician, or attempt to uncover a Tibetan mystic who can pound into me the secrets of ancient magic so I can stand once again on the sloped terrace in front of the Whitten Stand; a four n twenty pie in one hand and a beer in the other, raised in a salute to the proud brotherhood of football. Or perhaps I can just watch the replays of the footy on YouTube.

 

Australian Football League

Radio: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Western Bulldogs

I Can See What I Say Now

Sometimes when I’m driving down Dodge Street heading to Westroads for my walking the mall activity I close one eye and read the outdoor advertising signs. Dodge Street is Omaha’s major East West thoroughfare and is the same as every other main street in every other mid size American city; it contains a kaleidoscope of street level and rooftop signs, and towering billboards. At each stop light I close my left eye and squint into the distance to see which is the furthermost sign I can clearly make out. If the light is still red I switch to closing my right eye and repeat my streetscape visual acuity test. Sometimes I start to second guess myself

m …… a ……c ……c …… a ……s

only to discover when I get closer it was McDonalds. From time to time I do the squint reading thing at the Mall. But it’s not a ritual I do every time I round a corner; it could be days or weeks between when I do it. I didn’t do the squint before I had cataract surgery.


Mr Fraser our fifth form science teacher at Williamstown Technical School would perform experiments at the science bench in the front of the room. When he finished the experiment he would recreate the assembled equipment in coloured chalk on one of the front of the room blackboards. And using only white chalk he would write detailed descriptions, observations and measurements, calculations, and conclusions on the other two front boards. We neatly copied that blackboard notes that spelt out scientific laws, theories, postulates and principles into our science exercise books. As the fifth form year wore on I had more and more difficulty reading Mr Fraser’s blackboards and so I asked if I could move from the third row bench to the front row. I was again, without error, able to copy the blackboards. I didn’t tell mum or dad I had had trouble reading the board. Three years later at Footscray Tech I confessed I had trouble seeing the board. And so I got glasses. I wouldn’t wear the glasses in everyday life. I would wear them to read the boards and take them off as as soon as I left the room. I don’t remember my world being blurry and smudged or ever being asked why are you squinting. It was the late sixties and nobody admired glasses for cultivating a mischievous and cultured look.

image source:memegenerator.net

My education was nearing an end at Footscray Tech; it was an early Sunday morning when I knew that I would wear glasses for the term of my natural life. I drove Andrew Lambrainew’s Ford Fairlane in the blackness of that early morning. I remember squinting but the street lights persisted as smudged blotches and the suburban streetscape continued as an out of focus polaroid. Fortunately the city was still sleeping; trams hadn’t started to run. I was alone driving through the blurred streets. I looked back at the reflection in the windscreen not knowing how my life was going to change. A few years later I set out on my journey searching for inspiration and idealism wearing rimless metal frame glasses. As the years flowed on I became tied to the apron stings of my glasses.

The National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia. The gallery’s new St Kilda Road building opened in 1968 and no one could resist running their hand along or through the streaming water flowing down the glass window that formed the arched water wall by the entrance.

image source:commons.wikimedia.org

And some could not resist sticking their tongue into the falling water; and some could be heard to say:

Don’t know why they bothered it looks just like a big fish shop window.

Once inside, and before entering the Great Hall to admire the world’s largest stained glass ceiling, the curious would walk over to the water wall and linger; watching St Kilda Road from behind the cascading water. And some could be heard to say:

I wonder if the green smudge is a Holden or a tram.
Is that a bus or people queueing for tickets

What they saw was sometimes my world; rain meant foggy, smeared, wet glasses and hot humid summer days would produce sweat blotched and fogged up lenses, and glasses that slid down your nose.

image source:buzzfeed.com

Wearing glasses has advantages; by pointing to your glasses you can thwart any invitation to go biking and thus ward off wearing spandex shorts. Glasses can also circumvent accepting invitations to participate in triathlons. I’ve tried to imagine but just can’t envisage how I would perform a full body shave in the shower without wearing glasses.

At the same time Mr Fraser’s chalkboards became blurry swimming at Williamstown beach became risky. It seemed as if the tides and water currents carried every Port Phillip Bay cluster of seaweed and jelly fish into the beach. The water was as fuzzy as the blackboards so I would swim into the masses of floating gelatinous jelly fish blobs. I couldn’t avoid hitting them with my head or arms; and the more I hit them, the more my arms flailed. The jelly fish were chopped and diced and I was buried in a churning gelatinous broth, unable to avoid painful jelly fish stings to my arms and legs.

image source:pixabay

Cairns is the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. Endless coral formations provide shelter and a home to over fifteen hundred species of fish; an aquatic landscape that has to be admired and appreciated close up. The catamaran was bobbing and floating lazily with the current and the Reef was below the water line; deep enough for a snorkel dive without having to wear a lycra body suit or stinger suit. I drifted with the other snorkellers. All I could see beneath me through the snorkel mask was a fuzzy shroud. You can’t wear glasses with a snorkel mask. I took a deep breath and duck dived. The reef was just a couple of inches from my snorkel mask, I was holding my breath and my chest was wanting to let go, and I squinted. I didn’t see a bed of coral; the reef was a blurred, shadowy, waving carpet.

image source:pixabay

Sometimes I wonder why you can’t wear your glasses when trying on new frames. You pick out a few eye catching frames and then it’s time to see how they suit you; will they provide you with a mischievous, carefree, and cultured look. You sit or stand in front of a mirror wearing a pair of the potential new frames but without lenses. Your nose is almost touching the mirror so all you see is the bridge of your nose, or the top or the lower half of the potential new frames. When you turn to the associate they inquire:

And how do we like them, they make you look quite distinguished.

I only remember getting frames at an Omaha trend setting opticians. I became known for the funky unique frames that caused people not to notice that I was wearing glasses but wearing cool frames. And I had the three, four-day, just shaved beard look. Not too wild not too neat; somewhat similar to the rebellious and free spirited hippies of the sixties aka as hipsters.

image source:johnmcadam

My messy but clean look was perfect; shaving is not easy sans glasses. All you see of yourself in the mirror is a soft, fuzzy face. All it took to maintain the messy but clean look was running an electric razor over my face and then putting the glasses back on to pay attention to the upper cheeks, beneath the chin, and around the neck with a razor. I’ve always thought that wielding a safety razor around your face is hazardous so I used a 90 degree pivot head disposable four blade cartridge razor; something that would turn and not damage the skin.

When I did community theatre none of the characters I played wore glasses. I would wear glasses during rehearsals, run through, and tech week, but starting opening night my glasses stayed in the dressing room. For the run of the play fellow cast members would display strange nervous mannerisms, rituals and behaviours, or just withdraw and stay silent waiting for their cue to walk out on stage for their first entrance. I didn’t have to deal with crippling stage fright, or worry about being less than perfect, because I couldn’t see anyone or anything. All I saw on stage were fuzzy blobs. And the audience was a sea of soft fuzzy blobs.

image source:pixabay

Whenever I went to the ophthalmologist the large E on the top of their Snellen eye chart was a soft fuzzy smudge. As the associate asked phoropter questions, the smudges slowly focused into letters of the alphabet.

Can you please read the first line
p …… e …… d
Which is better one or two
two
Which is better one or two
one
Which is better one or two
they about look about the same
Are You Sure ……. One or Two
umm two
Two or One
one
Let’s Try Again ……… One or Two
p …… e…… c …… f …… d

And then it was time for the tonometry test. After your eyes were numbed with a yellow liquid and the tissue in your hand streaked with yellow you were asked to rest your chin in a chin rest and look straight ahead into a slit of light. The tonometer grew larger as it moved slowly towards touching your eye. Back when, nanna developed glaucoma and cataracts so the ophthalmologist was monitoring cataracts in my eyes for a couple of years; forewarning me that surgery would be part of my future. And then the future became the present; she removed my clouded cataract lenses and replaced them with monofocal synthetic lens designed for distance vision.

image source:pixabay

A few days after the surgery on one eye I remember opening it when the dressing was removed; I saw colour for the first time. And after covering the non corrected eye the E on the top of the Snellen chart was clean and crisp. I spent the rest of the day looking at colours that I had only seen before through opaque, frosty, fogged up eyes.

I wear glasses for; reading, cooking, scanning labels on the cans in the grocery aisle shelves, cutting vegetables with a sharp knife, and watching the seat back entertainment when flying. I don’t wear glasses for; daytime driving, reading alarm clocks in the morning, getting out of bed after waking up in a dark hotel room, watching television in bed, finding soap and shampoo just before getting under the shower, walking in the rain, and drinking cups of hot tea or coffee. I wear sunglasses and I’m no longer afraid getting hit in the face with a cricket ball.

 

National Gallery of Victoria

Free Eye Chart

Overview Cataracts: Mayo Clinic

Riding A Tait Back To The Future

It’s that time of the year when spring starts to creep out from under winter’s canvas. Daylight has become my alarm clock by sneaking early, and before it should, each morning through the bedroom wooden venetian blind slats; and so my walking journey around Westroads Mall starts before it should. The mall looks the same at 8:00am as it does at 9:00am. I think most of the other 9:00am mall walkers must also have wooden venetian blinds in their bedrooms. I give my modest head nod, or my indiscernible move of the index finger, as we pass. And I wonder if I was really there an hour or so earlier. After three laps of the upper level I am ready for the two laps of the lower level. I head for the escalators; they are motionless.

image source:johnmcadam

I did the obvious and looked around a couple of times; moving my head through interrupted semi circles. The escalators weren’t working. And there was no On Point through the ear buds; just news but no news analysis. I looked down to my smart phone. The digital smart clock was showing 8:30am. And then I got it; escalators don’t have venetian blinds in their bedrooms. I don’t enjoy walking down non moving escalators so I set off for the stairs at the other end of the mall. I lightly gripped the handrail so my hand would slide the length of the first flight of stairs. I stared down at the stairs and absent mindedly started to count. And as I counted the stairs seemed to vanish in the distance. At the end point of the never ending stairs I could make out the faint glow of a long salmon pink tiled corridor; display windows lined the walls and there were black granite columns and Art Deco shop fronts.

image source:c1.staticflickr.com

The Degraves Street Subway and Campbell Arcade connect Degraves Street with Flinders Street Station. It was the start of our shortcuts to Collins Street when we took the train into town to go to the newsreels. On newsreel day we would be anxious to catch the first off peak train into the city; the first after 9:00am. We would gallop up Peel Street, cross into Davies Street, and when we got to the Dispensary look across Melbourne Road to see if a city train was stopped at the signal. If there wasn’t a train it meant a slow jaunt into Melbourne Road, past the Newport Post Office and shops to the station. A stopped train meant a frantic run to the station; buying your ticket just as the porter was closing the platform gate. And sometimes when my mind wanders I am back asking for a ticket into town.


After leaving Spencer Street Station the train would turn onto, and start to rattle over, the twisting viaduct running alongside Flinders Street and the Yarra. I remember when the viaduct carried four railway lines; they converged and diverged into other lines that arrived and departed from the thirteen platforms of Flinders Streets Station. It always seemed that the signals stopped the Williamstown train just before it go to Flinders Street; and you would watch the two carriage St Kilda and Port Melbourne trains scurry across the river on the Sandridge Bridge. Warehouses and factories edged the river and the pylons that supported the buildings reached down into the water. I remember the Glaciarium ice skating building, and the Allens factory. The Allens factory had a giant animated neon sign on the roof; Allen’s was on a lolly wrapping with green coloured Sweets just below.

image source:islandcontinent.com.au

When we had a spare sixpence from our pocket monies we would head down to Dashers to spend it on lollies. I don’t think we ever knew their real name but we had christened them Mr and Mrs Dasher because they moved so slow. Dashers was a traditional milk bar and was on the corner of Douglas Parade and Bunbury Street. Inside, at the back of the shop, was a wooden display case; a mind boggling treasure chest of little trays crammed with all types of loose lollies. This sugar happy land was part of the shops counter and was protected by a hinged glass lid. The lid was scratched, and made opaque in places from the countless times the knurled edges of threepence’s, sixpences, and pennies had been run along the glass. Spending our sixpence came with it’s own angst. We were possessed with tormented decisions deciding what was the better sixpence value; clinkers, fruit tingles, choo choo bars, black cats, spearmint leaves, milk bottles, bananas, musk sticks, or a packet of fags. Fags were white thin sticks of soft hard, sweet musk flavoured sugar with red colouring on one end; miniature fake cigarettes with a glowing tip. You would keep your packet of fags in your shirt pocket, and spend the whole day with a glowing white, thin sweet musk flavoured sugar stick hanging from your lips. Smoking was cool back then. Sixpence would buy you a bag of mixed lollies and you were lucky if it lasted through the afternoon. Milk bottles, spearmint leaves, bananas, and a host of other famous Australian lollies were made by Allen’s.

image source:milkbarsbook.com

As the signal standstill wore on and the Yarra bank lost it’s fascination you started a search for distractions. The carriage became it’s own distraction. Each Tait carriage was it’s own sitting parlour. Bench seats ran across the carriage in aisles and partitions divided the carriages into small spaces; a collection of spaces was divided into compartments. An aisle of seats had its own sliding door and carriage window; each window had a wooden latticed blind. Lights hung from the patterned pressed tin ceiling and each carriage had luggage racks mounted onto it’s stained wood grain walls. A carriage was divided into first or second class and the inside was split into smoking and no-smoking. I don’t think we ever appreciated the Tait carriage for what it was. Most times a glance around the carriage and over your fellow passengers would only take a couple of minutes; then the disinterested would reach for their cigarettes and the wooden carriage would be filled with clouds of drifting smoke. Stubbed cigarettes quickly gathered on the floor. Smoking was banned on Melbourne trains in the late seventies.

image source:flickr.com

And for the next ten plus years I pondered why you could smoke on air planes but not on Melbourne trains. I can easily think back to when the first thing I did on a plane was to light a cigarette; the moment the wheels left the ground. The only time you couldn’t smoke in a plane was when it was on the ground. It seemed as if the entire plane was smoking a cigarette, pipe, or a cigar before the metal tube had reached it’s cruising level. Clouds of drifting smoke would hover just above seat level waiting to be recycled through the plane. And there came a time when smokers were restricted to the back of the plane. The last few rows were designated as smoking so you had to remember to request smoking when you were assigned a seat. If you forgot to request a smoking seat, or they had all been taken, as soon as the seat belt sign was off you gathered with the rest of the smokers at the back of the plane; and stood for most of the flight. Smoking was banned on all Australia domestic flights in 1987 and in 1996 on all Australian international flights. Smoking is now banned on most airlines in the world; and now I ponder why is there an ashtray in the lavatories of air planes.

image:dailyherald.com

When the Red Tait’s were being replaced by the Blue Harris trains and we were going into town we hoped beyond hope that our train would be a blue one. When we got to the Dispensary, and if we saw a red train was stopped at the signal we would dawdle to the station to miss it. And our fervent desire was that our meandering was fruitful and that the next train would be a blue one; we would wait breathlessly at the station without knowing if it was going to be a red or blue one. If you stood close to the platform edge and arched your back you could see an approaching Williamstown train. The signal would stop the train just past the workshops so the two carriage Altona swing door dog box or the Geelong diesel country train could stop at the station; or a goods train slowly make it’s way up the line. And if it was a blue one the wait for the signal to release the train was gruelling; excitement overcame us when it pulled into the station. We sat in agitated intoxication in the modern cavernous metal carriage and stared out through the large glass plated windows. In summer passengers opened the two sets of two sliding doors to move the air through the carriage; just as they opened the sliding doors in each seat aisle of the red rattlers on hot stifling summer days.

image:arhsnsw.com.au

You used to change trains at Newport for Altona; the red two carriage swing door, dog box sea weed city flier, was kept on a small siding just past the station. And now Altona is a loop off of the overcrowded Werribee line; and the two carriage Williamstown train is now kept on the siding just past the station. On the weekends and late at night you change trains at Newport for Williamstown.

Allen’s was Australia’s largest confectionery company and it’s now owned by the international giant Nestle. Milk bottle lollies, the milky white colour vanilla flavoured miniature milk bottles are now a bag of banana, lime, caramel, strawberry and chocolate flavoured milkshakes. Fifteen year Australian lolly eaters are voting whether to remix black cats, teeth, or strawberries and cream. Allens, the Glaciarium ice skating building, the Wirth’s Circus buildings, and the other old warehouses and buildings that created Melbourne’s industrial landscape on the other side of the river are long lost memories. The area has been carved and shaped into the Arts Precinct and Southbank; Melbourne’s bustling river front, overflowing with clusters of arts organisations, cafe’s and restaurants, public art, entertainment, and stylish shopping.

image:facebook.com/LostMelbourne

I should adjust my rear vision mirror; or maybe visit Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens Model Railroad Garden and chew on a bag of Minties.

 

History Of Southgate & Southbank Area

Lauritzen Gardens Model Railroad Garden

Tait train

It Starts With Toilets and Ends Up Costing Us Our Way of Life

As I was beginning my fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall I anticipated the need for a pit stop after the last lap. There are now three public rest rooms to choose from; two are on the second floor. One is close to my final turn, in a walkway that connects into the two long perimeter hallways; and the other is at the opposite end of the mall, tucked into the back of the Flagship Commons. The remodelled, third public rest room is on the ground floor by the new The Container Store. My anticipation was correct so I headed for the remodelled rest room. I was enclosed by white tiles; two urinals were separated by a metal modesty panel. As I turned toward the two sinks the room seemed to spin and shrink and I was transported into that finite space called seat pitch.

john-in-loo

image source:johnmcadam

I learned a long time ago there’s no graceful way to get past the drink trolley when it comes between you and the lavatory; you have to get out of it’s the way. And that means your groin or gluteus maximus is lodged within two inches of the passenger’s face in the aisle seat. And some people prefer the aisle seat. The air plane lavatory can be a little intimidating. The thunderous sucking sound that launches as soon as you flush the powerful vacuum powered toilet, and the swirl of mysterious blue liquid that suddenly appears, and then disappears in a quick, deep muffled, thwump can be a little off putting. I had learned that to prevent boredom, dehydration, deep-vein thrombosis and sleep deprivation on long haul flights it’s best to wear loose pants, take off your shoes, and walk around the plane a lot. It’s a given that planes encounter turbulence but I’ve never seen the cabin crew mop a lavatory floor during a flight, so if you’ve taken off your shoes just remember the wetness your feet are feeling, and your socks are soaking up, is not that mysterious blue liquid.

airplane-toilet-1

image source:express.co.uk

I never thought deplaning, navigating Australian immigration, retrieving luggage, riding the airport shuttle, and checking into a South Bank hotel would manufacture a hard earned. And we all know that a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer. The Plough Inn is only a short walk from the hotel, along the winding pathway lined with flowering jacaranda trees; it’s an old style Aussie pub bustling with true blue yesteryear charm and atmosphere. I thought a quick detour to the toilet was a good strategy before settling down to a pot of Victoria Bitter. I knew I was getting close to the metal wall because the unmistakeable, distinctive, smell of the Australian men’s urinal was becoming richer and thicker. When you get that first whiff of proud Aussie mateship you know you’re back home; back in the The Land Down Under.

I doesn’t seem to matter if you hit the wall head on or at angle; splashing will happen. Depending on when you strained the spuds, or how many ice colds you’ve put away, the splashes are going to be either droplets or large drops. And because you don’t really have control over the velocity of the stream at the start, or near the end of the session, uncontrollable dribbling and spattering is guaranteed; sprinkles will end up on the floor, or somewhere. Over time the smell of dried urine deepens and the fragrance floats in the air to remind you that other males were there. I think men respect the smell of the urinal. It awakens our forgotten memories of when we were hunters; of marking our territory. It’s our last playground in the wilderness of civilization. And it becomes my companion on the fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall.


Queensland jacarandas flower in October and November and their purple lilacs shroud you in a cloud of fantasy. During a guided walk through the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens I learned that Walter Hill was the Superintendent and the first curator of the Gardens. He planted the seed for the tree that became the ancestor of Brisbane’s jacarandas; a landmark until uprooted in the 1980 cyclone. The Queensland Art Gallery is home to the ancestral jacaranda tree; Under the Jacaranda, painted by Godfrey Rivers in 1903 is Queensland’s most famous painting. And fresh jacaranda blossoms fall to the floor below the painting every October and November. I thought there was a faint smell of jacaranda when I gently pushed open the door of the men’s toilet; I scanned the floor and it was clear of petals. The porcelain, wall hung, urinals did have a plastic grid screen covering a urinal cake holder; the cake had a masculine fragrance.

gallery-jacaranda

image source:johnmcadam

Summer in the The Land Down Under can be summed up as heat waves, droughts and wildfires. Using time honoured creativity and know-how Australian’s have forever experimented with managing the consequences of summer’s extremes. Throwing a brick into the toilet cistern to lessen the water in it was a traditional way of saving water in a drought; a big problem when you needed a big flush. This caused Australia to invent the dual flush toilet; two flush options in the one toilet. Nine pints of water for a full flush and six pints for a half flush . Toilets with two flush buttons are mandatory in all new buildings in every state of Australia. Most of the The Land Down Under toilets don’t have a handle on the side of the cistern for flushing; just two buttons on the top.

dua-flush

image source:cozyhomeplans.com

Mr Fraser wrote on the board during one of our Williamstown Tech science classes that the mass of an object affects how quickly it can change speed; and acceleration is how much it’s speed changes over time. He told us that mass times acceleration is the rate of change of momentum. Before you choose a full or half flush you need to give a quick look into the bowl, guess at the mass of the substance, do a quick calculation, and then choose the flush that will give enough acceleration and momentum for it to clear the bowl; and if you really want to get it right you need to factor in density. Full flush or half flush; the path to any decision is not always a straight one.

The forested and scenic Dandenong Ranges is a low mountain range about a 20 mile drive from Melbourne. Mount Dandenong is both a mountain in the Rangers, and a small township nestled between the day tripper townships of Olinda and Kalorama. The Sky High Restaurant is a major tourist attraction close to the summit of Mount Dandenong; the picnic areas, formal gardens, and the spectacular views of the suburbs and city skyline from the viewing platform lets you contemplate the noises and pressures of the city from afar. Some say it’s the views that you go there for.

dandenong-view

image source:theclimbingcyclist.com

Mr Fraser also wrote on the board that objects fall towards the ground because the earth exerts a force of attraction on them; the force of gravity. The acceleration of a falling object because of gravity is 32 ft per second per second and velocity is the rate of change of it’s position. In the movie Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African-American who crunched the numbers and served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in NASA history, they talk about the escape velocity needed for a rocket to break free from the earth’s gravity. Mount Dandenong is about 2100 feet above sea level. The sign in the public toilets at Mount Dandenong must be a warning to the danger, from acceleration due to gravity, when something is dropped from a height of just under half a mile. Without doing the math I think it’s safe to say that an object dropped from Mount Dandenong and accelerating at 32 ft per second per second could be approaching it’s escape velocity.

toilet-squat

image source:johnmcadam

During the month I was back in the The Land Down Under I would have peered into at least sixty three dual flush toilet bowls trying to estimate the mass, density, buoyancy, acceleration and momentum of the whatchamacallit so I would correctly choose the full or the half flush. I watched the water swirl, and sometimes I watched it swirl again. I couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion if it was clockwise or anticlockwise; but I can say the shape of the bowl and the angle of the flush water streamed into the bowl is what causes a clockwise or anticlockwise swirl.

toilet-flow

image source:johnmcadam

From the National Public Toilet Map of Australia you can get the whereabouts, and a description of the over 17,000 public and private public toilets in Australian cities, towns, parks, shopping centres, and camp grounds. Many towns and districts have a Public Toilet Strategy, and Public Toilet Design Guidelines and Standards Policy. In the The Land Down Under you’re not far from a safe, accessible, clean and environmentally responsible public toilet; going to the public toilet is without shame, embarrassment, or guilt. The Beechworth Visitor Centre provides guided walking tours of the Historic and Cultural Precinct; a collection of authentic honey coloured granite gold rush buildings. The Precinct includes the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office. Our small walking group was gathered outside the Telegraph Office allowing Ian to regale us with a blend of humour and fact about the discovery of gold in Beechworth. And then we heard in the true spirit of Australia

Ian I need to go to the dunny: don’t wait for me: I’ll catch up.

And she caught up with the group at the courthouse where Ned Kelly was tried and found guilty of murder.

beechworth-ian

image source:johnmcadam

I remember when Melbourne had underground public toilets. Mum told us we could only use the one in Elizabeth Street just down the corner from Bourke Street; most of them have now been capped with concrete, demolished, or filled with sand. Regardless of what mum said we always ducked into the Flinders Street Station public toilet before catching the train back to Newport. I don’t remember the whereabouts of any other public toilets. It’s time I established an account at the National Public Toilet Map of Australia website and set up a My Toilets profile.

 

The National Public Toilet Map

Hobsons Bay Public Toilet Strategy

Dual Flush Toilet

It’s Elemental Mr Priestley

I had to go on hiatus from walking Westroads because Christmas time at the mall means Hickory Farms pop up kiosks; and that means holiday gift baskets filled to the brim with summer sausage and fresh cheeses. I refused to let fate find a way to my taste buds. And now I’m back walking the Mall five mornings a week. The other day I forgot to charge my Walkman so I spent my five times circling the perimeter looking for a mental distraction; I’ve grown accustomed to the window displays and the mall has lost it’s uncertainty of what’s around the next corner. So I started to think about the things I learned in school and have never used. In fourth form I spent a lot of time memorising basic cloud types; I began to silently chant: nimbus, cirrus, stratus and cumulus; nimbus, cirrus, stratus and cumulus. But then I paused and tried to think of the last time that I wondered if the clouds in an overcast sky are cirrus or nimbostratus. And then I thought about the Geometry and Algebra theorems that Mr Baldwin tried to instil in us; I couldn’t call to mind the last time I had to prove that two triangles were congruent, or to perform matrix multiplication, or to solve how long it takes train B to catch up to train A, if train A leaves the station travelling at thirty miles per hour, and two hours later train B leaves the same station travelling in the same direction at forty miles per hour. I think I was starting my third time around the mall when the elements of the periodic table, sorted by atomic number, started to flash before me.


There were three science rooms at Williamstown Technical School; they were alongside each other on one side of the central, long section of the school. The art room, clay room, and Mr Morrow’s accounting room were opposite the science rooms and they shared one end of the long section with the science rooms. Hundreds of lockers reached to just below the classroom windows and stretched the length of the building; they formed a long passage from which doors lead into the rooms. The science rooms had long wooden benches with gas taps for bunsen burners; and we sat ten to a bench, in a straight line, on lab stools. And how we delighted in those lab benches and stools; they released us from being jammed two to a desk. There was also a long bench around two of the walls; they housed sinks with curved taps and extra gas taps for bunsen burners. The middle science room had an inside walkway into the other two science rooms; it was the way into the two small equipment and supply storage rooms between the rooms. The science rooms always seemed to have a pervasive chemical smell.

science-room

image source:bastow.vic.edu.au

Mr Fraser introduced us to fourth form chemistry in the middle science room. We watched Mr Fraser perform experiments at his teacher’s front science desk; and he would diagram the assembled equipment and experiments in coloured chalk on the front boards; along with detailed descriptions, observations and measurements, calculations, and conclusions. We neatly copied his chalkboard journal into our science exercise books. If the lesson didn’t deserve an experiment then Mr Fraser, with his back to the class, would fill all three boards with chalk written scientific theories, postulates, and laws. As the year wore on I had more and more difficulty reading Mr Fraser’s chalkboard journals. I asked Mr Fraser if I could move from the third row bench to the front row; and I could see once again to copy his chalkboard journals. I never did tell mum or dad that I had had trouble reading off the board. It was close on three years later when I was at Footscray Tech that I confessed that I had trouble seeing; and so I eventually got glasses. If only I had worn my glasses back then; that air of sophistication I had from smoking Kent cigarettes would have been enhanced by a somewhat mischievous and cultured look. Nowadays I wear classic tortoise shell Ray-Ban Clubmasters.

mr-frasers-board

image source:johnmcadam

I think the most intriguing postulate that Mr Fraser wrote on the board was: atoms make up elements and atoms can neither be created nor destroyed. Back then my squinting had become the norm so I hurriedly copied into my science exercise book

athens is made up of elegance and elegance can neither be cheated or destroyed

And it wasn’t until my final year at Footscray Tech, and after what seemed a lifetime in the chemistry labs and classrooms, that I figured out what Mr Fraser had written on his science room chalk boards.

I was starting my fifth and final loop around the mall and I thought about air; that air was made up of a mixture of gases. Mr Fraser told us that gases were either compounds or elements. And I knew that elements contain only one type of atom. I had my epiphany; nobody uses all the oxygen they breathe in, and because atoms can neither be created nor destroyed I was breathing in oxygen that others have exhaled. I have other person’s exhaled oxygen in my blood; oxygen that was in their brain neurons absorbing their neuron attributes was pulsing through and soaking into my brain neurons.

skull

image source:pixabay

Whilst growing up and living the The Land Down Under I would have inhaled an incredible amount of oxygen that at one time was carried in blood as it flowed through the brain neurons of a crowd of commanding Australians; Richie Benaud, Reg Grundy, Germaine Greer, Greg Norman, Albert Namatjira, Slim Dusty, Errol Flynn, Edward Hargraves, Barry Humphries, Dame Nellie Melba, Cathy Freeman, and Robert O’Hara Burke to name just a few.
But how do you decide who are the great Aussies; and then whittle that back to the great among the greatest in Australia’s history.

I inhaled oxygen that once percolated through the brain of Cyril Callister. Cyril was a food technologist and is known as the man who invented Vegemite. In 1922 he was asked to make something from the left over waste yeast from the Carlton & United Brewery; to which he added celery, salt and onion and came up with a black sticky paste that looked like axle grease. It’s not because Australians are fed Vegemite from the time they are babies that causes them to travel the world with at least one small jar of Vegemite in their luggage, it is because we have inhaled oxygen from Cyril’s brain.

vegemite

image source:pinterest

I’ve had Errol Flynn’s used oxygen coursing through my brain neurons. Errol was born in Hobart, Tasmania and was known for playing the freedom loving rebel, a man of action who fought against injustice, a man who won the heart of many a damsels. Even when he wasn’t acting Errol was a spirited womaniser who gave the world the expression; in like Flynn. It is claimed that the doctors who examined his body when he died at the young age of 50 said it bore the physical ravages of someone who should have been 75 years old. And that would describe the average Australian male.

errol

image source:cloudpix

Innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurial flair comes naturally to Australians; it’s accepted as a way of life. I’ve sucked in some of Lance Hill’s second hand oxygen. Even though Lance didn’t invent the rotary clothes hoist he demonstrated true blue Aussie creativeness by using metal tubing salvaged from the underwater boom that hung under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to catch World War II enemy submarines to make his clothesline. And he came up with a simple winding mechanism to hoist his big metal tree up into the breeze. The Hills rotary clothes line became an icon of Australia suburbia; the wind spinning the clothes around in the backyard. I think all Aussies have a little of  Lance Hill in them; who wasn’t told by mum to get off the clothes line. When she wasn’t looking you would hang from the line and spin each other around until you became so dizzy that you couldn’t walk. Every great backyard had a Hills that was always tilted at a weird angle and with the clothes lines stretched and saggy. Thank you Lance.

hoist

image source:pinterest

I lived in the sixties and grew up in the seventies. When the Beatles toured Australia in June 1964 and the Rolling Stones a couple of years later Melbourne was maturing as the epicentre of Australian progressive music. Berties, Sebastian’s, and The Thumpin Tum would become nationally known discotheques. You danced to what would become classics of Australian music every Saturday night. Harry Vanda and George Young formed the Easybeats in the early sixties and Friday On My Mind, the first international hit by an Aussie rock band, escorted you up the stairs and into Berties; a three story building of Edwardian opulence on the corner of Spring and Flinders Streets. And soon after, George’s two brothers, Angus and Malcolm, were in a new band called AC/DC; and they guided the new bands future by producing their first five albums. I must have taken in oxygen expelled by Harry Vanda & George Young; I can’t think of any other reason why I still wear my old Williamstown Tech school tie.

john-and-school-tie

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I remember the streets of the old historical neighbourhood of Athens being lined with small pastry shops, old men playing backgammon, nightclubs, and street vendors selling what I though was the best ever pita wrapped souvlaki. I walked and climbed the twisted hilly narrow streets of the Plaka to wander freely and sit alone among the Acropolis stones; sometimes using one as a back rest to watch Athens endlessly stretching out below. On other days I sat inside the curved outside pillars of the Parthenon and mused over the irony of Greece; the birthplace of democracy and the Olympics: And now a country under military rule, a dictatorship of repression, torture, and grief. And I remembered what Mr Fraser wrote on the board

athens is made up of elegance and elegance can neither be cheated or destroyed.

Just as I completed my fifth and final time around Westroads I remembered that the symbol for oxygen is O; it has an atomic number of eight and is a member of group 16 in the periodic table. We were fortunate that Mr Fraser’s didn’t mess around with developing our self-control, motivation, focus and resilience skills but instead focused on creating chalk boards of notes detailing scientific laws and principles; to be neatly copied into our science exercise book.

 

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