Why Isn’t There A Vaccine Against Stupidity

It seems that in the near future, whenever we travel to foreign countries, we may very well have to present a vaccine passport to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19. Some academics and human rights groups are voicing concerns about these new vaccine passports. They suggest it may be discriminatory against those waiting for a vaccination, anyone who can’t have a Covid vaccine for medical or religious reasons, and persons who reject mandatory immunisation because they control and decide what goes into their body. Other flustered persons have expressed concerns about their privacy and the ease of hacking a digital vaccine passports information. Now I’m not sure what the big deal about a vaccine passport is about because having to prove you were vaccinated to enter a foreign country is not a new concept.

image source: jmcadam

When I was wandering Europe, the Middle East and Asia along the ill-defined hippie trail, I carried a passport, Barclay’s travellers’ chequers, a fake international student card, an international drivers licence, and the World Health Organisation’s International Certificate of Vaccination. The certificate was a yellow booklet known colloquially as the yellow card. Different countries had different mandatory immunisation requirements, and the yellow card became a vaccine passport to be checked at border crossings for the required vaccinations and if they were current before you were approved to enter. Travellers got the vaccinations needed for each country. We were concerned about our health and well being and the adventure of travel, and didn’t worry about who controls and decides what vaccines go into our body.

By the sixties, most communicable diseases in Australia were controlled by routine childhood vaccinations and high living standards. Like most Australians growing up in the fifties, I was inoculated against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio, but not smallpox. Back then, smallpox wasn’t widespread in Australia, so there were no mass vaccination programs for the disease. I’d seen photos of smallpox victims, and they caused me to have the same fear of it as I did for polio. Australia experienced a major polio epidemic in the late fifties. I remember seeing images of children laying immobile in bed suffering from paralysis and pictures of others with their heads jutting out from iron lungs. John Tillerson, lying immobile on a flat wooden cart with bicycle wheels, was one of the pictures come to life.

image source: pursuit.unimelb.edu.au

Whenever we played cricket in the street, the electricity pole was the wicket, and the gutter was the crease. The electricity pole wicket was a couple of houses down from the Tillerson’s. If we were playing cricket on a warm summer day, Mrs Tillerson would wheel John out of the front gate and onto the footpath on a flat wooden cart. He’d watch us play laying stretched out along the length of his wooden cart. John had polio, and his unbendable legs were in iron braces. We called him Tin Legs Tillerson, but not to his face.

During the fifties, sixties, and early seventies, ships from Lloyd Triestino, Chandris, Sitmar, and P&O made up the immigration conveys sailing from England, and Europe, to Australia. It was commonplace to see the Fairsea, Arcadia, Patris, and Galileo docked at Port Melbourne’s Station Pier. When the ships left Melbourne to return to their home ports, the government-assisted migrants and Ten Pound Poms they carried to Australia were replaced by twenty-something-year-old Aussies starting their hallowed rite of passage, a two-year working and travelling holiday of England and Europe.

image source: museumsvictoria.com.au

I boarded the S.S. Galileo with a yellow card having signed stamps showing the date of vaccinations for smallpox, malaria, diphtheria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis. Protection against diphtheria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, and tetanus was somewhat standard for the hallowed rite of passage. Because I was unsure of where my travelling while searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary would lead me, I thought vaccination against smallpox and malaria would be a plus. All I remember about getting the smallpox vaccination is the cautionary words of the doctor infecting me.

Me: G’day mate; I’m here for my smallpox jab.
Smallpox Doc: It’s not like a vaccination you’re used to. I won’t be sticking a needle into yu. I’m gunna put the vaccine just under the first layer of your skin by taping around a small part of your arm with a two-pronged needle.
Me: Crikey!!!!
Smallpox Doc: Your gunna have a blister in a few days and it’ll be incredibly itchy. Whatever you do, don’t scratch it. In a few weeks, it’ll scab over and then fall off. You’ll have a pitted scar there for the rest of your life.
Me: No worries mate.

image source: reddit

A few days after getting the jab, a liquid-filled blister appeared on my left arm, where the doctor pricked my skin with the vaccination needle. I covered it with a band-aide to help me with resisting the urge to scratch at the itchy, fluid-filled blister. Whenever I changed the band-aide, I couldn’t help but look at the blister filling itself with pus, and that caused me to remember the photos I’d seen of children with smallpox; their face, upper arms, and body covered in small pus-filled blisters. I’m not sure if I threw the scab in a paper bag when it fell off and if I tossed it into the rubbish bin or not.

It took two months to travel by ship from Australia to Durban, up the coast of Africa to the Canary Islands and stopping in Messina, Naples and Genoa. I began my rite of passage in the mother country, sharing a small room in a Tooting Bec three storey row house with my Aussie travel mate and four English lads. During the long hot summer, I worked as a lifesaver at an outdoor swimming pool nestled in the corner of south London’s Brockwell Park. A few weeks before summer’s end, my Aussie travel mate and I bought a 1960’s Ford Angelia panel van with money we saved from our summer lifesaving jobs. It was a small dark blue van without windows, similar to a fruiterers delivery van or what you’d see on a London street while watching a baffling Scotland Yard mystery feature film.

image source: youtube

At summer’s end, we both were without jobs, so we made a deep and thoughtful decision; we’d search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary by driving our Ford Angelia van across Europe and then follow the Hippie Trail from Turkey through the Middle East to India. With the Ford Anglia van safe in the bowls of a drive-on drive-off car ferry, I spent the cross-channel journey from Dover to Belgium in the ferry’s lounge drinking pints of warm beer. In those days, I thought of Europe as an adult Luna Park; a hallowed rite of passage experience. Twenty-something-year-old Aussies didn’t go to Europe to find history, culture, and sophistication but went there for adventure, thrills, and naughtiness. During the next several weeks, the Anglia took us along the highways, laneways, narrow winding roads, roundabouts, and through the villages, towns, and cities of Germany, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece. At night we parked in village squares, side streets, and out of the way places and nestled into our sleeping bags in the back of our trusty van. At border crossings, our passports were stamped, and on-demand showed what was now our tattered yellow card.

image source: med.umich.edu

The Plaka, in the shadow of the Acropolis, is the oldest section of Athens. In the early seventies, pastry shops, old-men playing backgammon, nightclubs, and street vendors selling the best tasting souvlakis filled its streets. We parked the Anglia in the streets of the Plaka, and it became our bedroom in Athens. During the day, I walked the twisted, hilly, narrow streets of the Plaka and wandered to the Acropolis. I sat alone among the Parthenon stones and watched Athens stretching itself into the distance. Because I needed up to date vaccinations for Turkey and Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, I checked my yellow card a few days before leaving Athens when I was sitting peacefully on one of the Parthenon stones. Some vaccinations needed updating, so I headed off to a hospital on a main street of Athen’s for the round of new vaccinations. I don’t remember getting the updates, but my tattered yellow card was newly date stamped, the dosages noted, and signed by a Greek health specialist.

In the Hippie Trail days, the streets surrounding Istanbul’s Blue Mosque were the parking garages for Magic buses, Volkswagen Kombis, old Royal Mail vans, and a collection of unroadworthy minivans. We parked the Angelia in the shadow of the Mosque and enjoyed Istanbul for the next week or so. I’d begun to practice the traveller’s ritual of finding a bank to cash a traveller’s check, changing leftover money into a different currency, checking for required visas, and checking vaccinations are valid for the upcoming border crossing a few days before leaving for a new country. In the shadow of the Mosque, I discovered my Aussie travel mate and I had overlooked a lapsed vaccination in Athens; we needed to find someone in Istanbul to vaccinate us.

image source: jmcadam

Fellow travellers who were sharing the Blue Mosque parking garages told us the whereabouts of a doctor who gave vaccinations. My travel mate and I trusted the owner-driver of a classic 1950’s American car, come Istanbul taksi dolmus, to find the doctors house somewhere in Istanbul. The consulting room was a small room with a table and a medicine cabinet on the wall above a sink. The doctor entered the room, took a syringe from the table drawer, turned toward the wall-mounted cabinet, and motioned both of us to bare an arm for the vaccination. He filled the syringe with the liquid from a vial he took from the cabinet. My travel mate raised his hand to signal he would be first. The doctor plunged the needle into his arm and released the serum. In an instant, he spun around, jabbed the needle into my arm, and emptied the syringe of the leftover serum. He recorded the dosages, dated, stamped, and signed our tattered yellow cards. I offered him Greek drachmas for his services; I hadn’t cashed a travellers check or changed money before leaving Athens.

I wonder if the doctor with the small consulting room in Istanbul is equipping it with the necessary technology to interact with the fast data rates and greater capacity of the next-generation communication networks in anticipation of someone with a digital vaccine passport knocking on his door. Maybe it would be better if the Covid vaccination left a scar similar to the smallpox vaccination; if so, you could wear your vaccine passport on your arm.

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My Colon Preparation Left Me Feeling Washed Out

Even though I’ve been visiting my general practitioner twice a year for as long as I can remember, I’m still not exactly sure what general practitioners do. I’ve come to think of them as flagmen or caretakers for your well being. As my flagman, my general practitioner has referred me to different specialists to diagnose and treat several medical problems. He’s also prescribed various medications for my health and well being. One was a pharmaceutical to lower my elevated blood pressure, another to maintain a satisfactory blood pressure reading, and a couple of others to reduce the cholesterol level and uric acid level in my blood.

image source: jmcadam

It had to be at least ten years ago when I first suffered an episode of gout. The big toe on my right foot started having a slight discomfort, and because of the upcoming long weekend, I refused to acknowledge the persistent ever-growing pain. On Friday morning before the long weekend, I was overcome by a sudden unmanly moment and confided to a couple of coworkers that I was suffering from a painful big toe. They chorused gout and proclaimed that if I was planning on firing up the barbie and drinking a few to celebrate the long weekend, then I should see my doctor. I took their suggestion and rang my general practitioner. After explaining the three-day pain in my big toe was increasing exponentially by the minute and my barbie and backyard cricket plans for the long weekend to him, he said that I should immediately come into the office. After glancing at my red, inflamed big toe and giving it two pushes with his thumb, he announced, bet it feels like your toe is soaking in boiling water instead of being jabbed with a thumb.

Physician Assistant Specialist: You’ve got gout; the curse of living like a rich man. Living an affluent lifestyle and eating large helpings of red meats and seafood, and consuming generous amounts of alcoholic beverages.
Me: Crikey. Hang on a minute mate; I’ll be the first to admit you won’t see a bowl of porridge and a slice of stale bread spread with lard on the table, but I’m far from a beef wellington, custard tarts, and pies made with copious amounts of butter and sugar type of fella. And it’s not like I’m chucking back twenty glasses of chateau cardboard every day.
Physician Assistant Specialist: When there’s too much uric acid in your body, it can crystallise and deposit in the joints; usually in the big toe.
Me: Listen, mate, I like a pie and sauce now and then, and I’ve come to appreciate a few ice colds in my time yu know, but that’s far from an affluent lifestyle.
Physician Assistant Specialist: When you get home, take the pain relievers and the prednisone, and sit with your foot elevated. And avoid a diet of red meat, liver and kidneys, and seafood. If it’s not gone in a week, come back and see us. And go easy on the beer.

image source: touro.com

It’s about a ten or fifteen-minute drive from the hospital to our house. In the short drive home, my big toe progressed from feeling like it was soaking in boiling water to being hot and swollen, and whenever I put my foot on the ground, I suffered intolerable pain. I crawled up the front steps and into the house; the pain was intense. I lay exhausted on the couch with my foot elevated and swallowed my just prescribed medications. That was my start to a long weekend without a few snags on the barbie, a game of backyard cricket, and beer.

During my twice a year visits, the flagman for my health reviews my blood pressure and orders a blood draw to check my uric acid, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels; and announces the countdown to my colonoscopy at the end of every visit with, it looks like five years until a colonoscopy John, well John 4 ½ years until your colonoscopy, and so on. I don’t think of a colonoscopy as something you put on your calendar, as you would, a birthday, St Patrick’s Day party, or attending the AFL Grand Final at The G, so I forget the countdown as soon as I leave the examination room. On my last visit, the flagman did the countdown to my colonoscopy and announced; looks like we’re due for that follow-up colonoscopy John.

image source: jmcadam

The day before my 10:15 am colonoscopy arrived, and I started my preparation chanting what would be my mantra for the next 30 hours.

The bowel and colon must be empty; the gastroenterologist needs to see the polyps a plenty.

I started the day with a clear liquid diet. To avoid dehydration, I dutifully counted every glass of Gatorade and Apple Juice I swallowed. I cleared the fridge of milk and milk-based drinks, red, blue and purple beverages, beer, protein drinks, and juices containing pulp to help with resisting the urge for a glass of Milo or any of the other prohibited liquids, and this made room in the fridge for the mammoth container of prepared electrolyte bowel prep solution. My goal was to have the cleanest colon the gastroenterologist has ever seen. A colon he couldn’t stop talking about in the break room for the rest of his working life. At 6:00 that night, I started drinking the bowel prep solution. Every 10 minutes, I downed an 8-ounce glass until half of the prep solution was gone. The instructions were to finish the other half 6 hours before the procedure. After downing the third glass of the prep solution, the bowel movements started. I lost track of the number of times I spent in the loo over the next few hours, but I made sure during each visit to check the liquid I was expunging; my goal was a watery stool that anybody could see through.

image source: pond5.co

I had trouble finishing the second to last 8-ounce glass, which would have been eight glasses of bowel prep solution in about two hours. And that caused me to think back to the good old times of summer when the snags were sizzling on the barbie, there was a game of cricket in the back yard, and we were busy throwing back a few ice colds with the mates. In the day, it was nothing to go through half a dozen long necks of Melbourne Bitter without breaking a sweat. A long neck holds close to 26 ounces of the golden amber, and now here I was, struggling to put down 64-ounces of prep solution.

I started my colonoscopy day at 4:00 in the morning by drinking the last nine 8-ounce glasses of bowel prep solution and then digging the car out from the mound of snow caused by the snow ploughing trucks clearing the street of the 7 inches of snow left by the overnight storm. I did one last check of my stool before heading off for the procedure, and I let loose with a shout of bloody ripper. It was a clear yellow fluid without sediment. The first stop at the hospital was patient check-in.

Patient Check-In Person: (With a polite tone) And how are we feeling this morning.
Me: Grouse. I was out of bed at 3:30 to drink the solution every 10 minutes so I could hang out in the loo every 9 minutes expunging liquid, and then at half six I started digging the car out of a heavily compacted snowbank, and now I’m going to have a tube stuck up my bum.
Patient Check-In Person: (Looking at a computer screen) Last name?
Me: (while my patient history was being accessed from a mainframe somewhere) I was joking about feeling great. You know, I woke up during my last colonoscopy.
Patient Check-In Person: Date of birth?
Me: I was joking about being great; I haven’t eaten in 24 hours.
Patient Check-In Person: I see you’re here for your colonoscopy, we just have a few waivers and consents for you to sign.
Me: I was joking about feeling grouse; I only got about 5 hours of sleep last night.
Patient Check-In Person: If you take the elevator to the third floor they’ll check you in; have a nice day.

I was laying draped with a hospital gown, prepped for intravenous infusion anaesthesia, and waiting to be rolled on my mobile bed into the procedure room when the anesthesiologist sat beside me.

image source: depositphotos.com

Anesthesiologist: And how are we feeling this morning
Me: Really great. Yu know, I still remember waking up during the last colonoscopy. It’s funny how you remember little things from 5 years ago. Could you give me something to make sure I don’t wake up this time?
Anesthesiologist: If we give you anything to put you into a deep sleep you’ll have to have a tube down your throat because you wouldn’t be able to regulate your own breathing. Besides, it’s quite normal to wake up during the procedure.
Me: Normal?!!!!
Anesthesiologist: I’ve had two colonoscopies and woke up during both of them, but I don’t remember the experience.
Me: Now that’s the way to go. What a commitment to patient empathy; having two colonoscopies so you can walk the talk with your patients.
Anesthesiologist: My mum had colon cancer.
Me: So you know then what’s it like to wake up with a tube up your bum.

I was conscious when they wheeled my mobile bed into the procedure room and parked it alongside a wall-mounted 50-inch television screen. I was in the centre of a flurry of activity; nurses were arranging equipment and materials, positioning and stabilising me with pillows, and chatting with the gastroenterologist. He was dressed in a full length yellow waterproof latex apron, a clear face protective safety shield, and arm protection nitrile gloves. I heard the gastroenterologist ask, are we ready to go, which caused me to turn toward him and utter; no, not yet, I’m waiting for the deep sleep to start. I remember hearing a muffled I wasn’t asking you, I was talking to my nursing staff.

image source: jmcadam

I was drifting into a twilight zone as I turned toward the wall and the 50-inch television screen. The anaesthesia kicked in with me looking at an extreme close up of my bum. I didn’t wake up during the colonoscopy. The only memory I have of the procedure is smiling at someone I thought was the Gorton’s seafood fisherman before he stuck a snake-like, multi-layer flexible tube with a light, camera, and a tool for removing polyps up my bum and the length of my colon.

I’m thinking about starting a colonoscopy event calendar to clip onto the fridge. This way, I can appreciate the dwindling months until my next colonoscopy. Whenever the flagman for my health announces the countdown for my colonoscopy, I’ll stop at the supermarket, buy a packet of Gorton’s frozen 18 ct Breaded Crunchy Golden Fish Sticks, cut out the fisherman logo, and paste it on my colonoscopy calendar. Ten fisherman logos would signal five years, and it’s time.


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All Good Things Must Come To An End

The other morning I set off on what I thought was my last morning walk through the neighbourhood for 2020. Autumn had become wintertime, and the early morning daylight was no longer being warmed by the suns rays. During the last month, the sun was cautioning me of the change in seasons by appearing later, and later each morning. The sunlight and I were similar in that we were both reluctant to venture out into the cold mornings. Now that winter is here I’ll miss putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again without thinking.

image source: jmcadam

I started my last of the year morning walks before the rubbish trucks had wandered through the neighbourhood. Laying in confused chaos on the footpaths were mountains of stuffed rubbish bins, plastic bags crammed with rubbish, overflowing green recycling tubs, cardboard boxes packed with paper and plastics, yard waste bags bursting with the last of autumn’s grass clippings and leaves, and bundles of cuttings tied with string. Even though I was used to the disorganised rubbish on the footpaths every Tuesday morning, I still gave the chaos a quick look over when I walked by because there’s truth in the adage that one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure.

When I was growing up, there wasn’t a plastic tub, yard waste bag, or cardboard box in sight on rubbish day. There was only a galvanised rubbish bin on the nature strip outside of each house, and there was never more than one bin to a house. Most of the bins had very little rubbish in them but instead, were stuffed with glass bottles, tin cans, and anything the chooks wouldn’t eat, or that you couldn’t burn in your incinerator. Our incinerator was an old 44-gallon oil drum in the back of the yard, with a hole cut out in the bottom to scoop out the ashes from the burnt rubbish to put on mum’s backyard flower garden. I don’t know where the incinerator came from or how it got into the backyard.

I forget which day of the week was our rubbish day, but mum never did. Our bin was always out on the nature strip in the morning for the garbos to empty. The first rubbish truck I remember was a horse-drawn, green cart. It looked like a massive drum cut in half, on wheels. It had sliding, curved doors on each side and the garbo lifted the rubbish bins into the cart to dump their contents. When the cart was full, he closed the doors, and the horse and garbo headed off to the tip, to empty the cart. As the rubbish was collected, the horse stopped, slowed down, and started, without a command from the garbo. It’s as if the rubbish bins were the horse’s traffic lights; a full one meant to stop, and an empty one to go.

image source: adelaiderememberwhen.com.au

When rubbish trucks replaced the horse-drawn carts, collecting the rubbish became a two-garbo job; one garbo to drive, and one to run up and down the street chasing the truck to empty the bins into it. In the summer the garbos wore footy shorts and a singlet, and it was a safe bet that you’d probably see your garbo running around the footie oval on Saturday arvo kicking a few goals for the local club. To thank your garbo for a hard-working year, you always left a few longnecks on the footpath beside your rubbish bin at Christmas time.

I think fate sometimes thinks about the hand it deals you. The last time I was Down Under I went for a few early morning walks in some of the cities and towns we were visiting. One morning, on a stroll through one of Melbourne’s inner suburbs, the footpaths were crowded with clusters of large plastic carts with different coloured lids. It seemed as if the colour of the cart’s lid defined what went into them, so each cart contained either rubbish, recyclables, or yard waste. I came across a Melbournian who was comfortably navigating his way through the maze of carts and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to chat in the hope of understanding a Melbourne rubbish day.

image source: jmcadam

Me: G’day mate, is it rubbish day and why do the carts have different coloured lids.
Man on Street: Dunno if it’s rubbish day, yard waste day, or recyclables day; the whole things a dog’s breakfast mate, and now the governments giving us another bin with another different coloured lid. Crikey, you’re gonna have to know what’s the right day for a light green, purple, yellow, and a red lid, so ya can roll the cart with the right stuff in it out to the footpath so the rubbish truck with a liftin’ arm can pick it up.
Me: Means more work for the garbos doesn’t it.
Man on Street: Nah, less work; they’ll be just sitting on their bums working a lever mate.
Me: I think it would take a lot of eye-hand coordination to work the rubbish cart lever.
Man on Street: They get that drinking the beer you put out on the footpath at Christmas mate.
Me: When you get the cart with the new coloured lid how will ya know what to put in what cart.
Man on Street: Nah, don’t worry mate, she’ll be right; they’ll tell us about the change when it happens.
Me: Ya reckon.
Man on Street: It’s gonna be good for the environment mate, and it’s better to think that they did something instead of they could have.

I didn’t think about rubbish carts with different coloured lids again, that is not until months later when I leant Omaha was changing how it’s rubbish, and recyclables are collected. Each household was getting two 96 gallon carts, one with a green lid for recyclables, and the other with a black one for rubbish and yard waste. A truck with an automated arm was going to lift the carts and dump them into its hopper. I was ready for the rubbish collection change because I had no fear of rubbish carts with different coloured lids.

image source: omaha.com

It was rubbish day on one of the morning walks after my last walk for the year, and the day of change had arrived; the large carts were now Omaha’s official rubbish and recycling bins. Most houses had two giant wheelie carts in front of them, but some had a mix of plastic bags stuffed with rubbish, green recycling tubs, and the new carts. It seemed that for some persons, the change in how Omaha’s rubbish was now being collected was difficult to accept. I wanted so much to counsel the rubbish collection traditionalists on the need to accept and embrace the rubbish cart change, but I stopped myself from knocking on the front door of the houses with the prohibited plastic rubbish bins and recycling tubs out front.

image source: tripadvisor

I still remember the first time I was served a salad before my meal. I looked down at the salad and started suffering from a fear-inducing change. I tasted saliva thickening in my mouth and throat and then felt my heart hammering on my chest. From growing up and living half my life in the Land Down Under the only way I knew to eat a salad, was on the same plate as the main meal. A meat pie, apart from a take-away, ordered at a café will come on a plate with a salad and optional chips. A Sunday night’s tea of cold leftover roast lamb always comes on a plate with a traditional salad of lettuce, grated carrot, sliced tomato, and beetroot. A cheese toastie, without fail, comes with a rocket salad. And a chicken parma isn’t a parma unless it comes with a salad. When I think back, I should have refused to eat the salad. But I overcame my fear and accepted the change that a salad before the meal presented. I ate the salad and with each mouthful of cut-up romaine heart started to realise how much better my future would be with “I’m glad I did” running through my memories, instead of “I could have”.

image source: smh.com.au

I felt my heart thumping, and oxygen flooding in and out of my lungs when I started reading how Qantas is grounding, until at least the middle of 2023, its fleet of Airbus A380s, because of a downturn in international travel caused by COVID-19 restrictions. I became even more despondent the more I read. As my fingers retreated from the keyboard, each hand curled into a fist, and my nails did their best not to dig into the palm of each hand. It was fortunate that I’d just smoothed my nails with a fine-grit hardened glass nail file. And then it slowly registered; I’ll never again fly in the worlds largest passenger plane and experience the exhilaration of Skycam. A couple of years ago, on a return A380 flight from Melbourne to Los Angles, I discovered Skycam, and I spent the next sixteen hours watching the flight speeding through the outside darkness and then landing at LAX on my inflight entertainment screen. On my next flight Down Under after discovering Skycam, I selected it on the inflight entertainment system as soon as I was seated and readied myself to watch fifteen-hours of flying through a dark sky.

image source: jmcadam

As long haul travel slowly returns to normal the Qantas A380 will be missing from the skies, replaced by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350, and flying from the US to Down Under will never be the same again. For some, life without Skycam will go on as if nothing has changed. I pin my hopes on accepting no more Skycam the next time I fly Down Under just as I accepted the change of eating my salad before the main meal. As I take the step from the jet bridge into the aeroplane, I will rejoice in not knowing what I’ll find on the inflight entertainment, and celebrate that change has been kind.

The more I think about how I embraced and accepted change instead of being fearful and rejective, the more I can understand, and value who I am. I reckon there’s an agent of change deep down inside of me waiting to be set free, and from now on, I’ll welcome eating my salad before my bowl of mac and cheese, and I’ll start setting my alarm half an hour earlier to relax and meditate, and think about change.


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Freedom Is Being Able To Eat Cake Every Day

No trip to Fremantle, or freo as the locals call it, would be complete without taking in a couple of the must-do things listed on the countless “What to do when visiting Fremantle” websites. Each of the different websites lists the same what to do activities: visit the Roundhouse, hang out at the pristine beaches, escape to Rottnest Island and meet the quokkas, enjoy fish and chips at Fishing Boat Harbour, stroll the Fremantle Market, sample a boutique beer at Little Creatures, wander the Cappuccino Strip, stretch your legs at Esplanade Park, and tour Fremantle’s infamous prison. I’ve always said, if you’re visiting somewhere new, the first thing you need to do is something to give yourself an insight into the values and spirit of that place. I’d suggest wandering the downtown streets, finding a place to drink with a local, and starting up a conversation with a stranger. On my first day in Fremantle, I signed up for the following tours, a historical walking tour, a cemetery tour to visit Bon Scott’s gravesite, the lead singer of AC/DC, and a Behind Bars tour of Fremantle’s heritage prison.

image source: jmcadam

The convicts transported to the Swan River Settlement built the roads, houses, churches, and buildings that would become the city of Fremantle, as well as their own prison. It was known as the Convict Establishment and records suggest, close to 10,000 convicts passed through it until transportation ended in 1868. The Establishment was renamed the Fremantle Prison, and it continued as a place of incarceration until decommissioned in 1991; it’s now a world heritage site.

It was a hot midday afternoon when I headed off for The Convict Prison tour. As I got to the corner of Market and High Streets, I realised I’d be stepping inside a one time, maximum-security prison, and confronting the realities of life on the inside. I thought of stopping to get some Parma Shapes or Chicken Twisties to nibble on during the tour. But I realised any food from the outside would be confiscated at the gate. I was thinking of the gruelling and demanding time I was in for and decided I had best take in a carb-loading snack before the tour, so I stopped at Fremantle’s oldest tea room.

image source: jmcadam

Culley’s is known for its mouth-watering pies and their daily baked delights that include: matchsticks, lamingtons, and vanilla slices. I ordered a pie with chips and salad for my pre-prison, carb-loaded snack. As I squirted tomato sauce on the pie and raised a fork full of pie and salad to my mouth, I thought how my snack would be a godsend to an Inmate Distiller; a pie and sauce and chips fermenting in a plastic bag with hot water would produce tremendous prison alcohol.

We gathered around our guide; he started the tour with an introductory story of Fremantle Prison from its convict origins in the 1850s until its closure as a maximum-security gaol in 1991. He finished the introduction with several cautions.

Convict Prison Tour Guide: No shoes, no shirt, no entry
Tour Group Person: Bet the convicts weren’t told that to often; do thongs count?
Convict Prison Tour Guide: You must keep hold of your ticket until your visit to Fremantle Prison is complete
Tour Group Person: Blimey, now we’re all ticket of leave men
Convict Prison Tour Guide: Fremantle Prison retains the right to deny access and or remove visitors who are being a public nuisance, acting recklessly, or failing to observe directions from Fremantle Prison staff
Tour Group Person: Fair go, mate, I thought that’s how ya got into prison
Convict Prison Tour Guide: Chewing chips and toffees is something you don’t do at a world heritage site, so there’s no eating on the tour
Tour Group Person: Fair crack of the whip mate! good job I finished me Darrell Lea Allsorts before the tour

image source: jmcadam

Our Convict Prison tour guide led us through the cell blocks and exercise yards. Even though writing and drawing on the walls was not permitted, I couldn’t help but notice the graffiti, poems, and pictures scrawled on some of the walls of the long sandstone hallways. The Convict Prison tour guide explained that in the last few months of the prison’s operation, the rules were relaxed to introduce art therapy, and so graffiti and artwork spread across the walls of some of the cells and hallways.

From 1888 through to 1984 the gallows room was the only place of legal execution in Western Australia. Forty-three men and one woman hanged in the gallows room. As our tour guide described the formalities of a hanging I took hold of the railing, bent over and looked down into the thirteen feet of the long drop.

Convict Prison Tour Guide: It went full bore when it was time; they escorted the poor bugger through that door there from their cell in solitary
Tour Group Person: They knew they’d seen their last gum tree
Convict Prison Tour Guide: Their hands and feet were tied up in leather shackles and they put a cloth hood over their head
Tour Group Person: Bummer
Convict Prison Tour Guide: They stood em on the closed trap door there and a noose was put around their neck and they hanged the poor bugger by dropping em through that trap door
Tour Group Person: Poor bugger
Convict Prison Tour Guide: It was over and done with in a flash; like a dose of salts
Tour Group Person: Like selling hot cakes
Convict Prison Tour Guide: Yep, just like hot cakes; from leaving their condemned cell in Solitary to their hanging was around 60 seconds

image source: jmcadam

Corporal punishment wasn’t uncommon in Australian penal colonies, and the Convict Establishment was no exception. I’m not sure if the young fella volunteered, or if his girlfriend volunteered him, but as quick as a flash, his arms and legs were tied to the lashing post. Just as the young fella was about to be lashed, our guide called a stop to it. Apparently, the Establishment staff sometimes refused to inflict corporal punishment on the convicts. So before the cat of nine tails could be used, Flagellators had to be recruited from Fremantle. No one in the tour group volunteered to be a Flagellator.

An hour and a half of walking through cell blocks, exercise yards, and up and down stairs caused me to wonder if I was suffering from a carb deficiency, and therefore my need for carb-loading food. As soon as the tour finished, I headed to Culley’s for a cup of afternoon tea and a daily baked matchstick, lamington, or vanilla slice. As soon as I took the first slow bite of the firm vanilla yellow custard between the two buttery pieces of puff pastry, I once again experienced the heavenly taste of a vanilla slice; just as I did on Sunday afternoons. Sunday afternoon was mum’s baking day, and the kitchen counters were filled with lamingtons and butterflies, vanilla slices and matchsticks, and occasionally a sponge cake and scones. Mum moved her Sunday baking to Friday or Saturday afternoon if Friday and Saturday nights were visitor nights.

image source: expedia

The lounge room was set aside for receiving visitors where they were entertained, with adult conversation, a pot of tea, and the results of mum’s baking. Mum had furnished the lounge room with the formal elegance dad’s working wage allowed. Crocheted dollies sat on the back of the sofa, and the two lounge chairs and her crystal sparkled from within the glass china cabinet. A PMG 300 Series Bakelite rotary phone sat on a small table alongside the crystal cabinet. Over time a His Master Voice, our first television, replaced the phone and it sat supreme in the lounge room. Mum and dad’s friends, the Slaters, would visit on a Saturday night, and their visit was a small gift from heaven. It wasn’t that I was allowed up the passageway and into the lounge room, but more so because mum always left me a couple of her vanilla slices on a plate on the kitchen table. Before I went up the passageway mum would sternly warn me,

Just say hello to Mr and Mrs Slater, be on your best behaviour and keep your feet off the chairs.

I dreaded when it was our turn to visit the Slaters in Coburg because it meant I wouldn’t be eating mum’s vanilla slices and dad would be driving past the dark foreboding bluestone walls of Pentridge.

image source: jimschembri.com

Pentridge began as a stockade in 1851, and between 1857 and 1864 it was transformed, into a typical British prison with wings radiating from a central hall for each prisoner to have their own cell. High walls with sentry towers were built from bluestone quarried on-site and enclosed the prison. Pentridge became known as The Bluestone College. Whenever I caught sight of the high imposing bluestone walls, my mind worked overtime imaging the violence and depravity inside those walls. I’d fall into a huddled silence on the back seat of the car, not daring to look at the threatening walls, fear gripped my mind, and my heartbeat would race., The fear sent shivers down my spine and caused my hair to stand on end. Dad would start to talk slowly and quietly; he was the only soothing, calming presence.

Some say Pentridge was witness to scenes of great violence and depravity. It housed Ned Kelly, Australia’s infamous bushranger before, and after his hanging at the Melbourne Gaol in 1880; his remains were moved to Pentridge in 1929.

image source: thenewdaily.com.au

The notorious underworld character Mark Chopper Read spent time at Pentridge. He’s known for his semi-autobiographical fictional crime novels, children’s books, and paintings that include a series of Ned Kelly portraits; some depicting Ned as heavily tattooed, like himself, and with machine guns or hooks for hands. The Australian film Chopper launched the career of Australian actor Eric Bana. Pentridge housed Ronald Ryan, the last man executed in Australia; he was hanged at the gaol in 1967. Pentridge officially closed on May 1st, 1997.

Bluestone College is being redeveloped and transformed into an urban village, that will include a public piazza, restaurants, a shopping centre, and a 15-screen Palace Cinema. I wonder if Culley’s would be interested in opening a shop in Coburg.

Culley’s Tea Rooms

Chopper Review

Pentridge Prison’s History of Horror

Another Sleepless Night Trapped In A Coffin

I think my reluctance to look at dead bodies in their coffins started when my father died. I had to be eighteen or nineteen at the time, and I vaguely remember the open coffin in the front of the room at Nelson Brothers. The Nelson Brothers funeral parlour was in a really cool Art Deco building on the corner of Douglas Parade and Stevedore Streets in Williamstown. The building is still there. I’m not sure what’s on the first and second floor, but the ground floor now has a dentist, coffee shop, a false teeth and appliance clinic, a thrift shop, and a TAB shop for betting on Australian horse racing and sports.

image source:jmcadam

Dad’s coffin was open to allow family and friends to take one last look at his head, shoulders, and chest. I sat at the back of the room, wondering what a dead person looked like; would they look like they did when they were alive. Would dad be lying on his back, feet together, with his arms folded over his chest, would the eyes that danced with light be open and staring or closed, would his deathly white skin be waxy and pale with artificial makeup, and would his lips be pale and cold. I decided I didn’t want to look at dad. I still wonder what clothes mum picked out to have him dressed in for the coffin. Mum would think of his funeral as a formal occasion and so would dress him in a suit, instead of the casual clothing he enjoyed wearing. I only remember dad wearing a suit when he went to lodge, and sometimes when he went to work.

The first time I looked at a dead body was ten years or so after dad’s funeral. In the mid-seventies, Burma was slowly opening its borders and granting some visitors a conditional visa to visit the country. The capital, Rangoon, had a worn-out British colonial appearance. People mainly shopped at street markets, and everyday life seemed to be a continual test of resourcefulness and endurance. The black market was a way of life. After spending the government allowed one week in the country, I left for India. As much as it tried, Burma didn’t prepare me for Calcutta.

image source:commons.wikimedia.org

Outside of the Calcutta airport was a teeming city of people, buses, hand-pulled rickshaws, Ambassador taxis, cows, and chaos. In the ’60s and ’70s, The Lonely Planet was the backpacker’s guidebook for travelling overland through the Far East, and it became my handbook for India as it had for Thailand and Malaysia. I must have taken a tuk-tuk from the airport to a Lonely Planet recommended backpacker’s hotel. There can be no other reason, other than a frighting, nightmarish, Fifth Element tuk-tuk ride that would leave me unable to remember where I stayed in Calcutta; I think it was old Calcutta. Calcutta’s streets were decorated with well-maintained colonial-style buildings, but any suggestion of a British way of life had faded. Whenever I left my hotel and wandered into the streets, I was surrounded by hordes of badly deformed beggars, hawkers, and young men asking if I was interested in keeping company with a woman, or a young boy. The sacred cows nonchalantly roaming the narrow streets and laneways were untouched by the chaos. The teeming footpaths were covered with motionless bodies covered in flies and frozen in contorted poses. I thought I was looking at dead bodies, but as soon as I approached the corpses, they’d turn over, sit up, and jerk their hand toward me with a pleading cry of baksheesh.

image source:kristianbertel.dk

After a couple of days wandering around Calcutta, I began to notice some of the bodies never turned over to ask for baksheesh; and I started to think that maybe they were indeed dead. The Lonely Planet guidebook comes with free admittance into the brotherhood of travelling backpackers which includes a license to ask fellow backpackers at Lonely Planet recommended hotels and hostels any questions.

Me: G’day mate, do ya know, are all of the bodies covered in blowies on the footpath sleeping, or are some dead
Fellow Aussie Backpacker: I reckon at least half of them are dead mate
Me: how do you know some of them are dead
Fellow Aussie Backpacker: I was out early one morning and I saw them chucking the dead ones on to the back of a ute
Me: You sorta get used to looking at them, don’t ya
Fellow Aussie Backpacker: Ya know mate if ya wanna see dead bodies ya need to go to Varanasi


image source:jmcadam & nyt

Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction; Varanasi was my next stop. I wasn’t going to Varanasi though to look at dead bodies. I was going there to look at the small room where George Harrison sat at the feet of Ravi Shankar and learned to play the sitar. And then I would, at last, understand the avant-garde, psychedelic fusion of Western and Indian classical music, with vaudeville and music hall music, that the Beatles used to produce Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On my first morning in the Old City of Varanasi, I woke to the sound of music, ringing bells, and chanting. As soon as I stepped outside of my Lonely Planet recommended backpacker’s accommodation I was engulfed in a thick, sweet, heady smell of incense; I remember my eyes stinging from the sandalwood scented smoke. I wandered the cobbled laneways hoping to stumble upon Ravi Shankar’s old place, but it seemed the maze of laneways only led to the Rover Ganges and the ghats.

A ghat is a wide, set of steps leading down to a river; there are eighty plus ghats along the Varanasi riverfront. The Ganges River is a sacred body of water to Hindus. They worship and offer their prayers to the Goddess of the river Ganges. They also believe bathing and splashing themselves with the holy waters will rid them of their sins, and casting the ashes of their deceased into the Ganges will transport their soul to heaven, thus causing them to bypass the cycle of rebirth. Two of the Varanasi’s ghats are for cremations the others are for bathing, washing clothes, and worship rituals.

image source:thewirehindi.com

I saw the smoke before I saw the fires. I didn’t know if I was stepping onto a cremation ghat or standing in front of one. I was standing with burning bodies laying on large piles of firewood; everything was only somewhat visible through the clouds of sandalwood scented smoke. The bodies were wrapped in brightly coloured shrouds, similar to Egyptian mummies. But the pyres seemed to be alive; steadily hissing and steaming and spitting burning embers into the air. I watched the bodies as they burnt. At the end of the cremation, the ashes, and any remaining bones, were carried into the river. Because a lot of India’s poor can’t afford enough wood for a complete cremation half-burnt bodies end up in the river; if there’s no wood for the cremation the wrapped body is put in the river and set on fire.

At nearby ghats, Hindus bathe in the sacred waters and submerge and splash themselves with the holy water to wash away their sins. I watched as a man walked slowly into the river with his arms outstretched and a look of ecstasy on his face. Men were having their heads shaved, women were washing clothes, children were diving and swimming in the holy waters, and buffalo were being washed. I left the ghats covered in human ash, and with images of bloated and charred bodies floating in the river.

image source:tripsavvy.com

On my last day in Varanasi a smiling man, who asked only for a small offering of baksheesh, led me through the maze of cobbled laneways to Ravi Shankar’s small house. He pointed to a window.

Young smiling man: If you look here, you can see where Beatle George Harrison sat at the feet of Ravi Shanka and played the sitar
Me: It’s wonderful to be here
It’s certainly a thrill
You’re such a lovely audience
We’d like to take you home with us, we’d love to take you home


As the years went by, the passing of time invited me to the funeral services of friends and family. I started stealing furtive glances at the dead bodies from a distance; all I could see above the top of the open coffin was their nose and hair, and so I began walking closer to look into the coffins. I knew cosmetics were used on the bodies, but as much as I looked, I couldn’t see any superglue keeping their eyes shut, the cotton stuffed down their throat and nose, or the stitches keeping their mouth shut. I remember looking down into the coffin of a family member who I’d seen a few days earlier in the hospital when he was in a coma. I looked closely at his temple; there was no sign of a wadded bandage or the hole drilled through his skull to drain blood from his brain. Now when I look at bodies, I scan their head, face, and hands trying to find a clue as to how they’re made, to look like they did when they were healthy.

image source:nbcnews.com

For some a situation, an event, a person, or anything connected to their senses triggers a buried memory. A while back, an invitation to my first costume Halloween party caused me to remember the ghats on the Ganges River, and I decided to dress as a Varanasi cremation ghat instead of a cowboy or magician. I remember foraging the Omaha op shops for discarded doll parts to glue to a pyre I’d made from Pier One curly willow branches. I surveyed the finished costume, and the doll parts were too small for the pyre, so I glued the heads, arms and legs, and bodies in contorted poses onto paper plates to make four place settings. I complimented each serving with al dente spaghetti and macaroni, and discrete splashing of diluted food dye to represent the brain and other human organs, and then glued the place settings onto a sheet of Styrofoam and cut an opening in the centre of the table for my head. I doused the table costume in sandalwood oil before wearing it to the party.

Ever since I began looking at dead bodies in their coffins I’ve wondered, if you put your ear onto their stomach would you be able to hear liquids bubbling and swooshing around inside them.


In Pictures: Calcutta In The 1970s

Body Worlds

Sgt Pepper’s at 50: The Greatest Thing You Ever Heard Or Just Another Album?

Wine Makes All Things Possible

I have only brief memories of my last couple of times in Adelaide. I remember a city of churches, a small boring slow city more suited to oldies than a young hip Melburnian, where you walked everywhere, traffic wasn’t a problem, and it’s streets needing more people shopping.. On our last trip Down Under I gave Adelaide one more try and instead of flying direct from Perth to Melbourne stopped over, and spent a few delightful days exploring Adelaide. I now think of Adelaide as a city with charm, elegant beauty, and a fun way of living; a city that doesn’t drain your energy like Sydney and Melbourne.

image source:jmcadam

The Majestic Old Lion Apartments in North Adelaide, Adelaide’s affluent inner suburb of heritage pubs and workers cottages, incredible food, high-end boutiques, and the Oval was our Adelaide home for the next five days. The extreme hot weather followed us from the West, and Adelaide was being predicted to have its hottest November in over 50 years. Catastrophic fire warnings had been issued for the Adelaide Hills and the nearby surroundings. Even though the soaring heat pushed the temperatures above 100 degrees F, the city fell just short of setting a November temperature record.

The Old Lion Apartments was next door to The Lion Hotel, on hand to spend late afternoons sitting at an outdoor table cooling off with a few ice colds. The first time I felt the misting water, I pretended it didn’t happen and reached for my pot of Coopers. The second time, I looked up at the underside of the curved verandah roof and saw a series of metal tubing spraying a cooling mist every few minutes. What better was there to escape Adelaide’s extreme heat than sitting at a table on the footpath outside of the Lion with a steak sandwich, throwing back a few Coopers, being misted with water, while watching the good people of Jerningham Street go about their business.

image source:jmcadam

Most of Australia’s best wine regions and wineries are just a short drive from Adelaide. Instead of touring the well-travelled wine trails of the Barossa Valley, we indulged ourselves with a Tour, Light Lunch and Tasting at Mollydooker Wines, a winery we discovered in Omaha. Mollydooker is a small untypical winery nestled in the heart of McLaren Vale; at most a 45-minute drive from central Adelaide. Left-handed Sarah Marquis and her left-handed husband Sparky crushed their first grapes in 2005 and called their new wines Mollydooker; Australian slang for left-handed. They’ve since parted ways, and Sarah is now the exclusive owner of Mollydooker. She’s continued with the whimsical southpaw label idea of telling stories about being left-handed, as well as a character theme for each of the wine names.

image source:jmcadam

Since discovering Mollydooker, whenever the mates put me in charge of organising a game of The Tide’s Gone Out, I insist Left Hand on Mollydooker wine labels as a must-have category. It’s an adult drinking game with a few simple rules. The first rule is, players decide on a list of different categories before the game. A typical list could be:

the left hand on Mollydooker wine labels
canned spaghetti recipes
drongo losers you’ve known
Australian slang for beer
what you put chicken salt on
different types of meat pies

The second rule is that players take turns to shout out an example for each category. Each time a player comes up with a new suggestion for a category, they empty their glass. Imagine the excitement, and the sense of devil may care as the room becomes filled with shouts of:

the boxer has two left hands
neck oil
budgie smuggler wearers
curry scallop pie
the boy on the scooter is using his left leg and foot
chicken salt and avocado toast
hit the turps

image source:jmcadam

We met our tour guide Liza, pronounced Leeza, Van Pelt, who was wearing a fluro lime green-yellow vest outside the entrance to Mollydooker’s cellar door tasting room. She ushered us inside for a before the tour pit stop and safety vest. As Liza handed me an orange vest I couldn’t help but think, the tour’s off to a flying start; Mollydooker’s following the safety vest colours specified in the Australian high visibility safety garments standard 4602.1: 2011 that states construction workers, traffic flaggers, and labourers wear yellow vests, contractors and visitors orange, management tricolour vests personalised with their name and company logo, and public safety wears different colour-coded vests.

Liza was out the door as soon as she handed me my vest, assuming I’d be right behind her. But I was still inside the reception area, checking my vest for reflective strips. A few days ago, I’d read a West Australian tradie suffered first-degree burns when the reflective strips on his high visibility work clothing magnified a case of sunburn. He was undressing after work and noticed a painful red rash, and so he took himself off to the hospital. The doctors diagnosed first-degree burns and treated him with aloe vera and painkillers before sending him home.

image source:picturevictoria.vic.gov.au

Until I was sixteen or seventeen, I’d spend every day of the Christmas school holidays at Williamstown beach. Back then Australians took sunburn as a rite of summer. Every primary school student memorised Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country and could recite the start of the second stanza.

I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror-The wide brown land for me!

There were so many times I’d be burnt to a crisp and ride my bike home from Willie Beach with red, sometimes blistering, painful skin. Mum would dab calamine lotion on the sunburn or cut a tomato in half and rub the cut ends over my red, burning skin.
I couldn’t find any reflective strips on my orange vest, so I quickly suited up and set off after Liza. The tour group was us, and it quickly became a personal tour of the winery. As we wandered into and through the vineyards, it was as if we were strolling around a long lost friend’s backyard, chatting and catching up on things, and now and then pointing to something and asking what’s that. Mollydooker is known for full-bodied, silky red wines and it’s three vineyards are planted for Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

image source:tripadvisor

I learnt Mollydooker crushes about 1300 tons of grapes a year and produces around 90,000 cases of wine and it sells about half of its wine in the US. Lisa proudly talked about the Mollydooker trademarked vineyard watering system that Sparky and Sarah came up with when they started the business. They theorised that ripening the vine ripens the fruit and you can control the sugar level of grapes by precise watering using coordinated irrigation. All of my other well thought out questions and comments had gone over well with Liza so I thought I’d add an observation about droughts and flooding rains and evaporative cooling,

I think the overhead footpath water misting cooling system used at the North Adelaide Lion Hotel is similar to the Mollydooker watering system.

Liza answered my Lion Hotel evaporative cooling, flooding rains observation, in the same thoughtful way she answered all my other questions and comments. After a short pause, she responded with, and that leads us into the next stage of Molldooker winemaking. I’m not exactly sure how the theory of overhead footpath evaporative cooling systems led to Fruit Weight. But as we went from the vineyards, through grape crushing and blending, and into a warehouse of stacked casks of maturing wine, she explained how Sparky and Sarah came up with the concept of Marquis Fruit Weight. They declared the Fruit Weight baseline for their Mollydooker wines had to be at least 65%.

image source:smcadam

We were surrounded by casks of maturing wine, which seemed to send Liza off. She began describing Mollydooker’s family of wines, finishing with the intimate details of Two Left Feet,

this wine has been barrel fermented and matured in 97% American and 3% French oak, using 35% new, 55% one-year-old and 10% two-year-old barrels. The required Marquis Fruit Weight for the Lefty Series is 65%–75%. The actual Fruit Weight for the 2018 Two Left Feet is 68%

I could only hear Two Left Feet as it continued to echo off the wine casks, and I couldn’t help myself blurting out my heartbreaking story of Two Left Feet. I was a shy and bookish, post-pubescent adolescent with a pot cut, that I was frantically trying to grow into a long sixties style and my best clothes were my going out loose baggy blue blazer and long grey trousers when I took learning to dance classes. Mum made my clothes back then, and she made the blue blazer and grey long trousers about twice the size they should have been; she said I’d grow into them. I took dancing classes in the hope of meeting girls, and to have dancing machine feet that would allow me to majestically conquer the Waltz, Pride of Erin, Foxtrot, and Evening Three Step. When it was time to practise our just learned dance steps, it was usually the boy’s choice to invite a girl onto the dance floor. I don’t remember ever practising a dance at learning to dance classes, because I never made it onto the dance floor even when it was the girl’s choice. Each week the refusals repeated themselves, and I started searching for a reason for the constant rejection. Was it my going out clothes, the loose baggy blue blazer and long grey trousers, or the pot cut that I was growing into a sixties Mick Jagger style.

image source:jmcadam

As I neared the end of my long-suffering tale of rejection, my voice trailed off, and I stood with my head bowed. I didn’t see Liza approach. She extended her right hand and asked if I would partner her for an Evening Three Step.

Forward, 2, 3 Tap
Turn, 2, 3, Tap
Turn, 2, 3, Tap
Back, 2, Side, Close.

Liza shared she was once a professional dancer and was the dancing partner of David Wirrpanda, a one time West Coast footballer star, on Australia’s 2010 Dancing with the Stars. I could have danced, danced, danced all day; but it was the end of the Mollydooker tour and the afternoon was to be spent, sitting outside, framed by the Adelaide Hills and surrounding vineyards, sipping velvety wines, and picking at a platter of brie, prosciutto, pastrami, a fresh chèvre log, mushroom pate, giant green olives, dukkah, and a delightful olive oil.


Mollydooker Wines

Evening Three Step

McLaren Vale Wine Region

It Hurts Less When You See A Rock Coming

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that most people, if they’re daydreaming about taking an exciting holiday Down Under, only think about visiting Sydney. They know about Sydney because of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach with its eye-catching lifesavers, and these attractions are always on their must-see and do list. I’ve always said that when you visit somewhere new, you can’t go wrong with just roaming the streets, popping into some quaint cafes, drinking with the locals at a corner pub or bar, and finding a place to stay once you’re there. That was my travel dictum back when I was roaming Europe and Asia searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. Now I’m like most holidaymakers and put together an itinerary whenever I travel. I don’t build a complex spreadsheet of see and do activities, restaurants to eat at, and prebooked accommodations with everything cross-referenced to times and dates, but I do create a list of where to stay, things to see, and what to do.

image source:jmcadam

I’d say that ninety-five per cent of first time Down Under holidaymakers put together their ten-day itinerary from websites listing the top fifteen reasons to visit Sydney. All of these websites seem to list the same what to do activities, namely: explore The Rocks and Circular Quay, wander Darling Harbour and Chinatown, walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge, visit the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, stop by the Taronga Zoo, take a Sydney Harbour cruise, marvel at the Sydney Opera House, take the ferry to Manly Beach, and hang out and learn to surf at Bondi Beach. My two bobs worth for what to see and do in Sydney includes: savouring a plate of roast veggies from the Market Street food court in the basement of David Jones’s department store, staring in wonder at the suspended wooden escalator sculpture at Wynyard Railway Station, and exploring Barangaroo Reserve.

Barangaroo Reserve was created in 2015 by re-imagining areas of a decommissioned container port and the wharves and warehouses of East Darling Harbour and is Sydney’s newest harbour foreshore park. Sandstone rocks, extracted on-site, replaced the jumble of wharves and piers and were arranged to taper down to the sea to form a natural, rocky coastline foreshore. The Reserve is landscaped with thousands of Australian native trees and shrubs, a collection of waiting to be discovered picnic spots, and lush grassland lawns cascading down to a foreshore of enjoyable coves. Barangaroo offers the magnificent views of the Harbour and Goat Island, that had been hidden for over 100 years by the working waterfront and its stevedoring activities.

image source:landscapeperformance.org

Because I’ve always thought that being on time for the start of an event is a bad idea, I try in earnest to arrive more than fifteen minutes before the announced start time. I allowed myself ample time to spare before the start of the Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tour, so I wandered along the meandering foreshore to admire the views of the harbour. I watched the different collections of little ones, always under the eye of their watchful parent, scramble over the rocks and paddle in the small rock pools. Before long, some wanted more than the still waters of the rock pools, so they clambered down to the water’s edge and dipped their feet into the harbour’s salty water. Their excited squeals filled the air when the small waves, created by the passing ferries, water taxis, and leisure craft zigzagging across the harbour, washed against their legs. Whenever I’m reminded about growing up in Newport and Williamstown, I find it impossible to practice any self-control, and so nothing could stop me from clambering over the rocks.

image source:jmcadam

As soon as I reached the water’s edge, I sat on a sandstone rock and plunged my Teva Sandal wearing feet into the harbour’s salty water. The small waves caused the water to slosh against my legs, and I was carried back, to clambering across, and down the large rocks forming the shoreline of the Strand, as it arched from the Laneway to Sandy Point. The weekends were our free time. Andrew Lambrianew and I would roam Williamstown on our bikes. Some afternoons we walked our bikes over to Sandy Point and watched the ocean-going cargo boats slowly navigate and head up the Yarra to their resting place at the Melbourne wharves. We fantasised about being deckhands on the cargo boats, and the adventures we’d have in unknown exotic lands and ports of call. Now that I think back, I daresay we most likely thought of ourselves as the captain of the boat, more so than a crew member.

If we weren’t at Sandy Point or the piers, we’d be bombing jellyfish who had floated too close to The Strand’s rocky foreshore. If they were floating close to the surface, we’d scavenge for shards of blue stone and toss a barrage of yonnies at the blobs; when the jellyfish were below the surface, we’d hunt for large chunks of blue stone to launch onto them. It was our sweet revenge to smash and shred a jellyfish into gelatinous tatters, and Andrew and I would fill the air with loud shouts of enthusiastic satisfaction. The revenge was payback for the burning stings we suffered when swimming at Willie Beach after the tide had washed jellyfish in from the bay; they’ be floating on the surface or at any depth below the surface and were impossible to see. It was inevitable that you’d end up swimming into the gelatinous blobs, hit them with your head, arms, or legs, and suffer the most acute burning stings. The only remedy I knew of to relieve the stinging was to head for the shallows, scoop up handfuls of wet sand, and then rub the sand over the stings.

image source:google maps

Back when I bombed jellyfish, I was growing into my teenage years and still waiting for my grey matter to be wired so I would think about intellectual issues, social problems, and how to live in harmony with the land and its gifts. I was more in the developmental stage of self-consciousness and impulsive behaviour than understanding the importance of the natural landscape and it’s flora and animal life: and so I’d sometimes throw yonnies at the black swans gathered along the foreshore of The Strand. I’m far from proud of my yonnie throwing times on The Strand; it was the behaviour of a naive young boy.

It was still an hour before the starting time of the Cultural Tour, so I did the last of a series of simulated Australian crawl leg kicks, then slipped my Teva Sandal clad feet from the harbour’s salty water and slowly headed off to the tour meeting point. After waiting 30 minutes at the meeting point, the Aboriginal educator tour guide arrived and introduced Barangaroo Reserve. The Reserve is named after Barangaroo, a Cammeraygal woman who lived during the early colonial settlement of Sydney Cove. Some Australians refer to her as our first freedom fighter. Woollarawarre Bennelong was one of Barangaroo’s several husbands. Bennelong was an unofficial ambassador between the Eora nation and the British colonists, and his name is honoured at Bennelong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House.

image source:sydneyuncovered.com

As our educator guide ushered us along the maze of paths and through the various levels of the Reserve, he talked of the areas spiritual and cultural significance and the land’s importance to the clans of the Eora Nation. He recounted the appearance of the landscape and the abundance of native flora before the first fleet and its cargo of colonists moved to Port Jackson from Botany Bay. Gesturing to a pigface plant, he shared how different plants were used for food, shelter, and medicine.

when the pigface is big, you know the fish are big and ready to catch; the juice from its leaves is used to relieve the pain of burns and stings
and when the dianella berry is nice and ripe that’s when the flathead is ready to catch in the ocean
the lomandra​ is used for weaving fishing bags and to make baskets, dilli bags, and waterproof shelters

He talked of Aboriginal hunters smearing their bodies with mud to disguise their smell from the kangaroo and various other traditional hunting and fishing activities. And with a smile inching across his face, he confessed his love for the taste of turtle; and he spoke respectively of the turtle as an important traditional food for the Aboriginal people. He passionately told of hunting turtle with his cousin when he visited with his family and reminded us.

the turtle was only hunted by men and we hunt only during the season, and all we hunt is what we need and we never over hunt

During the walk back to the Munn Street entrance to the Reserve, I started to mentally grasp that collecting, gathering, hunting, and preparing a wide variety of bush food would require an insight into the physics of simple machines, an understanding of climatology, and a knowledge of the earth sciences. I thought about my cerebral skill set and concluded that the only skill I had to exist in a sustenance environment was being able to read and order from a restaurant menu.

image source:jmcadam

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is just a dropkick up Argyle Street from the Munn Street Reserve entrance. It’s been there close on two centuries and claims to be the oldest, continually licensed hotel in Sydney. Sandstone quarried from the base of nearby Observatory Hill was used to build the Nelson; the same stone used to sculpture the Barangaroo foreshore. I started to swirl the straw around in my glass of lemon, lime, and bitters and then used it to fish out a few ice cubes. When I had three ice cubes in my hand, I held each of them, one at a time, above the glass, and let them tumble from my fingers back into the glass. Halfway through the third cycle of dropping ice cubes into my glass of lemon, lime, and bitters, my wagyu beef burger with beetroot relish, Swiss cheese, gherkin, caramelised onion, and skinny fries arrived at the table.

As I savoured the beetroot relish on the wagyu burger, I wondered if the need that men have to throw objects into a liquid is built into their DNA. It seems that whenever men are around water, they look for the biggest rocks they can find, and before throwing it, they question themselves, or a rock-throwing mate, about their throwing ability.

I wonder how far I can toss it
How big of a splash do you think it’ll make
If I keep standing where I’m at after I toss it will I get wet

But throwing stones into the water can be a great manly stress reliever. There’s nothing more calming and satisfying than throwing a gravity-defying yonnie or gracefully heaving a heavy jagged rock into the air, and then watching the ensuing splash.


Barangaroo Reserve, a Modern Urban Oasis

Significant Aboriginal Women: Barangaroo

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

Never Meet A Polygon Half-Way

The Fremantle Visitor Center email confirmed my booking for the Tuesday Afternoon, 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM, Fremantle History Walking Tour. It gave the starting point as the top of Roundhouse hill near the ship artwork; just to the left of the Roundhouse as you come up the Roundhouse stairs. I’ve always thought that planning to be on time for the start of an event is a bad idea, so I make every effort to arrive fifteen minutes before the announced start time. Google maps suggested it was a 7-minute walk down High Street to the top of Roundhouse Hill, so I left the hotel an hour before the tour start time. High Street was slowly starting to wake; shop keepers were hosing and sweeping the footpath in front of their shops, and small collections of people were starting their day with a flat white and the morning newspaper, at just placed outdoor tables.

image source:jmcadam

There was nothing to hinder my walk down High Street, and I was at the top of Roundhouse hill and near the ship artwork inside of 10 minutes. I was alone. I stood absorbing the panoramic view of the Indian Ocean, Bathers Beach, Fishing Boat Harbour, and the sweeping views over Fremantle and the historic High Street I’d just strolled down. As the sun climbed higher into the morning sky, the waters began to transform into a shimmering azure mirror. Rottnest Island ferries started skating across the blue waters, and one or two container ships began to slowly head toward the container terminal.

I wondered how I’d recognise Big Al, the tour operator and guide for Fremantle History Walking Tours. It wasn’t all that difficult; he was wearing a blue tee-shirt with Fremantle History Walking Tour, in Old English font on the front. Al shared he was a local lad, born and raised in Freo and that he was eager to share his knowledge about his beloved Freo. I thought we had Big Al to ourselves, but when it came time to start the tour, another tourist turned up; obviously someone who always plans to be on time for the start of an event.

image source:jmcadam

Al spoke proudly and passionately about the history of his treasured Fremantle. He drew our attention to the Roundhouse, explaining it was built just after the Swan River Colony was established to hold anyone convicted of a crime in the new settlement. It was Western Australia’s original goal, and is the oldest, still standing, public building in the state. Al highlighted the Roundhouse’s twelve-sides, describing how the cells were arranged around a central courtyard so a warder, at the centre of the building, could see into any open cell. Al had encouraged us to ask questions, so I was tempted to ask

if it has twelve sides why didn’t the early colonists call it a Dodecagon, instead of a Roundhouse?

Big Al began to recite the sad and dark story of the hanging of a young 15-year-old Parkhurst Reformatory boy in front of the Roundhouse. He described John Gavin as a tiny boy, so tiny he had weights attached to him so that his execution was more humane. Al’s recounting of the gruesome crime became white noise because all I was thinking about was polyhedra.

image source:paranormalhunters.com.au

My attention shifted from three- dimensional dodecahedrons when Al pointed to the Roundhouse Stairs and pronounced in a loud voice

and they carried poor Gavin down those stairs to a makeshift gallows not ten yards away, (Big Al lowered his voice at least four octaves to deliver the poignant epilogue) and the prison bell was heard to toll as the melancholy procession set out from Gavin’s cell to the scaffold.

I closed my eyes hoping to clear my mind of the image of the tiny 15-year-old John Gavin hanging in chains from the makeshift gallows. I thought of asking Big Al if the silhouette of the gallows and chains resembled a wireframe pentagram, but he had moved on. He was delivering a passionate narrative about Fremantle’s charming, heritage sandstone buildings.

image source:abc.net.au

On the short walk to the WA Shipwrecks Museum, Al delivered his rhetorical précis on the European exploration and settlement of Western Australia. As he talked of Dirk Hartog, Willem Janszoon, and other Dutch, French and English navigators, and Edmund Lockyer and William Dampier, I was transported back and sitting in Mr. McDevitt social studies class at Williamstown Tech. Mr. McDevitt was a chosen one, a gifted master of the blackboard. He created colourful chalkboard panoramas of the exploration of Australia; Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossing the Blue Mountains, Burke and Wills’ fateful crossing of Australia, and the voyages of Bass and Flinders. Sometimes Mr. McDevitt would create his blackboards before class, and as we lined up outside the classroom our eyes were drawn to the blackboard masterpieces. The eyes of every boy were fixated on the sweeping chalk tableau masterpieces as we marched single file into the room.

But not all Williamstown Tech teachers had the same blackboard chalk skills as Mr. McDevitt; compared to Mr. McDevitt they were blackboard amateurs. Mr. Stonehouse taught first, second, and third form Arithmetic. He kept his chalk in its original cardboard box, on the table at the front of the room. He’d reach into the chalk box for a stick of white chalk, raise it to his mouth and lick it, step up to the board, and with his back to the class, produce the working out for the problems he’d just set the class. Within seconds, the front of the classroom was a cloud of white chalk dust.

image source:pinterest

Mr. Fraser’s blackboards were formal, organised, and laid out with scientific precision. He taught general science to 4AB, and chemistry and physics to 5AB. In the fourth form, we watched Mr. Fraser perform experiments on the front of the room teacher’s science bench. And the assembled equipment appeared in coloured chalk on the front boards, along with a detailed description of the method, observations and measurements, calculations, and conclusions. His blackboards were chalk journals. When there wasn’t an experiment, Mr. Fraser, with his back to the class, filled the three boards with precise, chalk written, scientific theories, postulates, and laws. The boards were a mirror copy of a chapter in a science textbook.

Mr. Baldwin taught fourth and fifth form Mathematics. Fifth form Mathematics was divided into Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry. Mr. Baldwin’s blackboards were of a similar standard to Mr. Frasers. They were filled with rows of neat algebraic equations, right-angle triangles with only an angle and the length of a side labeled, and parallel lines cut by transversals. But that’s not how I remember Mr. Baldwin. I don’t know how, or exactly when, he knew that the post-pubescent teenage boys of 5AB were ready to see the three dimensional cardboard models.

image source:monkwearmouth.sunderland.sch.uk

One day, halfway through a geometry class, he disappeared through the door in the front corner of the room, and into his office. He reappeared within minutes carrying a mysterious shape and stepped onto the raised platform at the front of the room. Mr. Baldwin slowly twisted and turned the strange cardboard model, as he raised it above his head. I remember staring with wide-open eyes as he moved and turned the model because every face was an exact copy of the other. He challenged us to count the number of faces and polygons in the model and commanded

and when you have the answer boys hands up

Mr. Baldwin caused time to stop for several minutes by waiting for a show of hands. There were three standard hand-raising techniques we used. Each one was used to signal that you had an answer to a question, or as a distraction decoy if you hadn’t a clue. A good hands up strategy, to cause the teacher to wonder if you had an answer or not, was to never use the same hand-raising technique twice in the same class period.

Sputnik blast off: the arm is pushed at top speed until it’s at a straight vertical line from the shoulder
Pumping up the flat bike tyre: the arm is slowly raised from the shoulder and the action is repeated so the arm is continually raised and lowered
Stopping the car hand signal: the arm is slowly pushed out from the shoulder until is at 90 degrees to the body and then it is bent at a 45 degree angle to elbow bend it at the elbow. The index finger is usually raised when the arm reaches it’s resting position

image source:thoughtco.com

John Colville and Robert Ballard always did the Sputnik blast off hand-raising technique. Which was to be expected because they were the brains of 5AB and had no need to use deception or bluff. Mr. Baldwin waited for fifteen hands in the air and then announced

class, hands down; (he waited, enjoying the silence) boys this is Mr. Dodecahedron

Mr. Baldwin seemed to sense an excitement and wonderment that not one of the 5AB boys experienced. He went into his office and was back in a flash standing in front of the room, holding another model above his head. He announced to us stupefied boys: I hold the trisoctahedron. In the following weeks, Mr. Baldwin showed us cardboard models of hexoctahedrons, dodecagonals, and other polyhedra. Sometimes during a geometry class, he’d call a lucky boy to the front of the room and allow them to hold the polyhedra. I think he was hoping one of us would raise our hand and ask

sir can I hold the polyhedra, do you have any irregular pentahedrons sir, how long did it take you to make the truncated icosahedron sir

Mr. Baldwin didn’t seem to understand that post-pubescent boys didn’t have a curiosity about polyhedra; that we had other things to think about instead of the geometry of three-dimensional polyhedrons.

image source:jmcadam

Big Al finished his tour at the corner of Marine Terrace and Collie Street. As we sat and socialised on the street benches by Esplanade Park, I asked him if he had considered offering a polyhedra walking tour of Fremantle. In a city whose heritage buildings capture the timeless balance between man, land, and the sea, there had to be remarkable architectural examples of icosahedrons, cubicuboctahedrons, and rhombic triacontahedrons. Al said he would think about it.


WA Shipwrecks Museum

Fremantle Roundhouse

How To Make A Dodecahedron

A Sav In The Hand Is Worth A Pie On The Plate

I fly either Qantas or Air New Zealand when I take a trip back to Australia. Most people become giddy with anticipation when they take the step from the jet bridge into the airplane. It’s the step when the planning and excitement of seeing new places and meeting new people move from the future to the present. However, for me, it’s the step announcing the planes push back from the gate and the in-flight safety video playing as we’re lumbering along the taxiways to the runway for take-off. I’ll be the first to admit there was a time when I thought the in-flight safety video was as fascinating as the History of Australian Farming films Mr. McDevitt would show in our second form, Williamstown Tech, Social Studies class. I remember those old fashion in-flight safety videos. As soon as the talking-head video started, each of the cabin crew would stand in a strategic position with a life jacket and oxygen mask. You followed along with the talking head using the safety card from the seat pocket. When the talking head got to the life jacket and oxygen mask, they asked you to pay attention to the cabin crew as they demonstrated putting them on.

image source:jmcadam

Some airlines have now changed the format of their in-flight safety videos. I think they’re trying to get a planeload of indifferent travellers glued to their phones, which are probably not set to airplane mode, to pay attention to the videos. Qantas and Air New Zealand have a well-earned reputation for quirky, entertaining, must-watch safety videos. I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a Qantas seventeen-hour nonstop flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney. As soon as I showed my boarding pass and became part of the jet bridge gridlock, the giddiness started. It intensified when the doors closed, and the in-flight safety video started. The video was all about Tim Tam slams, rooftop cricket, and Vegemite on toast; just Aussies doing typical Aussie things. The Aussies doing Aussie things told us how to put on a life-jacket, about not smoking in the lavatory, how to buckle the seat belt, and the whereabouts of the emergency exits. They did all this while doing bombs into a ritzy hotel swimming pool and splashing people, jumping into the front seat of a New York taxi, and trying to order flat whites in a London cafe. There were Aussies on a jeep safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and one of them dropped their cell phone while taking a selfie. So we were warned about the dangers of fiddling around under our seats if we drop a small electronic device; we should ask one of the cabin crew to find it..

image source:jmcadam

I thought about the dangers of fiddling on the floor, and between the seats, of an airplane and concluded that it doesn’t matter what you drop, it’s dangerous down there. Once, I dropped a moist ball of quinoa. I’d just loaded the small plastic dinner fork with some quinoa from my in-flight meal of chicken salad with quinoa when the plane flew into some slight turbulence. The quinoa laden fork flew sideways in reaction to the plane’s motion, and the quinoa took off into the air, landed on my shirt front, and onto the seat between my legs. At the time, I didn’t realise the dangers of reaching for moist quinoa between your legs. If I ever drop quinoa again, I’ll ask one of the cabin crew to find it.

I’d hate to think about dropping a contact lens; there’d be Buckley’s chance of finding it. Even if the cabin crew threw themselves onto the floor, I don’t think they’d be able to see it right off because of the total darkness between the seats. I’ve noticed though that cabin crew members now have a little hands-free LED light clipped onto their jacket lapel, or a miniature LED torch in their pocket. Bob’s your uncle; it is turn on the torch, whack it between the teeth, and then straight down onto the floor for a few well-executed, flawless worms to check under and between the seats. You’d have your dropped contact back in no time.

image source:msn

Most of the time, an in-flight meal choice on an international flight will reflect the culture of the airline’s country. You’re always going to find Arnott’s biscuits on Qantas, and it’s a good bet you’ll come across a barramundi or lamb dish, and passion fruit in a fruit salad. I’m surprised though that the Qantas menu doesn’t include meat pies, fish and chips, battered savs, or vanilla slices and lamingtons. I think pies are missing because there’s a high risk of a fire if you drop a meat pie. The warm chunky meat, rich gravy, and tomato sauce from a dropped pie is going to splatter onto the seat-back entertainment screen, the seat fabric between your legs, and the floor. It’s a penny to a quid the mix of chunky warm meat, rich gravy, and tomato sauce will cause a voltage surge when it lands on the entertainment screen and floor; thus causing a short-circuit of all of the in-flight entertainment electronics. Imagine the panic and confusion caused by the cabin crew rushing through the aeroplane with fire extinguishers and spraying the seats. The slurry of foam, dropped chunky warm meat, gravy, and tomato sauce wouldn’t be a pretty sight. It’s only to be equalled by a dropped pie at the footy.

image source:jmcadam

It’s the final quarter on a cold winter Saturday afternoon at the Western Oval, and you’re standing in the outer with a few mates. You’re balancing on tiptoe, between busted beer bottles and crushed tinnies, trying hard not to stand in the puddles of vomit and spilled beer. Without warning, you drop your half-eaten meat pie and gravy, and sauce coated pie. It spatters into the sludge of vomit, urine, and beer at your feet, and that’s not a pretty sight. Australians use the expression, dropped meat pie, to describe someone with an unflattering appearance.

Graham: G’day Col. Yu gotta give it to Bruce; he hooked up with this sheila last night who’s got a ripper of a body
but a face like a dropped meat pie.
Colin: What, like a welders bench?
Graham: Na mate, a dropped pie
Colin: A dropped pie, or a bashed in rubbish tin lid?

I think the other reason meat pies are missing from Qantas’s in-flight menu choice is because of how easy meat pie can be used as offensive, shaming language.

Australians are known for shortening words, so in Aussie vernacular saveloy becomes sav. A sav is a bright red, seasoned, pork sausage, and they’re usually cooked by simmering in boiling water for a few minutes. Most Aussies eat their sav wrapped in a slice of buttered white bread smothered in tomato sauce. Savs are also a traditional fish and chip shop favourite. A fish and chip shop sav is coated in batter and deep-fried, and it’s known as a battered sav. Battered savs should only be eaten with an order of chips.

image source:tripadvisor

There’s nothing that will pique your interest more than a Friday night torchlight ghost tour of old buildings; especially if it’s on an old-time tram that has it’s seating converted to a dining car style so you can enjoy fish ‘n’ chips and a soft drink at your table. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I never saw tram lines in Fremantle, so I was expecting a W class green tram to turn up at the tour pick up location. The old-time tram was a bus with padded wooden bench seats, and an open-air mocked up flimsy tram body. As soon as we settled into our bench seating, the tram driver/tour leader took our order for Cicerello’s fish and chips; the Fremantle seafood institution in the heart of Fishing Boat Harbour. And I wondered if you could order a battered sav at a must-do Fremantle fish and chip shop experience. I was soon to find out because a fellow ghostbuster loudly proclaimed “no fish”. Without hesitation, the tram driver/tour leader offered him crumbed sausages ‘n’ chips or a chicken nuggets ‘n’ chips kids meal with a few extra nuggets and chips thrown in. A crumbed sausage is the twin brother of the battered sav. The only difference between the two is a heavy coating of breadcrumbs instead of batter, and a crumbed sausage can be grilled or barbecued. The no fish ghostbuster opted for crumbed sausages ‘n’ chips, provoking the tram driver/tour leader to reply, “hang on mate, I’ve got chooks, and I’ve fed them those sausages, and they won’t bloody touch them”.

image source:thehipchick.com

There’s nothing like a good orb hunting to arouse one’s hunger. The tram driver/tour leader assured us we’d see orbs at the Fremantle Roundhouse and perhaps the ghostly spirit of 15-year-old John Gavin, the first European descendent executed in Western Australia. Our group peered into the old dark cells and down into the central well, but it was in vain, and so we boarded the old-time tram and headed off for Cicerello’s for our order of fish ‘n’ chips and crumbed sausages ‘n’ chips. The no fish ghostbuster declared Cicerello’s crumbed savs to be bloody delicious.

During the Sydney 2000 Olympics games, the battered sav was redefined by Australia’s comedic duo Roy and HG. It became more than just a saveloy coated in batter and deep-fried. Roy and HG did the commentary on several events at the games, and one of their most entertaining was gymnastics. They used the term battered sav to describe when a male gymnast leaps into the air, lands in a push-up position, and touches his groin to the floor.

Alexei does a double spin … an awkward landing … a corkscrew and then the double corkscrew, now he batters the sav… yes, that was a nice battered sav …. straight into the handstand, a simple sidestep to reposition himself, back he comes, a big jump, back he comes, and oooh, a big batter the sav.

Qantas’ sensitivity to offensive and distasteful language must be why a battered sav isn’t on their in-flight menu.

You will need to excuse me. I need to order a dozen meat pies from the Aussie Food Express. I’m thinking of dipping the pies in batter and frying them. I’ll make the batter from flour, salt, pepper, and beer. The fizz from the beer should make the batter light, crispy, and golden. I wonder if a battered pie and sauce is as tasty as a battered sav.


Roy & HG: The Dream (Sydney 2000 Olympics, Men’s Gymnastics Commentary)

15 Popular Dance Moves From The 80s

Battered Savs Recipe

There’s Never Enough Quokkas In The Day

I’d been back in Omaha less than a day after spending a month in Australia and was still on Melbourne time when I woke from a type of tiredness that needed more than a good night’s sleep. The fridge had been emptied a month earlier of milk, eggs, butter, Greek yoghurt, cheeses, prosciutto, salami, bacon, and anything that could be used for a quick simple meal, so the first back in Omaha activity was a trip to the supermarket for basic fridge supplies. As I pushed the shopping trolley down aisle eight at Hy-Vee my lingering tiredness was jolted into energised alertness by Men at Work’s Down Under playing as background easy-listening music and I thought I was in the South Melbourne Coles on Clarendon Street, grabbing a few boxes of Arnott’s Sausage Sizzle and Meat Pie Shapes. As the last lines of the final chorus faded the unforgiving tiredness returned.

image source:jmcadam

The tiredness I woke from was caused by a sleepless fourteen and a half hour non stop flight from Melbourne, Australia, to Los Angles International. As soon as the Qantas Airbus pushed back from it’s Tullamarine boarding gate the in-flight safety video started playing on the seat-back screen, and the cabin crew did their thing with the yellow life jacket. I nestled into my seat as QF95 accelerated down the runway and climbed into the blue morning sky. I nonchalantly began to check the box-set TV offerings on the in-flight entertainment system. It’s impossible to describe the excitement that swept over me when I saw season one and two of Big Little Lies. The opportunity of boredom had presented itself; I could review the first five episodes of season one, watch episodes six and seven, and then binge-watch season two. If only the flight time was longer than fourteen and a half hours.

A month earlier on a seventeen plus hour Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney flight, I was bowled over by Big Little Lies; which I discovered halfway through the flight. After only watching the first two episodes I deemed it binge-worthy. I’d just started episode six when a crew member after locking the wheels of their food trolley mouthed breakfast at me. I punched pause on the seatback touch screen, pointed at the leek and parsley frittata with pork sausage, potato and mushroom hash, and baked beans, and took off my headphones. Then time flew by. Cabin crew bustled through the aisles filling teacups, gathering breakfast trays, collecting recyclables, and handing out biro’s for travellers to complete their Australian incoming passenger card. And then came the announcement “in ten minutes we’ll be beginning our approach and descent into Sydney”. As I stepped from the arrival-departure gate I accepted the uncertainty that had become my world. I would forever ponder the intrigues woven into episodes six and seven of Big Little Lies.

image source:adrenaline.com.au

During the next month, I became a sightseer in my own country. After several days of rekindling memories of Sydney, I enplaned for a five hour across Australia flight to Perth; during the five hours, I thought back to the last time I was in Western Australia. It was 1971 and I had stepped ashore from the S.S. Gallileo at the passenger terminal. I bid au revoir to Australia that afternoon in Fremantle. It was late afternoon when I deplaned in Perth and checked in at a Fremantle hotel. I set off to walk the downtown curving, classic, colonial-era streets, waterfront, and harbour; hoping to revive my forgotten memories of yesteryear. All I could remember about Fremantle and the last time standing on Australian soil was the sensation of walking on sea legs for the first time.

The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast, and meet with Aboriginal people, was captained by the Dutch navigator, Willem Janszoon. The Dutch continued to explore and charter the unknown Southern Land and named its north and west coasts New Holland. A Dutch rescue party searching the west coast for survivors from a ship lost at sea landed on a large island some 3 miles off the mainland. They didn’t find any survivors but did see large marsupials which they thought were giant rats, and so they named the island “Rotte nest”: from the Dutch word Rottenest meaning “rat nest”. Today, the locals call it Rotto.

image source:critter.science

I took the twenty-five minute Fremantle to Rotto ferry trip for two reasons. One was to see a marsupial with beady eyes, a rat’s tail, that hops like a kangaroo and is about as big as a house cat, and is known as the “happiest animal in the world”. Quokkas are native to Australia, and Rotto supports around 10,000-12,000, which is the largest known living population. The Rottnest Express disgorges a steady stream of bikes and passengers when it docks at Main Jetty in Thomson Bay. Rotto’s small, main town at Thomson Bay is known as The Settlement. The Settlement has a collection of shops and restaurants, a few historical buildings built by aboriginal prisoners back when Rotto was a prison, a bus stop to catch a bus around the island, and quokkas either lurking around the shops hoping for some dropped food or looking for handouts of chips and sweets from tourists. The Settlement has an overabundance of signs warning not to feed and touch the quokkas, but some visitors find it hard to resist dropping a few bits of sausage roll pastry or scraps of a cheesymite scroll.

image source:jmcadam

And what would a Settlement be if it didn’t have the largest bike hire facility in the Southern Hemisphere? The Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper has over 1,650 bikes for hire; there’s standard mountain bikes, comfortable hybrid bikes, electric bikes, bikes with baby seats and child trailers, and bikes for the little ones. Three thousand visitors a week hire a bike to cycle the 22 kilometres around the island.

I was overwhelmed at The Settlement by the gridlock of bike riding, and bike pushing tourists, and the throngs of kneeling, squatting and crouching, selfie stick wielding visitors trying for their quokka selfie. If it wasn’t for Roger Federer, Margot Robbie, Chris Hemsworth, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Jackman, and others posting their quokka selfies online we’d all be heading off to Rotto to rent a Heritage Bungalow, and to lose ourselves in holiday activities such as laybacks and bombs off a jetty, playing beach cricket with an esky for a wicket, washing sand out of our togs, playing lawn bowls, jumping on trampolines, watching ferries coming and going, and frolicking in a water park. Rotto has close to 500,000 ferry visitors a day and the number is growing, and I was like most Rotto day-trippers; only on the island to see the quokkas. But I wanted to see more than just the quokkas in The Settlement so I strolled down the prescribed pathways outside of the The Settlement. It didn’t take long to feel alone and to have quiet time with the quokkas. Even though I didn’t have any sausage roll pastry or scraps of a cheesymite scroll I had no problems taking quokka selfies.

image source:jmcadam

The second reason I took the Rottnest Express to Rotto was to experience sea legs once again. As I queued up at Victoria Quay’s B Shed I repeated the mantra choppy waters with a swell, pitch the ferry good and well. I was one of the last on board, and the only unoccupied seats were just above the waterline. I had an immediate feeling of déjà vu. The small cramped cabin on the S.S. Galileo, which became my home for seven weeks, was on a lower deck and below the waterline. Unfortunately, the trip to Rotto was quite smooth. I kept watching the horizon through the side window to see if the ferry was pitching, rolling, and swaying. I thought back to the time on the S.S. Galileo when I stopped feeling the movement of the ocean. It was at the same time when most passengers were no longer vomiting anywhere and everywhere or using the handrails to walk steadily. When the S.S Galileo left Durban and journeyed up the African coast to the Canary Islands I passed the time playing table tennis on the open deck. Some days, I’d only see the sky when serving and when returning the ball, I’d look into a wall of the ocean. And I’d watch the ball as it moved in the air from one side of the table to the other. I turned away from watching the horizon through the ferry’s side window and started to watch the muted What To Do On Rotto video playing on a loop, on the ferry’s big-screen TV.

The Fremantle Doctor is a strong daily sea breeze that arrives every afternoon. It caused the return Rottnest Express to Fremantle trip to be somewhat choppy, and you could feel the sway and roll when the ferry road the waves and crashed into the troughs. I thought to myself; hello, sea legs. And then without thinking I found myself crawling around looking under the seats for table tennis balls. As I disembarked onto the solid ground I took a few gingerly steps, only to be overcome with disappointment. I had land legs. The ground wasn’t moving, and I wasn’t swaying, rocking, and bobbing. When I was testing to see if I had sea legs I distracted myself by looking around the harbour. In the near distance was the Fremantle Passenger Terminal. I stared without blinking and thought I recognised the building.

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I stood, staring, waiting for the appropriate nerve cells in the brain to connect so I would remember walking down the S.S. Galileo’s gangway and into the Fremantle Passenger Terminal. You’d think you’d remember an iconic 1960’s steel and concrete, post-war design building. It was the largest passenger terminal in Australia for its time. The nerve cells connected, but the memories of disembarking and walking through the passenger hall, seeing the gift and souvenir shops, riding Western Australia’s largest escalators, and checking out the pies and sausage rolls in the snack bar were lost to 1971. I remembered walking down the wharf on sea legs, finding the nearest pub, and spending a long afternoon in Fremantle drinking an abundance of what I thought would be the last of Australian beer.

I’ve been thinking about setting up a Quokka Sanctuary in the backyard ever since quokkas have become the go-to of marsupials. They’re rare and mostly found only on Rottnest Island in Western Australia so that makes it difficult for most people to take quokka selfie. It shouldn’t take much to get a few potted gum trees, and a bunch of soft toy quokkas, to scatter around the backyard. I think twenty dollars to visit the sanctuary is a fair price. And you could take all the quokka selfies you want.


Meet The Quokka

Fremantle Passenger Terminal

Rottnest Island