Riding A Tait Back To The Future

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

image source:c1.staticflickr.com

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

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

image source:islandcontinent.com.au

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

image source:milkbarsbook.com

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

image source:flickr.com

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


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


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

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


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


History Of Southgate & Southbank Area

Lauritzen Gardens Model Railroad Garden

Tait train

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

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:express.co.uk

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

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

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:cozyhomeplans.com

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

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


image source:theclimbingcyclist.com

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


The National Public Toilet Map

Hobsons Bay Public Toilet Strategy

Dual Flush Toilet

It’s Elemental Mr Priestley

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

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


image source:bastow.vic.edu.au

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


image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

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


image source:pixabay

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

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


image source:pinterest

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


image source:cloudpix

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


image source:pinterest

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


image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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


The Greatest Of All: Our 50 Top Australians

Curator’s notes Friday on My Mind

11 Facts From Down Under About Vegemite

Let Them Eat Cakes

Back when I was wearing a red apron at the newly opened Omaha location of a national retail chain, they had just returned to Omaha after a six year absence, my primary responsibility was to introduce different world foods and beverages to customers and talk about their traditions and history. The holiday season was the obvious time to introduce the flavours of Christmas cookies, cakes, and fruitcakes from around the globe; stollen from Germany, mincemeat tarts and fruitcake from England, ginger snaps from Sweden, and panettone from Italy. And I shared my enjoyment and memories of mum’s fruitcake and nanna’s plum pudding with the shoppers gathered around the displays of Dunedin and Welsh fruitcake, European light fruitcake, boxes of Walkers mince pies and tarts, plum puddings, tins of Cadbury Jumper Biscuits, and jars of mincemeat; and they shared the memories and family traditions of their holiday season. Fruitcake has been one of my favourites ever since I was a young lad. Sometimes on mum’s sift, blend, mix, beat, stir, whip, and bake Sunday’s, she would make a fruitcake. It was always a light fruitcake; rich and luscious, and we would take slices of it for the next week wrapped in grease proof paper, in our school lunches.

When I offered samples of fruitcake and shared it’s heritage and history with all of the shops Christmas patrons I presented bite size pieces of Dundee and European fruit cake, paired with samples of Winter Spice Tea. I cut small bite size chunks from the cellophane wrapped cakes and put each moist sampling into a plastic portion cup; and the cups were arranged in straight lines on clear trays on a mobile wooden demonstration cart. I gestured and motioned toward the plastic portion cups and greeted the Christmas shoppers approaching me with: fruitcake just like what was served when Princess Diana married Charles. Most of the shoppers when they caught sight of the moist fruitcake chunks turned down the sample by telling me: Americans don’t like fruitcake. The more I’ve mused over Americans dislike for fruitcake the more I have come to the conclusion that Americans just don’t like cake. I think it’s safe to say that Americans like pies more than cakes; pies served with ice cream, pie a la mode.


image source:johnmcadam

And I think that this is indeed unfortunate because most countries can be identified with a cake that they call their own.

Italy; Tiramisu. Layers of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and heaped with mascarpone whipped with eggs and sugar.
England; Victoria Sponge Cake. Jam and double whipped cream sandwiched between two sponge cakes.
France; Galette de rois. Round cake with flaky puff pastry layers with a dense centre of cream made from sweet almonds.
Greece; Baklava. Rich, sweet layers of crispy golden brown phyllo, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.
Germany; Black Forest Cherry Cake. Four layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherries, and whipped cream flavoured with cherry schnapps.
Australia; Lamington. Squares of sponge cake coated in an outer layer of chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut.
United States; And I struggled to think of an iconic cake that the world identifies with America.


image source:aaronmaree.blogspot.com

America’s cake list comes down to red velvet cake, American cheesecake, and angel food cake; I don’t think of chocolate brownies and donuts as cakes. Red velvet cake is not really inspiring; it’s a simple chocolate layer cake with cream cheese on top, and it’s only red, bright red or a reddish brown colour because of food colouring. And angel food cake is a type of sponge cake made with egg whites, flour, and sugar, but no butter; how can a cake be admirable if it doesn’t contain butter. Besides, angel food cake never seems to stand alone. It’s always served with cream or some berry fruit; a great cake should be able to stand alone. And American cheesecake is a cake made only with cream cheese, sugar and eggs; but it isn’t uniquely American. There are Australian, Brazilian, Colombian, Bulgarian, French, German, Greek, Dutch, Belgium, Polish, Russian, Swedish, and United Kingdom and Irish style cheesecakes. So I don’t think America has a national cake, a cake to call it’s own, a cake that could stand alongside the bald eagle, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, or the Great Seal.



As well as lamingtons, Australia is also known for it’s vanilla slices, matchsticks, butterfly cakes, jam filled swiss rolls, jam tarts, coffee scrolls, and cream puffs. Either cake would not be out of place alongside any of Australia’s well known icons; the big red kangaroo, emu, golden wattle tree, Akubra hat, or Sydney Opera House. Unlike America, your going to find a large collection of cake shops in most of the The Land Down Under’s cities and towns.

Acland Street is nestled in the heart of St Kilda; a short tram ride from Melbourne’s CBD. It’s known for the consummate cake shops that own the footpaths. I still have sweet memories of wandering Acland Street, and with all the other shoppers smudging the outsides of the cake laden windows. If it was creamy, sticky, crunchy, smooth, sweet, zesty, or tangy it would be either a cheesecake, eclair, meringue, macaron, or a pie or tart, from one of the street’s famous five European cake shops.


image source:ieatthereforeiam.blogspot.com

After it was wasn’t okay to hold your mum’s hand in public but it was still okay to be seen with her I would sometimes go into Melbourne with mum and nanna on one of their shopping days; most times it was just a window shopping day. They always stopped in at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade for sandwiches, or if it was later in the day, scones and a cup of tea. The main room seated about 50 people and you just walked in and found yourself one of the empty, small, marble top tables amongst the other window shopping ladies. The room always hummed with conversations and the clinking of stirring spoons in teacups. The days of the shopping ladies, the well heeled and fashionable matrons, and the genteel old world ambience has mostly gone; now roped off queues form outside the Tea Rooms and wait for a table. And the cake choice has grown from scones, lamingtons, sponges, and vanilla slices to a bewildering choice of forty five delectable cakes and tarts. The bulging Hopetoun Tea Rooms window display is said to be the most photographed window in Melbourne.


image source:johnmcadam

I probably first drifted into Carlton when I was still at Footscray Tech; around when college first started to interfere with my learning. Carlton is an inner city residential neighbourhood of Melbourne; it was, and still is, populated with students, Italian immigrants, artists, and aspiring hipsters. And it was there that I was introduced to the mysterious lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos that were produced by the Faema espresso machines. Carlton brought a culinary and cafe culture to Melbourne; some of the first wave Italian restaurants, coffee shops, and delicatessens are still colonising the streets and lane ways. Brunetti’s is still a small piece of Italy and is now nestled in Lygon Court; a small shopping arcade. Banks of illuminated display cabinets overflowing with cakes, pastries, éclairs, and macarons welcome you to the magical land of cakes.


image source:johnmcadam

Beechworth is Victoria’s best preserved historic gold mining town. The town is cradled in the foothills of the Australian Alps in north east Victoria and is a comfortable three hour drive from Melbourne. Built during the riches of the early gold-rush days the town’s attractive two main streets are lined with elegant buildings and historic shop-fronts; more than 32 buildings are listed by the National Trust. Walking into the Beechworth Bakery gives you a taste of yesteryear; the glass fronted display cases are crammed with custard tarts, coffee scrolls, apple squares, lamingtons, jelly slices, vanilla slices, date scones, beestings, lemon slices, orange & almond cakes, and jam tarts; just to name a few. The cakes, pastries, and pies carry you back to your kitchen on mum’s Sunday baking day; when you waited to lick the wooden spoon that she used to mix the batter for her butterfly cakes.


image source:johnmcadam

Yea is a scenic township about 60 miles north of Melbourne; the suburbs of Melbourne are relentlessly moving in on the town and transforming the surrounding rural countryside into bedroom communities. Many of Yea’s historical buildings are heritage sites and there are still gorges and fern gullies close by; a reminder of what the area was thousands of years ago. And Yea is no exception to the rule: Every small town and suburb of Melbourne has a cake shop. It could be a pie or a sandwich shop but you know you can always treat yourself by just ordering a flat white coffee and lamington. My grandad lived for a while in Yea during the early 1900’s. He was probably one of many who smudged the glass with their face when coveting the lamingtons, fruit scones, and vanilla slices in the windows of the bakeries lining the main street.


image source:johnmcadam

Omaha is nestled into Nebraska and is the 42nd largest city in the United States. The city and it’s metropolitan area is home to over 900,000 people. Omaha claims to be the mother of Butter Brickle Ice Cream, the Reuben sandwich, Raisin Bran, the frozen TV dinner, the first Duncan Hines cake mix, and the Eskimo pie; each one of these delicacies is not only a rich addition to the Americian national food menu but an influence on the way the world eats. For as long as I can remember Omaha has always had the Delice European Bakery and Cafe; a xanadu of gateaus, tortes, tarts, rich cream filled cakes, scones and cookies. And more recently the Le Petit Paris French Bakery; a rich source for mousses, tarts and macaroons, and classic pastries. So maybe Omaha is the American exception to the adage: Unlike America, your going to find a large collection of cake shops in most of the The Land Down Under’s cities and towns.

The Cheesecake Factory is at the WestRoads Mall; they claim to have 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts. I think I will stop by The Cheesecake Factory and suggest a lamington cheesecake as a dessert option.


Cake Wrecks

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Beechworth Bakery

Australia’s Next Crowd Pleasing Tourist Attractions

I hadn’t been in an air plane for six plus years. After I navigated into my assigned seat and fastened my seat belt I found myself just looking into the back of the seat facing me. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when the seat in front of you was more than about eight inches away from your face, and the seat pocket was crowded with a flight magazine, a skymall catalogue, safety instruction cards, a small plastic lined paper vomit bag, and whatever else the airline deemed promotional reading material.


image source:flywithdinh.blogspot

It was the time when the small electronic devices that are now okay to be carried onto an air plane were not okay. It seems as if these small electronic devices have become the substitute for what used to be in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Before the days of e-commerce, skymall was the only place where you could find a Video Screen Microscope or a Luxury High Back Console Pet Car Seat; you always carried the skymall catalogue with you when you deplaned. Back then the in flight magazine guaranteed you a few hours respite from the weariness of just looking into the back of the seat in front of you. I always turned first to the fold out section at the back of the magazine; usually a two page spread of confusing coloured lines representing the flight routes to the various places and cities the airline flew. Time would escape me as I planned future excursions that would lead me to revelation and self discovery journeys; contented, I would search the pages looking for feature articles that highlighted the attractions, foods, or culture of the airlines destination places, and the tourist attractions, the places that travellers must do and must see. As the air plane taxied from the air bridge I nestled into my seat, adjusted the wing like arms on the headrest, and was soon lost in my tourist attractions musings.


image source:johnmcadam

I think it’s easy to define a tourist attraction. It’s a place that people are eager to visit because of it’s cultural or historical significance, or because of it’s beauty and how it was built; the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell National Park, Grand Canyon, Himalayas, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, or Sydney Opera House. And some places become tourist attractions because they offer leisure, adventure and amusement; Disneyland, The London Eye, or the Mall of America. But there are hundreds of beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers, rainforest and tropical grasslands, man made structures, cultural monuments, heritage sites, important historical and political sites, and architectural unique structures that are not tourist attraction. So it must be because of the number of people that visit a place that makes it a tourist attraction; and tourists keep going to tourist attractions because others did, or to just to say they have been there. Sadly, the most well known tourist attractions are so relentlessly marketed that they have become over crowded with tourists. At the moment the 12 top rated tourist attractions in Australia are:

Sydney Opera House Bondi Beach
Great Barrier Reef Daintree National Park
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Fraser Island
Sydney Harbour Bridge Kakadu National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Great Ocean Road
Melbourne Broome and Kimberley Region

image source:toonz.con

I think Australia’s next crowd pleasing tourist attractions will be:

Streets Beach, Brisbane: Most tourists when they visit Queensland whiz on down to the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise, or up to the Sunshine Coast. Streets Beach is an inner city, man-made beach nestled in South Bank Parklands. The beach is on reclaimed land that was once the Brisbane River and overlooks the city central business district. It is positioned between Victoria Bridge and the Goodwill Bridge; lounging in the sand you can watch the traffic speed past the city on the elevated Pacific Highway on the opposite bank. The beach has a separate area for the little ones and a crystal clear lagoon with calm water for others. The white sandy foreshore lets you build sand castles, romp in the sand, or just play beach themed games. If your not getting sunburnt on the surrounding green lawns, you can fire up one of the barbies for a perfect summertime beach lunch, picnic on the sheltered tables, or just duck over the road to enjoy a cold one at the Plough Inn; an old style Aussie pub that is bustling with yesteryear charm and a true blue Aussie atmosphere.


image source:johnmcadam

Hook Turns, Melbourne: Doing the Hook is turning right from the left lane. You have to do the Hook when you’re turning at an intersection with tramlines on your right; but there must be a Hook Turn sign at the intersection. To do a Hook, instead of shifting to the right hand lane to turn right you move to the left lane, and stop when you’re half way or more into the intersection. If you’re the first car doing the Hook then you position your car halfway into the turn; the front just pushing into the lane that you were in. As the lights turn red from the street you are turning from, and the lights in the street you are turning into turn green, then you do the Hook by crossing ahead of the cars that were stopped in the street with the red light that has now turned green. You should always use the right turn indicator when doing the Hook. Melbourne has a large number of Hook Turn intersections. Because cars are not allowed to travel on, or block, tram tracks in the central city the Hook gives trams a clear go across intersections. I think doing the Hook would be an appealing day long, attraction to tourists; a one day package would include a selection of classic Holden cars to choose from; Kingswood, Commodore, or Monaro, a Mebourne Hoddle Grid map, and a Melbourne tram network map. And you need to remember that Australians drive on the left hand side of the road, as well as walking on the left side of the footpath and standing on the left side of escalators.

Rolling Down Parliament House Hill, Canberra: Not long ago members of the Australian Parliament approved the setting up of security fences to block public access to the hill and lawns of Parliament House. Their proposal was met with anger and disbelief by many Australians because back when, architect Romaldo Giurgola’s design of the new Parliament House fused the building into the landscape. He imagined a building that rose out of the landscape; a structure that ensured that the public could walk and play on the lawns over, and even on, the heads of their political representatives. Many Australians when they visit Parliament house do the time honoured tradition of lawn tumbling; so they can say I rolled over the heads of Parliament. The slopes are a symbol of Australian democracy. On December 17, 2016 hundreds gathered at the famous grassy slopes of Parliament House for a mass roll-a-thon; possibly for the last time. But I’m sure the fences will blend elegant abstract accents with the everyday familiarity of a railing fence. When you visit the slopes that were once rolled down you will only be able to view the grassy gradients from a distance through the fences. The closest you will get to the slopes is by zooming in on your smart device. Many claimed that the hill was the best one in Canberra to roll down; and that it was a really nicely kept hill.

Feeding Seagulls Fish and Chips, Queenscliff: You may wonder why I am proposing this activity as a tourist attraction when most people consider seagulls to be loud, invasive, polluting and aggressive; something that eats anything that moves, breathes or grows, and even things that don’t. But it’s not their fault that we don’t think of them as loveable. We invaded the habitats of their natural foods; mussels, clams, small fish, snails and worms. And so they learned that there is a plentiful supply of food where humans live. Going bay side and having a good feed of fish and chips is a celebrated Australian tradition. Queenscliff is about 30 miles from Melbourne and is a small town seaside resort on the Bellarine Peninsula. The stars have aligned for the Queenscliff seagulls. The Queenscliff fish and chip shop is just a short walk from the beach. The beach is a great place for ship watching. Even though the fish and chip shop doesn’t follow all the Fish and Chip Shop rules; never put an order in a box and then wrap it in paper, only sell pickled onions from a plastic tub on the counter, it is not run by hard working immigrant Greek family, and it doesn’t have fish tiles on the wall, you can still stock up with an acceptable bundle of fried golden goodness. I would suggest three potato cakes, chips, couple of dimmies, and a few scallops. As soon as you descend onto the sand you are assured of being surrounded by a substantial flock of screeching, aggressive gulls. And in no time you will be throwing small pieces of potato cakes and dimmies into the air and watching the ships navigating The Rip.

Brein and Zevenboom Lane, Melbourne: Melbourne is a city defined by it’s lane ways. The Hoddle Grid design that gave the city it’s main streets caused the evolution of narrow lane ways; they kept tradesmen and delivery men out of sight but gave them access to buildings. The blue stone cobbled Hosier and Rutledge Lanes are an acclaimed tourist attraction because of their edgy street art covered walls and art installations. Most of the art is protected by the City of Melbourne’s street art permit system; but the artwork changes regularly and it’s not meant to be preserved. It’s only to be appreciated as it comes and goes. The lanes feature the work of hundreds of local and international artists and are one of the most photographed places in the city. Avoid Hosier and Rutledge Lanes. In fact avoid all of Melbourne’s trendy lane ways; Centre Place, Degraves Street, Hardware Lane, and AC/DC Lane. Spend more time instead visiting lane ways that are still just lane ways; Brein Lane or Zevenboom Lane for example. If you stand in these lane ways and close you eyes and listen attentively you very well may hear the voices of the thieves, prostitutes, vagrants and drunkards of yesteryear who made their homes in these narrow passageways.


image source:marvmelb.blogspot

Make no mistake, plan to visit these soon to be Australia’s next crowd pleasing tourist attractions before they are turned into tourist theme parks and consumed with day-trippers, souvenir stands, street performers, and chain restaurants.

And I just read that an increasing number of people are now treating themselves to dental vacation packages; it’s when you combine dental care with being a tourist. The ten most popular dental tourism destinations are:

Mexico  United Arab Emirates
Costa Rica  Turkey
Argentina Hungary
Malaysia Poland
Thailand Spain

If you do it right you can full fill all of your tourist dreams and have your wisdom teeth extracted.


Plough Inn South Bank, Brisbane

Rutledge Lane, Melbourne

Parliament House, Canberra

Transported to Australia

I think most of us after a hotel stay have souvenired one, or all of  the tiny bottles of bathroom mini toiletries. I don’t think we consider it as stealing and I think that most hotels plan on, and expect us to take the soap, shampoo, shower body gel, shower cap, sewing kit, notepads, and ballpoint pens. The hoteliers are happy that we took it; they count on us taking it and would be disappointed if we didn’t take it. Now I’m not suggesting that the unmanned housekeeper’s trolley in the hallway be set upon and plundered for purloined souvenirs.


image source:johnmcadam

The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart is housed in a row of renovated 1820’s waterfront warehouses, and the former IXL jam factory; it overlooks Franklin Wharf and is a short walk from Salamanca Place. It is the first dedicated art hotel in Australia and features a rotating display of original contemporary artworks by emerging and established Tasmanian artists. 400 pieces of art are exhibited throughout the hallways and public areas; and behind the closed doors of the rooms and suites. After checking in and riding the lift to the second floor I wandered the hallways searching for our room. The hallways held art work but no room numbers. And then I glanced down; the room numbers were glowing on the floor at the base of each door. I was going to be sleeping in an art gallery.


image source:weekendnotes.com

I sat at the window after returning from the room’s sumptuous stainless steel and frosted square of glass bathroom. I was clutching that mornings restocked tiny designer bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel; soon to add to the stash of the previous days riches. And I kept repeating to myself; they want me to have their designer toiletries. Grey rain clouds were soon causing the sky to darken; quickly the rain was softening Hobart’s waterfront and cityscape. The fishing boats in the harbour had become smudges on the dark water and the wind was pushing the last few walkers into the shelter of the restaurants and other shops. I peered through the rain washed window and all I could see was the charcoal sky. And through the silence of the storm I thought I heard the faint sound of barking dogs.


image source:youtube.com

The darkness looked back at me and I saw Mr McDervitt’s Social Studies class at Williamstown Technical School. We always sat in alphabetical order, two to a desk, facing the front of the room; there were four rows of desks. Mr McDevitt’s room was at the end of the new addition to the school; the new wing ran alongside Kororoit Creek Road. I listened, and watched, and could hear Mr McDervitt’s voice rise above what sounded like the barking and baying of distant dogs. We sat quietly, at attention, with our eyes fixed on Mr McDervitt as he told us about the first sighting of Tasmania by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman; he sailed by the west coast in 1642 and named it Anthoonij van Diemenslandt. Mr McDervitt paced the front of the room and recited eloquently.

In the afternoon, about 4 o’clock…we saw…the first land we have met with in the south sea…very high…and not known to any european nation.

And he then told us how Van Diemen’s Land was next visited in the late 1700’s by both the French and British; and that later James Cook after sailing north along New Holland’s coastline, claimed the entire east coast that he had just explored as British territory. He called the land New Wales, but revised it to New South Wales. And we sat open mouthed and aghast as he told us in a slow and wavering voice about the First Fleet. He recounted that after the American Revolutionary War England could no longer use its North American colony as a dumping ground for its unwanted criminals and that the only way the English courts could overcome the overcrowding of the jails was to establish a penal colony in the southern land that Captain James Cook had claimed. The First Fleet set sail for New South Wales and we learned that Captain Phillip decided that Botany Bay was unsuitable for a settlement so he moved everyone to Sydney Cove. Mr McDervitt turned to the board and wrote in chalk.


image source:johnmcadam

Mr McDervitt began again and we sat and listened. He described how England was afraid that France was going to claim Van Diemen’s Land so Governor Arthur Philip claimed it and Van Diemen’s Land became the location of a second English colony in Terra Australis; because of its isolation it began as a penal colony. The English courts saw transportation as an easy solution to populate and grow the new colony. The rain paused and the fishing boats in the harbour were diffuse shimmers of light. And the faint sound of the howling dogs had faded even further into the distance.


image source:virginaustralia.com

Over 70,000 men, women and children were transported to Van Diemens Land. Several convict settlements were built to house male and female convicts; including secondary prisons such as the harsh penal colonies at Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour. The next morning we headed down the Tasman Highway, past the Hobart airport to Sorrell, and joined the Arthur Highway. The Port Arthur Historic Site is on the Tasman Peninsula which is connected to mainland Tasmania by a narrow isthmus known as the Neck; it is a thin strip of narrow land and the water seems to lap at both sides of the car as you cross the 450 yard long narrow entrance to the Peninsula. Back when, English soldiers and up to 18 half starved ferocious dogs were chained together to guard the Neck; their job was to prevent convicts escaping away from the notorious Port Arthur penal colony. And there were also dogs on platforms in the water. The smallest noise or movement would set the dogs barking and howling; alerting the guards of any would be escaping convicts.


image source:mapio.net

During an introductory guided walking tour of the Site an experienced tour guide provides an overview of Port Arthur’s convict history. He tells how it began life in 1830 as a small timber station but became a brutal penal colony and was home for many of Australia’s early convicts. As you stroll the landscaped Victorian gardens and walk amongst the memories of a long gone prison it’s hard to imagine that you are walking through and around what was once a reviled prison that held 1,100 convicts. Many transported and re-offending convicts spent their days living through this sprawling mix of beauty and horror; the landscape of the Peninsula forming the bars of their confinement. We were told that in 1848 a new, gentler, approach to imprisonment was introduced at Port Arthur; psychological punishment replaced floggings. In the 80 cell Separate Prison, prisoners were forced to wear hoods when in the company of other people, spend their days in solitary confinement cells, be identified by numbers instead of names, and to remain silent at all times except when singing in church. This treatment gave them an opportunity to reflect on what they did wrong. Many of the convicts suffered mental illness because of this new, gentler, approach to imprisonment and in 1864 an asylum was built to house them.


image source:johnmcadam

Across the harbour the Island of the Dead was the destination for all the convicts, soldiers and civilians who died inside the prison. Of the 1,646 buried on cemetery island the convicts are mostly buried in unmarked graves on the low southern end, and the soldier and civilian burials are marked by headstones on the high northern end. Also across from Port Arthur is Point Puer; the first separate boys prison in the British Empire. And the tour guide relates that between 1834 and 1849, three thousand boys were sentenced to transportation to the prison; the youngest just turning nine. Point Puer was renowned for it’s stern discipline and harsh punishment. In 1856 transportation to Van Diemen’s Land was abolished. In an effort to escape the stigma of its horrendous penal reputation, Van Diemen’s Land renamed itself Tasmania; after Abel Janszoon Tasman.


image source:johnmcadam

Back when I was in second form and sitting in Mr McDevitt’s Social Studies class at Williamstown Tech our Australian history only touched on the first settlement in Botany Bay and the hardships endured in establishing the colony; it was more about Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson finding a way across the Blue Mountains, the heroic but tragic journey of Burke and Wills, the expedition of Hume and Hovell, and the journeys of inland explorers Mitchell and Eyre, and how Australia grew as a farming and agriculture country. Being a descendant of transported convicts was a source of shame.

By the end of all transportation in 1868, around 162,000 convicts were sent to the colonies of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land and Western Australia. An estimated one in five Australians has convict ancestry. I am a third great great grandson of the transported convict Thomas Raines. I am a descendant of Australian Royalty.

In 1842, 44 year old Thomas Raines was convicted of stealing sheep from Henry Hilton of Salridge and was sentenced to 15 years transportation. Convict records at the State Library of Tasmania in Hobart verify that Thomas Raines was 5’6” tall, with a large nose that inclined to the right; and that he had a rather long head, dark brown hair and whiskers, hazel eyes, black eyebrows, a medium sized mouth and chin, a medium high forehead and an oval shaped face. He was confined for over a year in the prison hulk Fortitude, moored off Chatham, England, before being moved by the authorities to the Forfarshire at Spithead for transportation. He was one of 240 convicts transported on the Forfarshire on the 24th June 1843, and he arrived 12th October, 1843 at Van Diemen’s Land.


image source:johnmcadam

There was no record of Thomas being sent to Port Arthur; he was a ploughman and farm labourer by trade so was most likely assigned to various Van Diemen’s Land farmers for the term of his imprisonment. He didn’t serve the entire 15 year sentence; it’s unclear exactly when he received his Ticket of Leave. On 11 Mar 1865 Thomas was issued a Certificate of Freedom; finally a completely free man with all the rights and privileges of free Australian settlers. And with his wife he crossed the Tasman Sea to the state of Victoria. He bought the farm on 27th June 1872.

Before the tide of nationalism that flowed in the seventies some Australians had already begun to see the English courts and transportation as a symbol of the ruling class unjustly persecuting the working class and political protesters. The tide of nationalism caused some of us to take pride in our ancestry and independence; and we argued that the reason many were transported to Australia was because of their struggles for political freedom or for trivial offences and they were sent only to colonise new and dangerous shores on the other side of the world.

Stealing was a crime that led to transportation to Australia and included.

Stealing lead, iron or copper
Stealing ore from black lead mines
Stealing from furnished lodgings
Stealing letters
Stealing fish from a pond or river
Stealing growing cabbages, turnips, trees, and plants
Stealing string
Stealing a handkerchief

I wonder if you would be convicted and transported for taking a hotel’s tiny bottles of soap, shampoo, shower body gel, the bathroom shower cap, and the room’s sewing kit, notepads, and ballpoint pens.


Port Arthur Historic Site

The Henry Jones Art Hotel

Australian History

Christmas in Australia

I have lived in the mid west for thirty plus years. At first I went back to Australia every couple of years; and then that grew to three, and then four years. I just returned from the fatal shore; it had been six plus years since I had been where beer does flow and men chunder. The last time I saw Christmas in Australia was twenty plus years ago. And Christmas is still different in Australia and my new memories will do little to change how I remember my childhood Christmases; posted in this blog over a year ago.


image source:johnmcadam

The Hobart Central Business District could be described as a suburb surrounded by metropolitan Hobart. It’s the oldest part of Hobart and is made up of the original English settlement, as well as most of the city’s important institutions and landmarks; Parliament House, Supreme Court, Salamanca Place, Mcquarie Wharf, Battery Point, and the State Library. The pace is slow and the shopping is somewhat limited compared to Melbourne, Brisbane, or Sydney; but that’s the charm and pleasure. It is small and compact and you easily wander the arcades, lane ways, nooks and crannies, narrow main streets, and smaller side streets to discover the hidden speciality stores, boutiques, eateries, and national brand stores. I was wandering Murray Street toward the State Library of Tasmania; it was early November, somewhat late for winter but too early for a Tasmania summer. There was a small warmth in the air and when I looked up there was a brilliant blue sky between the heritage buildings and other architectures. And there was the Murray Street Christmas decoration; this kaleidoscope of colours dancing before my eyes radiated the emotional regime of Christmas. And as I continued to stroll toward the library I caught myself humming and silently carolling Joy to the World.


image source:johnmcadam

A few days after leaving Tasmania we were enjoying the drive along Geelong’s Corio Bay foreshore. Geelong is about an hours drive from Melbourne and offers a range of lifestyle choices; inner city cosmopolitan, suburban, coastal, and rural. Some say Geelong is a gateway city; a jumping off point for the surrounding wineries, Great Ocean Road, Ballarat, Torquay, and the Port Campbell National Park. Others say Geelong is industrial and boring. The foreshore is a five minute walk from the city centre and contains the Eastern Beach, parks, a carousel and Ferris wheel, beautiful landscaped gardens and fantastic public art. Geelong has always reminded me of a simpler time; a place to go with mum and dad for a swim; a place to play on the play ground swings and slides, and a place to lick the melting ice cream from an ice cream cone. And it was a place that was home to the Ford assembling factory. I remember dad driving mum, my brother, and me down the two lane Princess Highway for the Ford Christmas Party; dad didn’t work for Ford and we never knew how he got us invited to the party. After the first year we started squirming and fidgeting as soon as we left Newport; the forty plus miles to the factory were an agonising, never ending wait for the tractor trailer ride. We rode on facing out bench seats that were put onto large flat factory delivery trailers; what I now know as a hay rack ride but without the hay and the paddock.


image source:flickr

A Ford tractor pulled us through the factory; past myriads of assembly lines and mountains of miscellaneous, unassembled steel car parts. The conveyors, belts, and transporters that made up the lines where workers manoeuvred and assembled the assorted steels were silent and motionless. The tractor trailer ride was a reminder of the true meaning of the holiday season and the Christmas story; told as the creation of a car.

That afternoon, driving along Geelong’s Corio Bay foreshore I caught sight of the Floating Christmas Tree. The eight plus feet tall structure is Australia’s largest floating Christmas tree; it contains 11,000 reflective discs and can be synchronised to music through a downloadable app. It is estimated that the steel tree will cost the city about $1 million over the next five years. Maybe you have to see the Floating Christmas Tree at night. But we all know that Christmas is not about the money; it is about memories. And as I gazed at the unattended mechanical lifeless marvel, I thought I saw in the tree a small boy sitting on a trailer being towed by a tractor. As I drove off I found myself gently singing Do You Hear What I Hear.


image source:johnmcadam

Even though it was mid November summer was struggling to arrive in Melbourne. It was typical Melbourne weather with contrasts in the temperature from day to day; warm to hot and sunny days, and then cold and showery days. It was mid week and mid morning and I stood in the Bourke Street Mall after walking through the arcades and shopping emporiums from Latrobe to Bourke Street; you can walk the Hoddle Grid of Melbourne without stepping onto a street. Trams, buskers and Christmas shoppers populated the Mall. I faced away from the Myers Christmas windows and slowly closed my eyes and thought of those early evenings many years ago when mum delivered us, in our pyjamas, to the Myers Windows. And we left out smudgy finger prints, and nose prints on all six of the windows after ogling the make believe worlds of costumed puppets and life like animations that existed in the magical landscapes and enchanting wonderlands. I walked nervously with my head down and joined the queue that had formed at a stanchion; I was at the start of the windows. It was at the last window that I learned that the windows are based on the Australian children’s book One Christmas Eve by author Corinne Fenton and illustrator Marjorie Crosby-Fairall.


image source:johnmcadam


image source:johnmcadam

The book tells the story of Bella on Christmas Eve in 1968 when she visits her Grandparents in St Kilda for a typical Australian BBQ. Bella and her grandfather head to Luna Park and she is given the choice of one ride so she chooses the magical carousel. She jumps on the horse and lets her imagination take hold as she daydreams about the ‘Majestic Horse’ taking her high above the clouds over Melbourne and being greeted by Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer’s. Once the ride ends, Bella’s dream fades back to reality and she heads home with her grandfather. When Bella wakes on Christmas Day, she is delighted to unwrap a rocking horse that her Grandfather hand-carved for her to resemble the ‘Majestic Horse’ she rode on the carousel.
excerpt from The Myer Blog

But the windows were not as I remembered; maybe I should have worn my pyjamas. I searched for dad; wanting to be driven back to Newport. I would soon be asleep in the back seat of the Austin, or Vanguard, dreaming of my own castles in the air. But all I saw were trams and the advertisement for the Melbourne production of Kinky Boots. I walked towards the Royal Arcade warbling It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.

We had a My Brother and My Melbourne Cousins and Partners soiree at Russell’s. Russell is the youngest of the Oliver cousins and is back living in the house at Chadstone he grew up in. Before long all the boys had formed a tight circle in the kitchen and it soon became; And remember when. And remember when we went to nanna and granddad’s for Christmas dinner. And remember nanna’s Christmas pudding; we would eat it double quick looking for the sixpences and threepence’s that she put in it when she first made it. And remember when we had to give our sixpences and threepence’s back to her because the Australian government had changed the silver content of coins and it was dangerous to put the new sixpences and threepence’s into puddings. And then Russell said And remember when nanna always used to cut the pudding in the kitchen and then push sixpences that she had kept out of the pudding into Peter’s slice of pudding. We all fell silent; each of the cousins taking a doubting, fleeting look at each other. And Russell said yeah, nanna used to push sixpences into Peter’s plum pudding. And the magic that was nanna’s on Christmas Day unravelled before all of us cousins; that perfect star would no longer shine upon our tree. It will be a long time before I write to Father Christmas or sit on his knee asking for a bunch of presents. In the car with my brother Peter whilst he was driving us back to our hotel from Russell’s I fell silent, but I was singing in hushed tones Santa Claus is Coming to Town.


image source:johnmcadam

And it was satisfying to see that Christmas Day Dinner is still a family activity. You can still find some of nanna’s favourites on the table, but because it’s summer it’s not all about plum pudding; some of the help yourself seafood table staples are prawns, fish, crab, crayfish and oysters; and you could throw a few steaks on the barbie, or do either a roast chook, or turkey, or bake a ham. And desert is pavlova, Christmas cake with treacle, or ice cream cakes. Your not going to find a lot of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, parsnips, carrots, cranberry sauce, and gravy, or pumpkin and apple pie. But you will find people pulling open their Christmas crackers, donning the inside colourful paper crowns, and then sharing the hidden jokes to whoever is listening.

What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party?
Freeze a jolly good fellow
What does a frog do if his car breaks down?
He gets it toad away
What do you call a line of men waiting for a haircut?
A barberqueue

Maybe for next Christmas I will download the 1983 remake, starring Nicole Kidman, of the Australian movie Bush Christmas; it’s about an Australian outback families struggle to keep their farm from foreclosure. Unfortunately, the family is deeply in debt and their only hope is that their horse, Prince, will win money in the annual New Year’s Cup race. As Christmas comes around, a pair of thieves steal Prince and the children embark on a dangerous and exciting adventure to get him back.

I could roast some chestnuts on an open fire and we could sing God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.


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