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:

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:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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”.


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.


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.


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.

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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.


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

I Only Had Tickets On Myself

I hadn’t planned on visiting Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport; but there I was waiting for a connecting flight to Omaha. If I hadn’t missed my flight to Omaha from Fort Lauderdale I would’ve been waiting for a connecting flight in Denver. I was at Houston Intercontinental three years ago but only saw the Subway terminal train’s dark tunnel as I was shuttled to terminal D. I had a few hours to spend in terminal D waiting for my Air New Zealand, fifteen hour, non stop flight to Auckland. I’ve always believed an hour or more of waiting time at an airport is good for a couple of terminal walkabouts. The first terminal D walkabout was over in the blink of an eye; terminal D was sparse and small, and had very few windows overlooking the tarmac. I ventured part way into a walkway but turned back, fearing it would lead to a security check point. After finding a lonely coffee kiosk I headed back to my departure gate with a large coffee, accepting that I’d spend the next couple of hours without any terminal distractions.

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I’ve always been seduced by an airport’s activity; planes landing and taking off every few minutes, public announcements creating an air of mystery and intrigue, and people hurrying between gates and terminals with careening carry-on wheelie spinners add to the fascination. And terminal walkabouts have always provided observations that demand creative thinking for an answer.

  • Do people walk super fast when they leave the arrival-departure gate after deplaning because of Newtons First Law of Motion? The law states an object will remain in it’s state of motion unless a force acts to change that motion. Before deplaning people have been travelling close to 400 miles an hour so do they have to bump into something or wait for air friction to slow them down.
  • Why do men insist on having a mobile phone conversation at the urinal? I’m talking a focused conversation with a wife, children, girlfriend, or a business associate. And how do you explain the flush?

Urinator into mobile phone: Sorry mate, what’d ya say?
Loud ambient noise: Continuous urinal flushes
Urinator into mobile phone: Do ya mean to say that …. bull’s eye
Fellow Urinator: Good aim mate!!! Nice squirt at the cake
Urinator into mobile phone: Just to be sure, you said
Loud ambient noise: Busy airport announcements
Urinator into mobile phone: Would ya mind spelling that mate?

  • Why isn’t there a disinfectant trough in the men’s bathrooms for carry-on wheelie spinners to be dipped in? Men bring their wheelies up to the urinal with them. When the urinal’s hit straight on, or even at an angle, splashing creates a floor that does a petri dish of bacteria proud. And someones gonna be shoving those wheelies into an overhead bin.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is about twenty five miles from Boca Raton; a straight shot down I-95. If you leave Boca at 6:30a.m. and cruise at the seventy five mph speed limit, you’ll be unloading your bags at 7:00a.m. As soon as we merged from the Boca on-ramp the I-95 traffic came to a crawling stop.

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It was interstate gridlock; I could’ve walked in five minutes the distance we moved in the first hour. The navigation app showed a traffic jam to the I-95/I-595 split. I became fixated on the dashboard navigation app and the time to your destination display. Time to destination was 8:00a.m. After five minutes real time, and moving a hundred feet, time to destination was 8:30a.m. My Omaha flight was scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 9:30a.m. At 9:30a.m. we were close to the I-595 split. I watched as a plane started it’s slow climb into the blue hazy sky and disappear into the horizon; I’d missed my Fort Lauderdale to Omaha flight.

An hour later I was booked on a flight to Omaha with a stop over in Houston. I learnt from the airline customer service agent that an earlier news report had warned of a fatal accident on I-95 in Pompano Beach. All but one southbound lane of the interstate had been closed for several hours during the crash investigation, causing significant delays for drivers.

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During the flight to Houston I continually checked my ticket for the terminal, and gate number, of my connecting flight to Omaha. I bolted out of the arrival-departure gate and sprinted into the concourse; searching out the terminal direction signs to navigate to my Omaha flight gate. I didn’t see the group of fellow travellers in front of me, and before I knew it, I’d banged into their carry-on wheelie spinners. The wheelie collision slowed my super fast walking speed to a crawl. I still had a terminal to walk through, one to detour around, and several walkways to cross; if I continued at my present state of motion I’d say goodbye to my flight to Omaha. I was in a panic. I caught sight of an airport motorised cart and signalled at it with the same outstretched arm technique I’d used at “Hail Cars” tram stops in Melbourne. As the cart pulled alongside I adjusted my walking speed to match the speed of the cart, grabbed the back of a seat, and swung myself onto the outside platform of the cart.

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At one time Melbourne trams had open entryways and exits. It was par for the course to board a tram as it was leaving a stop or to run alongside after it had left and then hop on. You’d jog or run alongside the tram, reach up and grab the hand rail, and swing up onto the boarding platform. Most men preferred to step into the middle area of the tram from the outside wooden boarding step; others stayed riding the step. I’m still not sure if riding the step was revealing your manliness or if it was to elude the conductor and avoid paying the fare.

There was a time when I committed to not paying fares on Melbourne’s public transport. Melbourne Metropolitan Tramways Board, and Victorian Railways staff wore pseudo military style uniforms. Tram conductors and drivers wore a green coat, trousers or skirts, a light green shirt, and dark tie; their cap was similar to an Australian Army Officer’s peaked cap. The Victorian Railways staff wore a similar navy blue uniform, a light blue or white shirt, and a dark tie and peaked cap. I think the tailored uniforms were meant to highlight the staff’s authority over the travelling public. It was the seventies; we were young, grew our hair long, and wore eccentric clothes. Our generation defined itself by rejecting authority; I displayed my disdain and disrespect for authority by not paying fares.


I avoided paying tram fares by keeping away from the conductor. It was best to take the tram during the morning and afternoon peak times, or at lunch time; you could bet a penny to a quid a city tram, or inner suburb tram would be jam packed. There was no way a conductor could move through a jam packed tram and collect fares; if you were going just a few stops there was no problems avoiding the connie. Avoiding the connie on a tram ride of more than a few stops took a little more effort; as they headed your way you’d hop onto the boarding step, walk the step to where they had just left, and then step back into the tram. Or you could show your manliness and ride the step for a few stops.

Connies wore a leather bag at their waist. They patrolled the length of the tram calling out “fares please”. When a fare was tended they’d sort through the coins in their bag for the correct change, tear off a coloured ticket, and punch the correct little square for the distance travelled. Their bag, heavy with the weight of penny, threepence, sixpence, shilling, and two shilling coins symbolised their loyalty to the green uniform. Connies did more than just collect fares; they’d help ladies with prams and disabled passengers get on and off the tram. And they signalled the driver at a tram stop with two dings of the bell, when everyone was off or on the tram and it was safe to leave the stop.


I used a similar technique to what I used on the tram to avoid paying the fare on the trains. I stayed away from the station ticket porters. Flinders Street Station’s main exit gates were under the clocks. There were also gates onto Princess Bridge, at Elizabeth Street, and in the Campbell Arcade subway to Degraves Street. Porters collected tickets by standing at their gate with an outstretched hand; it was your duty to put your used ticket into the palm of their hand. I’d usually leave Flinders Street through the gates under the clocks, or the ones leading to Princess Bridge; the gate depended on which ticket porter was the first to leave their gate. Off peak was the best time to take the train because the number of train travellers was a fraction of the peak time travellers. I’d linger in the concourse until most travellers left the station. The porters would leave their gate and stand around chatting to their mates while they waited for the next arriving train’s passengers; so it was clear sailing through an unmanned ticket gate..

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It was a no brainer to avoid the ticket porter at a suburban station. The porter closed the wooden platform gate as the train approached the station. Just as a tram connie signalled their driver when passengers were safely off and on the tram, the porter signalled the driver when it was safe for the train to leave the station. They’d stand by the platform gate, wait until the last carriage was past the station, open the gate, and stand with their hand out to collect tickets. My avoidance tactic was to get in the last carriage when I caught a train; it was usually furthermost from the platform gate when the train stopped at the station. I’d get off the train and dawdle to the gate, stop and have a cigarette, and watch for when the porter collected the last ticket and head back into the station staff room for a cup of tea.

The airport motorised cart driver announced “your stops next sir”. I turned my head and cast a furtive glance at his waist; no leather bag. I then managed a fleeting look at his profile; no peaked cap. Even so, as the airport motorised cart slowed down I stood up, grabbed my carry-on wheelie spinner, and stepped off the moving cart before there was a chance of a “fares please”.


George Bush International Airport

A Systems View of Ticketing and Fare Evasion on Melbourne’s Trams

Flinders Street Station Concourse

A Ride On An Escalator Begins With One Small Step

Late last year I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Sydney; a refreshing breather between a seventeen hour non stop flight from Dallas Fort Worth and a five hour flight to Perth. It had been some time since I was last in Sydney. Ten years ago our Qantas flight from Los Angles was late in leaving the US and so I missed my connecting flight to Alice Springs. It was no worries for Qantas; in a flash they had us rescheduled on tomorrows flight and put up for the night in a hotel. And so we had a winter’s afternoon to idle away in Sydney. I remember wandering the Haymarket, and in a fourteen hour lack of sleep induced lethargy stumbling past the boutiques, jewellery shops, and delightful cafes and restaurants housed in the opulent Queen Victoria Building. Then came the long faltering walk down George Street to a cold, wind swept Circular Quay; the opaque mid-afternoon sun had turned the Bridge and Opera House into gloomy silhouettes. Winter is a great time to visit Sydney.

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Ten years before the afternoon of cold winds and wintry sun I’d spent a few days enjoying the harbour city. I remember being woken each morning by the screams and cries of the white cockatoos in the trees alongside the balcony of my Macleay Street hotel. I could have been in the bush but I was just a stones throw away from the pimps, prostitutes, and party goers of Kings Cross. Back then Bondi Beach was the most famous beach in the world but not the most popular beach in Sydney; it’s foreshore was waiting for the fast food joints, souvenir shops, pubs, and the crowded buses disgorging an unending stream of sightseers. Watson’s Bay was a charming quiet retreat where you could enjoy Doyles’s fish and chips with the seagulls. And the Olympic Stadium was being built at Parramatta.

There’s several options to get from the airport to downtown Sydney. I decided on the Airport link train. Some would say I wasn’t able to think straight seeing I’d just deplaned after a seventeen hour flight from Dallas Fort Worth. I didn’t pick the train because it only took thirteen minutes to get to the city; I took it because it stopped at the heritage listed St James underground station. As soon as I boarded the train I discovered time travel isn’t like it is in science fiction. There’s no swirling lights, magnetic storms of chronitons, or spinning dials and warp engines; it’s a sleek silver metal cylinder racing though a dark tunnel.


I stepped onto St James’s 1930s train platform from a double-decker silver train carriage. St James and its one stop away sister station Museum were Australia’s first underground stations. St James’s platforms and concourse have many of their original features; it’s said to be one of the most ornate station interiors in the New South Wales railway system. The platform walls are a distinctive cream tile edged with green, and the lighting is refurbished thirties. If you look closely you’ll see period advertising signs and original exit signs. The concourse is defined by the same cream and green tiles and is framed by decorative wrought iron; the supporting steel columns, ornate stairs, lights, and clocks add to the station’s ambience.

After steering my wheelie spinner suitcase through the Art Deco concourse and down a couple of concrete stairs, I entered the station’s pedestrian subway tunnel; also lined with ceramic cream tile and edged with green tile. I walked toward the light at the end of the tunnel. My shoulders stiffened and I tightened my grip on the handle of the wheelie spinner; the light was a powerful, irresistible force pulling me toward Market Street and the QT Sydney. I had learnt sometime ago that there’s no coincidences in life; everything happens for a reason, and that includes meeting certain people at a certain time. I would soon be introduced to the Directors of Chaos.

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The QT Sydney is a dramatic Art Deco boutique hotel fashioned from a heritage, modern conversion of the historic State Theatre, and what was once the Gowings department store buildings. The Directors of Chaos are decked out in edgy black leather and vibrant post office box red wigs. They patrol the QT’s entrance to meet and greet guests; and if you’re so inclined they’re more than happy to spend some time just chatting, giving directions, or offering suggestions of what to do in Sydney. It’s easy to be overawed by the QT’s quirky interior, fashion-forward eclectic room design, their mini cooper you can reserve to tootle around Sydney, the unique cocktails at the urbane Gilt Lounge bar, and the eye-catching Gowings Bar & Grill, but I was enthralled by the lifts. The lifts detect how many people are in them and then play appropriate music. If you’re by yourself they’ll play “Are You Lonesome Tonight” or Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself”. If another person gets in the lift you might get “Let’s Get It On”, Just the Two of Us,” or “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor, and with four or more people you could get Prince’s “1999” or Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance”; they’ll farewell you with a “Hasta La Vista Baby”, or “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”.

Wynyard underground station is a drop kick away from the QT. As I left The QT and headed for Wynyard I thought I could faintly hear Aerosmith’s “Love In An Elevator”. The Directors of Chaos must have been hearing something because their feet and hips were moving to a crazy beat; as if they belonged to the music. Or maybe it was the Espresso from the Parlour Cucina that caused the movement.

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I stared up at Interloop, the wooden escalator sculpture mounted in the station’s concourse, and slowly began to understand the concept of stationary motion. I waited for Interloop to play the appropriate music as the number of commuters below it changed and shifted; would it play Neil Sedaka’s “Stairway to Heaven”, Sarah Vaughan’s “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, or the “The Stairs” by INXS? The sculpture is the work of Sydney artist Chris Fox and was created from the station’s original eighty year old wooden escalators. The twisting accordion-shaped sculpture was recycled from the treads and combs when the station’s original four wooden escalators were removed and replaced with upgraded modern escalators. And it seems that Chris wasn’t to keen on the concept of a musical escalator.

Fact is stranger than fiction. Three of the St James’s original wooden escalators were installed in 1932, which is the same year the first escalator was installed in Melbourne. The soaring Art Deco Manchester Unity building, on the corner of Swanson and Collins Streets, housed Melbourne’s magical wooden staircase.


The magical staircase hurried people from the ground floor arcade to the first floor shops and the basement level tea room; but there wasn’t a staircase down from the first floor, or up from the basement. It’s said that 60,000 visitors rode the magic staircase on opening day and that a nurse was on hand to treat people if they needed medical assistance after their ride on the staircase. The original escalator to the first floor is still there; the outside wood paneling has been refurbished, but unfortunately, the wooden moving stairs have been replaced. It was Sunday, and I was alone in the Manchester Unity building’s ground floor arcade. I put my hand on the stationary handrail and vowed to return to ride the magical staircase. As I turned to leave I thought I heard ever so faintly from behind the decorative paneled lift doors

I’ll build a stairway to heaven
I’ll climb to the highest star
I’ll build a stairway to heaven
Cause heaven is where you are

Twenty years after enjoying fish and chips with the seagulls at Doyles I returned to Watsons Bay to see if they tasted as I remembered them. Now it’s said that a lazy person doesn’t deserve food; before a filet of battered barramundi could pass my lips l’d have to climb the steps to the Gap Lookout. The path to The Gap is across Robertson Park from Watsons Bay Wharf and Doyles. The steps rose before me. I let my hand fall on the handrail. I pulled on the handrail as I pushed on my legs, and slowly made my way up the steep stairs to the lookout at the top of the cliffs. The Gap lookout rewards you with stunning views of the coastline, the harbour, and Sydney’s skyline. As I marvelled at the panorama and caught my breath, I wondered if there was ever a plan to install a wooden escalator to the scenic overlook platform. I reckon the Not In My Back Yard brigade must have put a stop to it.

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As I sat in Sydney airport waiting for the boarding announcement for my five hours, across Australia flight to Perth, I thought back to that next morning’s flight to Alice Springs ten years ago. I remember being a little muddled after the plane landed. We were ushered to the back of the plane and onto a towable passenger stairway to deplane; I’d only deplaned using a towable passenger stairway in Belize City. My mind cleared up when I saw the Fruit Interstate Quarantine Bin by the airport terminal’s door to the tarmac; I was In Alice, not Belize City. I had no intention of climbing Uluru but I was going to ask permission to put my hand on the Rock. Uluru is 276 miles or 445 kilometers southwest of Alice so a tour with a sunset viewing is a good eighteen-hour day. It’s worth a couple of hours of sleep to feel the spirit of Uluru. With a good old sing-a-long in the bus you’re there and back before you know it.

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You’ll need to excuse me. I feel an urge to ride the escalator in Von Maur’s department store at Westroads Mall. I much prefer the Von Maur escalators to the escalators in Dillard’s department store at Oak View Mall. At Von Maur a grand piano, and player sit on the ground floor alongside the escalators; the skillfully played jazz, popular music, and Broadway tunes waft up the escalator bank reaching the third floor Home and Gifts department. I so much enjoy a musical escalator ride.


QT Sydney


Gap Park (Watsons Bay)

The Pie Is Mightier Than The Sauce

Whenever I visit Australia I’ll usually return to the US from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. It’s become a convenient tradition to spend the night before leaving at the PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport. Sometime during the late afternoon of the day before leaving, and after checking in, I’ll flop into one of the Bar Airo Lounge’s chairs overlooking the terminal to watch the procession of arriving and departing traffic and indulge myself in a few ice colds. If the truth be told, savouring a pot or two of Melbourne Bitter is a pleasing way to empty the pockets of left over Australian dollars. When twilight starts to steal the daylight, and the airport buses and taxis and bustling travellers become silhouettes, I’ll take a squizz at a copy of the Herald Sun that’s laying around on one of the tables. I hurry through the news and the other sections to get to the sports. If it’s summer time Down Under it’s the last chance I’ll get to soak up the latest cricket news.

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As a youngster I never really had a passion for cricket, but like most young boys, when Australia was playing a Test Series in England I was glued to the wireless at night. I’d put myself to sleep on those cold winter Melbourne nights listening to the ABC’s erudite, and snobbish descriptions of play at Old Trafford and The Oval. The wireless was turned down low; or maybe it was low because I had the bed’s thick woollen blankets pulled up over my ears. Growing up I played tippity run and street cricket. When we played cricket in our street the electricity pole was the wicket and the gutter was the crease; the bowler bowled from the opposite side of the street. We played with a tennis ball. You were out if you hit up a catch, if the ball hit the pole, or if you hit the ball on the full over a neighbour’s front fence. The electricity pole wicket was a couple of houses down from the Tillersons. If we were playing cricket on a nice warm day Mrs Tillerson would wheel John out of their front gate on his flat wooden cart and onto the footpath so he could look out onto the street; he’d watch our game with his rigid legs stretched out along the length of his wooden cart. John had polio and his legs were in iron braces. We called him tin legs Tillerson; but not to his face.

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The last time I was in the Airo Lounge I never made it to the cricket news in the Sports Section because I was stopped dead in my tracks by the headline “Arnott’s announces two VERY Australian new Shapes flavours for summer”. With a beside myself look and still clutching the Sun, I turned toward the bar, raised two fingers, and pointed to my empty pot of Melbourne Bitter. I reread the newspaper headline word by word a second time, and a third time, and then started on the article.

After the overwhelming response that Arnott’s got for their Shapes VEGEMITE and Cheese last year they’re now launching Sausage Sizzle Shapes and Meat Pie Shapes in mid December; the Shapes will be shaped like the Australian continent and there’ll be Tasmania shaped biscuits in every box.
The Meat Pie Shapes will combine the sweetness of tomato sauce with a rich subtle gravy beef, pepper onion flavour, and have a hint of buttery pastry. The Sausage Sizzle Shapes will have the charred beef flavour of an Aussie snag with a hint of white bread, caramelised onion, and BBQ sauce.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved meat pies; what’s not to love about a plain and simple pastry shell filled with a mixture of gravy and chunks of meat. My love affair with meat pies started when I was in First Form at Williamstown Tech and mum volunteered to be a canteen lunch lady. On the days she was on canteen duty she’d sometimes give us lunch money to buy our lunch; It was mum’s special treat. And that meant a pie and sauce for lunch. Sometimes I could control my longing for a meat pie and sauce and would order a salad roll. I found that denying my urge for a pie caused me to conjure up colourful abstractions of warm succulent meat swimming in rich gravy and tomato sauce.

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Once in a while during the school holidays mum would give us money to buy a pie and malted milk from Mrs Worm’s in Melbourne Road. Mrs Worm’s Milk Bar had a fly wire screen door instead of a plastic strip curtain and she sold Adams Pies. I loved Adams Pies more than a Four N Twenty. You’d start eating your pie in the shop because you had to drink your malted milk inside; the cups the malted milk were made in were metal and Mrs Worm wouldn’t let you take them outside. Choosing a malted milk flavouring was as hard as choosing the lollies for a sixpence mixed lolly bag; after an agonising ten minutes I always narrowed my flavour down to either chocolate, spearmint, banana, or blue heaven.

The meat pie is affectionately known as a rat’s coffin, a maggot bag, or a dog’s eye, and tomato sauce as dead horse; so to most Australians a meat pie with sauce is a dog’s eye and dead horse. The train you took from Newport in to town went past the Four N Twenty pie factory after it left Footscray and crossed the Maribyrnong River. Back when Kensington and Flemington were the home of Melbourne’s slaughtering houses, soap and candle makers, and bone manure and glue factories. The factories used the Maribyrnong River as a drain. I never thought much about it at the time but it was ironic the pie factory was just past the South Kensington railway station. The stench from the still remaining slaughtering and rendering houses, and the smells from the tainted river blanketed the area and the Four N Twenty factory.

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The rancid choking stench was especially bad during summer. At Footscray station passengers started preparing for what was coming by closing all of the carriage’s windows and doors; we all crossed our fingers the train was express to North Melbourne and wasn’t stopping at South Kensington. The South Kensington pie factory has stopped baking it’s 50,000 pies an hour. Four N Twenty was sold back to an Australian company and now the Four N Twenty baking is happening in the fresh country air at the bucolic country town of Bainsdale.

The music, pop culture, and social changes of Youthquake caused my love affair with the meat pie to wane. I plunged into the traditional Aussie hallowed right of passage; a working holiday in England and wandering Europe, and meandered through the Middle East along the ill defined Hippie Trail. Each unknown path I travelled down was a journey without the comfort and enjoyment of a meat pie. Next off I explored South East Asia, Burma, Nepal, and India in the never ending search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary.

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When I returned to Melbourne after my last crusade I longed for the contentment, and an understanding of life’s obscurity; I retreated back to the comfort of my roots. I decided to once again eat meat pies, and stand in the outer on a Saturday winter afternoon with the proud brotherhood of football followers. I’d be surrounded by the smell of meat pies and tomato sauce, and cigarette smoke and beer. I’d have a Four N Twenty in one hand, a beer in the other, and be balancing on tiptoe between busted beer bottles and puddles of vomit. I’d savour the rich subtle gravy of a Four N Twenty that’d be hot enough to burn the roof of my mouth or on the cold side of warm. I’d be licking pie spillage from my fingers or letting it fall into the sludge of vomit, urine, and beer I was tip-toeing in. My love affair with the meat pie would be rekindled.

The last couple of times I’ve been in Australia the societal and cultural changes are confusing my nostalgic memories and understanding of my childhood, and early adulthood. Not only is it nearly impossible to find a Milk Bar, but it’s becoming difficult to find a good old Four N Twenty. It seems every pie warmer in a cake shop or bakery is stuffed with gourmet pies; you’re forced to scavenger through Scallop and Saffron, Steak and Cheese, Caramelised Pork and Pepper, Chicken and Asparagus, and Thai Green Curry Chicken pies to find a plain meat pie. Mrs Worm must be turning in her grave. It’s heartening to see that the classic Aussie combination of a pie and pea soup hasn’t been messed with. The pie floater is a flaky pastry beef pie, heavy with gravy, turned upside down into a bowl of thick green pea soup. Floaters are usually eaten with plenty of tomato sauce; but some floater aficionados add mint sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or malt vinegar. It’s worth spending a few days in Adelaide eating floaters at the Bakery on O’Connell.


There’s been a couple of attempts to combine the traditional meat pie with some of Australia’s favourite food. Not all that long ago Pizza Hut Australia introduced a pizza and meat pie combo; their Four N Twenty Stuffed Crust Pizza included tomato sauce and came with eight delicious parry size Four N Twenty’s stuffed into the crust. Also, Wonderpop & Deli, a Melbourne destination pie shop sells a pie burger. Scottish born chef Ray Capaldi calls his pie burger a Tradie Slammer; it’s a mince meat pie covered in caramelised onion jam sandwiched in a brioche bun. Ray credits his Slammer to the days he was in London and didn’t have much money. He says he’d buy a bread roll, put a pie in it and eat it like that. If I was still searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary these two meat pie xanadus would have been the age of my enlightenment.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. I need to start planning for the outdoor Aussie themed afternoon soiree I’ll be hosting in a few weeks. My thought is to have a seven course Australian meal for each guest; a six pack of Melbourne Bitter and a pie with sauce. I wonder if Arnott’s have any plans to release Melbourne Bitter flavoured Shapes in the near future; they’d be perfect for my soiree and the footy.


Arnott’s Shapes Ranked From Best To Savoury

Four N Twenty

Wonder Pies & Deli