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.

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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.

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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 till 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.

image source:jmcadam

As I sat in Sydney airport waiting for the boarding announcement for my five hour, 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.

image source:pinterest

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.

image source:pinterest

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.

image source:jmcadam

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

What If Disney World Had A Waiting Room Theme Park

The other week when I was sitting in the Outpatient Center waiting area waiting for my name to be called for my follow up appointment with my dermatologist I started to watch the second hand of the wall clock. It was as if time was in a state of being with no end, and I found myself wondering if an appointment’s waiting time is proportional to it’s scheduled time. Waiting time for medical appointments seem to follow a status waiting time matrix; up to an hour for a general internist, two hours to see a brain surgeon, and four hours to visit an oncology specialist is normal. But there has to be a generic mathematical theorem that allows for the predicting of the waiting time for any appointment; be it with a doctor or dentist, a job interview, or with a government employee.

image source:jmcadam

It’s hard to imagine that an advanced degree in Interior Design is needed to design a Waiting Room. Most waiting rooms look the same and I’m surprised that people aren’t bored by the sameness of the spaces. Waiting rooms have crowded rows of anti-bacterial vinyl chairs with padded seats and arms, end tables cluttered with old magazines, beige walls with some type of poster, and a wall mounted muted TV tuned to the national news with closed captioning turned off. The silence of the TV is part of the muffled silence of the waiting room; it’s a silence of whispering and the dull whoosh of a door opening and closing. The silence is sometimes interrupted by the soft cough of a patient. Most medical waiting rooms have a poster of the human digestive system, diseases of the urinary tract, or a food pyramid chart on their walls. The labelling, and numbering, on the posters is always 12 point font size. I think the smallness of the labelling is why I’ve never been able to find the renal pelvis on a urinary tract anatomical chart without standing twelve inches from the illustration. Visiting the doctor does save me an appointment with my ophthalmologist.

image source:pixabay

The longer I sat waiting for my name to be called the more I became entranced by the motion of the wall clock’s second hand; it seemed to be accelerating around the clock face and slowly transforming into a hypnotic spiral vortex. My brain was soon in the middle ground between light and shadow; between science and superstition and at the dimension of imagination. The waiting room became the holding pens at Dandenong Market. Sometimes during the school holidays mum would let us stay for a few days with our Aunt Bet and Uncle Ken in Dandenong. Tuesday was market day. Early market day morning we’d rush down the street with our cousins Andrew and Peter, and plunge into the maze of market cattle pens. We’d walk and balance on the wooden planks that made up the pens and chutes and look down upon the pigs, sheep, and cows. They stood doing nothing; waiting for their appointment at the loading bays with the waiting utes.

At one time you’d find an eclectic assortment of magazines in a medical waiting room. Doctors and staff would bring their magazines into work for their workmates to read and sooner or later they’d end up finding their way into the waiting room. The end tables would have more magazines on them than a newsagent would sell in month. It was the days before privacy and identity theft so the mailing name and address label was still on the magazine cover. I’d pass the time reading the mailing labels on the magazines; it was comforting to learn that doctors read Fresh Water Fishing Australia, The Australian Woodworker, The Australasian Beekeeper, and the Women’s Weekly. They were just like ordinary people.

image source:flickr

Mum loved the Women’ s Weekly. She’d buy her copy of the Weekly from the newsagent in Melbourne Road when she went shopping at the butchers; the same newsagent where dad would take us on a Saturday afternoon to buy comics with our pocket money. I’m sure mum got the recipe for her mouth watering Cheese and Frankfurters salad from the Women’s Weekly. The Weekly’s recipes were nestled between advertisements that included Isn’t Daddy fun since he started on Pluravit, and How to have beautiful feet! Start by getting rid of corns the fast Scholl way.

Mum’s mouth watering Cheese and Frankfurter salad

  • 2 small zucchinis cut diagonally into slices
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, broken into cauliflowerettes
  • 1 dill cucumber sliced
  • 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions chopped
  • 1/3 cup French or Italian dressing
  • 8 oz frankfurters sliced lengthwise
  • 8 oz Australian Cheddar cheese cubed
  • 1 lettuce torn into bite size pieces
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


As a youngster I never liked going to the doctors. I think I was disturbed by the ever present, faint sweet smell of ether and chloroform. I tried to distract myself with copies of Popular Science, Australian Model Car & Slot Racing Review, or Airfix Model World. Today you’re lucky to find a copy of Time magazine in a waiting room. The scarce waiting room magazines are hoarded, out of harms way, in a wall mounted or free standing magazine rack. I’m no longer confident of being able to read magazines and their mailing label to make the waiting room time tolerable, so I’ve made myself a list of waiting room things to do.

  • Tell the receptionist I’ll be sleeping and ask them to wake me when my name is called
  • Play with the toys in the little one’s section
  • Ask receptionist if they have any questionnaires; anxiety and depression ones are especially good
  • Try not to think about meat pies and sausage rolls
  • Ask receptionist if the waiting room TV can show live webcam broadcasts of hospital surgeries
  • Sing Slim Dusty songs to myself
  • Pretend to be a robot

The more I watched the second hand of the wall clock the more I mused about appointments and their waiting time. I started to ponder about who’s responsibility was it to make waiting times tolerable. Should the person just sitting there doing nothing have to find something to do, or does the doctor, dentist, the job interviewer, or the government employee have an obligation to provide a waiting room activity or resource? I’d suggest those responsible for the waiting times provide time distracting activities and resources; why not start with digital scavenger hunts and waiting room play readings.

image source:jmcadam

Instead of people sitting silently listening to music, watching movies, aimlessly surfing the web, and playing mind numbing games on their smart phones, why not introduce them to the thrill of a medical digital scavenger hunt. They could search for operating instruments, medical clothing, diagnostic equipment, surgical and examination lights, and stretchers and stretcher accessories, and then complete assigned tasks and take role playing selfies when they discover the hidden items. You’d earn points based on the activities you complete and the realness of your selfies. And it would be even more fun if those waiting for appointments were divided into teams; winning team members would be awarded priority scheduling appointment status or receive a fastpass to their next appointment. Digital scavenger hunts would have everyone asking “Where did the wait time go; you’ve called my name already?

Play reading is an activity that would alleviate waiting room stress, anxiety, and boredom. I think Keith Passmore’s Antiobiotic has to be a great choice for a reading in a crowded waiting room; Wally who’s an elderly man, and a member of the great unwashed, creates havoc in the male ward whilst an unfortunate male patient, who is having a problem with his genitals, is placed in the female ward due to overcrowding.


Ozzie: I was desperate and turned into a side road where there was a screen of trees. I made for the nearest tree and just made it in time and then, well.…
Sandy: Well?
Ozzie: This bloody dog appeared from the bushes and bit me.
Muriel: Oh dear.
Sandy: Whereabouts?
Ozzie: From the bushes.
Sandy: No, no! Where did it bite you?
Ozzie: Er, you know, between my legs

Or for the less crowded waiting room Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; two characters, known as Estragon and Vladimir wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives.

Vladimir: We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste … In an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!

I heard the dull silent whoosh of a door opening, and then my name being called. After my blood pressure and weight were recorded I was shown to a small examination room and left with; “if you’d take off your clothes and put on the gown the doctor will be with you shortly.” I searched the small room for a magazine; there were no magazines. I wracked my brain searching for an ice breaker for my dermatologist patient conversation. You’d think the first thing to come to mine would be suppurating carbuncles, papillomavirus infections, festering boils, or sebaceous cysts, but all I could think of was that pressure packed, pimple popping game, Pimple Pete.

image source:jmcadam

The game’s simple to play. Pete’s cheeks and chin are covered in pimples that need popping. You spin the spinner and choose a loaded squishy pimple to pop from where it lands. You pop the pimple by twisting, wiggling, and pulling the squishy pimple thing out of the pimple. The Mega Zit on Pete’s nose is filled with water to simulate pimple juice. If you twist or wiggle a pimple to hard you’ll be sprayed with the pimple juice. Some pimples are easier to pop than others so the points for popping a pimple vary. Whoever gets the most points without being sprayed with Mega Zit pimple juice wins.

I plan on having a few rounds of Speed Pimple Pete at the backyard medical theme soiree I’ll be hosting this summer so maybe I can start the appointment conversation by picking my dermatologist’s brain with “do you think it’d be better to fill Pimple Pete’s Mega Zit with Green Chartreuse or golden yellow Galiano?” I wonder what his thoughts would be about serving drinks in specimen jars with floating plastic body parts.


14 Ideas to Transform Your Waiting Room

Australian Women’s Weekly Founded: Australian Food History

Pimple Pete Game

At This Time We’ll Be Boarding All Passengers First

Qantas seems to offer a Latest US to Australia Flight Deal sale at the drop of a hat so it’s become a habit of mine to visit their website at least once a fortnight to check out their latest fare. Not all that long ago I was taken back by the ridiculously low fare of a Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney flight; I thought Qantas must be celebrating some important event in it’s history; maybe the 65th anniversary of it’s first trans-Pacific service to the USA. Back in1954 Qantas flew a Lockheed Super Constellation from Sydney to San Francisco, and then to Vancouver. It took around 30 hours flying time to San Francisco and required fuel stops at Fiji, Canton Island, and Hawaii. I booked a round trip fare for the Dallas Fort Worth to Sydney 17 hour flight; the world’s 7th longest nonstop flight.

image source:jmcadam

A month or so before leaving I started practising for the 7th longest nonstop flight by sitting in a chair for 2 hours a day. I rehearsed squirming and fidgeting, and dropping objects and picking them up by keeping my knees together and bending at the waist. I increased the sitting time by 15 minutes each second day. I did chair sitting in the late afternoon, and sat by a window so I’d be bathed in changing light; late afternoon sunlight changing to dusk, and then evening darkness. Qantas programs the lighting onboard their Airbus A380 superjumbos during the 17 hour flight to acclimatise your body rhythms to Sydney time.

image source:jmcadam

After I reached 3 hours of non stop chair sitting I put another chair in front of me so it touched my knees. I propped my I Pad on that chair, at a slight angle, so I could have an in-flight back of seat entertainment screen; I limited myself to watching YouTube television comedies and police dramas. During the third week of practise chair sitting I put a variety of foodstuff into small plastic containers; warmed frozen meals in one, fruit and yoghurt in another, and a green leaf salad with a packet of single serve vinaigrette salad dressing in another. I sealed the warm food container with aluminium foil, and the others with press and seal. I wound sellotape around a plastic knife, fork, and spoon. Every afternoon as the sun was setting I served myself a balanced meal on a small plastic tray.

I knew that the Dallas Forth Worth International was a huge airport; it’s got it’s own postcode and an estimated 69 million passengers a year travel through it’s 5 interconnected terminals. I think there’s three times a day that an airport is at it’s chaotic best; midday is one of those times. My Omaha flight arrived at DFW close to midday. People rolling their carry-ons were rushing from passenger screening to boarding gates, or hurrying between gates and terminals to catch connecting flights. I joined the melee and allowed it to carry me to the International Terminal D moving walkway. Terminal D is bathed in unchanging light; soft fluorescent light combines with the light reflected from the gleaming floors of the wall to wall arrival and departure plasma screens; it has it’s own shops, cafes, restaurants, and food court. It’s a self contained city that should have it’s own postcode.

image source:jmcadam

But it wasn’t just the thrill and predictable chaos of DFW that caused me to feel a sense of intoxication; I was travelling out of the US for the first time using a US passport. Twelve months ago I was honoured to be granted USA citizenship.

The waiting area of Terminal D’s departure gates are defined by fabric covered, low chairs. Before a flight’s scheduled boarding time a mixture of bored and excited passengers arrive, and do their best to lounge on the low chairs. At first the strangers, who’ll soon become fellow travellers, sit apart from each other; at least four chairs apart. Each waiting passenger defines and protects their space with a collection of carry on hard-side spinner suitcases, duffle bags, and what ever else they’ll try to squeeze into the overhead bin. Soon they’ll share the closeness of an airplane seat; their thighs will touch and they’ll experience the closeness of a shared armrest.

image source:jmcadam

Qantas shares a departure gate with Qatar Airways. I had a lengthy lay over so I first sat with the waiting to board passengers of Qatar Airway’s non stop flight to Doha. I chose a dark blue fabric covered seat in a row facing the walkway and boarding gate. The seat gave me enough room to practise my Toe Raises and Leg Extension exercises; I was hoping to prevent venous thromboembolism. As time went by the empty seats were filled by the bored, and excited Qatar passengers. A passenger, sitting in the row behind me, asked if I would keep an eye on his carry on bag for a few minutes; when he returned he sat in the empty seat alongside me.

At one time, whenever an Aussie took a taxi they’d always jump in the front passenger seat so they could chat with the driver; it was just two blokes having a chat. Their chat usually started with; “been busy, mate?” And so I was soon chatting with the fellow traveller sitting beside me.

Me: G’day; been busy, mate?
Fellow Traveller: Hi there
Me: Waiting for the Qatar plane?
Fellow Traveller: I work over there; one month on one off. I do it once a month to Doha and then after a two hour layover catch a connecting flight. What about you?
Me: Na, the Qantas flight to Sydney mate. Look’s like you’ve got a few handicap people on the flight
Fellow Traveller: You ain’t seen nothing yet
Me: (After about 10 minutes of chinwaging) Strewth, one plane can’t have that many people needing a wheel chair; there must be ten or fifteen queuing up there now
Fellow Traveller: You ain’t seen nothing yet; I’ve seen as many as one hundred wheel chairs waiting to board
Me: Fair Dinkum?
Fellow Traveller: They say they need assistance with boarding so they can be first on the plane to avoid the rush and crush; as soon as they get on board they’re up walking about, lifting up their carry on suitcases, and going to the bathroom
Me: There’s a few of them up out of their chairs now; walking about talking to their mates, stretching their legs. Crikey, there must be thirty chairs there now.
Fellow Traveller: The wheel chairs are moving; I’m in business so we’ll be boarding soon. Have a nice day.
Me: See ya.

image source:jmcadam

I nodded to my fellow traveller when he looked back from the boarding gate. Just before he disappeared into the passenger grid locked jet bridge he smiled and nodded. I pushed down into my seat and finished off 10 Heel Raises and 15 Leg Lifts.

I spent my Qantas waiting time with Heel Raises and Leg Lift repetitions. When I looked toward the gate several Qantas employees were preparing for the QF8 boarding; and wheel chairs were starting to gather. Wheel chair handlers started approaching the mixture of bored, and excited passengers; their dogged persistence reminded me of the hawkers and beggars of Calcutta’s Howrah Station. The announcement “we’ll begin boarding passengers needing assistance first” caused a random chaotic motion of wheel chair handlers. The wheel chairs were empty!!! Wheel chair handlers were frantically weaving through the cramped narrow aisles desperately searching for passengers. The boarding procedure began and a meandering line of passengers formed. The downcast wheel chair handlers started to leave; no one needed a wheel chair to board QF8. I showed my boarding pass and made my way into the jet bridge’s grid lock.

image source:jmcadam

One of QF8’s cabin crew greeted me at the plane’s doorway as if I was a long lost mate. The doors closed, and the cabin crew did their thing with the yellow life jacket as QF8 taxied away from the boarding gate. The world’s largest passenger plane accelerated down the runway and took off into the darkened skies; seventeen hours flying in the dark. Two days later we would land in Sydney’s early morning light.

I was starting on my third repetition of Toe Raises and Leg Extensions when a cabin crew member arrived alongside me with a food and drink trolley. I was about to greet them with a broad smile and a “G’day mate nice to see you again” until I realised it wasn’t the crew member who greeted me as a long lost mate at the plane’s door. They handed me a white plastic tray stacked with neatly arranged plastic food containers; some covered with shiny aluminium foil, others a snap on plastic lid. How the different shapes fitted together reminded me of Tetris, and the mind teaser puzzle game Rush Hour Traffic Jam.


I moved the pudding container, bread roll, and plastic packaged cutlery to make room for a cup to be soon filled with warm tea. I looked down at the now shambolic food tray and started to move, and shuffle, the plastic packaged biscuits, the salad container, the small packet of salt, and the vacuum sealed cheese; desperately trying to fit the puzzle back together. The half opened chicken with peas and rice was balancing on the edge of the food tray and threatening to spill it’s contents into my lap. The crew member who’d greeted me as a long lost mate at the door walked by, and with a smile and a wink pointed to the food tray and whispered: “slide the pudding top right mate”

As I was slipping on the in flight headphones to watch on the seat back screen the second episode of season one’s Big Little Lies I started to wonder why the butter on the food tray is always rock hard. The tray holds warm, sometimes hot food, and it’s been stacked together with forty or fifty other food trays in a humid food trolley. I’ve found it impossible to spread the rock hard butter onto an in flight bread roll without dropping chunks of butter between my legs. I soon forget about the hard butter conundrum because I was being consumed by Big Little Lies.

The cabin lights had changed colour and were a dark warmth. My eyelids started to feel heavy. My head started to drop onto my right shoulder, and my brain began to relax into dreaming mode. It was time to reach into my Qantas amenity kit and find the eye mask and earplugs.


A Terminal-By-Terminal Guide To DFW Airport

People Request Wheelchair Assistance For Airport Priority When They’re Just Fine

Rush Hour Traffic Jam Logic Game

A Little Chafing Is A Dangerous Thing

I’ll bet you a penny to a quid that if you line twenty people up and show them a photo of a coat hanger bridge with the sails of an opera house behind it they’d tell you it’s Sydney, Australia. Most people know about Sydney because of it’s harbour and famous landmarks; not to mention it’s world famous beaches, bronzed Aussie lifesavers with zinc slathered noses, and beach goers wearing pocket size Speedos. Now I’d be one of the first to admit the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the sheltered beaches and eye catching surf beaches, make Sydney one of the most visually stunning cities in the world. But if you live in one of Sydney’s sprawling suburbs instead of one that lines the harbour or beaches, then it’s no different than living in any other ho hum city.

image source:jmcadam

Sydney’s a crowded, sprawling, congested city. It’s jammed narrow CBD streets follow the blueprint of the lane ways and roads of the convict era; most of the main thoroughfares still funnel down to Circular Quay and the harbour. The harbour seems to have a life that’s a far cry from the frenzied hustle and bustle of the narrow, crowded, overflowing city streets; the jam packed city streets have been replaced with the easygoing waters of the harbour. The grid lock of footpath walkers on auto pilot, staring into their smart phone, has become a meandering flotilla of yachts, power boats, runabouts, and green and yellow harbour ferries.

Sydney’s thirty two green and yellow ferries are in constant motion. They’re forever slipping away from Circular Quay to bustle around eight different harbour routes and twenty nine wharves. If you don’t ride a ferry as part of your daily commute, then deciding which harbour trip to enjoy can be a challenge. I think the thirty minute ride across the Sydney heads to Manly Beach is a must for everybody; and it’s been a classic Sydney adventure for over 100 years.


As I ambled towards Circular Quay’s No 3 wharf and the Manly Ferry I felt a slight tingling in my groin. Once onboard I sat on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry and waited with anticipation to feel the vibration of the engine. The smooth chug of the engine propeled my noble green and yellow craft away from Circular Quay, past the Opera House and Sydney’s waterfront mansions, and across the harbour toward the Heads. Whenever I squirmed or moved on the wood slatted bench the tingling in my groin became more that slight.

As my ferry dipped and swayed through, and across, the sparkling harbour waters I began to softly sing:

Farewell to old England forever
Farewell to you numb-skulls as well
And farewell to the well-known Old Bailey
Where I always did look such a swell
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay
Now there’s the Captain, he’s our commander
There’s the bosun and all of the crew
There’s the first and second class passengers
Know what we poor convicts go through
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay

My singing grew louder with every too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay, and I was soon swaying back and forth on the wood slatted seat in time to my boisterous singing. Every sway I took caused the tingling in my groin to become a sharp irritation. As my green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to approach Manly Wharf I put all I had into one last too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy.

image source:jmcadam

The tingling between my legs became unrelenting the closer the ferry got to Manly Wharf. I looked back at the two headlands that formed the Sydney Heads, and pondered. What could be causing the sharp groin tingling? Could it be salty sea spray inflaming an irritation? My thinking immediately travelled back to the mid seventies and Bangkok, and a severe case of chaffing in my groin caused by sweat drenched undies. I asked myself; Could I possibly have chaffing in the groin? I started to mentally check off what causes friction when skin rubs against skin.

    • Clothing that’s too tight or too loose
    • Long distance exercise activities like prolonged walking
    • Excess moisture from sweat
    • Fabrics that don’t wick moisture away
    • Sensitive skin
    • Heat and hot weather
    • Extra body weight
    • Salt residue on skin from sweat or ocean water

Without doubt I had chaffing. The day before riding the Manly Ferry I’d spent a warm summer morning walking throughout Barangaroo Reserve wearing loose walking shorts; there were times when I manufactured a generous sweat. It was Bangkok all over again. I quickly put two and two together. The chaffing would’ve been aggravated by the salty sea spray when the ferry was buffeted by the waves and swells caused by the Bass Straight waters colliding with the waters of the Harbour. When the spray evaporated it would’ve left crystals of sea salt on my skin; the crystals would then cause micro abrasions to the chaffing.


The green and yellow ferry glided into Manly Cove and nestled itself alongside the Manly Jetty. I got slowly up from the wood slatted outside deck seating and shuffled along the Jetty concourse. I tried to keep pace with the sightseers and tourists heading to the Corso; the wide open pedestrian mall lined with shops, cafes and pubs that guides people from the ferry to the surf beach. Each step I took along the concourse was as if I was wearing 80 grit sheets of sandpaper on my inner thighs.

The burning in my groin caused me to once again think back to Bangkok and my sweat drenched undies. The streets were crowded, overflowing, and clogged with people, motorcycles, tut tuts, and buses, and the temperature always nudged the nineties, with the humidity matching the air temperature. Every mid afternoon a brief thunderstorm topped up the humidity. My undies were constantly moist from crotch sweat, and the rivulets of sweat trickling down my back. I didn’t know that my cotton Chesty Bond undies had very poor moisture wicking properties, and once they became wet they stayed wet for as long as you wore them. I soon discovered that Thailand’s own, Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder was the unsurpassed remedy for extreme chaffing; but you had to show a little courage to get used to the lengthy after burn.


As I hobbled down the concourse the memories of the soothing power of Prickly Heat caused my mind to work overtime. Baby Powder had to be Australia’s Prickly Heat; it’s clinically proven mildness was guaranteed to help your skin feel comfortable. Just as a shimmering lake of water appears in the desert to a thirsty explorer an ALDI supermarket appeared at the end of the concourse. I saw supermarket shelves groaning under the weight of endless containers of baby powder and I smiled with relief; as soon as I emptied six ounces of baby powder down the front of my grundies I’d be bounding down the Corso, onto the white sands of Manly Beach, and into the world famous turquoise waters.

I shuffled down the ALDI aisles, dodging young bikini wearing wanna be trendsetters, vagabond surfers, and European backpacking travellers without backpacks, searching for the lost endless containers of baby powder. Without thinking I quickened my step down the aisles, only to be humbled by a burning ring of fire in my grundies. I tottered to the check out, and in a desperate, pleading, voice sought the baby powder

Me: G’day; where’s your baby powder
Aldi Associate: We don’t have any; ya best bet is Coles
Me: Where’s Coles
Aldi Associate: Down the Corso
Me: How far down the Corso
Aldi Associate: Within cooee
Me: Cheers

And so I shuffled off down the Corso, as if my knees were shackled, in urgent search of the Coles’ supermarket.

image source:jmcadam

Before I knew it I was holding a small paper bag with a container of baby powder, and frantically scanning the Corso for a public toilet; I needed a safe haven to be able to empty the container of baby powder into my grundies. The Corso is lined with restaurants, souvenirs shops and a great assortment of other shops, lots of tourists, but no safe havens to feel the soothing power of baby powder. After a painful eternity of hobbled shuffling I arrived at the tree lined promenade, the long stretch of fine soft white sand and turquoise waters, of Manly Beach; but all I could see of the world famous beach was a men’s changing shed and toilet. I staggered into the changing shed, whipped down my shorts, and in a deft movement of my right arm had the baby powder out of it’s small brown paper bag, and into my grundies. I squeezed and shook the baby powder. I don’t exactly know how much powder went into the gusset of my grundies but my groin was emitting clouds of white powder with every step I took. I sat at a picnic table on the promenade gently rubbing my knees and thighs together to press and pat the baby powder into the chaffing.

image source:jmcadam

After several minutes I stood and started out toward the beach. The burning in my groin had vanished. I stood gazing at the fine soft white sand and turquoise water, and was about to slip off my Teva sandals and charge across the sand to walk knee deep into the breaking waves, and along the length of the world famous beach. As I reached for the velco strap of my Teva I realised that my chaffing, and search for the chaffing elixir, had left no time to experience the unique charm of Manly Beach. In a little over an hour I’d be on a guided walking tour of the Sydney Opera House.

It was a speedy rush down the Corso to catch the four o’clock ferry to Circular Quay. As the green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to be buffeted by the waves and swells, I reached for my container of baby powder. I was sitting on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry so I turned towards the Heads and emptied a little baby powder into my grundies.


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Fair Suck Of The Sauce Bottle Mate

I was overcome by both relief and joy when I read that the remains of explorer Matthew Flinders, who went sailing on the big ocean in the sky 200 plus years ago, was discovered in the graveyard being excavated at Euston station to make way for the new high-speed London and Birmingham railway line. Flinders was the first explorer to circumnavigate the island he would called Terra Australis; to be abbreviated latter to Australia. Mathew Flinders is held in high esteem in Australia; it’s hard to find a place where his name doesn’t appear. Mountain ranges, national parks, islands, rivers, schools, and even one of Melbourne’s main city streets, together with Australia’s oldest train station, are named after him. Outside of St Paul’s Cathedral, just down from Flinders street, is a statute of Flinders standing on the prow of a boat, braced against the wind, being brought to shore by two seamen.

image source:jmcadam

The statue is a resting spot for Melbourne’s seagulls; perhaps they enjoy watching the bustle of the trams, and commuters hurrying into Flinders Street Station. The statue always seems to be stained with seagull droppings. I wonder if the splashes are caused by the seagulls excitement at seeing the blur of the number eight tram on it’s journey to the beach alongside Beaconsfield Parade; or maybe they’re fulfilling a promise made to their ancestors. It’s without question that fish and sea birds would have fallen into the hands of the HMS Investigator’s cook during the circumnavigation of Terra Australis. It seems that the seagulls will never forget those that passed before them.

In the seventies I wandered along the unmapped hippie trail through Europe and the Middle East. A few years later I wandered on a similar journey of exploration through South East Asia; still searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. There were times on both journeys when I was overcome by bouts of homesickness, depression, withdrawal, anxiety, and anger. As I look back and remember the heartaches, joy, and hardships of the journeys, I can understand my smorgasbord of feelings; I was experiencing culture shock. I stood in front of the sea gull stained bronze statue, looking up at Mathew Flinders, and wondered if he experienced culture shock on his long journeys of exploration. He had to think of the mother country when he looked out at the distant horizon across the vast and desolate sea. I wonder if he saw in the glow of the sun reflecting off the blue sea the, bucolic, rolling green and brown pastures dotted with animals and farmhouses, and separated by thick tangled hedgerows, of his homeland.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve learnt there are several strategies to combat culture shock. One of the best is to find a healthy distraction. Mathew Flinders certainly found a spot-on distraction; he never set sail on his epic voyages of discovery and exploration without his cat Trim. Another sure-fire strategy to minimise the symptoms of culture shock is to learn about the culture, customs, and foods of a foreign country. Before travelling to that country it’s good to slowly integrate the differences, and variances in cultures and practices into your daily routine.

Before Flinders sailed down to the southern continent he would have known that Australians put tomato sauce on anything that doesn’t move. To avoid culture shock he’d have insisted that tomato sauce was put on everything served at the captain’s table during the voyage down under; even on the seagulls that had been lightly sautéd, and simmered in broth for three hours. Australians have a love affair with tomato sauce; they call it sauce, or dead horse. Most Australians will tell you there isn’t a food that doesn’t taste better with a squirt of sauce. Sauce elevates the taste of a bacon and egg roll, a meat pie, a steak sandwich, mashed potatoes, a sanger sandwich, and chips, and makes them an even more succulent and moreish experience.

image source:jmcadam

When you ask for sauce with your pie at a cafe or cake shop you’ll get a single serve, squeeze on dispenser; a squeeze-mate to Aussies. The squeeze-mate is another great Australian invention. It’ll be spoken of in the same proud, revered way the Hills clothes hoist and the Vicar lawn mower is. The squeeze-mate will take it’s place in Aussie history as the thingamajig that did away with sauce getting all over your fingers, instead of your pie, when you’re messing around trying to tear open one of those small sachets of sauce. On a recent sojourn back to the Lucky Country I experienced my first squeeze-mate. It happened in a Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds, cake shop; there were a couple of squeeze-mates on the plate with my pie. At the time I didn’t know it was a squeeze mate. I laboured for several minutes trying to peel the top off from the corner and then sheepishly confessed to the serving lady I couldn’t peel the top off of the sauce packet. I asked if I could I have another one, suggesting there was something wrong with the packet of sauce she gave me. She took the squeeze-mate from my plate and squeezed it backwards between her thumb and index finger. Instantly there was sauce on my pie. A squeeze-mate’s simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it; it’s all in the squeeze.

image source:jmcadam

You could bet there was as much fresh caught seafood served to the crew of the HMS Investigator each day as you’d find in a Melbourne fish ‘n chip shop window. Nothing beats an order of a piece of flake and chips; except a barramundi fillet, or whiting with chips. Aussies love their seafood; a perfect summers day is downing a few cold ones while throwing some flathead and prawns on the barbie. No ones going to be throwing a few shrimp on the barbie. Shrimp don’t exist Down Under; shrimp are prawns. Some might say it’s disrespectful to an Aussie to call a prawn a shrimp. To avoid culture shock, and to be mindful of an Aussie’s feelings, Flinders probably had his crew practice using the word prawn as they do in Terra Australis.

Don’t come the raw prawn with me, mate
Bruce was a real prawn when he drank too much
Graham went off like a bucket of prawns in the sun

image source:jmcadam

Flinders would have know that Aussies love their Vegemite; that iconic thick, dark brown, concentrated yeast extract made from leftover brewer’s yeast. The spread of dreams is an Australian lunchtime favourite. A basic Vegemite sandwich is two slices of white buttered bread, spread with Vegemite, and then folded onto each other; sometimes it’s jazzed up by adding either cheese, lettuce, avocado, or slices of tomato or apple. Australians will add a tablespoon or more of Vegemite to soup stocks, stews, and gravies to make them taste just right. And let’s not forget Vegemite Soldiers; when Vegemite toast is cut into small fingers to dip into a soft boiled egg.

Vegemite would have been included in the HMS Investigator’s provisions. To reduce the effect of culture shock Flinders would have insisted his crew have, every now and then, a ration of Vegemite on their ship’s biscuit. Imagine the joy when he approved a ration of Vegemite for each sailor and their biscuit. Ship’s biscuits are a hard, dry piece of bread; made simply by mixing together flour, water and salt.

Ship’s Biscuit
Servings: As many biscuits as are cut out
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
1lb wholemeal flour
¼ oz salt
Preheat oven
Combine salt and flour on a work surface
Add the water slowly
Mix until a thick dough
Beat with mallet or rolling pin until ½ inch thick
Fold and repeat several times
Cut into 2 inch circles
Stab each circle with a fork a few times to let steam escape as they bake
Place on a greased tray and bake for about 30 minutes

The biscuits were sometimes called hardtack. Before the hardtack’s could be eaten, the rock hard discs had to be soaked in the cook’s stew, or water, to soften them. Sometimes the only way to eat the biscuits was to wait until they became stale and soft. As the crew savoured the rich taste of Vegemite I imagine there was lots of drinking mugs being banged on the table to set the tempo for singing a rousing rendition of

We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For Breakfast, Lunch and Tea
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek


It’s a penny to a quid there was no eating with the hands when the HMS Investigator approached the coast of Terra Australis. Flinders would have required that the dinner table be set with a knife and fork. Even though the fork was still a novelty in England he would have insisted that the cutlery be used just as Aussies do. Australian dining etiquette emphasises keeping the knife and fork in each hand. The knife is used to cut food into bite size pieces, move food around the plate, and coax food onto the fork. You won’t see an Aussie using a fork to cut their food. I’m sure the crew of the HMS Investigator practised the Aussie cutlery technique, and were eager to set ashore to hunt kangaroo and trawl for prawns; impatient to prepare a banquet and to show off their new cutlery skills to the indigenous people of the Australian mainland.

You’ll need to excuse me. I’ve got a few people coming over for a small backyard soiree and I’m trying something new with spaghetti. It’s genius; I’m combining Vegemite with spaghetti, Parmesan and butter and then throwing in a pound of steamed king prawns. The spaghetti should be al dente by now.


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A Flip Flop In The Hand Is Worth Two On The Feet

The saga of the complex tear of the posterior horn and body medial meniscus, in my right knee has at last come to an end. It seems so long ago since the incident, that sometimes when I think back the mental pictures show up a little fuzzy. It was a late spring morning, and the long grass on the incline in the backyard was damp and moist. My thongs were sliding and slipping on the moist grass as I pulled and pushed the motor mower across the incline. And then the inevitable; a foot sliding out of it’s thong. My leg speared forward. It was as if I was well oiled machine on the dance floor improvising an intimate Argentine Tango; leg forward with pointed toe, leg to the right with a flexed calf muscle, and leg to the back with a dramatic rhythmic move. The medial meniscus incident ended six months later: with X-Rays, MRI’s, and an anarthroscopic medial meniscectomy.

image source:jmcadam

I was in post operative recovery after the meniscectomy and slowly drifting out of the anaesthetic mental fog; I saw my foot slip out of it’s thong and other fuzzy images of the incident. Anaesthetic logic told me that if I could work out what caused my foot to slide out of it’s thong then I would have worry free, incline motor mowing. Even though my brain wasn’t fully alert it built a highlight list of the incident: spring morning, bright sunshine, blue skies, grass moist and damp, random mowing pattern, no sunglasses, mowing up and down incline,thongs. I’m like most Aussies; I love wearing thongs. When I’m talking thongs I’m not talking underwear; I’m talking about what the US and Europeans call flip flops, and Kiwis call jandals.

In 1956, Melbourne, Australia, hosted the Olympic Games. It was the first time the Olympics were covered on television. I remember standing on the footpath watching some of the Olympic events, on a small black and white television propped up in a housewares shop window. We all wondered how it was possible to watch Dawn Fraser, and Murray Rose from a footpath in Williamstown’s Ferguson Street, at the same they were competing at the new Swimming and Diving Stadium; the first enclosed swimming and diving stadium used in the Olympic Games. We watched spellbound as the Japanese swimming team came to the poolside wearing getas. Every footpath television watcher was hypnotised by the spectacle of the ceremonial procession; as were the rest of the world. All Australians wanted to wear the casual sandals they had seen on television. Some bright spark took advantage of the national yearning and started to import plastic, rubber soled sandals from Japan.

image source:jmcadam

And so a flat rubber sole sandal with a strap passing between the first and second toes and anchored to the sole to form a Y, became known as a thong. The thong is now as Australian as Vegemite, meat pies, and pavlovas. There are two styles of thongs in Australia. If the thong strap is held into each side of the sole with one plug it’s called a single plugger. Most Aussies will tell you that single pluggers are a hazard and should be banned; that they’re only good for wearing in a caravan park shower, or a camping ground toilet block. When the strap is held into each side of the thong’s sole with two plugs the thong is known as a double plugger. Double pluggers are the highest standard of thongs; they’re the thong that you’d wear out to dinner, to the pub, a wedding, or a funeral.

As my mental fog was lifting I started to reason through each fact on my incident list, and weighed up wether it would cause an acute medial meniscus tear. I dismissed late spring morning, bright sunshine, blue skies, grass moist and damp, random mowing pattern, no sunglasses, and mowing up and down an incline. I thought hard about thongs and slowly remembered I had on single pluggers. That’ll do it every time. It goes without saying. If you’re wrestling with a motor mower on a damp and moist, grassy incline you’d better be wearing double pluggers. And then I appeared in my mental fog fuzzy images, wearing a pair of low riding jeans, a diamond necklace, and double pluggers; I heard myself free styling to a rap beat

So get up get up and get down: Get your flip flops off the ground: You gotta get your flip flops off the ground: Get your flip flops off the ground

image source:jmcadam

The discharge nurse brushed aside the curtain surrounding my post operative recovery bed, and handed me an oxycodone, an aspirin, and a senna-docusate tablet. The narcotics immediately caused my mental fog to become a little thicker. I thought I heard the nurse detailing my Discharge Activity Instructions. Each one punctuated with; do you have any questions

Rest today. Activity as tolerated
Have a responsible adult present to help you for the next 24 hours
Do not make important decisions for the remainder of the day
Apply ice to the surgical area as instructed by your nurse
No tub bath, soaking or swimming
Do not drive or operate machinery for 24 hours while taking narcotic medications

Maybe it was opioid induced confusion that caused my bafflement about the last activity. I asked; is it OK to wear double pluggers and sit on heavy machinery while taking oxycodone?

image source:jmcadam

As I was removing the hospital gown, and fiddling around putting my just operated on knee into the leg of my shorts, I mulled over the Discharge Activity caution of not driving and operating heavy machinery, or performing any dangerous tasks if you’re taking narcotic medication. I had to be experiencing opioid induced distraction, because my brain was coming up with more questions than answers. I sat and pondered about four unexceptional, average jobs, and I wondered if they could be compromised, or improved, by narcotic medication.

The official corsetiere to Her Royal Majesty has to be a hazardous job even if you’re not on narcotic medication; whenever you’re pulling, carrying, or moving a vibrating regal something you’d have to be treading on dangerous grounds. I seem to remember that most members of the British Royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret, had somewhat over large breasts. I thought about the inherent dangers for the royal bra fitter if they were experiencing opioid induced disorientation and were requested by the Queen to fit her with a cone or bullet shaped bra.


Body painters are becoming a mainstay at fairs, festivals, and parties; and face painters are replacing magicians and clowns at most little one’s birthday parties. What if a face painter was on narcotic medication and in their mixed up confusion didn’t stop painting a little ones face but went all out with a full body paint. The paint would cover the little one’s pores and stop them sweating; their bodies cooling mechanisms wouldn’t be able to work and they’d be overcome with heatstroke. And what if the face painter’s narcotic haze caused them to grab an acrylic latex paint that contained ammonia, formaldehyde and heavy metals. Say no more.

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art and science that manages energy; thus ensuring wealth, wellness, and good fortune. Feng Shui consultants blend colour, light, and arrangement to encourage positive energy flow. I experienced positive energy flow in the early seventies when travelling the hippie trail to Kabul. I walked across the Iranian border into Afghanistan and headed toward a collection of buses. As soon as the small, crumbled bus started to slowly move, several Afghan passengers began sharing their homemade cigarettes; a blend of tobacco and the best Afghan narcotic. The outside clouds formed amorphic beasts in the sky; shapeless creatures appeared and transformed into other creations, and the mountains in the distance became living shapes venting their energy fields. All I know is that there was a lot of Feng Shui on the road to Kabul.


I was first introduced to queue standers at Calcutta’s Howrah Railway Station. I remember thinking that all of Calcutta had to be at the station; half inside and half outside. The chaotic confusion was a blur of motion; and noise, smells, accents, travellers, porters, vendors, wandering cows, and tea sellers. I looked at the crowd at the ticket counters; it’d be more than an hour to reach the ticket windows. I felt a nudge and turned. The queue stander said he’d wait in the ticket queue for me. And now years later, line standing has become an occupation in the US. Long lines, and long wait times, are now the norm for the release of the latest tech gadgets, retro Nike Air Jordan shoes, Black Friday shopping specials, ABBA concert tickets, and celebrity meet and greets. The most common complaints among people whose job requires prolonged standing are: sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. As line standing demands increase, the number of queue professionals being prescribed oxycodone and aspirin medication for their common complaints will increase. Because Discharge Activity Instructions include: rest and activity as tolerated, have a responsible adult present to help you for the next 24 hours, and do not make important decisions for the remainder of the day a queue professional will end up in a confused state sitting, or laying, for hours on end on the footpath. It goes without saying that Queue professionals will be arrested as homeless people.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. Even though the grass in the back is still a little damp from last night’s rain I need to start mowing before the morning is done. I’ll need to find my double pluggers to wear because I’ve come to the conclusion that pushing a motor mower around an incline isn’t something that can be done wearing flimsy sandals, runners, or single pluggers.


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Arthroscopic Meniscus Repair

Have We No Rubbish Bins

I was aghast when I read that a Melbourne school is getting rid of all its bins and asking students to take home their chip packets, juice boxes, and other left over rubbish from their lunches. I started to wonder if this would be the end of the yard duty I once knew. This would take a few ice colds to think through; would yard duty be replaced by random inspections of student’s lunches to check if they’re zero waste.

image source:jmcadam

I went to a Technical School in a working class suburb of Melbourne. My five years as a student at Williamstown Technical School was defined by rules. There were rules for the classroom, rules for the school grounds, and rules for when you went on a school excursion or outing. One of the rules was you couldn’t leave the school premises without permission; so to leave school at lunchtime you needed a lunch pass. Boys living close to school usually had a permanent lunch pass so they could go home for lunch. If there were special circumstances and you needed to go home at lunch time it had to be planned in advance. Your mum would send a note to the headmaster requesting a temporary lunch pass. At random lunchtimes teachers would perform lunch pass checks at the school gates, and patrol the fence perimeter to catch any miscreant who left, or tried to leave, the school grounds without a lunch pass. For some boys the temptation of sixpence worth of chips and a few potato cakes from the nearby fish and chip shop, or an egg and lettuce roll, a vanilla slice, or a bag of mixed lollies from the close by milk bar was overpowering, and they foolishly left the school grounds without a lunch pass. When the transgressors were caught they were offered yard duty or the cuts. As well as copping yard duty, or the cuts, for leaving the school grounds at lunch time without a lunch pass you could also receive yard duty or the cuts for: dropping any paper or food scraps on the school yard, being excessively rowdy or running in the corridors, wagging on sports afternoon, or any behavior a teacher deemed as reckless. Most boys chose a single hander instead of a week of yard duty; but a week of yard duty was always chosen over a double hander, back hander, or six of the best. And a day of yard duty was always chosen over any type of the cuts.

image source:shutterstock

The cuts was being hit across the hand with a two inch wide, two foot long, leather strap. Yard duty was picking up grease proof paper, paper bags and canteen lunch bags, or anything a lunch had been wrapped in, half eaten sandwiches, sausage rolls, pies, the scattered left overs of food fights, or any rubbish that had been dropped, or thrown, on the ground instead of into a rubbish bin. Yard duty was done during lunchtime. When the first lunch bell rang to signal eating time had officially ended you were free to wander around with your hands in your pockets as boys do, play a game of footie, cricket, British Bulldog or bat tennis, and head off behind the shelter sheds and the far end of the oval to smoke; it was also when the yard duty boys reported to the head yard duty teacher to be assigned an area of the yard. The size and location of a yard duty area seemed to be decided on by the whim of the yard duty teacher, and they were inspected just before the afternoon locker bell rang. If an area was judged as unclean the boys assigned to that area would receive an extra day of yard duty. The rule breakers never saw yard duty as an experience to understand the importance of proper waste disposal or the opportunity to appreciate the effects of littering on the environment; it was seen only as a punishment, not as a chance to participate in the upkeep of the school yard and to develop a sense of school pride.


My lunch sandwiches were the standard sandwiches of the day; nothing fancy, just school lunch sandwiches that you’d find in every boy’s brown paper lunch bag. Mum made my school lunch sandwiches each morning; she’d butter two slices of white bread and then add the fillings. I always knew what day of the week it was by the sandwich filling; Monday was cold lamb left over from Sunday’s roast, Tuesday was salad, and then jam, tomato, and cheese to finish off the week. Mum never made beetroot sandwiches because she didn’t like the way beetroot juice soaked into the bread. She’d wrap the cut in two sandwich, and a piece of fruit cake, in grease proof paper and put both packets of goodness into a brown paper bag. The paper bag sat on the kitchen table, waiting to be taken to school. Each day when I finished lunch I folded the grease proof paper along it’s creases and put it into the empty paper bag, and then folded the paper bag into a small packet to put into my trouser pocket. We had to bring our lunch paper bag back and wrappings home so mum could reuse them the next day. Mum kept all the brown paper bags from her Friday afternoon shopping at the fruit and grocer’s shop and used them for school lunch bags; every week I had a new brown paper bag to fold and put into my pocket.

image source:youtube

I learnt the hard way that mum knew best when it came to school lunch sandwiches. Whenever she made banana sandwiches she’d butter two slices of bread and wrap them in grease proof paper. I’d take a bread and butter sandwich with an unpeeled banana for lunch; lunch was a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich and a bite of fresh peeled banana. I must have been picked on, and the target of jokes whenever I took banana sandwiches for lunch; I remember coming home from school one day and telling mum that from now on I must have my banana mashed onto the bread.

The long main school corridor was lined with air tight, three tier, metal box lockers. When the locker bell rang the corridor became crowded with students; it was perfect chaos. You’d put your lunch in your locker in the morning when you collected your books for your morning classes; there it stayed until the lunchtime locker bell three hours later. No sandwich was safe inside a small, air tight, metal locker; jam, and tomato sandwiches were turned into a limp bathroom flannel as their juices soaked into the bread, and cheese sandwiches were transformed into cardboard as the bread and cheese dehydrated. My banana mashed onto the bread sandwich was soggy, and moist, and filled with pulpy, brown, mushy banana; my locker was filled with a bouquet of very ripe bananas. That was my last school lunch banana sandwich.

image source:pixabay

The migrant boys had different sandwich than us. At the end of the second world war the Australian government started an ambitious immigration plan that first targeted British citizens, but then expanded to accept immigrants from continental Europe. A migrant hostel was established at the old Williamstown Racecourse; it was a couple of miles further down Kororoit Creek road from Williamstown Tech. Yugoslav, Cypriot, and Maltese boys were bused to school each day. We looked at the migrant sandwiches with askance and never thought of swapping lunches with them; their sandwiches were an assortment of crusty wedges of bread, slabs of pungent smelling cheeses, and strange looking dried sausages. Today those cured meats, artisan breads and cheeses are the foundation of gourmet sandwiches.

Most of my full time working life in Australia was spent with the Victorian Education Department as a Mathematics and Science teacher. I started teaching in the early seventies and was at at three different inner suburban Technical Schools. It was the seventies so I thought of myself more as a conduit than a teacher. I was in the classroom to create an aesthetic sensitivity for scientific discovery and to share the beauty, and logic, of mathematics with preadolescence boys. I soon learnt that being a conduit was more than creating a circle of learning and curiosity; it also meant student supervision. Because students had to be supervised during recess and lunch, teachers were assigned yard duty responsibilities. As a teacher at Williamstown Technical School I walked the same corridors, wrote on the same blackboards as Mr Baldwin did, and enlightened young boys in the same rooms I sat in as a student. And as a yard duty teacher I walked the same area where I ate a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich with a bite of fresh peeled banana.


As a teacher I loathed yard duty with the same intensity I did as a student. I’d wander out of the staff room still with a cup of tea in hand five or more minutes after the first lunch bell so I’d reach the school yard after the wrongdoers had been assigned their area to pick up the left over scraps from food fights, pieces of grease proof paper, shreds of paper and canteen lunch bags, half eaten sandwiches, and remnants of sausage rolls and pies. I knew to avoid the back of the shelter sheds because the smokers still smoked there; discipline procedures were still in place for students caught smoking and I would’ve had to assign a week of yard duty or a couple of double handers to the smokers. I loitered in front of the trade rooms, and strolled the area where the boys had to sit to eat their lunches. Not meany students stayed in the lunch area after the first lunch belt so there was very little chance of a fight, or any other questionable behavior needing a discipline punishment starting. Sometimes I wandered over and watched the migrant boys play soccer.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. Tomorrow is rubbish day and I need to start sorting the polystyrene green, blue, yellow, red, and grey bins in the basement to prepare my rubbish for collection. And I need to call the Solid Waste Helpline to check if it’s the collection day for the green and blue, the red and blue, the red and yellow, the blue and grey, the red and blue, or the blue and yellow bins.


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