Nobody Ever Listened To My Telephone Calls

I never thought I would ever use a phone as a wireless. And now I’ve started to use my old Motorola Droid as a wireless; it’s connected by blue tooth to a stand alone speaker and I choose where I want to listen to 3AW’s afternoon drive time with Tom Elliott or Neil Mitchell’s morning program. 3AW streams all of it’s programs live. Melbourne is fifteen hours ahead of Omaha during US summer daylight savings time, so I listen to the live stream of Neil Mitchell’s 8:30am-midday Monday through Friday show from 5:30pm-9:00pm on the afternoon of the previous day; imagine listening to Thursday mornings happenings on Wednesday afternoon.

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When I was growing up our kitchen wireless was always tuned to 3AW. Mum would sit at the kitchen table when the Martha Gardener show started and slowly dawdle through her lunch, finishing up with her cup of tea, or instant coffee, just as Martha was winding up her show. Mum swore by Martha’s housekeeping tips and hints; her Wool Mix for washing more than just woollens, or how to deal with a tricky zipper. On Saturday afternoons the kitchen was filled with the sound of Harry Beitzel and the boys broadcasting the match of the day. And the wireless by my bed was only tuned to 3AW. I would lull myself to sleep listening to the advice, and sharing that Dr Alex Kenworthy provided to the lonely talk radio call-ins of the night.

I don’t know why I wanted to build a crystal set. Dad must have bought the copper wire for the coil, the germanium crystal, and the other parts; and we used dad’s old bakelite headphones. I remember winding the copper wire around a cardboard tube and every now and then twisting small loops in the wire. I think we also had a small device made up of fixed plates and moveable plates that you could turn into the spaces between the fixed plates. I don’t think I ever understood how the crystal set worked.

image source:oldheadphones.com

Maybe the thrill of listening to the static rich sounds of far away exotic places was the reason for building the crystal set; or maybe it was the adventure of stringing a wire from the shed in the back yard to the bedroom window down the side of the house for the antenna; or maybe it was clasping the headphones and pushing them onto our ears to  hear the faint sounds of far off lands. Dad must have also bought the coated copper antenna wire. Nothing was ever said about the wood we nailed into the side of the house to tie the antenna wire to, or the small hole in the top of the bedroom window to poke the wire through. Even with the antenna I never did hear the faint sounds of far off exotic places.

My Droid became a wireless when it was replaced by an iPhone. Nowadays it seems that you can count on upgrading your smart phone every couple of years. I think mum’s phone was only upgraded three times in fifty plus years. Back then, every house in Australia had a Postmaster-General’s Department 300 Series Bakelite Rotary Phone. At some point in time the bakelite rotary phone was replaced by a pale green rotary dial phone, and years later the pale green phone was replaced by a push button Touchfone.

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You really didn’t have much of a phone choice because all house phones were provided by the P.M.G. You paid for each phone call that you made and the towns that are now suburbs of Melbourne were long distance. Mum’s older sister lived in Dandenong, a country town twenty miles along the Princess Highway from Melbourne. Aunt Peg lived in Edith Street which was just a short walk from the market. The market was our field of dreams and we would spend the day exploring the market when mum and dad drove us to Dandenong on Tuesdays. Aunt Bet, my mother’s younger sister, moved into my mother’s Dandenong house just after her marriage, and my brother and I would be allowed to stay with Aunt Bet and Uncle Ken for a few days during the school holidays. Aunt Peg was the only person that ever rang mum but when Aunt Bet moved to Dandenong she also would ring mum.

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For a long time the black phone sat majestically on a small, round wooden reading table in the front lounge room; it rested on a white lace doily. Mum could hear the phone ring from any where in the house; she would drop everything and hurry up the passage to the lounge room. She had put an arm chair by the telephone table and would settle into the soft chair for a long distance chat with her sisters from Dandenong. Even though it was a charge by the minute call, the three sisters became famous for their “what can they talk about for thirty minutes” phone calls. Maybe mum got tired of running up the passage to answer the phone, because the phone table and the phone got moved to the kitchen. A long phone cord ran down the passage from the lounge room to the kitchen. The P.M.G would have ran the wire along the baseboard in the passage; no one but the P.M.G could touch anything vaguely connected to a telephone.

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The phone table was moved to be just inside the doorway to the passage and was nestled beside the fridge; the arm chair stayed in the lounge room so mum stood up the whole time she talked to her sisters on the phone. When I set off to the US mum said she would mind my mini fridge; we moved the phone table and put the mini fridge beside the kitchen fridge. The phone was moved to the top of the mini fridge; and it sat on the mini fridge for as long as mum lived in her house. How the times have changed. Mum would be in disbelief; her Touchfone would no longer sit on the mini fridge. She would have a phone that she could carry with her where ever she went; even on shopping days. And there would be no telephone wire along the baseboard in the passage.

We no longer search for nooks, mini fridges, or telephone tables as places to keep our phones; a pocket, handbag, or bra is all that’s needed for our tiny, little, unobtrusive smart phone. And we have to designate a pocket as the phone pocket; which is not easy. Men’s trousers have four pockets, two in the front and two in the back, or five if they have a small fob pocket. Men’s trouser pockets should never be loaded up such that they produce a pocket bulge; always check in a mirror for pocket bulges. By default some of our trouser pockets are already taken; wallet in the back right, keys in the right front, and the left front for coins, tissues or handkerchief, Tic Tacs, tooth picks, and pocket knife.

image source:consumerreports.org

The left back pocket becomes the phone pocket; but this comes with misgivings and concerns

1. When you slide your phone into your left back pocket make sure the screen is facing your leg to lessen the chance of pocket calling or butt dialling; calling someone you didn’t mean to because of pressure being accidentally applied to a button or buttons on the phone.
2. Stuffing a phone into the left back pocket could also result in back problems. Constantly pressing a hard object against your sciatic nerve, the large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg, could cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in the back of the thigh, bum, and leg.
3. In the past couple of years there have been increased reports of cell phones overheating and spontaneously catching on fire or exploding. The left back trouser pocket is not a well ventilated area.
4. I know that the left back trouser pocket is further away from the family jewels than either of the front pockets but they are still being exposed to cell phone radiation. I think there has to be some small cooking of the sperm going on.
5. You run the risk of an accidental drop from the left back trouser pocket when your lowering your daks to the ankles, and lowering yourself onto the dunny; or when your pulling the daks up. Count the floating phone as lost if you don’t want to go fishing around in the thunderbox for it; remember flushing the phone could cause the toilet to back up or clog up the plumbing.

The mornings that were warmed by the gentle spring heat are now a late summer soft shade of blue. I set off for my morning walk around the neighbourhood wearing my usual garb of walking shorts and a body hugging tank top.

image source:jmcadam

I have no where to put my new iPhone. And so I started to ponder about how the human body lacks storage space. I began to think about how nano technology seems to be maturing at warp speed, and wearable technology has already evolved into embeddable implants. And I mused, that if we are connected to our phones 24/7 then maybe they should be embedded in our body; implanted into our head, hand or arm. I think that would solve the problem of finding places to keep our smart phone. And it would save the world from running out of mini fridges.

I downloaded a vintage phone ringing sfx for my new iPhone; it sounds just like mum’s P.M.G 300 Series Bakelite Rotary Phone. I need to set the default ring time of my new iPhone to 40 seconds before it goes to Voicemail.

 

3AW Radio Melbourne

Post Master-General’s Department

How to Build a Crystal Wireless Set

If You Can’t Spell It Don’t Eat It

I think one of the most difficult decisions that you have to make when you’re travelling is where are you going to eat; especially when you’re driving somewhere. A Sunday drive or a day trip doesn’t usually bring about this mind boggling challenge because most times before starting out you’ve made a quick stop at your favourite breakfast place for poached eggs on toast, baked egg strata, or chicken fried steak with eggs and an English muffin; and then lunch is usually a sandwich at Subway or Maccas. And more often than not your back home in time for the evening meal.

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It’s a given that a summer road trip of a few days, or a weekend away, is going to cause daily episodes of acute mental trauma because of the where to eat question. Now I’m the first to give credit where credits due. The highway architects who designed the interstates and freeways that dissect the U.S. and connect it’s major cities, whilst bypassing mid size and smaller cities, had a tremendous amount of foresight; they creatively designed the routes of the roads to connect the clusters of restaurants that were dotted throughout the country. They put the whole question of where to eat on cruise control. As you drive the interstates and freeways the answer to the where am I going to eat question is so obvious there’s no thought involved.

image source:kentucky.com

On the last few road trips, even though it causes longer travelling time, we’ve avoided the interstate restaurant clusters by cruising the secondary highways and travelling through small towns; or if we’re travelling on the interstate we choose an exit, before the FOOD EXIT sign, leading to a nearby town. Most small American towns have a quaint city square anchored by a court house, and shops framing the four streets defining the square; or they have a single main street with the history of yesteryear still displayed by the facades of the shops. The answer to the where to eat question is decided by the size of the town. Most times the choice is the one and only café in the town square or in the main street.

Sabetha is a small town in Kansas off of highway 75. The freeway exit meanders into Main Street. In the 2010 census the city population was 2,571; the city has more jobs than residents. City managers estimate that Sabetha has nearly 5000 jobs, while only having 2500 residents. The Downtown Coffee Co LLC sits on the corner of 9th and Main Streets; an unassuming building with two windows, wider than they are high, resting on either side of the entrance.

image source:google

Amanda who took my order recommended Hacksaw’s Pulled Pork Sandwich; Hack’s very own seasoned pork on a sweet jalapeño bun, topped with your choice of Swiss, American or Pepperjack cheese, and a side of BBQ sauce. Amanda confessed that the Downtown Coffee Co LLC didn’t make the pulled pork in house, the butcher down Main Street did; and so I promptly asked “who made the pies.” I resisted the Coffee Co home-made pie.

image source:google

I looked around the Downtown Coffee Co LLC waiting for my Heck’s; close by was a display of bath and body works products and hemp lotions. On my way to the toilet I passed several small rooms with tanning beds. Now you don’t have many restaurants that offer speciality coffee drinks, soft serve ice cream, pastries, pizza, sandwiches, and that also have a full service tanning salon. If I was asked, I would recommend without hesitation the Downtown Coffee Co LLC for a gourmet grilled cheese panani, and a quick ten minute lay down, or stand up, on one of the tanning beds; and they have free Wi-Fi.

image source:google

A naive traveller wouldn’t recognise the Manchester exit off of Tennessee Interstate 24 as the yellow brick road to quintessential home cooked interstate food. A left turn at the exit and then left at the Paradise Street intersection leads to a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store; opposite the Store is Emma’s Family Restaurant. Emma’s front sign promises HOME COOKIN AT A GREAT PRICE. Now I know home cooking. Mum was acknowledged by everyone in the family as a breathtaking all round cake maker but not as an outstanding cook; she was a basic home style cook. Mum boiled her vegetables, sometimes all together in the same saucepan, and she cooked lamb chops or sausages under the stove griller. I think she cooked her crumbed lamb cutlets in a frying pan on top of the stove; Sunday’s roast leg of lamb dinner and roast potatoes was roasted to perfection in the oven.

I didn’t recognise any of mum’s home cooking in the warming trays soaking in the self service buffet food table. There was just an endless collection of trays of fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried catfish, meat loaf, greens, green beans, black eyed peas, mac & cheese, fried okra, potato salad, salad fixins, and dessert pies and cobblers. After the third trip to the southern comfort food buffet I had to distract myself from the remaining fried catfish and hamburger steak on the plate, so I looked around Emma’s. I saw what a slow camera pan would reveal in a luncheon diner scene in a romantic comedy. Emma’s had a sit down table section. The table and chairs were black, and the chair legs had fluorescent green tennis balls, similar to the precut tennis glide balls you see on orthopaedic walkers, on their legs; which caused me to ponder do tennis balls really belong on walkers. Tennis has to be a dark, distant memory for people who use walkers.

image source:jmcadam

Tennis glide balls on chairs make sense if you’re pushing the chair back from the table to start on your fourth trip to the buffet or if you’re trying to push the chair sideways with your hip when you’re balancing a plate stacked with home cooked southern comfort food. But gliders do come with some drawbacks; what if you push the chair back from the table and the balls came to rest in partially dried mac and cheese or peach cobbler. With the fuzzy balls scraping across a floor covered with dried southern comfort buffet food I wouldn’t think their soft fuzzy bottoms wouldn’t stay soft and fuzzy for long; and they would be somewhat unsanitary. You would need to change the balls at least once a week. But I think the biggest shortcoming of putting tennis glide balls on chairs is that dogs would want to chase the chairs. I would dare anybody to leave Emma’s without a plate of home made peach cobbler and fried chicken.

image source:jmcadam

I always thought the Florida Keys would be like the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise I remembered from the late sixties; that the Overseas Highway would be similar to the Princess Highway, a thin strip of road meandering through small sleepy beach side towns. In my mind I saw a gaggle of motels and hotels, towering five stories or more into the blue sky, transforming the flatness of a modest retirement communities into a natural urbanscape. A five hour drive over water is the best way to describe The Overseas Highway. The highway connects the islands that are the Florida Keys and then it becomes a thin strip of road surrounded by souvenir shops, restaurants, marine rental and charter boat shops, and entrances to hotels, motels, and resorts. It was just after lunch time, and for some inexplicable reason the Overseas Highway was grid locked at Islamorada. Nestled in a small strip mall across the road was the City Hall Café. And a road sign announcing AWARD WINNING KEY LIME PIE. Time to hang a uey.

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I can vouch to the fact that some of the best meat pies in Australia can be had at any shop announcing on their front window, overhead veranda shop sign, or on a wall inside the shop that they have award winning meat pies; and I’ve had some beauties. So I had no doubt that the Key Lime pie from the City Hall Café would be a taste sensation. The lady behind the counter proudly stated “the recipe we use at City Hall is from the library archives. It’s the original key lime pie.”

State Library and Archives of Florida: 1964 Postcard Collection
General Note
Number on back at bottom left: KW.5.
Note recipe at right reading:
“An authentic Key Lime Pie with native key limes. Note the creamy yellow inside. Key Lime Pie is world famous for a just right tart taste. RECIPE: 4 eggs,1 can Condensed Milk,1/3 cup Key Lime Juice.
Beat the yolk of 4 eggs and the white of one until thick. Add the condensed milk and beat again. Add the lime juice and beat until thick. Beat the 3 remaining egg whites until dry and fold in the mixture. Pour into a baked pie shell. Separate two eggs, beat the whites with two tablespoons of sugar until stiff and forms peaks, spread on top of pie and bake in oven until meringue is brown.”
Accompanying note:
“The early settlers along the Florida Keys had no means of refrigeration, and as a result, had very little in the way of desserts. The Key Lime Pie, made from Key Limes that are grown in the Florida Keys, and have a very tart taste due to the rock formation of the Keys, is a result of this search for a sweet that would be made easily from the produce at hand. The recipe has been handed down from generation to generation since the 18th century.”

The Key Lime Pie became Florida’s Official State Pie in 2006. I find if somewhat difficult to imagine a state without an official pie. How did Florida manage without a State Pie for so many years; I suppose that’s what makes Florida great. The special of the day was Snapper Taco’s; I confessed I had never had a Snapper Taco, and in fact I had never heard of them before. And the lady behind the counter once again proudly stated “that’s what the owner caught out fishing this morning.”

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On a full stomach of Snapper Taco’s and Key Lime Pie we headed to Shell World in Key Largo; the beyond compare tourist souvenir shop, stranded in a time warp; where shelves are laden with marine themed snow globes, hats, resort wear, lamps, knick-knacks, and more. After leaving Shell World I started to ponder; would the locals ever get tired of Snapper Taco’s and long for Snapper Flautas or Snook Enchiladas.

Sometimes on a short summer road trip or a weekend away it’s impossible to avoid deep-fried foods, drive through production line hamburgers, and bright orange fizzy drinks. I think for the next road trip getaway I will throw some fresh fruit, muesli bars, nuts, veggie sticks, hummus, popcorn, roasted chickpeas, and fava beans in the Esky and eat in the car.

 

Key Lime Pie History

Walker Glides, Not Walker With Tennis Balls

10 Roadside Foods You Should Never Eat

No Holds Barred

The other night I was channel surfing using the on-air channel guide. The local cable company provides seventy plus channel choices with the TV Starter option. I usually have three or four first choice channels picked out at a time and I cycle between this bundle before I grow weary of their programs. And that’s what caused the channel surfing the other night. I chose a new channel as a first choice channel and now three nights a week a curious fascination draws me to replays of the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny’s guests can include Robert Mitchum, Don Rickles, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Randall, Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal, Charles Nelson Reilly, or Suzanne Pleshette. The replays are from the seventies and eighties; Johnny’s monologues include references to Ronald Reagan as Governor of California, or as President of the United States; the hair styles and wardrobes of Johnny, Ed, and the guests also suggest the seventies and eighties. The other night Johnny introduced and interviewed Hulk Hogan. Hulk was a guest because he had just made his film debut in Rocky III; cast as the world wrestling champion Thunderlips, the Ultimate Male. It was early in his career and Hulk had yet to fully explore and embrace The Hulkster and Hulkamania. Johnny was disinterested in the beginnings of Hulkamania.

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I sat on a cramped couch, glued to the small TV in the corner; the second floor of the bungalow style house was made up of a front room, bedroom, bathroom, and a small kitchen. Lincoln, Nebraska, was now my postcode. Immigrants will tell of how they learned to speak American by watching television. I already spoke English, so I watched television for the synthesis of American cultural and the Australian lifestyle. I watched wrestling; the late seventies and early eighties had to be the second golden age of wrestling. Hulk had become The Hulkster and was a permanent guest on a The Tonight Show format wrestling talk show; Vince McMahon was Johnny. The The Hulksters talked a lot about all the Hulkamaniacs around the world, and the importance of Hulkamaniacs saying their prayers, drinking their milk, and taking their vitamins. And I watched all the wrestling matches; I lost count of the number of times I saw the ripping of The Hulksters shirt. For over a year I watched professional wrestling; I was bewildered by the cast of stock characters, and the plots and twists that moved the fantasy along.

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There was a series of low railway viaducts just passed the intersection of New Footscray Road and Dudley Street. They carried the western suburb trains, Spirit of Progress, Overland, and the myriad of railway lines that made up the Melbourne railway yards. Back then, the yards seemed to go on forever; they stretched from North Melbourne to Spencer Street. The jumble of lines were clogged with every type of goods wagons and passenger carriages; the yards included goods sheds and a hump yard. The shadows of the viaducts and yards fell across the stadium. The West Melbourne stadium was a grungy, concrete bunker sandwiched between the railway lines and Dudley Street. I remember Dad taking us to the wrestling at the stadium. Back then it was the mecca of boxing and wrestling in Melbourne. We sat high up in the raked bleachers and squinted through the dark smoke filled space, to watch the action figures in the ring; a vintage black and white film with a grainy look and light leaks. The ring was a small squared circle in the distance, floodlit by overhead lights; the wrestlers were small mannequins. You barracked hard when Big Chief Little Wolf applied his Indian Death Lock, and you booed Gorgeous George and referee Bonnie Muir.

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I remember the ring attendants ambling around, back and forth outside the ring. There were at least six attendants; they ambled not in a random fashion, but in some predefined pattern around sections of the ring. The attendants wore long white coats; the same white coats Victorian Football League Goal Umpires wore. Over the years I often wondered what caused me to choose studying chemistry at Footscray Technical College instead of art at Caulfield Institute of Technology. As I think back, I remember my fascination with the stadium’s white coated attendants; within an outstretched arms length of uncertainty, walking within inches of a Flying Head Scissors and Atomic Drop, and at any moment a grappler could be thrown out of the ring and land at their feet. I must have chosen chemistry at Footscray Tech so I could wear a long white chemistry lab coat and always walk within an outstretched arms length of uncertainty.

Some boys chose wrestling as an activity at the Williamstown Youth Center. It was the type of wrestling you saw on the newsreels at the pictures; Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling. Wrestling that was always part of army training, or school sports; wrestling that boys did man to man. Submission Holds and Pin-Falls were unknown; we practiced the science of wrestling and only used leverage and balance as our holds. Each match was a physical chess game, and we always finished our bouts as friends.

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Most nights of the week, after tea, I challenged Dad to a wrestling match. When he accepted, we squared off on the kitchen floor. The passageway spilled out into one end of the kitchen, and the back door to the fernery was opposite the passageway. Mum’s sewing machine was tucked into the corner by the door to the fernery, and the phone was on a small table by the door to the passage; the end of the kitchen between the two doorways was a natural squared circle. Dad and I did a freestyle type of wrestling. We started our matches in a modified Referee’s Position; the one where you choose either the top position or the bottom position. Dad always took the bottom position, squatting with his knees and hands on the floor. And that was the only Youth Center move we used. I tried to put dad in an Indian Death Lock, a Hammer Hold, Head Scissors, or a Submission Head Lock but he squirmed and slithered, and used his weight and strength to release himself from my wrestling holds. And when I couldn’t subdue him I would move into him with a series of Japanese Chops.

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In the early sixties Melbourne’s Channel 9 began broadcasting, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, its own World Championship Wrestling. The matches were scripted promotions for Killer Karl Cox’s, Mario Milano’s, Spiros Arion’s, Brute Bernard’s, Bulldog Brower’s, and other wrestler’s weekend matches at Festival Hall. I occasionally watched Gentleman Jack Little and the boys; I was losing interest in wrestling. I had transitioned from a young boy through early childhood, and into a fledgling adolescent. I had things to do on Saturday and Sunday afternoons; besides, I was now wearing a white chemistry lab coat two afternoons a week for Organic and Inorganic Chemistry Labs at Footscray Tech, and the West Melbourne Stadium, the House of Stoush, was no longer the grimy mecca for boxing and wrestling. It had been renamed Festival Hall in the early sixties and it was now Melbourne’s largest live entertainment venue. The Beatles, played the hall when they invaded Australia as part of their 1964 world tour.

Back then there was a lot of decision that you had to make; hippie, bodgie and widgie, mod, skinhead, surfer, or Beatles or Stones. I decided I was Stones so I didn’t see the Beatles at Festival Hall; but I did see an early sixties Chubby Checker concert, and the 1973 Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention concert. I remember Zappa using his guitar as a cigarette holder. He pushed the filter of his cigarette down onto a string sticking out from the tuning peg, and he tucked lit cigarettes under the strings on the pegboard. His cigarette on the end of the string defined its own path as Zappa threw out his own unique solos; it’s embers and smoke joining the other embers and smoke in a darkened, grungy, Festival Hall.

image source:hiveminer.com

Sometimes we look back and question the decision we made. During my search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary in the early seventies I used London as my homeland. I worked as a life guard at an outdoor swimming pool with four other band of brothers; Peter the university student, John the part-time criminal from Herne Hill, Mick the Irishman sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and The Young Londoner. John the part-time criminal from Herne Hill worked a collection of part-time jobs to supplement his income from other activities; when the long hot summer was drawing to a close he asked me what I was going to do for a job. He knew a friend who was trying to get a bunch of lads together to tour small Italian and Eastern European towns and perform one night wrestling matches; did I want to do it. I confessed I had only wrestled on the kitchen floor with my dad. John the part-time criminal from Herne Hill didn’t see that as a problem; the troupe was going to spend the next month learning holds and routines, and developing their characters. The next morning I told John the part-time criminal from Herne Hill, thanks for thinking of me. You always regret some decisions you make.

image source:blackenterprise.com

With the success that Chubby Checker had with Lets Twist Again, Twistin USA, Slow Twistin, and Twist It Up as follow ups to The Twist, I wonder if he regrets the decision not to follow up The Hucklebuck with a version called The Camelclutch

Ah here’s the dance you should know
Ah, baby when the lights are down low
I say, grab your baby then go
Do the Camelclutch (yeah)
Do the Camelclutch (yeah)
If you don’t know how to do it
Man you’re out of luck
Push ya baby out (yeah)
Then you hunch her back (yeah)
Start a little movement in your sacroilliac
Wiggle like a snake, wobble like a duck
That’s what you do when you do the Camelclutch

I didn’t decide to stop watching wrestling; I just drifted away from it. And the other day I found an old small box labelled John’s Toys; I sold my Titan Sports 8-inch 1984 vinyl Hulk Hogan wrestling action figure, that included a championship belt, and a box of 25 assorted wrestling action Band Aids.

 

Festival Hall: the greatest moments from Melbourne’s favourite live venue

Channel 9’s World Championship Wrestling

Frank Zappa Bio

I Wasn’t Naked I Just Didn’t Have Any Bathers On

The last few days in Omaha has seen the temperature pushing into the nineties, with the humidity matching the air temperature; and summer officially begins in a week. Maybe the corn sweat has launched early this year, or maybe global warming caused July and August to start in June. After heaving the lawn mower around the backyard, and oozing with sweat, I pushed back into the green resin stack-able patio dining chair that I had put in the garage; even with the door open it’s the coolest place in the house during summer mid mornings. My head lolled forward and the resin chair became a bold and beautiful folding deckchair. I didn’t try to interrupt my eyes closing and I was soon back playing a game of beach cricket and trying to eat a paddle pop before it melts.

image source:johnmcadam

Back when, my summers usually began in November; the temperature began creeping into the eighties as we sat in our winter uniforms, squashed two to a desk, in the hot classrooms at Williamstown Tech. On those hot days the teacher opened the windows but the cooling south breeze only arrived in the late afternoon; the air was stifling. We sat silent and unresponsive, glancing up at the large octangular speaker in the corner, waiting for the headmasters announcement to be broadcast into every room:

boys, you may remove your jumpers and loosen your ties

It was around late November when the summer uniform replaced the winter uniform. We were permitted to wear shorts, a short sleeve shirt without a tie, and summer socks.

image source:picturevictoria.vic.gov.au

When I was a young teenager drifting into adolescence it seemed as if I spent every day of the school holidays at Williamstown Beach. I would leave my bike resting against the chain link fence of the Life Saving Club with the towel that I always wrapped around my shirt and shorts lodged under the bike below the pedals. The Life Saving Club was at the end of the promenade that ran alongside the Esplanade; a low curving blue stone wall separated the sand and water from the promenade. Back then, the sand ended just before the Life Saving Club; a rock wall arched around past the club. There were two sets of steps inset into the wall that led into the water. Past the steps were the rockies. There were no steps down to the rockies. You clambered down the wall onto the rocks. At different places the rocks had formed openings and the waves and tidal water gushed into and out of these deep grottoes. Only the brave went there to swim; only those enduring a rite of passage, or answering a dare. The rockies were the first time I swam starkers.

image source:errantries.com

I don’t remember dad driving the family to the Gold Coast on holidays but I know that he did. I remember looking out over the Blue Mountains at the three sisters; I don’t remember Sydney. After leaving Sydney we would have driven up the two lane Pacific Highway to the New South Wales border town of Coolangatta. The thin strip of road connecting Coolangatta with Surfers Paradise snaked through the small sleepy, Gold Coast beach towns. I don’t remember Surfers Paradise. I think we stayed in the Tweed Heads caravan park. I would have gone swimming in the surf at the beach. Mum had a couple of strict swimming rules; we could only go as far out into the water where we could still touch the bottom, and the most enforced rule was we could only go into the water an hour after eating. After every meal, or snack, mum would hold court and warn us of the severe consequences of swimming immediately after eating:

your stomach will cramp up and you will sink to the bottom and drown

It took until young adulthood for me to go swimming straight after I had eaten; and I never once got stomach cramp.

image source:johnmcadam

My second visit to Surfers Paradise was in the late sixties; it was still the land of meter maids and Mini Mokes. The re-built Surfers Paradise Hotel anchored Cavill Avenue and it’s Birdwatcher’s Bar was crowded with males of all ages downing a few cold ones: you staked out a drinking spot by the glass windows to watch the girls in their bikinis saunter past. New motels and hotels, towering five stories into the blue sky, were carving out the new Surfers Paradise skyline. The beer gardens were a welcome retreat from the mid day sun for the holiday makers. Constant rounds of  beer and mixed drinks, and a good counter lunch were the norm. The Bee Gees grew up in Redcliffe, about 70miles from the Gold Coast. The holiday makers paid scant attention to the young boys when they sang their way through the beer gardens. One night I was putting away a few cold ones, and mum had never said anything about waiting an hour after your last drink before going swimming, so I decided I should be swimming at Surfers Paradise beach. I could just make out the breaking waves from where I was on the moonlit sand but I peeled off my clothes and ran towards the breaking waves. I swam starkers in the Surfers Paradise surf.

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I was young; I didn’t know danger. It was only a couple of years since the Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, mysteriously disappeared while swimming alone at a beach near the ocean-side town of Portsea. Maybe he went swimming without waiting for an hour after eating.

When I first went searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary in the early seventies I used London as my homeland. I worked as a life guard during a long hot summer at an outdoor swimming pool that was nestled in the corner of Brockwell Park. Brockwell Lido was a drop kick from the Herne Hill train station, or a short bus ride away from the Brixton tube station; sometimes I would endure the long walk across Tooting Bec Commons and through parts of Streatham. The Olympic size pool was surrounded by asphalt and concrete, and a ten foot high brick wall. On each side of the pool were the dank, dark, subterranean men’s and women’s changing rooms. A high diving platform was at the deep end of the pool and a large concrete water fountain towered over the shallow end. The life guard changing room was behind the fountain and the room shared a wall with the first aid room. The changing room and the first aid room had an outside door to the park.

The pool and it’s surrounding concrete provided a welcome respite from the sweltering summer heat to the people of Lambeth and South London. Five of us: Peter the university student, John the part time criminal from Herne Hill, Mick the Irishman sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, The Young Londoner, and the Aussie searching for inspiration and idealism plucked quite a few little ones from the shallow three foot end of the pool, and were regarded as hero’s by their young mums; we also dragged a few teenagers and adults from the deep end after they jumped off the high diving board and discovered they couldn’t swim.

image source:johnmcadam

We often worked until after nine during the weekdays but finished earlier on Sunday evenings; sometimes different combinations of us would stroll over to one of the local Herne Hill pubs to sink a few pints after work. Last call was around eleven. A collection of uniformed first aid volunteers would show up on the weekends. It was an early Sunday evening and a couple of the young uniformed first aid lady volunteers agreed to join us for a few rounds at the local. It had to be after eleven when we; Peter the university student, John the part time criminal from Herne Hill, Mick the Irishman sympathetic to the troubles and a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and the young uniformed first aid lady volunteer lurched out of the pub and headed towards the Lido. We had decided to go swimming.

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We lifted Mick the Irishman onto the top of the wall and he in turn hoisted John the part time criminal from Herne Hill onto the wall. They let themselves into the first aid room with the key the young uniformed first aid lady volunteer had given them and unlocked the outside door to the park. We all swam starkers, in the moonlight, at Brockwell Lido. As I think back it was fortunate that we had consumed only pints of warm English bitter and not snacked on any of the Scottish eggs available from the bar; waiting in the moonlight for an hour after eating may have proven to be a little tiresome.

The Thailand I remember was a county transitioning from a rest and recreational retreat from the Vietnam War into a tourism mecca. In the mid seventies Chiang Mai was a sleepy country town nestled among the forested foothills of northern Thailand close to Asia’s infamous Golden Triangle; the meeting of Thailand, Burma and Laos and the center of the infamous opium trade. Our back packers hostel was a collection of buildings surrounding by trees and foliage; they ringed a small delightful courtyard. Five of us intrepid travelers set off from our hostel on a two day hike into the mountains and villages of the Golden Triangle. A friend of our guide dropped us off at the entrance to a rough track into the mountains. We dragged ourselves along mud trails, skirted countless opium fields, and trekked through small villages and into and out of Laos and Burma.  I wondered if the opium farmers guided their donkey caravans along these old jungle trade paths. It was late afternoon when we arrived at our overnight mountain jungle village.

image source:sports.vice.com

Before eating and sleeping we were encouraged to cleanse the dried mud and sweat from ourselves in the nearby stream. I think the rivulet was the fresh water supply for the village. I wandered along the stream, downstream from the village. I sat naked in a cold mountain stream in Asia’s Golden Triangle.

Nowadays you can relax during a scenic drive through the countryside in air-conditioned comfort and stop off at attractions such as the Hall of Opium Museum and the Mae Ka Chan hot springs, where you can soak your sore muscles in three natural pools and let tiny fish nibble dead skin from your feet. Which makes me wonder if fish have to wait an hour after they eat before they can go swimming.

I haven’t been swimming for years; maybe I should go swimming in a sand pit. I will probably need to go out and buy a pair of bathers.

 

What In The World Is Corn Sweat

Brockwell Lido

History Of Surfers Paradise

I Look At My Clothes To See What I’m Wearing

The other day when I was resting on the fringe of the women’s section at a WestRoads department shop I slowly became aware that I was surrounded by racks or women’s clothing that had parts of their shoulder, or the complete shoulder removed. It appears that leaving part of the shoulder exposed, or the whole shoulder and upper arm exposed, is the must have look for 2017. The cold shoulder look is everywhere; dresses, jumpsuits, bridal gowns, and even bathers. And surrounding the cold shoulder displays were racks of Hippie Laundry label smocked off-the-shoulder tops, tie-dye popover tops, and destructed shorts.

image source:johnmcadam

As the sales associate wandered by I turned to her and with a slight smile said

If you can remember the sixties, you weren’t really there.

The sixties welcomed tie-dye shirts, long flowing gypsy skirts, fringed vests, and peasant blouses; I learned that women had shoulders. The associate was staring off into the display of cold shoulder clothes and answered

I had a halter top sun dress and a batik tie dye halter top.
I wouldn’t wear the cold shoulder; it’s for the young ones.

I don’t remember going shopping for clothes back when. Mum made most of my clothes until I was in my late teens. It’s impossible for me to forget the blue blazer and grey long trousers that she made for me; I was maturing into a teenager and it was time for me to wear grown up clothes. The blue blazer and grey long trousers were about twice the size they should have been, but they were made for me to grow into; maybe the loose, baggy fit was some cool early sixties look that I didn’t know about. Mum said that the blue blazer and grey long trousers were to be kept for best; they were my going out clothes.

image source:pinterest

On school holidays mum and nanna would take me with them when they went into town on one of their shopping days. Like everybody back then they would wear their best dresses, and sometimes gloves, when they went into town. I would wear my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes. We would stop at Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade and I would sit with mum and nanna, and the other shopping ladies enjoying their sandwiches or if it was later in the day scones and a cup of tea; they were all in their stylish suits or dresses. I was in my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes.

If you looked closely into the dark night you could just make out the glow of the new landscape that television was carving out across Melbourne. But it was still a time when going to the pictures in town on a Saturday night was a special occasion; a special night out and you would wear your best clothes. Dad would wear a suit and tie, and mum her best Saturday night going out dress. I wore my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes.

image source:considerthesauce.net

I was a young teenager when I first caught the train to Yarraville to take learn to dance classes at the Universal Dancing Classes Ballroom. I was expecting the debonair Pat McGuire and his wife Marjorie to turn my two left feet into dancing sensations; I would glide across the floor showcasing the pride of erin, fox trot, and the evening three step. Mum was so happy that I wanted to learn to dance; I was so happy for the opportunity to meet girls. Mr McGuire would walk the boys through a dance, and Marjorie did the same with the girls. When he thought it was time to practice the dance he had the boys line one side of the hall and the girls the other. Most of the time it was boy’s choice so you had to invite a girl to dance. The girls didn’t know if you had mastered the dance steps or not; I’m not sure they cared because they were at the Universal Dancing Classes Ballroom to meet boys. I know it wasn’t my pot cut, I was growing my hair into a long sixties style, that caused the girls to turn down my invites to step onto the dance floor. Every week the refusals repeated themselves and I would spend the night sitting in front of, and learning against, the boy’s wall. As I sat in front of the boy’s wall I searched for the reason why the girls refused my invite to join me on the dance floor; the only common denominator that came to mind was that my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes made me look like a dork.

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I stopped going to dance classes at the Universal Dancing Classes Ballroom and I never wore my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes again.

I remember when The Beatles invaded Australia as part of their 1964 world tour. We all wanted a Nehru collar jacket. A year later Jean Shrimpton shocked Melbourne when she wore a mini skirt to Derby Day and caused absolute silence in the members lounge at Flemington Racecourse. It was five inches above the knee and her legs stopped a nation. And that was the first time I appreciated women’s fashion. I learned that women had knees and thighs. I was neither a mod nor a rocker but I did take charge of mum’s electric sewing machine and peg my jeans to produce a stove pipe effect. I turned the legs inside out and sewed a new tapered seam alongside the original seam; creating a small opening at the bottom of the legs that I could just squeeze my feet through. Even though I was rewarded a new freedom when I became a college student at Footscray Tech I still needed mum to provide food, shelter, and clothing. I wanted to shop for my own clothes; the closest I got was telling mum what I had to have. It was the late sixties and cool college students rejected the hippie fashion of tie dye, leather sandals, flowers and peace signs, and beads and fringes; that would all come later.

image source:leonidgurevich.blogspot.com

Our uniform was corduroy pants and desert boots. I did persuade mum to buy me a paisley shirt. It was a time of conflicting idealism, protest, rebellion, and freedom of choice. We could choose to be hippie, bodgie and widgie, mod, skinheads, or surfers; and I became a little of each depending on what I could persuade mum to make with her sewing machine. A bottle green duffle coat, navy blue refer jacket, a green jerkin, tapered jeans, bell bottoms, and black ripple sole shoes were the only constants as I brushed up against the late sixties and early seventies sub cultures. I remember owning a suit. I left the suit in Australia when I set out in the early seventies on my first hallowed rite of passage searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. Mum would have kept the suit, but I never wore it again.

Carnaby Street was on the cusp of it’s hey day when I was living in London. In the early sixties it was the birthplace of Swinging London, the home of mods, skinheads, and punks. It was the place to be if you were creative and in search of inspiration. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks made Carnaby street a legend; in the early seventies it’s rebellious reputation was fading.

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The fashions of yesterday in the left over menswear boutiques were making way for the emerging punk culture. I resisted becoming a dedicated follower of fashion during my search for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary; my journey started and ended in jeans. When I returned to Australia after wandering Europe, and drifting through the Middle East and into India along the ill defined hippie trail, I left my jeans on the bedroom floor for mum to wash. I wore my Indian kurta shirt, harem pants, and scarves the first few times I walked Douglas Parade.

And as I sat back resting on the fringe of the women’s section at a WestRoads department shop I started to ponder why is fashion only for the skinny, gap tooth smiling, youthful young ones and why is fifty plus the age that makes us no longer style conscious.

If fashion designers refuse to create daring, provocative, every day fashion that allows all of us fifty plus to flaunt an intense, emotional street style image then we need to create our own. Every pop culture that we travelled through defined itself by the clothing and fashion they established and left behind; hippies, bodgies and widgies, mods, skinheads, surfers and punks wore their individual clothing in a collective way. I think we need to forget about the 50 and older sections in clothes shops that are stocked with age appropriate clothing and just shop in whatever section we want. Ours is the right to create a mix-and-match wardrobe.

image source:johnmcadam

But there is a place for the trousers with an elastic waist band that straddles the back of our waist, and need to be positioned just above where our stomach starts it’s bulge. We need to lower them so they sit low on the hip, below the waist, below the waist band of our brightly coloured, patterned boxer shorts. We need to reveal our underwear. Sagging shouldn’t be the exclusive fashion of Justin Bieber.

Fashion predicts that for 2017 hipsters will combine styles. Hipster chic street style will be mixing grunge and hippie; must-haves such as matching button ups, knee-high socks, polka dot tights, cool striped crop tops and big floppy hats. So it’s time that we reach into our wardrobes and storage boxes and reclaim our skinny jeans and trousers, the corduroy jacket with the leather patches on the elbows, the leather sandals, tie-dyed and paisley print, and shirts decorated with beads and fringes, bell-bottomed jeans, Nehru collar jackets, and the duffle coats and refer jackets of yesteryear.

For the last thirty years I have headlined floral print shirts year round. And I bought shorts from Australia and wore them before they were popular in the mid-west; before the united parcel delivery driver or post men wore shorts. Mum would only let me take a little from each culture; a pegged jean here and a paisley print there so my wardrobe is bare. If only I could wear my loose, baggy blue blazer and grey long trousers going out clothes one more time. This time with a floral print shirt and I would glide a partner across the polished dance floor in my own maverick style.

 

Sixties’ model Jean Shrimpton shocks world with first miniskirt

Carnaby Street: 1960 – 2010

The Beatles let it be in Australia: 1964

A House With No Name

You wouldn’t know if it’s springtime or what season the outside world was grappling with when your walking the upper level of WestRoads in the mornings. Inside the mall each season has the same prescribed climate; temperature is maintained at a constant mid-seventies, there is no breeze, and the lighting is never darkened by clouds or the threat of rain. Because spring has dismissed winter, I’m walking throughout the neighbourhood in the mornings instead of WestRoads. The three laps of the upper level and the two laps of the lower level of the mall have become a meandering one hour stroll through the streets where I live.

image source:johnmcadam

Some mornings I have to wait for the spring harsh rains to become a soft gentle shower; when occasional droplets are falling on the sunshine that is breaking through the clouds. It’s that perfect time of the year. Mornings are being warmed by the gentle spring heat; the tight buds on the forsythia and dogwood branches are straining to open and the trees are sprinkled with leaves and blossoms. I vary my walking track each morning. Sometimes I tackle the uphill uneven footpaths first off and other mornings head in the opposite direction to keep the hills for midway through my amble. The other morning I set off before the rubbish trucks had wandered through the neighbourhood so the bins, plastic bags of rubbish, green recycling tubs, cardboard boxes stuffed with paper and plastics, yard waste bags bursting with grass clippings and leaves, and bundles of branches tied with string were all in disorganised chaos on the footpaths. It was easier to leave the footpaths and walk the roadways; I fell into a pattern of long and short strides and my thoughts went back to when rubbish bins lined the nature strips of my childhood.

Like most people back then we only had one galvanised rubbish bin. Once a week on rubbish day the bin was put out on the nature strip to be emptied by the rubbish man or, as we all knew him, the garbo. One bin was more than enough because most people burnt their rubbish. Our incinerator was an old 44 gallon oil drum in the back of the yard. I don’t know where it came from or how it got into the backyard. There was a cut out rectangular hole, about ten by six inches, at the bottom of the tin so the ashes from the burnt rubbish could be culled and thrown onto mum’s garden.

image source:johnmcadam

When I think back I wonder if it was the ever present incinerator in the back yard and the ashes being scooped out from the fire and smoke that caused me as a youngster to close my eyes whenever we drove past the Springvale Crematorium on the way to Aunt Peg’s. Mum’s sister and our cousins lived in the country town of Dandenong; a 20 mile drive from Melbourne in the Austin A40 down the Princess Highway. The crematorium was a silhouette across the fields. I silently ached for the A40 to accelerate and leave behind the incinerators that burnt bodies.

Before meat, fruit and vegetables, groceries, and bread and biscuits were wrapped in plastic you’d just tell the shopkeeper how much you wanted. Items were weighed on a shop counter scale and then wrapped in paper, or put into a paper bag, to be carried home in a string bag or a shopping jeep. And the paper and food scraps became food for the incinerator. Our rubbish bin was filled with glass bottles, tin cans, and anything that wouldn’t burn in the incinerator. I remember the small horse drawn rubbish cart; green with large wheels on each side. The cart’s shape was a large drum cut in half; curved metal, sliding coverings on each side formed the top of the cart. The horse stopped, slowed down, and started without a command. The rubbish tins were the equine traffic signal.

The garbo lifted the metal tins onto the side of the cart and dumped the rubbish into the cart, and when the cart was filled he would slide the coverings closed. I remember the rubbish trucks replacing the horse drawn carts. In summer the garbos would run up and down the street, dressed in footy shorts and a singlet, banging the rubbish bins on the sides of the truck as they emptied the rubbish into the truck. At Christmas mum and dad would always leave a few bottles of beer out on the footpath for the garbos.

Aksarben, where I now live, is a quaint suburb of Omaha. Bordered by Elmwood and Memorial Parks, it embraces an array of homes, from brick Tudors to Craftsman-style bungalows, and the streets are lined with mature trees. It’s a suburb where you would expect houses to have front fences and a name. I amble a different way through the neighbourhood each morning searching for a front fence; a French Gothic picket, a row of dense evergreen hedge plants, or a low stone front yard wall. But my front fence searching is in vain.

image source:google

No one is gonna call a house a real Australian house unless it has a front fence, front yard, and a name. The front fence and front yard are part of Australian history. I think the front fence has remained part of the The Land Down Under suburban house because an Aussie wants privacy from the street, and a place where their little ones can safely play.  There are some, though, that maintain a fence in front of a house adds nothing to the appearance of the house or street. Many different styles of front fence lined the street where I grew from a young boy through early childhood and then, to a fledgling adolescent. A relative of ours had a large concrete scalloped fence. Our house had a high wooden picket front fence; in time it transformed into a low square picket fence and then into a scalloped picket fence.

image source:johnmcadam

During the fifties and sixties many picket front yard fences were restyled into unique statements by Greek and Italian immigrants. Melbourne still has a few traditional front yard fence styles; wooden picket, low stone or masonry pillars interlinked with thick chains or rods, woven wire, squat brick veneer with a touch of decorative wrought iron, or tea tree.

It is said that every house built in Australia before about 1930 was christened and given a name by it’s architect, builder or first owner. After the Second World War the Australian government committed to a vigorous and sustained immigration program and house naming was once again in vogue. British, Italians and Greeks were the first to arrive in large numbers to the The Lucky Country, and when they secured their first home they named them after the counties, Italian towns, Greek regions, and English parishes they came from or where their families lived. If a house didn’t have a name then its name became who lived in the house; the Tillerson’s, the Bate’s, and the Ashford’s houses made up part of our street.

image source:google

Our house was named Montrose; a lovely little dark coloured plaque with curly and fluid gold lettering was attached to the weather boards by the front door. Montrose is a small Scottish coastal town nestled between Dundee and Aberdeen. The McAdam name stems from the Scottish Gaelic McAdam clan, which originated as a branch of Clan Gregor. Clan Gregor is a Highland Scottish clan famous for the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor. Back in the late forties and early fifties I don’t think Mum and Dad would have so admired Rob Roy that they would name our house after a small Scottish coastal town 100 miles from his birthplace. Maybe the house was already called Montrose and, because I’m a descendant of Australian Royalty, a third great grandson of the transported convict Thomas Raines, the house chose us.

image source:google

The immigrant Lebanese family, the second owners of the Milk Bar on the corner of Douglas Parade and North Road, only knew mum as Mrs Montrose. The shop was only a block away so when ever we ran out of milk, or needed some bread, mum would duck over to the corner shop instead of going to Mrs Worm’s on Melbourne Road. She would be welcomed as Mrs Montrose; whenever mum was in the middle of something and I went over to get the milk whoever of the Lebanese family was serving at the time would ask, and how is Mrs Montrose.

As I saunter through the neighbourhood I also look for house names. So few houses have a name. They only have numbers. But there are a few house with the same name; Huskers and Big Red. And that makes me stop and think; a house shouldn’t have the same name as another house in the neighbourhood. A house should be named for a geographical feature, a type of tree or plant or flower, an animal of the area, the seasons, an event or period of local history, a memory or desire of the person who lives in the house.

Our house also doesn’t have a name, just a street number, so I think I need to give it a name. If the house had a name it might help the help the postman deliver letters and it would ensure the butcher, baker and milkman made their deliveries to the correct address; a trend already redefining the retail grocery trade is the convergence off online shopping and home delivery. Coming up with a name for a house should be an enjoyable and pleasing experience so I need to think about a name in the backyard over a few cold ones; I’m thinking The Beer Drinkers Arms, The Malt Shovel, or The Stagger Inn.

I should probably also start leaving a few bottles of beer out on the footpath for the garbos at Christmas time.

 

How Do I Trace The History Of My House

Rob Roy Scottish Outlaw

Shit brick fences of Melbourne  Facebook

I Only Drive The Speed Limit

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

image source:heraldsun.com.au

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

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

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

image source:registriesplus.ca

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

image source:pinterest

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

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

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

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

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

 

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