Let Them Eat Cakes

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

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

john-and-fruitcake

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

cakes

image source:aaronmaree.blogspot.com

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

lamington

image source:tabletopplanner

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

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

acland-cake-shop

image source:ieatthereforeiam.blogspot.com

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

tea-room-window

image source:johnmcadam

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

carlton-cakes

image source:johnmcadam

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

beechworth-cakes

image source:johnmcadam

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

yea-street

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

 

Cake Wrecks

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Beechworth Bakery

Australia’s Next Crowd Pleasing Tourist Attractions

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

seat-pocket

image source:flywithdinh.blogspot

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

john-plane

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

image source:toonz.con

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

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

streets-beach

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

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

zevenboom-lane

image source:marvmelb.blogspot

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

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

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

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

 

Plough Inn South Bank, Brisbane

Rutledge Lane, Melbourne

Parliament House, Canberra

Transported to Australia

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

john-toiletries

image source:johnmcadam

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

henry-jones-room-numbers

image source:weekendnotes.com

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

franklin-wharf-hobart

image source:youtube.com

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

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

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

chalk-board-first-fleet

image source:johnmcadam

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

franklin-waterfront

image source:virginaustralia.com

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

dogline

image source:mapio.net

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

port-arthur

image source:johnmcadam

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

prison

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

van-diemens-land

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

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

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

 

Port Arthur Historic Site

The Henry Jones Art Hotel

Australian History

Christmas in Australia

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

john-window

image source:johnmcadam

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

hobart-xmas

image source:johnmcadam

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

assembly-line

image source:flickr

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

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

geelong-xmas-tree

image source:johnmcadam

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

myer-window-2-2016

image source:johnmcadam

myer-window1-2016

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

fish-market

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

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

 

The 2016 Myer Christmas Windows

A Guide To Australian Christmas Foods

17 Ways Christmas Is Very Different In Australia Vs America

The South Face

Unlike most Omahaians who remake their wardrobe in mid October with jeans, flannel shirts, quilted down vests, fleece hoodies and sweaters, to prepare for winter I stay with Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Depending on the severity of the winter weather I will choose from an Eddie Bauer vest, a goose down filled coat, a leather bomber jacket, or an Australian Duster Stockman’s oil skin coat to wear over the decorative Hawaiian shirts when I am foolish enough to venture out of the house. I sometimes swap the shorts for a pair of chino’s. Late last winter the zipper on my going outside for a short time Eddie Bauer vest broke. The vest was a marvelous October, November, and part of December garment; but not really great for snow, strong cold winds, and fifteen degrees temperatures. And I always found it somewhat uncomfortable when I wore the vest under the goose down coat or the leather bomber jacket. The vest just wasn’t satisfying for layering. So mid October was a favorable time to join the rest of the Omahaians who were winter clothes shopping to try to unearth a replacement for my zipper broken Eddie Bauer vest. I went searching for the replacement at the Omaha location of a national sporting goods chain store; the shop carries, sporting gear, outdoor recreation and hunting equipment, footwear, and Nike, The North Face, Columbia, and Under Armour clothing.

sporting-goods

image source:fortune.com

The broken zipper Eddie Bauer vest replacement had to be comfortable when layered over a Hawaiian shirt so I headed for The North Face jacket wall. I rummage through an eclectic assortment of The North Face outer apparel and reached into a hanging wall display of standard black jackets; I needed to try one on for size and also experience for the first time that The North Face feeling. The ten or more jackets hanging from the wall rail were in a tangled disarray; each jacket had a plastic loop lock running through it’s sleeve; and the loop locks were bundled and locked together. The jackets were impossible to remove from their hanger and wall display rail. There was a white button on the wall with a sign: Push Button If You Need Assistance. Two associates arrived and I mumbled: It must be difficult to achieve an appealing display that also allows the customer to easily interact with the merchandise without compromising security. Even though one of the associates was the floor manager she ignored my continuing stream of rhetorical reflections on impulse buying. In an attempt to gain her attention I proclaimed: The merchandise is only a souvenir of an outstanding shopping experience. She turned and walked away, leaving the recently hired sales associate.  The recently hired sales associate gave me a confident smile and I gestured to the hanging black The North Face jackets and announced: I would like to try a jacket on.

john-and-coat

image source:johnmcadam

The recently hired sales associate, with the dexterity of an angler bringing a hooked Blue Marlin into the boat, guided the long hanger shepherds hook to a top rail and swung a jacket down to me. I had obviously impressed her with my visual merchandising insights because she confided that the jacket wasn’t really me and that I should try The North Face Pneumatic jacket. She explained that the Pneumatic was for those who like to get outdoors and enjoy a wide range of high energy endeavors; it was fashioned with Apex Universal stretch soft shell technology and would remain breathable during aerobic activities: even in moderate weather conditions. She had summed me up. I wasn’t totally happy with the The North Face Pneumatic. I was disturbed with my profile; it bunched up just below the chest and suggested I had extra girth in my upper stomach; this fullness in my stomach made the jacket tight and appear stretched. It was the same outline that I had seen when middle aged bicycle enthusiasts wear those skin tight spandex biking outfits.

bike-riders

image source:mariobartel.com

We live in the Aksarben neighborhood of Omaha; just a few blocks from the redeveloped Aksarben Village. The summer farmers market, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and concerts at Stinson Park make the area a perfect rest stop for cyclists fighting the Keystone Trail; a popular twenty seven mile urban concrete corridor enjoyed by commuters and outdoor biking enthusiasts. On weekends when the trail is populated with walkers and joggers, bike riding families, and Sunday cyclists the village becomes an expanse of spandex. And it seems that most of the Sunday cyclists have complemented their spandex with finger gloves, elite socks, earbands, cycling sunglasses, a road helmet, and bike cycling shoes with cleats. The cyclists who are not refreshing themselves with bottled Fiji or Icelandic bottled water are ordering a tall non fat latte with caramel drizzle, decaf soy latte with an extra shot, triple venti soy no foam latte, or a grande iced sugar free vanilla latte with soy milk, from the Village coffee shops. And as I watch the parade of spandex warriors I just know that they will soon be ordering Radler’s.

Last year a national retailer that focuses on eclectic imported housewares, furniture, decor and specialty foods, opened a store in Omaha. I just recently hung up my red apron after having the enjoyment of working part time at the store since it opened. I delighted in sharing with customers different samples of world foods and beverages; talking about the traditions, history, recipes, and anecdotes of what they were tasting. Radler’s were a popular sampling. And I shared that the Radler was invented by the Bavarian innkeeper, Franz Xaver Kugler. Franz’s inn was in a small town twelve miles from Munich. When bicycling became popular in Germany after the First World War he had a bike trail constructed from Munich, through the forest, to his inn. It is said that one Saturday thirteen thousand cyclists descended upon his inn and demanded beer. They almost drank the inn dry. That is until Franz had an inspired stroke of genius; he had several thousand bottles of a clear lemon soda in his cellar that he couldn’t sell, so to get rid of the useless lemon soda he mixed it 50/50 with the remaining beer and then proudly declared he had invented a concoction just for the cyclists so that they wouldn’t fall off their bikes on their way home. He called his new mixture Radlermass; Radler means cyclist in German and Mass means a liter of beer. And you can still buy Radlermass in beer shops all over Germany. Radler is now being brewed by a host of American brewers; their blend of beer, and fruit juice or soda, is being embraced by all American hipsters.

stien-drinking

image source:worldnews123.com

The second stop in the search for the broken zipper Eddie Bauer vest replacement was the La Vista location of an outdoor gear and sporting goods store. The store serves the hunting, fishing, shooting, and camping enthusiasts. The North Face Glacier Trail jacket chose me. As soon as I slipped it on and before I could zip it up, I felt the breathable TKA fleece. I had never worn a Thermal Kinetic Advancement fleece jacket. The label promised that the athletic fitting TKA fleece would move with me on demanding hikes and that it was an ideal layering piece in cool to cold conditions. And that spelled Darjeeling. If only I had had the The North Face Glacier Trail jacket back when I wandered the steep and curved pathways, and twisting streets of Darjeeling.

cloudy-darjeeling

image source:flickr

Darjeeling sits high up in the Himalayan Mountains and the air is thin. I remember that spring was in the air and that the cold had shifted away from severe and intense; the temperature was yet to reach agreeable. I traveled into India with clothes that were only good for the warmth of Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma. The Darjeeling days were still short and, by early afternoon, damp clouds replaced the tepid sunshine. I bought a thin, light blue, woolen blanket from a street vendor. You can’t hide from the majestic views of Kanchenjunga and the Himalayas in Darjeeling; the snow covered peak of Kanchenjunga provides a magnificent backdrop to the township. Darjeeling is about fifty five miles south of Kanchenjunga; the second highest mountain of the Himalayas and the third highest mountain in the world. And so I called the thin light blue blanket that insulated me from the cold damp Darjeeling air The South Face.

kanchenjunga

image source:pixabay

I roamed the Darjeeling hillsides, and the steep winding roads lined with shops and market stalls, shrouded in The South Face. And I savored Darjeeling tea in the leftover cozy English tea rooms buried in the thin light blue The South Face. Back then the Darjeeling zoo was just three wire fence enclosures bordering a steep road. You looked at the meager collection of animals by walking alongside the fence. On the fence of the llama enclosure was a warning: Beware Of Llama Spit. I remember pulling the The South Face even tighter around me and shrinking my head down into it’s safety. The thin light blue The South Face also protected me from the coldness of Afghanistan and Iran. I was insulated from the bitter, freezing, Turkish mountain winds when our bus stopped in the desolate nowhere; cocooned inside the The South Face I spent the cold frigid night with my head frozen to the bus window.

I was still unschooled in life and searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary when I discovered the benefits of layering in Darjeeling, so I remained naive and innocent to the unimaginable future of basic layered clothing. I was inexperienced in the theory of unconditional basic layering: A base layer against your skin manages moisture; a middle layer provides insulation and helps retain heat by trapping air close to your body; and a shell layer or outer layer is for protection from wind, rain or snow. I should have trade marked The South Face and had a logo designed and stitched onto thin light blue blankets. I could have set up small street stalls along the hippie trail and sold the The South Face to wandering backpackers.

john-glacier-jacket

image source:johnmcadam

After mid October when Omaha has snow filled fifteen degree temperature days I think I will dress with The North Face Glacier Trail jacket as a middle layer. The top third of my The North Face Glacier Trail jacket is a florescent green and the green continues down each sleeve creating a stripe; the rest of the jacket is a pale gray green. I might get to like winter in the mid west.

 

The 10 Best Shandy and Radler Beers

The North Face Story

Cycling Gear

Eating Lollies And Walking Down Sideshow Alley

One of the tourist must-do things in Florida is to hang out in the keys; that string of coral islands south of Miami that stretch for 120 odd miles between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. I knew about Key West and Key Largo; Key West because of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats, and Key Largo because of the Bogart and Bacall classic film Key Largo. I started a little late the day I ventured into the keys so knew that I didn’t have the extra hours needed to sample every wilderness and seascape that unfolds along the one hundred plus miles of roadway, and the forty-two arches of concrete and steel, that make up the Overseas Highway. I stopped at Shell World in Key Largo; the quintessential tourist souvenir shop stranded in a time warp. There is something for everyone at Shell World.

john-unicorn-head

image source:johnmcadam

Some may find it unusual to find a latex unicorn head nestled among the snow globes, alligator hats, marine-inspired resort wear and shell lamps, but I saw it as representing the hippocampus; the fish-tailed horse of the sea from Phoenician and Greek mythology. I slipped on the latex unicorn head. There was a strange but satisfying scent in the mask and within a few minutes, I could only hear my deep, slow, relaxed breathing. I opened my eyes and I was just one of the many people staring up at a platform. Behind the platform was a tarpaulin wall serving as a canvas for the most incredible artwork; a panorama of workmanship depicting the elephant boy, snake girl, lobster boy, the mermaid lady, and dog-faced man. This majestic painted canvas wall teased all of us about the collection of excitements, sensations, and bizarre fantasies that were just inside the tent.

sideshow-alley

image source:pinterest.com

The Royal Melbourne Show is organized by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and for more than 150 years has been bringing a small slice of Victorian country life to Melbourne. The Show happens for eleven days every September at the Melbourne Show Grounds and attracts up to half a million people each year. Mum and dad took us to the Show a couple of times and later I remember dad driving me to the showgrounds; dad would drop me off at a side entrance gate and we would agree, and promise, on a time to be picked up. I spent the whole day alone at the show. Then I rode the red bus to the showgrounds. The red bus wandered from Williamstown Beach through Footscray and past the showgrounds. The bus stop, at the corner of Melbourne Road and Wilkens Street, was only a short walk from our house. And there was a green bus. The green bus went from Newport railway station, down North Road to Douglas Parade, Ferguson Street, Nelson Place, and then to Williamstown Beach. When I was a youngster, mum’s special treat was to take me on the green bus to the Williamstown shops. I was allowed to kneel on the seat; I’d press my forehead and nose to the window so I could watch the bustle of Douglas Parade pass by.

grand-parade

image source:i135.photobucket.com

The Royal Melbourne Show was about celebrating champion livestock, the country’s best horse riders, the toughest wood chopping axe men and women, and life on the farm. The agricultural pavilion showcased perfectly arranged eggs, ham, vegetables and bottled fruit, and the art, craft, and cookery competitions produced amazing cake decorations, and eye-catching embroidery and smocking. And Victoria’s excellence in livestock was advertised each day by the swirling mass of hundreds of animals choreographed to become the Grand Parade. Back then I didn’t care about any of that. My Royal Melbourne show existed for three reasons; sideshow alley, show bags, and the Victoria Police exhibit.

I don’t remember a Melbourne Show without sideshow alley; made up of merry go rounds, Ferris wheels, other mechanical rides, test your skills stalls, and the tents housing the freaks, illusion and magic shows, death-defying acts, and boxing performances. I was young, naive, and innocent and I was seduced by the promises of sword swallowers, mermaids, bearded ladies, five-legged cows, two-headed calves and much more; all just inside the tent and just for a couple of shillings. The showground air carried the hypnotizing, funereal tempo beat of the bass drum from the Sharman Boxing Troupe tent.

sharnin-tent

image source:dictionaryofsydney.org

Until 1971 the Sharman Boxing Troupe had spent sixty years being part of the Australian Show landscapes.

Boom, Boom, Boom.
Who’ll Take A Glove?
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
Come on, come on, come on. Give it a go. Survive three rounds and we will give you five pounds.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
And the tent boxers were introduced one by one to the crowd.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
But I never did have the courage to go inside the tents of sideshow alley.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.

And the games of sideshow alley challenged your skills and you were rewarded with a prize without taking a glove. Most of the games involved throwing something at something. A popular game was throwing tennis balls at a group of stacked tin cans. Throwers stood at a line at the front of the tent and tossed the balls the length of the tent; and there was always a tin can left standing.

clown-game

image source:brisbanetimes.com.au

Another popular game was pushing ping pong balls down a clowns mouth when the head was moving from side to side. The first ping pong ball was always a test ball. After putting it down the mouth you would pay attention to the numbered slot it ended up in. And then you figured out when to put the ball in the clown’s mouth to get the score needed to win one of the prizes on the top shelf. All you needed to win at the game was a knowledge of mathematical and physics concepts, courage, perfect timing, and concentration. I watched people play the clowns for a long time but never saw anybody win a prize from the top shelf. Maybe they just needed a little bit of luck. I never played any of the games in sideshow alley.

The Show was also about showbags and the Victoria police exhibit. I remember the paper showbags; they were used by companies to promote their products. There were only a couple of halls where you could buy showbags and there were a couple of kiosks scattered around the showgrounds that also sold the bags. The halls were lined with show bag stalls and once inside you navigated carefully past the prams and pushers, laden down with show bags, to arrive at your chosen showbag stall. The contents of the bags were displayed on the stall’s back wall or spilled out onto the front counter. My favourite bags were the Cherry Ripe, Lifesavers, Violet Crumble, and the Giant Licorice bag.

showbags

image source:pinterest.org

Each year I just looked at the Rosella and Coles bags but never bought them; there were never enough lollies in them. There were over fifty show bags to tempt a young boy, and they were just a couple of shillings each. But time marches on; there are now three hundred plus plastic bags filled with assorted treats and the cost is upwards of twenty-five dollars. Licensed bags fill the showgrounds; Barbie, Disney’s Frozen, Looney Tunes, Breaking Bad, and Captain America show bags now persuade today’s show goes; and the Australian Food Awards Deli bag contains cheese, olives, and baked pita. Where are the lollies?

The Victoria Police Exhibition was the magnet that pulled you away from the sideshow alley. The small exhibit shed was crammed with police memorabilia, archives, and collectibles. I would squint at the faded sepia-coloured police mug shots and become the police photographer at the scene; examine the forensic evidence collected by the specialist crime squads and mature into a D24 detective; stare at large grainy black and white photos of Melbourne’s notorious crime scenes and be the fearless photographer capturing the images of the blood-stained carpet and crumbled bodies. And I stared wide-eyed and in awe at the newest technologies for fingerprinting, photographing, and communication. For a short time, I was Plain Clothes, Constable Smith.

fairyfloss

image source:funfoodhire.com.au

The air at the show was an exotic blend of animals, fairy floss, meat pies and tomato sauce. I never heeded mum’s guidance to go and find the country ladies food hall to get something to eat. The ladies food hall was the Country Women’s Association hall and the ladies sold home-cooked meals. The dinners were meat with roast pumpkin, scalloped potatoes and peas, rissoles, or silverside with mashed potato. Ham, egg, and salad sandwiches were also popular And dessert was a slice of pavlova or fruit jelly. I happily snacked on meat pies, cups of hot chips, jam doughnuts, and fairy floss.

Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
As the years passed I lost interest in the show bags and the intrigue and mysteries of the Police Exhibition were replaced by staying home and watching the Australian television police dramas Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
And each year the sideshow alley tents became fewer and fewer.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.
Years later as a young adult I visited the Royal Melbourne Show and I went to the country ladies food hall for scones with jam and cream, and a cup of tea.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.

The Royal Melbourne Show was a September tradition along with the School Holidays; there was even a Show Day public holiday. And it’s still a tradition for some Show visitors to stop at the country ladies food hall for scones with jam & cream, and a cup of tea.

The 2017 Royal Melbourne Show will run from Saturday 23 September through Tuesday 3 October.

 

Royal Melbourne Show

The Country Women’s Association of Victoria

Five Minutes of History: Jimmy Sharman

Always Start The Day With A Dry Hanky

Sometimes when I’m rounding the last turn of the second floor of Westroads Mall after walking five times around the perimeter I get this urge to make a pit stop. Most of the time I’m rounding this final turn around 9:30 am; the inside main lights are flickering on in some shops and managers with coffee in one hand are bending down unlocking the rolling grilles to let themselves into other shops. It’s as if the shops are stretching and waking from a deep sleep; there is still some time before they open. I have two public rest rooms to choose from. One is close to my final turn; you get to it from a walkway that connects the two long perimeter hallways and the other is at the opposite end of the mall tucked into the back of the Flagship Commons.

john-mall

image source:johnmcadam

One of the mall anchor department shops opens early on two mornings of the week. If the stars align and the shop is open I saunter through the men’s section on the way to the rest room. The other morning I was stopped in my tracks. I was in the men’s ties, suspenders and socks area and there in front of me was a circular three tiered shelf display with a sign trumpeting pocket squares. I walked curiously up to the three tiered display and saw a collection of what looked like folded small handkerchiefs. I was baffled. Back when, I would have gone straight home and asked mum what are pocket squares. If anything was made of fabric mum knew what it was. Before she married dad, mum worked as a seamstress. She continued to practice her sewing skills by making everything from shirts to trousers for my brother and I and she gave any of our clothes a second life by seamlessly patching tears and turning collars. I rummaged around, turning over the small handkerchiefs, trying to work out what they were. And then I uncovered several boxes labeled men’s handkerchiefs; three 100% cotton handkerchiefs per box. I hadn’t seen a box of men’s handkerchief in so long.

hankies

image source:johnmcadam

I reached for my smart phone and Googled pocket square. I scanned the small screen, swiping and pinching, and deduced that the pocket square was once a handkerchief. It seems that in the 19th century when two piece suits became the must have fashion statement, well dressed men didn’t want their pristine handkerchiefs rubbing shoulders with the dirty coins in their trouser pocket so they started keeping their handkerchiefs out of harms way in their top left coat pocket. And it didn’t stop there; the introduction of different folding techniques, exotic fabrics and engaging designs, made the public display of handkerchiefs tremendously popular. They became a leading fashion accent.

pocket-squares

image source:rotana.net

When I was growing up you kept your handkerchief in your trouser pocket. And we never called them handkerchiefs; we knew them as snot rags. Girls had hankies. We would only call them hankies when we asked mum for a clean snot rag. Mum would always be telling us; use your hanky to wipe your nose, not the back of your hand. In those bygone times there was quite a few nose blowing techniques. And most have persisted through to the present. I remember blowing snot rockets by blocking one nostril and blowing mucus forcefully out the other. You would always step up for the snot rocket challenge; lining up with a few of your mates to see who could blow the further most snot rocket. I didn’t know it at the time but I was experimenting with the physical variables for acceleration along an arc; lowering my head to change the angle, or raising my head to vary the height of the snot rocket arc to gain maximum distance. At the same time as varying the arc trajectory I would vary the blowing force used to release the snot.

snot-rocket

image source:appalachiantrials.com

And sometimes you would cut short the nose blowing process by hocking a lugie. There was a skill and creativity in coughing up into your mouth a wad of phlegm, and then spitting the clump of gelatinous mucus out without dribbling any of it onto your chin. I soon learned that the best way to hock a lugie was to use several short controlled breaths instead of coughing; this caused the phlegm to collect as a loose ball in the throat. The last step of a good hock was to let the loose phlegm slide down your throat a little so it would gel together; and then you would give it one last breath to push the chunky chunk into your mouth. A similar challenge to the snot rocket challenge was who could spit the wad of phlegm the greatest distance.

phlegm-throat

image source:medicaldaily.com

I always wondered why snot rags were white. If you never took the phlegm challenge you ended up with with a thick viscous yellow, brown, greenish wad of expelled custard in your snot rag. There was no way to easily fold a snot rag over phlegm before you put it back into your pocket; you just kept folding until the phlegm was covered. The next time you reached for your snot rag it came out of your pocket as a hard encrusted lump because the thick viscous wad of custard had dried and glued the folded over snot rag into a solid laminate. Sometimes it took a little dexterity to get the glued layers of cotton apart; you always made sure when you were folding the cloth over the phlegm that you left an edge to grab later so that you could easily peel a layer of the snot rag off the dried yellow crusty mucus. And so I wondered why snot rags were white because you always ended up with a blotched yellow, green, or brown crusty stained snot rag. A paisley pattern or a yellow green Fraser Clan tartan would have seemed more suitable.

phlegm

image source:en.wikipedia.org

Sometimes mum would ask for our hanky. And we knew what was coming; our wincing and grimacing would not forestall the inevitable. As soon as we hesitantly handed her our snot rag she would twist and fold it and then lick or spit onto it so it became a cleaning cloth. Mum would then use the damp part of the snot rag to scrub some mark, that only she could see, from somewhere off of our face; or some dried food from the corner of our mouth. It must have been the acidity of mum’s spittle that dissolved the dried phlegm and snot and gave the snot rag those amazing abrasive cleaning powers. And I wondered if mum ever had an after taste after she licked our snot rags.

I don’t remember how many snot rags I went through each week; I know that I didn’t get a clean one every day. So with three males in the family there was probably twelve plus snot rags a week that needed to be washed. I don’t know what mum’s snot rag washing process was; if she separated them for soaking in her wash troughs or mixed them with the other clothes. My guess is she soaked the snot rags with the undies. She would have used the soaking water to water her orchids. Neighbors and friends said that mum had a green thumb when it came to orchids; they all admired her garden of orchids in the backyard. Maybe mum knew that the snot rag and undies soaking water was a balanced fertilizer and also had all the necessary trace elements for orchid nourishment.

orchid

image source:abc.net.au

Our snot rag was a cloth of all trades. Whenever a pick up game of cops and robber or cowboys and indians happened the snot rags for the robbers and indians were folded into a triangle, positioned under the nose, and tied with a knot at the back of the neck. The cops and cowboys would wear the snot rag with the triangle at the back of the neck and the knot tied under the chin. Snot rags were also used to signal the start of an impromptu bike race or a game. In the 1959 Ben Hur movie staring Charlton Heston, our very own Frank Thring who plays Pontius Pilate drops his hanky to signal the start of the famous chariot race. A cut, abrasion, or bruise suffered during a game of footie or British Bulldog would cause a snot rag to be fashioned into a makeshift bandage; to be proudly worn as a badge of honor. It was also great for keeping precious treasures safe. You always wrapped your snot rag around your pocket money and then knotted it to keep your coins safe. And if you ever found anything small and alive and injured, you picked it up, and gently put it into a temporary cocoon fashioned from your snot rag. Snot rags were a great place to keep the green caterpillars picked from gum trees; after getting home and filling a shoe box with gum tree branches the caterpillars were unpacked from your snot rag and gently placed into their new home.

caterpillar

image source:museumvictoria.com.au

Sadly the disposable paper alternative to a cotton snot rag, together with modern advertising, has caused the downfall of the hanky; today it is only known as a breeding ground for filth and disease. With so much history it deserves a comeback; so it’s time to take the hanky challenge. Now I’m not suggesting that you become an ardent hanky wielding fanatic all at once; take baby steps into the world of snot rags.

Check out the movie The Yellow Handkerchief.
Tie a hanky to your car antenna.
Use a hanky next time you fly to cover your eyes when you want to nap.
Try a magic trick using a hanky.
Wave a hanky to get someone’s attention.
Test out blowing your nose into a hanky at home to see if you like it.
Next time at a restaurant use the word handkerchief in a sentence.

 

The Fabulous History of the Humble Handkerchief

9 Ways to Fold a Pocket Square

How to Blow Your Nose

Never Confuse Halloween and Valentines Day

It’s early October and the leaves have started their colour change; the treetop yellows, browns and greens are at work creating the pattern of an Autumn quilt. It is early yet. The frost hasn’t arrived but the Halloween costumes, decorations, and treats are filling the shops. Pumpkins are slowly appearing on the porch steps and Halloween decorating is trying to add a spooky, scary bad dream to neighbourhoods. Not growing up with the tradition of Halloween I have never really appreciated the rituals, the practices of trick and treating, and the celebration of dressing up to usher in the winter season; besides, in late October in Melbourne, the trees are blooming to herald summer and daylight savings is preparing Australian’s for backyard barbecues and endless sun-drenched days on the beach. There’s a lot of things about Halloween I don’t understand. I thought it was a day when souls in purgatory are remembered; and during the night before, All Hallows Eve, poor people go door to door to receive food in exchange for praying for all the dead sinners whose souls are still waiting for purification before going to heaven.

john-halloween2

image source:johnmcadam

As I wandered through the makeshift Halloween aisles of a local shop I started to ponder over all that I don’t understand about Halloween. Why don’t people go door to door dressed up as poor people? And why do people give out candy? According to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey spending on Halloween costumes in 2016 is expected to reach $3.1 billion and the most popular costumes will be:

Children’s Costumes
1. Action/Superhero
2. Princess
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
4. Batman Character
5. Star Wars Character
6. Tie: Witch and DC Superhero (excluding Batman)
7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
8. Marvel Superhero (excluding Spiderman)
9. Zombie
10. Spiderman

Adults 18-34 years old
1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) and DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excluding Batman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
8. Pirate
9. Star Wars Character
10. Zombie

Adults 35 plus years old
1. Witch
2. Pirate
3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
4. Vampire
5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excluding Batman) and Star Wars Character
8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
9. Scary Costume/Mask
10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.)

Over the last thirty years, I’ve kept the light on twice for the tricksters and treaters. I insisted on being schooled and coached the first time; it was my first Halloween as a homeowner greeter and I wanted to be accomplished when the little youthful urchins and waifs came to the front door. I rehearsed my message of kindness. It was trick or treat themed, an acknowledgment that I understood the task ahead of the little orphans; receiving food in exchange for praying for all the dead sinners whose souls were in purgatory. I assembled an abundant assortment of little Snickers, Reese’s, Babe Ruth’s, M&Ms, Milky Ways, 3 Musketeers, and Twix and crowded them into a medium-size bowl.

halloween-candy

image source:pixabay

The doorbell rang and I nervously opened the door and met my first two little poor people. I muttered the first of my rehearsed lines: And who are you. I didn’t expect their name’s just the name of who they were for the night; the superhero, the prince or princess, the mythical person they had disappeared into in an attempt to escape their destitution for one night. They just held up a plastic orange bowl the shape of a mid-size pumpkin; their wide eyes looking up at me. I tried again with my second well-rehearsed line: Do you have a trick for me. The two personas non grata’s just held the orange bowl a little higher. And a worried look started to inhabit their parents face. I gave the scamps some Snickers. It was like a scene from Ground Hog Day the second and third time the doorbell rang; my well-rehearsed lines delivered to the outcasts at the door; the bowl, plastic bag or paper shopping bag just pushed forward; the Snicker’s dropped into the ragamuffin’s container. I trusted that the pariahs would remember those souls in purgatory.

giving-candy

image source:mommyish.com

It was several years later when I kept the light on again. And I was prepared. It was a warm evening for late October and so I decided to sit outside and wait for the costumed revellers to arrive. I had also reassessed the meaning of Halloween; it was all about the candy. Forget those souls in purgatory, forget the mischief-making, and forget the presence of otherworldly spirits. My neighbour joined me in the driveway way and we sat waiting, discretely sipping cold beers. At our feet were two vessels, each overflowing with candy. Both porch lights were on and as soon as we noticed a dressed up merrymaker become distracted by the porch lights we beckoned them with: Candy over here, and we let them help themselves.

halloween-mall

image source:nytimes.com

Halloween in the Mall seems to capture the true celebration and superstitions of All Hallows Eve. Shop assistances stand in the doorways of the shops with their arm extended holding a plastic bucket of Halloween Candy Corn or Tootsie Rolls, and focused on texting or posting to Facebook and interacting with Periscope with their other hand whilst the endless conveyor belt of little pranksters shuffle on by.

When it comes to present-day Halloween it seems greed is good and the goal is to see how much candy you can get inside a pillowcase, backpack, or a brown paper grocery bag. It is estimated that a quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween. The American Heart Association is reporting that today about one in three American children and teens is overweight or obese. Furthermore, among today’s children, obesity is causing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. Also, the American Dental Association is concerned about an increased risk for tooth decay because of the length of time that Halloween sugary food is in the mouth.

tooth-decay

image source:miriyalapediatricdentistry.org

They want everybody to have a healthy Halloween mouth and caution that dental decay and damage done by sweet sticky treats can lead to root canals and crowns, or a tooth can become abscessed and infected. I think this epidemic of childhood obesity, and health and dental concerns is related to too much Halloween candy. It goes without saying that the tricksters collect enough candy at Halloween for two months or more of continuous eating. It seems now is the time for action. It’s time to stop giving out good candy. It’s time for second rate candy, and to give out things that aren’t candy, and things that aren’t edible. Second rate candy giveaways could include:

Gummy Flesh Fries
Four cut off watermelon-flavoured gummy fingers some even with blood on them complete in a French fry box.
Box of Boogers
Gummy boogies that look & feel real; tangy fruit flavours include Snottermelon, Lemon Loogey, and Sour Green Boogey.
Zit Poppers
Strawberry and watermelon flavour gummies shaped like a zit with an oozy, sticky, goo filling.
Gummy Rat in Trap
Gummy squishy, fruit flavoured, rat in a trap.
Sour Flush Candy Toilets
Come with two lollipop plungers that are dipped into the Green Apple, Grape, Raspberry or Watermelon sour powder candy in the bowl.

rat-in-trap

image source:sugarpressure.com

sour-flush

image source:youtube.com

And things that aren’t candy would include; granola bars, whole-grain cheddar cheese crackers, and packets of sugar-free hot chocolate. Toothbrushes or school pencils could be handouts for things that aren’t edible.

I don’t remember any celebration when I was growing up where lollies were the celebration. Back then lollies were a hard-earned delight. You would go hunting for discarded Tarax or other soft drink bottles to take back to the corner Milk Bar for the bottle refund. And it could be several weeks before you would even find one bottle. If you had saved your pocket money then you may have as much as sixpence to spend on a bag of mixed lollies. Our gang would gather outside Dasher’s on Saturday afternoons; just because. I don’t think we ever knew the owner’s actual names but we had christened them Mr and Mrs Dasher because we decided that they moved so slow. Dasher’s was at the corner of Douglas Parade and Bunbury Street and was a typical Milk Bar.

milk-bar

image source:theage.com.au

At the back of the shop was a wooden display case; a mind-boggling treasure chest of trays crammed with all types of loose lollies. This goldmine was part of the counter and had a hinged glass lid. The lid was scratched and made opaque from the countless times youngsters had run the knurled edger of their threepences, sixpences, and pennies along the glass as they fastidiously selected their lollies from the assortment in the case. Dasher counted out your choice of lollies and handed over a small white paper bag that would hold licorice allsorts, clinkers, fruit tingles, choo choo bars, black cats, mint leaves, or milk bottles. It was luck if your bag of mixed lollies lasted through the afternoon.

And Halloween is trying to make inroads into Australia. From reading online Melbourne’s hometown newspaper it seems it is becoming popular with Australia’s little one’s; no doubt because of extreme marketing of lollies in supermarkets and everyone’s exposure to American television shows. But it still hasn’t taken off really big with adults. Some pubs and clubs have Halloween themed activities and parties, but most adults prefer to dress up for a Halloween BBQ or a house party. Australians will use any excuse for a party.

aussie-party

image source:givernywitheridge.wordpress.com

Just as Australia has some of its own traditions, rituals, and celebrations for Christmas I think if Halloween is going to be celebrated in Australia then it should also be uniquely Australian. Instead of looking towards America for costume inspiration and settling for an Anna or Elsa, or an off the rack Captain America costume in an Australian Target store, I think that Australian’s should give serious thought to dressing up as either; Mr. Squiggle, Dame Edna Everage, a koala up a tree, B1 or B2 from Bananas in Pyjamas, Sir Don Bradman, or Steve Irwin. When the small V B Stubbies or Slim Dusty’s come knocking on the door the only lollies they could choose would be fantales, freckles, jaffas, steam rollers, or minties.

For my next Halloween I think I might dress up like a joey in a pouch and hand out cobbers.

 

Halloween in Australia

Candy Wharehouse

History of Halloween

My Rear Vision Mirror Fell Off

It was the summer of 2016 and the chance for a vacation. To avoid security lines and checked bag fees we decided to drive from Omaha to Florida; to get down on the highway for the classic American summer road trip. Instead of spending two weeks aimlessly cruising the back roads of America with the windows down, music up, and the beer staying cold in the car fridge on the back seat we decided to drive the interstates and toll roads. Two days to travel the 1610 miles Omaha to Boca Raton; 3220 miles round trip and if you add the miles sightseeing Florida your just a few miles short of the distance between New York and London. Just out of Omaha the horizon sky was darkened by rainstorm clouds. The car was in cruise control.

john-driving

image source:johnmcadam

I was watching the broken white line of the highway and the grey vague distant shelf cloud. As I stared at the broken white highway centre line it transformed itself into bubbles and streaks as if it was becoming a whitecap on a sea wave. And I started to think about driving a Gibbs Aquada’s from Omaha to London. Sir Richard Branson drove the New Zealand Aquada into the Guinness Book of Records in June 2004 when he set the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle; crossing in one hour, 40 minutes and six seconds. I saw the waves caused by some Channel ferries come crashing down on the highway ahead. The car seemed to slow automatically; as if sensors had adjusted the car’s speed because of the danger ahead. The white caps became the broken white highway centre line when I took my foot off the brake and I wondered if the car would have stopped itself if I hadn’t stepped on the brake in time to avoid hitting the car in front.

aquada

image source:shoppersshop.com

My first car was a dull cream colour, the late sixties, Volkswagen Beetle; a simple, uncluttered, car that was easy to understand and drive. It had a boot, a motor under the bonnet, mudguards, and windscreen. And it ran on petrol. You never drove on the footpath and you always stopped for pedestrians at tram stops and at zebra crossings. The heater was a knob on the floor that you turned to vent hot air from the motor into the car. I thought it would look really cool driving around Melbourne with reversed wheels; I took off the hubcaps and then the wheel nuts, flipped the wheels and put the nuts back on; with no idea if it was safe to mount all four wheels backwards. The tires pushed out a few inches from the mudguards. I was probably around nineteen when Andrew Lambrainew and I decided that we should drive to Sydney for a weekend.

vw-beetle

image source:.superbeetlesonly.com

The inland Hume Highway was a two-lane country road that passed through every small Victorian and New South Wales country town. We left Melbourne a little after five on a Friday night; I was driving. Today it takes about five hours to drive from Melbourne to Wagga Wagga; back then probably around eight hours. On the dark country road, I followed the car in front into a slight bend; it swerved to the side of the road and all I saw was a blinding light. They kept telling me I couldn’t sleep; every breath I took produced a bubbling, percolating, in my throat. The ambulance took me to a small district hospital and my eyelid was stitched back on, and because of the severity of the injuries, I was immediately transported to Wagga Wagga base hospital. I was unconscious for the next few days, and they waited to see if I would wake from the coma and if my chest would stop inflating. Several ribs had been broken and the broken shards had pierced my lungs. The bubbling and percolating in my throat was the escaping air and oxygen from the punctures in my lungs that was mixing with blood and spit in my throat. I saw my VW several weeks later; every piece of metal and car part on the driver’s side had been smashed and collapsed into the front firewall.

intensive-care

image source:johnmcadam

Over the next few years I went through a stable of cars; Jack Brabham black Mini Cooper, Ford Capri, Volkswagen two-door station wagon, and a Holden EH station wagon. Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar is still in Lygon Street Carlton; the outdoor courtyard area was a great place to park yourself with friends on warm Spring and Summer Saturdays. Jimmy’s had a kitchen because of the new licensing laws in the early sixties; you could order simple cheese plates and assorted grilled steaks. Watson’s was the place for inexpensive good red wine. Some Saturday afternoons we would leave Jimmy’s courtyard, the collection of empty bottles of red, and head for one of Carlton’s Italian cafés. It must have been Argyle Place because there were meter parking bays in the centre of the street; the EH hit the parking meter with such force that it bent and pushed the bumper bar back into the radiator and the radiator was pushed back into the fan. There was without doubt a radiator failure.

Many of the new 2016 cars come with driver-assist technologies; Active Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Prevention, Auto Braking, and Lane Departure Warning and Lane-Keep Assist are just some of the standard technologies. If only the EH had Auto Braking instead of the Power Swept styling that made it look longer at the back and have neater more modern lines. And if only the car that was a blinding white light had Lane Departure Warning and Lane-Keep Assist technology.

freeway-gridlock

image source:johnmcadam

After driving the interstates and toll roads from Omaha to Florida I have come to the conclusion that there are two other driver-assist technologies that should be mandatory on every car; even if it means retrofitting every car now on the road. And they are Pheromone Navigation Assist and Dimensional Reality Assist. Without exception, every approach to an exit and on-ramp on every freeway, interstate, tollway, and turnpike was congested and clogged. Six lane roadways gridlocked miles before and after the ramp; drivers refusing to give way to anyone trying to merge onto and move across lanes to exit or not giving way as cars entered from an on-ramp and tried to merge into a lane. The pheromone technology would be based on the chemical communication that ants use; when an ant finds food it lays down a scent trail from the food back to the ant hole; other ants then follow the scent trail to the food and at the same time reinforce the scent. Just before entering a roadway, a car would release a pheromone according to its destination. Cars on the roadway would already have laid down a scent trail; the onboard pheromone identifier of the car entering the roadway would analyze the scent trails and auto navigate the car into its correct destination lane. Lane-departure warning and Lane-Keep Assist driver-assist technologies would keep each car in the right group and lane. With Pheromone Navigation Assist and automated merging, gridlock, accelerating to pass and then slowing down, and passing at the same speed should be a relic of the past.

ants-line

image source:sciencedaily.com

Without being able to control the path of their car some drivers may experience a damaged sense of being; a loss of pride, freedom, independence and sense of identity, power and control. To eliminate this feeling of removal of self from the car I think the second mandatory driver assist technology should be Dimensional Reality. At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show Panasonic introduced a transparent TV screen. The display can show videos or still images in High Definition quality and when it is turned off the screen fades to total transparency. So here’s my thought; replace the windscreen and windows of all cars with organic light-emitting diode screens; the inside of the car would become an OLED virtual reality space. This brainchild is a homage to Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt. I was introduced to The Veldt in the eighties. Back when, under a federal grant, the college where I was working acquired four IBM Personal System/2 computers to explore and introduce technology-based learning to faculty. Our team of faculty and Instructional Media Production support staff produced an interactive videodisc of The Veldt. The hallway and nursery of the Hadley’s house were assembled from innovative animations and two-dimensional graphics; crude by today’s standards. The disc was authored in Toolbook.

They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. It was forty feet across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as much as the rest of the house.

“But nothing’s too good for our children,” George had said.

The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the centre of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in colour reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with a hot yellow sun.
George Hadley felt the perspiration start on his brow.

“Let’s get out of this sun,” he said. “This is a little too real. But I don’t see anything wrong.”
“Wait a moment, you’ll see,” said his wife.

Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odour at the two people in the middle of the baked veld land, the hot straw smell of lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air. And now the sounds: the thump of distant antelope feet on grassy sod, the papery rustling of vultures. A shadow passed through the sky.

veldt

image source:scaredstiffreviews.com

Because a driver has no control with Pheromone Navigation Assist, Dimensional Reality Assist would create a virtual environment inside the car that would return that sense of identity, power and freedom back to the driver. Outside the cars would be moving as pheromone guided caravans and inside you could be on the freeway in The Matrix Reloaded. Your choice; maybe that’s what Google, Tesla, and Uber are road testing with their self-driving autonomous cars.

Alas, Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Little Miss Sunshine will just be memories of yesterdays road trips. I think I will host a summer backyard Mad Max theme party, and everyone should wear something ruined and destroyed, and bring their favourite neck oil.

 

Traffic Control: What We Can Learn From Ants

When Cars Fly

The Veldt Summary

And How Would You Like Your Risk

The white grub larvae were causing patches of dried dead zoysia grass to multiply at breakneck speed. It’s not that you could play a match of lawn bowls on the grass in the back yard but it was looking like a patchwork quilt, and late August is the ideal time to throw some grass seed down. I decided enough is enough so I spent a couple of afternoons digging and peeling back rolls of dead zoysia. Before I could spread turf-type tall fescue seeds, fescue with a deep growing root system so the grass plants can access water without me turning on the hose every second day, I had to fill the craters that were left after I removed the brown dead carpets of zoysia. I find it odd that you go to a home improvement retail store to buy a bag of dirt. I left with a one and a half cubic foot bag of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil-Vegetables and Herbs; fortunately, the bag was an Easy-To-Carry Shape. I cut open the bag and thrust my hands into the rich soil. Welcome back to mother earth, and then my attention was taken over by the warning on the back of the bag: Use With Adult Supervision.

john-gro-plus

image source:johnmcadam

My arms and hands blurred as I hurriedly pulled them from the black, silky, warm, soil and hysterically shook them; what danger could lurk within the rich, inviting, loam. I examined the bag looking for a list of recommended safety measures to use to get the dirt out of an Easy-To-Carry Shape bag. I lost count of the number of times I turned the bag over and over but I found nothing. Usually, when I am exposed to risk I endeavour to reduce that risk; so I prepared myself to remove the dirt risk-free. Using my finely honed risk management skills I evaluated the need for; safety helmet with a face shield, comfort cup respirator, safety goggles, ear muffs, protective coveralls, and chemical resistant gloves. I stared into the bag and became fixated on the soil; when I raised my head my legs were curled over at the knees and I was hanging ten feet above the ground and swinging upside down from the monkey bars in Williamstown’s Commonwealth Reserve. As I swung to and fro I could see the Gem Pier, the shops and bluestone buildings of Nelson Place, the Band Rotunda, and across the bay the distant skyline of Melbourne.

commonwealth-reserve

image source:walkingmaps.com.au

The playground in the Reserve was made up of a wooden see-saw, swings, and monkey bars. The monkey bars were made of metal piping and straddled a patch of foot-worn, trampled, turf; it was more bare, hard dirt than grass. And that is what you would fall onto. On hot summer days, the monkey bar metal was baking hot and after swinging and crossing the bars a few times you would have blisters on your hands. Leg fights were a popular activity. You and another combatant would start from each end of the monkey bars, and as you approached each other both of you would start kicking and flailing your legs trying to knock each other off the bars and onto the compacted ground. The ultimate was, to place a leg scissor lock around your adversary’s waist or thighs, and fling them to the compressed, packed, ground below. Sometimes you both went down.

One trip down the metal slide baking in the hot midday sun usually was good for a few thermal burns to the back of the thighs; or cuts into your legs from the jagged, angled, sharp metal edges where the metal surface seams had separated. There were no side rails so it was easy to create a deliberate flip and free-fall off the slide on the way down. And you didn’t even think about getting a concussion, breaking your neck, or knocking out a few teeth when you did a head-first journey down the slide.

slide

image source:jenx67.com

Each see-saw was a wide thick wooden plank, aged from the elements, usually with splinters and had the tops of bolts poking out where the plank was attached to its metal A-frame. The only reason for the see-saw was to bounce the person on the opposite end onto the ground. This was attempted by teasing the flight of the see-saw. Teasing was done by bouncing from the knees and then randomly generating a full bounce up; pushing the wooden plank skywards, hoping that your opposite end partner had released their grip because their cramped fingers could no longer hold on to the plank; and sending them falling to the ground. Or if they managed to stay on the see-saw you would try for an immediate uber bounce before they had the chance to recalibrate their balance and equilibrium. The see-saw was also used to explore the world of physics; if your opposite moved close to the centre fulcrum you had the benefit of effort overload and could give them a wild bumping, bouncing ride. And we challenged each other to Run the See-Saw; you ran up the see-saw until you reached its fulcrum so that it would go bouncing to the ground, and you had to keep your balance as you ran down the see-saw.

see-saws

image source:playgroundchronicles.wordpress.com

Mum encouraged our adventurousness. If you fall and break your neck, don’t come crying to me was her most common feedback, and her advice for healing any cuts, abrasions, or bruises was; go swimming at the beach the saltwater is good for it, or let the dog lick it.

It seems our knockabout playscapes of yesteryear have morphed into risk-free, educationally interactive environments; a far cry from the landscapes where we learned that life was a harsh and unforgiving adventure. The compacted soil and ground surrounding what we played on has been replaced by wood mulch, sand, or recycled rubber mats; and we insist that playground quality sand is used and that the recycled rubber is lead-free. And those towering metal slides have been replaced with moulded polyethylene with ultraviolet stabilization, anti-static inhibitors, and double-wall construction; along with their height and slope being shrunk to conform to Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. One of today’s cardinal rules for playground safety is you must take off your bicycle helmet before playing on the playground equipment. We never had that rule when I was growing up; we never had bike helmets. Since that Christmas morning when I found a two-wheel bike at the end of my bed, and through adolescence and adulthood, I never once wore a helmet.

williamstown-bike-trail

image source:weekendnotes.com

It is acknowledged by Melbourne’s bike-riding community that Williamstown provides all the ingredients for a great bike ride; today it is included in several of Melbourne’s listings of best bike rides. I rode many of those relaxing and popular wide bike paths as a young lad; but we had to make the paths across bumpy, rocky foreshores, maneuver through local streets and the shopping centres of Douglas Parade, Ferguson Street and commercial Nelson Place, and dodge our way across, and through, the football and cricket matches at the local parks and reserves. And when we fell off our bike we proudly wore as a badge of honour our stitches, bruises, cuts, or plaster casts.

As a thirty-something young man, and before the dawning of the age of the urban cyclist, I used up a couple of years riding a bike through and around Melbourne. There were no bike lanes and sometimes you remembered to lock your bike; there were no bike racks or stands and you never walked the bike; you never road on the tram tracks when they were wet and you had just a bike, not a road or commuter bike. And you never had a bike helmet. I had a yellow bike without a crossbar; the style was known as a girls bike.

bike-pod

image source:klear.com

I recently read that the city of Melbourne in partnership with the Victorian Government has provided a Bike Pod for the convenience of urban bike riders; the pod provides free bike parking, and shower and change space, for anyone who cycles to the city. Facilities include.

two self-contained showers
basin and mirror
changing space
clothes hooks
bench seat
floor heating for comfort and drying
stainless steel floor for hygiene
an automated door with a time-lapse for security

Whoa, fair suck of the sauce bottle; where was my bike pod. In the early seventies, I studied Library Science at the State College of Victoria, Melbourne. I remember my first lecture class. It was a warm summer February morning. I left the house we were sharing in McIIwraith Street anticipating a leisurely ten-minute yellow bike ride down Lygon Street. I soon realized that I was going to be late for my first class. I pushed and pushed down on the pedals. My tee-shirt became damper and wetter with perspiration; my wettish shoulder-length hair grew more hopelessly matted. The doors to the lecture hall were closed. I opened the door and forty-five women’s, and three male, heads turned and watched. The only empty seats were in the front two rows.

lecture-hall

image source:hercampus.com

In the good old days, my bike riding was a risky business. I didn’t wear a helmet or ride on three-foot-wide homogenized bike paths; and I didn’t carry water in a hydration pack, practice cycling citizenship, or worry about hygiene for cyclists. When I think back I admire my naive innocence; instinctively working at-risk compensation. Adjusting where and how I biked in response to what I perceived as a level of risk. And maybe that was just part of growing older and wiser; taking on risks, and riding the journey of life with no regrets. To prepare our present-day youngsters to become risk managers and risk-takers I think it’s time to start unwrapping the bubble wrap. We need to bring back yesterdays playgrounds and the distraction of; Drop the Handkerchief aka Duck Duck Goose, British Bulldog aka Red Rover, Brandy aka Dodge Ball, Cops and Robbers aka Cowboys and Indians, and Tiggy aka Tag.

lawn-bowls

image source:valebowlingclub.co.uk

The backyard grass should be ready for a match of competitive lawn bowls by next summer. Be warned; the game can be exhausting. Games can last for three to four hours without a break, and you can walk two or three miles and bend up and down more than 100 times; a potential risk for both back and knee injuries. The two risk management process steps that I always follow are identifying the risk and treating the risk; a lot of breaks for cold beers should take care of business.

The Bike Helmet Paradox

The Overprotected Kid

The Mystery of Risk