What’s More Boring Than Some Old Fella Going On About How Things Were

Sometimes I find myself wondering what it would be like, to live once again in a place where I used to live. I think that’s why the idea to stay in Albert Park for a few weeks came to me when I was booking a return Qantas ticket to the Land Down Under. Albert Park is a gentrified inner suburb of Melbourne nestled between Albert Park Lake and one of the Port Phillip Bay beaches. Wide streets, charming heritage buildings, leafy parks and gardens, and the Village shopping area with its collection of open-air cafes characterise Albert Park. Back when I was living in Melbourne, and before gentrification and upper-class affluence became the norm for Albert Park, I rented a flat in a two-storey Art Deco building a stone’s throw from the Village, which at that time was still the local shopping centre.

image source: jmcadam

As soon as the Qantas e-ticket arrived in my inbox, I went house searching on Airbnb. A single-fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian house, a ten-minute walk from the Village and a dropkick from the flat I once called home was going to be my living in Albert Park house for a few weeks. After a couple of days catching the No 1 tram into town, shopping in the Village, walking Albert Park’s leafy streets, and slowly strolling Kerferd Road down to the palm tree-lined beachfront, I was back living in Albert Park; it was as if I’d never left thirty plus years ago.

It was a warm, late afternoon when I set off as I often did many years ago for a cold Melbourne Bitter at the Albert Park Hotel. I stopped on the footpath and stood in disbelief. The entrance to the public bar was now a door in a wall of construction hoarding with a constant procession of tradies entering and leaving the opening. I peeked through the opening and before me was a clear view of four storeys of emptiness. I stumbled back three steps and asked a workman wearing a yellow high visibility vest what was happening to The Albert; he pointed to a person wearing an orange vest.

image source: jmcadam

Me: G’day mate, what are they doin to The Albert?
Contractor: It’s closed; we’re revamping it into a fashionable new-look pub and restaurant.
Me: Yu gunna ruin it; I spent a fair bit of my time in there standing on the mouldy beer soaked carpet with me elbows on a soggy bar towel drinking a few pots.
Contractor: The new front bar is gonna pay homage to that. It’ll have the original brick columns, bar tables and red leather booths.
Me: Fair suck of the sauce bottle mate. What about the beer soaked carpet and the smell of the urinal with that great aroma of mateship. Men respect the scent of the urinal.
Contractor: You’ll forget about the smell of the urinal when yu see the new four-storey glass atrium, the main bar with a fig tree growing at one end, and the new dining room that’s gonna be serving up modern Chinese classics.
Me: Yu mean steamed dimmies and chicko rolls.
Contractor: Nah mate, more like your pan-fried dumplings, Peking duck, and pancakes and prawn toast.
Me: Blimey I yu keepin the TV’s for watching the footy and cricket. Is there somewhere close by where yu can buy a cold beer?
Contractor: Nah mate, not until the fashionable new look Albert opens.

image source: carltondraft.com

The only place I could find to buy beer was a chain store in the Village catering to the higher end of the wine, spirits and beer market. I stood looking through the glass door of the beer cooler at unfamiliar craft beers. The bottles had labels that sent my mind into a state of nervous confusion. There were ales, bitters, porters, wheat IPAs, stouts, and pilsners and flavours that included coffee, chocolate, banana bread, pumpkin, and passionfruit. And then I saw it tucked into the bottom shelf; longnecks of Melbourne Bitter.

I was beside myself with excitement because in front of me was my Holy Grail of beer. Whenever I was back in Australia in the last ten years, Melbourne Bitter was as scarce as rocking horse shit. I grabbed a few of the treasured longnecks and, on the way out, engaged the associate.

Me: How come yu selling Melbourne Bitter longnecks?
Associate: It’s got hipster appeal; it’s made a come-back. It’s back on tap at a few pubs around the city.
Me: When did the next door butchers become a restaurant?
Associate: What butchers shop?
Me: A & G Meats.

I left with the longnecks, each nestled inside their own paper bag, resting in a reusable plastic shopping bag. When I was on the footpath, I took a few steps backward, stood at the gutter, and scanned the shop fronts. Back when, the bottle shop was a hardware shop next door to A & G Meats, the butcher’s shop where I bought bangers at least once a week; not because they had great bangers but because I was eating soft non-chewable foods because of my teeth.

image source: illinoiscriminaljustice.org

When I was growing up, dental hygiene wasn’t a big thing in my family. I went through childhood and adolescence, knowing my teeth would be coming out. Mum’s usual comment about a toothache was, ‘we can get them fixed, but if they start hurting again, then out they’ll come’. Mum told us visiting the dentist would be painless; he was a distant cousin and wouldn’t hurt anyone in the family. I don’t remember ever getting an anaesthetic. I always knew just before the hurting would start; the chains and pulleys driving the drill slowed down as our distant relative dentist relentlessly pushed it into your tooth; that’s when the hurt started. And he held the drill up close in front of you when he pulled it out of your mouth so the chains and pulleys would start up again. Whenever he started drilling a tooth, a strange smell started coming from your mouth. I left my distant cousin dentist’s double-fronted cream brick veneer building with tears in my eyes.

When I became old enough not to listen to mum, I never went to a dentist again. Fillings fell out, cavities appeared, and I loosened a front tooth when I fell off my yellow bike and smashed the front of my face on the footpath. Over the years, my tongue would discover a rough edge on a tooth, another filling starting to go, or a new hole beginning to happen. I never had toothaches; my teeth only hurt when I chewed on the decay and cavities, so I ate lots of soft foods.

image source: pixabay

I cooked my A & G Meats sausages the way Aussie cook sausages; in a frying pan over medium heat, letting the fat escape as they’re warming up, and then turning them in the hot fat until they were crisp on the outside and spongy and juicy inside. I’d throw in a few handfuls of cooked, soft fusilli and toss it around in the hot sausage fat. If I wasn’t eating pasta and sausages, I’d wrap a couple of the just-cooked bangers in thin slices of white bread, smother the lot with tomato sauce, and hope for a squirt of fat when I bit into what would then be a perfect sausage sandwich. Some days, I’d change it up and have a couple of sausage rolls from one of the local Milk Bars for lunch. Sausage rolls are similar to Little Smokies Pigs In A Blanket. They’re made by wrapping sausage mincemeat in a few sheets of puff pastry or thin pie crust if they’re mums homemade sausage rolls to form tubes that are baked until golden brown. You buy sausage rolls at any takeaway, milk bar, or bakery, and if you can’t wait until you get home, it’s ok eating them straight from the bag smothered in tomato sauce. Most Aussies would say that sausage rolls are the second cousin to the meat pie.

image source: jmcadam

I turned and looked down the footpath on the other side of the wine, spirits and beer chain store come bottle shop, and my memories collided with the present; the chemist shop was still there. I stepped inside and looked around for the Kodak cameras and film. Back when, every chemist shop in Melbourne was a Kodak photographic dealer, and you went there to buy a camera and film. You took your film back to the chemist to have it developed and to get your photos printed. A week after dropping off your exposed film, your photos were ready for pick up; you’d stop on the footpath as soon as you left the shop and reach into the Kodak envelope with hands shaking for your twelve black and white photos. Most of the time, only about half of the twelve were in focus, well-framed, or correctly exposed.

I searched the chemist shop looking for anything Kodak, only to discover, a Myki card counter had replaced the cameras and film. Myki is a reloadable credit card-sized smart card ticketing system used for electronic payment of fares on most public transport services in Melbourne and regional Victoria. And the familiar smell of the chemist shop, the fragrance of ladies perfumes mixed with the scent of cough lollies and medicines, the perfume from bars of Lifebuoy, Pears and Palmolive soap, and the distinctive aroma of medicinal aldehydes and ketones were also missing. I looked around for the bars of soaps and sand they too had been replaced; by liquid soaps, you squeezed from a plastic container. I thought about it for a short time and decided that would have been a good thing to have when we were growing up. We all shared the bath and shower at home, and for everybody, it was one bar of soap to soap it all. When we showered, we all grabbed the same bar of soap to rub over the flannel and ourselves, and then we’d leave whatever on the wet, sudsy soap bar of soap. It’s probably best if that’s where I leave it.

image source: jmcadam

As I strolled back to the single-fronted fashionable weatherboard Victorian house, I started musing about going to a chemist shop to buy a tram ticket and going to the local pub for Modern-South-East Asian food. I looked down and realised I was swinging the reusable plastic shopping bag with the three Melbourne Bitter longnecks. Back at the Airbnb, I sat in the sparse, remodelled, open-flow interior now devoid of any traces of the house’s Victorian-era heritage, and wondered if you’d go to a jewellery shop to buy butcher shop sausages made with meat, fat, fillers and salt, stuffed into intestine casings.


Unease in the Village

Back in Time for Dinner

1904 Melbourne Bitter Ale First Brewed

Everything You See I Owe To Fairy Bread

My second last visit to my health provider caused a nostalgic spell of thinking about doctor visits of my childhood. These back to the future memories were caused by the sign that greeted you as you stepped out of the lift. After I finished my conversation, and check in with the Check You In Human I looked back at the sign; even though it was a standard 21st Century white, corrugated cardboard on a stand sign it invoked nostalgia and longing. I stared blankly at the Self Service Check In sign and thought back to when family doctors made house calls. I wonder if I’ll think back to my first Self Service Check In experience with the same nostalgia.

image source:jmcadam

When dad was quarantined to the house and the bed in the front room with hepatitis, our family doctor came to the house to see him a couple of times a week. Mum would let him in through the front door. I remember him coming into the passage carrying his Gladstone doctor’s bag. The first thing he did when he got into the front room was put his Gladstone bag on the bed next to dad. He seemed to know where everything in the bag was without looking; he’d pull out his stethoscope, a thermometer, a metal tongue depressor, and a torch to shine down dad’s throat.

When dad was first diagnosed with hepatitis mum took my brother and I down to the doctors clinic to get vaccinated. The clinic was a house in Electra Street, just down from Ferguson Street. The waiting room was one of the front rooms, and the doctor’s room was another room in the house. There wasn’t a Self Service Check In computer in sight; just the lady to tell you to take a seat and that the doctor will be with you shortly We all reacted to the vaccine, and in a couple of days our necks, backs, and armpits were dotted with a collection of weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. Mum changed our puss stained bandages once a day, and drained the boils and carbuncles by gently squeezing around the inflamed puss filled bumps; she’d give us a couple of Aspro’s so we’d get a good nights sleep.

image source:pixabay

Mum was our home nurse when I came home from the Williamstown Hospital after having my tonsils out. She put a spoon in a glass, and put her nurse’s call system on a small table beside my bed. Whenever I needed anything I’d rattle the spoon against the side of the glass. Because of my inflamed tender throat she fed me different flavours of Cottees jellies throughout the day. It seemed that whenever I rattled the spoon a bowl of jiggling jelly would appear; without knowing it I started behaving like one of Skinner’s rats. The jelly kept appearing until the doctor, on what was a fateful house visit, declared that my throat was sufficiently healed and I could swallow solid foods.

Cottees jelly was always something special in our childhood; if it wasn’t nursing you back to good health then it was the jewel in the crown on a birthday party food table. If you stripped away the glitter and excitement of a birthday party what really mattered was the food on the table; as youngsters we judged the success of a party by the food. The must have foods were bowls of cut up lime or orange jelly, plates of chocolate crackles and fairy bread, and a couple of jugs of Kia-Ora cordial.

image source:mashable.com

If you’re fortunate enough to have grown up in Australia, then you’re no stranger to fairy bread; deliciousness disguised as slices of white bread covered with butter and smothered with hundreds and thousands, and cut into two equal triangles. If you’re talking fair dinkum fairy bread then forget about the artisan sourdough bread and cultured Danish butter, and start thinking slices of Tip Top smeared with Western Star butter, and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

Fairy Bread
Servings: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
8 slices white bread
1 packet Western Star butter
1 packet of hundreds and thousands; known in the US as sprinkles
Empty the packet of hundreds and thousands onto a plate
Lay out the 8 bread slices and trim crusts if desired. I prefer to leave the crust on the bread so I can pick it up holding the crust.
Lavishly spread each slice of bread all the way to the crusts with butter. Use 25 percent more butter than you think is enough to ensure that the hundreds and thousands will stick to the butter
Cover bread with hundreds and thousands by placing each slice butter side down into plate of hundreds and thousands. Push gently on top of bread
Remove bread from plate and cut diagonally into two equal triangular halves

I suppose smearing butter on a slice of white bread and covering it with tiny coloured pieces of sugar is outdated and unfashionable in today’s world that demands you need to create a nutritional home so the little ones will develop a positive relationship with healthy food; it’s all about loading up the table with kohlrabi salads, vegetables cut into fun shapes, fruit sticks, and carafes of kale smoothies.

image source:jmcadam

There’s no surer sign you’ve left your childhood behind than when the fairy bread, and chocolate crackles, disappear from the birthday food table; adolescence is announced by a table laden with party pies, sausage rolls, cocktail frankfurts, and bowls of tomato sauce. You’re initiated into your teenage years by your best mate whispering in your ear; there’s Little Boys on the table. Cocktail frankfurts are a shorter version of a saveloy; hence the name Little Boys. And from that time on a large bowl of Little Boys, and a bottle of tomato sauce, will be on every one of your Aussie party food tables. It’s a well known fact that beautifully presented food looks appetising and appealing. Little Boys should never be served with a split skin. Little Boys should only be warmed; they should never be cooked. Little Boys should be put in a saucepan of cold water straight from the fridge, heated slowly on a stove, and as soon as they boil taken off the heat.

I don’t know an Aussie who doesn’t worship and respect the little saveloy. Fair suck of the saveloy is a commonly used phrase Down Under; often shortened to fair suck of the sav. Kevin Rudd, a former Australian Prime Minister is famous for using his own variant of the phrase: “Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate, if you were to compare what this government has done in terms of the promotion of women of talent and ability compared with our predecessors, it’s chalk and cheese: fair shake of the sauce bottle mate”

image source:skmcadam

Aussies use fair suck of the sav in everyday speech. It’s an all encompassing phrase that’s used to express awe, wonder, exasperation, or frustration. It can also be used to convey disbelief.

Me: G’day; pie and sauce thanks mate
Cake shop Assistant: What type? Steak and Curry, Caramelised Pork and Pepper, or a Chicken and Asparagus.
Me: A meat pie; a pie filled with minced meat and gravy
Cake shop Assistant: Sure you wouldn’t like to try one of our gourmet pies? A Thai vegetable curry, or a vegan Chili Con Carne
Me: I’ll have meat pie thanks mate; an Adams or a Four’n Twenty
Cake shop Assistant: That’ll be twelve dollars mate
Me: Fair suck of the sav mate! I’m not buying a carton of them

The shop window should should have given me a clue as to what to expect; I should have asked the hipster Cake Shop Assistant with the big glasses and a bushranger beard if the gourmet pies were served in a mason jar and a glass of Kombucha tea.

image source:jmcadam

I remember Mum making meat pies. She had a set of six, small oval metal pie tins that she used to make her meat pies. She’d cut a up pound of gravy beef from the butcher into extra small pieces, dredge them in flour, brown them, and then simmer the browned pieces with some chopped onion and water. Mum lined the small pans with her home made pie crust; she’d spoon in the meat mixture and seal the top crust by crimping it with her fingers. And into the oven the meat pies went. If mum was making her meat pies today you’d probably hear in a cackling singing voice from the kitchen

It’s nothing but crusting!
Here drink this, you’ll need it.
The worst pies in London
And no wonder with the price of meat
What it is
When you get it.
Never thought I’d live to see the day.
Men’d think it was a treat findin’ poor animals
What are dyin’ in the street.
Mrs. Mooney has a pie shop.
Does a business, but I notice something weird.
Lately, all her neighbours cats have disappeared.

I never had the heart to tell mum that her pies never came close to an Adam’s or Four’n Twenty; if I’d had to choose I would have been up the street in a flash to Mr’s Worms Milk Bar in Melbourne road for a Herbert Adam’s.

I don’t recall the exact time mum got her Sunbeam electric fry pan. It ended up spending most of it’s life on the kitchen table. It cooked sausages and rissoles for our breakfasts, and grilled lamb cutlets and chops for our tea. The Sunbeam sat triumph on the kitchen table and reheated mum’s home made meat pies and sausage rolls. And it heated water to carefully warm cocktail frankfurts; and we never ate a cocktail frankfurt with a split skin again.

image source:jmcadam

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to take the lamingtons out of the fridge and coat them with chocolate icing. But maybe I should make Fairy Lamingtons for my little afternoon soiree. Instead of sprinkling the lamingtons with coconut I’ll use hundreds and thousands; I should also have a jug of Pimm’s No 1 mixed with with lemonade and chopped strawberries, a few slices of orange, a mint leave, slices of cucumber, and loads of ice.


What is Fairy Bread?

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Inside Every Grownup There’s A Monitor Trying To Get Out

There are two supermarkets, each about the same distance from my house. I didn’t consciously choose one of them to be my go-to grocery shop. It’s not that I’ll never set foot in the other shop. Whenever I have a craving for a ham and salad roll for lunch, it’s off to the other shop because I prefer the brand of cold cuts and lunch meats in their delicatessen. But I’ll leave only with the ham, and go to my grocery shop for the rest of the ham salad roll fixings; the lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, cucumber, and grated carrot. Whenever I stand in front of the deli counter trying to decide between the Black Forest, Maple Glazed, Boneless Smoked, or Smoked Virginia ham I think back to buying lunch at Williamstown Tech.

image source:jmcadam

There was a process to buying lunch at school; and I’m sure the Victorian Education Department had the same process in all of it’s Technical schools. At the start of the second class period you’d tick off on a lunch bag what you wanted for lunch; a sandwich or a roll, a pie or pasty, or a sausage roll. The form’s lunch monitor took the lunch bags, and the form’s lunch tray to the canteen. The school canteen lunch ladies made the lunches and put them into their correct lunch bags. Ten minutes before the lunch bell the lunch monitor collected the form’s lunch tray with the filled lunch bags and brought it back to the classroom. I always struggled over what to buy for lunch; I’d stare down at my printed lunch bag and be wracked with indecision. My lunch bag was always the last lunch bag into the form’s lunch tray. The lunch monitor would start pacing the front of the classroom. He was eager to head off to the canteen; it meant more time out of the classroom hanging out with the other lunch monitors. I toiled over what to order every time mum gave me the rare privilege of buying lunch; a salad roll or sandwich, a pie or pasty, or a sausage roll. I always chose a salad roll; a bread roll filled with shredded lettuce, grated carrots, sliced beetroot and tomato, and cucumber.

image source:slwa.wa.gov.au

The traditional Australian salad sandwich or roll never had slices of meat in it; and the Willy Tech canteen ladies adhered to that standard. I don’t know when, or why, I started to add a few slices of meat to my home made salad rolls.

A few days ago I had a craving for a ham and salad roll. As soon as I stepped into my grocery shop I headed for the delicatessen; I was half way down the aisle when I came face to face with an associate pushing a shopping trolley and holding what looked like a deadly next generation Buck Rogers ray gun. I didn’t even pretend to be shopping so I could surreptitiously spy; I stood in front of her and blatantly watched. She took an item from the shelf, aimed the ray gun at it’s barcode, and then put it in her shopping trolley; she pushed the trolley down the aisle a bit, and repeated the process. I followed her down several different aisles; she continued to take items from the shelves and point the ray gun at them. I approached the associate.

image source:jmcadam

Me: G’day
Supermarket Associate: Hello; and what brings you in to see us?
Me: Just getting some ham for a salad roll. I’m a bit of a sticky beak so I wondered what you were doing
Supermarket Associate: I’m shopping for a customer; it’s our online grocery service. You go online and add what you want to your cart. When you’ve finished shopping you just click on checkout
Me: Crikey; just like filling out my lunch order at Willy Tech and the lunch monitor taking it to the canteen ladies
Supermarket Associate: Ah right. Your shopping list is displayed on my hand held scanner screen
Me: Blimey!!!!! you’re a shopping monitor
Supermarket Associate: If that’s what you want to call it
Me: Great; Were you ever a milk monitor or an ink monitor?
Supermarket Associate: (Looking at me as if I’ve got a few roos loose in the top paddock) Enjoy your salad roll

williamstown tech forms 1AB

image source:jmcadam

Grades at the Victorian Education Department’s Technical schools were called Forms; there were about twenty students in a form. The first year students at a Technical school were in Form1; the first form in Form 1 was Form1A, the second form Form1B, and so on. A teacher was assigned as a mentor to each form, and they became that form’s Form Teacher. The Form Lunch Monitor was a highly sought after job. It helped your chances of the Form Teacher assigning you as the lunch monitor immensely if you you had been a Milk Monitor, a Blackboard Monitor, or an Ink Monitor in Primary School; previous experience as a monitor always impressed the Form Teacher. Some boys resorted to the most obsequious sucking up to the Form Teacher to be chosen for the position of Lunch Monitor.

Hoping to be Lunch Monitor: Good Afternoon Mr Baldwin. Sir, you may think that I’m not very good at English and Solid Geometry, and that’s because I think I was born to be a Lunch Monitor. I was the best ink monitor that North Williamstown State School ever had; the ink wells never ran dry. Thank you for considering me, Sir

It had to be grade three in Primary school when I started to use an ink pen instead of a pencil to do school work. The ink pens were a piece of wood with a metal sleeve on one end to hold a replaceable steel nib. We sat two to a desk, and at the top center of each desk was a small hole that held a shared ink well. We dipped the nib into the small ceramic ink well to load it up with ink; it held just enough blue ink to write about three words in cursive.

image source:ambaile.org.uk

I think I was an Ink Monitor; or maybe it’s just wishful remembering. Each morning before Writing or Arithmetic the ink monitors filled the ink wells. A large glass bottle of blue ink was in a cupboard at the front of the room. Two glass tubes poked out of a cork stopper in the neck of the bottle; one bent at a right angle from the stopper, and the other sticking straight up. The ink wells were filled by angling the large ink bottle over the ink well so the curved glass tube was just above the small nib dipping hole. Skilled ink monitors controlled the flow of ink by putting their small index finger over the end of the long straight tube and slowly raising, or moving it, to vary the air pressure. And they filled the ink wells just to the top of the nib dipping opening; without leaving a hint of ink on the rim of the well, or on the wooden desk top. All skilled ink monitors when they were filling the last ink well would smear a little ink on the inside of their index finger to wear as a sign of ink greatness.

Two grades later pens that sucked up and stored ink appeared; we wrote more than three words in cursive script and solved arithmetic problems with three numbers without dipping our pens in the ink well. It was the passing of the ink monitor.

image source:abc.net.au

When I went to North Williamstown State School the Australian government provided every Primary schools student with a daily allowance of milk. We all had to drink our third of a pint of school milk from a small glass bottle before morning recess. The milkman delivered the small glass bottles in metal crates, and stacked them in the shelter sheds. The school year was divided into three terms, and the teacher of the fifth and sixth grades assigned two milk monitors for each grade for a term. I had the privilege, and honour to be chosen as a Milk Monitor. My job was to carry the class’s milk crate from the shelter shed to the classroom with the other monitor; and to then carry it back to the shelter shed with the empty milk bottles. Being a milk monitor was a coveted, prestigious job; you got out of class for fifteen minutes each morning, and if there was left over milk you got to drink it. But being a milk monitor in the summer months before and after the Christmas holidays was less than coveted. On those hot summer mornings the milk sat in the shelter sheds in ninety degree heat for over an hour. The metal crates were hot to the touch and always seemed heavier; maybe because the milk had thickened and the bottles were filled with floating biological blobs. The extra bottles of hot milk were hard to swap with classmates for favors, and no milk monitor was ever known to thirst for the summer’s left over milk.

image source:pixabay

To a youthful boy in Primary school it seemed as if the front of the classroom was covered with a blackboard; and it most likely was. The blackboard had areas reserved for permanent material; a cursive alphabet, counting numbers, multiplication tables, or the names of exotic animals, but the rest of the board was for the teachers daily chalk talk. Each day the teacher surrounded themselves in chalk dust as they filled their blackboard with new enlightenment’s for their class of young unripe minds. And because they wanted to start the next day with a clean blackboard; so became the blackboard monitor. The blackboard monitor’s job was to clean away the teacher’s wisdom with a duster before the end of the school day. Every couple of days the dusters were taken into the school yard to be cleaned of chalk dust; the monitor held it in one hand and smacked it with a ruler until it was free of chalk. Inventive blackboard monitors, at the risk of being caught, would bang the duster on a wall; leaving an anonymous, shapeless film of dusty chalk for other students to admire. And if other blackboard monitors were cleaning dusters there was nothing better than a full fledged duster fight; with dusters thrown at each other and flying through the air.

I think I should moderate a Monitor’s Blog. Retired monitors would share monitor tips and tricks, their stories, and our love of being a monitor; and as such, the blog would serve as an inspiration to aspiring Shopping Monitors, as well as a resource for new emerging monitor jobs. The first posting could be “I was a quintessential corridor monitor in Primary school”.


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Cursive Handwriting Will No Longer Be Taught in Schools Because It’s a Big, Old Waste of Time

Food Is An Important Part Of A Balanced Diet

I never stop and think about what awakens the memories that take me back to a childhood happening, a teenage adventure, or an adolescent experience. I don’t think the memories are caused by any of the five senses; perhaps there’s a sixth sense that invokes some of those long forgotten memories. The other day I had a flashback. I’d just gotten home from school and was walking into the kitchen through the back door; mum stopped rolling the rissoles she had just made for tea in breadcrumbs, turned from the counter and announced, I have a surprise for you.

Mum: I had to go up the street to Mrs Worms to get a half a loaf of white bread, and I got you a coffee scroll to have when you got home from school.

Because mum didn’t make coffee scrolls on her Sunday baking afternoons the chance to eat a warm, soft, gently kneaded dough with sultanas, butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with a sweet coffee icing was a guilty indulgence for an innocent fourteen year old.

image source:jmcadam

Mum made her usual collection of lamingtons, vanilla slices, and matchsticks on baking day. Sometimes she’d double up on her lamington recipe so she’d have extra cake batter to make butterflies; which are just fairy cakes with their tops cut off. Fairy cakes are a smaller version of cupcakes, but they’re made with a lighter sponge cake recipe. Mum would cut small circles from the tops of her fairy cakes, and then cut the circles in half to make wings. She filled the hole left in the top of the cake with whipped cream, sometimes jam, and then push two half circles into the cream. The half circles sat atop each cake as if they were wings waiting to flutter. As I thought about mum’s butterflies I became aware of some forgotten memories of taste and smell. Cakes took over my mind; I thought of cakes that belong to a cup of tea, the types of cakes that cause happy thoughts in your brain, and cakes that are cakes as they are meant to be. And so I set off in search of a full service bakery and sensible, down to earth cakes.

image source:recipes.sainsburys.co.uk

I stood in front of the display case trying to decide between lemon bars, zebra brownies, turtle pecan brownies, coconut macaroons, and peanut butter cinnamon rolls. I waited for the customer before me to make his selection. He gestured toward a plate of walnut bars.

Customer: Is that the only keto you have?
Cake Server: All of our top row are keto
Customer: Great; I think I’ll take a zebra cheesecake brownie
Cake Server: Are you sure you don’t want to try our keto coconut macadamia chewy bars?
Customer: And now I just can’t make up my mind

I stood in a confused, mixed up state of mind; keto cakes!!!! What’s next, Vegemite macaroons? I fixed my eyes on the plate of lemon bars in front of me, refusing to look at the top row of keto cakes. I shifted my gaze to a plate of sugar cookies; and then to the plate of mocha cheesecake. I tried ignoring the keto conversation. And then the customer asked for a key lime keto macaroon; excuse me, a sugar free, low carbohydrate macaroon!!! I silently rolled my eyes. Cakes are supposed to be the epitome of sugar, and the essence of carbs. Keto cake eaters will never have a little lamington dancing around in their brain or experience the aroma and taste of a warm triple layered sponge cake.

image source:jmcadam

It seems to me that making cakes from a keto recipe is as senseless as following the Mediterranean Diet when you’re having a counter lunch. As I understand it, the Mediterranean Diet is inspired by the traditional diets of people who live around the Mediterranean sea; you eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fresh fish, and use plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Before the days of boutique hotels, when a counter lunch was nothing fancy, you’d choose what to eat from a chalk written menu. Every counter lunch menu in every public bar always offered; a mixed grill, the roast of the day, sausages, lamb chops or cutlets, and steak with chips and salad. Long before steaks came with porcini sauce, and kale salad with goat cheese dressing, a counter lunch steak was either a grilled porterhouse or T-bone with grilled onions on top; it was always served with chips and salad. The classic of all counter lunches was the steak sandwich with chips. A good steak sandwich should come loaded up with beetroot and plenty of tomato, onions and lettuce. And it’s always ordered with the lot; bacon and a fried egg. Even today you’d be hard pressed to beat a steak sandwich; it’s a terrific choice if you want something rich in carbs and calories and the epitome of fried.

image source:recipes.com

Substituting fish fingers for the steak in a steak sandwich, and ordering it without the lot, might get you close to the Mediterranean Diet. But if you consider that liquid is an important part of all healthy diets, and that most diets recommend at least six glasses a day, then you could follow the Mediterranean Diet with any counter lunch if you settled for a liquid lunch; just reduce your food intake and spend your time quaffing pots of the golden nectar.

In my day I was known to have a few counter lunches in the public bar at Williamstown’s The Rifle Club hotel. I remember the standard mixed grills, the overcooked roasts drowning in watery gravy, and the workers from the nearby slaughter house. It seemed the workers couldn’t wait to get to the pub for a bite to eat and the opportunity to down a few beers; they were still wearing their work aprons when they descended on the The Rifle Club. It seemed that they filled the public bar; wherever you looked there were blood smeared aprons, adorned with smudged, flattened bits of animal offal and other organs. I never gave much thought as to why lamb’s fry and bacon, brains and bacon, kidneys on toast, and tripe and onions, weren’t on the chalk written menu board above the bar. As I think back, I’ve come to realise that the The Rifle Club hotel would have been an ideal place to offer vegan ketogenic options on their counter lunch menu.

image source:australiangeographic.com.au

There are several craft breweries sprinkled throughout Omaha. Lucky Bucket was one of the first of these microbreweries to become popular, and to have it’s beers available in local supermarkets. It’s said their name comes from the days before kegs and bottles were available; the only way to get beer was to take a bucket to your local brewery, fill it up, and lug it back home. Today, you don’t have to take your bucket to the Lucky Bucket brewery; you just need to take your yoga mat and comfortable clothes. The brewery’s offering Breathe and Brew sessions; a sixty minute yoga class, and beer tasting brewery tour.

Whenever I spent Saturday afternoons sinking a few cold ones with the mates at the Steam Packet I didn’t think about wearing stretchy, formfitting, antimicrobial, moisture wicking yoga gear; I’d be more likely to wear loose and baggy, falling down clothes. I think we all did a bit of yoga back then; we just didn’t know it. We’d do a few arm strengthening poses by resting an elbow on the wet bar towel, and while keeping it on the towel, reaching for our full pot of the golden nectar; we’d then raise the pot to our lips and hold the position for at least five seconds. The routine was finished with a rousing chorus of “who’s shouting the next round”.

image source:visitmammoth.com

Our arm strengthening poses of yesteryear would be detailed in today’s yoga pose libraries under the heading Ardhapurṇa Kuntala; from the Sanskrit ardhapurna, meaning half full, and kuntala, meaning drinking cup. After a few beers went down we’d start betting each other that you couldn’t rest your foot on the bar after lifting your leg up with just a wet bar towel. It was a sort off a variation of the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana pose. As the afternoon wore on your balance would get either worse or better. If it got better, and you hoisted your leg onto the bar, you could go the rest of the afternoon without buying a round.

Melbourne is often described as the coffee capital of Australia. It’s coffee culture began in the inner city neighbourhood of Carlton. Little has changed about Carlton in the last fifty plus years; it’s still populated with students, immigrants, classic Italian restaurants, artists, and aspiring hipsters. I first drifted into Carlton during my last year at Footscray Tech; when college was starting to interfere with my learning. And it was there that I was introduced to the mysterious lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos being produced by the Faema espresso machines. A flat white and short black are now part of the Australian national coffee ordering vernacular; and part of the cultural fabric of the land Down Under.

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, along with Hort Innovations, have developed a powder made from imperfect broccoli; two tablespoons of the powder equals a full serving of the nutritious green vegetable. A Melbourne cafe has started experimenting with the powder by stirring it into coffees; it seems you’ll be able to meet your daily intake of dietary fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and manganese with your early morning broccolatte.

Cafe Barista G’day mate; flat white?
Me: G’day; double shot broccolalle
Cafe Barista: Perfect; takeaway?
Me: No worries; and a slice of ketogenic cheescake

I think I need to give some serious thought to starting a Zumba and Pilates fitness group; we’d workout to 60’s and 70’s Australian Rock. After working up a sweat we’d relax in our comfortable rayon workout clothing over a few ice cold long necks of Melbourne Bitter and snack on party pies, sausage rolls, and cocktail frankfurts.


Traditional British Butterfly Cakes or Fairy Cakes

Ye Olde Counter Lunch

The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto

Never Ask A Librarian If You Need A Haircut

I need to start using Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. It’s not that I’ve suddenly developed a passionate interest in wanting to share videos, selfies, images with a quirky commentary, or comment on unusual tweets, but it’s because I became aware that you use hashtags when you post something; a word or an unspaced phrase that you make up to describe what you think your messages or image is all about. And then it came to me; hashtags are the digital Subject Headings of the Internet. Surprisingly, I hadn’t thought about Subject Headings since the days of studying librarianship. The epiphanous shiver that went down my back had to be caused by my memories of Minnie Sear.

image source:jmcadam

I was introduced to Subject Headings and Minnie Sears in the mid seventies when I studied Bibliographic Organisation; part of my librarianship studies at the Melbourne State College. The course was divided into sections; one being Subject Headings. The catalogue description read; the principles of subject cataloguing, studied through their application in the current edition of the Sears List of Subject Headings, and through the procedures required to establish new Subject Headings and reference structures in areas not covered by published lists. To the uninformed, Subject Headings could be seen as mundane, pedantic, and nitpicking. On the contrary; in the early nineteen hundreds, the square peg in the round hole of cataloguers, Minnie Sear, worked in small and medium sized American libraries. The Library of Congress Subject Headings was the defacto standard for descriptors used for indexing and cataloguing. The larrikin librarian, Minnie, thought these subject heading descriptors were too detailed, specific, and technical for where she worked; she simplified them, and came up with a revised list. Minnie Earl Sears first published her List of Subject Headings for Small Libraries in 1923; renamed The Sears List of Subject Headings in her honour after her death in 1933. And for six hours a week for one semester I lost myself in the mystical world of cataloguing and the artistry of Minnie’s Subject Headings.

image source:pixabay

I became so impressed with the concept of using standard descriptors to described events, thoughts, and happenings that I started to use Subject Headings in my speech. I called them hashtags, and sometimes I made up words with letters, digits, and underscores. I should have published them as McAdams Magical List of Hashtag Headings. I started putting my hashtags before and after everything I said.

Me: hashtag australiangreeting
Fellow Librarianship Student: g’day john; wanna grab a few frosties?
Me: hashtag alcohol_consuming sounds good
Fellow Librarianship Student: see ya at the Rose and Crown
Me: no rivermurrays mate hashtag
Later at the Rose and Crown
Fellow Librarianship Student: g’day john; what are ya drinking
Me: hashtag reckon i’ll have a green1
Fellow Librarianship Student: no worries
Me: thought I might be drinkingwithflies before I saw ya hashtag
Fellow Librarianship Student: no worries mate
Me: hashtag tide’s_gone_out_my_shout

For most of the time I was at the Melbourne State College I shared a single fronted Federation style house in McIlwraith Street Carlton and rode a bike around Melbourne. I didn’t ride a bike to challenge the mid seventies car dominated culture of Melbourne, or to see the city and it’s suburbs in a new and interesting way; I rode a bike because I was back in Australia after spending close on a year wandering through South East Asia and the Middle East, and I didn’t have a brass razoo.

image source:jmcadam

It was a vintage yellow bike without a cross bar; back then it was called a ladies bike. It had a 3 speed hub gear with the gear changer on the handle bars, a back wheel handbrake with the lever for the break on the handle bars, a bell on the handle bars, and a headlight that ran off a dynamo on the front tyre, on the handle bars. The bike didn’t have a front basket so I carried my belongings in a string bag that I would rap around a hand grip on the handle bars. It was before the age of the urban cycling; before bike lanes, Lycra bicycle shorts and skinny jeans, bicycle helmets, sculptured facial hair, bike stands, and bicycle-friendly cafes. It was when you road on the tram tracks and the footpaths.

When I was a young lad and started at Williamstown Tech I rode a bike to school; and I rode it down the same streets for next next five years. I think mum made us practice the ride a couple of times before the school year started; she and dad followed in the car. Mum knew exactly how long it took to ride to school and she made us leave the house every morning so we would get to school, with time to spare, before the locker bell and the start of class.

I remember the first day at Melbourne State College and my first library studies class, as well as I remember Bibliographic Organisation and Subject Headings. The house in McIlwraith Street was about a mile from the College. The day began with a warm summer morning. I left the house fifteen minute before class started; more than enough time for a leisurely ride down Lygon Street, enough time to throw the bike somewhere and lock it, and then find the building and room for my first class. I didn’t practice riding by bike before classes started.

image source:google

I was half way down Lygon Street and I realised I was going to be late for my first class. I pushed on the pedals. My tee shirt became damp, and wet with perspiration; sweat flowed down my back and through the waistband of my cut off corduroy shorts. My shoulder length hair became damp and matted. I threw the yellow bike onto a bush and dashed into a building in the shadow of the heritage 1888 building. The door to the classroom was closed; I opened it and found myself looking down into a medium size, tiered, lecture theatre. I was late for class. The instructor at the front of the theatre had started lecturing; they gestured to a seat in the front row. Forty five women, and three males, turned their heads and their eyes followed me as I walked down the aisle and into the seat in the front row.

Back in the seventies it seemed as if there were a high percentage of females studying for a diploma, or degree, in secondary school librarianship. Males mostly taught mathematics, science, solid geometry, or the trades, coached the school football and cricket teams, were in charge of the lockers, and were the caretakers of the school timetable. I wonder if the forty five women and three males, thought of the aspiring educational technologist walking down the lecture theatre aisle in a sweaty tee shirt and corduroy shorts, with long damp hair and a beard, wearing thongs and carrying his books in a string bag, in the same way cataloguers once thought of Minnie Sears.

image source:glamourdaze.com

I was early for the first day of every other class. I chose a seat in the back row for Comparative Librarianship. It was promised in the syllabus that the course would compare the different functions and services of Australia’s national, public, educational and special libraries; as well as the library systems in other technically advanced countries such as: England, France, West Germany, North America, China, Russia, Australia, and Scandinavia. The comparison of library systems was also going to include, what were considered as developing countries at the time: Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua-New Guinea, and India. The final topics for the class were national and international library co-operation, the formation of national bibliographies, union catalogues, and international library associations and organisations. I realised quickly that this class was going to be a challenge; I employed a strategy for success. It was an early morning once a week class. I sat in the back row with the morning newspaper, and, after reading the news and sports section did the crossword. I always had a pencil in my hand, and it seemed as if I was taking notes and highlighting parts of the handouts. I used the asking a question ploy as well as the pencil in the hand ruse; regardless of the topic I waited until the last ten minutes of the class, and would feign curiosity and interest with a compare and comparison, or a I’m still confused type of question.

I’m still a little confused about the use of see and see also cross references in the Australian Technical School catalogue compared to the Subject Headings used in Indonesia Junior High School catalogues.

image source:bangkoknightlife.com

Comparative Librarianship caused my own Catch 22. I contrasted my new found knowledge of the libraries of the world with my past journeys through South East Asia, Burma, Nepal and India, and the Middle East. And I mused as to what could have been if instead of wandering Darjeeling’s steep curved pathways, and twisting streets lined with shops and market stalls, I had been reviewing the Darjeeling Deshbandhu District Library policies relevant to the number of digits truncated after the decimal point in their Dewey classification; or in place of being lured into the seedy and provocative charm of the cheap restaurants, go-go bars, nightclubs, and hotels of Bangkok’s Patapong district I could have been at the National Library of Thailand exploring their standards and procedures for storing and preserving intellectual property.

My twelve months of librarianship classes came to an end. I moved out of the McIlwraith Street house and into the Western Suburbs, and started the second year of my “I’ve gone back to college one more time” lifestyle; studying educational technology at the State College Victoria Toorak. I retired the ladies yellow bike without a cross bar, and took trains and trams to the State College in Glenferrie Road. Studies in: Theoretical Foundations of Educational Technology, Curriculum Studies. Educational Psychology, Theory of Educational Technology, Educational Media Studies, and Educational Administration caused my love affair with Subject Headings to wane.

I need to spend some time reflecting about defining dictionaries as descriptive or prescriptive. Consider the Australian National Dictionary; it records the historical development of Australian words and phrases from their earliest use to the present day. It’s 2018 Word of the Year was Canberra bubble; short listed words were: bag rage, blockchain, drought relief, fair dinkum power, and NEG.

Prescriptive or descriptive; I need to ponder that conundrum over a few frosties: #confusing #questionmark #descriptiveandprescriptive.


1888 Building, Part Of Former Melbourne Teachers College

National Library Of Australia

Cycling: City Of Melbourne

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Haircut

Not all that long ago I decided to grow out my hair. It had been over forty plus years since I last had long hair. Hair that cascaded over my shoulders. Hair that I could pull back, and gather up into a ponytail and fasten with a lacker band. When I decided to grow my hair the undercut top, not ponytail, man bun, and ponytail with a side part were just starting to show up on every wannabe hipster’s head. I wasn’t interested in following the latest men’s hair fashions, and I didn’t need long hair for a comb-over. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could once again grow my hair below the shoulder; just the way the young john mcadam did.

image source:jmcadam

I don’t remember when I first went to the barber’s shop in Ferguson Street that was just down from the Hoyts picture theatre and a few shops up from Douglas Parade; I think I was either in first or second form at Williamstown Tech. When mum decided it was time for a haircut she would give us the money for the barber when we left for school in the morning. From when I first started at Williamstown Tech I rode my bike to school; riding up Peel Street into Wilkins Street, and then up to Melbourne Road and into Power Street. Houses lined one side of Power Street, and the Newport Workshops and railway lines the other side; all the way up to the North Williamstown Station. Williamstown Tech was a couple of pedal pushes down Kororoit Creek Road from the station.

The fifteen-minute morning bike ride was no big deal; except when it rained, or if a North wind was blowing. We set off every morning in our school uniform. The winter uniform was long woollen grey trousers, a grey shirt with tie, a light maroon v-neck jumper, a light maroon blazer, and a cap. If it was raining we wore a lightweight see-through plastic raincoat and rolled the legs of our long trousers up above the knee so they wouldn’t get wet. Your cap never got wet. All of the boys folded their caps and pushed them into their back trouser pocket with the tip of the cap just sticking out; making it easy to quickly slip the cap out and onto your head in case of a sudden school cap inspection. We’d all keep our raincoats on until the locker bell rang; as you headed for your locker you’d drip water onto the floor, producing small puddles of water the length of the corridors. You’d drip more water as you took your books for the morning classes out of your locker. Most of us shook our raincoats before stuffing them, still somewhat wet, into our lockers. And we didn’t care about our wet, drenched, straggling hair; we sat in the first period classroom with bedraggled rain slickened hair and waited for it to dry into an uncombed snarled mop. And today generous amounts of hair gel and glossing spray are used to produce the wet hair look that we obtained by riding our bikes to school in a Melbourne winter’s cold rain.

image source:menhairstyleslab.com

I was in the fifth form when I started questioning my hairstyle; surveying it with the demanding eye of a teenager, and the insight of peer pressure. It was a pot cut; short on the sides and back, and looking as though the barber had put a pot on my head, and then cut off all the hair he could see. It was the sixties, and so with a proud act of defiance, I rejected the pot cut.

I started my rebellious life’s journey at Footscray Technical College by getting rid of all traces of my pot cut. I set my sights on being an unkempt, eccentric, brilliant Industrial Chemist relentlessly chasing reactions waiting to be discovered; dismissing all pressures to be a clean, efficient and organised, white lab-coated scientist performing everyday experiments. Even though I enjoyed the thrill of putting a pipette into my mouth and sucking an acid or a base into the pipette bowl, and then to just above the graduated marks on the stem, I lost interest in the meniscus. I no longer cared if it was concave or convex. My fascinations turned to the student drama club, hotels along Nicholson Street, The British Invasion, and growing my hair. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the message of dissatisfaction the Rolling Stones embraced in I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, instead, I focused on Mick Jagger’s hair. With the same strong commitment I had made to be an outstanding scruffy Industrial Chemist I ignored mum’s emotional haircut pleadings and pronouncements.

john it’s about that time for you to get your hair cut
john have you thought about getting a haircut
john will you please get your hair cut
john you used to look so nice when you got your haircut
john you look so handsome when you get a haircut

With my desire to be a dishevelled Industrial Chemist waning I was able to focus on growing my hair and finding other ways to nourish my newfound creativity; the success of my efforts was captured in the review of the college drama club’s yearly production.

image source:jmcadam

The college year was again “blessed” with the advent of unusual performances by members of the Drama Club. There were many old faces, but lots of new stars were born when the Group performed the one-act plays “Passion, Poison and Petrification” and “The Crimson Coconut” supported by an extremely well-written revue called Lady Loverly’s Chatter.

The main new star to arise this year was John McAdam. John’s ready-made beard and flowing locks, along with his untamed flare for the melodramatic, presented the audience with a convincing villain, who was both evil and yet passionate, but nevertheless perfect to hiss and boo at. John made an extremely good job of his part and some mused that he wasn’t really acting nut being himself. However, this displays the creativeness and sensitivity of his nature, which could quite possibly take him to the theatre in time to come.
Drama Club Notes. Blue and Gold 1965. Magazine of Footscray Technical College.

My growing hair was a symbol of my rebellion against an authoritarian culture; I in defiance of mum, the old ways she stood for, and the haircuts that she had forced upon us. It was the sixties when All You Need Is Love. I don’t remember any haircuts after Footscray Technical College even though I would have had them as I whiled away four years working as a white lab-coated Industrial Chemist performing everyday experiments. and teaching Math and Science.

image source:jmcadam

I set off on the Aussie hallowed right of passage with neat, shaggy mop-top hair, and smartly trimmed mutton chops; they grew into a beard and long tangled hair as I searched for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I thought of my hair as a symbol of my self-determination, and I admired the ragged, weathered, tired, frizzy look of my long hair; especially the ends as they flowed over my shoulders. My hair had been without products, or trimming, for two years and more.

Time went by, and eventually, I had my wild free-wheeling long hair, trimmed and shortened at a barber’s school. The young barber in training confidently explained how the bounce in my hair was caused by split ends. I remember dismissing the suggestion from the yet-to-be barber because the only split ends I knew about were the New Zealand band who renamed themselves the Split Enz; sometimes described as a twitchy weirdo cult band. Before I left Australia to traipse around South East Asia and the Middle East I had my shortened hair trimmed once again; throughout the next few years, it grew and was without products. I maintained the belief that my hair was an expression of my thoughts and an extension of me.

The mullet, flat top and let’s look like my favourite hairband, welcomed me to the US. My hair was introduced to shampooing, styling, the blow dryer, and hair care products at a Lincoln, Nebraska, hair salon. It was my first time in a hair salon and I remember being mystified when the stylist, after draping me with a cape, warned me that she was going to adjust the chair. And I thought I was just getting a haircut. She explained that she was going to shampoo my hair before styling it. It became short but not short; shorter than the Beatle’s mop tops, but as long on top as the pot cut I got from the Ferguson Street barber. The sides were also longer and layered into the top. She styled my hair for as long as we lived in Lincoln and Omaha.

image source:jmcadam

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

After spending five years in Omaha we moved to Illinois; returning after a two-year absence. Over the next thirty years, the same hairdresser pampered my hair. They styled it as a mullet, through to full length on the sides and back and spiky on top, to a ponytail fastened with a lacker band, Then came their retirement; I was in a tonsorial wasteland. I was wracked with indecision about what to do with my hair; would it be haphazardly layered into beautiful chaos, styled into an amorphous blob with my eyes peering out, or would it be fashioned as a long blond streaked messy comb-over. I strode with purpose into a strip mall barbershop and confidently announced I want hair so short that I’ll be mistaken for Brad Pitt in Mr and Mrs Smith.

image source:jmcadam

When I think back I should have acknowledged mum’s innate understanding of male hair fashion more than I did; she was introducing her young teenage boy to the long hair undercut. My hair is now the shortest it has ever been for as long as I can remember, but it does bring a certain ruggedness to my personality. I need to start ordering three eggs lightly scrambled, bacon, and toast with marmalade for breakfast.


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Speak Softly And Escape The Double Handers

It seemed as if I’d been standing in the front of the Traders Joe’s freezer for an eternity; just staring down at the neatly arranged boxes of Steak & Stout Pies, and Chicken Balti Pies. For the life of me, I just couldn’t decide between the hearty chunks of tender beef in a stout based gravy, blended with copious amounts of gold potatoes, carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms, or the chunks of chicken in mild curry gravy, combined with generous amounts of carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. And then I was distracted from my pie conundrum by a voice just behind me

and if you report them they have people dedicated to that sort of thing and they’ll have them in custody in no time.

It only took a couple of seconds to turn around, but the man with the mobile phone had already moved to the end of the freezer and turned the corner. I was curious about the mobile phone man so I decided to follow him.

image source:jmcadam

I picked up my shopping basket with its two boxes of frozen Chicken Tikka Marsala and a packet of frozen Seafood Paella and set off after mobile phone man. The mobile phone man didn’t have a shopping basket or trolley; he meandered around and through different aisles of the shop, always talking on his mobile. When the mobile phone man stopped in the cereal aisle I feigned interest in a resealable pouch of Organic Rice & Quinoa Hot Cereal. I sensed I must have looked just like an average Trader Joe’s shopper to mobile phone man; he didn’t look twice at me. He spoke into his mobile with a slow and emphatic voice

and that man has saved the country twenty-eight billion dollars.

Mobile phone man wandered down the cereal aisle and into the produce section. I was losing interest in mobile phone man and was starting to think about a warm and savoury Steak & Stout Pie; I headed back to the freezer aisle. As I made my way to the check out I saw the mobile phone man still wandering the aisles; he didn’t seem to care if he was overheard or not. I was deep in thought about mobile phone public conversations and absentmindedly emptied my shopping basket; as the checkout assistant scanned my boxes of Steak & Stout Pies I announced in a faraway tone of voice

there are two types of public mobile phone talkers; those that talk in a wake up the dead hushed voice and those that speak in a deafening booming voice.

image source:dissolve.com

I don’t think we trust mobile phones; we can’t believe a human voice can easily travel to faraway places through thin air so when we use a mobile we raise our voice, thinking we’re giving it the oomph it needs to fly through the air. We talk louder than if we were speaking in person; whoever we’re talking to talks louder, and before long we’re both shouting at each other. Our everyday use of mobile phones creates an unrelenting wall of sound; a noisy environment of persistent loudness that threatens noise-induced hearing loss, and other negative health effects.

When I think back, I now realise the teachers at Williamstown Tech knew about the dangers of noisy environments. Those teachers were my guardian angel. I was an innocent teenage boy naive to the hearing issues, and other negative effects caused by second-hand noise. But the teachers knew of the dangers and hazards lurking in a noisy classroom; loss of concentration, fatigue, apathy, boredom, and even disinterest. With our welfare and aural safety foremost in their mind they commanded

there’ll be no talking in class; talking will only be allowed when I ask a question. You’ll raise your hand if you know the answer or I will just call on someone for the answer. Be prepared. And when you have a question you’ll raise your hand. It’ll be the cuts for anyone I catch talking in class; anyone who doesn’t follow the no talking rules. Understood. Any questions. Remember, hands up.

image source:victoriancollections.net.au

The cuts were the strap; being hit across the hand with a three inches wide, two-foot-long, piece of leather. The cuts were a part of everyday school life. They were a reminder for; no talking in class, that you didn’t do your homework, that you didn’t bring the right books to class, that you forget your apron for woodwork, sheet metal or fitting and turning, that you were caught fighting, that you were rowdy in the corridors, that you left the school grounds at lunchtime without a lunch pass, and that you wagged sport.

Most teachers would bring their straps to class. Mr Stonehouse carried his strap, along with his blackboard duster and chalk, in his chalk box; it was rolled and coiled in a defensive position ready to strike. Some teachers wore their straps under their coats. When they caught anyone talking they’d reach up and into their coat and slip the strap out; similar to Paladin drawing his gun in episodes of Have Gun Will Travel. Mr Baldwin kept his strap in his office. When he threatened the cuts he’d disappear through the door in the front corner of the room, and reappear carrying his strap; he’d leave it resting on the table as if it were a snake basking in the sun. It was a constant reminder there was no talking in class; that Mr Baldwin had our auditory welfare foremost in his mind. You got the cuts in front of the class. When more than one of us were getting the cuts we’d be lined up to wait our turn; teachers favoured an efficient assembly line delivery for the cuts.

image source:bbc.com

None of us knew where the different classroom offences rated on the institutional severity scale; a graduated system only known to teachers. The scale was used to determine the type and number of cuts you earned. We knew that after your third warning you most likely would be in for a double hander; most times it was waiting until the strap was raised above the teacher’s head and you’d listen for

Hand up now (one hander)
Hold straight and don’t move it
This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you
Up again (two one-handers)
Other hand (three one-handers)
The sequence is repeated for six of the best.

Two hands up and hold them together (double hander)
Hold them steady now
Wait; wait
Up again (two double handers)
The sequence is repeated for the number of double handers

One hand up (backhander)
This is for your own good
Just as the strap hits the palm of the hand it’s given a flip so it also curls onto the back of the hand.

The backhander is an extremely difficult cut and would need ceaseless practise for one to become skilled enough to pull it off. I think teachers who were masters of the backhander must have practised in the teacher’s staff room; probably putting sticks of chalk on a table and then trying to flick them onto the floor with their strap. It wouldn’t come easy; accuracy and a deft movement of the wrist would need to be seamlessly combined into one fluid action. A lot of chalk would be smashed to smithereens before one became a master of the backhander.

image source:shutterstock

I went to a Technical School in a working-class suburb of Melbourne. A lot of boys had already planned to leave school as soon as they turned fifteen. They spent three years at tech school aimlessly wandering from Form One through to Form Three; most were going into a five-year apprenticeship in the trades and had no interest in Math, English, Science, or Social Studies. Some of these boys saw the cuts as a rite of passage, and it seemed as if they set themselves a goal of getting a certain number of cuts per week; taking it like a man and enduring the pain, demonstrated their readiness for manhood.

I spent five years at Willy Tech as an obsequious, hard-working, well behaved A-grade student. Very few of the boys in Forms 1A through 5A ever got the cuts. The fateful day happened when I was in Fifth Form; during an Art class Mr Allen became somewhat irritated by the occasional creative schoolboy mumbling and chatter and announced

it’s the cuts for the next one who talks.

I don’t remember what I said; I think I was answering a question from someone when Mr McEwan looked up from his table

mcadam go down to Mr Baldwin’s class and ask him for his strap

I stood in front of the class and held my hand out straight and motionless; it was the only one hander I’ve ever received.

image source:jmcadam ( John McAdam 2nd from your right top row)

The cuts played an important role in reducing public conversations in the classroom. I see no reason why the strap couldn’t be used to quell, and silence mobile phone public conversations in supermarkets and other public places. No mobile phone public conversations signs would be posted at strategic locations; along with a listing of the type, and the number of cuts, for the severity of mobile phone public conversation. A strapper would be stationed at the entrance of the supermarket, or would randomly patrol the aisles, to deliver a one-hander or a double hander to anybody talking into a mobile phone. There could be a private area, maybe alongside the produce section, for anyone receiving the cuts more severe than a one-hander or a double hander. I know most people would applaud any effort taken to ensure humankind a healthier lifestyle; nothing would be more selfless than creating a world where the threat of noise-induced hearing loss and other negative aural health effects, caused by mobile phone public conversations, has been stamped out.

If you’ll pardon me. I have to go grocery shopping so I need to practice talking into my mobile phone in a hushed raucous manner; some made up grandiose conversation sprinkled with utterances about my successes, the demands of my job, how much the project I’m working on is costing, and assertively giving instructions to whoever I’m talking to.


Cruel And Unusual Punishment At Schools

No Phones On The Throne

Health Effects Of Environmental Noise Pollution

They Say Great Minds Drink Alike

Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 from the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles Airport I was taping, swiping, and pinching the seatback touchscreen. There were hundreds of hours of movies and television shows to choose from as well as a selection of games. I knew I could find something to entertain me for the next 13 hours. I waited until the plane was at cruising altitude before swiping to the inflight live flight tracker; we’d left US airspace and were flying at 500 plus mph. I decided I would check back between movies to watch the small plane’s progress as it inched slowly along its flight path on the flight tracker touchscreen.

image source:jmcadam

The cabin staff had just pushed the food trolley past me when the aeroplane shuddered because of turbulence. My chicken tikka masala and steamed jasmine rice and peas jostled in the tray. The turbulence caused me to lean back in the seat and sway back and forth as the plane dipped and bumped; that’s when the food on my clothes problem happened. I checked if my napkin had a buttonhole or if I could attach it to my shirt to reduce the possibility of chicken tikka masala dropping on my clothes. A thrust from the engines caused me to swipe the seat-back entertainment touch screen to display the flight tracker, we were climbing and increasing speed. Just as the chicken tikka masala stopped its jostling, and the drink trolley with its selection of wines, beer, soft drinks and juices appeared beside me.

Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in a chirpy tone) Something to drink sir?
Me: (with confidence) Beer please
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: What type of beer sir?
Me: (with a smile in my voice) What do you have?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Stella Artois, Steinlager, Heineken, Speights, and Victoria Bitter
Me: (feigning expertise) I’d better have something New Zealand
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: Steinlarger or Speights?
Me: (disguising my NZ beer ignorance) Would you mind sharing the difference?
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: (in an affable constructive manner) Speights is a full-strength bitter ale with a hint of grassy undertones that add to its complexity and allows the full flavour of the malt and hops to shine through. Steinlarger has a robust hop bouquet of fresh-cut green grass and delivers a full flavour that’s perfectly balanced with a dry, tangy finish and crisp clean bitterness.
Me: Oh!
Air New Zealand Flight Attendant: That would be a Steinlarger then sir?

image source:airnewzealand.com

I finished my chicken tikka masala and adjusted the wing-like arms on the headrest. I was soon musing about when a simple “pot of whatever’s on tap” was all it took to get a beer. Now when you walk into your favourite watering hole you’re asked to choose between an ale, a bitter, porter, wheat, IPA, stout, or pilsner. And beer doesn’t just taste like hops anymore; there’s coffee, chocolate, banana bread, pumpkin, or any flavour you can imagine.

The pretension and pomposity that some say is associated with wine drinking seem to have inched its way into swilling the suds. The wine sommelier has been reincarnated as a cicerone; a professional who’s experienced in selecting, and acquiring and serving today’s wide range of beers. I’ve always thought that ducking into a bottle shop and asking for a slab of VB stubbies or downing a few with the mates at the local, qualifies you to be a cicerone, but if you want a piece of paper to frame and hang on the wall there’s a couple of certification programs now available. One program claims to provide everything you need to know about beer’s history and cultural heritage, the traditions of selecting and acquiring beer, and the practice of serving beer; it offers four levels of certification.

  • Beer Server: you learn how to be a master of beer service and styles
  • Cicerone: you acquire a professional body of knowledge and essential tasting skills related to beer
  • Advanced Cicerone: you receive a solid understanding and distinctive expertise of beer as well as an excellent ability to detect and describe beer flavours using both consumer and brewer vocabulary
  • Master Cicerone: you gain an exceptional understanding of brewing, beer, and pairing; combining outstanding tasting abilities with an encyclopedic knowledge of commercial beers

image source:jmcadam

You’d have no worries mastering the four levels of certification if you spent a few Saturday arvos studying beer at the local by downing a few pots with the mates; how hard would it be to come up with a few practice questions for the Master Cicerone certification test.

  1. How many VBs can the average bloke throw down before going for the liquid laugh?
    a. a slab of tinniesb. half a dozen schooners
    c. half a dozen longiesd. all of the above
  2. After downing ten stubbies most people crave a
    a. chicko rollb. dim sim
    c. souvlakid. all of the above
  3. Which of the following is not a beer?
    a. frothieb.stubby
    c. eskyd. all of the above
  4. What beer would you pair with a chicken parma with chips and salad counter lunch?
    a. Carlton Draughtb. Coopers
    c. Boagsd. all of the above

We were back in The Land Down Under last year. After we had settled into our Airbnb Albert Park, single fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian house one of the owners dropped over to check the barbie’s propane tank.

image source:jmcadam

Somehow our conversation turned to beer. After the usual VB and a “good cold beer” banter, I confessed how excited I was to see Melbourne Bitter back in the bottle shops, and that I was bowled over by all the craft beers in public bars and bottle shops. With a smile, he shared that he worked for an inner-city microbrewery. And so our beer banter turned to craft beers. The next day he called in with a filled propane tank and a 6 pack of 3 Ravens heirloom 55 American Pale Ale. He offered the six-pack with “enjoy em mate”.

I opened a 55 after it had spent a few hours in the fridge, angled the glass and slowly poured the golden ale down the inside; allowing a frothy head to form on the beer. I walked with a slight swagger as I carried the ice-cold beer to the kitchen table. I instinctively knew I had mastered the Beer Server level of certification.

image source:jmcadam

The first sip of 55 allowed me to surmise that it possessed a structured maltiness and clean finish; probably from five assertive hops meeting a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye grains. An uncontrollable smirk interrupted my second slurp of 55 suds; I had achieved Cicerone certification.

After a couple of days of catching the tram into town, walking the leafy streets, and shopping the local shops I was back living in Albert Park; it was as if I had never left thirty plus years ago. It was a warm, late afternoon when I set off for a pot of whatever’s on tap at the old watering hole; just as I would leave work a few minutes early to down a few with the workmates. Alas, the Albert Park Hotel had closed. The closest I could find to a bottle shop was a Vintage Cellars in the main shopping centre. It sold mostly wine, spirits, and liqueurs, but there was a small selection of craft beers. And soon I was engaged in an informative chat about Australian craft beers with a helpful associate.

image source:goodfood.com.au

Vintage Cellars Associate: (in a chirpy tone) We describe Little Creatures Bright Ale as a filtered, top-fermented ale with a striking clarity in the glass; it’s a smooth, full-flavoured beer that’s clean and refreshingly balanced
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: The Cricketers Arms Keepers Lager is made with sun-dried Australian malt, and infused with Amarillo Hops to impart an intriguing citrus character to its aroma and flavour
Me: Oh!
Vintage Cellars Associate: We like to say that Collingwood Draught is a chestnut coloured lager with a malty aroma and subtle toasty sweetness; a dash of the finest hops gives this refreshing beer a superbly clean finish
Me: I’ll have the Collingwood Draught
Vintage Cellars Associate: ‘Carn the pies
Me: ‘Carn the doggies

image source:jmcadam

A smile crossed my lips as I left the Village Cellars. I had just ascended to Advanced Cicerone certification; I was now able to describe any beer. I kept chanting the mantra; balanced malts, subtle toasty sweetness, aroma and flavour, clean finish.

It was early evening when we walked into the Steam Packet Hotel. The Steam Packet sits on the corner of Aitken and Cole Street Williamstown; a dropkick up from the cafes and restaurants of Nelson Place. The two-storey structure was built in 1863 to replace an earlier building called the Ship Inn; Williamstown’s first hotel. During my late adolescence, I spent many hours on Saturday arvos in the public bar of The Packet. You could say my time growing into an adult at The Packet was beverage driven.

image source:dimmi.com.au

My visit to The Packet this time wasn’t to uphold the tradition of wetting the whistle with the boys; it was for a counter tea before partaking in a two-hour walking ghost tour. Whilst waiting for my order of lamb cutlets to arrive I wandered into the old Saturday arvo sanctuary. I didn’t recognise the remodelled space; time and tide wait for no man. I asked for a pot of whatever’s on tap, and the bartender gestured toward eleven craft beers and ales. And I saw the 3 Ravens.

Me: Ravens thanks mate
Steam Packer Bartender: No worries mate
Me: (in an intellectual tone) That 55 American Pale Ale pairs well with lamb cutlets. It’s crafted using five assertive hops and a blend of barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye. I’d say it has notable floral aromatics that lead to a structured maltiness and a clean, crisp, refreshing finish
Steam Packer Bartender: (placing a pot on the bar) No worries; that’ll be seven dollars mate
Me: (in a discerning tone) It boasts a full flavour and a serious hit of bitterness
Steam Packer Bartender: (in a discerning tone) No worries; cheers mate

image source:taste.com.au

I turned, and there was a buoyancy in my walk as I headed back to my lamb cutlets. Deep down I knew my 3 Ravens 55 American Pale Ale chat with the Steam Packet Bartender had advanced me to Master Cicerone certification level.

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to pour myself a kölsch and let it sit until it reaches a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit and then settle back and peruse my latest The Beer Connoisseur Magazine.



Steam Packet Hotel

The 20 Best Australian Craft Breweries

It’s Better To Pay The Butcher Than The Doctor

The other day when I was pushing my trolley through the aisles of the big box supermarket where I shop for an 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and a 12 pack of Grupo Modelo’s Victoria beer I wandered into the games section. I was gobsmacked; I stopped the trolley so quickly I nearly caused myself to somersault over its handle. Pimple Pete that must have, perfect for a fun night at home, pimple popping game was sitting on a shelf. This is how you play the game; Pete’s face is totally covered with pimples and he needs help in popping them so you spin a spinner which causes the arrow to land on either Pete’s pimple-infested forehead, left cheek, right cheek, or chin. And then the fun begins; you choose a squishy pimple to pop, and carefully try to twist and wiggle it out of Pete’s face. If you pull it too hard you’ll cop a burst of pimple juice from the uber zit on Pete’s nose. You get points for each pimple you pop without exploding the mega-zit; the highest score wins. If you get squirted you’re out of the game.

image source:jmcadam

I stood dumbstruck looking at Pimple Pete, and thought back to when dad had hepatitis; he was quarantined to the house and bed for a few weeks. Mum took my brother and me to our family doctor to be vaccinated. We all reacted to the vaccine; within a couple of days our necks, backs and armpits, were infested with weeping and suppurating, boils and carbuncles. I became convinced that doctors should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

Dr Long is the first doctor I remember. I don’t recall him taking out my tonsils, but I remember him when I broke my arm. In the mid eighteen hundreds of convicts did the heavy work of quarrying, cutting and breaking up bluestone rock in the quarries close to Williamstown. The rock was used as ballast for ships returning to London, and for buildings, laneways, and roads in Melbourne and it’s suburbs. As a youngster I liked to think the bluestones in the lane connecting Effingham Road and Eliza Street were quarried by the infamous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly; details weren’t important to a fresh-faced young lad.

image source:flickr

The lane was our shortcut from Peel Street to nanna’s place; the bluestones were lopsided and disproportionate, and they formed an incredible cragged riding surface. Mum would always warn us about riding our bikes through the lane.

One day you’ll fall off those bikes and smash open your head on the bluestones; your brains will ooze out of your cracked head and you’ll have to scoop them up in your hands and try not to spill any of them as you ride your bike back home. And then we’ll have to take you to see Dr Long.

Mum’s warnings stopped us from riding through the lane, but there came a time when I knew I had to ride the lane and conquer the bluestones. Unbeknown to mum I started to ride the bluestones; her warnings materialised. I went crashing onto the bluestones, my left wrist collapsing onto the edge of a raised stone; my wrist now had the same profile as the U-shaped edge of the bluestone. I don’t remember having X-rays, or Dr Long setting my wrist and arm in plaster. I remember dad taking me to his Ferguson Street practice a couple of weeks after my arm was first put in plaster. I sat in a front room, looking out the window onto the street; if I turned my head just right I could see the Town Hall.

image source:jmcadam

Dr long came into the room. He was cold and distant, as doctors were back then, and he walked towards me with a suction cup mask in his outstretched hand. The mask was connected to a long tube. He put one hand behind my head. The mask grew larger as he moved it closer, and soon all I could see was the inside of the mask. I thrashed my head from side to side, flailed my arms, and tore at the mask as it went over my mouth and nose. Dad tried to hold my arms, and Dr long tried a second and a third time with the mask. I still remember Dr Long’s saying to dad

we’re just going to have to take the plaster off and re-break the wrist without putting him to sleep.

I tried to be a brave little soldier and not cry; I sobbed and sniffled when the plaster, together with every hair on my arm, was ripped off. And I howled and wailed when Dr Long took my wrist in both hands and broke it, and then reset it. That’s when I first decided that a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young boys often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

In the early seventies, I wandered through Europe and into the Middle East along the unmapped hippie trail; the journey was by word of mouth, bulletin boards at eateries and budget hotels, and trial and error. It was a journey without ATMs, SIM cards for international roaming, GPS, Skype for video chat, and Google Translate. It was a journey with only a World Health Organisation yellow card, passport, and a collection of American Express or Barclay’s Bank traveller’s cheques. The yellow card was a passport of vaccinations; different countries had different immunisation entry requirements. My yellow card was stamped with the dates and dosages of vaccinations for smallpox, tuberculous, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis. Before leaving Istanbul to drive across Turkey, and into Iran and beyond, I checked my passport for the needed visas, and yellow card to ensure all vaccinations were current and updated; a vaccination was out of date.

You could always find a friendly somebody around the Blue Mosque who’d volunteer to be your chaperone, guide, escort, and taxi driver; at a small cost and preferably in US dollars. I’m not sure how much English our soon-to-be guide and taxi driver understood, but we explained that my Aussie travel mate and I needed to visit a doctor to get a vaccination.

image source:med.umich.edu

We showed him our yellow cards; he nodded and smiled, gestured to his car and began to sing

Love, love, love
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need
Love, love, love

He stopped at a nondescript house somewhere in Istanbul, pointed to a door, and announced “health specialist”. My Aussie travel mate and I stood together in a small drab room. A man entered. I don’t know how much English the health specialist understood; we showed him our yellow cards. He took a syringe from the table draw, turned toward a wall-mounted cabinet, and filled the syringe with a liquid from a vial in the cabinet.

image source:independent.ie

As he turned from the wall he gestured to bare our arm, and then walked toward us. My Aussie travel mate raised his arm and announced he would take the needle first. The health specialist plunged the needle into my mate’s arm and released the serum. Before another word could be uttered, the specialist whipped the needle out of my mate’s arm, spun around, and plunged it into my arm; the serum left in the syringe started flowing into my arm. The health specialist stamped and dated, recorded the dosages, and signed our yellow cards.

All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love, love is all you need

I never understood why I thought a doctor should be feared more than the disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

image source:wikimedia

Before the toy train had World Heritage status very few tourists rode the little train to Darjeeling. The looping, double reversing, narrow gauge track was designed by British engineers to carry supplies up 7,000 vertical feet to the thriving tea estates of Darjeeling. In 1881 steam engines and carriages, half the size of normal trains started hauling administrators, troops and materials to the Darjeeling hill station. We boarded the little toy train at Siliguri’s old railway station; it was soon chugging alongside roads and crossing narrow bridges, and slowly heaving and steaming through towns. Youngsters in the mountainside towns took turns jumping on and off the slow-moving train; inspiring us to leave our carriage and walk alongside, and ahead of the train to buy fruit and other foods at different shops. At times the train would stop in a town for an engine to be hitched onto the back of the carriages to give an extra push up, and around, the loop ahead. The more loops the toy train looped the colder it became.

I wandered the bustling interconnecting streets and laneways of Darjeeling with my travel mate and his companion. We relaxed in the traditional tea rooms with a pot of tea and fluffy warm scones, butter, cream and strawberry jam, asked the locals to teach us how to fly a kite and stopped at the market stalls and shops as we strolled the town squares; the majestic snow clad mountains were a constant dramatic backdrop.

image source:reveriechaser.com

My travel mate’s companion had need to visit a doctor. The three of us walked the hilly street to a commonplace Darjeeling building. I waited outside with my mate; smoking cigarettes. We aimlessly shifted our gaze from the street to the building roof line, and then to the ground. I think we both saw it together; below the window was a jumbled mess of bloodied gauze and bandages. We quickly shuffled around the corner and stopped to smoke another cigarette alongside a window; before long soiled bandages and other medical dressings came flying out of the window. I went back to thinking that a doctor should be feared more than a disease; young men searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary often live in a confused world.

I probably should stop at the Elwood Park golf course clubhouse on my next morning walk to see if they accept medicare cards. Just a precaution in case I stumble and fall, and break my wrist when I’m walking the uneven roadway that bisects and wanders through the course and needs to see a doctor.


Passports, Visas and Yellow Cards

Melbourne’s Bluestone Laneways Get Sleek Makeover

A Short History of Anesthesia

A Curried Scallop Pie In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Warmer

Some time ago I committed to getting my teeth cleaned twice a year; I decided on this preventative maintenance schedule because I didn’t want to go through again what I went through to fix years of teeth neglect and abuse. At my last teeth cleaning I settled into the reclined dental chair, and as I always do gazed up at the ceiling. I was soon mesmerised by the dreamlike sky created on the ceiling by the decorative fluorescent cumulus cloud diffuser panels and my faraway thoughts sent me back to when I first moved to the US; it was then that I decided to save my teeth, to give them a new go at life. I braved jaw bone implants, bridges, caps and root canals, fillings and extractions so I could once again find happiness and joy in chewing.

image source:jmcadam

When I was growing up during the fifties and sixties dental hygiene wasn’t really practised in Australia; at least not in our family. I may have brushed my teeth once a night before going to bed. Mum’s answer to most of our tooth problems was: we can get them fixed, but if they really start hurting, out they’ll come. I did get an occasional filling. I went through childhood and adolescence knowing that my teeth would eventually be coming out. I remember only going to the dentist a couple of times. Mum kept telling us that he was some relative of ours, distant cousin or something as obscure and that he wouldn’t hurt us. He practised in a nondescript double-fronted cream brick veneer building, just down from the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Streets. A waiting room was to the right as you went in, and the surgery was on the left. I vaguely remember sitting in the waiting room, and wondering what the strange smells were.

image source:illinoiscriminaljustice.org

I don’t remember ever getting a local anaesthetic to numb the part of my mouth where he was going to drill; you always knew just before when it would hurt. You’d watch the chains and pulleys driving the drill slow down, and as he kept pushing the drill into the tooth they’d stop. It seemed as if he’d always hold the drill right in front of you when he pulled it out of the tooth to wait for the chains and pulleys to start back up. As you watched the hurt starting to happen you started to notice the strange smell coming from your mouth. I think we often left the double-fronted cream brick veneer building with tears still in our eyes. We pleaded with mum never to send us back to the dentist who was our relative. I remember going to a dentist just around the corner from where we lived; I don’t remember what he did or why I went. His practice was in a couple of remodelled rooms in a house in North Road; we always wondered if he lived in the rest of the house.

When I thought I was old enough to no longer listen to mum I decided to never go to the dentist again. Fillings fell out, cavities appeared, and I even loosened a front tooth when I fell off my bike and went face-first into the footpath. Over the years my tongue would discover a rough edge on a tooth; another filling starting to go, or a new hole starting to happen. I never really had toothache; it only hurt when I chewed on the cavities. I started to eat a lot of soft foods.

image source:gourmandandgourmet.com.au

Sausages became my go-to food. I’m not talking pork and apple honey, chicken with roasted red capsicum, basil and garlic, chicken and artichoke with kalamata olives, or turkey with broccoli and provolone cheese artisan gourmet sausages, but the true blue butcher shop Aussie sausage; the snag, the banger, the mystery bag. A sanger from a sausage sizzle, meat pies, and sausage rolls, are the first on my list of must-eat foods when I go back to The Land Down Under; some habits just die hard. I’ve always liked sausages; from back when mum used to cook them under the grill on the old kitchen gas stove, to when she would throw a pound of snags into the Sunbeam on the kitchen table. Mum never did bother with the slice of white bread wrapped around a just cooked sausage, but she did bother with two other classic Aussie snag recipes. Whenever the breadcrumbs came out, and the Sunbeam went onto the kitchen table you could bet it was either going to be cutlets or crumbed sausages for tea. The recipe for anything coated in breadcrumbs was the same; roll the thing in flour, dip it in a beaten egg, and coat it with breadcrumbs. Fry in dripping until nicely browned.

image source:eazypeazymealz.com

No Aussie kitchen would be complete without a tin of Keen’s curry powder. For as long as I can remember, anything that was called curry in The Land Down Under was made with Keens; and for a while, curried sausages were all the go at our house. Mum would whip out the Sunbeam, and fry some snags with sliced onions until they were just cooked. She would take the snags out of the Sunbeam and slice them, then add water, flour, and Keens’s curry to the Sunbeam. After simmering the slurry until it became a thick sauce mum would throw some peas and the cut-up snags into the sauce; we ate mum’s curried sausages with boiled rice or mashed potatoes.

Keen’s Curry powder is about as Aussie as you can get; it’s rivalled only by Vegemite. In 1841 a British chap named Joseph Keen sailed out to the new colony. He established a bakery in the small town of Kingston in Van Diemen’s Land and dabbled in creating and selling sauces, and other condiments; he created what would become Keen’s curry powder in the 1860s. The curry powder became known throughout the mainland. Joseph was awarded a medal for his spice mix at the 1866 Melbourne Inter-Colonial Exhibition and received an honourable mention at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition. In 1905 after Joseph and his wife went to the big spice rack in the sky their sixth daughter Louisa, and her hubby Horace took over the family’s curry powder business. Horace bought some land in the foothills of Mount Wellington overlooking Hobart, and turned it into a giant advertising sign; he used white painted stones to spell out Keens Curry in forty-foot high letters. The white stones are still there today, but somewhat obscured by the houses of South Hobart.

image source:euroblather.smugmug.com

About the same time, Joseph started creating his sauces and condiments, scallops were discovered and harvested from the cold waters of the Derwent River near Hobart town. The scallops soon became a local delicacy, and it wasn’t long before someone added Keen’s fantastic curry powder to the scallops when they were being cooked. Some say the quaint tradition of putting scallops into a pie began on the Hobart wharves in the early 19th Century, but the origin of the curried scallop pie is a little vague. Regardless of their history, the golden parcels of curried gelatinous joy have become Tasmania’s national dish; the curried scallop pie is the jewel in Tassie’s culinary crown.

I’m the third great great grandson of the transported convict Thomas Raines. In 1842, 44-year-old Thomas was convicted of stealing sheep from Henry Hilton of Salridge and sentenced to 15 years transportation. There is no record of him being sent to Port Arthur so he was probably assigned to various Van Diemen’s Land farmers. Convict records at the State Library of Tasmania suggest that he spent some time in and around Richmond Town before being issued his Certificate of Freedom. Richmond Town was established as a military staging post, and convict station linking Hobart with Port Arthur. Today, Richmond is a quaint little town with its main street still lined with beautiful heritage buildings. Australia’s oldest bridge, a sandstone arched bridge built by convicts in the 1820’s, is just off the main street.

image source:.abc.net.au

The Richmond Bakery is just a stone’s throw away from Australia’s oldest gaol. I think many a convict would have longed for a Bakery pie or pastry; just biting into one of their sensational curried scallop pies would cause, if only for a brief moment, one to escape from the hardships and brutality of convict life in early Van Diemen’s Land. On a sunny October afternoon, I bit into a Richmond Bakery curried scallop pie. Scallops encased in flaky pastry, swimming in a creamy curry sauce that has been spiced up with a dash of Keen’s; their scallop pies are up there with the best. A quality curried scallop pie should have

  • at least four scallops in a pie; five is great, six is booming
  • only fat and juicy fresh local Tasmanian scallops
  • never been within cooee of frozen or imported scallops
  • a sauce that isn’t clumsy and overpowering; has a just-right curry tang
  • a sauce with a delicate balance of curry and viscosity; not too thick, not too runny
  • soft, flaky, buttery pastry that makes a golden browned cap

I could’ve had three of those tasty little bottler’s but restrained myself to only one; I’ve never thought it was rude to lick your plate in public. And there’s nothing like a flat white, and vanilla slice to finish off a winner of a meal.

image source:jmcadam

You never need to wonder why Keen’s Curry Powder is a household name across Australia, and why over the last 150 plus years Tassie’s own curry powder has been a staple of Aussie kitchens. A dash of Keen’s Curry Powder can do wonders to an egg sandwich, and make a ripper curried seafood supreme. I think the ultimate in deliciousness would be to combine the curried scallop pie with the sausage; imagine if those golden parcels of curried gelatinous joy were made into bangers. There’s no telling what would happen if you chucked a few curried scallop pie snags on the barbie at a sausage sizzle. You could throw any leftovers in the Sunbeam the next morning and heat them up for breakfast; yum, what a great way to start the day.

Tasmanians have been keen for curry since colonial days

Curried Scallop Pie Recipe

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