Why Not Take A Six Month Holiday Twice A Year

There are several things that I remember about a sojourn back to Australia a few years ago. After settling back into Melbourne for three weeks and becoming a Melburnian again I headed off north to the Reef and the Rain Forest, and then flew from Darwin back home to the US. I may tell people about the four o’clock in the morning dash, in the hotel mini van, to the Darwin hospital and the two day stay there. What I tell everybody about though is the airport shuttle van ride to the beach side coastal hotel and the ride back from the hotel to the airport. From the airport to the hotel the shuttle van was bursting with excited, overjoyed, lively people who were thrilled to be starting their holidays. From the hotel to the airport the shuttle was crammed with excited, overjoyed, upbeat people who had finished their holiday and were thrilled to be coming home. Holidays are strange like that. From that time on I wanted to drive an airport shuttle bus when I retired.

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I knew that I was sinking further and further down into the hard moulded resin seat at gate A4 in the Phoenix Airport because when I stared straight ahead into the dark floor to ceiling windows all I could see was the reflection of heads in the waiting area resin seats. There weren’t many waiting for the flight; I think it was after eight o’clock on a Tuesday night and that meant landing in Omaha around midnight. The little ones had given up playing on the floor, and throwing their small stuffed animals as far as they could and running after them; the information screen over the airline desk showed the flight was on time and was scheduled to arrive in Omaha around 11:30pm. I think the reason I was sinking further and further down into the hard moulded resin seat was because I was coming home from a holiday and had been travelling for the last twenty five plus hours.

image source:jmcadam

I wasn’t really sinking; my shoulders and head were bobbing and floating more so than all of me sinking. Before arriving back home in Omaha I would have crossed the international date line and three time zones. I arrived back in the US the same morning, and an hour before, I left my destination. I really don’t like leaving Melbourne. I’m not excited, overjoyed or upbeat about heading back home from a Down Under holiday; the last thing I do is order a flat white or latte and think about what I will miss. The coffee, unless it’s ordered as a take-a-way is always served in a ceramic or glass coffee cup. But there is a happiness to coming home. The announcement from gate A4 stopped my lusting for a flat white, and stopped my head bobbing

The aircraft at gate A4 has been withdrawn from service.
Would passengers please proceed to gate A8.
A replacement aircraft is being delivered from the hanger.
We will keep you updated on departure time.
We hope to have you in the air as soon as possible.

And I sleepily thought; the aircraft from the hanger will have to be cleaned, fuelled, filled with pretzels and coca cola, seat belts tidily crossed on top of seat cushions, vomit bags neatly arranged in the seat back pockets, and safety checks completed; I wondered what “we hope to have you in the air as soon as possible” meant. Even though I was fuddled by lack of sleep I clearly thought this could take hours. A small smile crossed my tired lips when I thought that because of these extra hours, I could challenge any coming home from a holiday travelling braggart when they posted their extreme number of hours in transit; and I could also regale my friends with harrowing stories of what happens to your brain, physical dexterity, and coordination when you’re deprived of sleep. And I became excited, overjoyed, upbeat, and thrilled to be coming home to Omaha from a holiday. The aircraft was delivered from the hanger to gate A8; apart from safety checks and fuelling it was ready to depart. We arrived in Omaha 15 minutes later than scheduled.

image source:jmcadam

I personally recommend doing the following as soon as you set foot in the house when you return from a holiday to preserve the thrill of the homecoming, and to purge any withdrawal symptoms

1. Grab a stubbie holder and crack open a few cold ones, cans of ginger ale, or Bloody Mary mix.
2. Turn on the telly and binge watch the Travel Channel.
3. Practice the language of the country you’ve just left.

If you have returned from a holiday in Australia practice the use of the word bastard. Remember that how bastard is being used, defines if it is a friendly reference to a mate or a vulgar version of bloke. A great example of the use of bastard is from the Body Line cricket tour, when the English Captain Douglas Jardine told the Australian captain Bill Woodfull that one of his team members had called him a bastard. Woodfull turned to the dressing room and roared out, at the top of his voice, Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard.

4. Eat small packets of pretzels, honey nuts, or trail mix.
5. Commit to starting a new hobby that reflects where you have been on holiday.

If you have returned from a holiday in Australia your new hobby should be stealing stuff from work. Office supplies are a good start. Make sure that you are caught stealing as soon as you start this new new hobby because stealing from work is a rite of passage with the mates. And the expected response to the boss to avoid being disciplined is shrugging your shoulders and saying; Well it wasn’t nailed down was it.

The next morning tried hard to dampen my excitement, joy, and thrill of coming home from a holiday. I read the email from the neighbour who had been starting, at irregular times, the cars parked in the garage and the drive way. The last time she tried to start the driveway car the battery was flat. She called AAA to jump start the car, and then parked it in it’s usual place on the street. Even though I have been a member of AAA, or triple A as it is known, and have always had excellent service and support from the organisation, I’ve always thought the name to be somewhat less than grand; even a little common. I belonged to the RACV in Melbourne. As a member of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria I felt a sense of eminence and entitlement. The RACV provided the same services and products as AAA but I always thought that when the RACV bloke jump started my mini cooper it was by Appointment to Her Royal Majesty.

image source:northernnatalcourier

I tried not to let the thrill of coming home from a holiday be diminished by the dread of grappling with the car not starting, calling AAA, and then buying a new battery. It is said that a car battery can be fully charged by driving around for an hour without using the lights, radio, or any other electrical devices in the car; but the longer the battery has been dead, the longer it will take to fully recharge it. Because we had no idea of the charge remaining in the battery a long drive had to be the best option. We drove the car nine hundred miles to Houston, Texas, and 900 miles back to Omaha; thinking that two eight to nine hour driving days each way should take care of recharging the battery. I imagined the driving seat to be seat 25D on a Boeing 777-300; there wouldn’t be a drink trolley, choice of seat back entertainment, or stumbling over legs to get out of a cramped seat to walk without shoes, or any one to serve small packets of pretzels, honey nuts, trail mix, ginger ale, or Bloody Mary mix, we wouldn’t be travelling at 520mph, and we would have to stop for meals. It’s a good idea to take a three or four day road trip when you come home from a holiday, and before you feel that euphoric thrill of coming home starting to wane; repeated road trips up until the next holiday will ensure that the thrill of coming home will persist until you come home after the next holiday.

image source:jmcadam

The next morning persisted in trying to dampen my excitement, joy, and thrill of coming home after a holiday. As soon as the shower was turned on a waterfall of water cascaded from the shower head; every spray nozzle was blocked. I thought long and hard and mentally sifted through the recesses of way back. When I was growing up our kitchen wireless was always tuned to 3AW. Mum would sit at the kitchen table when the Martha Gardener show started and slowly dawdle through her lunch, and would finish up with her cup of tea, or instant coffee, just as Martha was winding up her show. Mum swore by Martha’s housekeeping tips and hints; use my Wool Mix for washing more than just woollens, and use vinegar to remove calcium build up residue from water. And so the shower head was soon resting in a small reservoir of vinegar. It didn’t take long for a pleasant vinegar smell to waft through the house; and if I closed my eyes I was at the counter of a fish and chip shop about to sprinkle my order of chips, flake, dim sims, potatoes cakes, and calamari with a few good squirts of vinegar. I was bursting with anticipation and excitement as I imagined the deliciousness of the basic order of fish and chips with a few dimmies. I spent the rest of the day bolstering the waning thrill of returning home from a holiday by smelling fish and chips and drinking countless glasses of lemon, lime, and bitters. It’s probably a good idea to soak or smear a household item with something that has an odour of the place that you have just returned from; and let the aroma remain in the house for several weeks. The thrill of returning home should persist as long as your refresh the distinctive smell.

image source:jmcadam

The thrill of coming home was continually challenged; the drainage outlet on the freezer had frozen and everything in the fridge and freezer had to be thrown away, including bottles of Mrs Ball’s chutney, HP sauce, and mint sauce, and I had to schedule a visit to the dentist to check on what I thought was a chipped tooth, and the car insurance had been cancelled, and the land line phone service was still not fixed after a month. I faced each challenge with an unflinching thrill of coming home.

I should have taken photos of each home coming challenge and uploaded them to Shuttefly to create a photo book to preserve all my favourite thrilled to be coming home digital memories as a beautiful coffee table book. I think that my friends would be gobsmacked looking through such a photo album.

 

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I Think There Was a Change In The Voltage

Our house, described by some as a charming two storey revival brick English Tudor, was built in the early thirties. It was designed and built with an alcove for a telephone. On one side of the doorway that leads to the kitchen from the dining room is a phone nook. It’s more than just a hole in the wall; it’s a small sculptured private space that could be mistaken for a prayer niche. The nook is styled to match another nook above the fireplace in the lounge room. The curved arch of both nooks match the curved arch of the opening that separates the dining room from the lounge room. When we moved into our house the nook was empty; the phone that once stood there had been removed by the sons when they were preparing the family home for sale. We had been told that their dad was in his nineties and was found in the basement at the bottom of the steps from the kitchen. The phone would have rested in the nook as a statue does in a church niche. The nook was the answer as to where to keep the big, heavy, cumbersome telephone and keep it’s mess of cords out of sight.

image source:jmcadam

I don’t remember much about the first phone I had that didn’t attach to a wall; except that it was a flip phone. But you had to attach the phone to the wall to charge it; a phone charger plugged into a power point plug. Since that first flip phone I’ve lived through a couple of generations of mobile phones. I presently have an iPhone 7 that is already superseded by the next generation of smart phones. Each generation of new phones called for a fresh collection of different cables and charging accessories; a wall charger, a USB power adapter, a Lightning connector to USB cable, and a Micro to USB charging cable. The superseded cables cast aside from previous phones exist as a tangled mess in an old Vionic sandals box; I might need them someday. And now attaching a phone to a wall charger to charge it is passé; mobile devices are charged any where anytime using the ubiquitous USB cable. We carry a USB power adaptor, our houses now have combination duplex and USB outlets, and our cars are our personal charging stations.

image source:jmcadam

If fifteen US states have a distracted driving law prohibiting drivers from using hand held cell phones while driving, and more states are considering similar laws, how long will it be before charging phones while driving will become illegal. Attempting to plug your phone into a USB cable connected to the USB cigarette charger adapter in your car’s cigarette lighter receptacle forces you to switch your attention away from the road. How dangerous is that. And, if you have rested your phone in your lap, or between your legs, and have it set on vibrate to announce incoming calls or texts, then what happens when you receive a text or phone call; serious vibration attention distraction. How dangerous is that. When charging a phone in a moving vehicle becomes a primary offence the cigarette lighter receptacle will return to it’s original glory and be used to house a cigarette lighter.

image source:pixabay

There’s a lot I don’t remember from the sixties and seventies but I do remember the cigarette lighter in my Mini Cooper. I had chosen to smoke Kent cigarettes. I decided on Kent because of the glamour of an all white cigarette with a micro-nite filter. What also helped was that the Kent cigarette advertisements suggested suaveness and sophistication, and an allure of worldly charm and magnetism. Holding a Kent between the first two fingers of my right hand, as I rested it nonchalantly on the steering wheel of my black Mini, I would double clutch to change down a gear, and then accelerate to change lanes into the half a car space ahead. I was the height of chic; I could never be without my Kent. I was forever pushing the cigarette lighter into it’s socket on the dashboard; as soon as it popped out, the spiral end glowing orange hot, I would hold it to the white cigarette already between my lips, and double clutch to change down a gear.

image source:jmcadam

On a recent sojourn back to the The Lucky Country we chucked a voltage converter and power adaptor, and a one to four outlet adaptor into the Vionic sandals box, and taped the whole thing shut before packing it into our Spinner Suitcase. Australia’s electricity is 240 Volts, and the wall power point sockets are designed to take a three pin monster plug; two flat metal pins with a third flat pin that forms a vee. A switch on the wall socket turns on the electricity; up is off and down is on.

We needed to change the Australian 240 Volt electricity to 110 Volts to be able to charge several devices so developed, and refined, how to connect and plug in a Brisbane hotel room; power adaptor plugged into the monster plug wall socket, voltage converter plugged into the adaptor, and the plug in one to four outlet adaptor plugged into the converter. But before anything was plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor the combined weight of the interlocking devices caused the arrangement to angle down, and separate away from the monster plug; the interlocking polyhedron’s weight would have to be supported. Through trial and error we discovered that a packet of Tim Tams on top of a box of Arnotts Shapes, Pizza Original Flavour, and a packet of Allens Minities on top of the Tim Tams provided a balanced support. And in Hobart we assembled a support truss from a packet of Arnotts Tic Toc, a bag of Twisties, and a box of Jam Tarts.

image source:jmcadam

And then came that fateful day in Melbourne. For the next three days after checking into our hotel we were down at the front desk remonstrating about their standard of housekeeping, the shoddy condition of the room, and their neglectful customer service; each visit escalated in belligerence, verbal aggression, and combativeness. On that fateful day the polyhedron was braced by a stacked combination of, a bag of mini Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe, a packet of Mint Slices, and a few cans of VB. Three devices were plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor; there was a popping noise from the monster plug and a black powder appeared on the voltage converter and the devices plugged into the one to four outlet adaptor shut down. And the room wall lights were now off; the desk lamp and electric clock radio was also off. I plugged in the electric kettle and flipped the power point switch down; nothing. The television plugged into a power point on the other side of the room was still on.

I had no other option but to go down to the front desk and face the staff who had been my adversaries for the last three days; the foe that I had berated, harangued, and castigated. I walked timidly toward the desk; they saw me approaching and attempted to look busy. I looked at no one in particular and casually started the conversation

Me: G’day, guess what.
(They looked at me with a blankness; they just kept looking at me, waiting for another harangue. In a friendly conversational tone I matter of factly said)
The electricity just went off on one side of the room. I think a circuit breaker must have tripped
Front Desk Staff: What were ya doing
Me: Nothing.
(Attempting humour)
I didn’t plug in a garage door opener or impact spanner or anything.
(I smiled)
Front Desk: She’ll be right mate; we’ll send maintenance up to the room to have a Captain Cook.
Me: No worries, whenever they have time. No rush.
(And I kept smiling)

I didn’t wait for the lift; I took two steps at a time up the staircase until I reached the second floor and our room. I wrestled the polyhedron from the monster plug and quickly disassembled it; the voltage converter into a sock, the power adapter into the laundry bag in the suitcase, and the plug in one to four outlet adaptor on to the tea and coffee making facilities tray. I pushed the tray behind the television. I swept the stack of mini Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe, Mint Slices, and the few cans of VB recklessly with my arm and let everything stay where they landed. I didn’t have a minute to spare when there was a knock on the door. It was hotel maintenance to check the electricity; to see if a circuit breaker had indeed tripped. It was only a couple of minutes after they had left when the electricity came back on. They knocked again on the door; circuit breaker mate.

image source:youtube

I retrieved the parts, and assembled the polyhedron; except the plug in one to four outlet adaptor. For the rest of our stay in the Melbourne hotel we only plugged one device at a time into the polyhedron. The only other time I visited the front desk was to finalise the bill. I greeted them with a smile and bid them a warm and friendly see ya later.

Android and Apple phones now support wireless charging; you only need to throw your phone onto a wireless charging pad. And now resonant induction charging is the new wireless charging; no cables and the phone doesn’t have to rest on anything to be charged. Which suggests that we could harvest the energy from the movement of our bodies to charge our phones. Next time on my morning or maybe during my laps around Westroads I’ll wave my phone in circles to see if it’s gyroscope produces enough magnetic or electrical energy to self charge it. Or maybe I’ll just hold my phone onto my stomach to harvest some body energy.

I suppose I should throw away the Vionic sandals box.

 

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If You Can’t Spell It Don’t Eat It

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

image source:jmcadam

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

image source:kentucky.com

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

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

image source:google

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

image source:google

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

image source:google

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

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

image source:jmcadam

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

image source:jmcadam

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

image source:jmcadam

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

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

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

image source:jmcadam

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

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

 

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

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

boys, you may remove your jumpers and loosen your ties

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

image source:picturevictoria.vic.gov.au

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

image source:errantries.com

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

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

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

image source:pinterest

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

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

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

image source:heartsonfire.co

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

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

image source:sports.vice.com

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

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

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

 

What In The World Is Corn Sweat

Brockwell Lido

History Of Surfers Paradise

I Only Drive The Speed Limit In Australia

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

image source:johnmcadam

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

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

image source:heraldsun.com.au

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

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

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

image source:registriesplus.ca

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

image source:pinterest

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

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

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

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

image source:pixabay

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

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

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

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

 

Civic Compliance Victoria

Melbourne’s Top 10 Speed Camera Locations

Driving Down Under: What You Need to Know

No Dramas, No Worries

I sat alone in the waiting area anticipating the return of the associate from the service centre workshop. Why is it that you can go for years without a puncture and then you have flat tyre after flat tyre. Omaha was caressed by a gentle soaking rain the other day so all of the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters. But how does a nail or screw lying on the road puncture a car tyre

1. a car in front of you runs over part of the nail or screw and cause it to
stand upright ready for you to run over it
2. you drive over the nail or screw and your front tyre flings it up
and into the path of the back tyre
3. the nail or screw is sitting pointed head up on the road and it’s nestled
into your tyre as soon as you run over it

I expected the associate on their return to tell me the tyre couldn’t be patched because a nail or screw had lodged in the sidewall. I focused on the waiting room tyre wall display and was soon musing over common causes of punctures; jagged pieces of wood, screws and bolts, knife blades, sharp rocks, potholes, stiletto heels, or indoor tv aerials, when a sign hanging from the ceiling caught my attention. A bearded smiling mechanic was staring out at me and to their left was written; tightening, torquing, wrenching. As I stared at the sign the words faded and became; tightening, torquing, spannering, and I was soon singing along.

I think it’s safe to say that if you own a car in the The Lucky Country then your going to have a small tool kit in the boot or glove box; a spanner set, a couple of screw drivers, pliers, that sort of thing. You never know when your motor might go bung and you need to do a quick fix under the bonnet to get to the nearest servo. And when you ask where’s the nearest service station your probably going to be told; there’s a servo another two clicks up the road, if you get to maccas you’ll have to chuck a U-ey, you’ve gone too far.

And it’s not just the way Australians spell and pronounce words, or the slang they use, that make up the little differences that are the The Lucky Country.

image source:excelle.monster.com

Australians keep their knife and fork in their hands when they eat. Food served on a plate comes with a knife and fork; it can be a meat pie and sauce, full roast with veggies, fish and chips, or grilled steak with salad, or anything in between, and it’s eaten with a knife and fork because it comes with a knife and fork. If the pie, dimmie, chico roll, or fish and chips is ordered as take away forget the knife and fork; it’s eaten from the bag or the paper it’s wrapped in. You’ll never see anybody forking food separately; different foods are combined on the fork at the same time. A plate of roast lamb and mixed veggies is worked on by cutting the brussel sprout into bite size pieces, and keeping the knife and fork in both hands cutting a chunk from the roast potato, and then a bite size slice of roast lamb. And with the lamb still on the fork, collecting a piece of brussel sprout onto the fork tines with the lamb, and then loading some of the peas and a chunk of roast potato onto the back of the fork. The knife is used to help move food around the plate and to push food onto the fork. No one cuts up food and then puts the knife and fork down and then picks up the fork to bayonet the just cut up foodstuff; and no one would ever use a fork to cut up food. There are no appetisers in the The Lucky Country; the entrée comes first, followed by the main course and then dessert. And a salad is served with the main course, not as an entrée.

image source:johnmcadam

Coffee comes in a cup. It comes as a flat white, long black, short black, latte, or cappuccino; good luck finding the bottomless cup of percolated or drip brewed coffee. At a cafe or restaurant no one is going to bring a coffee carafe and cup to the table and leave the carafe after pouring a cup of coffee. And you won’t see a commercial pour over coffee maker behind the counter. Order at the counter, pay, take a number with yourself to a table, and await the cup of coffee and refreshment to be carried to your table; if you want a refill of coffee, repeat the process. You won’t find a one cup coffee drip maker or single serve brewer in a hotel or motel room. Rooms are equipped with an electric kettle to boil water, a supply of tea bags and sachets of instant coffee crystals, sugar or sweetener, and milk in the mini fridge. In the morning boil some water, empty a sachet of freeze dried coffee grounds into a cup, stir with a spoon, and BAM!!; good morning coffee.

The The Lucky Country decimalised on the 14th February 1966. The national currency is the dollar, and fifty plus years later the dollar comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes; coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations. You’ll always get a $1 or $2 dollar coin as change whenever you buy anything; they add up fast in your pocket.

image source:johnmcadam

There’s no better way of getting rid of those little gold nuggets than ducking into the nearest pub for a glass of the amber fluid. Walking up to the bar in any pub and announcing I’ll have a beer mate will get you a cold one; but ordering a beer isn’t that easy. The size of a beer varies in each state and territory and each size has it’s own name. Most but not all states use schooner as a name for the large size, but the name for a small beer could cause confusion; its a half-pint in the Capital Territory, a middy in Western Australia and New South Wales, a pot in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, sometimes a ten in Queensland and Tasmania, and a handle in the Northern Territory.

Bartender: G’day mate ya right?
Ian: G’day, schooner of New and a middy of VB mate
Bartender: Sorry?
Ian: Schooner of New, middy of VB
Bartender: Sandgroper mate?
Ian: Freo
Bartender: (holding up a pot and a glass) Which one mate?
Ian: (pointing to pot): The middy
Bartender: No worries
Bartender: (placing pot on bar) Cheers
Ian: Cheers

image source:chicagotribune.com

You don’t need money in the The Lucky Country for tipping because there is no tipping; but you can if you want to. Tipping isn’t a substitute for a persons salary; it’s not part of the The Lucky Country culture. Australian workers are guaranteed a minimum wage by law. Depending on the industry or the job they work penalties and allowances could increase their minimum wage; currently the basic minimum wage is around twenty dollars an hour. However you need cash when you eat out with friends; splitting the bill is not an option. Most staff will act more like your mate than your server so don’t ask what they recommend for an appetiser or request they spend their time organising your bill and figuring out who ordered what. Work it out amongst yourself, throw what you owe as cash onto the table, and then one person goes to pay.

image source:pixabay

It was nine o’clock on a Monday morning and I was in a hotel room just a stones throw from Streets Beach at Brisbane’s South Bank Parklands. I was starting on me second cup of instant coffee and Karl and Lisa had just signed off from The Today Show, so I started channel surfing. My thumb hesitated, and I stared; Atlanta Falcons were leading the Green Bay Packers. I was watching American Football, live, in a Brisbane hotel room. Now it’s safe to say that Australians love sports and it’s also safe to say no one really cares about the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl. The Lucky Country has Australian Rules Football; players don’t wear padding and helmets, and are not running off the ground every few minutes to take a rest and put a towel over their heads. It’s summer in the The Lucky Country when US football is broadcast on Australian television, so it has to compete with cricket; the national summer sport that allows sports fans to showcase both their excitement and fatigue for a game played over five days.

image source:beingindian.com

Cricket is played between two sides, one out in the field and the other in. Each man that’s in the in side has to be got out; men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in, and the next man in goes out and goes in when he’s out. When all of the in side is out, the out side goes in and the out side that’s been in goes out, and tries to get those coming in, out. When both sides have been in and out, and if there is still enough time, then each side gets to go in and out again. The side who scores the most runs wins; sometimes after five days there are men that are still in and not out so the game is a draw. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the in men are out.

In the The Lucky Country young and old recognise and admire the drive, creativity, commitment, and finesse of the athlete who competes alone, but against themselves. They admire none more so than those who are not fond of rules; those that have no respect for the status quo. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, Australians see genius.

And just as I was thinking, the battered sav could be called the battered deep fried saveloy, the battered deep fried hot dog sausage, or a corn dog, the associate returned from the service centre workshop and told me that I must have driven over a small nail. And he started to explain that because of the rain showers the other day the nails and screws that were resting in the gutters were washed onto the roads by the rain water gushing down the overflowing gutters.

After the puncture was repaired I drove to Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and ordered a Chicago Dog Freddy’s Style.

 

Tipping in Australia: Who should you tip and how much

The top 10 cafés for coffee lovers in Melbourne

Pots, Pints and Schooners

It Starts With Toilets and Ends Up Costing Us Our Way of Life

As I was beginning my fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall I anticipated the need for a pit stop after the last lap. There are now three public rest rooms to choose from; two are on the second floor. One is close to my final turn, in a walkway that connects into the two long perimeter hallways; and the other is at the opposite end of the mall, tucked into the back of the Flagship Commons. The remodelled, third public rest room is on the ground floor by the new The Container Store. My anticipation was correct so I headed for the remodelled rest room. I was enclosed by white tiles; two urinals were separated by a metal modesty panel. As I turned toward the two sinks the room seemed to spin and shrink and I was transported into that finite space called seat pitch.

john-in-loo

image source:johnmcadam

I learned a long time ago there’s no graceful way to get past the drink trolley when it comes between you and the lavatory; you have to get out of it’s the way. And that means your groin or gluteus maximus is lodged within two inches of the passenger’s face in the aisle seat. And some people prefer the aisle seat. The air plane lavatory can be a little intimidating. The thunderous sucking sound that launches as soon as you flush the powerful vacuum powered toilet, and the swirl of mysterious blue liquid that suddenly appears, and then disappears in a quick, deep muffled, thwump can be a little off putting. I had learned that to prevent boredom, dehydration, deep-vein thrombosis and sleep deprivation on long haul flights it’s best to wear loose pants, take off your shoes, and walk around the plane a lot. It’s a given that planes encounter turbulence but I’ve never seen the cabin crew mop a lavatory floor during a flight, so if you’ve taken off your shoes just remember the wetness your feet are feeling, and your socks are soaking up, is not that mysterious blue liquid.

airplane-toilet-1

image source:express.co.uk

I never thought deplaning, navigating Australian immigration, retrieving luggage, riding the airport shuttle, and checking into a South Bank hotel would manufacture a hard earned. And we all know that a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer. The Plough Inn is only a short walk from the hotel, along the winding pathway lined with flowering jacaranda trees; it’s an old style Aussie pub bustling with true blue yesteryear charm and atmosphere. I thought a quick detour to the toilet was a good strategy before settling down to a pot of Victoria Bitter. I knew I was getting close to the metal wall because the unmistakeable, distinctive, smell of the Australian men’s urinal was becoming richer and thicker. When you get that first whiff of proud Aussie mateship you know you’re back home; back in the The Land Down Under.

I doesn’t seem to matter if you hit the wall head on or at angle; splashing will happen. Depending on when you strained the spuds, or how many ice colds you’ve put away, the splashes are going to be either droplets or large drops. And because you don’t really have control over the velocity of the stream at the start, or near the end of the session, uncontrollable dribbling and spattering is guaranteed; sprinkles will end up on the floor, or somewhere. Over time the smell of dried urine deepens and the fragrance floats in the air to remind you that other males were there. I think men respect the smell of the urinal. It awakens our forgotten memories of when we were hunters; of marking our territory. It’s our last playground in the wilderness of civilization. And it becomes my companion on the fourth and second last loop around the perimeter of Westroads Mall.


Queensland jacarandas flower in October and November and their purple lilacs shroud you in a cloud of fantasy. During a guided walk through the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens I learned that Walter Hill was the Superintendent and the first curator of the Gardens. He planted the seed for the tree that became the ancestor of Brisbane’s jacarandas; a landmark until uprooted in the 1980 cyclone. The Queensland Art Gallery is home to the ancestral jacaranda tree; Under the Jacaranda, painted by Godfrey Rivers in 1903 is Queensland’s most famous painting. And fresh jacaranda blossoms fall to the floor below the painting every October and November. I thought there was a faint smell of jacaranda when I gently pushed open the door of the men’s toilet; I scanned the floor and it was clear of petals. The porcelain, wall hung, urinals did have a plastic grid screen covering a urinal cake holder; the cake had a masculine fragrance.

gallery-jacaranda

image source:johnmcadam

Summer in the The Land Down Under can be summed up as heat waves, droughts and wildfires. Using time honoured creativity and know-how Australian’s have forever experimented with managing the consequences of summer’s extremes. Throwing a brick into the toilet cistern to lessen the water in it was a traditional way of saving water in a drought; a big problem when you needed a big flush. This caused Australia to invent the dual flush toilet; two flush options in the one toilet. Nine pints of water for a full flush and six pints for a half flush . Toilets with two flush buttons are mandatory in all new buildings in every state of Australia. Most of the The Land Down Under toilets don’t have a handle on the side of the cistern for flushing; just two buttons on the top.

dua-flush

image source:cozyhomeplans.com

Mr Fraser wrote on the board during one of our Williamstown Tech science classes that the mass of an object affects how quickly it can change speed; and acceleration is how much it’s speed changes over time. He told us that mass times acceleration is the rate of change of momentum. Before you choose a full or half flush you need to give a quick look into the bowl, guess at the mass of the substance, do a quick calculation, and then choose the flush that will give enough acceleration and momentum for it to clear the bowl; and if you really want to get it right you need to factor in density. Full flush or half flush; the path to any decision is not always a straight one.

The forested and scenic Dandenong Ranges is a low mountain range about a 20 mile drive from Melbourne. Mount Dandenong is both a mountain in the Rangers, and a small township nestled between the day tripper townships of Olinda and Kalorama. The Sky High Restaurant is a major tourist attraction close to the summit of Mount Dandenong; the picnic areas, formal gardens, and the spectacular views of the suburbs and city skyline from the viewing platform lets you contemplate the noises and pressures of the city from afar. Some say it’s the views that you go there for.

dandenong-view

image source:theclimbingcyclist.com

Mr Fraser also wrote on the board that objects fall towards the ground because the earth exerts a force of attraction on them; the force of gravity. The acceleration of a falling object because of gravity is 32 ft per second per second and velocity is the rate of change of it’s position. In the movie Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African-American who crunched the numbers and served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in NASA history, they talk about the escape velocity needed for a rocket to break free from the earth’s gravity. Mount Dandenong is about 2100 feet above sea level. The sign in the public toilets at Mount Dandenong must be a warning to the danger, from acceleration due to gravity, when something is dropped from a height of just under half a mile. Without doing the math I think it’s safe to say that an object dropped from Mount Dandenong and accelerating at 32 ft per second per second could be approaching it’s escape velocity.

toilet-squat

image source:johnmcadam

During the month I was back in the The Land Down Under I would have peered into at least sixty three dual flush toilet bowls trying to estimate the mass, density, buoyancy, acceleration and momentum of the whatchamacallit so I would correctly choose the full or the half flush. I watched the water swirl, and sometimes I watched it swirl again. I couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion if it was clockwise or anticlockwise; but I can say the shape of the bowl and the angle of the flush water streamed into the bowl is what causes a clockwise or anticlockwise swirl.

toilet-flow

image source:johnmcadam

From the National Public Toilet Map of Australia you can get the whereabouts, and a description of the over 17,000 public and private public toilets in Australian cities, towns, parks, shopping centres, and camp grounds. Many towns and districts have a Public Toilet Strategy, and Public Toilet Design Guidelines and Standards Policy. In the The Land Down Under you’re not far from a safe, accessible, clean and environmentally responsible public toilet; going to the public toilet is without shame, embarrassment, or guilt. The Beechworth Visitor Centre provides guided walking tours of the Historic and Cultural Precinct; a collection of authentic honey coloured granite gold rush buildings. The Precinct includes the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office. Our small walking group was gathered outside the Telegraph Office allowing Ian to regale us with a blend of humour and fact about the discovery of gold in Beechworth. And then we heard in the true spirit of Australia

Ian I need to go to the dunny: don’t wait for me: I’ll catch up.

And she caught up with the group at the courthouse where Ned Kelly was tried and found guilty of murder.

beechworth-ian

image source:johnmcadam

I remember when Melbourne had underground public toilets. Mum told us we could only use the one in Elizabeth Street just down the corner from Bourke Street; most of them have now been capped with concrete, demolished, or filled with sand. Regardless of what mum said we always ducked into the Flinders Street Station public toilet before catching the train back to Newport. I don’t remember the whereabouts of any other public toilets. It’s time I established an account at the National Public Toilet Map of Australia website and set up a My Toilets profile.

 

The National Public Toilet Map

Hobsons Bay Public Toilet Strategy

Dual Flush Toilet