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, and from the hotel to the airport it was crammed with excited, overjoyed, upbeat people who had finished their holiday and were thrilled to be coming home. Holidays are strange like that; and since that time 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.

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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.

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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;such as, 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; 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. It’s probably a good idea to soak or smear a household item with something that has an odour associated with 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 you refresh the distinctive smell.

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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.


How to Get Over Your Post-Vacation Blues

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body

Confessions of an Airport Shuttle Van Driver

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Key Lime Pie History

Walker Glides, Not Walker With Tennis Balls

10 Roadside Foods You Should Never Eat

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 restrooms 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 restroom is on the ground floor by the new The Container Store. My anticipation was correct so I headed for the remodelled restroom. 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.


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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 its 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 aeroplane 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.


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 unmistakable, 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 Land Down Under.

It doesn’t seem to matter if you hit the wall head-on or at an 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 are 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.


image source:johnmcadam

Summer in The Land Down Under can be summed up as heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. Using time-honored 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 Land Down Under toilets don’t have a handle on the side of the cistern for flushing; just two buttons on the top.


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 its 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 let you contemplate the noises and pressures of the city from afar. Some say it’s the views that you go there for.


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 its position. In the movie Hidden Figures, the story of three brilliant African-Americans 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 its escape velocity.


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During the month I was back in 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.


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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 centers, and campgrounds. Many towns and districts have a Public Toilet Strategy, and Public Toilet Design Guidelines and Standards Policy. In 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-colored 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 humor 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.


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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

Australia’s Next Crowd Pleasing Tourist Attractions

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


image source:flywithdinh.blogspot

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


image source:johnmcadam

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

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

image source:toonz.con

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

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


image source:johnmcadam

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

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

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

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


image source:marvmelb.blogspot

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

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

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

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


Plough Inn South Bank, Brisbane

Rutledge Lane, Melbourne

Parliament House, Canberra

Always Start The Day With A Dry Hanky

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:rotana.net

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


image source:appalachiantrials.com

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


image source:medicaldaily.com

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


image source:en.wikipedia.org

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

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


image source:abc.net.au

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


image source:museumvictoria.com.au

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

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


The Fabulous History of the Humble Handkerchief

9 Ways to Fold a Pocket Square

How to Blow Your Nose

And How Would You Like Your Risk

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


image source:johnmcadam

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


image source:walkingmaps.com.au

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

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


image source:jenx67.com

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


image source:playgroundchronicles.wordpress.com

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

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


image source:weekendnotes.com

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

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


image source:klear.com

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

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

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


image source:hercampus.com

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


image source:valebowlingclub.co.uk

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

The Bike Helmet Paradox

The Overprotected Kid

The Mystery of Risk

I Vote for Grilled Brussel Sprout Sandwiches

I was recently furniture shopping in Denver at the quaint Cherry Creek North neighborhood; described as a charming sixteen block outdoor shopping and dining destination containing an impressive collection of art galleries,  boutiques, international fashion brands stores, and luxury hotels. You can shop the tree-lined streets and find unique fashion, jewelry, home furnishings and art, and then treat yourself to a delicious dining experience at one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants. It came time for a late lunch so we ducked into a restaurant that declares itself as a love letter to Italy; a place that approaches perfection in the art of handmade pasta and pizza.


image source:peopledplaces.com

A glance through the lunch menu revealed a selection of pasta and pizza that included;

Squid ink mafaldine
white shrimp, calamari, acqua pazza, mint, fennel pollen, calabrian chili
Burrata tortelloni
heirloom cherry tomato, basil, pecorino, rustic tomato sugo
mission fig, goat cheese, arugula
roasted mushroom, cipollini onion, smoked mozzarell

Now I’m willing to try strange, weird and unusual, trending ingredient fads anytime; but no one would describe me as a foodie begging for a thrill, so I stopped and mentally juggled acqua pazza, calabrian chili, cipollini onion, and pecorino. And I had a flash back to some of the unplanned culinary adventures in the past that my pallet had withstood. And then I saw it; it was just under Pasta Made Fresh In House Daily.

Bolognese (house specialty)
traditional meat sauce, tagliatelle noodle & grana padano cheese

john spag bol 3

image source:johnmcadam

I felt an inner smile carry love energy down into my stomach; from adolescence through emerging adulthood I had more plates of spaghetti bolognese than you could poke a stick at. Mum used to make her own version of spag bol and every hotel in Melbourne has spag bol on it’s counter lunch menu. Some even claim that spaghetti bolognese is Australia’s national food. And that caused me to wonder about national foods; it seems that a lot of countries have an iconic fare.

Iceland. Hakarl: Fermented shark
Poland. Bigos: Sauerkraut and meat stew
Ecuador. Ceviche: Lime juice-marinated raw fresh fish spiced with chilie
Philippines. Adobo: Vinegar-stewed meat
Ethiopia. Wat with injera: Meat/vegetable stew with spongy bread
Thailand. Pad Thai: Stir-fried noodles with shrimp and/or meat
Germany. Currywurst: Sausage with curry sauce/spices
Canada. Poutine: Fries with gravy and cheese curds
USA. Hamburger: Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun

I started to muse on what is a national food and who chooses it. Today, Australia has a rich variety of foods and drinks that have been adopted and adapted since colonization; each arrival of migrants to Australia’s shores bought new ingredients and new flavors and what was once new and foreign has been transformed into distinctly Australian food. Playing and supporting sports is part of the Australian identity. It’s just what Australians do. Australia is a sporting nation. Now I’m not sure how a cuisine is anointed as a national food but I think a national food should be chosen based on the following; it is eaten at the footie and is inspired by another country. And that would put as serious contenders for Australia’s national food the dim sim, chiko roll, chicken parmigiana, and spaghetti bolognese.


image source:foxsportspulse.com

The dim sim is a Chinese-inspired meat dumpling style snack of; meat, cabbage, and flavourings wrapped in a thick, wonton skin-like pastry: but not to be confused with the dainty dumplings nestled in bamboo baskets at a Sunday yum cha session. It is claimed that the best dim sims were made and sold by Ken (Kuen) Cheng at the South Melbourne Market; always sold steamed. You can get dimmies as an add on at most fish and chips shops, either deep-fried or steamed, and they are usually served sweating in a soy-drenched plastic paper bag. I thought the best dimmies were from a fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road, Newport. This fish and chip shop followed most of the fish and chip shop rules; it was run by a hard working immigrant Greek family and the dimmies came out of a frozen bag.

steamed dimmies soy sauce

image source:deanoworldtravels.wordpress.com

Because you could never be quite sure of what you were getting dimmies are known as Mystery Bags. Because the fried dim sim didn’t go soggy it was a great snack at the footie or cricket; you can pop one of the little fried magical parcels into your mouth between sips of a cold one without thinking. In 2014 the Lord Mayor of Melbourne rejected the suggestion of a giant monument to the dim sim be installed in the city.

The Chinese spring roll inspired Frank McEncroe to create the chiko roll; first sold in Australia in 1951. It is a deep fried motley collection of cabbage, carrot, celery, rice, beef, and spices wrapped in a thick somewhat chewy dough jacket; and sometimes it was better not to ask what was in them because you didn’t want to know what was going into your body.


image source:simplot.com.au

The chiko roll exists to be eaten at the footie; the thick outer jacket is far more durable than the flimsy meat pie pastry shell so it can be easily eaten with one hand leaving the other free for a cold stubby. You can get a chiko roll at pretty much any fish and chip shop in the country; drowned in soy sauce and eaten on the go from the original inspired small, narrow, bag it is a journey into paradise.

No one calls it Chicken Parmigiana; it is simply known as chicken parma or just parma. It is suggested that Aussie chicken parma is adapted from melanzane alla Parmigiana, an Italian dish made with shallow deep-fried sliced egg plant, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parma uses a breaded chicken breast instead of fried eggplant and the chicken is topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella, parmesan, or provolone cheese. Sometimes it will also be topped with ham. Chicken parma is an Aussie pub classic.


image source:weekendnotes.com

You will find parma on 90 per cent of Victorian pub counter meal menu’s; most likely served with chips and salad. For someone in search of their Utopia Pot and Parma night at the local pub, especially if a footie match is being televised, is the road to Utopia; the chicken parma comes with a 10 oz glass of beer. The parma proudly takes it place on the menu alongside the counter lunch classics; crumbed and fried lamb cutlets, steak sandwiched, schnitzel, and the mixed grill.

Australia was assaulted with a new range of smells, tastes and types of food at the end of the Second World War due to the large number of Italians, Greeks, Turks and Lebanese who migrated to Australia. Fresh eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, olives, capsicums and garlic became common in fruit and vegetable shops; and pasta and pizza, transformed Australia’s culinary traditions. No one knows how Ragu alla Bolognese became Spaghetti Bolognaise or, spag bol, but it’s a favorite Aussie comfort food. Every Australian kitchen table and every pub table and counter has had a bowl or plate of spaghetti bolognese put on it.

spag bol

image source:recipes100.com

Spag bol became one of the most frequently eaten dishes in Australian. But it bears no resemblance to a traditional Italian bolognese or ragu; a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna. Mum’s spag bol was minced beef, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and salt and pepper; she probably thickened it with flour. And after a while she started to add nutmeg. When mum got her electric Sunbeam fry pan it seemed to live on one end of the kitchen table. The electric cord plugged into the end of the handle and shared the plug on the wall with the 3AW kitchen wireless. The fry pan was either cooking rissoles, sausages, or spag bol meat. The spaghetti was always cooked until it turned into a soggy, mushy mound of pasta; any left over meat sauce was eaten on a couple of slices of toasted Tip Top bread the next day. Spag bol is still one of the most cooked meals in the Australian home; but you will never have the same bolognese recipe twice. With so many recipes for spag bol it risks consistency.

chiko food-van

image source:islandcontinent.com.au

So, if it can be eaten at sporting events and is inspired by another country is the criteria for Australia’s national food I have some concerns supporting spag bol as a winner. It has to be between the dim sim, chiko roll, and parma. The deciding factor has to be; what can you drop on the ground in the outer at the footie and continue eating, something you just give a quick wash off or brush off and it’s as good as new. Hard to do with a bowl of spag bol. I suppose you could be watching the footie on TV in the public bar of the local while you finish the spag bol from your counter lunch order; but there’s not much risk of dropping it on the ground in the outer there. If you wrapped the parma between a couple of slices of Tip Top it would make a great footie parma sandwich; dropping it would be disastrous. That leaves the dimmy or chiko roll as Australia’s national food: And it should replace the meat pie, roast lamb dinner, spag bol, pavlova, or any other food stuff claiming to be Australia’s national food. There are however a couple of new, serious, contenders out there; and one is for Australia’s national beer.

The Four’N Twenty Stuffed Crust Pizza was offered by Pizza Hut Australia in 2015; eight party pies were nestled, one each on the outside edge, into each piece of pizza. Unfortunately it was only available for eight weeks.
Vegemite Cheesybite is a delicious combination of vegemite and cream cheese; perfectly suited to go on anything at any time. It can be spread straight on to crackers, wholemeal or grainy bread, pita, fresh vegetables; virtually anything you like.
Belly Button beer was presented at the 2016 Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular. It was created by Doug Bremner and his beer-brewing mates from coriander seeds, orange zest and yeast collected from their belly buttons.

When it gets into the 40’s and we are guaranteed misty rain I think I will order a few packs of dimmies from the Australian Bakery Cafe. They claim they handcraft their dim sims in the aussie fish & chip shop style; ready for you to deep fry or steam and drown in Worcestershire sauce. We’ll break out the Sherrin, have a few end to end kicks in the back yard, and then settle in with a few ice colds and some steamed dimmies.


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If my National Anthem Could Sing

The announcement that Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, otherwise known as the UK Parliament or the British Parliament, voted to introduce a bill as to whether or not England should have its own official national anthem instead of God Save the Queen caused me to muse over when Australia’s national anthem was God Save the Queen.

Six months after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned monarch of the UK she became the first reigning monarch to set foot on Australian soil. She visited all the Australian states and the capital cities, except Darwin. Where ever She visited there were chants of we want the Queen; we want the Queen; and She was met with a sea of waving flags. Australia’s national anthem, God Save the Queen, filled the air. All Australians were swept up by the thrill of her visit; the McAdam’s were no exception. One evening we joined the excited crowd lining Victoria Street in the hope of catching a fleeting glimpse of Her as she was leaving Melbourne’s Lord Mayor’s Royal Ball at the Exhibition Building. We waved madly as the royal car hurried by.



In the sixties every Victorian School had a Monday morning assembly. At Wiliamstown Technical School our assemblies were held in what was the asphalt quadrangle used for bat tennis games; at least six courts were painted on the asphalt. The teacher’s car park insulated the quadrangle from busy Kororoit Creek Road. It was bordered on one side by the wing of the school that housed the teachers staff room and the principal’s office. The flag pole stood alone on the opposite side and beyond was an open green space; the assembly hall was yet to be built. The front of the parade ground faced the wing of the building that was the Science, Art, and Mr Morrow’s Accounting rooms.



The teacher leading the assembly, Mr Mellington the senior science teacher, stood on a small raised platform in front of the outside of the science rooms. The fifth, fourth, and third forms lined up to the left, and the second and first forms to the right on the parade ground. The flag pole was to the left of the school assembly which always started with all students standing at ease lined up alphabetically in descending form order, and with caps on.

And we waited for his commands.

School AAA-TEN-SHUN. And we snapped from our legs apart, hands clasped behind the back at ease stance, to hands by the side and legs and feet together.
Caps OFF and FAAA-CE the flag. The assembly turned as one and swiftly removed their caps.
REEE-PEAT after me.

I Love God and my country
I honour the flag
I will serve the Queen
And cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law

School SALUUUU-TE the FLAG. And on cue the national anthem God Save the Queen was played.
CAAA-PS ON and face the front.
STAAAA-ND at ease.
If there were no school announcements or a snap uniform inspection then the call was music please.
School MAAAAA-RCH off.

Years ago someone had worked out an intricate marching order for each form based on the location of the room of the first class that each form was timetabled for on Monday mornings. The parade ground became twisting, inter twined, writhing, lines of five hundred or more marching, disinterested, students.



Every Monday morning we saluted the flag and recited the Oath of Allegiance. Most of us didn’t think about the words during the week: but we recited them every Monday.

It just seems like yesterday when God Save the Queen was played in every picture theatre, concert hall, and at every public event in Australia. As soon as the picture theatre lights dimmed God Save the Queen played and we stood in silence, at attention, in the darkened theatre. Late comers being shown to their seats, by the light of the usher’s torch, promptly stopped and stood at attention when they heard the opening drum roll of the national anthem. We were told by mum that it was bad manners and disrespectful to the Queen if we didn’t stand at attention when God Save the Queen was played. At first I felt ashamed when I saw some latecomers ignore the anthem and push past the usher so they could find their seats before the newsreel started. I would steal furtive glances at the late comers and would secretively watch them as they found their seats: this was my initial introduction to a social political demonstration and anti monarchy protest in a public place. Several years later I became one of the disrespectful. Playing the anthem had been migrated to the end of the main feature. When the lights went up and the theatre transitioned from dark to dim the national anthem was projected on the screen and we were expected to rise from our seats and stand at attention facing the screen.



The day I decided to stay seated as the six opening bars of the anthem filled the theatre was no different than any other. The screen filled with a splendid montage of Her on horseback taking the salute at the Trooping the Colour, sitting majestically on the throne wearing the royal robes and crown, and then cavorting stately with the corgi’s. I was admonished by the man behind me standing at attention as I stayed seated: what of my allegiance and reverence to the queen. I had heard my young inner angry voice grunting out against the monarchy: I wondered how important the Queen was to Australia as it started growing into Australia.

Before Australian television stations started 24 hour broadcasting they would sign off around ten o’clock at night. Sign off was announced by playing the national anthem, God Save the Queen. The drums rolled, the Queen appeared on horseback surrounded by her gold-braided soldiers; this image then dissolved into a cackling kookaburra and then the Australian flag. The sign off was always followed by the test pattern. And I refused to jump out of the chair and stand at attention in front of the television while the anthem played; to be upstanding for Her Majesty during the television sign off. But I did wonder if God Save the Queen was played at the end of the day’s programming because of the tradition in picture theatre’s of playing the national anthem at the end of the main feature.



The seventies were defined by change. Many saw the 1972 Australian Whitlam Government as a catalyst of change. They introduced reforms that included included establishing formal relations with China, repealing conscription laws and withdrawing all Australian forces from the Vietnam War, abolishing tertiary education fees, returning traditional lands in the Northern Territory to the Gurindji people, and adopting Advance Australia Fair as Australia’s national anthem. In 1975 the Whitlam Government was dismissed by the Governor General Sir John Kerr and the subsequent Malcolm Fraser government reversed the national anthem decision. This insidious act by the Crown’s Australian representative was another stimulant that caused many to question Australia’s identity with Britain and the Queen.

And I never stood at attention again for the playing of God Save the Queen.

In 1984, seven years after a plebiscite asked Australian’s their preference for a national anthem, the incoming Bob Hawke government officially replaced God Save the Queen as the national anthem with Advance Australia Fair. And in 1986 the Australia Act was passed by both the Australian and the United Kingdom Parliaments. The Australia Act terminated; the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for Australia, for the UK to be involved in Australian government, and for an appeal from any Australian court to a British court.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was the place of perfect peace and happiness for ninety odd thousand raucous Australians when Olivia Newton John sang Advance Australia Fair before the 1986 Carlton Hawthorn Grand Final.

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil
Our home is girt by sea
Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair


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MPs vote to introduce bill on new English anthem

Australia Act 1986

Every Job Should Have a Swivel Chair

Did Russell Crowe really have to spit the dummy when they told him at the Virgin Australian Airline Sydney Airport check-in that the hoverboards his children got for Christmas were not allowed onto the plane? His flying off the handle caused me to think about what makes us what we are. It doesn’t take much to conclude that what we are is caused by the influence of many things. I think these many things include; mates, parents, climate, culture, education, income, machines and gadgets, and jobs. I also think that we become our jobs while doing them, and we retain some of what we become for the rest of our life. Russ has had quite a few jobs in his lifetime. These include; being a television child star, a failed attempt as a bingo caller, bartending, and working as a waiter. Could the jobs have caused Russ to have; a fiery temper, embrace arrogance and rudeness, and take up a volatile, combative bad-boy nature?

One of my first jobs was coordinating the delivery of the Golden Fleece Top Hits 45rpm vinyl records to Melbourne’s Golden Fleece service stations. Golden Fleece was one of the major Australian petrol suppliers and distributors; it was a pioneer of single brand service stations and its golden merino ram logo seemed to be everywhere around Melbourne and Australia. I remember a Golden Fleece station on the corner of Hotham Street and Douglas Parade.

gf station

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Golden Fleece’s main petrol distribution terminal for Melbourne was on Douglas Parade just past the Newport Power House. The terminal was a farm of petrol storage tanks connected to several tanker loading stations. The petrol tankers would check-in and out at a dispatch office when entering and leaving the terminal. I spent six weeks one hot summer in the dispatch office. To entice motorists to fill their tank at a Golden Fleece service station, or just to stop in to get their windscreen cleaned, the company gave away a different promotional Top Forty hit each week. Each station was given a number of records at the start of the week and if they ran out, the owner would phone the dispatch office to request additional records; the additional records were matched to the truck that was delivering petrol to the station that week and when the truck left the terminal the records were given to the truck driver to deliver. I answered the phone calls from the petrol stations and assembled the caches of records to hand to the drivers; sometimes delivering the records to the loading trucks.

gf truck

image source:flickr

The Top Hits collection included cover versions of:

Bobby Goldsboro: Little things
The Seekers: A world of our own and I’ll never find another you
Herman Hermits: Mrs Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter
Ray Brown and the Whispers: Pride
Burt Bacharach: Trains, Boats, Planes
Brian Wilson: Help me Rhonda
Bob Dylan: Mr Tambourine Man
Ned Miller: Do what you do do well
Gerry and the Pacemakers: Ferry crossed the Mersey.

Recently Russell Crowe changed the name of his band. The millionaire actor allegedly changed his old group’s name from Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt to The Ordinary Fear of God because the names have the same initials and he would save money on not having to manufacture new merchandise. I wonder if The Ordinary Fear of God will play cover versions of Ray Brown and the Whispers Pride.

When my early seventies searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary walkabout took me to London I had a job during the long hot summer as a lifeguard in an outdoor swimming pool. The pool had to be as large as one and a half Olympic pools; it was surrounded by asphalt and concrete and the only blades of grass were outside; the concrete and pool were protected by a ten-foot-high brick fence. On each side of the pool was a men’s and women’s changing room that resembled dank, dark subterranean, grottos.

swimming pool


The attendant in the men’s changing cave was a thin, pale, long-haired, young English man; he seemed to be forever reading this incredibly thick book. It took several weeks for me to linger near to, and enter the cavern, and talk to the strange quiet man. The book that he read all summer was Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again. During the summer we plucked quite a few little ones from the shallow three-foot end of the pool and were regarded as heroes by the young mothers; we also dragged a few from the deep end after they jumped off the diving board and discovered they couldn’t swim. It would have been no worries for Russ though seeing he made an appearance in the Australian television series Bondi Rescue; the series followed the daily lives and routines of the professional lifeguards who patrolled Bondi Beach.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, I was a van driver-transport aide. With other driver-transport aides we shuttled developmentally disabled clients from their places of residence to sheltered workshops; as well as to evening and weekend recreational activities. The transport fleet was made up of about ten transit vans of different colours. Several rows of bench seats were removed in some vans to provide lockdown anchoring for a wheelchair. Our morning route included collecting each client from a managed group home, or their parents home, and then dropping them off at their workshop. I think that each morning we usually picked up about twelve clients. Management tried to keep our routes and client pick ups consistent so we soon knew each other fairly well.

van riding

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Our morning conversation would be; Good Morning Raymond. Seat belt on Raymond. John what you have for breakfast. Seat belt on Raymond. You have eggs. No Raymond toast. You have eggs. Seat belt on Raymond. See you this afternoon Raymond. Good morning Mike. Seat belt on Mike. Our afternoon route was the reverse of the morning route. After picking up the clients at their workshops we would then drop them off at their group or parents home. They knew their van by the colour so workshop pickups were routine; except when their van was in the shop for maintenance or repair. Some of the clients lived by the adage work hard and play harder: And we would transport the players to evening cooking classes or weekend bowling. Even though every ball was a gutter ball for the Saturday morning ten pin bowling game it was always high fives and an exuberant celebration for a game well played. I don’t think anyone understood the concept of winning; it was all about the satisfaction of bowling the ball. Our van became a special van on Friday afternoons. After workshop pick up we would stop at the drive-through for ice creams to go; even if it took an extra journey around the block we would make sure the ice creams were finished and any telltale dripped ice cream was cleaned up before we got to the group or parents home. I always wondered if anyone ever told their supervisors or parents about having ice cream: we were never asked about Friday ice creams.


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I’ll bet you a shilling to a quid that Russ worked as a van driver-transport aide as he prepared for his best actor nominated role as John Forbes Nash in the movie A Beautiful Mind.

I didn’t know it at the time but the opportunities offered to me at Footscray Tech groomed me for later events in my life: none more so than walking the boards in George Bernard Shaw’s short play Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction subtitled The Fatal Gazogene: A Brief Tragedy for Barns and Booths. After spending a few years in Nebraska we moved to Springfield, Illinois. The opportunities of practising as an Instructional Designer in Springfield were sparse and soon we were receiving food stamps. To sidetrack my anguish of collecting food stamps and the empty, endless, days of searching for the hidden Instructional Designer position I auditioned at the Springfield Community Theatre. I was cast in an upcoming production. I busied myself in the Springfield theatre scene and my circle of knowing people in Springfield quickly expanded.


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One day a thespian companion asked if I was interested in part-time work. And so I became a patient simulator. We recreated a patient through role-playing in mock doctor-patient interviews and examinations. Our stage was a fabricated doctor examination room. Half of one wall of the room was a one-way mirror so the medical student’s faculty could observe them practising doctor-patient communication and examination skills; the performance was videotaped for feedback. The day before becoming the patient we were given the profile of an actual past patient; medical history, personality, physical findings of X Rays or blood tests, medications, emotional temperament, and their response patterns. The medical students were rotated through the examination room for their thirty-minute encounter. Collecting food stamps became a distant memory.

image source:medicaldaily.com

Many famous actors have turned down famous roles. Russell Crowe turned down Aragorn in The Lord of Rings and Morpheus of The Matrix. I turned down the prostate and rectal examinations as a patient simulator; I wonder if Russ would have turned them down.

It seems that Russ and I have a lot in common. We both have turned down great acting roles and also have been active in the music and recording industry. And we both know about lifesaving and have a sensitive insight into the developmentally disabled. I’m glad I didn’t get a hoverboard for Christmas otherwise I would likewise have a combustible temper, be arrogant and rude, and possess a volatile, combative bad-boy nature.


Huey Lewis and the News:Workin’ for a livin’

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College Interfered with my Learning

I drive past Do Space on the corner of 72nd and Dodge quite often, and every time I think of the outstanding learning opportunities that were presented to me during my studies at Footscray Technical College. Do Space was created by converting a Borders bookstore into a free to the public technology library and digital workshop. Do Space has been described in the Omaha World-Herald as a resource meant to provide access to educational and creative computer technology to people from all walks of life, but especially to people who don’t have access to it anywhere else.

In the last half of my final year at Williamstown Technical School, I had to choose whether, to continue taking fitting and turning classes on Wednesday afternoons, or take glass blowing at Footscray Tech. I don’t remember everyone that chose glass blowing, but there were at least six of us that included: Brian Jefferies, Phillip Daniels, Graham Brown, and Robert Ballard. Every Wednesday afternoon, we would catch the train from North Williamstown to Footscray and during each glass-blowing class, we attempted to make different pieces of chemistry laboratory glass equipment. We laboured to bend, melt, and attach glass to create; test tubes, condensers, three-way adapters, pipettes, and unique funnels. At the end of fifth form at Williamstown Tech, I was a decision away from a different life; attend Caulfield Institute of Technology to study Art or attend Footscray Technical College to study Chemistry.

For the next three years, I caught a morning train, with Brian Jefferies, at Newport Station for the trek to Footscray Tech. It was the new freedom of being a college student. It was the way we were. And I had chosen to smoke Kent cigarettes. I think it was the attraction of an all-white cigarette with a micro-nite filter; the suggestion of suaveness, sophistication, worldly allure and cultivated magnetism also helped. At Footscray I walked with Brian along Irving Street, smoking a Kent, to the three-story Nicholson Street Footscray Tech building. The chemistry laboratory and classrooms were on the third floor at the far end of the building and overlooked the railway viaduct spanning Nicholson Street.



The first female day students entered Footscray Tech in 1960 and studied commerce and commercial practices and they were an outnumbered group. I think there were only about ten or fifteen female students at the college during the two years I contemplated the tangled theories of inorganic and organic chemistry. The chemistry students were also in the minority; we banded together though and were easily identified by the chemical-stained white lab coats we all wore. There were probably about fifty of us. The commerce and commercial practices females and chemists were severely outnumbered by the engineering students.

Ron Lawton was from a farm in Sunbury. I never thought of Ron as the best-looking fella available and he was incredibly thin. Regardless of what and how much he ate there was never a change in his weight and appearance. Ron decided he was going to host a chemist’s party in one of the field barns on his parent’s farm. Some of us chemistry students saw ourselves as wild and rebellious and with a youthful rage inside. We started to question the standards set for us. Music was our way to rebel not just against the music of a previous generation but against the confining social status quo. We would build a new system on love, trust and brotherhood. And it would begin at Lawton’s Farm; Only a handful of us showed up at Ron’s party. As we waited for the commerce and commercial practices students to turn up we started to consume our booze booty; mine was a bottle of sweet vermouth. The Rolling Stones had just released Satisfaction and it played, blaring from the barn and into the darkness, on an infinite loop.



And the commerce and commercial practices students never did arrive. I blacked out at the podium smoking Kent and only hearing the Stones. I left the barn the next day.

What did I learn? Drinking vermouth and listening to the Stones without female commerce and commercial practices students is remarkably good fun.

Footscray Tech had its collection of clubs and a student council that attempted to promote a student culture and advance the concept of music and avant-garde drama as a universal language and social change agent. I think it was the drama club that had an open casting call and auditions for actors for the George Bernard Shaw short play Passion, Poison, and Petrifaction, subtitled The Fatal Gazogene: A Brief Tragedy for Barns and Booths. I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to better acquaint myself with some of the commerce and commercial practices students. I think I played the part of Adolphus Bastaple, or it may have been the landlord. We had a terrific run of two or three nights. Some of the commerce and commercial practices students and their girlfriends always attended the dances that were held at the College. I decorated the auditorium for Normie Rowe who along with others advanced the sounds of the Australian sixties music revolution. The auditorium throbbed to the brooding beat arrangement of Normie’s first single It Ain’t Necessarily So, and Andrew Lambrainew seized the opportunity and presented himself to one of the commercial practices students.


image:courier mail

What did I learn? That female commerce and commercial practices students preferred listening to Normie Rowe to talking with Adolphus Bastaple.

The sixties were an era when we believed we were special and trend-setting, and we wore our optimism and genuine faith of a better world on our sleeve. I don’t remember how the invite arrived but volunteers were needed to accompany the student float in the annual Moomba Parade. Some of the chemists honoured the opportunity to not only promote the perception of the student body as the guardian of humankind’s language and knowledge but relished the moment to be part of a parade that for the last fifteen years had inspired all Melbournians: And it still does to this day. We dressed in our white chemical-stained lab coats, gathered a large supply of lab wash bottles and massed a generous reservoir of water, and stockpiled an inventory of flour bombs. I don’t remember the theme of the float or who designed and constructed the float, but undoubtedly the engineering students were responsible for the majestic masterpiece. Our fellow students riding on the float, between waving to the crowds lining Swanston Street, cheered us on as we water-fought and flour-bombed our way down the Moomba Parade route. I would maintain that the crowd lining Swanston Street was delighted by the float and the antics of the chemists. Two years later Footscray Tech was banned from entering a float in the 1968 Moomba Parade.


image:state library victoria

On the students’ float, high upon his dog kennel roof, Snoopy rested with his machine gun. Below him, the Baron rested calmly on a red hearse. The ‘Footech Army’ supplied themselves with flour bombs. The Melbourne Herald reported that the students were dressed in bedraggled Australian army uniforms and pelted each other with flour bombs. They even threw a roll of mauve toilet paper to the reviewing panel at the Town Hall which landed at the feet of the Lady Mayoress.

They were readmitted in 1969.

What did I learn? We could flour-bomb female commerce and commercial practices students in a Moomba Parade.

It was either a Ford Anglia, Austin or Morris convertible; it was Philip Daniel’s car. It was our carriage for our going away to Rosebud camping weekend. Brian Jefferies, two of the other chemists, and I all crammed into Philip’s car. We pitched the tent in the thick of the tea tree and when our camp was secure went in search of a beer supply: And we learnt that we had unknowingly pitched our tent close to a hall hosting a Saturday night dance. Because we were students of the sixties; idealists, stewards of change in personal relationships, and purveyors of the new feminism, we were anointed to attend the dance. I didn’t dance with her but we talked a lot; between conversation threads and Kent cigarettes, I would retreat back to our tent for a fortifying beer. She attended one of Melbourne’s elite lady’s colleges.

reading room

image:state library victoria

I advanced that we meet next Sunday at the coffee shop opposite the State Library of Victoria; thinking that we could then both retire to the library’s main reading room. She agreed. Giddy with excitement and anticipation I retreated back to our tent for more fortifying beer. That Sunday I waited several hours outside the coffee shop on the corner of Swanston and Little Lonsdale Streets. She never did punch the clock. I don’t think I even knew her name.

What did I learn? You won’t meet female commerce and commercial practices students when you are camping at Rosebud.

After my education was completed at Footscray Tech I entered the workforce and spent less than two years as an industrial chemist at two different companies: Then I taught Math and Science in the Victorian Education Department for a few years; moulding young minds and preparing the youth of yesterday for their journeys of tomorrow. But life had to be more than judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree so I returned to a journey of searching for inspiration, and idealism, in the ordinary: My walkabout took me to London in the early seventies, hitchhiking through England, Scotland and Europe, and travelling overland in buses and trucks through the Middle East to India: And several years later to South East Asia and the Middle East.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Albert Einstein


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