Dreaming of Deja Vu

When I read that a new stage musical of Groundhog Day is to have its world premiere at the Old Vic in London next year, I thought about the time loop that mum had engineered for herself; repeating the same week again, and again, and again. For as long as I can remember: Sunday was always cake baking and roast lamb dinner day, Monday washday, Tuesday cleaning and vacuuming day, Wednesday soaking the delicates and catch up on the washing, Thursday do part of the shopping day, and Friday was shopping day.

Washing the clothes and bedsheets and anything else my mother deemed washable was a day’s work. The washing was always soaked in cold water at least a day before washing. Mum would sort the clothes before soaking; one of the wash troughs was for the whites and the other for the coloureds. Before we upgraded to a washing machine mum, washed the clothes by boiling them in the copper kettle. We called it the copper; it stood on metal legs and used gas to heat the water. On washing day, the combination wash house and bathroom, which we just called the bathroom because opposite the wash troughs and copper, was the bath with a gas-fired water heater that provided hot water for a shower or bath. It was a small room detached from the house on the back veranda, and on clothes washing day or when you had a shower, it would steam up and become a rain forest ecosystem.

mum's dream washing room

image source:slv.vic.gov.au

I remember the bathroom remodel. A washing machine with a clothes wringer mounted on top replaced the copper kettle, and a stand-alone water heater installed outside the wash house bathroom to supply both the kitchen and bathroom with hot water. Mum now had running hot and cold water for the wash troughs and the washing machine, but her washing process stayed the same. She’d soak the clothes for a day, agitate the clothes in the washing machine in hot soapy water, and rinse and wring them out, at least twice, to get rid of all traces of soapy water. The clean, slightly damp clothes were taken outside into the backyard and hung on the new rotary clothes hoist to air dry. Mum had a bucket she’d use to carry the leftover water from the one day soaking of the clothes into the backyard to water the passion fruit vine and her other assortment of flowering plants.

newport power house

image source:slv.vic.gov.au

We lived one block down from the powerhouse; it stretched from the corner of North Road and Douglas Parade, past the Strand to the Yarra Riverbank, and at least six blocks along Douglas Parade to Digman Reserve. The original powerhouse was built by the Victorian Railways in 1918 to supply electricity for Melbourne’s expanding suburban railways. Later two other power stations were built and integrated into the original structure to construct the largest powerhouse in the southern hemisphere. Brown coal briquettes were used to fire the boilers to produce the steam to turn the turbo-alternators, and when the boilers fired up, the powerhouse chimneys belched relentless clouds of briquette soot over the neighbourhood. And this powerhouse soot was the curse, the bane, of my mother’s washing day life. If the wind was blowing toward Peel Street, mum’s clean, sun-dried, rotary clothes hoist hanging washing would be covered with black grit. A guttural, shrieking, cry of soot, soot, soot would echo the house as mum ran to the backyard to gather the washing to return it to the soaking troughs, washing machine, and wringer.

clothes hoist

image source:pinterest

The Newport powerhouse was replaced in the late seventies with a gas-powered power station; it’s one, long, chimney dominates the surrounding suburbs. And there is no soot.

Everyone in the family acknowledged that mum was a breathtaking all-round cake maker. But it was agreed though that her older sister Peg could make a better sponge cake. After the Sunday roast lamb dinner, the kitchen countertops alongside the sink and those below the window that looked onto the high side fence became mum’s combination baking tables and pastry boards. The countertops were Formica, or what we knew as laminex. Mum was clever and artful in how she planned her Sunday afternoon routine. A light sponge cake and puff pastry recipes were the foundation of Sunday’s baking, and they allowed mum to create her lamingtons and butterflies and vanilla slices and matchsticks.

lamington

image source:tabletopplanner

The lamington, a handheld bite-size piece of sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and liberally sprinkled with desiccated coconut, is an Australian culinary icon. There are many accounts of the lamington’s creation, but everyone attributes its name to Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. I like the one of it being created from a work accident by the maid-servant of Lord Lamington. Apparently, while working at Government House in Brisbane, she accidentally dropped the Governor’s favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate. Lord Lamington wasn’t a person of wasteful habits, so he suggested it be dipped in coconut to cover the chocolate to avoid messy fingers. He devoured this new taste sensation with great delight, and the maid-servant’s error was proclaimed a magnificent success by all. And mum’s lamingtons were indeed enjoyed by all.

butterfly cakes

image source:aspoonfulofsugarblog.com

Mum’s used the same light sponge recipe for the butterfly cakes she used for her lamingtons. Her butterflies were created by first carefully cutting and removing a cone-shaped section from the top of a small cupcake. She filled the cavity left in the top of the cake with whipped cream and sometimes jam. She cut the cone-shaped section into two and anchored the inverted pieces in the cream to form butterfly wings atop the cake.

Mum never seemed to weigh or measure any of the ingredients when she was making her baking staples, and the puff pastry for her vanilla slices and matchsticks was no exception. Her vanilla slices would leave you basking in the glory of their wonder. She made the puff pastry and custard from scratch, and when she rested the firm vanilla yellow custard between two buttery pieces of her puff pastry, the result was a stunner. It was insulting to call mum’s vanilla slices by their colloquial name snot blocks.

vanilla slice

image source:pd4pic

Her matchsticks were vanilla slice puff pastry filled with fresh whipped cream and jam and sprinkled with icing sugar. The matchsticks were rich and sweet and should have come with the caution that consuming mum’s matchsticks may produce a sugar overdose, a sugar high, or a diabetic coma.

matchstick

image source:pinjarrabakery

Mum repeated each week again, and again, and again. Sunday was sift, blend, mix, beat, stir, whip, and bake, Monday was washing day, Tuesday cleaning and vacuuming, Wednesday soaking the delicates and catching up on the washing, Thursday part of the shopping, and Friday was the main shopping day.

 

John Fogerty – “DejaVu” (All Over Again)

Home made Lamingtons (Recipe)

History of the Washing Machine and Washer Dryer

You Never Forget the Manhood You Grow Up With

I remember Dad as a salesman both in his professional and his personal life; it seemed that everybody enjoyed his company and reveled in his outward personality. He was a volunteer at the Williamstown Youth Center, a Free Mason, a member of the Williamstown Lions Club, and he seemed to dabble in whatever took his interest at that moment. I can’t recall any meaningful father son planned activities that we did together that were opportunities for shared learning, or occasions that promoted my self confidence and character development. We didn’t have a barbecue so he couldn’t fire up the barbie so we could grill together. He wasn’t very adept at mechanics or construction so we didn’t share building projects, and he didn’t know his way around a car engine. Dad did know that first impressions are very important and assumptions are made based on attitude and appearance so I know that he planned my first two public appearances to help with my personal growth. These were not one on one activities that we did together but he did have some closeness to both and I think he knew that the visual milk bottle pizzazz and the iron goal temperament that I needed to muster would cause me to grow into a well rounded, successful, man.

Moomba was a cultural festival staged annually in Melbourne. It started in 1951 when Melbourne celebrated fifty years of Federation with a street parade. In 2003 it morphed into Melbourne Moomba Waterfest and events still included the traditional Moomba parade, crowning of Moomba monarchs and fireworks displays, but now carnivals in the gardens and along the Yarra and river watersports, water floats, the birdman rally, as well as live music and bands are all part of the festivities; today it is Australia’s largest free community festival.

moomba tractor float

image:state library victoria

From the 1950’s until the 1970’s the parade that stretched down Swanston Street was the highlight of Moomba. The parade attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators and would take several hours to pass. It was made up of humble tractor drawn floats adorned in flowers, armies of clowns with some even riding bicycles among the floats, assorted bands that included the perennial favorite Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Band, costumed historical characters, giant paper mache puppets, and the flamboyant floats of Myers, the Gas & Fuel Corporation, and the State Electricity Commission.

moomba float

lets get together and have fun
image:state library victoria

One year the Williamstown Lions Club sponsored a post Moomba parade in Williamstown. Dad was the organizer; I don’t know if he stepped forward or if his fellow lions knew that he could do it. It seemed every night for a couple of weeks his fingers had found a home on the keys of the portable typewriter that he set up on the dining room table. He persuaded several of the companies, businesses, and others who had their Moomba floats meander down Swanston Street to be part of the Williamstown parade; they agreed to warehouse their floats, transport them to Williamstown, and volunteer their employees to smile and wave from the float on a Saturday afternoon. Assorted local community groups, businesses, and bands also agreed to be part of the parade that was to proceed down Ferguson Street, turn into Nelson Place and travel on to Thompson Street.

williamstown town hall

waiting for the milk bottle
image:state library victoria

On the day of the parade I drifted through the designated assembling area outside the Williamstown Town Hall and marveled as all the participants somehow arranged themselves into the parade order: And dad appeared from out of this coalescing assemblage and walked toward me. I didn’t know what to prepare myself for; he put one hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes and said; would you be a milk bottle. It seems the person who originally offered to carry the paper mache milk bottle hadn’t arrived. Dad motioned and someone lifted the milk bottle over my head as I bent from the waist. I settled the two inside straps on my shoulders; I was the milk bottle. The parade started and I gingerly started to walk with faltering steps. The paper mache bottle was designed with a small gauze mesh at eye level and all you could see was what was in front of you. If you wanted to see anything either side then you had to turn as a milk bottle; if you wanted to see where you were stepping you had to bow down as a milk bottle.

chador nelson place

customs house hotel from inside the milk bottle

I soon adjusted and as I gained confidence I swayed from side to side, did a little skipping, completed small circles, and even sashayed down part of Nelson Place. I was showing visual milk bottle pizzazz.

The youth centre was housed in a building behind the Williamstown Town Hall. It was a wood framed relcaimed building surrounded by unused electric light poles. There was a small street beside the Hoyts picture theatre that Williamstown’s electrical and maintenance vehicles used that led to the back of the town hall. The youth centre building contained a stage, a small to medium auditorium with attached toilets, and changing rooms. Off the front of the hallway that separated the auditorium and toilets was a small counter high snack shop canteen, and further along a room for hobby activities. First Constable Merv Storey was the youth centres pt instructor and manager; he was the catalyst for the centre. I also remember Tom Webb who was known for his model glider and plane making classes in the hobby room; and his wife, who we only knew as Mrs Webb. Mrs Webb provided piano accompaniment for all the centres public displays of physical culture, pyramids, vaulting and parallel bars. The youth center offered recreational and physical culture activities for boys and girls from eight years old and up.

exercises

image:state library victoria

I attended the youth centre one night a week. I think dad volunteered at the centre as a committee member, and he would help out one night a week with games and instructional activities. He would umpire games of iron goals; one of my favorite games. Iron goals was played in the auditorium and the junior boys would be randomly divided into two teams and the teams would line up along opposite walls; each boy would number off. An iron goal was at each end of the auditorium. The iron goal was a miniature soccer goal without the net and was made from bent and welded metal rods; you scored by dribbling a basket ball from the centre of the auditorium, along the floor, into your goal. Your opponent had to steal the basket ball from you by only using his hands. They could then attempt to pat and dribble the ball into their goal to score. Dad would blow the whistle call out two numbers, for example four and seventeen, and then four and seventeen would run to opposite ends of the auditorium, touch the iron goal, and run back to the basket ball in the centre to start dribbling to their goal.

basketballs

image:pixabay

I know that dad never favored me when calling the numbers but he always called my number during a game of iron goals; it was as if he was preparing me to choose life as a competition; or a game. The youth center staged an annual coed display of gymnastics and physical culture, indoor games, marching, boxing and wrestling, and other activities in the Williamstown Town Hall. I was one of the selected junior boys who gathered in the centre of the town hall floor, the outer portion of the room was crowded with spectators, to demonstrate the indoor game of iron goals. My number was called; I was first to the basket ball. I bobbed and weaved, my hand patting and guiding the ball on an unimaginable journey across the town hall wooden floor. All I could hear were the gasps from the spectator parents as they followed my dreamlike control of the ball toward the iron goal. I also heard the distorted chord progressions and inversions as Mrs Webb, her feet furiously pumping the pedals and her hands a blur, created a medley of improvised piano riffs to accompany my iron goal ball dribbling.

piano keyboard

image:pixabay

I don’t remember scoring the goal but waiting for my number to be called forced me to practice mental readiness and also to invent some personal rituals to maximize my performance and control anxiety.

So dad knew that he hadn’t played enough games of snakes and ladders or draughts, or taken me to any car shows,  hadn’t helped with my homework, or gone camping just with me and the dunny seat, and hadn’t played much catch with the cricket ball; the times we could have been just dad and son bonding. But in his own way he knew that the visual milk bottle pizzazz and the iron goal temperament that I needed to display would cause me pass into manhood and help me to grow into a well rounded, successful, man.

 

Ultimate Paper Mache

Moomba Parade Melbourne 1967

Best Father and Son Activities

 

A Banger Short of a Barbie

I was somewhat bowled over when I read that Welshman Liam Bennett had been hard at work developing a dausage. His dausage is a cross between a sausage and a doughnut and is described as a succulent, high quality meat with a jam filling; a delicious treat for the whole family. I spent time pondering this oddity of fusion cuisine wondering why Liam would embark on a dausage crusade. Was he inspired by the cronut and cruffin. At the moment he doesn’t have a dausage making machine so he makes every dausage by hand. His dausages have included; pork with strawberry jam, pork and beef with custard, venison with strawberry custard, pork with leek and blackcurrant jam, and Cumberland with raspberry jam.

What Liam failed to understand is that you don’t mess with the sausage.

I was extremely fussy as a young boy with the food I ate. The only meat I would eat was lamb chops or sausages. The only vegetables I would eat were boiled peas and mashed potatoes. Over the years my palate transformed itself and became a merchandiser of tastes and flavors; caused by the foods of global travel and inadequate amounts of money. Sausages were the only constant during the morphing of my palate. I have an intimate affection for sausages and I’m not talking the worldly; Italian, Bratwurst, Kielbasa, Chorizo, Bologna, or Blood Sausage, but the Australian Sausage; the snag, the banger, the mystery bag.

butcher shop sausage

image:state library of victoria


My mum shopped for her meat at three different butcher shops; two in Newport and one in Williamstown. Each butcher was used for different cuts of meats, ground meats, sausages, or sundries such as tripe, tongue, rabbit, or chicken. The floors of the shops were speckled with sawdust and the windows displayed each cut and the variety of meats in metal trays; partially visible through the paintings on the window announcing the day’s specials. Friday was her main shopping day and she and nanna would push the shopping cart first to Newport and then Williamstown. It was more than a shopping cart: my granddad had built a huge box and fastened it onto a set of pram springs and wheels, and he added the pram handles onto one of the ends for pushing. The cart also had a large coffin-like lid. When nanna and mum went shopping it seemed like they were pushing a medium-size coffin looking for a hearse. After a few years of pushing the coffin, they downsized to a shopping jeep.

shopping cart

attach a curved lid, pram handles on one end, and paint light cream. image:pixabay

Sausages were the butcher’s way of efficiently recycling leftover meat, organs and blood; they minced and mixed their own unique blends with salts and spices and then stuffed their creations into an intestine casing. Back then there weren’t sausage police invading the butcher shops to test their sausages for sulphites, fats, fillers, additives and mystery meats. Today the traditional Australian sausage is still meat, fat, fillers or binders, and additives for flavouring and colouring, all sealed in a natural casing made from intestines.

You don’t mess with the sausage.

Paul Hogan made I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you a world-famous cultural cliche; in reality, Australians never use the word shrimp because the small crustacean is only known as a prawn. It would have been more accurate to say throw another banger on the barbie because a genuine down under barbie is always made up of a forty-eight pack of thin sausages from Big W, Coles, or the local butcher, thrown on the barbie for ten minutes of sizzling; they should be crisp on the outside and spongy and juicy inside. The ultimate is to wrap the banger in a thin slice of white bread and smother the lot with either tomato sauce or barbecue sauce. If you get a squirt of fat on you when you bite into it you have the perfect sausage sandwich or banger sanger. If the banger sangers are prepped and sold at a charity fundraising, election day polling booth, church social, or a community group event then you have the beloved sausage sizzle. The sizzle is so popular that city councils now require a permit to be obtained before the sausage sizzle can sizzle; health regulations must be followed, and a statement of trade lodged. The outside of a Bunnings Wharehouse is a time-honoured location for a sausage sizzle. Bunnings is an Australian box hardware chain store equivalent to Lowes.

sausages

a few snags short of a sizzle. image:pixabay

Several years ago we watched the sunset on Uluru; once known as Ayers Rock. Uluru is the huge monolith in Australia’s red centre. It is about 450 kilometres, or a six-hour drive, from Alice Springs. Our coach left Alice in the early morning and after spending the afternoon in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and then travelling to and walking the base of Uluru we arrived at the sunset viewing area. As soon as the coach stopped and as we were decoaching the two drivers were inside the underneath luggage compartment unloading two barbies and a collection of assorted coolers. The barbies were fired up and at least a hundred thin sausages thrown on for ten minutes of sizzling. When the snags were crisp on the outside and spongy and juicy inside they were wrapped in a slice of Home Pride white bread and then everything smothered with tomato sauce, and the sausage fat squirted just as it should. I may have had three banger sangers as the sunset on Uluru: And the rock changed colour with each sanger bite.

uluru sausages sizzle

spongy and juicy inside

You don’t mess with the sausage.

You can mess with the sausage however to make a sausage roll. A sausage roll is made by wrapping sausage mincemeat in a few sheets of puff pastry to form tubes and then baking the tubes. The sausage meat is squeezed from sausages or bought as a mince from the butcher. You can buy sausage rolls at any takeaway, milk bar, bakery, or quick store. They are eaten handheld, hot or cold, smothered in tomato sauce. Sausage rolls are the second cousin to the meat pie; both are the unofficial food of the Australian Rules football stadium, the birthday party and the cross country Australian road trip; they are the quintessential Australian national street food. My mum made a great homemade sausage roll.

I have searched relentlessly for the taste of the true banger. I have thrown on the barbie; private label sausages, organic sausages, gourmet and artisan sausages that have included pork and apple honey, chicken with roasted red capsicum, basil and garlic, chicken and artichoke with kalamata olives, and turkey, broccoli and provolone cheese but have yet to savour the banger sensation. Maybe it is the lost taste that joins the tastes of; hamburger with the lot, Chiko roll, potato cakes, pavlova, dim sims, and the four n twenty meat pie.

One of my insecurities was my looks. I was short, cute and chubby, and dad used to call me his little fat sausage. But I always knew I had musical talent. Suzi Quatro

 

How To Run A Bunnings Barbecue Sausage Sizzle

Australian Bakery Cafe

Curtis Stone’s Aussie Sausage Rolls Recipe

These Malls Are Made For Walking And Swimming

At the start of April plantar fasciitis in my right foot and after surgery swelling of the macula, and a blocked vessel that carries fluids to lubricate the eye thwarted my retirement plans and caused me to adopt blogging. After laser surgery and two months of dropping liquid gold eye drops into my left eye, the swelling and the blurring retreated. The foot specialist that I went to had DPM listed after his name; my fervent hope was that it stood for Doctor of Pain Management. He did produce pain when he pushed the syringe into the heel of my foot and emptied a syringe of cortisone into my inflamed plantar fascia. I did learn after a couple of visits that DPM stood for doctor of podiatric medicine. He prescribed a dorsal night splint and a series of stretching exercises. I wore the splint to bed. After enduring about six months of misery in every step the pain mysteriously disappeared.

I think Westroads Mall is typical of the majority of suburban malls. It is anchored at each end by department stores, has a central atrium, is two stories of mostly national brand retailers, and has had a couple of department stores built on as side attachments

westroads first floor

image source:jmcadam

Three weeks ago I returned to my old mall walking ground. I was somewhat excited: I now had some new walking socks and walking shows, instead of slip-on crocs and ankle socks, recommended by my doctor of podiatric medicine, and an MP3 player with earbuds. I was also slightly nervous; I wondered if my old walking mates would still be there and if I could keep up with the walking pacesetters I admired. They weren’t really mates; I had never talked to any of them or know any of their names. It was just a slight head nod or an indiscernible move of the index finger as we passed that bonded us as a band of mall walkers.

I start my walking journey around 9:00am; twice around the lower level and twice around the upper level; it is close to .64 miles once around the interior perimeter. Some of my mates are still walking: And I can see their inner smile welcoming me back when we pass.

3 ladies walking

image source:jmcadam

When mall walking you first notice the window displays but after a few weeks they become some sort of colourful mosaic panelling; it must be your motion that creates the peripheral moving lava lamp pattern. The patterns are hypnotic and mesmerizing. One morning when walking, my mind went back to Form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School and I was reminded of when a few of us would go down to the beach after school. We wouldn’t do a lot of swimming but would romp around doing adolescent teenage boy stuff. The speedos would get wet because habitually someone would be ganged up on and launched into the saltwater and shoulder fights, or a water modified round of British Bulldog would erupt.

I don’t remember John Colville or Robert Ballard kicking the sand at Williamstown Beach. I remember; John Savory, Kevin Thompson and Gunter Jergens. I wasn’t fat in my adolescence and I wasn’t thin. I thought I was just stocky around the waist: but maybe I shouldn’t have compared myself to John, Kevin or Gunter. Andrew Lambrianew had left Williamstown Tech in the third form, to start a diesel mechanics apprenticeship, so I didn’t have him as my reassuring friend. Instead of cavorting on the sand, I started swimming. About fifty yards or more offshore from the beach was a diving board platform on piles and about fifty yards across from that the leftover walkway and piles of a structure we called the racer.

water bw

image source:pixabay

The water was usually cold because it was October or November; the start of spring. Some days there was a cold wind blowing off the water; enough of a wind to cause two-foot waves and churn up the sand, enough of a wind to cause the water currents to carry the jellyfish and seaweed into the beach from the bay, enough of a wind to discourage the form 5AB lads from haunting the beach.

Every day I swam alone between the diver and the racer; counting off the laps until fifty. I had developed this slightly modified Australian crawl stroke and I only turned my head to one side every second stroke for a new breath.

video: Australia’s audiovisual heritage online. http://aso.gov.au

It was also an opportunity to open my eyes to orientate myself and to realign my bearings. I didn’t have swimming goggles and because I was in saltwater most of the fifty laps were done with eyes closed and head down in the water. I never did see the jellyfish or clumps of seaweed. At times the jellyfish were in swarms or smacks of large morphing, transforming, gelatinous blobs that I hit with my head or arms; resulting in painful jellyfish stings to the arms and legs. Most of the time I swam peacefully, without earbuds and with my eyes closed. I think the rhythmic breathing caused me to hallucinate and fantasize that I was the next Murray Rose. Murray Rose was an Australian swimmer who at seventeen won three gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the gold in the 400 freestyle again at the 1960 Rome Games. He also won a silver and bronze medal.

Every Wednesday afternoon at Williamstown Technical School was sports afternoon; usually football in the winter and cricket in summer: There was also bat tennis, handball, tennis, and maybe lacrosse. The school was divided into four houses, Gellibrand, Nelson, Hobson, and Kororoit to manufacturing teams to play against each other. There were several teams for each house cobbled together from different combinations of forms. Once a year the houses would play off against each other. I was in Kororoit house. It was the start of summer and just before the end of the school year. The houses were competing against each other in the annual swimming carnival at Footscray Baths. Overcome with my Murray Rose fantasy I singled out swimming; one hundred yards breaststroke in chlorinated water; twice the length of the pool. I was still blundering in the pool as the swimmers for the next event were taking their place at the end of the pool.

Image: State Library Victoria

image source:state library victoria

I stopped swimming between the diver and racer but I did try to conquer swimming in chlorinated water. I would take the train into the city usually on weekends and count off breaststroke laps in the indoor poll of the Melbourne City Baths, but that didn’t last. And I didn’t swim in front of people again until I got a summer job as a lifeguard in the early seventies in London at an outdoor swimming pool.

I stopped thinking about my swimming exploits when the colourful mosaic panelling at Westroads retreated; caused by the window display at the glamorous and cool H&M store changing to what the fashionable and chic would be wearing in fall. I mused about mall walking.

I wear Hawaiian shirts, tartan shorts, and usually lime green walking socks for my mall-walking; the lion’s share of walkers combine velcro fastening athletic shoes, or Hush Puppy Mall Walkers, with variations of relaxed, full fit elastic waist, chino pants. No one wears dedicated walking apparel or attire. Some mall walkers have walkers, rollators or canes: And some carry oxygen tanks or small portable oxygen concentrators. I walk alone, just as I swam alone between the diver and racer, but others walk in pairs or in groups of three or more. I think the only thing common amongst mall walkers are Toyota Camry’s.

man cane walkin g

image source:jmcadam

I think there should be mall walking competitions. It wouldn’t be about the fastest mall walkers but would have different categories such as; apparel and attire, poise and grace, individual style, coordinated group walking, and apparatus integration. Points would be awarded for; foot and leg action, posture, control of your rollator or concentrator, flexibility, and uniqueness of the walking routine.

I think it would be agreeable to have a gift, novelty, and souvenir booths at the competitions selling souvenir Tee shirts, shaker balls, fridge magnets, and coasters. Maybe mall walking could become an Olympic event. There is a precedent for unique Olympic activities; the biathlon, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming. But the avant-garde does take time to evolve and mature into a spectator obsessed sport.

I wonder how many laps of Westroads is equivalent to swimming fifty times between the diver and racer.

Westroads Mall

Zombies!!! 3: Mall Walkers Expansion 2nd Ed

British man making a film about the mall walkers of Westroads

Sitting on the Throne

When I was a young boy growing up not many houses had inside bathrooms. We didn’t call them bathrooms; dunny, shithouse, lavatory, and throne were the most common names we used. The dunny at Peel Street and at my nanna’s place was a tall freestanding enclosed shed holding a toilet with a pull chain, and they were a modest distance from the back door of the house.

john back veranda

When my father and granddad enclosed the back veranda of Peel Street with glass louvred windows the dunny became a lavatory because it was sort of inside, but it didn’t have a sink. There was a small light in the lav so when we sat on the throne we could prop the door ajar with our right knee allowing just enough light from the louvred windows to read a Mandrake, Phantom or Commando comic.

I don’t remember much of the evolution from swinging my feet when sitting on the throne to executing the perfect squat angle in Asia and the Middle East but I do know that there were subtle transformations in my bowel movements, lavatory protocol, dunny etiquette and throne customs. One of the most influencing forces was my mother refusing to let us sit on the public toilets in a camping or caravan park. She spent many hours of my young life and my brother Peter’s exhorting on us the frightening diseases and maladies that we would be struck down with if we ever rested our bums on the public throne; we listened wide-eyed and terrified as we tried to imagine what was sliming, crawling, and mutating under the rim, on the seat, and somewhere in the bowl. I don’t remember any of the infirmities or sicknesses that she told us about only that plague, scab, pox, typhus, and cholera were used a lot. I do remember one of the first times I had to run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat: it seemed every time that I had to run the gauntlet it was a first.

We went camping and then caravanning as a family for several years when I was a young boy; the voyagers were mum and dad, nanna and granddad, and my brother and me. My mother overcame the challenges of using the public lavatories at the parks by having granddad, make a wooden dunny seat. It was only the seat, no folding down top. When the family went camping we all had to carry the seat, along with paper, to the brick bunker that housed the unsanitary four or five cesspools.

toilet block

At the beginning of each camping trip, I became a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. I didn’t launch a complete fast but I did limit my intake of solids. I was striving to cause my bowl activity to be nonexistent. I didn’t want to run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat. I kept telling my mum I wasn’t hungry because of the excitement of doing all the new holiday callings: She understood.

It is extremely hard for an adult to hide or disguise a big wooden dunny seat they are carrying; it is impossible for a small boy. The seat seemed to stretch from my armpit to my waist. I thought it was better to walk slowly with the seat instead of running. Running would only draw attention to oneself and besides, what would you do with the seat; swing it with your right arm as if it was a relay baton. I avoided the well travelled walking paths and shuffled and crept as I navigated through a tangled maze of tents and caravans to the public lavatories. It was all in vain. As soon as I was spotted with the dangling wooden dunny seat everyone would stop their games of pick up cricket, end to end footie, British bulldog, or something just made up with a gum tree branch and a rock and it became a scene from a Peckinpah movie: An intricate, multi-angle, quick-cut montage of normal and slow-motion images. In slow motion, the adults and children would point and laugh and their mouths would be forming words I couldn’t hear. They would lope alongside me mimicking; I felt as if I was the campground target of ridicule. I ran the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat.

toilet seats

About ten years ago I stopped and stood in front of King Edwards’s oak coronation chair in Westminster Abbey.

In 1296 Edward I of England invaded Scotland with a bloody attack on the town of Berwick. Upon his conquest, he took as a spoil of war the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone. The stone was the Scottish coronation stone. Edward had a Coronation Chair made and placed the Stone of Scone under it so all future English Kings would be crowned sitting in the chair and on top of the Stone of Scone. Whenever English royalty sat on the throne they were also sitting on Scotland.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is still a traditional market town and is only two and a half miles from the Scottish border. It is the northernmost town in England. For more than 400 years it had been consumed in the historic border wars between the kingdoms of England and Scotland; it changed hands thirteen times and the townspeople were known as the dissenters.

As well as being a descendent from Australian Royalty, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, I am also a descendent from two dissenters of Berwick. So they could be married in Scotland the dissenters crossed over the halfway mark of the Bridge at Lamberton Toll.

Bridge at Lamberton Toll

The English returned the Stone of Scone to Scotland in 1996. The stone is proudly displayed in Edinburgh Castle.

When I gazed upon the stone for a second time my Scottish ancestry and the myths of the McAdam clan became facts of existence. I thought back to the lectures my mum used to harangue us with about sitting on a public throne. Her long inventory of diseases that included the plague, scab, pox, typhus, and cholera were not forebodings about the looming maladies that were going to strike us down: it was the proud spirits of my ancestor’s whispering their presence. They were flyting with savage tirades against those who had slighted them. I was too young to understand. The wooden dunny seat was a symbol of Scottish nationhood and freedom: the Stone of Scone.

Today I would proudly run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat; I would hold the seat with arms stretched skyward and scamper not just on the walking paths but throughout the camping ground and caravan parks; just as the torchbearer carries the Olympic flame.

The wrath of the Scots is still divided. The Scottish independence referendum took place on September 18th 2014: The No side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for Yes.

I still wonder however why my mum made us wear plastic sandals in the showers at the camping grounds and caravan parks; we weren’t allowed to stand on the concrete floor.

World Toilet Day Song

The Coronation Chair

Red Back on the Toilet Seat

I Love the Smell of Penny Bungers in November

A few years ago it became legal for people living in Nebraska and inside Omaha city limits to purchase and shoot off fireworks between June 25th and July 4th. Just before July 4th I trawled one of the many fireworks for sale tents that have mushroomed in Omaha. It was my first venture into a fireworks tent. I did go to a fireworks barn before it was legal to shoot off fireworks in Omaha. It was across the Nebraskan border in either Missouri or Kansas. I hesitated to buy anything fearing that when I crossed back into Nebraska I would most likely be stopped by a state trooper and upon the vehicle search the fireworks would be discovered, not so well hidden, under the spare tire in the boot. Surrounded by fireworks it was difficult to dismiss thinking of the Gunpowder Plot and some say the traitor Guy Fawkes; the thought of buying whiz bangs and blowing up Parliament was with me as I left the barn and I adopted a swagger as I walked toward the car. I spun the wheels and sent a cloud of dust sky ward and I was soon pounding down a dirt road alongside the interstate; bootlegging and moon shining, a fireworks runner outsmarting and outdriving the law.

There were no Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumbs or Penny Bungers in the Omaha fireworks tent but I did find boxes of Sydney Harbour Bridge for thirty plus dollars. I wondered if a Paul Hogan aerial repeater was in the box. Hoges had been a painter on the bridge before Crocodile Dundee fame. It is normal for all Melbournians to possess antipathy for anything Sydney. I knew there had to be a bigger and better Melbourne Federation Square box somewhere in the fireworks tent. All of us who hung out together called the milk bar on the corner of Douglas Parade and Bunbury Street Dashers: named after the owner who we thought was so slow and deliberate at doing anything: maybe he was just old but we never thought of that. You would have never found a box of Sydney Harbour Bridge at Dashers.

All in a Box
Sydney Harbours
johnfireworks2 fireworks tent

For weeks before cracker night we would save our pocket money and forage the neighborhood for Tarax bottles or any other soft drink bottle that had a refund. Sixpence or a shilling would buy a large assortment of mixed crackers at Dashers. The crackers were stock piled for bonfire night but some were set aside to practice the cooking of the spuds celebration on some of the days and nights leading up to bonfire night.

Bonfire night, also know as cracker night, is observed on November fifth to commemorate the capture of Guy Fawkes and by burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes who was a member of the Gunpowder Plot. We didn’t really care about Guy Fawkes and the plot to blow up British Parliament. It was just an excuse to blow up letter boxes, throw penny bungers down street drains or at each other, lob tom thumbs anywhere and everywhere, shoot sky rockets from milk or beer bottles, build a bonfire, and bury potatoes in the ashes of the bonfire.

We built our bonfire on the grassy area on the Strand where we played end to end football and pick-up cricket games. In the weeks leading up to the lighting of the bonfire and cracker night the gang: Andrew Lambrainew, Ray Cowmeadow, Alwyn Robertson, my brother Peter, and sometimes Froggie Norton, and Butch and me, would spend after school until teatime and all day on weekends knocking on neighbors doors asking for anything that was flammable. Some neighbors had been saving combustibles for months. We dragged and hauled car tires, paint cans, mattresses, furniture and anything wood; anything burnable: anything that burnt with a thick acrid black smoke. The neighbors also lugged their own rubbish and piled it onto the bonnie. We wanted to have the biggest and best bonfire on the Strand. The bonfire grew and stretched into the sky and seemed to spread out as you watched it. After tea we would sit into the night guarding our bonnie from other gangs intent on stealing and plundering to better their own bonfires.

On November fifth, as the daylight dimmed, the neighbors converged on the bonnie. The little ones would be dressed in their pajamas and dressing gowns and they would be made to hold their mum’s hand to watch the lighting of the bonfire. We would throw and spray petrol and any other flammable liquid on to the base to help with the lighting. There was no choreographed to music pyrotechnic display with the sky always full of fireworks for twenty minutes ; the Catherine wheels would spin, the little ones free from their mums hands would write their name with sparklers in the dark, and sky rockets would burst randomly in the sky and we would throw a few tom thumbs and penny bungers.

It must have been a genetic DNA inheritance because over the years our simple actions with sparklers were transformed into rituals and cracker celebrations. No one taught or told us but we knew we had to keep a cache of bungers, sky rockets, and tom thumbs for the cooking of the spuds celebration. When the fire had burnt down and everyone had gone home we would throw our potatoes into the ashes and let the ritual of the cracker fight and the spud celebration begin. You just sort of knew how to hold tom thumbs between your fingers and when they started to explode be able to throw them accurately at your best friend. Aiming a sky rocket in a milk bottle and lighting it while your human prey ducked and weaved took a steady hand and a keen eye. You never just threw a lighted penny bunger during the celebration; you would quickly put it in a can and then throw the can with the bunger. It took skill and timing to heave the can and have it close to your target when the bunger exploded.

New Type Sky Rockets
Where’s the Milk Bottle
sky rockets john&skyrocket

After fishing the spuds out of the ashes we would sit together as a small band of brothers. We used our soot covered hands to wipe the specks of burnt rubber, paint, black carbon, charred fabric and ashes away. We didn’t taste all the carcinogenic dioxins, hydrocarbons, mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic; the spuds just tasted of burnt rubber and smelt like petrol.

I think a lot of things that we did were just preparing us for some later similar occurrence or transformation that we will experience; we just didn’t know it at the time. The cooking of the spuds celebration was laying the ground work for me looking at the burning bodies on the Varanasi ghats on the banks of the river Ganges. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and the smell of sandalwood scented smoke and barbecue. None of our spuds exploded and the spud soul was never released.

Those were the days: the days we didn’t have to license our fun hormones.

 

Sydney Welcome 2015 Fireworks

Man Killed Launching Fireworks off Head

The Gunpowder Plot

The Tooth Fairy Left Me a Cyborg

When I read the headline in the Age Fake dentist operating in Melbourne’s northern suburbs I at first wondered why anyone would want to be a dentist so bad that they would just do it without any schooling. As I read further it was about Mr Velipasaoglu who was trained as a dentist in Turkey but was not qualified to practice in Australia. So I wondered what makes a person a qualified dentist; and where do dentists come from.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, dental hygiene and management weren’t really practised in Australia; it certainly wasn’t in my family and the catchphrase about teeth was if they start hurting get them taken out. But I think there was a degree of hurt that would concede a visit to the dentist was in order and curative work could be considered.

I thought back to what I remember about my early dentist experience. I don’t remember his name but my mother kept repeating that he was a relative of ours; some distant cousin, or something as obscure and that he wouldn’t hurt us. We rode our bikes everywhere in Williamstown, even to the dentist; 72 Electra Street Williamstown. The building was a non-descript double-fronted cream brick veneer structure, the second building down from the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Streets.

There was a waiting room to the right as you went in and the surgery was on the left. I vaguely remember waiting in the waiting room wondering what the strange odours were. I didn’t smell chloroform or ether again until I was studying chemistry at Footscray Institute of Technology. I know my mother would never tell us an untruth, but it did hurt. Sitting back in the chair you knew when the drill would stop spinning because you would watch the chains and pulleys slow down as the drill was pushed into the tooth. And that’s when you had the different levels of pain, and there was also no escaping that burning smell. How I dreaded each visit but I did have more fillings. I think that this dentist relative of ours wore rimless glasses.

When I was old enough to no longer listen to my mother I never really went back to the dentist again. Fillings fell out and new cavities appeared, and I ate a lot of soft foods. Whenever we journey back to Australia the meat pie and sausage roll are the first on my list of must-eats. Some habits just die hard.

They say that America is the land of opportunity. So I decided I was going to save my teeth and give them a new life. And I would eat hard foods that needed severe chomping: the chewing of sound and fury. I braved bone implants, bridges, caps and root canals, fillings and extractions to reach crunch domination. Three dentists a periodontist and an endodontist have been part of the save the teeth team. I remember my first visit to the first of the three dentists. I don’t think he looked in my mouth; the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. She then cleaned my teeth. When the dentist came into the room the hygienist shared the chart she had written the numbers on and all I overheard from their hushed conversation was; bicuspid, bite and bifurcation. We made two follow up appointments: to extract a front tooth and prepare a bridge and then to struggle with three fillings.

Save the teeth was set in motion.

I think the dental office was in a building on South 17th street but has since been demolished to make way for the Omaha skyline landmark First National Bank of Omaha Corporate office. But all I could see, my body tense and rigid and my hands clenching and gripping that arms of the chair, as I lay facing the window, was a huge ceramic pot containing a lonely amaryllis bulb. I was referred to the periodontist by my first Omaha dentist, Dr Steve Wachter: it was soon after when he saw his last gum tree.

On my first visit to the periodontist, the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. Dr Swain was committed to saving my teeth; he peeled my gums back to expose the jaw bone for bone grafts and then stitched the gums back in place with the sewing dexterity that I thought only my mum could ever have. Swain deadened my jaw and most of my face with abundant amounts of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine but I was still tense, rigid and skittish. I would spend several hours in the dental chair on each visit and it was during my second visit that I thought about the heavy use of the numbers that were factors of two: two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two. And all the dental words that had the prefix bi. Maybe it was the lidocaine but my mind went back to form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School.

williamstown technical school form-5AB

Form 5AB. John McAdam 2nd from right top row. John Colville 4th from right top row. Robert Ballard 5th from right top row. Gunter Jergens 1st from left 2nd row. Kevin Thompson 2nd from left 1st row. John Savory middle 1st row.

We were two years past Mr Stonehouse’s class but John Colville and Robert Ballard and a lot of the form 3AB boys were still classmates. We were introduced to the concept of the new Math; Venn diagrams, intersection and union of sets, matrices, and numbering systems that were not base ten. It was the time of Sputnik and the Explorer satellites and we were told that computers were going to engineer the future of humankind and they used binary, octal or hexadecimal numbering systems. We mastered the subtleties of only using ones and zeros to express numbers and became masters of the binary number system; a numbering system that uses the base two.

I never put it all together before now. I started to look forward to my doses of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine because it unloaded my mind of daily occurrences and allowed me to focus on the fact that dentists and periodontists communicate mostly with a binary number system and in a language that contains a lot of bites. It was like a computer talking to a computer; they were humanoids. I mused over my epiphany every Swain visit; he had done all he could with bone grafts and scaling of the jaw bone and I was getting comfortable in his presence and was preparing to confront him about my humanoid theory when just like Wachter, he saw his last gum tree.

So I’m now back with the dentist I should have always been with: even though he has had to extract a couple of teeth he has also capped and filled others. He is a loyal save the teeth team member. Whenever he adjusts the chair so I’m in an upward prone position I turn away from the blinding white light and just whisper knowingly: convergent evolution humanoids. As soon as the instruments are put in my mouth I say things like; did you use a laser blade to shave this morning, or isn’t it around your lunchtime, are you going out for a byte. And when I leave the dental office; there is so much roadwork on Dodge Street I’m going to have to take the R2 detour home.

The drive to my dentists’ office takes me down two of Omaha’s major streets. Depending on my route I can pass; casual fast-food drive-throughs, coffee shop drive-throughs, pharmacy drive-throughs, furniture pick up drive-through, a bank drive-through, a library book return drive-through, a job fair drive-through and a pizza drive-through. Maybe they should have a dentist drive-through.

 

Crazy Alien Dentist App for Android

Frank Zappa Moving To Montana:Dental Floss Tycoon

Universal Numbering System

Standing in the Corner Watching Television

If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners. Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

I really didn’t grow up with television. I first saw television from the footpath outside the windows of the Patersons Furniture Store in Ferguson Street, Williamstown. It was a small black and white television; at that time thought of to be extremely large, and I together with a large crowd that spilled onto the road watched as former 3DB radio announcer Geoff Corke who later was known as Corkey King Of The Kids introduced GTV9’s first test television broadcast: Everything’s fine on GTV Channel 9. We watched the black and white static mesmerized. The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games were broadcast as a test transmission. Australia did well at those games; Murray Rose won three gold medals in swimming, and Betty Cuthbert became the Golden Girl by winning three gold medals in track.

image source:nma.gov.au

It seemed as if every shop window had a television set in it and every television was showing a black and white grainy image. The footpaths became congested places. I only knew that television sets cost a lot of money. Programming was only for a few hours each day and the test pattern was broadcast for the rest of the time that the three channels were on air; Melbourne had GTV channel nine and HSV channel seven and the government channel ABC channel two. So we were like many families and didn’t get a television when they first came out. Each afternoon after getting home from school and before tea I would sit glued to the wireless listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, and the Adventures of the Sea Hound. Sometimes we would have a special night out: the family was invited to friends of mum and dad’s up the street to watch television.

image source:nostalgiacentral.com

After tea, we would walk animated up Peel Street and do all we could to contain our anticipation and excitement. We would only stay and watch TV for a couple of hours: bedtime was early for me and my brother and besides television stopped broadcasting around ten o’clock. Sometimes we would stay and watch the test pattern; it always followed the playing of God Save the Queen and the Australian flag.

And then we got a television set. The inside layout of our house in Peel Street was typical of a lot of houses built in the early nineteen hundreds. It had a central passageway with my mum and dad’s bedroom and lounge room in the front of the house and a few steps down the passage opposite the dining room the bedroom I shared with my brother. The kitchen was at the end of the passageway and a spare room that became my bedroom was off the dining room.

Peel Street
Lounge Room
Passage
Peel-st Peel-st-lounge-room Peel-st-passage

The lounge room was reserved for entertaining guests; it had a couch and a couple of large soft chairs and a glass door cabinet that housed and displayed my mother’s crystal, silverware, and other collectables. His Master Voice television sat supreme in the lounge room; the tube and those big valves were inside a honey-coloured wood cabinet that was on legs. My mother insisted that we had to turn the volume down when we turned the tuner knob to change channels otherwise we would break something.

Nanna and Granddad would walk down Peel Street after tea from Eliza Street every weekday night and stay until about 9:00 o’clock before walking back home to bed: just as we used to walk some nights up Peel Street years ago to watch TV. Nanna would sit at the kitchen table and do the Australian Post crossword while my mum sewed, ironed or knitted. Mum would sneak words into the crossword while she ate her dinner and at other times during the day. The Australian Post was a weekly picture magazine and was read by all of Australia; it was a curious blend of scandal, human interest stories, sensationalism, entertainment and pin-up photos. You always read last weeks and earlier Post’s when waiting for a haircut at the barber’s shop. While the ladies spent their time in the kitchen granddad sat with me in the lounge room. I’d stretch out on the couch and he would sit in a chair to soak up the television. I didn’t understand it at the time but within twenty minutes his head would drop to his chest and he would be asleep.

image source:pixabay

We always thought that cousin Bruce was too young to play in the paddock or go with us on Market Day to the Dandenong Market. Years later he would take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. He would walk down Peel Street and together we allowed both of our young teenage minds to be shaped by daytime television; we watch it all afternoon.

That was the last that I remember of strenuously watching television. I do remember Eric Pearce announcing the Cuban Blockade. I was drifting into my teenage and professional student years and was deciding to watch sometimes only cool television. I entered the world of change and uncertainty; rock and roll, sixties and seventies women, alcoholic oblivion, The Masters’ Apprentices, The Twilights, and more: I gave little thought to television until London. Friday nights in London became must be home by 10:00 pm to watch Monty Python Show and must also be home on other nights to watch the Benny Hill Show and Steptoe and Son.

Kitchen Sink OWH

image source:johnmcadam

In 1991 the television show Everything but the Sink was created. It was broadcast on an educational television channel: the channel was one of the public, educational, and government access channels in Omaha provided by the cable franchising authority contacting with a city. The set was a 1960’s kitchen in limbo. I talked to my guests, read the paper, watched television, ate doughnuts and drank coffee. It became an Omaha cult favourite. I did radio talk shows and the daily paper tried to explain Everything but the Sink.

Everything But the Sink
Playful Talk Radio

People still recognize me and acknowledge the program 25 years later. I suppose I was some sort of video viral blowout before YouTube and on-demand high definition digital video started narrowcasting across inter-connected devices. I wonder if all those people who watched the Sink were trying to become active participants in the stories that unfolded in the kitchen.

I still remember the great 1979 movie Being There; adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski. Chance is a simple-minded, middle-aged, man and has lived his whole life gardening. Other than gardening, everything he knows has been learnt entirely from what he has seen and sees on television. When his benefactor the Old Man is discovered dead Chance is told by the lawyers that he must leave the townhouse he lives in so he packs a suitcase of clothes and takes his remote control and heads out into the world.

Maybe Grandad fell asleep in front of the television so he would forever hear God Save the Queen and watch the test pattern, or maybe he was channelling the concept for the future 1980 studio album Glass Houses and the lyrics for Sleeping with the Television On to a teenage Billy Joel.

 

I’m going to try going to sleep watching my smartphone.

Skyhooks Horror Movie

The Twilight Zone

Being There

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Market

Spring 2015 has arrived in Omaha Nebraska: the Omaha Farmers Market is celebrating its twenty two years in the old market neighborhood. Five years ago the market expanded on Sundays to the streets of a redeveloped AKSARBEN Village. We have lived in the AKSARBEN neighborhood for more than 25 years. Our house is a Bernie Quinlan drop kick away from the Village. Before the Village, the area was the Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track and Coliseum. The immediate area is still dotted with the Trackside Lounge, Turf Lounge, and the Fan Tan: providing a cold Metz, Storz, or Falstaff after a hot losing day at the races.

image source:jmcadam

Each Sunday morning sometimes over a hundred vendors and growers create a walkway down the center of parts of 67th Street and Mercy Road. Consumers can choose from seasonal fresh produce, free range organic meats, baked goods, and artisan breads and cheeses. The meats; lamb and beef are grass fed free range, and the steaks and chops are packaged in protective plastic film and are sold frozen.

The immortal race horse Omaha is buried at AKSARBEN beneath the Market; not all that far from the Parthenon Greek Pastry and Erick’s Enchiladas stalls. It took many years for me to appreciate the hallowed tradition of the name Ak-Sar-Ben: it is NEBRASKA spelt backwards. I think that man’s best friends are also eager for the Market. Leashed and outnumbering humans, they seem to enjoy themselves as much as the shoppers and are quick and impatient to make friends with each other.

My Aunt Peg lived in Edith Street Dandenong. My mum also had a house that she rented in Edith Street; the paddock as we called it separated my mother’s and Aunt Peg’s house. All I remember of our family visits to Dandenong was the 20 mile drive down the empty Princess Highway in the Austin A40 or Vanguard. It was sort of suburbs to Oakleigh and then country. Past Oakleigh the Springvale crematorium was a faint silhouette from the highway.

John & Brother Peter Dandenong PaddockI didn’t want to look at the distant building where they burnt bodies; I closed my eyes and pressed for the Austin to accelerate and bring us closer to two of my Dandenong cousins Andrew and Peter, and the hours we would spend playing in the overgrown paddock. As we got older we spent less time in the paddock and more time at the Dandenong Market: founded in 1866 it is Melbourne’s second oldest and second largest market. Aunt Bet, my mother’s younger sister, moved into my mother’s Dandenong house just after her marriage and my brother and I would be allowed to stay with Bet and Uncle Ken for a few days during the school holidays. I think my mum and dad would drive us at first, but as we got older and what was the last few market years we would take the train; over an hour ride on the red rattler from Newport to Dandenong.

Andrew, Peter, sometimes young Bruce, my brother and I would spend all Market Day Tuesday at the market. It was another Bernie Quinlan drop kick from Edith Street. Early morning we would rush down Market Street and into the cattle pens; we would walk atop and balance on the wooden planks that formed the chutes, pens, and gates. We would run along the wooden tunnels leading to the loading bays: closing and opening gates and sometimes being met with sauntering pigs, sheep, or cows. After going home for lunch we would share time between the stalls in the show grounds and what seemed the capacious roofed area crammed with tables groaning under the weight of fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, and all types of haberdashery. Around 3:30 we would amble slowly past every stall asking if they wanted any help today packing up. Sometimes we were lucky and they wanted help and we knew we were guaranteed at least a threepence or maybe a sixpence. Late afternoon we would walk, exhausted, down Market Street to Edith Street. I was unknowingly preparing for future market days at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul, the Isfahan Bazaar Iran, the Covent Garden Flower Market London, and other street markets of the world.

By the late 1960s, Dandenong was officially a suburban area of Melbourne and the Lonsdale Street area was being transformed by modern buildings; Steve De George’s Café and the market were another era, and market day had become a memory. And Aunt Peg and Uncle Ian built their new house on the paddock.

The Queen Victoria Market began in 1878 and was built atop land that was part of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It is said that the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Vic is a vibrant shopping mecca for Melbournians and a major tourist destination. The market is made up of the Delicatessen and the Meat Halls, and 600 retailers in shed laneways and streets; you are tempted with fresh produce, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, haberdashery, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods, and more.

I don’t remember the first time I overloaded my string bag at the market but I do remember the Meat Hall. A variety of sausages, mince, chops, legs, and shanks were displayed in trays at the front of each stall. Within the stall and above the serving counter carcasses hung from hooks on metal rails and could be swung and tugged to a butchers’ table for cutting and chopping. The floors were awash with sawdust; to absorb any liquid that dripped from anywhere in the store. Shoppers navigated walkways framed with swinging meat. Each shop had a butcher out the front dressed in the traditional apron slimed with blood from the morning’s killing screeching the day’s specials.

Meat Hall
Fresh Produce John at the Queen Vic
Meat Hall VictoriaMarket JohnAtVictoriaMarket

These visits to the Queen Vic must have been the early seventies; the elapse of time can dilute a memory. I am confident that all Australian food and safety standards and practices were being followed. Maybe my memory is not diluted and I am just mashing the Meat Hall stalls with the street butcher shops and meat stalls of Afghanistan and Thailand. I didn’t appreciate the Delicatessen Hall when I shopped at the Vic. I would just rush through it picking up some cheese or bread not aware that I was walking the streets of a 1927 art deco village. The shops still have the same marble and limestone counters and the old wooden window frames and signage from when they were built. From an eclectic mix of thirty plus stores you can experience; bakeries and patisseries, artisan cheeses and breads, continental cakes, specialist tea and coffee, European sausages, and cured meats and more. At the top end of I shed is The American Doughnut Kitchen doughnut van. It has been parked at the edge of the market for over 50 years selling small, round, hot, jam filled donuts. It is a tradition to scald your tongue on the hot jam inside the donuts and to lick the sugar from your fingers and lips.

Dandenong Market was the first urban village where I walked among and atop grass fed and free range animals, watched the different vegetables appear in their growing season, talked to the farmers and producers, and touched just picked fruit and asked for free samples. I still enjoy meandering the markets and relish touching the non-irradiated, the non waxed or gassed in transit, and pesticide free produce; I wonder if that is my Australian Royalty descendent, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, ghosting his presence.

But I think Framers Markets should have shopping trolleys.

World’s Most Beautiful Markets

This Little Piggy Went to Market: The Wiggles

Omaha Farmers Market

Looking at the Dead

I just don’t like looking at bodies. I think I was around eighteen when my father died. I vaguely remember the coffin in the front of the room at the funeral parlour. It was open. I sat in the back of the room so I wouldn’t have to look in the coffin. The service was at Nelson Brothers. The building is still there; it’s a really cool art deco structure at the corner of Douglas Parade and Stevedore Streets Williamstown.

image source: jmcadam

I think the next time I sort of looked at a body was on a Varanasi ghat on the banks of the river Ganges. I couldn’t see the body because it was wrapped in white sheets, like an Egyptian mummy, and just visible through clouds of wafting sandalwood scented smoke. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and the smell of incense and barbecue. I didn’t go to Varanasi to look at bodies. It was a magical mystery tour with our friend Colin Stevens because we thought that George Harrison had studied and learned to play the sitar when sitting at the feet of Ravi Shankar in a small room in Varanasi. We thought it would be really cool to see the room. There was a lot of misunderstanding in the late seventies.

Hindus believe that casting the ashes of the deceased into the Ganges leads to salvation and the guarantee of a good afterlife. If the mourners and deceased are lucky the skull of the burning body will explode and release the soul to heaven. If this doesn’t happen then the chief mourner must crack it open. After the cremation, any remaining bones are thrown with the ashes into the river

image source:tripsavvy.com

We gave a small number of Rupee’s to a boatman to be taken onto the river in a small boat for a from the river view of the cremation ghats. Black vultures were perched on these floating things pecking at them furiously; others were diving straight at them as if they were heat-seeking missiles and after piecing the object with their beak soaring heavenward. We were told that many of India’s poor can’t afford to buy enough wood for a complete cremation so many half-burnt bodies are thrown into the river.

At the foot of the steps people were bathing in the sacred waters: submerging themselves and splashing their bodies; their sins washed away. Cows were wallowing and enjoying themselves in the same holy Ganges waters.

We visited the hospital room on an early 2015 spring afternoon. My brother in law was in a two week prolonged coma. Doctors had diagnosed that he would not wake and estimated that his departure would be in twelve to twenty-four hours. I allowed myself a furtive glance. He looked peaceful and restful as if in a deep sleep. There was a wadded bandage taped across part of his temple. Doctors had drilled through his skull to drain blood that had formed on his brain. Twelve hours later he succumbed. It was April 4th.

The family viewing was two days later. I had a surreptitious searching glance at the body in the coffin: and the glance became a goggle. And I goggled and goggled. There was no wadded bandage on the temple and there was no sign of a hole drilled through the skull. The embalmer had created magic; I thought of the chief mourner at a cremation ghat on the banks of the Ganges.

Some time ago I had decided that I wanted to be cremated: half my ashes left in Nebraska and the other half scattered from the Strand into and onto Port Philip Bay, Australia.

One of my granddads had his ashes scattered over Port Phillip Bay. Grandad Bob rented a room at the Customs House Hotel in Nelson Place. Through the window of the public bar of the hotel, you could see the pilot boats tied at the Gem Pier: a short walk across the Commonwealth reserve. He died as a result of hitting his head on a steel bulkhead or a door on one of the pilot boats. He was an engineer on the small boats that took the marine pilots onto the bay to meet the cargo ships. They exchanged pilots; swapping the pilot who successfully guided the ship through the rip, a dangerous stretch of water in Victoria connecting Port Phillip and Bass Strait, with a skilled wheelman to guide the ship up the Yarra River.

I spent many Saturday afternoons at the Gem Pier with Andrew Lambrianew. We would jettison our bikes on the pier and somehow balance on the edge to swing under the Gem to climb and balance and walk along the stringers and braces to discover nooks where we could sit for hours to talk and watch. We would also walk the pier asking if we could board the pilot boats as they were leaving to meet the waiting cargo ships.

The Gellibrand and Breakwater Piers were further along Nelson Place.

The request in my will is simple: a sprinkling around the seagulls and black swans. I have no wish for sandalwood or ghee or being wrapped in gold or silver. But maybe I should consider a sarcophagus: I could then be discovered by an eminent archaeologist and made available for viewing.

Dead Poets Society

Day of the Dead

The Day the Music Died