Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hogmanay heat. Hello 2010

To a Scot, New Year's Eve is known as Hogmanay. But how very un-Scottish that poor Adelaide today has 41 degrees Celsius. And across Gulf St Vincent, here it only a cool 38 degrees. I guess anything less than blood heat counts as cool. Oh good.

But at least no problem staying awake until midnight (long past my bedtime).  Nobody can sleep when it is so warm. Air-con? Can't afford to leave it running ALL night, mate.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas

To continue the fishy theme of the last blog post, I felt like a puffer fish blown up to five time its normal size, after I over-ate outrageously on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as guest with two indulgent hosts.

Today is Sunday 27th. I took me until now to un-bloat. I am working on the wording of a New Year resolution along the lines of  "must stop snacking between snacks" before I become globular. Not the same as global.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snook snookered

Hi. Two sleeps until Christmas. Oh my.

Yesterday with a nice friend, who earlier served a meal of giant prawns from Port Lincoln, I walked to the end of Edithburgh jetty. A fisherman was landing a fair haul of snook, long skinny fish resembling bigger versions of gar, or even a bit like mackerel.

My sympathies - since it was not MY meal escaping - went to a determined individual who had got out of the bucket and was well on the way to the jetty's edge and freedom before being thwarted by the catcher. Alas poor snook.

It seemed rather like the story of our lives.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hot under the collar ... in both senses

Hi. Well, yesterday's temperature here reached the too-hot 40 degrees Celsius. That's above human blood heat. It allowed me to feel guilty for keeping the air-con on for much of the day.

The stone walls of my 100-year old house are not as good insulators as you might imagine, because they were built from local limestone field rocks and without cavity (air-space): in other words, solid stone, which is great until the stone itself heats up to the outside temperature.

There's a sense other than the literal one for "hot under the collar". This morning - after overnight rain and a delicious cooling, 20 degree drop in temperature - my emails included the following excellent article by Zoe Routh. I have left her URL tag at the end, and you may enjoy the piece as much as I did.

Zoe Routh wrote ...

"I'm never short of an opinion.
My colleague remarked that I was unusually forthright in board meetings, disagreeing with the chair openly on several occasions. I've never been one to balk or pander to others because of rank; I believe whole-heartedly that every individual has something to offer debate, regardless of experience, position, or job title.

Apparently this opinion is not shared by others, as I learned recently in a strategic review meeting.

I was told with different words but with clear meaning: "shut up buttercup and respect your elders."

I do not take kindly to being told to pipe down, I can assure you! The blood boiled in my face and I sat seething in my chair.

Now I've learned a thing or two about what not to do, and this helped me a lot as I fumed, steam lifting my shirt collar.

Here's what NOT to do:

1. Do not let your emotions speak for you.
I was severely peeved at this point; had I let rip with what was screaming in my head, all the others would have heard were my feelings, red and raw. Plus they would be distracted by wiping the spittle from their eye.

The thing to do at this point is to feel the feelings fully, on my own, without vomiting these in a messy explosion. Once I'd let the storm dissipate, I could look more rationally at what the issue was, and how I'd like to present my side of the argument.

2. Resist the urge to want to win the war then and there. Having been told to get back in my box and then patronised with a deferential pat on the knee, I was ripe for a fight. However I am quite certain had I insisted on crossing swords, then I would have come off the worst - losing both my dignity and perhaps the esteem of my peers.

Taking the long view on the issue is far more effective than wanting to score points in a tit for tat battle of semantics. Knowing the ultimate outcome I wanted - to make effective long lasting change to an educational program - was far more important than arguing over the effectiveness of past programs. You can't change other people's view of the past; you are better off shaping a compelling vision of the future and inviting them to join you.

3.Don't dismiss other people's opinions because they've pi**ed you off. I may have been insulted and irritated, but this does not mean the others did not have a valid opinion. Taking a step back and asking, "Is there anything I can learn from this?"

As it turns out I had actually missed a key strategic point my colleague was making and that I agreed with. I was very glad not to have had pressed my argument more forcefully, only to realise later I had missed the point. Phew!

4. Mind your language. This is an obvious one - avoid swearing or insulting your peers. Here's a less obvious one - be careful how you express your point of view. I have a tendency to use colourful, vivid language to make a point. I think this is my Canadian background seeping through. However, other people may not appreciate being told they 'need a fire lit under their a**' when a simple phrase like, 'focused motivation' would be more appropriate. Ahem.

5. Don't forget - you're all on the same team and ultimately want the same outcome. I heard Chris Howard, personal development guru, describe this as 'chunking up' an argument until you get to the place where you realise you want the same thing. Then you can work down again around the issue where the differences come up, seeking common ground and a compromise. This can help take the sting out of disagreement and reassert respect.

Lastly, the basic common denominator is about respect. No matter if I was patronised, denigrated, or dismissed, I can still be a leader and respect my colleague, agreeing to disagree, and conceding our differences.

I can always take out my frustration in the gym. It's hard to be angry when you're lathered in a pool of sweat on the step machine.

With love and appreciation." (end of article by Zoe Routh)

Author's Bio
Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Author Zoe Routh works with women in business to enhance their personal effectiveness and leadership capacity for global effect. For free tips on how to become a more effective leader that will save you time, money, energy, and stress, go to

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ulysses his odyssey to Point Turton

You knew that. Ulysses and Odysseus are variant names for the same bloke from Homer's epic poem. Today, Sunday 13 December real time in South Australia, I am off to have lunch at the Tavern-on-Turton pub - a fairly new one - located at the very attractive township of Point Turton with a fine view northwards over Hardwicke Bay. So, a minor expedition or odyssey to get there, to join fifty or so members of the Ulysses motor cycle club who are having one of their club runs on this perfect-weather day.

And no, I'm not going on a motor bike! Have owned three over the years, but no longer. It just happens that my house guest this weekend is a club member but is skipping today's long run with the club, consenting to have lunch with me at the pub and to travel there in my boring old car, and tell me more about the elderly bus she has acquired. The bus came with a country shack she has bought near Ulverstone in Tasmania - and it, the bus, is currently holding up the carport. Sounds interesting. I'm even invited to go and stay. The shack is in a wildlife park. Does wildlife mean there are bikers? Or is that bikies? And which ones have the tattoos? I forget.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Hi! I have spent today recovering from an early pre-Christmassy lunch which went for much of yesterday. Technically it was a dry affair - plenty of wet OJ and the like - but the sherry trifle worked its magic, or so goes the rumour.

The nosh-up merged seamlessly into a harmonious (who said raucous?) singalong to piano, tuba, trombone and cornet.

Poetry was done too. I had the temerity to essay Marriot Edgar's Albert and the Lion, made famous by Stanley Holloway. I took advantage of Elsie's absence - off to visit the grandkids - to perform my warped idea of the Lancashire accent. Thank goodness for the trifle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An astute observer of Oz politics

My friend Bill B. in Tasmania - whither he retired from Adelaide - is a very sharp observer of politics in the magical Land of Oz, the country we often call Australia. His blog is a repository of wise reflection, at times no doubt controversial. Bill himself would applaud robust debate and diversity of view.

If you want to connect to his blog let me know: I'd need to get his permission since I do not provide contact details willy-nilly. However, what he wrote is worth the reading - and here it is: Bill gave it the heading


"Yesterday we were treated to the spectacle of Tony Abbott being elected as federal Liberal leader. Abbott represents the socially conservative extreme of his party. Conservative commentators like Miranda Devine are in ecstasy.

Abbott's election was, as they say of doubtful convictions, "unsafe". The result was 42-41, but they had denied a vote to Fran Bailey, a Turnbull supporter who was away ill. And on Saturday, two new Liberal members, likely Turnbull supporters, will be elected in the inner city byelections in Higgins and Bradfield.

Abbott's conservatism is also unsafe. A few years ago a young man turned up thinking he might be Abbott's son, from a pregnant and deserted girlfriend in Abbott's past. In Abbott's morality, not taking precautions and then deserting a mother and child is OK, but using a condom would be evil. In this case, Abbott was shown not to be the father, but how many real deserted offspring might there be?

Both sides of the parliamentary debating table are now manned by conspicuously religious men: Rudd, a conservative Anglican, on one side, and Abbott, a conservative Catholic, on the other. It's like something out of the 17th century.

We are concerned that all five parties in the federal parliament are socially conservative.
  • For PM Rudd and Labor, everything is either "revolting" or "disgusting" and he never stops telling us so. Gays are inferior scum whose relationships don't deserve recognition.

  • The Liberals have elected one of their their most socially conservative members as leader, replacing socially progressive Malcolm Turnbull.

  • The Nationals were part of the conservative take-over of the Liberals.

  • For Family First, social conservatism is the essence of their existence.

  • Most shocking of all, the Greens have lurched to the conservative end of the social spectrum with their endorsement of Internet censorship campaigner Clive Hamilton in Higgins and prostitution recriminalisation campaigner Kathleen Maltzahn in Richmond. I recently received a letter from Senator Ludlam confirming that the Greens are in favour of Internet censorship, a massive and unheralded change of policy.
Socially progressive people are now completely unrepresented in the Australian parliament. Surely there must be others besides us who would like to have someone speaking for them."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saints and Sinners, and Saintly Singers

Hi again. Well, here it's December the first. We seem to get to each day ' bout twenty hours ahead of the Pacific Coast of the Americas, so don't be alarmed.

I find myself reading, on-line and for editorial purposes, an academic tome of 130,000 words on the medieval saints and the Christianization of Scandinavia and East Europe a thousand years ago. Among other exciting things, it was those bloody vikings who helped lots of missionary types to later sainthood via the classic route of martyrdom.

I'm only one fifth of the way into it, and nobody told me the blooming book would have quotations and citations in - encountered so far - nine languages not counting the changes in some languages in the past millenium.

Shucks, I'll worry about it next week. THIS week is all about the three Christmassy concerts our wee singing group and associated brass band are performing in local towns. We don't sing along with the brass players and we try to discourage them from showing up. But what can you do? It's a case of various wife and husband duos. Sing, play; play sing; play play; sing sing. Argue? Not likely. I won't even go there.

Today's singing effort was fun and well received. Bonhomie prevailed. The song numbers included a hippopotamus (the crocodile isn't until Friday) plus Santa Claus and several infant kids identified by balloons, teddy bears, pacifiers (dummies) and oddly assorted night attire. Never mind that the average age of the performers was 70+ (yes, the kids). I dunno. Someone told me I take myself too seriously.

Tomorrow, ye gods, a similar program will be performed at inland M., whereas today's was at S. by the seaside, on the fair shore of the Gulf St Vincent. A clue: tomorrow's venue means "Sweetwater Wells" in the aboriginal Nurrunga language. The Friday gig is at our regular haunt, no less than W. ("The Big W"), population 450. So now you know. If you're driving from Sydney, hop in the car NOW. It's about a two and a half day drive.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What the ... ?! Weather, Fire, Flood

The weather is sure weird. Little more than a month ago I farewelled my winter log fires and welcomed our southern hemisphere spring season; that is, September (still cool to cold), October and November. Summer here is supposed to be December, January and February.

But "spring" November turned into a hottest-on-record. Top temp six days ago was an absurd 46 degrees Celsius, 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot northerlies brought a blast of desert heat from Australia's baked inland, with major fire risk and actual fires in crops and bushland. Mercifully, the fires thirty kilometres north of my place were contained. The temperature dropped dramatically overnight and welcome rains arrived.

Over on the country's east coast, northern and inland New South Wales, for a while there were one hundred and fifty fires going, a dozen of them out of control. The cool change - and much hard work by fire-fighters - saved the day. There has been no loss of human life, but livestock and wildlife deaths were substantial. Homes were lost.

Friends on the north coast of New South Wales have twice in recent months been flooded out. It's one of the ironies that fire and flood often occur as twin disasters. In the bad 1983 fires which I witnessed, the hillsides above Adelaide's Waterfall Gully were burnt out and, days later, the lack of vegetative barrier allowed rain run-off to cause severe local flooding which destroyed homes. Nature does things its own way, I guess.

I was touched and grateful that several folk contacted me by phone or email, to ask "Are you O.K.?" after they heard news reports of the fires and heat on the Yorke Peninsula. Oddly, they had this news before I knew anything about the problems. I live down near the southern end of this piece of terrain. Glad to say we had no fires, and even the extreme hot winds took a couple of extra hours to reach my place. The morning had been quite balmy and pleasant!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bikers, Old Dog, Pandas and Editors

Oh, my! Two voices from the past on the same day. Julie S. rang to say she's headed to Edithburgh in three weeks' time for a Meet of the (bikers') Ulysses Club. That's just down the road and she might take a billet at my place - though she has alternatives - but in any case we will surely catch up. Like me she has had tricky issues with tenants and property maintenance in Tasmania over the past few years.

And Mike called, left a message; I rang back later for a yarn. As it turned out, when he made the call he was passing through Edithburgh going northwards, after enjoying cool relief from Adelaide's heatwave, just as I was driving to Warooka on Tuesday. Ships that pass in the night. Can't believe we missed meeting up. He reported: the dog Cougar is well but - like me - now elderly and slowed down; he (Mike not the dog) has been down from Queensland to sort out things for his recently widowed frail elder sister; he and his partner have bought a block of land in Toowoomba but for now are still on the road in their faithful motor-home. You know, all that sort of chit-chat.

Looks like I may be quite occupied with editing projects in coming months. A Belgian publisher and a Denmark-based company have taken me on their list of freelance editors, as a consequence of my accreditation this year by the Institute of Professional Editors.

The staff sub-editors of often well-known newspapers seldom bother to use services of independent professional editors. They think they can do it themselves, and come up with gems of headings such as these, quoted at the recent 4th IPEd National Editors Conference, held in Adelaide:

Cold Wave Linked to Low Temperatures
Panda Mating Fails: Vet Takes Over
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
Kids Make Nutritious Snack

... and lots more. I'll spare you.

I'll allow that some of that sort can be clever tongue-in-cheek mischief. Let's hope so!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ghan ... and the Berlin Wall

Hmm. An odd juxtaposition, but no logical connection.

Had lunch with Queensland cousins in Adelaide at the weekend - I made the 460 kilometre round trip to join them for the meal and an afternoon's company - and on Sunday they were off northwards to Darwin on the famous Ghan railway which crosses our continent down the middle (not side to side; that's the other one, the Indian-Pacific). Their car was loaded on board and in due course, after some holiday visiting in the Northern Territory, the cousins will drive via Mount Isa and inland Queensland to their home on the coast near Brisbane. Not bad. Hey, they are in my age bracket, with a collection between them of by-pass operations and hip replacements. So it goes.

Anyway, now it is Monday and we are at the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of the Wall - the Berlin Wall, that is. I've maybe told this piece of Will-his-story before. I was there. Nearly there.

End of 1960 I was in East and West Berlin (again; I'd been there also in the northern summer of that year). When the Wall was erected shortly thereafter I suppressed guilt feelings. Oops. Did I do something? If so, I think I made up for it 28 years later.

I was again in Germany (Baden-Wuertemberg) in late 1989 and the institution where I was staying gave over some of its available accommodation to refugees from the east sector. They were mostly coming out through Hungary. Then on 10th November came the moment. The trickle became a flood, and a bloodbath was avoided as border guards, with no direct orders to shoot, stood back and "people power" took over. Few ever reckoned that events would move so swiftly. Not just Germany. Poland six months earlier through a re-born union movement; the dissolution of the Soviet Union; the return of independence to the Baltic nations, to Ukraine, to Georgia and several other countries of the Caucasus, and central Asian states.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Homage to Dan Winter

Hi, I pass on this info in respect for the remarkable Dan Winter, many of whose ideas underpin the subjects discussed and developed in the conference below.

In 1999 I spent an electrifying day with Dan Winter in a group of about a dozen, in Adelaide, at a time when he was under attack from dubious lawsuits brought by certain parties in America. A decade later he has survived and is recognized worldwide for his brilliant work.

Calgary November 21-23rd

Early booking discount 7th Nov, only $250

This autumn in Calgary, this incredible conference will bring together a scintillating group of cutting edge scientists and leaders to share, discuss and celebrate breakthroughs in science, green energy and the ‘fractal’ unified field theory.

We are living in a phenomenal age. Now more than ever before, we have the opportunity to spread a unique brand of intelligence all over the world – one that will not only help nurture and protect our planet, but allow for a transition to more efficient and sustainable energy, healthcare and agricultural systems.

For a special discounted fee of US $250, (up to 7th November) you can be among the first on the planet to learn about next-level technologies for revolutionizing water treatment and agricultural water use, creating a high-level repair of our ecosystem, total ecological energy production and much, much more.

We encourage you to visit for a full description of scheduled speakers, topics, venue, accommodation, online booking and events.


  • To bring together the world’s leading team of scientists who are on the cutting edge of fractal field technologies
  • To develop a growing network of compassionate investors and commercial leaders with awareness of global needs
  • To develop innovations in agriculture, technology, energy systems, sustainability, health, and education
  • To provide a forum for brilliant ideas and new paradigm thinking
  • To facilitate collaboration between visionaries, scientists and pioneers
  • To promote robust science and hardcore testing, validation and analysis
  • To develop regenerative projects that offer sustainable living systems
  • To provide market support for key projects
  • To facilitate investment in new expressions of essential energy that can improve lives

Chances are you as passionate about innovations in agriculture, new energy systems, carbon neutral sustainability, architecture and health as we are. The applied Fractal Field theory is an inspiring new order of pure scientific principles, which clearly explains magnetism, how gravity is produced, how seeds germinate, and how life is supported. When the electric field is fractal and phase conjugate all the LIFE FORCE energy is massively optimized. We now know the symmetry and frequency recipes to cause this to happen. This has never been achieved before-the potential for commercial applications are huge.

PHASE CONJUGATED DIELECTRICS have produced a measured approximately 50% increase in glucose uptake which translates into an approximately 50% increase in fermentation rate. Dan Winter has taken what is known of phase conjugation in dielectrics- and applied critical plank, phi and hydrogen frequencies - and developed them with piezoelectric fields . This has never been achieved before.

This is the physics behind reducing aging, massive increase in agricultural yields, splitting hydrogen from water efficiently, creating implosion rather than ‘explosion’ and other commercial applications. Many of these innovations will be presented for the first time after many years of research, providing us with much needed global solutions to our planetary problems such as green house gases, energy supply, and feeding the world.

Hydrogen Energy Revolution
New ground breaking research in establishing precise frequency tunings based on Plank, Golden Ratio and Hydrogen atom. These frequency recipes may be the most important and powerful that have ever been researched on this planet.

Magnetic Water Technology
Polluted water is passed through breakthrough magnetic treatment and immediate sedimentation occurs, effectively separating and removing pollutants and making water potable.

Eco Global Fuels
A unique method to split hydrogen and oxygen from water that is the most efficient - and cost effective - than any other method on this planet, and the most environmentally friendly way of production- only using the sun and the inherent energy of water. Relies on carbon dioxide emissions to convert hydrogen into fuel, which will assist all industries looking to reduce their carbon footprint and at the same time producing renewable carbon neutral transportation fuels A principle of the company includes the original researcher with Yul Brown, (inventor of 'Browns Gas') Ross Spiros from Australia. Read more

Phase Conjugate Dielectrics
Phase Conjugate Cascade (Dielectrics) is the key to bioactive fields and has proven to optimize germination, fermentation, metabolic rates, tissue repair, and sedimentation. We now know that in air just like in water, when the electric symmetry is fractal and phase conjugate all the LIFE-FORCE energy will be massively optimized.

Revitalizing the soil
Over-farmed, barren and soil low in nutrients is re-energized and its fertility dramatically increased with revolutionary microbial technology which in tests has consistently increased crop yields by 40%.

Pain Relief Medical Technology
Patented new technology for non-invasive pain relief, free of side effects that can be used continuously to target pain throughout the body. Based on magnetic cascade, which eliminates pain and speeds healing. Trial testing has been achieved in hospitals.

Transport Fuel Enhancer
Fuel Efficiency Treatment. Molecular cluster size decreases by using Magnetic Phase Conjugate technology and at the same time increasing atomization efficiency - and therefore much increased fuel efficiency. Fuel consumption can be reduced by as much as 30-50%, saving billions and saving the planet from harmful emissions.

Global Pollution Clearing
Pioneering holographic research and applications for Carbon Footprint and Stabilization systems, includes groundbreaking work on 'Grid System Technology'

Unified Fractal Field Physics
Research and testing experiences in Bioactive and Phase Conjugate Measurement.

Hypersonic Propulsion Transportation System
Works with the air not against it, separating the air before the vehicle enters it. It does that with no pollution of the atmosphere, and using renewable energy. All transport vehicles reach rapid speed, with low energy use.

A revolution in urban design and community planning – which can be scientifically proven by measurement. Understanding the geometrical patterns, fractality and mathematical proportions that create life in order to build and design with, has been largely forgotten in the world. We how have dead and sick buildings, that block our potentials.

Reinventing the Fashion Industry
The way to 'embed' completely into your environment and your "energy body". Includes material, genetic diversity, biological capacitors, trace mineral recipes, shape, patterns, colors and of course 'Fractalilty'.

Ormus - High Spin State Superconducting Matter
Ormus, ORME and m-state all are generic terms, which apply to any normally metallic elements in a spectroscopically "invisible" non-metallic form. These terms apply regardless of which method was used to obtain them or the relative effectiveness of the element.

Art and Science
Geometry as a Therapeutic Tool
We find ourselves in the midst of an immensely important transformative period. We are collectively involved in the transition of the old world dying and a new world being born. One of the biggest problems facing us is that we are living out of sync with nature and have done so for quite some time. As a result we have lost our connection to lifeÕs vital energies and the rhythms and cycles of the cosmos. We have become disjointed from our soul connection to the Earth and the world we live in.

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Returning LIFE FORCE and LIVING WATER with Fractal Field Technologies. With proper understanding of deep primary water- abundant water is available in the Desert. By combining sensitive cutting edge magnetic mapping, we are able to locate deep water- called 'primary water', even in very desert like conditions.

Early booking discount only $250 for conference

All details

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Simply replace the email address with your friend's, add any comments you like, and hit send.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Turnip Lanterns

Well, after writing a post with the heading "Nearly Halloween" I guess I need to make a mention of the day itself.

Here at home on Australian Central Summer Time we have already reached All Saints Day (or All Hallows Day) - November 1st - let's say for the moment that it is still October 31st, that is, the eve of all saints, or Hallow E'en. The abbreviation e'en for even(ing) was still current in Scotland in many districts during my 1940s boyhood. You'll see it in lyrics of the old songs.

Girls and boys of all ages, in groups, would go around to friends' and neighbours' homes - even, if bold, to strangers' houses - more or less in disguise. It was called "guising". They were expected to perform some song or poem or performance and be rewarded by small gifts - say, sweets or biscuits or coins.

This seems rather distinct from the "trick or treat" travesty of the related tradition as it continues in the United States. However, the latter (a form of blackmail by stand-over tactics) at least captures a dark side of the ancient belief: mischief-making spirits may require appeasing on the night before the influence of All Saints sends them packing, for the time being.

My strongest memory is the smell of burnt turnip (swede). We would not dream of going guising without a home-made turnip lantern, hollowed out, carry-string attached, lit candle inside and the walls cut through in patterns (such as stars and crescent moon) or perhaps a scary face. Very effective. Very smelly. Unforgettable.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nearly Halloween

Today is the 29th of October here in Australia. Yes, I know - it is probably still the 28th in the U.S. of A. where Google Central masterminds Blogger Dot Com. There is no special festival for "two days before Halloween". Pity, I feel the need of a holiday, but that is maybe because I was outside this morning at 7.30am starting work on a modest retaining wall to use the hour before the sun gets hot. That will be the go from now on. It is still officially spring, but the summer heat is just around the corner and old guys like me wilt in the heat.

The little retaining wall is to tidy up a piece of the back yard (garden is too grand a term) where a large tuart tree was removed eighteen months ago after beetle attack killed it (and five others at the back of my block of land). The job is strictly non-essential so it qualifies as exercise therapy, and will happen in tiny happy bites.

I intend to close this blog-site soon, and shift it to one of my own domains. There will be a new title and links to "other stuff": health and wealth; futurology and technology; books, language, movies, music & on-line video; community and lifestyle.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bruce Beresford's film Mao's Last Dancer

Hi. Just back from three days in Adelaide where I saw, on the big former IMAX screen - now cleverly called Ex-imax by the East End Cinema family company who took it over - the superb Australian production Mao's Last Dancer. Director is Bruce Beresford, a national treasure surely.

The film presents the career of dancer Li Cunxin based on his autobiography. Li now lives in Australia with his Australian wife whom he met in Chicago after his defection from the Chinese People's Republic in the '80s. The film moves frequently between the narrative present of this "Chinese Baryshnikoff" and his years of training starting from when he was taken at age 11 in 1972 from a rural Shandong village school, first to Qingdao the provincial capital - and home of the famous beer as I remember - and later to Beijing.

We see the extraordinary development of the boy who is in effect abducted by state officials at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese just call that terrible time "the eleven years". I have spoken with some whose careers were devastated but who - unlike a million others - at least survived. The film-makers had access to hugely talented dancers, and the result is a delight, yet it's a film for anyone not only ballet lovers. I'm not, for example. I see dancers as elite athletes and admire the incredible dedication needed. Beresford's film pays tribute to that.

On Friday night our little group of pals got together and we discussed the subject of my last posting, the story of Ishi. Did you read it?

Then on Saturday night I caught the final-night performance of Unseen Theatre Company's latest effort at a play version of the Terry Pratchett novel The Last Continent. A spirited cast had the unevenness of almost any amateur group, but gave solid entertainment to a full house in the characterful Bakehouse Theatre in Angas Street, between the W.E.A. and the Hutt Street precinct.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ishi of the Yahi Yana Nation

The man called Ishi died 25 March 1916 in his rooms at the Anthropology Museum, California University. He was around 50. Tuberculosis killed him. For almost 100 years Ishi has mostly been referred to as "The last of the Yahi", the term used in 1979 as title of Heizer and Kroeber's book of assembled documents on his life and death.

Ishi was a native American whose reclusive people, the Yahi, had lived in remote wooded hills and gullies of northern California, east of the Sacramento River in the foothills of the Cascade Range. 10,000ft volcanic Mount Lassen was the eastern boundary of Yahi lands. To the immediate north were their Yana relatives; west were the Wintun; south-east the Maidu; still further south - Shoshone. The Yahi had remained hunters and gatherers.

We will never know Ishi's personal names. The word ishi in the Yahi dialect simply meant a full-grown man. Anthropologists Professor Alfred Kroeber and Thomas Waterman, knowing this much of native name taboo, never pressed him to reveal name-magic, and in over four years, living and working at the Museum demonstrating his people's traditional crafts, the Yahi man never volunteered it. So, just "Ishi" he became. Why was he so special?

On 29 August 1911, ill and emaciated, Ishi had been found in a state of collapse near the small mining town of Oroville, forty miles south of his tribal land and by grim irony at the corral of a slaughterhouse. The rest of his small band had fallen to starvation and influenza after years hiding in the hills. Much later, when he and the university researchers who befriended him were able to communicate somewhat freely, Ishi said he had expected to be killed. Theodora Kroeber in her book Ishi in Two Worlds, quotes her late husband's writings: "He knew the white man only as murderers of his people."

Studies in the 1990s, in part linked to legislation requiring the repatriation of native American remains from museum collections to the descendants, turned up a couple of new things about Ishi. His arrowhead-making skill (from obsidian flakes) has been shown to match not the type found in the archaeology of Yahi lands but rather that of different groups, which would indicate he had learned from incomers to the Yahi. Was Ishi himself of mixed heritage? The jury is still out on that. Could DNA evidence help?

As for repatriation of his cremated ashes, at first the Smithsonian (in 1999) "did not know he had living relatives" - but relationship was claimed by clans among the Yana. Ishi's remains were returned 10 August 2000 to be re-buried at an undisclosed location.

The loss of Ishi's tribe through deliberate killings and finally by disease could qualify as genocide. Documented massacres occurred, for example in 1865. The Civil War (1861-'65) meant that the Government saw other needs as more pressing than to protect small native American tribes from rifle-toting vigilantes styling themselves "Indian hunters", in effect guns for hire. The tragedy of the Yahi Yana played out with Ishi's death in 1916.

Breakthrough Technologies

I live just up the road from the Wattle Point windfarm - 50 huge wind-driven generators each with its 3-vane "propeller"; each one third the height of the famous Eiffel Tower. Non fossil-fuel electricity HAS to be the way of our future non-polluting power generation.

Setting aside (for the sake of argument right now) all nuclear options, there's wind, solar, wave and tidal, geo-thermal, hydrogen from water, and some others on the horizon,

Here's an interesting site for you to glance at:

What's that? Towards the end of November 2009, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (sure, you knew where Calgary is :) ) is a conference on Breakthrough Technologies, and the URL above - copy and paste it in the browser if need be - is a list of the topics.

An eye-brow raiser, for me anyway, was that a main sponsor is a left-field organisation called the Academy of Sacred Geometry. See? It is becoming more mainstream these days to merge the energies of old-style hard-science with radical alternative approaches to survivability on this wonderful planet.

Turns out that much of the "radical alternative" is capable of good science-based empirically validated research and development. The world is a-changing, and boy does it need to.

Go check it out. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Death penalty: was Elizabeth innocent?

Here's an article I wrote recently with a Yorke Peninsula connection.

The only woman hanged in South Australia: Elizabeth Woolcock.

Was this a case of wrongful conviction? Even by the harsh standards of the time, the verdict of "murder by poisoning" was doubtful. The man who died was her often-drunk husband, Thomas Woolcock, who was almost certainly fatally ill from industrial poisoning, acquired in the lethally toxic environment where he worked as a miner in South Australia's "Copper Triangle".

Worked by men recruited from Cornwall, England – famous for their long mining traditions – these mines produced mainly copper but also tin and lead.

Elizabeth was 26 years old when she was hanged soon after dawn on December 30th 1873 in the Adelaide Gaol. Born in 1847 in the mining town of Burra, South Australia, Elizabeth Oliver was therefore only four years old when her Cornish immigrant parents took her east to the State of Victoria in 1851 where Australia's gold rush was under way.

Her mother went off with another man leaving her miner father to raise the young girl the best he could, but fate dealt a further cruel blow when the father died. Elizabeth was just nine. Little is known of her next nine years. But at the age of 18 she re-connected with her mother – not seen since Elizabeth was four – and the new family settled in Moonta, one of those three South Australian Copper Triangle towns, heartland of the Cornish immigrant community. Mother and daughter appear to have been on good enough terms after the long separation, and the stepfather was a decent fellow. Elizabeth at 18 was teaching in the Sunday School of the Wesleyan Church when she met and married Thomas Woolcock. What went wrong?

We will never know full details of the eight years between that time and her being accused of Woolcock's supposed murder, and Elizabeth's subsequent execution. Today we would probably call her marriage to Thomas Woolcock one of domestic abuse, going by witness statements during the trial. But did she poison him? Was he perhaps already dying from industrial poisoning?

This was a sad page in the history of the young colony, a mere 37 years from its founding in 1836. Visitors today can reflect as they read a memorial to Elizabeth Woolcock at the Old Adelaide Gaol which is now, ironically, a rather cheerful environment as a popular convention centre.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Minlaton Show

Two for the price of one, as it were. Our group did its monthly concert - brass band and singers - at the nursing home in Minlaton yesterday, on the same day as the annual Minlaton Agricultural Show. Even the bank closed for the day to let staff visit the Show.

Anyway, our smaller scale show was over by 2.30 so I hopped across to the west side of town (O.K., only two streets away) to the showground in time to catch the last of the horsey events in the arena, and certainly in time to avoid riding on any of the machinery designed to make the riders scared or sick.

Ever daring, I bought a strawberry plant for the garden, and a soft-serve ice-cream with chocolate topping for my afternoon tea, telling myself that chocolate topping can be very nourishing. And an elderly paperback of a Harry Harrison fantasy novel I hadn't heard of. Used to enjoy his stuff. I liked the cover art of an improbably huge dolphin-creature on some alien world. Don't know when I'll get around to reading it, since I have three books on the go right now. Books are just fine resting on the shelf by themselves for long periods. It doesn't do to wear out the print by too much reading.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Enjoy October

O.K., so it's October already. Just got an email from friendly Gwenda who saw the DVD I sent our musical director of last Tuesday's little concert. Gwenda said only our brilliant cast could have survived with such aplomb the various "miniscule" problems I'd mentioned - late entrances, forgettings of lines, awkward performing space and constant traffic of staff and residents. It's a nursing home! Everyone enjoyed everything :)

Oh, I guess I should mention that the Australian cricket team won that International Champions Trophy in South Africa, in the final defeating arch-rivals the New Zealanders (but we like 'em a lot). New Zealanders like Australia so much - but never admit it - that one million out of a total four million of THEM live in Australia. They even merge undetected in the general population, except when asked to pronounce the phrase "fish and chips". A modern-day Shibboleth. Right, go look it up.

My Huonville house is now under an unconditional contract to sell on 2nd November.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seven Years

Seven years can stand for many things - a wedding anniversary, or a child's age, years spent in high school and college, or the time you've worked with an employer or been in business for yourself. Or been a member of a club or team. Long list of possibles.

Well, today marks exactly seven years since I bought the hundred year old stone house that I now live in, on its wooded acre lot, here in a small country town on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula. It was in a pretty run-down state and, after the low-rent tenant moved on (his lease was due to end) I spent a couple of seasons fixing things up; main big-ticket items were salt-damp treatment throughout and a gleaming new bathroom. At one time I'd envisaged retiring - again - this time to Tasmania. But no, too cold over there, I finally realised. Great for holiday trips.

Truth is, I have become very attached both to the house and the district. It'll do me. Once a month I hop over to the state capital city, trying to remember what traffic lights and parking meters look like, and then am darned glad to come back to the rural delights of barley-growing country - not that I grow any of the stuff. But they make beer from it, don't they? That's good enough recommendation for me.

It was Saint Andrew's Day, November 30th, back in 2002 when I actually took up residence myself in this old place, so I will celebrate another anniversary in two month's time, for that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Woodhenge, Stonehenge, and a lunch

Lunch in Adelaide yesterday was with Margaret H. at La Piatta, to catch up before she heads to Scotland next Wednesday. She then took the O-Bahn back towards Golden Grove while I went across the road to the Nova Cinema for the 2pm screening of the Pixar film Up, whose review so impressed me, And yes, it was worth it. Glad to have seen it.

On the way to the Magareys and a meal with them, I called briefly at 154 Greenhill Road which is the Haigh's Chocolate visitors' centre. But the last tour of the day is 2pm. I'll go again. I bought a box of their scorched almonds for Enid, our hostess at RTS. Kevin M. was recovering from a cold and elected to stay in and have an early night, but Margaret accompanied me to the meeting; it was Rosemary's leading of discussion on the Stonehenge monument on Salisbury Plain, England, and its history, with mention of the nearby Woodhenge. I set up the camcorder to make a record of the evening. It has turned out O.K. despite low light.

At Heartbeat House, Hans (from Holland at age 10) and his wife who is totally deaf (their home is in Mt Gambier) was still in residence from my stay a month ago. They are daily at the bedside of their adult son who has been in a coma for six weeks because of complications from the swine flu virus. Also arrived yesterday were two sisters from Darwin whose mum has had a heart bypass op, and that appears to have gone well.

For some reason I slept very poorly last night - in the top storey room. During the night there were rain flurries many times - plus at one stage heavy hail. Not well rested, for the journey home I took several breaks; Dublin, Ardrossan, Stansbury.

Today is the AFL Grand Final between Geelong and Saint Kilda, a matter of major interest to 99.9% of the population.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Up and Away

Goodness ... another five days just got away. All I can show for the elapsed time is the planting out of six Roma tomato seedlings and eight snowpea ditto. That's a bit sad.

Just read the review (Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton) of the Pixar animated film Up. Four and a half stars each. Must see. Thanks to Bill B. for pointing me to the review - plus his own endorsement.

Yesterday's rehearsal at our singing group (we still don't use the C word) was for next week's mini concert at one of the nursing homes where we perform: a re-run of most of the numbers from our stage show a month ago, proving to us how much you forget in a month. Mind you, our dear pianist was away recovering from a knee-op, and her replacement did not have the same magic accompanist's touch. Today I deliver to the recovering one a DVD from my camcorder's remorseless capturing of the event, by order. There shall be no secrets from our musical director.

And, oh yeah, the English cricketers deserve applause for their last match win in the One Day-ers, saving a whitewash to finish 6-1 down to Australia in the series. By now both sides have winged it to South Africa to compete with the other few cricketing nations: to the rest of the sporting world a matter of no interest whatsoever.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More cricket. The amazing dodo ... who knew?

5am Got up early to see the last play of the sixth One Day International from Nottingham, England. The most convincing Australian win yet (by 111 runs) to go 6-nil up. The last match in the series is in two days time. Will the tourists achieve a 7-0 "whitewash" - something never done by any team in this form of cricket? With today's result Australia goes back to world number one in the rankings. Youngster of the squad and wicketkeeper Tim Paine hit 111 - his first century in international cricket - and was Man of the Match. Looks like he may be "the new Adam Gilchrist", that is, a specialist wicketkeeper who is also a top-order batsman. I am aware that this is gobbledegook to all who don't follow cricket. I have a similar non-comprehension of many ... well, most! ... sports.

And since the blooming cricket finished early - ten available overs not required after Brett Lee clean bowled the last hapless Pom - I was forced to proceed to my toast and marmalade and pot of tea while catching the tail end, so to speak, of a NatGeo doco on the famous dodo. Genuinely fascinating to learn that recent DNA results, from the sole partial specimen of that extinct species, reveal that it was a ... pigeon. Not a turkey-like separate avian family. Nope. Your actual pigeon, but of course a distinct species of that family, and one isolated on Mauritius for - they reckon - ten million years, its ancestors having arrived originally island-hopping from south east Asia, NOT from Africa. With no local competitors, it evolved into a larger flightless ground dweller. The characteristic heavy beak was about fighting for territory and mating rights.

It gets even more interesting. Our popular image of the bird is mistaken, based upon 16th and 17th century sketches, really caricature drawings, which suggest a clumsy creature. New study of the single remaining partial specimen tells a different tale. We have, it seems, a well-coordinated creature with a strong thrust-forward chest, head and neck developed for a fighting role, and strong legs. Two other areas of research shed light. An on-going archaelogical dig of the fortified Dutch post on Mauritius has shown absolutely no kitchen midden traces of dodo remains, while ships' logs contain specific mentions to confirm that the bird's meat was unpalatable and generally unsuitable as a food source. Hence it was not harvested for on-voyage stores, and over-hunting by humans was NOT a reason for the extinction. The species persisted for about a hundred years of human visitation, until the 1660s. The culprit is inferred to be feral pigs, from animals introduced by the earlier Dutch ships. Pigs would eat the eggs or chicks, and probably disrupt breeding patterns. The recent researchers are pretty certain that the birds could give a good account of themselves, and adults could drive off direct attacks. The ship log evidence also attests that unarmed humans were not feared, and a dodo could strike and bite painfully.

The final insult was that the one museum specimen in England was so daggy and moth-eaten that in 1755 a spring-cleaning curator THREW IT OUT. Some nameless history-saviour souvenired it, and the head, neck and one leg which remain today are from that source.

And the name? Dodo was the name bestowed by a man who was put in charge of the live crated bird when it first arrived. It was suggested by the sustained churring doo...doh call of the bird which, we may assume, was not a happy chap. With good reason, all things considered.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More cricket and Butler's Beach

O.K., I stayed up late and then rose at 6am yesterday to catch the exciting last overs of Australia's run chase to reach 302, with four wickets in hand and 10 balls remaining, and win their one-day match against England at Trent Bridge. That makes it 5-o in the seven match series. Ricky Ponting, the Boy from Mowbray, had a magnificent "captain's knock" of 126 which included the longest six he'd ever hit. At the death there was all-rounder Mitchell Johnstone hitting another six to win the match. It was sad in a gratifying kind of way to see dejected England supporters starting to leave to ground with two overs still to play, at about the time it became clear that the tourists were cruising to a win.

Only problem with not getting much sleep was that I was heading out that day for a brisk three hour walk down on the coast just east of Marion Bay, where there are remote and beautiful beach coves on private land. One is known as Butler's Beach (often seals are to be seen), the other as Salmon Beach where there is good fishing for - who would guess? - salmon. The Butler family's land includes four miles of this coast. My companions included one of the family members, who took us to view what may be signs of the former aboriginal (Nurrunga) presence.

Sunny and magnificent day at the start - turning to dramatic lightning and thunder and rain, which eased off for our mid-walk picnic lunch. Then once we were safely back to vehicle and a fifty kilometre drive to our country town, the rain set in again and continued much of last night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Win is a No-Win? And a Dummy Spit. Not so serene.

So ... the ODI cricket was an easy-looking win for the Australians at the MCC Lord's ground two days ago, for an unbeatable 4-nil lead in the best-of-seven series. ODI stands for One Day International - a crisper format of the game than the 5-day Test Matches which must bemuse followers of other sports. What kind of game lasts five days??! MCC stands for Middlesex Cricket Club. The win was against "the old enemy" - England - as viewed by Aussies from Down Under; slight revenge for losing the Ashes (another story) to the England side earlier in the year, contested every two years in a series of five of those 5-day Test Matches. That's a lot of cricket.

But here's the rub. If one is a "cricket tragic" - I'm not, really - then what is there left in life when the contest fizzles out? When the series is won and lost and three remaining games are to be "dead rubbers". The TV commentators said the English would use the games as practice for an upcoming tournament against South Africa. Oh, dearie me.

But all was well: the jaded viewer was able on this occasion to switch attention to the semi-finals of the U.S. Tennis Open, just in time to learn of Serena (ha!) Williams' dummy spit (tantrum) and obscene abuse of the lineswoman who called a footfault, costing her the last two points, and hence the match, against the amazing come-back Kim Clijsters who then went on to win the Ladies' Championship. Williams later (next day) huffily conceded that "an apology was warranted" - but somehow held back from actually voicing one. One commentator said that this prominent player had "indelibly tainted her reputation". Amen to that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Joseph Campbell 1904 - 1987

Jane came round today bringing with her a VHS video released in 1988 featuring the great Joseph Campbell interviewed by media personality Bill Moyers. Campbell did this interview shortly before his death at 83, in 1987, on October 31 - Halloween - a kind of magical day of the year. Is that significant? I guess it might be. Campbell dealt with myth, ritual and magic in his famous writings in anthropology and comparative religion, and it struck me as we watched the video that he was the American counterpart for the late 20th century to my fellow Scot, Sir James Frazer (author of The Golden Bough, 1922) in the early decades of that century. Wikipedia told me that Campbell was born on March 26 of 1904. Hmm. Exactly a month after my dad was born.

Well, the Australian cricketers are 3-0 up in the best-of-seven series in England, in the one-day format against the host country, play starting in five minutes for the fourth match. Gotta go!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Farewell Colin Norris, South Australia's "Mr UFO"

This is an appreciative note - rather too late to be an obituary - on the passing of one of Nature's real gentlemen. Colin Norris (1920 - 2009) died in Adelaide on 13th July this year, loved by an extended family and known for decades informally to the media and public as South Australia's "Mister UFO". For over sixty years Colin compiled and collated hundreds, nay, thousands of reports from those who said they had witnessed sightings of unidentified lights, or objects in flight - and less commonly "landed" or even emerging from the sea. Much of Colin's archived material was in the form of tape recordings of witness statements. He maintained for years a newsletter latterly named Australian International UFO Flying Saucer Research.

Here is Bill Chalker's excellent obit.

Those who got to know this man, including myself, judged him to be sincere, modest, practical and open-minded. His interest in the subject stemmed from his time in WWII as turret gunner in Liberator bombers when - as he often recounted - his aircraft was "buzzed" repeatedly by disc-shaped craft. He went on to a technical career including working for Australia's CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Not your average "dreamer"!

In the mid-1990s Colin spoke to a group of more than a hundred on an occasion when I chaired the meeting, in the main hall of Fullarton Park Community Centre. He was a frequent and generous speaker for many groups. Our audience included half a dozen self-styled Skeptics who had come in order to disrupt the evening and (if they could) ridicule Colin Norris, merely because the topic was to do with Unidentified Flying Objects. The speaker's mild mannered charm and openness - I like to think also my chairing style :) - won them over to ceasing the hostile disruption, and over coffee and biscuits later everyone became pals, nobody seeking to force opinions on anyone else. A happy memory.

More rankling is a memory of a conversation with author Keith Basterfield at a time later in the '90s when he, Basterfield, was actively preparing material for publication - also on the topic of reported sightings or experiences (or claimed experiences) especially in South Australia, often involving accounts of car-engines being affected by "close encounters". You know the sort of thing. Learning that K.B. was in the business of sourcing such material, I remarked brightly "Well, you must surely know Colin Norris!" - expecting some admiring response along the lines that he knew Colin to be the Main Man in the field, at least locally, and was indebted to his work as a great pioneer of archived evidence. Not a bit of it. Not only was Mr Basterfield lukewarm in any acknowledgment of Norris's role, but he revealed or let slip that he HAD approached Colin Norris and had asked - or demanded? - to have full access to his records. This sounded to me like saying, You've done the work: now let me publish and take the credit. What a cheek. Colin Norris declined, courteously because that was always his only mode of communication.

The last part of the story tells far more about the other man than about the late Colin Norris. Basterfield, so far as I can determine, appears to have tried to make Colin a "non-person" by failing in his own published work to mention Norris's huge achievement as a documentarist spanning half a century. If I am mistaken in this - and I have not read every word written by K.B. - then some justice may have been done to the real hero in the tale, Colin Norris. But if I am right in my suspicion, then it is a sad and sordid example of petty spite, undermining the validity of the culprit's own research or pretension to thoroughness and truth in this quite interesting area which continues to intrigue the public.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Now THAT is a Tall Tale: salute Mike Perham

Imagine. A seventeen year old sails solo around the world. Nah. Tell us another.

But you read it already, or saw the reports on the box. August 31, back to Portsmouth, England, his starting place, after 158 days solo circumnavigation, the boy wonder is MICHAEL PERHAM. I salute him.

Yes, he's 17 and took time off from his studies in sports sciences in the town of St Albans in Hertfordshire, for this extraordinary adventure in his yacht with several repair stops en route (mostly to do with the auto steering gear) so his record for youngest-ever stands but as a "with assistance" entry in Guinness World Records. Michael was still just sixteen when he set out last November, and 45,000 kilometres later his first wish after hugs with family was ... steak and chips.

His repair stops were in Portugal, the Canary Islands, Cape Town, Hobart and Auckland. The Hobart call-in was on April 9, 2009.

Michael follows the wake (can't say footsteps!) of the first man to sail alone around the world, JOSHUA SLOCUM, born 1844 in Nova Scotia, who did it in stages between 1895 and 1898 supporting himself by lecturing on the way. His book title Sailing Alone Around the World (1909) rather gives the plot away :) But sadly this pioneer Slocum disappeared without trace after setting out in 1909 in an attempt at a new circumnavigation.

We are all glad that Michael Perham made it safely.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fame, Fortunately.

What a blast. Yesterday's annual concert by our little band of modern vaudevilleans was more than well-received by its loyal following - who claimed to be surprised and delighted by the new format. "The best ever" was heard more than once. Fun and super therapy, too, for the on-stage guys - us! Nine women, three men, average age ... well, never mind. And a whole orchestra, that is to say ... piano, trumpet and tuba.

But I insist on telling the tale relayed to me by email this morning. Gwenda said she'd met three folk in the street (20km from where the concert took place) all of whom had enjoyed the show, AND ONE ASKED "Who was the young man next to you in the opening number?" Ahem. 'Twas I. And young? At my age, it is a glorious fiction, and bless that lady for her tact and kindness.

I am off in the morning on my mostly monthly jaunt to Adelaide, three hours away. Might catch a couple of good movies. Good company planned for tomorrow evening. See the eye specialist for a routine check on Monday. Lunch with other pals - fresh from tropical Cairns - in Unley; then home to the Yorke Peninsula, where a plan is afoot, as it were, for the eventual development of a 500 km walking trail - and biking and horse-riding. At present there is about 60 km, but in disconnected lengths in the vicinity of coastal towns and the Innes National Park. The model is South Australia's existing Heysen Trail which runs north-south from the Flinders Ranges down through the Adelaide Hills. I know, too, Ontario's Bruce Trail in Canada. What a fine resource such recreational trails are in many countries.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Michael Anthony's How To Be Happy Book

Here is a no-strings plug for a remarkable no-cost e-book from former sports mental coach Michael Anthony. He makes his book How To Be Happy freely available by download at his website:

That can't be bad!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hardwicke Bay

Hi again. Took my desktop computer tower to computer hospital this morning, all the way to Minlaton to the splendidly named Mount Rat Computer Services staffed by my acquaintances Dave and William, who greeted me as one known to them from their respective previous employments. Oh to be young and versatile ... or even employable.

On the way home by a coastal detour I visited the attractive Hardwicke Bay (a community as well as an actual bay on the Spencer Gulf side of Yorke Peninsula) where the lady at the general store said the year-round population is about ninety souls ... several times that number in the holiday season.

I then delivered to the Musical Director the DVDs I created last night - O.K., this trusty laptop did the real work while I watched something on the telly - revealing in grisly detail the bloopers of our upcoming stage show after yesterday' s first dress rehearsal. Yet again, the dog got the best laughs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Floods, massacres and cups of tea.

The world is certainly a strange place. It is possible that we are not required to make sense of it; merely be kinder to one another than our frequent inclination is. Don't know what prompted that.

I really admire people who are adept with internetty things - including blogs which I have hardly gone the hang of yet - never mind your actual Information Technology wizards such as highly trained professionals or any eight year old.

Just discovered the LightScribe products which various CD and DVD manufacturers offer; Verbatim (who say they invented it), Hewlett Packard, Kodak (which has re-invented itself) and lots more. As with much else computer-related, I may be among the last on the planet to discover this neat hardware (the physical coated discs) and the necessary software which lets you put labels to your own design on discs which you choose to make ("burn") from any of several sources, such as a camera, or images (still or moving) on your computer, or from existing music CDs or DVDs. I mean ones whose content you own ... no piracy here, thanks.

The sun is shining. Pleasant breeze is blowing. All good so far. No floods and landslips like in Taiwan in the past week. No massacres within fifty miles of me like occurred in Sudan the week before. Et cetera. If one's nearby community is tranquil, then it seems to be O.K. to say "everything is fine." Some news guru on the TV mentioned that 28,000 shooting deaths happen annually in the U.S. Roughly same as the road toll. Is this good? Is it slightly bad? Can I change it? What can I actually DO? What I do actually do is to go and have a cup of tea, maybe as good a response as any, for the moment.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Perfect autumn weather

Hi. Yep, perfect fall or autumn weather here on the YP - Yorke Peninsula, South Australia's barley growing region. The farmers are pleased with recent rain after the drought conditions of summer.

Cold? Well, cool, and I'm happy to have my indoor log fire. Just finished resharpening the chainsaw after a session next to the woodshed. Then I sprayed some weeds on my acre block. Gotta, or the District Council guys put rude notices in the letterbox, 'cos undergrowth, come summer, is a fire hazard.

Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary and re-enactment of the first airmail delivery in 1919 by local hero from Minlaton, Captain Harry Butler D.F.C in his own Bristol monoplane brought here from England. All the way from Adelaide, and "overseas" by virtue of crossing Gulf Saint Vincent.

The re-enactment was by 60-year old Tiger Moth, flown by QANTAS pilot Alistair Crawford who wryly explained that 45 knot headwinds meant he kept being overtaken by trucks as he flew a route following the Port Wakefield Road. The Tiger Moth yesterday did not cross the open water of the Gulf since the conditions were considered too unsafe (but were about the same as Harry Butler experienced in 1919). All this and no GPS or radio or suchlike. They were tough in those days. Not much chance of rescue either, back then.

The mayors of Adelaide and of Unley had sent letters of goodwill, just like in 1919. And the special guest at the afternoon ceremony, outside the Harry Butler Memorial hangar-like museum which houses the original "Red Devil" aircraft, was none other than modern aviator adventurer and all-round Aussie icon Dick Smith. Dick Smith spoke succinctly and his remarks were appreciated by a good-sized audience in the blustery condition. Other speakers were less succinct.

I attended the evening grub-fest in the Minlaton Town Hall with my companion J.B., a grand niece of the famous Harry B. himself. Truth to tell, it seemed as though every second person was a rellie of Harry B., who sadly was injured severely in an engine-failure crash just a couple of years after his return to the Peninsula. He never fully recovered and died eighteen months later, but is certainly well-remembered 90 years on. Fundraising is going ahead to erect a statue in the town, and Dick Smith has generously kicked in with a $2,000 donation. Onya!

Another amazing crop formation ("crop circle" is a bit of a misnomer) appeared within the past 24 hours next to Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England. I stuck it up above for now, but will take it down. It is not a Sea and Ships theme, is it? Maybe Miscellany. Anyway, it's not my image to use but I offer this info here as a free promo for the great folk at

Think they're all fakes and hoaxes? The formations, I mean, not the great folk etc. Think again. I'll vouch for Stuart Dike, who does much of the ultralight aerial filming, often within hours of a formation being first reported. No, I don't know who or what the circle-makers are. Nice to have a bit of mystery in our lives.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

More Drama

August already! The Blogspot date says 31 July but in my time zone 'tis indeed first of August already. So it goes.

Main drama of MY week was the falling through of the contract to sell my house in Tasmania. New plan ... I may go over there for a month and see to some serious reno and either re-let the place or put it back on the market. It was offered before at a discounted price (well below median for the area and type of dwelling), a purchaser knowing that it needed work. We shall see.

The nicer drama is that I have tickets for next Saturday's last night of the musical Oklahoma which the Maitland Arts and Music Club are putting on in the McKnight Theatre, where I was the other day for the nifty Metro Male Voice Choir performance. Twice to Maitland from Yorketown in a short space of time! That's like doing the Paris - Dakar Rally. Why, it must be ... 85 kilometres. O.K., so not the Paris - Dakar Rally, which, so I believe, changed its destination from Africa to South America last time they did it. You can't blooming rely on anything any more. Plus the Poms are beating Australia at cricket. Diabolical. I'm a non-resident Scot, but don't expect me to barrack for the English unless it's them agin an evil enemy, with no Aussies or Scots in the picture. So what's wrong with some good old one-eyed partisan spirit?

Where was I? Nowhere much. I dug up my entire potato crop of two plants (good potatoes) which grew all by themselves from last year's spuds which got overlooked. Cut some more logs for the open fireplace in my living room, warm and cosy. We're in winter, and July was the wettest here for yonks. The dry salt pans of this area - 200 of them - are full of ... water! And they look like proper lakes. Alas, no keel boat sailing. Not ANY sailing. I guess you could wade across 'em all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Metropolitan Male Voice Choir of South Australia

The Metro Male Voice Choir gave a stirring concert yesterday in Maitland, South Australia, as part of their commitment to country town performances. They are Adelaide based,yet make many trips annually to rural centres - marvellous when you consider that S.A. is the size of France and Germany together (!)

A bunch of us drove the hour's journey up to Maitland, where the local committee put on a nice afternoon tea to complement the singing, conducted by soon-to-retire musical director Don Noblett

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rewritable DVDs - the Awful Truth

Aargh!! I recorded the whole two hours of our five-weeks-to-go concert rehearsal in the church hall at W., and put 'em on DVD. Do I really grimace and twitch like that on the higher notes? Ye gods. Winning my place back from the singing dog must have gone to my head - or larynx.

It is still early days, thank goodness, as far as the stagecraft goes. Our group of a dozen souls is doing a cabaret-theme wrap-around of the varied song content (not just songs from the musical Cabaret) interspersed with some connecting comic sketches. Thanks, Gwenda, chief scriptwriter.

My favourite number in our looming show is Angela's solo Maria Elena in her native Spanish. (Tuyo es mi corazon / Oh sol de mi querer ... ). And with male voice I like it very much as sung by Helmut Lotti, posted on YouTube. Go hear.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quizzical Ronnie Corbett autobio

Last night at the Bowling Club the local Uniting Church held its annual Quiz Night. Our team, give or take a couple of players off the field and a substitute, were last year's winners and we looked to repeat the triumph. Sadly, not to be. We came second by a squeak. I maintain that this was due to dodgy adjudication and scoreboard chicanery. But how can you tell that to the reverend? The desserts table made up somewhat for the humiliation. This is the true meaning of just desserts.

I finished reading the autobiography, entitled High Hopes, of the famously diminutive - and hard working - Scots comedian Ronnie Corbett (b.1930) who was brought up in Edinburgh.

The description of a 1930s Edinburgh childhood is a fine social document in itself. His father was a master baker, and a very good amateur golfer. From him the young Corbett seems to have acquired a lifelong fine-food appreciation, and cooking skills, plus a love of the game of golf. He knew by early high school - during WWII - that his vocation was the world of theatre and he held that vision for years as an aspiring performer from the age of 16. He was soon drawn to the comedic side of theatre, turning his small stature (5'1") to an advantage as the "wee clown".

What strikes the reader is the sheer tenacity of Corbett, moving to London on his own, learning every part of his trade through the 1940s and '50s, working at anything to keep body and soul together. Eventually steady work was forthcoming; club entertainment with Danny La Rue, summer seasons of pantomime. Small film parts started to come along (You're Only Young Twice, 1952), and, in 1957, Rockets Galore ("... a sort of sequel to Whisky Galore") in which he played a Hebridean fisherman alongside stalwarts such as Duncan McRae and Jamieson Clark, and Gordon Jackson - all three of whom your blogger is delighted to have met. In 1951 I took part in an hour-long broadcast from Glasgow's Festival of Britain Exhibition: Jamieson Clark interviewed another schoolboy and me on our responses to the exhibits in the Kelvin Hall. Such is my miniscule showbusiness fame, along with one cast list billing alongside the great Stanley Baxter, in the BBC's Radio Times for a play on Children's Hour. Ronnie Corbett and Stanley Baxter had many appearances together, on stage and on television.

But of course what we all recall best is Corbett with the other Ronnie, the late Ronnie Barker, in their 16-year association as The Two Ronnies, 1971 - 1986. In 1977 the pair got their respective O.B.E. awards from H.M. the Queen. The book tells us that the alphabetical rules for presentation were slightly bent so that they received their gongs as a duo.

The index lists Ronnie Corbett's seven films almost as an aside to his hundreds of live shows and TV appearances: the last film was the 1997 Fierce Creatures which John Cleese wrote but which was not a critical success. Corbett gives very good technical insights into the particular difficulties of the film, and just why it didn't "work". He knows his stuff. He's a even bigger namedropper than me, perhaps because he really has met 'em all, and worked with many. The index has over 500 names! Corbett speaks with humanity and gentleness of nearly everyone, even when remarking on foibles. An exception is his uncompromising mention of the American movie actor George C. Scott ... remember? - the guy who played the title role as (WWII General) Patton. Scott was one of a Celebrity and Golf Pro bunch who were to play a televised golf tournament at Gleneagles. He became so unpleasantly drunk, loud and boorish that the organisers shipped him off home.

A happier incident was when, one season in Bristol, the theatre manager knocked on Ronnie's door. "I've had a call from Cary Grant's secretary to say he's booked seats for tonight, and can he come backstage afterwards?" That's the kind of message you would enjoy. Cary Grant - real name Archie Leach, a Bristol home-town boy - told RC he'd enjoyed the show and they went out for a meal. As one does.

There's plenty more of considerable interest in this plainly written tale. Ghost-written, I think, and none the worse for that. I believe it was compiled from many taped interviews with Oliver Pritchett. The book was first published in 2000 when Ronnie Corbett was 70, still accepting performing engagements, and praise be, at the time of this blog he is still with us.

In his profession here was a giant spanning an epoch, from vaudeville, seaside pantomime and club shows, to the signature small screen monologue: stand-up comedy while seated in an armchair. Big statistic: in its heyday The Two Ronnies routinely attracted a weekly viewing audience in the U.K. of seventeen million, and nineteen million for the Christmas specials. Wow. Bless you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

House by the Huon River

Ten days since the last post? Where does it go?

Today I have a sell contract on my rental property in Huonville, a 40 minute commute south of Hobart. I am sad to sell it, but it is a question of scrambling to try to put my finances back in some kind of order. Among other matters, I know I will not see more than a few cents in the dollar recovered from investment-lending I made to a person who petitioned for and was granted bankruptcy this month - owing in total 6.8 million dollars to many unfortunate people, such as me. He now lists his occupation as "consultant". As a bankrupt he cannot hold directorships for a period of three years. He appears able to manoeuvre round such hurdles quite adroitly.

Happier note. Our choir's tenor Don survived his 85th birthday skydive. The plane broke down and the event was called off.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Flaherty's Beach

Further down the Spencer Gulf coast from Parsons Beach - do I put in the apostrophe? ... nah - is Flahertys Beach, another long remote stretch of seawrack, sand and shell. There's a single gravel road for access. no difficulty there, and even a handy visitors' carpark.

Today is Tuesday which means it's the song-group practice day. Wish they'd let me call it a choir. Anyhow, about every second week after the practice I drive over to the Flahertys Beach carpark and set off either north towards Hardwicke Bay or south towards Point Turton and walk on the beach for a half hour to maybe an hour. For me this is welcome and much needed exercise, especially since seven months ago I damaged my right foot and it is not quite 100% back to A1 at Lloyds. That means, it is still playing up. Stuffed. Buggered.

So that's Flahertys Beach. Not a tall ship in sight today.

However I took along the little JVC hybrid GZ-MG630 camcorder that I got with Fly Buy points. Slowly I am getting the hang of some things it does. When all else fails I read the destructions. More later. Talk soon.

P.S. The singing dog was a no-show at the song practice (there are two concerts scheduled for August) so I keep my job! Yay.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Huonville or bust

Personal diary. Well, that's what this is, isn't it? Today I put on the market the house I have had for over six years in Huonville, Tasmania. It has been tenanted for nearly all that time. But it is an income-negative asset, and repair and maintenance costs have been more than an investor (or landlord) wants. We shall see if a sale claws back some of the losses.

If you don't know, Huonville (and the lovely Huon Valley) is about 40 minutes south of Hobart.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sing for health enhancement

Nice one! Gwenda sent an email to say she'd seen one of those you-beaut TV shows on health and lifestyle, and it offered expert evidence to the effect that people (dogs and cockatoos too??)who sing ARE likely to enjoy better health than those who refrain from singing. Nobody says you have to sing WELL :) But we knew that. Singing is a joyful expression of ... well, joy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Parsons Beach and Melaleuca Court at Minlaton

So now it's July. Wow. Here in Australia that's the start of a new tax year, but enough of depression-inducing things.

My blog is currently called Tall Ships and Tall Tales. Today you get a tall tale - even if it is true.

Mind you, I still travelled to Parsons Beach on the Spencer Gulf shore of the Yorke Peninsula - thanks for the ride in your midnight blue station wagon, Gwenda - a beach with five kilometres of little-visited scenic solitude: a beach from which you could have watched the windjammers coming to or going from Port Victoria not far north on the same coast, of which I wrote some notes during June.

And why the trip to Parsons Beach? Aha! A home there, one of a small cluster of year-round homes in the tiny community, is where our singing group rehearses on the morning of our monthly concert at Melaleuca Court, performed for the residents of that nursing home in the charming inland town Minlaton. Minlaton - or Minlacowie - was named for the old aboriginal sweetwater wells, which can still be seen.

Glad to say that today's concert went O.K., the audience was appreciative and the six piece brass section and the dozen singers were fed cakes and tea or coffee afterwards. A satisfying start to the new tax year :) Wendy even played the piano and sang to accompany her dog Sam who rendered Singing in the Rain, with some competition from the cockatoo in a corner of the residents' lounge who was singing How Much is That Doggy in the Window. My main concern now is that this dog might oust the newest member of the group ... me. A small compensation is that the bird was already offered the job but turned it down.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Port Julia and Port Vincent streets names for the ketches

Hi. I got back on Saturday from my usual couple of days or three each month in Adelaide which is a three hour drive away. Each time I make the journey I like to stop for a break in one or other of the pretty enroute places, usually on the coast so I can enjoy a sea view up close; even a beach walk or a stroll out on a historic jetty such as Ardrossan's where I chatted yesterday with a couple of squidders - that's guys catching squid!

But I also enjoyed a first-time look at Port Julia - no "town" now, only holiday homes and the historic Red Shed by the jetty, previously an active warehousing and loading centre for the grain brokers, up until 1968 when Port Julia ceased to be a port. Then I drove by the picturesque gravel road down the coast to Port Vincent. The main road these days runs some way inland. I realised that both places name streets in tribute to the ketch trade; Lady Doris, Adonis, Esther, Osprey .. and so on. See my list further down on this page.

While in the city I caught up with some new movies - not a subject for this blog right now, though one, the AFI Award winning Samson and Delilah (dir. Warwick Thornton) is set in a fictionalised remote aboriginal community and then in Alice Springs, and therefore about as far from a sea and ships setting as is possible to get!

But wait - a slim connection comes from the on-special DVD of an audiobook I bought at the ABC Shop. Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife is the second book of his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. The first book, Northern Lights, was filmed handsomely as The Golden Compass, but alas with no guarantee of a sequel. These matters are driven by box office. Anyway, having listened to the CDs on the drive home (oh, I'd read the book, and I liked the BBC4 dramatised condensation of the story) I was moved to have another look at The Golden Compass from my DVD shelf. This was far better than doing serious chores after being away for three days.

I noticed more than before just how visually attractive are the sailing vessel scenes in this movie - the ships on screen are composites of real ones plus computer generated elements such as paddle wheels. And I took in, at this viewing, the end-credit to "captain and crew of the schooner Noorderlicht (Northern Lights)". If I'm not mistaken, the other ship in the film, that of Lord Faa the "Gyptian"(gypsy) leader, is based on a Thames barge design, and thus we might claim a smidge of resonance with good old Captain Cook's Endeavour. O.K., I'm pushing my luck. 'Nuff said for now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Names of some ketch trade vessels in South Australia

In 1955 Don Lucas started his apprenticeship in sailmaking. There were then 20 vessels left in the ketch trade fleet (not all of them were actually ketches - that is, main mast for'rad, mizzen mast aft) but oldtimers remembered when there had been about 80. They plied the waters from Kangaroo Island - at 100 miles long, Australia second largest after Tasmania - to the two gulfs which split the South Austalian land mass, Gulf Saint Vincent and Spencer Gulf. Grain was loaded from jetties or from bullock drays on beaches, and lightered to waiting windjammers ten times the tonnage of the ketches, until the last such voyage by big square-riggers (Pamir and Passat were the final two) from Port Victoria in 1949, bound for the other side of the world

Don Lucas is one of a dozen interviewees in Gerry Kerr's 75 minute film The Trading Ketches of South Australia.

Today one ketch alone survives as a working vessel - much restored and re-modelled as a multipurpose ship for school student education, charter, adventure trips, shark and whale and dolphin watching, diving expeditions. She's the Falie, bought by the S.A. State government to be restored for the 1986 150 year anniversary of the State's proclamation, and key to the local historical re-enactments of 1986. Ever since then, Falie has earned her keep as a handsome and versatile ship, noted by Chris Frizell as the largest of the fleet - even when the fleet numbered more than one(!) The Nelsebee and Annie Watt survive at Port Adelaide but are in rather poor condition and await the will and resources to allow restoration. Reliance is said to be "falling apart" and her remains are somewhere up the River Murray.

Another ship is well-preserved and at Warnambool in Victoria. Is it the Reginald M? Darn! I'll need to watch the DVD again, but I just lent it to a friend. Need to get back on that one.

Here are names of ketch trade ships spoken about in Gerry Kerr's film:

Adonis, Amphibious (now THERE'S a name for a ship), Annie Watt, Capella, Crest of the Wave, Esther, Evalita, Falie, Free Selector, Gerard, Hawk, Hawthorn, Heatherbell, Hecla, Lady Doris, Leillateah, Lurline, Karatta, Mary, Morara, Nelcebee, Osprey, Reginald M, Reliance, Storm Bird, Tickera, Victor.

Monday, June 22, 2009

His Majesty's revenue cruiser Wolf

Excise work off the Cornish Coast 1811-1820

This information was provided by Frederick Walker formerly The Naval Architect, Greenwich, England.

Fred was at school with me in Glasgow in the early 1950s, and later went from his studies in shipbuilding to be appointed as the youngest ever shipyard manager, in Aberdeen, and a highly distinguished career which has taken him all over the world and its oceans and especially its shipbuilding ports, as well as many scholarly centres of maritime history.It was he, for example, who supervised the launch of the sailing vessel The New Endeavour, bicentenniel gift of the U.K. government to Australia. He is a world expert on the recoverability and restorability of significant historic ships. He's also a talented illustrator of the ships he loves.

His Majesty's revenue cruiser Wolf - formerly Roebuck - was an 82 ton cutter built in 1802 by Richeson of Cowes. Armed with 3-pounder guns and six carronades she became a government excise ship and served from 1811 to 1820 in anti-smuggling efforts along the long cove-rich Cornish coast. "His Majesty" was of course King George the Third, whose 60 year reign ended in 1820. Master of Wolf was Captain David Williams, whose great great granddaughter, Joan, married ... Fred Walker! Fellow Scot Fred revealed his larrikin streak by telling me that having an exciseman (tax collector) in the family tree might be thought of as a bit of a disgrace!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Trading Ketches of South Australia

The Trading Ketches of South Australia: an Oral History on Film, by Garry Kerr, Portland, Victoria, 2005

Well, that's the title of Garry Kerr's film which I came away with - in DVD format - as my tangible souvenir of last Wednesday's trip to The Maritime Museum at Port Victoria, South Australia. What a splendid documentary compilation it is, part rostrum photography of surviving still images, part movie footage, plus on-camera interviews with those who remember the ketch trade firsthand.

We're talking about a time span of a hundred and fifty years from the founding of S.A. as a British colony in 1836 right up to the re-enactments in 1986 of loading of wheat bags from bullock drays onto the ketch Falie (restored as a multi-purpose working vessel). I was present at the event on Normanville beach.

Anyway, I'm going to watch the DVD again and take some more notes. Will add to these comments then. His film is a great companion piece to Garry Kerr's other title The Last Cape Horners, of which I made previous mention. Port Victoria played a key role as a windjammer port and it was also, of course, one of the towns at which the trading ketches routinely called.

Not all the small sailing craft were strictly masted or rigged as ketches, but the word ketch became something of a generic term for the vessels plying the trade around the towns of the two gulfs, Spencer Gulf and Gulf Saint Vincent.

Here's something Garry Kerr doesn't tell us. The French navigator Nicholas Baudin named what we know as Spencer Gulf "Golfe Bonaparte", while Gulf Saint Vincent to him was "Golfe Josephine" - so you can guess that if the Napoleonic Wars had had another outcome, a few things would definitely be different - at the very least the naming of our South Aussie gulfs after Napoleon and his Josephine.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stan the Man at Port Victoria S.A.

What a pleasant and informative day. Retiree and ex-geography teacher Stan Squires, for the Maritime Museum at South Australia's "last of the windjammer towns" Port Victoria, gave our 30-strong group a heap of great background to the extraordinary days of the "so-called"grain races. Steel hulled sailing ships - most of 'em 2000-4000 tonners - plied commercially between Europe and Port Victoria from the 1920s until the last such voyage in 1949.

Wind-driven multi-mast ships since then are, rather, the wonderful sail training tall ships, or else the rarely built replicas of historic vessels (like Australia's New Endeavour).

Here's a thing! One of my companions, Graham May from Yorketown, told me of spending a magic couple of hours aboard Viking, as a teenager, immediately prior to her setting out on that last 1949 season voyage; and another well-known local man John Edwardes from Edithburgh, pointed to the famous 1933 photograph of no less than 14 sailing ships, - the big windjammers as well as the smaller craft for lightering (loading) - at anchor off "Port Vic", and named three of the ketches on which John himself worked from 1956 into the 1960s. He (a man of many skills) was a "lumper", hand-loading the bags of grain into the boats at Edithburgh Jetty.

I asked John if he was related to the Gerry Edwardes who was one of the last grain agents at Port Victoria, and who features in the film The Last of the Cape Horners, but he thought not although the surname spelling is the same. One thing about the Yorke Peninsula is that if you dig back enough in time, you probably ARE related.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Port Victoria Maritime Museum, South Australia

Yesterday, Monday 15 June, I visited the Local History and Maritime Museum at ... no, NOT Port Victoria, but further north on the same stretch of coast, here on Yorke Peninsula, at Wallaroo. Wallaroo's an old copper mining town whose name is said to be from the local Narungga aboriginal language and first meant "wallaby piss". Oh, well.

Back to the maritime museum. I enjoyed the unexpected museum visit, much of it drawing attention to the famous "grain races" of the 1930s and 1940s between the Baltic port of Aaland and this little part of South Australia. (I was in Wallaroo because it has the nearest hospital this side of Adelaide with CT-scan facilities, and today I heard the happy result that my head is not full of alien blobs after all.) So, driving home all the way down the Italy-shaped peninsula I was thinking of Port Victoria, only a few kilometres to my right as variously signposted. Thinks, "Must go soon: they have a dinky little museum there, all about this stuff."

Whaddya know? Today, the 16th, after a concert rehearsal - another story, oh, and I'm just the back row of the chorus sort-of-thing, no big deal - I am walking on the beach, only other sign of life a sooty tern or two, and the mobile phone surprises me 'cos I really thought it was out of signal range. Friend announces, "Tomorrow some of us are going to the Port Vic Museum. Want to go?" Now THAT is ... what's it called? ... synchronicity. Anyway, a coincidence.

Tell you more after tomorrow's visit.

Right now I am blown away by the reminiscencies in the movie The Last Cape Horners: the end of the great sailing ship era. Garry Kerr's film was released as a DVD in 2006. Lots of the material is direct interview with those who in their late years recall voyages under sail from the 1930s and 1940s - voyages under near-impossible conditions, in ships at the end of their working lives, undermaintained and desperately undermanned, for example 34 crew in place of a full complement of around 80! And some of the short-handed crews were young blokes with no knowledge of the sea, signing on in Melbourne in a shipping agent's office to replace equally young Swedes or Finns who had jumped ship once they made it to Australia. Tell you more about that, too.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tall Ships flotilla at Newport RI June 2009

Starting June 27, a weekend of tall ships excitement will make 2009 a significant year for nineteen sailing ships from eleven nations. They'll assemble at Newport, Rhode Island.

In addition to the events under sail, the ships will offer free inspection opportunities to the public.

A few of these beauties are; Concordia, Eagle, Etoile, Kruzenshtern, Maquette, Tecla ... plenty more! A class of smaller sailing vessels includes the Jolie.

Why not do a Google search for updates on this New England summer event? It is just weeks away.

The France II Replica Project

You can go here to learn about the French project to create a modern fullsize replica of France II

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last of the supersize sailing ships

Who hasn’t been stirred by the romance of the tall ships?

FRANCE II The Biggest Voilier of All!
5,800 tons 5-masted barque

Ordered 1911, launched 9 November 1912, Bordeaux, France;
ran aground and made derelict 12 July 1922, New Caledonia

While it was the 19th Century that saw the great races of the clippers – I guess we’ve all heard of the Cutty Sark - and of the vigorous contest between sail and steam driven ships, the biggest wind-powered ships were in fact of the early 20th Century. Incredible as it might seem, when France II took to the seas in 1912, she was SIX TIMES the tonnage of that grand old lady (978 tons)Cutty Sark.

France II was a voilier, the French word both for a sailing ship and a soaring bird such as an albatross. Here’s what Erik Abranson said back in 1976 in his classic book Ships of the High Seas (Cassell) after first telling us details of the ship’s size and construction - and its vast sail area of 6,350 square metres: “The France II had six first class cabins – and a doctor’s cabin – opening on to a spacious and luxurious saloon with a double staircase leading to the passengers’ deckhouse. The passenger cabins were … twelve square metres … furnished with a brass bedstead, a bedside table, a double-fronted wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a settee, a desk and a sink with running hot and cold water.” This sounds like the style of the great ocean liners, not a sailing ship! Not too many homes on land in those days had hot and cold running water. Erik Abranson went on, “Lunch was a five-course meal (with French pastries twice a week); a light tea was served and the dinner also had five courses. Both main meals included wines, coffee or tea and digestifs – cognac or rum.” You get the picture!

Chief designer was Gustave Leverne

France II was originally fitted – very “leading edge” in her day – with twin diesel auxiliary engines each of 900 horsepower, intended to give her a speed of 10 knots under power alone when needed.
But in 1919 these often unreliable diesels were removed. Besides, the ship had always handled beautifully under sail; so the engine compartments were reclaimed as extra cargo space, and in the end this was perhaps her undoing.

Her sailing days came to end on the night of 11-12 July 1922 when the ship was becalmed off New Caledonia. With no engines – they’d been removed, remember – she drifted helpless onto the coral reef of Teremba Reef, fortunately with no loss of life. The ship could not be economically salvaged, so her rich fittings and upper structures were dismantled for scrap – a sad finish to a fine career of over a decade surviving right through the First World War. Not quite the end of the story! In 1944 during the Second World War the stranded old steel hulk was used for bombing practice by the U.S. air force.