Blue

Blue from 27 April 2016

How many words have you for the colour blue?  The Navy used to wear a uniform of pretty blue. It is not the navy blue chosen by business people to be-suit themselves for work today. The Airforce also wore a pale blue uniform. It was not as dark but very striking, on the men and women of the sky, when seen en masse. The blue vein in cheese varies from almost black to tiny threads of hue. These colours are developed in the creamy mixture of the starter injected into the fat, as it matures it’s tasty flavours. Wedgwood makes delicate chinaware predominantly coloured blue. But to call it blue is call your blue setter dog, Bluey. It does as a name , but it is named that way because to call your dog by all the blue colours on its hair would take too long and the dog would be bored by the recital of its name long before you controlled it with your voice. 

Prussian blue is the favourite of artists when they use it to emphasise shade our to add coldness to their work. Blue clearly has many tones and it is much more than the streak of colour chosen by children as the paint to capture the sky on their day at school. Such is our fascination with the sea flowing past our veranda as we sail across Bengal Bay.  One is lost in the mesmerising moments of the water flowing past,  much like a sitter is when sat before a fire on the hearth. Or the fire in the fire pit when the wind is blowing the smoke away from your eyes. The experience of the seascape is time wasting, or more correctly the practice of mindfulness.  When you extend time by total concentration in the moment. You forget everything but that moment as it rushes to the next without pause. In perfect mindfulness you lose yourself and its fears, woes, worries, and pain, and it costs nothing. One doesn’t need a gurus to tell you how to achieve it you just get lost in the blue of the sea watching the waves from a ship.

At least that is our experience. Time goes faster than you can think on a blue ocean. This one is like no other we have sailed upon. It is a busy sea-lane. To our south we see an ever changing horizon upon which every so often, and at regular intervals, we see a ship going determinedly in the opposite direction

Many ships inject the air with plumes of heavy black smoke as they chug past. Occasionally one is close enough for us to recognise it has a flag fluttering from a mast. Most stay far enough away and we see it indistinctly as but a blur on the horizon. We do think we have sighted the Mary Celeste on the skyline but she appears too often to be herself so we have decided they, the ships passing making a ghostly silhouette wearing what appears to be masts, are simply empty freighters.

When we look up from the sea we find the cloud formations just as interesting. As I write, clouds are gathering away in the distance. The rumble and clash of yet another thunderstorm is performing its own magical electric storm. However, here where I am, it is warm and slightly blustery in the open air. 

In the course of this note our ship has got closer to the busy shipping lane and it is possible to see even more of these vessels essential to world commerce. Each one similar yet distinctive in its own way. Long, low, with little sign of motion as they plough forward to their destination. Between our vessel and the freighters a tiny fishing boat is bobbing on the surface. 

As the sea is flattish, and there is no swell, the little boat is safe but if the sea was to change little is needed by way of imagination to understand the intrepid nature of the fishermen. Literally miles from shelter, the seaman is at home. His landscape has no hiding place the uninitiated can see. His only security is knowing more about this element than the writer.

Such is life away from people on board our determined craft pushing forward to its destination.
  27/04/2019

Diary entry

I posted this from my diary 23 April 2019

Here we are on the water in the floating old folks home. The sea is flat and we can no longer see the horizon. This morning we awoke to a thunder storm as we emerged from the Malacca Straits. The air is heavy, hot and humid. It is strange to be unable to see the sun on this cloudy morning.
A morning which has been busy. We breakfasted in a restaurant where food, from every region on the globe was available.  We could have consumed anything but sense prevailed and we ate simply. A brief review of the daily news and we raced off to yet another lesson in Bridge. 

The lesson was a primer of common sense. It is a pity that such a simple game comes with so many rituals and rules as to make even the intelligent baulk at its complexity. Our table was a five due to the late arrival of an errant husband but we are off to a renewed understanding of its practices.

I am writing these notes in a very busy club where people are engaged in a multitude of activities. A couple are working on a complicated jigsaw. Dozens of people are reading newspapers, books, magazines, or nothing with text. Others are chattering to each other. Yet others are discussing with the crew their next land excursion. 

All previous plans are out the window now our visit to Colombo has been cancelled. The terrorists have decided it is too risky for us to visit Sri Lanka instead we are visiting Phuket.  Thoughts are with the Sri Lankans that have lost their lives in yet another atrocity. 

The guests are multicultural. The biggest  group must be American but unlike our last trip with this carrier we do not have a list of who the guests are. The ship carries 600 passengers it offers anonymity  unknown on smaller vessels yet it is still considered a small ship by international standards.

The fact that Americans rule is not unusual. The home port of the ship is America. The down side is found in such simple pleasures as coffee. Many want to take their coffee and walk off somewhere else so many hundreds expect their coffee in paper cups. The ship has the most up to date automatic coffee machines a barista might want but the woman before us wanted a take away coffee in a bucket of milk steamed as hot as they could make it. As a result my first world problem was my coffee was ruined with her left over milk poured over my cafe latte.

This surprised me as the ship has the finest of China but it must also finish with  large containers of used paper cups what cannot be recycled. I must bring this to the attention of one of the guest speakers who plans an address on global warming.

We are enjoying a leisurely afternoon.  However this section of the sea is littered with bits of anything that floats. From the comfort of our balcony not a minute goes by without something floating by as we sail along at 12 nautical miles per hour. A cigarette lighter was the last thing I saw when I started this sentence. However it was not the only thing to catch my attention. (I don’t know how close land is but if I was a fish I’d be swimming away from here. 

This ship the Seabourn Encore was launched in 2017.  It has had time for the operators to get over any initial difficulties it may have had but this morning, after Bridge,  we listened to a speaker, that despite winning awards for multimedia presentations, was restricted to his voice alone. The audio visual presentation refused to work. He was speaking on the relevance of spice to the area in  days gone. His best effort was destroyed by his reliance on visual prompts to make his talk flow. Such are the woes of the visiting lecturer.

If I had been more attentive my next startling fact would be more accurate.  But centuries ago ? (That chap) calculated the circumference of the world within 69 miles of precise  and the evidence was ignored for some centuries at the sailors peril. I am sitting here looking at the ocean about 10 meters above the waterline. Someone can tell me,  but I reckon  I can see about 15 miles out to sea.  And the horizon looks flat. You have to wonder at the smarties who can figure these things out and be astonished at those smart enough to be the first to calculate such things.

Hypernicus discovered the best way to investigate something was to revisit the place yourself.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, we investigate Phuket.

June


TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2019

June

Chill wraps the body

Creeping in

Unwelcomingly

To bones

Frozen


The too feeble sphere

Does not

On its daily arc

Stoop to thaw

Ice jewelled webs


Still, the sweet

Acacias stir

To brighten

The heathland

With their sun drenched

Orbs


Sign of

Days to come

Lengthen, lighten

And warm the paths

Trod on this mid-winter

Traipse.

It is personal

This is how I got here

This little piece is new. I have reread some older writing and scared myself at how frank I have been and I realise I haven’t got the courage yet  to make public my most inner thoughts. The writing I have been doing recently is really a cop out. First I have simply written on a single theme, secondly my essays have been restricted to around 1,000 words. An essay of this length doesn’t take forever to write and I can only assume it doesn’t take much effort for a reader to follow.

I was awake through the night and I realised I cannot condense my understanding of life into passages of 1,000  words.  In fact I cannot tackle what I understand of life’s mysteries in less than a book. Why would I write a book?  I have lived an interesting life to now just one day at a time. I have never set out with a plan for a grand life. Very early in my life I realised I had no special skill at anything likely to have an impact on the world. Now at this late hour of my life It is dawning on me that an ordinary life is reward enough. And this is what is motivating my fingers to keep hitting this keyboard one letter at a time.

I have long had what others might describe as a perverse view of crowds. I hate crowds. Every day I cherish my solitude. I can only put up with others for a short while and then I become agitated by their noise. However this is not the  perversion I sense in crowds. When I am in a crowd  I first wonder about the unknown. The person beside me, the one before me, in fact everyone I can see will die. Who are they? Each nameless person has a name. Each one will be missed,  perhaps by countless others,  and their loss of life will cause grief. Who are these people? Why must we wait until their death to learn their name or value them?  

Another perversion relates to the logistics of dealing with such a crowd. How does every link from the farm, or the factory, find its way to a plate to feed them?  What organisation that takes.  In cities all over the world the bustling crowds find fresh food to feed them. Admittedly in many cities thousands struggle each day to earn enough to pay for a handful of something. In fact that is the way for too many.  It is easy to drift from my point – I do not see things as most of you do. For even more perversely, I question when everyone pees what happens to all that effluent?

When you are at a concert, or at a sporting match you are thinking of what is happening I am off daydreaming about weird things. Jennie says I am weird. I realise I am weird but weirdness is also common. If you ask ten people to describe what they experienced there will be ten different accounts of just one event. That is weird. It is also weird that over time the memory one has of something will be different to that of another, or more weirdly, different to the account they first gave. That is why authorities try to recover evidence as early as possible after a catastrophic event. Over time events become conflated, disjointed, or otherwise contaminated. 

My experience with religion is like this. As a child I had a thorough indoctrination into the Protestant Anglican religion. I was a Christian in every way I understood. I was a very devoted, if naive believer. I was helped to believe that way through my family. My mother remained steadfast to her beliefs throughout her life. My father surprised me for he did too, as have my sisters Elizabeth and Margaret. 

Unsurprising our  friends were of the same faith. I sang with the talented choir. I became a server, an assistant at the altar to the celebrant. As a young teenager I would often go to three services a day. Sometimes spending the whole day visiting parish churches with the Vicar for country services. On Saturday mornings I played tennis and later coached the young players. I was involved with the youth club called the Young Anglican Fellowship. (YAF)

By the by time I left school I was a damaged innocent abroad. When I went to in Geelong, being a member of a church gave my life a framework. I was comfortable living within. At teachers college I shifted my allegiance to a Church in Geelong. I was also involved with a Christian group at college. They met one lunchtime each week. As teenagers do, I engaged with others in debates on religion. I could not understand how others could not get joy from knowing what I knew because it was all I knew.

When I started to go out more with Jennie. I joined with her in Catholic services. Coming from a church that celebrated mass in much the same way and with similar prayers it was not too hard a step to accept Catholicism was the first Christian church so unbeknown to her I started instruction with Fr Flanagan in Hamilton. I thought I was well versed in what I needed to know and my discussions with Flags were very casual as he seemed to accept I did not need conversion. 

It came as a surprise to me he wanted to baptise me, as even today, I have at home my baby Christening mug but I went along with it because it seemed little different to that of my forgotten  childhood event. So I became a practising Catholic. I was a little put out that many of the church goers thought so little of their church that it was just  something they had to cross off in their diaries each week, and I missed the music. The congregation paid little attention to the words said. I was sure that was partly due to the fact that the words were in Latin. A language no one knew. (Some did of course).  

With this faith I eventually resigned as a teacher in public schools and was appointed as Vice Principal at St Alipius school. Specifically I was to help the parish amalgamate the boys and the girls  into a coeducational school. The school was previously only for girls. The boys, in the neighbouring school however had been told how awful girls were by their teachers. (The school was later to become infamous. Courts found too many children had been abused by the same teachers in the years leading up the amalgamation). Consequently I found the older boys almost unteachable and especially unruly that year and didn’t know why.

It was an awful year. By the end of the year I no longer had the support of the Parish Priest and a job was found for me in the Catholic Education office as an adviser to teachers. I was studying to upgrade my qualifications but many of the teachers in schools had little formal education themselves.  The reason for that was they ran on the smell of an oily rag.  To get a job,  teachers first had to be Catholics, consequently many only had one year of teacher training. They continued to teach as they had been taught themselves. They were not resistant to change but as the church was rapidly changing they were a little lost. There were old time unquestioning Catholics and a new breed with more liberal views. The attitude of many younger Catholics in the wider community became quite liberal especially as by then Latin was banned from Masses and many younger priests had left.

After my education degree I studied, as I worked, toward a graduate diploma in religious education. Much of the work was on Liberation Theology. It suited my disposition to a T. because it was in step with my own thinking at the time. However this new thinking was challenging to those in power. Before I completed my Grad Dip, Liberation theology was debunked as being humanitarian and the old men of the church commenced undoing the good of Vatican 11 as they have ever since. These oldies had previously never been questioned simply because they got their respect through their role alone and that is the way they wanted it again.

The pressure in me was building up. Within 18 months I was in a new job and off work with a breakdown. Some of the pressure was from study. At that stage I was almost through a Master of Education. Some of the pressure was from died in the wool old time Catholics resistant to change  in the school,  Soberly,  most of the pressure was within me. It was pressure  I hid even from myself – until  all emerged much later in life. During that time many people supported me, but one nun took me aside and said, “You have been taking yourself too seriously I suppose.”  That was a help because I felt I had some support from the church for the first time. It was a validation that there was nothing wrong with me although in fact I felt horrible. I

Shortly afterwards Jennie and I both said goodbye to teaching. What comes next I will explain at another time. As for this it was, and continues to be about religion.

That dark period of my life was a long time ago. Religion in all its shapes and forms is another land to me today, and has been for more than thirty years. It may find its roots in people as a human need. Observation shows people get energy from one another and for many religions it is the cement they use to bind themselves together. It becomes dangerous when that bond is stronger than mankind itself. Radical people emerge from its every incarnation working from the belief they, and only they, know how the world should run.

I do not share that view.  I don’t think I ever have but I do think it is time Australian returned to it secular roots. Religious groups have been favoured by a succession of governments. In doing so they have made worse,  they continue to make worse, state education. It is  second class because they have taken the responsibility from the state governments by freezing funding and given more to private schools. Too many private schools are obscenely rich at the expense of public education.

I am not unhappy our grand children have had an introduction to ethics through the eyes of a church. I am however pleased each of their parents has not burdened them to hold a particular view on any religion. It is my thought one is not free unless one is free to discover belief on their own way. Deep down I hope they discover for themselves each myth is but a foundation for their future life and not life itself.

I continue to have a fascination about religion because I find it all so weird today. In 2018 I made a submission to the Ruddock report on religious freedom mainly because I believe it was unnecessary and action as  a Bill of Rights was more important. I find it weird that people with religion say it is a gift, and if you see more sense in science it is your loss you have not got the gift. When in most cases, The Gift, is something unquestionably simply inherited.

I read articles on religion and feel sorry the writers take it so seriously. I continue to enjoy religious music. But for organised religion of any kind I think none of it make any more sense than The Flying Spaghetti Monster of the Pastafarians.  Be not offended. These are personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to share my views, after all what you believe is not the theme of my essay. This little piece is new. I have reread some older writing and scared myself at how frank I have been and I realise I haven’t got the courage yet  to make public my most inner thoughts. The writing I have been doing recently is really a cop out. First I have simply written on a single theme, secondly my essays have been restricted to around 1,000 words. An essay of this length doesn’t take forever to write and I can only assume it doesn’t take much effort for a reader to follow.

Refer to this podcast. It illustrates why Liberation theology rose and was disgraced, https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/god-forbid-abc-rn/id1203570353

From Camperdown

The Lady was distressed.   Crying, she rapped loudly on the door.   The light flooded out over her naked body.   Embarrassed by nudity at any time my mother shepherded her inside the detached kitchen and closed the door.   Today I wonder who the local woman was.   She must have been upset beyond belief to appear without clothes at that time.   I saw nothing of the intrusion and no more was ever said of this incident than, “and Mum never got her new coat back.”   This must have been a huge loss to our family because the annual wages my father earned would not buy dinner for four at a restaurant today.   In all likelihood to buy the coat my mother would have earned the money by selling a calf she had raised by hand.  Or for a while, at a later time, from the sale of sponges and scones she baked every weekend to sell from one of the picnic shelters as afternoon tea.

On moonlight nights lovers frequented he cypress avenue leading to the Park.   Really it was not unusual for people to caress in cars parked at regular intervals around the gardens after dark in any season.   Indeed a local priest, with a big black car. included a visit to the Park in the driving lessons he gave many local young girls.

Abraham Waddell, was appointed curator of the Park by the Chairman of the Committee of Management on the 10th of August 1948.  One of the several entitlements given to Abe was the use of 3 acres for our private use. On this land he grazed 2 or 3 dairy cows.   When milk was abundant campers were often given a bucket of milk when they booked in.

Dad commenced the job on 9th September that year.   When he arrived with our furniture to start his new job he didn’t know how to break the news to my mother, who followed later, that the house was a hovel.   There was no electricity, no hot water, no toilet facilities and no floor coverings. When he visited the gardens prior to his appointment the incumbent curator, an old Mr Fuller, said his wife was unwilling to open the house to inspection.   My parents accepted this because they had a letter from Mr JJ Walls, the Secretary of the Public Park Trustees, promising that they would paint the house throughout and wire it for electricity.  I cannot remember new paint ever and the electricity was not connected until 1956, eight years after the promise to do so.

In the late 1940’s there were shortages of many kinds.   Rationing did not finish until the beginning of the 1950’s,  so it is easy to understand the privations of the time.  But they never got any better for the gardens despite the growing wealth in the district.  The Trustees obviously had a very meagre budget because they had a resource that barely gave a return.  They leased part of the reserve for cattle grazing.  There was a period, before the introduction of myxomatosis when rabbits ruled the pastures!   Fortunately a rabbit-proof fence kept them out of the gardens enclosure.   For all intents and purposes the local shire, later Borough Council, considered the Public Park outside their responsibility because it was off the beaten track.  The road was only used in the mid fifties when the golf links was established.   Prior to that golf was played at Talindert.   

After the war Abe had been assistant to Mr Leech, the curator of the Warrnambool gardens.   The gardens of the time owed something to my father’s connection with him.   As there was no budget for the purchase of seeds, seedlings, corms or bulbs, Mr Leech once sent stock seedlings to Camperdown for my father to plant.   On my father’s invitation, Mr Leech came to see how his gifts were growing only to discover there was no show.    On the night before he was due, to my father’s consternation, possums had attacked the blooming plants and devastated any display.   I can only imagine how he felt showing his boss around.   Later Tom Beaumont from Ballarat also provided some stock for the greenhouse.

Abe worked hard each year to ensure that at “picnic time” flowers would be blooming.   Poppies, ranunculus, gladioli, chrysanthemums, dahlias and other annuals and perennials bloomed each year in season.   Beautiful rhododendrons and camellias flowered in the winter.

The truth is the gardens were maintained without a capital budget for all the time my father curated.   Nearly all the maintenance work was done by hand on the two official days he was employed to work.   The remaining days were spent looking after council property.   But every day the animals and birds had to be fed, camping fees collected and, in summer, the gardens watered. 
Every weekend at the end of the year, or in autumn, there were organised church, school or social groups picnics.   People came from far and wide to picnic in these most beautiful gardens.   The picnicking was done outside the garden’s enclosure but this, too, made a lot of extra work.   So picnickers could enjoy the day, Dad would wash down the tables in the picnic shelters.   He would laboriously clean out and heat an old copper so everyone could enjoy a “cuppa”.   Confident in his saying: “wood heats you twice”.   He would carry, cut and stack sufficient firewood for the day for the picnickers.   Also, the long grass has to be scythed by hand as there was no such thing as a slasher pulled by a tractor.   There was no tractor, nothing but a large wooden wheelbarrow, a few garden tools, a small motorised Atco “by appointment to King George V” lawn mower and a lot of perspiration made up the equipment list.   Is it any wonder the beautiful rotunda became hazardous, or the gardens never fully recovered from the neglect of the war years?   

So poorly paid and overworked was he that in 1955 the Municipal Councils’ Union organiser took up Abe’s case for better working conditions and pay.   The Union was able to use the Tustees own Letter of Appointment to highlight the areas of breach of promise for him to obtain some improvement.   By then his stoic Scottish breeding must have been at breaking point but he never gave up bringing about the transformation the gardens needed.   He sought to match those gardens he had learned his trade in in Scotland at the Castle in Duns, at the Hydro in Peebles and at beautiful Marchment House.

Of course, from a child’s perspective, none of this mattered.   I grew up in the most beautiful of surroundings.   From on high we could se the Grampians rising away to the west.   Across the lakes to the north we could see the humps of Mount Elephant and Buninyong.   To the south across Lake Bullen Merri, we saw smoke from the rows of fires burning night and day as the bush around Simpson was turned into farmland or the flickering fires of the Aurora Australis over the south pole.

Camping at the Park was always popular.   Two shillings and sixpence gave nothing but space.   There were no facilities of any kind to make campers stay.   Some used the solitude to re-build their lives after being in prison.   Some engaging in illegal lifestyles.   Some visited so frequently that they became family friends.   Several Country Roads’ workers would set up home for a time rather than live in the camp conditions provided by the C.R.B.   Showmen came at showtime.   The Rayner sisters, who entertained school children around the country, always camped when they visited the district with their show.   In about 1953 the R.A.C.V. caravan club visited for a week.   Conditions were always primitive but worse, during the winter for the folk who visited then.   They would vow never to return because of the facilities, to my knowledge they never did even when the proper facilities were later established.   

Music was everywhere.   Music was in the birdsong, or lack of it because of the peacocks and cockatoos.   Music sang in the wires that whistled from the cold winds that blew from the south west.    And once only the music rang out from an orchestra.   It was the Victorian Symphony Orchestra and they performed at an afternoon concert in the gardens in 1956 (I think).   It was very well attended, citizens who had never seen a violin were engrossed in the programme that also included a vocalist or two.   

The gardens were popular with photographers and artists.   Local teacher and artist, Edith Cummins, often used the location as inspiration.   People will always be attracted to a location that restores balance to their hearts and minds.   

Lichen grows well in the damp atmosphere on the hillside, trees of many kinds have made it their home for over a century since Guilfoyle started them.   Ours was but a tiny moment in its history.   The friendships we made in Camperdown were lasting.

A WORK IN PROGRESS 

I would welcome  reader’s  comments.   Please feel free show some sign the item is read in the space provided. Thanks

Take care

Online connections are fraught

I’m back!
After some time off line I have decided to return. The first thing to notice is the New Name and the New Address. 

HTTPS is the clue. The advice is I have a responsibility to myself and to you.

Here is what Blogger advises;
There are three main benefits to using HTTPS instead of HTTP to access your blog:

  • It helps check that your visitors open the correct website and aren’t being redirected to a malicious site.
  • It helps detect if an attacker tries to change any data sent from Blogger to the visitor.
  • It adds security measures that make it harder for other people to listen to your visitors’ conversations, track their activities, or steal their information.
  • For these reasons when logging in you will notice the S . It is the important sign i value you. Therefore security is of benefit to us both. and it stays

I have written several new pieces elsewhere and I am re-posting them here in the next little while. I do this as a couple of people have asked that I become more serious when making my occasional whimsical notes. 

Don’t wait

Don’t wait until it breaks. Fix it.

Maintenance can be overlooked. It can also be ignored until the time everything overlooked and ignored stops. At that time the choice becomes stark. 
Before leaving on our last epic journey one maintenance item was considered important enough to fix because of the inconvenience it would have caused it it broke. Actually it was two relatively significant things. The tyres on the caravan had good tread but all the advice on caravanning suggested that age was as important as tread. The tyres were over ten years old so I had them replaced. They never caused us any inconvenience while we were away.
The aVan club members page has lots of suggestions on how to  perform maintenance on the van. Most of it is easy enough to be done by any handyman.  But not this is not one. Before leaving nothing stood out as a must do item so in confidence we left on our trip.
Carelessness and forgetfulness can cause frustration.  In the case of the first,  I blame the wind. The bucket used to collect the drainage water from the caravan’s sink blew under the caravan in Ivanhoe in the middle of the night. Not unnaturally when packing up it wasn’t obvious and with nothing to pack away I drove over it and the bucket, caught as it was under the van,  it broke off the drainage tap on the water tank. Easily done. No excuse necessary. Similarly when backing the caravan into the drive when blindsided by the van itself there was no way in the world I could be to blame if  I inadvertently brushed off a running light on the side of the van on a pole on the fence line that was impossible to see. Maintenance issues can spring up by accident.
Some repairs, like this one, start out as little niggles. Annoying quirks of stubborn mechanism just become worse over time. The door key slips easily into place for years, then you have to learn the knack of lining it up before it slides into place. Now it has reached a new battle line. The key will only fit if the knob is jiggled, aligned, and twisted Ito place. Clearly it is time for a new set of lock tumblers.
A visit to the northern states for a day is enough to remind one of the power of the sun. Given days  standing in the sun lots of things deteriorate. This year it is apparent the sun has worked to burn and shrink, desiccate and powder, bleach and whiten every thing it’s rays of sunlight touch. The seals around the air vents have shrunk. The seal where the rear skylight sits has perished. The  gas tubing is also perished inside its wire jacket. The perishing was slow but inevitable. It is now complete.
Generally speaking the highways linking the states have excellent surfaces. The car and caravan glide kilometre by kilometre over the surface without concern. When leaving the A roads varying degrees of caution are required. The B roads will narrow unexpectedly. The road edges will be sharp. The signage is smaller. The oncoming traffic will exercise caution and dust can be a problem. The C roads are the most dangerous. The road surface will have potholes in the places you are most likely to meet on coming traffic. These roads will be used by local drivers impatient with travellers they meet. The edges are hazardous. The bitumen will peter out unexpectedly and the surface will have corrugations and potholes. The aVan was not designed for C roads. The caravan will buck and lurch and twist. Every lock will be tested. Every latch will be strained. And when you reach your destination you will sigh with relief when you open the door and discover everything is in its place. And despite your will something will have broken. Like the microwave that shot out of its locker or the pipe that finally developed a drip from a place you cannot reach.

Maintenance issues like these accumulate in any vehicle as they have in the van. No one issue is an issue beyond fixing. However before our next camping trip I will give lots of attention to Miss Wear, and her partner,  Mr Tear.  This is required to restore confidence in the equipment of the couple caravanning.

A little mechanical experience

It seems I am caught in a machinery warp. A few days ago we were driving on the Stuart Highway.  Traffic is usually light but on this morning a vehicle drove past with cautionary bubble lights ablaze indicating some hazard was approaching. So I became extra cautious when I could see another similar vehicle approaching at a distance. I slowed thinking it must have been an extra wide hazard to require two out runners. Looking carefully I could see no such trouble ahead.
As the second vehicle neared I saw what looked like a yellow garbage bin rolling along in front of it.  The signalling vehicle looked as if it was about to run over this obstacle as it neared even closer. The circular bubble had a drooping black tail. It dawned on me it was a solar vehicle. The tiny vehicle was racing along and its protective vehicle was almost on top of it. Feeling for that driver I was  sure he/she must have been exhausted trying to protect it and at the same time attempting  avoid running it over.
At the next fuel stop a tent village had sprung up with a large  pantechnicon parked showing all the advertising of the sponsors of the Solar challenge. The little yellow vehicle was being transported to Darwin for the start of the race. In the meanwhile the drivers were testing the vehicle and themselves before the races official start. Another larger vehicle was driving loops in the dust so I wandered over to find out more.There were two university teams parked in the grounds. One team from  Minnesota university  the other from Michigan. According to my advisor the little yellow dust bin was built for speed alone. The car present was more representative  of a passenger vehicle it was being driven earnestly in circles by a young lass. To be race ready the drivers had to have logged driving experience of at least 12 hours. This team was well behind in driver familiarity and was also testing the vehicle to see if anything would break. It was a passenger vehicle of sorts. At least it had a passenger inside. The car had a solid top and the driver sat in an aerodynamic pod on the left and the passenger in another. Both pods seemed to be suspended under the solar panels between the wheels.
I was told it was generating 200 watts of power and it had regenerative brakes that generated power even when stopping. This might seem a lot but Cadel Evans was using 450 watts of power on the mountain stages of the tour de France.   Therefore it seemed underpowered for the job ahead even with some battery storage.
On reflection I needn’t have worrier end about the  driver following the little yellow dust bin. It was probably equipped with all the latest technology that would automatically stop the car from the hazard it was following.

However the solar race starts at the end of the month and it will be interesting to see if either of these modern, yet primitive, users in this technological race finish. I will be left wondering about them because the journey is long and the dangers real for the drivers especially given the thundering presence of road trains they will encounter.

When the rubber hit the road

That black stuff on the ground at each corner of your car can kill you or thrill you. It is so important that for the most part we don’t even think of it. Yet only a few years ago, in the evolution of things,  drivers were very aware of the spot where the car and road meet.
It is highlighted here in the Discovery Caravan Park in Clare. The park is playing host to the Combined Veteran Car Clubs of Australia. In the park there are a hundred or so veteran cars. They were all built before 1918 yet to a vehicle they present a  kaleidoscope of colour and movement as up to date as tomorrow. Their creaking mechanical bones alert you to their age but  they give nothing else away as to the journeys they might have made.
They are as loved as a Ming dynasty vase. To get here each was hidden from prying eyes in their own little motorised cocoon that towed them here. The most spoiled of them had its own transporter. Their names are beautiful forgotten  words of yesteryear. They are gleaming paint and brass. And although they have much in common they are unique.
Stubborn, some of them. To wake up they have to be tickled, stroked, pumped, and primed. Some even need the attention of a throng of watchers to perform. They will blow smoke. Or they will groan. They will whine. And at the point it seems they will save there energy for another day they will roll the dice of life and get going. This morning was a case in point is was cold. A driver raced back to his covered trailer to retrieve a membership lanyard. He parked his car, put the brake on, and walked three meters. He climbed back into the car, took off the brakes, put the car into gear and it blew black smoke, it roared, it damn near exploded and it stopped. Thirty minutes later the driver had taken off cowls, pumped this, primed that, been assisted by another chap and the thing would not start. The assistant drove off. Something was done and the machine started as easily as an electric vacuum cleaner.
Little dips and bumps in the road surface make these little machines roll and buck. Yet on a good tarmac they roll along as without a care in the world. To give colour to their performances most drivers and passengers elect to wear all or some contemporary clothing. So their appearance is magnified by costume and character. Moustaches, bonnets, gloves, goggles and other paraphernalia remind the viewer of the forgotten film Genevieve, the story of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally. The characters are all here. I’m certain it you listen carefully you can hear Glynis John’s thin voice.
About the same size as these cars is the golf cart the maintenance man uses. Being electric it is almost silent. Apart from that the big difference is in the tyres and wheels on the cars and the cart. The Veterans stand tall. Each is propped up on 24 or 26 inch spoked wheels. The tyres are narrow. Possibly only 80 or 90 cm across. Where as the golf cart has wheels no taller than a man’s shoe is long, but wider than a pair of shoes placed side by side.

And here lies a story worth telling. Not so long ago, mid last century, when this writer started to drive. Tyres were narrow, they had poor performance in: longevity, in reliability, in staying inflated and so forth. In fact before driving any distance it paid to check the oil and water and the tyre pressure before even thinking of turning the key. We were taught our well being depended on the 4 hand print sized rubber contacts our car had with the road. Without power steering, and disc brakes life on the road was tenuous. These vehicles are a reminder of those times and how the reliability of modern vehicles isolates the drivers from the reality of real hazards on the road.

How hard is too hard

How hard is too hard for troubled people?

How hard is too hard for troubled people?
Eighteen months before my mother was born the Aboriginals Ordinance 1911 was signed on 8th January 1912. There can be no doubt the intention of the authorities were pure. Their aim was rescue children of part-descent white parentage from aboriginal camps (by force if necessary) and raise them in the manner of their white parent because it seemed a caring thing to do. A more cynical reason it was done was though fear of  being out numbered. A Royal Commission and thousands of broken homes attests the policy was wrong regardless of the reason. 
This thought brings me to a visit I made to the 6 mile camp today. It is with displeasure I record my thoughts today as they are written from my privileged perspective as a white visitor to a community of people deserving their privacy. Yet  it would be as if to record a white-washed version of this blog  if it was ignored.
The first thing to notice as you turn into the camp is the orderliness of it. The streets are bitumen. They are wide. The house blocks are generous. The camp has several buildings for community use. There is also a covered basketball court and much more I missed. From corner of my eye and to the right I saw two dogs that seemed to have been alerted by our vehicle racing up a side street to cut us off. My reaction was to say, “cheeky dogs.” The driver and passengers were mute.
As we drove closer the dogs turned from us and joined an adult male walking under a bough shade to join some friends. I was wrong. The dogs weren’t interested in us they just wanted to be with their owner.
In less than one hundred and fifty metres from the highway the first house had at least three damaged, chocked up, cars in different stages of decay. The bonnet up, smashed windows, or all four wheels missing and a least one car blocking the road to the through traffic. This is the sort of prejudiced thing one expects to see. The barren dryness of the place is something unexpected. Red dust seemed to cover nearly every surface.
We were returning a sick child to his home. The address was signified on the property by a number spray painted in large numbers on their wheelie bin. The home was poorly maintained and painted in a weak green colour. It was surrounded by a waist high mesh fence with items hanging over almost its entire length. Dozens of other items littered the grounds right up to the door. We dropped off the child, farewelled him and dropped a teachers’ aide at another. 
On another corner, behind a fence, in the yard the occupier ambled through at least ten dogs toward the gate. The number of dogs seemed excessive to this southerner. The animals were a motley lot emphasising a prejudice at work broken by our driver’s words. She said she was a good worker, as was her husband. “Those two are not afraid to work” she said.

Of course every stereotype imagined can be envisioned and to a point seems justified. The unemployment rate there is between 40% and 50%. This camp is bigger than the 12 mile camp but by all accounts it is better in nearly every way than that. The seventeen kilometre road to 12 mile  is considered too dangerous for some to ever want to drive In or out. In fact there was talk that it was too dangerous for the children on the bus to travel but they do it twice a day. Those that attend that is.
How can this lifestyle be accepted? Was Tony Abbott correct to say they should all be shut down?  Should  the NT government do as  the Western Australian government is doing, and turn off the power and water and shut down these camps?  I honestly don’t know but it is not a lifestyle choice alone to live in your own neighbourhood.
Next, I return to the affects of trauma. I ask the academics among my readers to verify an understanding I hold. Viz. [The grand children of Second World War and Vietnam veterans are affected with illnesses related to the traumas their relatives suffered.] is this true?  I am not in a place to verify this but if ordinary Australians are still being affected by armed conflicts that ended over 70 years ago surely the same injury is possible in the broken aboriginal families from so long ago.
Today I spoke with teachers’s aide April she left home at 16 and went to a boarding school in Alice Springs. Obviously bright enough to finish her studies she was homesick and she returned. She said she came back and worked. In fact she never stopped. At first she washed floors, worked in the kitchen and did other work until she go her job in the school. She lives in a smart house next to us.Today she is a cultural elder. She is completing her studies (almost complete) at Batchelor College In Alice Springs and Darwin. She also paints. Her paintings are in demand and she earns up to $800 for them.
She illustrates another side of remote living – it dislocates families. For any child to have the best education possible it means leaving home before the kids have any idea of their future interests.It is not the fault of their school. The numbers are too low to justify reasonable subject choice even if they could find specialist teachers.
The stolen children program was costly in so many ways, however it was also a failure in other ways – up to a point. It failed to wipe out cultural practices and language. As each year passes the number of spoken languages across the world diminishes yet many of the aboriginal languages have current usage. It is of significant ethnographical importance that these old languages remain.
I have written previously how I admire the ability of the children to speak at least three languages when they start schooling. The difficulty of course for those brought up in an oral tradition is to learn early enough the skills to survive in a world with ever demanding ability to read and write in not one, but more, languages. However this is a digression from the sobering reality facing indigenous people today.
Much of the trouble stems from the stolen generation and its repercussions. The horrible family breakups and the long years waiting  not to  known what has happened to the missing bits. The families which never reunited still suffer. This was government policy but it was not the only one influencing aboriginals. Governments have come and gone in quick succession. Each new  one with differing views, differing policies, and differing outcomes for the people under its charge.
To return to 6 mile camp for a moment – Maureen my driver, said one of the reasons for the popularity of dogs lies in a former policy where dog owners were given bigger payments than those without. The policy no longer exists but the dogs do in aboriginal settlements. Work for the dole is another contentious issue. How can dole recipients not dislike a policy that forces them to appear to do a job that has no future, or is no more inspiring than to pick up other people’s rubbish for 5 days a fortnight?
Today  people are used to “sit down money” for not working.  The walk off at Wave Hill in 1966 meant the old station practice that people worked for nothing but food and not much more  had to stop. It meant the government was obliged to provide sustenance money when stations had to pay proper wages and they employed fewer people. In the scheme of things 50 years is a mere moment in the lives of the indigenous. Is it any wonder some think it is easy money? A few short years ago they did much more for a whole lot less.

This is a subject bigger than my biased views so I will précis some of the things worthy of more thought: Isolation, shifting policy positions, poor education, poor job prospects, foreign language, family dislocation, blame for systemic changes,  are all just symptoms that lead to other problems. Drunkenness, violence, hopelessness, depression, theft, imprisonment and suicide are  all outcomes pressing in on the disadvantaged first people.

It is  hundred and five years plus since the beginning of the devastating “stolen generations” policy began. I haven’t an answer. I just have more questions. My challenge to you, the reader, is to do a little to help the helpless. Aboriginals want to fully live in the society of their choice as you do. Like you they deserve to live their lives without h