Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Gippsland Sojourn

The title above comes from an album on cassette released by the Briagolong Bush Band in the 1980s, but I'll use it here to refer to our recent trip to Lakes Entrance and other places in Gippsland.

We set off last Monday and spent the night with Helmy and Gavin in Maffra. Gavin looks good—among other things we talked about the plans for his eightieth birthday in January. Needless to say, Helmy had baked a cake, at which Doortje pointed her camera!

It was a coincidence that I'd been looking to buy an album by the folk/jazz/blues singer Margret RoadKnight, recorded in 1987 and now re-issued on CD, and discovered that she lives in Kalimna West on the outskirts of Lakes Entrance. On Tuesday when we got to Lakes, I phoned her and we went to visit. (To reminisce a bit, Doortje had seen her perform in Melbourne in the late 1960s and we saw her in Bairnsdale in about 1990 and have an autographed LP record from then).
Anyway, we now have a couple of autographed CDs as well, and had a nice chat with her at her rural property.

On Wednesday we drove to Marlo to see the Snowy River and the Cape Conran coastal park. Saw some great coastal scenery, some beaut birds including blue wrens, and Doortje fossicked on the beach, as is her wont.  We had lunch at the Marlo pub and watched a rainstorm, the only one for the day, pass by while we ate. It was windy on the beach, though.

Next day we went to Nyerimilang homestead, a National Trust site at Nungurner. In our Bairnsdale days, I spent time doing a painting course, and a couple of times we visited Nyerimilang to paint the scenery, which is magnificent. The homestead is on a cliff overlooking the lakes.
The homestead had many period artifacts on display, including this clock, which we were both impressed by.

We visited our friend, Marion Pearce, Doortje's long-time work colleague, at Sarsfield. Marion's husband, Jumbo, died in April, and now she, too, has been diagnosed with bowel cancer with complications. Despite the sadness involved, it was great to see the family again—three daughters, May, Michelle and Linda, were all there, and it was difficult to know which one was Marion! And of course, James, Marion's foster son we knew as a little tacker, very proudly showed us his bungalow, with lots of Holden posters and massive audiovisual system.

More by fluke than management, we stopped at the Bruthen market, where we met Perran's sister, Liz, and her two boys. The previous day, we called in to see Perran's Dad, Rob, at Metung, after having lunch at the Metung pub and being entertained by the pelicans on the wharf outside the window. Rob's newest enterprise is probably best described as computer-controlled woodworking, except that in his case the whole shebang is designed by him from scratch, from computer software to router machine and computerised product design.
We were incredibly pleased (and grateful) that Rob gave us an example of his work, this "funky fiddle dish" carved out of a single piece of camphor laurel and beautifully finished. He (as Sea Eagle Designs) now has them available in retail outlets such as in Yarragon, and we saw the local sea eagle continually circling while we enjoyed a cuppa.

Before we left Lakes, and went back to spend one more night with Helmy and Gavin, we visited Lake Tyers and walked on the sandhill and beach there. This photo shows the entrance and the work of the waves in eroding the headland.
On the way back to Maffra, we had lunch in Sale and called in to see Terry and Roger, very old friends at Longford, and met one of their grandkids. 

We were almost a week away, and I must say that, if we have to have localities without desert sand, the East Gippsland coast and hinterland is a part of the world I'm very fond of, with lots of good friends. 
*     *     *     *     *

There's a set of photos from the trip at

All the Eights Pt 1

I'm hoping to do a series of seven pieces about my life, with a snapshot of the situation every decade.  Here's the first instalment :


In 1953, sixty years ago as I write, I was eight years old. My youngest brother, Alan, was twelve months old.  Lester would turn three during the year, Peter seven, and my older brother John would turn ten.

We lived at 97 Owen Street in Woodville North, a north-western suburb of Adelaide. My Mum and Dad, Connie and Ron, had lived there for ten years since the house (in fact, the whole suburb) was built during World War II.

Our house was on the south-eastern corner of Owen Street and Thirteenth Avenue.  Google Maps and Streetview demonstrate (2013) that the house still exists, as do quite a few of the fibro-clad and tile-roofed clones that were its neighbours. The houses were built for people employed in the munitions factory at nearby Finsbury, where Dad worked as an engineer.

In 1953, the yard of our house had a chook run, fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Obviously, my desire to produce eggs, vegetables and fruit in my backyard stems from this period and I like to think that Dad picked up the motivation from his own childhood in Kalgoorlie, WA.

We had large lemon and fig trees along the side fence, and in the back yard there were apple, peach and apricot that I remember. A large stand of bamboo stood next to a garden shed by the chookyard fence.

Perhaps when I was a year or so older than this, we boys adopted the pastime of climbing onto the shed roof, reaching high to grab a couple of bamboos and then swinging out to the ground using the bending bamboo poles as a "parachute" to come back to earth.  We probably would have argued about who was playing the roles of Biggles, Algy and Ginger, the famous flying police from the kids' radio serial, as we leapt from our burning plane just before it broke up. Dad would not have been impressed by the wanton damage to bamboos which could be used for bean or tomato trellises.

We had jobs to do, of course, and both parents were strict about them, but we could find entertainment in obscure places. In the garden shed, Dad built wooden bins to hold the chook feed, one for wheat and one for bran and pollard, each similar in volume to, but not as tall as, 200 litre drums.  One of my jobs was to mix bran and pollard (look it up!) with water and feed it to the chooks each morning, along with some wheat; in the afternoons, change their water, another dose of wheat, and collect the eggs. It was also fun, during games of "hidey", to dive into the wheat bin as if the grains of wheat were water and hide with just my head exposed above the wheat and the lid closed over me! It was probably also scary, and this the reason I remember it!

I can't remember if we had a rooster but we certainly had chickens at least once. One day I stayed home from school because one of our chickens, a few days old, was sick, and I wanted to look after it. The chick must have been almost dead, looking for a bucket to kick, when Mum, as a last resort, got a teaspoon of brandy and held it so the chicken had no choice but to immerse its beak in the brandy. Upon which, the poor thing flopped over and died—it looked to me as if the brandy had killed it, and Mum must have done some fast, soothing talking to comfort me.

Believe it or not, another job, on the weekend when Dad was home, was to sit on the back lawn and pull out onion weed. Dad had a thing about lawn perfection and ours had a long way to go. The lawn mower pushed the tops of onion weed over rather than slice them off, so we had to sit there and pull out the weeds one by one, being careful not to leave behind the bulbs which would only proliferate. On a sunny day, with the desire to be leaping about and otherwise playing boisterously, sitting on a patch of onion weed for an hour was like being locked in a cell. I'm not complaining, just saying!

Talking about jobs and strict parents, I was drying the dishes once and complaining bitterly and at great length, possibly because it was John's turn and he was doing homework; when Mum had heard enough of my nonsense she wacked me on the head with a handful of sudsy spoons—the injustice as much as the pain made me howl. Dad entered the fray, disturbed from reading his paper in the lounge room, and I expected him to support the aggrieved party, but of course he gave me a verbal lashing and I had to just keep drying.

Our playground extended way beyond the backyard as we got older.  There was really no traffic and we could wander freely. There was a park on Thirteenth Avenue with a playground about a hundred metres from our house.  In the playground was what I would call a plank swing (I haven't seen or heard of one since). It isn't easy to describe so here's a picture of one from the internet (proving that they did exist!)

The one in Thirteenth Avenue was smaller but essentially the same design, the main features being the swinging plank and the safety rails around it.  You can see why they no longer exist.  It was easy for young kids on the ground to lose concentration and be belted in the back, or back of the head, by the plank. Accidents were common.

We played for hours at a time on the plank swing. Often it was a ship with the ground being the sea; we were sailors or pirates, having great fun climbing the rigging, walking the plank and running around the decks (on the safety rails!) to avoid being caught by the enemy. Leaping from the safety rails or dropping from the superstructure onto the wildly swinging plank were especially daring moves and often ended in tears!

There were another ten or so kids living in the immediate surroundings and often many of us would get together. We had several places away from parents' eyes. Across Owen Street, further down, there was a vacant paddock (possibly a buffer zone between the houses and the factories) with the remains of a cellar in it, all that was left of a house from earlier times. The cellar, about the size of a large room with no roof, was too deep to jump into, but we cut steps into the vertical clay sides to gain access and then spent long periods, unseen by any adults passing by on the nearby footpath, digging nooks and cupboards in the walls to hide our treasures, helping ourselves to the stacks of packing cases that were abandoned in the long grass of the urban paddock, and constructing elaborate games about gangs of diamond thieves and other scenarios with plenty of scope for drama.

Across the road from our house, the Nesbitts had a large block with a huge shed from which they ran a trucking business. We sometimes played in the grease and oil of the shed and its maintenance pit. But the best feature was a mezzanine floor filled with stacks of tyres, a great place to play hidey—up there under the roof, with towers and cubbies of tyres, it was mysterious and dark, a challenge just to get up there, and I have a vague recollection of rats or mice. The aftermath was usually big trouble for coming home with black clothes, hands and faces, looking like mechanics after a twelve-hour shift.

Another of our pastimes (at least for a brief period) was to play practical jokes. I suspect now that Dad told us about doing these things when he was a kid and we had to try them. We had a rosemary hedge along the low, side fence of the front yard—the hedge was cover enough to hide us from passers-by on the footpath. We'd hide in the hedge with a brick until someone came past. As the unsuspecting victim passed our hiding place, we'd drop a coin on the brick. The perplexed pedestrian then spent time searching for the coin and wondering how it could have been dropped, until our giggles revealed us and we were yelled at, as invariably happened.

Another time we filled one of Dad's used tobacco pouches with grass and left it in the middle of the road while we hid behind the hedge to await developments. We missed the denouement, however, because a car driver passed it, slammed on the brakes, backed up, slammed on the brakes again, picked up the "tobacco" by leaning out without getting out of the car, and then drove off! We were left wondering how the driver would react to the disappointment, after expending all that effort, and decided against repeating the experiment.

*    *    *    *    *

Sixty years ago, we made our own fun—there were no televisions or computers. (Our house had a wood stove, wood heater for warmth, hot water in the laundry and bathroom, and a wringer and copper.) The only electrical goods were a refrigerator and radios.

We had a console radio in the lounge, with a large speaker I could put my ear against, sitting on the floor in front of it. During the week, we listened every afternoon to the ABC children's session, which included the Argonauts' Club (although we were passive participants), and to various serials, including "Biggles", my favourite, with its introduction of the old rotary aero engine starting up, the engine rising to full throttle, and then the voice-over "The air adventures of Biggles…".

But we must have had a mantle radio in the kitchen as well, because I can remember listening to music there. We had no dining room. The dining table was in the kitchen, along the wall separating it from the lounge room and entrance. The sink was on the opposite, outside wall, and the wood stove with its chimney, and fridge, were on the end, front wall. It was a small room and I have no idea how seven of us, one in a high chair, could have enjoyed meals there in 1953, but we did.

I think the table was pushed against the wall between meals. At any rate, I can remember sitting at the table, facing the wall, while shelling peas for the Sunday roast, and listening to that mantle radio. It was the music, I am sure, which is the main character in this memory. There were no frozen peas then and it was a regular Sunday job to sit at the table with a colander of pea pods, a saucepan for the finished product and newspaper sheets to collect the empty pods. I became adept at splitting the pods with my fingernail and then shovelling the peas out of the pod with my thumb into the saucepan.

As an aside, the Sunday roast was often a leg of lamb, which in those days included the lower leg with the wonderfully crisp bits on the bone, and of course the "knucklebone" which I suppose was part of the knee joint and collected by us kids to use in the game of knucklebones, before you could buy plastic "knuckles" in the shops. When we had roast beef we also had Yorkshire pudding, a delicacy which I haven't tasted since those days (it also made the meat go further and becomes redundant in times of plenty), and it was during this time that I learnt to make proper gravy, and this became my job from an early age.

The process of shelling peas was made enjoyable by the accompaniment of mid-day Sunday radio. My recollection is that the ABC had a program of listener requests and the fare was eclectic by ABC standards. The music ranged from light classical (not exceeding four minutes?) to country music. I'm guessing a little bit but I imagine the Blue Danube Waltz or Flight of the Bumblebee interspersed with Mario Lanza, Bing Crosby and Frankie Laine.

An unwavering memory is that I heard Slim Dusty's Rusty It's Goodbye at this time, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, presumably sung by Hank Williams. There was also Tex Morton, and another song that we heard over and over (every week?) was Bing Crosby's When the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day). I have a vague feeling that Rusty It's Goodbye ("By a lonely railway station…") gave me my first intimation of the ramifications of death.

I think when I was eight that I was taken in by novelty songs or lyrics with a gimmick, easy to remember and join in. Songs that date from this time, of which I still know every word of the lyrics, include (How much is that) Doggie in the Window, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo, Heart of My Heart and so on.

*    *    *    *    *

At school, I was in grade three, my final year in the infant section of the school before moving into the primary school in grade four. School subjects had a simplicity that reflected our uncomplicated life. We did arithmetic, not maths; English was compartmentalised into composition, spelling, dictation and  writing (hand-writing was a subject!); other subjects were nature study, music, art and craft.

In grade three spelling we learnt homophones like there and their; then in dictation the teacher would dictate a sentence containing a homophone and we had to write it correctly using the context to correctly spell the homophone.  I was reasonably good at exercises that relied mostly on memory such as dictation and times tables.

In nature study, I remember keeping silkworms in a box in the classroom. They were fed exclusively on mulberry leaves, and after hatching from black eggs the size of pinheads, they grew into black-headed light-grey caterpillars the size of a grade three kid's little finger; they then spun yellow cocoons of silk around themselves. We later had our own silkworms at home and we unravelled the cocoons after soaking them in water and produced little skeins of yellow silk. I can remember some of these pressed between the pages of the dictionary for some time after.

We learnt, in art/craft, how to do "tomboy" stitch, or french knitting, using a wooden cotton reel with four nails fixed in one end around the hole. This produced four stitches in a circle, creating a long tube of knitting which could be glued in a spiral onto a cardboard circle to make a table mat!

In those days, children were supplied with milk at morning recess, and it was a coup to be chosen as milk monitor—to be trusted, to assume importance, and to get out of the last stages of the lesson—to collect the crate of milk bottles and distribute them in the porch. The bottles were miniature milk bottles, one third of a pint, with an aluminium foil cap. We had a game of removing the cap without damaging it (not easy) and then making it fly by holding the cap by the edge against the palm with the other forefinger—with a flick of the forefinger, the bottle cap could be made to spin and glide away like a flying saucer. Contests for longevity and distance of flight were held—one of the few physical activities where I didn't feel inferior.

Music in grade three was provided by the ABC schools' broadcasts and the loudspeaker above the blackboard. Let's Join In started about this time and I can still remember how we were taught to sing songs by imitation and repetition. One of the earliest songs I have a memory of learning is O Susannah ("I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee…"). In the next few years, I went on to sing in the school choir—we practised at lunch time and then sang in a massed schools' choir of maybe a thousand voices at the Woodville Town Hall—and play in the fife band. I learnt to play Men of Harlech on the fife, a tune that means nothing otherwise, but every note is still in the brain.

Every Monday morning we had a school assembly at which we saluted the flag and promised to obey our queen, and then marched inside to the sounds of the fifes and drums of the school band. As an aside, it turns out that our current national flag only became official in 1953, not a long tradition! And speaking of our queen, she was crowned (coronated?) in 1953 and we students were presented at a school assembly with a medallion about the size of a twenty cent piece and a ribbon, to mark the occasion. Special Australian stamps were printed, which I remember, but I had to look it up to find that the common red one was worth 3½d (pronounced "thruppence haypenny"), about two cents.

The "television" of 1953 was provided at school by "strip films". Sometimes we would be ushered into a darkened classroom to watch what was basically a slide show. It might be a geography lesson about the Egyptian pyramids, shown as black and white stills on a portable screen. However, the photos were on a continuous roll of 35mm film which could be rolled through a projector. The rolls of film, about the size of cotton reels, were kept in little metal canisters and the school had scores of them.

*    *    *    *    *

1953 was a big year for us because Mum and Dad bought a car, the first car they'd owned. It was a brand-new pale-green Ford Consul, made in England. Dad had been working for APAC at Finsbury, which evolved from the munitions factory, but in 1953 he became production engineer, and later production manager, of the white-goods manufacturer Kelvinator in Keswick. The car came with the new status.

 Family photo, me on the left, taken in 1955 at Belair National Park
We all loved the fact that the whole family could get out and do things.  I'm sure Mum loved to get out of the house. In those days, the car was liberating. We went for many "Sunday drives" and picnics to places like Golden Grove, Ti Tree Gully and Chain of Ponds. (Many of these places are now wall-to-wall suburbs). Often we would just pull off a deserted back road under a couple of gum trees and have a picnic—Mum and Dad on the rug, while five boys went silly playing hidey, chasey, end-to-end footy or cricket on the road and round the trees. Sometimes we would climb a fence and collect mushrooms.

Once I tore a strip of bark off a tree at Golden Grove and was bitten on the finger by a spider. Of course we kids knew enough to know that I was about to die, but Dad came to the rescue by nicking my finger with his pocket knife and sucking out the "poison".

We started going to the drive-in movies, the five boys all in our pyjamas. There was a drive-in on Grand Junction Road, on the south side just east of Hanson Road. We saw Alan Ladd in Shane, and another western hero was Rory Calhoun with his black, curly hair.

We also went to the Kilkenny and Croydon cinemas, also in pyjamas, but it may have been a couple of years later—I can distinctly remember the sleeping Lester and Alan being bundled back into the car with dew on the windows and lots of shivering. I have no idea if the movies were worth it!

For a time, we went to the Central Market (or East End?), where Mum and Dad would do a week's shopping on a Friday evening, while five boys in pyjamas played "I Spy" in the car, on our best behaviour, waiting for an ice-cream or chocolates (or did we already have sweets to last us an hour, like contented lambs with tails swinging?).

*    *    *    *    *

I went to Ridley Grove school until the end of 1957. I think in the final exams I finished in the top three in the school, and then went on to spend two years at Woodville High School. At the end of the decade we moved to Glenelg.

*    *    *    *    *

Coming next... 1963. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Federal Election

   It would be wrong of me not to get involved in politics with a Federal election looming, even though the usual tendency would be not to advertise my thinking in case of alienating some readers.

   I mean, is it worth the effort?  George Monbiot said recently, "The purpose of today’s technocratic politics is to make democracy safe for corporations: to go through the motions of democratic consent while reshaping the nation at their behest".

   In a similar vein (?), W.C Fields apparently said "Start every day off with a smile and get it over with", so let's go with that.  I've finished smiling.

   This post has been prompted by a couple of graphs, which are sourced from the Federal Treasury department and are therefore presumably and eminently non-partisan.  They both show that Tony Abbott, Alan Jones and his shock-jock mates, the Australian, and many other "commentators" are simply telling lies when they allude to the economic credentials of the Labor government (or the ability of any Labor government to do as well as the Liberals).


   The first graph shows Federal revenue as a percentage of GDP, the amount of tax that the government collected as a per cent of the total economy.  It shows that in the Howard years the tax average came close to 26% of GDP.  When Labor took control the tax percentage reached a low of 22%.  We're asked to believe that Labor taxes us to the hilt to finance its spending!!

 The other myth is that Labor spends taxpayers' money as if it was going out of style!  The second graph shows spending as a percentage of GDP.  This graph shows that the aberration of high Labor spending in 2008-9 was due entirely to trying to mitigate the effects of the GFC and for other years it has been little different from the Howard years.  Ask not about profligate Labor spending, but about the middle-class welfare that accounts for much of the Howard spending, or that Howard spending was boosted by selling off Commonwealth assets.

And that's enough guff on the election from me.  I don't like people propagating lies to the extent that they are believed as fact.  On the other hand, I have no hesitation in further broadcasting the views of this person, from an online news forum, the origin of which I've now lost (apologies to the author for lack of attribution) :

"I cannot believe how incredibly stupid Abbott is . I mean rock-hard stupid. Dehydrated-rock-hard stupid. Stupid, so stupid that it goes way beyond the stupid we know into a whole different dimension of stupid. He is Trans-stupid stupid. Meta-stupid. Stupid collapsed on itself so far that even the neutrons have collapsed. Stupid gotten so dense that no intellect can escape. Singularity stupid. Blazing hot mid-day sun on Mercury stupid. He emits more stupid in one second than our entire galaxy emits in a year. Quasar stupid. . Nothing in our universe can really be this stupid. Perhaps this is some primordial fragment from the original big bang of stupid. Some pure essence of a stupid so uncontaminated by anything else as to be beyond the laws of physics that we know. I'm sorry. I can't go on.

Anf finally---------------Aboat you swine. You vulgar little maggot. You worthless bag of filth. I'll bet you couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel. You are a canker. A sore that won't go away. I would rather kiss a lawyer than be seen with you. You're a putrescent mass, a walking vomit. You are a spineless little worm deserving nothing but the profoundest contempt. You are a jerk, a cad, and a weasel. Your life is a monument to stupidity. You are a stench, a revulsion, and a big suck on a sour lemon. I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you. You are a monster, an ogre, and a malformity. I barf at the very thought of you. You have all the appeal of a paper cut. Lepers avoid you. You are vile, worthless, less than nothing. You are a weed, a fungus, the dregs of this earth. And did I mention you smell? END OF RANT"

Friday, 2 August 2013

Army poncho

   This is the story which I wrote to present at John's 70th birthday party last Saturday night at the Belair hotel in Adelaide:

   "At the time of John's 70th birthday, I would have liked to write a song for the occasion but I hope you will enjoy this story instead.  There are many people, family and friends, who know John as a 70-year old, but how many were around or remember when he was seventeen?  I'll tell you a story of when John was seventeen.

   In 1960, when John was seventeen, he was very passionate about the army and his participation in the activities of the high school army cadets.  He had lots of paraphernalia which made him proud.  He had a slouch hat with the rising sun badge holding up the brim on the left side.  Other prized badges included one that proclaimed he was proficient in dismantling a light machine gun (LMG) and putting it together again without having any pieces left over; another badge, of crossed rifles, declared that he could hit a target with a .303 rifle while keeping quiet about the bruises developing on his right shoulder.

   Amongst the equipment which made up his uniform were a webbing belt and gaiters, both with brass buckles.  The webbing was lovingly cleaned with blanco and the brass polished with brasso.  There was hell to pay if brasso happened where only blanco should prevail.  His black boots were spit and polished with kiwi boot polish and… spit!  The polish was loosely applied and then spat upon; the mixture was spread around with brush and rag until the boots were like a mirror.  I seem to remember the claim that the boots could be used when in conversation with a girl by thrusting one foot forward such that the mirror-surface of the boot gave a perfect view up… to the end of the street!

   John had uniform trousers, braces, shirts and winter tunic.  For inclement weather, he had a waterproof poncho.  In fact, for some reason he had two (unless one was mine - I was in the cadets, too, for a while).

   He called us all out onto the back lawn one day to show us how, on an army bivouac, one could make a tent out of two army ponchos.  Pete and I might have been a bit dubious, but Alan and Lester, and Mickey the dog, were surely impressed.

   Anyway, John demonstrated (showing early skills as a teacher) how the two ponchos, instead of each being buttoned to itself with the buttons at the neck and front, could be buttoned to each other, making a double poncho!  Furthermore, with a couple of sticks and some string, a rudimentary tent could be constructed.

   While Pete and I were scoffing, we were challenged.  If we would go camping overnight, John would prove the efficacy of army methodology by providing our accommodation.

   Remember that in 1960, John was seventeen, I was fifteen and Peter was thirteen- plenty old enough to fend for ourselves, but we were still kids!

   On Saturday morning we set off on our bikes, fully equipped for camping.  It was the middle of winter and it was all too obvious that the weather forecast was predicting drizzle.  The plan was that from Glengowrie we would ride up to Brown Hill Creek, set up camp in the afternoon, and cook a meal of sausages in an old frypan before retiring for the night.  In the morning we would break camp and return home.      

   We travelled light as it was uphill nearly all the way.  I think we had strapped on our bikes some sausages, a frypan and a couple of army ponchos.

   When we arrived, there appeared to be nowhere to camp except an open grassed area.  The creek was over yonder among shrubbery and some trees, but the best camping would be in this grassed area.

   We trampled some grass down, buttoned the ponchos together, found a couple of saplings, and built the tent.  The tent ridge was less than a metre from the ground!  You had to lie on the ground to see into the tent.  This was supposed to accommodate two grown men!  I saw how it could definitely be used as a tunnel for commando training.  We spent a large amount of time in friendly discussion to determine sleeping arrangements for the coming night.

   We soldiered on!  The next item on the agenda was tea, dinner or supper, something to eat.  Everything was damp and the collection of twigs and leaves that we scrounged in the surrounding area really needed newspaper or something more flammable, of which we had none.  After a lot of trial and error, we got the bottom of the frypan lukewarm but the sausages were never cooked, and if memory serves me correctly they were abandoned, although I've always been a bit partial to raw sausage meat so perhaps this is wrong.

   Nevertheless, it had become too dark to do anything else except crawl into our "bivouac" and enjoy a good night's rest.  I can't recall for certain but I imagine Pete and I crawled on our elbows one after the other under the ponchos and then rolled, under instruction, to the sides, leaving room for John to crawl into the centre like a blackfella with his dogs, snug as a bug, etc.  Again, I can't recall for certain but I reckon Pete and I at least had some poncho as a blanket, while either John's feet or head would have been poking out at one end.

   You can't be woken up unless you are asleep, so we obviously had some sleep.  We were woken by an incredible disturbance.  Ghosts or robbers or monsters were thumping, stomping, vibrating the ground, all around us.  There were snorts, harrumphs and evil sighs, right next to our heads and directly into our ears.  In those few seconds of waking when we were each on his own, we were scared stiff.  When three of us began to communicate, we were still scared stiff.

   We were being attacked on all sides by a much superior force, at least a full platoon.  Under the ponchos it was dark, and we had no illumination except for the remaining matches.  After much anguish and effort, there were no more matches, being too damp and soft to survive frantic striking on the box.

   The disturbance outside kept on;  it was only after a lot of frightened to-ing and fro-ing between us that we ventured to poke our heads out to find out what was scaring us.  A herd of black and white Friesian cows were standing around the tent, snorting billows of vapour in the cold pre-dawn, jostling and stamping their feet.  In retrospect, they were upset by this unprecedented apparition in the middle of their paddock!  Our tent only reached up to their knees and we continued to be frightened, of being trampled!

   It took us no time at all to undo the buttons, pack the frypan, and get on our bikes, headed back to safety and home.  As I might have said to John at the time, an LMG or .303 rifle would be much better protection against ghosts, robbers and monsters, or even a rampaging herd of cows; a pair of ponchos that reached to the cattle's knees was no protection at all!

   But John would have replied with something to the effect that the Army, and a bit of hardship, can make a man out of us!  I have to agree, because John has turned out very well!"

 This photo from 1960 shows our Mum, in the centre, with her mother, Mum Mort, John on the left, me with gun, Peter on the right, with Alan and Lester in front.  (Mickey the dog is mostly hidden by Mum's side).