The great affair is to move


According to Robert Louis Stevenson –

‘I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.

The great affair is to move.’


I visited the UK to take part in a reunion – it had been fifty years since I left the nautical college HMS Conway to go to sea – once at sea my great affair was to keep moving.


My time in the Conway was when she was a shore based establishment in the grounds of Plas Newydd, the Marquis of Anglesey’s home and estate on the isle of Anglesey, which is off the north coast of Wales.

2008-06-10 200r

My first three months were spent in the Marquis’ house, and you see can that the views across to Snowdon, which is on the mainland of Wales, are spectacular.


The Snowdon range can be seen in the background – this picture was taken from the front of Plas Newydd.

Every cadet was expected to be able to be able to swim, and each year we had to take part in a swimming race across the Menai Straits and back again. The race was from Plas Newydd to the house that can be seen on the other side. We had rescue boats floating around just in case anyone was in trouble, but fortunately they were seldom required.During one swim the worst time for me was on the return when we had to swim through a smack of jelly fish – I was told that they were Portuguese men of war. It slowed us down as we waved the jellyfish away and hoped that the tentacles were not too long.

I was at Conway for two years and it took me that long to learn how to pronounce Llanfair PG, which was the closest railway station to Plas Newydd.


The meaning in English is below


Of course during the reunion we had to visit Snowdon, a mountain full of memories, because we used to climb this area and have to take part in initiative challenges.
Those of us who took part were in teams of three cadets.
One test that comes to mind was when the team that I was in came to a small lake and the waiting officer told us that at the bottom of the lake was a sunken submarine and that our job was to raise this vessel.
The sub was a large tank with a hole in it, which we had to secure before we could pump the water out so that the ‘sub’ would float. The water was freezing and of course we didn’t have any swimming trunks or towels, so we had to take it in turns to dive in and swim to the bottom to screw the plate back on to make the sub waterproof. The outside temperature was cold enough to discourage tourist  so there wasn’t any fear of us being charged as ‘flashers’. This was well before the PC brigade had been invented and well before the requirement of the current H & S regulations.
We were all between sixteen and seventeen years old, and it was expected of us to look after each other, to use our initiative, and common sense.

In all of the tests there was a requirement to workout certain maths, physics or navigational problems relating to the test, it was not all physical activity, but it was always cold.

My favorite memory of the climbing and hiking was that I used to carry Kendal Mint  cake for instant energy – it wasn’t ‘cake’, but a bar of whiteish chocolate, but not a chocolate taste. It worked wonders to keep me going.


During the reunion and being fifty years older, we were taking the easy way to the top.


Quite pleasant as we left the station


 The scenery was just as dramatic as long ago and


the summer weather was just as fickle.


and some of us managed to climb to the top of Snowdon 1085 mtrs (3,560 ft) above sea level. I had to hold on to my glasses as the wind was very strong – check the two on the right trying to come down.


My glasses, hands and everything else which was lose was in my pockets.

Dog on a tucker box

Some years ago I’d visited the statue of the dog on a tucker box when I drove back to Sydney from Melbourne. I knew that Maureen hadn’t seen this statue, so I planned a small diversion for her to visit Gundagai (pronounced Gun-da- guy say it quickly) on the home would leg of our road trip. The town is about eight kilometers ( five miles) from Snake Gully, where the statue is located.




The legend of the dog and the tucker box (food box) began around 1850. Pioneers had moved south & west from Sydney around 1830 looking for land along the Murrumbidgee River  (which is 1488 km or 900 miles long). They dragged everything using bullock teams and in the wet they got bogged down.


One story is that a poem called Bullocky Bill told of a dog that guarded his master’s tucker box until he died.


There are two main poems about the dog on the tucker box – the one below, a PC version (from 1920s), and another below the first (written in 1850s).

‘Nine Miles from Gundagai’ by Jack Moses

I’ve done my share of shearing sheep,
Of droving and all that;
And bogged a bullock team as well,
On a Murrumbidgee flat.
I’ve seen the bullock stretch and strain
And blink his bleary eye,
And the dog sit on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

I’ve been jilted, jarred and crossed in love,
And sand-bagged in the dark,
Till if a mountain fell on me,
I’d treat it as a lark.
It’s when you’ve got your bullocks bogged,
That’s the time you flog and cry,
And the dog sits on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

We’ve all got our little troubles,
In life’s hard, thorny way.
Some strike them in a motor car
And others in a dray.
But when your dog and bullocks strike,
It ain’t no apple pie,
And the dog sat on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

But that’s all past and dead and gone,
And I’ve sold the team for meat,
And perhaps, some day where I was bogged,
There’ll be an asphalt street,
The dog, ah! well he got a bait,
And thought he’d like to die,
So I buried him in the tuckerbox,
Nine miles from Gundagai.


Author unknown about 1850

I’m used to punchin’ bullock teams across the hills and plains.
I’ve teamed outback for forty years through bleedin’ hail and rain.
I’ve lived a lot of troubles down, without a bloomin’ lie,
But I can’t forget what happened just five miles from Gundagai.

‘Twas getting dark, the team got bored, the axle snapped in two.
I lost me matches and me pipe, so what was I to do?
The rain it was coming on, and hungry too was I,
And me dog shat in me tucker-box five miles from Gundagai.

Some blokes I know have stacks of luck, no matter where they fall,
But there was I, Lord love a duck, no bloody luck at all.
I couldn’t heat a pot of tea or keep me trousers dry,
And me dog shat in me tucker-box five miles from Gundagai.

Now, I can forgive the bleedin’ team, I can forgive the rain.
I can forgive the damp and cold and go through it again.
I can forgive the rotten luck, but ‘ang me till I die,
I can’t forgive that bloody dog, five miles from Gundagai.

Tastings can make you hungry

We stayed at Tanunda, which is a small town in the Barossa Valley, and obviously the first thing everyone wants to do in the Barossa Valley is visit a vineyard and our accommodation was within walking distance to at least three. We had one full day so we had to make the most of it –
Peter Lehmann  vineyard was just around the corner, which was about a ten minute walk. The problem was that I had a feeling that we would buy some wine, and a ten minute walk with 18 kilos is not my idea of being on holiday – so we drove the short distance.


The lady who showed us the wines, and discussed each one that we tasted, was very easy to chat to as she shared her knowledge. Jugs of water were available to help clean the pallet, and dilute the small amount of wine that we swallowed. There comes a time when spitting out wine is not an option. At the end of the half hour we’d bought a mixed case!

Good job we had our car.


Our next port of call was Maggie Beer’s farm shop. It was about a twenty minute scenic drive from the accommodation.
Not being a shopper by nature (I hate shopping), I wasn’t sure what we would see at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. I needn’t have worried as I found the place to be a pleasure to visit. All the pickles could be tasted before buying, as were the jams and mustard. Of course the wine (made by Maggie’s husband) was also available for tasting  . . .  the whole experience was very enjoyable because of the relaxed atmosphere, the helpful staff and the ability to try everything before you bought.


If you wanted to stay for lunch the facilities were available.

Everything was laid out for ease of shopping, and tasting without any pressure.




After leaving Maggies with pâté and pickles, plus a cookery book, and a couple of bottles of wine we decided it was time for lunch. Food & wine tasting can make one hungry.

At the accommodation we had been told of a pizza maker who had won awards, not just in South Australia, but nationally and they made gluten free pizza, so we had to go and try one of the gluten free pizzas, Maureen being a coeliac.

The 40’s Cafe, and sometimes I’ve heard it called Roaring 40’s Pizza is in a small area called Angaston, very close to Tanunda. There was nothing flash about the place, but the girls behind the counter were friendly.DSC03696r


We ordered a smoky meat pizza – all the various meats being smoked.
When it came I was surprised at the size – it would have fed four adults.


It fed Maureen & I for lunch and we took three large slices home!

On the way back to the accommodation we decide to stop at another vineyard called Chateau Tanunda, which is nearly in the centre of Tanunda town.DSC03697r

It is a beautiful setting for a vineyard. The above picture is the drive to the main house, and the picture below is the bowling green close to the tasting area. We only bought two bottles to take home to Sydney – the car was becoming quite full of honey and cordial from Beechworth, pickles and pâté from Maggie’s, wine from Tanunda, brochures and magazines from where ever we stopped and a large number of books from various second hand book shops.


Happy Hour at our accommodation.


We had to taste the wine and pâté before a swim in the pool.


The accommodation at Langmeil Cottages was self catering, which included a bottle of bubbly on arrival and and breakfast supplied – they have four cottages. Ours was a very comfortable cottage with plenty of space to spread out – bedroom, living room, kitchen etc

Give way to penguins

While in South Australia we visited Victor Harbor, which is about eighty kilometres south of Adelaide. Note the missing ‘u’ in Harbor due to a spelling error by an earlier Surveyor General (he was not an American). Oddly enough the current railway station at Victor Harbor is spelled Victor Harbour.
The town has a history of whaling, hence the water feature in the park, although the last whale caught in the area was in 1872.



Granit Island, just off the coast of Victor Harbor, is linked to the mainland by a causeway, on which a horse tram carries passengers to and from the island.





At the end of the day the tram is locked in the depot, and the horses had their own stable within the depot. They had more than one horse so that each horse had rest days. As the coach crossed the road the driver would ring a hand bell continuously to warn cars. It is such an unusual sight that cars slow down anyway.

The horse tram reminded me of a visit to Southport in the UK when I was a child. I am sure they had horse drawn trams travelling along the pier in the late 50’s. Perhaps I am getting mixed up with the seaside trams of Blackpool. I can’t spell alzheimer’s . . . .


We walked across the causeway to climb the small hill on the island for a view of the Southern ocean – next stop Antarctica.DSC03739r

Of course once seen, I had to take a photo of the strangest road sign I’d see for ages.



A Stirling coincidence

We decided to visit Hahndorf, which is in the Adelaide hills, and a short drive from Adelaide in South Australia.
The town was original settled by Prussians from Europe. They arrived in 1838 off the ship ‘ Zebra’ under the command of a Dane called Dirk Meinhertz Hahn. The voyage out was very unpleasant, but once they arrived in Australia Captain Hahn stayed with his passengers and helped them to settle in their new country. In honour of his help and assistance they named the town after him.
Obviously the town still has a strong German ‘flavour’ via the meat, bakeries and wine that is produce in the surrounding area.


The Hahndorf Inn


It was the start of autumn and the feel was very European, with the trees changing colour. I must admit that I didn’t see any VWs, in this German town.


I have a German friend in Australia, so had to take this photograph.

I found the beer to be expensive so didn’t buy any, which is just as well as I was driving. We had lunch in a small café and sat on a balcony overlooking the main road. The town seemed full of tourists and very few locals, other than those working in the shops.

The art / come history centre was the best part for me. In addition to the history of the town they had interesting pieces in the shop area – earrings and other jewellery made from broken crockery. Alongside the earrings you could see the original broken plate, saucer or cup.
None of the crockery items were broken deliberately all were from residents in the town who gave the artist the accidentally broken bits of their own crockery and the artist created items of jewellery. To say the items were unique is an understatement.

On the way back to Adelaide we had to pass another small town called Sterling (population about 4500). With its wet and mild climate it became a favourite of the British to escape the intense heat of a summer in Adelaide. It did have a very English feel to it and of course it had shops.

Maureen went to look at what she wanted to see, and I found a second hand book shop called ‘Chapter Two’, which I thought was a good name for a second hand book shop.

As I entered a young lady, who was typing on her lap top, greeted me and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I said no thanks, just browsing and she went back to her computer.

A few minutes later I thought I’d have a long shot and asked if her shop was computerised,

‘No,’ she said ‘ what did you have in mind?’

I told her that I’d been looking for a book called ‘The Phantom Major’ about the SAS in WW2.

‘Oh!’ she said ‘I think we do have that book!’

and went to one of the shelves and pulled out a hard copy of the book with the original dust jacket still intact!

Phantom Major

I bought it for $10, it was in better condition, and cheaper, than the paperback version that I’d loaned out in the late 60’s and never had returned. I was very impressed with her ability to remember her books and it seems that she knows where every book she had in stock was located on the shelves.

I’d been looking for this book for some time and found it ironic that the story of the main character Lieutenant Stirling (as he was when he suggested the creation of the SAS), should be found in a small town called Stirling outside Adelaide. I like coincidences.

The town is not named after Major Stirling, but after a friend of the founder in 1854.


A wide open sunburned country

Our next stop would be the Barossa Valley, which was a six hour drive from Broken Hill.


As we headed south it was all open spaces.



The pictures above reminded me of Jack Absalom’s paintings.

The Australian land has very distinctive smell,
for me it is the smell of Australia and I love it!

My Country  by Dorothea Mackellar

Words adapted from the poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, music by Tony Hatch and Vickie Trent, arranged by David Lawrence. Origin of audio track uncertain.

As we crossed the border from New South Wales in to South Australia we passed a warning sign that there was a quarantine border station 220 km south. Unchecked fruit was not allowed in to the area south of this border, because this area was one of Australia’s main wine producing area, and they were not taking any chances of fruit fly and contamination.

Two and a half hours after reading the quarantine warning all vehicles were stopped at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ooda Wirra.


The road was designed so that a vehicle had to pass through this check point. There wasn’t any way of getting through without being checked. The above picture is more of an illustration, because when we arrived the barrier was solid concrete and metal, and we had to zig-zag through to the other side.

As soon as the inspector (very polite and friendly) asked if we had any fruit it dawned on me that I’d forgotten about two bananas in our chiller bag. I exited the car and opened the boot (trunk for the US) and then opened the chiller bags so that the inspector could see all our food as I removed two bananas and gave them to him.

There was a large sign stating that any fruit found would not be allowed to be consumed by the owner – hence the warning 220 km, 175 km and 100 km earlier . . . . . we live and learn as I forfeited this pensioner’s lunch.

I didn’t object to handing over the fruit as we had been warned – several times. When I saw the picture of a bunch of bananas at the quarantine station,  that’s when I remembered about the forbidden fruit in the chiller bag.

All our yesterdays

One leaving the Royal Flying Doctor we had to find a cold drink so we decided to visit Bell’s Milk Bar , which is an icon in Broken Hill, and not far from the airport.

Bell’s goes back to 1893, but is now stuck in the 1950’s.



Regardless of Bell’s age the drinks were cold and thirst quenching – unfortunately the prices where not those of the 1950’s :-o)


Dancing up a storm

Royal Flying Doctor Service

Broken Hill’s airport is also the Royal Flying Doctor Service  headquarters.



Entrance to the HQ

On entering we were invited to watch a short film about the service, which included real incidents where sick and injured people were picked up by a flying ‘hospital’ and flown to a major population centres.

It is thanks to the Rev John Flynn who was ordained in 1911 and began to set up centres for the sick and injured in the Australian bush. He had a dream of supporting the bush hospitals, miners, farmers etc with a fast medical service, and in 1928, thanks to a large bequest, he began the what we now know as the Flying Doctor Service. The first aircraft being a single engine fabric bi-plane.

The ‘Royal’ was added in 1955 by the Queen.

The explanation of each exhibit in the museum, and the educational video, brought home how important the service is to anything up to 220,000 people who live in remote areas.


The above is a picture of ‘where does it hurt’ – the injured person could be hours flying time from the nearest doctor, so over the short wave radio he tries to describe his injuries and ‘where it hurts’ by the number & letter code system.

 At the end of the video the receptionists asked us if we would like a conducted tour of their operation. Of course we agreed, and Larry (one of the operational staff) showed us around and explained how the whole system worked.
We saw that day’s operational team, and up to the minute situations. The Service operates 24 hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. When I realised how large the organisation is, the cost of running such an operation is a question that I had to ask. The total cost is around $360 million dollars a year, split between Federal and State Governments for operational costs, but not for replacement of equipment, including about forty aircraft, which have to be replaced after each aircraft reaches about twenty years of age, or so many thousand of landings. On average the Service has to replace three aircraft a year at a cost of $8 million each.

For these aircraft replacements, and everything else from an office chair to a computer printer, has to come from public donations.

FD hanger

Inside the hanger. (Picture from the RFD web site)


and outside.

landing strip

Concrete landing strips at HQ, but out in the bush it is a dirt landing.
The above picture is from the RFD web site.

Flying Doctor Service

Check the above link for a 90 second piece of film for some real medical items.

Australian TV made a fictional series of the Service in the 1990’s, which became very popular in Germany, UK & Belgium (no idea of  the number of repeats), but donations from the European fan club to help support the Flying Doctor service, is worth about $1 million a year to the Service!
There is also a souvenir shop with a wide range of items for sale, but the best part for me was being shown around the operational centre. The centre was ‘real’ it was not created for the tourists.

Silver City Comet


Around the corner from our accommodation was an old railway station called Sulphide Street Station. It is no longer in use, but is now the location of a small railway museum.

Silver city comet


Silver City Comet is now part of the museum.

train Blurb

The above is the left side of the explanation of the train at the museum.




Pictures of the two engines.


Economy Class


First Class . . . .

The yellow signs at the end of the carriage (under 202 and to the left & right) indicates that the area ahead is the smoking area for first class passengers – very un PC today!


I was impressed with the size of the fully electric kitchen to supply the needs of passengers in 1937.


Dinning car

The museum had other trains as well as the Silver City Comet.

We were allowed to climb all over the various trains, including inside the engines – you don’t have to be a child to enjoy playing with trains..





Within the museum they have a section that has been given over to stories and interviews of migrants to the Broken Hill area from Europe, just after the WW II.

Some stories made very sad reading, and others are quite inspirational. Particularly those who could not speak English when they arrived, yet they managed to make a new home, learn a new language, and in a number of cases they became successful businessmen. They all wanted to fit in to Australia; none of them demanded that they should receive special treatment.
Multiculturalism hadn’t been invented when they arrived; all they wanted was a new safe life, and the right to be Australian.



Sons of Broken Hill

After visiting Silverton we decided to visit Pro Hart’s gallery in Broken Hill. I am not a particularly enthusiastic art viewer – I know that it has been said before, ‘I know what I like’, but I don’t always understand what I am viewing. The gallery is well laid out over three levels. Many of the paintings had a description alongside, which helped the viewer (me) to understand what the artist was thinking as he painted. The Australian picnic or race meeting were easy to understand, but each one took time to study the full detail. He painted many pictures of ants.
Coming from Broken Hill he would have had a great deal of experience with ants and other insects. Dragon flies were also popular with this artist.
I have read that he approached a tattoo artist to have ants tattooed across his feet, but it never happened due to his illness, he died in 2006 at the age of 77Pro hart

Called the ‘chop bone’ – look closely at the centre.

During our visit to the gallery we watched a short video of his life and his work, which I found interesting, considering that I knew very little of the artist, except that he was Australian, from Broken Hill and created a famous advert for Stainmaster carpet in the 1980s. (Click the link for the 29 second ad)
At the entrance to the gallery we saw his 1973 Silver Shadow Rolls Royce, which he’d repainted with Australian historical scenes.


The day was an arty day because our next stop was Jack Absalom’s gallery, a short drive from Pro Hart’s gallery.

Jack Absalom’s gallery is part of his home (click on the link to see his paintings). We walked up the path and read the notice on the door – if locked ring bell – if unlocked come in.
It was locked so we rang the bell and an elderly lady came to the door and invited us in to the gallery area. As you see the centre display contains jewellery, and one of the finest displays of Australian opals.


As we entered the gallery we were left alone to view the paintings. For me, Jack Absalom’s paintings capture the great expanse and feel of outback Australia.

The colour of the floor was carefully thought out to fit with the overall ambiance of the gallery, and the lighting is such that it doesn’t show a shadow. I felt that I could stand and ‘drink in’ the views, feel the heat and smell the bush.

As well as being an artist specialising in the outback, he is also an author – Outback Cooking, Safe Outback Travel to name two. At the age of fifteen he was a professional kangaroo shooter.

We were viewing the paintings when an elderly man came in to the gallery from the private home area, and stood at the counter under Jack Absalom’s portrait. It was then that I realised that it was Jack Absalom himself.

As Maureen and I were the only people in the gallery it didn’t take long before we were in conversation with the artist. I’d picked up a book about his life and his painting and had it in my hand as we spoke. I offered the cash for the book, which he accepted and also took the book and signed it for me. He was telling us that he would be off again to the bush to paint. He expected to be away for several weeks and would be living in the bush – not bad for an 88 year old. He did comment that he had to keep painting in the bush, while he was still young enough to get about  . . .


This is the portrait of Jack Absalom, painted by Cynthia Dowler, I think it was painted in the early 90’s, so at the time he would have been in his mid-60’s. It now hangs in the Jack Absalom’s gallery.

With hindsight I should have taken his photo with Maureen. Aren’t we all wise after the event?

It had been a long day from mines to film sets and art galleries and it was time for home and a relaxing drop.

Having our drinks on the balcony allowed us to watch the traffic passing, not that there was a lot of traffic after 5.00 pm, but we always received a wave from the passengers in the tourist buses. Perhaps we looked like locals  . . . .

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