RESTLESS…..Chapter Two

 

Falling around

 

Return to Darwin

There are so many aspects to our lives, and the things we did or attempted to do, that I am only going to recall some of the high lights.

In the new year of 1970 I landed a job with Renault Australia working in Vehicle Allocations, the Department that allocated cars to Dealerships around the country. Here I learned how finnicky and petty working with Unions was. One day a Dealer was busting for a car on a Friday afternoon. I had allocated a car but it needed special wheels for whatever reason. It was standing outside the workshop and the mechanics were having their lunch and so I grabbed a trolley jack and fitted the wheels and drove the car to the front gate where the Dealer collected it after signing all the paperwork.

I was walking back to my office when a delegation of union members came around the corner of the complex waving their arms and shouting at me. How dare I do one of their jobs. I said but I did you a favour as you have one less job to do. No, not good enough, and they marched in to the factory and called all the blue-collar workers out on strike. The upshot of this was that I had to stand in front of them all and apologise for doing their work. After that things were sweet and everybody went back to work and we got on well. Everybody on the factory floor knew who I was, that’s for sure but I got told off by management. Life went on an when the new Renault 10 with the rear engine came out, we bought one. Brand new car and I painted the engine hood matt black, a stripe on the front and ‘eyelashes’ on the side. Staff at Renault were horrified at what I had done. Later in the year we decided to go back to Darwin as the city life was getting us down. We packed the Renault and then I had to get a roof-rack to put more stuff or the roof. Always looking at saving money I bought a frail looking roof rack. All loaded up the roof-rack looked a tad flimsy but we set off anyway. Once out through Victoria and New South Wales we got to Queensland and by this time the roof-rack was coming to the end of its days. So, we packed 95% of the stuff in the back of the car and ended up with a shovel and some other stuff which we couldn’t fit in anywhere. It was about then that a farmer happened to stop to see if we were OK. We thanked him for stopping and gave him our shovel as we had nowhere to fit it. It was a good shovel too.

There was flooding ahead so we took the road from Charleville, through Quilpie, Windorah and Thargominda. Darkness fell upon us as we got caught in the flooding anyway. So, Judith walked through the water with torch in hand to show me where to drive over a bridge covered by the river. It wasn’t flowing having backed up somewhere by a weir. We got back on to higher ground and being dead tired fell asleep in the car until our Fox-terrier, Dassie, started growling just behind our heads where she was perched on a ledge that we had made for her. It turned out to be inquisitive horses.

Morning saw us having breakfast at Boulia and where the Red Stump lies. It’s a sign that says if you go any further out to the west, you might come out on the other side. So, we kept on heading north on a Beef Road. Beef Road got its name as being single lane sealed road for trucks and everybody else has to give way to these behemoth trucks up to 60 metres long carting cattle to various points of interest like abbatoirs or sale yards.

About 80 kilometres from Mount Isa there was a loud bang at the rear of the car. I stopped to see if we had blown a tyre. No flat tyres, but a broken fan belt that in turn, broke the radiator expansion chamber bottle which was made of glass. While I was standing there a mechanic stopped and told me that I could drive the car and we tied the hose up through the air vent at the back. I was a bit clueless about cars in those days.

 

The Renault Dealer in Mount Isa was a bicycle shop. Only Renault in town was in the wrecking yard. I went there to look at this really smashed up car and believe it or not, the only thing that wasn’t broken was the expansion bottle. It cost $4 and I fitted it and we were on the road again Heading to Darwin

The next 1800kilometres were uneventful apart from nearly hitting a big black bull in the dark. We enjoyed a great swim at Mataranka.

We both got jobs straight away in Darwin, then rented a share flat in a house that was converted into separate rooms for hire and so life went on. I was working first for Australia Post as they were still in charge of installing telephones in houses through their subsidiary, Telecom and as there was increased New Australians living there they sometimes got very excited when applying for a service, and big, calm, and assertive blokes behind the counter, helped the other staff immensely.

We rented a flat down the end of Nightcliff road and on the corner of Poinciana Street. The owners, Rudi and Phi Verhoef, an immigrant Indonesian -Dutch couple, and we got on very well with them.

Then I landed a job with the Commonwealth Employment Service on s short term basis. Judith worked at Woolworths in the Delicatessen.

One day in the wet season I decided to go for a drive exploring. I drove along Dripstone Road (it was a gravel road in those days) and down at the corner where the road turns right, I threw a left and started driving along a track which was flooded and I thought that it might turn back up the rise, but it didn’t and no sooner than that I was bogged. I tried all the tricks in the book but to no avail. So, I carried my thongs and started walking home. It wasn’t all that far but it took an hour none the less. Rudi and Phi had a friend visiting and he had a Toyota 4×4 and he offered to help retrieve my car.

When we got to the track more rain had fallen and the track looked more like a creek. “Where’s your car?”  he asked and I said “Just a little way down”. When we got to the Renault it was almost floating and this Samaritan, Jurgen, was getting nervous. I hopped out and told him to put it in 4×4 mode whilst I connected the rope and he pulled me out without effort. Just as well as he wasn’t in 4×4 mode as he had not engaged the hubs at the front of the truck. The Renault had water inside the car six inches deep. Luckily it had rubber floor mats and the water just ran out and I left all the doors open so that it could dry.

The Gove Peninsula was buzzing with development. The money was good. There were a number of oil drilling companies around too. Many labourers were coming north for work and I tried to get them work.

Towards the end of the year I was offered a job at the Rum Jungle Mine as assistant to the Accountant. We moved to Batchelor 100km south of Darwin. Judith got a job as Postmistress at the small Post Office. I was there three weeks when they Mine Bosses asked if I would like to look after the Swimming pool at Batchelor as the Manager had left suddenly. This was a great job spending most days around the pool during certain hours. But at the Christmas Party I got drunk and was just being an arsehole in a nice way though, but the Mine Bosses were not amused and I was sacked on the spot for opening the pool at midnight so that party goers could skinny-dip. We packed our meagre belongings into the Renault and drove to Cairns for a holiday as my severance pay was wages three months in advance.

Those days many outback roads were still gravel as sealed roads only came later. It was the wet Monsoon season and a couple of places were churned up by trucks pushing their way through. Luckily, and the fact that the Renault was light with a rear engine we drove through all the tricky spots.

We visited Cairns and went out to Yorkey’s Knob, a small steep hill protruding out from the Atherton Escarpment and covered in beautiful rainforest. It just happened that there was an Estate Agent on duty at a house and we started talking to him. He showed us a flat block of land on top the hill selling for $3000. Well, we were earning $80 week at the mine and this was way out of our league. If only we had been smart and bought there and built a house, it could be worth about $5m today.

We drove up to Daintree which in those days was just a few huts. We also visited Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Zoo which is still going today. And after a week we drove back to Darwin via Normanton and Cloncurry. Mostly dirt roads and when we decided to sleep a short way out from Normanton the mosquitoes nearly dragged us out of the car. The next morning, we had more bad luck when a Telecom Truck came speeding past us from the front and threw up great big rock that shattered our windscreen and we had to drive with the taped screen all the way back to Darwin and then had to order a screen in and get it fitted. Luckily our insurance covered that.

This time around there wasn’t a flat available at the Verhoefs but we managed to get one just a little way further up Nightcliff Road near the school.

Heading South 

We had various jobs, all short term when I had a letter from my Mother to say that she was coming to visit us and would be flying in to Sydney. We panicked as we had no accommodation for her. She was wealthy enough to stay in a Hotel or Motel but that was not the point. So, one more time, we flogged off all gear that we did not need and set a course for Sydney hoping to get there in time to meet her and spend some time together.

This time I wanted to take a different route driving via The Carpentaria and Tablelands Highways. My Shell map showed that we could get petrol at Balbirini Station.  This turned out to be a furphy as the station owner was adamant that his station was NOT a Shell Depot. But he agreed to sell us some fuel out of kindness. Both Highways were BEEF Roads with some strip, single lane bitumen surface. At the junction with the Barkly Highway the was no road house at that time.

We were coming in to Camooweal just as it was getting dark and we had no lights. There was a mechanic bloke next to the Roadhouse and he was just about to go home but he stayed open just to help us. The car had blown a fuse and it was not the type that was readily available in the country areas. So, we fixed it with some silver cigarette paper, and it lasted all the way to Sydney although I did replace the paper at Roma…just in case

We passed by the Gold Coast after coming down the range from the Darling Downs at Toowoomba and now we were on the Pacific Highway all the way to Sydney.

I was behind the wheel in the early morning as we were dropping down through a cutting on the outskirts of Grafton, when a large Euro Kangaroo jumped on to the road right in front of the car. There was nowhere to go and the little Renault hit the animal dead centre, breaking both head lights spotlights and bumper bar including a lightweight insect screen.  The bonnet popped up but luckily that was all that happened and we were able to close it again. I got out of the car with my .22 rifle at ready but the Kangaroo was already dead. Further down the road I pulled off and assessed the damage some more. It was obvious that night driving was out so we had to find a motel before nightfall. I had been able to tape the reflectors of the lights and power sockets and bought two globes for just in case but they would not reflect properly. Maybe we could reach Sydney in a day? We pushed on. I do recall however that we pulled off and stayed in a caravan park for the afternoon and the night.

The next morning my Mother’s flight was landing and we had to get to Sydney.

We arrived in the largest city of Australia, Sydney at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The first Public Telephone was our target. We found one and I rang QANTAS to find out if they knew at which hotel my Mother was staying. At first, they would not tell me because Who am I? But I explained what was going on and that if I missed my contact with my Mother she would fly to Darwin and there would be no one to meet her. Then the money ran out and the line dropped dead. So, I rang again and found the same person at the desk and after a while they relented and told me she was staying at the Wentworth Hotel.

We drove up to and parked in the Visitors Parking Lot. Here I am looking like shit with a smashed-up car. The Doorman stopped me from entering. Now, I had work my way through this lot. Please just ring her and tell her that her son is in the Hotel Lobby. They were hesitant. Look I said, I have been driving for four days, I am dead tired and I will need to stay in the Lobby so that when she comes I can greet her. OK, so they rang her. Needless to say, Mother was quite surprised but not too much as this was something she would expect from me. I went and got Judith and we received the stares again from the staff as we looked scruffy. There was a spare room available and we stayed the night in the Wentworth and also enjoyed morning Breakfast. Then we went down stairs and made some space in the back for Ma and off we went looking for some cheaper accommodation. Later in the day we found a small apartment for a week and moved out of the hotel to our new abode. We spent a pleasant week together seeing the sights of Sydney and also getting the Renault brought back into safe travelling mode. Mother insisted on buying us some clothes. To humour her, we agreed. She spoiled Judith rotten.

Too soon our time was up and Mother flew back to South Africa via Darwin and Singapore. We carried on moving South. We managed to rent part of a majestic old house in West Heidelberg. I got a job with Renault Australia again and Judith got a job in the CBD in a dress shop.

My job became boring as I was moved from outside to an inside job. I said so to my boss one day and he replied,

”But, you are doing so for the glory of France”
That pissed me off even more and I started looking out for another job.
Judith  is always busy with one project or another and hates being disturbed.

I had bought an old Peugeot 203 with my tax return money and was working on it. The Jack was a tad flimsy and in the soft grass the old car slid off the jack ever so gently and settled on my chest. It was heavy but not heavy enough to cause stress.

So I called out, “Jude…..Jude…Juuuude”
And she came half running as she does when she’s cross, and yelled what do you want, I am busy cooking!”

And I said. “Turn the stove off and come and help me.
Jude, on the other side of the old car “Well, what is so bloody important!”
Me: “Come around the other side of the car”
Jude “This better be good”

Jude comes around the car “O shit, O shit…are you OK?”
Me: “Yes, just look in the front of the Renault and get it’s jack for me”

Luckily the neighbour across the road saw what was happening and came to help. They soon had the Peugeot up and I slid out from underneath with no damage, just a dirty shirt

Since that day I have always carried a Trolley Jack with me as it is more stable.
The Renault by this time had clocked up 100,000km and there were noises I didn’t like. So we went to trade it in at Kevin Dennis’s Yard in Dandenong. “Update your car at Kevin Dennis!” the TV ad blasted and so we went along and found this very nice Valiant VIP with a padded roof and electric everything. We traded both the Peugeot and the Renault in but there was still some money left to pay and so on we went Deeper in Debt! We went up to a servo nearby and was filling it when suddenly the was petrol everywhere. We took the car back to KD and it turned out that the car had been in a smash. It was an ex Taxi and got hit from behind. I was ropable. The fuel tank was not repaired after the body was fixed, KD Salesman was very apologetic. He stated if we wanted to keep the car he would rewrite the contract, taking $5000 off the price and he will fit a new tank for us. And so that happened.

We now had a gas guzzling v8 car with an awesome take off. I could smoke the tyres from dead stop.

Off we go again

I saw an ad in the paper for motel managers. I thought that would be an interesting job and applied for it. A week later we got a call for an interview in Kerang. So off we went for an interview and landed the job. Luckily it was only in a month’s time as we needed to quit our room and all the things that go with it. Luckily, we had not accumulated much in the way of furniture and just had clothes and toiletries and the bare essentials of tools.

The first week I did all the manual work outside and inside and wasn’t allowed to communicate with Jude at all which was a bit strange. Turns out the owner had roving hands and so I fronted him he went ashen white and fired us on the spot We had two weeks pay owing and I bit him for another two weeks. He refused. So, I said it would be an interesting scenario if I went to the cops about it  and then he said OK and we were on the road within an hour. Which way now?  We decided to head to Surfers Paradise and off we went, sleeping in the car as it was so spacious.

At Surfers we rented a flat for a week and started looking for a job. Judith picked up a job straight away making beds in a motel. Not something she liked but money was in short supply. I eventually was talking to the motel manager and she advised me to go to Brisbane where Bernie Elsey was refurbishing a boat and that he has a job for me. So, I drove up to the Brisbane wharf and after a while I found this old trawler where some tradesmen were working and they directed me to where Bernie was. Bernie Elsey was a colourful character, a multi-millionaire with a reputation for getting things done. There he was with an industrial sander in his hands and covered from head to toe in sanding dust. He wanted a Bar Manager and General overseer. There was an accountant on the Island to look after the books and pay wages. Which Island? Daydream Island of course. Get some fuel money off the Hotel Manager if you want the job its yours. So, I stuck my neck out and away we went. Driving north for 900 kilometres to the Whitsunday Islands.

At Airlie Beach we went to a real estate agent to look for somewhere to park the car and he suggested Mr and Mrs Heggen, a lovely old couple who had retires to the Whitsundays without a car as everything was close by and if they needed something further away, they would use the local taxi. We did just that after securing the car and got the taxi to take us to Shute Harbour where the water taxis to the islands left.

We arrived on Daydream Island and the chap running the place knew nothing about my appointment but said I must stay as there was no Bar Manager. Paul was an introvert and hid in his apartment for most of the day and delegated others to collect time slips so he could pay them at the end of the week which was usually on a Monday after guests had left after a wild weekend.

Judith wasn’t too sure about this job as she settled in as a Barmaid wearing a Bikini and a Grass skirt. We had a little cramped room in the staff quarters and the  bathroom and showers we shared with others, although there were male and female sections.

The bar was in a mess and there was another bloke there, I forget his name, who knew about some of the things. The Chef ran the kitchen and galley for the whole island. Only the hotel (resort) was on this tiny island, nothing else. It had a jetty in to deeper water and that was it. We moved food and alcohol and cigarettes cartons by means of sack trucks. The freezer had failed and the beer cans, in cartons, had caused the cartons to get wet and lose their strength and the whole lot collapsed leaving cans everywhere. The day we arrived the electricians were working on the freezer motor and eventually got it going by Wednesday.

I got stuck into the mess in the freezer and had it repacked into plastic crates that we on the dump out the back of the offices. Food waste went out in heavy duty plastic bags every Monday. By midnight I had the freezer repacked and ready for action. Jude was snoring away when I crept into bed. I slept a deep sleep.
Life on the island was good. There wasn’t that much free time but we managed to explore along the shores of the island or lay in the pool keeping cool. Most of the time I was engaged in the bar which opened at 10 am and closed at 11pm. I had two bar staff who helped with some of the menial work but I also had to pull my weight and pack the fridges. The evening shift on a weekend was hard work as everyone gets thirsty up in the tropics. The Manager of the Island, Paul, I saw little of. He seemed to hide in his Unit or take the water-taxi into Shute Harbour and Airlie Beach to do shopping or visiting friends. In our three months on the island we came in to town once. Judith wasn’t all too happy with the job but I smoothed things over telling her we will pull out, when the time is right. Payday was Saturday morning and it was my job to collect the work sheets to give to Paul and then pick up the wages packets in the afternoon and pay everyone.

The tourist season picked up and so did the weather. We were advised that Cyclone Althea was on its way to Townsville but that we were not likely to be caught out and could at the worst get some torrential rain, if any. As most cyclones do, This, was on the 23rd of December. The following day I paid the staff early and non-essential staff who were locals were allowed to go home if they wished. The tourists were advised to seriously consider leaving the island, and most of them did. Christmas Eve came and the winds picked up considerably. All the windows in the lounge were made of cyclone proof perspex and this was the safest place in the flimsy built island resort. We watched them as the wind howled and the windows bulged inwards but never caved in. By midnight we were all dog-tired and I shut the Bar and the Lounge down and we all went to bed with the wind howling through the night.

I was up at 6 again and the wind was still buffeting the lounge windows, but they held fast. A previous cyclone had done a lot of damage to the resort and the Owner, Bernie Elsey, sought out a company that made cyclone proof windows and these ones were holding. It was Christmas Eve and there was nothing to do but sit around and wait for the wind to drop. Tourists who stayed behind on the island, made their way gingerly under the aluminium clad awning which connected with the cyclone proof walkway to the bar, lounge and dining-room.

There was no radio to hear as their broadcast towers, must have suffered damage and so we had no idea what the future held in store for us. At around 9am there was a sudden surge of wind and the front awning of the resort was ripped off its hinges and footing and thrown about 100 metres out to sea. We could not believe our eyes. No other damage, just the awning was gone. And so, we waited and waited and eventually after many hours the winds subsided and lay down. We all ventured outside to look for damage. One boat on its mooring had sunk and another had broken free and was blow hallway up the hill behind the resort. Trees were devoid of leaves and many had blown down as was the scrub that covered the hillside.

We were amazed that we had sustained no other damage. Even the jetty was there where we had left it. But there was no phone contact and so there was nothing to do but to entertain our guests. Christmas morning came along and I had forgotten to buy Jude a present and so I bought a little soft toy Red Dog. Jude burst into tears. All the stress of worrying about what we were going to do etc, etc, got to her and so I put my arms around her to make her feel safe.

Luckily, we were all stocked up and all the staff got together and helped in the kitchen and setting up the Christmas Lunch and we all had a jolly good time. Even the Manager, Paul, and his wife, joined in the festivities.

We had also cleaned out the pool and had it almost back to normal and we all lazed n the pool for an hour before tackling the piles if dishes in the kitchen. Just as we were about to go back to work a Helicopter landed on the resort’s helipad. A doctor, came out of the helicopter as well as the pilot and an observer and they were stunned to see us partying like mad. Apparently, some of the resorts on Hamilton Island and others had not fared as well as we had. We gave them the approximate position of the awning so that they could fly over it and mark it down for shipping and boating. They flew around in circles a couple of times getting a fix in the awning and then off they went back to the mainland.

I organised a work party and we all got stuck in cleaning up the resort area. There were any amount of coconuts lying about as well as debris from the awning that was ripped off the front of the resort single rooms. By the end of the day we had made quite good progress. I then managed to get the old Front- end Loader running and that helped tremendously.  We were unable to do anything with a Cabin Cruiser boat that had been washed up on to the rocks about one hundred metes from the shoreline. The next day we had cleared the whole place from debris and it looked quite respectable again. I went to report to the Manager but he was nowhere to be found. We had enough stock of alcohol and food so we just kept on looking after the clients who were staying there.

On New Years Eve the Manager showed up again and a number of us cornered him and told him that we had been running the place without his help and that we expected him to help at the bar that evening. But it was a No Show for Paul.

Some private water taxis and the Daydream Island boat ferried people to the Island and by eight o’clock that night the place was jumping with a DJ who had been booked previously. The Chef laid out a lot of finger food and Judith and the other waitresses were busy. When it got really busy, I asked Judith to come and help me behind the bar. Then one of the tills broke and we ended up selling the booze to the nearest dollar as exacting change was becoming a nightmare. Another waiter and entertainment organiser named Bruce, also jumped in behind the counter and we were hard at it. As we had nowhere to go with the money. I grabbed a plastic rubbish bin with a lid and we threw the money in there. And the punters drank and drank and drank. I have never seen anything like it. Eventually we had to take time off sitting behind the fridges on one of the table chairs. Things started to quieten down by 3am and by

5 am all the visitors were gone leaving a very weary mob of workers and a few resident tourists, some of whom tried to sleep through the noise. We had filled two small rubbish bins with cash and after counting it amounted to $5640. The alcohol fridges were near on empty, and the storage racks were severely depleted.

I went to see the Manager, Paul but he just looked through the spyhole in his door at me and a muffled voice told me whatever it was to deal with it. The thing was that 99% of the staff were disgruntled with the management of the resort and, as all of us wee only casual employees, we could leave or be sacked at any moment. I called the staff together and asked them to hand me their work cards. They wrote the times they worked and wee paid accordingly. All of us were on a flat rate so there wasn’t a problem here as the work cards had all the details on them. I was able to work out what everyone received for the week and from there I was able to deduct the tax, balance the the payout and paid each one their money due to them. As we were all involved with the punters in one wy or another on New Year’s Eve I told them they would get $100 bonus on top of their wages. By then time I had done all of this it was time to catch the only ferry for the day back to Shute Harbour. I knocked on the Manager’s door and told him I needed to give him some money and some paperwork. I was able to give him approximately $3200 after expenses, I gave him all the cards and a quick word of the bonus and said goodbye before he could blink an eye and we all poured on to the ferry. Then Paul came out along the Jetty uttering “You can’t do this” and I said “ Just did mate, seeya” as the ferry pulled away.

We were all pretty buggered but we managed to break out into song about Daydream Island just for laughs.

I believe that some of the staff were going to go back after the New Years weekend.

 

We went to retrieve our car from Mr and Mrs Heggen relating the tales of Daydream along the way. Bruce was still with us still dressed up as a Red Indian after a staff Masquerade Ball in the early hours of New Year’s Eve. We wondered where to next and Bruce said that he desperately needed to get to Sydney and if we would take him, he would pay for the fuel. And we said OK, that sounds like a plan and off we went. The old Valiant just purred along with at big V8 sucking up the fuel. But got us to Sydney the following afternoon, we dropped Bruce offed Bruce off at a place at Palm Beach and we drove off towards the North Shore. We were idling around when we saw a sign VACANCY at the Kirribilli Guest House.  We parked the car and went in. We booked ourselves into a nice room overlooking the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the city in general. The next day I started looking for work. I then we to make a payment on my car and I was told that I was two payments behind and that I had to surrender the Valiant, until I had caught up. The was not much work around apart from a few days labouring. Then I landed a job for a week as a Brickies Labourer. The Bricklayer I was to work for was a nice bloke but he only had one weeks’ work if we worked at a normal pace but we could lift the tempo and finish earlier than the set time we would get paid more. Man, I pushed the envelope that week. As, as many brick that I could bring and unpack, this bloke could lay them. We finish on Thursday and I had blister on blisters on my hands but it was worth it as I got an extra $50 on top of my $250 pay for the week. I went home smiling as I was able to pay for another week’s rent and I had enough money left over to retrieve my car from the holding yard. That I did and with the car back in my possession I was back at the CES looking for work. Married men got preference and we went up the queue. But jobs wee scarce. I sent my Mother a telegram asking here to take what money she needed out of my Post Office book and to buy us two tickets to South Africa on the next available ship. {n the mean time I got a job painting the guest house walls on rooms that needed to be refurbished. Judith was still making beds for about $40 per week and I covered the rent. Then I landed a job as a Cleaner at the Mathematics Department of Macquarie University. This paid more money in and kept the wolf away from the door. A few weeks after that our tickets arrived for our trip to South Africa by ship on the Marconi which was owned by the Lloyd-Triestino Genoa-Sydney run 1961 to 1976 then renamed as the Costa Riviera, and then was sold a few more times and eventually in 2001 the vessel was sold for scrap. But in 1972 she was still the Marconi and we and had a great time making new friends and enjoying the trip. Jude was a bit shaky at first being on the ocean and she came good later on. I had my sea-legs straight away as the rolling boat did not worry my stability. The Marconi stopped in Melbourne and we went ashore and caught up with Judith’s Mum and Dad. They were a bit upset at us leaving Australia but I said we should be back sooner than later. This was an open-ended statement as I had no idea what would happen in the future. We stopped on the outskirts of Adelaide and those who wanted to go in to town for the day were ferried by motor-launch. We opted to stay on board. The next journey took us south of the Great Australian Bight, so we could not see the dramatic cliffs of the remote area. We were to see that years later when we went on an extended trip to Western and South Australia.

 

When we got to Perth, we hired a car and drove around the city that was just like a big country town in those days. We drove in to Kings Park in the city and admired the magnificent flowers and a tree log of a giant Kauri Tree.

The days across the Indian Ocean we made a lifelong friend, Richard, who also lead an interesting life but I will tell you about that later.

 

One thing we found amusing when on the ship, was the wine at the table. We were drinking the wine neat and wondered why there was a tumbler of Water present with the wine. It turns out that that as the wine was very strong Italians drank their wine with a dash of water. We had wondered why we had been getting pissed so quickly at meal times. When introducing ourselves I said that my last job was at Macquarie University Science and Maths Block. And Richard pipes up “Oh!, do you know Professor XXX? “and, I said, “ No I never net him as I was there hours before his classes started. You see, I was the Cleaner there”. That really broke the ice and we had a good laugh about it.
Later there was a Concert promoted and we all were invited to attend. Well, I came up with a humorous way to sing the first three verses of the Merle Haggard song ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’.

In the end we decided that if was too raunchy and I did an Oliver Twist skit instead. We remembered that song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for years and kept in touch with Richard via letters written for a while. Then, after returning to Australia from South Africa, we saw a news report of a plane crash in Papua New Guinea, and Richard’s name was on that passenger list and as being deceased. And our letters were returned as no one at that address. So, every now and then we would drink a toast to Richard and Merle Haggards song.

Except, Richard was not dead. Nearly, but not quite. He recovered and we met up again in Darwin in 1997.

Posted in Life Stories.