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Monday, September 30, 2013

News from the FRONTLINE

Batemans Bay Veterinary Clinic


Last week little Malty had a bad case of kennel cough. We took him to the Batemans Bay Vet and one injection, several pills, and $148 later, he seems to have won his battle with the cough.

And we seem to have won something, too, because the vet just rang to say that during our visit there we entered some sort of competition and had won!

"What have we won? A trip to Bali?" I wanted to know.

"Close," she replied, "a six-pack of FRONTLINE".

That's sixty bucks worth of bug protection! Our two little dogs will be wagging their tails all the way to the bank.

"Woof-woof, wau-wau, guk-guk" from our tri-lingual dogs to Paula and her friendly staff! (and little Rover adds "ouaf ouaf", showing off his un petit peu French)


News from happy Ha'apai


Take one part sun-soaked, palm-lined beach, add hammock stretched between two palm trees, dash of ice-cold beer, and a pinch of gentle tradewinds, and finish with a twist of tropical sunset. It's easy to lose track of time in the land where time begins. Welcome to the South Sea Island Paradise of Ha'apai in the tiny Kingdom of Tonga!

The peace and tranquility of Ha'apai (in a South Pacific travel poster setting) is an experience not to be missed! If relaxing was an Olympic Games event, this is where you'd come to train! These are the islands where the famous mutiny on the Bounty occurred (could you blame them?), the Port-au-Prince was ransacked, and where Captain James Cook who found Ha'apai to be the perfect place for rest and relaxation and made long stopovers at Nomuka in 1774 and 1777 and Lifuka in 1783, dubbed Tonga "The Friendly Islands."

The low coral islands lined by coconut palms along colourful lagoons and reefs, offer miles of deserted white sandy beaches where you can explore and linger as long as you like. Towering volcanoes can be found here too. In all there are 60 small islands in the Ha'apai Group, 17 of which are inhabited, and all are uniquely special.

The traditional lifestyle of the locals is supported by fishing, agriculture and handicrafts. The friendliest people you can meet are here in Ha'apai. Caesar is to have said, "Let me have men about me that are fat". Well, he would have loved Tonga because the people of Tonga, by and large, are fat. They are proud to be fat. They want to stay fat. If they aren't fat enough by Tongan standards, they want to get fatter. Perhaps that's why "Fakalahi Me'akai" which means "Grow more food", is inscribed on every Tongan coin. And "The Complete Book of Running" would never make the bestseller list in Tonga. The only joggers here are foreigners while bulky Tongans sit in the shade and follow them with uncomprehending stares.

The centre of Ha'apai, Pangai, is located on the island of Lifuka. Just a short trip from the airport, Pangai offers a great deal, from churches, to a royal palace, tombs, fortresses, monuments, shipwrecks, shops and banking services. There's a range of accommodation here, all just moments from the beaches. My favourite is Billy's Place.

And check out the Mariner's Café. It's THE (only) meeting place in Pangai. It was started in 1998 by the taciturn Trevor Gregory (he's a Kiwi - enough said?), who had been wandering about in his yacht "Tranquillo" since leaving Tauranga in August 1997 - "Just liked the place" he said, sold his boat in September 1998, and stayed on. He sold the café to the 40-something South African Craig Airey who arrived on the island in his Endurance 37 yacht "Gwendolyn" in mid-2007.

Another one of Trevor's now-you-see-it-now-you-don't business ventures, Mariners Guided Camping Tours, is also for sale. US$13,800 is a lot of money for a few used tents, if you ask me - but then, nobody ever does!

The new Café-owner Craig has already succumbed to the siren song of these remote and soporific islands which is that on this small and human-sized stage your life will count for more and even your smallest accomplishments will be remembered. Of those who do remain, few are ever struck by homesickness. Why would they want to leave? They echo closely Louis Becke's sentiments - of whom they know nothing - who once wrote about life in the South Seas, "Return? not they! Why should they go back? Here they had all things which are wont to satisfy man here below. A paradise of Eden-like beauty, amid which they wandered day by day all unheeding of the morrow. Why - why, indeed, should they leave the land of magical delights for the cold climate and still more glacial moral atmosphere of their native land, miscalled home?" (Mind you, Saint Ignatious of Loyola's observation on donkeys could be equally applied to many expatriates living in Tonga, "Content to chew the simplest of foods he is free from ambition, untouched by the need to improve himself and even unaware of his pitiful plight. He spends his days as idly as possible and works only when beaten...")


The Mariner's Cafe´ is also the headquarter of the Pangai Yacht Club which has been offered reciprocal rights by the Nelligen Yacht Club, Australia's most exclusive yacht club.

STOP PRESS:  Craig is said to have left Tonga again and is working in Nigeria. So what's going to happen to the Café? Its website has already disappeared. Going, going, gone?

There are so many romantic beaches to wander at sunrise and sunset, or in fact, all day long! You can explore on foot or mountain-bike too - just bring along a change of clothes, beach towel, and snorkel and mask. As you stay in a traditional fale on a deserted beach or uninhabited island, you may think for a moment you have died and gone to heaven. But this paradise is real. And you can live this dream lifestyle for a fraction of what it costs to live anywhere else.

Avid explorers may be tempted to visit the large volcanic islands of Tofua and adjacent Kao in the west part of the group. It was 30 nautical miles from Tofua that the mutiny on the Bounty actually occurred on April 28, 1789. Captain Bligh navigated his 23-foot open launch first to Tofua where he spent four days and where the only casualty of his epic 3,618 nautical mile long voyage occurred: a crewman named John Norton was stoned to death by natives when they tried to seek refuge in a cave while trying to augment their meagre provisions. Tofua is the most active volcano in Tonga and often bellows smoke. The island has virgin rain forest, lots of pumice, is rich in bird life and has a stunning lake in its crater. It's possible to walk to the summit in under 2 hours from landing on the coast, and it's much faster coming back down. Kao is considerably smaller in size but its towering perfectly cylindrical peak is the highest point in Tonga at 1109 metres. On a clear day, you can see Kao on the horizon from Lifuka, 70 kilometres away.

DVD Cover "Traumfischer" In 2004 a German television producer asked for two volunteer families to live for three months on the tiny island of Ha'ano in Ha'apai which is just six kilometres long and has 400 inhabitants spread over four villages. Some 400 families volunteered from which the producer picked Steffen Kinder's and Uwe Armbruster's families, with altogether five children and even a grand-dad. They lived on the island in primitive conditions, cooking on an open fire, working in a neighbour's plantation, and, of course, there was no fridge, no TV, no supermarket. Constant rain for the first three weeks, in the constant humidity the smallest cut becoming a festering sore, and an invasion of lice and fleas and cockroaches were some of the downsides of living in a South Sea Paradise.

Their experiences were documented in the film "Traumfischer" which ran on German television and is also available on DVD. Gabriela Kinder's final comments, "Wir wären gerne länger geblieben, aber dorthin auszuwandern stand und steht nicht zur Debatte. Ich würde viele Dinge, die ich sehr schätze, vermissen, zum Beispiel klassische Musik, Konzerte, Theater, Museen und auch Kneipen. Deswegen würde es uns auch eher nach Italien ziehen, falls wir einmal aus Deutschland weggehen sollten." ["We would have liked to stay longer but to permanently settle there was out of the question. There are too many things I would have missed, for instance, classical music, concerts, theatre, museums, even our corner-pub. Should we ever consider leaving Germany, it'd be to some place such as Italy."]

Another film that deals sympathetically with Tonga and its incredible natural beauty is "The Other Side of Heaven" which is about John H. Groberg's experience as a Mormon missionary in the Tongan islands in the 1950s. It is based on the book that he wrote about his experiences, "In the Eye of the Storm." The movie focuses on Groberg's adventurous experiences and trials while serving as a missionary in the South Pacific. While portraying these events, the film refrains from being preachy and discusses little theology, instead portraying what missionaries used to have to deal with during their missions.

If you're visiting Tonga, be sure to visit Ha'apai, one of the most beautiful groups of islands to be found in the South Pacific. With so many highlights, attractions and history, one cannot visit Tonga without visiting Ha'apai!

If you want more information on Ha'apai, you can write to Ha'apai's resident expatriate, viz.

Horst Berger,

Don't expect a quick reply as mail to and from Tonga is very, very slow! (When I write to Horst, I always enclose a small - and sometimes not so small - banknote to help him with the return postage and to share a beer with me. You may want to do the same.)


Friday, September 27, 2013

Everything you always wanted in a B&B, and less


Riverbend Cottage does not compete with establishments whose toilet seats are wrapped in cute little "Sanitized for your convenience" covers or who dull your senses with Muzak and the drone of air-conditioning ("air-conditioning" here means opening the window and letting the gentle breeze come in off the river).

Our TV reception is limited to the ABC, SBS, and WIN (however, you have a choice of hundreds of excellent DVDs - all without commercial breaks!) And there are plenty of books to read (you remember books, don't you? they are like DVDs with pages)

Once here, you may even relax enough not to miss your mobile because, guess what, it won't work here. However, we gladly take your messages on our phone or, if you're the President of the United States or some other important person who is totally indispensable to the running of the world, you can bring along your own laptop and log on to our FREE broadband WiFi.

Our guests from the city always enthuse about the air here. It's fresh and composed mainly of oxygen and nitrogen, unlike what they are used to. They fall asleep almost immediately, their bodies exhausted from the lack of carbon monoxide and lead they have come to depend on.

You are so close to the water's edge that for environmental reasons we had to build the modern bathroom a few metres away from the cottage (very romantic on a starlit night!) but don't worry, the short walkway between the Cottage and bathroom is covered in and you won't get wet on a rainy night.

It is quiet here and very peaceful and you're the only guest. Instead of having to listen to somebody else's snoring or be "entertained" by ablution noises in the room next door, you may hear the occasional possum wander over your roof at night or be surprised by a little green frog looking at you from under the bathroom door.

All this sensory deprivation may come as a shock to you and we suggest that, as a rough guide, if your chronological (or mental) age is less than 30, you will probably lack the appreciation of being miles away from McDonald's and the sounds of an infernal combustion engine.

To all you others and to those who want to recover their energy and rediscover themselves, please come and stay and stay long, sit quietly, breathe deeply, and listen to the river, to the birds, to YOURSELF!

Read more here.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dinner for One

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?


Dinner for One, starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, is a short black-and-white comedy sketch recorded for German television in 1963, which has become a cult tradition on television around Europe where it is watched by millions every New Year's Eve.

In less than fifteen minutes, it tells the peculiar story of an elderly lady, Miss Sophie, and her butler James, who are enacting a tradition themselves - an anniversary meal with four of Miss Sophie's admirers, all of whom, unfortunately, have died. So the loyal butler plays the part of each of the four men - Sir Toby, Admiral von Schneider, Mr Pomeroy and Mr Winterbottom - and gives a series of toasts to Miss Sophie's health. Unsurprisingly, since he is drinking for four, he's soon legless.

Weaving around the room like a comedy penguin, he serves Miss Sophie a meal of mulligatawny soup with dry sherry, North Sea haddock with white wine, chicken with champagne, and fruit with port, frequently tripping over the head of a tiger-skin rug.

The English version

Before each course, James asks: "Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?' - to be told by the amiable old girl: 'Same procedure as every year.' Then, in a faintly surreal twist, she announces that she wishes to retire to bed, indicating that James should lend her a supportive arm. 'Same procedure as last year?' asks the inebriated butler. 'Same procedure as every year', she smiles. 'Well, I'll do my very best', he responds, treating the audience to a big, dirty wink.

It took some young Europeans years, passing out of childhood into adolescence, to get the implication of the final wink - and when they did, it was a shock on a par with realising that Santa Claus doesn't exist.

The big curiosity about Dinner for One is that, despite its stereotypical Englishness, it has never been shown on British television which represents a failure by the British to laugh at themselves - an accusation that they regularly and gaily throw at others. 'Same procedure as last year?' is to the Germans what 'Don't mention the war' in Fawlty Towers is to the British. Perhaps there should be some kind of cultural hostage exchange? Well, I'll do my very best!

"Don't mention the war!"


I am warming to this


In his book A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson produced a layman's summary of the scientific history of the Earth. He managed neatly to sidestep the global warming debate by focusing on the bigger picture, describing the work of scientists whose theories are still accepted as relevant and sketching what's known about the ups and downs of the Earth's climate over many millions of years.

He describes how, for instance, about 12,000 years ago the Earth began to warm, then plunged back into bitter cold for a thousand years or so. After this, average temperatures lept again, by as much as four degrees Celsius in twenty years - much more than the biggest change predicted for our immediate future. And this was all pre-industrial Revolution, so these changes took place independent of any human contribution.

'What is most alarming is that we have no idea - none - what natural phenomena could so swiftly rattle the Earth's natural thermometre', Bryson wrote. 'Climate is the product of so many variables - rising and falling CO2 levels, the shifts of continents, solar activity, the stately wobbles of the Earth - that it is as difficult to comprehend the events of the past as it is to predict the future. Much is simply beyond us. Take Antarctica. For at least 20 million years after it settled over the South Pole, Antarctica remained covered in plants and free of ice. That simply shouldn't have been possible.'

Ask yourself this: given that the scientific community has had very little luck explaining past climate changes despite all the data, how likely is it that theories about the future are correct, when by definition there's no solid data yet? Also, how can there be such a strong consensus among scientists about the warming of the Earth in the future when so little exists about climate changes in the past? It's one thing to observe, by looking at a thermometer, that the temperature is rising but another entirely to figure out why.

To a layman, even at a cursory glance, there seem to be quite a few holes in mainstream climatology theory. For instance, why did global warming (commonly attributed to human impact) begin only in 1975, according to the IPCC's graphs, when the human Industrial Revolution began 300 or so years before? And if, as it's claimed, the planet had simply reached a 'tipping point' after a long build-up of CO2 for many years, why did no one anticipate it?

What's clear, though, is that taken seriously, climatology is a hugely complex science with many variables. The pay isn't good because - unlike space, weapons technology, computing, or anything with a commercial application - there's no money in it, so perhaps it doesn't attract the same grade or number of applicants as disciplines with greater rewards.

That was until the Gillard Government created Flannery's Climate Commission two years ago to scare Australians into paying Labor's useless carbon tax. It employed an army of highly-paid and superannuated bureaucrats and 'Climate Change Commissioners' each on $180,000 a year. The new Liberal Government has given both Flannery and the Climate Commission the royal boot. The only mistake the new Environment Minister Greg Hunt made this week when sacking Tim Flannery, a mammalogist with zero formal qualifications in climate science, was to thank the alarmist for his work.

Thank Flannery? Hunt should instead have asked Flannery how much of his $180,000 a year salary he'd refund after getting so many predictions wrong (e.g. the Arctic could be ice-free by 2013 (ice this year increased instead); "Australia is likely to lose its northern rainfall" (there's actually been more rain); and "Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis" (Perth is now headed for its wettest September in 40 years); "without desalination plants Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane could be out of water by 2009" (instead, floods filled dams in Sydney and Brisbane, and the expensive desalination plants hurriedly built in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are now all mothballed or scheduled to be).

The Australian of 5th March 2010 quoted a Tim Flannery estimate of a 60 metre sea-level rise (Flannery: "So anyone with a coastal view from their bedroom or kitchen window is likely to lose their house as a result of that change"). That hasn't deterred former Prime Minister Julia Gillard from buying a $2m beachside house in her home town of Adelaide earlier this month.


I can smell a rat!


Ever wondered what a new car smells like? Or for that matter the inside of an Egyption tomb or even a ghost? Google Nose Beta is the answer to all your queries!

GOOGLE Nose BETA, the company's latest product, promises "to offer the sharpest olfactory experience available". It allows users to "search for smells."

Seems complicated, right? Well, that's because it is. The product intersects "photons with infrasound waves" and "temporarily aligns molecules to emulate a particular scent." The "mobile aroma indexing program" at the heart of the product has amassed a "15 million scentibyte database of smells from around the world."

But what about mobile? Well, Google has that covered, too. Their "Android Ambient Odor Detection" allows you to collect smells on your phone.

So what does a rat smell like? GOOGLE for it here.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

The last wallet I'll ever need


Even though I had asked Padma not to buy me any birthday present this year, she just couldn't help herself and got me a Chi Wallet, and not just the basic model but the expensive deluxe version.

Let's hope it's the last wallet I'll ever need!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

From inside the men's locker room


I was going to tell you about the books I picked up at Vinnies after we had been for our twice-weekly swim in Ulladulla, such as Patrick White's Happy Valley, Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot, and Alan Paton's Cry, The Beloved Country.

But then I thought not everyone is sharing my passion for books and may want to see something a bit more exciting, So here's a picture from inside the men's locker room at the Ulladulla heated pool.

Happy now?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The morning after


After a night of ferocious winds and endless rains - with 90mm in the gauge which is something of a record for a night's rainfall - we've woken up bleary-eyed to a water-logged world. The usual Tuesday trip to the heated pool is cancelled; instead, it's hot porridge for breakfast and cleaning up after yesterday's party.

While I've been busy taking out the empties, Padma has already stored away the birthday candles, to be re-used on my 86th birthday in 2031.

Our neighbour Mavis was the first one to sample the Black Forest birthday cake. Then came Frank and Beatrice from across the river.

And Frank the Drummer, who has outsourced his own retirement to Cambodia where he has started a family with his new Cambodian wife and equally new three-month-old baby, was back in town on a flying visit. He regaled us with funny stories about grilled grasshoppers and other strange eating habits.

Then, totally unexpected, Colin Cowell, an acquaintance from my Bougainville days, and his French wife floated past the jetty in their Hobie Pedal Kayak and promptly joined in the fun.

And that's it for another year!


Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rapidly promoted by mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's all over, Malty & Rover


Well, that's it for another year! No idea how I got this far and no idea how much farther I will get. So how do I feel? Well, that depends on how I look at it:


I think I am finally catching up with Arnold! ☺

Schwarzenegger   then ...                ... and now!


It is better to waste your old age than to do nothing at all with it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Papua New Guinea is celebrating my birthday!


When I left Papua New Guinea for Burma in early 1975, Michael ('Sir Michael Somare' to you; Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister) offered to make my birthday a national holiday in the country.

Being a modest man, I declined the offer but instead suggested he should combine it with the country's Independence Day.

Since then, they have happily ever after celebrated their national holiday on the 16th of September. That's my story and I stick to it! ☺


Auction cancelled


For the best reason of all: the property sold well before the auction date! And at its full asking price of $1.18 million. It's the second property in the lane which has sold above the one-million-dollar mark which seems to have become the new benchmark for waterfront properties in Sproxton Lane.

Will "Riverbend" be the next one to sell?


I'm just a number


Padma is busily making a Black Forest birthday cake for me! She also bought two numeric birthday candles. Last year, in a sudden attack of dyslexia, she placed them the wrong way round and I celebrated my 76th birthday! Let's see what she comes up with tomorrow!


Friday, September 13, 2013

My Island Homicide


I was listening to the ABC Radio National's Bush Telegraph when its presenter Cameron Wilson interviewed Catherine Titasey, author of My Island Homicide which in itself is a nice wordplay on Thursday Island's famous song "My Island Home".

Catherine, who was born in Sydney but grew up in Papua New Guinea, first arrived on Thursday Island in 1994 when she answered an ad to work in a local pub. It was meant to be a short term stay to earn money between travels, but the pace of the island life grew on her. Falling in love with local fisherman Tony may also have had something to do with it because she's been there ever since.

With my interest piqued, I not only ordered the book but also emailed Catherine as follows:

Hello Catherine,

I listened to your interview on ABC Radio National which brought back many happy memories of my own time on Thursday Island.

I have also just ordered my own copy of MY ISLAND HOMICIDE from Booktopia. Catchy title and a nice play on the song 'My Island Home' ☺

I went back to Thursday Island in 2005 - click here - and found it very different from when I lived there in 1977.

Is Brian Pearson still around? And what about Gary Duff? "Canadian Jim', now living on Horn Island, must be, literally, on his last leg as I heard that he had one leg amputated. Give them my regards if you see them!

Sadly, Dave Richardson passed away - click here and here.

With best wishes and I now look forward to reading your book
Peter Goerman

I didn't have to wait long for her reply:

Hi Peter,

You won't believe it, but when I first started writing in late 2006, I was keen to include material that made readers want to go to TI. I was googling TI to get an idea of what was out there and your site was one of the first sites I came across. I remember thinking, I'd love to have a blog like this. It was (and is) easy to read and informative and conversational.

Brian Pearson is still driving taxis and Gary Duff is there on and off. He has a property there as far as I know. My husband and I had a crayfishing boat when Gary was crayfishing, but we sold it years ago.

I don't know Canadian Jim at all nor Dave Richardson. I've only been on TI since 1994! Not long compared to the locals.

I really hope you enjoy the book. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on it. I love feedback as I am working on the sequel. I write for readers so feedback is much appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes.

What? A sequel? You'd better weave a bit of German Harry and French Joe and Oskar Speck and Ron Brand into it!


Ready for Auction


A house in our lane is coming up for auction tomorrow but rumour has it that it's been sold already - for $1.18 million! That makes it the second property in the lane to have sold for more than a million dollars!

Of course, it is the waterfront location and the views across the river and to the village of Nelligen that turned a fairly small and simple house into a million-dollar property.

All of which makes "Riverbend", with a house twice as big on twenty times the land area, look as cheap as chips at a mere two million! And it comes with plenty of fish off its own jetty!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Ruddslide to Ruddbath


After this Saturday when the last few rusted-on Labor voters have disappeared down the Ruddhole, Australia should be a much better place to live and do business in.

Not that I agree with everything the Liberals are proposing. Take paid parental leave: six full months payable at full pay, up to $150,000 a year, plus superannuation contributions! Image the number of female employees having their salaries bumped up just before they go on maternity leave! Australia will be a country of $150,000-a-year check-out girls!

And the rip-off won't stop there: the same paid parental leave will be paid to the non-working wives of self-employed people, if they 'contribute' something to the business. From 1 July 2015, every plumber's wife will become a highly-paid finance manager as she settles the monthly bills or a human resources manager as she cuts sandwiches and fills his thermos.

Of course, as always, the Public Service is already one step ahead of private enterprise: they've just introduced twenty extra leave days a year on full pay for domestic violence. Not a bad trade-off for a bit of a shiner!

Question: How many public servants work in Canberra?

Answer: About half. The other half are having an argument with their better half.