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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Going for broke


From the book's Prologue:  "3 May 1994 - It's three years since Bond's business empire finally collapsed with debts of around $5 billion. And Alan has brought sandwiches for lunch. They're in a green plastic bag he clutches in the dock. The press are impressed. Poor old Bondy. He's sitting like a zombie, staring into space, popping the occasional pill, as if he's nigh on brain dead. We're in the Federal Court in Sydney, and his interrogator is asking about bank accounts in Switzerland, companies in Panama and an accountant's office in Jersey. He seems surprised that the questions are for him. On occasion, he pauses for a minute, then asks for the question to be repeated. He's trying hard, but he keeps on losing the plot. The trouble is he can't recall. There were so many companies, it was so long ago, and he's not been well. He shuffles out of court, a small figure in a crumpled raincoat, bent and pale. A shadow of his former self. Round a couple of corners, he's out of sight of the pursuing press. He steals a look, straightens up and tosses the bag away. Later, he's at the Sheraton Wentworth, making the phones run hot. He's calling Switzerland, Singapore and the USA. Dealing, dealing. Doing business."

If you would like to copy Bond, then this is the bible for bankrupts, and how to avoid paying your debts, although a lot of the law has changed since Bondy was manipulating the system. The law was in fact changed to beat Bondy.

The book tells how Bondy ripped off Robert Holmes a’Court’s Bell resources to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars. It then goes through the history of how Bond kept his creditors at bay, as well as the police and his bankruptcy trustee.

Some of it is quite complex and hard to understand but it is still a good read, especially the bits where Bond feigned mental illness in court, only to earn him more millions. Bondy frustrated everyone at every turn, and just when they thought they had him a new twist would emerge.

Bond played the Australian legal system like a fiddle and also made a total fool of them in the process. Every single decision was questioned in court right down to the minutiae and for good reason, making more and more millions of dollars, although not his money, he is in control of it and there is no chance he will give it back.

This is a great read, as are all of Paul Barry’s books. Look out for these titles: “The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer”. “Who wants to be a Billionaire - The James Packer Story”, and “The Rise and Fall of Alan Bond”.

And the beat goes on - click here.


In memory of Vati

geboren 9.12.1907 - gestorben 31.1.1984


Steht nicht an meinem Grab und weint,
denkt an mich, wenn die Sonne scheint.
Ich bin nicht mehr an diesem Ort,
Ich schlafe nicht und bin nicht fort.

Ich bin der Wind über brausender See,
Ich bin der Schimmer auf frischem Schnee.
Ich bin die Sonne in goldener Pracht,
Ich bin der Glanz der Sterne bei Nacht.
Ich bin die Freude der Blumen die blühn,
Ich bin für Euch in allem was schön.

Steht nicht an meinem Grab und weint,
denkt an mich, wenn die Sonne scheint.
Ich bin nicht mehr an diesem Ort,
Ich schlafe nicht und bin nicht fort.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Half the fun of books is acquiring them


After a nice lunch of Veal Parmigiana, washed down with a glass of Chateau Cardboard, at the Moruya Bowling Club, I 'washed up' in a second-hand bookshop where I acquired the following:

The Penguin English Library editions of Charles Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Hard Times", "Going For Broke - How Bond Got Away With It" by Paul Barry, and - for a bit of light reading - "No! I Don't Want To Join A Book Club - Diary of a 60th Year" by Virginia Ironside.

Now leave me alone. I am reading.

P.S. Also picked up three DVDs, The Best of Graham Kennedy, which took me right back to my time at Barton House in the 60s.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Australia Day


I’m not one for flag-waving or overt signs of patriotism. Patriotism comes in many forms, and it doesn’t have to involve wrapping yourself in a flag.

On the 24 January 1788, the First Fleet sailed into Botany Bay. They went there first because that’s where James Cook landed eight years earlier, and they followed his advice. But Governor Phillip wasn’t a fan. It had no fresh water, so he decided to head back up the coast.

In turning around to get out of the bay, a few ships of the fleet sailed into each other in a nice display of maritime ineptitude. The locals watching from the shore were no doubt bemused.

Once finally out of the bay, the fleet headed back up the coast and on the 26 January, 1788, sailed into the magnificent Sydney heads, revealing to the exhausted and land-starved crews what must have looked like the largest and most stunning harbour in the world.

They set up camp in Sydney Cove, where Circular Quay is today. The first few years were a tough existence. If only those on the First Fleet could see it today ...


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sometimes we even forget to fold the first tissue on the roll of toilet paper into a little triangle


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 some ablution noise 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 inf(t)ernal 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!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

A bad day in the Whitsundays is better than a good day at work. Unless you work in the Whitsundays.


An old (in both senses of the word) friend just put down over a million dollars for 667 square metres of reclaimed land, also known as Lot 11 (indicated by the red spot) in The Cove at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays.



Even if it were Australia's answer to Dubai's Palm Islands, it would still be an awful lot of money for a bit of man-made waterfront. However, my old friend, being at an age when he's got too much of the one thing and no longer enough of the other, doesn't seem to mind the expense nor the fact that eventually global warming would leave him, at best, with wet feet.

It's very sporting of him to buy into this troubled project and help the receivers collect their exorbitant professional fees - see here. My guess is that once he's surrounded by the bad taste of 22 nouveau riche neighbours and feels like a performing seal as his every move is being watched through binoculars from the Great Wall of China on the hillside, he'll put the Greater Fool Theory to the test.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Ships that depart in the morning


MV TENACITY had clung tenaciously to her anchorage just across from Riverbend for almost a week but this morning she upped anchor and moved downstream. We spoke to each other only in passing, and at night she was a distant voice in the darkness, just as on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

Well, I don't know about darkness because it's a bright and beautiful morning, but the silence is absolute. Longfellow would have loved it here.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Taim Bilong Masta


Back in 1983 (or was it 1984?), when I flew into Adelaide from Saudi Arabia to finalise a grain shipment to the Middle East, I took time off to visit the local ABC Bookshop and discovered a couple of dozen cassette tapes of the ABC radio series Taim Bilong Masta, produced by Tim Bowden and first broadcast in 1981.

It was the distillation of 350 hours of tape-recorded interviews with Australians and Papua New Guineans who had been involved with Australia's colonial administration which ended with self government and independence in 1975. The result was a superb 24-program social history, so evocative of a time and place, revealed through a tapestry of voices from those who lived through it. These were first-hand accounts of the pre-war history in the early 1900s, the masta-boi relationships, the gold rush and the exploration of the highlands. In it, Australian men and women who spent so many years living and working in Papua New Guinea before independence in 1975 could be heard again, telling their own stories.

Of course, I bought the whole set and for years after I listened again and again to those tapes until they had worn out.

In more recent years I also found the book based on the radio series and containing 224 pages of informative text with many archival photographs, newspaper clippings and a detailed index but nothing could ever replace those wonderful audio cassettes - until just now when I found them as a downloadable 17-hour audiobook on Amazon's www.audible.com (click on PLAY AUDIO SAMPLE).

Of course, I immediately bought it!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What is literature for?


When I have a good book to read, it is like having a good friend. As I read it, I keep checking how many pages are left from fear of being close to the end. And when I finish it, it feels like losing a good friend. So I keep it in my library with all my other good friends which touched and impacted my life in a special way.

I just wished I had been a more widely-read person much earlier as it would've enabled me to gain a greater insight into the people I met and the places I visited.

When I lived in Greece in the early 80s I visited Hydra several times without ever knowing anything about George Johnston who with his wife Charmian Clift lived for some eight years on the island. George Johnston is of course best known for his book "My Brother Jack" and I have read every one of his many other books since.

When I worked in Port Moresby, one of the old accountants in my office was a Mr Chipps (with a double-p), and the whole office would chortle "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", every time he left the office without my ever realising that they were making a literary reference to James Hilton's famous book.

And of course the same James Hilton wrote "Lost Horizon" in which he gave us the word "Shangri-La". Indeed, the Shangri-La hotel chain bought the rights to his book and placed a copy on every bedside table in place of the usual Gideon Bible. I knew nothing of this when I stayed at various Shangri-La Hotels in Malaysia and Singapore and I had barely heard of Hermann Hesse when I stayed in the suite named after him in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

I visited Pago Pago without ever having read Somerset Maugham's short story "Rain" and lived in Rangoon before I had ever heard of Rudyard Kipling's "On the Road to Mandalay". Even Saudi Arabia would've been of greater fascination to me had I had the time to read Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom".

How much richer my travels would've been had I done all that reading earlier but of course as it was, I found just enough time to read the necessary technical literature to allow me to carry out my work. In those hectic days it was an almost unheard-of luxury to find the time to read a novel. Instead, I studied accountancy standards or IATA rule books, improved my laytime calculation skills, compared charter parties and worked through case studies in forensic auditing, as the case may be.

To this day I am still fascinated by books about unaccountable accounting or the world's worst maritime frauds. BUT I have also found time to dip into John Donne's "No Man is an Island" and Boethius's "The Consolation of Philosophy", so things are beginning to balance out.



Al-Jaahiz, an Arab writer from centuries ago, advised one to repel anxiety through the reading of books: "The book is a companion that does not praise you and does not entice you to evil. It is a friend that does not bore you, and it is a neighbour that causes you no harm. It is an acquaintance that desires not to extract from you favours through flattery, and it does not deceive you with duplicity and lies. When you are poring through the pages of a book, your senses are stimulated and your intellect sharpens... Through reading the biographies of others, you gain an appreciation of common people while learning the ways of kings. It can even be said that you sometimes learn from the pages of a book in a month, that which you do not learn from the tongues of men in a century. All this benefit, yet no loss in wealth and no need to stand at the door of the teacher who is waiting for his fees or to learn from someone who is lower than you in manners. The book obeys you by night as it does by day, both when you are traveling and when you are at home. A book is not impaired by sleep nor does it tire in the late hours of the night. It is the teacher who is there for you whenever you are in need of it, and it is the teacher who, if you refuse to give to it, does not refuse to give to you. If you abandon it, it does not decrease in obedience. And when all turn against you, showing you enmity, it remains by your side. As long as you are remotely attached to a book, it suffices you from having to keep company with those that are idle. It prevents you from sitting on your doorstep and watching those who pass by. It saves you from mixing with those that are frivolous in their character, foul in their speech, and woeful in their ignorance. If the only benefit of a book was that it keeps you from foolish daydreaming and prevents you from frivolity, it would certainly be considered a true friend who has given you a great favour."

I couldn't have said it better myself.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The week that was


Little Rover kept squinting his left eye so we took him to the vet who found an ulcer in the squinting eye and a cataract in the other. Nothing much can be done about the cataract but the ulcer required an injection and ongoing treatment with ointment and drops and a return visit to the vet next week and the week after and the week after that. No wonder my old mate Noel never kept a dog; he could barely look after himself let alone a dog (perhaps for the same reason he also never married but that's another story ☺).

The Valuer-General increased Riverbend's unimproved value to $695,000 which is all very flattering were it not for the fact that the money-grabbing Council will use it to also increase its rates.

Back in 2006 when it looked like we had a buyer for Riverbend, I flew to Cairns and visited Kuranda in the rainforest up in the mountains to look for a new home. One properties I inspected was at 46 Cadagi Drive, Kuranda. It was built in 1986 for around a million dollars and sold in 1993 for half a million to the then current owners who wanted to sell it again for $850,000. They eventually did sell it in December 2006 for $800,000. It's for sale again at $1.2million. Looking at it now, I wonder what possessed me as its sheer size would've enslaved me with all the cleaning and maintenance.

MV TENACITY has been anchored off Riverbend all weekend. Its skipper, Ross Britt, told me that he had at one time considered buying Riverbend. He must still like it. Why else anchor here when he has fifty kilometres of navigable river to choose from? Anyway, he's the kind of neighbour I like: here today, gone tomorrow.

As has this week: gone in a flash and leaving barely a ripple.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

There has to be another angle to it


It looks easy on YouTube but after I had wasted half a length of cornice cutting the wrong angles, I called in the experts, Stewart's Interior Linings. Greg Stewart sent one of his men, young Brett, who had the whole thing done in an hour.

He then headed off to the Snowies for a spot of deer-hunting. I gave him a bottle of Jägermeister to show my appreciation for a job well done and to keep him warm in the mountains.


I am 69 and I am (re-)tired

I am 69. I've worked hard since I was 14. I put in long working hours, and never - and I mean NEVER, except for one urgent appendectomy at Christmas 1973 ☺ - called in sick. I made a reasonable salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am.

I am tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I am tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate.

I am tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses or stick a needle in their arm while they tried to fight it off?

I am tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of all parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

I am tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.

I am tired and fed up with seeing young men and women in their teens and early 20's bedeck themselves in tattoos and face studs, thereby making themselves unemployable and claiming money from the Government.

Yes, I'm bloody tired. But I'm also glad I am 69. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. Thank God I'm on the way out and not on the way in.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bunnings gets my goat


During countless visits to Bunnings I spent well over $7,000 on new kitchen cabinets, a new kitchen sink, and assorted fittings. I always dealt with the same short-of-stature-and-short-of-temper lady behind the 'Special Orders' desk whom I rang yesterday to order the final touch, the stone benchtops.

"That'll be $3,058.19. You have to pay for it before we can process the order", she said

"Can I pay by cheque instead of credit card?", I asked.

"No problem!", she replied.

So my wife drove into the Bay to deliver the cheque and was back within the hour - WITH THE CHEQUE! The same lady, with whom I had dealt face-to-face more than a dozen times, had refused to accept it! She insisted that I give it to her in person and identify myself with my driver's license! Has the world gone mad?

Which is not what I asked when I rang her. Instead, I asked, conciliatorily if not beggingly, whether I could give her my driver's license details over the phone.

"No, you must come here in person!", she replied, before lecturing (or should that be 'hectoring'?) me that this procedure was for my own protection.

The only protection I need is from pompous and officious Bunnings staff!

BUNNINGS - pompous and officious staff are just the beginning ...


Memories of Bougainville

Canadian Chris in his snowbound home


Many years ago - how many? is it ten years already? - , I received this email in response to my Bougainville website:


Hello, Just stumbled upon your site. Name is Chris Jefferies and I lived and worked at Loloho assembling the drying plant. Lived at Camp 1 for a short while, but for the most part Loloho. Worked there from 1969 to Jan. '72 when I got the hell out to save my neck! Canadian and worked for MKF and Johns and Waygood.
I don't have many more photos for the reason that the "Pella" who was running the mail truck from Kieta, at that time, thought it was really fun to toss the mail out the window and watch it flutter away like the little birds, so a lot of us lost a considerable amount of correspondence and, of course, my return photos. Nothing surprising about that behavior, but doesn't help old memory lane. When I left Bougainville, I went to then Burma to work for Toshiba on a hydro project and there I was most definitely not permitted to even have a camera, (Viet Nam time.), so only memories there too. I would not trade my time in those places for anything; especially Bougainville, the Islands and Papua. Don't know that I would go back, given the opportunity, hard to say, and the likelihood of having that opportunity is little to none, so no point in conjecture. I don't know if this info is of any use to you, but there it is. Contact me if you have anything that you think that may interest me.

P.S. As an aside, I see that they are talking of re-opening. Are they going to throw us a party to show us their appreciation for the good job we did of putting it together? I'm still wearing a damned hard hat and still busting my butt. What the hell have I done wrong?


Chris and I were on Bougainville at the same time and in the same camps. Maybe we even lived in adjoining dongas? His donga certainly looked very similar to mine, right down to the picture on the wall ☺

Even though we never met on Bougainville - and more's the pity - , ever since that first email we have had a regular (and regularly entertaining) email exchange during which we also tried to find an answer to his last question. "What the hell have I done wrong?" It may have been rhetorical to him but to me it's a daily thought.