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Saturday, April 25, 2015

To all who seek a refuge

Horst's native hut on the beach of Uiha Island

My friend Horst Berger was 39 years old - a good time to have one's midlife crisis - when he read somewhere, "Träume nicht dein Leben, sondern lebe deinen Traum" (to the few of you who are not fluent in German, it means 'Don't dream your life, live your dream')

He left his native Austria for the Kingdom of Tonga where he arrived on this day twenty years ago, on the 25th of April 1995, and where he has lived ever since. I was reminded of this when I read this prologue in James Michener's book Rascals in Paradise:

"In an age of anxiety men seek a refuge. Because of some deep urge, constant throughout history, troubled men traditionally dream of islands, possibly because the smallness of an island invites the illusion that here the complexities of continental societies can be avoided, or at least controlled. This is a permanent, world-wide dream.

When the island chosen for refuge happens to lie in the South Pacific, a colourful body of romance often helps to make the idea of escape an absolute obsession. Then, if the chosen island is reputed to contain lovely and uninhibited girls, the obsession is apt to degenerate into a monomania. And if the girls are Polynesians, the dreamer is truly lost.

... Citizens of many nations who have grown weary of atomic bombs, dictators, taxes and neurasthenia ... are united in their conviction that only in the fabled islands of the South Seas can they find the fulfillment that their own society denies them. Were each of the islands a continent, there would still be insufficient room for the defeated people of the world who require refuge.

In the 1930s there was in Australia a learned gentleman who clearly foresaw that a great war was about to break over the world. He had no desire to participate in this foolish war, but he had to conclude from his studies that Europe was going to explode and that the resulting fires would involve Africa and much of Asia. With extraordinary clairvoyance he deduced that Australia, left unprotected because the military men were preoccupied with Europe, would surely become a temptation to Asia and would probably be overrun.

Wishing to avoid such a debacle, he spent considerable time in determining what course a sensible man should follow if he wanted to escape the onrushing cataclysm. He considered flight into the dead heart of Australia, but concluded that although he could probably hide out in that forbidden region, life without adequate water would be intolerable. Next he contemplated removal to America, but dismissed this as impractical in view of the certainty that America would also be involved in the war.

Finally, by a process of the most careful logic, he decided that his only secure refuge from the world's insanity lay on some tropical island. He reasoned, "There I will find adequate water from the rains, food from the breadfruit and coconut trees, and fish from the lagoons. There will be safety from the airplanes which will be bombing important cities. And thanks to the missionaries, the natives will probably not eat me."

Fortified with such conclusions, he studied the Pacific and narrowed his choice of islands to the one that offered every advantage: remoteness, security, a good life, and a storm cellar until the universal hurricane had subsided.

Thereupon, in the late summer of 1939, one week before Germany invaded Poland, this wise Australian fled to his particular South Pacific refuge. He went to the almost unknown island of Guadalcanal."

Like other people who in their days of hope or torment fled to their obscure Guadalcanals, where, they were convinced, perpetual ease and fulfillment awaited them, so Horst has lived his dream for the past twenty years on the tiny islands of the Ha'apai Group in Tonga. May he continue to do so for many years to come!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Australian 'kulcha'

 

The latest addition to my collection of Australian movies is Sunstruck, starring England's tallest dwarf, Harry Secombe, and the Australian actor John Meillon. Harry plays the Welsh schoolteacher and choirmaster Stanley Evans who emigrates to Australia to 'teach in the sun' -- but finds reality falls somewhat short of the blissful image on the recruiting poster.

Anticipating a Bondi Beach lifestyle, Stanley arrives in Kookaburra Springs to find a town with two buildings: an old pub and a ramshackle schoolhouse. Despite the fact that the kids do everything in their power to get rid of him – no schoolmaster means no school! – Stanley stays, and eventually finds a way to win them over.

 

It's Latin for 'no tree'

Full-length movie (38 minutes)
 

For my overseas friends, let me explain that the Nullarbor Plain, which at its widest point stretches about 1,100 kilometres from east to west across the border between South Australia and Western Australia, was named for nullus, "no", and arbor, "tree".

I first heard of it when I watched the movie Nullarbor Hideout in the 60s. Back then the railway line that crossed the Nullarbor was serviced by fettlers who lived in small settlements, mere dots on the map, which once a week were supplied by the now long gone Tea-and-Sugar Train:

And it all started in 1912 in Port Augusta:

Of course, these days train travel is a lot more 'up-market' (and with a price to match):

Both the Indian-Pacific and The Ghan are still on my bucket-list.

 

(By the way, a South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain and sexual activity read their blogs with their hand on the mouse. DON'T BOTHER TAKING IT OFF NOW, IT'S TOO LATE!!!)

Monday, April 20, 2015

If you take sugar in your tea, you might like to know where it comes from

 

This short clip shows the daily tasks of cane cutters in North Queensland when sugarcane was still manually harvested with machetes - stoop, chop, straighten, top - stoop, chop, straighten, top - stoop, chop, straighten, top.

It's as iconically Australian as 'football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars'.

 

Too many (would-be) cooks

The one who did all the cooking sits behind the rice cooker at the back ☺

 

Padma had a 'cook-in' with her Indonesian friends while I've been housebound by the incessant rain. If it weren't for my books, my movies, and the internet, I'd be climbing up the walls. And even the internet sometimes serves up something completely unpleasant - like this obituary.

Captain Dewsnap was my boss in 1978 in Apia in Western Samoa where I assisted him with the formation of the Pacific Forum Line. It seems like it was only yesterday.

There are days when I feel like the last man standing. Today is one of them.

 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Isle of Fury

Watch the full-length movie here

 

W. Somerset Maugham is one of my favourite writers and Humphrey Bogart is one of my favourite actors but combining the two doesn't always give the best result.

Isle of Fury is a film adaptation of Maugham's short story The Narrow Corner which is a classic tale of adventure, passion, and intrigue. In it, island-hopping across the South Pacific, the esteemed Dr. Saunders is offered passage by Captain Nichols and his companion Fred Blake. The trip turns turbulent when a vicious storm forces them to seek shelter on the remote island of Kanda. There these three men fall under the spell of the sultry and stunningly beautiful Louise, and their story spirals into a wicked tale of love, murder, jealousy, and suicide.

This might well be the worst Bogart movie that I’ve watched but it's not entirely unwatchable. Nor is the 1954 film King of the Coral Sea with Chips Rafferty which is of particular interest to me as it was shot on location in Thursday Island where I lived and worked in 1977 and of which I have fond memories to this day.

When I watch this fight scene, I don't watch the pugilists but the shore line in the background which was pretty much still the same in 1977. And, of course, the fighting still goes on to this day ☺

and here is another clip

 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

At home with Homer

 

Homer tells us how the Sirens want to draw Odysseus in with tempting stories of what he once was. They know he wants to return to the active world, the world of simplicity and straightforwardness but Odysseus won't be wrecked on the illusions of nostalgia because, as he knows, to live well in the present, nostalgia must be resisted.

You must stay with your ship, stay tied to the present, remain mobile, keep adjusting the rig, work with the swells, watch for a shift in the wind; in short, engage with the muddle and duplicity and difficulty of life and don't be tempted into the lovely simplicity of the past.

Like Odysseus who had himself tied to the mainmast to resist the Sirens, I have been tied to "Riverbend" for the past twenty-two years, resisting the urge to return to a life long past.

Twenty-two years in one place is a long time; longer than any other period in my life. I'm still hearing the Sirens' song and I'm still hoping that one day a buyer will appear and untie me.

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shake up the boys in Canberra

 

I worked all my life and paid taxes all my life. I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization. Or, as one U.S. President once remarked, “Taxes are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”

And I appreciate that those taxes do not give me an automatic entitlement to an old-age pension. That would be welfare which is paid to those who were too busy pissing it against the wall to provide for their own retirement. Instead, I, together with over 1 million other Australians, provided for my own retirement by following the Government's advice to run my own Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF).

Now this same Government wants to 'reform' (code for 'reduce') the tax concessions governing SMSFs. If you run your own SMSF, tell them to bugger off! Don't expect anyone else to do this work for you. There are enough SMSFs in Australia to change the outcome of an election. We need to use our collective muscle to tell those in power that we have worked for our retirement and provided for it with our own money and want certainty and stability for our hard-earned retirement savings.

Write to them all but bear in mind who you're dealing with - so keep it short and simple! "Keep your grubby hands off my SMSF!" would be simple enough; "Keep your [add powerful expletive] grubby hands off my SM [add an even more powerful expletive] SF!!!!!" would be even better:

1. Prime Minister

2. Opposition Leader

3. Treasurer

4. Assistant Treasurer (change drop-down box to 'Frydenberg')

5. Shadow Treasurer

6. Your local Federal member - search for them on the internet

 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Golden Land

Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6

Part 7    Part 8    Part 9    Part 10    Part 11

 

Forty years ago, I went to live and work in Burma. In the twelve months I lived there (why, oh why, didn't I stay longer?), I came to love the country and its people.

Watching The Purple Plain, albeit in a wartime setting, brings back many memories.

 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Travel thru' the Torres Strait with Hubert Hofer

Hamelin Boulders, named after the French Minister of the Navy in 1858 by Captain JB Desparmet

Erub (Darnley Island)
Japanese Divers' Graves

Darnley Deep, Darnley Island from Kaliko Passage

Talab, unique rock

Black Coral, Kaliko Passage Darnley Deep 25 m.
The West passage has a depth of 90 m.

Zuizin (Halfway Island)

Tobin Cay, named by Lt William Bligh after one of his officers.
Stephen Island (Ugar) in the distant background

The weather side of Kodall Island

Darnley Island from Nepean Island

Yorke Island

Jardine River Ferry

Raine Island
1844 Convict-built navigation beacon

Murray Island (Mer)
A wrecked yacht on the fringing reef

Washed-up Light-Vessel CARPENTARIA
Originally towed from Scotland in 1926 & anchored at Carpentaria Shoal 52km west of Cape York

St Paul Village, Moa (Banks Island)

Masig (Yorke Island), Marsden Island in background

Thursday Island

Mer (Murray Island)
Stone fishtraps

Cumberland Passage

Dauar & Waier, the semi-submerged rim of a volcano

Jardine River, remnants of the bridge at the Telegraph Line Crossing

Honeymoon Island (Waiweer), former Pearling Station

Thursday Island Diver Cemetery, 1000 or more Divers are laid to rest here

Honeymoon Island (Waiweer)

Saibai Island

Tudu (Warrior Island) & Canal Mauvais

Mabuiag (Jervis Island) Talab

Albany Pass, looking south

Ussher Point

Long Island (Sassie)
Lava formation

Bet Reef (Bara Maz)
The Wreck of the WONGALA (1980)

Goode Island
The wreck of the WILLIAM FAIRBAIRN 1899

Alpha Rock north of Adolphus Channel & Cape York

Horn Island Cargo Wharf
The main cargo distribution point for the Torres Strait

Mabuiag (Jervis island)
At 450 m the shortest airstrip in Torres Strait

Tuesday (foreground) & Wednesday Islands

Lowry Cay

Coconut Island (Puremar, Poruma) situated on the Great North East Channel (Central Island Group)

Dove Island Ului

Saibai is the only inhabited Island in Torres Strait
which doesn't have an English name. 4 km off the New Guinea coast.

Western Island Group. Naghir, Peenacar, Moa, Gettulai, Sauraz & Ulu.
Sunset viewed from Sue Island (Warraber)

Thursday Island, MV AUSTRALIA FAIR the ferry between Horn Ngurupai & Thursday Island (Waibene)

Jervis Reef
A clear indication of the very strong tidal streams

Murray Island (Mer) A section of the many kilometres of fishtrap walls built by generations of islanders.

North West Reef (Eastern Extremity)

Hammond Rock in Prince of Wales Channel, Hammond Island on left, Goode Island right rear, Friday Island in amongst the lot & Prince of Wales Island in the background

Horn Island water-filled gold mine

Boat Channel Horn Island (Ngurupai), Entrance Island (Zuna) & Prince of Wales Island (Muralug)

Yorke Island (Masig)

Bet Island & Bet Reef, WONGALA Wreck

Darnley Island (Erub)

Mt Adolphus Islands (Muri)

Western Islands

 

... and that's enough sightseeing for the moment! Hubert Hofer needs a rest, a long nine-month rest, and what better place to have it in than Mopah Airport in Merauke!    ☺

 

 

More photos on Hubert's website www.northpic.com.au