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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good riddance, 2016!


Although four additional spots have been set at the table, the nonagenarian’s friends have long since passed away, and the butler is forced to take their places in drinking copious amounts of alcohol while toasting Miss Sophie’s health. Hilarity, as it is wont to do in such cases, ensues.

Dinner for One has been a Kraut-pleaser on German television's New Year's Eve schedule since the early 1960s. It has since spread throughout Europe to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Switzerland and, beyond the continent’s shores, to South Africa as well as Australia where SBS has broadcast the comedy sketch on New Years Eve since 1989. This tradition holds firm in 2016 with Dinner For One scheduled at 6:10pm on SBS this New Year's Eve.

So here's wishing you a Happy New Year with the same procedure as every year! 2017 is going to be okay. I mean, it’s not like it could get any worse, is it? Good riddance, 2016!

P.S. I realise I spend too much time on the computer and decided not to use it again until next year!


Friday, December 30, 2016

To Grahame Ward in Port Moresby on his 70th!


Hope this find you well and up to no good as per usual ☺
If I had your phone number, I'd give you a call. In the meantime this will have to do but I shall raise a glass - or two - to your good health and happiness.

Your old workmate from those carefree and long-ago Rabaul days!


Who wants to be a whistleblower?


After sixteen years of it, I've concluded that retirement is not what it's cracked up to be. A neighbour up the lane must've concluded the same as he restarted his career by becoming a Flying Fox Dispersal Officer - Grade 4.

It's a highly technical job which involves the use of torches, speakers and other noise-making devices such as banging of metal objects and blowing whistles to deter flying foxes from roosting.

Pity I didn't hear about the job earlier as I would've been eminently qualified since the Council's Employment Conditions state that they encourage people from a non-English-speaking background to apply.

Their Flying Fox Dispersal Fact Sheet mentions that further dispersal activities may take place in 2017, so there's a chance for me yet.

Becoming a whistleblower for the Council may be far more suitable for me after my dismal performance as a Bunnings Greeter.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lang, lang ist's her

If you don't know the lyrics, clicking your heels in time with the music will suffice


Of course, you remember "Long, long ago", don't you? And, yes, it was written by an English composer in 1833 but doesn't it sound better with German lyrics? But then again, I'm German and totally unbiased and totally tone-deaf ☺

Anyway, this blog is all about my memories - German memories - so put up with my German lyrics or shut up! Lang, lang ist's her!  ☺

And this particular blog is not even for you. Instead, it's for a very dear friend in Germany. I don't want to mention names but she used to live at Schillstraße 16  ☺

Tja, lang, lang ist's her! Frohes Neues Jahr Dir und Deiner Familie!


The heat is on


The heat is on, on the street; Inside your head, on every beat. The forecast is for mid-thirties today, mid-thirties for tomorrow, and mid-thirties for the weekend. All I can say is, "Oh-wo-ho, oh-wo-ho".

I like the heat. It takes me back to New Guinea, Burma, Samoa, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia - why, even Canberra had its hot spells, and none were hotter than when watching Beverley Hills Cop * on a hot summer's night under a slowly turning fan in the TV Lounge of Barton House. And you knew it was a particularly hot night when the Coke machine in the table-tennis room across the foyer had run out of cans.

The early days in New Guinea were the pre-aircon days. Sitting in the office under a barely moving punkah ceiling fan, the balance sheet I was working on would glue itself to the wrist of my hand. Later, after aircon had arrived, the chill would play havoc with my sinuses and the steady drone sent me off to sleep.

Which is what the drone of the passing boats does to me as I sit on the verandah overlooking the river. When it comes to boats, size seems to matter as does speed: despite a large sign designating this to be an 8-knot speed zone, every petrolhead roars past at more than twice the speed with only their IQ complying with the figure "8".

Anyway, it's time to go inside for another cuppa of Nerada Chai - "... a blend of tea and various spices; drink it with or without milk". Well, I drink it with a large dollop of honey and a dash of lemon and in large quantities morning, day and night. One of life's little pleasures.

* Blog contains a chronological inaccuracy. It's called 'poetic licence'.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Up the river with a dog


Rover and I escaped the heatwave by spending time on the river. The waterway is the only way by which I leave "Riverbend" until all the holiday frivolities are over and the last jet-ski has run out of fuel or wrapped itself around a submerged tree trunk.

In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. That's not me but Camus, and while I usually avoid him like "The Plague", on this occasion I'm in complete agreement with him.

Tried to locate a few long-lost acquaintances over the Internet. One just finished a stint in Australia to qualify for the age pension and returned to the Caribbean; another, once worth millions, just finished a stint as Santa Claus in a department store to earn some extra cash; and a third finished altogether - see here. The fickle finger of fate!

And the countdown continues, to the end of the year, and to the end!

Happy New Year to you all!


Monday, December 26, 2016

China vs USA






Unblocking the mental block about Blockchain


Blockchain is probably the biggest technological invention since the PC in the 1970s and the Internet in the 1990s. Designed to facilitate the transfer of money, potentially it can transfer anything, from art to real estate to shares.

Blockchain is not Bitcoin. Instead, back in 2008 Bitcoin was the first application using Blockchain but it could be used for any real currency or another bitcoin-like currency, or indeed anything of value.

Right now sending money through banks is like sending a letter: you send it and you hope it will reach its destination - which takes days, sometimes weeks, on top of which the banks collect a hefty fee. And God forbid when errors occur and money simply vanishes into thin air.

Blockchain will be the next universal banking protocol, much like the Internet protocol that ushered in the World Wide Web. It threatens conventional banks' handling of money and central banks' control of it, and they're both scrambling to get on board of this new technology. Click here for Westpac's easy-to-understand explanation of Blockchain.

We live in exciting times - long may the adventure continue!


December Boys found in December - how good is that?


Looking for the 1957 copy of "The Shiralee" with Peter Finch, I could only find trailers on the Australian Screen website. However, I found another Australian movie set in the late 1960s: December Boys.

It's a coming-of-age picture about four close-knit orphans in Australia, called the December Boys because they were all born in the same month. They leave their orphanage for a Christmas holiday at the seaside settlement of Captain's Folly, staying with the eccentric Mr and Mrs McAnsh, who are partial to pumpkin wine. Wearing bathing costumes made from flour bags dyed black, the boys meet the ocean for the first time and are soon racing through the sandhills to plunge into the surf.

December Boys is a classic tale of an unforgettable summer beside the Pacific Ocean. The book by Michael Noonan was first published in 1963 and was recommended for the Miles Franklin Award.

I won't tell you anything more because you can do as I've done: go to ebay.com.au and order your own copy.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Dinner


You've probably never heard of Linda McGrady who's said to make the best turkey stuffing this side of the Tropic of Capricorn. Her secret recipe includes two 30-pack tablets of diazepam, more commonly known as Valium.

Each time her family gathers for Christmas, sparks fly. Son Gary’s girlfriend is a Catholic and Linda’s only daughter tells her that she’s genderfluid – or something to that effect. Add a stern patriarch who earns his crust raising cattle and you’ve got a powder keg ready to explode. “It can be so hard”, says the retired school teacher. “They fight and bicker and make fun of each other and say mean things.”

Her solution? Add 60 tablets of Valium to the turkey stuffing. “It’s a very hard drug to overdose on. I’ve got some Klonopin for my daughter if the Valium doesn’t take her down. I’ll just put bibs on all of ’em and watch them try to eat lunch.”

According to the "Betoota Advocate", the Toowoomba Police have been notified and are looking forward not responding to another Christmas Day incident at her place.

Our own Christmas Dinner went off without any incident but a couple of times we got close to calling the RSPCA.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Of Christmasses past

In Camp 6 at Loloho on the Bougainville Copper Project
left-to-right: Neil "Jacko" Jackson, yours truly, Bob Green


We didn't use the word 'Christmas' then. Christmas came with too much emotional baggage. It reminded us of families and homes which we were far away from or didn't even have.

Of course, I'm talking of those many years - decades, in fact - spent in boarding houses, construction camps, hotels, and company housing. Come Christmastime, those who had families and homes had gone; those who didn't hadn't.

There was Barton House in Canberra, usually throbbing with life from its 300-odd - and some very odd - inmates, which turned into a morgue by Christmastime. The dining room was roped off except for one table next to the kitchen. That table was large enough for those left behind.

It's hard not to be reminded of something when you're surrounded by half a dozen gloomy faces. So for my last Christmas in Canberra in 1969, just before I flew to my next job in New Guinea, I hitched and hiked to Angle Crossing where I spent a solitary weekend writing letters which is the only device that combines solitude with good company.

Canberra's then Youth Hostel at Angle Crossing, over the hill from the Murrumbidgee River

Years later, and just one day before Christmas, I booked myself into hospital on Bougainville Island with acute appendicitis . "You'd better get on the next plane out and into a hospital at home", the doctor told me. He was already deep into his medicinal alcohol and had trouble remembering which side my appendix was on. "This is my home", I said. He made one long incision just to make sure he wouldn't miss it.

What I had missed was that my best friend Noel Butler was coming over from Wewak to spend - ahem! - Christmas with me. He must have got there while I was still under the anaesthetic, because there he was standing at the foot of my bed. He'd gone to my donga and waited and finally asked the hous boi where I was. "Masta bagarap long haus sik".

Yours truly and Noel hunched over a chess board in New Guinea

We tried again the following year by which time I had moved to Lae on the north coast of the New Guinea mainland. By the time Christmas and Noel had come, there was just enough time left for a drink at the club and a game of chess before I flew out to my next job in Burma.

And so it went on, year after year, either coming or going or laid up with something, deftly avoiding Christmas. It's not so easy anymore!


Friday, December 23, 2016

I receive Christmas cards, therefore I am


Christmas cards are said to have been around since 1843. Well, not with me! I only became a recipient and reluctant sender of such cards when I settled in deepest Australian suburbia in 1985 after a Christmas-less and Christmas card-less lifetime spent in some of the most remote corners of the world.

Back in Canberra, my suburban neighbours used to engage in an annual 'look-I-received-more-cards-than-you' contest by stringing up their Christmas cards across their lounge room windows.

With my competitive spirit aroused, I began to keep the few cards I received each year until, a few years later, I was able to string an impressive-looking collection across my own window. 'Look, I received more cards than you!'

On closer inspection by one neighbour, I had a bit of explaining to do why, in the year 1990, a friend was wishing me "all the best for 1986!"

At "Riverbend" there are no neighbours and no contests; indeed, there are no Christmas cards except for the odd one. Just now the postman dropped an odd one into my mailbox from an odd friend in Fairfield.

I rushed out with a bottle of HENKELL TROCKEN to wish him a merry Christmas - an old German custom, like eating fermented cabbage and starting wars! - but he'd already driven off. Ah well, it's the thought that counts!

He must be the postman with the longest arms and the most precise driving skills, because he moves his car within an inch of the mailbox, reaches over and - without so much as opening the car door (well, he can't; it's too close to the mailbox!) - he drops the letter into the box.

Apart from wanting to raise my mailbox by several inches to give him a real challenge, I'm also considering rolling razor wire across the gate - another old German custom! - to keep out visitors because I want more than just a silent night; I want a whole silent Christmas!

Thank you for not bothering me!


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright, / Round yon Virgin Mother and Child! / Holy Infant, so tender and mild, / Sleep in heavenly peace! / Sleep in heavenly peace!


As I limber up for my annual rendition of "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht", it may be a good time to retell the story of this popular Christmas carol.

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ's birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas. Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas' church organ wasn't working and would not be repaired before Christmas.

Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.

From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Revelling in the majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card-like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.

Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.


For a fast-forward to the musical scene, click here


On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber's guitar. Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr's Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of "Silent Night" back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by "Silent Night," both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.


In 1914 it even introduced a rare moment of sanity into an insane war. Joyeux Noël (English: Merry Christmas) is a 2005 French film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers.


In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English. Today "Silent Night" is sung in more than 300 different languages around the world - including Humming if you don't know the words.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Nice, isn't it? Except it's last year's
This year we went with the minimalistic approach
Click on the image to find out!


My 23rd Christmas at "Riverbend"! After more than fifty relocations across a dozen countries on four continents when the longest I ever stayed in one place was just under a year, I seem to have reached 'Journey's End' - or is old age slowing me down?

Retirement is not what it is cracked up to be. There were times in my high-pressure working life when I wished for nothing more than to be able to sleep in late and spend a day doing nothing. After sixteen years in retirement, I wish I were what I was when I wished I were what I am now (you may have to read this twice to understand what I mean!)

However, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be. And why Nelligen? Well, perhaps here the transition from life to death is hardly noticeable. ☺


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just a thought!


Should you feel lonely this Christmas, all you have to do is drive across the bridge at Batemans Bay where the Boys in Blue will be only too happy to ask you all sorts of personal questions to make you feel inclusive and wanted.

Wanted at the local watch house that is, where - in the spirit of Christmas - they will ask you to give a little bit of blood.

Should that little bit of blood have a little bit too much Christmas spirits mixed in with it, they will keep you there and you won't feel lonely this Christmas. Just a thought!


Twenty-three Years of Sundays


On the 23rd of November 1993 the purchase of "Riverbend" from Peter Alan & Alma Rose Freame was settled.

Mr & Mrs Freame had bought "Riverbend" on the 4th of September 1989 from Judith Gertrude MacPherson who - with her late husband Robert George MacPherson who passed away on the 27th of May 1989 - bought it on the 17th of July 1967 from Adelaide Neate.

Adelaide Neate née Schofield who was born in 1888 at "Orange Grove"
which is the adjoining rural property. Her father was Nelligen's ferryman.
Later she also became owner of the "Steam Packet Hotel"

Adelaide Neate of Orange Grove is the first recorded owner of the whole of "Riverbend". She acquired legal ownership on the 2nd of July 1956 by the simple expedient of swearing on a stack of bibles that she had occupied the land since 1942 and paying the outstanding council rates of £47.5.10.

However, according to an old parchment title deed (referred to in Delves & Wain's letter as "the title deed ... which you might like to retain for historical purposes"), a minor by the name of William Abraham Benjamin Richardson acquired allotment 2 of section 2, being a parcel of land three roods and twenty-three perches in size, on the 25th of July 1864. That equates to approx. 3,600 square metres, or just under an acre, of Riverbend's present-day seven-plus acres.
(A rood equals 1012㎡; a perch equals 25.29㎡; 40 perches make up 1 rood)

On the 21st of March 1941 William Abraham Benjamin Richardson sold this suburban allotment to Adelaide Neate, then of Greenwell Point, and already a widow.

Adelaide Neate sold it on the 1st of July 1952 to a Canberra public servant by the name of George Frederick Thomas. Then things get a bit murky because on the 2nd of December 1958 the retired Robert George MacPherson of Harbord shows up as the registered proprietor. Phew!

Anyway, I am now the proud and undisputed owner of Lots 1 through 7 of Section 2, plus Lot 1 DP 126109 (which is the old access road that runs along the back of the seven lots), plus Licence 199309 for a jetty 9.6m x 1.3m, sliding ramp 4.5m x 0.5m, and pontoon 5.0m x 2.5m (with supporting arms 6.0m long).

I paid a fair bit more than Adelaide Neate's £47.5.10 for all that and, after twenty-three years, am the second-longest owner of "Riverbend" after William Abraham Benjamin Richardson (who's also the owner with the longest name ☺).

Twenty-three years of Sundays! Maybe there's something in the water - or maybe it's just old age! ☺

According to war records held with the National Archives in Canberra, Adelaide Neate's husband James Wilkins Neate, born on 13th April 1883 and a bricklayer by trade, joined the Australian Imperial Force on the 26th of April 1916, served in France as a gunner, was invalided out suffering from broncho pneumonia, and returned to Australia on the 31st December 1918 aboard HMAT Sardinia, after which he was discharged on the 16th of February 1919 due to medical unfitness.

Here's a letter written by Adelaide Neate, dated 14th October 1917, which confirms that she already lived at "Orange Grove" at that time: