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Today's quote:

Thursday, March 10, 2022

There are lies, damned lies and statistics

Barton House in Canberra on a beautiful Sunday morning after the night before: chilling out on the front steps; "yours truly" in dead centre, wearing sunnies and checkered shirt. Notice the chap on the far right having a "hair of the dog" from a McWilliams flagon left over from the night before. If that didn't do it, there was always BEX powder and a good lie down! Or take Vincent's with confidence for quick three-way relief. All things of the past!


The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines homelessness as living in a dwelling that is inadequate; or without tenure; or without control of or access to space for social relations.

It describes homelessness as living in fixed accommodation below minimum community standards, e.g. boarding houses or caravan parks. And adds, "Boarding-house accommodation is the second most common form with 34% of homeless people finding shelter in that form."

Welcome to Barton House, where I 'found shelter' for several 'homeless' years, living 'below minimum community standards' with so little space for social relations that often two boarders of the opposite sex had to squeeze into the one armchair in the darkened TV lounge to watch "Hogan's Heroes" or laugh at the antics of Agent 99 in "Get Smart".


Soaking up the sun on the front steps of Barton House (from left to right):
half of yours truly, Colleen Murray, her roomie Dulcie, and Denva Boardman


It was at Barton House that I was introduced to the culinary delights of Australia in the 60s: mixed grill, corned silverside, Yorkshire pudding, spaghetti-meatballs, lamp chops, and, as a filla-uppa, loads and loads of steam-pudding drowned in thick creamy custard. And who can forget those dreadful brown-paperbag luncheon packs of baked-beans sandwiches, chutney sandwiches, and spaghetti sandwiches?

There was a constant stream of new arrivals, but to a hard core of people - and that included me! - Barton House was "home"! The sort of "home" that prepared me well for the house I later shared in Rabaul in New Guinea with two fellow-accountants and the camp accommodation I occupied when I went to Bougainville Island. It gave me the confidence and the skills to deal with all manner of people in future years.

For years after, and in different parts of Australia, I still kept bumping into people who had been at Barton House, who had been chased for their outstanding rents by Peter "Frenchie" Chek, the manager, who also ran an "Academy of Self-Defense" (and didn't he need it to deal with some of his more difficult boarders!) They all looked back on their time there with fond memories and a great deal of nostalgia.

We had far too much fun to feel homeless. We left that to the next generation who now make up those silly statistics and who are now all 'victims' and 'survivors' of something or other, and who, if they are still squeezing into the one armchair, are probably both of the same sex.

It's a 'brave' new world of gormless people, and I want no part of it!

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