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Friday, December 30, 2022

The Year My Voice Broke


Canberra is a hundred-and-forty clicks away, or an easy hour-and-a-half drive, up the Kings Highway, and yet, since my retirement in the year 2000, I've been back there only once - ONCE! - and that was for an urgent medical appointment.

Canberra was where I first found my feet when the ANZ Bank hired me in 1965 just after I'd come off the boat from Europe, and it was there that I eventually returned to in 1985 after my circuitous route around the world. A very low tolerance for boredom had always been my biggest problem which I finally solved by becoming self-employed.

The two-hundred-odd clients of Canberra Computer Accounting Systems kept me constantly on my toes, with no time off for weekends or even annual holidays. All that changed when I bought "Riverbend" in 1993, which drew me more and more to the coast and, ultimately, into early retirement, but not before I had commuted between Canberra and Nelligen for seven long years, or more than three-hundred weekends.

I came to know the Kings Highway like the back of my hand - and long before it became full of liver spots - and I remember always having a bit of a chuckle round Bungendore where Canturf, a turf-growing company, advertised its wares with slightly naughty puns centred around the word "laid". Pity I never took a picture because they must've been considered too "sexist" in these PC-conscious times and have now been replaced with much safer political satire. My favourites are "It Gets Rolled Faster than Rudd" and "Mown and Grown in Fyshwick" and "Feeling lawnly? Pickup at Fyshwick" (for out-of-towners: Fyshwick has Canberra's only brothels!) It makes you groan, doesn't it? (or should that be "grown"?)

Once past Bungendore, the next stop was Braidwood. Its old Royal Mail Hotel advertised on large billboards the availability of "Accamadation" which prompted me to call in one day to have a word with the publican. "You have no idea how many extra beers we sell just because people like you keep popping in to tell us about the wrong spelling", he replied, after which I became another one of his regular weekend customers.

Just down from the Royal Mail Hotel was a small butcher shop in which I discovered some of the best German smallgoods, including my all-time favourite "Leberkäse" which made me to ask him, "Are you German?" "No", he replied, "but I did my apprenticeship with a German butcher in Sydney." I always bought something from him on my way to the coast; unfortunately, my patronage wasn't enough as he closed years later.

All of Braidwood is now a National Trust-classified town, the first to be listed on the NSW State Heritage register. Its charming colonial buildings, rustic streetscapes and rural beauty have been the perfect backdrop for iconic Australian films such as "Ned Kelly" (the one with Mick Jagger; not this one!) and "Flirting" and "The Year My Voice Broke".



There you are, I've saved you the trouble of a trip to Braidwood! It's just as well because I don't think I ever want to go back up that way again!

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