Sunday, April 29, 2007

Miss Appropriate's Misbehaviour

Coyly as normally was her trait
She asked if it was appropriate
To kiss on a first date
Or longer should she wait

Replying he scratched his pate
Explaining it could be fate
With that he could relate
If he was her soul mate

In that case there's little to debate
His passions may abate
Causing him to be irate
Then he, she'd have to sedate

Oh! She did gasp, that I would hate
Now I'm in such a state
Off she ran through the gate
In fear he could be accurate

That Is That....

She looked at him through querulous eyes
Aloof he coldly turned away his head
To retain her composure she vainly did try
Not only have you tossed me from your bed
But also from your life she tearfully said
In memory of what you and I once shared
Can you give me your reasons why....

(Poems written by Lee)

I'm being a bit lazy this morning by posting a couple of my poems. My excuse is that I believe poems should be read more than once.

When I was a child growing up in Gympie, my mother modelled in a number of fashion shows for the “Bo-Peep Salon”, which has long gone. My mother was a tall, slim, striking redhead. Her rich, natural auburn hair and blue eyes were products of her Scottish and Irish heritage . Her shoulder-length hair was worn swept high off her neck into a fashionable coiffure. She displayed a natural style and grace both on the catwalk after years of learning dance as a child, and when simply walking down the street. My mother carried herself extremely well.

As a little girl, I was quite shy and somewhat cautious of strangers. However, I surprised not only myself, but my mother and grandmother when I agreed to appear in one of the fashion shows. On reflection, I think they must have been coaxed and coerced me with the promise of a new book or doll, or both. I was around seven or eight-years old at the time. My family of dolls were of great importance to me. So were books, a love of which has remained with me throughout my life.

On the evening of the parade, the "lure of the footlights, the roar of the crowd" wiped all my fears and shyness away. Dressed in the white, crisp cotton-voile dress with green flower embroidery upon it that was my outfit for the parade, I felt like a princess. Separating the bodice from the full gathered skirt, a green satin sash, matching the green of the embroidery, was tied in a large bow at the back. As I glided down the catwalk to the tune “Teddy Bears’ Picnic”, childishly believing I was emulating my mother’s movements, lost in a fantasy world of fairies, teddy bears and picnics, I didn’t want the dream to end. Sadly, it did when I noticed my mother and the lady from the "Bo-Peep Salon" who'd organised the parade, beckoning to me from behind the curtains at the top of catwalk that my moment of celebrity was over.

How badly I wanted to ignore their frantic urgings for me to leave the spotlight, but the teddy bears went home, then the music and the picnic ended! And so had my modelling career and my "five minutes of fame"! (Even though I had tried to extend them!)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'll Tell You Mine, If You Tell Me Yours!

You thought I said something else, didn't you?

I'm talking about dreams. Not the dreams we experience when sleeping, but our daily dreams, our fantasies of how we would like our lives to be.

Are you living your "dream"?

Even though I live and face life with my feet firmly on the ground, I dream. I have many fantasies of how I would like my life to be. That doesn't mean, however, I'm dissatisfied...not entirely. On the whole, I'm happy, but there are certain aspects of my life that cause me concern. "Concern", perhaps that's not the correct description. The feeling is difficult to put into words. At times, I wish there was "something else".

On an evening like this evening, after spending a long, leisurely lunch with friends, I'm now alone with my thoughts. A silent reverie, with a glass of red wine to my right, mellow music flowing from my stereo...the cats are settled in for the evening, at ease now that my guests have gone and my mind rambling over a field of emotions. Don't misunderstand me, I'm feeling great, but I would like, right this moment, to have someone to share these feelings with me. I guess I'm sharing them with you. I hope you don't mind.

Lunch today, this afternoon...shared over a five and a half hours or so expanse of seconds, minutes and hours with two very good friends was, as it always is with these particular friends, enlightening, interesting, fun, complete with honesty. We never "pretend". We are who we are...and are not afraid to show who we are to each other.

One of the nicest things anyone has said to me for a long time was at the end of the afternoon and our soiree, with the sun making its final farewell. My guests rose from the table, readying themselves to leave. Paul, as he rose from the table reached out and hugged me. Holding me close, he said, " are great!"

I hugged him in return and pulled Fia, his wife, into our embrace. The three of us stood there with our arms around each other...and then broke out in laughter. It was a wonderful moment. That is what good friendship is about, mutual respect and "love". "We" are great...they and me...because we appreciate each other and, as I said earlier, we are honest with each other. Does that make sense? I don't mean to sound arrogant or egotistical. That is not my intention or meaning.

Paul is very persistent, stubborn and sneaky! For months, he has been plaguing me for one of my paintings. They already have three of my artistic attempts framed and hanging on their walls. I resisted time and time again, telling him a positive and definite "No! I like that painting and I want it myself! You can't have it!"

Not a man to accept "No"...he offered me a deal I couldn't refuse a week or so ago. Being a "shop-a-holic" he decided he and Fia needed a new refrigerator. Once he gets something in his mind, there is no stopping him! There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fridge they had. It was, and is, a magnificent beast. Out of the blue, he rang me offering my their "old" fridge at a price. I 'hummed and hahhed' over it, but after thought said "Yes", then I had second thoughts, thinking I would be flying to close to the wind if I went ahead with the deal, even though I desperately needed a new fridge as mine was close to dying on its non-existent legs.

To cut to the chase, a couple of days later, Paul appeared on my "doorstep" (I don't have a doorstep) and said, "I have a new deal for you! $200 plus "that" painting!" What could I say?

He won! Today, he and Fia went home with my painting firmly clutched in his hands and the $200.00...and I have an almost spanking new fridge! A 500lt monster, which I love!

Today, we christened my "new" fridge and my new raclette.

Raclette is a brilliant way of entertaining. I just laid out bowls of prawns/shrimp, halved cherry tomatoes, garlic butter, stuffed mushrooms, diced bacon, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese, garlic croutons, dill pickled cucumbers and pickled onions, olives, a cucumber/spanish onion/sliced green apple and sour cream salad. Faced with all these goodies, we proceeded to cook what we desired in our individual raclette pans under the element. And we were in our element!

A dessert of sliced peaches set in peach nectar, peach liqueur and champagne jelly topped with whipped cream followed, accompanied with a cheese platter, finished off with dark chocolate and brewed coffee.

"Dreams"...yes, I have many. Too many to mention, I suppose, but today was reality...and it was great. Sometimes, I guess....just sometimes....I wish I had someone with whom to share these special moments. It's times like now as I write, listening to my music, even though I'm not feeling "down" or "blue"...I wish I had that "special" someone by my side...if only for tonight.

That is my dream right now.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getting In Early!

Tomorrow, I'm christening my new raclette. A couple of friends are coming to my place for lunch. It's going to be such an easy meal to prepare because we'll be cooking our own fare at the table. Our hands are going to be very busy...what with filling up our little raclette pans with all the goodies that I'll have on offer and balancing a wine glass in the other, it's going to make it difficult for me to talk with my hands! Speaking of "talking", here's a little story for you to mull over while you enjoy your cup of coffee, beer, wine or whatever else quenches your thirsty needs.

Mother's Day is not far away here in this country. Aussie mums' special day is the second Sunday in May, not later in the year as it is in some areas in the northern hemisphere. I thought I would re-tell a story I post last year when I had no readers of my blog and I was a lonely little petunia in the onion patch...or at least, that's how I felt! And just to show you I have no hard feelings, I'm going to share a couple of recipes with you, as well.

I've never been a 'Mum", but I can keep 'mum' when asked to do so! However, not being a mother didn't stop me from enjoying my own special 'Mother's Day' breakfast one year. It came as a total surprise, as you can imagine. My special treat came when I was managing the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island. Unknown by me, my staff decided to surprise me! And surprise me they did!

A habit of mine when speaking with the island guests or others was, I referred to my staff as "the kids". "The kids did this". "The kids did that". "One of the kids will bring your luggage down to the boat. You don't have to worry about it". Things like that. Actually, once a guest asked how I liked having my "children" work for me! I wondered what she was talking about for a minute or two, then the penny dropped! I hurriedly explained, not wishing her to think I really was the mother of this brood of twelve or so, running around the island! As a joke, which, too, became a habit of my staff, they used to call me "Mum", just for the hell of it and I thought it was fun.

You may recall my telling of the time I organised the making of a sales/marketing video for the island. Peter and his wife came up from the Sunshine Coast to do the filming. On the last day and night of their stay, all the cabins on the island were booked, so I had to move them out of theirs and put them up in my little house, overnight. They wanted to rise before dawn to catch the sunrise over the ocean and Orchid Beach, the beach of the resort. It would be their final filming before flying back south. I wasn't required to join them, which suited me just fine, as my days were long and my nights, most times, even longer.

In the morning, I heard them shuffling around quietly, as they headed off down to the beach. I made no acknowledgment, in an effort to steal a little longer under the covers.

They'd been gone perhaps an hour, maybe an hour and a half, when heard footsteps on the spiral stairs, leading to the bedroom area of little island home. Now, the upstairs' level of my home was open-plan. When turning left at the top of the staircase, one step into the kitchen area, which in turn, led to the bathroom. Turning right at the top of the stairs was my "bedroom" that opened out to a covered deck. No walls other than the exterior walls and those of the bathroom broke the flow.

"Did you forget something?" I called out.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mum!" A chorus of voices replied.

"What! You idiots!" I laughed, pulling the bed covers up around my bare body. I'm not into dressing for bed!

My escape route had been foiled! I had no where to go but to stay put...under the covers, as my "kids", bearing trays filled with tropical flowers, fresh fruits, yoghurt, orange juice and champagne grabbed their piece of my bed...on top of the covers! My staff, some aptly dressed in 'nappies/diapers' made out of old, no longer used bed-linen, full of early morning merriment, sat on my king-size bed while we toasted our halcyon life on the island and their mothers elsewhere on the mainland and across distant oceans.

During this early morning frivolity, I saw Peter's head come half-way up the stairs and promptly to disappear again! I laughed as I called out, "It's okay, Peter! We're not having an's Mother's Day!"

Amongst my memorabilia, I still have the cherished Mother's Day card my staff gave me that morning, with its crazy comments and signatures. It's a reminder of those wondrous, incredible, often unexpected and unplanned times! Every moment is forever embedded in my mind and locked in my heart.


10 medium corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
pinch of salt

24 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped well
1 medium onion, diced 1/2" pieces
Crushed chillies to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chilli sauce sauce
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs

sour cream

Preheat the oven to 210C/425 F. Cut the tortillas into either 1/2" strips or into 8 wedges per tortilla. Toss in a bowl with a tablespoon of oil to coat the chips. Toss very well. Spread the pieces out on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven until they crisp up, around 20 minutes or so. Check after 15 and every 5 minutes, tossing the chips to ensure they crisp evenly. Remove once crisp and dust with a pinch of salt while hot. Set aside. Add all the sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan, stirring well. Sautee for 10 minutes until the flavors have combined together. Remove from heat. Blend the sauce with an immersion blender carefully. Return to heat. Add the crisped chips to the sauce and stir to coat all the chips. Put a tightly fitting lid on top of the pan and heat on medium-low for five - ten minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet and fry two eggs over medium heat.

Serve half the chilaquiles (the tortillas which have soaked up almost all the sauce) with a fried egg on top. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and coriander/cilantro.

Pecan Pancakes:

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted if desired
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup melted butter
vegetable oil
pecan halves or fruit for garnish, optional


In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, soda, and chopped pecans.
In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk and milk, egg yolks, and melted butter. Blend into the dry ingredients just until all ingredients are moistened. Beat egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter until well incorporated. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When skillet is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle, scoop pancake batter onto the skillet in about 1/4-cup portions, spreading slightly. When edges are rather dry and bubbles are popping and bottoms are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes, turn over and cook the other side until browned, about 2 minutes longer.

Serve hot with butter and syrup and garnish with pecan halves or fruit, if desired.

Just a couple of ideas for you to play around with between now and Mother's Day. I don't need to give you a recipe for fruit, do I?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If Anyone Can, Peli Can

Firstly, the credit for the picture goes to "Wino". "Wino" is my partner in crime in our blog FauxNEWS, the link of which is listed "over there ->".

He takes a pretty mean photograph, I must say! I just had to share this beautiful picture of one of my favourite birds with you.

Pelicans and I have an no way do I resemble a pelican, thank you very much!

I was fishing one afternoon at the estuary of the Maroochy River on the Sunshine Coast. As was the habit at the time, I was the chief scaler, cleaner and "filleter" of the fish my ex-husband and I caught. I'm not sure how I managed to volunteer for that job, but somehow it became my regular chore.

We'd had a successful outing. My ex decided he'd keep fishing while I cleaned our "catch". With my back to the water, crouched down, I was intently engrossed in my job at hand when I heard him walking up behind me. Well, I thought I heard him walking up behind me. I turned around to say something to my ex, only to be met eye-to-eye by a pelican who was intent of sharing our future dinner with us! I must admit I nearly jumped out of my skin. Not that pelicans scare me, but I wasn't expecting to go eye-ball to eye-ball and bill with a giant bird! Not at all put off from his endeavour, Master Pelican kept on flip-flopping towards his goal, which I valiantly tried to protect. Meanwhile, my husband remained at the water's edge, laughing his head off!

A couple of years later, we were managing a floating, cruising restaurant on the Noosa River. Dockside, there was a little seafood/fish and chip shop, which was attached to the jetty where the riverboat restaurant moored. I'd open the shop between the hours of 11am-2pm and then 4pm-6pm. The Noosa River pelicans set their watches by my routine. Without fail, moments before opening time, they'd sail or swoop in, taking up their positions on the jetty posts or railings, waiting for their daily treats. It got to the stage where I never had to look at a clock to inform me it was time to prepare the shop for opening. The arrival of the pelicans was all I needed.

They are a stately, magnificent bird. Thanks for the photograph, Wino.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Let's Stand For Those Men We Call The "Anzacs"

I caused a bit of consternation around here at home this morning, I think. My two cats aren't used to seeing me go out at 4.30am. Both were hovering around the back door when I returned from the Dawn Service, having spent the time of my absence discussing with each other the strangeness of my behaviour, no doubt. The three of us tripped over each other as we stumbled to come inside and, even though I'd given them some breakfast before I went out, they were eager for more, so I bowed to their superior knowledge.

Again, this year the folk of the mountain showed up in droves at the Service. The only face I recognised amongst the ever-increasing crowd was our local councillor. This is the fifth Dawn Service I've attended here on the mountain and the crowd must have doubled or more in size. (number, not obesity!)

I wish people would stop doing things to trigger off my urge to giggle! They do it on purpose, I'm sure, because they know I'm uncontrollable!

Everyone was standing, candles in their hands, singing "Abide With Me" (I didn't want to scare the guy next to me, so I just silently read the words. He must have felt similar as he didn't sing along, either)...but voices rang clear and strong through the early morning mountain air until....silence. I'm not sure if it was the lone piano-accordion player or the Pastor who was leading the hymn...but one of them...or perhaps both...forgot there was another verse! And there stood everyone...mouths half-open, waiting to be led into the third verse. A quiet voice came through the microphone, "There's another verse." And everyone continued again where they left off! The two fellows next to me cast sideways glances at me with stupid looks on their faces. I wish they hadn't done that!

Once again this year we beat the kookaburras in starting their day. This happens every year and it's wonderful. The bugler began playing the first notes of the "Last Post". In the tall gum trees guarding the Tamborine Mountain War Memorial, the kookaburras loudly, proudly sang out their glorious rejoicing, heralding the dawning of a new day. It seems so "true blue" Australian. There's not much that is more "Australian" than the 'laughter" of kookaburras first thing in the early morning light....or their final salute at the setting of the sun.

May our men and women in far distant places always hear the call of the kookaburras, leading them back home to safety.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Here's To Our Diggers, Past And Present...

Tomorrow morning (Aussie-time), 25th April, I'll be attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at 5am, up here on the mountain. It's something I do every year, a small token of my gratitude to our men and women, past and present, who place their lives in jeopardy in the battles for the rights and freedom of their fellowmen and women.

The bravery shown time and time again, and the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Forces are humbling.

Anzac Day, 25th April, commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women.

The date marks the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers - the ANZACs - on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, its Turkish defenders still held Gallipoli.

Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians. Among the dead were 2721 New Zealanders, almost one in four of those who served on Gallipoli.

It may have led to a military defeat, but for many Australians and New Zealanders then and since, the Gallipoli landings meant the beginning of something else - a feeling that both fledgling nations played its role as a distinct nation, even as it fought on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.

The pride of those first young Anzacs continues to live through our brave unsung heroes and heroines fighting the battles for freedom on far distant shores and those here at home protecting the rights we value and shall retain.

Thank you to all the Service men and women of Australia and New Zealand...past and present.

May the spirit of ANZAC forever remain strong within us.

Lest We Forget

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happiness Is...

The sound of rain on my roof

When I hear a husband saying nice things about his wife, in front of his wife, in front of others and I know it is said with sincerity, respect and love (or vice versa)

The smile from a child

Waking up in the morning!

My new refrigerator!

Watching any of Jamie Oliver's cooking shows

When I finish transcribing these cassettes

When I get paid for transcribing these cassettes!

Finding that there actually is my "knight in shining armour" and he hasn't gotten lost, only delayed! (Or should that be mislaid....umm...I'll have to ponder on this one for a while!)

Not hearing anyone knocking on my door

Stepping out from a long, hot shower after a busy day

My two cats meowing a "Hello" every time they come inside during the day...just to let me know they are here

A week of hearing rain on my roof

Two weeks of hearing rain on my roof

Rain over a long period of time in the drought-affected areas, with good follow-up falls

Having all my bits and pieces, books and memorabilia around me

Not seeing a carpet snake sunbaking on my roof!

When I know for certain the carpet snake is no longer around!

When washed floors have time to dry before someone walks all over them

Hearing from someone who matters a lot to me

Hearing often from someone who matters a lot to me

Not receiving tele-marketing calls

When my computer doesn't freeze up on me or is on a "go-slow"

When I don't accidentally delete a page/s of word-processing or a whole post!

No hassles

Finding something I thought I'd lost

Remembering something I thought I'd forgotten

Forgetting something not worth remembering

Remembering to forget something not worth remembering

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Let's Eat!

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid growing up, my older brother and I, dressed in our “good” clothes, were sent off to Sunday School. Of course, my brother raced ahead, leaving me running behind trying my best to keep up with him. I scurried along, calling out to him to wait, but he never heeded my plaintive cries. At that stage in his young life, he thought it was the worst thing in the world to be seen out walking with a GIRL, and particularly if that girl happened to be his little sister!

Once Sunday School was over, (many times, if not every Sunday morning, my brother and a couple of his mates were sent from the room because of their disruptive, mischievous behaviour…and at threats of now-forgotten torture, I never did “dob in” him and his mates) we raced back home with the lure of a delicious Sunday lunch as our reward. Running through the yard, we would reach the backstairs leading up to the kitchen, to be greeted by the starvation-enhancing aromas of a roast meal wafting through the air. Sunday afternoons were spent at home. We were never allowed to go and play at our friends’ backyards, nor they in ours.

As I grew older, started working and was in my early teens, I discovered the biggest backyard of all. Sunday School and Sunday roast dinners/lunches were replaced by sand, surf, sun….and those glorious surf life-savers! And I don’t mean the lolly/candy ones!

And then as I grew a bit older (something that seems to happen every moment of the day. I've not yet learned how to kick this habit -I'll let you know when I do), home entertaining came in vogue. I've not broken that habit yet, either! Sunday brunches became a popular way to entertain friends and family. Because there is that saying "all things old, are new again" - I thought I'd share some brunch ideas with you.

Strawberry Pie: In a saucepan, combine 2-1/2 cups water, 2 cups white sugar and 5 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 30z packet of strawberry jelly. Allow to cool. slightly. Arrange 2 quarts of strawberries, tips pointing upwards, in two 9-inch pre-cooked pie crusts. Pour jelly mixture over, covering the berries. Allow to set in fridge.

Breakfast Souffle: Preheat oven to 190C (375F) . Place a large (9x13 or so) baking pan in the oven and fill with about an inch of water. Spray a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Melt 4 tablespoons butter and whisk in 1/4 cup flour, cooking for a couple of minutes over medium-low heat. Whisk in 1 cup milk until smooth and cook until thick, three minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup each grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses and a pinch of cayenne or dry mustard. Cook over very low heat until the cheeses melt. Beat a few tablespoons of the very thick sauce into the 4 egg yolks, then mix the yolk mixture into the sauce. Beat 4 egg whites stiff, but not dry. Mix a big scoop of the whites into the cheese sauce to lighten the mixture. Then carefully fold the sauce into the whites. When combined, put in a souffle dish and gently slip that into the water filled baking pan, bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately with buttered toast.

Ham & Egg Pie: Pre-heat oven to 205C (400F) and plce rack in centre of oven. Have ready a 9-inch quiche pan or pie plate. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out one sheet of prepared puff pastry to fit the pie dish. After lining the dish with the puff pastry, arrange about 1/4lb (125g) diced ham on top of the pastry. Break 7 eggs, placing them evenly around the quiche pan. Prick each yolk with a fork but do not stir yolks and whites together. Sprinkle over about 3 tablespoons diced shallots (green onions), a light sprinkle of salt and pepper and then top with more ham....about the same quantity as previously. Roll a second sheet of puff pastry out to fit over the top. Cover pie with pastry, pinching the two sheets together, trimming off excess. Brush the top with egg wash. Place in oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Serve cool or warm.

Fillings for Pancakes: Savoury: Lay thin slices of tomatoes on one half of crepe, and then sprinkle with crumbled goat's cheese and season with salt and pepper. Fold crepe into quarters and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Grill under griller/broiler until crepes are golden brown..

Ham, thinly sliced, gruyere cheese, thinly slice, freshly ground pepper to taste and proceed as above.

Fruit Fillings: Mangoes, (rock melon/cantaloupe, pawpaw/papaya, bananas, berries or whatever fruit takes your fancy) peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices tossed gently in sugar, fresh lemon juice and then placed on a crepe...fold over and serve topped with whipped cream.

Don't forget the Mimosas! I'm off to make some now!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Trip To Port Moresby...Final...Chapter Five.

For some reason, which I’ve since forgotten, a couple of my merry band of tourism “experts”, together with the PNG Avis host and his wife, returned to my hotel room after we completed dinner, a dinner during which we had been treated like royalty and one we had thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps the knowledge that I had an unopened bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label that I’d purchased at the Cairns’ Duty Free Shop, in my room, rather than my inspirational company was the bait! Settling in, we did damage to that bottle, the soda, ice and cold water from my bar fridge. I had intended taking the Black Label back to the island with me for leisurely sipping on after a long day and night’s work, but that plan was thwarted, rapidly and all that was left of it after my guests had left was an empty bottle...a "dead marine"! Over animated conversation and much laughter, the bottle and all its accompaniments had been demolished.

We visitors to the far north, however, did learn a lot about the lifestyle of ex-pats in Port Moresby that evening and early morning. It wasn’t a glamorous life. It was an existence surrounded by danger and alertness. Lyn, the wife of David, Avis’ Area Manager, told us, even though she was “accepted” amongst the Nationals’ womenfolk, she felt an underlying animosity at all times. We talked and enjoyed “Johnnie” until both he and us were depleted. An early morning was ahead, as was a long day, with our planned trip to the start of the Kokoda Trail and our return flight to Cairns later in the afternoon, so our little party broke up about 3 am!

Rising early, heavy with the effects of the previous evening, I was feeling very dehydrated. Raiding my bar fridge produced no results as all the water, ice and soda had disappeared, a result of our late-night frivolities. Deciding a long cold or lukewarm shower would restore my sensibilities, I relished the thought of standing under the shower nozzle and letting the water rush over my weary body in an attempt at restoration.

No such luck! The water pouring forth from the shower was boiling hot. It was impossible to stand under it. I tried everything, but there was not a drop of cold water to be had the taps or nozzle! After our shenanigans of the previous evening, I didn’t even have any cold water in my fridge to splash on my face. Darting my hands back and forth under the boiling water in the shower, I managed somehow, with great difficulty, to have a “spot” wash. I was by no mean refreshed, but I think the shock of the steaming water managed to wake me up a little. Quickly dressing, I hurried down to the lobby to meet up with my fellow motley crew. Everyone, I discovered, had suffered the same problem as I had. The whole hotel had no cold water! No cold water! I’d heard of running out of hot water, but never cold water! So, there we were…a hung-over, bedraggled, bleary-eyed, unwashed band of banditos, sort of ready for the day ahead. Once we were all together, and saw the funny side of it, we decided nothing was going to faze us! We remembered our “one for all, all for one” creed! Breakfast was a hurried affair and soon we were on board the “Avis Bus”, headed for the hills/mountains behind Port Moresby.

But before we left Moresby, our host took us to the historic Bomana War Cemetery, just outside the city limits on the road to Sogeri, our destination 46 kilometres away.

Arriving and disembarking at the war cemetery, our high spirits immediately lulled. An atmosphere of deep respect and sorrow took over. I was not alone in my reverie as we wandered somberly throughout the beautifully maintained cemetery, a memorial to those who lost their lives fighting for the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy today. Not one of us had dry eyes. It’s difficult to describe how I felt. The best probably is to say, it was an “out of body” experience. We didn’t talk amongst each other. We broke away and wandered alone with our own thoughts. There were no words to be spoken. Words would be redundant.

A rotunda stands proudly and serenely on a hill behind the cemetery. It is the memorial to the men of the Australian Army and the Papua New Guinea forces, the Australian Merchant Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force who lost their lives during the Papuan operations, the brave men who have no graves. The total number of burials at Bomana Cemetery is 3,779. This war cemetery commenced in 1942. Bomana War Cemetery is a credit to those who lovingly, respectfully and carefully tend to it.

I feel honoured to this very day to have experienced the unexpected time I spent at Bomana War Cemetery amongst the spirits of those brave men.

Climbing up the winding range, the views all around us were stunning. Down low behind us was the dry, dusty savannah of Port Moresby. In the valleys below us on either side on the winding road, were deep crevices covered in dense foliage the shadows formed dark, metallic blues in their hidden ravines. It’s only forty-six kilometers from Port Moresby to the Sogeri Plateau, around 800 metres above sea level, (I think!), but it seemed much longer. It was definitely cooler than down below. Sogeri is the starting point of the Kokoda Trail.

Halfway up the range, we noticed a Papua New Guinea “warrior” in all his decorative glory standing out on a small escarpment. Pulling the vehicle off the road, we jumped out and went over to him. Standing there in his make-up and colourful, feathered head-dress, he told us we could take his photograph for 5 kinas. (Don’t ask me what the exchange rate was, as I haven’t got a clue now). We each paid him 5 kinas as was his rate and each of us took his photo. The trick was, we used our cameras and our films (the days before digital cameras) and he had no expenses other than his vibrant regalia!

With a broad smile on his face, he waved as we drove off. We waved back, cheerfully. We were feeling no pain, a result of the previous evening. No wonder he had a broad smile on his face, he was probably thinking, “Sucker tourists!”

One of our astute passengers said, “Did you notice his watch? It was a Rolex! He’s probably got his BMW parked around the corner hidden in the scrub!” Never a truer statement had been made probably! No wonder the “warrior” had a big smile on his face! All he had to do was stand there looking “pretty gruesome”, at no cost to him, while he reaped in the kinas!

We continued up the range, awed by the stunning, magnificence of the scenery surrounding us. Finally, we reached the “Kokoda Inn”. There we, naturally, after all, we were pretty thirsty, headed to the bar for a cold, cold beer! Stuck or pinned to the wall behind the very primitive, rustic, but atmospheric bar were hundreds of paper monetary notes from throughout the years and from many countries, mainly local, Australian, British and the United States of America. These became the hub of our conversation as did our myriad questions about Kokoda and its history.

Outside was a primitive zoo holding all forms of bird and animal life, most of which I’d never seen before.

By this time, our merry band of wanderers was hungry, that included me. The after-effects of the previous evening had given us a hunger, which needed to be sated, and quickly! Finding a long, wooden outdoor table, we promptly sat ourselves at it and ordered from the luncheon menu that consisted of steak and salad and steak and salad. Our chatter around the table was lively as we’d enjoyed a most interesting trip up to our destination. We were also enjoying our destination, where the air was crisp, clean and refreshing.

Our meals arrived without much delay. The steak (?) was the toughest meat I, and the others had ever eaten! We didn't know what animal it derived from and we dared not ask. However, our high spirits weren’t going to be dampened by a piece of “meat”! We made no complaints as we chewed and chewed our way through whatever beast it represented. The salad was garden-fresh and lunch was fun.

Finally, as all good things do, our happy jaunt came to its end. It was time to return back down the range to Port Moresby and to our hotel. There we gathered up our belongings and headed out to the airport for our return flight to Cairns. Who would have guessed? Once more, we had a two-hour wait for our delayed flight! I bought another bottle of Johnnie Walker Black to take back with me to Hinchinbrook Island, this time intending to take longer to savour its mellow contents! I think not one of us minded the delay in our flight, because it gave us time to come together as one as we cheerfully discussed the events and the laughter we had shared over the past couple of days and nights.

I never did see Graeme, our self-appointed expert tour leader, again during my time in Papua New Guinea. While I think of it, I can’t remember ever seeing him again! Perhaps he’s still up in the Highlands somewhere, bellowing at some poor body!

My trip to and from Port Moresby, the short period of time I spent in Papua New Guinea will always remain in my memory. I remember the fun and laughter, the camaraderie, the bond we all formed and felt equally. I will never forget “Manuel”! I will always remember the emotions I felt when I visited Bomana War Cemetery.

I can’t finish this story without sharing with you the poem written by Australian digger, Bert Beros at 4am one morning, on the Kokoda Track, after having been in a stand-to. Bert Beros wrote his poem in honour of the wonderful “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”, who helped and guided our brave young men on the Kokoda Track during that horrendous battle. The New Guinea “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” were answers to the prayers of the mothers of our diggers. It is recorded that an officer sent a copy of the poem to his mother. Impressed by the poem, she had it published in the Brisbane “Courier Mail”.

The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels

Many a mother in Australia,
When the busy day is done,
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
For the keeping of her son,
Asking that an Angel guide him
And bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
On the Owen Stanley track,
For they haven’t any halos,
Only holes slashed in the ears,
And with faces worked by tattoos,
With scratch pins in their hair,
Bringing back the wounded,
Just as steady as a hearse,
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a nurse.

Slow and careful in bad places,
On the awful mountain track,
And the look upon their faces,
Makes us think that Christ was black.
Not a move to hurt the carried,
As they treat him like a Saint,
It’s a picture worth recording,
That an Artist’s yet to paint.
Many a lad will see his Mother,
And the Husbands, Weans and Wives,
Just because the Fuzzy Wuzzy
Carried them to save their lives.

From mortar or machine gun fire,
Or a chance surprise attack,
To safety and the care of Doctors,
At the bottom of the track.
May the Mothers in Australia,
When they offer up a prayer,
Mention those impromptu Angels,
With the Fuzzy Wuzzy hair.

Sapper H "Bert" Beros

- Bert Beros...1942

The End

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What's Up, Doc?

My pictures in my previous post aren't showing...I don't know what occurred and I'm too frazzled at the moment to find out what the problem is. To be honest, I don't know how to fix it and am hoping it will fix itself!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Trip To Port Moresby...Chapter Four

The day had been long, filled to over-flowing with appointments due to our shortened time to deal with the matters originally we thought we had two days to handle. However, everyone one of us was well-versed in our products and the areas we represented. Each one of us had been well-received and felt satisfied with the results. Of course, the fruits of our labours wouldn’t begin to come into effect until about eighteen months down the track. Speaking generally, normally it takes that long for the ball to start rolling. When one is dealing with tourism, one is dealing with future holiday periods. Holiday-makers usually plan well-ahead, some may have just had their annual vacation, so another twelve months period comes into contention before their next holiday. Eighteen months became our rule of thumb. There were always exceptions to the rules, of course, as there is in every area of business.

I’d not set foot out of the hotel since the day of arrival, neither had the rest of my new-found friends, except Graeme, of course, who had escaped the clutches of Port Moresby earlier in the day. He’d disappeared to the hills. None of us missed him. Speaking for myself, I was relieved he was no longer in our party. I think, silently, the others felt the same way. We felt like children left at home alone without our parents to watch over us. We were enjoying the feeling! School was out and it was time to play, even if our playground was limited.

Security to us “green-horns” was of utmost importance, our own personal security, that is. I was quite happy to take photographs of colourful postcards to prove that I’d been there. I certainly wasn’t going to be wandering the streets alone, either day or night. My fellowmen felt similarly, following my words on the first day of us being chained together by an imaginary chain to the letter.

Prior to and at the time of our visit to Port Moresby, security or should I say the lack of it was a reason why tourism was high on the list of money-making business. As has happened and is still happening in many developing countries, the young men are educated and then with high expectations go to the cities for work. Once there, their bubbles are burst. Disenchanted they become members of gangs of similar young men in like positions. This was how the “rascal” was born in Papua New Guinea, most particularly in Port Moresby. I wrote earlier about the abundance of barbed-wire, referred to as “razor-barb” in PNG. It is endless, coiled razor-blade share barbed-wire running along the tops of high, strengthened wire fences surrounding homes and business properties. Its ugliness may, in some places, be hidden by the equally thorny albeit, vibrantly blossomed bougainvillea, but its maiming, dangerous purpose and duty remain.

As we were willing prisoners of our “home-base”, the “Islander Hotel, the manager of Avis in Papua New Guinea (the manager, David, an Aussie ex-pat actually was the South Pacific Regional Manager. He and his young family were based in Moresby) invited us to dine, as the guests of Avis, that evening in the main restaurant of the hotel, an invitation we eagerly accepted.

After packing up all our presentation materials, hurriedly we returned to our respective rooms to shower and dress for the evening.

Entering the restaurant, a long table had been set up and beautifully decorated for our benefit. The very attentive waiters, dressed in the customary white shirts, bow-ties, cummerbunds, black trousers, this bore no shocks when it came to footwear. There wasn’t one “Manuel” amongst them. They hovered politely and efficiently around our table throughout our dinner. It was perhaps amongst the best service I’ve ever witnessed in a restaurant. All our needs were met promptly without asking. Delectable arrays of various hors d’oeuvres were presented on a cream enamel rectangular contraption that stood about five feet high. The waiter turned a handle on the side of the upright trolley and a rack holding matching cream enamel rectangle dishes filled with delicacies was presented. The waiter would do the rounds of the table and start again at the top and repeat his actions; another rack bearing enamel dishes filled with different hors d’ oeuvres were at our disposal. I don’t know if the piece of interesting, intriguing equipment had a name. I’d never seen one before, nor have I seen one since. To me it looked like something from the early part of the twentieth century, of European heritage. Perhaps it had originated in Britain or perhaps, Germany. I don’t know but it was a fascinating and useful food server. In my wild imagination, it looked like something that would have been used on the “Titanic”. It was definitely, in my opinion as humble as it has always been, of around that era.

The meal that evening was comparable to any meal I, or the others had had in Australian restaurants. The service was faultless.

We certainly were a high-spirited, yet well-behaved group that evening. Conversation and laughter flowed freely along and back and forth across the table. It was very generous of Avis to cater for us in that manner. I can only say, David, the South Pacific Manager of Avis must have had a massive expense account! He announced over dinner that if any of us wished to join him as a guest of Avis the following day, he would take us for a trip in an Avis Nissan Tarago up to the start of the Kokoda Trail, where we would lunch at the “Kokoda Inn”, now named, I believe the “Kokoda Motel”. We all jumped at his most generous offer.

It seemed appropriate to do the trip as the next day was July 23rd, Remembrance Day, the day that marks the anniversary of the first engagement between opposing troops, the Australians and the Japanese, on July 23rd, 1942.

The Australian force was out-numbered and the long fight, withdrawing over the Owen Stanley Ranges began. On July, 21st 1942, forty-five years to the day before our band of merry folk arrived in Papua New Guinea, Japanese troops landed on the northern coast of New Guinea and began their march over the Owen Stanley Ranges, intent on capturing Port Moresby. (Port Moresby lies in the rain-shadow of the Owen Stanley Range, hence its dryness).Of course, had they succeeded, mainland Australia would be next in their sights. Our 21st Brigade consisting of 1,500 men, under the command of Brigadier Potts was rushed to New Guinea.

There they attempted to position themselves to stop the advance of the Japanese, who, at that stage, had over 10,000 men.

This was the start of a historical part of World War 11, for both Australia and New Guinea.

Kokoda became Australia’s most significant campaign of the Second World War. More Australians during that campaign died than in any other campaign during that war. The average age of our fighting men was between 18 and 19 years and many of those young men lie buried in the Bomana War Cemetery, just outside Port Moresby.

Much of the Kokoda Track was through dense rain-forest, mud, mist, thick bush with steep, near-impenetrable ridges to deep valleys below, flanked by mountains rising to over 2,000 metres. In those days, the track was seldom-used. Our men had to battle not only rapidly-running creeks, but moss-covered rocks and logs. It was on January, 23rd, 1942 that the Japanese landed at Kavieng on the island of New Ireland and at Rabaul on the island of New Britain. There they overcame the Australian forces. Feeling mighty confident, on March, 8th, the Japanese firmly established themselves at Lae and Salamaua in Morobe.

Shortly afterwards, the Battle of the Coral Sea progressed off the coast of Queensland between May 5th and 8th. This battle averted the Japanese invasion of Port Moresby. In June, a few weeks after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Americans had success at the Battle of Midway.

The Japanese, who were regularly bombing Port Moresby, then decided on the overland attack across the Owen Stanley Range. On the Kododa Trail the Australian 7th Division resisted the Japanese overland attempt to capture Port Moresby. The advance was halted within 30 miles of the city.

A small force of Australians known as "Maroubra Force" arrived at Buna on July 21st, 1942, as the first Japanese force of 1500 men landed at Gona, eight miles to the west.

What followed will forever go down as one of the most heroic defensive actions in the annals of military history.

The first engagement between the opposing troops was on the July 23, 1942. From that engagement, as the Australian force was progressively outnumbered, began the long fighting withdrawal over the Owen Stanley Range.

*“Kokoda is a small plateau on the north-east slopes of the Owen Stanley Range and possessed a small airstrip the retention of which, for at least as long as it would take Australia to fly in supplies and reinforcements, was of great importance.

However, the remnants of "Maroubra Force", exhausted by a month's constant fighting, were unable to achieve this.

Valiant though their effort was, they even recaptured the plateau after being driven out, the Japanese need was of equal importance as they required a forward base at Kokoda for their drive over the ranges along the "Kokoda Trail" to Port Moresby and they struck before the Australians were able to muster sufficient strength.

The initiative now remained with the Japanese and Australian withdrawal began again - through Isurava, Alola, Templeton's Crossing, Myola, Efogi, Menari and Nauro until at Ioribaiwa Ridge, beyond which the Japanese could not be permitted to penetrate, a final stand was made.

From August 26 to September 16 in 1942 Brigadier Potts’s Maroubra Force, consisting of the 2/16th Battalion, together with the 2/14th, the 2/27th and the militia 39th and scattered elements of the ill – trained 53rd Battallion - outnumbered and outgunned by an estimated 5 to 1 - fought the Japanese to an eventual standstill on the ridges overlooking Port Moresby.

Two main battles were fought during that period (Isurava August 26 to 29 and Brigade ‘Butchers’Hill from September 6 to 8).

In the main, the desperately tired but determined force kept themselves between the Japanese Major General Horri’s South Sea Force and Port Moresby – defending, retreating and then counter – attacking in a masterly display of strategic defence.

Conditions were almost indescribable.

It rained for most of the time, the weary men endured some of the most difficult terrain of the world and they were racked by malaria and dysentery.

But they kept on fighting, making the enemy pay dearly for every yard of ground.

They bought time for those being prepared to come up from Port Moresby to relieve them.

The Australians, however, had a surprise in store for the enemy.

This was in the form of 25-pounder guns brought from Moresby to the road head at Owers’ Corner and then laboriously dragged into position at Imita Ridge, opening up on the enemy's barricades and it was now the turn of the Japanese to suffer what the Australians had suffered in the preceding two months.

Australian shelling smashed Japanese defences and aggressive patrols inflicted severe losses.

On the morning of September 28th the Australians were closing in and it became evident then the Japanese were withdrawing.

The chase, with the Australians the pursuers, was now on.

The Japanese, despite sickness and hunger, were still formidable and tenaciously defended all the places in their withdrawal as the Australians had in their retreat some weeks earlier.

Kokoda was entered on November 2 and this was the beginning of the end of Japanese hopes in Papua.

The campaign now entered a phase known as "The Battle of the Beaches".

The Japanese were bottled up in the area from which they had commenced their drive on Port Moresby some months previously - Buna, Gona, Sanananda.

This final campaign commenced on November 19, 1942, and ended on January 22, 1943, when all organised resistance by the Japanese in Papua ended.

Lt Col Honner DSO MC, who commanded the gallant 39th in the campaign, later wrote of these men in the foreword to Peter Brune’s book ‘Those Rugged Bloody Heroes’: “They have joined the immortals.”

Of those that did not survive, he wrote: “Wherever their bones may lie, the courage of heroes is consecrated in the hearts and engraved in the history of the free.”

*Taken from Second World War Kokoda Trail Annals.

Of course, I wanted to go to the start of the Kokoda Trail, or “Track” as it is also known. I knew I would probably never get the chance again. It never entered my mind to say “No” to the trip on offer.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Trip To Port Moresby....Chapter Three

Like well-behaved children, the nine of us “experts” in tourism met in the lobby at seven o’clock as instructed. We were duly herded into the main function room of “The Islander” by our self-appointed leader, the one with the bellowing voice and an air of arrogance, Graeme. In a rare moment of quietude, he told us our marketing programme would have to be squashed into one day as he had just found out that our last day was a public holiday in Papua New Guinea. The 23rd July is their “Remembrance Day”, similar to Australia’s Anzac Day. We arrived on the afternoon of 21st July and were to leave late afternoon of the 23rd after almost a full day’s business. No one bothered to mention this minor fact to the organizers of our expedition/exposition. If someone had thought to advise the organizers, the dates for our visit could have been changed. Now it was too late to do anything other than have a quiet complain amongst ourselves, move on and “grin and bear it”.

A special function was planned for us on our first evening in Moresby. A head table on a slightly raised dais held I had no idea who, but Graeme, our “leader of the pack” was centre stage, a position he obviously relished. To his left and to right were other “dignitaries”. I never did discover who they were, but throughout the evening each gave a “talk”, welcoming our little band of troupers. The remaining eight of us were placed at the same table, so we didn’t get to meet anyone else at the other tables spread throughout the room. However, we were treated royally. The “red carpet” definitely had been shaken, beaten and vacuumed for our appearance. Our wine glasses remained topped up magically throughout the dinner. We were looked after extremely well by the doting, courteous staff of the hotel.

Once seated at table covered by a starched white tablecloth with the rest of my traveling companions, our conversation flowed freely. We were old friends after our time spent together at Cairns airport while we’d waited for our delayed flight. Drink orders were taken. A little while after, dinner began being served. We talked among ourselves. I think we all felt a little out of place as we knew no one else at the other tables, and there were quite a number of other tables filled with Aussie ex-pats. Waiting staffed buzzed around the room, never still, it seemed, busily getting on with the jobs allocated to them.

The time arrived for the “head table” to begin the formal proceedings of the reason for the evening. At moments of seriousness, during meetings etc., I have the weird tendency to recognize, or find, (no matter how minute!) the humour in such situations, which, at times, can be little disconcerting and disastrous!

I couldn’t take my eyes off one of the waiters. In your minds, picture the image of “Manuel”, the Spanish waiter out of “Fawlty Towers”, but picture him as a Papua New Guinea National. This “Manuel” was also short in stature. His eyes darted from here to there, never still. His body moved in nervous accord. Scanning down his frame, he was dressed for his part in the night’s performance. White shirt, black bow tie, red cummerbund, black trousers were all correct dress, until one’s eyes reached where his slightly short long trousers met his ankles, then the shock was almost too much to contain…white socks under beige suede desert boots!

Fascinated and entertained I watched as “Manuel” whizzed up and down the head table, filling and refilling wine glasses. He didn’t miss a beat. He had been instructed well. “Manuel” was following his instructions to the letter!

Sitting opposite me at our table was the North Queensland Manager of one of the major bus/coach companies. We had been making small talk throughout our meal, nothing more, and nothing less. Our small talk ceased, when those at the main table began their welcome speeches. Unfortunately, as it turned out, my mate across the table had a similar sense of the ridiculous as I had or, should I say, still have! His eyes and mine met. Immediately, it was obvious to both of us we were “on the same page”. It was fatal. We were on the brink of saving our decorum. Both of us fell into a fit of the giggles, recognizing what each of us was thinking. Vainly, we attempted to, and did succeed, though with much difficulty, to hide our lack of control. It was very difficult and made even more difficult because we were both not of any help to the other in containing our respective, individual and combined hysteria! He was kicking me under the table and I, naturally retaliated! We tried not to look at each other because that only made us worse. The rest at our table seemed totally oblivious to our reasons for squirming. The crescendo reached unreachable, unbearable heights when it came time for Graeme to stand and deliver his speech, something he took very seriously. After all, he was our leader!

Graeme stood up. At the exact moment he began to speak, “Manuel” noticed that Graeme’s wine glass was empty. In a flurry, “Manuel” grabbed a bottle of white wine from the free-standing chrome ice bucket. He had, after all, been instructed to make sure that the guests’ wine glasses at all times were filled. “Manuel” scurried to Graeme’s side, wine bottle at the ready. He started to pour the amber liquid. Gruffly, Graeme shook his head, throwing “Manuel” a filthy look. “Manuel’s” eyes grew even larger, the whites stood out brilliantly. He halted mid-way, wine bottle still at half-mast. He didn’t know what to do next, or which way to turn. No one had instructed him what to do if somebody said, “No.”

Poor “Manuel”…his head spun around on his neck. He searched for the ice bucket. It had only been “there” a moment ago! Finally, he spotted it. With two quick steps to his left, he was beside the ice bucket, hoping to God, I think, that it wouldn’t move. With a flourish, he placed the wicked wine bottle in the bucket and then, throughout the rest of the speeches, he remained frozen to the spot, guarding that wine bottle and ice bucket with his life, not game to even move a finger. His eyes never flickered. It was so funny, but I did feel sorry for him, too, because he was only doing what he had been told to do by his superiors. He didn’t deserve the rude rebuff from Graeme. After all, we really were on a “goodwill” mission.

Once the speeches were completed, the atmosphere relaxed and so did “Manuel”, who once again commenced his frenetic pace, buzzing up, down and around the table. With the formalities at an end, my partner in mirth across the table and I were able to lift the lids off our laughter, much to our relief. Friendly conversations spread amicably around our table as we got to know each other further, discussing the respective roles each of us played in tourism. Towards the end of the evening, Graeme deemed to join our motley group to tell us he would be flying further up the coast and then to the Highlands the following morning and wouldn’t return until it was time for our flight back home. We were “on our own”, but I heard no complaints from any of my fellow conspirators!

The following day it was all business. With or without Graeme the show went on!

We were each allocated our own special section in which to handle our pre-set appointments. After lunch, each one of us had to make a solo presentation of our particular “product/s”, standing behind a podium, to the whole congregation of ex-pat business people. I was always thankful when a podium was supplied at such events, as I felt the podium hid my shaking knee. Yes, that’s right, “knee”. Only my right knee used to get the shakes! Once I got underway with my spiel after the initial couple of moments of sheer terror, I was fine. My knee behaved itself and no one was the wiser. I believed in the “product” I was marketing, and when that is the case, it’s easy to “sell” or educate others on the product. A full day of business had been planned for us all, plus I imagined, a bit extra was fitted in because we had lost a whole day of business because of the public holiday.

Lunchtime arrived. We were grateful for the break. The business of the day had kicked off at 8am and we broke for lunch at 12.30pm. It’d been an intense morning filled with non-stop talking. A long queue lined up in front of the small temporary bar that had been set up in the function room, the same room we’d occupied the previous evening. I realized then why the outside bar had so many staff manning it. Service was a bit like “manyana”. The barman that day was very methodical, and very slow. I was dying for a scotch, ice and soda. The person in front of me ordered a scotch and soda…and that was the beginning of an epic as long as “Gone with the Wind”!

“Manuel” was running around somewhere that day, but he wasn’t behind the bar. I saw him run into a swinging door at one stage. Nothing had changed for the poor guy!

I waited patiently for the person in front of me at the bar to get his scotch and soda The waiter, of the same persuasion as “Manuel”, stood his ground firmly behind the small counter. Looking about him, to his surprise, he discovered a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red. Reaching for it, he plonked it down in front of him staring at it as if daring it to move. Casting his eyes about, he located a glass. The next problem he faced was finding the ice. Ahh…there it was! Two cubes, no, three were placed gingerly into the glass. Now, where did that bottle of scotch get to? Okay…he found it. Off came the top, which became used as the nip measurer. Into the glass over the ice went the nip of scotch. Carefully, he screwed the cap back onto the bottle, and he carefully placed the bottle back in its spot. Now, we had a problem. Where the hell was the soda? His eyes, too, grew larger like “Manuel’s” had the previous night, until finally he found the soda, which, by the way, was right in front of him. Another problem raised its head. Where was the glass with the ice and the nip of scotch? Whew! It was still where he had placed it to his surprise. He unscrewed the top off the bottle of soda, not taking his eyes off the glass. Eventually, he proudly beamed the largest smile and handed his success to the gentleman in front of me. Then, it was my turn.

“Could I have a beer, please?” I asked with a smile. There was no way I was going to go through that performance again!

To Be Continued.....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Trip To Port Moresby....Chapter Two

Soon, the islands of the Strait were in the distance. The Torres Strait Island group, approximately 274 in total, lying between Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea, are part of Queensland. They are administered by the Torres Strait Regional Authority, a special authority fitting the native, Melanesian, land rights. Some of the islands lie just off the coast of New Guinea. Because of drastic depletion of their cultural artifacts in 1888-1880 by the visiting Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, in 1904, the islanders became subject to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act (1897-Qld).

Papua New Guinea is about the size of California. Approximately 96% of its population of approximately 5.8million is Christian. Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975. The Torres Strait Islands and Islanders remained Australian. The New Guinea government objected to Australia having complete control over the waters of the strait. Both governments came to an agreement that suited both countries. The islands and islanders remained Australian, but the maritime border between Australia and Papua New Guinea runs through the centre of the strait, so both countries manage the resources of the area. From the tip of Cape York to New Guinea the distance is approximately 150kms at the narrowest point. The islands scatter over some 200-300kms, east to west.

It would please Al Gore to hear that at the termination of the last Ice Age, approximately 12,000 years ago, the rising sea submerged what was formerly a land-bridge between our two countries. (Definite signals of “Global Warming”, Mr. Gore!) Many of the western Torres Strait Islands are the remaining peaks of the former land-bridge that weren’t completely submerged when the ocean levels rose.

Torres Strait Islanders are Melanesians, distinct from the Australian Aboriginal. The population of the islands is approximately 8,000.

Seated next to me on the flight to Port Moresby was the North Queensland Area Manager for Avis Car Rental. He had made many previous business trips to New Guinea. I was interested in hearing from him what to expect upon arrival in Moresby. Time was limited on the flight, however, one barely had time to buckle up, unbuckle, have one beer, then buckle up again before we began our descent into Port Moresby airport! My flight companion told me to expect to see the New Guinea Nationals walking everywhere.

“What do you mean?” I asked. My curiosity aroused.

“Just that…they walk every where…coming and going, coming and going…never in a hurry…just walking. I don’t know if they ever get to where they’re going or if where they started from…but, you’ll see…they just…walk. You’ll see what I mean when we get there.”

The airport overflowed with people. A crowd milled around inside and outside of terminal building. Some sat on the floor, with their backs resting against the walls or whatever other support they could find. Some didn’t bother with any support. Security guards and police, with sniffing German Shepherds at their sides, created an ominous presence.

“Anyone trying to smuggle drugs into this country, would be a fool!” I mumbled softly out of the corner of my mouth to my flight companion, to whose side I’d become glued!

Finally, we collected our luggage, eagerly exiting the airport terminal to our waiting Avis cars. Outside, everywhere I looked, the Nationals (Papua New Guineans) were crouched under trees, palm trees, on lawns, on the footpaths, anywhere they could find a spot on which to sit. En route to our hotel, “The Islander”, I began to understand what Tony, my well-informed flight companion, had tried to explain to me. All along the way, on both sides of the road leading into Moresby, people were walking, some that way, some this way. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry to get to where they were going or vice versa. They “just walked”!

The trip from the airport to our hotel didn’t take long. Driving into the grounds of the hotel, once again I noticed New Guinea Nationals sitting along the fence line, under the decorative palm trees, next to shrubs, in the hotel gardens, everywhere. Alighting from our respective vehicles at the hotel, we gathered together in a cluster. Standing on the stairs leading to the foyer and reception desk, were three or four well-built, serious-looking New Guinea policemen with large black batons attached to their belts. Their hands frequently strayed to finger the threatening-looking, thick truncheons. To me, it appeared, the police needed little provocation in using their trusty cudgels. From the look of the weapons worn proudly on their hips, they had the capacity to do much harm.

The government elections had been held just prior to our visit and while the votes were being collected and counted, a prohibition on alcohol had been in force. A prolonged wave of violent crime in Port Moresby had started in 1985, culminating in a “state of emergency” in June, 1985. Left, right and centre there were government party splits going on in parliament. The unrest continued with serious riots erupting the Highlands in 1986. Leading up to the election, the vote-collection and counting, the prohibition had been in force for a lengthy period and had been lifted only a couple of days before our arrival. It was quite obvious to us that the police were expecting trouble now that it was lifted, were prepared for trouble and wished to quell it as quickly as possible.

Again, quietly, I mumbled to my companions. “From this moment on, there is an imaginary chain linking all of us together. Where each one of us goes, the other goes! It’s all for one and one for all!” Agreement to my plan came from all quarters!

After depositing my luggage to my room and freshening up, by pre-arrangement, I met Tony, my-flight-companion-Avis-man in the hotel lobby. With another couple of partners-in-crime, he took us on a guided tour around the Port Moresby City centre and yacht club. I was amazed by the dryness of the area.

I’d never been to Papua New Guinea. I had assumed it was all lush, green rainforest jungle, but Tony, during our flight, had corrected my false assumption. Port Moresby and its close surrounds were part of the red savannah, not dissimilar to the landscape of Normanton. The city was dusty, old and fairly ramshackle in spots. I’d never seen so much barbed wire and security bars as I did in Port Moresby. Every building, home, store was not without some form of barricade material. We all commented we couldn’t live under those conditions, being so used to the freedoms of living in Australia. I guess we do take so much for granted and at times need our eyes opened to the world outside. Leaving the city limits, we drove a few miles out further into the countryside. Tony hadn’t lied. On either side of the roads we covered, were the New Guinea Nationals, walking. Dotted along the roads, were high-set flimsy shacks. The lower sections of the houses with their pristine dirt floors housed the cooking and eating area. The dirt floors are continuously swept with hand-made brooms, to the point they appear to be highly polished. Strangely, those flimsy shacks were extremely clean and tidy, much tidier than some areas of Port Moresby, itself.

Arriving back at our hotel a while later, the four of us, three men and me, decided we’d go into the bar for a drink before showering and changing for the evening’s event that was to commence around 7pm. The bar wasn’t much bigger than mine on Hinchinbrook, but where I had only one bar person in attendance at my bar, the bar in “The Islander” Hotel, had six barmen, that I could see, working it, in the short time we were there!

We stayed only a couple of minutes. I looked around the room and the bar. I quickly realized the three men I was with were the only white men in the bar. I was the only white woman.

Quietly, I said to my companions, “I don’t feel very comfortable in here. I’m going back to my room and if anyone wants to join me for a drink there or maybe in one of your rooms, please feel free.”

Everyone nodded in agreement and we retired to someone’s room…I can’t remember whose now, where we shared a couple of cold beers before going our separate ways, with plans to meet up a little while later at the special dinner that was being held in honour of us traveling, tourism troubadours.

The fun was about to commence!

To Be Continued.....