Oops! That Last Post Jinxed Them

Oh dear! That last post – Watching Women’s Rugby in the Olympics  – was what you might call a jinx for the Aussie team. They were knocked out in the quarter finals by Fiji last night.

Well there will be no showing off an Olympic medal at Dani’s school after all. Which is a shame in a way, especially for the kids. But looking on the bright side; I don’t have to watch any more women’s rugby! As the saying goes: Every cloud has a silver lining.

Watching Women’s Rugby in the Olympics

Now there’s a line I never thought I would write. “Watching women’s rugby in the Olympics!” Never mind actually doing it. But I have been watching a little bit. In case you don’t know it is 7-aside (aka Rugby 7s) in the Olympic Games.

Why the sudden interest?

Normally I would tell anyone (who was prepared to listen) that the only people who could possibly be interested in watching women’s rugby would be women rugby players themselves. OK, call me old fashioned. Call me sexist. Call me whatever the heck… I have been called worse. It’s just that I have never had even the slightest inkling to watch it. But this sudden, seemingly unhealthy, interest is due to one of the Aussie rugby team members.  Yesterday I learned that one of the Australian team is a former student at Dani’s school; only last year.

Her name is Tia Hinds and she played a part in both the Aussie team’s victories yesterday in the pool (group) stage matches. She graduated (left school) in 2020. Technically, for that one year, she was a school colleague of Dani’s – although there were 10 years or so between them.

Medal Hope

In the last Olympic games Australia won the gold medal in the women’s rugby 7s. So it is quite likely they will win a medal this time around. If that happens I dare say she will pay a visit to her old school to show off the medal and inspire the kids. Let’s hope that happens.

Dani described how the kids, who were actually at school, watched the first game in class cheering the team – and Tia – on.  It turns out that she was taught the basics of rugby by the same sports teacher who takes Dani for “touch” rugby.

Who’d have thought?

So now, after completely ignoring the sport, I find myself cheering on the Australian women’s rugby team. Only in the hope that she can bring a medal to show the kids in school you understand. They would love that. I know Dani would. But it just goes to show. You can teach an old dad new tricks.

Property Managers? Mis-managers more like

Back in February of 2020 I wrote about “the easiest job in Australia” – click here to read that one. That was when we had not long arrived in Sydney and were busy looking for a place to rent. A not so subtle dig at estate agents downunder and especially in Sydney. Now, almost 18 months later, we have moved house and the new place is supposedly managed by the estate /rental agency under the guise of “property management”.

I thought renting out and selling property was easy around here! But this “property management” caper seems even easier. They should call themselves “Property Mis-Managers” because the way they operate is nothing short of scandalous. You may find this hard to believe but here goes…

Property Management Skills to Amaze You…

When we collected the keys to the property they are “managing” they gave us a property ‘condition report’. Standard stuff, I know. It listed anything they thought needed to be recorded but also gives you as the new tenant the opportunity to add anything else that may be wrong and/or needs reporting. Presumably with the end result being that the “property manager” gets it fixed. Right?

Wrong!

When we arrived at the property and found that the lounge lighting was not working, we later read in the ‘condition report’ that these idiots had written exactly that: “Lounge lights not working”. It turned out that there were five lights that did not work, all with similar comments. Alongside their observation in the “report” they ask you to circle “Yes” or “No”. Incredibly, that is it. They have done nothing about getting it fixed but they expect you to agree, like; ‘Yeah, well spotted. The lights don’t work. Nice one. Thanks for pointing that out I may have missed that one, especially when it gets fucking dark!’

The apartment lighting is not working and what’s more, we cannot find the fuse/circuit breaker box! Do you think the “property manager” knows where it is? Like f*#k they do! Surely the “property manager” should know all this stuff?! Well not here in Sydney. They are a total bunch of wankers. Pure and simple. Their calling card slogan could be: “Maintenance? No chance mate. Robbery without violence a speciality.”

Here’s another example: The bedroom windows have blackout blinds fitted but the draw strings to operate them were broken. The “property managers” report reads: ‘Unable to inspect as blinds string torn’. Yeah, they are probably ok mate but you won’t find out until someone fixes the draw strings! What?! There were a couple of other items with a similar lack of action on the part of these “property managers”.

So “property management” does not mean performing or even organising basic or routine maintenance work on the property. It only means inspecting the property and writing about the conditions – whether the item is fully functional or simply not working. It matters not to these clowns.

They just don’t care though. They inspect, find things and expect the tenant to accept them as “not working”. These people are fraudulent conmen. There is no doubt about it. But if the law allows them to operate like this then what can you do? Who knows? If it wasn’t so blindingly stupid (almost to the point of being comical) it could make you crazy.

Wait a Moment. I Just Had an Idea!

But then it does give me an idea. If this is the standard of “property management” around here then surely that leaves a huge gaping hole that needs filling (no pun intended). I could set up a genuine  “property management” company. Our slogan could be: “Real Estate Management. Property Managers who actually give a toss!

 

The Return to Sydney – Part Two

West Wyalong to Sydney

On the final leg of our return journey we went from West Wyalong passing through Glenfell,  Cowra and Bathurst before arriving at Sydney.

The West Wyalong district is the largest cereal-growing centre in NSW. The area became one of the major world exporters of eucalyptus oil in the early 1900s. Agriculture is still what generates the wealth in this part of NSW. Before that however, in the late 19th century the town of Wyalong (5km east) was the centre of a major goldfield. The two places still remain curiously separate but West Wyalong is definitely the larger. We stopped the night in West Wyalong in one of the many motels. For some reason there are a lot of motels on the stretch of road between West Wyalong and Wyalong. I am really not sure why there are so many or when they can all be full. If anyone knows can you please tell us?

It certainly guaranteed us a room for the night.

West Wyalong Roman Catholic Church
West Wyalong Anglican Church
Replica of the True Blue Mine Poppet Head built to honour the gold-mining past.

West Wyalong is a busy little place with plenty of shops, pubs and places to eat. Plus impressive churches for a small town.

Grenfell

Further east about 100km is the town of Grenfell. Like so many small towns in this part of the world gold played a big part in the foundation of Grenfell when it was initially called Emu Creek. Nowadays agriculture is the main industry. The railway station was built in 1901 but passenger services ceased in 1974. The station closed but was later restored by local groups and was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register in April 1999. It is considered one of the finest surviving examples of a pioneer terminus station with timber platform face

Grenfell railway station. A heritage listed building
The railway station was restored by local groups

Another example of ‘Big Stuff’. A monument to the town’s gold mining past.

Grenfell is what you might call a quaint old town. There is plenty of old architecture and for its size the town seems to be thriving. Another of those places I would return to and spend more time in.

One of several interesting hotel/pubs in the town.
Another fine example of the town’s original architecture

One of the main attractions here was another fine example of silo art. This fantastic example was painted in 2019 using 180 litres of regular paint and 800 spray cans.

Grenfell Silo Art

Cowra

Another 56km east we came to Cowra. It is a small town but for these parts it is relatively large with a population of about 10,000. We only passed though Cowra but stopping only on the north side of the town to see its most famous spots. Cowra is a location that brought the struggles of the second world war right into the heart of Australia.

During World War II, Cowra was the site of a large prisoner of war (POW) camp. Most of the prisoners were Japanese and Italian military personnel. On August 5th 1944, hundreds of Japanese POWs organised a mass breakout from the camp. Some Japanese committed suicide or attacked fellow countrymen while others attacked guards. During the breakout and subsequent recapture of POWs, four Australian guards and 231 Japanese died. A further  108 prisoners were wounded. The dead Japanese are buried in Cowra in the specially created Japanese War Cemetery. It is the only cemetery of its kind in Australia.

The Cowra War Cemetery plaque explains…

The Japanese graves are laid out in rows with small plaques displaying the names of the dead.
Local soldiers are also buried nearby
Little remains of the POW camp but the location is historically important for many including Japanese visitors.
I thought this Declaration of War sign was interesting.

Some of the dates and actions on the war timeline (above) made me smile. The one right at the end for example: Norway got brave when it was all but over, declaring war on Japan in July 1945. Exactly one month before the first ‘bomb’ was dropped on Hiroshima.

I would like to take a proper look at Cowra, but for now we just wanted to get home. From Cowra it was just over 300km to Sydney. We did it with only a short break  in Bathurst,  a town we would return to just over a week later….

The Olympic Shames

Today – Friday 23rd July 2021 – the 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony will take place in Tokyo, Japan. Postponed for one year because of a so-called global outbreak, a ‘pandemic’ no less. I remember writing about it, way back in March 2020, when I suggested that cancelling the games in August of that year would be “an unprecedented move” (you can read that post by clicking here.) Yet it happened. Some events (or should I say non-events) have already started.

A Year Later… The Games Begin

The games were rescheduled for this year and all set to be a great welcome back for international sport. Then further outbreaks of “new variants” of coronavirus happened – if you are to believe the politicians and media that is. In any case the Games are still going ahead but there will be no crowds. Zero people! That’s no paying customers! Let that sink in for a minute…

So who is paying for it all? The amount of money that the city of Tokyo (and Japan as a whole) would have spent will not be recuperated through ticket sales and souvenir sales etc…It is not just the cost of winning and setting up everything for the Games. This time the costs just continued to go up as they had to reschedule and of course now have to quarantine the athletes and media. (Oh yes, sorry. I forgot to say that representatives of multiple media outlets across the world will be there to watch the sport. Just not you or I, or any other tourists.) The organisers also have to continually monitor and test everyone. That won’t be free either.

What’s more, far fewer people will tune in to watch stale events with no crowds. That will probably affect the advertising revenue. It is as if there is a money tree in the centre of Tokyo and suddenly money is unimportant. Amazing eh?

This is the first Olympic Games my son will be able to remember and he has already talked about it. But will it be worth watching? Probably not.

While I can recall bits from the 1972 Games in Munich, the first Games I can fully remember was the Montreal Olympics in 1976. I also remember how much of a financial disaster those games were for Montreal. The city not only failed to recover the spending costs, it infamously lost a lot of money. I would expect Tokyo to lose far more money that Montreal. Even the London games in 2012, where all events were a complete sell-out, actually lost money!

The cost overrun for Montreal 1976 is the highest cost overrun on record for any Olympics  $1.5 billion, a 720% overrun. It took 30 years to repay and almost broke the city.  The cost overrun for Montreal compares with a cost overrun of 51% for Rio 2016 and 76% for London 2012.

Seriously: If you are going to have the Games then let people pay to watch. Otherwise what’s the point?

Brisbane 2032. What a Joke!

Now usually different cities in different countries fight for the right to host this illustrious sporting event. Before a new games begins the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announce who has won the “bid” to host a future Olympic Games. This time around the “bid” was for the 2032 Games. And the city of Brisbane in the state of Queensland, Australia, won that bid. But it wasn’t a normal process this time. Brisbane was the only city in the ‘race’. Something to do with making the real decisions way back in February when there were other cities (supposedly) in contention. But who really cares?

This one almost slipped under the radar even here in Australia. There was a TV show on celebrating the “win” last night but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I am sure it was one of those hard to watch programmes, if not vomit inducing.

Forget the fact that the state of Queensland is not allowing people in or out – even from down the road in New South Wales – without all kinds of paperwork, tests etc… Now they think they can open their doors to the whole planet? Or are they planning to operate with no spectators? I know it is nine years away but when the country can’t even host a Formula One or MotoGP race this year then it just seems pathetic.

So now the city of Brisbane is saddled with hosting an extremely expensive sporting event that possibly nobody will turn up to watch. That nine years may seem a very long way off but if the past 18 months has taught us anything it is that things may never be the same again. At least the way things are going now – which in Australia is backwards!

They may never recoup even a fraction of the amount the city will need to spend. But that didn’t stop those involved putting Brisbane forward as a candidate. With all the rubbish that is going on right now! Would you say that was optimistic?  Possibly it is. But where is their optimism now when the people of Australia need it? Nowhere to be seen sadly.

It is more like:  ‘Hey Brisbane (and other cities in Australia)! Close down your businesses while we make out how bad this “new virus variant” is. Don’t worry if your business goes bust. We have just “won” an Olympic Games. Hoorah!’

Is it just me or does all this seem like something out of The Twilight Zone?

Now, click below…

Back to School. Or Not?

Today was the first day of term three. The kids’ holidays for the past three weeks were completely wiped out by the New south Wales government putting Sydney into lockdown Basically banning anyone from leaving the city. Not that any other destination would allow anyone from Sydney into their state/town/whatever.

Schools have been encouraged by the politicians to do that thing they laughingly call ‘remote learning’. In other words keep your kids at home and have them sat in front of a computer screen all day via google classroom (or whatever the hell they call it). But the schools themselves remain open and it is not against the law – or rather the lockdown restrictions – for kids to attend the schools. At least as far as I know.

So, for Daniel it was back to school…

When we arrived there were very few signs of any other kids. Two or three kindergarten age plus one maybe a year below Dani. I thought he might be the only one in his class but it turned out that there was a 20% attendance for his class and about the same for his school year. I think those numbers will increase as the week goes on but that’s still a lot of kids being kept at home. Dani attends an independent school so the parents of the kids in that school pay for the privilege. I suppose I am just puzzled as to why so many parents are keeping their kids out of school when they are paying for it. In our case we are lucky; it is being paid for by Dani’s mum’s company as part of her work deal. But there’s still no way he won’t be attending.

For me school is not just about English, Maths and history classes etc. It is also about mixing with your peers and also other adults in positions of authority (the teachers).

Of course it is totally up to the parents but I feel they have not been allowed the benefit of informed consent in all this. The media hysteria is all one way so effectively they have been frightened out of their wits. (Actually in Australia there is a TV news channel that speaks a lot of common sense. But only one.)

The very same thing happened last year. So much for lessons learnt eh? After a few days the kids started returning to the classroom. Quite rightly in my opinion; even if it was only because the parents could not deal with them schooling from home. We shall see how this year’s scare tactics pan out. Things have a habit of changing rapidly and on a daily basis.

Consider this…

All of this got me wondering. If (or when) the wonderful politicians say that young children can (or should) have the vaccines, will it be the other way around? Will those kids now absent from school – the 80% majority – suddenly all be there waiting in line for a needle? While the small number in school right now are not? Food for thought eh?…

The world is becoming an increasingly confused place to grow up. I really fear for my son. And his classmates – whether they were in attendance today or not. And every child caught in the middle of this nonsense.

The Bondi Mermaids

I noticed a statue on a recent visit to the local Library – before it was closed due to this latest lockdown. It is the remains of what were known as the two Bondi Mermaids. Way back in 1960 (before my time that) the two statues were installed on a rock at the north headland of Bondi beach. The large rock came to be called Mermaid Rock.

The mermaids were the creation of a local artist called Lyall Randolph Williams. One was modelled on Jan Carmody who was Miss Australia Surf 1959. Now I have no idea whether “Miss Australia Surf” was a surfing contest or for looking good in a bikini (possibly holding a surfboard – but not essential?). I can find almost nothing about it so (in this day and age) it is safe to assume it is the latter. The second mermaid was modelled on Lynette Whillier who swam for Australia at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Lynette also happened to be runner-up in that same 1959 Miss Australia Surf contest.

Lyall Randolph originally asked the local council to sponsor his project but when they refused he funded it himself. He claimed that by siting them on the rock offshore they were technically not under the council jurisdiction and installed them on April 3, 1960. Good on him I say. Remember when artists were as rebellious as they were creative? Real Rock ‘n’ Roll? It’s hard to imagine an artist doing something like that today.

A month later…

One month later University students removed Mermaid Jan form the rock as a prank. She was later found at the Engineering school and eventually repaired and restored. All paid for with public funds as by then the mermaids were well loved by the public.

Lynette Swept Out to Sea…

In 1974 Mermaid Lynette was swept off the rock and out to sea and was never seen again. Mermaid Jan lost an arm in the same storm. Two years later the well sea battered Jan was removed and stored at a council depot for years.

Eventually in 1999 the Friends of Waverley Library paid for the remains to be preserved and she now sits on display at the library.

Mermaid Jan – What’s left of her

Is it just me or does Mermaid Jan look like a young Margaret Thatcher? Is that what years of erosion by the sea does to a Miss Australia Surf?

There has been talk in recent years of installing new replicas of the mermaid statues at the same rock. Will they find a Miss Australia Surf to model for them? I somehow doubt it.

Film Review – Nobody

Here’s one that almost slipped past me. It was about a coupe of months ago that I saw this one in the cinema. So this movie will probably be available for rent or on some streaming service near you any time soon, if not already. My advice is simple – watch it !

Nobody – Cast and Plot

The main character is Hutch “Nobody” Mansell played by the fantastic Bob Odenkirk (who played Breaking Bad’s best character Saul Goodman). Hutch is living a typical life of an average Joe with wife, kids and a routine job; but was clearly something else in a former life. It turns out he was a CIA operative. As was his father David, also a retired agent (FBI this time) who is played by Christopher Lloyd. As the story unravels we first hear from Hutch’s half-brother Harry Mansell, played by RZA (no, me neither!) – who is apparently a (c)rapper called Robert Fitzgerald Diggs. We finally meet him near the end of the movie.

The basic plot is that Hutch is clearly pissed off being Mr. Average. Especially after he is burgled and fails to attack the robbers despite seeing his teenage son having a go. He is trying his best to contain the inner beast. Fortunately for us that beast soon springs to life on a bus when a group of loudmouthed thugs threaten a lone young woman. Hutch is just bursting for it to happen. He manages to beat them up but not before taking some bad injuries himself. Still, he has regained his pride.

It turns out that one of the bus riding thugs is the younger brother of Yulian Kuznetsov, a notorious Russian crime lord. Aren’t they always? Brother or son? How many Russian mafia bosses have complete arseholes for brothers/sons who go around openly terrorising their local poor communities just tying to draw as much attention to themselves as possible? Well, you get the point… It’s all about setting up the totally absurd violence which follows. So crazy in fact it made me laugh and almost makes this seem like a ‘feel-good movie’. Think John Wick after his dog is killed, or any of the spaghetti westerns and you get the point.

Aleksei Serebryakov plays Kuznetsov brilliantly, including doing a couple of live songs at the mob’s own cabaret club. Things move quickly as Kuznetsov inevitably goes after Hutch. Realising the threat Hutch decides to send his family away to safety before burning his own house down to destroy any evidence. It turns out Hutch was an “auditor” who killed for the agencies and was considered untouchable. Them pesky Russian criminals had better watch out eh?

The rest, as you can probably guess, is non stop absurd violence and a body-count movie. Some people (understandably) will not like that but many will love it. I was one of the latter. So no spoiler alerts, just watch it all unfold….

Critique (and Soundtrack)

I thought this was just a good old retribution movie. It was so comic-book it can’t possibly be taken seriously despite the levels of violence and blood flow. I also happen to like Bob Odenkirk – ever since watching Breaking Bad – so it was great to see him get a fun part in a big screen movie.

The official soundtrack is made up of music by David Buckley, specifically composed for the movie, but there are also some great old tracks skilfully embedded into this story, including:

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood by Nina Simone
Heartbreaker by Pat Benatar
I’ve Gotta Be Me by Steven Lawrence
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
And more… even a couple of Edwin Starr numbers…

Still on the soundtrack: I challenge anyone to watch the final bloodbath scene without smiling as Gerry and The Pacemakers version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone‘ plays along. It is a total body-count scene that sees father and his two sons doing battle with what is left of the Russian mafia gang. With a lot of help from some entertaining pre-prepared booby-traps. “When you walk through a storm” – indeed… Fantastic.

Another great use of an old classic is sung by Kuznetsov as a karaoke number – The Impossible Dream (by Andy Williams), or was it I’ve gotta be Me? Maybe both, I can’t recall. Great stuff though. Again it just sits well with the, by now, outrageous storyline and even more daring antics of Hutch.

I give this movie 4 stars (out of 5). All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable film if you like gratuitous violence that is totally unrealistic (in that, ‘there’s no way he would survive all that!’ sort of way). An easy, don’t take too seriously, just sit back and watch film. Enjoy Odenkirk and Christopher Lloyd’s performances. And, when he finally appears on screen, RZA too.

Book Review – Papillon

Some people are born great writers. Some become great writers after penning many average books. The majority just believe that they can never write anything worthwhile and simply never bother to try. But out of that majority there are always some who are great story tellers. You meet them from time to time in places like pubs. (Especially in pubs actually.) When they have a tale to tell people stop and listen intently. They are usually the kind of people you could never imagine sitting down typing their stories for a publisher, but they definitely keep you interested. They may not be the best at using the written word but they certainly have that ‘gift of the gab’ . Clearly Henri Charrière (aka Papillon) was one such person.

The book is written just as if Charrière was speaking the words of his story out loud – to his mates (probably in pub) – and then quickly writing them down before he forgot what he said. And it definitely works. When the book was first published in 1969 some literary critics claimed it was a work of genius. Whatever the so called writing experts have to say about it the style of a pub story-teller in print makes it such an easy book to read despite its length. (Over 550 pages of fairly small print.)

Quick Review

Don’t let that number of pages put you off though. I did. For many years. My dad had a copy and he read it decades ago. I now realise I should have also read it earlier. Just go for it. The book is written in sections covering certain subjects – such as the first breakout or first recapture for example – so you can choose to read small parts of it at a time if that makes it easier.

The boo covers Papillon’s arrest, trial and deportation to the infamous penal colony in French Guiana. It covers the trip to the ship that takes the prisoners across the ocean. The ocean crossing is well detailed as is the spells in solitary confinement. There are several prison breaks one of which lasts for several chapters as he lives a basic yet happy existence with an Indian tribe.

Charriére carries a constant desire for revenge throughout the whole story. He clearly feels he was unjustly convicted; framed in fact. But during the course of the story he comes to admit that he was no angel (he wasn’t) and that living the life he had chosen, among criminals, would inevitably lead to his downfall sooner or later.

Book versus Film

As usual the movie is only based on the book. Now I have read the book I would say that the film is disappointing as it could have covered far more of the overall story.

The film (and I refer to the Steve McQueen version made only a few years after the book became a best-seller) famously ends with Papillon drifting out to sea on a raft made of coconuts. But that was only about 75% of the way through the book! There was still plenty of the story left to tell – almost a quarter of the book. Difficult to cram so much into a movie timeframe I know. The 2017 remake movie is pretty much the same as the McQueen version as I have covered here in the past. What would have worked so much better with a story covering so many years and so much action is a multi-episode series. The kind they do now for almost any subject on platforms like Netflix. Something for the future perhaps?

How much of it is true?

After reading Charrière’s book I was surprised to learn that questions have been raised as to its authenticity. Some of the adventures and events in Papillon are thought to have been at least partly taken from another book.

I discovered that there was another similar book written in 1938 by René Belbenoit, another former ‘guest’ at the French penal colony. The book is called Dry Guillotine; Fifteen Years Among The Living Dead. It turns out that this René also escaped and had similar tales to tell as Papillon. Or rather the other way around, as Papillon was written some three decades later. I managed to download a copy of Dry Guillotine which I have started reading. It has even more pages than Papillon.

There was also another guy called Charles Brunier who served France in the first world war and was wounded in action. In 1923, however, he was accused of murder and armed robbery, and later convicted and sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. After the outbreak of World War II he escaped to Mexico and joined the Free French Forces as a fighter pilot for two years before transferring to the infantry He  also served in Africa and Italy; he was imprisoned again after the war, but released in 1948 in recognition of his services. Brunier later lived for many years in an old people’s home in a Paris suburb. He died in 2007 aged an incredible 105. He survived Charrière (Papillon) by some thirty years. 

He was in the French penal colony at the same time as Papillon and Brunier also had a tattoo of a butterfly. Who knows? Maybe butterfly tattoos were just popular in those days.

Overall…

None of this information spoiled my enjoyment of Papillon however. Nor is it going to stop me recommending it to everyone as a great read. With all the characters in the book there will certainly be cross-overs and shared tales. No doubt Charrière embellished some of his own stories with the real actions of others. Why not? A little poetic licence makes for a better story. The overall plot and nature of the events was certainly very real for Charrière and thousands of other men. It is definitely a book about hardships, escapes and torture. An uplifting story of human endurance and survival. A story that made for (what turned out to be) a great feel-good movie. Whether the book is about the adventures of just one man or not, it tells a gruesome history of the French penal system and is compelling reading.

If you are like me when it comes to reading, then a book this size is hard to start. But trust me, once you get into the story it is even harder to put down. I am going to go out on a limb here and say it’s a book every man should read. Now that is not at all sexist. There are loads of lists of books that “men should read”. Just search up online. Anyway I think that women would also find this a great book.

I enjoyed it so much that I bought the follow up book, Banco – The Further Adventures of Papillon. That was equally as easy to read but shorter. I may review that one some other time…

Footnote:
‘Gift of the gab’: One dictionary definition of the phrase…

The ability to speak easily and confidently in a way that makes people want to listen to you and believe you.

The Way Back to Sydney – Part One

Here I am in July still writing about our outback adventure in January. I really should make more of an effort eh? At least looking back to summer is better than being stuck inside on a rainy weekend like the one we are having.

In case you have forgotten…. our last real base was Wentworth and the last post on this trip was about Mungo National Park. We only planned to stop over one night so it was mostly driving and short stops to see some more outback and country towns.

We left Wentworth heading east on the Sturt Highway (aka A20). After less than two hours and Dani moaning, the first place we stopped was called Balranald. It is a town of about 1200 people that was established in 1851. The town is in a semi desert landscape which would be a lot harsher if it wasn’t for the wonderfully named Murrumbidgee River that borders the south side of town.  The river is the second longest in Australia at over 920 miles from its source in the Snowy mountains to eventually joining the Murray  further west. Although we only had a quick look around I think I can safely say that the people we met there were the friendliest we have come across (so far) in Australia. I can put this town on the list of places I want to return to.

There is even an old gaol in the town. Its claim to fame (or infamy) is that it once housed the last man to be hanged in Australia (Ronald Ryan, in 1967) after he robbed a local bank. There was little to see and it was not open.

Old Balranald Gaol

Balranald is located within reach of Yanga, Mungo and Murrumbidgee Valley National Parks. We also visited the Yanga Woolsheds just past the town (on our route). Yes, yet another huge old woolshed that is no longer used. It begs the question: Where are all the sheep now being sheared? I have no idea. But the scale of these places still impresses me…

Murrumbidgee River
Another huge abandoned woolshed
Inside the Yanga Woolshed

Baling machine

Hay and the Second World War Internment Camps

Another 130km east we arrived at Hay. Located about half way between Sydney and Adelaide, Hay was an important transport hub and became the centre of a thriving sheep farming and crop growing agricultural industry. Like so many isolated places in these parts it only has a small population – something like 2400. But it has an interesting history.

Hay Post Office

During World War II Hay was the location of internment and prisoner of war (POW) camps, thanks largely to its isolated location. Three high-security camps were built in 1940. The first arrivals were over two thousand refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria, many of them Jewish. They had been rounded up in Britain when fears of invasion were at their peak, and for some reason it was decided to transport them to the other side of the world. Not the first time the British had transported prisoners from one end of the planet to the other eh? The trip was made  aboard the HMT Dunera and the ‘prisoners’ later became known as the ‘Dunera Boys’. The internees arrived at Hay station and held in camps built close by. The station is no longer used for trains but is well preserved and home to a museum inside old rail carriages.

Unused but perfectly preserved Hay station

They were released a couple of years later once it as realised that they were ‘friendly’ and  800 of those interned at Hay eventually chose to remain in Australia. They also made way for thousands of German, Italian and Japanese POWs that were held here during the final years of the war.  Every year the town holds a ‘Dunera Day’ in which surviving internees return to the site of their former imprisonment.

One of the old carriages housing the museum

The internment camps even had their own currency

Hay was yet another place where artists had used the large silos as a canvas.

Silo art at Hay: Commemorating locals who went to war.

Hay Gaol

Another old gaol. Me and Dani can’t get enough of them whereas Dani’s mum preferred to sit this one out. Hay gaol was mentioned in the Wentworth Gaol write-up (here) as being designed around the same time.

Hay Old Gaol and Museum

The gaol doubled as a museum and had a decent collection of old vehicles in the grounds outside the main walls.

Another Model ‘T’ Ford. Only the second I have ever seen, in almost as many days!
An old fire engine
An early ambulance

One of the cells had an early 17 inch Astor TV set made in 1956, the same year as the Olympic games in Melbourne. It was known as the Olympic Games model. Like old gaols, old vintage TV sets are always interesting. To old dads like me who can remember only having black & white TV sets, and to kids like Dani who just can’t believe we used to watch things like that. His reactions always make me laugh.

One of the cells housing museum antiques.

There also had a couple of old motorbikes that I could not recognise. Anyone know?

Further East

The tiny village (or hamlet) of Weethalle is worth a mention. As small as it is you can’t miss it as you drive through. The thing that catches your attention is the huge work of art that doubles as grain silos. Or should that be the other way around?…

More Silo Art at Weethalle

Definitely one of those little towns where I would have liked to spend a bit more time.

By now we were in the county of Blandshire. Bland by name… but apparently humorous by nature. The shire of Bland has linked up with two other places in the far corners of the planet to form what they call a trinity of ‘The League of Extraordinary Communities’. Check out this photograph which may explain it.


Bland… far from Dull and Boring

Now I had never heard of Dull, but it does exist. I must have passed through it or close by as it is in Scotland, only 75 miles or so north of Glasgow. Boring is also a real place in the US state of Oregon.

This particular spot is on the outskirts of West Wyalong the town where we stopped for the night. More on this town and the rest of the return journey in a future post…