Tuesday, March 19, 2019


On a visit  to the  South Island of  New  Zealand in  1991  , the  above   two  storey  building  in  the  main street  of   Riverton , linked with   early  whaling, sealing ,  flax   gathering   and   timber cutting  ,   attracted   attention .  Up   for   sale  at  about  $30,000 , it had  belonged to   Mrs  (Margaret )   Clark , trading  as   Grocer  and   Baker ;  a  1917  photo , below , shows  a  busy  street scene , with   the  building  on   the   far  right .  
By  Peter  Simon
My  Kiwi  wife and I peered through the  windows  of the  locked premises ,    the  street front  ones  displaying  local  knitting   and  art  work ,  like a  pop up shop . On contacting the real estate agent , we  were shown  inside  the  fairly  worn  premises , in recent times used  as  a  pizza shop , the  people  since  departed  for Melbourne.   Dances, we  were told ,  were  held  there  from  time   to  time .
 Thirty grand was not  a lot of  money for  a  building  with character   in   a  colourful    town . At  the  time , we  were living in a 100 year old  post office   at Saddleworth in the South Australian  mid north , near the Clare Valley , which  we  converted into  another  Den of  Antiquity , selling books , china ,  prints ,  some  furniture .
 A  handyman   would  have   soon   knocked  Mrs Clark's building  into   shape . Me  not  being such  a  person  ,  it  would  involve  paying  a  tradesman  to   do a makeover   if  we   bought  it  .  Then  what ?  Rent it out ? Start an old wares , book shop - another  Den of  Antiquity ?    Rates and  insurance  , the cost of  folding  the  tent in South Australia and shipping to New Zealand came  into the calculations .We  pondered   the   matter   and  quickly , reluctantly,   decided  not  to  buy .
We had gone to  Riverton , at the bottom of the South Island , one of the oldest European  settlements  in  New Zealand   ,  because  of  a  family interest in  the  whaling days . While  there  we   inspected  some whaling   gear  and toured   a  cemetery  to see the  grave of  Nathaniel  Bates  (1819-1887) , variously described as a   pioneer, womaniser, bigamist ,  heathen , whaler , farmer , rebrobate , philanderer  , drunkard ,    ship's captain ,  surveyor's guide, ratbag , etc.  Born in Sydney , Bates  made his way to New Zealand  and had three Maori wives  . There is a limited edition book  Nathaniel Bates of Riverton  His Families  and Descendants .  

 One evening   we   were   entertained   by  a  helpful  local   historian . At the friendly  hotel  in which we stayed  we were treated  to  a special serving  of  whitebait  fritters  in   the  kitchen .  
A  photograph was  taken of  the Clark  building  and we returned to Australia .  Just this week , while sorting  out ephemera  , out  popped  the  photograph .  My wife   then   said  she  wondered   what  had  happened to   the premises , went online .
Up came  Mrs Clark's  building , 108 Palmerston Street, Riverton , including the above  2010  view   when it was a café .  Mrs Clark had been alive in 1901 , the property  undergoing  changes of  ownership  and  use .  At  one stage it was on the market  for   $195,000.  Then , in 2018 , there it was  again, this  time  for   just  $50,000 ; another post  indicated Mrs Clark's Café had  moved to a new location .
Googling  produced more interesting information . In  2012 ,the business , still known as  Mrs  Clark's Café ,  was  run  by a  couple  who  got married on the premises  two week's after  they opened the doors , throwing  their  experience into  the  venture,  muffins on the menu . They  had  brought   their  own  expresso  machine  and  till   to  the   café and  lived upstairs .  
Café  interiors  show   expresso  machine , coffee beans ,  layout .
In 2012 , Riverton , once  a busy customs entry   port ,  through which  gold seekers from Australia poured , was  described  as  a sleepy town where the  Sunday newspapers  arrive  on   Monday .

Monday, March 18, 2019


Magnetic Island.  Vallis photographs .


An ageing , infirm member of the Little Darwin  team    developed a  clicking , sore  left  knee . A medico  told  him , seeing that he  refused  pain killers , he would  have to  limp  on   and   probably have  his  knee joint replaced  sometime   in  the  future , there  being  a  shortage  of  orthopaedics.

A  kind   German   lady  with   assorted   aching   joints,  pulled out  of  storage a  fancy  knee  guard   with   an  array  of   straps , looking like part of a  masochist's kit ,  and  gave it  to him .  Limping home , he  applied the  guard to  his  knee , not sure  if  the straps were  in the right place . For days , he  lumbered about with a lumpy looking   brown   knee , which  gave the  appearance of  a  wounded  elephant .
The  looks he received when he went to the  local shopping centre  with his bulbous  knee  to  get the morning  paper  were  interpreted  as  both  sympathetic  and  I  hope it  is  not  catching .     

Slapping  the   device  on   for a  special  trip   to and   a  tour of  the  Jezzine  Barracks in Townsville , with  its  extensive ,  fabulous   militaria collection, old  forts , art gallery ,  he   looked  like he  was  carrying  a  war  wound . 
Clambering up  the  old forts area , his knee  clicked  like  the sound track of Click Go the Shears, he rested under the  Australian and American flags  at the  top , with  panoramic  views   of   the   city  and   Magnetic  Island .

Two days later , early in the morning , about to strap on the knee guard , he came to the conclusion (slow thinker?)  that  he may not have  been putting it together  properly  because it  looked  like one of  grandma's Christmas puddings which had  gone wrong ,  parts  sticking  out  at odd angles   as  usual .      
Sure enough , by trial and error ,  he discovered he had  been wearing it incorrectly  all  the time .  Feeling stupid , it reminded him of the old joke about the young bloke who tried to dodge national  service. He was  told that if you wore a  truss  when  you went in for a  medical examination you were instantly  declared unfit   for military service . So off he went for his medical  wearing such a support . 
After the examination , the   dodger noticed his report had been marked  ME, and  asked  the   doctor  if  it meant   he  was  medically  unfit  for  service . The reply : " No! Middle East - any bastard  who  can  wear a  jockstrap  upside  down   can  ride  a  camel ! "  

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Shipping  Reporter detects  enemy  invasion plot  ?

Looking like a camouflaged torpedo  boat  or  midget submarine mother ship , this strange  craft  has  been moored off Magnetic Island  for weeks  , nobody from the media  noticing . With powerful binoculars, the  alert coast watching Shipping Reporter , the only one north of  Albany, Western Australia, has kept the suspicious  vessel under  round  the  clock  surveillance .  
  Tuned into their  radio frequency  , he discovered that  the crew is  pretending  to   repair  the  power  cable running from the mainland to Magnetic Island .  It bears the  deceptive letters  PMG  in several places on the hull, put  there to deceive  islanders into believing that  it is the  Post Master General , an archaic  title , out  on  a  big  game  fishing trip .  
Our  well  informed   waterfront  reporter  declares there is no  problem with the present  underwater cable  as  it is  in   first class   condition - like the above  warning sign not  to drop anchor  near the  cable . It makes powerful reading  in Swahili and braille . 

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Strolling   along  the Townsville foreshore ,where local  media   people  dare  not tread,   our  sharp-eyed  reporter   did  an ungainly  Irish jig  when   something  slithered across  his  bow-a  sea- going  lizard with  wonderful markings.  The lizard  gradually  stood  up  and  closely  examined  our  nervous,  encrusted   reporter , as if about to make a full frontal attack .   

In all its glory , reptile  with  yellow  tipped  tail .
Our man went to  Molly Malone's Irish Pub to settle his nerves. Nobody there believed  his story about  seeing  a  dinosaur on the loose.  



While our snap happy photographer , who  goes  under the  name of  Vallis , was wandering  about  the  Townsville CBD  taking   an arty series  ,   he  had an unexpected encounter  which  illustrates  this  blog's  claim   that  there are  a  thousand   untold  stories  in  the  naked  city.
Vallis  risked  life and limb standing  near the    CFMEU  office,  displaying  a get rid of  labor  high cowboys poster , on  the side of  Flinders Street, shooting  the  facade  of  the above   building . After taking  the  shot, he  examined it  in  the  camera.

Out of the ether  came a  voice : "I used to be a dogger on that building ."  The  person who made that unexpected  utterance  was   a wiry  gent  ,  showing signs of  wear  about  the face ,  brown  as  a  nut.
Turns out  he  had been a  dogman , the name for  a person  dangled  from   cranes in the construction of  buildings. He  had  worked  in many parts of Australia and  Dubai . Dubai ?  That  place with  its  spectacular  , skyscraping  buildings?  Yep.
On closer examination of  this  weathered  and battered  looking  character , Vallis gained the impression  that he may have been  banged up against  the  100th floor  of  several buildings  during  gales in  his  dangerous   career  as   a  dogman,  the  job  now much safer ,  he said .
He mentioned  the  recent  television show   about the Dubai  sheikh and the missing daughter  which  had  been  shown  on  the  ABC , adding that  woman " over there " are not allowed to drive  and  everybody  is  closely watched .  A wave,  and  the  ex-dogger  went  his  way , swallowed  up  by  the  naked  city .    
Vallis  continued  his  CBD  shooting safari and  captured the above  angle   on the  long closed  Great Northern  Hotel  , still   displaying the   banner for  the October  2017  season of  The Little Shop  of  Horrors . Local media has not  followed up  why the hotel  has  not yet  opened , despite a banner which once said it would be reopening  soon , since removed .  


With  clouds  piling up  in impressive  shapes  , rain orchids in Townsville  and on Magnetic  Island   in  flower  ,  supposed  to  indicate  rain any day soon , a watch  is  on a  low  up  Papua New  Guinea  way  , also   in   Territory  waters .  
Orchids were  right -heavy rain fell  during the  football match in Townsville which was  won by the  Cowboys. Vallis photographs .