Sunday, August 30, 2015


Our  latest  dispatch from  Judi and Peter Burleigh comes from famous  Champagne, is lightly effervescent, with a cheeky over-bite and  over-indulgent notes. It  is also signed Peter  de  Liver Damage.
Burleighs  parked their  cruiser, right, De Ulunder , Dutch  for  Butterfly , fluttered off  to vineyards on an extensive study  tour  like  politicians . French sign seems to  indicate that "fluvial " tourists , not the effluvium  type ,  are  welcome  to  come  ashore .   
The French town of Bouzy locates itself on tourist maps by insisting it lies smack in the middle of Champagne between Reims, Epernay and Chalon. In reality this would require a catastrophic upheaval of hills and slopes, the re-arrangement of grape-growing classifications and the forced re-directing of roads. What does this tell you? It tells you that Bouzy, while able to use the title ‘Champagne’ for its wine because it is in the area defined as ‘Champagne’, smarts under an inferiority complex.
One of the biggest producers in Bouzy is Herbert-Beaufort, run by three brothers. Beaufort offers the Champagne tourist a tasting room made up to look like a wine cave cut into chalk. It feels like you are inside a cake looking out at the icing, which is plastered all over the walls and ceiling, with fake excavation marks and genuine recessed downlights. Incongruously there are several windows and doors in the wall of icing which lead to the outside world.
Disguised as Croatians , tasting  begins inside  iced  cupcake .
Monsieur Beaufort is packed with goodwill and he talks a lot. It’s a surprise he can breathe and talk at the same time. His grand-daughter, who fetches him as soon as we ask a difficult question like “If Champagne is made from Pinot Noir grapes, which are dark red, how come Champagne is not at least pink?” sits mesmerized by repetition as we receive the benefit of his knowledge. We want to know why Bouzy markets a rough Pinot Noir called ‘Bouzy Red’, unless it’s simply a product of the local sense of humour (apparently no pun is intended in the name of the village). Surely it can only weaken the reputation of Bouzy’s Champagne?
Monsieur  H-B
‘No, no,’ says the Monsieur. ‘It has been made for centuries. You try it.’ We do. No finesse can be found in its thin astringency and it's characteristic of his Champagnes too. ‘The Celts made it,’ he claims with a straight face. ‘Wine has been made in Bouzy since 8000 B.C.’ Skipping a few thousand years, he continues: ‘When the Romans came – we have found many relics – the water supplies were polluted. Their soldiers got sick. So they sterilised the water with local wine.’
I am prepared to believe this claim, but the Roman soldiers were more likely vulnerable to low-flying aircraft. Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a poisonous spider. He charges on: ‘This kept the soldiers’ bowels under control and the Roman Army outlasted the Gauls, who had to drink the unsound water.’ He doesn’t use the English word ‘squitters’ but we know what he means. ‘In bad seasons they also gave their horses and animals water mixed with wine…so Bouzy helped the Romans to victory. After that the Romans nearly always mixed their wine with water.’ He didn’t want to acknowledge that the water may have softened  the taste of  the wine.


As Monsieur Herbert’s fountain of questionable wine-associated knowledge continues to spout, I wonder if any of it has reached the internet. Later I find an anecdote about Dublin’s Trinity College, where any student has the right to demand a glass of wine during an exam. To qualify they must be wearing a sword. Under this arcane law, armed, stressed-out, sleep-deprived students can get their alcohol fixes during an exam. Herbert doesn’t claim this story, or any of the others I found on Google. 
Perhaps the most famous law that haunts the world of wine is a 1954 decree stating that no flying saucers may fly over, take off from, or land on the vineyards of Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape. This is designed to repel the fleets of grenache-loving Martians who have screaming kids in their saucer’s backseat and who need a calming taste of  the grape. It seems to work.
‘…ten thousand years ago,” says Monsieur Herbert, increasing his volume to stop our attention wandering, “a glacier filled the Manche (the English Channel). It prevented the wine trade between England and France. So England began to import wine from Portugal. It was rough and unpalatable so the English added Spirits to it - and liked it. So it was the English invented Port.”
There is no hint of a pause before he goes on at top speed: “Also in England, the King needed all the oak wood to build ships for Le Navy Royale which was fighting against Napoleon. The King forbade the use of timber to melt silica to make glass, so the English began to use coal, which burns at a higher temperature, for bottle-making. They brought in glass-blowers from Venice. This glass had a higher resistance to pressure and in this way the Champagne bottle was invented.” This may have been true. There is about 90 pounds per square inch of pressure in a bottle of Champagne - more than triple the pressure in a car tyre. 
Far more interesting, the classic Champagne coupe was adapted from a wax mould of the breast of Marie Antoinette and until 1850, all Champagne was sweet and contained up to 30 grams of sugar; today it’s between 8 and 11 grams.
But my reverie is disturbed by a change in the drone of Monsieur’s voice. Those of us who are not yet cross-eyed with ennui perk up when he appears to enter the last straight. “In the 1800’s Champagne became really popular in Germany and England. Local families in Bouzy and all over Champagne became rich overnight.” He sighs as if remembering something one of the earlier Beaufort generations had done wrong. “They made unwise decisions.” Presumably they invested in the Edsel, ‘sure things’ at Longchamps or several Brooklyn Bridges. He seems to shrink under the weight of insufficient riches and his eyes wander over the line-up of his wines on the counter. But it’s too late – we have tasted them and they reflect his style: a little sad, a little overblown and a little bitter. We wonder which of the Herbert Brothers he is, Henry, Hugues, or Ludovic.
Burleigh  suggests vats  are  eagerly  cleaned out by  tongue.
The French sell more than 300 million bottles of Champagne every year. The Beauforts have been in Bouzy since 1820 and now produce 140,000 bottles annually, or .00000033% of the national total. They operate independently from the great Houses like Moet, Perrier-Jouet, Mumm and the others. There are many like them, and all are passionately involved in the exacting work of making good champagne. Like the Beauforts they are friendly and welcoming, and their wine is not expensive bought at the cellar door. In any search for perfection, success is elusive.


CANBERRA : Parliament is facing a major blockage as cleaners here today  voted to stage a year long strike  over  the use of  a  Peking Duck , above, brought in to Australia   under the new trade agreement  with  China , to clean the Trade Minister's flaming  fury .  The duck, looking like a goose , was shown on television with a toilet  brush in his  hand on the West Wing of  parliament  house.

It is understood he was smuggled into parliament   disguised as a Patagonian Trotting  Duck by  Liberal  Party  Funk  Bunker   sanitation engineer, Harpic Harry, whose erratic behaviour has often been described by  psychiatrists  as indicting he is clean round the bend. Proof positive that  the duck is from Peking and not Patagonia  is the  fact that  he eats recycled  dim sims  with  chopsticks during his five  minute  lunch  break .

 Parliamentary cleaners recently went  on strike  over their  paltry  pay  and during  the outage  all persons entering the building were  given a dishcloth , a peg  and had  to put out the vital  Lady Scott  tissues  themselves.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


Vallis  Photograph .


In the 1933  blood curdling novel , Drums of  Mer  , popular  Australian author  Ion  Idriess  painted gruesome scenes  of  cannibalism , with  head  lopping  and pre-SBS  long pig feasts. A contemporary  review  of  the book in  Adelaide  was  headed WHEN TERROR STALKED THROUGH  TORRES  STRAIT .

Succulent  Prime Minister, George Dubya Abbott, recently visited  the  actual island of Mer, in the Torres Strait, after  having  tried to drum up support  in the  WA Canning by-election campaign , loss of which  to  the  ALP   could  see  the  PM  beheaded  by  his  own   party  because it  would confirm the belief that  he  is so unpopular   he  will lead them to certain  defeat at the next Federal election.
Ruffled  Malcolm Turnbull  and  Liberal  Canning candidate Andrew Hastie  receive shock news-Libs might retain seat !There are 12 candidates, including  one  from the increasingly attractive  Pirate Party.  Greens , Christians , Animal Justice  and  Sustainable Population are also running in  an electorate  in  which  there  are 112,809 eligible voters .
 Lose the  seat of Canning or just scrape in  and  the  PM  could  , figuratively  speaking ,  be  tapped  on  the  noggin  with  a  large club  while  frolicking  about  in the  surf in his budgie  smugglers , somewhat  like  what happened to Captain Cook .The latest drum from the Australian Financial Review is that the PM is being urged  to get in with an early  human sacrifice in the Sumo-shape  of Joe Hockey  if  they  lose Canning.

On the island  of Mer the  PM was  greeted by warriors  wearing  shark headdresses  and stood under a   giant  arch which  represented  the  mouth  of  shark which could be an omen of  what  is to  come in Canberra  if the obviously restless  natives  there  go on the warpath.
In this later edition of Drums of Mer the cover illustration had  been  sexed up with a P3 girl  dancing to drums  to tell  the savagely authentic story of  life among   Pacific headhunters.
The early Adelaide review said the setting of the   book  would have delighted Rider Haggard  and  mentioned  the plight of virgins , the rusting  bones of  wrecked ships on coral reefs , blackbirding,  fearful shipwrecked Spaniards, a musical  cape made out of the  ribs  of  women  ( perhaps an explanation of why there are so few women in  the Coalition ), daring pearlers ,warlike islanders .
Of the author , it  said Idriess, a born  rover , at times a prospector  and sandalwood  getter , had travelled widely and had poured out tales in graphic, if sometimes ejaculatory prose. One of  his books-Lasseter's Last Ride-about  the  fabled  gold reef  in  the Northern Territory  had  been translated into  French , a rare  event  for an  Australian  author .

Friday, August 28, 2015


Snuggled up to  lambswool, young wallaby in imitation pouch, requires four hourly feeding
The residence of  Magnetic Island wildlife carer Linda Wootten is a veritable Noah's Ark... except  the  animals often   come in  more  than two by two .  On  a  recent  visit to  her  place there  were  three possums ,  two  wallabies , a young Kookaburra , all with names , receiving close  care and  attention. That is  inside .  Outside  there are  several wallabies that hop about freely , a Cockatoo  with  a damaged claw , named  747,  because  it  lumbers  along like a  Jumbo jet  taking off, scores of  Curlews , Currawongs  and Lorikeets which require   feeding  ; not long ago a Drake, rescued from the  road,  was residing  in a cage  and was later  taken  in  by an islander with  poultry.
747  taking on  fuel

Linda is kept on the hop herself  rescuing  and  helping  animals. She has even received  calls  from nervous  people   extremely concerned  about finding two Death Adders on  their premises. Honourary secretary of the island's branch of  the ALP, she  has been known to bring animals along  in cages  to meetings  because of the  feeding demands  of  the critters.

One meeting was adjourned  while she  fed  a  young Friar Bird. Bearing the name of a famous   tennis star , Navratilova , one of  the  possums  she is currently  looking after was   found in  poor shape  on the Forts Walk  on  the  island . Obviously  hungry, its fur was  in  bad condition  and has  had to be bathed in a special  wash . Now  it  is  much  improved , eating  well . 

Thursday, August 27, 2015


When  Joe  Hockey was Minister for Human Services  and later Minister for Employment and Workplace  Relations in the 2004-2007 Howard  period  he often  visited  government  offices in North Queensland and frequently left his mark on  the premises: his  noble  name  boldly  written  on   an  interior  wall...a kind of  government approved  graffiti. He  and  his wife  so loved North Queensland   they  bought  a  200 hectare  cattle property in 2003  at Malanda , on the Atherton Tablelands , near Cairns , sold  40 hectares  last  year and  put the remainder up  for $1.5million.
With the passage of  time and change of government , the illustrious Honourable  Hockey signatures were  painted  over , at  cost to the public purse , which is a shame because they  could  have  been included in the gallery of  notable  graffiti  daubers  such as Foo, Kilroy  and  Eternity , the  latter  a   religious  gent,  as is  the Treasurer , who once gave a speech, In Defence of  God, at the Sydney Institute .  
Proof that God does indeed  move in mysterious  ways is Hockey's recent, unexpected support  for a republic which upset some of his  colleagues , including the PM, and no doubt Professor Flint . Some pundits , who sniff  glue and trends, interpreted this  strange act by the Treasurer  as writing  on  the wall  meaning  that  Joe  has switched his  support  to  the leather upholstered , arch- republican , Malcolm Turnbull , the  only man seen as capable of  preventing  the  Coalition being plunged into the political  Hades  if  the PM continues  as  leader .      

"Foo was  here" graffiti  was  widely used by Australian troops  in  World War l and  then  in  the next  global  conflict. The Yanks  used " Kilroy was here" in the second  world  war. Little Darwin was reliably informed  that removal  of  the Hockey monicker , at  times ,  saw  an entire  office repainted , not  just the  wall  on  which  it  appeared.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


 Spanish  involvement  in   wild  Darwin  events.

The  previous post in this series about Spanish anarchist Salvador Torrents who, in company with  countryman  Juan Jordana  came to Australia in 1915, included  his  surprising  collection of early Northern Territory postcards  by Edward  Ryko, who rode a bicycle from Adelaide to Darwin in 1915 , and  mentioned  that  Salvador's    library had  included  a  copy of  the book  by Alfred Searcy, adventurous sub collector of  Customs , Port Darwin , 1882-1896.
Photograph  from collection of  author and  historian Glenville Pike and below another early Territory photograph   from  the  Torrents  collection is of a survey party at  Connor's Well, north of Alice Springs .

No apparent clue to why Torrents had been  so interested  in the NT could  initially be discerned. However, it  seems certain  that when Torrents and Jordana  settled at  Mena Creek , near Innisfail, North Queensland ,where they established a canefarm , they came into contact  with   Italian and Spanish  workers  who had been  involved  in or affected by what was  called the Darwin Rebellion ,  described as the biggest  uprising in Australia  since the Eureka Stockade,  and  soon after  the closure  of  the  Vestey  meatworks  which  saw the steamy town filled   with  many unemployed , disgruntled  and  desperate  workers .
Excellent  book  by   former  Darwin  journalist  Frank  Alcorta , who grew up in the Basque region of Spain, took  part in the Battle for Long Tan in Vietnam, and  in 2013 received  an  OAM  for services to journalism  and  war  service  veterans. In detailing the many industrial disputes in Darwin and clashes with Administrator  Dr Gilruth, Alcorta wrote that to the unions the large Vesteys  company , like the windmills  beckoning  to  a  Don Quixote, the  giant  firm seemed  too  good  a  target to  miss.He also pointed out that strong supporters of  the  Overseas Club established in Darwin in 1917 to foster the interests of the British Empire were activists  from Spain, one  the owner of  the only newsagency in town .  
Research in the parliamentary library in Darwin and elsewhere shone light on  this interesting  period  and other  matters  raised  by perusal  of the   Torrents archive in the Special Collections section at the Eddie Koki Mabo Library , James  Cook  University, Townsville.

What Torrents   heard  and read  about  the long  Darwin insurrection , which in December 1918 saw 1000 people march on Government House, knock down the picket  fence ,  jostle the Scottish  Administrator , Dr Gilruth  ,  said to have  run the Territory like a "viceroy ",  may  have  convinced Torrents  that  this  isolated  part of  Australia  could  be  Acracia ,  the  anarchists' paradise  he  was seeking. 
No less than two gunboats were sent to Darwin to  protect  Dr Gilruth and crew members staged  what could be regarded as mutiny at the idea of having to possibly shoot locals or participate  in a shipboard party for the Administrator. He  ignominiously sailed  away aboard HMAS Encounter  in early 1919. Various  accounts of  the stormy Darwin troubles of 1914-1919 , likened to the 1808  Rum Rebellion  which saw  Governor William Bligh deposed  by the New South Wales  Corps ,  provided  slight   mention  of  Spanish   involvement .

However , the 1919-1920 annual report of the Northern Territory Acting  Administrator, Honourable  Miles Staniforth "Soapy" Smith , handsome, tall,  with a moustache ,  thwarted in  his attempt to become the Lieutenant Governor of  Papua , was  illuminating  in  more ways  than  one . A former mayor of Kalgoorlie, WA, he  had  topped the poll in the first Federation  Senate election  for  that state   and strongly  campaigned against  "coloured  immigrants ."

With instructions to  try and pacify the unruly  Darwin populace after Dr Gilruth's  tumultuous reign , during which it was claimed he had encouraged selling the entire Northern Territory to  Vesteys,  Smith had arrived  on November  30 1919  and was  given  a 17-gun salute by HMAS Brisbane  when the flag was  raised  over  Government  House. 

Closure of  the  Vestey meatworks , he said , had  an extreme impact on Darwin. From various parts of the Territory , prospectors, miners,drovers, carters and station hands  had converged on Darwin in anticipation of obtaining  well paid jobs at the meatworks.  A  considerable  number  had "dribbled" in  from interstate.

In 1920, before the opening of  the new season, Lord Vestey cabled to close the meatworks , due to claimed shipping problems . During the war years the company   had contracts to supply the British government with bullybeef for  the war in France  on a cost -plus basis , said  to be 10 per cent above the cost of production.
With the end of the war,when the demand for meat dropped substantially , it was uneconomic to keep  Darwin  works open  when Vesteys could  meet orders from their  South American  holdings  two  thirds below  the Territory production cost.

The government was faced  with a  grim situation in a  town of some 2300 people, mostly manual workers , without a  major source of work ;  500-600 unemployed  men, many penniless and   owing money to  storekeepers,  walked  the  streets . Some free  rations were handed  out and  free steerage passages were  given to those  wanting  to  leave the  Territory  to try and  obtain work elsewhere.

Acting Administrator  Smith's report shows  most of the free passages out  of  Darwin  he granted in 1919-1920  had  been  to  Greeks, Patagonians  and Spaniards at a cost of 1699 pounds 17 shillings and  sixpence.  Patagonians  was the tag for Latin Americans  who  came to Darwin during the war years to build the Pine Creek  line to the  Katherine  railway bridge  and  to work  at  Vesteys.    A small  number of Italians from  North Queensland , he wrote , who had worked  on the Katherine to Birdum line had stayed  on  in  the Territory and had been  living  in  hovels; Russians were also mentioned .

He continued : "By  getting away  these coloured and other aliens, whatever  (work) was  available  was conserved  for the British and Australians and our little white  industrial garrison of British descent  was deleted as little as  possible. A number of  these with  government assistance were found employment  prospecting." 
Although  two out of three unemployed were from the meatworks, there had been no  rioting or disturbances of any kind. The Territory had been remarkably free  from serious crime over  the whole year. The report continued :" I think the taunts that have been hurled at the workers  here , by certain misinformed people that they are variously Bolsheviks, Industrial Workers of the World  and Anarchists  can be refuted by the record  they hold  that a larger percentage of men voluntarily enlisted  for the front  than in any other part of Australia ,that they  subscribed more per capita  to the Red Cross  fund, that they carried  the conscription  referendum at every occasion  and have  erected a magnificent  monument  in Darwin  to their  fallen comrades."
Acting Administrator Smith , who got along well  with  Darwin unions,  resigned in 1921 after his proposal for  NT representation in the  Federal government was rejected . He was given a  post in Papua in charge of Crown lands, mining  and  agriculture.  NEXT-Spanish Civil War : Torrents warns Australia  about   General  Franco  and  communicates  with  writers  Vance  and  Nettie  Palmer .

Monday, August 24, 2015


The news  that Jimmy Ah Toy's famous store , above, established in 1935, in the old  gold mining town of  Pine Creek  in the Northern Territory ,had  closed about a year  ago  had  somehow  escaped my notice. Many interesting times were  had  in and around Pine  Creek , 230kms south of Darwin , fossicking  for old  bottles, Chinese utensils , coins ,  mining   and  railway items.
By  Peter Simon
 A  close  relationship  developed  with   prospector "Cranky " Frank  Atkinson , full of  fascinating yarns  and information, who lived in a smoky tin  hut in  the town  and took me  out  bush  to  dumps and  likely  sites to find treasures.

Frank's find
Frank , left, was scornful  of young blokes who did not know how to do a day's hard work  and regarded taking  up a shovel as  picking up a  venomous black snake.  Also, he  did  not   like a  number of similarly aged  Pine Creek residents who used to gather at Ah Toy's store  on  pension day, the group  collectively  referred to as  "  grumpy old  death  adders."
I mentioned  Frank to the  Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh   one  day when they  were  visiting Darwin , and told  them  he would not mind  returning  to his homeland  on  a  visit . The crowds , he said ,  would not worry him  after  all the time in the  bush ; his bladder , however, could  be a problem, I  informed  the  Royals. The  Queen  appeared  to  sympathetically  concur , uttering a meaningful  ,"I see."  She did not command  me  that  the next time  I was in  Pine Creek  to  tell  Frank  to  drop into Buckingham Palace  for  a  cup  of  English  Breakfast  should  he  lob  in  London.
Simon in hole
Frank took me bush to meet the eccentric prospector   Captain Jack Marsh  , who jumped out of a shack, saluted , and  told how he had shot Germans in the trench  and  had  himself been  shot in the  head . Years later, I was told  that Captain  Jack  had caused  a stir  among  women in a Darwin retirement village and  had  been found to have a  German  Luger  pistol  in  his possession. 
On a particularly memorable  visit to Pine Creek ,  I and my youngest son  saw a publican pistol whip a customer. Numerous   many fabulous  stories  were collected  including  one about the  Crow hating  resident   (he could not stand their mournful  cry) who  personally told me  how he shot  the  birds  with a  rifle  fitted with  a  silencer and  they  dropped  down around  startled police  at  a roadblock ; he died from an overdose of drugs .There  was a Russian  Cossack who had   jumped ship way  back and  ended  up  in  the Territory. Author  Xavier  Herbert accompanied  me on a  trip to Pine Creek and we met   a  person a relative of  whom had  been involved with Herbert in    Darwin  in  the late  l930s, close  to the  publication  of   Herbert's  novel  Capricornia .   
Edward  Cheong Ah Toy , Territorian of the Year  2005,  informing Darwin visitors about the Ah Toy family corrugated iron  bakehouse  and   bakery  building opened in the 1920s ; Eddie was born in Pine Creek in 1937. During the  gold rush era  ,see below ,there were close to 3000 Chinese  in the area ,with a temple and  their  own cemetery.
The late historian and author  Glenville  Pike  worded  this  plaque.

While the Ah Toy's store , which  had  developed into a supermarket over the years  , is  no more  , there  is  a  service station  still  carrying  the  name . Another  place of interest down the track, the Emerald Springs Roadhouse  ,32 kilometres north of Pine Creek, is on the market for $1.2million.  The  roadhouse was   once  owned  by Glenville Pike, his mother  and aunty , who found  that  truckies  who called in  during the 1950s only mainly  ate steak and eggs. Sold out   for 800 pounds ,$1600, a few  years later,Emerald Springs subsequently changed hands several times and was  modernised  and expanded ,  now boasting 40 rooms with ensuite , caravan and camp sites,  offering more than steak and eggs , a tub of tasty homemade  ice cream consumed  there by this writer  who  provided new owners  with  information  about pioneering  Pike and  family. 
Covered  in  waterlilies, Emerald Springs .

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Prime Minister just before he slipped and  received a whopper splinter in a  most disadvantageous position. Medical team supervised by his political  Mummy , Bronwyn Bishop,  flown in  by  helicopter  to  painfully  extract  deeply imbedded  top rail  and  disinfect  the  huge , gaping wound .
Typical Coalition robot programmed to repeat endless three word slogans  and , like  evil , goosestepping  Daleks, scream," Kill Electricity  Bill and any and  all Green groups trying to  save  the  planet . "

The Queensland peanut industry crashed after billionaire  Clive Palmer , dressed in a rabbit costume, danced and smeared  the PM , in budgie  smugglers , with peanut butter , during the Canning by-election  in Western Australia . After seeing Palmer's astonishing performance , which will soon see him performing regularly on Dancing With Dinosaurs, sponsored by  Donald Trump ,   the PM  retreated  to Thursday Island to contemplate   his   future  as  a  beachcomber  when  his  party  turns on  him and sets  him  adrift  on a raft .

Age Photograph: Schoolchild responsible for turning the PM into a bunny invited to lavish  CFMEU Annual Picnic and given a  Harley Davidson and a  gold plated  selfie  stick . 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Former  Member  for  Casey  Confesses.

A  recent walkabout which included  the  vain  search for  service down  a  mock imitation Melbourne  lane  in  the tropics  with  the  once  Honourable Member for Casey, ALP, in the House of  Representives , Pete Steedman ,   resulted in some great anecdotes,  nearly all of  which  cannot  be printed  because of  defamation  laws .  Steedman , with  a  bundle of  political reading matter , had come north  from Melbourne  to  Magnetic Island  to  thaw  out.
From its  files, this blog  showed   Steedman  a   rare   bound  in volume of  Broadside , which  he  had  edited  in 1969, that contained  Australia's most audacious political comic strip   , Fabula , the whip  wielding , skimpily attired   secretary , whose  boss  is the leader of  an unnamed  southern continent   (wink ,wink) , which  some  beady-eyed  monarchists  identified  as  Orstralia  and  Canberra  the place  where  much of   the outrageous  hijinks  took  place .

The  first warning  that  Fabula  is  coming  to  lash  parliament  where the form of government  is Operation Panic !, the  modus  operandi  now   followed  by  the  Canberra regime .

Little  Darwin  was shocked and mortified by Steedman when he declared  the prized collection of  Broadside  did  not  contain   two  editions "pulped" by  the nervous  newspaper   management . 

Edition number  two , it seems , was axed   because   lawyers   felt  that  Fabula , God  forbid , might be seen  as Prime Minister  John  Gorton's principal  private secretary, Ainsley Gotto .

As a result,  a well- clad, buttoned up  woman was  inserted  in the strip  as another   secretary close to the leader , although  Fabula  continued to romp  about in next  to  nothing   thereafter .
Modest secretary with  bun on top, informs  Prime  Minister, in yoga position with bottle of Grange or Barossa  Pearl and a cut lunch , that the Treasurer, affectionally  addressed as Treasure , with nothing much to do  except cover up the state of the economy, wants to see him ; they decide to cancel  the Fiasco 111 (F-111?) contract with America . In other frames, the secretary  is shown wearing a  neck to ankle  black dress, which would bring Fabula out  in prickly heat . The Prime Minister  is shown to be widely read -volumes with revealing  titles such as  Farces, Boo-Boos, The Lucky Country and  Noddy are visible .  A   book end appears to be Sir Robert Menzies attired  as  Lord Warden  of  the Cinque  Ports .   
Steedman  said  the second  pulping  was  justified  by  management on the  grounds  that  an anti-war  drawing  of  a  man  sitting on a bench brandishing an old cannon  like  his genitalia would shock sensitive  members  of   the  Melbourne  Club . In reality, he claimed it   was because the  Broadside  edition   backed  the  ALP  in  an  election campaign .

Not all  our  conversation  was  about  secretarial  staff , especially the  curvaceous ones.  Knowing Steedman loved British motorbikes  and  once owned  a 1949 Vincent Series B  Rapide ,  now worth  a  fortune , a  rare Vincent   recently selling  for  US$418,940  , another desirable one  only   in Australia said   to be in Canberra ,   we pulled out some old photographs  of  motorbikes   in  our  collection.

One of our pix  (above ) , from South Australia , he  immediately said  looked like   a  Vincent because   of  its  high headlight and  forks .  This prompted him to raise and  praise  the  part Australian engineer  and author Philip Edward Irving (1903-1992) played in  motorbike and racing  car design. In  1966 , Australian Jack  Brabham  won the  Formula 1 driver's championship and the manufacturers' championship with  an  engine designed  by Irving.

Steedman recalled  how  in  the  House of  Representatives in the l980s   he and Liberal member Tony Street  , another  motorbike fan ,   had   paid  tribute to  Irving's  skill  and   influence  on  global  motorcycle  design. After  jointly running a motorcycle workshop in Ballarat  ,Victoria , between 1926 to 1929 , Irving had gone to Britain as a pillion passenger and mechanic  to Scottish engineer John Gill on the return leg of Gill's world motorcycle  and sidecar journey  from the UK to Australia , using a 600cc  side valve  engine  Vincent  HRD. 

After being employed as a  highly regarded designer  and production engineer for Velocette in England , he was invited  to work for  Philip Vincent.
 When the Vincent  motorcycle company  went  into receivership in 1949, Irving, seen left , returned to Australia . Living at Warrandyte on the outskirts of Melbourne , he had a small workshop and kept up his involvement with engines,  especially Vincent  motorcycles.  He was  awarded the MBE in the Queen's 1976  New Year Honours List for services to automotive engineering .   

 Road Runners 

Over the years, Steedman also  threw a  leg over  a variety of  two wheel thrill machines including  ones bearing  the names Triumph,  Norton,   BSA,  Royal Enfield, Ariel Square 4  and Matchless. 
 The photograph at the  right is  another from the Little Darwin transport  collection and  also  came from South Australia.

After having  thawed out in the tropics , Steedman got into top gear, went for a stroll through the Townsville CBD  and  bought a book on the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)  from  The Speckled Hen  antiques and  bookshop  as  he had many dealings with  ASIO  when he was a university magazine editor in Melbourne  opposing the Vietnam War  and  conscription, the  government seriously considering  bringing  in  special  legislation  to  charge him  with  subversion.

Again, when editing  Broadside , he gave ASIO  a  tickle , the  Fabula  comic strip  featuring  a character  from  Intelligence  who spent a  lot of  time  peeping through keyholes , keen to get a  knighthood  .  It  also ran a two page Leunig cartoon headed WHO WATCHES ASIO WHEN ASIO WATCHES YOU  which used the ASIO  secret  codename , Scorpion . Fabula  also suggested an organisation  with a  name similar to  the KGB  was  watching  the  nation. In light of the recent claim  by a retired ASIO  female spy that there was a Russian mole in ASIO, Fabula's comment in jest could  have been spot on  in  1969. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Views along Townsville's Flinders Street  Mall : The Speckled Hen Antiques  above in which a  French rooster  was heard crow when  this  blog  was  scratching  about  looking  for ephemera  and  oddities, more  poultry  and  finger licking  news  and  views  later .

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Clever Wild Card in Original (Australian ) Species Limited series which emits cry of the Curlew when opened ; see recent post on Vandhana  book  which told how author Inga Clendinnen had missed  the   Curlews  on  Magnetic Island . 

Various explanations have been given for why  Curlews wail at  night. One says  it  is for Aboriginal  children  lost  in  the  bush  and   another  that  it  is  a sign  of  death. 

After  a commotion in which  Curlews  were  heard  crying  out  in numbers ,  the second of  our latest batch of chicks was  found  dead on the back verandah, looking as if something had grabbed it ...a cat or a dog?... it  was  not  clear .

The mother shrieked and ran  at me  with wings extended  when  I stooped to examine the poor bird , named Chicky Whicky. Soon the  male bird  joined her , then  ran off . Watched  through the backdoor and a bedroom window, the mother was seen squat down  nearby  with  feathers  fluffed out  ,wings  slightly extended as if wanting the  chick to  get up and  run to  safety under  her .

For a long time she emitted the soft ,soothing clucking sound given when walking  about  with a chick in tow .  Late in the evening , the  male  was  seen  to  run up to  the chick, its mother nowhere to be seen , and drop what  appeared  to  be a morsel  of  food .

Early in the morning , it was  discovered that the dead  bird had obviously been   dragged off   the  verandah  by  the  parents  up  towards  the back of the property where they spent  most of  the secure  daylight hours.

The parents , squatting close together nearby, did not move when the chick was removed  for burial. However,  the male rose   and inspected the position where the  chick   had   been.  
Mourning  Curlew  parents  after  death  of   second  chick .