Monday, July 31, 2017


A  recent  visitor to the Little Darwin cluttered den is  a well  read  Englishman who  has spent time in China and  now lives  in  Queensland.  While  discussing books , he   said  he  has  a  penchant   for  early  Readers   for   Queensland  schools , issued by the Department of  Education ,   stuffed  with stories  from  British  history  and  literature  and   very  little   Australian content .

It just  so happened  that  we  had a number of  1960s  Readers  , one ex  Dalby State School , stamped  July 10 1968,  which  were  fortunately  located  without much  trouble ,  and  we  leafed  through  them .

Our delighted  visitor laughed , pointed out  in a  1960 volume  stories relating  to  buying  a  cow  in  France ,  Robert Browning's  Home Thoughts  from Abroad , How Hereward  Interviewed  the King ,The Unknown  (British ) Warrior , The Canadian Boat  song by Thomas Moore , An  Adventure on Salisbury Plain ,  two Dickens  stories -The  Cratchits ' Dinner Party  and Mr  Winkle on Skates  , (British) Heroes of  the (Indian ) Mutiny ,  Waterloo , How  England Held  the Lists at Bordeaux, The Conqueror of  Smallpox,  A Fight with Pirates ....

Surprise, surprise -The Quiet Stockman , from  We of the Never Never   by Mrs Aeneas  Gunn, described as one of the finest  Australian stories , an account of  one year, 1902,  in the life  of  bush folk in  the  "out back "of   the Northern Territory .  Another  Australian  item   was  Henry Kendall's  The Last of His Tribe , the poet described as one of Australia's greatest, brought up and educated in the bush ,  generally regarded as  the " sweetest of  Australia's singers"  and  like Wordsworth , a poet of  nature .

A 1967 edition at least  opened with  a  poem ,  The Australian , by  Roderic Quinn , which had an associated  frontispiece of a man ploughing a field, the illustration used  in  other editions ,   and  Henry Lawson and his dog  got a run , as  did  Victor  J. Daley with A-Roving .  


Confirmation yet again that it is a mad , mad  , mad  world   and  that service to the customer is a  glib  PR  slogan  with  which  the  public is  bombarded , is  the  fact that  a  Brisbane  woman  has received a letter  from  Australia  Post  demanding urgent action over  her  letterbox  which  has been in situ  for  43  years . It  seems a  modern  postman   finds  it  difficult to access -despite the  fact that an army of  mailmen   had no problems  with  it  for  nearly half a century .   The letter from Australia Post  came   complete  with  an  A4  sized  colour photograph of  the  letterbox  and   surrounds .  It went on to suggest  the  woman  might  like  to  protect her  mail  by taking  out  a  private  mail  box .  Is this a  concerted  campaign to  do away with  home  deliveries ? The householder , as you can imagine , is scornful of  the  request  and expressed her  feelings over the phone,  which  resulted in a  further  letter from Australia Post thanking  her for taking part  in  a  survey . What  survey ?         

Sunday, July 30, 2017


On a recent Saturday morning commercial flight from the very throne of the   Queen City of the North  Townsville,  to Brisbane , the aircraft taxied out , waited 10 minutes , taxied back .The pilot informed passengers there  was  a problem with  the aft  dunny sensor  . 

Everyone deplaned , waited   an  hour , and reboarded , to be informed by the pilot  that  nobody in Townsville  could  fix the   problem , so it was on to  Brisbane  with  the toilet  out  of  use . Strangely , this  episode  , a blow to the can do  image  of  Townsville ,  did  not  get  a  mention in  the  local  media , evidence that  its  news gathering sensors  need   an  overhaul .   

Saturday, July 29, 2017


From this spot in the Little Darwin backyard , a  Curlew  egg disappeared overnight. Not long  after  the loss  of the  latest  chick , plump, active and  adventurous, its parents   again  displayed signs of being broody  and soon  another egg  was  produced . Now it  has  vanished, a slight  moisture  patch visible . Was it a snake , a  rat ?   Suddenly,  a  Curlew which seems to know its   way about the backyard  has  appeared  and we  wonder if  it was  one of   two  chicks which  survived and  flew away .  A  strange visitor to the back  door was the  large  flying insect  below  with  exceedingly  long  legs .
Small lizards are also visible in numbers as the season progresses  .  A Coucal  has been heard  calling  nearby. Could  it  be the return of long lost Dracula ?

The door left open to the blog den , the grieving Curlews  strolled in and let it be known it was afternoon  feed  time .


By  our  art  correspondent  Ponsonby  Willis
The    portrait of  one of  Australia's most colourful  gallery owners  and  art  dealers,  Ray Hughes, above,  by  Chinese artist Jun Chen,  was  runner up  this  year .  It was the second  time Chen  had   represented Hughes in  the Archibald Prize , the  first  in  2009  selected  as  a  finalist .  Chen  decided to  paint  another portrait of  Hughes  after  attending his  70th birthday last year , Ray, unwell ,  in  a wheelchair.

From various sources , including  Magnetic Island , North Queensland ,  I have  collected  ephemera  and  anecdotes about  Hughes  relating to his  early days as a   gallery  owner  in Brisbane , with  political  friends who went on to become prominent  in   federal  and   state   governments.  
Typical of  Ray's  flair and  audacity  is  the invitation  on a Robin Hood tobacco  packet  to an  exhibition  by sculptor , artist  and print maker   Tony Coleing  at  his  second  Brisbane gallery , Enoggera Terrace , Red Hill,  in the  1970s. It matched  the  style of  works  by  Coleing , spread over almost half a century ,  said to be infused with  humour and a satirical cutting edge . He represented Australia  at the 1980 Venice  Biennnale  , is  in the collections of  several  leading  Australian  galleries , Te Papa Museum in  New Zealand  and  the  British Museum .   
 From the same  period  are  two  items of ephemera  , above ,  for  painter and teacher    Roy Churcher , husband of   the  late   "Betty Blockbuster " Churcher , prominent Australian  arts  administrator, director of the  National Gallery of Australia,  an early art  critic  for  The Australian .The Churchers  ran  a  studio  in  Brisbane . 

The top item  is a simple  invite to Roy Churcher's notes  from Europe  and a display  card   for   recent   Roy Churcher  paintings stamped l978 .

The  Australian Financial Review  ran an interesting  interview with  Hughes in April 2014   , conducted in  a  fancy Sydney restaurant  , Beppi's , written by   Katrina  Strickland .   During the  lively  exchange , Hughes , then 67, recalled   his early start  in  the art world in Brisbane  in  1969  , his later move to  Sydney  in 1985  where he  took over  the stock and  gallery  of   Rudy  Komon  . His son , Ewan , who had read Art History at Cambridge  and had worked at the Mayor Gallery in London  joined  him  in  Sydney .

In   Brisbane, Ray    had  been in a  Young  Labor branch  along   with  Wayne  Swan , Peter Beattie , Steve Stockwell and  Arch Bevis . Also discussed during the long, fluid   luncheon , which  started  with a   Henschke grenache , were  his two ex-wives ( one of whom  later addressed him  as  Mr  Red Pants)   and  leading   figures in  the  art  world  .
The  paper  reported that Hughes made this  profound statement   about  expensive Grange  wine : "Grange  is something knuckleheads  give  to  knuckleheads ." It was  about  three hours  after the NSW Premier  Barry O'Farrell, a friend of his ,  had  resigned   over failure to record the fact  that he had  been  given  a  $3000 bottle of  Grange, saying he  had  no  memory of  receiving the  gift .
Asked  what makes a  real artist  ,  Hughes , after a long pause, replied :  “Addiction." So who had it? “Freddie ­Williams had it. [Ian] Fairweather must have had it to live in a funny old shack and get a cab driver to take his pictures down to Brisbane. At his very best,  Bill Robinson had it. He was mystified by the landscape, you could see him tripping over himself trying to find something."The article included  the  following artistic photograph of  Hughes by Louise Kennerley

Ray had been Jun Chen's art  dealer  for  many years  and  together they had travelled to China , Hughes introducing  contemporary  Chinese artists  to Australia  as  a  result .
Stored  away on Magnetic Island  is said to be  an unusual piece of  pottery-a  goblet-on  which  the  ebullient  art  dealer's  head  is  one of  three  on  the  base .  

Friday, July 28, 2017


 Journalist Malcolm Weatherup , who runs  the  lively  blog   called   The  Magpie's Nest  which pecks  the Murdoch Townsville  Bulletin  and others  ,   has been  hit  with  a  second defamation writ , the latest   from     Rabieh  Krayem, former  coach of  Northern  Fury  Soccer , wanting  $300,000. The  Bulletin  ran  a  report of  the latest  legal action  across  the top of P3  on   July 22  under the heading  Businessman  vs blogger.  The  last  para said  Mr Weatherup  was contacted   for comment,  but did not respond . In the interests of balanced  reporting , it  might  have  added  that  News Corp   was  ordered  to  pay  Weatherup   $100,000  for  defamation ,  and  it is  not yet know if he  has  been paid, no  local  media organisation  (apart from all of those owned by Murdoch in Queensland )  having   followed  up  what   is an  important    story  , not  unusual  in  the  timid  north . 
  A recent  addition to the masthead of  The Magpie's Nest   is the above graphic .



Knowing  this blog's long interest in  garage sales , two of our scouts, Sarah and  Michael ,found this staggering  daddy of all   garage sales  in  Beaufort ,  Victoria ,  Australia . 

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Regarded as America's  most  iconic and  respected  family,  some  of  the  Addams Family  have  silently moved to Australia  to get  away  from President Trump's horrifying   rule   and  the   cold weather .  In an exclusive  interview with this  blog , the family butler , Lurch , preparing to pack his  bag   to  fly out to  Sydney  to parade about  in  a  Bondi  budgie smuggler like the Mad Monk , said   the   family  thinks President  Trump  is a  weirdo, a  reject from  Madame  Tussaud's, who  will  ruin the  real  estate market  for   spooky  dwellings .      
Meanwhile , Uncle Fester , who has been travelling incognito  about  Queensland,  posing as a typical grumpy  Liberal  National Party member  , using air  b and b  accommodation along the way,  is  threatening to sue  the Sunshine State for false  advertising . Ever since  he  arrived in Brisbane and  was  dragged  off a United flight  by border security officers and questioned for two days  ,  he has  struck nothing but  cold  and wet  weather...frosts  in the granite belt, so called unseasonal  rain  in Cairns ,  polar  winds   at Tolga . Sunshine  Coast-phooey !  
The accommodation  along the way, growled Uncle Fester, had been terrible. In one place ,on an odd island off Townsville , it looked like a  dump shop with all kinds of   flags draped about the   walls , above ,  in  which he took a  photo of himself  wrapped  against the  chilly  tropical  weather , which will  be tabled  as  evidence in his case  against  the  Queensland Government .   
As a  result of the fake Sunshine State  projected  image  , Fester   wired other  family members   in transit ,  Morticia and  Gomez , in  sunny   Hawaii, to  fly on  to  New Zealand  instead of   Australia, certainly not  Queensland .

Hairy  Cousin  Itt  has lined up a job as the new   chief of staff  to Deputy Prime Minister  Barnaby Joyce, following in the footsteps of  Senator Matt Canavan ,  and will be  located in  a  centrally  heated mushroom  farm   in  Armidale and fed  sliced  salami .  Itt  is expected to swap  its   hat  for  one  worn  by Bob  Katter  who  is  believed  to  be  a distant egg throwing  relative of  the Addams  Family .
Katter  in  white  wig  and  Uncle Fester scarf  taking hatless  Cousin  Itt  on  tour of  parliament.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Senator  Canavan  almost brings  down the house with another  I, Claudius  imitation  in  the  Senate .
With the Turnbull Government  increasingly looking like  a  Down Under  version of the notorious  Italian  political  systemQueensland  senator   Matt    Canavan  has  dramatically  resigned  from   the dangerous  Canberra  Clean  Black Hand Coal Gang   as  the  Minister  for  Resources  because  he  has  Italian  citizenship .  Seems  his   Italian  mother  took out  Italian  citizenship  for  him  when  he  was  26  in  2006 ,  without  telling  him ... Mumma  Mia !!! 

In  Japan , where  Spaghetti Westerns  are  very  popular  , the demise of Senator Canavan  is being    described  in  news  reports  as  another Macaroni Western in  Australia , not a  crocodile  or  shark  attack . Enterprising Japanese television producers are  rushing to  launch a  new  super  zany   series  based  on disappearing  Aussie senators , similar to the smash  hit  Japanizi Going Going  Gong!

The  ALP recently put the Italian slipper   into  Senator  Canavan  and  some of  his Coalition   buddies-including  troublesome Tony "Stilleto "  Abbott  and  Josh "Gelati Enforcer " Frydenberg (Minister for  Energy and Environment)-via  the  fullpage advertisement , below , in   the Murdoch  Cairns   Post  which  implied  Rome  would  be  rebuilt  long before  any  development  took place in  North  Australia  under the Northern  Australian  Infrastructure  Facility .
It pointed out not  one  Italian lira  of  the   $5billion  NAIF   kitty  had so  far been allocated.  Canavan , it will be recalled , is   a  Murdoch  Townsville Bulletin regular  who got  a run  backing  car stickers  mocking  latte  ( an Italianate beverage) drinkers  over   opposition  to  Adani . And just recently the Bulletin, for some strange reason,  seemed  to give Senator Canavan a  bigger  run  in one  day's edition  than  Johnathan Thurston  after  kicking  yet another  golden point  victory. 

Monday, July 24, 2017


Back in France  from South America ,  trimmer  due  to a  touch of Montezuma's Curse along the  way  ,  crumpled Peter  Burleigh is cruising the canals and   proving  to be  a   bigger  hit  than  President  Marcon.  He  modestly  explains  his  sudden   rise  to   fame  exclusively  for   our  dishevelled   readers   thus:  
I can now announce that I, your reporter, has recently become one of our planet’s elite celebrities. This is my story, totally unembellished by exaggerations from the rumour mill. Most International celebrities have a personal story to tell, but because they are among the world’s most beautiful people they protect their “brand image” with carefully crafted public relations campaigns. However  everything  you  will  read  here  is   true.

I was born in…but wait, rivetting as it is, that part of my personal history must wait for the release of my autobiography, to be run in 347 chapters in The New Yorker magazine.

Instead let us start a mere several days ago, in the town of Montceau les Mines (in English, Mean Monsters) in Burgundy, France. Every June, in virtually every town and village across France, the nation celebrates the Festival de la Musique. On every corner, in every restaurant and bar and in every public space music competes with itself : rock and classical, rap and romance, musical comedy and hip-hop are blended at high volume, energising crowds of people.

I attended an open-air concert in the square in front of the Town Hall, and was grooving along with an unknown band until I noticed something amiss. I thought it was  the  lead singer’s groin which held the crowd mesmerised, when suddenly I realised the vocalist was  not  the centre of attention, I was. People were staring at me. 
I am a person who attempts to entrance others through the written word, not through my physical appearance, so when people appeared gobsmacked by my mere presence at the concert, as if I was  an  angel  at a Satanist annual meeting, I was almost speechless.

 No one said anything to me, or asked for my name or my spare change: they simply stared at me like a school of stunned mullet staring at the Messiah. The vocalist finished his groin-thrusting interpretation of Julie Andrews’ “Doe, a deer, a female deer” to an absolutely silent crowd of several hundred, all of whom were fixed on me. Alarmed, I left the scene immediately. No one followed or pawed me.

What    had I done to warrant such a reaction? The crowd looked like it had been asked to explain the Theory of Relativity to an amoeba. What had happened? I checked my reflection in a shop window: no halo, just the usual alcoholic glow. No obscene tattoos had appeared on my face, and I  was not wearing my  Chicken  Suit.
Days of deep puzzlement later, while our canal boat turned south into the canal between Digoin and Roanne (towns in southern Burgundy) I concluded that it was my innate ‘foreignness’ which had attracted attention. But how could they have known I was a foreigner?
 That night at a canal-side halte, I sheltered from the rain under the eaves of a public toilet, cooking our dinner on our portable BBQ. The weather had turned comparatively cold after the heat wave, so I wore a raincoat, tracksuit pants and socks to keep my feet warm. Then it struck me. I had worn the same ensemble at the concert. People might have interpreted my clothes as an expression of style. It was possible.
The crew (Rope Girl and son Marc) posted on Facebook a photo of me standing there in the raincoat, shoulders hunched, hoodie up, socks gleaming through the straps of my sandals. Obviously nothing abnormal there, I hear you say. Yes, but no matter how strange, thousands of potential trends must have gone unrecognised in the past.

When I am in France I always prefer to drink my money rather than wear it, so fashion must have reached out blindly to touch me at a nodal point where my innocent choice of hooded rain coat, socks and sandals had caught the imagination of  a  youthful   audience. 
Burleigh socks  it  to  stunned  French  trendies .
The photograph generated major traffic. Links to YouTube featured a French rap group called Alrima whose gang members/band all wore sandals and thongs with socks, matching their downtrodden slum-dwelling appearance with the supressed poetry of the street artiste. No doubt accelerated by my appearance on Facebook I had awoken an international vibe.
The trend was so new it didn’t yet have a name.  I watched the clip on YouTube but couldn’t understand all of Alrima’s words. In fact I still don’t know what the song is about. Would one of my French-speaking readers please send me a translation, warts and all.
At one point the lead vocalist raps on about “the smells of summer” and this may be a reference to old socks. Sandals are called ‘claquettes’ in France, which sounds a little like ‘tap-dancing shoes’ or ‘clapperboards’.  It’s not a big step of logic to see that fashion trends  are linked  with entertainment.
 Now I have been a celebrity for almost a week. It’s amazing how an ordinary nerdy guy has turned full circle and become ‘cool’ and a ‘fashion icon’. My virtual friends ask me “Which hedonistic calculus applies to your revolutionary sock selection?” and “I call your style round-shouldered chic. What do you call it?” 
These are hard questions to answer. I try to be as enigmatic as possible and reply ‘Keith Richards might know’. In truth, I’m mystified. Up to now any clothes that need to be dry-cleaned or worse, ironed, have been banned from my wardrobe. Some responses  suggesting  what I could do with a suit of Lycra have been rude  and  cruel.

Only this morning Pippa Middleton was reported as jealously saying that what I wear is “only clothes”. In reply I ask would she describe a  van Gogh painting as “only paint”?

So, how long will my celebrity endure?  Doubters who quote the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes with me cast as Emperor will be proved wrong. Why do we continue to know the names of the Egyptian Pharaohs, actors like Mickey Rooney and Jayne Mansfield and characters like Billy Bunter and Noddy, not to mention authors like Enid Blyton and Mariah Carey? Because they all had something to share and they shared it. That’s the key to successful celebrityship : sharing  yourself  for all eternity.

So it’s no good looking for expensive endorsed products with my name on them. As long as I can afford socks, I will share them with all who ask me and  at  a  very  reasonable  price, too.

Celebrity is fleeting and I must soon look inward for my next big thing. My taste of fame which YouTube predicts may endure until tomorrow afternoon, hasn’t aroused in me a wild animal ravenous for his next ’15 Warhol Minutes’, it’s made me sincerely humble, self-effacing  and   unpretentious.


After recently taking  part in the   running  of  the bulls  at Pamplona , Spain ,  one of our more athletic correspondents   from  the Northern Territory  sent   photographs  taken  while   jogging  along in  the  footsteps of the   final  straight  road   Tom  Hanks  took in  the  l994 Academy Award   winning movie    Forrest Gump .  The road leads  to  Utah's  Monument Valley  which is  to the west  of  Mexican Hat in  Goosenecks State Park .  

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Radio National recently carried a  report  about the  plight of Koalas in which it was said  they were in danger of being wiped out in parts of  Queensland  and  New South Wales   due to stress  caused by loss of habitat and  food   through  clearing of land  for   urban expansion ,  farming , mining, road  kill,  dogs , feral cats , chlamydia  and  conjunctivitis .
Illustration from national report on plight of  Koalas , not Magnetic Island
Somehow unnoticed by Townsville media  are the  deaths of  Koalas  on Magnetic Island.  Little Darwin recently reported the episode in which devoted  island carer Linda  Wootten, with the help of backpackers and others , retrieved a  distressed  Koala   on the  popular  Forts Walk.  It had a bunged up eye and a  damaged  claw .
It was hoped that  with care  and attention  at the Koala Hospital, where it was  found to be undernourished , with a growth on an eye ,   its  condition would improve   for  it  to be operated on  and saved.  This  did  not eventuate  as its condition  did  not improve  and  it  had  to  be  euthanased.
Not long  after, Linda had  to retrieve  a   dead  Koala,  on the same Forts Walk,  which   was  found  to  have a  dead  joey in  its pouchA "terrified " Koala was  recued  during  a  Full Moon Party  at the  X Base  backpackers  resort .  It was described  as  a  "petrified  marsupial ",  gripping for  dear life  halfway up a tree , taken to  a  safer  , quieter  location .   
Some months ago a Koala  was   killed  by dogs in the grounds of a residence . Koalas  turn up  from  time to time at the primary school .
Cuddly  Koalas  are  used    to sell  the  attractions of  the  island   at  a   time when  the Townsville City  Council is talking about opening up more walking tracks on the  island  which  you  would  think  will  impinge on the Koala habitat . Furthermore, it was enthusiasticaly envisaged   Australian and  Singaporean troops  might   compete against   each  other  in  races across the  island, bring in  bucks.  Anyone  think  what  this   might  do  to  resident  Koalas ?

 More  importantly, what  is  making  island  Koalas  crook,  killing  them  ?           


Townsville  Bulletin  torpedoed  with   extreme   loss  of  credibility . 

In  another major  waterfront battle , the Townsville Murdoch   paper recently  called  in  the   mighty U.S. Navy  in  an attempt to  blow  out   of  the water  yet  another group exercising their   democratic  right  to object to a project which will  affect   Magnetic Island   and  the   Great Barrier Reef ... dredging   the  Port of  Townsville to enable it to take bigger  vessels.

 In  doing  so , the  paper, claiming to be YOUR VOICE IN THE NORTH , despite a track  record of  belittling   organisations, groups or  individual  having  a contrary view to alleged  lucrative , you  beaut  projects like  Adani  ,  made  modern  American  naval commanders  appear to be  timid  compared  to  their   brave  WW11 counterparts .
On P4 of the Bulletin on July 18  was  a story headed  US NAVY VESSELS  HESITANT TO BERTH.  It  claimed   two  US Navy ships  "are refusing to  dock at   Port Townsville ."   Why ? Because , according to the report, the channel is too narrow , sparking concerns for the  future of tourism  and the defence gateway .
However, the  story muddied   somewhat as you read on ...Appearing to have inside  info , a leak perhaps ,  the Bulletin said it " understands" the  captains of the two supply ships  Charles Drew  and  Richard E.Byrd , were "too uncomfortable "   to   come  alongside , one of them anchored  instead  off  Magnetic Island .  
But what was the meaning of  this puzzling following   paragraph:  The supply logistics vessels entered the  port earlier  this  month .   This could be interpreted that there was  no problem  in  respect of  the channel on that occasion . Yeah,  but no, but yes .
This  situation  (  whatever  it  is ) , said  the paper , came a month after the State government  committed  $75million  to widen the channel, work that would be completed by 2022.
The Port chief  executive officer  Ranee Crosby   was  quoted as  saying     there had  been  berthing  applications for the  Richard E. Byrd , but   they  had been cancelled ..." Feedback we received was  the  width  of  the channel leading into the port was  considered very narrow  and  the captain preferred  to  anchor  and use  tender  equipment . "  On and on went the  report , the Department of Defence  not  making  any  comment .   
Naturally, the Bulletin ran an  associated  editorial broadside  under the heading US NAVY  PUTS  PORT SHORTFALL IN SHARP FOCUS, in which it was claimed the situation (if it really existed ) was  no less than an embarrassment  on the world stage for Townsville,  needing to be rectified as  soon as  possible  . The dredge spoil would be moved   to land   and the Great Barrier Reef   would not be affected, it  thundered . 
Furthermore , there was  a cartoon  showing a  defence vessel  named  ECONOMIC BOOST  blocked from entering the  port , some  gob  on  the bow  wanting  to know how much longer he had  to wait before he could  come alongside and get into the  rum and Coca Cola with the local girls, throw his  dollars about, feed the  widespread   cargo  cult   reporting  in Queensland papers in respect  of cruise and visiting  military ships .

 This   coverage  was  clearly designed to  bombard   into submission  those   persons , especially on Magnetic Island , already belittled  as noisy ,  and outspoken , in  a  previous  report.
But no . Out of the  media  smokescreen thrown  up  about   Townsville on many issues  , bearing  down on the  Bulletin  like  the  famous  WWll  battleship  USS Missouri  came  Magnetic Island  respected resident, H.O. "Charlie" McColl ,  with a very slight Viking connection ,  who  fired  a  letter at  the editor,  which  clearly  sank   the  paper.  It was  run by the  Bulletin with a  photograph of  the aircraft carrier  USS Boxer  in Townsville   bearing the high explosive  caption : No Issues.    Which  seems to completely   destroy  the  original  Bulletin  story and cartoon .  Nevertheless , the  paper  went  for a  confrontational heading  on  the  letter , DREDGING  UP  DIVISION, which  read :
The commanders of  the USNS ships  Charlie E. Byrd  and Charles Drew  who are said  to be "uncomfortable " about berthing at the Port of Townsville must be  cut  from  different cloth   from  their forebears.
Their  210m long Lewis and Clarke-class  supply ships, fitted  with bow  thrusters  and  assisted  by  tugs, are babies  compared with  some of the regular  port users .
For instance our oft-seen HMAS  Canberra and   Adelaide (230m) are in and out in a flash (if their engines are functioning  properly( ahem !) and  the mighty  USS Boxer  (257m) docked here for a  high time in 2005  with  no mention  of channel safety  issues.
It makes me wonder whether the managers of the port are cynically misusing   a contrived situation  to create a false  sense of inadequacy in the port at a critical moment  in the development  approval process? Remember the port expansion project requires years of  destructive  dredging  and reclamation (i.e. long term turbidity  and sedimentation of  World Heritage Cleveland Bay ) but also  thousands of  truck journeys through the  streets of Townsville  bringing upwards of one million  tonnes of rock  for breakwaters  and revetment  walls for  150 hectares  of reclaim .
And at the end of it , a 14 per cent   increase   in maintenance   dredging , all of which  will be sea dumped  in Cleveland Bay  next to  Magnetic Island and the  Great  Barrier  Reef  Marine Park .
After back to back bleaching  events and a  50 per cent decline in coral cover on the GBR , I wonder if our caring  and  courteous  American allies have any idea how inconvenient  and unsustainable  their claimed (or labelled )  discomfort really is ?
  UPCOMING :  The   battle  to  save  Magnetic  Island . What about  Cairns where  dredging is also planned ? Growing , widespread   opposition , across  the nation ,  to  Adani .  

Saturday, July 22, 2017


As a  result of   a  visit  to  various parts of  Australia in l980 , Japanese  painter  Masami Yamada  returned  in  1983  with 30 of his  works for  a  special exhibition  ,  the  catalogue for  which  is  in  the extensive collection  of   a new  regular  contributor  to  Little Darwin ,  art  correspondent  Ponsonby  Willis . The  front  cover illustration is of  a Kookaburra in a Japanese fan; a black Swan , also in a  fan ,  is  on  the  back . 

A  large   folding  screen of  Ayer's  Rock , Uluru ,  stood out  in the  exhibition . Subjects included  Great Barrier Reef  fish and coral  ; a Cairns Pelican ; an outback hotel  at  Orange ; Broken Hill chairs ; the waterfront  Seafood  Restaurant  at  Manly, Sydney ; iron lacework at Albury ; the Hero of  Waterloo Hotel, Sydney .
Arranged  by the  Australia-Japan Foundation , the exhibition  toured widely , including  Townsville  ( Perc Tucker  Art  Gallery) ,  Cairns , Canberra. Yamada had  also exhibited  One  Japanese Painter's  Papua  New  Guinea  in Tokyo, PNG  and   parts  of  Australia .          


Our S(h)ipping Reporter  turns up   so many strange , dog-eared pieces of  ephemera    and  odd   items which appear to have been scavenged  from  municipal tips  late at  night   that  we  may have to  regularly steam clean  the  Little Darwin office  to prevent  an outbreak  of   scurvy  and  yellow journalism , the  latter spreading  like  mad  in  syndicated  columns and  in  shockjocks  . 
It  has been suggested that  he was secretly , officially  appointed  Receiver of Wreck in  North  Australian  waters   so  anything  unusual washed  ashore  or vessels   aground  on  the Great  Barrier  Reef  should  be  handed  over  to  him .
 Smelling like a codfish, he waltzed   into the  office rejoicing over his  latest  find-the above  vintage  piece of sheet  music, My Song of the Nile ,  its spine reinforced by a  piece of  floral material  applied  by a sewing  machine , bearing the  penned name of  Page  and  the  date  17/2/1931.
It was the theme song  from the 1929  First National Vitaphone Picture   Drag ,    now described as a "lost silent  film ", supposedly   sung  by  heart-throb  Richard  Barthelmess ,  which  reached  number  17  for one week on the US Billboard chart that year . It seems  Richard  could make the damsels melt  as  the  shot below  of  him    from  the 1930  movie Weary River shows.  

 My Song of the Nile lyrics , with instructions for ukulele players ,  tell of  a pyramid of dreams  where the Star of Allah  brightly beams . Hopefully, desert  stars  will  guide his love to his arms on a couch of  moonbeams on the sand. (Sand could  cause  a major problem , you  would  think ) . This  Cleopatra  like  beauty is  urged  to stop dreaming ! Love, love , love while you may , too  soon  youth  fades  away , so  join in  the   song . 
It  sounds like the seductive words of  the great lover of the 1920s, The   Shiek, Italian-American actor   Rudolph Valentino , not  Dick Barthelmess. 

The Drag movie appears  to have   had a  run in Melbourne in 1929, causing   the hearts of  many colonial women   dressed  in  fur coats  to  flutter ... as the savage  Depression set in .            

Friday, July 21, 2017


One of the many  attractions of  Cairns is  the  Cairns City Library Literary Trail  which  honours  26 authors, who either wrote about or were residents   of North Queensland , with  a range of artworks . One of those featured  is  the late  Xavier Herbert (1901-1984) , above , who  wrote  the  Australian  l938 Sesqui-Centenary Award  novel  Capricornia,  about  the Northern  Territory .

 It  is in  a prominent  position against  a  wall  near the drive through   book  returns slot.   Designed and executed    by  Sarah Austin  , it  is white  stoneware  clay cut to incorporate  the design , using  underglaze  colours fired to 1220 degrees  Celsius.
Austin  explained  the  artwork  combined neo-classic elements  of the library building   and the almost classic  nature of  Xavier Herbert's writings. It light-heartedly  depicts  the reading public  catching the words and messages  contained  in  his books .  Issues such as nationalism, Aboriginal land  rights  and other social issues . An owl in a  tree  represented   his "wiseness",  parrots repeating  those  wise words . 

 Books depicted  are  Capricornia another novel set in the Territory  Seven Emus  ,  his part autobiography  Disturbing  Element, a collection of short stories  Larger Than Life , Dream Road  illustrated  by Ray Crooke   and  the epic  Poor Fellow My Country , winner of  the Miles Franklin Award   for  Australian  literature , at the time said to be the largest novel  ever written in the  nation.  Not included   is  the novel  Soldiers' Women which  Herbert  said  was  inspired by his observations of liberated  women  in Sydney   during  WWll.  
The Cairns  libraries  website  includes   an alphabetical  guide to the  Literary Trail in which  his   first name ,  Xavier ,  is  presented  as  his  surname , so that he appears  to  be   Herbert   Xavier ,  before  William Yang  and Desmond Zwar .  More  posts  about  the  Cairns  Literary Trail  authors to come , including  the  well known Territorian  whose memorial was  stolen .