Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Magnetic Island now  has a  brand new lake right at  the ferry terminal .What is known locally as "The Hole"   filled with  runoff  from the torrential  rain and  high tides.   Floating about in it is a wide variety of  rubbish , signs , puzzling   bubbling  in  two spots  as  if  an  eruption  is  imminent .
  Nearby  rock  wallabies  took  advantage of  the sun to come out   of  crevices   and  dry   out .
Overnight , the bedraggled  fairies  at the bottom of our garden had exploded and turned into something  entirely  different , the  seasick  hibiscus flower still  limp . 
The Queen of the Jungle's  residence began to leak and SES promptly  put a  tarp over the roof. During the deluge a large  boulder fell onto the road at Horseshoe Bay and was   removed by a  bulldozer . A  footbridge on the new  Nelly  Bay walkway was closed for a time due  to  debris  brought  down  by  fast  running  water  pouring  from  the  hills.
Collapsed  fronds.


Media  snippets from  North Queenland

On a mission to  meet  100   Townsville Bulletin readers and hear their  stories , the latest editor  of  the  newspaper , Jenna  Cairney ,  beamed  from an article  on February 26 ,  headed  A  SNIP ABOVE THE REST , about  Bennett's Barber Shop   at the  Rising  Sun  shopping centre.  It  included  a photograph and   an   interview  with   the   pleasant   proprietor , Kay Bennett , who has worked wonders on  this old  writer's   thinly   thatched   topknot. Missing from the report was  mention of and the photo of  eye-catching " Stewart", below, on the wall above  customer seating  in  the  salon .   
One thing that immediately grabs your attention upon entering  the  snippery  is the large   deer  trophy . A white  tailed  deer ,  it has a most interesting background . It  is  named  Stewart , because  it  came  from  Stewart Island , at  the tip of the  South Island  of New Zealand, famous for  its  oysters , some huskies from early polar explorations  ended  up  there .  
An uncle of the proprietor  , a  deer culler in  New Zealand  for  many years, into taxidermy, had mounted Stewart  and   brought  it with him when he moved to  Australia, where he  was  hired to  cull  feral  deer in  various  parts of  New South Wales .  It was  a major operation  packing  Stewart  up   and transporting  him  all  the  way to  Townsville  without  being   damaged . 
On being  made aware of this  background  to  Stewart  while having my  dank locks  trimmed by Ms. Bennett,  I suggested  her  relative  may  have known  the  former  Kiwi deer hunter , larrikin  and    author , Barry Crump  who was a media celebrity  in the l960s  before  Australia's  Paul  Hogan  came  on  the scene .
Crump, I told  the tonsorial artist , had written a colourful   book about  deer  shooting in  New Zealand , A Good Keen Man . I am not sure if the book mentioned a  ranger  had ground up deer antler and used it as aphrodisiac  sprinkled   on   his   porridge ;   the  story goes  his  wife  left  soon  after . 
Crump  also  came to Australia and went crocodile shooting in North Queensland,experiencing many wild adventures in the Cooktown region ,  resulting  in  another  book ,  The Gulf .  In all , he sold  a million copies of his   many books .  On my last visit to the hairdresser,  Ms. Bennett  wrote  down  the name  of  Crump's  first named  book  to  refer  to  her   uncle  to see his response . As I am a barber  starver , it will be a long time  afore  I  learn what  he  had  to  say .
This  blog  recently exclusively  reported that  the Townsville media had  failed to pick up the fact that a large amount of counterfeit American $100 bills  had been   found on Magnetic Island .
However, it  did  report that phoney Australian currency on which there was   CHINESE writing  had been found in  Townsville . The Townsville Bulletin was  informed  by  Little Darwin  about the  American find on the island, but there was no response, which makes you wonder about  what  makes news . There is clearly  a   major story  here... fake  Australian and  American  currency , Chinese connection, a  printing  press ? What further clues  do  local reporters  need to  spring  into  action ? 
However, after the Australian Financial Review  broke the  major news that  the mayor of Townsville  is to  pay  Clive Palmer  $50,000  for an  alleged defamatory  comment  about him in respect of the  closure of the nickel refinery , the Townsville Bulletin responded with a  tiny   single column  item  on P10. Surely  a  front  page story?
It seems  every time a  cruise ship  comes into port  in Queensland the  media makes extravagant  claims about the money that will be injected into the local economy . There is this formula of claiming an average passenger  spends  X amount of money,  so multiply it by  the  number of passengers and you have  a pile  of  hoot . More  cruise ships are expected in Townsville and the  cargo cult   reporting  is  rife , as it was in connection with the recent Air Niugini  link between the city and  Port  Moresby , which  does not seem to be  showering  the Queen  City  of   the North    or   PNG  with   treasures  from  the   sky. 
Notice  no  reporter   from  Townsville  has jumped on an Air Nuigini  flight to Port Moresby to cover  the unravelling  earthquake  disaster  in   PNG and the mass evacuation of  people  in  another area  due to  a  volcanic eruption .
 Not so very long ago,  an American naval  vessel  visited Cairns and   the cargo cult  mentality came out in the  media saying the visitors  were expected  to spend a bundle.  One  exasperated  local  resident  in the Cairns Post  said why not  just welcome the  Americans  and  not  worry  about  extracting   money  from  them . 
People off  cruise ships have been known to pop into op shops in Townsville and Darwin . Recently there was a  report   from Broome that passengers off  cruise ships were  putting a  burden  on local health facilities  because they  did not want  to  pay  for  shipboard  medical  services.  More  on  cruise  ships  later.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Continuing torrential rain  has caused  flooding,  turned streets into rivers ,  wheelie  bins to gyrate like drunken  Daleks  on  Magnetic Island where the above photograph shows Gustav Creek  pouring  into the marina .The Sooning Street bridge  closed  at one stage , debris  piled  up against  the  upstream  rail , the  nearby  schoolground   flooded .   An  area of  bush  known  as the Pope's Land became a  watercourse  with  large  numbers  of  frogs  deafeningly singing the nuns' chorus.  Curlews  took shelter   through the downpour , emerging  from  time  to  time  to  shriek against  the   gods .
During a brief break in the weather, an inspection was made   of  the  estate  grounds  and a cluster of suntanned  fairies  and  another  seasick hibiscus  were   found   at  the  bottom of  the garden.

Monday, February 26, 2018


Aerial  views  of  Aurukun 


More bats over Cairns  snapped by Abra .

Sunday, February 25, 2018


There is already speculation in the Northern Territory that  Barnaby Joyce   will end up employed  by  another rich  friend , billionaire  Gina Rinehart, with vast mining and  pastoral interests . It is being repeatedly pointed out  that  the  former   Country Liberal Chief Minister of  the  Northern Territory , Adam Giles , who lost  his Alice Springs seat  at last  year's  election ,  unexpectedly became general manager for  external affairs  pastoral , in   Hancock  Prospecting. At the time , it was said  this  swift appointment  highlighted the "blatant " revolving  door between  politicians  and  mining companies .

Apart  from holding pastoral interests in  the Territory , Hancock Prospecting  has  gas exploration licences  over  a  large  area  and  fracking  is  a hot political  issue in the north , a contentious  report issued as  the result of an  inquiry . The entrance  of   one   pastoral property over which   the Hancock  company has  gas permits , owned by  a millionaire , firmly declares  NO FRACKING . It is  a  kind of  range  war  situation  as  in  the 1960s western TV series, The Big Valley , with Barbara  Stanwyck  as  the  tough matriarch.  

There is no doubt  that  Gina  Rinehart  has a  soft  spot for  Barnaby Joyce . He was one of  three Coalition  MPs   she  flew to India  in her private jet  for  a lavish Bollywood  type  wedding  . Then,  last November ,  she presented   Barnaby   with  her inaugural  $40,000 award  on  National  Agriculture  Day  for " championing  agriculture" . As he was  the Minister   for Agriculture , there  were  howls  of   disbelief , and  the  cheque was  handed  back .

Now , the  scuttlebutt  in the Territory is that  the former  Deputy Prime Minister   is  a   Monty  to   end  up  on  the payroll of  Ms. Rinehart , who also has  coal  mining interests   in  the   Galilee  Basin , Queensland . 


Bookie  Blake ,standing with pencil,  at  Fannie Bay Racecourse.
Toiling in  several vineyards in South Australia was an interesting experience , sprinkled with  mirth ,  especially when some  young members of  a  pruning  gang  said I looked like Papa Smurf  with my pointed cap, beard and two-tone  padded Chinese jacket  on  wintry days .   There were  more laughs  when   I  toiled  in   the 10 acre   Arnhem Nursery , run by  Kerry  and Sandra Byrnes , at  Humpty Doo ,  on  the outskirts of  Darwin . 
By Peter Simon  
One  source of merriment  there occurred  when Kerry , who regarded himself as a  dab hand  with  all things mechanical , could not get the  leaf  blower to work .   He had worked on oil rigs in the Philippines and New Zealand  and loved dismantling  engines . 

Yank, yank, yank, yank , yank  on the starter  cord.  Fuel checked , examined  from 57 angles .  No  life, causing  use of colourful  oil industry  toolpushers  language .  With a big event  coming up at the weekend , possibly  the annual  pottery show in the grounds of the nursery , and   the  need  to make  it look  immaculate  like the Garden of Eden  , I sped into  the  industrial area  with  the  blower  to  see the  agents  for  the  infernal machine .

There a  guy took one look at the blower  and  announced it had a  wasp nest up the  spout , preventing  it  to  breathe . Removed , it  went  first  pull .

On a recent  visit  back to Darwin,  I was  picked up   by  Kerry and  driven  to  the  plant  nursery  where  we  had  a memorable feed of  fish and  chips , interrupted   from  time  to  time  by annoying   customers.  
 It  was  so  hot, Sandra   jumped  fully clothed into the swimming pool  to cool off.    During our   enjoyable , wide ranging  discussion ,  I was  surprised  to learn   that  a  very  large  tree  nearby  had  come  from  a  tiny  plant    many decades  ago  nursed  along  by  a  mutual friend ,  the late  Peter  Blake,  journalist extraordinaire ,  once  a  Darwin bookmaker, an  avid   fisherman .   

A great admirer of  Blake , with whom I  collaborated to produce two  Darwin satirical  papers, The  Fannie Bay Whisper and  Troppo ,  I pressed   Kerry, who delivers  a regular  gardening talk on the local ABC radio ,  for   details   of  this  Darwin version of  from  tiny  acorns  mighty  oaks  grow . He  responded   with   an   informative email  after  the nursery had  been   hammered by monsoonal rain, 800 plus millimetres in four days, which washed away part of the roadway , three   trucks   bogged  , witches hats   all  over  the  place.

The   large  "Peter Blake tree, " he wrote ,  was  a Banyan , which  had been  given to  Kerry and Sandra  way back .  Peter  said  he had  found the  tiny tree  growing in  an old  boot   his  young  daughter, Rebecca, had  thrown  into the yard  and  it  had  been obscured by grass  . The  plant was withdrawn  , placed in  a Paul's milk carton, eventually ending up a stately tree  and a  talking  point at  the  nursery .  
Peter  liked  growing  things  in  odd   containers , said  Kerry. He also  grew  seed  sprouts  for  eating  in  his   kitchen . 
 Kerry and I  both went on memorable  fishing expeditions  with  Peter  Blake . On one , Kerry recalled  sitting  in  car  before sunrise,  at a swampy  location down the track  , eating lumpy  sandwiches  Peter  had made  which consisted of  corned beef  and  mayonnaise,  not really  to  Kerry's liking.   Eager to go , still dark ,  Peter had  jumped out  with  his fishing gear  and   waded  into  the  swamp , where  buffaloes  wallowed, poisonous  snakes  were  plenty...true Crocodile Dundee territory.  

After cyclonic weather, Peter  and I set out for some serious fishing at Fogg Dam, near Darwin , where heavy rain  had caused flooding which  cut several channels  through the earthen wall , barramundi  escaping . We were expertly clad , both wearing overalls , gumboots, carrying smart rods imported from Sydney , where Peter had been involved with the innovative  Fishing  News paper which provided fishing news to a commercial radio station ,  and  had  written many  zany fishing columns  for the Kings Cross Whisper, a publication which sold like hot cakes  and  barramundi fillets in  batter  across  Australia .   

We waded through one channel and headed  for  the larger  one where  an Aboriginal   man , barefooted, in  shorts , an  open shirt ,  with  a  mere   handline , was   fishing .  Splashing  loudly  through  flowing  water, we   drew close to  the  fisherman, asked  how  they  were  biting ."Alright," was the  terse  reply, " until  you  came." 

Now living in Melbourne , journalist  Kim Lockwood recalled  another   fishing  trip  involving  a party of  reporters  from  Darwin who  went out to the  fabulous Nourlangie safari  camp .  Peter Blake  and Chris Lindsay were in one tinnie , Kim  and  I  in another . As I recall , the water was seething with  fish  sensing  the  monsoonal  rain  would  soon enable  them  to  escape the landlocked lagoon  into the floodplains . 

Fishing  in  the dark for about four hours , Kim says  we two only caught  five barra  between us .  The others caught a whopping 33 which must have just about sunk the boat . When a  lamp was turned on to land a fish , we  were eaten alive by insects.  We stopped  at  a creek on  the way back  to clean the fish  and slept for an hour on the side of the road, then  went home . He put his  fish in the freezer-only for Cyclone Tracy  to  kill  the freezer  and ruin the fish a  few  days later. The prized , large barramundi I buried after the cyclone forced itself  to  the surface like a hot air balloon  many days later  in a gas  filled  plastic   bag . 

Peter Blake  played a big  part in the bright,  independent   newspaper,The Darwin Star ,  which Kerry  and Sandra   Byrnes  started ,  providing  strong competition for   the Murdoch  Northern Territory News .  Peter  had  worked on  The Star  in  Hong Kong  and suggested The Star as  the name for the new  Darwin paper.    Kerry recalled  seeing  Blake's whole body shake   with mirth  as he  gleefully  subbed  pages and wrote  bright stories .  The Darwin paper was  bought  by  South Australian trucking   millionaire    Allan Scott  who branched out  into  TV and  newspapers .

Sandra and Kerry , involved in publication of  gardening  magazines ,  left   and  started  Arnhem Nursery .  The  Star  eventually  folded  .

Blake had  left  for America before the sale of the paper ,which owed  him  about $1300 in  holiday pay . He had instructed Sandra  Byrnes, who looked after money matters on  the paper, to hold it for a rainy day , when  the money  would  be  needed, perhaps on  a  visit  back to Australia . 
Sandra  received   a call a few days after he  left for America   to urgently wire the money . Kerry  said  Peter had  no  sooner  landed in America than  he went out to "Yonkers", or some other race track , and lost his shirt . Becoming a longtime  New Yorker, a sub editor on the New York Post ,  Peter  joined  a  community  garden  group  in  Manhattan   and  went  on   many  fishing   trips. 

Friday, February 23, 2018


Literate  Irish  backpackers being lumbered  by police for misbehaving   in Darwin's lively  Mitchell  Street nightclub  precinct  have been known to  cheekily point out  that  the  spelling of  an  Irish bar -Shenaniganns-  is incorrect. 

Now that the 21 year old  Irish themed  pub , also known as Shags,  has been bought by the Melbourne based  Australian Venue Club  Co , formerly  Dixon Hospitality , it is hoped the spelling blue  will be  made green , Shenanigans .  The company, in which the global investment  firm KKR became a major shareholder , also bought  another  popular  nearby  nightspot , Monsoons , and  has other  interests in  NSW  and   Queensland . 
With  recent  changes in the ownership  of   businesses  in  the  hospitality  field in Darwin , there is speculation that  a build up of  American  Marines  may  see  a lot of  people drinking rum and  Coca-Cola , working for  the Yankee   dollar .

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Cairns on  dusk ; trees in top photo full of  bats . Abra  study.


An extraordinary man , Adair Macalister Blain , will be the subject of a talk  by Earl   James at the  Northern Territory  Archives Centre , Darwin , on March  6 . With  a surname of  Blain, it was  only natural that he was  nicknamed "Chill".
He played a large part in opening up  the Territory , surveying the Granites goldfield,  leading  a 1933  expedition  into   western Arnhem Land to the head of  the Liverpool  River  to report on  agricultural and  pastoral  possibilities , becoming   the independent member for the Northern Territory in the  House of Representatives  in  1934 , beating  the incumbent,  union chief  Harold Nelson .
A veteran of  two world wars, he spent three and half years  as  a Japanese  POW after the  fall of Singapore  in a number of notorious prison camps ,  reelected  to parliament during  his incarceration .  On returning  to  politics after the  war , the Labor Party  claimed he had  used his  parliamentary  gold pass to gain special privileges in the Japanese  camps. This attack rebounded  as it was  revealed   Blain had  knocked out  gold fillings  from  his teeth to bribe guards  to get special concessions  and  treatment  for  sick  and   injured  comrades . 
His  record   run of five consecutive terms as  an  independent   politician came to an end in the  1949 election  when Jock Nelson , Harold's son, with the  strong  help of Jim Bowditch ,  the then  president of the  Alice Springs ALP branch, later  the crusading editor of the Northern Territory News, in Darwin . Bowditch, now a  neglected  mere  footnote in  the Territory story , said   Nelson  , sincere  and  likeable,  was   not  a  great  public speaker . 
To overcome this , during  the election campaign , Bowditch, big on oratory , would write  a powerful  speech  and deliver it  on Jock's behalf , saying the  hard working candidate  was  out  bush  on  the  campaign  trail .  
In one of his last speeches in  parliament, Blain charged that young  Jock Nelson , the ALP candidate,  was backed by the Northern Standard  in Darwin, which he  said was  run  by communists, " a treasonous paper".  
He called for  a Secret Service Branch to be opened in Darwin  and said "agents of Russia "  could do a lot of  harm  to  Port Darwin . (An  interesting comment , all those years  ago , when you consider the recent  bizarre act of handing  over   the  port   to  Chinese interests .)
 Parliament was told he had drawn up a list of 83 known communists in Darwin , some on the government payroll . There were another 23 people whose names had "not  been  listed  publicly".
 When  this writer  went through  the Blain papers in  Darwin it  was interesting to see he had  used his position as a politician to promote   Territory produce , a dinner  down  south   resulted in  cartoon like  sketches of Aborigines and  Top  End   tucker , which might now be regarded as  politically incorrect .

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


So  does last Welcome to  Magnetic  Island
TOP : Last pieces of the  large  Welcome to Magnetic Island  wall of  scrim on the leaning  rusty barricade  around  "the hole"  near the  island  ferry terminal on February 14  . ABOVE : Today's shot , sans  scrim , the barricade  straightened, rubbish  still  visible nearby ;  the  handling of  the  protracted  disintegration , ripping , collapsing  and  flapping  of the  extensive  banners  probably set another Commonwealth Games  record  in the downhill slide event  for the  Townsville City  Council  and other  cowpunchers   involved.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


A "large quantity"  of counterfeit American $100 notes was  found  on  February  12 in the  barbecue area, Lions Park, Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island . You would think that the mainland media in  nearby Townsville , especially the  Murdoch Townsville Bulletin, would be  all over this  and it would be news across the nation .   No .  Proof  yet again that  the look and  sound  alike   news  outlets   in  the city  need  a  major shake up.
First  brief  mention of   the   fake Yank money  appeared  in  the oddly written   weekly  Police Report  in  the Magnetic Community News  of February 20 . It said police had not received any  reports  of  counterfeit money being passed .  Anyone with  information  about  the  matter  was  invited  to contact  police.

No  photo, no  details of  how many  notes,  loose or in a container .Where are  the  notes  now ?   US officials  contacted ?  

Another odd  , brief    item  appeared  further down  the  Police Report. It said   on February 16  a clip seal bag containing a quantity of crystallized substance had been found in  Sooning Street, Nelly Bay . Naturally, anybody with any  info should contact  police .  Since this discovery , has  anybody come  forward , has  it been tested on the island or Townsville  to reveal what it is ? If so ,was it an illegal substance ? Reporter  type questions which Hunter S. Thompson of the  Columbia School of  Journalism    would ask .
These two episodes  raise questions about  how  the mainstream  media  in Townsville  receive and  are given  police news  and  the proven   poor overall  coverage of  Magnetic Island  where there are so many interesting , puzzling   things   happening ... the  latest  involving a   cool  chipmunk  and  police .   

Monday, February 19, 2018


A  tribute to a talented, determined woman -Margaret Vine - who contributed  to research for  major  books  on Australian artists ,  early important  documents in  the  nation's international  affairs and  the  production  of   Queensland  regional   memoirs  and Magnetic Island  heritage  signs .  During her life she collected pottery , jewellery , costumes , Persian carpets ,  books  and  indulged  a   deep interest in  opera . With  her liking  for  black , purple and green   clothing   and sporting  long  fingernails painted  green ,  some  children  went  in  awe of  her , asked  if  she  was  a  witch. 

The late Margaret  Ann  Vine, at the time  Mrs Willis,  talking  to  artist Sir Russell Drysdale  at  a January 1970 exhibition in  the  Johnstone  Gallery , Brisbane ,  to launch  the  Australian Art Library ,  the  function attended  by  leading  Australian   artists  and  sculptors. This  cutting, from the Australian Women's Weekly , reported she was stylishly dressed  in a tiered  dress of crisp black taffeta, with  black accessories .   

From  the  l950s to  early 1970s, the Johnstone  Gallery  was a major force  in the Australian  art  world .  The proprietors, Brian and Marjorie , were  close friends of Margaret's .  Brian ,  born in  India , educated in Adelaide, attended   Duntroon Military College , became  a captain. He   served  in America and  Europe  after the war ,  Margaret saying he  had  been personally   involved with  Dr Herbert Vere  Evatt ,  an art lover , who  from 1948-1949 was the third President of the  UN General Assembly ,  helped   draft  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  became leader of  the  Australian  Labor  Party . 
 By Peter Simon
For a short  time, Johnstone had  served as aide-de-camp to the Queensland Governor , Sir John Lavarack . Mrs Johnstone ,  an actress , into mime , added to the  atmosphere of  the   distinctive  gallery  they  ran at 6 Cintra Road , Bowen Hills.  Both were  foundation  members of  the Queensland Art  Gallery Society.   

Margaret's   connection with  the  dynamic  gallery proprietors  was  so  strong that  her  pet Beagle , Ponsonby, and  a   Dachshund  named  Lindy ,  owned  by   them , used  to send each  other  Christmas cards , one of  which  she  showed   me ,  along  with  a wide range of art  gallery  ephemera  and  catalogues.

Margaret  recalled that one   Christmas , Brian Johnstone had an ox tail sliced down the middle  to expose the marrow , put it  together, wrapped it up , and  had  it delivered  to  Ponsonby  who " went mad over  the gift ". In return, Margaret made  Christmas  cake , probably  using her mother's recipe with a dash of sago , cut it into cubes , wrapped it in cellophane , and sent it off  to the Johnstones  and   their   Dachshund .
The last Christmas card  sent out in l972, marking the end of the gallery, because Brian  had suffered  TB and they were both  tired,  showed  the Johnstones  in  an Australian  sleigh , led by their  dog, presents being thrown out the back , depicting  the  work  of  artists  connected with the gallery over the years, which included  Ray Crooke, James Gleeson, Margaret Olley, Charles Blackman , Arthur Boyd .  


 Born in Ashgrove, Brisbane , in 1936, Margaret remembered  being carried about on her father's  shoulders , he singing  what  she  later  identified as opera ,  showing  her  possums  and   birds. 

A  Brisbane  newspaper  asked parents to send in photographs of  their children  , the  snapshot  judged the  best  would be   turned  into a professionally produced portrait  in  a  special frame , behind  glass.  Portrayed holding a teddy bear,  Margaret's  photo won , see below.  It was offered  to the  National Photographic Portrait Gallery in Canberra   last year , but  it  was  declined . It now hangs  in this blog's den, not  far  from  a political  painting  by American artist  Bucklee  Bell, prominent in the  1967-1970  Underground Comix  movement of San Francisco and Berkeley, California , the subject of several posts in  Little Darwin .

From the age of about  three to five , the Vines  lived in a house  on stilts ,where Margaret often sat up close  to  a mantel  radio  ,  listening  to  people  singing . One day she  told  her mother  she had  heard "Darna  Derba"-Deanna  Durbin - the Canadian born-American singer and actress ,  performing.  On a swing under the house she imitated   a  song by  the  popular American  singer and actress , Jeanette  MacDonald. Nelson Eddy, who co-starred with  MacDonald , also inspired  her  singing . 

Travelling with her mother in  the  tram, she often stood up and broke into song , causing passengers to  clap .  She  announced she would like to become an  opera  singer .  When she accompanied her mother who went to  a dentist ,  she sat  quietly  in  the waiting room totally engrossed by the "yellow books"-National  Geographics . Staff remarked that it was  amazing that  she sat still,  turning  the pages over  and over  , as  most  young  children  fidgeted , ran   about.  It  was  an   indication  of   her  future  voracious  reading  and  interest in  so  many  subjects .    


Her father , a  bank employee, who had been educated at  Townsville Grammar, where he enrolled in 1923, became a  top cricketer , said to have taken  eight wickets  for   four  runs  , who  could  have  gone on  to  play for   Australia  but  for  the demands of  his  job . During WWll,  employed by  the Bank of Australasia as a teller , he   was  stationed  in the Lennon's  Building , Brisbane ,  used  by US supreme commander of Allied  forces in the Pacific,  General  Douglas MacArthur , and had  many   dealings  with  the Americans , helping them  convert  dollars into Australian currency , complimented   for  his   service .

The family moved about  during the  war  to such places as  Windsor and Enoggera ( where the school had air raid exercises and  she  found it claustrophobic looking up  from  trenches).  From there  they went to Oakey  where  an airport was being built  nearby and she saw her  first "black man "...  not  an  Aborigine , a " Negro " soldier. 

 An uncle  went to Singapore, was captured, spent time in Changi , and lost a leg . At one stage Margaret and her mother moved to a sheep and cattle property ,"Geradan"   at  Tara , near Dalby , where she had a pony , Sally . Her mother said she could ride the pony after  first doing her  intensive primary correspondence  course  and  getting it   right . She passed the  course  in six months  and was awarded  Mickey Mouse merits  for  her work .
While at Geradan in 1950 she received a  book as a   Christmas present from an aunty  and uncle,  the Ernestine  Hill  novel  My Love Must Wait ,the story of  maritime explorer  Matthew Flinders , and in  later life she  became  interested  in  maps  during   her   wide  ranging  research .  
In the postwar  period  the family continued to move about  due to her father's job with the  bank . At one school , where she studied home science " and all that jazz  ", cooking and sewing , she sat for  a  scholarship  exam  and tied  ninth in the state .
The school manager at the time was  rotund Eric  Davis, son of  the writer Arthur Hoey Davis (1868-1935), creator of Dad and Dave , author of  the  Australian classic , On Our Selection, written  under the  name  Steele Rudd . The son of Eric Davis was  named  Steele,  who  told  Margaret  she could  play   doubles  tennis with him  if she let him look at her homework  to see if  he had the right answers .
Because she was so bright ,  Eric Davis  bet her father a brand new shirt  that she would  come within the top 10  in  the scholarship exams.  Margaret commented that it would have been hard to find a shirt big enough to fit him because he weighed about  16stone . Prizes came her way in the shape  of school  book awards , one from Nambour High and Intermediate School in 1953, Seven League Boots by Richard Burton , which she kept until  2017 , by that time containing pencilled  in  margin  notes . 
Due to her father's  employment , the family moved to the mining town of Mount Isa in the l950s  and  she described  being driven  to the open  air theatre   by Len Evans , later the prominent  wine writer ,  in a 1925 Packard  car  with running boards , a pet  Collie dog , Prince ,   taken along  for  the ride ,  which   licked  ice cream  from  a  cone as they sat  in  canvas seats  gazing at  the screen .
 Her younger  brother, Jim,   said  there was hardly ever a night  without a message being flashed across  the screen for the  local  doctor  to come to the office  as he was  wanted . A book read  during that period in Mount Isa , when the  Vine  residence   was   8 Fifteenth Avenue , was  the  1952  Brisbane published   Where Strange Paths Go Down , by A.M. Duncan-Kemp, about  outback   Australia , retained by Margaret  until  late in  life .  Unfortunately not  going into details , she mentioned "theatricals "  performed  in  the Isa  and that Evans may have taken  part in  them .  
It became a bone of  contention that  her father told her she   could  not go to university because she was a  girl , that  she  should take up  teaching  instead.  In due course  she did  become  a  teacher  and  while  at a girls' school , slipped away  for  an  arty weekend  in  Brisbane  ,  attending  a  party dressed  as  Picasso's  giraffe , her  hair   pink .   So that she would  not stand  out at school   on  Monday  ,  she   hastily  washed   the colour  out of  her  hair .
 Years later, attending the school reunion, an old girl  informed her that  she had noticed  the teacher's hair  on that Monday had a  pink patch  at the  back  and had  drawn  other  girls   attention  to   the spectacle, who then trooped   behind  the  teacher ,  had   a  peek,  and   raised  eyebrows. During her teaching career she was presented with a number of  cookery books , one  entitled A French Woman for  a  Wife .

Last year, knowing she did not have much  time to live because of  cancer , with a colostomy  bag seemingly  affectionately called  Stanley , she  began to  provide me  with   disjointed  anecdotes   from   her   life   for  Little Darwin . 
 NEXT : Margaret puts herself through university , runs  a  cafĂ©  , goes to Canberra , attends  lots  of   book sales , goes  overseas , tours  art  galleries  all the  way  to  Moscow  and   takes  in  some  auctions  along  the  way .