Saturday, March 30, 2019


Late in the season, the established   Little Darwin  resident  Curlew  couple have   produced  another   chick , resulting in  deep  concern ,  late night snacks and  disturbed   sleep.  It  became evident  that something  was afoot ;  eventually  a Curlew  was  discovered sitting on  an egg  in the nextdoor neighbour's  yard .  One day , through the wire fence  ,  a  tiny chick was spotted  next to  its  mother .   
 The parents took turns to fly in for a  feed  from  the Little Darwin canteen. Eventually they came   home  with the  latest hatchling , which  ran about  the  yard    at  night , following  its  parent  who  made   a continuous, soft  , clucking   sound .  One  parent tapped   at  the backdoor  at  10pm for  a  feed .  In the distance , a dreaded  Barking Owl , which devours  young birds ,    could  be  heard   hooting . Several shrieks  during the night and  other odd sounds caused this blogger to leap up out of bed with  a  torch  to  check on the  safety of the  ball of  fluff.  The following  photo shows the head of the  chick, looking like an Easter egg, in the protective wing of its mother . 

Friday, March 29, 2019


From mainland, Magnetic Island in background .Vallis photograph.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


A  sad  case  history
I am in a  bad way , doctor . Everywhere I look there is a  lizard or  three .  Eek! There  is  one  now !!!   Dozing off in front of the idiot box  at night , I swear   a lizard  regularly  gallops  across  the  wall  to take  part  in  the 1916  lithograph of  the  annual  Easter Monday   event   run  by  the    Onkaparinga  Racing  Club in  South  Australia .
In the morning  ,  half awake , I  totter  into the   kitchen and reach  for   a  glass    to  wash  down  essential  pills  - and there appears to be   a  black , tiny  lizard  staring  at  me from  an old   bottle   dug  up in  the  South Australian   copper mining    town  of  Moonta  , with a strong   Cornish  influence  in  its operation . 
As I  walk out the back door to   sit on  the veranda  and  eat  the  fibre laden   breakfast  in  a vain bid to achieve regularity , assorted  lizards are sighted   scurrying   about .  
Kookaburras are heard  noisily  greeting the  morning  and   the lizards no doubt   twitch as  they know  Kookas  just luv  lizards , regard them as  tasty  Cornish pasties .  A  large  lizard  rushes in  from  the lawn   and disappears   up  a  pipe as  if  to escape any attention   from the   kookaburras  . 
On walking up the  backyard to check the   rain  gauge , doctor , I swear  blind there  was  a   lizard  in  the  rusting  vice .
From the nearby shed , from which a snake was once  seen  slithering away  , strange    scurrying  noises  are heard   within . Into   view comes  another, larger   lizard ,  about   to  disappear  under  the   shed  door .
Another  brave  lizard  comes out and  suns itself  on a granite rock  , no doubt keeping  an  eye  open  for  kookaburras  .  

From the remains of  what looks like a bombed  Fairy Ring , below ,  another lizard  poses  before  dashing  off  into  the safety of the   undergrowth. This explains  why  fairy  dust  is  not  favoured  as  a  source   of   power  generation  in  bombed  out  National  Party  circles .
Stubby  tail   reveals close encounter with  a  bird , probably a kookaburra. 


Scenic  views of Townsville  on  a very wet day .  
Magnetic Island  viewed from mainland , under  monsoon , about 200mm of rain  so  far , flooding , Pope's Land awash .

Hubcap , left , in  shamefully  neglected Victory  in  the  Pacific  Fountain , other long submerged  rubbish .

Townsville's  drunken  CBD  clock , above,  on top of The Brewery ,  once  the post office ,  still  not  able  to   tell   uniform    time , experiencing   heavy   weather.  A  Swiss  watch   expert, through this blog ,   did warn that  a   Sky television  broadcast   from   The  Brewery   could  have   caused the     clock  to  go  haymire   and  a  second  such show , like the  one this  week , could make  it   fall   apart  and  end  up  Japanese  scrapmetal . 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tuesday, March 26, 2019



Vallis series.

Monday, March 25, 2019


The  joint  art exhibition  of Sir    Hans Heysen  and  his  daughter Nora in Melbourne  was the  subject of   an ABC  Radio  National   discussion   which  caused  a search  in   Little  Darwin . Years ago, this   blog    ran  a  post   about  the  late  Hans Heysen  in which  it  quoted   cutting comments   by  art  critic  Robert  Hughes  about  Hans  and  other  artists  who imitated  his distinctive  Australian  landscape painting style , calling them "Heysenettes" .    Into  the  wash ,  Hughes  poked  fun  at  the  group  , saying  they  used   Reckitt's Blue .

There was a time , said Hughes , when most  companies  could  not regard themselves  as  Australian  unless  they  had a  Hans  Heysen  landscape  painting in  the  boardroom.

 Hans Heysen   and  Hahndorf, in the Adelaide hills ,  where he lived ,   came up  during  a   discussion  with a  South  Australian   some years ago  .  The  man  firmly  told  this   blogger  Hans  had once painted a  scene  showing  chooks  standing in water . Chooks, it was  pointed out   to  the artist , did  not   like standing in water , so  Hans  had  changed  them   into  ducks .  This  novel  yarn  was  stored away  and   has   only  been  revived   after  listening  to  the   ABC   report on  the  Heysen  exhibition.

The informative Radio National program    pointed out Nora Heysen  had been the  first  woman   war   artist  in the Second World, spending time in New Guinea  capturing  women's war  involvement ,   and   the  first woman  to  win  an  Archibald Art  Prize with  a  portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman.     Nora Heysen ? This  blogger  seemed  to  think  he had  a  Nora  Heysen   framed   painting , print  of  course . But  where ?  Not  found in  a quick search of the  cluttered   Little  Darwin  den .

My  wife complicated the search  by saying she had once had a  Nora  Heysen   floral  painting  in   Adelaide .   Still convinced he  had  Nora Heysen   stowed away somewhere,  this   muttering   blogger  resumed  the search . Sure enough , up on the  dusty top of  a  bookcase in  the  bedroom  in  a  clutter of objects which included  an early Sydney Harbour  Bridge  souvenir  school   pencil   case, a soda  siphon , a stuffed crocodile , a  Downer & Co.,  Adelaide and   Port ,  codd   design softdrink  bottle ,    a toy racing  car  and some Aboriginal artefacts , there  was  Nora  Heysen , requiring  feather duster  treatment.  Except , it wasn't Nora ... it was  Hans  , 1924  , An  Image of Delphiniums  and  Lillies .

Sunday, March 24, 2019


An  exterior  light  left  on during rain not only attracted flying  ants  and assorted  moths , but   an  enterprising  gecko which  sprinted about   making  the  most  of  the  situation  to  feast  on  the  mixed   menu   fluttering  about .
Wrestling with a rabbit ?
Chomping on a moth.Vallis photographs.


Included  in an old   album of autographs, drawings,  bon  mots , photographs  , quotations   from  Shakespeare , Tennyson  ,  Victor Hugo , Longfellow  and   Adam Lindsay Gordon ,   were   the  above    entries  made  in   Christchurch, New  Zealand , in 1909, by  Frederick N. Ambler   and  M . Ambler .  The coloured in  or  tinted  view of   children holding  hands in  snow  is  signed  F.A.,  perhaps Frederick ?  An  ink  mark  is  termed a  lonely spot  and there is a  penny  New  Zealand  stamp  gummed  to  a   page .   

The album , bearing the trade stamp of Mason's , booksellers ,  Carlisle,   Scotland,   starts  on  August  25, 1902 , with an  entry to  Annie  from  Priscilla , a sprig  of  dried   heather attached.  Could  Annie  have  been  about to  travel  to  Australia   and  New  Zealand ?
There is a  glued in gumleaf   urging  a  return to  the land of  sunshine  and  gum trees ,  Bondi  entries , autographs  obtained  aboard    ship ,  several  from Tasmania  , Cottesloe , Western  Australia . 

There  are numerous other  entries  in  New Zealand - Wellington ,   Dunedin, Raetihi-  with   photographs of   several  women ,  a pencil drawing of  a  stag , a  pressed fern like   plant  accompanies  the  above  1909  entry   headed  Roslyn, Dunedin , New Zealand .
The recent appalling Christchurch massacre  prompted Pat Campbell of the Canberra Times  to make this  powerful   comment  on  the enormity of  the atrocity  by   depicting  the New Zealand   silver  fern  with  its leaves consisting  of  victims  of   the   shootings .   

Saturday, March 23, 2019


An item salvaged   from  the  American transport ship, USS  Meigs,  sunk during the  devastating    Japanese   surprise   attack on Darwin on February 19,1942,  is   to  be  returned  to  the  city   next  month  and  go  into the War Museum . It is  one of two  stone   plates  given  to   journalist   Douglas Lockwood  ,  who  wrote   Australia's  Pearl Harbour ,  by  colourful marine diver  Carl Atkinson who at one stage owned  all  the  wartime wrecks in Darwin Harbour. 

Author  Lockwood's  son, Kim , a journalist and author  residing in Melbourne, who next month will  attend the  Military Writers'  Festival  in Darwin  , will  present the plate.   He  informed this  blog of  his intention , plus  the unusual story  behind  the  plate . It seems  that  during  the Wet season of  l957 , diver Atkinson,  seen here  displaying a  deadly box jellyfish ,   arrived at  the front door of the Lockwood residence in Darwin , the Melbourne   Herald   office , clad in a plastic mac .

Doug was out , but  Mrs  Lockwood   was home , and invited   Carl in . He declined  because he was  not wearing anything under the raincoat , explaining that he had just  got  out of  a  hot diving suit .
He handed over two  stone plates   he had  just  brought up  from the wardroom of the biggest ship sunk in the attack , the USS  Meigs .
In  his email  to  Little Darwin , Kim  added :" What Carl could not have known was that the night before the bombing , my father had dined on the Meigs , invited  by  two  officers  billeted with  him  since mum  left ."  The  last   part of his statement  refers to the fact that  his mother, Ruth , had been evacuated    from Darwin  along  with a number of  other  women  as   war  tension  increased .

 As a result of  the   attack  on  that   fateful  day    250  died and  between 300 and  400 were   wounded.  USS Meigs ,12,568 tons, was bombed  , burnt   and sank  with the  loss  of  two  lives. The American destroyer  Peary, bombed and burning , went down with guns  blazing ,  resulting  in  the death  of  80, including  the  captain , Lieutenant-Commander   John  M.  Bermingham .   Lockwood's  account  said  among  the dead   ratings  was one  named  Rude, his Christian  name  Darwin .        

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Stickybeak  Shipping   Reporter  Scoop
 In a secret , fenced off   section of the Townsville waterfront , our restless  Shipping Reporter, the only one  north  of  Elephant Bay , photographed    some of  the   fabulous  imported   props  for  the  next  exciting  Lego Movie  ,  which  will   be  made   for  adults ,  not   kids . It  will be  filmed  atop   Castle  Hill  soon  after the photo opportunity for  the  lifting of the first shovelful  of  bulldust  for  the  proposed  zipline .
Our waterfront snoop  has been informed  that  in  the movie  Townsville   will  be  called  Bricksburg  , just  as  in  the latest  Lego Movie.  The storyline for  the exciting   show  , which  will surely   put Townsville on  the international map yet again ,  includes  rolling  the   jolly  green  drums   down the  hill   and bowling over  troublemakers - called   boofheads-  parading  through  a collapsing   plastic city   during  a  noisy  election  campaign  , handing  out  lollies, free beer   and gift  wrapped  bags  of  coal  to  unsuspecting  voters .      

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Part of  a  display   in the  excellent   Military  Museum  of  North Queensland , Jezzine Barracks, Townsville , headed Japanese Empire, in  red , 1942 .  Northern   Territory  places  hit   shown on the map  are   Darwin , see Douglas Lockwood book  Australia's Pearl Harbour  ,  Milingimbi , on the Arnhem Land  coast,   and   Katherine , south of  Darwin.  The  display includes  photographs  of  the  minor  damage  inflicted  on  Townsville   by  Japanese  planes . At  the  tip of  Cape York  is Horn Island  where  longtime   Northern   Territory identity , the  late  Les Penhall , was stationed  during  the  war ,  his  story and that of his wife , Scotty, in a secret communications centre in Melbourne ,  run  in  Little DarwinThe  2019 International Military Writers' Festival  will be held in Darwin  April  5-7.   



Tuesday, March 19, 2019


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

Born in Sydney , Bates  made his way to New Zealand  and had three Maori wives  . There is a limited edition book  Nathaniel Bates of  Riverton  His Families  and  Descendants .

 One evening   we   were   entertained   by  a  helpful  local   historian . At the friendly  hotel  in which we stayed  we were treated  to  a special serving  of   whitebait   fritters  in   the  kitchen  for  breakfast .  
A  photograph was  taken of   the Clark  building  and we returned to Australia .  Just  this  week , while sorting  out ephemera  , out  popped  the  photograph .  My wife   then   said  she  wondered   what  had  happened to   the premises , went online .
Up came  Mrs Clark's  building , 108 Palmerston Street, Riverton , including the above  2010  view   when it was a café .  Mrs Clark had been alive in 1901 , the property  undergoing  changes of  ownership  and  use .  At  one stage it was on the market  for   $195,000.  Then , in 2018 , there it was  again, this  time  for   just  $50,000 ; another post  indicated Mrs Clark's Café had  moved to a new location . Furthermore, Mrs Clark'e Café  received  favourable mention in   the following guide   to  Kiwi  cafes , the cover outline of New Zealand filled with  coffee  beans .  
Googling  produced more interesting information . In  2012 ,the business , still known as  Mrs  Clark's Café ,  was  run  by a  couple  who  got married on the premises  two week's after  they opened the doors , throwing  their  experience into  the  venture, declared NZ's Best Café  2012/13 ,  muffins on the menu . They  had  brought   their  own  expresso  machine  and  till   to  the business  and  lived upstairs .  
Café  interiors  show   expresso  machine , coffee beans ,  layout .
In 2012 , Riverton , once  a busy customs entry   port ,  through which  gold seekers from  Australia poured , was  described  as  a sleepy town where the  Sunday newspapers  arrive  on   Monday .

Monday, March 18, 2019


Magnetic Island.  Vallis photographs .


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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Shipping  Reporter detects  enemy  invasion plot  ?

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019


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

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