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Monthly Archives: July 2011

A girl remembers;

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She remembers a little village where she was born in Papua New Guinea with thatched-roof huts perched high on a mountaintop six thousand feet up in the mist, yet so close to the ocean that on a clear morning she could look down and see the small boats which sailed upon it, and the Siassi islands and New Britain in the distance.

She remembers her mother scrambling for hours down that mountain and over the grassed limestone terraces below it with a heavy bag of the family’s parchment coffee to sell at the nearest trade store on the coast. Her mother would then return with a special treat for the little girl.  A fresh fish to eat for dinner.

There was the homely cosiness of the cooking fire on the hearth in the middle of the night when the cold wind always started to blow across the Saruwaged Range.

Then suddenly the little girl’s life changed.

In 1962 she found herself perched high up on her father’s shoulders as the whole family trekked barefoot carrying their few material possessions half way across the rugged Huon Peninsula in the pursuit of a dream. Two older brothers slithered their way ahead along the track, sometimes balancing precariously on slippery log bridges over mountain streams and sloshing through ankle-deep mud on the narrow bush trails.  The group stopped often to remove tenacious leeches from their legs.

The mother was last in the line of weary travelers with an infant boy encapsulated in a string bag (bilum) suspended from a groove worn in her head from many years of subsistence load carrying.

The little group descended to the crystal-clear headwaters of the Tewae River, then walked five hours over the range to bathe in the limestone-tinged milky-blue Masaweng before camping overnight at Gunabosin village not far from the river bank.
The following morning they commenced another full day’s trek to their final destination in the Mongi Valley.

Mum and Dad traveled with three boys and one little girl.

They were also accompanied by a dream.

The dream of an English-language education for their children.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *       *       *       *

Fast forward to 2011 ;

Son #1 is now retired after a long career teaching vocational skills to children in PNG.

Son #2 is an academic who lectured at the University of Papua Niugini before accepting a teaching offer in America where he has remained for the past 20 years.

Son #3 is a lawyer and magistrate in Papua New Guinea.

The little girl became a citizen of the world, an accidental and unofficial ambassador for her mother country, and a communicator who fluently speaks five languages.
She also became my life partner and best friend.
More importantly she excelled at the most important occupation on earth; Motherhood.

She has never forgotten the courageous relocation that her parents made in 1962 which enabled her and her siblings to have a better life in this world.

Her Mum and Dad would be proud to know that their little girl, forty-nine years later, made an emotional and physically challenging pilgrimage back to the Huon Peninsula to retrace those life-changing footsteps.



Village house

Zigzag track down to Tewae River.

Siassi islands taken from Zunzumao village on mainland.

Headwaters Masaweng River

Gunabosin village

Dedua mountains

Tales from the outback

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This story contains details of a medical intervention, and also another activity not included in the Human Operators Manual.
The Bucket strongly recommends that you seek professional medical advice before attempting either.

Prior to retiring from civilisation in 1983 I had an interesting but stressful four year sojourn as a part-time pilot with a pastoral company whose regional office I managed in the outback mining town of Mt.Isa.

The job entailed providing perishable foodstuffs and urgent supplies and spare parts for five huge cattle stations in the Northern Territory (to the west) and Queensland’s Channel Country (to the south).

(Alexandria Station, until resumptions reduced it’s size in 1965,
at 28,085 square kilometres was almost the same size as Belgium.
In good seasons, Alex can still carry 50,000 head of cattle.)

Today these stations have telephones.
During the early 1980’s they relied solely on HF radio transceivers for communication with the outside world.

As the company representative in town I had to keep a listening watch for 14 hours each day on the radio frequency allotted to us where we used the callsign “Four Alpha Juliet Whiskey”.
We shared this channel with several other users with different callsigns located in various other parts of Australia.

There was no shortage of entertainment on this HF channel as stories were overheard about alleged cattle stealing or the vicissitudes of assorted rural neighbours and the weather.

Our own 4AJW network probably provided more than it’s share of conversations reflecting the tragedy, drama and humour that comes with life in the outback.

The only situations we did not handle were serious medical emergencies. Station transceivers were equipped with an emergency button which would directly activate the Royal Flying Doctor Service frequency 24 hours a day.

We resolved other less urgent matters on our own 4AJW network.
Sadly one of these involved a young man who had committed suicide on a company property.
Others however were more entertaining conversations for all the eavesdroppers such as the following which started with an interjection from 4AJW Coorabulka;

” Hey GOF, I couldn’t help overhearing your last conversation with Alexandria about the difficulty you’re having with a constipated infant.  Over”

“Go ahead Steve, the poor little bugger hasn’t passed anything for a few days and she’s in pain. Over.”

“Roger GOF, an old sheila from down Birdsville way who used to be a midwife helped us out  once when we had the same problem with one of our kids.  Just get a sliver of soap and rub it on her rear end.  That will get things moving in a few minutes. Over”

And it did.  Either because of the soap treatment, or maybe Inga  the 6 month-old infant overheard the radio conversation and just let it rip out of sheer terror of what further assaults might be visited upon her rear end.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

“Four Alpha Juliet Whiskey Alexandria calling 4AJW Mt Isa.”

“4AJW Mt Isa roger go ahead Peter. Over.”

“Roger GOF, we need some medical advice, would you be able to phone the hospital for us please. Over.”

“No worries. Go ahead. What is the nature of the problem Pete. Over”

” We’ve got a bloke who has been out alone for a few weeks on the grader doing the roads and firebreaks way out past Number 36 bore.  He just called in on his two-way radio to say that he’s got his penis stuck in a hole on the grader frame and he can’t get it out. Over.”

Thirty years later I am unable to remember exactly how the event unfolded from this point. For all I know there may still be a man located between Number 36 bore and Gallipoli Station happily (and perhaps sometimes painfully) conducting an intimate relationship with his road grader.

*      *      *     *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I have an enduring respect and admiration for all those men and women who live on Australia’s outback stations.
It is still a tough life full of disappointment and hardship and only the most resilient souls survive out there.

Bilge soup #4

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1.  For today’s gourmet extravaganza let us begin by using a heaped prattle of pre-packaged Evangelism.

Our bible reading in Melanesian Tok Pisin is from the
Gospel according to Matthew Chapter 24 verse 31.
In the unlikely event that you lack fluency in this language, it is all about angels, bugles and people being collected from all compass points and swept off to some better place.  A little New Guinea Rapture.

Na bai em i salim ol ensel bilong en, na biugel bai i krai bikpela, na oli bungim ol manmeri em i bin makim bilong em.  Bai ol i kisim ol long hap bilong olgeta 4-pela win, i go olgeta long arere tru bilong graun.

Please don’t thank me with any great profusion. I am merely a humble vessel dripping vague hope, ambiguity and confusion for the benefit of humankind wherever I go.

2 Now add a dash of inspiration from the antiquity cupboard.

3. And…….

The most requested ingredient during the last month has been some raw Viggo…….. The Bucket Culinary Department worked overtime to manufacture this product in response to your insatiable demands, so please dissect and share him amongst yourselves.
(Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about.)

Not Mr Mortensen (just to cover MY arse legally)

4. Add two square eyeballs of disillusionment.

Freeview is Australia’s new television extravaganza.
Sixteen free-to-air television channels instead of the previous five.
It is being relentlessly promoted by a gaggle of pre-geriatric small-screen has-beens wearing permanently beaming faces which are probably the result of cosmetic surgery gone wrong.
Either that, or the commercials were shot in a studio where the atmosphere was predominantly nitrous oxide.

So recently, in the absence of Mrs GOF’s normal midday commentary on the world, I decided to snoop around this apparently wonderful thing that my country has done for itself.

Each one of the 7 channels I selected had either news stories, movies or crime shows depicting people who had suffered from acts of violence perpetrated against them, or who had been, or were about to be, killed in various creative ways.

I switched the television off.

I might turn it back on one day if someone can convince me that my life will be enhanced and uplifted by doing so.

5. Garnish with two sprigs of my Peculiar Perspective.

A euphoric microwave oven at Newell beach

And I just elected a new Pope today

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Bon appetit……and Ringo turns 71 today.  Happy birthday Ringo.

When the linesman gets it wrong

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(Shortly before my recent abscess of poetry writing ambition was lanced by the scalpel of stark reality, the following glob of philosophical pus oozed it’s way out.)


When the linesman gets it wrong.

There might be a moral deficiency
When the shrink hands down a decree:
“You have madness and lack of proficiency
And rampant in-sanity.”
Sentenced to incarceration
At a nut-house owned by the State
With bars and solitary isolation.
Psychoanalyist sealed her fate.

Medication injected intravenously
Quells the genius and fire within.
Dignity compromised immorally,
And who has the far greater sin?
Just tell me with impugnity,
In these places where boffins are taught.
Do they provide lifelong immunity
So madness can never be caught?

Or can psychiatrists also be subject
To a reduced equilib-rium,
Irrationality, guilt and abject
Depression and de-lerium?
If you, my friend, are accused
Of reduced cognitive perception,
And your freedom’s being refused
For the community’s protection,

Point out to them what they forgot.
That there’s a thin dividing line
‘Tween being bonkers and maybe not
And that you are completely fine.
If the shrink could only view the mind
Like a tennis slo-mo replay,
The impartial umpire will surely find
You’re IN, and it’s HIM wot’s astray.

Australia; The primary industry trollop

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Australia used to have some dignity and class.

Today however it seems to have departed from past standards of excellence and lost any vision it might have had for the long term future.

When it comes to management and export of primary products
it now behaves like a cheap hooker standing on a dimly-lit world corner eagerly waiting to service every needy overseas kerb-crawler with immediate bargain-basement satisfaction.

Coal and minerals are being dug up and exported at an unprecedented rate with total disregard to the effect this will have on the environment and the future food supply of this country.

Farming is now apparently regarded as an optional occupation in this nation.

The average age of Australia’s farmers is 55.

Agricultural research and education facilities have progressively been closed down during the last two decades.

The two dominant supermarket chains have been allowed to screw smallholder farmers into unprofitablilty by manipulating wholesale markets and importing cheaper overseas food products of dubious quality and uncertain pesticide-residue status.

Government disinterest and the failure of our leaders to look beyond the next election could well ensure that Australian farmers will become totally extinct during this century. We have embarked upon the potentially disastrous road of relying upon imported food paid for by the contents of all the holes that mining companies are digging in the ground all over this continent.

Eighty-three percent of mining companies operating in Australia today are foreign owned.

They are digging up our heritage and agricultural land as fast as their giant machinery will allow, with scant regard for the long-term consequences.
A Chinese mining company has bought up 43 farms in New South Wales.  What sort of Government stupidity allowed this to happen.
Hands up anyone who thinks they are going to start growing rhubarb and cabbages on this land for Australia’s future health and prosperity.  They are going to dig it up and mine coal for export.
How utterly foolish can one country become?

There was a time in recent history when Australia thrived and “rode on the sheep’s back”.  This happened because we were smart and industrious and the woolen mills dotted all over southern Australia added value to wool and exported the finest quality garments to the world. We will never, nor should we attempt to, return to those days, but we are capable of making smarter decisions than we are presently making.

The factories are now long gone. We chose to take the easy road and send our cheap raw materials overseas so the industrious (albeit poorly paid) folk there could do all the value-adding, before reselling finished product back to us.

Similarly, we can’t even be bothered slaughtering all of our own sheep and cattle any more, instead opting for the easy and cheap solution of exporting live animals to places like Indonesia where, as we now know, they are butchered with atrociously inhumane
un-stunned blunt-knife-throat-slitting barbarism.

One yardstick by which civilised and evolved society might be judged is the way it treats every other living thing with which it shares the planet.
Another one is it’s ability to provide every one of it’s citizens with an affordable and secure food supply.

It is imperative that Australian agriculture be rejuvenated and encouraged to look towards the longer term opportunity to supply value-added food products for the increasingly protein-hungry Asian nations to our north.

Instead we are irreversibly destroying productive farmland by permitting open cut mining, and allowing 40,000 coal seam gas wells to be bored into it, the pollutants from which will probably destroy forever our inland lifeline…..underground water in the Great Artesian Basin.

The sacrifices made by our ancestors demand that we should behave more intelligently, exhibit greater dignity, and have more respect for this land. We should learn from the care bestowed upon “country” by it’s aboriginal caretakers.  Before it is too late.

By failing to do something NOW we are ensuring that future generations will inherit a barren, desolate, pock-marked continent that is incapable of providing sufficient food to feed it’s own population.

May God help Australia, because we are surely failing to do so ourselves.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Ahhh…good.    Better out than in.     I feel better now.