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Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Bucket’s History of Ice Skating

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G’day Bucketeers.  Today I have a very special treat for you.

Most of my previous History Tutorials  were the product of many hours poring over the Encyclopaedia Britannica or pawing my way through ancient manuscripts with white-gloved hands.

Occasionally however I took short cuts and copied information directly from all the documents which I stole from the National History Museum during the sixteen year period when I was having a torrid extracurricular love affair with the Curator’s widowed aunt.
She unceremoniously dumped me last year after developing a limp, a lisp and a drooping right eyelid, all of which she said were the result of stress caused by my tireless and persistent romantic ministrations.

For our subject today however, I am proudly able to draw upon a vast reserve of personal experience.

As an Australian living in the tropics I naturally have an extraordinary stash of ice-skating knowledge which has accrued from three main sources;

1.  Examining the behaviour of my de-icing spatula when, once or twice each year, I defrost the freezer compartment of my refrigerator.

2.  Studying Australia’s magnificent history of gold-medal skating performances at Winter Olympics.

A grand total of ONE.

In the men’s 1000 metre speed skating event at the 2002 Winter Olympics in South Korea, Steven Bradbury, after trailing for most of the race went on to win gold after every other competitor ended up in a spectacular pile-up on the final corner. Steven casually threaded his way through all the carnage to the finish line and in doing so covered himself and his country in the pompous pong of provincial superiority.

3.  Viewing countless hours of figure skating on television. (Primarily involving shapely young women dressed in short diaphanous yellow skirts…..research can indeed be a very onerous and tedious task.)

or diaphanous browny colored costumes

I also once fell in sympathy-love with Nancy Kerrigan (pictured above) back in 1994 after the very charming Tonya Harding conspired to have harm done to Nancy’s gorgeous, long, splendid, shapely, sensuous, sylphen, sexy…… apologies…..I almost drifted off into old-man’s fantasies there.  Now where was I up to?

Oh yes.   Back to business.  You are here for the formal history of ice skating, so here it is;

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *
Ice skating enables a minority of people in the world to make the most of the appalling decision their ancestors made in migrating from hospitable African climes to the frozen extremities of the planet.

It is generally accepted that ice skating began on the frozen canals of The Netherlands more than 1000 years ago, when animal rib or shin bones were strapped to the feet.

When Dutch people travelled to North America in the 19th century, they brought with them their schaatsen along with clogs, windmills, and (presumably) courage, elm disease, auctions and ovens.

The first steel skate blade appeared in 1860 and speed skating was introduced as a winter Olympic sport for men at Chamonix, France, in 1924, and for women at the 1960 Olympiad in Squaw Valley, California after a protest march by the girls demanded equal ankle-sprain and tibia-fracture rights with the men.

Canada gave birth to the game of Ice Hockey shortly after a mob of unemployed English soldiers were observed swinging sticks at a little flat rock on the icy surface of Kingston Lake, Ontario in 1867 before the whole lot of them were immediately confined to barracks then hauled off by their superior officer to the nearest Sanitorium for psychological intervention followed by repatriation back to Britain.

Figure skating is an activity originally perfected and made popular by Norwegian world champion Sonja Henie. (1913-1969)

I, for one, would like to thank Sonja.

Figure skating is without doubt the most beautiful, graceful and elegant sport in my world.

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P.S.  I have just received an urgent communique from Father George O’Dowd who is The Bucket’s newly-appointed Consultant for matters of Morality, Pop-music, Childbirth and Contraception.
After viewing a draft of this Tutorial, he has invited me to spend some time in his confessional. Immediately.

This may take awhile folks.

So if you don’t mind I’ll just look at a couple more pictures to tide me over until I get out.

More of GOF’s comprehensive History Tutorials can be found HERE.

The fate of Mr Pye

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Twenty six years ago Mrs GOF and I bought our first colour television set.

Being located off the electricity grid meant that we needed to find one which could be powered by a 12 volt battery.

The shops had a choice of one.

It was a trusted Pye brand, with an 8″ inch screen.
By today’s standards it was very heavy and bulky. And expensive!
It cost $650 in 1985, and at a time when I was earning around $100 per week it represented a major investment.

On December 6 this year, analogue television signals will be switched off in my neck of the woods.  For ever.

Mr Pye cannot be revived with a set-top box to receive digital TV because he possesses no auxuliary orifices into which I might shove some life-saving twenty-first century colour-coded cables.

Logic tells me I should throw Mr Pye out at the town dump.

No hesitation.  Just dump it GOF.

Sometimes logic can be a totally irrelevant and inappropriate commodity.  

This little television set has been a conduit for information, and a connection to the rest of my world for more than a quarter of a century.

It has entertained me, kept me company throughout the night during those times when I have been unwell and contributed to the person I have become and the things in which I believe.

It provided early literacy and numeracy skills for our little girl through the educational magic of Sesame Street.

David Suzuki spoke to me quite regularly from inside Mr Pye,
as did Peter Ustinov, Alan Alda and David Attenborough.
These people, and many others who were also much wiser and more highly educated than I taught me many things about life, our planet and the universe.

I watched the careers of Indian Sachin Tendulkar and Australian Adam Gilchrist adorn my beloved game of International cricket with the unique combination of exquisite skill, good sportsmanship, dignity and modesty that is now such a rarity amongst sportsmen of any code.

Sometimes I used to find John Denver inside my television.
He passionately and convincingly sang about the majestic beauty of  “Colorado, Rocky Mountain high…..I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.”  
Less convincingly perhaps, Madonna nevertheless gyrated in a quite pleasing manner to announce that she was  “Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin, touched for the very first time.”

Then tragically, on days which I will never forget, John Denver died inside my little TV, as did my favourite Beatle George Harrison, and after briefly illuminating the world with a gentle ray of love and human kindness, Lady Diana also passed away in front of my moist eyes.

Nelson Mandela emerged from the darkness of racial prejudice and incarceration after 28 years, and through Mr Pye, conveyed his messages of forgiveness, equality and compassion and in doing so gave me a little glimmer of hope for the long-term future of mankind.

Unforgettably during the early years, Elle MacPherson was inside my television many times each day doing THIS!  and THIS!  In my present condition of advanced decrepitude and cardiac fragility watching these documents might prove to be life-threatening so I will therefore leave the viewing of this short historical footage for your eyeballs only.

Occasionally others would emerge from the depths of human ignorance and somehow get inside Mr Pye to begin preaching political or religious hatred and divisiveness.
Mr Pye’s “OFF” button never failed me once in 26 years.

I will not be taking Mr Pye to the dump today.

Or tomorrow.

Or ever.

Mr Pye

GOF goes fission

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When GOF eventually kicks his own Bucket and passes through the heavenly S-bend portal into Mother Nature’s Organic Matter Recycling Factory, he should be remembered for the seventy-three innovative proposals which he published on this blog in order to make the world a better place.

That not a single one of them has been implemented or even taken a little bit seriously is more a reflection of Public Service inertia rather than any inherent deficiencies in his concepts and designs.

When, in the year 2092, he is reincarnated as Mao Tse Gof and rules the planet as the ever-so-slightly benevolent supreme commander of the world’s single unified country, the Federated United Kingdom of Independent Territories, all 73 proposals will be implemented immediately.  

Meanwhile he has to suffer as a martyr to his numerous causes, and you have to suffer reading about it.    It’s a cruel world.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Traffic Squad Officer Sergeant Engelbert Crankshaft;
“Good afternoon Sir.  Would you happen to be the owner of this centre-parked truck bearing the number plate GOF- 4PM ?

GOF;  “Yes Officer, is there some sort of problem?”

Crankshaft;  “Well indeed there is Mr GOF. The traffic jam you see backed-up into the distance extends for 24 kilometres along the Captain Cook highway.”

GOF;  “Dear oh dear, I wonder what sort of obstruction could have caused that to happen.”

Crankshaft;  “Well it appears to be somewhat related to the four metre long cannon barrel sticking all the way out of the back of your truck Sir, which is blocking the entire carriageway and causing many drivers and pedestrians to both poo their pants and become extremely angry at what you have done.  Cannon barrels have that effect on people you know.”

GOF;  “Oh $#%&!  Well I do apologise. I thought I’d fixed the
auto-retraction mechanism yesterday.  I’ll winch it back in immediately and drive back home to fix it.”

Crankshaft;    “Just a small question first Mr GOF if you don’t mind;    Why do you have a twelve-foot long retractile armament mounted beneath your vehicle?”

GOF;  “It’s not actually an armament Officer, it’s just a length of water pipe that I carry around in case I might need it on the farm to repair the water reticulation systems into my ostrich paddocks.”

Crankshaft;  “So if it’s only a water pipe, why then has my explosives-detector dog suddenly gone totally apeshit and shoved his snout all the way up the end of your “water” pipe?”

GOF;  “Oh that!  Easily explained. You see, my dog at home likes chasing things, so occasionally I put a charge of gunpowder or dynamite in the end of the cannon barrel  water pipe……. hehe…….you almost caught me out there Officer…… to fire coconuts down into the paddock for him to chase.”

Crankshaft;  “Is there anything else that you fire out of your cannon slash water pipe Mr GOF?”

GOF;  “Well, truth be told, in the early nineties I bought a shipping container load of replica coconuts from Iraq because I ran out of fresh local ones……they were very cheap, and the funny thing was that they actually look a little bit like bombs or cannonballs, but the Bill of Lading assured me that they were replica coconuts.”

Crankshaft;  “And do you still entertain your dog by firing these Iraqi faux coconuts down into your paddock?”

GOF;  “No, I stopped doing that a while back because the dog started to glow in the dark and he was passing iridescent green stools. The neighbours weren’t happy either because he got their purebred bitch pregnant and she gave birth to a litter of puppies that had two tails where the ears should be, and an ear where……..oh it was a terrible business……you know how difficult it can be to clean out dog ears.

Crankshaft;  Mr GOF, I am not appreciating your levity and deception.  I require you to answer all my questions truthfully.
It appears to have escaped your notice that you are in……let me put it in plain language for you……quite deep shit, because I could not help but notice that there are 59 deep notches filed into the barrel of whatever you’d like to call it.

This may well be a coincidence, but as you are probably aware, during the last two months we have recovered precisely 59 unexplained radioactive car wrecks from grass verges adjacent to highways in the local district.
I am beginning to suspect that you might possibly have had something to do with these motoring mishaps.

Please retract your “water pipe” so that traffic can start moving again, then accompany me back to the station for additional questioning.  Unfortunately I am required to handcuff you, but first Mr GOF, please bring me the book which you have been attempting to hide under the driver’s seat of your truck.

GOF;  “Oh yes, The Bible in Swahili.”

Crankshaft;  No, Mr GOF, not that one……the other larger coffee-table style publication;

“GOF’s Illustrated Manual for Exterminating Tailgaters.”

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

Tailgaters #1, #2 and #3......a very good start.

The right to squander

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It has been said that Australians will bet on two flies crawling up a wall.

Some probably do. Others certainly bet on numbered cane toads or cockroaches completing a radial track from the centre to the circumference of a twenty-foot diameter circle scribed in the dirt.

They buy lottery tickets by the squillions every week.
The TAB (national betting agency) shops are like bright lights attracting those who choose to fritter away their lives and financial resources with eyes glued to the big screens watching bunches of horses transporting miniature humans dressed in pretty-coloured silk clothes around a track that brings them back to almost the same point at which they started.

So what is wrong with betting?

When I was a little boy there was a voice somewhere in my head that always warned me of impending stupidity whenever I was about to engage in it.  Many times I ignored that voice and reaped the consequences, but in doing so I slowly learned the perils of ignoring common sense and gut instinct.
I am inclined to believe that almost everyone comes equipped with this instinctive survival warning alarm.

As I grew up into a young man, my alarm certainly went off at the prospect of habitual gambling, inhaling cigarette smoke into my lungs, becoming paralytically drunk, dressing in orange and donating my life savings to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and placing my bare arms across all eight  spark plug caps on an idling V8 car engine.

Inga too certainly possesses an inbuilt inadvisability warning system which she unfortunately once ignored.
On a road trip to Victoria when she was eight years old we came across a street carnival in the little country town of Warragul.
Inga was attracted to a stall offering the chance to win very large fluffy toys in exchange for risking a month’s worth of her hard-earned pocket money.

She handed over her money and lost.

As her Dad it was hard for me to watch the disappointment on her face, but I believe that on that day she gained something far more valuable than a fluffy toy.
She might have lost her money, but she won back respect for her own inner voice of judgement, reason and wisdom. To my knowledge she has never had the urge to gamble during the 21 years since that day which remains permanently etched in both our memories.

So, under what circumstances do Governments, State and Federal, have the right, as they are presently doing, to interfere in behaviours involving such personal choices?
(Limiting gambling on poker machines, restricting hotel and club opening hours, encouraging responsible alcohol consumption and legislating plain packaging for cigarettes etc.)

I would argue that they have every right to do so when the behaviour of individuals no longer simply constitutes harmless personal fun, but instead has consequences which adversely affect the broader community.
To NOT do so would be an abrogation of responsible governance on behalf of the majority of citizens who elected them.

Governments should have a duty of care to intervene promptly and decisively when taxpayers have to continuously fund the financial income, rehabilitation and repair of those who have by choice, in ignoring their own innate sensibilities, lost their capacity of self-reliance, and when gangs of child thugs are roaming the streets of Cairns at night stealing, pillaging and terrorising law-abiding citizens while the absentee parents of the offenders are busy shoving money into poker machines in clubs and boozing away the family finances in parks and pubs.

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Signals from God

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Pindiu, P.N.G. 1977

This story is dedicated to my loyal little band of village Rural Development Assistants at Pindiu, Papua New Guinea, during the 1970’s, who did most of the foot-slogging and achieved so much yet were rewarded with so little.  
For Tala, Kosoaleng, Kati, Gindi, Sanake, Goroseng, Timbangu, Pau, Kwajau, and my friend and partner in crime, Risieve Mumengte.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

In the twenty-first century much of Papua New Guinea is covered by the mobile phone network, but 40 years ago the lack of communication facilities seriously hampered rural development.

Each Government outstation was allocated a daily 15 minute slot  (“the sked”) on a designated HF radio frequency to send messages, food and supply orders, or have the operator in town connect us with the telephone landline network to the rest of the world.

Village people continued to live in relative isolation.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

Rural development projects fail for many reasons, some of which can be avoided by more rigorous planning and execution, but occasionally however you encounter an insurmountable obstruction.

Like God.

With the best of intentions I tried to improve communications between our small but scattered band of didimen working on village projects in the Mongi, Kua and Burum valleys.

Tala, a good extension worker with no formal education, was our main man in the Burum Valley.  He operated out of a tiny bush-material shack adjacent to Ogeranang airstrip.
My base was at Pindiu, only 12 miles away in a straight line,
yet the two of us had no direct means of communication.
At least once a month one or other of us (mainly Tala) had to walk the narrow “mountain goat”  track between the two places so we could plan work projects.
Seven exhausting hours each way.

In an attempt to reduce the number of walking trips,
I ambitiously bought an $80 set of walkie-talkie radios which had
“a range of up to 1000 metres”.

Walkie-talkie radios operate best when in “line of sight” of each other.
As the following diagram illustrates, “line of sight” is something that was in fairly short supply for Tala and GOF.

Cross-section Huon Peninsula

In pursuit of the impossible dream I contacted a bookseller in Australia who sent me in return a wonderful publication called
“How to Build a Quad Antenna”.

Unlike the illustration above, our antennas were constructed entirely from whatever materials we could scrounge locally. Bamboo poles were tied together with bush rope to form the 4 metre-long cross arms, and discarded 7/064 building wire from the station dump served as the aerial.

My quad at Pindiu could be rotated around it’s vertical axis (for directional tuning) and was mounted on top of a long post cut from the bush, while Tala’s was permanently fixed right on top of the roof of his “office”.

In an occurrence which managed to totally astound both myself and my critics, we hooked up the radios and quite magically the “up to 1000 metre” radio reception range suddenly became 12 miles, and Tala and I were thereafter able to communicate on a daily basis.

He was extremely proud of this marvellous technology which was admired by all the people who trekked into Ogeranang from surrounding villages for Saturday market days.

A marvellous example of appropriate technology?  

A year later Tala’s transmissions unexpectedly ceased, so I flew into Ogeranang taking with me a fresh supply of AA batteries for his radio.

He had seemingly aged by about 20 years as he nervously pointed towards what little remained of his antenna.  Taking me inside the “office” he handed over the molten remains of his walkie-talkie radio through a very large hole that had been blasted in the wall by the lightning bolt before, as he put it;  “the big blue and yellow light exploded out through the door then skipped along the ground all the way down the airstrip GOF”.

Tala had been sitting just 6 feet away from the radio when this happened.
He thereafter refused to have anything more to do with my smart-arse technology suggestions, and I was left soberly considering the reality that I had come very close to contributing towards the death of a fellow worker and honorable human being.

After that, my home-base antenna at Pindiu remained unused, except as an object of intrigue for a couple more years.

A respectful monument to God’s wrath and inappropriate technology, before it too collapsed and went to the eternal scrapheap of bad ideas.

GOF’s Guide to Law Enforcement

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A blueprint for the future, proudly produced by GOF as a service to the community.

Chapter One.


Dear Mr GOF,

I acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 2nd instant, and return herewith the photograph of your combine harvester as requested.

I agree with your impassioned declaration that the city of Cairns has an endemic culture of pedestrians ignoring illuminated “Don’t Walk” signs as well as hordes of foreign workers who persist in riding bicycles the wrong direction down traffic lanes.

Whilst I can to some extent understand your frustration as an out-of-town motorist Mr GOF, at this time I am unable to accept or condone your kind offer to “get rid of all these lawbreaking bastards once and for all.”

We feel that a public education policy is the most sensible approach towards dealing with this problem.  Your proposal is draconian to say the least, and your offer to personally carry it out free-of-charge as a community service does not make it any more attractive or acceptable.

Please be warned that the moment your “recently modified  souped-up pedestrian harvester with side-mounted bicycle scoop and compactor” enters a public thoroughfare you will immediately be arrested and charged under Section 23 of the Traffic Act.

Your assertion that   “it would only take one or two binsful of mangled jaywalkers and bikes to deter any future lawbreakers”  whilst probably being substantially correct is nevertheless repulsive and unacceptable from either a legal or civil libertarian point of view.

In light of your sporadic criminal behaviour over recent years Mr GOF, please be assured that my Officers will be keeping a very close eye on all your future activities.

Yours Faithfully,

Archibald Xavier Plod

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


Dear Commissioner Plod,

It is with extreme regret that I note you are unable to accept my original proposal to rid Cairns of it’s pedestrian scourge at this point in time.

I understand that sometimes your staff are unable to enforce the relevant pedestrian laws because they are tied up investigating lots of other little things like murder, and robbery with violence, so I have designed an automatic system to deliver these jaywalkers directly to your office.

Please find alternative “Jaywalker Harvesting System” (patent pending)  attached.

In anticipation of your valued reply and subsequent approval.

Your civic minded servant,


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge, and enter the draw to win my Complete Spring Loft Collection comprising twenty desiccated Uromys caudimaculatus. (may contain traces of warfarin)

Before they’re gone forever

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1. The town cobbler

This very special little shop is a cultural jewel located in a precinct dominated by greasy spoons and purveyors of cheap imported junk.

Owned and operated by a skilled artisan it has miraculously survived the commercial cannibalism of corporate-owned shopping malls and the proliferation of pretend-cobbler kiosks within them.

Theo’s Shoe Hospital is crammed full of all sorts of interesting leatherworking paraphernalia such as glues, brushes and polishes as well as handbags, watchbands, gun and secateur pouches, dancing and orthopaedic shoes.

In this country which is riding high on the wave of throwaway consumerism, my town, at least for the time being, remains enriched by the daily sounds of a genuine working cobbler and the evocative aromas of his trade.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

2. The Cairns bulk sugar terminal

Opened in 1964 on the banks of Trinity Inlet these enormous sheds have a capacity of 234,000 tonnes of raw sugar.
The facility enabled 30,000 tonne cargo ships to be loaded within 24 hours when previously it took gangs of men weeks to load the same amount of cane sugar packed in jute bags.

It’s future is uncertain.

Several supplying sugar mills have closed down either because of urban sprawl consuming cane-growing land, or mill owners engaging in what they term “corporate and management restructuring”…….a commercially more acceptable way of saying “screw the cane growers, we can make bigger profits elsewhere”.

The Australian Government can also share some of the blame because of it’s appalling indifference to the fate of farmers and the future food security of our nation.
( Ref;   Australia;  The primary industry trollop.)

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

3.  The small town motor garage.

A single picture can bring back a rush of memories.

For this kid who grew up in the 1950’s they include hand-pumping petrol into the glass measuring chamber on top of the bowser before opening the tap to gravity-feed it into the fuel tank of my parent’s Humber Hawk car.

The mechanic/owner, always dressed in grease-smudged green overalls, refueled every car, checked fluid levels and tyre pressures and cleaned the windscreen whilst dispensing all we needed to know about town gossip, road conditions, weather forecasts and football scores.


Just occasionally I begin to feel a little bit nostalgic.