Sunday, December 11, 2011

I am judgemental

I try not to be but sometimes it happens.   For example I drive past a new build in Chantenay Parade every day and like most new builds there is a bin out on the nature strip so that the builder can get rid of the rubbish.  Now some muppet or collection of muppets has been dumping their unwanted furniture around the bin.  There are beds and mattresses, chairs, a table, an old treadmill and a couple of ancient TVs as well as boxes of general household garbage.   These idiots are showing absolutely no respect for people who are going to be their new neighbours.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Woolen Trousers, Levis and Bum Cracks

Must admit that my favourite jeans are Levi 101's.  Pulling on a pair with button up fly is like meeting an old friend.  Of course these days the waist has gotten somewhat bigger than that of my first pair circa 1974.

It was a long time before Mum agreed to let me wear denim.  She'd send me to the snow in shorts in winter and off to school in grey woollen sorts all year round but there wasn't a pair of long legged trousers to be seen anywhere in my single wardrobe at Box Hill South.  Until Form 1 that is.



That year, 1969, we had an excursion at the end of the year to the gold mining town of Maldon and I was the somewhat embarrassed wearer of the only pair of long pants I owned - brown checked woollen trousers.  At least I was warm but when everyone else is wearing jeans it was a bit hard to take.

Mum eventually realised that maybe denim wasn't so bad after all and I got a pair of Stirling jeans - the ones with the checkered flag logo and a really cool pocket on the side of the leg where you could fit a comb.  Not that I needed one because they were the years when Dad would take me up to the barbers on the corner of Middleborough and Eley Roads for a college cut.   These days it would be called a number one.

After the Stirling jeans came my first really expensive pair - Amco Heavyweights with a suede patch on the back.  Not quite Levis but I was getting there.  Of course as I got older and graduated to Lee Jeans which were bought at a mens wear store in Flinders street in the City next to Lindrums Pool Hall.  If you read this Andrew help me out here.

And as we got older the jeans were pulled down a little further exposing both the few pubic hairs we had at the front and the bum crack at the back - unless Mum was around of course.

Mid to late 70's the fashion changes again.  The legs got wider and Juz Jeans and Staggers were the brand of choice.  I bought a pair of Staggers that were so tight I could barely move.  The sales girl told me they would stretch but after a couple of wears I gave them to my sister Karen because my voice kept getting higher.

Another thing I remember about the jeans of Burwood High days were that for a while there is was really cool to wear them as low down as possible, showing a few pubic hairs if you had them or exposing the bum crack if you didn't.  Of course we had graduated from y fronts to jockettes in those days which were pretty brief and not big enough to show above the waist of the jeans anyway.

Jeans are still my trouser of choice these days and over the years I've gone through the plain navy denim, light blue denim, brown denim and white denim.  The there were the acid wash and stone washed versions in black or navy mostly with legs that varied from stove pipe to wide flares.  But through all that the 501's have remained the favourite.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Less than 33 days

Not sure who you are but if you thought it might have been a good idea to tell my daughters about my 33 Days post, it wasn't.   Apparently I shouldn't be guilt tripping them because they are very busy and I now live too far away for them to be able to find the time to visit once a month.  So I stopped trying to ring them once a week to see how they are and I have no intention of guilt tripping them any more.   So I appreciate that you may have thought you were doing the right thing by me but to be honest, please don't do it again.  It's not worth my grief and as I was told this isn't about me anyway.   They'll get around to contacting me sooner or later.  Maybe.

Now onto things that are about me.  I had a lump come up on the palm of my left hand a few weeks back.  The doctor thought it was a ganglion cyst but sent me off for an ultrasound which pointed to it being a possible tumor.   I saw a surgeon had it removed and it turned out to be a ganglion cyst which I am happy about.

My lady had a bad back, saw a doctor who told her that she should go home take some panadol and he would refer her to a counselor because she was depressed.   She got a second opinion and that doctor sent her off for an MRI and on getting the results told her to get straight to hospital because she needed an emergency operation to remover the pressure on the nerves in her spinal cord or risk becoming a paraplegic.   She was admitted that day, operated on the next and sent home the day after that.  Now more than three weeks into an initial 6 week convalescence she is pain free if still unable to move totally freely and improving every day.

Which brings me to my next point and the fact that we have both started a Light and Easy diet.  Which I'm finding Light and Difficult having cut my food intake by half.  Still I have dropped from 92 kgs, last time I gave blood a month ago to 87.9 kg at the end of the first week of the diet and 84.6 kg when I weighed myself this morning at the end of the second week.   That bit of a pot belly that men of a certain age get has already shrunk significantly and I can stand in a certain place now and see my naughty bits.   That has to be good I think.    The thought of a leg of lamb or a whole roast chicken is still pretty good though.

My first Sunday breakfast on the diet and I had one egg and even that had a sad face.   And then I remember how many people in this world do actually go to bed genuinely hungry every day and I realise once again how lucky I really am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It was 30 years ago today....

..that I entered the Police Academy in Glen Waverley and commenced a journey that was to last 16 years.  This Friday night I am attending a reunion of Squads 22 and 23 of 1981 and of the 50 who walked in that day, fourteen are left in the job.  Of those 9 are attending the reunion together with myself and one other.  I'm looking forward to it.

And here's a few memories





















Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perspective

In 2001 I was the Executive Officer of the Victorian Basketball League and at the end of each season our Champion and Runner-up in both men and women came together with the winners of other Leagues to compete in the Australian Basketball Championships to determine who was the best team in the country.  It was September and on the Tuesday prior to the weekend of the Championships the date was one that would go down as one of the most infamous in history, September 11.   That same week Ansett Airlines here in Australia collapsed and that meant that the teams could not get to Bendigo in regional Victoria to compete.

The Championships were cancelled that year and there was a major hue and cry from many people about what a tragedy it was.  I wrote an article for the VBL website that week and said in part that there were thousands of people who would go to bed that night never seeing their mother, father, son, daughter, husband and wife again.   I told people to get a grip and understand what true tragedy was and it wasn't about the cancellation of basketball games.

In the past couple of days we've seen another airline, Qantas shut down for a few days and the ranting and raving of people stranded around the world and unable to get home.  There was a photo of a bloke in the Sunday Herald Sun who refused to give his name but who was displaying such anger and hatred in his expression that it looked as if he could have gotten hold of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce that he would have ripped his throat out.

And at the same time that the Qantas Board made the decision to ground the airline on Saturday there were a company of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan who were being slaughtered by an Afghan soldier they had  mentored.  Three brave young Australians and an Afghan interpreter were killed and seven other Australians injured.   This act had it's genesis on that same day more than ten years ago and it sickens me that I sit here now having to write the same thing that I did back then.

I don't give a stuff about an airline going bust or being grounded.  It's an inconvenience for all those people delayed.   The sun will come up tomorrow and other planes will fly.  But again we have young wives who won't see their husbands, children without fathers, Mums and Dads who will wake to nightmare again tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.

Get some perspective people.  Understand what really matters.  RIP guys may you never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thirty Three Days

One of the most commonly visited pages on this blog is one I called “The Loneliness of theLong Distance Father” which was at a time shortly after my separation where my kids didn’t really want to have a lot to do with me.  


As with many things, time alone can cure some of the angst and distress that comes to most kids when their parents break up.   But whilst the pain eases for the kids perhaps so too does the desire to keep contact with both parents, or maybe it’s just the classic cats in the cradle stuff, the natural pulling away as you get older and become more independent.

We built a big house because at the time we entered into the contract we had four of the six kids we have between us that needed a place to live.   Over the months of waiting for the title to settle and the house to be built their needs changed and so we have a four bedroom house occupied by the two of us and the two furkids and in an area now far away from where the kids mostly reside.

And that’s OK, the place is there if some time in the future they need it, but there are times when I miss knowing what is happening in their lives.   It seems that unless I make a call then we don’t talk and I am left to watching facebook for updates.

Last week I asked my two daughters if they would like to set aside one Sunday evening per month, visit us for dinner and watch a movie.  I was actually hoping that maybe we would just sit around the dinner table and chat and just find out who they were loving or feuding with, what books they were reading or movies they had seen, any one of hundreds of mundane day to day things that they do.  One daughter said she heard me but it would have to wait awhile because she’s working a lot of overtime and very busy but I did find out on Facebook that she enjoyed her day at the Races and her roast dinner at her mothers in the past few days.   Daughter number two has been silent and that usually means I am in the bad books with her.

It got me thinking that if they spent 3 hours one day a month with me that would be a total of 1 and a half days a year.  If I live as long as my father (and I hope it is longer than that) then I have 22 years left and that would mean that for the rest of my life I would spend a maximum of 33 days with my kids, half of which I would probably be sleeping.

So if the remainder of my life was equivalent to an hour on a clock for every month that passes without seeing them the clock advances another two minutes and we all know that as you get older time speeds up and the 33 days will rapidly become 30 and then 20 and 5, until those last few precious minutes come in a huge rush.

And knowing all that makes me regret the times I didn’t call my own Mum and Dad other than on the special occasions.   So maybe what goes around…

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Money Ralph

Last week we settled on the old house and Raelene deposited a Commonwealth Bank Bank Cheque into our Commonwealth Bank account.  That was Tuesday.  On Friday I sent an email asking why a Bank Cheque which is supposed to be as good as cash from what I remember, still hadn't cleared.    Today I get this back from the Bank - "Dear Laurence,

My name is xxxx your Online Specialist, I am pleased to assist you today with your recent email enquiry in regards to clearance fo bank cheque.

First of all I would like to sincerely apologise for the delay in my response as our team are currently receiving a high number of online enquiries.

Laurence, it is a Business Rule for cheques to get cleared in 3 business days and not calendar days.
What I can suggest for further clarifications, you can contact us on 13 2221, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or visit any of the nearest branches.
It has been a pleasure assisting you Laurence, I hope this information has assisted with your enquiry today and I wish you all the best for the rest of your week.
Sincerely, xxxx"
So I of course had to reply  "I understand that but that was not the question. Your own website states - "Cheque deposits attract a number of clearance days as the cheque itself is a paper based payment instrument. This requires the physical cheque to be forwarded to the drawing institution to determine the payment decision after inspecting the cheque for authorised signatures". However, in this case you were the drawing institution. Why does it take 3 days to forward a cheque to yourself to gain approval?" CBA if you monitor this sort of thing maybe you can reply.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I miss you Mum

Dear Mum
Hard to believe that it was a year ago today that I last saw you.  A lot has happened in that time.  I left my job, went to another company that ended up in liquidation and found a new job as a contractor but am likely to be put onto a long term contract in the next few weeks.

The new house has been built and Raels and I have been here now for 6 weeks.   Funny but it is home already unlike the last couple of places I've lived.  Maybe that's because we've built this from scratch.  I wish I could have shown you what it's like.

I imagine you riding off on that horse you told us about in the last few days.  I don't know where that came from because I don't ever remember you talking much about wanting to ride horses despite loving to bet on them.   Maybe that was the little girl speaking.

I think I told you that Dad visited me one night not long after I'd moved into the flat on Burwood Highway and I sometimes wonder if you'll ever do the same.  But then again maybe you know that I'm happy now and that you don't need to set me straight.

Karen,  Deb and I celebrated Christmas together last year like we always used to, but I think that may well have been the last time we'll do that.  You were the glue that held that together and I'm guessing that we'll probably not find the time to do it too often in the future given the kids have grown and will be splitting time between the new families they'll make over the next few years.    Karen is off to Queensland this year to spend Christmas with Jacob and Jenna, Luke may be back In Adelaide and your other grandkids are also starting to spread their wings.  Spending time with old Aunties and Uncles doesn't seem as important as when they were little.    But don't worry about that, it's just part of growing older.

Funny but I was really conscious of you and Dad being gone last Christmas, my first as an orphan, and my first Easter and Mother's Day this year followed by my first birthday.  Weird being a 54 year old orphan.  Sometimes I get a bit taken aback looking at the old bloke in the mirror because it's not how I see myself.

I know what you meant now when you said that there wasn't a day go by when you didn't think of Nana and Grandad because it's the same with me.   I miss you both very much and wish I'd told you that more often.

You gave me a great start to life Mum and I will be forever grateful for that.  Sure there were moments, but we had a great upbringing.  I always knew you were proud of me even if I didn't know why.

Thanks Mum.  I love you very much and miss you terribly

Love Laurie  XXX

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

For all those Fathers out there may I wish you well today.  Not a day goes by when I don't miss my Dad and this year a week before the anniversary of Mum's passing it is a little more poignant.  Son number 2 and girlfriend and both daughters came over for a BBQ lunch and we spent the afternoon watching the Return of the King in the home theatre.

And the new house is now home - we've spent much of the past couple of weekends cleaning up the old one and have in fact now walked out the door up there for the last time.  Raels has posted some updated photos over at Destination 3977.

My contract at work finishes at the end of next month but it looks like I'll be offered a longer term one to stay on and finish off what I've started.   The works interesting, I'm still learning, and the people are good.  Doesn't need to be anything else really does there.

So just a short update this time - i've got a few other posts on the go but haven't managed to finish them yet.  I reckon things might slow down a bit over the next few weeks and I'll get a bit more time to write.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Delayed

For those who read my ladies blog over at Destination 3977 you'll know that the handover of our house has been delayed by a week due to the fact that the wall our heater is supposed to be put it needs to be made bigger at the top to fit the flue in.   No big deal and after a trouble free build a very minor setback.

We are very lucky to be in a position to build this house and I still shake my head everytime I go down there.  I have only lived in four places in my life that I can remember - I don't count the first 18 months.  I spent all my early life in Box Hill South until I was 24 and then when I got married and moved to Tecoma.   I lived there in the family home for a further 24 years and then after splitting with my then wife moved less than 1 kilometer away until Raels and I bought the current house in Ferntree Gully.

Now the move will be to Cranbourne North, way out of my comfort zone but into our dream home, everything single thing about it chosen by us.  Raels says that in her mind she is already living there.   Me?   I wonder when it will actually turn from being the new house into home.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I deny I'm a denier

So we're getting a carbon tax and our most unpopular Prime Minister at her school marmish best says it's for our own good.  I watched her being interviewed by Laurie Oakes this morning and after she claimed that yes she did say there would be no carbon tax prior to the last election he asked her what had changed.  And we got spin.

LO: But politics is also about leaders being able to win support and to persuade voters. What is the difference between your position now and that of Kevin Rudd when you tapped him on the shoulder, except that the Government is now less popular than it was then and the leader is now less popular than the then leader was? What’s the difference?
JG: Laurie I'm not going to go back in time and talk about those events. I have talked about them...
LO: But you haven’t you see, you have always refused to talk them.
JG: Well I explained why the Labor team made the leadership decision that they did last year. And what they had...
LO: And what is the difference now?
JG: What they have now is me as Prime Minister, pursuing with determination, a plan, that the Labor team believes in. We never thought it was going to be easy. We knew it was going to be tough. We knew we would have to go out and campaign and persuade and get people the facts. And we are determined to do that.
LO: But you see, what they had a year ago was a leader who had been told by you in February he shouldn't go to a double dissolution on pricing carbon, and he had been told by you in April that he should shelve that plan. And now you are out there saying, "I’ve always believed in pricing carbon."
JG: Laurie, you are making a lot of assumptions and I’m not going to share those assumptions with you. I've always believed...
LO: But don't you think you need to answer those questions if people are going to have any faith in you.


This was important for the nation, she was doing what is best for us, no one will be worse off except the big carbon polluters etc, waffle, bull shit.   I also remember during the last election when after the first few weeks of campaigning she told us that we would now see the real Julia.  Well the real Julia lied when she said there would be no carbon tax so my question is why should we believe anything she says now.

Another thing I am getting very sick of is that because there are people skeptical of the whole man made climate change argument we get told that none of them know what they are talking about, that they are denying climate change exists.  Well let me say this.  Climate changes.  I actually wrote my honours thesis on climate change in the Victorian Alps.  I know that 60,000 years ago we were in an Ice Age with gradual warming until a peak around 8,000 years ago when sea levels were actually higher than they are now.  And since that time we've had times when the Earth was warmer than now when grapes were grown in Newfoundland in the 11th century, and a Little Ice Age said to have last from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

And we know that climate is also affected greatly by the fluctuations in the Suns outputs, in fact there have been arguments for decades over what causes the periodic Ice Ages but one thing is sure, those massive fluctuations in climate have been occurring independently of anything man has done.

Yeah, I know, some of you will argue, isn't it better that we do something, and I'd say if you guarantee that the rest of the world is gonna be doing the same thing as us then you might be right, but we are a small country of 22 million people and there are cities in India and China that produce as much greenhouse gas in a month as we do in a year and I don't see them rushing to introduce a carbon tax.

The Prime Minister will have us believe that China is cleaning up it's act when in fact it is building bigger coal fired power stations and burning coal they buy from us.   So how is it that China buying or coal and burning it is great for the economy and ensures that we will have a strong coal mining industry in the future.  And we're supposed to believe that it is better for the world for China to burn our coal than to burn it ourselves.  What is the logic to that argument Prime Minister?

I heard our Climate Change Minster interviewed on 3AW a few days ago and she was asked who the Top 10 polluters in the country were.   Her answer - "I'm sorry I don't know and I don't have that information with me."

Huh????    You don't know that and yet you can tell me the tax will only raise the price of a packet of Tim Tams by something less than a cent a packet?  Doesn't make sense to me.  And if you look a t bit more closely at what we do know then you'll see that the government doesn't actually know how many companies will be liable for the tax.   See this article from the Annabel Crabb of the ABC.   The government knows how much the tax cuts will cost in terms of lower collection of income tax, but they have very little idea about how much carbon tax is going to be collected.  And if they don't know that, how is the modelling on the supposed $8/week increase for the average household supposed to hold up.    This economic modelling sounds to me pretty much like the global warming modelling.  All over the place.

And how is it that all this Treasury modelling and the wonderful tax cuts that 9 out of 10 families will get, are still valid when the day before the tax was announced we were told that the top 1000 polluters would be taxed and the very next day the announcement said it was the top 500.   Given it took months of rigorous research and modelling by Treasury to come up with the package in the first instance how was it changed in 24 hours?   And was it the real Julia who changed it or one of the other two we saw before the election?

I've heard a lot of Labour supporters try to say that this is the same as John Howard introducing the GST.  But the difference is he had the guts to take the issue to an election.   This is more like our State Labour Government telling the people of the eastern suburbs that there wouldn't be tolls on Eastlink, prior to the election, and then a week after he was re-elected stating that things had changed.

So that's my rant for the week.  And what I've learnt this week is that politicians lie.   I was previously very naive wasn't I.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rock of Ages

A week ago Raels and I took our four daughters to see Rock of Ages.  It was our second time and their first and I have to say if you get the chance, do yourself a favour and go and have a good time.    The music is great, the cast fantastic and obviously enjoying themselves and I haven't laughed so hard for a long time.  It was actually better second time around because I knew what was coming.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do you know who I am?????

She screamed it at me on Thursday night but only after I'd absolutely had enough.

It started as a pretty ordinary train trip home.  I was sitting back engrossed in my book "Written in Time" and listening in the background to Sports Today on 3AW (gotta love Tunein Radio as an iPhone Ap).

We got to Box Hill and a couple of disheveled looking young ladies, and I lose the term lightly, got on and wandered up the carriage past me.  It wasn't long until the voices were raised loud enough to not only interfere with my radio listening but distracting of my reading as well.

Like "young ladies" seem to do more often these days there was a lot of effin c's and various other colourful phrases.  I picked up that the older looking slag was 28 and one of the others who also boarded the train but from a different door was 18.  The older one was yelling and screaming something about the younger one muttering about her under her breath.   When a few other people started to vacate that end of the carriage and move down past where I was sitting I turned around to see what was going on and saw the younger one seated with the older one standing above her blocking her in and leaning down screaming in her face.   They were both clearly, drunk, drug affected or both and as I watched it was suddenly on and a full blown cat fight started, the screaming and swearing continued and the hair pulling and scratching had started.

I had enough.  I took the earphones out and tucked them into my pocket, I asked the young girl opposite me to look after my pack and I went and grabbed the 28 year old from behind and pulled them apart.  Whilst I restrained her the other girl was ushered into another carriage by two other companions.

The two now separated physically I let the older one go and told her to sit down and shut up.

"You're not a fucking copper," she yelled in my face.

I turned walked away and sat back down.

"Do you know who I am?," she screamed at the top of her voice.    "I'm a member of the P...gill family!"  Spit flying from her mouth the stud on her tongue almost sticking up her nostril as she spat the vitriol at me.

"You're face is burned into my brain.  You better watch your back!   You're gonna end up fuckin dead!"

And for those who don't know.   That statement about her family history alone says it all really and shows precisely why that "young lady" actually doesn't really have much of a future.   There will be many more fights ahead for her, angry, bitter, full of a false pride in a family that has no respect at all in my world.   I wish her luck but reckon she's more likely to end up in a gutter somewhere.

Incidentally, not one other person intervened.  They were all happy to sit there and ignore what was happening whilst a young girl, who may or may not have caused it in the first place, got the crap beaten out of her.  WTF is that all about.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I hate to say I told you so but...

I told you so...Man Colds are worse than girl colds :)  Queenslander researchers have found that the immune system in men is weaker than that in women but the differences disappear after menopause.  They reckon it's natures way of looking after women of child bearing years to ensure the survival of the species.

That got me thinking about the origin of the word menopause.   I thought it meant women put men on pause because of a loss of interest in sex.  But not true.  It actually comes from the Greek "men" meaning month and "pausis" meaning cessation - therefore cessation of the monthly visitor.   Now I've gotta say that given a man cold probably only comes once a year thats gotta be better than the alternative.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rabbitting, Fishing, Yabbying and Mushrooming

Not all food was found in supermarkets when I was growing up in fact a few times a year we'd have family expeditions somewhere up the Hume Highway on hunts for food and I'm guessing this was a family legacy born out of the necessities of the Depression.

Mum used to tell me about how her uncles used to visit the Vic Market and bring home vegetables and fruit that were beginning to turn.  We didn't need to do that but old habits die hard and we'd often meet at Nana and Grandad's in Brunswick and head off up the highway looking for suitable paddocks we could wander through looking for mushrooms or finding dams where we could through a piece of meat tied to a string and pull out yabbies.

Both Grandad and Uncle Phil kept ferrets so some of those trips involved finding rabbit warrens, putting nets over the outlets and waiting for the ferrets to chase the rabbits out of the holes.   I still love to eat roast rabbit and usually after we got home and the rabbits were scunned I'd be given a rabbits foot for luck and I have to say it was much luckier for me than it was for the rabbit.  I'd carry it around in my pocket for a few days until I suspect it got a bit woofy and Mum made me throw it out.  My sisters would get a rabbits tail.

There were times when we'd spend school holidays away camping. I remember one time Uncle Phil took me with him, my cousin Phillip and a couple of others to the Barmah State Forest near Koondrook for a week.  And that was real camping, fishing every day, a bush dunny consisting of a 9 gallon drum with a canvas screen pulled around three trees to give an illusion of privacy.

Those Christmases spent camping on the Murray River at Corowa, long hot days and early morning treks down to the riverbank before dawn are great memories for me.   Later as I had kids of my own and tried to re-create those times I found that my sons never really got into fishing and I think that was because I wasn't all that good at it.    When I took them out as kids and never caught anything they just got bored with it until there was actually no point asking if they wanted to go because I knew the answer would be no.  Diffierent times, different places.






Monday, June 20, 2011

Who was Annie Laurie?

Language changes and I've noticed a trend recently where the word "worry" which I have always pronounced with a "u" as in Surrey, now seems to come out of the mouths of a lot of people with the sound of lorry.  I'm not sure how or when this happened but the first time I heard it was from an old neighbour of mine who whlst he was born here had parents from Austria.  I find it all a bit wurrisum.  :)

It got me thinking about some of the sayings that Dad used to have and what the origins of some of them were in an Australia that is now long gone.

When he thought that something was particularly unlikely to happen he would say "If that happens I'll walk backwards down Bourke Street whistling Annie Laurie."

For those who don't know Melbourne, Bourke Street is one of the main thoroughfares in the Central Business District, and before we had a plethora of suburban shopping malls the Bourke Street strip was the shopping mecca of Melbourne.

Now I knew what Dad meant when he said it but I have never known who Annie Laurie was and now thanks to the wonder of the internet I can find out.

That font of all knowledge Wikipedia states -
Annie Laurie is an old Scottish song based on poem by William Douglas (1672?-1748) of Dumfries and Galloway. The words were modified and the tune was added by Alicia Scott in 1834/5. The song is also known as Maxwelton Braes.

According to the story Douglas had a fling with Anna Laurie but her father disapproved possibly because he had a problem with Douglas's Jacobite views.

So for those like me who have never heard the song here it is.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The days go by

Newhome is almost ready - plumbing is done, tiling is finished, garage doors are hung, the floor coverings go down this week and our Post Construction Inspection is booked for 12 July.   We will probably be in by early August.

A few weeks back the last of my pets from the old life was run over by a car and killed.  Connie, our Brittany spaniel was named after Constance daughter of the Duke of Brittany.   She was about 15 years old and had been ailing since Gambit, her brother, died a few months back.  But she was let out in the yard with the front gate open and wandered onto the road.  She was the most beautiful natured dog and whilst I haven't lived with her for a few years now it still hurts to think she had to go in that way.   RIP Connie.







I'm halfway through my tenure at work but the boss has asked if I'm interested in sticking around.  I've said yes but will make up my mind when I find out what the offer is.  I have a bottomline that will need to be met so that the new mortgage is covered.

Speaking of the mortgage, the CBA is stuffing us around again.  It looks like they underpaid the first of the builders payments by about $2.5k which means we now have to find the extra.  The problem is because of the way the loans were set up I have no visibility of any payments we made or fees we were charged pre March this year.  I've asked for a full reconciliation and four days later still haven't heard a result yet.   We'll definitely look at moving banks once the settlements are done.

We lay byed  some limited edition prints for the home theatre today.  An indulgence, certainly, but maybe an investment too.   The prints are those below by an artist called Alex Ross.



Erin has left school and started work.  Not something I agree with but no point in forcing her to stay on and waste the rest of the year either.  She has the next couple of years planned out - save for a car, save for an overseas trip, work overseas for a couple of years and then come back and decide what she wants to do.  I'm in fact less upset with that decision than I am with the fact that her mother did not communicate any of it to me.  I found out a week after the fact.  Still, can't be too critical can we, if I am my kids tend to get all angry with me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meat and Three Veg

I'm writing this post on Sunday night with the smell of a beef casserole simmering on the stove in the background and remembering that as I was growing up the food we ate was very much a part of the daily and weekly ritual.

I wrote in the post Of Chow Food and Other Things about our regular Friday night feeds of Fish and Chips but there was a fairly standard menu served in hour house when I was growing up.  One night would be chops, sausages, mashed potatoes and peas, another sausages eggs and chips, yet another spaghetti bolognese,  and of course the Sunday lunch time roast when we weren't out visiting relatives or having barbecues.

Karen and I had to either set and clear the table each night or dry the dishes. For some reason we used to fight over the former, mainly because it meant we could sit down earlier in front of the TV and watch the Flintstones or Gilligans Island.

Most nights, Dad wasn't home.   Most nights he wouldn't get home before we went to bed but would come in some time later, under the weather and smelling of the front bar and any of several pubs he frequented over those years.   But this is a post about the food we ate, not the bad times, I'll leave that for another time.

Sunday nights we usually had something light, usually toasted sandwiches in front of the telly.    A night without having to set the table was bliss.   I know there are families who share meals around the table and Raels and I try to do that now.   Maybe it was the fact that eating at the table reminded me too much that Dad was absent that it wasn't a tradition I had with my own kids as they were growing up, but is something I enjoy now when they do come around for meals with us.   But I digress again.

Mum was a good cook, but not an adventurous one and that may have been because we had fairly spartan tastes and any time she did stray from the meat and three veg, like the time she tried to serve us sheep brains and I came very close to vomiting, or when she regularly tried to serve up Brussels sprouts.  To this day I don't like them.

But the roast potatoes, ahhhhhh, I still haven't tasted better, even after all these years.   And Dad's barbecues were as good as anyone could ever cook, charcoaled chops and snags, and best of all, flat round chips fried in dripping over a wood BBQ in the back yard.

Another memory from the kitchen table is of my sister Deb, sitting in her high chair breaking up bread crusts and stirring them into a bowl of ice cream.    She still makes her cakes the same way even today.  Just kidding.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Problem Management

I'm a little over three months into a nine month contract at my new place of work and I do feel like I'm starting to achieve a few things.  I've spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks documenting and developing incident and problem management procedures, a task I could have avoided if I'd just googled "Problem Management" a little earlier and plagiarised the following process.   Much simpler and better than what I wrote.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dad Humour

I wonder sometimes whether my kids will ever "get" my sense of humour.  A couple of weeks ago daughter number one told me she had sort of broken up with her new boy friend, at his request.  She then proceeded to tell me that for the next couple of nights after he'd done that he turned up to see her.

"I'm just going with the flow Dad," she told me.   And so I told her to give me his phone number so I could call him and ask what his intentions were.   She declined of course, but I think she actually believed I would have done it.

The night after I told my youngest daughter in my most earnest voice that it was time that she and I had a discussion about the Birds and the Bees, whereupon she got up and said that she'd be reading a book in her bedroom.   Again I was kidding but sometimes they don't seem to get it.

A couple of weeks ago I told them that if William Shatner married Fifi Box, she'd be Fifi Shatner-Box.  That one they got, both of them posting it on Facebook.   Last night daughter number two asked me if I'd seen the movie Thirteen and I said "No, but I've seen the sequel Fourteen."    I thought it was hilarious, she just raised her eyebrows.

Will they ever get me?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No Longer for Sale

Our house went to Auction last Thursday night and we were number 18 of 21 properties up for auction on the night.   Four of the five people who said they were interested in buying turned up and registered but as the properties went on the market and prices were below what was expected it became obvious to me that we may not get what we wanted.

We had the house valued pre-Christmas by the bank and had dropped the reserve price by $20k below that valuation in the hope that once we got to that stage in the auction and went on the market that the competition would drive it up towards the valuation.

The opening bid was $40k below the reserve and that was a bid by the auctioneer on our behalf.  He then raised it by $10k and we got one bid only at $1k above that.   Eventually we settled for a figure $2k below the reserve but well under what we were hoping for.   It became very much a decision around whether the bird in the hand was worth more than any potential offer we might have gotten outside the auction.  No contest really given the cooling in the market, the fact that we are facing an interest rate rise in the next three weeks and the absolute confusion over what this Federal Government is going to do with that monster lurking in the background, the Carbon Tax.

At least now we can move on and enjoy the new place.

Speaking of which the front is now rendered and the kitchen and bath room cabinets almost finished.  Our site supervisor, despite earlier telling us it would be ready by the end of June, is now saying 75 to 90 days.  I suspect he is just being ultra conservative because it seems to be moving pretty well at the moment with the painters due to start tomorrow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Myra Phylis Joyce - 26 July 1930 to 11 September 2010

I miss you Mum - Happy Mothers Day
"M" is for the million things she gave me,
"O" means that she's only growing old,
"T" is for the tears she shed to save me,
"H" is for her heart of purest gold;
"E" is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
"R" means right or wrong she'll always be,
Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"
A word that means the world to me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bill Smith - ANZAC - Rat of Tobruk

I grew up in the shadows of World War 2 being born only 12 years after it's end in 1945.   Now in 2011, 1999 seems far closer to me than World War 2 did as I was growing up.    Having said that though, I was conscious of the impact it had upon both sides of my family.

Dad had a brother and several cousins who served and a sister who became a war bride when she married a US Serviceman.   In my grandparents home a photo of my Uncle Keith in uniform took pride of place in the entrance hall and on another wall a velvet belt hung encrusted with brass unit badges my grandfather brought back from his time in the middle east and France during World War 1.

I later learnt that another of Dad's cousins, Uncle Wal, had escaped from the Malayan Peninsula as the Japanese invaded.  It was the subject of a book by Colin Frisch Heroes Denied. The Malayan Harrier Conspiracy  "the amazing true story of 15 Australian soldiers who refused to surrender when the Japanese steamrolled down the Malayan Peninsula early in 1942. They fought their way back to Australia over several months to be met with disdain and disbelief. Unbelievably, they were treated like deserters and given the title 'Malayan Harriers'."


On Mum's side, my Grandmother had 13 immediate members of her family who served.  There was Uncle Perc who got captured in Singapore and was a POW in Changi and later on the Burma Railway, Uncle Laurie who was part of the 2/22nd Battalion who was killed on the day the Japanese invaded Rabaul and of course my Grandfather Bill Smith who with the 26th Brigade Headquarters, 9th Division, was a Rat of Tobruk, and if memory serves my correctly this is the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the siege.  


On 25th April 2007 I posted the transcript of my Grandfather Bill Joyce's War Diary.    Today I'll post letters my other Grandfather Bill Smith's letters to his cousin Dot.



Prior to leaving his birthplace at Cassilis for Melbourne, Bill SMITH worked as a Dray driver hauling timber from the surrounding forests. He moved to Melbourne with his family around the time of the First World War. His son and daughters believe he may have served in the Navy during those times having put his age up, but if he did it was under an assumed name because neither the Army nor Navy have any record of this service.

On 6 August, 1940, he went to enlist in the army with his brother in law Laurence MAYHEW. He was aged 39 and gave his wife Lily as his next of kin and his address as 25 Davison St., Brunswick. His hair was dark, his eyes blue and both arms were tattooed.

The intention was for he and Laurie to join the same unit and serve together but for some inexplicable reason when the recruits were lined up and told to step forward if they could drive trucks, Bill stepped forward and Laurie didn't. So they separated, Bill to the Middle East and Tobruk, Laurie to Rabaul where he was killed in action.

On 03/09/1940 Bill was posted to the 26th Brigade Head Quarters in Albury. On 16/11/1940 he had returned to Melbourne and there embarked for the Middle East where he remained until 31/01/43. Whilst in the Middle East Bill wrote a number of letters, some of them written to his cousin Dot have survived and are transcribed here ‑

19/07/1941 "Dear Dot, 

Just a few lines in answer to your ever welcome letter which I received a couple of days ago & I am pleased to hear from you & all at 19 Verdon St. You say that Mum & Dad are both well & also Ern and his wife & family well give them all my regards & Best Wishes to Mum and Dad & tell them that I am in the best of Health & spirits & every thing is fine & Dandy up to the present. 

The only thing is the Jerry pays us a visit sometimes & gives me a bit of a run to the slit trench but I always manage to beat him to it & a lot of my mates too. I tell you he has got me as thin as a whippet pup so don't go telling me that you are long & lean if you could only see me now I think that you could just about give me a couple of stone & that is only through running to the trench so if I am over for a couple of more years I think that I will just about fade out. 

Well Pal I suppose you want to know something about the place. Well to tell you the truth I could sum it up in about 1/2 Doz words but of course I will have to skip those words and do my best to explain it to you. The very first thing that greets you in the morning is sand, dust & flies of course. Flies are the first thing as they come in to the dugout just at day break & start crawling all over you until you have to get out of the flea bag, that is what I call the blankets as no matter what you do to them you cannot get rid of the fleas out of the blankets & when you start after them they just dodge around the other side. 

Oh that is getting away from the subject now so I had better go back to the flies. Well when you get out it is as I have told you, sand, dust & flies & then the work starts. Attend to my truck & then have breakfast of bacon out of the tins * be around to the ordley room for to take the boys down to the beach for a swim in the old Medi. 

In fact I am writing this letter on the beach waiting for the boys to come out of the water & return again to camp, have lunch out of more tins, you can guess what we all have, the good old stew & not bad either. Then another trip down to the beach with some more & back again for tea & some bully beef this time out of tins again. 

So now you have the army menu & know what a good cook we have here with us in the form of tins. Now Pal you should almost be able to guess what I would like for the shape of a parcel hat. You ask me to tell you what I would like of course I am leaving it all to you Dot to do the packing of it & as regards to woollens well you can put in a pair of mittens as they are the only things & lng sox that we wear over here. At present there is no use for the mittens but during the winter it gets very cold. So just pack what you think I would like most. The only thing I have not received your parcel yet & I am counting the days when it will arrive so I can chamge my diet a little. 

I am sorry that I was unable to get down to see you & Mum & Dad before I sailed as I suppose Dad told you all about firm claiming one & it was a busy week for me but when I can get leave I will have my photo taken and send you one of them that is if you would have it. Well if you should see Auntie Lizzie tell her I hope that she is alright again &give them all my regards & anyone else that cares to write to me & don't forget Bob & Ern if he is not working too hard. 

Now I hope you can read this letter O.K. as paper is scarce & these are the only thing that I can get in Libya so the first chance I get I will write you a long & interesting letter about the places I have seen since I have been over here. There is a lot of places I have seen & I would like to tell you about but I am unable to cram in to this letter as the space is not big enough to tell you all so you had better be contented with this for the time being Pal & if you should happen to see Mum or Dad ask them what has happenned that I have not got any mail from them for over 3 months & I have wrote a lot to them in the past month. 

Well Dot I think I have come to the end of my letter for news as well as to the end of my paper so I will close this short note hoping to hear from you again , I remain your loving cousin, Bill. P.S. Remember me to all in Williamstown & all at home I hope to see them all in the near future & don't froget Ern & Paula & Little Alex give him this for me XXXXXX."

On 21/10/1941 he  wrote ‑ 

"Dear Dot, 

Just a few lines in answer to your ever welcome letter that I received a few days ago but owing to the things that was coming my way in the form of work & other things I have no had much time to answer it before & I tell you Pal if I answer them all today I will finish with the writers cramp. I have just finished one to Mum & Dad & one to Lil so you can see that I am flat out like a lizard drinking & now before I forget it Pal I must thank you for that parcel you sent I thoroughly enjoyed everything that it contained in fact  I have the sox on at the present & they are keeping the old feet real warm as it is pretty cold in Palestine at present, raining like the devil outside & what a picture it is after the dust, flies, fleas, etc. Not only that where I am now the hot showers are great. I was down this morning & I laid under them until the water soaked right through me & was it great (I'll say). So I think those knitted bands that you wa telling me about will not be wanted now not for the present anyhow they might come in handy later on you never can tell. 

Well Dot, you say that you have only received one letter from me well you should have more by now as I have written straight back again as soon as I have received them all bar this one & the reason for the delay I am not at liberty to tell you but you can understand that I hope so you will have to except my excuse for this one & you say that you have been having a tussel with a jumper for Dad that someone knitted for him & made it big enough for three of us to get into well it must be a size as I have got a snap of both Mum & Dad in their last letter & he looks about 19 stone although you cannot judge a book by its cover he might be just as he always is in the winter chocked up with his old complaint & have Mum going with the mustard plasters as they are only things that seems to do him any good but anyway Dot I am glad that he is OK again & was able to hold that wool for you. 

Now Dot you ask me the name of the chap that I met over here well to tell you the truth I forgot his name but he was a chap that used to serve you with green vegetables he said that he was a mate of Erns perhaps Ern would know him. He would be about Ern's build with fair hair incline to be ginger that is about all I can tell you about him for the time being but if I can see him again I will remember you to him & get his name & now Dot I have sent you along a few papers from over here the A.I.F. News is what it is called so let me know if you get them after you have finished with them you can give them to Dad to read. 

Now Dot I think that I have run out of news for the present so I will draw to a close hoping this finds you & your Mum & Dad just like me right in the pink & in the best of spirits. So cheerio Old Pal hoping to hear from you again, I remain your cousin Bill XXXX P.S. Remember me to all in Williamstown & to Ern & Paula & wee Alex & all at home & tell them all that I am in the Pink as I have told you before with no cares or worries for the time at any rate may be a longer letter next time Pal. For wee Alex XXXXX."

From Egypt on 28/07/1942 he wrote ‑ 

"Dear Dot, 

Well old Pal here is a few lines to let you know that I am still in the Land of the Living although it is quite a while since I have had any word from you I know that you all are wondering how & where I am. 

Well Pal I know that by the time that you get this note you will or should at least know that I am back among the flies, fleas, dust & sand that is blowing all over my face as I am writing this to you so if their are some mistakes & blotches in it Please forgive me for them all. 

Well Dot as I have said before I am still in the land of the living & in the best of health& spirits as it has always been said the latter is always hard to break in us Aussies & that goes for all our loved ones at home as well as I know that Lil has not let her dear old chin drop yet & my God never let her & every one else at home for I think that If ever the boys over here that are left were to think that they had, well god help them I don't know what they would do for I tell you Pal they are doing a wnoderful job & at present deeds I know they will never be told until we get home, if ever. I mean if god wills it. I suppose this sounds like a moan to you Pal well to tell you the truth it is when you sit & read in the papers & also your letters about this one & that one getting home, some only a few months away & all us boys being 2 years or more away & been through what we have in the desert. To come back to it I tell you Dot it hurts like H    but still i suppose we have got to take it & do what others are doing, just carry on what do you say, well lets forget about it & get on to another subject. 

I had a letter from Lil the other day & she tells me that she has got to work long hours & that every 3 weeks she has got to start at 3 O'Clock on Sunday & finish at 11 O'Vlock the following Saturday & by the time she finishes she is too tired to go out anywhere so I think that is the reason why she has not been down to see you so please excuse her won't you Pal & as regards Billie well she tells me that she has not heard from him for quite awhile since he has been drafted out to his unit somewhere in N.S.W. & I have only received one letter from him since he joined up but I know that he won't forget me or his mother & sisters no matter where they send him. 

Well old dear how is Mum & Dad keeping as well as yourself. I hope that you are all enjoying all the best of health & also Ern & Paula & wee Alex remember me to them all & give Alex this from me XXXX & do the same to all in Williamstown & give Bob & Emily my regards & wish them all the best of health & happiness & tell them both I hope that all their troubles will be little ones. 

Well Pal, there was a bonza one put over one of my mates the other day. he received a letter from his wife & in it she tells him that we are known only as the 9th Div at home as the Tobruk rats are all home. Now I ask you Pal, would that not be enough to break your heart without having to come into it for a second lick. The only thing I hope & pray for is that when they think fit to take us out of it again they take us right home & march us, what is left of us, through the streets of Melbourne & other citys & I think that their will be a lot of blank files to be filled & I hope that they will not be filled with those said same heros of Tobruk that is home there now, as there are a lot of things that I can say about them that I cannot put on paper as that man the censor has a very sharp knife & he likes to play around with our letters sometimes so I don't like to give him any chances with my letters if I can help it. 

Well Dot, I am camped at present close to the old medi & I tell you I make use of it every chance I get the first thing in the morning & the last thing at night & it sort of cleans one up for a good nights sleep for there is no chance throught the day for the flies & of course the night well after you get going & catch a few of your bed mates you can get a bit of a sleep until their family comes along looking for the ones that you have already caught & then away you go & course them through your blankets & get rid of them & by that time it is time to get up as your mates the flies have started & so life goes on in the Desert, one damn thing after another & then along comes Mr. Wind & covers you & your blankets & everything he can find with dust & Dirt including your eating gear & by the time the meal time comes along & you go for dinner or tea as the case may be your temper is frayed to a frazzle & the old cook gets a bit of your mind & he starts after you with a knife or axe or anything he can put his hand onto as his temper is worked up a bit higher than yours & he starts chasing you around, you finish up with more sand in your Dixie than stew not that their was not enough got in when he was getting it ready without more blowing in when he was serving it out & so it goes on day in & day out

it makes one disatisfied with everything & everyone around about you. There is only one thing that you have not got & that is a lot of wogs about asking you for Buckshees & other things. Thank god for that much. I think that what stops them more than any thing is the Boom Booms as they call the shells. I tell you Dot, they have the wind up properly. I often sit & think what would happen to Egypt if it was left to them to defend & then they sit around & talk about you when you are not listening to them & they ask you if you speak Arabic & of course you say no until you hear them say something that they should not say & then it is the boot for them & pretty hard too & that is the only way of stopping their wagging tongues. 

Well Pal, I think that I have come to the end of my tether as regards news so I will have to close this for the time being & try & get rid of some of this sand out of my dugout. Perhaps I had better be like a rabbit & go a bit deeper& see if that will stop it from getting in. In fact I only wish I was like a snail sometimes so that I could crawl in & pull a door in after me to close things up tight enough to stop it. 

Well Pal I will have to say cheerio until next time, I remain your loving Cousin, Bill 

P.S. Remember me to all at home & all in Williamstown as I have said before & another thing Pal I am still waiting for that photo of yourself & let me know if you know that chap by the name of E.J. RILEY that I was asking you about in my last letter to you Pal so you had better give these to Wee Alex XXXX & these are for yourself XXXXX, Bill"

12/09/1942 ‑ 

"Dear Dot, 

Just a few lines to let you know that I am in the best of health & sparking on all six & I hope & pray that you & Mum & Dad are the same as well as Ern, Paula & wee Alex & all in WIlliamstown give them all my regards & tell them that I am still alive & kicking & hope to remain the same for a long time to come yet the only thing that I am wild about is that I am still over here in this godforsaken desert but it has its good faults as well as its bad ones the one good thing about it is it is the right place to fight a war in no women or children to suffer or make homeless like there is in other parts of the world & nothing to hurt as regards the growing of crops or anything that goes with farming only a great sandy waste no matter where one looks now & again in the distance you can see a hill or two & that is all 

for the life of me I cannot see what they want to fight over it for of course when you get down on the other side of Cairo & get into the Nile Valley you can understand why & that great piece of work the Canal they are the things that the Jerry wants we all know & as far as the wogs are concerned they have it they don't seem to care just who wins they say they will be alright 

of course they are not all alike there are some of them that would give us anything but most of them all they think about is to try & rob you if they can not get their hands into your pockets they rob you when you go in to the shops to buy anything so I have just been thinking of leaving all my buying until I get home ( of course that is if ever I do) not only that Pal the mail question is so uncertain of getting there now as I know that letters are not getting home & it is not right to try & send parcels now is it 

I know that the postal people are not to blame or the boys that are doing their best on the boats but it is those slant eyed mugs with their tin fish that is causing the trouble but it won't be for long now that the boys that are doing such a good job over there are starting to get into their stride I think that there is a hot time coming to them what say you & it is coming to others as well & not far off either. 

Well Pal while I am writing this to you their & a big flight of our planes going over to pay Jerry a visit & Oh Boy do they look nice I'll say. I tell you Dot they are a sight for sore eyes to see them eighteen & twenty‑one at a time I am thankful that that I am not on the receiving end. There are all sorts with fighter escorts they are like a lot of poodles around one big St Bernard but can they do their stuff I'll say. Yanks, tommys & Aussies all in together it is a great show after being up here before seeing nothing but Jerrys over you all the time I can hardly believe my eyes for the start the only thing is the sound of the engine the Hun plane seems to say when he is going over is (where you will have it) over & over again but ours is just a straight out purr with it that is the only way that I can tell which is which unless they are low of course you look for the markings then & if you see a big white cross on them then it is legs do thy duty & dive for a slit trench no matter who beats you to it in you go on top of them & if you are underneath you fell safer as you get the impression that he cannot see you but still it puts a nasty feeling in your mouth. 

Say dear here is a bit of news for you while I am writing this it has started to rain the first I have seen since I was in Syria & the first in the Desert since last March 12 months ago not much but a little & that is something by the look of the sky I think that it has blown right over us & gone down south for I am camped on the beach but I hope that it lands in the right place & lays the dust a bit for these boys that is out in it what say you. There has just been two more flights gone over eighteen in each of them how's that good work I should say. 

I think I spoke too soon about the rain as the sun has come out hotter than ever & brought more flys than ever with it I was wondering where they had got to the last couple of Days they have not been so thick about as they have been but they sure making up for it now they are getting like swarms of bees again so I am in for a bad time I suppose. Oh that reminds me Pal before I forget it I must thank you for that parcel that you sent me in June I enjoyed every thing that you snet in it received it in the right place in the Desert & I sent you a cable right away & have just received yours in answer so that is not bad is it I send Lil one every fortnight I think that is the best thing to do as it keeps her from worrying so much over me as I know that she does a good bit of that & over Bill as well but I hope by the time that you get this that he is out of it & if so that will take some of the worry off her. Don't you think. I suppose some people will have something to say about him but 16 is a bit young for him to be in the army but it shows that he was game to have a go at it & that is one thing in his favour Don't you & say Dot how is Bob getting along I suppose he is an old married man by this give him & family my kindest regards & also Uncle Bill & Auntie Lizzie & also the rest of the family. 

Well Dot old Dear I think that I have run right out of news for the present other than Don't go & sell all the eats at the Dug‑out save a little for the 9th Divvie when it gets home. Of course I don't know just when that will be after it is all over I suppose as it looks that we are what I told you in the last letter the M.A.F. (Men Aust. forgot) what do you think or at least that is what we are called over here & we have changed our name from the Tobruk rats to Ali Barbers Morseheads Twenty Thousand Thieves as the other name was taken by someone else so I will draw to a close with tons of love & kisses XXXXX to you & Mum & Dad, I remain your Cousin Bill P.S. Remember me to all over there & give Wee Alex these for me XXXX Paula XXX tell Ern not to get jealous, Bill XXXX"

 01/10/1942, 

Egypt, "Dear Dot, 

Just a few lines in answer to your ever welcome letter I received yesterday. You wrote it on the 26‑7‑42 & I am pleased to hear that you are all well over there & enjoying the best of health just as I am here. Of course that is in health I mean, as one can not enjoy being in this place too long after spending all the time that I did in it before, but I suppose I should not complain but thank the good lord for small mercies after the way things have turned out over your part of the globe but how we would all like to be over there for all that. 

Well Pal I have had some bad news since I received your cable a couple of weeks ago of which you should know all about but I suppose we have all got to go that way some time or other but I only wish it had not occurred until I had got home & then I would have been able to have shared the trouble with Mum & perhaps taken a big load off of her shoulders but I suppose the Lord has laid it down that way & that is all there is to it so I will only have to grin & bear it just like others have done that are over here with me. But for all that I would have liked to have known just what the complaint was if it was the old one or not which I think it was judging by what you tell me the weather is like over there & it always played up with Dad you know & you say that it is playing up with your Dad as well. Lets hope that the shock of losing his brother does not hurt him any as I know that he will worry a lot knowing that there is only 3 brothers left now. You know that Dad & Uncle Jack were the only ones that used to stick together. The others, ah well I have no need to tell you anything about them as you know more about the happenings than I do as Dad was not one to tell me much about the happenings down home. He was what you call an oyster where they were concerned but I suppose it was better that it happenned while I am over here. But I will miss him when I get back again more than anyone will ever know. 

Well Dot you ask me if I get the papers that you send over to me, well Dot to be truthful I have only received about 4 balls of them other than what you put in the parcels. I may say that perhaps they may go to the hospitals as a lot of them do if papers happens to go to the wrong unit they never readdress them like they do the letters but pass them around to the boys in the unit that they happen to go to. I think that the last lot of papers that I got from you was in Palestine & I wrote & thanked you for them but never mind Pal if I don't happen to get them someone else does just the same as us boys in my unit gets someelses & hands them around the camp. But as you ask me Dot about them I have got to tell you I know that it is hard for all you good people to got the the trouble that you do in sending them over & not to reach the ones that they are  intended for but that is the way that they have in the army & that is the way we have got to abide by for if the postal people were to readdress them they say that they would be carting papers around all the time & while I am on the subject I must thank you for that last parcel that you sent. I thought that by sending the cable thanking you for it it would be quicker than by letter that is the reason for me doing so as I know that you always want to know that I get them O.K. & it is nice to know what pleasure that it gives me to get them & to tell you the truth Dot did I go to town on all those nice things that you sent. It reached me in the right spot in the desert & if all goes well I may be able to show you one of these days before I get some for by the look of things I think that it will be a long time yet before I see Aussie's sunny shores agian. 

It is almost 2 years now since I left them & god knows when I  will see them again but to tell you the truth it can not be quick enough for me as I am sick of it all & I miss Lil & the kiddies more & more each day I am away from them God bless & keep them safe from harm while I am over here & also your Dad & your Mum. 

Well Dot, you say that Alex is beginning to get to that mischievous age now & getting stuck into all the trouble about the place well he wouldn't be a Smith if he didn't as they are always into all the mischief about the  place. At least I was & by the way you speak I think that he must take after Ern as he used to do his share when he was young I'll bet yes & you as well and you say that he is having a go at the bread tin well what is wrong with that, a Smith failing, you must look after the inner man you know so why worry over that while he eats like that it is better than paying out a big Dr's Bill isn't it at least I think so & I'll bet his grandad  thinks so too & you say that he has had a tumble that will do him good, make him hard for when  he starts playing football for that mug football team Williamstown Ha ha, one to me. 

But I am sorry to hear that he burnt his hand the way he did & I am glad to hear that he got over the gastric flu alright as that knocks the stuffing out of the kiddies when the weather is so cold like you say it is over there at present & I know just how cold it can be in Melbourne at this time of the year but over here it is perfect, a bit cold at night but during the day all I walk around with is a pair of shorts & my boots & sox on as it is too hot for anything else in fact Dot if some of those Beach Sheiks were to see any sun tan they would give me a thousand pound for it in fact some of my mates call me the wog. The only thing is I talk English too good to be one of them but I think that if us boys are over here much longer & get much blacker the heads of Aussie will be asking for our permits to land there for I think that we will be all taken for wogs & we'll have to apply for naturalisation papers as they won't know us. 

Well Dot I done as you ask as regards A.J. REILLY but he did not know you by name but when I showed him you snap he remembered you & he sends his regards to you in return he said I did not know that you had a cousin working there I said now Jack you did not know that I existed until I joined this unit did you but I knew what he meant just the same for when one is with men for over 2 years they think that they know you all your life & you all become like brothers instead of mates & that is what the Army does to you when you are in it long enough & now Dot I will have to finish this letter tomorrow as I have just heard the bell ringing for tea did I say Bell I meant the cook going crook at me for not hurrying up, if I don't I will miss out. 

Well Dot here I am again having another go at this. You will notice that I could not carry on until this morning owing to the black out & no electric light in my house over here but I expect to have it on any time now of course that is if Jerry will allow us for as soon as it gets dark he starts his taxi service & makes things very uncomfortable for us but not as bad as he was in Tobruk but almost it looks as if he has the wind up to come out in the daylight or when any of our planes are around as our boys have a Hoo‑Doo on him for our boys are just giving him H‑‑‑ over here now as regards his air force. Of course they pay us a visit through the day sometimes but they are that far up that you cannot see them with the naked eye & you take no notice of them until the eggs start whistling down & then it is legs do thy duty for the slit trench & (Oh boy do I go I'll say) but I think that I am getting too old for I am nearly always last so I think that I will have to go into training again what say you. 

Well old pal I see by the papers that there is quite a number of cases over there of young girls & women being molested in the streets at present what is wrong with them why haven't they got a lot of men that is unfit for the services patroling the streets to try & protect you women from that sort of thing Dot. I think that it would help the police for they must be very busy at present with a lot of other things that is appearing in the papers & I think that it would not hurt to try it anyway do you if they were to give them permission to give them a real good hiding with a strap or something it might have a lot to help & clean up that sort of thing & then a respectable young girl or married women could walk about with safety don't you think as there is no mistake a woman when she has been working in a factory or business of any kind does want a little fresh air sometimes. 

And now Dot as regards the papers that I spoke about in this letter I must say that the postal ordley has just handed me a page of them so I think that I spoke a bit too soon when I said that I never received them but never mind Pal, I am pleased that I received before I had finished this letter so now I think that I have just about run right out of news for this time so I will close hoping that this finds you & all at 19 Verdon St right in the Pink & in the best of spirits, 

Your Cousin Bill 
P.S. Remember me to all in Williamstown & tell them that I am still alive & kicking & remember me to Ern & Paula & give wee Alex these for me XXXXXXXXX Bill. Yourself XXXXXXXX."

Egypt 04/11/1942 

"Dear Dot, 
Just a few lines in answer to 2 of your welcome letters I received yesterday & also the card of the day out. They were dated 6‑9‑42 & the 13‑9‑42 so they were not too long in getting over to me although by the dates that you gave in your letter about mine well they have certainly taken there time in getting to you. There is a few in between April & July's letters but lord only knows just where they are perhaps the fish are trying to read them by now, if so God help them if they can understand my writing & spelling as you know that I am not too good at either but anyway Dot I do my best & that is the main  thing. 

Well Pal, I am glad to hear that Mum & Dad & yourself & all In Williamstown are enjoying the best of health & sparking on all six just the same as I am over here as well as can be expected but the spirits are at a low ebb after the blow of losing Dad. he was a great Pal & Father to us all & I tell you Dot I will miss his smiling face more than anyone will ever know. All the others will have got over it by the time I get back, all but Mum & I but I think that I can take it on the chin for her sake what do you think. 

I must thank you for telling me all about his sickness but Lil (God bless her) sent me a cable telling me that he had passed away so all the letters that came after was not so hard to take but by the way that Lil spoke in her letter she was not going to tell me until I got home but I am glad that she did as it would have been worse then than it is now, what do you think. A funny thing I received her letter the same day as I did yours but as usual I had to open hers first & yours next so they both came together but as I said before I will miss him a lot. There will be no more games of crib & no more football matches with him like there used to be & no more tug of war contests with him but never mind I suppose we all have got to face it some time or other it is something that we all cannot miss & when it comes my turn I will know that he will be waiting for me there with all the Aunties & Uncles that have gone before him. The only thing is that I hope that Mum gets over it alright. I only wish that I had been along side of her when it happenned as I know that is what Dad would have liked more than anything in the world but god willed it that it must happen while I am away so I hope that Lil took my place with her like I know that she would as she knows that it would be my wish that she did. 

How did your Dad take it? O.K. I hope, as they thought a lot of one another in fact they all did for that matter, but they seemed to be different to the others somehow what do you think & Uncle George & Aunt Polly & Lizzie. I hope they are all O.K. but tell Dad from me to take the greatest of care of himself & now with that part over I think that I had better get on to some news thanking you once again for all you have done although I know that you do not want thanking for it. 

Now Dot what is this I see in your letter that you have been on the sick list. That is not right, look come over here in the desert with me & I bet you will not get sick again. All I can get here are a few wog sores I think had better explain that no matter when you knock a piece of skin off your hands they seem to fester & no matter how you look after them you cannot heal them I think that it must be caused through the snad & flies but the climate is wonderful it is supposed to be winter here now but through the day all I wear is a singlet & shorts sometimes no singlet but at night that is the time that you want the clothes on for it gets like an ice box towards morning & is it cold, I'll say. A cold day in Melbourne has nothing on the nights here & you say to take care of myself now I ask you did you ever see a Smith that did not take care of themselves if not here is one that will & I don't mean maybe so don't worry over that part but leave it to me. You know what Lord Haw Haw said about us in Tobruk He said that we were 20 ft under & still digging well I am still the same, can't get low enough in the ground when his planes come humming around which is not very often now thanks to the boys in the air. The only time we hear them now is at night. They are  not game to come out in the daylight they have got the wind up properlky so don't worry over me not taking care of myself when I know that Lil & the kiddies & also all you down home are praying for my safety how can I do anything else.

And so you have met that big son of mine & you do not know just who he is like. Well Dot I can tell you & I have not seen him for 2 years.  When I left home he was getting more like Dad every day but of course he can alter as he gets older & by the way you speak he must be but if he only follows in his footsteps I will be pleased & grow up the man his Grandad was, that is all I want & I think that he will as he promised me that he would look after his Mum & sisters until I got back & by the way that Lil writes I think that he is doing it now that he is out of the army.

Well Dear you say that dog & horse racing is being cut down well it is about time for by the A.I.F. News that we get over here with all the latest news from home there seems to be a lot that could be doing something to help win this war other than visiting those places & the same goes for the football as well.  When one sits & reads about the players the same names that was playing before the war started & still going & younger men than me by far it makes one sit & think if they have any conscience at all or are they just sitting back & waiting or trying to get as much money as they can while others are protecting them.   I do not mean those that are doing their bit in the munitions or any other work but those that arejust waiting for the call up instead of hopping in and doing it will not do any harm if they were to cut them out all together now would it & as regards the beer question well that has gone beyond me for their is not any Aussie beer to be had by us boys over here.  All that we can buy if we want it is Yankee beer or local & the yankee costs 2/3 per bottle & the local costs 1/6 per bottle.  So the only thing to do is to go without.  If it was Aussie that you could get it would be O.K.  then you would know that the money was going home again.   But I think that the Canadians and the Yanks are getting enough now & the same goes for the wogs.  So myself;  well beer & I have had a falling out for some time past in fact for over 12 months now for that reason so it won't hurt those at home to go without now. Well Pal since starting this letter darkness overtook me so I had to leave it until today 5‑4‑42 so I had better get going if I want to try & catch the mail so here I go.

Just get an earful of this the time is 10:30 a.m. & one of my mates has just bought me over a big mugful of cocoa & is it any good (I'll say) some of mutual stores all the way from Melbourne & am I going to town on it.  Well I will leave that to you to think what I would be doing with it, the only thing is that I have got to eat army biscuits with it & that is not too good but my mate has a good name for them, Desert Creams, all you have got to do is to close your eyes & you think that you are eating bricks they're that hard, but still why growl, they are better that having none at all, what do you think.  The only thing that worries me is that I don't break my plate on them. 

Now Dot you say that young Alex is in tp all the mischief about the place, tell you what, get him some Desert Creams & see if they will keep him quiet.  I'll bet they will, but never mind he is better like that than being sick & regards that offer for that air raid shelter.   I am afraid that you will have to contact my mate Stan as he has been lucky enough to be taken home with the Commanding Officer as Batman driver the reason is that he has been driving him for the past 18 months, not only that his wife has been very sick she has been operated on twice for her spine and the officer knows all about her so he got permission to take him with him.  So as I was saying you had better get in touch with him & get him to do it for the war may be over by the time I get home & you won't want it so that will let me out in fact I think that you should try & get in touch with him.  He is a great scout.  He was just like a brother to me & I miss him a lot I can tell you although I still have Tom here with me but Stan was different somehow.  If I wanted any advice  would go to him & he would do the same to me that is how him & I got along over here together all through everything from the start & then home he goes, but good luck to him as he deserves it for if his poor wife has what I think she has he will be needed there.  Here is his address Dot, his private one I mean,  Mr S BIGGINS c/o Mr J BIGGINS (Northfield) 16 Elizabeth St., Malvern SE4, Melbourne.  That is the address that he gave me so if you was to get in touch with his father he would be able to tell him all about him. I don't want you to think that you are a stranger to him because you are not as I have shown your snap to him, in fact I have read your letters out to him so do try & contact him for my sake & he will be able to tell you all about me over here he may take a walk into the dugout & ask for you as he knows that you spend a lot of time there.  If he does just tell him to fix the shelter & save me doing it O.K.  

Well old dear (that sounds like the lady with the shawl that used to follow Richmond HA HA) this Rats of Tobruk question.  Let us forget all about it & the (MAF) as well.   I did not mean that we would be forgotten by our loved ones but by the heads of the country as they don't worry as long as there hides are safe that is all they want & the rats part of it,  well if you see Stan Ask him what he thinks about it & he will tell you as his views is the same as mine.  

Oh By the By i have sent you a book that is being printed by the government called Soldiering On. it deals with the war at home & in the M.E. it is not much Dot but love the giver just the same.   Well old Pal I think that I have come to the end of my tether as regards news so I will close thanking you for all those kind words & everything you have done for me in my sad loss.  They cheered me up a lot & made it a bit easier for me to bear I can tell you so give my love to Mum & Dad & my regards to all in Williamstown & tell them that I will do as you say take care of myself never fear & wish them all a Merry Xmas & a Happy New Year for me, not forgetting Ern, Paula & wee Alex, so I will say Cheerio until next time, 

I remain your Cousin Bill 
P.S.   Remember me to Uncle George & family & give them all the compliments of the season for me & give Alex a big hug for me & tell him that I hope to see him soon as this strife is over so Cheerio once again,   Bill
Give these to Alex XXXXXX Mum & Dad XXXX thanks a lot for the photo of the dugout I think you you are the one up."

He arrived back in Melbourne on 25/02/1943 after the battle for El Alamein.       On 16/07/1943 he was given a 'B' medical rating which classed him as fit for only restricted duty and so he was assigned to 2nd Aust Corps which at the time was in Ravenshoe or Ravenswood on the Atherton Tablelands. On 09/03/1944 he was discharged after a total of 1209 days service of which 832 days were spent on active service abroad.

His was awarded the 1939/45 Star, the Africa Star with 8th Army Clasp, the Defence Medal, the War Medal and the Australia Service Medal.

On returning to Melbourne he found his only son Billy had also joined up and so went in to Vic Barracks where he kicked up a "helluva stink" in an effort to get him out. By that time however Billy was somewhere in the Owen Stanley Ranges in Papua New Guinea. Bill was convinced to leave him in.

His first job after his discharge was as a truck driver with Yellow Express Carriers Ltd. He later worked as a wharfie.


Of course his time as a soldier wasn't the only thing that defined his life and like most men of his generation he didn't talk much of his time away.  I do recall a story he told about when he finally did get told that he would be returning from the Middle East and how he went into a tent to tell the cook the good news only to find that he had committed suicide.    In reading these letters again I wonder if this was the same bloke who had moaned and groaned and joked about the food with Grandad.