Hometown Stuff

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Return of the Incredible Adventure of DadB and the Unbelievable Robot

Ah, is it only four years since I regaled you with the Amazingly Bungled Communication Methods used by my mobile phone provider? Ah, yes, looking at The Incredible Adventure of DadB and the Unbelievable Robot I see it is!

In recent weeks I have had calls come in from an unknown number. I don't answer those. The number has already gained its five minutes of internet fame at, for example, Whocallsme.com

The calls come on my mobile around 6-6.30pm which fits the profile described in this link Telegraph.com.au November 18, 2011- remember the report about how telemarketers in India are told "Australia is the world's 'dumbest continent' where people 'drink constantly' and are 'quite racist'". Hang on, they are calling us racist? Isn't it time the world recognised that non-Anglos are capable of racism?

Well, back to business. As you see in my first post on the matter, I complained to Optus who said it wasn't their fault, its a contractor! The legal term is "servant or agent" so it remains their problem. I look forward to conversing with them when I close my account.

Friday, October 01, 2010

National Motor Museum, Birdwood

I did the oldie thing and took a country bus out into the hills to Birdwood, formerly Blumberg (we changed the name in WW1. Aussie boys with German names were allowed to die for Britain, but they could not come from towns with German names). The bus service runs between Mt Torrens, and Modbury Interchange in the outer suburbs. Birdwood costs around $6 one way, less for concession. It's about 35 min by the short route and a little over an hour for the runs that take in a few extra towns. And excuse me if I remind you that you can click images for enlarged views.

En route to Birdwood
Of the few passengers on board, four were for Birdwood and I saw three in the museum. The National Motor Museum is in fact a worthwhile place to visit, and it marks the end of the Bay to Birdwood classic car run. The town itself is an attraction in its own right.

Blumberg Hotel
The Blumberg Hotel is a classic Aussie pub, with terrace lace verandahs. It's distinctive in having a vintage truck getting tossed out for getting too rowdy in the bar.

Pflaum's Mill
I first visited here in the 'sixties when most of the complex was housed in or near this old mill. Then it had a lot of curios, a few vehicles and even a biplane, now residing elsewhere.

The Motor Museum entrance
The motor Museum entrance is to the rear of the mill - the bus actually stops in the car-park. The Museum currently charges $9 for adult admission.

WM Holden Racer
A short way inside this WM Holden racer caught my eye. The racer began as a 1952 UK-built Cooper Bristol CB/1/52. It raced in the Aussie Grand Prix before getting a DOHC Holden engine in 1956. Two years later it got a new chassis and was recognised as the WM Holden Special. It got a Corvette engine in 1963 but apparently ended its racing life.

Bugatti 35B
Another racer, the classic 1927 Bugatti Type 35B, which I consider appealing and aesthetic, and will accept any donations of one for my collection which presently numbers zero. A Grand Prix winner in the '20s and '30s, it also had prototypical "mag wheels", one-piece cast alloy wheels and brake drums.

Honda Civic
From the sublime to the Civic. I used to have one of these, the same colour but not held together with paper and plastic. 1974 Honda Civic, whose owner Bethany Alldridge was apparently passionate about causes and decorated her car with stickers.

Heavy metal
Some heavy metal.A 1944 Ford bus at left, then a 1960 Reo C332 tipper which worked for 40 years on country dirt roads; a 1926 Garford double-decker bus which operated in Adelaide; and a 1934 Leyland Metz got from England, who only used it during the German blitz. Fire service recruits were sent up the ladder and, if they got dizzy, they failed the entry test.

Lightburn Zeta
The 1963 Lightburn Zeta; 363 were built from '63 to '68. They faced competition from similarly priced VWs and Minis, both of which looked a bit less as if they'd been designed for - or by - Kermit the Frog.

1923 Ford
1923 Ford T "station wagon", a US term for vehicles transporting passengers and luggage to and from railway stations. Behind it is a classier 1910 Daimler Landaulette.

FJ Holden
On to the legendary stuff, the 1956 Holden FJ sedan, built in Australia by the former Holden saddlery company. Holdens became a part of General Motors in 1931, and thereafter were referred to as General Motors Holdens or simply GMH. The FX and FJ models are Aussie icons.

Holden FC Special
On to 1958, and the Holden FC Special Station Wagon. At the time, half the cars sold in Australia were Holdens. I know you are dying to hear that the poster is a 1954 Jantzen billboard. Billboards thrived in the 1950s as car ownership grew. With television, and tighter regulation of roadside kitsch, they faded from popularity.

1995 Holden VR rally
A giant leap to 1995. A factory prepared Holden VR Commodore which, after 19 days and 20,000 km, won the 1995 Mobil 1 Around Australia Rally.

Of course, the world is divided in many ways, and not least between General Motors zealots and Ford fanatics. One of the hot cars of my youth was the Ford Falcon GT , which appeared in 1967. The 1971 version was the XY Falcon GTHO Phase 3. They were intended to race in a class based on family sedans but of course, that implied some families drove them. A 1972 headline, "160 mph Supercars", and public pressure, led to no Phase 4 being built.

1952-61 Vanguard Overlander
Something a little different but very Aussie, a rather unique 1952/1964 Vanguard "Overland". Two brothers, having done an outback trip in a 1928 Chrysler in 1962, decided to update. They got a 1952 Vanguard panel van (see inset) for $150. It was so rusted, they built their own body for it. The van has been all over the country, east, west, north and south, and through the middle.

1981 DeLorean
Back to the Future; the 1981 DeLorean DMC12 Coupe. Built in Northern Ireland for the North American market, about 9200 were produced from 1981 to late 1982. The body consists of unpainted stainless steel panels. The company closed in late 1982 due to financial problems.

1988 Giocattolo
Paul Halstead, coming from the computer industry, wanted to build a super-car, which shows IT people can be comfortable away from a keyboard. His 1988 Giocattolo Group B Coupe, shown here, was one of 11 built, selling between $92,000 and $96,000 each. It was capable of 241 kph, based on the Alfasud Sprint with a 5 lit. Holden V8 engine.

1899 Shearer
Not all Aussie cars are sleek and sexy, but this one's an achiever. This is the oldest driveable Australian-built vehicle, the 1899 Shearer steam carriage. It was built by a farm machinery manufacturer in Mannum. The following year it made the 150 km return run from Mannum to Adelaide and back.

Cross-Australia Talbot
Also not pretty, but gutsy, the first car to cross Australia was this Talbot driven by Henry Dutton and Murray Aunger. They reached Darwin in August 1908 at the end of a 51 day trip from Adelaide across deserts, creeks and rivers, and braving a bushfire. They travelled where there were no roads or bridges. You'll note it has a couple of spare tyres, still good practice today, and an axe on one side.

Holden-eating rock
Wish I could tell you more about this sculpture. It seems to be our answer to Fremont, Seattle's Volkswagen-eating bridge troll, but I can't seem to identify the artist. The victim is an FX-model Holden.

Lobethal area
After I dragged myself away from the museum, I grabbed lunch at a local bakery - there are some nice places to eat in Birdwood - and got the bus home. The mini-bus took the longer route (over an hour) home, and here is somewhere past Lobethal (another German village!)

Adelaide Hills
And finally another scene for overseas viewers. Again en route home, in the Adelaide Hills a little after the previous shot. Nice to see some green, thanks to a wet winter.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mmmm, Canberra in Winter!

My first ever visits to Canberra with my dad were in winter, and I always thought of it as like Antarctica. I have to say, it's no fun in the peak of summer either. But it's still one of my favourite places. This trip was winter. I'm not a hot weather person.

The family pics (apart from a couple for my non-Facebook friends) are in my FB albums. So apart from a few samples, this is the boy-toy part of the trip. The one for mainly history geeks.

Well, for starters, Canberra has a Telstra Tower. That's no big deal. Every city has one, or wants one because the neighbours all have them. But I wanted to try out the zoom on my new camera (an Olympus SP590UZ, if it matters to anyone). I took the shots at max resolution, some of them up to 5mb big and much larger than I need for postcard prints, so I better find out how to fix that.

Telstra Tower, Black Mountain, ACT
Here's Lake Gininderra, an artificial lake adjacent to the major shopping centre at Belconnen.

Lake Gininderra
OK, onto the history geek stuff. I had a quick look around the Australian War Memorial to catch up on changes. Here's the shot everyone takes of the main building.

Mostly I just wanted to have lunch with the family ;) and look at the new aircraft exhibits, but for anyone interested we'll do a little ANZAC stuff. And here we are at the very beginning of the ANZAC tradition - Gallipoli, defended by soldiers in uniforms like this;-

Johnny Turk
The men from Britain and the Dominions came ashore to invade Turkey itself. They could hardly have expected the Turks to take that lying down, and they didn't. It was a bloodbath, and the Empire didn't get very far at all.

Like the song (by Eric Bogle, a Scot living in Oz) says, "Johnny Turk, he was waiting. He'd primed himself well ... and in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell, nearly blew us clean back to Australia". (See and hear it on YouTube. It's one of my favourite modern Aussie folk songs. My dad hated "Waltzing Matilda", it was played during the war everywhere Aussies went overseas, on the assumption a song about a failed and suicidal sheep thief was our national anthem.)

The great ANZAC legend has its smaller legends. One is about an Irish trade unionist (back then, it was the same as "Bolshevik") who deserted his ship in Australia, changed his name from Kirkpatrick to Simpson and went ashore at Gallipoli. He went unarmed. For three weeks, he brought back wounded soldiers on the back of a donkey, until a Turkish machine gunner got him. Those three weeks and 300 rescued men made him a true-blue, dinky-di icon. And earned him a statue outside the War Memorial. Wonder what he'd have said? "Aw, Jesus, mate!", possibly.

Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick
When it was obvious that the landings were a wasteful disaster, the troops were pulled out. Mostly they moved at night when nobody was looking. Aussies, being cunning bastards who could do anything with a bit of fence-wire, set up their Lee-Enfields with string round the triggers and a couple of mess tins dripping water into each other. This sent .303 bullets whizzing towards the Turks at random, to give the impression that the trenches were still occupied. The Aussies weren't madly suicidal - they also knocked together periscopes and frames to fire their rifles from below the sandbags. (See this link.)

.303 Enfield
And now, as well as our own memorials, we have one to the enemy - Kemal Ataturk - also in Canberra. And Turkey has a memorial to our dead, on its shore, as well. Both memorials contain the words of Ataturk himself, written in 1934 by, it's worth noting, the leader of an Islamic country, addressed to its invaders;

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
"You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
"You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Another war - 1939 to 1945 - and Aussies improvised again. Or at least, some bloke named Owen did, but the government didn't believe in sub-machine guns, so he joined the army instead. Then someone found his prototype, and he got a new and possibly safer job. According to Wikipedia:-

"Sten and Thompson submachine guns were used as benchmarks. As part of the testing, all of the guns were immersed in mud and covered with sand to simulate the harshest environments in which they would be used. The Owen was the only gun that still operated after the treatment. Although the test showed the Owen's capability, the army could not decide on a calibre ... (finally) the army ordered the 9 mm variant...

"During the gun's life, its reliability earned it the nickname "Digger's Darling" by Australian troops and it was rumoured to be highly favoured by American troops."

And here's the ugly looking weapon that could be buried in mud and sand, and still fire.

Owen carbine
My main interest was a new exhibition (for me), an audio-visual presentation accompanying the displays of restored WW1 aircraft. It was a quality presentation, but I can't show it to you! Here are some of the period aircraft in the hall, though.

This 1917 vintage Albatros DVa was shot down by an Australian reconnaissance aircraft, an RE.8, in an encounter in December that year. The 3 Sqn. aircraft was directing artillery when attacked by six of these fighters, believed to be from Royal Prussian Jasta 29 based at Bellincamp. The RE.8 defended itself, shooting down one of the fighters. It was joined by another RE.8, and when a third appeared, the German fighters broke off.

One of the newcomers later reported the original RE.8 seemed to be flying normally, but it never came home. It was later found near-intact, so well trimmed that it landed itself. Both crew had been killed by a single German bullet.

There's no RE.8 in the collection, unfortunately, just this rather nice scale model. Looks clumsy, doesn't it? But three of them obviously discouraged six Albatros fighters.

Harry Tate
Much more high-tech was the SE.5a fighter. For one thing it did away with the rotary engines of the time which had such high torque that aircraft like the Sopwith Camel were labelled "Cadet Killers". The SE5 was an aircraft capable of climbing to Zeppelin altitudes to intercept them, if briefly.

The Avro 504 served from WW1 with the Australian Flying Corps and later RAAF. This one is serialled A3-4, a post-WW1 serial. I first saw it in 2002 up on a jig at the Treloar Annex, under restoration.

Avro 504

The DH.9 was a WW1 aircraft, but the AWM example is a post-war aircraft, and an almost-ignored legend. Aviation buffs remember the 1919 air race won by Ross and Keith Smith in their Vickers Vimy (which now stands on display at Adelaide International Airport). The DH.9 entered by the Parer and MacIntosh crew didn't even take off until after the Vimy had won the race, and, depending on your source, took 206 or 208 days to reach Australia, after what one source described as an "all but incomprehensible" series of misadventures. It lay forgotten in a hangar - and once, a car crashed through the hangar wall and broke poor old G-EAQM up a little.

What was special is that this was the first single engined aircraft to fly between England and Australia, and the first to carry freight - a bottle of "PD" Scotch whisky! (How could I not acknowledge that historic first!)

And here we are in a nearby gallery, with Avro Lancaster 'G-George'. My dad was a gunner on one of these. Two of his great-grandkids, Ainsley and Sophie, are standing beside it. Sophie is having a good look, because she knows the story.

Great Grandpa's plane

By an odd coincidence, as I flew out of Adelaide on this trip, I struck up a conversation with an elderly couple I didn't recognise, until the gent said he was off to Canberra for a 460 Sqn. reunion. I recognised the squadron - a bomber unit in the UK - and mentioned my dad was in 514 Sqn. He immediately named my dad's pilot, and my dad, "Sam", and the penny dropped. He and my dad had done basic training together before leaving for England. Small world.

Great-Grandpa would have probably been proud if he was still here.
We went out for pizza the night before I left. Like I said, Canberra can get chilly.

Night scene

Monday, June 14, 2010

Up the country - May-June 2010

On May 30 a friend and I went up to the Barossa Valley, through Nuriootpa to a town named after his home, Greenock, in Scotland. Apparently, the Scottish one is pronounced the way its spelled, "Green ock". The Aussie one is pronounced "Grennock". Bet you didn't know that!

The main agenda was to see Lincoln Nitschke's Aviation Museum. We were early so we managed to find a nice pub with an open fireplace (it's getting chilly this time of year), the Greenock Hotel (there's no surprise there!).

Greenock Hotel dining room bar
I was impressed. It was a dinkum Aussie pub with the wide verandah to the kerb, and a steady stream of local clients, and (as you see above) a nice polished wood bar in the dining room. The fire was blazing, and the food was good solid country serves, not the woossy-snob city stuff. There was even a small library of novels next to the fire - and it had works of popular authors, too - which could persuade me to sit there all afternoon sipping local wines and reading by the fire.

All the same we pressed on to the museum after lunch. The quarters were cramped, but there were plenty of aircraft, components, models and memorabilia not commonly available. The collection was helped by a twist of history. After WW2, a lot of military aircraft were sold for a song, about $10 for a twin-engine trainer minus engines, and about $5 extra with.

The Avro Ansons from a local training squadron were popular. Farmers lopped the wings off and towed them home, to salvage bolts and metal fittings, and put the hulk out for a chicken coop. The Nitschke collection has two Anson airframes, one with skin and one without, plus an Anson cockpit section. What it has which I have not seen elsewhere is a near complete DeHavilland Mosquito fighter, lacking only the wings outboard of the engines, plus another nose section of a bomber version.

Outside, Lincoln has an English Electric Canberra jet bomber parked (one which came here from England, not the Aussie-built version) and alongside it, what looks like a Mustang Mk22 in markings of the RAAF squadron once based at Mallala. The RAAF base is now a motor-sports track.

Replica Mustang
It's not a real bird, though. It was scratch-built as a private project. Other sheds house a small collection of classic farm vehicles and 1940s-50s trucks. Here's the International T9 Crawler tractor. I think I had a Matchbox bulldozer like this!

International T9

Moving right along, last Sunday, 13 June, I visited - or re-visited - Clare, about 100 km miles north, with old mate Peter, and his old mate Mark. We took a break halfway at the Grasshopper Roadhouse, Tarlee,

Grasshopper Roadhouse, Tarlee
When dad was retired up at Snowtown, I'd stop there for a break, with the kids, whenever we drove up to visit. After that, we pressed on through Clare and out north, onto dirt roads through Hilltown. When we reached these trees flanking the road, we figured we were "home". Peter and I, and others, spent a lot of time up here in the 1960s and '70s.

Gum trees
What had changed, not that it's very clear in this shot, is the giant wind-turbine generators around the horizon from north to west. Peter's obviously photographing them.

Country road
We headed across the Camel Hump Range and doubled back to the Camel Hump itself, seen on the right of this shot.

The Camel Hump Range
There's Peter and Mark as we strolled the range. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s the area was haunted by UFOs, particularly around here. We learned a lot about social dynamics back then.

Peter and Mark
There were plenty of kangaroos around the area. Nice to tourists, but not to farmers.

From the range we looked down on the farm I first stayed at in 1968. Then it was owned by a very hospitable old couple who, after a short while, retired to the city. He was a WW1 veteran, and built the farm up himself.

The farmhouse itself has had the yard slighty revamped and appears still in good repair and occupied.

Back in Clare as evening fell, we decided to have dinner at the Bentley Hotel (not "Benley" as Wikipedia called it in the previous link), another great Aussie pub. Peter did his bit for the farmers, he ordered kangaroo steak.

Clare main street
That's the street at sundown, as it was getting cold. It's been 0ºC overnight there. Can't believe I used to camp out in the weather Clare threw at us!

Parafield fly-in, 29 March 2010

For my friends who are not on Facebook, here's a pictorial catch up. The Classic Jets Fighter Museum held its annual display at the end of March. Last time I went was, I think, when the Lockheed Lightning restoration was rolled out. That bird is now in prime static display condition.

Lockheed Lightning, Parafield, South Australia
This time their Bell P39 Airacobra was shown off. This was restored using a corroded wreck recovered from Papua-New Guinea, and the last time I saw this aircraft it was mostly just the lower part of the fuselage that had been saved from destruction by being part buried.

Funds raised from the display will support their next restoration, an F4U Corsair.

Australia used 22 Airacobras during WW2. This fly-in featured a few of its contemporaries. One of my favourites was the CAC CA-12 Boomerang, built using common components from the CAC Wirraway, a stumpy little fighter which seems to be all engine. This one even lives locally.

CA-12 Boomerang VH-XBL
The Wirraway began as the North American Texan / Harvard, with a few modifications (notably the D-shaped tail introduced on about the second Aussie-built aircraft, distinct from the triangular fin of the parent aircraft).

Wirraway VH-WIR
Wirraway over far end of Rwy 21 YPPF
For something based on a trainer, a Wirraway once shot down a Japanese Zero fighter. Its fighter cousin, the Boomerang, didn't get any.

There are a number of Mustang warbirds still flying in Australia, mostly the Australian-built CAC CA-18 Mk22 version. They regularly appear at air shows, but it was a nice change to see this colourful example of a North American P51D, US production number 45-11526, civil registration VH-FST, owned by a local man.

North American P51D
Classic trainer aircraft were well represented. The DeHavilland DH82 Tiger Moth, of course - I counted four. VH-ABL is the one nearest camera.

Tiger Moths
The DeHavilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk was a popular postwar trainer in Commonwealth air forces and later private ownership. This is VH-BSR, also one of four present, all in very different liveries.

DHC1 Chipmunk VH-BSR
Less common is the Boeing Stearman. There are a couple that reside locally, one in the classic blue fuselage and yellow wings of the US pre-war era, and this all yellow example, BoeingA75N1 registered VH-JUX in a US Navy scheme.

Stearman VH-JUX
Eastern bloc trainers are fairly common locally, mostly the Chinese-built Nanchang CJ-6, several of which provide warbird adventure flights from Goolwa, SA. The CJ-6 was present at the fly-in, but so was another aircraft also descended from the old Yak-18, the Russian Yakovlev Yak-52.

Yak 52 VH-RUZ
Its colourful cousin, the Yak-18T, VH-RUZ, is yet another of the classics living in the area.

And parked out on the boundary and looking sad were two jet warbirds, the Gloster Meteor F8, RAAF number A77-867, and the LiM-2, a Polish built trainer variant of the Russian Mig-15. They are both for sale, I hear through the grapevine.

Jets for sale