New Hebridean Loss Becomes Our Loss,Too!: Friday, 17th August, 1979

Alas! Our first international holiday together, concludes today.

Having donned the clothes that I had worn on our flights from Australia, I began to carry our suitcases upstairs to the first floor. Once there, there was the walk along the corridor that led to the hotel’s foyer. Leaving the suitcase there my job was to descend and repeat the process, this time with our second case. My third transferal of our remaining belongings also involved that of Tiki as her limp remained noticeably quite severe.

I sat her down on the lounge and placed her leg on an attractive, polished table, in the hope that this might ease the pain that emanated from her left knee. However, when the pair of chain-smokers arrived, I moved away. The couple had been on our cruise of the lagoon, a week ago.

When the time came for us to depart for the airport, I made sure that our suitcases were loaded on to the utility by personally handing them up to the native gentleman who stood in the rear of the vehicle.

Upon boarding the minibus, along with the smokers and others, it soon became evident that space was at a premium. So much so, that one woman complained about the lack of it and moved to sit in the aisle.

It was then that the large native driver offered her a seat near to him, only to have her nastily reply that she couldn’t be bothered. “I’m sorry I asked!”, he retorted.

Our vehicle ascended the rocky hill of dirt, for the last time, as far as we were concerned, and deposited us all at Port Vila’s airport at approximately twenty-five past five. I led Tiki to a seat, prior to taking care of the usual formalities. The official, behind the desk, neglected to charge me the two hundred New Hebridean francs in tax upon our departure, and I was certainly in no mood to draw his attention to the oversight.

As dawn was breaking, at six o’clock, a Fokker Friendship departed, also bound for Noumea. Half an hour later our 737 twin-engined aeroplane, that bore the livery of ‘Air Nauru’, did likewise, with us seated about half of the way along, on its port side.

Our bags had not been searched to any degree, but a native man who appeared to possess a square hand, did move a metal detector about my body, as a woman did the same to Tiki.

Once aboard, Tiki occupied the seat by the window to my left while a native chap occupied the seat to my immediate right and next to the aisle. The pilot’s accent sounded as if he were an Australian. The hostesses, in their uniforms of yellow, served each of us with a plastic cup of weak orange cordial in addition to a sweet, wrapped in cellophane, that came to my aid as I sucked on it during our descent in to La Tontouta Airport, which is located some thirty-five miles to the north of New Caledonia’s capital and largest town, Noumea.

We obtained quite a clear view of that part of the island, which appeared to be mountainous while possessing a swampy coastal plain. The mountains could be described as generally being relatively barren in appearance with their coverage, at best, being scrubby and stunted.

Our flight had only just managed to arrive before that which had departed from Port Vila half an hour beforehand. The pilot, obviously aware that there was a couple of Aussies on board, had performed a sweeping turn of one hundred and eighty degrees, which provided us with an ample view of the small barren islands that lie just off the coast.

During our check-in we were allocated our seats for the considerably lengthier flight to Sydney. Owing to the fact that Tiki was finding it more difficult to bend her injured knee, we were afforded about a metre of space in which to stretch our legs aboard the considerably larger DC-10 of the French carrier, U.T.A.

We hadn’t been in the New Hebrides for long when we were informed, hopefully in jest, that the airlines initials were an acronym for ‘Unlikely To Arrive’. As if that hadn’t unnerved Tiki sufficiently, all DC-10s had been grounded globally, just a few months ago due to concerns in connection with their reliability.

Prior to inplaning, we had decided to wait until the queues had disappeared and only then walked through the gate and slowly made our way across the tarmac, a distance of perhaps two hundred metres. I supported Tiki as she struggled to climb up the front stairs of the aircraft only to then find that we virtually had to locate our seats without assistance.

The aeroplane ascended above the clouds and into the dazzling sunshine. The flight was to be a smooth experience and possessed a longevity of two hours and forty minutes.

A diminutive French steward. with dark hair, had somehow extracted my table from the right-hand side of my seat, whereas he poked a tray into the holes of Tiki’s to my left.

Breakfast consisted of a bowl of mixed fruit, followed by a serving of corn flakes, another of bacon and fairly watery scrambled egg, and a bread roll that would have given a rock a run for its money, a bun and a French fruit roll that was served in the shape of a discus. I literally ate the jams, namely orange marmalade and cherry, from the two, flat, small containers, with a spoon.

Despite what might appear to be a fairly scathing critique on my breakfast, I must say that I found it to be a satisfying one!

Afterwards, I helped to pass the time by looking through a copy of Britain’s broadsheet newspaper, ‘The Guardian’, which, in this instance, was dated as Wednesday, the fifteenth. Its headlines were dominated by the wild storm off the English county of Cornwall, that had claimed seventeen lives during the prestigious Fastnet Race. Yachts have to reach the rock of that name before returning to from whence they had come. Australia happened to win the race this year and in doing so, the Admiral’s Cup of yachting. In stating this, I in no way wish to detract from the gravity of the disaster.

A man, not far from us and shortly prior to the plane beginning its descent, took it upon himself to light a cigarette, in spite of the area in which we sat having been designated as being for non-smokers.

Sydney’s smog, despite us not being in the best position to observe it, appeared to be ashamedly dense.

As we had moved through the cabin en route to the exit we passed through an area where the stench of body odour was so intense that, should we have been seated in that vicinage, we would most assuredly have been induced to vomit!

I was the last person to remove suitcases from our allotted roundabout. “Mum” awaited our exit from customs, at approximately 11.30 a.m., and, as she drove us home, complained of how she had not been able to park her yellow ‘Rover’ in our driveway because birds had eaten purple berries from three of our trees and then proceeded to deposit their similarly coloured droppings on her car.

This afternoon, I walked to the bank where I attempted to exchange our remaining four hundred New Hebridean francs for some usable notes, only to be informed that because the French-British condominium is due to receive its independence next year, here, they are tantamount to being worthless.

It would appear that the New Hebridean official’s loss at the airport, this morning, has become our loss, too!

 

‘Some People’: Tuesday, 12th January, 1988

Although I didn’t awake until eight minutes to eight, I remained in bed, as Tiki had wanted to serve me with breakfast there. She placed the following on my four halves of toast: Vegemite, Sunny Cane’s golden syrup, IXL’s melon and lime conserve, and Home Brand’s pure Australian honey.

Steve Blanda read the ‘2WS News’ at eight o’clock, prior to Bill Woods’ presentation the news in sport. A man of twenty-three was to appear in court, in Kogarah, this morning charged with his alleged murder of a woman of nineteen years. She was allegedly stabbed twenty-two times by her attacker, in the early hours of yesterday morning, at the rear of her home in Penshurst.

A baby girl drowned yesterday, in the suburb of Summer Hill, whilst allegedly in the care of her babysitter, who is now being treated for shock. The woman has claimed that she left three children in a bathtub for just a few minutes, however, when she returned the baby was floating face down.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, has surpassed the tenure of Andrew Fisher to become the Labor Party’s representative who had held the position for the longest time. Only the Conservatives’ (Sir) Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser have held the title for lengthier periods.

Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova are full of praise for the new stadium of tennis, in Melbourne. They are in agreement that it is the world’s finest such venue.

Russia is to compete at this year’s Olympic Games, in Seoul.

Between 8.09 and 8.13, I heard Cliff Richard’s latest single, Some People, on “Steve Matters’ Breakfast Show” that is also on 2WS.

Tiki asked me to accompany her to the shops, in our hunt for groceries. Upon our return, she began to express the feeling that she was not appreciated when it is considered just how hard she works. Then it was time for her to remind me, yet again, of how much she despises her job; for which she departed at twenty-five minutes to one.

Later, I began to type more of my ‘book’. Continuing on from where I had ceased yesterday. This I did for much of the afternoon, covering that period from the first to the eighth of October, 1977.

I did take a break, in order to purchase a copy of ‘The Sun’ newspaper at a cost of forty cents. Four lamb loin chops ($2.73) and five hundred and sixty grams of topside mince cost two dollars and seventy-nine cents. The chops, disappointingly, were not tender when we did our best to consume them at dinner.

A gusty nor-easterly breeze kept the air quite fresh and the temperature bearable. Sydney’s Observatory Hill recorded a range of twenty-two to twenty-eight degrees Celsius, with the maximum being two above the seasonal average. Liverpool, a south-western suburb, experienced a range of 19-31, while in Richmond, in the north-west, it varied between 19 and 32. Katoomba (20-28), a popular town with tourists, in the picturesque Blue Mountains and only about eighty kilometres from the centre of Sydney, was almost as mild as Observatory Hill.

Sydney’s pollution was classified as being in the medium range at twenty-eight;  but, please, don’t ask me to explain this!

Mark Warren, at 6.26 p.m. on Channel Nine, noted that the highest maxima in the state had been forty-four degrees at Wilcannia, and the lowest minima had been recorded at Bathurst where the mercury had dipped to eleven. However, this latter claim was to be disputed an hour later by the ABC’s presenter of the weather, Mike Bailey, on Channel Two, when he stated that the lowest temperature recorded had been that of twelve degrees, at Taralga. He added that in the twenty-four hours to 9.00 a.m., Bega had recorded twelve millimetres of rain and in the six hours after that, Murwillumbah received one.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, has reportedly stated that disaster will follow should his programme of reforms be halted. He claims that should his drive to restructure the Soviet Union succeed, the Union would become the world’s primary democracy.

The International Olympic Committee has declined to comment on North Korea’s announcement that it will not compete in the Summer Olympics, in Seoul, unless it is given the status of co-host.

Two weeks after having been officially recognised as being the world’s oldest person, Florence Knapp, an American, died yesterday at the age of one hundred and fourteen. Born on the tenth of October, 1873, Florence had lived for one hundred and ten years in her parents’ farmhouse in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Her successor to the title is Maren Torp, a Norwegian, who is one hundred and eleven.

A survey, conducted by the Australian National University, has reportedly shown that Australians’ religious beliefs have not changed significantly since 1966. Eighty-two per cent believe in God, while sixty per cent believe that there is a heaven, thirty-seven per cent, a devil, and thirty-seven per cent, a hell. However, the number of believers conflicts with that of those who are actually attending church.

More than two hundred police, in eastern Sicily, have reportedly staged a number of raids at dawn after magistrates ordered that sixty-six alleged gangsters be arrested in connection to the scores of killings since 1979, reportedly at the hands of the Mafia.

A new breed of actors and actresses, it is said, are soon to replace the so-called Brat Pack of 1987. Those of whom it is believed will be toppled are Judd Nelson, Matt Dillon, Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe and, Bruce Willis’s new wife, Demi Moore. Their touted replacements are said to be Kiefer Sutherland, River Phoenix, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Downey, Esai Morales, Holly Hunter, James Spader, Elizabeth Pena, Jami Gertz, Ione Sky, Martha Plimpton and Jennifer Grey, who is the daughter of the famed star of ‘Cabaret’, Joel Grey.

Channel Seven is televising competition in the Australian Open of tennis from Flinders Park, in Melbourne. Players who are listed to compete include Stefan Edberg, Pat Cash — who has drawn the ire of anti-Apartheid demonstrators and has consequently had black balls thrown on to the court during matches in which he is involved — Joakim Nystrom, David Pate, Martina Navratilova, Henri Laconte, Steffi Graf, Wendy Turnbull and Hana Mandlikova.

The list of commentators includes John Alexander, Sue Barker, Evonne Cawley, John Barrett, Peter Landy, Allan Stone, Dixie Marshall and Garry Wilkinson.

Channel Seven’s “News And Weather” screens between 6.00 and 6.45 and is delivered by the tall Ross Symonds, with Susie Stenmark then presenting the report on the weather. “Sports Today”, occupies the remaining fifteen minutes of that hour and is presented by Garry Wilkinson.

The following half an hour, also on Channel Seven, is occupied by the investigative programme, “Terry Willessee Tonight”, in which the host is assisted by the reporters: Maurice Parker, Emily Booker, Jim Maher and Alex Smith.

The index of the Dow Jones on Wall Street closed this morning (in Sydney) on 1,928.55 points, which is a fall of 16.58, on a relatively light volume of one hundred and sixty-four million shares.

Freddie Mercury, the leading singer in the band, Queen, has reportedly followed the lead of the fellow rocker, David Bowie and sought to be tested for A.I.D.S. Freddie, 41, who was born as Farrokh Bulsara on the African island of Zanzibar, it is claimed, was compelled to seek to be tested after a friend died from the disease.

“Sole Manure”: Saturday, 1st October, 1977

It has been a humid day with a maximum temperature of twenty-seven degrees Celsius. This afternoon we transported Tiki’s birthday cake to Bernardi’s Restaurant, which is located on the Prince’s Highway at Kirrawee. The owner gave her the choice of having the party inside the restaurant proper or ‘outside’ in the enclosed patio. At first she opted for the former, but I helped to change her mind. She wrote out the seating arrangements on a brown paper bag and left them with the gentleman.

“Belmura Lad”, trained by Bart Cummings, won the A.J.C. Derby, which was run at Randwick Racecourse this afternoon. The Epsom Handicap appeared on the same card and was won, in record time, by the imported English grey, “Raffindale”, trained and ridden respectively by the South Australian combination of David Whitney and John Letts.

My sisters drew our attention to three large privet trees, which are growing in our backyard, and, to our complete surprise, a fully matured macadamia! Its leaves are particularly spiky.

We sat in the kitchen and consumed tea and biscuits while Tiki began to open her presents. In her excitement she knocked over her cup and I instinctively tried to arrest the hot, flowing liquid with my hands.

Channel Seven’s News, at 6.00 p.m., was read by Barry Freedman, and, it was during “The Muppet Show”, which followed, that we dressed for the party. Tiki and her mother had led me to believe that her new dress was purple, but it is, in fact a black one with tiers and comes with a pink artificial rose attached.

We arrived at the restaurant by seven o’clock. I began the night by consuming two glasses of Bacardi and coke while Tiki had two gin and orange. Everyone was asked to sign a twenty-first autograph book.

As we were perusing the menu, Tiki yelled out to everyone that I had referred to sole manierre as “sole manure”. We both ordered the delicious seafood pancake for entree, and, for the main course, a huge Neptune platter to share. It came with lobster, oysters, calamari, prawn cutlets and scallops, and made us the envy of the others.

Those seated near to us helped us to eat it but, even then, it was necessary to call upon guests seated beyond them to finish what still remained. Of course, we still found room to accommodate dessert and for this we selected crepe suzette for two. In all, we each consumed approximately six glasses of asti spumante. Most of the others preferred white burgundy.

The band, and a group of young people, sang “21 Today” to Tiki, before the band dedicated “Killing Me Softly With His Song” to her.

‘Hardie-Ferodo 1000’: Sunday, 2nd October, 1977

I watched short periods of the ‘Hardie-Ferodo 1000’, which was telecast live via Channel Seven, from the demanding Mount Panorama circuit near Bathurst. The eventual winners, Allan Moffat and Jacky Ickx, were leading. Allan Moffat is an Australian racing driver who was born in Canada and the Belgian, Jacky Ickz, formerly drove at the level of Formula One.

Two years ago, Tiki took me for a spin — almost the operative word — in our small sedan around this very circuit. At times I nearly pushed my imaginary brake pedal through the floor, especially when she traversed ‘The Top Of The Mountain’ and negotiated the resultant downhill ess-bends.

“Ask The Leyland Brothers”, at 5.30 p.m., transports the viewer to Carnarvon Gorge in central Queensland, before also having a segment on cicadas and another on the marble that is being extracted at Gundagai. We also began to watch the film, “Scorpio”, that bears the copyright of 1973 and features the veteran actor, Burt Lancaster, the French actor, Alain Delon, and Gayle Hunnicutt.

When I began to doze off at ten past nine, we decided that it was time to go to bed.

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