Sunday, 29 December 2013

Life & Bikes: The Spiritual Recharge.

Joni Mitchell wrote Woodstock about the incredible music festival held in 1969 in New York State. Crosby Stills and Nash recorded a version of it… after adding a line.

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon;
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden"

Do you know what the change was?

"We are billion year old carbon"

Last night I was on the Gold Coast at my old school mate Robert Fysh's 60th birthday. And as Debra is away in the bush for a few days visiting the rels, I rode the Yamaha down there and back. It was great to have been invited, Robert and I met in 1966 at Hendra High School. He and I were mad amateur astronomers and spent many nights on my front lawn with telescope and binoculars peering out into the darkened southern night skies. Magic!

We lost touch with each other for over 40 years, although fate had us bump into each other twice in that period. Once in 1981 at K Mart at Chermside and again in 1988 on a dirt track out the back of Samford when I came across Robert's broken down car. Jump start and away he went!

Happy Birthday Robert.. really pleased to be there with you and family and friends… felt special to be included!

Anyhow.. back to the theme. Riding home late last night in a small amount of misty rain listening to Joni Mitchell on the helmet stereo I came to realise how much I like being out there on the bike.. and as my old mate Motor Bill Windsor used to say.. "You need to get out of the city often to have a spiritual recharge."

A Spiritual Recharge.. yes.. that is what the country is to me. Taking the road less travelled, be that road a C bitumen road or a dirt one, the Australian bush possesses that magical ability that for me at least.. recharges my mind.. in a spiritual way!

And although I have seen a lot of the Australian bush through the windscreens of various 4 wheel drives.. there is nothing like being on a bike to take it all in. 

Rather than passing through the environment, one becomes part of the environment with the breeze, the smells and that feeling of being one with the bike.

So as the next "Big" birthday ahead is the Three Score Years and Ten…. I need to take more time out for the bike.

Time to….. "get myself back to the garden!"

On the road from Birdsville to Windorah 2011

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Ghosts of Christmas passed: Memories are sweet!

Merry Christmas folks. In this morning's emails was a magic little memory from good friend Greg Cary. He talks about a Christmas day of some 50 years ago. He arose at first light and there under the tree was his fort complete with Indians, soldiers and horses. He had been looking at this in the toyshop window for some time!

And it made me think.. 50 years ago.. can I remember Christmas Day?

I made myself a new cup of coffee with our new coffee machine (18 years worth of QANTAS frequent flyer points.. but that's another story) and sat down in the peace of my office…

Christmas 1963.. up early and there are the toys. Not one, not two but a bucket full. My father at 65 when I was 10 used to spoil me something terrible. His good friend Bill Rocheaix owned "Tim The Toy Man", a toy wholesaler on Petrie Terrace. Dad would order around (in today's money) $1000 worth of toys. I would hang a pillow slip on the end of my bed for Santa to put the toys in. But they wouldn't all fit. So they would be piled on the floor everywhere.

And on that Christmas Day in 1963, a couple of things stood out. Two battery operated police cars. They had a corded remote control, so they could go backwards and forwards and a steering wheel as well. This was a purely mechanical connection to the front wheels. Also were two plastic building block kits that would allow you to build houses. I really loved them.. and to build the White House, you needed two kits.. so two dad bought. And of course there was so much more.. cap guns, caps, holsters for the said cap guns and on it went…..

Now on Christmas Day dad used to visit the lonely men in hospital. (The wards were gender specific back then) We would leave around 8:00 Am and visit George Kallenicos's cafe at South Brisbane and he would buy lots of biscuits, chocolates and cigarettes. The Buffalo Lodge would donate around 20 quid for this (dad was the Grand Secretary) but he would chuck in another 30 quid and away we would go. All of the hospitals, including the then Mt Olivett Hospital for the incurably ill. (Terminal has such a harsh sound to it)

Once there he would ask the ward sister who wasn't likely to get any visitors and dad would seek these lonely men out. I was terrified of lifts then so I would run up the stairs at the hospitals and dad would meet me at the top. We worked our way around all of the hospitals and then a few "convalescent homes" on the way back to Clayfield.

On that morning back in 1963, the last home we visited was at Clayfield. Just near our house. An old WW1 digger was sitting on a chair on the front verandah and he watched as we walked up the front path. Dad walked up to him and said.. "Merry Christmas old man.. thank you for your service" I passed Dad the old leather bag he used every Christmas and from it he produced a packet of Rothmans and some Arnotts Biscuits. I think dad must have known him as they had a long (well for a 10 year old) talk about the Western Front.

Then the old man turned to me…. "Can you read and write son?"  "Yes I can" said I.

He then lifted a newspaper beside him and from under it he produced a Platignum Pen and Pencil set.

A fountain pen, a ball point and a propelling pencil. "Here lad, have these.. they were a gift to me but I cannot read or write".

Actually I suspect he had crook vision rather than a crook education!

Father said no.. but the old man persisted.

So Christmas Day 1963. Toys everywhere, a house filled with family, mother's week long of cooking results all  over the table. Out of town guests every Christmas too. (We have the Germans today) But the thing that I will always remember is this:

The smile on that old man's face as he handed me that pen and pencil set.

All of those toys.. but an old man's smile.. priceless!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Life: And so this is Christmas...

As I look at the 2013 calendar on my wall, I think about this past year. While we value every day on planet earth, 2013 isn't one of my favorite years. (I do have favorites.. 1965, 1969, 1972, 1975 etc.. another blog, another day) I guess the end of 2013 isn't good for the Holden workers either. PM Tony Abbott said on election night that "Australia is open for business!" I guess that the bosses at Holden didn't get the memo!

You see 2013 was amongst other things the year of health issues for loved ones and it cast a heavy, gloomy fog over us.

Having said that, the sunny days do outnumber the rainy ones.. but still, this year.. well we will be glad to see the back of 2013 all the same!

Debra and I do believe the good times are worth reflecting on.. and the funny thing is that Deb and I looked at the calendar this morning, one month at a time and talked about about the year just closing... and it did bring a smile to our faces.

A wonderful week spent in Phuket at Anantara resort, the Boutique's first full year at Clayfield, the arrival of a new pup in our life, a trip to Italy for Deb, some trips to NSW for me on the bike. All good fun and the foundation of memories to treasure for us both.

It has been a year of big decisions too.. deciding to sell Armagh House in early 2014 and move to Hendra (somewhere.. it the vendor could make up his/her mind) and a whole lot more that I cannot think of at the moment.

This past year has also been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends whom we haven't seen for some time. The old line of.. "catch up soon in the new year"..... well sometimes it takes over 3 years to make that happen. And this year with efforts from everybody involved we achieved success on this too!

This makes me long for times past.. when none of us were time poor! A simpler time when we just turned up at a friends house for a visit.. there was no need to phone ahead!

Get out of here Mark.. you're showing your age! - Debra

Our year has finished with two young Germans staying with us for a few days. Helmut and Bea are travelling the world on their motorcycles. Their experiences are wonderful to hear about.. and they are great company too. They have moved on due to us having some other guests staying with us.. but are joining with us for lunch on Christmas Day! It should be joyous!

So to all of my readers.. yes you two know who you are.. Deb and I wish you a magic Christmas and a joyous and prosperous new year for 2014!

Merry Christmas.

Chloe on the day she arrived… boot sized!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Bikes: For this German couple, the world really is their oyster!

So being a part of the Adventure Riding Community (ADV) I have had the great fortune to meet lots of riders.. some of whom have become great friends.

So from this global community, into our lives has come Helmut (Helle) and Bea. A young couple in their early thirties, they are travelling the world by motorcycle…. and having a ball!

Since leaving their native Bavaria over 2 years ago, they have travelled through Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia and then shipped their bikes to Thailand. Around South east Asia and then to Darwin. All over the place and finally to Brisbane.

It is refreshing to have them here with us; the stories of their travels simply amaze me. Camping in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia with not another person in sight and having no fear of any harm coming their way. I guess that is the part of their attitude to life that amazes me. And unlike Basil Fawlty, you can mention the war. It is interesting to discuss Germany's later history with a young couple whose parents were not even alive during that time. They are frank in their discussions and with young people like them around; we baby boomers can hand over to them the custody of the planet with confidence!

They believe that everything will be perfect, that they will be safe and it always is!

Helmut is a mechanical engineer and Bea is an environmental engineer and they just seem perfect together as a couple. Travelling and living off motorbikes for more than two years would test any relationship and theirs appears to have passed all tests.

This morning they took the two Hondas to Port of Brisbane to ship them to Auckland for the next chapter of their adventure. Helmut has spent the last week cleaning the bikes to ensure that they pass NZ quarantine requirements. I started out by pressure cleaning the bike.. Helmut then pulled half of the bike apart and took to it with a bucket of detergent and a toothbrush.


Helmut with his tooth brush and Bea's Honda.

The motorbikes are quite amazing. They are a pair of 25 year old Honda Trans Alp 600cc V twin. Helmut has spent over 1000 hours on each bike in preparing them for the trip. First he fitted fuel tank and swing arm from a Honda African Twin and then made his own stainless steel pannier racks to adapt his tool boxes to the sides. He has also made the crash bars and sump guards for the bikes. His attention to detail combined with his knowledge and skills are just amazing. And he offered to clean Deb's car.. but first he must pull it apart and so spread the engine pieces all over the garage floor!

And do they make me laugh. His sense of humour is wicked and they both keep Debra and I in stitches .. we will be truly sad to wave good bye to them both on Sunday.

So if you see Bea and Helle on the road.. give them a wave!

They truly are living the dream; while we are all probably living somebody else's dream perhaps!

About to take the bikes to the wharf!
Update! See their Youtube video of South America!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bikes: My happy life behind bars!

When I was around 40, Motor Bill Windsor and I were talking classic American cars. Somewhere into the conversation he said to me... “If it’s got wheels or tits, sooner or later it’s going to give you trouble!” To say I was stunned was an understatement. Although I had spent a long time in the motor trade, I had never heard that before. I must have led a sheltered life at MAX Instruments.

You see my experience with things on wheels (except my first car.. a clapped out Mini.. let’s not go there now) was always very positive.

I have always loved things with wheels... from my first toys to scooters, push bikes, motorcycles and cars. Even my coffee table has wheels. Debra tells people who visit that if they stay here long enough I will fit wheels to them! 

Aldi have wheels on special sometimes. I always buy a set of four.. never know when you might need them!

So why do wheels float my boat? Well back when I was at Mr’s Henzell’s Kindergarten in Nundah, David Lentz and I took off one afternoon... we did the Harold Holt and went exploring. As almost 4 year olds, our actions must have worried the life out of our parents. We ended up playing in the creek at Shaw Road when a motorcycle policeman came along and found us. My first trip on a motorcycle! Even if it was a side car! 

Well as I age I think about that day all those years ago and so have come to realize it is two wheels that really blow my hair back. But you see, the whole thing with (two) wheels is freedom. The ability to get away from where you are now to see something new! 

Whenever you want to! 

Being totally independent of public transport. 

God only knows how much I hate public transport! 

My early teenage years were spent on two wheels, a Cyclops Scooter with inflatable tyres, then a Massey 27” bicycle with a Nottingham made Sturmey Archer 3 speed geared hub. An ideal escape machine for a 13 year old. Trips to the airport, Clear Mountain, Sandgate, Nudgee Beach and often with my Chinese air rifle on board too! (The Chinese air rifle.. now that’s another story!)

But then all of a sudden you are 15 going on 16 and there is this girl you know who lives at Indooroopilly; and you realize that you need real horsepower. Enter QLD Rail. But what a pain! Trains only run when they want to! And never on time! As a smart mouthed 15 year old I told the Station Master at Eagle Junction that there was no point in them printing time tables (5 cents to buy in 1969)  as their trains were never on time! His response was to tell me that if they didn’t print timetables, I wouldn’t know how late the trains were!

Moving forward...

In 1970, at 17 I obtained my learner’s permit on July 4 (the day after my birthday) and my driver’s license on August 4. And it has been a life on wheels ever since. Now while I love and appreciate the motor car.. it is the mobile life behind bars that really brings me alive.

I love my bikes and 5 Yamahas, 1 Suzuki, 1 Kawasaki and 1 Honda later... I am still getting my kicks on 2 wheels. So 4 wheels can get you from A to B and often in a basic form, sometimes in a luxury form and sometimes in a speedy fashion. And over the years I have owned basic cars, luxury cars, fast cars, fast basic cars and fast luxury cars. All good fun... always!

But, on a magic good weather spring day... give me two wheels every time.

Go and look at a parked motorcycle! 

What you see before you is the ultimate freedom machine. 

The only point in its existence is to put a huge smile on your face and allow you to go out on Sunday mornings and buy a newspaper... in any town over 200 kilometres away!

So we riders take the long way round from Brisbane to Toowoomba on any Sunday.... to buy the Sunday Mail! 

Or in my case along the roads less travelled to places like Ripples near Kyogle for a Sunday brunch.

It’s not the destination... it’s the trip. 

Or perhaps a Sunday race!

Just ask Harvey Mushman.

I dream of this ride!

A motorcycle truly moves your soul as it banks around corners, accelerates like a super car and allows you to smell the environment as you travel through it.... often at a rapid rate of knots!

Go find a copy of “On Any Sunday” on DVD. It might help explain how I feel about bikes! 

And on any Sunday here at Clayfield, this sixty year old climbs onboard Fat Max and away he goes. As the odometer counts up the trip distance in kilometres my inbuilt human chronometer counts the years down. By lunch time I am 35, by trip's end I am 21.

Until I get off the bike at home after a 400+ k day.. Then the inbuilt chronometer reads 100 as I creak and groan my way to a hot shower, a scotch and a couple of Panadol!

Odometer reset back to 60!

Looking out the office window now... the sun is out the sky is blue... my helmet is at hand.. so long!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Politics: The day the music died! Why don't our leaders have vision?

I have put off writing this for a few days.. to allow myself to cool down a bit. But I don't think it's working. The announcement that Holden is closing. For me.. the day the music died. Nissan, Mitsubishi and then Ford. All the car makers are slowly going.

But Holden??

Say it isn't so!

Yes it may be a tentacle of the GM octopus; but hey.. Holden is our car. Nobody else's, it's our Aussie car!

Half the bloody country were  probably conceived in the back seat of a Holden!

So uniquely Australian in our hearts.

Over the years I have owned 3 Holdens (currently drive a Cruze) and my late dad had 4 of them.

For me, this dreadful decision has just confirmed to me that our leaders lack vision. Now don't start about the big car thing with me. In 1998 the Commodore was 10% of all cars sold in Australia. At that point with long lead times the engineers and designers at Holden were starting work on the car that was to be the forerunner of the current VF. And in the meantime, for whatever reason we changed to smaller cars. Now some say the Commodore is a gas guzzler. Well for a big car it is really fuel efficient. When the change to unleaded fuel came to us in 1986, the availability of fuel injection on cars made for big changes in economy in the bigger engined cars.. the 6 & V8 models. And it just keeps getting better.

The lack of vision I see is this.. when Holden close, Toyota must follow. The sub component suppliers simply will not have the volume to remain viable with only one manufacturer. So expand your mind to think of other manufacturing plants that have closed.

Let's just look at Brisbane. GM used to build cars here. Initially in the Valley. My dad helped build the assembly line when he first emigrated to Australia back in the 1920s. Fast forward to 1970. Here in Brisbane we had both Ford and Holden building cars here, Olympic made tyres at Geebung, Edgell had a tinned vegetable cannery at Manly and we built washing machines, refrigerators, stoves and other white goods in other states of Australia. Sidchrome made world class spanners and sockets in Melbourne, Astor and Kriesler made Hi Fi systems and TV sets in Australia and we looked after these industries.

What the hell happened?

Well our imports from Asia increased, our cost of production increased and then in later years for some crazy reason we lowered import tariffs while we all signed free trade agreements with countries like Thailand. All of our 1 tonne utes are now made in Thailand as is Ford's biggest selling small car. Nikon make their camera bodies there now; no longer in Japan.

As recently as last week we signed a new deal with South Korea, zero import duties. But even the Koreans must have issues as their baby car the I20 is now made in India!

But back to Australia… when all of the factories are gone, where the hell will our kids work. Graduate engineers, designers etc apart from the production line staff! What a mess Adelaide and Geelong will become when Holden and Ford are gone. Instead of paying money to keep them in production, we will be paying the dole to their former workers. What will the social implications be? They won't be able to make their mortgage payments, their houses will be worth stuff all as nobody will want to move there.. a social disaster in the making.

Right in front of our eyes.

But hey.. I'm OK Jack!

Because our leaders seem to think that the jobs of factory auto workers here are less important than in Korea and Thailand, Australia is in for a rough time. And it is OK for these pious journalists to sit in their air conditioned offices filing yet another story on why Holden must close.. they are part of the problem. The ABC helped to hound Mitsubishi out of business. By continually stating that the factory would close, buyers stopped buying for fear of buying an orphan. It became a self fore filling prophecy.

So Tony Abbot, Joe Hockey and Bill Shorten and Co….. where is the vision? What do you have planned for us? We sell the farm to the overseas buyer, we close our food processing plants, we allow Woolworths and Coles to drive the dairy farmers broke and off their farms, we close the auto makers, we lose the manufacturing ability to produce weapons here in the event of a national security crisis and on it goes. Where do you plan to get the money to pay the dole to all of the workers from Holden Ford, Toyota and all of the component suppliers when it all comes to an end? The rest of us aren't doing all that well now! We cannot help out guys!

Of all the money paid to Holden, how much comes back to the government in GST, income tax from the direct manufacture and sale of cars let alone the places where the auto workers spend their money? How will that stack up with paying the ex workers the dole?

Where is the vision .. what is the vision? A country that becomes a fools' paradise as we all sit around and collect the dole (because we have no work) and fund it by unsustainable borrowings from overseas. Perhaps Angela Merkel might fund us. I mean she has already helped to bail out Greece. And Germany like America is another country where the auto industry is subsidised by the government.

If our $ was trading at US$0.80 then Holden and Toyota and even Ford could have exported more cars and therefore had higher sales.. success! Or what about letting the average non business owner "man in the street" claim a one off $10,000 tax deduction for buying a car that is made/assembled here in Australia. Holden, Ford or Toyota. How badly will that affect the bottom line Minister Hockey compared with the millions we send overseas in aid?

No.. it's all too hard isn't it. So Minister Hockey let the drys win, let the cards fall where they might and don't worry about the future of Australia.. just the next election.

Holden say it is too late to reverse the decision. I say bullshit! When people with a vision, a good heart and common sense get together around a table, any problem is solvable. The politicians from all sides, the unions, the executives from GM.. they have the ability to sort this out. Why do they all give up so easily and say this is inevitable? If we had of had thinking like that in WW2 we would have been taken over by the invading Japanese army!

I ask again of our political leaders.. what is the vision. What do you see us all doing in 20 years to enable us to have full productive employment? We cannot all work in the quarry that is what Australia is going to be. When the AU$ falls.. and it will as sure as God made little red apples, we will become a real banana republic beholden to overseas producers of cars and food!

Do we have any real leaders out there?

My next car in 2014. A Calais V.. made in AUSTRALIA!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Life: Another funeral; the passing parade moves on.

On Thursday last, Debra and I attended the funeral of Fay (Chookie) Gay. Fay was mother of Geoff, Tania, Janice and she unofficially adopted me many decades ago too! She and her late husband Allan were my "other parents" and were a big part of my life. Together, Allan and Fay started Gaytone Studios at Kedron in that amazing big old house. Allan had bought it from farmer Mr Rode after the war. Rode Road was named after him. It stood on an acre of land right in the middle of Kedron and it came to be my second home. A big studio in the lounge and a darkroom downstairs. Flash batteries all over the lounge room floor being recharged for Saturday's weddings… the memories…..

I had come into their lives when I met son Geoff in the Escort Car Club of Qld. He and I were as thick as thieves for many years.. until he married in 1988. Then he simply disappeared! I guess some wives have that effect on their husbands! And some husbands silently comply with out so much as a whimper!

When Debra and I came to be a couple post my divorce, they welcomed her to the family with open arms. Fay and Allan really were wonderful people and it was Allan who convinced me to become a wedding photographer as he had done.

Allan was some years older than Fay and swept her off her feet when he came home from the WW2. He had been a bomber pilot serving as an Australian RAAF officer on seconment with the RAF. His crew were all in their late teens and Allan was the old man at 27. He brought his crew home safely night after night in their trusty Halifax. After his death Fay and I met one of his crew.. he told us that they all owed their lives to Allan's skill and judgement as a pilot. He was a special man was our Allan.

Fay (and the world) lost Allan in 1998 and soldiered on very well until her health began to fail. Old age is not kind to some people.. Fay fell into this category and ended her days in a care facility.

The roll up at her funeral was really amazing.. so many people from all the chapters of her life. And it was good to meet her grand children again… I hadn't see them for so many years. Also I had to chance to meet another of her grandchildren for the first time. A good looking young man who has a lot to learn about life. At present he is self centred, arrogant, worships money and has no concept of service before self. He is yet to learn that he is not the centre of the universe, nor God's gift to the human race. I guess he'll learn this  or become very lonely as he ages… very sad really.

An old flame of mine was there (she told me she heard me on Greg's program) as obviously was Geoff and we had a chance to talk a little bit….  'er indoors wasn't there to intervene this time you see.

So two funerals in two weeks and the common denominator was the Escort Car Club of QLD.  Forty years ago when we terrorised the streets of Brisbane in our Lotus Twin Cams, I don't think any of us could have imagined where we would be four decades later.

Farewell Fay… your passing closes a chapter of my life forever. it was a loving, fun time and we will always remember you.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Youth: The Magic of the Transistor Radio.

When we baby boomers were but young, the application of the newly invented transistor to portable radio receivers was a major leap into the future. All of a sudden, your source of music was eminetly portable. And with the 45 single records costing 10 shillings each ($1.00) in a time when the average tradesman earned around $40 a week.. well the endless supply of rock and roll via 4 AA batteries in a small black plastic box was heaven.

For my 10th birthday, my mother gave me a Philips Swing Along battery powered mantle radio. It lived on the bookshelf in my room.. and it brought 4BC into my life. (Except on race days… leave it turned off!)

Shortly after this, I discovered the magic of short wave radio through my good friend Ken who had a National Panasonic 8 Transistor radio. And.. it had a short wave band. We used to listen to Radio Peking at night in his bedroom.

Soon after.. a Panasonic 8 transistor radio came into my life. I bought it from Errol Stewart and his "Bunch of Softies" at Kedron. Rode the mighty push bike out to buy it.. $45 later and a whole new world was mine to enjoy. Radio fascinated me. I remember hearing about the barge that overturned in Moreton Bay on that Philips, and man landing on the moon on the Panasonic.

Mike Ahern soon came to 4BC and he was a hit with we teenagers. We could ring him and feed our school teachers to his man eating plant.. Yum Yum! Hard to believe it now but back then the DJs were like Gods. They could make or break bands by their willingness to play and "promote" songs.

And sales of the $1.00 singles.

My collection of transistor radios continued to grow.. all National Panasonics and now at 60 they are all over my house. In the studio, the gallery, the office and even the bike shed. Then there are the ones in storage in case any of mine die! And I have my late mother's Panasonic too.. bought in PNG for $18.00 in 1969. Sales tax and import duty free of course.

What about the new digital radio I hear you ask? Well I have one.. but it doesn't sound the same. So it just sits on the desk acting as a very expensive paper weight.

And with this house full of radios, what is my station of choice now?

Why 4BC of course. Fifty years and counting!

Last Friday my dear friend and 4BC talk back host Greg Cary closed his mic for the last time. Greg is having a sabbatical to consider his next move on the chess board of life. I was privileged to meet Greg through some photo work at 4BC last century and he and Heidi and Deb and I  have become great friends. I had Greg come to our chamber of commerce when I was president and talk to our members about his life in the media. And it went down really well!

Through Greg I was privileged to meet Mike Ahern too and spend some time with him! His life story of starting out in Pirate Radio in the UK in the 60s is the stuff movies are made of!  Brisbane is a better place for having Mike here on the radio.

Radio days.. they just go on forever in this boy's life……..

Two speakers gave this National great AM sound!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Life: The Escort Car Club of QLD and time; the Passing parade.

L-R Mark, Bev & Ray Clarke, Peter Scott, Pam & Fred Saint.
Yesterday I joined with a small family group at the crematorium to say goodbye to Mrs Scott. Mrs Scott was Peter Scott's mother. Peter and I went to primary and then secondary schools together; Boy Scouts and then we both turned up in the Ford Escort Car Club again.. over 40 years ago.

Whenever we visited Peter, his mother always offered a cup of tea and a piece of her famous cakes. (Well I didn't get to be this shape eating diet wafers) It was a different world back then. Most of us drove Escort 1300 models and all dreamed of owning a Lotus Twin cam model.

A few of us made it!  (Me included).

We all saw ourselves in the picture!

These things were incredibly fast and as they weren't all that common, street drags were always a hoot! Nobody could believe that their car was hosed off by an Escort.

The club morphed into the Ford Car Club of QLD. Then as members started to have a family, Escorts gave way to Cortinas and Falcons etc and the years rolled on. Slowly we all started doing other things… we drifted apart.

Time does that!

But for a couple of hours yesterday, some of us were reunited at this funeral. I guess it's the old Weddings and Funerals thing. Peter Scott, me, Fred and Pam Saint, Ray and Bev Clarke and after the funeral we really enjoyed each other's company. Geoff Gay was missing.. but he has been MIA since he got married. To paraphrase the Skyhooks.. "He's staying home on the weekends and doing what he is told!"

So next step I guess would be a reunion.. if we can find the other members. Terry Lewis, David & Karen Winters, John Carnell, Gordon O'Donohue, Rob Hofgesang, Geoff Frohlich.. the names come so easily to mind now as I sit here typing this. Where are you all guys?

Yes.. we must do it before our Zimmer frames are delivered.

Mark in the 1300 at the Torana Car Club gymkhana! 1972

Mark in the Lotus Twin Cam at warp speed in 3rd gear, Clear Mountain. 1975

The Allan Gay / Terry Lewis V6 Capri 1974

Gordon O'Donohue's Cortina 1975

Monday, 2 December 2013

Experiences: Ruben Mckenzie, Jack Simpson, me and a LARC!

So back in 1982 at MAX Instruments, I took a phone call from a certain Ruben Mckenzie from the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Construction. They were based at Schneider Rd at Eagle Farm and Ruben wanted to buy a VDO tacho drive key. Total value about $2.50.

What on earth would the Dept of Housing and Construction want with one of these?

Only one way to find out… "Mate, I'll deliver it for you on my way home!"

So I did and that is when I met Jack Simpson and the the LARC. These were amphibious tender vessels from the Lighthouse Tender Ship, the Cape Don. And what beasts they were! Jack had been in the air force in the war and looked after the Packard V12 (Merlins) that were in the RAAF rescue boats. The same as the USA PT boats. Three of the beasts per boat.. two in parallel and one in backwards set back towards the stern. Jack was amazing. A tall man who made his tea in a billy over the oxy torch and chucked the remains onto the old cement workshop floor.

And he loved these LARCS as thought hey were his own flesh and blood!

So Jack fitted the tacho drive key.. and over the next few years we supplied a lot of parts for these craft. Diesel fuel conditioner to prevent the fungus build up in the water layer interface under the fuel in the tanks, a high powered VDO windscreen washer to spray water on the huge inboard disc brakes as they regularly overheated on downhill runs to the beach. When Jack was finished, every time you put your foot on the brake pedal.. great jets of water flooded the disc; it helped.. but didn't entirely cure the problem.

Ruben was Jack's boss and a fine fellow he was. When I took delivery of my then new Telstar TX5 Ghia, Ruben thought the mounting of the number plate around the tow bar was crook.. he asked Jack to make a new mounting bracket for me. Amazing guys.. I guess jack has gone to God now, but I often wonder about Ruben.

The best days were the times I got to go along on a road test. One trip in particular… standing on the open back deck of this beast we headed into Newstead along the main road. Jack blowing the air horn (which I had supplied) for any driver who was slow to get out of our way. (Remember the brake issue?) Finally we headed down the boat ramp at breakfast Creek and then motored down the river until we came to another boat ramp near Luggage Point where we drove back onto mother earth and then back to Eagle Farm.

That was one vehicular trip I will never forget!

The LARCs also found their way to Antarctica too!

Life: My late brother Viv.

Being 20 years younger than Viv... I have to really think about my earliest memories of brother Viv. But then I remember his & Pam’s wedding. And then it comes back to me...I wanted to cut the wedding cake.... a reasonable request for a 3 year old. Well Pam let me... and Viv took pictures of me and his new bride cutting their wedding cake! I still have those pictures!

Me cutting the wedding cake with Pam.

My next memories of Viv when I was about 5 are of this man in a black suit carrying a gadget bag of cameras over his shoulder as he rushed into and out of our home.

And that was our brother Viv, armed with a bag of cameras... the photographer who told stories with his incredible pictures. He was also a dreamer. He dreamed of going a-droving down the Cooper where the Western drovers go. He had a romantic view of the bush like Banjo!

That was the dream.. the reality was that he was a photographer.

A bloody good one too!

And I was a very lucky kid brother whom Viv taught to take photographs. And I can tell you that I had a very gifted photographer as a teacher. Viv’s talent with a camera was enormous. 

Photographers describe the gifted ones in their midst as the the ones who can see the light. 

And boy, could Viv see the light. 

And I say that not just as his brother, but as a professional photographer myself.

And today I would like to give you a little look into what that world of his was.

He started at the Sunday Truth at 14 as a copy boy.. a gofer.. but people like the late Eric Donelly (himself a very talented photographer) saw Viv’s potential and soon he was a cadet photographer. Learning to handle cameras like the 5 x 4 Speed graphic. These were physically big cameras that gave you one shot.. and then you needed to reload.

When the Queen made her first visit to Australia; Viv was there at City Hall. The now long gone stairs to city hall were roped off to allow the Queen to descend them to her waiting car. Well I was told by our mother that Viv ducked under the rope.. ran to the Queen and dropped to one knee..... “Smile please maam” Said Viv. He had one shot, the flash bulb fired  and he knew he had a keeper as the QLD Police dragged him back to the barriers.

I guess that was Viv.. pushing the barriers photographically speaking. Getting lost while helping to find a lost plane near Tenterfield, you can ask Max for the details on that! Covering New Years eve riots on the Gold Coast where he managed to get arrested.. more than once. Being questioned by the special branch who wanted to know how Viv found out where the Communist Party had their headquarters. (He rang them and asked!) It is funny that Viv was working for the Truth, because he was always looking for the truth. Perhaps he should have been a philosopher. Actually much later in life he read philosophy at UQ when he gained a Bachelor of Arts. Full credit to him.

And you always knew when it was a quiet news Saturday at the Truth.. Viv would turn up and invent some photo of me to put on the front page of the truth. I was a regular from a baby to around the age of 10 in my Scout uniform.

A lot of photography involves technical challenges as well as a whole lot of creativity. This was where he amazed me. Viv had the gift of being able to seamlessly merge these two disciplines together in a heart beat. Result? An award winning photo!
In 1967 he was named as one of the 10 best press photographers, not in Queensland, not even in Australia, but in the entire world.

When his children, Trilby and Shaun were young pups he would photograph them... it used to amaze me how he could literally conjure up creative images of them both in seconds. He knew the angles.. and.. he could see the light.

His pictures evoked feelings. 

Once he covered a house burning down.. the paper published his pictures of the firemen doing their job of controlling the blaze. But for Viv, the real story was the incredible sadness on the faces of the couple who watched as they lost everything in the fire. He discreetly captured those sad looks.. but they never made the paper.

During the 60s he wanted to go to Vietnam and document the war like Tim Page.  Again wanting to report the truth as only a photo journalist can. But Tim Page was single.. Viv had responsibilities of a young family at home, so he stayed put. But he did photograph the anti vietnam war demonstrations here in Brisbane.

And to finish I would like to tell you of one such demonstration. At 16 a couple of mates and I headed off from high school to join in the march. 

After all we were the Children of the Revolution, the generation who were going to change the world.

Well.. it got a bit hectic in there, the coppers were removing there ID badges and giving the students a good flogging... my mate said to me... “There’s a plain clothes cop coming for you”. I turned to head in the other direction when a hand grabbed me by the arm. I turned and it was Viv. A Nikon F in one hand and now me in the other.

Why aren’t you at school? Does mum know you’re here?

I was too dumbfounded to answer.

He dragged me to the footpath.. in all of the noise he asked if I had any money, I don’t remember answering him... then put his hand in his pocket and gave me a handful of change. “Get out of this madness, get on a train & go home.”

What a great brother you were Viv... you taught me how to create pictures, how to see the light, how to handle and shoot firearms with that amazing Hornet, how to drive at 13 on the back roads of Bribie Island! You let me invade your property with 50 Escorts every time we had a car rally out your way.. which was often!

But best of all.... you didn’t tell mum you found me at a demonstration instead of being at school all those years ago.

Viv's Selfie in the mirror with his first camera!

Viv the ADV rider with cousin Graham Taylor's Ariel.

A young me with Whiskers.. front page in the Sunday Truth.