Poetry2 Pt2 My Way Tour – Darwin

As the trip speeds up and we reach the Kingdoms of the Cattle Barons, the rhythm of the verse alters and breaks into a canter.

A barbeque lunch at McKinlay’s Bush Pub

Was eaten with happy enjoyment.

And numerous flies partook of the feast

Because of their skilful deployment.

We kept them at bay as best we could

With the famous Australian Wave

And sometimes we swatted them dead on the plate

Just to teach those flies how to behave.

After the meal, a young lady in red

Pranced happily into the street.

A huge bull stood there with massive great horns,

Munching grass satisfyingly sweet.

She waved her red jacket right under his nose,

Then turned with expression superior.

But Ted, who was filming this all for TV,

Cried: “Watch out for the bull! Your posterior!”

The lady in red then quite lost her head,

Gave a scream and bolted like lightning.

The bull went on munching, while Ted, cam’ra crunching,

With a grin filmed this drama most frightening.

He’d made it all up – The bull hadn’t moved,

Just stood there all quiet and serene.

But the lady in red stamped her foot as she said:

“I’ll kill Ted!… Or my name’s … not Irene!”

That Friday in Winton the drovers played up.

They were quite well behaved, though, at first.

They came into town and invaded the pubs

Bringing with them insatiable thirst.

The blues mostly started at chucking out time

When the publicans turned off the grog,

They stoushed in the pubs, then they stoushed in the streets,

A frightable, stoushable mob.

The sheilas joined in, trading punches with glee.

They gave and received much contusion.

These cowboys were stoushing all over the street.

God! What an awful confusion!

The cop cars arrived and they turned up their lights,

But the cops didn’t join in the blue.

They smoked cigarettes while the stockmen got decked.

Then they drove off saying quietly, “Hooroo!”

The stockmen and gals at last settled down,

Battered and bruised and well worn.

They had cartons of tinnies they’d brought from the pubs,

So they grogged on and grogged on til dawn.

Then stockmen and dogs with their sheilas and all –

  • (The sheilas were sometimes delectable) –

Drove back to the bush to do some more work,

Leaving Winton once more quite respectable.

And northward, still northward our “My Way” Mob went,

Each day we became a bit wiser:

Saw emus and ant hills, the parched thirsty land.

Then – oasis! The town of Mount Isa!

The Mount Isa Mine yields up fabulous wealth,

Namely silver, zinc, copper and lead.

Isolation is conquered, the wilderness tamed.

And there’s civilisation instead.

The Railways of Queensland are keen on this mine:

The charges it paid for it’s freight

Were sixty three million last calendar year –

A sweet little cop for the State.

When the star spangled velvet soft cloak of the dusk

Thickens – gentle and slow – into night,

Then over the township the mine buildings watch,

Bejewelled with a silvery light.

Our old mate Hill Ted found under his bed

Words of many a popular song.

In our motel at Isa, in a way to surprise ya,

We yodelled and carolled along.

So everyone’s happy – Success to the trip,

Good on you, Teddy old son.

Congratulations from all of our mob

On a job that is very well done.

““

At the Homestead of Springvale we had a good night:

The guests were all Fourex beer slurping.

A talent quest held their attention despite 

A great deal of belching and burping.

Four of our “My Way” mob entered the quest:

It was Ted Hill who held high our banner.

He sang “bye-bye Blackbird” and took out a prize

In his custom’ry debonair manner.

At the end of a quest a gal wandered home,

Turned the doorknob and switched on the lights.

The man on the bed she gave scarcely a glance.

(One avoids nasty masculine sights).

She sank on the bed… The husband sat up.

“Move closer dear…Room I’ve got plenty.”

“My Gawd,” screamed the lass. “I’m in Room Number One!

I should have been in One and Twenty!”

The man then yelled out: “By cripes! Who’s this?

I thought that… that… you were my wife!

Quick – Buzz off for Pete’s sake – Or else I shall be

Up to my eyeballs in strife!”

Another young lady of sixty and five

Hung her knickers upon the verandah.

In the night they would dry…But Ted Hill, very spry,

In the early morn took a quick gander.

He grabbed his equipment and then filmed the lot,

Made the knickers a picture enchanting.

Those knickers a major attraction will be

On the tape of our Mob’s gallivanting.

At Springs Mataranka that self same young gal

Lost her top – “In the change room,” she said.

Her hubby had also lost track of his trunks.

Just what cooks in that old dressing shed?

“Tis said these warm springs have curative powers,

And this claim is most probably right.

Certain it is that at the motel

The bed springs were creaking that night.

And if some good persons should have a few doubts…

… Misgivings…or even concerns…

By hell, we are going to use it up now,

And leave nothing at all for the worms!

So onwards to Darwin with Coach Captain Baz

At the wheel with all cylinders sparking.

Baz drives very skilfully – quiet and polite –

No screaming, no bawling, no barking.

Of a sudden before us the blue sky was grey,

Then came smoke clouds, thick, swirling and black.

We found we were running a gauntlet of flame.

Should we stop? Is there time to turn back?

But Barry drove on through the furnace-hot fire

Til the coach was once more in the clear.

Everyone cheered, and Mavis proclaimed:

“I SWEAR I’ll buy Barry a beer!”

In Darwin just after (with Ted’s helpful hand)

We went to the gleaming casino.

Bright pokies and card games greeted us there,

And something that people call “Keno.”

We stayed there two hours and most dropped a few bob:

Coin is MADE round to GO round, we know.

But Vic came out smiling because he had beaten

The pokies … was rolling in dough.

Our folks hand-fed fish at the edge of the sea

With bread, which the fish suck and eat.

While Ted filmed all this, locals grinned as they watched,

Whisp’ring “Bottoms up! Ooh! What a treat!”

A catamaran took us out the next day

O’er the harbour so blue and so shining.

On the tropical isle of Mandorah we stayed

For an hour or so, swimming and dining.

Pretty good tucker is buffalo meat,

And for fish don’t go past barramundi.

So we ate buff and barra this beautiful day,

(Which is Darwin’s main meal on a Sunday!)

Darwin’s a city most fair, there’s no doubt.

Were we younger in tones quite stentorian,

We’d say: “Let’s pack up mate and bugger the South.

Let’s go north and become… Territorian!”

““

Darwin is booming. The pride of the North

Is up and developing fast.

Cyclone Tracy is gone. Modern buildings abound.

This NEW Darwin city will last.

Many in Darwin have never been south

To the site which gave birth to the Nation.

Instead they look north to horizons quite new,

With confidence, strength, jubilation.

Sydney and Melbourne are foreign to them –

Their fleshpots they calmly ignore.

Yet people in Darwin are thin on the ground

Who’ve not seen at least Singapore.

At Darwin the tides rise and fall many feet.

Crocodiles … Sea Wasps … abound.

Quite natural it is that with such nasty things

There are very few swimmers around.

But when they say crocs waddle up the main street,

Be sure they are having a shot …

Unless your informant has been on the Bundy …

… In which case his brains gone to pot.

At the “Buffalo Shop” Mavis won some dried meat

Which will pregnancy stop – That’s a fact!

You take it NOT AFTER … and NOT YET BEFORE …

But INSTEAD of committing the act!

So farewell to Darwin – we now travel south:

Our schedule will not let us tarry.

All aboard, boys and girls, and move down the aisle.

Put the hoof on the gas, Captain Barry.

When at Springvale we stopped, bathrooms so small we found

That we really could not turn about.

We asked Mavis Senior: :How do you wash?”

She said: “Simple! Head first and arse out!”

On Ted’s shirt young Bev a large button was sewing.

(This is true because everyone’s seen ‘em).

Ted gave a loud squawk, said: “I think you have sewn

The button on my duodenum.”

The clean streets of Katherine come into view

South of Darwin. (Springvale’s down the street).

A further day’s drive down the bitumen, then …

You’ll find yourselves in Tennant Creek.

The manager of our motel at this town

Dashed around at a furious pace.

He was also the chef and, one would have thought,

Was engaged in some sort of race.

That night in the bar he produced a guitar,

Sang love songs in German and Russian.

His fine Russian eyes charmed the girls with their size.

… They were simpering, smiling and blushin’.

Ch9 Pt1 Sponsorship to Australia

“They’ve published it,” said Irena. 

She held out a short typewritten note to me.

Dear Sir,

Your letter to The Editor was published in ‘The Sun’ today, and we have pleasure in enclosing a cutting.

                “Yours faithfully ………..”

It was signed by The Associate Editor of the Sydney Sun.

“Well,” I said, “let’s hope it will help us to get on our way to Australia.”

Irene and I were in the small upstairs flat near Notting Hill Gate that we had been lucky enough to rent after our marriage early in 1947. The letter, which had just reached us after journeying half way across the world from Sydney to London, was the result of our latest effort to obtain a sponsor to bring us to Australia.

We had decided many months ago that our future lay in Australia. The idea of migrating had been at the back of my own mind for a long time. After the war it was resurrected by the publicity given to the country by its “Food Parcels for Britain” scheme. The Australian Government also initiated a drive for British migrants. The problem was to obtain berths on the limited number of overcrowded ships.

During the war in Britain we had seen quite a few Australian airmen who were regularly engaged on bombing raids over Germany. Also one saw occasional Australian sailors. I do not recall ever meeting any Australian soldiers. After their stint in the Middle East the Australian Prime Minister of the time, John Curtin, had withdrawn them to Australia to fight the Japanese in New Guinea. This was after a ferocious but well-concealed row with the British Prime Minister Churchill who thought that Australia was expendable, and could be liberated from the Japanese after the defeat of the Germans in Europe and North Africa.

Irene had known a few Australians in Cairo. They were rather notorious for misbehaving themselves and taking bars and bistros apart. She said that basically they were lonely and frustrated, and weren’t really bad at heart.

The Agents General for all the Australian States were in the west end of London, and most of them in The Strand. Thus I could walk across Waterloo Bridge from the Headquarters of the London County Council where I worked and read the Australian newspapers, which were always on display during the lunch hour. I did this for two years so that when the time eventually came for us to go, I felt that I knew as much about modern Australia as I did about England, and when we got there, I would not be a stranger. I also read as many books on Australia and Australian history as I could find in the library with the object of making mental preparation for the future.

Irene was not happy with the London climate after the openness and sunshine of the Middle East. The dirty streets oppressed her and the cold winter chilled her to the bone. Moreover, she viewed with alarm the renewed activities of Sir Oswald Mosley’s fascist hooligans, and wondered how many of her friends who thought she was German would still have been her friends had they known that she was not only German but Jewish. Remember that the clap-trap mouthed by these young fascist thugs who openly began to hold meetings in London was identical with Hitler’s ravings which had encompassed the death of most of Irene’s family little more than three years previously.

Sir Oswald Mosley, by the way, who addressed fascist meetings in the east end, dressed in jackboots and black riding breeches and shirt in pre-war years, had been interned during the war. It was always a mystery to me why the authorities did not shoot him. Instead, with that tolerance for which Britain was at one time famous, they let him loose again.

If these things made Irene begin to doubt the wisdom of continuing to reside in London, I saw the city as a huge stone and concrete prison. A kind of claustrophobia gripped me when I walked its dusty streets, devoid for miles of a single blade of healthy green grass.

The general economic situation at this time was also most depressing, and a sense of urgency began to prick at my mind. I was in my late twenties, beginning to look towards thirty, and I had achieved nothing, neither did I seem to have any prospects. Apart from these things, however, there was another even more important matter thrusting me towards pulling up stakes and starting afresh. Quite simply, I had a quite dreadful personal vision of the England of the future.

I saw the rich getting continuously richer and the poor getting poorer. I saw a country with decreasing access to raw materials and a need to rely increasingly on superior technology to import food and resources necessary for its survival. But who could guarantee that with increasing competition, English manufacturing excellence would continue to be triumphant? Beyond this, the tight little island was grossly overcrowded. Furthermore, the nation had always been riven by class distinction and had never been a true meritocracy with equal opportunity. I saw this inequality and class distinction tearing England apart.

I did not foresee racial strife, because West Indian and Commonwealth immigration had barely begun. What I did see, however, was the spectre of nuclear war.

Already we had been almost brought into conflict with our recent allies, the Russians, over the Berlin question – where that city had been divided into four segments under British, American, French, and Russian control.

There was no way in the world that I would have joined up again to fight the Russians, and I am sure that a very large number of ex-servicemen at that time would have been of the same mind. But it was crystal clear that Russia was to become the next enemy. Nuclear bombs had won the war against Japan, with what terrible effect everybody knew. How long would it be until the Russians mastered the technology and laid waste to England?

These, then, were our reasons for wanting to get to Australia. We were held up because of lack of shipping following the war. The Jumbo aircraft of the modern era had not yet been developed, and all travel to the Antipodes was by ship. The Australian Government, in its drive for migrants, was offering free passage to ex-service personnel. But in order not to prejudice the housing situation in Australia, which was very restricted after five years of war in which little building had been permitted, it was necessary for each migrant who was not a skilled tradesman to have a sponsor. This individual would guarantee board and lodging for six months in Australia. Irene and I had no known relatives in Australia, neither had we discovered any friends who had contacts. Therefore, to accelerate processing of our immigration application we had to find a sponsor. This was the reason for my letter to the Sydney Sun. The letter read as follows:

           Waiting, Hoping ……..

                My wife and I first decided to migrate in 1946, and long before the present ‘free and assisted passages’ scheme came into operation, we were investigating at Australia House here in London, generally gleaning all the information about it that we could.

                There are now about 750,000 applicants for free and assisted passages registered with the authorities – and the list is getting longer every day. So it would seem that if government-assisted migrants eventually leave at the rate of 50,000 a year, a wait of “some years” for those without priority such as my wife and myself may mean 15 years!

                In desperation my wife and I booked private passages with the P and O Line. We should be broke when we reached Australia, but at least we should get there while still young enough to feel ourselves part of the country.

                We were told at the time that we would have to wait 18 months for a berth. Today, more than a year afterwards, we are informed that the shipping position has worsened, and that a wait of three years is envisaged before tourist berths become available.

                When such difficulties and delays are put in one’s way, one feels at times like accepting the fact that one is beaten. Only at times, however, because we intend to come to your country no matter how long it takes, and to settle there.

                I wonder, nevertheless, if there is any reader of your newspaper who would care to nominate a would-be immigrant and his wife — both ex-service, and not afraid to work and learn? 

                When we get settled in Australia, we know at least one family whom we in turn shall nominate.”

About a fortnight after receipt of notification of publication of this letter, we received a further letter from a Mr P, of Campsie, Sydney, New South Wales. Mr P informed us that his parents, to his everlasting regret, had christened him Oliver, and begged us to call him “Oll” for short. He also told us that he would nominate us for a free passage if we received no other offers of help. As it turned out, we did not receive any other offers. Thus, a few weeks later Oll, true to his word, and despite the fact that he and his wife had five children, and his own house was, if anything, overcrowded, had nominated us.

Oll was employed at the GPO in Martin Place (now Martin Plaza), in Sydney. He was an upright, honest, hard working Australian gentleman, who took a chance on a couple of complete strangers. I added him and his wife Alma to my very special list of people whom I regarded it as a privilege to have known.