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19th October, 2020

The Wollongong mall shop owners and local council are in a spring mood or at least trying to make the effort. The one remaining book shop is having trouble getting new books from overseas because of the coronavirus. Other businesses are also struggling. At Corrimal the other day I had to go through a temperature test in order to enter a restaurant. It is, of course, understandable that such precautions are in place. When it comes to the coronavirus we are doing better than some other countries but not as well as New Zealand. There continues to be controversy over the way the premier of Victoria has dealt with the virus.

Of late in Wollongong there has been a street poster reference to Prime Minister Bob Menzies and his desire to sell pig iron to Japan just before the Second World War broke out. The unions at the time were against this export. The Japanese obviously wanted the pig iron for their war effort. There are also other references to pigs, some very strange indeed.

Illawarra Birders is going strong with a new edition of their online newsletter out this month containing a fascinating article on Jerrara Dam by Roger Truscott.

We have had plenty of rain in and around Corrimal and Towradgi of late and yet recently there was a forest fire at Heathcote. I hope the Royal National Park doesn’t go up in flames this coming summer.

On Thursday night there was a down pour in the Illawarra and on Friday a cold snap.

At Rotorua New Zealand, a month before the coronavirus got out of hand and New Zealand was shut down, I came across lots of street art, much of it bold and imaginative. My first sight of Rotorua, though, was the bus terminal which was also the tourist guide centre. It is a colorful, well maintained building with seagulls often flying past. It has an impressive clock tower.

In the street art at Rotorua there is reference to the past and in the special waters visitors come to this place to experience. I was told before leaving Australia there would be a terrible stink from sulphur in the air. Due to a drought the smell of sulphur was only there when I got close to the geysers or I bathed in one of the hot pools.

While I was at Rotorua I took to the special waters at a health centre. It was relaxing. Perhaps I should have gone to the more expensive Maori turnout but I was conscious of spending too much money and finding myself short.

Where I bathed was a place where New Zealand servicemen once did so to get over their war injuries. There I met an English couple who frequented New Zealand and who told me a little about this health centre.

During my wandering I came across this fascinating piece of New Zealand history on an electrical box. Yes flight is an important feature in a lot of New Zealand street art.

Birds are on street art in Rotorua. This includes the kiwi. And I should stress here that calling a New Zealander a Kiwi is fine. It is not being abusive though someone politically correct would no doubt have it so.

The kiwi’s importance derives from a boot polish manufacturer in Melbourne, Australia who had a New Zealand wife. He called his brand Kiwi after her and this strange nocturnal bird with the long beak. The polish became so popular with the armed services in both Australia and New Zealand that Australians came to call New Zealanders Kiwis after the boot polish and the bird.

Not only didn’t the New Zealanders mind this nickname but it started a campaign in New Zealand to save the kiwis, these shy natives, from extinction. There are a number of types of kiwi. On my visit I went to a couple of hatcheries and saw three types. The kiwi is the only bird I know of with a belly button.

My stay in Rotorua wasn’t as pleasant as it might have been. I booked a room at a backpacker’s establishment that turned out to be just a tad bigger than a coffin. What’s more, I didn’t like the shower set up. You were too much out in the open going to and from the shower. Yes. I suppose it was my mistake and I have learned from it. No more backpackers in the future wherever I go. You need a good night’s sleep and decent showering facilities if you are to make the best of your trip.

There are fine examples of Maori art in Rotorua, especially at a gate entrance to Government Gardens. The land was donated by the Ngati Whakaue people in 1880 and there are wooden statues guarding the area.

All of this is only a casual examination of what can be found in Rotorua. There are lots more to see and experience and no doubt I will get back to doing so with you in a future blog.

The 1960s was a time when I was young and happily collecting American comic books and watching Australian, British and American shows on television. Perhaps I should have had more of an interest in Australian art and artists but the comic books being produced in Australia back then paled into insignificance for me in comparison to the American comic books and even the British comic papers of the day.

In terms of Australian made television shows there was Skippy, Mr. Squiggle, The Magic Boomerang, Division 4, The Rovers, and Homicide.

British programs included Doctor Who, The Avengers, The Champions, Steptoe and Son, Thunderbirds, and The Saint.

American shows being shown on Australian television included Star Trek, The Untouchables, Combat, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Bewitched, The Adams Family, and My Favorite Martian.

In terms of Australian music we listened to The Seekers and The Easybeats.

The British were coming out of a time of severe austerity and it was in the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and The Kinks.

Meanwhile in the USA Sonny and Cher were doing their thing and Bob Dylan was telling it like it is. Much of the best stuff music wise from America was anti-war. There was also experimentation such as with the group The Grateful Dead.

They’re a Weird Mob (1966), based on a novel by John O’Grady, was a bit of cinematic fun that probably would raise eyebrows today in this politically correct world in which we are now living in. It is about an Italian migrant who finds Australians daft but on the whole friendly. He doesn’t always understand what they are on about but his willingness to learn plus do hard work wins him the woman of his dreams and a place in Australian life.

The novel Catch-22 by American writer Joseph Heller first came out in 1961 but it would be a decade later I got to read it and was amazed by the contents. I particularly liked the character Major Major Major who went swiftly from being a recruit to a major due to his family name and the names his father had foisted onto him and a computer error. It was because he didn’t know anything about command that he avoided confrontation thus at his office he was out when he was in and he was in when he was out.

Yes Catch-22 is one bizarre puppy of a book set during the Second World War and about a bomber squadron whose commander wants glory and doesn’t care how many of his men have to die for him to get it. As far as I know it was Heller’s one and only success as a novelist but what a success. There was a movie made in 1970 based on this novel which I find unwatchable.

Of what was written around this time the novella Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach with photographs by Russell Munson (1970) comes to mind. Both writing and photographs were and remain inspirational. The work is American but reaches out to all who have a hankering to fly.

I remember in kindergarten playing Combat with sticks for rifles. The kids playing Germans were always on top of this slope on the playground so the guys playing the Yanks had to walk up to get to them. There were lots of gun sounds and invisible hand grenades thrown at the Germans. Oh and loud explosions and kids falling down. A lot of really bad acting I’m sure.

Later on it was star knives made out of cardboard from the backs of cereal containers when the Japanese television show The Samurai took over in popularity.

My dad grew up in the days of radio. He remembers listening to Pick a Box, a game show hosted by Bob Dyer. It went to television but if it was on when I was young I never bothered with it since I didn’t have much interest in game shows.

I grew up when television was in black and white going into color. It was a while before my parents could afford the family’s first color set so for years we viewed even color programs in black and white. I remember with the early color sets you had to tune the color in.

There is a classic Aunty Jack episode in which the show goes from black and white into color. Come on in the color’s fine was one of the lines.

Japanese cars were not thought of as being much good in the 1960s but that changed in the 1970s.

My sport was fishing. Much later on I took up tennis and squash. In college I had a go at fencing.

In 1965 Australian troops entered the fighting in Vietnam. Prior to 1965 there were Australian military advisers only sent there. Australia pulled out of this war in 1972.

And so the 1960s wasn’t a good time had by all but it was still a great time to grow up in as is any decade you might mention. In summer as a kid I wore my hair long and mostly had on T-shirts and jeans except at school where I had to wear a school uniform. Now I am older I mostly wear T-shirts and jeans in summer except on special occasions. Some things don’t change. My hair is no longer long and there isn’t as much of it as there used to be. Sigh! As Bugs Bunny once said, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.” Cheers!

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