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Downsunder

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About Downsunder

  • Rank
    Registered User
  • Birthday January 24

Personal Information

  • Location
    Tasmania Australia
  • Interests
    Motor Bikes, Football, Drawing/Painting, Writing, Reading
  • Occupation
    Retired

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  1. Ey up Clive, John and I were good mates when the family lived on Furnace Hill, we used to frequent the Shakespeare pub and knock around on motorbikes. We went to the 1970 Earls Court Motorbike Show together, he actually took Eunice's brother on the back of his bike and married Eunice later that year. Anita emigrated to Australia in the early 70's as did James (Jimmy), I think they are both still there. I lost contact with John when I emigrated forty something years ago, I heard he moved to France to live. If you send me a pm, I might be able to get some more information for you.
  2. I’ve been gettiing up at 2am to watch the EPL live, last week was Man City v Bournemouth. I know they are top of the league, I know they haven’t lost yet, I know they’ll probably win the title but honestly, I hate their style of play, I think it’s abysmal to watch and I blame Guardiola. He wrecked Barcelona, he nearly wrecked Bayern but they got wise and moved him on and now he’s wrecking Man City. The crowds love the results and will keep turning up while ever they are winning but watching them is like watching a computer game that is programmed so it can’t lose. Football is losing the skills that made the game exciting: running at and beating defenders, crossing the ball into the penalty area, the bullet headers. Everything is sliderule now, nothing left to chance and when VAR is introduced that will be the death knell. The cameraman picked out Mike Summerbee in the crowd, to me, his face said it all: ‘This is not the game we played’. And he was a member of the greatest Man City team ever.
  3. No, The Classic Motor Cycle is an English mag, it's only the magazine that found its way to Oz not the Suzi.
  4. Just reading in the August issue of The Classic Motor Cycle, page 80, columnist Jerry Thurston bought a 1981 model Beamish Suzuki (doesn't say what year he bought it) and gives a great write-up. Maybe it was yours?
  5. I had to get out of the electrical game, I knew that. The union rep was right, in Sydney there was plenty of work. Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald advertised literally hundreds of jobs in the 70’s, from brain surgeons to unskilled laborers. It was a case of turn up, show your qualifications (if needed), show some enthusiasm (optional), negotiate wages and conditions (usually non-negotiable) and start the next day. And that’s what I did. ‘Motorcycle Assembler to work in small inner city workshop. Some mechanical experience preferred. Immediate start. What was I reading here? Was this for real? For someone who lived and breathed motorbikes since before I could walk, this was Nirvana. I had bought my first motorbike since arriving in Australia only two weeks before – a black 650 ex-police Triumph Saint. I hadn’t even learned to drive a car yet! I rang for the address and rocked up to the ‘small inner city workshop’ just as they were opening the doors. The black shiny Triumph was all I needed to convince them of my qualifications and enthusiasm and the next day I was assembling CZ’s, Jawa’s and BMW’s as if I had been there all my life. The bikes were 90% complete when they arrived, all I had to do was bolt on the petrol tank, crash bars and a few extras that came in the crate, clean off the grease, add fuel and oil, check the tyre pressures and fire them up. Now for the icing on the cake – I had to test drive every bike I assembled. Sydney was wonderful! Life was great! It seemed like you could do almost anything. In 1986 me, my wife and our two children moved to Tasmania to ‘get away from Sydney’. The searing heat of the outer western suburbs had finally worn us down. For the last three or four summers we had considered moving back to England after spending 13 years in one of the world’s greatest cities. But a short holiday in Tasmania changed our minds completely. This island of half a million people has been home for 32 years, but we will never forget our humble beginnings on Botany Bay. Or Sheffield, the city we turned our backs on so many years ago yet will always be in our hearts.
  6. I was brazing new copper contacts to the spare control arm for the overhead crane, I’d done a similar job at Orgreave Coke Ovens back in Sheffield where I served my time as an electrician, so I sort of knew what I was doing even though everything I did here I did with a kind of nervous trepidation. It was my third day at the foundry, my first job since arriving in Australia. Suddenly, there was Halim, an electrician from Egypt (or was it Lebanon?) who was employed on the same day as me. I was trying hard to understand his broken English and I was thrilled when he appeared to be striking up a conversation. “How long . . . you . . . be here?” “Oh, about a week” I said, doing a quick calculation of the days since we docked in Sydney. Halim let out a wookie-like cry followed by “Pomee *******!” before turning round and walking away. Well, how was I to know he was waiting to use the oxy torch? I thought it a bit odd that the foundry had set on six electricians on the same day. After two months four of us got the sack. “That’s how some companies operate” explained the union rep. “Nothing we can do. Just go and get another job, there’s plenty of work.” So I got another job. I joined Kilpatrick Green, a large electrical contractor doing a major overhaul of the Lindemans Wine factory at Lidcombe, a suburb in Sydney’s inner west. There were three huge aluminium wine vats with ladders and handrails. One lunchtime I took my flask and sandwiches and climbed to the top for a look around. The feeling was surreal, a warm wind ruffled my hair, the whole city was spread out before me, in the distance I could just make out the harbour bridge. It felt like the day I left school, I had the world at my feet again. This was my second chance and I was determined to make the best of it. Six weeks later I was out of work again. The job had finished, the foreman called us together and handed us each a bottle of claret, compliments of Lindeman’s Wines. “There’s a job starting up next week at Tennant Creek for completion by Christmas, fill out your details in the ledger if you’re going. Everyone here is eligible.” “Where’s Tennant Creek?” I asked, hoping it was nearer home so I wouldn’t have such a long trip to work but everyone had already filed out leaving just one sparky to sign the ledger. The foreman looked across at me. “It’s half way between Alice Springs and Darwin, give or take a hundred miles or so.” “Is there a bus?” I asked, feeling a bit dejected. When I got home my wife cooked spaghetti bolognese topped with parmesan cheese and we polished off the bottle of claret that same night. Life for us in Australia just got better and better!
  7. You could search for Letter from Australia #4 which happens 2 years later when we were still living in Botany but yes, I will fill in the blanks in later posts. Thanks for reading.
  8. Thanks for all of your encouraging replies, it really was just like that. Australia has been good to us, this part of Australia (Tasmania) has surpassed our expectations. Hope you can get here one day thorphanger.
  9. Two hundred and three years after the first Yorkshireman sailed into Botany Bay another one made a less spectacular appearance at the most famous stretch of water in all of Australasia. Our approach was not sailing through the heads in a 30 ton bark of the Royal Navy but rather, walking from the bus stop on Botany Road. We were about to raise the flag in an unfurnished rental on the end of Livingstone Avenue, a street which, if not for a wire-mesh fence would have run straight into the clear waters of the bay. It was our first week in Australia and this was to be our first address. We had no car, neither of us could even drive, no luggage except the two suitcases we were carrying and about £30 in the bank. From our accommodation in the block of flats a narrow, well worn track lead down to a small beach which disappeared at high tide when the water lapped against the grassy bank. Our bedroom window looked out across the bay and that first sunset is one I’ll never forget. The sun glinted on the water and turned the horizon into a fiery orange. Somewhere close by, another lost soul was playing a Tarantella on the accordion (we soon discovered that our block of flats was the United Nations of immigrants). I can’t remember what we slept on that night but I know we held each other tight and dreamed of the wonderful future we had before us. I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture of Botany Bay, when we arrived early in 1973, the northern shore closest to the city had already lost most of its charm. Botany the suburb was sandwiched between Sydney airport and the oil refinery at Banksmeadow and it had a dubious reputation for petty crime, extortion and wanna-be gangsters. The local pub told the story well, named after Cook’s botanist on the Endeavour, the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel was once a venue for Sydney’s well-to-do who came dressed in their finest attire to stroll around the grounds and take lunch in the park overlooking the bay. Now it’s just another watering hole for heavy drinkers who spill out into the street on sunny days with their schooners of Tooheys, smoking, swearing and spitting. But even so, in the midst of all this, a young, newly married childless couple with the world at their feet could find a ‘Bella Notte’ romance in any situation. Today, Botany Bay is a mass of refineries, wharfs, container terminals and airport runways. The little path which we walked is long gone, a 4-lane freeway has somehow appeared on reclaimed land where Captain Cook once dropped anchor and from our vantage point at the end of Livingstone Avenue the bay is now almost out of sight. We’ve moved on and our time there is a distant memory but we don’t regret the years we spent living on the bay, transportation today is not what it used to be.
  10. I love reading people's experiences on the forum but I can't contribute because of lack of local knowledge - we left the UK in 1972. So I just write about what I know and what interests me. I'm well connected with my family and friends but none of them are on the forum. Anyway, thanks for reading.
  11. Hi Pat, They're not really stories more like snapshots from the past. Too long and people wouldn't read them, I think I'm stretching the limit now!
  12. In 1975 I found myself at the Randwick School of Art in Sydney, now known more modestly as Randwick TAFE but back then in pre-computer days it was a most prestigious seat of learning for privileged Australian kids. Nestled between Centennial Park and the Royal Randwick Racecourse, the School of Art oozed class and culture and a curriculum which would be commercially obsolete within a decade. How I managed to be accepted is beyond me, it was definitely a Billy Elliot moment. The tutors at Randwick were all professional artists with their own studios, the most notable being Walter Cunningham, an illustrator of some renown. (as far as I know, no relation to George). One tutor brought in the fashion pages from the New York Times and we copied the black and white wash drawings. Another taught us the airbrush and we learned how to draw letters with pen and ink which, I suspect, even the instructor knew was a monumental waste of time since rub-down lettering had been around since the 50’s. But I suppose it taught us a keen eye and a steady hand. The afternoons were taken up with Design & Colour and Art History but since I was totally unprepared for the stifling heat of a Sydney summer, by 2o’clock I was usually fast asleep with my head on the desk. I made my first real Australian friend at Art School, his name was Jeff Warwick. He was, like me, in many ways a square peg in a round hole. He had left home and was living in a tiny bedsit in Paddington which made him the envy of the entire class, especially the girls. He didn’t have much artistic talent but bags of charisma and he loved music, especially the musical lyrics of Kris Kristofferson. He gave me two of his LP’s which have miraculously survived flat, unscratched and playable to this day. Every so often, I dust them off and I’m immediately transported back in time to those student days in Sydney. How well Kristofferson described our lives . . . a stomach full of empty and a pocket full of dreams. And this . . . from the coalmines of Kentucky to the California sun . . . that really hit me in the guts, but this even more . . . and it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday. This was Jeff’s plight not only on Sunday Morning Coming Down but most days . . . I fumbled through my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt. We had no idea what Kristofferson meant when he . . . pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana . . . but who cares, we’d have done it too if we had a bandana. And a harpoon. When Jeff handed in another crappy assignment and a concerned instructor told him it wasn’t good enough, he went home with a smile, mouthing the words of his favourite Kristofferson ballad . . . it’s good enough for me and Bobby McGee. After spending two unforgettable years at Randwick School of Art, Jeff left and joined the fire brigade.
  13. There is a Facebook group called Ten Pound Poms which I joined for a while in 2015. Back in 1972 when Facebook was ‘an impossible dream’ (to quote Andy Williams) or ‘your worst nightmare’ (to quote whoever said that), my wife and I became Ten Pound Poms when we boarded a ship bound for Australia. The Facebook group is made up mainly of British expats living in Australia and a big drawcard seems to be discovering someone else who left England on the same day, on the same ship as you did. Evidently, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Here are just some of the ships that ferried migrants from Europe to Auz during the 50’s and 60’s. • Fairsea • Fairsky • Canberra • Arcadia • Britanis • Australis • Strathalban • Strathaird • Southern Cross • Northern Star • Ellinis • Patris • Otranto • Achille Lauro • Angelina Lauro • Orcades • Oriana • Aurelia • Flavio • Orion • Oronsay These vessels made 4 to 5 round trips per year, since it was cheaper to keep them on the high seas than berthed in a port somewhere. That amounts to a lot of voyages! Anyway, it got me thinking about this neighbour of ours – not an ‘over the fence’ type neighbour – this one lived down the road a bit. We had been neighbours for 25 years, our kids travelled on the school bus together but I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him past the usual ‘good day’, ‘how are yer’, ‘nice weather’ etc. That however was enough for me to pick up on an unmistakeable cockney accent. One day our conversation progressed to the next level – we invited him to join us for late afternoon tea and he accepted. Turns out, he was a cockney, he had come to Australia when record numbers of young Australians were heading in the other direction, converging on Earls Court, clamouring for a taste of the swinging sixties which were slowly fading away. “So, how long have you been in Australia?” I asked. “We came out in 1973.” He said. “Same here!” I said, somewhat startled, “What ship?” “The Britanis, we docked in Sydney on February 1st, two days before my birthday.” Now I was utterly gobsmacked – we had been on the same ship 45 years ago!! But this weird coincidence had another card to play. I took out the photo album, the one full of memories of that voyage, the best holiday the wife and I ever had. One night, as part of the on-board entertainment, passengers had been invited to take part in a production of South Pacific. I had snapped a line-up of young men in floral shirts and grass skirts, dancing to one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic songs from the musical. My neighbour pointed to the man nearest the camera – “That’s me there.” He said nonchalantly. That tea party turned out to be some enchanted evening!
  14. Thanks for the link Hillsbro, I cry every time I see that video. As for the coat of arms, just as ironical is the motto which translates "Fertility and Faithfulness" or "bounty and fidelity". Skippy, I admire your optimism.
  15. I heard a statistic quoted recently concerning the number of species becoming extinct every day. I can’t remember the actual number but it made me gasp in disbelief. I looked to the internet for clarification. Bad move. You can virtually pick any number you want from nought to three hundred as you trawl through oceans of conflicting information. Anyway, it got me thinking about the Tasmanian Tiger. An old friend of mine told me an interesting story about the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine to give it it’s proper name. In 1967 the worst bushfire that Tasmania has ever experienced roared through the midlands burning its way to the outskirts of Hobart destroying 1300 homes and killing 62 people. Just after the fire burned itself out my friend was driving up the Midland Highway through a fire ravaged landscape heading north to Launceston. It was just on dark, his wife was sitting beside him in the car asleep. In the glare of his headlights he saw a Tasmanian Tiger cross the road just ahead of him. Why was this so unusual? Because the Thylacine was declared extinct in 1936 when the last one died in captivity in Hobart Zoo. Since then there have been numerous sightings and even today people are convinced the Tiger somehow still roams the wild, remote, inaccessible west coast of Tasmania. The demise of the Tiger can be attributed to the ignorance and stupidity of the white settlers. Believing that the Thylacine was a threat to their newly introduced flocks of sheep, in 1830 the Van Diemans Land Company placed a bounty on the ‘vicious sheep killer’. Trappers, hunters and bushmen had a field day. It took 100 years before this shy marsupial with the beautiful striped coat was finally hunted into extinction. That same year, 1936, the powers that be, in their inestimable wisdom, declared the Thylacine a protected species. Two priceless footnotes to this sorry story: The sheep killers proved to be the settler’s own Kangaroo Dogs which had escaped into the bush, gone feral and attacked the sheep. The Chief Agent of the Van Dieman’s Land Company at the time the bounty was imposed was none other than Edward Curr of Sheffield.
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