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The building boom

 

From 1948 onwards Australia opened the doors to migrants:  first from Europe and North America and later from Asia and the Middle East.  A massive building boom resulted.  In Thornleigh a lot of inexpensive three and four bedroom cottages were built.  We treated these building sites as playgrounds; wonderful for battles but also just to explore the timber frames.

Even as children we understood the construction process and were even critical of the construction quality. There were four basic standards: trench foundations, wooden frame, fibro cladding and steel, fibro or tile roof; similar with timber (weatherboard) cladding; deeper drilled foundations and outer brick walls (brick veneer); and full brick.  We noticed if the timber plates had been properly knocked-in or just nailed and the quality of the floors and materials in general.  The days of architectural flair were in the past; and the future.  This was a time of production-line housing.

Typically the first sign of a new house was the pegging out.  Sewerage pipes were laid, followed by a foundation trench filled with reinforcing then concrete around the periphery; upon which a low brick wall was built. Concrete pads within this outer foundation marked the location of brick piers capped with galvanised ant-caps.   Within a few days the timber frame was knocked up and roof joists and ceiling rafters added for stability. Sheets of corrugated iron, upon which concrete was poured, marked the bathroom and laundry floors.  The timber frame was then clad on the outer walls and wet areas with fibrous cement (fibro).  The fibre in fibro was asbestos.  Corrugated fibrous asbestos might also be used for the roof.

Workers typically cut fibro with a hand saw or a special long handled nibbling tool, creating a snow of white dust and/or lots of little chips; in which we played. 

A particularly amusing thing for us was to light a fire of timber off-cuts then soak a piece of fibro in water and heat it until it exploded.   Today this material is considered to be extremely dangerous.  It is only handled using protective clothing and face masks.

I expect to die anytime soon.

From time to time, as children, we accidentally broke windows; usually with some projectile: a ball; a spear; a marble fired from a catapult; a slug from an air rifle and on one occasion a cricket stump.  

But people who lived in fibro houses had the additional risk of their wall being broken.  One day we were playing cricket at school when one of the bigger boys hit a six over the fence and smashed a large hole in the wall of the house next door.  No wonder I didn’t try to catch those balls!

One of the kids knocked on the door and asked:  ’can we get our ball back?’  He failed to mention that it had put a large hole in their house. People who live in fibro houses shouldn't... (that's all).

Bob Piper reminds me that we also risked our lives exploring the underground storm-water drains using burning newspaper torches – wrong on so many levels that it's almost unbelievable that we are both still alive.

 

 

 

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Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Egyptian Mummies

 

 

 

 

Next to Dinosaurs mummies are the museum objects most fascinating to children of all ages. 

At the British Museum in London crowds squeeze between show cases to see them.  At the Egyptian Museum in Cairo they are, or were when we visited in October 2010 just prior to the Arab Spring, by far the most popular exhibits (follow this link to see my travel notes). Almost every large natural history museum in the world has one or two mummies; or at the very least a sarcophagus in which one was once entombed.

In the 19th century there was something of a 'mummy rush' in Egypt.  Wealthy young European men on their Grand Tour, ostensibly discovering the roots of Western Civilisation, became fascinated by all things 'Oriental'.  They would pay an Egyptian fortune for a mummy or sarcophagus.  The mummy trade quickly became a lucrative commercial opportunity for enterprising Egyptian grave-robbers.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

Recently, an increasing number of friends and acquaintances has told me that Climate Change is a myth.  

Obviously they are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  

We don't need climate scientists to tell us that the climate changes. Our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that. 

During my lifetime the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

In the longer term we all have to rely on others. For example on scientists who have themselves examined ice cores or tree rings or sea level records or other physical evidence that can be dated. 

So I'm prepared to believe the scientists who have determined sea levels showing that fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago a hypothetical Australian could walk from Tasmania to New Guinea or an Irishman all the way to Java.

 

Changing sea levels during the past 20,000 years
 Source Wikipedia: Early Human Migration & Sea Level change

 

This rise has not stopped.  During my lifetime the average sea level in Sydney Harbour has risen by nearly a foot, in keeping with long term trends.  More water in the Harbour on average obviously has temperature and therefore microclimate implications.  There are thousands of well documented examples of changes that have climate impacts.

But like the tides there is great variability that masks the underlying trends.   For example 2014 was a record warm year in Sydney.  But in mid 2015 we are going through the longest cold spell in 45 years.  It is snowing in Queensland!

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