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War!

 

At age 15 in 1939, the Second World War ‘broke out’ with very vivid implications even for those of us at home:  food rationing; petrol rationing; and later when the Japanese came into it brownouts and blackouts were also imposed. 

Coffee for one thing was practically unprocurable so people had to make do with substitutes both for that and other things.  For a coffee substitute you could stick together about a dozen pieces of wheat with burnt sugar to form a sort of a blob; if you put three or four blobs in a cup of boiling water it would taste like coffee.  I know; I used to drink it.

Everybody was issued with ration tickets which had to be used very sparingly.  Of course the few who were fortunate to have money could buy all they wanted on the black market with the possible exception of petrol, of which the Military and Essential Services had the monopoly.  But for everybody else there was nowhere near enough. 

But most problems have a solution – in this case a ‘charcoal burner’ – a big ugly monstrosity of a thing about five feet high by one foot wide mounted on the passenger side of a car on the running-board (step), belching fire, smoke, fumes and pollution everywhere.  The gas the charcoal emitted was fed into the fuel system which in some sort of way took the place of petrol but was nowhere near as potent. 

Vehicles in those days did not develop very much horsepower at all, compression ratios were very low, about 7.5:1 compared to about 12:1 today.  Also the octane rating of petrol was only about 70 compared to 91 or 95 today.  To coin a phrase ‘they wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding’.  When the car was going uphill under load in top gear the engine would start pinging (ping ping, ping ping, ping).  The only way you could stop it was to back off on the accelerator then you had to change down a gear, which would use more fuel.  It was compulsory to paint the sides of the mudguards of your vehicle white so they could be more easily seen in the brownouts. 

After Darwin was bombed and the fear of a possible bombing and invasion by the Japanese drew closer people started digging air raid shelters. 

I spent a whole week digging a huge hole in our backyard.  It was very hard digging through clay let me tell you.  It used to stick and cling to my mattock and when it was finished I was very proud of the effort I had made for my family.  I was only about 17.  One night it rained very heavily and filled the whole bloody thing with water; so much for the air-raid shelter.  Luckily as it turned out it wasn’t needed anyway.

When the Japanese bombed Darwin there was complete and utter panic and thousands of people fled south in a mass exodus to a small place called Adelaide River.  They came on horseback, cars, trucks, motorbikes and bicycles.  It was referred to as the ‘Adelaide River Stakes’.  At that time Adelaide River was the culminating point of our rail link. 

Both the casualty rate and the damage caused by the bombing were very heavily censored.  The next day I remember seeing a lone soldier with a Bren-gun mounted on a tripod standing on Manly Beach.

The Australian Government also in a state of panic had formulated a pathetic plan to abandon the whole northern part of Australia to the Japanese and to form a last ditch stand at the ‘Brisbane Line’. All I can say is ‘God bless America’ because if it hadn’t been for them the Japanese would have been all over us like a rash and what do you think would have happened then?

‘That’ I will leave to your own imagination.

 For what happened next go to A Digger's Tale

 

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Travel

Darwin after Europe

 

 

On our return from Europe we spent a few days in Darwin and its surrounds.  We had a strong sense of re-engagement with Australia and found ourselves saying things like: 'isn't this nice'.

We were also able to catch up with some of our extended family. 

Julia's sister Anneke was there, working on the forthcoming Darwin Festival.  Wendy's cousin Gary and his partner Son live on an off-grid property, collecting their own water and solar electricity, about 120 km out of town. 

We went to the Mindl markets with Anneke and her friend Chris; and drove out to see Gary, in our hire-car, who showed us around Dundee Beach in his more robust vehicle. Son demonstrated her excellent cooking skills.

 

Read more: Darwin after Europe

Fiction, Recollections & News

More on 'herd immunity'

 

 

In my paper Love in the time of Coronavirus I suggested that an option for managing Covid-19 was to sequester the vulnerable in isolation and allow the remainder of the population to achieve 'Natural Herd Immunity'.

Both the UK and Sweden announced that this was the strategy they preferred although the UK was soon equivocal.

The other option I suggested was isolation of every case with comprehensive contact tracing and testing; supported by closed borders to all but essential travellers and strict quarantine.   

New Zealand; South Korea; Taiwan; Vietnam and, with reservations, Australia opted for this course - along with several other countries, including China - accepting the economic and social costs involved in saving tens of thousands of lives as the lesser of two evils.  

Yet this is a gamble as these populations will remain totally vulnerable until a vaccine is available and distributed to sufficient people to confer 'Herd Immunity'.

In the event, every country in which the virus has taken hold has been obliged to implement some degree of social distancing to manage the number of deaths and has thus suffered the corresponding economic costs of jobs lost or suspended; rents unpaid; incomes lost; and as yet unquantified psychological injury.

Read more: More on 'herd immunity'

Opinions and Philosophy

Australia's $20 billion Climate strategy

 

 

 

We can sum this up in a word:

Hydrogen

According to 'Scotty from Marketing', and his mate 'Twiggy' Forrest, hydrogen is the, newly discovered panacea, to all our environmental woes:
 

The Hon Scott Morrison MP - Prime Minister of Australia

"Australia is on the pathway to net zero. Our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support and create, especially in our regions.

For Australia, it is not a question of if or even by when for net zero, but importantly how.

That is why we are investing in priority new technology solutions, through our Technology Investment Roadmap initiative.

We are investing around $20 billion to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity. We expect this to leverage more than $80 billion in investment in the decade ahead.

In Australia our ambition is to produce the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world, at $2 per kilogram Australian.

Mr President, in the United States you have the Silicon Valley. Here in Australia we are creating our own ‘Hydrogen Valleys’. Where we will transform our transport industries, our mining and resource sectors, our manufacturing, our fuel and energy production.

In Australia our journey to net zero is being led by world class pioneering Australian companies like Fortescue, led by Dr Andrew Forrest..."

From: Transcript, Remarks, Leaders Summit on Climate, 22 Apr 2021
 

 

Read more: Australia's $20 billion Climate strategy

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