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The Depression

 

During the Depression almost every man was out of work.  It didn’t matter how educated they were, it made no difference whatsoever.  They were put on what was known then as ‘relief work’;  digging up the streets with a pick and shovel - road works.  They did not always pay them money either.  You had to line up every week for your ration of food for your whole family.  Occasionally they even supplied you with ‘dole boots’ and other things that were necessary for your survival with the exception of accommodation; that was your problem, not like today.  As you can imagine it was very degrading for your pride and self esteem to live like this. 

A lot of men went on the ‘wallaby tramps’, a swag over their back containing two blankets, a cup and a billy, walking almost everywhere, sleeping under bridges and culverts.  Some were called the ‘sundowners’, calling into homesteads in the late evening when the sun went down, asking the lady of the house for any scraps she could spare and then off again to settle down, light a fire and boil their billy.  A lot of them travelled in groups; when they wanted to travel long distance they would sometimes ‘jump a rattler’ (steel a ride on a freight train).

When people cooked sausages and meat a popular additive was dripping; after cooking the residue was not discarded but kept in a small container and placed in the ice-chest and later was spread very liberally onto a piece of bread with a knife and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Believe it or not this made a very delicious snack (bread and dripping), consumed and enjoyed by almost everybody during the depression.

There were other things made because they were cheap and people could only eat what they could afford.  Jam tarts – you would mix corn flower and water to make the pastry then form it into a tart with the edges turned up into which you would place a liberal amount of apricot jam or similar.  Another thing you would be more or less forced to eat or go without was bread with either golden syrup or treacle spread on (a by-product of molasses), which as you might imagine did wonders for your teeth.  There were many toothy gums with teeth either missing or rotten in the adult fraternity, because people could not afford to buy false ones. 

A very popular dessert was bread and butter custard which was enjoyed by almost everybody.  For breakfast, mum used to give me an Arrowroot biscuit on a small plate with hot milk poured on with a little sugar added.  Also mum would make up a starch with warm milk and sugar.  Of course we did have cornflakes very occasionally. 

The winters in those days were bitterly cold, you could look out across the back paddock in the morning and it was like a big white sheet covered with a heavy frost.  The water tin in the hen house would have ¼ inch of ice on the top.  Every night, sometimes by candlelight and sometimes by kerosene lamp we would all sit around in a semi-circle; mum, me, Beryl and Lucy with our feet in the gas oven.  It was the only lighting and heating mum could afford.  Later mum had a gas light fitted; electricity came much later.

I have always had a ravenous appetite and sometimes I might say to mum when I had finished eating the meal I had been given, “mum I’m still hungry have you got anymore”?  Mum would say “here son, have mine”. I would grab it and wolf it down without so much as a second thought.  If ever an angel came to earth in human form it was my mother. 

Mum had three sisters; Bessie, Mary and Florrie and two brothers; Herb and Jack.  From what I know Jack died at a very early age.  Uncle Herb owned a small gold mine at Nerriga not far from Moss Vale or Braidwood.  He managed to eek out a meagre existence but never ‘struck it rich’ and died a poor man.  Mum originated from Bulli and had relations at Cessnock.  Her mother died at a very early age from cancer and is still buried to this day in a cemetery not far from Bulli.  Kathy Ryan knows the exact location. 

Mum’s second cousin was Les Darcy, a very famous Australian boxer who is of course not known today by most of our younger generation, but will always remind in the history books as a future world champion who was unfortunately denied that privilege by the Americans, who as rumour had it, poisoned him.  In her late teens, mum came to Sydney and seemed to prefer working as a housemaid for rich people in and around the very exclusive area of ‘Roslyn Gardens’. 

 

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Travel

Cruising to PNG

 

 

 

 

On the 17th February 2020 Wendy and I set sail on Queen Elizabeth on a two week cruise up to Papua New Guinea, returning to Sydney on 2nd March. 

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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

In Defence of Secrecy

 

 

Julian Assange is in the news again. 

I have commented on his theories and his worries before.

I know no more than you do about his worries; except to say that in his shoes I would be worried too.  

But I take issue with his unqualified crusade to reveal the World’s secrets.  I disagree that secrets are always a bad thing.

Read more: In Defence of Secrecy

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