Back in the Day

Old Mar 19th 2022, 6:46 pm
  #31  
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Default Re: Back in the Day

When I blew a third of our savings in Perth, learning how not to play the stock market, we had to postpone our expedition to the caves of Crete where the hippies lived. Hey, look: it seemed like a good idea at the time; what more can I tell you?

God - that's Loki, my personal god, the old Norse fellow - said that a salaried job might be a better bet, and immediately landed me a tax-haven job in tax-free Vila. Linda gave guided bus-tours of the Island, answering silly questions from people who had never been out of Australia before. "What do you call that flower?" I mean: who cares, right? She sighed and gave them names she made up on the spot. "I don't know what the scientific name is, but the natives call it the blue-fart snifter. Not to be confused with the yellow-fart snifter which we'll come to shortly." Six months of that and she became a secretary to the Manager of Peat Marwick's local office.

Two years after that, she decided to get pregnant. The caves of Crete were still on the agenda, but no worries! What could go wrong? We discovered the answer to that, when we finally got on the road in England with a brand-new Kombi and a six-week-old baby. We discovered that where two had been company, three was a crowd. The mad. sad, adventure ended with a near-fatal accident in Malaga. We rented a flat in Fuengirola for the winter, and when the sun came out we moved in gentle stages to Monaco (Linda's sister was married to a croupier there), then Vasto on the Adriatic (the brother-in-law had a spare flat there), then a camping ground on Corfu. That's as close we got to Crete. The dream was over.

We had plenty of cash in the bank, still, from our time in Vila. Enough to rent a house in Bath for a year while we considered our options. I took Loki's advice and told a London employment agency to find me a job in another tax-haven. Cayman came good, and we stayed here ever after. Could have been a lot worse...!
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Old Mar 25th 2022, 7:14 pm
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I have mentioned the near-slavery conditions of the Pacific Islanders recruited to work on Queensland farms in the mid-to-late 1800s. School history lessons are hopelessly limited in what they teach about slavery of any kind. The British Empire outlawed chattel slavery in 1834, and the USA empire did so in 1865, but the outlawry only applied to that form of slavery. The practice has flourished since prehistoric times, in all civilisations, under dozens of names. Often, it was called "indentured service", where individuals (whole families, sometimes) were licensed by governments to work for specific employers, and could not leave those employers without government permission. We still have that in Cayman and other West Indian territories today for all migrant workers, and it's what was instituted in Queensland with the Islanders - and (as far as i can ascertain) Chinese workers too.

In the New Hebrides, the local native Melanesians and Polynesians were coerced (my word, but it fits) into conversion to the Christian faith - Roman Catholic in the French-controlled villages, Presbyterian and other Protestant denominations in the British-controlled ones. They were also subjected to the white-invaders' laws, which took precedence over their own "custom" law. The natives had to wear Western clothes, to get any respect; no more public nakedness. All females above the age of puberty wore "Mother Hubbards" utterly shapeless and sexless throw-overs - except during their traditional public festivities, when they could go topless. The men all wore normal shirts and trousers, except that some of them (it was tribal, I think) on festive occasions were allowed to forgo those in favour of their traditional penis-sheaths. I kid you not. There were two varieties of those things, spelled "nambas" but pronounced "numbers". And - I am not joking, as God is my witness - the two varieties were called "big nambas" and "small nambas". Wikipedia can explain the difference to you; I'll be damned if I will. I'm outta here.
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Old Apr 2nd 2022, 3:09 am
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We took two month-long vacations while we lived in Vila. The first one was in 1973 to Capetown (RSA), with two nights in Mauritius on the way. My Best Man at our Toronto wedding six years previous, lived in Capetown, and our generous wages in Vila made it an affordable trip. Except for a few days in Egypt during our backpacking days, we had never set foot in Africa before.

Those were the days of apartheid, so I inevitably embarrassed myself a couple of times by blundering through the wrong doors. One incident stands out in my memory. We were driving a rental car up from Capetown to Natal and the Kruger National Park, mostly on back roads. I got lost once and stopped at the only building for miles around, which turned out to be a shebeen - a rundown pub. It was a one-room affair with - I noticed too late - black men sitting along a counter on one side and white men sitting along an adjoining counter on the other side. All chatting away amicably, but that stopped the moment I came in the wrong door. (Which announced to them all that I was a foreigner, of course.) I couldn't very well go out the door and in the other, so I carefully shared my questions as equally as seemed diplomatic. They all argued among themselves as to how I could best get back to civilisation until the room reached a consensus. One of them gave me the verdict, and the rest nodded approval.

They wished me well, and came to the door(s) and waved us off. Fortunately, neither group had invited me to sit down. I really wouldn't have known what to do.
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Old Apr 7th 2022, 4:43 pm
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Our next vacation took advantage of our proximity to the Asian islands: we flew to Jakarta and took a train across Java and a boat to Bali. Kuta Beach was in its prime - a haven for hippies, before all the junkies' needles spoiled it. My son was telling me the other day that his friends were impressed by his parents' wanderings - lived 1000 miles apart in Australia, went to England on the same boat but six months apart, met in Greece, backpacked around the Middle East, married in Canada, only child born in England... I told him he could add that he was conceived in Indonesia - either Java or Bali, I couldn't tell him which. "Oh come on Dad, you must know which island!" I said no I couldn't, because in those days without children, we were at it every night, pretty much. I began to follow up on that theme, but he cut me off. "Oh God! Whoa! I really don't need to know all the details! La la la, not listening! Jeez, Dad!"

How to throw your child off-balance with just a few well chosen words...
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Old Apr 11th 2022, 7:14 am
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Default Re: Back in the Day

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow View Post
Our next vacation took advantage of our proximity to the Asian islands: we flew to Jakarta and took a train across Java and a boat to Bali. Kuta Beach was in its prime - a haven for hippies, before all the junkies' needles spoiled it. My son was telling me the other day that his friends were impressed by his parents' wanderings - lived 1000 miles apart in Australia, went to England on the same boat but six months apart, met in Greece, backpacked around the Middle East, married in Canada, only child born in England... I told him he could add that he was conceived in Indonesia - either Java or Bali, I couldn't tell him which. "Oh come on Dad, you must know which island!" I said no I couldn't, because in those days without children, we were at it every night, pretty much. I began to follow up on that theme, but he cut me off. "Oh God! Whoa! I really don't need to know all the details! La la la, not listening! Jeez, Dad!"

How to throw your child off-balance with just a few well chosen words...
He HeHeHeHe He He He. Really made me giggle.

I have a young pal back in the UK a good 20 years or more younger. When my Dad died and I was made to leave the house , she kindly offered me to stay with her and her young son.
One evening she invited her Mum & 2nd husband over so we could have tea together.
They and I had several glasses of wine and the subject turned to something or other. Not sure what. Anyway at some point Mum made mention of ....erms.... shannigans of the fruity nature happening on the kitchen table.
That was it ! My young pal just did not know what to do with herself. So funny looking back. So awkward at the time.
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Old Apr 11th 2022, 2:30 pm
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Originally Posted by BEVS View Post
...Anyway at some point Mum made mention of ....erms.... shannigans of the fruity nature happening on the kitchen table.
That was it ! My young pal just did not know what to do with herself. So funny looking back. So awkward at the time.
A lovely story, BEVS! Like one of those jokes that ends with something along the lines of "... and that's why we could never go back to that MacDonald's again!"

And maybe it's why so few apartments these days have kitchen tables. Who knows?

(Thanks for your help on that other thread, by the way. Very much appreciated.)
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Old Apr 17th 2022, 4:06 am
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Our first annual vacation from Bahamas, where we lived for three years 1967-70, was through Central America - from Mexico City down to Panama, mostly on the cheap because that's what we were used to. There was one incident in El Salvador that rattled me, which has stuck in my mind ever since. The fault of my English-Spanish dictionary lay in the fact that the Spanish in it was the Spanish of Spain, not of Latin America. They're not always quite the same, it seems.

Linda was in bed with very painful constipation in a little hotel in a down-market part of the capital city. I rushed down to the nearest pharmacy, and asked for something that would ease my wife's constipacion. No problem, senor, except that what the boss-man gave me was a bottle of nose-drops. Oh, damn! I could see the connection between the two kinds of blockage all right, but my dictionary-Spanish couldn't bridge the gap. The more I demanded a cure for constipacion, the more the man insisted that the nose-drops would do the trick. On the verge of panic, I realised that to get my message across I had to mime the problem. So for three or four very long minutes I played charades. Nothing on God's earth will make me describe what I did to get my message across. The most disgusting performance of my life - made more disgusting by the presence of twenty passers-by jammed in the doorway watching an obviously mad young gringo put on an inexplicably grotesque series of actions that all ended with the word "nada!" - nothing. Finally, when I was reaching the point where I had to take my pants off, the pharmacist shouted "Ahhh! Constrenuenso!" The twenty onlookers held their breath while I checked with the dictionary, and burst into hearty applause when I accepted the verdict. The word meant "constrain", and that was close enough.

Poor Linda. "Where on earth have you been?" She cried. "Drink this", I said, "and don't ask questions." The stuff worked like a charm.
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Old Apr 26th 2022, 12:26 am
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Another "back in the day" reminiscence. (Am I the only BE member to keep the practice of reminiscence alive? Maybe so!)

One long-weekend in Vila, some time in the period 1972-75, we flew to Honiara, on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. That island was a famous US air-base in World War II, and it had (probably still has) a good little war-museum. I remember it vividly for the iconic photograph on the wall, of a dead American soldier - with his helmet still on - in the sea between his landing-craft and the beach he had been wading towards. 19 years old, trained and honed for battle, and shot by an enemy sniper before he even made it to the beach, in what would have been his first battle. What an utter, utter, waste of a life. It's the saddest photo I have ever seen.

I'm reminded of it now, because the Solomon Islands government has just signed a military protection agreement of some kind with China. Australia and the US have their knickers in a twist about it, and are openly considering whether to invade the Islands. I can't help but dread the prospect of another 19-year-old - Australian, Chinese, American, it doesn't matter which - dying some day in the same sea a few yards short of the same beach. The same futility, the same waste of a life. Sigh...
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Old May 3rd 2022, 2:01 am
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What could be more "back in the day" than a wedding of 55 years ago? That's how long since Linda & I married, in the chapel of St Paul's Church in Toronto. I've always thought we had 20 people there, but I can only remember 15, plus us. In the program I composed for Linda's Memorial Service three years ago, I included a dozen photos of her in a variety of settings - and one of them was us getting into the limo in the January snow after the ceremony.

On our 25th anniversary she had published that photo in our local newspaper here. I was wearing my black-rimmed specs - fashionable at the time - which prompted a comedian at the Tennis Club next day to hail me with mock surprise, "Hullo! It's Buddy Holly's father!" Which is funny if you're old enough to remember Buddy Holly. Not if you're not, of course. Our mothers phoned us from Australia. Linda had met my Mum in England two years before, but I didn't meet hers till nearly four years after. A trusting soul, was Mother Currie!

I'm hoping this brief item will encourage other old, or even not-so-old, codgers to give us their memories of their weddings. Only if they were memorable, though...
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Old May 8th 2022, 5:47 pm
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Linda didn't expect to get married in a church - with me, anyway. But I thought it would be a romantic thing to do. So we went along to the parson there and asked him, and he said we had to come to three services beforehand, and could then be married by banns - instead of by a licence. The lead-up to the wedding had been something less than romantic, so the service itself evened things out a bit.

Linda had given up on me a couple of months before, and gone back to Australia to start a new life. Finally, grudgingly (!) I realised I had blown a good chance and begged her to come back. Most un-romantically, she said (on the phone, this was), "put it in writing." "Oh, and send me the fare." Poor girl. When she flew into Toronto, I wasn't there. I had been called down to the Bahamas on an auditing assignment. She turned up at my flat, told my flatmate who she was; he checked with me, and gave her the money to buy herself a ticket down. A pretty crappy start to a fifty-two year marriage, I guess. Does any reader have a less promising one?
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Old May 12th 2022, 10:33 pm
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And just in case I'd forgotten any of the details of my wedding, I looked on Google Maps for the church and the reception-place - and neither was anywhere close to where I'd remembered them. How embarrassing. I had to go onto BE's Canadian "Maple Leaf" site and ask for help. Which was given without any problem, but I still feel bad about it. How could I forget? I can't blame it on old age, because I've always been wrong about the places. Sheesh!
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Old May 15th 2022, 9:53 pm
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Canada was only ever a way-station for Linda & me. We had each aimed to go around the globe from Australia via England and North America, then settle down in our respective jobs and cities, After our meeting in Greece, and our Middle East adventure, we parted in London. She joined her sister in Canada and took odd jobs to finance her fare home. I drove my Mum around England, then hit the US consulate for permission to immigrate.

The girl at the counter said to take a ticket and wait to be called. The room was crowded, and my heart sank when they called number 24; mine was 103. A cunning plan was called for. Why not whip around to the Canadian consulate and get one of its tickets? Then I'd have two options? And if I got to Canada I could always sneak over the border to the US some day. As it happened, Canada's waiting room was empty, I was interviewed then and there, and Linda met me off the plane. After an inordinate amount of argy-bargy and dodgy-wodgy, we married there 15 months later. Story as per above. My impatience in London changed our whole lives. We never did make it home to Oz, except for holidays.

Also, I never did sneak over the border to the US. (Well, I did once, but that was in the company of some Canadian friends, so that doesn't really count.)
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