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Dear Saint confessions

David, put down those sticks

Dear Shady,

I grew up in Australia during a child boom that basically meant that I was surrounded by lots of kids.

My folks moved out to Sydney from Ottawa after a series of serious domestic terrorism threats in our neighbourhood along Alta Vista to Riverside Drive.

My mother had lived on Sydney's North Shore for part of her childhood, so she wanted to live in the "bush in the city". We moved to the best example of the bush-in-the-city, Turramurra. Turramurra was from the local Aborigine language for High Hill High Water.

I was put into Turramurra Infants school at 4 years and nine months, roughly around February 1970. I seemed to fit in very well with the other kids, & immediately we were indoctrinated by the older kids in K2 ( a recession grade kindergarten class) on the practices of gum nut collection. Of course, to get gum nuts, you needed currency; there were many types of valuables used for currency, notably old L-S-D money. Australia had just entered the decimal system a few years earlier, making thruppence, sixpence & large copper pennies great for trading. The most highly prized currency was the red to brown-red and sometimes greenish-brown powdered sandstone from the school yard.

During our recesses or play-lunch & lunch breaks we would tuck into our food in a frenzy so that we could start our enterprises before the half-recess bell that would force us onto the football field. Well we would take our wax paper from our lunch bags and make packages to contain the sand, and when we had enough of the coloured powder we would swap for the much prized large gum nuts. Some of the other guys were always dirty as they would sit right in the dirt as they ran their sticks and other rocks in the grooves on the exposed sandstone outcrops. One bloke, Jim Soothill, (his name matched his skin as he was always covered in sand & sooty dirt), and another Stewart Kent, became the ad-hoc entrepreneurs dealing-in & trading other prized items. I seem to remember that Jim was more of a sand pirate, and since I associated with him, I guess that made me a pirate too. Stewart always had a way to make the deals go his way.

Many years later after we had a few scientists come to the school to discuss the Sydney sandstone & its massive cross-bedding, we all walked around the school grounds with the guests only to have them inform us that the sandstone grooves that had been hacked for years (even decades) were actually part of a series of ancient pictographs from the original people in the area. They were rather upset that somehow vandals had come into the school yard and ruined the very rare graphics and they stated that from this point on they must be preserved to avoid any future defacing.

Speed ahead about 40 years, and you can still walk past Turramurra Public School only to see the kids trading sand for gum nuts. I only wonder which ancient artifacts they have plundered to enter this free market economy.

If only we had Google Street View.

Dear Saint,

I must confess that once I did get in trouble with law. It was quite a while back, and I have since reformed so I think that the officer that I met was very helpful in bending my potential career in crime. If only we had Google Street View in those days. (see attached image, comment on Google Earth Street View).

Early one day, I stopped by the Prestige Car Wheels shop at 137 Victoria Road Drummoyne, They specialised in wheels and Momo Steering wheels. I was looking for rims for my girlfriend, Miss Tavistock's Datto 180B. She was looking for wheels that were less skinny, and ones that would fit a larger range of rubber. So I went to the counter and spoke with the owner, he told me that I could drop by any time I was ready to pickup the wheels. He said "those rims over there, they're for datsuns, came off a 200B so they will fit your car." He said to me, "just drop by after work, you'll be right."

So over the next couple of days I mentioned the rims to Miss Tavistock, and I had convinced her that we could get them at any time. Anytime in my life for some reason meant after midnight, so after midnight it was to be.
On a friday night we headed out in the Datsun 180B and went to Formosa Street (the back door of the shop) and got to the yard. The gates were closed but there was enough of a gap for me to squeeze through and go get my rims. I grabbed one rim and it was just too wide to get through the gap, (I must mention that I could probably still do it today except the gates would not let go of my belly). I climbed onto the padlocked chain, and stood up and handed over the rim to Miss Tavistock. She took it, and set it down on the boot floor, I went back for the next rim, and did the same thing. I went back for the 3rd rim and as I handed it to Miss Tavistock, she was standing next to a police officer who was handing the rim back to me. He told me to put the stuff back and then come over the fence and have a little talk. We told him the story so far, and he was not one of my believers but he agreed to let us go as we looked like nice clean kids. We told him that we were somewhat sorry for doing this and that it wouldn't happen again. It wasn't until later when I had driven around from Formosa Street onto Victoria Road that I noted that the shop was on the north side of Drummoyne Police Station at 135 Victoria Road.


Formosa Street Looking at back of 135 Victoria Road: Thanks to Google Street View.Formosa Street Looking at back of 135 Victoria Road: Thanks to Google Street View.

Just the groceries man.

Dear Saint

you may remember in my last letter about my trip up to your neck of the woods, my trip to Val Gagné on a water survey. The trip had ended in our supervisor acting in a very bad mood, however we had taken a lend of him for quite some time.

During the early part of the project we brought up our own grocery. After a couple of days, we began to run low on food and the OGS was supposed to feed us while we were away anyway. Our motel had a no cooking policy but this didn't stop my work mate and me from using our propane torches outside cooking our pots of rice and noodle dishes. In the morning while we were pumping the water out of our water bores, Norm drove up to the site on the ATV and announced that he would be heading to Cochrane to pickup grocery for all the other teams. He said that he was going to check on the others and he will be back in about 15 minutes to pick up a list from us.

We sat down and wrote out our food wish list which mainly consisted of junk food but we did have some real stuff on there too. I said to me mate, "let's get a laugh, I'll add some bogus grocery to get a stir out of Norm"

So we started to write out:
President's Choice Decadent Choc Chip cookies, 4 bags
wholewheat slice bread, 3 loaves
sesame sead bagels 2 bags, 12 bagels each
7-up, 6 pack, cans
Mr Noodles, Vegetable, Case
Man Mustard, 3 shots, hot.
moist paper towels, bag of 2 rolls
Milk, 2% 1 litre
Soy milk, 2 litres, X2
sliced cheese, 2 packets
lettuce, 2 heads
tomatoes, at least 5
apples, 12
oranges 12
bananas, 2 hands

Norm came back to pick up the list, he quickly perused the list, and looked up, "Right boys, you can count on it, I will be back with these this afternoon.

The afternoon came and went and we headed back to the hotel in the dark at around 4.30pm. We cleaned up and cooked the few groceries we had left and my mate offered me a bevvy. We then headed into the bar next door and ordered a beer. The locals were standing around the bar when Norm came in, he was huffing and puffing and he mostly looked pleased with him self. We were sitting at a table when he came up to us an announced "Well boys, I got all your groceries, except one. I got you all the cookies, all the bread, all that fancy milk you want Shady, and all the fruit and veg, but I couldn't find the man mustard. I first went to Cochrane (65km), and I was at the President's Choice there, and they didn't know what I meant, they kept on laughing at me, I then went up the road to the IGA, and they laughed at me there. I then drove 58km to Smooth Rock Falls to see if they had and there was a small Valumart, but they had not heard of that brand. I then turned around toward Val Gagné and turned off to Iroquois Falls (50km), and no one there had heard of Man Mustard. I then went down to Matheson (38km) and both IGA and President's Choice either laughed at me or told me to get out- I just don't understand. I decided that you guys could live a couple more days without your man mustard do I drove back here (18km) and that is it."

During this update on Norm's day, the crowd had gathered to hear about how he spent the day looking for man mustard.


Difficult at the best of times

Dear Saint,

I know that you've been in Northern Ontario for quite some time and in your outdoor experience you have probably encountered similar work situations with regards to the cold and winter breakup.

It all started 16 years back, I was on an assignment with the Ontario Geological Survey, and we were performing water sampling on the top of the frozen lake surfaces. The program went like this:

Around the lake margins a Nodwell drill rig was setup to drill 90° into the shore and below the lake. We tested for the water table every so often, but listening to the drillers was one of the most powerful tools we had. The first few metres of ground were frozen, so we used a sonic drill to not disturb the surrounding ground, and we could bag the sediment for later analysis. After we entered the aquifer we then sent down the casing (steel rods the diameter of the hole). The top of the hole was grouted and we capped the top of the casing for later testing. Once the shore line was done it was time to get the drilling onto the lake.

Casing was sent down the ice hole into the lake bottom piercing about 2.5 metres of lake bed and running all the way up to the ice and sticking up about 1.0 metre. Drilling was then conducted through the casing. Once setup on the lake, drilling rods were passed down through the casing and keeping them isolated from the cold frigid water below the ice surface. We started the sonic drill (which again doesn't disturb the sediment) and we brought up our seds and bagged them at the surface. Again the water table level was sought, and once we were out of the hydrostatic influence from the lake we could sample water. We had to pump out the water from the "bore" and come back several hours later and try to drain again: knowing the time and being able to measure the volume of water gave us a flow rate below the lake. We also sampled the water so that we could get details on metals within the aquifer.

The funny and arkward action of pumping the water from the bore was start of my troubles. A teflon/nylon hose about 12mm inside diameter was sent down the hole usually about 50 metres. The foot of the hose had a teflon foot valve- a ball in a basket that allows the water to flow in the pumping direction. To pump you push the hose down the hole about 1/2 to 1 metre stroke, then pull up, and repeat. After about 10 pumps we got water flowing which we measured in buckets, and dumped as needed. Samples were taken before and after the pumping. Anyway, from afar, this pumping action looked ridiculous, my work mate and I would take turns at standing with our legs spread 1.0 metre, grabbing the hose at chest height and pushing the hose down by bending the knees and almost squatting. After about 3 hours of doing this on the lake we renamed the activity "felching" (see Our banter was like, "hey baby, how about some damn fine felching...." , "yeah man, your turn to felch me", "felch me some hot juice man..." and so on.

Anyway, our supervisor would come to the site and check out our work and kind of do a management by walking around. We grew somewhat tired of his notions of hardwork. Norm (supervisor's name changed to avoid future legal matters) went into to Val Gagné at night back to our motel, and spoke with the locals all about the work he was doing on the lake. As a labourer, this seemed an affront as we were doing the heavy lifting and we never heard anything about the cold freezing drillers etc. Norm wasn't too worldly and didn't know much outside of his profession, so we planned to tell the locals a different sort of boast. You see, Val Gagné is a small Franco Ontarien town, a small farming community so their view of the world is local and they were just amazed that an Aussie like me was there. We sat down at the bar and told everyone what felching was, and they were both amazed and horrified.

The next day, Norm came out to our site and said "Howzit going boys?",
We responded with
"G'day Norm, yeah we're working hard felching man. Yep felching is what we're good at....." , "we just felched 500 litres of hot juice.." and similar. Norm picked up pretty quickly that the slang for pumping water was felching and he even used it in a few sentences himself.

This was great, we had him trained and it was done in about 15 minutes of conversation. Throughout the day, Norm returned, and the "felching" word was getting an hard workout. Norm was the prime candidate. So as the sun went down about 3:50pm, my work mate and I rushed back to the suburban and raced ahead into Val Gagné. The bar patrons at the motel were informed that Norm was on his way, and we asked them to all yell out "How's it going Norm?" as he came in.

Well Norm came through the door, the bar patrons went off like a charm..."Ow's it goin' Norm?" was the cry.
Norm was delighted and walked over to the locals at the bar and began his boast. "Oh yes, I have been really felching hard all day, I have felched just over 10,000 litres of hot juice.."
The crowd burst out in howls of laughter. You could see that Norm felt very uncomfortable, and he huffed out of the bar back to his room. The rest of the days at the work site became unbearable, Norm was in a bad mood.


A night out on the town.

Dear Saint,
I have already told you about our reckless night in the Dino, however I never told you what else happened after that. Pete & I headed into the house to see Joanne sitting there tossing a beer back. So of course we had to have a few. A few hours later we thought that we better get on the road to Perisher, so since I had a few beers I wasn't going to drive and Joanne said since she had only one, she was ok to drive. We piled into the little Volvo 142 and headed down the Hume toward Goulburn. Joanne never knew what we had been up to only 7 hours earlier. We stopped in the drive through at Maccas, and then took the old by-pass way through Tarago, Bungendore, Queabeyan (the home town of James Bond #2 George Lazenby) and onto Cooma, Jindabyne, up the hill to Perisher.
Before we arrived at Perisher, we dropped Joanne off at Smiggins Hole(s). We went on for a great ski and then that evening down to our rented flat in Jindabyne. At night we went to the pub and met up with heaps of people we knew and met some new friends. Unfortunately there was a bit of a bad crowd there and someone had spiked my drink that night.

The next night we met up with a bunch of blokes from a western Sydney seminary, and even though they seemed to be associated with many girls we didn't quite understand this dynamic of men who were in training to go off and potentially become priests. One of the guys invited us to a party the next night. Pete got the invitation, so I didn't hear all the details, but the party wasn't far from our flat. The next night we turned up at their flat and the place was pumping with loud music, heaps of girls, and lots of people coupled up. However, and a big HOWEVER! everyone turned up in Togas. We had our typical 1983 Aussie aprés ski wear on, so we really looked out of sorts. There were rooms where folks were getting it off, the bathroom was the most visited site for both the facilities and the dope. It looked like the blokes had been stockpiling enough drugs to get them into business.

Most of the night was ok, but toward midnight some of the "students" got into fights, and this is where we got into really big trouble. 2 blokes were rolling around on the floor struggling in a fight, and we ripped their togas off exposing their sword fight. It then turned ugly despite the obvious view to all, and we were eyeballed out of the apartment. We fled as fast as we could. Shots were fired over our heads, we couldn't believe it, so we ran to the Volvo and bolted down the street to get away from our flat so that we could hide. Pete went to get the 22 out of the boot and rang a few shots in the air, we screamed down the street and got away from the shots. We stayed over the east side of Jindabyne for a while and watched across the lake police come and go. Finally around 3am we headed back to our flat and got some sleep. As I told you before I think that the gun was the wrong choice.


What you used to get away with.

What you used to get away with.

Dear Saint,
I had been telling you about my old days back in Canyonleigh. It was about 25 years back when my mate Pete James & I had decided to head out to the Snowies for a ski. We were accompanied by a friend Joanne P former Loreto Normanhurst girl.

Anyway we got it into our heads the night before the drive to Perisher, to take the folks' ferrari out for a spin. The car was jacked up and disabled, mostly to keep the likes of me out of the car. However after a couple hours of work we were able to get the car running again, put the rear mufflers back on, removed the number plates, dismantled the hodge-podge disabling bolt inside the gear stick compartment; the ferrari dino had a gear stick grille for exact shifting. Anyway, once we got it started, sort of like a scene out of Risky Business (quite appropriate as the movie was still current then), we drove as slow as ever to get to the Hume Highway. So once we got the car off Inverary Road, we hit the bitumen like a bat out hell. The car still had the old 8-track in it, so the choice of music was Abba or Neil Diamond, so Abba it was. The 15 km drive didn't take long to Marulan. We stopped at the truck stop there, Pete got out and swung his fireman's coat like a whip and threw it to the ground. He did all this while in his right arm crease he held a Ruger 22 rifle. He aimed and unloaded 6 rounds into his coat. Pete asked "where did all the bullets go?" I said "get in.. let's go.....!" as 2 big burley truckers looked our way and it looked like there was going to be a road block. I revved up the Dino and we hit the tar with the rear wheels spinning.

Once back onto the Hume, we headed down the road to Goulburn, the road was patchy 4 lane and 2 lane for the next 35km or so. We travelled at 135-150mph (not km, miles). We got to the bottom of the hill in Goulburn and quickly whipped around in a U-turn and screamed back up the hill. Just as we got to the the crest, 6 cop cars with the blue lights blazing came around the bend heading down to Goulburn. I looked back in the mirror and saw their brake lights. I went from 4th to 3rd to get a bit more torque and sped up the highway. I can't tell you how long it took but it felt like an eternity during the little race back up to Canyonleigh. The main danger in my mind was the fact that the car was just over a 1metre tall and that we were outrunning the headlights. I was seriously worried about hitting Kangaroos.

Once safely back at the garage, we jacked the car up, pulled out the muffer (after it had cooled) and washed down the dust on the underside of the car. I know that the speeding and wreckless driving wasn't a good thing, but I think that the gun was a crazy addition to our adventure.

Thanks for the opportunity to confess

how to websurf at work

Well after several months of being on the government payroll, the hundrum of the daily slog has set in. And of course the "corporate" network is just that. We have CBC access of course but all other sites are restricted with a frank warning "ACCESS DENIED- your username is not on the ACL list" which means : piss off.

So how do I access the net at work, without breaking the rules about shoulder surfing? Easy, I went out and purchased an ASUS 900 Netbook for just under $379, and hooked it up to a Rogers portable internet 110V sharkfin. Great, now I can surf the web when I am forced to sit at my desk when there is zero work.

Anyway the boss is coming over so i have to sign off for now.


Telephone line, give me some time

Dear Saint,

I told you that my previous record of keeping a Telemarketer on the phone was 17 minutes 2 years ago. Well I broke that record only one week later.

The record now stands at 23 minutes.

Jeff Lynne : Telephone Line, give me some timeJeff Lynne : Telephone Line, give me some time

Hanging on the telephone

Dear Saint,

I am having bad withdrawal symptoms the last few months.

For the last 5 years, I was getting at least 5 or 6 Telemarketers per day ringing my house. They would ring me at very convenient times like during dinner, just when I'm locking the back door to go out, when I'm up the ladder, under the car doing an oil change, when both hands were full of groceries, and most conveniently just when I was expecting very important phone calls.

May Day

Dear Saint,
I am sure that you remember during your time in Australia hearing or even seeing the great Ricky May. He was that somewhat overweight New Zealand transplant who appeared on Hey Hey It's Saturday & the Don Lane Show many times. In fact when ever you talk to Aussies about him you will get a very good response about him. Well I have to say that the man had a secret second nature.

On a day back in 1984 my friend Pete James & I were driving back from a delivery of legal papers to Ocean Street Rose Bay, when this large Ford LTD pulled up next to us at the lights and the driver started slinging abuse at us, mostly at me. It was as Pete said, "that's that Ricky May guy...."
We continued to drive towards Gladesville from the CBD, and the madman kept creeping up to us at the lights then he started playing stop and start in front of us through Ultimo, then the same happened all the way to Balmain, then as we headed toward the iron bridge at Roselle, he finally crossed 3 lanes of traffic and slammed on the brakes in front of us. I then hit his car, and the front of my car was all bent up. He got out of the car and put his hands through my open driver's window and began to pull my shirt. He pulled me out of the car and began hurling abuse and threats that he was going to kill me, he said that he had been waiting for me for 20 years.
Pete got out of the car and tried to pull him off me, but without success. Two other people got out of his car, both females, one was dark like Ricky and the other was a blonde Anglo-Saxon lady- the blonde was pregnant and looked like she would pop any day. What felt like an eternity, Ricky finally dropped me to the road, and walked over to the blonde, and he essentially picked her up like a rug and shoved her in the back seat. The brunette girl then ran to the car and then they drove off.
I went to Drummoyne Police Station and basically was told, "nah! that couldn't have been Ricky May, he's a jolly fella....." I gave them the rego plate number, and they looked it up. The officer told me that I could press charges, but if I did, they would have to charge me first as my car's front was damaged. I chose not to and then took matters into my own hands.

So for the next months to years, I followed Ricky May everywhere he performed. He would appear at an opening somewhere, I was there. He would be at a mall to do a Matinée, I was there. And on one occasion with Pete & some other guys, we armed our selves with pots of yoghurt and bombed him from an upstairs level at Macquarie Centre and just creamed him. It was great. The blonde, I later found out was his wife just stood there and watched us flee. On many occasions she recognised me, but never said anything.

I had taken a drive to Melbourne a few times, and I saw Ricky play at Don's Supper Club. Many times I went to the Regency Hotel Sydney ( now Four Seasons @ 199 George Street) often to sit at the bar and listen to Ricky May, many times I spooked him, and the last time I heard him, I saw him at the back of the hotel, he looked like he was having a drunken time, but I suspect he was suffering from a diabetic low, I just looked at him and said " You are as good as dead mate, you make me sick...., do you remember me, because i remember you, I can't even bother with you anymore...."

Finally on June 1 1988, after seeing Ricky May about 1 week before, I heard on early morning radio that Ricky May had died of an heart attack at Don's Supper Club, only a 9 hour drive away.

admin note: Ricky May died at age 44 about 1 week after he committed to going on a diet, his wife Colleen received a call about his death in the morning after his last show.