Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012

The forecast for Christmas Day in Central Australia is 39 degrees Celsius ... so much for a "white" Christmas. It's a tad hot for roast meats and vegies straight out of the oven, so we plan to do our cooking Christmas eve in an outdoors barbecue after dark and then have cold meats and salads for lunch.

We usually start with a pancake breakfast around 10 am after we have opened our presents. Our pancakes are topped with jam, cane sugar syrup and cream (for anyone keen enough to bolster their cholesterol levels) accompanied by fruit juice, coffee, and a variety of seasonal fruits.

Around 2 pm we begin to feel hungry again, so it's back to the table for another round, this time pork, chicken, turkey and beef roast and a variety of salads eg, potato salad, bean salad, , prawn salad, and that green leaf stuff that has no nutrition, tastes like cardboard and doesn't seem good for anything ... lettuce. (By now I expect you will have guessed I don't like it).

At lunch we will probably crack a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine or Champagne depending on how much we have already consumed and who wants what. We have quite a collection for a family that doesn't really drink all that much (in comparison with other Territorians that is).

After lunch I usually get the job of cleaning up, (thank goodness for dish washers) have a nap for an hour if time permits and then in the evening Christina and I are off to Ilparpa (five or six kilometres away) to have dinner with friends. By then we probably won't care what our son, daughter and grandson are doing. All the excitement tends to wear us out these days.

It's a good thing Christmas only comes annually, although I seriously think that in Australia we should have it in July, not December. I may start up a Christmas in July Lobby Group to try to change our traditions. There is another group hell bent on eliminating Christmas, so my pressure for a change in timing shouldn't be such a bad deal.

We hope you and yours, wherever you are have a wonderful Christmas and New Year if it is part of your tradition and if not, we wish you all the best for 2013.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Mt Gambier - Volcano City

Mt Gambier is a beautiful city at the south-east corner of South Australia near the border with Victoria. Locally the region is called the Limestone Coast obviously because of the volcanic nature of the area and the subsequent limestone deposits.

We had never been here before, so it was lovely to visit and see all the beautiful gardens and the main features related to the city's volcanic history.

At the edge of the city is the Blue Lake, an ancient volcanic opening which is now filled with beautiful blue water ... the town's drinking supply. Underneath the city is a vast system of caverns, and waterways, many of which are frequented by scuba divers who explore the caves. On the surface are numerous sink holes where the tops of caves have collapsed creating holes of varying depths. Several of these have been turned into public parks with chairs, tables, and free gas barbecues.

There are dozens of walking paths around the city and nearby areas. It's truly a lovely part of South Australia, but unfortunately, in November (southern hemisphere Spring) it's still chilly, so it's obviously a cooler place unsuited to dry, hot weather people like us.

Click on the photo strip to see the following examples of Mt Gambier, with a description of each from the top down:

  1. A park at the edge of the Blue Lake has a block of limestone with a small solution tube (water and acid eat through the limestone leaving a circular hole)
  2. Christina stands at one of the viewing platforms erected in the 1800s
  3. The Blue Lake taken from a lookout some kilometres away
  4. Inside the Umpherstine sink hole which is now a public recration area
  5. Looking into the Umpherstine Sink Hole
  6. Bottle brush flowers are plentiful in the Umpherstine Sink Hole Park
  7. A possum lives in a cave at Umpherstine Sink Hole and is obviously accustomed to visitors of the two legged variety
Today is our last day at Mt Gambier and we had for the Coorong before going to Adelaide and then back up the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Visiting Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

Tourist brochures tell us that Bendigo and the nearby Heathcote Regions of Victoria are among the fastest growing areas in the state. The local population is around 100,000 which probably doesn't mean much to those of you in Mumbai or Mexico city, or perhaps in Indonesia.

Between 1850 and 1900 Bendigo mines produced more gold than any other place in the world, about nine billion dollars worth. But now the mining era has been and gone and all that are left are the stories of immigrants who became millionaires overnight and the remnants such as the poppet head in the photo at left.

I've visited Bendigo several times previously, the most recent perhaps 15 years ago and have always found it a pleasant, nice place to be, although prone to cold weather; I wouldn't want to live here.

Among the many things to do at Bendigo are:

1. do an underground mine tour of the Central Deborah Gold Mine which is situated within the city area (strange to see a poppet head sticking out from the suburban streets)
2. go for a trip on the Bendigo Tramways' "talking train"
3. visit the Bendigo Pottery and watch a wheel thrown pottery demonstration as an expert potter shows how easy it is to transform a lump of damp clay into a work of art
4. visit the Chinese Museum and cultural centre and associated gardens
5. follow a map to visit many of the very old buildings that date back to the early days of Bendigo's settlement

If none of these appeals to you, there are plenty of pubs, a nightclub, restaurants, shops and other things to do here.

There is an excellent tourist information centre here with dozens of brochures, maps and stuff to buy. Although we don't by any "tourist stuff" anymore, Christina and I found it nice walking through the beautiful parks and gardens and around the route covering the old buildings (even grey nomads need exercise). Many of the tree varieties here eg, Dutch elm and oak are not found in Central Australia, as are many of the flowers and shrubs, so it's uplifting to walk among them and admire their beauty, depth of foilage and the birdlife they attract.

We stopped at a business which is a coffee shop, restaurant and bar and had a cup of coffee and garlic bread with three accompanying dips. Fortunately, we only bought one to share as it was huge and one each would have been simply too much. We are finding more and more now that serving sizes have become inordinately large, so it's common for us to buy one meal and share it.

After all, every calorie counts!


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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Popularity of Caravaning

We've been on the caravan trail in Victoria, Australia now for almost four weeks and I never realised exactly how popular an activity it is. Even in the chill of our southern Spring.

Every caravan park we have been to has had a large number of happy caravaners, RVers, people in tents and of course those who book cabins.

The standard of caravan parks has been impressive. All we have been to have had good amenities including play equipment or rooms for kids, barbecues, swimming pools, and other facilities like "jumping pillows".

While the travelling caravan population consists mainly of older, retired or near-retirement-age travellers, there are also younger families with pre-school age children having a few days holiday. Also, we have noticed that there are groups of "clubbers" ie, people with a common interest who are travelling together.

At Marong (20 km from Bendigo) where we are at present, there is a group of Jaycar caravaners who are members of a Probus Club. Apparently their group travels to a different town every three months to meet other regional Probus Club members and socialise. Way to go!

Given that our current nightly rate is $27 AUD, it's a much cheaper option to caravan than to be paying rent or perhaps a mortgage. This amount includes use of amenities, water and power although if you want to do your clothes washing, usually you have to pay for use of the equipment. We have a small Lamair on-board top loading washing machine, so we haven't had to pay for anything additional.

Marong Caravan Park has about 30 caravans here at present. Given that there are thousands of caravan parks about around this huge country of ours, I can only guess that there must be tens of thousands of people travelling from place to place at any time of the day.

Today we are off to Bendigo to take in the local sights.


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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Duties of a Caravaner - Rooster to Feather Duster

When you buy a caravan and head off into the great Australian towns, the lower level duties still have to be done ... it's not all beer and skittles. For example, the caravan has to be swept, you still need to wash clothes (although ironing isn't a priority), prepare food, wash dishes, and now, empty the chemical toilet.

The latter is a new role for me. As I contemplated emptying our toilet capsule, I recalled the expression, "Rooster one day, feather duster the next". Although as head lecturer of prisoner education and in other positions I had never considered myself a big shot (or a rooster), I was well above emptying toilets other than that act with which we are all accustomed ... pushing the flushing button and letting physics take over.

Well, our shiny new caravan has a chemical toilet capsule. For those unfamiliar with them, I won't go into detail, but the capsule is self-contained and can be removed in one piece from the caravan and taken to a dump point and ... yes, you guessed it, the contents can be dumped.

My mate Michael Dougall just had to accompany me and take some "action photography" of me extracting the toilet canister, towing it to the dump site and dumping its contents. Fortunately, as you'll see in the photos, the capsule has an extending handle and can be towed like a travel bag. (The mind boggles and it lends another dimension to the expression, "taking the piss")

From this experience I have promulgated Caravaners' Rule One: If someone else provides a toilet, you never, ever use your own.

Remember that rule if you become a caravaner.


PS: I thought an appropriate advert for this page would be my range of Colon Cleansing Review e-books.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What do sullage pipes, microwaves and shower taps have in common?

You're right, they probably have nothing much in common except when they don't work.

Despite the Blue Sky Caravan company's four hour quality control process, gremlins got into our Sharp microwave and shower tap. The former didn't work no matter how hard we tried and the shower tap leaked as soon as we turned on the water supply. Much to their credit, I telephoned Bellerine Caravans and they arranged for us to tow the caravan to the Blue Sky Caravan factory north of Melbourne to have repairs made. The microwave was replaced and the tap fixed.

When we ordered our caravan many months back, I gave no thought to needing a sullage hose that is required to get rid of shower and sink water. Why would I think of such trivia?

Here's where mate Michael's experience came in. He gave me a heads-up about needing to buy a sullage hose, which I did as part of our set-up purchase. I bought an expensive flexible, black rubber hose 25mm in diameter which rolls flat into a special container for storage. All I had to do to use it was to buy a fitting to connect the 25mm hose to the 40mm discharge pipe underneath the caravan.

In the photo you can see the "gaggle" of plumbing bits that went into getting it up and running. It cost about $18 for connections to come up with a solution.

Why am I telling you this? Well, one day you may buy a caravan and you'll need to know all there is to know about sullage hoses.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Picking Up our Blue Sky Caravan

We'd spent a week or so at Keynton in Victoria and another few days with friends at Geelong waiting patiently to collect our caravan. It was something akin to being a kid and waiting for Father Christmas to slide down the chimney.

There'd been a few days delay in pick up, but it gave us a little longer to get our Toyota Prada 4WD fitted with a dual battery pack, electric braking system and tow bar preparatory to hooking up the van. We did that at ARB Geelong where the service was excellent and we also bought a set of load distribution or stabilizer bars. At almost $4,000 it was a tad more expensive than I had imagined, although we knew the work had to be done and we had budgeted for it.

Although we'd brought a lot of cutlery and equipment from home (a car full in fact), there was a lot more we had to buy. Another $500 for wheel chocks, sullage and fresh water hoses, tent pegs, extension mirrors for the car and so on and we were ready to collect the van. Because we had too much stuff for the one car, our friends came to the Bellarine Caravan site with us and brought some of it with them.

Our van, which we had seen a week earlier, was waiting patiently for us all shiny and new with a "new everything" smell inside. If only someone could can that smell, they could make a fortune.

Graham, one of the caravan people gave us a tour of the caravan and explained all the ins and outs ... how to erect the TV antenna, how to lock the  ventilation hatches, turn the water heater to gas, put chemicals into the toilet, all the time giving helpful hints and tips that would make our life as Nomad Caravaners all the more interesting and less challenging. That took almost an hour. At about that time it began to rain.

Next I had to hook the van up to the Prado. Staff member, Dave brought a bag of tools over and showed me how to set up the Hayman Reese towing equipment complete with stabiliser bars, once again advising me of the safety tips and traps. I stood there with an umbrella as it rained quite heavily for most of the time. When it was all connected, we set up the extension mirrors and although I could hardly see anything in the rear vision mirror, we drove out of the caravan site and up the Ballarat Highway in late afternoon traffic.

We had planned to travel only 15 km to a caravan park to stay for a day or two and get set up. Also, our friends were picking up a Blue Sky caravan the same as ours and theirs was to be delivered the next day. We arrived at the El Dorado Tourist Park on Ballarat Road and fortunately were allocated a drive-through site. (I'm yet to practise the reversing!). As it was still raining quite heavily, friends Michael and Gayle suggested we leave the van and return home with them and stay overnight. For that we were very thankful and although we were looking forward to sleeping in our new mobile home, realised it would have been a disaster trying to set up in the rain.

The next day we went back after the rain had stopped and spent a day or so finding spaces for socks, cutlery and getting all the other things settled in. We spent the first night in our caravan and as we were both exhausted went to sleep early and slept comfortably.

Michael and Gayle joined us in their Blue Sky van which they were fortunate enough to pick up on a rain free day. Damn ... some people have all the luck.

Next post, I'll tell you about the things that didn't go well and how lucky we are to have experienced friends to help show us the ropes of caravaning.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Starting Out as a Grey Nomad

Having retired from the workforce, this week Christina and I head off to Geelong in Victoria to pick up our new Blue Sky Caravan on 14 Sep 12.

It will look similar to that shown in the photo at left and promises to be an interesting experience. Neither of us has had much to do with caravans. We have a lot to learn about life on the road with our fellow "Grey Nomads" of whom there are apparently almost 70,000. That is, at any one time, 70,000 people are travelling here and there in caravans. Fortunately Australia is a large country with plenty of room and roads.

The caravan weighs just over 2,000 kg and is within the 3,000 kg towing capacity of our Toyota Prado turbo-diesel 4 wheel drive. We have to learn the art of carrying only what we need and not what we think we need so that we don't overload the caravan or the car. We have a collection of plastic and melamine plates, cups and wine glasses etc. Now I have to learn all about gross vehicle mass, ball weight and how to drive safely pulling a caravan. Given that so many other people can do it and they can't all be professional truck drivers, I'm sure I'll get there.

Reversing into caravan parks and maintaining the caravan are also skills that we will both need to learn. And then of course, we have to learn to live together 24/7 in such a small place. A tad smaller than our house!

Our first touring stint will be around the southern parts of New South Wales and in Victoria as we check out all the equipment, fittings etc of the van. We want to remain close to Geelong just in case we have to return to have warranty matters repaired. It's a long way to Geelong from Alice Springs.

We plan to return home in mid-November and take off for Western Australia in May next year.

I will be posting updates on where we are and what we are doing and hopefully some interesting commentary about parts of Victoria and neighbour state New South Wales. Keep your eye on our blog if you are interested in learning about our travels.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Now I've Retired ... er Refocused

On Friday, 29 June 2012 I walked out of the front gate of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre for the last time. Well, I hope it will have been the last time. 

After three years and exactly one month working as Head Lecturer Prisoner Education, I've retired or refocused or commenced transition to retirement. I'm not really sure which. It's not the first time I've retired. When I returned to Australia in July 2008 after a wonderful three years at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, I didn't have a job and decided I really didn't want one.

Unfortunately, I wasn't mentally or physically geared up to do nothing after having worked fairly hard for so long. By June 2009 I had become bored and as I couldn't find a part time job that would pay me anything worthwhile ... one firm offered me $10 per hour for 20 hours per week, I applied for the advertised position of Head Lecturer Prisoner Education and the rest is now history.

Working at the Correctional Centre was often frustrating, but any sense of frustration was compensated for by the wonderful people I worked with and the salary was excellent too.

With the experience of my last retirement behind me, now I have a totally different outlook on retirement which I prefer to call refocusing. I plan to continue a small amount of work through my Desert Wave Enterprises business mainly to keep my brain going and to maintain links with people. I also have an associated blog, Working Smarter to update Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each day has a compulsory exercise component built in; Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays it's nine holes of golf at the beautiful Alice Springs Golf Club. Non-golf days are bicycling days ... anaerobic and aerobic exercise should be well covered in all of that.

Then of course, there is the housework, house maintenance, gardening, reading, chilling out with grandson Tory and sipping coffee at the Todd Mall.  I really don't know how I had time to go to work.

My wife Christina is still working 0.6 equivalent full time hours as a midwife but plans to revert to casual employment status in August, just before we travel to Geelong in Victoria to pick up our new Blue Sky caravan. It's all happening for us in the Henry family.


PS: If you know anyone who needs proofreading, copywriting or other business communication services, send them to me ... I have plenty of time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Days and Nights in Bali

We've been at Bali now for six days and as we settle in tonight, we look forward to a day of complete silence and relative inactivity tomorrow, as it is Nyepi Day. I'd never heard of it before, even during my 45 year long study of religious mythology, but it's a Hindu day of silence during which Hindus meditate and focus on their deities etc.

While everyone keeps quiet, it is hoped that the evil spirits will think nobody is home and therefore avoid doing bad things. It's obviously an important festival for Hindus who get dressed up in their traditional finest and arrange processions etc.

All over Bali are Hindu temples included temples built and used by groups of people in an area eg, family temples. An example is at left all done up for Nyepi Day.

Bali fortunately, is a non-muslim part of Indonesia, which is predominately muslim. The muslim warriors invaded hundreds of years ago and took over. Those who survived the murderous onslaught didn't want to live under the sword of Islam, so they moved to Bali and surrounding islands which have a population of about 3.7 million.

As seems to be the way with Islam, the violence continues and during the first couple of days we were here, the Indonesian Police had a shoot out with three orthodox muslims who had been planning to kill Western tourists. Thankfully, the police won this round, but as the evidence from all over the planet suggests, it's far from the end of civilisation's war against Islam.

Everything here is inexpensive by Australian standards, with the sole exception of wines and spirits. No doubt this is a key reason why so many Australians visit. That and the short, inexpensive air travel required to get here. We thought we were probably the only Australians who hadn't visited, so that was the main reason we are here now ... didn't want to be left behind.

The locals are nice, friendly people who are obviously accustomed to high numbers of tourists coming and going. The population seems very young which means that in 40-60 years the Indonesian Government will have a huge challenge providing old-age, medical and palliative facilities for the aged population. I wonder whether they are planning for that at present.

Those working in the up-market shops are immaculately dressed and I saw more than a few stunningly beautiful young ladies, a couple of whom sold us some goods eg, a bottle of men's after shave that I probably didn't really need. Those in the shops lining local streets are not as impressively dressed, but clean and tidy and there are so many little businesses, I don't know how everyone manages to make a living, but they obviously survive.

The traffic in Bali, as in many other countries is legendary. Need I say there are billions of scooters and motorbikes, some of which move up to five people and weave in and out of the traffic. I'm only guessing, but I imagine the traffic incident injury and death rate is probably pretty high.

It's rained a great deal since we arrived, but we managed to do a full day tour of a volcano, coffee plantation, silver shop, and batik industry business, all of which were hard-sell operations (of course!). Having lived in the Middle East, we know all about pressure selling, dodgy deals and have learnt the art of ignoring people despite our inate propensity to do otherwise.

We move to Candi Dasa on Saturday for our last week and I'll post another blog about that towards the end of the week.


Monday, March 05, 2012

Sunset, Signs and the Caravan Escape

We travelled to Adelaide, 1500 km from Alice Springs during February to visit the Caravan and Camping Outdoor Adventure Show and to source a new caravan. It's well known that there are deals at the shows that strip thousands off prices.

The trip down takes two days if you don't drive for 15h straight, part of which is during hours of darkness. Strange things happen in the dark; kangaroos appear in front of you and at 130 km/hr, it doesn't take long to spread one across your front bull bar. Get a really big one and although your bull bar might survive, they often smash into your windscreen, destroy your lighting or buckle some of your bodywork. So we drive for eight or nine hours and take a break at a motel enroute.

We stayed at a large and very comfortable caravan and camping site at West Beach and our friends Michael and Gayle flew in from Melbourne to spend a few days with us. They stayed at a cabin nearby and we went to the Caravan Show and other venues together ... had a great time.

Here's a photo of Chris at the cabin in which we stayed. Our trusty Toyota Prado turbo-diesel is at the front. You can see what we have for a "bull" bar. I'd really hate to hit a bull with it! But it handles most kangaroos quite well.

On our return journey I almost hit an eagle. It was eating the carcass of a kangaroo (road kill as they are referred to) and as it was surrounded by hawks, I didn't see it. I was doing about 120 km/hr and when I passed it took off and almost collected the bull bar before veering left and up and missed hitting us by inches. Because their wing spans are so long and they are so big, they take a while to get airborne. When I see them, I usually slow down, but on this occasion it was almost curtains for the eagle.

On the return journey we stopped to take a photo of the sun against the clouds somewhere along the Stuart Highway in the Woomera Rocket Range. I've found it's always difficult to get a shot of the sun setting or rising ... the photo never quite seems to capture the majesty. But this was different and looks glorious. Where would we be without our friend the sun?

As we cruised through South Australia towards Coober Pedy where we stayed overnight at a motel that is higher rated than it should be, we saw some more interesting signage.

I was a bit taken aback to think that a government body would produce signs like these, but then I recalled from my business education training how important it is to talk to people in the language they understand. Although it has several connotations, most Australians understand the term "wanker".

So there we were rolling north along the highway when we spotted this sign. I just had to pull up and take a shot. I recall thinking that if it kept me safe from wanker drivers, then it was well worth it.

Ultimately, our trip was most enjoyable with a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, lunch at the Ramsgate Hotel, Henley Beach, shopping trips to Ikea and the Marion Shopping Centre which is huge. Chris even conned me into doing a 20km trip to visit the Spotlight shop which is a quilting, dressmaking type of place. Talk about boring, but being a dutiful husband, I did the right thing and suffered in silence.

Next blog I will place a couple of photographs of the caravan we have ordered. Our new temporary home as we cruise around this lovely country.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Travelling to Adelaide from Alice Springs

Most of us who live at Alice Springs agree; you have to get out of the place at least for a week or two every year. Why? Because The Alice is a small, isolated township (Population 25,000), with limited retail opportunities and the sights, although beautiful, are visible 24/7/365. We simply need an occasional change of scenery, climate, and some retail therapy. 

When you go to the "Big Smoke" there are many more retail opportunities, some different sights and sometimes the beach. The nearest beach to Alice Springs is at Adelaide 1500 km away, so it's not a weekend run, but okay for a week or so.

This week we are visiting Adelaide for two reasons; to visit the annual Caravan, Four Wheel Drive and Camping show and also to have a break from the rigours of work and sameness of Central Australia.

The drive down the Stuart Highway can be fairly monotonous, especially when you've done it a couple of hundred times. You spend hours just watching the same type country flick by at 130 km/hr in the Territory and 110 km/hr once over the South Australian border. On this trip, I thought I'd focus on some of the signage and a bit of geographical/historical background for readers ... something a little different.

The northern or outback parts of South Australia are known to be part of the driest state in Australia. Much of the land mass is covered by salt lakes and the high salt concentration excludes in some places and limits in others, the type of vegetation. The rectangular shaped state can be divided into three distinct parts. The southern third, much of which is is a green belt with good tree and grass growth and where most of the population lives. The capital city of South Australia, Adelaide is in this area. From Port Augusta north, the land has fewer trees and growth and much of it is what we call gibber plains (flat plains with rocks lying across the top). North of Coober Pedy (these are very approximate descriptors) there are thousands of square kilometres of short, native trees that get by on small amounts of water.

Coober Pedy is world renowned for its opal fields and also some other recent mining ventures which I am told are copper mines under development. It's a dry, dusty place with a thriving population of miners and public administrators. Many of the residents live underground and there are several underground hotels/motels that tourists flock to for the experience. Further south and east of Pimba is Roxby Downs and one of Australia's uranium mines.

In the middle of the gibber plains exists a huge area of Commonwealth (government owned) land that forms the Woomera Rocket Range (a woomera is a stick used by Aborigines to help add distance to their spear throwing). During the Fifties our friends the British exploded at least one nuclear bomb in the area irradiating a large area and a few Aborigines who had missed being gathered beforehand. The land is still radioactive and therefore declared as a Prohibited Area by law. Thousands of rockets were fired all about the place as the Defence Department tested them. Some of the infrastructure is still left standing.

Strangely, as you drive along the Stuart Highway you find that a part of it has been turned into a runway for the Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft to land and take off, presumably to meet ambulances carrying injured from traffic incidents. Most traffic incidents are roll-overs when people doze off at the wheel. In an effort to counter people driving for extended periods, nice little stopping places are provided by the governments. Some have toilets, sheltered covers and water and a few barbecues. At the end of day, groups of caravaners stop for the night and sit about sipping merlot and pina colado ... or maybe tea and coffee.

Double click on the photo strip at left to see a few things I saw enroute.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australia Day 2012

Tomorrow is Australia Day, the day in 1788 when the British Navy fleet of 11 ships landed in what is now called Botany Bay near Sydney, New South Wales.

I've often tried to imagine what it must have felt like to have been sent from your homeland to travel for months to some part of the world about which nobody knew very much at all. If things turned bad at any part of the voyage, it wasn't as if you could jump on the next Emirates airplane and head home within hours. Many of those who arrived in Australia would never have seen their homeland again. There were no houses, no hospitals, no schools, just three million odd square miles of native scrub and of course the original inhabitants, the First Australians who had arrived from Africa thousands of years earlier.

It could have been the Japanese, Dutch, Portugese, French or perhaps a handful of other nations' people that arrived to take over Terra Australis. Whoever it was would no doubt have created the same negative impact on the native occupants, but we are indeed fortunate that our roots are British. From the "Old Country" we inherited a robust system of law, democracy and governance that has served us well for the past 200 years and will serve us well for a bit longer until it is subsumed by a foreign totalitarian regime that is working to undermine Australian values as I write. Our failing is that we are too democratic and too nice.

The British flag (Union Jack) on our flag shows our roots; the Southern Cross the star pattern visible in the Southern Hemisphere. The Federation Star, directly below the Union Jack has a point for each of our States and a point for the two Territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

For the first time in years we have nothing planned for tomorrow, but when we wake up we will no doubt have a breakfast of fruit juice, pikelets, golden syrup, coffee, and reflect on how very fortunate we are to have been born Australian.