The Adventure of Air Travel

Virgin Blue in Australia has had a wicked time of it recently with computer problems virtually strangling their network. Today I was caught up in their problems, being delayed so long at the airport that I became a hobbit and had two breakfasts.

One of the things I got to notice this trip though was how much of an adventure flying somewhere was to many purple. As an old seasoned traveller, I’m somewhat jaded by the whole flight business but looking around the airport there were many who found it still an adventure.

Old ladies walking around and wanting to look at all the shops, old couples looking for a place to sit and grab a coffee, young kids wanting an already frazzled mum to get them something to do on the flight though it was just a one hope flight and some young guys off to Bali worrying about whether they will make their connection in Melbourne and what will happen if they don’t.

I’ve travelled a lot over the years and in some ways it was refreshing to see the excitement of those to whom air travel is still an adventure.

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Valentine’s Day

OK, so it is Valentine’s Day. Firstly, to the local councils in the UK trying to eliminate the usage of the apostrophe, that’s Valentine’s, with apostrophes galore but no apologies anywhere.

As for Valentine’s Day itself, I can do no better than to point you towards that mine of misinformation, Wikipedia, which has quite a nice write-up of all things Valentinian.

Will I be sending Valentine Cards to people? I don’t think so – if you are going to profess undying love by cutting your heart out and giving your still beating heart to your lover, then you should do that on any day of the year, not wait for the commercial juggernaut that is Valentine’s Day –  chocolate, flowers and greeting cards.

There are more interesting events from February 14 to interest us, such as the very famous Saint Valentine’s Day massacre when several (actually, I think it was seven) people were killed in Prohibition Era Chicago. Two criminal gangs in Chicago, Illinois, cleverly called the South Side and the North Side gangs (guess which side of Chicago each gang was from) fought it out in the winter of 1929, The South Side Italian gang was led by the famous gangster and racketeer, Al Capone whilst the North Side Irish gang was led by the equally famous Bugs Moran.

Other notable  events occurred on 14 February and these could be an excuse for choclate at least. They include:

  • 1779, James Cook is killed by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii – or as they were known in those times, the Sandwich Islands … no chocolate there.
  • 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars, the Battle of Cape St. Vincent occurred where John Jervis, the 1st Earl of St Vincent and Horatio Nelson (later 1st Viscount Nelson) lead the British Royal Navy to victory over a Spanish fleet in action near Gibraltar – obviously worried about who was importing all that Valentine’s Day chocolate from the Americas.
  • 1804 and Karadjordje (try saying that name with a mouthful of chocolate) leads the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire – obviously wanting cheaper chocolate.
  • 1831 in a really obscure one, leastwise for me, Ras Marye of Yejju marches into Tigray and defeats and kills Dejazmach Sabagadis in the Battle of Debre Abbay. Wonder if the fight was over the cutting off of the local supply of chocolate.
  • 1849 – In New York City, James Knox Polk becomes the first serving President of the United States to have his photograph taken and since then, every president seems to have spent a good proportion of his time ensuring that his photographs are more numerous than the president before him.
  • 1879 and the War of the Pacific breaks out when Chilean armed forces occupy the Bolivian port city of Antofagasta and seize the supply of chocolate that was hoarded there.
  • 1900 in the Second Boer War in South Africa, 20,000 British troops invade the Orange Free State after Jaffas (orange and dark chocolate).
  • 1961 and Lawrencium, chemical element 103, is first synthesised at the University of California when they were trying to synthesise chocolate.

So, really, there are many good other reasons to enjoy chocolate on Valentine’s Day, one just has to look hard enough.

Henry Ebery or Henry Every

Woodcut of Henry Every
Woodcut of Henry Every

Every so often I go through the search results of Thomo’s Hole – it is quite enlightening seeing what terms people are searching for in the Hole. It also tweaks my interest and leads to some posts. Of course, if you’d like something specific you only need ask and I’ll try and accommodate.

Anyway, it was a hot weekend in Sydney, very hot, so I thought I’d add to the heat by researching unsuccessful searches to Thomo’s Hole. I came across two search terms in the logs, namely, “Henry Ebery” and then immediately after that, “Henry Every”.

Well, I may not be an intellectual genius but I do type a lot, and whilst I am not a touch typist (more chopsticks style), I am savvy enough with a keyboard to notice that “B” and “V” are next to each other and that probably the search for Henry Ebery was really someone searching for Henry Every.

The other thing I know, having been a Googler for many years now, is that search engines still are not really all that bright – unless you tell them exactly what you are looking for. So, if you search Thomo’s Hole with the terms “Henry” and “Every” in the search box, the search engine here will return an article about H.M.S. Mæander (because the Captain’s name was Henry Keppel and because (to quote from that post)

I don’t always have information about every ship that sailed however the name of this ship fascinated me

See how a search on Henry Every returns something apparently unrelated? The other article it returned was Busk’s Navies of the World – 1859 – The French I because there was mention of an Henry in there as well as an every.

Now, if a search was made for “Henry Every” – that is, with both terms inside double quotes, then the search engine would return nothing as there was nothing about Henry Every in Thomo’s hole … up until now that is 🙂

Popular Image of Every's flag
Popular Image of Every's flag

I searched for both “Henry Every” and “Henry Ebery” on the Internet. Now I am sure that my readers are not all that interested in Henry Ebery. There is a record in the 1881 census of young Henry Ebery, born in West Bromwich, Stafford in 1873, father Eli Ebery. There is also a Henry Ebery in Wales listed in the 1891 census as Henry Ebery, boarder, age 43, born in Shropshire, cattle dealer. The reference was from the census of the Hotel Keeper at 10 Lewis Terrace – the Commercial Hotel, also known as Cambrian Hotel in Alexandra Road, Aberystwyth in Wales. That is also not the type of character my readers are normally interested in. Now, if he was a cattle duffer ((rustler for those who do not understand the Australian term)) then it would be a whole lot different

However, all is not lost. Henry Every was born in Plymouth in 1653 and was a somewhat famous pirate – the picture of the woodcut here is Henry himself. He was also known as John Avary, Long Ben, and Benjamin Bridgeman. Now this is more like it for the readers of Thomo’s Hole.

What distinguishes Henry Every from most of the other pirates? Two things really. One was the taking and plundering of the Moghul ships, the Fateh Muhammed and Ganj-I-Sawaithe of around £650,000 of gold, silver and other plunder. the other was that Henry actually appears to have retired from pirating and managed to live off the fat of his jolly rogering, even allowing for the Whigs having commissioned Captain William Kidd as a pirate hunter and set him on Every’s trail (amongst others)

Every is remembered in the Shantyman song “The Ballad of Long Ben”:

In ’94 we took the Charles and set Gibson ashore
And set a course for southern seas, to sail for evermore
Round the Cape in a hurricane with the devil on our beam
And clear to Newgate London Town you could have heard us scream:

Here’s to gentlemen at sea tonight, and a toast to all free men
And when the devil comes to take us home, we’ll drink
To old Long Ben!

Now off the coast of Hindoostan we spied a musselman
She’d 60 guns and musket men, but still away she ran
“Ho!”, cried Ben and ran the grinning skull atop the mast
“I’ll wager half my share me lads, there’s not a ship this fast!”

Here’s to gentlemen at sea tonight and a toast to all free men
And when the devil comes to take us home, he’ll drink
With old Long Ben!

We ran her down off Malabar as she lay becalmed
And there beneath the burning sun stood Al Ibrahim Khan
He twirled his ‘stache and raised his sword and gave a might roar
Then cowered like a dog below and hid amongst his whores

Here’s to gentlemen at sea tonight, and a toast to all free men
And when the devil comes to take us home, we’ll drink
To old Long Ben!

We turned the Fancy from the wind and ran out 40 guns
And soon the sky was filled with smoke that hid us from the sun
Then up and down the ship we fought, until the decks ran red
And when the fight was done we drank and this is what we said:

Here’s to gentlemen at sea tonight, and a toast to all free men
And when the devil comes to take us home, we’ll drink
To old Long Ben!

For thirteen days aboard the Ganj, we made a merry sport
A thousand pounds of Mughal gold, and whisky, rum and port
Some men we shot and some we walked and some of them did hang
And while we made free with the girls, well this is what we sang:

Here’s to gentlemen at sea tonight, and a toast to all free men
And when the devil comes to take us home, we’ll drink
To old Long Ben!

Now there is something about Henry Every 😆

Movietime Again – Benjamin Button

Monday night is cheap night at the cinema in Leichhardt so off we went. I much preferred Leichhardt to Burwood (last weeks cheap cinema). Leichhardt was great, you could see it’s original shape inside its new housing. However, enough of that. Last night it was the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.I have to be honest and say up front that I was not sure that I was really going to like this movie and I was a little worried that it was so long but I was pleasantly surprised.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a short story written by F Scott-Fitzgerald in 1921 and it served as the basis for the screen story and screenplay, although the original has Benjamin going away to fight in the Spanish-American War, attacking San Juan Hill rather than fighting on a tug in the Atlantic Ocean.

Leaving the short story behind and concentrating on the movie, as I mentioned, I was a little concerned that the movie may have been too long – I’m not renowned for my ability to sit in one place too long after all. However, the way the screenplay was written, and given the appearance of the movie, I don’t think it could have been any shorter. It worked at its length. I will also admit that Brad Pitt is not my favourite actor (although I could just be jealous) but I think he did a wonderful job in the movie as the thoughtful, southern gentleman, Benjamin Buttons. In fact seven actors played the Benjamin character in the movie.

Cate Blanchett was excellent in this role however, changing her moods to suit the role – the aloof but somewhat airy-fairy ballet dancer, the thoughtful mother still in love with a man getting younger by the day and to the caring and loving old lady.

My favourite character though has to be Captain Mike played by Jared Harris. What a larrikin.

Really, loved the movie and can recommend it although I would have liked to see the last two lightning strikes (when you see it you’ll understand the last sentence).

Movietime

We went to the cinema last night. We actually wanted to see the Benjamin Buttons movie but it was booked out so we ended up watching Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston in Marley and Me.

The movie was based on a novel, Marley & Me, about the experiences of a journalist (or rather columnist) and his wife, when they first get a Labrador pup for a pet, in part to prepare themselves for a later family. Anyone who has had a Labrador (the only breed of dog to remain always a puppy) will find many scenes reminiscent of their own experience with that type of dog.

I must admit that perhaps the funniest performance in the movie comes from Kathleen Turner as Miss Dominatrix, the dog trainer. Watching her antics as she tries to show that a firm hand is all that is needed to take the role of Alpha dog in the home pack had tears of laughter running down my face as I remembered the efforts of teaching Jessie, our Labrador for many years, how to behave. Marley also reminded me much of the Labs of a couple of our friends.

As the movie progresses though it moistens the eye, not so much from laughter as from what is inevitable. We can see it, we know it is coming and there is no way the script writers could disguise the ultimate scenes, but even with that foreknowledge, it still endeared a feeling of pathos reminiscent of the dog story style of movies from the past.

This is a movie I’d recommend seeing as a feel good movie with a mix of comedy and pathos. In some respects, I am glad that Benjamin Button was booked out and that as a result we did have to see this movie.

Chicken Wars

“It’s the chickens Mulloes … they don’t like it up ’em” or similar words came from Jack Africa, one of Doug Mulray’s morning radio show character voices from many years ago. I saw Chicken Wars on Christmas Eve.

We’d been to Coffs Harbour with Mum to buy her the surprise Christmas present of Mamma Mia (and more of that later) and were currently on our way back to her place. We stopped at Woolworth’s at Nambucca Heads for the rest of the makings for Christmas lunch (Thomo was cooking and therefore looking for an easyoption or two). As we walked through theFruit and Vegetable section of the Supermarket we noticed that there were no barbecued chickens. None in the hot food keepers or the big display case. There were, however, many birds rotating in the big chicken cooker.

We shopped.

As we had everything Mum said she was going back to the chicken counter to see if the chickens were cooked as she wanted one for Toby. They were cooked and being unloaded to the display case. There was also a rugby scrum of about 20 people wanting chickens. Elbows and shoulders were being used to great effect and more than once was heard, loudly, the expression “I think I was next!”

The classic line came from one woman however who, after managing to shoulder herself to the front of the scrum, got her chicken fresh from the roaster and exclaimed “goodness – it’s so hot!”

Well hello – what do you expect – it was straight from the Roaster after all!

Seems the Co-op Supermarket in Macksville ran out of hams and had to phone around the region to see if they could beg, borrow or steal more. They had also ordered 300 chickens for Christmas Eve – not bad for a town of 7000 people.

Oh, and yes, we got Toby’s chicken as well – although no chicken wings as both Nambucca Heads and Macksville had sold out of them.

Literary Criticism is a True Crime

Kinokuniya’s Section Markings in their BookstoreOr at least it is in Bangkok. The Kinokuniya Book Shop in the Emporium Shopping Mall (at Phrom Phong on the BTS) is usually my last port of call when travelling from Bangkok to non-English speaking environments as they have a particularly good History and Military History section – great for the frustrated travelling wargamer.

However, they also seem to have summed up Literary Criticism rather well in the section of the store shown in the attached photograph.

Myth or Busted?

Front Cover of The Next Bite Gar published an entry on Lost Nomad entitled Myth or Busted? You Decide…

I was going to comment directly there but when I click on the “0 comments” link no comment form opens so, I’ll comment here in Thomo’s Hole.

The gist of the article is that this guy is reeling in a 10 lb (4.5 kg) fish when a bigger fish comes along and nabs it – so he reels in the bigger fish (it weighed 44 lbs or 20 kgs). This means the total landed weight of both fish is around 25 kgs (54 lbs).

Now, if Gar had put this up yesterday then I would not have bothered checking … unless Gar is currently in the States of course. 🙂

However, checking as best I can my trusty Myth Determiner, Snopes, I note that there is a piece about this in Snopes. Unfortunately, I cannot check further as the Saudi Arabian censors have censored the Snopes site and I can’t be arsed at the moment spending the time to find a proxy server that the censors have not found yet. However, click the link here for the Snopes message board for some details.

You can also have a look at The Next Bite – a fishing magazine – where the issue illustrated here has the same fisherman and fish on its front cover.

Make up your own minds folks … but someone let me know what Snopes said (Thomo grumbles to himself about Saudi Arabian censors). 😦

Thomo’s Rules of Eating and Cooking

OK, Thomo is an Aussie, which is why he was referred to in the past as the Lost Aussie. Being Aussie, of course, Thomo likes to barbecue food. Forget the Americans and the British – when it comes to BBQ, Aussies have it – it’s a lay down misère (well, there may be a little competition from the Koreans but hey, their cooking styles are not well enough known yet to count).

I will include recipes in Thomo’s Hole from time to time. In the meantime, Thomo believes three things in relation to cooking:

  1. BBQ rules
  2. If not BBQ, then maximum preparation and cooking time should be 30 minutes.
  3. If it is exotic, then two saucepans is OK to cook with otherwise, maximum one (Thomo does not like to clean up and wash up).

Of course, travelling the world, I have also been exposed to many and varied “interesting” dishes. At one stage in Korea, one of our favourite games was to order fried chicken from the local fried chicken shop, then sit in the apartment and play “guess the bit”.

All this travelling has led to Thomo’s Three Laws of Eating. Simply expressed, these can save you from a number of unpleasant meals when travelling and if presented to those in the country you are travelling in as religious beliefs, will generally be accepted as such and honoured.

Oh, and the Laws? Simple:

  1. Dead.
  2. Cooked.
  3. Should never have connected the mouth to the bottom on any animal (i.e., offal is off).

These rules will see you well in almost any environment. For example, When a Korean takes you out for live octopus, you can fall back on rules 1 and 2. Japanese take you out for sushi? Definitely a rule 2. Fresh Rock Oysters? Rule 1. Sea Cucumber with Chinese friends? Rule 3.

See how simple this can be?

Now, if you are a really finicky eater, then there are three supplementary rules that can also be bought into play, namely:

  1. It should have been warm blooded.
  2. It should have had four legs and walked the earth
  3. If it did not have four legs, then we should be talking two legs; and feathers should also be strongly involved in it’s lifestyle.

Now, I know that rules out seafood but hey, they are optional and it does allow you to tailor the inputs without offending a host.

Happy munching now!

Note: This was first published in Thomo’s Hole in April 2003 but has been used over the years as a way of avoiding food in a variety of countries. It has mostly been successful.

Rabbits, Foxes and Toads

We were at dinner here the other night and the question was raised about the relationship between the English and the Australians, especially in view of the great cricket tragedy that unfolded recently (Australians hate to lose to the English at anything … and the English hate to win at all at anything as it then becomes expected that they can do it a second time).

I noted that when the First Fleet arrived in Australia, it was full of convicts, criminals and such, in other words, your better class of Englishman. These convicts stayed and endured Australia. Some of them eventually were freed and the odd one or two made it back to England where they reported great beaches, good surf, terrific weather and the local food delicacy, the barbecue. This lead to some free working and middle class immigrants coming to Australia.

They came, stayed, enjoyed the surf and barbies as well as the weather and eventually some of them returned to merry olde 19th century England and said how nice the weather was in Australia. This brought some of the Upper Crust from Berkshire to Oz.

They came, stayed and saw it was good.

Unfortunately, they had not really got around to inventing International cricket at this time, so they were bored. There was no recreation for them. They therefore decided to bring some foxes to Australia so they could hunt – sort of moving the Berkshire Hunt down under (or up over depending on your perspective).

“But wait” cried one of the upper crusts, “what will out poor foxes eat?”

“Bring rabbits” said another, that way they’ll leave the chickens alone.

So they brought rabbits and foxes to Australia, those of the Berkshire Hunt (called Berks for short). These were duly released into the wilds of New South Wales. They bred. When sufficient foxes were available in the wilds of Parramatta, the Hunt got under way. Unfortunately the Berks discovered that you could not ride willy-nilly over the Australian landscape without serious injury as you collided with mishappen trees, got tangled in the underbrush, fell off your horse as it died from snakebite underneath you or watched the dogs being beaten up by annoyed kangaroos.

The Hunt failed.

“Bugger”, they cried and looked to the new entertainment of mapping the Outback. In the meantime, they also discovered that the foxes were happier eating the native wildlife than they were trying to catch rabbits. Er, they also enjoyed the chickens. The rabbits, of course, were ecstatic, as there was plenty of other food for the foxes. So we have foxes and rabbits aplenty in Oz.

Time passed.

Australians discovered that the English Berks had managed to successfully damage Australia’s ecology. “We can’t have that” was the cry, and “we can do better than that” was also heard.

There is a beetle that lives on the sugar cane in the north of Australia. “Let’s bring a frog in to eat that beetle” said the Aussies. Not being able to find a frog, they settled on a toad.

So they brought the cane toad to Australia. The cane toad, of course, did not eat the cane beetle. It ate everything else smaller than itself. Of course, it was complicated further by being poisonous itself so anything larger than itself dies at it tries to eat it. It loves to breed and is spreading across the continent, faster than the rabbits could.

Success! The Australians proved that when it came to buggering up their ecology they could even do that better than the English had! Hmm, maybe the foxes will eat the toads 🙂