Tag Archives: Australia

Hell Ship

10 Jul

“Hell Ship”, written by Michael Veitch, is the true story of the “Ticonderoga” an American clipper ship that set sail from Liverpool in August 1852 bound for the city of Melbourne, in the fledgling colony of Victoria, Australia. When the ship arrived three months later it was a veritable plague ship – typhus had broken out onboard.

This is the story of that voyage, but is is also a story about people. Those that survived the voyage from hell, and those that did not. It is also a sort of love story: of Dr. James William Henry Veitch, assistant ship’s surgeon, and Annie Morrison, a woman from Scotland, who helped nurse the sick and dying. They became the great-great-grandparents of Michael Veitch.

The book is well researched and well written. The Ticonderoga’s ill-fated passage is carefully documented, from the arrival of its passengers at the embarkation centre in Liverpool, until it’s arrival in Australia, and beyond.

Powerful and moving, the book gives the reader a close look at what conditions were like for poor immigrants in the middle of the 19th century.

Highly recommended for anyone interesting in Australian history, maritime history, 19th century history, or true stories of the human condition.

Playing to Win

15 Mar

“Playing to Win” is Jeff Apter’s biography of Australian music legend John Farnham.

Let’s get one thing perfectly straight.  John Farnham is nice.  Really nice.  I’m talking pictures of kittens on the internet nice.

However, nice does not make for a terrifically readable biography, so Jeff Apter had an uphill battle to start with.

Though by spicing it with the troubles of John’s manager Glenn Wheatley, Apter managed to create an enjoyable read.  Even if I did feel like I should be drinking cocoa and wearing warm fluffy slippers as I did so.

I do have one niggle.  Over use of the expression “rusted-on” to describe John’s fanbase got completely on my wick by the time I’d finished the book.

I learned some things about John I didn’t know, and came away from the book with my regard for John Farnham higher than it was before.

Highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in John’s career, or the Australian music industry, or just likes a feel good read.

The Newsman: 60 Years of Televisions

27 Nov

The memoirs of veteran Australian newsreader Mal Walden were always going to be an interesting read.  I just wasn’t expecting it to be so interesting that I sat up late on Saturday night until I’d finished it, because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

A deeply absorbing look at the early years of news in Melbourne, Australia, and at the life of Mal Walden.

Big stories that I remember from my childhood, like the Balibo Five, and Cyclone Tracy, hit me just as hard as the more recent ones I’ve lived through, like Black Saturday.

I freely admit that I stopped watching television news when Mal retired.  He had a joyful presence on air that made you feel that, even though the world was going to hell in a hand basket, it would eventually all turn out okay.

“The Newsman” is a must read for every student of current affairs, and anyone interested in the history of television.

Highly recommended.


1 Sep

I was given a copy of this book by the author, Henry G. Sheppard, in exchange for an honest review.

I will be brutally honest. This book is brilliant!

It charts Henry’s dealing with a second bout of leukemia he suffered and the ramifications of it. The subject is dealt with with a combination of brutal honesty and a twisted sense of humour.

I was literally crying with laughter reading some parts. And then felt awful for laughing at poor Henry’s battle for life.

Henry’s dealings with the Australian public health system will strike a chord with many readers.

It’s a short book, only around a 100 pages, but I recommend that anyone who knows someone going through chemotherapy should read it. It will give you an understanding of the process. It will also make you laugh. A lot.

The Adventure of the Colonial Boy

27 Jun

By now I’m sure everyone has realised that I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.  Some are good, some are mediocre, and some are downright terrible.  Occasionally you get one that is bloody brilliant.

“The Adventure of the Colonial Boy” by Narrelle M. Harris is bloody brilliant!

Mourning both the death of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, and the death of his wife Mary in childbirth, John Watson is shocked and angered to get a telegram purporting to be from Sherlock himself.  After a meeting with Mycroft Holmes, Watson finds himself bound for Melbourne, Australia, to help Sherlock Holmes track down Colonel Sebastian Moran.

The book is a wonderful adventure and crime story.  Published by the romance/erotica specialist Sherlock Holmes imprint Improbable Press, “The Adventure of the Colonial Boy” is also a romance.  So if two men loving each other is not for you, then do not read.  But if you chose not to read it, you will be denying yourself a truly fantastic reading experience.

Highly recommended.

Great Australian Ghost Stories

30 Jun

Excellent book of Australian ghost stories, written by Richard Davis and published by ABC books.  Some of the stories are rather sweet, and others are downright bloody terrifying!

Where possible the writer has researched the background thoroughly, and several well known ghost stories are pretty much proved to be that, just stories.  On the other hand, others are not so easily explained.

The story of a Sydney medical student’s possessed laptop was particularly horrifying.  I actually had real difficulty settling down to sleep after reading it.

It was also scary, but not really a surprise, to discover there is a genuine haunted house only a couple of blocks from where I live.  The writer gave the street but not the number, but he didn’t need too.  I knew EXACTLY which house it is.  I’ve loathed going near the place since I shifted into the area.  It always makes me uneasy and uncomfortable.

Well written, and well leavened with humour, I cannot recommend this book to highly to those with an interest in this subject.

Might be a little hard to get for non-Australian readers, but for Aussies, Dymocks is currently selling it cheap, which is where I picked up my copy at the weekend.

Hooked on Hooked

30 Mar

Since changing my dietary habits I have discovered that my body no longer appreciates deep fried food, especially deep fried starch, aka chips/fries.  This has meant that my favourite takeaway of fish and chips was off the menu.

Until yesterday.

A fish cafe by the name of “Hooked” has opened in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, selling “healthy” fish and other things.  I decided to have lunch there yesterday.  For less that $15 I got a fillet of grilled blue grenadier, asian greens and rice, and a bottle of organic fruit juice.  I have had meals in expensive restaurants that didn’t taste as good as that meal.  The fish was perfectly cooked, as were the greens.  The rice was lightly spiced and an excellent counterpoint to the fish.

Blue Grenadier is the house fish, and is from a sustainable source.  They also have specials which are dependent on what is available at the Melbourne Fish Market.

You can have your fish fish grilled, as I did, or fried in a light tempura batter.  Chips are available instead of the greens and rice.  For an extra $2.00 you can have salad instead of the other options.  I noticed several people had gone for the salad, and the servings were downright generous.  Over half the plate being covered with delicious looking salads.  The Asian Coleslaw looked particularly tempting.  I may try that next time.

The drinks cabinet is interesting.  There is a small array of the usual soft drinks, but “Hooked” mostly stocks juices and smoothies made by the New Zealand company Charlie’s.  The also carry a large range of the Phoenix brand of organic juices and soft drinks.  Phoenix is the organic arm of Charlie’s.

The layout is comfortable and roomy, with small tables along the walls, and large communal tables down the middle of the cafe.  Everything is clean, white and bright.  Condiments are arranged generously along the tables.  Sea salt, pepper in a grinder, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, and malt vinegar.  Homemade tartar sauce is available in small pots for a nominal amount.

Great food, friendly staff, and excellent ambiance make “Hooked” at great place to drop in for lunch any day of the week.


Sherlock Official Convention: Australia Stiffed

10 Feb

The BBC and Hartswood Films have announced that there will be official Sherlock conventions during 2014.  At first I was delighted, then disillusion and misery set in.

As per bloody normal, the conventions will only be in Europe and the USA.  What about the fans down here in Australia and New Zealand?  Don’t we matter?  You’re happy to take our money for the dvds, books etc, but you won’t give us the treat of seeing the cast and crew.

I think I’m entitled to feel ripped off and neglected.  Pretty sure you buggers can easily afford to arrange one measly convention in Melbourne or Sydney, but no, the fans down here don’t matter.  It would cost me at least $5,000 to get to one of the European or US conventions.  Money I don’t have, not when I am saving frantically for a UK holiday next year.  I could easily afford to travel to Sydney for a con, or better yet attend one here in Melbourne.

Why do they do this?  Are Australasian fans less important in the scheme of things?  We love the show and the stars, but it seems that we don’t matter to anyone in positions of power.

I would really like an answer to why we in the antipodes are being ignored.  But asking for an explanation will go unanswered, because the fact there is no convention for us is an answer in itself.


A Loaf of Bread, A Bottle of Olive Oil, and you can leave me alone…

27 Jan

I have become a convert to the joys of olive oil.

I had been cooking with it for quite a while, when I started reading a book on the history of olive oil and also its health benefits.

It took a while to get my mouth to accept that I was actually having oil instead of butter.  I swear my taste buds initial reaction was “what is this crap???”  However, I persevered and now olive oil has become my favourite pantry item.

I don’t bother with salad dressing.  Just slosh the olive oil over my conglomeration of raw vegetables and eat.  Cooked vegetables are now served with fresh ground black pepper and a splash of olive oil, rather than a knob of butter.  And you know what?  The vegetables taste better! 

But my favourite olive oil thing is my lunch at the weekends.  Fresh crusty bread dipped in olive oil, with cheese and a glass of red wine.  I was very amused at the weekend.  It was Australia Day.  And there was I, on Australia’s version of 4th July, eating what, at first glance was an un-Australian meal.  Though on closer inspection, my meal was probably more Aussie than many that day.  The olive oil was Australian, as was the cheese and the wine, and the bread was made at a little bakery near my flat.  100% Australian meal.

I have tried quite a few olive oils, but have developed a taste for one in particular.  The Australian company Cobram Estate’s “robust” oil.  It’s great on a salad, but I love the way it tastes on bread.  It glides across my palate, tip toes delicately across my taste buds, and then slams into the back on my throat like an out of control Formula One racing car.  Bloody fantastic!

According to The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam it is “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.”  In my book, these days, it’s “A loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, and you can leave me alone.”  At least until I’ve finished my lunch.

Trick or Treat?

28 Oct

Right now the shops are garishly decorated in a revolting shade of orange and black.  Fake cobwebs and spiders predominate.  Interior design courtesy of Morticia Addams.

Australia and New Zealand have never had a tradition of celebrating Halloween.  It is vaguely disturbing to discover this, the most annoying of commercialised holidays, has seeped into the antipodes like so much spilled sewage.

In a country with a massive obesity problem we should not be encouraging a day that, these days, is simply an excuse for gorging on sweets.  We should be setting an example of good eating practices for our children, not encouraging them to scoff lollies.

Part of my disapproval of Halloween is the crass commercialism of it.  People forget that Halloween began as a pre-Christian religious festival.  Halloween has some of its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain.  It became All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, when the Christian church attempted to stamp it out in their usual way of “if you can’t destroy it; adapt it.”  Well, it worked for Christmas!

Christians who whine on about the commercialisation of Christmas, take a good close look at Halloween.  This is eventually going to be what happens to Christmas.  No religious or spiritual elements left to it at all. 

I think, at base, this is what really pisses me off about Halloween.  Something beautiful and sacred has been taken and warped into an excuse to watch crappy horror movies and overdose on sugar.

Samhain was the time when the veils between the worlds were thinnest and the dead could return home to see their families one more time.  A time for reflection, remembrance, and demonstrations of familial love.

Does that sound like Halloween to you?  I bet it doesn’t.

Shows you how far it’s drifted from the original, doesn’t it?

You can keep your candy and your costumes.  Come 31st October this year, I’ll light a candle and remember my dead, keeping the true meaning of Samhain/Halloween alive in my heart. 

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