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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #015

Editorial

After initially thinking we'd spend a couple of weeks in Perth we actually spend about six weeks, oh well, dozen madder.

Photos
After raving on about how many photos there were in the last issue, there's not many in this one at all. That's because we've been just sitting in Perth (well Fremantle really) and I've really been more interested in other stuff like producing prints for a gallery in Tasmania, and fixing computers.

Hopefully there'll be more photos in the next issue.

Investments
For some time now we've been unhappy with the performance of the mob we have our hard-earned invested with. They've done little but lose our money, and charge us for the privilege.

Now I know most equity-based investments have taken a hammering lately, and I can almost live with that. But the fees just keep draining off every month regardless. We could just about live on the amount we're being charged.

While in Perth we went to see a firm of brokers who were recommended to us by someone who knows more about these things than we do. Presumably the people at this firm know what they're doing because the business has been around for over a 100 years.

Fortunately the person we spoke to was a lot younger than that, and apparently on the ball. Time will tell what we do, but for the moment we'll just sit on things.

 

 

Fri 13 Dec 2002

It's into town today to see a financial advisor. We went in early though so we could browse the shops.

After a while nature calls so we start looking for a public loo. Eventually we find a sign and follow it to the tourist information bureau.

On alighting from the lift we make a bee-line for the toilets only to be bailed up by the caretaker demanding 20c to use them.

I know this is common in Europe, but the idea of paying to use a public loo is so alien to Australians that we rebounded as though we'd walked straight into a glass sliding door. There's no way we're paying 20c, so we resume the hunt.

Eventually we find another sign to some conveniences. We follow the signs, up stairs, across bridges and through arcades until we reach the railway station and the toilets. We round the corner to find a glass booth and a sign, "30c" it reads.

"Why the charge?" we ask, to be informed that this wasn't just a toilet, it was "rest area". Well whatever, I haven't got time to argue semantics, I slap three 20c pieces on the counter, "Two wees" I say, and we walk in.

After all that, the loos are in a terrible state, how they can charge with a straight face is beyond me.

TIP: Use the loos in Myers, they're clean and free.

Fri 20 Dec

We've been using the pushbikes a bit lately, there's a great network of cycle paths around Fremantle/Perth and we plan to make good use of them. To this end, rather than put them away every night, we leave them chained up to the stairs at the back of the truck, ready for action. After all, we're in a caravan park, it's safe enough.

As usual I'm up 'til the wee hours, at about 1:30AM I walk over to the loo then retire. All was quite and everything in place.

Sat 21 Dec

This morning I get up early so I can grab a newspaper from the machine before it's empty.

On my return to the truck I climb the stairs but about half way up I get a feeling that something's missing.

The bicycles had been placed in such a manner that one handlebar protruded slightly into the stairs. This is a minor inconvenience and one that I plan to rectify today.

So what was missing? I think about it for a second then realise what it is. There's no handlebar, for that matter there's no bloody bike!

Some kind soul obviously spotted the problem and fixed it for me by stealing both our bicycles.

Needless to say we are not impressed, the police are informed (and I'm sure immediately formed a task force), and we scour the neighbourhood, but there's not much that can be done.

Realistically we're not going to see them again. I can only look on the bright side and hope that a couple of kids, who would otherwise have gone without a present this Christmas, received nice Mongoose mountain bikes.

Tue 24 Dec

For some time now I've had a toothache, it started back at Osprey Bay and has come and gone since then.

A few days ago it raised its ugly head again and, after a day or two spent dropping Panadol tablets I finally grabbed the yellow pages and let my fingers walk straight to the "Dentists" section.

Well today is the day and I front at the dentist's promptly at 10AM, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Paul, the dentist, confirms my own diagnosis, three molars have to go.

The first went fairly smoothly, but the second simply would not be moved. Paul prods and drills and pulls for quite a while before deciding to call in Karen, the head honcho.

Karen also pulls and drills for a while. Finally, piece by stubborn piece, the tooth gives up. Just my luck to have bad teeth with strong healthy roots.

After that marathon removal the third molar almost fell out.

Two hours after entering the premises and reading National Geographic in the waiting room, I extract myself from under the lights and assorted instrument tables, push my lockjawed mouth closed, and breath a sigh of relief. Phew!

Paul has some instructions to be followed for the next few days, "No hot drinks", OK, "Don't chew on that side", no problems, "Don't operate any heavy equipment", that shouldn't be any hardship, "Be back in a week to remove the stitches", easy, "It'll be painful for a few days", I can deal with that, "No alcohol", WHAT!, I want a second opinion.

TIP: I found Banksia Dental Care (Fremantle, ph. 9335 1993) to be very professional. Even though one tooth was extremely difficult to remove, I was always comfortable, and at no time during the procedure did anything hurt.

Wed 25 Dec

Christmas day, I get up early with a throbbing jaw and a headache. Chris arises soon after with similar symptoms, it seems she's having sympathy pains.

We are supposed to ride over to my cousin's place for Christmas dinner today but there's no way I feel up to it. Beside I can't drink, can hardly eat, and don't feel much like talking. Not a good combination for Christmas dinner. No, I'll just sit in my recliner and feel sorry for myself.

Sun 29 Dec

Our time is up at the caravan park and not a moment too soon. In the last couple of days we've been surrounded by thousands of noisy holiday makers. Between the kids, the radios and the tent zips, there's not a moments peace in the day.

Fortunately it's been cold, so closing the shutters has not been a hardship.

Anyway, as I say, we're booking out today. There's a spot not far away that we have identified as a potential freeby. There were several motorhomes in residence the other day and apparently the ranger is sympathetic. Let's find out.

After some tight manoeuvring to get free of the tents, push bikes (don't mention push bikes!) and general paraphernalia that comes with a crowded caravan park, Wothahellizat moves about two kilometres up the road.

Wed 1 Jan

Today I ride into town to get some photos of the buildings when there's no people around.

On the way into the city I stop off at the University, finding it quite fascinating to wander around the campus.

I never was very interested in going to university (probably for the best, as I didn't even finish school) but the sight of all these old-style stone buildings, the ivy-covered walls, and the general air of academia, just makes me want to learn something. Maybe I'll enrol, nothing too hard now, just enough to entitle me to an AusStudy allowance :-).


One of the aforementioned academic buildings

I continue into the city and photograph many of the buildings. Perth buildings are a nice mix of old and new. Right next to a stone building with its name chiselled deeply and permanently into the limestone lintel, you'll find a 40-story glass edifice who's nameplate is just bolted on because who knows what company will have the naming rights next week.


Street lights and the Allendale Centre.


Bankwest building.


The old Chancery building reflected in it's modern glass clad neighbour.

Nearly 30 years ago I lived and worked in Perth, so I thought I'd take a short walk (or ride) down memory lane. I started with my old workplace, a photographic studio on Wellington Street. Would it still be there?.

Well I still don't really know. The building is certainly there, looking somewhat decrepit, but there's no obvious signs of business life.

Next door however there's a nice new building with a business name like "Ad Life" which doesn't really help, it could be that my old company (which did a lot of advertising photography) has morphed into something else, but on New Years day there's nobody to ask.

As I walk down the back alley I get a whiff of something familiar. I investigate and find a vent from which the smell is wafting. If that ain't the smell of fixer then I've never worked in a darkroom.

The odds are shortening, I'll have to come by on a work day and ask.

Next I shoot over to South Perth to find a unit I called home for a while. This time there's no doubt, I find it easily, there's been a few coats of paint since I was there, but the complex is the same.

With my curiosity mostly satisfied, and my energy levels flagging, I ride home.

Fri 3 Jan

This morning we find a torch on the ground near the stairs at the back of the truck. It's working and in good condition, so we wonder who's been poking around at night, and why they would leave a torch behind. No matter, it's ours now.

Later I wander around the old power station. What a fascinating structure, right out of a post-apocolypse movie.

I'm obviously not the only one to come here, there's plenty of signs of previous visitations, even habitations.


Grafitti inside the old power station.


Interesting patterns formed by the broken windows.


The outside, quite an imposing building, even in decay.


Window covering torn to shreds by the incessant wind.

Meanwhile, back at our carpark, the rubbish collectors turn up and wonder why the place is so clean. We explain that we've been doing the rounds every morning, so they take our full garbage bag and leave us with a supply of new ones.


You can hire these scooters from near the Shed 10 markets.

Mon 6 Jan

Today is the first day that most businesses open so I'm into town to start the ball rolling regarding the printing of my photos.

While there I ride past the building that used to be my old work. This time there is signs of life, so I drop in.

My ex-boss is still running the show but everything else had changed. No more darkrooms, it's all computers these days, everything's digital.

My boss has changed as well, he used to be taller than me.

Next it's over to Custom Colour to drop in some negatives for scanning.

The ranger dropped by today. He pointed out that camping was not allowed but Chris talked him into letting us stay a few more days. "OK I'll be back on Friday" he says. I guess that's more than a hint that we must move on by then.

Tue 7 Jan

I return to Custom Colour to pick up the job I dropped in yesterday. Mal (the owner I think) asks if I used to work in the industry in Perth. "Yes, but a long time ago" I reply. He asks me to hang on a minute, disappears into the building's interior then returns with someone who looks vaguely familiar.

It turns out to be Les, and old workmate from "Illustrations P/L", the aforementioned old workplace of mine. Les apparently has a memory like a steel trap (unlike mine which is more like a wire sieve), when he saw my name on the work sheet he put two and two together and correctly came up with four. Unbelievable after 30 years.

Les proceeded to remind me of several workplace related incidents, for example it seems that I pranged the company station wagon. I still don't recall the incident, I guess that sometimes it's good to have a bad memory.

Late in the afternoon I ride up to Kings Park with a view to photographing the city at twilight.


Perth CBD from Kings Park. A not-very original photo that must be taken by everyone who goes to the park.


I turn around and see this monument in the twilight

Wed 8 Jan

Our Friday deadline is nearing so I ride over to Lesmurdie Falls, a spot we identified on the map as being a possible campsite.

It's quite nice and we could fit the truck, but I don't think it's worth the drive.

Thu 9 Jan

For several days we've been talking to an old guy from the nearby caravan. He's slow of walk and slow of talk, but a nice old fellow. Chris thinks he's appreciated having us here to break his routine, and that he will miss us.

Someone else that will miss us is a young couple who come for a swim most afternoons. They have a lot of equipment in the back of their van and like to park it next to our truck so we can watch over things while they swim. They'll miss their security guards.

Fri 10 Jan

It's off to our new car park (this one has ocean views) this morning, a secluded spot near the old power station.

After getting things setup we walk into town to pick up our new bikes. Even though our insurance paid for some of the cost we're still several hundred dollars out of pocket.

We also purchased some you-beaut carbonised-tungsten-armoured-need-a-nine-inch-grinder-to-cut security chains.

Sat 11 Jan

The USS Abraham Lincoln has been in town for a few days and I've been thinking about getting a photograph of it.

While sitting in the lounge I noticed the replica sailing ship (The Duyvken?) cruise past and thought it would make an interesting photo with it next to the world's largest warship. (Actually it was I, Chris, who pointed the sailing ship out to Rob but he takes the credit for everything I do, so I'll leave his text as is!)

I quickly pack some gear and take off on the motorbike. Unfortunately I cannot get a good angle so I give up and decide to just ride around to North Quay and look at the aircraft carrier.

While setting up my camera to photograph the carrier, blow me down if the sailing ship doesn't appear from around the breakwater. And it's heading will take it directly in front of the Abraham Lincoln.

I get a couple of nice photos of the ships.

Conspiracy uncovered!

While reviewing the abovementioned photos I uncovered some very disturbing information. Let's start with the aircraft carrier.


The hawk: The USS Abraham Lincoln, the world's largest warship

Nothing unusual here, a straight forward 20th century aircraft carrier. But I got to wondering why they parked it so far away, we'll get back to that.

Then I studied the photo of the Duyfken.


The dove: Replica of a 16th century bathtub called The Duyfken

Now I was getting intrigued. Note that even though all the sails are furled it's still under way at a good rate of knots, INTO THE WIND.

How can this be? Calculations indicate that the only way you can fit enough horsepower into a vessel that size is to use an immensely powerful source...say a nuclear reactor, just to pull something from the top of my head.

Closer investigation reveals a plume of super heated water spewing from the side of the ship.

If this sucker isn't NUCLEAR POWERED then I don't know anything about marine engineering.

Here we have a situation where everyone's up in arms about the presence of a nuclear powered warship in Fremantle, and all the time there's a reactor running the tourists up and down the coast every day.

Then I returned to the somewhat unusual (I thought) distance the carrier is parked offshore.

I waited until the sailing ship passed in front of the carrier and fired the camera's shutter.


The Hawk and the Dove together, proof

The results blew me away. The world's largest warship, and the replica sailing ship are ACTUALLY THE SAME SIZE.

No wonder they parked the carrier so far away, if this gets out the US Navy will lose all credibility. Nevertheless, in the finest tradition of investigative journalism, I feel the people should know the truth.

Sun 12 Jan

The Fremantle doctor is in today, now that's nothing to do with being sick, "The Doctor" is a colloquialism for the wind that blows around here at this time of year. Cute name or not, it's just more wind to us and we're a bit sick of it.

The carpark we're camped in is next to some old cattle yards. There's still a lot of fences, races etc. in place and many are decorated with cut-outs of cattle.

The most obvious of these artefacts are two weather vanes, and tonight they look good against the sunset.


Weather vanes in the old cattle yards

Tue 14 Jan

It seems to be an institution around these parts were many things are cheaper, or even free, on Tuesdays. The cinema is $9 instead of $11.50 and the Maritime Museum is free.

Needless to say we went to both these places on "Tight-arse Tuesday" as it's known.

The Museum is pretty good but the best part is a tour through an Ovens class submarine ($8, even on Tuesdays). Boy these things are small, I'm pretty comfortable in confined spaces and was quite at ease, but to spend days inside this tin can with tons of water above me, I don't think so.

The internals of the sub are fascinating and I would like to spend hours poking my nose into every nook and cranny, but the tour only gives a cursory overview. Interesting but there's so much more.

Thu 16 Jan

We move camp again this morning. The ranger (a different one) said we had been here a week and suggested it was time we move on. While filling up with water at a nearby park a local starts chatting, he tells us of a spot in the hills on the other side of the road.

We follow his lead and find a camp site nestled amongst the bushes and out of sight of the road.

Wed 22 Jan

For some time now I've been unhappy with the performance of my old desktop computer. It's a Pentium II, plenty fast enough a few years ago when I was mostly just programming, but now the computer is used mostly for manipulating scanned photographs. To compound the problem I am now working with high resolution scans and often in colour (colour files are three times the size of B&W).

The upshot of all this is that I've decided to upgrade my motherboard, with the help of Tom & Mary, friends of ours living in Perth.

Mary picks up me and my computer, we drive to Tom's favourite computer store, buy the appropriate bits, return to Tom & Mary's place and get to work.

After a few hours and several beers things are half working. I hear the word "Lesmurdie" from the TV in the next room, that's where we were thinking of moving the truck to, so and go to see why it rated a mention on the news.

There's been a fire that swept through the park, right where we would have camped.


Smoke from a bushfire in the hills to the east of Perth

Thu 23 Jan

Back over at Tom & Mary's today, still trying to get the new motherboard working. At around six I get a call from Chris, there's a fire near the truck.

The brigade is on top of it (the fire that is, not the truck) but they've suggested that we turn the vehicle around just in case we need a quick getaway.

I ride home AFAP (As Fast As Possible).

By the time I get there the fire is out but I can see the blackened scrub only about 50 metres from our home. A bit close for my liking.

Chris can't drive the truck but she figured that, if it's pointing in the right direction, she may be able to start it and head away from any danger. I turn Wothahellizat around so at least it's facing towards the road.

Wed 29 Jan

We leave our hilltop bush camp, fill up with water again at the park, take on two bottles of gas at Bunnings, then drive over to the Gateways Woollies carpark.

The rest of the afternoon is spent provisioning for the next few months. Apart from actually buying the goods this entails removing packaging from most items, cubing and portioning several kilos of chicken for the freezer, cleaning and repacking the under-floor storage, etc.

At six PM some friends drop over to look at the truck, then we settle down for the night.


The view from Wothahellizat, we've had better, but then we've also had worse

Fri 31 Jan

Today we ride up to the AQWA Aquarium, it's a long ride up the freeway and $20 each to get in.


My what a nice smile

While it is very interesting to look at the fish, and we must have gone around the underwater tunnel a dozen times, but I don't really think it's worth $20.

 

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