Sunday, August 28, 2016


Frequent Flyer  Peter  Burleigh Encounters  French  Relatives of  Louie  the  Fly  and   Receives Horrible  Shock While Shaving

The Latin proverb ‘Tempus Fugit’ looks and sounds like swearing to me, and I think some sensitive Pro-consul changed its meaning. Tempus Fugit or ‘Time Flies’ likely was first coined by Julius Caesar’s troops after they encountered the fiendish Gallic insects that swarm the fly-blown nether parts of this otherwise unblighted country.
 The French canals are deliberately routed through such zones; quite an achievement as there are around 7500 kms of navigable waterways. Clearly the antipathy towards lock keepers began as early as the sixteen-hundreds and reached its peak during the Napoleonic canal-building boom. Each lock had a keeper – sometimes several – so ‘punishment by annoying insects’ became government policy and canals were routed through pestilent regions.

Now we are in gentler times and the canal locks are nearly all automated, the government is searching for a way to discourage the flies, mosquitoes and so on. French domestic insect pests are classified in two sections: the fliers: mosquitoes (moustiques) and flies (mouches), and the crawlers (Les Rampants): ants (fourmis), cockroaches (cafards), araignees (spiders), and puces (fleas). Experiments in eradication have been underway for many decades.
The most recent failed iteration has been described in my past reports; the insect spray was deemed ‘over-polite’ to the insects which simply ignored it. However, France is signatory to a UN Resolution which covers the humane treatment of insects so the new insecticides reflect French national values.

However, the insects have used the last few hundred years to evolve their physical and genetic defences. Instinctive selective breeding has given us a French fly of steely determination and ruthlessness.

That’s why the new generation of pest sprays utilise psychological principles of insect consciousness. At the first pssst! the spray draws the flies’ attention to a meeting to be held between the human occupiers of an enclosed space and the flies and mosquitoes which are aggressively colonising it. The insects gather and wait politely for the Chairperson – you – to address the issues.
This is done by drawing your can of BLAST, SMASH or NUKE from under your apron and releasing a huge mushroom cloud of French chemicals, including D tetramethine and hydrocarbures aliphatiques, which are designed to disorient the insects’ libidos. A microscopic drop of aerosol is enough (the makers claim) to send any fly into a suicidal frenzy and you can expect your flies to scramble through the nearest opening and throw themselves under a steamroller.

Of course when you bought the spray in the supermarket you knew it wouldn’t work, but you bought it anyway. Certainly you could have carried a can of MEGA-MAIM all the way from Australia but you may have been arrested at the airport as a terrorist.
The new psychotic fly-attack chemicals are still squirted into the air we breathe by the same old lung-melting aerosol propellant. The font size of the small print on cans of fly spray is rightly called ‘fly speck’. If you have an electron microscope handy you’ll read that aerosol spray can cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, elephantiasis, dropsy and incontinence. The true mustard-gas odour of the spray is masked by perfumes named limonene, hexyl cinnimal, finafool and geraniol.

Remember the movie ‘The Fly’, in which actor Jeff Goldberg and a blowfly shared a molecular transmitter and when re-assembled together became a giant, drooling monster with a fly’s head? Well, when I look into the bathroom mirror every morning I think I may be suffering something similar and have decided to draw the line and restrict our use of spray chemicals to harmless toilet sprays, window cleaner, spray degreasers, spray paint, aerosol deodorants, spray cooking oil, aerosol cream, hair fixative, shaving gel, oven cleaner spray, and air freshener. My crew and I have gone back to square one to find an answer. First, know your enemy.

Flies like to take the high ground. They shit everywhere. Parts of your ceiling can look like some child has taken a fine-point marker and made black dots over everything. Disturbingly flies also like flat surfaces. Kitchen benches are a danger area. Beware the scattered poppy seeds around your chopping board and coffee cups. A black dot doth not necessarily a poppy seed make.

Perhaps scientists should have included a chemical which brings on a fly coup d’état based on the ‘terror period’ of the Revolutionthat would destroy the leadership elite of the flies. Not only that, flies are not known for their eloquence. You can rant on as long as you like about Liberte, Equalite,et Fraternite to a fly but all you get is a blank stare. We don’t appear to have a chemical which will make flies talk, hence negotiations are doomed to fail early.

Because innovation has failed us we have reverted to humble fly paper, not used in Australia for several decades because now we use violently carcinogenic sprays which do kill flies but also peel the skin off women, children, pets and endangered species generally. However, French supermarkets still sell fly paper as a nod to non-toxicity because it doesn’t require fancy chemicals, nuclear power or smashing fly corpses into the tablecloth with a fly swatter to work.

Apta-brand French flypaper comes in a pack of four, each complete with a thumb tack with which you attach the paper onto your polished Mahogany mantelpiece. Each is the size and shape of a 12-guage shotgun shell. The idea of shooting at flies on the wing appealed to me until I realised that the size of the lead shot would have to be miniscule and you’d do more damage to the wallpaper and Lladro figurines than you would the flies. I estimate one flypaper could capture up to seventy three or four flies.
Other insect threats like wasps (gueps) and hornets (frelons) require a different approach which is described in my autobiography ‘Serpent Repellent & other Social Aids’. To achieve an acceptable attrition count it’s probably unnecessary to hang three dozen flypapers at once, and walking from one side of the room to the other would prove hazardous.

Fly paper also may have been invented by Julius Caesar’s troops. Reliable legend has it they covered peasants with a mixture of honey and bat dung to attract flies. Then they threw the fly-crusted peasants over cliffs. Fly paper consists of an unrolled strip of sticky paper pinned to the ceiling. The flies confidently land on it, sigh with satisfaction and settle down to gaze over their conquered territory. Their compatriots join them.
Flies are suckers for triumphalism. They soon discover they can’t move their feet. After a while there are a dozen struggling in the molasses-ey coating, glued onto the paper in distorted attitudes.* They hang in vertical humiliation from the saloon ceiling like a hunter’s trophies.

These trophies are not Moose Heads but Mouches Heads. Best of all you’ll never have to pronounce “one-R transphenothine” ever again.

*A word of warning: do not allow your skin, fingers, clothing or any part of your face to come into contact with the sticky fly paper. It will stick to you like shit to a blanket, and you don’t want  that.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Multi  talented  Magnetic  Island resident  Terry  Bridges, above, regrets having not learned how to play a musical instrument , yet   recently finished what is believed to  be  the only  copy of  a  famous   Stradivarius  violin  made  from  Silky Oak  and  is  contemplating making  another  in Tasmanian Huon Pine . 
 How come a   Stradivarius came to be built  on the island? Some years ago, a  friend , retired schoolteacher  Chic Osgood , of  Bermagui, NSW,  who made cellos as a pastime  and  had a  holiday home on the island ,  visited Terry ,   plonked  down a   copy  of  a  book  on violin making   for amateurs  by American  Bruce Ossman, and suggested  he  make one .

Taking up the challenge, reading more about Stradivarius , and  150 accumulated  hours of  work   later  the  violin  was born ,  valued  at $10,000.
 If  you are  not  in  the market  for an Australian Stradivarius  , Terry   can  paint you a  tropical bird  or scene  , build  you  a  house  and  is  into making  distinctive, sturdy USA  Adirondack  chairs  .  Another  example of his passion for  and  skill  with  wood  is  the   20ft long strip  planked  kayak, below ,  made from  Kauri , on which  he  spent  750 hours .
Its construction  incorporated  a technique used by  one of the  team in Alan Bond's America's   Cup challenge .  Terry and his wife, Glenwynne  ,   designed and built their cool ,  open plan house , which  withstood Cyclone Yasi's ravages , surrounded  by a  garden with  many tropical  plants and  orchids.
Examples of  Terry's  handmade furniture and paintings   are  visible throughout . His paint encrusted artist's  palette  is  a  work  of  art  in itself. In a   real North Queensland touch , he incorporated fretwork panels  above doors  which  were  the  trademark of  a  carpenter  from  Charters Towers , at times examples  of  his  work found in  old  Townsville  homes .  A rolltop  writing desk  based  on  an  old  English design   is  another   of  Terry's    productions .   

PM Holt spearfishing .

An  electrician by  trade , he spent three   years  in  the Army, including one in Vietnam . When Prime Minister  Harold  Holt  went  missing  off  Cheviot Beach, Victoria , Terry was    stationed at the Watsonia  Army Barracks and  he was part of the large military contingent  sent to search  for  the PM, both day and night.  At the time, Terry said , there was a   strong  swell, the  rocks were so sharp  boots were   cut to pieces and  there was much  kelp  in the water  . The PM would have  had  no chance of  surviving  under those  conditions .  
In his trade as an electrician  he has worked  on major  construction sites in Papua New Guinea  and  Australia , such as the Ok Tedi  mine in PNG,  Roxby  Downs  , South  Australia .

His  affection   for   timber with its various qualities  comes  through loud and clear ... Silky Oak  from  which much early Queensland   furniture was made , Queensland Maple and Kauri . Special  mention is made of Cooktown Ironwood , known as the Poison Camel Tree, because it killed  camels  which ate its leaves , used to make early lawn bowls . This, he said was the densest timber in the world , used  to   bed  the  drive  shafts  of  steamships on  the  international trade. 

The  Bridges  are leaving the island after  23  years to take up residence near  Geelong, Victoria . The   distinctive kayak  is remaining  on  the  island .

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


In State of the Nation speech, angry President Obama says the Pentagon  intends to stick a  megaton cracker up the clacker of  the  Northern Territory Country Liberal Party  for leasing  Port  Darwin  to  the Chinese .
DARWIN: Fair dinkum , so many  bizarre things have happened during  the  reign  of the  Country Liberal  Government  Territorians   would  hardly raise an  eyebrow if a flying saucer  swooped   out of  the  wide   blue  yonder   and  weirdo aliens abducted  the NT   News   UFO Reporter  and took her away for   the  usual   anal  examination  and   full   Brazilian body  wax and free Olympic rings tattoo .

However, one  recent  mind boggling event came from left field, near Tennant Creek  actually . 

 Two   men   were  caught  cattle duffing -chopping up a cow. As the  story unravelled it caused  blasé  Territorians to  shake    their heads    and wonder  if a  comet  would  hit  the  Legislative Assembly building  any day soon . There has even been  an upsurge in mad laughter and limp  falling  in  drinking  establishments  frequented  by  thirsty   workmen , especially members of the MUA.
The     media    claimed  that  nearby  sitting in a government car was the  now  independent Member for Arnhem, Larisa Lee ; the bloody duffers, who allegedly gave  false names , later   made  an   offer    of   $600 for the spare ribs  and  other  tasty  bits  and  pieces .
Ms Lee, it   was recalled  had   her previous    government  supplied   car  confiscated  in June  after she  allowed an underage  relative  to drive it because she was  allegedly intoxicated.
Adam Giles ,the  kind Chief Minister  ,  however , it   was reported , had  decreed she  could    have  the use of another   official car   for  the duration  of  the election campaign to travel  about her  electorate. Tennant  Creek is  way, way out of  her   electorate .

When the cow-chopping story  broke , the  car   was   hastily  withdrawn . The NT Speaker and  noted snake handler  Kezia Purick, formerly of the CLP but now independent , and  former  ALP Leader  Delia  Lawrie   demanded to   know what special  SBS deal  the  Chief Minister   had   cooked up  with  Lee, a  former CLP member , before giving  her  the  second  chuck wagon .

Lee has been  involved  in several other dramas , one causing a Darwin hotel  room   fire  when heating up a loaf of garlic bread , and in 2014 was convicted of assaulting her teenage niece in a  sock it to me  episode  in Katherine   after discovering  she had  been having  an  affair  with  her  partner.

The  election  takes place  on  Saturday ...  then  what ? Watch this space , along with  the  CIA  and  Chinese  spooks .

FINAL COUNT  : At a Sky News election   forum  in Darwin attended by  100 undecided  voters, 58 indicated they would vote for the ALP  and   12  for the CLP . A snake made it  onto the front page of  the NT  News  and  the paper said the  ALP  deserved to win , however Darwin's so called psychic crocodile  indicated he would like to sink his fangs into Adam Giles  rather than the ALP leader,  Michael   Gunner , an act supposed to  predict  the CLP will  win !!! It is obvious  the croc has lost its mystical  power  and should be turned into some travel   luggage  ASAP.   


Eloquent Electrician  Averts  Floating Nuclear  Disaster   

Captain Peter  Burleigh  and Rope Girl Judi  in  tight spot .

The French habit of long, repetitive consultations over the most superficial issues with one or more people (including the entire population during elections) has contributed to their reputation as stubborn, slow-witted, and confused. When you observe this cultural ritual you are amused by the time and effort put into discussing the national train timetables, the perfidy of lock keepers and the moral values of the baker’s big-breasted wife.
 However, if you are one of the ‘discussees’ trying to reach a solution to a problem it can be teeth-clenchingly frustrating. Incredibly, this rudimentary democracy can deliver harmonious results. Everyone involved in the discussion may have doubts about the outcome, but it’s something they can all live with.
Our boat is fitted with a labyrinthine electrical system which has several levels of operation. Because most of the appliances on board are 220 volts, when you are ‘in the green’ away from shore electricity, your Inverter, or the Generator, or the Batteries, or the Main Engine can be used to generate or convert 12 volts to 220. How it works is a mystery more complex than any religion or philosophy. It has something to do with multiple yet unique situations and exact responses which might combine some, several or all of the above resources.
At a canal port on the Petite Saone River, we engaged an electrician to explain the system to us. Our intention was to create a list of ‘rules’ to follow. Recently we’d suffered flashing ‘overload’, ‘insufficient battery power’ and ‘no connection’ lights – worse were the sudden deep silences which meant we were dead in the water.
Monsieur Cognassier, whose name suggested he was wise and understanding but which our dictionary translated as ‘quince’, arrived as scheduled. His boiler suit is spotted with oil and cigarette ash and he has active eyebrows, an unconscious parody of Sellers as Clouseau.He speaks a mixture of French and English, a Franglaise weighted with at least 80% of French words. Worse, his habit of explaining electrical detail in the form of proverbs or homilies would puzzle the smartest of generalists. 

We have been operating our boat for five years by relying on common sense. The first thing Cognassier asks for is its wiring diagrams. Reference to a wiring diagram is like asking us to perform brain surgery on ourselves. We shrug in the French manner to encourage him to produce a meter or screwdriver with a light in it instead, but he folds his arms and shakes his head. 

Chat echaude craint l’eau froid,’ he says, meaning ‘a cat once scalded fears even cold water’. He intends to literally go by the book to avoid repeating an unpleasant past experience. This is a good idea. Using ones’ intuition seems to be a threat in the world of electricity, so we empty out the jam-packed manuals cupboard until we find some diagrams dated 2006, the year the boat was built in Holland. The Quince runs his stubby finger along a diagram.
‘Ahah!’ he exclaims, then screws up his lips. ‘Ah, non.’ A dense thundercloud of wrinkles rolls up and down his forehead.
‘What is wrong?’
When cows lie down facing in one direction, you can expect rain.
‘What do…you think the answers lie in agriculture?’
‘M’sieu-Dame, this requires concentration. 'If you plant a tree when the moon is not favourable, you’ll get rain all summer’. You understand?’
At his request we press the generator start button. A blue light blinks a few times, the charger under the floor goes clunk, a red alarm indicator reads ‘Overload’ and the generator coughs and spits the dummy.
‘Merde. Red light at night, shepherd’s warning,’ he mutters in English. ‘Red in morning, shepherd delight.’ Our confidence in the Quince is waning.
‘The hot water cylinder is switched on, Monsieur. Wouldn’t that overload the system?’‘La vache de Belge! You are right.’ He inserts his head and shoulders among the circuit breakers. He abuses the switches verbally. ‘Putain!’ he says in a muffled voice. Switches are clicked on and off like castanets in a Flamenco. ‘Now we try this.’ But he first picks up an Inverter manual from the pile on the floor.
After several minutes he says: ‘Hmmm…interessant. You have this book in English?’‘It is in English,’ Judi says helpfully. The Quince wags his finger to indicate that impatience is not called for.
Inexoribilite est mort de le chat,’ he smiles, and produces a huge hair dryer from his toolbag. ‘We test the Inverter. Grande watts.’“What’ is right,’ snaps Judi, ‘as in ‘what the hell is happening?’
‘Monsieur Quince,’ says the Quince loftily, ‘will test the le coeur of the Inverter so we can manage power input.’ He nods unreassuringly. ‘J’espere.’ Quince watches the Inverter light settle into a steady state, then flicks the thumb switch on the hair dryer. Instantly an overload light goes on but the dryer grinds into life. M.Quince looks a little worried.
‘It works,’ he says. A light dew of sweat glistens on this lip. ‘Donnant donnant,’ he mutters : ‘You don’t get nothing for nothing.’The experiments continue. The Quince begins repeating himself. The clock ticks over ninety minutes. Our electrical system resists his attempts to burn out its frontal lobe. It appears to us that the boat is in perfect condition, and the only cause of problems is us. We have not allowed the automatic processes sufficient time to switch from one to another. At the first sight of a red light we’ve thrown switches, shut down banks of fuses and so on. The name of the problem is impatience.
‘Ahh,’ he sighs, you have ‘faire d’une mouche un elephant.’ He means we have made a mountain out of a molehill by making a fly into an elephant. At last, one of his sayings does make sense.
His confidence rising, he proposes one final test: will the coffee machine run while the hot water heater is switched on? We recognise this is a First World problem but it’s a big deal for us. In the morning we want a Nespresso coffee and we want it without waiting. Monsieur Quince watches the appliances being set up.
‘Will you have a coffee, Mr Q?’Judi smiles.‘Absolutement,’ he beams, taking up a vaguely Napoleonic stance against the 12 volt switchboard. The milk frother whirls the lait into a pleasing white foam, but the coffee machine itself is not on long enough to penetrate the capsule. It’s fused, or overloaded, or has died of stress.
Nom de Dieu!’ he snarls.’C’est la fin des haricots.’ The end of the beans, indeed; it’s the last straw for us too. ‘Attend! J’arrive!’ He dives amongst the circuit breakers as if he’s found a secret exit from the boat. A single click cuts through his heavy breathing and he re-emerges.‘Switch on!’ he exclaims.
Between slurps of coffee he explains there is nothing wrong at all with the electrical system -he had simply overlooked the ‘Alarm Batt/Mem.Volt Radio’ toggle (‘The what?’ we whisper to each other). So we have no need to worry. Apparently the system will take care of itself without human input, and we had nothing to worry about from the beginning. He gives us his account with a wink and a heavy nod at the empty wine bottles in the galley. He says: ‘Bacchus a noye plus de gens que Neptune.’ 

We need our French-English dictionary to decipher this last piece of Quincienism:’Wine has drowned more than the sea.’

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Unusual illustration on  the back cover  of  the 1984 book of poems,The Sea and Me, written and illustrated  by sight impaired  from birth   Lyn Tyson , of  Townsville. One  of  the  poems enabled  Little Darwin  to  put a  name to some seashells in our collection . Tyson  had a long  involvement   with  mental  health  organisations , was  a  social  worker  at Townsville  Hospital  and  involved with  James Cook  University. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016


A natty dresser from way back, it is hoped that  Derryn  Hinch, pictured ,  will   give  the Grand Papa  of  both  the  Senate and House of Representatives  , Senator Ian Macdonald (LNP,Qld )   some  advice on  how  to  spruce up his  attire.  For some strange reason , Senator Macdonald  appeared  in  the  chamber  looking  like an over-ripe Queensland mango which  had been clawed by  a shrieking  fruit  bat during the night   , see below, or a member of  the  admirable SES , not  a  commando group, the state emergency brigade.
Onlookers were  clearly puzzled, taken aback  by   the senator's attire , especially members of  the media  ratpack . One ascerbic  scribe  pondered on how  the senator  had got past his media advisor/s  decked out like this . The best guess...they (advisors ) were already   out for a Wednesday  afternoon drink  by  the time the senator awoke from an afternoon nap , and got his hands on a keyboard to  issue an extraordinary press  release  relating to  an Estimates Committee  meeting in which he had attacked Human Rights  Commissioner Gillian  Triggs  over  her  report on  refugee children in custody , during which it was revealed he had not even read the report, resulting  in him receiving a   salvo   from  many  quarters  .

Responding  that afternoon  ,  the senator opened  up  his media conference  with a sentence which  went  thus :“Thanks to all of those who have kindly (and not so kindly – they are the majority and are all Labor/Greens staffers, Union heavies and staff and good old Get Up and old leftie journalists) made media and social media comment on recent media reports on the Senate Estimate Committee on Professor Triggs and the  partisan-ly titled report on children in detention “Forgotten  Children”.”

Anyone who could   read this  aloud in a single breath, wrote one obvious latte sipping  reporter, would  be  sent  their very own Ian Macdonald hi-vis fluoro vest as a prize, as  modelled above .
So it can be seen  that there is a golden opportunity  for  Hinch   to  improve  the sartorial  appearance of  Conservative  fellow  senators, some whom look like undertakers.  Even though he is  72  and therefore  two years older than  Macdonald,  Derryn  could  justifiably be tempted  to   call   Macdonald  , Junior.
Little  Darwin has received  exclusive information that an  anonymous   former politician  who  scorned   the wearing of a  tie , sported   sunnies  and  a  leather jacket  ,  has  offered  Hinch, aka the Human Headline and  Human Armpit , his accumulated  political  wisdom  and may even  arrange for some of  his top secret   files  to  be delivered    from  the  back  of a  truck one dark  and stormy night  in  Canberra .

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Photos by  Abra . Sung with  great  animation   by  Spike  Jones and  his City Slickers  .