Thursday, January 21, 2010

1983 and 1984 were 2 opposites

The 1983 summer like this was one of the hottest in Southern Australia and in the middle of it the Ash wednesday bushfires, at the very end of it about March 21, in other words the very last day of it there was a couple of inches of rain and everyone was jumping for joy, the drought is broken but I was saying HOLD IT, there must be a follow up, the rain was on a Monday but on the Tuesday there was a blistering dry blast furnace North Westerly and by 2PM all benefit of the rain gone. A horrific oven like drought April followed and the whole of South East Australia was alight in this month and early May, in April I was walking in Western Sydney on Anzac Day and our feet were getting bogged in the molten bitumen and in 4 lane major roads there were 4 car tracks , 2 on each side where cars went along in molten tar in the 42C conditions a month into Autumn. The very next summer was a Scotland one devoid of even one hot day and I was hiking in the Snowy Mts on the Australia Day weekend and our hike was called off due to blizzards at 1500 meters and flash flooding on the lower ground, we only just got out of there in time in my friends four wheel drive, in April of 1984 another nearby friend of mine went hiking in Western Sydney on Easter Sunday which dawned a bitter bleak south easterly day, we walked about 1 kilometer in the rugged bush and heavy rain commenced so we sheltered in a cave, as conditions were quickly getting worse I suggested that we climb up through the bush onto the road up the back of Thornleigh which was a steep 300 meter climb and the last 30 meters through a mans property, a man I knew, there was a phone booth and in the bitter cold I rang a cab rather than walk the 1 kilometer back in the most unseasonable conditions, we huddled in the phone booth waiting for the cab and when it come the news was on and Katoomba was blocked off by snow and ice only about 10 or 12 days into the Southern Autumn, the winter which followed was horrific as was the 1983 one both very similar big dump years in the Snowy mountains

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hot early summer

It has been so HOT here in NSW throughout December and so far in January that I even feel sorry for the MYNAS and leave water out for them, most people wish the heat would kill them but although a pest we do not want to see them die of thirst and heat in this very hot dry early summer. Unfortunately at this time of the year as we move toward the 2 hottest months it can only get worse. All we can hope for that relief may come at the very start of Autumn on equinox day March 21, however we may have to wait until mid autumn as in 1983 after the Ash Wednesday bushfires and it is highly likely that this next 10 weeks will likely present some very savage bushfires here in NSW, forests are tinder dry in this area and we could very easily have a situation similar to last summers Black Saturday in Victoria

Sunday, January 10, 2010


From about age 16 up to 22 my friends from nearby used to have some real fun on the tractors, old cars and Landrovers on the neighbors farm, many afternoons the cows would disappear in horror as high powered motors would start and tractors and cars would be flying in every direction, the roar could be heard 10 kilometers away and I was well known in the Illawarra District as the wildest tractor driver in the district and my name was talked about in the nearby local towns of Wollongong, Kiama, Nowra, Bowral, Moss Vale, Milton, Ulladulla, Berry etc. My neighbor's boy Dan and I would race down the many steep hills on his farm, when the tractor would reach its top speed in top gear which is around 30KPH we would throw it into neutral and it would pick up to tremendous speed down the steep rough hills, at times we would be suspended in mid air a meter above the seat and the tractor would be bouncing all over the place, its wheels flattened out with the force of water rushing around in the tyres, we would reach the bottom of the hill and Dan would be in hysterics as I would approach along the flat the tractor losing speed rapidly, Dan would be just about weeing his pants as he would shout, "NOT FAST ENOUGH", then he would jump on and try to do a bit better, one day I had a friend Kim on the carry all behind the tractor, it was September and as usual for that time of the year was very wet, I was coming down this terrible steep hill out of gear and must have been about 80KPH, I knew that if I attempted to turn to go through the gate on that slope that I would tip so I yell to Kim to get down as my only alternative was to go straight ahead and hit the good barbed wire fence at a right angle and then carry on down the hill onto a flat covered by 6 inches of flood water, at the end of which was a creek which was in angry flood with huge logs and debris floating down as there had been around 200 millimeters of rain the previous day, I hit the wire and it curls back with a tremendous "Twing", I carry on down the rough hill at a tremendous speed fighting to maintain control, then there is a huge splash as I hit the flat covered in flood water, I hoped that in the 100 meters to the creek that I could lose enough speed to regain control before it as the water would have been at least 10 feet deep and running at 50 kilometers per hour, "Kim JUMP IF I SAY SO" I SHOUTED but to my relief in the 6 inches of water the speed rapidly washed off and soon I was slow enough to engage top gear and stopped well short of the creek. To say I felt rotten was NO EXAGGERATION, I apologized to Kim, his head could have been cut off with that wire, mine also and we could both had been drowned, I had made my mind up I was going to jump before end up in the creek to drown. I said "Kim tomorrow morning after we milk the cows we must fix this fence, Neville gets back on Sunday and he will be furious, he will see the mud torn up all the way down the hill, I will ring him and take responsibility otherwise if he thinks that you were driving he will sack you", I rang Neville as soon as he got back and apologized as it was his tractor, fortunately there was no damage, he just said "Well the main thing is everyone is OK, just do take care not to let it ever happen again because things go wrong on tractors, they are dangerous things, people get killed on them and we do not want a terrible tragedy," it was a LESSON to say the least

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The savage storm of my childhood

It was late March 1961, the summer had been everything but an ordinary Australian summer, devoid of even one hot spell and unlike the summer just getting underway it was one of our coldest and very wet. It was about 6AM on that very early autumn morning that I got the cows in, there was thunder and lightning and the sky that Sunday morning dawned green and threatening, the cows were all upset and wanted to head east away from the coming horror storm, a terrible roar was coming from out of the west a metallic sound like a huge train and the cloud was boiling, I was watching the sky carefully expecting to see a funnel cloud descend. As I get the cows in that morning I just get inside the dairy when all hell broke loose, a world of gale driven torrential rain, large hail the size of tennis balls blowing horizontally and lightning which was just absolutely constant, I started the milking machines but very soon there was a tremendous crack of lightning and a horrific thunderbolt and the power went off as a nearby transformer was struck and blew up, electrical appliances blew up in the house and the phone was melted as it blew up on the wall, electric light bulbs exploded. The rain and hail was so severe that it at times even almost drowned out the thunder and visibility was just a few meters, soon the wind and hail stopped and it just settled back into 3 hours of absolutely torrential rain and lightning, I watched the creek on the flat grow to a wild raging torrent in which huge trees smashed by the wild winds floated down, fences were washed away, the cows all moved away from the flats to higher ground and huge boulders crashed down steep ravines in the flood, 10 inches of rain fell in the 3 hour storm, the district was without electricity for days which included this city of Wollongong which was very hard hit in one of its worst thunderstorms, crops and potatoes were just washed out of the ground, the bitumen was torn from our steep farm road. As a child I feared that it was the end of the world on that frightful autumn morning as nature turned as savage as a Pit Bull Mastiff, although there were no twisters in Kangaloon, they were seen in nearby Kangaroo Valley that savage morning.

Picture: Kangaloon Valley

Saturday, January 2, 2010


The heat-wave is part of the "Furniture" in this country and lately we have been having a WHOPPER considering the fact that this is January 3, day 12 of the southern summer. There is no doubt that worse and in fact MUCH WORSE is on the way as traditionally the hottest 3 weeks are the second half of February and the first week of March. During a severe heat-wave about 1980, I left work about 4PM in my red Toyota and drove to a nearby shopping centre at Hornsby, the temperature would have been about 42C and back those days there was little air conditioning. Tired, hot and bothered I drove into the car park and not concentrating drove in the exit, a very old lady about 83 was driving out and I realized my mistake so I stop the car and ask her to move aside and please let me in, I was about 32 then and she replied abruptly "Young man you made the mistake, you get yourself out of it, do the right thing reverse out and enter in the entrance", Very upset at her attitude, I said firmly "the traffic is coming down that main road at 80KPH, I am not backing out on that, it is not safe"to which she replied, "You should have thought of this before you made the mistake, it is a good lesson for you to be more careful, it is YOUR problem, into that car and out I will wait for you", I got in my car and was so tired, hot and miserable I slammed the door in a fury and the glass shattered everywhere. The old lady came down and said "that was not wise", to which I replied "No it was not, it will cost me a new window", she seemed nice about it and as she was old and feeble I felt sorry for snapping at her and apologized saying it was the heat, she likewise said sorry saying that the heat was also the problem with her, she walked around my car and noticed the sticker on the back window which said "Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life", it was highly embarrassing after my temper tantrum that dreadful HOT DAY

Friday, January 1, 2010


As a young person in the 1960 to 1970 era, I well remember watching the cricket at the SGC in Richy Beneau's prime cricket years and it was interesting to hear the MYNAS all CHIRPING under the grandstand, "Wark, Tutor, Tutor,Tutor" they would chirp continually especially late in the day as the shadows lengthened, in about 1975 this bird started to appear in the inner suburbs of Wollongong and somehow survived the horrific gale of June 1975, by about 1985 it had made its way out to Albion Park and by 1995 even to Kangaroo Valley, Foxground, Exeter, Robertson and now is widespread and like a swarm of flies throughout the Illawarra in fact the state. In Melbourne in late 2007, I was at a train Station in the inner suburbs and noticed just how plentiful this pest bird was there also and commented to a commuter a local about 40 just how many of these there were, he told me of being on a train to work one day and as the train stopped at a station a MYNA entered the carriage and was to late going for the door, which closed on him and as the train gained speed MYNA became very upset, screaming "TUTE, TUTE, TUTE", that little call of alarm they make when upset, MYNA was not the only one upset, the passengers were all upset also for the MYNA was above them and they in their work uniforms, about 4 stations down track they were successful in getting the MYNA out and he immediately flew upline, no doubt to be reunited with his mate.

Good Roads and Bad Roads

Many people are saying it is the bad road which caused the horror truck smash on the Princes Hwy the other day, the fact is that about 80% of the people of today never seen or imagined the Old Princes Hwy of about 1975, I try to tell some and the reaction of all is unbelief, "it could not have been that bad impossible" but all of you except Melissa would have seen a Princes Hwy which would have been a horror stretch to even bring the cows along to be milked let alone use for cars, trucks and tourist coaches, I well remember the 2 Cortinas of my young days and the Toyota Corona literally falling to pieces on the horrific corrugations, in some cases you would be praying that the car just held in one piece until Narooma was reached!!! and then you would take a break for driving on this rough dusty horror stretch for more than 100 kilometers without a break was impossible, a far different story to the autobahn we have today, things were not to bad to Batemans Bay but once past that it was gravel at least half the way and in about 1975, I remember being on a Tourist Coach and they stopped at the Bodalla Cheese Factory which I had been through many times, the gentle westerly was blowing the dust from the "HIGHWAY" straight across to the factory, I said to an English Tourist "Look at the dust we are eating" as we came out, he laughed and agreed and said "this would not be even a farm track in England" and he was amazed that in Australia this is actually a highway, in Eden once I stopped for a bite to eat in the then couple of houses and shops and turned right at the main intersection where the highway turns and straight ahead is the main street, I drive 1 kilometer up the hill and then the gravel right on the doorstep of the village, for the next 60 kilometers to the border it was just pray as the car either the Toyota or the 6 cylinder Cortina just about fell to pieces and we crawl along dodging the 18 inch deep wash outs and rocks sticking up a foot, "watch out for that one" Brian would scream "if we hit that we take the sump out of this." Most of the roads around Kangaloon were likewise and in the winter you would often need chains or get bogged to the axle, even the Illawarra Hwy at the Moss Vale Caravan Park 5 kilometers out of town was likewise, Jamberoo Mountain now a good bitumen Road was a 4 wheel drive job as I would even call the Princes Hwy that from Eden to the Victorian Border where it became a autobahn like it is the whole way today, the majority of the people today would either not have seen 1980 or have been only babies, they will not believe us, it is a pity that when Mums house was cleared out a lot of photos of this era are lost forever.

The Big Dump of Snow, 1950

An issue which I missed because I was only a baby was the "BIG DUMP" of June and July 1950, old hands still were talking about it when I was a young man of 30, a school mate one of the Knox girls, Ruth I think was born that winter in a truck on the way to Bowral Hospital, the roads were all blocked by the snow and her late Father Ron was taking her late Mother, forget her name May, I think, to Hospital in the farm truck and it got stuck on one of the hills in drifts about 3 feet deep, they were skiing on the Golf courses at Bowral and Moss Vale in that winter and Goulburn was snowbound for several weeks as every front brought the Big Dump, the Snowy Mts were having a absolutely bumper year with over 3 meters more than the combined total of the disasters of 2007/8 and 9 put together. Somewhere early last century thee was another very big year where the trains could not get to Orange and Armidale, it snowed at Dubbo and also on the Bunya Mts to the North of TOOWOOMBA, I think 1901 was the other very big year, it beat 1950 but nobody at all alive to be witness of the 1901 of course, September 1970 at Orange was the BIG one of my day, it was close to a meter and with a bitter October to follow there was still snow 6 inches deep in the shady places at the top of Mt Canobolas at the end of October, it was actually boosted by further light snowfalls in October after the meter on the last Sunday of September when I had a horror trip to Ungarie in the snow and freezing rain, I remember freshly shorn sheep lying dead in the paddocks by the thousands as the severe cold snap struck very suddenly after a warm dry winter, being so late the farmers thought that they had just had a year without a winter but October and even November delivered the goods, I was transferred to Mildura in November and there were still frosts in that normally quite warm month and it was the end of that month before things started to get back to normal, hot dry conditions in December and January were just what the orchardists had ordered after the cold wet spring causing a very late start to the season and a bumper harvest looked on the cards but Alas torrential rain in February destroyed all the fruit and the grapes rotted on the vine, conitions here in that 1970/71 summer were extremely wet, it was not a good summer at all to much rain and the grass turned yellow and slimy it was so wet and likewise in Victoria Coast where there were big floods in my last few weeks in Mildura, the Murray was running very very strong that summer, quite a contrast to this.

The big snow of 1950 was when Dad worked on the Doctor's farm at Wildes Meadow, I remember lesser falls in the 50's and 60's, 70 was a very big one and very late, July 1983 was another as you could not get in or out of Bowral and the Bendooley Hill cut off, there were a few pretty good falls in the 90's also before a very hot snowless decade apart from the first 3 years of it and a light fall in 2004, after 2006 the deeper we got into the decade the HOTTER it got, although I think everyone would agree that 08 was the hottest and the year just finished was a bit better, even the young people are becoming sick of HOT WEATHER.