Monday, 19 November 2012

Leave, the Central Coast and other 'Stuff'....

I have been on leave since late October. It has been great these past few weeks not to think about getting up to work in the morning (or leaving home in the evening for the night shifts!)

Didn't have that much planned really, getaway down to the Central Coast, clear up odd jobs around the house and, of course, get in some photography time.

Kim and I had a wonderfully relaxing time on the Central Coast. It is only an hour or so down the road from where we live but, we hadn't really taken the time to have a look. We spent 4 days there and still didn't get around to see the whole place. 

Our favourite place would easily have been Hardys Bay and Killcare area. Some gorgeous picturesque spots. If you're in that area, you must try a pie or sausage roll from The Fat Goose restaurant at Killcare. They were just the BEST! We also lunched at the Patonga Pub which has a beautiful bar area and outdoor dining which looks out onto Brisk Bay. 

Got some awesome photos. On one particular day we went to the Mt Ettalong lookout. I am setting up the camera gear when Kim says...' Has someone put a rubber snake on that tree or is it real?'.... Check out the wonderful pics of the 'rubber' snake I got! A beautiful Green Tree Snake - non-venomous of course!

The weather was perfect, we ate out each night.....Unfortunately we had to return to reality..........

We managed to get some work done on our courtyard area. It was looking a little bland and needed something to theme it up a bit. We found some great looking wrought iron and wood decorations that we hung on the fence in between our potted Portwine Magnolia bushes. The place has a nice Tuscan feel to it now and once the Magnolias get larger they will cover and soften up the fence a lot; it was pretty stark looking.

I also managed to get in some other small jobs, you know, the ones that sit around waiting; they are not urgent but every time you are doing something else they nag you about how slack you have been! The big job I had hoped to get done, doors on the wardrobes in the bedrooms, is still not done. It is coming up to Christmas and really, spending the money on doors right now would curtail our festive season funds! They can just bloody wait until next year!

I have also decided to go back to basics with a bit of film photography as well. One can get a bit lazy with the new digital cameras these days and, although I love my Canon 600d, film is a challenge because you only get one chance to get it right! I loaded 2 films. 1 into my Pentax A3 35mm SLR and an Ilford 120 film into my Dads' Voigtlander Bessa 1 bellows camera. Both are B&W films, which is exciting!

I got the 120 film from a bloke in Speers Point, Les Porter Photography. What he doesn't know about cameras and photography isn't worth thinking about. He had a good look at the Voigtlander and pointed out a few things. Now, this camera is about 60 years old. We found that at shutter speeds of 1/50 or less, the lens diaphragm will stick open. The self timer spring probably needs a service and lubricant because it too, gets stuck. These are things I can live with though because I just want to take portraits with the camera and won't be using it on any shutter speeds in the 1/50 or less bracket nor will I need to use the self timer.

Anyway, that is it for this update. I still have 6 days 'til I reappear at work. Friday night is our street Christmas Party. Luckily now, I am off on the Saturday so I can enjoy a good catch up and will at least have one day to fully recover prior to returning to the Torture Chamber!

I hope you are all well. It is coming up to the silly season and the traffic is getting worse as people hurry to catch the shops (already!) 

Take care everyone.


p.s. One last addition here which is of our latest addition. Meet 'Rocky' - Chihuahua x Miniature Foxy - a 21st present for our daughter Rhiannan.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Firing Party

There are many things I am proud of in my life. Not big, media grabbing achievements, but those smaller personal things that I cherish as being such an important time in my life.

The happiest & proudest moments of my life would be marrying my beautiful Kim, and the birth of our 3 children, holding them for the first time and then, over the years, seeing them grow to adulthood.

There is one event that will forever hold in my memory; not a family matter but, sort of, related.

On 11 November 1993 on the 75th anniversary of Armistice Day, I was involved in something that stopped the Nation. Something that will never happen, ever again. On that day, the Unknown Australian Soldier was buried at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. This man represents all those who have died in service to Australia, in armed conflict. 

The Unknown Australian Soldier is carried through to his final resting place; home on Aussie soil.

I put my hand up to be a part of the Firing Party; 14 military personnel who would fire 3 volleys in salute as the coffin was lowered into the Soldiers final resting place. Day after day for weeks on end of drill movements and command practice all came down to this one day. I made sure I ate a good breakfast!

Hundreds of RAAF, Army and, Navy personnel milled around Constitution Avenue in Canberra on the morning, outside the RSL Headquarters. In no time we had formed ranks and waited for the cue from the main band that we would be stepping off.  We slow marched down Constitution Ave and did a right turn up Anzac Ave to take us up to the War Memorial. The main Guard of Honour, Catafalque Party and Coffin Bearers marched straight ahead and formed up in position at the front of the War Memorial in the vicinity of the Stone Altar. Our Firing Party left the main parade, turning left onto Limestone Ave and then, (still at the slow march) turned right up the driveway into the War Memorial grounds. After 3 kms of slow marching up hill, we did a left wheel up the stairs and into the Memorial and took up position on the left hand side of the Pool of Remembrance where we stood at ease for over 40 minutes whilst the ceremonies took place at the front. 

The Firing Party - Entombment of the Unknown Australian Soldier.  That's me, front rank nearest the camera.
At the sign that the coffin and dignitaries were moving into the War Memorial, we stood to attention and the present arms. Once the coffin had passed we turned and marched up the stairs to the topmost parapet at the front of the War Memorial. From our vantage point there, we could see tens of thousands of people lined down Anzac Pde and, in the distance, the old and new Parliament Houses. As the coffin was lowered we fired 3 rounds in salute. Once we finished the salute, we turned and faced inward looking down over the Pool of Remembrance and up to the Hall of Memory where the Unknown Soldier had just been interred. It was then the bugler started playing and the moving sounds of The Last Post echoed around the walls of the War Memorial; it was an experience I will never forget and, the highlight of my military career.

Lest we Forget

Note: I was lucky to get these photos. I had made enquiries with the Australian War Memorial and, luckily enough, was able to secure these photos of the Firing Party lined up inside the Memorial on the day. That is me in the front rank, closest to the camera. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Catalina Festival 2012 - Rathmines, NSW

What an awesome weekend I had! On Saturday I went to what was arguably one of the most unique Airshows I have ever attended!

Rathmines on the shores of the beautiful Lake Macquarie, is the site of an old RAAF Base. During WWII it was the home of the Catalina Flying Boats. These aircraft were used for special operations in the Pacific and Asia during the war dropping mines in Japanese held harbours and also for delivering and recovering special ops 'Z-Force' troops behind enemy lines to carry out their missions. They were also used to re-supply the brave coast watchers; intelligence officers and members of the local communities who reported enemy movements and positions to the Allies from behind enemy lines. The Catalinas were also used in search and rescue operations for downed airmen.

The Catalina was a slow aircraft and was not heavily armed therefore it had to rely upon stealth in its' operations. This meant that most of their operations were carried out after dark. Hence they were painted a dull black colour and became known as the 'Black Cats'. The original aircraft built for the USN had heavy armament fitted to help against fighter aircraft attack. To extend their endurance and flight time for missions, the RAAF stripped them of this armament. This gave the aircraft an endurance time of 18-24 hours! 

This festival held special significance for me. My dad served at Rathmines during WWII. He often talked about the Catalina flying boats and their crews and so it was great that I was able to be at Rathmines to see this wonderful old warbird fly in.

Apart from the obvious attraction of the day, the Festival-goers were also entertained by a restored Wirraway Warbird doing some fantastic aerobatics overhead. A squadron of Tiger Moths from Luskintyre in the Hunter Valley also made an appearance overhead. One thing that interested me was the number of small experimental ultra light sea planes. These looked awesome and I can see myself  ensconced in a lakeside house with jetty and a sea plane, rather than a boat, tied up at the mooring!  [Dream on!]

There were many market and food stalls to occupy the masses, and 2 stages set up for live entertainment. The various emergency services had set up information booths and displays of equipment which proved very popular.  I couldn't begin to estimate how many people would have attended on the day, but my guess is in the 10s of thousands. 

The basis of the festival was to raise funds to build a hangar on the site of the old RAAF Base. Some of the original building still stand and the hangar would be used to display war time memorabilia as well as fund the restoration of a Catalina flying boat and have it based there also.

Congratulations to the committee for such a well organized function!

Hope you and yours are all well as we are!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

The 26th Annual Cranky Handle Rally

You may well ask what a Cranky Handle Rally is?  I had to think about it myself when I saw it advertised in the local paper. Well, it is a rally for 'machines' that need to be started by a crank handle but also covers many historic engines.  On display were machines such as old time tractors to smaller engines such as water pumps, corn huskers, chaff cutters etc etc. There were also some steam engines on show as well.

Enthusiasts came from all over at the invitation of the Hunter Valley Vintage Farm Machinery [H.V.V.F.M.] Club. The attendees really showed off their love and dedication to this now fading trade and engineering aspect of our past. I really hope that their skills and knowledge is not lost as we move to the future. 

To see these machines in action reminded me of a time where life was not as fast paced as it is today; a simpler time when the work was more labour intensive and physically harder. 

To wander around the displays, smelling the hot oil and listening to the gentle putt putt [and the not so gentle PUTT PUTT!] of these machines took me back to my grandfathers' farm; waking to hear the milking machine putting quietly in the hours before sunrise. I would get out of bed and walk to the shed to 'help out'. Pa would always welcome me with a very cold glass of fresh milk and a short time later my Nan would arrive to cook bacon and really fresh farm eggs on the old frypan for both of us! My Pa died before my 6th birthday, so these memories are from my very early childhood but they are still so vivid in my mind!

Anyway, it was a great day! I snapped some awesome machines, capturing polished copper and brass detail with movement of fly wheels, had some great conversations with old time engineers whilst indulging in a lot of nostalgia!  I still have more of these machinery photos to review and post over the next few days.

It has taken me a few days to get these photos up; Kim & I have just returned home from a few nights away on the Central Coast. Some well needed R&R! No guesses as to what my next blog will be covering ha ha, I have heaps of photos to review, process and post! Also coming up this weekend at Rathmines on the beautiful Lake Macquarie is the Catalina Festival. Watch this space for [hopefully] a few photos of a Catalina Flying Boat which I believe is making an appearance at the Festival.

Hope you have all been well as we have!