Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aviation History


As an update to my last post, here is a photo of Jack Percival and Henry Purvis who were part of the crew who flew the Catalina Flying Boat "Frigate Bird II" from Rose Bay to Chile in 1951. Jack Percival, according to this source was the Sydney Morning Herald's Aviation correspondent that came up with the idea of delivering newspapers to country towns via converted warplanes. Harry Purvis was appointed Manager of the Herald Flying Services in 1946.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

In honour of Remembrance Day I am remembering my Uncle.  His is not a story of great valour and great deeds.  He did not die in glorious battle.  He did not die in war.  Nevertheless he did serve and was prepared to make the great sacrifice.  And I think sometimes ordinary stories are interesting ones nevertheless.

I did not know my Uncle.  I am in fact a bit short on aunts and uncles.  I have none now. I did have an aunt once and loved her to bits but she died when I was 14.  My father had three siblings and my mother was an only child, hence the shortage.

My father was the youngest of four children. His oldest sibling was Hazel, my aunt, who I adored. My father had an older brother, Edwin or Ted, who was much loved. There was a younger sister Trixy, but she died of scarlet fever as a baby. Here is a picture of Hazel, Ted and Trixy.

Ted was born 12 September 1926 in Marrickville in Sydney.  As the first son he was named after his father, Edwin.  I suspect his middle name, Oswald,  came from his mother Ethel's side of the family.  Ethel was the second eldest of seven children and she had a younger brother Oswald who was six years her junior.  Ossie, as I think he was called, died the year I was born. 

1926 was the year Queen Elizabeth 11 was born.  And Dame Joan Sutherland.  Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister and Jack Lang Premier.  It was the year Winne the Pooh was first published.  Ethel, Ted's mother was 23 years old, nearly 24.  Hazel her oldest child was about to turn 2.  Her husband Edwin was an Electrical draftsman with the Sydney City Council.

Trixy was born on Boxing Day a couple of years later.  I have a copy of the receipt for her funeral expenses dated 6th January 1930.  Hazel would have been five years old and Ted just three when Trixy died.  These were the years of the Great Depression in more ways than one I imagine.

At the age of 30 Ethel gave birth to my father, Jim.  Ted was nearly nine years old by then.  Four years later Australia entered the Second World War.

There was military history on both sides of the family.  Ted's grandfather on his father's side was in the Navy and had served in WW1.  His grandfather on his mother's side had also served in WW1 in the Army.

Ted's sister Hazel enlisted in February 1943 a couple of months after she turned 18 and served as a Corporal in the General Hospital.  Ted dreamed of being a fighter pilot.  He put his age up and joined the RAAF as quickly as he could at the age of 17 in July the following year.  He spent some time in Queensland during the war.  His rank at discharge a year later was Leading Aircraftman.  Here is a photo of him.

On discharge Ted was given a bit of money to help him on his way.  He set up a model boat building business and my father remembers a beautiful workshop in the garage of their home at Undercliffe.  However someone dobbed him into the local council so that was the end of that.  I think it was then that he went on to get his commercial pilot's licence. 

Ted died a couple of years after the war.  He was just 21 years old.  He and Geoff Hoskins, aged 33, died when their plane crashed south east of Muswellbrook at Black Hill early on the morning of 30 October in 1947.  They were dropping off newspapers for the Sydney Morning Herald.  The Aircraft Accident Report concluded that the "cause of the accident was loss of control probably resulting from the Centre of Gravity of VH-SMJ being considerably aft of the rearward a consequence of the incorrect disposal of the load." 

My father found an article in the Daily Telegraph dated 31 October 1947 that contains gruesome pictures of the plan wreckage and photos of the airmen.

In my search for an image of a Lockheed Hudson type aircraft I came across this interesting article...I think this story bears further investigation.

Who do you remember on Remembrance Day?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Finkler Question

Just in case you have been living under a rock (which I sometimes do), this won the Booker Prize this year. On the back cover it is described as "A blistering portrayal of a funny man...." and "Our funniest living writer....". It is always dangerous to describe things as funny. A bit like saying to someone "I saw this great movie last night!"...a sure set-up for disappointment.

I finished this book today. I now owe the Brisbane City Council Library $1.75 in late fees for it. I was determined to finish it by hook or by crook. I think I laughed maybe twice.

This year for me seems to have been marked by books about vampires and books about Jews or Jewishness. I haven't deliberately chosen this path. I merely remark upon it and I mean nothing by the association. I am just intrigued by it. So far I am finding neither genre or subject matter an easy read - certainly not funny.

Let's talk about the Jews we know. Or what it means to be Jewish. Yes, let's talk about stereotypes. Bette Midler. Woody Allen. They come to my mind. I often quote Bette Midler's line in Beaches "But enough about me, let's talk about you,........what do You think about me?" Neurotic. Self-obsessed. Funny. Sad.

The Finkler Question is about three men who come together in grief. The main character Julian Treslove is a kind of an anti-hero. He was born to be miserable. He is excruciatingly pathetic. He is so miserable he secetly fantasises about being Jewish. A bit like you fantasise about being adopted....anything not to have been born into this awfully boring suburban family. Give me a bit of the exotic...make me Jewish! His best friend from school Sam Finkler is Jewish and all that Julian wishes he was - smart, successful, a bedder of countless women. They keep in touch with an old teacher from their school days - turned friend - Libor - an eccentric loveable Czech, also Jewish. Libor and Sam are recently bereaved and Julian revels with them in their misery.

Spoiler alert! The book is called The Finkler Question. And, of course, as the reader you thirst to know why. It is Julian's secret way of internally de-stigmatising the word "Jew". And I quote..."Before he met Finkler, Treslove had never met a Jew. Not knowingly at least. He supposed a Jew would be like the word Jew - small and dark and beetling. A secret person. But Finkler was almost orange in colour and spilled out of his clothes. He had extravagant features, a prominent jaw, long arms and big feet....If this was what all Jews looked like, Treslove thought, then Finkler....was a better name for them than Jew.....The minute you talked about the Finkler Question, say, or the Finklerish Conspiracy, you sucked out the toxins. But he was never quite able to get around to explaining this to Finkler himself."

That last sentence I believe holds the key to the book. Why doesn't Julian get around to explaining his labelling to Sam? And therein lies the genius I guess of Howard Jacobson. Because Julian is a loathsome character. He is in fact like some kind of small dark beetle...a secret person. He, like a vampire, sucks the lifeblood out of his friends and girlfriends/wives/lovers. He purports to be deeply interested in being Jewish but is frustrated when the going gets tough....His lover Hephzibah recommends reading Moses Maimonides' The Guide for the Perplexed when he seeks enlightenment with regard to Jewish thought.....but poor Julian can barely make it beyond the first sentence and feels "like a child lost in a dark forest full of decrepit lucubrations." He is lost because he is never honest with himself about his motivations and he is certainly never honest with his friends about his innermost thoughts.

I wonder if by The Finkler Question in fact Jacobson is referring to the Human Question. Ultimately I felt I loathed Julian because I was seeing a reflection of myself.....see it's all about me!!! He disappointed me the same way I disappoint myself. There was no great triumph or change in Julian's character...he was excruciating from beginning to end...failing to see what a tosspot he indeed no doubt we all do of ourselves. For me, The Finkler Question is about the mystery of the human condition...about our eternal quest to label, categorize, blame and explain the inexplicable.

Laugh? I could have cried.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I went for a walk this last.  Purple petals were strewn in my path from the jacarandas.

This is what a jacaranda looks like in case you haven't seen one.

It rained last night so everything smelt fresh and damp....loverly.....

I enjoyed watching the fog lift off our moutain.  We live in the foothills of Mt Coot-tha which is probably more of a bump by world standards...

You can see the television antennas peeking through in this photo.

Wish me luck on my "Get thin before I turn 50 challenge!"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sur ....PRIZE!

Look what turned up in the mail on Thursday!  My lovely prize from Curlypops!  Thank you.  I feel very spoilt.

Look at all my lovely fabric.......

and I got special wool too in the most lubberly colours.....English Leicester it's I must confess I don't know what to do with it when it is in this state...

does this mean I have to spin it or something?  I'm such an ignoramus.....tell me Grand Purl Baa...what do I do?

Let's just have another look at that beautiful card designed by Curlypops herself.  Isn't she wonderful?  Don't you just meet the nicest people when you blog??