The School Cadets

It was in my early years of high school that I joined the army’s unit of cadets. My mate, Peter, who was a year ahead of me and lived some six doors down the street was keen to join and my mother believed that to do so would be to my benefit.

Once a week we would dress in our military uniforms and not only carry our cases to school, but our ‘303’ rifles — minus their respective bolts and magazines — in order to practice our marching and drills, after classes had officially finished, for a period of about an hour.

One lad, whose surname was that of West, could not tell his left from his right and so we would urge him to be at the front of the march where he would invariably hesitate and cause confusion when the order was given to turn, especially when his decision was the incorrect one.

Each year, in mid-winter, we were sent on a camp that was situated out in the country. The initial one marked the first time that I had been away from home of my own volition.

Upon our arrival at the camp one of the first things we were ordered to do was to strip naked, don nothing more than a greatcoat, and join a long queue for what ostensibly was a physical inspection. When it was my turn to be perused by the seated gentleman I was asked the question that I imagine no teenage boy should or would want to hear, and certainly one I have not forgotten: “Has it always been that small?”

Mind you! It was so cold, that even the proverbial brass monkeys were in hiding.

At least I didn’t desire the need of one poor fellow who wore his swimming costume into the shower only to have a group of eager youths suspect that he possessed something that he did not want others to see and once the covering was involuntarily removed and he was taunted mercilessly, my personal feeling of inadequacy did dissipate somewhat.

The toilets provided for use were an absolute disgrace. They appeared to have never been cleaned as dried faeces were encrusted to the wooden seats. In fact, for the entire two weeks of that first camp I refrained from passing a motion.

A year later, I found them to be in the same shameful state and, therefore, attempted to do the same only to fall ill and lie to the doctor when he asked if I had been using the facilities.

We were housed, six to a tent, on stretchers and each day began at 6.00 a.m. to the sound of reveille. At which time we would immediately have to present ourselves outside our respective tents.

One boy, in his wisdom, had brought a hunting knife to the camp and in our spare time we would play a game that involved its usage. Making sure that our boots and gaiters were worn, two of us would stand facing each other, about a yard and a half apart and with our feet placed together.

The idea was to throw the knife so that its point either entered the ground or left its mark on its surface, but not more than a foot from either of one’s opponent’s feet. A successful throw would mean that the opponent would then move that foot out to the mark. The procedure would continue, in this vein, until one person could no longer keep their balance or extend a foot to the most recent mark.

We were transported into the bush en masse where a bivouac was to be staged, however, it was a day when rain fell heavily and the whole exercise was abandoned, for we were drenched to the skin before our makeshift tents could be erected.

Another day found us at the range where we were to shoot at a target of paper that had been pinned to a construction of hessian twenty-five yard distant from where we were each ordered to lay down on a bag of sand. We had been warned that the 303 possessed ninety-three pounds of ‘kick’ and after we had ceased firing the smallest boy in our unit was no longer positioned on his bag.

Beyond the targets was a sloping earthen mound topped by a wall of concrete. Somehow, one of the lads had managed to fire and hit this wall and I distinctly recall hearing the bullet ricochet back over our heads.

I was chuffed that one of my bullets had, indeed, scored a bullseye! However, Peter, who had been firing from a couple of yards to my left, poured cold water on this by claiming that I had been aiming at his target and he, mine.

We had also been told not to ‘palm’ the rifle’s bolt for to do so could damage a sensitive nerve in one’s hand. There was also the instruction to make sure that the rifle’s butt was firmly placed in the fleshy part of one’s shoulder, just below the collar bone.

I must say that seeing the size of the rifle’s bullet really surprised me as I had expected one to be more akin to that used in my father’s former ’22’ rifle that he had owned several years before.

Presumably, as no one had been injured in this foray into the firing of live bullets, it was decided that we should be conveyed into the countryside for some animated shooting practice. There, we were under the orders and watchful eye of a Regimental Sergeant Major (R.M.S.).

He informed us that the ‘big tree’, perhaps four or five hundred yards distant, was in his words ‘twelve o’clock’ and, keeping that in mind, we could expect targets to suddenly spring up before our eyes at ‘eleven o’clock’, ‘two o’clock’, ‘one o’clock’…

The targets were cut-outs of large game animals and were to be as distant as the large tree. We were given en masse just five seconds in which to fire as many bullets as we could at each specified target.

This was where I struggled and began to feel that I was letting my fellow cadets down. Therefore, after we had fired at perhaps two of the targets I made a conscious effort to re-cock the rifle and fire a second round. However, before I had the time to properly aim this second round at the target the R.S.M. bellowed, ‘Cease fire!’.

My finger almost involuntarily squeezed the trigger, nevertheless, and the bullet buried itself in the damp soil perhaps thirty yards in front of us. Sods and clods flew some twenty feet into the air as a deftly silence immediately ensued.

‘Who fired that?’, the R.S.M. roared. A short period of silence followed before I hesitatingly admitted to my guilt. Fortunately, for me, his bark was worse than his bite and no action was taken.

A few days later, Peter told me that he had heard that our school had achieved the lowest score of all of the schools that were involved in the so-called ‘field-shoot’.

It must have been during the camp in that second year, for I have no recollection of Peter being there, that we were again transported out into the countryside, only this time, in the dead of night. We were told that we were there to partake in something known as a ‘Lantern Stalk’.

Our unit was classified to be the stalkers and it was our job to progress several hundred yards down the hillside and take those down at the camp in the valley as our prisoners. Meanwhile, it was the job of those in the camp to fire brightly coloured flares into the air so as to silhouette our figures and thereby capture us.

I decided to adopt as low a profile as I could and as I lay on my stomach and literally crawled along I detected that those not far from me were in the process of being captured. Everything was progressing quite well until I realised that I had crawled into a coil of barbed wire, that had been left in the field.

While I was not personally injured in any way, it did take me quite some time to extricate my uniform from its clutches. When I eventually did, it dawned on me that not only was there no more firing of flares, there was no lantern burning in the camp below!

The ‘Lantern Stalk’ had certainly been held on an appropriate night, for it was totally devoid of moonlight. Despite the realisation that I had been totally deserted, I did not panic, in fact, I thought it all to be somewhat amusing.

All I could do was about turn and walk back up the hill, in the hope that I could flag down a passing vehicle. This came in the form of a truck which was conveying another school’s cadets back to camp, after their evening’s activity. They and their leader also found what had happened to me to be of amusement, too.

That second camp for cadets also included the dismantling and rebuilding of a Bren machine gun — something that did not inspire me — practice the throwing of hand grenades, the learning of the international phonetic alphabet, as well as, the learning of the art of speaking on a military radio, and the ability to read topographical maps.

Having watched Vic Morrow’s character, Sergeant Saunders, in the military series, ‘Combat!’, throw hand grenades over considerable distances with an apparent minimum of effort, it came as a genuine surprise to me how short a distance I could throw a grenade that weighed one and a half pounds, especially as we had been ordered to do so with a straight arm.

We were also forbidden from attempting to remove a grenade’s pin with our teeth, but in using my forefinger I could not imagine that being as readily achievable as it appeared to be on television, either!


Footnote: Peter was killed in 1976 whilst hang-gliding. The bar of his craft came down across the nape of his neck.


Saturday, 15th February, 1997

After breakfast, Tiki left for her parents’ house in order to spend the weekend with her “Mum” who has a broken ankle. Upon her departure I walked ‘Happy’ to the shop on the corner to buy a copy of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ at the cost of a dollar. The edition of a Saturday costs more than during the week. I continued to walk via the same route as yesterday and upon my return, watched the remainder of the Top 50 countdown on the A.B.C’s ‘rage’. The programme’s No.1 being No Doubt’s hit, ‘Don’t Speak’, on which Gwen Stefani provides the vocals.

This programme was followed by another, ‘Recovery’, hosted by Dylan Lewis, which is also on the A.B.C.  Dylan possesses pierced ears, as well as an earing through his left eyebrow. The show includes a someone who is referred to as “The Enforcer”. He is donned in a black outfit and possesses the job, it would seem, of keeping the peace on the programme by not only controlling guests but also Dylan. ‘Recovery’, must have proven to  be popular last year, as it has returned for another. It runs in opposition to Channel Ten’s ‘Video Hits’.

There are four races this afternoon with a hundred thousand dollars or more in stakes. The radio station, 2KY, has Ian Craig broadcasting the card from Sydney’s Warwick Farm Racecourse which is being held on a surface that has been affected by rain. Bryan Martin does likewise at Flemington, in Melbourne, where the card is being held on a course where the surface is rated as being a ‘good’ one.

Channel Nine is also covering the races in both states, with Ken Callander updating the odds prior to each event. The coverage via television has John Russell broadcasting those races from Flemington while Johnny Tapp does likewise at Warwick Farm.

‘Ten Eyewitness News’ screens on Channel Ten from five o’clock. This is read by Tracey Spicer, with Leith Mulligan delivering the segment on sport. ‘Bright Ideas-The Home Improvement Show’ follows at half past the hour, with its presenters being Renee Brack, Jane Blatchford and Mark Tonelli.

Gina Boon reads the ‘National Nine News’ from six o’clock. The coverage of sport is  provided by Peter Overton and includes Johnny Tapp’s cursory report on the racing at Warwick Farm. It is followed, at six thirty, by the return of the perennial ‘Hey Hey, It’s Saturday!’. This entertaining offering is presented by Daryl Somers and Jobeth Taylor. Its guests include the Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Bryan Adams who performed his hit, ‘Eighteen Till I Die’; a sumo wrestler, who was seated next to Red Symonds during the segment, ‘Red Faces’; a new group which Daryl said includes the son of the former Monkee, Mike Nesmith, as well as that of Donovan (Leitch ). The group, Nancy Boy, closed the show by performing ‘Deep Sleep Motel’. Midway through the  programme the British group, Boyzone, also performed. I followed it by watching ABC-TV’s Channel Two and an episode of the British series, ‘Heartbeat’. This particular offering bore the copyright of 1996. The series began in 1992 and remains popular. It is set in and around a fictional police station in rural Yorkshire, in  the 1960s, and centres upon its central character, P.C. Nick Rowan, played by Nick Berry. Berry also sings the series’ theme, ‘Heartbeat’, which was originally recorded by Buddy Holly, in 1958.

Yesterday, the Australian icon Arnott’s — known predominately for its production of biscuits — bowed to the pressure exerted by an extortionist and removed all of its products from the shelves of stores in New South Wales and Queensland. The move was in response to several prominent people, that included politicians, each being sent a package of the biscuit, Monte Carlo, that had been laced with a lethal pesticide. Yesterday, investors devalued  the company of one hundred and thirty years, by thirty-five million dollars as the price of a share dived by twenty-five cents.

The National Australia Bank has matched the unanticipated move by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia by reducing its standard variable lone for a home from 8.25% to 7.55%. Such rates have not been seen at this level since the late nineteen sixties.

Superstar, Michael Jackson wants to settle in Britain or Australia, according to his biographer of twenty-five years, J.Randy Taraborelli. Jackson became a father yesterday when his wife, Debbie Rowe, thirty-seven, gave birth to a son who weighed three kilograms at the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles. Speaking after the birth, Jackson reportedly said that he doesn’t want his son to grow up to feel that he is in a “fish bowl”, as he did.

On Monday, Oasis’s Liam Gallagher cancelled his plans to wed Patsy Kensit, his girlfriend, reportedly citing that there had been too much intense scrutiny from the media. Four days later, his brother, Noel, also called off his wedding, to Meg Mathews — that had been scheduled to occur on Valentine’s Day — allegedly for this same reason.

Arnott’s Managing Director, Chris Roberts, has seen it fit to take out full-page advertisements in newspapers stating that the company is the” innocent victim ” in an attempt to have a prisoner freed from gaol. Governments in Queensland and New South Wales, are being targetted for allegedly having collaborated to imprison an innocent man. The threat was first made on the third on this month and states that contaminated biscuits will be placed on the shelves of stores after the seventeenth of this month. Mr Roberts states that “our aim is to complete the clearance of shelves by Monday, February 17″.

The Cadbury Guineas, for horses of the age of three, was held at Flemmington Racecourse this afternoon. It was won by the 10/9 favourite, Mouawad , trained by the Sydneysider, Clarry Connors and ridden by the New Zealand jockey, Grant Cooksley. It is the colt’s fifth win in its only six starts and adds $227,500 (and trophies to the value of $2000) to its earnings. It comfortably warded off the hitherto unbeaten O’Reilly, 13/4, — a ‘raider, from New Zealand, trained by D.J. O’Sullivan and ridden by Lance O”Sullivan — by two lengths. Tarnpir Lane (11/1), finished a neck away in third position. It is trained by C.I. Brown and was ridden by yet another New Zealander, in Greg Childs.

Arnott’s Limited revealed other woes yesterday as it revealed its interim net profit fell by seventy-five per cent since its last report. Its earnings after tax amounted to 8.5 million dollars down from 38.7 million, in the first half of 1995-1996 financial year. Yesterday shares in Arnott’s fell by 25 cents to $8.50. The American giant, Campbell Soup Company, owns seventy per cent of Arnott’s.

Meanwhile, shares involved in blue-chip companies on the New York Stock Exchange broke through the hitherto barrier of 7,000 points for the first time yesterday. This has reportedly raised fears in some quarters that the market might be advancing too rapidly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher by 60.8 points to 7,022.44. The Federal Reserve, in the United States has expressed its concerns that equities there could become overvalued.

Meanwhile, here, the All Ordinaries closed the week lower by 13.8 points on 2,482.6, having earlier reached another record of 2,506.5. CRA fell by  31 cents to $18.78; BHP, 6.6 cents to $17.95; News Corp closed the week lower on $6.66, with a loss of 5 cents; CBA, 3 cents to $13.90; Westpac, 18 cents to $7.65 and ANZ by 7 cents to $.8.31. One Australian dollar is equal to approximately seventy-seven American cents.

The much lauded New Zealand pacer, Iraklis, is an easing favourite for tomorrow night’s A.G. Hunter Cup at the level of Group One. The race is to be run at the circuit, Mooney Valley, in Melbourne where it will start from a handicap of twenty metres, with the lone back-marker, Desperate Comment, off thirty metres. The trainer of the other fancied runner, The Suleiman, John Green, has been quoted as saying that the favourite will struggle to “run a place”. Iraklis started as the 1/4 favourite when it was defeated in the recent Victoria Cup.

Keith Williams, a developer of resorts, claimed a victory yesterday when the Federal Court gave him permission to commence dredging near the environmentally sensitive Hinchinbrook Island, which is situated near The Great Barrier Reef.

Mr  Williams’s company, Cardwell Properties, had fought legal battles over a period of four years against the Friends of Hinchinbrook Society, a group he has described as conservational “fanatics”. The approval is for the construction of a resort on forty-four hectares at Oyster Point on the mainland, opposite the island. It will be home to one thousand five hundred beds and a marina that is to have berths for two hundred and thirty-four craft. Hinchinbrook Island is one of the country’s best habitats for marine life. This includes the dugong and the sea turtle. Therefore, Mr Williams expects there to be another challenge vented against yesterday’s decision.

Antonio Castro Trujillo has been sentenced to forty thousand years in gaol after he was found to be guilty of having raped his three daughters 2,496 times, by a court in the Canary Islands. The court heard that he had begun to sexually abuse his daughters in 1979 when the eldest was twelve and the youngest, nine. In addition, he was ordered to pay each of his victims the equivalent of fifty thousand dollars.

Astronauts, Mark Lee and Steve Smith, have completed the first of four spacewalks in order to improve the quality of pictures sent back to Earth from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The pair left the shuttle, Discovery, as the spacecraft was above Australia, at a distance of five hundred and eighty kilometres. It is anticipated that the instalment of the latest infra-red camera will allow astronomers to peer deeper into the universe.

One of the world’s most renowned acrobats is expected to suffer from paralysis after he fell some eight metres during a performance in Richmond, Virginia. Wolfer Guerrero, who is twenty-eight years of age, injured his spine when he was performing with the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus and is reportedly in a critical condition.

The daughter of President, Bill Clinton, Chelsea, at the age of seventeen, has been offered a place at America’s oldest and most famous university, Harvard. Should Chelsea accept the offer she would become the first child of the White House, in more than seventy years, to advance from high school to university during a president’s term.

Actress, Elizabeth Taylor, at the age of sixty-five, has told the interviewer, Barbara Walters, on television’s ABC, that, after having been married on eight occasions, she wants to concentrate on being the godmother to the newborn son of her friend, Michael Jackson. She said that Richard Burton, whom she married and divorced twice, and Mike Todd, who died in the crash of an aeroplane during their betrothal, were the two notable loves of her life.

A woman, who claims to be the illegitimate daughter of the actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, has been indicted to stand trial by a federal grand jury after she and an alleged accomplice allegedly conspired in an attempt to extort more than fifty million dollars from the entertainer.

The pair allegedly attempted to obtain the money from Cosby by threatening to reveal the claim to a newspaper. Cosby has allegedly admitted to having had an affair with the woman’s mother, but denies that he is the father. No evidence has been found that might link the scheme to the murder of Cosby’s son, Ennis, on the sixteenth of January.






Los Bravos

Although Los Bravos hailed from Spain, its leading singer, Mike Kennedy, was German by birth. Mike had changed his surname from that of Kogel because he reportedly believed that it would be more palatable to the British media.

The group sampled fame in the 1960s when its initial release, “Black Is Black”, became an international hit, in 1966. The single reached No.2 in Britain, No.4 in the United States and No.6 in Australia. In total, it was to sell more than one million copies.

Los Bravos’s only other success of note occurred in this same year when “I Don’t Care” peaked at No.16 in Britain.

In 1977, the French female vocal trio, La Belle Epoque, also took “Black Is Black” to No.2 in Britain, in the era of disco.

“Black Is Black”, by Los Bravos, is another of my favourite recordings.

In The ‘Poo’

This morning, as we were preparing to depart on our walk, I decided to use the toilet at the last minute. Aware that Tiki had already done likewise, I went about my business as per usual and was just about to employ the flush when I noticed that my deposit was not only resting in a copious amount of bubbles, it was separated by the toilet brush!

Not wishing to be figuratively in the dreaded ‘poo’, I called out to Tiki to attend to the situation; exclaiming that the brush was in the toilet.

I can’t say that I was surprised, when I was chided for not having checked that the bowl was clear before I had actually sat down.

“Cherry Lemonade”: Monday, 28th November, 1977

I purchased a packet of ‘Trend’ biscuits, which are produced by the company, Sunshine, at Ballarat. Returning home, I sat through a repetition of the series, “The Mod Squad”, from three o’clock on Channel Ten. It had Sammy Davis Jr., who portrayed a man stricken by a terminal disease, as its guest star. It was followed at four, and also on Channel Ten, by today’s edition of the pop music show, “Right On”, presented, as per usual, by Kobe Steele. It featured footage of David “Starsky And Hutch” Soul singing his latest release, “Silver Lady”.

I’ve been watering the back lawn this afternoon by placing the hose in the forks of trees and shrubs; this includes those of the waratah. I even placed the hose’s nozzle on the circular lid of the metal peg container, which looks as though it came with our old Hills Hoist as it is affixed to its stem. To prevent the nozzle from sliding off, I placed a brick on top of it.

At six, we watched the well-written, humorous programme of the series, “Doc”. It stars the elderly, bespectacled Barnard Hughes in the title role. On “Willesee”, at seven o’clock, Paul Makin clowned around with Sue Vanner and Dawn Rodrigues at Balmoral Beach. The actresses appear in the latest James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Ken Warby, the holder of the world water speed record, was also interviewed, at his home in Sydney. Despite his achievement he continues to struggle financially. Sir Henry Bolte, who was the Premier of Victoria for seventeen years, expressed the belief that Labor, under the prime ministry of Gough Whitlam “tore the guts out of Australia” during its three years in office. Sir Henry admitted that he is involved in the financing of advertisements that promote the Liberal Party in this period before the federal election.

We left at half past seven to jog and walk for forty minutes through Miranda and Gymea. Today was gloriously sunny with a maximum temperature of twenty-four degrees Celsius.

I knocked over the bottle of lemonade that I had been about to remove from the fridge. Consequently, when I opened it, the foamy liquid overflowed on to the table and even the floor!

Having cleaned up the mess and switched off the light, it suddenly dawned on me that I still hadn’t had my drink. Therefore, I ducked back into the kitchen and, without bothering to turn on the light, poured lemonade into a glass that was already on the table.

When I re-emerged and placed it on the coffee table in the loungeroom, Tiki burst into raucous laughter, for there, beneath the sparkling liquid were stones from the stewed cherries that we had eaten with ice-cream for dessert.

Australia’s first police serial, “Cop Shop”, premiered at half past eight on Channel Seven. Amongst its cast are George “Homicide” Mallaby, Rowena “The Rovers”/”Dynasty”/”Barrier Reef”/”Matlock Police”/”Homicide”/”Ryan”/”Number 96″/”Division 4″/”Glenview High” Wallace — both of whom were born in England — and Joanna Lockwood, who plays the stripper, Valerie Close.