Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tasmania 1969. Part 2


Port Arthur.
Some of the catch.
Southern lobster or Tamanian Crayfish.
Clifton Beach. Hobart.


Naughty Nurse Penitentiary.
The Odyssey continues.....from Part 1
The next morning we struck the tent and filled the eskys with ice and Carlton Draught and set off for a journey down the east coast towards Port Arthur. We stopped for lunch at a pie shop in Avoca. We were going to visit St. Helens, but a last minute decision to turn right instead of left was made and we found ourselves heading for the fishing village of Bicheno. What a pretty place was Bicheno. We pitched our tent in a camping area almost opposite the pub and attempted to find someone to pay the one dollar camping fee to. No one put their hand up so we saved ourselves a dollar. On holidays in Bicheno and having the odd one at the pub was the Mayor of Devonport, who struck up a conversation with some of the lads. Before the night had ended we were all promised a civic reception if or when we visited Devonport. Also enjoying the odd lager were some Lobster fishermen……oops pardon me, what I should have said was Cray fishermen. After ascertaining that there were twelve NSW tourists, they told us to have two to three blokes on the wharf at 5 am. the following morning, to assist them with raising the traps. They would then give us two dozen Cray fish as a thank you. The following morning three of the guys waited until 7:30 am. but no fishermen made an appearance. Sludge and I saw to it that everyone had a substantial breakfast and after a long walk around the area taking in the scenery, we all adjourned to the boozer for a few cold ones. Shortly before noon the Cray fishermen reappeared and apologised for sleeping in and presented us with the promised two dozen Cray’s. Our friendly publican was more than willing to throw them in the cooking pot for us. How long does it take to cook a Cray fish? Three and a half hours and many, many rounds later, the Cray’s were ready. We bid farewell to the locals and thanked the publican for the seafood and the many shouts that he paid for during the afternoon.

Our three vehicle procession was driving through a small village called Swansea, when it was decided to take a rest break owing to the fact that bladders were about to burst. Seeing how we used the local pub's facilities, we thought it appropriate to down the odd Boags.......How strange that we would do that. Sludge and I started up a conversation with one of the locals and after we asked him how the fishing was around Swansea, he smiled and said, "Come and I'll show you." He opened the boot of his car and it was completely full with a large variety of fish. There must have been at least 100 in quantity and he invited us to take as many as we required to feed our rowdy group.
We settled for two dozen. There were flathead, red bream , snapper, silver bream, john dory and flounder. We made room in one of our esky’s and after a few more beers we offered our thanks and said our goodbyes then headed off south to find a suitable place to clean the fish.
 We cleaned the fish on flat rocks near the ocean’s edge and were intrigued by the many sheep grazing in the surrounding fields. Some of these sheep were actually standing in the salt water as they were grazing nearby. The emerald green grass was growing strong and thick right up to the water’s edge.

Port Arthur

Shortly before sunset our three vehicles pulled into historical Port Arthur. As there was no one around to point us in the correct direction, we pitched our tent alongside what was once the inside of the main prison quarters. There was also a barbecue in close proximity, so out came our large hot plate and on went the billy along with the Cray fish. What a feast, it was almost as good as a nooky……mind you I said almost. After dinner it was off to the pub, merely a stone’s throw away. How strange of us to do such a thing. For the very first time the publican did not seem to show any interest in our little gaggle. We discovered he was losing heavily at blackjack. The local fishermen had just received their annual payment and it was evidently common for some of them to lose it all in one evening, playing cards. We all carried on drinking while the publican and two of the fisherman stood at the bar playing blackjack. Everyone slept like a log that evening and when dawn broke Towner and me went for an early morning ski paddle in the bay. The two of us were not that far off shore when the water between our two skis began to swirl. I can’t speak for John, but I can for myself. Three words came to mind, ‘White Pointer…..Shit,’ Before we could react, an enormous right whale broke the water, surfaced, blew its top and then disappeared into the watery depths. Our whole trip had been all worthwhile, what an experience.

Returning to shore Mother Sludge and I lit up the barbecue and on went the fish. What a breakfast.

 Later on that morning, six of us visited the local museum and were fascinated by the islands history. The other six were seen attempting to play that ridiculous southern football game that was pinched from the Irish during the mid 1800’s. How can anyone take seriously a game where you can actually score a point by missing. Our whole crew wandered through the many ruins and many of the sights were filmed on 8mm. Many will find the following hard to believe, we then all adjourned to the pub for the afternoon. Dinner that evening was a cold lobster salad with chips….only in Australia.

It was agreed to head for Hobart the next morning, so off to the pub for a few farewell drinks before beddy byes. The publican would not stop apologising to us for his bad manners and sat with us and shouted on several occasions. We got the impression he may have either broken even or possibly have won at cards.

The following morning, down came the tent and we were off to Hobart. We arrived late morning and had a few heart starters at one of the small pubs. I seem to recall having lunch at a café and the rest of the day was spent sightseeing. What a beautiful little city. We entered a caravan park and camping area at Sandy Bay. Up went the tent at the bottom of the hill and we took off looking for wreck to wreak.


We arrived at what was Hobart’s equivalent of a top night spot and were permitted to enter despite not being properly attired. We were told that the big night was Friday and if we were interested in attending, collars and ties would have to be worn. The local girls never refused an invitation to dance, but restricted us to only one. We discovered that the Tassie girls insisted their guys dress up when on a night out. It turned out to be a fairly quiet night, but no one complained as bodies were slowly beginning to weaken.
The next morning the camping area manager informed us our tent should not be where it was. We were told to move it to the top of the hill where all the other tents were. No way were we going to pull the whole shebang down only to re erect it a few minutes later. One of the guys acted as a guide while all the others entered inside the tent and took hold of a pole. One, Two, Three, all lift. Up the hill we marched singing our favourite folk song, until we reached our designated spot. One caravan owner, recovering from a bender and obviously very much worse for wear, was heard to remark, “I’ve gotta give up the grog” and when asked why, he added, “I’ve seen many strange things in my life, but never have I ever seen a bloody great green and white tent moving up a hill singing 'Lily the fucking Pink.'
It was around this time that Sludge and I believed we needed to vary the menu. The two of us started doing deals with butchers and deli owners. Steak, chops and snags were fine, but we were able to add ham steaks with pineapple, beef and pork rissoles, bacon and eggs and on one occasion we even boiled some corned silverside.

A typical twilight meal was pork patties, mashed potato, pumpkin or carrots with beans or peas, washed down with gum leaf tea and milk if required, followed by at least 15 eight ounce glasses of beer at the nearest pub. Friday morning we journeyed to Clifton Beach situated south east of Hobart. The Australian Titles had begun and when we arrived we were in time to watch the Taplin relay. Leading at the end of each discipline was the renowned Barry Rodgers from the Maroubra club. He had led all the way and was well in front in the final event, the surf race. A large wave started to develop out the back and enabled several surfers well behind Rodgers to catch a free ride home. We all felt sorry for the Maroubra legend as the broken wave along with the seven or so other competitors were about to swamp him. The broken wave completely enveloped him and proceeded on its way towards the beach. All of a sudden a head was seen emerging from within the wave and managed to ride it all the way to the shore.

None of the other wave riders were able to stay with this dark form. It was Barry Rodgers. The whole beach rose as one to cheer him onward to victory. Along with the Port Arthur whale, this made our trip to Tassie more than worthwhile.

Naughty nurses
That evening six of our group were pictures of sartorial elegance as we set out for our night out at the Hobart night spot. The other six resembled something the cat had dragged in and refused to dress up at all. Arriving at the night club the six well attired ones were admitted, while the feral six were sent packing. We were seated with a handful of local guys and dolls and became one of the mob. Seated at a table adjacent to us was a rowdy bunch of trainee nurses from the Hobart hospital, who were obtaining great pleasure out of stirring our little well behaved collection of extremely well dressed individuals. 

Sludge and I invited them all to join us at our table and were instantly overrun by a mixture of perfumed flesh, skirts, petticoats, stockings, suspender belts and straps, with the odd pair of knickers making the occasional appearance. Picking ourselves up off the floor, Sludge and I wiped the footprints off our clothing and bodies and settled down to enjoy what now had the potential to be the third reason for making our trip more than worthwhile. 

Ever so naughty Nurses.
Shortly after the invasion of the Florence Nightingales there was a loud commotion coming from the clubs entrance. All of our ferals had returned and were creating quite a stir. It appears they stumbled onto a St Vincent De Paul op shop that happened to be open and purchased clothing thought to be suitable for the night club. They were all wearing schoolgirl blazers with contrasting piping around the lapels and edges. Two of these blazers had the word PREFECT sewn on above the school badge and all six were wearing school ties. 

The only exception was John Doring who was wearing black track suit trousers, green tee shirt and black French beret. He was passed off as a French lion tamer named Claude De Ball, but became known to all of us as Dirty Pierre. They were all allowed to enter and they soon joined our noisy misbehaving group. There were many patrons in the club who believed that this was all part of the floor show. Boy oh boy, these angels of mercy knew how to party and when it was time to leave at midnight they all insisted on returning to our tent at Sandy Bay. By rights they should have been back in their dormitory by pumpkin time, but were not overly concerned if they failed to meet this deadline.

Dead centre of Hobart
I cannot recall whether some of the other campers joined us or many others from the nightclub found their way into our tent that early morning, but the world and its dog seemed to be there.
By 3 am. all but three of the nurses had made their way back to the hospital one way or the other. We offered to drive them home and they accepted. I think it was Jim Demos, Graeme Atkins and me who became their escorts. After pulling up near an annex to the main hospital building, Jim and Graeme were bid a fond good morning by their two partners, who then climbed into the annex through a sash cord window that had been closed but not locked. They waved goodbye and disappeared into the darkness. My gorgeous little nursie invited me to join her inside the building. I told Jim and Graeme I would make my own way back and they immediately drove off. In the window she went, followed by yours truly. We tip toed along short darkened corridors and entered a weird smelling room that was pitch black. My petite blonde haired beauty went through a door into what I think was a corridor and returned shortly with a mattress she said she borrowed from the operating theatre. This mattress was put to extremely good use…..no more details will be forthcoming.
Trained nurse performing oral resuscitation.
"You're kidding me, whe're where?"
As time rushed by the light was increasing and shapes began to appear in the room. Bloody Hell, we were in what I believed to be the Morgue and after my personal trainer confirmed it, I discovered we were not alone. Nursie pulled open two long drawers of what  in fact was a fridge and I was shown a two pairs of feet with a tag on the big toe protruding from white blankets. This had a pronounced effect on me.

A sudden chill ran up my spine and after one last passionate goodbye smooch I headed for the window, hoping not to get lost on the way. I climbed out and roughly one hour later, just as the sun was rising, I snuck into the tent and crashed. Boy was I lucky a friendly and understanding Taswegian picked me up and drove me to Sandy Bay, as I was completely and utterly lost and had no idea which direction was home. Two hours later it was breakfast. After telling the guys where I had spent the night, I was asked were there any stiffs in the room. I answered that question quite truthfully when I said there were three. What I didn’t tell them was that only two of them were in the fridge.
One could be forgiven for thinking that touring Tasmania was simply a case of all beer and skittles and while this was true to a certain extent, there was a serious reason for the trip, competition. Despite the self inflicted pain, every one of our mischievous mob performed way above their potential at the Launceston surf carnival. Earning the plaudits of the large crowd and the local newspapers was not just good publicity for the Avalon club, but for the SLSA as well. Four of the tourists were members of my beach patrol at Avalon and at the end of the following season we became successful in winning the inter patrol competition after being runners up during the year of the trip. Every bloke had taken part in many life threatening situations involving the surf and were responsible for the saving of numerous lives at various times. Towards the end of 1969 some of these blokes were instrumental in assisting Avalon active members Warren Mitchell and former club captain John Fuller during the development of the first IRB (Inshore Rescue Boat). It was possible to perform an essential public service and still have the time and opportunity to have a lot of fun whilst doing so. Throughout the whole of the trip, the beach event competitors trained for at least two hours each and every day and sometimes at night. The slowest runner in the history of Australian surf lifesaving became the coach of the beach relay team.

They never reached the quarters, but I’m certain they won a heat. To be honest, we were a little out of our depth during the national championships. We had some frightening draws and were behind the eight ball from day one.
The main entrance to Clifton Beach was at the end of a bitumen road. One then walked along a sandy right of way then onto the beach proper. The Tasmanian people were the most likable bunch one could ever wish to meet, but one image remains clear as crystal in my mind. The sandy right of way passed between two rural properties, both of which had barbed wire fences along their borders. The property on the left hand side had a large sign erected just inside the fence that read, ‘Trespassers will be shot.’ Welcome to Clifton Beach Tasmania folks.

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