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These recollections are by Ross Smith, written when he was only 86 years old; the same young man who subsequently went to war in New Britain; as related elsewhere on this website [read more...].  We learn about the development of the skills that later saved his life and those of others in his platoon.  We also get a sense of what it was to be poor in pre-war Australia; and the continuity of that experience from the earlier convict and pioneering days from which our Australia grew.                   *

Many of Ross' recollections relating to corporal punishment and the rural pursuits of young boys still applied when I arrived in Australia as a child in 1948. 

Our milk and bread still arrived by horse and cart; the milk being measured from taps on the back of the milk cart into pint, quart or gallon jugs carried to the householder's milk container by a running milkman; his horse moving to the next house undirected. 

Although we had an indoor toilet and a refrigerator, many of the neighbours still had the night-cart and ice box; and relied on the 'dunny man' and ice-man.

In semi-rural Thornleigh I too had an air-rifle as well as a very effective catapult (shanghai) and various home-made spears and bows and arrows.  Several of my friends had .22 calibre rifles that we took rabbit hunting. 

Our teachers still handed out 'six of the best'.

While some of Ross' recollections are confronting remember, in mitigation, that rabbits and cats are feral pests in Australia [learn more...].  Rabbits are often in plague proportions and unconstrained cats predate on native animals and birds. 

There has also been a big change in our attitude to animals.  When I was a child, stray, unwanted and injured animals were routinely shot, drowned or taken to the vet to be 'put-down'.  These methods were regarded as humane.  While wanton cruelty has always been illegal, the concept of anyone spending thousands of dollars on a sick pet would have been shockingly antisocial, when many parents were struggling to feed their children. 

The reversal in this social norm, when pet animals are treated like children, and people are frowned upon for 'putting a pet down', is quite new in Australia; within my lifetime.  And pet cats are much better managed today.  Unless specifically kept for breeding, pet cats need to be RFI tagged and neutered; and not let out at night without a bell. 

In the following story the page breaks and headings are added by me.  I have also moved some content around into these sections. Some spelling and punctuation has been corrected.  But otherwise it is exactly as Ross wrote it.

 

Richard

 


Recollections of Childhood

by Ross Smith

 

To those of my children and grandchildren who have read about some of my experiences in the 1939-1945 Second World War, I will now at the prompting of Jordan, write down a few little highlights of my life as a young child, say between the ages of eight and 15 years. 

Some of you who are faint-hearted may find some of the things that I did a little disturbing but I am not going to pull any punches otherwise there is not much point. 

I want to tell you what I did and what I thought about during those tender years that we all go through but first let me tell you about the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1933. 

Amid great pomp and ceremony all the dignitaries of course were there, the premier, all his cronies, the police, the army, people of importance from other countries of course were all there.  They strung a ribbon right across the entire width of the Bridge and the honour of cutting it was given to the then Premier of the time, the Right Honourable Jack Lang.  At the given time he was given a pair of gold scissors and he then readied himself to cut the ribbon but it was not to be; without any warning a Captain de Groot of the New Guard came charging across on his mount, drew his cavalry sabre from its scabbard and with one mighty blow cut the ribbon.  He had stolen Lang’s thunder; of course he was immediately arrested and later charged.  The ribbon was immediately rejoined and recut by Mr Lang, but it will go down in history books that Captain de Groot of the New Guard opened up the Sydney Harbour Bridge ‘just for your edification’.  After that there was only one thing in everybody’s mind and that of course was to walk over the bridge which 1,000 did including me and my family. [Read more elsewhere on this site...].

Okay, so much for the bridge, now let me tell you about me.

 

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Travel

India and Nepal

 

 

Introduction

 

In October 2012 we travelled to Nepal and South India. We had been to North India a couple of years ago and wanted to see more of this fascinating country; that will be the most populous country in the World within the next two decades. 

In many ways India is like a federation of several countries; so different is one region from another. For my commentary on our trip to Northern India in 2009 Read here...

For that matter Nepal could well be part of India as it differs less from some regions of India than do some actual regions of India. 

These regional differences range from climate and ethnicity to economic wellbeing and religious practice. Although poverty, resulting from inadequate education and over-population is commonplace throughout the sub-continent, it is much worse in some regions than in others.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

My car owning philosophies

 

 

I have owned well over a dozen cars and driven a lot more, in numerous countries. 

It seems to me that there are a limited number of reasons to own a car:

  1. As a tool of business where time is critical and tools of trade need to be carried about in a dedicated vehicle.
  2. Convenient, fast, comfortable, transport particularly to difficult to get to places not easily accessible by public transport or cabs or in unpleasant weather conditions, when cabs may be hard to get.
  3. Like clothes, a car can help define you to others and perhaps to yourself, as an extension of your personality.
  4. A car can make a statement about one's success in life.
  5. A car can be a work of art, something re-created as an aesthetic project.
  6. A car is essential equipment in the sport of driving.
Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

The Prospect of Eternal Life

 

 

 

To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream:
ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:
… But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

[1]

 

 

 

 

When I first began to write about this subject, the idea that Hamlet’s fear was still current in today’s day and age seemed to me as bizarre as the fear of falling off the earth if you sail too far to the west.  And yet several people have identified the prospect of an 'undiscovered country from whose realm no traveller returns' as an important consideration when contemplating death.  This is, apparently, neither the rational existential desire to avoid annihilation; nor the animal imperative to keep living under any circumstances; but a fear of what lies beyond.

 

Read more ...

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