Kramer’s shock allegation: 'The plan to have me assassinated'
40 luxury Maseratis (& counting), but little effort on climate change

Last week I was a teenager – but just look at me now


TUMBY BAY - About eighteen months ago a friend and I were talking about walking the Heysen Trail in South Australia.

It runs for a mere 1,200 kilometres from the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, through the Mount Lofty Ranges and on to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Range.

It’s not an arduous walk, nothing like the Kokoda Trail, just a bit longer. There is, however, some magnificent scenery along the way and, fortuitously, some great wineries.

The trail is named after the South Australian landscape painter, Hans Heysen, famous for his portraits of statuesque gum trees.

Unfortunately my friend got sick and we’ve had to shelve the idea until he gets better.

In the meantime we have both clicked over into our eighth decade.

No big deal, it was bound to happen, just not as quickly as we had anticipated.

Or so pointedly.

My friend’s illness is one of those nasty diseases that seem to particularly afflict older people and which require prolonged treatment.

I haven’t had his bad luck but I’ve noticed the rather sudden onset of uncomfortable and unexplained aches and pains.

For some reason I’ve developed a crick in my neck that gets worse when I drive too far.

My right knee also seems to have lost some of its padding and tends to grate a bit when I take the dogs for a run.

If I sit on the couch for too long I produce audible snaps, crackles and pops when I stand up.

I’ve still got most of my hair but there are some very suspicious grey streaks there that I didn’t notice until I looked in the mirror with my reading glasses on.

I thought I still had a blond mop. Not so it appears. My newly grown and very trendy goatee came out 95% white for goodness sake.

I’ve taken to wearing a hat when I go out in the sun because the liver spots on my face seem to be getting worse.

I also now wear a long sleeve shirt in the sun to cover the skin on my arms which seems to have got a lot thinner and crinkled; just the slightest knock will produce a purple bruise.

I wish I’d known this was going to happen because I would have taken notice of all the exhortations of the medical profession and started covering up a lot earlier.

And when I go into a shop I seem to get an automatic senior’s discount on everything. They don’t even ask to see my card.

None of this is particularly fair, I tell myself. It only seems like months ago that I was as fit and healthy as I was on the day I started work as a kiap in Papua New Guinea.

It has all been too sudden. Fit to frail in the blink of an eye. From Maserati to Model T in less time than it takes to change a tyre.

The only thing that doesn’t seem to have been affected is my mind. That wonderful organ still seems firmly locked in the 1960s. Yet my son and daughter raise their eyebrows when I tell them this.

Heysen_trail_google_mapThey’re also very sceptical about the little lectures I’ve become prone to delivering to them when the opportunity arises.

Do it now, I tell them, don’t wait; if you want to do something don’t wait until you get too old.

Do they listen? Of course not. As far as they are concerned they are going to live forever.

Little do they know that ‘forever’ will arrive on their doorstep when they least expect it.

Oh well, one can but try.

Will I walk the Heysen Trail?

I hope so.



[I'd start from Parachilna Gorge in the north, Phil. It seems mostly downhill from there which rather fits the thrust of your piece - KJ]


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Andy McNabb

A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth - Joseph Goebbels

Chris Overland

In this discussion, Martin Auld expresses the view that history is written to legitimise those in power and he has concluded that history can be dangerous.

In arguing this way, Martin is echoing the words of George Orwell in his novel '1984' where he wrote that “who controls the past controls the future”.

In the novel, the ruling regime was constantly revising history to meet its current needs, even to the extent of fabricating new “historic” records to erase inconvenient truths or falsehoods and replace them with new “facts” that met its political needs.

As Orwell foresaw, we now live in an era where distinguishing between truth and falsehood has become very difficult at times. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are but two examples of leaders who routinely lie to their constituencies.

However, this behaviour is hardly a recent development. Political, business and religious leaders long ago discovered that they often can achieve their ends by using a combination of evasion, half truths and, sometimes, telling the most egregious and self-serving lies.

For example, Julius Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars was primarily written to raise his prestige in Rome and so the facts and their interpretation as related in that work are regarded by historians as suspect, at least to some degree.

Later on, English rulers like Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I became very artful in presenting fiction as fact so as to cultivate an entirely misleading image of themselves and the Plantagenet dynasty to their contemporaries and to history.

William Shakespeare and many others then proceeded to burnish the reputation and image of the Plantagenet’s based upon sometimes entirely false notions of their actions and motivations.

It is said that when Winston Churchill was asked how he thought history would treat him, he said it should treat him very well. When asked why he was so confident that this would be the case, Churchill responded “because I shall write it”.

It is pertinent to note that Churchill also famously said that “a lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”, so he knew that when it came to writing history the advantage lay with the person who got in first.

Churchill’s subsequent book on World War II, whilst justly praised for its magisterial scope and erudition, tends to gloss over or even omit some facts that might tend to shed a less than flattering light upon its author.

All this means that historians are invariably faced with the task of teasing out the objective truth from the various self serving fictions and delusions that feature so prominently in the historic record.

This is why different histories about the same events can sometimes reach markedly different conclusions about the motivations and actions of historic figures.

As an historian, I would dispute that history per se is dangerous but I would agree that it can be dangerously, even maliciously, distorted.

A critical question to ask about any history is who has written it and why. It also is important to confirm, in so far as this is possible, that the author reports the known facts accurately. Errors of fact or omissions can powerfully influence how history is presented and understood.

Ultimately, how the agreed facts are interpreted is, of course, where the reader must form his or her own opinion about the veracity or otherwise of what any author is asserting about history.

In the context of Papua New Guinea, I do not think that its political leaders care one jot about history. Their eyes are fixed firmly on the here and now and, in too many cases, on maximising personal benefit from their time in office.

If and when one of today’s leaders feels moved to write their version of history, it is highly improbable that it will be other than almost entirely self serving.

Typically, politicians do not write “warts and all” accounts of their time in office. As they did in politics, they seek to justify themselves and burnish their reputations, not report the unalloyed truth.

For this reason no political memoir is fully reliable even if the facts are broadly correct and the author full of good intentions.

History can indeed be dangerous but a wary and careful historian can usually find a path to the truth even if it is long, tortuous and highly contested.

Happily, there are some people in PNG who are seeking to find and record the truth about the history of their peoples and cultures.

This is likely to be a more fraught task than they imagine but they should speak their truth and fear not, especially to those in power.

Philip Fitzpatrick

"History can be dangerous".

So the politicians and elites in PNG obviously think.

That's why we have novels, to fill in the gaps that history cannot.

Martin Auld

"I cannot for the life of me understand why PNG isn't doing anything to record it's own history."

History is written to legitimise those in power. Obviously the PNG elites don't feel it's necessary, the customary patron-client relationships are still strong.

Mainstreaming and enforcing written history only invites challenges from mythbusters, with inevitable political intent and consequence.

Look over the border where a battle to own history and the dominant narrative serves contested power and legitimacy, but is written by non Papuans. History can be dangerous.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I've pretty much been to all the various points along the trail over the years and your theory about it being downhill from Parachilna to Cape Jervis doesn't stack up Keith. It's lumpy whichever way you tackle it.

I've been back in South Australia for nearly two years now after previously living in Hervey Bay in Queensland. It's not so much the heat that hurts but the cold.

We've just weathered our second winter here and it was tempting to pack up and head back to Queensland. Hopefully we'll acclimatise in the next few years.

Wilpena Pound is indeed a magic place Garry but so is the rest of the Flinders Range. For the traditional Adnyamathanha people the walls of the pound is made of two giant snakes called Arkaru on their way south.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I got an interesting email from Chips Mackellar a few days ago.

He had sold a copy of his book 'Sivarai' to an old kiap. A note of appreciation came back in Motu, to which Chips responded in Motu.

In the email to me he made the observation that even if Motu is a dying language there are still old kiaps and others around who are still fluent in it.

That got me thinking about all that other information that must reside in the minds of all the ex-kiaps, chalkies etc. that probably isn't known by many Papua New Guineans and will be lost when those people pass on.

A lot of it would be simple stuff and a lot of it would be historical.

A lot of it would also be what defines Papua New Guinea as a nation today.

I cannot for the life of me understand why PNG isn't doing anything to record it's own history. That has got to be a crime by politicians against their own people.

With the events of the last few years and particularly the events surrounding APEC I feel a great sadness when I think about PNG.

Paul Oates

“It only seems like months ago that I was as fit and healthy as I was on the day I started work as a kiap in Papua New Guinea.”

You’re not alone Phil. I’m sure those of us who are still around feel the same way.

The last time I spoke to Des Martin early this year and just before he died, our conversation centred on his memories of PNG and when he was confronted by the bent bows of a PNG Sepik war party in the 1950’s.

He ordered his police not to fire and he and his Sergeant ran forward and disarmed the fight leader. No lives were lost and no injuries. Friendly relations resulted.

The fact that we could and I suggest did, make a real difference to people’s lives is a wonderful memory to share and retain.

Garry Roche

Phil, some thirty years ago I visited the Flinders Ranges with an Aussie mate. We were driving from Renmark but we did walk a distance into an amazing place called Wilpena Paun which is not that far from Parachilna. Coming from PNG at the time I thought I was used to the heat, but the dry heat in South Australia almost killed me. It was in November. I presume you would bring plenty of liquid with you! If you do attempt it I believe you have the tenacity and the stubbornness to complete it. Keep going.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)