| Ples Singsing
PORT MORESBY - The unexpected buzzing of the helicopter took my attention by storm.
It was landing near Kerowil Singirok, the present base of the PNG Defence Force Engineering Battalion in the Highlands, and on board was Papua New Guinea’s first prime minister, Michael Thomas Somare.
Continue reading "50 years ago, Somare arrived from the sky" »
TUMBY BAY - One of the great indulgences granted to those of us of advanced age is the ability to regress to our native state and simply watch the world go by.
To wander aimlessly along a deserted beach, pad through the soft undergrowth of a forest or simply sit in the sun.
Or perhaps just laze at a pavement café, drinking coffee with a good friend while watching the hustle and bustle pass by.
Continue reading "The fascinations & pleasures of growing old" »
TUMBY BAY - If you speak to any of the diminishing band of old kiaps they will probably tell you that Papua New Guinea changed their lives.
In most cases they will put a positive spin on the nature of the change and tell you that being there opened their eyes to a whole new concept of society and what it meant.
However, not all could see what they were looking at.
Continue reading "Melanesian beauty is now ashes in our mouth" »
At first as I began to learn Pidgin, I thought, ‘This is easy. It’s a form of baby talk and there’s nothing to it'. I could not have been more mistaken
DORIAN (DUSTY) NICOL
| Unravel | Edited
CALIFORNIA - I arrived in Papua New Guinea in September 1980, a young geologist on the adventure of his life.
Esso Eastern, a subsidiary of Exxon Minerals, had hired me to open their copper and gold exploration office and I was living my dream, setting off on a major career step toward the life of physical and intellectual adventure I wanted.
Continue reading "Learning Tok Pisin: it's harder than it looks" »
| Duresi’s Odyssey
AUCKLAND - On Sunday my daughter and I went to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
As usual, we ended up spending time looking at the Pacific section and its artefacts. I had to photograph this meri blaus.
I remember the style well from growing up in the 1990s. My elder sister had a few. I think I may have owned one. Meri blaus styles change over time and I don’t think this style is still made.
“It’s probably because of the arms,” my daughter observed. “They’re very constricted, unlike the styles of today.”
Perhaps she’s got a point.
Happy Friday to you all!
”More important than anything else in the world, live your life. It’s the only one you have. And when it's your turn, you will have gone”
Pastor Matthew Tapus, Superintendent Christian Apostolic Church in PNG, and Jackson Kiakari reflect on the ephemerality of life
JACKSON YALO KIAKARI
| Reflections from Mango_Diwai
PORT MORESBY - On a grave is written a name, a date of birth and a date of passing.
Position, title, bank account and all material possessions are irrelevant.
Life is a function of Time. Live today - make peace with your surrounding. This moment will pass you by.
Continue reading "The journeys of men & the shortness of life" »
Ben Jackson, Ian Ling-Stuckey, Keith Jackson, Ingrid Jackson, Stella Paulus & Paul Flanagan - a pleasant afternoon in Noosa
NOOSA – My health is so capricious these days I knock back pretty much every request I get to do anything.
It’s like Nature said to me: 'Now it’s settlement time for never knocking back an invite'. It’s a long invoice.
On the rare occasions I accept, I make sure the timing is targeted precisely in a zone when I’m most likely to be alert enough to listen, understand and speak. ME/CFS can reduce a man to surly haplessness.
Continue reading "When the Treasurer visited Noosa" »
Dial of a Hallicrafters SX-99 shortwave radio receiver
NOOSA – It had dropped into my Twitter feed via @Laselki, the account of the Lebanon-based Arab Amateur Radio Network, and @Stret_Pasin, a valued supporter and one of my 8,700 Twitter followers.
It had originated in Ontario, Canada, from the historic village of Ancaster close by the US border and Niagara Falls.
It was a fleeting recording of a shortwave broadcast.
Continue reading "A 50-year old tape takes me back" »
John J Murphy - district commissioner, war hero falsely accused, lexicographer and author
WARREN ‘WAZZA’ TURNER
PORT MACQUARIE, NSW - I was far from a star player when I ran out for Kone Tigers in the early sixties. I really just made up the numbers, so I don’t deserve a star billing.
When the Papua versus New Guinea rugby league teams were selected, I thought I might be an outside chance of maybe making the seconds.
Continue reading "Home & away: fragments from an old photo" »
Illustration by Dola Sun (National Public Radio, USA)
TUMBY BAY - Politicians and other reprobates are known to rely on a suite of well-worn axioms as they go about their nefarious dealings and machinations in office.
One of these is the accepted wisdom that if a lie is repeated often and loudly enough people will eventually come to believe it is true.
Continue reading "In a world of violence, is it forlorn to hope?" »
NOOSA – In April 2019, Raymond Sigimet shared his father’s memories of being a policeman in the kiap system in the early years of Papua New Guinea’s independence.
The article, A Policeman Remembers, included two photographs, the first of four members of the disciplined forces (army, police and corrective services) posing in their uniforms for Paul Oates at his Morobe outpost.
The other, reprised here, of a group of expatriate men based in Ialibu, posing in the fashion of 19th century pioneers.
Continue reading "Solved: Mystery of the Ialibu pioneers" »
"“I’ve got just the one for you,” Filshie said. “It’s a red XK120 Jaguar convertible. Goes like the clappers” (Rob Barclay)
| Memoir | Edited extract
ADELAIDE - After six years’ service in the Territory, I had six months long leave, which I decided to spend in Melbourne and Sydney.
In neither place were there receptive females on holiday, so securing companions would be an ongoing problem.
I had discussed this difficulty with two fellow patrol officers due to attend the long course at ASOPA [Australian School of Pacific Administration] after their own leave.
Continue reading "Down south on long leave, Sydney, 1964" »
Mr Knight throws lollies for the schoolchildren (P Meehan)
SEATTLE, USA - Laiagam , now in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province, saw many kiaps come and go.
They took on incredible projects - building roads, bridges and other infrastructure – as well as constant patrols to keep in touch with the people.
Continue reading "Highlands expats forever remembered" »
Power, privilege and office - Phil Fitzpatrick, like other kiaps, was a sworn commissioned officer in the field constabulary branch of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary
TUMBY BAY - When living in the moment it is hard to be analytical. It’s only in retrospect that people start thinking about what they did and what they experienced.
For Australians in the pre-independence bubble that was Papua New Guinea in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the exotic lifestyle was fascinating and all-enveloping, particularly for those in Port Moresby and some of the bigger towns.
Continue reading "Power, hedonism & the best years of our lives" »
Adventures to be had. Exploring the high hills in the 1950s. Kiap Harry West OAM on patrol
ADELAIDE - I enjoyed Henry Sims’ recollection (‘Blunting a few, grilli & gumi races’) of the 'glory days' in Port Moresby.
Of course, life in Moresby was quite different from life on an outstation. The social whirl was rather restricted when the entire European population could be counted on one hand.
Continue reading "A privileged life with adventures to be had" »
Gagl Primary School in 1966 - playground, three classrooms, Wahgi Valley and Kubor Range
| From the Archive
NOOSA - My school teaching career lasted three years, entirely conducted in Papua New Guinea between the ages of 18 and 21.
It began late in 1963 with a memorable month-long fragment at Mandi in the Sepik, where at lunch a schoolboy would shinny up a tree with a machete, quickly extracting a choice coconut and then expertly slicing a penny-shaped drinking hole.
Continue reading "When the green eagle flew" »
The Moresby Hotel, 1964
| From the Archive
MARCH 1968 – Life for us in Papua New Guinea began in a multiplex Single Officers Quarters in Gavamani Road, Boroko.
We had just arrived from a cold Tasmania and on our first night my young wife, like me, spread-eagled herself naked on the bed under the ceiling fan, too hot to be modest.
Continue reading "Blunting a few, grilli & gumi races" »
Map of the Black Cat Track and surrounding landmarks
| Ples Singsing
LAE – Morobe, November 2018, a blend of everything Papua New Guinean, from the cool mountainous ridges that step from the majestic highlands to the endless plains of the Markham and onwards to the shoreline of the Huon Peninsula.
A walk around Eriku and a visit to Lae Market remains no exception to this, fruits and vegetables of variety, faces and languages of throughout the country, all in chaotic-harmony of economic exchange.
Continue reading "Uphill & down along the Black Cat Track" »
Governor Gary Juffa - "I am beginning to truly understand my grandfather’s deep joy for working the land"
GOVERNOR GARY JUFFA
| Asia-Pacific Anticorruption & Human Rights Advocate Group
KOKODA - Finally my cocoa trees are growing and bearing fruit. Kokoda Block 168 is slowly coming back to life.
As a child I used to wander this small portion of land so treasured by Victor Juffa, my grandfather and adoptive father.
Continue reading "Precious land & the good life on Block 168" »
New chalkies hit the road near Wewak, November 1963. Yes, there were 10 of us aboard the Series 2 Land Rover. That was fortunate. It took all of us to get it out of a bog later in our journey (Keith Jackson)
TUMBY BAY - When Prince Philip married Elizabeth, the future British queen, in November 1947 my mother was two months pregnant with me.
Like a lot of English women besotted with the handsome prince she decided to name me after him. My Irish father had little say in the matter.
Apart from that tenuous and rather embarrassing connection, Prince Philip has otherwise been entirely irrelevant in my life, as no doubt I have in his.
Continue reading "Land Rover, the prince of vehicles" »
Port Moresby town centre, 1960s
ADELAIDE - Rebecca Kuku's article, Growing Up in 60s Port Moresby, describes Port Moresby as I too remember it.
Although colonial Moresby had its problems, it was generally a pleasant and mostly peaceful place to live at that time.
Continue reading "Port Moresby, colonialism and after" »
Gary, Wayne and friends - "We are all fortunate to know good people and have great friendships. They are precious gifts. Until we no longer have them"
ORO - Some years ago - in the mid-eighties, I was this skinny kid growing up in Arawa on Bougainville.
I had a great friend at school, Wayne Grieshaber. I met him the day I entered Bovo Primary School.
I’d just transferred from Kokoda, where I spent three years schooling and living with my grandmother on our small cocoa plantation. No electricity and a hefty dose of challenge and difficulty.
Continue reading "Wayne & the power of friendship" »
TUMBY BAY - When I left Papua New Guinea at the expiration of my contract as a kiap in 1973, I did so with a quiet sense of achievement, both personal and professional.
At a personal level my experiences had been unique and life changing.
Continue reading "What an odd life" »
Exploring the high hills in the early 1950s. The late Harry West OAM, war veteran and kiap
They're all old now, their hair turned white as the years went rolling by,
And with every year that passes now, we see more kiaps die.
Their children scattered far and wide, grand-children further still,
And who will care when the last kiap dies, whose memory will he fill?
Continue reading "When the last old kiap dies…." »
Freshwater lagoon of the Aramia River at Balimo
Brown Girl by the Shore
Dirty old hulk caught in the tide
Sun beating down on her battered side
Remember the days when she ran free
Out through the reef and into the sea
I’ve been up and I’ve been down
Round and round the village and town
Rum in my coffee and sugar in my tea
Or cool, cool water from the coconut tree
Under a wide and green clad bough
Soft deep shade for then and now
Whispering waves lapping the sand
And sleek red fish so easy to hand
Brown girl lazing by the shore
Go to the reef and catch me a fish
A dollar or two, whatever you wish
And we’ll be one for ever more.
Continue reading "Drifters, dreamers and beachcombers" »
Young men following the action at Mendi airstrip in the 1970s
| The Cove
CANBERRA - Stepping out of my LandCruiser and stretching my legs after a long, bumpy drive up the Highlands Highway, I surveyed the misty town of Mendi, provincial capital of Southern Highlands Province.
It was early 2015 and I was on my first of many adventures during my two year secondment to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) Engineer Battalion, accompanying my PNGDF boss to a meeting with Chinese state-owned engineering group, COVEC.
Continue reading "Bai yupela kam bek gen?" »
Kids on bikes in the park - echoes of the Lae of old
| My Land, My Country
LAE – On Friday night when Lae MP, John Rosso, talked about what the city was like in the past, there were quite a few people who nodded their heads in agreement.
They remembered a city with popcorn and cinemas in Eriku, Town, East Taraka and other suburbs. There was a botanical garden, unfenced, with aviaries, ponds with goldfish, BMX bike tracks and ice cream trucks.
Continue reading "Will the old Lae please stand up again?" »
Kwikila District Office
TUMBY BAY - If you drive around the older suburbs of Port Moresby you can see houses, still occupied, that date back well before independence.
Here and there old dustbin cages can also be seen, still sitting up on their steel poles out of the reach of stray dogs.
Continue reading "They built them to last back then" »
Chris Overland - "My time in PNG made me who I am and I am supremely grateful for that"
ADELAIDE - Phil Fitzpatrick has raised the inevitable dying of the light for those of us who served as kiaps.
I find it incredible to think that it is now more than 50 years ago that I first stepped onto Papua New Guinean soil as a rather gormless 18 year old Assistant Patrol Officer.
Continue reading "The place that made so many of us" »
MORRISET - I just got back Mum's old watch after having it repaired. It's a 50 year old Roamer Swiss which she found in a second hand shop in the 1970s.
She liked it because she could tell the time despite her poor eyesight.
The inscription on the back reads ‘M D McAuley, 6th Light Horse, AIF, 1971’.
Continue reading "Mum’s watch & other memorabilia" »
Friends, Tumby Bay, 2019
TUMBY BAY - The ability to form friendships is an important part of the human character.
They extend our experiences into places they might otherwise not go.
How and why friendships form is often far from clear.
Continue reading "The secret of enduring friendship" »
KIMBE - It all starts with individual Papua New Guineans changing our mindsets, how we see things.
Our choices must reflect our families, clans, tribes and villages - our communities, not the prime minister by himself.
Continue reading "Our needs are simple" »
"Their endurance was awesome. Since the moment they could walk they had been trained to overcome every discomfort" (Graham Forster)
NORTHUMBRIA, UK - Patrol boxes are embedded within the memory of every kiap and, indeed, anyone who went “on patrol” in pre-independence Papua New Guinea.
In difficult country they could be awkward, even brutish, burdens but nevertheless were toted, uphill and down dale for mile after endless mile by village carriers without whose help patrolling, a keystone kiap activity, could not have taken place.
Continue reading "The iconic patrol box" »
Phil on patrol in the Star Mountains, early 1970s
TUMBY BAY - In 1970 I received a Christmas present that I didn’t really want.
At the time I was the officer in charge of Olsobip Patrol Post on the southern slopes of the Star Mountains in the Western District.
Earlier in the month I had returned from a 31 day patrol into the rugged and remote Murray Valley.
Continue reading "An unwanted Christmas present" »
Phil Fitzpatrick, relaxing in the haus kiap on a patrol north of Nomad in the 1960s - "I found that three months leave was about all I could stand of civilisation"
TUMBY BAY - Kiaps were required to work for 21 months in Papua New Guinea before they were granted three months leave.
When their leave was due they were provided with a return airline ticket to Australia.
After 21 months in the field most kiaps looked forward to their leave. It was a chance to catch up with their families in Australia, see what had been going on in the outside world and enjoy a few luxuries not available in PNG.
Continue reading "Fascinating, sweet, incurable PNG" »
ADELAIDE – In May 1969, exactly 50 years ago, I first arrived in Port Moresby, having turned 18 a bare six weeks previously.
To the best of my knowledge, with one exception who soon decamped south back to Australia, every other recruit to the service that year was several years older than me.
So I think that I am possibly the youngest former expatriate kiap still living and I turned 68 this year.
While I was stationed in Oro Province from early 1972 to mid-1974, I cannot recall meeting Doug Robbins, who has just died, although I certainly knew his mate Drew Pingo quite well.
Also, I had the privilege of doing patrol work both around Tufi and, on one occasion, at Safia, so I know a bit about the sort of country Doug wrote about in PNG Attitude.
His death, at what I think these days would be regarded as a comparatively young age, is a cause of sadness to me, first and foremost because of the impact it will have upon his family. To them I offer my sincere condolences.
Continue reading "As our friends & comrades die, a bit of our lives vanishes" »
Young kiaps in their prime (right to left) Don Reid, Phil, Charlie Brillante, unknown, Mt Hagen 1968
TUMBY BAY - Over the last year or so, quite a few old kiaps have been setting out on that final journey to the patrol post in the sky.
And many of them have come from that last generation of contract officers to be recruited prior to independence.
This is quite unnerving for those of us of that generation who are still upright and breathing.
I’m getting a distinct feeling that part of Australia and Papua New Guinea’s joint history is rapidly falling away into the past.
Doug Robbins passed away earlier this month and I’ve just heard that Don Reid has followed him. I didn’t know Doug but Don was someone I encountered early on in my own kiap career.
I don’t know whether it was official policy or just how things worked out but when I was a cadet patrol officer I was teamed up with Don to learn the ropes.
I’m not sure whether he drew the short straw or simply felt sorry for me. In any event we became good friends and he taught me what I needed to know to survive.
Among other things he was great at detecting my bullshit.
Continue reading "History as a fuzzy photograph in a box in the wardrobe" »
Francis and I sign our books for buyers at the Brisbane Writers Festival
WABAG - Two years ago, Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Bell, my wife Julie and I attended the lively Brisbane Writers Festival.
It was a rare opportunity for the prolific, wheelchair-bound writer Francis Nii and Julie to travel from the confines of their ridge top homes in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Our trip was made possible by the generosity of our sponsors – Gudmundur Fridriksson and Stanley Kuli Liria of Paga Hill Development Company, Keith Jackson of PNG Attitude and Ken McKinnon and his wife Sue in Sydney.
I would like to thank them all again this Christmas for their generosity, human understanding and encouragement.
I also thank all our friends like Rob, Murray, Phil, Ed, Bob, Ben, Jim, Lindsay and so many other cheerful people who made us feel welcome and ensured our stay in Noosa, Brisbane and Sydney was memorable.
It was also a rare opportunity for us to meet politicians who were keen to meet writers from a former colony so used to being ignored by their own government.
Continue reading "This Christmas rekindles thoughts of a memorable trip" »
TUMBY BAY - During my high school years I hung out with friends who were interested in art and literature. A few of those with longer and hairier arms also had an interest in sport but culture was the main thing. And the opposite sex was also of interest. Of course.
We were all going to dedicate our lives to pursuing the finer things in life. We also intended to be millionaires by the time we were 30.
It was only in later years that we came to realise that art and literature were not necessarily compatible with wealth.
When this reality dawned, most of us compromised our ambitions and opted for wealth over art and literature and set out to achieve financial success.
Now that I’m in my seventies I’ve got enough spare time to contemplate how this worked out.
Continue reading "Those were the days my friend. They ended & this is where we are" »
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.
Continue reading "Last week I was a teenager – but just look at me now" »
Chips Mackellar - master storyteller, anecdotalist and, by definition, historian
TUMBY BAY - I’ve been reading the words of Malcolm ‘Chips’ Mackellar for many years now.
I first came across his writing in ‘Una Voce’, when it was just a journal dedicated to the interests of retired officers and superannuants who had served in the Territory of Papua New Guinea.
I rather enjoyed that old journal. It was produced on the smell of an oily rag and pretty rough and ready. It somehow mirrored the make do, jack of all trades, master of none TPNG culture.
Some of the reminiscences and stories in the journal were classics and Chips was there in the thick of it with his wry sense of humour, colourful descriptions and the ability to bend what some might regard as the truth right to the edge of breaking point.
Continue reading "The essential Chips Mackellar" »
Artist Kurt Pfund at home in Switzerland, 1993. He established a close, long & perhaps unlikely friendship with eminent kiap Bill Brown
SYDNEY - Professor David Goodall’s assisted death in Switzerland on 10 May was a searing reminder of my friend the artist Kurt Pfund’s similar departure from this world late last year.
Kurt was suffering the ravages of incurable cancer and he too died at the time of his choosing courtesy of Swiss Exit.
Goodall's death brought the memories flooding back to me: Kurt’s long, thoughtful letters carefully typed in English; his short, pithy emails; and the sporadic “Switzerland Calling” telephone calls.
He was a better correspondent than I but he ignored my lapses and kept our exchange alive and flowing.
One particular memory kept recurring. At the end of 1999, Kurt and his lady, Marlies, came to stay with us in Sydney.
We had watched the turn of the millennium fireworks at midnight from a penthouse overlooking Sydney Harbour and, in the afterglow, Kurt reminisced about his sojourn on a Polynesian outlier about 220 kilometres north-east of Bougainville.
The Mortlocks are 22 small atolls—some only small rocky outcrops—with a population of some 465 people including a number of men absent working on ships at sea.
Continue reading "The long conversation: I miss it Kurt, & I miss you my friend" »
ORO - Have you ever lost someone so profoundly intimate you cried yourself wretched so your heart ached and your entire being was soaked with such misery that you felt you were losing yourself?
And did you ever feel life was no longer worth living and you cared for nothing at all and there was this silent emptiness in your soul so heavy you could not breathe or walk or talk?
I’m sure many people have been there. I certainly have. Too many times.
My earliest recollection of such a moment happened at age five when I lost everything. I have often said I was seven or eight but I was five. I stretched my age because part of me refused to believe I had spent such a short time with Victor Juffa, my beloved Godfather, Grandfather, best friend and everything.
Continue reading "The death of Victor Juffa, Private 100, of Kokoda Block 168" »
Togoba – looking across the Nebilyer Valley to the limestone cliffs
DUBLIN - A recent article by Helen Davidson in Guardian Australia included a photograph of the beautiful landscape of the Togoba area in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
In the foreground one can see clearly the neat gardens with a variety of crops and kunai-roofed houses.
In the background are the grand limestone cliffs, and hidden in the middle distance is the Nebilyer River. In more recent times the area beyond the river is referred to simply as ‘Hapwara’.
If you stand at Togoba facing the limestone cliffs and shout loudly, you will hear an echo coming back strongly. The people of this area said this was a kur (spirit) answering back. In the local language it was known as ‘Kur Wenwen’.
Continue reading "Memories of Togoba – natural beauty & wise leadership" »
The cane bridge over the Tsau River
DUBLIN - Sometimes on bush journeys in the Papua New Guinea Highlands it was embarrassing to witness five or six year old kids running freely - and safely - back and forth across a single tree-trunk bridge over a rushing river.
The embarrassment was that I then had to be assisted by many hands as I gingerly inched my way across.
Luckily in the Jimi Valley of the then Western Highlands there were many cane bridges, much easier to traverse, which somewhat alleviated my anxiety.
The cane bridge shown in this 1971 photo, was constructed across the Tsau river in the Jimi. The Tsau flows into the Jimi River which progresses into the Yuat and then the mighty Sepik.
In 1971-72 I was based at Karap in the Jimi, which is now part of Jiwaka Province. The Jimi Valley runs parallel to the Wahgi Valley, but there are major differences.
Continue reading "The marvellously engineered cane bridges in the Jimi" »
VERY many years ago I came under the spell of James A Michener, Louis Becke, Frederick O’Brien, James Norman Hall, Robert Dean Frisbie, Beatrice Grimshaw and other wonderful sojourners in the South Pacific.
And I have been fortunate enough to indulge my passion for the delightful backwaters of those myriad islands scattered diagonally across the unending ocean east of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
I am, in short, a sucker for swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches, warm tropical breezes and languid lifestyles.
I have two favourite places in the South Pacific. The first is the Cook Islands, which are sprinkled north of the Tropic of Capricorn and the main island of Rarotonga.
Continue reading "Beautiful Manus – idyllic to ruinous in less than four years" »
THE first Christmas I spent in Papua New Guinea, as an unmarried Cadet Patrol Officer, was wild and best forgotten.
But I did learn about one of the common Christmas practises amongst the Australian expatriate population.
In 1953, Goroka was a small outstation with an expatriate population of 100 or so. Perhaps half of that number consisted of married couples with a few children. There were two single women. And the rest of us were single men.
Six other single men and I – kiaps, didimen and a kuskus – were invited to share a family Christmas with Syd and Beth Nielsen and their two children. Syd was District Education Officer. It was a fabulous day, much of it, as I said, best forgotten.
Continue reading "Tales from the kiap times – An expatriate Christmas" »
AT ABOUT this time nearly 50 years ago I arrived in Mount Hagen as a callow 19 year old cadet patrol officer. It would be my first Christmas away from home.
My father was Irish but my mother was English and we lived near her family in Suffolk before coming to Australia.
They were farmers and they celebrated a traditional English Christmas. They fattened a goose for dinner and they began making the Christmas cake and pudding months before the event.
When we came to Australia, my mother brought all these English traditions with her and, despite the usually blistering heat on Christmas Day, insisted on serving lashes of hot, stodgy English Christmas fare.
My sisters and I revelled in the bounty of that day, which ranged from opening our stockings on Christmas morning and discovering sixpenny pieces in the Christmas cake and pudding.
Continue reading "A new kiap’s first Christmas" »
ON THE remote patrol posts where I worked as a kiap before Papua New Guinean independence there was always an established pecking order.
First was the officer in charge, usually an assistant district officer or a patrol officer.
Next – in order - came the station clerk, police corporal, police constables, interpreter, station dog and, last of all, the cadet patrol officer.
Somewhere between the station clerk and the police corporal there might have been an aid post orderly, a teacher or two and occasionally an agricultural officer.
I have fond memories of all the occupants of these various offices from the patrol posts where I served. Except perhaps for a couple of errant cadets who tried everyone’s patience.
But I guess we were all cadets once and it wasn’t really their fault if they occasionally rubbed the boss kiap up the wrong way.
Continue reading "Me and Bobby McGee – farewell to an old friend" »
LIKE Phil Fitzpatrick (‘Crafting a Life’), I ran away to the jungle of Papua New Guinea at a young age because I was repulsed by the idea of a career in retail or a bank.
The advertisement accompanying his article drew me irresistibly towards PNG, much to the horror and amazement of my friends.
Why on earth, they said, would I wish to go to a faraway place, full of hideous diseases, crocodile-filled swamps and mountain ranges swarming with headhunters and cannibals?
The simple answer was because I could see and live in a world like no other on earth.
Continue reading "I rejoiced in working amongst a tough & resilient people" »