Bunker bulldust day 43

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Kyoto 1992    © PJ Croft 2020

A slightly busier day.

First, an email from the Water Corp people, asking what’s happened about the water leak. I emailed straight back saying it’s been stopped, explaining it and including a photo (isn’t it magic how we can take a photo with our phone, immediately transfer it via Dropbox to the desktop and hence into an email or this blog?). It’s fantastic. When I think of the film days, it would have taken at least 24hrs and involved scanning the film. Crazy hard.

Anyway, the Water lady included a pdf document for me to fill out if I want to claim a rebate on the cost of the lost water. It includes a section for a WGI reticulation person to fill out and sign. I don’t know what WGI means but I would expect a pro retic company to charge me much more than Bryce, the lawn guy will charge. Will any rebate cover the cost of getting this pro guy? I suppose I’d better do it.

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Meanwhile, the ground is dry now, thank goodness.  Valve on lower right.

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Next, I sent a second text message to the lady who put the handwritten note in my letterbox last Friday asking for cleaning work. She didn’t answer the first time.

This time I got a reply. Her name is Kimmie and I have the feeling she’s Chinese or Asian, but I’ll find out because she’s coming tomorrow at 10am. The Silver Chain lady comes at about midday but they won’t clash because even if they are here at the same time, they clean different things. One thing I want done is my fridge cleaned, ie shelves cleared one by one and washed and wiped, the vege drawers emptied into a box and cleaned, then replaced, and the freezer drawer (bottom freezer) temporarily emptied and cleaned out. There’s no ice, no frost, yay. I used to hate having to defrost my old freezer compartment.

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Next, I bought a few SACDs (Super Audio CDs) from Amazon to use with my new second-hand player. I also got an email from the Berlin Philharmonic inviting me to buy a new set of three SACD discs of the Beethoven Piano Concertos with Mitsuko Uchida as performer with Sir Simon Rattle. It’s US$49.99 for the set, but I’ll enjoy it. I’ve been listening to Mitsuko Uchida for nearly 40 years and she’s great. To have these in super quality very recent recordings will be great.

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Next, fatally, I fell for Amazon’s invitation to look at their daily deals. Uh oh.

For years I’ve wanted a Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet. It’s an LCD monitor about 15″ diagonal but only 11mm thick, with a pressure sensitive surface over the monitor screen so that you can use the included stylus/pen to draw and paint on the screen. But the Wacom (US) tablet is way out of my price range – starting at A$809 and going up to A$4,800 depending on size. This is a Chinese brand.

Screenshot_2020-04-29 Artist 15 6 Pro professional drawing tablet with screen XP-Pen Australia official Store

No, I did not pay $739.99

I did do my homework and spent nearly an hour looking at reviews and overseas prices. It rates about 80% in the reviews, i.e. some drawbacks but pretty good.

Amazon Australia’s price today was a cent short of $450.  The price on Amazon USA was US$399.99 = A$624.84 so our price is substantially lower than the US price. At the moment.

I fell for it. It should arrive in a week. I already have software which is made for it, having software brushes, pens, styluses, calligraphic pens, nibs and so on. And any type of paint, ink, texture you can think of and many you wouldn’t think of. The pen is pressure sensitive so it follows your hand, making fine or coarse lines, hard or soft brushes, thick or thin paints and so on.

Standby for magnificent works of art to pour forth from this repressed artist. 🙂

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Brrrr, I felt cold for the first time this year today. It was 21C, which is not really cold. I still had my cold shower this morning, probably the second last this year. It might seem difficult, but it’s only the first few seconds and then it feels great.

Bunker bulldust day 42

Emus on pink

What a shot!   From the CSIRO Facebook page.

Missed a day yesterday, not much happened. Guess what, not much happened today, too. There was no mail for me on the day after a public holiday, which is annoying because I’m owed many items from the Wish web site. Deliveries have really slowed to a trickle in the past few weeks. I’m also waiting on a CD from Amazon and a selection of vege seeds from a nursery in the Perth hills that have been on order and paid for for more than a month. Grr. (Small grr.)

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Well, the Liberal Party have succeeded in forcing the commissioner of the Corruption and Crime Commission, Mr John McKechnie out of his position at the end of his current term. He wanted to be reappointed, the government wanted him reappointed, the judiciary, the police, the public, everyone wanted him to continue except the Liberal Party.

Gosh golly, I wonder why? The reason is blindingly obvious – he was too good. He was finding corruption in Upper House Liberal members and they wanted him out.

What kind of idiocy is this? Surely they must know that you can’t hide this kind of thing forever. The truth will come out. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is tarred with the brush of corruption. They will wear this like a blazing tyre around their necks to the next election. Utter stupidity. If they’re this stupid, why would anyone vote for them to run the state?

The person they’re trying to shield must be incredibly powerful for them to do this. The trail must lead very, very high in the Liberal Party hierarchy. What utter fools. Anyone who would vote for this party after this must share the sleaze. I suppose I should be pleased – this virtually assures Labor of another term.

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Old amp 7

Back in the days when I used to build electronic “stuff”. I built the audio oscillator (top) and the oscilloscope it’s sitting on, and I was using them to build the hi-fi amp in front.

Old amp 8

I’m still sitting right now at the same table in this shot.

Old amp 10

I did get this amplifier working but it suffered from switch clicks and pops.

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My flat in Tuart Hill December 1974. The amp I built is next to the turntable. Those are B&W Model 70 speakers, electrostatic on top, 12″ bass cabinet below.

I just found these pics today, going through some old CD ROMs that I used for backup about 20 years ago. Ah, memories.

I didn’t own a TV until 1979 and I used to be so keen on electronics as a hobby that I would take things in to Channel 7 at night to work on them and use the test equipment. Sometimes I drove from South Perth to do it. Keen!

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This was my hi-fi gear 20 years later, before I was burgled. Thorens TD160 turntable, Technics CD player stacked on a NAD amp/tuner on top of a Yamaha CA1000 amplifier. AIWA AD-F770 cassette deck on top of a Yamaha CT800 AM/FM tuner. Spendor BC1 speakers.

Can you believe, apart from the Technics CD player which was stolen, I gave all the other items away to friends. Sometimes I think I’m too generous.

All those CDs were stolen in the 1991 burglary. I had about 100 then. Once the insurance company asked for details, I was able to recall virtually all of them from memory so as to make a claim. They paid up. Having about $2,000 credit with my CD shop was pretty good – I remember having the fun of picking out CDs to that value. These days, no-one wants CDs, for some reason people would rather listen to the inferior sound of mp3 files. Hi-fi has almost died, except for the crazies who will pay $10,000 for an amp and $20,000 for a pair of speakers.

Bunker bulldust day 40

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Photo ABC News

Now that the pollution has cleared, at last, a great view of the Australian Alps! 🙂

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Wow! The fortieth day in the wilderness. What did I do wrong?

It’s not too bad. Beautiful weather, not too hot, not too cold, Goldilocks conditions. I’ve been thinking, I must admit about 40 days ago I did buy three or four shopping bags of non-perishable foods in the madness of the moment, when we were all thinking we may have to totally lock ourselves in.

But those four bags are still sitting on the floor under a table. I haven’t got room in my pantry for all that stuff. What to do?

It’s occurred to me to take it to Coles and put it in the big box outside their entrance for food donations to people who really are doing it tough. I would use it here eventually, but I really have enough in the pantry to keep me going. Hmmm…

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Cruise ship Sydney

Cruise Ovation Sydney

Sheep cruise ship

A sheep cruise ship.

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Cleaner note

I got this handwritten note in my letterbox on Friday (I’ve blurred the number). She sounds a bit desperate, as that’s a very cheap rate. I’ve texted her saying “I’ll pay well for a good job.”, meaning I think I would pay her more. No reply as yet. I get Silver Chain home help but they only do floors and bathrooms. I’d sure like more help with the kitchen and the fiddly bits like blinds, shelf dusting and fridge cleaning.

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Undamaged, but still not working.

Ever wondered what’s in a hard drive? I’ve had two fail recently. Normally you definitely would not open them up because a speck of fluff or dust is like a boulder to the heads, huge and damaging. They’re also sealed airtight and filled with nitrogen from the factory. Those disks (there are several, stacked on a common spindle) are smooth and flat to the point of being perfect mirrors, with not the slightest deviation from flatness. A motor, hidden by the discs, spins them at 7,200rpm.

The read/write magnetic heads are on that arm thing. The heads are in their parked position in that tan coloured bit. An electromagnet in the pivot drives them back and forth across the discs at a blinding speed so that they find the track and then the exact location of the data on that track as it spins around. It’s near to magic. NB: the heads never actually touch the disc surface in normal operation. At the speed the discs spin, there’s a very thin film of the nitrogen or whatever gas is in there, only microns in thickness, separating the heads from the disc surface. If the head touches, it likely damages the surface.

The electronics is smart enough to remember which data sections are bad and move that tiny section of data somewhere else, updating its File Allocation Table (FAT). It then maps that section out, stopping any further writes there. Obviously, this can only be done so many times. The makers label their disk drives S.M.A.R.T., Disk Management And Reporting Technology. Smart, eh?

But if they’ve failed, then you have nothing to lose by opening them up. If you’re lucky, you might find the heads stuck somewhere on the surface of the disc and you might be able to give them a little nudge back to their park position. In this case, no such luck.

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The damage is obvious.

Here’s the other one. See all the obvious damage marks near the centre of the disc? The heads have been hitting the surface, big time. Not a hope of salvaging this one.

Hard disks usually come with a five year warranty, but you never remember when you bought them or keep the receipts. Besides, the warranty only covers replacement of the drive after you’ve posted it back to the manufacturer either in Australia or worse, in the USA, at great expense. It doesn’t cover the data, which is far more valuable to you. It’s almost worthless, in other words. The lesson? Backup!!!

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Recognise that? Yes, it’s a fountain pen. I bought it for about $6 from the Wish website. I haven’t used a fountain pen in almost sixty years, since my high school days.

They used to be messy things, prone to leaking in your shirt pocket, hard to fill, or using expensive ink cartridges. This uses a clever screw piston so it sucks the ink up from the bottle like a syringe. It works well. I wondered if I’d be able to buy ink, but the newsagent had it, the Parker bottle, but it cost $14.95. It should last me a good while though.

In the old days, you had to use the pen for several days to get the nib tip to wear down to the angle you wrote at, to fit your style on the paper. It tended to feel scratchy until you’d used it a while. This feels OK so far but I haven’t written with a nib in many, many years. Time will tell.

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It’s very quiet outside these days, with little traffic noise, but I’m wondering why I’m hearing so many sirens. It seems many more than normal. Are these police sirens? Are there more traffic offenders now that things are quiet? Or are these ambulance sirens? People being taken to hospital? I’ll never know.

Bunker bulldust day 39

Beach 1

Nature this time. Isn’t that beautiful? Photographer unknown.

A kind reader calling himself Fred, just Fred, found the name of the goddess I featured yesterday. I’ll keep her anonymous because you never know what the trolls and perverts will do with identities these days, but it’s nice to know, thanks Fred.

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I’m famous again:

Screenshot_2020-04-25 Is Home Printing Too Expensive

This is the second time I’ve been featured on this blog that I read every day. Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson K20D TOP

is probably the friendliest, most intelligent, level headed and literate blogger around and his many commenters and followers will attest to that. I’ve been following him for many years and make regular small donations through the Patreon fund to help him out as he makes his living from this blog and we all want him to survive. He has a story to tell, too personal for here, but we’ve developed a loose acquaintanceship over the years. He’s 63, ten years younger than me and has a few health issues a bit similar to mine which make for very interesting reading. I recommend his blog highly if you like reading about cameras and lenses, photographs and life in upstate New York:  The Online Photographer

However… I must say that Mike’s tastes in photography do not resemble mine. We are on opposite sides of the photographic style fence, but since he used to be the editor of Camera magazine I won’t say any more.

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Talking about the weather is a bit boring, but boring is what our weather is like here in Perth, day after day after day of 24, 25deg with almost no wind, a bit of cloud and a very rare few short showers of rain. After the hottest April day on record two weeks ago, it’s starting to feel as if winter has arrived, although I’m still starting the night on top of the covers and continuing my daily cold showers. This is the longest cold shower run I can recall, since mid-November last year.

I think this April is heading for a record dry. We’re way below average rainfall. As usual. Climate change is real.

I’ve said my electricity bills have gone down markedly since I’ve had solar power, even as low as zero. But the bill for the period just finished, mid February to mid April was $124, back up again. I know I was running the air-con a lot in the daytime, assuming the solar would cover the cost, but I guess I ran it at night in the bedroom two or three times, which is unusual for me. Not all night, just for the first couple of hours. late March-April was quite a hot period.

Another factor is that I got an air fryer bench oven in November last year and that uses a lot of power, I think. I use it in the evening, of course, when the sun is not being so generous. I have a power meter that you can program with the unit cost (26.3c/KW-hour here in Perth), so it tells you how much the power is costing. I must plug it in and use it.

I have another one monitoring my washing machine and in more than six months, it tells me it’s only cost me $7.94. That’s usually for only one load a week, occasionally two. Pretty good. Fisher & Paykel.

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I’m reading a book called Exactly by Simon Winchester. It’s about precision in engineering and manufacturing, which interests me greatly and I had high hopes for this book. The author is well known for his previous books, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Pacific, The Map That Changed the World and many others.

But what I’m finding is jingoism expounded in the plummy voice of Stephen Fry. It’s all about how great Britain was and is, about how everything was invented in Britain and exported to the world. Sure, America gets plenty of mention, but mainly in how the ideas came from British inventors. And it’s all spoken in such flowery language with excessive embroidery, with long strings descriptive words so that I feel, “Please, stop, get to the point of the sentence.”

I’m only up to the invention of the jet engine, by an Englishman, naturally, Sir Frank Whittle in the 1930s and 40s so I should reserve judgement until I’ve finished the book. He includes the Rolls-Royce engine failure that crippled the QANTAS A380 flight 32 out of Singapore, but so far, despite clear evidence that it was a badly manufactured part in the engine that caused the failure, there’s been no criticism of RR. So far. I’ll keep you posted.

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Did you go out into the dawn this morning at 6am? I sort of wish I had but I’m afraid I forgot and I was solidly asleep until 7.30am. This is a very quiet street so I doubt I would have seen much. Oh well, next year. Next year? What will next year hold?

Bunker bunkum day 38

Godess

Goddess.  Photographer unknown.

I  was speaking yesterday of female beauty and what defines it. I don’t think anyone at any time throughout history has been able to answer that question, but what I know is, I know it when I see it. I don’t know who this is, but I called this downloaded image Goddess.jpg. I think she’s a Perth woman and I hope she doesn’t mind me posting this here. It’s entirely complimentary. What a beauty!

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My final cruise memories.

24 October 2014: I swore never again after the March cruise, but an ad caught my eye in about August 2014 for a cruise that ticked all my boxes for where I wanted to go. It was greatly helped when I asked an old school mate if he’d share a cabin, as for a single fare it’s double the advertised price. He agreed. The itinerary looked fantastic.

2014 Cruise path

Fly to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, catch the ship, the ?? Princess and follow the red line. The name of the ship fooled me – if I’d known it was the same company as the March cruise I might not have booked. As it was, by the end of this cruise I blogged NEVER AGAIN!

I don’t know where I got it, but I caught some chest infection, in China I think, and by the end of the trip, when we reached Bali, I was reduced to sleeping for most of the day. I’d been to see a doctor while we were in Hanoi and he diagnosed pneumonia. He gave me an antibiotic and I guess it helped, but I just had no energy for the five days in Bali. What a disappointing end to the trip.

I blogged extensively about this trip, and you can see the entries from 24 October to 29 November 2014. I wrote a LOT! I won’t repeat it here but this was a great trip, full of interest, visiting some fantastic places that I never dreamed I would get to. My second visit to Hong Kong 22 years apart. Shanghai, then Beijing. Nagasaki – loved it. Busan in South Korea, but I felt too sick to go ashore. Then Hanoi! I never dreamed I would get there. I wanted to go because one of my cousins was the Australian ambassador to Vietnam so it was a great opportunity to see him in place. I loved Hanoi and would go back in a heartbeat (well, maybe…).

The cruise actually ended in Beijing and I with my friend’s approval, booked the flight from Beijing to Hanoi, the hotel there, then the flight from Hanoi via Singapore to Bali, Vietnamese Airlines all the way. Then five days in Bali to finish off. To be honest, I was looking forward to Bali almost more than any other part of that trip. It has a hold on me, as I’m sure others would feel too.

Again, no entry to the restaurants on the ship without being dressed up, with shoes and socks. I actually took some long trousers, shoes and sox but I hate wearing them and never bothered.

And again, I hated the crowds on the ship! There were roughly 2,500 passengers and everything involved long queues and waiting, waiting. Going ashore was incredibly expensive, all the bus tours costing upwards of US$100 at least. So if you count eight port stops, that’s at least US$800 = A$1,100 on top of the cruise fare of about $2,200. Not me.

One good thing was that I booked with the same travel firm in Perth who stuffed up my March cruise by not passing on my payment. She had said I would get $200 off my next booking, so this was it. I held her to it. She sounded a bit glum when she said that was their profit margin. Well, I’m sure she learnt her lesson to be more careful.

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I’ve mentioned that I’ve had notification from the Water company that I likely had a water leak as my readings were so high. I knew the ball valves in both my toilet cisterns were hissing a lot so I fixed that problem and thought that was it. I stopped looking.

Then on Monday I cleared some very luxuriant weeds away from near the water meter and found the ground was saturated. Uh oh.

Today my lawn mower man came and did the big cleanup. He remarked on how wet the soil was and got his spade out. He found a T-junction feed off the main water pipe into the house, this T-junction leading to the professionally installed reticulation. There is a metal stop valve there, luckily, but that has a brass fitting that mates to the PVC piping for the retic. This joint had worn through and now that it was exposed, at full pressure, it put up a spray at least 3m high. It was a big leak, in other words. So he turned the stop valve off, to fix it temporarily and he’ll come back and do a proper fix in a week or so. He charges much less than a plumber so that will be a relief. He asked for $30 for today but I had expected $50 so I gave him that and said thanks.

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From my garden just now. Dinner tonight? Lime and chillies? It’s hard to use these things.

Bunker bunkum day 36

Balinese woman 1930

Isn’t she beautiful?! What is it, the symmetry, the perfect proportions, the slight smile? What makes beauty?

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More about the cruises I’ve done.

27 July 1984: I was 37. This was a fly-cruise, flying from Perth to Singapore then taking the M. V. Turkmenia, a Russian cruise ship going from Singapore up through the Malacca Strait.

Turkmenia

M.V. Turkmenia        credit: Shipspotting

The first stop was Kuala Lumpur, but KL’s port is Port Kelang on the coast, and KL city is about 30Km inland. Port K’lang looked drab and I didn’t want to spend the time and money for the bus tour so just stayed aboard that day.

Next stop was Penang and I did go ashore because that’s where the sister of my Malaysian girlfriend at the time (in Perth) lived. I met her and she gave me an island tour in her car. Unfortunately, her daughter was with her occupying the front passenger seat so I had to sit in the back where I could hardly see any of the things she was pointing out. I ended up with a splitting headache. I didn’t enjoy that day very much. Even so, it gave me a taste for Penang and I’ve been back there a couple of times. I could live there, easily.

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Penang, July 1984

Next stop for the ship was the Thai island of Phuket. The ship had to anchor offshore and we had to transfer to a launch to go ashore. I don’t remember much except that I was told that a beach called Rawai was “very beautiful”, so I caught a local bus there. Sure, it was quite nice but not worth going all that way sitting on a hard seat in a cramped bus in the heat. On returning I got a brief look at the town centre which was very small in those days, then it was back to the ship in the late afternoon. Nothing much, in other words.

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I do like this shot. Thai temple, Phuket.  July 1984  © PJ Croft 2020

Then the ship headed back down the Malacca Strait to Singapore again. Did we stop anywhere? Surely we must have, but I don’t remember it. We passed Malacca which is a very interesting town, but it doesn’t have a port. I’ve been back there since for a stay of several days and I liked it a lot.

There are only two main memories from that trip: first, one passenger was a wharfie from Brisbane, a burly, fair headed guy. The thing was that he spoke fluent Russian! I asked him how come. He said his father was an Aussie but his mother was Russian, that’s how, and she taught him as he grew up. I found it quite incongruous, this true-blue Aussie wharfie, yet he spoke Russian. The Russian crew ran classes in one of the saloons if anyone wanted to learn the language on board. Pretty hard in only eight days or whatever it was, but they got 6-8 people, I recall.

The other memory is that one of the kitchen ladies, servers in the dining room, was a very cute Russian girl, quite young, and I found her very attractive. I found her up on deck one day getting some sun and attempted to talk, but she just indicated no English and that was that. Oh well.

I think the other thing (and I may be getting my cruises confused) was that I shared a dining table (and cabin, that’s right!) with two elderly Perth guys, from Bayswater or Belmont or somewhere, and they were both retired TV techs, the TV Repair shop type of tech. One was Clarry and the other might have been Bert. So we could talk TV and electronics, not that we did much. This was also where I was introduced to borscht, that typical Russian soup. Not bad. The cooking was nice but very plain fare, three courses and that was it.

Finally, that was the time of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, at the height of the Cold War, when the Russians were banned from competing. Did it make any difference on the cruise? Nope.

So, back to Singapore and a few days in a hotel while I bought an Aiwa AD-F770 cassette deck:

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I gave that away to a mate, free, when I moved here in 2013. What a fool I was. It was one of the best bits of gear I’ve ever owned, but with four Mini-Disc decks now, I don’t need it. 🙂

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March 2014: it was a long break, 30 years! but my next cruise was from Fremantle to Singapore again, also on the Arcadia. This was a new ship, no longer P&O, now Princess Cruises. I was 67 by now.

I remember clearly, my mate Barry drove me down to the Fremantle passenger terminal to join the ship at about 10am. I took my luggage to the loading bay and the ship guy consulted his clipboard, furrowed his brow, chewed his lip, sucked his teeth, then made a phone call. I found something to sit on and waited.

Soon he came over and said, “Sorry sir, but you are not on the passenger list.” What?! I had my documents and he perused them, but asked me to wait upstairs (escalator) in the main hall.

Long story – I waited three bloody hours, buying an expensive and crap lunch from the kiosk, getting more and more browned off, before they finally came over and told me the travel agent had not passed my fare money on to the cruise company. Therefore I wasn’t officially a passenger.  GRRRRRRR!  The travel agent phoned me, very apologetic and said she’d fixed it up, passed my money on and as compensation I would have $200 credit on board and would get $200 off my next cruise booked with them. (This cruise cost about $1,400 I think, for an inside cabin.)  Strike 1!

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My ship, the Arcadia, while I was waiting in the terminal.

So finally, I was able to board at about 4pm and started to calm down, helped by a beer or two.  The QE2 was also in Fremantle at this time and departed before us:

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The Queen Elisabeth 2 departs Fremantle.

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We set off and headed north. I soon discovered the buffet restaurant.

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Delicious food, serve yourself, anything, all  you can eat!

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Life on board. It could be a bit boring but it’s certainly relaxing.

I explored the ship and found several restaurants apart from the buffet that were sit-down dining and looked very nice. So one or two evenings into the cruise, I fronted up at one of these and asked for a table. The waiter looked at me and mumbled something about standards. To be brief, this being a tropical cruise stopping at Bali to Singapore, I was dressed as I always dress, shorts, T-shirt (with a collar) and sandals. Not good enough. They required long trousers, shoes and socks and a shirt! I hadn’t brought any clothes like that. As I said, this is a tropical cruise!

The result was that I was banned from all seven sit-down restaurants and banished to the buffet only. GRRRRRRRRR!  I paid the same fare as everyone else, yet I was not allowed to use the restaurants. Strike 2!

I also discovered that the drink prices were the same as if we were on land. In other words, they buy all their alcoholic drinks free of excise (hence the 10c cans of beer on the Eastern Queen in 1974), but charge the customer full retail price. Nice little earner, guv’nor.

I also discovered that the fridge in the cabin was not cold enough to store my insulin (or make ice). I complained to the service desk and was directed to the doctor’s surgery way down below decks. Maybe they could store my insulin for me. I went there and found it closed at about 3pm. Open between 5-5.30pm or something. I went back at that time and still found it closed. Strike 3!

Also, knowing I was going to be on the new Arcadia, I took copies of the old 1977 Arcadia logs and menus (see yesterday’s blog). I presented these at the service desk, expecting a fair bit of interest, but all I got was “Oh, thanks very much, very interesting.” And that was all. I didn’t hear any more about it. I thought the captain might have been interested. Strike 4!

As an unattached bloke at that time, I admit I was also aware of the tales of shipboard romances and widows looking for a new partner on cruises. I don’t mind admitting, I was surveying the field all the time.

But I’m certain I was the only person on board who was alone! Everyone else was either one of a pair or a larger group. At meal times, I sat alone, wishing someone would ask to join me but no-one ever did. It was a bit disheartening. I did have a very brief chat with a woman from Adelaide who seemed interesting, but we were in a queue and when it was over, I never saw her again. These ships are huge, with 2,000 to 3,500 passengers so it’s not so surprising, but I was a bit disappointed. (One Aussie guy was a bit weird, though. He came up to me at the railing on deck and started chatting, but he was a touchy-feely kind of guy and put his arm around me, as if we were lovers. I wasn’t too happy and disengaged myself. He introduced me to his wife later. It wasn’t the kind of company I was looking for.)

I also gained 5Kg on that cruise, in eight days! Ugh. I got it off later.

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Sunrise off Bali,  10 March 2014

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No berthing for cruise ships then. There is now. This was the Arcadia off Benoa, Bali 10/3/2014

Then it was another couple of days at sea heading for Singapore up the east coast of Java.

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What is it?

The Java Sea is known for pirates. This is an “acoustic cannon”. It’s a big diaphragm which when pulsed delivers a very loud aural pulse to the front, as shown in the diagram on the unit above. It doesn’t do any permanent damage to the pirates (well, maybe burst eardrums?) but they’d find it very uncomfortable and think twice about being near the ship. Did we see any pirates? No. But what a rotten thing, to have pirates ready to attack big ships.

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Singapore at dawn, 13 March 2014  © PJ Croft 2020   Right click, select View Image to see it big.

Frankly, I was glad to get off the ship and into a hotel again. I was sick and tired of that cruise and vowed “Never again.” Little did I know what the future would hold.

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That’s enough for today. This blogging takes a long time, but I’ve got plenty of that. I’m also building the spreadsheets I call “weight_graf.xls”  Yeah, I’m a nerd, but I weigh myself every morning, almost without fail although I do forget sometimes. I keep a notebook in which I enter what I spend every day, and I write my weight at the top of each day’s entries. Now I’m transferring those figures by hand into the spreadsheet. It doesn’t take too long, 365 entries per sheet and it took me about two hours, in two sessions, to add the 2018 figures yesterday. I’m starting 2019’s now.

They’re talking about retail expenditure for March on the radio at the moment. People spent a lot on groceries and so on when the virus first got serious, and I suppose I did a bit too, but these days each diary entry is virtually blank. I’m spending much less than I usually do, which is good for me, not so good for the retailers I guess.

Anyway, I have graphs of my weight for each year since 2013. They say you shouldn’t weigh every day but I disagree. I can straight away see the trends. I dare not show the graphs for the past 18 months. Glum.

Bunker bulldust day 35

Sing Jun 04 fr02B

Singapore, June 2004  © PJ Croft 2020

Sing Jun 04 fr13

Singapore  June 2004  © PJ Croft 2020

Chatting with someone yesterday about cruises, ship cruises, and it’s spurred me to remember all the cruises I’ve taken. There have been quite a few going back a long way.

April 1974: a first for everything; first cruise, first time out of the country, first passport, first encounter with a casino, on-board. It was a trip from Fremantle to Singapore on the way to the UK by “ship-jet” with my friend Geoff.

Wow, what a trip!! It lives in my memory forever. The gentle rocking motion of the ship, the Eastern Queen. The gradually increasing temperatures as we headed north. The flying fish in the sea. The passage through the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The 10c cans of beer, all Swan Lager or VB, I think, but at 10c who cared. The casino on one of the upper decks. I’d never been in one before, never played any games, but I took to roulette, where the bets were only 20c. I seemed to be able to play it and at the end of the cruise I was $20 in front, which was quite a lot of money then.

Then the arrival at Singapore. It was at dawn and I got up and went on deck while it was still cool and hazy, before the sun rose.

Sing skyline dawn 8.4.74

6 April 1974 Singapore arrival. Agfa CT18 slide film faded to magenta!  © PJ Croft 2020

Sing wharf dawn 8.4.74

6 April 1974  Singapore docks. The skyscrapers were just starting to go up.  © PJ Croft 2020

Notice the absence of skyscrapers? Singapore was still a small city then, before the massive developments.

When Geoff and I arrived we were allocated to a hotel, but it turned out to be the Ambassador Hotel in Katong, well east of the city centre and requiring taxi transport to anywhere. Never mind, the taxis were dirt cheap, it had a beaut pool and a cafe that served cheap meals. It was my first experience of everything, including the real Asian food and my first taste of coriander leaves as a garnish, and I didn’t like it at all. I do now.

Somehow Geoff and I teamed up with two rather nice girls from Perth, Sue and Gabriel and we met up in the shopping areas, which had much more of a Chinatown feel than the glass and stainless steel malls today. Geoff and I both bought our first serious cameras, SLRs. Geoff bought a Minolta SRT-101 with 50mm f1.4 lens, complete with the black leather “ever-ready” case they came in in those days.

Geoff People Pk 4.74

There he is, Geoff in Singapore April 1974   © PJ Croft 2020

I bought a Konica Autoreflex T3 with 50mm f1.7 lens, also complete with case. The body was serial number 586755 and the lens was serial number 762730. I memorised them then in case of theft and they’re imprinted on my mind forever.

A day or so later we went to Change Alley, a narrow crowded lane with shops either side. I’d been given a camera bag as a parting gift when I left Channel 7 to go on this trip and I bought two extra lenses for the Konica, a 28mm f2.8 and a 135mm f2.8, both Vivitar brand. There were no zooms in those days. They were good choices and I took some nice pictures with them. Unfortunately I used Agfa CT18 film for the whole trip and over the next 20 years or so it slowly faded to purple as you can see in the top shot above.

Then a day or so later it was time for our flight to London. I was a bit disturbed, though, when Geoff and I were put on different airlines. I was allocated to Czechoslovakian Airways. Ugh. I was a bit nervous. First time in an aircraft and it was a Communist aircraft. It turned out to be a Boeing 727 and Gabriel and I were teamed up to sit together. It was a night flight and flying away from the sun it was a long night. I still have the little notebook I carried with Gabriel’s stick figure drawings and spelling-bee words to pass the time.

We stopped in Abu Dhabi or somewhere to refuel (the airport was nothing at all like it is now) and Gabriel alarmed me by being very slow to emerge from the Ladies to get back on the bus to rejoin the flight. I considered going in to find her. I was a nervous Nelly then.

After we took off, morning dawned and we were served a Czech breakfast, which included white sausage, something new to me. Everything was! As we took off, a lot of passengers became alarmed, as I was, by what looked like white smoke coming from the air vents near the floor. It was just water vapour, of course.

After another long flight we landed in Prague (Czech Airlines, remember) for another stopover of a few hours and a change of planes, I think.

Then It was off to London Heathrow, arriving late morning. My first step into the UK. Somehow Geoff and I met up again and said goodbye to Sue and Gabriel, then set about getting a taxi to our booked hotel in Brixton?? south of the river. I clearly remember this was the first time I’d been in a country where tipping was required. We got a black cab and when I paid the fare I hesitated and made a comment about not having any English money, which was true. He said “Well mate, we’re not likely to meet up again, are we?” I was embarrassed and confused and pressed an Aussie 20c piece into his hand. I bet he had a good laugh over that.

This was my first experience of jet-lag too. I remember carrying my heavy suitcase up the stairs (I was 27 and reasonably fit then) to our dorm room on about the third floor and partly unpacking, then thinking I’ll just have a lie down at about 2pm. Next thing I knew it was 6.30pm and I was freezing. What happened there?

Anyway, that will have to end this part of the story for now or I’ll never get on to the next ship cruise.

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December 1974:  I had been living in London all year since April, with several trips to the Continent (as it was called then), first the Autotours Europe 6 week trip. There was a two or three week gap after our arrival in Britain so Geoff and I hired a Ford Escort van and did a quick tour of Britain, starting in London, going south to Land’s End in Cornwall, then heading north through Wales (now I know why NSW is called that), right up through the Midlands to Scotland, not quite to John o’Groats but close, then down the east side to London again, Earl’s Court in fact, the Aquarius Hotel.

The six week Autotour was one of the highlights of my life. I remember so much of it and made friendships that lasted decades, although we’ve lost contact now.

Anyway, back to the topic. After more tours and the great thrill of living in a flat in Chelsea (in Camera Place, of all names), by November it was getting too dark and cold and I wanted to get home, so I booked the same ship-jet in reverse, flying from London to Singapore with a for or five day stopover, then taking the Eastern Queen again to Fremantle. Geoff had stayed on in London and I was alone this time, which took the edge off things, but it was OK. However, what I hadn’t reckoned on was the slowness of the ship journey. I just wanted to be home and the voyage just dragged! I was convinced the ship was deliberately going slow, dawdling, to keep to some timetable. It felt as if we were dead in the water. I’m sure we weren’t, but I learnt my lesson from that, fly back, don’t take the ship.

So that was my second cruise.

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May 1977: I had the travel bug now and booked a fly-cruise, flying from Perth to Sydney and catching the original P&O Arcadia for an 11 day (I think) cruise around the Pacific Islands.

1977 Arcadia ful sharp

All aboard. The Arcadia, May 1977 Sydney

First stop Noumea, New Caledonia, then Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, then Port Vila, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), then Suva, Fiji, round the coast to Lautoka, then back to Sydney.

Arcadia Log May1977a

Arcadia log 20May1977b

The ship, a BIG one, was fine although having to sleep in an iron framed bunk bed with several other guys in the shared cabin and having to go down the passage to the bathroom, all green painted steel floor and walls, with cockroaches on the floor was not so great. But the food! Holy smoke, every meal was a banquet. I’d never had food like that before. No limit, all you can eat.

Arcadia menu 21May1977b

I had asked to be seated with some ladies and so I was placed on a table of four with three young women. Wow, I became the favourite guy there. Two were from Sydney, Louise and “Tamia”, actually Cheryl, and the best, the one I fell for, Carol from Brisbane. She was Eurasian, beautiful, coffee coloured, long silky black hair. But she had a boyfriend back in Brizzy and although we talked a lot, that was it. “In Fond Memories, to Peter”. Wow. If only.

1977 Carol 77 cruise

My dinner companions, Tamia, Louise and Carol.

Arcadia menu 1977a

I can still picture all their faces. Unfortunately I lost a lot of photos of that trip in the big disk crash of 2013.

So that was cruise number three. I’d better wrap here otherwise I’ll never finish. I have three or four more cruises to write about.

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Nothing much to report. Beautiful day. If you have to be locked up, is there a better place to be? Well, maybe one or two but this is nice.