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CURRENT EVENTS

Allan Jones writes, “It is distressing to note the amount of confusion and violence now commonplace in the world of PNG politics. The problems, I think, is the first-past-the-post system combined with the relative ease with which people declare themselves candidates”.

Justine Finter has returned to PNG on numerous occasions because of family ties. “My most recent trips in 1999 and 2000 were to bid a final farewell to my dear dad and one of my younger sisters. I’m really sorry to admit I no longer feel safe when I return home. My family have had some frightening experiences with rascal elements. My father survived a stabbing, although a young nephew was not so lucky. My youngest sister and her children have been held up and forced to flee for their lives. During a recent visit I heard gunshots from the direction of Bavaroko School where my nephews were. Rascals had taken cover in the school grounds.”

Col Booth was impressed with the Terr Sit on A flying return visit in 2000. “I asked our bus driver where all the village houses were. He pointed out the European style cottages sprinkled around the countryside. When I asked him about facilities, he rattled off all the mod cons you could imagine, but was a little sad that he didn't have air conditioning. “Next year”.

Joe Crainean is currently enjoying a pre-Event break in various parts of Fiji with wife Rina, who is of Chinese-Fijian extraction and who has many relatives in that fine country. The Fiji connection proved interesting a few years ago when Joe was contemplating going into business with George Speight, the coup leader since convicted of treason was at the time selling insurance in Queensland. He’s now serving time on a remote island in Fiji after his death sentence was commuted.

Grahame Uhlmann says that although he likes working in Asia, “with its never ending challenges like trying to get paid for work done”, he misses many things he’s used to in Australia: “Fresh bread, seeing the old navy blues (Carlton) win football matches, the water and the beaches”. Grahame says the Malaysian beer is OK “but a draught VB would be nice”.

Henry Bodman spent an evening with Bob ‘Bobbie Moose’ Davis last week, the two of them telling unmentionable and unlikely tales and gossiping and telling lies about the rest of us over a Jamiesons Run or more. Henry says, “I suggested our Moose call in on Kurt Argent on the way home. He thought not as the last time he was there he busted one of Dave and Kerry's beds”.

Keith Bain is still creating pithy one-liners. He explains how his “youthful pleasure in writing letters dried up a few decades ago”, failing to improve even when e-mail came along. “The message seems to be that it is not the medium that is responsible,” remarked my aphoristic friend.

Lorraine and David Westover drop by for kapkopi. Amongst other major matters, we discuss Dave’s return voyage to Oz from the South Pacific on his 41-ft ketch, Moana – described by the land-loving but nautical Lorraine as “a very fat boat”. Dave says cross-ocean navigation is a straightforward skill, “We sailed towards the sunset and turned left when we saw land”. The land Dave saw was at Coffs Harbour not Bundaberg as anticipated, but he and I agree you’d have to be quarrelsome to claim that’s anything other than pretty darn accurate.

Lesley (Wills) Lewis, who you’ll remember from 61/62, passes on her regards them on to all your crowd. Lesley and husband Frank are in PNG living on a yacht they built themselves and sailed back from Australia “for a sentimental visit”. The visit has so far lasted 17 years. They’re based in Hoskins where Frank is senior manager with the Oil Palm Industry Corp and Lesley is still teaching. “We have just returned from a two week cruise to the Bali Witu Island and are off to the NT for a week. If and when we leave PNG we will be heading for the Gold Coast where we have a house with a jetty”. Col Booth knew Frank as didiman on Karkar when he, Wendy and Lesley taught at Miak. “Their life dream was to build a yacht and sail the world” They also made sure Col left PNG, delivering him to Karkar airstrip to go finish south.

Dennis Burrell was in Paradise Friday with wife Ros and spent the evening with Col and Wendy Booth. Col reports Dennis not much changed from ASOPA days, at ease with life and enjoying work. “Wendy was pleased to hear Ros will NOT fly, even in a 747! Ros said after her experiences in PNG she will never fly in an aircraft again. Her father was a Bristol Freighter pilot in there for several years, but this doesn't reassure her one little bit”.

Col Booth has expressed his embarrassment to me about being over-exposed in these columns and I’m happy to assure him that it’s only because of the quality of his anecdotes. Like this one. “Some mates were returning to Port Macquarie late one night from an Apex function. The driver was in his brand new Landcruiser, only having done a couple of K's. Still had the new car smell. Passenger in front seat says, “Pull over, Muzz, I'm going to be sick!” Driver Muzz replies, “We’re going over a bridge. I can't stop here.” Passenger opens glove box and fills it.” See what I mean?

In his bucolic scrawl, the typewriter-challenged Dave Argent appends this note to a recent missive: “If you can’t read this, bad luck Keithy. But you can read your own writing, so it should be easy”.

Dennis Burrell hasn't changed, at least not his sense of humour, Col ‘Masta’ Booth advises. “He bought wife Ros a light chainsaw a few years ago, because the one she hired to clean up the yard was too heavy for her”. Now that’s what I call consideration.

Ian McLean tells me of a Column 8 item in the Sydney Morning Herald about a veterinarian who put a splint on a frog with a broken leg. “The name was Howard Ralph,” says Talker, “The vet, not the bloody frog.” Howard is now a GP and we expect him to display his best stableside manner at Port Macquarie.

Wendy and I were getting married,” reminisces Col Booth, “and DI Frank Boisen and his sidekick, the Pink Pig, organised a nice house for us opposite the Rabaul Methodist Church.” After the volcanic eruption of 1994, that house is one of only two left standing in the Mango Avenue area. “It flattened the Cosmo, BPs, the post office, Carpenters, the RSL, Admin offices and all China town,” says Col, who was back last year. “When we lived in our old house, we had to climb up four stairs. These days you step down into it”.