In this blogposting…
* The Gate of the Year
All the Best!


In recent times, New Year Resolutions have acquired a bad name, mostly because people fail to carry them out.  As far as I am concerned, this is probably because they are either:
- unrealistic - ‘I will lose two stone in weight by the end of February’;
- unwise - New Year’s Day is the worst possible day to stop smoking; or
- just plain dull - ‘I will read a Charles Dickens book every month’.

A friend of mine obviously agrees with me.  Folded inside her Christmas card was a list of New Year Resolutions which, she says, she is recommending to everyone she knows because they are ‘original, challenging - and great fun’.

* Make some thick vanilla custard, put it in a mayonnaise jar and spoon-eat it in the street.
* Hire two private investigators and get them to follow each other.
* Wear a T-shirt that has ‘Life’ printed on it and hand out lemons on a street-corner.
* Get into a crowded lift and say ‘I suppose you’re all wondering why I sent for you today’.
* Go into a department store and ask - loudly - what year it is.  When somebody tells you, shout ‘It worked!’ and run out, cheering.
* Buy a parrot and train it to say ‘Help! I’ve been turned into a parrot!’


Without wanting to sound portentously high-minded (and how portentously high-minded is a phrase like ‘portentously high-minded'?) I have to be honest and say that I don’t really like the way New Year’s Eve is celebrated and never have.  The forced jollity of party-poppers and booze gives me the vapours; unanaesthetised tooth-extraction or a rainy afternoon in Middlesbrough (God forbid) are more pleasurable prospects as far as I am concerned.

For me, today is a time of ‘stock-taking’; of thinking quietly about the things I have done and not done over the past year; and of making plans and formulating hopes for the year ahead.

It’s a watch-night, too.  As the year’s gate opens we realise that a new path lies ahead and that it will contain uncertainties and sadnesses as well as victories and pleasure.  As the year turns, we feel uneasy and afraid as well as hopeful and steadfast.

It was these thoughts - this need for comfort and reassurance - that inspired the poem God Knows, written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins and made famous when King George VI used it in his Christmas broadcast in 1939.

Although I am no God-fearer, I nevertheless believe that the poem’s sentiments are expressed sublimely and unimprovably.

‘And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”


And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”


So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:

What need our little life

Our human life to know,

If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife

Of things both high and low,

God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will

Is best. The stretch of years

Which wind ahead, so dim

To our imperfect vision,

Are clear to God. Our fears

Are premature; In Him,

All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until

God moves to lift the veil

From our impatient eyes,

When, as the sweeter features

Of Life’s stern face we hail,

Fair beyond all surmise

God’s thought around His creatures

Our mind shall fill.'

...will take place at 1200 on Wednesday 9 January.  It’s a notable AGM, too - for several reasons.

Firstly, we’ll be celebrating Hildie’s birthday, which falls on the day before.

Secondly, it’s the first AGM of 2013.

And thirdly, it will be the first-ever AGM to take place in two places at the same time.

Nev and Hildie are both wrong about the Lit and Phil.  It isn’t as full of sanctimonious silence as they like to think.  Which is why I will be there at the appointed hour.

But, for fear of loneliness and rejection, I will then wander up to The Milecastle a few minutes later!


And finally for 2012 - and with the true truckshunter spirit of curiosity, wonder and adventure - ask yourself, just once in a while….

When was the last time I did something for the first time?

And then make it your business to do as many things for the first time as you can in 2013.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting...
* Australian tourism
* The Strange Case of the Attention-Seeking Lion
* Murphy's Laws of Combat


I'm glad - not to mention relieved - to say that I finally met Dave Shannon yesterday (Friday).  Dave has been sending me emails for several years now and parts of most of them have ended up here on the truckshunter blog.  Indeed, some postings have consisted almost entirely of Dave's contributions - for which I hope I've given him due credit.

Dave turned up to his first AGM earlier this month - but it was the AGM I missed because I'd been unwell overnight.  It began to appear that I was destined never to meet the Great Emailer Himself.

But that's now a thing of the past.  Along with Hildie, Linda and Keith, I met up with him yesterday and was finally able to put a face to the name that's been contacting me since Nightshift days.

So - Hello, Dave - it's good to (finally) meet you.  Perhaps you can come to another AGM sometime.

And thanks, too, for all the fascinating/funny/frivolous/uplifting emails you've sent me.  Keep 'em coming!

Speaking of which...

Dave has sent me this list of replies made by Australian tourist office staff to some of the ludicrous written enquiries they get.  

Q (from the UK) Does it ever get windy in Australia?  I have never seen it rain on tv - how do the plants grow?
A  We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q (from the USA) Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street?
A  Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q (from Sweden) I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railway tracks?
A  Sure - it's only three thousand miles, so take lots of water.

Q (from the USA) Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia?
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.  Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not ... 
Oh forget it.  Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Sydney.  Come naked.

Q (from the USA) Which direction is North in Australia?
A  Face south and then turn 180 degrees.  Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q (from the UK) Can I bring cutlery into Australia?
A  Why? Just use your fingers like we do...

Q (from the USA) Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule?
A  Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is ... 
Oh forget it.  Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Sydney, straight after the hippo races.  Come naked.

Q (from Germany) Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round?
A  No - we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.  Milk is illegal.

Q (from the USA) Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum.
A Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.  All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q (from France) Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia?
A  Only at Christmas.

Q (from the USA) Will I be able to speak English most places I go?
A  Yes, but you'll have to learn it first!

Dave also sent me this tourist's eye view of Australia.
Thanks, Dave.  You're a star!


My friend Brian has sent me this video link.  It's a short excerpt from the Kazan Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

As you watch it, look out for the 'lion' behind the principal dancers, to the left.  Apparently, just before the ballet began, he was told that he was being made redundant.  What you see is his wonderfully irreverent reaction to the bad news.


If the link doesn't work when you click on it, cut and paste it into the Search box of your internet browser.

Thanks, Brian.


The season of inexpressible peace and goodwill to all men seems like a good time to include this email, which I received from an unidentified correspondent a few weeks ago.  The wise words are those of a US soldier who fought in Iraq.

1  If the enemy is in range, so are you.
2  Incoming fire has the right of way.
3  Don't look conspicuous - it draws fire.

4  There is always a way.
5  The easy way is always mined.
6  Try to look unimportant - they may be low on ammo.
7  Professionals are predictable; it's the amateurs that are dangerous.
8  The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions:
     a When you're ready for them.
     b When you're not ready for them.

9  Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.
10  A 'sucking chest wound' is natures way of telling you to slow down.

11  If your attack is going well, you have walked into an ambush.
12  Never draw fire - it irritates everyone around you.
13  Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.
14  Make it tough enough for the enemy to get in and you won't be
    able to get
15  Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.
16  When you have secured an area, don't forget to tell the enemy.
17  Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder. 
18  Friendly Fire isn't.

To whoever you are - Thankyou and the Compliments of the Season to you!


Our next AGM - should you be brave enough to attend - will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 9 January. 

In view of the chaos that ensued last time, I think we'd better give The Bridge a miss - specially as there were adverse comments about it from the people who managed to turn up.

So instead, let's all be mustered at the Lit and Phil and decide where to go from there.

Sorry about the short notice.  Typical!


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
A raclette just like mine.
The cheese goes on the the little 'shovels' under the grill - 
while other goodies cook and/or stay hot on the top

In this blogposting...
* Raclette
* News from Nowhere
Read and learn...


Thanks to the generosity of Papa Noël - and his magical ability to fit large boxes into small suitcases - I am now the only person I know who owns a raclette.

I am not gastronomically well-travelled, so until very recently, I didn’t know what a raclette was.  I had to have the whole scenario demonstrated to me in great and loving detail - what an evening that was!

As a matter of fact, raclette is a whole style of eating.  It originated in western Switzerland and Savoy.  In its earliest, ‘folk’, version, a huge slab of special raclette cheese would be placed in front of a roaring fire.  The melted side would be scraped off and poured over potatoes, other vegetables and cooked meats at the table.

Times have changed though, and raclette (like its sister, the fondue) has migrated from snowy hillsides, goat-bells and blonde plaits to the wider world beyond the mountains and onto many of the kitchen tables of Europe, Newcastle and beyond.  It’s been transformed into a kind of portable, horizontal grill. 

Each diner has their own small ‘shovel’ - a coupelle.   You put a slice of cut raclette cheese on it and slide it under the grill to melt while a bowl of steaming potatoes and various bits of kitchen goodies stays hot on the top.  You can even cook a pancake on the top if you want to.

You take whatever nibbles you want from the top of the grill and scrape the melted cheese from your coupelle over it.  Each person eats what they want, when they want to.  It’s all very sociable and civilised - it’s great fun and usually lasts the whole evening.

I’ve just realised how inadequate that description is.  You’ll just have to pop over and try it!

And a VERY big Thankyou to Papa Noël for enabling me to make that offer!


Here’s a Christmas pot-pourri (which is French for ‘stinking pot’) of stories, good and bad, that you may have missed…

Children with behavioural and learning difficulties are improving their reading skills with the help of dogs.  A scheme brought dogs into 205 schools this year to help make pupils less nervous and self-conscious, according to the Kennel Club…

The oldest person in Britain braved the weather yesterday to enjoy a Christmas dinner with friends.  Grace Jones, who is 113, left her London home to tuck into a turkey dinner organised by Bermondsey Care for the Elderly.  Local MP Simon Hughes, who is a friend of Grace’s, drove her to the dinner…

Police in Sweden had to intervene yesterday after a foreign visitor to a spa and conference centre became angry because a visiting Santa Claus was wearing a grey suit and not a red one.  No-one was arrested during the incident in Vallsta, 180 miles north of Stockholm…

Huskies are being abandoned in record numbers after being popularised by the Twilight films and the Game of Thrones tv series.  Animal welfare groups have warned that people are buying them and dumping them soon afterwards.  The Siberian Husky Welfare Association is struggling to handle calls from people looking to offload the dogs…

Google and Microsoft produced rival, electronic 'Santa trackers' for excited kids to use over Christmas.  At one point on Monday evening, Microsoft's 'Norad' Santa tracker showed him over Romania, having delivered 2.8 billion gifts, while Google's 'Santa Dashboard' had him over Madagascar at exactly the same time, having delivered a mere 770 million gifts...

Royal Mail is going to mark the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who by issuing eleven stamps on 26 March 2013.  All of the actors who have played the Doctor on tv - from William Hartnell to Matt Smith - will be featured...  


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
I saw my first-ever goldfinch in the garden today.  Aren't they lovely?

I received a particularly interesting and entertaining birthday present this year and I’d like to share it with you.

It was from the official Poet Laureate of the Honourable Company of Truckshunters - J Arthur Smallpiece.  Along with a recipe for Spicy Lentil Soup (which I have not yet tried), he sent me a poem which, along with all his others, is of the very first water.

The preamble reads as follows…

As you know, the place is littered with sub-standard works of modern ‘art’ - pretentious junk called ‘installations’.  Not to be outdone, I am producing large amounts of sub-standard ‘literature’ which I refer to as ‘ejaculations’.  These take the form of a short prose introduction followed by a few lines of doggerel, with footnotes as required.

So pin back your ears for my most recent ejaculation.  I imagine it will be your favourite birthday treat.


And less of the cheek!

There follows the poem itself, which is entitled

In which the Bard responds both poetically and philosophically to one of Life’s irritating vicissitudes.

I mustn’t cry on the outside - it doesn’t become me, you see;
    Yet my girlfriend of several years’ standing has recently walked out on me.
I besought her not to forsake me - I’ve begged and pled all I can.
    But she tret me with total ignoral AND WENT OFF WITH SOME OTHER MAN!

(Pause for sympathy.)

We’d met in the bar of The Beehive.  She was strapping and minimally-dressed;
    She was the barmaid from heaven and I was unduly impressed.
Like her beer, she was fresh and full-bodied - and tasty and rather well-kept;
    Her service was fast and efficient; her use of the hand-pumps was deft.
Her demeanour was courteous and charming; her features were pretty and cute
    And her flesh was outstanding and tempting and luscious like over-ripe fruit.

(Pause for gasps of incredulity.)

My replacement is brawny and burley - a bit of a lad, it is said -
    With a nasty brass ring in his nostril and a great big shiny shaved head.
His ears are vajazzled with jewellery, there’s a scar down the side of his face
    And his body’s as hard as bell-metal, with tattoos all over the place.
(His dog is a pit-bull called Genghis - a savage unlovable brute
    That slavers and goes for the postman - and looks like his master, to boot!)

(Pause for sharp intake of breath.)

So, I mustn’t cry on the outside; though his muscles are bigger than mine
    I’ll console myself by assuming he’s a shallow and uncultured swine.
He is, most likely, a bully - not gentle and caring, like me.
    He’s like an ill-bred gorilla - I think that we all can agree -
Who’s uncouth, crass and quite charmless.  And he doesn’t write poetry, I’ll bet -
    Which is something that that little madam will come, I hope, to regret.

(Possibly.  And that’ll teach her.)

Because of the shock to my system and the pain that I now feel inside
    I’m thinking of giving up poesy - my muse, it has withered and died.
I’m feeling low and despondent - not carefree like I used to be -
    So if there’s no restitution, there’ll be no more fine verses from me.

The poet has added a footnote…

Don’t worry!!! I’m only joking.  I just make all this stuff up.  I’m still at it.  In fact, I’m writing a piece entitled The Disturbing Tale of Neville Hardacre and the Lady Vicar as you read this.  You must be looking forward to your next birthday already!
I am, J Arthur; I am!


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* Feed the Birds
* The Card Stacker


It seems that my apologies for absenting myself from the last AGM aren’t quite over yet.  I’m told that Stephen and Heidi were also at The Bridge pub at the appointed hour last week.  But, because they’d never met Dave, Gerry, Hilary or J Arthur Smallpiece, they didn’t recognise them as fellow-truckshunters and (understandably) kept their distance.

So - once again - my apologies for making such a dog’s breakfast of AGM XXXVIII and especially to Stephen and Heidi, to whom I didn’t apologise last time.

I’m getting a headache.


This is my usual early winter exhortation to look after your neighbourhood birds, although I’m sure you don’t need my encouragement to do it.  I know in my bones that truckshunters are the sort of people who make sure that local birdlife doesn’t go without food now that the weather’s turned nasty (one way or another).

Here in High Elswick, we’ve been rewarded by many visiting blackbirds, coal tits, blue tits, hedge sparrows, robins, great tits, chaffinches and magpies - all of which, between them, hoover up the goodies we put out for them unsettlingly quickly.

None of them are particular rarities but they don’t need to be.  The liberating pleasure I get from just sitting and looking at them is worth a king’s ransom - specially the blackbirds and chaffinches.

It’s even more startling in the Beaujolais countryside.  If you glance at Serge’s blog here:  http://spepere.blogspot.co.uk - you’ll see that whole flocks of birds have made his country garden into a kind of ornithological community centre.  Amongst them are…

mésange charbonnière - great tit
moineau - house sparrow
geai - jay
mésange bleu - blue tit
pie - magpie
merle - blackbird
mésange noir - coal tit
accenteur - hedge sparrow
mésange nonette - marsh tit

Unsurprisingly, a buse (buzzard) hovers about occasionally and there’s a very audible pic (woodpecker) living nearby, too.

(In Serge’s posting 157 you can read about his rescue of a hedge-sparrow that knocked itself out on his window pane.  There are some cracking pictures to go with the story, too. 
He is even lucky enough to have regular visits from a red squirrel (ecureuil), which, for reasons no-one quite understands, are much more common in France than grey squirrels are.)

So please - at the risk of sounding boring - PLEASE remember to feed the birds this winter.  They need us now more than ever.


Eric and Jean have sent me an email about Bryan Berg, who is the world’s only professional cardstacker.  Which means that he builds things out of playing cards on a very large scale indeed.

He uses no tape, glue or tricks and his method has been tested to support 660lbs per square foot.

But pictures speak louder than words…

Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting...
* Body Art
Reduce speed now...

A number of records were set at our latest AGM.

For a start, it was, I think, the first AGM I have not attended.

Secondly, it was also the first AGM that Hildie wasn’t at either.

(I wish I could say that those two facts were linked but they’re not.)

To counterbalance these absences, though, there was a much more notably upbeat first:  it was the first AGM that Dave Shannon has ever attended.

Dave has been emailing me for what seems like - and probably is - years.  That I wasn’t able to get to his very first AGM is a matter not just of regret but inconsolable remorse.  I’m serious.  I still haven’t got over it.

The fact that Hilary, Gerry and J Arthur Smallpiece - who only rarely grace AGMs with their presence - were there as well serves only to deepen my sorrow.  It’s the kind of AGM I wouldn’t have missed for worlds.  And I did.

Truth to tell, I had been a little unwell during Wednesday night and this had prevented me from doing anything at all on Thursday.  All I can do is apologise to Dave, Gerry, Hilary, J Arthur and Neville (who went to the Lit and Phil beforehand) for my unavoidable absence.  I’m very, very sorry to have let down such faithful truckshunters.

I’m sure that Hildie is just as regretful.  She decided to stay put in Dipton because of my (perhaps overstated) description of weather conditions in Newcastle.  So a double-whammy, then.

All, though, was not lost.  The redoubtable Hilary has knocked together a brief report of proceedings.  Here it is…

‘Minutes of the XXXVIII AGM on December 6th held at The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle at 11.30 am, as arranged.

David Shannon
Hilary Dawson
Gerry Fenwick
J. Arthur Smallpiece

Apologies for absence: Ian Robinson. Hildie Flood.

The non-existent minutes of the previous meeting were accepted and certified as correct, probably.

Actions taken: 3 phonecalls - all unanswered

Items discussed (in absence of agenda).

1    Poor quality of refreshments - Nescafe only and nothing to eat. Bad mark for organisers who chose venue.
2    Health update - diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol medications including for triglycerides.
3    Whether or not Ian Robinson's ears were burning.
4    J Arthur Smallpiece explained how humiliating it is to be stood up (usually by barmaids, by the way).
5    Christmas tunes in the 50s.
6    Cricket in Guatemala - Prospects of the team versus neighbouring countries - see website cricketguatemala.  (Note from Ian:  No.)
7    City of Newcastle Pipe Band.
8    Toast to absent friends.

Meeting closed at 12.30’

I don’t think I’ll ever live it down.

Once again, my apologies.


In an attempt to make this blog more than just the death-rattle of AGMs, here are some pictures of ‘body art’ painted by a 19-year old Japanese girl.  They were sent to me by Eric and Jean, from Tantobie.

To be honest, I’m not sure whether they’ve been photoshopped or not.  But even if they have, they’re still impressive.


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
(yes - ANOTHER one!)


AGM XXXVIII is scheduled to take place tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 1100.  This evening, though, weather conditions here in Newcastle are truly awful.

So I think it would be showing that discretion is the better part of valour (as it were) if we abandoned the AGM altogether.  I don't want anyone taking any risks on snow and ice to get into the Town.

I realise that this decision comes a little late in the day and that there'll be truckshunters who don't see it. 

So - because it should be almost as easy as usual for me to get into the town - I will still be at the Lit and Phil at 1100 and at The Bridge at 1130.

So don't worry if you only saw this blogposting too late!


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
A couple of years ago, the Australian government made a momentous decision.  As part of a new push to attract more visitors to the country, it would determine what the most important thing was that Australia has given to the world. 

Even more momentously - and to ascertain exactly what this greatest gift to the world actually was - the government decided to ask Australians themselves in a nationwide poll.  It could, the government said, be anything from its flora and fauna to its great cities, its scenery and geography, events in its history or its famous sons and daughters.

Here are some of the things that Australians could have chosen as their country’s most notable gift to the rest of the world…

Sydney Harbour
One of the largest, and certainly one of the most beautiful, natural harbours in the world and the site of the first white settlement in Australia in 1788.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
An augmented copy of the Tyne Bridge, built by the same company, and known - for fairly obvious reasons - as ‘the coathanger’, this is undoubtedly one of the most instantly recognisable structures on the planet.
Sydney Opera House
Designed by a Dane and opened in 1973, Sydney Opera House is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament or the Empire State Building.  For many, the view of harbour, bridge and opera house simply is Australia.

But it’s not.  Australia is also…
Mount Augustus (in Western Australia)
This is the world’s largest monolith - that is, it’s the biggest single piece of rock on Earth.  It rises 860m above the surrounding plain and dwarfs the much better-known Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Anna Creek (in South Australia)
This is the world’s largest farm.  It’s almost exactly the same size as Wales and employs only 8 people (and several helicopters) who look after 8,000 cattle.

Tommy Jones (of Brisbane)

When he died in 1988, Tommy was the world’s worst serial offender.  He had been arrested over 3,000 times for being drunk and disorderly - that’s about twice a week for 30 years.

It’s thought that this was partly because of local licensing laws, which forced pubs to close at 1800, thus encouraging the binge-drinking known as ‘the six o’clock swill’.

Canberra is the capital of Australia.  It is also the capital of Australia’s sex trade, boasting 16 licensed brothels and 15 sex shops.  Pornographic film-making is its second-largest money-earner, after the export of pine.

According to the local trade association, Canberra’s brothels enjoyed their best trading ever during the Conference of the World Council of Churches in 1994, when business increased by 250%.

Morning Glories
One of very few remaining unexplained meteorological phenomena in the world.  Morning Glories are immensely long ( - some can be over 800km - ) 'ropes' of cloud about 2km wide which skim above the gum trees at 70kph.  No-one knows why they happen but they do - about every second day from September to November.

The island off the south-east tip of Australia can claim to be an unusual ‘gift to the world’ all on its own.

For a start, its native ‘aborigines’, who were wiped out in a notorious, British-inspired genocide in the 19th century, were thought to be the only people on Earth who could not make fire.  They had no spears or axes and, despite frost and snow, wore no clothes.

Secondly, the island is home to the Tasmanian Devil, which, though only as big as a medium-sized dog, has the most powerful bite (relative to its size) in the world and beats lions, tigers, wolves and hyenas into a cocked hat.

Thirdly, Tasmania produces 50% of the world’s legal opium.  Wallabies have been known to stray into the poppy-fields and leave an hour or so later, weaving from side to side and going round in circles.

Biologists have determined that the koala is probably the least intelligent animal on Earth.  A toxic diet of eucalyptus leaves over millions of years has left its tiny brain - about the size of a walnut - floating in a syrupy liquid mess.

In mitigation (as it were), the koala is also one of the few non-primates to possess fingerprints.

Marsupials and Monotremes
Australia’s marsupials - its kangaroos and wallabies and such - make more headlines but it’s the country’s monotremes that are really, really odd.

Marsupials raise their young in pouches but, uniquely amongst mammals, monotremes lay eggs.  There are five species.  One of them is the duck-billed platypus.  The other four are echidnas.
Echidnas are very strange indeed.  At mating time, a long line of males forms behind a female - a queue of stalkers.  They then follow the female wherever she goes, for mile after mile and week after week.  When she’s ready to mate, they all form a circle and start walking around her until they’ve worn a groove in the ground.  She then chooses which one she wants.

What the ‘national language’ of Australia is depends on your point of view.

When white settlers arrived here in the 18th century there were thought to be at least 750 native aboriginal languages in use.  In the intervening years, though, all but about 150 of them have disappeared completely and, of the languages that remain, all but 20 are endangered.

So, before it’s too late, here are the numbers from one to five in just one of them.

auliaba ambilima abliakalpia abuiabua amukuale

For numbers above 5, you just agglomerate.  Six is amukuale-auliaba (five-one) and so on.  Simplicity itself, though a little long-winded perhaps.

Officially, then, Australia’s national language is English.  Except that, even then, opinions vary slightly.  To be regarded as ‘properly’ Australian, a proficiency in ‘strine’ is normally necessary.

‘Strine’ is the argot of Australia - ‘street Oz’; a rich and flamboyant combination of accent, dialect and turn of phrase.  Any putative visitor ‘down under’ should make it his or her business to learn at least some commonly-used expressions such as these…

Technicolour yawn - vomit
Cactus - kaput, completely broken
Dry as a dead dingo’s donger - very dry
Not the full quid - intellectually challenged
Point Percy at the snake-pit - urinate (men)
Talk to God on the great white telephone - vomit
Grundies - underpants
Just down the road - can be reached within 24 hours
Underground mutton - rabbit
Kangaroos in the top paddock - intellectually challenged
Eating with the flies - eating alone
Manchester - bed linen
Liquid laugh - vomit
You bastard - term of endearment

There are dozens of others, many of them popularised by Barry Humphries.  Which brings us to yet another possible contender for Australia’s greatest gift to the world…

Celebrated Australians
Considering the relative paucity of its population, Australia has produced a gobsmackingly high number of Great and Famous People.  A list of just its famous actors would include Errol Flynn, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Heath Ledger, Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths…
 Dame Nellie

 Dame Joan



 Guess who...

Add music and you get, among many others, Dames Joan Sutherland and Nellie Melba, Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Hutchence, Rolf Harris...

It’s not just entertainment and the arts, though.  It was Australians who invented the ‘black box’ flight data recorder, notepads, aspirin, the pacemaker, the plastic disposable syringe, the wine cask, the bionic ear, the dual-flush toilet and long-lasting contact lenses.

And that’s without Australia’s scientists, explorers and sportsmen/women.

Fred Nerk
Fred Nerk is the archetypal Australian - the man in the street, Mr Everybody and Mr Nobody.  This concept of Mr Average and Mr Ordinary was invented in Australia but has spread worldwide.

In England, he is generally known as Joe Bloggs.  In Germany, he is Max Mustermann.  In Ireland, Sean Citizen.  In the USA, John Doe.  In Russia, Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich.  In Holland, Jan Jansen.  In Israel, Isreal Israeli.  In China, Wuming Shi (‘Mr No-Name’).

Generosity and Spirit
As if everything else on this list wasn’t enough, and without necessarily wanting to get stereotypical, sentimental or even mawkish (God forbid), it’s worth mentioning two characteristics of Australians which genuinely single them out amongst the nations of the world.

Along with New Zealanders, they are the most generous people on Earth (according to the World Giving Guide).

And, for several generations now, the young people of Australia have developed a legendary sense of curiosity, adventure and wonder about the world which has seen them travel to all its corners.  My nephew and niece - adoptive Australians and still only in their early twenties - have visited, between them, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Ireland, the US, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Germany, Turkey, New Zealand, North Africa…

Like millions of other young Ozzies before them, they’ve done it under their own steam, unsupervised and with the kind of relaxed courage and confidence so characteristic of this country and the people who live there.

Advance, Australia Fair!
Some countries are blessed with National Anthems a lot more upbeat and festive than ours.  Australia’s is up there with France, Germany and the USA…

Here are the words.

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

It’s been the Australian National Anthem since 1984. 

If you want to sing along, try

Which is as good a place as any to end our flying truckshunter visit...

And incidentally…
If you’ve been reading and inly digesting since the beginning, you may well be curious about the result of the Australian government’s poll to find the country’s greatest gift to the world.

The Australian people decided that the winner was…

(Pause for effect…)

The Hills Hoist Rotary Clothes Line, invented in Australia in 1946.

A very big Thankyou to everyone who contributed information for this visit down-under - and especially to Martin in Sydney (naturally).


Our next visit will be to Austria…


Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com

I've had several messages (including Sid's Comment to the last posting) that The Bridge doesn't open until 1130.


I will be at the Lit and Phil (above), between the station and the Keep, from 1100 onwards on Thursday 6 December.  If you've never been and would like to see it - or even if you have - you can meet me there.

In any case, I will mosey on down to The Bridge at 1130.



Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com