‘Taprobana’ – and the title goes to?

In the Ancient World mapmakers were usually desk jockeys who relied on returning mariners to provide them with details of the great unknown. It didn’t help that the early seafarers usually hugged the coast fearful of sailing off the edge of the World which compromised their perspectives of time, distance and size, or that their descriptions of foreign lands were exaggerated by the exotic trade for which they were famous.

In the case of the mythical island of ‘Taprobana,’ this far-off land was known to the Ancient Greeks as a land of ‘elephants and spices’ not ‘milk and honey’ and, so when the Greco – Egyptian cartographer Claudius Ptolemy described it in 150 A.D. as a large island south of continental Asia there were a couple of potential candidates.

‘Badge of Honour’

In August 1908, Australia hosted a visit by the ‘Great White Fleet’ – the sixteen white-painted battleships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Embarrassingly, for a nation with 25,760 kilometres of coastline, Australia did not have the necessary vessels to provide a naval escort and, so in early 1909 the Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher ordered three destroyers from Britain’s shipyards to lay the foundations of the Royal Australian Navy. Fisher was fleetingly replaced by Alfred Deakin of the Commonwealth Liberal Party who wanted the ‘new’ Australia’s Navy to be commanded as a unit of the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet, but with Fisher’s return to power in 1910, the Royal Australian Navy’s independent future was secured with the combined fleet entering Sydney Harbour under his Prime Ministership for the first time on the 4th October, 1913.

I saw the Sea!

At the end of World War I, the visible symbol of a nation’s military might was its Navy, and so in 1923 – 24 ‘His Majesty’s’ ships ‘Hood,’ ‘Repulse,’ ‘Delhi,’ ‘Danae,’ ‘Dragon’ and ‘Dauntless’ and the ‘H.M.A.S. Adelaide’ combined as the ‘Special Services Squadron’ setting forth on a World tour to showcase the firepower of the British Navy and help reaffirm control over its vast Empire.

In 1919, the defeated Germany scuttled its entire fleet at the Scarpa Flow to prevent the ships falling into British hands, while Britain’s colonial rival France finished the war with a naval presence that was small and largely obsolete.

Vale Les Murray!

It was only last week we posted an article on Les Murray’s evocative poem ‘the Rollovers’ and so we were greatly saddened to learn of his passing in recent days. The tributes have flowed for Australia’s ‘greatest’ poet who in interview a few years back asked only to be remembered for a dozen or so of his best poems. We think his poem ‘the Rollovers’ which contradicts the piety of the Australian Banking Industry is as relevant today as when it was written in the 1990s.

One of his greatest? We think so. For your enjoyment we again publish ‘the Rollovers’

Cook, Banks & Solander – the Wholly Trinity of Explorers

Next year marks the 250th Anniversary of James Cook’s ‘discovery’ of the East Coast of Australia which proved the catalyst for British settlement of the continent. Regardless of your current views on the merits of colonisation the impact of this event was certainly important, as history shows that if not the British then the French, Dutch or even the Japanese would have eventually planted their flag on its vast lands

Les Murray’s Gotcha Moment

Australia’s recent ‘Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry’ was particularly scathing of the conduct of Australia’s big four banks.
In the unseemly pursuit of ‘profits at any cost’ each bank had its own take on ‘world’s worst banking practices’ which were expertly designed to ‘swindle’ their customers and so protect their proud records of perpetual growth. Of course, the jockeying for position in a four-horse group one race was always bound to lead to unconscionable conduct when the announcement of each year’s record profits also fattened the pay-packets of senior bank management.

Innocent Days at the Beach

There is nothing that sings Australia more than the hot summer sun beating down on its people. Its why most of the country’s population clings to the seaboard to take weekend respite on its many sandy beaches, and why tragically it has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the World.
‘Beach Pattern’ by the contemporary artist Craig Parnaby perfectly captures the dichotomy of these two aspects of Australian life.

The Great Flood and the Pumpkin Tragedy!

The story of ‘Noah’s Ark and the Flood’ is one of the more evocative narratives in the ‘Book of Genesis.’ The story goes that a vengeful God, after warning the righteous Noah to build a huge Ark to save his close family and a breeding pair of each of the world’s creatures, unleashed 40 days and 40 nights of continual rain that flooded the earth and swept away its depravity.

Advance Australia at the World’s Fair

In 1893 the first ‘World’s Fair’ was held in Chicago to mark the 400th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the New World. Also known as the ‘Columbian Exposition’ it was a showcase for American exceptionalism but, to round out ‘the world’ the organisers invited forty-six foreign governments to also display their wares in purpose built national pavilions.
Australia was not yet a country but was a continent comprised of five mainland British colonies and the island Colony of Tasmania. However, the New South Wales Government was invited to attend in its own right with displays of its agriculture and industry as well as cultural exhibits.

Sinatra’s Secret Society

There are only a few ‘stars’ who shine on through the generations and remain as recognisable today as when they were box office gold or topping the music charts. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley and the Beatles are a few that have endured unlike most of the ‘shooting stars’ found on ‘Hollywood’s Walk of Fame’ whose light has dimmed through the years and bring blank stares from passing tourists.

In the case of Marilyn and James it probably helped that they died relatively young before they fell into a caricature of themselves