Two Days in Cairns

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Our cruise in January 2020 departed from Brisbane and took us to Cairns via Airlie Beach. The P&O Aria docked overnight. We have been to Cairns before so took the opportunity to just relax. Cairns is a reasonably large city with about 120,000 people. There are lots of tourist attractions which we have seen. I’m sure that a ship with 1700 passengers injects something to the local economy.

There is a dedicated cruise terminal which luckily has a craft brewery called Hemingways right on the wharf. I can report that the beer is good. Ships dock right in town and its only a ten minute walk to town and the main shopping areas.

Having been to Cairns before there is not much to do. We walked around town a couple of times. Amusingly there were bats in residence near the town hall quite a large colony. Surprisingly noisy and active in the daytime. I thought that bats were exclusively nocturnal. We did have a beer at the Grand Hotel which has a carved crocodile head in the front bar. Full of local drinking XXXX beer in very dirty stubby holders. Local colour I guess. According to the pub’s website it was founded in 1926 so its part of the fabric of Cairns.

Something amusing were the bats hanging around the town hall. I’m not sure is this is a cryptic metaphor for what goes on in the town hall. Initially it sounded like colony of birds. I was surprised how noisy the bats were in the daytime.

Then it was back on the ship and onwards to Willis Island. A small island far enough of the coast to make the cruise eligible for duty free shopping. Just a small speck in the ocean. Then south toward Brisbane.

Angel of Death: Dulcie Markham, Femme Fatale of the Australian Underworld by Leigh Straw

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Angel of Death: Dulcie Markham, Femme Fatale of the Australian Underworld

Angel of Death: Dulcie Markham, Femme Fatale of the Australian Underworld by Leigh Straw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Angel Of Death: Dulcie Markham, Australia’s most beautiful bad woman



I heard about Angel of Death from a podcast Conversations which airs on ABC in Australia. The author was discussing the book and its subject. You can listen to the author Leigh Straw on Conversations. It’s often the case that my interest in books is piqued by an interview with the author. This is apparently the third in a series of books on women in the Australian underworld during the 1920’s and !930’s. The other title s focus on Lillian Armfield Australia’s first woman detective and another notorious woman called Kate Leigh. This is a world I am not familiar with at all the prevailing narrative is one of male dominated crime.

Dulcie Markham’s life is astounding starting off as a runaway at age 15 and gradually moving into a world of prostitution. This is at a time when Sydney was a dangerous place. There were gangs on the streets that used razors as weapons. Dulcie Markham progressed through this underworld arguable reaching her peak in the 1940s. What makes her notorious is the number of men in her life that met a grizzly end. This is how she attracted the moniker of the Angel of Death. They did not die at her hands.

Angel of death is an interesting social history that throws some light in the underworlds of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth during the period. Dulcie Markham was quite the survivor.



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Penn Cottage at Jamestown

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We had a short break after Easter heading to Burra for a couple of nights. Burra is an interesting place in the history of South Australia. Founded in 1845 which is quite early in the history of the colony. We have been to Burra before and it made it a good base for exploring a little further.

We headed to Jamestown which is about an hour north west of Burra. Jamestown is a service centre for the local region. There are not many “tourist” attractions there. R.M Williams was born there, the famous outback boot maker. We did however discover the pressed glass museum at Penn Cottage. The museum was interesting but the couple who run it were far more interesting. Kevin and Marge are in their 80’s and have had fabulous lives. They are not celebrities in the modern sense but their stories are the stuff of books.

Kevin told us quite casually how he hitchhiked from England to Australia over the period of one year. It was a remarkable story which was relayed to us in at almost offhand manner. Kevin had left England and arrived in Australia as a seventeen yea old jumped ship in Melbourne. This was in the nineteen fifties, he did get into trouble with the law but stayed and worked in Mount Isa. He told us that he promised his mother he would return to England for his 21st birthday.

Setting off from Melbourne he signed on to a ship to work his way back to England for his 21st birthday and Christmas with the family. He signed off the ship and no sooner had he arrived at his family home when the army were knocking at the door. Apparently at this time military service for two years was compulsory unless you had spent four years at sea. He said that his father was able to negotiate a three month delay.

The night before he was due to sign on he left England and headed back to Australia . It’s amazing to think that he trekked across Europe , Turkey, Iraq, Iran , Afghanistan and India finally landing landing in Burma. He was most modest describing the remarkable journey. This journey would not be possible today with all the troubles and national borders that exist.

A most fabulous visits with a cup of tea as well and homemade biscuits.

Jamestown South Australia

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I have written about our visit to the glass museum at Penn Cottage. Jamestown is a service town and in the past had a significant railway station. The station is still there but is a museum these days. The museum was unattended on the day of our visit. A call to the number on the door revealed that the caretaker had business in Port Pirie all day so we couldn’t peek inside. The only living things at the old railway station were some chooks seeking shade under a tree. its a lovely old building with a letterbox dating to the reign of Queen Victoria. Would have been good to peek inside.

The other big attraction was a German world war one cannon housed inside a substantial glass building in the local park. The glass panelling was so reflective I couldn’t get a decent photo. However there was a pine tree in the park sourced from the Battle of Lone Pine . I suspect that there are many such trees in country towns across Australia commemorating the Great War.

It was very quiet in Jamestown on the day we a were there because 300-400 people were attending a funeral. Also of note is that Jamestown is the birthplace of RM Williams the famous boot maker and supplier of outback clothes. There is a wooden sculpture of him as per the picture above. Glad we went may not get another opportunity to go there. There are lots of small towns like this in South Australia that we have never visited.

The Silent Death by Volker Kutscher

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The Silent Death

The Silent Death by Volker Kutscher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The second instalment in the Gereon Rath Series by Volker Kutscher. I have read the previous volume Babylon Berlin. Rath presents himself as a man who does not play well with teams. He also has a capacity to annoy his superiors. Running off at tangents disobeying direct orders in the pursuit of clues or hunches. Then just keep to keep things complicated girlfriend troubles.
The investigations in the Silent Death are set in an around the world of movies. It’s a time in the Weimar Republic when movies are making the transition to “talkies” from silent films. Rath finds himself caught between the egos of rival film makers and entitled actors. In this the feverish Weimar Berlin may be in the grasp of a serial killer.
I was troubled by the term serial killer being used in this book set in 1930s. A quick check on google indicates the term is generally credited to an FBI agent Robert Ressler around 1974. That small grumble aside it was a good read with enough plot twists to me engaged.




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On the road to Orford Tasmania

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The third AiRBnB on our road trip in January 2019 was Orford. Again like most of our trips the was only about an hours or so from Primrose Sands the previous stay. We travelled slowly as the next check in was after three pm.

As we left Primrose Sands we stopped at nearby Dodges Ferry. This had been and alternative place to stay which in the end was much nicer than Primrose Sands. We found another lovely beach there. Saw a man cleaning his roof carrying a pressure cleaner

Roof Cleaning at Dodges Ferry

We detoured to Richmond a town that we have been to about four or five times. Famous for the Richmond Bridge built by convicts in 1823′ the oldest stone bridge in Australia. Its a bit of an arts and crafts centre. Other than the bridge there is not lots to see. Its a a very tourist driven town with expensive gift and produce shops. Mostly highlighting local produce and wine.

We then continued on our journey towards Orford and the next AirBnB

Primrose Beach Tasmania

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Continuing our road trip onwards from Hobart. We headed to the next AirBnB at Primrose Beach which is on the East Coast of Tasmania. The beach is fabulous and secluded well not many people where there. The beach is the highlight of this place it is glorious. The AirBnB was satisfactory and the hosts Jeff and Liz were lovely. We had a great walk on the beach with them and their dog Sofie.

The town itself is not much chop a collection of beach shacks and a permanent population of about 900. One general store come petrol station and not much else. Arguably the worst fish and chips that I have eaten. The only place to eat is the local RSL club. The people were quite friendly and the bar prices good. Seems as though the place is only open Friday and Saturday nights. The food which we ordered was a seafood platter not cheap or wonderful at $30 plate. Essentially a fryup without any sign of salad.

I guess that this is problem of being almost half an hour down a long dead end road. I imagine that this has been a shack town. The nearest big town is Sorrell about 40 minutes away. It’s a pity because the beach is fabulous and the people that we met were all really nice.

Road Trip to Tasmania

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In January this year we headed to Tasmania for a week long road trip. We stayed in four different AirBnB’s along the east coast of Tasmania. This is our fifth trip to Tasmania. Luckily for us we missed the bushfires which had cast smoke across Hobart.

Our first AiRBnB was in the suburb of Lindisfarne in Hobart. Our host Sue an artist who works in many different media was super helpful. The B&B was only about eight minutes from the CBD. We were in sight of the Derwent River and walking distance to shops. We are increasingly using AirBnB for accommodation when we travel. Having someone who is local can help with things to see and places to eat.

Hobart is a lovely harbour city with a working port and really easy to get around . A feature of the foreshore is Salamanca Square where you can find a market on Saturday Mornings. There are many high end gift shops featuring produce and local crafts. Lots of Tasmanian timbers on show. the prices where a bit heart stopping. No crowds when we there mid January.

No visit to Hobart is complete without visit to Battery Point. This is an area of Hobart that is full of old cottages that have largely been renovated. Nestled in the middle of Battery Point is a fantastic bakery Jackman and Mcross look them up on Facebook you won’t be disappointed.