Steampunk meets Napoleon – on a World War 2 Battlefield…

The sound of a shell fired from the World War 2 tank rang out across the field, the boom and compression of the explosion sending a shiver down the spine of all in proximity…

 Men in khaki and camouflage fatigues were hitting the ground to avoid the inevitable fall-out from the shrapnel, weapons at the ready as they lay silently waiting for the order to advance on the German line.

The rattle of machine gun fire ringing out from the bunkers and motorcycle side-cars was deafening as the Germans fought to protect their ground, shrouded for a time behind the white plume of smoke that was by now drifting across the battlefield.

Mind you, some of the soldiers ambushed on “patrol” were a about a quarter-of-a-century too late for the encounter given it was a mock battle between American and German World War 2 forces; the advance party were dressed and kitted out for the jungles of Vietnam…!

But hang-on, what are those Vikings doing on the battlefield?

Didn’t they have their run a few centuries ago marauding and pillaging their way across England?

And aren’t those fancy looking blokes dressed to the “nines” with the feather plumes on their headgear “Frenchies” from the days when Napoleon was barking out orders as he roamed the countryside looking for trouble?

The scene was unfolding at Ironfest 2017 in the Central Tablelands township of Lithgow.

Ironfest is an arts festival that explores the relationship between humans, metal and identity and is held annually at the Lithgow Showground. It brings together artists, designer-makers, blacksmiths, and performers of all kind, musicians, Steampunkers, as well as historical re-enactors and steam-machine enthusiasts from all over Australia…

TomO, the Crown Prince, is a member of Ausreenact, a non-political World War 2 living history organisation made up of members who share a common interest in history and militaria, with a particular focus on the uniforms, equipment and vehicles of the Allied and Axis forces in the period 1939-1945. He re-enacts as a member of the US Forces 2nd Armoured Division and has quite a collection of gear and equipment he has assembled from the era and which he proudly had on display in his “bunker” during the weekend.

Each year Ausreenact, along with a number of other military groups, including those dedicated to Napoleonic re-enactment and Knights from medieval times, are invited to attend and take part in the festival.

No wonder the “battle-ground” was chaotic…

Medieval swords flashed and clashed to the boom of Napoleonic guns that were challenging the armoured vehicles from more modern times.

When the Knights were not swinging their swords in battle they were charging at each other in a medieval jousting match.

And here I was thinking how macho I must look wielding the whipper-snipper with menacing precision each time I trim the moraya hedge at home. Strewth, talk about starting to feel just a tad inadequate.

So I’ll just move on…

Away from the “battlefields” there was the sound of iron striking iron on anvils as blacksmiths demonstrated their craft, beads of sweat rolling down their faces as they forged metal into works of art.

And hey, what about all those Steampunk people…?

Steampunk I hear you ask? I too had to look up the definition of a “Steampunker” and I am still not sure I have it right.

One of the best definitions for a Steampunker I have come across is from Jess Nevins, author of the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana (it hasn’t come up on my book club read list yet) who said…

“Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown.”

The costumes were as varied as the people that dressed in this fashion genre inspired by the Victorian era of steam and industrial machinery. I think it was the default costume for many who attended the festival.

But the Steampunkers seemed a happy bunch even if the women’s corsets appeared three sizes to small and their mode of transport was from another age if not simply strange…

Without doubt this weekend is possibly the two days of the year the various groups can safely come out from behind closed doors and still look normal; safety in numbers, so they say.

The activity was as diverse as it was frenzied, but somehow it all worked and integrated in a way that you would not think possible and I even got to take Janet-Planet on the cruise she has always wanted to do…

On the infamous “Love Boat”…

Photos: Baz – The Landy & Janet-Planet, Lithgow, Australia…

 

Advertisements

Yes Sir, No Sir…how high Sir!

 

It may will be a case of Yes Sir, No Sir, how high Sir, over the coming week.

As part of TomO’s school curriculum he does military cadets and is keen to advance to a full military career in the future and this coming week he is off to an army cadet camp at Singleton Army barracks in the Hunter Valley.

And this year I get to tag along and join in the adventure, although I suspect for me it will be peeling sacks of potatoes and onions to feed the “starving” cadets who will number approximately 330.

Mind you, a week in the bush is right up my alley and with a bit of luck I get to drive one of the army trucks and take a ride in a black-hawk helicopter – such is life in the “retired ranks”…

Speak to you in a week, Baz – The Landy

Photo’s: Janet-Planet

So Many Tears…

Art has a wonderful ability to transport us to a place in our mind’s eye…

A place where we can explore the meaning the artist is endeavouring to convey and perhaps even challenging our own bias or prejudice.

Currently, there is an exhibition of wonderful sculptures, hand-crafted by talented artist’s of all backgrounds, in a picturesque harbourside park with sweeping views of the city and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. We spent a morning wandering around Clarke Reserve at Woolwich, an old historic harbour suburb where the exhibition is being held, viewing and photographing the many artworks on display.

For us, one stood out…

 “So Many Tears” by Keith Chidzey”

In creating this work, Keith used two old wharf timbers and embedded glass tears into the wood.

It was simple, poignant, and a very moving tribute to the artist’s great-uncle, Private Ryles, who perished in the mud of Passchendaele, Belgium, over 100-years ago.

The choice of the wharf timbers is to recognise they most likely witnessed the embarkation of Australian Troops onto ships from the many wharfs dotted around the harbour. Loved ones waving, wiping away their tears as they strained to catch one more glimpse as the troop ship pulled away from the wooden dock.

 “We shall remember them…”

Each of the timbers has a carved relief, one of a slouch hat; the other with the inscription on Private Ryle’s headstone where he lays in the cemetery at Tyne Cot.

And, sensitively, one of the timbers is facing the sunset, the other the sunrise.

We reflected on this wonderful piece of artwork, its simplicity amplifying the ultimate sacrifice that too many of our fellow countrymen and women made so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today; to be able to sit in a quiet reserve on Sydney Harbour’s foreshore in relative safety and free from the anxiety that conflict and war brings.

Bravo Keith, you have created far more than a wonderful sculpture to be admired, it is a wonderful tribute to your great-uncle, to all those who served, and to those who currently serve.

“We shall remember them…”

 Photos: Baz – The Landy, & Janet-Planet, Sydney Harbour, Australia

Graduating From Work…

 

You’ve what…?

I’ve retired!  

I hear the cry go out, but you’re too young to retire…

Hey, isn’t that the point.

Besides, I am seeing it as a “graduation from work to full-time adventure”.

But what does retirement truly mean in any case?

Perhaps it is a word for another age, one long past – for me retirement means I have set a different course with my life, reclaiming some of those dreams I have long-held.

Australian Outback

 

After all, you can’t just keep laying “railroad tracks” in the same direction and simply hope you don’t run out of tracks. It is empowering and invigorating to seize control of your life; to make changes as you look to new horizons.

Speaking of which, the Australian Outback beckons and perhaps there are still some mountains that I can climb and plenty of our wonderful coastline left to kayak…

Without doubt this change in my life affords me a better opportunity to claim back my fitness, something that has been lacking over these past couple of years!

It is 42-years since I commenced work with the Bank of New South Wales at age 15-years in 1975. “The Wales” as it was affectionately known was renamed Westpac Banking Corporation following a merger with the Commercial Bank of Australia in 1982.

 

“Dear Mr and Mrs O’Malley, it is now 6 months since your son entered on probation with the bank.

During that time, Barry has settled into his new surroundings and applied himself to his various duties to the extent he has shown himself suited to bank work…”

 

bank of new south wales

And whilst I have left the building today, my official finishing date will be 10 April 2017 and following a significant milestone in the history of the bank.

The 8th of April marks the date 200-years ago in 1817 that the Bank of New South Wales opened its doors to business for the very first time. And those that do the maths will see I have been with the bank for over one-fifth of the time since it took those first deposits from customers.

Coincidently, it was on 10 April 1989 that I commenced working in the bank’s 60 Martin Place Financial Markets dealing room after my return from a secondment to the bank’s operations in Papua New Guinea.

The bank has given my family and me a wonderful life, one that has been filled with the opportunity to develop professionally and personally…

“I am proud of the contribution I have made to the bank and today as I walk out the front doors of Head Office in Sydney, perhaps with moistened eyes, I will look back at the mosaic that is the Bank.

I will remember fondly the people I have worked with over the years, the challenges we faced, the successes we achieved, and, importantly, the laughter and banter we have shared.

I will wish those who remain all the best for their future as they continue to weave the living tapestry that is the bank; as they continue to make their own impression on that mosaic…”

 

People have asked me, what will you do?

Well, TomO, the Crown Prince, has just started Year-11 at school and I’m looking forward to simply “being around” for him as he navigates his way through these two important remaining years of his high schooling.

And the future, how do I see that taking shape…?

My answer is simple, to spend it with the love of my life, Janet-Planet.

All who know this wonderfully kind person will attest, she is an absolute angel – I was so lucky to marry the girl next door thirty-three years ago.

Yes literally, next-door neighbours making eyes over the back-fence!

Together we plan to enjoy the next chapter in our lives and look forward to watching our TomO make his mark on the world as he paints his own picture on life’s canvas…

A romantic notion?

For sure it is, but Janet-Planet and I are romantics to the core and loving every minute of that, it has kept us young at heart…!

And who knows where those “railroad tracks” will takes us, but sometimes you just need to walk to the edge and not be afraid to peer over it.

We truly believe the world becomes your oyster when you are willing to put your fears aside and simply…

“Live in the moment”

After all, that is the only moment that we can ever truly live…

“Thanks for your friendship and the memories, Big Bad Baz…!”

 

Adversity – A stepping stone to success (Hey, what colour is this..?)

Seemingly, whenever I tell someone I am colour-blind they feel compelled to put me to the test.

“No… really, is that what you see?”

“Can’t be, you sure?”

And every so often I get that old chestnut…

“Are you like a dog and just see black and white?”

Mind you, I’m pretty relaxed about it these days…

Perhaps my dress sense gives me away, after all, there was that matter of the yellow pants I bought all those years ago.

Sensibly, these days I outsource my clothing purchases to Janet-Planet who has a good eye for fashion, mind you she has a naughty sense of humour as well, so I usually get TomO to do a second pass on any clothes she buys me, just in case she’s in a playful mood.

But even that has its limitations as without doubt TomO has inherited his mother’s sense of mischief…

Throughout my school years I always wanted to join the air-force and fly fast jets.

Yes, I know, everyone did, but I really wanted to!

It wasn’t until I underwent the air-force medical that the discovery was made, which went to explaining quite a lot. I only wish they had given me the medical first, rather than have me sit through hours of entrance exams only to stamp that brand new file…

“Colour-blind, FAIL….”

..Talk about being gutted, but I eventually moved on and ended up in the employ of the Bank of New South Wales, licking stamps to put on envelopes…

A Bank

 

And speaking of my banking colleagues.

I did manage to give them a good laugh when I came home with an old Holden Station Wagon.

Not that there was anything wrong with having an old Holden…

But a pink one?

It was unique…

I was living in a small country town in Northern Australia and I’d had my eye on that car for a long time and couldn’t believe my luck that it hadn’t been sold before I saved enough money to buy it.

I swear that car was yellow, such is the vagaries of a colour-blind!

But hey, I wore that car like a badge and there was no missing it at the Mareeba Drive-In on a Saturday night…

CrayonsAnd for heaven’s sake we won’t even talk about coloured crayons, other than to say the sight of a colouring-in book and crayons is still stressful to this day…

But my colour deficiency did motivate me to thumb my nose at the air-force, give them the

bird, so to speak, not that they shouldn’t have rules about colour deficiency, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, but I wasn’t going to let it beat me either.

“After all, adversity is just a stepping stone to success, right…? It only gets the better of you if you let it and there was no way this would hold me back, ever…”

I’ve enjoyed a successful career with the bank, 42-years worth…

Ah, no, I’m not still licking stamps, but thanks for checking!

And I went on to fly my own plane.

It wasn’t quite a fast-jet, but hey nothing wrong with pretending sometimes. And when I tired of sitting in the pilot’s seat, I swapped the plane for a parachute and jumped out of them – until I broke my bum in a mid-air incident (but that is a story for another time).

But strewth,  I’ll tell you a funny thing, odd as it may seem I didn’t like the colour of the plane I owned, so I repainted it…go figure!

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy