Life Outside the Comfort Zone – A week on Army Cadet Camp

An opportunity to spend a week in the bush was the call-out to parents from the school our son attends…

A beautiful spot nestled on the fringes of the Hunter Valley wine region and not too far from Pokolbin Village.

Visitors to the Hunter Valley, which is situated two-hours drive from Sydney’s CBD, will know that Pokolbin is the epicentre of this spectacularly beautiful area.

I am never backward in coming forward when presented with the opportunity to get Out and About in the Australian Bush so I jumped at the chance!

Of course, as with most things, there was a hitch…

The week was to be spent in support of our sons and daughter’s annual Military Cadet Camp.

This entailed cooking and washing up duties and general support around the camp. Filling jerry cans with water to slack the thirst of the cadets as they went about various exercises.

Mind you, it wasn’t really a hitch, after all who would not want to do that for the cadets, their son or daughter?

But with circa 330 cadets on camp, this was no small task – it was cooking on a grand scale and certainly nothing akin to “rustling up” the family breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning!

Impressively, the camp is run entirely by the cadets under the supervision of the cadet unit’s Commanding Officer and his support team. This includes logistics co-ordination and scheduling of exercises, all within a set chain-of-command.

During my week on Singleton Army base I had the opportunity to observe our son, TomO the Crown Prince, on manoeuvres in the mountains on Broken Back Ridge, a ridge that forms a natural boundary to the region.

For anyone who has been up on Broken Back and along many of its fire-trails will attest to the spectacular views it commands over the surrounding countryside.

I spent a couple of chilly nights up there, one of them quite wet, but I was doing it in the relative comfort of my trusty and dry swag. The cadets had to build survival shelters to sleep in…!

Whilst on Broken Back myself and a couple of the other parents were part of an exercise where the cadets came across a vehicle that had been involved in an accident. They were not aware of the exercise in advance, but they quickly employed learnt skills rendering medical assistance to the injured, whilst securing the area from possible “enemy attacks”.

Red colour dye, a tin of spaghetti and a couple of skeletal bones provided the props for authenticity…!

They excelled and we lived to recount the tale.

The Cadet unit at Barker College has a great history that spans the decades from the First World War and has seen many of its cadets go on to a military career, something that TomO is intending to do.

But it wasn’t all hard work for the cadets or the parents.

The last night was marked with a parade, a bush Chapel lead by the school’s Chaplain, the Reverend Ware, who was honoured at the service for his contribution to the Cadet unit over the past 25 years.

And after a meal that would satisfy any soldier just “in from the field” there was light-hearted entertainment when the cadets and parents alike performed a variety of skits.  Let’s say, some were rehearsed more than others, but that was the fun of it all…

The parent’s skit won the night, apparently the first-time ever, with an exhibition of a drill march.

Perfect?  No-way…

But that is what made it all the more entertaining for “the troops”.

This was truly a great experience for me and I am sure I am not alone in that sentiment…

Forged by the adverse conditions they faced it was a highlight to witness the camaraderie amongst the cadets as they were taken outside of their comfort zones. Young men and women from Barker College, our sons and daughters taking leadership roles, following orders, working together towards a common goal and ideal.

Along the Kokoda Track at Isaravu in Papua New Guinea there are four stone monuments inscripted with the following…

“Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice”

Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice – Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

For those who have had the opportunity to stand there and reflect it is a moving experience…

During my week at camp I observed examples of all four of these qualities amongst the cadets and any parent who had a son or daughter on parade should be extremely proud of them.

I certainly was,

Bravo, Corporal Tom O’Malley

Photos: Baz – The Landy

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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