Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Time Travel

Williamtown Airport - Pic courtesy News Ltd.

Visiting Newcastle, gentle reader, is always for me a special kind of time travel.
I’m here catching up with an old rifle section mate who is in care whilst the specialists are trying to manage his myeloma.
It’s most likely a consequence of exposure to dioxin all those years ago. It’s bitter to see him in pain, but at the same time good to catch up with two other ex Nashos who travelled up from Sydney. It had some of the flavour of a mini section reunion. We spent about a year together in 1969/70, comprising six months training in Holsworthy, through Canungra and Shoalwater, and then the voyage to Vung Tau on the Sydney.
Three of us did rookies at Singleton, the other at Kapooka.
In Vietnam, we were together in 5 platoon until July, when we went our separate ways.
Every point along the way has its memories of another time.
The airport at Williamtown, now the home of F-35s, is where I disembarked from a TAA Vickers Viscount on my way to Singleton from Brisbane a Nasho. It was my first flight in any kind of aircraft.
Back then, there were Dassault Mirages roaring about the Williamtown RAAF base, which shares the airport.
Last time I drove down to Newcastle, I stopped off at the Infantry museum at Singleton. Strangely, perhaps, that didn’t trigger as many memories, although if you're into military history, it's worth a visit.
The units based there now have privatised security, and the hi-vis vest clothed staff on the gate weren’t impressed by an old geyser seeking a nostalgic wander around.
I don’t remember any ex-diggers rocking up making strange requests on the few occasions when I did guard duty back in the day, but from memory, admission had more to do with the state of the guard commander’s liver or whether or not there were any attractive young women in the party, rather than health and safety protocols.
Newcastle is an industrial centre, but much of the area around the harbour has been gentrified. It reminded me of Teneriffe in Brisbane.
It still has the laid back atmosphere I remember from the seventies. This is perhaps the most obvious aspect of the time travel experience. Even driving there is much as it was back then, with precious little impatience and a tolerance for slightly lost geriatric visitors in hire cars.
It probably just as well the local drivers are tolerant. The traffic engineering is woeful, although obviously roundabouts are seen to be the solution to every traffic flow problem.

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