Friday, April 16, 2010

What happened?

60 tomorrow. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

What am I talking about? I'm completely sure. I feel bad. It's a terrible mistake. I've never felt the need for gender reassignment, however I want age reassignment.

I am a 16 year old trapped in a 60 year old body.


That's Nick, on the left, at 16. The real Nick.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Koffler's Hut

Helmut Koffler was an Austrian, a client of my grandfather's, who accompanied him on an early tour of Victorian mountains, where they looked for a suitable site for a ski resort. They settled on Mt Buller, where Mr Koffler built a chalet, at which my grandparents and their children were honoured guests. The road only went part of the way up the mountain, the remainder of the trip was by pack horse.

Mr Koffler and his second wife were killed in a freak accident when the cable of a timber jinker in which they were riding snapped. Dad always maintained that Mr Koffler could have saved himself by jumping, but his new bride was too scared and so they rode the jinker together in their last terrifying death ride.

My grandmother remained in touch with the first Mrs Koffler until her death.

Koffler's Hut is named after my grandfather's client, and is shown here in its beautiful Nineteen Fifties form, now hopelessly added to, although still a nice spot to sit on a sunny day.

The man in the foreground looks like Dad's friend Joe Palliser, the architect (although I don't think he had anything to do with the Hut).

Le Plus Sexy de Paris

Le Plus Sexy de Paris 1961
Ah yes, Le Plus Sexy.

It was a short reel of Super 8 film, our father's souvenir of Paris, purchased in 1961. It's in somewhat scratchy condition due to repeated viewing by his sons, and Dad's practice of cutting bits of it into otherwise perfectly respectable home movies to startle and amuse his audiences (and to check that they were awake).

I wondered, as I was lovingly restoring the fragments Dad had scattered among his reels (of sailing adventures, the great cathedrals of Europe, Scottish golf courses, colourful European peasantry and endless panning shots along craggy headlands under threatening skies) what has become of the shapely blonde?

I imagine Madame, now a respectable grandmère, the proprietor perhaps of a small café in a smart arrondissement in Paris, the source of her modest wealth carefully wrapped in plain brown paper, hidden from her family in a bottom drawer. But does she sometimes, after the grandchildren have departed, thread the scratchy old 8mm film into the Minette editing machine and study her performance with a critical eye?

Certainly that's how Simon and I studied it.

The title, Le Plus Sexy de Paris, comes from a poster advertising the Moulin Rouge, part of the famous wall of posters at Metung. Mum and Dad brought it back from Paris, along with the film. The soundtrack is, of course, Edith Piaf, but in my mind the real soundtrack is the steady cranking of the Minette, and heavy breathing.

I do not believe this purchase of my father's was authorised by Mum.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Asbestos removal

The tennis court at Metung was, for many years, shared with our next door neighbours, the Byrnes. When they sold their house a fence was erected by the new owners and that was that. What can you do with half a tennis court? For a time it was used as a site to which the old asbestos sleepouts were relocated. They were moved there by Uncle David without the assistance of the asbestos removers (a trade which had yet to be invented) or, by the look of things, Uncle Henry.

In addition to the sleepouts a small weatherboard structure was also stored on the half tennis court. It was the old outside lavatory, the long drop, which was moved there after the installation to a septic tank system in the house (undreamed of luxury). Personally I was relieved, as once I boldly shone a torch down the terrifying pit beneath the enclosed wooden box upon which several generations of my relatives sat every day to move their bowels. It was a mistake, not only because it revealed an impressive pile of glistening shit (something so disgusting it remains etched in my brain 50 years later) but also because lying on top of the heaped ordure was a large blue tongue lizard. It was dead, but that was not particularly reassuring, since clearly it must have fallen from a position immediately below the seat. And to my way of thinking, where one blue tongue has been, more will surely follow.

Uncle John

For a detailed history of the life of our uncle John Borthwick and his friend Jim Lawson I refer my readers to my brother Angus's blog, The Tumbrel Diaries, specifically to:

Uncle John was everything you could hope for in an uncle. So generous; he is the only person ever to have slipped me a pound note in a handshake. I've tried it myself. It's very difficult (impossible actually, with plastic Australian decimal currency, which won't stay folded, nor will it grip the palm satisfactorily). John and Jim knew how to have a good time, and they shared their love of life not only with nephews and neices, but also anyone else who happened to be around. No one could resist their charms, particularly waiters, maîtres d'hôtel and, as you can see, house orchestras.

We miss them both.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Basin Street Blues

Here's Uncle Henry working up to his annual Christmas rendition of Basin Street Blues.

Basin Street ... is the street
Where all the white and dark folk meet
New Orleans ... land of dreams
You'll never miss them rice and beans
Way down south in New Orleans

Except all Uncle Henry recalls of the lyric is a little Louis Armstrong vocal flourish: doot de doo.

It was an ancient 78 rpm recording of the song (part of the Metung wind-up gramophone collection, long since lost) that first caught Uncle Henry's fancy. And here it is! The very record. Complete with the hot B side version. Isn't YouTube amazing? And unlike Uncle Henry, Louis Armstrong knows the words.


Personal injury

One of the daunting things about scanning our late father's collection of slides is not the vastness of the project (a large suitcase packed tight with mounted Kodachromes) but the prospect of what might be uncovered. Such as these shots of Simon after walking into a post on the veranda of 18 Denham Place while looking at the moon. Dad liked a complete record of his children's activities, and that included full documentation of their injuries. With pictures.

Simon's bewildered expression probably has less to do with the injury than 'Why is Daddy taking a photograph of me?'

I haven't got to the hilarious shots of me with a box thorn through my foot. Nor have I got to the end of the slides, or anywhere approaching it. However I did get to 'The END'.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The family ski holiday has changed since we had to walk into Mt Buller carrying our provision in disintegrating cardboard boxes to the Belmore Ski Club in the Sixties. For one thing we no longer have to go to Mt Buller. We can go to Niseko, in Japan. Which being full of cashed up Australians (yes, like us I suppose, although personally I have never dropped an empty beer can in the snow) is a little like Mt Buller, except it has snow (so much in fact that this year there was a steady stream of tip trucks removing it from the town) and it's in Japan. So instead of disgusting chips from Cloud Nine at Falls Creek, we enjoyed delicious bowls of ramen. And instead of scraping over icy rocks we were in powder snow above our knees.

So much, in fact, that Annie lost her ski and spent a considerable period of time searching for it, before it came to light.

But something about it makes me uneasy. It's all so 21st Century. So much money. So much fuel to power the jets (so reasonably priced in a post Global Financial Crisis travel world) to get us there and back. And all too easy. Somehow I do have a certain nostalgia for the hard days at Mt Buller, where men were men, and rode the rope tow up the Bull Run,

and didn't have to buy day tickets for their children, or $600 parkas, or even skis (Dad made ours), and where women (mothers at least) prudently stayed at home.

Then again, Mt Buller was never like this.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Trumbology II

The home movies of Mr PC Trumble provide a wonderful record of what it was like to grow up as the sons of a leading light of the Melbourne Establishment during the Sixties. Wonderful, a privileged existence, although as the icon for this YouTube edit shows there were moments of existential teenage angst. Here's Nick, wondering what on earth he is doing at a parrot farm on the Gold Coast.


Thanks to Hank Williams and Bob Dylan for the chirpy soundtrack, a much better choice after Across the Universe was blocked.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


After decades of prosperity and growth, my entire lifetime really,
the Global Financial Crisis brought world economies to a shuddering halt. And for a moment it looked like old fashioned values such as thrift, saving for a rainy day and the importance of the long-term view were no longer seen as over-cautious or obsolete. Suddenly, it seemed, they were back in vogue. 'Saving is the new spending' is the line one silly TV commercial is still rather feebly pushing on Victorian TV.

But of course that moment of discomfort has passed. A mere blip. Now the Australian government has restarted the motor with billions of dollars, and sales of jet skis, European cars, smart apartments and holidays to Bali are reassuringly restored to their previously buoyant level. Austerity, which briefly appeared no longer to be a weird eccentricity, but the fashion of the moment, has gone the way of mad crazes of the past, like the hula hoop and the yo-yo.

Surely the 'economic stimulus packages' are no different to giving a gambling addict another credit card. Which of course means that next time the money runs out it's going to be worse, and it'll take more than a billion dollars worth of poorly installed installation to pull us out of it. Next time there'll be no money to restart the economy. Next time we'll be screwed. And it'll take more than a month or two of mild panic to get things going again; instead we'll find ourselves in another decades-long depression. (Or am I just being a silly old alarm-monger?)

Not that the lessons of the past were ever forgotten by our mother. Nor, indeed, her mother, or presumably her father, who lost the farm in The Great Depression. Mum knew how to cook using the cheapest cuts. (Who of her children can ever forget her tripe in white sauce?)

She regarded indulgence in pre-prepared meals or junk food as a peculiar form of madness. If something could be repaired, rather than replaced, she'd repair it. She bought a small car because it used less fuel, and hung onto it long after newer, more seductively optioned models appeared, because it still ran perfectly well. She reversed the collars on Dad's shirts when they wore out. It seems unlikely that the present senior partner of Mallesons would be attending board meetings in shirts with cunningly reversed collars. She bought cheap bars of Velvet soap and placed them on top of the refrigerator where it was warm so they'd dry out and last longer.

Since clearly it is only a matter of time before a hard rain starts to fall, we'll be taking steps to tighten our belts in this branch of the Trumble family. There'll be certain carefully applied austerity measures (which do not, at least for the present, include tripe in white sauce).

Trumba Rhumba

My brother Hamish felt the last YouTube piece was a little gloomy. Angus on the other hand was so moved he tells me he has ordered the cd. It's called Fado Curvo by Mariza. She's very good. Check out her website at

According to Wikipedia, fado (Portuguese: destiny, fate) is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. However, in reality fado is simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade which means to miss or to long for someone or something. Angus is feeling a little saudade. A little dose of calypso is probably just the thing to cheer him up.

Legends of Calypso

Hamish said what a shame we no longer have any of Dad's collection of calypso recordings (all sadly destroyed in the Ash Wednesday bushfires). So I checked out
Readings' world music section. Only one calypso cd. Dad would be appalled. No Fabulous McClevertys. No Calipso Carnivale. Not even any Harry Belafonte. Disappointing. However Legends of Calypso does have some old favourites, such as Harold "Digby" McNair's Zombie Jamboree, Calypso Mama's risque Don't Touch Me Tomato, Andre Toussaint's Yellow Bird, and this recording of Mighty Panther singing Barbedos Carnival. I think Dad would have approved.

Monday, March 22, 2010


What makes a Trumble a Trumble? Or, rather, what gives our particular batch of Trumble that special collection of qualities that so unmistakeably stamps us: our love of the picnic, old Citroens, beer, wooden sailing boats, vintage clothing, vegetable gardens, cane furniture, cutting edge ski technology, billy tea, scrabble, wood fires, burning off, farmhouses and, most notably, our cheerful indecision when faced with the need for decisive action? The answer lies in these photographs, recently unearthed, which cover the period 1952 to 1959.

We were so lucky. I suppose we were born into prosperous middle class circumstances, but you'd never know it. We had very few possessions. One modest car (initially the Morris Minor, a convertible no less, which was replaced by the Citroen GAY900). We each had one pair of sandals, and a pair of desert boots. No telly, even after it came in Mum regarded it as a frivolous and unnecessary irrelevance. Robust horsehair mattresses which had already seen at least a couple of generations of children. Although as you can see from the photograph above of Hamish with our Borthwick grandmother, we were allowed indulgences undreamed of in the playgrounds and kindergartens of today: war toys.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Orie Frank ("Frankie" or "Tram") Trumbauer (May 30, 1901 – June 11, 1956) was a leading saxophone player, composer and bandleader of the Twenties and Thirties. His landmark recording of Singin' the Blues, with Bix Beiderbecke and Eddie Lang in 1927, is one of the canonical jazz performances. The same year he released this 78 recording of Trumbolgy on Okeh, also featuring Bix.

Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra With Bix & Lang - Trumbology - OKeh 40871

Although a Trumbauer and not a Trumble, Trumbology clearly demonstrates that Frankie had the focus, the uncompromising intensity, and the commitment of the true Trumbologist. As well, of course, as the moustache.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eildon Weir 1959

Nick rowing on Eildon Weir, 1959, demonstrating the technique with which he blitzed the Under 14 House Fours Competition in 1964. Mum and Hamish coxing. Hamish holding either Bluey or Whitey, he's not sure. As he says 'I don't think I would have risked Donkey on such a precarious outing which is why Donkey has been left at home. I do remember this creature and at first I thought its name was Bluey although Whitey rings a bell too. There were so many. Dear Browny and good old Monkey got handed on to Lucy by Mum. Donkey alone is left to me - mainly because I took him to Cambridge with me (how Brideshead Revisited was that?) and so he was the only one to survive Mum's pogroms. I have a feeling that this one came ultimately from Uncle Alec, so if you want to risk a "Rosebud" moment you might ask him. Anyway it definitely is not Donkey.'

Nick and Mum panning for gold, Jamieson, 1959. Clearly unsuccessful, and becoming discouraged.

Simon in the bow. Whitey (or Bluey) abandoned at Hamish's feet.

Mount Buller, 1956.

Mt Buller, 1956. Mt Stirling in the background is the only thing in this scene that hasn't changed. Skis nicely together, although I see I am failing to observe the other rule of the Austrian ski instructors: the bending of the knees. Note the state-of-the-art ski equipment.