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november 2008

Hi folks,

It’s been a while between news bulletins because I sneaked off overseas in September and October after pre recording my radio spots for 2UE.

I headed to the north of England first to research some Captain Cook history and visit the towns where he was apprenticed, Staithes and Whitby in Yorkshire. You can see why he left Staithes after a year as an apprentice haberdasher and storekeeper, it’s at the bottom of a steep little valley, rather a grim little town with a small harbour. The shop where Cook worked and slept under the counter disappeared ages ago when the sea took away part of the harbour front. They have a break wall now to protect the harbour.

Whitby is a bustling port, much bigger and a typical English coastal town, full of people eating fish and chips and fighting off the seagulls in the wind. The house Cook called home is still there and much as it was in his day. It’s a museum but they have kept the character of the house as it was when owned by Cook’s lifelong friend and mentor John Walker.

The Walkers were Quakers and Cook lived with them for eleven years and was very influenced by their way of life. John Walker was a successful ship owner and merchant and Cook remained close to the family all his life.

In London I was able to see all the Harrison clocks working at the Museum at Greenwich. All four have been restored to working order. They are the clocks that finally enabled navigators to calculate longitude accurately. Captain Cook carried a copy of the 4th Harrison clock, by famous watchmaker Kendall, on his voyages. It is also there at Greenwich.

My second mission was to visit the Mediterranean island of Crete and research the tragic campaign fought there by ANZAC forces in 1941. This is for a new book I will be writing next year. There were almost 14,000 Aussie and Kiwi troops defending Crete when the German crack paratroop divisions led the invasion of the island on May 20, 1941. Only just over half were able to escape, making their way down the rugged gorges to the south coast to be evacuated to Africa. Almost 6,000 Anzac troops died or were taken prisoner on Crete.

We managed to walk the 18 kms down the Samaria Gorge, which today is a popular tourist activity, for VERY fit people!
 
Crete was the lowest point of the European war and there are many tales of incredible bravery and cruelty to be told. At the allied cemetery at Souda Bay I met a New Zealand woman who was placing poppies on all the New Zealand graves. Her father escaped from Crete but her uncle, like many others, lived in the hills until the war ended dodging German patrols every day. She said they were both ‘among the lucky ones’ and she had come to pay her respects to those who were not so lucky.

Apart from my research, I was able to catch up with old friends and managed to visit Athens and the beautiful famous isle of Santorini where we took a small boat out to visit the volcano and swam in volcanic water at 37 degrees. Contrary to what we were told - It did not fix the arthritis in my old knee injury!

There are a few photos on the photo page of some places I visited.

Meanwhile we are preparing for Tamworth and I’m proof reading one book and finishing another before I start on the Aussie World War 2 stories.

There has been some confusion about the special deal on the Book of Australian Popular Rhymed Verse. It’s a little unclear whether you get the free book (Great Australian Drinking Stories) or the free CD with each book  – so we are sending BOTH free with every order.

 

Cheers,
Jim

Check out Stone the Crows Festival - held at Wagga Wagga - Every Easter

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