Today is Remembrance Day;
the 11th day of the 11th month.
In many ways it’s a more solemn occasion then that other day in April when we remember those who didn’t return from war.
In the last few years Anzac Day has almost become a circus. Each media outlet seeming to outdo the other with hyperbole and jingoism and gawkish sentiment.
Give me the the quiet reflection of Remembrance Day where, if you listen you can hear what the dead have to say.
In the the jostle of crowded Dawn services or the clamor of noisy parades their voices are drowned out.


We visited the Australian War memorial only a few months ago and you can’t help but be moved by the dignity of the place – it’s hallowed ground.
You walk in past the two stone lions from Yipres that guard the entrance. From there you can choose to walk between the Pools of Reflection flanking the Courtyard or climb the stairs to the Two long Cloisters that frame the Roll of Honor. At the end is the Hall of Memory and within, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is here at the entrance that you will find the transcript of the speech that Paul Keating delivered back in 1993, the Eulogy to an Unknown Soldier .

Paul Keating was in my opinion a titan of his party, which in turn is my party; the Australian Labor Party. I consider him one of our greatest PM’s (though the unwashed masses will never acknowledge that). He was a complicated man. Not the populist that philandering buffoon Bob Hawke was. A man full of contradictions, a leader that people found it difficult to warm too. He was an unabashed intellectual that loved “those beautiful straight lines of logic”. A swaggering bar room debater that would take on all comers in Parliament yet also a sensitive speaker with an abiding appreciation of the delicacy and the power of the spoken word. His more famous Redfern Speech probably better illustrates the strength of his oratory but this Eulogy is equally moving:

“We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will .
We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.
Yet he has always been among those we’ve honoured. We do know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front; one of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War; one of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil; one of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century. He is all of them. And he is one of us.
This Australia and the Australia he knew are like foreign countries. The tide of events since he died has been so dramatic, so vast and all-consuming, a world has been created beyond the reach of his imagination.
He may have been one of those who believed the Great War would be an adventure too grand to miss. He may have felt that he would never live down the shame of not going. But the chances are that he went for no other reason than that he believed it was his duty; the duty he owed his country and his King.
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat; and because the war which was supposed to end all wars in fact sowed the seeds of a second, even more terrible war–we might think this Unknown Soldier died in vain.
But, in honouring our war dead, as we always have, we declare that this is not true. For out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.
The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who, by his deeds, proved that real nobility and grandeur belongs not to empires and nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.
That is surely at the heart of the Anzac story, the Australian legend which emerged from the war. It is not a legend of sweeping military victories so much as triumphs against the odds, of courage and ingenuity in adversity. It is a legend of free and independent spirits whose discipline derived less from military formalities and customs than from the bonds of mateship and the demands of necessity. It is a democratic tradition, the tradition in which Australians have gone to war ever since.
This Unknown Australian is not interred here to glorify war over peace, or to assert a soldier’s character above a civilian’s, or one race or one nation or one religion above another, or men above women, or the war in which he fought and died above any other war, or one generation above any that has been or will come later.
The Unknown Soldier honours the memory of all those men and women who laid down their lives for Australia. His tomb is a reminder of what we have lost in war and what we have gained.
We have lost more than 100,000 lives and with them all their love of this country and all their hope and energy.
But we have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and, with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.
It is not too much to hope, therefore, that this Unknown Australian Soldier might continue to serve his country – he might enshrine a nation’s love of peace and remind us that in the sacrifice of the men and women whose names are recorded here there is faith enough for all of us.”

–  The Honorable Paul John Keating


Whatever is rightly done …

royce (2)

I’m a half arsed kind of mechanic; close enough is usually good enough. My wife on the other hand is a perfectionist. Several years ago she enrolled in a certificate course in Calligraphy. She excelled at it. Topping her classes, winning awards, her tutor told her they even had to create a new grading classification for her ‘major piece’.

I think Sir Henry Royce would have approved of my wife’s work ethic and despaired of mine. He was famous for his exacting standards and drive to achieve the best. On his death-bed he apparently said “My only regret is that I did not work harder”.

Anyway, Sharon quickly scribbled this out for me and I placed it in an old 6 x 4 film negative holder that I found in the trash.
It’s in the garage, directly above one of the work benches. A not so subtle reminder to do things properly.

Chopping Block


A Chopping Block!
You’d think I could come up with something better than that for a first post but no.
I’d love to load up pictures of the smoke belching, fire-breathing RG500 in all it’s Barry Sheene glory but sadly the big 2T Suzuki is sitting at the back of the garage in much the same state as 10 years ago. A rolling chassis that’s covered in dust and spread about half-a-dozen boxes.
This Bread-board is the last thing to come off the workbench so it will have to do.

It was made from nothing which is a good place to start. The eldest’s loft bed had seen better days so I pulled it apart. It was junky treated pine anyway but the railing was made out of West Australian Jarrah.
Jarrah is a nice timber. A bit like Mahogany (it used to be called ‘Swan River mahogany’ according to wiki) but is darker and with a more chocolatey red color. Anyway there’s not a lot to a timber plank is there? The sides were already pretty straight so I didn’t have to do much planing to get them flat. It was done with a hand plane so they are not quite perfect which is something I should have spent more time on. You really want to get them butt up next to each other when gluing as any small gap will let water in and over time the joint will fail.


I used a glue called Titebond. It comes in a waterproof version and is pretty much the best stuff on the market. I built a Classical Guitar using it and it’s the defacto glue for anyone who makes wooden instruments, well unless you are a traditionalist in which case it’s horse glue you’d be using (an aside: they actually use cattle hoof/hide to make ‘horse glue’ now).
A mates brother works in timber joinery so he ran the glued up board through his thicknessing machine which saved a lot of time. You get a perfectly flat surface after a pass or two. Now perfect is over rated in my opinion, I like the little imperfections that hand tools throw up but It’s a chopping block – quick & easy eh! No matter which way I laid out the timber I was going to expose the old screw holes. There was no getting away from that. I had a scrap piece of brass rod so I cut off 4 plugs and drilled out the holes so I could tap them in. A quick sand to level the plug ends and tidy it up then time for the finish. You can buy propriety finishes at any hardware store but recommendations via the web were to rub it down with olive oil. However there is, an admittedly slight chance with a vegetable based oil that the finish could go rancid so I went with a mineral oil instead. Obviously it had to be food safe and looking in the drug cupboard I thought why not Paraffin Oil. It’s 2 or 3 dollars a bottle at any supermarket. It’s clear, odorless and made for human consumption (laxative). So a few coats spaced a day apart to let it soak in and it was done. I could have left it there but I was worried about the tiny gaps in a few of the lamination’s. I had some left over Carnauba wax in the garage. It’s a polish extracted from Palm tree leaves. One of its attributes is it can withstand fairly hot temperatures (think car duco) so hopefully won’t wash out with the hot water when you do the dishes. You need to check the label if you buy this and make sure it is the pure stuff and not cut with any additives. Anyway I rubbed in a good coat, a quick buff and it’s sealed it as best I can.
There you go. I can’t think of anything more to say about chopping Blocks.

Now Voyager

… ” The untold want by life and forth, land ne’er granted
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find ” …

– Walt Whitman

Welcome friend to this quiet corner of the Internet.
I can see you are tired from your travels. A little weary? Perhaps even lost?
A link clicked here, a turn there. A stumble then a splash and somehow you washed up on this shore. It’s a quiet backwater, madeofwhite.
A vanity really though hopefully it can serve a purpose. We don’t get many visitors. There’s every chance you are the first but welcome nonetheless.
I don’t have a great deal to show you. A few things I’ve cobbled together, a few more that are vague plans. The occasional observation, a good deal too many opinions but really for all it’s plumage at it’s heart the blog is a ‘to do’ list. Time will tell if it can grow into something more than that.