Month: December 2017

584. Wednesday 27th December 2017. Fly to Sydney for Christmas…

It has been a busy week with lots happening and many photographs. Too much to put into one blog post. Therefore I will break the week into easier to handle and edit posts.

Monday 25th December Christmas Day 2017.

Of all the days of the year and in all the places you do not want a glitch to happen.

It happened to me.

Me!

Me!

A person of precise, ordered, organised, planned habits who likes control in his life. Today I had a derailment.

Let me tell you it is not a nice thing to happen. The forces of chaos and stupor spread their little tendrils across this day and slammed into me like one carriage at a time to ensure today went right off the tracks. That is until some sort of clarity and sanity was restored, I think it was anyway, some hours later when I could laugh along with everybody else.

Ho Ho Ho.

What are you talking about FrankieG?

It really started last night when, as planned, I lay my head down to sleep somewhat earlier than usual as I had set the alarm for 5 am. Ever since I was a small boy I have trouble sleeping on the Eve of a big event such as going on family holidays or Christmas or a birthday. Later in life it was any event where I have to set an alarm. Alarms keep me awake. Tonight was no different. I hardly slept. I spent more time in a recliner watching TV or reading a book. By 4.30 am I was wide awake dressed and ready for the day. After a walk around the block and breakfast I filled in time until our bags were packed and we were ready to go. The bags were placed in i30 and as a final check I placed my bum bag containing mobile phone, wallet, money, credit card, NSW Opal train, bus and ferry card and some USB sticks I had prepared for sister Sandra and stepson Errol on the floor of the car. I drove to our friends Graham and Wencke who were coming with us to Coolangatta Airport.

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Amazing. Airports all over Australia are busy on Christmas Day. Seven AM at Coolangatta Airport is n o exception. This airport is ranked as the 6th busiest airport in Australia which puts it ahead of Canberra (Australian Capitol),Hobart and Darwin. It is the busiest regional airport especially as it includes International flights.

They would drive the i30 back home, place it in the garage, lock the garage and hand the remote control to another neighbour. Graham and Wencke are also going away. The drive to the airport was easy with little traffic and we arrived in plenty of time to book in for our flight to Sydney. After removing our suitcases we bid farewell to our friends and went to the ticket counter, where, as expected we needed to show ID. No problem I have mine right here in the bum bag…..YIKES! which is still on the floor of i30 heading away from the airport.

Aaaaarrgh!!!

Easy I thought. We can solve this quickly. We used Donnis phone to call Wencke and ask them to turn around and bring our bag back. After all they would only be a Klm or two away so turning around would be no problem. We rang and rang and rang Wencke’s phone but no answer. It would be another half hour or so before they arrived home and another hour perhaps before they could return to the airport. We were travelling standby and were guaranteed seats on the 8am flight but after that we may miss any other flights. The staff kindly agreed to allow us on the flight without my ID. Finally we called G & W at home and explained the bum bag. They had not carried their mobile phone with them. They agreed to post the bag to us when the post office next opens. Whenever that will be.

It was not until we arrived in Sydney when my sister suggested I should have called my own phone. Graham and Wencke would have heard it ring on the floor of i30. I have a unique ring tone, Elvis Presley singing Jailhouse Rock. It is not something easy to ignore. Grrr! Hindsight is great but when you are in a panic it is hard to think quickly and clearly.

It took me a long time to settle down and accept the situation. A situation over which I had no control.

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Our Airbus A320 awaits us.

Our seats were over the wing and as such beside the emergency exit doors. WE and the people in the row ahead of us are expected to help crew in an emergency by opening the escape hatch. The quiet soft spoken steward explained what was expected of us. We could not hear so he started again. Once that was sorted out the people on the other side of the aisle said they could not hear either. His rolling eyes and sigh of annoyance  was quite loud.

Hmmm! There were no hostesses on this flight. They were all male stewards or Flight Attendants as they are now known.

Arriving in Sydney we were shocked by the change in weather. From a beautiful sunny day on the Gold Coast with an expected 31 degrees to an overcast and drizzly cold day of around 18 degrees and a chill wind blowing from the south.

Thanks to Bev and Pete who offered to pick us up at the airport and take us to Petes brothers house at Campbelltown for Christmas lunch. After the tribulation at the airport it was calming sitting with Petes family and talking about whatever people talk about on Christmas Day. One brother Steve, fell asleep in a recliner after lunch while I looked longingly at another recliner but we had to get back on the road. Bev and Pete had to pick up their son Mitchell and take him to the airport to fly to Melbourne. He is an Air Traffic Controller at Melbourne Airport.

By the time we arrived at Bev and Petes house I was mentally drained and overtired and fell asleep within minutes.

Wednesday 27th December

Today is the first day my left behind bum bag can be mailed. The Post Office has been closed the last 4 days. The bag was mailed and we have a tracking number. At the moment all our travel plans are on hold until the mail catches up with us.

Sigh!

While waiting for Ken to arrive by train from Newcastle Bev, Pete, Donnis and I drove to Pleasure Grounds at Como on the Georges River. The original single line railway bridge, between Oatley and Como was opened on Boxing Day 1885. Twin 60CM water pipes were attached on outriggers in 1935 in order to pump water from Woronora Dam to Penshurst Reservoir.

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The original single lane railway bridge over the Georges River linking Como with Oatley. The new dual carriageway can be seen in the background with Como Marina to the bottom left.
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The bridge is narrow, just enough room for a railway carriage with no room to spare.

Gradually the single line became busy and bottlenecks occurred so a new twin line bridge was opened in 1935. Instead of demolishing the original bridge it was kept open for bicycle and foot traffic as well as to continue the water pumping, It is a reasonably short walk from the Oatley Railway station to Como Railway Station. A Cricket ground, picnic area, swimming pool and tidal pool

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Swimming enclosure at Como on the Georges River.

and marina are located on this point of land known as Como Pleasure Grounds.

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Part of the Como Pleasure Grounds is this huge jumble of sandstone rocks. This has been a source of fun activities climbing and hiding for children for over 100 years. Oh and some older adults like to climb the rocks as well. Umm err including yours truly.

It is a delightful area with lots of older houses and many buildings and walls made from my favourite, Sydney Sandstone.

The historic Como Hotel sits high on a hill overlooking the cricket and sports ground and the Georges River.

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Como Hotel

The iconic Australian Poet and short story,  writer, Henry Lawson, lived nearby in the early 1900’s and he was known to frequent the Como Hotel. In fact he frequented many hotels.

A busy coffee shop

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Cafe at Como overlooking the Georges River

sits above a freshwater swimming pool which itself sits above a tidal pool.

Coming up, the Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk.

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583. Sunday 24th December 2017. Christmas Eve. Have a Happy Christmas everybody…

No photos this week.

Thursday 21st December

We went to see the latest Star Wars movie in the Titan Extreme theatre. This theatre which is lined with multiple levels of Dolby Speakers make the walls, floor and even the seats vibrate with a sound sensation. We saw the last episode about a year ago and although it was in 3D I was disappointed. This episode sort of carries on where the other left off. It seems the only two of the 8 episodes which appear as consecutive and therefore a cohesive story line is meant to explain the plot. It didn’t. I felt it was confusing. That said, in the overall scheme of things it probably does not matter as the action is almost non -stop and there is no time to worry about plot. Granted there were moments where we said “waddid they say” or “where did he or she come from” or “what was that all about?” The action just rolled along and kept us satisfied. It was good to see Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), older, wiser and seemingly lost but in charge. Sadly Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) made a final appearance before her death early this year followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds a week later. For me there is a new hero – heroine actually but in this new non gender world, hero will do – introduced, a short chubby Asian lady playing the part of Rose Tico. She steals all the scenes where she appears. She shows what an infectious smiling face with gritty determination can do for a movie to lighten the action from time to time.

Saturday 23rd December

We drove our friends Marilyn and Barry to Broadbeach where they will spend Christmas with their family. We stopped for coffee and a snack at a local upmarket eatery. Beachside Pavillion. Whew! What prices. $65 for 4 coffees, two croissants and a banana bread. I guess the rent must be pretty high. We heard from a good source the staff  have an 8 hour shift. That means 8 hours with no break. The food was nothing special and the coffee arrived at a temperature which annoys me. Warm. Not HOT!

Sunday 24th December Christmas Eve

The social club arranged a Carols in our Park overlooking Biggera Creek. We spent an hour this morning setting up chairs and our sound system in readiness. First we met at the Clubhouse at 6.30 and walked the streets playing music via my iPad and speaker system handing out chocolates and reminding people to come to the carols.

About 30 residents turned up for the carols. That’s not a bad result considering many residents are away at this time of year or had dinner or weekends with family.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we will be up early to drive to Coolangatta Airport for an 8am flight to Sydney. After arriving in Sydney we have a mystery week not knowing where we will be day to day.

Expect lots of photos and stories next week.

Merry Christmas to all.

582. Sunday 17th December 2017. A Christmas Dinner…

Monday 11th December

I now have my work schedule as a driver for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Apart from training sessions in January and February I will be driving dignitaries, officials  athletes and their families in March and April.

Friday 15th December

Planning for our Christmas and New Year continues but nothing has yet been set in concrete. Will we fly to Sydney and possibly to Melbourne or will we simply drive to Sydney?  If we drive will we go the extra couple of thousand Klms to Melbourne and beyond at the hottest most humid time of the year when people and school children are on holidays and bullet proof teenagers with a new licence are just discovering booze and drugs before they start work? This is not my favourite time of year for long distance driving.

Our friends Tony and Dawn from Port Macquarie called in on their way to Mackay. We enjoyed a lovely lunch right here in our villa before waving them goodbye on the next leg of their journey.

Saturday 16th December

Once again we filled an entire week of doing something in and around the house which did not involve travel.

The village social committee, of which I am a member, have planned a Christmas Dinner here in our clubhouse. Tonight was the night. Dinner was catered for by The Spit Roast catering Company   http://goldcoastcatering.com.au/   . This is the second time this year they have catered for us. They are professional and provide good food, with good servings and sufficient for seconds along with dessert. They bring everything themselves then pack up and are gone and leaving us to get on with our night. We had 80 people arrive for dinner, while not a record, the numbers are on the increase after a lull in the last few years.

We had a great night of good food, good company, good music, singing and dancing and was a Christmas dinner the way a dinner should be.

Fun.

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Sometimes I think I need some sort of help when changing settings on the camera. I set the camera to indoors night setting with flash. I forgot to return the camera back to “camera” mode. All my photos were taken in settings mode. Grrr! they are either washed out with too much light or unfocussed.

581. Sunday 10th December 2017. A quiet week of cooking…

Christmas is rushing up to meet us. We have a Christmas morning tea to organise in the clubhouse next Thursday. A new specialist supermarket has opened next door and the owner will be our guest speaker.

Next Saturday we have a catered Christmas dinner in the clubhouse. We have 75 people already booked for that event. A dozen new folding tables arrived today. Just in time for the dinner next week.

Christmas Eve we have a planned Carols by Candlelight in our park beside the creek.

We have spent the week pretty much at home doing whatever it is that we do around the home. We play bowls, table tennis, indoor bowls, line dancing and swimming.I also do my bike riding.

The weather has been a mix of hot days with cool nights or rainy days with cooler nights.

There has not been any Commonwealth Games Training this week so instead I have been doing a little cooking. Hmmm! Maybe that’s a lot of cooking.

Over the years I have made a Zucchini Loaf which is delicious and seems to get eaten too quickly.

Recently I tried making a concoction using cooked brown rice and cooked red lentils with a capsicum sauce. Wow that sauce was a lot of effort for very little return. The rice lentil mixture was meant to be shaped into balls and baked with the sauce drizzled over the top when serving. I followed the recipe faithfully (it seemed like I was in the kitchen all afternoon – in fact I was) but the mixture seemed too crumbly to hold together in balls. Instead I put the mixture in a square pie dish and baked it like a flat loaf. A sort of rice lentil bread. It was tasty but seemed to be lacking – something. A week later I tried again this time adding some grated zucchini and two eggs. Now this was more like it but it was just a little too moist and still crumbly, not holding together like a loaf.

Hmmm! I thought. How can I improve on this?

So this week I tried again. I still kept the basic ingredients of brown rice and lentils, then added a grated carrot. I also grated a zucchini but sprinkled it generously with salt and left it for 20 minutes to draw out the moisture then squeezed it through muslin. I added that to the mix along with grated parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs. I cooked up an onion and three cloves of garlic in curry powder with pepper and salt and added that and three eggs to the mix. Instead of putting it in a blender as the recipe stated I used a mixmaster on very basic slow blend. The mix was now a bit like a thick cake batter. I lined a square pie dish with paper and poured in the mix. I sprinkled the top with a tomato relish, more grated cheese and panko breadcrumbs. A few slices of tomato from our garden sat on top.  Then into the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, turned the pan around for another 15 minutes and a toothpick inserted in the middle came out clean. I let it “rest” for about 10 minutes then cut into squares and served. Yummo. This is a winner. However next time I will add some peas and maybe some chopped cooked bacon. Serve bigger slices and a salad and you have a delicious satisfying meal. Serve smaller slices as a sort of replacement for potato.

While in the mood I made some coconut and cherry muffins. Donnis had bought a box of Australian cherries for $5 and after she pitted most of them, froze some, glaced` some and let me have some for the muffins. We also had a nice glass of cherry juice. The muffins have such a nice taste and texture. I sprinkled them with icing sugar. Froze some and will have the rest between us with our morning coffee.

Donnis also bought a box of mango’s for $5. Hmmm! I feel a recipe coming on. This time it will be a mango and coconut muffin. I will use the same recipe but replace the cherries with chopped mango. We will also make a mango syrup and serve with thick cream as dessert when friends come to visit next week

Our freezer is now at capacity with all the extra frozen fruit. Did I mention Donnis also bought a box of Strawberry’s for $5 last week. She blanched and froze most of them. While I am on the subject she also bought a box of Bluberries – you guessed it, she paid $5 – and they are also in the freezer.

See you later. I have to go and whip up a couple of storms in the kitchen.

580. Sunday 3rd December 2017. The Broadwater, Commandos, Travel plans, Driver Training and Eternity…

Thursday 28th November

Had one of our happy walks along the beach of The Broadwater from Labrador to Lands End. As usual there is always something to see amongst the hundreds of water craft plying or anchored there.

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We would not like to be aboard this basic houseboat in a strong wind.
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This yacht aground on the beach is a classic example of the old saying. When the depth of water is less than the depth of the keel.

Something which really caught my eye was  boat built /owned/ used by Commando Knights a family of tight knit pseudo  idealists. I have written about the Commando Knights in previous posts on this blog. For example post 467 in December 2014 and again in 548 in April 2017. In both cases the small, almost fully enclosed floating fortress was supplemented by a larger floating fortress. Today, what we saw beached on Wave Break Island was a huge dormitory sized floating fortress. Have a look at this fortress which still appears to be in a state of building. It seems to be built a catamaran platform of some type. Apart from that the structure seems to make no sense at all.

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The Commabdo Knights have been busy these last few months. I have no idea what all the extra timbver is for but it must serve a purpose…at least in somebody’s mind.

Then again, the Commando Knights may know something the rest of us do not. Have a look at this You Tube video, professionally produced by the Tanton Family. These people are serious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75RSmaJMzQs

Brett Tanton who is the proclaimed General of a family of eight, seems to have some military training and is perhaps a member of the Queensland Police based on the Gold Coast.

Interesting.

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This houseboat is owned and cobbled together by a single woman who loves (Oh really?) and keeps them onboard. They have nowhere to go except under the netting.
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Zoom in and look closely and you can see at least one large turkey and a large duck or goose or swan.

Saturday 2nd December

Donnis and I have been researching travel plans for May 2018 after the Commonwealth Games are completed. The original plan was a cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Norwegian Jewel for 20 days. The cruise would have commenced in Yokohama Japan, another 5 Japanese ports, then on to Petropavovsk, Kamchatka, Russia. From there it was a cruise across the Bering Sea to Anchorage, (Seward actually) Alaska, a further 6 Alaskan ports and finally finish in Seattle USA. We would spend a few days in Seattle then train to Vancouver, fly to Calgary for a few days then fly to the east coast and spend 10 days in Prince Edward Island exploring PEI and Newfoundland before driving across Canada to Calgary, Vancouver and fly home. Wow! We would have been busy for 6 weeks and the budget was being stretched tissue thin but if we do not enjoy ourselves now we may not have another opportunity. Having decided, we asked for a final quote and cabin assignment. The email reply was encouraging until we found the US /Australia exchange rate has declined in the last few weeks. Worse than that was the original prices quoted was a teaser. US taxes of almost US$1,000 were added to the quote. Add to that the $13 per person per day compulsory tipping, shore excursion costs, air fare to Japan and overnights while waiting to board the ship and the possibility of $500 or more to obtain a Russian Visa, the tissue paper split. It simply pushed the budget beyond our limits. It was a difficult decision to cancel the trip especially as this was a maiden voyage for this ship on this route and a first time port of call to Petropavovsk.

We are now looking a different plan but like all plans it requires some research which takes time.

Hmmm! A train journey from Seattle across the USA to Albany spread over three days sounds interesting.

Sunday 3rd December

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are drawing closer. Today I attended, along with 2,370 other excited people, the first Role Specific Training course for drivers.031217 training031217 training2

Back in 2015 volunteers for the 2018 Commonwealth Games were called for. Along with another 55,000 or so other hopefuls, I applied. Gradually those numbers were whittled down to manageable thousands. Some 15,000 people wanted to be drivers. I attended the first selection interview process, which at the time had 4,500 people interviewed. All agreed to a Police and background check. All the approved volunteers, 5,000 of us, for all the various tasks, attended one of three sessions at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. I attended the second session on Sunday 12th November and now all the drivers will begin to attend role or location specific training between now and April when the games begin. Mostly the drivers look to be an able bodied group although I was surprised to see a number of people who were clearly grossly overweight, walked with difficulty or with a cane or in one case, in a wheelchair. I can only wonder how these people will cope driving dignitaries around the Gold Coast and Brisbane for up to 12 hours.

The event was very well produced, fast paced, interesting, lots of loud music. Enthusiasm bubbled and boiled out of the crowd. 031217 training1

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The local Indigenous community Youth Choir

Once again I am disappointed I did not bring my good camera. Once we start training and driving I should have plenty of spaces to carry all my things I need. Including the camera. Unfortunately either the mobile phone camera is not sufficient megapixels or I cannot hold the phone steady enough for decent photos.

Now let’s see 2,300 people leave the stadium in an orderly fashion. The coffee booth was closed. The tea and coffee and biscuits tables were cleared away. I waited behind, believing it was easier to read my Kindle and let the crowds sort themselves out. Below the stadium over 1,000 cars were all trying to squeeze out of one entrance only to be slowed by traffic lights which had not been co-ordinated to allow for peak traffic. Only 6 cars at a time were getting through the lights. This was the first sign of chaos I have seen in the organisational skills of the GOLDOC. (Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Organisation Committee). Somebody forgot traffic control and forgot to organise the traffic lights as if it was another big sports day. Eventually a second exit from the underground parking was opened but that traffic still had to merge with the cars coming out of the first exit! It took one and a half hours for me to get out of the car park. Good thing I stayed in my car, engine off and read my Kindle.

Now comes co-incidence and nostalgia time.

Earlier in the week I heard a radio interview on ABC’s Conversations with Richard Fidler. The interview was with Roy Williams, Co-author of a book about the Eternity Man, Arthur Stace. (1885 – 1967) Arthur wrote one word, ETERNITY, in a bold copperplate handwriting style on footpaths around inner suburbs of Sydney.

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This is the Eternity written inaluminium at the Wall of Water at Sydney Town Hall.

Mostly the word was written with chalk, sometimes in crayon. As a child and as a teenager, I recall seeing ETERNITY written on the footpath. My recollection is it was always written in yellow chalk or crayon. Until 1962 the identity of ETERNITY man was unknown.

Coincidence No1.

Later in the day I was listening to some music by Australian Singer Songwriter, Russell Morris. A song from his album, Sharkmouth, a song I had not yet heard, suddenly caught my attention. I heard the words and it was about Mr Eternity. Sung in Russell Morris distinctive style it instantly grabbed my attention. This is a brilliant piece of local Sydney history put to music with attention getting lyrics. Russel Morris you have done it again. I am hooked.

Co-incidence No2.

This evening, we were driving home from Brisbane. What were we doing in Brisbane? That is another story. Anyway we were tuned to the ABC when The Spirit of Things presented by Dr Rachael Kohn began. The story opened with a song by Jim Low and within the first two lines I knew it was about Mr Eternity. A different song to Russel Morris but just as deeply moving and full of history. Rachael Kohn also interviewed Roy Williams.

Co-incidence No3.

In the interview they drove around parts of Sydney where Arthur Stace lived, worked, worshipped and wrote ETERNITY. They stopped at a house in Redfern where Arthur and his wife Pearl lived for about 12 years, The house is tiny in a tiny lane called Arthur Lane just off Moorehead St.

My Aunt Gwen lives in Moorehead St just a few houses away!!!

Co-incidence No4.

I also recall seeing a dedication to ETERNITY during the New Years Fireworks when 1999 became 2000. Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit by fireworks which spelled ETERNITY. Later in the year during the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony a mock- up of Sydney Harbour Bridge with one word, ETERNITY, emblazoned on it was paraded around the arena.

So, for over twenty five years, from 1930 to 1956, Sydney-siders woke each day to a city that had already been visited by a phantom of the night. A phantom, that was to become the most famous graffiti artist in Australia’s history. For there on the footpaths, on the train station platforms and on the many walkways that linked the city’s buildings was that one word Eternity, etched so beatifically with yellow crayon in the fine copperplate lettering style. 

Where it came from, how it got there, what it meant and who was behind this phenomenon was a mystery to all. The mystery turned to fascination and eventually obsession. For decades leading newspapers and letters to the editor debated who or what was behind the mysterious appearance of the word Eternity each morning. It was an enigma, a one-word sermon that had Sydney columnists speculating often about the author. But in spite of the intense interest, the author remained a phantom for those 25 years.

Today, there are only three public places left in Sydney where you can still see Arthur’s Stace’s Eternity.

(1) You can still see a faded version inside the largest bell at the  Old Sydney Post Office on Martin Place. Written in about 1963, the ‘i’ has almost vanished, but the word ‘Eternity’ can still be seen.

(2) It was memorialized by Architect Ridley Smith in the re-design of Sydney Square beside the Sydney Town Hall. When it was unveiled at the foot of the Wall of Water feature on the 13 July 1977, The Sydney Morning Herald published: “In letters almost 21cm (8in) high is the famous copperplate message Eternity. The one word sermon gleams in wrought aluminium. There’s no undue prominence. No garish presentation. Merely the simple Eternity on pebbles as Arthur Stace would have wanted it.” Interestingly Ridley Smith was the son of missionary parents serving with the China Inland Mission. His father named his son Ridley because of his great respect for evangelist John Ridley, the very preacher whose words turned Arthur Stace into Mr. Eternity

(3) At the foot of his grave in the Botany Cemetery is his trademark etching in marble of his own special version of Eternity.

This ‘birdlike little man with wispy white hair’, Stace has become known as ‘the Eternity Man’, and is enshrined as one of the characters of Sydney. Others have taken Arthur’s Eternity and given it new life.