USS Peleliu formally USS Da Nang

Fremantle is Western Australia’s principle port, and more or less a suburb of Perth the largest city of Western Australia. Originally established as a port for the Swan Valley Colony this is where many migrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries first set foot on Australian soil and this is where Bridget the Midget will come ashore from Chennai in India.

I arrived from Phuket on the 30th September to learn that the container ship would be several days late and was to be expected on the 10th October giving me almost two weeks to acclimatise. The earliest that I am likely to be able to take delivery is the 13th October after all the formalities are completed. It has given me time to investigate the vehicle registration requirements which differ from state to state and source an insurance supplier that can offer cover acceptable to all states.

I was met at the airport by a deputation from the MG Car Club of Western Australia consisting of the Vice President, Richard Gusterson, Secretary, Annette Murray and Editor of the club magazine David Pitcher. They have been absolutely champion organising a workshop, courtesy of The Sports Car Garage, owned by Tim Harland, a Patron of the MGCCWA. A replacement windscreen is on order and many of the spares that I know are required have been stocked. The MG fraternity here are very hospitable and generous and there will be more news about their activities in the near future.

I have also been posing as a tourist and discovered many of the architectural features of Fremantle are the original port wharfs extensively restored and converted into retail and residential buildings. A considerable number are now owned and occupied by Fremantle’s Notre Dame University including the old Customs House, P & O Hotel, and the Orient Hotel.

Fremantle Prison, due to become a World Heritage site in 2009, gives an interesting insight into one side of life in the early years of colinisation although the forty criminals executed there may not have agreed. Additionally Fremantle has many museum, art galleries, including aboriginal art and art from past inmates of the prison, and general tourist sites.

Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, is 20 kms north of Fremantle. A cosmopolitan city, the architecture is a peculiar mixture of extremely modern and 19th Century British. The restored town hall was modelled on an English Jacobean market hall, His Majesty’s Theatre has an opulent Georgian exterior and St George’s Cathedral would look at home in any old English town or village. But the links with the UK are not all old as the Swan Bell Tower is testament too. Housed in a contemporary structure in Perth’s Barrack Square the collection of bells include the Twelve Bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the church in Trafalgar Square in London. These were gifted to Perth to mark the Bicentenary in 1988.

I have noticed that the Australians appear to be able to turn almost anything into a tourist attraction, bells, boats, prisons and old warehouses. Being ‘caught short’ one afternoon I felt I had to make sure that the public toilet wasn’t on the tour schedule before going in.

There is also a very strong coffee house and restaurant culture. With 95% of the population resident around the coastal belt of the country it is not surprising to find that seafood is very prominent in the diet and amongst the best in the world.

David Pitcher took me out for the day to show me some of the things I may not have already seen, but even he was not prepared for the appearance of the local ‘Riley’ car club. They were about to start an event from the car park that we arrived at and so we took the opportunity to snap a few quick photos of some of their cars. They almost keep them as well as MG owners do!

Bridget will be here for the next report and we should be on our way again before the end of the month.

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