dead reckoning

It has all the makings of a sci-fi movie: evil phone app lures innocent drivers into the desert where they thirst and die

But for the hapless drivers who one after the other found themselves stranded in the Murray Sunset National Park by a dodgy Apple iPhone navigational app, the Orwellian script became frighteningly real.

In the past few months police have been called to rescue no less than six people who have become lost en route to Mildura by slavishly following maps apps.

A dozen more subsequently reported being bogged in sand and driving round in circles without phone reception for hours before eventually making their own way out of what is essentially desert.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to take a wrong turn, sometimes fatally, on the advice of their sat navs.

Around the world there have been countless recorded cases of people heading the wrong way down motorways, getting stuck under low bridges and even winding up wrong country altogether using navigation devices.

Part of the problem is that we have become so dependent on technology we are no longer using the software between our ears.

Common sense should dictate that an unmarked sandy desert track is unlikely to be the best or fastest route any where.

But such is the blind faith in gadgets people are following them like lemmings, quite literally off cliffs and into the path of trains.

People are increasingly unable to lift their heads, look around and think for themselves.

This is a worrying course for the future.

Set as new destination: Unknown.



love’s labour found

So they called him Dexter.

Like he wasn’t disadvantaged enough by being born to chemically dependent parents – they had to go and name him after a TV serial killer.

Fortunately for young Dexter he will be supported to some degree by the system.

Not so Victoria’s professional midwives.

For the privilege of helping accommodate young Dexter’s arrival, the attending midwife will have clocked a HECs debt of tens of thousands of dollars.

The midwife’s three years of full-time studies will include 12 weeks of unpaid placement.

To qualify she will also need to deliver 40 babies vaginally … not personally obviously, but by herself. Any birth requiring forceps, vacuum, caesarian or where anyone else places a hand on the baby’s head does not count.

She (or more infrequently he) is further required to complete the “follow through journey” which means working unpaid, in their own time with another 40 pregnant women.

Student midwives are also encouraged to attend these births, which may mean staggering to uni after spending up to 17 hours with a labouring mother.

Should the student midwife manage to survive long enough on a diet of baked beans and two minute noodles after paying hospital parking fees and criss-crossing the city to attend pregnant women, they’ll receive the princely sum of $22-an-hour on graduation.

Small wonder then midwifery has such a high attrition rate.

And if the result is Dexter?

The midwife does not judge.

It’s a hallmark of humanity that hope, however faint, accompanies every newborn.

And who knows what the next bairn will bring unto the world?

After all, it’s almost Christmas.


two lives, condensed

At 90 Wally and Stan Phillips might just be Victoria’s oldest surviving male twins, but they very nearly didn’t make it.

When they were born in 1922 weighing a scant 2.5lb (1134g) apiece their mother was told not to bother taking them home with her.

They said, ‘You know you won’t rear them’,” Wally reveals.

They’d said the exact same thing to her a couple of years earlier when she gave birth to her first set of twin boys, who were placed in a shoebox like a pair of sick kittens and left to die.

This time she wasn’t having it.

She took us home, but we had trouble keeping the tucker down,” says Stan taking up the story.

There was an old nursing matron that lived next door and she said, ‘Feed ’em on condensed milk. That’s very easily digested’.

So we were reared on sweetened condensed milk.

I still love the stuff. I have it in my tea instead of regular milk, but Wally can’t touch it because he’s got the sugar diabetes.”

Don’t tempt me,” chimes Wal. “When I was in the army in the war, I used to go down to the canteen of a night and I’d get a tin of condensed milk and put a hole each side of the top with me bayonet and I’d down the whole lot.

Still it must have done us some good. Very few twins both make old age – one usually falls by the wayside.

And what can I tell you? Just how short life is. I don’t know where the 90 years have gone – they have just flown by.”

That’s life, condensed.