January 10, 2014 6:58 pm

A flight of fancy in the lucky country

‘I feel very lucky, not least because at the age of 51 I have fallen in love again’
Illustration of a cessna plane by James Ferguson©James Ferguson

I am presently in the original Lucky Country. Even though I have long believed that to some extent we all make our own luck, I feel very lucky here, not least because at the age of 51 I have fallen in love again, something one doesn’t expect to happen later in life. Mr M has no need to worry, though, for the object of my desire is a pile of metal surrounding an engine and with a propeller on its front. VH-TAW (Tango Alpha Whisky) is a Cessna 206, a workhorse of the sky, and is currently my daily obsession as I continue with my tour of Australia.

Australia was originally designated the Lucky Country in a book of that title published 50 years ago. Yet it was not meant as a compliment. Donald Horne, its author and a social critic who died in 2005, described it thus: “Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck.”

This rather critical statement was intended to suggest that Australia relied on its vast mineral deposits for its economic prosperity and did nothing to create further value, for example by means of innovation and/or technical development. I wonder what Horne would have made of the Ashes win by Australia and indeed their current Test match record that sets them up nicely for their tour of South Africa this year?

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Mrs Moneypenny

I wouldn’t say that they were lucky second-rate cricketers or that they owed their success to mineral deposits. The only analogy I would make between cricket and the economic cycle is that the cricket fortunes of any specific country do rather wax and wane, as each set of youngsters grows to fulfil its potential. They take this kind of thing very seriously in Australia, and define their first period of cricket supremacy, the dying days of the 19th century, as their golden age. Are we about to have another golden age? Possibly in Australian cricket, but not so the rest of the country. Unemployment is rising and many commentators agree that Australia is heading for a recession. So not that lucky after all.

I have had some good fortune myself, though, for I recently had a near-disaster with the book that I am writing at the same time as travelling round the country. I had completed a chapter on how women can increase their income and when the computer asked if I wanted to save it I said “no” because I thought it was already safely on my hard drive.

It was not. Thank goodness for Cost Centre #1, who, having seen his mother in despair, offered to type up the whole thing again, an offer I fell upon immediately. I felt very lucky to have such a kind son.

But CC#1 is up against stiff competition for my affections. TAW can’t type but is reliable, relatively cheap to run (A$350 an hour fully fuelled) and never answers back or leaves clothes all over the bedroom floor. I am learning to use the word “G’day” as standard in my radio communication, which is largely with myself as most airfields don’t have a radio operator. Instead there is what is known as a “common traffic advisory frequency” or CTAF, on which you broadcast your intentions. For example: “G’day, this is TAW approaching Port Macquarie from the south, inbound to land on runway 03.” You just hope that any other aircraft planning to be there or thereabouts at the same time are also doing the same.

Strangely, there is nowhere to pay landing fees. My first port of call was in Maitland, New South Wales. Where do I pay my fee, I asked the people in the Royal Newcastle Aero Club. “It’s all automated,” they explained. I was puzzled by this – was there some camera recording all the registration numbers, like petrol stations do? No – all the CTAF calls are recorded and some poor person has the unenviable task of listening to them and working out who landed where and is liable for what landing fees. Perhaps this is a job creation scheme in the face of rising unemployment rates? Maybe the Lucky Country is making its own luck, after all.

To track Mrs M’s tour of Australia, see http://binged.it/19KXccM

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