PLAYING basketball had been the central feature of my high school days.
While neither tall nor particularly fleet of foot, I possessed good hand-eye coordination and peripheral vision.
Countless hours of practice gave me half-decent jump and long shots and constant membership of high school, city and regional representative teams as a playmaker-guard.
By 1966 I was in Papua New Guinea and, with the aid of some cases of SP as gris, a few fellow basketball enthusiasts and I persuaded the Public Works Department to lay some tarmac.
Then Elcom, through their largely Manus Island apprentices, installed the hoops on their pylons and provided suitable lighting in the Wewak local officer compound.
And so the Wewak Amateur Basketball Association was born. It soon joined the PNG Amateur Basketball Federation, began organising twice-weekly night competitions and sent teams to national tournaments and championships in Madang and Lae.
This is where I meet the onetime head of the Education Department’s publications and broadcasts branch and stalwart of the Port Moresby Basketball Association and the Kone Tigers basketball club, Pritt (Frank) Hiob.
At some time during 1968, Keith, then editor of school publications, decided to pursue a career in broadcasting with the ABC schools broadcasts division.
His predecessor, Hiob, tasked with finding both a new editor and eager for some new blood in the Kone Tigers basketball team, bypassed the usual Education Gazette advertising process and persuaded the Director of Education, Ken McKinnon, to summon me to take up the editor’s position in Konedobu.
Being perfectly content as head teacher of Passam Primary T School – and quite in love with a fellow New Hanoverian teacher – I was loathe to leave the idyllic life of Wewak and its hinterland.
Thankfully, in retrospect, I had no recourse but to obey McKinnon’s command and duly moved to Moresby where, as well as beginning a new career (and assuming custodianship of Yokomo from Keith), I transfer my BEd studies from the University of Queensland to a BA program in linguistics and literature at UPNG.
In between work, study and playing, refereeing and administering basketball – and writing pre- and post-game game reports for the Post-Courier and the ABC, I continue to develop my classic guitar playing skills.
Over time, I was persuaded to share my rudimentary classic guitar competence with a small number of friends and colleagues in weekly lessons.
Somehow or other, this came to the attention of the wife of the then Public Service Commissioner who invited me to provide lessons for her daughter.
We agreed on the princely sum of two dollars for a half-hour lesson and, commencing in late 1971, after work every Monday afternoon I attended at the verandah of the Commissioner’s house on the nether reaches of Paga Hill to instruct young Kate (not her real name) on the vagaries playing classic guitar.
Meanwhile, with my BA studies nearing completion, I was motivated to pursue postgraduate studies and decided Edinburgh University offered the best applied linguistics program with elements that applied directly to my work in the Education Department.
I completed an application for a public service scholarship and submitted it to the chief staffing wallah who advised I was wasting my time because scholarships were now reserved for local officers not expatriates.
He took the application but left me with the impression that he would not pass it up the line to the Public Service Commissioner’s office
A month or so later, having just finished another classic guitar session on the verandah with Kate, I awaited her mother and the two dollars.
Out came the Public Service Commissioner himself, whom I had never met. He handed me the money and said, “I hear that you are going to Edinburgh”.
Postscript 1: I spent a year at Edinburgh University and played in its representative basketball team and also refereed in the Scottish National Basketball League.
Postscript 2: Kate, went on to study classic guitar at the Canberra School of Music.