Saturday, 22 March 2014


John Ross ©
I am, and always have been, an ideas man. My older brother Bertie, well just let us say he is ‘practical’. By that I mean he always poured cold water on my ideas and ambitions.
At school I loved science. I was never happy with the pathetic little experiments that the science master demonstrated during class. I always wanted bigger and better. My very first experiment was with the black powder that I had hoarded from the big ‘bungers’ that dad had bought for cracker night. My big brother prophesied danger and doom and perhaps he was right to a certain extent. No one was maimed or even hurt, but it did shatter the side window in our garage, shred mums whites on the clothes line and earn me double helpings of spinach for a week.
Probably my next most memorable experiment was to try to make my push bike rocket powered. I got the idea from a book that described how to build a real rocket. Bertie said I would probably end up in jail, either because I had nicked the book from the local library, or because I would end up killing someone. Well this time everything went smoothly, except, I started too close to the front fence of the old codger who lived next door. It was a brush fence and the exhaust from my rocket set fire to it. It didn’t take long for the fire brigade to put it out. Two weeks of spinach.
There were many more memorable and some best forgotten escapades as we were growing up in suburban Sydney. I will mention just a few. An attempt to dig an underground bunker in the back yard. A mortar constructed of a piece of gas pipe, a penny bunger and a large steel bolt. Stink bombs made from rolled up negatives from my mum’s old box brownie camera. I think you get the drift.
Ever practical Bertie went on to become an accountant and me, well I never could abide working for someone else and became an inventor of sorts. You may have heard of some of my successes. The push bike safety belt. The all in one raincoat and umbrella. Shoes with retractable roller skates, (saves energy going downhill). Double ended cutlery (fork on one end and spoon on the other, sadly this was superseded by the spork), and my most famous one, the edible school lunch box. Unfortunately none of these life changing inventions brought me much in the way of wealth or recognition.
I was rather at a loose end just after my thirtieth birthday when my brother offered me a part time job doing data entry in his accounting firm. On day one he gave me a list of instructions. They included. Do not change the settings on the computer. Do not interfere with the coffee machine, the electric kettle, the document shredder or the photocopier or for that matter anything electrical, mechanical or organic. He forgot to mention the phone system so I changed the ring tone to play God Save the Queen. Unfortunately the first time it rang he had a delegation from an important client in his office. The Australian Republican movement.
After six months of penance in the mail room, stuffing outgoing accounts into envelopes I had a brilliant idea. Instead of Bertie’s accounting firm just processing his clients accounts and income tax returns why not advise them of ways to minimise their costs, especially their tax liabilities. I spent the next two months working on the tax minimisation schemes before presenting it to Bertie. He, as usual, was very sceptical. Over and over he interrupted my spiel by asking, ‘But, is it legal?’ I really had no idea and was not bothered with the unimportant details.

One year later I was back living and inventing in my parents’ garage and poor Bertie still had four years and six months to serve.