I Googled the house at 3 Logohu Place, Boroko, today and it didn’t look like it had changed much in the 35 years since I called it home. In those long-ago colonial days the street sign called the little cul de sac an “avenue”. Logohu Place is a better name. For the benefit of overseas readers, Logohu is the local Papuan (Motu language) word for Bird of Paradise. In the 1970s, the Logohu houses had no imposing front fences or gates and the boundary fences were a few strings of wire. When I revisited number 3 in the 1990s, it had a high security fence. With that plus the usual bars on all windows and deadlocks on doors, the house had lost its original appeal.
Most of the people in Logohu Place were senior public servants, both Australian and local. Number 3 was the property of South Pacific Post and we got it because my partner was the chief photographer for their newspaper, the Post Courier. Since the PC was part of the Herald and Weekly Times group, we used to tell the folks back home that Rupert Murdoch was our landlord.
The interior of the house was post-war primitive by today’s standards but we were blind to any faults. Like most Aussie expats were decorated the rooms with PNG goods: tapa cloth, carvings, wall hangings, spears, axes, kina shells, floor rugs, you name it, we had it. Pride of place after 1973 went to the new PNG flag. I still have it and it is still in pristine condition. There was nothing artistic about my decorating efforts. I just plonked the stuff on the walls. Most visitors thought I made the house look like a budget holiday shack.
My housekeeper at Logohu Place was a middle-aged highlander called Poppa, and it was he who decided to teach Vanessa some domestic chores. Poppa and his family and wantoks were very good to my daughter and she adored them, preferring to spend most of her time with them, rather than playing alone in the “big” house.
Poppa lived in the “boi haus” near the bottom of the garden. It was the usual construction, a single tiny shed with a toilet/shower recess and an outdoor lean-to that served as Poppa’s laundry and ironing room. It was also home to four younger male friends, two grandparents and a mother with two pre-school children. I never intruded into the “boi haus” but Denis used Vanessa as an excuse to take some photos. It was to be 35 years before I saw them. Now I wish I’d been more inquisitive at the time. The shed had one single bed and its mattress was so old it should have been replaced. Most of the occupants slept on the floor. A few extra bunks would have been useful and a proper stove, new toilet and shower. Too late now for anything but regrets.
Every now and then the boi haus mob would throw a tri lip (three leaf) card party. There were usually enough of them to stack the odds slightly but they did supply a lot of the alcohol. The games were fast and deadly and I could never keep up with the scoring. I gather that you had to put your bet in the middle before each player was dealt three cards, one at a time around the circle. Each card had a value and everyone was mentally keeping tabs. As soon as the last card was dealt the winner instantly scooped up the kitty. I’d be watching and thinking: “What the hell was that about?” If the stakes were high enough, a small weekly wage could be blown in no time. I won’t be pointing the finger though. I’ve played the pokies and my track record is blemished.