Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Blog of Yore

Holly from Remedial Rumination has tagged me to reawaken a lonely old post and I decided that the one I should go with was the reason I commenced this blog in the first place.

And so before I move on to that I also choose to tag Skipper , Dan , Micki , Finn , and Diamond .

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Allan & Myra Joyce Posted by Hello

My Father's Eyes

On Saturday 14th August my father died. When I was told that Dad had passed away on that Saturday night I got angry and my immediate memories were of times that I would have rather forgotten. Of the times I’d go to work on school holidays with Dad and how inevitably we’d end up at a pub in the afternoon and he’s drive us both home drunk. Of the rows that were caused at home in those times. But then I started to think that those things weren’t all there was to Dad, and to talk only of them was to only tell part of the story. So if I may I’d like to tell you a bit more of the story.

Allan John Joyce was born at Vaucluse in Brunswick on 28th May 1928, youngest child of Bill and Alice and brother to Keith, Norma and Andy. Bill was actually the grandson of four Roman Catholic Irish convicts but in those days having convict ancestors wasn’t something you spoke about. And in later years that connection seems a bit ironic given the strict Protestant environment that the Joyce and Dunn families of those days were raised in.

The family lived in Mashoobra Street, Merlynston, surrounded by cousins and aunties and uncles. I think our family was unique in that way. When we visited Nana and Pa as kids we would spend the afternoon knocking on doors and visiting relatives who all lived within a couple of blocks of each other.

This was the shadows of the Depression and Pa Joyce in those times packed up his horse and cart and travelled the state as a tinker, selling ribbons and other things, in order to make ends meet.

Dad was attending Merlynston State School. He used to tell us stories of one of his teachers, “Daddy Egan” who it seemed was forever belting kids over the knuckles with the edge of a steel ruler. We’d often sit around the kitchen table as kids and ask Mum and Dad to tell us stories about the “olden days”.

Dad was probably a bit of a bugger even then – a trait that stayed with him all his life – so if he did get the cuts I suspect that there may well have been times when they were deserved.

Dad went to work as a window dresser at Snow’s Menswear in the City back in the days when there wasn’t anything wrong with being a window dresser and he won awards for some of the window displays he designed.

He was also a talented sportsman – playing footy for the Merlynston football club and being invited to train with Carlton on a couple of occasions. He told me he didn’t go down because he thought he was too skinny. He was a pacey wingman and an indication of that pace is reflected in the fact that he ran as a professional foot runner at the Stawell Gift meeting for a few years. In his last year there he was disqualified for telling the starter he was an effing idiot.

Dad met Mum at Daylesford on a holiday they were both on with their friends. They travelled back to Melbourne by train and Dad got off at Brinswick to walk Mum home. He went on another holiday subsequently to Perth but on returning to Melbourne asked Mum to marry him.

They married at the Brunswick Methodist Church on the 28th March 1953 and all the family gathered with Mum and Dad last year to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary.

For the first few years of married life they lived in a bungalow at the back of my Grandprents place in Orvieto Street Merlynston, but around the time my sister Karen was born and I was 18 months old, moved way out in the sticks to a new estate in Box Hill South on former orchard lands.

The roads were unmade and the drains open ditches infested with weeds and rats. I knew there were rats because most weekends Dad would stand in Massey Street and pour a couple of gallons of petrol down the drain then light it with a match and the rats would often scurry away after the explosion. He was a bit of a pyromaniac and loved to build fires and burn leaves which I think was something he got from his own father.

I remember visits to our grandparents on Sundays and if we happened to be home Dad would meet the other blokes in the neighbourhood across the road at the Scott’s for a pleasant Sunday morning. They weren’t called longnecks in those days but just the same there were more than one top knocked off – always after 11 and it was followed up by roast dinners for lunch and a day in front of the telly watching World of Sport and the VFA on Channel 10.

Sunday night meals were often toasted sandwiches watching Disneyland.

I remember Dad getting very angry when our dog Noddy was poisoned.

And I remember in the good weather having barbecues in the backyard with sausages and chips cooked to perfection over a BBQ made of bricks and a steel hot plate. That BBQ ended up in the back of my mate Ian’s Morris Oxford which went to the tip in Vermont when Ian and I decided to get rid of the old car one day. We didn’t know Dad had put the pile of bricks in the boot until after we got home from that adventure. But he found more bricks and built another one.

I remember days spent setting up the cowboys and Indians he bought me and having a shootout with marbles with him, of drawing a chalk circle on a blanket and playing marbles with him on the grass in the backyard. I remember the tree house he built with an old ladder in the wattle trees in the backyard and the times we built cubbies with masonite sheets he’d brought home from work.

I said early that I got angry about some of my memories. One was when we had a sex education father and son night at Burwood High. We were late because Dad got home late from work and was under the weather. When we arrived at the hall and had to sit through a movie called “The birth of a red kangaroo”. I remember in the question time afterwards Dad got a lot of laughs because of the questions he asked while I cringed in my seat beside him. I can’t remember what he said but I do know my mates at school the next day told me what a cool old man I had.

It was a sign of how Dad was always the life of the party. Wherever we went he would wind up enjoying himself and making a bit of a spectacle of himself. He was gregarious and people who met him liked him and that was true right through his life. It always amazed us that he would run into people he knew wherever we happened to be.

We would often go on drives on weekends when we weren’t visiting the family. There’d be BBQ’s at far away places like the park by the Yarra in Eltham where the little train line still is today or to that distant place up Burwood Road called Ferntree Gully National Park. A lot of those times were spent with the Brown family and they were terrific fun. At the end of those days after a few sherbets Dad and Uncle Arthur would serenade Mum and Aunty Gloria with the Indian Love call and some silly song about being drunk like highland, lowland, Rotterdam and God damn Dutch.

We went on a lot of holidays. I can just remember one to Adelaide when Dad had his first company car – a mini minor – which was piled high with the five of us and a pack rack that doubled the height of the little car.

In those days Dad was working as a “Commercial Traveller” a sales executive it would now be called – for EC Blackwood, a paper manufacturer who had their warehouse in what is now South Bank. I remember the days he’d come home with a new company car – after the mini he graduated to a HR holden and had a few others after that. In the early 70’s he moved from Blackwoods to a competitor “Deeko” and was there for a few years before he was retrenched. Through all those times he was working a second job firstly at the Stackade Hotel in Carlton owned by my godfather Ivan and his Dad Hugh McNiece and later at the Riversdale in Hawthorn. When he left Deeko he went to work fulltime at Leonda Restaurant in Hawthorn and from there to Kingston Heath Golf Club and later Yarra Yarra where he worked till he was forced to retire at 65.

We went camping a lot as kids to Myrtleford and eventually found Corowa where we went every Christmas for years. Much of the attraction for the border town for Mum and Dad was the pokies, but for us kids it was the river, fishing, golf and the swimming pool. We were talking the other day about how Dad used to invite people he met back to the camp for a beer and dinner – it was also something he’d do at home for Christmas Day and other occasions – strangers to us kids would often be breaking bread with us.

His pride and joy was an old Ford Thames van and later his Datsun Homer, which were loaded to the gunnels with camping gear before we set off each Boxing Day. If we took someone with us –my Cousin Gavin or on occasions my mates David Palmer or Geoff Millist we’d set up a deck chair behind the passenger seat for them to sit in on the drive up. No seatbelt laws in those days and no danger of speeding in those old trucks either.

They were also good times which ended when us kids got jobs and had to work. I think one of the last years was the first year Lyn had arrived in the family. Karen, Gerry, Lyn and I, went up on Boxing Day to help set up the camp. We had to work quickly to pitch the tent because it was absolutely pelting down and after a while we realised Dad had disappeared. Lyn took something into the tent and found him in his y fronts and singlet about to climb into bed saying “I love the sound of rain on the tent.” Lyn had known him for two weeks at the time.

It was during one of these early holidays when dad’s illness first raised it’s ugly head – he spent some time in hospital. He had a form of travel sickness or agoraphobia or something that meant he had trouble going places. When our kids were born, he and Mum would take turns spending Christmas Eve with each of us. One year he decided on Christmas Day that he wouldn’t get in the car and walked home from Tecoma to Box Hill again in the rain.

But last Christmas he did get up to our place to be with the family and also got to his sister Norma’s 80th birthday earlier this year which we will all now be forever grateful for.

We often joked that Dad could have wallpapered the house with tatts tickets. He would always tell us not to worry about any financial problems because he was going to win Tatts next week. All that time he should have know he’d already hit the jackpot with his wife, his kids and grandkids. He was very proud of all of us.

There is an old Mexican Indian proverb that talks about us dying three times. The first is when our spirit leaves our body, the second when our mortal remains pass from the sight of human eyes and the third and final time when our name is last spoken aloud by our friends and families. Dad I’ll miss you and you won’t pass that final time at least until I am gone.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bad Jokes - good father?

Had a visit to my Counsellor this morning who had permission from my daughter to tell me a few things. She had been asked to say what she likes about me, what she doesn't like about me and what she would like from me.

The first thing she said was that she likes my corny jokes - lame as they, are they make her laugh. She couldn't really think of something she didn't like, but she did wish that I would ask her around for dinner occasionally. Which I will of course do, but which I had also tried doing on a few occasions only to have her back out because she had better things to do. I will attempt to make it a regular once a week thing to do with both my daughters and maybe son number two [son number one lives interstate at the moment].

She also commented on how overwhelmed she was that I had admitted to her that I find it hard to express my feelings verbally. I didn't think saying that was a real big deal, but it obviously was to her and that makes me glad that I did raise it with her. So I can see a way forward with her, now I just have to work out how to deal with the thirteen year old.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dreams and Laughter

I have always been a Jackson Browne fan and his early work coincided with my step into adulthood and I still listen regularly to music from that time. The 70's are my Ground Hog Day.

I got to thinking about these lines from his song "The Late Show" -

"No one ever talks about their feelings anyway
WIthout dressing them in dreams and laughter
I guess it's just too painful otherwise"

The other day my ex raised with me the fact that my daughter had told her that I had said that I am not good at expressing my feelings, no surprise to me, but something she thought was significant for her. I have tried very hard through the marriage breakup to cloister the kids from my feelings, other than to reassure them of my love for them and to try and make things as normal as possible when I see them.

Sometimes I wonder what is the best thing for them. Last night my next door neighbour had a verbal fight with his ex-wife out the front of his unit and in the presence of his kids who are around 6 and 8 years old. At one stage he said "The reason I don't come around to the house is because I'll end up in gaol!"

Little kids don't need to hear or see that type of acrimony and I felt so sorry for them knowing that it will be something they have to grow up knowing, and that there will likely be long term issues relating to the situation for them. Just as there are for things in my childhood that I am still dealing with now.

There was another thing I told my daughters recently and that was about a visit I had from my father last year which is as vivid in my memory now as anything that actually happened when he was alive. He came into my bedroom one night and sat on the end of my bed. I couldn't speak to him and he didn't speak to me, but I am in no doubt that he was there. What spooked me was that a week or so later my ex told me of a dream she had of my father, where he kept coming into a room and spoke to her, telling her to give me a hug because I wasn't listening to him.

I think I have said somewhere before that I have prided myself on being the rational man, but that incident and others over the past year or so have made me more open to the spiritual rather than the rational.

I will continue to try and express my feelings to my daughters and hope that my sons do not grow up with the same father issues I have.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Healesville Sanctuary – 17 March 1978

Here's another post from an old Journal. I am glad I recorded some of these things because it would be easy to forget them.


Last Monday, Labour Day, we took the kids to Healesville Sactuary. Luke didn’t realy know what to expect; although I told him it was a bit like a zoo he couldn’t understand why it didn’t have lions and tigers. He kept saying he didn’t want to go but within 15 minutes of our arrival kept asking us if he could come back one day because he really liked it.

More than anything else he wanted to see the Tasmanian Devils.

“Do they spin around and make holes in trees Dad?” he asked.

I laughed and told him he had been watching too much Bugs Bunny.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Inurred....? Never!

Two of the blogs I regularly visit have written of suicide this week. Paisley speaks eloquently as always of death and suicide, which prompted Holly to write of the deaths of her mother and stepfather. It got me thinking about my experiences with death.

The first body I ever saw was of my Grandfather Bill Smith [not a common name, just popular, was a line he used]. He had a series of heart attacks over the last few years of his life, but sadly in the last couple of years, was badly affected by Alzheimers and struggled to remember who any of us were. My mother decided at the funeral that she wished to view his body and not wanting to let her do that alone I went with her. The person I saw lying in the coffin was not my Grandfather as I remembered him nor was it the person I wished to remember. I have never viewed a body of a loved one since because I want the memory of someone vibrant and alive, not of the husk.

As a policeman, one of the things we had to do in training was to visit the Morgue and view an autopsy. Let me tell you that the sanitary plasticness of CSI and other shows of that ilk, do not mirror the reality of having to watch that first cadaver carving. There is no dignity in death and the lack of personal respect that I saw in that situation was I suppose a way that the coroners could learn to cope with the job at hand. When you start thinking that short hours before, the object had been living and breathing I can imagine that it would be very difficult to maintain professionalism.

There are two other things I remember vividly from that first visit to the Morgue. The first is the stench of death which even covered by the cloying smell of disinfectant, hung heavy in the air and seemed to wish to reach out and grasp us and insidiously drench itself into our clothes.

The second was the freezer stacked high with unidentified naked bodies, sad in their sameness with a toe tag the only thing that individualized them.

One of my colleagues walked out of the Academy on our return that evening never to return.

I do count myself as lucky during my police career not to have had to deal with the aftermath of death as often as many of my colleagues. I remember one horror stretch that my brother-in-law [also a policeman had] where he, as a young father himself, had to investigate three cot deaths in a week, and also a couple of fatal car accidents. The roles I had within the police force did cloister me from those things somewhat.

However, my first night on the job, when I was out on patrol with a Sergeant on afternoon shift we got a call to attend a house where someone had died. I will never forget the image of an elderly man in his 80’s sitting rocking in his chair saying over and over that “She was such a young woman, how can such a thing happen.” He was speaking of his wife, who also, in her 80’s, we found dead on the floor beside their bed. They were Russian émigrés and had no family that we could identify and so the old man truly did face life alone.

I have seen other bodies some freshly dead, some nothing more than bones. I will never forget the smell of death, nor the sight of my grandfather in his coffin, nor the words of that old man whose path I crossed one night in April 1982. In those experiences lies a simple truth for me. Whatever it is that makes us human, with all of our vibrancy and capacity for emotion and love, leaves the house of our body when we die. I don’t really mind if you call it spirit or soul, but it does not continue as part of a physical existence beyond that moment of death. I don’t yet have an answer to where it goes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Melbourne Zoo 2

Friday Flashback

I have participated in a few memes but this one, with my predilection at the moment of scanning old photos and reading old journals, seems particularly apt. Visit the Friday Flashback blog and check in on what others have written.

Rules are as follows - "To participate, you need to post the above image in a Friday blog post and include a photo or story from your childhood. Sort of like a blast from the past post. However, your flashback story, memory, or photo MUST BE AT LEAST 10 YEARS OLD OR MORE.

Please link the copy and link the above image back to this blog so others may sign up if they wish. The link back here is Please DO NOT alter the graphic in ANY way. You may resize it only to fit your blog entry space."

Not having a great deal of time today I have cheated a little and linked back to my "What were they thinking?" post. I'll make sure that I try and post a nostalgia based entry next Friday.

And so they judge

People have expressed surprise at my marriage breakup. I have had comments come back to me like “that’s out of character” . But those people, in saying that, really show that they have only seen a small part of me, that the amalgam of masks that makes me who I am was not revealed in all it’s totality to any of them. And so they judge from a perspective that is both jaundiced and incomplete.

My ex has struggled with the fact that I did not appear to make an attempt to keep the marriage working. And she is probably right, but again she does not know me with all the foibles and weaknesses I have, nor does she know how I have struggled with contradiction and fear for a long time now. How long – well that is the subject of counseling and I am only scratching surfaces at the moment, although each day brings me closer to understanding.

When it came to making a decision about whether or not to try with the marriage again, the crunch came when I realized that if the same circumstances were to play out again, that I would probably react in the same way. That being the case it was the wrong thing to do for everyone for me to even consider going back. I think she now realizes that I cannot give her what she deserves within the marriage and that has come despite her desire to try again, and certainly in spite of her attempts over the last few years to re-engage me in married life. Whilst I was around, in her words I wasn’t really there.

My children probably also held out the hope that things would return to a semblance of normality and I totally understand that they will most likely take their mother’s side in any dispute, not because they don’t love me, but because they must reflect her feelings by the simple fact that they live with her. They have seen her tears, borne the brunt of her frustrations and had to be her sounding board and crux since I left. Likewise, her friends, or our joint friends, will see me through her eyes and through a belief that I acted out of character, and in doing that will form a judgement, both unfair and untrue.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Melbourne Zoo

Lukes First Day at Kinder - 8th Feb 1998

Luke had his first day at kinder last Friday. On Fiday morning he came into the bathroom where Lyn was drying her hair and said, “I’ve packed my bayg Mum and I got some lunch too.”

When she opened his Ghostbusters pack to see what was in there, he had packed three cruskit biscuits, one Savoy biscuit and the remains of a banana half eaten by Glen.

Daughter Issues

Last night I met my ex and we discussed boundaries. Whilst I can't say that it was a wonderful experience it is not a nasty breakup. However, after I dropped her home, I got a message from my youngest daughter saying that she didn't want me to take her to school this morning.

Last time I got a similar message I didn't deal with it for a couple of days, so this time I decided I would go around and sort it out immediately as best I could. Bottomline is that she has major issues with me being in a relationship with the lady she blames for breaking up her family. And that is a very simplistic view of what happened which she has no real possibility of understanding for a long time yet. The only way I can really deal with that is to make every effort to remain a part of her life and hope that as time goes on and she sees that I am happy that she will come around.

Kids as teenagers are very good at saying to parents that it is their life and that we shouldn't interfere, they are not so good at understanding that parents also have a right to make a life for themselves, and not have to bind their decisions by what they think may be best for their kids. At the end of the day that is a pathway to unhappiness.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time to Trust

A long time ago I learnt that it hurt to trust. That to open oneself would lead inevitability to getting hurt. Somewhen the ability to trust was left behind. When a marriage fails that trust also fails, it becomes way too easy to lie, and to erect a barrier around feelings simply because it's simpler to do that than to confront them.

I did that and in doing it was not true to anyone least of all myself. Who did say "To thine own self be true." Something I've believed in but not embraced. The first step in learning to trust myself was to admit my infidelities to my wife and to leave the marriage, something I did 15 months ago. But it was still not enough, I still didn't trust myself enough to admit that it was possible to love someone else and that doing that was not something I needed to hide.

I was told once that I didn't have the power to affect so greatly what other people do, but that isn't true. People have been waiting for me to get my life sorted out and in waiting haven't been able to move on themselves. Time now to trust and to be true to myself. In doing that everyone caught up in my life over the past few years can also move forward.

Tonight I am having a coffee with my ex-wife so that the new boundaries in our lives can be set, so that the children [particularly my youngest] can know that there is no chance of things ever being as they once were. Tonight I tell her that I am in a relationship. She may already know that or at least suspect it, but for me there is no more hiding. I want to live again.

My first kiss

I have kissed six women in my lifetime and I suppose for someone who is near fifty that is a very small number. And I can remember clearly each of those girls and the circumstances where the first kiss occurred with each of them.

My very first was in Form 1 at school and it was at a party. In fact it was the first party I had gone to that also had girls present. Someone decided that it would be a good idea to play “Spin the Bottle” and I was absolutely terrified. What if the girl who spun it and had to kiss me laughed, or worse refused to, or decided to be sick and through up over me, or any one of many other thoughts of disaster, kept running through my head.

So I feigned not feeling well myself and went out onto the front patio to hide. I was followed out by a girl called Gill who asked me if I would like to kiss her and as scared as I was I said yes. It was a wonderful experience and I will always be grateful to her for giving that 12 year old nerd a chance to feel OK about himself.

Oh and by the way, that was the only time I kissed her and the next kiss with a different girl didn’t happen till three years later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The main thing's not to panic

A mate of mine used to say that all the time - "The main things not to panic". I can't remember what the context of the comment was, maybe around school exams, maybe when we were lost on a bushwalk to The Bluff, maybe just as a line that became a bit of a signature for him. We called him Fog, which was a corruption of his name, sort of Geoff spelt backwards, but he as no dill. He was a groomsman at my wedding, but never married himself, nor had any of his own children. In fact he decided that passing on genes which had lead him to wearing coke bottle glasses and given him a bad back was not something he wished to burden any children he may have had with. Sadly, he died of a stroke at age 39 back in 1997.

Still those words have just popped back inside my head tonight - The main things not to panic - so thankyou Fog.

Why do I panic? Well I guess it's because I have run away from contact with people, from companionship, and yes, from love, for much of my life. I have come to understand that subconsciously I have not wanted to build deep relationships with people because the fear of loss is too frightening for me. So when I have found that I now do not wish to lose a relationship I panicked, both because I have previously run from commitment, and now wishing to take a forward step I have been overcome by the fear of loss. Not because I will lose it, or even that I expect to lose this one, simply because I have long established pattern of behaviour that has not let people in. And the reason for that is that I have built walls against emotion simply because of fear.

The main things not to panic. I'll try and remember that.

Melbourne by Night

The Artistic and the Criminal – Old Journal 21 Feb 1976 and 25 October 1987

From 21 Feb 1976 four days before I left work at the Ministry for Conservation to commence study at Monash University.

In many ways our society has become too complex. There are people that, fro one reason or another, build up an illusion, a deceit they feel will shield them from this complexity. They are people that have not the courage, who may even be named cowards, though I feel it is not their fault to face reality. Illusion of this type can harm and retard the growth of not only the individual but of the ociety as well. How secure does the chick feel in the egg and alternatively how helpless is it once that frail shell wall is torn down.

For the chick all instinct is turned towards breaking down that wall and beginning life. Unfortunately for man the moment he is, he has the word conform thrust upon him, encouraging growth of restrictions. Morality, social mores and ethics are all hurdles one must conquer on the way to individual freedom. Society is dying, choking, its life blood stifled because these three things are not looked upon in this way. Can a man truly decide what is right or wrong for himself, when from the moment he can comprehend speech his parents tell him what is righ and wrong? Parents who have had their own personalities shaped by society.

Who, you may ask then, has set up the rules under which society functions. To answer I would like to quote a passage from a book –

“The only important elements in a society are the artistic and the criminal, for they alone, by questioning societys values, can force it to change”. From Empire Star by Samuel R. Delaney.

Individuality is important for growth. It is the very nexus of that growth, for without it there is only stagnation. In a society where the role of the individual should play an ever greater part in growth, we have only restrictions and the high pressure need to conform to shape us.

Solutions are few. Youth has traditionally opposed their parents viewpoints for as long as I can remember. In this so called “Generation Gap” lies hope.

On 25th October 1987 I wrote –

I still believe that individuality should be our most precious commodity as a society. It is original thinkers that have lead to all of our society’s advances. I did not realize when I wrote that article that I would one day read two of Ayn Rand’s books – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both of these were concerned with the fact that society demanded that people conform to society’s ideals. Those who dared to be different were ostracized, those that were productive were made to use their productivity for the benefit of others.

It seems that the ultimate perversion to me is to make people work their butt off for the benefit of others. I cannot see how that sort of social system could work because it stifles all incentive.

Australia today seems to have too many people who believe that society owes them a living. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in social justice, but too many people seem to expect dole payments etc, as a right rather than a privilege.

I should also comment on the Delaney quotation. There is a huge difference between artistic and criminal elements in a society. Criminal elements are always destructive. Criminals of course care nothing for the rights of society nor for the rights of individuals. They are not so much interested in questioning society’s values but more in exploiting it’s weaknesses for their own benefit.

22 May 2007 - And now almost twenty years further on it is interesting to reflect from an older mans point of view. In 1976 I was 18 years old and looking at the world from a very narrow viewpoint, not necessarily wrong, but without the trappings of experience and without the knowledge that comes from that experience, nor with the respect for the elders that I possibly should have had.

In 1987, I was a father of two young boys, 3 and 2 years old, with the pressures that come with fatherhood, and the dreams that you will raise children in a world better than the one in which you were raised. I had just turned 30 years old.

Now, near fifty, I am more respectful of those who came before and who have shaped the world in which I live. I still do not believe that everything is right with this world, but I have lost the cynicism which lead to the belief that the social system did not allow personal growth, or that there was no value in anything other than the cult of the individual. I now see that there is intrinsic value that helps build society, in working for others, in ensuring that altruism is valued. There are many people, far beyond the artistic and criminal, who contribute to the well being of our lives, and who do it in silence with nothing more to gain other than the satisfaction of helping others. They are now my heroes.

Panic Attacks

Ever been in a situation when things are seemingly so good that it seems like there must be something wrong. Do we really have to spend so much time waiting for a fall and not enjoying things for the sake of it? Is that fragility something that can be shaken off and not allowed back in? Fragility is not something I enjoy. Blokes are supposed to cope with things and not let emotion interfere with logic. But there ain't a lot of logic about some situations. And if that seems like a muddy bit of writing to anyone reading, feel better, because it does to me too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

8 Random Things You Don't Know About Me.

Beth has tagged me to list some random facts that you don't know about me. Just so those I tag know the rules here they are.

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names. (I only picked 3)
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged and to read your blog.

Now about me.

1. I am a qualified palynologist [and I like big words that no one else has ever heard of].

2. A Quarter of a century ago I wrote a thesis on Climate Change in the Victorian Alps.

3. I am of predominantly Irish descent [including four Irish convict great-great-grandparents] with the rest being a mixture of English, Scottish and Australian Aboriginal.

4. I was a policeman for 16 years resigning with the rank of Sergeant.

5. Whilst in the police force I worked as both a hostage negotiator and a counter-terrorist intelligence analyst.

6. I am a two-time Basketball Victoria Administrator of the Year.

7. Four of the best days of my life were those my children were born.

8. I love the smell of petrichor.

I know I'm supposed to pass this on but I'll amend the post a little later when I check to see if any of my regular readers have already done it or not.

A drink of water

Sometimes when you ask for something it doesn't really mean that's what you're asking for nor really that that is what you want. I've learnt a few things about that recently.

I have had a couple of sessions of hypnosis as part of my counselling and I guess as with many people it is a strange experience. In some manner it feels like you are really just playing a game and that any time you feel like it you can sit up and say that its all bs.

For me in one session though I found myself back at a time when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It was night time and I was lying in bed calling out to my Dad asking him to bring me a glass of water. I hadn't thought about that in so many years but in looking back now it was an almost nightly ritual.

Dad was an alcholic and he would often come home drunk, but I would lie awake each night waiting for the sound of his car in the driveway and the inevitable verbal argument that would start when he came in the door. It is hard looking back now to really think that he was drunk every night, maybe he wasn't maybe it's just the memories of the bad times that are left as anchor points to hang onto.

So when I heard him I would start calling out, "Daddy, I want a drink of water", and most nights he would come down the passageway and into my room with a glass. Sometimes I'd drink it and ask for another, sometimes it would just remain on the bedside table.

The hypnosis showed me that I wasn't really thirsty for water, what I really wanted was to know that he was home safe and in seeing that I could finally close my eyes and sleep for the night. Dad wasn't demonstratively affectionate, like me I guess, so a cuddle was out of the question, but I would get a kiss to the forehead as he left the room.

So sometimes asking for things doesn't really mean that is what you want. As I've learnt over the past couple of weeks it is sometimes better to say out loud and up front what you really want rather than assume that they know what you really mean. I've spent way too much of my lifetime pushing people away because I was scared to say what I really mean.

Asking for a drink of water in my case meant I was really asking to be loved and showing that I loved.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Little Bit Selfish

I have finally realised that I cannot live my life for other people. That there comes a time when you actually have to put what you consider to be the right thing for yourself ahead of anything you may consider is the right thing for someone else. That may inevitably mean some hurt for some people.

But you cannot change other people, you only have the power to change yourself. And in recognising that you can also start to be that little bit selfish. I feel that I have lived according to what I thought was right for others, and as a consequence have worn the masks I've worn, and kept closed the doors I've closed, until I didn't even know what was right for me.

Time to be selfish for a while.

Wagonga Inlet, Narooma, New South Wales

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Slipping Away?

Particularly ordinary day today. You know the feeling when you anticipate something really good is going to happen and then you get an inkling that the opposite may be true. Nothing you can really put your finger on, just a feeling of dread that grabs the spine and knots the shoulders so bad that you've got to make a conscious effort to try and relax. And despite those efforts you can't seem to unwind.

The springs were wound way too tight for me last night. Didn't sleep. Felt crook in the guts and couldn't find that position in bed that would let me drift off. Tried counting sheep, spent hours watching the light show on closed eyelids and spent time trying to blanken my mind to find that spot where I could retreat and take stock even if just for a couple of hours.

There are days when things just seem to be on the edge of slipping away. Days when despite a sense of excitement that the apprehension just builds and fears become all consuming, when the future all of a sudden seems muddy again.

And in being in that unwanted place I am reminded of a quote from Norman Mailer's book - Armies of the Night -

Deliver us from our curse for we must end on the road to that mystery where courage, death and dream of love give promise of sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What were they thinking?

I wrote in an earlier post about my first real bush walk but what I didn't write at that time was why I didn't think that I would enjoy it.

I was a cub and then a scout; a member of 9th Box Hill Troop. I'm not sure why, but the troop I belonged to was full of kids I didn't know and I guess like my Sunday School experience, I didn't really enjoy it. In fact I really went under sufferance and in many ways because I was forced to go.

I enjoyed some of the suff we did - chalk chases and some of the other games - I never really saw a lot of point in learning how to tie knots or do some of the other stuff that earnt competency badges and I put a lo of that down to an incident that happened fairly early on in my scouting career.

One weekend the troop headed off to Mt Ritchie for a camping adventure. Most kids had packs and sleeping bags, but not me, I carried a suitcase, complete with blankets and pillows. Anyone who has experienced the badge of outcast will know how stupid I felt having to lug a suitcase up a mountain track for a few miles until we got to the campsite. I have no idea what Mum and Dad were thinking sending me off like that. I'm certain they didn't mean to humilaite me or to isolate me, and I know that we didn't have access to things like proper hiking gear. No matter the reason it put me off wanting to hike for a long time.

A suitcase for crying out loud! What were they thinking?

Monday, May 14, 2007



There is yet another Social Networking site I've come across called myLot. Have to say that I don't know a lot about it yet but in order to have this blog listed I have to create this post with a link to here - lozster - which will apparently activate the blog. So check it out if you are looking at new places to promote your blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Kata Tjuta

These were all taken in March 2005 of Kata Tjuta also known as the Olgas. Lying 30 kilometers from Uluru they consist of more than 30 rounded domes, the highest being Mt Olga at 536 meters.

Have you ever heard an emu growl?

For those who don't know, and I'm not sure I have mentioned it before, I work at a Basketball Association and our top level Men's team has two American imports playing in it. On Friday I took one of them to Healesville Sanctuary. That's a part of the Melbourne Zoo that only has native Australian animals and is located around 60 kilometers from the city centre, to the east of Melbourne.

Now I know to a lot of non-Australians that this country may well seem to be populated by all sorts of poisonous and dangerous animals great and small and John is pretty wary of animals at the best of times. A few weeks ago he was at one of my co-workers holiday houses and stepped outside onto the decking to look at the view. A few seconds later he bolted back inside and ran through the house to lock himself in the toilet.

In order to scare away the cockatoos who had been eating the decking timber, these people had strategically placed plastic snakes around the deck and John had seen one of those and thinking it was real, bolted to the only place he thought had a small enough gap under the door to prevent anything from following him.

Now emus are not the most attractive of birds. Large and with a head that is evidence of their descent from dinosaurs, they also have a propensity for growling. According to some websites the male gives a growl when it approaches newly hatched chicks. No one said emus were smart but this one was making one hell of a racket when John and I approached it. I don't reckon I look much like an emu chick and the big fella is 6'8" so he certainly doesn't. The photo shows John at his closest approach.


Sometimes I wonder who the real me is. It seems that we spend a lifetime putting on the masks of expectations, that of the son is different to that of the father, or of the brother or husband. For me the policeman mask is very different to that of the CEO, or the cleaner, factory worker, shop assistant that I have been in the past.

The facade of confidence is more evident in some masks than in others as is the air of vulnerability. And even within the masks, are similar ones that display different emotions, to the point at times, when they may even appear to be a totally different mask.

So who am I? Well the truth is an amalgam of all of them. Very few people have seen the real me. I don't really believe that is too different to other people, or maybe it is. Are some people so open that they are exactly the same person no matter who they are with or what situation they are in? Or do we all selectively put them on or shed them to fit with a certain situation. Where does the honesty kick in or the lie begin? And why do we do it? Is it fear or even ego?

Is it worse for a man than a woman because to be the provider is to have a desire to be seen as strong and without weakness? Or do women face the same issues? Is the mask of the carer, the mother, the daughter, the wife, the worker, the boss any more an amalgam of the true person than those of the masks of a man?

Rhetorical questions my friends, are there any answers.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Spiritual Centre

For many Australians Uluru feels like the centre of the country even if you have never been there. When you do arrive and finally see the monolith in the flesh you are struck with a true feeling of awe. Sure it's not the highest peak, nor the most spectacular natural wonder on earth but jutting from the plain it dominates the landscape.
It is equally awe-inspiring from the air and that vantage point does give a totally different perspective.

One Magical Sunset

These were taken at Lake Bonney on Easter Saturday 2005, the first night of a trip to Central Australia.

From an old journal

I have been keeping a journal since 1976 and have begun to read some of that old stuff again. I wrote the following on 10th July 1977, 4 days before my 20th birthday and it's interesting looking back on it almost 30 years later -

* He who hesitates is not lost, it just may take him longer to get somewhere.
* He who delights in solitude is neither a beast nor a God, just a fool masquerading as one.
* Mistakes should never be dwelt upon, but should be accepted and filed away for future reference.
* "Honesty is the best policy" but only when deception won't work.
* "if at first you don't succeed - try, try again" - What a lot of shit. If it doesn't work the first time try something else.
* "Look before you leap" by all means, but don't let the consequences change your mind too often. Too much caution can breed stagnation.
* If you look to the future and ignore the past and present you will have no future.
* Be wary of self professed wise men; more often than not they are self deceived half wits.
* Always throw the first blow; that way you may not have to throw another.
* "The more the merrier" depends much on what you're talking about.
* Memories; some are sad, some are painful, but none should ever be regretted. No matter what emotions they conjure, we can always learn something from them, and through learning we may better ourselves.

Mental Maps

Gordon Livingston is a psychiatrist whose book "Too Soon Old Too Late Smart" has been another that I have gained some valuable insights from. This whole midlife thing is characterised by introspection and sorting through of memories both good and bad.

Sometimes in using writing as a cathartic experience we do tend to concentrate way too much on the painful side of things rather than those that have been good for us throughout our lifetime. When I read through some of what I have written here it seems that I have had a lousy time, but that is not the case. It's just that the things that have hurt, or those that we do not understand, are those that we really need to put into context.

Livingston's first chapter is titled "If the map doesn't agree with the ground then the map is wrong." Most of us do tend to believe that things that have gone before have lead us to this particular place and time, not unreasonably, but we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that going forward we will end up in some other place. So we keep travelling down a track not realising that we've been lost for a while until we pull out the map. The mistake is then believing that the map has to be right for us, that our plans and expectations for our lives should have been one way but have turned out to be something totally different.

We don't approach marriage believing anything other than it should be forever, when we find that is not the case, we spend a lot of time examining the map and trying to make it conform to the new landscape when we perhaps should really just start to draw a new one.

I suppose one of the tricks in being able to move forward is that we must take responsibility for our own futures. It's often easy to blame people for past events, and for some even easier to wallow in self-pity and blame ourselves. But what we really should do is accept that whilst we can't change the past, we can give it context that explains who we are now so that we can choose who we wish to be in the future.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mothers Day

My Mum seems sad these days. Around 10 years ago she and my father sold the family home and moved into a granny flat at the back of my sister's place. It seemed like a good idea at the time but on reflection it probably wasn't. Whilst most of their friends and neighbours had moved from the area by the time they left, the old place was still home and I think when you leave memories behind you die a little.

Dad passed away in August 2004 and although he and Mum had their problems they also loved each other and I think she's been very lonely ever since. As the time continues to pass others with whom she shared her life have also passed away. Three years ago it was Mum's sister, in January this year, her sister-in-law, and now her older brother is in hospital having suffered a heart attack and stroke in the past few weeks.

If I feel the loss of those past generations of family how must she feel when it is her generation that is leaving this life.

Mum had an operation on her spine last year because she has osteo porosis and osteo arthritis and it has given her a little more freedom of movement but not a lot of relief from pain. She can still drive and get around but it is becoming more difficult. When she loses that mobility I fear that she will decide to give up and I also fear (as I do with most birthdays, christmases, and aniversaries, these days that she may not be around for another one).

This Sunday is Mother's Day and I will be visiting her in the morning. My sisters have invited me for dinner but I have to work in the afernoon. I am hoping my youngest daughter will come with me but she told me this morning that she didn't want to go because "she's not my mother and I want to spend the day with my Mum." I'll keep working on her because I know Mum will be disappointed if she doesn't see her. My oldest daughter and second son have said that they will go over in the afternoon and my oldest son is doing officer training in the Army and is out on exercise at the moment, so he won't even have access to a phone.

Mum has always had a terrible singing voice and she acknowledges it, but as I was growing up I remember she would often sing this song -

M is for the million things she gave me
O is that she's only growing old
T is for the tears she shed to save me
H is for her heart as pure as gold
E is for her eyes with love-light shining
R is right or wrong she'll always be
Put them altogether
They spell Mother
The one who means the world to me

I love you Mum.

Abraham Lincoln

I found this whilst browsing the other day and saved the picture. Unfortunately I didn't record the site so forgive me for not giving credit where it's due. I thought it was a great visual pun post the caption if you work it out first :)

And you gotta love google - here's a site - with a plethora of other visual puns.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

I haven't participated in a meme before but I am happy to do so in this case. My blogger friend Paisley has tagged me with a Thinking Blogger Award.

So it is time for me to return the favour and list five that I enjoy and that stimulate my thinking.

1. My Life Starts at Forty-Two by Beth Pena. A beautiful looking blog with an eclectic mix of diary and social commentary.

2. Sunset Pig by Lisa. One I've just found with some great photos and some fun links but also personally insightful.

3. A Quiet Symphony by Melanie Faith. Melanie was one of the first to join my Community on MyBlogLog. Magnificent theme music on the blog.

4. Aussie Diary by kier. Another one I've just stumbled upon in the past few days. Great layout, amusing and well written.

5. Child Protection: Serious Business by Megan Bayliss. The Second Aussie Blog on my list and with a genuine social conscience tackling a tough and important issue.

Congratulations, you won a !

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).