Friday, August 31, 2007

Magnificent Seven P's Meme

I have been tagged by Wolfgang to participate in the "Magnificent Seven P's" meme, which was created by WVb A blog about everything and more:

Passion: my kids
Purpose: to learn to live life to the full
Pursuit: of happiness
Position: changeable
Pummeling: my ego full of self respect
Progress: slow but sure
Personality: boring sometimes, calm, nerdish

And now, as usual when I complete memes I will tag five people who may choose to complete the meme if they so see fit, or not.

Angry Barcode at Intellectual Hedonism
Midlife Beginnings
Theresa at Sleeping Kitten Dancing Dog
Anne at The Rest of Me
Lady Penelope at Lady Penelope's Thoughts

Of Heroes

Just a quick post this time to mention two sports people in the news downunder.

Firstly, last night we saw an amazing performance from Jana Rawlinson who won the 400m hurdles at the World Athletic Championships in Japan. What is remarkable about this is that she did it only 8 months after having a baby. This is a lady who in some ways self destructed just prior to the Athens Olympics so it is a fantastic effort for not only making the comeback but for the manner in which she has done it. I understand she continued to train through most of her pregnancy.

Secondly, Andrew Johns, arguably the greatest Rugby League player Australia has produced and therefore one of the best ever anywhere, admitted on the Channel 9's NRL Footy Show last night that he has been taking illicit drugs for 14 years. You can see a video of his confession here.

In my eyes Andrew Johns has just stepped up a rung on the pedestal despite the fact that this confession may well tarnish his playing reputation I think that he has shown an enormous amount of courage to come out and expose his personal issues so publicly. I fear that it is the tip of an iceberg in terms of the illicit drug problem amongst elite sportsman in this country but I hope that it will now not continue to be swept under the carpet.

Channel 7 a week ago purchased some confidential medical records that have since turned out to be stolen. These records named a Melbourne AFL club and stated that two of it's players were in rehab for drug use. The story has become more about the purchase of stolen medical records than about the issue of illicit drug use and I have been astounded by the response from both the AFL and the AFL Players Association in the vilification of the journalist who broke the story and the fact that in my opinion they are missing the point about the drug use.

The AFL and the AFLPA claim that it has the most stringent drug testing policy of any sport in this country or the world but there are way too many unanswered questions here for me to believe what they are saying.

We know, for example, that Ben Cousins, who plays for the West Coast Eagles, has or had a major drug problem and we also know that he never tested positive for drug use. What we don't know about the current situation is whether these players alluded to by Channel 7 have tested positive and were caught by the AFL's drug testing or whether they have gone into rehab voluntarily. We don't know how many tests are done for illicit drugs, nor how many have tested positive, nor do we know what clubs are involved. On face value, at least one Melbourne based club has a drug culture that needs to be dealt with. And under the AFL policy, unless a player has tested positive three times, that club has no right to know if any of it's players are using drugs. That is absurd.

I also don't like the way that the AFL and AFLPA continue to qualify what they say by stating that we know there is a drug problem but there is a drug problem in the rest of the community too. It is a cop out to claim that football players deserve some leniency because they give up a lot when they become footballers.

If lucky enough to be given an opportunity to play sport professionally they also gain a hell of a lot, including a salary that most kids won't see in ten years of work let alone as a rookie sportsman. And those who are good enough will go on to become part of the privileged few who can retire comfortably in their early 30's. So yes, they give up some privacy, but the payoffs can be enormous. Like it or lump it they also become role models and it is bad that kids can now see an example of elite sportsman who have taken drugs and continued to perform well on field and to prosper off it as a result of money and privilege.

Andrew Johns has at least given a public confession now and we will all watch and hope that he can overcome his problems. I would have far greater respect for the likes of Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr, and these other hidden drug users if they went public and showed that they were serious about overcoming addiction and in showing they understand the duties a role model has to younger people in society.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Morgan's Meme

Here is another tag that is actually getting a bit long in the tooth for which I apologise. This one comes from Walks Far Woman over at Kissing the Dogwood.

So the instructions to the next five people we’re grilling! :)

1- Remove the blog from the top, move all blogs up one, and then add yourself to the bottom.
Homespun Honolulu,
Who’s Yo Mama
Life in the Fast Lane,
Sir Paul McCartney & The Beatles guest band purplemelon,
The Process of a Miracle,
Kissing The Dogwood,
Sunrays and Saturdays

2- Replace the last persons answers to all the questions with 5 of your own.

3- Pass this meme on to five fellow bloggers

************************************************************

What were you doing ten years ago? (Five things)

  1. I was 5 months into owning my own business
  2. growing my hair and a beard
  3. working 80 hours a week
  4. worrying about money
  5. playing basketball

What were you doing one year ago? (Five things)

  1. I was 4 years into my current job
  2. Working 60 hours a week
  3. Worrying about my kids and money
  4. I was in Newcastle for the ABA National Championships
  5. I was waking up to the fact that I was deep into a midlife crisis

Five snacks you enjoy.

  1. potato chips
  2. KFC
  3. Magnum Icecreams
  4. Kiwi Fruit
  5. Chocolate

Five Songs you know the lyrics to…

  1. Hotel California
  2. The Pretender
  3. Sunrays and Saturdays
  4. Summer of 69
  5. Boys of summer

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire.

  1. Give half of it away
  2. Buy a house
  3. Buy a Canon 1DS MkIII
  4. Take a world tour and visit my blog friends
  5. Learn to fly

Five Bad Habits.

  1. snoring
  2. Farting
  3. Occasional intolerance
  4. Feeling guilty when I make a purchase for myself
  5. I am a hoarder

Five things you like to do.

  1. Read
  2. Write
  3. Listen to music
  4. Photography
  5. Participate in sport whether as a player, coach, administrator

Five things you would never wear again.

  1. Platform shoes
  2. Flares
  3. Staggers Jeans
  4. Cravat
  5. Bowler hat

Five favourite toys.

  1. Lego
  2. Toy soldiers
  3. Dino Riders
  4. Bike
  5. Basketball

Five things you hate to do.

  1. Clean up spew
  2. Unblock dunnies
  3. View dead bodies
  4. Use a gun
  5. Confess my sins
Now I am going to tag 5 people on my blogroll whom I don't believe I've tagged before. No obligations folks, I'm not even gonna tell you you're tagged, I expect you'll find it if you're on technorati. ;)

Peter of Worldman
Janice at Twist and Skewer
Dr Heidi at Virushead
Pen of Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Ohmyword at Ohmyword

Monday, August 27, 2007

Birthday Meme ...and then there were 3

Birthday Meme ...and then there were 3
I think I am way behind memes so if I you have tagged me and I haven't answered please let me know in a comment. Steph from Remedial Rumination has tagged me with the birthday meme.

Instructions: Go type in your birthday in Wikipedia (month and day). Write down three events, 2 births, 1 holiday and tag 5 friends. My birthday is July 14:

Events
Births
Holiday
France's National Day

Anyway, if you’re tagged by me, please slot yourself right on the last slot and bump everyone up. And the list:
Are We There Yet?,
Gran’s Memory Keeping Corner,
Teacher Julie,
Mommyness is Happiness,
This is a miracle,
Blur Ting,
Remedial Rumination

Sunrays and Saturdays

Part Deux originating with Janice:

"13 of 3s"

Three things that scare me:
1. Heights
2. Drowning
3. Criticism

Three people who make me laugh:
1. Billy Conolly
2. John Cleese
3. Jeremy Clarkson

Three things I love:
1. Petrichor - The smell of rain on a summers day
2. Wilderness
3. My kids

Three things I hate:
1. Petulance
2. Unsportsmanlike Behaviour
3. Racism

Three things I don't understand:
1. Quantum Physics
2. Cellular Mechanics [just made that one up - don't even know if there is such a thing but if there was I wouldn't understand it
3. WOmen

Three things on my desk:
1. Photo of my daughters
2. Crystal Basketball bought by my son for me in the NBA store in New York
3. A Carlton wobble head figurine

Three things I am doing right now:
1. Watching City Homicide - New Australian TV Show
2. Drinking a cup of tea
3. Thinking about making up a meme on favourite books

Three things I want to do before I die:
1. Visit Machu Pichu
2. Walk the Cradle Mountain track in Tasmania
3. Be a great great great Grandfather

Three things I can do:
1. Write
2. Photograph
3. Cook

Three things I can't do:
1. Ride a motorbike
2. Bungy Jump
3. Stop thinking

Three things I think you should listen to:
1. I Hope You Dance - Leeann Womack
2. The Dance - Garth Brooks
3. A childs laugh

Three things you should never listen to:
1. Gossip
2. Fingernails on a blackboard
3. Power saw

Three shows I watched as a kid:
1. Gilligan's Island
2. Hogan's Heroes
3. The Flintstones

And for the three who may choose to do this one or not -

Gypsy
Janice
Pen

Musical Monday - They Don't Understand

Next time you're feeling a little impatient or angry about standing in a queue, or maybe just like you're in a hurry, try and remember this song from Sawyer Brown.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Part of the week that was - of coaches

Interestingly this is the older of my two blogs but the one which has least visits and which this month I seem to have ignored more. Then I remembered that I had two weeks where I was quite ill with the flu and found little inclination, desire or motivation to write anyway.

My three blogs are all quite different - Midlife is where I tend to spend a fair bit of my time exploring emotion, philosophy and feelings; Visions of Oz where I display some of my photographic work; and here which began really as a place where I speak more of day to day stuff and where I have begun to transcribe some of my old journals. I have thought about merging them all and have found that I can do that on wordpress but for the moment it seems to make some sense to me to keep the themes separate. Readers of midlife will know that I have pondered whether to create yet another anonymous blog, but instead I have decided just to keep some things totally private by writing in my journal.

So instead of ignoring this blog completely I've decided I'll make an effort to at least give a weekly update of what's been going on. Might well be boring for most of you but it will serve as a record for me to keep if nothing else. So here goes.

Our Director of Coaching at work has taken a new position interstate after being with us for 8 years - in fact he predates my employment by three years, but I have known him for much longer than that because I was involved in employing him in a part time capacity at my former basketball association.

He has done a lot of good work here - won a SEABL championship last year, taken our junior program from 2 Victorian Championship teams in his first year to 13 this year - but like all of us, although he will be missed he is not irreplaceable and I am looking forward to finding a replacement and working with whoever that will be to continue the development of the sport.

I suppose I should explain a bit about the sport's structure here in Victoria because it is very different to anywhere else on the planet from what I can gather. And I probably should say that the sport is Basketball for those of you who don't know me.

The area of Melbourne in which I live and work is arguably the most densely populated basketball area on earth. Within a ten kilometre radius of where I work there are around 5000 basketball teams playing in organised competitions, and the Association where I work is, on last years figures, one team less than the largest Association in the country. We have around 1,000 teams, with 8500 players competing on a weekly basis.

One thing you do tend to find out when someone leaves is that there is sometimes a polarised view of their performance - most people are saddened but there are also some who welcome it and see opportunities opening up for them. We have already heard of a number of people who would like to return to the Association as a result of the move - but some of those people left for all of the wrong reasons so their return will not be a fait accompli.

One thing the Chairman and I decided was that we had to move quickly to sign the two imports who will play in our SEABL Men's team next year. Now in the past we have very much left that to the coach to determine, but this year the situation has changed for a couple of reasons.

And I should first explain that we are allowed to have two restricted players in the team and they can either be foreign players or players who have averaged more than 12 minutes per game in our National League [NBL].

The first reason for the change was that if we are to sign foreign players we now need to do police checks in their home country - now in our case, with two Americans, that means we need to get FBI checks done and we are told that can take up to 20 weeks. So if we want them out here for pre-season in early January, we need to get that underway as soon as possible. Secondly we weren't sure how long it would take to find a replacement coach and didn't want to risk waiting a few weeks in case the FBI checks were delayed.

So we have signed both imports already; the first will be returning for his 4th season with us, the second was on our list for last season but we made the approach too late. I won't name them here because we won't make the official announcement until later in the week and the second guy needs to tell his former club that he has signed with us before we trumpet it anyway.

So there you go - first post with a bit of a different theme.

Walhalla 6




Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cats in the Cradle


Last Sunday was daughter number 2's 14th birthday and we had a really good afternoon together. We went over to see my Mum first and then to the pictures and saw the Simpsons Movie. I guess the best thing to say about that is that the opening line says something like - "You sucker, fancy paying for something you get free on TV." Still she liked it and that means I liked it too.

Today was son number 2's 22nd birthday. I rang him last night and asked him whether he would like to go to the footy today which he declined because he was sick of watching our team get belted this year. Wise move as it turned out because it is halftime in the match as I write this and we are a little over five goals down on our way to another loss. I asked him what he would like as a present and he said he didn't really know so we agreed to meet at the shopping centre this afternoon so that I could buy him something. I ended up getting him Series 5 of the Family Guy, matthew McConaughey's new DVD "We are Marshall", and the Mark Wahlberg movie "The Shooter".

I asked if he wanted to have some lunch but he said that he wasn't hungry having not long gotten out of bed; so I then asked if he wanted to have a coffee somewhere and he said "Not really." So we chatted for a while in the car park and then off he went. I did notice that he was on his phone in his car as we drove up the highway and he turned off before home so I assume he went off to visit a mate.

It felt like a real "Cats in the Cradle" moment and saddened me a little. Then I thought about my relationship with my Dad and it may not really have been any different. I should have made a point of taking him out somewhere for his birthday when he was alive, or of making attempts to see him more often than I did. I always felt that we had little in common and that may well have been the case but I regret not trying to do more things with him.

Now my son isn't always like this with me - we do go out to the pictures occasionally, or for a feed or to the footy, but today I felt a bit sad that he obviously didn't really want to spend any time with me. I don't think he was even very interested in the present, that he actually only turned up out of obligation to me and not because he was really all that excited to see me on his birthday. He's planning to head off to Queensland in a few weeks because there are better work prospects up there and that is probably a good thing, but will mean I see less of him than I do now.

Of my four children he was the one whose birth I missed. My wife went into labour six weeks early and we spent a long sleepless night at the hospital whilst the doctors tried to discourage the birth. I was sent home around 10am in the morning and at about 5pm I got an urgent call saying to get into the hospital quickly. I arrived 5 minutes after he was born and being prem he was placed straight into a humidicrib so I didn't even get to hold him until he was a day old. Seems like yesterday to me but the reality is that he is now a young man finding his own way and it is normal for a kid to want to spend less time with his parents and more with his mates and girlfriends.

"And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me that he grown up just like me. My boy was just like me."

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Passage


"Man's youth is a wonderful thing It is full of anguish and magic And he never comes to know it as it is until It has gone from him forever." - Thomas Wolfe - Of Time and the River

I wonder if we waste our youth, always rushing, always looking forward, failing to just sit for a while and enjoy the moment. Somewhere between childhood and midlife the practicalities of life impose themselves far too often on how we live.

The innocence of childhood is replaced by the arrogance and confidence of young adulthood and then the uncertainty of midlife. Is this something that happens to everyone? I would have to say that most of the people I know who are in that midlife age range have not shown any outward signs of the confusion that seems to characterise this period. So is it actually common but something people are able to keep hidden or is it something that is comparatively rare?

"And in the passage from the cradle to the grave We are born madly dancing. Rushing headlong through the crashing of the days We run on and on without a backward glance" - Dan Fogelberg, In the Passage, 1981

The thing I can't answer yet is how long the phase lasts, nor do I know what lies at the other end. All I can say is that the only definite is change. And I can only hope that the changes will one day reveal themselves to have been positive. So if the life journey can be the metaphor of a journey down a river, where am I now? I feel that I am out of the rapids, that I have found a quiet backwater where I have the luxury of time to reflect, to sort through the crap and baggage before I have to paddle back out to the mainstream.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best in the country


I have spent a couple of days in Sydney where I attended the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame dinner and was pleased to accept an award on behalf of Knox Basketball as Association of the Year in the large category [more than 2,500 members]. This is the highest accolade we can be given and is an addition to the Basketball Victoria award we received earlier in the year as the State Association of the Year. The photo is of me, our Chairman, two of my work colleagues and Emma Randall and Hollie Grima who not only play for us but who were also members of the Australian Opals team that won the 2006 World Championship in Brazil.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ethics of Blogging

I started this blog for me. It was a place I could explore through writing some of the issues that were affecting me on a day to day basis. A place where I could examine the past with a view to trying to understand the present. I never believed in the whole midlife crisis thing until it started to happen to me and for a long time I had no idea what it was. Ultimately I have learnt that the end result of it is change - you change as a person, your circumstances change, relationships change, the way you deal with things changes. People judge those changes whether you want them to or not.

I wasn't an anonymous blogger as such, my photo was up, but I didn't really expect that there would be much interest in what I wrote and I certainly never really thought that people who know me would read it. So the blog began with a few people who dipped in and probably decided not to come back, gradually it started to get some regular readers who cared enough to comment, then at some stage people who know me found it.

I don't know exactly when the latter happened, nor how many of you who read this do know me nor do I know what you think of me. I have said often that I don't have a group of friends who I can talk face to face with about the things I discuss here. I do know that in becoming aware of the fact that I am writing stuff that people who know me read, that I have had to temper some of the things I have said and the way I have said them. I have certainly not tried to be dishonest at any time, but there are things I have written that have remained private and that I would now never share on this forum. But there are probably some things I have written that would have been better left to an anonymous blog rather than posting here where I can be criticised.

I have been accused of being disrespectful, of writing out of self interest and attempting to influence people's opinions of me with what I write and the way I write it. I think the people who have said that have missed the motivation I have in writing. Of course this is about me, of course that is my side of a story that has many sides, and of course I see things differently to the way other people see them. I have not pretended to be perfect, I have not sought to blame anyone for the situation I am in other than myself. I don't believe that I have made myself out to be a martyr and I am certainly not a hero - just a flawed human being who is trying to understand a bit more about himself. That's all I am, nothing more nor less.

I have even been accused of attempting to manipulate my kids by writing some of what I write and I never thought that was something that I was trying to do.

I don't get why some people see fit to continue reading here if they don't like what I say. I don't get why some of you [who do know me] discuss what I write with other people. I don't get why there seems to be slants put on what I say that are at odds with what I say, that gossip takes on a life of it's own and that what I write has been used to hurt people. How does that happen - do you read things and get straight on the phone to talk to people about it? Do you wait to bring it up in conversation? What possible motivation can you have in gossiping about what I write? And who are you? How many of you who know me talk about what I write? Am I being paranoid and overestimating the worth of what I write? Do you all truly think that I am being egotistical, that I write without any concern about whether I hurt other people or not?

I know in putting stuff publicly on a blog and inviting comment that I should be prepared for the negative as well as the positive responses. So what do I do - stop posting here and start an anonymous one somewhere else, keep doing what I have been doing and to hell with what other people think, or just stop altogether? I suppose that at the end of the day, you my dear audience, can choose whether or not to visit and read. If I start censoring what I write then the blog changes, it becomes something I never wanted it to be. It does become dishonest.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Praise and Blame


Richard Carlson writes in his book "Don't sweat the small stuff" that praise and blame are all the same. That when we learn to accept that we will never be able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time, that the times when people do express disappointment with us will be easier to bear.

One of the major challenges of midlife is that we often struggle with self esteem - perhaps we are not as successful at work as we would have liked, or relationships begin to break down, all of these things are bruising to the ego and often small criticisms are taken on board to the point where we begin to question other aspects of our lives where we have been successful.

I have had my share of failures - in fact I wrote about one of them here, but there have also been others and I have no doubt that those failures lead to the situation where my marriage failed, not through any fault of my wifes, but simply because I did not cope with failure as well as I could have, and I tended to blame myself for those things that went wrong.

I will write another time about my failed business venture, a time during which I learnt a lot about myself, but which lead inevitable to extremely long working hours and a neglect of family purely because we were trying to keep our heads above water from an economic point of view.

Oddly enough I have also received my fair share of praise for the work I have done, but it was always easy for me to overlook that praise and concentrate on the blame rather than accept the accolades.

I never considered myself to be a good policeman - academically I excelled - but I was never a good street copper, I don't think I really had the instincts for it. I did find my niche as an intelligence officer and I was very good at that, but in specialising I narrowed my career choices, and finding that I had been pigeon holed I began to look around for other things to do. So in 1997 I left and bought a business which only lasted around 18 months before, through many reasons not our fault, we then found we had to close the doors and walk away. Fortunately, we managed to keep our house at that time, but the debt that is still there is directly related to that failed business venture.

In order to try and recover I worked two jobs and around 80 hours a week for a few years, all the time not seeing that my family was suffering.

I eventually came to work in the sports industry, after having been a volunteer for many years, I found myself as the CEO of the largest basketball association in the country. The organisation has continued to grow and flourish since I've been there, some might say in spite of me being there, but I think overall that I will be judged kindly for the work I have done. I have been named Basketball Victoria Administrator of the Year for the past 2 years, the Association was named Association of the Year for the State last year and next week I am travelling to Sydney to accept a national award [details of which I will announce next week].

Yet still I struggle with the belief that I am actually not that good at my job. It is I suppose a matter of balance - hard to accept to praise in one area when you spend a lot of time blaming yourself for failures in the personal area. It is a very fine line between having a healthy ego and allowing poor self esteem to creep in and affect other areas of our lives.

Carlson writes that it is far easier to deal with praise than blame and that the more content he has become with his life the less he needs to rely on praise to feel good about himself. Easier said than done methinks.

[Image from despair.com]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

For one half of the population

From Journal 1 - 21st July, 1981

'My paternal grandfather - an unsavoury old reactionary; the Femlibbers would have lynched him - used to say, "Zebadiah, the mistake we made was not in putting shoes on them or in teaching them to read - we should never have taught them to talk!"'
- Zebadiah John Carter (from Robert A Heinlein - The Number of the Beast, p.9)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dabbling in Religion

Those who have been reading here for a while may remember my post about hating Sunday School. But it maybe was also partly fear of sin and of having people tell me that God new absolutely everything that I not only did but that I thought as well. I was happy for Father Christmas to know when I'd been naughty or nice because I knew that if on balance I was more often good than I was bad, then chances were that Christmas Day would be a good one. But it worried me what God might think? I mean how was I supposed to know what was good and what was bad and more importantly what weight was put on each of the things. I never knew where I stood on the scale of goodness and badness and that was scary.

But at a young age and growing up in a God fearing if not totally devout family, God was there, lurking in the background, waiting to judge me, and I'm sure there were plenty of times I thought about disobeying my parents but didn't because I was scared of judgement. If I couldn't always be totally good, I wasn't gonna be bad and start getting a heap of black marks against my name. So everynight I'd kneel beside my bed and say my prayers even knowing that I hated Sunday School.

As my sisters and I got a bit older, Mum and Dad finally gave up on forcing us to get up early on those Sunday mornings, so if we weren't out visiting family for lunch on a fortnightly basis, we'd be able to sleep in, and there were many days when I could just lie in bed and read my books or comics.

My next real experience with religion was around third form [Year nine for those of you closer to 30 years old than 50] when a group called MOC [Melbourne Outreach Crusade] got a hold amongst some of the kids at school. Two I remember who were pretty heavily involved at the time were MarkMitchell and Kim Silverman. They spent many a recess and lunchtime standing on seats in the school quadrangles preaching from the bible and talking in tongues. It was pretty exciting times for young impressionable kids and pretty soon they both had a fair following. Kids would come to school each morning and talk about whether during their prayers they had babbled in tongues.

We'd all gather in a big circle and pray together several times a day. Now as with a lot of things I did, I was pretty much a fringe dweller here. I participated because some of my mates did and it was easier to be involved than not be involved. Some of them made it a way of life for a while attending prayer meetings out of school and on weekends. There was no way I really ever wanted to get that involved but I guess it didn't hurt to have a couple of bob each way. If God was really still making marks against my name, maybe I could pick up a few brownie points by getting involved during school hours at least.

It all seemed to peter out as soon as it began, by fourth form [Year 10] we'd moved onto hypnotism and for some that was actually letting the devil in. For most of us, it was a passing fad that was a bit of fun at the time.

Now I have no idea whether these two blokes, Mark and Kim, still regard themselves as Christians, or whether as budding teenage evangelists they embraced God because they genuinely believed at the time or not. I always thought they did. I can say though that both have pursued some very interesting careers since leaving Burwood High School.

Mark Mitchell has become one of Australia's finest comedians and actors famous for a number of characters he created including Con the Fruiterer.

On doing a search for Kim Silverman tonight I found that he graduated from Monash University in 1977 and, now a doctor, he is Principal Research Scientist for Apple in the US. He also happens to be the President of the Society of American Magicians.

Amazing really that two people from a middle class background attending Burwood High School in Melbourne who were so caught up in an evangelical movement all those years ago have both gone on to become famous and well respected in their chosen fields. Those days of schoolyard performances obviously stood them both in very good stead.

Musical Monday - The Living Years

I wish I had taken this advice when my Dad was alive.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Bleary Road


1969 and this album was on high rotation. There were only three school terms in those days so the holidays were usually around May and September and that year was my first at High School. Mum was working full time, my sisters were being baby sat by the neighbour across the road and Dad must have agreed to take me to work on a few days.

He was a “Commercial Traveller” and at that time worked for a company called E.C. Blackwood’s who were paper merchants and their warehouse was on southbank in the days when it was an industrial area a long way from the riverside boulevard and cafĂ© precinct that it has become. The railway line and the river were the true boundary of the city. In fact the river was disdained and in lot’s of ways Melbourne seemed embarrassed by it in those days – the river that flowed upside down, a sewer.

The southbank was an industrial area, warehouses, factories, cobbled laneways, narrow streets, trucks, and that was where I headed with my Dad on those school holiday mornings.

Dad had a company car and it was updated annually. The first one I can remember him driving was a mini minor and that must have been around 1964-65 because we went on a holiday to Adelaide in it – five people plus luggage piled high on the roof. After that though, the company began to supply Holden’s and in 1969 I’m pretty sure he was driving a grey HR Holden sedan like the one in the picture.

Amazingly for us, this car had a radio and it was that which became my friend those long afternoons when I went to work with Dad. Usually the mornings were spent seeing clients, driving all over the city, taking orders and selling new paper products. Most of Dad’s sales were in paper bags – no plastic bags in those days, wherever you went, grocer, greengrocer, milkbar, bottle shop, everything was put into paper bags.

But inevitably come lunchtime, there would be a rendezvous at a pub somewhere with some mates. Now as I think back on it, these dates must have been set up earlier because there were no mobile phones or pagers in those days, so it all had to be pre-planned. I didn’t think too much of it at the time if Dad would say, I’ll just pop in here for a while.

I was a kid of course, and kids weren’t allowed in bars, so I’d have to stay in the car and wait for him to come out. Usually he’d bring me out a lemon squash or something to drink, maybe a small bottle of tarax lemonade, and maybe a sandwich. But looking back I guess there was no real concern about leaving a kid in a car in a car park of a pub alone for a few hours, while he was in there drinking with his mates. I don’t suppose there was any real danger in those days, I survived, but we’d be pretty critical of anyone who did that to kids these days.

So the radio was my friend and that afternoon Abbey Road was on high rotation and that meant that the top 5 songs on the chart were played every couple of hours or so. When Dad was in the car the radio was tuned into the horse races but when I was sitting there by myself I could listen to 3XY or to 3AK “where no wrinklies fly”. I clearly remember even now the words of “Bang Bang Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Come together” and “Octopus’s Garden”. Look at this list of some of the other top hits of 1969 –
1. Aquarius, Fifth Dimension
2. Sugar, Sugar, Archies
4. Honky Tonk Women, Rolling Stones
5. Build Me Up Buttercup, Foundations
8. I'll Never Fall In Love Again, Tom Jones
13. Hair, Cowsills
16. Crimson And Clover, Tommy James and The Shondells
18. Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley
19. Proud Mary, Creedence Clearwater Revival
22. Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond

I’m betting everyone of them was played while I sat there waiting for Dad. But I don’t know how long I used to sit alone in the car on those afternoons. It was hours, I know that, because Dad was usually under the weather when he came out some time later. Funny, this particular day that keeps popping into my head was sunny, not hot, but not cold either. The sky was blue with light whilte clouds drifting slowly past. I can remember that we were somewhere on the Hume Highway, near Broadmeadows, the pub was in an industrial area, a large car park, with not a lot of traffic in it.

Looking back it’s really hard to imagine how socially acceptable drink driving was at the time. Dad was clearly pissed on those afternoons but thought nothing of driving home and showed less concern about driving home with his son next to him. The only way home from that pub on that day was down Sydney Road, through the city and then out Riversdale Road to home. We could follow the tram tracks. I guess it wasn’t possible to speed on that route so maybe that was how we got home safely every time.

I actually enjoyed being with Dad on those days, until we got to the pubs.

I know I keep returning to things about my Dad here and the reason is that there are so many of my midlife issues that keep pointing back to my Dad’s alcoholism. I will never say that I had a deprived or bad childhood, I didn’t, but I need to put the things I regard as my weaknesses into context – communication skills, inability to make friends and maintain friendships, self esteem, inability to express emotion, desire to run from and avoid conflict. I’m trying to understand why a father would do that to a son. I know there are people who have been treated far worse. But why did Dad think it was acceptable to leave a kid in a car in a car park of a pub for hours while he was inside drinking with his mates? Different times I guess. Just different times.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Huntsman

The last post reminded me of another occasion from my previous life as a policeman. For a number of years I worked in the Witness Protection area of the police force and back in those days [I stress that it is no longer the case] we held the witnesses on isolated rural properties.

Most of these places had a single residence but were chosen to have several outbuildings where we coppers could live, eat and sleep, whilst we were locked up with the witness usually for a week at a time. You learn a lot about the blokes you work with in these circumstances. The hours are long and boring, there is no such thing as time off, there was often times that you had to respond to incidents even when you were technically stood down.

There was little to do except play cards, watch videos, or maybe play table tennis, when you weren't sitting at a guard post or manning the radio. There were of course some people that absolutely rubbed you the wrong way, either because they went missing when things like cooking or dish washing needed to be done, or simply because they weren't the type of person you would normally have wanted to spend time with.

I remember being woken by a shotgun blast one night which got us all scrambling for our weapons and falling out of bed responding to what we thought was an attack only to find that one of our colleagues had fallen asleep at his post with his finger inside the trigger and as he jerked forward he put a round through the roof of the verandah he was sitting on. Needless to say, he didn't do another of these operations for a long time.

There was one guy that we insisted was put on permanent night shift, not because he wasn't a good guy to have around, just that his snoring was the worst any of us had ever heard and given we were all sleeping, dormitory style in a shed, he was guaranteed to ensure that no one would get any sleep.

The sheds we were in were pretty spartan - concrete floor, tin walls and roof - freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer, and totally lacking any privacy. They also were not by any stretch of the imagination "critter proof". Now we have some pretty big spiders over here and one of the most common is the huntsman. Everything I've read says that they can get up to 15 centimeters across, but I can tell you that I've seen some that have been closer to 25-30cm in my own backyard. And this particular shed was full of them.

One day, when our loudly snoring colleague was in bed sleeping, another of the guys came and got us and said "Come and have a look at this."

We all crept into the shed and there he was the snorer, flat on his back, a large huntsman on his face, rising and falling slowly as he breathed in and out. What do you think we did?

The answer is in the comments :)

I'm Back - Sort Of

I'm starting to feel a little better - at least to the point where I can read but not where I feel too much like writing yet.

I've been lucky - I've only ever had more than four days in a row away sick from work once before in my lifetime and that was five years ago when I had an operation on my sinuses. This thing has really knocked me rotten. Doctor said he didn't think it was the flu but was certainly some other viral thing. I started on the antibiotics yesterday so maybe that's why I feel on the way up today.

This is the first day since Sunday when I haven't woken with a headache and that feels great.

Thanks for all of you who checked in on me and I'm surfing slowly through everything I've missed in the last few days. Hopefully the urge to write will return soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Typical Bloke

Folks I have a touch of the flu so if I'm quiet for a few days you'll know the reason why. Being a typical bloke I tend to fall in a heap when I'm crook. :)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Musical Monday - Same Auld Lang Syne


I have always loved Dan Fogelberg's music. Given I quoted from one of his songs in the last post I thought I would put up something of his for Musical Monday. There is poetry in the words and I often find he can capture a moment that I can relate to.



IN May 2004 Dan Fogelberg was diagnosed with advance Prostate Cancer and you can leave a message for him on the Living Legacy website.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wisdom


From Journal 1 - 28th February, 1978

Wisdom is not born of age but of experience. Thus a person young in years but old in experience may be considered wise, but an old person with little experience would not be. I would describe wisdom as a series of laws, morals, ethics, guidelines - call it what you will - born of mistakes and learnt by experience.

It annoys me somewhat that age alone, at times, is considered a prerequisite of wisdom. People too often are blind to the wisdom of the young and of those not of their own society. Who is less wise, a tribal shaman telling his people they must take part in fertility rites if their crops are to be successful, or a Christian priest telling parents not to grieve for a dead child? I shall leave it up to you to puzzle it out.

From Journal 1 - 1st March 1978

Stuff it, I will try to explain what I was talking about in the above entry, if only to clear it up in m own head. The answer is both, and neither, since they believe in what they are doing. The shaman believes the fertility rites are necessary because for as long as he can remember, and for generations before that, they have been performed (i.e. the wrath of a God, the sins of the villagers etc. all have ritual associated with them). Thus his wisdom is based on generations of experience. The priests wisdom however, is based on generations of faith. It cannot be said that the shamans or the priests wisdom is borne of individual experience since both are based on social experience. I would say therefore that this is not true wisdom and would qualify my definition above as follows - wisdom is a series of laws, morals, ethics guidelines...born of mistakes and learnt by individual experience.

********************************************************
POSTSCRIPT
I don't think I was all that wise 30 years ago. There is a certain pomposity and self assurance that seems to have gotten lost somewhere between then and now. I no longer have such absolute beliefs, nor do I think that I am quite as intolerant of some people and some situations that I may have been back then.

I actually think that the mind does become cluttered as you get older, that original thought is far more likely at 20 than at 50 years of age. Perhaps it is because as we get older we have had far more exposure to external influences, maybe the brain just fills up, perhaps the neural pathways are no longer as clear as they once were.

In those days I was particularly intolerant of religion, maybe it was the bad Sunday School experiences, or maybe exposure at University to a more "liberal" environment to that I was brought up in. I was enjoying the exposure to different ways of thinking and organised religion seemed to me to be a straitjacket on an enquiring mind. And in dismissing it I was probably as guilty of blinkered thought as the people I was criticising.

For many years there was little time to even wonder about what it was like to wonder. The child, then the young man, got lost somewhere along the way. In reading these old journals it is clearly evident that the person writing them changed - not really surprising I guess - because the stages of life changed. This was neither good nor bad, just different, the priorities f life changed. When the kids came along I was able to write about them, the things they said and did, the holidays taken, but some years I was able to do more of that than others. In recent years, as the work hours increased, the writing decreased, and there are gaps where I have no doubt I have missed things.

I have written before about some of the music I loved. In 1977 Dan Fogelberg released an album called "Netherlands" on which was a song called "Lessons Learned" and some of the words are appropriate here -

Lessons learned
Are like bridges burned

You only need to cross them but once.

Is the knowledge gained

Worth the price of the pain?

Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?


The key is we need to learn from the lessons because it is only then that we can adapt them, mould them, temper them and wield them so that they become knowledge. The fifty year old likes to think that he knows that now, just as I'm sure that the 20 year old was absolutely certain that he was wise beyond his years at the time.

Image by J D Challenger can be viewed here.

Spider

From Old Journal 7th July - 1992 - Glen was aged 6.

"Dad, I've got a spider on me!" Glen yelled.

"Then brush it off, " I yelled back.

"No! I can't find a brush!"

Friday, August 3, 2007

I've been Simpsonised


I've seen this on a number of blogs including Josie's so I thought I'd give it a crack. I should point out I wasn't deliberately trying to hide my grey hair I just didn't get that option.

If you want to give it a try, have a photo ready for upload and head on over here to Simpsonizeme.

My Darling Daughter


Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember the issue I had where my niece decided to leave a couple of comments here which I responded to here and here.

Last night daughter number two read those posts and posted her own comment which said -

Daughter number 2! said...

when did Amanda send that 2 you?

She can state her own opinion but i now see that you write on here what you want to get off your chest!

and she had no right to say that 2 u!!!

August 2, 2007 10:07 PM

My darling daughter,

Please don’t let what Amanda said worry you, nor is it worth getting angry about. People can always have opinions and sometimes they can be right and sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes they will say things out of anger, or out of concern for other people, or maybe just because they get a bit self righteous and feel like they have a right to speak their minds no matter whether that has the potential to hurt other people or not.

But understand that Amanda's words can't hurt me and therefore they shouldn't be something you waste your time dwelling on. I guess that I could say there is a lesson to be learnt for everyone here and that is you really do need to understand the power that words can have. If you learn that words, written or spoken, have the power to make people feel really good about themselves, or alternatively, the power to totally destroy them, then you can fully control any impact that the bad magic words can have over you. Nothing nasty that anyone can say can ever truly hurt you if you can understand the problem lies with them and not with you. That doesn't mean that we should never take any notice of what people say about us, but we need to put it into context. If what they say means we can be kinder or more caring people than we are today, then of course we should aim to do that. But if they tell us we're dumb, or stupid, or ugly, or too fat or too thin, and those things are said purely to hurt us, then we can justifiably ignore them.

I do want to thank you for posting because I know you were angry that I was writing things on the blog and I hope that you do now understand things a bit better than what you did before. You are right, this is a place where I can get things off my chest. Unlike your Mum, who has a lot of friends with whom she could talk, I didn’t have that and blogging became a place for me to write and where I could get some feedback from other people.

I think a lot of people don’t really understand how important receiving comments and feedback can be for lonely people and that is why I am really grateful for the friends I have made through blogging. Sure it’s a weird sort of friendship because the chances of me actually meeting any of these people is pretty slim, nonetheless, it is real. I guess in the olden days these sorts of friends would have been called penpals, the difference that the internet has made is that we don’t have to wait days, weeks or even months for feedback, and in fact, there is a possibility of real dialogue here. We can check in on people every day and find out what they've been doing and how they are feeling. So please also understand that I have not written anything with the intention of hurting you or anyone else.

No matter what happens I want you to know that I love you very much and I really do want to thank you for posting a comment on this blog. I hope you don’t mind that I have responded publicly but I wanted my blogging friends to know what a wonderful kid you are. You are my little ray of sunshine. See you at basketball tomorrow.

Love

Dad XXX

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

When an old man dies....a library burns down


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to claim just one more hour with the men who were in your life. I say men, but it could be women too. But I say men because most of us don’t communicate very well. It seems to me that much of a man’s social contact and interaction is on the level of the superficial, the deep and meaningful is not something we’re good at. Just look at the number of women who complain about that. Venus and Mars maybe, and in my case that has certainly been the case.

Many years ago now I started work on my family tree and was fortunate enough to find that I was descended from at least four Irish convicts who were transported to the colonies for a number of reasons, sheep and cow stealing during the famine amongst them. I say fortunate because in those cases the records are fairly extensive and I was able to fill in some of the mysteries by painting their faces based on the descriptions in the records – protruding brow, pock marked face and other colourful characteristics.

But the personal insights are missing from my knowledge of most of those ancestors. What saddens me more though is that for the most part, so is the personal of those whose lifetimes have intersected part of mine as well. When my grandfathers were around I didn’t think to ask questions that would tell me of their lives as children and young men.

On Dad’s side I wish I’d asked my Pa about the mud of the Somme and the desert of the pyramids in World War 1, of the reasons why he ran away from home as a 13 year old, of how he found his way by boat to New Zealand and worked as a sleeper cutter. I would love to know why he joined the New Zealand Army and why after he was wounded in the War he came to Melbourne instead of going back to Dunedin in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

On Mum’s side I wish I’d asked Grandad what it was like to be a Rat of Tobruk, or a labourer on the Great Ocean Road during the depression, and why his family left the bush for the city when he was 17 years old and how it was to work on the wharves in the busiest port in Australia.

For me they were always old men, strict and angry at times, smiling at others, backs bent and legs no longer straight, voices croaking with age, hair thin and grey, rheumy eyes peering wearily through spectacles, at times way more interested in my life than I was in theirs or that I had any right to deserve. If I had one final hour with them, I’d want a week, then year, to pose the questions of why and when, where and how, of long ago lost loves and feelings of elation and despair that must have littered the volumes of their lives.

It is true as the old African proverb says that “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”