Thursday, January 31, 2008
I'm on a train to the city winding on tracks that echo with the sights from my young manhood. Past graffiti spattered walls and fences, some with elaborate paintings, others with tags like mythz, serv, zent and fable. Most of these done with spray cans but the oldest daubed in paint like vosko and "Free Zarb" have been there viewed by train travelers since the days of the red rattlers more than 30 years ago. Zarb was gaoled in the 1960's as a draft dodger.
The river of backyards, rubble strewn factories and blackberry choked chainlink fences haven't changed all that much in three decades. All strangely familiar. The graffiti hints of hidden after dark lives, lived outside society's mainstream, the over abundant use of chrome paint perhaps an indication of the ruin to come.
On the train in front of me is a mother with a late teenage daughter; both a little overweight, mum telling daughter that she was wearing the exact same junmper she had seen on someone else a few days ago.
In front of them was a group of four young blokes in fluro t-shirts and with big hair reminiscent of the Bay City Rollers. I wonder if they've ever heard of that group or if the thought of looking like an eighties Scottish gay icon boy band would disturb them at all.
There are few men in suits - ths was the 8:58 from Tecoma and way too late for most office workers, but there is one head shaven guy in a pinstriped suit talking on a mobile phone. I smile as I get a memory of an ex-partner in the police force who returned from a trip to Bali with two tailor made suits he said were the latest in European fashion - one was aubergine in colour the other had horizontal pinstripes; he only wore the once.
Sitting at Camberwell Station for a few minutes, a young girl behind me with an ipod turned up way too loud sat urging the train to "come on" obviously late for an appointment.
Unlike 30 years ago their is a preponderance of mobile phones and people engaged in loud conversations oblivious to the fact that they are revealing snippets of private lives to all and sundry.
To my left is a man with a very bad toupee and in front of him an old guy in a 1970's two stripe tracksuit top wearing a black fedora. There was a lady with lips that were way too dark and in front of her a woman with an obviously deaf companion because everyone in the carriage was able to hear what she was saying.
After Richmond Station I couls see the cranes in Olympic Park above the building site of the new rugby and soccer stadium slowly taking shape. The MCG looms above the railway line completely rebuilt since the mid-1970's with only the light towers, the battle ground of greenies and building workers who tried to prevent there construction, left as they were circa 1980.
Before I knew it I was disembarking in the City. The old Museum Station renamed Melbourne Central in homage to the commercial precinct rather than the cultural since the museum moved to Carlton. I used to know every inch of those city streets when I was a young policeman on foot patrol but it struck me that not a lot has changed over the years. There are still hordes of people including kids who I thought should have been back at school.
The Hare Krishnas still walk around banging drums and cymbals chanting incomprehensible but strangely tuneful songs. It occurred to me that I've never seen an old Hare Krishna proving that they have either discovered the Fountain of Youth or that as you get older, you get wiser and leave.
Between meetings I spent a couple of hours testing out a new camera lens. For those interested it's a Tamron 18-250 zoom and here are some results which I hope show my town in a light different to what you normally see.
For those of a more technical bent I use a Canon 30D and capture the images in RAW before converting them with Rawshooters Essential to JPEGS. I shot at 1000 ISO. The lens performed well with very fast focusing and the range is impressive. The photo of the detail of the lions head was taken at the 250mm extension and the photo immediately below it from exactly the same spot at 18mm.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
"I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!"
Our Chief Commissioner of police here in Victoria has been in the news for the last couple of days because she was upset that the Atheneum Club in Melbourne apparently refused her membership. Now I would never be invited to be a member there for a number of reasons including that I didn't go to a private school, I don't earn enough money and I am neither a member of the new or old establishment of Melbourne. Christine was upset because they wouldn't accept her because she is a woman.
I will say that she isn't making much of a song and dance about it, but she did say on radio this morning that many of the male members had daughters who one day may wish to become members in their own right.
Funny that a men's only club won't accept women isn't it. Fernwood gym's won't accept men, we don't get upset about that we go and join another gym, or we set up our own club. So if a woman applies for a men's only club and gets rejected why get upset about it. I don't get it.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
What is it with the Westboro Baptist Church? They have protested against Heath Ledger at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in the US. This is the same mob that has been protesting at the funerals of US soldiers with banners like those in the photo. How is it that so-called Christians can be so intolerant? They have a warped sense of what Christianity is about when they spout such hatred. I don't get it. At least Australian Baptists have denounced their rants as extreme and counter-productive.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The country has changed a lot since I was born in 1957. Back then the White Australia Policy was still in place, although the traditional British emigrant had been overtaken in numbers in the post war era by other Europeans, the large scale arrival of Asian immigrants had yet to come. In 1957, we were only 12 years from World War 2 and the horrors visited upon us by the Japanese in that pereiod and the fear of invasion were still raw in people's minds. The Cold War was in full swing and we were not far off entering the Vietnam War to make sure that the domino theory did not come true.
I grew up in a very white anglo saxon protestant world. Despite the fact my Mum was a catholic that seemed a very odd religion to me. My father and uncle's were Freemasons and it was no secret what they thought of Catholicism.
My school was an extension of that white world. In the eastern suburbs of Melbourne there weren't even many Europeans at that time apart from the odd Greek or Italian. The closest we got to exotic food was a plate of spaghetti or the occasional dim sim from the fish and chip shop.
I am 50 years old if I go back just twice that amount of time or two generations from the year of my birth I would come to a Melbourne that was only 20 years old. In Tasmania my paternal Grandfather's grandparents, Irish Catholics all, would have only just finished their sentences as convicts. In the Victorian goldfields my maternal grandmothers grandfather had married an aboriginal girl and had at least one child from whom I am descended.
In the years I grew up though this heritage was seen as something to be ashamed of. The pride in convict ancestry was still a few decades in the future and it probably wasn't until we celebrated our bicentennial in 1988 that it became a badge of pride. It was just as well that my father's Mum had passed away by the time we found out that the Joyce's had convict blood, and were also Roman Catholic, because she came from a very strict Orange tradition.
On Mum's side I knew of the rumour of black blood in the family but any time I asked my Grandmother she would just say "Don't ask questions because you may not like what you find." One day I was visiting her 80 year old cousin, Charlie Fry, and I asked him the question. He said,
Mum took me to visit my grandmother one day when I was about six up in Shepparton. We were walking down the street and I saw a woman standing out the front of a house. I said "Mum look at that black woman" and she clipped me over the ear and said "Shut up, that's your Grandmother!"
Far from being ashamed I am proud of the fact that my ancestry may stretch back 40,000 years in this country, and that those ancestors were the first mariners on earth and have art work that stretches back 30,000 years beyond the art found in the Cave of Lascaux in France. Maybe it is those genes that give me that sense of great connection to my land.
So Australia in the first years of the 21st Century is different to that of the 50's or 60's when I grew up. No great revelation there. And it doesn't explain what it is to be Australian other than to say that the definition has changed over the years.
When I grew up fish and chip shop owners were invariably Italian or Greek in origin, now they seem to be mainly Chinese descent. Doctors and other professionals were mainly Anglo Saxon, now they are as likely to be Indian or Vietnamese, Serbian or African. The homogeneity of my youth has gone into the melting pot and something else has come out the other end.
But no matter where those people or their ancestors come from there is something in the air and the water of this driest continent on Earth that gets into your blood. It is the sense of homeland that defines us. It doesn't matter whether we have seen the red earth of the centre, we know that there is a heartland and that it smells of eucalyptus and petrichor. We know the harshness that comes from this place, the unpredictability and uncompromising climate of extremes that gives us "drought and flooding rains", often in the same day.
We celebrate our differences. It may no longer be relevant or politically correct to mention the skips, dagoes and wogs, the poles and yugs, the chocos and poms who now are all Australian. There is no need to call us anything other than Aussies. We are what we are, no more, no less. Unique on this planet and proud of it.
Now if that doesn't explain to you what it's like to be Australian don't feel too bad because most of us don't know either.
The photos are a range of shots that I have taken over the past couple of years. I hope they show a little of the diversity of landscape that is my country.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
So where to start with this one? I thought maybe the physical ought to dispose of a few weird facts.
1. I can't bend the big toe on my right foot. When I was 10 years old I was out riding my bike and made the mistake of wearing thongs. Ha Ha! Just had a visual of what any Americans reading this post might be imagining so I better explain. In Australia thongs are footwear which I think you call flip flops. Anyway I had sweaty feet and my foot slipped off the pedal and got stuck dragging along the asphalt shredding my big toe down to the tendon. There wasn't a lot of skin to stitch together so It grew back tight and I still can't bend it.
Yes I know the picture is a bit gratuitous but I sorta figured it might boost traffic a little and I bet it got a few people wondering. But in the interests of balance and truth you can see I've included a picture of the real thing.
2. I used to get into trouble in the Police Academy for marching with bent arms when we were doing drill practice. Fact is though, that I have a congenital deformity in my elbows which means that the ball and socket don't fit properly. Even fully straightened my arms have a bend of about 5-10 degrees.
3. I have 24 teeth in my mouth. For those who don't know we are supposed to have 32. I had 4 removed to have braces put on my teeth and then 4 wisdom teeth taken out. Now you know why I may sound a bit thick at times.
4. I have kissed six women in my lifetime. Well actually three in adulthood, the others were during school days. Now that, if not weird, must be unusual for a bloke who has reached 50 years of age.
5. I am a qualified Palynologist. I think I've mentioned this a few times before but maybe before I actually had any readers. I'm not actually going to tell you what that is.
6. My favourite smell is petrichor. And to make it more interesting I'll let you look that one up to.
7. I have this thing for weird words that start with "P". But with a limited vocabulary you already know the extent of it.
Now I am going to tag some fellow Aussie bloggers given it is Australia Day, and I'm also going to pick out some people who I haven't tagged before. So apologies to them if you don't do memes or you think it may be another weird fact about me that I would tag relative strangers in the blogworld sense.
Magneto Bold Too
Elizabeth at Scarlet Words
Red at Sultana Blog
Joh at Joh Blogs Because I Can
Boneblower at Boneblowers World
Karen at Scraps of Mind
So if you do choose to participate folks the rules are you link back to me and then tag it forward to seven other people who may have some hidden weird facts worth knowing.
Friday, January 25, 2008
January 26th is Australia Day which is becoming much more of a celebration of who we are now than it ever was when I was a kid. It is a day when thousands become citizens of this country, when friends get together for barbecues and simple celebrations of what makes us what we are. And if you were to ask me to define what is Australian I couldn't really tell you. We are cynics, irreverant and brash, self-deprecating, bold sometimes when we need to be and with a confidence that belies our age as a nation.
For those who don't know Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. A fleet of 11 ships containing some 780 convicts and 200 soldiers and sailors. Amongst them was a lady called Elizabeth Cole from whom my children are descended through their mother. Elizabeth had a child to a marine on the First Fleet by the name of William Ellis, but later on married James Tucker who had arrived on the second fleet and to whom she had several more children. In the early years, with the colony near starving, Elizabeth and James were sent with others to Norfolk Island. Whilst there James was caught breaking into other settlers huts and was offered a choice - he could become the hangman on the island or be hung himself.
Elizabeth then took up with another Second Fleeter by the name of Richard Burroughs and it is through that union that my children are descended.
On my side there are also four Irish convicts, all of whom were transported during the years of the Potatoe Famine in Ireland. If I were to claim any specific ethnicity it would be Irish being descended from people on both sides of the orange and the green. The rest of me is a mixture of Scot, Pom and Aboriginal.
So my children do have a proud heritage. On my side they have ancestors who have been here since the dreamtime and on their mothers side it reaches back to the very beginning of European settlement in this country.
We have never been great ones to stand up and sing our national anthem although the practice is beginning to catch on. I think however that Advance Australia Fair is a particularly hard song to sing well and in my opinion the following song from the Seekers captures the essence of Australia in a far more meaningful way.
So because it's Australia Day allow me to indulge myself with some linklove for some of my fellow Aussie Bloggers. Please drop in and visit them on our special day.
Snoskred - Life in the Country
On Blogging Australia
Linda and Her Surroundings
Lady Penelope's Thoughts
Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe
Just A Matter of Perspective
My Big World of Crap
My Little Drummer Boys
Road Less Travelled Blog
Dancing with Frogs
Listening to Frogs
The Cerebral Mum
Joh Blogs Because I can
Magneto Bold Too
Miscellaneous Adventures of an Aussie Mum
Imagine if Child Protection Became Serious Bsiness
Most of the above have been around for a while now, so I thought I'd also link to some of the Aussie bloggers I am less familiar with who have introduced themselves on the Aussie Bloggers Forum.
Stuff with thing
Even in a Little Thing
Jack of All Trades
Stories from a Girl Geek
2 Blog or not 2 Blog
Scraps of Mind
LizWis - Lady of Leisure
Peter Black's Freedom to Differ
Scott Yang's Playground
Much Ado about sumthin
A Roaming Aussie Mum
Jeanie in Paradise
Dances to the Beet of her own Drum
Feed the Girl
No Regrets but Plenty of Memories
My Journey to Eliminate Debt
Polka Dot Bride
Not a Ballerina
Karen Cheng's Snippets of Life
Welcome to the Enny-Pen
My Digital Life
If there are any other Aussie Bloggers who happen to check this post and want to be linked just comment, let me know your URL and I'll update the list here.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Sue a fellow Aussie Blogger from Blogging Sueblimely has created a new award and I will let her explain it in her words -
I have gained so much more knowledge of blogging than I could possibly have learned just by researching the subject. This is all due to the help, support and encouragement I have received from other bloggers. I have therefore created the ‘Blogging Mentor Award‘ to recognize and thank those who help us on our path to blogging, be it encouraging and helping us to start blogging or helping us to be the best we can, once we have started.
Unlike most awards, it is not necessary to have received it yourself to be able to pass it on to others. It is free for anyone to use; anyone who wishes to say thank you to their own blog mentors. All that I ask is that you include a mention and link to my Blog Mentor Page. This way I can compile lists of those who have been generous enough to give the award and those who have received it, giving them recognition myself by some backlinks
There are two formats to choose from - the graphic or the button:
What prompted me to create the award was reading that January is National Mentoring Month.in the USA. This is an initiative spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project of the Harvard School of Public Health, with the aim of recruiting volunteer mentors to help young people achieve their full potential. The US ‘Thank Your Mentor Day™’ is dedicated to thanking or honoring individuals who have guided us and had a lasting impact on our lives.
Although the Blogging Mentor award is not restricted for use in January’s Mentoring Month, ‘Thank your Mentor Day‘ may be a particularly good time to use it. The date for 2008 is 24th January.***********************************************************
I thought that I would pass this onto people who have been regular readers and contributors to this blog through their comments and who have helped me on my journey. Back in the early days when my only reader was me I didn't realise how important other people would become. Slowly there began to be the odd comment here and there and the people below were those who really encouraged me to keep writing. So whether you may think so or not, you have all been my mentors. I have learnt by your comments and by my visits to your blogs. You have offered encouragement when I needed it, advice when I asked for it and it is through the generosity of your time that I have kept this blog going.
So folks please accept this and proudly display the badge as my way of thanking you for the past year.
Josie - Josie I know you're still incognito but you do deserve this award.
The Herald Sun reported on 23rd January 2007 that aboriginal kids at Uluru were cooling off in the heat by swimming at the local sewage farm. Now I know that most aboriginal communities are disadvantaged so the fact that they don't have a pool may well be another example of that disadvantage. But seriously, what parent would let their kids go for a swim in sewage? Who should take responsibility for that?
At least the Herald Sun didn't beat it up like the Northern Territory News which stated that " CHILDREN at a remote Aboriginal community are being forced to swim in sewage to keep cool."
I don't see any evidence of anyone "forcing" the kids to do it. If the parents of these kids are aware of it and know that there is a health risk then I can see plenty of evidence for irresponsibility on their behalf. I don't get it!
I've been reading a lot of Bill Bryson books lately and find myself laughing out loud a lot. He has made a name as a travel writer but one in particular I would like to recommend is an autobiography called "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". There are plenty of recommendations for this book that tell you that you will laugh out loud, and I did. That surprised me because I haven't done that before when reading a book. So if you haven't picked up any of this blokes work and enjoy a laugh then I would urge you to grab a copy of this book as a starting point. And no, this is not a paid announcement.
There's a part in the book where he talks about comic advertisements and how his brother tried for years to learn how to throw his voice as instructed by the booklet he'd ordered, without much success I must say, and it got me thinking about how we did get sucked into the glamour and excitement of some of the ads we used to see for products on TV when we were kids.
I particularly remember being really disappointed with my first pair of Bata Scouts shoes because unlike the TV ad, no one trailing me ever thought for a minute that they were actually tracking a tiger or a fox. And what was even worse was that the treads on the sole of the shoes had such a low profile that instead of having the sure footed leap of a wolf from boulder to boulder, it was more like skating on ice with socks on. The shoes also had a compass on the heel, or maybe inside it, which meant that if you actually got lost and had a need to consult it, because the sun wasn't shining or you couldn't find any moss on the trees, that you had to take your shoes off. And that got a bit annoying if you had to do it every 10 meters or so.
Another disappointment was the game Mouse Trap which looked so exciting in the TV ads. I had the game bought for me and no matter how carefully you lined up the pieces when you built it the boot would never kick the bucket, the ball bearing always fell off the stairway and the diver never landed in the barrel. I lost interest pretty quickly in that one when I found I had to keep using my fingers to operate the separate sections of the game. I mean what sort of mouse would just sit there and let a trap fall down on top of them anyway. It became one of those dust gatherers in the wardrobe along with the Chemistry set I wasn't allowed to use after I found I could make rotten egg gas, and the microscope that didn't focus properly.
I remember one Christmas I was given a GI Joe. This wasn't a doll. You have to understand that, no self-respecting boy would be caught dead playing with a doll, although my sister did sometimes co-opt him into being a boyfriend for one of her Barbies much to my disgust. Again the TV ads showed the dozens of GI Joes crawling through the jungle, driving jeeps over sand dunes and battling the Krauts. I had great visions of large scale battles in the front yard of home, but I only ever had one figure so like a lot of other things he spent most of the time in a box under the bed. By the way I would never call a German a "Kraut" these days. I learnt not to mention the war from that episode of "Fawlty Towers."
And as for sea monkeys....I was shattered when I learnt they were really brine shrimp. No smiling faces or clever underwater antics there and certainly not a pet that had arms and legs and prehensile tails like the ad said they had.
So what long lost buried memories from your childhoods have surfaced and reminded you about the truth in advertising?
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I thought that in answering this meme that I would re-visit some of my older posts to give some context to my comments and to show some of the key points of the journey over the last year.
In order to embrace the new, we must release the old.
I want you (and me) to reflect upon what you did, how you felt, what you liked, what you didn’t and what you learned.
This is my Blogging Meme to you, (and the last of the year for me
1. What did I learn? (skills, knowledge, awareness, etc.)
I learnt a lot about myself. It was a long and wearying year in many ways when the boy inside the man discovered reasons why he is who he is. It was a year of exploration and of questioning, one in which self esteem suffered badly and then recovered. I am a different person at the start of 2008 than I was at the start of 2007.
I wrote about some of the challenges in these posts -
2. What did I accomplish?
Professionally I was named Basketball Victoria Administrator of the Year for the second year running. The Association I work for was named both the State and National Association of the Year. On that front, therefore, there was not much more to achieve.
On a personal front I challenged some demons and came out the other end.
3. What would I have done differently?
I'm not sure that changing anything would have altered any outcomes. If there was one thing I had to name it is that honesty i the best policy, even if it hurts in the short term.
4. What did I complete or release?
More than anything I came to terms with the relationship I had with my father. I would not say that it is complete, simply that I have come a long way towards understanding his love for me and mine for him.
4. (cont): What still feels incomplete to me?
My relationship with my kids is still incomplete, or maybe what I really mean is that it is still evolving outside the family unit they were born into.Dreams and Laughter
The Inevitability of Hurt
It's Easy to Judge
Cats in the Cradle
Red Letter Day
5. What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
That's a hard one. I think the realisation that I needed to make a decision to move on was the most significant because it meant that my family could to.
Making a decision to move in with someone else.
The re-establishment of a relationship with my daughters in particular. I now take them out for dinner once a week and I am not glad to say that probably means I am spending more actual quality one on one time with them in that few hours each week than I did when we lived under the same roof.
6. What did I do right?
I have to put this into the context of Don Miguel Ruiz's book "The Four Agreements" and my attempts to ensure that I live by those four tenets.
6. (cont.) What do I feel especially good about?About my attempts to do my best. Plenty of failures along the way and likely more to come but I am trying to be a good person and I have learnt that lying inevitably hurts.
6. (cont.) What was my greatest contribution?
I'm not sure there was one.
7. What were the fun things I did?
Had a month with my son around July when he decided to come and stay with me.
There was an indulgent holiday to Tasmania.
(cont.) What were the not-so-fun?
8. What were my biggest challenges/roadblocks/difficulties?
More than anything the finalisation of the old family unit with all it's hurt and judgement and guilt.
9. How am I different this year than last?
I like to think I have recaptured a sense of wonder that got lost somewhere along the way. My own fault entirely and not an uncommon one for a man in midlife.
10. For what am I particularly grateful?
My Mum, my sisters, my kids and the new lady in my life.
So there it is. A brief journey through my past year.
And one final thing I am grateful for, dear readers, is the contribution you have all made to that journey through your comments and your support. I have appreciated that the foibles and weaknesses I have spoken about at length have been listened to and been met with a non-judgmental attitude. I have not been the best of persons throughout my life. I have hurt people and deceived some. I have done my best on days when that best has not been very good. I hope that I have learnt some valuable lessons and that in future the memories of the hurt will be overtaken by the memories of good times. I have no idea if friends read this blog or not, but if they do then may I say that I am sorry I have not been the best of friends and I hope that you will forgive that too.
I am no hero. I am an ordinary bloke who has made mistakes. Perhaps somewhere along the way I have been able to reveal some of those mistakes and I would like to believe that some people may have come to know me better and perhaps even learnt some lessons of their own through what I have written here.
Because this is meant to be a New Years meme I will not tag anyone here. I'll leave it up to you. If you choose to undertake this meme then please let me know.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I think I have worked out the beach dream. Every year of my daughter's life we have spent Christmas holidays at the beach. Last year, the first of separation, I spent the first week away with them and came home when their mother went up and spent the final two weeks with them. This past holiday their Mum only booked two weeks and so I wasn't given the option of going away with them. Now let me say that I understand the reasons why and I do not place any blame or harbour any ill-feelings about the situation, but it meant that for the first time I didn't have Christmas holidays with my kids.
The holiday has always been with a group of other family and friends and whilst the faces have changed over the years, the actual feeling of the holiday as a relaxing time that set us up for the year ahead had remained unchanged.
When I took my daughter out last Thursday night she asked me if I would book the third week next year so that she could stay up there longer with me. Now the cynic in me says that this is as much because she enjoys the location and the friends as it is a desire to spend a holiday with her Dad, but I also believe that she missed me a little bit this year.
So in the dream the beach represented our holidays as a family, the rising waters the splitting of the family and me being in the rear seat a sign of my lack of control over the holiday situation. I have thought about contacting the camping ground but I suspect that the site will have been given to someone else now and given the popularity of the spot it will be very difficult to get a site for that time of year.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
In my dreams is a beach. It is both familiar and totally unseen before. But it keeps recurring. I have arrived there on a bicycle along a path on the top of sand dunes. I have driven there down a long hill past buildings covered with scaffold. I have swum to it, from it and around it. It has a narrow spit of land that leads to an island in some dreams and a causeway that gets covered in water as the tide rises.
There has never been anyone in my dreams who I know, until last night. Last night my youngest daughter was with me. She is 14 but in this dream she was driving a van and I was in the back in the furthestmost seat from her. She drive down a hill and was excited looking at the water and somehow she and I both knew it was higher than it should have been. Still we went straight across a bridge covered by the high tide and then I woke up.