Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Compass for Holidays

It is 18 years since I spent either Boxing Day or the day after at home. In all that time I have been traveling to a holiday destination with my family. Even last year, I spent the first week away with my daughters before doing a tag team with their mother. So as with Christmas, there is a great sense of change lingering upon me. That comes with a touch of trepidation and one can only hope some day that this holiday will once more become one of anticipation for me. Daughter number two and her mother are heading off tomorrow, once more to Narooma, where the summers are great. So I am glad that they are continuing this tradition even though I know I won't ever be part of it again.

Today I took daughter number two shopping for a birthday present for her Mum, because that will occur when they are away, and we decided also to go and see the movie "The Golden Compass" which only opened here yesterday. I have read with interest the pannings it has gotten from critics and noted also that it has been considered a box office failure in the States. There has been some talk about it being anti-religion but to be honest, who cares, in my opinion it's a good story well told, and we both enjoyed it. So don't be put off by what other people are saying, it's a book written as a child's fantasy, no Lord of the Rings, but stunning visually and as good as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The episodes of Life

I must admit I had been dreading Christmas Day mainly because last year sucked so bad when I had Christmas lunch alone and for the first time I didn't awaken in the same house as my kids. The lesson I learnt yesterday is that Christmas does change through time and that the phases whilst frightening in anticipation are perhaps simply a way of marking the episodes of life.

My earliest memories of Christmas are of days spent at my Grandparents houses. Like most kids, my sisters and I would be up early creeping up to the loungeroom to see if Father Christmas had come. We would then run down to Mum and Dads bedroom to awaken them, not knowing that they were already awake and waiting for us. After exchanging presents there would be the visits to the neighbours to wish them Merry Christmas and to exchange even more gifts and then sometime in the late morning we'd jump in the car and head off to Merlynston for Christmas lunch with my Dad's family. I've written before about how many of Dad's Aunts, Uncles and cousins, as well as his brothers and sister all lived within about five blocks of each other in that mostly unknown suburb in Melbourne's north, so after lunch there would be a lot of quick visits to half a dozen other houses in the area.

My memories of those lunches are of the smell of roasts taken from the wood fired oven mingling with that of freshly baked scones which I enjoyed with lashings of butter and vegemite. I know for those of you who like your scones with jam and cream that makes me a bit of a philistine, but that's the way I like it.

From lunch with the Joyce's we'd go to tea with the Smith's and there was a fair contrast from the gentility of Nana Joyce to the loudness of Nana Smith and the teeming masses of Brunswick. The house was full of cousins and aunts and uncles

But those days changed when my cousins got older and got married then spending time with their in laws families. Mum decided that it was time that Christmases were held at our place and my grandparents then used to travel to our place each year until they passed away. The aunts and uncles then also chose to stay away so those large family Christmases with the extended family passed with my childhood into memory.

Things changed again when my sisters and I got married and had our own children. We still come together on Christmas night at one of my sisters houses and all of the kids still come but in the next few years will no doubt have their own family obligations that will intervene.

Yesterday I waited for my daughter's phone call telling me it was now time for me to go around to their house and exchange presents - this year was also the first year they had moved out of the family home. So it was 8 am when I got the call went around, had a cup of tea, sat for a while and then came home to my own house. This year rather than eating alone, the lady I live with and I had a roast lamb dinner, then took the dog for a walk in a local park, before going our separate ways to family dinners. One day when the pain of separation eases we may be able to spend time with each others family on Christmas Day but till then I guess what we had will do. This year was not as bad as last year and I'm sure will get better as we all move forward.

And thus another episode of life moves from anticipation, or apprehension into memory never to be experienced again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

To all of my blogging buddies. Thank you all very much for your support and comments through what has been a very eventful year for me. I appreciate the time taken to read and comment and the advice given. May you all have a great Christmas with those who care for you and who you care about.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is one of those iconic images of Australia along with Uluru, the Harbour Bridge and the 12 Apostles. It truly is breathtakingly beautiful and within reach of virtually anyone. There is accommodation to suit all budgets but a word for the wary - there are places with names like cradle view or similar that may be as far as 40 or 50 kilometers away from the Park boundary. We stayed at Cosy Cabins literally a five minute slow drive from the park gates. The cabins were comfortable and warm when they needed to be and the general store in the camping ground catered for most things. It was considerably cheaper to stay their than somewhere like cradle mountain lodge - not that I am criticising that place because it's fantastic.

I recommend purchasing a Tasmanian National Parks car-pass which is good for two months, costs around $50 and gets you into all of the parks in the state as many times as you want to go. If you have one of those tickets you can catch a free bus all the way into Dove Lake car park although, when we were there it wasn't quite the peak season so it was just as easy for us to drive ourselves in each day. Buses leave every 20 minutes from the Cradle information centre and stop at several places along the road in to pick up and drop of passengers.

Here is the first lot of photos from the trip, subsequent posts will show the trip from Cradle Mountain to the Tasman Peninsula. Click on a photo to be taken to the Picassa web album where you can view the images in larger size.

Cradle Mountain - Tasmania

Cradle Mountain is one of those iconic images of Australia along with Uluru, the Harbour Bridge and the 12 Apostles. It truly is breathtakingly beautiful and within reach of virtually anyone. There is accommodation to suit all budgets but a word for the wary - there are places with names like cradle view or similar that may be as far as 40 or 50 kilometers away from the Park boundary. We stayed at Cosy Cabins literally a five minute slow drive from the park gates. The cabins were comfortable and warm when they needed to be and the general store in the camping ground catered for most things. It was considerably cheaper to stay their than somewhere like cradle mountain lodge - not that I am criticising that place because it's fantastic.

I recommend purchasing a Tasmanian National Parks car-pass which is good for two months, costs around $50 and gets you into all of the parks in the state as many times as you want to go. If you have one of those tickets you can catch a free bus all the way into Dove Lake car park although, when we were there it wasn't quite the peak season so it was just as easy for us to drive ourselves in each day. Buses leave every 20 minutes from the Cradle information centre and stop at several places along the road in to pick up and drop of passengers.

On a trip in November 2007 here are some images of Cradle Mountain.

I was the green...

Actually, I don't know what I was. When I was around 5 years old I don't think I had discovered either the Green Lantern or Green Arrow. Maybe I had started to take some notice of the Green Hornet on TV, but more likely my memory is playing tricks and it may have been a few years after that before I was thrilling to his exploits. Of course in those days TV for us in Australia was still in black and white so I had absolutely no idea why the Green Hornet was green, or even if some part of his costume was green.

So what the hell am I on about? Well like most kids in those days we actually played make believe games. Even pacman and space invaders were a future away so we spent a lot of time playing cowboys and indians, or, as in my case, pretending I was a superhero. My first superhero costume was a green square of cloth which I fastened around my neck with a large safety pin. This cloth actually doubled for a square of grass on which I could set up my farm or zoo animals with block fences, or which sometimes was used as a surface on which I could play marbles.

For me though it's most important purpose was that of a cape. With it pinned around my neck I could leap off tall buildings and break twigs in my bare hands. The tall building was an asbestos sheet outdoor dunny in our backyard, maybe eight foot high, spider infested and stinking of tubs full of wee and poo mixed with the tang of phenyl which was poured into the bowl in a fruitless attempt to disguise the smell.

There were blow flies the size of sparrows buzzing around that old shed constantly. Even winter failed to deter them and when you had to venture inside to actually sit on the pan it was inevitable that some of them got onto the floating muck then flew out occasionally landing on an arm or leg or maybe even your face as they fled out to spread typhoid and malaria to the other houses of Box Hill South. But I figured that was fair because the flies from their dunnies were probably regularly visiting us as well.

For me, the Green whatever I was, the roof of the shed was a skyscraper to be conquered, taller even than the ICI building which my Dad used to drive past on nearly every outing just so he could tell us proudly that it was the tallest building in Melbourne. I'm thinking now that I probably proudly wore the green cape because TV was black and white and I didn't know at the time that Superman's cape was actually red. If I had, I may have been a bit embarrassed to call myself the green whatever. Around the time I learnt to read and discovered comics I realised that Superman was in blue and red and so the green cape lost it's power and returned to the box of farm animals never to be brought out to fight for truth and justice ever again.

There were all sorts of magical things for sale in the comics but alas, you could only get them from America and most of them said that they would only accept mail orders from the US or Canada. So I missed out on the x-ray specs that would have allowed me to see through walls. I did wonder how you could turn back the power because when you looked at a person you didn't necessarily want to look at their skeletons or bodily organs, you just wanted to stop maybe at the underwear. I also missed out on that useful tool of learning how to throw my voice. I always thought that skill would be grat if Mum had told me to turn out the light in bed at night when I actually wanted to keep reading. I could have hidden under the bed with a torch and thrown my voice to the pillow stuffed under the eiderdown and made it sound like I was actually snoring when she poked her head into my bedroom to check on me.

But the retirement of the green cape wasn't the end of my disguise days though, because around the time I started to see things in colour my Mum made me another cape. This one was black with a big red "Z" on the back of it and a press stud to clasp it around my neck. You have to admit that was far less dangerous than the big safety pin that had a habit of springing open at inappropriate times like when I was flying off the roof of the dunny or was about to bash the heads of Martians together just before they used their ray guns on the toilet seat, which as you can imagine would have caused all sorts of problems to any person who happened to be sitting on it at the time.

There was no such thing as political correctness in those days, in fact boys were encouraged to play with swords and guns, and if they weren't bought for us, we made them out of whatever we found lying around. Many was the time when the sheets hanging on the clothesline were battered with whatever bit of wood became my sword on that particular day. I could spend hours practising the Zorro "Z" on the washing pretending every striped towel was actually the fat gut of Sergeant Garcia.

The best weapon though was a bow and arrow. The arrows had suction cups on them that never actually suctioned onto anything, so if you actually got hit by one, you'd place it under your arm and hold it there whilst you did a graceful slow motion swan dive onto the ground feigning death. I have no idea how we never actually took out someones eye because there were times when we did remove the suction cups. I think the only thing that saved us from major injury was that the arrows were rarely straight and generally didn't hit what we were aiming at.

Sometime when I was maybe around 9 or 10 I became the proud owner of a handmedown Davy Crockett suit that an older cousin had grown out of. This came complete with a coonskin hat which I could wear jauntily just like Fess Parker did. I must admit to being a bit confused about how Fess Parker could be both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone with his mate Mengo, the Oxford educated Cherokee. Now never for one minute did I think that my coonskin hat was actually made from coon skin. It may have been cat, or possum, more likely the hat part was some synthetic fur stuff. But the tail that hung off it was a real tail from some dead animal which reminded me of the dead things my elderly aunts used to wear around their shoulders to family events like weddings.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't considered etiquette to wear dead animals to things like funerals, and there always seemed to be lots of them in those days, possibly because of those sparrow sized blowflies that hung around the outdoor dunnies spreading disease. My aunts used to think they looked pretty good but let me tell you that some of those old fox stoles were looking a little the worst for wear by the 1960's.

My superhero days did continue for a while after the Zorro suit to. My cousin Gavin and I spent a lot of school holidays staying at my Nana's place in Brunswick. It was a working class suburb a world away from what it is today. The terrace houses were close together, the street gutters paved with huge blue stone flags and scattered amongst the houses were various small factories and warehouses many of which belonged to various aspects of the rag trade.

Gavin and I spent some days exploring the back lanes of the suburb and on one occasion came across what may have been a furniture factory. I rubbish bins out the front were offcuts of vinyl which we helped ourselves to. These became vinyl armour which we sewed together and wore on arms and legs, as breatplates and with various types of facial disguises that ranged from a Zorro type mask through to a Ned Kelly full face mask with a slot cut out so we could see. I tried making a Batman type cowl but the nose piece made me look like Jimmy Durante of Pinocchio on a bad day, so whilst I had one mask with bat ears sticking up from it I gave up on trying to design the nose. Wearing that vinyl armour no sword or suction cupped arrow could hurt.

Was there a time when a boy wakes up and realises that the games of youth are forever lost in the past. I'm sure that for me there was never any conscious decision to stop playing these things, it was just that other things took over as past times. I graduated to toy soldiers from farm animals and from bows and arrows to basketball. Somewhere, somewhen the little boy became an older boy, the black cape and coon skin cap got relegated to the cupboard with the green cloth.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Swallowing an oyster

I was listening to radio 3aw last week and one of their breakfast team, John Burns, said that there is an old saying which says -

"It was a brave man who first tasted an oyster."

I had visions of skin clad blokes standing around a barbecue on a beach quaffing mead from buffalo horns and saying to one of their mates who was slightly under the weather "You're not really gonna eat that are you." Bit like the goldfish swallowing contests I've heard about at American colleges, or the famous "Farm Week" at my old alma mater, Monash University, when the trick was to scoff as many meat pies and beer that you could in order to make yourself spew.

Then I started to think about what it really meant and on researching it found that it is attributed to 17th Century Irish satirist Jonathon Swift. I could be wrong but I beleive that what he is talking about is that often things that appear to be unpalatable are sometimes pleasurable and sometimes even more necessary. That often the good things that come of things we fear are immeasurably better than not doing those things.

As I was writing this I heard on the radio of the death of Dan Fogelberg from prostate cancer. On his website their is a poignant and timely message for all of us -

To each and every man....

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) and a PSA(Prostate Specific Antigen) test EVERY YEAR.

The medical community suggests this for men over 50, but men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting tested at age 40.

The PSA test is a simple blood only takes a minute or two. The DRE, okay, every man squirms at the thought of this exam, but hey, it too takes only a minute or two, and IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Prostate cancer can be very slow growing or very aggressive, but detected early while it is still confined to the prostate gland, it can usually be treated and cured successfully.

Once it spreads beyond the prostate it is called Advanced Prostate Cancer (PCa). At this point it becomes imminently more life threatening and harder to treat. Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.

Education and awareness are key, I urge you to follow the link below to the Prostate Cancer Foundation web site and read up on how best to protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of contracting this terrible disease.

May I firstly say how much pleasure I have received from Dan's music over the years. The band of angels has received another sweet voice.

Messages of support can be left on The Living Legacy website.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ghosts of Soldiers Past

I have been absent again for a few days this week only this time in Canberra where son number 1 graduated as an officer in the Australian Army from the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

I am one very proud father again at the moment but also a little fearful of what the future holds. Having said that I know that he is absolutely committed to this career as were the other 140 young men and women who graduated with him as the Class of 2007.

I was also very grateful for the five mates of his that took time off work to attend the graduation ceremony.

My son follows in the footsteps of one great-Grandfather who was a Rat of Tobruk, another who was at Gallipoli and yet another who fought for three years on the Western Front in World War 1. He has great-great-uncles who were in the Pacific and Malaya in World War 2, who fought with both the American and Australian armies in Papua New Guinea. The uncle after whom I was named was killed by the Japanese on the first day of the invasion of Rabaul and others were prisoners at Changi and on the Burma Railway. So there is a long and proud military history in my family and i am sure those ghosts of soldiers past were standing there proudly watching another of our number join their ranks.

So forgive my absence in particular from your blogs, I will get back to commenting on them over the next few days I hope.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Amazing Basketball Trick Shots

This video is of a young bloke I've known for a lot of years now - Dave Black a gymrat and hoops junkie. I enjoyed it and hope you do too.

Friday, December 7, 2007

You have to wonder about some people

There are times when I really wonder about human nature. In September 2001 I was in charge of the Victorian Basketball League when National finals scheduled for Bendigo had to be canceled because of the collapse of Ansett Airlines. I had a huge number of complaints from people saying what a tragedy it was and how we should have done more to ensure the games could go ahead. There was also another incident that coincided with that time for those who do remember [and I can't imagine anyone who lived through those times not remembering] and that was the day of infamy when politically motivated criminals were flying airplanes into buildings.

I wrote and published a piece that night that asked people to put things into perspective. I said in part that there were mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, friends and relations who would not get home at all ever again. That rather than worrying about losing a few games of basketball we should instead use our energy in ensuring that the same thing never happened again.

This week I was reminded of that to an admittedly far lesser degree when I received the following email -

I have been playing basketball in the KABA for about 12 years now, and I am pretty annoyed at the way this association is being run. I understand that there is something wrong with the stadium for it to be closed. We had No notification, and this is just inexcusable and because of this, I lost money in overtime that I could have made. Some how I don't think you will be forking that out of your pocket or out of the associations pocket. This has really put me over the edge, the main reason I play there is cause it's local for everyone and you have a convenient day for us to play on.

The fact that this competition is more expensive for team sheets and entry fee than any other competition around is just ridiculous. With this money we are seeing none of it being put back in to the competition. The floors could be polished more than once a year, or even fix the roof that has leaked from the rain, or even purchase some new basketballs cause most of them are flat and worn.

I replied -

We also had no notification of the flood. We rang all teams on Monday afternoon and either spoke to people or left messages telling them that the games were canceled for that night. I was not in a position then to decide how many days competition we would lose so we have been contacting people each day as we make an assessment.

I also got a notice up on our website about 8pm that night after I got home. I wasn't able to do it earlier because we had no power at the stadium and in fact our computers have only now been switched back on after drying out for two days. ..

The floors are sealed once a year at Christmas because we need a week to do them and at least two weeks after they are done for them to dry and cure properly. We do not have any other period during the year when we have that amount of time off. They are cleaned every night after competition and washed and buffed at least weekly.

The roof does leak occasionally in heavy rain. Most places with an expanse the size of this do leak. On Monday, whilst we had some water through the roof, most of it came in through the doors. I've attached a couple of photos to show you what I mean. Note the people who are sweeping the water off the court – some of whom are paid staff but most of whom are volunteers who came down to help out. Note also the picture outside of people unblocking drains, again most of them are volunteers who gave up their time so that we can clean up and get your team back on court as quickly as possible. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of offers we got for help. I think your email is an insult to all of those people who have been understanding and who regularly and willingly give up their time to keep this Association running.

As for forking money out of my pocket, you maybe should be aware that I and my staff put in many hours of overtime each week which we are not paid for simply because we care about this place.

Now I don't mean to trivialise 911 in making this flood seem it's equivalent. I simply want to point out that there are many times when people lose perspective and concentrate way too much on their own personal situation rather than showing some understanding about what other people are going through.

In this case I will finish with two further comments. Firstly, to the credit of the complainer, he did respond to my email and apologise for flying off the handle. Secondly, I've had a lot of people say what a disaster this has been. It's not. It's certainly been inconvenient but let's reserve the term disaster for events like the recent floods in Bangladesh where more than 3000 people died.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The last Christmas Tree

I didn't know when I trimmed the tree with my kids last year that it would be the last time. If I had I would have taken more time about it and spent every second absorbing each bauble and ball as they were hung and each piece of tinsel wound around the branches. Enjoyed the laughs and the fights to keep the cat from climbing the tree and playing with the balls as they were hung. I would have cherished that last act of placing the star at the very top as I have done for around 23 years as a father. Sure the boys have generally not been around for the past few years to help or join in the family thing and the truth is that the girls are getting older now two with the youngest now fourteen.

Still, this year, for the first time since I have been a father I wasn't around to do that thing that maybe fathers should do and it has induced a sense of melancholy. Not overwhelming, just the type that hides in the shadows and refuses to show itself fully. A slight sense of forboding like an ill wind, or the shiver that runs up and down the spine occasionally. An uneasiness that when you turn to face it full on, ducks away like a shadow in sunshine, still there, just less evident.

The best way to look at this is that it is simply another phase of life, not one for regret but one for pleasant memories and the forging perhaps of new traditions. The only thing I'm sure of is that I will be writing more about this Christmas as an absent father.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It never rains...

And it didn't in Tasmania for an entire week whilst I was there. Perfect weather, magnificent scenery and plenty of photographs that I will begin to post with the tale of the places I visited as I do so.

But it does pour. Returning to work on Monday we were the victims of an enormous downpour of rain and flash flooding that poured in through the doors and windows of the stadium. I've only just gotten the computers back on line and haven't had time yet to catch up with anyone's blogs to find out what's been happening since I've been away. Hopefully I will get the chance to do that over the next few days.

Here are a couple of photos of our mini disaster as well as the final episode in Movember for this year.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post.

My office
From the inside looking out.
The pathway to the front door

Finally Movember and I should report that we are now all clean shaven once again.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


It was daughter number one's valedictory dinner last night and she was one of 145 kids graduating from her High School. Some of them I have known since kindergarten and it amazes me how quickly they grow up. I spent three weeks with most of them on a trip to Central Australia in 2005 and had a terrific time with a great bunch of kids.

Sitting there watching them all last night I was reminded again of my own school years and thought about the sense of excitement on that journey into adulthood that was about to begin. Today, many of them will vote in our Federal Election for the first time, most have already gotten their driver's licences during the year and it is now legal for them to drink.

I suspect that most don't consider that last night is probably the last time many of them will see each other. There will of course be those who will be lifelong friends, some may well become friends in the next months and years, some will marry, others will head off overseas. There will be success stories and probably some sad failures, there will even likely be some who will not be around at all in the next ten years let alone reach middle or old age.

I remember son number 2's Grade 6 graduation and a young kid who stood grinning at the door of the reception center handing out programs and ushering people to seats. Within a month he had suffocated when a sand cave collapsed on him while playing at a beach on his family holiday. But that day of the graduation he was happy and full of life, with dreams and ambitions, and good friends who would share that time with him. No different to any of the kids I saw last night.

So for the graduating class there are no fears, nor beliefs that the salad days will ever end. Sure they've had the weight of a tough year lifted with the end of exams and they are all looking forward to what the future brings and there will dounbtless be days of disappointment ahead for some. I trust for most though that life will unfold in ways that suit them. And who can really ask for any more.

I won't be around for the next week. I'm off to Tasmania tomorrow morning and will be doing a bit of bushwalking at Cradle Mountain for the next few days, before heading down to the south of the Island where I'll be visiting some of the places that my great-great-Grandparents, four of whom were Irish convicts, were assigned to work out their sentences. Stay well my friends and I'll be back in a weeks time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I don't get...rat's milk

There are reports in newspapers around the world today on odd Vegan Heather Mills call for people to cull cows and start drinking rats milk. Now at the risk of offending some people the term "odd Vegan" is probably tautological. Is this woman insane? How many rats would you need to get enough milk for a cup of tea.

According to a Press release by Viva Mills was saying that we are the only mammal to continue drinking milk after we are weaned and that drinking rat milk makes as much logical sense as drinking cows milk. And why is she saying that - because she and her cohorts reckon that cows are contributing as much as 18% to the worlds build up of green house gases.

I reckon you probably need the mass of 10,000 rats to make one cow and that the collective farts of 10,000 rats is probably equivalent to that of one cow. Therefore the suggestion is a spurious one ;)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

That old divan

I have bought a new Canon scanner with which I am scanning in a lot of old negatives and colour slides. I know I've touched before on how viewing old photographs can trigger powerful memories. Some of the events I've looked at again were buried deep in the recesses of my mind and I hadn't thought about either the people in them or the places and times they describe in a very long time.

We weren't poor but our home was modest. Timber floors, when that was a sign of lack of money rather than a trendy fashion statement like it appears to be today, venetian blinds, and the only thing we had to sit on in the loungeroom was an old divan.

That piece of furniture saw all my childhod illnesses - mumps, measles, german measles and chicken pox. It even saw the days when my sisters or I faked illness in order to get out of school. And it was the place of choice for those Sunday nights in front of the TV watching Disneyland. It was there when we woke to find Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny had come. It saw the block fences around zoos and farms and the villages of lego and the fort full of my cowboys and indians, and my sisters games with their Barbie Dolls.

It was there when the log rolled out of the fireplace on a still night and burnt slowly through the floor of the house. It rested the weary bones of my four grandparents and accepted the jumps of young kids for years. At some time in the late sixties or early seventies, probably not long after that photo was taken, it was replaced by a three piece vinyl lounge suite, which as the years wore on also collected the creases of my family's life until it too passed to someone else.

I know that some of you who read here like a writing challenge so my request of you is that you find a photo of an old piece of furniture and tell us it's story - I'll update this post with the links of anyone who cares to participate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I don't get...breast feeding 7 year olds

A new report has said that Australian mothers are breast feeding their children up to the age of 7 years old. It stated that some of the 107 women who took part in the study are feeding up to a dozen times a day and one of them was feeding three children at once. Now I think the latter meant that in any one day three of her kids were feeding rather than she had three tits. But you know what, I don't get it!

Image from

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who peers from faded photographs?

"You say you should have died instead of me. But during my time on earth, people died instead of me, too. It happens every day. When lightning strikes a minute after you are gone, or an airplane crashes that you might have been on. When your colleague falls ill and you do not. We think such things are random. But there is a balance to it all. One withers, another grows. Birth and death are part of a whole..."
- from The Five People You Meet in Heaven - by Mitch Albom

I have started a Facebook group for my old secondary School, Burwood High, and have spent a bit of time scanning and uploading old photos to the website. And continuing the theme of Absent Friends in a recent post to this blog, I got to thinking about the people I met through school and where they may be now. It struck me how many have actually passed away - good friends some, others passing acquaintances but all gone too young. I suppose as we age then we will know more people who do die young, and as we age and reach yet another milestone that age also seems young.

I'm 50 now, well past the 14 that David Green saw when crushed by a Gravestone at Maldon cemetery in around 1972; also beyond the 18 seen by Spiros Tamaris and Brett Evans when car accidents took them in the mid-1970's; a few decades beyond those of Peter Jones who died of cancer in his early 20's not long after graduating as a doctor in the early 80's, and now 11 years past the age of my good mate Fog who died of a stroke aged 39 in 1997.

There have been others - Ian Black sadly taken suddenly in 2005 a few short months before our 30th Graduation anniversary reunion - still more who I have heard have gone but which I cannot confirm because I have not seen nor heard from them in years. Where is Peter Marsh and Meredith White? Who else of the images who peer from those old faded photos have passed from this world and what were the final chapters in their stories?

As a P.S. who can pick me out in the photo?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another belated Musical Monday; U2 - Wave of Sorrow

U2 are releasing a remastered version of the Joshua Tree, in my opinion one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and on it will be several previously unreleased songs, including this one, Wave of Sorrow. Check out the video of Bono discussing the song below then visit U2's Facebook page to comment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I had a telemarketer hang up on me

I know it's normally the other way around but I suppose I was being a bit of a smartarse. Let me say firstly that I am sympathetic to telemarketers, I had a business once that relied heavily upon converting telephone calls to sales, so I know it's not an easy job. But this bloke rubbed me the wrong way.

I often get pestered by people who call the office and bluff my staff into putting them through to me. This usually happens if they actually ask for me by name and that's not hard to find given it's plastered all over our website. I'm not sure where this bloke got my name from but he was put through and then started to give me the spiel.

You know the one. It often begins by mentioning a charity and in this case it was the Australian Red Cross. Maybe if that organisation has media monitors they'll check out this blog and perhaps learn a bit of a lesson. This bloke wanted to put in a lolly machine and a portion of the funds raised through this vending machine would go to the Red Cross.

"What portion?" I asked.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Well, you just said a portion, how much of the portion goes to the Red Cross and who gets the other bit?"

"It's a partnership between the Red Cross and ....vending machine company," he explained.

"OK," I said, "how much of the money collected goes to the Red Cross and how much to the vending machine company?"

"I don't have those figures but the man who installs the machine can tell you when he comes out."

"Not much good sending someone out here to install a machine that I don't want, if you can't tell me what percentage of the money raised goes to the Red Cross - is it 80%, 50%, 5% - how much?"

"We've raised over $150,000 for the Red Cross with these machines"

"That's admirable," I replied, "but you may actually have collected $20million and only given them a very small percentage."

That was when he hung up on me.

So a word of warning to telemarketers, make sure you anticipate all the questions and have all of the facts at your finger tips. If you can't do that, at least have the courtesy to offer some excuse about having to find out the answer and offer to get back to the person asking. You can then hang up gracefully and mark the number never to be called again.

And a word of advice to the Red Cross - if you're going to allow people to use your name like this at least tell them to be upfront with all of the facts.

Now if you think I may have been a bit harsh on the poor bloke then have a listen to this one.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Movember at Knox

I'm not sure whether this is a worldwide thing or just something Australian, but over here we are celebrating the month of November by growing moustaches. In my case at the moment I have a very white beard which in the true spirit will be trimmed down to a Mo in the next few days.

Movember has a serious aspect to it because it is about promoting prostate cancer awareness and male depression awareness. If anyone cares to sponsor the group you an do so by visiting here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I don't get...

A Canberra school, Stromlo High School, has supposedly allowed a 16 year old girl, Tara Lewis, to have cigarette breaks because her doctor says she is addicted to nicotine. Given it is illegal to supply cigarettes to children under the age of 18 I can only say WTF are they thinking? I don't get that the school allows it, I don't get that the mother allows it and presumably encourages it. And I don't get how is the school going to explain this one in Health Education classes?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

To Absent Friends

When I started blogging I really had little idea about the blogging "community". I didn't know that you could make friends online in this manner, nor did I understand that I would come to care about the people I've met and value the interaction I have with them.

But there does seem to be a type of evolution that occurs with personal blogs, and I make a clear distinction here between those who do blog personally as opposed to those who do it in an effort to make money. I make no real judgement on the latter, but I must admit that those who constantly sign up friends in the various communities [like blogcatalog and mybloglog] simply so they can send out bulk emails to people, do tend to grate on me. There's one bloke who has taken to commenting lately who simply says on each post that he has a new post as well. That sort of thing won't encourage me to visit him unless he begins to make a genuine effort and contribution to the discussion. I guess I'll put up with that for a little while, maybe he's new and hasn't worked out the etiquette yet. You know who you are! But back to the evolution question.

People who discover blogging seem in some cases to throw themselves headlong into it, posting everyday, trying to keep their blog live so people keep coming back. At some stage, perhaps after a few months, the number of posts taper off and the pressure to continually post eases off. And that's OK for those of us who are loyal readers, we understand the time constraints that impose themselves and how other things in life begin to re-assert themselves. But what happens when people disappear?

After almost daily contact, where do those who delete their blogs, or simply stop posting go? Do they just get busy, or lose the desire? I like to think that maybe blogging has served it's purpose, that the community created and interacted with was able to fill a void, maybe offer advice that was worthwhile, so that those people can move forward in their lives with a little more confidence than they once had, or at least with some extra knowledge that will serve them in good stead.

But for you absent friends who have disappeared how can we your friends thank you for being part of our lives for a little while when we can no longer contact you? Maybe one day when you return to blogging and maybe end up doing a search on your own name, or look at places that have linked to you, you'll find this post, and perhaps check in and let us know how you've been getting on.

To the following absent friends, some of whom have disappeared, others of whom have been silent for a few weeks, I thank you and wish you well. I hope one day you'll all be back.

Epi from Analysing It
Amber from Random Magus
Goldy from Goldyworld
Wolfgang from Gazing into the Abyss
Anne from The Rest of Me
W for Wonder this one's been hijacked

Image from Emsource

Monday, November 5, 2007

Musical Monday - Jackson Browne, Farther On

I have always loved Jackson Browne's music and still rate a concert he gave here in Melbourne around 1979 as the best I have ever seen. The opening verse of this song says -

In my early years I hid my tears
And passed my days alone
Adrift on an ocean of loneliness
My dreams like nets were thrown
To catch the love that Id heard of
In books and films and songs
Now theres a world of illusion and fantasy
In the place where the real world belongs

You can view the full lyrics here, but in the meantime just enjoy the music.

Thought for the Day 3

I have been reading Michael Palin's Himalaya and he writes in one part about meeting the Dalai Lama. In that section he gives a bit of background to the China Tibet issue and says that the Dalai Lama fled Tibet fearing for his life.

Why would someone who has been reincarnated countless times and who believes he will be again, fear for his life?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The heart of the onion

I have written before about the nature of blogging and whether or not it would have been better to have been an anonymous blogger rather than one who was easy to find. There have been people critical of what I write and those who question my motivations. I've been told by some that I blog to make myself seem like a good guy, but no matter that I deny it, there seems to be a belief that I have some hidden agenda, or that I am somehow trying to be manipulative.

So what is the issue with the blog. Why is it so confronting? Is it the fact that in writing and exposing myself the way I have in the writing, that the people who know me are seeing an aspect they haven’t seen before? Does it feel to them that they are reading the words of a person they thought they knew but didn’t? This blog is about how I feel, how I am coping with the issues relating to the people around me. I suppose that there may well be that feeling of reading about an alien for the people who know me, simply because I have not outwardly talked about feelings or expressed frailties and human qualities before.

It is confronting for me too to think that so few, if any, people really knew me. Someone said to me recently that in expressing my foibles and talking about my mistakes that it is almost like a confession in the religious sense, and that those of you who comment are almost like the priests who take the confessions. That in offering me support it is like having the confession accepted and that it appears that the support is leaving me to walk away without the guilt and avoiding the consequences of my mistakes.

I actually don’t think that is the case but I am prepared to say that the person who writes this blog is perhaps different to the public persona. It’s not a deliberate deception, probably not even a conscious one, if it is a deception at all.

I also had someone ask me about the readers of the blog, and in particular about those of you who comment. And I said that many of you also have fragilities that you reveal on your blogs but that are not necessarily the same as the ones you reveal to the people you know in the real world. I was asked how I knew that what you said and revealed was the truth, and my reply was that I just know it is. I said that it was like interviewing a crook, sooner or later if lies are being told, the inconsistencies will trip those people up. Similarly, where you talk about the pain and passion of your lives, there are things that ring true to me. I can tell when you are really hurting, when past tragedies have shaped present lives, where hopes and dreams are revealed in all their wonder.

That is not to say that in our writing we are totally naked. Sometimes there are things held back, hidden doors that remain closed to everyone.

Reading a personal blog is like being invited into someone’s house. Sometimes we stand on the doorstep and peer inside seeing a glimpse of a room. Perhaps on the first visit we may not get past the loungeroom, but as we become more comfortable and visit more often, we may start to explore the different rooms.

Each post on a blog is another room, and as we read them a little more of the writer is revealed. Perhaps there are sometimes things we see in the visits that we would rather not know, at other times there are things that delight or educate us. If you don't mind me mixing my metaphors let me say that each post is like peeling another layer from the onion and if we keep going we will one day get to it's heart.

So when you come into my house, do not judge me too harshly. If for some reason you do not like what you see then you need not come back. When you do though, perhaps you should be prepared to learn a little more about me each time. One day perhaps you will be comfortable here and rather than feel confronted or affronted by what you read you will look forward to the visits.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Belated Musical Monday - The Eagles, Long Road Out of Eden

I know I haven't posted a musical Monday for a couple of weeks but I have had one CD on high rotation since it was released last Monday. The Eagles Long Run Out of Eden is already a favourite and there is one song already on Youtube. The album is classic Eagles, rocking guitar, four part harmony and terrific lyrics. Don't just take my word for it, read the Rolling Stone and Billboard reviews, then listen and make up your own minds. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thought of the Day 2

"If God had wanted us to be vegetarian why did ne make cows out of meat?"
- Des Gleeson, VRC Steward, Radio 3AW this morning.

Thought of the Day 2

"If God wanted us to be vegetarians why did he make cows from meat?"
- Des Gleeson, VRC Steward on Radio 3AW this morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Classic Movie Test

Not sure if this means I'm Martin Sheen or Marlon Brando and I don't like the smell of napalm in the morning. I came across this bit of fun at Bobby Revelian's blog. Bobby if you read this I tried to link directly to the post but got an account suspended message, whatever that means.

Bobby came across it at the Brown Baron's blog and his What's Your Classic Movie Profile post. Can't help thinking it would have been better to be Bobby's Indiana Jones or the Baron's Easy Rider.

Still take the test yourself and leave a comment so we can see who you are.

Parents and the damage done.

"All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair."
- Mitch Albom - the five people you meet in Heaven

How sad that quote is true I thought when I read it. What damage was done to me and how has that legacy made me damage my own children? But it also made me think about the whole story. I realised that whilst all parents do damage their children, many are also there to pick them up when they fall, to kiss away the hurts and sooth the aches and pains.

Sometimes as kids we don't realise that.

We don't necessarily give our parents the credit they deserve for the repairs they do to the damage done. I am sure that there are bad parents but I am equally sure that most of us do our best. That we do sometimes struggle with doing the right thing by our kids but that the last thing we want them to do is grow up hurt or damaged. We want them to know that if their pristine glass is smudged that we will do our utmost to wipe those flaws away.

And you know, the smudges can be removed, they don't have to be forever. The relationships we have with our parents and our children will ebb and flow with circumstance. There will be times when we are angry, other times when we hurt, still more when we concentrate on the flaws in the glass rather than the depth of its beauty. Sometimes the reflections cast from those flaws are not those of the people we are looking at but our own images staring back at us. All of these things, the blemishes and imperfections as well as the sheer beauty we can find in others are all parts of the complexities of the love that binds us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Assumptions? Do me a favour...

We all make assumptions and whilst I try not to, I am finding that it is a very difficult thing not to do. I have made assumptions about people's behaviour, about their character, about their feelings and motivations, about their lifestyles, even about their emotions. I have labelled people and been labelled because of assumptions.

The problem with assuming things is it leads to incorrect behaviour on my part. Sometimes when you think you are doing the right thing, it can be totally wrong. I am not a good communicator when it comes to personal issues. Put me in front of an audience where I'm talking about work related stuff and I do a good job - get me one on one to talk about feelings and I generally fail miserably and clam up. Maybe that's a male thing, maybe it's a result of being a turtle - pulling my head inside my shell every time it looks like getting knocked off.

I've also made assumptions about why people read what I write and for those who comment I think it's because there is some way in which we connect. But maybe I'm wrong to assume that too.

Funny I started blogging simply as a form of therapy and if I dig back into my archives I see that the comments there were few and far between. Somewhere along the way though, I began to see the establishment of my own little community, people who visited me and who I in turn visited and came to know. I have assumed, and again maybe incorrectly, that most people who read my blogs regularly are also bloggers. Certainly everyone who comments [with the exception of you Jen] seem to also write your own blogs.

But I am curious about the rest of you and therefore I am asking a favour. If you read this please leave a comment as to who and where you are and maybe if you feel like it why you visit here. If you are a blogger please visit the other bloggers who comment and maybe leave a comment on one of their posts saying Loz sent you ;)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Six Degrees of Separation Meme

I thought I'd have a crack at making up a new meme, but it doesn't involve you actually tagging anyone unless you wish to. I thought it would be a bit of fun to provide some links back to people who take the time to comment on blogs and maybe discover a few new ones as we do it. If you wish you can tell people that you've tagged them with 6 degrees of separation along the way.

Here's the task.

1. Find the sixth last person to comment on your blog and visit them.
2. Find the sixth last person who commented on that blog and visit them. Then follow the link to the blog of the sixth last person who commented on that blog and so on till you get six blogs away from where you started.
3. Don't visit your own blog of course.
4. When counting back through the commenters I decided not to include the owner of the blog. Nor did I count the same person twice.
5. Provide a link back to that post on your own blog.

Let's see what new discoveries we can make to expand our own blog circles.

Here's mine.

1. - The sixth last person to comment on my blog was Nascar and the Canadian Curmudgeon on my post Fickleness

2. His blog is Miscellaneous Ramblings and the sixth last person to comment on his blog was Drowsey Monkey on the post Redneck Fashun...Be Practical

3. Her Blog is Drowsey Monkey and the sixth last person to comment on her blog was Darlene on the post I wanna be a Koala

4. Her blog is Auntie Dar's Life and the sixth last person to comment on her blog was Sugar Queens Dream on the post Birthday Wishes for Judy

5. Her blog is Sugar Queens Dream and the sixth last person to comment on her blog was fracas on the post John Believes in Me Contest

6. Her blog is fracas and the sixth last person to comment on her blog was linkylove on the post The Monday Melee

That's certainly a mix of people and blogs that's taken me outside those I normally check and provided me with some interesting reading. As I said above I won't tag anyone so participate if you wish but leave a comment here if you do so I can look at where these travels take you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brighton Beach 1

I have played around with some photoshop filters on these ones.

Josie's Interview Part 3 - Specialisation is for Insects

Firstly, apologies Josie for taking so long to get through this interview. I've had too many weekend meetings at work to actually find a few hours in a row to finish it. For those who don't know Josie from Picking up the Pieces has sent me five questions and along the way has also interviewed a number of far more interesteing people than I whose replies you will find links to here. So here is Question 3 and my response.

3. You have been involved in some fascinating careers thru the years. What was your original intended career when you came out of college? Which job turned out to be the most fulfilling and why? What do you like/dislike about the position you have now? Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Lazarus Long - "Time Enough for Love" by Robert Heinlein

Throughout High School I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. I toyed with the idea of being a doctor when I was really young but found out during High School that I wasn't smart enough at the time to fulfill that ambition. So in deciding I really didn't know what I wanted to be long term it was an easy out to actually take a year off before going to University.

In those days it was easy for a school leaver to pick a career in the public service or a bank, to sit an exam and be one of hundreds chosen postitions vacant with those organisations. So in 1975 I commenced my first job as an Accounts clerk in what was then called the Ministry of Conservation. It was a good place to work with good people but some of them had been there for decades and for a 17 year old the prospect of being in the one place for so long was anathema so after a few months I decided that I would indeed take the place I had deferred in an Arts Degree at Monash University and in 1976 I began my first of four years at that old alma mater.

However, I still didn't have too much of a clue about what I wanted to "be". There was a vague idea of becoming a park ranger and I therefore studied Geography with minors in Psychology and Anthropology. My double major included units in geomorphology, climatology and biogeography and that eventually lead me to an honours year where I studied palynology, which for those who don't know [and it's no shame not to] is the study of fossil pollen grains. In a nutshell I spent a year staring at a microscope counting pollen grains I had taken from a sedimentary core of a bog I called Caledonia Fen on the Snowy Plains near Mt Howitt in Victoria. This gave a climatic record stretching back at least 30,000 years into the last Ice Age and was the basis for my thesis. I think that it is still the oldest continuous highland site studied in Australia.

I studied the same subject matter with three other people, all of whom stayed in Academia and went onto gain Masters and PhD's in the same areas of study. By 1980 I was getting sick of study and decided that it was time to enter the workforce on a full time basis. I had of course held several jobs during my university studies - as a factory worker, storeman and packer, shop assistant, cleaner and part time office clerk. So I started to put in for jobs and found out fairly quickly that a knowledge of climate change didn't really qualify me to be a park ranger. What I really needed to know was how to trap a rabbit or skin a feral cat or how to build a bush dunny.

I ended up working full time for around 18 months at a department store called Waltons and had the job of counting the takings and doing the banking every day with a couple of other companions. But as with the public service job several years earlier I was not convinced that I had a long term future there. So I applied for both the Air Force and the Police Force and the application for the second came through first and within six weeks of applying I found myself in the police academy having had my shoulder length hair and beard shaved off the night before my induction.

I spent 16 years in the police force and loved most of it. I was trained in close personal protection, became a hostage negotiator and the last eight years was a Counter Terrorist specialist. I count myself lucky that I didn't leave the job bitter and twisted like many seem to. There was never a morning when I woke up and thought that I didn't want to go to work. It was always challenging and interesting and I was good at what I did. If there was a trigger for wanting to leave it was disappointment at failing Detective Training School under unusual circumstances which I have detailed here.

Perhaps the first signs of my midlife episode manifested in the itchy feet that lead me to leave the police force and to buy a franchise. We did a lot of homework before taking the plunge into business and I learnt fairly quickly that I actually knew nothing at all about running a business. The pity was that it also became evident that the franchisors were also struggling with the business as well and six months after we bought into it they went into liquidation. Whilst we struggled on for another 18 months we ended up having to follow the same path having lost close to $200k in the failed venture.

Fortunately for me, a former police colleague had set up his own business and he hired me as his Chief Intelligence Analyst and I had three good years working for him back in an area that I had a lot of knowledge in. But the toll of losing the money in the business meant I felt a great deal of pressure to try and recover financially and it wasn't long before I found myself with a second job running the Victorian Basketball League. As it turned out, it wasn't worth the hours I put in and was the beginning of my true neglect of my family. Relationships have to suffer when people work 80 hour weeks and whilst I enjoyed the work I was in some ways oblivious to the slack my wife had to pick up in looking after the family and I certainly wasn't aware of the impact on my kids. It was head down and bum up. The response of a man to mistakes he made and a desire to provide financially for his family but totally unaware of looming problems.

The second job lead directly to my current role as CEO of Knox Basketball here in Melbourne. I count myself lucky to have a full time job in sport and to have turned a hobby into a career. If I was to say what I like best about the role it is the challenge of being able to build an organisation and to have had some input into it being regarded as the best of it's kind in the country. Conversely some of the inherent enjoyment one gets from being involved in an organisation as a volunteer is lost when it becomes a paid position. Or maybe I should say that the nature of the satisfaction changes.

What do I do as CEO - actually a bit of everything, sort out problems, troubleshoot, write and implement business plans, apply strategies to our growth, answer phones, clean dunnys at times, wipe up spew, sweep floors, stack chairs, pick up rubbish, listen to parents, referees, players, coaches and anyone else who has a complaint or suggestion. As Lazarus Long said "Specialisation is for insects!"

As for ten years from now - all I'll say is I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Friday, October 19, 2007


The fickleness of the women I love is only equalled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me.
George Bernard Shaw

Those who have been reading here for a while will know that I try and spend one night a week with my daughters. Generally, we'll go out and have a feed together, maybe go to a movie. Sometimes we'll touch on the deep and meaningful and not being someone who finds it easy to talk about feelings that has been a steep learning curve for me. I have tried to answer their questions openly and honestly and reiterated many times that all they need to do is ask me rather than dwell on things.

This week I had a meeting on Thursday night so we had arranged to go out on Wednesday. That morning I got a message from daughter number 2 asking what time I was picking them up but by the time I got there that night I was in the bad books and she wouldn't speak to me. So something had happened during the day to make her cranky and I still have absolutely no idea what that was.

Daughter number 1 and I ended up going to the movies and saw The Kingdom which we both enjoyed.

So I'm not sure when I'll see the other one. I will call her this weekend and ask if she wants a chat. Apparently she thinks I don't listen to her, but that's pretty hard when she won't talk to me. I'm guessing this is a bit of the fickleness of a 14 year old female and that maybe next week when it comes time to go out again, that she'll be OK again.

So my darling daughters - if you read this, this song is for you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I am afraid!

One of the things about the way I write is that it just spews forth. I don't spend a lot of time composing, re-writing or editing what I post on my blogs. Basically you get pretty much what I would say if we were involved in a conversation.

That sometimes means that I miss putting into a post some of the things that I would have said had I spent a bit more time thinking about it. Such is the case with the previous post on my experience, or lack of it, with alcohol.

It came to me overnight that whilst I stated that I didn't drink because of a promise I'd made to my grandmother, that maybe, that was only part of the story. I realised that I am actually afraid of drinking. For two reasons.

Firstly, I am afraid of losing control of myself. I have built a facade of dependability, of seriousness, a sober personality if you like, and I am petrified of being put in a situation where I can't control myself. I fear being laughed at or of making myself look stupid. I remember the embarrassment when my mates came around and Dad was under the weather. They thought he was cool, I just wanted to shrink back to my bedroom.

The other fear is that of being an alcoholic. Totally irrational I know, but it has been demonstrated to run in families and there is enough in mine to make me believe that there may be a genetic basis. So if I were a drinker would it lead inevitably to alcoholism? That tied in with the lack of control is enough to make me wary of ever doing so.

I've said often enough that I am a rational man, maybe that's only true up to a point as well. Because looking at what I've written doesn't make me appear all that rational. Midlife is about questioning who and why we are what we are, maybe trying to understand our own motivations and putting decisions we have made into the context of a life that now has the breadth and depth we lack as children, teenagers or early adults. It's about understanding what the warts mean in the "warts and all" tapestry that makes us who we are.

May I finish by saying to you who read and comment - thank you. In giving me feedback you are making me understand myself more fully. I feel at times that in blogging I am wiping the sleep from my eyes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize - A changing climate for the award

I have been lucky enough to have met several Nobel Peace Prize winners - Bishop Belo and Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela to name four. Of those I have met I must say that Nelson Mandela is one who had amazing presence and charisma. A remarkably gracious man who endured absolute and unjustified horror through his years in jail as a victim of the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Desmond Tutu is also incredibly down to earth and I remember him telling a story about that first Christmas night when Joseph searching for premises where he could rest his pregnant wife asked an innkeeper for lodging and on explaining that his wife was in labour and in desperate need of somewhere to bed down was told by the innkeeper that "it wasn't his fault." Tutu said that Joseph replied "It's not my fault either." From that moment he had the congregation he was speaking to at the time eating out of his hand.

So having met these remarkable men I find it hard to swallow that Al Gore was awarded the prize this year for preaching about climate change. Now I haven't seen "An inconvenient truth" but for me the jury on climate change is still out and the science still in question. I do know that my studies on climate change many years ago - when I actually wrote an honours thesis on climate change in the Victorian Alps - showed that there have been times in the past 10,000 years when the world was hotter than it is now.

Irrespective of my opinion on the current climate change debate, and I am willing to concede that the evidence appears to be that the Earth is warming, I don't see how the debate is relevant to the Nobel Peace Prize.

This prize is awarded by a Norwegian panel and according to Irwin Abrams when set up by Alfred Nobel was supposed to be given "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Nobel planned his prizes only for persons, but the statutes adopted permitted the prizeawarding bodies also to make an award to "an institution or an association."

It would seem that this year the most broad interpretation of "fraternity between nations" has been used to determine the prize winner. Worthy or not, I do not see Al Gore as being someone who has furthered the cause of peace in the same manner as the likes of Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu.

Josie's Interview Part 2 - A non-sozzled Loz

Here is part 2 of Josie's interview of me. The link to the other people she has interviewed can be found here.

2. You have chosen to lead an alcohol-free life. Though you have probably discussed this elsewhere on your blog, I'm not familiar with the story. What are your reasons for making and staying with that choice. You stated that "drinking has had a huge impact on who I am, for good and bad". Please elaborate on both facets of that impact.

My Dad was a drinker, in fact he drank to excess, less in his later years than when we were growing up. There is a culture of drinking in Australia and a considerable amount of pressure put on young men to drink. In some cases that can lead to people having drinking problems. Dad's story is told in part on my other blog Sunrays and Saturdays.

I don't want to imply that Dad was abusive because he wasn't, but his drinking did lead to arguments and those arguments had a profound affect on me when I was growing up. There was rarely a time when we went out that Dad didn't eventually have too much to drink. There were often times when he came home late from work because he'd been at the pub and often my sisters and I would be in bed when he got home. I often used to lie awake in bed waiting for him to come home and there would inevitably be a shouting fight when he did arrive home. I would call out to him when I heard him come in the door and ask for a drink of water and it's only recently that I realised that I wanted that drink because it meant he would come down and I could see that he was home safe, not because I was thirsty.

Dad also had a brother who drank to excess and I have been told that he began to drink after a truck he was driving ran over a small car and killed a couple of ladies who were in it. It was not his fault but it triggered his alcoholism. I guess in those days things like post traumatic stress disorder were unheard of and there was no support for anyone who found themselves in that situation. Additionally my Mum had both a brother and a brother-in-law who also drank to excess.

I count myself lucky that there was no physical violence associated with the drunkenness of any of those men, or at least, if there was, that it was hidden from us.

At some stage when I was around 6 or 7 years old I remember promising my Nana [Dad's Mum] that I would never drink and I have stood true to that promise. That together with an incident when Dad left the family home for a while and a neighbour pulled me aside and told me I was now the man of the house at around 9 or 10 years of age meant I really had no choice other than to grow up a non-drinker.

Over the past 18 months I have come to understand my self better than I ever have before. I had always thought that I had embraced the responsibility of being the man in the house but in reality it lead me to become a loner. I was far more comfortable in my own company than with other people. Those of you who are loners will understand the nature of a child who spends a lot of time in his bedroom reading, writing, painting soldiers and listening to music. The bedroom was a safe place. It was mine. A place where there were no arguments, to where I could retreat and get lost in a world where I could tread Barsoom with John Carter, or walk Mirkwood with Frodo, or sail the oceans with Captain Nemo.

Alone and in that room I could control what was happening and I didn't have to be put in situations over which I had no control. I wrote about one of those times with Dad when I had no control at all over what was happening and as a kid I just had to sit back and accept my lot at the time. You can read that here if you wish in a post I called "A Bleary Road". Again, compared to the horrors faced by some people, these were minor, but still made me what I am today.

I wasn't a recluse, as I'm not now, I was just comfortable with my own company. I will admit to some apprehension about having friends around because I was embarrassed by Dad's drunkenness. So whilst there were friends who visited it wasn't something that I really looked forward to. Was I a loner because of the experiences I had growing up or was I always going to be one. It was a question I pondered in another post earlier this year.

Josie asked me what I meant about non-drinking being good and bad. Well the good is that I have in these matters anyway, stayed true to myself. The bad, is the feelings of loneliness or of not fitting into social situations. I don't wish to imply in any of this that I had a bad childhood. I didn't, we never went without and the good times far outweighed the bad. I never ever doubted that Mum and Dad loved me, that was evident in everything they did for us. But alcohol can have a profound affect on even those of us who do not use it.