Thursday, January 29, 2009
Sometimes the least embarrassing path can result in the most embarrassment.
A good few years ago, we could often be found on our boat, floating in some quiet anchorage in company with a number of our friends. Often we'd get together on one of our boats partaking in substantial amounts of conviviality long into the night.
Our boats were small, but most had the conveniences of home, and given the amount of conviviality going on some nights, conveniences were convenient indeed. Except that is, on the boat belonging to one of our number where the said convenience was located in the open cabin, right next to the kitchen sink.
The owners of the boat thoughtfully provided a small canvas bag that one could put over one's head to provide a little privacy if one needed to avail oneself of the facility.
One evening, one of the young ladies in our throng, perhaps just into her teens at the time, failed completely in her efforts to persuade us to leave the cabin, while she went about her ablutions. Her father gave her some fairly detailed instructions as to the correct use of the stern rail (or pushpit as it's known) for her purposes, and with some trepidation she retired into the darkness to go about her task, returning it should be said, with a certain glow of accomplishment.
The glow was only to last until the first of we guests began to leave, stepping into the darkness into a rather slippery spot in their dinghy. In the still of the night, it appears that the tenders had taken it on themselves to huddle together hard against the stern of the boat.
I am pleased to note however, from the above photograph no such fate awaits our Grandboy! There'll be none of this "going over the stern" nonsense for him.
He'll take the bag over the head every time.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Recently in between other distractions, I've been readying my father's journal for print, so that future generations of Midges can see what the old bloke was thinking.
He'd have been delighted with yesterday's Sunday paper, giving away a free flag with each edition, and I reckon he might even have got one of those that you hang from your car window.
All in all, wiht all the flags flying around here, I think he would have approved.
Here's his entry from 26 January 1991:
There was a time when I would have said forget Australia Day, maybe have a holiday on the first Monday after, but let it go at that.
I’m sure this attitude came about during the war when the Yanks were always waving their flag, the good old Stars & Stripes. I became so sick of this, I was glad to be Australian because we used to hide our flag. Of course, doing this no one knew what our flag looked like, and that was one of the big reasons for changing it. But if we did get a new one, no one would know it either if we didn’t show it. Now I believe we should be like the Yanks and show it all the time. The Union Jack in the corner doesn’t worry me at all, whether we like it or not it was part of our heritage. And besides, it’s very handy to fly upside down, (for when a flag is upside down it shows you are in distress and goodness, Australia seems to need to fly it upside down fairly often these days,) and it’s easy to tell.
I was pleased to receive a letter near Australia Day with the above stamp on it. (Edit: The stamp in question was a coloured print of an Austrlaian Flag) I only saw one, mind you, but there should be more of it.
Let’s try to make more of our country and show off a bit, not knock it as some do.
One thing about having the holiday the Monday after, you can celebrate twice, at least.
at 9:41 am
Thursday, January 22, 2009
In the blur that is my life, I've missed another posting day!
Once upon a time there was only sea mail to communicate with those in far flung corners of the world, so if one were to be two days late in posting a letter, one wouldn't be discovered. In the event that an economy was melting on one side of the earth, it would take months for the details to become clear on the other.
Life in the Antipodes was simple then, and venturing off our shores was literal, undertaken in an often arduous sea journey which itself took months to complete.
In those days, communications with one's far flung off-spring was simple and to the point. No one worried unduly, as long as a reply was received within a reasonable timeframe, and given the available modes of transportation, reasonable could be anything less than six months.
A letter would be dispatched and some months later, and a reassuring response would simply as if by some sort of magic, appear in one's letterbox.
Mothers had no need for concern. As there was no hope of receiving a logical reply in a timeframe which made any sense at all, instead of asking questions, they'd make statements: "I hope you are keeping warm enough." "Remember to eat lots of oranges", and so forth, and in doing so, subconsciously assured themselves that indeed all those things were being taken care of.
Sadly, with the advent of technology mothers worry endlessly. Reality is not in itself reassuring.
The video conversation is the worst culprit:
He didn't look at all well did he? Perhaps he's past the worst of it, or is he lying? Maybe it is serious?
Her hand transplant seems to be working well enough, although it would have been nice if they'd told us about the mistake and that she now has two right ones.
Was that a hospital bed they were calling from do you think?
Do you think we need to go and see if they are OK?
Let's just write a long cheery letter filled with descriptions of blue skies and sunny beaches, and send it sea mail.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Kawana Uniting Church presents a Christmas Festival annually, usually with a terrific interpretation of the events of 2000 years ago, which gave us the reason to celebrate Christmas.
The whole shooting match is topped off with live animals replete with shepherds watching their flocks by night outside the building, and this is a source of great entertainment to the children of the assembled throng waiting to visit the display.
2001 was an interesting year. In September there'd been arguably the most spectacular and perhaps the most spectacularly successful terrorist attack on New York City, and the world was still on high alert, and due to a quirk of Americanism the date will forever be etched in our minds as 911. That's an anagram for the eleventh day of the ninth month for those of us living in the civilised world!
That one event took away our ability to file our nails or aeroplanes, or to carry a tube of toothpaste on board if it contained more than 100 ml. It was not only spectacularly (if accidentally) successful in destroying one or two of the symbols of capitalism but it also really did leave the world looking over its shoulder.
There we were on the other side of the world, under a clear starry night thinking deep and meaningful Christmas thoughts about as far removed from that act of terror as one could imagine, when our peace was interrupted by the shrieking of an hysterical five year old coming from the direction of the sheep.
This wasn't just some child playing, anyone could have recognised the shrill wail of terror emanating from a small body paralysed by fear.
His parents rushed over, as did many others, fearing he'd suffered an amputation by rabid goat, or worse.
"It's that bad man from TV" he screamed and sobbed, pointing to a shepherd with a long false beard and a teatowel on his head.
He was too young to know who Osama bin Laden was, but he had been exposed to enough of the incessantly sensational newscasts to know he wasn't good, in fact he should be very afraid. The terrorists had achieved their aims, we are probably safer from attack than we've ever been, but dint of excess security, but our freedom has been curtailed. We have played into their hands.
Each year when I see a shepherd I think about that little boy, and reflect on the Christmas message. The one about peace and joy and good will to men, and wonder why we humans just don't get it.
So Osama old chap, if you read this maybe you could enlighten me.
Or are you occupied terrifying five year olds?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
But would a real man be seen dead driving a Tarago?
I'm not sure, unless the Tarago is a metaphor for all that is wrong with the world and.... well I could go on quite a bit about that, but I must admit I did think that if Jesus was to choose a Tarago for the team bus then there'd be a few players missing, because this one was only a seven seater.
I started to think about how many disciples a Bloke'd need if He was to come back and set up shop in 2009. Could he get by with just a Tarago full?
Here is my minimum team of Disciples necessary to get the message out in the modern world:
2) Workplace Health and Safety Guy ( hi Judas!)
3) Movie Maker
5) Sound Guy
6) Web Developer/Multi Media Editor
7) I.T. Bloke
I know that means that technically the Boss wouldn't fit in the bus, but the way I figure it is the I.T. bloke would be kept pretty busy at base anyway. Actually I'm thinking that if the whole operation could get away with just one I.T. person, then that would be a Miracle!
at 10:06 am
Thursday, January 08, 2009
I told you I'd remember!
My mother once is again is incarcerated in Greenslopes Hospital, behaving herself apparently, and awaiting her first operation of the year. I don't want that to sound as though I'm less than apprehensive and I'd hate anyone to think I wasn't as concerned as I certainly am. It must be recorded that when one is well into one's eighties and develops gall stones on New Year's Day one could not be accused of starting the year off in a promising manner.
On the other hand, one's eldest son could be quite grateful that the very thought of her hospitalisation has cleared at least one blockage in one of the channels in his brain. The blockage that had him post a particular photograph a few weeks ago, with no recollection of the story that was to accompany it;
Many years ago, more than a decade if one wanted to become picky, my mother was hospitalised for a few days in an attempt to diagnose an illness which as far as we can make out remains anonymous to this day.
At the time my father was himself quite ill, suffering from a condition we used to refer to as ECKTM, an acronym for Every Condition Known To Man.
He was so frail for many of the latter years of his life that as it was finally coming to an end, something of a contest developed between his vital organs to see which could hold out longest. His diseased lungs were holding their own and the pacemaker was keeping his heart ticking over, but his kidneys and liver were starting to fade, his skin ruined by years of medication was barely concealing what lay below, his corneal transplants still in place, his teeth long since gone, and his body was gnarled and reshaped through the onslaught of arthritis and osteoporosis. It was typical of him, a child of the Great Depression, and with an ancestry that had some vaguely Scottish roots, that he'd use the last bit of everything, allowing nothing to go to waste.
On his death bed, had he been in a more lucid state he would have giggled with me I'm sure at that moment when we realised that although he'd wrung every bit of usefulness out of every molecule of his body, he remained perhaps somewhat ironically, a card-carrying organ donor .
Despite his general lack of well being, he was fiercely independent, so when my mother was hospitalised, he refused all offers of help as a matter of course . In that context then, I was rather surprised to receive a call one afternoon, with a request to pop past their house to give him a "hand" with something.
I spent a considerable part of the hour or so the commute consumed, wondering with a growing sense of gloom, at what sort of crisis awaited.
If he needed help so badly that he'd actually ask for it, I reasoned, it must have been out of absolute desperation.
And it was.
He held out his hands. The backs of his fingers had dozens of welts and bruises across them. Fine blue and purple lines criss-crossed his fingers and first knuckles as though he'd fed them into a whipper-snipper or perhaps the cooling fan on the car.
Just looking at them made me wince.
The mouse had done it he said. "What? Whipped you with his tail?" I thought to myself. Since he was a long way from being computer literate, he was clearly referring to the rodent variety.
He'd had a mouse in the kitchen apparently, and apart from a bit of scurrying and nibbling, it had remained relatively harmless until he decided to do something about it.
Whether it was due to the medication he was taking, or to some other condition I shall never know, but he had developed a pronounced unsteadiness in his movements, which translated to a rather uncontrollable shake in his hands.
Anyone who has ever tried to set a mousetrap will understand, that unsteadiness is not particularly compatible with that activity. With a great deal of self control and patience, he found that he could set it, but as he took the pressure off his hands his shaking would have them gyrating wildly through an arc which inevitably included making contact with one of the metal bits triggering the rotten thing, before he could withdraw to a safe distance.
Is it still called empathy when we laugh at another’s pain?
I didn't know at the time why I doubled up hysterically when he demonstrated the whole thing, plaintively holding up his blue fingers with a mouse trap hanging from them, but I did. Perhaps It was one of those " you had to be there" moments. Or perhaps I'm just a sadistic wretch for whom all hope is lost.
Or perhaps there is another explanation. Just recently I've read a bit about reading human emotion and facial muscles, and how one or two people have become experts on reading faces by analysing and categorising every micro muscle movement. It is clear that every twitch of a facial muscle means something to those with enormous amounts of knowledge, and also to our unconscious mind. It also became clear to me while reading all this stuff, that I have a terribly advanced but not quite perfect state of unconsciousness, which has a fully developed ability to read all of these expressions, but only a partly developed ability to translate them correctly.
Next time, when you do some major physical damage to yourself in my presence, and I fall off my chair laughing, please remember I'm not being unsympathetic, I've just mistaken a movement in your frrontalis, pars lateralis for your levator palpebrae superioris. A simple and quite understandable mistake really.
at 5:53 am
Sunday, January 04, 2009
There was always something wonderfully mysterious about Christmas Day in Brisbane's suburbs, the weather always ended up being sultry if not steamy, warmish at the very least, tending to tropical mostly, and exactly not suited to the heavy roast dinner that we never missed, simply because that's what one did at Christmas.
Modern Christmas celebrations in Australia tend to turn their backs quite sensibly on our Colonial past when it comes to things gastronomical, and many families these days treat themselves to lashings of cold seafood, tropical fruits and things which gloriously celebrate our sub-tropical environment. Often this happens in the cool of the evening, an altogether sensible and satisfying turn of events.
Our family isn't at all like that though. We still unashamedly cling to the past, honouring our forebears from the Mother Country by partaking of a feast of roast meats, baked vegetables and healthy doses of plum pudding (if indeed there is such a thing as a healthy dose) with brandy custard and lashings of cream, all served at midday at the peak of the Antipodean summer.
Eating Christmas dinner in the backyard or under the house is, I believe, a strangely Australian tradition, and while I suspect that no other culture could accept the casual juxtaposition of Christmas roast and compost bin in quite the same invisible way that we do, it also probable that the mix of formal dinner setting, crepe paper hats, bare feet and singlets is also uniquely ours.
Bung a tarp over the clothes line, hang some tinsel and you've got an instant shade tent for the Christmas "spread" (and what a beauty it was too!) in perhaps the coolest part of the yard.
After the dinner things have been cleared away, when most of the horizontal surfaces in the host's house become occupied by all manner of aged family members in varied stages of repose, and before someone pulls out the bat and ball and the French Cricket commences, I often find myself perambulating around the neighbourhood, just a short walk to ensure that at least some of the newest contents of my stomach are usefully redirected. This year was no different.
One of the things I have always loved about Christmas Day in the suburbs is the heavy cloak of silence that descends on suburbia. Just as I have read of the silence that accompanies new snow, the silence that accompanies Christmas Day is quite astonishing, as the daily grind of traffic disappears and ambient sound disappears almost entirely. Were it not for the crisp, clear sounds of the odd cheery child playing with a new toy, or some excited laughter as an Aunt unwraps a new pair of lacey underwear, all would be completely silent.
As I set off this year for my stroll and noticed there was something quite out of place. The silence was in it's usual place, but something wasn't right, something quite discomforting had happened.
The other sounds were missing; there was no activity visible from the street.
No new bicycles being ridden.
No groups of Uncles sitting on Eskies behind open garage doors.
No arguments in backyards.
No people to be seen or heard.
All the houses were clearly occupied, and judging by the number of cars in some front yards, there were parties in full swing within, but the windows and doors were closed, and the curtains drawn.
It took a while, but suddenly it dawned. There was a sound. A new one; a pervasive, dull buzzing hum, like a million baritone bees and it followed me everywhere I walked.
I was surrounded.
If the first nails in the coffin of neighbourhood interaction were hammered in by six foot high timber fencing, then the household air conditioner has finished it off. The neighbourhood was silent except for the hum of a thousand split units and the drip of the morning's humidity.
While they all sat inside their temperature controlled boxes, playing with their computer games and staring goggle eyed at their new plazma screens, eating their prawn salads, I wandered home and sat waist deep in the blow-up pool with a glass of ginger ale and a piece of Christmas Cake in my hand and thought smugly to myself.
"They just don't know what their missing."
Thanks Matt and Ab, it was a fabulous day!