Thursday, April 29, 2010

FALLING DOWN THE LADDER

When it comes to sport, or rather ‘came’ in the sense I’m long past the stage of active participation, I’m quite competitive. Athletics was my first love, mainly 100 and 200 meter sprints, with long jump thrown in if my team were desperate. Training wasn’t my great forte however, leaving it to the last few weeks before a competition before I got myself into gear, realizing by then it was too late to prepare myself to anywhere near my full potential.

I still get into sport of the armchair variety though, staying up bleary eyed through Wimbledon and the Tour de France, but the only thing I watch with weekly interest is how the Western Bulldogs are going in AFL Footy. The Doggies fortunes rise and fall with annoying regularity, having only won one premiership in the club’s history fifty six years ago, and along with their success or failure, go my weekly footy tips.

Now, it’s very difficult to be disloyal and tip against your own club, and I admit to having done it on only a few occasions. You study the stats and check out the opposition each week and go, yeah, they can do it, even if it is against Geelong on their home turf. We’re into the tenth year of our local footy tipping competition which is a bit of fun, about 15-20 of us each year vying for the little trophy and hoping to get 8 out of 8 so we get a Mars bar as reward for our expertise. For the first time, our little comp has registered with the official AFL Footy Tipping competition, so we not only keep track of where each of us are at, we also get to see how we’re going alongside the other countless thousands who have also signed up online.

Haven’t worked out how many are registered, but I do know it’s somewhere around 164,000 or more, and after 5 rounds I’m sitting on 27 points out of a possible 40. Because of last weekend’s shocker of a round with so many upsets I only got 4 points and fell a formidable 4,260 places to arrive at my current position of 33,299 on the tipping ladder. Looooong way behind the leader, but at least it puts me in the top 20%.

Going to be a tight one this Friday night against St Kilda. Well, the Doggies did beat the Saints in the pre-season final, which to me doesn’t really count for anything, and I do remember when I sat in the crowd at the Dome last year they killed us in the final quarter, but this week the Dogs will redeem themselves. I’m sure of it. I think. Yeah, they can do it. The margin? 4 points.

CARN THE DOGS!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANZAC DAY - WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

Gallipoli has become a mecca for those wanting to make the pilgrimage to be where their fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other family or friends long gone, both fought and died on the other side of the world. Even those with no family involved feel a strong connection to this place and moment in history when our young men were sent into hell like lambs to the slaughter. There is something so Australian in that we have chosen not our biggest victory to become the country’s annual remembrance for those who died in battle, but rather, a military disaster in which our troops were caught up. What has become the Anzac legend and spirit, that fierce tenacity in the face of such ridiculous odds, was forged in that cove in northern Turkey back in 1915. Out of the chaos our nation found its strength of character, and stamped its presence on the world stage.

Countless thousands rose in the dark this morning on what is probably Australia’s most religious day, to honour the sacrifice of our troops involved in conflicts right around the world. In every capital city, and in towns large and small right across the country, the cenotaph or war memorial in each place with the names inscribed of those from their town who did not return, becomes the focal point of what never fails to be a profoundly moving dawn memorial service.

Why a dawn service? For those on the battlefront, after intelligence is gained, strategies discussed and plans made, dawn is often the time when soldiers head into battle, when the war machine gets into gear for the next onslaught. What better way of standing with them than making the small sacrifice of rising early and gathering to commemorate their sacrifice at the hour when they would have faced the enemy and felt the most fear.

From The Men who Sleep with Danger written in 1914, poet and author Henry Lawson made a fitting observation and tribute to the spirit of those who leave the comfort and safety of home and serve on far flung battlefields.

The men who sleep with Danger Are mostly quiet men;

And one may use a rifle, And one may use a pen.

And some meet wrong with patience, And some arise and strike;

But in the big essentials They’re pretty much alike.


The men who sleep with Danger Sleep soundly while they may,

But always wake at midnight Or just before the day.

A Something in the darkness That shudders at the dawn –

A side-mate softly wakened, A pistol swiftly drawn.


The men who sail with Danger, Are actors at command –

They lightly laugh to fool you When terror is at hand.

The men who sail with Danger A wondrous insight have;

They know if you are timid, They know if you are brave.


The men who live with Danger They take things as they go -

In seeming unpreparedness, To those who do not know.

They sleep when work is over, And mind and body ache;

But Danger whispers gently, And they are wide awake!


Services in Gallipoli, Villers-Bretonneux in France and other places overseas where our soldiers died attract large crowds as well as the media, but today in pubs and RSL clubs everywhere the Diggers and those who have followed them in more modern conflicts, will sit and reminisce over a few beers, raising a glass to the mates who didn’t return, and laughing about the good times in order to block out the memories they would rather not have.

How do you thank them? Not only those who gave their lives on the battlefield, but those who returned and still go on living the nightmare.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

THE FISH JOHN WEST REJECT

To borrow a phrase, “we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.”

We all have our own paradigm through which we view the world and which governs the way we will react or respond in any given situation. Naturally, we believe our way of looking at the world is the right way, and why can’t everyone else just get their act together and do things our way then everything will be fine, the world will be a better place, and there’ll be no reason for any conflict.

From simply working out which TV show to watch with your family to negotiating with world leaders around the globe, people unfortunately have this annoying habit of having different agendas and points of view and personal philosophies which constantly get in the way of harmony.

Having just finished reading The Writing on my Forehead by Nafisa Haji, yet another good debut novel I’ve picked up from the specials table of my favourite book store, I was reminded of this fact through a particular passage dealing with the differences between journalism and fiction. The central character Saira attends a lecture given by Majid Khan, a journalist and novelist, and what follows are some snippets from the lecture which I assume would be Haji’s own views on the subject told in the context of the story.

“…fiction is truer than journalism. But journalism is more powerful, and more dangerous. Journalism is based on facts…but to help people understand… journalists are in the habit of putting facts together so they make more sense…to construct something out of chaos. But when you build a story, you choose which blocks to use, which not to use. You decide how they are to be arranged, what shape they will take.

Those facts we dismiss because they do not fit into the pattern of the stories we write, they cannot be eliminated…I am a product of my own specific culture, and in that culture I find justification for my point of view, already formed…The kind of journalism I aspire to practice…is merely to bear witness. Not to make sense, not even to understand. Because when I try to do those things, I become an architect, a constructor of meaning and truth, a storyteller…you have to maintain your distance. You can’t bear witness if you’re…blinded by emotions.”

I imagine these words ringing true for aspiring journalists as they embark on a career determined to pursue the truth, uncover injustice, expose corruption and get to the core of whatever issue is simmering just below the surface waiting to be revealed. You would think the pursuit of the facts and the pursuit of the truth would be one and the same, but however objective we might like to think we are, we all succumb to the constraints of how we view the world, much of which is beyond our control, and attempt to make sense of what is happening around us in the light of that view.

So how do you overcome that. Is it even possible. What do you do with all the facts you don’t want, those pieces of information, those interactions, people, and events which make us uncomfortable and confirm the world is beyond the construct we would like to create. The old adage of ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’ may be sufficient for some, but however na├»ve, there is something in me which still wants to believe what I read in the paper and what is on the evening news. Not being privy to the gathering of the facts though makes you wonder what has been rejected.

Think I’ll stick to my attempts at writing fiction. The facts can be irrelevant, but the all important quest for truth will win in the end.

Monday, April 19, 2010

THERE'S NOT MUSH-ROOM INSIDE

















I'm convinced I could never suffer from agoraphobia, and though I could imagine what it might be like, probably have very little understanding of the plight of those who do. Plenty of sympathy as it is a debilitating condition, but now that I’m into my fifth day at home due to the flu, I just had to get out. Needed some fresh air, needed to make my body move again as it is still in its achy breaky stage. Walked the 200 metres to the post office and store to get my mail and Monday paper, sun in my face, beautiful autumn day, being sick is such a waste of time and energy.

Stripped the bed to get rid of all the germy bedding, couple of loads of washing on the line, then out into the backyard for what has been of most interest these past few days. My daily photo shoot of mushrooms. Whether they’re edible or not is another thing, but with the infinite varieties growing prolifically at the moment and not knowing their specific species or genus or whatever, I’m not sure I’d be game to chuck them in the wok. Could kill myself in one fell swoop, or at the very least give myself a crook gut or fuzzy head. Then again, I could be missing out on a feast, as I don’t actually like mushrooms anyway. As an almost vegetarian, I know they’d be good for me, but when you can’t stand the smell of them cooking, the texture or the taste, having them spring up everywhere in my yard is a bit of a waste.

Am amazed how fast they grow, as these photos over the past five days show, and the largest specimens of late have grown to just over 20cm across. Check out the fairy toadstools from a couple of entries ago (well, that’s what I call them anyway) they’re a bit more spectacular.

Friday, April 16, 2010

MISERY GUTS

For someone who gets a cold about once every five years, I’m bemoaning the fact I’m suffering my second bout of flu in five months. I’ll spare you the details, you can go way back to the first few entries in this blog to find out just how I feel. Came home early from work on Wednesday and have limped through the past couple of days at home with my greatest achievement being the making of a big pot of soup this morning so I can devour it over the next few days instead of bothering to cook anything.

When you work full time you have this idyllic dream of what you’d like to achieve at home if you had the time, but when you confine yourself to home base so as not to infect your work mates, you have a tendency to stare at the walls and wonder what you’re supposed to do with yourself all day. Being crook doesn’t help, and probably doesn’t count really, seeing as what little strength you have is all used up by the time you’ve made lunch, curled up on the couch and used your powers of decision making to the max in choosing which DVD you’ve seen the least number of times that you could sit through again.

With the intention of pulling back from full time work at the end of this year and working part time, I can see the value in careful planning. It’s always encouraged for those heading into retirement, as going from a scheduled daily routine into a future of no specific routine which could last anything up to another thirty years or more can suddenly throw you into a nebulous world of neverending nothingness.

Now, all my friends who have launched into that time of their life are so busy they’re not sure how they ever found time to go to work. They’re obviously the smart ones, and they’re not indulging in simply furnishing their lives with more comfort and relaxation. They’re out there in the community, sleeves rolled up and getting stuck into projects which have the ability to enrich the lives of those who are often the most vulnerable within our society.

Retirement is certainly not on the top of my list at this point, not ready to jump off the treadmill quite yet. A nice break would be fine but I’m sure after a couple of weeks I’d be looking around for something a bit more challenging to do than pulling out the weeds and cleaning the windows which haven’t been done for about ten years.

No matter what stage of life we’re in, at the start of our careers or near the end, starting a family or seeing our children start theirs, being a leader in our chosen field or a loyal support worker in the background, we all want our lives to be productive and mean something. Not just for ourselves, but the knowledge we’ve somehow made a difference to the lives of those around us, no matter how big or small, is reward in itself.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RIGHT ROYAL FAIRYLAND



Isn’t fungi the most amazing stuff. I’ve long had a love affair with fungi, moss and lichen,

revelling in the seemingly inexhaustible specimens you can find even on a short bush walk when the conditions are just right. These ones weren’t hiding in the bush though; they were in plain sight on the side of the road under some pine trees, and all I needed to complete the picture and cast an aura of fantasy over the scene were some faeries sheltering under their bright canopies.

What is it with little girls and faeries? My granddaughter loves faeries, Barbies, princesses, butterflies, kittens, dressing up, jewellery and clothes in every shade of pink, though to her credit she also has a strange bent towards dinosaurs which I had previously, and obviously mistakenly, thought was predominantly the realm of little boys.

I was never a girlie girl, and have a recollection of owning only one pink garment in my life, and to this day still have little interest in jewellery, shoes, make up, getting dressed up and other extraneous girlie stuff. Home made bows and arrows, billy carts, climbing trees and exploring were more up my alley in my childhood tomboy days, and joining in the antics and adventures with my brother and his friends was a lot more appealing than those of my older sister. No dolls in my toy box, though I did have a Sooty puppet who was my favourite.

Somewhere along the line during adolescence the male of the species began to be of interest in more than just the platonic sense, and the short lineup of boyfriends which lead to finding my husband and raising two children means I must’ve got in touch with my feminine side somehow. Though I do admit to being greatly relieved I only had boys; I had no idea how I was going to handle a little girl if she happened to turn out all girlie on me. The prospect of sitting down with a bunch of anatomically challenged Barbie dolls, changing their outfits ad infinitum for no apparent reason, would have rendered me brainless. Thankfully that’s one hypothetical I never had to face as I spent the years ferrying the hordes to and from football and cricket matches far and wide.

Even now I only have two dresses in my wardrobe, can’t remember when I last wore either of them, don’t think I’ve worn a skirt for about fifteen years, and I haven’t worn a pair of pantyhose since 1987. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a slob. I do like to look halfway decent, just can’t be bothered with the fashion stakes and getting gussied up. Simplicity and comfort is the name of the game.

Oh, by the way, guess what I did with my granddaughter last week? We played Barbies of course!!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN POLITICS

What a fascinating few days in the Apple Isle’s political shakeup. Three weeks after the State election delivered a hung parliament, we were all poised for the Liberals to take hold of the reins for the next four years. That appeared to be the likely outcome, and even David Bartlett had started packing boxes in his office. Now, all of a sudden, Labor has survived by the skin of its teeth courtesy of the Governor, and we’ll finally get to see if a minority government has a chance of working in reality.

Far be it from me to hold any claims to being a political analyst, most of the time I only surface when particular issues interest me, and even listening to the ABC interviews with each party leader, all of whom sounded sincere and absolutely believable, didn’t exactly help in determining who did the right thing or the wrong thing in the past few days.

We were expecting David Bartlett to advise the Governor that seeing as the Liberals had gained the most votes in the election, Will Hodgman should therefore be given the right to govern, something he had promised during the election campaign. Seems he wasn’t as up front with the Governor as we thought he was going to be, it was up to Will Hodgman to make sure the Governor received that little tidbit to enlighten his deliberations. Throw into the mix Nick McKim’s statement that the Greens would support a Labor Government, and it was obvious the Liberals wouldn’t receive the support it needed to govern, even in minority.

Not to be outdone, the Governor is obviously not stupid, we find out it wasn’t David Bartlett’s right constitutionally to make such a promise in the first place. Anyway, after all was said and done, as the incumbent government, Labor were handed back the job. Here’s hoping they can make a better fist of it than they have of late, get back to the basics of promoting and administering good health, education, industry, environment and the economy amongst other things. Will be very interesting come the first day when parliament sits again to see if there’s any fireworks.

Found it interesting that Will Hodgman said several times in his ABC interview he would make no compromises with the Greens. Maybe he meant in terms of securing government, and I admire his stand on that, but if the Liberals had been given the job, how on earth did he think he was going to govern. The very nature of being a minority government, and with the Greens in the box seat, would mean he’d have to work with the Greens no matter how distasteful it might seem.

The fact no one was talking to the Greens was also fascinating, but hearing David Bartlett’s explanation helped me understand why. If there’s no contact, at least no one can cast any aspersions there is skulduggery going on behind closed doors. The Liberals may be having one of those “if only” moments, wishing Will had made a deal with the Greens, but as I wrote the other day ifs don’t change the facts. And whether Will Hodgman leads the Liberals into the next State election to have another crack at the top job, or whether he’s done his dash and forfeited his one chance at becoming Premier, remains to be seen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NO IFS, NO BUTS, NO MAYBES

There’s no if. There is only what is. What was. What will be…….No story worth telling should ever be about blame or regret.

No matter what book I’m devouring, currently The Writing on my Forehead by Nafisa Haji, little gems like the above jump out regularly to set me thinking. There are moments we can all look back on and wonder how things would have turned out had we done things differently, said things differently, gone down this career path instead of that one, married instead of staying single or stayed single instead of getting married, moved interstate instead of staying put, taken a risk instead of playing it safe, the list could go on and on.

That’s the beauty of hindsight. We can replay any situation, take out the parts we’d rather forget and put it back together how we think it should have happened. But life is messy, there are no guarantees, even when it comes to those we claim to love and care about, and we can spend an awful lot of time negotiating the rocky terrain to minimize the damage, find others to blame for our misfortune, or live with the regret of what might have been had we chosen differently.

I liked the concept behind the movie Sliding Doors, a clever portrayal of parallel lives depicting how split second decisions can change our lives and send them in a completely different direction. The hundreds of stories which come out of any disaster such as ‘If only he’d caught the later train’ or ‘If I hadn’t stopped for a coffee I’d be dead now’ or ‘If I’d been on time for work I wouldn’t be here now’ can haunt people for years, but ifs don’t change the reality. He did catch the early train, she did stop for coffee, and he was late for work, seemingly insignificant choices at the time, but the consequences can be monumental.

Enmeshed in one such moment is Christine Nixon, Police Commissioner at the time of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria who could likely be saying to herself “if only I hadn’t gone out to dinner when I did," making a public apology for her actions on the evening of Victoria’s worst natural disaster. Doesn’t change events as they transpired, and dwelling on regrets is about as useful as repeatedly hitting the replay button and expecting the outcome to be different each time.

Pick any basic daily task. Go to a different bank branch than your usual one and you just might meet the love of your life working behind the counter, then again it might mean you happen to be there when someone decides to burst through the front door armed to the teeth to rob the place. Go the back way home instead of the main road and the drive might be less stressful, then again it might bring you into the path of some hoon testing out his dubious driving skills who manages to be coming at you head on as you turn the corner. Leave your toddler in the bath for a few moments while you go to grab the phone and things might be fine, then again they might not.

Doesn’t pay to think about it too much really. If we anticipated every likely scenario before heading out the front door we’d never go anywhere and probably end up neurotic. Our lives are littered with moments which can go one way or the other, and it’s not always the big decisions which hold the most promise or bring us unstuck. It’s those annoying little everyday decisions and reactions and responses which leave their mark. We can talk about making right or wrong choices, good or bad decisions, but in the end we have to own our choices and the consequences they bring. We can’t change the past and our circumstances are not always of our own making, but if we want our lives to change direction the chances to do that are still there for the taking if we have the courage.

Friday, April 2, 2010

INVISIBLE BOY - COMING TO A LIVING ROOM NEAR YOU

Whenever you hear the line “coming to a venue near you” when a band or solo performer is on tour, you conjure up pictures of packed stadiums or Big Day Out type festivals for the big names, or maybe pubs and clubs for the lesser known and local artists. Accustomed to performing around the pub scene in Tasmania, acoustic folk band Invisible Boy has just headed to the mainland on its Living Room Tour, a unique concept which will find them turning up in people’s lounge rooms and other micro sized venues for what will be an intimate treat for those lucky enough to squeeze in.

Launching both the tour and their latest EP Such a Time as This on March 26 in Launceston, they will be on the road from April 2-18 at various venues in Melbourne, as well as trekking over to Adelaide the poor man’s way. No jetting around for this lot, the band members and all their gear plus wives and partners and babies and all that entails will cram themselves into a 12 seater bus and car and hit the road.

The whole shebang is being filmed along the way, so here’s hoping there’ll be a bonus DVD along with their next album When Beggars Die due out later in the year. Keep an eye on their website for updates http://www.invisibleboy.com.au/ as well as venue details, should be a hoot. So why am I giving them a rap? I’m the bass player’s mum, but besides that they’re a darn good band and well worth catching live.

GOOD FRIDAY - TAKEN BY SURPRISE

Woke up early, decided to head out for a morning walk, have a think about how to spend a rare full day off. Plan was to start preparation work for launching into the first of several painting projects in the house to spruce it up with the paint I bought a few months ago which hasn’t moved from its spot in the laundry. Met a friend during the walk who wanted to use one of my CDs in the Good Friday service at our small community church, so a quick shower and a piece of toast saw me arrive at the service I had contemplated missing in order for my task to get underway early.

A dimly lit hall and reflective music greeted us, a single cross of stout eucalypt branches elevated on the stage. With the crucifixion story simply read, a dramatization of Mary Magdalene approaching the cross in her grief, the reading of The Ragman, a wonderful perspective on the Easter story by Walter Wangerin Jnr, and an intimate sharing of communion including the gift of a nail pressed firmly into the palm of our hand to carry with us, all combined to have quite a remarkable effect on those present.

Not one who appreciates any sort of formality when it comes to things in the spiritual realm, I was moved to tears several times during the service, something quite unusual for me, and it wasn’t that anything was contrived to produce that effect. Most of my God moments for want of a better term, those times when I become most aware of my connection with the Creator, usually occur in nature. Even coming across a stick insect the other day perched next to the petrol bowser at the servo on my way to work made me laugh, wondering what on earth God was thinking when he made that one up. Tells me he certainly has a sense of humour anyway.

It is the simple things rather than big symbols which speak to me. Scarlet robins on the clothes line, blue wrens hopping around the yard, ladybirds crawling on my hand, hawks on the roadside showing no fear as I drive past, sun lizards on the back step, tiny frogs on the window sill, waterfalls, sunsets, a roaring fire, these and more are all God’s gifts to me, given at just the right moment to let me know he knows what I need to feed my spirit.

So, how much sanding did I do? Absolutely none. The best laid plans are sometimes better put aside in favour of heartfelt contemplation and spending time with friends.