What Rules?

Ref Wikipedia

What should happen here? Who should we turn to if this happens? How can we prevent this?  Why, if this should happen, you must do this. Oh, how things have changed! William Henry Perkin thought nothing of the risks he took to change how fabric was dyed in the nineteenth century.  (I will return to him later). Not so if you were Em. Em would have sleepless nights if it wasn’t for the rules of compliance she spends her days writing. 

Back in the 1950s, I was in our new school science room.  Every student had access to a Bunsen burner gas outlet. Every two students shared a sink to clean equipment. We had beam balances to calculate the chemicals we use. A closed section of the room was reserved for experiments with chemicals that gave off noxious fumes.

I liked science partly because of the nurturing skills of our teacher Norm Stewart ( earlier story). Other than his encouragement I had no confidence I could ever remember the periodic tables. I was so sure memorising them was beyond me I stopped studying science at form four. In my last year of science, our classes were mainly to do with recording our lessons according to the rules of school science. The classes emphasised the importance of accurately recording what we did so another scientist could reproduce, by the same method, the actions we took. The next rule of scientific investigation is to leave your work open to criticism. At that stage your method can be refuted if a reviewer should reach a different result following the methods specified. Leading to the ultimate step, the conclusion. The conclusion means the work has been rigorous and scientifically responsible. Which leads me to what I did without these steps of care.

After school, I did make my own experiments with chemicals I had bought from the chemist’s shop. In an earlier lesson, we had made copper crystals. Experimenting, at home, I made one about the size of a AU 50 cent coin and was pretty pleased with my effort. I moved on and made some gunpowder, just because I could. And this is where compliance officers, like Em, would become very anxious if they should every find out what went on unsupervised. At school the room was filled with dangerous stuff that was often untended and left in the hands of the uninitiated.

At school we played with Mercury and let it run through our fingers without any warning it was dangerous. Just as we watched how magnesium ignited easily at a high temperature, bright white light, without wearing protective eyewear or clothing. One experiment seemed to reoccur any time of the year at school. The senior boys would amuse themselves making hydrogen sulphide gas (rotten air gas). This gas was intentionally made outside the ante-room, the place with the exhaust system, and it stank. All too often experiments, outside classroom hours filled the corridors with a putrid stench.

Long before any science experience at school I had watched, and copied adults, melting down lead on the fire,  and I also made lead fishing sinkers. No one gave any thought to the fact the fumes of melting lead are carcinogenic. In the metal workshop at school, even first formers would use hydrochloric acid to clean metal with no other protection other than a calico apron. These boys, who mostly came from farms, were familiar with the dangers of sulphuric acid in lead batteries. So, I suppose, the school reasoned any danger was not wholly unexpected in a work environment. Not that that decision would stand the test of reasonableness if acid ate into a boy’s clothes, or burned his skin.

About the age I was in the school science room, a century before, young William Perkin went to work as a chemist with August Wilhelm Von Hoffman at the Royal College of Chemistry, London. In his holidays he made an accidental discovery. In a temporary laboratory, with a coal derivative — aniline — he produced a dye with an intense purple colour. (They dyed fabric with natural materials prior to his discovery.) His new colour, Tyrian purple, was a new hue from which he built a fortune, and with further experimentation he produced dyes of other colours that changed the entire British dye industry, and it altered the colours used around the world, in all manner of things.

If risk managers existed in those days, and they were aware of the dangers these new dyes were to health, they could have saved many lives if they had banned their use. Fortunately, science does not fix things outright as, “we know all there is to know about —-.” . It allows for new people to challenge the status quo. In time, the carcinogenic nature of these dyes was discovered, and their use was banned in foodstuffs and for use in clothing. The interesting thing is, if they were banned outright medical science would have been denied a valuable tool in fighting cancer. Today those same dyes are used in nuclear medicine to trace the movement of chemical treatments that save lives. I am unsure this proves compliance officers need a crystal ball to predict all possibilities, but it does seem it is impossible to ever imagine all the risks one might encounter.

Unlike young William, I never studied Chemistry. To this day I would be hard put to name twenty elements, and I have no idea which subset of them each one belongs. My chemistry skill finishes at trying to make a good espresso each morning with ground beans and pressured hot water. And with that I am well pleased.

Minotaur’s Sarcophagus

Ref. gettyimages
A simple rubber ducky
plucked from a water-bucket
twirled the surface tension,
stirring broken promises.

Tectonic activity
and brute Coriolis forces
threw the sleeping monster,
Minotaur, upon ochre clouds.

Crazily aroused, he rampaged,
in this unexpected setting,
tramping clay underfoot
relying on primitive reflexes
instead of containing his anger.

The stench of sweat,
and the fear of failure,
trapped him in a mortal
brawl of self doubt.

Still maddened, and bellowing
vexatious oaths, he burnished
an enamelled labyrinth
into his lonely sarcophagus.

Hearts emptied of childhood
dreams, replaced myths with other
tenets, messed with phobias and
prejudice to colour this
grand opus, this time on earth.

I am seeking your comments on this piece. Is it too oblique? Perhaps you find it gloomy. It will help me if you take time to pen a comment. Thank you

Where wild animals roam.

Photo . Author

Wild animals roamed here in past millenniums. It is possible to find dinosaur footprints in the sandstone on the seashore not so many miles from here. These patterns have nothing to do with that, except in my imagination.


We are enjoying a few days by the sea. For over 65 years, we have been visiting this sleepy winter hamlet of about 1,000. Now, it is summer the residents hide away from the marauding 25,000 visitors holidaying here.


Some people come here to bask in the sun, (not that there is much of that just now). Many read. Some wait for that time of day they can get together and show off their best preened self.


For thousands of years indigenous people roamed the hills around here. The sea saw to it they never went hungry. There is little evidence of the natural riches now, but there are middens, (waste tips) of consumed seashells — if you know where to look.


The coastal road is an iconic day out for visitors. Many, are not used to driving on twisting country roads, and some (more than ever should) end up here. Thankfully, the government maintains this hospital for the sick and those accidentally injured. A decade ago I served on the hospital board for two terms — when this building was commissioned — replacing the former place.



Even in cooler weather, like it is today, a stroll on the beach is health giving.

Forward Into A New Year

Photo Author

Fish know life goes forward


eight hungry pond fish circle restlessly 
rushing the surface water
to intimidate
nourishment shaken
onto whirlpool’s eddy
formed in the steady mock stream playing
from the aerator we hear burbling life
into freshened aqua
reflecting gloomy twilight
and moody clouds float by overhead
folded into dark blankets threatening heavy air
daylight hour
dawning New Year’s Day
carefree
fish know life goes forward

Friends, please allow me to call you friends? I wish you good health, peace, and that your love is met in the dawning year. May 2021 be so good we can all put 2020 out of reach.

Under Milkwood

Dl.uk

Ever keen to invoke a love for language in my grandchildren, three of the four were with me in the car when I switched on the radio. We did this despite my very best practise to condemn such a distraction in a car driven by a learner. 

Let me clarify what we were doing, so you have a better idea of how my distracting behaviour killed my hubris. Charlie was keen to take us for a drive so he could show how prepared he is for his licence test. (Last time I wrote about his driving, 120 Hours At The Wheel 22/03/2020, he had just started to drive) On the pretext I wanted to check on our distant bee hive I gave Charlie the keys as he had said he would love to drive somewhere. With the permission of the Law and their parents, Sam and G sat in the rear seat, and I sat in the front beside Charlie as I was the supervising licensed driver.

We drove in muted silence for about forty minutes. Charlie drove carefully, yet confidently. On this part of the trip we still had several kilometres to travel, and he was driving very well so I broke the rule I had set and turned up the car sound system. All along the road I thought it was off. Instead, we drove, sound muted on our journey. Looking about the display screen, I saw bluetooth was playing Under Milkwood. That was when my vanity got in the way of common sense.

I was so thrilled to see the name scrolling across the silent screen as this piece, written for the BBC, and read by Richard Burton, is one of my favourite examples of spoken word. It is neither a play, nor a poem, yet it is such a splendid piece of writing telling, as it does, of life in the day little imaginary Welch village of Llareggub

Dylan wrote of the characters one might meet in the township – with a name best read backwards — if you want to get a better grasp of his humour. It introduces us to characters such as Captain Cat, Willy Nilly, Mrs Pugh — (Oh, there are so many lovely people, read it, or listen to it yourself.)

If I may, I will return to what was happening in the car as Charlie drove us home. Unaware the reading had been running for some time, I tried to explain why I liked Thomas. I spoke to the kids of the musical nature of the work. (I didn’t tell them I first heard it soon after Alan Woods invested a sizeable portion of his wages and bought a radiogram, and the LP recording, when he had no home in which to store it, and long before he became my brother-in-law. It so happened for security he had it installed in the Vicarage parlour on proviso he could at least listen to it sometimes until he had a place of his own.)

At the point Georgia, Sam and Charlie first heard the words of this dark, comedic writing the village children were in the school playground singing, rhyming verse to a skipping game. Instead of the intent I expected of the moment, they lost all control when they heard the children’s voices singing. For a few minutes after this we heard only their laughter – as they laughed at my expense.

If they ever take time to read my silly stuff, I hope this story reminds them of Christmas Eve 2020. And they take the time to find Under Milkwood I do love, and they listen to it for their own enjoyment.

Yule log

Ref: renegradetribute.com

Last year’s yule log
Rekindled as a flickering flame

Heats the cold hearth
We sit around in mute study

Contemplating
A year lost by caring hands

Who laboured with
Sickly, restrained, individuals

To pant - one last —
long silent exhalation

As spirits leave
Their bereaved family wanting

To explain the
Empty chairs at dining tables

Set neat for lunch
Just last year when history was

About to be
Written in black edged annals.

Thank you. I really appreciate how you have encouraged me to write. May peace be with you. Indeed, have a happy new year.

The Mind Plays Tricks

Image Author

The mind plays tricks and has difficulty making sense of things it has not seen before.  For instance, in the days before we had electricity at home, at night we managed without an artificial light in places we knew well.  Except on the night in question. On that night I popped into the bathroom without the aid of a lantern and I bumped into an unfamiliar damp body standing in my way.  It terrified me someone else was in there with me.  I ran from the room without saying as much as, “Pardon”.  Later, I returned with a lantern only to see the silent visitor was nothing more than a damp coat hanging in my usual path. 

This week, in full daylight, the experience was unique. The sky formed one long continuous cloud unlike anything I had seen before. Trying to make sense of it, because it stretched across the sky from horizon to horizon, it appeared as if the clouds had piled one upon another in formation. They really had, but the visual effect was as if they were ridges left on a sandy beach when the tide ebbs.

Continue reading “The Mind Plays Tricks”

Another Luddite Blunder

HeraldSun.com.au

We love our flaming Utes
Hotted-up fuel-guzzling,
V8 powered cars — invented here —
Anachronisms in a future world.
Where bloody minded humankind burns the globe
Turns out it’s fossil fuel
The ugly transgressor
Whilst manufacturers electrify cars novelle
Operate charge-points — not common fuel servos.
Yet another modern Luddite blunder.

Every country son and daughter lusts for their first two door V8 so as to attend a BNS ball.  A mythical rural scene of bacchanalian debauchery manufactured in the minds of their city cousins.  When the isolated, shy individual in fact arrives,  gaucheness personified alights unless egged on by a peer pressure group.  At least it was until the local motor industry gave in to the economic reality the government would no longer prop-up our lazy car industry. They closed their plants and a V8 utility (ute) vehicle is no longer constructed here. 

The Ute survived in the country because of its usefulness. Once the domain of two main constructors it pootled around the farm in many guises. The first, according to my friend Kevin Norbury (1),  was an invention of a Geelong farmer. He cut his new car in half and had a luggage tray built over the rear wheels so he could carry a sick lamb or a bale of hay when inspecting his stock. 

A new vehicle fills the suburbs. Too big to be a useful farm appliance, it sports four doors and a smaller luggage tray. The SUV is the car of choice of home builders (tradies) and it too is a ute. The car is ubiquitous in suburban shopping centres in parks designed for shopping trollies.

The tarmac becomes so hot in most of these the centre owners have built sun protection.

While business accepts our world has changed, our government has not. Perhaps the reason for this is the fossil fuels industries are major donors to the government. Another reason is the support the government gets from the media. (Media rules were changed some years ago.  Over those years consolidation has taken place, so that in some states there is no longer a choice in the news supplier. To put it more succinctly, if the Murdoch press says,” This is how things are.” There is no alternative view put to most folk to add any balance.)

Artificial global warming has reached a point of danger.  No informed individual wants to test the predictions of climate scientists to discover the scientists were right and they were wrong except governments beholden to fossil fuel purveyors. The first global change to reduce carbon emissions was an agreement in Kyoto to cut them.  Here in Australia we put a levy on carbon and asked producers to improve or pay to produce it. The levy was so successful carbon emissions fell. At least they did for a while until opposition leader Tony Abbott called it a carbon tax. At the next election, he became PM and carbon usage shot up. It continued to do so until 2019, when we had another election.   At that election a new PM, Scott Morrison, demonised the Labor party by claiming, “The Labor Party wants to take away Tradies’ utes.”  They returned him on the promise to do nothing about carbon emissions. Or that was his claim. So the country does nothing. 

However, manufacturers are in a scramble to catch up to China, the largest maker of electric vehicles. Observers are warning if Australia does not change its rules on carbon emissions, they destine us to become the dumping ground for all the world’s most polluting cars. A thirsty internal combustion engine does not make a ute a ute. A car becomes one when it has an external carriage area.

A new industry is not without error and a story yesterday caught my eye, The tale is about the difficulty new adapters had charging their electric car on English motorways. (4) This story suggests there is some working out to do until every car is fitted with a universal power connection.


Continue reading “Another Luddite Blunder”