Distinguishing Marks


Distinguishing marks were recorded on the admission forms of all enlisting soldiers in WW1. Herbert Laurence Nicholson , my future father-in-law, was seventeen when he was discharged from the Australian Army, when after 158 days of service, it was accepted he was under age for war service. His records show he had some moles on his forehead. Anyone wanting to find him could start by searching for these marks even in a crowd of 1,000 men.

Marks and scars on our face, or other regions occur, or not, on our life’s journey. We slip or fall. We cut or scratch an area on our body and our unblemished skin is marked. I have a litany of like marks myself each with its own story of how it got there.

The first I remember is a scar on my stomach. It was boldly won. I will have to take you back to when I was nine. My playground was the acres of public land dad managed as curator at the Camperdown Botanical Gardens. I spent my free time in this idyllic place whereas other children got to visit perhaps only once a year.

Most often these visits occurred before Christmas. Nearly every church group, and nearly every rural school in a fifteen mile radius booked a visit with dad so they could reserve one of picnic shelters for their annual party. When they arrived by car, truck, or utility many more people alighted from the vehicles than they were registered to carry. (Imagine the fuss today if people were transported, standing up, in the tray of a utility). They came like this in their Sunday best clothing because not every family owned a car.

Prior to their visit Dad had a busy week preparing for them. One thing he did was roughly cut the grass on a flat area they used as a running track. On this day they would have novelty events: the egg and spoon race,and the Siamese race (couples would race each other with left and right legs alternately tied together – you might know the race as a three legged race, but this was before political correctness). Another race people looked forward to was the women’s race. These women kicked off their high heels, tucked their wide skirts or dresses into their underwear and ran 50 yards as fast as they could.

The novelty was women generally did not run any where. They did not have exercise wear. Sneakers hadn’t even been invented. (Perhaps they might have played netball or tennis before they married – however few ever played sport after marriage.)

I used to look forward to the flat races. I liked watching them and became more excited the nearer the next race was for boys in my age group. I didn’t know the people, yet I fell in with them because it was a picnic and because they were generous. I would line up for a drink of their raspberry cordial and eat their Dixie ice cream. And when it came time for the race for nine year old boys I was by their sides.

The starter called go, and I ran. (Perhaps this was the fourth picnic I had muscled in on that year so I ran as fast as I could and I crossed the line first). I won. Unlike the sports events of today the line was actual. On this day it was a thin rope. I hit the line. One of the judges let go the rope, the other kept hold of it. I kept running and the rope ran across my lower stomach. It burned me as I ran and today I have a very faded scar on my skin under (my now large) belly.

That is how I got one of my distinguishing marks. I have a couple of others caused by carelessness. One on my left ankle is a reminder of a very painful scolding I received when I pulled a boiling kettle off the stove and the water ran into my shoe, pooling in the sock I had rolled around my ankle. The worst part of this came from the medical treatment I was given. Every day for weeks I had to visit a surgery and watch the nurse peel back the growing new skin and dress it. The pain has dulled but the memory has not.

I don’t intend to tell of all my careless injuries but as I write I recall it was an injury that gave me the opportunity to meet Sir Dallas Brookes the Governor of Victoria, I was a young scout. Scouts were frequently chosen to officially open the regal vehicle when it visited town, on the day he was due to arrive I could not stand because I had run across a cattle pit a few days beforehand and misstepped.

(Johnson’s lived opposite us. To keep out wandering cattle and to save the time of opening a gate, Mr Johnson had a cattle pit made at his roadway entrance. He had a deep hole made across his driveway, over this he had used some old rail lines to keep animals out of his garden. These were placed in rows across the hole 6 inches apart. People could step across, one to another, but cattle could not. If they put their foot on the rail it would slip off. Over the ages they had learned not to cross these obstacles. I had walked across it several times yet on that fateful evening I learned never to run across damp rail lines. As I ran my left leg slipped off a rail and I tumbled over leaving my leg caught in the grid. The deep wound on my left shin deserved stiches. Instead it was bound up in an old sheet torn into bandage strips to heal at my leisure).

When the Governor stepped out of his car to meet the dignitaries of the town I was sitting on a chair in pride of place. As Governor he was the titular leader of the scout movement, and given this role, he took a moment to shake my hand and exchange a word or two with me. It was an insignificant moment to him – but I was filled with pride.

Pride is my chosen word to describe another distinguishing mark we have. It is unseen and it not incautious to write it is dangerous. It is no wonder the truism, Pride comes before a fall, finds a place in our language. Take, for example the most recent example of the meaning of this, here in Australia we are all a-chatter. This week we read at least one of seven of the judges of the Australian High Court has been accused of sexual harassment. Although he denies it, the court has accepted the changes six women have accused of him and apologised. He has not.

To reach the lofty bench of the High Court, and be the last arbiter of right and wrong in the country, is to reach the dizzying heights of distinction. Yet it seems that distinction was insufficient to ground the man with the humility of decency. Fortunately the Me too movement is able to right the wrongs of any misogynistic people in our midst.

I acknowledge decency is a very thin veneer. I have my own scars certainly, yet it is with thanks I appreciate the times my family and friends have grounded me. I will ever be ashamed of those marks you cannot see. If it must be known – even to myself – I am unwilling to acknowledge my every distinguishing feature,


Let the final word on this matter be from a woman.

“The prolonged slavery of women is the darkest page in human history.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

American suffragist, social activist

Morpheus


Fifty-eight years ago I bought Mortheus. (It would be a neater tale if this was the sixtieth year but I have no control when these stories emerge from my subconscious mind). The original Morpheus was the son of the mythical Greek God Hypnos – the god of dreams. Like the drug morphine – driving him induced a dreamy slowness. Hence the name I gave him was obviously relevant as he was a sleepy Ford.

It was fifty-eight years ago, in 1962, when I walked into Ansett Motors in Hamilton and asked if I could take a test drive in the old banger they had on their second hand car yard advertised for sale at £80. The 1950 Ford Prefect was painted in a slow green colour – lighter than the colour used in the attachment. This colour meant it was camouflaged wherever it went. This green machine was the fast back model. (Most Australian motorists preferred the model with the short boot.)

The car was higher that it was wide. It was blessed with a tiny motor to drive its rear wheels from a three speed manual great box. (As only my brother-in-law Bill Woods could say, “it couldn’t pull the skin off a custard.” In fact it was more like a green box with wheels than a sleek motor. Yet he was mine. (He was the first car I owned outright. And according to the registration papers, he came with, I was the third owner.)

Ford boasted the post war Prefect had a top speed of 60 mph. I preferred to dive it at 35 mph (just under 60 kph – oh on the odd occasion I might have forced it to race along at 80 kph. ) I never drove it any faster than this even, in top gear, I was fearful it would break. The good news for me was, I rarely had to slow to the 30 mph speed limit in built-up-areas when driving.

Like many cars its age it was mechanically basic. For instance when driving at night one had to go to the back of the car, and pull on the taillight switch – to turn the single tail light on. When it came time to park the car, it meant one had to take the return trip, and push in the button to switch off the light. All too frequently I left the taillight blazing and when I returned the battery was too flat to turn the starter motor. Fortunately the car came with a crank handle one turned by hand. (The motor compression was so poor it was not too hard to crank it a couple of times to get it going. It only became a nuisance if I left the light on the whole weekend and I drained the battery.)

The car also had very poor headlights. This meant it was hard to see the edge of road on low beam. Reflectors and blinkers had not made their way to cars of this age. Some cars had a car radio but Morpheus was not into that sort of thing. No heater. No seat belts. No electric windows. No GPS. Nothing but a very basic set of wheels.

Common to all driving back then, one used hand signals to indicate a change in direction, or to stop. To do this you wound down the driver’s window and popped your arm into the traffic in all weather and signalled your intention. (The car had little arms fitted to each front door column so it was possible to indicate a directional change without doing this – but they were illegal to use here in Australia. They were of no use when you planned to stop and therefore you still had to indicate whenever you stopped so I suppose the reason these little wings were illegal made sense.)

I did have trouble with the narrow body of the tall car in the first couple of weeks I owned it. I was driving on a corrugated gravel road in some forested area and the car was hard to control so I gently slowed. The car was still bucking about on the rough road when I came to a sharp bend. The car started around the bend and then it fell over. I was on a road I didn’t know in a forest and the car was on its side. I climbed out, unhurt, and lifted it back on its four wheels.

The car seemed undamaged except for a dent on the rear top corner of the body that I latter attacked with a hammer to attempt to straighten it out. I didn’t, but I lived with the damage while ever I kept the car. After the weekend I took it back to Ansett Motors . They diagnosed the front end had worn bearings and the front wheels acted independently on the rough road. (Today it would not have passed the safety check required in a road worthy test. Therefore no fault of theirs was accepted and I paid for the refurbishment of the bearings.) After that experience the car drove well on gravel, however I was aware the car was top heavy and too narrow to ever turn too sharply.

As if driving a car until it flipped on its side was bad – I found the windscreen wipers on this car it’s worst feature. Rain was a constant companion on the western district roads that first winter. Unless I was cruising along on a straight stretch of road the windscreen wipers could not keep up with the rain. (All cars had to wait some time before they had multi speed wipers). In the Ford Prefect they were one speed -except and until – the vacuum pump that drove them ran out of vacuum as it did when accelerating. So if you had to change up the gear range and accelerate the vacuum driven wipers slowed, or they stopped until vacuum built up in the exhaust system again.

Fortunately I was smart enough to get a girlfriend. Jennie was her name. With her help I never had wiper trouble. If they began to slow down she reached under the dashboard and grabbed hold of the wiper linkage and moved her hand back and forth under the dashboard and maintained the rhythm. In time I thought she needed some recognition and I found the right thing.

Next time Roy Lewis, a salesman of millinery products visited her family – as he often did. (His sideline was to on-sell the cigarette allowance the company gave him as part payment, to family members at a discount to the retail price. He sold so much I doubt they were all part of his salary package) Among the feathery treasures Roy carried he had a case of imitation birds. (Difficult to describe a fake cotton wool bird as a bird – sufficient to say they were lifelike.)

I got one for Jen and fixed it to the dashboard just in front of where she would sit. I called it Evol much to the dislike of Aunt Gertrude, but Jennie and I shared the meaning hidden in the name Evol as an innocent joke.

The thrift of my Scottish blood determined my choice of Morpheus because I couldn’t afford anything better and it was cheap to run. The car, at its peak, would drive thirty-five miles to a gallon of fuel. I drove her a long way in the months I had her without the trouble previously mentioned.

I think we were better organised in those days. If we wanted fuel we had to buy it before 5pm Monday to Friday, or on Saturday mornings. All other times if you ran out of fuel it was your bad luck. The only exception I can think of when maverick businessman Ian Sykes started his own petroleum company. XL petroleum. ( in my haste to complete this article I cannot find a easy reference to his company) XL had an after hours automatic bowser on Highway 1, just west of Colac. Here you could buy petrol in 2 shilling amounts. One gallon of fuel was around 3 shillings in 1964.

Morpheus was my other companion for the next eight months or so until I upgraded to a 1956 Hillman Minx.

Did you dream?

Ch4f.org

My partly remembered conversation started this way.

“What are you doing?”

“I am clapping . Nick has won the property auction.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I am . You. Me ? I was asleep.”

“What do you mean I woke you up, you were clapping weren’t you?”

“Yes. I was. But I was asleep.”

“That’s stupid you were clapping.”

“I was dreaming and you have woken me.”

“I am sorry. I though you must have nave been awake. No one claps in their sleep.”

“I do.”

Did you dream?

It is a condition of mine I do not fight. In my own words, I am a slow sleeper. My blonde haired partner is not. Within moments of her head hitting the pillow she is deeply asleep. I listen for her deep breathing to start and then I toss and turn . In the wee small hours I realise I have been asleep and rise from my bed and wander about the house.

If it is raining I will look out the windows and marvel at the rain. On another evening in broad moonlight I will wonder outside and be mesmerised by the simplicity of the sphere that is forever changing through its quarters. Having checked my surroundings I will hop back into bed and drift in and out of consciousness until the sleeping hours are almost exhausted and then I will sleep deeply, slowly, and innocently.

I welcome the final hour to sleep like a baby, and I dream. My dreams are times, according to Carl Jung – are the time the anima an the animus work their magic in the human spirit. These are times when the male unconsciously accepts the benefits of the feminine side of his nature. The opposite condition, according to Jung, manifests itself in the female.

Lately my unremembered dreams cause me to often wake in a sweat of anxiety caused by my reaction to a partly remembered event from years before. Just last week on waking like this I had to get out of bed and deliberately remind myself the events I thought I was reliving never happened at all, and even if it did, it was so long ago as to be irrelevant today. (Oddly fo those of you interested in analysing my behaviour, they were moments of anxiety for children I once had in my care in my classroom care. The reality is it was nearly half a century ago.)

How you sleep is important to your development. We need to dream because it motivates our development. I wish you good dreams. In doing so I am not alone with Jung. Here is what a few others say about dreams.

Dreams are necessary to life.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/anais_nin_129793

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country. – Anais Nin

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

Oscar Wilde

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

120 Hours At The Wheel

Co. ABC TV 1970

Driving For Beginners

120 Hours at the wheel

“Drive my car”. When the Beatles sang this song I had been driving for years despite the fact that like most families at the time we didn’t own a car. Driving was something I learned to do without any formal training. My test was to drive up a gentle rise and park the car on a flat section of the road. After answering about ten road questions and paying a small fee I walked out with my licence to kill.

In recent years I got involved with a state based program that matches learner drivers with mentors. The car is supplied by a local car dealer and the fuel is paid for from group resources. Learner drivers cannot take the wheel until they have passed a rigorous road rules test. Then they must learn to drive in the company of a licensed driver.

Most learners get their initial logged driver training from professionals. After that they will drive the family car under the supervision of a family member, or friend. The program I was involved with was to help kids coming from homes like mine where there is no car, or like Ellen who is a twin and her mum could not supervise both children in time for them to qualify as drivers at the same time.

These learner drivers had to commit to work with their mentors until they had accumulated one hundred and twenty hours of supervised driving. I got a buzz when my trainees got their licence but as time went on I found each new trainee more difficult than the last. They would cancel appointments without notice. They eventually tested my observational skills as I was dependent on their ability to follow instructions because I had no control over the vehicle, unlike the professional instructor has. In the end I decided I was no longer capable to continue.

Before I resigned from the program I injured my leg, however the real reason is my driver nearly had an accident on a roundabout whilst I was in the car supervising.. The driver did not see a car they had to give way to on this roundabout with its two lanes of traffic.

I gave the instructions to drive forward when the road was clear but by the time the learner moved conditions had changed. I estimated it would have been more dangerous to instruct a stop than to continue, so we continued upsetting the another driver no end. The learner had no understanding of what had happened but I was spooked. So I retired unhurt.

When our own children were learning to drive, traffic on the roads was lighter. More importantly my reflexes were better and my instructions were repeated over and over. By the time we got to our second driver what was said has passed into family folklore. Blinking, blinking, blinking, turning, turning, turning, and most importantly, stopping, stopping, STOP! These instructions I repeated at every intersection, ad nausea.

Now it is Charlie’s turn to learn to drive. His father has told him he is a good driver forty hours into his training. As an attentive young fellow it is unlikely his father will have to repeat the family mantra blinking, blinking etc.

Fortunately today motor cars are more reliable, and fortunately for us all much safer. When Charlie is told to brake the disc brakes in the car he drives will not overheat and fail as they frequently did when they were simple drum brakes.

Cars are safer than they have ever been yet people still die on our roads. No matter how busy the roads are it shouldn’t be a condition of driving for some people to die on our roads.

Let me backtrack a little. Previously most cars were manual. It required coordination and skill to change gears manually before the introduction of the synchronisation of the gears. When that was sorted most cars had bench seats in the front. This meant designers were forced to put the gear stick on the steering wheel column. This arrangement required a certain dexterity for the driver to select any gear because to do so required lots of unnecessary linkages from the gearbox to the steering wheel. It required all moving parts to move as required.

While the driver was doing this the foot had to find the clutch without seeing where the foot was. At night the driver will have had to use the left foot to dip the headlights, very often, at the same time. Often these foot pedals were at different levels and crashes occurred. People were hurt and maimed, and some were killed.

By 1970 Victoria recorded 1061 deaths on the road in the year. The government and the press joined forces to introduce better road safety. The first move was to legislate the introduction of compulsory seat belts. This was the first place in the world to pass such a law.

Racing car drivers were very familiar with the improved safety the lap sash belts gave them at the wheel. One motoring writer and race driver assisted in promoting their use. In 1973 Peter Wherret started a TV program on cars called Torque. This program and Peter did much to improve road cars. A most popular car in 1976 was the HJ Holden Premier. He claimed the power of the car was impossible to stop given the car had calliper brakes only on the rear wheels. These “Kingswood” cars were removed from production in 1980 partly because of his program.

In the forty years since 1980 the death toll in Victoria has dropped significantly. In part it is due to legislation. The introduction of drink driving rules. Much better safety features in cars including: better tyres, better brakes, better seats, better vision, better everything including side protection and air curtains. The government has made better roads and road signage. Most importantly it has much better pre- driver training.

When I started to drive I had less than two hours of experience on the roadways before I drove solo. (I had hours of experience at slow speeds driving tractors and farm trucks but, on reflection I had no experience of traffic or handling a vehicle at speed before I drove on the roads.)

By the time Charlie has his licence he will have driven on city and country roads, on wet days and dry ones. He will have driven at night, in the morning traffic, and any other conditions that pop up. He knows drugs and alcohol are forbidden, and if he should be so silly as to drive and text the fines are horrendous.

In these days of autonomous vehicles we need smarter drivers unlike at any time before. Stay safe on the roads Charlie. Be a good driver and never think you are the best because even the best drivers can unexpectedly be injured by the worst. Too many people are killed each year on our roads – even today.

Norwegian troll? Yes and no.

Image reditt.com

Unwittingly I became a Troll. I though I had just made some acerbic comments on someone else’s comments on social media -and I got back more than I expected. I had heard about how awful Trolls were but I had to consult a dictionary to discover what I had done was to trolling. Since I learned what it was to Troll I have been more circumspect.

I do enjoy this age where publications call for comments. I find no matter what is said there are always statements in favour of what is written or they are against the proposition. Further I have observed there are always a few Trolls on the prowl but most readers can’t be bothered to call them out. Their statements are generally taken with a grain of salt.

Frequently,of the dozens of journals that issue articles calling for comment, these are the ones I enjoy reading. Most authors on WordPress allow comments to be published after moderation. The Guardian, The Conversation, Pearls and Irritations edited by John Menadue, all encourage comments. Many of those that comment are experts in their field, and from them one gets a better understanding of what and why certain views are held.

I read a range of subjects printed in Medium as well. I find in many of the articles the author has written with the sole object of attracting click bait. I am getting better at discerning genuine authors, ( those with something interesting to say), from those writing for attention. For instance I decide not to bother when the heading reads something like, Ten things you didn’t know about xxxx

When the author says, What is consciousness? I expect to learn something worthwhile.

Quora also calls for comments but as I am no longer fifteen this forum does not interest me.

I certainly do not comment on everything I read, however I have become a frequent contributor to the Guardian. I have got a buzz from being chosen by the moderators for publication as the comment of their choice. On one occasion my sincere comment received over two hundred likes. However likes have never been my motivation.

Do I spend too much time in these time wasting pursuits? I even take time to answer comments made on the ABC’s Radio National RN or the BBC. Do I waste time? No I don’t consider it a waste of time because in formulating a considered opinion on what had been read, or said, I have been an active student. I try to remain alert to learning given my slow start to understand we learn best when our motivation determines our success. If we learn things to pass exams we have no real interest but to gain a piece of paper. When we learn to see things differently we are like children and we gather information without struggle. Our work begins when we put in self effort and recalibrate why we know what we know.

Yesterday I spent an interesting hour discussing the US elections with a WordPress writer. What 2020 delivers seems to be a mystery to many American voters. I hope they all turn out to vote for the candidate with the most thoughtful policies this year.


https://academicearth.org/electives/psychology-internet-troll/ says, “The only way to beat a troll is not the play the game.

Thank you – before you leave you can keep me busy if you troll me.

The answer to the question.

Detail Taj Mahal

The other day it was very hot. Cook an egg on the roadway hot. It was a day the advice was, “Make sure you get plenty to drink today, it is going to be very hot.” Locals, and their holidaying couch – surfing friends, went to the beach. So many went there it was impossible to park the car within a kilometre of the shore.

Jac asked if I would drive the car to Cosy Corner, and drop everyone off to have a swim – and collect them all in an hour. This I gladly did. I couldn’t think of becoming desiccated on the sand myself. When I returned we saw a man helping his intoxicated partner to somewhere safer to sleep off the alcohol she had consumed. She had taken the radioed message to drink plenty the wrong way.

To find a man lying in the gutter dead drunk was a common sight in the 1950s. Six o’clock closing encouraged people who had worked all day to swill down as much beer as time allowed after work and before six. War babies like me saw this too often when we walked past the overcrowded, noisy pubs. We smelled the beery odour as it filled the air outside. Additionally we heard the rowdy arguments that spilled from the houses when the men returned home.

Janice was the last born in our family and she became one of the cohort called the baby boomers. This was the generation born after the war. They filled the houses. They filled the schools. By the end of the 1960s they entered the adult world, and they filled the jobs.

Their numbers continued to grow and by the mid 1970s they were the dominant crowd.

They had political power and they used it for their own betterment. They were dissatisfied with the status quo. They tore apart the rules of work. People were once promoted on their seniority. They changed that. They argued and got the right to free tertiary education. This time of prosperity meant they pushed for and got many other social benefits and they pushed back on tax and saw that constantly reduced as government liabilities grew in their wake. They didn’t exclude alcohol but they turned to psychedelic drugs, sex and rock- n – roll as their cultural expressions.

Here we are these many years later with the problems their policies have left behind. As the influence of this retiring group reluctantly diminishes a new world order is emerging. It is more terrifying than the influence of beer, and psychedelic drugs.

Throughout the world the world is turning to fundamentalism.

Speaking, as I do, as someone who grew up in a Judea-Christian tradition I can see this drift to fundamentalism plainly. Those familiar with the bible stories of Revelations see the signs of the forecast plagues; earthquakes, floods, fire and famine and have joined churches promoting , The Rapture. Their belief that in speaking in tongues it will deliver them from the perils before the world is their release. They have no need to do anything. God will solve their problems for them.

(If your belief is different you may recognise other fundamentalist traits. I cannot speak knowledgeably about them. All I can see is that is what has happened, particularly in the last half decade, is a right turn to fundamentalism.)

In my three articles – Time to set things right – I highlighted just three areas where I see capitalism has let us down. (My socialist attitudes on how society would work better if the state provided the services it once did may jar with you. Horribly as soon as people see the world socialist they think communism. (Are you one of those?)

I do not propose that at all. If the state looks after security – military services – other services like water, energy, health, housing for the needy, are just as important. These are the social things it needs to do. To do them it needs cash in the form of taxes to fix thing up.)

Back in 1978 Rod Goode and I introduced a new program in social science to teachers in the Ballarat Region. The course of instruction lasted a week. It was a big ask to get teachers to leave their classrooms for a week of introduction to the course of study. In time we saw all teachers from about 70 schools. In one session , through the week, we touched on the work of Viktor Frankl. I have borrowed this explanation of his work from Andy Forcena quoted in “The worst of all possible worlds” he wrote

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, the Psychologist Viktor Frankl posits the necessity of meaning for survival. As a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, he has a unique and first-hand perspective on suffering, horror, and evil. He notes that many of the prisoners who died in the camps (that is, those who weren’t executed outright) had lost all sense of meaning. For them, life was suffering, because they dwelt on their past experiences in the camps rather than cultivating a sense of hope for the future. Given their experiences, who could blame them for this? Frankl claims that he survived the camps because he stayed oriented towards the future, finding meaning in hope for a better tomorrow. This future-oriented outlook is inherent in all of the world’s major religions, whether the heaven of Christianity or the Noble Eightfold Path as a means to ceasing craving in Buddhism.

In my mind we have a choice. We can remain hopeful or despairing. I think it best to remain hopeful and not to give into fundamentalism. The world certainly has some intractable problems but they will not solved by fear or hatred.

I think it is best to turn to the philosophers. Like the major religions Frankl posits, they teach us not to fear and not to hate but to reason. We also have to keep our eyes and ears open and test whether we are getting fake news.

Thank you. Please take the opportunity to comment and give me a chance to broaden my mind.

I have been called, The Weirdy Beary

Edmund Barton, first prime minister of Australia, stood out in the photograph taken of the founders of the federation. He was clean shaven. The other members wore beards. Today it is a matter of preference both men, and women, have a love hate relationship with beards. Naturally occurring on the faces of most men what becomes of it is largely a matter of fashion.

Your fascination with the beard is a matter of when you were born. It also depends on where you were born, and the wealth of the nation into which you started life. Born, as you were, at the beginning of WW11, most able men were enlisted, and later, conscripted into the forces to defend the country. Enlistment meant men gave up much of their independence to the service in which they served. Those enlisted in the army were clean shaven by order. Those in the airforce fielded a moustache – if they were flamboyant enough. The men of the senior service were allowed beards, however few but officers, followed that naval practice.

At that time shavers still preferred to use a cut throat razor because it could be resharpened easily with a leather strop. The safety razor invented nearly one hundred and fifty years before never really caught on until King C Gillette invented the double sided razor in the early 1900s. These blades were disposable, however after a few uses they became dull. Perhaps understandably the privations of war reduced their use during those years. As any shaver will tell you using a blunt razor will give you an unsatisfactory shave.

After the war men generally preferred the practice they had become used to in wartime and in our neck of the woods most were clean shaven. You were through your adolescence before you saw your first full beard. On that occasion the immature face it hid was nowhere near imposing as the Royal face of King George the V whose profile graced many of the coins still in circulation. The curly bristles barely covered the acne on the face below and you were not impressed.

Within a decade you recognised you shared a birth date with Alfred Deakin, (03.08) our second Prime Minister. This man wore a beard and like him you decided shaving was for the birds. You came to this decision slowly – but resolutely. The safety razor was too wasteful, you decided. For a start it was near impossible to use the same blade for a week. (Every cent spent on a razor, was one less you needed to keep your weekly spend within your limited budget, and here was a way to save.) You soon reasoned scraping hairs off your chin with a spent blade only gave you a rash. The electric razors you tried never cut as close as a blade. That meant if you were to shave with an electric razor you were doing it twice a day. This was, in your mind, just ridiculous.

At first you allowed your beard to grow while you were on holidays. You discovered a beard was irritating at first but you persevered and after a week of growth you began to relax about it. After five weeks is seemed such a shame to cut it off but you allowed the mores of your community to dictate how you should look and you cut it off. As soon as you had you were reminded, once again, how uncomfortable it is to shave.

Thirteen weeks later you regrew your facial hair. You allowed the hair on your heard to grow as well. With long hair and a long-standing beard a Russian woman you knew remarked you resembled Rasputin. (It was an undeserved comparison, by the way, as you knew no czarina then, and not even now.)

Over the years your beard has fluctuated in length. It has varied in colour as it has been exposed to the sun, and more remarkably as the snow has settled on your head, it has also descended to your face. It has also been remarked on as being much softer than was first imagined. (That bit still seems a bit off the mark because your hair is straight. It is stiff and unyielding. In fact it would make an excellent shoe brush for muddy boots.)

By the time you entered the corporate world you were unperturbed by what others thought and you were one of the very few in the world of finance, to wear bristles above the company tie. This little no no was so long ago whether it upset people or not is no longer of consequence.

Of course today what you wear and how you wear it is not something one dare mention. If perchance you should be so bold as to comment on the feature of someone before you you will be covered in the confetti of writs that follow such indiscretion, even before dust can settle. The people you meet today are influenced by the label they wear, the social media they follow and those who wear beards with self determination as as rare as Harnaam Kaur. (The media figure teaches us all how to be self accepting – good on her I say.)