A little word

Image. Thesaurus.com

Today i have watched Sean Connelly’s acceptance speech at the AFI awards. In 2006 he was given the tribute of a Life Achievement Award. I watched the program today as this is the week he died at 90. In his speech he acknowledged he had in inauspicious beginning. He left school at 13. I was shaken when, of all the things he might have said, he marvelled at how his life changed when he turned five. He said, “ I got my break, big break, when I was five years old, and i t has taken me more than 70 years to realise it. It is that simple, and it is that profound.” This man who became the character James Bond, 007 owed his success to those who taught him to read.

To read is life changing. We caught sight of it in our judicial child. At four she “transcribed” from a favourite work the words use to explain the tale. Drawing page after page of scribble — each sound representing the word she understood we spoke. As a teenager she noted the words she didn’t recognise it a text book in order to later check the meaning from a dictionary and note that beside the entry. 

I, with some glee, report the company Adani changed its name this week to – Bravus. Presumably they assumed it meant “brave”. The company is far from brave. It was controversially given the opportunity to open what is proposed to be the largest coal mine in the world in the Galilee basin of Australia’s far north.  At every stage, Adani has thumbed  its nose to all complainants. 

Whenever it reaches full production, the coal will be shifted offshore to India to produce thermal electricity without any acknowledgement of the contribution it will make toward global warming.  Therefore, it was with great mirth to read students of Latin pointed out bravus would never have meant brave. The appropriate word in English is fortis. The Guardian Australia reported the word meant something else. In fact, it was the opposite of brave. They wrote, “Mining company Adani has changed its name to a Latin word that means “crooked”, “deformed”, “mercenary or assassin”, after mistakenly thinking that it meant “brave”. Knowing the true meaning it appears the company has chosen its new name very carefully as it is most appropriate.

My own education was not as clear cut as it was for Sean Connelly. I had trouble learning to read because I now understand what made it difficult was dyslexia. 75 years ago, no one had a name for it. My teacher thought by sitting me in a corner called, “the dunce’s corner”  I might get over my disability and be shamed into reading. 

I realised words and I did not get on together early in life. Learning to read was painful and it took me years to master. Learning to spell was as difficult.  At school a training exercise was to learn five words as a spelling exercise each night for homework. Early next morning our teachers tested our comprehension and spelling of those words in the subject, Dictation. Day after day i failed to write the words I was expected to learn. 

However, instead of being discouraged I took it upon myself to study vocabulary. I learned the foreign roots of words and little by little to decode the clues in order to read. I learned prefixes and suffixes, and the shape of words in order to scan paragraphs for meaning. Even at this stage of my life i find it easier to scan a text for meaning rather than to concentrate on each word. The downside of this is I still misread obvious errors, especially when rereading my writing, and I find form filling onerous.

To this point I have found you, my reader, accepting of my shortcomings in this area.

I love the sound of well read language. Many authors you like I cannot read. I cannot immediately identify words I use in speech unless I have mastered them before in print. It is possible i have a problem with English but as it is my only language I would be lost without it. As it is I sit somewhere between Sean Connelly and Adani when it comes to language, malapropisms excepted.

Found poem

Reference. Bendsource.com

Just pour a little water into the tin mug,

It will help it down,” he said,

After he had taken a few mouthfuls

Of the fish.

They had found a tin mug,

With a jar of fresh water.

They husbanded the water carefully,

And David poured out very little,

Lest it should be jerked

Out of the mug

As the boat was tossed about.

Harry dipped the bits of fish

Into the water before eating them.

It took away somewhat of the raw taste,

He fancied.


He very soon

Came to an end

Of his


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Just pour a little water into the tin mug, it will help it down,” he said, after he had taken a few mouthfuls of the fish.

They had found a tin mug, with a jar of fresh water. They husbanded the water carefully, and David poured out very little, lest it should be jerked out of the mug as the boat was tossed about. Harry dipped the bits of fish into the water before eating them. It took away somewhat of the raw taste, he fancied. Still he very soon came to an end of his meal.

Extract from, Adrift in a Boat. WHG Kingston

Another day practising social distancing

No price too high.

You have had lots of pets. Remember how you spent a whole year looking after a dragonfly nymph? It was the easiest pet you could ever own. Put it in water, and watch it grow was about all you had to do. The tadpoles that grew legs and walked away were not much harder to manage. A little trickier were the minnows especially as you had to walk a couple of kilometres to carry home a supply of fresh brackish water. Truly the most troublesome water creature in your life was the axolotl. We never did understand it’s needs.

How well do you remember the bite of the ferrets? It is as easily remembered as the smell of their cage. It is much harder to remember any catch they made when you sent them into a rabbit warren. Possibly because you hadn’t closed off all entrances from which the rabbits found exits.

The first pet you had the sole responsibly for was Dalray. He was a thoroughbred black Labrador. Within his first year he won a ribbon in the Camperdown Agricultural Show. Your lack of dog training skill ensured Dalray was never shown again. The pair of you roamed all over the district instead. You even set rabbit traps together – many decades before they were outlawed for their cruelty to animals.

Life lessons show it is parents that seem to end up looking after their children’s pets. At least that is what happened to yours. And Dalray shuffled off under their care. In our case our children left us to look after Friend. Their tabby cat. As can only happen in families, we also adopted the pet that once lived with another family. And that is how we ended with the other tabby called Pugsley. He and Friend never knew one another but they might well have been twins. They were both oversized lazy boy types that give cats bad headlines.

Of all the things pets gave you, The worst was the unsubstantiated charge from the judicial officer daughter who falsely accuses you of killing them. As the defendant you have to admit this is not a pleasant acquisition. How you defend the charge is to give the pedantic response of the livestock grower.

Like most things the rationale for the response comes from your past. It was the observation of the adults in your life when they had to call the Veterinarian that set your sail. Too often you heard the vet say, we will give this – or that – a go, only to have the animal die, to respond with, “The only way I can be sure what caused its death is to carry out an autopsy. “

“No thank you, says the stoic farmer, I will phone the Knacker.”

A day or so later in the mail the farmer would be faced with a bill the size of a replacement animal.

These deep memories allow you to defend having a beloved pet put down when reason demands it.

These events are regrettable yet they allow an animal to die in dignity without it carrying the burden of it being forever anthropomorphised.

Given your years, the roll call of departed animal companions is long, but none is really forgotten. Not that foxy your grand parents had that would secretly nip you when you least expected it. Or the ancient collie, Laddie, that came into you life with the girl you married. The cross little Scottie Wee Drap that thought it was a Doberman and it would attack dogs five times it’s size until it really did go too far. Even the vet said it was undeserving of a reprieve.

A retirement change to suburban living meant deciding to live without animals, nevertheless you have given in and now you support little creatures once more. That happened, as many things do in your life, when you bought home an orphan lotus plant from The Heights. First you had to buy a water feature to help the plants grow. Then you bought some fish to keep the mosquitoes down. Next, in order for the fish to live you then had to aerate the water. That meant purchasing a pump. Now you have a new round of daily, let alone extra weekly jobs, just to keep them happy. And you can’t even see them in the deep water until they are fed.

Dalray was named after the 1952 winner of the Melbourne Cup

Thanks for reading. Tell me about your pet.