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

My Box Brownie could do that.

Photo EBay

Talk of

Artificial Intelligence

Prompted me to read


The programmer

Obviously pressed a button

That spat out art


The work emerged

By … mathematical formula

Was named Le Comte de Belamy


Auctioneer Criristies

Listed it among the works of fifty famous artists

Proclaiming the work as new


Based as it was

On 1,500 scanned portraits

Of actual works by paint masters


Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre

Purchaser proclaimed it

“grotesque and amazing at the same time.”


Estimated to sell

As it cost time to produce

At ten thousand


It sold

With one in the room and one on the phone

In twenty eighteen


It’s Obvious

Pierre Fautrel, Gauthier Vernier, and Hugo Caselles-Dupré.

And GAN are names to watch


After all

They trousered

Four hundred and thirty-two thousand


Just think

If my little Box Brownie had taken colour prints

Before A.I. ………………My art could have made me rich.

AI was used to replicate poetry at last year’s poetry day (21 March 2019.) The photo below is one of five poems generated by artificial Intelligence to be read that day. Here is Various Weathers.

Co Plaith.com

I G Y

Author supplied photograph

During the Cold War over seventy nations put their political differences aside and planned a series of eleven major scientific studies of the globe in 1957/58. Those eighteen months were called the International Geophysical Year. From that Australian scientists played a major role in the advancements of knowledge of the globe. Specifically our work was perhaps more successful than the six nations that joined with us to study Antartica. The success was due in a large part to our foreign affairs department. It agreed for our scientists to set up bases in the country in the years before to trial equipment and materials. In those years our scientists were able to refine their knowledge to work in such an inhospitable region. (Post that period other countries have perhaps fared better.)

I have several reasons for retelling this story. The first is it is a reminder of Vic. ( I don’t remember his full name) but he was a young fellow Rev George Mutten mentored. The young man was an infrequent visitor to the vicarage and I met him only a handful of times. George took pride in saying he had spent time at Antartica during the IGY. I learned he was tragically killed a short while later in a car accident on a notorious bend in the Stoney Risers. His leader in the year he spent at Casey Base was Dr Phillip Law.

Phillip Law was a very respected Australian who made academic contributions to the growth of this country. He was born in 1912 ( a year before my mother). His is the second reason I recall this time. He led an interesting life, that has been documented in at least six books – including three autobiographies. The few pararagaphs I give to him relate to his adventures in Antartica. Where he first visited in 1949.

Law was born in Tallangatta. He grew up in Hamilton and went to the Ballarat Teachers College. He taught at secondary schools in Hamilton, Geelong and Melbourne Boys High School before he gained an MSc in Physics at Melbourne University. During WW11 he was involved with war projects at the University. ( I had my own time working in some of the same localities but that is as far as the similarities go.)

After the war Law gave up his secure job at the University and was appointed leader of ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Exhibition) by the Department of External Affairs. He was the leader in charge of bases at Macquarie Island and Antartica from 1949. He held that position until 1977 by which time he had personally led exhibitions to Antartica twenty three times.

Consequently he was leader in the years of planing leading up to the International Geophysical Year.

The learnings that came from the eleven major studies of the globe in those eighteen months have had a profound influence of our understanding of the universe. For instance, in the years leading to the study period America announced it would launch a satellite into space. The intensity of achievement was ramped up to such an extent America was beaten in the space race. They did not launch their rocket until the USSR had startled the world with Sputnik one , in 1957,, and Sputnik two. In all, over seventy countries had tens of scientists study the globe in wonderful cooperation.

If there is a good sign we are prepared to listen to scientists. It is now. This the first time in three generations science, and the word of scientists are being sought out.

Which brings me to another reason for tapping away at this screen and recording my thoughts. Some years from now people will ask those living today, what was Covid 19 like? What did you do?

I am not a diarist but here are some thoughts on the matter. The most astonishing thing is the virus quickly developed across the globe in three months. The lives of most people have been turned upside down. Millions of people are sick with a disease for which there is no cure. As a result thousands have lost their lives. Millions that were employed one day are unemployed the next. All over the world people have been affected. For example, our Government realised our hospital system was inadequate to manage an influx of desperately ill people, and its usual workload as well. so all but the most urgent operations were cancelled to free up hospital beds.

Initially one of the obvious signs was, the messages were confused, and people panicked. Supermarket shelves were emptied of basic necessities. People sought out information on self management skills that were almost forgotten: How to cook bread, How to grow vegetables, How to husband poultry. They did these things because they were unsure the state would be able to look after them. The government loosened spending and made available unparalleled government aid. Much of this aid was directed at business in the hope that life would “spring back” to normal when the initial panic subsided.

Now here we are three months down the track. Business people are arguing commerce will never recover unless the chains of lockdown are loosened. Immediately forgetting of course there is no cure. The Advance Australia group and the IPA are applying pressure on the Morrison government to lift the Lockdown and get back to business

This new pandemic age is certain to provide scope for dozens of future PHDs to study how it should have been approached, as every day we hear new reasons for and against social distancing. President Trump says America is not supposed to be closed to business at a time when many of his people are dropping dead like flies. He has also withdrawn funding from the World Health Organisation to take attention away from his own inadequacies

The truth is business is not going to bounce back as some businesses may never recover. Today Virgin Air excused itself from stock trading while the debt burdened company looks for a white knight to bail them out of trouble. Failing that aide it is just one of many.businesses unlikely to live on.

The evidence each country is fighting Covid 19 in its own way has made life more uncertain. Government’s around the world are making knee jerk responses to this hidden deadly threat. Many health officers are reporting progress is being made in treating it while they struggle behind the scenes to make beds and ventilators available for their sick.

It is not as if administrators were unaware a pandemic threatened mankind. In recent years we have had several near misses with SARS, and Ebola, but is the madness of mankind not to worry about future threats until we have to deal with them. Right now we can see the foolishness of this behaviour. Yet we procrastinate soothed by the words of business lobbyists.

How have we denied the warnings about global warming from similar learned people is beyond comprehension. This is yet another reason for speaking out. In my mouselike way my words are silenced except for recording , “What is happening is not happening in my name”. Perhaps it his is more difficult until one has lived through many awful life events and observed it hasn’t always been so easy. My hope remains world leaders will put aside the nonsense industry people spread and instruct their scientists to advise them.

My last point is contentious. I want billionaires to donate all but their pocket money to science. If I pick just one I will start with Bill Gates. I cannot decide whether he is a saint or sinner. His charities do such a lot of good yet the question remains, was his wealth legitimate from the beginning? Leaving that question aside.

I want him to abandon the idea that big business will help agriculture and global food supply. I think water and soil and seed, that isn’t owned by business, and organic fertiliser, again unowned by business, is all farmers need to produce food locally. Food has been produced that way forever. Monoculture is not good for the planet. If you are unsure of this get the scientists of the world to study food production with no thought of patents and licences. Just do it for the hell of it like was done in the IGY back in 1957/58.

Here is an interview with a very old Phillip Law. (He was 97 when he died)

https://www.science.org.au/learning/general-audience/history/interviews-australian-scientists/dr-phillip-law-1912-2010

Take a seat.


Image courtesy SMT

Living with good genes you visit your doctor only to replace the medications he has prescribed for daily use, when you have run out. You trust your GP – the pills prescribed; will reduce your cholesterol, replace the hormones your absent thyroid cannot produce, or lower your blood pressure. The proof all is well is revealed with a regular blood pressure check – 120/73 at 59 heart beats a minute. Excellent result. Even for a person a quarter of your age. It is all you need to hear before you exchange pleasantries and leave to go about your daily business.

With no comprehension of Greys Anatomy, or understanding of pharmacology, you trust the diagnosis your GP advises. Even he may not decide your the treatment for every ailment from a conversation. Most likely your GP will order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis gleaned from careful questioning. She may recommend you visit a specialist before ever a diagnosis is reached.

Not every visit is conducted with such routine rhythm – but you hear things.

Today your primary carer will reserve opinion until all channels are exhausted. This is as good – as it is bad. Specialisation can become misleading unless the specialist keeps a clear mind – the whole person needs treatment, and not just a specific disease found in part of the body.

The life of the doctor is most certainly fraught. This is especially so in this Internet age. Lots of people visit a doctor after first making inquiry of Dr Google. Your friends are often more knowing (not knowledgeable) than the doctor, and hypochondria is very common among those friends who make weekly visits with yet another complaint.

This is not to condemn them. How one feels can be misleading. Too often an acquaintance has died because they ignored symptoms other people acknowledged. One person says “I feel this,” The other says nothing. The first has a diagnosis, a treatment, a short, or a long painful – convalesce, and they are cured. The second, dies, or worse – is given a prognosis and dies shortly afterwards. The difference in their lives is sometimes a matter of how they think of the medical profession.

Currently the conversation is about pain. The press is full of the dangers of opioid and other drugs prescribed for pain. Codeine, Fentanyl, OxyContin form part of the list of products which pain sufferers are very familiar. Word has it that these drugs can be habit forming, just as morphine – first discovered in 1803, is known to be.

Tragically many lives have been lost by sufferers of long term pain. Their treatment caused them to become addicted to their treatment. In time the drug becomes more necessary to them than the pain it was prescribed to aid. It has reached a stage of alarm across the developed world.

The level of pain individuals can accommodate varies from person to person. The truth is few men would be able to live with the pain of child birth. It remains one life’s mysteries how women naturally live through confinement. But not all pain is equal.

From my own experience I have learned how easy it could be to slip into addiction. Many decades ago I visited Dr Bill Davies, (the doctor that was present at the birth of out children). On this occasion I had to wait for a long time outside his rooms. Every minute I waited the second hand of the clock scraped against its body on its journey and it screeched at the five o’clock mark. “Screech screech”.

I do not remember why I had made the appointment, just the noise the clock made every sixty seconds. perhaps I talked about to him about my jumpy legs. (My wife will tell of how I kick her nightly as I am going off to sleep. I have done this for years). Anyway, when I got to see him I said I couldn’t live with such an irritating clock. He looked quizzically at me and wrote out a prescription. This I took to the chemist, and in time I started taking Valium.

The prescription had five repeats. After about the third I mentioned I was taking diazepam, and the listener said it was addictive. Instead of taking pills I should read Dr Ainsley Meares 1968 book, Relief without drugs. I did. However I had a strong feeling of wanting something despite knowing the drowsiness I felt from was caused by the Valium. So I read it again and practiced what it said.

Fortunately I persevered with the techniques recommended by the book and I stopped taking Valium before I fell into its grip. The technique explained in the book is now recommended as Mindfulness training by professional groups. This is not news to Buddhists of course. It is just one of the practical parts of their practice.

Another aspect of the “Relief without drugs” book is the knowledge it is possible to retrain the brain to think differently. Interestingly this is now a recommended pain relief action. This has lead to whole new field of pain management. One I am convinced I must turn to with renewed energy and retrain my brain for practical reasons.

One grapples with pain. When, like now, I have remained in one position too long. One winches with the odd ache before moving freely. The relative influence of pain comes and goes. The arthritis that was causing pain in my finger knuckles a few months ago is now so bad my right hand constantly aches. The truth is I am losing the use of my right hand because of pain. To the point I try to avoid using it. Past experience has taught me not to rely on medication for things you can set aside with training. My brain is being retrained not to complain about an aching hand.

My message from all this? What happens next is up to me.


What is said today about opioids

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/medication-treatments-led-to-80-percent-lower-risk-of-fatal-overdose-for-patients-with-opioid-use-disorder-than-medication-free-treatments-301011220.html


Dr Ainsley Meares was a Melbourne psychiatrist. He learned about pain and how injured soldiers reacted to it in WW11. The photo is of a memorial to him. Co SMT

I don’t mind if you pause before you leave and read some more, or you make a comment. Thank you for reading this.

Wind / man Power


Author supplied image

One of the little John Bell Blondie dinghies Roger and I have been working on is now in my garage waiting for a final coat of paint. There is still much to do before it will be launched, but Roger has taken his to Robe South Australia.

He anticipates it will handle well, even in choppy water, because it has a “rocker” bend in the flat floor. He likes to fish and he thinks Robe might give him a chance to catch some whiting. I hope he does because he was so excited to pack it with his fishing paraphernalia before he left.

It has oars roped to the gunnels. Rod keepers are screwed to the chine, or walls. In the bow he has ropes and the anchor stowed. In the stern it has an emergency flotation locker beneath the seat he has packed lures, line and hooks. He says because of its flat bottom when the dropdown keel is in place it should be easy to stand up and stretch his legs when he has been sitting for a while. This is much easier than his old dinghy which has a v shaped floor. All in all it should be much easier to row and manage on land, than the one it replaces. He understands we are getting older and he thinks he will get a small motor, to save having to row it in future.

I propose to give mine the name “Inshore Lady” in the next few days. I don’t fish. I don’t even sail, but stripped of its fishing garb and fitted with a balanced lug sail I intend to finish it so it can be sailed. The purpose was never to own a boat but to make one. Now it has reached this stage I am sorry I did not do more of the making myself. I fabricated it, and helped at every stage, but because it was made in Roger’s workshop he did much more in my absence than I expected.

In the long term I will have a sail boat a (grandchild) person should be able to sail easily. Roger will have a tender he can fish from – especially when he fits a motor.

The boat has been constructed in a stitch and glue procedure. This simple construction method has enabled the boat to be built and held together with plywood, a “peanut butter” consistency of resin , fibreglass, and flow coat. It has a few screws in it as well. Refer to my earlier post. John Mansfield inspired sea fever. https://onlinebluemoons.home.blog/2019/12/22/john-masefield-inspired-sea-fever/

The motor Roger expects to fit, and the screws it has used, have in common the use of the benefits of a helix. I am sorry Tom Lehrer did not produce a song about the helix. If you are unaware it is one of nature’s wonders. He did however compose “Mathematics”. Sensibly it all comes down to mathematics whether the boat is driven by a motor, by oars, or by the wind.

It is impossible to ignore the helix though. In its most complex form it holds the mystery of life itself. Our DNA is formed in a series of double helix. Best remembered with the nemonic, WCW, Wilkins, Crick, and Watson they were awarded the Noble Prize in 1962. From 1950 – 1952 Wilkins led a team to solve the nature of DNA. In the following year, Crick and Watson created a model to illustrate its complexity – in 1953.

The helix gives a screw the mechanical strength to pull pieces together. The propeller does the same with water, or with air, as it pulls – or pushes the transport along. The helix is also found on the human body. The cartilage around the outer ear is called the helix. It is only in writing I realised my grandmother wore her hair in a helix. The bun she wore at the back of her head is a helix. (A coil of rope – a like example).

Our boats, at least mine, sits waiting until we finish it’s rudder and tiller. A sail boat is steered by the sailor adjusting the sail against the wind. She can do this quite accurately except for sailing directly into the wind. One sixth of the compass direction the wind is blowing from cannot be sailed directly toward. (Imagine the wind is blowing from the twelve o’clock position. The boat cannot directly make progress against the wind from the ten o’clock to the two o’clock position). With the use of reserved speed, and with the sail down, a tiller enables the sailor to steer the yacht accurately toward a jetty even against the wind.

Some would say I am over thinking all this, especially by banging on about the helix. In response apart from the doing – it is all academic until I get the thing in the water anyway.


In explanation I choose to call the dinghy Inshore Lady, first because boats are most commonly referred to in feminine term. Therefore she is a lady. Secondly, Inshore, because she will be sailed close to shore for safety reasons. Finally it is a nice little semantic link to our home in Inshore Drive to recognise where she lives.


The discovery of the living matter we humans are constructed from – Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA for short) only came about from knowledge of the helix. The unraveling of its mystery is a marvellous achievement. The men and (the unacknowledged Rosalind Franklin a radiographer of photograph 51 used to create the DNA model) who discovered it were brilliant. The three main names (WDW) each earned PhD’s before their twenty-first birthday. (This writer had barely earned his driver’s licence at the same age). It is because DNA is understood scientists are now able to work with the human genome and find cures and remedies for the most terrible diseases. Amazing indeed. It was only explained first with knowledge of the helix.


Tom Lehrer deserves a mention for I found his satirical and comedic songs wonderful. This man of mathematics could have wasted his life on his popular ditties but he gave away fame to follow his passion. There is a message there. Become , and remain, passionate in order to lead a life well lived.

The mathematics song https://youtu.be/X6uyPL46Vi0

2040 And the book and the film – review.

2040 the book and the film – review.

https://aliterarybent.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/2040-the-book-and-the-film-review/
— Read on aliterarybent.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/2040-the-book-and-the-film-review/

Today I share this review as a response to my last entry.

When your interest is piqued like mine you will want to learn more.

ABC Australia has had reviews of this work on two of its radio programmes

These are the references

https://abclisten.page.link/2LXvAVB5FEoyPFbw7

https://abclisten.page.link/6UmhpwF18tWLKSc46

These three references say it all better than I am able. We have but this planet and together we can love it back to health. Let’s do it.

It starts with a like to this article and it ends when balance is restored to our human home. Thank you.

John Masefield inspired Sea-Fever

Around fifteen years after my school class read John Masefield’s poem “Sea-Fever” we were reading about his death in 1967. His lines beginning with, “ I must go down to the seas again….” impacted on me from the start.

In the intervening years I lived near lakes. Later all my visits to the coast were to the fishing villages near the Twelve Apostles. In the mornings the fishermen would return to shore and I would watch as they hauled their Couta boats out of the water onto the pier. Thus I saw the results of working as sea from the safety of the land.

Consequently my experience with boats is very limited. In fact to say I had an occasional sails on Gippsland lakes would sum it up.

Once though I spent thirty hours in Bass Strait on a 36 ft yacht. We started in blissfully calm waters that turned into a raging forty knot storm through the night. On that occasion my faith in boats was buoyed by memories of sticks, and how when tossed into a stream, they always floated. So I did on it. To think of sailors lost in stormy seas would have been too terrible that night.

Now I find, for reasons that can only be fathomed by analysis of my unconscious mind, I am building a dinghy. The plans suggest it can be fitted with a small sail. The knowledge it can be propelled by the wind has had me imagine I can pass on my love of sailing to my grandchildren playing in it. If I build one they can sail it single handedly, this is how I imagine it anyway.

Roger and I each started building “Blondie” a John Bell stitch-and-glue designed dinghy a few weeks ago. I think you need to come up to speed about how it is going.

The journey of this little boat started with a visit to the Internet where we found its rudimentary plans. From there we visited VJS Victorian Joinery Supplies and found marine plywood at a good price. Because we were building two boats we bought four sheets 1200×2400. fig 1.

Fig 1

When we got them to Roger’s workshop the first job was to measure and mark the dimensions of our first cuts. Like good tradesmen we measured twice before cutting. (It is safer to recheck your work before putting it under a saw. So we did.) We carefully measured and checked our cuts and work began. Fig 2.

Fig 2

We cut and rounded off two bottoms, two left sides and two right sides.

Then we used cable ties to pull the pieces together after we drilled holes every so often.

The boats came together when we applied resin and fibreglass around the inside joins. Fig 3

Fig 3

The job has only just begun but now you can see we each have a boat like shape. Fig 4

Fig 4

Thanks for reading. Come back again to follow the next stages.

Cricket

WG Grace Wikipedia

I pinched this little example from a film. It is the job of an observant reader/film buff to tell me which one. The old man says to the youngster, look through these binoculars. See how things a long way off seem closer.

“Yes”, came the reply.

“It looks all clear and sharp, that is the future.”

“Now look through the binoculars from the other end,”

“Ok”

“Notice how everything looks far away and the details are harder to make out, that is like looking at the past.”

In the past, on Friday afternoon we played sport as one of our end of week activities. The big kids played their game on the school oval. The seconds played, in the school grounds. Other teams played on nearby grounds. But the kids like me had to walk all the way through town and we played on some open area near the railway station. The ground must be a mile from the school but that didn’t seem to matter. The walk to the ground, and back, used up a good deal of the available time. It suited the supervising teacher and it suited the ragbag team of leftover kids I joined.

On the particular day I most clearly remember I hit two sixes off consecutive balls. Mr Higgins the history teacher was our umpire and supervising teacher. He had an English background and he was horrified that anyone would so recklessly swing their bat – even at a bad ball – and swat at it as I had. So, he halted the game and took a moment to instruct me how I should hold the bat.

“Hold it straight up and down like this.”

He instructed the bowler to bowl a ball at him. From the crease he demonstrated how to properly stroke the ball to the boundary with a simple twist of the wrist keeping the blade of the bat upright and close to the legs at all times. His four was made effortlessly. It was flicked to the boundary as he moved his feet forward and the bat gracefully struck the ball to the off past the keeper.

“Now you have a go.”

I did. I was clumsily holding the bat upright as instructed but I could clearly see the ball could not be reached if I stayed put. I had the ball clearly in my sight so I did as I had in the previous two shots and I flicked out my bat and I missed the ball altogether. Mr Higgins was unimpressed.

“When the ball is wide like that it is not going to hit your stumps so you don’t have to hit it. Just let it fly past to the wicket keeper. It is his job to stop it -not yours. If he misses and the ball runs away your team can pick up the byes. Now try again.

I did. I waited patiently while the bowler walked back to his mark. I kept the bat upright. I patted the toe of the bat on the ground a couple of times. The bowler turned and started to run at me. Out the corner of my eye I could see a big gap on the leg side. I waited. The bowler was about to deliver the ball. I wasn’t watching his hand as he released it and it was more than halfway down the pitch before I saw it. It was on my leg side. I took a big swing and I hit it as hard as the balls I had whacked for six.

Mr Higgins cried out. “Not like that.”

Some little Twerp at mid off ran in toward me. I had miss hit it. The ball flew high into the air a little forward of me. By the time I saw the ball again it was swallowed into the Twerp’s hands.

“Out” came the umpire’s decision.

My innings was over. As the last man in we packed up and on the way back to school gave me some home truths on the finer points of cricket.

That was not my only cricketing gift. When I was about thirteen I was given a full sized bat by two of my uncles who played district cricket in Melbourne. It was a beautifully well oiled, well used, piece of willow. Paul and Hughie said it was a good bat and I would enjoy using it. They could no longer use it though because a couple of the rubber springs in the handle were broken.

I had a man sized for the first time. At home I had no one interested in cricket. In my primary school cricket matches were played at sports time. We would all go outside. The teacher would choose, Spencer and Thommo to act as captains and choose from the classmates lined up against the wall. First one boy, and another would be chose by Spencer or Thommo until each boy was chose to play in team one or two. I was always one of the last to be chosen.

I have fairly recounted my most memorable day in cricket above and it will come as no surprise my bat was dormant most of its life with me until I saw I could repurpose it.

I took a saw to it and fashioned the willow into the hull of a yacht. I cut off the handle. It was never any good. It had broken springs. I cut both sides of the toe into a point. I drilled a hole in the centre and I attached a mast. I walked to Lake Bullen Merri and did as men do. I played around with boats.

Nearing the same age Sam has a bag of cricket paraphernalia. He has been selected to represent his district in a series of regional games. He is the Spencer, or the Thommo of my era that was once selected to pick out players for the team. I do hope he gets to hear part of his cricketing heritage comes from the grandfather that once played under the influence of Mr Higgins.

Thanks for reading. Where did I find the opening reference?

Al Pacino in ?.?

I have remembered. It was Al Pacino in the Netflix 2019 movie, The Irishman.

It’s time for a milkshake.

Every week, sometime after school, the man from Moran and Cato would turn up. He would walk into the kitchen and drop off the box of groceries mum had telephoned to him that morning. I never had a lot of time for (his) choice of the things needed to feed us because there was never anything in his box to eat. Once or twice, in all the weeks he delivered groceries, I may have helped stack that which was delivered into the cupboard. The rest of the time I was disgusted by the lack of treats.

It nearly always included staples like; flour, sugar, tea, breakfast cereal, (perhaps once I opened the pack and removed the plastic toy included out of the order negotiated with my sisters, but then again it might just be a false memory.) The grocery delivery also included, oranges, or apples depending what was in season. Occasionally there would be potatoes or some other vegetable however that was not so frequent as dad grew most of the vegetables we ate in season. The only dairy product was cheese. Milk, cream, and cream used to make butter, came from our cows.

(It is now an aside but the cheese delivered was for Dad alone. We didn’t eat his cheese because mum bought Kraft Cheddar Cheese for us. This is a product I still find difficult to describe because it had a bland taste and a plastic feeling. This pale goo was unlike any product I now know to be cheese.)

In describing the list of foodstuffs bought, I have to include a list of dried fruits. Dates, sultanas., currants, raisins all come to mind, but as I have stated there was nothing to eat. When I was in the homes of my school mates and the delivery occurred their parcel always included treats. Tasty goods such as; chocolate, bonbons, biscuits, lemonade, raspberry cordial and ice cream. Foods for a party were in the grocery packages of other homes.

How we got anything to eat at all was because our parents sacrificed their free time to grow food, milk cows, and cook every god given hour. They did this week in and week out without complaint except from me on grocery day. A more grateful lad would have acknowledged a gardeners pay was tight when spread among six people.

Can you imagine how lucky I felt to be sent away from this deprivation? Each school holiday we went to spend time with our grandparents and their home of young aunts and uncles. Every other year or so a relative left to marry and start their own family until there was just Paul and Pauline left to treat us.

(I have written previously about how I loved to spend time with Paul. Today I turn my thoughts to Pauline. She is the last of the twins. I note soberly, she is also the last of her generation.)

It was a summer day when I arrived in Lilydale. I was alone with Pauline in the car. She was recently married and she picked me up from the station. I was to spend a few days with her. Before we drove up the mountain to her new home she stopped the car and bought me a malted milk shake. Ice formed on the metal shake container as I poured it into the glass. The drink bubbled up until it nearly overflowed and then I tasted the glorious, unexpected treat. I rarely visit that town now, but every year after that drink I have not driven past that cafe without being reminded of that special day.

Notable as that treat was to me, it was just another expression of love from her. After she left school she got a job at Spicers Shoe factory. This girl spent a lot of the little money she earned treating me to experiences kids from the country never got. I went to the Tivoli theatre for pantomimes. I rode, ride after ride at St Kilda’s Luna Park. I had trips to the Melbourne Show and took home arms full of show bags,

According to Dr Google it now takes about an hour and a half to drive from her home to Rosebud. All those years ago I was taken for a day at the beach to the Port Phillip Bay summer escape. We had to be up early and we drove forever. We turned from one suburb after another. We drove through countless traffic lights. And we drove along the never ending beach road all the way to Rosebud. The water there was much less interesting than the lakes near my home although the sandy beach was much broader. Despite that I had a great day out. Towards evening we made the return journey. I don’t know how many of us there were in the car but when we finally got home I got wakened up and was lifted from the shelf behind the seats in front of the rear window where I had been sleeping.

This was just another of those special days I had with her. Long before she had taught us kids the fun you could have on the street with soda bombs. I can’t remember how they were detonated, but if you took the little bomb ( that thing used to turn drinking water into soda water with its canister filled with carbon dioxide) they would shoot into the air. Pauline could also attest they could remove part of your leg if you were too late to jump out of its way. That momentary incident would have curbed the enthusiasm for games in many people, but not her.

She was also the one who gave me my first swimming lesson. Despite my confidence in her I had too little confidence of the water to support me to relax on my back when held up just by her small frame. To her credit she had tried may times to stop me standing instead of floating. To reinforce the knowledge I should float on water and not try to stand she moved me from the shallow end, to the deep end of the pool. My first lesson became even more traumatic when I realised she didn’t want me to hang onto the edge either. Before I drowned her she allowed me to dance in the shallows as she went happily back to diving and freestyle.

My school days came to an end, her family developed and I grew away, but I remained forever in her debt for the good times we shared.

Around this point I would finish my entry and return with another theme a few days later. Today I will post a personal reflection I wrote as a tribute to her twin when he passed away earlier this year. I will post it without amendment and my tale will have some repetitiveness.

Paul.

My sister Elizabeth and I were the first grandchildren born into the large Mason family. As the first grandson it is only now I am able to recognise how fortunate we were to know each of our aunts and uncles. Each treated us an honoured child. We were given experiences by them younger generations missed. This privilege of age was special and we benefited in a manner our cousins haven’t, I have felt the need to pen some words on the bond I have enjoyed with Paul.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gradually the threads of my childhood have broken. Sometimes I have felt like a body caught up in the fibres of a spider’s web and been happy to have broken free of the past in much the same way as the person caught in the web might. The sticky threads of childhood have clung onto the skin and irritated until they have been brushed off.

The string that has bound me to Paul is not like that. It is more a memory of times of my growing to independence. A time when a boy met a man prepared to gently shine a light into the fog of the future and show the dimly lit road ahead. Significant moments began for me when Paul himself was not not long past his youth. He was working for the Board of Works. In that big building near the railway line we saw as our train pulled into the city station.

He always worked – just there – in that building. Before that our mother used to remind us that where he worked was a sign of his industry. He was one of those particularly talented students selected on his merit to go to Melbourne Boys High School. That school by the river with the big oval in front of the gothic building. That school where only the best students were selected for attendance. (That school, even in my wildest imagining, I knew I would never be chosen to attend.) Paul had attended there and as a result he had a reliable job with the government. (Or more precisely municipal government. At any rate it was the only sort of job one like me should aspire.)

It was a good job. Paul was not long at this job and he had earned enough to buy his first car. That meant he never had to travel in the crowded red rattler from Lilydale ever again. I was fortunate enough to travel with him to the City – down Whitehorse Rd , turn left here, so that you can avoid the Mont Albert Station, Turn into Mont Albert Rd. negotiate the S bends at its end and take Barkers Rd etc into town.

Grandma used to complain, (probably too unkind an adjective), that Paul would wear two, sometimes three, neatly washed, blue treated, starched, and ironed white shirts every day. He also possessed some very flashy printed silk ties he wore with them. He was dapper.

I can’t be sure of the timing but before he married he drove a big black Riley car and I sometimes had the pleasure of riding with him in it. Every week he collected records in their brown paper envelopes from shops specialising on music of the twenties and thirties. These he filed and cataloged meticulously in his neat hand. Occasionally he would play an Al Bowley tune to me he had just acquired but only after he fitted a new needle into the head of the record player. He was just as careful to only ever handle a record with a soft cloth.

In the months before he married I met Elaine. I think it was he who took me to my first Melbourne show. In the coming months I saw less and less of him. The couple married and I remember being shown photos of the lucky couple.

In the following years I never saw Paul without also seeing Elaine. Some years later, possibly on the Colac station I appeared as a passenger in one of his 9mm movie films in which he had developed an interest. Somehow or other I met the train carrying the couple as it passed through the town. At any rate Paul was no longer Paul to me but, It simply became Paul and Elaine to Jennie and me whenever we mentioned them.

Later Jennie and I were shown the improvements they made to their house in North Melbourne and the threads of our connection became thinner as life intervened. Our family grew and the links of them with the wider family have diluted in time and they know nothing of the people and things I now record.

In time we heard about the arrival of girls whose names conveniently were the same as of places of interest in Victoria. Somehow Russell never made it to my awareness and that was just the fault of our seperate lives.

Much , much later, Paul managed a brake manufacturing company in Ballarat I lived there but we never really got to meet up in that period. If we did occasionally bump into each other, we talked of places he might search for records, but Paul knew every opp shop I named as a place of interest to him I realised he knew his way about. It turned out he had searched their premises for any music they had that he had never been able to find elsewhere.

Paul’s work with community radio is the stuff of legends and one of my pleasures is that he gave me a cassette copy of one of his broadcasts on one of our irregular contacts. It was not that I unaware of this work, my life was too self absorbed for me to remember to tune into one of the many programs he made of my own volition. The other thing is these programs would never have been so successful without Elaine’s support.

And here is another Mason influence. The twins, Pauline and Paul, were both a wonderful uncle and aunt to me. However their influence on me would have diminished in childhood without the joint influence their spouses. Together they had a lasting effect on me as I grew as a person. I will ever be grateful to each of them individually.

To leave the story there is to leave out the influence of something intangible each spouse contributed to my life as a whole. The fact they, the twins, married people who built them as people is something I have happily learned to imitate by their example.

In life I have also learned much about the impermanence of the moment. I have learned that people continue to live on – influencing us long after their living days. It is in this moment I realise the broken threads of life are recreated as living memory in us who continue to live. It is sad illness has ended Paul’s life but I am grateful on this occasion to record Paul will forever be loved by me.

Written when afloat on the Arabian Sea miles from land.