Beryl bounced once in the old days
rebounded for a second, third,
this final time upon the board
outstretching her muscular arms,
lengthening her growing body,
she flew upward and out into
the April air tucking her knees
to her chest tightly embracing
legs frequently tumbling over,
straightening her body at the
final moment the trajectory
curled toward the water in the
local swimming pool. Dr Davies watched
her gracefully enter the hole
she drilled deep in the blue aqua.
As coach, he suggested points to
consider on her climb to the
plank for her fourteenth encore.
The diver and the boy cadet
were fifteen years — separated
by maturing youthful grace.
We live life one day at a time. However we live each day it is just part of the patchwork of activity people live. Today I can think of nothing better than celebrating humankind as it is recorded in the 2021 film Life In A Day.
Watch the film found at https://lifeinaday.youtube/
Just so you can celebrate being your fabulous self.
photo. Rattle Poetry Ekphrastic Challenge : Claire Ibarra Photography
Overhead a Rorschach test of brambles
Cast shadows across my pool.
There, fat goldfish beckoned the sky fall
and secret them in the amniotic fluid.
Birds, soaring over the pond,
returned to spear an exhausted fish,
floating belly up, as the in-waiting
swimming thing gasped its last palliative breath.
A fish net soon crisscrossed the pool
and stymied — natural selection.
Testily a bird rebelled. Wildly plucking at the screen
until, flying light, away it flew as
the horizon flagged the sun to rest.
The painter’s brush of lattice web
instructs viewers to remember
Fraser’s words, “Life is not meant to be easy.”
or, being yourself requires tactical grit.
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.
Who are your heroes?
Do Jason and his argonauts fill the bill?
Is it the man, or was it the woman
who swam, or kicked a ball across the channel?
The President presumes it is him.
How could we forget so notable a personage?
Rosalind (DNA) Franklin or Einstein E=MC2
either responsible person tallies – due to their evident discoveries
Perhaps the duo who sing in La Boheme
excite you and become your star performers of all time
Perchance your model is a great sage?
Many find, the godlike religious leader becomes such a one.
Builder, artist, rule-maker, and adjudicator
leave legacies we marvel about – something we have done for centuries.
Sing out their names in praise
for most of them exposed something desirable to our kind.
Many who live in pages thus are likely bound to disappoint
we who place them on pedestals, and later discover their ordinary proclivities.
The world is large and – our heroes many –
in delicious irony, remember you are the subject of your biography.
“As members of the human species, we all have at least three separate lives to live. Each of us lives a life in the public arena, however small that world might be, and a private life in our home, with our family and intimate friends. Then there is our secret life – a hidden life, a spiritual life in our world of imagination, of desires and dreams, of spirits, angels and ghosts. This is a world many of us hesitate to explore – a life we are reluctant to share with anybody, even our closest friend and partner. It is a life of shadows.”
Chris Geraghty writing in the essay “Father Greg Walsh paid a heavy price.” Published online in Pearls and Irritations 9 September 2020
Dr Chris Geraghty is a former priest of the archdiocese of Sydney, a retired judge of the District Court of NSW, and the author of a recent publication, Virgins and Jezebels – the Origins of Christian Misogyny.
There go I.
How important is work?
It is a common enough ambition of school leavers. After all when a student is near the end of his/her secondary education it is a common question, What do you plan to do after school? The student will answer “x” or “y”sometimes with great conviction. And if you should meet them eight or nine months later will the answer be the same?
The answers might be, It is terrific. I am learning so much. I love it.
Another student will not be so positive, It is nothing like I imagined. I am transferring to do a course “n” next year because it leads to “ z”.
A third might answer, I have dropped out. I am so busy with my hobby I haven’t got time to study. In this category we have people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as examples.
In most likelihood within a decade many will say, I am glad I did “b” but honestly it has nothing to do with what I am doing today. In all likelihood many find they are working at a job unrelated to their initial study. I will leave you to do your own research.
My concern is for you, my grandchild. I hope you do not get lost in despair the job you would love to do is no longer available when you go searching for it. With the pandemic of COVID 19 my vision of the future looks grim. My friend Michael Linehan asks, Why do I worry? He says, your grand kids have the same chance as all kids. Pandemic,or not, they have an equal chance because they all face the same future.
One thing that is certain – hardship should not define your future. Standing up when you were down is what you had to learn before you could walk. Hard times are awful. They are dark and spiritless, but they pass, and in passing you can change and become stronger. Hence the call to, Never give up, is worth remembering it helps you build resilience.
Our hero is the one with the stamina to stay the course.
A job is something we do to earn a living. It can define you, but it need not. All you really need in life is something to fill your days. Since I started these essays I hadn’t read more than I was required about philosophy. I figured it was beyond me to understand. What I did know? With the passing of time I think philosophy does have answers though.
Today’s writing was prompted by the death of Barry Capp. Barry was the chairman of the board of directors of this unlisted public company. It was a subsidiary of a British underwriter for corporate bad debts.
Before the stock market crash the job of director was a simple reward of sinecure to loyal old fellows. They were not expected to actually do anything but add gravitas to the company. The market crash made companies more aware someone had to carry the responsibility, The old boys no longer wanted a title if it might rebound on them, and from that moment the professional director was born. It became a job of importance for the non executive director to provide governance to company via the management team.
Accepting he had the courage needed Barry had taken a handful of similar directorships. Some hard – some easy, like our company. His managing director of us was Vic.
Our company had lots of clients but all of them came to the business through a handful of brokerages. Our competitor was a minnow but the brokers, desperate for new business in troubled times, were rejecting us in favour of our cheaper alternative. Vic decided if they wouldn’t remain loyal perhaps they might alter their mind if he offered some direct competition (me).
They did need us however because our company was the only one outside the government offering comfort on overseas sales – and they didn’t pay brokers a cracker. Hence the relationship was fraught, especially with me in the middle of domestic sales cover.
Many of the cogs in our business were women, with children, husbands, or parents that needed them to rush home after work to their domestic lives. On his way up in the company Vic used to invite all staff to remain, at work after knock off. It was compulsory so he could crow about how well the company had gone in the previous quarter. The longer he was MD the longer these after work meetings used to run. The secretarial staff (women) would get distressed the longer they stayed, counting missed train after train that could carry them to their after work life.
Barry and Vic turned the fortunes of our business around. Ultimately Vic was rewarded with the CEO’s job of the parent company. Barry served a few more years and he retired. When his death was announced there were messages of condolence from his old school and his family gave lovely tributes but not one of the companies he had saved from collapse remembered him.
There-in is my lesson. Despite all work being meaningful – at life’s end it is unlikely any place you spend your time working in will remember you. That is fair, because leader,or follower, the work you did was but a time filler. This is especially true if you were a cog in the business like the women Vic made stay after hours, or like Barry, Chairman of directors. Work for most of us is to make a living but it doesn’t make a life. Perhaps that is why the tributes to Barry, and in time his secretary, are not work related but measured in the loving words from the people that knew them. (Know you).
Since writing to you I have attempted to understand my life in relation to current events. I am glad I did not know of Michael de Montaigne and his essays on life until now because if I had I would not have had the courage to write to you. He did it so well.
Michael L was right to tell me not to worry.
Someone once wrote, You will receive the lessons you need when you need them.”
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
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
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.
This moment is the most symbolic one I have lived. You and I share this moment to think about how our lives are better because of the past. Reflection is the reverse of how we actually see things – so learn from it. (Your hair -for instance – is parted left or right. In reality whether it goes this way, or that, depends on which side of the mirror it is seen.) Any regrets we have are experiences of the past that have shaped us. Regret must not hold us forever in its grasp, for if it does, it is to die in loss. In my eighty years I have learned real happiness is found now, not when.
This thought was prompted from a list of possible regrets I just read. How you respond is something we might both learn from. Tell me what it has done for you. Thanks for stopping by.
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.)