The Refugee


The embarking passengers ran to the taxi rank and opened the door pausing just long enough to flick water from the rain soaked umbrella before they climbed into the cab. The driver, wearing a checked shirt embossed with the logo “13 cabs” on the collar asked, “Where to”? “Recital Centre Kavanagh Street South Melbourne”. The reply was sufficient information for the driver to perform a quick U -turn, taking advantage of the sudden break in the traffic. In the first two hundred metres the wheels bottomed out of every water filled pothole on the city road. Suddenly the female passenger cried, “Stop! I have lost Il Cannone Guarnerius. I thought you had it”, she wept to her male companion. “I have”, he calmly replied, as he flicked aside his overcoat and showed her the violin case resting on his lap. “That was close. Ok you can keep going”. The diver turned to her and asked, “When we get there can I play with you? You play? “First Violin in my homeland orchestra. I always have my Stradivarius with me, but since I came here as a refugee I have to drive this taxi”.


Image ref. Nanooze.com

No sound was made recording this scene. Tell me, what music best suits this scenario?

If you liked this piece then I hope you can find something else to like before you leave.

The things you can learn from a country girl.

Image Perth Now

I married a country girl. She was of the land. She knew things about the rural idyll that other girls didn’t. She knew, in the fog of the early morning, the cows welcomed the release they felt in their udders when she milked them. She knew the fruit trees with spring flowers meant there would be bottling jobs to do in the autumn. She also knew that when the grass dried out in the summertime the hay she helped store in the barn would smell sweet in depth of winter.

Her larder was used to store the bounty of the seasons for use where nothing much grew and the days were short. A full larder meant there was no need to starve at all in less plentiful times. And so we married.

Into our home marched the habits of a lifetime. To be even more correct, as she was only young, she bought with her the wisdom handed down to her by her generations who had learned the benefits of prudent living through bitter experiences. If life couldn’t be predicted, it was wise to, at least, prepare for contingencies unknown.

Thus, instead of the clock announcing it was dinner time, and the necessity for food to placed on the table becoming a scramble, her well established routine meant dinner appeared on time. At our place there was no need to rush to the supermarket it was all at hand. Our panty has always groaned with the ingredients of a gourmet’s kitchen.

Country living had prepared this woman to plan. So there was never any need to rush to a shop at the last minute because the odds were, if you did the shop would be closed when you most needed it to be open.

For over fifty-five years it has been that way. Before something is consumed the need for its replacement is recorded on a list, and the list is set aside ready for our next visit to the shops. In the early days of wedlock we shopped fortnightly. We we settled in suburbia the need was perhaps not necessary but we shopped weekly. We still do.


Our world is currently in turmoil because of the unknown direction it will take as countries around the globe prepare for the threatened pandemic of coronavirus. Already many countries have closed their borders to foreigners. There are obvious signs of xenophobia especially towards Chinese people. (As far as I can see, in these early days before a vaccine is formulated, the virus does not choose to infect one nationality before another.)

The resultant caution is upsetting global markets. This country is predicting -along with an unprecedented run of bushfires- there will be a reduction in business output. In turn this means it must – at some stage – be met with other reductions.

I have read our oil supplies – supposed to be equivalent to three months – would only be enough for nineteen days. This is less time than Mrs W sets aside for staples like flour at our place. At a pinch, if the need arose, she would be able to supplement other cereal powders instead of wheat for even a much longer period.

Countries, like this one, that rely on things like petroleum they no longer refine – need to spend a little time in the company of country girls if they are to weather unconsidered emergencies unscathed.

An haiku sextet on a theme

Credits. Devlin boats

Jelly Fish

In February

Blue bottles tease wave surfers

Riding last warm breaks


Lemon Pud

Warm lemon sago

Cooked as tapioca

Our staple dessert


Privacy Please

Frosted front doors hide

The intent of residents

No need for coyness


Power Usage

Darkened hallway lit

Daylight hours by skylight saves

electricity


Age

Inactive old blood

And elastin less skin veils none

Of the life well lived.


Gems

Never girls best friend

Sardonyx will open the eyes

asking less young lassie


These lines are written on the same theme. Fat fingers (mine) have eliminated them from a competition. The enjoyment I had on writing them is why I have posted them here.

Thank you for reading this far. Now let me know what you thought.

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.

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.

In the crowd

Courtesy St John’s Church of England

Can you read about the life of a person by looking at their face? When you sit in a public space and you look about do you wonder who the people around you are? I do, and I search their faces to see what I can make of them from looking. None seem to notice my inquiry. The odds are if they are sitting they will not be doing anything else but looking into the screen of their phone. If they are on their feet they may be on some purposeful mission but many will be blissfully unaware others share the space with them.

In 1888 the child who became my grandfather was born. The rumour is he was born into the home of a public servant in the municipality Governor Phillip first called Rose Hill. By the time he was born it was called Parramatta. His parents names are an unanswered question to the family. Some members of the family have attempted to research his past but no one can yet claim certainty they have the whole truth for he was abducted as a child.

His abductor was the woman he grew to love and whom he called mum for about a third of his life. She was his nurse until she stole him away from his family home and disappeared into the neighbouring state of Victoria. She eventually settled with him in the forests of Gippsland. I am uncertain when she left New South Wales and whether she was married or not. Mrs Hartman was indeed married at some point to Mr Hartman. She continued to work in service to other families and Grandpa worked as a timber worker in the forests around Woori Yallock. The work he did in the isolated forests was to cut down trees. The timber he cut became railway sleepers used on the rail tracks that spider-web like spread across the state from Melbourne

Eventually she became a legitimate mother to other children but she was not my grandfather’s natural mother. I know this because he eventually changed his surname back to the name of his father. The truth emerged when he announced, to his parents, he was getting married. His mother confessed to him his past was not all he knew about himself when the Banns to his marriage was announced.

A fit young man, because of his work, he won the first underhand wood chop at the Royal Melbourne Show as Alex Hartman. He won many more magnificently ornate pieces of Victorian silverware in other similar competitors. By the time his firstborn child, Evelyn my mother, was christened as Hartman-Mason, he was entirely uncertain of his past. Known to everyone as Alex he had also recognised he was born James Fredrick Mason. He fathered seven more children and by the time the last, the twins, were born he had dropped the Hartman altogether. My mother, on the other hand was Hartman-Mason until she married. At that stage her wedding certificate named her Mason.

The life of a labourer is difficult. Like many of his kind during the Great Depression this fit man, just past his fortieth birthday, could not find work locally. It meant leaving home early on a Monday morning with something to sustain him and rough sleeping each evening after an often fruitless search for am itinerant job. By that stage he had qualified as a power monkey as the person in charge of blasting with explosives. This meant he did get a job, for a period, working on the Great Ocean Road at some stage.

Later on he returned to full time work in that job at the Cave Hill lime mills owned by the family of David Mitchell. Father of Nellie Melba.

Despite his hard physical labour he was a man who weathered the ups and downs of fortune. One of the downs was the compulsory acquisition of some land he owned near the road to Lilydale. Government policy at the time was to acquire whatever property they needed without paying the actual market rate. Thus the acquisition was a big blow to his financial security.

At another time land he had purchased for development was sold before it was exploited to assist a son, imprisoned in Bruma by the Japanese for three years during WW11, resettle on a Returned Soldiers Property in the Mallee. This was a further setback that he did not dwell upon.

The old man I knew as a child taught himself to swim in order to qualify as the local swimming pool manager. He built himself a shed. He pottered about with bees and chickens. He loved the twice daily paper and magazines deliveries. He was a big strong man used to his own company until he was hospitalised with a brain tumour in the last weeks of his life.

At one stage, many years after his abduction, he did get in touch with his Sydney family. Their response was, a child was abducted many years ago, however we don’t want to know you because you could be an imposter. With modern science it would be possible to easily prove my relationship with the other family today. I could not be bothered. No one in the extended family has an inclination to restart that search today. We all prefer to remember this tragic story as an interesting anecdote in the life of a relative.

He died on 3/9/1965. Today a stained glass window in St John’s church Lilydale is dedicated to the lives of both my maternal grandparents.

The person sitting beside you on the train. The one you see at the bus stop. The noisy person next door – has a life with a history. Mostly it will be mundane. The colour of a life is not always easily seen. To discover the interesting roles another plays allows you to appreciate the unseen life.