I turned, As passed me by An unknown sight, With flashing lights, Painted contours, Sirens Screaming, Accents stilted, A debutante queen Draped in crinoline. As black-tied men Pretend to care Importance springs From formal wear. When we all know A line of print Makes impressions When words remain crisp, Or seem confusing If short twisted tones Really haughtily give, “She passed me by”, Coquette Lynette The perfect subject From way back when As opening lines — Such nonsense sprang — “I turned as passed Me by”, and love Was yet an alien.
I met with “H” again this week. He asked if I was still blogging. On learning I still type he recited these words he wrote about 15 year old Lynette 70 years ago.
“I turned as passed me by an unknown sight”.
He said he had started an Ode to Lynette and never finished it and asked I could. I have tried. Now friends it is your turn. This is my challenge. Can you finish the lines “H” started back in 1951? It can be your gift to give him another idea of how his lines should end.
“I turned as passed me by an unknown sight”
Print your poem on your page and send me your link in the reply box. It will make “H” young again to see what you can do.
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.”
Billy Bunter was the child subject of a comic character of my childhood. Billy wore glasses. He was overweight. His character did not represent more than one child in our very large instructional class. Even if there was one child in our class which was overweight the child wearing glasses was in a different year level. Due to our limited vocabulary the overweight child was called “Fatty”. The one wearing glasses we named “Four Eyes.”
Nicknames were a popular way of labelling classmates. I was named after the cartoon bird “Woody Wood Pecker”, because it had a semblance to my surname and the my hair stuck out like a wood pecker’s crest because it was strong and unyielding. Variously the name was shortened to Woody or Pecker and I wore either of these names until I left school at 18. From that age the people calling me these names have just faded from my life.
Over the years it became improper to single people out and label them according to some attribute they showed the world. (At least politically incorrect language is now frowned upon in polite society.). In my experience children have always been cruel to one another at name calling.. They possibly are today, after all, left to self-management they possibly still resemble the characters in Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. (I remember “Piggy” as an adorable little chap who was given a hard time by his fellow travellers).
Piggy, Fatty, Four Eyes, Bluey and Spud are common cruel names. Spoken with malice they were supposed to hurt. I am sure they did/do. The child with resilience able to struggle past the hurt may at some later stage in life be embraced by his peers for some innate skill he possesses – while those who have injured him, now admire a hidden talent . Then the slur of the nickname is worn with pride, however the damage done by the many to the few always hurts.
As a young man I was slight and athletic no one would – even in jest- call me Fatty. Over time I became sturdy, round and today my BMI label says I am obese. I have become Fatty.
This fatty grew old and invisible. It happened sometime in my sixties. I began to notice I could walk around in mixed company and no one noticed I was there. When I had settled into my septuagenarian years I entered a water aerobics class in Torquay. (Water aerobics is a gentle exercise older women take up in an aquatics pool in my neighbourhood). So as not to draw attention to myself I went to the class with my wife and hid away in a corner of the pool at the back of the class. Initially I was very self-conscious and concerned the class members possibly disliked a male in their midst. Fortunately many of the women had accepted another Bruce before I even started, so being male was nothing more than being a novelty. In time Lloyd would occasionally join our group and together we beat the water into submission. (I wish.)
Seven years later I report my classmates accept we all attend the class for fitness. The name Water Aerobics is not a misnomer. I puff, pant, and gasp for air because it is a very energetic aerobic workout. Being in a warm pool it is as easy as you like, but at the same time water is as hard as cement to move when the speed of your movements increase. It induces fitness. At the end of class I feel worn out yet exhilarated.
The only times we have missed these sessions are holiday periods and our recent lockdown. In those off periods I balloon. When I return to the pool and concentrate on my core my shape is more manageable. As a result I miss not going. To return and face the hard work of pulling myself back from obese to look overweight requires stamina. Consequently have learned not to look at the clock when I miss a week. The 45 minute sessions seem to go on for hours if I dare peep.
It is so hard to return to fitness I look for a pool whenever we are away. During the first year or so of these lessons we were on the road and we stopped in Moree. It was a novelty to hop into the Artesian Swimming Baths. The water is in six large pools. The temperature varies in each one – from 40 degrees down to air temperature. It is common to see lots of old Victorians up there in the water. The advice is not to linger in the hottest pool for more than 15 minutes, yet the hardened old travellers seem to be happy to sit motionless in the water like buffaloes for hours. When I jumped in I used some of the aerobic moves to strengthen my core – the wizened regulars were aghast someone dared move the water for 15 minutes. Mind – it was very challenging to go from that temperature to the water of a regular out door pool.
Our body shape seems more related to genes than it does to diet, (excluding the influence of hidden sugar). People of all races seem damned when a likeness for sugar ruins their regular diets. Friend Lyn says it depends on calories in verses energy output. She is right of course nevertheless my inclination is to go with my first statement. I only seem to fight obesity whenever my weight increases by a kilogram or so otherwise I lay down the gloves and that is my prejudice.
Overweight kids are so common in this decade being the class “Fatty” is no longer rare. I pine for those wishing to change their lot and recommend Water Aerobics for the day when they want to change their future. At least they will build up their core muscle strength.
“Drive my car”. When the Beatles sang this song I had been driving for years despite the fact that like most families at the time we didn’t own a car. Driving was something I learned to do without any formal training. My test was to drive up a gentle rise and park the car on a flat section of the road. After answering about ten road questions and paying a small fee I walked out with my licence to kill.
In recent years I got involved with a state based program that matches learner drivers with mentors. The car is supplied by a local car dealer and the fuel is paid for from group resources. Learner drivers cannot take the wheel until they have passed a rigorous road rules test. Then they must learn to drive in the company of a licensed driver.
Most learners get their initial logged driver training from professionals. After that they will drive the family car under the supervision of a family member, or friend. The program I was involved with was to help kids coming from homes like mine where there is no car, or like Ellen who is a twin and her mum could not supervise both children in time for them to qualify as drivers at the same time.
These learner drivers had to commit to work with their mentors until they had accumulated one hundred and twenty hours of supervised driving. I got a buzz when my trainees got their licence but as time went on I found each new trainee more difficult than the last. They would cancel appointments without notice. They eventually tested my observational skills as I was dependent on their ability to follow instructions because I had no control over the vehicle, unlike the professional instructor has. In the end I decided I was no longer capable to continue.
Before I resigned from the program I injured my leg, however the real reason is my driver nearly had an accident on a roundabout whilst I was in the car supervising.. The driver did not see a car they had to give way to on this roundabout with its two lanes of traffic.
I gave the instructions to drive forward when the road was clear but by the time the learner moved conditions had changed. I estimated it would have been more dangerous to instruct a stop than to continue, so we continued upsetting the another driver no end. The learner had no understanding of what had happened but I was spooked. So I retired unhurt.
When our own children were learning to drive, traffic on the roads was lighter. More importantly my reflexes were better and my instructions were repeated over and over. By the time we got to our second driver what was said has passed into family folklore. Blinking, blinking, blinking, turning, turning, turning, and most importantly, stopping, stopping, STOP! These instructions I repeated at every intersection, ad nausea.
Now it is Charlie’s turn to learn to drive. His father has told him he is a good driver forty hours into his training. As an attentive young fellow it is unlikely his father will have to repeat the family mantra blinking, blinking etc.
Fortunately today motor cars are more reliable, and fortunately for us all much safer. When Charlie is told to brake the disc brakes in the car he drives will not overheat and fail as they frequently did when they were simple drum brakes.
Cars are safer than they have ever been yet people still die on our roads. No matter how busy the roads are it shouldn’t be a condition of driving for some people to die on our roads.
Let me backtrack a little. Previously most cars were manual. It required coordination and skill to change gears manually before the introduction of the synchronisation of the gears. When that was sorted most cars had bench seats in the front. This meant designers were forced to put the gear stick on the steering wheel column. This arrangement required a certain dexterity for the driver to select any gear because to do so required lots of unnecessary linkages from the gearbox to the steering wheel. It required all moving parts to move as required.
While the driver was doing this the foot had to find the clutch without seeing where the foot was. At night the driver will have had to use the left foot to dip the headlights, very often, at the same time. Often these foot pedals were at different levels and crashes occurred. People were hurt and maimed, and some were killed.
By 1970 Victoria recorded 1061 deaths on the road in the year. The government and the press joined forces to introduce better road safety. The first move was to legislate the introduction of compulsory seat belts. This was the first place in the world to pass such a law.
Racing car drivers were very familiar with the improved safety the lap sash belts gave them at the wheel. One motoring writer and race driver assisted in promoting their use. In 1973 Peter Wherret started a TV program on cars called Torque. This program and Peter did much to improve road cars. A most popular car in 1976 was the HJ Holden Premier. He claimed the power of the car was impossible to stop given the car had calliper brakes only on the rear wheels. These “Kingswood” cars were removed from production in 1980 partly because of his program.
In the forty years since 1980 the death toll in Victoria has dropped significantly. In part it is due to legislation. The introduction of drink driving rules. Much better safety features in cars including: better tyres, better brakes, better seats, better vision, better everything including side protection and air curtains. The government has made better roads and road signage. Most importantly it has much better pre- driver training.
When I started to drive I had less than two hours of experience on the roadways before I drove solo. (I had hours of experience at slow speeds driving tractors and farm trucks but, on reflection I had no experience of traffic or handling a vehicle at speed before I drove on the roads.)
By the time Charlie has his licence he will have driven on city and country roads, on wet days and dry ones. He will have driven at night, in the morning traffic, and any other conditions that pop up. He knows drugs and alcohol are forbidden, and if he should be so silly as to drive and text the fines are horrendous.
In these days of autonomous vehicles we need smarter drivers unlike at any time before. Stay safe on the roads Charlie. Be a good driver and never think you are the best because even the best drivers can unexpectedly be injured by the worst. Too many people are killed each year on our roads – even today.
Our granddaughter turned thirteen today. Born into the electronic age she vlogs. She makes musical videos on tictoc. She loves to cook cakes. Actually she bakes all things sweet. Her school holds many extracurricular activities to develop in her life long things to be interested in. She has tried almost all popular sports. Now she now plays netball. Hers is a privileged life. As yet she has no other responsibilities to perform after school. Her life does not easily compare to the life my sisters lived at her age. Unsurprisingly, as I am male and grew up in an age of male privilege, it does not compare to my upbringing at the same age .
My mother, like many mothers of her era, thought the best way to ensure her children did not get into trouble was to make sure we were always busy. “Idle hands are the devils workshop.” In other words being busy meant we couldn’t get up to mischief. After school we each had domestic duties we were expected to perform. Speaking for myself, it was my job to fill the woodbox which sat undercover outside the kitchen door every day after school. That was because nearly all the cooking done in there was done on a wood fired cooker. When firewood was needed inside instead of walking all the way to the wood heap it meant the cook only walking a few steps to the door and back to replenish the fuel. If the wood box was full.
The other job I had was to separate the cream from the milk after either of my parents milked our cow, or cows. (At one stage we had three cows.) Our separator was a centrifugal de Laval machine. To separate one had to assemble the previously washed pieces of the machine and turn a crank handle by hand at a given speed just as raw milk flowed from the small vat into it. The heavy counter-piece that did all the work had about thirty parts and most of these were (my name for them) the gills. The milk dropped in to the bottom of the centerpiece and because of centrifuge the lighter part of the milk, the skim milk flowed out of one hole swiftly, and the heavier cream came out another. The job was not done until the parts were disassembled and washed ready for next time. Thrice weekly the cream went off to the butter factory. We fed the skim milk to the calves twice a day.
Jobs were only part of the process of keeping my idle hands busy. I was also involved with the scouting movement from my last years at primary school until I finished secondary school at 18. Scouting was something most boys tried sometimes, either as Cubs, or Scouts. The skills we learned were of survival, and civic importance. We learned to tie knots once used on land and sea to sail boats. We learned semaphore, or Morse code, as a means to send messages. We were often outside so we learned about the stars and navigation. Additionally we learned to cook and darn and manage ourselves. Chiefly it prepared boys for leadership and responsibility.
I thoroughly enjoyed the scouting movement. Perhaps it was attrition, perhaps it was abilities I learned from regular attendance but I rose through the ranks from a Tenderfoot (a newbie) to a Patrol leader (leader of a tent full of kids) to a Troop Leader, (head kid). I also enjoyed earning the achievement badges of the association, (first aid, cooking, etc) and the different badges of responsibility. up to Queens Scout. (Never got there.) ((Attrition came about because kids left school to work on their parents farms or to to take up apprenticeships from age 14. Very few of the boys that started school with me had six years at secondary schooling.) ((Mum was determined that each of us would get a good grounding at school before we left as she had been required to during the Depression.)))
While at primary school like many families we spent Sunday at church. I went to Sunday School. Mum was a Sunday school teacher so it was hard to avoid that part of my upbringing. It wasn’t so different from other kids though because in almost every house in every street on Sunday everybody dressed in their Sunday best clothes and went to church A,B,C, or D. It was like this in almost every town in the White Australian Christian culture I matured into in the mid nineteen fifties.
When I had almost finished school I spent a whole year, with other youth leaders, being instructed one night a week learning about sports and games promoted by the National Fitness Council of Australia. In our country town where Australian Rules football, Cricket and Tennis dominated as sports for men, netball and tennis the games women, and old folk played golf, bowls, and croquet, it was interesting to learn other sports were played across the globe.
We had ball lessons on volleyball, badminton, soccer, rugby and a host of other sports and games designed to get people moving.
On reflection it seems strange I spent time learning about sport. I had little aptitude for ball games, (apart from golf) and no interest in sport generally (except running) and no interest in team games because I was and remain basically a loner. (An observation pointed out to me when I applied for training as a teacher.) Over time the vague interest I had in sport has all but dimmed to be of no interest whatsoever to me. The little I do know is to allow myself a conversation starter when silence erupts whenever I am in a group.
In late secondary school I did what many of my peers did as well and joined a junior youth group at church. For me it was the young Anglican fellowship (YAF). The Presbyterians had an equivalent body the PFA. The Methodists had theirs and the Catholics had the YCW. Among other things we organised dances, and visited dances organised by the other groups as well.
My school days were very busy and at no time did my thoughts or actions lead me off the rails to crime, or gambling, or girls. Much to my mother’s relief. I was just plain daggy, not nerdy as the word would not have fitted had it been invented. Daggy is a title given to someone awkward and clumsy as in the comic character Dagwood, found in the comic, “Blondie.”
I know my mother was terrified I might run off the rails if I had nothing to do, and I suspect she thought the same applied to her daughters as well. She became a leader of the Girl Guides to prevent them from failing at a time she needed them for my sisters. She took up tennis for the same reason and frequently she would take them off to the tennis court to wear them out before school. I really took no notice of what else my sisters got up to because of her fear but I am sure they too had plenty to do as they were growing up as well.
As I have remembered this it is so very dissimilar to my life when I compare it to that of Georgia at thirteen. She now has 450 followers of her vlog. Imagining this is well on the way to being a million she behaves as a twenty year old influencer already. I have no idea of the person she will become. Except it is obvious already it is as a woman confident in her own skin. I reckon that is ideal. Go G.
These reflections are written without a theme in mind. Perhaps they might one day be used to hear my voice from the grave. However they are received is unimportant to me. Just follow me and I might say something that resonates with you. Thanks for reading this far.