I remember hearing stories when I was a child, of desperate people fleeing from the Hungarian Revolution. In later years, it was sometimes claimed that Australia’s acceptance of these Hungarian asylum seekers may have had more to do with economic, rather than humanitarian reasons. Nevertheless, some 14,000 Hungarians were welcomed into Australia in the 1950s.
Some years later, after the horrendous Vietnam conflict, in the decade from 1975, Australia ‘rescued’ and welcomed 90,000 Vietnamese refugees.
Fairly recent Government sources claim that, since World War 2, Australia has accepted 645,000 refugees: Asylum seekers.
But, now things have changed.
Desperate people who have boarded unseaworthy vessels in an attempt to find safety in Australia are now put into life-boats which the Australian Navy tows back to refugee camps in Indonesia. These are people who are fleeing persecution from the most horrific conditions of war and torture. But we offer neither solace, nor asylum. Our hearts have turned to stone.
Any asylum seekers who do reach Australia’s shores are subsequently shipped out and housed in tent-filled hell-holes in other countries, such as PNG, with little chance of being settled here (or anywhere).
When frustration led to a riot breaking out last week in one of these concentration camps (I use the term purposely) many people were injured – by ‘guards’ and (it seems) local residents - and one young man was killed by a savage blow to the back of his head. His name was Reza Barati. This all happened ‘on Australia’s watch’ and the politicians of both sides are scrambling to maintain that the right approach to ‘deal with’ asylum seekers is still being achieved.
I do not have the words to express my horror at what occurred on Manus Island, but would like to share the words, (as spoken by Richard Flanagan) in a speech, that began on the subject of ‘Love Stories’..
Please read some of Richard’s words, if you can:
'Crowded into love stories between the discovery of ourselves in others and of others in ourselves, we glimpse something else, a boat, and on the boat, jammed between the polytarp thrown over the shivering, the sunburnt and the silent, caught between the briny largeness of the sea and the sky, terrifying and hopeful, breathing in the nauseating oily drifts of diesel fumes, stands a tall 23-year-old Iranian called Reza Barati who dares dream that freedom and safety will soon be his as the boat approaches the Australian territory of Christmas Island.
But the sky darkens, the idea cannot hold, the ocean shimmers and transforms into something terrible, and all that remains of that dream for Reza Barati is a white plastic chair he now holds up in front of him, seeking to ward off the inexplicable blows of machetes and bullets and boots – a white plastic chair, all that a rich nation that prides itself on a fair go, on its largeness of spirit, has left for Reza Barati to defend his life against those who have now come to kill him.
In this desert of silence that now passes for our public life, a silence only broken by personal vilification of anyone who posits an idea opposed to power, it is no longer wise for a public figure to express concern about a society that sees some human beings as no longer human; a society that has turned its back on those who came to us for asylum – that is, for freedom, and for safety. And so, with our tongues torn we are expected to agree with the silence, with the lies, and with the murder of Reza Barati.'
people have no imagination.
If they could imagine
sufferings of others,
they would not make them suffer
German WW1 Soldier and Playwright
I am now in the fortunate position (currently living in sub-tropical Australia) of owning a backyard swimming pool. I swim in it a couple of times a week; sometimes only floating around lazily, keeping cool and relaxed, at other times trying out the almost lost (to me) art of breast-stroke. Of course it’s still summer here right now. Not sure if, even in this warm clime, I’ll be swimming during winter months. I suspect not.
I have memories of childhood times when, although not living in a tropical location, the summers were very hot and there were very few home pools around.
As children, my siblings and I had to be content with ‘playing under the hose’, which meant setting up a hose-sprinkler of some sort and running in and out of the spray. Yes, it cooled us, but there was always the chance of a nasty water fight or a slipping-on-wet-grass accident.
Oh, how we longed for a pool.
The only pool we could swim in meant a walk, a short train ride, parting with a few pence and sharing a public pool with another few hundred kids.
My older sister and I used to visit this pool occasionally. That we (non-swimmers) survived is a small wonder.
Here’s a memory from a public pool visit one day (me, aged about 10):
After spending days watching kids dive into the pool off the edge, I decided that I knew how to enact a ‘racing dive’ satisfactorily. It was a false assumption. But off I went: launched myself into some sort of airborne configuration and landed splat in one of the most painful belly-whackers ever. Although it probably looked as though I hit the surface in a similar way a body would, face down, hit a wooden floor, I actually did go under the water and, on surfacing, despite the pain and stinging, I tried to execute a dignified swim or lunge towards the side of the pool.
I had not counted on the blood that was streaming from both nostrils as a result of the impact. I nearly cleared the pool that day and the looks of horror and the laughter that rang in my ears made me give up any thought of diving again.
But I’m such a great, great deal older now and, even if someone did look over the fence today and have a laugh at my swimming attempts – in my own pool - I wouldn’t care.
Would I have had a deeper appreciation of having a back yard pool when I was ten, than now? Probably, but it's still very nice.
There’s a lot of talk lately in the news about teacher quality and teacher training and what makes a good teacher, which has led me into some sort of reverie about my teaching days - now long gone - but teaching days that somehow still seem to be a part of my life.
I retain so many memories of children I have taught: from the bright-eyed, intelligent and beautiful to the difficult, troublesome and rough-around-the edges rebels.
From the funny times and the sad times; busy times and
even busier times. Days when I could have a little smile with the child who asked for help to spell ‘zeum’, because he knew how to spell ‘new’, after he visited the museum. Or the little boy who asked how to spell BMX, so he could write about his new bike. Memories of children who grew into adults with amazing careers and one who didn’t get much past secondary school before crashing a car into a tree and ending a life that was once buoyant and full of promise. (read my account, “Harry’s Story” in the non-fiction section).
Just a few of my memories. It is perhaps only now that I realise what a privilege it was to be part of so many children’s lives – each one for a year at least. I can only hope that I did well in the task set before me.
Warning! Sorry, rant ahead:
How much money would a corporation make to ‘deserve’ a cash (!) tax rebate of $880,000,000? That’s an enormous
amount of money for anything, let alone a rebate given to an
ever-so-obscenely-wealthy corporation like that run by Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Limited & the media conglomerate, News Corporation, publishers of (oft times, execrable) publications such as the now defunct News Of The World recently disgraced by the phone acking scandal.
And now the Australian government, courtesy of the Australian tax payers, has had to foot this exorbitant bill!
I simply don’t get it.
Right now, there is a G 20 Summit being held in Sydney with finance honchos from around the world, discussing how to keep countries afloat financially. Some finance ministers are concentrating on how to keep “big business” operating successfully in their country. But often, it seems, it is the “big business” people who are the ones ripping off the ordinary tax-paying
citizens by reducing their (big business) tax load to almost nil. They are clever, those accountants and tax experts, employed by the likes of Rupert Murdoch and James Packer.
Australia’s treasurer is suggesting solutions to ‘Economic Reform’ such as raising the retirement age to 70 (make the oldies work longer!), creating looser work place laws (make it easier for
employers to work their employees harder for less), reducing red tape (make it easier for the unscrupulous to break tax laws) and many other measures that will affect the ordinary ‘Joe and Joanna Blow’ working man and woman.
But is that where big money can really be ‘saved’?
While the wealthy business magnates and their financial wizards discover ever more complex - though (just) legal - ways to minimise (or obliterate) tax bills, it is reported that TRILLIONS of dollars are stashed away in off-shore tax havens. That’s TRILLIONS, not even BILLIONS
and certainly not measly millions, but TRILLIONS.
The ultra-wealthy, banks and corporations from around the globe have some $32 trillion of wealth hidden in off-shore tax havens, according to a cache of information leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.(as at April, 2013).
It’s an unimaginable amount for the common folk to try and understand.
And yet, it’s the common folk who are the ones who are chased for every little dollar
and who are carefully honest in their declarations of income.
There is something wrong with the system and yet it’s a system that will never be set right as long as governments are subservient to the mighty dollar controlled by the moneyed few.
Someone has to say it.
I have a problem with the ‘participation’ certificate,
where all children receive a ribbon or a certificate after a sports day or other activity.
Kids count up their ‘awards’ at the end of the day, realise that they are meaningless, as everyone else has the same amount, and the ‘awards’ are chucked away or disregarded. Are we not able to acknowledge a child’s ability when it is better than average? I’m talking here about all activities, including music and literary skills as well as sporting ability.
Some schools do have awards that state “First”, “Second”,
“Third” but then also a “Participation” certificate or ribbon that looks almost indistinguishable from the ‘real’ awards. I guess that’s a step up from a general participation award for everyone. But I still see nothing wrong with awarding excellence.
Another “award’ story.
Way back in about 2000, I was working as a relief teacher for a class of 5 – 6 year olds on the day of the school’s “Cross Country Run”. The children had been practising for a couple of weeks, exercising and running around the course, which was really just the nearby sports oval. (They were only little kids). They had also been told about‘rules’ about eating on their special big-run day. They knew that lunch would be eaten early – and hour before the run, so that their tummies would have time to digest the food and also that the food would provide part of their energy resource for the run. (A little science lesson).
Excitement reined and most of the little children wore sports shorts and running sneakers, ready for the big event. (Early) lunch-time arrived and the children fetched their lunch boxes and sat at their tables to eat.
In the class that I was allocated, there was one very large (read, obese) child called Ben. Ben had no lunch to bring into the room. On asking him about this, he stated that his mother was bringing it to school when she came to watch the run. I asked him if he had reminded Mum that lunch was early on this day, (There had been a note to parents). He assured me that she would be at school soon.
We waited and waited for Ben’s Mum. All the other kids had finished their lunch and were busily occupied with writing and drawing about their expectations of the day - and parents were arriving to watch the spectacle, when a flustered Ben’s Mum arrived. She brought with her a large
steaming parcel of deep fried fish and chips to share with Ben. I gently tried to explain that, as the race was due to start in about 10 minutes’ time, it would be advisable to let Ben eat only a tiny portion of his lunch now and leave the rest until later.
“Oh, he’ll be right,” was her response. “He loves his fish and chips.” (I could tell that he and Mum both enjoyed fish and chips).
As we started to leave the room for the start of the run, Ben and his mother continued to shove soggy food into their mouths as if their lives depended upon it.
Needless to say, Ben’s attempt at running the course was an unmitigated disaster. He was half a course behind all the other children in his class; he was hot, stressed and weeping, by the time he reached the finish.
But his mother had anticipated this and brought out a huge blue ribbon rosette (at least 10 times bigger than the small (participation!) ribbons given to the other kids). In the centre of the rosette,
Ben’s mother had written “Mum’s Champion”.
I’m not sure if Ben was impressed or not, but it made him stand out even more and I could have wept for a child who was heading for disappointment and unhappiness as the kids in his class already treated him as an oddity – which he was in a way, thanks to a well-meaning but misguided mother.
But I have been carried away by recalling that day and have diverged from the first topic of this blog, which was really a bit of a rant.
So, in ending, may I add one of my favourite (teaching) quotes, which gives an indication of what I am trying to say about rewarding children for what they do and how hard they try - and when they really succeed:
“Students float to the mark you set.” Mike Rose (professor, school of Ecucation, UCLA)
As much as I would like to post another blog about dogs I have known, I am too distracted by the horrors of some things that are happening in our world today. In Australia the demonisation of asylum seekers continues to a point that is beyond cruel as refugee ‘detainees’ sent to the hell-hole that is Manus Island have been beaten and terrorised by those who are supposed to be caring for them. (Read about it – and don’t be misled by the weasel words of the government spokesmen).
Meanwhile members of the UN Human Rights Council have declared that they are convinced of “unspeakable atrocities” being carried out in North Korea and it seems that no-one will be able to rectify this abominable situation.
So, George Orwell was right. Only he didn’t know his ‘predictions’ would come about in 2014
“Do you not begin to see, then, what kind of world it is we are creating? A world of fear and treachery, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world that will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.” (George Orwell, 1984.)
However, on tonight’s tv news there was a story about a dog whose front legs had been damaged and someone had paid $1,000 to have a special set of wheel made for him and imported from USA. So, I suppose all is well.
(Above picture, courtesy of Banksy)
PS; On a lighter note, check out a new blog by a young person, writing about his (brief) experience in a Chinese Restaurant. www.rustyopinions.weebly.com
In my last blog I told the story of Chappie and Matilda and it became more than a blog entry. I possibly should have placed it among my non-fiction (longer) tales. I suppose I was carried away with the memories of my time with the dogs. (Of course, we still have Matilda and she remains a good little dog).
After writing that piece I found other, almost forgotten, dog memories appearing in my mind and I have included one from my childhood in the 'From My Memoir' section as it is, indeed, from my memoir. Please see if you can find it there. It's called 'Janie'.
One day, a few years ago, I met a little rough-haired Jack Russell dog. His owner had died and he had no one to care for him and, well, he looked at me and I looked at him and the next thing we knew, he was ours.
We called him Chappie.
Chappie was a good looking, young and very lively little dog. We let him come inside whenever he wished. We installed a two-way ‘doggie flap’ in the door and made him part of the family. But he loved to chew things; anything that wasn’t nailed down or hidden away securely was fair game. Mats and hats and socks and jocks - and scarves and gloves and cushions and chair legs and anything else he fancied were bitten, chewed and sometimes taken outside and destroyed by his strong teeth.
We bought him special dog toys, which he loved, but which he also wrecked in quick time.
‘Get another dog’ was the universal advice from people who‘knew about dogs’ and their needs and behaviour. ‘He’ll be fine, with another dog to keep him company and play with.’
So, we bought another dog – this time a sweet little Cavoodle puppy (a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle) and called her Matilda.
Did Matilda teach Chappie how to behave? Did Matilda provide Chappie with companionship to keep him occupied, and to stop him chewing and wrecking the place? Did she show him good dog manners? Absolutely not!
It was Chappies who taught Matilda all the naughty things. She was tiny, but she was a quick learner.
Now we had two dogs to chew the furniture and our belongings.
And then they began escaping.
I had affixed metal name tags on their collars with our phone number engraved. And soon it was a daily occurrence that I would receive calls to tell me someone had found two dogs - and were they mine?
The fences around our property were reinforced and wired to Fort Knoxstandard and still they escaped. They burrowed like badgers under the fence; they climbed like army recruits on obstacle courses, to get over the fence.
They chased after rabbits and cattle and came home filthy.
When I put them on leashes to take them for walks, my shoulders were strained to breaking point to keep them in check. My arms ached and my walking took on a manic look as people called out to me, ‘Who’s taking who for a walk?’
As Matilda grew, the two of them occasionally stayed at home and played tug-o-war with one or other of the toys we had bought them, or even with a scarf they had found inside. The dog-flap door constantly flew open and closed as they ran in and out of the house.
Phew! It was Mayhem!
One day there was an unusual quiet and I imagined they had escaped once more. On looking out of the window to check that they had, indeed, run off, I was surprised to see them having a game, with Chappie pulling Matilda around and around.
On closer inspection, I realised that it was not a game, but that Chappie had caught one of his big eye teeth (fang, really) in Matilda’s collar and was trying to unhitch it. As he was ding so, he was tightening Matilda’s collar around her little neck. By the time I reached them, she was unconscious. It was difficult to undo her collar and release Chappie, but I eventually managed to free him and then saw that Matilda’s eyes had rolled back into her head and realised that she was not breathing.
What to do?
I began by rolling her from side to side and then faced the fact that there was only one procedure that might have a chance of bringing her back to life: Mouth to mouth resuscitation.
I did not put my mouth directly on hers, but made a hollow fist through which to blow.
Remembering that she was only the size of a baby, I didn’t blow very hard and also supplemented this with some chest compression – being careful to use two fingers, as you would for a baby. After what seemed a long time, Matilda’s eyes flickered and she made a strange noise. I rolled her from side to side a few more times and she took a breath.
Her gums were white and her eyes were bulging, but she was alive. She spent the night in the vet’s surgery and by morning all was well again.
Life resumed almost as usual. I left Matilda’s collar off for a week or so, except when she was on the leash. And the rough house
behaviour - and the escaping - began in earnest once more.
The day came when I had to face the fact that these two dogs were never going to be ‘good’ family pets and the decision was made to send Chappie away to live with another family in a country town far away from us. (Yes, with the vet’s help we found a family who really wanted him. That we ‘sent him away’ is not a euphemism for ‘you-know-what’).
Matilda settled down to be a non-escaping, happy little
dog, who most probably misses her lively friend. But she will probably live
longer without him. And, come to think of it – so will I.
Last week I went to an art gallery, showing the work of
artist and sculptor, Cai Guo-Qiang. Among his work lay an immense, several-hundred-year-old eucalypt tree that (although dead) had been ‘rescued’ (roots and all) from land that was being cleared for residential development. As the guide spoke of the meanings of this beautiful (but dead) tree - as a statement and work of art - she spoke of all the spiritual symbolism associated with trees: the tree of life, the family tree, the tree of the cross, the strength of a tree and so on. I almost called out, ‘What about the tree of Peace’? before I realised that the song (or is it a hymn?) is no longer heard.
The last verse of the hymn (I’m now sure it’s a hymn) is unforgettable:
‘Then shall all shackles fall; the stormy clangor
Of wild war music o’er the earth shall cease;
Love shall tread out the baleful fire of anger,
And in its ashes plant the tree of peace.’
Later that day I realised that school children no longer sing the words of ‘The Strangest Dream’, that goes something like this:
Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever had before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
to put an end to war…’
Later still, I remembered the unforgettable banner held aloft in the musical, ‘HAIR’, way back in the 60s, that read, ‘Fighting for peace is like f---ing for chastity’
My sentiments entirely. But that was long ago, in what was termed ‘the Age of Aquarius’, when people were becoming weary of war (in Vietnam) and pinning their hopes on the ‘new age’.
But now, all that is forgotten – just like the songs and hymns of Peace – and war is being raged in many parts of the world over ideologies and (sometimes) for inexplicable reasons.
The last verse (I have just found in a music book) of The Strangest Dream, goes:
‘And the people in the streets below
were dancing ‘round and ‘round
and swords and guns and uniforms
were scattered on the ground.’
Last night I had the strangest dream……
And, as the Beatles said, ‘All you need is love’.
Sorry, this is going to be boring, but just had to write
something about it.
I recently re-discovered the badge I gained when
attending Burwood Teachers’ College, way back when. The Latin inscription reads: ‘Animum Cultum Parabo’, words which formed the introductory part of the College song (or anthem). Following the Latin words, we sang, ‘foundations firm we lay…’. I guess that was what we aspired to do as future teachers. I hope I did lay a few ‘firm foundations’.
Some translations: Animum (translated form the Latin): mind/intellect/soul.
I can only hope that during my many teaching days, I did manage to cultivate and prepare some minds. I think I did, but can never be sure of how much.
I undertook teacher ‘training’ via (firstly) a year in a school as a student teacher (no doubt referred to as an internship nowadays) followed by three years at Teachers’ College. Procedures changed not long after I finished college and that place of learning turned into Deakin University and the students then graduated with either a Diploma of Teaching (Primary) or a Bachelor of Education. These qualifications give a more scholarly and accomplished impression than the ‘Trained Infant Teachers’Certificate’ with which I graduated. But I do wonder if these latest teachers are as grounded in the ‘nitty gritty’ of teaching as we earlier graduates were.
Does a grander sounding graduate title make a better teacher?
As a footnote: Times of singing the College song – and the college song itself - vanished with the change to the ‘new’ university life; students no longer gather on Wednesday mornings to sing the anthem and enjoy a morning of togetherness, with singing and talking and (yes, even) some entertainment. People are a lot more insular, it seems, and each student does their best (or
not) in their own way.
I guess that’s progress.
PS: The 1954 inscription on the badge does not indicate the year I graduated (!), but the year the college was formed.
Virginia Woolf said, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.
Well I admit to having very little money and I don’t plan to write fiction – well not much, anyway, as I tend to write comment pieces and (of course) eulogies. But I now have a room of my own; that is, a writing room.
I have yet to relocate my favourite dictionaries and thesauruses and my (two or three) dictionaries of
quotations into my new room, but they will soon be installed
- when I decide exactly where to put them. In the meantime, I am enjoying the simple joy of sitting in my own room, checking out the internet, reading my emails and making a list of topics to write about.
Plus, I face a window that looks directly at our front porch, so any visitor or intruder will be instantly visible.
What more can a girl want?
Taken from Wikipedia: ‘Saint Valentine is a widely recognized third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and associated since the High Middle Ages with a tradition of courtly love.’
So what’s with all the cute cuddly teddy bears and huge boxes of chocolates?
And, today my husband received an email message from PayPal to say that there was some money in his PayPal account and, by the way, here’s an offer of 30% off some luxury lingerie. (The message was accompanied with heart symbols.)
What’s all THAT about?
I can remember in my childhood, reading about ‘Valentine’s cards’ that were supposedly sent anonymously to someone you liked and the recipient was left to wonder who the sender of the card was. Even that confused me. But at least it was a simple concept.
But the (overly expensive) red roses, chocolates, teddy bears, diamond necklaces and other ‘stuff’ that’s being shoved in our faces just because it is the month of February, is a little bizarre, don’t you agree?
Sorry, here’s yet another ‘Grumpy Old Woman’ rant:
I went shopping today, hoping to find some towelling bathroom slippers. Found these in K-Mart. They cost $4.
$4! You know, I would have been happy to pay more for a pair of slippers; but slippers that lasted for a while – maybe a few years - and were perhaps made with a little more care and that were slightly more sturdy.
I know that this sounds like a very minor complaint, but, as I watched as a woman bought two pairs, similar to those I bought, saying, “Oh, well, they’re so cheap, may as well buy a spare pair as well”, I couldn’t help but wonder about how many slippers were worn for a short while and then tossed out in the garbage to end as part of landfill.
It seems the same with T-shirts and all other clothing items. Some T-shirts were on sale for only $3. No wonder people take big trolleys into department stores.
They buy in bulk.
The local Target store has a ‘buy 3 for the price of 2’ deal for baby clothes. I have no doubt that mothers and fathers think that’s a great deal and end up buying three items of clothing for the baby, when one would probably have done. And all this STUFF ends up being thrown away quite quickly, as there is no value attached to anything.
I won’t go on about “When I was a girl..” and all that, but gee, there’s so much waste accumulating just because we can buy so many things for so little money, with nothing much of substance or quality, it just doesn’t make sense.
And, of course, tjhis relates not just to clothing, it’s almost everything you buy.
On a side issue, the biggest and best fruit cannery in Australia is about to close and dozens of farmers and hundreds of factory workers will soon be without income.
I suspect that it’s partly because the major supermarkets, here in Australia, are not supporting local farmers and buying the (gorgeous!) local product because they can get cans and jars of fruit
cheaper from China and Swaziland. (True!)
Words fail me.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.