Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A Celebratory Journey

Digger on the left is my great uncle. I'm not sure who the other bloke is.

Last weekend I flew to Mackay to share in the celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of an uncle and aunt.

My mother (who died in 2001) was matron of honour at their wedding in 1954. I have only vague memories of the occasion, as I was seven years old at the time.

The bride was mum’s youngest sister. Both she and my mother were teachers, and in many ways they were very similar, both strong smart no-nonsense women.

The groom was a dashing young cane farmer. He would have been a great catch, as he was good looking, a talented singer, and the life of the party.

They had seven children, later sold the farm and bought a motel in Mackay, and lived very active and productive lives running this business and raising their family. My uncle is a great cook, and he put this talent to good use in the motel.

In many ways he is the original Renaissance man. He was, when he was younger, equally adept in the kitchen, in the farm shed, on the stage, or running the business.

Their youngest daughter was born with severe disabilities. My aunt, with single minded determination and over many years, developed a range of support structures for her, and other young people with disabilities in Mackay, culminating in the creation from scratch of an organisation providing residential accommodation and respite services.

This required enormous endurance, resourcefulness and determination, and my aunt has these virtues in spades.

This daughter was probably the happiest person there on the night. She has a great quality of life.

I renewed acquaintances with my large extended family, and heard for the first time, an interesting account of one of my great uncles who went to the western front in WW1, and married a French girl.

I must do some research on this.

I was also reminded of growing up west of Mackay at North Eton. Back then, we (in those days there were four of the six children) would drive to Mackay every Saturday and collect our “order” (groceries) from the grocery store run by my uncle’s two sisters. The family was of Chinese heritage, and my uncle introduced my mother to Asian cooking, recipes which she added to her more traditional repertoire, and which to this day, I still use.

We would usually have dinner with them, and then (in the days before TV) sit around the Pianola whilst my uncle would sing a broad repertoire of songs.

These ranged from Al Jolson, through Harry Belafonte to Peter Dawson. He could do justice to just about anything. My younger sister ended up as a music teacher, and I wonder if her early interest in music was piqued by these family evenings.

My mother attempted to teach me to play the piano, but I always had better things to do.

Mackay is brilliant at this time of the year.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Rolling Thunder Vietnam

My bride shouted me to this show in the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba last week.

I enjoyed it, but mainly because of the music, rather than the storyline or production. In fact, the storyline really only functions as a means to link the songs.

The music is well-chosen, although I would expected more Motown. Perhaps that's simply a consequence of my obsession with that genre, and the memories that listening to it evokes.

And it is a nostalgia trip for people of my generation, especially veterans. The themes are all covered, if lightly, almost as if they form a checklist. It's all there, the initial enthusiasm, the political references, the loss of public support for the diggers and the personal stories are woven through.

What can't be faulted is the enthusiasm of the performers, none of them yet well-known. They were universally energetic, full of life and connected well with the audience, which, incidentally were mostly over fifty.

I have no idea what the younger people in the theatre made of it. Perhaps it was with a thought for them that the sound levels were a hazard to auditory health. Perhaps it's a function of the Empire's sound system, as the last show I saw there (Paul Kelly) was also over the top when it came to auditory levels.

I left the theatre with a vague understanding that this particular performance reminded me of another live show.

Then I remembered - it made me recall "Hair" live on stage, that I saw (with my sister) in Sydney in late 1969, when I was preparing for service in Vietnam.

You could say I've come full circle............

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Corones Hotel

Pic courtesy of Corones Hotel website.

I was working in Charleville last week, and took a bit of time out to have a good look at Corones Hotel.

I also had a meal in the steakhouse, which rejoices in the name "Moo".

I've blogged about it before, but more work has been done since then.

This place has an amazing history.
The Verandah

It's a beautiful old pub, built in the twenties and heritage listed. For a period during the second and fourth decade of the last century, it was the social centre of not only Charleville, but arguably the whole South-West.


Deals were struck, marriages celebrated, vice royalty entertained and thirsts slaked in its ballroom, on its verandahs and bars.

There was a contingent of US Air Force personnel based in Charleville during the second world war, and apparently they spent heaps here. Rumour has it that one of them was Lyndon Johnson.

The place fell on hard times with the development of motel accommodation in the fifties and sixties, but a recent flood had the effect of motivating the owners to begin a restoration and refurbishment as they did the cleanup.
This has nothing to do with the pub - just an interesting shot with the in-car camera on the Charleville - Morven road.

They've done a great job.

The rooms at the front have been transformed into self contained air-conditioned motel style accommodation. Previously it was hard floors, metal framed beds and bathroom down the corridor.

The toilets are all proudly labelled "lavatory".

The photos, incidentally, were taken with an iPhone (except the top and bottom ones).

I don't bother carrying a camera any more.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Great Mates

Our two dogs have been together for about twelve months.

They have developed a strange and wonderful relationship. The Heeler seems less inclined to play than the Coolie, as it's the latter who initiates their version of dog wrestling. This clip is the exception.

I think the Coolie broke off because he was interested in what I was up to (splitting wood).

They're both intensely curious, but in different ways.

The Coolie is interested in phenomena of all kinds, especially if it involves people, whereas the Heeler stands back a bit and figures things out before coming physically involved.

They play rough, but never seem to hurt each other. It is surprising, as one constant feature of their play is chewing each other's extremities, especially ears.

Initially, the Heeler was dominant, but that seems to wax and wane. When it comes to food, the Coolie will raid the Heeler's dish, and usually gets away with it, even though the Heeler is much stronger.

The Heeler is a bit of a Houdini.

She kept escaping through a closed gate, until we discovered that she was able to open it by banging her body against one side of it, until it sprung open through sheer persistence.

She figures things out.

The Coolie doesn't but he does learn from her.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Magnificent Men

I’ve recently spent a week with five men with whom I served in 1970.

They are a disparate crew, an Accountant, a Manager, a Real Estate Salesman, a small business owner, and a career soldier.

Three hail from Sydney, one each from Perth and a small town in South Australia.

Their political opinions cover the full spectrum from Right to Left, and their interest in politics ranges from none at all, to deep and abiding.

The same applies to religion – we range from avowed atheists through lapsed Catholics to Sunday observers.

So what do a bunch like this have in common, and why do we get such a buzz out of spending time with each other?

That’s more difficult to understand, but it has its origin in a unique shared experience in a distant conflict during a time when the world was simpler and more brutish than it is now.

The vital part of that experience was an absolute interdependence.

We relied completely on each other. It was as simple as that.

The real world context was constant and abiding threat, in which we knew and understood well one particular reality.

Interspersed within the mind numbing boredom of constant patrolling in very difficult and challenging conditions, was the split second possibility of death and maiming injury. That was the reality that bound us together.

That context pushed aside all the unessential and gratuitous aspects of any relationship. It had to be clear and simple.

The clarity and simplicity of that unique sense of interdependence is, after more than forty years, still there.

One of our crew was very ill when he turned up last Monday. Despite protest, he was escorted to the clinic. He was indeed very ill, and is still in hospital as this is written. Only this band of brothers would have provided this level of support, and only this band of brothers would have got away with it. He’s an ex-boxer.

So we went our separate ways on Friday. Suffice it to say, that I remain deeply honored to have served with them and to have spent time again, brief as it was, with them.

They are indeed magnificent men.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Roma in Winter

 My first trip this term coincided with a cold snap.

It always intrigues me that some specific areas on the way west are always a few degrees colder than others. Oakey is one of them. It was actually a bit colder - down to zero, a little further on.

It doesn't matter when you're in the car - but outside is another matter. Most of the schools warm up nicely when a classful of kids have been inside for a few minutes, but not nice initially.

It reminded me of winter when I was a kid. We used to sit on our hands to get them warm enough to write with them.

These days they have reverse cycle air conditioners.

Roma has changed in the last few years.  The first thing you notice is the enormous work camp on the eastern side of town.

It's been built to accommodate the FIFO workers who seem to exist in some kind of parallel universe, separate from, and unknown to the locals.

The country has put on its winter mantle, which is generally coloured brown and grey.

The further west you go, the more road kill you see. The section of road illustrated is well to the east, between Toowoomba and Roma.

At one small school I was working with a little indigenous girl with cerebral palsy. The topic was science, and the class was asked "What do butterflies eat?".

None of her classmates has the faintest idea, so armed with an iPad (which she uses to write with) and Google, we discovered that they don't in fact eat at all.

Rather, they suck nectar through a proboscis.

She was amazed at this, and also excited that she knew something that nobody else in her class did.

Her enthusiasm in telling her class and teacher this amazing fact was worth the 350 km journey.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Clark & Dawe on Asylum Seekers

The asylum seeker issue has gone beyond the bizarre, and has entered the realm of the ridiculous.

Fitting then, that Clarke and Dawe have a go.

It's hilarious, although pretty much everything sent up is accurate.

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