Over at Did I Really Hear That

Over there I write about the time passed between when a photograph of a graduation is a photograph of a graduation celebration and the moment when a photograph of a graduation is a father’s opportunity to become a wannabe pedophile in his kids eyes.
The morphing of the time space continuum  when distance is measured in light years  has a parallel. The parallel is when time is measured in the change in social attitudes. It’s worth examining.

Dashing round the supermarket, a child is heard yelping. Could be it’s lost, though maybe it’s abandoned. The screeching is ear piercing, above the Muzak, drowning out the price checks on dog food and the “security to zone 14″, a zone whose time has come as the latest hot bed of security concern. No rushing security can be seen, more likely a warning to the buyers that ” we are watching.”

The chocolate doughnut has run it’s icing onto the kid’s thumb and forefingers, snot dribbles down it’s left cheek. Tears of a sort fill it’s eyes and drip to the vinyl floor each time the eyes close to bawl. Anne sees none of this in the next aisle but hears the apparent pain. Shoving her trolley forcefully ahead of her, she rounds the aisle end to see the tyke on the floor distressed. With her free hand she scopes the child up onto her hip, as she has done so often with her own saying,

“It’s ok sweetie have you lost your mummy. Don’t worry we’ll soon find her.” The chocolate icing is more liquid than solid by now and traces finger painting steaks right across Anne’s left bosom.

“Don’t worry honey mummy will come soon enough” and Anne’s red hair is delicately tipped with recent snot, though just the ends as in a very good hairdresser’s technique. Nothing stops the whining as they traipse slowly around dry biscuits and into sauces and Asian goods.

“What the fuck you doing with my brat, put her down or I’ll call the cops” bellows down the aisle and probably through half the store.

“That’s where you are you little shit, I told you you’d get lost,” she booms at the kid through her serrated front teeth. She takes a cursory glance at Anne and being twice Anne’s size continues,

“Lay off of my brat if ya know what’s good fer ya!”Anne does know what’s good for her, but contemplates the the correct usage of the term “off of” from such a gutter snipe. Strange how in ignorance  correct terminology can come to the fore when least expected.

She puts the kid back down and saying softly,

“Now you go on to your mummy now, it’s all ok”. But the kid knows in the way only a three year old does that things won’t be ok, never were and never will.

“So you leave my fuckin’ kid alone or I’ll have ya up as a kiddie fiddler!

On her way home Anne’s badge of courage, the chocolate streaks on her pristine work uniform raise eyebrows at work, though little sympathy from the mainly gen Y colleagues. It gets her thinking

“What’s changed since I was a kid and when did a mother’s instinct get to be sublimated to a parent’s rights.

And so it’s not about what’s changed it’s about when. That variable time frame. For gutter mouth it’s always been so. Fixed and immutable. Her right to assert her “rights”.

For others it’s more nuanced. Could the change be over the course of  a year or maybe two. Then again a decade might have passed. But somehow it seems wrong and it’s only when she thinks back to her parting shot/shrug to gutter mouth that she feels her age,

“I hope you care for her better than you were”








Graduation Warning

From a freewheeling lifestyle it comes to this. Mortarboards, gowns, cloaks and paraphernalia.

Then they come, we stand, as we stand at a football match. The players arrive following a medallion mascot masquerading as a legionnaire’s standard. It is carried aloft though at an angle, almost casually, with little pride. Who is the bearer? It’s a $20/hr clerk. Pageantry processes, capes and cloaks, caps and tassels, suppressed “oohs and aahhs”; we’re in for a fun night, not.

The audience sits only when told do do so, and with doffing of caps, the players speak to themselves. Formalities, which add weight to the occasion, ritualise the moments. Standing the candidates are presented, then suitably blessed the graduands become graduates, fit for vice chancelloric presentation.

Row upon row of graduates, stand in turn, their dance cards in hand, to line the blank left hand wall. Shuffling forward every ten to fifteen seconds towards the podium,they look like a herd of something, maybe black cows with hats, waiting to be milked. Their parents have in some cases been milked dry already, for others the debt is against their future earnings, but for twenty five percent a debt never to be paid, payment for society’s guilt of the economic underclass. Some girls teeter and tremble, the tentative talking ceases as they rise up the ramp to the introduction zone. Handing their dance card to the red gowned official they say their name, then wait.

A gap of twenty meters has opened between them and their queue predecessor, who by now is being congratulated and welcome into the university by the vice chancellor.

Dressed to the nines the girls sparkle five to one over the boys. Most Asians creep across the stage, that eleven seconds of dread, what hand do you shake with, which hand do you receive with, such a lot to remember.

“Celina Rose Poon”, and she’s off. From around me the wolf whistles and cat calls boom out, others look around to see who is associated with this Poon woman. Is their pride or embarrassment at the attention? The clapping only returns to it’s former low murmur when she strolls down the off ramp, papers in hand, graduated.

It’s a long walk around the right hand wall, behind the sloping grand stand on which we sit, walking back down to the front of the stand, and across the front of it to the centre aisle before finding her seat again.

A valedictory speech from the present, in hope of a future. Then a homily, delivered by an esteemed alumni, words for a future, crafted from the past.

When it’s over the halls are crowded, the free food and grog at the centre of the marquee is on for 30 minutes only and we barely take the edge off of our hungries, elbowing through the crowd to the marquee perimeter, congratulations fill the air.

Some pics under a sign with the uni logo and the year to perpetuate the occasion, where an African mum graduate poses and manages her oh so cute five year old. He could be Satchmo reincarnated, he moves with fluidity, suited and hyper active.

He’s so damn cute I take a snap or two while we wait Celina’s turn under the dating sign.
Seen a few graduations here now, Nick, Timbi, Elisa and now Celina. It’s been long time. How long I idly wonder?
“Hey Dad, don’t take the little kids pic, they might think you’re a paedophile!”
That long!
The time between when graduation pics of others celebrating used to be just graduation pics of others celebrating, to the time when graduation pics of others celebrating earn a father the epithet from his kids, that such behaviour brands him as a wannabe paedophile.

Oh to be Freshly Pressed !

I saw in Freshly Pressed, about OMG, a learned blog, then chanced upon a tale of stories written in six words.
Which blogger would not be touched, I hear you ask! The chance to be free of this dreaded compulsion to blog in six words. It certainly touched a chord with me. My eight ball potted, after being snookered for so so long.
Trolling the Freshly Pressed catalogue, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed at the variety of subjects bloggers range over. Bee-like we hover with our mouse over a headline wondering whether to alight and scoop from the story bud some nectar for our writing journey. It’s distracting but a necessary part of the dream, the dream to write better, maybe even well.
Is the distinction of being Freshly Pressed the aim? Perhaps, it’s certainly seductive. Read what others do, tag well, know why you are writing.
But I find myself a distracted bee, ADHD I flit, as if the Nose of a perfumery has uncorked a vast array of writing scents amongst the titles, to distract blogger bees from their personal search for the single blog, the scent containing the nectar essence of blogging.
“Hhmm, and what might that essence be?” I found myself wondering.
Could it be a distillation of recognition, the sweat of finding topics to devour and regurgitate as blog honey? Or the venom of the sting for readers, which provokes and amuses or is it simply the antidote to boredom?
I found myself, turning the compost of my mind over and over, trying to add even further cute phrases to add to the nectar formula.
Whatever that nectar is it’s darn mighty powerful! The search fills minutes, hours, days searching for the the event, interaction, thoughts, observation that might just be blog-worthy.
I swarm on. The OMG blog was where I started. Eventually its a treatise on the descent of western culture away from Christian values. I demure. Seems more likely to me that OMG fits the category of “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should”. There’s a plethora of these, but more in later blogs.
A titillating further example is the disappearance of “Please”. I refer to the loss of “please” after “Excuse me.” I wonder where it’s gone? I suspect it’s gone because folk could abandoned it, and cock a snoot at those who might timorously remind them of the full phrase,
“Excuse me, please”
Perhaps I should start a Facebook page in support of the forgotten “Please”

Free Range or Caged Chooks

Recently, I’ve been challenged to write on the advantages of Free Range Chickens. You know the type. Advertised as fluffing around in a sylvan idyll, light filling the air and yellow daisies in abundance. Not a barn in sight. All peace and tranquility. A day without end. Ah, the free range chook. Strikes me that there’s something missing here! What of the night, the dreaded night. An anthropomorphic analogue will put us in the mood.
We humans eschew the night. As darkness falls we turn on the lights. We congregate in small places, bars and cafes to enjoy each others company. We rage and rock. And when it’s time to sleep we curl up in spaces free of the cold night air, and if lucky snuggle.
But what of a free ranging chicken facing the night? Left to the night there is no light, simply sheer terror facing the wilds alone. For the wild marsupials, foxes, domestic dogs and cats gone feral, it’s Colonel Sanders Time. Our Free Range Chicken shivers against the cold, sleet and rain, tramps through the slosh to find a perch. And roosting there contemplates the advantages of free ranging. The chook finds this a challenge. With a brain the size of a pea, existentially projecting itself into the wider, free range world, comes at a cost. Having spent it’s whole day banging it’s head against the ground then throwing up clouds of dust behind it like a rally car in the Paris to Dakar rally in the Saharan sand dunes section, a free ranging chook can only think of peace, and not,
“Where the p#%k is my next feed coming from” Chook simply wants some warmth, light, peace and quiet with friends.
Mankind has made many stumbles along the way. But domestication and animal care is not a stumble.
To save the free range chook the trauma of the night, the roosting house and safety of a barn, were invented. Yes! Invented for the well being and safety of the free ranging chook. With immunisation, running water and selected foods the outside, bedraggled free rangers can only look through into the safe enclosure where well feed and cared for cousins reside, derogatorily termed “Caged”.
So much emotional energy invested in defence of free ranging, or freeing the caged. I’ve even been prevailed upon to attest the superior taste of free range eggs o’er those from their more cloistered cousins. In PC terms there is only one answer, isn’t there. Free range tastes best.
I take heart though, in the end they’re all chicken nuggets!

Write Daily

“Write daily” they say. Who are ‘they’? All I know is that they aren’t me. Feeling the need to write, having the words swirling, seeing the world in word bites can be paralysing. The minutia of daily life, it’s crises and caresses, the boredom of it all conspire to rein me in. No blogging, no chapter writing, nothing, just nothing. Well not nothing, there’s reading the paper, old magazines in the bathroom, crime and prison series on the documentary channel, so many things, so much to do, all tripe.

So why not a para or two about not writing a para or two. For the un afflicted, those who don’t have the need to write, there’s no tension of feeling the need to shape reality in written words. Why not read a few lines about the tension?

For the writing afflicted, there’s a different reality, the possibility that maybe this writer “Gets it” or maybe scribbles away and doesn’t get it, at least not from the reader’s viewpoint.

For the writing afflicted, I offer Strunk and White. A classic, “the Elements of Style”. For the aficionado well known, for the emerging writer a must have, and for the un-afflicted, a quirky little read. Yes it’s on the web, for those who need to try before they buy. Do yourself a favour and look it up, the PDF version, and if like me you struggle in this world of poor language usage, avail yourself of a hard copy and keep it always near. Not sure that my last sentence wouldn’t attract Strunk’s ire.

And for the un-afflicted, why not read of another’s pain, the torment of not achieving something. It’s far from becoming a 6pm hero on the tv news, but at least it’s a way to share vicariously in another’s pain. Trying to imagine what it must be like to agonise and not achieve a self set goal. Surely there are enough folk setting goals for themselves to let those who don’t, revel in the goal surplus? Who’s to be the Bear Grylls of writing? Well certainly not me within this blog limit. But he’s out there somewhere, tempting the afflicted to pen a few words, trust those words to a diary, or password protected file, for posterity. The feeling transforms into a shamed sense of realising there’s much to write and ever diminishing time to do it. Where does that time go? In front of the tv, piffle talking, think of the ways!

Like a wall clock, the word counter marks progress through time. My engineering mind can’t help but ratio the words per minute, and calculate from that the time to goal. So in fact in a brief note on the need to write daily, I’ve come to my personal conclusion that writing fills that inner need to say what’s in my head, as well as I can, and often.

I blog away but can’t connect to my other blogs
Does anybody out there know how to insert the necessary widgets to achieve this. I would be most grateful!
Your reward would inevitably be to see more of my quirky writing which you might just enjoy!

ARTHUR – Saved by the Vandals

Arthur was a wily bushy caught in the city by the Depression.

Arthur always wore a hat, slightly angled, a relic of times past. His hat peaked at what might be said was a jaunty angle, just sufficient to barely cover the hidden rogue.
In the plaster mill, shafts of light pirouetted down through the ceiling gaps and holes in the roofing iron where once there were nails. The ever present dust swirled as it tracked the light to it’s resting place amid the machinery and stacked product. But in the electrified areas of the plant men could be seen working away bagging and storing one hundred weight bags of plaster in hessian sacks.

Arthur stood amongst this as a lord in his manor, and though dusty it was his. He had come as a young boy and never really left. The second world war had swept over him as an adolescent, and somehow he had remained safe on the home front. He was never for war and felt the unease that in generations to come would be called protest. Somehow he had made it through, was now the foreman and nearing the end of a career.

He had his share of the young whipper snappers, erstwhile bosses sent his way. They came cock sure from uni to get a taste of factory life, his life. They were never certain if they should stand or sit at the feet of this plaster making guru.

Briquettes piled high in heavy wooden bunkers, dripping stalactites of congealed water. Doused with the fire sprays if the bunkers caught alight, this was the only after hours worry Arthur allowed himself. The briquettes fed from the wooden bunkers to a series of augers across the bunker bases and eventually fed through the underfloor coarse auger into the kettle firebox. It was an impressive place. Arthur was the custodian of an infernal industry where heat transformed the gypsum into plaster, the rate of heating producing varying grades of plaster.
The plaster mill forecourt lead one way to the cobbled lane way. Worn from the traffic of years the lane way cambered from both left and right to the centre taking the water flow to the Tinning Street drains. The forecourt entry, stage-like projected towards the front of the building. A brick office against the street wall looked inwards, though windowless. Lil Toner, now was that Ms, Mrs or Miss, sat there; she’d sat there for ages. Phil Haley the manager, always Mr Haley, would come and go, his office always locked. There was a foreboding sense that maybe he was the Phantom of the comic strip but in modern day managerial disguise. He was clearly a boss for the Kingswood Holden car he drove had metallic paint. It was a dead giveaway, in a time when metallic paint was a symbol of the well-to-do. In the car boot were boxes, cardboard boxes some tatty, but all stuffed full of files, important files of course, for why else would they be in the boss’s boot?
Arthur had seen all types come and go. Though many he feared, few he respected. His sense of self came from the assurance that in his domain he ruled supreme. He commanded respect. He had seen anything that mattered and ignored that which didn’t.
There were times he had wondered why this was so. They came and learned or so they thought but unlike him they never stayed.
This new kid was different, he genuinely seemed to want to learn. However, the previous trainee, Peter Renkert didn’t. He had a lisp and an attitude to match. Arthur noted that Peter would unbuckled his trousers to relieve himself and leant against the urinal wall with one hand on the paint bricks above whilst urinating. A shock of blond locks, stylish in age, flowed to close to his shoulders. For Arthur though it was all too much. He was short back and sides kinda guy, who attended the barber fortnightly in Sydney road. The hair dresser, a Greek had been there as long as Arthur, but they exchanged few words. Wogs were tolerated. They cut hair cheap after you’d trained them.
So the new little chinaman stood there awaiting Arthur’s instructions. Together they ran over the importance of making sure the firebox was clean, that the intermediate hopper was empty and the dust residue vacuumed out ready for the weekend.
The little chinaman caught on that the briquettes in the hopper needed to be left full, ten tons full. Broken and crumbling brown coal, the briquettes glistened black. Arthur droned on, he was used to folk not listening. Arthur had “had his day”, but in his domain he was still ‘the man.’
“Make sure the water is on and test it through this by pass, the pressure must be full-on for the flooding to happen, if an alarm is raised”
As it was Friday night Arhur left early for the weekend. Arthur went for his bread and meat, a daily chore grafted to his life like skin. The younger chinaman stood there to lock up. He took the keys in his hand and walked through the darkened alleyways twisting past the machinery, quiet now. The machines awaited the pitter patter of soft mouse feet to make their night’s abode on their warm casings.
The large ill-fitting corrugated iron sliding doors rolled effortlessly closed on well greased tracks and this was but one of those myriad clues Arthur had told him of when running a factory. The younger man heard him say,
“Laddie, now make ye sure that you get that ne’er-do-well Johhnie Portello to grease these tracks, it’s his damn job and strike me if he weekly receives the greaser allowance.”
The young chinaman stepped over the broken bags reminding himself to get them sorted the next day and stepped back onto the podium floor. The Bates packer stood silent. He had slaved away with the scrawny Maltese bloke that day at the packer outlet. They’d stood waiting briefly as the hundred weight bags crashed to the rubberised conveyor and feed along to be stacked six high on the hand trolleys. He’d found it damned hard to counter balance the trolley to overbalance it through its centre of gravity to put the weight on his arms. At 672 lbs this was twice his weight and two and a half times the Maltese guy’s weight. However, the Maltese bloke handled the task with aplomb.
Two hours and his arms ached in a way a boss’s arm should never. Maybe RSI was something to whinge about, but this was physical, very physical and he couldn’t just get it together. He imagined his sweat might still be there, somewhere in the dust, as he kicked his way through to the front door, switching off the lights as he closed up for the weekend.

Two am. Was that the phone down the hall ringing? It seemed so, not a dream. Padding through the hallway past the accumulated possession he found the phone and on it the fire brigade
“We have a report of smoke from the plaster mill in Tinning St, your number is here as the after hours contact, are you Mr Poon”
I might very well have been but didn’t want to be.
“This happens sometimes,” the officer explained.
“Well kinda often, but before we waste time going to see, is there anyone in the plant right now or can you go see, mate?”
“Can I go see?” I wondered to myself.
“There’s no one in the plant” I replied, so the ‘ I’ll go see’ option firmed quickly as the option of choice.
” Yeah, ok I’ll head in and see if there’s a real issue, mate. Thanks for calling, if I need ya I’ll call,” I tried to sound nonchalant but my heart raced.
It’s what you’ d call a fair distance from Ringwood to Brunswick, but at that time of night and racing to a possible fire, seemed to me the perfect excuse to give any interrupting speed cops.
Fumbling for the keys, the door I had so blithely closed on it’s greased tracks stuck in it’s frame. Putting my shoulder into it I shoved it open into the billowing, acrid wetty fumes of smouldering briquettes. A few light switches would be handy I thought but having rarely used them in the daytime, they weren’t about to be found in obvious places this night. The few lights I got on roughly guided me to the kettle bunkers, the steel welded bunker bases sizzling the drips of water falling on them. It was a sauna, steam billowing out and up through the roof. I felt my career following. Finding the valve Arthur had said needed to be turned full on, I was astonished to find it fully closed
“Faaarrcccckk” I shouted to no one in particular.
There was no time to do a Kepner Tregeo problem solving analysis and action plan here I guessed. This was the way we were trained to problem solve in our office bound roles.
Turn on the valve and quench the smoulder.
Heavy sprays of rain drenched the bunkers, cascaded down on me and quickly formed rivulets in the dirt floors. We were all awash. The smoke subsided after two hour. I sat in Tinning Street on the gutter catching my breath.
When I closed up in the dawn glow I figured it was a very near run thing.
I checked into the plaster mill on Sunday, no smoke, wet floors and the pungent smell of some burnt timbers.
On Monday, Arthur asked me how the weekend went.
I said “Ok”
He said ” Well make sure you got a good story to tell Mr Haley why we won’t be working this week.”
” Why?” I asked ” Let’s light up and get the show on the road”
Wryly he looked at me, lips curling in a half smile .
“We got no dry briquettes, the kids got in over the weekend and turned the sprays on.”
“Ah” I thought,” saved by vandals”.