The white chariot headed out for a relatively short drive over to neighbouring Pearl Beach with young Miss at the wheel again rapidly accruing her driving hours. In case you missed the big announcement, about ten days ago Miss got her Learner’s Permit and now has mostly me bailed up in the front seat while she accrues her mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving. She seems to love driving, and mostly finds it very relaxing, and it must be such a great feeling to be driving herself to all sorts of places we rarely ever seem to get to ordinarily. We are going to know our local area like the back of our hand by the end of next week at the rate we’re going.
Today, she drove us around to Pearl Beach in between dance classes, which only allowed me to squeeze in a quick walk, take a few photos and to also check out the Little Book Library by the beach, which has long been an absolute treasure trove.
Indeed, that reminds me that the Peal Beach Annual Book Sale will be coming up soon on the Easter long weekend. This is a time to leave the family at home and to ensure the car is empty. For booklovers like myself, this is TEMPTATION and by my very own definition of evil last last when I was referring to the pokies, EVIL. It appears that even something good for you can become evil in excess (and especially when your house is already bursting at the seams with books!!)
Meanwhile, I was also curious to see how the beach was looking after the recent floods. The last time I was at Pearlie about a week ago, a great river had opened up and was carving a path from a back estuary straight through the beach. Indeed, it looks like it has always been there. However, I don’t recall seeing the beach carved up like that before. Then again, I don’t recall it raining like this before either. It’s been so intense and seemed to out last Noah’s 40 days and 40 nights by a country mile.
There was still a trailing snake carved deeply through the sand where the flood waters had been, but the river had almost dried up.
What I did find was one of these little “houses” made out of driftwood on the beach. Although it wasn’t anything like approaching a proper house, and was little more than a handful of sticks thrown together, it spoke promise to me…hope, optimism, new beginnings.
Then, I noticed a wedding taking place further down the beach. How exciting was that. Not only were the bride and groom celebrating their big day and promising to love each other through it all, they had a dry wedding and glorious sunshine. They must’ve been deliriously happy, amazed and grateful.
However, that wedding is but a bright spark in an uncertain world. Lately, I’ve really been wishing I could wave my magic wand over the Earth and just make everything better. End this dreadful invasion of the Ukraine. Magically restore homes, businesses and lives lost during our extreme flooding here in NSW and Queensland. Getting rid of covid is another aspiration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a miracle worker?!!
Meanwhile, I’m back home and Zac is sleeping on my lap, and the troubles of the world seem very far away, and yet our son is coughing and our daughter is staying overnight at her friend’s 18th. Potential trouble is never far away, even if it doesn’t actually knock on your door. However, hope is also there as well, often to be found in the little things, especially at first, and so it can be so easy be missed.
How are you going in your neck of the woods? I hope you are doing well, and thank you for popping in.
This morning, the awful news hit that Aussie cricket larrikin, Shane Warne, had passed away aged 52 – the same age as yours truly and even a few months younger. The news hit me like an electric shock. I didn’t burst into tears or anything like that, but it just felt so incongruous that this larger than life character could suddenly be “all out” without any warning.
Moreover, while 52 is just over a half century, I’m telling you it’s still young. It’s not enough runs…especially as he has three kids who need their dad, and his parents didn’t need to bury a son either. However, the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was only 44 when he died in 2006. Crikey, that was sad and it was so hard to tell our son, who was only three at the time. He loved watching his DVD of The Wiggles at Australia Zoo.
Warnie had a special place in our family. When our children were very small, my brother was a Warnie tragic and it became a point of connection between the kids and their uncle. For one of his birthdays, we bought my brother this choice find from eBay:
On a personal note, I find it bit hard to believe that Warnie has passed away, while I’m still here with all my health problems. However, it’s always confronting when someone your own age goes before you. Indeed, it can almost feel like death came ever so close and only just passed by your door.
Our family sends our deepest condolences to the Warne family, especially his three kids, Mum and Dad and brother. Must be hard also not getting that chance to say goodbye. Actually, just gut-wrenchingly hard.
Bill drove up the back paddock, and parked his ute. The cancer was raging, and the Doc was barely keeping up. There wasn’t much of him, and the end was coming faster than a speeding locomotive. Now, it was only a question of when, and on whose terms.
Of course, Bill knew God wasn’t the only player involved. Those doctors could do a better job of extending his lot than the power of prayer – even if the priest disagreed.
However, just as Bill was about to cast his vote, the dog jumped up on his lap.
My response to this week’s prompt was fueled by various conversations I’ve had with people close to me about the end of life. One friend dreads having a stroke and ending up incapacitated, and vows he’s going to head into the bush and take matters into his own hands first. a couple of friends and relatives have had dashed his melanoma and other cancers where bits keep getting cut off to the point where they feel they’re barely being held together, or have anything left. Some people reach this point and will do anything to preserve life, while others pull the pin. They might not take drastic action. It might be as simple as refusing further treatment and issuing a “nil resus” order. I’ve had a few close calls and I resolved to do whatever it took to stay alive. My kids were young and needed two parents at least in an ideal world. Meatloaf’s epic song “Anything For Love” became my song. I would do anything for love, but I did wonder where my limits would be. I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. I recovered and got back on my feet.
For those of you who know me, you’ll also appreciate that I had to add a dog to the picture. We have three dogs at home: Lady Border Collie x Cavalier, and Zac and Rosie who are brother and sister border collie x kelpies. You often see a working dog out there with a ute.
Anyway, I hope you’re all well and having a good week.
Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.
Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.
So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.
For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.
So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.
Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.
Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
“Forget a Hail Mary, Mike. Make that a Bloody Mary, with an extra shot of Vodka.”
“Hair of the dog, eh Meg? You okay?” Tim the barman asked. Bloody Marys were a well-known hangover cure. Meg was sous chef at their two hat restaurant, and she’d been on a bender. She knew he knew, but neither of them said a word. However, she’d never hit the bottle this early before, and it wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He left out the vodka, made a Virgin Mary to go, and grabbed his keys. “Meg, I’m taking you home.”
Last night, I watched Oprah’s infamous interview with Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan who? Of course, I don’t need to spell that out, do I?!! We all know exactly who I’m talking about.
Before you even ask where I sit on the matter, in typical Australian style, I’m going to state it straight up front. I support Harry & Meghan, and I also like the Queen.
I also want to say that back in 1981 when Prince Charles became engaged to this shy kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, who was literally hunted by the press like the last deer on Earth, I was an impressionable 11 year old. The wedding took place the day before my 12th birthday, and I asked my mum and dad for the commemorative stamps. Meanwhile, I was frantically cutting up any magazine or newspaper clippings I could get my hands on, and was cutting and pasting them in a dedicted exercise book. While this may seem crazed and obsessed to the younger generation who didn’t live through the Diana era, it was all rather normal at the time. It’s what we did, along with wearing Lady Di blouses with the bow around the neck. I even remember that Gran had carted one of my poor friends off to the hairdresser to get a “Lady Di haircut”. My friend wasn’t really the Lady Di Haircut type, and has devoted much of her life to down to earth community service through Scouts. So, that gives some idea about just how crazed and obsessed we were about Diana. Certainly not everybody, but it was a phenomenon.
However, our generation didn’t just live through the royal wedding. We were also there when adorable Prince William was born, and particularly tuned in when Charles and Di brought him out to Australia in 1983 when he was just 9 months old. Back then, they were the ultimate “happy family”, weren’t they?!! Then, of course, Harry arrived. However, slowly but surely we were finding out that someone else had never left. Someone we didn’t even know. Shocking stuff. We see Diana in tears, or sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. We see Diana and Dodi al Fayed on a luxury yacht. Or, maybe I wasn’t really paying all of that so much attention by then. That was 1997, and I was ten years out of school and had problems of my own. I had been living in Western Australia when I’d found out that I had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which had somehow been there since my traumatic birth like a secret inner labyrinth. In July, I had surgery and flew back to my parents’ place in Sydney to recuperate. On 31st August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died in a horrific car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi. I remember the precise moment I heard the news. I was standing in one of my favourite ever book shops, Gleebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe) with a friend and he turned to me and said “Diana’s dead”. There was this moment. An understanding that the world had stopped, albeit only briefly, because in so many, many ways, Diana Princess of Wales somehow made the world go round.
I have tried to explain this Diana fever to my kids a couple of times. Of course, they couldn’t understand. I’m not even sure if I understand how one woman could have had such incredible appeal. We didn’t know her, but we loved her. Would we have laid down our lives for her? Probably not. However, would we buy a magazine with her photo on the cover? Most definitely, and I, too, am guilty as charged.
Of course, the greatest tragedy of Diana’s death was that her young boys lost their mum. That somewhere amidst this whirlwind of fashion, glamour, he said-she said, her ground-breaking acceptance of people living with HIV and how she put her own life at risk to prevent the use of landmines, we lost sight of the fact she was made of flesh and blood, and she was Mummy to these two young boys. Indeed, she was the only mum they had. We might have walked with them in our hearts as we watched those two young boys walk bravely behind their mother’s coffin with their father and uncle, but we didn’t know them at all. We weren’t there to pick up the pieces and help them get through it.
However, maybe each of us can do something to help Harry now. Help Harry who is now a grown up and has found his true love and soul mate in Meghan Markle, along with Archie and their baby girl whose on the way. The collective, or indeed the “unroyal we” over in the UK have a debt to that man. It was all very well for Charles and Diana to have had the mandatory two sons – the “heir and the spare”. However, they, we, whoever, can’t just throw him away now that William and Kate’s kids have knocked him off his perch. I’m not fully privy to the full scope of his charity work. However, Harry had clearly carved out a niche for himself with war veterans and the Invictus Games. He is really down to earth and lovely. So approachable. I’ll pinch one of Slim Dusty’s songs at this point: “I’d love to have a beer with Harry, cos Harry’s my mate.”
So, this means I’m pretty unimpressed (understatement) that they’ve cut off Harry’s personal security. Given the position he was born into as the son of the future king, compounded with all the hype surrounding Diana and all he went through surrounding her untimely dead, and how the tabloids are still hunting him and Meaghan like sport, this is something the UK needs to take care of. You can’t love him as a cute little boy and feel overwhelmed with grief when he lost his mother, and then throw him to the wolves. That’s what happened to Diana. After her divorce, her security was withdrawn and we already know what happened there.
It’s easy to sit here in my armchair all the way over here in Australia and have all the answers to their problems, and I’ll acknowledge that even writing this is distracting me from getting my own stuff sorted out. However, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.
Meanwhile, I haven’t commented on the race issue. Discrimination is a horrible and often insidious thing, and as a person living with a disability, I experience that myself. Half the time people don’t even know they’re doing it, and there’s no point turning a relaxing, friendly situation into a confrontation. However, I am also realizing racism is one of those things it’s very hard for me to get as a white woman. I can try to imagine what it would be like to be a “woman of colour”, but I don’t know. Yet, I can listen. I can think about the words I hear, and look around the world I live in and decide whether they ring true. I can also try to find bridges across these seeming divides, and find a humanity with more in common than all that tears us apart.
I also know how hard it is to reach out for help. What it’s like not to be heard, and go back deep inside our bunker to try to regroup. Work out your next move. However, I’ve never had to do that under the glaring, incredibly critical judgement of the media spotlight, and I’ve never been vilified like Meghan Markle simply for being there. Or, as she put it, just “breathing”.
As an Australian, I am part of the Commonwealth (despite being a Republican). I decided to write this post as a one woman protest. It’s time to treat these two precious, lovely people as human beings. That the press has no right to push anyone over the brink and to crucify people just because they’re royalty. Moreover, they equally have no right to vilify anyone, overtly or more subtly, due to their nationality, race or tone of their skin. Just leave them alone.
In all of this I am reminded of one of my all time favourite quotes:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke
I understand this is a controversial subject, but I’d appreciate your comments. You are more than welcome to disagree, but please keep your comments kind.
Yesterday, was all blue skies and glorious, golden sunshine when Geoff and I headed down to Sydney’s Kirribilli, lured away by the magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the harbour itself. This is the third post inspired by this trip. So, might I suggest that if you can get yourself down to Kirribilli (or your local equivalent), your efforts could be well re-worded.
After lunch, we walked down Broughton Street towards the harbour. After undergoing some nasty tests on my lungs and responding badly, I was naturally concerned about the steep decent and whether I could make it back up. Indeed, as we marched enthusiastically down the hill, Geoff even voiced these concerns: “what goes down, has to climb backup,” he said.
However, “oh me of little breath” powered ahead just like the the “Little Engine that Could”. I’ve done that: “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can” up many a hill or flight of stairs before. I might be turning blue and gasping for air, but you can’t “carpe diem seize day” from the couch. You need to have a go! Besides, (and I didn’t tell him this), he could always go and fetch the car. After all, even the best of generals has a “Plan B”. On the other hand, giving up before you try is, of course, an automatic fail.
While we were walking back up the hill via Alfred Street, I spotted a random pair of black workman’s boots sitting on the corner of Alfred and Fitzroy Streets just back from the curb.
Now, if you’re someone who is focused and gets straight to the point, you’ll probably find my reflections on this pair of boots quite random. Or, you’ll even accuse me of over-thinking things again. However, on the other hand, it could equally be a virtue to find meaning and purpose in seemingly insignificant little things – especially in a place overshadowed by two of the great modern architectural wonders of the world, and one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.
Moreover, being “creative”, I couldn’t help thinking about how these worn, ordinary work boots must feel glancing up at the magnificent steel arches and towering granite pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Then, as if they didn’t already have a massive inferiority complex, across the harbour there’s the Sydney Opera House with her magnificent white sails glowing in the sunlight at the very top end of town! It must be hard for those work boots to feel that meaning and purpose aren’t just confined to the big wigs, and the flashy, strutting peacocks of life. That an old, discarded pair of work boots couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Moreover, you can also understand how people feel like that way too.
However, it wasn’t just their simple ordinariness which attracted my attention to the boots, and you’ve no doubt noticed this yourself. They’re round the wrong way, back-to-front. Mixed up. Odd. So, if you were mad enough to try to step inside these boots and see what it was like to walk in their shoes, your legs would be heading off at cross-purposes and you’d fall smack – face down on the pavement.
By the way, there’s also another reason why I probably noticed the boots. I’ve had to learn to walk again twice. In my mid-20’s, I found out I’d been born with a harbour inside my head, and I was a lot more than “anxious”. Indeed, when the hydrocephalus was at its worst before I had a shunt put in to relieve the pressure, leaving a pair of boots around the wrong way would’ve been the very least of my problems. I have definitely tried walking in a wonky pair of boots that made no sense to anyone including myself. I also know what it is to be THE STRANGER, and not just someone unfamiliar.
So, how are we supposed to respond to these boots? Do we look at those boots and judge?
For many, it would be just too tempting to simply rearrange them. Make them right, just like you’d re-adjust a crooked picture frame until it was straight. However, I didn’t rearrange the boots and much to my later annoyance, I didn’t move the dead leaves out of the shot either. Moreover, if we’re really getting stuck into straightening things up and going for all out perfection, I wish I’d had my digital SLR camera with me instead of my phone. I am a photographic snob from way back. I also wished I’d got down lower for the shot. However, the boots were right on the curb and I didn’t want to risk being runover on Fitzroy Street just to take a photo. (That’s a first).
In addition to thinking about how the worn-out, back-to-front work boot people of this world feel in the shadow of greatness, these boots also made me think of how we respond to the apparent rejects and oddballs we come across through life. Do we as individuals (rather than the “royal we” where we can hide) offer them shelter and invite them in? Or, do we lock them out by whatever means is at our disposal be it a glance, a door, harsh words, a diagnosis, prescription drugs or a prison cell?
However, when you give these boots a second glance, they’re scuffed, but they’re not worn out. They’ve been positioned carefully beside the road as a pair, even if they are back-to-front. Anybody could just walk up to those boots and set them straight. It wouldn’t take much, although perhaps you might be worried that who ever left them there, is watching. That they might misconstrue your good intentions and attack. You might also pop back down and speak to the supervisor on the work site beneath the bridge and see if anyone’s lost their boots. Reuniting the boots with their owner would be a noble thing. Indeed, perhaps those boots aren’t so unloved after all. Their owner might just be careless…or a teenager.
However, that’s the point, isn’t it?! No one knows anyone else’s story without asking AND without listening. You can’ t even judge a pair of back-to-front boots by their cover, let alone a person.
I have been reminded over and over again about the capacity of people to show love and even self-sacrifice to a stranger, especially someone in need. I have had a couple of spectacular falls in public places well away from home. Both times, I was using my walking stick so it was clear I had mobility issues. Both times, I’d hurt myself quite badly and had nasty grazes on my knee, was bleeding and needing a plaster. Last year, I had a nasty fall outside a nearby school. Passers-by, were quick to stop and render assistance, along with the inevitable question about an ambulance. A man headed off to his car and returned with a medical kit. Gave me saline to clean it, and the big sticking plaster. You know… the only big one which comes with the medical kit. Meanwhile, a teacher returned with ice and drove me down to McDonalds where I was meeting a friend. They were so kind!!
Yet, at the same time, the so-called weirdo who might not put their boots together in quite the right way, probably gets a much harder time of it. Indeed, it’s not just the strangers who reject them, but their nearest and dearest. The people who know them. Or, more to the point, don’t want to know them – the rejects. Somehow, we need to ensure there’s a place for them. A place for them in our families, our schools, our Churches, our streets. We don’t need to lock them up. They don’t need to self-medicate because they feel unloved, misunderstood, outcast. Love might not be enough to save everyone from genetics, society, bad luck or themselves, but it certainly goes a long way.
There’s still so much life left in these back-to-front workman’s boots, and I really hope they’re not still sitting there beside the road. That someone has taken them home.
Meanwhile, our son has invited “the boys” over tomorrow afternoon. He has no idea how many are coming, but I’ve made a pavlova, Mars Bar Slice and figure we can order pizza. After all, home is where the heart is and where real connections are forged.
What are your thoughts on the boots under the bridge? I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, marked the end of Year 12 in our high schools, and was what’s colloquially known as “Muck-up Day”.
“Your path is your character defining itself more and more every day, like a photograph coming into focus.”
As the name suggests, muck-up day spawns a lot of pranks, including the almost obligatory egg throwing at cars and shops. Indeed, at its worst, it summons up visions of Robespierre’s reign of terror, albeit in school uniform. However, for the students themselves, it means saying goodbye to school, friends, teachers and in many ways, plays one of the last notes of childhood. Yet, it’s also the first step towards liberation and a lot of fun…as long as nothing goes wrong.
By the way, knowing most of you are visiting from overseas, I should point out that Year 12 is the final year of school, and after students have completed their Higher School Certificate exams (HSC), they’re released from captivity into the world like a swarm of bees. That’s when they often head over the Queensland border to celebrate Schoolies Week at Surfers’ Paradise, or on this side of the border at Byron Bay.
In my day, Muck-up Day was more sedate. We might’ve signed each other’s school collars, filled in note and year books, and there had always been rumours of boot polish on the toilet seat. However, at least from memory, that was bad as it got. After all, if we got sprung, there’d be no all-important school reference.
However, from what I’ve gathered in recent years, Muck-up Day has spawned the treasure hunt…a rather quirky or challenging check list. All of this should just be a bit of fun. Indeed, a few years ago, I was eating fish and chips and taking photos at Terrigal Beach on Muck-up Day, and was approached by a few year 12’s. Their list included being photographed with a stranger. I think he might’ve put his arm around me. It was all good fun. They were all dressed in lairy neon outfits and were just running around, mostly sober having a good time and not hurting anyone.
However, this year a treasure hunt with a difference has unfortunately come to light. Sadly, this document reveals privileged bastardry is alive (and possibly even thriving) at at least one of Sydney’s prestigious boys’ school. Looking very much like an annual report, the instructions for the treasure hunt were cleverly entitled: The Triwizard Shorenament. This particular list included 10,000 points for flying down to Melbourne which is currently in Covid Lockdown, “shit on a train”, “break into Taronga Zoo”, drink “6 [vodka] Cruisers in 6 minutes” and “skull 700ml bottle of vodka”. In addition to the inherent elitism expressed, many of the acts are vulgar, anti-social, criminal and also show a concerning acceptance of alcohol abuse. Indeed, you’ve got to ask is this what their privileged parents consider “a good education”?
It’s certainly reinforced our decision to send out kids to the local state school. Well, it might not have been a choice, but there are good and bad eggs everywhere and you just have to hope either sort doesn’t go flying through your car window on muck-up day and hit you in the face.
Meanwhile, I’ve wondered how much media and community attention The Triwizard Shorenament is going to attract. While it’s certainly received some media coverage, there’s also that desire to repress. Stop the bad publicity.
However, I feel the actions outlined in this document, need to be assessed and used as a mirror, a score-card. Not just for the boys and the school involved, but also for the wider community. How did something like that see the light of day in 2020? Don’t we all know better? Moreover, there are six Anglican Ministers on Shore’s school council. Don’t they stand for something better than that? Or, is money all that matters? Are values such as character, integrity, compassion and equality to be spat on and reviled while the kings of the castle squash their minions under foot?
I hope not. However, for me these questions aren’t just ideological. Aren’t mere theory. This is where I’m from.
Of course, I didn’t attend Shore School. It’s a single-sex school for boys. However, I did attend the female equivalent. I was, and to some extent, am still part of this elite. While my life didn’t quite follow the plan and I’ve manged to find more snakes than ladders in my personal journey, I can still fit into those shoes and belong. It’s still where I came from, and part of who I am.
Perhaps, that’s what concerns me most about this despicable treasure hunt. I’d thought we’d moved forward in the last 30 years. That equality had gained a foothold. Moreover, that during the current coronacrisis, we as a society were becoming more caring, compassionate and understanding. Indeed, it is for this reason that the action of spitting on a homeless person disgusts me so much. Haven’t we all learnt just how close anyone is from landing on the streets? Indeed, it’s said many of us are only one maybe two pays away.
Of course, it could said, and it has and has been argued, only a small group of boys was involved. However, it doesn’t even take a close look at the report to see it’s a polished, detailed, and well-planned document. It’s not something put together on the fly and rashly emailed out in a moment of poor judgement. It looks like it was printed, and while I don’t have a lot of facts at hand, I think it was distributed to students and in a way that shows sufficient social acceptance for the plan. That the organizers weren’t stepping out of the mould and felt comfortable putting it together. There doesn’t seem to be an expectation of ridicule, shame, rejection by their peers. It was all carried out all but in the light of day.
However, it’s not easy to speak out against the cool or socially acceptable kids at school. There are also going to be students who were completely out of the loop and knew nothing about it at all, who’ll also have to live with the fallout, and amidst all of this, there will be some very distressed students and families. Although I deplore what was planned and the ideology behind it, I also believe in redemption. That the powers that be in the Class of 2020 can turn this around for good. Apologise and do some community service.
On this front, I’d like to refer back to a very gutsy speech given by Mitch Donaldson, the outgoing school Captain of Sydney’s Knox Grammar School at Speech Day 2007. In front of 1350 fellow students, 150 teachers and 600 parents in the school assembly hall, he spoke out against pressure from over achieving and overbearing parents, which had created a culture of cheating and bullying in year 12. He then pointed the finger at instances of parents who bullied school authorities into giving prestigious positions to their undeserving sons. He said: “There have been people in our year group who have stolen, who have belittled, and who have cheated their way through the past six years.” And most of them, he said, got away with it. But to those who played the game, he said, no matter who your father goes to the gym with, listen carefully. No matter what your efforts, you cannot and will not be able to ever buy respect.” Although that speech went on for 20 minutes, apparently you could hear a pin drop. After all, the last thing you expect at a school assembly like that is for someone to tell it like it is. And at the end of the speech… after a moment of stunned silence… the whole hall rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Mitchell Donaldson was angry with the injustice that he saw going on in his school 1.. That was an extremely gutsy move.
Sure, the instance at Knox Grammar was different to what went down at Shore, but you can see the parallels, and that they’re two cabs from the same rank.
I’ve inserted a couple of links here in case you’re interested in further reading:
I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about this, and how it might reflect on what you experience in your community. Meanwhile, I’ll site the values of the French Revolution… Equality, Liberty, Freedom.
James was in trouble. The deafening noises outside were ricocheting inside his head like exploding bullets, driving him mad like an insatiable itch he couldn’t scratch. He knew the volcano was set to explode. Closed the curtains. Clamped his hands over his ears, and locked himself away in his cupboard. Still, he couldn’t block all the noises out. A rock smashed through his window, and the sound of exploding glass destroyed what was left of his fragile senses. Sounds, incomprehensible sounds, were all that came out, but there was nothing James could formulate into any kind of message for help.
In my take on this week’s prompt, I decided to reframe the #blacklives matter protests alongside an incredible rescue mission we had here in Australia to find a non-verbal Autistic youth who had been missing in dense bushland in Victoria for two nights. On one hand, you have a loud, demonstrative protest over a despicable act, but on the other, you have someone who is acutely sensitive to noise and is overwrought. As you may be aware, many people on the Autism Spectrum are exceptionally sensitive to loud noises and bright lights and can shut themselves away. However, the rescue team responded with incredible empathy and sensitivity. You can read more about it here: Finding Hope on Mt Disppointment.
Meanwhile, I hope you are all keeping safe and well. We’re coming out of lock down safely here in Australia with only very minimal transmission here. It’s a huge relief.
This week, we had the best good news story here in Australia, which really warmed and electrified my heart. On Monday afternoon, word got out that Will Callaghan, a 14 year old, non-verbal youth on the Autism Spectrum, strayed away from his family on a bush walk at Mt Disappointment in Victoria, and had gone missing. He was lost in dense bushland, and it was almost like trying to find someone in a fog. You just wouldn’t know where to start, and the only way forward involved trying to think like Will and somehow trying to crawl inside his mind and body, and do everything they could to be like him.
No doubt, this is what Police and emergency service personnel are trained to do. However, trying to find Will was next level, but they went there, pulling out all the stops to lure him out. Will’s favourite song is the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine, and they were playing that from Police cars and loud speakers in the area. They also put food out for him, and warned locals to keep an eye out. That he could help himself to their fridge, or be asleep in a bed. They also encouraged locals to fire up the BBQ, as Will particularly loved the smell of frying onions or bacon and kept repeating how much he loved his food. The local response was so enthusiastic, they had to turn people away. Indeed, it seemed there was a real public surge of love and concern for Will and wanting him found
After spending two nights in the bush, Will was found by a volunteer not far from where he went missing. Despite all he’d been through, he only had a few scratches and was pretty much fine and unscathed. Indeed, on the way to hospital, the ambulance detoured via McDonald’s, and after a check-up he was allowed to go home. It was an absolute miracle, especially after being missing for 47 hours barefoot in sub-zero temperatures without food or water.
I was so struck by the efforts Police, emergency services, community, the media, everyone made to put themselves into Will’s feet (he doesn’t like wearing shoes and was indeed found barefoot), that I needed to write about and acknowledge it myself in my own words and share it in my little space here at Beyond the Flow. I’ve never seen acceptance, understanding or empathy for someone on the Autism Spectrum on such a grand scale before. Indeed, if you could write a wish list of how you’d like people to respond, this would have to be it. Moreover, I feel that this experience has embraced this community in a way we haven’t seen before. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. I hopeit encourages people to respond to people living on the autism spectrum with greater understanding, acceptance and flexibility in the future.
As a person living with disability myself, I know what it’s like to be misunderstood and be “beyond the flow”. I get sick of having to explain myself over and over again, and so frustrated having to make so much effort just to do this basics, and there are times where every day involves conquering an Everest of some sort. I have friends with children who are non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum, and they have their good days and their bad, but I can tell you, they adore their children and step out and advocate for them so passionately. They endure often experience discrimination, judgement, pity and being cut off from family and friends because oil and water don’t mix. Yet, they also experience a love for their child which knows no bound.
So, while I’m grateful that things have come such a long way for people living with disabilities and their families, we need to maintain this momentum and take it further. The Wills of this world are counting on us and so am I.
Lastly, I hope I have got all the lingo right through this. There are so many ways of referring to people living on the Autism Spectrum. Some are quite fine with being called “Autistic”. Others prefer to maintain the distinction between what was known as “Asbergers” and “Autism”. Others say that we’re all somewhere on the spectrum. However, the point I wanted to make, is that it’s possible for all of us to find out more about how people on the spectrum experience the world and how to relate to them without pressing any triggers. That love and acceptance should be for everyone and we need to look at ways at making community more inclusive, even if people choose to go their own way. These are difficult conversations to have without tripping over the lingo. However, we still need to try, and that’s where I’m coming from.