Tag Archives: homeless

The Triwizard Shorenament – Outing the Bully Boys of Privilege.

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.”

-Jodie Foster

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:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/sydney-shore-school-threatens-expulsion-for-muck-up-challenges/12691756

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/elite-private-school-students-filmed-naming-worst-sydney-suburbs/news-story/67a23c2548fb0250af42a820d46302a4?from=htc_rss

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.

These values are still worth fighting for today.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Source

  1. https://www.mpc.org.au/media/resources/2007/20071125.html

Valentine’s Day Hopeful.

It’s not easy being a huge, oversized teddy bear in the minimalist era, especially once love has gone sour.

Once upon a time, Snowy was the personification of love. Basking in the early days of new love, he made her feel really special and sat pride of place on her bed. Of course, she, whoever she was, would’ve splashed  their photo across all social medium platforms: “Look at me! Look what my boyfriend gave me!!!!!”

Back in the day, you couldn’t get a bear big enough!

However, somewhere along the way, the tide turned and Snowy ended up at our local opportunity or charity shop. Worse than that, he was free. Free, yet they couldn’t even given him away. Through the last week,  I’ve seen Snowy sitting in there on his chair. Being a compassionate sort, had to feel sorry for him. Clearly, he was loved and special once upon a time and it had to be rough, even for a bear, to end up homeless and outcast… a dust trap, a space hog and his days as a love token are long gone.

“I used to believe in forever, but forever’s too good to be true”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Anyway, today it’s Valentine’s Day and the volunteers at the Opportunity Shop clearly thought that this was Snowy’s very best chance of finding a new home, new love and live happily ever after. Or, at least until love fades all over again.

Snow Bear 2

I have to admit that seeing Snowy sitting out the front with a red rose on his chest and a tag very reminiscent of Paddington Bear saying “Free”, brought back memories of my own. Not that I recall ever being given a huge, snow bear by any of my ex-boyfriends. However, after my cousin broke up with her boyfriend, and a tribe of snow bears were packaged up and given to my then 2 year old son. His Snowy was about the same size as the one at the op shop and he loved climbing all over him. Indeed, Snowy was so loved, that the stuffing soon got knocked out of him and my son being a theatrical creative type, pulled the rest of the stuffing out and got inside and used Snowy as a bear suit. OMG! He was so cute & absolutely hilarious.

Snow Bear 4

Snowy positioned outside the op shop today hoping to get lucky on Valentine’s Day and find a new home.

So, there could be life after romantic death for our op shop Snowy and that’s why I didn’t bring him home. Having seen how the pups have chewed through one of their beds and pulled all the stuffing out with great delight, I thought he’d be better off with someone else.

I might pop back tomorrow and see whether Snowy found his Valentine.

Meanwhile, hubby gave me a bunch of roses this morning, a stash of gourmet chocolates and after my local bookseller recommended a few philosophical books about love, I gave him a book about Stretcher Bearers through the wars. I know it isn’t exactly a Valentine subject but his uncle was a stretcher bearer in New Guinea in WWII so it had personal resonance. Moreover, I should add that at least it wasn’t the book about Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison. That would’ve been a great Valentine’s Day. Thanks for the last 18 years, darling, but it feels like I’ve been living in prison”. Yes, not buying that book was a very good move.

So, how was your Valentine’s Day? What, if anything did you get up to? Or, is that private?

Before I head off, I should mention that my husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day 2001…17 years ago. Wow! That now feels like another life time ago. Actually, make that two.

xx Rowena

PS When I peered through the op shop window this morning, it seems Snowy had found a new home. His chair was now empty! Thought he might appreciate the Irish Blessing as he embarks on his new life:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

The Drowning – Friday Fictioneers.

Watching myself through an oblique lens, I’d blown to the four winds. Defragged like a faulty hard disk. Mid-40s, degree, career …now stealing food off strangers’ plates and sleeping rough.    

“No, Julie! Don’t do it!”

Ravenous, she’d snatched the pizza straight off the table, and was scoffing it on the beach like a Bangkok stray… twisted, distorted, wild.

“Julie! Julie!” I slapped. “Wake up”

“Nobody gets me. Never has.”

“What about me?”  I beseeched, but my words fell flat.

Praying for eternal nothingness, destined for oblivion, she slipped into the surf. Floundering. Gasping…

I ran.

Safe on the beach, slowly our breathing merged…again.

…..

This week’s prompt brought many things to mind for me. The first thing which came to me, was backpacking through Europe and being so tight with money and rationing our food and then watching others leaving food behind and feeling like we could almost lick their plates. I still remember that ravenous hunger!

From there, my thoughts drifted towards being homeless and being that hungry, you could snatch that pizza out of a restaurant in what felt like an act of utter desperation. Who would do that? How bad would it have to get to take you there?

I wonder…

I don’t know whether you’ve ever wrestled with yourself like this before where you’re split in two. Perhaps, not in such an extreme situation, but a time where you’ve been through hard times and you end up talking to yourself. Or, you’ve experienced God comfort you. Or both.

Becoming homeless and being swept along that dreadful downward spiral, is only be a paycheck or two away for most of us. I’ve never been homeless, but I have fallen on hard times and have often found this voice within myself guiding me along. Giving me encouragement and strength I didn’t know I had.

Given the very dark nature of my piece this week, I just wanted to explain it a little further. After all, when you play with words arranging them into very dark and foreboding pictures, I felt the need to debrief in a sense. Let the reader know that all is well.

Well, almost!

xx Rowena

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff. This week’s photo prompt kindly comes from © Dale Rogerson.

Homeless.

A first-hand insight into homeless, which everyone should read. It could be you. It could be me.

https://carrotranch.com/2016/08/25/august-24-flash-fiction-challenge/

xx Rowena

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

August 24Hot sun heats the metal beyond touching comfortably. The playground equipment squats at the mouth of a giant coulee, as if poised to be devoured. No children run across the taupe grit where soap suds lap at the water’s edge. Soap Lake gets its name from those minerailzed suds, and a few adults wade out into its tepid waters. What do they hope to be healed of?

The town of Soap Lake is as gritty as the sand. Houses built of black basalt are void of green lawns. Small businesses based on an alternative healing niche line a short main street. A few resorts boast of healing waters piped to rooms. Locals 30 miles away in Moses Lake warn me of biting red bugs in the water and tweakers in the desert.

It looks as inhospitable as a homeless shelter must feel to a child.

That we even have homeless…

View original post 2,209 more words

Returning To Chernobyl- Flash Fiction.

Elena knew the streets of Pripyat by heart.

In her dreams, she’d run along these streets until she reached the Ferris Wheel, climbing back into Papa’s lap. Afraid of heights, his strong arms held her tight.

Yet, nothing could save Papa.

Thirty years on, she’d returned, carrying the same small suitcase and clutching their front door key, as though it could unlock the past and bring it back.

Yet, no key unlocks thirty years of neglect.

Reclaimed by the forest, the Ferris Wheel loomed over the abandoned fun park like a ghostly giant.

Silent, all the children were gone.

Rowena Curtin

This has been a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from Charli Mills  over at Carrot Ranch Communications

August 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an empty playground. Is it abandoned or are the children in school? What is it about the emptiness that might hint of deeper social issues. It can be a modern story, apocalyptic or historical. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by August 31, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

To read more about former residents returning to Pripyat, click here.

Photo credit: Sean Gallup.

 

The House of Chanel, Sydney

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” ~ Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel at David Jones.

Coco Chanel at David Jones.

You wouldn’t believe that I am still writing about our trip into Sydney last Monday and still have new things to share. In case, you’ve forgotten or haven’t caught up, Miss and I went into Sydney for her audition for the part of Marta in the Sydney production of the Sound of Music. She didn’t receive a callback but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a day out.

David Jones's Flower Festival

David Jones’s Flower Festival

Being Spring in Sydney, Department Store David Jones currently has it’s annual flower show. These stunning window and store displays include an incredible tribute to the House of Chanel, where no detail was spared.

Here’s a photo of the real House of Chanel on Rue Cambon taken in 1962.

Douglas Kirkland Mlle Chanel on Rue Cambon, in front of the House of Chanel 1962 [printed later] archival pigment print, edition of 24, signed paper size 20 ..

Douglas Kirkland Mlle Chanel on Rue Cambon, in front of the House of Chanel 1962 [printed later] archival pigment print, edition of 24, signed paper size 20 ..

The Eifel Tower by Night.

The Eiffel Tower by Night, along with street reflections.

When we first arrived, the stylist was still applying the last touches to the display, which was also quite interesting to watch. By the time we returned from the Sydney Tower Eye, the display was up and running and the lights were changing colour from purple through to blue, red, pink and even the moon rose and set. The Eiffel Tower was made of flowers and there were little moving silhouettes of Coco Chanel in the windows…along with her perfume.

Window Shopping

Coco Chanel lived at the Ritz in Paris’s Place Vendome but worked and entertained within walking distance at Rue Cambon. There are four floors: the Chanel store is at street level, haute couture dressing rooms are on the second floor, her apartment is on the third, and her workshop is on the fourth. The rooftop of the building is said to have some of the best views of Paris.

Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel

Shades of Rose.

Shades of Rose.

With such incredible attention to detail, even the scissors opened and shut.

With such incredible attention to detail, even the scissors opened and shut.

While this was a sensational display and we must enjoy beauty and not always fixate on hardship, at the same time, please bear in mind that Tim and Nugget are selling the Big Issue only metres away from this luxurious window display. They sleep across the road at Hyde Park and a $50.00 a night spot at a caravan park is luxury.

You can read more of their story here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/sleeping-rough-in-sydney-meet-tim-his-dog-nugget/

Whatever else we do, we need to be thankful for what we have and appreciate the beauty and joy around us but we also need to think of those who are doing it tough.

Please don’t just walk past pretending that they’re not even there.Even if you have nothing to give, you could at least say a prayer!

xx Rowena

Sleeping Rough in Sydney…Meet Tim & his Dog, Nugget.

So often, we ponder what we can do to help “the homeless” and yet, the answer is simple: “SOMETHING“. Don’t just simply walk past. After all, good intentions still amount to doing nothing!

Yes, I know that’s not always as easy as it sounds BUT…

One thing I do is buy a copy of The Big Issue magazine when I’m in the city. It’s a small thing but it’s SOMETHING and it’s helping people through established channels. That takes all the guesswork out of what happens to your money.

I also like to chat to the Vendors and hear their stories.

Miss and Nugget.

Miss and Nugget.

On Monday, while Miss and I were in Sydney, we met Tim and his dog, Nugget. Tim and Nugget are both Vendors for The Big Issue.

The Big Issue is a fortnightly, independent magazine that is sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $3 and sell them for $6, earning the difference. There are vendors set up right throughout the Sydney CBD (and beyond) and they’ve become an approachable interface where you can get to know “the homeless” and appreciate their individual stories and destigmatize sleeping rough. The magazine is available in both print and digital versions from vendors. The Big Issue also sells subscriptions to the magazine, providing jobs for homeless and disadvantaged women through their Women’s Subscription Enterprise. Here’s a link: http://www.thebigissue.org.au/the-big-issue-magazine/about/

Vendors usually have “their corner”, which I guess you could say, is something of a “pop-up shop”. Tim and Nugget are usually on the corner of Elizabeth and Market Streets, Sydney outside David Jones’s exclusive city store, where everything is pure luxury and glamour. Quite frankly, you can’t help notice the enormous gulf between these two worlds. That said, money doesn’t buy happiness either.

So often, I hear the question: Is sleeping rough a choice or a necessity?

Quite frankly, this is something I know nothing about. As much as writers are told to write about what they know, I also believe we need to pursue what we don’t know, ask questions and investigate the great unknown. I know nothing about being homeless and have always had Mum and Dad…that safety net. What I took for granted, is seemingly a luxury. Family is something we should never take for granted.

Tim tells me that finding accommodation is difficult. Hostels are full and it’s hard to find accommodation which accepts dogs.As for making the leap from living on the streets to finding bond and paying weekly rent, that’s a huge step and as much as someone might want to climb back up the mountain, it can be incredibly intimidating.

Becoming a Vendor for The Big Issue is one way of making those baby steps forward.

Hearing Tim and Nugget’s story, you might also wonder whether homeless people should have pets.

As much as you might think that responsible pet ownership should include having a home, Tim explains how Nugget gives him love, companionship and a reason to wake up. Although Tim has been sleeping rough for a long time, he adopted Nugget recently after a devastating personal loss and Nugget is family. Consequently, Tim and Nugget usually sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road.  However, on a good day, they head out to a caravan park out at Hurstville, which accepts pets and charges $50.00 a night, which is their idea of 4 Star!. Tim also has a collection for Nugget and I did notice two lamb’s hearts on the mat, so Nugget isn’t going without..at least today!

Nugget might live on the streets but he is much loved, cared for and well fed.

Nugget might live on the streets but he is much loved, cared for and well fed.Tim also tells me that Nugget chewed that hole in his jumper.

By the way, you’ll notice that Nugget is sporting a highly fashionable woollen dog jumper. To the best of my knowledge, this didn’t come from the David Jones “Dogwear Department” but was a gift from Pets in the Park to keep warm through Winter. Although Sydney’s Winter’s are comparatively mild, even a street dog needs a bit of added TLC!

I’d never heard of Pets in the Park before.

Pets in the Park (PITP) aims to support, build relationships with and improve the wellbeing of homeless people in society living with animal companions. Many people who are experiencing homelessness own pets which offer unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security… basic human needs that are often not met elsewhere. Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost. Annual vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, and de-sexing and microchipping an animal costs hundreds of dollars.

PITP is a registered charity with DGR (deductible gift recipient) status that runs free monthly pet health clinics in Darlinghurst and Parramatta and free quarterly de-sexing clinics. PITP is run completely by volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and strives to provide emotional and educational support to owners and practical help to their pets in a social and friendly environment. By reducing the financial burden of pet ownership, and by promoting access to human social services by operating in partnership with established providers such as Rough Edges Darlinghurst, PITP aims to make a difference to both animals and people in Sydney experiencing homelessness.

So, you could say, you learn something new everyday. That instead of simply walking past and getting caught up in the philosophical rights and wrongs, supporting homeless people through recognised channels is an effective way of making a difference.

Even the smallest contribution can bring more than a smile!

Moreover, just because we do not have the answers, that doesn’t mean we should stop asking  questions.

xx Rowena

PS: Tim consented to be photographed and appear in this story, which I will be forwarding to the Big Issue.

A Homeless Story from Hawaii

Recently, my friend Tom and dog Max from Within the K Streets blogged about a homeless man in Hawaii. He hadn’t seen One Guy for awhile and was concerned about what might have happened. https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/one-guy/

Tom later went on to hear that One Guy had had a heart attack and had been taken to hospital by a stranger and then received appropriate treatment and is now doing much better. His daughter, a photographer, was doing a story about homelessness and actually found here Dad living on the streets and this is her story: I Thought He would Die: Daughter Documents Homeless Dad’s Life: http://kindnessblog.com/2015/08/18/i-thought-he-would-die-daughter-documents-homeless-dads-life/