Jackson was seething with rage, and vowing revenge. Busted with a bottle of Bacardi at school, the Principal had poured it straight down the sink, slapped him with a three day suspension, and hauled his parents into the office. That was it. He was immediately despatched to Uncle Bill’s piggery to teach him a good, hard lesson. “Suspension was a punishment, not a holiday”. The stench of pig still permeated his skin, as he emptied the contents of the takeaway container into her desk. A place for everything and everything in its place, it was right at home.
100 words. This has been another contribution to the Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/. Every week, we write 50 words to a photo prompt. This weeks PHOTO PROMPT @ Jan Wayne Fields.
By the way, if you’re interested in old family photographs, you might like to check out my previous past. After my Great Aunt passed away, I’ve been putting some photos together and, of course, came up with some complcations.
Well, I’m not quite sure what to offer you with your cuppa tonight. On Friday night, I made a Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday. Unfortunately, the meringue slid off the ice cream centre and the brandy wouldn’t light. So, you could say that it was “Fizzer Alaska” instead.
However, it tasted good anyway. I’d added a few extras like a layer of Nutella Butter Cream and roasted hazelnuts over the cake for extra lusciousness. It was yum and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t go according to plan. By the way, if you’re a keen baker or fancy a bit of dessert, you might like to check out my previous post.
Last week, was fairly difficult overall. Our teenaged kids are keeping us on our toes with our son not seeing the point of doing his final year of school and looking at TAFE to pursue sound engineering. It sort of makes sense, but it’s still a big decision and it’s taking me time to get my head around the ramifications of it all. As if that wasn’t enough to think about, our daughter has been making some poor choices of late, and we’re needing to get our heads around that too. Long gone are the days where we could physically pick up our children when they were running off the “wrong” direction. Now, we’re needing to try to work with the teenage brain, which science tells us is potentially incapable of making good rational choices until they’re 25. Yet, this unregulated teenage mind is moving forward at full throttle thinking it knows it all, knows what’s best and can do anything it likes. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way is their hapless parents, school authorities, or when things go really pear-shaped, the police. Meanwhile, I keep dropping what I view as pearls of wisdom into the hapless subjects’ minds while driving them from A to B. It’s a bit like dropping coins in a money box, except it seems that the plug at the bottom has often been pulled out and lost. Consequently, the coins are often falling straight through and rolling away. It’s not a very encouraging picture. However, somehow most teens and their parents survive to adulthood so it’s not all doom and gloom after all. I live in constructive hope.
In addition to doing my baking at home, I’ve also loved watching Junior MasterChef and tonight is the Grand Finale. I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the dishes put up by the kids. They really knocked my socks off. If you’d like to watch any of the past episodes, here’s the link: https://10play.com.au/junior-masterchef-australia and you can find the recipes there too if you’re feeling particularly daring. Just because these cooks are young, doesn’t mean their dishes are any less impressive than their adult rivals. These kids are potentially the great professional chefs of the future and this pool of talent is a cut above the usual contestants for the adult version of the show. indeed, they’re absolutely mind boggling. I can’t wait to see who is going to win, and how the show is going to unfold.
However, before I move on from Junior MasterChef, I just heard the most priceless comment from one of the contestants, Georgia. You see, they’ve invited their mums onto the shows for the finale. Now, these kids have been doing just fine without their mums on set for the entire series, and have been able to go it alone. However, now they’ve reached the finale, mum is calling out from the gantry. My message to the mums is to back off. I think they know what they’re doing. These thoughts were going through my mind when Georgia piped up and said: “Who invited our mothers along?” Well, at least Filo is pleased his mum’s there.
Meanwhile, my WWI bio research is going really well. I have no idea how it’s going to find its place out there in the real world, because it’s a bit out there and it seems to sit somewhere in between academic history, creative writing, documentary and a movie script. Each of these things are ambitious on their own, and challenging the world order probably verges on suicide. After all, each of these disciplines is probably in its own box for a reason. I guess I’ll be finding out what happens when I break multiple moulds at once. Well, that is once I get all of this finished…
Oh well. Another week has begun. OMG! Do you ever have Mondays where the prospect of another week just wears you out, as you haven’t had enough time to recover from the week that’s been, or to resolve the splatter on the roof its left behind? Perhaps, I’ve been spoiled for awhile, because in so many ways life has been a lot simpler this year due to covid. While we’ve had to deal with the complications of hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, social distancing and toilet paper shortages, so many activities were cancelled that we haven’t been buzzing off over the place like manic bees trying to get everything done and take kids to three different places at the same time while trying to have some kind of a life ourselves. It’s been nice taking up the piano again, doing my extreme baking and doing hours of research. Indeed, it’s probably been something of a luxury…especially with my husband working from home and not commuting for three hours a day.
PS The last word on the Masterchef Junior front goes to Georgia’s Mum as she ate her daughter’s dessert the “Tropical Mess”…”she’s tricky to make a lunchbox for. She’s very particular with her flavours.” You’ve got to feel for the mother of Junior MasterChef.” I have some empathy with her. My kids have both been super fussy eaters and are very particular even if they aren’t MasterChefs themselves.
PPS I know I haven’t actually finished this post yet. However, I’d forgotten all about touching on the US election. I don’t know if I would’ve voted for Trump or Biden, but I’ looking forward to the changing of the guard.
Anyway, were you almost shocked like me that it’s now November and another year has almost gone up in smoke? I know this year is 2020, and it’s a year we’d all like to accelerate through, destroy, blow up, delete or all of the above. However, a year is still a year, and good things have happened in 2020. My cousin and his wife had a baby last week and friends got married and we’ve even been to a few parties lately. Of course, we’re rather shielded from the full impact of the virus and also extensive lockdowns here, but I’ve also been researching WWI intensively this year and that puts 2020 into perspective.
Last week was a bit clunky around here. There’s been the ongoing saga of our son’s subject choices for his last year at school and trying to keep him there for another year when he doesn’t need it to go into sound engineering. I’ve been doing my research which is very slow and I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of avoidance. I find it all confusing, and since I went down the university path and that was over 30 years ago, a lot has changed and I’m starting to feel like I’m from the era of the horse and cart (or is that actually his impression of me?) Not much has been said for a few days and he was home sick today. I can’t help wondering if I lie low and don’t say anything, he’ll accidentally get through Year 12 and he’ll at least have that under his belt before he heads off to TAFE to get a trade certificate to get into the sound engineering course he wants to do. However, this is probably too much to hope for and more stress is just around the corner.
Meanwhile, my research is progressing well. I’m still beavering away on my WWI research. I posted yesterday a South Australian farmer I’m researching, Herbert A Stewart who found close to 200 messages in bottles washed up on the beach near his home in Rendelsham , South Australia. He forwarded the letters onto their intended destinations with a cover letter, and there was one day where he found 47 bottles. So, at times he was really under the pump and while this would seem a unconventional way of supporting the war effort, it would’ve made such a difference to the families and friends of these men. I was also surprised to find that some of the messages in bottles thrown overboard in the Great Australian Bight were found in New Zealand. That’s extraordinary. I’ve also found it rather calming and reassuring to think about the ocean currents circulating around the world regardless of everything else that’s going on just like the sunrise and the sunset. There’s that continuity. At least, there was before cllimate change.
This afternoon, I went for a quick walk along the beach. Even though it’s almost Summer here, a cold wind was blowing and so I just did my walk and didn’t hang about. Not unsurprisingly, I almost expecting to find piles of bottles scattered across the beach after doing all my research. However, there wasn’t much to see on our beach today….just a jellyfish.
Meanwhile, it’s getting quite late. So, I’m going to head off.
So, what’s been going on for you? I hope you’re okay and keeping safe.
How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?
That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.
Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.
Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.
Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.
It’s currently Sunday night, and I’m currently watching Masterchef Junior Australia. So, this week I thought we should try to nut out some way of breaking into the TV set and running off with all their goodies. Sounds good, doesn’t it?!! A serving of lobster mornay, followed by handmade ravioli with lemon tart with berries for dessert followed by Spiced Chocolate Tart. Hey why stop there? I think I’ll add a third dessert and also go for the Masterchef interpretation of Smores using marshmallow made from Davidson Plum. I have no shame. Besides, with this being a virtual meal, we can gourge ourselves without consequence and no fear of impersonating Monty Python’s Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U
How was your week?
Last week, was the second week of school holidays for my kids. On Tuesday, our daughter and I caught the ferry across to Palm Beach where we met up with my Dad and spent a few hours out sailing across Pittwater. It was a really special day, because we haven’t been out on the boat with Dad for a few years , and we also haven’t seen him and my mum for a few months as we’ve been playing it safe re Covid. On top of that, it was also special to snaffle our daughter away from her friends for the day, and time with her has become a precious commodity, especially with all the hours she puts into her dance. However, there were also a few disappointments as well. While we’ve been having some wonderfully sunny Spring days lately, on Tuesday it was grey and overcast, which isn’t great for photography. My favourite fish & chips shop was closed so I missed out on my fisherman’s basket, although I did pick up a tasty and very generous fish burgers next door. Lastly, there was the problem of insufficient wind. Since we thought we might end up without any wind at all and would have to go under motor, the soft 2 knot wind was great. However, it would be fair to say that both Dad and I were left longing for more and were very pleased when the wind managed to get to 4 knots, even if it was as we turned for home. Dad says that often happens.
I’m sure I must’ve done something else last week. Has it just slipped my memory, or was I just trying to keep my head above water? I’ve been doing a bit of research on my WWI soldiers’ project, as well as baking. Oh dear! I’m sure I did more than that. However, I’ve also been trying to clear stuff out of our house, and get it to a point where we can actually entertain from home again. It’s been years.
Lastly, this week school goes back, which also means that violin lessons start up again. I’ve had over two terms off from my lessons, and I’m still a little undecided about whether I’ll go back. I think it would be good to reconnect, and I’m starting to feel it would be a good idea for me to get something back to normal. However, I’ll need to suss out things at the studio before I truly make up my mind and I also need to get in more practice. I’ve been getting back into the piano, and having the keyboard where you can lower the volume and play into the night. Obviously, that’s much harder with the violin, and I try to be considerate about when I play.
Next week, I might have to make up a few activities. I’m feeling like there’s not a lot to report. Hey, I believe that’ll take me into the league of creating “fake news”. The only trouble is, that with all the covid restrictions in place, you’d know I was lying. What a pity!
After taking our son on a long, epic drive last week, I was reminded of the walks we used to go on when he was just knee-high to a grasshopper. I know it’s such a cliché, but I’m still amazed how much time’s flown under the bridge. That with the click of my fingers, he’s now turned 16 and at the end of next year, he’ll be out of school and on the cusp of adulthood. Where did all that time go? I don’t know. However, paradoxically as we headed forward on our journey North, I was taken back to those very special early walks together. Walks with me and my boy.
Ironically, what I remember most about our walks together, is how I’d be tugging on his small hand trying to get him moving, while he was enthralled by some random “treasure” he’d discovered on our path. Of course, I tried to slow my pace down to appreciate that lump of gravel, or rusty bottle top through his eyes instead of my own. However, there were understandably times when my patience grew thin. I just want to go, and he’d become equally immovable. However, back then I had one thing in my favour. When all else failed, I could pick him up and cart him off, even if he wasn’t happy.
I can’t do that anymore either.
Anyway, our son has decided to go into sound engineering when he leaves school, and he’s already getting good experience helping out at Church. That’s why he needed the lift. He’d been offered further training and the opportunity to help out at a funeral at our main Church campus an hour’s drive away.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t mad keen on driving him up there. Indeed, I’m sure you can read my mind: “What the???? Can’t you catch the train? A bus? Fly on your broomstick?” Moreover, when all of those avenues failed, there was the added annoyance of having to fill in a few hours before driving him home. Indeed, it was looking like much of my day was going up in smoke with the barest slither remaining. Not that I was counting. Or, that I minded. I am his mother. If I can love him to the moon and back, surely I could drive him there as well?!!
Humph! I’m not so sure that was part of the contract.
Rather, it was looking like the perfect time to play the dying swan. Get his father to drive him. However, Geoff is working from home, not doing long distance parent taxi duties. So, for better or worse, I had to rise to the challenge.
Meanwhile, alongside this protesting siren of complaint, was gratitude, relief and a sincere desire to do whatever it takes to help our son to find his feet and get his career established. I mean that too. Whatever it takes, especially when he’s so keen and he has an equally keen mentor volunteering to train him up. With our local theatres closed down due to covid, Church is one of the few venues where he can get some experience. Indeed, as we all know, it’s a hard world out there. No one’s knocking on your door to give you a start. You have to go hunting. Go all out. Eat humble pie by the kilo, just to have a chance of getting a toe through the door.
However, instead of being an onerous ordeal, our trip turned into an adventure, and reminded me:
“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”
― George Bernard Shaw
That’s exactly how our drive together panned out. We had an hour each way to chat, but then there were some complications. For those of you who know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear that we experienced some navigational difficulties. However, this time I blame my son. I was pretty sure we were meant to take the next exit, but he was insistent. Moreover, although I know he is “often wrong but never in doubt”, he has a much better sense of direction. So, I bowed to his expertise. Indeed, I carefully followed his directions to turn right at the roundabout, and drove along until it was clear we were in the wrong place, even if we weren’t officially “lost”. I must admit that my heart rate started to increase a little at this point. I mentioned heading back to the freeway to take the next exit. However, he was quite confident. Knew there was a Bunnings Hardware Store on the left coming up and a shopping centre. Sure enough, he was right, and good enough with his sense of direction to redirect us. Meanwhile, in the end it turned out that we were both right. Both exits worked.
When we pulled up, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the next few hours. However, one of the guys showed me a local map and I spotted that Norah Head was nearby. Now, I was set. With my camera in the car, I set off to revisit Norah Head and the lighthouse where I’d been as a young child with my family and on a couple of slumber parties as a teenager with friends. By now, I was actually quite excited and grateful for my big day out. You could even say I was happy!
Just to top off my day, I bought myself a beautiful new skirt and a tray full of red Salvias which I’ve planted out the front. I ate a pie in a park surrounded by lush green trees and ocean views feeling pretty chuffed our day was going so well.
After walking around the lighthouse (which you can read about here), I was back to pick him up. I was even given a tour of the sound desk by his mentor, who had no idea just how untechnical I am and how I even struggle to operate out TV. However, I did gain at least a cursory view of the thing which makes our son tick, and is going to be a big part of his future. That was pretty special. After all, being understood has always been very important to me, but the flipside of that is to understand. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes even when they don’t fit particularly well, and go for a walk.
Or, perhaps even go for a long drive.
That certainly worked for us!
Has our day out brought back any memories for you? Do you have something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Well, after all these years of blogging, I’m lucky not to be battered and bruised!! When I pulled up to my desk this morning with my cup of tea, I noticed the counter had not only clicked over 200,000 hits, it now reads 201,823. Wow! I can’t believe I missed it so spectacularly, because I was keeping an eye out, even though I no longer take much notice of my stats. 200,000 hits is something to celebrate. Ring the brass bell and break out the champagne, or a personal treat, get stuck into the Tim Tams. The Vegemite can wait.
Meanwhile, it’s Spring over here and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the local wildflowers as much as I can. Unfortunately, my mobility has been hampered by that spot of rock surfing I mentioned last week, and my knee is still sore and going down stairs is quite tricky and I’m trying to rest my leg. However, a friend whose been living in Northern NSW, came down for a visit and so I took her out to see the Waratahs (scene of my rock surfing accident). While we were out there, I spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild before. This striking flower is Isopogon anemonifolius, and its common name is “Drumsticks”. It was such a blast to come across this new flower, and I feel like an intrepid explorer when I’m out there. It doesn’t bother me that car after car is also pulling over and that all these admiring pilgrims have even forged a trail through the bush. After all, I don’t view these discoveries through the eyes of many, but my own and I’m just spellbound. You don’t need to go past nature to be inspired and feel your heart soar, even just a little. Of course, another aspect of that is that it’s free and I barely need to travel.
Of course, for most of us 2020 is the year of local. Anywhere but local or at least outside the state is banned. In many ways I don’t mind staying local. We were lucky that we managed to get up to Byron Bay for a week or so in January after the bush fires up North had settled down a bit. That’s a 10-12 hour drive with stops and even though I don’t do much of the driving, looking at the grey bitumen and the white line for all those hours, even if I am reading, talking or looking out the window, grates on you. You just want to wave a magic wand and turn up.
Our kids (now teens) are on school holidays for the next two weeks. Next weekend, our daughter has the Dance Production, which will be incredible as this is put on by the dance team at the dance school. Also, rehearsals take up much of this week. Notice that I’m not too disappointed about that. While they naturally need some time to chill out, smell the roses and socialize, too much time on their hands can be problematic.
This brings me to the subject of the end of school muck-up days which were held last week. Oh dear! It seems the end of this school year, has drawn out the most putrid pus out of our young people and made it public. I am hoping this students are the exception and not the norm and I really believe they are because there are beautiful young people who are an inspiration and are doing the right thing. There are also vulnerable, disadvantaged and simply uncool kids and members of our society at large who have been targeted through these well-planned, detailed scavenger hunts and these people are make of flesh and blood. They hurt. They break and they can’t always be put back together again. Unfortunately, a prestigious Sydney boys’ school seems to have taken this despicable form of scavenger hunt to another level, producing a pdf document which looks all the world like a business annual report. It’s seems that at least one of the boys receiving the document blew the whistle and I commend them 100%. I also feel for the boys in that year who have done and have always done the right thing and I feel for the parents of all. However, then I found out that my old school had their own not dissimilar treasure hunt circulating and today I heard about a school in Newcastle which outed a young woman who is a child sexual abuse survivor and sent her spiraling back down into the most intolerable depths of despair. To make matters worse, those details were made public by a trusted friend. I don’t know who this young woman is but I send her my love and hopes of a miracle. That she will find healing and reassurance of the good in humanity. Indeed, I’m struggling with that myself after these documents have come to light. Here’s a link to details of the list: https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/private-school-students-tasked-with-vile-muckup-day-challenges/news-story/10a74efdfcedc9a0df6291ebde25383a
Meanwhile, we’re pottering along with our own kids, which has made me more compassionate to parents whose kids don’t believe like automated robots even after expensive schooling and possibly even intensive parent input (or absence which might be the case). You can’t make assumptions, because then someone will always rub your nose in your mistakes saying “Didn’t you know that “assume” means making an ass of you and me??!!” Anyway, I’ve been pleased that our son has been volunteering with sound at Church so far these holidays and will be helping out at a funeral tomorrow, even if I do need to drive him up. I might detour up to Maitland for a bit. Meanwhile with our daughter, she’s now going to parties and wanting to push the envelope. Stay out late. Walk around at night with her friends. Weekends are starting me mean “on duty” for us and I’m mighty grateful to have everyone tucked into bed at night, and a sense of relief.
I’ll leave you with an entertaining pic I took of a dog I saw at the shops on Friday. Max is some kind of Mastiff and looked straight out of a movie when he pulled up in a bright yellow ute. However, watching his owner try walk him down the street was hilarious. When he’s not on guard dog duties, Max is a big softie and just wants to play with other dogs. We were sitting at a cafe where there was a tiny toy poodle parked under an adjacent table with their ball. Well, Max spotted the tiny dog which was about the size of half his head and wanted to pass with the dog and ball. However, this massive, bony colossus was clearly to big for the footpath itself, let alone the tiny dog and his owner who seemed to be inversely proportioned to the dog, was also struggling to contain him. It was funny, although it might not have been. An inch either way, and there would’ve bee tables and people flying and a toy poodle crushed into a floor rug. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemonium, you couldn’t but love Max and wrap your arms around him in a hug, even though he could well take your head off if he’s on duty.
Meanwhile, our Rosie’s just appeared with the rope toy. She has no doubt about her purpose in life. It’s to chase. This also means that it’s my job to throw…my only job.
PS I also got a haircut for the first time in over six months. Indeed, it could well have been 12 months thanks to the bush fire smoke and covid. No point restating the obvious. 2020 has been a difficult and very weird year.
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.
I don’t always ask that first up. However, given everything that’s going on at the moment, I wanted to see how you are and hope you’re going okay. It’s fine if you’re not. Well, it’s not fine, is it?!! However, with so much going on in some parts of the world, it can be very overwhelming. I wanted to acknowledge that and simply say: “we’re thinking of you”.
All of this seems so far away from our backyard, which has been receiving considerable attention during “iso” and is actually improving. On the other hand, so much else has gone down the toilet along with all that precious loo paper. Yet, in this modern world, nothing is faraway. Much of the time, we end up absorbing foreign news as though it were our own. Besides, many of these issues such as the coronavirus and inequality, are global concerns. Our daughter’s been following the George Floyd protests very closely via Tik Tok and wanting to join a local protest march here in Australia supporting Black Lives Matter. I said no due to concerns about the coronavirus. However, I’m also concerned about her safety if things get out of hand. Although protesting and having having a heart for social justice are in her genes and I’m proud of her, I’m still her mother and it’s my job to keep her safe.
Our Daily Timetable Provided A Phantom Framework to School At Home.
Meanwhile, last week was fairly stressful. The kids returned to school after being in lock down for a month, and that was stressful, chaotic and strangely felt just as weird as doing school from home. Students across the board aren’t themselves. My SIL also started treatment for breast cancer and I feel like hitting someone, something over the head with a baseball bat over that. How dare they! I’m sure many of you would also like to join a protest march against cancer. The chances of survival have improved a lot, but that still doesn’t mean you want your loved ones going through all of this. My other concern is trying to be an adequate support person. I know all of us have done it. We’ve meant to write the card. We might even have bought the gift. However, nothing makes it into the mail. You don’t ring. Time drifts by and added to procrastination, there’s the guilt, embarrassment, even shame. After all, don’t we all want to be the one who drops off a meal just when it’s needed? Buys that much needed soft blanket to keep them warm during treatment? Anyway, I finally managed to post a card yesterday about 4 days after I wrote it, and I stuck in a shell I found on my walk around Patonga. At least, now I’ve done something.
Like many others, I’ve also been struggling to sleep and have found myself in a dreadful cycle of going to bed around 3.00 am and waking up at Midday or even later. Indeed, I’ve ended up on “Rowie Time” and it isn’t working for me, or anyone else. While I’ve heard about how to break challenging sleep patterns, I haven’t really wanted to until now that I’m ending up with a few scant hours of disappearing sunlight every day, and I also need to help get the kids off to school. Anyway, you’ll be proud of me today. I actually got up at the official wake-up time of around 7.00 am. It’s the first time I’ve seen the morning for quite awhile and I’ve been quite energetic and productive, which has surprised me.
A Molten Sunset Through the Norfolk Pines, Patonga.
Although it’s the first day of Winter, I also managed to lie on a blanket outside on the grass in the sun and read a few chapters of my book. I was pretty stoked, as I can’t remember ever doing this. Two of our three dogs, Rosie & Zac, were just as happy. A human lying the grass on a rug, made for an easy target, and Rosie repeatedly dropped the rope toy on my back and waited beside me with baited breath. Clearly, she had no respect for my serenity, and Geoff wasn’t any better. He said I’d invaded the dogs’ territory. What did I expect? As usual, I was out numbered.
Meanwhile, last night was a dramatic night on Masterchef. As I might have mentioned before, Masterchef started filming before Australians went into lock down, and this very weird, unnatural state of “social distancing” became our way of life. While it might be a relief for those who don’t like to be touched, not being able to hug our non-residential family members and friends has been difficult and quite frankly weird for most of us. Moreover, for some people living alone, the complete lack of physical contact from anyone, has been exceptionally hard. One of my close friends is a swinging from the rafters character who lives alone, and all the venues from Churches, gyms, cafes to pubs and clubs are all closed. It’s the sort of thing you’d do to torture someone, not to be kind.
Anyway, while we’ve been doing social isolation with the family and dogs at home, I’ve loved watching pre-iso Masterchef with everyone hugging, talking, laughing being friendly. It was so good to be surrounded by normal and leave this fruitcake world behind for a few hours. However, now the madness has caught up. Last week, the contestants were spread-out through the kitchen “social distancing”. However, nothing prepared me for young Jess’s heartbreaking elimination where the tears started to flow, she crumpled, imploded and no one could reach out to physically touch her. It was hard to watch on TV, and I had a pretty good idea that she was going from the ads. Moreover, I know, we all know, NO HUGS. However, how unnatural and unhuman is this? There wasn’t one person on that show who wasn’t shattered and feeling the need to come together. However, instead of their usual huddle, everyone went through this standing alone. It must’ve been so very hard for everyone there, her very close friends and Masterchef Family not to be able to comfort her in a physical way as was their norm only a week or so before. It is madness. If I didn’t already know this strange world we’re living in is utterly mad, I knew it then as Jess exited the Masterchef kitchen distraught and alone (no doubt some assistance must’ve been given off camera). It was heartbreaking.
Gee, I wish this virus would go away! Pack its bags and never come back!!
Talk about understatement!!
Meanwhile, I made it out for a walk and a paddle this week. For the walk, I drove about 15 minutes away to Patonga and walked along the beach and onto the rocks and photographed the sunset. Then, yesterday, Geoff and I drove round to Tascott on Brisbane Waters (a 15 minutes drive the opposite direction) for him to get out for a sail on the laser while I paddled around on the kayak. The Sailing Club is starting to open up again, and Geoff wanted to get the Laser out for a test sail as the winter series starts up next weekend. It was good that he did, as there were a few problems to iron out. Although there was no wind, and so he didn’t manage to get the boat set-up and ended up Sailing In The Park. However, we did make it out on the kayak. I went out by myself while he was working on the boat and then we went out together. This was in our big yellow two-seater plastic kayak we affectionately call “The Bathtub”. For awhile there, I was Paddling Through the Clouds. I could’ve been a thousand miles away from civilization, except main road traffic was rumbling past beside us.
Tascott Looking Towards Woy Woy
Aside from waking up early this morning and lying out in the backyard soaking up some rays reading my book, I also managed to fit in some gardening. We visited our elderly neighbours on Saturday and we’ve been very close to them the whole time we’ve been living here. They’re about 90 and they’re English. As children, they were living in London during the blitz and were sent away to the country for awhile, but ended up going back and Mr attended Sandhurst Road School which was bombed on Wednesday, 20 January 1943 when a German fighter-bomber dropped a single 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) bomb on the school at 12:30pm, killing 38 children (32 killed at the school and 6 more died in hospital) and 6 staff and injuring another 60 people. He and his mate were walking back to the school after lunch and the plane actually shot at them as they walked down the street. It was terrifying, but makes for a great story now. Anyway, they have quite a lovely garden, and I took some cuttings from the geraniums and planted them in compost from the worm farm. They should take off like Jack’s bean stalk with all those nutrients.
A Much More Muted Sunset At Tascott than Patonga.
Lastly, I managed to get a contribution off to Friday Fictioneers again last week. I was quite thrilled with last week’s contribution which drew from such a plethora of sources to build a story all of its own. This piece was called Salvaging The Masterpiece.
As I head off, I wanted you all to know that I’m thinking of you. Some of you I know quite well and have a reasonable idea of your whereabouts on this big small world of ours. Others, I don’t. However I am conscious that we live in troubled times and I am thinking of you wherever you are.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali
Well, I guess I’d better ask all of you how you’re going first up and what’s happening around Covid 19 in your neck of the woods? You might need something stronger than a tea or coffee to get through that conversation. So, I’d better off you some chocolate. What do you prefer? We’ve acquired quite a stash in lock down. I’ve been doing the shopping online and snapping up chocolate on sale. It’s much tastier than toilet paper.
Quite frankly, I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha at the moment. While I’m “creative” and not necessarily a great one for routine, I usually have the bare bones in place. Those activities which form a scaffolding and framework for the week and some sense of direction when you wake up in the morning. Indeed, you might actually wake up in the morning even the most chaotic and disorganized people and the freeist of free spirits have their anchor points. Indeed, I’m sure I had more structure when I was backpacking through Europe wandering like a cloud without a watch and no itinerary whatsoever, than living like this in Covid 19 lock down. What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going?
Well, most of the time, the response to the latter is nowhere. Although I have been out for a few walks. This is what you term “exercise”, which sort of takes the buzz out of it to be honest, even if it does involve walking along our gorgeous beaches.
Oh, and before one of you remembers that I went down to Sydney to see my parents last weekend, I’ll stop being melodramatic, and express some gratitude for how well Australia’s getting through the coronacrisis and what a difference this has made to people like myself who are at high risk, and also to people with chronic or life-threatening conditions who depend on hospital beds. We’ve seen horrific scenes around the world but somehow we’ve been spared. It’s hard to understand, and I hope we have a handle on it now that restrictions are being lifted. It would be an absolute miracle.
Personally, I have to admit that the stress of having the coronavirus hanging round, particularly after having a few major asthma attacks during the Australian bush fire crisis and being locked away for a few months n the air-conditioned loungeroom, it’s a lot to deal with. The fact I’ve survived and got through without a scratch, seems to minimize the battle and it’s like it never happened. My house didn’t burn down. I didn’t lose the lot. Nobody died. No trips to hospital. However, what our family has been through wasn’t nothing, and we’re not the only ones fighting these invisible battles beneath the radar either. It’s very hard, because it takes so much energy and thought to speak out that your emotions become quite intense and if the person you open up to doesn’t at least acknowledge your experience, you just give up. You don’t try again. Rather, you become silent, even though you might still be talking and the words are still coming out and your face, all except for your eyes, are smiling. In so many ways this is dangerous territory, because you’re rapidly disconnecting not only with those around you, but also to much of your self. That’s something those of us who know somebody who is going through a bit, especially an invisible battle, need to keep in mind.
Anyway, restrictions are easing throughout Australia. Last Wednesday, our son returned to school for one day. That was quite interesting. When I asked him how it went, he mentioned the absolute silence. With so few students there, it was so quiet. He said that he could even hear the local trains going past, where usually he could only ever hear the horn. Our daughter hasn’t gone back to school yet. However, it looks like they’ll both be back to normal school hours next week. To be honest, that really freaks me out, and yet it’s perhaps a return to normal that we need, although I’m still concerned about them bringing home the virus and you just can’t presume that the kids will be okay themselves if they catch it. Meanwhile, having them home has felt like an extended holiday and it’s been great not having to drive them around. My son and I have been doing some cooking together and our daughter’s painted the back of her bedroom door cow pat, which looks really cool.
While some people have been Spring cleaning as their lock down activity, I’ve been writing but we’ve also been working on the house and yard and getting some renovations done. As you may recall, we bought a camper caravan for me to escape to if I need to quarantine from the family. It’s still parked out of the house, while Geoff sorted out the backyard, repair the garage roof and trimmed the bougainvillea before we could even start on restoring the camper. Then he won a few pallets of floorboards last weekend at an auction and now I’m slowly moving the china out of the cabinet and relocating it wround the house. I don’t know if you’ve quite been on the hunt for real estate like this trying to squeeze your treasures into every nook and cranny. My friend works in a giftware shop and she does this all the time, and has a few casualties along the way. So, far so good. The piano is also going to be dismantled and put out for council cleanup. It’s really crappy, but I’m hoping I might be able to salvage some of the bits to stick them up somewhere around the house. I also want to make a sculpture of my grandmother the concert pianist where the pedals could become her feet. I’m not sure about how I’d build the rest of her, but I have some brass cuckoo clocks up in the roof, which I also thought about incorporating into a sculpture. By the way, what with storing up all these components, you might actually get the idea that I can actually sculpt, when I’ve never made a sculpture before in my life. That said, i did buy some wire and glue to make these papermache figures. Anyway, needless to say our house is bursting at the seams from all my inspirational ideas.
Meanwhile, I’ve been getting back into blogging again. I did my first Friday Fictioneers post for quite while and I also wrote couple of poems which were inspired by Henri-Frederic’s: Journal Intime. I haven’t posted these as that limits what I can do with them. However, I did write a three part series reflecting back on our precious dog, Bilbo, who we lost three years ago. This wan’t soemthing I’d planned and to be perfectly honest, I woudl’ve opted for something more uplifting and funny at this point in time. However, there is humour in these posts as I reflect on Bilbo’s antics and I share about how we worked through our grief in perhaps some unconventional ways, which might help someone else get through their situation and perhaps feel less alone. I also want to leave these memories and reflections for our kids. They don’t pay much attention to Mum’s scribblings at the moment and I often feel I’m writing to myself when I really am often writing for them. That’s just the way it is and at least i have you friends out there who appreciate and encourage me in the present.