A few random thoughts

It’s interesting what children are being taught these days as distinct from how we were all those years ago.

I went to school over 50 years ago, and we were predominantly taught arithmetic, which is now called maths, English, which was how to write properly, and spell words, and read from specified school texts rather than mainstream writers, geography, which was predominantly about the British Commonwealth, History, which was predominantly British history, and just a little about our own country, Australia, music, which we all hated, especially if we were picked for the school choir, and some other subjects I don’t remember.

Now, it seems there’s a different slant of how children learn the basics, and what I find is how English, written and spelt, is taught.  When you see the standard of the work being produced as a result of this teaching, you would throw your hands up in disgust.

And spelling, they spell the words the way they sound.  I mean, really?

Is it any wonder that when you listen to a teenagers conversation, if you can get them off their phones long enough, there are more ‘like’ and ‘but’ scatted through the sentence, and sadly, in a lot of cases, expletives.

Discipline and behaviour were very high priorities back then, too.

Primary education in our days was a perfect grounding for what came next, secondary school.  In primary school we were taught the values of discipline, there were no rowdy kids or any form of bad behaviour.  It just wasn’t tolerated.  That discipline started to slip as we entered secondary school, you know, slowly turning into smart arses as teenagers do, but discipline was enforced, and getting punished for bad behaviour was a definite deterrent.

I know, I was at the end of it quite a few times in my illustrious school days.

But I learned a great deal.

But the reason for this is the news my granddaughter came home with, where one member of her class deliberately set out to wreck their project simply because he hadn’t done one.  Spite, or jealousy?  Definitely bad behaviour, in our time, that kid would be front and centre at the headmaster’s office, handed a form of corporal punishment, and then expelled, or if not, sent home for a week to ponder his options.

The end result of this event, he earned some remedial classes.

That behaviour in schools is widely spread, and symptomatic of today’s society where parents are more preoccupied with their own problems which is the ground zero for the general bad behaviour of our youth.  No discipline and no consequences for their actions, either at home or at school.  How do expect to maintain law and order when a whole generation has no idea what law and order is?

At least, in this country, that wretched child can’t get his hands on a gun and go to the school and start shooting people.  For that, I guess, we should be grateful.

A square peg in a round hole

Doesn’t that describe at least one of your characters?

It seems a lot of my characters fit that category, and I’m beginning to think it’s like being a typecast Hollywood actor.  Once the villain, always the villain.

Perhaps they take after me, or I’m drawing on all those experiences I’ve had over the years, where I don’t think I’ve ever quite fitted in.

It’s probably why, most of my working life, I have been a contractor, trying not to stay in one place too long.

Early on I tried the ‘I’m going to work for this place for the rest of my life’ route.  Being young, you don’t quite know what to expect, and, as the years pass, and progression through the ranks is slow, sometimes non-existent, and you see others who started after you, move up, you wonder if it’s you, or just a quirk of fate.

Probably me.

I worked hard and did all that was asked of me, sometimes more.  I’ve seen people above me take credit for what I’ve done, and being in that position where you couldn’t really say anything.  Who would believe you?

Better not to have a superior, and work autonomously on a project, or just a part of it.  No one can take credit for your work because you were hired specifically to do that job.  In doing so, I found a greater level of satisfaction in doing so.

Of course, it doesn’t come with permanency, and when there is a glut of labour looking to do the same task, work can sometimes be hard to find.  And there’s that retirement thing that is always at the back of your mind.  Working for yourself, in a manner of speaking, doesn’t come with the same benefits as a permanent job.

Even in life, I haven’t exactly followed the mold, because life throws a great deal at you, and sometimes it’s difficult if not impossible to get overwhelmed.  Often it’s difficult to step back for a moment because everyday issues and demands force you to confront them.  Kids need to go to school, meals still need to be put on the table, houses don’t pay for themselves, and gardens aren’t maintenance-free.

I’ve never been able to keep up with the Jones’, even though because of human nature, I tried.

Money does run out.  It never used to be the case, but in a throwaway society that has to have everything, including a new smartphone every year, the latest car every two years, and a trip around the world first-class because that’s what the neighbours are doing.

People smile, tell you how great things are, but behind the smile, well, we try not to talk about it.  Maybe we should.  That way we would not be attending funerals of people who have died before their time.

But, I reached retirement, something I thought long ago I never would, and I actually own both my house and my car and have a few dollars in the bank.

And I have time to do the writing I always wanted to.  It may not amount to much in the greater scheme of things, but it took a long time for this square ped to find a square hole.

It doesn’t mean my characters will.



It must be the seasonal change

Earlier today, or yesterday now since the clock has ticked over to a new day, I was writing a post about the weather.

Boring as hell, except it gradually turned into a rant about greed, both corporate and government,

There has to be better stuff to talk about than that.

Like today is father’s day.

It’s possibly the most interesting aspect of my life, having never expected as a teenager that I would ever become a father.  No, back in those dark and gloomy days I had neither the confidence or the wherewithal to be or do anything.

I guess meeting someone, falling in love, and getting married, pulls you out of the lethargy of youth and forces you to take stock, and become someone, someone who has to have a good job that pays good money so you can get the necessities like a house and a car.  You might have these before you get married, we had the cars, but not the house.

Then you realise you need more money because you never seem to earn enough until a baby comes along, and your whole life as you knew it turned upside down and inside out.  Bad enough trying to sustain two, it’s now three.

More money, larger house, larger car, a damn good washing machine, and lots of nappies.  Wow, I had thought having a baby meant more than a clothesline perpetually filled with nappies.

Until another baby comes along, the cycle repeats, then one has to go to school, and a whole new money pit opens and this costs more than the annual house payments.

Then there’s sport, and extracurricular activities like dancing (though we didn’t have girls, thankfully), then kids get to be very good at sport, so, you guessed it, another money pit.  And a steadily growing grocery bill as they get larger and start eating you out of house and home.

There’s never a let-up, from the moment they’re born till the moment they leave home, and that, sometimes, can take a few more years than you expected.

Along the way you hope that your kids will respect you are theuir father and their mother.  Sometimes that’s a forlorn hope.  Other times children become a blessing and are always there.  At least we don’t have to travel to either the other side of the country, or the other side of the world, to see ours, and with any luck, I will see them both later today.

I don’t expect much.  My relationship with my father is strained, now, but for many years I was there for him, much more than I should according to my wife.  I don’t want for them what happened to me, so I do what I can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

But the unexpected surprise, that one thing that you never expect when this life long journey starts, is the eventuality of grandchildren.  Yes, it’s a natural progression in the circle of life, but often it doesn’t quite happen.

We have three granddaughters, and though I know as we get older we will not see them as much or if at all as they make their way out into a very large and far more accessible world than we had at the same time, but I will cherish those moments I have with them now.

I guess today, being the first day of spring, is not such a bad day after all, and it’s amazing that twelve hours later after feeling the gloom and doom of the world, that mood has changed, and that it took so little to change it.

Perhaps that’s what life is really all about.



A book review

Life at the end of the Rainbow, by Jenny Andrews


Poetry is like art, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

But, while art can be very subjective, poetry often has a special meaning, to both the writer and then the reader.  In turn, for each of us readers, a poem will have a different meaning, some will see what it represents, and others may not.

And, whilst I have not read a lot of poetry over the years, that changed recently when I subscribed to several blogs and discovered this whole new class of literature.

This view was strengthened when I came across a volume of poems by Jenny Andrews, titled Life at the End of the Rainbow.

For me, each poem is an insight into an extraordinary life, where the author sometimes lays bare those raw emotions, which, at times, we will find ourselves drawing parallels.

In a sense, I think we have all been to this mythical place called, The End of the Rainbow, and sometimes need a gentle reminder that it took a lot of ups and downs to get there.

This is, to my mind, a remarkable piece of work.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next stage of the journey will be.


Does our education define us?

It’s 2am here, and I’m feeling philosophical, instead of being sleepy and going to bed.

It’s probably the problem most writers have when they’re working on a novel, a short story, or a blog post, or something else.

The other day a thought ran through my mind, whether or not my first school was still standing and if so, would it remember me?

Probably not.  I went there in 1958, I think when I was five.  I stayed there till I finished Grade six and then moved onto secondary school.

In those days, we could stay at secondary school till Form four and then, if we were 15 or over, we could leave.  I went to a technical school, i.e. one that taught a trade, rather than going to a High School which was for the more academically minded and who would go on to University.

But in my day, you had to have rich parents to get into a University, and we were decidedly poor.  It was a technical trade for me, and become a builder was to be my lot in life.

I wasn’t very good and sheet metal, the precursor to plumbing, or machine ship practice the forerunner to being a mechanic, or technical drawing, the forerunner to being a draughtsman

I could have just as easily been a farmer or gardener, it too was on the curriculum.

Where is this going?

Oh, yes.  My old primary school.  Yes, it’s still there, and it still looks like the gothic nightmare it used to.  Gothic or not, I guess those years in that school were good, and I don’t seem to have any bad memories, except,. of course, of the teachers, but that’s only natural.

secondary school, that was a nightmare, so different, and much like going to university, with different classes, different teachers, different rooms, and a lot of other kids who were older, larger, meaner, and made the navigation of early teens an annabilus horribilis four times over.

So the question did my education define me?

No.  I was a builder for a while, but my aspirations led me towards office work, the sort where you start at the bottom and languish there till you’re noticed.

Failing that, you work for a relative, then get headhunted, watch that opportunity slip away, and become an IT teacher that leads to computer programming.

But, as they say, always have a backup plan.

Yep!  Writing.  Been doing it since I was fifteen.

Now, those years I was at school have provided me with a diverse collection of people who have become characters in my stories, and I’m still waiting for the know on the door from the process server to tell me one of them finally recognized him or herself and didn’t like my impression of them.

Hasn’t happened yet.