It’s the end of June

And we’re all still here, in one piece, but oddly enough it feels like someone or something is picking us off, one by one.  You know, 100 green bottles standing on a wall…

I wanted to start this by reporting on my writing progress…

But…

I’m watching the world go to hell in a handbasket.  It’s not necessarily it’s leaders, those so-called wise men and women in government who are supposed to know what to do when there’s a crisis.  They can’t know everything.

They can try and get the best advice possible and pass it on.

And, it seems, a lot of them do.

There’s the odd maniac out there that has different ideas, mainly because their very instinct is to ask ‘what’s in it for me’?  It happens, and it will always happen, and sadly, a few million people have to die in order for them to realize their ambitions.

Fortunately, we don’t have many of them here.  We have leaders that make decisions that no one likes but begrudgingly follow.

Except for those few, and there’s always a few who think they are smarter, wiser, and better than all of us doing the right thing.

And they blame everyone else or play the persecution card when they perpetrate what can only be described as murder, because they disregard commonsense, go against all the proper things that they should be doing, get the virus, and then pass it on.

We have one such outbreak, a bad one, here, and it was started by selfish, stupid people.

There’s no other way of putting it.

To be honest, I’m all for public executions in the town square, but I’ve been told that’s a little harsh on one hand, and on the other, some would like to be the executioner.

But would it stop the stupid people?  No.

So, the bottom line is, it will come back, a few million more will get it, and those it didn’t kill before, it will kill them this time.  Why?  Because the longer we leave it out there, happily transmitting, it is mutating, as any ghastly virus does.

OK, I’m stepping off the soapbox now.

I’ve just been reminded that the COVID 19 virus doesn’t exist and it’s a Democratic hoax, that deep state (whoever they are – probably also Democrats) want you to think there’s a virus so they can control us.  Funny thing is, their not in power, so whose doing the controlling?

Are we going around in circles here?

It’s going away, it’s gone, it’ll be gone in a few weeks…  What will?  The Democratic hoax, deep state, a virus that doesn’t exist?

Hell, I’m just confused now.

But this just in … they’ve found a way to travel through time.

If they have I want to be first in line, so I can go back to when Russia and America hated each other, there was a cold, cold war going on, China made shoddy goods and we never heard from them or about them, and the British owned all the oil wells in Arabia.

Digging into the past

It seems rather strange reading letters that were written by my parents before they were married.

They’re not love letters, but just words, words that knowing my father and mother as I do, seem so totally at odds with that knowledge.

The thing is, I never knew anything of theirs from that era existed, even though I knew my mother was a hoarder, and we didn’t discover the extent of that phobia until it was time to move them from their last residence to the retirement home.

There were cases and boxes filled with papers, letters, cuttings, and everything else in between.  Nothing had been thrown out.

And whilst I knew those letters existed, there was the yuk factor involved, such that I would never want to read them because, well, that was my parents’ stuff.

So, all of it was sorted, most of it thrown away, and only what we thought was of any intrinsic value was kept.  Those letters were part of the ‘keep’ pile and ended up in an old metal steamer trunk, and there they have lived for about ten years.

With the recent cleaning of my office, much to Chester’s disdain, the trunk suddenly looked out of place in a clean room.

My grandchildren ‘found’ this trunk and started looking through the contents and finished up with the letters.

And, being the curious people, they were, they started reading them, of course, stumbling over understanding the handwriting, which was based on what we learned in school, cursive script.  That meant I had to interpret the writing for them.

Talk about morbid curiosity!

And like I said, in reading them, formed the impression that these two correspondents were nothing like the people I knew growing up.

These letters dated from 1948 and 1949 when they were married in June of 1949.  There was no doubt it was a different time, and they were different people.  My mother came from a country town and went to work in Melbourne around that time.  I know that during the war, those years from 1939 to 1945 she was a student at Dandenong High School.

It was odd to realize that considering we eventually moved to Dandenong, and that may have had something to do with it.

My father served in the war till 1946, and then after being discharged from the army, worked as a projectionist until he went overseas for nearly a year, ostensibly to see how the war had affected Europe.  After that, he went back to being a projectionist at the Athenaeum in Melbourne, and later on, not knowing much of his work history, he would always tell us about the movies, especially those that came up on television.

There’s more I’m sure, like the fact my mother had another chap on the go at the same time, but it seems he was not interested in settling down.

Perhaps more will come to light in further reading, but like it said, it seems very strange to be reading those letters, much like walking over a grave; it gives me the odd shiver down the spine.

No doubt, the next time the grandchildren visit there will be another installment.

They, at least, think the story is fascinating.

Waiting to pick up children from school can give you thinking time

Now that the COVID 19 problem has improved slightly, some schools are open again.  But there one small issue, none of the parents are willing to let their children catch public transport home, well, not for the time being.
The thing is, I usually have the job picking them up on a Friday, but as their parents are both working during the week, it falls to me to go five minutes up the road to the school to get one.
The other goes to secondary school, and, both schools miles apart, I can only be in one place.
Conveniently, for now, the secondary school is not yet open, so she is schooling from home, our home, thus during the day, I become a supervisor.

The best part is her cooking lessons, but I digress..,

So for the next few weeks, when required, my job is to get the youngest granddaughter from primary school.

And, as with the Friday afternoon routine of having both over for the afternoon, we give them dinner then take them home.  That of course changes the usual meal routing we have, and I’m cooking for different palates.

Fun times indeed, given the finicky likes and dislikes children develop.

For the moment they don’t mind but I suspect when they get older, as children’s ideas about post-school activities might eventually not include spending time with grandparents, though I’m guessing the open pantry and being spoilt might sway them for a little bit longer.

But…

The waiting line is longer, and instead of going a quarter of an hour before the pickup time, I now have to go three-quarters of an hour, just if I want a place in the queue, which by my estimation is nearly a mile long.
It gives me time to consider, not for the first time, what makes children tick in this modern world, one which to me seems to be very different from when I was their age.

We did not have television, computers, mobile phones, or social media.

If you wanted to talk to your friends out of school, a parent had to take you, otherwise, it could wait.  There was no calling them up on the phone, sending an email or a text.  Not like these days where both have mobile phones

And, where we had to do homework, play outside using our imagination, or hanging out with other kids who lived in the street, these days they seem glued either to their computers or phones, playing games on the computer, texting friends, or watching TV.

It’s not the sort of TV I would watch, all screaming and violence, and it’s no wonder a lot of small children are traumatized at such a young age.

Computer games are no better with extreme and very graphic violence.  What do we really expect feeding them this sort of material?

Talking them into going outside to play like we did at the same age would be a good idea if it was not for the possibility of them being snatched off the street.  It is indicative of the times, and who’s to say it will not happen even if it hasn’t happened before in the neighborhood. Now it seems predators are everywhere.

It was less likely in our time as children.  Back then you were more likely to be assaulted by a parent or a relative.  It was nothing to walk, as a seven or eight years old, for a mile or two alone on the street, to and from school, and not even think about being whisked away by a predator.

So, this afternoon, it’s not a time to dredge up the past.  It’s where it belongs, in the past.  What I have to look forward to is another session with my youngest granddaughter playing a game that rewards you with carrots.

Oh, and having to be quite the horsewoman, fending off rivals, dodging bombs and dragons, in order to build up your carrots so that you can breed a better horse, and, of course, win more carrots.

I’m sure there’s a message there somewhere.

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For now, it will just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and probably will for some time to come, a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

I’ve been thinking about loss, and how easy it is to forget

There is this thing called the march of progress.

It can be good, or it can be bad.

But the inevitability of it means that we have to destroy our past in order to build for the future.  It’s a pity no one back around a hundred years ago worked out that a certain amount of land needed to be set aside for future infrastructure, and then build around it.

The pity of it is that those same practices are with us now, and unfortunately either the infrastructure is too costly to build because of the necessity to buy back, and it will never change.  No one, sadly, is thinking of the future.

So, all I have of my childhood years, over sixty years ago are now memories, and when I go, they will be lost forever, if I don’t lose my mind before that.

I remember, a long time ago now, the many holidays I spent at my grandmother’s place in the ‘country’.  Back then it was.

Now it is just another suburb of Melbourne.

I remember the drive, and it used to take about half an hour, perhaps longer, and as we traveled, it was mostly the countryside we saw.  Little towns like Beaconsfield, Officer, Berwick, oases in the middle of farming land.

The last time I went for that same drive, there were endless houses, and multi landed highways now called freeways.

My grandmother’s house was very large, and the land it was built on, extensive.  There used to be gardens, several garages, a number of old cars, and a huge workshop.

My brother and I used to spend our Christmases exploring, and on a particular one, found some tools and decided to recover some of the gardens.

We found a huge fountain buried beneath the overgrowth, the centerpiece a statue part of what must have been a remarkable display.

It was like we had our own secret garden.

There was also a fernery, it too overgrown.

Now, sadly, all of it is gone, and in its place a multilane highway that follows an alternate coastal route between Melbourne and Sydney.

All I have left is the memories of a time that will never return.

Perhaps it’s time to write it all down, and preserve it for future generations.

Wishful thinking

My phone, being smart and all, has been creating a notification that tells me I have some memories stored on it for this day a year ago, or two years, or many years.

The pictures it is showing are of our trip to China last year.

Not much chance of going back, and, back then, neither of us could imagine that everything that has happened in the last six months could happen.

But, it did.

And one of the effects of those events is no more overseas travel

No more travel of any sort at the moment with the travel restrictions in place.  We can’t even fly to another state.  Come to that, we might not have an airline to fly on.

Travel, of course, is the main escape, where we can get away from our daily lives, and go somewhere quite different from where we live and experience a different world.  The people, the food, the sights.

What is probably more significant is that we might not be able to go away again, if there is no cure for the virus.  No one will want to risk catching it in another country, simply because of the medical expenses, the chances are that travel insurance will not cover you for the Coronavirus.

And no cover, no travel, even if you are able to.

So, it means that any travel we will be doing, when we can, will be in our own country.  We can do this without a vaccine because we have so few active cases, and the measures we have is stopping it in its tracks.

So too for New Zealand, and we may be able to travel there.

One day.

Until then, my smartphone is going to keep sending me gentle reminders of what it was like in another lifetime.

From typewriters to computers to distraction

I first started writing by longhand, still do, in fact, then graduated to my mother’s portable typewriter, right down to the sticking keys, then moved upwards into the electric world having a pair of IBM electric typewriters I bought form one of the places I worked as second-hand cast-offs.

Until that is, I could no longer buy ribbons for my IBM Selectric, so it had to go the way of the dinosaurs.

It was a good thing, then, that computers and word processing software started at about the same time.

So…

I didn’t get to sit down in front of the computer, well, to write that is.  I thought I would go searching for some inspiration.

Bad idea.

It’s just that in that short distance, from, say, the couch where you were reading the latest blog posts in the WordPress reader, and the writer’s chair, your preparation for writing ends up getting confused at some of the pro-Trump and anti-Trump bloggers because it’s hard to find anything relevant to the man and his politics.  This is even more prevalent in the midst of the COVIS 19 crisis (or, what crisis?)

People seem to be radically for or radically opposed and there’s no middle ground.

But, there you are, my attention has been distracted and unless I’m about to indulge in political satire, I’m off track, with an out of balance mindset, and therefore unable to write.

Perhaps I should not read blog posts, but the newspapers.

Or not, because they all have an editorial policy that leans either and one way or another, which means their views are not necessarily unbiased.

I was a journalist once and hated the idea of having to toe the editorial line.  Or as luck would have it, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It lends to the theory that you can never quite believe anything the media tells you, which is a very sorry place to be when there’s no external influence you can trust.

I’m coming around to thinking that it’s probably best left to the dark hours of the night when you would think all the distractions are behind you.  After all, isn’t that what daytime is for?

Except that’s when the ghosts come out to play.

I think.

Was that the lounge room door opening?

Searching for locations: Venice, ships come and go

Through this window, which wasn’t one of those floor to ceiling, walk out onto a balcony type windows, we saw big ships, little ships, small boats, and then huge ocean liners.

And when that wasn’t enough, sunrise and sunset, or just the sight of Venice in the sunshine

The many vaporettos that came and went

It was simply a matter of watching ships go by, or watching the Venetians go about the daily business

Ferries that would arrive in the morning, and leave at night, small

and large

Small ocean liners

Very, very large ocean liners

And everything in between

And, whilst COVID 19 would make it a very difficult decision to take to the sea in one of these large ships, before that time, it was a matter of picking a destination and a day, for ships came and went every day, to Athens, to the Mediterranean, to Turkey, anywhere really.

All you needed was the money and the time.

And, as for plots and writing, it is a writer’s paradise, where you are limited only by your imagination.

Where am I today?

Long after you have been on a holiday and forgotten about it.
Or, let’s face it, in this current hectic world we live in,  it’s literally the day after you get back.
And, then, the only reminder that you actually had a holiday, is the last of the washing.
What you need are little reminders that you actually went.  This might take the form of postcards or fridge magnets, but these tend to get lost among the everyday collections of bills and children’s paintings, drawings, or certificates.
And, there’s only so much you can stick on the fridge door.
But, there is another way.

If you stay in hotels as most of us do, they always, or nearly always, provide you with several very important items that can give us a little reminder of where we been and the associated memories, whether good or bad, but hopefully good.

The first is a writing pad and pen.  You don’t get much paper on that pad so it’s only good for writing down plot points, if you’re a writer like me, particularly if you’re in an overseas location

The second is the toiletries, like hair shampoo and conditioner, along with other items, like soap and bath gel.  These invariably have the hotel name and sometimes location on them, but often the hotel name is all that is needed.

Of course, some hotels are different, like the Hilton, because every Hilton has the same pen and the same toiletries, so with these hotels, you’re going to have to have a good memory, or as I do, take the pad.  It has the hotel’s address.

With other hotels, like the Bruneschelli in Florence, or the Savoir in Venice, they have their name on both.

Some people will use the toiletries and therefore will not have a keepsake reminder, or they may not see the use in taking the pen or the pad that comes with the room, but I suggest you do.

Then, when you least expect it, there will be that little reminder of where you go been and hopefully, it will bring back good memories

Like today.
I’m in Florence.
Well, for the duration of the shower, that is.

A Long Day’s Journey into Night

That was the name of a play, the script of which I once took out of a library, but never got around to reading it.

It sparked a momentary interest in Eugene O’Neill’s work, but I found it a little hard to understand.  Of course, back then, when I knew little about anything, it was basically a mystery.

It did fuel a brief dalliance with books with a deeper meaning for a short time, one of which was Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but more intriguing of his works was called The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.

While it could be said the literal meaning of that title was rather true, having done a little long-distance running mostly in the final years of school, and realizing it was a lonely sport, it was probably the first time I discovered allegory.

But aside from all that, it led to a foray into more salacious books such as The Postman Always Rings Twice.

And, don’t get me started on D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

However, I’m doing my usual digression, so back to the point…

Taking it in the literal sense, you can do a long day’s work, not get finished by the time you are supposed to go home, and then decide to burn the midnight oil, i.e., work on into the night.

And some days, you know the ones, where time literally drags, and it feels like forever before it’s time to go home, sometimes in darkness, for a variety of reasons, not just the obvious!

Other times, like when reading a good book, you pick it up in the morning, and the next thing you know, it’s night, and the day is gone.  That was a ‘journey’ but a pleasant one.  Long ago, that used to happen to me a lot.

Now, I hardly get time to read, let alone write, and for some strange reason, retirement is much harder than being at work.

Perhaps I should have taken those time management courses when they were offered.