Posted by: jkirkby8712 | December 7, 2011

Rolling into December from the 2nd through to the 7th December 2011

It’s been a few days since we have been here in this little ‘blog’ spot, time to a bit of catching up, and getting back on track. At least the rear garden has been getting some attention over the last few days, as have my radio programming records, so all is not lost.  Let’s go back to Friday!

Friday, 2 December 2011 – feeling inactive!!

After a poor night’s sleep, not feeling particularly active today, and probably didn’t achieve a great deal of value. Should it matter?  Probably not, but to this writer, a day passed when little is accomplished is a day wasted!!  Oh well, plenty more ahead to make up for it!

Day 2 of the 1st cricket test, began earlier to make up some of yesterday’s lost time due to bad light and rain, and finished early again this afternoon – supposedly bad light again, but umpires, on whom such decisions solely are based these days, were roundly criticised for the decision.  Anyway, New Zealand resumed at 5 for 196, and the existing partnership between Brownlie and Vettori continued on for a large part of the morning session  – until Vettori foolishly ran himself out – on 96 runs – he deserved a century, but spoilt the attempt with an unwise attempt to maintain the strike as he approached his hundred. That partnership was worth 158 runs, and certainly enabled the Kiwis to achieve a reasonable score, eventually ending up as 295.

Not a good start for the Aussies –  two overs to face before lunch, and Test debut batsman, David Warner went out, for just 3 runs [1 for 3 at lunch]. Things did improve a little by the time Stumps was drawn at 6pm – Australia at the end of day two sitting on  3 wickets for 154 runs, with the captain, Michael Clarke,  and former captain Ricky Ponting, both still at the crease on scores of 28 and 67 not out respectively. Yesterday, I began the detailed scoring for the Kiwis, but found that too great a commitment, there were other things I needed to do during the day!!!  So just a summary from hereon!!

Now this something I should think about entering in some future year –  I’ve just read the list of candidates shortlisted for the inaugural ‘National Seniors Philpotts Literary Prize’, and am wondering whether it might be worthwhile entering my family history story, when and if I ever complete it?  Established earlier this year by National Seniors Australia and National Seniors member David Needham, the prize aims to help the winner with the costs of editing, printing, publishing and marketing of a non-fiction work.
 The competition, which closed on September 30, drew a field of 65 eligible entries in a wide range of non-fiction genres. Each entrant was required to be an amateur writer and Australian resident aged over 50 and to submit a minimum of 40,000 words. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in January.

While the names of those shortlisted for the prize won’t mean much to readers, including myself, I’ve listed them below, because of the nature of the subject matter of their writings.  I will be very interested to discover, and eventually read, the winner – give me an idea as to what standard I might be up against!

  • The Penn Overland Story by Gerald Lloyd Davis (NSW)
  • A Migrant Dream in the 1950s by Bruno Vartoli (NSW)
  • Nulli Secundus by Terence Cardwell (Qld)
  • Don’t I Know You by Vicki McCredie (NSW)
  • A Funny Thing Happened To Me … by Greg Freemantle (Vic)
  • The University Under the Sun by Yu Jihui (Vic)
  • No Heil Hitler by Paul Cieslar and Jeff Steel (Vic)
  • Colonial Women of Ipswich by Joyce Phillips (Qld)
  • North Queensland in Black and White by Patsy Coverdale (Vic)
  • Paradise Wins by Geoff Hoddinott (NSW)
  • Me and Her – A Memoir of Madness by Karen Tyrrell (Qld).



Saturday 3 December 2011 – Saturday night with an orchestra

Susie working again, early start, and back earlier in the afternoon than I’d been expecting – I felt a little guilty, caught watching the cricket again, while she was out working!! But you are retired Bill, you can do what you like!! Trying telling that to a conscience that can’t yet adjust to relaxing!!

So yes, I watched more cricket on the TV today, and after a while, began to wish I was not bothering – others things I wanted to be doing. Didn’t go and watch Adam play cricket – I should have made that effort to. He was playing with the lower grade team, and was apparently still batting, not out with a score of 26 runs, his team 1 for 91, chasing a Riddell score of 93. Must make a note to get along next week and watch the beginning of Day 2!  However I did get out and mow both the front and rear lawns today – prompted also by a call from Shirley wanting to borrow the lawn mower again! Think I complained a little about that request – a job I’d planned for next week, in view of the weariness I currently felt, but while the weather was fine, decided I’d better get it done, in case the lawn mower ‘disappeared’ over the next day or so.

As for the ‘big cricket’ – at the end of the 3rd day, Australia was in a reasonable situation, having ended their 1st Innings for 427 [compared with New Zealand’s score of 295, a lead of 132 runs. Best scores for the Aussies – captain Michael Clarke with 139 [a few lives and chances but leading by example], Ricky Ponting, out for 78 [deserved a century, and look destined to do so, but not to be], wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, out for 80 [so the two senior players being talked about before the Test as playing to retain their places in the team, redeemed themselves] but good innings came from the two debutante bowlers – James Pattinson [12] and Mitchell Starc [32 not out]. At stumps on Day 3, New Zealand had slumped to 1 for 10 runs, and with two days to play, the odds on a victory had to be with the home team.

Susie had an engagement party tonight, and I had another concert to attend, over in Heidelberg.  Tonight was the 4th for the year by the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra, though would only be the second I had actually got to this year.  I had some ‘interesting’ fellow concert goers with me tonight – sitting beside was a man who was legally blind, and who constantly kept repeating things he had already told me. On his right, was a woman who went in and out a few times during the breaks – apparently she was there with her husband but they had seats in different sections of the concert hall – the Performing Arts Centre of the Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School –  she had to keep checking on him, because he had Alzheimer’s Disease. Just prior to the start of the second half, she had settled herself back into her seat, promising not to disturb us again, then she was up again – there was her unfortunate husband wandering up the stairs, lost and confused!!! With proceedings about to get underway, our devoted wife gave up her seat to her husband, and she sat out the rest of the concert, in the aisle beside his seat!!

Anyway, to tonight’s concert!!  It was titled ‘Latin Elan’ – the influence of Latin American and Spanish folk traditions on classical music of the late 19th century and beyond has been quite significant, but I have to admit that most of tonight’s music, I was not familiar with. That didn’t make it any less appealing however, and with the addition of a guest artist – classical guitarist, Jody Fisher – it would prove to be quite an entertaining evening, if not a little warm at times up in the upper echelons of the Arts Centre. Jody apparently first picked up the classical guitar at the age of seven, and has since become recognised as one of Australia’s leading young guitarists, and before she reached 21 years of age, she had performed solo recitals overseas and within Australia. Tonight, she played in the second and third items on the program [as well as an encore]. The items on tonight’s program were as follows [and sorry, I don’t always have the English translation!!].

La Noche de los Mayas [or The Night of the Mayas], which was a concert suite derived from the score of the movie of that name, and composed by Silvestre Revueltas [1899-1940], the son of a poor Mexican family. The Heidelberg Orchestra played 3 movements but in a re-arranged order for some reason – 1,3, then 2 [Night of the Mayas], [Night of the Yucatan], and [Night of Revelry]  – this latter section asked much of the percussion section of the orchestra [which pleased me], quite a l,ively, playful piece, referred to as a type of Latin American dance.

Spain’s Joaquin Rodrigo’s [1901-1999] ‘Concierto De Aranjuez for Guitar’ became an instant success after it was composed in 1939, and became an important and popular work in Spain. It was first performed in 1940, and the music was transcribed for flugelhorn and brass band, and used in the film ‘Brassed Off’. Apparently the theme of the second movement [of three movements], the Adagio, was adapted by Miles Davis for his jazz album ‘Sketches of Spain’. Certainly a piece of contrasts – first movement lively, fast and spirited, the second, slow [to be expected from an Adagio], and the third, again lively and fast, but with a gentle touch to the music. I enjoyed Jody Fisher’s playing, with the piece at times giving her the opportunity to play solo, outside of the orchestra’s roles. It was a little annoying that it seemed necessary to tune her guitar at the end of each movement – I would have thought that something that should be undertaken just once prior to the performance! In fact, the breaks between movements [with no interim applause] of course, I find a little disconcerting, both with this orchestra, and on other occasions, such as with the Australian String Quartet. Perhaps those periods are the opportunities given to the ‘coughers’ in the audience to get their tickles, etc, over with?!!

The second half began with Antonio Vivaldi’s [1678-1741] beautiful ‘Concerto in D for Guitar and String Orchestra  And as the title suggested, we only had the ‘strings section of the orchestra’ on stage with Jody this   time. I found, as did the rest of the audience, that the various solo guitar parts in this three movement composition were quite exquisite, generally very quiet, particularly the second movement, which is described as containing one of the loveliest melodies of the Baroque era of music. The guitar gracefully elaborates this melody over sustained notes by the strings – beautiful to listen to. I read that this concerto was written originally for the lute, and was later adapted for the guitar. The guitarist certainly deserved the prolonged applause she received at the conclusion, and that prompted a brief encore, well received.

A short composition followed – from Camille Saint-Saens [1835-1921] called ‘La Jota Aragonese’  –  a piece based on traditional Spanish folk dancing dating back to the 15th century. It was traditionally sung and danced to the accompaniment of castanets, and with tambourines added to the orchestra tonight created a lot of ‘musical’ colour.

The program concluded with Maurice Ravel’s [1875-1937] ‘Rhapsodie Espagnole’ [self explanatory to us non-Spaniards]. In four movements, it was one of Ravel’s first works for orchestra. Movements 1,2 and 4 were generally quite lively and brisk, while the 3rd movement – well ‘rather slow with a weary movement’ sounds apt, or perhaps that simply explains how I was starting to feel by the part of the night!! One soon woke up in the final piece of music for the night – revoking the wild joyous vigour of a Spanish fair [that’s what we were told anyway, I’ve never actually experienced a Spanish fair!!!!]. It ended in  a lot of passionate music in any case. And that ended the concert, as I prepared for a longish drive home – the weather was fine, a sharp contrast to last Saturday night – quite a pleasant trip as it eventuated.

Sunday 4 December 2011  –  chilly Summer Sunday

It didn’t seem to be so cool when I left home at 6am, but within three hours, I think the temperature had dropped a few degrees, with the aid of the chill of the breeze, and a bit of drizzling rain. By the time I’d returned home, I have to say, it was quite cold!!  But after 2 ½ hours of playing classical music on the radio, I intended to spend the next three hours working on programming, and, listening to recordings of last night’s top five selections in the just concluded ABC Classic FM’s ‘Classic 100 Countdown’ –  this year’s Classic 100 was devoted to music of the 20th century, and 105.9FM has been gradually working through the choices of 31,000 votes of listeners over the past week, culminating in the announcement and performance of the top five choices at a concert in Adelaide last night.

Obviously, I wasn’t home to hear it – enjoying similar music with the Heidelberg Orchestra –  so I was glad of the chance to hear those top five choices this morning While I do have the complete list of 100 choices, which I will refer to in my 2012 Sunday morning programs,  we will just refer to the ten most popular selections this morning. In ascending order, with possibly not many surprises, although the whole list of 100 choices, does make for some interesting reading, so much so, that I’ve given readers the top 10 selections. By coincidence, choice number 6 was an item on the program of the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra last night – Concerto de Aranjeuz, by the Spanish composer, Rodrigo. I heard it being played, whilst I was driving to the concert venue, and realised that it was also on that night’s concert program. My first ten weeks of ‘Sunday Classics’ next year are already scheduled to feature these ten selections – though I’d better ensure in each case, that I actually have a copy on hand to play for my listeners!!

1. Elgar – Cello Concerto

2. Holst – The Planets

3. Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue

4. Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending

5. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No 2

6, RODRIGO – Concierto de Aranjuez

7, BARBER – Adagio For Strings

8, ORFF – Carmina Burana

9, STRAVINSKY – Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

10, PROKOFIEV – Romeo and Juliet Op.64


Believe it or not, but I had intended to go to another concert this afternoon. Marilla Homes, the Melbourne soprano, whom I had as a guest on my radio show a few years ago, was performing with the Preston Symphony Orchestra. Ever since Marilla came to see me, I have been intending to get to one of her concerts, and today was going to be the day – but, by mid morning, I’d decided that I simply didn’t feel like making the trip [another 45 minute drive, getting lazy in my old age], so Marilla, sorry, but I still haven’t got to hear you in concert!! In fact, spent the afternoon ‘working’ at various radio related projects!

Day 4 of the Test cricket match  – and at Lunch – New Zealand  had lost 7 wickets, and by the time I switched the TV on, new bowler James Pattinson, had already taken 5 quick wickets, and the Kiwis were crumbling quickly.  He would end the innings with  5 wickets at a cost of 27 runs, in his first test match.  New Zealand were eventually all out for the miserable score of 152, leaving Australia with about 19 runs to win.  They managed it with the loss nevertheless of one wicket – poor shot by Phil Hughes!  His place in the team continues to be in doubt!!

Final cricket scoreboard was as follows.

Australia:  427 and  1 for 19, defeated New Zealand 295 and 152 – Australia winning by nine wickets to lead the two match series 1-0. Not surprisingly, James Pattinson was named Man of the Match, despite some good batting performances in the game.

Interesting statistic – three Australian bowlers have taken five wickets on Test debut this year –  James Pattinson [5-27] in this game, Pat Cummins [6-79 against South Africa on November 20  –  think he missed this match because of an injury], and Nathan Lyon [ 5 for 34  against Sri Lanka on September 1st – he actually took 7 wickets in this game, over the two innings, so had a pretty good match as well!].

I watched a movie length ‘episode’ of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ tonight – don’t think I have ever watched that show previously, just felt in the mood for something like that, this time. Apart from that, I was worried about Susie tonight – seems more withdrawn and non-communicative than usual [if the latter is possible], perhaps something upset her at the party she went to on Saturday night, a friend’s engagement party! She obviously didn’t want to talk, and I barely saw her venture out of her room [apart to get the meal I’d cooked] from when she returned from work this afternoon! Doesn’t matter the age – us parents still worry about the ‘kids’ even when they don’t appreciate you doing so!!




Monday, 5th December 2011 – weekend repercussions from Labour Party Conference

As is normal at present, early mornings are quite chilly, although sun was shining in a clear blue sky when I arose this morning. Since my retirement, I have been trying to establish a regular walking routine, but any consistency to this stage has been unsuccessful.  Today, we tried again to make a start that would keep going – the rest of the week will determine the outcome. In fact today, I managed to get in a 40 minute and about 3 hours out in the garden. Over the past twelve months or so, through my own neglect, the rear garden area has been overtaken by the dreaded blackberry bushes. Today’s little effort revealed to me the extent of the job I have ahead of me – but, rather than try and spend days on end at the task, I’ve decided to take it gradually, 3 hours or so at a time, and certainly as this week progressed, both the walking aim, and the attack on the garden did proceed with some consistency.

Meanwhile, today’s media was full of the reports of the weekend’s Labor Party annual conference. Even before the Conference ended yesterday, the weekend Sunday paper made it rather clear what it’s editorial thought of the whole thing, and I have to say that my thoughts tended to move along the same pathway. Made a couple of comments on Face Book, but oddly, people obviously don’t think it’s worth responding to someone whose views on various matters seem  to be on the other side of the fence – I got ‘no bites’ whatever,. From friend or foe!!  Not to worry – I like to make my point, my view, apparent, as do others, and certainly, I do feel like a reaction to some of the extreme  comments [in my view] that others make on that medium, but usually I just bite my tongue, and say nothing, realising that little I say will change ‘their’ attitude. Probably they think the same of me, although I would think that many of the views I express through here are tempered by a desire to at least hear out the other point of view.  In fact, on re-reading the brief comment I made, it could almost be partially a précis of the newspaper editorial –  I said that ‘Perhaps now that Bob Brown has got his way ‘again’, the Government and the Labor Party can devote their efforts to important issues that matter to the ‘majority’ of the Australian electorate instead of pampering to minority interests to keep a few people on side!!  As for Labor supporter fans who claim any subsequent Bill will be rejected by the Opposition, probably true but they will be aided by the large number of Labor members who also, on their allowed ‘conscience’ vote, will vote against the proposed change. Don’t just blame the Opposition if the legislation doesn’t get through this time – it does not have the full support of Government members either! Most of the conference attendees are not in Parliament, well, not officially, anyway!!’.

Anyway, the editorial in yesterday’s Herald-Sun [the ‘small’ paper which I generally don’t bother with [except for the sporting and racing pages] had this to say.

“PREDICTABLY, yesterday’s vote on gay marriage at the Australian Labor Party conference in Sydney ended with a bob each way.  The party voted to change its platform to advocate legal marriage for gay couples. But it also voted along with Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s wishes to send it to a conscience vote in Parliament. This means that it will most likely fail, as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will not grant a conscience vote and it’s not clear that enough Coalition MPs will cross the floor to support it. So, after weeks and months of lobbying, the end result seems likely to be that the status quo remains and marriage will be allowed only between a man and a woman, at least for the foreseeable future. What an indulgence the whole exercise has been.

Australia is facing another serious financial challenge as the global economy wobbles Costs of living continue to rise, with childcare, electricity and gas bills climbing. Housing stock remains short and job security is on the wane.  But the ALP, the party of Government, has spent the past few weeks expending its energy on a debate about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry, whether we should sell uranium to our trading partner, India (a no-brainer, surely, given the nation is stable both in political and social terms) and whether to reform the way the party chooses its candidates.  Could there be a clearer indication of how out-of-touch the federal ALP has become with middle Australia?  Surely that time and emotional energy could have been better spent on issues that affect the everyday lives of Victorians in Pakenham and Caroline Springs, or in the regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.  It’s doubtful many of these hard working Aussies believe the issue of gay marriage is a priority for Labor.

At least there was a debate about asylum seekers and Australia’s refugee policy, which is a relevant issue as the numbers of boats arriving in Australia soars, testing our border protection capabilities.  But for the main, the ALP national conference was a self-indulgent talk-fest where the factional leaders got to flex their muscles and the party voted on non-binding resolutions that the Government can ignore anyway.  Last week we urged Mr Abbott to spend his Christmas break coming up with some positive policy ideas for the nation. Today, we say the Prime Minister deserves some time off over Christmas and New Year.

But the Sunday Herald Sun urges her to spend some of her holiday thinking about how she can better relate to Victorians and the issues that matter to them next year.

Needless to say, the Liberal Party was quick to put a point of view – predictably negative of course, but that like or not, that is the Tony Abbott style [which no, I don’t really enjoy, it’s gone on for far too ,long]. However, today’s online message from the Party put it this way  – 

“For the past three days, Julia Gillard and Labor talked and talked and talked.  They talked about many things but none of the talk addressed the real challenges our nation is facing. The ALP National Conference was a failure because Julia Gillard and Labor did not meet the key tests of whether they could:

  1. Develop solutions and strategies to strengthen our economy, boost productivity, improve job security, and reduce cost of living pressures on Australian families.
  2. Set out their plan to repay Australian Government debt, which is now set to peak at a record $136 billion.
  3. Outline how they will secure Australia’s borders, including a commitment to re-instate offshore processing of boat arrivals.

Many commentators also saw through the sham that the Labor Conference was:

“As an exercise for the party faithful or a showcase to the voters, this conference must be seen as a disasterthat will only confirm voters’ confusion about just who Julia Gillard – and the Australian Labor Party – really are.”  Australian Financial Review

“It was an indulgent conference contemptuous of Labor’s crisis. Most debates were a rehash of ancient rituals. Labor’s passions were ignited by same-sex marriage and uranium exports, issues far divorced from Middle Australia’s concerns. Nobody listening could feel any confidence Labor can reverse its declining fortunes.”  The Australian

“If you think Julia Gillard got her wish for a rejuvenated and “noisy” Labor Party at the weekend national conference, you’ve been conned.”  The Sydney Morning Herald

Labor’s failure to address these key issues demonstrated that Julia Gillard and the ALP have the wrong priorities for Australia.  The faceless men of the ALP continue to set the agenda for Labor and Julia Gillard.”

As for Monday’s Herald-Sun, it didn’t get around to commenting on the Conference until, page 10!!! And with headlines such as ‘Rudd blasts ALP leadership’, or ‘Nuke vote tears Labor in two’, or ‘Passion from the pollies’. I thought this little note at the end of that latter report rather telling  –  ‘Gillard’s biggest mistake was not to mention Kevin Rudd in her speech where she named every other post-war elected Labor PM. It infuriated Rudd backers. One said the Foreign Affairs Minister [and PM before Gillard] had just returned from the demilitarised zone on the North-South Korean border, and it was the sort of airbrushing from history that could be expected in communist North Korea’.

We forgot politics, gay marriages, aluminium sales to India, etc, etc, and went up to the radio station for 3 hours of music and entertainment tonight, a much more satisfying way to spend one’s evening! 




Tuesday, 6th December 2011 – summer begins to make it’s presence felt, and a reminder of the ‘modern’ killing machine.

It did get rather warm today, and by the end of my 4-5 hours outside, preceded by another 40 minute walk, I was starting to feel it!!  While some progress was been made on those dreaded blackberry bushes in the garden, and other weed problems, it was nevertheless, slow progress!!  But I was starting to see some results! 

Meanwhile, the following letter in Saturday’s Age newspaper, reminded me of one of the curses of modern living – the road accident, of which we have seen some tragic examples here in Victoria over recent weeks. Written by Kay Fenton-Branson of Strathdale, it read:- “In the 1970s, I was a young teacher at a rural secondary school. Because a number of young people across Victoria and particularly our region had been killed or injured in road accidents, a team of police was allocated the task of visiting schools to talk about their gruesome experiences in dealing with road fatalities. As well as providing graphic images and personal stories of confronting accident scenes with dead, dying and injured people and then having to visit families to deliver ‘the bad news’, the team gave each student newspaper articles that were read out at assembly. Teachers then discussed the articles to reinforce the message delivered by the police. One of the most disturbing was ‘And this is how you die’, by Roger Aldridge. It had a sombre and jarring impact on each student and teacher who attended the assembly. I saved it and as each of my children reached their ‘learn to drive’ age, I gave them a copy in the hope that the article’s impact would stay with them. Some aspects discussed in the article have changed – such as children ‘cradled on their mother’s laps’, but not the awful manner in which people die in road ‘accidents’. What will it take to get the message through to our young people?”

That article referred to, which was published 39 years ago, a couple of years after my own father died as a consequence of a road accident, was reprinted in Saturday’s Age, and I read it for the first time yesterday.  The heading ‘And this is how you die’ was appropriately described as a ‘Message written in blood still chills after 40 years’!

The following is that article, and it comes with a warning  – that it contains graphic and explicit descriptions – but it may save your life!

And this is how you die

 By Roger Aldridge

 How do people die in motor “accidents”?

I’ll tell you.

Some people explode — like a thin plastic envelope full of offal which has been hurled against a brick wall. No pain.

They put them on a sheet of canvas and pick it up at the corners like, as one tow truck driver described it: “A tub of guts”

I haven’t seen one of these.

Others die intact. Ruptured inside, you understand, but un-harmed to look at. There may be a thin, trickle
of blood from an ear or nostril.

It annoys you, subconsciously … you wish they’d raise a dead hand and wipe it away.

Death is not instantaneous.

Rather, it comes in a matter of minutes. There is no pain as we know it … nothing sharp, exquisite, searing. It is an inner numbness, a bubbling frothing thing and a terrible inability to breathe.

They are winded, punched in the stomach by a ton of metal moving at 60 mph or more, shattering
every bone in the body as a fist would shatter a wine glass wrapped in a rug.

They never breathe again.

I’ve seen a number of these.

Men die with their trousers on, which somehow lends them dignity.

Women die with their legs apart in a lewd display.

Children die most horribly because they are seldom properly seated or braced. And they
are very small. They are thrown through jagged windscreens to roll and skid along road surfaces
as abrasive as cheese-graters.

Or, cradled in their mother’s laps, they are sandwiched between her and the unyielding dashboard. Mummy might just as well have jumped on the child from a third-storey window.

Without meaning to, of course.

Some people are burned to death.

They are not incinerated, as you’d imagine, but tend to bake or char.

Their clothes burn off them— if it is wool it forms a ghastly black”crackling”— and the skin bakes into quite a hard rind which makes a hollow sound if you tap it.

When the corpse is lifted from the wreckage it is as rigid as a papier mache dummy.

Often it is set in a sculpted, lifelike posture, but unnaturally stiff, like the little plastic drivers that toy manufacturers put in the front seats of model cars.

I’ve seen a couple of these, too.

I’ve seen men’s faces buried in the stringy bark of a tree trunk; fixed there, seemingly, by
a gob of sticky red gum.

And men hanging from halfopen car doors; fl ung rag dolls of men embracing steel power pylons; men skewered on steering columns; men whose faces are gone, as if nibbled by rats.

I’ve seen men survive.

Dragged from the back seat, soaked in a shandy of blood and beer, the shards of smashed bottles glinting in the frantic blue of the revolving police light.

Carried into casualty on a stretcher, hurt, frightened, shocked.

Men without dignity, crying while other men cut away their blood-soaked rags and yet other men explore abdomen and groin with fingers that feel like fence-posts.

Men blinking through blood and tears into bright lights while probes and tweezers remove chunks and slivers of glass from facial wounds — eyes, cheeks, gums — that big bit was a tooth. Two teeth, actually.
Having trouble talking.

Panic-stricken men with crushed rib-cages trying to breathe through broken bellows. Grey-faced, incoherent, being asked questions:

What’s your name? Are you married? Where do you live? Where does it hurt … here … here … does THAT hurt? Any children?

Thighs as flexible as a rolled-up towel, pushed back into shape and splinted. Men wheeled into the X-ray room and laid this way, then that while the ragged edges of a broken pelvic girdle scrape together. Got to get a good picture.
Men denied pain-killers while an eternity of assessment passes and other men pierce their arms and insert tubes and hold up little canisters of blood … blood donors love life, but butter eaters make better lovers.

Then sliding blissfully into euphoria as the pain-killing injection hits and they are wheeled into the operating theatre.

And I’ve seen men survive this, too.

The Russians were criticised in the 1930s for severing a dog’s head and keeping it clinically alive for a number of hours.

Alive enough to salivate at the smell of food.

I’ve seen men in the quadriplegic wards at the Austin Hospital and at Mont Park who might just as well not have bodies, although their heads are alive.

The unlucky ones are mentally unimpaired and strive for months and years to learn to write with a pencil held in their teeth, or to type by flicking one of the few remaining responsive muscles in their bodies.

Their intelligence is sharp, their appetite for books and learning is gargantuan, their role in life that of the eternal spectator … eternity being, in some cases, a “lif” expectancy of 50 or more years.

They make the best of it, but many wish for death.

And I’ve seen the lucky ones, those with brain damage, whose minds were shaken loose in the
cataclysm of car with car.

Men with glazed, half-lidded eyes, with neither bowel nor bladder control who sog in bed with no sensation below the shoulders so that bowel obstructions, appendicitis, bladder problems go undetected
by the normal warning systems which we know as pain.

Men whose total sexual impotence is parodied by an apparent state of constant sexual excitation.

Men who were mothers’ sons, wives’ husbands, girls’ lovers, children’s fathers. Men who recognise no one.

Or men whose eyes ignite for a brief moment with recognition, whose mouths open to speak a flubbery sound like deflating bubble gum, then sink exhausted into the pillow.

I’ve seen things that make me sick to the heart. I thought you should know.

Reprinted from The Age, Thursday, October 26, 1972

I made my feelings on the question of road accidents many times over the years through these pages, so I don’t feel there is anything I can add, except to concur with responses such as the following examples to the above article last weekend.

  1. How can anyone prepare for a possibility that they don’t understand exists? That is the central problem here, as a couple of correspondents here have pointed out, some will never get the message, but what about the ones who just need to hear (and see) to understand it? Experience has taught me some of these lessons in life, but I’m sure even in my bullet-proof, lacking judgement days of late teens, early twenties, having this put to me explicitly would have worked wonders. The 1972 article talks about people just like me, they’re no longer nameless, and faceless – they could be me on any given day – I think this is is the simple essential power of the article – we all need (and perhaps deserve) access to this kind of material – you can’t suspend belief when confronted with this


    1. Great piece. There’s no point in sugar coating it for kids. As a teen in the 80s I drove drunk out of my mind every weekend. I drove as fast as the car would go and I was too stupid, with my Looney Tunes conviction in my own super heroic competence, to ever think that anything bad would ever result. I was far luckier than I deserved to be and didn’t kill or seriously harm anyone. But that was just dumb luck. Almost every acquaintance of mine has a similar story to tell. Not all were lucky. Yet we all promised our parents we’d be careful and take no silly risks each time we took the keys from them. That’s what teenagers do and have always done. Now I’m a teacher and to see the immaturity of year 11 and 12s before me and their own lunatic, groundless self confidence is terrifying. It’s like looking in a mirror.  Let’s not sugar coat the reality for them. If they are upset by pictures or words then perhaps they might dodge the greater upset of being the person responsible for creating them.

Wednesday, 7th December 2011 –  time to reflect & act!

Well now, after the articles of the last couple of days, that I have imposed upon my readers, perhaps today should be a time to say nothing!! Almost, but not quite!

Early arising, to put through my on-air phone call to Ron at the radio station – local sports results. Susie was up not long afterwards for at early start at the shop, while I was off to town a short while later – for regular blood test, and a bit of shopping before returning for my third walk in a row [yippee, the latest campaign has lasted three days], and while the nurse who took my blood earlier suggested no major physical exercise today, I did spend another couple of hours in that ‘weed-infested’ garden again, and despite so much more needed, was relatively pleased with the progress made this week.

Just one thing – I mentioned the other day the manner in which PM Julia Gillard ‘airbrushed’ her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in her speech at the ALP Conference. I’d not realised that her Treasurer, Wayne Swan followed that up in support by reciting a list of Labor greats, again minus one name. He said ‘This Prime Minister is as tough as nails but she’s more than that. She’s a Labor leader in the very best traditions of Curtain and Chifley and Whitlam and Hawke and Keating’. His omission of Kevin Rudd’s name was not missed, as was also the PM’s roll call of great Labor Prime Ministers. And while this was happening, the Foreign Minister [Rudd] who was being ‘airbrushed out’ sat with a forced smile in the front row!!! The comment was made in one of the papers – ‘Labor’s modern family extended to embracing gay marriage. But not to embracing Rudd. Whatever his personal failings, there was something ugly about that’.

On a personal front, I received a Christmas card and a beautiful long letter from a girl I last knew when we were both ten years old. She had written to me a few weeks ago, in response to my contacting her following the Neil Street Church anniversary at the end of August, but I in my usual fashion, had not got around to my intended follow up!! Heather had beaten me to it!! Well, that was my impetus to begin this year’s ‘Christmas card despatch’ program, beginning with Heather [and a letter to go with her card]. Not being at work now, I shouldn’t really have an excuse of no time to write out cards!!!  Ahhh but life is still so busy  – over the past 24 hours or so, I have committed myself to 4 or 5 additional radio programs between now and the new year!!!  Not that I’m complaining. I love it!!!  Also today, received greetings from my old Gisborne Shire boss, Terry [and his then Secretary, Lyn,  who many years later, is still with him, great to see].  He was reminding of the annual reunion barbeque which is held at Terry & Lyn’s place in Gisborne every February, and to which over the past 12 or so years, I have only put in two appearances!! I really must make the effort this time, even though there are usually many people there whom I don’t know, an environment I always have difficulty in. But he was a good man [no doubt still is], even if a Labor supporter [arn’t they all!].



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