Category Archives: Comment

The Non-Gambler

It was such a pleasant Sunday afternoon this one just past. The sun was out, shimmering off the Derwent; a salve after days of mist and humidity. We’d dined well and extraordinarily cheaply at the bistro and I was happily ensconced by the panoramic windows, watching the boating activity on the briny, supping on some amber heaven and perusing the weekend papers. People all across the room, in singles or groups, were doing the same or similar. I noticed they were mostly of my own demographic, seemingly all quite content and at ease with the world, by the look of it, as I was. My lovely lady had left me for one of the other attractions of the venue. She was having a flutter at the pokies – something she really enjoyed. We do this every couple of months or so, my love and I. Now I’d certainly describe her as a responsible gambler, for she knows ‘when to hold ’em…when to fold ’em’ – so to speak. Many call her Lucky Leigh as she seems to win reasonably frequently on both the machines and Keno – not huge amounts, but she’s had some very tasty ones. As well she had a goodly return from the lotto a few years back, just enough to make proceeding into retirement less financially problematic. It was fair dues, given she’d spent years making a nurse’s salary stretch beyond belief. She’s a marvel money-wise. It’s one of the many reasons I admire her as well as love her.

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We’re going to the ‘No later on. Coming?’

Thanks, but no.’

In the end they gave up asking, my uni mates, at my residential college. Back then, in 1973 and after, for a while, Wrest Point was a happening place – the nation’s first casino. It gave the city of Hobart its first MONA effect. It was the place to be. International stars came to the showroom – why Jerry Lewis opened the whole shebang. The high rollers flew in and the locals came to gawk, dressed to the nines – well, most of them. Word had spread of the beauty and allure of the young ladies manning the gambling tables – one of these honeys later went on to marry a premier.

The lads from Hytten Hall would head down to Sandy Bay and the ‘No of an evening, after they’d completed their studies. They would be attired in a motley array of jackets that had seen better days. Most were bought from the local op shops for that specific purpose for a few bob. Ties were compulsory too to pass the doormen. They’d later regale me with their adventures – the glorious women that were there, or how much they’d had to drink. They couldn’t afford to gamble – but that didn’t stop one or two testing their luck. As I recall, the one-armed bandits were not a feature back then, but I could be wrong, never entering the place. Of course the mainland cities soon caught on, with each having its own equivalent these days – but I’ve never been as comfortable in those as I am at the local one in my dotage. They’re just not my scene. It is.

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As you have no doubt gathered by now I am not a gambler. I’ve never had a bet on the ponies in my life. I had a bit of a go on the pokies with Leigh once, but within ten minutes I’d had enough. I’m just not interested. But that’s not the point. When, at the last state election, Labor’s Bec White tried to lead us all into a pokies free existence, she ended up falling flat on her face at the polls. I could easily see the reason why, apart from the funds the vested interests sent the way of the Libs. She had great intentions after all the horror stories we’d heard, from the Northern Suburbs, of families wrecked through gambling addiction, but I was unsure whether what Bec was attempting could be the answer. Wouldn’t they just find another way to self-destruction?

So, no. I don’t get upset that my AFL team attracts the highest percentage of its profits from poker machines of all the clubs. Sure, something needs to be done about addressing the advertising for the activity that is associated with the game. Yep, I reckon that’s where the attention needs to be focused. I might be naive, but I reckon most are like my Leigh. They play the pokies sensibly, just loving the expectation that a little windfall might be in the next press of a button. They set themselves a limit and stick to it. It is a social occasion for many – some perhaps not having much else in their lives. My Leigh just loves having a chat with like minded punters in those rooms too. So what if all that is not to my taste. Why should all those that find it convivial and derive pleasure from it be denied? I may be accused of living in a bubble but there it is. Go Hawks 2020.

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James Morressey’s opinion piece = https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/hawthorn-must-end-addiction-to-poker-machines-now-20200203-p53x8e.html

Summer and it’s Personal

Summer isn’t meant to be like this

There should be blue skies, not red

Christmas dinners.

Not the call out to face an inferno

Carefree days

Not the dread of where nature is taking us, and

Where next it will rain its wrath down

I think of so many communities across the water

Devastation

The toll on life and lifestyle

The toll on wildlife and wild places

I look around my city

The forest clad hills

With fingers of bush pushing

Right into its heart

And I wonder and I fear

Please, never another 1967

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Images abound of the horror of it all

At the start of this mint new decade

But for me there’s one, from

Some time ago now

Its not a horizon of fire

Nor singed koalas and ‘roos

Or people holding loved ones close

On a beach or a jetty

As the apocalypse approaches

An injured kangaroo limps through burnt bushland in Cobargo

To me the image of this summer

Perhaps for all summers henceforth

You’ll recall it, no doubt

It’s a few years back now

A galoot of a Prime Minister to be

Entered our parliament cradling

In his palm

A single lump of coal

Said he with a smirk of glee

Lookee here and see. Right here, folks

With this black stuff you spy the future.’

Then and there he gave the middle finger to science

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Where is the spine of Fraser and his

Vietnamese refugees forever thankful

Where is the nous of Hawke

Saving the Franklin

Where is the eloquence of Keating

With the Redfern Oration

Of Howard facing down the gun lobby

In a bullet proof vest.

We’ve had Rudd flip-flopping

Abbott nay-saying and denying

Turnbull – well, whatever happened

To his spine and core beliefs

At least Julia had a go

And now the galoot is our leader

His time has come

A Christian without, to date

Any Christianity, at least

In any form I know it

It’s not coal he’s holding

In his clutches now

But the futures of my

Beautiful and extraordinary grandkids

Of all our beautiful and extraordinary

Grandchildren

Stand up.

Be a leader

Stay Christian if you must

But grow a spine, for pity’s sake

Balance

Bert Grimes is dead, finally. Should I use that word – finally. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to him. It is that, just by rights, he lived longer than he should have. Not that I begrudged him that – not one iota.

I hadn’t seen much of Bert since the copperheads and a mugger curtailed my daily ramble down the track at the end of Riverside Drive. My neighbour, the best of all possible neighbours, had kept me appraised of how he was getting on these last few years. Noel, good man that he is, would check on him a couple of times a week to ensure he was okay. Maybe I should of done so as well, but sometimes life just gets in the way. I knew various support groups kept him under observance as well – and delivered his groceries. I suspect they delivered a little more as well. Last week Noel came across for a coffee. He confirmed what I had already suspected – I’d seen a hearse go by and I’d figured who it might be. Old Bert had passed away. We both commented that, at 95, he had had a fine innings.

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Bert was out in his vegie patch most days I passed by his cottage, down near where the bitumen gave way to the track back in those years I did my perambulating. He’d have his old dog with him, for company, lying nearby. He’d call out a greeting to me, or give a hearty wave. One day, the ever present rollie in the corner of his mouth, he beckoned me over. ‘I hear word the Joe Blakes are about down further. You be careful along there young fella.’ I told him that, now I was in my sixties, it’d been a long time since anybody had called me a young fellow. He emitted a chuckle, as dry as the Aussie summer bush around us, as I headed off. After that I occasionally stopped for a bit of a yarn with Bert. One day we got onto the subject of the travails of ageing. ‘How ancient do you reckon I am, then, young fella?’ he inquired with a twinkle in his rheumy old eyes, relighting his fag. ‘Bout 75 or so Bert. Close enough?’

No where near,’ he chortled, obviously very pleased with himself. ‘I’m 89 years young,’ he roared. ‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it!’ I then asked the standard, ‘What do you put your longevity down to, Bert?’

Longevity. That’s a bloody good word, ain’t it? I’ve been asked this question a few times, young fella. I know it’s not these bloody ciggies, but I reckon I can point to three things. I worked in the bush all my adult life. Not much stress in chopping down trees, son. Then there was Marie. She was a good woman. Looked after me, like. Fed me up well and made sure I kept regular appointment’s with the doc. She’s long gone now, but when I get an ache or a pain I can still hear her nagging at me, ‘You get yourself to the medical centre, Bert, or you’ll have your rations cut.’ and off I’d go.’ He paused at that point, a bit of a faraway look in his eye.

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I bought him back to the matter at hand with, ‘And the third, Bert?’ He grinned and pointed across the way to where there were some brown bottles were assembled outside the back door. ‘I reckon it’s them. See them there tallies? One with me tea and one just before beddy-byes. Sleep like a baby. Yep, regular as clockwork. No more. No less.’

Bert was old school. They were all VBs. None of the new passion for craft ale for this wrinkled, rake-thin boy. The line up reminded me of the old days, as a kid, when most backyards of my experience had stacks of the same sort of bottles – Boags in my part of the world – waiting for the bottle-o to come and collect them, handing over a few bob for the family budget for the privilege. Recycling was alive and well back in the day when Bert was in his pomp. Back in the era when a hard eared thirst needed a thorough quenching after hours of hard yakka in Tassie’s forests.

It’s now ten, Stevie,’ came the call from the lounge room, from my lovely lady, as I was washing up in the kitchen. She was watching the news, but I knew what she was on about. I’d read it in the paper earlier that morning. The National Health and Medical Research Council, based on the latest information, as well as, would you believe, ‘mathematical modelling’, had arrived at the conclusion that, for health to continue to be fine and dandy, we all should restrict ourselves to ten standard drinks a week. Ten!! Previously they had generously prescribed fourteen standard drinky-poos.

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I have already made mention in a couple of scribings how the gentle influence of my beloved Leigh had lessened my alcohol intake to around that mark. I have become more disciplined with my drinking – three a night, four nights a week. I suspect my idea of standard might not necessarily agree with the Council’s, but, even so, I figured, I still had a little leeway up my sleeve. With that I was tickety-boo – felt comfortable. But now it’s been ordained it’s ten. Sheeesh!

I wonder what old Bert Grimes would have thought of that? Raised his middle finger to it with glee, I’ve no doubt. And I’ll take my cue from that. For me it’s about balancing quality of life with the recommendations of the health police. I’m sticking to the fourteen. I like a drink. I look forward to my four nights a week. I rarely go over my self-imposed limit and these days I feel better in mind and body for that. But cut back again….

Who knows? Had Bert abided by recommendations in his intake he might have lived another ten years and lasted till 105. 95 with his intake or 105 without? I know what Bert would have chosen. And at this moment, I’m with him.

Workplace

As with Shane, I miss those days. Although life with my beautiful lady, in these years by the river, provides me with ample fun, I do still miss the glee of those years. Shane misses it because she is a victim (of sorts) of #MeToo. I was out of it and retired before that – and I stress this necessary movement took place. There were indications of what was up ahead in my later years and that more care needed to be taken in one’s working relationships with the opposite gender.

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I am largely comfortable around women. Many of my dearest friends are women – women I have mostly met in the schools I have practised my profession in over the decades. I developed a bond with them and I take pride in saying they are still incredibly important to me. On the staffs of my experience an easy collegiality existed. On occasions I saw romantic relationships develop in others, but behaviours were perhaps tempered by the abundance of young minds about. I never experienced a toxic workplace, nor one where it seemed to me that women would feel sexually threatened on a day to day basis. I’m male though. How am I to judge? There were flirtations (I may have very mildly participated at times), as well as the sort of contact around the corridors that may raise eyebrows now.

As I aged I became increasingly wary around young female staff – and it is perhaps because of that I retain friendship with some of them to this day. Over the years I did encounter a few male types who were overly attentive to the younger women on staff, but I was more in my comfort zone with staff members of the opposite gender closer my own age. I enjoyed the cosy familiarity I shared with them, at times even comforting them when the occasion arose without it posing in any way as something out of order. I wonder if that could happen today? These women seemed as secure in their own skins as I became under the influence of my wonderful Leigh. And they enhanced my life each and every day.

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Has #MeToo now rubbed off in the sort of staff rooms I worked in? I have no real way of knowing. Most workplaces, by their very nature, encourage close contact and lines can be crossed – deliberately or otherwise. Any boss who feels she or he can control affairs of the heart under their watch is deluding him/herself. It’s human nature to put the heart before the brain, or at least how the brain is ordained to behave. And, anyway, this is distinctly different to the systematic, ingrained harassment of the female gender that has raised its ugly head in the armed forces, hospitals, banks and even on the musical stage in recent times.

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I do admire the women who were the whistle-blowers in this regard. Odious men of the ilk of Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein need to be called out. The former has been brilliantly portrayed in all his rottenness by Russell Crowe in one of the year’s best tele-series, ‘The Loudest Voice’, with the forthcoming big screen production ‘Bombshell’ soon set to further blacken his name. Hopefully Hollywood will similarly turn on Weinstein. These are repugnant guys and not at all reflective, I would hope, of most of my gender.

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The fun police have had their beige way with so much in how the world operates in these early decades of the 21st Century. Is a sterile staff room, office or industrial site more productive than one where, in Ms Watson’s words, ‘…something slightly inappropriate…’ is turned a blind eye too in the name of keeping morale up? For me, close and caring encounters with the beautiful women of my orb, now completely away from the workplace, gives my life extra fizz. And, to my mind, the human condition needs all the fizz it can get these days.

Shane Watson’s opinion piece = https://theworldnews.net/au-news/rip-the-office-romance-you-will-be-missed

Bras that Tie

I’ve always loved the ritual of a man liberating me from a bra. The sexiest of them didn’t fumble; the best had confidence and that holiest of grails, tenderness. They did it with reverence, as if opening up a treasure chest;…Bras, an instrument of the male gaze and wonderment, oh, didn’t we know that.’

Oh, how hard was it trying not to fumble – but the release, when it came, was worth all the nervousness, even if there may have been a little embarrassment if the front-loading variety was encountered.

There is that reverence to it, certainly, but it’s a thing of beauty, as well as a thrill, to unencumber a woman’s breasts, especially if that unencumbering is privately for your wonderment alone. What warming memories it creates. To a lesser – much lesser – degree, if this occurs on a screen, small or large, there’s still an element of all that as well. It’s all something time can never diminish.

Of course, from a male’s perspective – this male’s perspective – there’s also something to be said for completely freeing the breast as well. I hark back to my 1970s days when I was at uni and later, in the workforce – days that coincided with the cheesecloth era. In my early teaching career there was a liberated young lass, a colleague, who did not include a bra as an item of her clothing when she fronted a classroom. It was too much for our otherwise quite tolerant principal the occasion a cheesecloth blouse was worn, leaving little to the imagination of her pupils (it was a secondary school) or her fellow teachers as she strutted around the corridors. It had to be a case of bra-up or think about another career. Those were the days.

Is there an equivalent for the male? No, not exactly – but there is one item that once featured in my wardrobe but now, for comfort’s sake, is never disported by this anything but fashionista in the here and now. I can safely say I haven’t worn one this century, nor for a few decades preceding. And unlike Ms Gemmell’s prognosis for the bra, I doubt, though, whether this strip of material will ever disappear for good. It is entrenched as de rigueur for many professions and workplaces in the public eye. I did wear them, back in the 70s, along with my paisley shirts, flares and platform shoes. Then they were wide and funky, there being a sort of competition between the male staff as to who could get away with the most outrageous and bad taste design – although I do not think that same principal had to threaten anybody to tone them down. But trends fade away and perhaps that was also the death knell for this guy wearing ties. Ties became conservative, I went for more casual. Thankfully, by the 80s, fewer and fewer of my teaching pals wore them. There were a couple throwbacks to the 50s then, but a tie in a public school today is as scarce as a hen’s tooth.

Does a tie equate with a bra? I could be wrong, but sensually removing a tie would not have the same effect for the female of the species than if the role were reversed – if she was doing the same with that undergarment, or any garment for that matter. But then, I’m not qualified to answer. Ties have little functionality, unlike the bra, given that they were initially seen as a better option than the corset. Ties, to put it bluntly, are simply just a pain in, or around, the neck. I can only but remain in agreement with NG – a bra being removed is truly ‘…exhilarating’ in contrast.

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Nikki Gemmel’s column – https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/something-to-get-off-my-chest/news-story/6957499d20a2a2eeeac7c6d950cbf251

Cold Revisited

At last I know who to blame. During it, as well as for a long time afterwards, for the life of me I couldn’t work it out. But Ms Lester has provided me with the answer. I only had to join the dots. I can now blame men in suits – specifically, American men in suits.

Now I’ve mused before, in recent times, on coldness. I’ve insisted I am less adverse to it, it being natural chill, these days than I have been in the past. But artificial cold is another matter – and having it blown on me, against my wishes, as my lovely lady knows only too well from my incessant whingeing during the summer months, is a pet peeve.

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I was looking so forward to our cruise to the tropics. In all fairness it did turn out to be a holiday that ticked all the boxes – almost. We’d cruised up the East Coast of Oz previously on P&O to the warmth without a skerrick of a problem, apart from a bit of wild water. We had a ball. Our trip to the South Pacific was almost as enjoyable. Tropical heat. That’s what I yearned for. The boat did deliver that on its island stops and out on deck. Unfortunately, as far as the inside public areas went, the temperature barely registered as cool. To be comfortable there I had to dispense with my shorts and tees and don long sleeved shirts and trousers. Chilled air was being blasted down on all and sundry. Until now I couldn’t figure out why that should be. The punters, I reckoned, could have stayed back in their cooler climates to get that. Inside, on a bright gorgeous day, it felt anything but tropical.

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It wasn’t till I read Amelia L’s musing on the wonder that is air-conditioning that I twigged. Of course, the cruise company’s home port was Miami and ‘…, Americans of all stripes love freezing fake air.’ Our ship had aligned its thinking about blowing out air to the preferences ‘…of a 40-year-old (American) man in a suit’.’ My mind can rest easy now that’s cleared up.

But next is the question as to why this type of thinking applies for cinema goers at home, all around the country, in mid-summer. Here I am, say, in Melbourne; the temperatures arcing up into the high-30s and I’m in long strides carrying a jacket or jumper. That’s right. I’m off to the cinema toting extra layers as I know from experience that if I dress for the weather I’d be covered in goosebumps as I endeavoured to enjoy the attraction that was up on the big screen. The same also applies to some of the shops, but at least I can leave those if I’m getting too frosticooled. Yep, I made that last word up – but it describes how I feel when this occurs to me. I hate near-freezing air being pumped in on me. I want to enjoy the heat. I get enough cold living in beautiful Tassie. And, yes, as I said last time – I know I’m soft.

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Please just let us enjoy what nature provides. Surely we’ve learnt enough about the negatives of trying to change and fiddle around with what comes to us naturally. And I also have a new hero, so thank you Amelia for introducing him to me. I’m signing up to Iolu Abil’s fan club.

Amelia Lester’s take on air-conditioning = https://www.smh.com.au/national/foreign-correspondence-all-hot-and-bothered-over-aircon-20190806-p52eex.html

Mono or Bi – I’m comfortable both ways

Let me make this clear from the onset. I come from a bi-heritage, but mono suits me just fine as well.

So columnist Penny Flanagan has done a spot of house/dog sitting too. Only she, it seems, has had some startling reality checks on how some others manage, or mismanage, their households – those she has been invited access to to keep hound and home safe. And she saw fit to broadcast their shortcomings to all and sundry around the country. I did quietly wonder if she’d be welcomed back ‘…from Manly to Mossman to Coogee…’

I do the same within my orb. I love it. As much as I adore life with my beautiful lady on the fringes of Hobs, a dog/house mind gives me a change of scene and a few advantages I do not have at our little idyllic abode abutting the Derwent.

I have four regular gigs. As a plus two are situated in real ‘SeaChange’ (Will the new version be a semblance of its seminal predecessor?) locations, Bridport and Sisters Beach. It’d be a toss-up between the duo as to which I would prefer to spend the rest of my days in if, heaven forbid, I had to leave my present situation. In both there is a sense of serenity; a notion of escape. They are very special communities. Of course I also get to share time with some magnificent canines – Jasper, Sandy the Spoodle, Summer, Bronson, Memphis and Pat the Dog. It’s a pleasure, always, having their company as I do my best to follow owner’s instructions and not spoil them rotten. All four residences are close to beach or river so I can stroll to my heart’s content. I value the fact that, at all, I can walk to attain my daily needs, including the Age. At home, on the fringes of a capital city, I have to hop in the car for those requirements.

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I have the joy in each of a large screen television. There is nothing I relish more than sharing a movie or tele series with my Leigh, but our tastes do not always run parallel. Away, at these places, I can view the footy and cricket. I am able to binge on Netflix and/or Stan. With two I have the sheer bliss of wood-fired heating and all larders are well stocked, with the permission to graze. I can cook meals I usually would not have at home. I don’t, Ms Flanagan, have any problems with bath mats and each has a micro-wave. I’ve existed for decades without a dishwasher so that’s never an issue. In short, all four venues are welcoming, ultra-comfortable places to spend a week or two. There are no strange household ‘anomalies’ whatsoever. But now the rub

For the history of all this refer to Amelia Lester’s column, but the lovely homes to which I am gifted visits are not at all consistent in approach in one area – and for me this is no biggie whatsoever. I must admit I was bought up bi and my lovely Leigh is of the same inclination. I did suffer some discombobulation when, well before I embarked on house-sitting, I had my first encounter with the mono version. I recall being in a quandary. Did I let my lovely host know that he/she had forgotten something? Did I sneak off in the night to sort it out for myself and find the other half of the equation? Or did I simply go with the flow? I went with the latter and coped with the initial strangeness of it all. I soon discovered that, in the wider world, there are as many, perhaps even more, devotees of mono-ism as there are to being bi-orientated.

Now, of course, I take it all in my stride. If I’m welcomed into a mono-sheeted household I am perfectly at home as, according to Ms Lester’s statistics, they are close to, if not in the majority. I’ve adapted, just as I have to fitted bottom sheets – just as long as I’m not expected to fold the plurry things. Mono or bi, I’m content both ways.

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Amelia Lester’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/foreign-correspondence-britain-torn-as-great-top-sheet-debate-unfolds-20190723-p529r7.html

Penny Flanagan’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/house-sitting-for-mates-can-leave-you-wondering-who-are-these-people-20190715-p527bq.html

Can’t control? Then ban

I have to be careful these days with my views. I may be out of touch. I was last in the system in 2011, so I’m approaching a decade out. And in the later years of my career, it was all changing so quickly. Plus, I might add, I was teaching in the sticks; largely to wonderful country kids. I suspect that what I encountered there was not at all similar to fronting classes in the big city. My students were mostly eminently sensible and amenable. I loved being associated with them.

But even there and back then mobile phones were starting to cause issues for some staff. The banter was about; what to do about their negatives was occasionally raised at meetings.

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I’m reading in Ms Stewart’s take on the situation that the young people of today she’s in contact with are far more connected these than those I was familiar with; the concerns arising more critical. As I write, this is being bought into our lounge rooms by the timely SBS series ‘The Hunting’. It should make all parents of the age group sit up and take notice. Such a knotty problem, sexting. There’s on-line bullying through those devices to consider, plus the anxiety caused by the fear of missing out. I was amazed when the columnist cited that, on average, those hand-held marvels are checked 80 to 130 times a day by the age group. I’d be lucky to check mine a dozen. The corollary, of course, is the anxiety caused by being unable to refer so often, due to school policy.

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As a member of school management I always opposed any limitation to student use of their phones. If sanctioned by parents they had a right, I figured, to be in possession of them. It was my view that any practitioner worth their salt in the classroom could control their use, even put them to work for educational purposes. Most of the problems back then had their genesis out of school. When it spilled over we had to deal with it, but it didn’t seem in danger of being out of control back in the years leading up to my retirement. In the back of one’s mind, heaven forbid, was always the worst case scenario. We all know what has happened – still is happening – in American schools with that nation’s ludicrous gun laws. If any school has to go into lock down then, I would have thought, it would be essential for students to be in possession of their mobiles for all sorts of reasons. To me, it was/is a no-brainer. If the worst came to the worst, could schools be held accountable for taking the devices off their young people? I can’t see that’s changed.

On the basis of back then I would be more inclined to take Steve Sperling’s view on the matter, but I suspect it’s far more complicated and onerous now. Poor principals. As if they don’t have enough to contend with – if the SBS show is anything to go by.

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I have my doubts as to whether I’d be of the same opinion now. Sperling’s take should hold sway in the ideal world, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the Victorian ban will become nationwide. Like so much with change in the digital age – pity.

‘The Hunting’, SBSonDemand =https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/the-hunting

Sam Sperling’s column – https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/phone-ban-another-example-of-how-teachers-are-devalued-20190627-p521sw.html

Erin Stewart’s column =

Instead of focusing on what someone is saying, the book you’re reading, the event you’re at … you’re feeling twitchy. You know there’s nothing important on your social media apps, no new emails will have landed, but the pull to infinitely scroll through these things – refresh, check for updates – is still strong. In an effort to reduce this distracting urge among young people, as well as to redress cyberbullying, mobile phones will be banned in public primary and secondary schools throughout Victoria over the entire school day as of the start of the 2020 school year.

Seeing young people’s reticence and anxiety at merely being asked to switch there phone off, it’s clear this proposed phone ban will be good for them. I’ve worked with teenage students as an exam invigilator and it’s a constant challenge to get them to turn their phone off. Even in exams where students can be disqualified for having a phone on, even if I’ve told them countless times to turn it off, phones are still an issue. I’ve regularly had to track down the source of muffled beeping, or spotted the telltale rectangular pane of light coming from a phone held under a table.

I’ve never seen a student using their phone to cheat. Instead, they have WhatsApp or Facebook open, their phone is still left on because they can’t bear the idea of turning it off and being disconnected. They couldn’t get through a couple of quiet hours without feeling that pull towards their phone.

Constant phone use is a problem facing young people, but they’re not alone in it. Adults haven’t been great role models when it comes to moderating phone use. In 2017, Australia’s biggest smart phone survey found that we check our phones between 85 to 130 times a day, on average. Just under half of participants under the age of 65 said that they couldn’t live without their smartphone.

I’m not a relatively active smartphone user, and yet mine still has a pervasive place in my life. The first thing I do on waking up each morning is to check my phone. I find myself throughout the day coming up with pithy phrases and taking pictures I can share with my friends about what I’ve been up to. If I have a few minutes in front of me with nothing to do, I unlock my phone and check my apps.

This incessant phone use is a time-waster, an energy-drainer, an anxiety-inducer, and with our heads tilting forward so often, an ergonomic nightmare. One of the best things we could teach young people is how to survive without them, and to learn to value things in life other than being able to share an Instagram story.

At the start of the next school year, students are bound to feel anxious and uncomfortable while their phones stay in their lockers for stretches of six or more hours. What if someone wants to talk to you or something important is happening? What will your thumbs do if they can’t flick across a screen? But once the withdrawal period is over, hopefully a new generation will see that life doesn’t end when you switch your phone off. And then maybe they’ll be role models for the rest of us who need this lesson too.

North to Calypso Winds

For you may still be here tomorrow

But your dreams may not’

You age. Your dreams shrink. Some disappear, others morph into bucket lists which, in turn, shrink – and often not for achievement, but the realisation they were always going to be, well, unrealistic. That has happened to this ageing fellow – but it’s not a cause for angst or regret. For with a lovely, lovely lady in my life and grand-kids to adore, in a place I relish in all senses of the word, in any case, I am truly living the dream. But it is far from the dream that, last century, I envisaged for myself.

Once upon a time I held a desire to follow Graeme Connors ‘North’ to where Jimmy Buffett style calypso-style breezes blew all year around. Somewhere around Byron maybe, or perhaps the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Somewhere that was mono-seasonal; warm to hot for a full twelve months. Once I abhorred winter – became quite SAD about it. I really struggled through that middle term of teaching (there were three back then); struggled to remain glass half-full about life itself.

Is it solely a result of advancing years? Possibly, but with global warming – foreshores receding, icecaps melting and bushfires raging – I now reasonably look forward to the onset of winter in the same way as Alan Attwood. Here, on my island, it has gothic undertones, bought alive by Dark MoFo. And nothing surpasses the excellence of a majestic mountain, capped by snow, at a city’s edge.

winter-illustration-2

Tasmania is a more moderate, easier version of Amelia Lester’s US of A experiences. Four distinct seasons, without the extremes. Sisters Beach, one of my second homes, where I am scribing this, is a joyous location for me to be any season. Walking along its eponymous strand winter, spring, summer or fall – sorry, autumn – is about as good as it gets, whether rugged up in layers or stripped off in a tee, shorts and thongs. On one morning, during this recent stay, on the beach, I engaged with a couple from the big island who had only just made the tree/sea change to Sisters. They were still in semi-disbelief that they had discovered such a place – in awe of its beauty with a community living closer to nature than was their experience. They hailed from Katoomba, seemingly making the previous statement somewhat of an oxymoron. But they were tired of the tourist throngs that abounded in their previous neck of the woods in a place where the natural world had been adjusted for human enjoyment. And they wanted four seasons that were more marked, with more bite. Even though their mountains were cooler than the summer broiling of the city below them in its basin, there the seasonal change was more subtle. At Sisters there is seasonal change to make one feel truly alive. As the heavens opened and the rain teemed down this week, the chill wind from the west certainly gave them that. It’s a truly spectacular and special wonder, is Sisters. Who needs gentle calypso zephyrs?

hobs

The tree outside the window of my man-cave by the river is my barometer of seasonal change. Right now, down there in my southern city, the leaves will have fallen and it would be in its naked phase ready for the cold months. Winter is almost on us – the winter I once detested but now welcome. Stews, soups, roasts. The cosiness of Leigh and myself as the nights lengthen, in front of the tele with our shows from multiple platforms. Going into Hobart, with a bracing wind blowing and kunanyi towering snow-flecked above is a treat. I wouldn’t be anywhere else for quids and quids. And just when there’s a hint of ‘I’m over this weather’, on that tree outside my window little green buds begin to appear.

Look at me

I am old

But I am happy’

Amelia Lesters opinion column = https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/why-season-s-greetings-aren-t-for-everyone-20190415-p51ecw.html

Alan Attwood’s opinion column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/a-seasonal-query-how-great-is-winter-20190527-p51rqo.html

Wedding Glasses

Nailed it Shane. Yep, I’m one of them – one of the ‘Three Days Off in the Week’ mob. And I’m probably about to bore you too. But Shane, at least I can say I never, ever, even long ago, exited’…a club at 4am with blurred face and champagned hair…’

Dear lady columnist, I could have boasted I’d never been drunk this century. But now, dear me! Not any more. I happened to be alone, apart from Sandy the Spoodle, doing a little house sitting at my brother/sister-in-law’s Sisters Beach abode. It had been a tough week – such a tough week for a variety of reasons.

drink01

Now last century, those days of yore and cask, I’ll admit, I was a fairly uninhibited drinker. Rarely inebriated, but certainly gently buzzed and after all, my good doctor did preach two glasses of red with every evening meal and who was I to go against medical advice. Then, after tea, I had to lubricate my way through endless hours of lesson prep and mind-numbing marking. I, of course, rarely stopped at two. But then, I knew when I’d had enough well before the gentle buzz approached chain-saw level. Then a beautiful lady entered my life and sweetly eased me down a further notch or two. I loved her to bits – still do – and became a three nights completely off man.

Whisky, beer, wine of any colour – I adore the stuff. But now I’m regimented – my quota and no more. Discipline is my mantra in the 2000s – that is, until…. I blame you, Rich and Shan. I do!

That time, on a Sisters Beach couch, as dusk turned into night over the hills, the big screen tele was showing the footy. A few wines to accompany that, that’d be the go to wind down after a somewhat fraught period of time. My dear brother had left a tempting white in the fridge and in his sideboard I found a reminder of one of the happiest events in my life, the wedding of my Rich to his Shan. There, amidst numerous other flutes and steins, were the shapely etched goblets the bride and groom gifted their attendees at that glorious Bridport occasion as a memento of their enduring love. Note I said goblets. Note also that, of an evening, my usual amount is two glasses of wine and a stubbie of beer. Well folks, I didn’t make it to the beer. My brain should have informed me that a goblet would hold much more liquid than one specifically designed for wine, but my brain wasn’t in the finest of fettle at the end of that week. To top it off the AFL game that night was riveting, although I was alert enough to know that I felt somewhat unsteady as I made my way to the fridge, at half time, to top up. I put that down to rising up from my supine position on said settee too quickly. Never dawned on me I was already half-cut – about to become fully-cut.

drink02

By the time the three-quarter interval came around, I am totally ashamed to say, I was drunk; thoroughly inebriated; totally rat-arsed. The television was swimming before my eyes. Time for bed. The only question was how to get there as I was wholly legless and befuddled. I have no recollection at all now of how I managed that feat – but the next morning I awoke in it. I suspect some serious cross-country crawling was involved.

But, dear reader, the realisation that I was completely crapulated – yes it is a word – by booze was/is a horrible feeling. Horrible. When I lifted the offending bottle for inspection the next day I found only the merest finger of liquid in the bottom. There was, surprisingly, no symptoms of a hang-over. But, nonetheless, it is an experience I am in no hurry to repeat. These days I take my alcohol in moderation and I didn’t need a hang-over to remind me of how crook I was when it hazily dawned on me that I had over-indulged.

drink

But it’s a salve blaming the wedding glasses.

Shane Watson’s column = https://www.watoday.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/alcobore-or-woke-abstainer-what-kind-of-drinker-are-you-20190419-p51fn8.html?ref=rss