Category Archives: Comment

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Lot, Got, Nice, Thing

It took me back, did Monica Dux’s ‘The Nice Age’ – back to my days in the classroom. You see, I too had a ‘thing’ against the word ‘nice’ – and imparted that to my students. It was part of my start of the year spiel – always. From henceforth those two words, plus ‘lot(s)’ and ‘got(ten)’ would be banned from their writings. Grossly over-used words, you see. They would note that, in any piece I assessed, said words would be gently underlined and if too many appeared, their rating would be reduced. Of course, in reality, I was only aiming at a certain few – some students struggled to put a sentence together at all, so there was no point with those cherubs. I was happy if they were able to string together four correctly spelt words to make something that made sense. This was really aimed at those who had some potential in various forms of writing. And a few of my treasures did go on to make a name for themselves as poets, novelists and in journalism. Probably I had little impact on them, in any case, as they had innate talent – but it’s always good to say they owe their success to my superb teaching. Maybe, just maybe, some of what I tried to impart sank in; that they’d recall my tirades against ‘lot, got, nice and thing’.

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So I was akin to Ms Dux’s Grade 7 English instructor and I thought it appropriate to discover that ‘nice’ had its roots in Latin, originally meaning ‘ignorant’. But then MD goes on to mount a case for the rehabilitation of the ever so sweet word. She waxes lyrical on the ‘niceness’ she has experienced in recent times – specifically an episode she’d had in Melbourne’s CBD with a ‘nice’ truck driver. Why anyone would want to drive into the centre of Yarra City, with its trams and trains providing stress-free alternatives, is beyond me. In my own dealings with Melburnians, during my many trips over the years, I have always found them to be wonderfully ‘nice’ in any situation. I’ve often noted, in my scribings about my sojourns, their collective niceness, especially the nice waiters in the city’s eateries and the nice salespeople in its shops. And I love the niceness of the younger people who give up their seats for this old fella on the public transport to the various locations I hang out in. For me it’s the nicest city in the country.

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Yes, I really appreciate niceness in everyday life, but if I had my time over, I still wouldn’t change my not so nice attitude to nice – so there.

Monica Dux’s opinion piece =  https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/the-nice-age-20190124-h1afc3.html

Warwick and I Against the World

At last I’ve found someone who thinks like me – but is it now time to confess?

Before I really get into it, I must make clear that, unlike with Mr McFadyen, I am only half bad. For, you see, I love Freddie and I love Queen. Perhaps, too, my musical tastes have always been limited, but ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the song, not the movie I hasten to add, has driven me to distraction from 1975, on its release, till the present day – well, almost. It’s a song that seems as hard to escape today as it was back in those late seventies times into the eighties. It had another resurgence in the nineties, after the death of the man who can strut like no other. Yes, I hated the never seeming-to-end ditty – its changing of gears, unlike with my favourite of all times, ‘Layla’, seemed discordant, a sacrilege to my aural senses. And don’t get me started on the lyrics – those nonsensical combinations of words that must have been conjured under the influence of something or other. And when the film clip arrived on ‘Countdown’, I almost reached for the off button to that iconic show.

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Down through the years my dislike of ‘BR’ has served me well at dinner parties, though, I must admit. Whenever the conversation lags I have only to throw in, ‘I think ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ must have to be the worst song ever to assail the airwaves.’ Then I sit back and wait for the horrified response, with the next half hour or so being spent by the assembled guests trying to convince me of its grandeur and exalted place in the rock pantheon. I, of course, always refuse to be swayed. Love doing that.

Queen At Live Aid

But, don’t tell anyone in case they have a chair at some sit down with me in the future, that I’m slowly coming around to see it does have a smidgen of something. Thanks to the movie and a lovely gift from my beautiful Leigh to see a stage production of ‘We Will Rock You’ recently, I am less strident in my abhorrence of it. It’ll never rate for me up there with the other Queen classics, but now I find I can at least sit through a rendition. And I guess I’ve finally realised, unlike WMcF, that 1.6 billion streamers can’t be totally wrong. One does soften in old age and after all, it was/is Freddie’s signature.

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For a while, with Rami Malek, we had Freddie back again. I have lived long enough to witness most of the great front men from Buddy to Bon to the Boss – but none come with a within a bull’s roar to Freddie for pure theatre. He was a one off.

Warwick McFadyen’s article = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/is-there-something-i-m-missing-bohemian-rhapsody-leaves-me-cold-20190101-p50p2e.html

Laptoplessness

It’s actually been surprisingly liberating.’

Smart phone pride. That’s what I have – smart phone pride. Pride that, as a notorious forgetterer, I’ve never managed to lose, drop or flush my hand-held device down the toilet once – touch wood. Those that know me would say that’s because I rarely have the thing with me. That’s a little bit true, but I do know when to have it on my person. It’s just that I prefer not to. I am also prideful that I can master the basics associated with it, as well as Facebook, Google and Instagram. I realise I am not in the same league as Carolyn Webb or just about everyone else on the planet. Overall, it’s not particularly essential to my existence, nor does it enhance it to any degree – but it does have its uses.

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My laptop, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish – something I once figured was a necessity to my existence, something that enhanced my life immeasurably.

So, mid-’18, when my existing laptop slowed down to a clunky dawdle, I was indeed very keen to get it seen to, even replaced. Enter my son-in-law who, over the years, has used his immense IT knowledge, as well as a great deal of patience, to keep me up and running in the digital age. He suspected he could fix it, but I eventually felt that, as I had had it since I first retired, it was time for an upgrade. Leigh-lad duly ordered one that, as it has turned out, is a considerable improvement on my now also retired machine.

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But now comes the rub. He is a very busy son-in-law, working five days a week, leaving only weekends for other activities, including the very important business of raising a beloved granddaughter with Katie. As it turned out, I had commitments taking me away from Hobs at regular intervals – so it transpired I was laptopless for around a couple of months. And with that, I agree with Ms Webb and her phone. It was not the end of the world. It was, well, somewhat liberating. Life was perfectly pleasant and functional without it. Granted, said phone took on a bit of extra responsibility, but overall it lead me, to an even greater degree, to enjoy life in the slow lane. Reading, as well as taking even more advantage of the golden age of television, came with the freedom of being away from the never-ending delights the richness that the ether provides me with. My Leigh’s device was always there, but I rarely made use of it, so much was I relishing time without it.

Capable son-in-law and I finally connected and I was up and away again. But, even so, just a tiny bit of me hankers to return to those days of laptoplessness. I suspect by now Carolyn W has her mobile back, or is toting around a replacement. But I wonder if she’s doing some hankering as well?

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Carolyn Webb’s opinion piece for the Age = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/i-lost-my-iphone-and-i-m-ok-20181218-p50mwt.html

Coffee and Me

It’s so rare for me to have anything to do with a takeaway brew I can remember my last time I sipped on one. Shouldn’t be so difficult, I hear you say – but it was way back in 2011. I was still teaching then, doing beach duty at a school end-of-year picnic when some lovely soul bought one down to me on the strand from the Boat Harbour shop. I must admit I was a bit perplexed how one drank the delicious stuff – by taking off the lid or through the raised hole in it. Logic eventually won out.

Takeaway coffee is, to me, akin to morning showers, bottled water and trolling on social media – why would you want to partake?

I do grant you I crave my first coffee after waking, but, apart from that, I could go a whole day without another, although that’d be a rarity. And I love cafe flat whites, be that at a relatively downmarket venue like Banjos or Hudsons, or somewhere with a bit more class, such as is the case with my regular meetings with affable mate Rob at Whisk and Co.

But the joy of it is the ‘to have here’ to indulge. It is then a truly relaxed experience, be it in solo mode with the morning papers or in the company of my beautiful lady when we’re out and about.

Send out for coffee from the workplace! How ridiculous. What a waste of money and (wo)man hours, although perhaps it keeps a barista or two in work. Buy a coffee machine, for heavens sake, if you’re too sophisticated for instant. Son Richard makes world’s best morning coffee with his little machine. Or there’s the new-fangled pod devices as mastered by my friend Chris of Coogee fame. Delicious.

Of course, the best reason of all not to be sucked in to the takeaway trap is the environment. What an abomination! Look at the stats. What will our children’s children one day think of our stupidity about coffee, let alone everything else we’ve done to wreck the planet gifted to us?

Takeaway coffee just adds to the rush of modern day living. Drop back a gear or two, sit down, chill.

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Matt Holden’s view of takeaway coffee = https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/life-s-too-short-for-a-quick-takeaway-coffee-20181215-p50mgv.html

Nicole and the Sunshine State of Mind

Going up to Queensland, for me, over the decades, has always meant a lightening of the spirit. I was usually the stereotypical Mexican heading north to escape a southern states’ winter, whether it be that life-defining cruise up its eastern seaboard or the frequent trips I’ve made to the Gold/Sunshine Coasts. Our most recent excursion also included Brisbane to that pair of destinations. I’ve grown to like the capital city over the years, watching it transform from an over-sized country-fied hicksville to a modern, diverse metropolis. But even now, after many visits, I still don’t feel I really know it. It doesn’t grab at you and demand attention in the manner of big brassy Sydney. Nor does it seep into your system with a more subdued attractiveness like the country’s most liveable major city – but nonetheless Brissy is a fine place to visit.

One of my favourite areas to wander around in is Southbank with its twin art galleries, museum and library. A few trips ago I’d discovered the latter’s excellent bookshop and cafe. I loved partaking of a coffee and a treat there; sitting, with my newspaper or book, at the al fresco tables, reading, slurping, nibbling and watching the passing parade. And I certainly did that this time. But the State Library of Queensland also had a couple of exhibitions on that caught my eye, so I took the elevator up to one of the higher floors to view them. One showing was on a number of the state’s offshore islands, looking at their chequered history. The other, though, was the more engrossing. Entitled ‘Lifestyle: a Sunshine State of Mind’, it kept me occupied for quite a while.

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As is often the case with me, it was a photograph of a woman that attracted my attention and intrigued. It seems the organisers of the displays who put together this showing had some need for notables to act as ambassadors to promote it to the punters in the wider community. Their images were worthily on display at the entrance, accompanied by their potted biographies. But one, to me, seemed to be out of kilter with the rest. I was drawn to find out more about the young lady pictured:-

The depths of my pain became the force of my liberation.’

Part of the thinking behind ‘Lifestyle’ was, not only a desire to bring to the attention of the viewers as to ‘…what Queensland is all about…’, but to be a showcase that ‘… acknowledges…(its) diversity and (be one) that challenged stereotypes.’ Nicole Gibson’s story certainly did that.

With her cap on backwards she grinned down at me cheekily, like a happy bogan. Delve a bit deeper and that happiness has been hard won. You see, this youthfully talented performer and artist is a survivor of the ravages on mind and body of that most insidious of conditions, anorexia nervosa.

Today she’s our youngest ever National Mental Health Commissioner. Also, on her CV, are a Young Australian of the Year nomination and a listing as one of our country’s 100 most influential women. She is, outwardly okay and successful, but she had a teenagerhood that no one should have had to endure.

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After she left secondary school to enter training in the dramatic arts field, she found herself in such a competitive environment she couldn’t cope. Her new world struck her that it was one where image supplanted talent. As a result she caved in to the degree that she became the victim of ‘… focusing on losing weight (which) was a good avenue for me to at least focus my energies on something…’ Focus became obsession. Her frame of mind became more and more negative as she attempted to starve herself to perfection. Then, what she describes as a ‘…divine energy flow.’ was extracted her from the depths – and in 2011 she formed the Rogue and Rouge Foundation, aimed at breaking down the mental health stigma for young people. Through seminars and in schools she is spreading the word about how to move from the darkness out into the light. She figures if she can do it, others can too. Her not for profit organisation is there ‘…for the individual to decide the way in which they feel (their) recovery should look.’

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I have the utmost admiration for young people who can, through force of will or ‘divine energy’ or any which way, bring themselves, with or without assistance, from the clutches of the black dog back to something resembling normality. Maybe I should have, but I had never heard of the remarkable force of nature that is Gibson. Her photograph radiates lustre and light, but it made me realise that, even if the Mangoland sunshine makes me feel all blissful and positive, for many Queenslanders, many Australians, it’s just not that simple.

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Her Foundation = http://www.rogueandrouge.org.au

Just Maybe Life’s Still a Beach

Life can’t always be a beach. But for the last week, at time of writing, it has been. Shortly I am about to take a beloved canine, sadly not my own, out onto a beautiful strand – and whatever the load is that I carry, in these times of retirement, will lift off my shoulders. Between two capes, Table and Rocky, in North West Tasmania, at this time of year, on a week day, it is likely to be almost deserted. I may meet a fellow dog walker, maybe a perambulator or two, but now, before summer arrives, I’ll have it mostly to myself.

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Contrast this serenity to another beach I visited a few weeks back – Australia’s most iconic. People had, that bright day, flocked to it for the annual arts project that is Sculpture by the Sea; because a prince and his missus were visiting and because a taste of summer was definitely in the air. For me it was an exhilarating experience. Acres of supine exposed flesh was on display – young and not so young ladies in barely anything at all. And there was a glorious track to walk along to Tamarama in search of photo opportunities. Perhaps, too, that was all tinged with a little sadness that my own basking days were over.

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It’s beaches like the latter two that one of my heroes, Rennie Ellis, would parade up and down, capturing our country’s hot climate hedonism for posterity – and a fair few lovelies, unencumbered by bikini tops, as well. These days a man with a camera on a beach automatically causes suspicion, though mobile phone snapping barely raises an eyebrow. When I expose the former on the sand I’m very, very judicious.

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Once upon a time the warmer weather in Tassie and trips to Mangoland had to include plenty of beach time. Looking back, it seems much of my childhood was spent on my home town’s sandy stretches or at friends’ shacks. That continued on into my teenage years – my first romantic kiss was on a sweaty day at Burnie’s West Beach. I ached to get to Surfers Paradise every couple of years – or Noosa; or Byron. And now I am discovering Sydney’s beaches.

But with age comes a change of focus. These days I wouldn’t swap all that heady relaxation and observation beside the briny in crowds of like-minded sun worshippers with my quiet walks with Sandy the Spoodle by Bass Strait in all its moods. There’s always a pause as we cross the little bridges over the creek; then usually more than one just to suck in the glory of the place and to relish that I am still around to savour it. Life’s not the beach it used to be, but I still can cherish blue skies and a sparkling sea. Now, though, for me beaches are for all seasons; ambling along them just bliss.

The article from Benjamin Law that inspired this piece = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/spotlight-golden-beaches-20181024-h170y5.html

Mrs Katz – My Kind of Woman

I’ve never met Danny Katz’s better half, but I’m sure she’s my kind of woman. We’d be naturally drawn (clever) to each other and would have plenty in common. How could we not? To forsake one’s beloved, Danny, for a stationery shop, well – despite my adoration for my own beautiful partner, I’d be tempted too. I could see that situation occurring, even if I may not be quite as brazen as Mrs Katz. You see I am one with her. They mesmerise me too. I’m infatuated with ‘…: paper, pens, pencils, paints, pins, punches, paperclips…’ I become hopeless with desire, my fingers twitching as they clutch my wallet. Coloured envelopes, designer writing pads – I can’t get enough. And if said retail outlet has a range of non-Hallmark variety greeting cards, I am beside myself with joy. If I find the work of a local artist or something of eye-catching originality, then those digits cannot contain themselves and my wallet opens up. Occasionally, I have even been known to swoon.

katz

But here’s the rub. One of the banes of my life. I can’t write. I don’t mean that I am illiterate and I certainly do not mean that I lack the time to sit down and produce epistles to be sent through the mail to the cherished ones in my world. I do that – quite copiously in fact. Perhaps it even could be said too copiously. But my cherished ones are a tolerant set – they indulge me and I adore them for that. No, it’s my scrawl I mean. I cannot produce a hand even remotely worthy of the paper it’s written on! My a’s look like u’s, my ‘b’s resemble ‘h’s and so on, whether in free flow cursive or in print mode. Way, way back my university professors insisted I use a typewriter for it was beyond them to decipher what I was attempting to inform them of regarding any topic. As a teacher my backboard skills were a laughing stock. Just as well that most of my students were a kind, tolerant cohort as well. But even so, their furrowed brows were often perplexed when asked to copy down whatever I had scratched down on black, white or smart boards. Usually I had to translate several times until they made sense of it all. I didn’t mind. I was never offended. I knew how bad it was.

letter

I wished at times I could have been around when copperplate was taught instead of cursive. Would that have fixed matters? I can delude myself.

No doubt the loved wife of one of my favourite columnists does not suffer my affliction – at least I trust not. At times it makes me feel like an impostor in the stationery shop. But I dream I can one day be fully legible – but time is drifting away.

Danny Katz’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/the-bitter-truth-about-love-20180802-p4zv4k.html