E’en such is time…

Dear me, where did the years go?

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1965 – had just mastered typing

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1988 – before Internet – still a computerphobe

2000a

2000 – my blogging begins

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2013 – after all those blog entries

Just shows that blogging ages a person, eh!

And FIFTY years – 50!!! – this.

Last night I was playing The White Album, from my recently acquired storehouse of music. FORTY-FIVE years on…

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Image from heidiwriting

Still a slave to computers

Baby HP is still being demanding. It runs Windows XP you know. Seems a long time since I last used that. Baby HP’s way of installing updates is very secretive compared with my eMachine on Windows 7. Yesterday Baby installed 60 updates from Microsoft, not to mention all the changes and updates I have been doing.

It came with an unexpected bonus. Baby HP was M’s until Christmas, but before that was G’s. There were around 35 gigabytes of music files on it, among other things. G’s library – and he is a man who knows his music having been in the radio industry at one time. Bonus!  But I had to offload them to a portable hard disk, but also loaded them on to here as well. And I have had a great time listening via XBMC (Frodo version).

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eMachine playing Frodo

Or Jaangle in shuffle mode.

Jaangle (formerly Teen Spirit) is an open source, free, music player and organizer software. It categorizes your mp3, ogg, wma, avi etc collection and displays it in easy to browse, user interface. It has a quality audio – video player and also an integrated tag editor.

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Setting up a “new” computer…

… takes so long and is SO frustratng! Two days now I have been at it.

You may recall Replacement for Baby Toshiba.

My main Christmas celebration was the day before. M came down in the afternoon. After a chat at Diggers with a friendly old lady we went for a beer or two and a sit at Illawarra Brewery, then to Steelers for a hot pot Chinese dinner at the Long Yuan. The food passed the M test!

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Well now I am coming to you from that computer having got the power cable from M on Sunday.

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And a reminder there of the floods in Queensland and northern NSW. Sirdan in (near) Gympie is OK.

In 1983 I learned more than I knew I was learning…

At that time I lived in Glebe and was in some ways at a rather low ebb, in hiatus from teaching but still editing Neos. I lived for a while in a boarding house in Boyce Street with assorted students, crims and schizos and one or two ordinary folk. It was an education. Among my neighbours was a schizophrenic Aboriginal woman whom I call “Marie”.  As I listened to Marie, who was also kind of concierge to the house, I found a story emerging amid the apparent randomness and even craziness. I tried to capture that in a poem at the time. Every word in the poem she actually said, though not all at once, and I have structured it so that her story emerges, as it did for me over a much longer time. An artist who lived upstairs read it and said I had captured her exactly.

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The house in Boyce Street. At the time I occupied the front room. “Marie” was on the second floor at the landing. The artist had the balcony room.

It is clearly no longer a boarding house.

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Marie: Glebe 1983

(for the “stolen generation”)

my mama was black
dadda a scotsman

in the home there was a flower
it woke us up

see here it is

and here’s one i’m saving for matron
(i loved you matron)
i’ll write a book for matron

she’s gone now
they say she died

sometimes
i think i will come back to her

she said “you’re in trouble, marie”
she said “have the baby”
(i was nineteen or twenty)

i know all about cocks
men can be cheeky
but the girls are worse
two backyard jobs

matron’s gone now
see her flower?
i’ve pressed it for her

i’m forty-two years old i am nothing
a woman not married in this society
is nothing

my dream is to get married
i said to matron
“i will have babies for you”

tomorrow

i’ll give up smoking
i must control the grog
but when my head’s upset i need a beer

the pub is good
nobody looks down on you there

i hope my joseph is happy
he chose his family
and thomas
where is thomas?

there have been too many men

i’ll go picking again
on the riverina

this is not my place

this is a dead end street this is a dead man’s house
but there is a lane

they call me
abo
schizo

words are very powerful
you must be careful how you use them

do the children still read?

the television
i got mine at the hock shop forty bucks
it freaks me out

sometimes

i see myself and matron and joseph and thomas
i learn a lot
it freaks me out

sometimes

this is not my place
my head hurts here

all that fucking going on
over my head

i’ve never hurt no-one
let them kill me it’s good
it doesn’t matter
i’ve never hurt no-one
but i’ve been hurt

do you know my dream?

this is my dream
i’ll have a coffee shop
and there will be little huts
and no-one will be turned away

we did that once
had pillows all over the house

i learned
dressmaking
and elocution

i’ll get up early and get a job
it’s good i reckon
tomorrow
will be good
after christmas
next year
i’ll leave this place

but it’s good
i reckon

see this flower?
i’m saving it for matron
and here is the one
that woke us in the home

my dadda was a scotsman
my mama was black

****

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Each photo is linked to its story.  See A guide to Australia’s Stolen Generations and 100 Year Commemoration of the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home.

See also Punishment and death at Cootamundra for a contrarian view from Keith Windschuttle. BTW, if you happen upon that chapter directly via a search you could be forgiven for thinking it had some kind of official status. I find that a bit deceptive, but then I guess it is up to me (caveat emptor) to check the home and about links.

Archie Roach at Cootamundra Girl’s 100 years playing ‘Mum’s Song’ by Kutcha Edwards.

Full of hatred and full of anger
Which I needed to release
But with love and understanding
I’ve moved on and I’m now at peace

Late at night I still remember
I would cry myself to sleep
The scars they hurt no longer
But the memories are deep

As we come up to Australia Day tomorrow it is time to reflect soberly and honestly on the full picture of our country’s history.

Consider–my world 1952 to 1959. Thoughts on the origins of belief.

Here was my world from 1952 to 1955-6: Vermont Street Sutherland, NSW.

Vermont Street

And here I am in that world, towards the end of the period.

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That is April 1955 and I am in the front yard of 1 Vermont Street with my mother.  I am 11 years old, and newly at Sydney Boys High. I had had a serious illness just three or four months before – pancreatitis – so I may look a touch thin still. All the ribbons are because we are going to the GPS Regatta at Penrith, a big deal in those days and perhaps even more so in my family. I was the first in the family entitled to go as I was in a GPS school – albeit the only state-owned one – as I would later be the first in the family to go to university.

Just three years earlier my sister had died – 61 years ago today. She was cremated and her urn placed in a rose garden at Woronora Cemetery, which she now shares with Grandma and Grandpa Christison, who died in 1959 and 1963 respectively.

And that takes me to the subject of belief, because my sister’s death affected me very profoundly – of course this was just as true for the rest of my family and extended family, but it is of myself I think now as I sit in the last six months of my seventh decade. Read my mother’s account in her own words.

My immediate family were not religious, or perhaps more accurately were not church-goers.

My mother was perhaps best described as a stoic. In her words:

Truly, as Adam Lindsay Gordon wrote in “Ye Wearie Wayfarer”

Question not, but live and labour
Till yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
Seeking help from none;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”

The poets and Charles Dickens – she acquired a love for both from her father – were the formulae of her faith, rather than The Bible which she rarely read.

Tennyson:

Robert Louis Stevenson:

UNDER the wide and starry sky

  Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

  And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
        

Here he lies where he long’d to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

And my father? Very much impressed by the writings of Colonel Ingersoll, among others. Indeed it was from my father that I first heard the name. But his agnosticism – for such it was – combined with a respect for the ethics of Christianity and for much the churches did, though he, nominally an Anglican, did not really want to have much to do with them. He had seen, it appears, fanaticism in some of his family’s past – though he rarely talked about that or them. He did quote this back at me, though, when after around 1958-9 I became perhaps obnoxiously religious.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument

About it and about: but evermore

Came out by the same door wherein I went.

With them the seed of wisdom did I sow,

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow:

And this is all the Harvest that I reap’d –

I came like water, and like water, and like wind I go.

And my Grandfather Christison, though the son of a woman of faith for whom he had enormous love and respect, was also truly an agnostic, at least as far as the institution of the church and the Holy Scriptures were concerned.  He loved his Dickens.

“…while I clean my boots keep a eye upon your mother now and then, and if you see any signs of more flopping, give me a call. For, I tell you," here he addressed his wife once more, "I won’t be gone agin, in this manner. I am as rickety as a hackney-coach, I’m as sleepy as laudanum, my lines is strained to that degree that I shouldn’t know, if it wasn’t for the pain in ‘em, which was me and which somebody else, yet I’m none the better for it in pocket; and it’s my suspicion that you’ve been at it from morning to night to prevent me from being the better for it in pocket, and I won’t put up with it, Aggerawayter, and what do you say now!"

Growling, in addition, such phrases as "Ah! yes! You’re religious, too. You wouldn’t put yourself in opposition to the interests of your husband and child, would you? Not you!" and throwing off other sarcastic sparks from the whirling grindstone of his indignation, Mr. Cruncher betook himself to his boot-cleaning and his general preparation for business.

A Tale of Two Cities

On “flopping” he once told me that when you see someone praying you should watch out for the knife in the other hand. He also deconstructed for me, as we might say now, quite a few of the stories in the Bible. I remember particularly that like any sane person in the last few centuries he was more a touch disbelieving about:

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day.

Joshua 10:13

He also thought the Second Coming was taking rather a long time. He and I discussed such things there in Waratah Street West in the later 1950s,

I went to Church/Christian Endeavour/Sunday School probably no more times than can be counted on the fingers between 1950 and 1956. But that changed markedly, especially after 1959.  As I mentioned in the previous “Consider” post my views in the early fifties derived from the books my mother had bought from some passing Seventh Day Adventist colporteur.

What I do remember is that I sought comfort as I grieved for my sister in the years 1952 and 1953 in religious rituals of my own, such as arranging crosses of pebbles in various parts of the garden, something my parents were totally unaware of. And I pondered the images of the next life and the resurrection of the body on those SDA “Uncle Arthur” books.

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I also often had dreams and nightmares about death. In one I recall there was a skeleton by my bed, as vivid as can be.

To be continued.