Wheelbarrow

There is a lovely song by the Australian duet ‘Millers Tale’ called Wheelbarrow. The opening line of the song says, “I bought my friend a wheelbarrow to carry his troubles in”. It is such an evocative line I could not help but ponder on it. I’m sure we all know people who need a wheelbarrow, poor things. Not only do they feel the need to hold their troubles close, but a wheelbarrow means there are lots of them and ensures they are always close enough to share. Now I don’t want to sound insensitive, but, I’m going to be. They need to put the barrow down and step aside.

It’s not helping anyone, least of all themselves. In all likelihood they are scaring people away with their sadness. Sure there are people on the planet that deserve to be sad, No problem there, but those that carry that wheelbarrow around need to get over it. The best way to do that is to start doing something for others. Get involved in a charity or some good cause, there are plenty of people who need assistance of one kind or another. Hospitals, food pantries, the homeless or just nice local old people that could use some help with a lawn or some shopping or something.

By focussing on someone else for a while, perspective gently and quietly sneaks into your life providing all sorts of meaningful assistance. Give it a try and check out the song as well.

Over the back fence

The Life Log project is all about helping people collect their family stories. The hand-me-down bits of lives and loves and circumstance that are formative and significant. I am firmly of the belief that it is not just the dying that should be recording their story, nor should it be the exclusive domain of those that have a little glimpse of their own mortality, but we should all be doing this.

My parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparent all led lives that contained mysteries that in all likelihood will never be answered and certainly not answered to my satisfaction. My great-grandfather went to fight in a couple of World Wars and though he hated it all, it was the big event in his life. Fighting overseas defending his country defined him. I guess not surprisingly, having watched so many of his friends killed in action or returned as damaged humans.

He was such a delightful old stick. I clearly remember him playing war tunes on his harmonica as he came in from tending his extensive vegetable gardens. I also clearly remember his wife, my great-grandmother, as the head of the household, setting the rules, setting the table and setting the punishment scales too. She was legendary for chasing one of her children down the yard with a bucket of water to tip over him, for swearing in the house. She must have been in her nineties and her son must have been in his seventies and pretty sure he could get away with dropping the B bomb. He was proved wrong on that score and escaped by hopping the back fence which is a pretty fair effort for a bloke in his seventies.

These stories are the stories that make us understand families and the way in which people lived. Without them, much of what we think we know about our ancestors unravels pretty quickly. I would encourage you to put a microphone in front of all of your ageing relatives ASAP. You can do it once a year for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, if you know of anyone that needs the service, check out the website http://www.thelifelogproject.com.au

It’s in the post

In the next few months Australians will be put to the sword over an issue that needn’t divide the country but may just do that. Marriage equality should not be an issue, but the media, print, TV, radio and online will all wade into the debate with vigour and with no thought for the damage they will be doing. I have enough gay friends to be able to say that for many of them, being gay has not always been easy. It is certainly not the path of least resistance. I have long-held the view that a persons sexuality is none of my business. Their choice of life partner is none of my business either just as their choice of religion is none of my business.

I can’t see how it can possibly work any other way. No doubt we will hear calls for people to boycott the postal vote which would be an absolute disaster. No doubt we will hear horrible ill-considered rhetoric from all the usual suspects. We will in all likelihood hear from organisations and associations purporting to know things or represent the feelings of their members, but I urge you to look closely at the motivation of these groups, even the makeup of these groups.

Sure there are going to be people and institutions that want to keep control of society just as they did in the sixties and seventies. The world has changed, thank goodness. I hope we have moved, but at the very least we are moving, toward a society that is much more caring and considerate. I hope we are becoming more generous with our words and emotions and much more aware of the personal hurt and damage we can cause to people who don’t deserve to be hurt.

Please consider carefully the postal vote. For older Australians, I urge you to think about your grandchildren, and the world you would like them to flourish in. Surely the churches and religious groups can not be arguing from any position of strength after the findings of the Royal commissions. This vote has nothing to do with political correctness as some people would have you believe either.

There will be people wanting to use this vote to send all kinds of weird and ill-conceived messages. Just ignore them, see them for what they are, an attempt at dividing the vote. Like just about everyone else, I would have liked to see our politicians take a stand and show some real leadership on the matter, but both parties are controlled by older conservatives with strong church links, people purporting to be leaders, that will go to any length and say anything to hold onto power. Many of them will be well spoken. Many of them will see this as an opportunity to stand in the spotlight and spruke their opinions.

I hope I live in an Australia that truly cares about the future and how we are going to flourish as a nation. I hope I live in an Australia that doesn’t feel the need to control or belittle anyone and has a real interest in building a generous and caring society for all of our grandchildren.

Making life more simple

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In my heart of hearts I really thought it would be simple and pretty straight forward to buy some land and build a house in the country. Put in some gardens and grow some food, simplify our life and improve the day-to-day quality. We weren’t intending to build anything too grand, just big enough for our sons and partners to come back to for visits and not have to sleep in the bath.

If you can be wronger than wrong, that’s me. Bushfire controls which obviously are a good idea, make it tricky to build anywhere near trees, trees may house animals so everybody needs to know the exact genus of each tree on the 147 acres to ensure nothing rare is removed and no habitat is destroyed. You can’t build on a piece of land less than 150 acres in our area so that got tricky for a minute. If you build more than 200 metres from the road you need a second bushfire option. You can’t build within 74 metres of the boundary. Which further complicates the process. Particularly as this is an unusually shaped piece of land, much in the shape of a horses head.

So far we have had a Bushfire consultant to tell us where we could build, then an architect to design a home for that site, then a chat with council leading to a second bushfire consultant and an immediate relocation of the house site because it turns out we couldn’t build there at all. Then a redesign from the architect. Then a botanist to conduct a flora and fauna report including a thing called a SEPP44 which is a koala report, then a structural engineer and a geologist in cahoots to work out how best to build this modest house.

Then a new driveway so we can have safe access to the main road, which requires culverts and loads of asphalt and gravel. Of course that driveway needs to be robust enough to handle the cement trucks and friends that will eventually be delivering the building material.

All of this before council even considers the building application. It turns out it is not that simple to simplify ones life. If you would like to keep up to date with the progress, I am recording videos and they are up on YouTube Barjols Sth.

My secret life

 

Do you have a secret life? I do. I don’t mean I creep around at night with loose women or anything. It’s just that there are things I like, that those beautiful people I call family are not that keen on. The reverse is true too of course. But I can’t live without my secret life. I’ve tried. It just makes me sad and then I begin to get weird and to really crave the elements. The Music of Jelly Roll Morton is one of my guilty secrets. But I have others. Tom Waits is another. I have a list of about twenty singer songwriters that are also hiding in my cupboard. Then there’s the works of super guitarist Pat Metheny.

But there’s more. I also have a great love of sports movies. I have given up trying to talk anyone at home into watching them with me, they just roll their eyes and change the channel. I like to read biographies, which is all part of my secret life, at least I can do that without offending anyone. But the music and movies is another thing entirely.

When the coast is clear, I do a quick check of the front door, just to make sure no-one sneaks back in and catches me, and I let this music rip. I love songs that tell stories. In the same vein, I like short stories. The skill involved in painting a picture in twenty pages is something pretty special, equally telling a story in three minutes takes some doing. One of the best examples of this is the song “The man in the bright red car” by Kristina Olsen, it’s a cracker. I always liked the song on face value, but when I saw her live and she provided the back story, I got completely hooked on it. The song contains one of the all time great lines in any song, “Love is more a verb than a noun.”

The music of Jelly Roll Morton is significant for a range of reasons. Firstly because in Jazz, it is without peer. Secondly, to get a grasp of the extraordinary accomplishment his jazz compositions are, you have to understand the time in America’s history. The man was incredible, the music rolls with an ease seldom replicated and particularly in such complex signatures, keys and chord progressions. The man was amazing.

Tom Waits is one of my all time guilty secrets. My bride would have our house declared a “Tom Waits free zone” given half a chance, but I love the music. There have been hundreds of artists make attempts at covering his songs and they rarely work. In fact I can think of only person and one song of Toms, that has been covered successfully, where the new version successfully adds something to the original.

There you go, my secret is out, I hope you wont think less of me.

Generosity

 

One of the characteristics I truly admire is the capacity for generosity. By that I mean a person’s ability to be generous not just with their money, and of course that’s nice, but with their time, their patience and their humility. Generosity of spirit is one of those attributes that has an incalculable effect.

We probably all know people who do not have it. They are mean with their praise, stingy with their money, tough on those around them, bold about their own ambitions at the cost and sometimes even the exclusion of those close to them. I certainly know a few. They often attract people to them lacking in their own self-esteem which is just awful to watch. Often they see value in money spent on themselves and see no value regarding money spent on others. For example, they may be happy to spend money on an overseas adventure but shake their head when their partner wants to buy some new shoes. It makes me cross when I see it. I understand that it is rooted in their history, and isn’t something that just springs from nowhere. But that understanding doesn’t make the behaviour any more palatable.

IMG_0331Being generous most often costs nothing. Saying something nice costs nothing nor does being generous with your time. Underpinning someone else’s self esteem generally costs nothing. We all of us have self-doubt. Some are riddled with it, some have fleeting moments of it. People that lack generosity of spirit seem to enjoy being in the company of people who are racked with self doubt. I guess it makes them feel better, but it makes it all the more difficult when one is forced into the role of spectator. Perhaps it has something to do with propping up their own self-image by surrounding themselves with people that are needier than they are, I’m not sure.

We can all be more generous of course. We could give more to great charities, we could spare a few dollars here or there to people in real need. But equally important, we can all help people around us achieve great things by supporting them with time and energy. Sometimes all it takes to push through a task is the verbal support of someone close to you.

Think about that for a moment. When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone, with no ulterior motive. Could you do more to help other people? Is there something simple you could do that may have a big effect on someone else’s life? Sometimes this requires people to step outside their comfort zone and talk with people close to them in a way they have not done before, but how tough can that be really? Go on, I dare you, put yourself out there a little for someone else and see how you feel about that.

Being generous is such a lovely thing to be able to be.

SEPP 44

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There’s a man on my property counting Koalas, he’ll be there a while I reckon,
According to the latest legislative twist my plans for the place may be threatened
if this bloke that I’m paying a goodly amount to, finds the koalas or even the trees
Then what I have purchased at some great expense is a hilltop refuge for bees

I reckon there’s a bit of me that’s greener than most, I recycle and don’t waste the water.
It seems crazy that only fifty years ago Koalas were ripe for the slaughter
I’ve seen pictures of trucks with the pelts stacked so high you wouldn’t believe it could move
They reckon they knocked off six hundred thousand, it’s like they had something to prove

So the government then in their ultimate wisdom thought culling the things was the answer
for the lining of gloves and of boots and for collars on dresses to make women fancier
for sure all these things were much more important than keeping koalas alive
I guess they were thinking that all of that eating was not helping farmers to thrive

So the man on my place that is counting koalas is there to also count trees
to label and map them to try to determine if koalas would want to eat these
for even if he stands there all day until dusk, without spotting a single cute bear
I may not be able to build me a house, because of the tress that are there

I mean what would they think, if they were to appear and their dinner mints weren’t there to chew
So I’ll pay the price for the flora and fauna, and the council will then make me stew
while they consider if old mate koala could chance upon my place and stay
I don’t reckon koalas would give a big fat one if I built my own house, Im just sayin.

So one year they reckon that glove linings important, then later that bears need protection
and all of this time Im paying some bloke to stand there and make formal inspection
As much as I want koalas in trees is there a chance they might do me a favour
and waddle away to some coastal bay or some river or creek or my neighbour.

I want to be green and god knows Im grey as I try to reduce my footprint
I just want to grow veggies and not kill the planet make repair for my long city stint
If I thought that Koalas were going to threaten my chance of a perfect tree change
Id just stay in the city, burn all those fuels and point to the greenies and blame

Its all just too hard this change in behaviour, Id like to be completely off grid
and what of the paperwork Ive generated to improve the way we all live
how stupid am I to pay for a person with clipboard degree and a well meaning frown
all I want to do is go grow some veggies and live in a small country town

Just my opinion

It’s funny this world that we live in right now
It seems like we’re crunched every minute each hour
not enough time to talk things right through
so people make their minds up in an instant

It seems like the politicians and writers give way
to editors and jocks that have all the sway
they get paid to be vicious and just touch the surface
so people make their minds up in an instant

There is just so much science around defending an opinion
You can line up the facts and ignore bits that don’t fit in
and then hide in a corner online with your brethren
I want more from this life than this instant

The larger the audience the more outrageous the print is
The more flagrant and right-wing and downright mean-spirited
But they get on by banging their fists on their table
so people make their minds up in an instant

I want to have space and some quiet and some safety
To mumble and stumble and share my half thoughts in
and see how they stack up against all that I hold dear
and not make up my mind in an instant

Sometimes these are matters of monument and complex
complicated by education culture opportunity or sex
or disposition or desperation or some crazy ancient myth
and not to be dealt with in an instant

The shock jocks and looneys all have deadlines to beat
They need to say something to make people stamp their feet
They say it’s a reflection but we know thats not right
it’s all been dealt with in an instant

just because it makes the papers and repeated time on time
doesn’t make it right or real or even not a crime
minds like ours are deserved of whatever time it takes
you can snuff out a life in an instant.

Where seldom is heard a discouraging word.

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I woke the other morning with these words doing circle work in my brain. “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word” the line of course comes from the old song, “Home on the range” which I remember learning in primary school. It was either a choir piece or a band piece but may also have been a recorder or piano piece. Regardless, I would not have heard the song in 45 years and certainly it has not had any head space of mine for about as long.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up pondering the line as it rattled through my head. I even found myself mouthing the words, silently of course, as my bride was still asleep. I wondered how lovely a world it would be if “seldom was heard a discouraging word” and I what should I be doing to make this happen? Was it a message? A hint perhaps or some sort of direction? Was I discouraging someone?

Here is what I settled upon, via my stream of consciousness. How annoying that even 45 years later, words from popular American frontier folk tunes can pop into my head, they have no business being there and why did I even have to learn them in the first place? American folk music and English history took the place of so much of what I should have been learning in school. Why was our Australian education process so keen to rewrite history where Australian Aboriginals were concerned. What a disparity there was between the best and worst of my school education. How often is seldom? Is thinking a discouraging word pretty much the same as saying it? Who would I discourage if I could?

Is someone discouraging me? How could I possibly let anyone do that to me? What was I thinking, allowing that to happen? Who are these people?

As you can see my brain is a strange and sometimes conflicted place at 5am.

Asking permission

 

My eldest son and his beautiful girlfriend have just got engaged. After several glasses of celebration we got talking about the personal process of asking a young woman’s father for permission to be married. I can’t share my son’s journey because I haven’t permission to do so, but I thought I would share mine.

I met Anna in high school and had an instant crush on her. I was the shortest person in High School, so making any sort of impression her was going to be problematic. The best i could hope for was to be part of her social group. About ten years later it was my little sister that took me aside and told me that I needed to pull myself together and take stock of the fact that every girlfriend I had ever had, looked just like Anna, so maybe I should get serious and do something about that.

Almost a foot taller than when we had first met, and a decade older if not wiser, Anna and I got re-acquainted and soon realised that there was indeed some romantic spark. Needless to say I was pretty excited about that. (That last sentence may be the understatement of my life)

We had both come from very similar backgrounds growing up as children of Naval officers and changed countries, cities and schools many times. We were now in Sydney having met in school in Canberra. Everything was new and fresh and very exciting. In my memory that period lasted about 6 months when we started to get a little more serious and eventually we decided that we should get married. It was a joint decision, made in conversation, between two equals. If that sounds a little less than romantic, it is not meant to be, it’s just that I have always been keen to share my life with someone and not dominate that person. Anyone who knows Anna well would know that would be impossible anyway.

So now it was just down to details. First things first, ask Davo. Now Davo was actually Rear Admiral David Martin and a hell of a nice bloke. Over the previous six months he had gone out of his way to teach me how to pour a Gin & Tonic and how to offer someone another drink without inferring they had already had enough. He taught me so many things about good manners and social graces I will forever be in his debt. Anna and I arrived at Tresco, the big Naval owned sandstone house in Potts Pt that was the home of the Rear Admiral Support Command in those days. We often went there for meals so this was just another of those nights. We walked in and went to the TV room where Suzie and Davo were chatting at the end of the working day, I seem to recall Davo standing, half reading a newspaper. Anna took Suzie by the hand and whisked her away down the hall and off- off and away.

It occurred to me in that very moment that Davo and I, had perhaps never just been alone in a room, it felt very scary. I managed to start talking and it went something like this. “Davo, Anna and I have been talking and we think we should get married and part of that process is me asking you for permission to do that, what do you think?” Not actually very stunning was it?

Davo had put down the paper when I had begun to talk, and now looked at me over his half glasses, took them from his nose, put both hands on his hips and then lifted one hand to rub his face up and down and let out a big guffaw. It shook the room. He then turned and left the room.

I was not sure if that was a yes, or a “youve got to be kidding” sort of guffaw, so I just stayed in the room and waited, alone, for a few minutes, and then another few minutes. Soon it got to be embarrassing, and I figured that either way, yes or “no way in hell”, I was going to have to sort this out, so left the room and wandered down the hall in search of him. I could hear chat a few rooms away in the direction of the kitchen so headed that way. There was Anna and Suzie and Davo deep into a bottle of bubbly celebrating.

I’ll take that as a yes I whispered to myself.