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Retired carpenter..history buff, local and ancient..love stories of Italianate style, especially those village superstition stories..Very far left-wing.

The Machiavellian Egg

If any of us on the “progressive” side of politics still believe there is room for civilised and rational debate on the current portfolio of LNP Government policy, then I would confrontingly suggest you are a f#cking idiot!

With the cancellation of next week’s parliamentary sitting, we see white-hot evidence of corporate interference from both the banking sector and the religious hierarchy to forestall the inevitable popular demands for both financial and social change. For this cabal of “corporate grease-nipples” that call themselves the LNP to act in the best interests of the State, they first would have to extract themselves from their toothy grip firmly planted on the inner colon of big business.

We … the people are being royally screwed over by the fossil-fuel energy suppliers, the energy re-sellers ,the Financial Banking sector, water supply authorities, petroleum suppliers, medical, educational and many other once safe, secure government run utilities that are now if not totally in the hands of incompetent private corporations, are being given over to private outsourcing to manage and manage badly all in the interests of the stupidity vacant middle-class opportunists comfortably ensconced in their pension seats of Parliament.

There are so many corporate bodies circling and lobbying the federal government these days, the Canberra Capital’s roundabouts look more like a Hollywood movie set of Red-Indians circling the covered wagons on the American prairie and there are more strings being pulled in the corridors of power than in a Sicilian Puppetry theatre.

This current malaka of a government has laid an egg … a Machiavellian egg … in that it is not only has a soft centre open to corporate corruption sucking, but it also has a brittle shell all ready to be shattered at the first tap of a voter’s fingernail. It is such a stereotype of a corrupt government, it is a wonder Seth Blatter is not on their payroll as some sort of adviser … except they’d have to replace Rupert Murdoch and we all know HE now needs the money!

But old Machiavelli knew a thing or two about how a government works … particularly a right-wing government and he drew up the “rules of engagement” for the running of such and those of that persuasion who now sit in the catbird seat of power are running the country according to script. Turnbull and his entire cabinet are but mummers … thespians ham-acting set pieces and lines for corporate power …

We are the Corporate State

The LNP have betrayed us as a People and Sovereign State to international corporate bodies. Our energy producers are mainly international corporations, as are many of our water holdings, our financial sector is controlled by international banking, our petroleum managed by international manipulated pricing, much of our food produce, delivery and resale … we are being squeezed for every penny we have in both our savings and future prospects. The LNP has sold us down the river to these voracious corporations for their own personal gain … which if we read their philosophies so clearly stated on their IPA manifesto of 100 (or whatever it is) wish-list … decrees quite openly if a tad convolutedly that it is a case of every person for themselves and if we but peruse the property portfolios of that end of the political town, we can see they have achieved that end with more than a degree of success!

We are Gorn!

Machiavelli recognised the above problem arising as a matter of course in civil governance and did write a very lucid and instructive chapter on cause and effect of such an event in his “Discourses”. Here is a short example (from Chapter 33: When an Evil has Sprung up Either Within a State or Against a State, it is a More Salutary Proceeding to Temporize With it than to Attack it Rashly) that will lead those with more an interest in instruction than argumentative confrontation to have a read:

“On which subject it will first be discussed, that when an evil springs up either within a Republic or against a Republic, whether from intrinsic or extrinsic causes, and has become so great that it begins to make [everyone] afraid, it is a much more safe procedure to temporize with it than to try to extinguish it. For almost always those who try to crush it, make its force greater, and make that evil which is suspected from it to be accelerated. And incidents similar to these arise more frequently in a Republic from intrinsic and extrinsic causes, as it often occurs that it allows a Citizen more power than is reasonable, or the corrupting of a law is begun which is the nerve and life of a free society: and this error is allowed to run so far, that it is a more harmful procedure to want to remedy it than to let it go on. And it is so much more difficult to recognize these evils when they first arise, as it seems more natural to men always to favor the beginning of things: And such favors are accorded more to those accomplishments which have in them some virtu or are done by young men, than to any other thing: for if some young noble is seen to spring up in a Republic who has in him some extraordinary virtu, the eyes of all the Citizens begin to turn toward him, and they agree without regard [to consequences] to honor him … “

What we see now in our State is the shifting of the base of power from the democratic process to the autocratic … when the democratically elected govt’ goes against the parliamentary majority to suspend the Sitting of the House, without doubt upon instruction (we can’t seriously believe that a Turnbull cabinet made the decision on its own!) from an “extrinsic cause”, for to stall essential legislation that would forfeit the power of the corporations, then without doubt we have an autocratic regime … no longer a government, but a Fascist State.

We have but one last chance to crush this takeover of our future and that is by the next election and we need the ALP to combine with any other political entity to be able to effectively muscle-up against this global right-wing power grab … and we see the same modus operandi in Britain and America and rising very fast in Europe … We have to extend the “progressive” out-reach to bring into the tent those many groups operating in a loose conglomerate to unify action against this direct threat (and not to make too fine a point on it) to life and liberty. For as that great Machiavellian scholar himself said: “The delicate problem those who oppose bad politics have is that they; being the good people, cannot act in any way that brings them down to the same level as those they need to defeat.”

Our hands may be tied, but our noble intentions and our demand for equality touch everywhere.

Once upon a time …

Resisting the temptation to declare that this current period of so-called governance of the nation reads and performs like the script of a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, we have to admit … no … screw it! … it is like a fairy tale … a horrid fantasy where instead of the villains getting their just desserts, they end up like the wolves consuming the children.

There’s something badly wrong with our cultural perceptions. Badly wrong … our sense of fairness has been turned upside down. All those same fairy tales, those moral insights, the Grimm Brothers … those Hans Christian Anderson anecdotes, Aesop’s Fables and the rest have been trashed for the complete opposite result that is the lesson of ancient times and now anarchy and mayhem rule our days.

It truly is a bizarre turn of events, because in every moral tale told to us, to our children down the ages, at fireside or bedside … the most miserable stereotype, sniveling, vicious, narrow-eyed lying schemers are identified, chastised and given a bloody good and well-deserved walloping! Now, any one of those many mythical weaselly villains could be morphed into a Pyne … the most brutal, bullying, cold-blooded destroyer of the innocents could be at anytime a Dutton … the avaricious landlord or overlord, who wouldn’t hesitate to send in the bailiffs against the most sorrowful widow could unmistakably be a Murdoch … that suavo wealthy uncle, bon-vivant, amusing raconteur and apparent gentle “assistant” to the ladies … all the while slyly and slimily waiting his chance to de-flower the young maidens could easily be Turnbull (except he’s too gormless!) … any number of LNP women can be measured up as equally vindictive nasties or cackling harridans straight from the pages of medieval folk-lore and tales warning of the evils of  over indulgence and characters that stalk the innocent and unwary.

And yet … here we are with those very same ghastly beggardly representations leading the nation … voted in there by many who not only have had such dire warnings read to them as children, but to this day, most probably still read a variation exampling of such mendacious behaviour to warn off their own offspring.

So where is the lesson? Where is the example? If we cannot see the danger, why bother trying to teach our children? Why not just let the strongest in brutal aggression rule over us? Is might right? Murdoch obviously believes it is … Dutton does, too … all their creatures have eagerly signed onto the “contract” and it seems many of the population likes what it sees! Perhaps it is time to rewrite the fairy tales?

Perhaps it is more suitable a time for us as a nation to “courage-up” and face our own responsibilities and cease fobbing off care and international treaties to those countries less wealthy and less populated that in many cases strain that nations resources to the limit and beyond. No nation is in isolation in a changing climate world … if we do not seek a solution to manage the trickle of refugees we currently experience – and yes – even 50,000 in a year or two is no great number for some situations and some regions … so if we refuse to negotiate our way to accept those refugees now, what are we going to do when the climate refugee situation gets really serious? For by then there will no place to hide and no impoverished country on our doorstep that we can bribe or bully to do our dirty work for us.

After all, in all our European cultures, there is an overarching theme in both history and storyline, both fact and fable, in fantasy and mythology, there is the lesson indelible of right triumphing over oppression and wrong. We base the hard lessons of our laws upon these heroic myths … we forestall tyranny by using the lessons of past history – hopefully – to give example … we start these lessons with the very young, the innocent, before they can talk or walk by reading to sleep with rising or descending inflection of voice to the children, those tender lessons of adversity, of hope, struggle and triumph in big or small measure. We read these stories with that same voice that has come down from ancient times, down to our grandparents and parents and then to fall to us the responsibility demanded by our many cultures and creeds … we talk with sweet drops of dialect into the ears of the innocents, our dreams, our aspirations and desires with all the sincerity of a whisperer’s secret.

It is our solemn duty to our inherited culture to inculcate into our children those lessons so vital to the continuity of civilized society. And if we but renege on that duty, we fail both our children and our culture..and woe betide us when either of those most important pillars of community fail.

So … do we start to practice what we preach, or do we turn our heads away in craven shame … yet continue with our children to just hypocritically and cowardly mouth those platitudes of morality and ethics to those innocents?

But my goodness … won’t our voices have changed because of it? Now, instead of our child detecting that soft mood of courage and determination in the voice of their storyteller, they will detect most astutely – as children do – the trembling hesitancy of the spineless wimp.

What was true in history is true now

Below is a passage of observation by Theodor Mommsen from his magnum opus; “The History of Rome”, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902. This work would have been a major part of the teaching of Classics in many universities of that era. The accrued knowledge ought to have welded itself to…

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As game as Ned Kelly

By the living Jaysus Bloody Keerist, this needs to be put up again and again to remind us how those effing bastards in the “Born to Rule” class will stop at nothing and never cease to try to destroy our icons of cultural heritage and our heroes of rebellion against tyranny. The latest piece of subjective bullshit played out on the ABC (The legend of Ned Kelly: his life, his legacy and his representation in Australian media) by what I call a  “Janitor historian” (ie, those “approved” academics sent in to “tidy up” those grubby little corners of history that “blot the copybook” of colonialist tyranny … the “lesser scribblers” of the servile box-tickers)

Mongrels … the lot of them!

As Game as Ned Kelly

Every now and then, as if cue’d by the rising anger of the working classes against unfair social policies..there comes out an attack from the middle-class media barons with “sensational” revelations against this or that union leader/s or against leaders of the Labor Party detailing confected or constructed accusations of anything from outright thievery or even the most outrageous accusations (and this is rich, coming from that class of traitors to everything Australian); of a betrayal of the working class by their very leader … they tried it on every Union leader right up to and including the latest and before long, publishing houses bring out books detailing the “latest discovery” of new “evidence” against a working class hero.

Different views are one thing … but this “seasonal” attacking with intent to destroy with blunt accusations are another … A favourite ploy by the ruling class to demean and demoralize the general mass of working people so there is no “admirable struggler” to look up to or admire, save those “manufactured celebrities” concocted and gushingly promoted by the main-stream media as a kind of “1984 generic hero”, a pastiche of cosmetic good-looks with feet of clay.

The latest has been another attack on the credentials of Ned Kelly. Another “expert” detailing “new evidence” not seen before … to construct a new picture of the man as vulgar, small-time crook and horse-thief rather than the revolutionary, as his “Jerilderie Letter” and the resulting fight-out at Glenrowan showed both the revolutionary intent and courage of the young man. This idea of “analysis on the evidence” is a tad like the old adage of “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

The discussion in a recent article of “stolen mould-boards”, “heel-prints”, “stealing from the impoverished locals” … as if everything is in prime condition and nothing is laying around or given in sympathy … Why are some “heroic” persons allowed universal worship and yet others of lower caste disparaged and a weight of “evidence” found and used to paint them scoundrels and terrorists … Why was Nelson Mandela, of royal birth, a lawyer who survived many years captive of his oppressors and then worshiped yet Steve Biko,a commoner, who didn’t last a week in captivity, executed and scorned? Why was Martin Luther King held up (rightfully) as an idol, yet Malcolm X called a terrorist? Why was William Wallace butchered on the executioners block, yet Robert the Bruce held as heroic conqueror?

I’ll tell you why: Value.

What is described in the post above are the standard rules for valuing and de-valueing persons of influence. It was done to Kelly … is still being done to Kelly and it was done to Gillard, and is still being done to Gillard. It was done to that bloke who asked the simple question on Q&A a couple of months ago and the MSM and the LNP stooges tore into him, driving him to refuge away from the spotlight. It was done to Norm Gallagher and his BLF. It was done to Bob Hawke and Greg Combet and Sally MacManus … now it is being done to Bill Shorten. It is done to every Labor/labour leader by the Murdoch traitors and the MSM in general … a pox on them all!

It’s the standard procedure to demean and destroy any rising figure that can be held up by the working classes as representative of revolutionary protest. The Tolpuddle Martyrs. The Joe Hills – executed … the Che Guevaras – executed. Yes, and the Ned Kellys – executed. Not only executed, but then followed by the diminishing of the story … let not a myth be created that could be held up as iconic or worship as an ideal by the everyday people …

We … the ruling classes will decide who will be your heroes and how you will worship them”. That is how those cowardly bastards have come to take over and control respect even for the fallen in the wars they have started … claiming those many thousands of killed and wounded working people as their own, controlling every aspect of the tragedy to beat it up into a jingoistic parody of mockery and disrespect … which is why many ex-service-people do not attend Anzac Day celebrations.Destroy, destroy, destroy! … The stories, the songs, the myths … destroy!

I will not go back over the history of the Kelly gang to acknowledge or refute the accusations … enough for the actions of the twenty three year old to defend himself … I just demand to know:Just what sort of action by a single person is deemed worthy of respect, we have a man who, in a age of ruling-class oppression of both bloodline and class-status to the point of authorised “police” beatings, abuse of office and rape against the poor and ethnic enemy of the ruling class, that one man, a young man, will confound, decree with a profound edict and then in absolute arrogance, openly in a letter declare war on his and his peoples oppressors and the ruling governance of a whole colony.

That in itself, is worthy of some admiration … the fact that he had a plan to carry it out and did back up his bravado with deed is worthy of some respect..and the fact that he took to the hangman’s gallows that same courage and rebelliousness to metaphorically spit in the face of his people’s oppressors even as the hood was placed over his head and the noose tightened … the utterance of those fateful words demonstrate that given the chance, would he not do the same all over again?

“Such is life!”

I say to those of all classes who would debase Kelly’s deeds and the courageous actions of our working class heroes; If you cannot find favour with such heroism, please do not offer to finish the dirty-work started by those most offended by the display of courage – the ruling class – and diminish or besmirch the ambitions of one of our best people … for he was one of us, and I hold him in the highest esteem, not for his public character, but for his courageous intent.

“As game as Ned Kelly” … will outlive all the bloody cowards!

On higher education (a Sunday reflection)

This piece was written and posted on the 17 December 2013 in response to what I saw as an “understanding” that existed (and I believe still does exist) between what could be called the higher-educated classes as against the low-educated working classes … that could be best described as a “consciousness of kind” between the commentators and writers from that “upper” educated-class.

Yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder against the higher-educated class and how they have either for too long dismissed or demeaned commentators and opinion pieces from the lower-educated working class as being badly written (in a grammatical sense), or too clumsily abusive or lacking the finesse both natural and nurtured by the respectable private school Alma Maters and the “masters” of those institutions toward their charges and wards as they coached them to graduation cap and gown … bully for you! But what has now evolved from that “exclusiveness” that spent years faffing and blustering about without result, is that the likes of Right-Wing idiots like Trump, Abbott, PHON have arisen to cynically fill the vacuum created by the “abandonment” of a whole social demographic who should benefit more from being led by educated political instruction than by the nose of bigotry and racism.

It went like this:

On Higher Education (posted on “The Pub” blog,  December 17, 2013).

Hello! … muy afficionados! … sit back and relax … it being Xmas, ol’ “ jaycee” is going give you a bit of a fireside chat!

BB. (Bushfire Bill), I see you have posted on the latest Andrew Elder piece. I posted there under “anonymous” (haven’t quite worked out the identity thingo yet!); that last post on the accusation of treason against the fourth estate … and I see as an aside “Cat Momma” under the alter alias of “Hillbilly Skeleton” has also resurfaced!

On that subject of treason, I recently wrote a piece called; “The Meaning of Treason” … I gave it to Fiona, here, who accepted it and sat on it for a couple of weeks, while BB put up a couple of pieces and I could see it was going to sit a while longer and I feared the ‘moment’ for such a piece’s impact would be lost as Abbott and the LNP regained its footing … so I withdrew it intending to extrapolate and represent it to another site … it was eventually accepted, ”keenly” edited and put up for three days on the Political Sword (1/12 /2013). As it was, Abbott predictably made another massive gaffe (who’d a thunk it!) and it went up at the right time.

But the piece is not the subject of this little discourse … The subject is the presentation of A Subject!.

BB, you wrote a post a couple of weeks back on the memory of a Brother at your Catholic College; Alma Mater “coaching” you in English essaying … and you stated; (wtte) that even though you had previously won prizes in writing, you feared the upcoming exams would be a challenge … and so you sought the “coaching” of this brother … and all went well!

I had a similar moment when attempting to learn Latin at Adelaide Uni (mature entry … that sounds salacious!) … I remember coming out from a tutorial, absolutely weary at the constructed complexity of the Latin grammar. I remember I counted one verb alone had 35 (I think) variations … and that probably didn’t include a future “shifting tense” ( I remember I cracked what I thought was a witticism about that being a bit like Arabic; ”…you know; the Bedouin and their shifting tents” … I thought it funny … the Latin lecturer didn’t). I remember standing in the sunlight outside the Wells Building and softly exclaiming to myself; “Who and why, in effing hell thought up such a complex grammatical labyrinth?” … (of course, the Romans themselves had a much simpler system, relying, I suspect, more on sound inflection and gesticulation … the Latin we learn is really Medieval Latin – constructed in the Catholic Monasteries – and as I was spewing on this thought, I looked up and followed the line of the buildings and the road-edges going away, away to a converging point as in the perspective in a drawing right across the (then) open courtyard dead straight to the front doors of the “University Of Adelaide Club”.

An accidental metaphor? Perhaps … but then it dawned on me … like, I suspect, it dawned on yourselves with many essays … this entire “education scheme” is a structure that is not necessarily about “learning” but more about “training”. Thorsten Veblen wrote (at around the year 1910) that the whole idea of higher education was really to filter out those who would be pliable and useful to the ruling class … the “leisure class” as he succinctly put it!  Your “Brother” did not teach you anything you did not already know, BB, but he did “train” you how to frame your writing to pass those exams … you were the more fortunate than I in that you were already part of an institution; St Johns … (I believe) … and were taken under wing (however reluctantly) and “skilled up”. I was from the “wasteland” … working-class/middle-aged male. I had only the enthusiasm … not the grammar! But I scraped through it all … just!

But here’s the rub: Having got that piece “The Meaning of Treason” up, it was not cross-linked to any other site that usually links The Political Sword. I saw one usual blog even linked TPS’s Xmas Cheer message! Sure, I would have liked to have seen the piece spread around, for its message rather than my vanity. Christ! … if futile vanity was all I had to boost me in my fading years, I’d rather “bare my bum in Bangalore” … but I do wonder why it was omitted … it was no more irrational or silly than any of the multitude of articles that make their way to the web. But there is one thing … and Ad Astra touched upon it when he first posted it … He said the charge of treason might make some “bristle” … and that is, I believe, where I crossed the line … and you can see it in Andrew Elders’ reply to my post there …

I had accused what could best be described as “The Fraternity” of higher education professionals, journalists and academia of a heinous crime … because there is seemingly a “common ground” understanding that is “trained” into select university graduates that (to put it simply) “one does not peach on a fellow” … one does not cross such a boundary of accusation as cannot be retracted.

To close … I remember sitting in a shell of a new building having smoko with another contractor there … the only one on this day – a tiler … an Italian … and being half-Italian myself – the conversation got around to children: “… and how many children do you have?” I asked. He was shelling a boiled egg … tilers, as a consequence of their occupation, have very short fingernails … and his short thick, calloused fingers were making a job of it … he sat silent across from me, the action in itself was an education, his fingers working on the egg and his tongue wetting his bottom lip … I thought he had not heard my question and I was about to repeat it, when he replied in a tired, fatalistic way; “I do not have any children … I have movie stars.” And he bit on the egg and stared at me … he didn’t have to explain, I knew, as I am sure you know, just what he meant.

And (bad grammar that, starting a sentence with a conjunctive!) I now use that metaphor to say that we, of the fifth estate, have few, real, Left-wing intellectual commentators, we have Grammatical Stylists …

Like many of us here and elsewhere on “progressive” sites, since the 2010 elections, I must have read thousands! … literally thousands of posts and articles, both encouraging the Left-side of politics and vilifying the LNP mob. So … taking the 2010 election result as ending in a roughly 50/50 Labor/LNP and the fact that the 2013 election ended in a LNP win, we have to conclude the intervening years and thousands of articles not only failed to deliver ONE extra vote to our side, but in fact we lost many. So whatever we argued for in those essays and articles, it was somewhat of a duffer! The argument didn’t reach the intended ears nor touched the intended minds … our direction was all wrong, it would seem.

I am suggesting we give a degree of consideration as to how we can reframe the discussion to draw in more readers.

I have an idea, but will hold off while we, I hope, give some thought on the subject.

I am going to cross-post this discussion (at least my part) to the Political Sword to see what they think.

* * * * *

Of course, things have changed for the better since the posting of that original Treason piece … thank Christ! Sites like The AIMN have a very flexible policy toward posting … even this piece is being put up on trust and many of us amateurs appreciate the opportunity to express our views without fear or favour. I was reticent to put this piece up, as it has the hallmarks of bitchiness about it … but I still think it is pertinent in the fact that there are still many who mistakenly believe that our society is best managed by that same exclusive educated middle-class that gave us the likes of Abbott and Turnbull: “Zombies in zoot-suits”. I have long called for the educated-intellectual working class to lead the revival of Australian society out of this upper-middle class joke of a democracy!

Good on you The AIMN! … Lest we forget.

The “True Story” of Artini the Woodsman and Tess

The Swan Reach Mission …

The United Aborigines Mission, using the shelter of a gum tree initially as their church, began the mission at Swan Reach in 1925. A crude hut, built from kerosene tins and a floor of reeds, rapidly replaced this. The location of the mission on low lying land adjacent to the town was prone to flooding and was considered unsuitable from the beginning. Small houses eventually replaced the temporary wurlies. Eventually, problems over fishing licences and then sanitation with insufficient toilets led to the replacement of the Swan Reach Mission with Gerard Mission near Loxton.

The “true story” of Artini the Woodsman and Tess, the Aboriginal girl.

This is a story untold, indeed not even recorded or admitted in the war records of the Italian internees sent to camps in the mallee to cut wood for the charcoal pits during the second world war. You can still see the pits and camps both in the Brookfields Conservation Park and at a secluded location I know of over the other side of the Sturt Highway.

There were three large charcoal burning camps in the mallee there near Blanchetown. The one you see in Brookfields Conservation Park was run by a bloke named “Rex” … that was inhabited by mostly Italians … some even had their family there. The other two were over the Sturt Highway, deep in the mallee … one owned by an Adelaide man named “Fox” and overseen by my godfather and namesake; “Joe Carli” … this too was mainly Italians. The third was managed by a Yugoslavic man named “Jack”, and was a mix of many nationalities … a bit of a rough show I would suspect. Between them, they transported around a semitrailer load of charcoal out a week to Adelaide.

The pits were about 3m x 3m and about 1800mm deep, lined on four sides by stonework. The ones on the southern side of the Sturt Highway are in much better condition because, I believe, they were constructed and the stonework done by my godfather, who was a stonemason by trade.

I had heard bits and pieces of Artini and Tess from both my grandfather who lived with his family in a makeshift hut and worked as a blacksmith in one of those charcoal/woodcutting camps in the mallee, and my mother who worked at a station (Punyelroo) at nearby Swan Reach, and then also at “Portee Station” near Blanchtown, during the war years and it was there (at Portee) that my mother met my father … an Italian internee at one of those wood-cutting camps nearby.

The young woman Tess – of Aboriginal descent – worked on some days alongside my mother at the station. She lived at the mission along the river. Many times, my mother told me, some men and women from the mission would cross the river using a secret ford only the Aborigines knew of and would return back at night across the river … no-one ever saw the ford they took, they being too clever to let themselves be seen.

Artini was the name of the young man (in his early twenties) who fell in with the girl and together they plotted his escape from the internment camp. I first heard his name when my sister, who visited last summer, translated some letters between my father and his relatives back in the Dolomites where both he and the young man came from. He told of the tragedy of how they believe Artini drowned in the Murray River whilst crossing the ford on instruction of Tess, who whilst on curfew and not permitted to be across that side of the river after dusk, sent a message that she would sing a song for Artini to follow and to use as a direction to cross the river and escape the internment camp.

He would be hidden in one of the many caves along the cliffs of the Murray River … a secret cave again known only to the Indigenous people there … my mother told of these caves and today some are open to the public to view. My father wrote that they tried to dissuade Artini from following through with his reckless plan and pointed out the difficulty he would meet joining in this conspiracy with a native woman … But the more they tried, the angrier he got and finally he said angrily to them;

“So what if she is of another people … am not I, are not we despised only for our blood? And if she is “native” of this land, am I not also “native”of my land? I am a son of the Dolomites … I am a man of the mountains of Italy and I … Artini, while I am yet a man, will decide who I will join with to escape this hell-hole, not the prisoners of this camp nor anyone else.” And that was the last he would hear of it … he was decided …

During the second world war, all Italians and other “enemy alien” males over a certain age – some as young as seventeen – were rounded up by the military and put in internment camps … there were several camps in South Australia along the Murray River … some of these men were sent in working parties to other camps amongst the mallee in the vicinity of the Murray River to cut the trees to be made into charcoal as an alternative fuel source for cars and trucks. There is not much detail about those men’s lives in the war years … but it couldn’t have been easy. This is the story of one of those men and an Aborigine girl who befriended him.

The conspiracy was going to plan … Artini had crept away from the makeshift woodcutters camp in the mallee. These camps were temporal things and so isolated that the guards saw no great need to be severe in their security habits … indeed, the Italians, using the grapes from the Loveday area near Loxton made their own wine which they smuggled along with them whenever they were sent to the wood-cutting camps. On the night of Artini’s escape, some other Italian men conspired to distract the guards with wine and song … they sang their songs to the accompaniment of home-made instruments … in this case a ukulele, made from tea-chest plywood, mallee-wood stem and some fine piano wire.

The tragedy happened with Artini disobeying the request of his Indigenous guide … the young Tess, distressed as she was at the wanton cutting down of so many trees, to leave his mighty axe on the other side and cross the river by himself … but he decided he would need the axe to cut and build a humpy for themselves after he crossed … so he secretly strapped it to his back under his coat so as not to offend her and he would reveal it once across when it would be too late for Tess to protest and he could persuade her of the need to keep it.

Unfortunately, on that very night of his crossing, the sluices-gates of Lock 1 just up-river at Blanchetown were opened and a huge surge of water came down the river to catch him whilst in the middle of the ford. He was swept away and he cried that it was his axe, his mighty axe dragging him down and he could not swim … Tess cried for him to throw the axe away, but it was tied too tight under his coat and he could not get it off … and it was believed he consequently drowned that night in the river. His body was never found but his rolled-up swag with his personal papers were found downstream and it was recorded as “suspected death by drowning … an unfortunate accident “ … But my father’s letters tell a different story.

But there is the mythological songline that has grown around the story of Artini and his Aboriginal compatriot. It goes like this:

“Artini was the biggest, best, strongest Italian woodcutter in the Swan Reach district during the war years … The ‘ring’ of his mighty axe could be heard miles away through the mallee! His axe was of the hardest steel special made from his own instructions by the blacksmith in the camp … the handle he cut and shaped himself from the hardest mallee wood … and it was so heavy, it could not be used by any of the other woodcutters in the camp. Artini was an “enemy alien” internee from the Italian Alps; The Dolomites, who used to cut wood for the charcoal burning camps in the mallee.

Artini could often be heard singing an alpine song “Ill tuo fazzolettino” (“Give me your bandana, my darling … ”) in his dialect as he swung his mighty axe at the mallee trees … His voice was so strong it would carry for a great distance through the tops of the mallee trees and it was heard by Tess one day as she fetched water from the river.

Tess was a young Aboriginal woman who lived at the mission along the river at Swan Reach. She would also get some work at a station just up the Murray a bit from the mission. The trees were a part of her life and of tribal significance … and every tree that Artini cut down was as a wound to her heart. She set about to lure Artini with affection to stop cutting the trees, throw away his mighty axe and escape the internment camp to cross the river. He could be hidden in a secret cave known only to the Aborigines of the river … Artini agrees, but he cannot swim, so Tess says she will “sing” him a song one night to guide him across a secret ford in the river known only to the Aboriginal people there, but on one condition; he must leave his mighty axe behind and cross without it.

Her “song “she disguised as a lyrical call mimicking the call of the Bush Stone Curlew.

He agrees, but at the last moment secretly straps his mighty axe to his back under his coat … but when he sets out to cross the river. The river, seeing his duplicity and intent sends a torrent of water down and he is threatened to be swept off the ford. Tess, on hearing his cry, realizes he is weighed down by his mighty axe and tells him to throw it into the waters … but he cannot untie it from under his coat and so he is swept away …

And to this day, his cry of despair and her intermingled lament can still sometimes be heard along with the whisper of their secret in the eddies of the water and through the boughs of the mighty river red gums along the Murray River as the call of the Bush Stone-Curlew blown in the wind through the mallee … ”

There is a song that accompanies this story-line, to the strumming of the ukulele, but I won’t put it up here … I hope to one day write an opera for this story … along the lines of; “A Ukulele Opera”.

Knots well-tied are easiest undone

Well, “Mr Political Commentator” … you seem to be an “insider” and much more than myself, have your “finger on the pulse” of political machinations … and sure, if we are going to play the cards for “winning the election game” then I don’t doubt you have a better handle on the chances we face. And sure, again, I would think Malcolm Turnbull is well informed on his chances too … but … that’s another story to the one I’m living.

The story I have lived and I KNOW many like myself have lived, is one dictated by “weights and measures”. Weights as in physical labour and measures as in time itself and distance.

When one has to rise in the morning, every morning at some ungodly hour and commit to the required work hours in a day and hoik that bale and heave the tonnage of materials to construct the world around one self, you have to have a belief that you are doing it for more than just a personal interest; you have to have friends – ”mates”, if you like – to share the burden. You have to have “family” … that feeling that we are all in this together … hence, the disgust at the possibility that someone could “scab” on his work-mates. For to relinquish one’s share of the workload is to place the burden on the shoulders of another. We All know the scorn that deserves … especially in the working world.

So in a working world built both physically and philosophically on the unanimous ideal of each carrying and doing their share of the load, the reliance on those you would trust to carry their share of the burden of social responsibility is paramount … to undermine the crew, is to place more work upon the crew … in my world of weights and measures a sin unfathomable and unforgivable. But to betray the whole collective for self-enrichment is abominable!

When every person greets another in the street, in the shop or in the bar, one has to feel they can look that stranger in the eye as an equal … especially in the world of working people … especially in the shop-floor fraternity.

Many here are Labor. Labor is for the social collective … Labor is our representative of determination, fairness, equality and justice … this current government has, in my opinion, delivered none of these things. Just as I rely on honest fellow workers to help me build that house, so do we rely on honest fellow representatives to build our national governance.

In the world I lived and worked in, you couldn’t skite around the physical reality of what was expected of you without, perhaps, getting a swift kick up the lazy backside … A tonne of mullock to be shifted is a tonne regardless, and hour of work to be done is an hour OF work and a mile can be a bloody long way! You cannot talk your way around any of it. What has to be done for the job to be completed HAS to be done … you cannot fake the shifting of it and to say you will do it and then shirk it, makes, in any understanding of the word; a liar of yourself! And don’t we ALL despise devious liars.

And let’s face it; we now have a government of uncooperative, incompetent, unworkable numb-skulls in suits who are bringing our nation, our culture, our self-esteem into global disrepute. The professional intellectual class, the so-called private college educated elite have lost the capacity to see any future that would elevate the entire collective of our society into more equally-shared prosperity. They just do not have that capacity, they now only represent greed and cruelty.

On the other hand, if we seek answers in the lower-classes of the half-educated bogan element of the masses, looking to them to give answers to a solution for a fair and balanced multi-cultural mix of ethnicities, you are only going to find such a mediocre bunch of bigoted, cruel arseholes that would make Torquemada wince in disgust … For it must be accepted, it is that particular bogan swill that gives the voting “leg-up” to the idiot sons of the upper middle-classes … seeking, mistakenly, representation that would give vent to their populist anger..a renewal of the old Roman “Bread and Circuses” when in reality there is not a snowball’s chance in HELL. Having contracted in building work for so many wealthy people, both inherited wealth and the nouveau riche, I can claim with a great deal of certainty that having once gained their lucre, be it by hook or by crook, there is NO keenness to share their “good fortune” … with even their own kin, much less the great unwashed. It is why they seek luxury residence as far away from the bogan suburbs as possible.

So there has to be middle-ground that can foresee a direction in future development and social change, and at the same time have a firm hand on the capacity of the treasury to keep the red side of the ledger respectable while distributing the collective pool of accrued sovereign wealth where it is most required.

In short, I firmly believe the nation needs now, more than ever, for the steering of the ship of state to be torn from the delinquent hands of the “educated to imbecility” upper middle-classes, and the “state of opinion” to be quietened amongst the feral bogan-classes and placed rightfully in the safe hands of those who have past inheritance of solid working class roots, coupled with sound education to tertiary level capability. Giive it a name and I would call them the “higher educated/intellectual working class” …

We already have many such in the left-wing political sphere … many from very humble backgrounds who have shown level-headed leadership in either Labor, the Greens or as an independent. The union movement too has such qualified people in spades … Let us take advantage of this pool of skilled labour and turn our politics around from a kind of renegade plundering by a buffoonery of stuffed shirts of the self-opinionated “Lesser Aristocracy” to a well-managed shop-floor of a smooth operating factory.

There is but one flaw in the “ointment” of my proposal and that is how to curtail the subconscious hunger of the need for aspiring greed in random individuals even in the working classes. This may require a cultural change from having material wealth as the only recognition of a successful life, even seeing the accumulation and ostentatious display as a weakness of personality worthy only of disdain – which, I might observe, is already an opinion of many fair minded people -and with the introduction of a universal living wage to ALL citizens, allowing even the most humble to rise to a position of a respectable  and decency of lifestyle. There are many, and I will include myself in this, who do not seek notoriety nor even minor riches … for as the Greek saying has it: “Every key is a worry”. And I have seen those with many keys who do nothing but worry!

“I have a dream … ”

“For your eyes only”

There’s a phenomenon perhaps not unique to Australia, but is particularly noticeable in regional Oz … especially around these parts of the Mallee where you can see the material progression of the process toward the almost inevitable “Third Generation Syndrome”, where you see the original pioneers pine and daub shanty, followed some years later after some modicum of farming success in “The New House” and then finally to the much later triple-fronted brick-veneer showpiece of the farm’s success story …

Then comes the next generation … the third generation syndrome where all that hard work gets “pissed against the wall”.

This breakdown with the family structure is jeaulously guarded from outside eyes and sometimes only the most intimate members of the family, even right up to the one parent knows of the inevitable collapse … I have heard of wives continuing on their merry way, involved in this or that community group; the bowls club, the local op-shop, even the choir group … totally unaware of the stalking of Nemisis until the fatal blow falls and then the shock of total destitution stares them and the family in the face. Some never recover their equilibrium and go on in a kind of continuous methodology of habit … like the setting of one foot in front of the other as in walking.

Many times it is not anyone’s particular fault: The produce market might collapse just when they are most vulnerable with a loan, or an accident may befall a family member or members plural … or health issues etc … But in the saddest cases, it can be gambling (perhaps even “pre-selling” of a crop) or the drink that does the most damage … and when that is the cause of the family breakdown, then truly within the group, it really is; “For your eyes only”.

It was booze that done for the next generation of some of my family, booze mixed with the stagnation of life progress in a dying district. A district that was once a booming area with all the bountiful residuals of a virgin-land cleared and cropped for several generations until … until the ground water started disappearing or becoming too saline … before the top-soil, held together for many millennia of Mallee bio-forest was clear-felled to every fence-line and then grazed almost to bedrock and the dirt-farmers became chemical farmers and that was alright while the rain was predictable and of a certain measurement … until …

Then … then we see the breaking spirit, the breaking health, the closing businesses and the loss of population drifting away from these “sad shires” … friends, family, networks, transport capabilities and the final straw; the ”free-market” that destroyed many agricultural boards and guaranteed buyers. Then comes the drink.

I saw it here when we purchased this property from an obscure Aunt (obscure to me, because I had only heard of her mentioned in vague conversations as “Aunt..X”). I never met her till we came to inspect the property that was on the market. I didn’t even know it was her property … and when we did purchase it, we were pressed by those who bought our own property to move out and yet my Aunt had made no move at all to vacate her place. I had to recruit my other relatives up here to please intercede to assist the aged Aunty (their aunt as well!) to move her to her new unit in the Barossa. It was curious that there did not seem to be much enthusiasm on their part, until after I moved here and discovered some awful truths I was not supposed to know.

I won’t reveal those “truths”, as I suspect many regional families have lived their own situations that have for a short time at least wrought havoc onto their lives. Sufficient to say that it was a third generation syndrome moment that resulted in extreme trauma for the family of my Aunty … may they rest in peace.

But sadly, this generational thing is exactly identifiable in the behaviour of the right-wing governments of this nation these last decade or so. We are … what? … three generations from WW2, where militaristic discipline shaped social structure and obedience to such a degree that the imposed impossibilities placed on society caused the social upheaval that resulted in the huge changes in social welfare and health commitments of the preceding Labor governments. But the Liberal/National parties still cling to those perceived halcyon days of the Menzies era as the yardstick for measuring industrial, social, financial and status capacity in a world that is ploughing forward at a pace they completely fail to comprehend … and so the resulting chaos we see in day to day running of the nation could very easily be recognised as that same “Third Generation Syndrome” collapse that is going to leave the nation so vulnerable to what is akin to a family collapse.

With the by-election in New England, we are seeing a person totally incapable of viewing the big picture of the national needs and totally unsympathetic to any other electorate outside his own … If he is re-elected and given back the water portfolio, it will be akin to the naer-do-well son making his way to the front-bar of the local until in a drunken stupor he writes himself and the family’s future off in a wreck of his own making. The voters of New England would be wise to consider if they wish to be joined with or cast adrift from many of their “near relatives” with such selfish representation. They would be wise to consider this risk, for; joined with a country-wide community, they could contribute with others to build the next “house”, while on their own they will, for a time flourish, but it will be by spending their accrued assets and good-will capital … a capital that is heavily invested in a person and a party that has in the recent past squandered resources and capital investments to what could be a criminal conglomerate. Look to your “house”, New England … because we further down the river catchment are looking at you!

So the nation must soon consider if these people now in government have the honesty, the capacity and the integrity to lift the nation from one level to the next to promote community growth and prosperity, or will they do as has been done so many times in a once hard-won successful family and piss it against the wall? … And if they set about doing the latter, will we be satisfied with standing by and witnessing the sad, long, debauching of our nation and our children’s future with the pathetic explanation to those inheritors that it was done in the interests of …

“For your eyes only”.

MSM: J’accuse!

This post is an update from when I first posted it on “The Pub” back a while ago. Considering the behaviour of the mainstream media (MSM) this last week or so, I consider it fitting for the moment.

An accusative post to the MSM/Fourth Estate.

Given my trade is that of a carpenter/joiner you’d be excused for dismissing my missive at this very juncture. BUT … given that I have been working in my trade for over forty-five years, you’d have to grant me experience in public interaction and give me time to deliver my complaint to you.

If there is one thing experience and time in any public interaction occupation teaches you, be it … carpenter, policeman, teacher, spare-parts salesman or even journalist, it is the learned skill, the accrued skill to “suss out the situation” … if I may use the vernacular.

For instance; when I first meet with a customer to look at a job and give a quote, I not only have to assess the site, the structural quality of the building etc, I also have to do a quick “once-over” of the person I am going to be dealing with … and I had better be accurate there as many a budding “self-employed” has been brought undone by the overestimation of a customer’s capacity to deliver when it is pay-day! This is where life-experience allows one to use language, nuance and observation to make reasonable judgement of the person. (An excellent and wiser estimation of this requirement can be found with such an article by Clarence Darrow: “How to Pick a Jury“).

The second principle of good work is time; I constantly hear of the 24hr news cycle making it difficult for journalists to meet quality with quantity, given the demands on their time. For that I can mostly agree … there are times when workloads do tend to crib into each other … BUT, this again is where experience comes in to foresee a situation arising and to make preparations for such, and one would imagine that a journalist, with his/her “ear to the ground” would be very savvy to a developing situation.

For instance; Where I first posted this article, the site has four moderators … two of which I have little knowledge as to their employment … the other two are self-employed contractors. One; “Bushfire Bill” is a optical lens manufacturer/polisher … of the highest quality. A post I read many months ago where he enthusiastically related his success in polishing a lens to such fine measurements, he felt called to share his excitement at the quality of finish. NOT … not out of a sense of self-aggrandisement, but that internal self-rewarding feeling of a job damn-well done! The other is a trucking contractor; “Joe6pack”, who started the site with little knowledge of blogging technology, but a fistful of confidence that he could tackle it … a confidence gathered, I’d warrant, from years of coordinating and timetabling loads and schedules and personally “mixing it” with highway traffic and conditions that would try (as we all know!) the patience and vocabulary of a saint.

I relate all these facts to you because I know, as we all know that having a loaded and busy schedule is no excuse for shoddy work … if there was, Bushfire Bill’s optical lenses would be “cross-eyed” and Joe6pack would be smashed-up on some highway up the coast, and I would be “called back” to right the wrongs of my building constructions … a situation I have never had to endure.

Those with long experience at their craft are constantly thinking of technical points relating to that job even while sitting relaxing or on the road or even at another job … plotting the lines, the theme, the time-line, the length or load … not to mention the personal obligations of our everyday lives. The skilled “professional and artisan” must have the capability to do this even while doing handstands to entertain the kids! There are no excuses for sloppy workmanship in the professional work-world. It disgraces both the craft and the creator.

So: J’accuse!

I accuse the Fourth Estate of negligence in assessing the source and validity of their material.

I accuse the Fourth Estate of slacking off in the preparation of their work and dedication to quality of delivery.

I accuse the Fourth Estate of gross indifference to the loyalty toward their nation and to vanity over value of product.

I accuse the Fourth Estate most of all in the lack of professional application to the “dignity of letters”, a dignity bestowed through a good education and favourable employment that has allowed yourselves the pleasure to deliver, in print, with your own by-line articles of what ought to be erudite delivery and succinct opinion … as against the cautious uncertainty whereby one of such self and mixed education as yours truly, must place oneself in the front line of possible literate ridicule to draw attention to your shortcomings.

I accuse you, I accuse you, I accuse you … and in the end … I DAMN YOU!

The Country General Store

A Sunday reflection …

I have to tell you about these small-town general stores … It was once so that you would see them dotted all over the Australian landscape, the central point of the town, along with the pub a couple of doors down and the railway siding with wheat silos just over the highway.

There was a humerous story did the rounds back in the days of the London – Sydney air race, you remember? … When a Pommy pilot was lost and he called in to the conning tower for directions:

“I am at this moment flying over a small country town” he called. ”Can you tell me the name of it so I can fix a location?”

“Roger” … the tower called back, ”can you give me some identification features so we can pin-point you?”

“Righto … There’s a railway siding, a bank of white silos, a general store and a hotel …”

These little town general stores sold everything: from work-boots and ladies frills to toothpicks … from bath-salts to pump-valves … and the owners who loitered behind the counter were a fountain of knowledge where one could find advice on the right oil for a Lanz Bulldog tractor or a throat balm for that nasty cough … and … and … ah! … there, there was something else that I was going to say that you could count on finding in those stores that was so useful … damn! … it slips my mind for the minute … I’ll remember it later.

The one we have in this town nearby is a good example, the reins handed down from grandparents to grandchildren … and there is that level of local suspicion of any newcomer whenever they appear over the horizon. For instance … The bloke who owns the store now – we’ll call him Peter – he was a hard case, you see, he didn’t want to take over the store, but his brother who was in charge suddenly passed away and it went to Peter who really had ambitions for a Church Minister … Well, we had just moved to the area to live … recalling, if you please, my family had permanent connections with people and places in the district since the 1920’s and we had just purchased my aunty’s old cottage and moved here to live …

Well, I went to the post office and Rex, my cousin’s bloke (that is; a cousin from another aunty, not the one who sold us her house) who ran the post office, he asked how we were settling in …

“Funny you should ask that, Rex” I replied.

“Why’s that?” Rex asked.

“Well … I was just in Peter’s shop there, getting this ‘n that … and I have to say I feel quite chuffed at the welcoming he gave me … made me feel right at home”.

“Peter!?” Rex pulled back in surprise.

“Yes … you see … after he scanned my shopping through and printed out the docket, he proceeded to treat me with same level of scorn and disdain he treats ALL the locals! …”

But I remember the people who owned it before Peter’s grandparents bought the premise … His name was Kurt … something … I can’t remember the surname … it wasn’t Lambert, ‘cause he owned the old Towitta store … that’s gone now …. no … can’t remember it. But I knew him, because one summer back in the late fifties I was sent to the rellies here as a young lad while my mother was expecting her fifth child … I suppose to get me out of the way (maybe I was a difficult child), because the rellies here in the town got old “Mr Kurt” to give me a job part-times sweeping the floor of the shop.

The weirdness of these past events in politics being placed to one side for the moment by the welcome reality last year of Richard Flanagan winning the Man Booker Prize with his love story extrapolated from his father’s trials on the Burma Railway. It makes one think of things.

I was intrigued reading Richard Flanagan’s account of him being “a Burma Railway child” … where the memories of his father were kind of impressed into his young mind … but it took the adult mind to understand the constructed sense of what actually happened and to piece together the emotions resulting from that re-creation and then to work the memories into the structure of a book.

Such things happen to us as children that, at the moment of happening, they are almost incomprehensible to the child’s rationale … having no experience of what brought about those events. The child can live with the mystery for years till an adult “awakening” throws light on the event and all is revealed … Such a revelation was gifted to me in  the memory of that country general store.

His first name was Kurt – or “Mr Kurt” to me – children were expected to be polite to their elders those days. I remember being attracted to those little bottles of colouring and flavouring – ”Anchor” brand, if I recall – I liked the tiny “clinking” sound they made when I straightened them up at the end of the day (I still linger at those little bottles in the supermarket these days!) … I would sweep the dry floorboards in that old big store, with one long counter that Mr Kurt would invariably stand behind wearing his white apron … there were a few aisles with dry goods products on them …

I remember this current family who own the store now, back when the old Gran’ would sit at the end behind the counter, in a dark corner doing her knitting and scowling and the grandson would stand poker-like behind the counter looking like “Lurch” of “The Munsters” TV series … just watching … Watching as you walked up and down the aisles. Sort of creepy.

But where was I? Ah … yes! … I had this job of sweeping the floor and straightening up the products on the shelves. The shop had that dry country dust scent … not really a smell, more a scent, mixed with the cropping scent of harvest time. I was sweeping up one warm Friday afternoon, near the end of the shelves by the counter … Mr Kurt was behind the counter chatting to a woman who was holding the handle of a pram with a little baby in it … they had their backs to the pram … I had to stop sweeping as a young woman paused next to me to take a can of fruit off the shelf there … she put it in her string bag … there was also a box of “Rinso” in there … I think I can recall the string bag was green. I had a good long look at the young woman, because she was so obviously pregnant, and her slow “undecided” movements seemed somewhat distant and strange … she then turned toward the counter … she paused, looking intently at the pram … she then slowly, quietly moved toward it … there followed a rather strange moment …

The young woman walked over to the pram. I thought she was going to look into the pram at the newborn baby, but she instead stopped, and gently took a clean, soft nappy off the top of a stack there in a pouch  at the front of the pram … she just stood there with her string bag and with the nappy and then pressed it to her cheek with one hand , then with both hands, she pressed the nappy onto her face with both hands, as if to feel into the depth of the soft-cloth. Mr Kurt happened to see her out of the corner of his eye … he touched the mother gently so as not to alarm her … and as she turned, I could see this young woman give these silent heaving sobs … her mouth agape, but not a sound, but just these huge, heaving, gulping sobs. Mr Kurt came quickly around the counter and took her in his arms and she held him with her arms around him, her fists closing and unclosing and she was gasping; ‘Kurt, oh Kurt, oh Kurt” … like she was trying to say how much something hurt and I was behind them and I could see this big tear roll down her cheek and drop to his shoulder and run down the silky back-cloth of his vest and then stop and stay there and glow, like a little shining jewel in the middle of his back. A jewel of the eye.

Yes … you see … it seems – as I was told years later when recounting the moment – that the young woman had just six months or so before lost her baby suddenly – cot-death, I believe it was called – and she went into such sadness and she then got around the town telling everyone that she was pregnant again and expecting a little baby later in the year. But she wasn’t … and it was a pillow she had pushed up under her dress just to make her look pregnant. Of course, everybody knew … but that is how it sometimes was in these small country towns … a kind of safety-valve so people could go a little bit “off the scales” when they have a shock … and they needed a bit of time to recover.

NOW! I remember! That useful thing you could always rely on to find in the general store.: Bicycle valves and tubes with vulcanizing patches! … When you would clamp and strike the strip and the vulcanizing patch would burn onto the tube … and … and those chain joining links with that little clip that would sometimes spring off and be buggered if you could ever find it again!

Yes, the country general store … it was a wonder. But I don’t know if it will last past this generation … a big, brand-spanking new super-store has opened up in the Barossa … along with an Aldi … and I think it just might be curtains for these little country stores.

Ah well … everything changes.

Broken Contract

The people of Australia no longer have a contract with the LNP government of this nation.

They now are a minority government … Not only are they in the minority in the House, they are in all intents and purposes a minority in two party preferred polls in the last 21 polls! Now, with this latest attempt to use the Federal Police to attack the opposition and the unions, they have placed themselves in an untenable position in regards of the right to rule. They have broken every principle of fair play in Parliamentary Procedure and House decency with both Tony Abbott and this latest social butterfly they call “Leader”.

They – the LNP – have through their selective aggression toward the vulnerable, the different ethnic groups, the refugees, the everyday citizens, be they employed by unscrupulous employers, be they unemployed and pushed into useless “work for dole” or “intern”schemes, be they infirm, disabled or retired … all these groups are/or have/or are about to be targeted as some sort of “cash-cow” by an LNP government that has run out of ideas where it had none of substance to begin with, and are victimising those very citizens whose well-being and well-fare they were charged to protect.

And the recent decision on little more than a subjective “intuition”, they have rejected a well-intentioned, long-term researched and submitted detailed option for the Indigenous peoples of the nation to be at last given their deserved voice in the Parliament … All that work and honest good-will, thrown out because of the same old colonialist mind-set of those “born to rule” anachronisms in the LNP, who have more of an eye on who they will offend in the stock market than what is in the best interest of the nation.

The LNP has chosen to sell the nation as a piece of chattel into a free-market abyss and set all of us up as a cage-fight dog-eat-dog market place for everything from universal health to aged care and all in between … They have broken the contract that adheres citizen to loyal duty to the State. They have betrayed their duty of care and in doing so, have betrayed us; the people and by association, they have betrayed the State.

We are now in the charge of a treasonous political party.

The LNP, along with its “handler” – the IPA – has employed at a cost to the taxpayer of near $1 billion, a media baron whose paid creatures used his media platform to abuse, demonise the vulnerable, destabilise the infrastructure and demoralise both the people and the political structure of this nation … a situation in another time and place that earned a certain journalist traitor named ”Lord Haw Haw” (William Joyce) the death sentence. I would not advocate such capital punishment to those responsible … BUT I would NOT protest against a thorough public horse-whipping to the guilty ones!

The social contract between citizen and State relies upon respect of both the People and in return, the holders of the Office of State. We have seen how those “holders of Office” have used and abused their finances and the finances of the State. Used and abused to the point of criminal offence, yet they continue to draw from the public purse more reward and privileges than what is afforded the most worthy of the long-term workers who build the foundations and structures and wealth of this nation. Theirs is the curse of near poverty living standards when retired, while the LNP “shibboleths” wade knee-deep in accrued largesse and “entitlements”!

With the dismissal of Barnaby Joyce, the LNP government now has a minority on the floor of the House … It may be the only opportunity for Labor to call for a vote of no-confidence in the government. And why not? This government has shown time and again it HAS NOT the capacity to govern of, by, and for the people … The contract is herewith broken, the “deal” drawn up upon last election day is torn asunder, the good natured agreement is now redundant and the respect once given is now withdrawn.

We owe this LNP/IPA government nothing … neither loyalty (THAT is reserved for those who give it!), dignity (THAT is given to those who return it!), nor the right to govern without contradiction and demonstration. This LNP government has betrayed us all and we will scorn them and demand that the next progressive government that comes to power will institute a commission or commissions to investigate and where appropriate to charge and castigate those creatures and their associates in the MSM who have betrayed our hopes, dreams, infrastructure and the very spirit of the nation.

The political contract may be broken, but the spirit of unity of nation and purpose is growing … growing even in the face of MSM disruption. Even against the propaganda of the MSM press and those grubby creatures employed to demean and diminish our “fair-go” nature. No more will we tolerate the abuse and attacks upon our fellow peoples … We are a nation that has thrived upon a multicultural base and will move toward the future embracing all different ethnicity and cultures … AND with a legitimate assembly of Indigenous representation in the Parliament to join in the collective that is both natural and rightfully theirs in this nation they once owned.

There is NO PLACE for the liars, the thieves, the conniving swindlers of the LNP/IPA. And the Murdoch Media. Their days, like their ideological beliefs are numbered and the count-down has already started!

The Green Hills of Tyrol

Was watching that new program on the ABC last night about the Brits in Aden back in the sixties … and one of the characters was talking to his obviously fading father and he started to sing that old Andy Stewart standard; “There was a Soldier, A Scottish Soldier … ”, and it was about the “green hills of Tyrol”. I didn’t know that … Tyrol … that’s where my old man came from. You might have read that piece I put up about him in “Willie Wilson’s ferret”.

Anyway, the old man got homesick … and that’s what that piece about the ferrets was all about;  Home … or at least that feeling of home … of a place to belong, where one could roam freely as a child and have adventures and discover things with other kids. And  when grown up, could point to a geographical location and say; “That’s where I came from”. Identity … that’s what it gave you. Identity … Home.

* * * * *

Enclosure, also spelled Inclosure, the division or consolidation of communal fields, meadows, pastures, and other arable lands in western Europe into the carefully delineated and individually owned and managed farm plots of modern times.

This enclosing of public land, the locking off of access to open field and meadow to allow private property to flourish in a capitalist society is a terrible thing, a demeaning situation. This is a deliberate policy to diminish and to corral people into a crush of suburban town limits … to shut down “community” and replace it with limited access property … private property. To reduce all persons to nothing more than an identifiable commodity to be constructor, consumer, and then consumed ourselves. To take our identity away and replace our need for “national home” with some generic, jingoistic “homeland”.

The original confiscation of Indigenous land and renaming it “crown land” reduced the native peoples to allocated strips of territory and took away in one fell swoop their claim to right of wandering … all other was private property. This “right of ownership” extended to water and wildlife, so that the Indigenous peoples could not even maintain their hunting culture. It was a deliberate action designed to genocide the native population.

The same philosophy is now being actively pursued by the right-wing elite of our country to shut down any large-scale projects that would extend the politics of community … which could encourage a more inclusive social order..perhaps even socialism as a political reality itself. There is a driving imperative within the current political right to with-hold from the general populace a sense of “community belonging” … any developing coherence of neighbourhood so that a cluster of like-minded people could form a block of mutual interest that could stop speculative development. Like the “Shut the Gate” farming community … the “Stop Ardani” … and remember the “Green bans” of the seventies?

This deliberate policy of debasing community and promoting private property could be the driving force behind certain elements of racism and bigotry so apparent now in the nation. The fact that many recently arrived ethnic groups cluster together and form a community for both identity and security, much like the old Greek and Italian communities, and from within these suburbs arise those familiar community projects like a religious worship building, a club, sporting grounds with an ethnic team … and so on.

These early start communities show a natural loyalty to culture, and ethnicity that can create a suspicion of exclusion to the dominant culture..that looks like a rejection of the dominant culture, when all it is, is the desire to create a feeling of what it was like where they came from: home.

There is a distortion of public understanding of what constitutes community ownership when you have politicians like Margaret Thatcher claiming that there is no such thing as society and Ayn Rand refuting any identity in “public”, because that grouping is made up of many individuals, thereby reducing everything of value to the rights of the individual. And that includes all property, community or otherwise. The recent allocating to Packer’s group of public land for his Barangaroo casino complex, demonstrates this. Public land becomes “private property” and we are locked out of more free-space.

Richard Epstien wrote a set piece for the rights of private property; “Takings : Private property and the power of the eminent domain”, where he claimed the “owner” of private property was entitled to compensation for the “takings of lands”. But this claim seems only to be the right of those individuals who by one measure or another claimed ownership of that land..hence no recognising of compensation for indigenous peoples, but much compensation for the “fortuitous purchase” of land that could be essential for transport corridors of mining operations … (anyone we know?). And one could note that the exchange rate in value of land from the individual to the government is in marked contrast to that sale price that the government gets when certain land/utilities are transferred to private ownership.

Yes, it is the essential ingredient of right-wing policy to reduce community constructs of a feeling of belonging … of an identity with a location we can call “Home” … and the relentless displacement through transitory employment, high rental, low socio economic assistance of large swathes of the population, always on the move, seeking low-cost housing, a modicum of permanent employment … if just for a couple of years to save for a deposit on ridiculously expensive houses..that will for a long time stop many children from being able to point to a name on the map and say..as I can and many of you can. ”There! That’s where I grew up … and that’s where Willie Wilson had some ferrets …”

A SCOTTISH SOLDIER

Andy Stewart

There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier

Who wandered far away and soldiered far away

There was none bolder with good broad shoulder

He fought many affray, and fought and won

 

He’d seen the glory, he’d told the story

Of battles glorious and deeds victorious

But now he’s sighing, his heart is crying

To leave those green hills of Tyrol

 

(Chorus) Because those green hills are not highland hills

Or the island hills, they’re not my land’s hills

And fair as these green foreign hills may be

They are not the hills of home …

Willy Wilson’s ferrets

Hello fellow travelers … it being Sundee ‘n all … and I being a tad “burred” around the edges … I thought I’d try for another short, reflective piece for your amusement..

I was telling you about Willie Wilson and his ferrets …

Willie Wilson kept ferrets, he used them for trapping rabbits in any of the multitude of warrens dotted about the hills where I grew up before the Mixxy got a hold – I’m talking back in the late fifties or so. A lot of people kept ferrets for that purpose in those days. There was a front-bar trade in fresh bunny-meat back then – “underground mutton” they called it – along with local/caught fish like snook, tommies, garfish and such, that you could buy off the fishers down at the Seacliff Hotel. I know,’cause my old man used to come home of a Thursday evening, pay-day, with a broad smile on his face, a good half-dozen long-necks clinking away in his kit-bag, a big bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate in his rough, brickies hands and a roll of newspaper-wrapped fresh produce under his arm … every Thursday night, like clockwork … that’s how it went in those days before age, homesickness for the old country and the drink got a hold on him. That’s how it went in those days.

Willie Wilson kept ferrets, so did the Oxfords … and the O’Niels … not the ones on the corner, but the ones down by the railway station. (Of the O’Niels on the corner, one of them, John, grew up to become a copper in police forensics and he had to deal with those “Snowtown Murders” … it done for him. I’ll tell you about him one day). They kept ferrets to catch rabbits … the ferrets were clean, but the cages would sometimes stink to high heaven! Tex, Marlene Oxford’s long time beau kept the cages clean … I’ll tell you about him too someday. Tex knew how to hunt with ferrets … Willie was just learning … it was a slow job with Willie … he was young, he was keen.

I can only recall going “ferreting” with Willie once – just after that Emma St crossing crash that I was telling you about … the one where the mum and dad both got killed in their car by the train while their four kids and the grandmother were watching over the other side of the crossing. They were waiting for the parents to pick them up and take them on the short drive home on The Cove Road … just like every work-night.

The day was cold, it was wet and the whole episode was a disaster for both ferreting and friendship. There were four of us: Davy Parker, Bruce Irving, myself and Willie. We took turns carrying the cage with the ferrets … we hiked right up to the top of the long gully, not far from the old Linwood Quarry, where one of the O’Niel men (there were four families – not related – in the district) got his coat caught in the crusher feeder, was dragged into the crusher and was killed there. I can just remember the wife coming to our place and my Mother comforting her … I suppose it was a Catholic thing … the micks stuck together then.

There is an art to catching rabbits with ferrets. Willie did not have that art. All he did was to block as many holes as he had nets, bury in the rest and then let the ferret down one hole … if all goes well, the rabbits will flee the ferret and get caught in any one of the nets as they run out of the warren … the biggest worry, is that if the ferret is hungry, it will trap and kill a rabbit down in the warren and remain there till it eats it to its hearts content. Then all you can do is to try to smoke it out or wait.

That’s what must have happened … after the rabbits stopped coming out, the ferret remained. Willie tried to smoke it out with setting fire to some paper in one of the holes, but all it did was to sear the ferrets nose and made it flee back down the warren … and it rained … and it rained, and rained, and rained some more till we all looked like a picture you sometimes see of one of those groups of American Indian’s sitting sadly under their blankets on the prairies … except we didn’t have blankets, or praries, just wet skin, cold hands and it was getting dark and we lost our patience and our kid-tempers and told Willie where he could stick his ferret if it ever come out and to our dying shame, we deserted him there and then. Kids can be bastards!

Not my most glorious moment, but there is only so much the patience of a child can stand, especially when we could see more rabbits hopping about the dusky hill-sides than what we caught with the stupid ferret!

Send in the clowns

“Isn’t it rich?” … “Isn’t it queer?”

I could weep for humanity … I could just f#cking … weep for them … for us. If you were to look at it objectively, you’d have to agree that most of the advancements made for the betterment of society, have been made not on the successes, but on the back of failures of experience. Hence, perhaps, the old adage: “Experience is the best teacher”. The absurdity reaching great heights, surely, in this current LNP cabal of idiots and fools.

I was down the Central Market a couple of weeks ago and while my paramour was buying veggies at the Chinese stall there, I was perusing the posters on a board advertising live theatre, bands and such, and I was most amused by this one poster announcing a farewell tour by a “tribute singer”. There was a comic/tragic air to the poster announcing that the Elvis impersonator was doing his … his “farewell tour” … also a touch of absurdity, considering that the performing artist, having talent enough to impersonate, but not quite enough to create his own original show, has nonetheless accumulated enough of a fan base to announce his own farewell tour … A “farewell tour” of a farewell tour.. And I am reminded of that wonderful ABC satire; “The Librarian” where the librarian’s partner is mocked for his tribute band ”Oils ain’t Oils “ … And then just below this announcement is another poster of a tribute act by three blokes impersonating “Great voices of Pop” (or some such) … what is it with all this nostalgic impersonation?

Are we so run out of originality that impersonation is all the go? Our politics, our relationships, our love and affection … or is even that now a shallow impersonation of what it once really was? Has that essence of deepest affection and loyalty become more a convenience of companionship … temporary and carnal? Which of us would really suffer, or even die for another person that we say we love? Yet our greatest literature passed down from time immemorial is bleeding with examples of the supreme sacrifice for; “Le don de l’amour” (always sounds better in French) … or is this just another example of a hunger for a lost sentiment?

“What has brought this on?” you may ask . It was in a conversation about science and I had this theory about how life-forms were spread about the universe … pretty big stuff … I thought, but it seems my “theory” was not only unoriginal, it had been first prognosed by a Greek bloke named Anaxagoras back in circa 500BC. F#ck! … Now that is a bit late coming on set! But you see … what I concluded now, was thought of back two and a half thousand years ago … so one has to conclude that the human thought pattern of logic and reason was the same then as it is now: There is nothing new under the sun. And this is where we as a species have become so tragic … a farce! … If clarity of thought was so prevalent in the earliest days of civilisation and so many calculations done and achieved back so long ago, what have we been doing since then? F#ckin’ asleep on the job … that’s what! Christ! … We got idiots spruiking stupid political shit, climate denial shit, social compatibility denial, capital, civil, international and anything else that is divisive and conflicting FFS! … Where oh effing where is the originality of thought? … Why do we have these great big f#ckin’ universities when we are only turning out “tribute education”?

Another “great big idea” I had, only to have that also ruthlessly quashed, was the theory that an organic life-form (us!) can only develop so far, in a physical sense, before it reaches “max-evolution capacity” and then self-destructs by imploding within itself or by becoming too overbearing on its environment and destroys all around it and therefore … But it seems this too has not only been thought of a long time ago, it even has a name … I forget that now … but hey … it just goes to show..there’s nothing new under the sun … no siree, Bob! So I suppose the only thing one can do is to try to be personally original … it was something many of us in the seventies strove to achieve … hence all those weird clothes and flairs … I mean. Who in their right mind would wear heavy, brocaded strides in summer in Oz? You’d have to be nuts. But talk about nuts … here, helvitnyi, a little escape for you:

Mrs Hancock

It’s funny, you know; the image of adults one has as a child, compared to the actual reality known by the adults of the time around you. Mrs Hancock used to cut our hair when we were children … the four of us; from the oldest brother (about 10 yrs), down including to my sister, then myself (the youngest about five yrs). We would be marched down across the railway-line by the eldest (“hup-two three four”), each clutching a bob (one shilling) in our sweaty little hands to get that one generic haircut for which Mrs Hancock was infamous: “The Basso” … about once every couple of months, it seemed, most of the kids in the district would sport a Mrs Hancock “special”. And we’d be lined up on the railway station going to school, looking like a lot of miniature “Moes” (as in The Three Stooges) waiting for the train … girls included! I wonder that some social science person didn’t do a study on “Demographic by haircut” kind of thing for those days. Truth be known, I believe most barbers – like most architects – have one basic style … and everything else is a derivative there-off.

The image I had of Mrs Hancock as a child was of this frumpy old lady, dressed in ‘lop-sided’ cardigan and dress, living in this dreary old fibro house, with creepy shadows and dull lighting … she would sit us in an old stuffed, armless chair next to one of those “side tables” of dark timber and curved legs and armed with scissors, a smelly fag and the endless glass of water, she would attack our tangled locks with all the tactics of “Tojo in a Zero” coming out of the sun! The fag-end would send an endless swirl of smoke past her wincing eye … she’d take a gulp of water, vice-clasp our head unceremoniously with her left hand and her right hand would start with the then continuous ”snipsnipsnipsnip … snipping” as she dove into the job, to come out the other side in an undisturbed arc, the arm ascending upward to hover above our heads somewhere “sit still, child!” … mechanically, continuously, snipsnipsnipsnip snipping! One sat in a horror of anticipation for the next “strafing” (and you know, I can’t stand being “dive-bombed” by mozzies to this day … I don’t mind so much the bite … it’s the hovering, whirring, buzzing that drives me crazy). Her house was the last one on that side of the road … behind the train station … I think it was called “Cygnet Terrace” before it was pushed through and became “The Cove Road” … a cold wind would cut down through the barren gullies there in winter.

But it wasn’t till years later, when I first started going to the pub as an older youth, that I realized that the “glass of water” always at her beck, was gin and tonic. Yes, poor old Mrs Hancock was a gin-soak … and, going by her familiarity with her fellows in the front bar of The Seacliff Hotel, where a cluster of “oldies” were mangling that Englebert Humperdinck (I mean; really?) song “Please release me” … Christ … it’s tragic … I could just weep; she was an old hand at the game. I suppose that is why her front parlour where she “scalped“ us kids always had the curtains drawn … but, you know … my mother would have heard of that. But then again, many in that “fringe district” where we lived were escapees from reality … my old man bought there because it was cheap land … not now though! It was at the end of the railway line … hang on, that’s not quite true … there was one more stop … ”Hallett Cove” … but that place only got two or three trains a day then and it was the refuge of bankrupts, hermits and criminals. I got to meet quite a few in later years, so can confirm the statement!

Back to the mistaken image of adults one has as a child … I remember also being taken into the front-bar of the Brighton Hotel by my dad as a very young boy … he having a beer and me a raspberry … and this man bending down to me and saying in a beery voice ”hello, little fellah..what’s your name … eh? Eh?” And I got real scared, but my dad was just smiling … I couldn’t then understand why he didn’t chase the ugly man away! Poor old bastard was just another drunk saying hello to a kid … but then … I was a sensitive child! … Still am!

Sacred Site

Ahh! … Yes … I can see that you are all a tad jaded and tuckered out with the political shenanigans. I tell you what … sit back and relax and I’ll tell you a story. It is constructed from two events: one, when a friend told me of finding a very old woomera in the cleft of a very old tree on the edge of the Simpson Desert … as told in the story below; the other was told me by a Italian brickie mate of two brothers who actually did go through the described scenario below … only difference was; they drew straws.

I hope I never have to be given such a choice … but then … there are farmers and the like who have done the same. I put this story up as a leader into some broad discussion on this touchy subject, following on from my recent article; “The Corporatizionn of Women” … I want to try and explain that much of the problem with male aggression can be sheeted home to the rise in right-wing authoritarian expectations of what a man must achieve to be considered a “winner” … rather than a “loser” … not to make excuses for terrible behavior, but to try to understand the predicament some men find themselves in.

It goes like this:

Sacred Site

Two men stood side by side at the rear of the four wheel drive truck. The setting sun was behind them. Their shadows stretched out in front like long thin pencil lines over the salt-bush and stubble.

“Come over here Bob, I’ll show you something.”

Antonio stepped away at right angles to the track and fence. The desert air was cooling, and the distant horizon purpling with the coming of evening, the darkness was tumbling towards them from the east. After a short distance the first man stopped suddenly and stood with his hands in his pockets but the thumbs outside. Bob strode up next to him and gazed at where Antonio was looking, he saw nothing but one lone, long dead tree amid an expanse of desert shrubbery.

“See there?”

“What?” Bob queried.

“There at the base in that small cleft.”

At first Bob didn’t see anything unusual, but then an object took shape, a man crafted object of symmetrical design. He moved a few steps closer so he was only yards from it, in the dusk he made out clearly the shape.

“Why … it’s a woomera” he said surprised “ an … an Aboriginal woomera … but it’s old … so old”.

He spoke in awe, and indeed it was old. At least a hundred years old because the wearing of the elements on it, it had been sun- baked and sand blasted, the resin and fibres holding the spur onto the body had deteriorated and the patterns cut into the body of the woomera were now obscure. Bob leant forward as if to touch it but Tony gripped his wrist fiercely.

“No, Bob … don’t touch it, let it lie there. I haven’t touched it ever in all the years I’ve known it’s here, you’re the first I’ve ever shown it to … it must remain as it is till time takes it back to the earth … as it will take us all … as it will take Francesco.”

Antonio released Bob’s arm and straightened up still gazing at the woomera.

“Come, we will camp nearby for the night it will soon be dark.” Both men turned and walked back to the truck.

A soft fire glowed in the centre of a ring of stones, but its light seemed too frail to penetrate deep into the darkness, unable to wash into the deeper crevasses of their eye sockets and the hollows of their cheeks, so the men’s faces quivered into grotesque shadowy masks.

“Who’s Francesco?” Bob asked.

Antonio squatted, one arm on his knee with the other hand prodding a stick into the coals.

“Pass me that piece of branch, Bob … ta … Francesco was my older brother … he died a long time ago … twenty years now … or rather tomorrow.”

Bob stretched one leg out in the cool sand and made himself more comfortable.

“You never told me you had a brother” Bob remarked quietly, in a tone that suggested he was a little bit piqued that this close friend would keep such a secret from him. Antonio didn’t look away from the flames, his eyes didn’t blink as he stared into the syrupy yellow.

“It’s why I asked you along on this trip actually,” Antonio solemnly spoke.

“Oh?”

“You’re a priest I want you to help me bury him again …”

“Who?”

“Francesco … my brother! …”

“…You alright, Tony? I mean; where’s the body?”

Antonio leant back and felt inside his clothes bag and swung back with a small wooden urn.

“Here …” he said quietly. “His ashes!”

Bob squinted at his friend with one eye closed.

“In there?”

“In here”.

There was a pause in the conversation and the fire crackled and hissed, the silence of the desert night crowded in all around them, listening.

“So what did they bury all those years ago?”

“Ashes … plain wood ashes!” Antonio smiled and leant back to place the urn into his duffle bag. Bob let out a slow, low whistle.

“You better enlighten me, Tony.”

“I’ll get the billy boiled first.” Antonio dropped a palmful of tea into the boiling water. He slowly stirred the contents with a piece of stick.

“I’ll tell you Bob not as a confession, but still … maybe for Francesco’s soul!”

“How did he die?”

“He shot himself.”

“Suicide?” Bob raised his eyebrow Antonio leapt up angrily

“No! … No, … No, a thousand times no …” he strode two steps away then turned and strode back, the ball of his cupped left hand slapping onto his right fist, he shook his head emphatically as he spoke. “Not suicide, … no! his was a sacrifice … yes, a sacrifice to the filthy God security!” Antonio stopped suddenly, hands frozen apart, his heavy breathing noticeable in the still desert night.

“Security,” he whispered. His shoulders slumped and he sat back down by the fire, reached over, took the billy and filled two mugs with the brew.

“Sugar, Bob?” his voice still tense.

“Please … and milk”.

“I take mine black.” Antonio leant back on his duffle bag and stretched one leg out comfortably, his boot pushed up a little mound of the red sand..

“Dammit Bob, it still upsets me after all these years.” He guffawed, “Suicide!” and he guffawed again. He took a sip of his tea and a deep breath.

“Francesco … was ten years older than me and we were partners in a building company before the recession. We started out as brickies you see, then it just grew from there “Collossus Constructions” we called ourselves and it did get colossal! Ended up flat out and just organising the other trades. We did a lot of estate housing projects in those days for those big real-estate companies. We were in it up to our necks when the recession hit and it all went bust! Oh God did it go bust! Overnight, two of our biggest contracts went into receivership and left us holding the bag. Subcontractors to be paid, contracts to finish etcetera, etcetera and it cleaned us out … or nearly …”

“Didn’t you see any signs of the impending collapse?”

“Nah, they were still signing contracts up till the day before … so someone was pulling a shonky!”

“It’s always the way” Bob chipped in.

“Anyway we were running around like scalded cats all week, cajoling this one, pacifying the other, putting someone else off till finally on the Friday night Francesco comes ’round in his ute and says to throw in a sleeping bag and the billy and let’s go bush for the weekend. I couldn’t have agreed more. Hey, isn’t it good out here in the desert? serene, peaceful. It was at this very spot that we camped … right here, the same place I come to every year since then … but this will be my last … this will be my last.”

“You look good for a few years yet Tony.”

“But I feel tired Bob, so bloody tired.”

“You been carrying some of the weight?”

“In a way … it could’ve been me … it could have been me that died.” Antonio sighed. “He found that woomera, not me, he wandered over there to go to the toilet, after a while he called out to me: ”

‘Tony … come here, have a look at this!”

“No thanks!’ I called in disgust.

“‘Nah … not that … it’s interesting.” He had found something.

When I got there he was squatted in front of the woomera, staring at it.

“Hey!” I said, “that’d look great above my mantelpiece” and I reached out for it but he rapped my knuckles with a piece of branch.

“Don’t touch!” he barked. “Have respect for the dead.”

“What dead? It’s only a woomera.” I said.

“Oh he’s dead alright, after all these years, and its still his..it was probably left here by mistake.”

“Finders keepers …” I began, but Francesco wasn’t listening to anything I said, he just stared at that thing.

“He was a hunter … and he rested here … for a camp maybe … maybe he speared a ‘roo, he leant his woomera against the tree … it would have been a sapling then surely …” and Francesco went on in this quiet monotone, building up a picture of this lone Aboriginal hunter and the desert and the need for food that sent him on long journeys …I just stood there listening to him talk and it was enthralling in it’s depth of feeling. I’d never known Frank to think of these things before.” Antonio stopped and stared into the fire, it’s flickering glow so enticingly rich and comforting under the stars. When he finished, Francesco stood up, turned to me and  said: “We’re still all hunters, you know,” then turned and walked back to the camp.”

“It seemed to have touched a spot in him,” Bob remarked.

“I’ll say,” Tony agreed. “He went back to look at that woomera again and again over the weekend. But he said no more about it. Then on the Sunday afternoon as we were packing up he said to me:

“‘Tony … we’re done for, you know that don’t you?”

“How do you mean … financially?”

“Yes financially stuffed..but I’ve thought out a way to beat the bastards!”

“Like how?” I asked.

“You remember those insurance policies we took out on each other two years ago?”

“Yeah, in case one of us kicked off, but they’re not worth a quid yet … unless one of us dies … say! you’re not thinking of faking a death, then disappearing or something?”

“Not faking … but a death, yes.”

“What are you talking about, – you lost your marbles or something … what are you talking about …” I was shocked I can tell you. Francesco got angry.

“Grow up Tony” He yelled “Grow up, we’re finished. In less than a month they’ll have our business, our houses, our cars … our balls … everything .”

“But Frank”

“Don’t Frank me … you know what it’s like to live in  poverty? Do you? and your wife and your kids … what’re you gonna tell them … “sorry kids, sorry honey but we gotta go live in a shack and eat porridge and potatoes!” hey? you tell them that … listen, you’re too young to remember back home, but I can tell you; I remember and I don’t intend to have my family go through those times,” and he slammed his hand against the side of the ute.

“What … what do you intend to do”

“Better you don’t know.” But I knew.

“Frank … no … be reasonable … Stefania … the kids …”

“It’s them I’m thinking of “ he said softly, then; “Listen Tony, I’m fifty eight, been working in building since I was a kid in shorts … what’ve I got; ten, fifteen years left, what of it? Fifteen years of nothing for me and my family, or else … I’ll never have more than I got now, never, I’ve reached my peak and I don’t want to go down into the depths, it’d kill me anyway.”

“We argued back and forth and I followed him around the ute talking to his back, but he was stubborn.

“Listen,’ he said “You wanna go live in a ditch you go live in a ditch. What do you think the old people suffered in their lives for? So you could have it easy and to hell with your kids? Every comfort has its price, Antonio, what do you want your kids to be? tramps? bums? No, … I don’t want my kids to battle out of a poverty trap like the old people had to. If there’s a price in it I’m prepared to pay everyone pays sometime … it seems my time is now.”

“But me, Frank, what would you have me do, sit by and see you knock yourself off and then reap the reward .. what sort of man do you consider me?! No, we’re both of us in this together, I won’t let you take it on your own …”

“It’s the only way Tony, you’re ten years younger, you’re family’s younger.”

“Give me a risk on it … toss a coin Frank, you always like to toss a coin for a decision, toss a coin now and we’ll take equal risk!” …

“Alright” He relented. “We’ll toss … and the winner loses!” He grimaced at his own joke.

He pulled a few coins from his pocket and picked out a twenty cent piece.

“I’ll call, since it was my idea” he said and he flipped the coin.

“Heads!” he cried.

Bob..Bob, have you ever been so scared that your stomach was just one big knot wrenching your innards together so they just ached? Well, that’s how mine were. Don’t ask me why I agreed to that madness but I knew the loser wouldn’t back out. The more I think of it, the more I refute it, but strangely, strangely the quick fix of the idea attracted me then and I loved my family enough to kill anyone that would hurt them, so why not kill myself to save them from hurt?! … all those kind of thoughts went through my mind in the split seconds of that toss as that coin flickered in the light. Of course it came down heads and Frank bent down and picked up the coin. He slapped his hand on my shoulder and said.

“Now, it’s decided. let’s not talk about it on the way home. Who knows, maybe I won’t have to go through with it after all,” and we packed up and left.

“On the Monday afternoon I was in the office when I got a call from the insurance agent.”

“Mr Gustoni?’ the agent asked.

“Yes” I replied, thinking it was me he was after.

“Yes..I was right, I inquired into the policy agreement and yes, your accident indemnity does cover accidental death outside the working site and hours.”

I went weak at the knees … and almost speechless. I could just mutter into the receiver

“Oh … right … thanks … thanks” and I hung up and raced out of the office and drove to Frank’s place.

“Oh mother of God! mother of God!” I prayed as I drove through that endless traffic. I didn’t think it would be now not straight away! Give it a bit more time please! Please!

Stefania, his wife, was there.

“He’s gone out Tony he said to give you this contract to look at …’”she handed me a fat manila envelope, then I knew it was too late.

“Is there anything wrong?” Women, they’re so sharp.

“No more than usual,” I remarked and quickly left in case I betrayed my feelings.

“He didn’t give me a chance to say goodbye, Bob, not a chance, not a chance. “Why?” I asked myself … He made it look like an accident..like the gun went off as he was climbing through the fence …”

“In the envelope there was a goodbye note and a few items he wanted buried with him and – also this!” Tony tossed a coin to Bob’s feet. Bob picked it up examined it and turned it over.

“Why … it’s a double headed twenty cent piece, it’s been cut and another face glued on to make one coin! …”

“The cunning bastard … I always wondered how he won all those tosses, and you see that nick on the edge, that’s how he picked it out amongst others with his fingers.” Bob snorted and tossed it back.

“Well he did go through with it and in the note he asked that I somehow get his ashes and bury them with the few other personal items next to that woomera up here.”

“And did you tell Stefania of it all?” Bob asked.

“What do you tell the women? Frank knocked himself off so we can pay our bills? What did that hunter tell his people if he came home without any tucker ‘I lost my woomera’? … ‘left it somewhere’? No Bob, Frank was right, we’re all hunters and each must guard his secrets. No, I didn’t tell them, but she’d guess, women have their damned intuition.”

“Why didn’t you bury him, then?”

“I couldn’t bring myself to put an end to it all, I didn’t understand the connection between that hunter’s primitive woomera and our own highly complicated lives, that is till now. Now I know what Frank realised that weekend twenty years ago. That woomera over there is a totem of men’s responsibilities, the women bear the children, the men provide, that is the base line of our cultural life. Some women die in chldbirth some men die in the seeking of provisions. I’ve  been on building sites myself where workmen have been either killed or badly injured. They’re taken away and another fills his place. No-one can shirk his responsibilities, we all take our risks. So the hunter’s woomera left here by accident must have wrought danger to that whole family’s existence so was that recession the calamity that befell our family’s existence … The insurance policy was just another means to provide … at a price, everything changes, but nothing is changed. The immortality of all things mortal … ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He lost his fear of death.”

Antonio sighed.

”And this is where you come in, Bob … would you mind … a simple ceremony?”

The dawn laid silver sheets across the sky as the two men stood before the tree that held the woomera in its cleft. Tony gave the wooden urn to Bob who lay it in a shallow hole near the woomera. Then he gave Bob a flick-knife with a carved ivory handle.

“He bought that in Italy years before, and you see that carving … here, give it to me for a sec … this carving of a woman, he’d sometimes take the knife out amongst a group of us men and he’d rub the ball of his thumb over the tiny breast there and he’d sigh and say, ‘Ah, my Stefania, she once had breasts like this,’ and then he’d press this button here, like so: “

Swish! the silvered blade of the flick-knife shot out of the handle so it made Bob jump.

“And Francesco would sigh sadly again and nodding his head say: ‘And me, my cock once sprung up like that!’ … he’d always get a laugh.” Tony smiled and folded the blade away and gave the knife to Bob.

“And last of all this” sneered Antonio as he flung the double headed coin into the hole.

Bob pushed the sand over the urn and knife and coin. He stood up and spoke in a clear concise voice:

“Let this site remain sacred to the memory of Francesco Gustoni …”

“Could you say the prayer in Latin Bob, he preferred Latin.” Bob nodded and began:

“In nome il Padre e Filio e Spirito Santo …”

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