Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cutting your teeth.

Until I went to high school, I never wore shoes unless it was absolutely necessary and there were two. Church and trips to town on the train. Town was either Parramatta or Sydney, now categorised as the CBD. So while splitting wood for the stove at about eleven years old, when the axe glanced off the wood and came down on my big toe. It hit bone and I was taken to Liverpool Hospital for stitches.

After a few tries at pushing the needle through, the doctor left and returned with a pair of engineers’ pliers, then after bending a few needles he eventually got the job done. No anaesthetic those days, so it hurt. Of course back at our chook farm it soon became infected and was a problem for months, treatment being to pour raw Dettol over it every morning and night, burning the skin and delaying healing. Apparently there was no fear if tetanus so one trip to a professional was considered sufficient. Despite that setback I always hated shoes and still prefer to go barefoot.
So it was that I had sympathy for Brother Francis. Don’t ask. It is his real name, so I can only guess that his parents had such poor imaginations they used their only name on Frank, so Frank’s Brother was named Brother.

Since he left school at fourteen, Brother worked in the forests, starting when they used bullocks to haul logs out of the Watagan forests. Up until a few years ago when he retired, he still harvested pit props but when I first met him, he worked at the last timber mill in the bush. Brother knew timber like few others and was a great asset to any employer in the industry. But about twenty years ago he was sacked on the spot and sent home in the middle of the day.

A Health and Safety Officer, probably lost, wandered into the sawmill in his yellow high visibility hat to inspect the mill safety record. The boss was caught off guard or he would have told Brother to stay home that day, but this bloke was a stickler and turned up unannounced.

He must have thought at first that Brother had taken his shoes off for a rest because he said nothing while the boys were having a tea break, boiling hot, four sugars and no milk. You can’t have milk without refrigeration and this camp didn’t even have a dunny. A long handled shovel with a roll of Sorbent threaded onto the handle was the toilet and a roadside soak was the washing facility.
When they walked out to get back to work he asked brother where his shoes were.

“Where are your shoes?”
“Shoes? Ain’t got no shoes!”
“But you don’t work like that?"

“Like what?”
“Without shoes.”
“Never worn ‘em. Don’t like em.”

Mr Hard Hat called the boss over.
“Are you aware this man works without shoes?’

“A course. Why?”
“He can’t work without shoes, it’s dangerous.”
“He can’t work in ‘em and he’s never had a problem in fifty years.”
“What if he falls and his feet come into contact with a saw? He could be severely injured.”

“Mate,” the boss laughed. “I wouldn’t be worried about Brother’s feet. I’d be worried about the bloody saw!”

Monday, 30 August 2010

Planet bites back.

If, like me, you thought the current Pakistani flood was a natural disaster, think again.

This arrived today from my friend and Green activist Elizabeth Perey in Tasmania:

“I did not know about the deforestation of Pakistan, so assume at least some of you did not know either.” (Take the link).


Greed, and the corruption it creates, poisons everything. I posted this limerick a few weeks ago, but figure it’s worth another run!

"It's only one tree," so they say,
"It really is quite in the way!"
But, permission given
To every one livin',
Would leave the world bare in a day!

‘Think globally and act locally’ was never more urgent!

Pic: Clearfelling in Australia, 1905, when to not clear land of trees attracted a tax.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Herpes Zoster

Down in the dells and the dingles,
Its beauty still gives me the tingles.
But my old pink house
Is becoming a grouse,
With a serious case of the shingles.

Prompted by Willow at Magpie Tales.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Bogie's bogey.

'Humphrey Bogart smoked his way through the 1942 classic Casablanca and a generation of men in the 1940s learned a romantic move when Paul Heinrich put two between his lips, lit them both and handed one to Bette Davis in Now, Voyeur . From: Smoking on the decline in films'

I did that when I was young and impressionable before I became old and impressionable but now, with the cost of tobacco related illness climbing, there is debate here whether cigarettes should be sold only in plain brown wrappers and in the US whether films depicting smoking should be given an R rating.

Smoking at the dinner table.

Bronchial tubes blocked with foul matter,
My poor heart more pitter than patter.
At dinner I wheezed,
Coughed, farted and sneezed
And there were my lungs on the platter!

Oops! Won't do that again.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Dear Fellow Greens,

Here is mail from Eve Plant, our branch secretary, that quotes the results to now.

"What a result! 9 senators & 1 in HoR, -- 50% increase from 8+% to average 12% nationwide! In Fairfax, Narelle achieved 18%. We are knocking on the door. We all thank her for her wonderful effort. Wow!
All that effort paid off & we are on first name terms with our very own senator. How good is that! Keep smiling. We are on a roll."

For the information of non Aussies, we have preferential voting. That simply means we can have a first choice of candidate/party and if that candidate does not poll over 50% primary vote, in our case Narelle, we can indicate our second or third choice and so on and control where our votes should be applied. Because of that system, new parties can be created and new dialogue initiated on issues not important to major parties.

Examples of such issues are climate change, not politically attractive to major parties because of their links to high polluting industries and their down line industries, voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage and many more. Both major parties have always been influenced by religious groups despite Australia's official guarantee of separation of church and state and therefore loath to remove politics from other people's bedrooms.

However, it does make counting votes a time consuming business. So in a close poll, a final result can be weeks away. As I write, it appears our Labor Party will form a minority government with support from at least half the four independent members. However, it is the Senate vote that is exciting for the Greens. That allows us to push for more aggressive carbon reduction timetable and have the numbers to approve such programs once it has passed through the lower house.

I disagree with the 'on a roll' statement. Green support was taken mainly from Labor, so if and when Labor gets its climate change act together, that support may decrease.
But, having said that, Labor will have problems standing up to special interest groups and may not be able to satisfy public demands for more action.

Well, that's that for now. Thank goodness we can get back to more importantly stuff like poetry and fun! :-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Abbot with loaves and fishes.

Fishing: You want to fish more? Don’t worry, I’ll create more fisheries!
Mining: You don’t want to pay? Don’t worry. No tax and I’ll create endless resource access!
Business: You want to pay lower wages? Don’t worry, I’ll create a bottomless labour pool.
Climate change: It’s bunkum. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s business as usual.
Mothers: Paid maternity leave? Don’t worry, I’ll pay wealthy women three grand a week for six months. Working women? 'Over my dead body'. Don’t worry, they don’t vote for me anyway.
Asylum seekers: Desperate people on leaky bloats? Don’t worry, I will personally ‘turn back the boats’ but keep the well dressed ones that come by plane.
Global economic crisis: Don’t worry. It never happened.
Broadband: You want it on the cheap? Don’t worry, I’m working on a pedal wireless version.
Policies: Trust me, I’m a grown-up. My promises are all fully costed by a bloke I paid to say it. Vote for me.


Pic. Pedal wireless. Australian outback

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Relaxed at last
In steaming bath,
A pampered sudsy picture.

But ‘Eek!’ I cry,
‘What’s this I spy?’
A sightless, ugly creature!

Between my toes,
A runny nose;
Its most endearing feature!

Prompted by Magpie Tales.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Secret Ballot secret.

No sooner had we moved into our new community than Sally and I were invited next door to be introduced to the doctor, lawyer and Indian Chief, all the professionals whose services we might need.

Neville Kirkwood had sold his orchard in Mandalong Road, across the creek from all the other orange growers in Dooralong but kept his house, where it stood up against my boundary on the only acre of flood-free land we shared. He had been chairman of the Wyong Citruc Co-op for many years and often won ‘Best Orchard’ at the Wyong show. A respected citizen, he was given the responsibility of Returning Officer for our polling station in the Federal seat of Robertson.

On that first social evening, Neville was delighted to discover we shared a liking for red wine, a taste unique among his beer drinking acquaintances. Very soon we established a ritual whereby once or twice a week I would arrive at his door, with a bottle or he would shout an invitation to me as I was garaging the tractor, a few metres from his house.

So it was in 1980, when Malcolm Frazer took us to the polls for the third time and Bob Hawke claimed the seat of Wills, that Sally and I Voted at Dooralong for the first time.

Outside the polling station in our little one teacher school, we were surprised to find Vi Penny representing the National Party. She was the only person distributing how-to-vote papers. We politely took her offering inside where Neville marked off our names and blessed us with a knowing smile. I was a farmer and automatically one of their tribe.

Unusually that evening Neville phoned.
“I’ve just opened a nice Shiraz. Would you like a drink?”
October was cold that year, so we settled in front of his log fire with our drinks. He always was a man of few words, his wife Ruth making up for his lack, but that night he was even less talkative. After whatever time it took to drink one glass, he refilled both to cement me in place and then got around to what was worrying him.

“Interesting tally.”
“Why’s that?”
“You won’t believe this,” he confided, leaning forward, presumably so his wife couldn’t hear whatever scandal he was about to disclose.
I took his cue and looked around too. Noises from the kitchen confirmed her whereabouts and it was safe to continue.

“You won’t believe this,” he repeated, in tones of absolute wonder and disbelief.
“Two people voted labor!”
I was tempted, but I promise you, I leant closer with the expression of gravity such a situation demanded.
“Really!” I exclaimed, shocked. “I wonder who that could have been!”

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Thank you for pissing me off!

Scene: Out on the scooter, dropping Greens information pamphlets into letter boxes, yesterday.

I see a cranky faced crusty old bloke, spraying Roundup on weeds growing through his cobbled driveway, so I buzz up beside him.

“G’day mate, don’t spray me, I’m not a weed, I’m only a Green.”

“Wadda ya want!” It isn’t a question, it’s a challenge.

“I stopped to give you some information on your Green candidates for next Saturday’s election.” (hold out pamphlet), “So you can put faces to the names.” (smile).

(shouts) “NO THANKS!”

“I’m glad you said that.” (still smiling... he couldn’t resist).

“Wadda ya mean?” This was a real question. I had him.

“Well, you know the big parties are funded by big business and big labour?” (he nods) “But see these pamphlets, I have to pay for these myself.”

He is now looking interested, so I continue. “So if you have no intention of ever reading it, I’m glad you told me so I don’t waste my money.”

With that, I put it back in the bag and rode off, rehearsing my little speech.
I did get to use it again later on another dyed-in-the-wool Conservative. Go the Greens!

Pic cocurtesy: norcalblogs.com

Monday, 16 August 2010

Climate Change

IXL, union hater and ex-entrepreneur, stayed over yesterday. That guaranteed lively political debate with me, ex-unionist and 'champion' of workers' rights.

She is upset that Rudd was toppled when the party doubted he could win a second term. That the party elected Julia Gillard to replace him in that way upset a lot of people, not least the Opposition who probably saw him as easier to beat.

So what was debated over breakfast?

IXL is so upset with Gillard, she will vote Green but place the Conservatives ahead of labor as her second preference.

I say, I would rather a Labor government under Gillard than Conservatives under Abbott based on policies, including discrimination against women and homosexuals, being against regulating the big polluters or consider Cap and Trade carbon reduction legislation.

So, whether you usually vote Lab or Lib or Green, maybe this time we need to ignore media sensationalism and read up on what each party intends to do about the dire and urgent problem of climate change.

Discalimer: As you may have guessed, at least this time around, I am supporting the Greens and for the first time in my life, will be manning a booth, handing out voting info. I am that concerned.

Christine Milne

While climate is warming the deeps
And Libs follow Tony like sheeps.
Vote Green: Milne and Brown,
Keep the temperature down,
Before we go under for keeps!

PS. While looking for a solar array pic, I found that Ford Motor Company is building a solar array to support their development of electric cars.

PPS. Greens are short a few brave volunteers to man all polling booths in Fairfax. Fairfax stretches from Maroochydiore to near Noosa, and out to Nambour and up to Eumundi. So if you would like to help, e-mail me and I will pass you on to Helen who is organising the bodies. XX

Friday, 13 August 2010

(sing along 2) Willow weep for me.

Willow, dear,
Your prompts, I fear
Have gone beyond a joke.

Reminders here
Bring on a tear
For any age-ing bloke.

Every prompt,
For weeks were swamped,
With leaky, wet suggestion.

And waterers,
Old pipes for our attention.

‘But not your bed’,
She smugly said:
‘That’s not a wat’ry riddle!’

“Oh yes!” I cry,
“It’s empty. Why?”
“I'd gone to have a piddle!”

Prompted again by Magpie Tales

(sing along) "Ev'ry thing old i-s ne-ew a-gain!"

Old water works.

Crusty, dusty, old and rusty,
Not a happy state.
Fusty, musty not so trusty,
Past its use-by-date.

Built to last in ages past,
From iron, zinc and tin,
Now displaced by PVC
And polyethelene.

(But) if recycling's to your liking,
Send it round again,
It comes back, a Cadillac,
Made in two-o-ten.

Prompted by Magpie Tales

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Australian Election 2010.

How to vote.

Julia Gillard and Labor’s hit squad,
Left a big gap without Rudd, the poor sod.
So put in that vacuum
Our Cath-o-lic backroom.
Vote Abbott and Bishop, get Pell, Pope and God!

Note: Scaremongering.

As a passionate and frustrated environmentalist, I offer just two thoughts to my Aussie mates.

1. The facts on the environment are in. (Frost, Garneau et al). It is dire and it is urgent. The media seems more interested in the 'length of Julia Gillard's ear lobes' than floods, famine and dying oceans. You and I know what must be done and it can't be started sooner! :-)

2. If you are afraid Greens in Parliament will be too extreme, remember they have five seats in the Senate and even if they get another two, they can be voted down by any Lib/Lab combination with over sixty seats between them!

Friday, 6 August 2010



Left to rust among the creepers,
My old spout no longer needed.
More ornamental than useful
In this automated world.

Prompted by Magpie Tales.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Day in the life of a WHO activist.

So tell me, what year were you born?
I was born in 1924, two years before they opened the new power station at Bunnerong.

I see. Now, do you remember where you lived as a child? What sort of house you lived in?
Yes, I remember Dad building it when I was about four, but it wasn’t finished for almost ten years.

So, he was building it as you grew up. What was it made from? Do you remember that?
Yes, he used old timber from the Tempe tip and Fibro. It had a tin roof.

Asbestos cladding?
Yes. He had a special Fibro cutter, but he sometimes hammered the edges to make them fit.

Do you remember breathing any of the dust?
I remember what it smelt like, a sort of a wet cementy smell.

OK, so did you grow up there?
Yes, we grew up there, swam in the Cook’s River as kids, fished and made canoes out of old corrugated iron and …

OK, so was that in Marrickville, near the Tempe tip?
No, we lived in Earlwood, just up river from the tip and across from Marrickville Golf Course. I remember it being built. That was in 1941, the year I had my tonsils out. They said it was infection from the river.

Tonsils out. OK, so did you stay in that house long?
I moved out after I left school, but Mum had to sell up when Dad died from lung cancer about the time of the first Maralinga tests in 1955.

Yes, probably, but they said it was lung cancer. Mum couldn’t get compensation.

OK, so when did you first start having kidney problems?
That would have been about the time we built Vales Point, 1964.

You worked at the power station?
Yes, I started at Wangi as a stoker, but they needed more and built Vales Point then Liddell then Munmorah and Wallerawang. Eraring and Bayswater were the biggest. All coal fired.

So what did you do there?
Most of the time I was in the coal yard driving a loader. They sprayed the heaps but the dust still got through.

I see, and did you smoke?
Yes, we all smoked then, but I quit the year the Torrey Canyon ran aground in 1967.

OK, now when did you first have difficulty passing urine?
It started at the time of the first oil shock, 1979.

Right, and when did you have the kidney out?
Later that year, same week as Three Mile Island. 1979.

So you started dialysis then?
No, not right away, the other kidney hung on until the Chernobyl meltdown, 1986

OK, so when was your prostate cancer diagnosis exactly?
I had a normal range PSA reading about the time the Ozone Treaty was signed in 1989, but a bad one when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. That was 1989 too. Then I had it out at the start of the first Gulf war, just as Saddam set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells in 1990.

So how did it go?
What the war?

No, the op.
Not good. I lost my erection.

But you were already over sixty-five by then!
So? Do you think it all stops when you retire? Good heavens man! That was the best time for sex. No pregnancies, plenty of time, no kids around. We miss it more than anything!

Is that still a problem? We could prescribe Viagra.
Four tablets a hundred bucks? That’s over fifty bucks a week! Mate, we’re on the pension!

So you have sex twice a week?
I wish. Used to; we always had great sex.

OK, OK. So tell me. What about the incontinence?
That’s a lot of fun too. Ha ha! I got out of diapers when Kyoto was signed in 1997. It looked good for a while, but I started to leak again after Copenhagen in 2009.

Right. So when did the first secondaries show up?
The headaches started at the time the oil rig fire off the W A coast. That was later in 2009.

OK, so how did the chemo go?
No good. Began the day the Gulf spill started and stopped the day it was capped but it was all too late. Accumulated damage… No chance of a full recovery now.

So do you want the surgery? We can fix it for a while, but there will be more events and of course in the end…

I know. The old body can only take so much. No, I think I’ve had enough. I’ll just take the morphine and go.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Dunny Tax

A few years back, hundreds were poisoned and one person died from polluted oysters at Forster NSW. The most likely cause was a sewage truck illegally dumping its load into the river, upstream of the oyster beds, to avoid paying dumping fees.
Although it could not be supported by evidence, many municipal councils saw that tragic event as an opportunity to blame on-site sewage disposal and impose a substantial operating fee on all existing systems.

Shortly before that event, streams that supplied drinking water to our local towns had been tested for pollution. No pollution was detected, indicating a likelihood farmers along the stream were maintaining their systems well.

This ‘bush ballad’ was my response. It was widely distributed at the time and is credited with being a factor in the substantial official back-down that followed.

To give my American friends a fighting chance to understand the vernacular, a few common Aussie terms are explained.

Dunny = Outhouse
Bloke = Aussie man
‘Roos = Kangaroos.
Arse = Rectum
Poo, poop, turd = Faeces.
Few bob = Vary small amount of money, literally a few shilling or 10c coins.
Mates = Close friends, here suggesting a modicum of corruption.


Word has gone out to the farms and the spreads,
That our local council got into its head
The notion that all the old WC’s
Must have a license to work properly.

What good this will do is anyone’s guess!
A license won’t add or subtract from the mess
Which doesn’t appear to exist they’ve admitted
But it will raise more taxes, for that it’s well fitted!

It seems that the water that flows from my farm
Must carry nutrients, and cause alarm
To an expert in town (pulling really big money),
Who must find a culprit, and points to my dunny!

Now, I’ve thought about this for quite a few days
And found it’s not quite like the city bloke says.
Most of the nutrients dumped on my ground
Are from natural causes. Here’s what I found.

The family weighs in with a kilo of faeces
Per day, give or take a few bits and paeces.
The horses and cows, thirty five in the herd,
Donate half a tonne of choice urine and turd.

The birds of the bush and the grass and the sky
Dump fifty kilos a day from on high.
Then wallabies, ‘roos and the bandicoots too
They all do their bit, with mounds of fresh poo.

Now with a shovel, I find under the grass
Millions of worms, and each has an arse
At one end, which leaves in its wake
A trail of fresh poop, each a gram, give or take.

And then with a microscope what is revealed?
Billions and billions of critters concealed.
And what do I find as I spy on their functions?
That they all eat and shit, each the tiniest fraction.

But added together, I can’t fudge the figures,
The microbes are champs with a total that’s bigger
Than all of the animals, birds, worms and lizards.
Hundreds of tons a day pass through their gizzards.

Now the math is quite simple, it seems that the fraction
Of the total excreta from bowel contraction
Produced by the humans in this residence,
Is one hundred thousandth of half a percent!

And now that the figures have all been digested
And all the bull shit has been tested and rested,
The reason the council wants my last few bob,
Is to keep all their bureaucrat mates in a job!