Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Getting Here

The Journey Out

I arrived safely, and that is all that matters. 'uge trips like this all have their own brand of annoyingness (babies crying, Chinese sniffing, an attack of the runs). The annoying thing about THIS particliar trip is that none of these sorts of irritating things happened and I spent an awful lot of the time WAITING for something to happen, but it didn't! How annoying is THAT?

Smooth connections all the way, just as DJ had planned. the one teency 'glitch' was that the hotel at Shanghai was much closer to the city than the airport, so a much longer trip than envisaged, especially after an initial trip to the OTHER Hotel Baolong Homelike Hotel deep on the heart of Downtown Shanghai. [We had been assured that this establishment was "a bee's dick from the airport". I cannot envisage a bee of the required proportions necessary to fill these dimensions.]. A good 40 minute flog to the airport next morning in very light Sunday traffic was necessary, even from the RIGHT Baolong Homelike Hotel.

Oh yes, one annoying thing (my own fault, really) is that I was not expecting a stop-by at Beijing once the plane's wheels left the Tarmac at Shanghai. My heart leapt on takeoff that the plane was not full! Over there was an empty window seat! Next to me we're TWO empty places! Whoopsy-doo! One slightly unfathomable indicator -- one that my heart would not acknowledge -- was that the monitor indicated "One hour 40 minutes to destination". "Technical glitch", my heart said. Bloody Air China! I forgive youse!

It was as the engines of the plane started roaring, the wheels were lowered, and the "Fasten seat belts" sign came onto the monitor in perfect Chinese character script that I knew that the jig was up. One and one half hours, and a couple of customs strip-searches later I was back in the air, in an aisle seat (I love window seats), but with the spare seat still intact on my right I, and quite a few more passengers were hurtling through the stratosphere to our destination - Paris. [Well, at least that is where I ASSUME all these other people were headed ...]

Yes, all has progressed very nicely so far. No Internet connection so far, but it gives me a chance to get this blog up and going. It is 3:20am as I write this. I dutifully set the alarum bell on this iPhone, but singularly forgot to check the time setting and it didn't automatically adjust, as I had anticipated. I was awoken from deep slumber about two hours after drifting off, at 6:00 bloody SHANGHAI time!

What was that I said about no incidents to date?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Collingwood 2011!

Well, here we go again! Collingwood in another Grand Final ("Granny"). Though determined not to get 'carried away' by the enormity of their making it to a second consecutive Granny, I can feel the old feelings of anticipation welling up inside me again! No, I REALLY AM trying. But what if they can pull it off again? Last week's knockout against Hawthorn nearly didn't see me make it this far into Grand Final Week (it's Thursday afternoon as I write). To win by three points after a goal to Hawthorn 6 minutes out from the siren that put them 3 points in front was too much for a Magpie, let alone a koala to bear! But we made it. WE MADE IT! Dear Jude had gone to bed. All too much for her - NOT GOOD ENOUGH, DEAR JUDE! So here we are - pregnant with anticipation. Will the Catters run all over us (like last time we met)? Will the Mighty Maggies overcome injuries to key players? Has our beloved Mick Malthouse (coach) been foxing and trying to lull the Catters into a false sense of security? The more I think of it, the more I believe this latter scenario. He's a cagey one, Old Mick. What did it matter that Geelong thrashed us in the last game of the home-and-away season? We stuck with them to quarter time - ample opportunity for Mick to give our players the confidence to know that they could take the Cats IF THEY WANTED TO! Why risk more injury? There's nothing to lose and plenty to gain by taking things easy for the last three quarters and anyway, won't that give Mick a chance to see what plan the Cats might have for dealing with the Magpie Team of Fantastic CHAMPIONS? OOPsies! I think I might just have broken my steely resolve not to get too involved this year. After all, it's only a game. The sun will rise again on Sunday if we don't get over the line, won't it? [Yes, but it will be a really gloomy sun ...]. Still, I can't wait to see the selected team tonight. Ben Reid should be OK, but the big ruckman Darren Jolly is a bit of a worry, though maybe this is all part of the BIG PLAN too ... I'll be watching The Marngrook Footy Show on ABC2 at 7:30 tonight. That's what I'll be doing. Best show on television. There's a rooly good letter in the Age Green Guide last week that recommends watching this one, and I'M GOING TO WATCH IT! GO PIES!

Present Tense for Historians

Have you noticed how, in recent times, historians describe sequences of historical events using the present tense? This I find to be moderately, if not quite, annoying. The present tense is used to identify events taking place at the current moment. The phrase "I am blogging" identifies the activity in which I am presently engaged. It is happening now; viz. as I write. Events that happened in the past, HAPPENED. I'll give you some examples, so that we are 'on the same page'. A former colleague of mine, Bill Robbins - historian of the early Australian convict era - used the present tense ALL THE TIME when describing past events. Here is an example: When speaking about the actions of Governor Macquarie, Bill [very sadly, Bill passed away a couple of years ago] would espouse "Seeing that the convicts working in the sawmill were becoming unruly, Governor Macquarie decides to place restrictions on their right to fraternise." [Of course these aren't Bill's exact words. It is merely an EXAMPLE of what he MIGHT have said.] Get the picture? Bill is talking about something that happened quite some time ago, but he spoke using the PRESENT tense: "decides". See? Bill COULD have said: "... Governor Macquarie decided to place restrictions...". Bill was not the only offender. As a regular listener to ABC's Radio National, it is all too common to hear this quirky way of referring to past events by presenters. I suppose it does orient the listener to the contemporary moment when decisions were being made. It is all too easy for today's consumers of historical descriptions to assume away the fact that decisions were made and that the consequences of those decisions are now etched into the historical fabric. The alternative options, along with their consequences, have disappeared from the record. [In fact, alternative courses of action were never part of the record, by definition]. "Macquarie decides ..." actually puts the listener (reader?) into the frame of the decision-maker. It does engage one in the act of making a decision from the range of possibilities available. While this trend in historical recollection is mildly irritating, it does bring the subject to life. Maybe I should build a bridge - and jolly-well get over it! I was fond of Bill and I did enjoyed his presentations on convict life in early Sydney Town. ... and I do enjoy ABC's Radio National. Just thought I'd get this off my chest ...


I've been at it for nearly three years now, so I should be well accustomed to the new status. "Retired" - that's the label under which I operate now. Not 'teacher', or 'academic' any more. Simply "retired". It takes some getting-used -to, I can tell you! Here's how it happened: Universities had been doing it tough in the years running up to my date of departure. The Aussie Dollar had been surging ahead of the currency pack and there had been some bad news in Melbourne relating to students of Indian appearance copping some inappropriate attention from some of the local youth. The upshot resulted in a sudden diminution of foreign, full-fee-paying students at Australian universities. Charles Sturt University was particularly hard hit, having to scale back its operations in Malaysia and China. It seems that some home-grown education product had diluted the need for students there to study overseas. With the dive in foreign income, the decision had been made to offer voluntary separation packages to all staff in the Faculty of Business. As with all impending restructures, the possibility of loss of one's job gives rise to immediate feelings of anguish and consternation. Such was my initial reaction when the changes were announced. But just a minute. Hang on! Wasn't I already 58 years old? Wasn't I approaching an age when one retires? Didn't many of my older chums retire at 58 years or thereabouts? Some swift calculations based on the payout formula, especially given the generous taxation treatment meant that I could leave with in excess of two years' worth of salary! That was more generous than the only other separation package offered by CSU and one that would not ever be repeated in the near future. Didn't my own father die at the age of 55 years with precisely zero days of retirement to enjoy? The signs were clear and pointed to only one decision that could be made: DO IT! The news of the package came in about late October/early November in 2008 and I was 'out of there' by the end of December. I like to joke that 'the words (of offer) weren't out of the mouths' of the administration team before my hand went up to accept the package. I was off. Free. So what to do? When people asked this question, I tried a number of responses: "Nothing, get over it." "Anything I like - or nothing." "Maybe another job. Maybe nothing." You see, everyone retires sooner or later. That's what happens. Unless you die (like my Dad). Now that I've had time to consider the question, it seems to me that no one really thinks about it while they are up to their eyeballs in the everyday routine of work. When I ask friends and relatives whether they have considered retiring, the most common response is for them to state that they couldn't imagine not working. What would they do with themselves? They'll be working till they are 70, they say ... It was easy for me, I suppose. No time to think about it. Great package (pull factor), no regrets about leaving CSU (push factor). VERY few people I'll miss (though still one or two). Time to go. I'm outa there! So what's happened since? The first great thing was the trip to France. This took place over April, May and June of 2009. Three months in France. Seven locations in all, with a minimum of one week living in apartments located all around that wonderful country. For more details on this adventure, refer to the Rambling Roses blog (http://graemejude.blogspot.com) attached. The other great thing that has happened is the donning of the Lycra, the purchase of the 'road' bicycle (as distinct from a 'dirt' bike or 'city' bike) and the regular ride with 'The Boys' on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There will be more postings on this 'bunch' in the future, but needless to say these rides constitute welcome punctuation points to the week. With new chums from a wide range of backgrounds, I am happy to identify myself as a "MAMIL" - a Middle-Aged Man In Lycra. In between times I am happy to identify myself as the 'wife'. This is the person who looks after the needs - ALL the needs - of the person in the family who troops off to work each day. That person in our family is Dear Jude (DJ). I have made it abundantly clear that she doesn't have to work if she doesn't want to. She can join me in retirement any time she likes. But she isn't ready just yet, she tells me. She couldn't imagine not working ... What would she do with herself ...? She'll be working till she's 70 (or at least 60), she tells me ... So what of retirement? Overall, it's great. There are still a few hankerings for more intellectual stimulation. After all, I only just qualified as a researcher in 2004 and in many ways I feel that I am 'all dressed up and nowhere to go'. It would be good to get my teeth stuck into a little research project or two. I have marked a few theses from CSU and the University of Newcastle, but these experiences have only whet my appetite for more academic 'grunt'. It would be nice, but there have to be some downside to this newly-acquired status. There are endless opportunities, including a search for a property to call our own in the Dordogne area of south-west France. More of that in a later blog, I'll be bound ...

Thursday, June 23, 2011


It is an amazing ride, being a Collingwood supporter. It is a roller-coaster (Scenic Railway? Big Dipper?). Here is a little experience that highlights this fact.

On one Saturday in 2010 I found myself in the company of Dear Jude (DJ) and Ally on the way to Brisbane from Kingsford-Smith airport. [Don't ask why. We just WERE!]. It was the morning of the drawn Grand Final, but we did not know the outcome at that stage. I had brought Steph's Collingwood scarf and DJ suggested I put it on as we entered the airport. I did, and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Now I am not one to wear trappings of any description. I do not wear jewellery or message t-shirts. I certainly do not like to adorn myself with symbols of corporations, schools or universities with which I have been associated. My first task, on receipt of a newly-acquired motor vehicle, is to scrape/dissolve the sticker off the back window declaiming the business of its origin. But here I was, on Grand Final Day, with Steph's scarf in my bag, at Sydney Airport. I put it on while in the queue through security.

The first incident invoved the security chap ordering that the Collingwood scarf be placed in a tray for scanning. This did not happen, but I put it into a tray anyhow, pretending that such an article was as offensive to many as any sexist or racist material. Sadly, the security chap was of Asian appearance and did not fully comprehend the levels of hilarity I had just attained. Not to worry, I had a good old chuckle to myself.

Having caught up with the girls on the 'other side' of security, we made our way to the cafe for a coffee. Here we sat near a little family just back from 6 weeks overseas, the most recent stop Canada. On spying the scarf, the little NSW-dwelling family (and therefore not expected to have any feeling for sport other than some form of rugby) launched into many and various reasons why Collingwood could/should not win the 'Grandy'. This marks an enormous change from the attitudes of little more than a decade ago when similarly geographically located dwellers would not have given discussion of Australia's own football game the time of day. Yet here they were rabbiting on about how St Kilda was going to chew Collingwood's eyes out and other sorts of invective.

The third 'rise' I got that day about Collingwood came when we were sitting in the departure lounge waiting to take off for Sydney on our holiday. A 50-something lady also sporting a Collingwood scarf struck up a conversation with me on the subject of support for the Magpies. She was capital P "Passionate". She loved all the players, reeling their names off one by one and extolling their individual skills and virtues. But just a minute. Isn't that a North London accent I am hearing? A STRONG North London accent? YES! How can a middle-aged lady such as the one before me have such a strong feeling for Collingwood? I asked her about it. It seems that she was about to retire after a long career as a palliative care nurse. She had looked after an aged chap for a number of years who had been born, raised, and employed in the suburb of Collingwood. He was passionate too and in his last years had been cared for by this lady. She told me of conversations she had had with this chap as to what was to happen after death. He asked her what was to become of his love of Collingwood and she told him that she would take it up on his behalf after he had 'moved on'. And she had. And there she was getting out of Melbourne to watch the Grand Final between Collingwood and St Kilda on TV WITHOUT INTERRUPTION just as we were.

Collingwood went on to draw with St Kilda that day and won easily in the replay the following Saturday. I had been moved to tears with the nurse's story. She was returning to Britain after a number of years resident in Australia. I wondered if she would maintain her support for Collingwood from over there. I bet she does. As I do. There is no accounting for support for a football team. It gets under your skin. As I head off to a match (which happens seldom these days) I make myself determined not to get 'carried away'. Before too long I am hollering along with the best of those around me. Urging them on. WILLING them to win. GO PIES!

Carlton to Wangaratta

We came here to Wangaratta, Dear Jude and I, in 1982, having decided that it would be better to raise kids in the "country" and that the city was not the place to do it. I had spent my early career years - 9 of them - teaching at Princes Hill High School (PHHS in North Carlton, Melbourne Australia). I did not wish to transfer to another inner city school, so when a vacancy was advertised at Wangaratta for a Legal Studies teacher, Dear Jude and I looked at each other with shining, excited faces and popped in an application.

Yippeeeee! We snagged it! We had been married the year before and were living in short-term digs rented from a friend of the Molloy family in Kew and were all set for a transfer up north.

PHHS was an innovative school in terms of curriculum and student welfare and I had had a wonderful introduction to teaching in this exciting learning environment. We were led to believe that the student population comprised over 60% of students whose parents were first arrivals from a multitude of countries. Many students arrived 'straight off the boat' and had little in the way of English skills. Of the remaining 40% or so, half of these students lived in single parent and low income families and the remainder were the offspring of local intelligentsia devoted to public school education. The operation of the school proceeded on largely democratic lines and the young staff population was dedicated to progressive education. Opinions were listened to carefully, ideas sifted for chaff and grain ideas and the best of these were implemented. Above all, though, everyone's ideas were valued.

Now I KNEW that Wangaratta was going to be conservative, but I wasn't prepared for the climate of the school culture that I walked into on that day in early 1983 full of zest and vigour for the task ahead of me. It didn't take long to discover that the school culture hadn't changed since my own days as a student at Macleod High School. It was as though a huge perspex lid had been clamped over the school in 1961 (my first year at MHS), and that NOT ONE THING had changed inside that rarefied atmosphere despite all the major events that had bedeviled the universe since then. Not the Vietnam War, not the assassination of JFK, not the election and sacking of Gough Whitlam, not major overhauling of the Victorian Education system. NOTHING!

Got an opinion, Young Rose? Keep it to yourself. We like to hear opinions, but only if you hold the rank at least Senior Teacher, but even then only if you have been at the school since 1961. And do not even THINK of applying for a position of responsibility within the school (such as assistant to the Year 9 coordinator) until you have been with us for 5 years. Curriculum innovation? What's 'curriculum innovation'? As long as you can keep your class quiet, we don't really care what happens inside your room. Do what you like.

School uniform at WHS was enforced rigidly and it became apparent that this was the foundation of all of the Discipline Policy. Whereas the staff at PHHS had passed a motion in its Staff Association that teachers '... would no longer enforce the wearing of school uniform' (and as a result uniform had been abandoned around 1986). It seemed to work like this at WHS: We will make students wear the uniform and shall treat any breach as if World War III had broken out. Odd sock? Hair a bit long? Desert boots? - OFF WITH THAT STUDENT'S HEAD! No need to worry about higher order problems with students such as talking back to students and other forms of insubordination, head the problem off at the pass. Focus on uniform, the rest will follow. And it did!

As with any other group of colleagues, I had my pals, and some very good and close ones as well. But they were all, in the main, very very conservative. Here's an example: Many of my fellow staff members were smokers. In most, if not all, of my years at WHS I moved a motion in the Staff Association for a ban on smoking in the staff room. This motion failed to win a majority of votes on every single occasion!

School Prefects, school song, house songs, school fetes (held on school days), uniform, the lot. I found it hugely disconcerting to find myself back in the 1960s. What had I DONE? It wasn't just the school, it was the whole town. Where was the richness of the ever-present migrant population of Carlton? It seemed to me that the most recent wave of migrants to Wangaratta was the Scots in the 1860s. Where were the John Lacorcias? Where was Tullio? Where was George Katsakis? With their heavy Italian/Chinese/Turkish/Greek accents?

Of course there were the advantages. PHHS occupied probably the smallest patch of dirt within the whole of the Victorian Education Department - no more than 3/4 of an acre. WHS, on the other hand was probably one of the biggest, with almost 2 acres for its students to frolic on at lunch and recess times. One could concentrate on ways of keeping one's class quiet, rather than wondering how things could be improved curriculum- and learning-wise. I had become quite adept at riot-control at PHHS, but now I had classes of kids who were LISTENING to what I had to say! I had to learn how to TEACH these people! I had to begin my teacher training ALL OVER AGAIN!

It must be said that things are quite different at WHS nowadays. A succession of latter-day principals (including Dear Jude) have pried the perspex lid off the school and the refreshing winds of educational change have been allowed to waft through the system and allowed change to take its course. It is not an easy task creating a vibrant, effective, exciting learning environment and the struggle continues. Moving to a system of merit as a basis for influence and promotion (and away from a system based on staff seniority) is but one of the many changes that have been wrought at the school. WHS is moving ahead, as PHHS is, no doubt. Without me and on their own.

I was reminded of the splashing hand in the bucket and how the water gets back to its own level when the hand is removed when I returned to WHS some years after I left for a visit. I spoke to a group of the 'old stagers' over in a corner of the staff room and asked them if anyone had missed me since my departure. "Don't you teach here any more?", queried one of the chaps ...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Haute Waldara?

That's the thing, you see, Haute Waldara simply does not exist. Leastsways not in any GoogleMap or street directory. There IS a "Waldara". There IS a "Waldara Drive". That's where we live. Number 50 - 500 meters from the main drag from Wangaratta to Yarrawonga. Our joint is reached along this street beside the golf course up a little rise about half-way along. And that's how ti got its name: "Waldara Upper" or, as the French would have it: "Haute Waldara". So Haute Waldara it is!

The name of this blog is thus: "A View from Haute Waldara". Not THE view from Haute Waldara, as that would presume that all residents of this little space share identical views of the world. I couldn't believe, for example, that Mal and Brenda over the road share my devotion to the performances of the Collingwood Football club, nor that Jack and Joyce Marshall next door love riding on trains through Europe as much as I do. One could NEVER presume either that Dear Jude, who shares the abode at number 50 also shares the same attitude towards neatness in and around the home as I do (Dear Jude is MUCH MORE fastidious than I could ever be!).

So there you have it. Here is the genus of the blog that I have intended to begin for you for a long, long time. This is the VERY FIRST posting. It will not be the last. There will be some rules, and the first is that EVERYONE is a winner in this blog. There will be NO nastiness directed at ANYONE. IF a person believes that he or she is slighted in any way en that person should contact the writer IMMEDIATELY and let him (ie me) know and steps will be taken to have the offensive material removed AT ONCE. IMMEDIATELY - if not, sooner.

The second rule is that the opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They are the views of Graeme Charles Rose, AKA Groombles, Grugs, Groom-Choom, Papa, Paps-the-Dups, G. Charles Rose and "Gr'" (This last is difficult to write, but is best described as the "gr" sound, followed by an "e", or short "er" sound.)

The number of topics to be addressed is innumerable. No subject is off limits. The range of styles to be employed are also cfar too many to mention. There will be pathos, bathos and emotions in between. You will hear echoes of Enid Blyton, Peter Vaughan (my best friend at CSU), John Cleese, Ron Barassi, Judith Leslie Molloy, Miss Buntine (my first ever prep school teacher) and Kim Langfield-Smith (my professor from Monash University). These, and many many more have influenced my thinking and my very being.

That's enough of the introductions! LET THE BLOGGING BEGIN!