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!