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 ( 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 ...