Shocking scenes from the modern world

The theme of these photos from across the globe is common. Why? Am I alone in being alarmed?

These photographs are images collected today. Will they be worse tomorrow.

Photo courtesy ABC Australia
Courtesy BBC
Courtesy BBC
Courtesy BBC
Courtesy BBC

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In the crowd

Courtesy St John’s Church of England

Can you read about the life of a person by looking at their face? When you sit in a public space and you look about do you wonder who the people around you are? I do, and I search their faces to see what I can make of them from looking. None seem to notice my inquiry. The odds are if they are sitting they will not be doing anything else but looking into the screen of their phone. If they are on their feet they may be on some purposeful mission but many will be blissfully unaware others share the space with them.

In 1888 the child who became my grandfather was born. The rumour is he was born into the home of a public servant in the municipality Governor Phillip first called Rose Hill. By the time he was born it was called Parramatta. His parents names are an unanswered question to the family. Some members of the family have attempted to research his past but no one can yet claim certainty they have the whole truth for he was abducted as a child.

His abductor was the woman he grew to love and whom he called mum for about a third of his life. She was his nurse until she stole him away from his family home and disappeared into the neighbouring state of Victoria. She eventually settled with him in the forests of Gippsland. I am uncertain when she left New South Wales and whether she was married or not. Mrs Hartman was indeed married at some point to Mr Hartman. She continued to work in service to other families and Grandpa worked as a timber worker in the forests around Woori Yallock. The work he did in the isolated forests was to cut down trees. The timber he cut became railway sleepers used on the rail tracks that spider-web like spread across the state from Melbourne

Eventually she became a legitimate mother to other children but she was not my grandfather’s natural mother. I know this because he eventually changed his surname back to the name of his father. The truth emerged when he announced, to his parents, he was getting married. His mother confessed to him his past was not all he knew about himself when the Banns to his marriage was announced.

A fit young man, because of his work, he won the first underhand wood chop at the Royal Melbourne Show as Alex Hartman. He won many more magnificently ornate pieces of Victorian silverware in other similar competitors. By the time his firstborn child, Evelyn my mother, was christened as Hartman-Mason, he was entirely uncertain of his past. Known to everyone as Alex he had also recognised he was born James Fredrick Mason. He fathered seven more children and by the time the last, the twins, were born he had dropped the Hartman altogether. My mother, on the other hand was Hartman-Mason until she married. At that stage her wedding certificate named her Mason.

The life of a labourer is difficult. Like many of his kind during the Great Depression this fit man, just past his fortieth birthday, could not find work locally. It meant leaving home early on a Monday morning with something to sustain him and rough sleeping each evening after an often fruitless search for am itinerant job. By that stage he had qualified as a power monkey as the person in charge of blasting with explosives. This meant he did get a job, for a period, working on the Great Ocean Road at some stage.

Later on he returned to full time work in that job at the Cave Hill lime mills owned by the family of David Mitchell. Father of Nellie Melba.

Despite his hard physical labour he was a man who weathered the ups and downs of fortune. One of the downs was the compulsory acquisition of some land he owned near the road to Lilydale. Government policy at the time was to acquire whatever property they needed without paying the actual market rate. Thus the acquisition was a big blow to his financial security.

At another time land he had purchased for development was sold before it was exploited to assist a son, imprisoned in Bruma by the Japanese for three years during WW11, resettle on a Returned Soldiers Property in the Mallee. This was a further setback that he did not dwell upon.

The old man I knew as a child taught himself to swim in order to qualify as the local swimming pool manager. He built himself a shed. He pottered about with bees and chickens. He loved the twice daily paper and magazines deliveries. He was a big strong man used to his own company until he was hospitalised with a brain tumour in the last weeks of his life.

At one stage, many years after his abduction, he did get in touch with his Sydney family. Their response was, a child was abducted many years ago, however we don’t want to know you because you could be an imposter. With modern science it would be possible to easily prove my relationship with the other family today. I could not be bothered. No one in the extended family has an inclination to restart that search today. We all prefer to remember this tragic story as an interesting anecdote in the life of a relative.

He died on 3/9/1965. Today a stained glass window in St John’s church Lilydale is dedicated to the lives of both my maternal grandparents.

The person sitting beside you on the train. The one you see at the bus stop. The noisy person next door – has a life with a history. Mostly it will be mundane. The colour of a life is not always easily seen. To discover the interesting roles another plays allows you to appreciate the unseen life.

Reference wpbsa.com

I am in unfamiliar water. If you are reading this then you are probably a blogger and you may understand. Perhaps you have had the same compulsion as me, and got up out of bed in the middle of the night and started to write. This is what I am doing now and I am unfamiliar with this urge.

My sleepless mind is urging me to begin. I liken what is happening to the desire my mother had at this time of the year. When she was making more than one Christmas cake. She cooked them slowly. That meant she would go to bed and would jump out in the middle of the night to pull a cake out of the oven when everyone was asleep. Perhaps it reminds me of being called from bed by a crying child who was weeping in fright. Perhaps the child was in pain but the little soul would not drop of to sleep again without a reassuring pat from a parent.

I do not know why this urge compels me to write tonight because the job of reassuring our children invariably was one I happily delegated to my wife. At any rate I am now well awake and tapping out something that seems quite compelling to me even at this unearthly hour. Hence it may not make sense.

My story is about my brushes with music, and music makers. Brushes is the word I choose but, bump – into, fits better the analogy i have in my mind. I envision telling this set of incidents as a game of billiards, or times in my life I have bumped into folk who have moulded me.. (I don’t play billiards and those childhood games I did play at the Coverdale’s table were brutal. I lost, because too often I left my ball exposed to an easy shot by my opponent. It happened when, where the billiards stopped allowed a good player to score freely.)

Bear with me – what I am proposing is to link the times in my life when I have been with musicians and close to music only to cannon off on some new pursuit, or I moved away and never took up with them again.

Let the game begin.

LAG. To begin. In turn the players hit the white, or the yellow ball, from the back cushion and cannon off the other end and finish nearest the starting point. The first to play is the closest.

Mrs GwenTucker and Mrs Elsie McAlpine were trained opera singers. Soprano voices of great depth and clarity allowed them to sing the ancient hymnal with ease. They were able to sight read the music as easily as the organist and they formed the basis of our choir. The ancient Fincher pipe organ was donated to the Church fifty years before and yet it played as new. I was a junior choirboy. My voice worked best when I sang with John for he found the notes as easily as his mother. I got to enjoy choral music from this simple start although I was marked as a failed pianist by the time I left primary school.

The hymns we sang followed the seasons of the church. The congregation sang along led by the choir everyone reading the chosen words from the hymnal. The music and the hymns were traditional. Nothing we sang was new music. Yet I loved the sound as it vibrated around and through me.

I hadn’t been in the choir long when my future brother-in-law appeared as the new organist. With his keen ear he heard occasional discordant notes so he auditioned every choir member. Without John beside me I was tentative and weak of voice and before I was allowed to sing with them again he gave me some individual lessons. With my piano lessons finishing in naught I was even more hesitant of these. I need not have worried because he could not dismiss any of the volunteers who sang with him.

My love of music for the pipe organ began with him. He took any opportunity he had to demonstrate his mastery of the implement to play Bach, or any of his favourites, when he was at the console.

DIAMONDS. The inlaid geometrical markings on the table the player uses to plan a shot. Billiards depends on skill and an appreciation of geometry. Here is one.

The best part of ignorance is it gives you such a vast ranges of things to learn. Whatever you select to discover – it will help to educate you. The difficulty is it is hard to decide what to do.

In my first weeks at Teachers College I had to decide on an elective subject. I could have chosen anything but I chose the music elective. It was a chance to study music appreciation. A very young Peter Larsen was the lecturer in charge. He loosely based his sessions on a book by Aaron Copeland. Perhaps it was “What to listen for in music.” I no longer remember. What I do remember is the passion he gave to the few of us in his charge.

We could have just wasted our time but he challenged us to grow. Not only did we listen to music he got us to compose pieces as well. At one point he asked us to write a canon. (Think Pachelbels Canon”) He made it a competition. The winner would play their composition at a college assembly (You wish) Each week he would look at what we produced and early on he announced I had produced the best piece to date.

In the end the award went to someone deserving. Fortunately Elaine the girl that won had studied music for seven years. What I got from it was an understanding of the relationship of numbers and patterns we find in music. It licensed me to tell kids. Maths is beautiful.

A teacher never immediately knows the impact they have on a child’s life. How your past catches up can humble you. In the last couple of years out of nowhere I received this uninvited email.

Hi Mr Wxxxxxx

I think you taught me at Carstairs Primary school in the 70’s.

My name then was Ruth O’Brien and your mantra was ‘Maths is beautiful’

NATURAL. (Carom games) A shot with only natural angle and stroke required for successful execution; a simple or easily visualized, and accomplished, scoring opportunity.

The first natural in my world is niece Karen. She has a bell like clarity in her voice. In her first weeks at school Noreen discovered she had such a beautiful sound she used her at every opportunity she could.

Whenever I hear her sing I am moved to tears.

The next voice of equivalent clarity belonged to Peter the Troubled. His voice was as clear that as the young Welch singer Aled Jones. Peter caused me much grief but it was all forgotten when he sang. Our school produced a concert version of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Coat and he was our amazing lead. (Using Facebook I have discovered he is leading a very productive life and this is pleasant news.)

Natural ability at music is the talent of Peter, Alan, and Terry Norman. Both have perfect pitch. Terry was the next brilliant organist into which it was my fortune to bump. Meredith of course helped build discipline into the young piano player who later learned to play the flute so well in our home.

Some people have no trouble with their natural talent yet it is my keenly held prejudice that too many of the smartest people I know (those named excluded) have wasted theirs. That may become a story for another day. The billiards game is over. I had but three points to make and like billiards play finishes with the first person to win the agreed number of points.

1. Thank you for reading my prose. I appreciate your feed back so today, please comment.

2. Would you spend 5 seconds reading adds (while I make money) before you viewed a page link I reference.

3. If you like a billiards story here is a link I found. Someone will be paid.

I have been called, The Weirdy Beary

Edmund Barton, first prime minister of Australia, stood out in the photograph taken of the founders of the federation. He was clean shaven. The other members wore beards. Today it is a matter of preference both men, and women, have a love hate relationship with beards. Naturally occurring on the faces of most men what becomes of it is largely a matter of fashion.

Your fascination with the beard is a matter of when you were born. It also depends on where you were born, and the wealth of the nation into which you started life. Born, as you were, at the beginning of WW11, most able men were enlisted, and later, conscripted into the forces to defend the country. Enlistment meant men gave up much of their independence to the service in which they served. Those enlisted in the army were clean shaven by order. Those in the airforce fielded a moustache – if they were flamboyant enough. The men of the senior service were allowed beards, however few but officers, followed that naval practice.

At that time shavers still preferred to use a cut throat razor because it could be resharpened easily with a leather strop. The safety razor invented nearly one hundred and fifty years before never really caught on until King C Gillette invented the double sided razor in the early 1900s. These blades were disposable, however after a few uses they became dull. Perhaps understandably the privations of war reduced their use during those years. As any shaver will tell you using a blunt razor will give you an unsatisfactory shave.

After the war men generally preferred the practice they had become used to in wartime and in our neck of the woods most were clean shaven. You were through your adolescence before you saw your first full beard. On that occasion the immature face it hid was nowhere near imposing as the Royal face of King George the V whose profile graced many of the coins still in circulation. The curly bristles barely covered the acne on the face below and you were not impressed.

Within a decade you recognised you shared a birth date with Alfred Deakin, (03.08) our second Prime Minister. This man wore a beard and like him you decided shaving was for the birds. You came to this decision slowly – but resolutely. The safety razor was too wasteful, you decided. For a start it was near impossible to use the same blade for a week. (Every cent spent on a razor, was one less you needed to keep your weekly spend within your limited budget, and here was a way to save.) You soon reasoned scraping hairs off your chin with a spent blade only gave you a rash. The electric razors you tried never cut as close as a blade. That meant if you were to shave with an electric razor you were doing it twice a day. This was, in your mind, just ridiculous.

At first you allowed your beard to grow while you were on holidays. You discovered a beard was irritating at first but you persevered and after a week of growth you began to relax about it. After five weeks is seemed such a shame to cut it off but you allowed the mores of your community to dictate how you should look and you cut it off. As soon as you had you were reminded, once again, how uncomfortable it is to shave.

Thirteen weeks later you regrew your facial hair. You allowed the hair on your heard to grow as well. With long hair and a long-standing beard a Russian woman you knew remarked you resembled Rasputin. (It was an undeserved comparison, by the way, as you knew no czarina then, and not even now.)

Over the years your beard has fluctuated in length. It has varied in colour as it has been exposed to the sun, and more remarkably as the snow has settled on your head, it has also descended to your face. It has also been remarked on as being much softer than was first imagined. (That bit still seems a bit off the mark because your hair is straight. It is stiff and unyielding. In fact it would make an excellent shoe brush for muddy boots.)

By the time you entered the corporate world you were unperturbed by what others thought and you were one of the very few in the world of finance, to wear bristles above the company tie. This little no no was so long ago whether it upset people or not is no longer of consequence.

Of course today what you wear and how you wear it is not something one dare mention. If perchance you should be so bold as to comment on the feature of someone before you you will be covered in the confetti of writs that follow such indiscretion, even before dust can settle. The people you meet today are influenced by the label they wear, the social media they follow and those who wear beards with self determination as as rare as Harnaam Kaur. (The media figure teaches us all how to be self accepting – good on her I say.)

No price too high.

You have had lots of pets. Remember how you spent a whole year looking after a dragonfly nymph? It was the easiest pet you could ever own. Put it in water, and watch it grow was about all you had to do. The tadpoles that grew legs and walked away were not much harder to manage. A little trickier were the minnows especially as you had to walk a couple of kilometres to carry home a supply of fresh brackish water. Truly the most troublesome water creature in your life was the axolotl. We never did understand it’s needs.

How well do you remember the bite of the ferrets? It is as easily remembered as the smell of their cage. It is much harder to remember any catch they made when you sent them into a rabbit warren. Possibly because you hadn’t closed off all entrances from which the rabbits found exits.

The first pet you had the sole responsibly for was Dalray. He was a thoroughbred black Labrador. Within his first year he won a ribbon in the Camperdown Agricultural Show. Your lack of dog training skill ensured Dalray was never shown again. The pair of you roamed all over the district instead. You even set rabbit traps together – many decades before they were outlawed for their cruelty to animals.

Life lessons show it is parents that seem to end up looking after their children’s pets. At least that is what happened to yours. And Dalray shuffled off under their care. In our case our children left us to look after Friend. Their tabby cat. As can only happen in families, we also adopted the pet that once lived with another family. And that is how we ended with the other tabby called Pugsley. He and Friend never knew one another but they might well have been twins. They were both oversized lazy boy types that give cats bad headlines.

Of all the things pets gave you, The worst was the unsubstantiated charge from the judicial officer daughter who falsely accuses you of killing them. As the defendant you have to admit this is not a pleasant acquisition. How you defend the charge is to give the pedantic response of the livestock grower.

Like most things the rationale for the response comes from your past. It was the observation of the adults in your life when they had to call the Veterinarian that set your sail. Too often you heard the vet say, we will give this – or that – a go, only to have the animal die, to respond with, “The only way I can be sure what caused its death is to carry out an autopsy. “

“No thank you, says the stoic farmer, I will phone the Knacker.”

A day or so later in the mail the farmer would be faced with a bill the size of a replacement animal.

These deep memories allow you to defend having a beloved pet put down when reason demands it.

These events are regrettable yet they allow an animal to die in dignity without it carrying the burden of it being forever anthropomorphised.

Given your years, the roll call of departed animal companions is long, but none is really forgotten. Not that foxy your grand parents had that would secretly nip you when you least expected it. Or the ancient collie, Laddie, that came into you life with the girl you married. The cross little Scottie Wee Drap that thought it was a Doberman and it would attack dogs five times it’s size until it really did go too far. Even the vet said it was undeserving of a reprieve.

A retirement change to suburban living meant deciding to live without animals, nevertheless you have given in and now you support little creatures once more. That happened, as many things do in your life, when you bought home an orphan lotus plant from The Heights. First you had to buy a water feature to help the plants grow. Then you bought some fish to keep the mosquitoes down. Next, in order for the fish to live you then had to aerate the water. That meant purchasing a pump. Now you have a new round of daily, let alone extra weekly jobs, just to keep them happy. And you can’t even see them in the deep water until they are fed.

Dalray was named after the 1952 winner of the Melbourne Cup

Thanks for reading. Tell me about your pet.