Saturday, May 06, 2017

In A Southern Land with a Northern Heritage

During the first two weeks of May this year 2017 my parents celebrate their 70th birthdays. They have just left from Maitland to spend a week in Wallaroo, on the Yorke Peninsula South Australia.

From time to time they have suggested that someone ought to write down their reminiscences, or more pointedly that I ought to. I guess if I am to do so, then the best place to start is with what I know, namely myself, and then work backwards and forwards from there.


So here goes. Once upon a time .... nah!

Not sure why now but for some reason Donkey Stones were mentioned. Then there was a reference to the Queen, my mum mentioning that she remembers the Queen visiting Ashton Brothers to open a new dye works or something. Which raised the question of how many buildings has the Queen opened which have since been demolished to make way for other buildings?

This led me to do some google searching, to find the following article on Donkey stones:
I was looking for the origin of the name, and why a reference to donkey. Then I got side tracked looking for Donkey Stone Wharf, and instead started to explore Denton on google maps. I was trying to see if it was the river or canal, which I walked along with my dad, when I was around 5 or possibly younger. Seems we walked along both the River Tame and the Peak Forest Canal.

July 1965, Ashton-under-lyne at ashton infirmary, county of Lancaster, is when and where I was born. So lancastrian until they changed the county boundaries, and it became part of Tameside, part of Greater Manchester. In terms of explaining to Australian's where I come from, it's usually easier just to say Manchester than reference specific towns.

When we first arrived in Australia, my mum went to the local department store looking to buy some sheets and blankets, and was told to go to Manchester. To which her flippant remark was something to the effect: that if we had known that before hand we would have brought them with us. Here in South Australia, at least, the bedding department and the bedding is known as manchester.

My mum worked at Ashton Brothers textile mill as a machinist and overlocker, until it was taken over by Courtaulds. I attended the nursery there, before attending St Lawrence's School.

Chronological Markers

When I was born, we first lived at my paternal grandparents house, before moving to Great Norbury street, from there we moved to Strathmore Avenue and I started school. We didn't stay there long and we moved again to Lodge Lane and I changed schools to Flowery Field Infant school and then I moved onto Flowery Field Junior school as it was back then. So I know I was at least 5 when we moved to Strathmore Avenue, and less than 5 at Great Norbury street.

My birthdays then became markers for us moving around. As I had my 9th birthday in Zambia, from which I can surmise I had my 8th birthday at Lodge Lane just before we moved to Maple Grove Bawtry. My 10th birthday was in Australia, my 11th in England and my 12th in Australia. From there I don't have any markers in time, other than my school grades roughly matched the years: so grade 7 in 1977, and grade 12 matriculation year in 1982. By 1977, I was around 12, had lived in 10 houses across 3 countries, not counting my grandparents, and was attending my 11th school.

The map below shows the general travel between countries, ignoring the stop overs. For example in travelling from Zambia to Australia, we stopped in Mauritius, it was recommended as having great beaches, and we shouldn't miss out on the opportunity. It was the wrong time of year though, we landed in the middle of a tropical storm. The rain was that heavy we could barely see the front of the taxi, so not sure how the driver could see where he was going. From Mauritius we stopped over in Perth, not intentionally, the airways TAA was on strike and we stranded. We spent most of a day stranded in park, with all our cases, waiting for an hotel room to become available.

Anycase I will add more detail to the map as it becomes available, as the stop overs have there own stories. For example the stop in Rome on the way to Zambia, involved armed guards running around the airport.

So today I was particularly looking around the Lodge Lane Flowery Field Primary School area, noticing the changes. When I noticed in reference to the school the hatching of some birds. Which reminded me that before we left for Bawtry, my dad donated his collection of birds eggs to the Infant School: they were in flat wooden boxes. The things people collect. In Zambia a neighbour had a large butterfly collection.

Anycase, this post will be the live draft and launching pad for telling my story, our story.

Childhood Ailments

The other week whilst looking for information on wordpress, I found the following interesting article:
Osgood-Schlatter Disease
This is something I had not long after returning to Australia. Initially I had sharp pains in my heels and could hardly walk. But my mum just said it was growing pains, and it would go away. Which it did. From my view point it migrated to my knees. Once again my mum said it was growing pains and it would go away. It didn't. So finally went to the doctors, and got some x-rays.

My left knee was apparently the worst, and so I had injections in that knee. There were two injections, one was an anesthetic and the other I think was hydrocortisone. The anesthetic was so couldn't feel the hydrocortisone expand. That seemed to fix my left knee, but my right seemed to get worst. I had two sets of injections in that I think. I cannot remember now, whether I had 3 sets on injection total or 3 in my right knee. My right knee now has a knobble on it, and I cannot kneel on it, but at least I can get up and down.

At the time that I had it, if I knelt down I got stuck down. Not so much fun, sat crossed legged on floor, during assembly in middle of gymnasium. The pain increasing as the assembly progressed. At the end had to uncross my legs with my hands and try and find away to stand or have someone help me. Prior to which I could just stand straight up, without uncrossing my legs.

I wasn't into sport, though I walked every where. I also didn't seem to have any limitations on jumping up, over and across anything.  When running I just kept running no matter what I encountered the pursuer on the other hand tended to stop or get injured in their attempt.


Schoolyard and Neighbourhood Battlefield: Kids at War

Which introduces another post I discovered whilst looking for an article on Git: the version control software. The article I was looking for had disappeared but found this instead on the blog:
Bullying: Children and the Martial Arts
In moving around I was typically the outsider, the foreigner, the outcast. Which was potentially a good thing, since I was stubborn and had a seemingly high tolerance for pain, well until my knees give in. Basically absolutely nobody tells me what to do, including my parents. If you are lucky bullies get tired and bored. Whilst my parents and I got smarter.

The bullies tended to disappear, as they were outnumbered by the rest of the school or kids in the neighbourhood depending where they roamed.

Now bullying today making it into TV news reports, that is something else. Potentially should stop putting it on the news as mostly likely fueling their activity. Not sure if kids today need new tactics and strategy.

The sheep will always choose to be shorn, and jump on the bandwagon of humiliating others to avoid being the one humiliated. That is they will remain submissive to the bullies, do as they say or want. Whilst someone else is getting beaten up, they are safe: but for how long? What if the one being beaten up chose to strike back at the onlooking sheep: after all they are the weak ones? Would they continue to fan the fires, or join the side of the weakling being hammered into the pavement? If he hits me, and then I'm going to hit you over there, do you hear me? Most gangs seemed to comprise one big guy, and a bunch of smaller guys. On their own they had less power. Once the members of the gang learn they are not safe on their own, then the gangs tended to break up. Leaving David and Goliath to do battle. Unlike the classic battle, David gets hammered into the ground, but now Goliath is outnumbered and has no future. The sheep have become a herd determining their own direction.

Put simply if I could walk home from school and return to school the next day, then the beating wasn't so bad. In the neighbourhood wars, bricks, stones, miniscule penknives, sharpened sticks, heavy branches and home made bows and arrows were the only weapons we had to contend with. The bows and arrows were never that good. Words may have been thrown around like, "I'm going to kill you!", but I doubt any of us was in any danger of being killed.

I don't know, maybe I was something of a death seeking lunatic. On one occasion, we were being bombarded by mud bombs containing heavy stones. Instead of sheltering behind a pallet full of new turf, with everyone else, I stood in front with a bit of timber batting the bombs back. This broke the mud bombs up, sending the stones flying off in all directions bouncing off house windows. Resulting in adults coming out of their houses and telling us to clear off {Truly! polite no swearing. Maybe threats to call the police.}.

Toy guns and playing war breeds violence? Not so sure about that, we weren't playing war, we were at war. All largely about scarce resources and who gets to control?

In the modern world of cyber bullying, I don't know, but I'd guess one smart kid, could take the bullies down.

Australian Context

On arriving in Australia from Zambia, one thing that became apparent was that things considered for boys and girls in Zambia were only for girls in Australia. Thus my school case became a girls case, which didn't make sense, as the book my Grandparents had sent from Australia to England seemed to suggest all used such cases. And I just did a search and the website I found indicated that popular amongst school children from the early 1900's until the 1970's: so maybe some perspective changed as the cases  went out of use.

Anycase I was an outsider with a teutonic name: apparently making me some kind of mass murdering nazi or something, wearing socks and sandals and carrying a girls case. The girl stuff easy to dismiss: so what. There's no way my mum would permit me to consider girls to be inferior to boys. Not sure what references I would have had at that time, most likely just Boadicea.

So something happened and I got beaten up, yet again, only this time a large crowd gathered, as this four eyed git, who should have known better, stuffed an apple core in my mouth and wandering back laughing with the large crowd that had gathered. balling my eyes out and seeing red, I noticed half a brick on the ground and picked it up and threw it at their feet to shift the crowd. They were about to throw it back when a teacher finally decided to wade in. She'd started lecturing, I didn't want to listen to such nonsense, so I walked away over to the water fountain, to wash my face and mouth. When a male teacher grabbed me by the ear and dragged me across the school yard to see the headmaster. This idiot gets the hallmark of being the worst teacher I ever met. Confirming all doubts if I had any, that adults wouldn't recognise the truth if it got up and smacked them in the face. Which I often wished it would. Fundamental rule: people in authority exercise power not intelligence.

Anycase I saw the headmaster, and went and apologised to the lady teacher. Defence not an option. Fortunately we left and went back to England. Some stuff happened back in England, but getting beaten up not so much: though we had our turf wars.

Then we went back to Australia. From my viewpoint Australia was a big country, and Perth had seemed nice whilst we spent the day stranded in the park. Adelaide however was the one place on earth I never ever wanted to return to.

Whilst I attended a brand new school, the deputy head from the other school became one of the many deputies at the new school. Also the worst teacher ever arrived as a physical education teacher.

I needed to stay on absolutely best behaviour, fighting back was not an option. So I became passive, submissive and largely with drew. On the other hand I gained the reputation as the giant killer.

The school yard was split level, with a brick retaining wall between the levels. The biggest kid seemed to think it was funny to pick me up on the lower level and throw me down on the upper level. He wouldn't stop so I resisted and the wall started to dig into my knees. I don't know what I did or how, but somehow I jumped up above the wall spun around and brought my fist down straight into his face. He wandered off, to the toilets to wash his split lip, cursing he was going to sue me if i'd broke his teeth. I likewise wandered off to the toilets to wash my gashed hand, cursing would sue him if I needed more injections in my knees.

His lip healed in a few days. My hand around the knuckle which had the gash in it, turned purple and green, and kind of made writing difficult, and probably took a week or more to heal. No teachers were involved: apart from later in the week my German language teacher wanted to know what had happened to my hand. Which everyone else in the class explained for me. She was kind of surprised I'd been fighting.

I was the quiet independent courteous and well mannered kid: I'd say sorry for anything and hold doors open for anyone. I didn't get in fights. The big kid and I were kind of friends in the first place, and slightly better afterward.

Some time  after the fight, during physical education, we did leg wrestling, and I got teamed up with him. You know the stuff, teacher says pair up, and everyone makes a mad dash, then says ha ha sucker. Leg wrestling is like arm wrestling, except lie on backs shoulder to shoulder, and then hockey one, hockey two and three, raising legs from floor and crossing and back down again. On three the legs lock and then try and spin the other over. I didn't want to break my leg so I got spun over several times. He thought it was fun and got his status back, so he called the teacher over to show off: do you mean like this. At which point I spun him over: my knees weren't has stuffed as I thought.

But this wasn't the only giant. Whilst I was the well mannered kid, I also had a sharp tongue with which I slayed teachers. As the saying goes:
Obedience alone gives the right to command.
As I mentioned earlier, absolutely nobody tells me what to do ever, nor will they get away with wasting my time. Whilst other kids talking back to teachers were typically making a nuisance of themselves and disturbing the whole class. When I spoke back, the teacher was wasting my time, our time, and mostly in the wrong.

After my outburst I typically wandered off to the student counselor explained what had happened and then later apologised to the teacher, and the teacher likewise apologised to me. My parents rarely ever got involved, they were informed, but my problem and for me to sort out, and typically had done so before they were informed.

Most of the incidents could have been better handled, but there is only one that plays on my mind as never resolved. It wasn't resolved because the teacher clearly did not understand, as he turned up a year later to one of my classes to show how he had changed. But he hadn't, he just confirmed and reinforced what I had said. I didn't explain, I just let him have his victory stroll.

Mork from Ork

The movie Finian's Rainbow, covers bigotry in various ways. For me the most notable was how the servant kept saying "yes sir boss" and otherwise kowtowing and exaggerating the superiority of his so called master. In the TV series Mork and Mindy this same kind of exaggeration is used in reference to Morks superior Orson. Despite his larger superior mind Orson is clearly incapable of understanding human behaviour.

I don't know what happened in this particular year, but the class became relatively friendly and protective of one another. There were a few rebellious trouble makers who just wanted away from school, but most of us just got on with our work.

The school was open plan, and we typically walked across the campus from one class to another. On this particular day, I'm not sure what had happened earlier, but all the desks had been placed end to end in about three rows extending through the open concertina wall into the adjacent classroom. Normally the desks formed columns and rows, and the teacher could walk around each desk. The desks were trapezoidal, so that two desks could form a hexagon for group work. There were also plain desks. The trapezoidal desks were spun around alternately to form a continuous row.

I walked into the room and sat at the far end of the second row, near the concertina wall. The two girls considered square sat in the row immediately in front of me. The rest of the class filed into the row I was sat. One or two guys sat at the far end of the first row, the opposite end to where the two girls were sat. The rebels on their own at the back of the class.

Our teacher arrived, he was generally relatively friendly. He wasn't happy about the desks, but the class explained they were like that when we arrived, and he could see into the other room. He didn't want to waste time rearranging them, so accepted them as they were. The lesson started.

He asked a few questions, the same people put their hands up as usual to answer, he wasn't happy. He wanted answers from someone else. So class was told to put their hands down. He asked the question again, and started with the person at the far end of the first row: not the two square girls, he knew they could answer.

The person didn't know the answer. So the teacher moved onto the second row, not my end of the row, but the opposite end. The next person doesn't know the answer. So the next person again is asked. The question now is slowly moving towards me. The teacher is getting irate as no one is able to provide an answer.

The girl next to me whispers if I know the answer, I nod and whisper back that I do. She wants me to give her the answer, but the teacher seems to be looking in my direction. I indicate we'll get in trouble for talking. We don't have any scrap paper to write on.

The train is speeding towards us, towards me. There is no way I am going to answer this question, I'll get my head kicked in by the rebels at the back if I do.

The girl answers, that she doesn't know. She's expecting it to be all over, as I answer the question. But no way am I giving the answer. I get asked the question.

I nervously respond: why don't you, shut up?

The teacher raises his voice and asks what did you say?

This is typically an opportunity to back down and rephrase what you have said. Back down, not I. So I repeat: why don't you, shut up?

He retorts, you little child.

I respond, you big adult.

Big mistake. Really big mistake. The teacher rises, and desks start flying, as the teacher tries cutting his way through the desks towards me. I get up and start moving along the aisle trying to get to the end of the desks and out off the building. I hit my knee against a chair, causing me great pain, slowing me down. I get out off the building but so does he. At the entrance stood apart, he threatens me, I threaten him. Not violent threats, just which authorities we are going set on each other.

I wander off to see the student counselor, we talk and she organises so that I can see the teacher later in the day, to apologise. Later in the day I go to the admin centre, up stairs to the teacher lounge, meet the teacher and go out onto the footbridge which connects the admin to the middle school building where I had taken class earlier. I'm part scared of being tossed off the bridge. We talk, I apologise. I was sure I explained myself and meaning.

The class thinks I'm mad, crazy, a lunatic, and confirmed giant killer. But they misunderstood my meaning, and I wasn't going to attempt to explain to them what I was actually referring to.

A year later, this skinny anemic looking teacher walks into our class, walks up to where I am sat, and talks to me as if achieved a victory and proving me wrong. He  then talks to our current teacher before leaving, as whispers start to flow around the class at how skinny he was.

You see, as far as everyone else was concerned the teacher had been big, large, fat, obese, significantly overweight. But most adults could do with losing some weight, and most of our prior teachers for that matter. Sure he may have been bigger than most, but that was his choice and largely irrelevant.

When he called me little child, he wasn't referring to me being a nine pound weakling, he was referring to my mentality. But he clearly didn't understand human behaviour, he set in motion something that wasn't going to end well. He was getting irate, so was the class. I merely responded to his flippant remark, with my own flippant remark, in the manner of Mork from Ork.

His massive, huge adult mind was just plain incapable of fathoming what he had set in motion, was he really so stupid to expect that I or anyone else was going to answer the question. He had already insulted more than 50% of the class, after me there was just the rebels at the back, or the two girls he skipped at the start. Either of the two girls likely to answer the question, the rebels at the back unlikely. If I didn't give an answer, he was mostly likely going to drone on as moved to the last row. If I did give an answer, I was dead. He was wasting time, he was being insulting and disrespectful, he was wasting my time. He wasn't getting my answer. He needed to understand what he had set in motion, and I didn't have the confidence to stand up and express things in a more appropriate manner.

Lesson: Words are powerful, they can move mountains, and have unexpected catastrophic results. Make sure everyone else is on the same page. You know, the "Context is King", thing.
My final school report for the grade 9 subject reads:

I am again pleased to report Conrad's progress in social science this term. He is at all times a pleasant and co-operative student (with just a bit of stubbornness). Conrad should take a little more care with the setting out and writing of his work, as it does become untidy. He has shown maturity and thoughtfulness in his written work, but needs to enter more into class discussions. A pleasure to have him in my class.

Disclaimer: Get Your Brain in Gear

I supposed as I mentioned something medical back there I should mention I'm not a something or other. What do you call that occupational elite, they have a medical degree, some scrap of paper or other? Sorry I don't believe in the authority of scrap paper. Either people say things which are reasonable which they can back up with evidence or they don't. To get a degree you have to read. What the academic staff says is largely irrelevant, it is no better than here say, they still have to back up their thoughts with reference to learned papers. Learned papers typically reference other learned papers and have been reviewed by others. The theories have to be capable of being independently verified by others.

So do not ever accept the word of a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer for that matter, purely on the basis of authority. If it doesn't make sense to you, then it probably doesn't make sense to anyone else either. Unless pushed for time, and short of money, always attempt to get at least two opinions preferably three. With two opinions may just get a disagreement and thus little help. With three opinions may get two opinions similar: however, you don't just accept the majority view. Just because everyone believes the earth is flat and that all swans are white (we have black swans in Australia), doesn't make it so.

So do your own research and reach your own understanding, do not be bullied and coerced into accepting a view you cannot comprehend.

If I mentioned anything on any topic, then I am waffling, and I explicitly state, on the about page, the intent of the blog is to waffle.

To put it another way the novel 1984 by George Orwell, wasn't a user manual telling you what society to create, it was a warning on where we were heading and preferably what not to create. We are drowning in doublespeak, so few people took heed.

Put simply if you read my waffle and use it has the basis of a decision you make, you are responsible for that decision: and the start of that decision, was that this waffle, was a sound basis for aiding your decision making. Your choice, your decision, your responsibility.

Obviously if you think your decisions and actions are someone else's responsibility then the rest of us as a community, to fulfill our responsibility,  need to have you placed in a straitjacket and padded cell so that you can come to no future harm.

Whilst I don't particularly like people, I will assist those who request help, to the best of my ability, if I see people, in need of help, I will assist. However, I tend to assist people, in away that they can become independent of the need for future assistance, unlike most businesses which tend to trap people into loops of dependency. Actually most of the humanitarian aid agencies seem to trap the people they assist into dependency. I'm guessing this has to do with all the fools with MBA's who equate everything to a money making business. The aid agencies should solve the problem they were created for and then cease to exist. Obviously the people who have made careers out of such activity do not want that to happen: and so the problems remain unsolved.

Its time for a revolution of thought and action!

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[6/5/2017] : Original