Monday, 11 March 2019

Chapter 124 : Women and others in sport

I am confused about women in sport.   Perhaps other people can inform me. I will listen to other people. Some are women. Some are men telling me they don’t watch woman’s cricket or the women’s football because they are not as good.

I listen to a man who says,” I’m a sportsman. I watch all sport; football, cricket and rugby. Not the women of course. ”

My mind drifts back to when I was young and I watched AFL football with my sisters and cousins.
We all had the same heroes on the football field and we all knew we would never emulate them. My sisters and I all looked on EJ the same. We cheered him (because he was our best player) and knew we would never emulate him on the football field.

The sporting heroes who inspired me were different. They were Raelene Boyle, Ralph Dobell, Eyvon Cawley, Margaret Court, Ken Rosewell, John Newcombe and John McEnroe.  These were the people who inspired me and got me to get out and copy them.

We all thought men watching females play netball were dirty old men having a perve.

My days of watching AFL have been replaced by parkrun. Parkrun is the future. Before or after parkrun I stop and talk to other runners. The runners could be classified by sex, sexuality, age, health or ability. I see them all as people who have made an effort to be fitter and healthier by running/walking 5 kms. That is what we have in common. That’s is what I normally talk about. Running 5 kms.

The people at parkrun are fit and healthy. They never mention the media coverage of women in sport.  They never mention the wages of elite sportspeople.  They never say the system favours men. They never say they don’t play sport because the sports pages are all about young able-bodied men. They never say we need a special parkrun dedicated to women.

At parkrun we are not running in order to come first. I win every time I finish. It’s all about me. My victory comes from becoming fit and healthy.  

I am a sportsman who has no interest in watching sport.  I much prefer to play sport. To get the physical, social, emotional, mental benefits of playing sport. My victory does not come from following a team that wins.

I see the sport on TV as pure entertainment. Same value as soap opera. Not connected to the health of the community. Sport in the media is unscripted drama. With players we either love or love to hate. Good and bad characters. People or teams we boo or support whenever they enter the stage.

Just as with any soap opera, sport on TV should reflect our society. Sport should have a balance of males and females; able bodied and disabled; young and old people.  We are a better society when all these groups are looked on as containing elite sportspeople. Where my grandkids imagine physically fit and healthy people are everywhere.

Back to my grandkids. Their heroes are Spiderman, Luke Skywalker, Princes Leia, singers, actors and TV personalities. I can’t control what they watch on TV or the Net. What I care about is their physical health. At the moment they play sport that is accessible and available. They play what their friends play? They play what is well organised and well managed?

They are playing the same sports as I did many years ago.  Sport has remained the same but our society is changing. My grandkids will live in a different society to the one I grew up in.
I dream of my male and female grandkids becoming fit and healthy. I don’t see their future physical health relate to any sport or drama on TV. But I do want them to grow up in a society where TV reflects their community. The dramas and sport on TV should feature all people. Males, females, able bodied, disabled, young, elderly with every different heritage.

I look forward to a future were Kay looks on International Women’s Day as an unnecessary anachronism. Were Bruce never says, “Men are better than women.”

I look forward to a future where parkrun is the normal. Where everybody is welcomed. Where everybody is respected because they are different and unique. Where everybody’s aim is to be fit and healthy.

I look forward to a future where the shows on TV (including sport) represent the community we live in.

A future where my grandkids are all fit and healthy. Physically, socially, mentally and emotionally. Were their community is a fit healthy community.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Chapter 123 : Retired

In 2016 most days were pretty normal. Including a Wednesday in October.  I followed my normal routine. I went to work in my dental practice; in the evening I played tennis; then I went home and went to bed. A pretty normal day.

I woke up two weeks later lying on my back in a bed in the RHH.

I immediately thought, “I am doing nothing. The work will be piling up. I’d better get back to work.”  

I was then told. “You aren’t going back to work. You are now retired.”

In the next few weeks my wife spent a lot of time visiting her now retired husband. One day she showed me a piece of paper and asked me to sign it. This I did.

She then said, “You have just sold your dental practice.”

After selling my practice I lay back in bed.

My mind thought about the shower. How do I use it? Is this tap hot or cold? How can I shower without this nurse coming and watching me?

I thought about shaving. I don’t want a beard. I don’t want to shave. I’ve got to work out when and how to shave?
I also thought about being retired. What does that mean? What does it involve?

I listened to the word retired and the way it was used. 

The word retired was always followed by another word saying what I used to do.  It ignored my future. It ignored where I wanted to go. It thought the best years were all behind me; I was just sitting around waiting to die. It is like being at university and continually described by the secondary school I attended.

The word retired looked backwards and contained the word tired.  It told me to sit quietly. Don’t make a fuss. Take these tablets. They’ll make you feel better. Be careful crossing the road.

After continually hearing the word retired I decided I didn’t want to be called retired and treated the way everybody treated retired people.

I tried to treat other people as unique individuals. I tried to treat them with respect. I abhor stereotypes.  When I met people I don’t think of a stereotype based on age, sex, sexuality, physical or mental disability, race, appearance, education, clothes.

I try to celebrate all the people I met.  They are all unique and different. They are unique individuals with a unique history; a unique view of the world; a unique future. I assume that everybody I meet will do the right or wrong thing or a combination. They will vary from day to day and during every day for reasons I can’t see or understand. They will be full of virtues and foibles.

I have realised I hate being described as retired. I hate the way the word is used and everything it means. Eventually I realised I have to live with the word retirement. I can’t avoid it. When I use the word I will change the meaning of it.
Other words have a meaning that grows or changes. Like words such as YMCA, Qantas, surf, mouse and friend. For me the word retirement will mean freedom.

Traditionally the word freedom has meant Bob Dylan; Easy Rider; guitars, backpacking; jeans and boots. With the soundtrack playing Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee.”  

Well I’ve been both young and old and being old is the freest I have even been. When I was young I never felt as free as now. When wearing jeans and tie-die t-shirts I was always aware of things I had to achieve or do. I had to pass another exam; get a job; buy a house; go to parent teacher interviews.

Freedom belongs to us baby boomers; grey nomads; tracksuits; running shoes; campervans; mobile homes; and deck chairs. The soundtrack is John Farnham; Jimmy Barnes; Golden Oldies or Hits and Memories. 

We are the free people. We are footloose and fancy free. We are the people who can do anything we want.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Chapter 122 : Wooden Boat Festival

I attend the wooden boat festival.  People I know are thinking: Not likely. More chance of a vegan going to a seminar on how to barbeque meat. 

Well I am going to the wooden boat festival. I’m going because it’s popular and I want to find out why.  That’s why I going.

We wander towards the masts standing upright and proud. Closer and we see many wooden boats gentle rocking.  Each boat lies tied to the pier surrounded by rigging, ropes and a few fluttering flags.
The wharves are covered by crowds of people pointing, looking, taking photos, eating and drinking. 

We join them and see that boats are unlike cars. All the boats are bespoke. They are not made on an assembly line. Not made by people who only put in one screw. Each boat is made by one person or a small group. Each boat reflects the maker in some way and each boat is unique in shape and size. Every boat has a story: who designed it; where was it made; who made it; when it is made; what is its name and why.

As the boats lie tethered to the docks we imagine them moving. We imagine the sails full of wind; a rollicking and rocking sea and a fine spray of sea water.  We imagine these boats moving silently, gracefully and effortlessly.

Most of the boats are painted but all the boats are made from timber. All the timber was lovingly grown, harvested, milled, selected and assembled with care.  The boats are made from natural timber and are powered by the wind. The boats depend on nature but can also be threatened and destroyed by nature.

As we wander we hear music. All the music sounds jaunty and irresistible. Why do music and boats make so good partners? We see a maritime market place and stalls selling equipment or bits and pieces needed to restore or make boats. We see people talking boats. How to build them, restore them or sail them. We see a tent containing school of boat building. Peering in we see another unique bespoke boat. With a story to tell.

As we wander we become part of a large crowd peering, pointing and looking for that photo opportunity. We see photos or a paintings of boats which makes the boats look beautiful. Not difficult. A painting of a boat with sails full of wind on waves looks good. It is a thing of beauty showing balance and harmony.

We wander into an exhibition of model ships. Every model is a replica and has stories. But for me the building contains the story.  This building is where I walking down an aisle and gave away one of my daughters to a man who loves boats.  

As we wander and see some of the tall ships I am reminded of days prior to aeroplanes and the internet when the docks were our connection to the world. Days when everything came and went through the docks.

Seeing the tall ships I am reminded of my antecedents who all came to Australia on wooden boats. I doubt they saw the boats as a thing of beauty. I try and imagine their voyage. They slept in crowded dormitories which continually rocked and rolled. They attempted to keep themselves clean, tidy and free of creepy crawlies. Some of their food came from wooden barrels and is not sold in the food stalls surrounding us. To make their trip almost impossible to comprehend is the knowledge that they knew very little about where you were going and no guarantee that they would arrive. 

We see more food stalls. I don’t need an excuse to eat food on our docks but this Festival gives me another. We sit and eating besides wooden boats on trailers watching boats of beauty.

When we get home I read Facebook and see all the things which we missed seeing. Including a scrimshaw exhibition and ships in bottles. More art involving boats and nature.  More stories. I can’t wait to return in two years’ time.  To see wooden boats; objects of beauty; built and sailed in harmony with nature and exercising my imagination.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Chapter 121: Parkrun

Politicians are waking up to parkrun. In Launceston at 9:00 am on Saturday morning the 2nd February, Senator McKenzie gave $1.8 million dollars to parkrun.

At the same time six hundred people ran in park runs in Southern Tasmania. 177 on the Queens domain; 241 at Bellerive; 140 at Montrose; 41 at Risdon Brook. Geeveston was cancelled because parkrun is an integral part of its local community.  At present there are 13 parkruns in Tasmania.
Parkrun is a 5km run around a local course. Open to everybody. Everybody runs or walks 5 kms.  Everybody does the same thing.  And everybody is different.  Everybody has a different story about why they are there.  There were people there who had had hip replacements, medical problems, mental health problems, intellectual handicaps. People were there who were losing weight, stopping smoking or ceasing some drug habit.  Every story is unique. What they share is an ambition to run or walk 5 kms. Everybody who finishes wins.  

Parkrun is free.  Every parkrun starts without frantic searching of pockets or cars for loose change. There is no searching for a trestle table and no filling out and signing of entry forms.
It is free because there are a few sponsors and most people take it in turns to volunteer. The initial sponsors can’t believe their luck. They have gone along for the journey. The wakening of a giant. They are associated with health and goodness. They win.

Normally before running in parkrun people register electronically. Once you become part of their data base you can enter and run any parkrun anywhere and automatically receive your time a few hours after running.  Parkrun makes the best use of modern technology. When you register you are given an individual bar code which you have to print out. This bar code is scanned when you finish. Your result in then uploaded. You can see your result and compare it to your previous runs and other runners around the world. 

When you turn up at a parkrun you will encounter volunteers. The volunteers will tell newcomers about the course; highlight the course, marshaling the course and recording the times of all the finishers and often taking photos.  The volunteers get more than they give. To have a course full of people who take it in turns to volunteer creates this unbelievable community feeling. A feeling that we are in this together.

Parkrun is physical activity. Everybody runs or walks five kms. It is physical exercise for everybody. For a lot of the people it is a small part of weekly physical activates. It precipitates and encourages other activity. Many people go to the gym, or swim or run during the week in order to improve their parkrun time.  People also do parkrun in order to improve their other sport.

Dogs are common. Some people run or walk with their dog. Both dog and owner win.  Other people push a pusher around the course replete with baby. With more winners.

Parkrun has incredible social benefits. I have done parkruns with my wife, my children and grandchildren. I have also done parkruns with people I used to work with. I have also done parkruns with a guy who now spends his week with my old air-conditioner and my old view. I have also done a parkrun with the lady who’s chooks I hear.

I have also done parkruns with my brother-in-law in South Africa and son-in-law in England.  We have bonded over sweat; breathing deeply and the drink afterwards.

Which leads me to parkrun and tourism. Our local parkrun, Queens Domain, always has visitors. We welcome them and talk to them about Tasmania and what to see and where to go. Though on a Saturday they are all off to Salamanca market. A lot of tourists to Tasmania make our local parkrun a part of their Tasmanian holiday. At present there are about 345 parkruns in Australia.

I have found that doing the local parkrun is often a better tourism experience than visiting the local landmark. At present there are about 1740 parkruns globally in about twenty countries around the world. Parkruns around the world are run with the same basic format with local variations. You meet the locals and experience a bit of the local culture.  As in Tasmania your result will be up in the clouds hours after your run. You can then view all your times and so can others.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Chapter 120: How do you raise a champion?

How do you raise a champion?

I feel I am partially qualified to add an addendum to the article by Ian Cole. The reason being one of my children won several Paralympic medals. Once she was named as Tasmanian Sportswoman of the year. In 2005 she was inducted into the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame. 

I will start at the beginning.

We wanted all of our children to have good lives. They were all different and unique. When Melissa was born others classified her as physically handicapped or disabled.

Our aim was to treat all our kids the same. We never gave Melissa special treatment. We never discriminated for or against her or any of her siblings. 

We always had to fight other people’s attitudes. We had to fight people discriminating in favour of Melissa. I remember a parent teacher interview. My aim was to find ways of helping her with her maths.  The teacher’s interests were elsewhere. He said, “She is very brave.”

We constantly had to fight for her to be treated as normal. I loved it when people said to me, “She’s just normal.”
Our aims for all children was the same. We wanted all of them to be physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually healthy and happy.  We wanted them to be well balanced. We wanted an excess of balance.

We gave them healthy food. We provided housing and clothes.

We sent them to one of the local schools so they could learn to read and write.

We wanted them all to have friends. To learn to interact socially with other people.

We wanted and encouraged extra school activities. To help them develop physically, emotionally and socially. With our children we were dragged in disparate directions for mysterious reasons.

When Melissa was young we lived in a warm climate. Swimming pools were a big part of the community. It quickly became obvious that she enjoyed swimming. That swimming was her thing. She enjoyed it. It was impossible to get her out of the pool. Swimming she could glide quietly and gracefully. In the pool she wasn’t awkward or clumsy.

Once swimming became her thing we thought she might as well do it as well as possible. Every child involved in any sport/hobby wants to be as good as possible.  With all of our children and all of their activities we always wanted them to do them properly and as well as possible.

Swimming led to swimming coaching, swimming training, swimming clubs; swimming friends. The swimming coach led to learning the basics of training and tactics and competitions.  Ultimately it led to international competitions, medals and publicity.

It’s well know that I saw the Paralympics as another example of not treating her as a normal person. To be avoided. Under pressure from everybody I changed my mind. I saw a future were Melissa would swim in the paralympics and against able bodied swimmers. She could do both.

My aim with my children has never been to win medals or win Wimbledon or play AFL or play BBL. I never began with the end in mind. I never thought that in order to achieve certain goals I needed to tick certain boxes. I never thought the prize was worth any cost. . I see emphasizing the end leads to a lack of balance. It leds to the sports people we love to hate.

I always thought the journey was more important than the end. The journey involves learning how to lead balanced lives.  Learning how to be physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually healthy and happy.  

When medals happen they happen. Accept them. Be grateful and happy and enjoy them.

At present I have four children and four grandchildren. I see them all as champions. Melissa deserves a medal for her work at the YMCA. Some of my grandkids deserve medals for their long jumping on Wednesday evening on the Domain.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Chapter 119 : International Women's Tennis Tournament

I enter the concrete colosseum with my daughter Christine.       

We are to watch two women players from Europe ranked amongst the best players in the world play a singles match.

We know nothing about either player and don’t instinctively support either. They both are very similar. Physically fit and strong. Tall, muscular and sun tanned. Hair unfashionable and under control. Hair band or sun visor. They move athletically. Confident in their bodies.  They are much better at playing tennis than most of us watching. I enjoy watching these players because they are physically aware, strong, powerful and skillful. They show us what we are capable of.

One serves to begin the match and immediately differences emerge. One is unreliable with hard, powerful shots and a weak backhand.  The other one is more consistent. Hitting not as powerfully but her serve and ground shots are more reliable.

I say to Christine, “With a weak backhand you can still win. You try and avoid your weaknesses and take advantage of the things you are good at.  It’s like life.”

Christine then states the obvious, “Her back hand may be her weakness but it’s much better than yours.”

Along with their techniques their personalities begin to surface. The one with the unreliable technique also tends to have a more erratic personality. Her frustration begins to manifest itself to us and more importantly to her opponent.

I say to Christine, “One player is having trouble concentrating. When I can’t concentrate I think of one point at a time. I think next point I must get the ball back into the court.”Christine says, “Better tell her not to throw the racquet the way you do. Tell her it doesn’t help.”

I then say, “I would agree. It doesn’t help you win.”

Christine then says, “I’m confused now. Are you telling me what to do or what you do?”

We then watch the tennis without speaking. The ball bounces from end to end.  The thump thump sound coming from a tennis match is a beautiful, relaxing noise. No sport ever sounded so good.
We wander to the outside courts. I want to get close enough to smell, feel and hear the players. I want to sense their humanity.  There are no matches on outside courts so we go back to the center court and a new match.

Another two players new to us. We watch them hit up.

Who will win will depend on so many factors.

Where did they sleep last night? Was there bed comfortable and the room quiet? What happened before retiring? Did they eat or drink anything which will affect them today?

Where is their home town? Is it hot, dry and dusty or cold, wet and prone to snow?

Who are their coaches? Do the coaches have many other players in their squad? What is the relationship between coach and player like?

What is their relationship with family and friends like? Have they spoken on the phone to anybody immediately prior to the match? What did they say on the phone?

What color socks are they wearing? The tennis world is full of people with lucky socks or lucky charms.

What is their tennis experience?  How long have they been playing? Who have they played against? What type of competition have they had? What is their ranking?

You can do everything right yourself but the result also goes depends on your opponent. You can play to your potential. Achieve perfection and still lose if your opponent is a better tennis player.

I start talking to Christine about the opposing techniques and how they match up against each other and who I think will win and Christine raises her eyebrows and plays with her phone.

Christine then hands me her phone and shows me a message which says, “You are not at home watching TV. You are surrounded by people who don’t want to listen to your comments.”

I think I am surrounded by people who feel the same as me about tennis. I love tennis because it’s more than just a game. It’s a battle between two people. With different personalities, cardiovascular fitness, techniques, emotional status and knowledge.

And it’s a game you can both watch and play.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Chapter 118 : Bikes and Spikes

A few weeks ago I entered the Bikes and Spikes online.

The website asked me for my best recent time over the distance. I entered a time as accurately as I could.

I’m sure they will check and besides I’ve got nothing to hide.

I entered the 800m Master’s handicap event. Handicap by distance not time.  Not weight for age. Everybody will start at the same time.  I will find myself starting few hundred meters ahead of a back marker.  I will run less than 8oom. Everybody will try and go past me. The “also runs” will start in front of the talented runners.  I will be overtaken by some. How many?  I have to adjust to having the field behind me and coming at me.

Normally when I run everybody starts together and I settle down amongst runners of a similar speed. I then focus on a person in front of me and imagine a string connecting us together. I imagine them dragging me along. This coming race will be different. I will be out in front and strive to hold everybody off. I need to prevent them passing me. I need to imagine something new. I will be the hunted hound fighting to keep ahead of the foxes.

The handicapper is aiming for a blanket finish. Everybody finishing together sounds good to me.
In the weeks before my race I practice for the race. By running. Running seems to be good practice for a running race. I practice sprinting around a circular track. How do I practice running around a track with a noisy crowd.

Every time I hear spikes on the radio I galvanize and listen and then it turns out to be about spiking of drinks.

The big day of the Hobart Bikes and Spikes Carnival arrives and before my race I wander then sit in the grandstand and watch.

Runners wear colored vests. Sprinters wear colored vests crouch tensely. When the gun explodes they spring into action. Powerful leg muscles stride down the lanes with arms swinging. Looks beautiful. From the side some forge ahead. The field separates into fastest and just fast. From the front each runner is a bundle of active muscles. Tensing and lengthening.  Arms swing wide for a lunge at the finish gate.

Bikes controlled by helmets, sunglasses and velcro shorts and shirts and focused ahead glide around the velodrome. Legs pump like pistons as they propel the smooth sliding machines at speed around the velodrome.  

The announcements are ceaseless. They broadcast each race.  Telling us the names of the cyclists and runners.  At the marshaling area I greet other runners. Most of them I recognize. There are fourteen in my race.

I crotch behind the starting line. The gun goes off. I am by myself. Nobody to comfort me. Please be fast.  Breathe deeply. Swing arms wide. Take big long steps.  A guy overtakes me very quickly and gives me something to chase.   

I’ve got to go faster. Legs stride bigger.  Reach out further. Stride longer. Longer and even longer.  Legs go faster. Go quicker. Lungs breathe deeper. Breathe out bigger.
The announcer continues announcing for the watching crowd.  After the race I have no idea what he says. I’m focused.

I can hear more breathing behind me. It’s getting closer. I’ve got to speed up. I will stop them passing me. The breathing is getting closer. I can see them now. Next to me. Now past me. I’ll hang onto him. Repass him. I can’t catch him. I can hear the crowd yelling. They are yelling for me. I won’t let them down. I’ll catch this guy. Get back in front of him. He’s going away from me. I can hear more breathing behind me.

I’m coming around the corner. I can see the finish line. I sprint. I increase my stride. I increase leg speed. I increase my arms swinging.

I finish. The result is I came fifth out of fourteen.  Sounds good to me. I am exhausted. I didn’t know I could breathe so deeply. I rest my hands on my legs.  I shake hands with the other guys. They’ve all done what I did. They have all done a great job.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Chapter 117 : Christmas Day

Christmas Day arrives bringing perfect weather. Our house wakens from the peace and quiet sensing an approaching hoard.    

My grandchildren arrive and see a Christmas tree surrounded by presents and unwrap their smiles. The presents irresistibly attract them. They pick them up, feel them, smell them and rattle them until told, “Leave them alone.”

We all gather in the lounge room, surrounding the tree. Bruce and Gertrude are anointed. They pick up presents; read the name and then give the presents out.  

I watch the reactions. I focus on the presents that I have wrapped. I hope I get asked to explain a present.

The kids unwrap their presents and occasionally say the right thing which is, “Just what I always wanted.”

We sit and nibble on mince pies and short bread holding a pile of new batteries. The new batteries find a purpose and a pile of used wrapping paper becomes bigger than the original pile of presents.
Behind us our table is adorned with a table cloth, cutlery, napkins, glasses and bonbons. It awaits food and people.

The hifi plays Christmas carols.

Smells emanate from the kitchen predicting roast meat and vegetables, gravy and stuffing. One of my daughters is given the job of filling everybody’s glass with something to drink. To be given that job suggests you know all about drinks. I’m not sure if this is a job to aspire towards.  

Desert consists of pavlova with fresh berries, cream and brandy butter.

After eating I follow in the tradition. I say, “I’ve over eaten,” then lie down and snooze.

I dream about the Christmas tradition of gluttony. This tradition began in days when food was never excess or convenient. Special occasions were special because you saved up food and put aside food and looking forward to eating and feasting upon unusual and special foods. 

Today we live in a different society.  For most of us food is never dreamed of or difficult to get. Our problem is excess food and over eating. Not empty cupboards and longed for food.

During the lunch I heard people talk about calories, diets, cholesterol, carbohydrates, fats, gluten and organic. Nobody celebrated when seeing lashings of food. Nobody ate ravishingly.

Most of the talk was about a year ending, a year beginning or holidays.

Gertrude tells me what class she has just finished. How good it feels to finish grade 4 and to go to grade 5. Her mother tells me she has had her last day of work. She is now on holidays which she well and truly earned and deserves.

I am mute. I can’t say I have finished one year and earned my break. Being retired there is no finish line. It goes on and on and on. Never changing or graduating, progressing or moving up. I can’t review my year and proclaim that next year will be better.

Bruce tells me what class he will be in next year. Which room he will be in. Who his teacher will be and what friends will be in his class. He is getting older and bigger.

When I was younger Christmas Day was a day of religious celebration. We went to church and celebrated spiritually. Today some people still see Christmas as a religious celebration.

For our family, in 2018, it is not a day for religious celebration. But it is special day. It is a day for celebrating family, friends and community. 

If I gaze at all my previous Christmas days they have varied. There were days when friends and the local community took the place of a distant family. Days I spent with other strays or orphans.

Today I spare a moment thinking about such people. People who for various reasons find themselves alone or lonely on Christmas day.   And there are people in Hobart behaving like Christ. They are inviting orphans to their homes for lunch or working at community lunches. There are people who see Christmas as a time to celebrate in our community with our community.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Chapter 116 : Night on the Green

Night on the Green is Newtown Primary School’s end of year concert.  We are greeted by a lone piper playing Christmas carols on his bag pipe. We are witnessing the birth of a new tradition. This year the concert features some of my grandchildren. While I wait for their appearance on stage I lie back on the grass, close my eyes and hop into my Tardis and fly back to when my children attended this very same school.

All the retired people are lounging in deck chairs. Their active turtle eyes beneath a carapace of blankets. Their grandchildren furnished them with food and drinks on paper plates and in paper cups.
The children play on the swings and make occasional visits to their grandparents. Just to make sure they have enough food and water and are not running around sniffing each other’s bottoms.

I hop back in my Tardis to 2018 and emerge lying on a blanket. One of my grandkids asks me if I want any food or water as she heads towards the BBQ. Has anything changed in the last 25 years?
Smoke wafts from the gas BBQ selling traditional Australian street food. The smoke is followed by the smell of sausages.  The smell triggers a queue.

The Aussie BBQ gives away veggie burgers, chicken or beef sausages and sliced bread. Served with a squirt of happiness and tomato sauce or BBQ sauce. Water is also given away in plastic bottles.
One day these children will travel the world and someone somewhere will say, “What’s your national food?”

Hopefully these kids will remember the camaraderie of Night on the Green and say, “Sausage and tomato sauce in sliced bread is one of our national foods.”

An adult at the microphone and one controlling the cables begin to waken the stage from its noiseless slumber. Each class gathers beside the stage then forms into rows and gets shepherded onto the stage. Each class is inclusive. Everybody in every class is on stage.

Looking at the kids I see a variety of clothes, reindeer antlers, Santa hats, numerous hairstyles and every possible physique.  I see good and bad singers, talented and dyslexic sportspeople, and every conceivable religion.  Everybody on stage sings and sways together.  The older classes remind me that children grow and change. They become louder, more unified and sing louder.

I see my grandkids looking for us. They curiously peer around eager to release a wave. We wave back at them. After their song they run back to us. And the one who enjoyed it the most is Kay who goes to Crèche. Next year she will go to this school. She stares open eyed at her future and loves the look of it.

The music from each class, the school band and the choir drifts away with the smoke from the BBQ. It dissipates between the trees and the empty school buildings. Each class sings a different festive song. A modern Australian Christmas carol. The songs feature kangas, koalas, playing cricket, beaches and the heat.  Baby Jesus and the manger has gone. Though presents and Christmas trees still remain. Most of the songs have actions. Waving of arms, swaying and sometimes a story is acted out.
Some of the families have bought hampers of food. Everybody seems to nibble on something better than what I have.

A phalanx of paparazzi parents forms in front of the stage. Photographing and videoing their children.   In order to record their children for different places and different times.
Between songs we lie back and don’t do the normal Hobart thing. We don’t talk about the weather. Because it’s perfect. Warm with no breeze. Harmless clouds hiding the mountain.

The concert finishes. Hopefully one day all the kids will remember this night. The way everybody was included. The way everybody sang. The way their grandparents turned up and listened and were a part of their schooling. They way they were a vital part of their lives. More than just pet dogs.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Chapter 115 : One day I will be admitted to the Royal Hobart Hospital

One day in the future I will be admitted to the Royal Hobart Hospital.  

Initially I will be given all necessary emergency care. Efficiently and effectively.

The Royal will then treat the disease. They will identify the aetiology and remove the aetiological agent and prevent its recurrence.  They will then spend as much time and energy preventing recurrence of the disease as on managing the emergency presentation. I will be discharged with a list of instructions. Unlike many businesses the staff abhor repeat customers.

The staff will be neat, tidy and have pride in their work. They will be unhappy when I relapse and discuss my health over a cup of tea. 

I will receive good care. The staff will know what they are doing. They will be aware of the state of the art in their area and ways of compiling a good result working within the limits they have.
Everybody will receive the same treatment. With no preference for or against anybody.

The staff will work with other departments to manage and treat me. The staff I encounter will see other staff as helping them. To see other staff as an indispensable aid.

I don’t expect the staff to be perfect. I don’t expect them to all work hard, conscientiously and compassionately every minute of every day. I expect the staff, like all humans, will vary. And each individual staff to vary. To have good days and days when they are tired, irritable and ignorant.

I expect to pay for the services. Either indirectly via general revenue or directly when I receive the service. I expect people, not as fortunate as me, to not pay directly. To receive the service cheaper.  I expect experts to work out the way various services are paid for. The mix between user pays and general revenue.

I expect politicians to use me or fellow patients for political points. I welcome stories in the media about the Health System. It is called living in a democracy. Living where people are free to use the media to try and improve their lot. Much preferable to the alternative.

I don’t look forward to my time in the Royal. But every time I see the outside of the Royal it reassures me. I am grateful I live in Tasmania in 2018.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Chapter 114 : Hobart Christmas pageant

I love some things because they are so last year. They have not adapted and gone with the times or gone digital. I love the way the Hobart Christmas pageant remains as it is.

Crowds line the city streets.  Children wear red elfin hats or rein deer antlers. Officials wearing red hats survey the empty roads. People sit in gutters waiting.

We wander behind the crowds looking for a place to settle. A spot where my grandkids can see the pageant and where the rest of us can purchase some take away coffee.  We settle and my grandkids peer around. They want to know what is about to happen. They want to know what is coming down the road.

I can hear some music approaching us. We peer up the road.

Before the band a small group connected to the traditional owners appears. Carrying a smoking platter and wearing body paints.  This is part of the Welcome to Country ceremony.

The music becomes louder and a marching band finally arrives and surround us with marching foot-stamping music.
The parade becomes various bands separated by floats or groups walking.

The bands are irresistible. The military bands wear glittering and gleaming military uniforms. They march confidently and well-coordinated.  They stop and start uniformly. They wear uniforms perfect for marching and unsuitable for military activities. They exude music not war.

The tartan pipe bands create an unmistakable sound. A sound associated with bag pipes and drums. A sound that belongs outdoors in a parade. Free unrestricted and uncontained. It permeates around the solid buildings and up the alleys and lanes.

There are some non-military community bands.  In various uniforms. Led by a twirling scepters with paper music attached to instruments.

After ever band I always get asked, “Did you see … in the band?”

Between the bands are various community groups. Charities, schools, sports and dance academies. All have children dressed up and are waving to the crowd.

For me and the grandkids the highlights were:  

Greyhounds were led peacefully down the road. A fantastic advertisement that greyhounds have two uses. One often ignored. They make really good pets.

Roller bladders. Sliding confidently up and down the road.

Speedway cars. Some very fast cars being pulled very slowly.

A steam roller rolled steadily and reliably down the middle of the road. Today was its day off. A day of play not work.
Guide dogs. Guide dogs are less visible than they used to be. These dogs and handlers remind us that guide dogs are still needed and loved.

A colorful Chinese dragon twisted, turned and transformed itself as it wound its way down the road. With a team of colorfully dressed men below the dragon. Holding and supporting the dragon with poles and bringing it to life.  The dragon was a part of a group which included red and yellow robes and serene, peaceful people.
Hobart Tigers. The Hobart Junior football club had a man in a tiger costume. The man was happy and enjoying himself as he bellowed, “Merry Christmas.”

A fire engine rolled slowly down the road. I don’t know why Bruce loves looking at fire engines. I know he does. They are big, powerful and shiny red with gleaming metal.

Stilts were common. There were young children on stilts. Animals on stilts. And men on very tall stilts. The men were ungainly, rigid and towered above us.  I admired their skill as I hoped Bruce doesn’t ask me for some stilts for Christmas. Please Bruce don’t be inspired.

Bruce called out to the clown expecting a reply. The cacophony resulted in no riposte.

Irish dancers. They kicked high and spun as they marched down the road.

Thumbelina ballerinas with gossamer wings waved to the crowd.  Kay waved to the dancers. She was very happy to see girls doing what she loves to do. Enjoy dancing.

I said to Bruce, “Look there is a dinosaur.”

Bruce informed me, “That’s a T-rex.”

And then Santa Claus appeared lounging in his sleigh insouciantly. Around him were reindeer and presents. My grandkids saw him.  They didn’t talk about presents. They didn’t say what they wanted for Christmas.  They said, “Did you hear him say, “Ho, ho, ho merry Christmas.”

I asked them, “Who was the star of the pageant?” Was it baby Jesus or Santa Claus? Who do you most remember?
Bruce says Shrek. Kay is still aglow with images of ballerinas dancing down the main road.  They were stars she dreams of joining.

It must say something about me but I think the stars were the dogs. The greyhounds, the guide dogs and dogs with beards. The dogs were all lively, curious and left nothing behind.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Chapter 113 : the Comrades Marathon : 1986 article : AFTERWARDS


What happens when you finish? Enjoy your moment of triumph. Why not? Then rest. Why not? you deserve it and your body needs it. You have just finished one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the world. A race with traditions, atmosphere and popular support. Many people don’t have the opportunity to even think about entering, running or finishing this race so consider yourself lucky. You are.

In the weeks after the race you can analyze your race and look for areas that need improvement. Write down everything that you can think of that may help you in the future. Then forget about the comrades. Go away and do something else for the Comrades is not the end. It is only the means to an end.

Chapter 112 : the Comrades Marathon : 1986 article : ON THE DAY


On the day of the race you must be at your peak in order to reach your potential. Your body must be at its physical peak on this day. Not a week before or a week later. This peaking at the right time comes from self-knowledge. You must be correctly trained. It is an endurance race and you must be trained for endurance and strength. Your training must achieve a balance between over training (tiredness and injuries) and under training (performing below potential). Such a balance is difficult to achieve and achieved in different ways by different people.

On the day your physical condition is affected by factors other than training done. One of these is the food eaten in the days preceding the race. Stick with foods that suit you. Any illness in the weeks preceding the race will affect your performance. You may think you have fully recovered but the race is always the final arbiter and the race will find these chinks of yours and expose them for the world to see.

Your mind must be at a mental peak on the day. You must be relaxed and anxiously anticipating. You should be excited by the challenge. You should be quietly confident. This confidence comes from knowing you have done adequate training. Any emotional problems arising in the days preceding must be solved. If you take into the race such problems; problems where your mind is not still and cannot concentrate on the race then you will be found out. You don’t run the comrades on aggression, anger or hate. Such things may help you win in rugby or boxing but not in the comrades. They will only hinder.

On the day your knowledge about certain things also needs to at a peak. You need to know all about the route and when you will have to push hard and where there will be some respite. You need to know which clothing and shoes will be best for you. Before you start you must decide what pace you will run at and what liquids you will drink. Do your homework by experimenting during training. Added confidence can be obtained by knowing you are prepared.

Each person is different and has the potential to run a certain minimum time. This time will be different for each person and you can’t compare yourself with somebody else. You can’t disguise or hide what you were born with. It will always come out in the race so it is best to accept your limitations before you begin.

Assuming your self-knowledge is perfect and this has resulted in you being in perfect mental and physical condition for the race then you will achieve your potential. Unfortunately nobody ever does which is why everybody keeps on returning. All you can do during training and in your other preparations is minimize your mistakes. Any mistake will slow you down but nothing will make you run faster than what you are capable of.

The person who has the potential to run a 10:15 Comrades and finishes in 10:30 has performed better than someone capable of 6:30 who finishes in 8:30. This is irrelevant though as you should not be comparing yourself with other people. You should be striving to improve your own time and to eliminate your own mistakes. Your mistakes may not be obvious on the day but an honest post mortem a few weeks later will help.  There is no such thing as a “bad run”. There is always a reason for a bad run even if it isn’t immediately obvious to you.