Oh, The Indignity…

I have been undignified all my life. In some instances it was just small and hardly noticeable – in others massive and memorable. It was a method of living – if anything about life can be methodical – that served me well. Because it let the pressure out of the vessel before it burst.

There were a lot of times when that was the difference between continuing to be a real social being and retreating into depression and fear. I never went into those regions because I aways blew up the verbal paper bag and popped it to let off the tension.

Being foolish is undignified. So is being crass, gauche, pitiful, or needy. No successful comedian was ever dignified – that was the job of the straight man. But in the end the straight man was always the second banana in the act. You know the names Abbot and Costello but it’s Lou you remember with affection.

The class clown is frequently the class dolt – the person who finds that they cannot learn or think and quickly runs for the simple reward of attention. Even if they have to purchase it at the expense of harsh discipline they will act up and get the laugh. If there is a class brain, they observe this behaviour and see if it can be adapted to their needs; frequently this is the case. The dolt never knows that they have been a useful example.

This was the case for me in grade school. Hauled, as was my norm, out of one school between years to another far way ( heavy construction company work ) I had the wearisome task of new-kid fights and pecking order with the start of the eighth grade. The class clown was a dolt from the local area who did his share of picking on me  between getting into other trouble. And it was watching his treatment at the hands of authority that taught me what to do.

a. Do not play up in class. Let the teacher get on with the business of teaching. If you can sit learning, do so. If all you can do is sit, take that route. But sit quietly.

b. Do not play dumb. Never do badly academically just to please the mob. Pass the tests as best you can and let others fail at their own pace.

c. Make a fool of yourself for the amusement of the mob in some show that doesn’t cost anything. That relieves the jealous tension and lets them out of having to react to anything you do.

d. Then occasionally sock it to them. Make fools of them.

 

 

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Just A Phase

I often wonder how many phases I went through as a child and youth that my parents endured…with suffering. I hope not many, as I wouldn’t like to think I was guilty of making their lives hard. But there must have been a few.

The phase of hunger, for example. I remember being in the 9th grade and discovering a hunger for sesame-seed bread. They made standard white loaves of it that you could toast and smear with butter. On a cold night in Canada I think I was able to deplete the pantry in an hour – leaving my mother exasperated when she found the empty bread wrapper. My excuse of ” I just had a few pieces ” was belied by the plastic bag containing nothing but stray seeds.

Girls? I remember a summer of puppy love in a construction site trailer court once – about the eighth grade. It might have been puppy love, but I seem to have been turned into a working dog – I did the dishes for that girl for months. Fortunately the weather turned colder and so did the affection.

Car driving? Well, I was a late starter for driver education and fortunately there was a 4WD and an empty paddock on a farm at which we wintered. I could circle it without hitting anything. It made my subsequent driver training here in Western Australia much easier, though it cured me of any desire for 4WD vehicles or paddocks.

Thankfully, I can look back and not have to feel too guilty. I was never a junior Marxist, nor skinhead, nor religious convert. That was a close-run thing when the Baptists got hold of me, but I moved off to yet another boarding school in time before I was dunked. I never shot anybody, and the creatures I did shoot were cooked and eaten. None of my massive robberies, embezzlement, and frauds were ever detected.

And thankfully that was just a phase…

The Oslo Lunch – Part Two

Lunchtime was a bittersweet experience for me as a child. Oh, not when I was at home –  lunch was lunch, and if there were brown ‘n serve sausages and eggs, chicken noodle soup, or bologna sandwiches, all was right with the world. The problem was at school.

As I mentioned before, some schools in the US and Canada served hot lunches for the students. They were simple meals, with soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, or other staples forming a large part of the menu. There were hot dogs, but rarely hamburgers. There was always some form of vegetable and/or fruit and most school canteens had no carbonated drinks – you got milk, orange, or apple juice. I sometimes ate at the schools that had a lunch canteen and I think my mother appreciated not having to put up sandwiches.

It was only later that I reflected that these lunches might have been the only meal that some of the students got all day. We were not living in inner-city ghettos – these were suburban schools – but there was a level of neglect there that I did not see in the 6th grade. I did get to see it in the 8th grade when we moved to a bush area for dam construction. The camp children were 15 miles from the school and were bussed in by the company, so it was tin lunchboxes and thermos flasks for lunch.

My lunch was varied – soup or beans in the thermos in the winter, milk or juice in the summer. A sandwich, a couple of cookies, and a piece of fruit. The occasional treat of a square of chocolate. I was never hungry at lunch…But I do not know whether the other camp children were as lucky. I know some of the local children from the bush town were not – and lunch time for them was hungry, sad, and pointless.

There were paper sack lunches that seemed to be two pieces of dry bread with uncooked bacon in between. Or jam sandwiches. Or just a candy bar. Or nothing. Part of the hostility I experienced at the time was due to academic achievement and part of it was probably envy at my lunch. I was at a loss as to what to do in either case, so I just kept studying and eating by myself.

In retrospect, I can’t say whether poverty or ignorance or just lack of care was the cause of their problem, but if ever a school needed a lunch program it was Lodgepole Elementary.

The Oslo Lunch – Part One

Look it up – I did. The Oslo Lunch was a real thing pre-war – an experiment that worked in improving children’s health via better nutrition. It was essentially whole-meal bread, cheese, milk, and fruit or salad. Not a bad thing overall, and apparently led to weight and height gain for under-nourished children in Norway and Great Britain.

I believe it featured here in Australia and I can vaguely remember some mention of it at Governor Stirling High School in 1965.

School lunches in my childhood in Canada and the USA were generally either a cafeteria hot meal in the more affluent areas or home-packed in all the others. In one memorable junior high in Calgary there was a policy of sending the students back home for their lunches unless there were such dire weather conditions that they could not go out. Even then, one had to have a signed form citing ” inclement weather ” to be permitted to huddle in the school assembly area for the lunch hour.

I think, in retrospect, it was just a move to get the students to clear off and let the staff members have their lunch hour to themselves. I wonder if they were required to walk a mile either way four times a day…Mighta been good for their lard asses.

Note – inclement weather in Calgary generally had to be an active prairie blizzard with drifts of snow higher than 3 feet. We did not have ” Snow Days ” in the 60’s. Snow was an accepted fact of life. After the blizzard blew out you went to school, drifts or not. I bicycled into a parked white Oldsmobile that was buried in a drift one year. Now that’s educational.

Well, We Never Killed Anybody…

I was busy adjusting the world the other day with my friend Warren – we meet during the week to condemn the guilty and praise the worthy. It is a mad session of tea and biscuits.

We agreed that we have both been very fortunate – his time as an airframe rigger in the Royal Australian Air Force did not result in any crashes or loss of life. For my part, my time as a dental surgeon did not result in any fatalities or overweening infections. We can both sleep soundly of a night with no ghosts haunting us.

But it begs the question; how many of the people we know can say the same, in their own fields of endeavour? We know many of the same people, and then others in different social sets…somewhere in that lot is bound to be a death or despair. A bankruptcy or suicide. A soul that was lost because of something that someone did…

I don’t want to know the answer to the question. It would colour my perception of the persons involved – even if there was no possibility of redemption or repair. Far better to remain ignorant of it.

This may not sound like the thing that the Right Evil Bastard of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia should say…but there is a difference between deliberate and artistic evil-doing and mere accidental disaster. I would far rather ambush a bus full of orphans with a 17 pounder than run over a cat with a Suzuki…

Warren is not so fussy. He has a new truck and is more impatient than I – he is hunting for lane-changing idiots on the road. I can hear the maniacal laughter now…

 

 

Visiting The Old Country From The New Country

How many migrants to and from Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have had this experience:

They’ve migrated and worked and saved and succeeded in the new country but always hold a dear memory of the old land. This homesickness has been acute in the first couple of years but worn off somewhat after that – what with new careers, families, and homes. But it starts again at about 15 years and they decide to go back and see the old place.

They plan to make a big trip and see everywhere they used to live – and possibly everyone they used to know. The get on the plane or ship and float on water or air to the old home country. And are horrified to find that it is not there.

Oh, the dirt is still there, and in the case of a lot of places it has crawled halfway up the buildings…but the society and people and nation has so changed from what it was that they are strangers in a wasteland. Worse – if there has been a war go through the place – or a spate of developers – even the buildings they knew do not exist.

Their old friends are dead, or older, and do not have the last 15 years of shared memories to talk over. Only the past – and that can be as dead as the dust. They run out of conversation in 5 minutes. Even if the old language is the same, the speakers are not talking to them.

This is the thought that I took back to the UK when I visited in 1995 – from having once lived in the place in 1973. It was just that way, though there were plenty of tourist activities in which to immerse myself. Would I get any benefit from another visit? Yes, if my current interests could be pursued – the UK is a nice place.

Canada or the USA for me? After 52 years? There’s a big question. An expensive one to answer, too – especially with the fear that seeing my youth gone would age me more. I can do that right now at local prices and wearing comfortable clothes.

The Commemoration Sunday – November 2018

We passed a quiet Armistice Day Sunday here at home, with the only exciting interruption being a fly-past from two Tiger Moths and a Stearman. They ground on over the house and shook themselves into a rough formation for a pass near the Air Force retirement home. Then I daresay they paddled over to the main commemorative service in Kings Park and thence down past Government House. Unlike the annual pass by the RAAF cadets when they graduate and have saved up enough money for fuel, the biplanes at least go slow enough to give you a chance to see them.

We’d been poppied to a fare thee well in that last fortnight. Also lest we forgetted and all the other stock activities of popular culture. The 💯 th year anniversary of the Armistice was  done pretty well by the end of the day.

But will the business of sentimental remembrance advance at all? Will we have any notice taken of the events of 1919? They were pretty shattering in themselves…revolutions, armed expeditions, a pandemic that killed millions…but I’m betting the social culture and the media will not pick up on it. They’ll reset the mechanism to lest we forget and the popular memes of poppies, diggers, and fallen heroes. It is too ingrained to change.

An interesting thought…when actually are we allowed to forget and what exactly are we allowed to let go? I’ll bet 95% of Facebook patriots have never heard of the Ashanti War, or the Prusso-Danish War, or anything else from the 19th century. They would be hard pressed to remember Gettysburg or the Siege of Lucknow. And they definitely will not be allowed to remember the Boxer Rebellion if the current Chinese government has anything to say about it. There will be no ” 55 Days At Beijing “. All forgotten. No money to be made. No memes to post. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.

I am hoping for one thing – that the remake of ” The Dambusters ” will actually take place. Of course they still have to get over the name of the dog, but I daresay they’ll make some accommodation with the lobbyists…