Sunday, 2 July 2017

A CANBERRA BOY GETS ARRESTED

A CANBERRA BOY GETS ARRESTED
by Dave Wheeler  
   This anecdote is mainly about my old mate, Brownie, (the late Owen Brown). It is to a lesser extent about a bloke who was employed by the ACT Police Force in 1971, who, in my opinion, brought his organisation into disrepute. It is also about the Apartheid system which once operated in South Africa. It is also about rugby. It is also about injustice. 
     In regard to Brownie, I could write a book about him. When I get together with my mates he is often the main topic of conversation, as we have a myriad of humorous stories regarding his sense of humour, his propensity for practical jokes and his adventures. Brownie was a highly ethical bloke, even though he had his own code of ethics which some may not have understood, and he was a dependable and loyal mate.
    During the year of which I mainly write, 1971, and the years that preceded and followed that year, Brownie and I got up to much that brings a smile to my face. I also had two insane years living with him in Evatt in the mid 70’s, and he features often in the book I wrote entitled, “Tales of a Canberra Boy.” 
   What I am writing about revolves around the 1971 Springboks tour, and what happened to Brownie when the Springboks played the ACT at Manuka Oval on the 21/7/1971.

  To the left of the photo above is my old mate, Trout, aka Ric Fitch, who is in the black teeshirt. It was taken at the Dickson Pub (which has since been demolished like many other unique and/or historical buildings in the Berra) circa 1973, at his buck’s party. He had just sculled a yard glass when the photo was taken. The subject of this story, Brownie, is to the far right of the photo, in the light blue teeshirt, laughing and clapping.
   After consulting with Trout I will add that the reason everyone was clapping and laughing was because Trout had vomited back into his yard glass during his first effort at trying to scull its content. And because he had a persistent nature he sculled it again, along with pieces of whatever tucker he’d been eating that had been regurgitated. He somehow managed to keep it down.
   Just after the photo was taken a lady in her late fifties, who had been sitting at the table next to us, yelled at several of us in an angry, broad, high-pitched Australian accent. Her words were,
“I know you young people like to enjoy yourselves, but that was disgusting!” She then left. I suppose she was right.
    The story begins at the very end of my 1969 school year, when I attended Dickson High and was in what is now called Year 11. I had turned 17 in September of that year and had bought myself a 1959 Ford Consul ute. 
    During a lunchtime several of us went to Brownie’s house, which was in Antill Street, Watson. Brownie’s parents were at work, so we carried-on in the unrestrained way lads of that age and our type carry-on. Life was one big joke and we were full of youthful exuberance and optimism.
   I can recall the contents of the sorts of conversations we would have as 17 year olds when we met as a group.  It was mainly about creating laughter, which was usually achieved by recounting humorous and often anti-social events, taking the piss out of each other and telling each other about our very limited, and in some cases non-existent, sexual exploits. Had our conversations been recorded they would be regarded as loud, raucous and degenerate. They would have horrified our mums. 
     When, on the occasion of which I write, it was time to go back to school, I, with Brownie in the passenger’s seat, reversed my ute out of Brownie’s parent’s driveway. But, because of my inexperience I didn’t look properly, and I reversed into the tail end of a car that was driving past. As luck would have it the bloke  driving the car was an off-duty copper, in uniform, driving his own car to or from work. 
    Brownie began laughing hysterically after he realised I had run into a cop, but the copper did not see any humour in what had occurred. After he got out of his car he told me I'd spoiled his driving record of 13 years without an accident. I could hear Brownie, and our mate, Ouncie, (John Outhwaite) laughing in the background after he muttered those words.
   There was virtually no damage done to my old ute, although I'd put a large dent in the rear side of the copper’s car, and his car appeared to be near-new. 
    The ACT Police had an accident squad at that time. They were called and were not too far away. When they arrived the copper I had pranged into of course knew them well, and they addressed each other by their first names.
     The accident squad coppers asked Brownie how fast he thought the off-duty cop’s car was travelling, and when he told them it was above the speed limit they said to him,”You’re a liar!” They then booked me for negligent driving, and because my tailpipe had come off I was also booked for having an insufficient silencer. They did not issue on-the-spot fines at that stage, so I went to court, pleaded guilty, paid the fines and forgot about the incident.
    Little did I know that that was not the last I would see of the copper I pranged into. Nor did I know that he would, from the way I believe things went, change sides and become a criminal while still working as a copper. Although having said that, I would be surprised if he had not committed criminal acts while working as a copper before I pranged into him. 
     As I am not identifying the said copper I will refer to him for the rest of this anecdote as “Quoll,” because I thought he looked like one, although I would say he had far less courage than a quoll. They are fearless and ferocious little marsupials if cornered.    
    I will now fast-forward to 1971, when the South African rugby team conducted its controversial tour of Australia and played the ACT at Manuka Oval. At that time Australia was divided, as was much of the rugby world, when it came to whether we should play rugby and other sports against South Africa, considering South Africa was run by a brutal racist regime and non-whites were excluded from selection when it came to representative sporting teams.
   Some, at the time, argued that sport and politics should not be mixed, and that if we engaged in sporting activity with South Africa we could convince them of the error of their ways, and that not engaging with them would have no effect on whether or not they retained Apartheid. 
    Others argued that by playing sport with them, having diplomatic relations with them, and trading with them, we were in-effect telling them we either condoned what they were doing or that we didn’t particularly care.
    Although I agreed that Apartheid was an evil regime that should not have existed, I could see glaring inconsistencies when it came to the suggestion that we should sever diplomatic relations with that country as well as impose on it trade and sporting bans. I say that because although the regime was immoral and brutal, it was not necessarily as bad as other totalitarian regimes and pseudo-democracies of that era that also shat on their poor and powerless, irrespective of their race. Yet we continued to trade with those other countries, play sport with them and retain diplomatic relations?
    Many of the countries of which I refer had no laws that prohibited child labour, and some turned a blind eye to child prostitution and sexual slavery. Some of them still do. And when it came to racist regimes, the Indonesians truly qualified for such a title. They treated the West Papuans appallingly and they continue to do so. And they are right on our doorstep!
   So, why was the protest movement focussing just on South Africa? Was it a matter of fashion? Whatever the reason, I found the inconsistency totally irrational. 
     I was of the belief at that time that we should be semi-isolationist and sever ties with most of the rest of the world and I have retained that belief.

   Others who agreed with me, to the extent that they could also see the inconsistencies, argued that even if we were being irrational by focussing just on South Africa, if Apartheid was abolished in that country by the West ostracising the place, it would still be a real positive. It would be a positive even if worse regimes in other countries continued unabated because some good would have come out of our efforts.
     History has shown that those who thought in the latter way were right, because it was mainly sporting bans, trade bans and the severing of diplomatic ties by most of the West that led to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa. 
      Getting back to the subject, although I can’t speak for Brownie, when it came to my going to Manuka Oval to watch the Springboks play the ACT, I gave it some thought (but not enough) and decided to go so I could enjoy the game, the action on the sidelines and the company of my mates. 
   I thought at the time I could morally justify watching the Springboks play the ACT because I was aware of the inconsistencies I have just outlined. But, with the wisdom of hindsight and having given the matter further thought, I now believe I should not have paid money to see the Springboks play unless I was willing to protest and attempt to disrupt the game for the reasons I have already outlined, and that I did not do.
   So, here was Brownie and I at the game. We could see where the protesters were, so we went down amongst them and stood right next to the 7 foot high fence separating the crowd from the game. 
   Behind the fence there were around 600 coppers strung right around the ring of the oval at arms length from each other. There were also coppers inside the fence in front of the protesters, making sure they did not attempt to jump the fence to disrupt the game. There were smoke bombs being let off and rotten smells coming from several spots. Most of the time the protesters chanted, “Racists go home!”
   We were having a great time, as we were enjoying watching the rugby, and the sideshow between the protesters and the coppers at the same time. We witnessed several people being arrested and carried through a narrow gate while we were watching, although I could not see what they did to warrant being arrested. 
    While this was happening, I noticed, on our side of the fence, Quoll, the same copper who I had backed my car into in 1969, standing there, facing the protesters. We thought this a great joke, so we edged-up closer to him. I looked at him, gave him a little smile, and said,”Do you remember me mate?”
   I was baiting him to a small degree, but he had a lot more power than me at the time given that the place was swarming with hundreds of his colleagues, so there is no way I could have been seen to have been attempting to intimidate him in any way.
   I am led to believe the police were not armed at the time, although I am sure some in the senior ranks who were there would have had access to arms if needed.
   His response to my question was, “Should I? And if you call me mate again I’ll arrest you!”
   Brownie began laughing at his reply, so he said to Brownie, “Do you think it’s funny?” 
   Brownie, when replying, got out the words, “Under the circumstances,” and at that Quoll had him arrested. Several coppers grabbed Brownie, lifted him up and carried him through the narrow gate and into a paddy wagon. 
  When I reflect on Quoll he was obviously shitting himself, and as such obviously in the wrong job. Why was he so stressed-out while in the presence of so many other coppers? What possible harm could we have done to him? Other than that, the protesters were mainly uni students and hippie types who were essentially harmless. It may have been a different story had they been a crowd of neo-nazis or members of the traditional left, such as wharfies or the BLF.
    Quoll would not have lasted 5 minutes if he was employed privately as a bouncer in a nightclub given that bouncers have zero authority and are unarmed. Actually, I doubt he could have handled being a private security guard at a shopping mall for the same reason. I wonder how he went while working as a copper when he was by himself and had to confront violent people. I'm guessing he always carried with him a spare pair of reg grundies and daks, as he would have lost control of his bowels on such occasions.
   When I asked him if he remembered me he could have replied to my question with a few well chosen words instead of threatening to arrest me for calling him “mate,”given that he had no legal authority to do so. He could have also engaged me in conversation or simply ignored me. It’s not as if I was a threat to him in any way. And it’s not as if he was a young and inexperienced copper who had just been recruited. He must have been in his thirties.
   The following link will take you to footage of the said game in 1971, which includes arrests. I'm sorry I cannot embed it. The blurb before it states that 49 people were arrested at the game (Brownie would have been one of the 49) and that observers complained of rough police treatment and of the arrests being arbitrary and unreasonable. That was an understatement!
   The two links that follow the first link are descriptions and photos of the event from the Canberra Times.

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/springboks-manuka-oval-1971
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11955096
http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11955102

   I took the blurred photo above immediately after Brownie was arrested, which shows the coppers taking him away. It’s blurred because I was jostled by the crowd while trying to take the photo, and unfortunately Brownie is not visible within the photo. All that can be seen are the coppers who were carrying him towards the small gate in the fence at the time.
    Brownie told me that after he was arrested and placed into the paddy wagon with a bunch of protesters the copper who was driving made their ride as uncomfortable as possible by deliberately and intermittently slamming on the brakes.
    The irony of it all was that Brownie was a rugby fanatic and had gone there to watch the game. He must have stuck out amongst the uni student protesters like a Jap on Anzac day! The poor bugger was arrested with a bunch of protesters and was guilty of nothing more than being the mate of a smart-arse, who also did nothing that warranted arrest. 
    Unlike me, Brownie as an adult continued to play rugby, and in the last years of his life he became the president of Canberra’s Easts rugby union club. The above photo is of Brownie’s Easts rugby team in 1976, several years after the event that led to his arrest. Brownie is in the front row 3rd from the left. Thanks to Trout for the photo.
    I went to the Civic Police station to see if I could get Brownie out without involving his parents, and I was told by the coppers at the reception to “Fuck off!”
    I’m not sure exactly what happened with Brownie after he was taken to the station, but I do remember being told that his mum, who I always liked, (partly because she was never backwards in coming forward, particularly in matters concerning her kids), after learning about what had led to her son’s arrest, confronted Quoll and reminded him of the fact that I had run into him outside their driveway.     
   Apparently he did not handle it well, as he must have realised it would not look good for him if the matter went to court. Other than that, I had taken down the name and contact details of a bloke who had witnessed what had happened, and he was willing to testify on Brownie’s behalf. 
   Brownie was eventually charged with having used indecent language. From memory they alleged that he had said, “All coppers are cunts,” or words to that effect that contained the words coppers and cunts.
    When a copper fabricates a charge he has committed a criminal offence, and as such has gone to the other side and joined the crim’s he is paid to control. When that occurs he has no right to moralise or pretend he is a pillar of the community. And because I was there when Brownie was arrested, and I clearly remember what Brownie said, (or did not say), I believe Quoll was a criminal. 
   A criminal is defined as a person who commits a crime. The definition, as such, includes people who commit crimes but are not charged or convicted for such crimes.
   Later on all charges against all protesters were dropped because of a legal technicality, although not before Brownie and I had seen a solicitor and made contact with the other witness, (who I got to know and still see occasionally)
   My guess is that the real reason the charges were dropped was not one of a legal nature. I believe it highly likely that the whole thing was politically embarrassing for the government and that once the tour was over they thought it best to say as little as possible about it in the hope that it would all be forgotten. I also believe that a large number of coppers would have been exposed for charging people for offences they did not commit.
   Quoll was very lucky the charges against Brownie were dropped. Had they not been dropped Quoll would probably have been exposed as a bullshit artist and a criminal when the matter was heard in court. And that would have been the best outcome he could have hoped for.
    If Brownie had been charged and convicted for having used the indecent language he did not use, Quoll would not have known what hit him. A wronged Brownie was unstoppable. He would have ensured Quoll regretted the day he was born, and whatever Brownie decided to do to seek vengeance I would have been morally obliged to assist, considering I was the smart-arse who brought the whole thing on.
   I hope Quoll, for his sake, saw the error of his ways, quit the police force and got a job as a clerk, where the greatest risk would be having a filing cabinet fall on him, as he was clearly not suited for the job.
    Now, although I have really given it to Quoll in this anecdote by publicly ridiculing the man, if he is still alive he will not suffer from what I have written nor will his reputation be tarnished, as I have not identified him. And I doubt anyone reading this yarn, other than the other witness to Brownie’s arrest, will know who he was or is. Had I retained a grudge against the man I could have identified him without risking being sued, because I can back up what I have written. 
   It could be argued that fabricating evidence related to a relatively minor charge, which is what Quoll did with Brownie, pales into insignificance when it comes to bringing the AFP into disrepute when compared to the proven and/or alleged actions and comments of the ex AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, in relation to the arrest of the Bali 9 and what he said before the trial of Schappelle Corby.
    In relation to 1 of the Bali 9, Scott Rush, whose father asked the AFP to stop him leaving Australia to prevent him being arrested in Bali, (which they did not do), a youngish copper I met said, to me “Keelty threw a hospital pass to every copper in Australia. What parent will ever trust a copper again?” And many Australians believe Keelty has blood on his hands in relation to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran.
    When senior coppers and politicians talk about how they have no sympathy for drug smugglers and how they can justify cooperating with countries like Indonesia because they know they are saving lives by stopping drugs reaching the arms of addicts, they are insulting the intelligence of their audience. Corruption is a way of life in Indonesia, and drugs of a hard variety are always readily available as long as they are bought from certain people. Politicians and senior Australian coppers know that. Do the latter have any pride or self-respect or is that a rhetorical question?

     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bali_Nine
    I do not carry a grudge against Quoll and I sincerely hope he has had a good life, because although he behaved very badly by fabricating a charge against my mate, 46 years have elapsed since the event took place. And as I have said in many anecdotes and essays I have written, I have no right to cast stones against anyone because of their bad behaviour given that we all do things we regret, and I have done many, many things in my youth I regret. 
    Other than that, I don’t believe we possess contra-causal free will. And if you don’t understand what I mean by that last statement you may want to read the essays on the following links. They say nothing new, but they’re hard-hitting and very well-written, and you may find them liberating.
http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/free-will/free-will-skepticism
http://ethicalfocus.org/free-will-the-last-great-lie/

TWO CANBERRA BOYS VISIT THE PHILIPPINES
by Nick McConchie
   INTRODUCTION by Dave Wheeler-This anecdote was written by my old mate, Nick McConchie. It tells of his narrow escape while visiting the Philippines in the early 90’s, with our mutual mate, the late Geoff “Fitz” Fitzgerald. I attended Dickson High with both Nick and Fitz. 
   When Australians travel to Asia they are warned of the draconian punishments most Asian countries have for persons found in possession of drugs or engaging in other behaviour that is dealt with far less harshly in Australia. Although most Australians realise the consequences of disobeying foreign laws, many, in their naivety, do not realise that they are taking a small risk by just visiting such countries without breaking their laws, as many tourists over the years have been set-up and have suffered many years in prison, and worse, for committing no crime at all. Most of Asia is rife with corruption, brought about by poverty and desperation, and to expect to be dealt with by honest police and to receive a fair trial in most Third World countries is like expecting the arrival of the tooth fairy. It is far easier for a middle class Australian to be moral than it is for people who battle every day just to get a feed. I spent a small amount of time in Thailand during my youth and had no problems, as has been the case with most tourists who have travelled to Asia, but you are far more likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in a Third World country than you are in Australia, as Nick will tell you. Why we have extradition treaties with countries that are so bent and why the Australian government does not openly criticise their legal systems for the corrupt farces they are, probably comes down to money, as in not wanting to disrupt trade. While there are live cattle to be exported (and tortured) and other commodities to be bought and sold, expect things to continue as they are. 
   In this introductory rant I have expressed my personal views, which are not necessarily the views of Nick McConchie.
Dave Wheeler
TWO CANBERRA BOYS VISIT THE PHILIPPINES
by Nick McConchie
   The behaviour of the relatively new Philippines President Duterte, in allowing or indeed encouraging law enforcement officials to shoot first when drugs are involved, reminded me of the dangers of that country. In particular, I recalled an incident when I was in Manila during the early 1990’s.
   I had travelled to The Philippines with my then wife and my 2 year old son. The purpose of the visit was to introduce my son to his grandmother and for my wife to catch up with her family. In order to alleviate potential boredom, I invited my friend Fitz to come along. Fitz features in other posts on this site.
   One afternoon in Manila, Fitz and I left the family in our hotel and ventured out for a few drinks. We went to several bars and sunk a few cold ones. As the afternoon turned into night, we continued to bar hop and eventually found ourselves in a quieter street, a little way from the bustling tourist area. Our reason for leaving the relative safety of the tourist strip has been muddied through the effluxion of time. None of that actually matters. What matters was that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
   
Somewhere in Manila.
  We were walking along the street, minding our own business, talking bullshit to each other while looking for somewhere we could quench our rapidly growing thirsts. A police vehicle stopped and two heavily armed policemen alighted and approached us. We were told that we were making too much noise and needed to accompany them. Not being in the business of arguing with armed Filipino police, we complied and climbed into their “ute”. Not much was said, and we assumed we were being taken to a police station – no such luck! After a short time, the driver turned into what appeared to be an empty car park. It was walled on three sides with an entrance on the fourth side. We were told to get out of the vehicle. As we did so, one of the policemen walked a short distance and stood there with his back to us. The other pointed his pistol at us. He said words to the effect, “My Sergeant needs money, how much you have”? 
 The photo above, taken in 1974, shows from left to right, Spud Murphy, the late Geoff ‘Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mick Gladwish and Nick McConchie, the author of this post. All of the above are ex Dickson High boys. The photo was also used in the essay, “ A Canberra boy reflects on his escapes,” because we do not have many photos of Fitz in his younger years.
   At this point Fitz and I were a little concerned for our safety, though that fear was somewhat diminished by the alcohol that we had consumed. I cannot recall how much we offered in the first instance but it probably equated to $10.00 or so. We gave the money to the policeman who while still holding his gun, walked over to the sergeant. They mumbled a few words then the underling returned. “Not enough,” he said. We gave a little more. He again walked over to the sergeant and again returned saying “Not enough”. About the 3rd or 4th time we emptied our front pockets to show that that was all we had – about $60 between us. This time the Sergeant came back and said “OK”. 
   The underling, while waving his gun, then said, “You can escape now.” I did not know what Fitz was thinking at this point, as I had my own thoughts to contend with. My thoughts over the next 2 seconds ranged from – "If we run, then surely they will shoot us – justified as escaping prisoners. If we walk fast, we will be easier targets. If we don’t do anything, will they lock us up?” 
   We ran, zigzagging in some lame attempt to dodge any bullets that came our way. Normally, Fitz would have been a faster runner than me, but not that day.
    As we ran from the compound and turned into the street, I was relieved that there were no gunshots. In today’s Duterte environment, we could easily have been shot as suspected drug felons. I digress however. 
  We jumped onto the back of a Jeepney, (a public transport jeep with colourful if not kitsch decorations). We were not obviously being followed, much to our mutual relief. Coincidentally, the Jeepney was headed through one of the bar areas of Manila, so now, in much need of a drink, we alighted and headed into one of the many bars that lined the strip.
   Earlier in this piece, I mentioned that we had emptied our front pockets - fortunately we had more in other pockets. So, here we are, sitting in the bar, enjoying a beer or two, talking about our experience and how we were “gunna” bash the coppers and should have bashed the coppers and so on, when at the entrance to the bar, appeared one of the policemen that we should have bashed.
   He looked straight over at us but did nothing. He left a minute or two later. After several more beers and perhaps some whiskey, we deemed it safe and returned to our hotel.
   The next morning there was a knock on my hotel room door. I answered to a hotel employee, who held up a piece of paper and said “is this your licence? “ Indeed it was. He explained that he was hotel security and he knew what happened, and with his help we could sue the police for a large amount of money. I took my licence, which had obviously been given to him by one of the policemen, though I had no recollection of giving it to him in the first place, and politely declined his offer.
   Over the course of the next few hours, every hotel employee (I exaggerate), but a number of them, asked how long we were staying, when are we leaving? What airline and what time? Paranoia began to set in. At this point, what could we do? So Fitz and I crossed the road to an open air bar and had a few beers, while trying to decipher what it all meant (the meaning of life at that instant). We were there for a very short period of time, when a truck pulled up, and half a dozen policemen dismounted and came into the bar. They simply stood around, giving us perhaps furtive glances, whilst talking amongst themselves. They left quite soon after their arrival. Paranoia?, I do not know, but we were becoming quite uncomfortable with the situation.
  We were booked on a flight out the following night. Hotel staff were offering to arrange transport. What time you want? Where you go? And so it went on. We had visions of perhaps being robbed on the way to the airport or worse. It just seemed very peculiar to us. I was of course concerned for my wife and child, so around lunchtime that day, without checking out, we walked out and caught a cab to the airport. We arrived at the airport safely albeit some 12 hours before our flight. How did we alleviate the boredom? – At the airport bar of course!
  The photo above shows the author of this post with a group of his mates in Kings Cross in 1970. They are from left to right, the late Brent Bolas, Nick McConchie, Spud Murphy, Keith Dickerson and Max Duncan. Max played an incredibly good blues harmonica and often accompanied Spud, who was on the voice and also played the blues harp.

A CANBERRA BOY REFLECTS ON HIS ESCAPES
by Dave Wheeler
    Another title I was considering for this essay was, “The other man’s grass is always greener.” I will explain why in full eventually. It focuses primarily around how I missed out on having a relationship with a beautiful young Canberra girl I knew many years ago, and how sometimes such negatives, and I had more to come, can turn into positives. As usual I have brought philosophy into it.
     Before going there I will, as I often do, begin from an entirely different angle. I will let the reader know that like most people I can get extreme pleasure from music. It can have a very strong effect on one’s emotions in many ways, and it can also send a message.  It takes me into another world. 
    I’ve done my best to develop an appreciation for many genres of music, and in doing so it probably means I receive more overall pleasure from music than I otherwise would. I love folk, and traditional rock and roll; and as I write I’m experiencing euphoria listening to the blues being played and sung by BB King and Paul Carrack. They’re doing an amazing version of “Bring it on home to me.” You may want to click on the song so you can play it as you read.


   I even love the music of the Pacific, in all its forms, having spent time there in my youth. Last night I attended a party where a group of Tongan churchgoers were singing hymns, and even though I’m a non-believer the singing was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. 
   I also love some of the older Australian folk songs that were composed before Australians wrote Americanised songs and sang them in American accents. “Moreton Bay” and “The Woolloomooloo Lair” are examples of Australian songs that were written from the heart in a way that truly depicted the emotions of the composers, even though the latter song is humorous.
     And Chad Morgan? I love him! I like his melodies, and I love his brutally honest and unrestrained lyrics, which are totally devoid of any form of political correctness. His lyrics are pure Chad, a down-to-earth and irreverent Queensland, Anglo Celtic/Aboriginal country boy of his time just being himself. Many Australian musicians sing and compose as if they were other people living in another country. Not our Chad. 
   Although I have listened frequently to most of Chad’s stuff, a couple of nights ago I listened on youtube to a song he wrote that I had not heard entitled, “The night I went below.” It was about how he dreamt he visited Hell, and how he overpowered the Devil and escaped from him at a speed that would have broken Herb Elliot’s mile. 
    Unfortunately, in his dream, he was caught by a sort who had also been sent below. He described her as having overgrown horns and told of how she wanted to marry him so they could produce little devils of their own. That really was Chad’s idea of Hell! When he awoke he was relieved when he realised he had been dreaming, which made him determined not to die. I have embedded the song below. 


   I have to accept that I also love much in the way of American music, such as the previously shown blues of BB King. Part of me wishes I didn’t, as I'm not a fan of American culture, but the fact is I do love much of their music, so having accepted that fact I simply enjoy it when I can.
    One American song that gave me inspiration as a young man was entitled, “ Pamela Brown.” It was written and sung by Tom T Hall. He wrote of how, as a lad, he had dropped his balls over a girl named Pamela Brown, and how Pamela preferred another lad over him because the other lad drove a ute. 
  I may be entirely wrong, but I’m guessing the song is autobiographical, and if so the rejection must have broken Tom’s heart. The song suggests he didn’t get over Pamela for some time, so rather than find another girl and marry early he roamed around experiencing life as an unattached young man. 
     As he aged and thought about what may have happened had he not suffered unrequited love at the hands of Pamela, he became grateful to her for rejecting him. He realised that had she not rejected him he would not have experienced the freedom and joy one can experience when one is single and devoid of responsibility. He would have instead lived a mundane suburban life. I have embedded Tom doing his song below.

   What made me think about the messages of Chad and Tom, and what then motivated me to write this essay, occurred a day ago after a mate sent me a link to a Canberra Times photo and description from 1972. It shows and identifies a stunningly beautiful 17 year old girl who I had taken out a few months before the photo was taken. To use a modern expression, I was punching above my weight. 
    She is obviously no longer a girl and is entitled to privacy, which is why I'm not identifying her. For that reason I will just refer to her as “the girl,” as she was a girl when I knew her. She would be turning 63 this year (2017) and is probably a wife, mum and grandmother. Hopefully life has been good to her. 
   As I do not wish to identify the girl, I’m not going to give the link to the Trove archived Canberra Times page that shows her photo. A very large number of attractive young women had their photographs in the Canberra Times during 1972, and for that reason I don’t mind mentioning that she was just one of them. Other than that, her identity should not matter. The purpose of this essay is philosophical, as in its objective is to argue that apparent misfortunes should always be put into perspective. The implications of what occurred could apply to anyone in similar situations.
   In describing her as stunningly beautiful, that is of course only my opinion, as beauty and ugliness are not absolute, whether we are referring to inner or outer beauty. They are nothing more than subjective perceptions.
     I met her at Mick Catanzariti’s small and informal gathering to celebrate his 21st birthday. It would have been in September of 1971. Mick didn’t know her. She came along with her female friend and a couple Mick and I knew.
    I had a really enjoyable time at Mick’s gathering when I was with her, and I dropped her and her friend home that evening. My mate, Colin Bishop, who had come with me, had by that time linked-up with the girl’s friend. 
    I took her out the next night, and I got so much pleasure from her company it seemed too good to be true. 
   The photo above, taken in 1974, shows my old mates, from left to right, Spud Murphy, the late Geoff “Fitz” Fitzgerald, Mick Gladwish and Nick McConchie. It was used in another yarn as we have no other photos of Fitz when he was young. When taking “the girl who made the Canberra Times” out the night after I first met her in 1971, I first took her to the now demolished Scottish Bar at the Canberra Rex, where I ran into Fitz, one of the lads I have identified in the above photo. Because they had threatened to ban him from the place he told us he was going to have a quiet night, but within a few minutes he was having a scrap with a barman, some of whom were not renown for being great blokes. I had to restrain the said barman because the other barmen were restraining Fitz and giving his opponent an unfair advantage. The girl was drinking Ouzo and lemonade when I was with her. I cant recall what I was drinking. At that time I had not developed the dislike I now have for alcohol as I had not seen or experienced the damage it does. 
    As I was dropping her home she seemed keen to see me again, so we arranged to meet at a set time at the Canberra Rex, in the Jet Club.
    But, she stood me up! 
    She may have sensed I was not a normal lad of my age, and my other shortcomings may have also become apparent to her during our night out. For that reason she may have thought it best to ensure the contact ceased. 
    And if my shortcomings were not consciously obvious to her, it may have just been a matter of chemistry. I say that because on a number of occasions in my youth after I was initially attracted to certain girls, and took them out once or twice, I lost interest, and it was unrelated to the girl’s looks, personality or prospects. It came down to the inner workings of my brain and mind, which were beyond my understanding or control. The beautiful young lady I had taken out may have had a similar experience with me. 
     She may have also become conscious of the laws of supply and demand, and realised that if she had a relationship with me she would have been underselling herself. With her looks she would have known she was  in high demand and could attract someone who was better looking than me and a proven provider earning good money. All I possessed was a few dollars and a dark blue 1958 Holden FE panel van with a white roof. 
   Then again, maybe I’m being over-analytical. When I think about it, judging from my conversations with her, it’s more than likely she had far more depth and did not think like I have suggested she may have thought in the previous paragraph.
     Whatever the reason, had she had an initial attraction to me it had obviously vanished. And when it’s gone it’s gone! Only fools cannot accept reality, and I have often seen fools persist in such situations, even though those around them could plainly see that the attraction was one-sided.
        The marriage game is based on barter. Looks and chemistry obviously play a large part in the equation for most people, as do personality and temperament, but in the case of blokes they usually also need to prove they are either good providers or have the potential to become good providers. Most women want someone who will hang around and provide for any kids they may bring into the world, which is fair enough. 
   Obviously there are exceptions, as we can easily observe men and women who have badly undersold themselves in the marriage game, but they are a minority, and they often do not know they've got a dud until the marriage has begun. 
   
   Above is the FE Holden panel van I owned in 1971 during the period of which I write. Beside it is my old mate, Jan Aamodt, who introduced me to “the girl.The panel van had windows on its sides despite it being a panel van. The photo was taken in White Cliffs, NSW. When we moved on from White Cliffs the car continually boiled, and at one stage we had to piss in the radiator because of a lack of water. After the engine seized I sold it for $15 in Boggabilla.
   Yes, she could have contacted me and told me she had changed her mind and didn’t want to continue to see me, instead of having me turn up, all excited, waiting for her, only to be let down badly when she failed to meet me as we had arranged. But, who am I to cast stones? She was only a teenager, and the thought of telling me she didn't want to start anything would have been very daunting for her. And when it comes to acts of immorality, her standing me up fades into insignificance relative to some of the immoral acts I carried out in my youth.
   People’s basic personalities don’t change much throughout their lives, but because their frontal lobes develop and they experience more of life, in other respects they usually become entirely different people after they have entered adulthood. If we are to speak metaphorically, we could say our former selves die. I would not like to be judged today by the way I was as a teenager, or the things I did during that period. Yet some people I know still hold grudges against certain people they went to school with over 50 years ago, and in doing so they are crediting those school kids with having been developed adults, when in fact they were just kids with kid’s brains, even if they were old enough to drive cars. 
      Regardless of what occurred, if I choose to think about the girl I have very fond memories of her. I remember her as a lovely girl to talk to, and that aspect of her held a greater attraction for me than her physical beauty. She was also very pleasant to me on the few occasions I ran into her after she stood me up. I last saw her at a party in Batman Street, Braddon, sometime in early 1973, and I have no idea what happened to her after that. 
    I actually can’t recall, prior to my receiving the link to her photo in the Canberra Times, when I last gave her any deliberate conscious thought. But despite that, having been reminded of her, when I do think about the time I spent with her I can recall in detail almost every moment, as is the case with many other events in my youth that were of an intense nature.
     If someone is coming off an extreme high of any sort, be it the sort of extreme high a musician feels while on stage or the sorts of extreme highs I experienced in my youth when I was in the company of certain young women, it is imperative they accept the reality of their relatively mundane here and now once the source of their euphoria has gone. 
    This can best be done by doing everything they can to ensure their focus remains in their here and now. And to maximise one’s chances of remaining in the here and now it is best to focus on one’s breath and muscles and to not feed unasked for thought with conscious thought whenever one becomes conscious that one is thinking. 
   It is deliberate conscious thought of any sort that is unrelated to ones here and now that often leads to unasked for negative thought unconnected to one’s here and now, which can lead to depression. When one is thinking thoughts not connected to ones here and now one is in danger of losing control of ones thoughts.
   Mindfulness has become a fad in the last few years, although a positive fad. Why this ancient practice was forgotten for so many years by mainstream Western societies is beyond me. I wish I had been taught the concept from a very young age rather that stumble across it in my youth in the way I did. 
     I didn’t truly fall in love at the time I had contact with her because it was for such a brief period of time, although I would definitely have done so had I have continued to see her. I did however, experience some withdrawals from the intense high she had given me. But, again, because the contact was brief, and because I had accepted the reality of what had occurred, and because she was not my first “Pamela Brown,” I was able to deliberately not give her much conscious thought after the rejection. 
    Although I was never a sheila-magnet, I went on to experience plenty of very short term relationships prior to my marriage at the age of 29, with only 2 or 3 lasting more than a month, and none lasting more than 5 months. For the overwhelming majority of the period prior to my marriage I enjoyed being unattached and devoid of responsibility.
     Remaining unattached for that period was made easier because other than my not being a normal person I showed no signs of having the potential to become a good provider. And for our species, when a lad does not have the ability to show potential marriage partners he is, or has the potential to become, a good provider, it’s the equivalent of a peacock not having a tail to display to peahens. I didn’t actually become a good provider until after I married. My wife, to her credit, took a big risk. I don’t think I would have married me. 
    Anyway, I can relate to the words of Chad and Tom, even though both of them married, as did I.  When I reflect on my life prior to my marriage, and the years I had of roaming around enjoying myself as an unattached young man devoid of responsibility, I’m very grateful to the beautiful young girl who was photographed by the Canberra Times in 1972 for giving me the slip. I would have only just turned 19 when I took her out, and although I would have adapted at that age to a serious relationship by getting a career of some sort, saving my money, buying a house, remaining faithful, etc, etc, I was far too young to have my wings clipped. 
    I know two couples, now in their late sixties, who became couples when they were 14 years old. Although their marriages could be considered successful, it seems to me they must be conscious of the fact that they did not experience a full youth, to the extent that they must realise that the life of an unattached young person incorporates many experiences couples cannot experience. 
   I escaped several relationships prior to my marriage because of incompatibility, and several more, as occurred with the beautiful young girl who made the Canberra Times, stopped before they started because I was, fortunately, rejected. 
     My advice to young unattached people is for them to realise that although marriage does suit some, there is always a price to pay. Something like a third of marriages end in divorce or separation, and that figure only accounts for actual marriages; it does not include serious defacto relationships. And I know many married couples who live very separate lives, even though they remain married and live under the same roof in a house that remains under both names. Those sorts of couples have no interest in remarrying, and simply can’t be bothered selling everything and going through the trauma of divorce and financial separation. The Bureau of Statistics has statistics that erroneously suggest that such couples have had successful marriages, when obviously they have not. 
   As a guess I would say that truly successful marriages and defacto relationships are something like 1 in 4.
    I reiterate, marriage is not the answer to life, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. After first meeting someone who pushes all the right buttons the initial hit of intense bliss one receives through brain chemistry of the type I enjoyed when I was with the beautiful young lady who made the Canberra Times in 1972, does not last. The bonding usually takes on a different form over time, but as it does the intense thrill diminishes. It’s all nature’s trick; a way of bringing people together for the purpose of gene replication, irrespective of whether the coupling increases or decreases one’s quality of life. 
    Marriage often includes conflict, boredom and drudgery. And it can also include having troublesome kids, or worse. Imagine the suffering of parents who have kids who are serious drug addicts, or criminals, or who have severe mental health problems or disabilities. Some parents have to attend their kid’s funerals.
     If you ask parents if they are glad they had their kids, almost all will say they are. In answering the question however, they are imagining life without their kids, which is the same as them imagining life if their kids suddenly died, which is not the question being asked. I say that because to say the bleeding obvious, if their kids did not exist they would feel no sense of loss. 
   Because it is impossible for a parent to imagine life without their kids without them imagining feeling like they would feel if their kids died, it is impossible for them to answer that question in a way that takes into account the true nature of the question.
    I have however, asked couples whose children had reached adulthood, and were off their hands, if they would have more kids if they were able to drink from the fountain of youth and be given back their 23 year old bodies. After them thinking about it I found very few wanted to repeat the experience of raising kids, which says something about what they must have experienced during the process of  raising the kids they had.
     When I experience an experience which, from an overall perspective, I would describe as positive, to the extent that the positives outweigh the negatives, I wish to repeat the experience. If I did not want to repeat the experience I could deduce that it was, from an overall perspective, a negative experience. Therefore, it would seem that those who said they would not bring more kids into the world if they were given back their 23 year old bodies found that from an overall perspective raising their kids was a negative experience. If it was a positive experience they would want to repeat the process. 
   The fact that they love the kids they raised is irrelevant, because had they never had them they would be experiencing different pleasures and different pains, and to labour the point, their absence would not represent a void in their life had the kids never existed. How can you miss what you have never had?
    Some of the latter parents however, said there would be no point in them having more kids if they drank from the fountain of youth because they already have their kids, albeit grown-up kids. Such an answer however, is tantamount to them saying that the purpose of them having kids was not for the enjoyment they received during the process of raising them; it was primarily for the fulfilment they received once their kids had left home and had become self-sufficient. I doubt that that was their objective when they decided to bring kids into the world initially.
   “Mum, Dad and the kids” is, relatively speaking, a very new phenomenon in the history of our species. Until relatively recent times our ancestors lived tribal existences in which members had an interdependent relationship in order for them to survive and reproduce. This forced them to make every effort to resolve their differences. 
    Husbands and wives had very few joint decisions to make, as most decisions were tribal. And as child-minding was also a shared task couples were relieved of a lot of the stresses that modern couples suffer.
    Tribal people also had very limited privacy, and when tribal couples fought with each other the fact that they had an audience would have usually limited the intensity of their disputes. And if things got out-of-hand others could intervene. Unfortunately we no longer live tribal existences and divorce or separation are the easy options.     
    If you are young, single and unattached, heed the advice of Chad, Tom and me, and enjoy your freedom and lack of responsibility while you canThose who dislike being single usually do so because they think they are missing out on something by not being married. That is where “The other man’s grass is always greener” comes into it. 
   Instead of yearning for married life, why not just make the most of your situation by enjoying your free time and savouring life’s simple pleasures? As I have said, there is a price for everything.
  PS Although I believe my grandad made a mistake by volunteering to fight in WW1, because unlike WW2 it was a war that should not have involved Australia, his experiences and how he handled them were an inspiration to me from a young age.
    Whenever, from my late teens onwards, I suffered a pain or hardship, I would compare it to how my grandad must have suffered on Gallipoli and the battlefields of France. Other than him receiving a fractured skull and shrapnel wounds, he saw many of his mates blown to pieces before his eyes and innumerable other horrors that could not be adequately described. 
   By being conscious of what he went through it meant that whenever I felt the pain of tragedies such as a hard day at work, a hard sporting event, very cold or very hot weather, having my car break down or having had someone bend its aerial, snapping a shoe lace, and in particular being rejected by a girl, I asked myself if my suffering could be compared to that of my grandad during WW1. It was of course a rhetorical question.
    Yet my grandad went through it all, and after he returned to Australia he simply put his head down and worked for the rest of his life. He also enjoyed tending his bee hives and fruit trees in his spare time. I never heard him complain about what he had suffered. His attitude was very Buddhist, without the religion attached, to the extent that he had accepted the reality of what had occurred and then turned his attention towards living in the present and making the most of it.
     Part of the reason many people cannot handle being sacked from a relationship or experiencing unrequited love is because they have a romantic and almost supernatural view of what it’s all about. In reality it can all be reduced to brain chemistry, and for that reason when leaving a relationship one will suffer in the same way one suffers when coming off a drug of addiction. But, if one can accept the pain, eventually the brain chemistry rights itself, unless of course one chooses to become idle and/or consciously dwells on the breakup or the rejection. And unless one looks like the elephant man one can usually find another person who will produce in oneself the same sort of brain chemistry one produced prior to the breakup or rejection, if that is ones wish. 
    But, should a person who is destined to live a life without a spouse accept that reality, that person should make the most of the situation and remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch, as in, there are pluses and minuses to being single or married. “The other man’s grass is always greener.” 
  The late Russ Hinze, shown above, became an angel as a result of him becoming a really good bloke just before he died. He often visits me, and he reminds me that he had no problems getting onto sheilas when he was living in QLD as a mortal. And he never suffered unrequited love.
For more mainly Canberra-based yarns hit the Home button above.
n.


No comments:

Post a Comment